The Game

By James
Copyright 1998

Chapter One

There’s a Time to Fight, and a Time to Run

The boys, for the first time in their life wanted to run from a fight. They had been battling for weeks now, but the enemy always seemed to have the edge. Now, none of the boys liked the idea of tucking their tails between their legs and running, but their firece adversary had broken them.

“Face it Teaspoon,” Cody cried. “This is one fight we can’t win.” He was tired of trying to defeat something that couldn’t be conquered.

“With talk like that, nothing can, ” Teaspoon stated to the boy. “You boys just gotta put your minds to it.”

“Teaspoon’s right,” Lou exclaimed with a mischevious smile. She had been enjoying the commotion the last couple of days.

“You try it then,” Kid suggested. Normally he would never allow Lou near anything that could hurt her but.....

“Yeah Lou,” Buck added. “Mount up.” All the boys were tired of trying to break the chestnut filly.

“You’ve always been the best rider,” Jimmy pointed out. Lou had been loving the difficult time the filly had been giving her male companions, and they were growing tired of amusing her.

“Not scared, are you Lou?” Cody questioned. He was daring her to get on that wild horse.

“Course not,” Lou began, trying to get out of her predicament. “Just don’t want to show you boys up, is all.”

“Oh, don’t let us stop ya, Lou,” Cody reassured. Hesitantly, Lou made her way over to the dancing chestnut horse that Ike and Noah were attempting to restrain.

“Lou?” Kid called. He was starting to have a bad feeling. However, Lou was not going to back down after Cody challenged her to ride.

“She’s a handful,” Buck warned. “Maybe...”

Before Buck could even finish his sentence, Lou swung on the horse. The chestnut filly immediately broke free from her restrainers, but then did something very surprising. The spirited horse came to a complete hault at Lou’s command. Not once had this creature stood quiet with a rider on her back. The horse and Lou quickly became a team, circling the arena calmly several times to the boys’ disbelief.

“That horse probably doesn’t realize she has a rider on her,” Cody reasoned. None of them missed the smug look Louise threw them. “Nice of you to get on her after we got her all wore out.” The blond rider remarked.

“Well if you think she’s so tired Cody, rider up!” Lou returned his previous challenge. Once again the horse was held while Cody mounted. Except this time the filly used her usually riding tactics sending Cody soaring over the fence. He ended up landing roughly on Hickok. The others burst out laughing, except for Jimmy naturally. He was annoyed with Cody for using him to break his fall.

Catching a Crook

Many robberies were occuring along the express line. Somehow, the theives knew that the army was using the pony express to try and sneak through documents crucial to the approaching war. It was a fustrating situation. The army’s once clever plan had rapidly fallen apart due to one particular man.

“He has to be stopped,” Senator Todd Livington exclaimed heatedly. He was tired of Callahan’s hired thugs robbing the express riders that carried important information about gold and weapon shipments, that he wanted to stay free from Rebel hands. The Senator strongly opposed slavery and resented the South’s way of life. Callahan, on the other hand, didn’t care about anyone or thing but himself. He would take the lists and sell them to the highest bidder.

“I agree with you,” Lieutenant O’Malley said to his long time friend. “But we both know that the law has no evidence to prove Callahan was behind these crimes.” O’Malley felt his friend’s frustration, but he had already come to terms with the shrewd con man they were up against. He realized in order to stop Callahan, they would have to be a little trickier.

“Callahan must know someone on the ‘inside’, otherwise he would not know which runs the shipment lists were on.” The Senator wished desperately to know the identity of Callahan’s conspirator. “I’ll shot him myself,” he thought angrily.

“Well, then we’ll just have to get someone on the ‘inside’ too.” O’Malley replied. “And I just might know a man who can help.”

Dangerous Work

Kid watched as his friend handed the mail off to the next rider, and slowly halted his beautiful but tired palomino in front of the bunk house. “How was your ride, Jimmy,” Kid asked curiously.

“A ride,” Jimmy replied. “Long, dusty, and tiresome. Sound familiar?” After dismounting, he began to head towards the barn to take care of his animal. He was thankful when Jesse volunteered to take on the task. Eagerly Jimmy made his way to the bunk house looking forward to the possibility of resting.

