"C'mon, Kid, when are you going to start talking to me again?" said Heyes. They were alone, upstairs in the Rocking M ranch house, packing up their gear. It was the day of Bill Decker's funeral and the gang was heading back to Devil's Hole. The boys were out at the bunkhouse getting their things together. "I said I was sorry."
"You should be, Heyes. A man's dead and it's your fault," said Kid, glaring at his partner. Heyes looked as though Kid had physically struck him again. Kid looked at the huge purple bruise on Heyes's jaw. He could see in Heyes's eyes that his words had hit him hard. Kid knew that his cousin was ashamed at the outcome of his plan to take revenge on Bill Decker, but it was just too late. Decker was dead.
Heyes started to get angry and retaliated, "Who made you so high and mighty? Don't I remember you going after the man that shot me?" Making a massive effort to calm down, Heyes continued, "Kid, you admitted to me that you almost beat that man to death; did you forget that Decker hired him? I didn't want Bill dead, you know that."
"That's just it, Heyes, what you did to Decker was wrong and you know it. You didn't have any control over how far it went. You think you can manipulate everyone to behave just the way you want, but you can't. You couldn't control Decker; he nearly killed you and now he's dead and it's your fault," said Kid angrily. He had stopped packing and stood now facing Heyes with his hands on his hips challenging his cousin to contradict him.
"I know, Kid," said Heyes quietly, "but he didn't kill me and I didn't mean for him to die." He was glad that Kid was finally talking to him again. He knew it would be all right if the Kid would just talk it out with him.
Kid yelled, "That's not the point, Heyes! The point is that you keep taking these risks and sooner or later you won't be okay. I can't save your ass every time you get in trouble. Look what happened here. With that deputy in front of me, I didn't have a clear shot and if the sheriff hadn't of already had his gun out you would have of been dead. I told you I wouldn't watch you die, Heyes; and I won't. I'm through watching you try to get yourself killed. I'm not riding out with you," said Kid angrily throwing his gear into his saddlebags.
"Oh, so you're just going to ride off again? That's what you do every time you get mad at me, isn't it? You ride off because..." began Heyes.
"I'm done, Heyes," interrupted the Kid.
"What are you saying?" asked Heyes stupidly. He couldn't believe what he'd just heard.
"You heard me. I'm done riding with you," said Kid. Heyes just stared as his partner grabbed his bags and slammed his way out the door. He listened as Kid stomped downstairs and out the door.
Heyes was still staring at the door, when he heard the sound of Kid riding off.
Kid had no idea where to go next, but he knew he had to go. He'd meant what he had said, but he hadn't said everything he'd wanted to. This whole thing with Decker had shown him something in Heyes that he couldn't bear to see. He'd always known that Heyes carried around a lot of anger inside him, but he'd always kept it under control. Kid could see now that maybe that wasn't a good thing. Ever since he was shot, Heyes had been different. Heyes was changing and Kid wasn't sure why or if he liked who he was becoming. Heyes was his kin, his last living relative, and it pained him to abandon him this way, but he wasn't going to stay around and watch the slow crumbling of his cousin's character or witness his death. He sent his horse into a gallop with a flick of the reins. His bay gelding laid his ears back and stretched his frame into a ground-covering stride.
Kid decided to make his way up to Idaho Springs in the Rockies. It would be a good place to jump off from and would give him time to decide what he was going to do next. He wasn't sure about joining another gang. Lately, he'd spent a lot of time wondering whether he and Heyes should go to Mexico and give up outlawing before it was too late. Heyes always shot down that idea. Kid knew his partner loved the West and would rather die here than leave the country. Well, it looked like he'd have that chance real soon without Kid there to watch his back while he was busy risking his neck.
It upset Kid so much to fight with his partner that he couldn't think straight. Heyes always took advantage of that and twisted and turned his words back on him. Just the other night, Heyes had deliberately used the gang as a weapon. He was still angry about that, too, and needed time to think without Heyes yammering at him. He wasn't at all sure about what he wanted but he was sure that he didn't want to be around Heyes right now. Maybe he'd feel differently later, maybe not.
The knock on the door broke Heyes's concentration. Yanking it open, he found Wheat poised to strike the wood again. They stared at each other, surprised for a second.
"What?" snapped Heyes, glaring at his lieutenant.
