PROLOGUE – A BOX CAR
Diagonally opposite corners of the straw-strewn car are occupied by two unkempt individuals. Hats pulled well forward obscure their faces – one black with a silver trim, the other a floppier brown number. A third corner holds a huge wooden crate, secured to the walls with leather straps and labelled This Side Up.
Silence; except for the rhythmic clickety-clack of a train on a track.
The figures sit motionless, unless you count gentle impersonation of metronomes in time with the juddering of the box car. They give every impression of having been hunkered in their respective spots for many hours.
A rumbling sound.
More uninterrupted clickety clack.
Another low gurgle reverberates.
A black hat is raised by a leather-clad finger.
Heyes: “‘S’that you, Kid?”
“‘Cos – if it is your stomach growling, no problem. If it isn’t – we got a real proddy hound loose in the car. We oughta find him ‘fore he finds us.”
“You still sulking?”
Apparently – yes.
“Wasn’t my fault we had to jump a train…”
“Couldn’t foresee Wade Sawyer riding into town.”
“Okay, if you wanna be picky, us being in Augury in the first place was my call. You were for staying and working those livery jobs in Benedict even if they were a touch hard on the back. But, I won that coin toss fair ‘n’ square…”
Somehow, waves of silent incredulity manage to emanate from the silent to the silver-tongued corner of the car.
“Your coin, Kid. I admit selling our horses for a poker stake mighta been my idea. But, be fair, that fella drawing a straight flush was practically an impossibility. The odds musta been…”
The brown hat never moves, but from beneath it Curry’s voice snaps: “Heyes.”
Heyes: “Uh huh?”
After a chagrined blink, Heyes tilts his hat forward over his face and folds his arms.
A SMALL TOWN STATION
Goods are loaded and unloaded. Passengers alight and greet friends, or, conversely, say their farewells preparatory to embarking. In short, the usual bustle incumbent upon the arrival of a train.
Focus moves to the last goods car. A gloved hand eases open the door. Cautious dark eyes peer through the slit. A head-height higher they are joined by cautious blue eyes. Brown eyes slide left, blue eyes slide right. No one is looking. A slim ex-outlaw oozes through the gap and jumps down.
Heyes: “All clear.”
A second ex-outlaw, not quite so slim – though possibly hungrier given the earlier rumbling – joins him. Hats are replaced on heads, stray straws flicked from pants. Limbs are flexed – clearly, it has been a long ride.
Curry: “Where the Sam Hill are we?”
Heyes (reading station sign): “Bountiful. Sounds hopeful.” He checks out the appearance of the others on the platform. “Looks like a mining town. I reckon our luck’s turned, Kid. We’ll find us a poker game. I’ll turn our… How much we got?”
Curry: “Five dollars sixty cents.”
Heyes: “That much? I take that five dollars, turn it into a stake – enough to ride first class to ‘Frisco and stay in a fancy hotel; frenchified cooking and the best champagne. How’s that sound?”
Curry: “Unlikely, ‘cos I plan on turnin’ that five dollars into the other kinda steak an’ a bed for the night.” Meeting his partner’s eye: “I’d settle for no one spottin’ us, Heyes.”
Heyes: “Relax. What’re the odds of us getting recognized two towns runni…?”
Before Heyes can finish, a shrill voice rings across the length of the platform.
“HEY! You two! Yeah – you two, down there!”
Curious heads turn. Our boys’ faces freeze.
“You in the black hat and you in the sheepskin – I recognise you!”
Chagrined disbelief flickers in the brown eyes. A wary look is exchanged. Subtly, Curry pushes back his coat flap uncovering his holster. They search for the source of the high-pitched hollering.
“You’re those Smith and Jones fellas…”
Modified relief. Curry’s hand relaxes.
A couple of burly fellas move aside. THERE she is! A lady… Well, strictly speaking, the painted face and impressive display of daytime cleavage show quite clearly this is NOT a lady. A woman waves from the far end of the platform. Bustle waggling, she walks towards our boys.
“Don’t ya know me?”
Mute conversation. Two faces register; this gal DOES look kinda familiar. The boys stride to meet her, searching for an elusive memory.
“You could hurt a gal’s feelings!”
An anxious glance is exchanged.
Heyes mouths to Curry: “Did you…?”
Doubtful shrug from the blond. Silently: “Did you…?”
Their expressions hold the embarrassment of men who fear encountering some long past – er – intimate acquaintance, without recalling her name. ‘Cos that’s just rude, huh?
The threesome meets in the centre of the platform amidst interested spectators drawn by the woman’s powerful lung capacity.
Madge: “It’s Madge!”
Heyes (with triumph, not to mention relief): “From Pearlman!”
Madge: “‘S’right! You were helpin’ that nun. And I helped the little Irish gal dodge that snake-faced fella.”
Happy smiles all round.
Heyes: “What brings you to Bountiful?”
Madge: “I got my own place here. The Bien-Venue. That’s French!” Gum is shifted from left to right cheek. “Classy, huh?”
Heyes: “Real refined.”
Madge: “I’ve been in business near two years. ‘Course, Bountiful’s grown real fast – wasn’t far off tents and mud back then. Didn’t get the railroad through ’till last fall.”
During this speech the boys’ eyes, discreetly, check out their company. Not in the first flush of youth – but, since when did they object to older women? Carrying a few extra pounds – but no red-blooded male could deny she carried most of ’em in the right dang places. And – from the look of the fancy rig-out – solvent.
A mute – knowing – conversation.
It would be ungenerous to imply a “Ker-ching!” caption hovers in an all-too-readable thought bubble above the boys’ heads; ungenerous, but alas, not entirely untrue.
Madge: “What about you boys? What brings you to Bountiful?” Checking them out. “Down on your luck, jumping trains and looking for work?”
Chagrin on two ex-outlaw faces. Is it that dang obvious?
“If ten dollars is any use to you, I need a crate hefted back to the Bien-Venue.” The gum shifts cheek again. Explanatory tone: “Ben’s sleepin’ one off.”
Well, explanatory is pushing it since neither we nor the boys have the slightest idea who Ben is. Presumably, when not sleeping, he hefts.
Heyes: “Ten dollars apiece?”
Madge: “Nope.” The blunt monosyllable conveys that under those brassy curls Madge has a shrewd business head. “But I’ll throw in dinner and a coupla beers on the house.”
Heyes (hands settling on hips, ready to barter): “Wel…”
Curry: “You got yourself a deal, Ma’am. Where’s this crate you need movin’?” He spits on his hands in manly preparation.
Madge nods past Heyes and Curry. They turn. At the far end of the train four railway employees are easing down the huge wooden crate with which our boys shared their journey. They straighten, clutch aching backs, mop sweating brows and generally perform drama-school approved actions indicating “heavy!”
The boys eye the crate. A look is exchanged.
Madge: “It’s a piano.” Responding to an unspoken reproach: “A deal’s a deal, boys.”
Yup. She’s no dumb blonde.
STILL ON THE RAILWAY PLATFORM
Our heroes, coats off, glowing with healthy exercise, muscles straining tautly against their shirtsleeves (I spoil you, I really do) have moved the crate – ooh – a good fifteen yards.
LATER STILL – STREET
A set of stairs run up from the station exit. One end of the crate has been hoisted onto the level ground above the final step. The other hovers in mid-air an inch or so above the third step.
The focus is close up on Kid Curry, his hands and chest pushing against the crate, left boot up on the third step next to the hoisted burden, right boot still on the lowest level, body quivering under the weight, perspiring face tensed with the effort, eyes screwed up, lower lip clenched between his teeth, sweat has his shirt clinging to every contour.
Heyes’ voice – full of encouragement: “It’s moving. One last push. Remember, bend from the legs not the back…”
Curry’s eyes snap open. The focus pulls back so we see what he sees – Heyes has stepped to one side and, hands on hips, is…
Curry: “What the Sam Hill d’you think you’re doin’, Heyes?”
Heyes: “And working out – y’know – the optimum method.” Voice of sweet reason: “Someone’s gotta do the planning, Kid.”
Curry: “Heyes, get your shoulder back under this dang crate before I come up with a plan to flatten ya.”
After an offended blink Heyes joins his partner in contributing more than brain power to the task.
Slowly, with much grunting, the crate is heaved onto street level.
Bandanas are untied to mop moist brows. Brown and blue eyes stare down the length of the town. The stares segue into squints. The point of view switches to what they see. There, the distance making it very small, a gaily painted sign announces the location of the Bien-Venue.
Heyes: “Can’t be much more’n three hundred yards. Three twenty at most. And we musta already moved it…”
They look back the way they came. No need for squinting this time.
Curry (glumly): “Less’n twenty yards.”
Heyes (shoulders drooping): “We need a plan B.”
FURTHER DOWN THE STREET
Heyes (in his element, dishing out instructions): “Right, push it forward – that’s right – it rolls off the back roller – you pick that one up, run it to the front…”
Curry: “I can work it out.”
Curry lifts a wooden mine support stave, about six inches in diameter – not unlike a fence post – from the back of the crate, takes it forward, places it underneath the front end. Three similar staves are positioned at regular intervals. Curry strides back to the rear of the crate, pushes it forward eight inches – enough to free up the new back stave. He repeats the process.
Plan B is in action.
Another repeat. Curry throws a musing look at Heyes who is conspicuously NOT bending and pushing. Blue eyes roll, resignedly.
Curry (nodding across the street at a general store): “How much did he charge ya for the posts?”
Heyes: “Five dollars.”
Curry: “Five dollars?!”
Heyes: “Relax. He’ll buy ’em back for four so long as they’re undamaged.”
Curry does relax. His eyes move along to the sheriff’s office, the name: Sheriff Jack Ryder. Our boys exchange a glance: eyebrow lift of enquiry from Heyes, tiny headshake from the Kid inferring neither knows the name.
Curry: “Deputy’s watchin’. Don’t see the sheriff.”
Indeed, a grizzled individual, deputy star displayed, leans on the rail, coffee mug in hand, expression of mild amusement on his face.
Heyes: “He isn’t the only one enjoying the free show, huh?”
It is true the boys’ antics are subject to scrutiny. Two observers – who have previously stood beside a slick fella outside an establishment bearing the legend: Silver Dollar Saloon – peel their backs off the wall and saunter down from the boardwalk into the street. Heyes and Curry note their tied-down guns and general air of being hired muscle, but – again – their attitudes suggest no immediate cause for concern.
Hireling-1: “Howdy. Looks like hot work.” Civil enough.
Curry: “Wouldn’t argue it builds up a thirst.”
Hireling-1: “Madge Masterson has you takin’ that to the Bien-Venue, huh?” The delivery makes it a friendly statement rather than a question. “What’s in it?” Now THAT was a question.
Heyes (with an affable smile): “Who wants to know?”
Hireling-1: “Name’s Jim Carter. This is Danny Rose.”
