"So what were you and Allie laughing about?" asked Kid casually. He hated himself for it, but he had to know. It was obvious that she and Heyes were growing closer and Kid didn't like the ugly feelings he had when he saw them in each other's arms- again. He pretended to be engrossed in tightening his cinch, but he waited tensely for Heyes's answer.
"Oh, I was talking over a plan with her," said Heyes. He ignored Kid's agitation and was preparing to mount up. They were just outside of Geneva and he was hoping to pick up a few supplies in the mining camp.
"A plan? You're planning a job with her?!" snapped Kid. He was angry now. Angry at the thought that Heyes and Allie had become close enough he was confiding in her about a robbery, and angry that they hadn't included him.
"What? No, why would I do that? Allie isn't going to be pulling any jobs with me," laughed Heyes. He looked over at his cousin who was savagely yanking up his gelding's cinch. The animal turned its head and nipped at his rider in protest. Heyes knew Kid was jealous. Despite his partner having doubts about his own relationship with Allie, he was still jealous of Heyes.
"Kid," said Heyes very softly. He wanted him to listen to him, but he didn't want the others to hear. "Hey, come on, listen to me." Kid stopped fiddling with his gear and turned around and glared at Heyes.
"We weren't talking about a job, not that I'm not thinking about one. We were talking about something else," said Heyes. He didn't want to tell him Allie's idea yet. There were a lot of things for Heyes to think about. He could give his money over to charity, but he wouldn't dare take any of his men's cuts; that would cause too much trouble. He'd have to step up the number of jobs they pulled in order to cover the gang's expenses. The boys wouldn't mind, but there'd be less time for planning and more chances for trouble. He was pretty sure Kid would go for it, though.
"Like what?" said Kid. He wasn't letting Heyes sidestep this question.
"I'm not sure I'm ready to tell you," said Heyes, growing irritated at being pressed by his partner.
"Well, that's too bad, Heyes, because I'm real ready to hear it," said Kid firmly.
"All right," said Heyes, fully annoyed now. Sheesh, his cousin could be a pain sometimes. He walked around Fannie and stood close to Kid. "I don't want Kyle and Wheat to know so keep this quiet," said Heyes. Kid nodded and waited for the rest. "You know I've been kind of down lately, right? I mean, I guess I've made it plain that I'm not too happy with our life right now," whispered Heyes. This was not at all what Kid was expecting and a feeling of relief washed over him. He relaxed and Heyes could see it. "I haven't worked out the details yet, there's still a lot to think about, but I think I'm going to do it," said Heyes.
"Do what?" said Kid, suddenly worried that this new plan didn't include him.
"Start giving some of my cut of our loot to charity," said Heyes with a small smile.
Kid really hadn't expected this. He refrained from laughing and said, "You mean like that Robbing Hood fellow in that story?"
Heyes laughed out loud. Out of the corner of his eye, Kid saw Allie look over at them. She smiled at Jed and he smiled back before returning his attention to Heyes. "Yes, just like Robin Hood only we'll keep enough to live on. Think about it, Kid; it works in so many ways. We'll keep on conducting our business the way we always have, but we'll be helping folks, too. The folks that slip through the cracks. The ones so far down that they need someone to give them a hand up."
Kid did think about it and started to grin at his partner. "I like it, Heyes. Why not? I mean we support half the brothels in the state with what we spend on hoo-rahing. But you said ways, what other ways will this work?" he asked.
"Well, Allie thought we ought to keep it quiet, give anonymously, but I'm thinking that it couldn't hurt to let a few small hints slip out about where the money came from. Not too many, just enough that the good folk we help know we're on their side. I'm mean, who knows, if we do go to trial someday it couldn't hurt to have the 'jury of our peers' thinking kindly about us."
"Wouldn't that be dangerous for the people we help? If the bankers or the railroads find out, won't they just take the money back? What if they charged those folks with a crime?" asked Kid.
"We'll be careful, Kid. But think about it, even if they suspected, do you really think the rich folk will want to be seen outright taking money from the poor? They built their whole businesses on finding ways to do that without anyone realizing," chuckled Heyes. An incredible feeling of joy was bubbling up inside him. This felt really good. A weight was lifting off him, one that he had carried around for far too long.
Kid could see this was what his partner needed. A goal, something to achieve, something Heyes could feel proud of. He laughed and said, "It's a good plan, Heyes. Let's do it. We can let the boys know and, if they feel like it, they can help, too. Most of them come from poor folk just like we did. They might surprise us."
Reaching out, Heyes pulled Kid into a backslapping hug, "I knew you'd go for it, Kid. You can't resist helping the needy." He let go and Kid could see a glow of genuine happiness in his cousin's eyes.
"You were right. Allie's even more amazing than I realized," said Kid, gazing over at the woman who was fast become an important part of their lives. How had she known what Heyes needed when he hadn't been able help his partner?