Wheat looked Heyes up and down before saying, "We're ready to go," he said, "You okay?" He'd seen Kid ride off and knew that wasn't good.
"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be fine?" said Heyes peevishly.
Wheat was annoyed by Heyes's tone and said, "Maybe 'cause your partner rode out of here looking like he was scraping the sh*t off his boot as fast as he could."
Heyes looked murderous for a moment and then he wiped his hand across his eyes. "Sheesh, Wheat, thanks a lot."
"Well, you ain't the easiest person to be around, you know?" said Wheat.
"Yeah, I know. Damn it, Kid's gone. He's quit the gang," said Heyes .
"What?! What are you standing here for then?" said Wheat angrily.
Heyes was confused and it showed.
"Dang it, Heyes, go after him. He don't mean it, you just need to talk to him," said Wheat pointing at the open door.
"I don't think so, Wheat. He sounded pretty sure of what he was saying," said Heyes.
"That's just because he's mad at you for the bullsh*t you pulled with Decker," said Wheat. "Dammit, Heyes, are you just going to stand there and let your best friend ride out?"
Heyes had planned to do just that but he realized Wheat had a point. If nothing else, he owed the Kid an explanation and an apology. He needed to talk to his cousin one more time, and then, if the Kid still didn't want to ride with him; he'd have to let him go.
Heyes saw the gang off to the Hole and then quickly mounted his sorrel mare. Kyle had told him that Kid had headed out to the west and that most likely meant he was heading up Clear Creek Canyon to either Idaho Springs or Central City and Black Hawk. Heyes would see if he could pick up a trail. It was only an hour or so since Kid had taken off so it shouldn't be too hard. After all, Heyes was the Champeen Tracker of all of Southern Utah.
The truth was that he was feeling pretty heartsick about Bill Decker. Heyes felt keenly responsible for Decker's death and he was having a hard time coping with it. He didn't believe in killing and he went out of his way to avoid using his gun. To have driven a man to his death went down real hard for him and stuck in his craw. Heyes wished Kid was here to talk it over with, but he'd driven his cousin away, too. Swinging his mare west, he nudged her into a gentle lope. Heyes felt good about going after Kid. He needed to find him; for once, Wheat was right.
The ride up Clear Creek Canyon was beautiful. Heyes enjoyed the narrow canyon and the sheer rock walls that encroached on either side. It was getting close onto noon, and the sun overhead was reflecting off the granite cliffs. Heyes followed alongside the Colorado Central railroad tracks that paralleled the creek. The creek itself was running slow and normally Heyes would have been tempted to stop and throw a line in. There wasn't any time for fishing now, he had to stay on Kid's trail or risk losing his partner altogether.
When Heyes arrived at the cutoff for Idaho Springs, he hesitated. This was a busy road and any tracks Kid might have left had been thoroughly obliterated at this intersection. Heyes had to choose and he chose the road to Central City. He and Kid had spent some time there and had always enjoyed themselves. Heyes would have to be very careful as there were many people in the town who could recognize him. Hopefully, some clever disguising would keep anyone from guessing who he really was. Maybe instead of being a gunnie this time, he'd be a lowdown, rotten bounty hunter. He also made a mental note to be sure to send out some telegrams to Sy Sloane and some of his other contacts to be on the lookout for Kid.
The sun was setting to the west quickly and Heyes hurried up the road to Central City.
At the same time, Kid was pulling up in front of the Idaho Springs hotel. Dismounting, he went inside and asked for a room. Kid was tired and he planned to make it an early night.
Heyes arrived on the outskirts of Central City after dark. Pulling his mare off the road into some thick brush, he stopped and dismounted. Heyes pulled a bushy fake mustache and a battered bowler hat from his saddlebags. He ground some dirt onto his face as well as his jacket and tore the sleeve on one side. Damn, he'd liked that jacket, too. Buttoning it up, he covered the fancy silver-studded black holster he favored. He stashed his black hat in his bag. Heyes plunked the bowler on his head, practiced rounding his shoulders, tilting his head at a slight angle, and squinting slightly out of one eye. He would use his whiny "deputy" voice, too. That ought to make it a bit harder for someone to recognize him. Not any one who knew him well, but Heyes would be keeping an eye out for familiar faces. He remounted his horse and rode brazenly up to the three-story hotel in the center of town.
