ESTABLISHING SHOT – AN IMPOSING BUILDING WITH A SIGN: CHICAGO GOLF CLUB
CAMERA PANS RIGHT TO THE LINKS
The shorter and plumper of two prosperous-looking gentlemen fishes a well-stuffed wallet from an inner pocket.
“We agreed on ten dollars a hole? So that makes it…?”
“You lost nine out of nine holes – so ninety dollars,” the voice reveals not only smugness but a trace of Scottish burr.
Ten-dollar bills transfer from one hand to another.
“You’d a touch of bad luck on the fourth,” soothes the be-whiskered winner, insincerely. “For a moment, I really thought your drive might hit the green.” Pause. “For a moment.”
“Thirty, forty… Well, golf’s a tough game.” The loser is making an effort to be gracious in defeat.
“If you can call what we just played golf!”
A scowl creases the jowly face of the disher-out of dollars. “Sixty, seventy…”
“Compared to courses back in Scotland, this is a stroll in the park for old ladies!”
“Eighty, ninety. All square!” This is now one annoyed loser! “If Chicago’s course is too tame …”
Our point of view moves back. As birds twitter and the breeze blows, we lose what our plump friend is saying. Two further men become visible standing respectfully, aside, with ‘sidekicks’ written all over them. Watching the altercation, they exchange a not unfriendly, glum glance. One sidekick, despite a golfing cap of vivid tweed, looks familiar. But, only for a moment; then we zoom in, again, on the protagonists.
“Name the day and I’ll be there!” laughs the taller man, with the impressive side-whiskers. “I always enjoy taking your money, George, whether on business or pleasure.” He gestures to Sidekick-One, “Brody! Let’s go!” The man so addressed immediately trots to his heels and both stride away.
Plump loser continues to fume. Then, in a tone indicating someone downstream in the food chain is about to soak up a burst of fury, “BRISCOE!”
Sidekick-Two, he whom we almost recognized, scurries forward. “Yessir, Mr. Bannerman, sir.”
A COUPLE OF MONTHS LATER
Heyes and Curry – grubby, threadbare, dishevelled and generally down-at-heel – tread, wearily, up the street of a typical small town.
“Y’know, Heyes,” grumbles the Kid, “lookin’ for honest work is more like hard work than findin’ the dang stuff!”
“If’n we could only earn enough to get me into a game.” Pause. “What kinda cheapskate saloon don’t have hard boiled eggs on the bar?” The brow under the black hat furrows. “We can’t trade our horses ‘cos we walked here…”
“Limped more like!”
“Coulda been worse, Kid.”
“We were spotted AGAIN, hadta jump off a movin’ train AGAIN an’ arrived in this dump of a town with feet covered in blisters AGAIN. How the Sam Hill could it be worse?”
Heyes muses. How could it have been worse? Ah! “Y’know that mud slick we rolled into, that coulda been dung. Coulda been skunk dung!”
This attempt at finding a silver lining draws nothing from the Kid except a scowl as he watches a stagecoach bowl into town. “Have got enough for a room and dinner – or is it one or the other?” he asks.
Heyes digs deep first into one pant pocket, then the other, then the vest. “If I say, neither – you’re gonna be a real grouch, huh?”
No response. Heyes looks up, notes an arrested expression on his partner’s face. Following the Kid’s eye line, he sees whatever Curry sees. “D’you reckon he’s looking for us?”
“Remind me; is this good news, bad news or just plain annoying news?”
Our point of view pans to that of the boys. We see a familiar suited figure and an even more familiar homburg.
THE SALOON – A CORNER TABLE
“I’ve been looking for you boys.” Harry Briscoe fixes Heyes and Curry with his most impressive stare. “On behalf of the Bannerman Agency, I’d like to offer you a job. George Bannerman himself told – go hire the best. I thought of you two right off. After all, what are friends for?”
“We’d listen better if’n we weren’t thirsty,” hints Heyes.
Harry signals one of the saloon gals. “A bottle of the best Kentucky corn whiskey and three glasses, Sweetheart.”
“We’d listen better still if’n we weren’t hungry,” contributes the Kid, ever hopeful.
“Does this place do steak dinners, little lady?”
“Sixteen ounce and all the trimmings, a dollar apiece,” flutters the feathered one.
“Two of ’em, for my dear friends. And three of your finest cigars. And this,” two dollar bills over and above the cost of steak and cigars, watched like a hawk – make that two hawks – by an envious set of cornflower blue and an avaricious set of chocolate brown eyes, are tucked into a low-cut neckline, “Is for you, pretty little lady!”
Soon afterwards, two hungry ex-outlaws wrap themselves around prime beef and fried potatoes and sip glasses of ‘the good stuff’.
“Our history of working with you hasn’t been so good, Harry,” chews Heyes.
“That affair at the Silver Palace panned out fine.”
“Some truth in there,” acknowledges the blonder of the Hadleyburg benefactors.
A ‘maybe’ shrug from Heyes.
“No harm in listening to an offer, is there, boys?”
“A lotta truth there, too.” The Kid radiates more goodwill with every mouthful.
“What’s your proposition?” accepts Heyes.
“You’ve heard of golf?”
“Uh uh,” negatives the Kid, as another forkful of potato distends his cheek.
“You hit a ball with a stick ’til it falls in a hole,” says Heyes.
“Er – yeah. You know it’s getting real popular?”
A shake of a frankly uninterested set of fair curls.
“Yeah. A real fancy club opened up twenty miles outta Chicago. Costs ’bout three month’s of an ordinary working man’s wages to join,” contributes the ex-outlaw with a habit of ingesting any journal he lays hands on.
“You’ve heard of the,” Harry takes a strengthening swallow of whiskey, “…Pinkerton Detective Agency?”
“They never sleep…” splutters through semi-masticated beef. Hey, Curry is still in this game!
“You’ve heard how…?”
“I reckon afore I carry on with this spot quiz, I’d kinda like to know if there’s a prize,” interrupts Heyes.
Harry delivers another impressive stare. (It does not impress). “The prize,” he intones, “…Is the honor of the Bannerman Agency!” (That does not impress, neither). “AND, a job paying thirty dollars a day – with a bonus at the end!” (That does! The boys keep their poker faces pretty well, sure. But a close observer will see a little extra sparkle in both the blue and brown eyes. A REALLY close observer might even see an infinitesimal glimpse of a pink tongue tip moisten the lips of the guy with the dimples.)
“Like the Kid said,” nonchalants Heyes, “…There’s no harm in listening.”
“You’ve heard how there’s – friendly rivalry – between Bannerman and Pinkerton?”
A snort from Curry. “No! I heard they hate each others’ guts!”
“We’re talking of gentlemen,” reproves Harry, with emphasis on the ‘g’ word. “Gentlemen do not hate each others’ guts. They indulge in friendly rivalry.”
A ‘don’t-make-me-no-mind – carry-on’ expression from the Kid.
“Golf is the up’n’coming thing for gentlemen. A coupla months back there was a match between Bannerman and – er – one of his top men and Pinkerton partnering one of HIS detectives. The outcome was…” Harry searches.
“Pinkerton beat the pants off your boss and gloated like a cat who’s found a way into the dairy?” hazards Heyes.
A confirmatory wriggle.
“This top Bannerman man – the other half of the losin’ team,” inarticulates Curry through potato, “…Is he you?”
Another confirmatory wriggle.
“Pinkerton made a few remarks about … Well, he made a few remarks … The west can’t produce a challenging enough course, huh?” Harry tails off with a disgruntled ‘harrumph’.
“And…?” prompts Heyes.
“Next month Pinkerton’s going out to Denver. You know it’s George Bannerman’s hometown and he likes to spend a few weeks there every summer…?”
Two shrugs indicate lack of both knowledge and interest.
“There’s a new golf course, just finished. As a principal investor, Bannerman’s got himself elected club president. A friendly return match is planned.”
“Where do we come in?” grunts Curry, mopping the last traces of gravy from his plate.
“We just need someone to meet and escort a visitor.”
“And, how come with a whole troupe of trained Bannerman men at your beck and call, you’re askin’ us?”
“Because the Pinkerton fellas KNOW every Bannerman man. They’ll be watching out for any tricks! Just like WE have a team watching …” Harry sees two knowing smiles crease two ex-outlaw faces at the word ‘tricks’. “Not that George Bannerman won’t be stickin’ strictly to the rules, you understand? But IF, hypothetical like, this planned match was gonna be a foursome – same as last time, and IF Pinkerton and Bannerman have set the rules so their partners had to be on the payroll – same as last time, Bannerman might wanna hire himself a new detective with certain skills – discreet like.” Glasses are generously refilled. “All you’d hafta do is meet this fella, escort him safe to Denver, stay with him, make sure he don’t get bothered by over-inquisitive Pinkerton men until the match is over.”
A glance is exchanged between the partners. Reluctance.
“Simple enough job,” tempts Harry.
Heyes speaks, “Y’see, Harry, for some reason, we aren’t keen on being around over-inquisitive Pinkerton men.”
“We’re not even keen on not very inquisitive Bannerman men,” deadpans the Kid. “No offense meant.”
“None taken,” replies Harry. “That’s the beauty of it. Who’d ever expect two notorious outlaws… No offense…”
“Oh, none taken,” echoes Heyes.
“…To put themselves in the middle of a pack of detectives? You’d be – what’s it called? Hidden in plain sight!”