Heyes: “Joshua Smith, Thaddeus Jones.” Still smiling, Heyes’ eyes indicate the slicker across the street. “And the fella who wants to know what’s in the box…?”
Both Hirelings glance over their shoulders. Mute conversation. Two shrugs.
Rose (less affable than Carter): “That’s Franklin Gilbert.”
Hireling-1 (aka Carter): “He owns the Silver Dollar – the other saloon in town.” A smile: “You can’t blame a fella for natural curiosity ’bout what the competition is up to. ‘Specially in a small town where anythin’ happenin’ is news. You aren’t gonna keep us in suspense ’til the lid comes off, are ya?”
Our boys turn for mute conversation and shrugs. Put like that, holding back seems kinda dumb.
Curry: “It’s a piano.”
Heyes: “Upright model, shipped all the way from Chicago.”
Carter: “Y’know – Danny guessed piano. Reckon I owe him a dollar!” Tipping hat: “We’ll let ya get on. See you around, fellas.”
Heyes and Curry watch as the hirelings go back to their boss – who appears to take the piano confirmation with nothing more than a contemplative puff on his cigar.
Heyes: “That Rose fella don’t have much to say for himself.”
Curry: “Prob’ly can’t get a word in.” Stooping to move yet another pole: “I know how he feels.”
The crated piano completes another eight inches of its journey.
Plan B is going fine. The boys can see the pink ribbons on the frothy petticoat of the gal painted on the Bien-Venue sign. But…
Chest heaving, Kid Curry stares at the run of steps up to the boardwalk leading to the saloon.
Curry: “You’re gonna hafta go against your principles an’ help heft, Heyes.”
A frown of concentration from the dimpled one as he measures the lift needed. Shoulders are braced. Manly determination steels Heyes’ face. Then his focus switches to something he has spotted inside the saloon. An idea lights those brown eyes.
Heyes: “OR – we could use Plan C.”
Off he darts leaving a blond ex-outlaw, too exhausted to be proddy, slumped over the crate.
ONE MINUTE LATER
Close up on Curry, still sprawled, face in arms, over the crate.
Heyes’ voice (out of shot): “Thaddeus, this is Ben – he’s gonna give you a hand.”
Curry’s head comes up. We see what he sees – mostly a vast expanse of checked shirt. He straightens. STILL mostly checked shirt though, roughly on a level with Curry’s nose, a few curling chest hairs peek from an open collar. The Kid tilts back his head. Shoulders that’d shame a burly ox. Even further up – an affable face beams cheerily down.
Curry’s blue eyes blink. That is one big fella.
INSIDE THE SALOON
The piano has been decanted.
Ben holds one end which he carries as if it were light as a feather. Curry, panting, has the other. The Kid’s end (in both senses) is significantly nearer the floor. Heyes carries the stool. Hmmm. Madge, and a couple of saloon gals circle, skip and coo in feminine excitement.
Madge: “Try it in this corner over here…”
The piano is set down.
“No, no – more at an angle…”
The piano is hefted up – and set down.
Gal-1: “OR – would it be better over here?”
Up – and over.
Madge: “Left a bit… Right a bit…”
Gal-2: “Maybe closer to the window…”
A blond ex-outlaw puffs.
Madge: “It needs to be further out – so folk can gather round.”
Gal-1: “Would it better facin’ the other way?”
Madge: “I dunno. Could we try it…?”
And finally snaps.
Curry: “Try it how, Ma’am? Nailed upside down on the ceilin’? ‘Cos it’s been on every square inch of floor.”
Heyes: “Hey, Thaddeus!” He sets down the stool, “You don’t see me getting proddy.”
Curry: “I don’t see you gettin’ under the end of the dang piano!” He catches Madge’s eye. Remorse. “Sorry, Ma’am. Where’d you like it now?”
Madge: “It’s fine right there, Thaddeus. I reckon you earned this.” She counts out five dollars to him and five to Heyes. “AND you’ve earned those cold beers.” She moves to the bar, starts to pour.
As Curry heads for the bar Ben steps in front of him, still wearing the affable beam. He holds out his hand. Curry stares at the plate sized appendage. Ah! Smiling back, he shakes it.
Curry: “Thanks. Good job.”
Ben: “A dollar.”
Ben: “He said you’d give me a dollar.” Know what? Even the finger indicating Heyes has a bicep!
Curry to Heyes: “Why don’t YOU give him a dollar?”
Heyes (innocent eyes): “Wasn’t me he was helping, Thaddeus.”
The look – with full intent.
With a martyr’s sigh Heyes hands over a dollar. Our boys and Ben move to the bar. Three beers, chilled condensation dewing the glasses, are admired and then drained in unison. Smiling, Madge pours three more.
Madge: “Not like you to insist on getting paid to help out, Ben.”
Ben: “Didn’t. Joshua offered. I’da done it for nuthin’.” His second beer disappears down the red lane. Happy beam: “I like heftin’!” Hmm? Ben is utterly endearing – but not the sharpest knife in the drawer, huh?
Curry shoots a wry glance at Heyes, whose expression at the revelation he laid out even a dollar for nothing is a picture. The brown eyes move to a jar of hard boiled eggs on the bar. Idea.
Heyes: “Ben…” He lays a friendly hand around the big fella’s… Well, it would be shoulders, but they’re outta reach – let’s say upper back. The other hand reaches, surreptitiously, for the salt. “How’dya like to double that dollar…?”
Heyes, Curry and Ben are wrapping themselves around a simple, but delicious looking meal. Trixie Fletcher, a hennaed redhead, blowsy, but with a warm-hearted smile, beams at them.
Trixie: “More stew? There’s plenty. Or are ya ready for that pie I promised ya?”
Ben holds out his dish, eagerly. Polite “no, thanks” hand signal from Heyes.
Curry: “Maybe just a mouthful.”
Taking this in the spirit it is meant Trixie doles a generous ladleful onto his plate and the same to Ben.
Trixie: “Madge says I’m to give you two a meal fit for a king – all on her.”
Ben (through a mouthful of stew): “She knows ’em from Pearlman. She likes ’em.” Chewing, “Joshua can balance eggs. Won a dollar off me.”
Trixie: “That’ll be salt on the end.”
Chagrin flickers across Heyes’ face.
“Any friend of Madge, is a friend of mine.” Trixie pulls up a chair, sociably. “She lent me the money to open this place.”
Heyes: “Uh huh?” He looks around. Gingham covered tables. Specials of the day chalked up. Decent spattering of apparent regulars – mostly miners. An elderly black fella in a snowy apron circles, quietly, filling coffee mugs and clearing plates. “Nice little business.”
Trixie: “‘Course – she knew I could make a go of it. She knew my cookin’.”
Curry: “I’d say THIS…” Indicates his plate. “…Was one safe investment.”
Trixie: “An’ she knew Sam makes the best coffee West of the Mississippi.”
The guy waiting tables catches his name, smiles over at Trixie.
Curry (raising mug in salute): “You sure do.” Glances at Heyes, “D’ya give lessons?”
Trixie: “You wouldn’t catch most bosses helpin’ a gal get outta saloon life to start up on their own. An’ can you see a bank lendin’ to me?! No way. Even if they did – there’d be so many strings I’d be dancin’ to their tune till I dropped, huh? This way, I pay back the loan, give Madge a cut of the profits for the first two years and we’re clear. Win win. AND, I know me doin’ well helps someone else. ‘Cos Madge lent money to Mister Chang for his fancy new water heatin’ system. An’ to Sam’s boys to get their haulage business started. An’ she tided Grace Cummins over when her boardin’ house had that fire. I’m not sayin’ she don’t turn a dollar doin’ it, but… Well, y’know.”
Heyes: “Bounty for Bountiful, huh?”
Trixie (frowning): “Hope there’s no more trouble over at Bien-Venue tonight.”
Trixie: “There was a fight last night.”
Heyes: “Fellas letting off steam at a saloon, isn’t that unusual, surely?”
Ben: “I hafta stop fights.” Proudly: “That’s my job. I’m bouncer.”
Trixie: “Most times, if some fella has one over the eight an’ gets proddy, Ben walkin’ over is enough to quiet him down.”
Heyes and Curry check out the man-mountain. Their expressions indicate they can see why.
Ben: “If’n they don’t quiet down – I pick ’em up and put ’em in the street. I don’t really throw ’em so they bounce…” Ben is keen to be clear on this. “Not unless they upset one of the girls. THEN I might throw ’em. Otherwise I just put ’em down, tell ’em to go home. An’ usually, they go.”
Curry: “An’ last night was different?”
Ben: “There were these four fellas – an’… I dunno.” The ox-like shoulders slump.
Trixie: “Madge says they made a fight over nuthin’.” She pats Ben in a motherly fashion and pushes a slice of pie in front of him.
Ben: “They had – y’know – those metal things on their fists.”
Curry: “Brass knuckles?”
The ex-outlaws exchange a glance – nasty.
Ben: “The four of ’em beatin’ on me made me mad…”
Heyes: “Guess it did.”
Ben: “I hit ’em.”
Heyes: “Seems fair.”
Ben: “Made their noses bleed.”
Curry: “What, all four?”
Ben: “Uh huh. Then I knocked ’em out. Then I chucked ’em out.”
Heyes: “That’s what you’re paid for I guess.”
Ben: “Then I fainted.”
Heyes: “After it was all over – THEN you fainted.”
Ben: “‘Cos of the blood.”
Trixie: “Ben can’t stand the sight of blood.”
Ben: “When I came ’round, I drank whiskey – ‘cos I’d hurt ’em and felt bad. That’s why I was sick this mornin’ an’ didn’t meet the train.”
Trixie: “Ben’s got a real soft heart. Fightin’ upsets him.”
Curry: “Did ya think of tellin’ that to Madge before she hired ya as bouncer?”
Ben: “Yeah. But Aunt Madge said so long as I could look real mean it wouldn’t matter none.”
Ah. The term “Aunt” Madge removes any remaining confusion from our boys’ faces.
Heyes: “I wouldn’t worry. You busted their noses and knocked ’em cold – why’d they come back for more? You can go back to just lookin’ mean, huh?”
Heyes, Curry and Ben exit the restaurant and turn back to the saloon. But…
Something catches their attention. A stage has drawn up and, beside it, an altercation is in progress. At the high-pitched end is Madge. In the centre is a harassed-looking little fella clutching a grip. At the quiet end is – oh – it is Hireling-1, Jim Carter, who checked out the piano earlier. Our boys exchange a glance. They stride over. Ben brings up the rear.
Madge to the little fella (hands on hips): “Whaddya mean – you changed your mind?”
Little-Fella: “I mean I changed my mind. I’m sorry to let you down, Ma’am, but…”
He tries to dodge around Madge and mount the stage. She blocks him.
Madge: “Sorry! SORRY! You were leaving without a word to me – but, that’s okay ‘cos you’re SORRY!”
