Heyes snugged down his bedroll and tucked their old dented coffee pot into his saddlebag and tightened the straps. There, that was the last of it. He was ready to head to Dolores. He looked over at the Kid who was dousing the fire with muddy water.
"What are you doing that for?"
"I always douse the flames."
"But there isn't anything to burn here. Look around, we're in the middle of nowhere."
"Don't matter, I always douse the fire."
Heyes shook his head and mounted his horse as the Kid stood and wiped his hand on his pants and folded up the canvas bucket he'd hauled the water to the fire in. He then tucked it between his bedroll and the skirt of his saddle, tying the backstraps down tightly. Patting his horse on the shoulder, he reached for a hank of mane and stepped down on his stirrup to swing up into his saddle.
"All right, let's go."
Heyes nudged his horse into a slow jog and headed south. The Kid held his horse back and watched him jog away a few hundred yards and then yelled, "We're not going that way, Heyes."
He saw his partner slide his horse to a stop and he could tell by the set of Heyes' shoulders he was surprised. The Kid smiled. This was going to be fun.
Loping back, Heyes stopped. "What are you talking about? Dolores is that way." He pointed south.
"Yep, it is."
"So, we're headed that way."
"Nope. We're headed that way." Curry pointed north.
"Kid, Dolores is to the south." Heyes was getting irritated.
"Yep, it is."
Heyes turned his horse and walked south.
"You're going the wrong way."
Heyes wheeled his horse around and came back.
"Are you soft in the head?"
"Nope. That'd be you."
"Ha, very funny. Now let's go," said Heyes turning the poor horse again.
"I ain't going that way, Heyes, and neither are you."
"What the hell are you talking about? We're going to Dolores. You agreed Dolores is that way and now you say you're going north?" challenged Heyes angrily.
"Might I ask why?" asked Heyes scathingly.
Gritting his teeth until his jaw popped, Heyes ground out, "Why?"
"'Cause we're going that way." Curry pointed north again.
"We agreed to go to Dolores," yelled Heyes. He was getting a bit red in the face.
"Yep. We did."
"Cut it out!"
Yep, definitely red in the face. Curry knew he shouldn't take this much further since his friend really wasn't well, but it was wear Heyes down or an all-out fight and, truthfully, he simply couldn't resist.
"Cut what out?"
"You know what-agreeing with me."
"You want me to disagree with you?"
"I want you to shut up and follow me to Dolores."
"Nope. I can't do that, because we're not going that way."
"We're not?" said Heyes, realizing this was not going to go well for him.
"Nope, we're going this way to Moab."
"Moab. I don't want to go to Moab. I told you I wanted to see the doctor in Dolores."
"Yeah, you want to go to Dolores because it's four days away and not a day or so away, right?"
Heyes was silent.
"You knew if you agreed to go to the doctor, I wouldn't push you to go to the ranch and rest up, right?"
Heyes wasn't going to admit it. "Fine. You want to ride into Moab, we'll ride into Moab. All you had to do was say so, Kid." He headed north at a jog, and Kid fell in behind him with a wide grin.
About an hour later, they were riding side by side when Heyes spoke up. "I was thinking. Maybe we should pass by Moab and ride on up to Ouray. You know, there's a chance Lindy made her way out and Moab's the first place she'd go. The sheriff worries me, too. We don't know who he is or where he's from, could be Moab. Could be all the sheriffs around here have heard we're in these parts."
Kid looked at Heyes and saw the unspoken desperation in his eyes. "You and I have to talk."
Heyes had been expecting an argument so he was ready, "Talk? We've been talking for a week now, Kid, I'm all talked out."
"Well, I ain't, so you listen. I know what you're doing. You don't want to go into town in case you have another spell and you don't want to see a doctor, because you ain't sure you're going to like what he tells you. So you figured if you got me to ride to Dolores, you'd have three more days to weasel your way out of getting there."
"That's not true, Kid. I think it's too risky…" Heyes began.