Musing from Heyes. There IS something in there.
“No one looked twice at you on the Brimstone train, huh?” Harry is on a roll.
More musing from Heyes. Definitely some truth in that one.
“Thirty dollars a day. A bonus at the end if the Bannerman Agency wins. You can’t deny that’s tempting?”
Apparently, the former leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang cannot.
“Heyes – we could get spotted!”
“It’ll be all expenses paid. And this…” Harry digs a brochure from his pocket, “Is where you’d stay.” The page is smoothed flat in front of Curry.
“Denver Mile High Golf Club De Luxe Hotel,” he reads.
“Those beds look pretty comfortable, huh, Kid? Goose-down, every one.”
The fingertip of a tired and weary Kid Curry touches the illustration, wistfully.
“Fancy plumbing. Huge tubs. Hot water laid on day and night. BIG fluffy towels.”
Cornflower blue eyes, bright amidst dirt-engrained skin, blink, longingly.
“And this…” A page is turned. “Is the menu. All expenses paid.”
Reading. A gulp. “I guess we could disguise ourselves,” capitulates Kid Curry. Idea! “Hey! I could grow another moustache!”
A WEEK LATER – A BUSY CITY RAILWAY STATION
A week ago our boys had been a sorry sight. Now, they exude a faint whiff of prosperity. They also exude a touch of – unfamiliarity. It would be a lie to say they are in disguise. But, they are not in their usual outfits.
“It suits you,” Kid nods at the smart taupe number sitting atop Heyes’ head. “Y’know what I think…?”
“I am NOT ditching the old hat!” interrupts Heyes.
“A ditch is where that antique belo…”
“For the last dang time, MY hat stays! THIS,” he touches the jaunty brim, “…Is a temporary precaution!”
“Pity. I could get used to you in a light hat.” Pause. “Any hat in one piece, really.”
“Yeah, well. I could get used to you without a stray caterpillar draped across your face. I guess we’ll both have to make do until this job’s over, huh?”
“Hey!” An upper lip is stroked, defensively.
“You shoulda gone for eye-glasses, like me.”
“Nah. I gotta consider the effect on the ladies!”
Meanwhile, on another part of the platform, unnoticed by our boys, a pair of keen gray eyes rest, thoughtfully, on the blond and dark-haired young men. A well-manicured hand fingers the silver chain draped across a fancy, embroidered vest. Pinkerton agent Pete Brody (who we saw before as Sidekick-One), is describing the entertainment provided by Golden Garter establishment. Something in his partner’s face makes him break off. “What is it?”
“See those two fellas?” Fancy-Vest nods to the smiling pair in the distance.
“I know who they are.”
“They’re…This is it!” The cause of the self-interruption is the awaited train chugging into the station. “Listen, Brody, you can do this job alone, huh?”
“I’ll fill you in later. Right now,” the intelligent gray eyes take on a purposeful gleam, “… I need to tail that pair!”
Heyes and Curry watch newly disgorged passengers join the already milling crowd.
“What d’you reckon he looks like?” asks Curry.
Two heads stretch up, bobbing and weaving. The fair brow under the brand new dove-grey brim furrows. “And – what’s a Scotsman look like?”
“I dunno. He’s been traveling near two months. I guess he’ll look tired.”
“Got him!” triumphs the Kid.
“There’s a golf club stickin’ outta his bag.” Pause. “And he looks Scottish.”
“Okay. Let’s go. For the next week, Kid, our only task is stopping this man getting grilled by any Pinkerton fellas and keeping him happy.” As they edge through the throng towards their quarry, the final vowel sound of ‘happy’ dies away on his lips. One look at the gloom enveloping Angus McDonald is enough. There is no way any sentence whose import includes keeping this man happy can rationally contain the word ‘only’. “Mr. McDonald?” checks Heyes, “Angus McDonald?”
“I’m Joshua Smith,” Heyes sets his smile to full beam and holds out his hand. “This is my partner Thaddeus Jones. Welcome. We’re here to escort you on to Denver.”
Silence – though the offered hand is taken.
“How are you enjoying America?”
Increase (if that were possible) of gloom.
“I sure envy you crossing the Atlantic. Some journey, huh?”
“Well,” Heyes smile begins to look strained, “…I guess you’re keen to get to the hotel, Mr. McDonald?”
Nothing from the new arrival confirms Heyes’ guess one way or the other.
“Uh huh.” Pause. The dimples are really working to stay in place. “Well, enough of the small talk, huh?”
An infinitesimal twitch of a tawny eyebrow indicates the first agreement Heyes has elicited.
“If you’re ready, Mr. McDonald, Thaddeus and me’ll take your bags.”
They go. At a discrete distance, Fancy-Vest, looking worryingly competent, follows.
ESTABLISHING SHOT – DENVER MILE HIGH GOLF CLUBHOUSE – LUXURIOUS – BUT DEFINITELY JUST FINISHED WITH CARPENTRY AND DECORATION STILL BEING COMPLETED.
OUR POINT OF VIEW MOVES INSIDE – A PRIVATE OFFICE
“The reason I summoned you to America, Mr. McDonald, inviting you to name your own terms,” George Bannerman, chest thrust out, is at his most impressive, “…Is because I’m informed you’re the greatest living exponent of the game of golf.”
“Aye. I am.”
Pause. George Bannerman seems to feel Angus McDonald might have more to add. Heyes and Curry exchange a glance. Clearly, they would lay money on McDonald NEVER having more to add.
“Six weeks ago I hired you, officially, onto the Bannerman payroll and, on Saturday you will partner me in a match against…” He fails to spit out the name. “A business rival,” he compromises. Pause for a non-existent response. “In the days leading to the match you will give me golf lessons. I suggest we begin now. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones, who are charged with ensuring your stay is as pleasant as possible, will caddy. Is that agreeable?”
“Mphm.” The dour face works.
“You object to Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones?”
The faces of both partners register the concern of well-fed men accommodated in luxury on full expenses wanting to keep a cushy job. They have done their level best to make nice! What is the problem?
“Yon Jones – he’s canny enow.”
Pause while this is processed by Bannerman. “Good, good. Well done, Jones.”
“Nae tae mooch clack. Ye ken?”
“Continue to restrain the clack, Jones. And Smith?”
Tawny eyebrows knit, “Mphm!”
“Smith, from now on, model yourself on Jones. You hear? Less clack!”
An offended ex-outlaw pushes his spectacles up the delightful curve of his nose and opens his mouth to defend the Heyesian level of clack.
“You heard Mr. Bannerman,” forestalls the Kid. A smug finger is laid on smug lips to signify silence.
ON THE GOLF COURSE
“Ye pour gonuph! Whitkin o’ a staunce is tha’?”
George Bannerman, accustomed to awed respect from employees, bristles at the criticism.
“WHAT did you call m…?”
McDonald tees up, he eyes the ball, his club rises, a moment of stillness, descent. The ball sings through the air like a bullet, travels the two hundred and eighty yards of the first hole and lands within six inches of the peg.
Silence. Then an awed George Bannerman breathes, “That was marvelous!”
The dour face frowns. “Tae mooch tae th’reeght.” Pause. “Nae – ye try!”
A no longer bristling, but obsequiously humble, George Bannerman does his best to emulate the Scotsman’s stance.
“Keep yer heid still.”
“Keep yer ee on the ball.”
STILL ON THE GOLF COURSE – THE FIFTH HOLE
The boys watch their new boss hunch over his club, the rhythmic waggling of his substantial buttocks picking up speed, until, in a dervish-whirl of circling hickory-wood, he makes a frenzied attack in the manner of a man killing snakes.
“How long d’you think this lesson’s gonna take, Kid?”
“If we stay until Bannerman can play, it’ll be, oh,” Heyes purses his lips, “…Thirty years. We’d serve less time if’n we handed ourselves in, huh?”
“Still, what do we care? We’re getting thirty dollars a day to stroll around on soft turf watching out for non-existent Pinkerton detectives. Not too hard on the back, huh?”
“Shush,” breathes the Kid.
Heyes subsides. They watch a badly sliced ball ricochet off a tree and plop, wetly, into a water hazard.
“Playing three,” calls George Bannerman.
“Can’t see us getting a cold beer anytime soon.”
“Can’t see us getting that Bannerman-Win bonus, neither.”
Soft ‘shush’ from Curry.
“Though, on the day, McDonald’ll take every other stroke.”
“He’ll be able to dig Bannerman outta whatever mess he’s…”
“SMITH! Were you or were you not instructed to keep still and hold your tongue?!” explodes an irascible George Bannerman. “How the Sam Hill am I supposed to concentrate if all I can see is your big mouth flapping in the wind?”
Heyes opens said mouth to reply.
“Shut up! Give Jones both bags and go wait at the last hole! You’re putting me off!”
Once again the lips containing the silver tongue part to deliver a response.
“Thirty dollars a day,” grunts the Kid, sotto voce. “Silence is golden, huh?”
Dark-brown eyes acknowledge the wisdom of that.
Far to the left, on the seventh hole, the owner of a pair of intelligent grey eyes, now wearing not a fancy vest, but a green jersey, watches Heyes stride across the turf. At his side, Pinkerton agent Tom Brody smiles.
Heyes sits on a handy hummock in the rough behind the ninth hole. A slim book is being perused. He looks up, frowns, then quickly glances over first one shoulder then the other. Nothing. Not unless you count a couple of fellas, one in a green jersey, innocently practising chip shots on the eighth.
