Kid and Allie were just finishing a leisurely breakfast at the Hotel De Paris in Georgetown. The hotel was well known to travelers in these parts for its genteel clientele and Kid was enjoying the excellent service and gourmet food. Respectability sure could grow on a fellow. Allie was good company and Kid found that he was relaxed with her in a way that he wasn't often comfortable with women. Allie didn't expect any more from him than a safe escort to San Francisco. Usually, he had to be careful around the ladies. He was too susceptible to their charms and they were too susceptible to his.
Heyes often kidded him about his weakness for the other sex. It wasn't that he fell in love easily; Kid never really fell in love, he didn't have that luxury in the life he led. Kid knew he longed for a life that was gone forever for him and it was the stolen moments with a woman that made him feel the closest to the life he had lost. He remembered the love that his parents had shared and the example they'd set for their six children of what a relationship should be. While he knew he'd never have one of his own, he could pretend briefly in the arms of a willing lady.
He looked across the table at Allie and watched as she daintily enjoyed her meal. She smiled at him around a mouthful of eggs, and he felt happiness wash over him. Kid was sure it wasn't love, it wasn't the wild attraction he was used to; more a warm glow of friendship, but his heart jumped a tad when he smiled back.
Heyes awoke with a start and sat up. He had overslept and the sun was climbing in the sky. Fumbling with his bedroll, he staggered out of it while fishing out his pocket watch. It was late morning. Heyes had planned to be in Georgetown before now and he still had an eight mile walk to go. He couldn't believe it, he never overslept. His mare looked at him with pricked ears anticipating her breakfast. She was stunned when he walked over and hastily saddled her up. Returning to his bedroll, Heyes rolled it up, gathered up his gear, and stuffed his saddlebags. He tied it all to the saddle, untied his disgruntled mare, and led her down the road towards Georgetown.
Allie and Kid left Georgetown right after breakfast. It was Kid's intention to make Breckenridge by nightfall and it was thirty-seven miles away so they would need to set a faster pace today. The gold town was booming and with its prosperity had come crime. Kid knew that it was not safe to be on the roads into and out of town after dark and he wasn't willing to risk Allie's safety in that way. He was keeping the horses to a sustainable, ground-covering jog. It would be tiring for the riders, but the horses could go all day at that gait and they should arrive before sunset.
Kid glanced over at Allie and admired her seat. Her paint had turned out to be an excellent mount for her. He was smart and well behaved, but had just enough spirit to make him interesting for her. His gaits were smooth and easy to sit to which was important since Allie was still toughening her muscles to long days in the saddle. She was obviously pleased with him, too. Kid had watched last evening and this morning as she thoroughly groomed him and fussed over him. It amused Kid to watch this fine lady with her sleeves rolled up, the horse hair flying around her, enthusiastically brushing her animal and picking the burrs from his tail. It was obvious that Allie was enjoying herself and Kid was pleasantly surprised. Still, he figured after the ride up to Leadville, she'd be ready to call it quits. He just wasn't so sure he was looking forward to that anymore.
Heyes limped into Georgetown by mid-day and stopped at the local blacksmith. The man was repairing a carriage wheel for some wealthy travelers who had promised him a large tip if he got them on the road again today. Heyes tried to top their offer but the blacksmith flatly refused. He firmly told Heyes that he was a man of his word and he had given his word. Heyes's mare would have to wait her turn. Heyes was annoyed, but what could he do? He agreed and gave the smithy a dollar to feed and water his mare while she waited. He left his horse tied to the hitching rail in front of the shop, gave her a pat, and walked up the street towards the main part of town and the saloon. He was ready to sit down; his feet were hurting with every step. His boots were made for riding, not walking.
Heyes was pretty sure that wherever the Kid was traveling to, he was not worried about keeping a low profile. What was he thinking bringing a gal along with him? That wasn't like Kid at all. Heyes grinned. His cousin was so protective of the ladies that he'd never subject them to a grueling trip through the wilderness. Heyes knew where Kid was headed next. He'd be sticking to the towns with a lady along and that meant Breckenridge. If he could just get going, maybe he'd catch up with him soon. Kid might not be too happy to see him, but Heyes was looking forward to setting things right with his cousin.
He wandered into the saloon and ordered a cold beer to wash the dust from his throat. There was a small stakes poker game going on at the back table and Heyes wandered over. Two of the four players looked up at him and smiled; the other two ignored him.