"Risky? Are you kidding me? Now you're worried about risks? What about riding off into the desert alone, sick and not thinking right? Wasn't that risky? Oh right, I forgot, you didn't care about whether or not you died. So why are you worried about risks now?"
Heyes' jaw was clenched again. He was looking straight ahead off in the distance towards Moab.
"Like it or not, you're seeing the doctor tomorrow and I ain't taking no for an answer, do you hear me?"
"Don't try to tell me…"
"I said I wasn't taking no for answer!"
"All right! Geez, you can be so damned pig-headed sometimes."
"We'll go in early before anyone is up and we'll get a hotel room. I have a little money left and so do you, enough for a couple of nights. We can order up baths and we'll order in food. I'll wire Lom and ask for a loan. He'll help us out. You don't have to see anyone until you're ready."
"Fine. What else can I say? If I say no you're going to flatten me, right?"
"Yep, and don't get any ideas about riding off again. I'm watching for it now and I'll tie you up if I have to and haul you into town across your horse."
Heyes glared at him, furious the Kid had known what he was thinking.
The partners rode on until late afternoon, when Curry declared he was hungry and they were going to stop for the night. It was important Heyes didn't overtax himself and he could tell he was tiring. He had noticed the seizures occurred most often after Heyes had pushed himself too hard, so he planned for this to be a real easy trip. Heyes started sass him about being so bossy, but he gave him the stink-eye and he quickly shut up.
That night, they had a hot meal of tinned stew from the supplies the cowboys had given them and sat out under the stars sipping coffee. Heyes savored the taste of it. He was nervous about tomorrow, but knew he had no choice. He had to get it over with or he'd be avoiding towns and doctors for the rest of his life. He leaned back onto his saddle and stared at the night sky wishing he could clearly see the multitude of stars overhead, but he couldn't. It was a clear night and a bit chilly. The nights were cooler here as the elevation was much higher than the canyons had been. He sighed deeply.
The Kid wasn't unsympathetic to his fears, but he knew he had to push, drag or pull his partner to a doctor. Whatever the outcome, they both needed to know what was going to happen.
"I'm sorry for trying to fool you earlier."
"It's okay, Heyes. I know this is hard on you."
Heyes snorted at the understatement.
"Look, whatever the doc says, I'll be there for you."
"Yeah, I know and I appreciate it. You're the best partner I could ask for. It's just…..Kid. I….damn it! I don't want to be dependent on anyone. I've stood on my own two feet my whole life and I can't stand the idea I might be this weak and pathetic for the rest of it."
He looked at Heyes in amazement. "You've been riding around all over hell and back with a head injury. You were supposed to be lying in a bed and resting, yet you've ridden through the ugliest, most god-forbidden land in this country. You led all of us on a wild goose chase some of us didn't survive and, yet, here you are telling me you're weak? You might be crazy, but you ain't weak, Heyes!"
Heyes took his eyes off the stars for a second and looked at his best friend with a sad smile. He reached out and squeezed Kid's shoulder and said, "Thanks. I'm just not looking forward to this."
"I know you're not, but it's got to be done."
During the night, Heyes suffered another seizure. The Kid woke up and saw him thrashing about. The seizure was brief and milder than the previous ones and Heyes didn't wake up so he let him sleep. If he didn't know, he wasn't about to tell him. It looked to him like maybe the spells were lessening, but he was too afraid he might be wrong to say anything. He didn't want to get his partner's hopes up. He thought back to their conversation last night. He knew Heyes was afraid, more afraid than he'd ever seen him, and so was he. He couldn't imagine going through what Heyes had been through in the last couple of weeks. He wasn't at all sure, if it had been him, he would've have made it. He hated to see his partner suffering and he hated not being able to do anything about it. He was worried about the future, too, but knew he'd stand by Heyes, he was sure of it.
Heyes wasn't even aware the seizure had happened. He simply woke up in the morning more tired than he'd been when he went to bed. It was after dawn and the Kid wanted to get a move on and so did he. It was time to get this over with, so he dragged himself out of his bedroll and went to help his partner break camp.
