LUCKY CHARM

By Kellie Ingle

"I thought you knew everything, Heyes," Kid Curry said as their mounts picked their way daintily along the steep path. It was cold and windy along the slope leading up to the valley but they were making good steady progress.

"Kid, I don't know where you get that idea," Hannibal Heyes said, his dark eyes twinkling

merrily as he led them up towards the sky. "I never said I knew everything. I just know a lot about

a lot things."

The both laughed good-naturedly together as they often did. Life was a serious business but

a fellow needed to have a good laugh every now and then no matter what the circumstances. Their

particular circumstance at the moment was a chance at a job up in the Emerald Valley. It was so

named because of its lush green beauty that reminded its settlers of their homeland in Ireland. Shamrock

was the only town and it was nestled sweetly in the middle of the valley, taking advantage of the river

that flowed through it and the breathtaking meadow that surrounded it.

Lom Trevors has recommended them for the job of helping a friend get his saloon up and

running. A saloon in a town populated by Irishmen was something of a sure bet, but the friend, one

Patrick O'Hearne, had some competition that had made it known that should he try to compete with

his already established business, nothing good would come of it.

Enter Heyes and Curry. As a favor to Lom, they had agreed to come up here and see what

they could do. It was supposed to be a beautiful place; it was far from the beaten path and saloons

were something they were both very familiar with, both in the business end and the enjoyment end.

A few weeks away from the constant threat of being recognized by lawmen or bounty hunters seemed

like a great idea. So here they were, on their way to a new adventure.

They reached the peak and were able to rein up side by side to get their first glimpse of the

valley below. It was indeed breathtaking. Spread out before them in a hundred shades of green, it

appeared as if it were another world altogether. The sun was shining down through the suddenly

parted clouds making the river sparkle like faceted jewels. The air was softer and carried a gentle

fragrance that neither one of them recognized, but it was warm and inviting. As they watched, a

shaft of sunlight struck the mist rising from the waterfall on the far side of the valley and a rainbow

appeared, streaking across the sky.

"Kid. I don't believe I've ever been welcomed in such a fashion before." Heyes sighed and

smiled, content to sit for a moment in admiration.

"Heyes, I think I agree."

The Kid urged his mount forward, glad that there would be enough room for them both to

ride abreast down the trail into town. It was a clear shot from what they could see. The road curved

gently down the mountainside at an easy angle that was better on their horses and let them have an

unobstructed view of the scenery as they went.

**********

"What do you think they be wantin'?" a small voice said from the safety of the underbrush.

"You know as well as I what they're here after," another more disgusted voice replied.

Two small faces with freckles and spiky red hair peered out from their hiding place mirroring

the same frown. "We've got to stop this!" said one.

"And just how do we go about it?" said the other.

"Come on. I've got me an idea."

"Your ideas always come to no good," complained the other, but he fell in step behind his

companion as they disappeared into the trees.

**********

They didn't know how long Shamrock had been in existence but it was plain that it was a thriving town. The main street was lined with neat, wooden buildings painted brightly, with flower

boxes full of blooms in front of every one. The only building that wasn't was the church, which stood like a guardian at the end of town sitting on a rise and made of native rock. It was both beautiful and

forbidding, but the people seemed to accept it as it was. Pulling up in front of the Lucky Charm, both

men sat for a moment and surveyed the activity that swirled around them.

Women walked to and fro along the sidewalks, most carrying baskets and all calling greetings to

each other. Children ran up and down the street, oblivious to the traffic of wagons and horses but agile

enough to keep from getting run over. Most of that activity stopped when the two of them rode up.

They dismounted and looped their reins over the hitching post. The Kid gallantly touched the brim of

his hat to the ladies that passed in front of him and was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable at being

so scrutinized. They dipped him a small curtsy and hurried off, each looking back at the handsome

strangers and both blushing.

"Mighty fine lookin' womenfolk around here," Heyes said, flashing his dimples as one more

hesitated before following the others.

"You can say that again." The Kid took his eyes away from the view and studied the closed

door of the pub and the obvious inactivity. "Wonder why this place is not open for business?" Before

Heyes could respond a lovely voice with the heart of Ireland in it spoke.

"Mainly because Patrick has no help and has to do most of the runnin' of the place himself."

Both men turned and were struck dumb be the beautiful woman standing before them, a

basket on her hip, a small girl by the hand. Hair as black as night was piled up on top of her head with

wispy tendrils escaping their pins and softly framing her face. Rosy cheeks complimented the startling

blue of her eyes. She was whip straight but nicely rounded in all the right places. In the ensuing

silence she sat her burden down and laid a hand on the head of the child who stood with her thumb

in her mouth and her equally blue eyes watching them warily. She spoke to the girl in a language

neither men recognized and they watched as she darted off.

"I'm Kathleen O'Hearne, gentlemen. My husband is the proprietor of this place. I expect

you are the men Sheriff Trevors sent up here to help." She stepped forward and extended a work

worn hand to the both of them.

"I'm Joshua Smith," Heyes said, taking her hand for a firm handshake. "This is my partner,

Thaddeus Jones." The Kid touched the brim of his hat and nodded to her politely. "And yes, Lom

sent us up here but he sure didn't tell us how beautiful it was."

"It is our home," she said gruffly, giving the Kid a regal bow of her head. "How do you know

the sheriff?"

"Well, ma'am, Lom and us go way back. He's a friend to the both of us, and well," Heyes

ducked his head and tried to be his most charming, "we owe him a favor or two. So here we are."

"Kathleen!" a voice roared from the doorway which had been thrown open. They all turned

to see a barrel-chested Irishman come through the portal at a rush. He was stocky and broad-shouldered

with hair the color of aged brandy and eyes a brilliant shade of green. Behind him came the little girl

followed by another girl a year or so younger who was toddling nicely.

"Patrick. These are the men Sheriff Trevors sent. Joshua Smith. Thaddeus Jones. Meet my

husband, Patrick O'Hearne." Kathleen moved aside as her husband greeted both men, swinging the

youngest girl up onto her hip and letting the other one grab hold of her skirts for comfort. "These

two are our daughters. This is Michaela and the one with her thumb in her mouth is Niamh. We've

sons as well, but they are runnin' the streets as is their custom at this time of day. School is out for

lunch and Father Joe gives the boys a little extra time to run off some devilishness before cooping

them back up for the afternoon. You'll be meetin' them at dinner I'm thinking."

"We are very glad to see you," Patrick said, his face flushed with pleasure. He plucked Michaela

from her mother and laughed. "I expected you, but not for another week or two."

"Well, the job we had sort of ended early," Heyes explained. "So we headed up here. You have

a wonderful little valley here. We've never seen anything like it."

"Nor will ya," Patrick said, giving his daughter a squeeze. She giggled and looked at the two men with her father's eyes. "Come. Forgive my manners. Leavin' ya standin' out here in the dirt. Come inside and let me pour ya a drink."

"We'd be grateful," Heyes said, following the man as he headed back inside. Kathleen reached

down for her basket and was startled when the Kid reached for it as well.

"Let me get that for you, Mrs. O'Hearne," he said, easily lifting it. He was surprised when she

snatched it back from him and frowned.

"No need for a man to be doin' woman's work, sir. I'll carry me own basket." She settled it on

her hip again and turned to follow her husband. "Come along, Niamh. And get your thumb out of your

mouth." She kept walking, sure that her daughter would follow.

The Kid looked after her, frowned to himself in puzzlement, then realized that little Niamh was

still standing on the path, her thumb firmly in her mouth, but now she was eyeing him with curiosity

only a child could conjure up.

"So….your name is Niamh?" He pushed his hat back and squatted down to eye level. He smiled at her and was pleased when she smiled back. "I don't think I've ever heard that name before,

but it sure is pretty. Just like you." He tickled her ribs, which caused her to let out a small giggle. She

popped her thumb out and reached out her hand, which he took, even though it was a bit damp.

"Come inside. Mama made scones this mornin'."

"Is that something good?" he asked as she began to pull him towards the door.

"Mama makes the bestest ones in the valley," she answered, smiling up at him again and revealing a dimple in her right cheek.

"Well, then. I guess we had better go have some." He allowed her to escort him inside.

The interior of the pub was cool and dark, with shutters on the windows and what looked like a

mahogany bar that ran the length of the far wall. A stone fireplace took up the end of the room and

had benches placed in front of it for the patrons. Heyes and Patrick were at the bar, deep in conversation. Michaela was perched on the end, swinging her little legs back and forth to some inner

rhythm. Niamh paused and tisked like a mother hen.

"Mama doesn't like for Da to let 'Kayla sit on the bar," she said, shaking her head of dark

brown curls. As if summoned by her words, Kathleen came bustling through the back door from

what the Kid imagined was the kitchen, a large tray of sandwiches in her hand and a towel over her

shoulder. She sat it down with a thump and swung her youngest child down to the floor.

"Don't be puttin' her up there, Patrick. How many times do I have to tell ya?"

"Sorry, love. I keep forgettin'," Patrick said, not even bothering to look at his wife. It was

obvious that they had had this conversation many a time and that he was going to keep letting his

children sit on the bar and she was going to keep scolding him about it.