Inside, Heyes stopped at the front desk and saw that the clerk was gone. He spun the register around and looked at the guest's names. He saw no signatures matching Kid's handwriting and he didn't know what alias his partner might be using so he would have to rely on describing Kid around town. Turning the ledger back around, Heyes rang the silver bell sitting on the desk. Immediately, a small man appeared from the dining room hastily wiping his mouth with one hand and tucking his shirt in with the other.
"Yessir, what can I do for you, sir?" the clerk asked as he walked around to stand behind the counter.
Heyes smiled and said, "I'd like a room, please, overlooking the street if possible."
"I'm sorry, sir. We only have one room left. It's a single on the third floor to the back. It will be two dollars for the night. Will that do?" said the clerk.
"That'll be fine. Say, you haven't seen a curly-haired fellow—this tall?" said Heyes as he held his hand up indicating Kid's height. "He's kind of young, but a real friendly sort. We're supposed to meet up here."
"Nossir, I haven't seen any one like that. You might try asking in the saloons," said the small man handing Heyes a key, "You'll be in 310, sir."
Heyes dumped his gear in his room and headed out to the street. The saloons were packed and doing brisk business so he started his hunt for the Kid there. By 2 a.m., the crowds had thinned and Heyes had covered all of the drinking, whoring, and gambling establishments in town with no luck. It was obvious that he had made the wrong choice. He should've headed into Idaho Springs. Disappointed by his failure to find Kid, Heyes headed back to the hotel and bed. He tossed and turned most of the night thinking about the Kid and how to find him. His partner wasn't going to make it easy.
The next morning, Heyes rose early and, after a light breakfast, he stopped at the telegraph office and sent out coded inquiries to everyone he could think of asking them to keep an ear out for news of Kid. Heyes knew that the trip into Central City had cost him at least a day and that might just be enough for Kid to lose him. He was heading up to Idaho Springs immediately and would check back with his contacts in a few days. Heyes walked down the street to the livery to arrange to have his mare tacked up while he got his saddlebags. He wanted to make up some ground.
Later that same morning, as Kid came out of his room to head down to the dining room, he was surprised to see a familiar face in the hotel hallway.
"Mr. Boswell, how nice to see you again," said Allie as she mentally winced at her stilted formality. It was going to take a while for her to lose that primness. She had hoped to avoid anyone she knew, and had deliberated waited until mid-morning so that the dining room was not crowded. She couldn't believe that Mr. Boswell was here, but at least Steven wasn't acquainted with her mother. Allie didn't want her to know where she was. It was all too likely her mother was already trying to recover her valuable commodity.
"Nice to see you too, ma'am," said Kid who was also disturbed to have run into anyone he knew. "My condolences on your loss, ma'am," he continued smoothly. They stood in the hallway smiling at each other.
"Thank you for your condolences, but I am afraid they are misplaced. I broke off my engagement with Bill Decker under less than ideal circumstances," said Allie with surprising candor.
Kid noticed the fading bruises on her face and neck that she had carefully tried to hide with heavy makeup and his eyes narrowed. "Decker did that to you?" he growled. He found himself angry with Heyes all over again. If he hadn't of poked so hard at Decker, this wouldn't of happened.
"It was well worth the price to learn what kind of a man he was. Does it make me an evil person, Mr. Boswell, that I can't really bring myself to mourn Bill?" she asked. Allie tipped her head up to look at him and waited for Steven's answer.
"No Miss Harcourt, I reckon not. I take it you left town before the funeral," said Kid, "I didn't see you there."
"Yes, I did; and it's Miss Golden now. I've changed my name," stated Allie firmly.
"Really, why would you want to do that, ma'am?" asked Kid.
"Because Miss Harcourt was a stupid chit who thought that marrying a rich man was her most important life goal," said Allie. "I am no longer that person."
Kid grinned widely at her and said, "Miss Golden's got a bit more sense I take it?"
"I certainly hope that she does," said Allie smiling prettily. "Steven, why don't you join me for breakfast? I would appreciate the company. Idaho Springs is a rough town for a woman alone and it is so very nice to see a familiar face."
Kid nodded. "Yes, ma'am, it is-on both counts. I would be pleased to join you." He held out his arm to her and she slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow. Kid patted her hand gently and guided her down the stairs.