"Mind if I sit in?" he asked politely.
"Sure, pull up a chair," said the sandy-haired man to his right. Heyes smiled and sat down.
"It's a five dollar buy in. Can you come up with that?" challenged the dark-haired man across from him who had the deal. He was looking Heyes over and what he saw was a scruffy, unshaven drifter who looked like he might have trouble rubbing two nickels together.
Heyes laughed and said, "I reckon I can manage." He fished into his pocket and pulled out some bills, tossing a five into the pot. "I'm a little down on my luck, but I'm not out." Even as he said it, he realized it was true, he felt unbalanced without his partner and it was affecting his outlook on life and that was affecting his luck. Picking up his cards, Heyes concentrated on the game in front of him.
Three hours later, and a hundred and twenty five dollars wealthier, Heyes excused himself from the game to check on his mare. He didn't notice as he rose from the table that the dark-haired man across from him was watching him go.
His mare had been shod and was tied up waiting for Heyes to arrive. He tipped the smithy an extra couple of dollars and collected his horse. It was already late afternoon and he'd never make Breckenridge before dark. He considered staying over in Georgetown but he'd already lost too much time and he wasn't at all sure he could catch up with Kid at this point. It was better to ride on.
Breckenridge was a wealthy town thanks to the discovery of gold and silver in the surrounding mountains. It was the jumping off point for many of the prospectors flooding into the area and it was here that they came to re-supply after long months spent searching for fortunes. The streets were crowded and noisy; the businesses were booming. A group of children at play dashed across the street spooking the horses and Allie had to take a strong hand to Patches.
Kid was careful to check out the sheriff's office as they rode by and was keeping a close eye out for familiar faces. His own face was now sporting a four-day growth of beard and he was confident that he was not going to be easily recognized riding with Allie. He and Heyes were known to be clean-shaven and they both prided themselves on being well-groomed. They had worn rags for far too long and it had made Heyes a bit of a dandy. Kid chuckled at this thought. His partner loved flashy things. He always dressed well, sported a silver-studded gun belt and a silver hatband that he had custom-made in Abilene a few years back and he rode a flashy mare. Kid had pointed out to Heyes many times that he was violating his own rules about keeping a low profile, but Heyes would just smile and say that it was important to look important. The rules never applied to Heyes. Kid knew that better than anyone.
Kid missed him. Maybe he'd send Heyes a telegram in the morning, let him know that he would be back in a few weeks, that he had a job, and that they needed to talk. He'd send it to old Mr. Jakes, the telegrapher in Belton; Jakes would see that it got to Heyes. With that idea, Kid began to feel better than he had in days.
Allie and Kid skirted the main street and rode up a side street towards the center of town. They would avoid the seamier side of town; after all, he was a married man now, he thought with a grin. They reined up in front of a respectable hotel and Kid went in to see about a suite. He didn't want to make Allie uncomfortable, but he did want to maintain the illusion that they were a couple. He was in luck, the clerk told him the honeymoon suite was available. Inwardly Kid groaned, but accepted the keys and went out to bring Allie in. She had dismounted and was stretching gratefully when he walked out onto the sidewalk.
"We got the honeymoon suite," he said with a laugh hoping to diffuse the shock for her.
Unfazed, she laughed, and said, "I just hope it has a comfortable couch because you'll be sleeping on it."
"I'll toss you for it," he said and immediately thought of his partner again. Allie caught his distracted frown and wondered what had crossed his mind, but she kept silent. She had discovered that Steven was a very private man. She had asked a few personal questions here and there and had gotten very little response. Allie wondered what he was hiding, but she knew, without a doubt in her mind, that she trusted him completely.
That evening, Allie and Kid made their way to a French restaurant the concierge at the hotel had recommended. They were ushered in by the Maitre D' and shown to a candle-lit table by the window. A black-shirted waiter wearing a long, spotlessly white apron hurried over to their table and welcomed them effusively in what sounded to Kid like a very phony French accent. Allie smiled at Kid and turned to the waiter firing off a fluid stream of French at him. The poor man stared at her bewildered,bowed deeply to her, and fled to the kitchen. Kid laughed out loud and Allie joined him.
"What the heck did you say to him?" asked Kid.
"I told him that was the worst French accent I'd ever heard and he should hurry back to Brooklyn and find work on the docks," said Allie. This touched off another round of laughter from the Kid until the waiter reappeared with their menus and handed them to each of them with a grin.
