The Kid found his partner behind the Devil's Hole barn sitting in the sun on an overturned bucket. On his lap was Lucifer, the big orange and white tomcat that had staked his claim on Hannibal Heyes. At Heyes's feet were Scratch and Beezie, two more of the Hole's mousers. All four were lounging in the summer sun. Kid's cousin was tipped back against the barn wall with his eyes closed, absently stroking Luce's sun-warmed fur. Kid paused for a moment amused to see his usually energetic partner looking so very relaxed. It was hard to get Heyes to rest and it pleased Kid to see him this way. Rest was something Heyes sorely needed. It hadn't been but a short time since Heyes had nearly died from a serious gunshot wound and it had affected him greatly. Since they had gotten back to the Hole, Heyes had been quiet and withdrawn. Kid knew he had been brooding and was licking his wounds; and that always meant trouble ahead.
Deliberately making noise to signal his approach, the Kid sat down on the ground next to Heyes, who opened his eyes and looked down at his friend, squinting. "Hey, Kid," he said shifting his weight and tipping the bucket forward. Alarmed by the sudden movement, Lucifer leapt off his lap and disappeared around the corner of the barn followed closely by his brothers.
"Heyes, I've been looking for you," said Kid.
"Been right here, working," said Heyes, closing his eyes as he leaned back again.
Kid snorted, "Working? Looks to me like the only thing you're working on is your beauty sleep."
"Ah, but looks can be deceiving. I was working on my plan for Beaumont Mining," said Heyes with a grin.
"C'mon, Heyes, I thought we'd given that one up as too dangerous," said Kid.
"You gave it up, Kid. I'm still working on it," answered Heyes looking at Kid. "Why were you looking for me?"
"Just was. You've been making yourself scarce lately," said Kid.
"I've just been thinking a lot, that's all," said Heyes brushing at the cat hair on his trousers.
"About what, Heyes?" asked Kid watching his partner's face carefully. He'd know a lie when he saw it. He could read Heyes like an open book. He was the only person who could.
"This and that. Why do you ask?" said Heyes, avoiding a direct answer.
"Don't do that, Heyes. I know that's what you always say when you want to put someone on the spot," said Kid.
"What?" said Heyes.
"You always ask: why do you ask?" said Kid. "That way whoever you're talking to has to explain why they're being nosey."
"So why are you being nosey?" said Heyes.
"I've been worried about you. You've been awful quiet lately and that's never good," said Kid.
"Kid, you're always telling me that I talk too much. Now you're telling me I'm too quiet? Make up your mind," said Heyes laughing gently.
"Heyes, I want to know what you're thinking about so hard. You know, we haven't talked about what happened," said Kid.
"What happened?" asked Heyes.
"You almost died! That's what happened. Don't tell me you can't remember almost bleeding to death?" said Kid.
"I remember. I got shot. I'm okay now," said Heyes.
"Well, I'm not," said Kid. "I watched you bleeding out, Heyes. Do you have any idea how that felt? I thought you were finished."
"Kid, I know it was hard on you but what do you want me to say? I'm sorry I got shot and scared you?" said Heyes. He was genuinely shocked that Kid was still so upset. Kid hadn't said a word about it since they'd gotten back to the Hole.
"Hell, no, Heyes. No. I just don't want to watch you die. I can't do it," said Kid looking down at the ground.
"I can't promise you that won't happen, Kid. C'mon, we both know that the odds are against us. We've been real lucky so far," said Heyes gently.
"That's just it, Heyes. I think our luck is running out," said Kid.
"What are you saying? Are you saying you want to quit?" asked Heyes, surprised by the turn in the conversation; he hadn't expected this.
"Yes. No. I don't know. Maybe," was the reply.
"Kid, we made our choices a long time ago. There's no quitting for us; we're way too good at what we do. You know that," said Heyes.
"I guess so. I just don't want to watch you die," said Kid. "Heyes, you have no idea how bad it was; you couldn't breathe; there was blood everywhere and when Sophia laid that hot knife on you….the smell…you screamed…." said Kid.
"You've got to let it go, Kid. I didn't die and I am not planning to anytime soon, but we have no say in when any of us go and you have to leave it at that," said Heyes.
Kid dropped his head in defeat. He could never explain just how afraid he'd been and Heyes didn't want to hear it. Looking up again, he said, "All right. Tell me what you've got planned for Beaumont."
With a huge grin, Heyes said, "Well, I am still waiting for a bit more information but I don't think I want to hit the payroll train."
"You've changed your mind about hitting Beaumont?" said Kid confused.
"No. It's just not going to be a payroll job. I'm not striking back at a bunch of hard-working miners; I want to make Beaumont Mining Corporation bleed, and I want them to bleed gold. We're going after their gold shipment," said Heyes.
"Are you crazy? You know those shipments are heavily guarded. You're trying to get yourself killed, aren't you?" yelled Kid, jumping up and frowning down at Heyes.