Allie entered the dining room on Kid's arm. He led her to a corner table and saw her seated comfortably before taking the chair with its back to the wall. The waiter came with their menus and left quickly with their orders for coffee. Kid had an excellent view of the dining room and he took a moment to study the other customers.
Out of the corner of his eye, Kid saw Allie frown and lower her eyes. He looked in the direction he'd seen her staring and saw a dark-haired man looking back intently at her with a smirk on his face. The man pushed back his chair and started to rise. Allie grabbed Kid's arm and said, "Please don't tell me he's coming this way!"
Kid was concerned by her agitation and said, "Who is he?"
"That man is a cretin. He managed to corner me last night while I had a late supper. It was all I could do to escape his smarmy attentions. He is the most repulsive…he is absolutely oleaginous…he is a pig! Please tell me he isn't coming this way!" Kid got the picture.
"Yep, he's headed this way, but I bet he won't be staying," said Kid as the man made his way to their table and stopped.
"Miss…" began the man only to stop when he heard the sound of Kid's pistol cocking.
"You ain't talking to my wife, are you, Mister?" said Kid. "You'd best know that I'm something of the jealous type and I got a real itchy trigger finger." Kid stared at the man coldly.
The man threw his hands up and stammered, "No! No, I thought she was someone else. My apologies, ma'am." He turned and fled the restaurant.
Allie giggled delightedly. "You, sir, are truly wonderful," she said beaming at Kid. Steven really was a surprise to her. He no longer seemed a wealthy gambler retiring to the country, now he was all western male. From his scuffed up boots to the dusty Stetson he wore. She found she quite liked the new Mr. Boswell.
The waiter brought their coffee and took their breakfast orders. Alone again, Kid turned to Allie and asked, "What brought you to Idaho Springs, ma'am?"
"Oh please, Steven, don't ma'am me to death. Allie will do," she said with a laugh. "I was taking the stage to Grand Junction where I planned to change to a train to San Francisco. I am afraid the stage broke an axle about two miles from Idaho Springs. The other passengers and I elected to walk into town and I have the blisters to prove it."
Kid smile broadly and said, "Why take the stage, ma….Allie? The train goes all the way from Denver."
"I know, but to be honest, I wanted to make it hard for anyone to follow me. I am afraid that my mother and I are not on good terms and she is not above hiring help to drag me back to Denver," stated Allie.
"It might not be the worst idea, Allie. A young lady like you traveling alone in these parts is just asking for trouble," said Kid. She was a beautiful girl and Kid hated to think of what kinds of danger she could be putting herself in.
"Are you familiar with this part of Colorado, Steven?" said Allie, as an idea began to form in her mind.
"Yes, I am, and pretty much most of the west, too," said Kid. It was true. He and Heyes had ranged far and wide pulling robberies all over the west. He knew these particular mountains like the back of his hand.
"Well, perhaps you and I could strike a bargain," she said smiling. "You could travel with me and see me safely to San Francisco. I would be glad to pay you for your time and, of course, cover any traveling expenses you might have. I couldn't subsidize your gambling, however." She knew that Steven was a gambler and that he had accumulated some significant debt. Bill had told her.
"Wouldn't that be kind of irregular, ma'am? I mean you being a young single lady and all," said Kid.
"I am an independent woman, Mr. Boswell, and I make my own decisions based on my own needs. I am not concerned with convention," said Allie angrily. Her mother would've saddled her with a chaperone and she had no intention of doing anything her mother would approve of. "If you do not wish to accompany me, simply say so, I am sure that I will do just fine on my own."
Kid held his hands up smiling and said, "Whoa, Allie, I meant no offense. I would be right honored to see you to San Francisco." Kid was pleased at the idea. He didn't need the money, but at least now he didn't have to worry about what he'd be doing for next week or so. He could just hear his partner laughing about him doing 'honest work'.
Allie clapped her hands, delighted, and said, "Wonderful. Let's have breakfast and then we'll go see about a horse for me."
Kid gaped, "A horse. Can you ride?" He had been envisioning a comfortable train ride for the next few days not a month or so of saddle sores.
"Steven, of course I can ride. I grew up in Denver, didn't I? It will be an adventure. I've never been away from the Front Range and I want to see it all. Please say you'll do it!" begged Allie.
Kid never could say no to a pretty girl.