Curry: “This fella causin’ you trouble, Ma’am?”
Carter: “From where I’m standing, seems to be the other way ’round.”
Heyes’ expression – as a furious Madge advances on a would-be stage passenger, who backs away nervously – indicates Carter has a point.
Madge: “I hired him as my piano player, now he’s ratting on me. AND…” She wheels on Carter. “DON’T think I don’t know that slimy boss of your’n is behind it!”
The perspiring pianist flashes a panicked look at Carter. Our boys’ eyes narrow, suspiciously. Carter, however, is a picture of injured incredulity.
Carter: “Why’d Mister Gilbert interfere with your piano player?”
Madge: “‘Cos him an’ that slippery banker backin’ him ‘ud like to see the Bien-Venue go outta business!”
Carter: “Surely there are enough thirsty miners in Bountiful for two saloon-keepers to get rich?” He’s smooth – think Heyes without dimples.
Mute conversation indicating: The man has ANOTHER point.
Curry to Little-Fella: “Is this Gilbert fella – or his boys – makin’ you leave town?”
Little-Fella: “No!” But his eyes flicker.
Heyes: “Or making it worth your while to go?”
Little-Fella: “N-no.” Another flicker.
Heyes: “Bit of both, huh?”
Carter: “Hey, fellas, if I wasn’t such a peaceable soul I might get kinda riled hearing you accuse my boss.”
Madge: “YOU might get kinda riled! If this worm slithers any closer to that stage, I’LL show you riled!”
The diminutive pianist visibly quails.
Ben, who has frowningly followed the conversation, steps up.
Ben: “D’you want me to stop this guy gettin’ on the stage, Aunt Madge?”
Whatever the next step up from ‘quails’ is – partridges perhaps – the little fella does it as he is lifted, bodily, in a mighty pair of hands. His feet paddle. His hat tips over one eye.
Carter straightens up. His hand does not exactly hover over his gun – but, he looks ready. He looks like our boys when they sure don’t want to start trouble – but think they might be pushed into it.
Heyes (firmly): “No!” To Madge: “The man’s got a right to leave town, Ma’am. You know that.”
She fumes, metaphorical steam spurts above the jangling earrings. Then…
Madge: “Sure I do. Put him down, Ben.”
Ben does as he is bidden. A frown. Gently a huge finger straightens the little fella’s hat. A beam – that’s better.
Madge stands aside so she is no longer blocking the step up to the stage. She glowers as the departing piano player scrambles inside.
THAT EVENING – THE SALOON
Curry is at the bar, beer in hand. He has half an eye on Heyes, playing poker for a small – but better than nothing – pot. The rest of his attention is taken by Madge, who is bending his ear.
From the serving side of the bar, elbows on the polished wood, chin cupped in her hands, she stares at a group of hirsute miners gathered around the piano. A plunking rendition of what sounds like a dirge starts up. Guttural vocal sounds – reminiscent of a constipated cow – drift over.
Madge: “I wanted cheerful music folk could sing along to.”
Curry (peaceably): “They seem to be enjoyin’ it.”
Madge: “It’s the Selmecbányian town anthem…”
Curry: “Guess those fellas are from Selme-whaddever.”
Madge: “He’s playing with one dang finger.”
Shrug from Curry.
“AND, he’s playing it for the fifth dang time!”
Curry: “Guess it’s the only tune he knows.”
Madge (turns and stares at the Kid): “Ya think?!”
She spots something, stiffens.
Curry turns, see what she sees. Three fellas have walked in. Two of them Curry recognises; Carter and Rose. Or, as we better know them, Hirelings One and Two.
Curry: “Were they the ones causin’ trouble yesterday, Ma’am?”
Madge: “One of them, the guy with the whiskers. He’s barred.”
That’s the stranger. Despite a beauty of a black eye, he looks like he’d be handy in a fist-fight. Curry’s eyes drop to hip level. Black-Eye is not carrying a gun. Carter and Rose, of course, are. In fact Carter carries two, a second gun-belt is slung over his arm.
Heads turn. Voice by voice the saloon goes quiet.
Ben has spotted his assailant of yesterday. Squaring his shoulders – which is kinda redundant, since they’re apparently modelled on a brick outhouse – he goes over.
Ben (official voice): “I hafta ask ya to leave.” Bending forward, he peers at the bruise. Unofficial voice: “Sorry ’bout your eye. Trixie’ll have some steak ya could put on that.”
Rose: “Are you sayin’ you got a problem with him?”
Ben: “Only if he comes in here – ‘cos he’s barred.” Then, as if the additional information might be genuinely helpful. “For fightin’.”
Rose: “‘Cos if you got a problem with him – you got a problem with me.”
Ben: “No I don’t.” Helpfully: “Why don’tcha go drink at the Silver Dollar? They got a real fine stuffed grizzly – must be over 700 pounds!”
Rose: “I don’t think you’re hearin’ me, big fella, if you try an’ throw HIM out – you’re gonna hafta go through me. Family honor.”
Heyes has laid down his cards and pushed back his chair.
In fairness, Danny Rose is a snub-nosed red-head with the kind of skin which turns from pasty to lobster if the sun so much as peeps through the clouds. Black-eye is a raven-haired, swarthy guy with a proboscis worthy of a Roman emperor.
Rose: “Yeah. We’re identical twins – you got a problem with that?”
Heyes: “Me? Nope.”
Rose to Ben: “You gonna let him buy a drink, or you gonna go through me?” Deliberately he pulls off his right glove.
Our boys exchange a glance. Their expressions are: Heyes – reluctant, Curry – the same, but with a side of “gonna do it anyway.”
Curry: “Dunno if you an’ your twin have noticed, but Ben here isn’t wearin’ a gun.”
Carter: “Not a problem.”
He tosses the gun belt hanging over his arm to Ben who catches it instinctively. Ben stares at it, brow wrinkling.
Rose: “It goes ’round your middle if you’re confused.”
The look on Heyes’ face segues to resignation as Curry steps forward.
Curry: “The only thing confusin’ him is why you don’t take his advice an’ go drink at the Silver Dollar.” The ex-outlaw’s blue eyes meet those of Danny Rose. “He asked this fella to leave real nice. Now I’M tellin’ you – go drink at the Silver Dollar.”
Carter: “What’s it to you?”
Curry: “Ben here’s my twin. You got a problem with that?”
Rose: “You got a big mouth fella. You’d better be prepared to back it up.”
Rose reaches. A gunshot rings out. A scream from one of the saloon gals. Danny stares in disbelief first at his gun, still in its holster, spinning away across the floor; then at the implacable face of Kid Curry, from whose Colt wisps of smoke still rise.
Heyes spots a movement from Carter. His own hand moves to his Schofield, but he is forestalled.
Madge: “Don’t even think about it!” Shotgun in hand behind the bar, she has it covered.
Madge: “I owe you, Thaddeus.”
Gal-1 from earlier (a stunning strawberry blonde) tops up Kid Curry’s glass. Gal-2 (a tawny-haired lovely) lights a cigar for him.
Heyes: “D’you reckon Gilbert is behind the trouble, Ma’am?” He tops up his own glass and reaches for his own cigar since no one is bothering to do this for him.
Madge: “I don’t reckon, I KNOW.”
Heyes: “Why? I mean I know Gilbert’s the competition but that smooth-tongued Carter had a point; there’s enough thirsty miners to fill two saloons.”
Madge: “Sure are! The fella who used to own the Silver Dollar and me got along fine. Then he let the bank buy him out and this Gilbert creep arrived as manager…”
Heyes: “So when you talked about the banker backing him…”
Madge: “If Simon Windle – that’s the slime ball of a bank manager…”
Curry: “He’s a bank manager an’ his name’s S Windle?!”
Madge: “Couldn’t make it up, huh? And it fits. If he isn’t funding the heavies working for Gilbert – I’ll eat my hat. And, you’ve SEEN my hat!” She drains her whiskey. “I know why they’re starting trouble now, too. It’s ‘cos the sheriff’s outta town. Bill Bray – that’s the deputy – he’s a decent enough man, but he’s… Well, he’s not got the smarts to deal with a weasel like Windle with half the town council in his back pocket.”
Heyes: “You said when you first arrived this town was a step away from tents and mud. So – no bank?”
Madge: “The weasel arrived ’bout nine months back.”
Heyes: “And you’d already made a fair few loans, huh? And dished out a few since.”
Madge: “Yeah. Mostly to folk who a bank wouldn’t… Oh! You mean it’s not the Bien-Venue he’s trying to shut down. It’s the loans.”
Heyes: “He musta soon found out there was something dang close to a credit union going on from here.”
Madge: “But without me half the new businesses wouldn’t have got their start. Leastways, not without…” She stops.
Heyes: “Not without being so deep in hock to the bank he could pull their strings.”
Madge (glowering): “He makes out to be such an upright citizen. Sitting so smug on the town council. Passing dang ordinances ‘gainst moral turpitude.”
Curry: “‘Gainst what?”
Heyes: “Y’know – wine, women ‘n’ song.”
Curry (mulling): “What’s IMmoral turpitude then?”
Heyes: “Can we leave that? The point is – Madge’s troubles likely aren’t over.”
Madge wrinkles her brow over this. Decision.
Madge: “Thaddeus, how’d you like to come work for me?”
Heyes: “He don’t hire out his gun.”
Madge: “I’d offer thirty dollars a week plus board.”
Heyes (wheeling smoothly): “‘Course, hiring us simply to oversee operations isn’t really hiring a gun. It’s just employing two peaceable, law-abiding fellas who would never START any trouble, but might be able to defuse it.”
Madge: “Since when has Thaddeus been TWO fellas?” To Curry: “Do we have a deal?”
Curry: “Sure do, Ma’am.”
Ben (face falling): “Does this mean I’m fired?”
Madge: “‘Course not! Thaddeus would be kinda – your assistant.” One heavily eye-lined lid drops a fleeting wink at Curry.
Curry: “A back-up.”
A beam from Ben. He likes the sound of that. But…
Ben: “What’ll Joshua be?”
Madge: “Nothing. I’m not hiring Joshua.”
Heyes (blinking): “You’re not?”
Madge: “Ben’s bouncer. Thaddeus is back-up. Me and the shotgun are back-up back-up. Where d’you come in? You’re more’n welcome to stick around, but I ain’t paying thirty dollars for the pleasure of your company. I may be a tart with a heart but I’m not a dang charity. No offense.”
Heyes (lifting a pack of cards): “D’you need any dealers?”
Madge: “Penny and Grace are my dealers.”
The stunning strawberry-blonde and tawny-haired lovely smile at him. Ah. Those two.
Curry: “If that’s the Bien-Venue standard for dealers, Joshua sure ain’t qualified.” His eyes stray momentarily to the gals’ – credentials.
Acknowledging shrug from Heyes.
Madge: “I don’t have a vacancy.” From the corner dirge-like plunking recommences. “Unless – can you play the piano?”
