The Storm – Chapter 1
Kid Curry stopped his gelding and untied his bandanna to wipe the sweat on his face. "Heyes, don't it seem more like summer than a spring day? Can't believe it's so warm and muggy for April." His horse seemed reluctant to stop and began snorting and stamping his feet restlessly. Curry reined him in again, "Whoa, boy…settle down."
Heyes' mare stopped by its partner and Heyes opened the canteen and drank the warm water. "Yeah, does seem awful warm for spring."
His animal, too, tossed her head snorting, as if she sensed the same thing that was making Curry's mount uneasy.
"Ya hear that?"
Heyes cocked his head listening. "Nope, I don't hear anything."
The mare flicked her ears back.
"That's just it. It's too quiet, except for us. Don't even hear any birds."
"Let's get going. Maybe we can make it to town tonight."
They continued on their way through the gentle sloping country of northern Texas. The green grass scarcely moved with barely a breeze blowing. Despite the beauty of their surrounding, the continuing silence seemed eerie and ominous. A few miles later, a wind came up. "That feels better," the Kid stated, feeling relief from the warm day.
"Maybe, but look at the horizon." Heyes pointed in the direction they were headed. Clouds were collecting quickly. "Looks like we're in for some rain." He kicked his horse into a lope with Curry right behind him.
The wind became stronger and the clouds were getting darker, with an eerie green tint. Heyes slowed down his horse and looked at the Kid. "We're in for a strong storm from the looks of it."
Curry added, "And it don't look like we're gonna make it into… Heyes, what's that?" Kid pointed to a dark spinning cloud coming down from the sky.
"Oh god, a twister!"
"What are we gonna do? There's no storm cellar to go down into."
Heyes forced his mind to search back through the memories…a place he seldom went. The dark recesses of his childhood. What had his pa said about twisters? "Whenever there's tornado and you can't get into a storm shelter, look for a low area or gully. Lie down in it and protect your head with your hands over it." Heyes left the memory, thankful for its valuable information. "Gotta find a ditch or gully to lie in for protection." Stopping his horse, he stood up on his stirrups looking around the countryside.
"'Bout a mile back we passed a dry creek bed."
"Let's go then… Hurry!"
The horses galloped away from the oncoming storm, needing no encouragement. Soon heavy rain and hail pelted them and the animals became unruly. "Creek's right there… Let's get our bags and bedrolls off and let 'em go!" Heyes yelled to be heard.
Kid nodded and dismounted. They quickly untied their gear, released the horses and ran towards the gully.
The large hail stung as it landed on the partners. As they ran, they dodged debris being whipped around by the winds. They scrambled down the bank as the creek was starting to collect water.
Kid turned to face Heyes. "Sounds like a train!" he shouted.
"Just get down!" Heyes' voice was barely audible above the roaring of the wind.
As Kid turned back, the corner of his eye caught something dark and large coming their way. "Heyes!" A big branch, airborne, hit Heyes in the back, forcing him to fall on top of Curry. More debris flew around them and the noise was deafening.
Curry had no idea how long he and Heyes lay where they had fallen, but gradually the deafening howl of the storm faded to be replaced, once more, by the eerie quietness of before. He felt the sun on his head while the rain continued to come down softly.
Curry stirred under Heyes and the branch. "Damn!" He touched his head and winced where his face made contact with the ground. "Heyes, get offa me. Heyes…" He nudged his partner, but there was no response. "Dammit!" Slowly Kid made his way out from under the pile. "Heyes?" He pulled the debris off and knelt next to his partner, noting he was breathing and his heart seemed to have a strong beat, but the back of his head was bleeding. Kid wiped the blood from his own face and tied the bandanna from his neck around his wound. Then he removed Heyes' bandanna and tied it in place around the gash at the back of the head.
The water was steadily rising in the creek bed from the storm's rain. "Gotta get you outta here." Kid threw their saddlebags on the top of the embankment and then gently turned Heyes over, grabbed him under the arms and dragged the unconscious man to higher ground away from the rising water. "At least it's not rainin' very hard here." Looking up, he saw streaks of rain pouring in the distant and quickly moving away clouds, while a rainbow was forming in brilliant hues. "Must be rainin' hard upstream. Dang, that storm came and went fast."
Curry went back into the creek bank to retrieve their gear. He placed a bed roll under Heyes' head and started looking for other injuries. Besides the wound on the back of the head and scrapes, the Kid was relieved to find no evidence of additional injuries. "Let's get you outta these wet clothes, partner." He removed Heyes' soaked clothing and struggled to put on a pair of drier long johns and henley. As he pulled down the Henley, he noticed Heyes' back was red and starting to bruise. Then he put dry socks and a slightly damp blanket on him.
The sun appeared as a red orb setting in a tapestry of reds, oranges and blues. Curry looked around. "Guess we're makin' camp here. Not like I have a choice with the horses gone and you out cold."
Gathering some of the wood scattered from the storm, Kid made a fire. He filled the coffeepot with water and set it to boil. He changed out of his wet clothes and hung them to dry. Darkness descended and the sounds of crickets and toads ascended. Finding jerky in his saddlebag, he settled down next to his partner with a cup of coffee. "Wish you'd wake up. Miss you talkin'…kinda quiet out here. At least there's some noise and not that silence. That was spooky." After adding more wood to the fire and making sure Heyes was warm enough and that his breathing continued steady, Kid laid down next to him, wanting to be within arm's reach if Heyes should wake up, and fell into a light sleep.
The next morning, Kid woke up to a cold nose nuzzling his neck. Quickly opening his eyes, he smiled. "It's you." He sat up and rubbed the gelding's neck. "You're back! And…" He looked around the camp and saw Heyes' mare. "You're back, too – good!" Kid looked over at his partner and saw two unfocused brown eyes looking around. "Decided to wake up, huh?" He grinned and let out a small sigh of relief.
