Story Go Round 01/06/2007, round 2, #2

A Foursome to be Reckoned with

(post-titled by Alan)

Jim grabbed the leather strap in his teeth and pulled it tight, skin of his arm whitening arond the welt. The bleeding slowed, and his horse nickered quietly in the draw. His pulse came thready and weak. Lorraine, he reminded himself. He revived her image, a fresh impetus to overcome. Puzzled by his indirection, the horse veered towards the water. Wouldn't drowning be great?

His alter-ego wrestled him back from the brink and decided it was high time to take over. Leaving 'Jim' to a peaceful oblivion, Hank guided their horse with a firm hand, while bandaging his arm with whatever he had handy. Which just happaned to be Lorraine's handkerchief, the silk embroidered one she'd ordered straight from Paris. Unlike Jim, memories of her were steel-brushed clean of romance. She was just another woman. A woman with the connections he needed to get into the poker game - for some things, a pistol was needed, for him, it was women.

The change calmed him, helped him calculate. He studied the canyon for natural rock stairs, or root systems. Ahead, he saw an unusual pattern in the igneous which caught his attention. He nosed his steed closer and found himself espying what could only be a ladder made out of rope. It went up and over, seemed solid. Jumping down from the horse, Hank patted him an absent farewell and began to climb.

Jim found himself laying face down in the mud. The side of his head and his left shoulder ached. He rolled over slowly and groaned.

"Hey, he moved," came from the darkness behind the darkness of his crusted shut eyes. Footsteps, and a pan of cold water dashed against his face. But Jim felt only for his Lorraine - fumbling blindly until his hand closed on the fu manchu of a peering Oriental.

"He is up and around, now, I think," the man said. "Are you sure this is the one? He doesn't look worth that much."

"It's him," another said, from the shadows. "I don't want him harmed, as such," she continued hoarsely, "But you may use the shackles and ropes, until I determine who we've got here."

It was Lorraine. Jim knew her voice and it made him heave.

"Heave to!" shouted the bosun. Hank squinted groggily into the blinding sun. "You there," the bosun said with a snarl, glaring at him, "Make yourself useful. You've got to earn your passage, or you feed the fishies."

Hank staggered to his feet - no rope ladder, no, ... no pistol! He was at sea and at sea. Accepting the fish food bag from the bosun, he began doling it out. The steeled mind of Hank assessed, while Jim waited quietly in the unconscious depths. Truthfully they weren't getting along, lately. Jim kept bundling up when they slept, and Hank threw off the covers. When Hank pinched a lady's butt, Jim got slapped. That was probably why Lorraine betrayed them.

"What now, genius?" Jim said to himself. Hank ignored himself viciously, and set to work 'making himself useful' until he could jump ship at the next port.

Three weeks later Lorraine found Jim in a seedy bar by the harbor. She sat down next to him and looked him straight in his bloodshot eyes. "Jim?" Hank wasn't sure how to answer, and Jim couldn't keep her gaze.

"It doesn't matter," she continued. "Truth is, I have a secret to share with you , one that ," then Lorraine slumped off the barstool as Hank caught her. After a moment her eyes reopened, with just the fierce type of bearuty Hank loved.

"Howdy Honey," she drawled, "My name's Derdre."