Heyes: “Can I play the piano? Can I play the piano?!”
Curry flashes a silent “don’t” signal to his partner.
“They don’t call me Fingers Smith for nothing, y’know!”
Curry rolls his eyes as Fingers Smith interlaces his slim digits and stretches them back before him. Heyes heads towards the piano. The Kid follows.
Curry (sotto voce): “What the Sam Hill are you doin’, Heyes? You can’t play the piano.”
Heyes (sotto voce): “We don’t know that, Kid. Not as if I ever tried.”
With a charming smile, Heyes silently requests the plunking beard to vacate the stool. He sits. More finger stretching. His face assumes a serious expression, his hands hover – fingers splayed wide – above the keys. And down… And… Stop. Hands in lap he looks over to Madge.
Heyes: “I am hired, right? Thirty dollars a week?”
Madge: “If you know how to play.”
Heyes (with a snort): “IF I know how to play?!”
Another finger flex. The left forefinger runs from one end of the keys to the other. Hey, that actually sounded good. Curry’s eyes widen in suspicious surprise. The hands hover again. And… Heyes gets up, kneels beside the stool.
“Adjusting the height.”
Tinkering. Heyes stands, steps back.
Whoa! What happened? One minute we had an upright ex-outlaw on a level floor. The next, we had an airborne ex-outlaw, yelling some masculine equivalent of Ooops. Now we have a dusty ex-outlaw, face down, emitting a faint moan.
Kid Curry rolls his eyes.
Madge and the lovely dealers, however, scurry over all concern.
Madge: “Are you okay, Joshua?”
The master of pratfalls is helped to his feet. He is nursing his right hand.
Heyes: “It’s my wrist. Owww.w.w.w. I musta slipped on some spilled beer.”
Stunning Grace: “Is it broken?”
Lovely Penny: “Should we run for the Doc?”
Heyes: “No, no.” He gives his very best brave little soldier face. “I reckon it’s only a sprain.” Big, guilty brown eyes look up at Madge: “I won’t be able to start my new job tonight after all, Ma’am.”
Madge: “Don’t you worry none about that. You rest it for as long as ya need.”
Heyes is helped to his feet, leaning – equably – on one set of soft, obliging arms (and, incidentally, bosoms) after another.
In the background Kid Curry buries his head in his hands in disbelief.
BIEN-VENUE – EARLY NEXT MORNING
The place is deserted apart from Hannibal Heyes, an empty sling dangling around his neck. He sits at the piano, plunking with one finger. For two seconds it sounds kinda familiar…
Plunk, plunk, plunk… Plonk. Ouch! He winces.
Very soft Heyesian singing: “‘Tis a gift to be simple…”
Plunk, plunk, plunk… Yes! Plonk. No! Another wince. Heyes’ head goes forward. Deep sigh.
The batwing doors swing softly. It is Sam, the waiter from the restaurant. His eyes are on the piano, he heads for it, a smile lighting up his kindly old face. Heyes straightens up. Sam stops. He is in shadow, so Heyes – whose attention is focused on the keys – does not immediately see him.
Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk… Yes! Yes! Plonk! Oh, for Pete’s sake!
Heyes drawing a hand across his face in frustration, spots Sam. Tiny start of surprise.
Heyes (with a glance at the clock): “Sheesh, you’re here early. Did you want something?”
Sam’s eyes linger for a moment on the piano. He opens his mouth – changes his mind – shuts it.
Sam: “No, Sir. Just passin’. Good mornin’ to ya.” He turns, heads for the door.
Heyes: “Morning.” Sam leaves. Confused but not terribly interested shrug from the ex-outlaw. Back to… Plunk. Plunk. Plunk… Plonk. Doh!
His eyes snap up at the sound of rapid footsteps coming downstairs. Like lightning his arm goes into the dangling sling and he moves away from the piano.
Kid Curry enters – Heyes relaxes. Adjusting his hat, Curry casts a jaded eye over his partner.
Curry: “Hey, Fingers, you got the wrong wrist in the sling.”
Smooth as silk, Heyes swaps hands and beams, blandly, at the Kid.
Curry shakes his head at the deviousness of men – well, one particular man.
“C’mon, let’s go get breakfast.”
Heading for the batwing doors they are forestalled by a lady – definitely a lady this time – tight bun, steel-rimmed spectacles – hovering on the threshold. From behind her skirts peeps a little face framed by two tight plaits and generously dotted with freckles. Heyes and Curry touch their hats.
Curry: “Can we help you, Ma’am?”
Miss Griffiths: “I’m Emily Griffiths, the local school teacher.”
The ex-outlaws expressions are polite – but blank. So?
“Is Miss Masterson available?”
Curry: “Who, Ma’am?”
Miss Griffiths: “Miss Margaret Masterson.” Still blank. “Madge Masterson.”
Curry: “Come in, Ma’am, I’ll call her.”
She peers anxiously past the two ex-outlaws.
Miss Griffiths: “There aren’t any…” Low voice, as if it’s an improper word. “Men…” Even lower. “…Drinking – are there?”
Heyes (semi-serious low voice): “Only us – and only coffee. And, we’re just leaving.” Calling: “Mizz Madge. A lady to see you.”
Curry (smiling at the small freckled visitor): “Make that two ladies.”
Two solemn eyes stare, shyly, up at him.
Madge emerges at the top of the stairs, yawning. Her hair is down and, though perfectly decent – in fact, more covered than usual – she is still in her robe.
Miss Griffiths (primly): “Good morning.”
Madge (rubbing her eyes): “Is it? I mean…” She focuses. “Mizz Griffiths?”
Miss Griffiths: “You said – so kind – I might give young Amy here – and maybe some of the other children – lessons on your piano.” To Heyes and Curry: “Amy learned piano in her last town. Then her father had to move here to find employment and there has been no instrument in town.” She looks at the piano, longingly. “Until now.” Anxiously: “You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”
Madge: “‘Course not! And don’t you worry anyone’ll come disturb you. You’ll have the place to yourself for…” She checks the clock. A blink. HOW early? “…Hours!” To Amy: “You have a real good lesson, Honey. But – play some’n soothing, huh?” She heads back from whence she came.
The teacher and her pupil make for the piano. Our boys head for the exit. Heyes, looking thoughtful, wheels and approaches Amy. He sweeps off his hat, squats.
Heyes: “Ma’am, if you’re still having your lesson when I get back from breakfast – may I listen in?”
One smeared breakfast plate, with every appearance of having been well polished by a hunk of bread sits in front of an empty chair. Another plate, with every appearance of having been topped up with a generous second helping sits in front of a masticating blond ex-outlaw. He spots something. The mastication slows. The blue eyes narrow.
Through the window we see what Curry sees.
Four men; the slicker we know to be Gilbert, a paunchy guy in a fancy embroidered vest, a skinny ferret of a fella and the grizzled deputy head for the Bien-Venue. The paunchy guy – who HAS to be the weasel banker, Windle, right? – leads the pack. The ferret scurries at his heels carrying a sheaf of documents in a slim folder. The deputy looks miserable.
Setting his hat on his head, Kid Curry downs a final mouthful of ham and exits.
CONCURRENTLY – INSIDE THE BIEN-VENUE
Heyes, full charm turned on for both teacher and pupil, watches closely as Miss Griffiths and Amy duet a few bars of: There’s No Place Like Home. Miss Griffiths nods, Heyes turns the music page, mutual smiles. The batwing doors swing. The playing stops. They look over at the foursome entering the saloon. Feminine blinks of surprise. Heyes’ eyes narrow, suspiciously.
Windle reacts with exaggerated shock to the sight of the schoolmarm.
Windle: “Miss Griffiths! What are you doing here?!”
Amy: “Teachin’ piyanna.”
Windle: “Teaching pia… In a SALOON?” Sternly, to the ferrety fella: “Unless you want your sister’s attention drawn more closely to the moral turpitude clauses in her contract I suggest you insist she leave at once!”
Griffiths: “You’d better go, Emily.”
The ferret frowns his disapproval at a clearly affronted schoolmarm. Emily Griffiths opens her mouth to argue – notes the fascinated expression of the listening child – changes her mind. Folding her lips tightly, she gathers her music and ushers Amy out.
A MINUTE LATER
Curry enters and quietly joins his partner who, brown eyes vigilant, watches the scene in progress.
Windle: “As leader of the town council I am shocked – SHOCKED – to find unlicensed gambling has been going on here.” His chest puffs like a pouter pigeon. “So is Acting Sheriff Bray! Aren’t you? Shocked!”
The despondent deputy wriggles, miserably.
Penny, who has come in from the back, sashays over to the deputy, presses a couple of notes into his hand.
Penny: “Your winnings, Bill.”
His head hangs.
Curry to Heyes (sotto voce): “What d’ya reckon?”
Heyes (ditto): “I reckon since Plan A to bully Madge outta the Bien-Venue didn’t go so well, someone’s come up with a Plan B.”
Madge: “Whaddya mean – unlicensed?! I paid my dang license! This is a respectable business I’m running here! Hey – Chrissie!” This last is to a buxom redhead in bloomers and gapping camisole, who has come down the stairs and is heading for the coffee pot on the bar. “Go get some clothes on! Save the show for paying customers, huh?”
Griffiths the ferret runs a finger inside his collar and drags his eyes away from Chrissie.
Griffiths: “The – er – respectability of your business is not the issue, Miss Masterson. Your license covers only the sale of alcohol. Legally, for gambling, you need to purchase a separate license.”
Madge: “Sez who?!”
Windle: “Says the last town council meeting – majority vote. Griffiths has the new by-law right here.”
The ferret shows Madge a paper from his file.
Gilbert (sneering): “The Silver Dollar has a gambling license.” He blows a smoke ring.
Madge scans the legal document, frowningly.
Deputy (apologetically): “Griffiths IS a lawyer as well as town clerk, Madge. It’s legal.”
Madge: “Okay, I’ll buy a dang gambling license. How much?”
Griffiths: “$100 for the year.”
In the background, two ex-outlaws react. We gather they consider $100 steep. So does Madge.
Madge: “$100?! I already pay $100 to serve alcohol and $150 in local taxes! For which I get – what?! Squat!” Deep breathing. “Okay, I’ll send Ben ’round with your money before noon.”
Windle: “There is also the matter of the fine.”
Heyes: “What fine?”
Windle: “The fine for running an unlicensed gambling establishment.” To Madge, with fake reasonableness: “Unless you prefer jail time?”
Curry: “She didn’t even know you changed the dang rules.”
Griffiths: “Ignorance of the law is no defence. Is it, Acting-Sheriff?”
The deputy shifts his feet, awkwardly.
Deputy: “I’m sorry, Madge. I gotta follow the law.”
Madge: “You’re weak as water, Bill. They wouldn’t try this if the real sheriff was here!”
Windle: “Well, he isn’t! Pay your fine by sundown tomorrow or it’s jail for you.”
