Alias Smith and Jones

Originally published in Ouch! #16, by Neon RainBow Press

Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing. Biblical quotations are taken from the King James translation.

You Know that Wyoming

Will Be Your New Home

by Susan M.

Yippee ti-yi-yay, get along, little doggies,

It's your misfortune and none of my own

Yippee ti-yi-yay, get along, little doggies,

You know that Wyoming will be your new home.

Jedediah "Kid" Curry looked at his partner's bleeding, battered body. Another shot ricocheted against the rocks. Curry bit his lip, but he could think of no other option. He looked around for something white. His shirt was blue, under all the dust. His bandanna was red. Heyes was wearing brown. Short of stripping down to his underwear, he couldn't find anything white to use as a flag.

"Hey!" he yelled. Sweat plastered his light brown hair to his head and flattened his curls. The shooting stopped.

"Hey, yourself," one of the posse yelled back.

"You got a doctor in town?" Curry asked.


"My partner's hurt bad. You promise to let him see the doctor first, before you throw us in jail, and I'll surrender," Curry offered.

"It's a deal."

"Your word on it?" the gunslinger persisted.

"Just shoot 'em," another voice remarked. "The wanted poster said 'dead or alive'."

"Shut up, Jake. My word on it," the first voice called.

"Okay. I'm throwing our guns out." One by one, Kid Curry tossed out first Heyes' guns, then his own. He stood so they could see him, his arms raised high. "You're gonna have to come up here. I don't think I can get him down by myself."

"You come down first," ordered a middle-aged man wearing a badge. Curry recognized his voice as the man who'd made the deal with him. "Once I check you out, we can go back up together."

Silently, Kid Curry complied. He came down with his hands held above his head. He let the lawman frisk him.

"Jake, you stay here with me and keep him covered. Tom, Micah, you go up with him and fetch t'other one."

"Can I put my hands down now?"

The lawman nodded. "Just make sure you keep 'em where Tom and Micah can see 'em. They got my permission to shoot you if necessary."

Curry didn't like the gleam in Tom's eye at that bit of news. "Whatever you say, Sheriff. I just want to get my partner to a doctor."

The lawman spat on the ground, near to, but not touching, Curry's boot. "I ain't the sheriff. Get your friend and be quick."

"Yes, sir," Curry muttered.

"All right, Pete," Micah agreed. He used his pistol to gesture Curry back up the rocks. When they were out of earshot, he said quietly, "Don't mind Pete. He's just upset his brother won the election."

"His brother?"

"The Walker brothers always run for sheriff, one as the Republican candidate, one as the Democratic candidate. Whichever one wins always hires his brother as deputy. Pete's still sore over Hank winning the last election," Micah explained.

When they reached Hannibal Heyes, Curry checked his bandages. Tom looked to see if anyone else was there; Micah kept his pistol aimed at Heyes and Curry.

"Two bandages? How'd we manage to hit him twice and you not at all?" Micah asked.

"You only got him once." The makeshift bandage on his arm looked all right, but the one on his head had soaked through. "He hit his head when he fell."

"He don't look good," Micah commented.

Tom returned, leading Heyes and Curry's horses. "Nobody else here."

Awkwardly, they balanced Heyes on his horse and brought him down to the rest of the posse.

Deputy Walker nodded. "Mount up," he ordered Curry. "Jake, tie his hands to the saddlehorn." He looked at Heyes. "He'll never manage the ride like that. Drape him over the saddle and tie him on."

"You can't tie him to his horse like a sack of potatoes," Curry protested. "He'll bleed to death before we reach town."

"Maybe," Pete Walker admitted. "But if we leave him here while we take you back and fetch a wagon, his chances are even worse."

Curry thought quickly, wishing (and not for the first time) that he had his cousin's lightning wits and silver tongue. "What if we rode double? I can keep him balanced in front of me."

"Yeah, and then you both run off and the $20,000 reward with you," Jake sneered.

"How far would I get? Riding double on a tired horse? Unarmed and outnumbered four to one? I'm not going to try anything stupid."

"All right," Deputy Walker agreed.

"What if that one dies? What's to keep him from pushing the body off the horse and running?" Jake demanded.

"If we get him to town quick enough, he won't die," Curry snapped. "All I want to do is get my friend to a doctor as quickly as possible. After that, I can worry about proving that we're not Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Frank and Jesse James or whoever you think we are."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A mile or two before they reached town, Tom rode ahead to find the doctor. He was waiting at the jail when they arrived. So was Harry Briscoe.