"Sir, Ma'am, may I get you some wine or champagne?" the waiter asked in plain English.
Allie giggled again and Kid smiled broadly. "We'll have a bottle of this," Kid said pointing to the menu. He wasn't about to try to speak French in front of this gal. The waiter grinned back at him, completely sympathetic, and said, "An excellent choice, Sir. I will be back with your champagne in two shakes of a lamb's tail."
Kid stumbled over the French words on the menu and Allie laughingly guided him to the items she was sure he'd enjoyed. He was having a wonderful time. Allie teased him gently about being the consummate Western male, and Kid loved it. After the meal, they took a stroll along the lamp-lit street enjoying the bustle about them as they walked arm in arm. Allie was admiring the new fashions in a shop window when she felt Steven stiffen beside her. She looked at him and saw that he was staring intently up the street.
"Steven, what is it? What do you see?" she asked.
Kid spun her about and pulled her in the opposite direction. Reaching an alleyway, he tugged her into the shadows with him.
"Steven, you are starting to alarm me. What is going on?" she demanded.
"Shh. Don't make a sound," he said. Allie froze obediently at the urgency in his tone, and then she heard the sound of footsteps approaching. She had a clear view of the street and the end of the alleyway was well lit by the street lamps. From their shadowy spot, Allie saw the smarmy man from Idaho Springs walk by. He was obviously looking for someone. She could hardly draw a breath until she heard his footsteps receding down the street. Kid tugged her hand and silently led her to the other end of the alley. They quickly walked up the side street to the hotel staying to the darker side of the street.
Heyes was still more than twenty miles from Breckenridge when his mare shied. He had been almost dozing in the saddle and he was nearly unseated. She snorted and planted her feet staring intently into the dark trees. Heyes started to reach for his gun when a voice said, "Uh uh, you don't want to do that." Heyes recognized that voice; it was the dark-haired poker player, Clint, from Georgetown. Damn, he should have been paying more attention. The sun had set over two hours ago and the night was growing darker, but Heyes had pressed on despite knowing the risks. Kid would have something to say about that, Heyes glumly thought.
"Get off your horse nice and easy, Cole, and maybe I won't kill you," said Clint who emerged from the darkness holding a .45 on Heyes with practiced ease.
Heyes smiled, "Clint, what's this all about? You aren't sore that I'm a better poker player than you, now are you?"
"As a matter of fact, I am, and I plan to relieve you of my money and everyone else's, too," Clint said with a smile of his own, "Get off the horse."
Heyes frowned and carefully swung his leg over and dismounted. Raising his hands well clear of his gunbelt, Heyes turned to face his robber. "Clint, let's talk this over like reasonable men. Armed robbery is a serious offence, why I bet it's worth at least five years in the state pen. Listen, what say I give you your forty dollars you're so upset about and we pretend like this never happened?" said Heyes.
Clint laughed. "If they catch me, it'll be a necktie party. Now, quit yakking and pass over the cash. I'll take that fancy gunbelt and the hat," said Clint gesturing with his own gun. "Take off your boots, too."
"Sure, and do you want my long johns while you're at it?" asked Heyes with a growl. He sure hoped not; that was where he'd hidden his share of the cash from Decker's safe. He unbuckled his belt and let his holster drop. Removing his hat, he tossed it in the dirt next to his gun. Slowly, he pulled off first one boot and then another. Heyes tossed them in the pile, too, and waited for Clint to reach for them. He'd jump him when he did.
"Back up now, over there. That's it. Now lay face down and put your hands behind your back," ordered Clint as he pulled a piece of latigo from his pocket.
Great, I get a careful bandit. Was everything conspiring to delay him? He stretched out in the dirt and fumed as Clint roughly tied his hands. Laughing at Heyes, Clint picked up the black hat and looked at the studded silver band around it. The gunbelt was black and trimmed in silver, too. The styling was quite distinctive. "Nice. I'll enjoy wearing these. Thanks, Cole," he said as he slung Heyes's gunbelt over his shoulder and replaced his plain Stetson with the silver-trimmed hat. Clint rifled through Heyes's pockets, pulled out a silver pocket watch and some loose change and stuffed it all in his own pocket. Smiling, he picked up Heyes's boots. He wasn't sure they'd fit, but he was sure he could sell them for a few bucks and he liked the thought of making Cole walk into town barefoot.
