Hannibal Heyes shook the canteen before opening the cap and taking a long drink of warm water. He removed his bandana and poured some of the precious liquid on it, wiped his face and then tied the wet material around his neck again. "That feels better." He took off his hat and was running his fingers through his matted hair when he noticed the birds. Four large birds rode the thermals as they flew in a circle around their prey near a rock formation. Heyes squinted against the sun, straining his eyes in the direction of the predators' quarry, then, knitted his brow as he placed his hat back on his head and reined his gelding toward the boulders.
One brave vulture landed near the rock formation. As Heyes drew closer, the form of a human came into view. A cold sweat came over him, despite the heat of the day, and he spurred his horse forward, shouting and flailing his arms at the threatening scavenger. He dismounted before his gelding had come to a full stop and scrambled toward the figure.
"Kid?" he called, hoping against hope that he was wrong, it wasn't his partner, he wasn't too late. Heyes knelt and slowly rolled the man onto his back and his fears were confirmed. "Kid!" Curry's face was sunburned and his lips cracked. His skin was hot to the touch. "Don't you be dead, you hear?!" he admonished, placing an ear to his partner's chest. He held his breath, listening for some sign of life then, swallowed hard and lay three fingers carefully along his partner's neck.
Monday Morning – Two Weeks Earlier
"Heyes, I know I've said it before, but I don't like the idea of us separatin'." Curry, frustrated, tightened the cinch of the saddle too hard, causing his horse to turn and try to nip him.
Heyes frowned as he tied his saddle bags down, thinking back on the few times when things went wrong because they separated; Santa Marta, especially, came to mind. "I don't like the idea myself, but we're outta money and got two delivery jobs. Can't afford to say no to either of them and they're in opposite directions."
"I know," the Kid agreed as he mounted his bay. "That don't mean I like it though."
After cinching his saddle, Heyes put a leg up on the stirrup and swung himself on. "It'll only be a week – five days." The men grasped hands. "See you in Green River."
"On Friday!" the Kid said, as he reined his sorrel to the west.
"Last man back buys the other a steak dinner!" Heyes called out.
Curry turned and grinned before spurring his horse into a lope outside the town limits.
Heyes eased into a chair on the Green River hotel's porch and propped his legs up on the rail. He lit a cigar and sighed contently as he took in the town's activity. He gave a dimpled smile to two young women, laden with packages of all sorts and sizes. In the distant he heard the blacksmith pounding out metal. A young boy ran alongside a wheel ring while a few girls played jacks on the boardwalk. Raucous laughter and piano playing came from several saloons, beckoned him.
"Guess you owe me a steak dinner, Kid," Heyes said to himself as he stood and stretched before crossing the street and heading to the least boisterous of the saloons.
Heyes walked down the stairs of the hotel to the lobby desk. "Excuse me."
A portly gentleman stood behind the counter, stuffing messages into cubby holes. He turned and smiled. "How may I help you, Mr. Smith?"
"My friend didn't arrive last night, did he?"
"No, sir." The man shook his head. "I would have given him a key to your room, as you requested."
"There wouldn't, by chance, be a message for me?" Heyes leaned forward to check the cubby hole with his room's number on it. It was empty.
The clerk glanced at the last few notes in his hand. "No, there doesn't appear to be. Maybe there's one waiting still at the telegraph office." He looked apologetic.
"Where is that, again?"
"Take a right out of the hotel, then a left once you pass the bank. It'll be on the left side of the street."
Heyes tapped the counter as he turned to leave. "Thanks."
That evening, Heyes sat at a low stake game of Twenty-One, glancing across the room at a high stakes poker game. He sighed in frustration, wishing he was in that game, but one of the players was clearly drinking too much and another was showing all the signs of being a professional gambler. He knew it would be asking for the nastiest kind of trouble if he tried to get involved in such a game without his partner watching his back. His mind drifted back to their farewell and agreement to meet at Green River on Friday 'at the latest'. Now, it was Saturday night and still no word – not even a telegram. If the Kid was delayed, he would have at least sent a…
"Did you want a card?" The dealer's voice brought him back to the present.
"Huh?" Heyes questioned.
"Another card?" the dealer repeated in irritation.
Heyes looked at his cards. "Oh… Hit me."
"Nineteen; the dealer wins."
The drunk playing poker across the room abruptly stood up, chips and cards falling on the floor as he tipped the table. "I saw you cheat," he bellowed at the professional gambler, pulling out his gun.
Heyes suddenly felt weary. He threw down his cards, gathered his meager winnings, and left.
Morning had come and Heyes was still alone. Walking out of the hotel, he looked up and down the street, finding no one milling around there either. 'The good folks are all at church,' he thought to himself. Indeed, as he listened, somewhere to his left he could clearly hear the non-harmonious sounds of a choir, whose sense of pitch equaled that of the off-key piano accompanying them. And from the right he became aware of the booming shouts of what was clearly a full blown fire and brimstone sermon coming from where a second church must be situated. He grimaced, glad that he was too far away to make out the words and headed instead in the direction of the nearby café and the promise of a cup of strong coffee to shake off the night. He wasn't overly worried, he told himself, he just hadn't slept well. As he passed he poked his head into the livery to see if the Kid's horse was there.
By evening Heyes had to admit to himself that he now really was worried.
He paced his room. "Where in the heck are you, Kid?" he mumbled. Hearing a horse slow in front of the hotel, he hurried to the window and glanced down. Not the Kid. Heyes sighed heavily and continued his pacing. "You should have been here already."
He continued his pacing deep into the night, his brow furrowed in anxiety. By the morning he'd made up his mind.
"Sir, are you checking out?" the hotel clerk asked.
"Yes." Heyes stood at the counter with his saddle bags over one shoulder and his rifle in his hand. "Was there a …" He'd already noted the empty cubby hole but wanted to check.
"No, sir, still no messages for you."
"Can I leave one, just in case my friend, Thaddeus Jones, comes?" Heyes pulled a sealed piece of paper from his pocket.
"Certainly, sir." The clerk took the proffered note. "However, we only hold messages for one week."
"Appreciate it." Heyes paid his bill and left town, heading west.
Heyes stretched after getting off his gelding, leading his horse to the water trough. It was now Tuesday afternoon and it had been a long, hot ride to Evanston as he stopped in every place along the way looking for his partner. Removing his bandana, he wet it using the trough's pump and wiped his face clean from the trail dust. Once the chestnut quit drinking, Heyes led his horse to the hitching post outside the saloon, rubbed its nose and whispered, "My turn now, huh?" before making his way inside.
The saloon felt dark and cool, after being out in the heat of the day. Waiting a moment for his eyes to adjust, Heyes glanced around the room briefly looking for his partner's face as he made his way to the bar. When the bartender looked up, Heyes threw a nickel down on the counter and held up a finger. "One beer, as cold as you got 'em."
"Comin' right up!" The man filled a glass and slid it down the bar to Heyes' waiting hands.
Tired, worried and thirsty from his journey, Heyes closed his eyes as he took the glass to his lips, savoring the first few gulps of thirst quenching beer. When he opened them again he found he had less than a moment to take in the sight of a tall, dark-haired man rushing up behind him in the bar mirror. His eyes widened in shock as he put down his drink on the bar but there was little time to react before the man was pressing against him, pinning down his right arm and hissing in his ear, "We need to talk, now, Heyes!"
Heyes looked over his shoulder to see the stranger who knew him. "Lom? What are you …"
The hold on his arm strengthened. "Come with me."
"Okay, but…" Heyes barely had time to grab his glass his left hand before he was manhandled to a back corner table. Shaking off Lom's grip, Heyes scowled as he sat down next to the sheriff. "What's this all about?"
"Why don't you tell me? Lom growled.
The dark eyes grew black. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Lom leaned forward. "Where's your partner?"
Lom's eyes narrowed, taking in Heyes' tired and haggard appearance but he wasn't about to give the ex-outlaw a break. "It's a simple question, Heyes."
Heyes glared back at the lawman but saw only steely-eyed determination there. His shoulders slumped. He really was tired he thought to himself. "I don't know where he is," he admitted staring at the glass of half-finished beer in his hands. "I'm looking for him, too."
"Are you protecting him?"
Heyes looked up, startled by the anger behind Lom's words. "What? No!"
Lom snorted, cutting Heyes no slack whatsoever. "You don't know where he is?"
"No, we were both doing delivery jobs and he never…" Heyes paused as he realized he was missing something and he felt his own temper rising. "Lom, just what's this all about?"
"I was hoping that you would tell me," Lom replied angrily, pulling out a newspaper from the inside pocket of his jacket and throwing it down between them like a gauntlet. "Is the Kid running with another gang, maybe? Or are you in this too?"
"What?" Heyes eyes snapped down to the newspaper as he tried to take in what Lom was accusing them of.
He took the paper and scanned the news until he found the article Trevors was obviously talking about and read the headlines, "Kid Curry Sought for Evanston Bank Robbery, Murder!" Heyes silently read the rest of the article, his face morphing from shock to disbelief. He looked up into Lom's face when he had finished. "I don't believe it." He shook his head. "You know as well as I do that the Kid would never…"
"It's there in front of you," Lom snarled as he gestured to the newspaper. "In black and white! Curry even bragged to folks who he was before killing the teller. What am I supposed to think, Heyes?"
"I don't know who that was, but it certainly wasn't…"
"Witnesses have his description down perfect," interrupted Lom, "– even the sheepskin jacket and the brown hat with silver and turquoise conchos." Lom found his voice rising and quickly lowered it. "Sound familiar?"
Heyes smacked his hand down on to the newspaper lying on the table, his eyes almost black with anger. "The Kid wouldn't do that – you know that, Lom!" he hissed. "And he wouldn't up and join a gang without telling me!"
A saloon gal had begun making her way over to their table, but paused when Heyes slammed his hand on the table. Lom looked briefly in her direction and shook his head. After waiting the few seconds it took to make sure she was completely out of earshot he folded his arms in a standoff gesture. "I honestly don't know what to think, so why don't you give me your story as to what's been going on."
Suddenly all the air seemed to go out of Heyes' body. He stared at the lawman sitting next to him, as if willing him to be a friend, and sighed. "We were down on money and took two different delivery jobs. I headed southeast and the Kid went west. He was going to a ranch between Green River and Evanston. We were supposed to meet in Green River on Friday, but he never showed. I waited 'till Monday and then decided to go look for him." Heyes took a sip of beer. "The papers were delivered so I know he came by this way. And that's all I know." He took the paper up and scanned the contents as if looking for something. "When did the robbery happen?"
Heyes put the newspaper back down and stared suspiciously at Lom. "You're kinda far from Porterville, Lom. Why are you here?"
Now it was Lom's turn to look tired. "The governor heard about it and sent me down here to look into things since I'm an 'expert' on Heyes and Curry." Lom's voice lowered further and he looked down as he reluctantly admitted, "Curry's amnesty deal is gone, Heyes, and, when they catch him, he'll be hung for murder."
Heyes ran his hand through his hair. "I figured as much." After a brief pause, he continued, "Do you know what gang? The paper didn't say."
"Sounds like Ma Harper's boys. They've been running around in this area lately."
Heyes shook his head. "No way would the Kid get involved with that lot! Something's wrong here. I know it 'sounds' like Curry, but it's not."
Lom shook his head. "You find the Kid and bring him to me. I'll listen to what he has to say. If there's any doubt, then I'll do my best to help you." Lom stood up then and looked down at Heyes, the betrayal he felt visible in his eyes. "But, so help me, if he really did this, I'll be there when they put the noose around his neck."
Heyes stood up, anger at Lom's accusation causing him to spit out. "You won't have to be there, Lom, because he didn't do it! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get my partner and find out what really happened."
Lom acknowledged Heyes' anger with a nod. "Be careful! I don't want to hear you're involved in the next robbery."
Heyes merely turned away but Lom grabbed his arm again. "The governor's about to withdraw his deal with you, too. There's a lot at stake here."
Heyes' eyes narrowed and Lom withdrew his arm. "Yeah," he answered. "There's a lot at stake – my partner's life!"
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to check out places Harper's gang has been known to haunt," Heyes hissed. "Brown's Park. And if they're not there, Robbers' Roost." And, adjusting his hat, Heyes marched from the saloon.
Heyes headed south from Evanston, after filling up on supplies. The land became more arid with few trees. The gelding wound around the sage when a trail was no longer visible.
Heyes' mind went back to the newspaper article and what Lom told him, remembering each minute detail. The Harper gang came into the bank around noon. There were five of them, so the three Harper brothers and two more, he reasoned. The bank had customers – businessmen, women, and children. A curly-haired man, wearing a brown hat with silver rectangular conchos and wearing a sheepskin jacket boasted he was Kid Curry. An older teller didn't move fast enough and was killed by this "Curry." Only $500 was stolen and the bold gang quickly rode out of town. They didn't have the manager open the safe, but took only the money from the tellers' windows.
To Heyes, there was something very odd about the whole scenario. Nothing about the story fitted. This was a ruthless gang and Friday was the best day of the week for finding a full safe. There was no way that the gang wouldn't know that, yet they didn't touch it. The only conclusion Heyes could draw from that was that the gang must have actually been there for another reason, a reason that involved the Kid. Heyes just couldn't work out how, but now the Kid was wanted for murder and, as he rode on, Heyes felt a pang of genuine fear for his partner knot his stomach.
That evening, Heyes camped on the trail, alone. The high desert, though hot and punishing throughout the day, could be downright chilly at night. He crouched closer to the flames of his small fire and pulled a blanket around his shoulders.
Was Curry curled up in a warm bed, hiding out with the Harper gang, or out here wandering, in the cold?
Heyes took a bite of jerky.
Was the Kid eating bunkhouse stew, or was he going hungry tonight?
A lonely coyote called, searching for its mate.
Was his partner alive, or…?
Heyes refused to finish the thought.
Heyes started out early, heading for Brown's Park, one of the hideouts on the outlaw trail that Lom had mentioned as somewhere the Harper brothers could be holed up. It was a place he and the Kid had avoided at all costs since they had begun their quest for amnesty. The members of the Devil's Hole Gang may have been thieves, but there wasn't a ruthless one in the bunch. Heyes and the Kid had seen to that themselves, making certain that each and every potential member knew the rules before joining up - no killing. The kind of outlaws who harbored at Brown's Park were a breed of their own - a murdering breed. The thought of a trap crossed Heyes' mind and once again he wished his partner was with him, watching his back.
Near the Green River, Heyes saw a man watering his horse. Drawing closer, he recognized the man as Clint White, and smiled. There were three Harper brothers but the robbery had been carried out by five people. If reputations were anything to go by, White was quite likely to have been involved. Heyes watched him and decided that if Kyle Murtry and Clint White weren't related, he would be surprised. Like Murtry, Clint wasn't the smartest outlaw, but Heyes knew he was tolerated in gangs for his ability, and willingness, to play with dynamite and nitro. Heyes had seen him only once before for a very short time. He hoped White didn't know who he was.
"Howdy." Heyes forced a smile, as he rode near the man. "Mighty warm today. Mind if my horse joins yours for a drink?"
Clint, surprised, drew his gun and aimed it at the traveler. "Whatcha doin' in these parts? Purty dangerous area to be travelin'."
"Oh, really?" Heyes feigned ignorance. "Why's that?"
"This here is outlaw country."
"It is?" Heyes did his best to act nervous. "I'm looking for my brother. He went missing a few days ago. Maybe you've seen him?"
Clint shrugged, his gun still pointing at Heyes. "I dunno. People who get lost 'round here tend to stay lost."
"Well maybe you remember seeing him? What he wears is pretty distinctive. He's got this sheepskin jacket and he always wears this brown floppy hat with silver decorations around it."
"Hey, now wait a minute!" Clint's gun hand went briefly down as he squinted at Heyes in irritation. "That's what Kid Curry wears!"
As soon as Clint said the words 'Kid Curry' Heyes had his gun out and aimed straight at the other man.
"Drop it!" Heyes' eyes were dark with anger. Clint looked up at him in shock before complying. Heyes got down off his horse and stalked towards him. Clint took an unconscious step back but Heyes grabbed him by the shirt. "And just how would you know what Kid Curry wears? Where is he?!"