"Hello, Curry," Briscoe said. The sallow-faced, dark-haired man spoke calmly, as though he were an acquaintance who hadn't seen them in a week or two, not the detective who'd been chasing them for months. "How bad is Heyes? My company's clients would prefer him alive to stand trial."

Curry ignored him. Right now, he didn't much care what Bannerman Detectives, Inc. or the railway and bank executives who had hired BDI wanted.

"I'm Dr. Sloan. What happened?" asked a wiry, elderly man.

"Somehow these folks got the idea we're outlaws. They started shooting; we started running. My partner took a bullet in the arm. Then he tripped and hit his head."

"He's lost a lot of blood," Dr. Sloan observed. "Has he been unconscious long?"

"Somehow got the idea you're outlaws?" Briscoe repeated. "He's Kid Curry. That's Hannibal Heyes. My agency has been trying to catch them for years."

"Mister, I don't know you from Adam," Curry lied. "My name's Jones. His is Joshua Smith. Now, will you get the hell out of the way and not bother the doctor while he's working?"

"Right now I'm more interested in getting the bullet out of his arm. You can interrogate these men later." Undoing the bandage, the doctor repeated, "How long has he been unconscious?"

"About half an hour, I reckon, off and on. He sort of drifts in and out," Curry replied.

"Concussion," Dr. Sloan diagnosed. He washed the arm wound carefully. Heyes groaned. The doctor probed the wound with a steel instrument that looked to Curry like a giant pair of tweezers. Turning nearly as pale as his partner, Curry turned his head.

"Don't worry about his head. Scalp wounds always bleed profusely. Now, if I can't get this bullet out, then you can worry. If I can't extract the bullet, he's likely to develop gangrene. I might have to amputate," the doctor warned.

For what seemed like hours, Curry held his breath as Dr. Sloan hunted for the bullet. In truth, it was only a few minutes before the physician murmured "aha" and removed the bullet. He rinsed the wound with warm water. "Hand me that whiskey."

"Should you be drinking at a time like this?"

Chuckling, Sloan poured the alcohol over Heyes' arm. The outlaw regained consciousness enough to writhe and moan. "Externally, for him, to fight infection. Gangrene is still a possibility. You look like I should prescribe some for you internally." He re-bandaged Heyes' arm, then set to work on the dark-haired man's head. "Quite a goose egg. Your friend will be in considerable pain. I'll bring some laudanum tomorrow, but he mustn't have any until he's regained consciousness and stayed alert for a while. Too much laudanum is more dangerous than not enough."

"Thanks, Doc."

"Tom Bowen said you surrendered only on the condition I treat Mr. Smith here?"


"You saved his life doing that." Dr. Sloan packed up his black bag. "Keep him comfortable. Try to get some liquids into him; that blood loss will leave him dehydrated. I'll be back to check on him tomorrow."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Heyes coughed. The sound, slight as it was, was sufficient to awaken Curry. "How you doing?" He offered a tin cup of tepid water to his partner.

Heyes drank it gratefully. "Rotten. Feel horrible." He drained the cup. "Where are we?"

"Jail." On the doctor's orders, the sheriff had left a pitcher of water in the cell. Curry fetched it and refilled Heyes' cup. "There's a detective here named Harry Briscoe. He's convinced you're Hannibal Heyes and I'm Kid Curry."

Heyes nodded to show he understood the warning.

"I tried to tell them we're just a couple of prospectors, but they won't believe me."

Heyes tried to look around, but somehow it seemed like too much of an effort to move his head. "Anyone else here?"

"The sheriff is close, but if we keep our voices down he won't hear us," Curry whispered.

Heyes whispered back, "With Briscoe here to give Bible-oath who we are, you really think we can persuade 'em otherwise?"

After a long moment, Curry shook his head.

"Give it to me straight, Kid. How bad am I?" Heyes demanded.

"It's bad. Doc says you'll probably live, but you'll be a while healing." Curry held up three fingers. "How many fingers do you see?"


"Good. When you woke up before, you had double vision. The doctor wasn't sure how long it would last."

"I woke up before?"

Curry nodded.

"Don't remember. Last thing I remember. . ." Heyes' voice trailed off. "Is the posse ch-chasing us." He closed his eyes and sank back into unconsciousness.

Curry felt his forehead. It was warm. "Rest."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

For three days, Curry nursed his partner in the cell. Each day Heyes was able to stay awake and alert a little longer. Each day the fever lessened.

"We need to talk." Heyes kept his voice low, but his tone was serious.


"Dr. Sloan says I'm gonna be healthy enough to extradite to Wyoming in a day or two. Means you've got a decision to make."