Gilbert (with mock sympathy): “As a favor to a lady, I’ll give you $500 for that fancy piano you’re so proud of. Seriously. It’ll look real fine next to the stuffed grizzly at the Silver Dollar.”
Windle: “Not that $500 will cover the fine!” He cackles, classically.
OUTSIDE THE BIEN-VENUE
Unnoticed by those inside, Emily Griffiths has listened in on the scene above. She retreats behind a handy stack of barrels as Windle and entourage emerge from the saloon. As they stride away down the street, the schoolmarm stares after them. Her brows draw together, purposefully.
LATER – INSIDE THE BIEN-VENUE
Madge sits beside Kid Curry, who is in full sympathy mode.
Madge: “I can’t raise it, Thaddeus – not by tomorrow, anyhow. The Bien-Venue’s finished. I’m finished.” She chews her knuckle.
Curry: “No you’re not.” Gently he takes her hand away from her mouth. He nods though the glass at Heyes’ pacing the boardwalk. “Joshua’s workin’ on it. He’ll come up with somethin’. Didn’t he tell ya? He’s a genius.”
She glances outside, unconvinced.
Madge: “If he’s such a genius, how come you were down to your last dollar, hopping box cars?”
A blink from the Kid.
Both become aware Curry still holds Madge’s hand. Her turn to smile. With her other hand she pats his leg, affectionately.
“You’re being so sweet, Thaddeus. Thank you.”
Curry: “I wish I could think of some way to make ya feel better.”
She smiles at him again, but it fades almost immediately and her brow puckers.
[Background shot: As seen through the window, Heyes stops pacing and tips his hat as Miss Griffiths approaches him.]
Curry’s focus goes from the soft, white hand he still holds, to the one resting on his leg, to Madge’s worried face. His expression registers she is one attractive woman. His gaze lowers to her… Actually, a DANG attractive woman. Almost imperceptibly his tongue moistens his lips.
Curry: “Maybe there is a way to make you feel better – at any rate, take your mind off things for a while.”
Madge (oblivious): “Uh huh?”
[Background shot: Heyes and Miss Griffiths are still in deep conversation, his dark head nodding as she talks. They move aside out of view.]
Curry: “Maybe I could think of somethin’ to – distract ya?”
Her eyes meet his in innocent query.
“Maybe you and I could…” His eyes indicate the stairs. “…Distract each other.” Leaning in: “I sure find you distractin’, Madge.”
She doesn’t get it… Her eyes follow his to the stairs. Dawning comprehension. A blink.
Madge: “You mean – you wanna go upstairs?”
Curry’s turn to blink. That is putting it kinda – baldly. But…
Curry: “Well, yeah.”
Madge: “You want ME to go upstairs – with you?”
That was louder. The Kid glances to check if it reached his partner out on the boardwalk. No immediately visible Heyes.
“During my free time? For – for nothing?” A snicker. Another. A giggle. Laughing. Madge is no longer holding Curry’s hand nor touching his leg. Her hands are busy covering her mouth. Honk. Snort. She’s losing it. The head goes back – a howl of laughter. Snor.R.T. Head forward – honk, honk. She holds her sides. Snort. Heek. HEEK. Her heels drum the floor trying to stop. SNORT. HEEK. “Stoppid!” Heek. HEEK. “OW!” She clutches her stomach. “Stoppid – it hurts!” HEEEEK. Snicker. Breath… Bre.e. … Finally, Madge sits up, wiping her streaming eyes and smiles broadly at the thoroughly chagrined ex-outlaw. She pats his cheek, in a motherly fashion. “THANK you, Thaddeus. Y’know – that DID make me feel better.” Change of tone; “Oh! Hello, Joshua, what is it?”
Curry turns to see Heyes – who from the twinkle in his eye might have gathered at least the gist – dimpling in their direction. Behind Heyes hovers the prim figure of Miss Griffiths.
Our boys, Madge, Trixie, Miss Griffiths and a perplexed-looking Ben huddle around a table. Sam pours coffee for them.
Miss Griffiths: “I’m sorry to pull you away from the Bien-Venue, Miss Masterson, but…” She stops, embarrassed.
Madge: “But when Windle shot his mouth off ’bout being able to have you fired for entering a saloon – he was right. ‘S’Alright. Sheesh, if me and Trixie don’t know earning a living can be hard for a woman – who does?”
Miss Griffiths: “It’s nonsense! I was there out of hours. It’s not as if there were…” Lowered discrete voice: “Men…” Even lower: “…Drinking.”
Madge and Trixie exchange a feminine version of the “look” – with a hint of eye roll.
Madge (sighing): “Ben, Thaddeus, while I try to come up with a way to raise the rest, you’re gonna hafta heft the piano over to the Silver Dollar, get that $500 from Gilbert.”
Trixie: “There’s gotta be some other way.” Her voice is full of concern.
Curry: “There’s gotta be some other way.” His voice is full of heft-reluctance.
Madge: “I always wanted a piano in my place and it never even got played proper once.” To Heyes: “If only you hadn’t sprained your wrist.”
Curry (deadpan): “That was bad luck – Fingers.”
Sam, now filling Curry’s mug, is listening. He looks over at a far too innocent-eyed Heyes, then at the sling, thoughtfully. He opens his mouth and – nah; he changes his mind.
Madge: “And if I pay THIS fine, he’ll come up with some’n else.”
Heyes to Madge: “Mizz Griffiths thinks she can find a way to stop that.”
All eyes turn to the school teacher.
Miss Griffiths to Madge: “While I might not entirely approve of your past or future trade, I would be the last to deny you have done much for this town. You’ve a good heart, Miss Masterson. And, when all is said and done, should any of us frown at the speck in our brother’s – or in this case, sister’s – eye without first examining the beams in our own? Certainly not Simon Windle whose eyes surely contain beams enough to build a barn and whose pretended outrage – backed, I am ashamed to say, by my own brother – is merely a flimsy cover for base purposes. Namely, the consolidation of all loan capital and associated power in his own bank, thus allowing him to lever unreasonable profits and seize the assets of those experiencing repayment difficulties. Windle certainly intends yet further machinations at tomorrow’s council meeting. If we can discover his plans, maybe we can circumvent them. You may ask, would this not be simply a delay of the inevitable? Would Windle not simply regroup and would not his greater resources render him the eventual victor? I say, no. I say, his timing – especially of the attempt at physical intimidation – is chosen to coincide with the temporary absence of the sheriff. Not that the sheriff would necessarily halt his suborning of the democratic processes of the town council for his mercenary motives, since he appears – you note I only say, appears – to stay within the law as laid down by the town ordinances. And yet, it is that very democratic process and an adherence to the strict letter of the law I believe we can exploit to thwart his scheming long enough to exhaust his perceived window of opportunity.”
After having delivered the above with admirable fluency and no discernable pause for breath, the schoolmarm waits for a reaction.
Ben: “Huh?” This pretty much sums it up for the majority of her audience.
Heyes: “Windle wants Madge outta business ‘cos while folk can go to her instead of the bank, he can’t turn the screws hard as he’d like. He’d like it done ‘fore the sheriff gets back. If we can find out his next move – maybe we can stop him.”
Curry: “Find out how?”
Miss Griffiths: “My brother will have prepared an agenda for the next council meeting. This will likely intimate the direction of Windle’s next move.”
Curry: “An’ stop him how?”
Miss Griffiths: “Although, due to the inequality of educational opportunities available to women I am not, unlike my brother, actually called to the bar, in younger days I kept pace with all his studies as an intellectual exercise. I believe a brief review of the town ordinances will confirm my optimistic assumptions of a possible resolution.”
Heyes: “If we can get hold of the next agenda and a copy of the town council rules, Mizz Griffiths reckons she can take it from there.”
Miss Griffiths: “Here’s my plan. Let us say this salt shaker represents the exit to the bank and this pepper shaker is the livery.” The items are carefully placed. “When my brother and Windle leave the bank, Mister Smith – represented by this lump of sugar – will be here. Ben – this tomato – here…”
FADE OUT SOUND
In dumb show, Miss Griffiths continues to talk, placing item after item on the tablecloth.
TWO MINUTES LATER
Miss Griffiths, still talking without pause, balances one last spoon, precariously, on a table littered with assorted food, condiments, cutlery, a glove, hairpins… You get the picture. Around her is an assortment of baffled expressions.
FADE IN SOUND
Miss Griffiths: “…No one notices my abstraction of the papers because they are all still searching for the source of the smoke.” She looks up, eyes sparkling through her spectacles. “What do you think?”
Sam: Silent scratch of head.
Curry: “Ma’am, that’s the worst plan I ever heard.” A fleeting glance at his partner. “An’ that’s sayin’ somethin’.” Pause. “No offense.”
Heyes: “Trouble is, Ma’am, it’s no use coming up with a real sophisticated plan when you have to rely on simple folk like – like Thaddeus here, to remember it .” Pause. “No offense.”
Curry: “Why don’t you wait till your brother brings the papers home, slip into his study, take ’em then?”
Miss Griffiths: “Didn’t I say? They’re kept in his safe.”
Mute conversation between two ex-outlaws, one of whom begins to dimple.
Heyes: “You don’t happen to know what kinda safe, Ma’am?”
Miss Griffiths: “A Magnalock – is that the right term?”
Heyes (all innocence): “New?”
Miss Griffiths: “Oh no. It’s nearly ten years old.
Heyes’ face lights up like a… Like a… Like a dimpled lit up thing. (Hey, write your own similes, huh?)
Heyes: “Let me walk you home, Ma’am. Maybe between us we can come up with a simpler plan.” He stands, reaches for his hat.
Miss Griffiths: “Walk alone with a – a…” Lowered voice. “…Man.”
Madge: “I’ll come too. That be okay?”
Miss Griffiths, eyes straying to Madge’s cleavage, still looks doubtful, but – perhaps recalling her no criticising eye speck sentiments of earlier – she nods.
OUTSIDE THE RESTAURANT
Our boys share a low voiced conversation as Miss Griffiths and Madge adjust their shawls.
Curry: “You sure you don’t want me along?”
Heyes: “Nah. There isn’t a pre-1880 Magnalock anywhere I can’t open blindfolded with one hand behind my back.”
Curry (eyes dropping to the sling): “Just as well, huh?”
After a quick glance to check feminine attention is elsewhere Heyes swaps back to having his right hand free.
Heyes: “See if you can come up with some way of raising the fine.”
Both sets of ex-outlaw eyes stray to the bank.
“Some other way.”
Curry grins and heads back into the restaurant.
INSIDE THE RESTAURANT
The Kid returns to his seat.
Trixie: “I wish I could pay Madge back all I owe her, but I just don’t got it.”
Sam: “My boys feel the same.”
Trixie lays a comforting hand on the old man’s arm.
Trixie: “Hey, they mustn’t. They’re makin’ a go of their business an’ payin’ her back outta profits just like they promised.”
