The Kid had left Heyes sleeping and Lindy tied to the same small scrub tree as Jake. He had gagged the two of them to keep them from talking together, but mostly to keep them from waking Heyes. He was now headed down the trail back to the camp after burying Poke Morgan's body. Poke had been good to Heyes and him when they'd needed it and he'd wanted to see him properly buried despite him coming after them for the reward. After all, it was easy money and he'd had the law on his side. The Kid had done his best. For lack of a headstone or wood for a cross, he'd pulled Poke's saddle from his horse and set it at the head of the grave. He'd left a note in one of the saddlebags identifying the body. It was all he could do.
His next task was even worse. He'd have to butcher Heyes' horse. He hated to do it and knew it would upset Heyes, but they needed the meat. He knew he should've gutted the animal right away but by the time he got Lindy and Jake settled Heyes had awakened. There was no way he'd do it in front of him. Heyes needed to be kept as calm as he could manage. It worried the Kid he believed his situation was permanent. It wasn't like him, he was not the kind of man who gave up and that's what it seemed like he was doing. The Kid hoped it was all part of the strange behavior he'd displayed since his accident but time would tell. He'd meant it when he said he was sticking by his partner.
When Heyes awoke that evening, he saw the neat strips of meat arranged over the smoke of the fire and knew what had been done. The Kid saw him glancing over at his dead gelding. Walking over to his partner, he patted him on the shoulder and said, "He didn't feel a thing. A clean head shot took 'im down. I checked."
"I know, but he didn't deserve to end that way. He was a good horse and I owed him better." He hadn't had the gelding long, but it didn't matter. He thought of his sorrel mare he'd ridden for a good part of their outlaw days. Lord, he missed her. Nowadays, they didn't keep a horse long enough to get to know it.
"I don't recall you had much say in the matter," observed the Kid. "Heyes, it had to be done. We aren't in the position to pass up food. He may save us all."
Heyes smiled sadly at him then looked over at Jake as his eyes hardened. "It tells me all I need to know about Hawkins, doesn't it? What'd he have to gain by killing him?" He'd always taken it hard when they lost a man or horse, but he knew the men of the Devil's Hole gang had chosen the outlaw life and the risks that went with it. The horses had no choice.
The next morning, Heyes had rested while Curry had spent the last hour watering their horses, filling canteens, and preparing to break camp. Heyes wanted to get a move on while the day was cool but the Kid had pushed him to stay another night where they were. Heyes rightfully pointed out to him they had no idea what was going to happen to his vision and he was the only one who knew the way out of the confusing maze of canyons.
While Heyes was sleeping, the Kid untied Lindy from the tree where she had spent the night and had her to lead him to the other horses. He'd made sure Jake was securely tied to the tree before leaving his partner alone. Lindy was irritated at having to make the trek, but she was also smart enough to use the opportunity to endear herself to Curry and try to pump him for information about Heyes. She had watched him check on his sleeping friend. He'd been kind and it surprised her, but kindness was not something that impressed her. She was drawn to the sly, cunning types like Heyes. Curry was cute, but she was looking for financial security.
After exhausting the subject of her feelings for Heyes and her intentions to stand by him, she changed the topic. "So how did you and Heyes meet?" The Kid was walking slightly behind her and she had to look over her shoulder to be sure he was listening. He was listening and he was enjoying the view, too. Of course, he was also making sure she didn't pull a fast one. Nobody's fool, it suited him to let her chat on and ply him with questions. Her concern for Heyes was nice to see, but he wasn't ready to trust her.
He wasn't about to tell her he and Heyes were blood cousins; it wasn't common knowledge and it was better that way. Even their gang hadn't known. Everyone thought they were great friends from their kid days. Early on, Heyes had warned him that sort of information could be used against them so it was better kept quiet. Instead of answering her question in full, he gave her a partially true answer.
"Well, we started riding together a little while after Heyes took over the Devil's Hole gang. Been riding together ever since."
"How exciting it must've been; riding with outlaws and robbing banks and such. Did you steal a lot of money?"
"Yep, stole it and spent it." He hated to think about how much money had passed through his and Heyes' hands. He'd give anything to have some of it now.
"All of it?! You don't have anything left?"
"It takes a lot of money to run a big gang. It's not all wine, women, and song."
"I bet you didn't spend much on women; a big, handsome man like you," said Lindy slyly. She was sure he was warming to her.
"I spent all of it as fast as I could."
"Well, I guess you and Heyes can rob a little old bank anytime you need more."
"Nope. We quit the life a while back. We don't steal anymore."
This shocked her into silence.
An hour later, the two of them led the horses into camp.
Jake and Lindy were mounted on their horses while the Kid tied their hands to their saddle horns. She put up a fuss but couldn't sway him to leave her hands untied. Heyes was putting his saddlebags and bedroll onto Poke's horse.
Heyes checked his cinch one last time and pulled up into his saddle as the Kid walked up to him and patted his leg. They'd ride until it was too dark to go any further. Then they'd stop for the night. Curry mounted and rode up to his partner. "You lead, Heyes."
