The toe of Hannibal Heyes’ booted foot gingerly nudges aside a rucksack piled with hiking socks, insect repellent and Kendal mint cake. Edging around a chair dripping with waterproofs he enters the bedroom.
“Where’dya want these saddlebags you’re borrowing?”
“Chuck ‘em on the bed.” Calico frowns in concentration as she copies flight details onto yet another luggage label. She glances over at the helpful ex-outlaw. “Are they really magic?”
“Would I lie?”
An ungroomed eyebrow – English style – lifts. “Have you read your character brief notes on the VS instructions?”
“Yeah, but…” Silver tongued charm is deployed. “…Would I lie to you?”
With a cynical grunt Calico begins to count knickers into the delightfully capacious – not to mention carry-on compliant – leather pouches.
Heyes clears himself a butt-sized space on the duvet and sits. “D’you reckon Whatshisname’ll be along soon? Y’know – the other fella.”
No response to the old joke. Perhaps the underwear tally has moved into double figures requiring undivided attention.
“’Cos – these split bandanna months I can’t always keep track of him…”
Still no response.
Heyes rolls his eyes.
The banging of doors followed by clattering of boots on stairs shatters the peace.
“I mighta tracked him down,” grins Heyes.
A cheerful Kid Curry explodes into the room.
“Did you have a good time,” Heyes asks.
“Sure. I always enjoy California. You?”
Heyes gives the ‘spot on’ gesture accompanied by a dimpled grin and expressive eyebrows.
“So,” the blue-eyed one beams at Calico, “What’s the challenge for next month? I’ve been thinkin’…”
“Did it hurt?” puts in his partner.
“I’ve been thinkin’,” continues Kid, with dignity, “it could be somethin’ like – Amnesty At Last. Or, Kid Wins The Day. Or, Kid meets a real friendly redhead. Y’know, somethin’ to encourage stories with – with…”
“Fringe benefits?” supplies Heyes.
“With an upbeat plot,” corrects Curry. A pause. To Calico, “So whaddya think?”
“Huh?” She is still intent on folding smalls. “Oh, I’m not setting a challenge this month.”
“Not settin’ a… Why the Sam Hill not?!”
“Because, at the crack of dawn tomorrow I’m outta here!”
“But…” Kid Curry takes in the evidence of packing all around him. “Oh.”
“Alaska here I come!” grins Calico.
“But,” a blue-eyed blink that would melt any Kidette’s heart, “… There’s gotta be a monthly bandanna challenge. I’ve – I’ve kinda got used to it.”
“There is going to be a challenge. Someone’s standing in for me.”
Calico and Heyes exchange a glance.
“Someone thoroughly reliable,” avoids Calico.
Suspiciously now, “Who?”
“One of your fans,” says Heyes.
“Mizz Maz,” Calico tells him.
A pause as the implications of that sink into a much hurt and not so much comforted ex-outlaw.
“I’m dead,” despairs Kid.
“Nah,” comforts Heyes. “You’re hardly ever dead. Coughing blood, and dragging a partially severed limb or two,
sure. But not dead.”
“I can see the titles goin’ through her head now,” laments he of many bullet wounds. “Alligator Attack! Bear at Bay! Coyote Chow-down! Dingo Danger!”
“Aren’t they in Australia?” protests Heyes.
“She could ship one in, special,” glooms Kid. “Electrocution, Flayed alive, Gouging, Hazard, Infection, Jeopardy…”
“We don’t need the whole alphabet, Kid,” interrupts Heyes. “Unless of course you were thinking of being attacked by Xylophone playing Young Zebras, ‘cos, that would be one heck of a storyline!”
“Nobody’s being attacked by anyone,” put in Calico. “Maz promised she’d take real good care of Kid, didn’t she, Heyes.”
A flicker of hope crosses the face of the blue-eyed one. He looks, enquiringly at his partner.
“Real good care,” confirms Heyes. A pause. “Though, to be fair – she did also say, ‘Muhaha!’”