Dark and Stormy Night
Hannibal Heyes lay fully clothed on top of the covers of the hotel bed, head and shoulders propped up by two pillows. His boots were neatly placed by the side of the bed and his gun and holster hung on the bedpost above his head and more importantly, in reach.
Kid Curry sat in the chair between the two beds, his sock covered foot propped up on his bed next to his empty holster. On the small table next to him, he had meticulously laid out the tools he needed to accomplish the ever so important task of cleaning his gun. With the gun in his hand, he cleaned, oiled, and wiped every inch of his prized possession and then to make sure it was done to his satisfaction, he did it again. Placing the cleaning cloth down on the table, he fastidiously inspected the gun. Finally, pleased with his work, he placed his gun in its holster.
Taking out his pocket watch, he checked the time; six thirty, too early to go to bed and besides being too miserable a night to go out, nothing in town was open. He and Heyes were holed up in the very small but usually buzzing town of Casper Wyoming. They had hoped to ride further south but with the black clouds on the horizon moving swiftly towards them, they opted for a dry bed in Casper. The skies opened up and the wind began to howl shortly after their arrival. They braved the elements to get a hot meal in the only café in town and attempted to have a beer in the only saloon but were turned away by the barkeep saying the weather wasn’t fit for man or beast; he was closing up and heading home.
Walking into their hotel room, they sighed. “Well, at least we have a dry place to sleep,” Heyes commented as he looked around the sparse room. It had two beds; a small table and chair between the beds; a small dresser with mirror; a pitcher and bowl on it; and about six pegs in the wall to hang their clothes.
“And nothin’ to do,” Kid complained as he unbuttoned his wet sheepskin coat and hung it on a peg. Placing his hat on the dresser, he turned back towards Heyes, “Got any whiskey in your saddlebag?”
Heyes shook his head as he hung his coat on a peg and then placed his hat next to Kid’s. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to come to town.” Heyes caught Kid’s reflection in the mirror; he looked to be in a mood. Shrugging he started to rummage through the small dresser. Pulling out the last drawer he sat back on his heels and smiled. “Got a couple of books,” he stated, “to pass the time.” Looking up at Kid, Heyes asked, “Want one.”
Rolling his eyes, Kid grabbed his saddlebag, walked over to the chair and plopped down. Reaching into the saddlebag, he took out all he needed to clean his gun.
Standing up, Kid stretched and then hung his holster with his newly cleaned gun in it, on the bed post. Glancing over at the other bed he noticed that Heyes looked totally engrossed in the book he was reading. Scowling, Kid walked over to the dresser and picked up the thick book Heyes didn’t choose. “Paul Clifford,” Kid read the title out loud. “What kind a book is Paul Clifford?”
“Hmm?” Heyes murmured, not really paying attention.
Kid shrugged and headed back to the chair, once again plopping with a thud into it. Opening the book he began to read and then stopped. “What kind of a book starts with, ‘It was a Dark and Stormy night’?”
“Huh?” Heyes muttered.
“I said,” Kid said loudly, sounding annoyed, “What kind of book starts with, ‘It was a Dark and Stormy Night’?”
“Don’t know,” his partner responded. “What’s the title?”
“Never heard of it.”
“Me neither,” Kid declared.
Heyes rolled his eyes at the comment, and then went back to reading his book.
Kid opened the book and started reading again, reading the first line out loud. “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitatin’ the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.’,” pausing he looked at Heyes again. “Why would you start a book like that?”
“To set the ambience.”
The ambee-what?” Kid questioned.
“Ambience,” Heyes repeated.
Kid stared blankly back at him.
“The mood,” he explained.
“The mood,” the blond squawked. “When it’s stormy; I’m wet. I’m grouchy.”
A low half chuckled escaped from the brown haired one, knowing all too well grouchy was an understatement when Kid was wet.
Blue eyes glared as his partner. “What kind of book wants to make you grouchy?”
Heyes patiently closed his book. “Maybe it’s a story about tonight?” He sarcastically grumbled.
Blue eyes became piercing. “No need gettin’ all proddy.”
Exasperated Heyes sat up and faced Kid. “It sounds like a scary book. A dark and stormy night sounds like bad things are about to happen. I haven’t read the book, never heard of the book so I don’t know. If you want to know…read the book.”
“Fine,” Kid groused, as he opened the book and stared at the page.
Feeling somewhat guilty for snapping at his partner, Heyes asked, “Do you want to read this book?”
Kid’s eyes stayed fixed on the page.
“It’s called, ‘Crime and Punishment’,” Heyes added.
“Now that sounds like a scary book!” Kid chuckled.
Heyes joined in.
“How about some blackjack?” Heyes inquired as he pulled a deck of cards out of his shirt pocket.
Dropping the book on the bed, Kid shot up. “Now that sounds like a plan.”
"It was a dark and stormy night" is a phrase written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Though "Clifford" is rarely read among the general reading public today, it contains one of the most widely-known openings in English literary history: "It was a dark and stormy night." It is frequently invoked for its atmospheric and neo-Gothic description, often in the mystery, detective, horror, and thriller genres. Because of its Romantic qualities, it has likewise become a textbook example of purple prose.
Crime and Punishment was first published in 1866.