Heyes led Fannie over towards Wheat and Kyle. "Kid and I are going into Geneva to pick up supplies. You two take Allie and skirt around town in case there's trouble. We'll meet you at the foot of Guanella Pass at the old line shack. We ought to catch up to you by dark and we can camp there."
Wheat nodded and stood up. "We'll take good care of Miss Allie for you, Heyes," said Kyle, spitting out a gob of chaw.
Allie wanted to go with them, but she knew she'd be a dead giveaway if the detective had sent out word about her. Frowning, she mounted Patches and watched as Heyes and Jed rode off, leading Heyes's bay gelding behind them.
"You and me will keep watch on the mama's townhouse. I want to handle that myself," said Monty firmly. Stafford nodded. He wasn't interested in camping out in the cold all night, but he'd be more than willing to take the days.
"All right; you can take the nights and I'll do the days. How long do you think it will be before they show up?" asked Stafford.
"They ought to be here some time the day after tomorrow. It don't take more than four days to get to Denver from Leadville no matter how slow you go," said the big Texan, relieved that Stafford was willing to split up the watch. He had no desire to spend one second more in this man's company than he had to. He'd earn his pay and clear out of here as fast as he could.
"Good, I want to get this job over with," said Stafford. And get my money, thought the detective. I'm tired of taking orders from everyone. I'll be giving them soon.
"We'll have her soon enough. You've got all the names of her friends. She ain't got many," said Monty, "You've got to wonder how come a rich gal like that don't have more .
Stafford sniffed loudly. "She isn't fit for polite society. The woman is obviously morally bankrupt if she's willing to ride with a gang of outlaws. And, if she isn't willing, she's soiled goods by now."
Monty wondered how polite society would view the ignorant detective.
The trip into town had been uneventful. Heyes and Curry had slipped into the company store, and purchased enough supplies to see them through to Denver. Heyes had needed to replenish his store of coffee since he hadn't counted on having most of the gang along for the ride and Kid picked up some extra ammunition as well as a small bag of red licorice. A sack of oats, a few canned goods, and a loaf of bread had completed their purchases. Heyes had packed the supplies on his big, bay gelding. The extra horse had proven to be very useful.
Riding up towards the line shack, they could see the soft glow lighting the windows. Kid sighed. It'd be nice to spend a night indoors even if he still had to sleep on the ground. At least it would be warm ground. The nights were getting colder and they were awakening to frost nearly every morning. Kid rode up to where the horses were picketed between two trees and dismounted. Heyes slipped off Fannie, too, and handed her reins to Kid. He took the bay gelding to the end of the line and tied him off. Kid tied off his two horses while Heyes unpacked the gelding. After feeding all the horses a small meal of the oats they had bought, the two partners slipped into the shack. The aroma of roasting turkey assaulted their senses. A large bird was cooking over the roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Bedrolls were spread about the cabin and the floors had been swept.
Allie stood up grinning at the happy expressions on Jed's and Heyes's faces. "Kyle shot a turkey for us. You should have seen him. We surprised the flock and he shot one in mid-air!" she said excitedly.
Kyle beamed at the praise. "Shucks, Miss Allie, it weren't nothing. Why Kid could've shot two or three," he said modestly.
Patting the small man on the shoulder, Kid said, "Good work, Kyle. There ain't nothing that makes me happier than dinner on the table."
Heyes snorted. "Except maybe dinner in your stomach," he said, smiling.
The next morning dawned wet and dreary. A light drizzle fell steadily, but despite the gray skies, spirits were good. They'd had a good night's rest in a warm cabin with full bellies and were now cresting the pass. Heyes figured they'd make Denver sometime tomorrow and the thought saddened him. He wasn't looking forward to saying goodbye to Allie. Pausing at the summit, he let the others catch up.
Kid pulled up next to him and looked out over the cloudy vista before them. Visibility was still good and, despite the dampness, he could see a great distance. They were only 50-60 miles from Denver at this point. He wished it wasn't so close. Allie rode up next to him with a pensive expression on her face, too. Kid knew she had never intended to see Denver again and he wondered how long she'd last there. She wasn't the same polished young lady who left a few short weeks ago and he knew she wanted more out of life than she once had.
As Wheat and Kyle brought up the rear, Heyes started off on the downside of the summit leading his gelding. The trail was muddy and Fannie slid several times. He steadied her with a light rein and sat still. She was a sure-footed mare and her rider knew to let her do her job undisturbed. The gelding followed carefully. Kid waited to let Allie go ahead of him as he was worried about her green horse. Patches seemed steady enough but the trail was slick and Kid wanted to keep an eye on her from behind. Touching his gelding with his heels, he fell in behind Allie. Wheat and Kyle brought up the rear.