"Doc says I'm healthy enough to stand trial. But if we get a chance to make a break for it, I'm not gonna be strong enough to run. I won't hold it against you if an opportunity comes up and you take it," Heyes told him.

"You think I'd run out on you, with you in this shape?" Curry was insulted.

"Kid, there's no way a judge would do anything but throw us in prison. You'd best get while the getting's good," Heyes advised him.

"You're forgetting, women can be jurors in Wyoming," Curry reminded him. "We get us a ladies-only jury, we're bound to get acquitted."

Heyes forced a weak smile, but it didn't reach his eyes.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Dr. Sloan adjusted the splint on Heyes' right arm. "How's the sling? Too tight?"

"Fine, Doc. I appreciate all you did for me," Heyes thanked him. "Sorry I can't afford to pay you."

"Well, I hope they don't hang you and waste all my work."

"I hope so, too," Heyes said as the sheriff handcuffed his left hand to Curry's right hand.

"Let's get going," ordered Sheriff Hank Walker. "Don't want to miss our train."

"I'm in no hurry," Curry muttered, but no one paid any attention to him.

"I caught them. I should be the one taking them to Wyoming," Pete Walker complained. His petulant tone was better suited to a four-year-old than a man in his late forties.

"I'm the sheriff. I'll take 'em. You stay here and hold the fort," his younger brother ordered.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The train ride to Cheyenne was uneventful. There were no rescue attempts by the Devil's Hole Gang, no Indian attacks, no attempted hold-ups by other outlaws, not even a derailment. Heyes and Curry tried to ignore the curious stares of passengers.

"Are you really Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry?" a boy of ten or twelve demanded.

Curry gestured to Sheriff Walker in the seat in front of them. "He thinks so."

"You'd best get back to your mother, young man," Harry Briscoe instructed pompously from the seat behind them. "These two desperadoes are dangerous – more dangerous than you can imagine."

The boy stood there and stared at them.

"Come off it, Harry. You know we'd never hurt a kid," Heyes grumbled. "Haven't you read our dime novels? We don't hurt anybody . . . just their wallets."

"I've read all the dime novels about you two," the boy announced.

For a moment Heyes thought he was going to ask for an autograph.

"Joshua, what're you doing?" Curry asked in an anguished whisper.

"Harry knows who we are, Kid. Not use it trying to keep up the game," Heyes whispered back. "What do you want to know, kid?"

"Which are you, Hannibal Heyes or Kid Curry?"

"I'm Heyes. He's Curry. What's your name?"

"Jimmy Fleming. How many trains did you rob?" he demanded.

"Ask the detective there. I never bothered to keep count," Heyes replied.

"How much money did you steal?"

"Not half as much as those dime novels claim we did, that's for darned sure. And I don't have a penny of it now," Heyes replied.

"You don't?" Jimmy and Harry asked simultaneously.

"Spent most of it, lost some of it, had to abandon quite a bit while we were running for our lives. Dropped it to distract posses," Heyes explained. "You think being an outlaw is an exciting life, a way to get lots of money without a lot of hard work, Jimmy?"

The boy nodded.

Heyes lifted his sling an inch and flinched at the pain. "Doc says I might lose this arm. I'm handcuffed to my best friend, looking at a long time in prison if I'm lucky and a noose if I'm unlucky. I've spent the last few years running and hiding, living in territory a buzzard would scorn just to avoid the long arm of the law. Don't take up train robbing as a career, Jimmy. It's not worth it."

Disappointed, the boy returned to his seat. The rest of the ride was boringly uneventful. When they reached Cheyenne, Jimmy said goodbye to them and his mother whispered "Thank you" to them for disillusioning him.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Good morning, gentlemen, good morning."

Heyes and Curry stared at the pot-bellied, balding man who approached their cell, greeting them so exuberantly. "Morning," they replied cautiously.

"Craig's the name, Matthew Craig, attorney at law. I have come to rescue you from durance vile."

Heyes perked up at that.

"Yessirree, we'll have the shortest trial in the history of Wyoming. You'll be released in no time."

"Just how are you planning to do that, considering we're guilty and all?" Heyes asked.

Craig shook his head. "Don't say that word where they can hear you. Innocent 'til proven guilty, that's the law. Besides, a clever lawyer can sweet-talk night into day and sun into rain. And I'm the best lawyer in Cheyenne."

"Just what did you have in mind?" Curry inquired.