Clint's eyes widened. "Who… who are you, mister?" he stuttered. "Why you want to know? You ain't the law, are you?"
"Where's my partner, Clint?" Heyes growled.
"You… you know me?" White looked at him in confusion.
Heyes ignored his question. "I'm gonna ask you one more time. Where's my partner, Kid Curry?"
Clint swallowed hard. "You're Hannibal Heyes, ain't ya?"
Heyes let go of Clint, picked up his gun from the ground and put it in his own holster. He kept his own gun trained on the other man the entire time as he backed up towards his own horse and mounted. Then he gestured to the other horse still by the stream. "Get on your horse, Clint, and take me to Kid Curry, NOW!"
"Okay, okay…" White mounted his horse. "They're this a way. They've been waitin' for you."
"Who?" demanded Heyes as he followed White's lead.
"The Harper brothers – Ben, Josh, 'nd Chris. Me and Les Parker, too. We're stayin' at Brown's Park, for the time bein'."
"And my partner?"
"Oh…er…he's with 'em," Clint told him sheepishly as Heyes nodded for him to get going. "…but you'll need to be talking to the others," he added as he led the way.
Chris Harper was lying on the ground scanning the area around him from his lookout post. Usually, he wouldn't be paying half so much attention to his job, but for the last few days the brothers had been sending Clint White to the watering hole in the hope that he'd meet up with Hannibal Heyes and bring him back to Brown's Park. Ben had insisted that they keep an extra look out and let him know immediately if Clint appeared to have succeeded. So far they'd had no luck, and, although they knew it hadn't been long, both Ben and Josh were getting mighty twitchy. Chris gave a half smile as he thought about that. They'd been taking out some of their frustration on the Kid…
Chris started from his thoughts as he saw two riders in the distance. "Well I'll be…" he muttered. "He got 'im." He got up and rushed over on to his horse and didn't rein up until he was in the midst of the camp.
"Ben!" he hollered jumping down from his horse. "Ben… Josh!" Ben hurried out of the cabin. "Heyes took the bait and is comin'!" He jumped off his horse. "Clint's leadin' him here, just like you hoped, Ben."
Ben rubbed his hands together gleefully. "Perfect!" Josh and Les emerged from behind Ben as he went over and patted his younger brother on the back. Ben turned to Josh. "Put on the hat and jacket," he instructed him. Josh nodded and went back into the cabin as Ben looked at the other two. "Les and Chris, be ready to bring out Curry when I say."
Fifteen minutes later, Clint led Heyes into the compound. Heyes quickly took in the corral, two cabins and the several smaller sheds, making up Brown's Park. The Green River ran near it, supplying its water needs.
They rode up to the first cabin, where Clint dismounted while Heyes, warily, stayed on his gelding. "We're here!" the stocky man announced.
Ben came out of the cabin. "Welcome to Brown's Park, Hannibal Heyes!"
"Ben Harper." Heyes raised a brow. "Heard you've been waiting for me." Then he saw another man come up behind Ben in the doorway of the cabin, a man wearing an all too familiar sheepskin jacket, and brown hat with conchos around it, and he went still. "Kid?"
"Heyes," came the muffled reply.
The man was in shadow and Heyes was having trouble making him out clearly as he squinted into the sunlight. "Wha…?" he started to say but was distracted by the clicking of two guns and he glanced around. Chris and Les had come from the back and side with their guns pointed at him. He turned back to 'the Kid' trying to see him more clearly as if that would help him understand, but the man had retreated back through the cabin door. Heyes' eyes narrowed. There was no way that that was the Kid.
Ben crossed his arms. "Give Chris your gun, Heyes, and then get off your horse. We have some catchin' up to do, my friend." Heyes' eyes went to the cabin where 'the Kid' had disappeared. Ben caught his look and smiled. "Come on in and we'll have us a drink."
"I want to see my partner first," Heyes growled as he handed his gun over and dismounted.
Ben's eyes narrowed as if in irritation that Heyes had seen through Josh's disguise. "All in due time, Heyes. Chris, make sure our guest doesn't have any other weapons with him before we go inside. Clint, take care of the horses," Ben barked out his orders.
Chris frisked Heyes and relieved him of a knife in his boot and a small derringer. "He's clean."
"Good. Let's go," Ben beckoned with his hand.
Chris gave Heyes a slight push towards the cabin. At the entrance, Heyes stopped and glared as Josh tipped Curry's hat back, and smiled from beneath it. "Why you…" Heyes lunged towards the man, but Les and Chris quickly grabbed both of his arms and pulled him back.
"Glad to see ya remember me, Heyes," Josh jeered as Heyes continued to struggle in the arms of his two captors.
"Heyes, is that a way to treat your hosts?" Ben tsked, as he went inside out of the heat. "Bring him here, boys."
Chris and Les pulled Heyes further into the cabin and set him down hard on a chair.
"Can you sit there and talk like a gentleman or will they need to tie you to the chair?" Ben asked, smugly.
Heyes shook himself free of the hands still holding him. "You don't need to tie me, just tell me where my partner is."
"Curry is fine," Ben snarled down at him. "And, if you just do as you're told he'll stay fine an' you'll be able to see him." H e stopped abruptly as if catching himself before he lost his temper and fetched a bottle of whiskey and two glasses from a shelf at the back of the cabin. He poured two drinks, gave one to Heyes and sat down in front of him.
Heyes waited, not touching the drink, but Ben gulped his down and poured himself another. "It ain't poisoned," he sneered at the ex-outlaw.
Heyes shrugged and picked up the glass. "What do you want, Ben?"
"We're gonna rob a train," Ben told him, "and you're gonna help."
"And if I don't?" Heyes set the glass back on the table.
"We'll kill the Kid," Ben replied. "Like I told ya, he'll be fine so long as you do as you're told."
Heyes rolled his eyes and changed tactic. "Your gang's been doing fine 'till now. What do you need us for?"
Josh came up behind Heyes' chair. "We ain't never done a train before. You're gonna help us with the plannin'."
Heyes turned around to look at Josh. "And if I plan this, will you let us go?"
Ben smiled. "Sure, Heyes. Just as soon as the job is done and we're back here safe."
"And how can I be sure of that?" Heyes turned back to ask him.
"You'll just have to take my word on it," Ben replied smugly and downed his second glass.
"No," said Heyes and Ben's expression went from surprise to outrage. Heyes could sense the other gang members tensing up around him.
"You don't got no choice!" Ben shouted. "I swear we'll kill Curry if you don't."
"And you don't know what you're asking of us," Heyes snarled back.
"You mean about goin' straight, an all? Yeah, the Kid mentioned somethin' about that. A waste of your talents, Heyes. I'm doin' you a favor and you WILL help us."
Heyes closed his eyes for a moment. "Let me see the Kid. Then I'll decide."
Ben glared, frustrated at Heyes prevarications. "Fine," he ground out and looked up to Chris and Les. "Go fetch him."
A few minutes later, they escorted Curry into the cabin. His hands were tied behind him and Chris and Les each had a hold of his arms. They stopped just inside the cabin door.
"Kid!" Heyes started to stand.
Josh, holding a gun behind him, grabbed his shoulder and pushed him back down. "Just stay seated."
Curry blinked, his eyes adjusting to the light. "Heyes, what are you doin' here?"
"Looking for my partner who didn't show up in Green River." Heyes took in the bruises on the Kid's face and his overall condition. "Are you okay?"
"Been better," Curry replied.
"I hate to cut this lovely reunion short…" Ben gestured. "Take him back so we can continue our talk with Heyes."
Out of the corner of his eye, Heyes caught Josh signaling to the other two to take the Kid away again. Curry began to struggle as he was manhandled back out of the room. "Heyes, whatever they want…Don't do it!" he shouted back through the door.
Chris hit him when they got outside the door. "Shut up!"
Heyes had seen enough and, once more, attempted to stand up to go after his partner, only to be held back by Josh behind him, his hand digging painfully into his shoulder. "That wasn't necessary!" he shouted as Ben went over to the door, closed it and leaned against it.
Ben closed the door and came around the table. He leaned against it as he stood in front of Heyes. "So you saw him. What's your decision?"
Heyes shrugged Josh off in anger. "What train and when?" he gritted out.
As the sun was setting, Josh and Chris led Heyes across the compound to a shed, unlocked the door and pushed him inside. The few last rays of sun shining through the cracks showed Curry leaning against the corner on the other side, his face and shirt wet with sweat and his hands still tied behind him. He looked up as the door was closed and locked, and seeing Heyes, his shoulders slumped and he gave a half-hearted yank at the bindings behind his back.
"Here, let me do that." Heyes went over to his partner and squatted down next to him looking him in the face before signaling the Kid to move. "Got quite the shiner, too."
Curry leaned forward so Heyes could get to his hands. "Yeah, well you should see the other guy."
"I did, and you look far worse. Your wrists are a mess too. You could have waited." Heyes gently untied the leather thongs and put his hand briefly on the Kid's shoulder as he took in their surroundings. "It's hot in here."
"Yeah, it is now." The Kid eased his hands forward and rolled his shoulders a few times. He sighed. "That feels better. So what do they want?"
Heyes brought over a bucket of water and sat down next to him. "You don't know?"
"Nope, they haven't told me anything." The Kid rinsed the blood from his wrists. "Just kept askin' where you were."
"And you wouldn't tell them and got beat up."
Curry shrugged. "How did you find me?" He struggled tying his bandana around a wrist.
Heyes took off his bandana and tied it around one of the bleeding wrists and then helped the Kid with the other. "Lom told me."
"Lom?" T he Kid looked at anxiously at his friend.
Heyes sat back, straightening his legs and crossed them at the ankles. "I backtracked looking for you. Saw Lom in Evanston…"
"Lom was in Evanston?" Curry interrupted. "Why?"
Heyes sighed. "He's investigating a robbery there because it seems Kid Curry murdered a teller."
"WHAT?!" Curry sat up and stared at his partner. "When did this happen?"
"The day we were due to meet up…last Friday. There are a lot of witnesses who are more than willing to testify that Kid Curry was involved so Lom was sent straight over to sort things out."
Curry was shaking his head as Heyes talked. "It's not possible."
Heyes gave him a weary look. "Unfortunately, there are enough people who say it is."
The Kid winced and put his head into his hands.
"What actually happened was that Josh Harper wore your hat and jacket during the robbery. Made sure the folks in the bank knew he was Kid Curry and then shot a teller who was moving too slow."
Curry looked back up at his partner bleakly. "How do you know?"
"He showed me by dressing up as you. At first glance he sure looks like you, too, and if he told everyone he was you…" Heyes left the rest of the sentence hanging.
Curry's head went down again as he digested this. "Damn."
"So you're now wanted for murder…"
"Just keeps gettin' better and better, don't it?"
"And I'm sorry, Kid, but the governor immediately removed his consideration for your amnesty."
The Kid just shook his head, "Of course he did," but then he looked up at his partner. "I just don't understand what this is all about."
"What's it always about, Kid," answered Heyes darkly. "They wanted me to come get you and to help them with their first train robbery."
"They talked about wantin' to rob a train." Curry searched his partner's face. "We're not goin' to…"
"What choice do we have?" Heyes asked. "If we don't, they'll just kill us."
Footsteps came closer and wood scraped against wood as the bar sealing them inside was removed. Josh opened the door with his gun drawn. "Just stay where you are. No need to get up."
Clint came in with two plates and cups. "Here's your dinner, boys." He put the food on the ground in front of them and left.
"See you in the morning," Josh sneered, as he left and bolted the door shut.
"At least they're feeding us," Heyes commented as he reached over and handed a plate to his partner and took one for himself.
"Yeah, I haven't been starvin'." The Kid took a bite of the fish.
"I know you delivered the papers. How did you get here?" Heyes asked, as he took a bite of a biscuit.
"Well, Wednesday afternoon, I left the ranch and was headin' to Green River…"
Kid Curry patted his pocket, feeling good about earning $100 for the delivery job. Everything had gone more smoothly than he thought and he was headed back to Green River by Wednesday afternoon to meet up with his partner. With the luck he was having, he might even get back first. Thoughts of the steak dinner made his mouth water.
Curry was nearing a rock cropping when several shots buffeted the path before him, sending up rocks and dust, spooking his horse. As the Kid fought to gain control on his bay, five men surrounded him, guns drawn.
"Get your hands up!" one of them ordered.
The Kid glared as he raised his hands, still holding on to the reins. "Of all the luck," he murmured.
One rider, with dark curly hair, came up on the right side and removed Curry's gun from its holster. He stopped and stared, before breaking into a smile. "Why, if it ain't Kid Curry."
Curry looked at the man and those surrounding him. "Josh Harper… Ben… Chris." He turned to see the other two men in the gang. "Les Parker and Clint White joined up with you, huh? What are you doin' in these parts?"
"We're lookin' to do better for ourselves," said Chris, the younger brother. . "Movin' up closer to the railroad lines to rob us a train."
"Haven't heard of you boys robbin' trains before."
"Oh, we haven't yet," Ben, the oldest brother, informed him. "Haven't heard much about you and Heyes lately."
"Can I put my hands down, seein' you have my gun?" Curry asked, as he slowly moved his arms down. Ben nodded so he continued. "Me and Heyes retired from the business."
"You what?!" exclaimed Josh. "Why'd you do a dang foolish thing like that? You and Heyes were so successful."
"Yeah, well, time's a changin'. Safes are gettin' harder to open, posses are gettin' bigger, and word gets out too fast with the telegraph." The Kid leaned on his saddle horn. "Maybe you boys should think about it, too."
Ben spit out some chaw. "Damn shame with as smart as Heyes was at plannin' jobs. We sure could use a Hannibal Heyes plan for our first train robbery." He squinted as he stared at the Kid. "Where is Heyes?"
"Don't rightly know where he is." Curry returned the stared.
"What? You not knowin' where your partner is?" Josh chuckled. "Where one is, the other is usually nearby. Everybody knows that."
"And if I said I didn't know, I mean, I don't know." The Kid sat up straighter. "It's been nice chattin' with you, boys, but if you'll give me my gun back, I'll be goin' now."
"Don't think you'll be goin' nowhere, Kid. Not without tellin' us where Heyes is. I want to talk to him about this train robbery." Ben turned to his younger brothers. "Josh and Chris, Mr. Curry is gonna be our guest for awhile. Until he remembers where his partner is."
"And if I refuse?" Curry spat.
"Don't see you're in any position to say, one way or another." Ben beamed, as he ordered, "Josh, make sure you have him covered. Chris, tie his hands up, nice and tight."
The Kid was about to spur his horse forward when four guns cocked.
Ben rode up and put the barrel of his pistol at the Kid's temple. "As I see it, Curry, you have two choices. You can let Chris tie your hands or you can wake up with a splittin' headache and hurtin' from ridin' like a sack of potatoes."
Kid Curry put his hands behind his back and allowed Chris to tie them.
They rode south for a few hours, twisting along the paths around rock croppings and sagebrush, leading into a valley. Crossing the Green River, they came to an area with several cabins, a corral, and a few small sheds. Curry noted the security to the entrance of the hideout, along with the dilapidated condition of the buildings.
Ben held out his arms. "Welcome to Brown's Park, Curry! Clint and Les, you're on guard duty."
"Shore thing, Ben," Les said, as he reined his horse around. "Com'on, Clint." The two gang members went back the way they came.
Josh and Chris, meanwhile, pulled the Kid from his gelding as Ben dismounted his horse. The brothers each held his arms when Ben walked up to them and spit some chaw on Curry's boot. "You've had a couple hours to think. So where's your partner, Kid?"
Curry glared, his blue eyes becoming glacial with anger.
"I'm talkin' to you! Ain't polite not to answer back." Ben backed up. "Brothers, maybe we should teach Mr. Curry some manners."
Chris punched and then back-handed the Kid's face; his lip split. Josh smiled and quickly turned, putting his fist into the Kid's stomach, causing him to double over. Chris threw a blow to the back of his head, making him fall to the ground. Curry grunted and moaned, but did not cry out or say a word. The brothers continued to work him over.
