That night, in the hours just before dawn, an explosion in the old smelter building shook the Beaumont Mining Corporation Headquarters. The building went up in flames and quickly overwhelmed the night crew. A bucket brigade was formed but it couldn't keep up with so few people. One of the men, a curly-headed fellow ran to the office and flung the door open only to face the leveled guns of the three guards. He screamed at them to help or the whole place would go up in flames. Seeing the fire leaping in the sky, the three holstered their guns, locked the office up tight and ran to help. It took several hours, but the flames were finally extinguished. During that time, activities were so confused that no one noticed a dark figure pulling one of the debris-laden freight wagons to the side of the office building nor the curly-headed fellow who awaited the wagon's arrival.
Kid reached up and snagged the team's reins; steadying them. The smell of the explosion, the yelling, and the flames had all served to unsettle the normally placid animals. "Easy now, take it easy," he whispered soothingly to the nervous horses. He wasn't worried about being overheard; the noise in the yard was deafening. Heyes jumped down and went to the rear window of the office. He jimmied the lock with a flat-bladed knife he always carried tucked into the shaft of his boot. Heyes easily slid the window open, climbed the sill, and slipped inside.
Kid, having applied the brake and ground-tied the horses, walked to the rear of the wagon. He slammed his hand into the lower left side of the bed and a board popped out. Kid pulled it out the rest of the way and set it on the ground. He looked into the false bottom and smiled. Stacked inside was a small pile of gold painted bricks. Leave it to his wily partner to come up with this idea; now they just had to get the gold.
Heyes quickly opened the safe. He had spent every idle moment he'd had this week, playing with the dial. It had taken far longer than his ego had allowed for, but he had finally gotten the combination. Now, he swung the door open, smiled down on the steel trunk sitting there, and pulled out his lockpicks. The lock gave quickly and Heyes opened the trunk. The gold bars gleaming up at him took his breath away. Quickly, he emptied the safe of gold. Heyes crossed to the windows and leaned out, "Psst."
Kid reached into the concealed compartment and pulled out several bricks and passed them up to Heyes at the window. Kid went back for several more until Heyes nodded that they had enough. Disappearing inside again, Heyes carried the bricks over to the safe where the trunk hung open. He worked fast to re-fill the trunk with the gold painted bricks leaving just enough room on the top for one layer of the real gold bars. Finished, he re-locked the trunk and began ferrying the gold to Kid at the window. Kid, in turn, was carefully stacking the bars in the secret compartment of the wagon.
"That's the last of them, Kid," said Heyes as he climbed out of the window and slid the sash closed. He couldn't do anything about the open window lock, but, if all went well, no one would be checking the windows.
Heyes smiled and slapped Kid on the back and received a nod and broad grin in return; Heyes then slipped away down the length of the building, disappeared around the corner, and into the night. Kid climbed into the wagon and picked up the reins. He drove the team behind the back wall of the new smelter building and backed the wagon next to the others awaiting removal tomorrow. Kid unhitched the team, and keeping an eye out for witnesses, he led the horses back to the comfort of their stable. Once they were settled, he too, slipped into the night.
Mr. Plochett, having been awakened from his bed, arrived just as the sun was coming up. The devastation to the old smelter building was complete. A fire brigade had arrived and was dousing the flames. Mr. Plochett saw his young assistant arrive at the gate and went to meet him. Mr. Canton was hastily dressed and slightly disheveled.
"Mr. Plochett, I heard the sirens. What happened?" asked Heyes breathlessly as though he had run a great distance instead of the mere 50 yards that he had.
"We don't know yet, but I suspect it was a hydrogen explosion in the smelter," said Mr. Plochett.
"Hydrogen?" asked Heyes, who was thinking about the small, blond fellow with a love of dynamite who just happened to drive in a special wagonload of bricks today.
"Yes, it can be a by-product from the sulphuric acid used in the smelting," said Mr. Plochett distractedly.
"Was anybody hurt?" asked Heyes, knowing Kyle had thoroughly checked out the building before setting his charge.
"No. No one was in the building at the time. Thank God," said Mr. Plochett, pulling out his pocket watch. "Egads, it's nearly time for the escort to arrive. Follow me, Mr. Canton, we need to check the shipment."
Mr. Canton followed in Mr. Plochett's footsteps with a serious expression on his face.
Unlocking the hasp, Mr. Plochett swung open the trunk and peered down at the neatly aligned gold bars. Smiling, he quickly shut the trunk and secured the lock in place. He nodded to the head of the escort company who handed him a receipt for the shipment.
At the train station, Heyes and Mr. Plochett watched as the trunk was loaded onto the specially reinforced rail car. The expressman waited as Mr. Plochett once again opened the trunk and checked its contents. Satisfied, he locked the trunk and handed the key to the expressman, who signed off on the manifest. Heyes and Mr. Plochett stepped off the train, the door was slid shut, and locked tight. Taking out his handkerchief, Mr. Plochett wiped his forehead, and turned to his young assistant. "Well, that is a relief to have done. Now, Mr. Canton, we'd best see to the cleanup."
Returning to the Beaumont headquarters, Heyes spent the rest of the morning organizing the cleanup of debris. Fortunately, there were several empty freight wagons available to be loaded. The first wagon was ready to go as the day shift came on at 7 a.m.; it was driven by a small, tobacco-chewing blond man with a permanent smirk on his face. Heyes smiled a greeting to the driver and shook his hand, "Kyle, you know where to meet Wheat, now don't you?"