"The law isn't interested in you, they want the money. And the people of the territory – bless their hearts – regard you as modem day Robin Hoods. Although they never took to the rest of the Devil's Hole Gang like they did to you. So all you need to do is tell them where to find your former associates, where you hid the money, and the law – persuaded by me, of course – will look at your case very leniently. A token sentence, and–"

Kid Curry interrupted him. "No way."


"I rode with those men for years. We parted company when the two of us decided to go straight and they decided to stay in the outlaw business, but we're not gonna sell 'em out."

Heyes shook his head. "Law caught us fair and square. They want Wheat and Kyle and the rest of the gang, they need to catch 'em themselves. We're not gonna play Judas goat."

"Well, the money at least. If you could return the money – part of it, at least – the judge is likely to look more leniently at you two."

"We spent the money," Heyes replied.

"All of it?"

Heyes nodded. It wasn't quite true, but he didn't feel like going into details with this pompous windbag.

"Then how are you going to afford my legal fees?"

"We can't," Heyes replied.

Craig sputtered, unable to speak. He grabbed his briefcase and headed out. A chubby man with a walrus-mustache approached the cell. "Harcourt's the name, Fenton M. Harcourt, and I have the honor to be the finest attorney in Cheyenne, Wyom–" he began.

"Don't bother, Fen, they ain't got any money," Craig advised him.

Harcourt stared a second, then turned around without a word.

"They didn't catch us 'fair and square,' Heyes. I surrendered," Curry whispered guiltily.

"You saved my life, Kid," Heyes reminded his partner.

Curry just sat on the bunk, his shoulders slumped over. And his silver-tongued cousin could think of nothing to say to console him.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"The People of the Territory of Wyoming versus Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry, the Honorable James P. Coltrane presiding. Court is now in session. All rise." Somehow the bailiff managed to get it all out in one breath.

Judge Coltrane, a thin, elderly man, marched into the room and took his seat at the bench. He banged his gavel. Everyone sat down.

"Which one of you rapscallions is Hannibal Heyes?"

Heyes stood up. "I am, Your Honor."

"So, you're Kid Curry?"

"Yes, sir," the gunslinger admitted reluctantly, not bothering to rise.

"Where's your attorney?" the judge demanded.

"Couldn't afford one, Your Honor," Heyes said. He sat down.

"Hmph. Should've saved some of the money from the banks you robbed for lawyer's fees. Acting pro per, eh? A man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client," the judge warned. "Bailiff, read the charges."

"Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry, you stand accused of robbing the Laramie Bank on or about. . . ." For a full ten minutes the bailiff droned on, reciting charge after charge.

"Mr. Heyes, how do you plead?"

"Guilty, Your Honor." A collective gasp went up from the spectators. "To most of 'em, anyway. Not guilty to the last three or four, and to that stagecoach robbery," Heyes clarified.

"Mr. Curry, how do you plead?"

"Guilty to all but the last four, and to the stagecoach job."

"Normally, under such circumstances, the defense attorney would attempt to offer a plea bargain. Is the prosecution willing to drop the disputed charges in return for a guilty plea on the others?" the judge asked.

"Your Honor, the people of Wyoming want these twofelons prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I intend tothrow the book at them. I have nointention of letting them escape the consequences of any of their crimes," the prosecutor declaimed.

"Just our luck," Curry said. "We get a prosecutor who's trying to run for office."

The reporters sitting behind him heard him and laughed (the Kid's statement being true).

Whispers and titters filled the courtroom as what Kid Curry had said was repeated and passed back through the room.

"Order in the court." Judge Coltrane tapped his gavel.

Heyes stood again. "Your Honor, may I say something?" The judge nodded his permission, and Heyes continued. "We retired fromthe outlaw business nearly a year ago, and we've been trying our best to go straight. We haven't robbed a bank or a train in eleven months. We'll take responsibility for what we did, but not those other charges. That wasn't us."

"The prosecutor will approach the bench, please," the judge requested.

"This don't look so good," Curry muttered.

Heyes said nothing, but he, too, was concerned.

"I know youwere expecting the trial of the century and the chance toshow off for the voters, but if you're willing todrop those few charges we could have these tworogues on their way to prison before supper."

The prosecutor frowned.

The judge pointed out, "It would save the territory a great deal of time and money."

Reluctantly, the prosecutor nodded. He returned to his seat.

"The prosecution is willing todrop the disputed charges," Judge Coltrane announced. "Whereas the defendants have already pled guilty to the other charges, I see no reason to continue this trial. Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry, do you have anything to say before I pass sentence?"

Curry turned pale.