"Okay, that's enough." Ben looked down at the Kid when his brothers were finished. "Where's Hannibal Heyes?"
The Kid looked up with one good eye and the other swelling. "Go to hell!"
Ben kicked him in anger. "Get him out of my sight! Put him in the old tool shed." He put a pinch of tobacco in his mouth. "Gonna have to figure out a way to flush out Heyes."
"So they did the robbery in Evanston just to get you here?" The Kid repeated almost to himself.
"Yeah," said Heyes quietly. "I'm really sorry, Kid."
Curry looked at him. "Don't you go makin' this all about you! It's my reputation on the line and it's my amnesty that's done gone up in smoke."
Heyes smiled at the Kid's banter and his effort at normality. "You think it'll be any different for me once this is all over?" he asked.
"You reckon we're still gonna be alive when this is all over?" countered the Kid.
"Good point," conceded Heyes. He looked around the shack again and yawned. "Not the most comfortable room."
"Nope – hot during the day and downright chilly at night. And now I know why they didn't let me have my jacket. At least Clint gave me this thin blanket." Curry held up a blanket. The last rays of daylight penetrated the threadbare cloth and two large holes were worn through its center. "Here." Curry flipped an equally worn piece of linen in Heyes' direction.
"Nice," said Heyes. "Well, you'd better keep that since I've still got my jacket. Have you been in here the whole time?"
"Pretty near. They let me out a couple times a day to stretch. Got to wash in the river one day." Curry paused for a moment before confessing. "That was after they went off and left me hog-tied all day and night in here."
Heyes' eyes shot to his partner's in shock.
"Soon after I got here."
"They needed to rob the bank," Heyes muttered. "That would have been last Friday."
Both men were silent for a moment as all that had happened sunk in. However, almost against his will, Heyes was overcome by another yawn. "Think I'll get some sleep."
The Kid gave a half-smile. "Haven't been sleepin' well? Worryin' about me?"
"About you? Nah…" Heyes smiled and settled down, tucking his jacket around him for warmth.
"How are we gonna get out of this mess? Especially me bein' wanted for murder?"
"Not sure, Kid. Give me some time and I'll figure something out."
"Guess we're in it pretty deep this time, huh?"
"Pretty deep," Heyes agreed.
"Think you can think us out of it?"
"Sure, Kid, if I was allowed to get enough sleep!"
A long silence followed. Murderers hanged, the Kid knew, and everyone now thought of him as a murderer, except Heyes. Curry's mind went back to Santa Marta and the possibility of being in front of the firing squad. Now he imagined himself being led to a gallows and walking up the steps. The noose placed around his neck and tightened. There wasn't much chance of escaping this time and he wasn't going to bring down his partner, too.
"Heyes," the Kid began, tentatively. "Now that my amnesty's gone, maybe you and me should..."
"Go to sleep," Heyes cut in. "We'll figure something out."
"But if we can't..."
"Hey." Heyes lifted himself on one elbow and looked his partner in the eye. "Have a little faith, would you? I said I'd figure something out, and I will."
Curry wrapped the blanket around himself, as he shivered, and lay down. "I know you will."
The shack was heating up as the sun shone brightly through the cracks. Curry and Heyes glanced at each other as they heard footsteps and the sound of the bar being lifted.
Heyes pulled out his pocket watch and flipped it open. "It's about time you got us out of here," growled Heyes as he stood. "It's after ten."
"One at a time, Heyes," Josh said, with his gun out. "Les and Chris, you take Heyes now. Clint and I'll bring out Curry in a few minutes."
Given a few minutes by the river to get cleaned up, Les and Chris began leading Heyes to the cabin when Josh and Clint brought the Kid down to the river.
"Good morning, Heyes. I trust you slept well?" Ben asked with a smirk from the cabin door. "Come on in and have some coffee."
"Would have slept better if I wasn't locked in a shed with barely a rag for a blanket," Heyes grumbled as he followed Ben inside and went to the window, watching his partner. "You didn't have to beat the Kid up like that."
"Oh, but I did. He sure was stubborn when we asked where you were. Coffee?"
"Yeah," Heyes said, as he watched Josh led his partner from the river back into the shed. His face scowled. "Hey, where are they taking the Kid?"
"Back to the shed, Heyes," Ben said as he poured two cups of coffee. "Come in and get something to eat."
"What about him?" Heyes' eyes never left Curry.
"We'll take him something to eat. Now about the robbery…"
Heyes walked up to Ben. "I'm not planning the robbery without my partner. I need him." Heyes put his hands on his hips. "Bring him in here, now."
Ben got in Heyes' face. "This ain't the Hole, Heyes, and you're not in charge. I am!"
Heyes' voice lowered in anger. "You may be in charge here, but you need me. Otherwise, you wouldn't have gone to such lengths to get me here. Now, if you want this job done right, I need the Kid. We're a team and he's always helped with the details of a job."
The two leaders stood off, each waiting for the other to back down. Ben stepped back, his face flush with anger. "Get Curry in here!" he barked to his brothers.
A few minutes later, Heyes and the Kid were sitting at opposite ends of the table. Heyes smirked at a still fuming Ben. "Now, I think you mentioned coffee and something to eat…"
Curry gave the brothers a wide, innocent smile. "Sounds good to me."
Fifteen minutes later, the entire group was gathered around the table.
"I need the schedule, a map and I need to know what that train's carrying." Heyes sipped some coffee. "And paper and a pen, too."
Ben went over to an old dresser and opened a drawer. "Here's a map and the most current schedule; I got it before the bank job in Evanston."
"You know there are better ways to rob a bank than to have innocent folks die, don't you?" Curry said quietly. "Now the law and the town folks want you dead."
"Shut up, Curry! I only wanna hear from you when you're helpin' Heyes plan. Got that?" Ben's face was flush with anger. He turned to Heyes. "So why do you have to know what it's shippin'? We ain't sharin' with you. You just get your smart aleck partner back."
Heyes looked up from the schedule. "What it's carrying will determine what kind of safe to expect." He held his cup up for more coffee while waiting for an answer.
"There'll be a payroll in it," Ben reluctantly told him as he poured more coffee.
Heyes blew into his cup, cooling the hot liquid, before taking a sip. "And where did you hear about this payroll? From a reliable source?"
"Of course! Josh and Chris were playin' poker with some fellow who told them."
The Kid cocked his head. "It could be a set up."
Josh, sitting beside Curry, lifted his hand to slap him. "Ben told you to shut up." The Kid quickly caught his hand, mid-air; the two glared at each other.
"Don't you dare hit him," growled Heyes, immediately standing up. "The Kid is right. It's happened before. Someone mentions a possible payroll and the posse is in the train waiting for it to be stopped."
Josh glowered at the Kid as he pulled his hand back. After a moment, Heyes then also sat down again.
"Okay," Heyes continued, "assuming there's really a payroll, how much?" He began writing notes down on the paper.
Chris swallowed the eggs he was eating. "Man said something about $2,000."
"Not enough to be in the newest model safe then, probably." Heyes scratched some more and then opened the map to get his bearings. "It'll be traveling along this path, Kid," he said, looking up at his partner while his finger touched the marked railway line. "Where do you think is the safest place to stop it?"
Curry started to get up and instantly two guns cocked. He raised his hand up half way. "I'm just lookin' at the map," he said, irritated. He walked closer to his partner and they both studied the map. "Well, there's a bend here and the beginning of an incline, if I remember right."
"You're right," Heyes agreed. "I know the area you're talking about."
"So what if there's a bend and an incline?" Ben asked.
"Train has to slow down for both," Curry told him. "It's a good place to stop a train."
"How do we stop the train, even if it's goin' slow?" Chris asked as he peered at the map.
"If there's trees, you can cut one down on the track so the train has to stop. But you have to do it far enough ahead so the brakeman can stop it without derailin'. Or you jump on it after the tender and make your way to the engine," the Kid explained, as he continued to study the map. "Yeah, Heyes, that'd be the best place. And then there's this stream here that you can follow to cover your tracks from a posse."
"Sheesh, you two think of everything!" Clint exclaimed. "No wonder you were so successful."
Heyes stared straight ahead, not seeming to see anything. When he attempted to rise, Ben pushed him back in the chair.
Kid turned to Ben. "Don't bother yourselves; he's not goin' anywhere," he told the room in general. "He just needs to pace…does his best thinkin' when he does."
There was a pause as the Kid and Ben stared at each other and then Ben took his hand away from Heyes' shoulder to let him stand.
"Thanks, Kid," Heyes said absently as he began walking around the room.
Les gathered up the empty plates from the table. "So, you'll show us the best way to stop the train," he said to Curry, "and then we just hold it up like we would a bank."
"Well," Curry glanced at his partner and noticed he was still working on more of the plan. "A train is different than a bank in that more men are better. With us seven, two can cover the engine, two will walk up and down one side of the train, two usually get the passengers out and then they're joined by those in the engine, and one will break into the safe. Almost could use another man to help with the safe."
"Seven? Who said you're goin'?" Josh scowled. "I don't like you much, Curry."
The Kid shrugged. "Don't particularly care for you, either, Josh."
"I'll be deciding who's goin' or not here," barked Ben. "Curry, if you're done lookin' at the map, go back to where you were sittin'!"
Curry leaned over to the table and grabbed his cup. "Mind if I help myself to some more coffee?"
"So you can throw the hot pot at us?" Chris scoffed. "Just sit down and Les can pour you some."
Curry just shook his head in disbelief. Les took his cup and poured more coffee. He handed it to Curry, once he sat down at the end of the table. "You and Heyes sure got it down good," he commented. "So good, no one needs to get hurt."
"That's the idea." The Kid scowled at Josh. "No need for anyone to get hurt."
"Shore wish I could've rode with the Devil's Hole gang when you two were leadin' it," Clint said, with admiration in his eyes as he looked at Curry and Heyes.
Les dried the last plate and joined the others at the table with his coffee. "Yeah, I heard your robberies were high dollar ones, makin' $2,000 seem like chump change."
Curry smiled. "Well, not all of our robberies were high dollar ones."
"That's enough talkin'!" Ben snapped as he stood up quickly, knocking a chair back onto the floor. "If you don't have anything to say about this robbery, don't say anything." He pointed to Curry. "Especially you!"
Les studied the map. "So when we escape, we follow the creek here."
"We ain't followin' that creek!" Ben sat down again. "That's the wrong way."
"But Curry said…" Clint whined.
"Curry ain't in charge, I am!" Ben's shouted as he pounded on the table.
Heyes stopped pacing near Ben, his eyes dark. "The Kid is right – you escape by walking the horses in the water. That way the posse can't track you down." Heyes paused and glanced around the roomful of would-be train robbers before continuing. "You wanted us to plan this robbery, you need to do it our way!"
Heyes and Ben stood off again, their faces inches from each other as they glared, neither willing to back down. After a few tense minutes, with everyone quiet and awaiting the outcome, Ben stepped back and threw his coffee cup against the wall.
"Josh and Chris, outside!" Ben walked to the door in a huff. "Les and Clint, shoot 'em if they so much as move!"
The three Harper brothers walked away from the cabin down to the corral. Ben slammed his hand against a post. "Damn it!"
"Damn, Ben, Heyes stood you up twice and you let him win both times!" Chris complained. "Sure made you look bad!"
"Shut up, Chris!" Ben glared at his youngest brother.
Josh leaned back against the corral fence. "We gotta do something about them two. I mean, jus' look at Les and Clint. They're becomin' their biggest fans. Them two bein' together just ain't workin'."
"Yeah," Chris agreed. "With Curry there, Heyes Heyes thinks he's the leader of the gang."
Ben put a foot on the lower rung of the fence, eyes narrowed as he stared out past the horses. "Well then, we gotta show 'em that he ain't."
"What we gonna do, then?" Chris slapped his hand down on his leg in frustration. "We need 'em."
"Don't need both of 'em," Josh commented, keeping a hand near his gun and his eyes on the cabin. "Need Heyes to open the safe, but we don't need Curry no more."
Chris copied his oldest brother's stance. "But Curry said we need more men…"
"I don't care what Curry said!" spat Ben. "He and Heyes ain't in charge!"
Josh pulled out his gun and checked the chamber. "I say Heyes is smart enough to do the job with less men and we kill the Kid."
Ben rubbed his chin as he thought. "Heyes won't do it if his partner is dead. But what if we…"
The Harpers walked confidently back to the cabin with their new game plan. Heyes was sitting at the table studying the map and schedule with Curry beside him.
"Train leaves Green Valley station at ten in the morning so it should be in this area around four." Heyes traced the path with his finger.
"And it shouldn't get to Evanston until six at night. Gives us two hours before a posse forms since there isn't another town…"
Ben stormed over to the table and cast a cursory glance at the maps and timetables spread out over it. "You done plannin'?" he snarled.
Heyes and Curry turned their heads in unison towards the Harper brothers. Curry's eyes narrowed in suspicion as he took in the three brothers. Heyes just shrugged. "Reckon we've worked out most of what we can here," he told Ben. "However, some things…"
He wasn't allowed to finish. "Good. Get 'em out of my sight," he snarled to his brothers.
"You want us to plan this robbery or not?" Heyes scowled, his eyes dark with anger.
Ben picked up a chair and smashed it against the wall. "You just said you're done!" he yelled. "Outta my sight!"
Heyes looked at the Kid and imperceptibly shook his head in disgust. Curry shrugged his shoulders as Josh and Chris pulled out their guns and aimed at them.
"You heard Ben – outside with both of you!" Josh ordered, waving his gun.
Warily, Heyes and Curry stood up and walked out of the cabin.
"Back to the shed," Chris directed them. "Clint and Les, get out here and saddle up three horses."
"Ben sure has a temper," Heyes grumbled, as he headed back to his prison. "Wants us to plan this robbery, but then gets mad when we do. When I was the leader of the Devil's Hole..."
"Shut up, Heyes!" Josh ordered from behind the pair, with his gun pointed at Curry.
Chris opened the door to the old shed. "You first, Heyes." He waved his gun in the direction.
Heyes grunted and walked past Chris into the shed. When he had just passed inside the doorframe, Chris gave him a firm shove, making Heyes stumble into the wall. "Hey!"
Chris quickly closed the door and barred it. "Okay, Curry, over to the corral."
The Kid hesitated before getting pushed in the back by Josh. "We goin' somewhere?"
"Kid, don't go anywhere with them!" Heyes shouted from his prison. "You want that robbery planned right; you bring the Kid here now!"
"Move, Curry!" Josh shoved hard.
The Kid began to fall forward, but quickly regained his balance. He turned and glared at Josh. "Stop pushin' me!"
"Don't you tell me what to do!" Josh raised his hand to slap the Kid, but Curry again caught it midair. Josh's face reddened in anger as he pulled back his arm. "Why you…" He cocked his gun.
"Gonna shoot an unarmed man, Josh?" Curry asked, provokingly.
"So help me, if you shoot the Kid, you'll get NO help at all from me with this train robbery!" Heyes warned as he listened to what was happening.
J Josh scowled as he uncocked his gun and handed it to Chris before bending down and charging towards the Kid. Curry dodged him but was caught at the sides as the two men slammed together and their fists came up. Josh caught the Kid in the jaw, but Curry countered with a punch to the stomach and then the head as Josh doubled up. Chris watched the fight with a smile until he saw Curry coming out the victor. He came up from behind and hit the back of the Kid's head with a gun butt. Curry fell, losing consciousness.
"Why'd you do that?!" Josh yelled at his brother.
"Because you were losin'!"
"Do what? What happened?" Heyes shouted turning his ear to the wood briefly as he tried to hear what was going on. "Kid!?"
"Shut up, Heyes!" Chris hollered. "Les and Clint, bring the horses over here."
"Kid! Dammit, what did you do to him?" Heyes continued to yell as he now tried looking through the slits of the shed. He pounded again on the door. "Let me outta here!"
The horses were led out of the corral to near the shed.
"Clint and Les, help me throw him over the saddle. Then get something to tie him down so he won't fall off."
Chris held the bridle of one while the other men lifted Curry over and onto it, lying sideways with his feet on one side, his head and arms on the other. Clint and Chris then tied the Kid down as Josh checked the other horses.