"How do I look?" Clint said with a snide grin. Heyes just glared. Laughing, Clint walked over to Heyes's mare and snatched up the reins. The highly-strung mare threw her head up and shied back from him. He yanked her reins roughly only upsetting her further. Heyes, angered, yelled, "Leave her, Clint, or I swear I'll come after you."
"You'll have to catch up with me first, Cole," he said as he pulled the balky horse over to his own and mounted. Looking down at Heyes, he laughed again and said, "I figure we're even now. Revenge sure is sweet, isn't it?" With that, he wheeled his horse around and took off leading Heyes's mare behind him.
Heyes glared after him as he disappeared into the darkness. Clint had made a couple of serious mistakes. Heyes would have let the robbery go; after all, he stole for a living, too; but he wouldn't rest until he got back his pocket watch and his horse. The watch had been a gift from his grandfather and was important to him, and he loved that horse. With a sigh, he began working his hands free. The leather was snug; it would take all night.
Kid softly shut the door to the suite and turned the lock. Pocketing the key, he turned to Allie, who said, "Steven, that was the man from Idaho Springs!"
Kid nodded and said, "Yep. I think he's a detective." The man had approached Allie in Idaho Springs before Kid arrived which meant he was after her. This was really going to change their plans. Kid couldn't risk having the detective find out who he was. They had to leave and fast. Kid had to get her to Leadville and find a safe place for her to go. It was a big town with nearly 18,000 people, and it would be easy to hide her there. It would be just too risky for them to ride together any longer.
"My mother sent him. I just know it," said Allie angrily clenching her fists. "She wants the money…" With a gasp, Allie stopped and looked at Kid guiltily. He was staring at her in shock.
"Allie, what have you done?" asked Kid quietly.
"I took what was mine. That's what I've done!" she shrieked, embarrassed and furious at the same time. "I took the money that my father left me when he died. My mother wants it back. She wants me back, too, so she can sell me to another rich man!" She was fuming, and to her dismay, she could feel the tears starting to fall. She hardly ever cried; and, when she did, it was usually from anger and frustration, but Kid didn't know that. He saw the tears starting to fall and it melted his heart as Allie began to sob.
He went to her and put his arms around her, drawing her to him, but she fought her way out of his arms and screamed, "You don't understand! She used me. She was my mother and she sold me to Bill Decker like I was a prostitute. Bill told me. He took pleasure in telling me that my mother traded me for her townhouse. He told me while he was beating me and I wanted to kill him for it!" Allie began pacing about the room now, reminding Kid of Heyes. "She's never loved me; I've always known it; my father didn't either. All my life, I've tried to be everything they wanted; just hoping; just once, that they would give me some sign of affection; but they couldn't do it. Both of them, both of my parents, were so caught up in their own miserable lives that they had no room for anyone else. Not even each other," cried Allie. She was working herself up into a state and it was beginning to worry Kid. He'd never seen a woman so upset and he was glad she wasn't upset with him. He watched her carefully feeling just a little bit afraid of her.
"Allie, c'mon, calm down. You're getting hysterical…" began Kid. He knew instantly that he'd said the wrong thing.
"Don't tell me to calm down! I am not overreacting! Who do you think you are, judging me? You have no idea what it's like to live with people who think you are a burden," glaring at him now. She saw the flash of pain that crossed his face and realized she had hurt him terribly in some way.
"Steven, I am so sorry," she said, instantly contrite. "You have. I can see that you have. Please forgive me, I had no idea," she begged sincerely through her tears.
"It's okay, Allie, just calm down. You're scaring me," said Kid. He gently took her hand to lead her to the sofa. Kid sat and pulled her down next to him. She was crying hard now, no longer angry, but ashamed of herself for wounding him. Allie fell into his arms and sobbed quietly into his shoulder. Kid held her tightly and let her cry it out. She soon sat up and looked down at her hands in embarrassment. Kid lifted her chin and looked into to her reddened eyes. "It's all right, darling. I won't let anyone take you back to your mother. But, Allie, we need to go. Can you do that? Can you ride out with me tonight?" he asked softly.
"Yes," she whispered, "yes, I can."
"Good. You pack up our things and I'll get the horses," said Kid.
Calmer now, Allie wiped her eyes and said, "Steven, you can't. The livery's locked up for the night."
"Don't worry about that. I'll meet you out back in fifteen minutes," said Kid as he rose. "You just be careful no one sees you going down the backstairs, okay?"