Persona Non Grata by Rhi
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Author's Notes:
Disclaimer: Not my characters (damn it!! Wonder if I could put in a lien for Matthew? I give him more work than.... Never mind.) Right. All rights derive to Rysher: Panzer/Davis for the characters. The story, however, is mine.
Rated: G (The shock, the horror, oh, hush, yes, it's really mine! ::g::)

Rapid Falls, South Dakota -- 1926

The kid skittered in through the door, all spider-thin legs and wide eyes, clutching a telegram sheet in one grimy hand. He paused only just long enough to let his eyes adjust from the too-bright sunshine outside to the dimmer light inside of the boarding house, then grinned widely showing a gap in his front teeth. "Yes!"

Amanda glanced over and evaluated the boy immediately as an errand-runner, an information-gatherer, and exactly the sort of scamp who’d be helpful in mischief if she ever needed a small, thin accomplice in this sleepy little town. Her eyes widened when he walked straight to them, asking, "Mr. Cory Raines?"

Cory, bless his heart, never blinked. He put down his cigar and commented mildly, "Only if that’s something good."

"Telegram, sir. Station master said there was nobody with that name in town, but the gentleman sendin’ it said to take it anyway and try’n’deliver it."

Amanda frowned then, delicately painted lips flattening as she started wondering who, exactly, could have tracked Cory here. "And how did you decide that this gentleman was Mr. Raines?" she inquired sweetly, giving the messenger her best blinding smile.

"Ain’t that many strangers in town, ma’am," the kid grinned again. "And well, it’s worth two bits to me if this is Mr. Raines, so I figured I’d ask."

"Two bits, hmm?" Cory grinned back at the kid, and for a long moment, they looked like brothers in mischief and pleasure. "Tell you what," Cory went on cheerfully, "I’ll give you two bits anyway. Let me look at it, and then we’ll decide if it’s good news--"

"--and whether you’re Mr. Raines?" the kid agreed with a laugh. "Sure, mister. I mean, if you ain’t, he ain’t in town, so I don’t see where it c’n hurt."

And if you argue, well, you won’t get your quarter, Amanda thought, amused. The Dust Bowl had made a lot of kids eager to earn money for things even more dubious than letting a stranger seeing a telegram that might or might not be for him.

Only her experience with Cory over the last few months of robbing banks let Amanda read the sudden concern in his smile. He’d lost his insouciant glee and was only going through the motions now as he shook his head, handed the telegram back to the kid, and said, "Not me, thank goodness. Here, take your two bits, kid, and here’s another two more to keep you out of trouble. Station master shouldn’t have let you run that one. It could get someone hurt."

"Whassa matter?" the kid asked, suddenly serious and practical despite his youth. "I mean, my ma needs the money, mister, y’know?"

Cory paused and sized the kid up more carefully, taking in the neatly repaired trousers and the thin face that might just be from a growth spurt but more likely meant the family was short of cash. "This just isn’t the friendliest telegram I’ve ever seen," Cory told the boy. He handed over a quarter, two thin silver dimes, and then counted out copper to make up the rest of it. "Here y’go, sport. Be careful now, okay?"

"Not a problem, mister. Thanks!" The kid paused at the door, telegram in hand, and asked seriously, "By the way, mister?"

"Yeah?" Cory asked him, still looking downright nervous to Amanda’s eye. The boy probably just thought Cory was worried about him.

"Do I tell the stationmaster I delivered this, or that you weren’t Mr. Raines?"

Cory flashed him a quick smile, suddenly full of mischief again, and answered, "Well, my name’s Green."

The kid was laughing as he darted back out the door, enjoying the sensation of having an adult ally in mischief. Amanda gave the boy a few seconds, then sauntered over to the door to make sure the scamp had in fact left. Since he had, she turned and stalked back toward Cory with the swaying, provocative stride that always drew male attention. "So," she purred, sliding onto his lap, "what was that all about?"

To her surprise, Cory lifted her back up. "Come on, doll baby, we’re packing. South America, here we come."

"Really?" she asked in surprise. "I mean, I know Duncan said he wouldn’t help any more, but, come on, Cory, he’s said that before." Plenty of times, she added to herself. Duncan MacLeod never left his friends in the lurch, though, not if he could help it. There were days when that worried Amanda, but the immortal thief was grateful anyway.

Cory pulled her along with him, one strong hand wrapped around hers. "Really. Forget Mackie boy. This is serious. We’re leaving as soon as we can throw everything in the Packard. I’ll drop you off in Kansas City if you want to catch a train, but I’m on my way to New Orleans."

"But... Cory, we were going to Denver, remember? Mountains, streams, a Federal mint...?" Amanda coaxed.