"He's still bleedin' pretty good," Clint commented as he helped tie the Kid to the saddle.
""Bleeding!?" Heyes shouted. "Dammit, Ben, if your brothers kill my partner, you'll be on your own robbing that train. I'm no murderer like Josh, but I'll hunt you all down and kill you!"
"Okay, we're done. Let's go, Chris." Josh mounted his bay and took the reins of the horse holding Curry.
Heyes heard the creaking of a saddle, followed by the sound of horses. "Ben! I swear…" He pounded on the door again before leaning his head against it in defeat as the hoof beats faded.
The Harper brothers traveled hours east towards Colorado, into the harsh wilderness.
"This should be far enough, don't' you think?" Chris called out. "I'm gettin' tired and we need to get back tonight."
"Yeah, this is good." Josh dismounted and cut the ties holding Curry. He grabbed the Kid's belt and pulled down, letting him fall to the ground. "Gimme a canteen."
Chris handed one to his brother and wiped the sweat from his face. "Better leave him two."
"Why? So he dies?"
Chris rolled his eyes. "We said we wouldn't kill 'im. If Heyes finds out…"
"'If Heyes finds out'," Josh mimicked Chris. "He ain't gonna find out is he? And, anyway, I ain't afraid of Heyes." Josh dropped the canteen by Curry and mounted his horse. "Let's go."
Chris shook his head at his brothers receding back and took out another of the full canteens strapped to his saddle horn and dropped it next to the first one on the ground. "Good luck, Kid. You're gonna need it," he said and rode off behind his brother back to the camp.
Heyes continued pounded on the door. "Harper, where's Curry? What have you done with the Kid?"
Exhausted, he slid down the wall of the shed. His voice was hoarse from shouting and his hands bruised from hitting the door. He rested his aching head on his knees. "Kid, what'd they do to you?"
Kid Curry moaned as he regained consciousness and grabbed his head. Dried blood matted his hair on the right side. He blinked several times, trying to focus on the area around him. "Heyes?" He saw the sun setting behind some mountains in the distance. "Heyes!" As he tried to sit up, his hands grasped his chest and stomach. "Oh…that hurts! Heyes!" The Kid forced himself to kneel on all fours and then sat back on his haunches. All around him was desert, as far as he could see, and no partner.
The Kid spotted the canteens nearby and crawled to them. He opened the cap of one and had a few sips of water. "Heyes!" he yelled into the desert. A lone coyote answered his cry with a howl. The sun slipped away and Curry shivered, his shirt wet with sweat from the day plastered to his body. "Damn."
Several hours later, Heyes heard footsteps approaching, then the sound of the bar being removed from the door. He looked up, hoping to see his partner.
Ben opened the door with his gun drawn. "About time you shut up, Heyes!"
Clint walked into the shed with a glass of water and a plate of beans. "Here's your supper."
"Where's the Kid?" growled Heyes. "What have you done with him?"
Ben smirked. "He's where he ain't gonna cause no more trouble for us."
"Where is he?!" Heyes repeated.
Clint backed up out of the door.
"We'll tell you when the job's done and we're back here safe. Until then, you just remember that we're in charge. You ain't!" Ben closed the door and barred it once again.
The beginning colors of dawn painted the sky from dark tones to pinks when the door opened again.
"Let's go, Heyes," Chris kicked at the man curled up in a ragged blanket in a corner.
Heyes opened his eyes and glared at the other man before slowly standing up and walking out of the hut. He stopped for a moment to stretch.
"In the cabin." Josh motioned with his gun, then followed his brother and Heyes inside.
Ben smiled when they entered the cabin. "Good morning, Heyes." He held out a coffee. "You look like you need to wash up some."
Heyes took the proffered cup. "Where's my partner? What did you do with him?"
"I already told you." Ben sipped his coffee. "They took him somewhere out of the way. You do the train robbery with us and, when we're back here safe, we'll tell you. You'd better start concentratin' on the job in hand, though, or your partner just may die."
"Why you…" Heyes rushed Ben when he heard two clicks of guns and felt hands holding him back.
Ben grinned. "You'll get your partner back, one way or another. Now sit and drink your coffee."
Heyes was forced to sit down by hands on his shoulders while the others finished getting ready for the day.
The sun peered above the horizon when Heyes threw the dregs of his coffee out the open door. "Let's get going, then! Get the horses!"
Ben smirked and poured another cup of coffee. "Need I remind you, again, that I'm the leader? We go when I'm ready."
Heyes slammed his hand on the wall and walked to the river.
"Let him be." Ben watched Heyes from the window. "I don't think we'll have a problem with Heyes while his partner's fate is in our hands." He turned back into the cabin. "Now how about some breakfast before we go?"
Heyes washed up in the river and began pacing. Pulling out his pocket watch, he noted the time was 7am. He glared at the cabin as the aroma of bacon and the sound of a pan being scraped filled up his senses. His stomach recoiled at the thought of food as he contemplated what had been done to his partner. He wanted to get going and he angrily kicked at a stone on the ground. The sooner this robbery was done, the sooner he could get his partner back. At least that was what he hoped. In the meantime he was aware that he needed to get a hold of his temper. With the Kid's life on the line, it would do no good to antagonize his captors.
Kid Curry shivered in the crevice of a large rock formation, his back against the stone. It had felt warm during the first half of the night when the heat of the day radiated off into the crisp air, but now it was cool to the touch. The red orb slowly ascended above the horizon and Curry welcomed its warmth for now, fully aware that it could be the death of him later in the day with no hat and only two canteens of water.
He crawled out from the rock and stretched. Slowly turning in a circle, he gazed intensely into the horizon for a shimmer of water or a familiar formation. He had no idea where he was or in which direction to head. What he knew for sure, though, was that he was alone with no protection: partner, hat, jacket, or gun. Mountains surrounded him – mountains and a lot of nothing. Looking back at the sun, Curry got his bearings… east, so this is west, south, and north. Then he studied the ground and saw hoof prints. The Kid followed the trail from the horses and headed northwest, away from the sun.
"Heyes, you about ready to go?" Ben picked at his teeth with his fingers as he walked to the river. "You missed a mighty fine breakfast."
Heyes stared at the sun, rising fast in the sky. "Wasn't hungry." He turned toward Harper and pushed his hat down to shade his eyes. "I'm ready when you are."
Ben grinned. "Appears you finally figured out who's boss."
They began walking to the corral where the others were saddling the horses when Heyes veered towards the house.
Ben grabbed his arm. "Told you we were leavin', Heyes."
Heyes shook off the hand and glared. "I'm getting the map, schedule and my notes. Don't figure you remembered them." He raised a brow in question.
"Hurry up, then, and meet us at the corral." Ben sulked off to join his gang.
Heyes went into the cabin and found the needed items on the top of the dresser. He started for the door when something familiar caught his eye. His partner's hat and jacket were thrown in a corner of the room. He picked them up, shaking the jacket and caressing the brim of the hat. Anger at what had happened to the Kid welled up inside him again threatening to overwhelm and he had to stop and take a deep breath in an attempt to calm down before going out to join the others taking the Kid's belongings with him.
The Kid raised a hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun as he looked for shade. His hair was matted to his head and his clothes already wet with sweat. He glanced up and saw the source of his discomfort was almost directly overhead, making it around 11 or noon. Squinting, he looked around for something. A boulder lay ahead of him. It didn't offer any shade, but Curry headed toward it.
He removed his bandana and wiped the sweat off his face. He shook the nearly full canteen and took a sip of the warm water.
"Guess I'm gonna have to make my own shade," he whispered to no one, as he unbuttoned his shirt and removed it. He rolled up the sleeves of his Henley and sat down with the rock behind him. He swung his shirt over his head, using it as shade, and made himself as comfortable as possible to wait out the heat of the day.
Heyes lifted the canteen and took a long drink of water. They were about half way to where they would stop the train and he wondered for the hundredth time where his partner was and hoped he was well. The sheepskin jacket was tied to the back of the saddle and the brown hat's stampede strings were hanging from the saddle horn. He looked up towards the sun – just past noon. "Ben, we're gonna have to pick up the pace if we're gonna get to the place we should camp tonight."
"You heard him. Let's get goin'." Ben spurred his horse forward.
The sun began to descend behind the mountains when the Kid finally stood up again, stretched out the kinks from being huddled under his shirt, and brushed off his pants. Taking a large drink from the canteen, he also poured a little of the precious liquid onto his bandana to wipe his face and neck. His stomach rumbled. "I'm starvin'," he thought to himself, "and I bet Heyes is just pickin' at his food." He half smiled to himself before gazing all around looking for anything familiar or for some source of water. With a sigh, he continued his slow walk to the northwest.
The Harper gang sat around a small fire eating a meal of beans, biscuits, and bacon. Heyes sat away from the others, leaning on a boulder. He moved his food around on the plate as he picked away at it, his mind on his partner.
"Heyes," Ben called out as he finished his meal. "What time's the train due in this area?"
"I figure around ten." Heyes gave up trying to eat and scraped his food back into the pot. "We'll need to pack up and be at the tracks around eight."
"Why so early? We had to get up at the crack of dawn this morning," Chris complained.
Heyes opened up his bedroll beside his saddle, using it as a pillow. "Trains can be early as easy as they can be late. And we have to find something and put it onto the track to force it to stop." He lie down and put his hat over his eyes. "Don't know what that'll be until we're there and look around."
"What do you think you're doin', Heyes?" Josh kicked Heyes' boot.
Heyes lifted his hat and glared. "Going to sleep. Have another long day ahead of us."
"You think we're gonna just let you sleep there like that? What if you take off or get a gun and hold it on us."
"You really think I'm going to risk that not knowing where the Kid is?" Heyes sat up.
"Josh's got a point." Ben looked around the campsite. "Tie him to that tree over there."
Josh smirked and pulled out his gun. "Get up and get your bedroll, Heyes. Les, get a rope."
Heyes threw his hat on the ground. "Now that ain't necessary, Ben. I'm not gonna do anything to jeopardize the Kid anymore than he probably already is."
"Probably not," agreed Ben. "But I don't need to wake up with a knife at my throat or a gun to my head demanding to know where Curry is. Tie him up."
Les and Chris both got up, Chris went to help Josh while Les rummaged through their gear looking for something to tie up Heyes.
"Move it, Heyes!" Josh ordered, his gun trained on the former outlaw.
Heyes grabbed his hat in irritation, then gathered his bedroll and stood. "You're not thinking, boys. You tie me up and I'll lose any feeling in my fingers so I won't be able to open the safe come tomorrow."
"They can tie you to the tree and leave your hands free, can't you, brothers?" Ben grinned. "We'll even let you sit so you can get some sleep and not be too tired for tomorrow."
"Go on, you heard Ben." Chris waved his gun towards the tree.
Heyes stomped over to the tree and laid his bedroll down. He buttoned his coat up and sat on the bedding, leaning against the tree. Chris tied his torso to the tree while Josh held the gun on Heyes.
"He's all bedded down, Ben," Chris said as he tied the last knot where Heyes' hands couldn't reach.
"Check Chris' knots, Josh." Ben laid his bedroll down by the fire. "I don't trust Heyes not to try and get out."
Josh tugged at the rope.
"Ow!" Heyes grunted.
"Ropes are tight – he ain't gettin' away," Josh informed his older brother.
"Good, now we can all get a good night's sleep knowing there'll be no nasty surprises to wake up to." Ben sneered at Heyes as he pulled a blanket over himself. Heyes gave him a stony look and resigned himself to an uncomfortable night.
Kid Curry followed the precious horse trail for as long as the light would allow it. As the light finally faded and a quarter moon appeared in the eastern sky, he headed to a rock jutting up from the landscape which he decided would offer him at least a small illusion of shelter for the night. He felt light-headed from the lack of food and water and leaned against the rock to take a swig from one of the canteens he was carrying. It felt half empty and he wondered how long his water supply would last and how far away he was from any kind of water source. He had the feeling that the reason that he had been given two canteens was that he was very far away indeed from any kind of civilization. He felt a chill down his back which had nothing to do with the oncoming night. Sliding down into a crack where two rocks met, he curled himself into a ball rubbing his arms in a half- hearted attempt to warm himself up as he tried to rest. It was going to be a long night.
The pre-dawn sky was turning from black to pink as Heyes struggled to reach his pocket watch. He had been awake for most of the night with Lom Trevors' ominous words about what would happen if he took part in any robbery echoing in his head. He doubted that he'd managed to doze for more than an hour in the end. Finally, he snagged the watch chain and manipulated the watch into his hand so that he could flip it open. It was six in the morning. "Hey!" he shouted. "Time to wake up."
Ben rolled over in his blanket to glare at Heyes. "What?" he said blearily.
"It's six o'clock," Heyes called out. "We have an hour ride and we gotta be by the tracks by eight."
"Damn it, Ben, shut him up! The sun ain't even out," complained Chris pulling his bedroll over his head.
"If you want coffee and something to eat, you better start waking up. You have a train to catch," Heyes continued to yell.
Ben threw back the blanket and sat up. He ran a hand through his hair. "He's right. Everyone get up. Clint, get the coffee goin'. Les, get last night's dinner heated. Josh and Chris, start saddlin' up the horses."
The gang grumbled as they stretched and began their chores. Ben walked over to Heyes and untied the ropes. "There ya go, Heyes. Now you can get ready, too."
Heyes stood up and stretched out the kinks from sitting in one position too long.
"Give me your gun belt," Ben ordered, holding out his hand.
"Why?" Heyes furrowed his brow.
"Because I said and, last I checked, I was the boss."
"Just asked," mumbled Heyes. He removed the belt and handed it over.
Ben removed the few bullets stored on the back and put them in the loops of his gun belt. He searched his saddle bag and pulled out Heyes' gun. He turned the chamber and emptied all the bullets, then put it in the holster. "Put it on."
Heyes raised a brow. "Robbing a train with no bullets?"
"No one but us knows there's no bullets. Just aim your gun; they'll assume it's loaded."
"And I can assume you and the boys will cover me?" Heyes questioned.
Josh snickered. "We sure will, Heyes. You can count on us."
Heyes glared at Josh as he buckled his belt and tied the thong to his leg. He folded up his bedroll and tied it to the back of his saddle, along with his bags and his partner's jacket and hat.
"Breakfast is ready," Les announced and he began filling up the plates with the leftover beans.
The outlaws sat around the fire eating, ready to begin their day. Heyes sat on a boulder nearby sipping coffee and wondering how to keep his amnesty deal with the governor intact.
The Kid hadn't slept any better than his partner, and he had forced himself to get up and move as soon as the first light of dawn arrived. He concentrated only on putting one foot in front of the other as he drove himself forward. When he felt he really couldn't go on, he allowed himself a sip of water and a short rest. Much to his despair, the trail that he had been following had been blown away in the wind during the night. He could now only try and concentrate on using the sun to guide him in the direction that he had started travelling in but it was getting harder and harder to concentrate and he wondered just how much he had strayed from his original path. One canteen was empty and the Kid had thrown it away as he pushed himself onwards. He had only so much time before the heat of the day would make walking impossible.
Several hours later, the Harper gang now lay in wait for the train. A tree had been felled across a long stretch of track with no curves, allowing an engineer to see it from a distance and have enough time to stop the train.
Finally, a plume of black smoke and steam appeared on the horizon.
"Everyone know what they're supposed to do?" Ben asked as the gang stood up.
"Yeah," came several replies.
Heyes headed to a boulder. "Take your positions."
Several minutes later, the engine came into sight, followed by the piercing sound of brakes being applied. While Heyes covered his ears, Josh and Chris jumped aboard the still-moving engine, guns drawn and yelling. The train continued to slow, finally screeching to a stop just before coming in contact with the log.
Les and Clint entered the passenger car from both ends, Les giving directions to the worried travelers. "Leave your belongin's and get out of the car. Not that way… This way! That's right."
Ben and Heyes watched the other gang members for a few minutes, observing Josh and Chris leading the engineer and brakeman towards the passengers. They then turned their attention to one of the box cars.
