1. Next Time on ASJ…

By Calico

“Aren’t you kinda tempted, Kid?”

“Nope.”

“Don’t you want to see what’s going to happen in the future?”

“I already know what’s gonna happen in the future. First I’m gonna go over there,” a brown-leather clad finger pointed to a tented area open on one side to display a busy bar, “…And get me a cold beer and a hot beef sandwich. Then, I’m gonna go over there,” the finger moved around to indicate the race course, “…And put a bet on that horse Diamond Jim gave us a tip on.”

“We got an hour before that race, Kid.”

“Did you not hear the ‘cold beer’ and ‘sandwich’ plan?”

“You must want to know what they’d say.”

Heyes had paused on his stroll past the usual bunko booths and stall holders attracted to the busy race meeting, to hover in front of two small, brightly-coloured tents offering the services of Fortune Tellers.

“I know what they’d say. They’d say; ‘you’re goin’ on a long journey’ and ‘beware of a tall dark stranger’. I know that. We live on the run and, as for the second part,” Kid scanned his partner, “…It mighta been good advice, but I reckon that ship’s sailed.”

Heyes still did not move.

“Look, Kid, it says this Mhazarine and Khalikoh are both beauteous and guaranteed genuine priestesses of Isis who can unlock the future with secrets known only in mysterious and exotic Egypt; Land of the Pharaohs.”

Kid began to stride off.

“You think it’s a scam, huh?”

An incredulous look was thrown over one shoulder.

“Okay,” a reluctant grin from Heyes, “…We both KNOW it’s a scam, but I’ve never had my fortune told. Beauteous priestesses, Kid. That means gals in flimsy costumes. And they’ll be holding your hand in a dark tent. Where’s the harm?”

Kid rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help smiling at his partner’s eagerness to satisfy that Heyesian curiosity. “Okay,” he capitulated. “But these costumes better be pretty dang flimsy.”

“You take Mhazarine, I’ll take Khalikoh – we’ll compare notes after, huh?”

“If she says I’m gonna be annoyed by a tall, dark fella yakkin’ all the time, I’ll know she’s genuine,” grunted Kid, lifting the tent flap and stooping to enter.

—oooOOOooo—

ABOUT TWENTY MINTES LATER

Kid exited the fortune teller’s tent and, a pole-axed expression on his face, stared at the turf under his boots. A few moments later, a flushed Heyes, tucking his shirt into his pants at the back, also emerged into the July sunshine.

“Sheesh,” he grinned. “She sounded more English than Egyptian to me, but she sure told a good tale. Apparently, I’m gonna spend a lot of the future in a deep cedar-wood bath, up to my ears in warm foam, smelling of sandalwood and ambergris and sipping chilled champagne. The rest of the time I’ll be massaging scented oil into some older woman’s nekkid back, or I’ll be…” He broke off, a delighted smile dimpling his sun-kissed cheeks.

“You’ll be what?”

“Well…”

Kid’s eyebrows snapped together, suspiciously. Was Heyes – Heyes! – actually blushing?

“I don’t like to say, Kid. Not out loud. Not with both of us here listening. Some of the stuff she foretold I’d be doing, sheesh, I didn’t even know it was possible! She sure could predict the future though. She told me a woman was going to take me utterly by surprise and do something real imaginative and – er – stimulating to me, and two minutes later – whaddya know? – it came true!”

Kid’s expression was becoming more and more proddy.

“She did the lot. Crystal Ball. Read my palm. Felt my bumps.”

“The bumps on your head?”

“Er – no.” A pause. Heyes became aware that disgruntled waves emanating from the blond fella were buffeting him with increasing vigour. “How about yours?”

Kid’s hands went to his hips. His brow lowered. Yup. He was disgruntled. Definitely.

“Did she sound Egyptian? Did she say anything interesting?” prompted Heyes.

“Mine had kinda an English accent too,” said Kid, “…As for interestin’. Yup. I suppose you could call it interestin’. I’m gonna get shot…”

The start of a sympathetic murmur from Heyes. Kid cut him off.

“I’m gonna get shot with a pistol, a rifle, a shot gun…”

Before Heyes could do more than open his mouth, Kid scowled him silent, “…Shot with a Gatling, a bow an’ arrow, a whaling harpoon, a sling shot, an eighteenth century canon, a rare South American blow pipe and somethin’ I never even heard of called a phaser. When I’m not busy bein’ shot, I’m gonna fall into a big hole, off a high cliff, into a raging torrent, off a new-fangled sky-scraper, into a mine-shaft, into a frenzy, into a fever, and into several bouts of raging angst-ey despair. I’m gonna come off worse to; cougars, grizzlies, rattlers, gators, wolves, rabid racoons, tigers…”

“Tigers aren’t indigenous to America, Kid.”

“Not a problem. Either they get shipped in or I get sent wherever there’s a hungry tiger with time on his paws. Tigers, rhinos, mad bull elephants, scorpions, boxing kangaroos, amorous ostriches…”

“That one’s just dumb,” objected Heyes.

“Don’t shoot the messenger!”

“‘Cos that’s going to happen anyhow, huh?”

With another glare, Kid continued, “There’s gonna be injuries from hailstones, ice, fire, storms, cave-ins, raving lunatics, roving lunatics and rip-roaring drunk lunatics. There’s gonna be hanging, dangling, strangling, mangling, tangling. I’m gonna be whipped, stripped, flipped, tripped, clipped, gripped. I’m gonna be ravaged, savaged, bruised, abused, misused, falsely accused. I’m gonna get beaten up, tied up, held up, tripped up, knocked down, knocked over, knocked out, kicked, pricked, tricked, cricked, flicked, nicked, ricked…”

“Are all of those even words?”

“I’m never gonna keep a shirt for more’n ten minutes without it bein’ ripped to shreds and torn from my strongly muscled back. And, apparently, I’m gonna get a nasty bite from some stage-struck skunk not happy with her billing.”

A pause.

Heyes cleared his throat, “I guess worse things happen at sea, Kid.”

A voice, with – as indicated – an English accent, floated out from Mhazarine’s tent, “He’ll be attacked by pirates. He’ll be forced to walk the plank! He’ll be cast adrift in an open boat in the middle of the pacific! He’ll be the chosen prey of a great white shark! He’ll drink salt-water and go mad! He’ll be captured by an evil Captain Nemo type villain, 20,000 leagues under the sea! Muhahahah!”

The ‘look’ was exchanged. Kid took a deep breath, “Heyes, let’s get outta here before she tells me I’m gonna get eaten by cannibals at a Fourth of July picnic.”

The partners strode away. Heyes glanced back over his shoulder. His sharp eyes squinted at the small print under the fortune tellers’ names: ‘Accredited by the Ex-Outlaw Appreciation Society. Accurate prediction of upcoming fanfic bunnies a speciality!’

“Never mind, Kid. Some of those gals can’t resist the temptation to hurt the one they love!”

APPARENTLY NOT THE END…

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