"What happened?" His voice reflected his confusion.
"Twister… You got hit in the back pretty hard with a branch flyin' around."
Kid nodded and smiled. "How you feelin'?"
"Like I got hit by a train."
"Well, it sure sounded like one."
Heyes slowed lifted his head, trying to look around and winced as he let it drop back down. "Oww…my head!"
"Yeah, you gotta good-size gash back there. I couldn't find anything else wrong except for some scrapes."
Heyes lay there with his eyes closed, waiting for the throbbing in his head to subside. He wiggled his fingers and let out a groan.
"What's the matter?"
Kid got up and knelt next to Heyes' right side and examined the hand. "Looks like it's swollen some overnight. Could be sprained. Anything else hurt?"
Heyes took a deep breath and held it. Slowly he released it as he moaned. He placed his left hand on his ribcage.
Heyes looked puzzled as he tried to find the offending rib. "I don't know."
"Let me check." Curry gently fingered each rib to see which one was hurt while Heyes took short, shallow breaths. "We're in luck… Just think you bruised one."
"Luck…" Heyes mumbled as he assessed the rest of his body. Suddenly his eyes opened wide with fear.
"Heyes, what is it?"
"Kid… I… I can't… I can't move my legs!"
Curry looked puzzled and gently felt the legs with his hands to see if they were broken. "Can't move your legs?"
The dark-haired one barely shook his head. "Can't…" He gulped. "I can't feel you touch 'em, either."
Kid pulled the blanket off Heyes and looked at his legs. He touched his knee. "Can you feel that?"
"No…" a soft scared voice answered back. "I can't feel nothing, Kid." Heyes tried propping himself on his elbows. "Oh…" He lay back down. "My back."
Curry had an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach. He took a deep breath. "Gonna roll you over so I can see, okay?"
Heyes scarcely nodded and held his breath as Kid gently turned him to his side and lifted the Henley.
He sucked in his breath when the saw the dark bruising and abrasions. Trying to keep his voice steady, he pulled the Henley down and carefully placed him on his back. "It's really bruised, Heyes."
Heyes' eyes were closed as his slowly breathed out, moaning in pain.
"Sure you can't move 'em? Wiggle your toes." Kid focused on remaining calm and not sounding as anxious as he felt. "Come on Heyes, move your toes or foot."
"I am!" Heyes said in a louder voice that shook with fright.
Without thinking how alarmed he sounded, the blond blurted out, "No, you're not!"
Fearfully brown eyes looked at the blue eyes. "Didn't move at all?"
Kid shook his head dejectedly. "Where do you have feelin' again?" He tapped on Heyes' legs, starting at the knees and working his way up. "Tell when you feel my hands."
Heyes lay back and concentrated hard. When Curry was at the upper thigh near the hip, he finally felt something. "There. I can feel your hand now." He looked up to see where he had feeling.
"Well, I'm glad I didn't hafta go any higher," the Kid said with a half-hearted grin.
Heyes lowered his head again and stared at the blue sky.
Curry sat down next to his partner and sighed. "What are we gonna do now?"
"I dunno… We can't just stay here, though. Maybe you should leave me here and find a wagon."
"No, I'm not leavin' you to find a wagon."
A moment of silence passed where neither spoke.
"You could shoot me," Heyes threw out as an option. "That's what you'd do to a lame horse."
"Don't joke 'bout this… I'm not shootin' you!" Kid said in a frustrated tone.
"I could ride…"
Heyes looked annoyed. "You didn't let me finish what I was gonna say." Kid raised an eyebrow in question. "I could ride double with you. Done it before when one of us was shot."
Kid shook his head. "Gonna hurt."
"Don't you think I know that? What choice do we have?"
"None. So when do you wanna leave?"
Heyes sighed. "Soon—let's just get it over with."
"But go where? To the nearest town? Don't know who the sheriff is and if he knows us."
Heyes shrugged. "Guess that's a chance we'll have to take." Both partners sat in silence for a few minutes. "Kid, if he does know us, I want you to leave me and get away."
Kid shook his head. "I ain't leavin' you!"
Exhaling in frustration, Heyes closed his eyes.
"You hear me?" Kid affirmed.
"Yeah, I heard you," Heyes agreed, knowing now was not the time to argue.
After a few more minutes of silence, Kid stood up. "You hungry? I could make…"
Heyes shook his head.
"Me neither. Okay, guess I'll pack up so we can get goin'."
There wasn't much to gather together and he had the camp packed up in a few minutes. Thinking about which horse they should ride, the Kid chose Heyes' mare which had seemed the calmer of the two horses. All the gear was packed on the gelding and Kid attached a lead rope to his bridle. "You ready, Heyes?"
"Ready as I'll ever be. How you gonna get me up there?" he asked skeptically.
"I think I got an idea, but you're gonna want some of that whiskey from your saddle bag before we try it. Maybe dull the senses a little before we ride?" The Kid looked questioningly at his partner.
"That's not a bad idea."
Kid smiled. "I'll go get it." He walked over to the gelding and searched in the bags until he found the bottle. He came back and handed it to Heyes. "Here you go."
"Cheers!" Heyes said sarcastically as held up the bottle and then took a swallow. "So, how you gonna get me on that horse?"
"Well, thought I'd take the mare down in the creek bed. That'll shorten her a couple of feet. Gonna do that now and be right back for you." Kid turned to go and then stopped. "You okay? Need anything?"
Heyes shook his head and took another swallow. "Nope, sounds like a good idea. I'll just be here waiting for you. Not going anywhere..." When the Kid turned away to lead the mare into the ditch, Heyes muttered to himself, "…as if I could!"
Drinking on an empty stomach, the liquor immediately began to take effect. Having no idea how far they would have to travel, Heyes hoped the whiskey would be enough to enable him to endure the ride.