"The safe should be inside this mail car and there's usually a clerk in there," Heyes informed Ben as they got to the door. Heyes tried the handle. "Locked." He bent down and pulled a lock pick from his boot. A minute later, he had the door unlocked and was opening the door.
"Stop where you are!" someone inside demanded as the door swung open. "Don't come any closer or we'll shoot."
Heyes got a good look at the two men inside the car and slowly raised his hands. "Soldiers!? Ben, are you crazy? You don't rob a train when it's being guarded by soldiers!"
"Get your arms up, too!" ordered the second soldier, pointing his gun towards Ben. "Get in here, slowly, you hear?"
"If only the Kid was here…" Heyes thought to himself as he walked into the mail car. Behind the soldiers the windows broke and the soldiers turned quickly to see Josh and Chris aiming guns on them as they sat on their horses outside the car. Ben took advantage of the distraction and shoved the army men so they lost their balance and fell.
Josh grinned as he rode over to the steps and climbed into the car. "Well, well, what have we here?" he crowed as he pointed his gun at the younger looking soldier. "Ya'd better say your prayers, boy!"
"No!" shouted Heyes as he stopped forward, positioning himself in between. "There's no need to kill them, Ben! Call Josh off!"
"They're in the way, Heyes. Get outta Josh's fire!"
Heyes didn't move. "Don't need to kill them!" Heyes put his hands on his hips to take a stand. "I'll… I'll take responsibility for them. See that they behave themselves." He looked at the leader. "Ben, the army will come down hard on anyone shooting their men. This don't have to be."
Ben's eyes narrowed. "Are you tellin' me what to do, Heyes?"
"No," answered the former Devil's Hole gang leader. "I'm just stating the facts."
A tense moment went by. "Josh and Chris, get out there with the others and help with the passengers," Ben told his brother.
"Ben…" Josh began.
"I said get! Both of you!" Ben shouted. When they left, he turned to Heyes. "They're your responsibility."
Heyes sighed from relief and nodded. He aimed his gun to the two soldiers. "Make sure you slide all weapons, easy-like, towards me. Unbuckle your belts. Good. Now take off your boots." When the soldiers hesitated, Heyes waved his gun. "You heard me. Now get into that corner and sit with your legs folded."
Heyes quickly found some twine. "Ben, will you cover them while I tie them up?"
"Okay, hands behind you." Heyes tied one set of hands and then the other. "You've been doing a good job of being quiet. You keep being quiet and I won't see fit to tie dirty bandanas over your mouths. Okay?"
"Yeah," the older soldier responded while the younger one nodded his head.
"So, Heyes, why are the soldiers on the train?" inquired Ben.
Heyes gestured towards the rear of the car where, not one, but two safes sat side by side. "Seems they're guarding their own payroll. Is that right?" He looked at the men in the corner. The older soldier hesitated and then nodded.
"Two payrolls! Hot dang!" Ben looked gleeful.
"Ben, you might want to reconsider taking two payrolls."
"And just why not?" Ben snarled.
Heyes sighed. "Two reasons. One, it will take me twice as long to open two safes…" Ben looked like he was going to interrupt but Heyes held up his hand to stop him. "…and two, same as if you kill a soldier. The army will hunt you down with all they have if you steal from them. Just let's take the $2,000 and get outta here while we can."
Ben looked at the two safes, to the soldiers, then back to the safes as he thought about what Heyes had told him. He smashed his hand on the side of the car. "Damn it!" Then, waving Heyes towards the safes with his gun he said, "Alright, open the other one and get me the money!"
Heyes grinned and went to the where the safes were at the back of the car just as Josh's voice called out. "Everything okay in there?"
"We're fine," Heyes called back before turning to the soldiers. "Which one is yours?"
"One of the left," growled the older soldier.
Heyes smiled as he knelt in front of the right safe. He took off his hat and flexed his fingers before leaning into the safe and manipulating the knob. He concentrated as he listened for the tumblers to fall into place. Fifteen minutes later he grinned as the safe opened.
"About time!" Ben impatiently pushed him out of the way and stuffed the money into empty saddle bags. He stood up when he finished, heading toward the door. "Let's get outta here!"
Heyes made to follow Ben but turned to the soldiers as he got to the door. "Just remember," he told them quietly, "I may have just robbed this train, but I saved your lives and stopped the Harper brothers taking your payroll into the bargain. I'm sorry I couldn't do more for you but I got my own hostage worries right now. You might say I was forced into doing this robbery." He touched the brim of his black hat in salute and dropped down from the landing to the sound of shouting near the passengers. His heart sank.
"Where's Kid when I need him!" Heyes muttered, hurrying toward the skirmish. "What's going on, Ben?"
"None of your business, Heyes." Josh answered for his brother. "Just keepin' the passengers in line." He raised his gun at a middle-aged man.
"Ben, we're done! Let's just get on our horses and get outta here," Heyes implored, holding both hands up. "No good will come out of killing someone."
Josh glowered at Heyes and cocked his gun.
"Ben!" Heyes shouted, his eyes pleading. "We've already been through this."
Ben walked over to his brother and put a hand on his gun. "Go take a walk, Josh."
"Ben…" Josh growled.
"NOW! Go bring the horses around," Ben ordered, his face red with anger. "Heyes, you, Clint, and Les get the passengers back to the train. Chris, go help your brother."
Josh shoved his gun into the holster and threw his hat on the ground before walking off towards the horses, ground-tied on the other side of the train.
"Do I have to?" Chris asked. "Rather stay away from him when he's that mad."
"Yes, you have to. Josh can't bring all the horses by himself. Now get." Ben took off his hat and pushed his hair back. He stood in the middle between his brothers and the passengers. "Gotta do somethin' about Josh's temper. It'll be the downfall of us yet," he mumbled.
Heyes put his hand on the threatened, shaken passenger's back and gently steered him towards the train. "Com'on, folks. Let's get back in the car where you'll be safe."
A young boy, clutched to his mother's dress, overhead Ben's orders as they made their way back to the train. "Ma, one of them is Hannibal Heyes!"
"Hush, dear!" The young woman took her son's hand and hurried him along.
"Mister, are you Hannibal Heyes?" the boy shouted out. "Where's your partner, Kid Curry?"
"Wish I knew," Heyes said quietly to himself. "I wish I knew."
Once the sun began to set and the temperatures cooled, desert animals began to emerge from their daytime shelters. Kid Curry crawled from beneath a shrub and looked around at his surroundings. "I have to find water. There has to be a river or a creek around here. There just has to be."
Getting his bearing of where he'd been, Kid Curry walked for awhile before looking for a shelter from the cold night. "I can make it to those rocks." He opened the top and sipped some water before plodding forward.
The Harper gang whooped and hollered as they galloped away. Only one looked towards the train and sighed before kicking his horse to follow the others.
They rode hard for several miles before letting the horses slow to a more comfortable long-striding gait. When they were a far enough away, they rested the horses and slowed their pace arriving at Browns Park shortly after dusk.
Heyes dismounted and walked straight over to Ben. "Okay, you're all back safe with the money. I held up my end of the bargain." He put his hands on his hips. "Now, where's my partner?"
Ben looked at Heyes for a moment and then gave him the briefest of nods. He turned to his brothers. "Tell him," he said simply handing his horse's reins to Les.
"We left him… what… you think about a four hour ride from here?" Chris looked at his brother for confirmation. Josh nodded and he continued. "That a way." He pointed east.
"Four hours east of here? In Colorado?" Heyes questioned. Josh nodded as Heyes raised his voice. "There's nothing out there but lots of hot, dry land!"
"Yep," Chris spit out some of his chaw.
"I don't believe it," snarled Heyes. "Alright, so where'd you leave him? Some sort of shack? A cave? What am I looking for?"
"You ain't lookin' for nothin'," spat Josh. "We jus' dropped 'im." Josh gave Heyes a nasty grin and stood up straighter, a challenge clear in his eyes. Chris looked slightly worried as his eyes darted between Heyes and Josh.
Heyes' blood ran cold as he stared at the brothers in shock, and then he saw red. He charged up to Chris, grabbing his shirt. "With nothing? He could be dead by now!"
"Back off, Heyes!" shouted Josh, his gun out, "or I'll just shoot you! Then Kid'll be dead for sure and we'll be rid of the both of you!" Ben marched over, grabbed Josh's gun arm and forced it down as Chris shoved Heyes away and took a step back.
"That's enough!" warned Ben. He turned to Heyes who was glaring in fury at the brothers. "You'd better get goin' an' find your partner, else it'll be your fault if he dies," he told him dryly. "We kept our side of the bargain now, too. We didn't kill no one." He shot Josh a quick warning glance.
Heyes stared at Ben. "It's been, what, two days? He's had no protection from the sun, no food, no water…"
"He had water," piped up Chris. "Two canteens full." At Josh' glare, he shrugged. "I left him a second one," he explained.
"Would he have been able to drink all tied up?" Heyes asked Chris.
"He weren't tied up, Heyes," said Chris quickly before looking slightly embarrassed and adding. "We didn't need to tie him. He was out cold when we left him…"
Heyes looked down on the ground for a moment and when he looked up again there was a deadly glint in his eye. He walked over to where Ben and Josh were standing, Ben still with his hand on Josh's arm holding the gun down. Heyes ignored it and stared Josh straight in the eye. "I'm gonna go find my partner and you'd just better pray that I find him alive because otherwise I will come back and I will hunt each and every one of you down if it's the last thing I do." Then, he turned abruptly and headed in the direction of the stables leaving the brothers staring after him.
Josh wrenched his arm out of Ben's grip and called after Heyes. "Just be grateful we're lettin' ya go at all!" Heyes ignored him and went into the stable as Josh angrily turned towards the cabin followed by his two brothers. Ben gave a contemplating look towards the stables as if he was wondering if Josh didn't have a point just shooting the ex-outlaw down.
Heyes stomped over to the corral and whistled for Curry's mount.
"Can I help ya, Heyes," Les asked sheepishly. "I don't want no harm to come to the Kid."
"You can gather ask many canteens as you can and fill them for me," Heyes said without looking at the man.
"Sure thing, Heyes."
Heyes moved quickly, saddling the Kid's horse and leading it to where his mare stood waiting outside. He knew that the brothers might change their minds any moment and decide it really would be easier to just kill him to make sure he wouldn't be a problem to them anymore. He had been stupid to threaten the brothers like that but he was furious and not just a little frightened at what they had done to the Kid and he just couldn't let that stand. He needed to get out of the camp fast and then plan his next move. He knew it would be nigh on impossible to find the Kid at night but he could make a camp a couple of miles away and then move at first light in the morning.
Les brought over ten canteens full of water and Heyes hung them over the horses' saddle horns. To give his horse a rest, he mounted the Kid's horse and led his own as he trotted out of the camp. Clint was keeping watch at the gate.
"Hope the Kid's alright," he called out to Heyes as he rode past. Heyes didn't bother to reply. He just headed east, hopefully towards the Kid.
Kid Curry stumbled to the pile of rocks. "Damn, no place to hole up tonight." He looked up at the moon that was barely shining. Sighing, he settled down for another cold night.
A dark blue sky lightened into deep shades of purple and pink when Heyes led Curry's horse through the Green River valley on his way to find his partner. Almost a dozen canteens hung off the saddle horns of the two horses. "This is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack," Heyes murmured as he urged his mount forward. "Hang on, Kid! I'm coming."
Kid Curry slowly stood up and yawned. He shivered most of the night and slept little. "Gonna be a long day." He headed toward a small copse of trees in the distance.
Heyes rode east what he estimated would have been four hours of loping. He remained vigilant along the way, looking for any sign of his partner. Standing up in his stirrups, he scanned the horizon. "What way did you go, Kid?" He sat in his saddle and wiped the sweat from his brow. "You woke up and looked around… I'm gonna guess you followed their trail back, didn't you. I must have missed you or you're wandering in circles."
Heyes headed back in a northwest direction. "Some champeen tracker I've turned out to be," he said, disgusted.
The sun was high overhead when Kid Curry made it to the stand of trees. "Water." He fell to his knees and began to dig. "Has to be water."
An hour later, the Kid lay sprawled in the shade. "Roots go down far… too far. Just got a little bit left."
The sun was beginning to set. Heyes stood on the stirrups again. "KID! KID!" he shouted, looking all around. He sat down dismayed. "Where are you?"
Heyes spotted a rock cropping in the distant. "Maybe you're over there." He urged his gelding forward and tugged on the sorrel's reins.
The rays of sun bounced off an object on the ground, immediately getting Heyes' attention. He kicked the horse into a trot and quickly jumped out of the saddle when he approached. "A canteen." He opened it and felt for moisture. "It has to be yours! KID! KID!" Heyes saw a few footprints in the sandy dirt. "Finally, something to go on!" Heyes mounted and slowly followed what was left of a trail.
"Have… to… go…" The Kid struggled to stand up, weak from hunger and thirst. He took a sip from his canteen. "Rocks ahead. Gotta make it… that far."
Right. Left. Right. Left. A few hundred feet later, Curry rubbed his hands on his arms as the temperature dropped. "So cold." He walked around the formation and found a large enough crevice to curl up. "Where are you, Heyes?"
The sky darkened, making any trail difficult to see, when Heyes finally stopped for the night. He wiped down the horses and gave them some water to drink. "Good thing I brought so many canteens. We're gonna need to find water tomorrow." Hobbling them, he let them graze on the little foliage in the area.
Heyes leaned back on his saddle, staring into the starry sky. "How are we gonna get out of this mess? Amnesty is gone. Y ou're wanted for murder and robbery. I'll be wanted for robbery, if I'm not already." Heyes thought about the previous day. "I do love the sound of the tumblers falling into place. I've missed that. We sure were better than the Harpers at robbing. No one got killed on our jobs. Then again, I never allowed a cold-blooded murderer to stay in the Devil's Hole gang." Heyes pondered for quite a few minutes. "If the amnesty is gone, maybe we'll do one more big job, like that army payroll, and disappear. Maybe go somewhere they haven't heard of Heyes or Curry." His eyes darkened. "The Harpers will be pay if the Kid is…" Heyes' voice died out.
Heyes saddled up and was ready with sun's appearance. The tracks he was following were sporadic, demanding all of his attention. "I gotta find you today, Kid. You can't have much water, if any on you." He hurried the horses forward.
The Kid crawled out of his nook and grabbed tight to the rock to help himself up. He shook his lifeline, the canteen. "Just a swallow… two." His eyes burned and his mouth was dry. He drank a little, soothing the chapped lips. Letting go of the rock, he became light-headed and fell to his knees. "Gotta keep goin'." He stood; his steps were sluggish, his body feeling heavy.
Curry made little progress from the rock when the bright sun beat down on him. "Gettin' dark…" he whispered in a raspy voice. He glanced up at the glaring sun. "Can't see…. Heyes…" He fell to his knees. "Where are…"
The darkness enveloped Kid Curry; he fell prostrate on the ground.
Heyes shook the canteen before opening the cap and taking a long drink of warm water. He removed his bandana and poured some of the precious liquid on it, wiped his face and then tied the wet material around his neck again. "That feels better." He took off his hat and was running his fingers through his matted hair when he noticed the birds. Four large birds rode the thermals as they flew in a circle around their prey near a rock formation. Heyes squinted against the sun, trying to see their quarry. He knitted his brow as he placed his hat back on his head and reined the gelding towards the boulders.
One brave vulture landed near the rock formation. As Heyes drew closer, the form of a human came into view. A cold sweat came over him, despite the heat of the day, as he spurred his horse forward, shouting and flailing his arms at the threatening scavenger. He dismounted before his gelding had come to a full stop and scrambled toward the figure.
"Kid?" he called, hoping against hope that he was wrong, it wasn't his partner, he wasn't too late. Heyes knelt and slowly rolled the man onto his back and his fears were confirmed. "Kid!" Curry's face was sunburned and his lips cracked. His skin was hot to the touch. "Don't you be dead, you hear?" he admonished, placing an ear to his partner's chest. He held his breath, listening for some sign of life then swallowed hard and lay three fingers carefully along his partner's neck. "A faint heartbeat… Feels like you're running a race, Kid!" He sighed. "At least you're alive."