Kid Curry stepped out of the telegraph office folding a bundle of money he slipped into his wallet. Good old Lom had wired him enough money for Heyes to rest up for quite a while and had sent a note to tell them to stay as long as necessary and to wire for more if they needed it. Lom was going to wire the sheriff and let him know Smith and Jones worked for him. The Kid had thoroughly checked out the town for signs of Lindy or the big sheriff. There weren't any.
Heyes was now sleeping in the hotel room and had been all day. They'd ridden in at dawn and awakened the desk clerk at the hotel. At their request and, a dollar tip, he'd given them a corner front room and promised them a bath within the next hour. Heyes had soaked for a long time. He'd sat nearby cleaning his gun and making sure his partner didn't fall asleep in the tub. He'd thought it would be like Heyes to survive all the odds against a brain injury and being lost in the desert only to drown in a bathtub.
Kid crossed the street and walked down the boardwalk to the doctor's office. A small bell over the door rang as he entered, and the doctor emerged from the back room.
"Good day, sir, can I help you? I'm Dr. Hutchins" said the kindly gray-haired man.
"My partner's laid up at the hotel. He has a head injury and we've been out on the trail for a week or so. Can you take a look at him?"
The doctor agreed and quickly packed up his medical bag and followed him to the hotel.
"C'mon, Joshua, wake up. The Doc's here. That's it, c'mon." Curry gently shook him but he was having a hard time waking up and the doctor observed him closely as he began to stir.
"Has he been hard to awaken? Has he had any trouble with his vision, headaches, confusion?"
"Yes, what? Which symptoms?"
"All of them. A few others, too,"
"Like what?" asked the doctor, shocked by the Kid's answer.
"He got pretty irritable for a while and he had trouble with his muscles but it passed. He's having seizures, though, pretty regularly when he's tired. What's it mean, Doc?"
Heyes opened his eyes, having heard this part of the conversation and interested in the answer.
"It means he's a very lucky man."
"Lucky, how do you figure that?" asked Heyes, drawing their attention to him.
"You're lucky to be alive, Mr. Smith. With all those symptoms you most certainly should be dead if you rode around with a severe concussion."
"My partner's too stubborn to let me die, Doc. Believe me, I tried hard to," said Heyes with a grin.
Curry smiled back at his cousin and patted his shoulder. "What about now, Do?. Will he keep having the seizures? And what about his eyes?"
"Time will tell. I really don't know if the damage is permanent. Since you've been improving there's a very good chance you will continue to improve but I can't promise you it will all go away completely. You must rest. No excuses, I don't want him to get out of this bed for at least a week. Do you both understand?"
"Yes, I'll see he stays put if I have to chain him to the bed," vowed Kid Curry.
"Good. Mr. Smith, I am leaving you some laudanum for the pain. Take it twice a day, three times if the headache gets worse. It will make you sleepy, but sleep is what you need. I will be back to check on you tomorrow. Good day, sirs."
Heyes refused to take the prescribed laudanum the first day. Dr. Hutchins came to check on him after breakfast the next morning and asked him if the laudanum had helped. He told the doctor it was helping a lot, right in front of the Kid who raised his eyebrows at the bald-faced lie.
The doctor was nobody's fool and simply picked up the bottle and said, "I think not. You can take it now while I'm here." Heyes stubbornly refused saying it made him sick. "Suit yourself. If you don't want to follow medical advice it's your problem."
That night, he suffered another seizure. The Kid woke and waited silently for it to pass. Once it was over, he got up without saying a word, poured out a dose of laudanum for his partner and handed it to him. Heyes took it without hesitation.
