Having delivered his news, Corky retraced his steps and turned south towards Larimer Street. Sy Sloane would see that his information got to where it should go; he needed to get to work for Monty. He had plenty of time left to search for the Devil's Hole gang and still get to his printing job on time. He wished he could have boosted that detective's apartment. Thinking about all the expensive treasures there, he decided he would try again when the dust settled.
Stafford was waiting for Northrup to return with Corky. He had sat down on a bench and picked up an old newspaper to fill his time, oblivious to what was happening around him. He wasn't about to keep searching for Carlson and Murtry without the big Texan backing him up. Those two were dangerous outlaws and he wasn't a risk taker. He was paying Northrup to take the risks.
Finishing the paper, he carefully folded it up and replaced it on the bench then looked up the street hoping to see Northrup returning. Disappointed, he turned his head and looked south just in time to catch a glimpse of Corky before the young man disappeared around the corner. Stafford jumped up and hurried down the street after him. It worried him that Corky was alone; where was Northrup? The detective was confident that he could handle the smaller man alone and he intended to get some answers.
It was late by the time Kid and Heyes returned to Soapy's. The house was dark except for a lit, small oil lamp resting on the kitchen table waiting for them to arrive. Heyes crossed over to the stove and carefully touched the coffee pot resting there, snatching his hand back quickly. "Coffee's still hot. You want a cup?"
The Kid wasn't sure he wanted coffee, but he knew the offer meant that Heyes wanted to talk. His usually chatty partner had been very quiet on the way back. "Sure, pour me a cup." Kid sat down and, using his foot, kicked back the other chair so Heyes could sit.
Heyes pulled two mugs out of the cupboard and placed them on the table. Using a towel, he picked up the coffee pot and carried it over, filling the cups. He tossed the towel down and put the hot pot on it. The Kid raised his eyebrows; if his partner was planning to drink the whole pot, it might be long night.
"I was thinking about tomorrow and I want you to stay here," Heyes sat down and took a sip of his coffee, judging Kid's reaction from under his lowered eyelids. It was about what he had expected.
"You ain't going alone, Heyes. Hell, I ain't sure you're going at all. I thought we were past you taking stupid risks," growled Kid.
"I'm not going alone. I'm asking Soapy to go with me." Heyes took another sip.
"Soapy? How's Soapy going to watch your back?" Kid felt slightly wounded at the suggestion. It brought back a world of old hurts. Heyes had always been Soapy's pet project and, as a young teen, it had been painful for the Kid to play second fiddle. His prowess with a gun was of no value to their mentor; but Heyes's deviousness had been. There was a special bond between those two that had always made him feel sort of left out.
Setting down his mug, Heyes ignored Kid's petulant tone and regarded his partner. "Kid, the doctor told me you needed to rest. I shouldn't have let you ride today and you certainly don't need to be running around town with, as you said, half the town looking for you. C'mon, you probably couldn't hit the broadside of a barn right now."
"I feel fine," scowled the Kid.
"You might feel fine, but you still aren't coming," said Heyes flatly. "I need you here taking care of the ladies. I don't want to leave them alone and Soapy's an important part of my plan. The Bannermen will be falling all over themselves at the thought of the wealthy Mr. Saunders becoming a client and won't be paying any attention to his mild-mannered secretary, Mr. Chauncey."
Kid smiled slightly, "Chauncey?"
"It'll be safer this way, Kid. Soapy's good cover for me and, if something went wrong, you'd still be free to help. Wheat and Kyle will keep watch outside in case of trouble, but there won't be any. I'll be disguised and all the attention will be on Soapy. You can stay here and get some of the rest you need." Heyes started to rise, but Kid grabbed his wrist.
"Sit down, Heyes. I ain't done talking to you," said Kid.
"Okaaay…what do you want to talk about?" inquired Heyes. He didn't like the look in Kid's eye. It warned him not to try to pull anything. He slowly sat down again.
"I want to talk about you and Allie," Kid watched his cousin carefully, "What are your intentions, Heyes?"
Heyes slammed his fist down on the table, startling the Kid, and exploded, "Why are you asking me that? Everybody's asking me that question!" He jumped up and started pacing in the narrow confines. "I thought you were okay with this. You said you were. Have you changed your mind? Do you still want Allie?" He stopped and looked at his partner. Heyes was shocked at the corrosive wave of jealousy that swept over him. The Kid was laughing at him. "What's so funny?" snapped Heyes.
