It was just after nine o'clock when Sy led Wheat and Kyle into Denver from the west. After crossing the South Platte, the trio rode boldly up Larimer Street. If their job was to draw attention, this was the easiest way to do it. Wheat and Kyle scanned the closed storefronts, sidewalks, and alleys as they rode in. There were few people on the street at this hour and they saw no sign of trouble.
"I'm telling you Kyle, Heyes's two-timing the Kid. I saw it with my own two eyes," said Wheat softly.
"I ain't listening, Wheat. You ought to be ashamed of yourself talking about Miss Allie that way," said Kyle.
"It ain't her I'm blaming; it's Heyes. He's taking advantage of her and I aim to put a stop to it," hissed Wheat.
"Well, I don't believe it. Heyes wouldn't do that to the Kid," said Kyle loyally.
"He did and I saw. You calling me a liar?" said Wheat angrily.
"Maybe I am. Ain't no secret you've had it in for Heyes ever since he became leader over you. Before then, too," said Kyle, equally irritated. Wheat glared at his partner, but dropped the subject.
Roeber was walking down Larimer Street with Campbell when he spotted a group of riders heading into town. He shoved the smaller man into an alleyway and his friend growled at him, "What was that for?" The two men had just been relieved of their watches a couple of streets over by Gutman and Polson and they were on their way to the nearest saloon for cold drinks and hot meals.
"Riders are coming. Three of them and one's sitting a flashy paint," said Roeber. Campbell leaned past him and saw the three approaching.
"Don't look much like a woman to me," he said, noting the figure on the paint horse.
"Maybe she's disguised. What'll we do? You want to follow them and I'll go get Corky?" said Roeber.
Campbell looked again at the two men with the girl. They fit the descriptions Stafford had given. He wondered what happened to the other two men. Ducking back, he whispered to his partner. "I've been thinking. That girl's worth good money to someone. Look at the cash that detective's been throwing around looking for her. If he's paying out that kind of cash just think of what he's making on this job. I say we take them, get the girl, and turn her over ourselves," said the smaller man.
"No. That big Texan'll skin us alive. You heard what happened to that fella who drew on him. I ain't getting myself stuck over a few dollars. You want her, you take her. I'm going for Corky," said Roeber.
Campbell thought for a second and shrugged, "You've got a point. Go on and I'll keep these three in my sights."
Roeber ran down the alley and disappeared around the corner. Campbell kept watch from the shadows until the threesome had ridden by and up the street a ways. He eased out from the alley and, dodging from doorway to doorway, kept pace with the riders who were now a good distance ahead.
"Psst, Wheat," said Kyle softly to his partner riding next to him.
"I hear him. He ain't exactly light on his feet. How far back do you reckon he is?" asked Wheat. Sy had ridden on ahead.
Kyle pretended to laugh at his partner and turned his head slightly. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted the clumsy tail making his way up the sidewalk in and out of the shadows. "He's 'bout half a block back," he said.
"Let's pick up the pace, and give him some exercise," said Wheat. Grinning, the two spurred their mounts into a gentle lope and Sy, hearing them coming up behind him, picked up the pace, too.
Campbell saw the horses starting to pull away and he panicked. Breaking from his cover and running down the middle of the street, he pulled his pistol out as he ran and stopped suddenly, taking aim for the last horse. He fired a shot missing badly in his haste. Wheat reined up, furious at being shot at, and drew. Taking aim carefully, he shot the big ten gallon hat clean off Campbell's head. The small man dove for the dirt and Wheat kept up a volley of shots as the frightened man burrowed into the ground as best he could. Laughing, Wheat holstered his pistol and galloped away after his friends.
Roeber flew around the street corner, gun in hand, and saw his partner lying in the street with his hands over his head. He'd doubled back when he'd heard the shots knowing his friend was in trouble. "Campbell!" he yelled, holstering his gun and running to the downed man. Campbell rolled over and spit out a large mouthful of dirt. "Are you hit?" asked Roeber, helping his choking partner up. Pounding him on the back as he coughed up more dust, he asked, "Are you okay?"
Campbell, pale in the glow of the streetlamp, brushed the grit off his clothing and stood up. Picking up his hat, and peering at the hole in the center of the crown, he said shakily, "I'm fine, but my hat's a goner."