Heyes sat on his haunches and looked around at the harsh land, capable only of growing sagebrush and rock. "I have to get you out of the sun and cooled down."
He stood and shaded his eyes from the sun. "There's a little shade by those rocks, but won't be for long. That'll have to do for now."
Heyes bent and, lifting Curry's shoulders, dragged him to some shade. He got several canteens and rummaged through a saddlebag until he found a clean bandana. Kneeling beside his partner, he poured water on the cloth and wiped his face. "Com'on, Kid, wake up. Need to get some water in you." He soaked the cloth and opened the Kid's mouth, letting the water drip inside. Heyes stroked Curry's throat, hoping he would swallow. Continuing to drip water, the Kid swallowed some of it. "That's right," Heyes encouraged.
After a few swallows, Heyes began taking off Curry's boots, pants, and shirt. "I have to cool you down." Once he had most of the clothes off, he soaked the Henley and cotton drawers, wetting the hot body down. Then he went back to dripping more water into his friend.
The sun beat down and the shade was starting to disappear. Heyes stood again. "Have to find some shade for all of us." He smiled when he spotted a small grove of trees in the far distance. "Trees! Maybe there's water. T here'll be shade, at least for us. But how to get you there…" Heyes looked at the Kid and back to the trees, took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair.
"Kid, I'm gonna have to leave you for a short time. I'll be back as soon as I can and get you somewhere we can camp." Heyes stood up. "I'll leave your horse here with you, just in case you feel up to following me. Don't' you…" Heyes gulped. "Don't' you go anywhere, you hear?"
Heyes ground-tied the sorrel near Curry and mounted his gelding, heading for the grove in at a lope.
A half an hour later, Heyes rode back to the rock, dragging two long, slender tree trunks. Dropping them, he hurriedly jumped from his horse and went back to his partner's side. He felt for the rapid heartbeat… and sighed in relief when he felt it.
"Well, for once in your life, I see you listened to me." Heyes went back to dripping water in the Kid's mouth and stroking his neck for him to swallow. "I see you've been to the trees before. At least I'm guessing it was you digging a hole. Looking for water, I bet." Heyes smiled when the Kid swallowed. "I brought back two tree trunks; I'm going to make a travois to get you to the grove for shade. Thought you'd prefer that instead of me throwing you over your saddle like a sack and tying you down. I think the trees will be a good place to wait out the heat and spend the night." Heyes continued coaxing water into his friend. "Tomorrow early we'll have to find more water. You can travel in the travois, if you decide to keep being lazy and laying there."
After getting some water into the Kid, Heyes stood up. "Shade's about gone. I have to work on making that travois. Shouldn't take me too long."
Half an hour later, Heyes nodded approval of a primitive travois, a rope webbing between two trunks and secured to Curry's sorrel. "That'll do."
Heyes knelt and dripped some more water into the Kid's mouth. "Time to go." He stood and picked up Curry's shoulders, dragging him onto the rope bed. He left a long end of rope to tie around the Kid's chest, securing him in place. When Heyes began stuffing Curry's clothing into a saddlebag, another idea came to him. He took the sweaty shirt and soaked it, then, wrapped it around his partner's head to cool him and to keep the sun off his face.
"Won't be a long ride," he promised. With that, he mounted his gelding and led the sorrel towards the grove.
The horses quickened their pace when they came close to copse – shelter from the sun during the heat of the day.
Heyes promptly dismounted and made his way to the Kid, feeling for a pulse. He breathed a sigh of relief when he felt the faint, rapid heart rate. The skin was still hot, but the Kid had survived the trip. He opened a canteen and dripped water into Curry's mouth. "Help me out, Kid. Swallow." With some coaxing, more water entered the dehydrated man's body.
Heyes untied Curry's bedroll and laid it out in the middle of the grove. Next he led the sorrel close by and unknotted the rope holding his friend on the travois. Hefting the Kid off the travois, Heyes laid him on the bedroll and poured more water on the hot body to cool it off. "That'll have to do for now. Let me take care of the horses and I give you some more water."
Heyes hurriedly unpacked the animals and brushed them down. He hobbled them and gave them a drink before letting them forage for food in the grove of trees. He gathered wood, preparing for a campfire to ward off the cold of the evening he knew was coming. All the while, Heyes kept one eye on his partner.
Once the chores were done, Heyes settled down next to the Kid and continued his ministration of painstakingly dripping water into Curry and keeping his body damp during the hot hours of the day.
The red orb slowly descended and disappeared behind the distant mountains, washing the sky in fiery colors of reds and oranges. Rapidly the temperature began to drop.
"Well, your body will be cool soon enough," Heyes commented, tired from the long, emotional day. "I should get the fire started to keep you warm." He stood and stretched. "And make some coffee for me. It's going to be a long night."
An hour later, Heyes finished tucking the bedrolls around the Kid to keep him warm. He poured a cup of coffee and cradled it in his hands for warmth as he blew into it. He sat back down next to his partner and took a few tentative sips. "Nice and hot for a chilly evening."
He put the mug down and dripped more water into his unconscious friend. "Next time WE see the Harpers… So help me!" Heyes took a deep breath and slowly released it. "Are you warm enough, Kid? You're getting better about swallowing the water. I'm gonna take that as a good sign. I'd feel better if your heart was beating a little slower and stronger. Wish I had some salve to put on your lips. Won't be kissing no girl with them for a while. Don't matter none since no girl will look twice your way. Your face is so sunburned it'll be peeling and you'll look uglier than normal." Heyes took a few more sips of coffee. "I wish you'd wake up. I'm getting tired of talking and no one listening. Actually," he yawned, "I'm just plain tired. Mind if I stop feeding you water and close my eyes for just a few hours?" Heyes yawned again and finished his coffee. "We have to get to a river tomorrow. You're not leaving much water for the horses and me. Not that it's your fault – damn Harpers!" Heyes curled up under his and the Kid's jackets. "Have to make it an early day…"
Soft snores mingled with the faint cry of a coyote.
Heyes rose with a start and looked around. The predawn sky was painted in purples and pink in the eastern horizon. The horses were munching on a few leaves and the fire had died.
"Damn, I slept longer than I wanted. Sorry about that, Kid! How are you feeling today?" He put three fingers on Curry's neck, feeling for a heartbeat – a little slower and stronger, but not where it should be. "Want some more water?" He dripped some into his partner's mouth. "Guess you're gonna be out, again, most of the day."
Heyes stood and stretched. "I'm gonna pack up and get the horses ready to go. I'll come get you when I'm ready."
In less than an hour, Heyes led the sorrel, dragging the travois, away from the grove of trees.
"How are you doing back there?" Heyes looked over his shoulder at his friend on the travois. "I know, it's getting really hot again. Must be about noon. You know, if you'd wake up we could get there faster. Would help if you could give yourself water, too. Not that I'm complaining…"
The sorrel nickered and bobbed his head up and down. The bay gelding answered back and quickened its gait.
Heyes reined up on the horse as he faced the front again. "Whoa, what's your hurry all of a sudden?" He glanced in the distance. "Is that a line of trees? It is! Kid, the river's up ahead! Soon you'll be cooled off and drinking all the water you want."
Heyes found a secure shady spot on the riverbank for a campground. He took the travois off of the sorrel, along with the rest of the gear from both horses, hobbled, and let them drink their full in the river. "You two deserve a long drink."
He went over to his partner and knelt. "How are you doing, Kid? Dang, you're hot again!" He checked the heart rate and sighed. "Gotta get some water in you, too."
Heyes filled a canteen with cool water from the river and poured it over the Kid's body. "That should help cool you down. Hope you don't mind, but I think I'll just keep in this travois so it's easier to move you around until you decide to wake up." He sat down and began dripping more water into Curry's mouth. "You can wake up any time, Kid."
After an hour of carefully giving Curry water, Heyes wiped the sweat from his brow. "It's hot today. Are you hot?" He touched the Kid's arm and sighed. "'Course you are." Heyes looked at the inviting river flowing beside him. "Kid, how about a swim?" He sat and removed his boots and socks. Standing up, he untied the holster thong from his thigh and took off his belts, laying the gun belt in reach. Next the shirt, pants, and hat came off until Heyes only had on his Henley and cotton drawers. He dove in to the water, shaking the excessive water off his head when he surfaced. "Wait until you get in here; it feels great!"
Heyes dripped water as he came back on shore. He grabbed their hats and put them on their heads and then dragged the travois into the river. He put the poles of the travois on a boulder in the shade where the water was several feet deep and held on to his partner as the cool water flowed pass them, taking their body's excess heat with it. Heyes took off the Kid's hat and poured water on his head, getting his hair wet, and then put the hat back on. "Can't let your face get sun-burned any more than it is already."
"Thirsty? I thought so." Heyes trickled more water into Curry's mouth. "Doesn't this feel good? Hey, remember when we were kids after our chores we'd go to that watering hole in the late afternoon? We'd be hot and sweaty, running to see who'd get there first. We peeled off our clothes, down to our drawers, like we are now, and dive into the water." Heyes closed his eyes and took a deep breath, slowly releasing it. "That was so refreshing! Oh, and the rope… swinging from the rope and letting go when we were over the water. Splashing each other…" He splashed the Kid's upper torso that was out of the water. "Those were fun times…"
The Kid was exhausted walking through a hot, barren desert. "Water… I have to find more water." His mouth was parched, his body dripping in sweat, his knees weak and barely able to hold him up. He staggered and fell, into a pool of… water? Where did that come from?
Curry greedily drank from the water as his body cooled in the refreshing water.
Then he was swimming upstream against a swift current. A voice – Heyes' voice – encouraged him to swim towards to him.
"Comin', Heyes! I'm comin'!"
"I still say I was the better swimmer. Of course, I was the old…" Heyes stopped feeding water into Curry's mouth when he saw his lips moving.
"Co… Hey…s Com…"
"Kid? Kid!" Heyes gently patted his partner's cheeks. "Com'on, Kid! Time to wake up!" He mildly shook Curry, but the shaking got stronger when the Kid didn't respond. "Kid! Kid!" Heyes sighed. "I know I didn't imagine it. You were talking to me, weren't you?" He felt for a heartbeat. "Seems a little stronger and slower. You're not outta the woods yet, but I think you're getting better. I sure hope so. No offense, but taking care of you now is like taking care of a newborn. I know, you'd do it for me, too. It's what partners do for each other, huh?" Heyes stared down stream. "I'm not one to kill, but I just might kill the Harpers next time we see them for doing this to you. And, for ruining our amnesty."
Heyes poured the last of the coffee into his tin cup and then filled the pot with more water for the morning. He took a sip as he glanced around the campsite. The horses were hobbled and resting nearby, content with all the water and greenery around them. Near the fire lay the Kid lying on the travois, wrapped up in a blanket to stay warm.
Heyes knelt and felt for a heartbeat. The skin felt cool to the touch. "It seems stronger, Kid, and not so fast. You cold?" He took a sip of coffee. "It's colder than last night, that's for sure. Maybe I'll lay down beside you and we'll share the blankets… that'll keep you warmer tonight."
All the blankets were soon covering the Kid. Heyes added some more wood to the fire and settled under the covers. He stared up at the few stars making their way through the canopy of tree branches. "Been a long few days. I sure hope you wake up soon."
"Heyes…" Curry spoke in a raspy soft whisper. "Heyes." The urgent voice was a tad louder.
"Hmmm…" came a sleepy reply.
"What's that, Kid?" Heyes mumbled.
"It's over there in…" Heyes sat up and grinned at the bleary blue eyes staring at him. "About time you woke up! I was thinking you were going to be like Rip Van Winkle and sleep a hundred years. You know, you had me scared there for a while, with the buzzards flying over you and…"
"Oh, let me get you some water. You must be thirsty, though I've been dripping water into you what seems non-stop since I found you." Heyes shivered as he got out from under the covers and threw some logs on the fire.
The Kid tried to move. "Tied… up?" he asked, confused.
"Oh, let me help you. I had you in a travois to move you around." Heyes untied the rope holding Curry on the travois. Then he pulled a saddle by the Kid's head and lifting his shoulders, elevated his head by leaning him against it. Next he poured water into a tin cup and held it out. "Think you can hold it?"
Curry nodded, but his hands shook when he went to grasp it.
"Maybe I should help you." Heyes held the cup to his partner's lips.
The Kid drank greedily and began to cough.
"Slow down; there's lots more." Heyes moved the cup away. "How are you feeling?"
"Lousy!" Curry said in a raspy whisper. "Thirsty and so tired."
"That don't surprise me." Heyes offered more and the Kid drank. "When I found you a few days ago, you were lying out there in the hot sun and your heart was racing like a posse was after you. Like I said, I've been trying to get water in you by dripping it in your…" Heyes set the empty cup down and pulled the covers up to his sleeping partner's chin, but not before checking his heartbeat. He smiled when he felt he slow, strong beat. "You just rest and get better."
Heyes rubbed his hands up and down on his arms and shivered as he glanced into the sky. "Still a few hours before sunrise." He poured water into the coffee pot and set it near the hot coals to heat up before heading back near his friend. "Move over, Kid. I'm coming back to bed."
The Kid, without waking up, rolled over on his side, facing the warmth of the fire, making more room for his partner.
Heyes curled up under the blankets with his backside to his friend. "Sure is good to have you back again, Kid."
The sun made its grand entrance before Heyes stretched and yawned. He glanced sideways at the Kid and grinned, relieved that it hadn't been a dream. Curry's breathing was steady and not labored like it had been. Heyes put three fingers on his partner's neck to check the heartbeat. Still slow and steady.
"What you doin'?" came a croaky voice, followed by a yawn.
"It's beating strong and steady, finally."
"Sure." Heyes pulled back the covers and stomped his boots on. He picked up a canteen, dropped it, and picked up another. He poured water into a cup as Curry struggled to sit up, leaning on the saddle. "Here, let me…"
"I can." With an effort, the Kid hoisted himself up and moaned from the physical exertion.
Heyes frowned as he watched. "Stubborn mule! You just woke up after being out for several days and you have to wear yourself out by insisting on sitting up without help."
Curry tried to glower, but gave up. "Water?" He held out his hands, still shaky from weakness.
"You want to try holding it yourself and spilling half of it or are you going to let me help until you gain your strength back?"
The Kid sighed and lowered his hands, admitting defeat.
Heyes bit his lip to suppress a smile and held the cup to his friend's lips, allowing him to drink. "Are you hungry?"
Curry drained the cup, shook his head, and laid back, his head on the saddle. "Just tired and thirsty." He closed his eyes. "Was I tied up?"
"Yep, I had you on a travois and…" Soft snores came from his partner. "Guess you are tired." Heyes threw some coffee beans into the pot of hot water, added some wood, and put the pot closer to the flames. After letting the water boil, he poured some coffee and cradled the cup in his hands, enjoying the warmth that spread through his body. He checked on the horses and gathered more wood. The day was warming quickly so he let the fire die.
An hour later, Heyes came back to the camp from cleaning up at the river. He carried a few canteens he filled with water. Glancing at his partner, he frowned and put down all but one of the canteens, hurrying to his side. Curry was flush and sweating. Heyes removed the blanket and shook his friend. "Kid! Wake up!"
Bleary blue eyes struggled to look up. "Hot."
"Yeah, I can see that." Heyes undid the top and offered the canteen. "How about more water?"
Curry nodded and drank greedily as his friend held the flask.
"It's heating up. How about spending the day by the river in the shade? Maybe take a bath? I can wash some clothes."
"Sounds like a good plan." The Kid held up his hand. "Help me up?"
"Sure, but you haven't been up for awhile and you're going to be weak."
Heyes grasped the proffered hands and helped his partner to his feet, putting the Kid's arm over his shoulder and grabbing tight around his partner's waist.
"Guess I am kinda shaky."
"Just a little," Heyes agreed as they took small steps.
"How far to the river?"
"Not far at all." They took a few more steps. "See it? It's downhill the rest of the way."
A few minutes later, Heyes settled his partner in a shady spot along the river. "There you go."
Curry scanned the area, taking in the slow moving river with shade trees along the banks and the mountains in the distance. "Nice place."