"Mr. Jones. Come on over and have a drink. I have the finest whiskey this side of the Atlantic."

Patrick poured his new guest a short glass and corked the bottle before setting it aside.

"He's not lying about that, Thaddeus," Heyes said, taking another smoky sip of the amber

liquid and sighing with pleasure. "It's been a long time since I've had better."

"Thank you, Mr. O'Hearne," the Kid said as he accepted the libation. He sat down beside his

partner and lifted Niamh into his lap before taking a sip. On a sigh not unlike his partners, he closed

his eyes and smiled. Niamh laid her head against his shoulder and stuck her thumb back into her mouth,

perfectly content to sit and listen to the grown-up talk in the lap of a virtual stranger.

"Its Patrick, boyo. Nobody but herself calls me 'Mr. O'Hearne' and that's only when I've put

me foot in it." He laughed and offered the sandwiches to them. Each took one and began to eat. "She's

a fine woman, but she has a bit of a temper," he whispered, giving them a wink.

"Only when she's crossed," came the quick reply as Kathleen rounded the bar and plucked her

daughter from the Kid. "It's time for you nap, poppet. Come along." She sat her down and took each

girl by the hand before facing them.

"It's very glad I am to see you both. We need the help and there's no denying it. I'll be after

putting these two down then I'll be out hanging the wash if you need anything."

"Niamh said something about scones?" the Kid said, winking at the little girl as she was dragged

away by her mother.

"For tea, Mr. Jones. I'll be happy to serve them." Kathleen disappeared up the staircase with

both bairns in tow.

"Your wife seems to be a very nice lady," Heyes said, his mouth full of sandwich.

"My wife is a lot of things Mr. Smith," Patrick chuckled as her poured them another round.

"But nice is not one that comes to mind." He sighed and leaned against the bar, settling in to tell

his story. "My Kathleen is a fine wife. I love her, there's no doubt. But she has a way of decidin'

what she wants me to do and by the shear force of her nature, making it happen. She's given me

eight children in the ten years we've been married and she is raising them as any good mother does.

My boys are off to school. Patrick is our oldest. Named for me. Then there is Sean and Seamus,

the twins and then Liam. We've buried two wee ones as well, but she never gives in. She is my

rock and the love of my life and I won't let anything happen to her or the children."

"Is that why we are here?" the Kid asked. "Is someone threatening your family?"

"In a way. You see, Ambrose Murphy and his boys have had the only pub in these parts for

some time now and they have pretty much been callin' the shots, if you know what I mean. I tried

farming when we came here but I am a publican, it runs in the O'Hearne family. I figured there was

plenty of business for everyone around here, especially since I run a family oriented business that

doesn't cater to the riff-raff that comes through. We serve meals here as well as a pint or two. We

have music and a place where families can come to socialize of an evenin'. Murphy runs a hotel

and saloon where there are fast ladies and gamblin'. I just want to earn a decent livin' and keep a

roof over my family's head."

"Doesn't sound too hard to me." Heyes finished his meal and settled back to finish his drink.

"You'd think not. But Murphy has been causin' trouble ever since we bought this place. He's

holding up my orders and generally causin' mischief. I can handle it. But he started threatenin' my

boys and I won't be havin' that!" Patrick's face flushed in anger as his large hands gripped and twisted

the bar towel in them. "I can't do it all alone so I asked Lom for some help."

"Looks like you've got it." The Kid took another sandwich and began to devour it. Heyes

looked at him and shook his head.

"You may be sorry you asked us here. My partner is a bottomless pit." At the Kid's frown of

indignation he slapped him on the back and stood up. "Are we staying here or at the hotel?"

"Oh, you boys will be stayin' here with us. There's plenty of room upstairs. Go bring your

things and I'll show you up."

"Alright. Then I think we need to go take a look at this place of Murphy's."

"Should I come along?" Patrick inquired.

"No, Patrick. We'll go by ourselves this time. You never know what a stranger can find out

in a public place." Heyes tossed back the remainder of his glass and pushed himself away from the bar.

"Come on, Thaddeus. We don't want to miss tea."

**********

They walked down the main street, smiling and tipping their hats to the people they encountered.

Everyone seemed to be amiable and most everybody returned their wishes for a good day but by the time they got to the other end of town they could see a marked difference in the area. The sidewalks

were not swept and the paint had begun to fade on the storefronts. In the middle of the block stood the

Pot of Gold Saloon, with its weathered front and its creaky swinging doors. They walked in and took

a good look around before heading for the bar and ordering a beer.

At the back of the room several of what Patrick called 'fast ladies' lounged around a large table.

One of them separated herself from the group and ambled over, shrugging a faded feather boa up on

one shoulder. The red feather in her equally red hair bobbed as she swayed towards them, a feline

smile on her painted lips.

"Howdy, boys. Welcome to the Pot of Gold. I'm Rue." She slipped between them and ran

one long finger down Heyes' arm before turning to bat her lashes at the Kid.

"Nice to meet you, ma'am," Heyes said with a smile made almost deadly by its insincerity.

The Kid took the beer that the bartender sat in front of him and took a large swallow. He was sorely

tempted to spit it right back out. It was tepid and tasted a little sour. Heyes raised one brow and with

the Kid's subtle shake of his head, eased his glass back down on the bar.

"I'm Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones. We just came in to wet our whistles.

We've been on the trail for a long time."

"Well, I'm awfully glad you did." Rue smiled her most seductive smile and tried not to look at

the untouched beer in front of her. "You boys have business in Shamrock or are you just passin' through?"

"We are really just passing through, but we have some acquaintances we wanted to say hello

to. You may know them. The O'Hearnes. They own the Lucky Charm."

They watched Rue poker up at the mention of Patrick's name. She gave a very unladylike snort

and hitched her boa up one more time.

"Stupid potato farmer. He's tryin' to put us out of business. Me and the girls….this place is all

we have and now he's goin' to try to open up his own place."

"I wouldn't think it would take that much business away from you folks," Heyes prodded,

gently pushing the beer into her hands. She grabbed it and downed half of the contents before coming

up for air. She drug her hand across her mouth to remove the foam and batted her lashes at him again.

"Well, any business he thinks he's going to get won't be his for long."

"Oh?" the Kid prompted.

"Yeah. Once Mr. Murphy gets through with him, he will wish he was still plantin' potatoes."

"That so?"

"Yeah, that's so. Cause Mr. Murphy don't like for anybody to interfere in his runnin' the

town like he wants it."

"Sounds like a pretty powerful man, your Mr. Murphy." Heyes put his money on the bar with

a clink.

"Oh, yeah. Mr. Murphy runs this town. You ask anybody."

"Well, thanks Rue. It was nice talking to you." Heyes made to leave. "I'm sure we will be

seeing you again."

"Thanks for the drink, Mr. Smith. You come back anytime." She waited until they were almost

to the door before grabbing the remainder of their drinks and finishing them off.

They walked out into the sunshine and were glad to leave the stench of the place behind them.

"We've got to meet this Murphy," the Kid stated the obvious as they started back towards the

Lucky Charm.

"Kid. I have no doubt that Miss Rue will make that a reality very soon."

**********

A short time later they were unpacking their things in the room that Patrick was providing

for them. It was big compared to some of the hotel rooms they had previously occupied with two

twin beds and a big washstand between the windows that looked out over the main street. It was located at the head of the stairs and that made it perfect for the two of them. Comfortable was what it was. Clean as a pin, with fresh linens and white curtains. That was the word to describe the entire home that Kathleen O'Hearne had made of this place.

Having cleaned up and made themselves presentable for tea they were not quite prepared for

the loud bang of the front door and the thundering footsteps coming up the stairs. The Kid drew his

gun and together they eased the door open, prepared to meet the foe. To their surprise, four boys

came careening around the last corner and all slid to a halt when confronted with the two men in

the hallway.

They all had their mother's black hair and rosy complexion but only the twins had her blue

eyes. The oldest and the youngest stared back at them with Patrick O'Hearne's green gaze. The

oldest took the lead, putting his younger siblings behind him as he brought himself up to his full

height and wiped a dirty hand under his nose.

"I'm Patrick O'Hearne. What business do you have here?" He was barely nine if he was a day,

standing there defending his home from two strangers who could easily swat him aside like a pesky fly.

Heyes liked him immediately though he was famous for not wanting to have anything to do with kids.

"I'm Joshua Smith," Heyes answered the challenge. "This here is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.

We are here to help your father get this pub up and running." He leaned back against the doorjamb and crossed his arms.

"So, Da knows about you? You're not up here tryin' to rob us blind?" Young Patrick O'Hearne

may have been his father's namesake, but he was more his mother's son. The Kid holstered his gun

and kept a smile from his face. A man had his pride and it didn't matter how old he was.

"No, Patrick. We are not trying to rob you. We came up here to clean up so we could have

tea downstairs with the rest of your family." The Kid watched as the stiffness left the lad.

"That's why we were in such a hurry. Mama don't take kindly to us not bein' presentable for

tea." His voice had the world weary tone of all little boys who are forced to be mannerly for their

mothers. "These are my brothers. Sean and Seamus are twins, Liam is the youngest."

"Am not," Liam protested. "Kayla is the youngest. I'm not a baby."

