Marley lay immobile in the sand. He was conscious but he knew he had to play dead or risk becoming dead for real. He kept his one hand on his pistol and fought to stay conscious. Using the other hand, which was laying on top of him, he slowly smeared his blood from the arm wound across his chest. Where had Heyes come from?
Poke couldn't believe he'd missed the shot. It was an easy two hundred yarder and he'd missed! Worse, he'd shot Marley. Where had Heyes come from?
Like Poke and Marley, Lindy and Jake had left their horses around the last bend of the canyon. They'd seen the two horses already tied to the small cluster of stunted trees and had known their time had come. Dismounting and securing their own animals, the two had crept quietly forward. They had managed to escape Poke's notice as he had been so focused on Marley's ambush of Curry he wasn't expecting company from the rear.
Lindy and Jake watched it all from a jumble of fallen rock across and below Poke's vantage point. They'd been unaware he was up there and when they heard his shot both of them had shrunk back into the safety of their meager shelter. Lindy had seen Heyes for a second as he pulled his partner to the ground. He was alive so there was hope for her plan, but she wondered where had he come from?
Heyes finally loosened up the ties enough the Kid could slip his hands free. After clenching and unclenching his fists to work the blood back to his hands, Curry drew his gun and looked at him. "Are you okay?" Heyes was looking at him strangely. He saw him open his mouth to answer and shut it abruptly. A wave of confusion crossed his partner's face and he knew something was very wrong. He made a decision. He grabbed the gun from Heyes' holster and slipped it into his own empty holster.
"What did you do that for?"
"I ain't getting shot in the back because you can't see straight, Heyes."
"We're outnumbered! Give me my gun, I can see enough."
"Don't matter. I ain't giving you your gun." The Kid did not to explain it wasn't Heyes' sight he was worried about. He turned away from his partner who angrily glared at him.
"Fine!" Heyes rolled over onto his stomach and began to crawl away.
"Where are you going?"
"If I can't shoot anyone, there's no point in me hanging around to get shot at." Heyes started winding his way on his belly through the scratchy brushes. He had a plan.
The Kid turned his attention back to the sniper. He knew the shot had come from up valley maybe two to three hundred yards away and from thirty to forty feet above the canyon floor. He had a rough idea where the shooter was and he knew he was probably not visible to him from that angle. Putting his head down he crawled slowly towards the left wall of the canyon keeping below the slight rise of sand and shrubs he was hidden behind. He stopped at one point and looked back over his shoulder for his partner, but couldn't see him. What was Heyes up to now?
Heyes was belly crawling, too, but back to the crevice. He was only fifteen feet or so from the entrance and could almost see it. Slowly drawing up into a crouch he looked around as best he could. Hell, it was all so blurry he might as well make a run for it. He sprang forward and ran for the entrance hunched over and zigzagging to make a more difficult target.
Jake had seen him and curbed his desire to shoot. He had an advantage because no one knew he and Lindy had arrived and wasn't ready to give it up. He didn't notice his sister reaching for the large rock next to her and drawing it into the folds of her skirt.
Poke saw Heyes and fired off a shot, but it ricocheted off the rocks above Heyes' head as he slipped through the crack and into the crevice. Poke rose and, carefully keeping an eye out for Kid Curry, he made his way down the rocky ledge towards Marley. He kept an eye on the spot where he saw Heyes disappear. Poke was a man who hated surprises.
The Kid hadn't made it very far. The cover he was using ran out a good twenty feet from the side wall and he didn't think the odds were good he could cover it without being shot. He might have risked it another time, but not with Heyes so sick. He didn't know what was going on with his cousin, but it was obvious Heyes shouldn't be left on his own. He couldn't believe the damn fool had ridden off and left him behind and he wanted to live to hear why.