The Kid took the mare's reins and led her into the creek that was already receding from yesterday's rain. He rubbed her neck as he whispered in her ear, "Heyes ain't feelin' well and needs to ride double. Need your help here. While I get him on, I need you to stand still. Can you do that, girl? Can you do that for Heyes?"
He dropped the reins and walked back to his partner, noting a good bit of the whiskey was gone. "Ready?"
"Yep; let's get this over with." He handed the bottle back to Kid who corked it and placed it back in the saddle bag
Kid bent down and Heyes put his arm around his neck. "Hang on," he said as he put one arm under his partner's knees and another behind his back.
Heyes clamped his mouth tight from the pain, determined not to let Kid know how much the arm or his back hurt. Kid slowly stood up and walked over to the patient mare. "Hey, this is almost the right height. Just gotta raise you a couple…more…inches. Okay, gonna put you down on the saddle so grab the saddle horn and hang on tight. There…now I'm gonna raise your right leg over her neck…hang on, Heyes, I know this hurts."
Kid could see his partner grimace in pain.
The mare began to move as Kid brought Heyes' leg over her head. "Whoa… Hang on girl. Almost got him on… There!" Quickly grabbing the reins, Kid handed them to Heyes. "Hold on to these 'til I'm on." Curry mounted behind his friend, took the reins and put an arm around his waist. "Gotcha. Lean back if it'll be more comfortable for you."
Heyes slowly rested his back on the Kid's chest. "Ready?" A slight nod and Kid kicked the mare forward and out of the creek bed. They rode over to the gelding and Curry grabbed its lead rope.
"How ya doin'?" the Kid asked concerned; his partner hadn't made a sound since they mounted the horse.
A dip of a head and a suppressed groan was the response.
"We're gonna keep goin' then; we'll just take it nice and slow, okay?"
Curry received another curt nod.
Kid held the mare to a slow walk, but could feel his partner tensing with every jolt. He hoped Heyes would pass out and within the hour his wish came true. Curry sighed with relief when Heyes' body went limp in his arms. Holding him tighter, he urged the horse into a slow jog.
Around noon, Curry's arms ached from holding up his partner and he longed for a drink of water. Looking around, he saw a small dirt road leading through a distant grove of trees to his left. Hoping for a place to rest, he steered the mare in that direction. Before reaching the grove, he noticed a homestead that appeared to be in poor shape and deserted. Kid smiled. Maybe it would be a place to rest for a few days and let Heyes heal. He urged the horses forward, but stopped abruptly when he reached the farmhouse.
Kid closed his eyes and placed his head on his partner's slumped shoulders. "God!" he whispered in anguish from the sight. On the ground near the barn was a woman, obviously dead. A toddler lay several yards away from her like a broken doll dropped at an awkward angle, also clearly dead. Memories flooded Curry's mind… His parents and siblings lying on the ground around the Curry farm after the raids, the blood and the stench of the burning buildings.
The horses, snorting and pawing the ground because of the smell of blood, brought Kid back to the present. He looked up and saw a girl peering out from the barn door.
"Hello?" he said, startled as she turned back into the barn. "Hello?" He rode closer to the barn and dismounted, pulling his unconscious partner off the mare and setting him down by the barn door. Quickly untying a bedroll from the gelding, he placed it under Heyes' head. After checking his partner's breathing he went after the little girl. He opened the barn door wider. "Hello?"
The young blonde girl crouched by a man on the ground with a wood beam across his lower leg and more debris on his chest. Kid ran to the man and pulled the rubble off of him. Hearing a moan, Curry sighed with relief. "Mister? Mister?"
The man responded with a groan.
"Gotta get this beam offa him." Kid moved over to the rafter and tried to lift it. "Ugh… that's… heavy." He stood up and put his hands on his hips, looking around for something to use for leverage. That's when he saw the younger boy lying in a stall with lumber around him. He went over to him and removed the wood, finding a post that might work for getting the beam up. Putting a hand on the unconscious boy's chest, Kid felt him breathing and sighed. He glanced at him and, seeing no blood, took the post by the man.
All the while the girl watched him with a dazed expression. Kid smiled at her as he put the post under the beam. "My name's Thaddeus. What's yours?"
"Hannah," said in a soft whisper.
"Are you okay?"
"How old are you, Hannah?"
"I'm eight…almost nine."
Kid thought about the bodies in the yard and the need to go cover them. "Is that your ma and little sister out there?"
Little eyes brimmed with tears.
"Is there anyone else here?"
Again she nodded.
Curry stopped what he was doing and gave her his full attention. "Where?"
She pointed to a corner of the barn.
He strode over and saw a frightened older boy with several posts pinning him down. He crouched beside him. "Hi, I'm Thaddeus."
"I'm… I'm Samuel," came a shivered response.
"And how old are you?"
"He's eleven," Hannah answered for her brother.
"Are you hurt, Samuel?" Kid asked as he assessed his body for bleeding or obvious injuries.
"C…cold, hurts to breathe."
"Well, let's get these posts offa you and see about gettin' you warm." Kid stood up and looked around the ruins. He pointed to a horse blanket. "Hannah, can you get that blanket over there for Samuel?"
She nodded and, while the friendly stranger tossed the posts aside, Hannah hurried over to retrieve the blanket.
"Hurts to breathe, huh?"
The boy nodded and winced when Curry touched a sore spot on his chest.
"Looks like you cracked a rib. Hurt anywhere else?" The Kid laid the blanket on the boy.
Samuel moved his hands and legs, grimacing when he tried to move his left ankle.
Seeing the pain etched in his face, Kid gently touched the ankle to see if it was broken. He smiled. "Just seems to be sprained. Are you warmin' up any?"
"That's your pa over there, right?"
"Is…is he dead?"
"No, but I'm gonna need you and Hannah to help get him out from under that beam, okay?"
Samuel nodded and cried in pain as he tried to stand up.