"No, Kid, I'm not, but Beaumont and Bill Decker owe me a debt and I aim to see them both pay up," said Heyes.
"You're going to risk the lives of your own men just because you feel the need to strike back at someone? How do you think they'd feel if they knew you were risking their necks to satisfy your own need for revenge?" asked Kid angrily.
"I think they'll feel pretty good if I can make them a hundred grand, Kid," replied Heyes.
"Gold's heavy. How do you plan to ride off with a hundred grand in gold? Have you thought of that? That's got to be….what…..200-300 pounds in gold? How are you going to spend those gold bars?" snarled Kid.
"I'm still working out the details, Kid, but I have a few ideas," said Heyes.
"Forget it. I ain't letting you do it!" said Kid flatly.
"And I ain't asking your permission. I want you with me, but you can stay behind if you want to. I am telling you, though; you aren't stopping me," said Heyes.
"Like hell I'm not," said Kid, fists clenched. "You try it, Heyes, and you'll be laid up again. I'd rather hurt you bad myself than let you get yourself killed doing something that stupid."
Standing up slowly and stiffly, Heyes reached out and grasped his partner's shoulder. Looking him hard in the eye, he said, "Kid, I told you I ain't planning on dying anytime soon. You're gonna have to trust me on this one. I'll do this as safely as it can be done, but I will do it." Heyes dropped his hand and walked past Kid leaving him standing in the sun broiling from his own temper.
The Kid rode out that afternoon without saying a word to his partner. He was so angry with Heyes that he couldn't bear to be near him. He planned to ride out for a day or two and do a little hunting until he calmed down. Better he shot game than his partner.
Preacher was riding in just as Kid left. The two nodded in passing and each went on his way. Preacher pulled up in front of the leader's cabin and dismounted. He took a moment to knock the trail dust off himself; Preacher knew how neat Heyes was and didn't want to hear any fussing over the dirt he dragged in. He pulled a thick envelope out of his jacket pocket and taking the steps two at a time, he rapped on the door and entered the cabin.
Heyes wasn't worried about Kid's departure. Kid had obviously ridden off in a snit. None of his belongings were gone. Heyes had checked his room after Preacher had left.
Heyes knew how much he had upset the Kid, but it couldn't be helped. He was doing this job even if he had to do it alone; which just may be the case. Preacher had brought the information he had been waiting for. He had all the pieces of the puzzle, now he had to put them together into a plan.
Sitting back down by the fire and pouring a glass of whiskey, Heyes pondered his own motives. He realized that his need for revenge might prove self-destructive someday, but he couldn't stop it. It wasn't all ego; as leader of the Devil's Hole gang he had to constantly prove that he always had the upper hand. If he allowed anyone to get the best of him, his own men would be next in line to try.
The Beaumont people and Decker had nearly killed him and had tried to ruin Sophia in their greed for gold and he wasn't going to let that go. It was one thing for a posse or a bounty hunter to shoot him; that he could forgive, after all he was wanted; but these people had thought he was a law abiding citizen and they had been willing to murder him for their own ends and take a poor woman's home. It was more than that, though, and he knew it. It was that feeling of losing control; of being at someone else's mercy; being a victim. That's what he really couldn't forgive. The light burned in the leader's cabin all night.
Kid returned late the next day laden with a deer and a brace of quail. He'd had fun hunting and was much calmer now. Kid felt ready to face whatever new hare-brained scheme his cousin had come up with. He had accepted that Heyes was going to do what he planned to; he always did. It was up to Kid to make sure he didn't kill himself doing it. Kid didn't agree with Heyes all the time, but he knew he'd back him up no matter what.
What disturbed Kid the most about this scheme was his partner's need for revenge. Crossing Heyes always led to fireworks. It was funny, too, because Heyes was forever telling him to let things go; not to get drawn into a fight. It bothered the Kid that it was so important to Heyes not to be bested. Kid guessed that's what made Heyes famous at outlawing; he never let anyone get the better of him…at least, not for long.
Kid laughed at himself. Who was he kidding? He needed to be the fastest gun in the West just like Heyes needed to be the smartest brain. Sure, Kid needed to be fastest for practical reasons but why had he taken up gunslinging in the first place? To protect them both is what he always said, but that was only part of it and he knew it. He took it up because he'd hated being powerless when his family died. He had picked up a gun for the power and he had practiced every second he could to be the fastest gun he could be. He did it for the power and the control. Once word got around that Kid Curry could outdraw anyone he had the upper hand and now there weren't many situations that he couldn't control with a word or a glance. Heyes, too, had achieved that same sort of power, he'd just taken a different path.
Reining up in front of the cabin, Kid swung out of his saddle and tied his gelding to the hitching rail. The cabin door opened and Heyes poked his head out. "Hey, Kid. Are we okay now?" he asked.
"Yes, Heyes, we're okay," said Kid tiredly.
"Great. I've got a plan I want to run past you," said Heyes disappearing inside the cabin again, leaving the door open.
Sighing, the Kid stepped inside and shut the front door.