Becky dried the last of the dinner dishes and brushed back her damp hair with her forearm. She glanced over her shoulder at Mrs. Harcourt who was sitting in front of the uncovered window, needlepointing by the light of her oil lamp. The woman had been sitting there all evening, concentrating on her handwork, barely saying two words. That was fine with Becky, she was too tired to make idle chit chat with her employer. Mrs. Harcourt was not a particularly friendly person and Becky had long ago learned that it was best to simply stay busy in her presence. She had been dismayed when the woman had asked her to stay late tonight, but she needed this job and had been afraid to decline. She had been working steadily since early morning and she was exhausted. She sighed heavily as she picked up the china plates and carried them over to the breakfront to put them away. Mrs. Harcourt watched the slim girl at work. "You've certainly worked hard today, Becky. You are to be commended," said Ruth.
"Thank you, ma'am," answered Becky as she straightened up and adjusted the folds of her skirt.
"Did you remember to drop off my package yesterday?" asked Mrs. Harcourt.
"Yes, ma'am," said Becky.
"Excellent. I'm very pleased. You have earned a reward, Becky. You may have the next few days off; with pay, of course," said Mrs. Harcourt with a smile.
Becky was surprised by the sudden generosity and it showed. She looked at her employer uncertainly. Ruth stood up and said with a laugh, "Don't stand there looking like a fish out of water. Go on, gather up your things, you silly girl, before I change my mind." The girl dashed off to the kitchen and the next thing Ruth heard was the sound of the back door swinging shut. She walked into the kitchen, locked the door tightly, and returned to her seat by the window.
Monty watched the maid hurry down the back steps of the townhouse and up the alley. The gal had worked late tonight and he idly wondered why. He could see Ruth Harcourt through the side window facing the alley. Damned if he understood how women could spend so much time making fripperies. His own Martha had spent many an evening on the old porch rocker working on her sewing; it used to drive him crazy how she would rock back and forth for hours. Monty sighed at the thought. He'd give anything to hear that squeaky old rocker one more time.
He rolled another smoke and lit up. Shaking out the match with one hand, he took a long drag from the cigarette in the other hand. Mrs. Harcourt shifted her position slightly, and returned to her work. Monty heard the sound of running footsteps coming towards him from the other direction and he risked a peek around the corner. Corky was racing down the back alley towards him. Monty pinched his smoke out between his thumb and forefinger and tucked the stub into his pocket as the man drew near.
"Mr. North…rup," gasped Corky, stopping in front of his employer. "They're here. Roeber and Campbell saw them, sir; over on Larimer Street."
"Are you sure, son?" asked the big man.
"Yes sir. One of them shot at Campbell," said Corky. The man had been shaken up, but not so badly that he couldn't provide Corky with a good description of Wheat Carlson and Kyle Murtry. There'd been a rider on a paint horse with them, too. Roeber and Campbell seemed to disagree as to whether it was the girl or not, but more importantly, there was no sign of Kid Curry. Corky's own men had spotted the gang earlier in the evening and Corky had sent word to Sy. He was sure the absence of Curry meant that Sy had successfully intercepted the outlaws earlier.
"Is he okay?" asked Monty.
"Yes sir, he's fine, but they got away, sir," said Corky.
"For now, but they'll show sooner or later," said Monty with a small smile. "I'll be ready for them."
A loud banging woke Stafford from a sound sleep. Groggy, he sat up and slid his feet into a pair of slippers and shuffled his way to the door. Passing the table in the hallway, he picked up his derringer and opened the door a crack. Corky Fallon peered back at him. "What happened?" asked the detective ushering in the young man.
"They're here, sir. Mr. Northrup wanted you to know. Roeber and Campbell spotted them down on Larimer Street," said Corky, looking around at the expensive furnishings and making a mental note of the layout. The lock on the door was a piece of cake.
"Larimer Street? What were they doing down there?" asked Stafford, unaware of Corky's interested inventory of his possessions.
"I believe they were going for dinner, sir," said Fallon.
"Is Northrup still watching the house?" asked Stafford, his knobby knees poking out from his nightshirt which gave him a comical look.
"Yes sir," said Corky.
"Good. Spread the word to the others," said Stafford, "It won't be long now."
"What do you think, Doc?" asked Heyes, hovering by the bed as Doc Mason examined Kid. The doctor glanced at Heyes over the top of his spectacles and then returned his attention to the patient. He poked and prodded Kid from head to toe eliciting protests here and there. "Is he going to be okay?" ventured Heyes. Doc Mason regarded the dark-haired man again and again failed to answer, receiving an irritated look from the outlaw leader. He had known these two for years; ever since they'd arrived at Soapy's house as starving street urchins, and he wasn't intimidated by them in the least. He'd nursed them through numerable childhood illnesses, cuts, and bruises and, more recently, gunshot wounds.