"I never said you were," Patrick barked. "I meant you were the youngest here." He shook his

head and looked to the two of them for understanding.

"Okay," Liam relented. "But I'm still not a baby."

"No one here said you were! Now get goin'. We are already goin' to be late." With a push

he sent his brothers ahead of him down the hall. "It was a pleasure meetin' you both. We'll be down

in a minute."

"Now that's a man who knows whose boss," Heyes chuckled then cringed as the door slammed.

"Yeah. Kind of reminds me of someone else I know," the Kid said dryly. He ignored his partners sour look. "Let's go on down. I'm looking forward to finding out what a scone is."

"That's all you think about, isn't it?" Heyes said as they started down the stairs. "Eating is a

full time occupation with you."

"Nothing wrong with a man having a good appetite. I just have a better one than most."

"I just hope we don't end up having to pay the O'Hearnes for the extra food."

"Don't worry, Joshua. If they bill us I'll pay for it myself."

"You can bet on that. Do I eat like a field hand? No. I have better things to think about than

my stomach."

"I know." The Kid stopped in the doorway to the back parlor and faced his partner. "Why do

you think I follow you around? So you can do the thinking and I can keep us from starving to death."

Heyes opened his mouth to retort when Kathleen O'Hearnes laughter stopped him short. She

was laying out the food and keeping Niamh from sneaking a scone before the rest could join them.

"You sound for all the world like my boys, gentlemen." She wiped her hands on the apron she

wore. "There must be blood between you."

"How can you tell?" Heyes turned his most charming smile on his hostess and left his grinning cousin standing there.

"Only family argues without hurtin' one another. It's the rhythm of a family. And I'm tellin'

ya, you're both about to get a full dose of it from mine." Kathleen winced as a loud thump made the

chandelier above their heads shake. All three adults listened to the progress of the boys as they left

their room, came down the hallway and down the stairs like a herd of wild cattle to come to a complete

stop at the foot of the stairs.

"You'd best be getting' out of the way," Kathleen warned, a soft smile on her face. "My boys

are an unruly lot." Patrick took the lead and marched them all past Heyes and Curry and into the room,

where they all lined up in order behind the chairs at the table but did not take a seat. At that moment

their father came through the back door, Michaela on his hip. He placed her into her mothers arms and

rubbed his hands together in anticipation at the spread laid out before him.

"Gentlemen. Please take a seat. We usually don't have such a formal event, but Kathleen thought it might be nice for ya to share high tea with us. More often than not, this is the only time

we are all together during the day so we do like our tea, don't we mother?"

"I'm not your mother," Kathleen corrected him gently as she placed Michaela into a chair

beside her older sister and gave the boys a nod. They immediately pulled their chairs back and sat

down. Patrick took the chair at the head of the table after seating his wife on his left. Heyes and

Curry grabbed a seat and enjoyed their first taste of O'Hearne family life.

Conversations ricocheted around the room, everyone talking at once. It was chaos and it

was fun. Niamh sat beside the Kid and very sweetly served him a scone before taking one for

herself. Heyes could not keep a grin off his face as he watched his cousin in deep discussion

with the little girl but soon his attention was focussed on young Liam O'Hearne who, without preamble, announced he was six years old and wanted to know if he had a knife and if so, could he see it and also had he ever seen a dead cat.

The food was good and the tea tolerable. Kathleen had outdone herself and Patrick was

quick to compliment her on it. For the first time the boys saw the undying love between the two

of them in the look he gave her and the blush that tinged her cheeks. They were parents and

pub owners and a lot of other things, but they were first and foremost two people very deeply

in love.

Too soon the meal was over. The boys were sent out to do their chores while Kathleen and

her girls cleared the table and began washing up. Patrick guided them back into the front of the

pub and wanted to know what they had learned from their trip to the Pot of Gold. He frowned

when they told him that the only one they had spoken to was Rue and informed them that she

was Murphy's mistress and that by now there was more than likely trouble brewing.

"We didn't start anything, Patrick, but trouble is something we can finish." The Kid was

deadly serious. "Lom sent us up here to help you and that is exactly what we are going to do."

"What is your schedule for the rest of the day?" Heyes asked.

"Well, once my boys get their chores done, they go on upstairs. Kathleen prepares what

we will be servin' for the evenin' and I start tendin' bar and welcoming folks. It gets busy around

sunset and I close up around eleven of an evenin', dependin' on how things go." He looked from

one man to the other and sighed. "Do ya think there will trouble tonight?"

"Patrick," Heyes said, placing a hand on the shorter mans shoulder and giving it a squeeze.

"With Thaddeus and myself around, I don't think you have anything to worry about. We will just

be extra help around here tonight."

"What can we do to help you get ready?" the Kid asked, glad to see his host lose his worried look for a moment and smile.

"Well, boys. There are kegs to be brought in from out back and there are kegs to be brought

up from the cellar. I guess we'd best get at it."

The Kid excused himself for a moment and went upstairs to retrieve his gun. Moving kegs or

not, he did not want to be caught without protection should any of Murphy's men show up. It was

all hard work from there. They had their sleeves rolled up and aprons on by the time the first customers

came in. Not being shy by nature, the folks who came through the door were soon asking questions

and getting to know the newest employees of the Lucky Charm.

The take for the evening was a good one. Kathleen had gone on up and the kids were long in

bed as the three of them finished cleaning up and Patrick counted the till. It was then that the trouble

they were hoping had passed them by showed up. Heyes was putting chairs up on the tables while

the Kid was sweeping the floor when the door burst open and slammed against the wall. Standing in

the doorway was one of the ugliest men either of them had ever seen.

He was tall and skinny, with hair the color of muddy water and eyes like two black marbles,

hard and glassy. A long scar ran from his eyebrow down his cheek to his mouth making it appear

that he was smirking. His clothes were filthy and you could smell him from across the room. He

ignored Heyes and Curry and went straight to Patrick.

"Evenin', Reilly," Patrick said, his voice smooth and unthreatening. He slowly put the

money away and braced his hands on the bar.

"Evenin', O'Hearne. Looks like you had quite a bit of business here tonight."

"Well, I can't say as I'm complainin'." Patrick smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. "What

can I get you?"

"You know what I'm here for," Reilly snarled. "Murphy sent me. Now hand it over!"

Before Patrick could move, the Kid lightly tapped Reilly on the shoulder with the handle

of the broom he had in his hands. The man turned and took a step back when he saw the cool look

in his eyes.

"I've got no business with you. Or you," Reilly said, looking from the Kid to Heyes and

back again. "I've just come for the money."

"And what money is that?" Heyes moved to stand as close to the man as he could stand.

"O'Hearne knows what money. Don't you Patrick?"

"He means the cost of doing business in this town," Patrick said with disgust. "If I don't

pay Murphy his share, I won't get any protection."

"Well, Mr. Reilly," Heyes said, reclining back against the bar on his elbows. "You go

and thank Mr. Murphy for Mr. O'Hearne and tell him that he doesn't need to be bothering with

protection at the Lucky Charm anymore." He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "You see,

we are the protection now and we won't be going anywhere anytime soon."

"I don't care who you two are. I'm here for Mr. Murphy's money and I'm not leavin' until

I get it!" Reilly drew himself up and slammed his hands down on the bar. His face was flushed, his eyes hard.

"Ah, ah, ah," the Kid admonished him. Reilly looked at the man and then down to the

six gun he wore strapped to his leg. He swallowed and the Kid watched at the thought of calling

him out raced through the mans mind before he thought better of it. "You heard my partner, Mr. Reilly.

Now, we don't want any trouble, so you just run along and let Mr. Murphy know that we have

Mr. O'Hearne all taken care of." Reilly's adam's-apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed. He looked around and knew he was outnumbered.

"You just remember, O'Hearne," he yelled, his face flushed with anger as he started to back

out the door. "You are the one who's going to be sorry. You mark my words." He turned and left.

Patrick watched him go and slapped the bar hard with his palms.

"He means it, boys. This isn't the end of it."

"No," the Kid said, "but now Murphy knows for sure why we are here."

Something woke the Kid a few hours later. He lay there in the dark, listening for a sound that would have disturbed his slumber. He could hear Heyes in the other bed; he could feel the cool breeze coming in through the open window, but he was at a loss as to why he had so suddenly wide awake.

He shifted, drawing the covers up around him as he turned over to face the room and started at the sight of little Niamh O'Hearne standing beside the bed like a small ghost in her white nightgown, barefooted with her thumb almost in her mouth.

"Niamh, what are you doing in here?" he asked trying to get his heart to slow down.

"I couldn't sleep," she confided to him. "They're makin' too much noise."

The Kid sat up and swung his legs off the side of the bed. He took the quilt that had been

covering him and wrapped it around the little girl.

"Who is making too much noise?" he whispered, trying not to wake his sleeping companion.

"They are. Come see." She grabbed the ends of her wrap and trudged out of the room. The

Kid paused long enough to put his pants on then followed her into the hallway. She was standing at

the window that looked out over the back yard and stables. He crept up behind her and looked out into

the moon lit courtyard.