Heyes was mid-way down when it happened. He heard a commotion behind him and Allie screamed. Heyes wrenched his head around in time to see Kid's horse pitch forward his rear legs sliding out from under him. The horse toppled to the side with Kid still in the saddle and they rolled over the edge of the trail. Knucklehead was thrashing wildly, trying to get his legs under him. He rolled over again and Kid was pitched out of the saddle. The gelding rolled again and again down the hillside, screaming in terror as his rider slid to a halt and laid still.
Heyes cursed, leapt off his own horse, and plunged down the hill. He slipped and slid his way to his partner. The Kid was lying face down in the mud and not moving. When he reached his side, Heyes gently turned his partner over. Kid was unconscious and there was a large goose egg already forming on his forehead. Listening to his heart, Heyes was reassured to hear a steady rhythm. He sat back and heard Allie screaming to him from above. Knowing she was worried, Heyes stood up and waved to her. She was off her horse and holding the paint still as best she could on the narrow trail. Wheat had the reins to Kyle's horse while his own partner was scrambling past Heyes towards Kid's horse. The animal had come to a stop, but was still thrashing about. Heyes watched as Kyle reached the horse. After a moment, the small outlaw drew his pistol, grabbed the poor horse's bridle, and placing the barrel of his gun in the center of the gelding's forehead. Kyle pulled the trigger. The horse convulsed once and went still.
Heyes felt sick. Despite's Kid's disparaging name, Heyes knew he'd been fond of that horse. Kyle climbed up to Heyes using his hands and feet to find purchase on the slick ground. The horse had scraped the hillside nearly clean in his mad slide. "How's Kid?" asked Kyle.
"He's out cold. I don't know how bad he's hurt, so we're going to have to be careful. Stay with him. I'm going back up to get a blanket and some ropes," said Heyes.
Kyle waited patiently with Kid who was bundled tightly in the blanket. Fannie and the gelding had spooked at the fuss and disappeared down the trail, so Heyes had used the others' lariats, knotted together, and the trunk of a small tree to create a pulley. One end of the rope was tied securely to Allie's saddle horn. She stood at her horse's head and spoke soothingly to him despite the fear she felt for Jed.
Heyes, using his own lariat, tied the last rope around Kid's chest and attached the pulley rope to it. and then signaled Allie. At her urging, Patches calmly and smoothly dragged Kid up the hillside with his partner at his side. Wheat stood at the edge of the trail, and grabbed Kid with his good hand as he neared. Together, he and Heyes gently laid Kid down and removed the ropes. Kyle had gone down the hill again to the dead horse and was now carrying Kid's tack over his shoulder and making his way back up. Allie tied Patches to a short shrub and ran up the path to Kid. Kneeling next to him, she laid her hand on his cheek.
"We need to get him off this trail. Allie, ride on ahead with Wheat and take the horses. Make camp at the first good spot you find," ordered Heyes.
"Will he be all right?" said Allie. She was frightened for Jed, but she would do what needed to be done. Standing up, she hesitated and looked at Heyes, her eyes glistening with tears.
Heyes gave her a gentle smile and reached up to hold her hand. "Don't worry. The Kid's got a thick skull, he'll be fine," he said, even while he worried it wasn't true.
Wheat had taken the saddle and gear from Kyle and was packing it onto his horse. "Kyle, you're going to help me carry the Kid," said Heyes. Kyle came over and stooped down next to his leader.
"I don't know the Kid's pretty heavy; maybe we should make us one of them indian things, Heyes. You know, with the branches and such," said Kyle.
"You mean a travois," said Heyes, "It's a good idea, we'll make a stretcher." Kyle glowed with the pleasure of coming up with a plan Heyes approved of. He went to grab a hatchet from his saddlebag. There were two likely-looking saplings just a few hundred yards back. Heyes watched as Kyle hurried up the trail and Wheat and Allie led the horses slowly down the slick trail. Looking down at his white-faced partner, Heyes gently patted his chest. "I think we're pretty even now on scaring each other to death, Kid," he said softly.
The saloons in Denver were notorious for attracting all levels of patrons; and it was to these establishments that Stafford typically went for hired help. Together, he and the deputy hired several men to help them with their vigil for Miss Harcourt. Unfortunately, one of the men they hired was one of Heyes's own spies, Corky Fallon. Corky had met Heyes and the gang at Sy's place about a year ago. When he heard the descriptions of the men they were supposed to be on the lookout for, Corky realized these two were looking for the Devil's Hole gang and some woman. Their descriptions were, word for word, identical to the paper out on Heyes and Curry; and they fully described Kyle Murtry and Wheat Carlson down to the chewing tobacco and the bushy mustache. He had heard Heyes had been killed in Leadville, but these two didn't seem to realize it. After he had agreed to keep watch on one of the lady's friends, he skedaddled over to Sy Sloane's place. This information might be worth something. With Heyes gone, Corky knew he was going to lose most of his income.