Kid was growing tired of being the object of Doc's attention and finally grabbed his wrist as he began to prod another sore spot. "That's it, Doc. If you ain't figured out what's wrong by now, you ain't gonna. I'm done being poked at," said Kid firmly.
Doc Mason sat back and smiled, "Very well, Jed. You don't have any internal injuries, but you've bruised several ribs and you still have a concussion. He'll be fine, Heyes. Stop flitting around the room like an old hen!" Jed laughed as Heyes glared at the Doc. "You need to stay in bed for another day or so and rest," Doc held up his hands as Kid started to argue, "That is an order. It was most foolhardy of you to ride in your condition and you are very lucky you didn't suffer any serious consequences for your actions. I'm going to bind up those ribs and then I expect you to stay put."
"Great. We've got half of Denver on the lookout for us and you're telling me I'm out of commission?" asked Kid.
"Yes, I am. You need to rest, Jed. You two are perfectly safe here at Soapy's. This place is a fortress and no one knows you are here," said Doc, "Heyes, you are to make sure he stays in that bed for at least the next two days. Am I being perfectly clear?" He pulled out some bandaging from his bag and began to bind Kid's ribs.
"Yes sir, you are," said Heyes like a contrite schoolboy. He watched as Doc Mason finished wrapping up his partner.
"Good," he said, snapping shut his bag and standing up, "then I'll see you two in a couple of days and I don't want to get yanked out of my bed again because you didn't behave. Good night, boys."
As one, Heyes and Curry said, "Good night, sir." Doc Mason closed the door behind him as he left. Heyes grinned and looked at Kid, who grinned back. "Kind of makes you feel like a kid again, don't he?" said Kid.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure he thinks we still are. You better stay in that bed or all hell's going to break loose with Doc," said Heyes.
"I'll stay in bed as long as you promise to be careful. Get Wheat to watch your back, Heyes. I don't like the idea of you traipsing around Denver with a bunch of people looking for us," said Kid.
"I know, but don't forget that everyone thinks I'm dead. If I wear a disguise no one's going to recognize me," said Heyes as he turned towards the light tapping at the door, "Come in."
Allie entered the room and went to Kid's side. "What did the doctor say? Are you going to be all right?" she asked anxiously.
Kid took her hand and kissed it as his partner looked on. Heyes felt a coil of jealousy at the open display of affection, but quickly killed it. "I'm fine. I just have to rest up a couple of days and I'll be as right as rain," said Kid gazing at Allie. Her hair was pinned up and she had the same dress on she had worn in Idaho Springs. He wished with all his heart he could so easily change her back into the girl she'd been that day.
"You look beautiful, Allie," said Heyes, his eyes warm with appreciation. She blushed at his compliment and fussed over Jed to hide it, but he noticed her confusion and frowned slightly. Heyes stood at the foot of the bed. "Are you hungry, Kid? I can go rustle up some food in the kitchen," offered Heyes.
"Sure, Heyes, I could eat something," said Kid. Heyes left, and Kid turned to Allie. "What's going on, Allie?" he asked softly.
Allie stiffened and stopped fluffing the pillows. She stood up and stared down at Jed. "What do you mean?" she carefully asked.
"I'm not blind or stupid. I see the way Heyes looks at you," said Jed.
"What way?" said Allie.
"Allie, I've known Heyes all my life. I've only seen him look at one other woman the way he looks at you and that was a long time ago," he said.
"Who was she?" asked Allie, unable to contain her curiosity.
Jed laughed mirthlessly at her question; it told him all he needed to know. "So you're sweet on Heyes," he said. He'd already realized that Allie was not the girl for him, but was he ready to see her with Heyes? Had Heyes made a play for his girl? Kid felt his temper rising at that thought.
Allie sat down on the bed next to Jed. "Jed, I didn't mean for it to happen. It should never have happened," she said.
Jed gripped her hand again and asked, "What happened?" He willed his muscles to relax but his heart and head were racing.
"I…I kissed him. It just happened. He didn't want me to, he was furious that I did it. Jed, please don't be mad at me," she begged. He let go of her.
So, it had been Allie, not Heyes. Kid was surprised by how relieved he felt knowing his cousin hadn't betrayed him. "You kissed him?" he said remembering his own failed attempt to steal a kiss. His pride was stung at the thought that she'd chosen Heyes over him. "Heyes fits the bill, doesn't he? You don't want to be taken care of, you want your independence, you want to be one of the guys," he accused, his voice rising steadily as he grew angry with her, hurt that she hadn't wanted him, "He's an outlaw, too, you know. There's no future for you there either."