Heyes struggled to his feet. He swayed a moment before he managed to find his balance. "We took a lot of money that didn't belong to us, but in all the banks and trains we robbed, we never killed anyone. We tried not to hurt anyone if we could help it. And like I said, we've been retired for nearly a year. If that posse hadn't caught us, we would've gone straight and stayed straight."

"Mr. Curry?"

Kid Curry didn't bother to rise. "What he said," he muttered. "I still think we could've gotten an acquittal if we'd gotten an all-women jury."

The reporters behind him chuckled.

"Order in the court." The judge banged his gavel and nodded at the bailiff.

"The prisoners will rise to hear the verdict," the bailiff instructed.

"Good thing I got shot in the arm and not the leg," Heyes said quietly as he stood for the fourth time in fifteen minutes.

"I hereby sentence you to twenty years hard labor in the Wyoming Territorial Prison."

"Twen–" Curry started to say.

Heyes laid a hand on his arm to shush him. "Easy, pard," he whispered. "We've still got one more card to play."

One deputy handcuffed Curry's hands behind his back. Another deputy twisted Heyes good arm behind his back with his left hand, and laid his right hand on Heyes' shoulder, firmly steering him out of the courtroom.

Heyes jutted his chin out at a dark-haired man with a mustache in the back of the crowded room. "Our ace in the hole," he whispered.

Curry glanced where he indicated, as unobtrusively as possible and recognized Lom Trevors. For the first time in a week, he relaxed – just a little.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

It was an hour or more before Lom came down to their jail cell.

"Boy are we glad to see you," Curry said.

"Keep your voices down," Sheriff Trevors advised. "I told 'em I nearly caught you once or twice and wanted one last look at you before you went to prison."

"Can you get a message to the Governor for us?" Heyes asked him.

Trevors nodded.

"Tell him we kept our end of the deal. We're only three weeks shy of being straight a whole year. That ought to count for something. And remind him we kept our mouths shut in court; we didn't embarrass him by mentioning he's making deals with wanted criminals."

"You're not trying to blackmail the Governor, are you?" Trevors asked suspiciously.

"Hell, no. Do I look that stupid? But we kept our mouths shut when we could've talked, and we'd be grateful if he could commute our sentence," Heyes said.

"I'll get word to him. But it won't be right away. You'll have to spend some time behind bars."

"We know."

"Anything else I can do for you?"

"Ask the deputy if I can have some more of that medicine the doctor prescribed. My arm hurts something fierce," Heyes complained.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Big rocks into little rocks. Little rocks into gravel. For a month, Curry pounded rocks with a sledgehammer, wishing the rocks were the governor's head, while Heyes played waterboy to him and the other prisoners. Then Heyes, too, joined the pattern of big rocks into little rocks, little rocks into gravel, and then more big rocks again.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The first few weeks, Curry was too busy taking care of his cousin to get into trouble. Once the sling came off, Heyes had his hands full keeping an eye on the Kid.

"So, you're Hannibal Heyes." Bill Henson, a big, beefy prisoner "accidentally" bumped into Heyes in the mess hall line. "Heard you were pretty tough."

"Yeah, so tough I wound up here," Heyes replied with a wry grin.

"You don't look that tough to me." Henson turned to Curry. "You don't look that tough, neither. I could take you on – either or both of you."

"I'm tough enough to–"

"Kid," Heyes interrupted, "don't bother. Maybe you could, maybe you couldn't. Doesn't matter. You don't want to attract the guards' attention any more than we do."

"Scared?" Henson sneered.

Heyes just ignored him.

"Yeah, you're scared, Heyes. And you, Curry, I heard you took care of him like a mother hen when he was hurt. Or like a good little wifey," he added.

Curry inhaled sharply. Things happened in prison that weren't discussed in polite society.

Heyes just glanced at Curry, then back at the troublemaker. "Friend, I ain't that desperate yet." The prisoners behind them in line chuckled. Heyes glanced at the guards, who had started paying more attention to them. "We don't want any trouble. We're hoping if we behave ourselves, we might get paroled, maybe get out of here in nineteen years instead of twenty."

A few of the other prisoners laughed, but quietly. They had no more desire to attract the guards' attention than Heyes did.

Henson looked from Heyes and Curry to the other prisoners in line, as if trying to decide whether or not they were laughing at him. "Know what I think? I think neither one of you is a real man. You're yellow, and he's a catamount."

Heyes bit his lip to keep from laughing out loud at Henson's confusion of catamount and catamite. If the Kid had his pistol, he'd show Henson how much of a catamount he was. "You know, Henson, you're making one major mistake. You're assuming I give a damn what you think. And I don't." Deliberately, Heyes turned away from him.

"Why, you–" Henson swung.