Jake had his back to Lindy watching for more signs of the shooter. She was slowly slipping the rock out of her skirt and steeling herself for what she had planned. She'd killed men before. The thought of it wasn't what was bothering her. They had been drunken, cruel cowboys who'd used her roughly and then tried to stiff her for payment. No. She was worried the heat had so sapped her strength she wouldn't strike hard enough to kill Jake with the first blow.
Lindy had no illusions about her brother. He was cut from the same cloth as their Pa. Sure, she'd supported him a bit in those early years but it was to keep Jake from turning up on her doorstep unexpectedly. Lindy remembered the avid look on her brother's face as their mangled father lay dying at his feet. She'd known then he was never to be trusted. Like an animal who had drawn first blood, she'd known he would kill again for the sheer joy of it and she'd planned to never give him the opportunity to kill her. He wasn't as smart as he thought he was, trusting her, or maybe he had plans for her, too. He'd always treated her as a possession like his gun or his horse, protective only as long as she was of use to him. Fortunately, Lindy had prepared for this trip. She had slipped a knife into her garter, hidden by her skirt, but she couldn't get to it without Jake knowing. Not when he was sticking so close to her. For her new plan to work, she needed him to die silently.
Marley strained to hear the sounds around him and to interpret what they meant. He'd heard the outlaws split up and move away from each other and now he heard Poke coming down the trail. He didn't believe his old partner had turned on him, but he wasn't about to take any chances. He stayed still.
Heyes had hastily saddled his gelding. He reached into his saddlebags and pulled out a stick of dynamite and the extra gun he'd taken from Poke's storeroom. He slipped the gun into his holster and hung onto the stick of dynamite. Reaching into the other saddle bag, he pulled out a blasting cap and a roll of fuse. Heyes used the knife he kept tucked in his bootleg to cut a suitable length of it and carefully pushed the blasting cap into the end of the stick before tying on the fuse. He was ready now.
He'd discovered the other night one of his new gang members had decided to bring some explosives with him in case they couldn't get what they needed in Moab. The night the gang had ridden off, Heyes had listened to their drunken talk before they'd left. He'd heard Deke's friend, Wade, boasting they didn't need Smith as he'd brought enough dynamite to blow any safe sky high. Heyes had decided at that moment dynamite might come in handy to block his exit from his past life. He had slid silently out of his bedroll late at night and crept to the picket line where he lifted a stick from Wade's saddlebags. The man would never miss one stick and Hannibal Heyes was a big believer in being prepared.
The Kid was right; a gun was useless to him right now, but a stick of dynamite didn't need to be aimed. He could see well enough to know where his partner was. He wasn't really planning on killing anyone, only creating enough dust and confusion to get them away. He mounted inside of the crevice and fished in his shirt pocket pulling out a cigar he'd bought in Gunnison and had been keeping until he felt good enough to smoke it. Striking a match along the rough wall, he lit the cigar being careful to keep it well away from the dynamite he'd tucked under his arm to free his hands. Cigar lit and in his mouth, he took the stick of explosive in one hand, the reins in the other, and spurred his horse from a standstill into a gallop plunging through the narrow entrance banging his shoulders and knees on the rocky walls.
Just before Heyes' mad dash, Poke appeared through a break in the shrubs and Jake leapt out from his hiding place. Lindy was caught by surprise at Jake's sudden move and dropped her arm to her side but keeping the rock held tightly in her hand. Poke saw Jake just before the bounty hunter shot him in the face. He was dead before he hit the ground. Jake smiled triumphantly and headed towards the sheriff using shrubs for cover and keeping an eye out for Curry and Heyes. He'd seen Curry crawl to the left and Heyes had disappeared somewhere to the right. Jake was keeping his gun trained between the two.
The Kid had seen Jake shoot Poke and he was waiting for a clear shot when Heyes flew out of the rock wall startling everyone as he madly galloped across the canyon towards his partner. Geez, the crazy fool had a lit stick of dynamite! Heyes swung his arm up and released the stick as Jake shot his horse from under him. The dynamite flew through the air and landed, igniting a sandy, dusty explosion. Kid couldn't see Heyes anymore. He could barely make out the dead horse but he couldn't tell if Heyes was dead or alive as he ran through the cover of dust in the direction of his partner.