"Yeah, well, 'Manda, that was yesterday. This is today, and today I tell you that tomorrow you and I are going to be somewhere else and headed out of the States." He unlocked the door of their room, strode to the closet, and threw the carpetbag on the bed. "Come on, doll, start packing."

Amanda closed the carpetbag and frowned at him imperiously. "Cory. Why are we going to St. Louis? Who was that telegram from? And since when is your name Green?"

"Yeah, well, it used to be," he said unrepentantly. "Come on, babe, either start packing or let me start packing. But if you’re still here tomorrow, you’re going to be doing time in Alcatraz."

"Oh, no," she stated, shaking her head, but his urgency was infectious. Amanda put his bag back on the bed, dragged out her own, and quickly began folding a dress from the closet. "Come on, Cory, what’s going on?"

"Did I ever tell you about my teacher?" Cory asked, black hair gleaming in the sunlight pouring through the window as he kept stuffing his own clothes in the bag with a complete lack of finesse.

Amanda reached over and handed the trousers back to him. "Fold that, Cory, you’ll just complain if they wrinkle and I’m not ironing them for you. Now, what about your teacher?"

"When I was twenty-nine, I couldn’t talk a sheriff out of hanging me." Cory shrugged, clearly not remorseful even now. "His Majesty didn’t need one more deer that he wasn’t even going to hunt. Anyway, after everything was over, Matthew cut me down from the tree and trained me."

"Matthew?" Amanda asked, trying to follow the explanation as she finished folding and sorting the last few items she’d unpacked. "Who’s Matthew?"

"My teacher, Amanda, Matthew of Salisbury." Cory gave her an exasperated look. "Are you paying attention?"

"Of course I'm paying attention. Someone named Matthew of Salisbury trained you, fine."

"He felt obligated," Cory told her sarcastically. "He was the sheriff who hung me."

"Oh." Amanda paused, startled. Then her practical streak kicked in. "Right. Well, Rebecca took me away from the law, too. What’s the problem?"

"The telegram," Cory told her as he started to check the room to see if they’d packed all their gear again, "had a return address of the Pinkerton Agency."

"Oh," Amanda repeated in a sinking voice. Pinkerton had been an honest Chicago policeman, contradiction in terms though that sometimes was. He had personally protected Abraham Lincoln on his inaugural trip to Washington, D.C., and ended up establishing both one of the first detective agencies and the Secret Service that protected the president now. The idea that someone from his agency had sent a telegram, here, to Cory, struck Amanda as a very good reason to pack -- immediately, post haste.

"Matthew’s always been a sheriff, or a private guard, or a judge, or a detective," Cory said emphatically. "We’re leaving."

Amanda nodded, picked up the carpetbag with her gear. "You’re right. A nice leisurely trip by boat sounds wonderful all of a sudden."

They loaded the car, paid off the elderly widow who ran the boarding house and had been pleasantly cynical about their married state or lack thereof, and took to the roads. South to Alliance sounded good, and eventually they’d swing south-east toward Kansas City and Memphis and, ultimately, New Orleans. Hours later, as they were debating whether to keep driving or stop and set up a tent -- having waited far too long to find another boarding house -- Amanda finally remembered that she’d never gotten an answer. "Cory?"

"Yeah, Amanda?" he asked tiredly.

"What did the telegram say?"

He chuckled, almost amused. " 'Arriving Rapid Falls tomorrow afternoon, stop. Don’t be there when I get there, stop. Take the lovely lady with you, too, stop. Matthew.' "

"Oh." Amanda started to chuckle. "He had to know you’d run."

"You think he wants to arrest us? Knowing we’ll just ‘die’ and get loose again?" Laughter tinged Cory’s voice as he told her, "Of course he knew we’d run.

"Matthew always did play fair."

Amanda pouted, thinking about just how easily Cory’s teacher had just made Pinkerton happy. "But tricky?"

Cory didn’t even glance over. "Don’t even think about charging him a fee to see our backs, Amanda. Matthew would have arrested us if he’d found us, trust me. Worse, he’d have found some way to keep us behind bars." A mile or so later, Cory added cheerfully, "And of course he’s tricky. He survived training me, didn’t he?"

~ ~ ~ finis ~ ~ ~

Comments, Commentary, and Notes:

Cory and Amanda robbed banks across five states in the episode "Money No Object." I always wondered why they stopped. This is my explanation.

Per the Watcher CD, Cory Raines (Corwin o' the Greene) died in 1285 at the age of 29 -- hung for poaching the king's deer.

Matt is Matthew McCormick from "Manhunt." According to the Watcher CD, he trained both Cory Raines (Corwin o' the Greene) and Carl Robinson. Per that same source, his name was Matthew of Salisbury and he's always been law enforcement, whether it was in the Old West, Nottingham Forrest, or the current day FBI.

The information about Allan Pinkerton is correct, and the Pinkerton Detective Agency was a force to reckon with in the Old West of the USA.