“I feel I’m being watched.” He turns a page. “And, y’know what they say; next to talking to yourself, that’s one o’ the first signs of…” Heyes’ head turns, rapidly, over his left shoulder. He IS being watched. A cheeky face, heavy on buck-teeth and whiskers, stares at him. “Hello, fella!” laughs Heyes. “I guess you’re not gonna turn me in, huh?”
The gopher disappears in a flurry of paws and flying soil.
A golf ball lands on the fairway, bounces and trickles to an easy few feet from the green. It is followed by cries of delight. Then, by panting and the sounds of a heavy man trying to run. Finally, by the excited figure of George Bannerman and the completely unexcited figures of Angus McDonald and Kid Curry.
“I’ll be on in two!” a beaming Bannerman pants. He turns to his companions. “Did you see it?”
“Fine shot, sir,” says Curry.
“Did you SEE it, Mr. McDonald?”
“Did YOU see it, Smith?”
“Fine shot, sir!” Heyes WAS told to model himself on the blue-eyed fella.
“I’m going to do a hole in par! My first ever! Jones, my mashie.”
Lining up. Club quivering in a too tight grip.
“Looser, mon!” instructs McDonald.
Bannerman tries to relax. Eyes flicking from flag to ball and back.
“Keep yer ee on the ball.”
“Fine shot, sir!” repeats Heyes.
The ball arcs onto the green. A bounce. Rolling towards the pin. Breath being held. Still rolling. Then… “You opened your big mouth and jinxed it!” fumes a justifiably frustrated golfer, as the ball, still with a fair momentum hits – something – and veers sharply to a patch of rough. “Smith, you’re fired!”
“Jones…” hollers the infuriated voice.
“I ain’t fired, am I?” Kid Curry is a loyal friend, sure. But, two ex-outlaws can live comfortably on a single thirty dollar a day salary.
“No! Go and see what spoiled my shot.”
Curry breaks into a smooth trot. “It’s some kinda mound – soil’s all kicked up…”
“It’s a gopher hole,” contributes Heyes.
Three sets of eyes rake the turf around the ninth hole. A mound; and another; signs of scraping; a pile of something which might be black olives, but is neither so Mediterranean, nor so palatable.
“Gopher, you say?” grunts a still fuming Bannerman. “You know about gophers, Smith?”
“I know you got one here.” A calculating look appears. “I bet the fancy courses Pinkerton’s used to aren’t troubled with vermin.” Pause. “Still, I guess he’ll make allowances. He’ll realize Denver can’t be expected to match…” Heyes stops, tactfully.
The mound is scowled at by Bannerman. “Do you know how to get rid of it?”
“I might,” equivocates Heyes. “‘Course – I’d hafta be rehired…”
“…And, my price has gone up to fifty dollars a day.”
“I’ll make you a deal. Fifty dollars each and every day I see no sign of gophers! AND the same bonus as before IF I win Saturday. BUT, I see so much as a whisker or pawful of soil thrown up between dawn and dusk – that day you get nothing.”
Musing from the dimpled one. “You hired yourself a gopher-exterminator, Mr. Bannerman.”
“This is a dumb idea,” grumbles Curry, striding along the street beside a smiling Heyes. “You’re gonna get Bannerman all riled up – he’ll fire us both!”
Silence from the cheerful one. Frustrated scowl from the Kid. “Did ya hear me, Heyes?”
“I said this is dumb.”
“I heard. I just decided – why argue? Why spoil a beautiful day? You’re entitled to your opinion, Kid.” Perfectly timed pause. “You’re opinion’s wrong, but that don’t stop you being entitled to it.”
“There ain’t no way ANY store’s gonna sell ya a gopher-trap. There ain’t no such thing as a …”
“You buy mice traps for mice. You buy bear traps for bears. You buy fish tr…”
“All right, Heyes. I got the idea.”
“You got a better plan?”
“Sure I got a better plan!”
“We lie low in the grass, wait, then…”
“Just DON’T say…” hurriedly interrupts the brown-haired one.
“…we shoot the dang critter!” both blond and brown finish in unison.
“Being quick with a gun isn’t the answer to everything, Kid.”
“It’s a better answer’n tryin’ to buy some non-existent gopher trap.”
“I thought we decided you keep your gun in your holster so Bannerman don’t start wondering why a curly-haired fella real quick on the draw sounds familiar.”
Curry gives an accepting shrug. Heyes wheels around and walks into a store with a cornucopia of odd items piled in the windows and outside its open doors. If any place sells a gopher trap – it is here.
FIVE MINUTES LATER
“So,” smugs Heyes, “…We got us gopher traps.” He resists the urge to add ‘told you so’. He does not need to – it is written all over his self-satisfied face.
“Those things won’t work,” grunts Curry, nodding at the cage-like contraptions dangling from Heyes’ hands. “That fella KNEW they won’t work. He was givin’ you the ‘he’ll be back!’ look.”
“Have a little faith, Kid. All you gotta do is grub up some worms to bait ’em with…”
“That’s all I,” Curry puts emphasis on the personal pronoun, “…Gotta do, huh?”
“Then you can dig them into the ground…”
“One baits, one digs,” offers Heyes. He pulls the trusty coin from his vest pocket, “Call it.”
WEDNESDAY EVENING – THE RESTAURANT OF THE HOTEL
Heyes, Curry and Angus McDonald are dining. The food looks delicious, the wine plentiful. A string quartet adds a civilised air. In a corner, we recognize Pinkerton Agent Brody and the man we have come to know as Fancy-Vest. Heyes and Curry bicker, good-naturedly, while enjoying the good things life is suddenly offering them.
“Would you walk into a cage for a handful of bugs?”
“I’m telling you…”
A sigh from a morose Scot. The boys break off. Excellent food is being pushed around a plate.
“You don’t like your – er – beef-en-whaddever?” asks the Kid.
“Mphm.” More pushing of frenchified morsels in circles. “It’s canny enow.”
“How d’you think the lesson went today?” tries Heyes.
Curry becomes aware that the men at the far table are taking an interest. His eyes catch those of his partner and direct them to the watchers. Brody and Fancy-Vest push back their chairs and head over, friendly smiles in place.
“Remember, Mr. McDonald,” warns Heyes, in an undertone, “be real careful not to forget yourself chatting with strangers…” He tails off at the expressions on the silent Scottish and the disbelieving Curry faces. “You’re right. Just be yourself.”
“Gentlemen, let me introduce myself,” beams Fancy-Vest, holding out a hand, “…Jack Keefe; and this is Pete Brody.”
“Joshua Smith,” contributes Heyes, “…And this is Thaddeus Jones.” The Kid gives a tiny salute with a busy fork; the blue eyes remain wary.
“Smith and,” pause for a gently disbelieving smile, “…Jones? Uh huh?”
The partners exchange a glance with a hint of concern. The seemingly oh-so-friendly hand of Fancy-Vest (or, should we now call him Jack Keefe?) moves on. It is held out to the morose Scot.
A pause. “Ongoose McDoonal’.”
“We saw you on the links today,” Jack Keefe’s smile widens, “…May we tell you how much we admired your skill?”
Jack Keefe indicates he and Brody would like to join the table. “May we?” Curry shifts his chair to make room. His eyes stay watchful.
“Brody here’s a fine golfer too,” declares Keefe, “…Has a handicap of seven.” Pause, hoping for a response. “Of course, his skill is nothing compared to what we saw from you, sir.”
“It certainly ain’t,” puts in Brody, genuine admiration in his voice.
“Mphm. It wonna be.” The assertion from McDonald is not conceited; rather, a simple statement of fact.
Silence. Keefe’s face indicates he hoped conversation might flow a tad freer. “Forgive my curiosity, Mr. McDonald, am I right in thinking you are Scottish?”
McDonald hesitates. If we did not know before that part of his brief is to be discrete, we do now.
Heyes shifts in his seat. Given the accent, denying McDonald has a dose of Celtic blood would be plain dumb. “Mr. McDonald’s originally from Inverlochty,” he confirms. ‘Originally’ is said to suggest the passage of years rather than weeks.
Jack Keefe signals a waiter. A bottle and five glasses arrive. “I’ve taken the liberty of ordering a bottle of the finest scotch this hotel has to offer. Will you gentlemen join me in a toast to bonny Scotland?”
An accepting, for him almost eager, twitch from McDonald. Heyes and Curry are still wary, but not unwilling to take a drink. Glasses are charged. A toast is raised. And…
Disgust twists tawny eyebrows. “Whitkin o’ sweeel is tha’?” McDonald gets to his feet and with a final ‘Mphm’, strides off. Through the dining room door we see him head up the curving stairs.
Keefe has lost a little of his suavity, “But, this is FINE whiskey. Twenty dollars a bottle!”
“Sure is,” Heyes cordially empties his glass and refills it at once, “…But I reckon our friend might be kinda picky over what gets called Scotch.” He points to the word ‘Tennessee’ on the label.
Annoyed, Keefe stands, followed by Brody.
“Not leaving are you?” A mock-injured look. “You’ll make Thaddeus and me think you only came over to talk to McDonald.”
“You’ll make us wonder why that is,” adds Curry.
“Uh huh?” The grey eyes take on a searching look. “I think you boys already know why. Don’t you?”
