Heyes awoke at dawn and crawled out of his bedroll to put the coffee on. Quietly, he stirred the embers in the fire and added a few handfuls of pine needles. The needles caught fire quickly. He added enough kindling to the fire to boil water and placed the pot over the flames. Standing and stretching, he walked over to where his partner was curled up in his bedroll and kicked the soles of his feet. Kid stirred and grumbled. Walking to Allie, Heyes drew his foot back and stopped; remembering this wasn't one of the gang. Reaching down, he gently tugged her shoulder and said, "C'mon, rise and shine. It's time to get going."
Allie also grumbled and she flung his hand away, rolling over and pulling the top cover with her. Heyes grinned and yanked it back. "Time to get up," he said loudly and cheerfully.
Allie sat up and frowned at him, "Go away and leave me alone."
"Aren't you lovely in the morning?" said Heyes as he went to get the coffee. Kid was rubbing his eyes and looking at Allie.
"What?!" she said. Kid shrugged and crawled out of his bag to join his partner.
"She sure ain't a morning person, is she?" said Heyes, chuckling. Kid said nothing as he stumbled off into the woods to take care of business. Allie slithered her way out of her bedroll and headed off in the opposite direction. Kid returned almost immediately and grabbed one of the cold biscuits Heyes had set out for breakfast. Heyes held out a cup of coffee to Kid and poured one for him. "Kid, I've been thinking," he began.
"No, Heyes; no thinking before coffee," said Kid.
Heyes grinned, sipped his coffee, and continued on, "I don't think we should head over the pass; I think we should take the cutoff back towards Leadville."
"Why?" said Kid, knowing that Heyes had already thought it all through.
"Because once we're on that pass there's only one way to go and that's to Aspen. That detective knows where we are headed now and he's probably already figured out to wire over there and have a welcoming party waiting for us at the foot of the canyon. Kid, you remember how the trail runs across the mountain and then winds down into that rocky canyon. Once we get to that part of the trail it would be a piece of cake for him to trap us," said Heyes, sipping some more of his coffee and keeping an eye out for Allie, "Why I bet he's already headed this way." He wanted Kid's agreement before he pitched the plan to her. She wasn't going to like the rest of his plan.
"Why back to Leadville, Heyes? Ain't that kind of risky, too?" said Kid as he took a sip of coffee and winced.
"We'll bypass Leadville and head east over the mountains. Away from the towns and roads," said Heyes stooping down to pick up the coffee pot for a refill.
"East! Why on earth would we head east?" said Allie. Heyes hadn't seen her walking back. He rounded on her with his most charming smile.
"They won't be expecting us to go east," said Heyes reasonably.
"I don't want to go east. I am going west to San Francisco," said Allie. She looked to Kid for support. She was definitely not happy about the change of plans; Kid looked at Heyes.
"Why east, Heyes?" said Kid, knowing there was more to come. There was always more with Heyes.
Heyes glared at him. He had been hoping to avoid that question until Allie warmed to the idea. "Because Allie needs to go back to Denver and she needs to work things out with her mother; get her to call off her dog," said Heyes flatly.
"No!" screamed Allie. "I will not go back. I told you; I will never speak to that woman again. Do you hear me?" she said as she leaned to within inches of Heyes and faced him down. Heyes backed up a step and then stood his ground.
"Stop acting like a spoiled child and think!" snapped Heyes. Kid rolled his eyes knowing that this was about to get ugly. He picked up another biscuit and sat down on a rock to watch.
"Spoiled child? How dare you?" said Allie, her voice rising to a squeaky finish. He was the most insufferable man! Her fists clenched in anger.
"Lady, you have no idea how much I dare. There's a detective after you and your mama is paying him good money to find you. He isn't going to give up until he does. You've already tried to outrun him, but did that work? You tried to outsmart him, too; but did that work?" said Heyes. Kid smiled to see someone else at the other end of Heyes's sarcastic questions. He had to admit his partner had been thinking things through. Allie glared at Kid, too, and wiped his smile right off his face.