Curry to Trixie (warmly): “I reckon Madge ‘ud tell you that, too, huh?”
Ben whose brow has been wrinkled in deep ponder throughout suddenly speaks.
Ben: “I got me an idea how to raise the money.”
The enthusiasm as everyone looks at the big fella is underwhelming. Pause.
Trixie (kindly): “Go on, Ben.”
Ben: “Y’see that basket – let’s say that’s a – er – well, a basket…”
FADE OUT SOUND
Ben talks, hands gesturing eagerly.
TEN SECONDS LATER
Ben stops talking. He scratches his head and beams around the table at an assortment of sceptical expressions.
FADE IN SOUND
Ben: “Whaddya think?”
Curry: “I guess it’s simple enough.” A shrug. “Worth a try.”
LATER – THE BIEN-VENUE
Heyes is at the piano – plunking left-handed.
Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk… Plonk.
Madge watches him, glumly, chin cupped in her hands.
Madge: “Fancy Griffiths having forgotten to close his safe properly.”
Heyes (too-innocent eyes): “Good luck, huh?”
Madge: “And the way you got into his office. I’da never guessed you for a locksmith, Joshua.”
Heyes (butter not melting): “Nothing like learning a trade. They don’t call me Fingers Smith for nothing…”
Madge (frowning): “I thought that was ‘cos o’ the piano?”
Heyes: “Well, yeah. The piano AND the locks.”
Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk… Plonk.
Madge: “You’re playing all the wrong notes.”
Heyes: “It’s not so easy one-handed. Besides…” Plunk, plunk, plunk. “I’m playing all the right notes…” Plunk, plunk – Plonk. “But not necessarily in the right order.” Plonk.
The batwing doors swing. Kid Curry strides in.
Heyes: “Where’re the others?”
Curry: “Ben’s got a plan.” To Madge: “I ain’t sayin’ what – ‘cos I don’t wanna raise your hopes.”
Madge: “I love him dearly, but hearing Ben’s the one with a plan isn’t gonna raise anyone’s hopes, Thaddeus.”
Curry: “Where’s Miss Griffiths?”
Heyes: “She’s checking HER plan before she tells us what it is – ‘cos she don’t wanna raise Madge’s hopes neither.”
Footsteps on the boardwalk outside. Windle and Gilbert stride in, displaying classic bad-guy gloat. Behind them are Carter and Rose, who refrain from gloating and keep a wary eye on Kid Curry.
Madge: “You boys can stop worry ’bout raising my hopes – they just fell through the floor.”
Gilbert: “I thought I’d do the gentlemanly thing, save you the trouble of shifting the piano to my place. These boys…” Indicating Carter and Rose. “…Will carry it for you. And…” Banknotes waft, smugly. “…I have your $500 right here.”
Carter and Rose walk over. Carter, with a civil gesture, indicates that Heyes should vacate the stool. Heyes glances at Madge. She shrugs, resignedly. Heyes gets up, with a cool stare at Windle.
Carter grasps one end of the piano, Rose the other. One, two, three – heft! Two tough guy faces register – HEAVY. Curry’s expression along with the steely-eyed blue glare for Madge’s persecutors holds a trace of relief that it ain’t him breaking sweat.
Two sets of braced legs take their first crab-style step toward the exit when…
Trixie: “STOP!” Almost breathless with excitement she has set the batwing doors swinging on their hinges. With all the drama capable of being infused into a line: “The piano lives another day!”
With a near Curryesque swiftness which is almost endearing Carter and Rose set down the piano.
Ben follows Trixie a beam lighting his broad features – which is just as well since his shoulders blocking the doorway prevent daylight doing it. He sets down a basket in front of Madge. Then he fishes inside his vest pocket and places four or five notes in the basket.
Ben : “It’s the money I’ve been savin’ for that new guitar.”
[Background incidental: At this, the curiosity on Heyes’ face is joined by a gleam of “Idea!”]
Trixie (adding more notes to the basket): “Only wish I could give more, Madge.”
[Ben was followed into the saloon by Sam, modest contribution in hand.]
Sam: “I’m never gonna forget the chance you gave my boys.”
Windle: “Pfffttt! Very touching, but do think THAT…” Derisive gesture at the admittedly thin layer of money in the basket. “…Will make an iota of difference?”
Trixie: “Nope. But THIS will!” Calling over the swing doors. “In y’all come!”
[An orderly queue files into the saloon. First come two fellas we assume to be Sam’s sons. For entirely justifiable reasons, these gentlemen have been cast using the ‘Phwoar! Hope-the-plot-gives-those-slices-of-beefcake-an-ex cuse-to-rip-their-shirts-off’ selection criteria. Thus, the discerning viewer – that’s you – does not notice Heyes whispering to Ben, nor Ben unobtrusively heading for the stairs.]
Beefcake-1 (dropping notes in basket): “We owe ya, Ma’am.”
Beefcake-2 (ditto): “Glad to help.”
Widow Cummins: “All Ben had to say was, Madge is in trouble…”
Mister Chang: “Good deeds return to nest.”
Sturdy Miner: “No one was more generous than you, Madge, after the cave in.”
Hirsute Miner 1 (Indicating piano): “Selmecbánya – good memories.”
Hirsute Miners 2 through 10: Miscellaneous agreeing grunts.
Heyes to Curry (sotto voce): “Ben’s idea was to go ’round asking for money?”
Curry (ditto): “Uh huh.”
Two cynical ex-outlaws exchange a look – and a disbelieving shrug.
Heyes takes a pencil from his vest, turns over a sheet of music to the blank side and starts to tally the money with a speed and dexterity marvellous to behold. He is in his element.
Penny: “Bien-Venue’s best place I ever worked.”
Grace: “Same here.”
Chrissie: “I’d set THIS aside for a divorce, ‘case I’m ever dumb enough to get hitched again.”
[Unnoticed by even the discerning viewer – you again – unless watching with rewind, Ben slips back to his original place, something behind his back. Aw – you guessed!]
First Citizen: “Bountiful wouldn’t be same without ya, Madge.”
Citizens 2 through 20: You got the gist, huh?
During the circling of townsfolk, Kid Curry peels himself from the wall against which he leans. With a resigned expression he reaches into his vest, puts his thirty dollar earnings into the basket. A meaningful look is thrown at Heyes.
Heyes (all innocence): “What?”
More “look” from Curry.
“What!?” Finally, Heyes makes a single note contribution.
Intensified “look” from the blue eyes.
“Last I checked we were larcenous outlaws. When d’ya decide we’d become Robin dang Hood?”
Still with the “look”.
“For Pete’s sake!” Heyes makes a decent contribution, gets on with counting.
Amy (***** of a Christmas dime): “Fank who for leddin’ me play piyanna. An’…” Sealed envelope into the basket. “…Dis is from Miss G’iffiths.”
Silver-haired Minister (collection box upturned): “Don’t think I don’t remember you giving to widows and orphans. The leaking roof can wait.”
Adorable freckled tyke: “Fanks for der C’issmas tree an’ candy.”
Adorable tykes 3 through 6: Heartstring tugging yuk. *****, *****, ***** of coin.
Heyes (triumphantly): “Yes! We have enough!”
A heart-warming cheer goes up. Misty-eyed, Madge gazes around at her neighbours, too moved to speak.
Windle has watched the above scene with mounting fury – and possibly nausea.
Windle: “You may have won this round, Madge Masterson, but the town council meets again tomorrow. He who laughs last…!” With an impressive sweep of his coat tails and followed by his lackeys, he strides out of the saloon.
Madge runs to throw her arms as far around a blushing Ben as possible and kisses a spot close to his cheek as she can reach.
Madge: “You’re a hero, Ben!”
Trixie: “He sure is.” She joins in the hugging. “Still…” Deflating. “…Windle’s right ’bout the last laugh.”
Madge: “Maybe. But he still walked outta here with egg on his face and I can never thank you all enough.” She wipes her eyes. “Grace, Chrissie, drinks for everyone. Trixie, how about fetching over some lemonade for the little ones.” Her eyes fall on the piano. “Shame. I feel we oughta celebrate with music.”
Sam, shyly, half makes a move. He is forestalled.
Hirsute Miner-1 (stepping forward eagerly): “I play Selmecbányian town anthem?”
Hirsute Miner-2: “It remind us of old country.”
Madge (face falling for a second, then summoning a smile): “Great.”
Heyes: “Maybe we can do a little better?” To Hirsute-1: “No offense.”
He holds out his “good” hand, Ben hands him a guitar. (You guessed!)
Heyes: “I reckon my weak wrist can manage this.” Strum. Singing: “‘Tis a gift to be simple…” Hirsute-2: “IS better.”
Curry: “It is?” Receives the “look”. “I mean, dontcha wanna be reminded of the old country?”
Hirsute-2: “Nein. Old country was dump.”
Heyes: “…Till by turning, turning we turn out right.”
Heyes: “‘Tis a gift to be simple…”
Curry rolls his eyes. The audience realising the limited nature of the repertoire shuffles its feet.
Beefcake-1: “Hey, Pa. Why dontcha help out on the piano?”
Beefcake-2: “Yeah, don’t be shy.”
Madge (surprised): “Sam, you can play?”
Sam (modest shrug): “Y’know. Kinda.”
Madge: “Honey, if you know anything other than these fellas’ town anthem and five notes of a hymn played with one finger, we’re all yours!”
Heyes gives up the stool to Sam, reseats himself on a chair. Sam strikes up. Wow! Note perfect, ten-fingered version of ‘Tis a gift. Murmurs of appreciation run around the saloon.
Heyes joins in on the guitar. He lifts his voice: “‘Tis a gift to be simple…”
At a nod from him, Amy and a couple of adorable tykes join in, round style: “‘Tis a gift to be simple…”
Sam adds trills, frills, variations and syncopations. Change that Wow to WOW! THAT is talent!
One by one the townsfolk sing along. If this episode became any more ‘It’s a Wonderful Life-esque’ we would have to check the original airdate for Christmas Special syndrome.
[Fade down song, allowing us to hear:]
Madge to Sam: “You interested in an evening job?”
Sam: “I guess.”
Madge to Heyes: “You’re fired. No offense.”
Heyes: “None taken.”
[Fade up song.]
“STOP THE MUSIC!” Miss Griffiths gestures frantically from the doorway, boots carefully kept right side of the threshold. “STOP!”
Once again the gathering is our boys, Madge, Trixie, Miss Griffiths, Ben and Sam. This time Trixie is the one pouring coffee.
Madge to Sam (as she takes her seat): “Not that I’m complaining, but you’re wasted in Bountiful.”
Heyes: “You’d earn a fortune at some fancy ‘Frisco place.”
Sam: “An’ when I tried to spend it, how d’you think folk in ‘Frisco ‘ud like that?” Quietly, “Bountiful’s home now. I had me enough of the city years back.”