To his great surprise there were two little people out there, gleefully spreading hay all over the

ground and dancing around as they did it. He thought they were children at first, but then he realized

that they were just small men. He started to move but Niamh grabbed his hand and stopped him.

"Don't go out there," she said. "They will put a spell on you."

"A what?" The Kid knelt down eye to eye with her and smiled.

"A spell," she repeated. "They're leprechauns, Mr. Jones. Don't you know a leprechaun

when you see one?"

"No, Niamh, I've never seen a leprechaun before. I don't even know what one is, but I do know

that those two are up to mischief and someone needs to stop them." He made to go again but once again

Niamh stopped him.

"But that's what a leprechaun does, Mr. Jones. They make mischief. Didn't your mama ever tell

you about them?"

"No. My mama never did. Come on. Let's go out there and see if we can stop them." He lifted her into his arms and together they went down the back stairs and out into the yard, standing there for a

long moment, quietly watching the two strange little men running about and it was hard for the Kid to

keep from laughing. It became even harder when he loudly cleared his throat and both of them stopped

in mid jig before turning to stare at the man and the little girl.

"Just what do you think you two are doing out here?" he asked in his most stern voice. For a

moment they stood frozen in place. Then they looked at each other then back at the Kid.

"You can see us? Aloysius, he can see us!"

"That's not possible Ronan. He's not one of the fairy folk."

"Well then why is he speakin' to us?" came Aloysius's sharp reply.

"Well……I don't be knowin' but it's not possible for him to see us."

"Gentlemen," the Kid interrupted. "Why are you out here throwing hay around in the middle

of the night?" He stepped forward then jumped back when both of them hopped in place, turned and

ran back into the stable. The Kid and Niamh followed them through the open door and were stunned

by what they found inside. Patrick O'Hearne had a milk cow and a plow horse stabled along side of

their mounts. All four animals were tethered together in the middle of the barn with flowers platted into

the manes of the horses and a large bonnet on the cow.

The Kid sat Niamh down and walked forward to the animals, looking everywhere for the two

mischief-makers but they were gone. The animals were not spooked. They stood placidly together

waiting for someone to put them back in their stalls.

"Where did those two go, Niamh?" the Kid asked as he ran his hands over his horse to check for

damage.

"Probably back where they came from," she answered sensibly. "They must have a fairy hill

somewhere close by."

"A what?" He eased the horses back where they belonged then tied the cow back in her stall.

"What is a fairy hill?"

"Your mama didn't tell you about those either?" she said impatiently. "That's where the little

people live. My mama has told me the story a hundred times."

"Well, I guess I need to ask your mama to tell me about them. But first, we need to get you back

inside and back in bed. It looks like I've got a lot of work to do out here." He came to her, lifted her again and started carrying her into the house.

"They don't mean any harm, you know," she said, yawning as she laid her head on his shoulder.

"You could have fooled me. It is going to take me hours to get all that mess cleaned up." He

took the stairs two at a time then maneuvered down the hall to their tiny room. Michaela was fast asleep in her own bed, laying flat on her back and snoring softly. He took the quilt from around Niamh and tucked her under the covers.

"You sleep well. We can tell everybody about our meeting in the morning."

"Nobody will believe us," she muttered, turning over and snuggling down into the bed. "They

never believe me……" then she was asleep.

The Kid left them and went back to his room to get his shirt on. It was a might chilly out there

to be running around in your long-handles. He was slipping into his jacket as he headed back down the stairs when he happened to glance out the window. What he saw stopped him dead in his tracks because all of the hay was gone. Running out into the yard and into the stables, he skidded to a halt when he saw all the animals in their proper places with no signs of flowers or hats. A shiver went through him as he walked the length of the stable looking for any evidence of the two visitors. They were no where to be seen but as he came outside and closed the door he could swear he heard giggling.

**********

The next morning he was halfway through shaving when he remembered what had happened

the night before. He paused and frowned for a moment before going out into the hallway and having

another look out the window. Heyes found him there and cast him a questioning look.

"Problem?" he queried as he came over to see what the Kid was looking at.

"No," came the Kid's automatic response. "Heyes, you ever heard of a leprechaun?" he asked,

surprising his partner and garnering a quizzical look.

"Yeah, Kid. I've heard of them before. Why do you ask?" They both headed back into their

room and the Kid went to the washstand to finish while Heyes sat down to pull his boots on.

"I think I saw some last night. At least, that's what Niamh called them."

"You saw a leprechaun? Here? Last night?" Heyes barely kept the laughter from his voice.

"And just what was Niamh doing up?"

"I don't know, Heyes. I woke up and she was standing there saying that they were making

too much noise." The Kid turned to his partner and wiped the last of the shaving foam off his face.

"I got up to check it out and there they were."

"Leprechauns?" Heyes raised one brow in disbelief.

"Will you quit saying that like I've lost my mind. I know what I saw. At least I think I do."

He pulled on his shirt and began to button it. "I've never seen a leprechaun before but there were

two of them and they were having a grand old time messing up the courtyard behind the house."

"And you saw them and spoke to them?"

"Well, yes. As a matter of fact I did. And they were pretty upset that I could see them."

"I would think they would be," Heyes played along, knowing he would not be able to keep

a straight face for very much longer. "From what I have heard, regular folk are not supposed to be

able to see them."

"That's what Niamh said, but all I know is that I saw the two of them out there last night.

Heyes, they…." the Kid paused when he saw the expression on his partners face. He knew that one

very well and Niamh's words of warning came suddenly to him. "You don't believe me, do you?"

"Now, Kid, I never said I didn't believe you," Heyes managed to say before the laughter

came spilling out of him. "If you say you saw leprechauns in the back yard last night, I have to back

you up."

The Kid tucked his shirt in and slipped into his vest as his partner's laughter rang in the room.

Without a word he strapped on his gun and left the room to head downstairs for breakfast.

"Wait," Heyes gasped, jumping up to follow him. "I'm sorry, Thaddeus. I know you think

you saw something last night but I can assure you it wasn't a leprechaun." When he got no response

from him he stumbled on. "Come on, Kid. You know…..it was probably just a dream. Yeah,

that's what it was. A dream."

The Kid turned to face him, his blue eyes more disappointed than angry and stopped him in

his tracks. "What I saw was not a dream."

"Now, Kid," Heyes began.

"I told you no one would believe you," a small voice said from the foot of the stairs. Both

men glanced down to see Niamh and her little sister sitting on the bottom step. "Grown ups never

do."

"I…" the Kid turned and his look bottled up the breath Heyes had drawn to make a reply.

"Say one word and you will regret it."

Heyes manfully swallowed what he was about to say and settled an ambivalent smile on his

face.

"Not a word, partner. No, sir. Let's go have breakfast." He gave the Kid a hearty slap on the

back and went on past, a small chuckle the only sound that escaped.

Their silliness stopped when they heard raised voices in the bar. Both men stepped around

the corner to see Patrick talking with a man they had never seen before. He was dressed in a fine suit

made of expensive wool, a checkered vest and carried a silver-headed walking cane. At well over six feet he towered over their host. He had a barrel chest and long legs and red hair that was fading to gray. All in all, he made a very intimidating figure.

"Patrick," he was saying as they quietly entered the room unseen. "You know the rules around here, boyo. There is only one way you are goin' to keep this establishment open without trouble, and

that is to pay protection to me and my boys."

"I'll not pay you a cent to operate a strictly legitimate business," Patrick was practically shouting. "My business has nothing to do with yours and I'll thank you to remember that."

"I'll thank you to remember that I run this town." The large man took a menacing step towards Patrick and that's when the two of them stepped forward.

"Patrick," Heyes said, causing both men to turn in his direction as the Kid moved a little to the

side, his arms crossed, his hands dangling loosely. "I think introductions are in order. I've never met the man who runs Shamrock."

"Mornin' gentlemen," Patrick took a deep breath to steady himself. "This is Ambrose Murphy.

He owns the Pot of Gold. And nothing else," he added through gritted teeth.

"I'm Joshua Smith. This is my partner, Thaddeus Jones. We were in your place just yesterday."

He continued to move forward though he did not extend his hand. "We are friends of the O'Hearne's as

I'm sure Rue told you."

"So you are the two men she was on about last night. You just passing through like you told her

or are you here for another reason?" Flat brown eyes sized the two of them up. They looked and sounded like trouble.

"We came up to help out a friend and we will be staying for as long as it takes. Patrick and Kathleen have made us very welcome here, haven't they, Thaddeus?"

"Real welcome. We just might stay for a long time."

"If you think you can keep Patrick out of trouble, you are sadly mistaken," Murphy began, his

large hand gripping his cane as if to throttle it. "I run this town and we do things my way. You two

boys understand that and there won't be any problems. If you can't, well…..you just might find Shamrock an unfriendly place to hang your hats."

"We've hung our hats in a few unfriendly places in our time, but thanks for the warning."

"You just take this into consideration, Patrick," Murphy warned, fixing his hard stare back at

his adversary. "You have a lot more to lose than most."

"I hope for your sake, Mr. Murphy, that you aren't threatening our friend," Heyes said, his

voice low and dangerous but not near as dangerous as the look in his eye. "You see, we're very fond

of Patrick and his family and if anything bad were to happen to them, well, we would just have to come to the man who runs the town to see what we could do to fix it. We're big believers in an eye for an eye."