Two innocent faces gaze back. Two heads shake.
Keefe grins, “Y’know, I like you two. I almost even believe you. But, you already told one lie so poker-faced, I can’t be sure.”
“We don’t take offence easy, Mr. Keefe, being such peaceable fellas,” Heyes keeps his voice affable. “But, you oughta bear in mind, some folk get riled up being accused of lying.”
“Not you two,” replies Keefe, equally affable. “Because I’m right. YOU said your name was Joshua Smith and HIS name was Thaddeus Jones. That’s a lie. Your name is NOT Smith and yours,” the suave smile turns to Curry, “is NOT Jones.”
A mute conversation between the ex-outlaws.
“Having said, THAT, gentlemen, I’ll bid you good evening.” Picking up his bottle, an unruffled Keefe leaves the dining room followed by Brody; we see them exit the hotel.
A pause. “D’you reckon he knows who we are?” asks the Kid.
“I reckon not.”
Questioning look from Curry.
“Same reason as that time with Sam Finrock,” responds Heyes. “If he knew who we were – he’d hand us in, not warn us off.”
“But he does know your name isn’t Smith and my name isn’t Jones?”
“Uh huh. AND, he’s real keen to get McDonald talking.”
A nod from Curry.
“And,” goes on the dimpled one, “…Part of our job is to make sure no one gets too much outta McDonald before Saturday?”
“Nope.” A smug look from the Kid, “That’s only MY job – you got fired, remember?”
Chagrin from Heyes. “I didn’t see you doing much to stop him.”
“I didn’t see him gettin’ much outta McDonald.” Kid finishes his whiskey, “You let me worry about McDonald, Heyes. You got a gopher to tackle.”
Hannibal Heyes blinks awake as dawn light filters into the well-appointed hotel room. Throwing back the covers, he steps out and, while one hand delivers a dang good scratch to the seat of his long johns, the other pulls back the curtain. He stares at the ninth hole. In the distance, a whiskered face stares back. It disappears – then pops up three foot to the left – gone! There he is – over on the right! No – gone again! The furry head appears and disappears faster than the brown eyes can take it in, amidst the mounds of earth spoiling the smoothness of green turf. A pair of bare feet, their owner also delivering a good scratch to a long johned rear, pads to stand beside Heyes.
“Told you it wouldn’t work.”
LATER THE SAME MORNING – BACK IN THE STORE
“Now Mr. Smith, I sold you these traps in good faith…”
“I don’t doubt it, Mr. Davis,” Heyes is the picture of sweet reason. “But the word ‘trap’ suggests a device in which you catch critters. We’ve not caught a thing.”
“Maybe you need to try different bait?”
“Oh, no,” puts in the Kid, from his position leaning, arms folded, against the wall. “The gopher liked the bait just fine. Ate the lot – pushed the traps outta the way.”
“All I got for my ten dollars is a stronger, fatter gopher making bigger mounds,” says Heyes.
The storekeeper gives a sympathetic smile. Heyes does not want a sympathetic smile.
“I didn’t pay ten dollars to get a fatter gopher, Mr. Davis.”
“You sure didn’t, Mr. Smith.”
“I don’t want a fatter gopher.”
“What I want is NO gopher.”
“Uh huh. That’s what you want.”
“Now, I’ve given you back your gopher traps…”
“You have indeed,” smiles the genial salesman, tapping the articles in question. “Clean as a whistle.
“I’d like my ten dollars back, Mr. Davis.”
“I’m sure you would, Mr. Smith.” Perfect amiability.
“Am I gonna get my money back, Mr. Davis?”
“Oh, Mr. Smith,” sad shake of the head. “If only that were possible …”
“Seems possible to me,” remarks the Kid.
“It’d breach the store’s strict ‘no refunds’ policy,” reproves Mr. Davis.
“The policy which you set?” checks Heyes.
“A man needs to stick by his principles. If a man has no principles what has he got?”
A pair of chocolate-brown and a pair of cornflower-blue eyes converse.
“We’re not asking you to alter your philosophy of life, Mr. Davis,” says Heyes, “…just forget one little transaction.”
“I can give you store credit. Now, that’s a fair offer. You’ve ten dollars to spend – what’d you fellas like?”
“Y’know what we’d like! Something to get rid of gophers!”
“Ah!” Inspiration. “I know what you need!” Rummaging under the counter. “These!”
The ex-outlaws blink at the articles laid on the countertop.
“Fireworks,” deadpans Heyes. “You reckon we should cheer ourselves up by celebrating the Fourth a touch early, huh?”
“These ain’t fireworks. These,” Davies touches them, reverently, “…Are ‘Gopher Smoke’. The latest word in rodent control!”
FIVE MINUTES LATER – BACK IN THE STREET
“How could ya fall for that, Heyes? Not only fall for it – part with another ten dollars?! MY ten dollars – ‘cos, since you opened your big mouth and went into the vermin business, there’s only me earnin’!”
“We needed the extra, Kid. It’s gonna work. It’s based on strict scientific principles. We place these in the gopher holes. Once lit, they give off smoke. This smoke, which is heavier than air, lies in the burrows and kills the …”
“I was there, Heyes. I did hear this guff!”
“The trouble with you, Kid, is you have no appreciation for chemistry! There’s a formula for everything, y’know!”
The Kid stares for an incredulous moment at his partner. “The trouble is, Heyes, since we went straight you’ve forgotten the basic rules of havin’ a silver tongue. You’re supposed to use it for dishin’ it out, not lappin’ it up!”
In a bunker, McDonald is positioning Bannerman’s hands on a club. In the far distance, we see Heyes on the ninth hole. The slim figure squats to push something into the earth, straightens, shuffles a few feet, squats, pushes, straightens.
Kid Curry, stands to one side of the bunker, bag of clubs slung over one broad shoulder. He is not watching the golf lesson, nor his partner’s battle of wits with the gopher. He is staring at Keefe and Brody two hundred yards away. Jack Keefe keeps McDonald under surveillance while Brody practises his own game. Keefe touches his cap in mock-salute to Curry. This ‘I know that you know that I know that you know I’m watching’ attitude puzzles the Kid. His brow furrows.
Curry, on his knees, hat tossed to one side, jean-clad backside pointing skywards, ear pressed against the turf, screws up his face with the effort of listening.
Hannibal Heyes, identical position, asks, “Can you hear anything, Kid?”
“If’n the gopher’s dead – won’t we hear nothin’?”
“I guess.” Heyes shuffles left. “I hear something. C’mere and listen.”
The Kid rolls his eyes but moves beside his partner. He flattens his ear to the earth.
“D’ya hear it, Kid?” prompts Heyes. A shrug. Well, as close to a shrug as Curry can manage in his current position. “Could it be – y’know – coughing? Choking?”
“Hey! I DO hear somethin'” breathes the Kid. “I don’t reckon it’s coughin’ though.” His head comes up, “…It’s laughin’ Heyes. He’s clappin’ his paws together and dancin’ for joy ‘cos the firecrackers came early this year!”
Heyes straightens up. “Kid!” he reproaches.
“C’mon, Heyes,” an arm goes round the drooping shoulders, “…He ain’t gonna pop up while we’re stompin’ around. Leave him nice an’ quiet and we’ll know if it worked after supper, huh?”
Heyes’ neck swivels as the partners walk away. Did he see a mocking head pop up out of the corner of his eye?
Once again, a well-fed Heyes, Curry and Angus McDonald sit in the opulent dining room. McDonald remains the gloomy figure to whom we are accustomed.
“You miss home, huh?” sympathizes Heyes.
A sad nod. Curry catches his partner’s eye, directs it to the reception area.
“Excuse us a moment, Mr. McDonald.”
The ex-outlaws intercept Jack Keefe about to enter the dining room. They lead him, amicably enough, to a seat in the lobby.
“I only want to talk to Mr. McDonald. Harmless enough, surely?”
“I’m afraid Mr. McDonald don’t feel too sociable,” smiles Heyes. “Can we take a message?”
A pause. Grey eyes and brown eyes meet.
“Okay,” says Keefe. “Tell him, if I can’t talk to him, I’ll go chat to his boss instead. I reckon George Bannerman’ll be interested to know I recognized you two right off.”
Frozen expressions on two ex-outlaw faces.
“He’ll be fascinated to hear how two of his best men, supposed to be working incognito, were spotted five minutes into the job and tailed all the way from Chicago. By ME of all people!” A confused glance is exchanged. “Don’t sound good, does it?”
“Who do you think we are?” Heyes tries to sound amused. “If you’ve gotten us mistaken for someone else…? We work for the Mile High Golf…”
“No you don’t. Leastways, I know Bannerman’s got you on the payroll here for show. But you’re Bannerman agents. You’re Carl Grant,” he turns to the Kid, “…And you’re Fred Gaines. I remember you from the Brimstone train.”
Our boys look pole-axed, followed by relieved, followed by worried. This is not the worst news, but – it is not exactly good either.
A grin from Keefe. “I worked for Bannerman too, till Pinkerton made me a better offer. Like Grant here, I’ve grown a moustache since, but I reckon Bannerman’ll be pretty unimpressed you never recognized me.” A pause. “So what’s it to be? Am I talking to McDonald, or to dear old George?”
“D’you mind if I have a word with my partner?” asks Heyes.
“Oh, sure!” Jack Keefe is all compliance. “I’ll go take a look at the view.”