"You are," chuckled the Kid. "I just want to know how you feel about her. That's all. I ain't planning on asking for her hand in marriage."
Turning sheepish, Heyes sat down again and ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm sorry. It's just that Ruth and Esther aren't too happy about us and I thought…"
"You aren't planning on proposing, are you?" interrupted Kid. He was teasing, but he was also worried that his partner might do something stupid. He'd only seen Heyes in love once before and he knew that, when his cousin fell, he fell hard.
"No! Geez, Kid, it's only been a few days since we figured out how we felt about each other. Give us some time, will you?" Heyes filled his cup again and topped off the Kid's.
"It'd be real dangerous for Allie if you did. You can't take the chance on letting anyone know how you feel about her, or you'll have every lawman and bounty hunter west of the Mississippi trying to use her to get to you," said Kid.
"I know that! Don't you think I worry about that, too?" Heyes was staring into his mug. "Kid, I care about her so much, but I know I can't tie her to me. I just don't know what to do."
Kid reached out and gripped his partner's shoulder shaking him gently. "Yes, you do, Heyes. You just ain't ready to do it."
Stafford flew around the corner and skidded to a stop, looking wildly about. There! Seeing Corky further down the street, he formed a plan. The man was supposed to be working Larimer Street and it would appear that was where he was headed, so he would get there first. He'd catch Corky when he wasn't expecting it.
Wheat downed the rest of his beer and patted the man next to him on the back. "Well, good luck with the new job. I bet you won't miss working for Slade one bit." Leaving the man at the bar, Wheat walked towards the door and nodded to Kyle to follow him. Damn, this was harder than he thought it would be. So far, they'd come up empty-handed on any leads to Slade. He didn't know about Kyle, but he was starting to feel his drink. At this rate, they'd be blind drunk before they learned anything. The thought of facing Heyes and Kid, empty-handed and hung-over, sobered him up some. Kyle followed him out and the two outlaws walked up the street towards the next saloon.
"I feel like I've talked to every barfly in this burg and I ain't gotten nowhere. How'd you do, Wheat?" asked Kyle.
Not wanting to admit defeat, Wheat lied. "I got me one or two leads, but I ain't done yet."
Corky had darted in and out of the saloons as quickly as he could. He had hoped to find Wheat and Kyle so he could warn them that Northrup was after them, but he wasn't having any luck. It was very late now and most of the saloons had closed after last call. He worked his way past the business district and decided it was time to head back up the street to his newspaper job. Burglary paid the bills, but that job provided him with an alibi for all the money he made. Not paying attention to his surroundings, he walked past an alley and someone grabbed him from behind, pulling him into the darkened corridor. He started to fight. A blow to the back of his head dropped him to his knees, stunned.
"What are you up to, Corky?" said a familiar, sneering voice.
Thinking quickly, and deciding to play dumb, Corky said, "Mr. Stafford, what did you go and hit me for?!" Stafford was holding a small derringer on him. It might look like a lady's gun, but Corky knew they could be deadly. He stayed still and tried to read the situation.
"I asked you nicely. What are you up to?" Stafford thrust the gun towards Corky.
Kid and Heyes were surprised to hear a soft knock at the back door and Kid's gun sprang into his hand as Heyes opened the door. Seeing Sy shivering on the back step, Heyes stepped aside and ushered him in. The man stopped suddenly at the sight of Kid Curry's Colt .45 pointed at his heart.
"Will you put that thing away?" harshly scolded Heyes.
Kid holstered his gun, "Sorry, Sy."
"Thanks, Kid. Sorry to bother both you so late at night, but Corky found out something you need to know," said Sy.
"What's up?" Heyes brought down another mug of coffee, filled it, and handed it to Sy, who wrapped his cold hands around it gratefully.
"He broke into the detective's apartment and he found some paperwork in the man's desk," said Sy.
"Corky knows where he lives?" asked Heyes, annoyed that he hadn't known this. If he could get to the detective, there might be no need to go the Bannerman Agency.
"He does. Corky cased the place once before and decided it was worth robbing, so he went back tonight after the man had left," said Sy.
Heyes smiled. Corky was a man after his own heart. "So what did he find?"
"A letter from Carleton Harrison to the Bannerman Agency requesting to hire them to locate a missing person," Sy enjoyed the shocked look on Hannibal Heyes's face. This man didn't surprise easily.
"Carleton Harrison, who's he?" asked Kid looking at his partner. "Why would he be looking for Allie?"