"Why sure I do, Heyes. Don't you worry," said Kyle slapping the reins at the four in hand draft team he was driving. The horses moved off straining mightily against the heavy load of debris they were hauling.
Heyes watched as Kyle was stopped at the gate and the wagon was carefully examined. This was standard procedure, but with last night's excitement, the guard was taking it a bit more seriously. Finally, the guard waved the small man through and he was on his way.
Mr. Canton resigned his position late that afternoon. He said that the explosion and the pressures of the job were too much for him and he realized that his nerves were not up to the work necessary at the Beaumont Mining Corporation. Mr. Plochett tried his best to persuade the young man to stay, but could not.
Harlan was found to be missing that day and, for a while, there was some concern that he might have been caught in the explosion. These fears proved to be unfounded, and it was later believed that his nerves had failed him, too.
Heyes and the Kid galloped into Devil's Hole two days later, whooping and hollering. The gang spilled out of the bunkhouse and cheered them in. Even Wheat was smiling and waving excitedly.
Dismounted, Heyes strode to the barn and pulled open the doors. Inside stood the freight wagon Kyle had driven all the way back to the hole. The gang watched as Heyes slammed his fist in the rear lower left hand corner of the wagon bed. The secret compartment popped opened and Heyes peered inside. It was empty.
"Good work, boys. Beaumont Mining won't even know they're out ninety-two grand until that trunk arrives in San Francisco. They'll never know what or who hit them," said Kid smiling.
"Aww, Kid, seems like people ought to know that it was the Devil's Hole gang that pulled off the greatest robbery ever," said Kyle. The other gang members piped up agreeing with Kyle.
"What will make it great is that no one will figure out who did it. It'll be a mystery. People will talk about the Great Beaumont Gold robbery forever," said Heyes.
"But, Kyle's right…..,"began Wheat.
"No, he ain't, Wheat. We've got enough money on our heads and enough people after us. If I hear of any of you bragging on this job, it won't go well for you. Understood?" said Kid catching the eye of each man.
There were lots of grumbles, but no one dared to mention it again. Heyes was a master at concealing their tracks. If the law only knew how many unsolved robberies the Devil's Hole gang had pulled there'd be more than $20,000 on each gang member's head.
Heyes laughed at the looks on his men's faces and said, "Boys, if no one suspects we pulled this, they won't be watching each of you when you blow all that cash."
The boys nodded happily at this. Kid smiled and left the barn.
Turning to his lieutenant, Heyes asked, "So, you got it all to Soapy? Did he give you a receipt?"
Wheat reached into his pocket and said, "Yep, its right here, Heyes. I had to sign it and everything."
Heyes took it and looked it over carefully. Smiling, he folded it and put it in his own pocket and slapped Wheat on the back and then, laughing, hugged him outright. Wheat stiffened for a second and then caught Heyes in a bear hug and lifted him off his feet, laughing delightedly. The whole gang broke into smiles and Kid came around the corner of the barn, his arms loaded with whiskey bottles. "Boys, I think we're gonna have us a little party!"
The next day, Kid woke up late with a nasty hangover. He rolled onto his back and stared at the cracked ceiling above his bed. With every pulse of his heart, his head pounded a nail into his brain. His mouth was dry and sour tasting and his stomach was squirming. He soon became aware of an obnoxious whistling coming from the main room of the cabin. Groaning, he inched his way carefully to the edge of the bed and stood up slowly. The room was still moving, but not as badly as last night. Well, that was good; at least he remembered last night. It had been a wild celebration, but he survived it.
He staggered through the doorway only to see Heyes sitting at the table, a cup of coffee at hand, looking very composed and writing something while whistling an off-key tune. Kid burped noisily causing Heyes to look up at him. Heyes said, "Kid, coffee's on. Go pour yourself a mug, I've got something to show you." Heyes gave a delighted little laugh like he did when he was especially pleased about something.
Kid just eyed him and made no move to get coffee. Coffee was the last thing his stomach needed right now. Heyes said, "What? Oh, just sit down. I'll get the damn coffee." Heyes walked over to the stove and poured the brew into a mug and then placed it in front of the Kid. Kid looked down and stared at the cup for a very long time. Heyes had returned to his seat and was again writing. Finally, Kid took a tentative sip of the coffee.
"Kid, we grossed about $69,000 after we give Soapy his cut for fencing it. That's the best we've ever done. $69,000 and you and I get a third. That's $23,000, or $11,500 each. The boys'll clear about $5,000 each. Now, I'm going to need to use a bit of our money to settle the score with old Bill Decker, but still, that ought to last a good long time even with our costs taken out" said Heyes. He had a lot of hidden costs in running the gang. His spies were expensive and the supplies necessary to keep Devil's Hole going weren't cheap either. Even with him and Kid taking a third off the top, Heyes always had plenty of incentive to plan the next job.
"Our money, Heyes?" said Kid.
"Kid, I need it for the next part of my plan," said Heyes.
"Our money?" said Kid.
"Kid, c'mon," said Heyes. He had a plan but wisely figured that now was not the time to lay it all out to the Kid. Instead, he put away his papers and got up to cook his partner a heavy, fat-laden breakfast. Hannibal Heyes was a survivor, too.
This story is the second in a series that began with Mail Call. The next story is entitled, "Big Bill Decker".