It was nearly dawn by the time Heyes worked his hands free. His wrists were a bloody mess, but at least good old Clint hadn't cleaned him out. Heyes had a large sum of money from Decker's safe stowed in a place he knew no self-respecting man would search. He'd buy another horse in Breckenridge, but he had to get there first and he was getting awful tired of walking.
Allie and Kid had successfully crept out of town. Silently, they rode as quickly as they safely could up the dark road towards Leadville. The horses were still tired and were flagging badly. They'd have to stop soon. Kid rode ahead with Allie following closely behind. He was used to riding at night and knew it was important to keep together. There were a lot of bandits on this stretch and Kid was alert for trouble. It was going to be dawn in a few hours and he knew they needed to get some rest. Allie looked exhausted and he was feeling pretty tired, too. He was looking for an overgrown side trail that he knew led to a small, ram-shackled cabin long since abandoned by its owners. He and Heyes had used it to hole up in once before when he'd come down with a nasty cold on the way back to the Hole.
"Ouch, dammit," snarled Heyes. His feet were raw from hours of walking on the rocky road and he was having difficulty hobbling any further. He sat down in the middle of the road and examined the bottoms of his feet. There were several cuts and bruises all over them. He'd tried tearing his shirt up and wrapping strips of the fabric around his feet as makeshift bandages, but they didn't last very long before they became more of a hindrance than a help. Finally, he'd given up and made progress as best he could. It would take him days to reach Breckenridge at this rate. He'd already given up any hope of catching up with Kid. Where ever his partner was headed, Heyes was going to have to trail along behind him until he stopped or disappeared completely.
The sounds of harnesses jingling and a wagon approaching caused Heyes to look up from his feet and in the direction he'd just traveled. Around the far bend, came a wagon laden with what appeared to be late summer corn. The farmer driving the team kept an eye on Heyes as he approached. Heyes stood painfully up and stumbled off to the side of the road as the farmer pulled his team up.
"Howdy. Looks like you had some trouble," said the farmer looking Heyes up and down. Heyes smiled back, "Yes, sir, I did." He was completely unaware of just how bad he looked. His jacket was torn from the other night and covered with dirt, he was sunburned from not wearing a hat, his wrists were scabbed with dried blood and he was shifting from foot to bruised foot. It was his friendly, open grin that moved the farmer to chuckle, "You sure look awful happy for a man in your state. I guess you're either friendly or else you're an idiot. C'mon, hop in. I'm headed into market. You can pay for your ride by helping me to unload. Deal?" said the farmer. He had noticed right away that Heyes was unarmed and, since he had his shotgun propped next to him, he felt no threat from this tattered man.
"Yes, sir, that's a good deal," said Heyes scrambling up beside the farmer, "I'm much obliged. I don't think I could've walked another fifty yards." He propped his brutalized feet up on the wagon and gave a sigh of pure relief.
"What happened to you?" asked the man.
"I got robbed. Can you believe that? I mean what is the world coming to, when an honest man isn't safe traveling these parts?" said Heyes ruefully shaking his head.
" Amen, son. Amen," agreed the farmer, wondering what this man could've possibly owned that was worth taking.
The cabin looked in worse shape than Kid had remembered. The roof had caved in on one corner and the door was hanging by a single frayed leather strap. It wouldn't provide much shelter but they could conceal the horses behind the old barn next to it and they'd be hidden from the road. It had to be good enough.
Allie eyed it skeptically but kept her mouth shut. She dismounted and handed her reins to Kid who took the horses around back. Cautiously, she stepped up onto the broken boards covering the sagging porch. The moon was up now, and there was enough light streaming in through the rafters for her to peer inside the paneless window. She determined that nothing was currently living there. She pushed the door open wider and stepped in. It was not much better than a cave with almost as much dirt on the floor. Animals might not be there now, but they had been in the past. The bedsprings on the floor had once been covered and all that was left were the steel coils. Any furniture that might have been left behind had long since been broken up and scattered or burned for fires.
Kid poked his head in through the doorway and said, "I'm sorry, Allie, I know it's not what you're used to." He looked so apologetic and concerned about her sensibilities how could she be annoyed? He was trying so hard and she was the one who had pushed for this adventure. Allied laughed and said, "I must say, Steven, you really know how to treat a lady." Relieved, Kid grinned broadly and stepped into the cabin. Tucked under his arm were their two bedrolls and the saddle blankets. His other hand held a canteen. Allie giggled and took one of the saddle blankets and a bedroll to make her comfortable.