"Easy… Take it slow and easy. Soon as I look after the others, I'll wrap that rib and it'll feel better. Let me help you over to your pa; don't be puttin' any weight on that ankle." Kid put his arm around Samuel's waist and helped him hobble over to his father's side.
Seeing his father's pale complexion and labored breathing, Samuel cried out, "Pa, Pa, are you all right?"
The father slowly turned his head towards the voice and opened his eyes. "Samuel… Hannah, you're alive," he said in a raspy weak voice. "Where's your ma and Levi and Mary?"
Samuel shook his head, a tear running down his face. "I dunno, Pa. I haven't seen them."
Kid continued building a leverage point for the post to lift up the beam. "Mister…?"
"We're gonna get this beam off of you now, Mister Walker. I can raise it only a few inches. Samuel, you and Hannah need to grab your pa's arms and drag him back to you." Kid stood and positioned the post. "Mister Walker, gonna need you to help 'em get you out. Are you all ready?" Once three heads nodded, Curry put all his weight down on the post, raising the beam. "Pull!" he grunted as he struggled with the load.
Samuel and Hannah pulled and succeeded in freeing their father from the beam.
Curry lowered the post and sighed, using his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his forehead.
Kid crouched by Mr. Walker and noted the ashen face. "Hannah, we're gonna need some quilts. Can you go get some?"
Hannah vehemently shook her head; a tear in her eyes. "Don't wanna go outside."
Curry smiled. "Not outside… Maybe there's some more horse blankets."
"Pa can have mine. I've warmed up some pullin' him out." Samuel took the blanket from his shoulders and covered his father. "Hannah, we got two. Look for the other one."
Hannah nodded and began searching the barn.
"Where else are you hurtin'?" Curry ran his eyes down the man's body and didn't like the look of his leg.
"My leg… Head throbbin' Hard to…breathe," the father panted.
"Sounds like you cracked a rib, too." The Kid fingered the man's chest area. When the father gasped in pain, Curry lightly checked the area. "Yup, you got a cracked rib." Kid took the blanket from Hannah, who had just arrived at his side, and covered the man. He gently lifted Mr. Walker's head and felt around when he found the lump. "And you got a good size bump there. Still hafta check your leg, but I need to check on that little guy over…"
"Jed? Jed? JED!"
The Kid swallowed hard, running his hand over his face as he softly exclaimed, "Shit!" He hadn't had time to cover the bodies and he now knew his partner was no longer unconscious.
Hannah gasped. "You shouldn't say that!" she scolded.
"You're right, I shouldn't have." Curry hurriedly stood up. "I'll be right back. Go cover your little brother with one of the blankets," he said as he left the barn.
Outside, his partner was looking around in a panic. The Kid knelt by him and put his hand on his arm. "I'm right here, Heyes."
Heyes' brown eyes showed the confusion he felt. "What happened? Where are we? I…"
"We were in a twister and you got hurt. I brought you to this farm thinkin' we could get help and…"
Heyes looked over at the woman. "It's…it's your ma, Jed. What's your ma doin' here?"
Curry looked over at the woman and saw the resemblance to the faded memory he treasured deep in the recesses of his mind. "No, Heyes," Kid said gently. "She's not my ma. The man that lives here? That's his wife. I'm sorry I didn't have time to cover the bodies. Looks like the twister came through here, too."
Heyes nodded and then winced. Turning back to his partner, he asked, "What's wrong with me? I can't move, Kid."
"You got hit by a branch in the storm. It bruised your back real bad and gave you a bump on your head." The Kid paused, not wanting to say the rest. "And…and you can't seem to feel your legs right now."
Fear was evident in the brown eyes. "Kid…" He looked back to the bodies.
"Let me go cover them. I didn't have a chance before… I was tryin' to take care of the other people that are layin' hurt in the barn." Kid stood and hesitantly walked over to the toddler. He tenderly picked her up and placed her besides the mother. Looking around the yard, he found a sheet which had been blown out of the laundry basket and covered the bodies, tucking in the edges so it would stay.
Kid crouched next to his partner. "Better?"
Heyes nodded and looked away from the makeshift coverings. "You have more hurt people in the barn?"
Kid nodded. "A father and his three kids. The girl don't appear to be hurt none, but the boys are. There's a little one I hafta check on yet. How about I bring you into the barn. Then you can see what's goin' on."
"I'm gonna open a bedroll and put you on it so I can drag you in." Kid stood and walked to the gelding and removed the other bedroll. He opened it next to Heyes and gently placed it under his partner. "And you'll be wantin' something coverin' you since there's a lady in there." Kid picked up another of the laundered sheets which had been strewn around and covered Heyes' long johns. Curry took two ends of the bed roll and dragged Heyes into the barn.
Samuel and Hannah looked up when Kid entered.
"This here is my partner, Joshua, and he got hurt in the storm, too." Curry made Heyes as comfortable as possible and then went to the stall. "Hannah, can you get some water and a cup for drinkin'? It's okay to go out now—there's nothing to see anymore."
She nodded and quickly went to get the items he requested.
Turning his attention back to his partner, he nodded toward the stall. "There's a younger boy in here that's unconscious." Curry walked over to the child and ran his hands around the body checking for injuries. "He's got a bump on his forehead and – damn it – I think his left arm is broken."
Heyes put his arm over his eyes hoping to ease the throbbing in his head. "You're gonna have to set it and make it so he can't move it. Like when Lobo broke his arm."
"Yeah, I know. That's gonna hurt. Don't see or feel any more injuries." Kid covered him with the blanket again and walked out of the stall.
"That's my brother, Levi. He's only six." Samuel sounded concern. "Is he gonna die?"
"Not if I can help it." The Kid smiled as he returned to where Samuel and Hannah sat, near their father. "How you doin', Mr. Walker?"
"I've been better. Have you found my Rose and Mary?"
Kid glanced at his partner before facing the Walkers. The expression on his face was the only explanation they needed and he added, "I'm sorry."