Ambrose Murphy was no fool and he knew when he was outnumbered. He would take care of

these two and then he would get rid of Patrick O'Hearne for good. With a curt nod of his head he turned on his heel and walked out, slamming the door behind himself.

"So, now you've met himself," Patrick said as he watched Murphy's progress along the street from the open windows.

"Can't say that we are very impressed," Heyes commented. He looked over as the Kid's stomach gave a growl and shook his head. "Come on, Mr. O'Hearne. We haven't had breakfast and

I'm sure your missus has it laid out."

"What are we goin' to do about him?"

"We never plan on an empty stomach. Let's eat. Then we will decide what we need to do."

**********

It wasn't hard to detect the men watching the pub. They were not subtle about making their

presence known to the inhabitants of the Lucky Charm. Kathleen noticed them as soon as she went out to hang the wash and kept her girls close at hand, as well as the Colt '45 pistol that Patrick had given her

when they had come across the plains to reach their new home. She was not very good at long distances

but she was deadly up close.

About the time the boys were due home from school the Kid announced that he wanted to stretch

his legs and proceeded to wander down Main Street to the church. The church bell began to peel as he

approached the huge rock edifice. Suddenly the door to the fellowship hall opened and boys of all ages

and sizes began to spew out. They ran in every direction, yelling and calling to their friends and just

happy to be out. A small round man in robes stood at the door shaking his head and smiling at them.

When he say the Kid he stepped out and made his way over to him.

"Good afternoon, friend," he said, his brogue as thick as clotted cream. He was younger than

the Kid thought, not much more than a year or two older than himself. He didn't know why that surprised him but it had seemed that all the fathers were old in the orphans home he and Heyes had

been sent to when their parents had died.

"Good afternoon to you father," he said, touching the brim of his hat in deference to the man.

"You must be one of the strangers that the O'Hearne boys have been ramblin' about all day.

I'm Father Joseph, but most everyone calls me Father Joe. Welcome to Shamrock."

"Thank you. I just came out for a walk and thought I would see the boys home from school."

The Kid said it casually but the look on Father Joe's face told him that he understood what was going

on.

"They are inside cleanin' up the school room. It is young Patrick's turn, but his brothers are

anxious to be getting' home so they are lendin' him a hand. They are good boys, they are. Ones their

parents can be proud of."

"You haven't had any trouble around here have you?" the Kid asked, his cool blue eyes spying

the men lounging outside the walls of the church with no obvious purpose.

"Not yet. But let me just say that it's glad I am that you decided to come out for a walk this fine

afternoon." The father beamed a smile.

"Thaddeus!" The shout came from two of the four O'Hearne boys as they came tumbling out of

the school house at a dead run. They skidded to a halt at his side then turned to face the father.

"Ya see, Father. We told ya we had company," young Patrick said.

"So you did, my boy. So you did. I don't want to keep you. You boys take it easy on your new

friend here and I will be seeing you tomorrow. Go with God."

"Thanks, Father Joe. Come on, Thaddeus." Patrick was practically dragging him down the street, with the other three boys in tow. "We want to go by the dry goods store on the way home. There's a rifle in the window you just got to see."

They made their way down to O'Shea's Mercantile and all five of them pressed their noses against the glass to admire the shiny new Winchester rifle laying there on display. It was as fine a piece

of hardware as the Kid had ever seen.

"Have ya ever seen anything like it?" Sean breathed in awe, or was it Seamus?

"Can't say as I have, boys. I'll bet it costs a pretty penny though."

"More than a drifter could come up with, I'm sure." At the sound of Reilly's caustic voice the Kid stood up slowly and turned to face him. He was standing not two feet away, his hands resting on

the handles of his twin pistols in his belt.

"Don't have much use for rifles," the Kid said, his hand going automatically to rest on the shoulder of Patrick.

"I'm sure you fancy yourself pretty good with a gun?"

"Good enough."

"You want to have a little contest, then? See which one of us is better?"

"I don't need to compete, Mr. Reilly. Now, if you will excuse us, I need to be getting the boys

home for tea." The five of them moved around Reilly but he put out a hand and stopped the Kid.

"I'll be watchin' you, Jones. You just keep that in mind."

"If you don't take your hand off me you'll be a southpaw," the Kid said, his voice low, his eyes

cold as ice. He watched as Reilly went over his options and slowly removed his hand. "Good day, Mr.

Reilly."

They were halfway home before Patrick could speak. He had wisely herded his brothers away from the confrontation that had taken place but he was curious and waited until they were a good ways ahead of them before he spoke his mind.

"You good with that gun, Mr. Jones?"

"Yes, Patrick, I am," the Kid answered truthfully.

"You weren't scared of him at all. I could tell. But he sure was after you threatened to make him a southpaw. Would you have? Made him a southpaw?"

"Only if he had forced me to. I don't like being good with this gun, but I don't mind using it

if I have to."

"Would you teach me how?"

He wondered how many times he had been asked that question. How many young boys had

been impressed with his speed and accuracy and had wanted him to teach them how to draw. He shook

his head and stopped long enough to look young Patrick O'Hearne in the eye.

"I could teach you how to fast draw, Patrick, but I won't. There is always someone faster and if

I teach you how, you will find that someone some day and it will break your mother's heart. I can't do

that to her and I won't do it to you. Do you understand?"

Patrick looked him square in the eye and saw the wisdom of the man but the part about his mother was what had really gotten to him. "I understand, Mr. Jones. And I won't ask again."

"Good man. Now, let's hurry up or we're going to miss those scones your mother made this

morning."

**********

The days eased by and settled into a routine that everyone got used to. Murphy's men still watched and reported all that went on, but no one made any more threats and Patrick was pleased with the growing business. It seemed that the town folk felt safe with the two 'assistants' that he had

hired and started bringing their families in for the evening. Kathleen's food was good, Patrick's ale

was first rate and the music wasn't bad either. By the time Heyes and Curry had been in town a full

week they were part of the community and were made to feel welcome.

Heyes good-naturedly tormented his cousin over the leprechaun incident until the children were afraid that the two men were going to come to blows. Although Kathleen O'Hearne did not allow gambling in her house, the boys were all taking bets as to where, how and when the two men would

mix it up. Little did they know that this was pretty much normal for the two and that actual fisticuffs

between them had stopped long ago.

The men of the town began to discuss the need for a mayor and a constable over their whiskey and cigars at the Lucky Charm. Up until now they had not seen any reason for it, but with the town growing so quickly and certain people thinking they could run rough shod over other people, it just seemed the proper thing to do. Many of them had told Murphy's men that they were through paying protection to him and were just waiting to see what happened. They didn't have long to wait.

The evening started like any other. People came in and made themselves comfortable. Big

Mike Clancy tuned up his fiddle after dinner and pretty soon his lovely daughter, Molly, was singing

along to the tunes from the old country and flirting outrageously with both of Patrick's hired help.

She had just finished a haunting song in the Gaelic when the door flew open and Tommy O'Brien

burst inside.

"There's fire at the livery!" he shouted, then ran back the way he had come. All the men folk jumped to their feet and followed him at a run. Smoke and flames lit up the night sky. A line of men had started a bucket brigade and were trying to stop it from spreading.

"Are the animals out?" Patrick shouted.

"Don't know," came the reply. Then they heard the shrieks from the frightened horses

inside.

The Kid dove into the water trough and climbed out dripping wet before covering his face

with his arm and dashing through the open door. Smoke choked him and made his eyes burn but

even in all the chaos he could tell that he would be able to get the animals to safety. The only thing

burning was the straw stacked against the outer walls. With then men throwing water at it the fire would be out quickly.

He untethered the few animals from their stalls and led them out into the clean night air. Men

came forward to help him almost immediately. He stood for a moment then bent over and coughed out

some of the soot. When he looked up Heyes was standing beside him, shaking his head and frowning,

his arms crossed.

"You all right, hero?" he asked, his tone thoroughly disgusted.

"I think so," he coughed his answer.

"Mr. Jones," a female voice caused them both to turn. Molly Clancy had come to his side, her

sweet brown eyes full of admiration. "Come over here and sit down. Let me get you some water." She

led him over to the porch of the assayer's office and helped him take a seat. He leaned forward and

braced his hands on his knees, dragging in great gulps of air.

A dipper of water was pressed into his hand and before he could take a sip a cool rag began to

wash the dirt and soot from his face. Heyes stood by and grinned. He could tell that the Kid was fine

and would be even better under the ministrations of Miss Molly. He turned his attention to the matters

at hand and watched as the last of the flames were smothered. His dark eyes surveyed the scene with

his usual cool detachment.

This had been a nuisance fire, set to send a message. The damage was slight and there had really been no danger of anybody getting hurt. Yes, this was a little reminder from Murphy that these people needed protection. His protection. Heyes watched in silence as the man in question came down the street at a leisurely pace. He couldn't help but admire him as he stopped in front of the mercantile to

casually light his cigar, then take a relaxed stance and lean against the porch rail to watch as the last of the smoldering cinders were stamped out.