"It doesn't matter if he catches me. I won't go back!" she said.
Heyes laughed at that. "What makes you think he won't just tie you across a horse and haul you back?"
"He wouldn't dare. Jed wouldn't let him," said Allie, lifting her chin in defiance and glancing at Jed.
"So you'd want Kid to shoot another man, maybe even kill him, to protect you? Is that it? Don't you think those two he shot yesterday are talking things over? Talking about how fast he was; how fancy his shooting was; maybe figuring out who he might be?" said Heyes abrasively. "Why, I bet they've already told the good folks of Twin Lakes; maybe even wired the sheriff in Leadville; maybe they're even raising a posse to come after Kid Curry." Kid frowned at this last statement.
Allie hadn't thought of that. She didn't want to put Jed in that position at all. Heyes saw her hesitation and pressed his point. Softening his voice and changing his tack, he said, "Allie, if that detective figures out who Kid is, do you really think he'll come alone?"
Allie was furious because she knew he was right. "All right!" she said, stomping off to saddle her horse.
"Well, that went well," said Heyes, finishing off his morning coffee.
Mr. Jenkins had awakened Dr. Munsen, who lived two doors down, to attend to Clete and Amos's wounds. The good doctor had retired as a relatively young man to Twin Lakes several years ago after an unfortunate incident involving the black market trade of medical remedies. While examining Amos and Clete and cleaning their wounds, the doctor got an earful about the outlaws and the wild young woman riding with them. Upon hearing exactly who the outlaws were; and realizing that there were sizable rewards to be had, Dr. Munsen had insisted on joining the posse. He had then pointed out that rather than notifying the sheriff in Leadville and awaiting his arrival it might be more advantageous to raise the posse right there in Twin Lakes. After all, they could be on the trail in an hour or two and the sheriff couldn't possibly make it to Twin Lakes until the next day. By that time, the outlaws would be long gone. Mr. Jenkins and Amos both thought this was a wonderful idea. No one had any desire to share the spoils any further than necessary.
Clete didn't think the idea was wonderful at all. He'd already decided he wanted nothing to do with chasing down Kid Curry and Wheat Carlson. He volunteered to head back to Leadville and notify the sheriff in person. That would give Amos and his posse a head start. With their plans made, the foursome headed out to wake up a few more abled-bodied men.
Poker Annie had just sat down to her first game of the day. She hadn't even had the chance to pick up her cards when she felt a hand grip her elbow and the soft brush of a breath against her ear. "Hello Pretty Annie, I'd like to have a word with you if you don't mind," said a familiar voice.
Annie looked up into Wheat Carlson's face. The man had always rubbed her the wrong way and now was no different, but she knew he must be here about Heyes. Annie purred, "Sure, handsome. Pardon me, boys. You can deal me out for a few hands, but I'll be back." Rising, she followed Wheat to a corner table at the rear of the Pioneer. Seated there was Kyle Murtry. He smiled as she approached and waved happily.
"Hello Kyle, it's good to see you again," said Annie as she slipped into the empty chair next to Kyle. Wheat sat down across from her and gave the room a quick glance before getting down to business.
"Word has it you were here when Heyes was killed. What the hell happened?" said Wheat. Annie studied his face. She could see that he was visibly upset and trying not to let on. Well, he had ridden with Heyes for a long time; and even though she knew he and Heyes were like water and oil; it only seemed reasonable that Wheat must have felt some loyalty to him.
"Boys, it's not what you think. I was there but I didn't see Heyes get killed," began Annie.
"That's not what everyone's saying. They're saying you identified the body," hissed Wheat angrily. Annie felt her temper rise. Somehow, Carlson always managed to piss her off. She frowned at him. Wheat sat back and glared at her.
Kyle was surprised by his partner's tone and spoke up, "Please, Miss Annie, we was hurrahing in Blackhawk when we heard the news. Me and Wheat rode straight through to get here and we're awful tired. We just want to know what happened to Heyes; and the Kid, too. Nobody knows nothing about him. We're real worried something's happened to him, too."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. They're both fine; Heyes and Kid. I didn't see Heyes get killed because it wasn't Heyes who died; it was some drifter who'd stolen his gear," said Annie.