"My Rose and Mary are…gone?" With a nod from his rescuer, Walker turned his head as the tears flowed. "No, they can't be! Rose was hangin' wash. Mary was playin' at her side. The sky was blue, I'm tellin' ya! BLUE! Twisters don't just drop out of a clear blue sky and..." his voice caught as the truth hithome. His Rose. His Mary. Gone.
Samuel and Hannah buried their heads in their father's shoulders as he tightly hugged them.
Hannah sobbed. "I tried to wake them, Pa. I really did. They wouldn't wake up and then I was scared and just stayed in the barn."
Wanting to give the family privacy, Kid walked away from them towards the door and his partner. Crouching beside Heyes, he gave him what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "Think they could use a few minutes alone. I'm gonna check the house—you okay for a few minutes?"
"I could use a drink of that water."
"Now that I think about it, I could use a drink myself." Kid quietly went over to the pail of water and cup Hannah brought in and took it over to Heyes. He dipped the cup into the water and handed it to his partner. "There you go. Let me know if you want more."
Taking the proffered cup, Heyes drank the water and handed it back to Kid. "I'm okay for now."
Dipping the cup again into the water, Kid downed one cup of water and then another. "Better go see if the house is livable. The barn sure ain't with that broken beam. I'll be right back."
Heyes turned his head from the mourning family and watched his partner walk across the yard into the house.
Curry opened the door and stood for a minute, surveying the mess. Most of the furniture was tipped over with clothes and bedding strewn around. Walking inside, he began picking up the chairs and tables and setting them aright. The cabin was one room with a kitchen area on one side and a living area on the other. A bed and chest of drawers was in one corner of the room. A stone fireplace sat opposite the front door. Looking up, he could see the blue sky through holes the storm made and a loft. Glass from broken windows, lamps, and dishes littered the floor. Kid pushed the bed back against the wall so it would be ready for the injured. He picked up a broom from the floor and quickly swept up the broken glass from the living and bed area.
Stepping out onto the porch, Curry surveyed the yard. There was a well between the barn and house, a corral, an outhouse that the storm had blown over, and a hen house missing a door. Clothes and bedding were scattered about and several chickens were scratching in the garden looking for bugs. Here Kid also saw two more victims of the storm – chickens that would make a good dinner.
Heyes' voice calling to him pulled him back out of his thoughts. "What's it like in there?"
"Well, furniture is tipped over, there's holes in the roof and some of the windows are busted out, but it'll be better than the barn," Curry said, walking toward his partner. "How ya doin'?"
Heyes shrugged his shoulders. "Can't say this is the best hand I've ever been dealt. Kid, what d'ya reckon we should do?"
"Well, unless you have a better plan, I'm gonna get everyone in the house and take care of the injuries. Those two birds over there are gonna be dinner. And I'm thinkin' we should stay until Mr. Walker heals up or someone comes to care for the young'uns. Give you time to get better and start walkin' again.
Heyes looked down at his hands and then back up at his partner. "And what if I can't…"
Laying his hand on Heyes' arm, Curry looked steadily into the haunted brown eyes and answered Heyes' unspoken question with overwhelming confidence. "You're gonna get better, Heyes, but 'til then, we're just gonna take one day at a time. With all that bruising it might take awhile." The blond partner looked back over his shoulder at the Walkers. "I gotta get back to the family."
Curry picked up the bucket of water with the cup and walked over to the father and children. He dipped the cup in the water and handed it to Mr. Walker who took it and drank. "Hate to bother you folks, but I need to get you inside and take care of those injuries."
"I'm beholden to you, Mister…"
"Jones. Thaddeus Jones. That's my partner, Joshua Smith."
"Floyd Walker. Guess you know the children. I…I don't know what we would've done if you hadn't shown up when you did."
Kid nodded his head in acceptance and gestured his partner. "Kinda worked both ways 'cause my partner's gonna need a place to heal up and I'm hopin' it'll be here. I checked out the house and it has to be cleaned and patched, but it'll do 'til I can fix it. You got somethin' I can use to move Joshua and you into the house?"
Floyd pointed to a corner of the barn, but all Kid could see was debris from the storm. "Keep it over there."
"Samuel and Hannah, make sure you drink some of that water," Kid said as he made his way through the rubble to the corner. Still intact stood a medium-size hand wagon. He maneuvered it to the barn door.
"You're first, Joshua. Let's get you in a real bed." Kid bent down and put his arm under Heyes' legs and another arm under his back. Heyes put an arm around his neck as Curry lifted him into the wagon.
"Oh…" Heyes winced in pain when Kid laid him down.
"Don't be. Just get me in that bed," he spoke through teeth clenched in pain.
Curry slowed pulled the wagon through the yard and to the house. Finding wood planks, he made a ramp up to the porch and brought the farm cart into the house next to the bed. "Ready?"
Not wanting to let his partner know how much he was hurting, Heyes merely nodded.
Kid lifted his partner gently out of the cart and into the bed. "Feel better?"
Heyes sank into the bed, exhaling in relief as he got himself settled. "Better…than…hard…ground," he panted, trying to breathe through the pain.
Curry smiled. "I'll be back with Floyd," he said as he turned the wagon around and headed out the door. Making his way back to the barn, he pulled beside Floyd. "Samuel and Hannah, I'm gonna make you pa comfortable in the house. You stay here with your little brother and I'll be back soon." He put a hand on Floyd's arm. "You ready? This is gonna hurt."
Kid crouched next to Walker and slowly lifted him into the wagon. Floyd let out a cry of pain. Curry gave him a moment before making his way back into the house.
When they entered the yard, Floyd stared at the covered bodies. "Is that…"
Kid nodded and continued towards the house. He placed the cart next to the bed and Heyes gave him a puzzled look.
"Move over, Joshua. You have a new bed partner."
"Floyd? Kid, I don't…isn't there another bed?"