Their eyes met in the evening light and both men nodded. The dye had been cast. This kind of

thing was going to keep happening until Murphy got his way. Heyes understood this as if the words

had been spoken. He also understood that there were other ways to defeat a man such as Murphy. And

Hannibal Heyes was smarter than the average outlaw. He went over to his partner and let the challenge

go. For the moment.

**********

The Kid was still coughing a little as they prepared for bed that night. Heyes was already under

the covers, laying on his back, his hands stacked beneath his head. He watched as his partner came in,

wet from the bath he had taken and hurrying to get inside where it was warm.

"Would you like to tell me what you were thinking when you went running into a burning building?"

The Kid raised his head and parted the towel he was vigorously using to dry his hair. He knew

that they would be discussing this the minute he had seen Heyes' face when he came out of the barn.

"Well, Heyes. I couldn't just let those horses burn, now could I?" He sat down on the side of

his bed and continued to dry.

"You could have waited a few more minutes. By then we all knew that the fire was pretty much

under control."

"They were scared. I could hear them inside and I couldn't just stand there."

"Next time, give me time to catch up to you. My calmer mind could be the thing that keeps you

alive."

The Kid threw the towel at the wash stand and slid under his own covers. He sighed and pulled

the quilt up under his chin glad to have its extra warmth. Heyes rose up and blew out the lamp, sending

them into quiet darkness.

"Thanks for worrying about me, Heyes," the Kid said softly.

"Well, someone has to. You go an awful long way to impress the ladies."

"Yeah, I do." He chuckled and so did Heyes. "Miss Molly and I hit it off real nice after I came

out of that barn."

"Miss Molly is not worth doing something that crazy."

"I don't know, Heyes. She's agreed to go for a walk with me tomorrow night when I get my break."

"Just don't go doing anything else stupid, okay? Big Mike is a little more than I want to have to

handle on your behalf."

"Now, Heyes. You know I never have any trouble with the ladies."

They both laughed then settled into silence. But Heyes' mind was turning over the newest strategy of Murphy's and he spent a good deal of time working up one of his own.

**********

They stood inside the circle of light from the full moon and looked up at the open window.

The curtains billowed out, catching the evening breeze and waving to them like a flag. The town

was quiet. It was very late.

"Those two are a puzzle to me," Ronan said, his voice hushed.

"Don't go soft on me," came Aloysius' reply. He did not trust any man who could see them.

"Those two are after our gold. Don't you be forgettin' that."

"I'm not so sure of that. They haven't once gone out into the countryside since they got here.

And just what makes ya think they're here after anything?"

"They be strangers. They be not what they seem. I know what I'm talking about, so don't

be arguing with me." Aloysius stalked away, his short legs fairly flying over the ground. Ronan gave

the window one more look, then hurried after his partner. He liked the people of Shamrock and he did

not particularly like playing tricks on everyone. He especially liked little Niamh, who was sweet as they

came and never treated him with anything but respect. He liked the stranger who would help a little girl

in the middle of the night and would run into a burning barn to save defenseless animals.

Aloysius would say that he was a disgrace to his kind, but he was rather fond of the people in the

valley and he liked looking out for them. Searching for gold at the end of the rainbow sometimes got a

little boring to his way of thinking. His little legs carried him into the night, his keen ears listening for

the voices of his people.

**********

The next afternoon most of the townsfolk gathered at the Lucky Charm. Pete Donnelly was there even though he still had a lot of repairs to make on his stables. The room filled quickly and Patrick made room for everyone, including the women and children. His family stood together behind the bar

and listened as everyone debated the need for protection now that Murphy had shown his hand. The

pros and cons were weighed as men threatened and cajoled in equal numbers, trying to come up with

a solution that they could all live with.

In the midst of all the clamor, Heyes separated himself from the proceedings and slipped out the

back door. He mosied up the street to the Pot of Gold and went inside. Rue came slinking forward again, in the same dress she had been wearing the first time he had seen her along with the lovely feather

in her hair. This time she was drunk. Something he imagined Murphy would not approve of. She tripped just as she got to him and he reached out to steady her.

"Thanks, mister," she slurred, trying to bat her eyes at him. When she recognized him, she smiled and tried to straighten up. "Hello, handsome. Glad to see you back. It's Jones, isn't it? Or is

it Johnson?"

"It's Smith, Miss Rue. Joshua Smith." He took her arm and guided her over to a table where he helped her into a chair and then took one himself. The bartender was over to them in a flash.

"Whiskey," Heyes said. He looked up at the man and pierced him with his dark gaze. "The good stuff from Mr. Murphy's bottle."

"I…can't pour from Mr. Murphy's bottle," he stammered.

"I've got money. You bring me the good stuff and let me worry about Murphy."

The man bobbed his head and when he came back, he had a bottle and two glasses of Ambrose

Murphy's finest whiskey. When Heyes took if from him he quickly scuttled off to go about his business. Rue eyed the bottle and the two glasses then smiled in what she thought was her most seductive way.

Heyes merely uncorked the bottle and poured them both a shot. He sipped his and watched as she tossed hers back with a practiced hand. It was good. Not as good as Patrick's, but it was far better

than the beer they served. At least he would have some stomach lining left when he was finished. Rue

put her glass forward again, lifting an questioning eyebrow. He was just about to pour her another one when a shadow fell across the table.

Ambrose Murphy stood beside them, glaring at them like a vengeful god. Heyes smiled up at him…that small, thin smile that the Kid knew meant trouble. He raised his glass and finished the rest before setting it down with a jolt.

"Mr. Murphy," he said, attempting to pour himself another. Murphy's hand reached out and

took the bottle from him, scowling when he saw the label.

"What brings you into my place, Mr. Smith?"

"Oh, I wanted to get away from the pub for a while. You know…stretch my legs and soak up some atmosphere somewhere else."

Murphy sat down across from Heyes and sent Rue scurrying away with a jerk of his head. He put the bottle back down on the table before leaning back and lacing his fingers together over his checkered vest.

"You want something, Mr. Smith. I know it. You know it. Why don't you just tell me what it is and get it out in the open."

"Well, I can see you are not a man for small talk." Heyes sat forward, his nimble fingers turning the empty glass in front of him. Murphy opened the bottle and filled it to the rim.

"Don't tell me you've seen the light, Mr. Smith? You want to join forces with me and rid the town of the do-gooders."

"Not quite, Mr. Murphy. I just wanted to let you know that those do-gooders, as you call them, are at this very moment meeting at the Lucky Charm and are planning a host of things to rid this town of you and your threats." Heyes shot him a cool look and watched as the blood rose into Murphy's face.

"They can't do anything without me!" he roared, slamming the bottle down on the table with enough force to shatter it. Amber liquid spilled onto the tabletop and joined the shards of glass on the floor.

"Looks like they can and are." Heyes stood up and adjusted his hat on his dark head. "Just wanted to let you know." With that he turned and walked away.

The Kid was waiting for him when he slipped back inside the pub. Voices were still raised in the front room but most of the women had retired to the parlor and kitchen while the children were playing in the courtyard out back.

"You deliver the message?"

"It won't be long now." Heyes put his hand on his partner's shoulder. "I've lit a fire under him. It won't be long before he tips his hand…and we'll be there."

**********

Guards were posted that night. Men volunteered to walk the streets and keep an eye on everyone and their property. An announcement for elections for mayor and constable was placed in the church bulletin the next Sunday. The danger had galvanized the people and had given them purpose. No one was going to threaten their lives and their livelihoods. They had come too far and suffered too long at the hands of other people to let one of their own do this to them. And Murphy watched and stewed.

Elections were set up and candidates were announced. To the town's chagrin, Ambrose Murphy ran for mayor and his head flunky, Riley, ran for constable. The town put up Patrick O'Hearne for mayor and tried unsuccessfully to coerce Smith and Jones into running for the lawman job. Both men declined with regret and tongue firmly planted in cheek.

The day of the elections was one of great excitement. Everyone closed down their businesses and came out to vote. The polls were located at the fellowship hall of the church as neither O'Hearne nor Murphy would agree to have them in either of their establishments. By sundown, Father Joe had managed to come up with an accurate count. Patrick O'Hearne won by a landslide and Pete Donnelly had won the position of constable.

The announcement of the victory sent a rousing cheer through the streets. Cheers and hurrahs resounded. Someone had some fireworks and it wasn't long before the skies were filled with the sound of explosions and sight of glorious colors overhead. The victory party broke out in the middle of town and soon there were tables set up and a fiddler or two and everyone began to dance.

Everyone but Murphy. He watched from the porch of the Pot of Gold and seethed at the merriment below him. He had come to America with nothing. Had almost died on the way over from malnutrition and neglect. When he had set foot on solid ground again he had vowed that would never be poor and hungry again. He had pulled himself out of the gutter by preying on his fellow man. All his

money came from shady deals that usually ended badly for the parties involved. He had left a trail of

dead men all across the country.

When he had found Shamrock, he had decided that this was the place to make his own. It did not matter to him that these people were his people…that they descended from the same blood and lineage. That many of them had experienced the very same things he had in the old country and had escaped much as he had, in the belly of a ship that took them across an ocean to a place where they were not particularly welcome.