"Huh?" said Wheat and Kyle as one.
"I thought it was Heyes at the time. It was a head shot that killed the man. Not even his own mama would've been able to recognize him. I saw the body and I knew that silver-studded hat and the fancy holster. I was sure it was him until Heyes showed up here the next morning and told me he'd been robbed outside of Breckenridge and the bandit had made off with his things," said Annie. She shook her head remembering the shock of that night and seeing Heyes alive the next day.
"So they buried somebody else and now everyone thinks Heyes is dead?" said Wheat. He chuckled to himself, "Don't that beat all."
"Miss Annie, where's Kid? Is he with Heyes?" asked Kyle. He couldn't believe it. Heyes was alive after all; leave it to Heyes to cheat the devil.
Before Annie could answer, the batwing doors swung open and a tall man entered the saloon. He stopped just inside the door and looked about imperiously. "I'm looking to hire a few good men. I'll pay a fair wage, but I need men who can shoot straight and ride hard," said the shifty looking man.
A scruffy looking drifter standing at the bar turned around and yelled, "I can ride straight and shoot hard, I mean I straight…oh, never mind." He turned back and hoisted his glass, swaying slightly with the effort.
"I'm looking for a man and a woman. I've got a photograph of her," the tall man said loudly, "and the fellow she's with has blond, curly hair. He calls himself Steven Boswell. Her family wants her back and they're paying good money for her."
Kyle leaned across the table towards Wheat, "That's Kid. That was Kid's alias in Golden."
Wheat stood up abruptly and tipped over his chair. The saloon quieted at the loud bang and all eyes turned to the mustached man in the back. "I reckon I can shoot straight enough for you. Me and my partner here would be glad to work for you." Wheat started walking towards the tall man gesturing behind his back for Kyle to follow him. Kyle patted Annie's hand without a word and hurried to follow his friend.
"Good. Come with me, there's no time to waste," said the tall man. Wheat and Kyle followed him into the street. "The name's Stafford, Jonas Stafford. I work for the Bannerman detective agency out of Denver," said the man as he marched up the street. Wheat and Kyle looked at each and frowned. Wheat was wondering just how good the likeness on his new wanted poster was.
"So who's the lady you're looking for?" asked Kyle. He had to hurry to keep up with the taller men.
"Her name is Alyssa Harcourt," the man stopped and pulled out a photograph. "Here's her picture. Take a good look at it and memorize what she looks like." Kyle and Wheat leaned in together for a closer look but there was no need. They knew who Alyssa Harcourt was.
"What exactly are we supposed to do?" said Kyle suspiciously. He had liked Miss Harcourt and he would have no part in harming her.
"Find them and bring her back unharmed. I believe they are heading to Aspen over Hunter's Pass," said Stafford. Wheat noticed he'd only said bring her back unharmed, not Boswell. He and Kyle had to take this job or some other yahoots would be after Kid and Miss Harcourt. No telling what could happen. He couldn't wait to see the look on Heyes's and Curry's face when they ran them to ground.
"Hunter's Pass? That's no place for a lady. Why, that's a terrible trail," said Kyle, "Are you sure that's where they're headed?"
"It has to be. I saw Miss Harcourt and Boswell out on the street the night Hannibal Heyes was killed, but I lost them in the confusion of the crowd. They spotted me, too, and ran. I knew they would try to leave town so I hired men to watch the three roads leaving Leadville. I've heard back from everyone except the two guarding the Hunter's Pass trail. They are overdue and that can only mean something happened to them," finished Stafford.
"Yeah, I bet I know who happened to them," mumbled Wheat snidely under his breath.
"What was that?" said Stafford.
"I said, why ain't your other men riding out?" asked Wheat.
"What other men?" said Stafford.
"The ones you had watching the roads. Ain't they still working for you?" said Wheat.