"I said move over. There's only one bed in here. Think he broke his leg and can't have him lyin' on the floor."
"Not what…I had in…mind," Floyd panted from the pain.
The Kid glared at his partner. "I said move over."
Heyes reluctantly shifted over a little towards the window as Curry lifted Walker into bed. "There, that's better," Kid said as he straightened up and put his hands on his hips. "Now for Levi." Looking around, Kid went up in the loft and threw down a mattress and a blanket. "That'll do," he stated as he climbed down the stairs. "You two get acquainted and I'll be back." Dragging the cart behind him, Curry headed back to the children.
When Kid walked into the barn, he saw Hannah and Samuel by their little brother, Levi, who was semi-conscious and softly moaning. He looked around at the debris in the barn until he found what would work for a crutch. Holding out a hand to assist him, Curry said, "Samuel, stand up and try this for a crutch. It'll work until I can make you a better one."
Samuel took hold of the extended arm and slowly stood, holding his other arm across his chest to ease the pain.
"Soon as we get Levi in the house, I'll bind that rib up for you. I need you and Hannah to help me with all the cleanin' up that needs to be done — startin' with pluckin' the feathers off those dead birds in the yard. We'll cook 'em up for dinner."
Samuel took the crutch and tried it out for size. The Kid smiled. "Seems like it'll work 'til we can get you somethin' better." He knelt by Levi and gently lifted him into his arms. "Hannah, can you bring the bucket of water and cup into the house?"
The group made their way across the debris-littered yard towards the house. "You'll get the hang of usin' the crutch soon, Samuel. Be careful in the house. I swept some, but there's still some broken glass and I don't need either of you cuttin' yourself."
Kid walked into the cabin and placed Levi on the table while Hannah and Samuel stood at the door in shock. This place didn't resemble the home they had before the storm; their ma prided herself in a clean and tidy house.
Curry stood up and with his hands on his hips, surveyed the room. "Samuel, take your shirt off and sit down on one of the chairs. Hannah, put the bucket on the table and go get those birds. Start pluckin' the feathers out on the porch." Looking at the two men in the bed, he smiled. "You two gettin' along?"
Heyes answered with a scowl. "What are you doin' with Samuel?"
"Binding up his cracked rib," the Kid replied while picking up a tattered sheet and ripping it into strips.
"Floyd and that boy need doctorin'. That can wait," Heyes questioned Curry's decision.
"No it can't." Curry tried to keep his voice even as he continued, "Samuel's in pain here and this will give him some relief so he can help Hannah with those birds. You wanna eat today, don't ya?" The Kid began to tightly bind Samuel's chest.
Samuel winced at the tightness.
"It's gotta be tight," Curry assured him to he continued to wrap the ribs. "There, finished. Didn't take long. Feel better?"
Samuel tested the support with a deeper breath. "Still sore but I can breathe easier."
"Good, put your shirt back on and watch your brother for a few minutes. I'm gonna start a fire before tendin' to Levi and your pa."
Kid picked up scattered kindling from the storm in the room and used it to start a fire in the stove. He found a large cast iron pot and, on his way to the well for water, he found several pieces of debris that would make good splints for Mr. Walker's leg and Levi's arm. Re-entering the house, he put the filled pot on the stove so the water would be ready for the birds.
Heyes had watched his partner and asked, "How are you gonna cook the birds?"
"I'm boilin' them. Why?"
"They'd taste better if you cooked them in a dutch oven."
"Probably, but this is fast, easy and makes soup for tomorrow. Next time I'll use the oven. Okay Samuel, you can go join your sister. I got Levi."
While Kid was gently fingering Levi's bones to see if the arm was the only break, he realized Floyd had barely said a word since coming in the house. "You okay, Floyd? Can I get you somethin'?" Floyd shook his head and looked away. "I'll get to your injuries in a bit. I wanna set this bone before he wakes up."
A quiet voice asked, "Levi's still alive?"
"He sure is. Seems to just have a head wound and this broken arm."
Heyes watched his partner with Levi. "Know what you're doin'?"
"Nope. I can feel where it's broken, though."
"Just feel the other arm so you know what it's supposed to feel like. Then gently pull on the wrist with one hand and with the other hand push the broken ends into place so it feels smooth. When you think you've got the bones in place, let go of the wrist, compare it to the other arm.
"How do you know?"
"Well, when Lobo broke his arm, I watched Preacher set the break and asked questions."
"Of course you did, Joshua," the Kid said shaking his head. He could picture Heyes asking Preacher a hundred questions and wanting to be involved.
"Asking questions is a good way to learn things, Kid. You got somethin' to splint it with so the bones don't move?"
"Yep; found some wood that'll work when I got water." Knowing his partner needed to feel part of what was going on, Kid lifted them up to show Heyes and then set them down so he could rip the rest of the sheet into strips. Looking around at the clothes and bedding strewn around the room, he found a small blanket and folded it to make a triangle. "Need a sling, too, and this should work."
Heyes nodded and immediately wished he hadn't. His head was throbbing.
His partner noticed the grimace of pain. "You need anything?"
"No, not right now." Heyes put his arm over his eyes. "Just get those bones set while the other kids are outta the room."
Curry nodded his head and continued tending to Levi. He felt the other arm and then the broken left one. Taking the small wrist, Kid pulled gently and used his other hand to align the bones. Though still unconscious, the child whimpered in pain. He released the pressure on the wrist and compared the broken bone with the uninjured one. Noting they were now the same, the Kid sighed in relief. Using the splints and sling, the Kid made the arm immobile. Next, he took a basin of water and cleaned the dirt from the cuts and bruised area. He dipped a rag in the water and gently turned the little blond head until he saw the bump. He patted the wound with the cloth washing away the dry blood. Once the area was clean, he wound a strip of the sheet around the head. When finished tending to Levi, Kid gently picked him up and placed him on the mattress near Floyd's side of the bed and covered him up.