In unison, Heyes and Curry pivot on their heels and step out of earshot.
“If he goes blabbing about Grant and Gaines – that’s gonna take some explaining,” breathes Heyes. “‘Cos, Bannerman must know the real Fred and Carl.”
“Uh huh,” nods Curry.
“And, he might start wondering who WE really are…”
“I guess, since Harry was in charge of Brimstone and he hired us for this, he’d get pulled in to set things straight…”
Another instance of the ‘look’.
“Harry Briscoe settin’ things straight don’t fill me with confidence, Heyes,” decides Kid.
“I guess Keefe’s right, talking is harmless enough,” capitulates Heyes. “‘Specially talking to McDonald. I mean – it’s not as if he talks back.”
Again, perfectly synchronised, two ex-outlaws pivot and walk. One of Keefe’s elegant eyebrows rises in inquiry.
“If we let you go in, you won’t approach Bannerman?” checks Curry.
“You have my word.”
“You don’t talk to McDonald alone, we’re there,” stipulates Heyes.
“Not a problem.”
“And, no tricks.”
“You don’t threaten him nor nothing…”
“Perish the thought!” deprecates Keefe. “Not so much as a hint of impoliteness will pass my lips. And…” He opens his jacket to show he is not carrying a gun.
Another glance between the boys. It sounds okay. The threesome rejoin Angus McDonald in the dining room.
“Mr. McDonald,” begins Keefe, “I’ve decided to lay my cards on the table. I know you’re now officially a Bannerman agent and are partnering Bannerman in Saturday’s match against MY boss and Pete Brody. From what I’ve seen, however lousy Bannerman plays, you might just win. Might. Bannerman’s so bad, you might lose. I’m guessing you don’t like losing.” Keefe lets that thought sink in.
Heyes and Curry exchange a look. But, Keefe is sticking to their rules.
“On behalf of MY boss, I’d like to offer you an alternative. Right here, right now, I can sign you up as one of OUR agents. On Saturday, you will certainly play on the winning side.”
“I think you’re a man of principle, Mr. McDonald, I don’t expect you to be swayed by the fact we’ll undoubtedly double whatever fee Bannerman has offered you…”
Pause. Again, Keefe lets it sink in. It is hard to tell if McDonald is tempted. Certainly our boys are not sure.
“BUT, I will appeal to your patriotism. Perhaps you’re not aware my boss is a fellow Scot?”
The tawny eyebrows snap together. “Aye?”
Horror on Heyes’ face. THIS might work!
“Oh, yes. Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow. Do you really want to support a descendant of your Sassenach oppressors against a brother Sco…?”
“A GLASGAE Pinkerton? A **in’ Glas **in’ Gae **in’ Pinker ** ton?” Sounds not dissimilar to two tomcats spitting at each other spill out of an enraged Celt. “Nae McDonal’d weep hees clacks o’… 1296… B’studs! …**in’ Longshanks harbrin’… Neever forgit! …Blud fewwwwd! Clan honor… PINKERTON! …Ah speet on tha’ neem! Teal yon reekin’… An’ ME loose…? Loose tae a PINKERTON?! NEEVER! Pah!” With a final splutter, fume and shake of a ginger-furred fist, McDonald storms from the dining room.
Blinking from our two boys. Keefe has lost his suavity. His mouth hangs open. He wipes a spray of angry spittle from one cheek.
“WHAT was all that about?” he gapes.
“I think you’ve been defeated by ancient history,” sympathizes Heyes.
“Did he say 1296?”
“Some folks sure can hold a grudge,” deadpans Curry.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Keefe exits. In the lobby, once out of sight of the dining room, he droops, then – idea! His eye falls on the register on the reception desk. A stealthy glance. A step forward. Before his hand can reach the book, the desk clerk appears. Keefe clears his throat, smoothes his moustache and leaves.
A FEW MINUTES LATER
Heyes and Curry, collars turned up against the rain, trudge in the direction of the ninth hole.
A FEW MORE MINUTES LATER
Heyes and Curry trudge BACK from the ninth hole. Heyes’ brow is furrowed. He is not a happy ex-outlaw.
THE HOTEL BAR
Heyes droops over his beer. “Dang gopher. That’s another fifty dollars gone!” A morose swallow of beer. “Did you see him? Popped up right behind me. Thinks he’s so dang smart. Pfftt! I’d like to see the gopher that can outwit Hannibal Heyes.”
Kid takes a pull at his own drink. “Nothin’ easier, partner. Go back to the ninth hole.”
Further protest from the former leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang is cut short by an old-timer, who has watched the boys from a quiet corner table and now shuffles over.
“Howdy. Name’s Jesse.”
“Howdy,” replies the Kid. “Thaddeus Jones and this here is Joshua Smith.”
“You’re the new fellas workin’ here, huh?”
“I hear,” Jesse leans in, “…you got a gopher problem.”
Heyes’ head slumps forward over the drink nursed in his hands.
“Uh huh,” repeats Kid.
Their new acquaintance steps between the two ex-outlaws and makes himself comfortable leaning on the bar. “There’s only one way to get rid of a gopher…”
“Uh huh?” prompts Heyes.
Rheumy eyes rest, significantly, first on the empty glass clutched in a gnarled grip and then on a bottle holding ‘the good stuff’. Curry digs into his pocket and signals the barkeep. A double is served and drunk.
“Uh huh?” Heyes tries again.
A still dry throat is cleared. Rolling his eyes, Curry pays for something more to moisten it.
“There’s only one way to get rid of a gopher; you hafta put garlic and camphor down the holes. Gophey, he can’t stand the smell… ”
SAME NIGHT – BACK AT THE STORE
“Mr. Davis!” Hammer, hammer, hammer of leather-clad knuckles on wood. “Mr. Davis! We wanna buy some’n else…”
FRIDAY MORNING – THE NINTH HOLE
“He ate the lot, Kid.”
A movement. Two whip-quick reflexes engage. Two ex-outlaws pivot. A tan-gloved right hand twitches toward a denim-clad hip. Had that mocking whiskered face really been there? Had the boys, finally, come across an adversary faster than Kid Curry?
“If I ever catch that dang gopher, Kid…”
Curry raises an inquiring eyebrow.
“I’ll – I’ll…” The silver-tongued one is lost for words. Then, a rueful grin as Heyes regains his sense of humour. “I’m gonna bury the dang thing alive!”
MIDDAY – THE HOTEL DINING ROOM
Heyes and Curry are about to leave their table. The Kid spots something, his hand checks Heyes’ progress. The partners retake their seats, silently.
CONCURRENTLY – THE LOBBY
Jack Keefe is back. He checks no one is around. He moves stealthily to the reception desk. Another check he is not being watched. He turns the register and runs a finger down the entries. It pauses first at: Angus McDonald – room #3, then at: Joshua Smith, Thaddeus Jones – room #4. A smile at himself in a large gilt-framed mirror. Rubbing of hands. He leaves the hotel.
STILL CONCURRENTLY – THE DINING ROOM
Unknown to Keefe, the partners can see the whole reception area reflected in the looking-glass. A knowing look is exchanged. They head for the bar.
THE HOTEL BAR – THROUGH THE WINDOW MCDONALD CAN BE SEEN COACHING BANNERMAN
Once again, an old-timer shuffles over, empty glass in hand.
“Howdy, Jesse,” says the Kid, “‘Fraid the camphor an’…”
“I ain’t Jesse!” interrupts the look-alike. “That dumb jackass! Everyone knows camphor and garlic ain’t how you get rid o’ gophers!” A toothless mouth works behind a beard so bushy it might provide a handy nest for passing field mice “Camphor an’ garlic is how you keep racoons outta hen-houses!”
Heyes half opens his mouth, as if about to argue the point. Then, an oh-for-Pete’s-sake-what’s-the-use expression.
“I’m Jesse’s baby brother,” declares the ancient one, “…I’m Seth.”
“Howdy, Seth,” amends Curry.
“Camphor an’ garlic!” scathes Seth. “Pfffttt! What kinda jackass’d fall for that?”
“This kind, I guess,” the Kid nods at the would-be gopher-exterminator by his side.
“Gophers ain’t gonna give THAT,” gnarled fingers deliver a dramatic snap, “…For camphor an’ garlic! Pah!” A pause. New tone, best described as thirsty, “There’s only ONE way to get rid of a gopher.”
Heyes’ head drops forward to rest in despair on the bar. A whimper of anguish. Then, a deep, deep sigh from the prone position. Heyes sits straight, exhibiting the Herculean effort of a man shifting a weight beyond his strength. “Go on,” he manages. “Call me dumb…”
“You’re dumb,” obliges the Kid, perfectly on the beat.
A glower from the hard-pressed one. “…But, I’ll buy it.”
A throat, the sibling of the one lubricated by our boys yesterday, is cleared. Rolling his eyes, Curry digs into his pocket and signals.
“There’s only one way to get rid of a gopher…”
A shudder runs through Heyes.
“Y’know those paper windmills you can buy for kids? You need to drive the sticks into Gophey’s holes. When the wind blows, the sticks’ll shake in the ground – that scares Gophey! He don’t wanna stay in a burrow that’s a-movin’ and a-shakin’ – do he? Nah, not Gophey! He’ll be off!”
Skepticism is written all over Curry’s face. He cocks a did-you-ever-HEAR-such-guff eyebrow at his partner. To his horror, he sees signs of thinking on Heyes’ dark brow.