Heyes was frowning, concentration plainly written on his face. "Carleton Harrison…'Cash' Harrison. From Chicago? Sy, are you saying that Cash Harrison is after Allie?"
"Who's Cash Harrison?" the Kid wanted to know.
"I don't know, Heyes, but why else would Stafford have it? He's the lead detective on the Harcourt case," answered Sy, sipping his coffee.
"Who is he?" growled Kid.
"What else did the letter say?" asked Heyes "Was there an address?"
"I asked, but Corky said that the letter was very vague and there was no return address," Sy could see that Heyes was worried. Finished with the coffee, he put his emptied mug on the table.
"All right, I'd like you to get the address of the detective's place from Corky and come back here with it first thing in the morning ," Heyes walked his informant to the door and, reaching into his pocket, pulled out a wad of bills, which he shoved into Sy's hand. "Thanks." After Sy slipped out, he closed the door tightly.
Heyes turned to find the Kid inches from his face. "Who…is…Carleton…Harrison?" his partner ground out.
Heyes looked at him as if he'd lost his mind, "Geez, Kid, no need to get proddy. He's a crook; a very big time crook in Chicago; one of the "underworld" guys. Heyes poured another cup of coffee and sat down again to think this new information over.
"The underworld? What's that?" asked Kid, sitting down again, too.
"Back when they built Chicago, they put it on a bunch of swampland. The town started sinking into the mud in the 50's, so someone came up with the bright idea of jacking it up on stilts and putting in a sewer system to dry things out," explained Heyes.
"The whole town?!" Kid was amazed at the odd bits of information his partner came up with sometimes, but this was a little hard to swallow.
"Yep. Streets, too. Pretty soon, the part under the town got to be known as the 'underworld'. People started closing things in; basements with secret rooms and tunnels. I've heard rumors there was even a whorehouse down there," said Heyes, grinning.
"Now I know you're pulling my leg, Heyes," said Kid warningly, "Quit fooling around, we ain't got time for it."
"I'm not kidding. The crooks found it was a good place to work their trade away from the eyes of the law. They still do. No lawman wants to go down in the underworld," said Heyes. "Hell, I wouldn't want to go there. These aren't our kind of crooks, Kid. These are the worst of the worst and Harrison's one of them. He made his fortune there and now he's trying to clean up his image. He's running for office."
"He's trying to go straight? Why would a successful crook want to go straight?" Kid was stunned.
"He's not going straight; he's going into politics. It's all about getting control, Kid. If he controls the city, he controls the law, and then the sky's the limit," Heyes felt a small amount of admiration for the idea.
"Where'd you learn all this?" asked the Kid, suspiciously.
"I don't know; I just picked it up somewhere. Maybe I read it," shrugged Heyes.
"What do you think he wants with Allie?" asked Kid.
"That's what I to know, Kid, and I aim to find out," said Heyes.
Monty was furious at having lost his man. His skills were the only thing he had left in life and he hated being made a fool of. He made his way back down Blake Street to where he had left Stafford. The bench was empty and the detective was gone. Damn it all to hell, the lazy fool had probably gone home.
He started off in the direction of Stafford's apartment, cutting diagonally away from the business district, and walking through the dark streets of a residential area. Up ahead, he could see the shadowy figures of two men. It looked as if someone was being robbed. Monty pulled his gun and approached carefully, "Hold it right there, you two." He nearly dropped his pistol in surprise as Stafford and Corky swung around to face him. "What the hell are you doing?"
Stafford puffed up importantly, "I caught him, Northrup. He had obviously given you the slip and when I saw him, I went after him. I'm taking him back to my apartment to question him." Corky was staring at the big Texan in terror. He'd heard about the man's hunting knife, and he was praying with all his heart he wasn't about to see it.
"C'mon, Wheat, I wanna go back to Daisy," whined Kyle, pulling out his chaw and digging a pinch from the can, he tucked the wad between his cheek and his gum. Chewing was a comfort to him.
"Heyes ain't gonna like you quittin' early, Kyle," Wheat sneered, but, he too, was ready to call it a night.
"I ain't quittin' early, the saloons are closing up. There ain't nobody around to talk to," said Kyle.
"Okay, but you can explain it to Heyes," replied Wheat. Kyle frowned.