"Maybe they figured this was gonna be a bit more dangerous than watching a road. After all, something bad probably happened to the last two fellas. I bet they weren't getting paid enough to get shot at," added Kyle as he and Wheat shared a grin.
"So how much is this job paying?" asked Wheat.
"Four hundred dollars," said Stafford kicking himself for letting on that his two men had gone missing. These two were smarter than they looked.
The boys' eyes widened. That was a lot of money. Of course, their pockets were full of cash from the last two successful robberies, but still, that was a lot of money.
"Three hundred each and we want two hundred up front and the four hundred when we bring back Boswell and the girl," said Wheat, holding out his hand.
"Done!" said Stafford, counting out the cash, "Now, please get started. There's no time to waste; they've already got a sizeable head start." He was pleased not to have to take the risks and do the dirty work. His client was paying liberally and Stafford didn't mind spreading the money around a little if it meant he could safely sleep in a soft bed and dine at fine restaurants while others did his job for him. These two seemed capable enough to handle a city girl and a has-been gambler.
"Oh, don't you worry, we'll catch up to them," said Wheat. He and Kyle stood and watched as Stafford walked away. "Course, we won't be bringing them back," chuckled Wheat.
"Heyes, I've been meaning to ask. How'd you manage to get your hat and gun back?" said Kid as the three rode along quietly; winding their way up the switchbacks to the summit. The horses were blowing with the effort and stopping frequently to catch their breaths.
Heyes chuckled. "I stole it."
"Off the body?!" said Kid. Allie looked at Heyes, shocked. She wouldn't put anything past this man.
"Of course not, I took it from the undertaker's safe," said Heyes laughing at their reactions.
Kid smiled, too, and said, "I bet the whole town is talking about the ghost of Hannibal Heyes pulling one last job. It was a stupid risk to take, Heyes, you do know that, don't you?"
"It wasn't risky at all, Kid. How many witnesses was I likely to find in a funeral parlor after hours? Besides, good old Clint had stolen my watch and I wanted it back," said Heyes.
"Grandpa Curry's pocketwatch?" said Kid. He knew how much Heyes valued that watch; heck, it was important to him, too. It was one of the few things they had left from their family.
Heyes looked sharply at Allie and glared a warning to Kid. "She already knows, Heyes. I thought you were dead. It didn't seem important to keep it secret anymore," said Kid unapologetically.
"I won't tell anyone. Your secrets are safe with me," said Allie.
"Secrets? What else did you tell her?" said Heyes, his voice rising.
"Everything, Heyes; I told her everything, because you were dead, remember?" said Kid.
"Everything? Did you tell her about the time Kenny Packard stole your clothes at the swimming hole and you had to walk home through town naked? Or what about the time you stole Mrs. McPherson's pies from the church bake sale and threw them all back up on Janie Carson during the dance? Did you tell her…" said Heyes.
"That's enough, Heyes," warned Kid.
"What about the time Joe Ginter…" said Heyes.
"I said that's enough. Keep it up, Heyes, and I'll tell her about the time you blew up the orphanage's outhouse and forgot to get out of the way of the sh…" said Kid.
"Okay, okay," said Heyes. Allie was laughing out loud now.
"It's not really a joke, Allie. No one knows we're related; not even the gang. It could be used against us if it gets out," said Heyes, becoming serious. "Can we trust you to keep it quiet?"
"I won't tell. What Jed told me was a confidence. He is my friend and I would never betray him," Allie said solemnly. "Of course, I would like to know what happened with the outhouse," she added.
Wheat and Kyle pocketed the two hundred dollars Stafford had given them and paid one last visit to Poker Annie. She taking a short break this time and was having her lunch in a back room. The bartender had waved them down the long hallway at the end of the bar. Wheat tapped lightly on the door at the end of the hall. "Come in," said Annie.
Annie had her feet up on the table and her legs crossed. Her satin skirt had slid dangerously up her thigh and the boys' eyes bulged. She was puffing on a fresh cigar. An empty plate rested on the table next to her legs and she held a half-filled glass of amber liquid.