Jake also ran towards Heyes stopping only long enough to scoop up Marley's gun and give the apparently dead sheriff a quick appraisal.
Lindy chased after her brother. She wasn't letting her meal ticket go up in smoke.
Heyes was lying face up in the sand on the far side of his horse. The Kid could see him now, sprawled in the dirt, and his gut twisted at the sight. He was a ways away when the smoke cleared and he saw Jake coming, too, so he dropped to the sand instantly. Jake had just reached Heyes as he sat up and swung his gun up stopping the bounty hunter in his tracks.
"Uh, Uh," said Heyes swaying dangerously. "There might be two of you, but I've got six bullets." He was grinning crazily. Jake raised his hands. Behind him, the ex-outlaw leader saw a blurry sight that truly shocked him. Lindy was running towards him with a smile of relief on her face. He had to strongly resist the temptation to shoot a woman.
Curry rose out of hiding and discovered the sheriff was gone. He must've been playing possum. He looked around and saw a horse and rider galloping away up the back trail. He ran to Heyes keeping his gun trained on Lindy. He wanted to shoot her, too.
Reaching his cousin's side he stopped, relieved to see Heyes wasn't bleeding anywhere. "You okay? Damn, I'm getting sick of asking you that!"
Heyes goofily smiled at him and passed out.
As Heyes fell back to the ground, Lindy threw herself down next to him with a strangled cry. She gripped his shoulders, shaking him, and began to cry. The Kid was stunned. Wasn't this the two-timing whore who'd turned them over to her bounty hunter brother? She was carrying on as though Heyes was the love of her life. Maybe they had it all wrong. Maybe something else was going on here. Ever the soft touch for a pretty girl, he decided to give her the benefit of the doubt but he wasn't going to trust her. He looked over at Hawkins, who appeared equally stunned.
Lindy was crying for the love of her life, money. If Heyes died, she'd lose all hope of him making her a fortune. What was she going to do? At least she hadn't killed Jake. That could work in her favor if Heyes died. After all, Heyes was worth ten thousand dollars dead. Pulling herself together, she wiped the tears from her eyes. She'd do everything in her power to see he pulled through, because she stood the best chance of making the most money if he lived. Standing up, she begged the Kid pitifully, "Please, we've got to help him."
Curry's anger melted away, but the suspicion remained.
Heyes came to lying on his bedroll near a small camp fire. The flames cast strange, flickering shadows across his strained visage. Lindy was crouched over the fire stirring something in a small pot. He saw Hawkins sitting down tied to a tree with his arms pulled behind it and the Kid crouched in front of him giving him a drink from a canteen. Heyes was confused and didn't move giving his vision a few minutes to clear a bit.
Finished with his prisoner, Curry rose and headed back to the fire. He glanced at Heyes and saw he was awake. "Hey there, partner."
Lindy heard him and swung her head around. Seeing Heyes awake, she dropped her spoon into the stew and hurried to him cutting off the Kid's path. He stopped and stared at her.
"Darling! Oh, thank God you're awake. I was praying for you," Lindy gushed, throwing herself across Heyes' chest and hugging him tightly. Over her shoulder, he looked at Curry with raised eyebrows and received a shrug.
"Praying for what? I'd die?"
"Silly man, why would I pray for that? I'm so glad you're all right. I came all this way to find you and I thought I was too late."
"Too late for what?"
She gazed at him adoringly. "Too late to tell you I love you." She watched Heyes' reaction carefully through her lowered lashes. He laughed. The bastard actually laughed at her.
"Sweetheart, there are only two things you love in this whole world: you and cold hard cash but I'm not at all sure which you love more." Heyes pushed her off him and sat up slowly. "You trusting her now, Kid?"