Mute conversation between Heyes and Curry. Man might have a point.
Madge to Miss Griffiths: “All the abuse those piano keys suffered over the past two days and you choose THAT moment to shut ’em up!”
Miss Griffiths (pushing forward documents): “Because of what’s here, on the agenda for tomorrow’s council meeting: Infractions against ordinance number 57b.”
Curry: “This – ordinance – says what?”
Heyes (finger finding the right place): “No proprietor shall offer both alcohol and musical entertainment in a single business establishment.” Lighter tone. “Hey! Ordinance number 62 rules what a man can’t do sporting an offensive moustache!” With a glance at the Kid: “Wish I’d checked the town ordinances back in Buckton!”
Curry (after delivering the “look”): “So Windle changed the rules when the piano arrived?”
Miss Griffiths: “No, the rule against offering both alcohol and music already existed – all he had to do was find it.”
Curry: “‘Course, until Sam started playin’, we coulda argued that noise Joshua was makin’ don’t count as music.”
Heyes’ turn to deliver the “look”.
Miss Griffiths, (frowning at this frivolity and switching to schoolteacher mode): “You must understand, Mister Jones, when a new town springs up sooner or later it needs governance. Someone needs to determine a Modus Vivendi: How to prevent A’s fire hazard putting B’s business at risk? How to stop C’s deliveries blocking D’s right of access? How to decide optimal placement for the town garbage dump? The business proprietors find they must assemble to resolve one problem after another. Very soon they need an elected council and town rules – or ordinances. Unwilling to begin writing ordinances afresh, they pick a town with which someone is familiar, send for a copy of ITS ordinances and add a front sheet declaring:
Unless amended by due mandate of eligible voters, the ordinances of Augury shall apply, unaltered, in Bountiful.”
Heyes: “Most folk have better things to do than trawl through hundreds of ordinances on moustaches and not hanging your bedding outta windows on the Sabbath – so once a weasel like Windle gets on the council he can use the rules to his own ends.”
Madge: “And he’s enough voters in his pocket to change the rules if he wants.”
Miss Griffiths (with meaning): “HAS he?”
Madge: “Well – hasn’t he?”
Miss Griffiths: “I believe not. This lists everyone who attended the last council meeting. Those on the left voted with Windle.” A document is laid in front of Madge, the schoolmarm keeping her hand over the lower part.
Madge (reading): “No great surprises. I’da hoped for more from Harry and Jim, but, hey – I guess Windle’s got ’em by the bal…” A nudge from Trixie. They both eye the unsuspecting prim teacher. “…Balance sheet.”
Ben (sniggering): “I thought you were gonna say Windle’d got ’em by the bal… Ow!” Confused he rubs his ankle.
Miss Griffiths: “Those listed on the right voted against Windle.”
Madge (again reading): “Yup, yup, yup… Oh! Those two shouldn’t – they got bank loans.” A sniff. Huskily: “Guess at least I know who my friends are!”
Heyes (finger running down the list): “So – Windle has a seven vote majority.”
Miss Griffiths (again, with meaning): “HAS he?” She removes her hand. “THESE people did not attend the council meeting and so, by default, abstained. In fact THESE people are never notified of council meetings.”
General reading. Madge and Trixie exchange a glance.
Heyes: “But most of these folk are either women or – or…”
Sam (saying it for him): “Or they ain’t white.”
Miss Griffiths (bristling): “That’s irrelevant.”
Heyes : “Okay, I know – in theory – it’s irrelevant. I also know why Sam’s boys might think twice before showing up at a polling booth. Say they do…”
Sam (quietly): “They’d show up for Madge.”
Heyes: “It don’t alter the fact most of these names are women.”
Miss Griffiths (challengingly): “I’ll have you know Mister Smith, I campaign actively for the extension of the franchise!”
Heyes: “I’m not arguing the principle, Ma’am. I’m saying any plan which starts off: First achieve political equality for women might have right on its side, but it isn’t the quick fix Madge needs by tomorrow.”
Miss Griffiths: “The point is, Mister Smith, we have to achieve only attendance. Voting on council matters is not equivalent to voting in a political election. Qualification is quite simple. The proprietor of any establishment which in the current financial year pays business taxes to a value greater than $50 shall be eligible to vote.”
Heyes: “You sure?”
(***) Miss Griffiths: “Yes. WE may not be in Wyoming but Augury – from whence the rules came – is. I went through the ordinances with a fine toothcomb. No amendments. No footnotes buried in the appendices. Nothing.” A sudden beam lights her face: “In Bountiful, taxation gets you representation. The ability to grow a beard – or indeed an objectionable moustache – is optional.”
Curry: “So – Madge has the numbers on her side? She can get the rule on music in saloons overturned.”
Heyes: “Uh huh. And, stop Windle adding any fresh rules to trip her up.”
NEXT DAY – OUTSIDE THE SILVER DOLLAR
A temporary sign announces: Council Business in Progress.
On the boardwalk are Gilbert, Carter, Rose, Rose’s unlikely identical twin and a clutch of fellas sporting traditional “mean extra” stubble.
Heyes, Curry and Ben are in the street.
Standing apart is the deputy. His eyes go from the group on the boardwalk, to our boys. He spits, thoughtfully.
At irregular intervals men walk into view heading for the Silver Dollar. A barber? A storekeeper? Ah, this one’s easy – undertaker! Uneasy glances are shot both at the ex-outlaws and the Silver Dollar heavies.
Curry returns the stares of Carter and Rose, evenly. Heyes, uneasy, glances at his partner’s set face.
Heyes: “We’re not here to start trouble.”
Curry: “I won’t if they don’t.”
Further down the street, out of earshot, Griffiths is having a heated argument with his sister. She heads a small group consisting of Madge, Trixie and three older ladies whose costumes screech respectability and whose wringing hands screech nerves.
Windle emerges from the bank. His eyes move to Kid Curry – then to the boardwalk. Discreet shake of the head from Gilbert. Windle frowns. Thumbs hooked in his fancy vest, he surveys the street. Seeing the women, his frown deepens; Griffiths cringes obsequiously.
Windle strides over to the deputy, points at our boys and Ben.
Windle: “Are you going to stand there letting that Masterson woman’s hired guns and pet ox disrupt the democratic process?”
Deputy: “So far they ain’t disruptin’ nothin’.”
Windle: “Their very presence is intimidating! At the very least, I insist you confiscate their weapons! Unless you want me to report your dereliction of duty to the sheriff on his return?”
The deputy’s eyes wander from the ex-outlaws to the boardwalk.
Deputy: “This confiscation of weapons? That’d go for Gilbert’s fellas too?”
Our boys exchange a glance. Interesting.
Windle’s face works in frustrated anger. Without another word he turns on his heel and makes for the women. Still out of earshot, Miss Griffiths speaks to the banker, he reacts with exaggerated derision, swells like a pompous pouter pigeon and attempts to cow the older ladies with masculine bombast. They cower – but they do not cave. Straight-backed, heads held high, the feminine contingent stride past the impotently fuming banker and fraternally frustrated ferret of a town clerk.
The schoolmarm breaks away to join Heyes, Curry and Ben. Madge, Trixie and the others continue toward the Silver Dollar.
Curry: “You’re not goin’ in with ’em?”
Miss Griffiths: “No stepping foot in licensed premises, remember? Besides, I don’t pay business taxes. I’ve no right to attend town council meetings.”
As the ladies approach the boardwalk, insulting catcalls start from the heavies, following an unobtrusive nod from Gilbert.
“Gilbert – these your new gals?”
“Hey, Gran’ma! You startin’ work here, huh?”
“Y’know what they say ’bout which fiddles play the best tunes!”
“Yeah, but wouldya wanna fiddle with that?”
“How much for you an’ ya skinny friend together?”
Yup, they’ve set one of the older women crying. Trixie puts a comforting arm round her shoulder as they mount the steps.
Face set, Kid Curry takes a step forward. Eyes locked, Danny Rose does the same.
Miss Griffiths: “He’s right, Thaddeus. Sticks and stones.”
Curry: “Sticks an’ stones! Can ya HEAR what those creeps are sayin’?”
Miss Griffiths: “Nothing that hasn’t been shouted at me – and worse – when I’ve been campaigning.” With a wry smile: “What did you expect – chivalry? That is reserved for women who don’t challenge the established order.”
Whatever other catcalls have been made, they have fired up Madge. She rounds on the heavy with a black eye.
Madge: “D’you think my gals don’t talk?! The only way you’d make good on this big talk ’bout what ya can do with the ladies is if one of ’em strapped a splint on ya!”
As derisive laughter sounds among his fellows, Black-Eye flushes crimson.
Miss Griffiths (to the boys): “Oh, dear. We’d agreed on quiet dignity.”
Black-eye, furious, grabs Madge’s wrist.
Black-eye: “Why you…!”
The word which follows draws a collective gasp of outrage from all assembled members of respectable society. Curry AND Ben both start forward. Up on the boardwalk, reacting, so do Carter and Rose.
Tension. The expressions on all faces suggest things may turn violent. Gloating satisfaction twists Windle’s face. But, it is premature.
Along with Curry and the gunmen, the deputy has advanced as Madge is grabbed.
Seeing the lawman move, Heyes seizes Curry.
Miss Griffiths does the same for Ben and is, unknowingly, carried along, dangling from the big fella’s arm.
Deputy to Black-Eye (drawing): “Let her go!”
Indecision among the heavies on the boardwalk.
“Let her go, or I’ll arrest ya for – for disruptin’ a democratic process!”
Windle’s expression at hearing his own phrase repeated back is a picture. A glance is exchanged between him and Gilbert. At a nod from Gilbert, Black-Eye releases Madge.
Deputy to Ben (who is still heading for Black-Eye, fists clenched and raised, schoolteacher dangling): “You stop right there!”
Heyes and Curry join Miss Griffiths in attempted Ben restraint. It slows, but does not entirely stop him.
Ben: “No one calls my Aunt Madge – that!”
Madge: “Ben! Do as you’re bid!”
Madge to Black-Eye: “As for you – ya big lummox…”
She is interrupted.
Deputy: “Never mind that. If you ladies are set on votin’ – you head on in!”
After a surprised look at the lawman, Madge leads her party inside the Silver Dollar.
Heyes: “Seems the deputy spent the night growing a spine.”
Miss Griffiths: “He had a telegram from the sheriff; he’ll be back tomorrow.”
Enquiring look from Kid Curry.
“Deputy Bray is not a bad man, but he doesn’t trust his own judgement. As a loyal number two he’s perfect. While he’s away the sheriff will have instructed his deputy to simply stick to the letter of the law – and my brother and Windle exploit that. BUT, with the sheriff back tomorrow, they won’t find the deputy so easy to manipulate. He knows in another twenty-four hours he can go back to doing as he’s told without worrying he’s being used.”