Curry stuck his head out the door to see how the other two were coming along with the chickens. "How's it goin'?" he asked to gauge his time. He wanted to set Floyd's leg, if it was broken, before they were finished.
Feathers were flying around the porch. "About half done, sir," Samuel reported back.
"Take your time and get all the tiny down feathers off, okay?"
Samuel and Hannah nodded and continued to work.
Kid walked over to the bed. "Floyd, may as well get you fixed up before the kids come in with those birds." Kid noticed the man barely acknowledged what was going on around him. "Let's see if this leg is broken." Curry removed the man's pants, leaving on his long johns, and fingered the leg, feeling a break below the knee. "Yep, gonna have to set it." Finding another tattered sheet, he tore it in strips. Again, Kid noted how the unbroken left leg felt.
"Gonna hurt. May wanna get him something to bite down on," Heyes suggested as he fought back the nausea he felt.
Kid took the bandanna off the man's neck. "Mr. Walker?" The man barely glanced at Curry in acknowledgement. "I'm gonna set your broken leg now before the children come in. Gonna hurt; might wanna bite down on this." Floyd opened his mouth and Kid placed the bandanna in it.
Moving down to the bottom of the bed, Curry took Walker's leg just above the ankle in one hand and pulled. Trying to put the bone back required more pressure than he had anticipated. When the bone finally slipped back into place, Curry shuddered. He glanced at Floyd who was ashen with beads of sweat on his forehead.
"Done," Kid told him as he removed the bandana and then got a wet rag to wipe his face. He was almost finished splinting the leg when the children came in with the birds.
Hannah came into the house holding up the birds with Samuel limping after her. "All finished, Thadde…"
"Mr. Jones — show your respect and call him Mr. Jones," came a weak voice from the bed.
Hannah hung her head. "Yes, Pa." Looking up to see a blue-eye wink at her reassuringly, she smiled. "Mr. Jones, we're all finished with the birds."
Kid took the birds and looked them over. "And you did a mighty fine job, too." Cutting off the head and legs, he put them in the pot of water. "Careful of the glass. Hannah, can you get more water from the well? And Samuel, you can get your pa and Joshua a drink of water."
Samuel stared at his father's ashen face. "Is Pa okay?"
Kid Curry went back to the bed. "He will be. Just gotta finish tendin' to him. Floyd, can you sit up some so I can bind your chest?" The man sat up with a groan, but without speaking or making eye contact. Removing his shirt, Kid tightly wound strips of cloth around the cracked rib for support and eased him back down on the bed. Next he cleaned the head wound and wrapped a bandage around it. "Done!" Kid said as he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Joshua, you need anything before I finish sweepin' up this glass?" The Kid didn't want to take the time to sweep up the cabin, but knew it was necessary so nobody cut themselves.
"A bottle of whiskey…a new head…" Heyes said softly as he continued to cover his eyes.
"I haven't seen anything that'll help the pain in your head."
"That's okay; better finish what you're doing."
Curry nodded and swept the floor in the kitchen area and picked up the furniture that had fallen over at the same time. Samuel helped the Kid pick up things while Hannah put the books back on the bookcase.
A cry from Levi brought the chores to a halt. "Ma! Ma!" the little one sobbed.
Curry hurried to the makeshift bed and knelt beside him. "Hey… You're okay. Your ma isn't here right now. But your pa is here, just next to you. He's been hurt, though, and can't sit next to you, but Hannah can. Do you want Hannah to sit with you for awhile? Hannah, why don't you bring your little brother some water and sit with him a spell."
The blonde girl in pigtails brought over a cup of water, sat on the mattress and soothed her brother. "It okay, Levi."
"I want Mama! Ma!" Levi continued to cry out.
"Can't you make him quiet?" Heyes frustrated voice was heard over Levi's crying, his head pounding with pain.
"He's hurtin', too, Joshua. We doin' our best over here."
Heyes sighed. "I know… I'm sorry."
"Levi, quit your cryin' now," came a louder voice from the bed.
Levi wiped his tears and hiccupped as he tried not to cry while Hannah continued to comfort him.
Sweeping near the fireplace, Curry noticed a pot in the ash. Puzzled, he reached in and touched a just warm dutch oven. The Kid's stomach growled at the possible prospect of food. Pulling the cast iron oven out of the ash, he put it on the table and opened it up to find a beef stew ready and lukewarm. The Kid gave a big grin. "Anyone hungry? Found us some stew for dinner."
Samuel looked up from putting objects back where they belonged. "I'm starvin'!"
"Me too. Are you hungry, Levi?" Hannah asked her little brother who was still quietly sniffling and whimpering slightly. He shook his head no and then grimaced, putting his free hand to his head wound.
Kid grabbed tin plates from the floor, rinsed them in the water and dried them off. He scooped the stew on three plates and looked towards the bed. "Floyd and Joshua, you're having stew."
"No," came Heyes' response as he stared at his partner.
Floyd gave no answer.
Curry glared at the men. "I don't recall askin' either one of you. You are havin' stew…even if it's just a little. I know you haven't had nothin' to eat for more than a day, Joshua. Can't heal properly if you don't eat." He propped up his partner with a few pillows. Handing two plates of stew to Hannah and Samuel, the Kid took the third plate with a spoon and handed it to Heyes. "Eat."
Heyes took the plate and tried eating with his sprained wrist. "Can't." He pushed the plate away.
Kid took the plate and sat on the edge of the bed. He spooned up some stew and tried to feed Heyes.
Heyes folded his arms and looked away. "Kid, I don't want any. I feel sick."
"Just three spoons and I'll leave you alone." His tone softened as he added, "I really think you'll feel better if you eat somethin'."
The Kid nodded.
"Okay," Heyes grumbled and ate three spoonfuls. "That's enough."
"How about some water?"