“Vibration, huh?” muses Heyes. “Sounds like it could be one o’ them old folk wisdom things that turns out to be based on scientific principl… What’s wrong, Thaddeus?”
“I’ll say one thing for Davis,” grunts Curry to his partner, hefting the unwieldy brown paper parcel he carries a little higher, “…He may over-charge, but you can’t accuse the fella of not stockin’ every dang thing under the sun.”
“I guess he had ’em left over from the Fourth,” muses Heyes. A stick escapes its wrappings and pokes him painfully in the dimple. “Ow!”
As they walk away, we see a bottle-shaped package stuffed into Heyes’ jacket pocket.
“There!” Heyes gives a satisfied smile at the sea of paper windmills carpeting the ninth hole. “THAT should make anything livin’ in those burrows feel SOMETHIN’!”
The Kid wipes sweat from his brow and gazes around. They ARE spinning. The sticks ARE trembling. He shrugs.
“Think, Kid, we weren’t too happy that time in Wichita, when we got a room so close to the railway tracks it shook all night. Let’s go clean up, huh? Give ’em a chance to work.”
AGAIN WITH THE LATER STILL
“How can they ALL be flat?! How?!”
The ninth hole looks as if a tiny, localised tornado has swept methodically across it, leveling paper windmills. Heyes plucks one from the ground, stares at it, then, crushes the paper sails in a leather-gloved fist.
“Gnaw marks!” he growls, eyes darkening in fury. The clenched fist is raised to the skies as a great oath is sworn, “Gopher! You’re gonna rue the day you crossed the path of Hannibal Heyes!”
FRIDAY EVENING – THE HOTEL LOBBY
Heyes, Curry and McDonald exit the dining room. In dumb-show, the boys – still making nice – ask McDonald if he wants to join them for a drink. A glum shake of the tawny head. McDonald makes as if to head upstairs, but is restrained by a touch on the sleeve from Curry. Heyes signals a waiter, who, smiling, brings over a domed silver salver. The dome is whipped off revealing a bottle. A long stare from McDonald. Then, the homesick Scot grabs first Heyes’, then Curry’s hand and pumps them, gratefully. Bottle dangling from Heyes’ fingers, all three men walk towards the bar.
THE HOTEL BAR
Liquid gold from a bottle carrying an Inverlochty single malt label is imbibed.
“Yon gopher,” begins McDonald. Both ex-outlaws start in surprise at the unwonted burst of volubility. “…Sounds verra leeke a mole.”
Heyes thinking, then, “The ones you Scots toast as ‘the little gentlemen in black velvet’?”
The Kid’s expression signifies, ‘Huh?’
“Mphm. The eeeeeth furweey a’ Inverlochty wa’ feshed wi’ a mole.”
Nothing in this spate of unwarranted chattiness causes the Kid to move from ‘Huh?’
Heyes grasps the meaning if not the vocabulary. “Did you get rid of it?”
A return to silence. Heyes clarifies the intent of his question, “HOW did you get rid of it, Mr. McDonald?”
“Och, theeere’s onny one weey ta geet ree’ o’ a mole.”
“Blow its **in’ heid off!”
“You mean…?” Heyes mimes pushing down the plunger on a detonator. He makes a sound effect mimicking a dynamite explosion.
“Och, nay! Wi’ a twel’ bore, ya greet gawp!” Joining in the impromptu silent acting, McDonald levels an imaginary shotgun, squints down a non-existent barrel and gives a reverberating, ‘kchaaa-booom,’.
The Kid gets that. Hand slapping the table he gives Heyes the mother of all ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ looks.
“It’ll cost ye a neeghts sleep, meend. Ye weet ’til it’s gud’n’quee-ate. Moley leekes it quee-ate! He gets ta deeggin’ an’ ye’ll cop th’eerarth comin’ oop – wheescht, ya ken Moley is nobbut ha’ an eench fra’ the top. Ye line up your twel’bore an’ – Kaboom!”
Another imaginary shot rings out. Heyes glances at his partner, arms now smugly crossed and still emanating waves of ‘I told you so’.
“I guess we could shoot the dang thing, Thaddeus,” he sighs. “Why didn’t YOU think of that before?!”
AROUND MIDNIGHT – FRIDAY
Jack Keefe slinks down a dark hotel corridor. He pauses in front of a door bearing a polished ‘4’, listens hard. Nothing. A smile. He moves on to Room #3. A picklock worthy of Heyes himself is drawn from his pocket. Moments later, the lock clicks open. After a final glance up and down the silent corridor, Keefe slips inside. He approaches the bed. By dim moonlight a man-shaped bump is seen huddled under the covers. It rises and falls, accompanied by slow breathing sounds.
“Now, Mr. McDonald,” whispers Keefe, softly, taking a white pad from inside his jacket and moistening it from a small bottle, “There’s no need for anyone to get hurt. This time next week you’ll be on your way back to Scotland, no harm done.”
His hand draws back the quilt. Double-take from Keefe. Instead of the expected sleeping Scotsman we see a very wide-awake Kid Curry, gun laid across his chest. The gun barrel flips ninety degrees to point at the intruder. “Howdy.”
Heyes emerges from the closet and walks up to Keefe. The white pad is twitched from his hand. A tentative sniff. “Chloroform?” Heyes purses his lips in disapproval. “Tut, tut. What would the Greens Committee say?”
FIVE MINUTES LATER
Keefe, gagged and bound hand and foot, is stretched out on the rug. A pillow supports his head. Some kindly ex-outlaw has covered him with the quilt. A loud, nasal snore ruffles the dark moustache. Smiling broadly, Heyes tucks the chloroform pad into his own jacket. “He was right; no one had to get hurt.”
Both partners reach for their hats. Heyes picks up a bag. Curry takes two shotguns from the closet. Shutting the door quietly behind them, they make their way down the dark stairs.
THE NINTH HOLE – SMALL HOURS OF SATURDAY MORNING
Kid Curry, shotgun levelled, sits on a luxurious leather swivel chair, presumably filched from someone’s office. It is securely rope-lashed to a tree stump to raise him high. Oil lamps are fixed on tall poles on either side. With a gentle push from one boot, he makes a half revolution, scanning the ground keenly. Then, back the other way. Our point of view moves sideways and up. Like a lean mountain lion, Heyes is draped along a low branch giving him a view of a wide area. He too has lamps suspended around him. He too levels a shotgun. Our point of view moves back. We see more and more lamps suspended from trees and mounted on poles. The boys have been busy, but now, all is very quiet, very still.
Silence. More silence. Patient scanning by blue and brown eyes. Then… Curry’s brows snap together; half a second later so do Heyes’. Soft sounds of scrabbling earth. A patch of soil which stirs. Something is moving beneath the surface. Both boys tense. Both sets of eyes narrow.
“Wait for it,” breaths Curry, “…Wait for it.” The mound is rising, growing. “Now!”
Two explosions shatter the calm of the night. The kickback from Curry’s gun sends him spinning uncontrollably. The shotgun, so carefully aimed, veers upwards, wildly, as the second barrel discharges. The shot sprays a branch inches from the one upon which Heyes is draped. Leaves and twigs descend upon a startled ex-outlaw. Brown eyes widen. Sleeping birds wake, squawking, and loosen more debris on Heyes, as he unbalances and plunges towards the turf.
Concurrently, the shock dislodging Heyes causes HIS carefully aimed gun to jerk. HIS second barrel shatters a lamp suspended beside Curry, hurling shards of glass in all directions and sending the chair careering so violently that the Kid, too, is thrown to the ground.
Two ex-outlaws thump onto the grass in rapid succession. A moment. Two heads come up, blinking. They are winded and bruised, but, as they struggle to a sitting position, flexing sore joints and rubbing bumps, apparently otherwise uninjured.
“You okay?” breathes an awed Heyes.
“Uh huh. You?”
“Good thing you’re a lousy shot,” manages a shaken Curry.
They sense movement a few feet away. A cheeky-faced observer is all interest in their predicament. A chatter which, to them, sounds like – like mocking laughter. The buck-toothed grin gleams in the remaining light. A paw… Hey! Is he pointing at the swivel chair arrangement? He cannot be, can he? But; chatter, chatter, chatter. Heyes and Curry stare at their adversary. Brows darken.
“It’s not FUNNY!” Heyes explodes, temper giving way completely. “We coulda been KILLED!” He scrambles to his feet, drawing his gun. Two shots ring out. “Did I get him?”
Curry, too, is back on his feet. “Dunno. You mighta.”
No. A chatter behind him. Curry pivots, draws, aims and fires in one swift, seamless movement.
“Guess YOU got him,” grins Heyes. “Like they say, Kid, ain’t no one THAT fast…”
He breaks off; both partners’ heads swivel left. Whiskers quiver, then a flurry of paws and moving earth.
Shots. Pivoting. Cussing. More shots. Reloading. Flying earth.
The scene becomes a farce. The boys are firing not only on an eel-quick gopher, but on moving leaves, rustles, shadows. On somethings, anythings, nothings.
A pause. Deep breathing. Both partners realize how ridiculous this is. They regain some control.
“I reckon we musta got him,” says Curry.
“Yeah, we musta.”
“I’m ’bout outta bullets anyhow,” admits the fastest gun in the West.