The rest of the week passed uneventfully for the partners. The doctor returned twice after the Kid the assured him Joshua had learned his lesson and was now regularly taking the medication. It had been a godsend as Heyes was kept too sleepy to fuss about his confinement. By Friday morning, he was much improved and had been given the go ahead by to get up and try short jaunts around town. The doctor warned him not to drink alcohol for at least another week and to turn in early and get plenty of rest. Heyes didn't suffer another seizure and began cutting back on the laudanum.
This morning, he begged the Kid to go to the town's only saloon for a couple of hours. He was bored and he knew the saloon was likely to be the liveliest place in town. Curry agreed, pleased his partner wanted to be out in public, but he made Heyes promise to listen when he called it a day.
Moab had first been settled at the direction of the Mormon Church. It had been abandoned for a while and recently re-settled by a more diverse group of folks. The saloon was tolerated as necessary entertainment for the less pious part of the population.
Curry entered the saloon first and checked out the room. He was extra protective of Heyes right now and wasn't taking any chances with him. Heyes followed him in and they went to stand at the bar. The Kid ordered a beer and a sarsaparilla for Heyes. This drew a laugh from the barkeep, who asked, "What, ain't he old enough to drink?" Heyes reddened but Curry stared coldly at the barkeep who felt a chill go down his spine. "Sorry, I didn't mean anything by it. Here, this round's on the house. The name's Dan. Are you two new in town?"
Kid nodded and passed Heyes his drink. "We've been here for a little over a week, but my partner's been laid up over at the hotel." Heyes had turned around, ignoring the barkeep, and was studying the action at the poker tables.
"Gee. I'm really sorry I was so smart-mouthed; I didn't know."
Heyes turned back and said, "It's all right. There's nothing I'd like better than a cold beer, but doctor's orders."
"Have you fellas met the sheriff yet?" asked Dan. Kid gulped in the middle of a sip.
Heyes' full attention was on the bartender now. "Why would the sheriff want to meet us?"
"He's been making a point of introducing himself to all the strangers in town because of the bank robbery a few weeks ago."
Crap, thought Heyes. His erstwhile gang had gone through with it. He quickly realized it was probably to his advantage. The outlaws would be long gone by now. "The sheriff already knows we're here. We work for a sheriff out of Porterville who sent an introduction to him. Tell me about the robbery. Who did it?" His head was starting to hurt with all the tenseness he was feeling. His face paled and the Kid noticed. He was ending this little outing as soon as he finished his beer.
"No one knows. A bunch of unknown outlaws most likely from Robber's Roost is the sheriff's best guess. It was the most excitement we've had around here in a long time. There were seven of them. The idiots put too much dynamite under the safe and blew the whole thing through the back wall of the bank, killed two of their own men waiting in the alley! The other robbers panicked and left town without a dime." Dan laughed as he wiped the counter.
Heyes paled even further now. The Kid put down his beer and tossed down a dollar down on the bar. "Keep the change, Dan. Joshua's not looking too good. I think it's time for him to go back and lie down. We'll see you around town."
The boys stayed in Moab for two more weeks. Heyes got the rest he needed. He had headaches from time to time and had a bit of trouble seeing those poker cards if he got too tired, but the seizures had stopped after his first week of rest and he knew he'd be fine.
They'd kept in touch with Lom and he had wired them yesterday about a possible job in Denver delivering some legal papers for a prominent lawyer who was a friend of the Wyoming governor. It would be an easy job for Heyes so they took it. The Kid packing up the room and checking them out of the hotel while Heyes went and saddled up the horses.
Heyes was finishing up when his partner arrived with their saddlebags slung over his shoulder. Curry tossed his up behind his saddle and tied it down tightly before handing Heyes his bags. He took them, opened one pocket, and dug into it. "Did you get my book? It was sitting on the side table."
"I got it, Heyes, but we've got a new rule."
Heyes looked up at him.
"No more readin' and ridin'."
Notes: The canyons described are real and are called the Maze. They are located in the west side of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. The entire area is littered with old Ancient Puebloan ruins. The Maze was frequented from time to time by outlaws many of whom disappeared in the canyons never to be seen again. The Waterhole is still there, too.