Curry had his fists up in a second. Heyes pushed him back, trying to keep the two of them apart. Henson's fist hit Heyes' jaw. Two guards were on them in a heartbeat; before Heyes even had a chance to decide whether or not to hit him back.

"Fighting means three days in the box for both of you," one of the guards announced.

"But he wasn't–" Curry began.

"Shut up," Heyes whispered. He turned to the guard. "Yes, sir."

Curry watched helplessly as his cousin and Henson were led off. "He didn't do nothing."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Beans again? All the cattle there are in Wyoming and they can't afford beef occasionally?" Curry complained.

Heyes ate silently.

"It's been four months. When are we gonna break out?"

"We're not," Heyes answered quietly. "And don't let anyone but me hear you talk like that."

"The Governor's forgotten about us."

"No, he's got to give the people time to forget about us," Heyes corrected. "It'd be political suicide for him to pardon us right away. We've got to wait until it's safe for him to sign the paperwork. And we've got to keep out of trouble. No fuss, no complaints."

"You really think he's gonna pardon us? Be a lot easier for him just to ignore us and let us rot in prison," Curry pointed out.

"Just wait, Kid. Just wait," Heyes advised.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The days passed into weeks. The weeks passed into months. Big rocks into little rocks. Little rocks into gravel. Six days a week, hard labor on the rock pile. Sunday, talking quietly in the cell while they hunted lice and fleas, or reading the Bible.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Twenty men listened attentively as Heyes read aloud: "And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, wrapping herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she had not been given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot, because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way and said, 'Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee,' for he knew not that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, 'What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?' And he said, 'I will send thee a kid from the flock.' And she said, 'Wilt thou give me a pledge till thou send it?' And he said, 'What pledge shall I give thee?" And she said, 'Thy signet and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.' So he gave it to her, and went in unto her, and she conceived by him. And she arose and went away, and laid by her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adulamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand, but he found her not. Then he asked the men of that place, 'Where is the harlot that was openly by the wayside?' And they said, 'There was no harlot in this place'. And he returned to Judah, and said, 'I cannot find her, and also the men of the place said that there was no harlot in this place. ' And Judah said, 'Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed; behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.' And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, 'Tamar thy daughter-in-law hath played the harlot, and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom.' And Judah said, 'Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. When she was–"1

A guard rushed into the room. "Turn the page, quick. The warden's coming."

Hastily, Heyes flipped through the pages at random. "Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons. . ."2 He pretended not to notice the warden for a second, then stopped reading and rose respectfully to his feet. The other prisoners followed suit.

"I didn't come to interrupt. I understand membership in the Bible study club has increased since you took over, Heyes," Warden Burns commented.

"Just trying to work on repenting and reforming, sir," Heyes lied.

One of the prisoners started to chuckle, then turned it into a cough. Since Heyes had taken over, B.S.C. stood for Bible Smut Club, not Bible Study Club.

"Don't let me stop you. I came to observe your study group, not to interrupt."

"Yes, sir." Heyes sat down again and resumed reading. He glanced up at the warden from time to time. The other prisoners fidgeted in their seats.

After five minutes, the warden asked, "Is this all you do every week?" Although Heyes had a pleasant enough reading voice, Bums failed to see the appeal.

"Actually, sir, sometimes the scripture inspires us to confess our own crimes, and discuss them. It's just . . . some things are still under the statutes of limitations, and no one's gonna risk saying anything in front of you, sir. Nothing personal," Heyes fibbed.

The warden nodded. "Very well. I'll leave your to your scripture and soul-searching. And Heyes. . ."

"Yes, sir?"

"I'll mention this to the parole board when next they meet."

"Thank you, sir."

When the warden left, the prisoners could hold back their laughter no longer. "If the parole board knew what you were up to, Heyes, they'd probably double your sentence."

Heyes turned to the guard who'd warned them and said, "Thanks."

"You wanna thank me, you do that gazelle-breast verse next week."

The Bible Smut Club had done the Song of Solomon five times now, and Heyes was getting tired of it. But it didn't pay to antagonize the guards. "Yes, sir." He turned back to where he had been. "She sent to her father-in-law, saying, 'By the man whose these are, am I with child.' And she said, 'Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet and bracelets and the staff.' And Judah acknowledged them and said, 'She hath been more righteous than I, because that I gave not her to Shelah my son.' And he knew her again no more."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Once a week Heyes pored over the scriptures, looking for adultery, incest, onanism, and anything else that might interest his fellow inmates. Luckily, the "Good Book" was full of bad things. More difficult was keeping the Kid, with his hot temper, out of trouble. Heyes didn't hesitate to use his three days in the box to lay a major guilt trip on his cousin. Most of the time it worked.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Big rocks into little rocks. Little rocks into gravel. Then more big rocks.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"What you looking so worried about?" Curry asked Heyes. "Can't find a verse?"