"I thought so." Heyes stretched. "I'm gonna go back to get the clothes and soap."
"Do you have my saddlebags?"
"Can you bring down clean clothes for me?"
"Was planning on it. I may have to burn what you have on." Heyes winked.
Curry ignored his friend's joke. "And my bedroll?"
Heyes snorted. "Anything else?"
The Kid pondered for a moment. "No, that should do."
"Clean clothes and your bedroll."
"Oh, and my gun!" Curry knitted his brow. "Do you have my gun?"
"Of course I have your gun."
"You gonna tell me what happened?"
"Later. Just get cleaned up and rest for now." Heyes turned and hiked up the bank to the camp.
When Heyes arrived back at the river, laden with clean set of clothes, soap, canteen, a gun slung across his shoulder, and a bedroll of dirty clothes, the Kid was leaning against a tree sleeping.
Heyes smiled. "You sleep as much as a newborn, too. Guess washing the clothes can wait until you wake up." Heyes went back to camp, got a book out of his bags, and sat down near his partner to read.
An hour later, Heyes closed his eyes and began nodding off, his book falling out of his hands.
"Heyes," Curry said in a raspy whisper. He cleared his throat and repeated a little louder, "Heyes."
Brown eyes opened promptly. "What?!" He yawned. "Do you need something?"
"I'm thirsty. You got some water?"
"Water? You woke me up for water when you're sitting next to a river?"
"Fine, I'll get it…"
"No, you're likely to fall in and drown. There's a canteen full next to you."
The Kid looked around. "Oh, thanks!" His hands trembled as he open the top and took deep drinks.
"Sure you're not hungry? You haven't eaten since… sheesh, you probably haven't eaten since Thursday."
"What day is it?"
Curry rested his head against the tree and closed his eyes. "Maybe later."
Heyes smiled. "You rest and I'll catch us a few fish."
"Sounds good," the Kid's voice faded off.
Curry woke up startled to the trickling of water on his face. He reached for his gun as he opened his eyes.
"I figured you napped long enough." A dimpled smile, with a wet hand, greeted him. "I caught some fish for dinner and I wanted to wash clothes so things would dry before nightfall." He offered a hand. "And you need a bath."
The Kid stood up with help. "I sure do. It'll feel good to be clean and in clean clothes." Clothes were peeled off and thrown in a pile. "Do you have soap and a razor?"
"Here's the soap." Heyes handed him the bar and walked alongside his weak partner into the water, ready to help him if needed. "You're not going to be able to shave for a while."
Curry reached up and rubbed his chin. "What's wrong with my face? It feels kinda hot and dry, but…"
"It's burned and blistered from the sun. You're gonna have to wait for it to heal before shaving." Heyes grabbed the Kid's elbow to steady him when he slipped on a rock. "No competition who's the most handsome now."
"Shoot. I hate havin' a beard."
"I'm just hoping you shave the beard and mustache when you can."
"What?" The Kid brushed his upper lip with his fingers. "You don't like me with a mustache?"
The men washed themselves and then Curry sat in the water, rinsing the clothes while Heyes soaped them up and scrubbed.
"Here's the last one," Heyes said as he handed him a shirt. "I'll go hang them out to dry while you finish up." He grabbed the pile of wet clothes and began hanging them on the bushes and tree branches to dry. "There's a nice warm breeze – they should be dry soon."
"Good!" Curry concentrated on getting out of the water without faltering. "Here's the last one rinsed." He sat down on a boulder. "Sheesh… I'm feelin' light-headed."
"Probably because you haven't eaten for so long." Heyes reached in the cool water for the string of fish. "Why don't you stay down here where it's cooler and I'll cook up the dinner."
"Sounds like a plan, Heyes." Curry yawned as put on his clean clothes and then leaned against a tree, falling asleep quickly.
The smell of fish, biscuits and coffee woke the Kid and he struggled up the riverbank. He was breathing heavily as he walked into the camp.
Heyes jumped up and walked over to him. "I was about to come down and help you up here. Why don't you sit right here?" He led his friend where the saddles were so he had something to lean against.
"I hate feelin' so weak! Do you think we're safe here for a while?"
Heyes filled the plates with food and joined Curry. "Yeah, I think we'll be okay here until you have your strength back. I haven't seen hide nor hair of anyone."
The Kid took a bite. "Good."
"Good we can stay or the food is good?"
The men finished the meal quietly and quickly.
"I'm still wanted for murder, huh?" the Kid asked.
"Yeah and I officially came out of retirement doing that robbery. We'll have to go to Porterville and see about clearing both of our names."
"Damn those Harpers! If I ever get my hands on them…"
"You'll have to get in line behind me, Kid." Heyes poured coffee in two cups and handed one to his partner.
"What happened after they got rid of me? How did the robbery go?"
"Well…" Heyes settled back against a saddle and told the details of train robbery.
A Few Weeks Later
Heyes and Curry cautiously rode into Porterville after dark. Raucous sounds of music, talking and laughter came from the saloon, but the streets were quiet. They dismounted and tied their horses to the hitching post near the sheriff's office where a soft light was emitting from the window.
The men quietly stepped onto the boardwalk and pressed themselves against the building. Heyes ventured a quick look through the window to check who was inside. He nodded to Curry and, going over to the front door, motioned for him to go around to the back.
Sheriff Lom Trevors sat at his desk doing the last of the day's paperwork. He looked up when he heard the door knob turn and, ever cautious, quickly put his right hand on the butt of his gun.
Heyes, his gun already out and aimed at the sheriff, slipped through the door in one swift movement shutting it behind him. "Howdy, Lom," he said.
Lom's eyes narrowed as he slowly took in the pointed gun and Heyes' grim expression. He took a slow breath and then said, "You know, I have orders from the governor to arrest you and Curry for breaking your amnesty deal."
"So the governor can break the deal and not get arrested, but we can't?" Heyes sneered.
"No, Heyes! YOU can't!" hissed Lom angrily, emphasizing each word. "Do you have any idea just how much trouble you're in."
"I've got a pretty good idea, yeah," snapped Heyes.
"Really! Then, just where'n the heck have you been?"
"He's been with me," came a calm voice from behind.
Lom startled and turned around. Kid Curry stood with his gun drawn. The sheriff's shoulders slumped as the anger seemed to just go out of him and he raised his hands away from his own weapon in mock surrender. "Kid," he said and then he shook his head. "I know I locked that door."
"You did;" answered Curry. "I unlocked it."
Heyes raised a brow. "Learning from me, are you?"
"Funny," came the sarcastic reply.
Lom sighed. "Look, boys…" Heyes and Curry both turned towards the sheriff. "What are you even doing here? Kid, you're wanted for armed robbery and murder. Heyes…" He paused and then started again, his irritation once more winning through. "Heyes, what was left of the amnesty deal is off. I warned you not to do anything illegal and you went and robbed a train. How could you?"
Heyes walked over to Lom and removed his gun from its holster, putting it on the desk before putting his own one away. "I had to save the Kid," he replied simply.
"What're you talking about?" Lom turned to look at the Kid who had already holstered his own weapon and was pouring out two cups of coffee. Now he looked, Lom realized the man did look rather pale. It was clear he'd also lost weight and there was an air of weariness to the way he held himself. He shook himself out of his short reverie when he realized the Kid was pointing to the coffee cup that was in front of him, his face a question.
"Yeah, please," said Lom still staring at Curry who came over with the coffee pot and poured him a refill. His hand trembled very slightly and Lom felt a jolt of shock that the Kid could not hide that weakness and he raised his eyes to meet the Kid's steady gaze. "You don't look so well," he said softly.
Heyes snorted. "He looks a dang sight better than he did a few weeks ago," he told the sheriff. "When I finally found him the buzzards were about to land on him."
"Yeah, buzzards. He'd been left out in the middle of the desert." Heyes couldn't hide the bitterness in his voice.
Lom turned to stare at the Kid who merely shrugged his shoulders and sat down on a side bench. "I survived."
"Barely!" Heyes' eyes were flint hard.
Lom took a gulp of coffee. "What happened? Because the last I heard, you'd just robbed a bank and shot the teller."
"An' you believe that?" asked the Kid.
"If I believed that, we wouldn't be talking," snapped Lom.
"Lom," said Heyes. "You know he didn't do any of those things. You know he wouldn't. I'll tell you what did happen though. The Harper brothers kidnapped him and the robbery was staged to get me because they knew I'd come looking for him."
Lom looked over to Heyes. "The Harper brothers killed a man to get you?"
"Yeah, Lom, they did," replied the Kid quietly.
"And then they almost killed the Kid, too, for the same reason," Heyes went on, "and so now we need to get them."
Lom stared at the partners. "You're serious?"
Heyes and Kid both nodded.
"May I remind you again that you're both wanted for robbery!" said Lom. "And, guilty or not, Kid is wanted for murder. The amnesty deal is history and I can't believe I'm sitting here talking to you! I should be arresting you."
"We need your help, Lom," said Heyes.
Lom sighed and stood up from his desk turning away from the partners.
"Lom…" said Heyes, his voice holding a note of pleading, "I've done a lot of thinking about this while nursing the Kid back to health. That's what we've been doing all this time. I've had weeks and I think I might have a way of proving the Kid's innocence. Then, if you could talk to the governor about 'extenuating circumstances', there might even be a chance of Kid getting his amnesty deal back."
"What about you?" Lom asked.
"Well, like you said, I robbed a train," replied Heyes, "so I can understand if the governor isn't feeling that sympathetic towards me right now. I had no choice on that one though. It was that or Kid's life."
The sheriff's back stiffened before his shoulders, once more, slumped down. He turned back towards the two ex-outlaws. "I think you need to fill me in on everything that's happened since I last saw you," he said, "and then we'll take it from there."
Heyes smiled. "Well, you already know the Harper gang was holding the Kid prisoner and when I arrived they held me there, too, and told me they wanted me to help them rob their first train. They threatened the Kid when I refused and, in the end, they took him out into the desert and left him. I had to help them with the robbery before they'd tell me where he was. By the time I could get to him, he'd been out there for about five days with no food, no shelter and almost no water."
Kid nodded once before looking down. "Like I said, I survived."
"And I had no choice," repeated Heyes.
"Okay," said the sheriff. "Well, if you've come to me I'm assuming you've already put together some sort of plan?"
"Yeah," replied Heyes, "a plan starting with you."
Lom looked worried but Heyes went on. "Look, did you talk to the witnesses from that train robbery? Or the soldiers? It's really important that you do. They'll tell you that I actually saved their lives. I also talked Ben Harper out of stealing the military payroll on top of the other money. I'm sort of hoping that that will count for something if the governor ever wants to hear our side of things."
"You're going to have to come up with more than that if you want him to listen to you," Lom told him.
"I know," said Heyes. "But I have it all worked out. What if you get to catch the Harper brothers in the act of robbing a train? And then, if they are brought to trial in Evanston, I'm pretty sure I've found a way we can prove the Kid didn't rob the bank or murder the teller."
"There's more than a couple of 'ifs' in there," said Lom. "Are you sure you know what you're doing, Heyes?"
"When does he ever?" deadpanned Kid.
"Hey, it'll work," said Heyes.
Lom sighed. "I'll be seeing the governor in a couple of days, anyway," he informed the partners. "You tell me what you've got planned and I'll see what I can do for you."
The two ex-outlaws smiled.
A Few Weeks Later
Clint rode into the Brown's Park hideout around dusk calling, "Ben, we got company!"
The Harpers came out of the cabin; Josh with his hand on the butt of his gun.
Hannibal Heyes was dismounting next to a decidedly nervous Clint. He shoved the reins into Clint's hand and turned to face Ben.
"Heyes! What brings you back here?" asked Ben. He glanced to both his brothers who were moving around subtly to half-surround the ex-outlaw.
"Yeah, you found the Kid, didn't you?" asked Chris.
"I did," answered Heyes coldly.
"Alive?" Josh snorted.
"Alive!" came a response with a click of a gun behind the Harpers. "Drop your guns – NOW – then kick them over here!"
The three brothers turned around, saw the Kid and, one after the other, placed their guns on the ground.
Heyes scowled. "I should let him shoot you all for what you did to him."
"If you were going to shoot us, you'd have done it already," said Ben. "So why'd you come back?"
"Because you took something very important from us and now it's lost forever," Heyes told him.
"We figure you owe us," Curry added, "and so we've decided you're gonna help us."
Heyes took off his gloves and tucked them into his belt. "Why don't we go inside and sit down while I tell you what's going to happen. Les, you too. Get over here!"
"And if we don't want to?" Josh challenged.
"You don't have a choice!" Curry glared as he walked up to Josh and aimed his gun at his chest. "You see, you made sure I'm wanted for murder so I feel like I've got nothin' to lose. Now get in there and sit like Heyes told you."
Josh backed away a step before turning to follow his brothers, Les, and Clint back into the cabin.
"So what's this all about?" Ben said as he sat down. "What did we take away from you?"
"You hadn't heard much about me and the Kid lately, had you?" Heyes helped himself to some coffee and handed a cup to Curry.
"Yeah, I guess we hadn't, but then we don't really go in your area, or read the papers."
Heyes sat down on the opposite side of the table from the brothers with the Kid behind them, his weapon still drawn. "The Kid told you we retired from the business…"
"There was a reason for it," Kid said.
"What reason?" jeered Josh.
"We were offered an amnesty," Heyes told him calmly.
"Amnesty? What's that?" Chris asked with a puzzled look on his face.
"We HADa deal with the governor – our names would be cleared if we went straight and gave up robbing for good."
"The governor offered you that?" Ben questioned skeptically.
"He did and we were close – real close – to getting it." Heyes sipped some coffee.
"You took that away from us," Kid said, his voice like ice, "and now it's gone for good."
There was a short uncomfortable silence as the gang members digested this new information while keeping an even more wary eye on the Kid's unwavering pistol.
"Well…" began Ben, but Heyes put up his hand.
"What's gone is gone," he said, "but it means we can't stay here anymore either and we decided to retire to Mexico. For that," he went on, "we need to give our finances a little boost and that's where you come in."
"Like we said, you owe us," said the Kid simply.
"You do," confirmed Heyes, "but we'll make it worth your while too. One big job; I've got it all planned out. We get half the take and you fellas share the other half…"
"That ain't fair!" Chris cried out.
"Fair?" Curry asked, a dangerous tone to his voice. "Like leavin' me in the desert was fair?"
"We didn't mean nothin' by it, Kid. And we left you some water," Josh sneered.
"You didn't mean nothing by it!" Heyes slammed his fist on the table. "No food or shelter for five days!"
Les and Clint sank down in their seats under Heyes' furious stare. The Harper brothers all looked angry and uncomfortable.
"Kid, you know what? Get 'em outta here before I do something I'll regret," Heyes demanded. "We'll talk about the job tomorrow."
"You heard the man," said Kid. "Get."
"'Get' where?" demanded Josh. "This is OUR cabin."
"Nope," the Kid told him. "You're sleeping in the shed. Don't worry. It's all part of the plan."
Ben looked furious but all five men moved as Curry cocked the gun and gestured for them to move. He followed the gang outside and over to the shed waiting until all of the gang had gone inside before closing the door behind them and locking it. "Don't worry, Clint," he called through the door. "I'll see to the horses tonight."
When he returned to the cabin, Heyes was sorting through papers and maps with a frown. The Kid put his hand on his partner's shoulder. "Hey," he said. "We went through this. It'll work."
"Yeah, sure," said Heyes sounding doubtful.
"I trust you, Heyes," Curry told him. "It'll work. Now get some rest."
Heyes gave him a grateful smile. "Okay." He paused and then said, "You know, I thought we'd be having to control your temper when we met the gang again. Turns out I'm gonna have to work on mine."
"Well, I didn't have to deal with finding my partner left for dead in the desert," said the Kid. "Guess I was the lucky one."
"You have a funny idea of luck," replied Heyes, darkly. "Maybe that's why you always lose at cards."
The next morning, Kid Curry banged on the shed. "Time to get up and make us breakfast! Heyes wants to tell you the plan afterwards."
"We're coming," grumbled Ben.
"I can't believe you're lettin' them boss us around, Ben," Chris complained. "We're supposed to be the leaders – not them!"