“Me too.” Heyes looks around. “Sheesh. What a mess!”
“We’ll come clear up at first light, huh?”
Heyes nods. Exchanging a rather sheepish glance, the partners move off. Something – a rustle and scurry – catches the corner of their eyes. They turn. Chatter, chatter, chatter. The gopher stares at Heyes and Curry. They stare back. The gopher tilts his head to one side. Liquid eyes blink. A paw is raised.
“I got a shot left,” says a reluctant Curry. “Do you want me to have one last…?”
“Y’know what?” says Heyes. “I don’t. I don’t reckon I need fifty dollars that bad.” A dimpled grin. “I’d only spend it, huh?”
Mutual smiles. They turn their back on the gopher. Curry drapes an arm round Heyes’ shoulder. As they disappear into the distance, the fading sound of affectionate bickering.
“You’re outta practice, Kid. How could ya miss him?”
“ME? What about you? You couldn’t hit a…”
SATURDAY MORNING – STREET SCENE
Curry leans on a hitching post outside a telegraph office. Hannibal Heyes exits the office and joins him. Questioning lift of the eyebrows from Curry. Confirmatory dimple from Heyes. The partners stride away.
LATER – OUTSIDE THE MILE HIGH GOLF CLUB
On the left, we see: George Bannerman, Angus McDonald and Kid Curry, two bags of clubs slung across his shoulders. Facing them are Andrew Pinkerton and Pete Brody. Pinkerton looks impatient. Brody looks worried. Golf bags rest at their feet.
“Where IS Keefe, Brody?”
“I can’t imagine what’s happened to him, sir…”
At that moment, Hannibal Heyes emerges from the clubhouse and runs, lightly, down the steps.
“Oh, not HIM,” groans Bannerman.
“Mr. Pinkerton?” a charming smile, “Mr. Andrew Pinkerton?”
“Joshua Smith, sir. I’ve a message from Jack Keefe. He can’t caddy for you today; he’s kinda tied up.”
Curry half winces at the pun. Heyes’ face stays completely bland.
“Tied up?” Pinkerton bristles. “What’s he think is more important than being here?”
Heyes pushes up his spectacles. “I couldn’t say. ‘Cept… Nah.” He stops himself, tactfully.
“We.e.e.e…” Deep reluctance to get another fella into trouble. “Last time I saw him, some blond had hands all over him…”
“‘Course – don’t mean nothing…” backtracks Heyes. “Anyhow,” tone of a man trying to get the conversation back on course, “…He knew you’d be short of a caddy, so I’ve come along to take his place.”
“HE sent you?” checks Pete Brody, doubtfully.
Dimpled smile signifying ‘yes’ from Heyes. Roll of the eyes from Curry at this demonstration of how you don’t even need lies if other folk are willing to fill in the blanks for you and mentally add an ‘e’ to certain gender-specific adjectives.
“Don’t you work for Bannerman?” again it is mild-mannered Pete Brody speaking.
“He certainly does NOT,” glowers George Bannerman. “He don’t even work for the Mile High Club. AND, if you take my advice, Pinkerton, you won’t let that blowhard caddy for you. I don’t want his big mouth flapping all the way through the match.”
Bannerman’s clearly unfeigned antipathy clinches matters. Even as Heyes, blinking sincerity through his eye-glasses, is protesting, “I assure you, I will be a model of unobtrusiveness. My ONLY aim, in the spirit of the game, will be to ensure my principals have a smooth…” Andrew Pinkerton booms, “Smith, pick up my clubs!”
ON THE LINKS
“Shall we toss for the honor?” Bannerman’s plump hand reaches for his pocket.
“Allow me,” beams Heyes, pulling THE coin from his own vest pocket.
“Heads,” calls Pinkerton.
“Oh, good call, sir!”
Bannerman scowls at a dimpled ex-outlaw. Pinkerton smiles and moves to the tee.
Andrew Pinkerton is revealed to be a careful rather than a dashing player. First, he takes two practice swings. He shuffles his feet, then scans the horizon, as if expecting it to play a trick on him. Temporarily convinced of the horizon’s bona fides, he returns his attention to the ball. He shuffles his feet once more, raises his club. He waggles. He peers at the horizon again. He raises his club very slowly, brings it back, also ver.r. slowly. He stands motionless, wrapped in thought. He raises his club and replaces it behind the ball. Finally, he quivers all over, swings back and drives the ball for about eighty yards in a dead straight line.
Heyes, standing beside Pete Brody, watches both THIS and the fists of George Bannerman clench and unclench, knuckles whitening in frustrated impatience.
“Your boss,” breathes Heyes, “…Does he always do that?”
“Always,” breathes back Pete Brody.
“Sheesh. Poor Bannerman.”
Pete Brody nods, with some sympathy.
After a moment’s reflection Heyes adds, with genuine feeling, “For that matter, poor you.”
Pete Brody nods with even more sympathy.
Time for Bannerman to drive. Angus McDonald’s impassive face registers a shade of annoyance as a week of lessons on keeping your head still and eye on the ball are forgotten in an instant.
Hunching, rhythmic buttock waggling, dervish-whirling, frenzied snake-killing. A disastrously topped ball lands two inches from the tee and a divot of earth the diameter of a soup plate spins in the air. Six pairs of eyes watch the rotating clod. Up, up. Then, following the law of gravity; down, down. The circle of turf comes to rest, grass uppermost, on top of the ball. Silence.
A guilty gulp from George Bannerman, “Sorry, partner,” he whispers to Angus McDonald.
The dour Scot contemplates the impossible shot awaiting him. “Mphm.”
Pete Brody’s competent play, coupled with Pinkerton’s unexciting ability to keep the ball straight, gives them the first hole. One up and eight to play.
On the second, McDonald scooping the ball out of a bunker to drop like a poached egg right next to the pin, allows Team Bannerman to halve the hole, leaving Team Pinkerton still one up with seven to play.
Then, on the third tee – a miracle. George Bannerman’s drives do not lack oomph. They usually lack direction. Occasionally they lack connection between club and ball. But oomph – never! This particular drive lacks none of the above! A broad grin lifts the heavy jowls as the ball sings through the air and – and – and, “It’s on the green,” he breathes, voice reverent enough to acknowledge the miracle.
After his usual routine, Pinkerton drives his usual dead straight eighty yards. With a grunt of deep satisfaction Bannerman starts to leave the tee.
“One moment,” says Pinkerton.
“Are you not going to drive?”
“Don’t you call what I did a drive?”
“No. THAT was a practice shot. YOU, if you recollect, took the honor after the last halved hole.” Pinkerton’s expression takes on a suggestion of gloat, “I must ask you to play again.”
“You have to wait your turn.” More gloat. A well-thumbed book is drawn from Pinkerton’s pocket. Our two boys exchange a glance. “The rules are quite definite on this point.” Pause. “Of course if this little Denver club of yours doesn’t play to the rules…” The sentence is left dangling.
With a scowl, Bannerman tees up. The miracle is not repeated.
Three hundred yards later, a satisfied Andrew Pinkerton pronounces himself, “Two up, with six to play.”
On the fourth, a glorious drive from McDonald makes it seem Team Bannerman are bound to close the gap. But, no. His boss slices it, firmly, towards the rough. The ball, with Bannerman’s full and not inconsiderable weight behind it, arcs beautifully, its brilliant white describing a perfect parabola against the cobalt of the summer sky. If only the direction had been correct. If only.
“Wouldya believe it?” breathes Heyes.
The ball comes to rest in a birds’ nest cradled in the nook of two branches. The displaced occupant flaps to a higher perch, squawking noisy disapproval to the world.
“Shot and distance,” suggests Pete Brody, diffidently.
“Certainly not!” snaps Pinkerton. A glance with added gloat turns on his fellow Scot. “You wouldn’t think of requesting shot and distance in a match, would you Mr. McDonald?”
“Mphm.” Lowering of tawny brows, as McDonald grips his niblick and strides, purposefully, towards the tree.
Do I doubt you yearn to follow the progress of this match shot by shot? Do I? Do I? Alas, if only time and word count restrictions allowed us both such heady indulgence. Instead, let us simply watch George Bannerman fall to a water hazard, on the fifth, leaving McDonald to roll up his trouser legs for a paddle and leaving Team Pinkerton three up and four to play.
Let us join our party at the sixth tee. Andrew Pinkerton is on his maddening club rise, club lower routine. Then, suddenly, youthful panting. Pinkerton’s quiver freezes out of sequence. He looks up, frowns. The bellhop from the hotel trots over, silver buttons twinkling on his smart uniform.
“Mr. Andrew Pinkerton?” he chirps, holding up a telegram.
Like lightning, Heyes plucks the envelope from the boy’s hand. “I’ll keep this safe, sir.”
“It may be from the Chicago office,” protests Pinkerton. “There are urgent cases on the books; I may be needed.”
Soothing smile from Heyes. “No. Better not open it.”
“Give it to me!”
“NO! You wanna win, don’tcha? This may have something in it to put you off your stroke. As your caddy, I won’t let you take the risk.”
A glimpse of the dangerous former outlaw leader. Pinkerton blinks. And, after all, Heyes IS arguing on his side. “Well, at any rate, YOU open it and read it.”
“It’s probably in code,” demurs Heyes. “I wouldn’t understand it. Play on, Mr. Pinkerton; you’ve only a couple more holes to win!”