When the Pot of Gold had become available he had seen it as a sign that this was where he was meant to rule. The money was good and this time he had not had to do away with the proprietor. Old

Johnny Ryan has gladly given up the ownership of the place just to get out from under it. With Riley's

help he had slowly begun his protection racket and that made even more money. These people were like sheep…if you threatened to hurt them or their families they gladly forked over 10% of their earnings just to keep the peace.

That is until Patrick O'Hearne had showed up. Him and his happy family. When they moved into the pub and had taken over the place, a third of his business at the Pot of Gold had disappeared. When he had sent Riley by to collect the money, he had told them that he didn't pay for protection and had left it at that. Threats had only brought those two hired guns. Now they had a new mayor and a new sheriff. And it was all because of Patrick O'Hearne.

He took a deep draw on the bottle he held, then swiped his mouth with the back of his hand. In

the glow of the bonfires that had been lit he watched at Patrick and Kathleen gracefully danced with the

others in the street. He suddenly saw red, his frustration overwhelming him to the point that he could barely breath. With a savage growl, he smashed the empty bottle against the side of the building and charged off into the night.

**********

Heyes happily danced in the street with as many lovely young women as he could find, and there were more than enough. This jig thing was easy and anything that let you hold on to a pretty girl was a

good thing in his estimation. He saw the Kid dancing with Molly and had to laugh. There were many things that Kid Curry could do, but dancing was not one of them. His cousin had two left feet and there was no getting around it. But, as was his usual want, the Kid managed to turn it into a plus, not a minus. Many a comely lass had spent her entire evening trying to teach him the basic steps and in the process had stayed in his company.

He saw the boys running in a pack with what seemed like twenty other boys, carrying fire-

crackers and lighting them as they went. It was a great night for all of them. Now that there was some kind of law in town, he suspected that their nice soft job was over. There was no need to stay when there was no need for their services any longer. He would be sad to go, but he was also getting the itch

to move on. Staying anywhere for any length of time made him nervous. But for now, he would enjoy the party and the food and the wonderful women. Tomorrow was soon enough to worry about moving

on.

He hooked arms with Katie O'Shaunessy and let the music take them. His dark eyes flashed with mirth as she let out a giggle and they dissolved into the crowd.

**********

The shadow moved unsteadily down the back alley, the smell of whiskey swirling around him. In his haste he tripped and fell, cursing at the dirt and dust that stained his checkered vest. Getting back at the O'Hearnes was his only thought. They had ruined everything! Everything! And now they were

going to pay. He stepped into the courtyard behind their pub and smiled an evil smile. It would go up

in only a few moments. By the time they realized that the place was on fire, it would be too late.

Hadn't he been reasonable? Hadn't he set a small fire at the livery…just to warn them of what could happen when you didn't have protection? Yes, he thought as he took out a tinderbox and eased

into the yard. You just never knew what might happen if you didn't pay the piper. He tried to strike

the box and fumbled it. It hit the pavestones and he cursed again as he dropped to his knees to search

for it.

"What are you doing here?" a small voice asked from the dark.

His head swung up and his bleary eyes focused on little Niamh O'Hearne. She was sitting on the back step with her favorite doll in her lap. He sat back on his haunches and started to laugh. Niamh

clutched her doll closer to her chest and climbed to her feet. Before she could run, Murphy had her

in his grasp.

"Oh, no, little girl," he ground out. "You are perfect. Just perfect." He tightened his grip causing her to cry out.

"Let me go," she said petulantly, pulling away from him with all her might.

"Cry all you want. They won't hear you." He laughed again and swung her up into his arms

before he headed back into the dark.

Two little red heads popped up from the safety of the bushes. Both began to shake with fear though neither one made a sound. Ronan stepped out and turned to Aloysius.

"We have to go save her."

"What!"

"You heard me. She was looking for us. That is why she was out here and not at the party.

It's our fault and we have to save her."

"Listen, Ronan. We don't help them. They steal our gold. Don't you remember?"

"Yes. I remember everything. But I'm not going to let him hurt her!" With that Ronan leaped into the air and made a mad dash after them. Aloysius cursed in Gaelic and followed, though he really didn't see how they could be of any help.

**********

As the party began to wind down Kathleen began to gather her children to her. Little Michaela was sleeping peacefully on her shoulder and one by one her sons came straggling up at her call. Patrick joined them after his last goodnight and easily took their slumbering daughter from her mother. She nestled against her father's strong shoulder and sighed. Kathleen looked about and a sudden dread filled her. How long had it been since anyone had seen Niamh?

Heyes and Curry joined them at that moment just a little tipsy and very ready for bed. At the look on Kathleen's face, they both sobered.

"What's wrong?" Heyes asked.

"We can't seem to find Niamh," Patrick said, trying to keep his voice steady.

"She's probably out back waitin' for the little people," young Patrick said with some disgust.

"She does that all the time. I'll go…"

"No", the Kid said, putting his hand on Patrick's shoulder to stop him. "I'll go. You go in the house and see if she just got tired and went to bed." With his partner right behind him they took off around the side of the building. There was no sign of the little girl and the Kid's heart began to sink.

Kathleen opened the back door and at their expectant looks only shook her head. Niamh was not in the house. Heyes took a step and something crunched under his boot.

He reached down and brought up the tinderbox that Murphy had attempted to use. His eyes met the Kid's and both men knew instantly what had happened. They turned in unison when Kathleen let out a small cry and bent forward to retrieve her daughter's favored doll.

"Someone has taken my baby," she cried, her hands clutching the doll to her as she would have done the child. "Murphy has her. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. That horrible man has my Niamh!" She

turned and was brought up short by her husband, who was standing right behind her. He took her into

his arms and tried to comfort her.

"We'll go get the new sheriff," Heyes said, fury making his heart pound. Men who made war on

women and children were the lowest form of life as far as he was concerned. "We can get a search party

together. We'll find her, Kathleen. You have my promise."

Together they climbed the stairs and sought their weapons before going out to look. Murphy was not going to get away with kidnapping a child. Heyes was not going to be able to stop the Kid if Niamh had been hurt and a part of him didn't really want to.

"We don't know where to start," the Kid said as he strapped on his gun and checked to make sure it was loaded. "We don't know how much of a head start he has. He could be anywhere. He could have left the valley for all we know."

"Don't do that, Kid," Heyes warned him, taking his arm until he made eye contact with him. "I know all of these things but we can't let our fear for Niamh cloud our judgment. We have to keep focused or we won't be any good to anybody."

"Tell that to Niamh." The Kid stalked out of the room and pounded down the stairs. Heyes sighed and followed suit.

Down in the pub people were gathering and everyone was pairing up to go out and search. Heyes stopped to see what they were planning while the Kid went out the back door and searched the area where she had been taken. In the dark it was impossible to tell if there had been a struggle and with the pavestones there was no trace of footprints. Inside the barn the horses were stabled as usual. There was no sign of upset.

Voices brought him outside to see the first of the teams head off in different directions. Heyes came towards him out of the dark.

"Which direction do you want to take?"

"I don't know, Heyes. Where would a crazy man take a little girl?"

"He's mad and he's more than likely drunk," Heyes began to think out loud. "We need to think like him. Where would he go?"

A sudden flash in the bushes caught the Kid's attention. He looked that way and saw a one of the little people standing at the corner of the barn. He motioned for them to come that way then shot back into cover. The Kid started after him. Heyes saw him start off and turned to follow.

"Well, this way is as good as any."

They followed the alley for a short time before coming to a stop. In the dark every shadow held the threat of danger. The Kid looked around and spotted their guide once again beckoning to them from the corner of a building. When they cleared it they realized that they were at the edge of town. A faint trail could be seen in the moonlight and without hesitation the Kid followed it.

"Kid, do you know where you are going? Why are we going this way?"

"I…just have a feeling. Trust me."

The thick underbrush caught at their clothes and slowed them down. In the dark it was easy to lose sight of each other. Heyes came through a break and paused, listening for his partner who had suddenly become a man with a purpose. He was breathing hard as he struggled to keep up with him.

"Trust me he says," Heyes said under his breath. "I don't even know where we are."

Up ahead, the Kid still followed the little red headed man as he lead him further and further into the dense foliage. There were subtle signs that someone had recently passed this way and he was praying that it had been Murphy. He couldn't think beyond getting Niamh back and heaven help Ambrose Murphy if she was hurt. Through the haze of anger he heard his partner call out to him and he stopped, letting him catch up.

"Slow down," Heyes said. "You'll fall off a cliff out here in the dark. We have to go slowly or we may miss something."

"We don't have time to go slowly, Heyes. The longer he has her the more chance he has to hurt her."

"I know that Kid, but if we get hurt or lost out here we won't be any good to her." His partner's

advice was good, as always, but he couldn't slow down. Something was urging him onward.

"Let's split up. I'll take the left and you take the right. We will meet back up after we've both had a chance to look around."

"Sure, Kid. We can cover more ground that way. Give a shout if you find anything."

The Kid stood still as a stone for a few moments then turned to face the little man standing beside him in the dark.

"Do you know where he has taken her?" he asked, not caring that he was talking to a figment of most people's imagination.

"I can't tell you," Ronan said with angst. "I'm not supposed to help you, but if you'll follow me I can lead you there."