"Shut up!" Ben stood up and stretched the kinks out of his back. "What do you want to do? They have our guns and ammunition. Besides, it don't hurt to hear what Heyes has planned. Half of a really big heist might not be so bad." He walked out of the shed. "Les! Clint! Get in the cabin and start breakfast."
Right after breakfast everyone was sitting at the table while Curry leaned against the wall with his arms folded and Heyes paced.
"The Kid and I need one big job so we can live comfortably in Mexico," Heyes began. "So we're going to rob the army payroll train."
"But you said it'd be dangerous – the army would hunt us down," Ben interrupted.
"We'll be south of the border where they can't touch us," Heyes replied.
"What about us?" Les asked.
Heyes snorted. "Do you think we care what happens to you after what you did to us?" He waited for a reply and continued when there was none. "There's word that the payroll on the next train will be $60,000. That means there'll be $30,000 for us and $30,000 for you to split."
Clint whistled. "That's a lot of money!"
"Sure is," Chris agreed.
"A lot of money for the army to get really mad!" Ben growled.
Heyes shrugged his shoulders. "So disappear like we're doing. That'll be $6,000 each and can go a long way if you don't waste it on liquor and gambling."
"Can we go down to Mexico with you and the Kid?" Les asked.
"No! Once the money is dealt out, you're on your own." Heyes put a map on the table. "The train will be going through this area tomorrow in the late afternoon. We'll be there to meet it… and relieve it of some cash."
"Why not where we stopped it the last time?" Josh questioned.
"Because," Heyes explained impatiently, "they'll be more on guard in that location. Any more dumb questions?"
No one risked saying anything.
"Be ready to ride out at noon today. Guns will be cleaned and ready." Heyes put the weapons on the table, along with the cleaning supplies.
"Don't you even think about usin' one of those guns on us or it'll be with your last breath," Curry growled menacing. "I'm just lookin' for an opportunity to pay you boys back."
By noon the gang was mounted and following Heyes out of Brown's Park with Kid Curry in the rear, watching his partner's back.
The following afternoon, the gang was in place waiting for the train. Les and Clint were near the tree line where the Harper gang's horses were tethered, ready to be loosened and rode. They were to help monitor any passengers and the train crew. Chris and Josh crouched behind a boulder nearby the log across the track; their job would be to jump the train and stop the engineers. Ben leaned on a tree opposite Les and Clint, ready to rush the train when it stopped and assist with the crew. All were given orders not to kill.
Heyes paced along the tracks, waiting for the train's arrival. Kid Curry sat on his gelding at an advantage point; keeping his eyes on the gang and scouting for first signs of the train.
A shrill whistle from the Kid alerted everyone that the train would be there in a few minutes. Guns were drawn and checked for bullets. The men stayed out of sight, waiting for the word from Heyes.
An engine rounded a corner, spewing smoke and steam from its stack. As soon as the log came into view, the piercing sound of the brakes being applied was heard. The gang came out of their hiding places towards the train. Curry made his way down from the advantage point towards Heyes.
Chris and Josh ran and were about to jump into the engine when shots rang out from the cab.
"What the…" Josh fired back as he and Chris took cover.
As the train quickly slowed, a boxcar door slammed open. Armed men, mounted on horses, yelled and began encouraging their animals to jump out of the car. Chaos ensued with the outlaws running for cover while shooting at the men.
Curry galloped toward Heyes, kicked his boots out of the stirrups, and gave his partner an arm up. Gracefully, Heyes swung up behind and slapped the gelding's rump, encouraging him to run. The Kid headed for the tree line and they zigzagged through the birches and pine to avoid the bullets.
"Did you get hit?" the Kid shouted when they had put some distance between themselves and the foiled train robbery.
"I'm okay," Heyes assured his partner. "Close call!"
"Horse isn't goin' to last much longer."
"He doesn't have to. We should be there soon."
A short time later, the gelding came to a meadow with a stream running through it. Hobbled nearby were two horses and gear. Curry pulled the tired horse up to the others and helped Heyes jump off before dismounting himself. They hurriedly tacked the fresh mounts, threw on saddles and cinched them up. The horses were un-hobbled, the gear taken off the tired horse, and the former outlaws were off, again.
A few weeks later, Heyes and Curry rode into a town, noting the location of the hotel, livery, saloon, and sheriff's office. They reined their tired mounts in front of the barn and dismounted.
"While you settle in the horses, I'm going to send Lom a message to see what happened and if we've been cleared of the robbery and murder charges." Heyes handed the reins to his partner.
"I'll meet you in the saloon." Curry took the reins and led both animals into the livery.
Heyes walked across the street and entered the Western Union office. "I'd like to send a telegram," he said to the clerk behind the counter.
"Sure thing." The elderly man handed him a piece of paper. "Write down who you want to get it and the message."
Heyes wrote on paper, handed it to the clerk and paid the man. "We'll be staying in the hotel tonight if there is a reply."
"I'll see that you get it." The clerk sat in front of the machine and began clicking at the striking hammer.
Heading to the saloon, Heyes found Curry at the bar with two beers being placed in front of him.
"Good timing. Get the message off?"
"Yep. Hopefully we'll hear soon from Lom."
Deputy Wilkens entered the office, waving a piece of paper. "Sheriff Trevors, you got a telegram."
Lom took the paper and scowled as he read the simple message:
To Sheriff Trevors
Is all okay with mutual friend? Stop. Please update. Stop.
Teller City, CO
"About time I hear from them," Trevors grumbled as he stood and grabbed his hat. "Harker, I'll be back in a few minutes."
Curry and Heyes entered the hotel and rang the bell on the desk. A gentleman came out from a side room. "Can I help you?"
"Yes," Heyes said as they put their saddlebags and rifles down. "We want a room for the night."
"One or two beds?"
"How much is two beds?" asked the Kid.
"Two beds is three dollars while one bed is two dollars," the clerk replied.
Curry looked questioningly to his partner who was counting his money.
"We'll take one bed." Heyes grabbed the pen and began checking in.
The hotel clerk glanced at the new name in the register. "Mr. Smith? I just received a telegram for a J Smith." He turned and grabbed a paper from a cubbyhole then handed it to him.
The Kid signed the register with the name Thaddeus Jones. "Is that from who I think it is with an update?"
Heyes quickly read the message and scowled.
"That's not good," the Kid commented.
Heyes headed to the stairway. "I'll tell you about it upstairs."
"Piedmont? That's awful close to Evanston." Curry sat on the bed and removed this boots.
Heyes began to pace the room. "Yep."
"And when do we have to be there?"
"Lom said to meet him there in a week."
The Kid lay back in the bed. "Guess we'll be leaving tomorrow morning. What do you think it's about?"
Heyes stopped pacing for a moment. "Whatever it is, it's not good, Kid."
Kid Curry and Heyes yawned and stretched as they got off their horses in front of the Piedmont livery.
"Think Lom is here already?" Heyes wondered aloud.
"I'm hopin' he's at the saloon 'cause that's where I'm headin' for. I need a drink after that trip." Curry handed the gelding's reins to the boy at the livery. "Make sure he gets a good rub down and an extra measure of grain. He deserves it."
Heyes pulled out a few coins and handed it to the same young man. "This should cover it."
"Will they be stayin' the night?" the boy asked as he pocketed the money.
"We'll get you know as soon as we know." Heyes turned and followed his partner to the nearest drinking establishment.
The two men walked into the saloon and let their eyes adjust to the darker room. They glanced quickly around the room.
"He's not here." Heyes grabbed Curry's arm and turned toward the door. "Let's go to the next one."
The Kid allowed himself to be led. "But if he's not there, we're gettin' a drink before lookin' for him anymore."
The men walked down the street a block to find two saloons across the street from each other.
"Bucket of Blood or Lucky Horseshoe?" asked Heyes.
"Lom in the Bucket of Blood? I say Lucky Horseshoe."
Again, they entered the establishment and let their eyes adjust before sweeping the room with their eyes to see if there was a familiar face or one of an enemy. The Kid smiled and pointed to a table in the back corner. "Told you."
Curry went to the bar to order two beers while Heyes joined Trevor. "Howdy Lom," he said as he sat down.
"I take it you don't have good news if you wanted to meet us this close to Evanston."
"You got that right," growled Lom. "Wait for Jones and I'll tell you what's happened."
The Kid brought over three beers. "Thought you might need another, Lom."
"Sit down. We have to talk."
The men sipped their beer and leaned forward. "What happened?" Heyes asked. "I take it we're not in the clear."
Trevors glanced around the room and was satisfied no one was listening to them. "The soldiers and the passengers were quick to say how you were unwilling to be at the robbery, Heyes, and that you saved several lives. The governor is willing to overlook your part in the robbery."
The Kid put down his glass and sighed. "But I'm still wanted for murder."
"Sorry, Kid." Trevor took a drink. "That's why I asked you here. We have to think of a way for the folks in Evanston to see you with the Harpers and point to them as the killers."
"That's risky, Lom. What if others see the Kid and identify him as the real Kid Curry?"
"Do we have a choice, Heyes?" Curry pushed his drink away.
"The Harpers just arrived in Evanston to stand trial. According to Sheriff Smith – yes, Sheriff Smith – they are saying they did the robbing with Kid Curry and he killed the teller. That way they get sentenced for seven years and don't hang."
"Who got a good look at the robbers and killer?" Heyes asked, his mind beginning to plan.
"Several businessmen and some women with their children were in the bank."
"Have they seen the Harpers and identified them yet?" Heyes figured the rim of his glass as he thought.
"Not yet." Lom shook his head. "Sheriff Smith was planning to do it during the trial. He didn't want to have them have to relive the robbery twice."
"When's the trial start?"
"Trial starts in two days. That's why I asked you to come here now."
"You gettin' a plan, Heyes?" the Kid asked, hopeful.
A few days later, the Heyes and the Kid sat in a bar in Evanston.
"Bar sure is empty," Curry commented.
"That's because everyone is at the trial."
"Are you sure about this, Heyes?"
"Nope. Lots of things can go wrong. But it's the only thing I could come up with."
The Kid sighed. "I hope Lom is able to give me my hat and jacket back. I've grown attached to them. Warmest jacket I've owned."
"But if things don't go as I planned, guess you won't be needing either of them."
"Let's just hope I will be needin' them!"
Lom Trevors sat in the front row of the Harper Brothers trial. In his arms were Curry's brown hat and sheepskin jacket. Beside him were seated the witnesses who were in the bank.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you for coming today to identify the men who were part of this town's horrific bank robbery a few months ago." A lawyer walked back and forth in front of the witnesses. "We have yet to identify the murderer, who claimed to be Kid Curry and wore items similar to those in Sheriff Trevors' arms. Is that correct?"
The witnesses nodded.
"The murderer was about average height, close to thirty in age, with curly blond hair. Is that correct?"
Again, the witnesses nodded.
"Sheriff Trevors has suggested that the killer may be in this very town."
The audience and witnesses gasped.
"He has suggested a 'line-up' of men that fit the description and wearing the hat and jacket that is similar to that of the robbery. Judge, I would like to take a 30 minute recess to round up men fitting this description. Each man, including all the Harpers' gang, will be asked to put on the hat and jacket to see if the witnesses can positively identify the murderer."
"Thirty minute recess." The judge slammed down his gavel.
A deputy came up to the poker game and stared at the Kid. "Excuse me, sir, but you're wanted at the courthouse."
Curry looked up. "Me? What did I do?"
"Nothing. The judge wants a bunch of men that are about your size and age with curly hair for a 'line up'".
"He called it a 'line-up'. Shouldn't take more than an hour of your time."
"Do I have a choice?"
"Nope. Let's go."
Curry put down his cards and took the money in front of him. "Hope I'll be back soon, gentlemen."
Heyes winked at his partner as he turned to leave with the deputy.
The court resumed in a half an hour with four men fitting the description of the killer. The first man put on the hat and jacket and faced the witnesses.
"Nope, it wasn't Mr. Penney from the mercantile. He's too tall," one of the businessmen said and the rest agreed.
The second man put on the hat and jacket and faced the witnesses.
"Nope. This man is too old." The rest of the witnesses agreed.
Curry slid on the jacket and hat and faced the witnesses with a smile.
"Definitely wasn't him," one of the women responded. "We would have remembered him!" The other women nodded and the men agreed.
The fourth man put on the hat and jacket and faced the witnesses.
"No. The man wasn't that tall," one of the businessmen said and the rest agreed.
"Please take a seat in the back of the courtroom for a moment," the lawyer requested. "Sheriff Smith, please bring in the Harper brothers, one at a time."
Josh Harper was led into the courtroom and paled when he saw the jacket and hat.
"Mr. Harper, please put on the jacket and hat and face the witnesses."
Josh put on the hat and jacket and slowed turned towards the audience. The witnesses gasped and backed up. "He's the killer! He's the one who killed the teller!"
"Are you sure?" the lawyer asked. "This is Joshua Harper and not Kid Curry."
"It's him alright! I've had nightmares about him since it happened," another witness spoke up.
Josh Harper panicked and snatched the deputy's gun. He held it at the audience. "Let me go and no one gets hurt."
Curry took the safety off his gun and watched the drama unfold, ready if needed.
"You heard me! You let me go and…" Harper grabbed one of the female witnesses. "And she won't get hurt."
One of the witnesses fainted while others in the audience screamed.
The screaming brought people throughout the town towards the courthouse, including Hannibal Heyes.
"Back up!" Josh demanded. "Let me out of here!"
The people split in half, allowing Harper and his prisoner access to the door.
"Don't do it, Harper," warned Trevors as he passed him. Lom looked in the back and saw Curry, who nodded at him. Trevors imperceptibly shook his head, warning him not to take action.
"Out of my way, lawman, or she's dead!" Harper pushed the girl in front of him. As a second thought, Harper turned the gun towards the sheriff.
"Trevors!" Curry shouted out a warning.
Lom moved quickly to the side, missing a bullet, and then fired his weapon. Harper and the girl fell into the aisle of the courtroom, blood pooling on the floor.
Women screamed and folks rushed forward. Curry slipped out the courtroom door and down an alley to avoid the crowds. Heyes followed after his partner and caught up with him.
"Kid, what happened?" Heyes demanded.
"The witnesses identified Josh as the killer and he grabbed the deputy's gun. Took one of the witnesses as his way out and then turned the gun on Lom."
"Did he get Lom?"
"No. I shouted out a warning and Lom got out of the way." Curry took a deep breath. "Someone's dead in there, though. I didn't want to stay around with everyone comin'."
"Come on." Heyes gently led his partner by the arm. "Let's go around to the back and see if we can figure out what happened."
"Message for you, Mr. Smith." The desk clerk handed a piece of paper to Heyes.
"From Lom?" the Kid asked as he glanced at the note.
"Yep. Wants to meet us in Piedmont, again."
Heyes, Curry and Sheriff Trevors sat at a table in the back of the saloon with a whiskey bottle.
"So Les and Clint admitted you were miles away in locked in a shed during the robbery and that Josh Harper wore your jacket and hat. Josh is dead."
"And the governor…" the Kid asked.
"And the governor has reinstated both of your deals for amnesty since you were not at the Evanston robbery."
"I'll drink to that!" Heyes poured whiskey in the three glasses and they clicked glasses before drinking.
"Well, I better get going. Have to get back to Porterville before it blows up again." Lom stood up to go.
"It's safe, Lom. We're here with you." Heyes grinned.
"Ah, Lom? Do you have anything for me?" asked the Kid.
Trevors snapped his fingers. "As a matter of fact I do!"
Heyes and Curry followed Lom out of the saloon and Trevors untied a sheepskin jacket and hat from his saddle. "I didn't want to give it to you while in Evanston."
The Kid took the items from the sheriff.
"What happened to the girl that Josh had, Lom?" Heyes asked.
"She's shaken, but okay. Your 'line up' idea was a good one, Heyes. I might have to use it again someday." Lom faced the Kid. "By the way, thanks for the warning."
Trevors mounted his horse. "Be careful loaning that out to anyone else, okay, Kid?"
Curry grinned as he put on his jacket and hat. "You bet!"