The next morning dawned clear and cold. The snow from the prior days had turned an ugly shade of gray and icicles hung from the eaves of Soapy's home. Allie had been up first and was at the kitchen table enjoying the warmth of the woodstove and watching Chef busily preparing breakfast at the other end of the large room. She gripped a mug of tea in her hand and toyed idly with a teaspoon.
She hadn't slept much last night. As tired as she had been, she couldn't stop thinking about all she had learned and wondering what it meant for her future. She had finally fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morning only to awaken with the sunrise. Now that she was somewhat rested, she was trying to make sense of it all. Her father was not her father, her aunt was her mother, and her mother was a total stranger! How had she not known, and how could she have not seen her mother's sufferings?
She did not hear Heyes enter the kitchen. He nodded to Chef, who pushed a service cart past him towards the dining room, and he walked up behind Allie slipping his arms around her and dropping a kiss on the top of her head. She dropped the spoon and nearly overturned her mug. "You scared me to death!" she admonished, looking up at him with a smile.
Heyes laughed. "You're going to need to work on that if you're going to be an outlaw queen, you can't have someone sneaking up on you." He walked over to the coffee pot and poured a mugful, carrying it back to sit down across from her. She looked terrible and he knew why. He stopped smiling and reached across the table to take her hand. "Hey, do you want to talk?"
"What is there to talk about? You heard it all just as I did," she said dully.
"I think there's a lot to talk about. How do you feel?" prompted Heyes.
"Like a fool. That's how I feel; how could I have been so totally unaware of what was going on around me?"
Heyes squeezed her hand, "You were just a kid."
"I wasn't deaf, dumb, and blind! I should have seen something; I should have known something wasn't right," Allie picked up the spoon, fidgeting with it again.
"Allie, look at me," She looked into his warm, brown eyes and saw the compassion. "You were only a child; you wouldn't have understood what was going on around you."
"May be not then, but surely I should have realized as I grew up! I don't understand why Aunt Esther and Mother didn't tell me when I was old enough to understand."
Heyes sipped his coffee. "They still thought you were in danger and how would they know how you'd react? Maybe you would've wanted to meet your father. How could they know? Besides, you and your mother were at odds to begin with; she might have been afraid it was enough to drive you away."
"It probably would have driven me away," conceded Allie, "I grew up feeling like I had to be someone I'm not and it made me angry; angry at my mother and father, and angry with myself for pretending in the first place. I was always tiptoeing around trying to be the perfect lady, the sweet daughter, when I really wanted to scream at them. When Bill Decker lied to me about my mother, I jumped at the chance to blame her. I remember how good it felt to give into the anger."
"Anger can be seductive. It makes you feel righteous, but it also eats away at you; warps your judgment," Heyes was gripping her hand tightly now, shaking her hand to make his point.
"Are we talking about me or are we talking about you?" she asked softly.
He smiled sadly. "When my parents died, I was furious; outraged by what had happened to them and murderous towards the raiders who killed them, but I was angry at them, too. That they were gone and I wasn't. It's hard to explain. It was as if they had betrayed me somehow by leaving me behind. I know it's irrational. They did nothing wrong; they were the victims. I was the one who ducked my chores and I was the one who took Jed with me. We would've died right along with them if I hadn't, but I still blamed them for dying without me. Crazy, huh?"
"No, it's not. You both went through an awful trauma and you were all alone. It's no wonder you couldn't think straight," said Allie.
"Like you, I hid my anger. Shoved it down real deep, so that I didn't have to see it and no one else could, either. I wrapped it up in smiles and clever words, disguising it, but it was always there. Always waiting to break free," said Heyes, "and, sometimes, it did. "
"Heyes, you haven't let it get the best of you. Look at the life you lead, you're the leader of an outlaw gang. You manage vicious, criminal men and you do it by being clever, not by violence or fear," she said.
"Oh, they fear me. Believe me, they've seen my temper get the best of me," smirked Heyes. "That's just the point, though, look at the life I lead."
"You're a thief, but you've never killed anyone," Allie said.
"I've never murdered someone, but that's not the same thing, is it?" Heyes stared at her. Her eyes widened at his admission, but she gave no other sign of her shock. In her heart, she knew that whatever he and Jed had done in the past, they were good men; men worthy of her love.
"Heyes, you did your best and so has Jed. That's all any of us can do," said Allie.
"It's all you can do, too. Put your past behind you and be glad for the family you still have." Heyes smiled at her and she knew he'd neatly led her to the point he wished to make. He was too smart for his own good.
"I will, if you will," she grinned and kissed him.