"No, doing Ezekiel 16 tomorrow. Harlotry," Heyes replied absently, his mind elsewhere.

"The guys ought to like that."

"Just thinking about what we're gonna do when we get out of here."

"If, you mean," the gunslinger scoffed. "At this rate, once we get released all we'll be doing is sitting in rocking chairs."

Heyes just nodded. All he really knew was robbery. True, they'd been on a cattle drive or two, but that was a young man's job. Breaking rocks was making them both older than their years. He didn't know anything about making or selling stuff. He hadn't worked on a farm since he was a boy. They'd done a few odd jobs when they tried to go straight, but nothing a man could make a career of. And if they wanted to stay out of prison, they had to have some way to support themselves honestly when – if – they were released. One thing was sure, he couldn't become a preacher. A congregation would lynch a pastor who limited himself to the scripture verses he knew.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Big rocks into little rocks. Little rocks into gravel. Then more big rocks.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Mrs. Tucker had her baby," Curry read from Lom Trevors' latest letter. "Ten months after her husband died. Imagine that."

Heyes grunted. It was Saturday and he had no verse for tomorrow's B.S.C. meeting. They'd done Second Samuel chapters eleven and thirteen. They'd done Genesis 15 and Hosea. He refused to do Deuteronomy 22:28; even he had some scruples.

"Schoolhouse burned down. Every kid in town is celebrating," Curry continued.

Once a month there was a letter from Lom, mostly Porterville gossip, always ending "no word from our mutual friend." But since there was nothing else to read but a battered Bible, Heyes and Curry devoured Lom's letters.

Joshua 2? Not dirty enough. He was tired of the Song of Solomon, like a fiddler who was asked to always play the same tune at every dance. Esther? He'd have to explain how the king auditioned the would-be brides and what happened to them afterwards. His fellow prisoners weren't bright enough to figure that out for themselves. Maybe John 4?

"The Jarvis kid ain't saying nuthin', but he goes around with such a smug look on his face that Lom's pretty sure he did it. And–"

"Kid, will you shut up?"

Shocked, Curry looked up at his partner.

"Lom's letter will be here later. I've gotta find a verse for tomorrow."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Big rocks to little rocks. Little rocks to gravel. And always, always, more big rocks.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Heyes tried not to look at the calendar as the line of prisoners filed into the mess hall for breakfast. He was hoping the Kid didn't know what day it was.

"Two years. Two lousy, filthy, stinking years," Curry complained.

Heyes bit back a sigh. His partner knew.

"He's forgotten about us. Or else he never intended to commute our sentence," Curry accused.

"Beginning to look that way," Heyes admitted.


They sat down and started eating. The biscuits were burnt again. As usual, the oatmeal was thin and watery. Out of habit, they kept their voices low while discussing the governor and his deal.

"Sorry I got you into this, Kid."

"Not your fault the Governor welched on the deal," Curry allowed grudgingly.

Heyes shook his head. "I'm the one who talked you into robbing banks and trains in the first place. We're lucky to be here instead of hung, but it's my fault. If it weren't for my big mouth and big dreams, we'd be farmhands in Kansas."

"That's not your fault. We both agreed to a life on the road as highwaymen."

"And we both knew the risks. You knew from day one that prison was a very real risk," Heyes reminded him sharply. "So stop complaining. Maybe the Governor regretted the deal and he'll make us serve out our whole term. That was always a possibility. Maybe his idea of a 'token sentence' is 25% of our sentence, and we've got three years to go. But don't be shocked that we're here. We earned it. We had our excitement, and lots of money, a bit of fun. Now we're paying for it."

A guard blew his whistle. Heyes drained the mug of brown sludge laughingly referred to as coffee by the mess hall cooks, and joined the line of prisoners returning their dishes to the kitchen.

Neither spoke as they broke rocks. Curry threw hurt, confused glances Heyes' way from time to time, but Heyes ignored him.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Jenkins! The warden wants Heyes and Curry in his office," one of the guards yelled. Two guards moved in on Curry. One kept him covered with a Winchester. The other cuffed his hands behind his back, then undid the ball and chain. Then they repeated the process on Heyes. The two traded glances, but didn't dare speak. Nor did they dare to hope.

Five minutes later they were in the warden's office.

"Well, gentlemen, you're going to be leaving us."