Heyes thought a moment. "That sounds good."
Curry brought a cup of water and handed it to his partner. Walking to the other side of the bed, he said, "Hannah, make Levi eat a few bites of your stew."
She nodded as Kid handed the plate to Floyd.
"Your turn… Same deal as Joshua… Hafta have three bite or more."
Walker turned his head away.
"Floyd, three bites… Don't make me force you." As a last thought incentive, he added, "It's the last you'll taste of your Rose's cookin'."
Floyd looked at Kid with eyes full of emotion. He took the plate and ate several bites before handing the plate back as he became teary-eyed.
Kid took the cup from Heyes and filled it again. "Floyd, want some water?"
He nodded and drank from the proffered cup.
"Do you have anything in the house for pain? Any laudanum?"
"Think Rose kept some on the top shelf in the kitchen in the far back where Levi couldn't reach it."
Walking over to the shelf, Curry reached up on the top shelf and felt relief when he found the small bottle of laudanum. It hadn't flown off the shelf in the storm. With a spoon and another cup of water, he walked over to Levi. "Hurtin', huh?"
The small head nodded.
"Did you eat some of the stew from Hannah?"
Again, a small head nodded and the Kid looked at Hannah for confirmation.
"He had three spoons like you made Pa and Mr. Smith eat."
Kid winked at Hannah. "You're a good sister."
Looking back at Levi, he said as he poured a few drops on the spoon, "Take this; it'll help with the pain."
Levi opened his mouth and let the Kid spoon the medicine to him. He scrunched up his nose. "That tastes bad!"
"I know it does, but it'll help. Here's some water to get it down," Kid said as he handed the cup to Levi.
After Levi took his medicine, Curry gave Floyd and Heyes some laudanum with an incentive that, "It'll help you sleep some, too."
Having met each person's needs for the moment, the Kid allowed himself a moment to sit and eat. Once he started relaxing, he realized how exhausted he was, mentally and physically.
"Kid… KID!" Heyes' voice startled him.
"You were falling asleep."
"No I wasn't."
"Were, too. What did I just ask you?"
Kid thought for a moment. He didn't realize he had fallen asleep. "Okay, so maybe I did close my eyes for a minute."
Heyes chuckled. "Your head almost landed in your plate of food. I asked when you were planning on…"
The Kid gave his partner a look that stopped him from continuing. "Tomorrow — first thing in the mornin'." He paused and looked at Mr. Walker. "Floyd, I hate to ask this, but is there some place special you want Rose and Mary?"
Eyes brimmed with tears as he nodded. "I was thinkin' on the hill behind the house next to Tommy's grave. Lots of wildflowers there. What do you think, Hannah? …Samuel?"
The two older children came to their father's side, trying to hold back their tears.
"Think that's a good place, Pa."
Hannah added, "Ma loved them flowers and would wanna be near Tommy."
"Tommy?" the Kid gently asked.
"A baby Rose loss between Hannah and Levi."
Curry nodded. "Okay, first thing in the morning we'll lay 'em to rest."
Heyes sighed and connected with a pair of blue eyes, each man remembering when they buried their families. Heyes turned away first and stared out the window. "Got horses to tend to, Thaddeus."
"Right." Kid finished the rest of his meal and grabbed the bucket to refill as he went outside. The sun had just set and the sky was beautiful with the reds and pinks intermingling with the blues and purples. High above, the stars were beginning to twinkle. Kid sighed as he drank in the sight and breathed in the fresh air. Funny, he thought, how nature's temperament could change on a whim. Angry and stormin' one moment, peaceful and comfortin' the next. He stretched and walked over to the well to fill the bucket.
The horses looked at him and whinnied as he made his way to them. He petted their noses and checked out the corral. There was plenty of grass for grazing and a trough full of water; with minimal repair, he could keep the horses in the fenced area.
He led them in the gate and removed the saddles, bridles, the second bedroll, and both saddlebags. He stroked both horses. "Just a day ago we were ridin' to a town." He shook his head. "Can't believe all that's happened. What if… What if Heyes can't walk again? What're we gonna do?" The mare nuzzled his arm before he released her into the corral. "Yeah, we'll think of somethin'. This is the best I can do tonight. Least we're not ridin' for our lives, huh? See you two in the mornin'."
Curry latched the gate, found a couple of boards and made temporary repairs to the fence. Picking up the bucket, he headed back into the house with the saddlebags over a shoulder and the bedroll in his other arm.
When Kid came in the house, he noticed Samuel and Hannah lying on the mattress next to Levi and almost asleep.
Floyd's eyes were closed and he sighed as he mourned his wife and daughter; he wondered how he was going to manage without them.
Heyes was still staring out the window and Curry came up beside him.
"Need to…" Heyes shook his head in frustration. "I can't even…"
Kid ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm sorry, Heyes. I didn't think about that. I'll help you… Be right back."
Kid got a chamber pot and eased his partner into a partial upright position, swinging his legs out of the bed.
Heyes grimaced in pain with the movement and sighed when he was able to recline back on the bed.
"Just let me know next time you hafta..."
"I will. I'm just so…" Heyes sighed. "I hate being a burden on you."
Quietly, the Kid answered, "You'd do the same for me. We're partners, remember? Now, stop fightin' the laudanum an' go to sleep."
Kid emptied the pot and touched Floyd's arm to get his attention. "Need to use…"
Floyd nodded gratefully and Kid assisted him as unobtrusively as possible.
"Anything else you two need tonight?" Curry asked as he returned with the empty pot. Receiving two shakes of the head in return, he placed the now-empty pot under the bed.
"No, why don't you get some sleep, Kid? You've had a busy day."
"If you're sure…" he asked as he made sure everyone had blankets and were tucked in.
Heyes nodded his head and stared out the window while his partner got another mattress from the loft and lay down, asleep within moments. Heyes closed his eyes, trying to push back the flood of memories from his childhood.