"Nope, but she's takin' good care of you. Don't worry, I patted her down. She's unarmed."
He'd patted her down, but Lindy was smart and had known he would. While the Kid was settling Heyes, she'd reached under her skirt and pulled out the knife, concealing it in the rocks around the fire ring. After he'd searched her, she returned to tending the fire and discreetly slipped it back into her garter. Jake had watched her do it, realizing her game and smiling at his sister's craftiness.
Looking over at the bounty hunter, Heyes asked, "Where the hell did you come from?" Jake didn't answer; he was wondering the same thing.
Lindy was angry at Heyes' rejection. She stood up and stomped back to the fire. Stirring the tinned stew, she began to calm a little and started working on another 'new' plan. She'd seen the softening in Curry. He was a good-looking man, too. If she couldn't win Heyes' trust, maybe she could win Curry's. Everyone knew Heyes and Curry were tight, as tight as two partners could be. If she nursed Heyes back to health, Curry would be grateful to her. And, if it didn't work, Jake was alive to do the dirty work for her. She got up, carried the warmed stew to her brother, and squatted down in front of him to spoon it into his mouth.
"You okay, Kid?" Heyes smiled up at his partner
"I'm fine, apart from you tryin' to scare me to death. What were you thinkin'?"
"You took my gun, what else could I do?"
"Lay low, maybe?" Heyes was a risk taker and regularly scared the crap out of him. He sat down cross-legged next to his cousin and gently pushed him back down onto the bedroll. "You rest a bit, Heyes, but I want you to tell me what's going on with you and I want the truth." He looked over his shoulder at Lindy. She was too far away to hear. Good. Heyes would never talk openly in front of her.
The Kid's eyes grew wide and his stomach knotted as Heyes quietly began telling him why he'd decided to leave. He described his blackouts and his moments of speechlessness and confusion. When he got to the part about leaving the country, Curry grew angry.
"Now you're talkin' crazy! What on earth made you think it'd be easier on me if you rode off sick and hurt? Did you think I'd shrug it off and go on about my life? Don't you know I'd have come lookin' for you, worryin' the whole time over not knowin' what happened to you?" He glared at Heyes, but his partner looked so lost and forlorn he couldn't sustain his anger. "Hell, I thought you were going crazy, too, ridin' off like that. Somethin's wrong in your head, but think about it, Heyes, you're makin' decisions, comin' up with plans, thinkin' things through. You ain't nuts. You've for sure brained yourself, but that don't mean you're gonna die. These things take time and rest and you haven't given yourself either."
"Kid, I'm almost blind. My thoughts tangle up like a derailed train and my body feels like it's disconnected from my brain. Do you really believe this is all gonna go away?" He didn't want to get it, thought Heyes. More gently, he continued, "C'mon, what kind of a life do I have to look forward to? I can't go back to our old life, outlawing. I can't read anymore. You know how I love to read. I won't be able to hold a job and what woman would have me?"
"Dammit, Heyes, I've never known you to feel sorry for yourself. You've got to stop lookin' at the dark side of things and start lookin' at the good. You don't know this is permanent and you are gettin' better. You ain't sick to your stomach anymore. The twitchin' has all but stopped and your vision hasn't gotten any worse despiteyou tryin' to blow yourself up. You've been ramblin' around these canyons for nearly three days and that's killed healthier men. You're doin' better than you think."
"What about the blackouts? Did you forget about those? I do things when I'm out. I don't know what. I could hurt you or someone else."
"Hey, I'm here and I'm not leaving you alone. Let's wait and see if you have any more. I'll be right here the whole way keeping watch."
Heyes pulled himself up and snuggled back into the fleece-lined skirt of the upended saddle behind him and considered his partner's words before softly saying, "Thanks, Kid. I owe you."
"You don't owe me anything, except not running off and leaving me behind again. Got it?"
"Got it." Heyes gave him a broad, dimpled grin.