A stirring from the heavies on the boardwalk. Heyes and Curry turn to see what they see. The Beefcakes, spruced up for the occasion, and Mister Chang – ditto, best silk robe – approach. Beefcake-2, who carries a shotgun, peels away from his brother and takes up position with our boys.
Another silent enquiry from Kid Curry to Miss Griffiths.
Miss Griffiths: “One business – one vote, even for a partnership.”
Heyes (eyeing the shotgun): “You’re expecting trouble, huh?”
Beefcake-2: “Just nat’rally cautious.”
The catcalling from the boardwalk restarts – uglier in tone and harsher in language than for the ladies. From amidst the monkey noises and coarse epithets Gilbert steps forward, blocking the saloon entrance.
Gilbert: “Hey, boy. Where’dya think you’re going?”
Beside Heyes Beefcake-2 stiffens and, unobtrusively, takes firmer hold of his shotgun.
Gilbert: “Uh huh. Since when did the Silver Dollar serve your kind?”
To the deputy: “Admittance is at the discretion of the management – those are the rules! I got a right to say who drinks in my place.”
Unsure of his ground, though clearly his sympathies are entirely against Gilbert, the deputy hesitates.
Seeing this, Miss Griffiths opens her mouth. Heyes beats her to it.
Heyes (a hint of danger in his tone): “Sure you got a right to say who drinks in your place. You don’t got a right to say who votes in it. That sign means your place ISN’T a saloon for the next hour or so – you’ve offered it up as town hall. If you’ve changed your mind, I reckon the Bien-Venue’ll oblige.”
There is gratitude in the glance the deputy throws at Heyes.
Deputy: “That’s right. You and Mister Windle instructin’ me to act on the law – fair enough. But ya don’t get to pick an’ choose.” Recitation mode: “The right to vote shall not be abridged or denied on account of race or of color or of condition of previous servitude – fifteenth amendment to the US constitution ratified 1870, law of the land thereafter, including territories.” Normal tone (proudly): “Even I know that ‘un!”
A glance between Windle and Gilbert. Gilbert steps aside, allowing the men on the step to pass.
Fuming with yet more impotent rage (that being the best kind, huh?) Windle follows them inside.
Curry: “Is is me, or is this goin’ better’n we coulda hoped?”
Miss Griffiths: “Except…”
Heyes: “Except – what, Ma’am?”
Miss Griffiths: “I haven’t seen George Bunbury go in.”
Miss Griffiths: “He owns the livery.”
Miss Griffiths: “So – he’s one of the voters who stands up to Windle.”
Beefcake-2: “He took his wife outta town, Ma’am. Their daughter’s havin’ her first an’ she’s gone to help.”
Enquiring looks seeming to ask – how come you know?
“He asked me an’ Matt to oversee the livery.”
Miss Griffiths: “And because he is unapprised of this situation…” Her hand gestures, indicatively. “…He has not nominated a proxy.”
Heyes: “So – all this and Madge STILL hasn’t got the numbers?!”
LATER – THE BIEN-VENUE
The main characters friendly to Madge are gathered, drinks in hand, smiles on faces. Except, of course, Miss Griffiths, who leans in through the window clutching a glass of what appears to be lemonade.
Trixie: “I thought Windle was gonna burst like a pompous balloon!”
Madge: “He’d got proposal after proposal – couldn’t pass a one of ’em!”
Trixie: “He wanted to get Madge fined for the piano – couldn’t. No majority. AND, it ain’t really been played durin’ servin’ hours. Not what you’d call – played.”
Madge: “‘Course, WE couldn’t get a majority neither, so there’s still a dang ordinance saying no music where folk are drinking.” Her fingers run over the polished wood of the instrument, longingly. Deep sigh.
Sam: “I guess that means I’m fired from the evening job?”
Madge: “It’s a shame but it can’t be helped, huh?” To Miss Griffiths: “Maybe I’ll donate it to the school – least that way you can give lessons on it.”
Miss Griffiths: “That is very generous. Although knowing Windle has won even such a modified victory will reduce my pleasure.”
Heyes (an idea sparking his eyes): “Unless…”
A MONTAGE OF SHOTS
BACKGROUND MUSIC – “JAZZED UP” PIANO VERSION OF ‘TIS A GIFT…
Far Corner of Bien-Venue
Ben is sawing. Sam is on all fours measuring and marking the floor.
Foreground: Curry, sleeves rolled up, several shirt buttons undone, emitting a glow to warm the hearts of Kidettes everywhere, hammers, ineptly. He hits his thumb in a perfect Wickenburg echo and scowls at Heyes, who is in his element organising the helpers.
Miss Griffiths, textbook open before her, writes in careful copperplate on a sheet of foolscap headed Land Title.
Beefcake-1 and Beefcake-2, stripped to the waist (how could you doubt me?!) heave on a rope, the better to show off taut six-packs and well-toned arms. Also, incidentally, to raise a cross beam into place – in case you thought the display of eye-candy purely gratuitous.
Heyes scans a document Miss Griffiths hands him. He nods in approval.
Far Corner of Bien-Venue
Ben lifts a new door into place.
Madge and Sam both read the document drawn up by Miss Griffiths. In turn, they sign.
Far Corner of Bien-Venue
With déjà vu stamped all over his face, a sweating Kid Curry helps Ben heft that dang piano one more time.
Shot taken FROM far corner of Bien-Venue
Madge, hands clasped together in joy, admires whatever is positioned behind the camera point of view. Around her, staring at the same spot, cluster Trixie, Penny, Grace and Chrissie in similar attitudes of feminine appreciation.
BIEN-VENUE – EVENING
In the far corner Sam plays the piano, a marvellous mosaic of music emerging from the keys. The instrument is now situated within an eight by six gazebo effect of waist high partitions. Wooden supports take the new construction to ceiling height without blocking either the view or the sound. Among those gathered we recognise Ben, Trixie, Sam’s boys, Chang, the Hirsute miners, Penny, Grace, Chrissie and various other extras who contributed to the collection basket. Voices are raised in song. Hey, it’s a version of the Selmecbányian town anthem. THAT’S how it is supposed to sound!
Madge watches from the bar, glowing with pride. Beside her, our boys sip their beers.
Madge: “Sounds pretty dang good, huh?”
Heyes: “Uh huh.” Pause.”‘Course, if I hadn’ta hurt my wrist…”
The batwing doors swing. It is Windle and Griffiths the Ferret, accompanied by a reluctant deputy.
Windle: “STOP THE MUSIC!”
The music stops. One by one the voices fall silent.
Windle to the deputy: “You see! Blatant law-breaking!” Pointing at Madge: “I insist you arrest that woman!”
A figure emerges from the crowd around the piano: Miss Griffiths.
Miss Griffiths: “Do no such thing, Deputy!”
Griffiths reacts with horror to the sight of his sister.
Griffiths: “Emily! In a – a saloon!”
Windle: “Consider yourself fired!”
Miss Griffiths: “I will consider myself nothing of the sort!”
Curry: “You see, Miss Griffiths isn’t IN a saloon.”
Heyes passes the document we saw earlier to her brother. “THAT is now a separate business – Sam’s place.” Dimpling: “Another voter for the council sessions – you’re gonna need a bigger place to meet. Maybe here.”
Curry: “An’ since THAT business isn’t a saloon – an’ got a door of its own – Miss Griffiths can give piano lessons in the mornin’s.” Bland smile: “Good news?”
Deputy (indicating the document in Griffiths’ hand): “Is that legal?”
Miss Griffiths (confidently): “Yes!”
A long pause.
Griffiths (very reluctantly): “Yes.” He shoots a resentful look at his sister.
Windle (making a swift recovery): “In that case THERE is the lawbreaker!” He points at Sam. “You’re in big trouble, boy!” To the deputy: “Arrest him!”
Heyes: “For what?”
Windle: “For providing music where alcohol is…”
Windle tails off. He notes three things. First, no one INSIDE the piano gazebo holds a drink. Second, signs clearly announce; no drinks beyond this point. Third, outside the piano enclosure are handy shelves on which glasses can rest. It is perfectly possible to gather around the piano on the saloon side of the partition, or to leave your drink in reach if you want to move closer.
Windle seethes in impotent rage (that STILL being the best kind). He turns on his heel and strides out, the ferret scuttling after him.
The deputy does not leave, he walks to the bar.
Deputy: “Beer please, Madge.”
Madge: “Coming right up.” A foaming tankard is sent in his direction.
The deputy, beer in hand, strolls over to the piano, keeping to the strictly legal side of the no drinks line.
Deputy: “D’you know ‘Tis a Gift…?
Deputy: “Play it, Sam.”
Sam (calling over to Heyes): “Hey, Fingers, wanna join me?” A fleeting wink is sent in a Heyesian direction.
Heyes goes over. Sam scoots up on the stool, Heyes sits. They duet. Okay, Heyes contributes only one note – the same one each time – for every hundred trilled by Sam. All the same, they duet.
Ben (beaming): “Play it, Fingers!”
Once again voices rise in song, the camera panning from one familiar face to the next in a scene so heart warming it risks tipping over into heartburn territory.
Kid Curry goes over. The deputy raises his glass in greeting.
Deputy: “Whoever thought o’ this must be some kinda genius.”
Curry: “Keep ya voice down – he’ll hear ya.” A swallow of beer. “‘Course, it won’t take Windle long to work out if this business can be divided so can the Silver Dollar. He’ll have extra voters before the week’s out.”
Deputy: “Maybe. But the sheriff’s back from Augury tomorrow. Windle won’t be so keen on causin’ trouble then.”
Curry: “Everyone says that. Your boss, Jack Ryder, must be some guy.”
Deputy: “Jack Ryder? He left six months back. Oh! You’ve read the name over the office door. That needs repainting.”
Curry: “So – who IS the town sheriff?”
Deputy: “…” The singing is too loud. He leans in, shouts in Curry’s ear. We see the ex-outlaw’s face fall.
EPILOGUE – A BOX CAR
Diagonally opposite corners are occupied by two ex-outlaws. A third corner is filled with a huge leather case, suspiciously similar in shape to a double-bass.
Curry: “Wade Sawyer. We shoulda known.”
Heyes: “We skip Augury to get away from him and turns out he’s sheriff in Bountiful.”
Clickety-clack. Clickety clack.
Heyes eyes the instrument shaped object sharing the car.
Curry: “Don’t even think ’bout it, Heyes.”
Heyes (outraged innocence): “What?!” Pause. “Just – wherever this train’s going, someone’s gonna want a hand moving that…”
** For anyone unfamiliar with the term “dumb show” is just a stage/screen direction. It means some variant of: “With the dialogue muted to silent and with actors’ gestures and facial expressions somewhat heighted but without excessive exaggeration…”
*** As I am sure most of you outlaw-appreciating lovelies know, Miss Griffiths is referring to the fact that women (age 21 and over) residing in Wyoming, could vote, beginning in 1869.