"Back so soon? I thought you two took that weasel's job," she said.
"We did. Paid us two hundred dollars up front, too," said Wheat, laughing.
"So what are you doing here?" said Annie.
"You said Heyes and Kid were fine. Did you see Kid? Did he have the girl with him?" said Wheat.
"Do they know about the detective?"added Kyle.
Holding up her hand and taking a quick gulp of whiskey, Annie said, "Slow down, you two; one question at a time. I did see Kid and he had the girl with him. They were here the night of the shooting. Kid was pretty upset, him thinking Heyes was dead and all."
"He don't know Heyes is alive?" said Wheat.
"He might by now. I don't know. Heyes was in here at dawn the next morning and I told him I'd seen Kid. He lit out of here in a big hurry," said Annie. She frowned at Wheat who was still staring at her legs. "Kid told me to say they were going to Salida if anyone asked," said Annie, "but I figured he was trying to throw that detective fellow off his trail. I don't know for sure which way they went."
"We do," said Wheat as he stood up and reached into his pocket, pulling out a twenty dollar bill and setting it on the table. He said, "Thank you, Pretty Annie, it was a pleasure as always."
"The pleasure was all yours, Wheat," said Annie.
Out on the sidewalk, Wheat told Kyle to send a telegraph to Preacher. Wheat had left him in charge at the Hole and he knew the gang would have heard rumors of Heyes's death by now. The last thing they needed was the entire Devil's Hole gang riding into Leadville looking for revenge. Wheat went to the livery to saddle up the horses. They'd take the French Mountain cutoff to save some time. It was a rough trail, but they'd ridden rougher.
Five men formed a posse to go after Curry, Carlson, and the girl. Besides Amos, Mr. Jenkins, and Dr. Munsen; the Swenson twins volunteered. Lars was an excellent shot with a rifle, but he didn't go anywhere without his twin brother, Gunther, who couldn't hit the broadside of a barn. Gunther had elected to bring a scythe which proved to be problematic when saddlling up his horse. Lars convinced him to leave his 'weapon' behind, generously offering to loan his icepick and a pocketknife to his brother. Amos had assumed the leader's role since he could identify the outlaws on sight. Each man was heavily armed with as many weapons as possible. Mr. Jenkins had his father's black powder rifle, a borrowed pistol, and a knife he'd stolen out of Winnie's kitchen. Once organized, the five set out quickly on the trail of the outlaws.
Reaching the turn off for the side trail back to Leadville, Heyes pulled up and waited for Kid and Allie to catch up. Kid was leading Patches now, and as the trail had become steeper the sore gelding had slowed considerably. Heyes rode out to the point where he'd watched for Kid yesterday and he scanned the valley below. He could just barely make out a group of riders heading this way. It looked like five, maybe six riders, but they were too far away to be sure. This wasn't good. He'd used the threat of a posse to persuade Allie to accept his plan, but he hadn't really expected those two morons to successfully figure out who Kid was. Riding quickly back to the trail, he waved to Kid and Allie to hurry up. They picked up a jog and as they drew near, Heyes yelled, "There's a posse heading this way."
Kid smiled at first, thinking Heyes was putting one over on Allie, but one quick look at his partner's face convinced him this was no joke. "Dammit! Allie, come on, get ahead of me and take Patches; go as fast as you can." He handed her the reins to her horse and slapped him on his rear as he passed by. The paint leapt after his mistress as she galloped down the trail. Kid turned to Heyes. "What do you think?" he said.
"I think we better hope those are the same two we tangled with yesterday," said Heyes, "Go on. I'll sweep the trail after you. With any luck, they'll miss the cut off."
"Don't be too long, Heyes," said Kid, looking at his partner. He wasn't about to lose Heyes again.
"Don't worry, I'll be right behind you," said Heyes, dismounting to conceal their tracks.
Kid nodded and hurried after Allie. Heyes grabbed a branch and broke it off. Using it like a broom, he carefully swept the trail clean. Throwing the broken branch as far off the trail as he could, he re-mounted his mare and galloped into the forest.