"I know that. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. He won't let me love him," she said miserably.
"You threw yourself at him and he turned you down? Here I was, thinking that you were some sweet, foolish girl looking for adventure. That's not what you were looking for at all, now was it? Is that how you roped Bill Decker in?" he said nastily.
"How dare you?" Allie screamed, furious at his insinuation, "You have no right to judge me. It's not my fault you need me to be something I'm not. I've never been anything but honest with you!"
"Get out!" he roared. She growled and fled the room passing Heyes who was running up the stairs at the commotion.
"Allie, what's wrong? What's going on?" he asked. She ignored him and ran down the hallway to her room, slamming the door loudly. Heyes had a sinking feeling he knew exactly what was wrong. He looked into Kid's room.
"Kid…." he began.
"Go away, Heyes. I ain't talking to you," snarled Kid, lying in bed staring at the ceiling.
Heyes stopped, defeated. Out in the hallway, he looked towards Allie's door. It was obvious that she'd told the Kid. How could she have done that to him, to all of them? Angry at the turn of events, Heyes stomped down the stairs and into the study. Soapy looked up, startled at Heyes's invasion of his private space, but he saw by the look on his friend's face that now was no time for recriminations. Rising from his desk, Soapy walked over to Heyes who was leaning on the mantel staring into the flames of the fire.
"Do you want to talk?" said the older man.
"No," said Heyes abruptly.
"Do you want to drink?" asked Soapy. Heyes glanced up and a small smile crept onto his face. Soapy wasn't going to give up easily and he knew it. Sighing, he flopped down in the stuffed chair by the fire. "I've done something terrible and I don't think the Kid's ever going to forgive me," he said.
"Is it the girl?" asked Soapy, "You're in love with her, aren't you?"
"How did you know?" said Heyes.
"I take it the Kid knows, too," said the older man ignoring the question. Heyes would hate knowing his feelings were written all over his face.
Heyes groaned, "Kid's in love with her, too. I didn't mean for it to happen. I didn't know it was happening…it just did."
"Go and tell him that. You owe it to him to tell him, he's your best friend and he deserves to hear it from you," said Soapy.
"I'll tell him," said Heyes, "if he doesn't shoot me first."
"Kid?" said Heyes softly, cracking the door. His partner had dimmed down the lights and was lying on the bed with his good arm flung over his eyes.
"I said I ain't talking to you, Heyes," said Kid angrily without lifting his arm.
Heyes slipped into the room and sat down in a chair across from the bed. "That's fine. You don't need to talk. You just need to listen," said Heyes desperately, "Please hear me out and then, if you want, I'll go."
There was no response so Heyes started talking, fast and nervously. "It was an accident, Kid. We didn't mean for it to happen, it just did. One minute, we were sitting and talking and the next thing I knew we were kissing."
"Shut up, Heyes. I don't want to hear it," said Kid, pulling his arm away and looking at his lifelong friend. Heyes was visibly upset and he felt his anger ebbing.
"Kid, I've got to tell you…" said Heyes.
"Allie already told me. You didn't kiss her, she kissed you," said Kid wearily. "I ain't mad at you, Heyes. Hell, I ain't even really mad at Allie. I'm just…hurt."
"I'm really sorry. I knew you had feelings for her," said Heyes.
"I do have feelings for her. I love her, but that doesn't mean she's the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with," said Kid.
"She's not?" said Heyes, completely dumbfounded by Kid's admission.
"No, I'm real sure she's not. I thought she was at one point. When I thought you were gone, I was pretty broken up. I didn't know it but I hung onto the fact that Allie needed me. But she didn't, not really. It was more that I needed her to need me. I had this idea of Allie that I was in love with and I didn't want to see her for who she really was. She kept trying to tell me, but I wouldn't hear it. I wanted her to be someone she isn't," said Kid, looking at his partner now. Heyes was so upset Kid could see his hands shaking as he raked them through his hair. "She fell for you, Heyes, because you accept her for who she is," he said. Heyes was staring at him now, his heart in his eyes. It was painful to see and Kid continued softly, "I'm upset, I'm not going deny it, but I'll get over it. Now go away, will you?"
Heyes stood up. He hesitated awkwardly as though he was going to say something more, then nodded, and left. Kid sighed heavily. Heyes was going to get his heart broken again and there wasn't anything he could do to stop it.