Sy Sloane opened the door to his small house and was surprised to find Corky Fallon on his doorstep. He took pains not to meet face to face with the street spies, it was safer for all concerned, but he knew Corky from the old days and welcomed the rumpled man into his home. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly. Sy's wife and two children were in the next room preparing supper. His family had no idea how he supplemented his earnings and he didn't want them to know. He had always known that it was dangerous to work both sides of the street and at the news of Heyes's demise he had felt mixed emotions. He had liked and admired Heyes and had been saddened to hear of his death. He had also mourned the loss of his revenue; but he had felt a sense of relief that the deceptions were over.
"There's a Bannerman and another guy over on Blake Street. They're hiring lookouts and they hired me," said Corky.
"So?" said Sy, wondering what this could possibly have to do with him.
"So, they're looking out for the Devil's Hole gang and some gal. These two are paying pretty good money to a mess of people to find them," said Corky, "They said the gang was ransoming her and they were being paid to save her."
Sy frowned. Why would the gang ransom a woman? Perhaps, with Heyes dead, Kid Curry had bent the rules to his own liking. Sy knew Soapy Saunders would want to know the gang was here. Kid was a pretty good friend of his.
"That's not all, Sy. They think Heyes is still alive," said Corky, "They could've been reading his wanted poster out loud to us when they described the man they were looking for."
Sy's eyebrows shot up. "All right, Corky. I'll take care of things from here," said Sy, pulling a bill out of his pocket and handing it to Corky. The man smiled and slipped out of the door.
"Dear, I'm going out for a walk. I'll be back soon," Sy said loudly, putting on his jacket and hat and stepping out the door without waiting for an answer.
Sy went to the servant's entrance around the back of Soapy's house. Rapping hard on the door, he waited. He heard footsteps approaching on the other side of the door. The door opened and Soapy's butler, Jordan, stood blocking the light. "Mr. Sloane, please come in, sir," he said politely, not at all surprised to find Mr. Saunders frequent visitor at the servant's door.
"Is Soapy home, Jordan?" asked Sy stepping into the spacious kitchen. The cook was at the monstrous stove stirring something that smelled heavenly. Against his will, Sy's mouth began to water.
"Yes sir, he is. I believe you will find Mr. Saunders in the study. May I take your hat and coat, sir?" asked Jordan.
Handing over the outerwear, Sy Sloane walked down the long hallway from the kitchen to the double-doors of the study. He knocked softly and opened a door. Soapy was seated in his favorite chair by the fire and he had a drink in his hand. Looking up in surprise at the intrusion, Soapy said, "Sy, won't you come in and have a seat?" He gestured to the chair across from his. Sy sat down. Soapy smiled and said, "It's good to see you, Sy. I wondered if I would see you again now that Heyes has passed." The gray-haired man's voice broke on the last word and he took a quick sip of his drink to cover it.
"I'm so very sorry for your loss, Soapy. I know you and Heyes were close," said Sy sincerely. He'd seen the two together and the affection Soapy held for Heyes was obvious to any onlooker.
"Thank you. I will miss him terribly. Heyes was an original and the world won't see his like again," said Soapy sadly.
Clearing his throat, Sy said, "Corky Fallon just came to see me. He said there are two men down on Blake Street hiring lookouts. They're setting a trap for the Devil's Hole gang."
"Kid's coming to Denver?" said Soapy. He knew that Kid Curry must be out of his mind with grief over the loss of his lifelong partner. He might not be thinking too clearly. This could be very dangerous for the Kid.
"He's got some girl with them. These two men believe the gang's going to ransom her and they've been paid to return her safely to her family," said Sy, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.
Soapy knew Kid would never ransom someone. Heyes would roll over in his grave if Kid was kidnapping women now. Something wasn't right here.
"Corky says his new employers think that Heyes is alive. Not that they mentioned him by name, but Corky said the descriptions they gave were the ones from Kid's and Heyes's wanted posters," added Sy.
How could the men not know Heyes was dead? The whole west knew. The word had spread like wildfire and Soapy had been devastated when he had heard about his dear friend. He sat his drink down and stood up. "Get our men together, Sy. Make sure we find Kid before the others do. I am not about to lose another friend. Tell them there's a generous bonus for the man who brings Kid to me first," said Soapy.
Sy smiled, "Yes sir. We'll find him, Soapy. Don't worry."
Author's Note: Throughout this story, I've referred to geographical locations within the state of Colorado. Whenever possible, I've used the historic names such as Hunter's Pass which is the modern day Independence Pass, but at other times, in order to identify where our favorite outlaws are, I've used the modern names such as Guanella Pass which was named after a road supervisor, Byron Guanella, in 1953. Most of the references I've made can be located on a map of Colorado with the exception of the Geneva Iron Fens near Guanella Pass.