"Go, then. I'll be right behind you."

**********

The cabin was all alone in the curve of the ravine. It was a nice size place, with a big front porch and two or three rooms. You could not see it from the road and unless a fire was lit in the fireplace you could miss it completely. This was just what Ambrose Murphy had in mind when he bought it and in his drunken state, it was the only place he thought of to run to.

He had staggered inside and locked his small prisoner in the pantry. Now he stood at the front windows, swigging on another bottle and wondering what he was going to do. Patrick O'Hearne was going to pay for all that he had done to him he just didn't know how yet. The girl would have to die,

of that he was certain. He couldn't have her around to testify against him. But how to do it?

Riley came in the room and stood waiting for instructions. He had met up with Murphy in the alleyway and had made sure no one had followed them. He sat down in the chair by the door and leaned back with a sigh.

"You decided what we're going to do with that brat?"

"No. Not yet." He took a long pull and smiled evilly. "What do you think? Should we just bury her out here somewhere and never let them know what happened to her? Or should we strangle

the little waif and let them find her body in an alley?"

"That's up to you, Mr. Murphy. I don't hold to killin' children." Riley was suddenly very uncomfortable. He swallowed hard and wondered if Murphy would be as ready to kill when he sobered up.

"You don't hold to killin' children," Murphy sneered, turning his blood shot gaze upon his minion. "You goin' soft on me, Riley? Because you know what happens to people who go soft on me, don't you?"

"I reckon I can figure it out." Riley stood abruptly and faced his employer. "I'll get rid of anybody you want me to. I'll set fire to anything. Hell, I'll even blow it up if you want…but I won't have any part in killin' a child. Shoot me if you have to, but that's where I draw the line." He walked away, not seeing Murphy's eyes narrow as a plan began to form in his alcohol steeped brain. It was

perfect. If he played his cards right he wouldn't even have to leave Shamrock. No, Riley had just dumped the perfect plan right in his lap and the fool didn't even know it.

**********

The Kid hunkered down in the dark and eyed the scene below him. From his vantage point he could see the smoke rising from the chimney of the cabin and he knew that it was occupied. It went through his mind to just march right up to the door and demand to search the place but he knew that if it was the place that Murphy was holed up in he did not want to tip his hand. Just about the time he decided to go on past it the familiar figure of Riley came slamming out of the place and stalked towards the hitching post.

As quiet as a cat, he slipped around behind the man and came out of the night like a ghost. The first thing Riley knew a cold gun barrel was pressed against his neck and the unmistakable sound of it being cocked sent sweat down his spine. He immediately raised his hands and froze.

"Where is the girl?"

"She's in the house," he stammered. He began to shake when he felt it press harder into him.

"Murphy says he's goin' to kill her. I told him I didn't want any part of that. I ain't no baby killer."

"No, you're just a man who would let someone else do it."

"Listen, Jones. I don't want no trouble. You go in a get her. I won't try to stop ya. He's drunk though and he gets real mean when he gets drunk."

"Too bad," the Kid ground out then brought the butt of the gun down at the base of Riley's skull.

He went down without a sound. "I don't have time to mess with you."

Shadows hid his approach to the door and in only a moment he was inside. The heat made him shiver and he was glad that at least Niamh was warm, wherever she was. A sound from the front room had him easing up to the doorway and what he saw made his blood boil.

Murphy had Niamh in the room with him, his big hands holding her by the arm and almost lifting her off her feet. He was screaming something incoherent at her and that was all it took. With practiced ease the Kid stepped forward and drew his gun, pointing straight at the man, a deadly look in his eye.

"Let her go!" he demanded. At the sound of his voice Murphy looked up and jerked Niamh in front of himself to use her as a shield. She gave a muffled cry then was silent, her eyes huge and filled with terror.

"So, you tracked me down, did you? Too bad you're too late." From behind him Murphy brandished a knife and Curry's blood ran cold.

"I'll kill you before you even get the chance."

"I don't think so. You won't take that chance because you know I have nothing to lose and I will kill her just as soon as look at her." Murphy's eyes were wild and frantic. "Unlike you, Jones, I have no weakness for small children."

"Unlike you I have no feeling of remorse sending you to the devil. I'm fast and I'm accurate. Now I'm telling you again…let her go."

Murphy contemplated his options then raised the knife, intent on plunging it into his helpless victim. The Kid aimed and fired just as the window behind Murphy shattered and Heyes leapt through, grabbing him and sending them all crashing to the floor in a tangled heap. The coal oil lamp on the table shattered and sent fire across the floor and up the remaining curtains. Murphy was dead before he hit the ground.

Heyes rolled out of the fire and snatched Niamh to himself, tucking her into his sheltering embrace. When they stopped rolling he was caught by the Kid and lifted to his feet.

"Let's get out of here," Heyes shouted, handing Niamh to the Kid and pushing them towards the door. Once outside they stood and watched as the greedy flames overtook the house and cremated the worthless remains of Ambrose Murphy.

Together they moved away from the heat and sat down to take inventory. Niamh had a death grip on the Kid's coat and was snuggled as close to him as she could get. He tried to pull her back so he could take stock but she wouldn't let him.

"Niamh, honey. Are you alright?" He began to rock her and gently caress her hair. She only nodded in the affirmative and moved closer. "Did he hurt you, baby?"

"No," came her muffled reply. "I want my mama."

"Oh, baby. You don't worry about that. We are headed there right now." She turned her head and watched the fire for a moment before lifting serious eyes to his.

"Is the bad man gone?"

"Yes. He won't ever hurt you again. Isn't that right, Joshua?"

"Absolutely, Thaddeus." They stood again and began their long walk back to town. People began to appear, drawn by the light from the blaze but the two of them kept walking. They had what they had come after.

"Thanks, Joshua. You're timing was perfect, as always."

"Your welcome, Thaddeus, but when we get our little friend here back to her mother I think we need to have a little talk about partnership in general and not taking unnecessary risks in particular?"

The Kid threw his head back and laughed and in a moment Heyes joined him.

**********

In the shelter of the dense brush two red heads popped up and watched the men stride away into the night.

"You helped them," Aloysius said, his voice ripe with anger.

"Only a little," Ronan nodded, a smile on his freckled face.

"You know you are in a lot of trouble now, don't you?"

"Aye. But right now I'm not really carin'."

"Humph!" Aloysius gave a snort. "I still say those two are after our gold."

"Maybe…maybe not. But whatever they are after it's hopin' I am that they get it."

**********

The new sheriff of Shamrock closed the case of Ambrose Murphy quickly and quietly. No one in town was particularly sorry about the loss of such a vile man and even Father Joe had been hard pressed to say a few words at the memorial service. Life went back to normal for most of the town folk except for Rue, who found herself in the enviable spot of being made Murphy's heir and inheriting the Pot of Gold for herself and her girls.

As was inevitable, the day came that the boys had to say their good-byes. Kathleen had begged them to stay while Patrick had offered them the job of running the Lucky Charm while he attended to his new duties as mayor. They had thanked them but they all knew it was time for them to get moving. With best wishes from the entire family ringing in their ears, they saddled up and rode out, a little sad but glad to be on to another adventure.

At the waterfall they paused to admire the beautiful sight and enjoy the enormous rainbow that arced across the clear blue sky. On a whim they dismounted and decided to go for a swim. They frolicked in the cold water like two little boys, their time here a fond memory, their next destination a mystery.

"So do you think we earned any extra consideration for this little job?" the Kid asked as he lay in the sunshine, letting it warm him up and dry him off, too.

"Kid. I've pretty much given up on trying to figure that out. All I know is we helped those people and we found some really good friends in the bargain. Now we need to get moving." Reluctantly he climbed to his feet and began to dress. With a groan the Kid did the same. Reaching down to pull on his boots, Heyes stopped and frowned.

"What the…"

"What is it, Heyes?"

"There's something in my boot." He upended it and a gold nugget rolled out and landed with a plop in his hand. He rolled it over with his fingers and then bit it, confirming that it was indeed gold.

"Now…how in the world did that get in there?" His dark eyes were puzzled as he looked around for more.

On a whim the Kid turned his boot up and sure enough, a nugget dropped into his hand as well. He grinned and looked around and there on the other bank stood his two little friends. He raised his hand to them and nodded. One waved back while the other one shook his head and pulled him out of sight.

"That's the craziest thing I've ever seen," Heyes continued, picking up his other boot and giving it a hard shake. "Kid, this is a nugget! A solid gold nugget!"

"I know, Heyes. I've got one, too." He pulled his boots on and stood up, taking his newest lucky charm and putting it in his vest pocket for safekeeping.

"How…?" Heyes turned to him and when he saw the look on his partner's face he began to shake his head. "No…uh uh. I don't believe in leprechauns, Kid. There is no such thing."

"If you say so, Heyes."

"No. There has got to be another explanation." They mounted up and began to ride slowly towards the pass that would take them out of the valley. "Kid, nuggets don't just appear out of no where."

"I know that. So, how do you explain it?"

"I don't know. Just give me a few minutes…I'll think of something…"

"I'm sure you will, Heyes. I'm sure you will."

THE END

Copyright 2000

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