After settling into his bunk at the far end of the little structure they called home, Jimmy began to drift off. However, Kid’s voice brought him out of the peaceful slumber he so desired.

“Jimmy,” Kid must have said for the hundredth time. “Can I ask you something?”

“No,” Jimmy began. “But you’re gonna anyway.” “It has to do with the robberies,” Kid stated in a worried voice. “ I just don’t-”

“She can hold her own, Kid,” Jimmy interrupted confidently. “Besides, she’s too stubborn to avoid the trouble she knows the rest of us are just as likely to find.” Jimmy knew he was right about Lou. Lou could be unreasonably stubborn once she put her mind to something. “I guess that is just one more thing we have in common,” Jimmy thought to himself.

My Little Birdy

The music roared in the crowded saloon, and the sharply dressed man was growing tired of his companions. In his opinion, they were worthless and had no drive for true success. He on the other hand, was driven to have money and power. Life was meaningless without those two qualities. His partner, aggravated him more ever day. “He has no fire for this business,” Marcus Callahan thought disgustedly to himself. His partner, was just an petty thief.

“Mr. Callahan,” one of his cronies called as he approached. “A letter came for you today.”

Marcus took the letter and read it quickly. “Excellent,” he thought happily. “My little birdy is doing better than I expected.”

The Game

The riders were gathered in the bunkhouse, each busy doing their own project. Jimmy was cleaning his beautiful Navy Colts, while Ike secretly drew a sketch of him. Cody was adding to a story he had been working on for weeks. The Kid was stretched out on his bunk, content with the fact that Noah was the one on a run and Lou wasn’t. Teaspoon had ordered Lou and Noah to switch runs, trying to sell an excuse that Lou didn’t buy. The switch left her restlessly pacing back and forth across the bunk house floor.

“Mind not wearing out the floor?” Cody asked sarcastically. Lou’s pacing was driving all of the riders crazy. However, Cody was the only one brave enough or foolish enough to provoke her wrath. He didn’t miss the glare Lou sent him before storming out, slamming the door behind her. “Typical woman,” Cody muttered, rolling his eyes at the scene.

Suddenly the door swung back open, and the boys were sure Lou had heard Cody’s comment and come back for all out battle. They were all surprised to find Teaspoon standing in front of them. Before entering he ordered Lou back into the bunk house. The look on his face was a sign things were not well.

“Boys, Lou,” Teaspoon began in his serious, we have a mission voice. “Looks like the army could use our help.”

“What now?” Jimmy exclaimed. He was tired of being dragged into everybody else’s problems, but it always seemed inevitable.

“A friend of mine has asked me to help him catch a man named Marcus Callahan.” Teaspoon paused briefly to make sure he had the riders complete attention. “Seems Mr. Callahan is behind all the trouble lately. Only problem is the army can’t prove it.”

“Why not?” Cody asked the question the rest were thinking.

“Well, seems the army has a rat on the inside that helps Callahan out. Cept’ who that rat is, nobody knows.”

“Where do we come in?” Kid asked curiously.

“Some of us are gonna do a little undercover work,” Teaspoon replied. “Kind of like acting, and Cody is gonna be our main star.”

“Exactly what type of character will I be playing, Teaspoon?” Cody inquired seriously.

“A shrewd man. Ruthless with unbelievable ambitions for crime.” Teaspoon responded. “You need to get close to Callahan, and try to ‘break’ into to his business. Find out all ya can, son.”

“Don’t you think it’s awful dangerous sending Cody in alone?” Kid interrogated.

“Yep. That’s why I’m sending Lou- I mean Louise- here with him.” Teaspoon answered matter-of-factly. “Callahan won’t get suspicious seeing Cody with an attractive young lady.” Teaspoon caught the protest in Kid’s eyes, but chose to ignore it. “Also, I’m gonna have Jimmy here be his hired gun. The rest of us will split up and enter Needle Rock seperately.”

“Needle Rock, huh?” Jimmy stated questionably. “Great.”

“ The only one who will know about our little ploy is my friend, O’Malley.” Teaspoon looked over his riders. “Get a good nights rest, we have our work cut out for us.”

On to chapter two.

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