They looked up. Their eyes sparkled with excitement and anticipation.

"You're being transferred to the new prison near Genesee. Minimum security. No more hard labor. Congratulations."

Their expressions fell.

"Thank you, sir," Heyes muttered after a moment.

Warden Bums looked at them, clearly puzzled by their reaction. But they said nothing, so he turned to one of the guards. "Fetch their things. I want them on their way to Genesee as quickly as possible."

"What about lunch?" Curry demanded.

Now thoroughly confused, the warden looked up at the clock. "It's barely 11 o'clock."

"Yeah, and we won't get fed here because lunch isn't until noon. By the time we reach Genesee, it'll be long past lunchtime, and they won't feed us because it's too late."

Heyes kicked his partner's ankle. "Shut up."

"You've been model prisoners." Neither man reacted, nor expressed any gratitude. Frowning, Bums decided he would never understand prisoners. "Get them out of here."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A quarter of an hour later, they were on a wagon, bouncing over the rough terrain. Both were handcuffed. The guards rode outside the wagon, giving them an unexpected but welcome bit of privacy.

"I don't think the warden liked your attitude," Heyes remarked.

"What, I'm supposed to be grateful because we're moving from one cage to another?"

"No more breaking rocks," Heyes pointed out.

"Minimum security. Easier to escape from," Curry countered.

"Do that and they'll throw the book at us," Heyes warned. "Either hang us or spend the rest of our lives busting rocks."

"I'm not going back. You want to be a songbird in a cage, singing hymns, fine. But I'm not going into another cage. I'll die first." Or kill first, the look in his wounded blue eyes said. Heyes sighed. There was no arguing with his cousin when he was in this mood.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

One hour passed, then two. The wagon bounced their tired bones. It was better than breaking rocks. Twice Heyes tried to start up conversations; both times Curry rebuffed him.

The wagon drew to a halt. The door swung open.

"Out," a guard ordered. "We're changing horses here. Outhouse if you need it."

Awkwardly, they scrambled out of the wagon.

"Any chance of getting the cuffs off?Just long enough to go to outhouse?" Heyes asked.

"You get the cuffs off when you reach Genesee," the guard replied.

"Go ahead and unlock 'em now," a familiar voice said. "One at a time, of course."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

They looked up to see Lom Trevors standing there, his badge shining on his vest. He shot them a warning look. They bowed their heads, trying to look defeated rather than exultant.

"Who are you?" the guard demanded.

"Sheriff Trevors, from Porterville. I've got orders to escort these rapscallions the rest of the way." He pulled a paper out of his vest pocket and showed it to the driver of the prison wagon.

The guard read it over, then nodded. "It's okay, Zeke. We just need to change the horses and head home."

One at a time, Heyes and Cuny were escorted to the outhouse. Each was re-cuffed again after answering nature's call. The guards unhitched the horses and harnessed the fresh ones that Lom had waiting. Then to Heyes and Curry's immense relief, they drove back to the Territorial Prison.

"You here to take us the rest of the way to Genesee, or. . .?" Heyes didn't dare to finish the sentence. He couldn't bear having his hopes dashed again.

In answer, Lom pulled a key out of his pockets and unlocked their handcuffs. Then he took another paper from his vest pocket. "In recognition of good behavior in prison, and their attempts to reform prior to arrest in accordance with the amnesty law, the Hon. William Hale, Governor of the Territory of Wyoming, hereby commutes the sentence of Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah "Kid" Curry to time served." He looked up. "Congratulations, boys. It took a while, but you're finally free."

"About damn time," Curry said, but his face lit up in a wide grin.

Heyes' silver tongue failed him. He was too stunned to say anything.

"Horses are going to need to rest a while. Got some fried chicken and apple pie, and I can brew some coffee," Lom offered. "I remember what your coffee tastes like, Heyes."

"Miss Ellie's pie?" Lom's letters had mentioned Miss Ellie's diner more than once. Lom nodded.

Heyes finally found his voice. "What happens when we don't show up at Genesee?"

"They ain't expecting you, so they won't worry that you never show up. And as far as Warden Bums is concerned, the transfer is legitimate. He's got no reason to inquire after you. As long as you keep out of trouble, you're free men. Of course," Lom added, "a low profile might be advisable, and another change of names."

Curry nodded. Using their own names was only asking for trouble. "Not Smith and Jones." Neither he nor Heyes had ever liked the aliases Lom had chosen for them.

"Anything but Solomon," Heyes said. "Anything but Solomon."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

* ~ *

1 Genesis 38:14-24.

2 Genesis 42:1.