Bannerman scowls, furiously, at the apparent turncoat. Pinkerton addresses his ball. Quiver. Quiver. But the quivering lacks its previous absorption. A swing. The club tips the ball which rolls, sluggishly, for a couple of feet. Bannerman’s scowl cedes into a hopeful smile.
A FEW MINUTES LATER
A wide beam splits Bannerman’s face as a golf ball trickles into the sixth hole.
“I’m still two up,” points out Pinkerton, grudging even this small victory to his rival.
“Sure you are, sir,” comforts Heyes. “Two up and three to play.”
“Mr. Pinkerton,” calls a youthful voice.
Again the bellhop is on the scene. Another envelope. Pinkerton tries to take it, but Heyes is too quick for him. “No. I absolutely refuse to let you look at it until the match is over.”
“But it could be…”
“No.” A comforting pat to Pinkerton’s shoulder, “…This is for your own good. I know how important it is to concentrate in this game.” Heyes strides away towards the seventh tee.
AT THE SEVENTH HOLE
A ball trickles into the seventh hole. Another wide beam, the duplicate of the one seen earlier, lifts the jowls of George Bannerman.
“One up and two to play,” soothes Heyes. “Still a winning position, huh?”
AT THE EIGHTH HOLE
Bannerman, Pinkerton and Pete Brody all appear frazzled by the tension of the match. Curry flicks a look at Heyes. Naturally, he is too cool to be ‘frazzled’ but, IS wondering if Heyes’ air of a man confident of a bonus is justified.
Pinkerton squats on his haunches, lining up a putt. A self-assured smile.
Then, “Mr. Andrew Pinkerton!” The bellhop is back, waving not one but TWO envelopes. Pinkerton springs, but Heyes out-maneuvers him easily.
“I hafta protect you from yourself.”
“But they MUST be from my office. Who else would send me a string of telegrams? There must be some crisis.”
Heyes nods, gravely, “You’re probably right.” Pinkerton reaches out, eagerly, for the envelopes. Heyes tucks them, firmly, into an inside pocket. “…That’s why I can’t risk them upsetting you. Time enough for bad news after the game, huh? Besides, you can’t get back to Chicago however dreadful the disaster, however cataclysmic the calamity, however appalling the ruin…”
Disaster? Calamity? Ruin? Pinkerton turns back to his putt. The flag is plucked out, by a smiling ex-outlaw. He need not have bothered.
“Bad luck!” sympathizes Heyes.
Pete Brody taps the errant ball in.
“So, we’re holed out in a snappy eleven,” Heyes dimples, with no trace of irony. A second ball scuds across the turf and joins its twin in the hole. “AND, ten for Team Bannerman,” he smiles at McDonald, who now strides into view.
The Scot – wet, filthy, hair be-twigged and be-leaved – scowls, “Mphm.” We surmise ‘ten’ is not a score he is used to.
“So, makes it all square into the last hole,” sums up the cheerful one.
From a high point of view we watch both teams zigzag across the final fairway, as Pinkerton and Bannerman foozle, slice, pull and press their long-suffering partners from rough to hazard to rough. As our focus zooms in, Pinkerton and Bannerman are finally striding onto the ninth green. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a shambles. All traces of chairs and gopher-hunting lamps have been removed but, still. The place looks as if – well, as if three hundred and twenty five pounds of ex-outlaw has jumped and slid all over it in two sets of heeled boots while firing bullets into the churned earth. To add insult to injury, three spanking new gopher mounds triangulate around the flag. Our boys exchange a sheepish glance.
Pinkerton’s jaw drops. “What do you call THIS? I’ve already seen this course isn’t exactly up to Chicago standards but…”
Bannerman is looking daggers at Heyes, the failed gopher-eradicator.
“Well, Mr. Pinkerton,” Kid Curry chips in, “I’ve heard Chicago’s courses are kinda tame. The Mile High Club aims to stretch its members. Like Scottish courses, huh?”
Heyes, who from Pinkerton’s point of view is on HIS side, purses his lips and gives a thoughtful nod. Bannerman watches Pinkerton have his own words fed back to him and gives the Kid an approving glance.
Another usually silent man joins in. “An’ee’een nut a tim’rous Glasgae Pinkerton’d ken weel this,” a tawny-furred hand indicates the not-so-green green, “is naethin’! Och, mun! A’Inverlochty ah pleys wi’watter steepin’ tae…” the same hand indicates a spot between ankle and knee. Grave pronouncement voice, “A gowfer mun pley a’yon fess!”
Curry shoots a look at his partner. Nope. Blankness in the brown eyes suggests even Heyes has not got the last bit. The inference is clear though.
“Mile High’s a MAN’S course, huh, Mr. Bannerman?” ventures the Kid.
“Sure is, Jones! AND, we keep the toughest hole till last!” A challenging look is thrown at Pinkerton.
Pinkerton squares his shoulders. “Suits me. It only took us twelve to get here, took you sixteen.”
Bannerman slumps as he reflects on that. His eyes scan his partner, his opponents and the ground. He can rely on McDonald to need only one shot, maybe two given the ploughed-field effect. But, can he rely on Pinkerton and Brody needing five?
Pinkerton begins his routine. Up, down; up, down; scan.
“Mr. Pinkerton!” Youthful voice, boyish smile. A fan of white is held up. “Three this time, sir!”
Pinkerton and Heyes both move like lightning. But Heyes is greased lightning.
“It’s the final hole. Keep your nerve. Play as if nothing but the match existed. To look at these telegrams now would be fatal!”
Pinkerton quivers, jigs with anxiety and fumes and – putts. It is not straight. No, to say it is not straight is an understatement. It is not even a putt. It is not even still on the green. Thunder on his brow, Pinkerton stomps off towards the bunker. A resigned Pete Brody trails after him. A still cheerful Heyes brings up the rear.
Brody takes a deep breath and selects a trusty baffy. The ball rises in the air. Plenty of lift. Up; up! Ah well. The tension is getting to Brody too. What was a tricky spoon shot has become the same tricky shot a foot to the left.
Pinkerton, still casting frequent glances at Heyes’ jacket within which dreadful news lurks, grasps a cleek and steps forward to. Quiver, quiver, scan; a deep, deep breath and conscious relaxing of shoulders. He is clearly making an effort to forget everything except the shot. He IS relaxing. We pan to George Bannerman, standing at a distance; he looks glum.
“**! What the…? D*** it!” An outraged howl from Pinkerton. He is clutching his ankle and hopping on one foot. We see the most fleeting glance of a familiar buck-toothed whiskery face and then a flurry of sand and paws. “That little rat BIT me!” explodes Pinkerton.
“Tchah!” sympathizes Heyes. “And, the worst of it is, you forfeit the hole.” A slim finger points, “…You’ve dropped your club in a bunker.” Pinkerton looks as if he might argue. Heyes pulls a book from his pocket, as worn as Pinkerton’s own. “‘A Practical Guide to the Rules of Golf as drawn up by the Committee of the Royal and Ancient at St. Andrews.’ The rules are quite definite on this point.” A pause. “I’ve read it as well.” smiles Heyes. He turns to the Kid. “Not much else to read here.”
Angus McDonald is wearing something closer to a smile than we have yet seen. Pinkerton has not a leg to stand on.
“I won!” glories Bannerman. “I won!”
“That vermin,” roars Pinkerton, “…is HISTORY!” Grabbing his cleek he advances on the last spot we saw the gopher, club raised above his head bludgeon-style.
“Oh, no you don’t!” protests Bannerman, staying his wrist.
Deep breaths from Pinkerton. He regains a modicum of control. Wrenching his hand free, he strides over to Heyes, opens his jacket, seizes the telegrams and tears them from the envelopes.
“Not bad news, is it?” asks Bannerman, who can now afford to be generous.
Pinkerton’s eyes darken as he reads, “Sorry I missed the match; hope you win; Jack Keefe.” One crumpled missive is tossed aside, “Sorry I missed the match; hope you win; Jack Keefe.” A second scrunched up telegram hits the turf. “Sorry I missed…” Tear, scan, tear, scan. “They’re ALL the same!”
“Looks like he was real keen not to miss reaching you,” offers Heyes.
Fuming. Utter disbelief. “Jack Keefe is more fired than a Burns Night tattie!” explodes Pinkerton.
“He’ll find himself re-hired quicker than a chorus gal who can scratch behind her ears with her toenails!” comes back Bannerman.
The boys exchange a smug glance.
EPILOGUE, MUCH, MUCH LATER THAT DAY
Heyes and Curry walk over the ninth green. They have their bags with them.
“Bannerman was pretty generous with that bonus, huh, Kid?”
“You don’t think we should take his offer; stay on awhile?”
A look from the blue eyes.
“I guess you’re right,” sighs Heyes, “…Meeting more Bannerman fellas can only lead to trouble. We take our money, quit the celebrations early, get a train outta Denver before Keefe gets a chance to start yapping.” Another sigh. Then, the brown eyes light up. “Hey, Kid. Look!”
Curry does look. A very freshly painted sign announces:
‘All Members Please Note: Gophers are the official mascot of the Mile High Golf Club. As such, within these grounds, they are a protected species.
Signed; George Bannerman, Club President.’
The boys exchange a smile. They stride away; then, two heads swivel. Behind them we see, for the last time, a glimpse of our whiskered guest star. Is that paw waving goodbye? Nah! We must have imagined it.