"Kid, there's something I need to tell you right now in case something happens to me. See the part of the wall over there with all the desert varnish on it?"
"Keep an eye out for those big, black spots of varnish. Check them all out real carefully," said Heyes urgently.
"Handprints. The ancient travelers marked their way with pictures and handprints. If you find those, you'll know you're heading in the right direction."
"Handprints, huh? All right, I'll keep an eye out, but I'm expectin' you to lead the way." The Kid rode over to Jake and Lindy and yanked their horses' reins loose to lead them away.
They stopped before dark. Heyes was wearing down fast. He'd done pretty well most of the day, but the Kid could tell he was exhausted again. Heyes protested he could go on, but they'd gone far enough and he wanted enough light to make sure the prisoners were settled securely and set up camp.
Lindy was annoyed to hear herself referred to as a prisoner despite having ridden all afternoon with her hands tied to the saddle. She was having difficulty facing the reality here were two men she couldn't wrap around her finger.
Jake had ridden sullenly alongside of her all day. He hadn't said much at all. He'd spent most of the ride trying to stretch the latigo tying his hands. He'd only succeeded in making a bloody mess of his wrists.
Heyes was tired and his head was pounding hard. He was dehydrated and it wasn't helping. The Kid took one look at him and sent him to start the fire and set the coffee to brewing. It was all Heyes could manage. By the time they turned in, he couldn't keep his eyes open a moment longer.
Curry woke up in the dead of the night to the feeling something was wrong then heard sounds coming from Heyes next to him. Growling, clicking sounds; the sounds of a struggle. He couldn't see much so he reached out to the edge of the fire and set a piece of kindling to burning. Holding the flaming stick close to Heyes, he saw a sight he'd never forget. His partner's eyes were open and rolled back into his head. His face was frozen into a snarling grimace. The cords of his neck stood out and he was thrashing his head from side to side. His hands were tearing at his shirt, pulling handfuls of fabric away from his skin. Every muscle in his body was taut and straining. His back was impossibly arched.
"What the hell's wrong with him?" said Jake, startling the Kid who over at him and Lindy, fear and confusion in his face.
"He's crazy. Heyes is crazy, Jake," she cried, all her hopes now dashed. There was no way she'd tie herself to a wild animal.
The Kid looked back at Heyes who'd suddenly gone still. His face had slackened and his mouth hung open, drooling. He'd had a seizure; a bad one, from the looks of it. Curry had no idea what to do. He was staring at him when Heyes opened his eyes. It took a few moments before Heyes knew where he was. When he did, he saw the shocked look on the Kid's face and knew what had happened.
"Heyes….." the Kid was at a loss as to what to say.
"What happened? What'd I do?" asked Heyes weakly.
"You went nuts. We all saw it. You're like a rabid dog. Someone needs to put you down," said Jake.
"Shut up, Hawkins, shut up or I'll kill you," screamed the Kid.
Heyes looked at Jake and saw Lindy next to him. She was looking at him with revulsion and he felt humiliated to have witnesses to his spell. Especially these two, he loathed them both.
"What's the matter, darling? Am I not so loveable now?" he asked sarcastically. For the first time in her life, Lindy was speechless.
The next morning, Heyes was pale and shaky, but he insisted on riding on. "I ain't feeling any better and I'd like to get out of here while I'm breathing, all right?" The Kid swiftly packed up the gear and saddled up the horses. He was having a hard time coping with the memory of the seizure. His partner had quickly dropped into an exhausted sleep, but he'd sat up most of the night staring at his best friend.
What would they do if Heyes didn't get better? How long could he live like this? He looked at his cousin now, noting how thin and diminished he looked. He watched as he struggled to get on his horse. He could see how worn out he was, but they couldn't stay here. They had to find their way out or they would be finished.
They mounted and got ready to head out. The Kid had earlier warned both Lindy and Jake if he heard one word out of them about last night it'd be the last word either of them ever spoke. They'd both seen the truth of this statement reflected in his eyes and didn't say anything at all.
The small group rode on quietly, each lost in his own thoughts.
Marley hadn't gone far. He needed water or he wouldn't last long. When the others had left, he'd ridden back to the seep. He couldn't believe how far wrong it had all gone. Heyes had a reputation as a genius, but he had him pegged as a madman.
He'd passed Poke's corpse as he fled the ambush. If he hadn't of known it was Poke, he never would have guessed. His old friend had deserved better. At least Curry had given him a decent burial. Marley had watched from where he'd hidden up the trail. Poke had been his closest friend and his partner. He'd stuck by him when his other outlaw companions had shunned him for going straight. They'd known each most of their lives and now he was gone, and his dream of a new life was fading fast. He had nothing left; there was no way he was going back to Green River and Annie. He'd tasted freedom these last few days and he'd loved it.
Jake had shot Poke! Why was Lindy here? He was pretty sure those two had caused all of this. The heavy graze to his arm was painful, but not life threatening. He might have lost his gun, but he had his rifle in his scabbard and full canteens. Pulling up onto his horse, he paused. There was twenty thousand dollars waiting for him to come and get it. He figured he had a score to settle for old Poke, too. He turned his horse around, and started after the others.