"Allie, we need to talk," said Kid becoming serious.
Sighing, Allie sat down on her bedroll and looked up at him. "I know," she whispered.
"You need to tell me what you took," Kid held his hand up to stop her from speaking until he finished, "I know it was yours, and I'm not questioning that, but I need to know what this detective thinks you've stolen."
"Sixty thousand dollars and a few old mining shares," she said flatly.
"What?!" yelled Kid. "You've been prancing around with sixty grand? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?"
"Of course, I do. Why do you think I didn't worry you with it?" said Allie.
The wagon pulled up in front of the market in Breckenridge as the sun broke the top of the ridge overlooking town. Heyes stepped down carefully and went to hold the team while Mr. Potts, the farmer, went inside to speak with the grocer. Ten minutes later, he came out with a smile on his face and a cup of coffee for Heyes in his hands. "We've got a deal, Cole. Here, drink this, and then we'll unload," he said. Heyes gratefully took the cup. It was best coffee he'd had in quite a while; heck, it was the only coffee he had in quite a while.
He and Mr. Potts made quick work of the wagon and, once it was unloaded, Heyes reached into his pocket and pulled out a five dollar bill. Potts was shocked at the sight of so much money in this poor bum's hands. He looked up at Heyes who gave him a huge smile and said, "Please take it. You'll never know how important that ride was to me. Thank you for your kindness." Heyes pressed the bill into Mr. Potts' hand, and walked away quickly before the gaping man had a chance to recover.
Heyes went to the livery first. There were several decent horses in the corral and he set his sights on a tall, dark bay gelding with a distinctive blazed face. Using his ragged appearance to his advantage, he drove a hard bargain with the wrangler and led his new horse and tack away with a pleased smile. Next, he went to the merchantile and purchased a grey, double-breasted jacket and a new shirt as well as a hat and boots; and then on to the gunsmith where he picked out a used, but well-balanced, Colt .45, some ammunition for it, and a holster. He didn't bother with a rifle. He'd be getting his own back soon and could make do with a pistol until then. Lastly, he went to the hotel and rented a room. He was too tired, too dirty, and too sore to ride any further without getting some rest first. He ordered up a bath and a meal in that order. When the maid arrived with the food, he asked her to wake him at noon and sent her off with the rest of his clothes to be laundered. It wasn't long before he was fast asleep.
Kid woke up late and quietly crept out of his bedroll. Allie was tucked down into her bedroll with just the top of her head peeking out. She'd pulled it tightly around her last night; the better to keep the creatures out she had said. Kid stood looking at her for a long minute. She was one of the most amazing women he'd ever met. He couldn't believe how tough she was both physically and mentally and he found himself admiring her more and more. He wasn't going to let anything bad happen to her, he'd protect her with his life if needed.
She stirred slightly, and rolled over. Kid quickly looked away and got busy rolling up his bedroll.
"Unnnh. Steven, what time is it?" said Allie.
"It's late morning, sleepyhead. We'd better be getting a move on," said Kid. He had heard riders passing by on the road during the night. Kid knew the detective was likely still behind them. He'd had no reason to suspect that Kid and Allie had seen him and fled town during the night.
Allie crawled out of her bedroll and stood straightening her clothes. She ached from head to foot and wasn't looking forward to climbing up onto Patches again. She loved her horse, but she was getting a bit tired of the pace they were setting. She looked grumpily at Kid and scowled, "What? Don't say it, I know how I look and, believe me, I look way better than I feel!" She brusquely pushed past him began to pack up.
Kid watched her roughly throw her things together. When had she changed into Heyes?
The sun streamed in through the opened window and fell across Heyes's face waking him up before the maid had a chance to. He sat up blearily and looked about the room for his partner before he remembered he was alone. Tossing aside the comforter, he stood up and crossed to the mirror. He held a hand to his chin and rubbed the scraggly beard that had sprouted over the last week. Picking up his razor, he poured some water into a basin and paused, contemplating his reflection. He looked like somebody else. He felt like someone else, too, it had been a rough week. The beard was a good disguise and he should keep it. He began trimming it up neatly.
Letting his thoughts drift aimlessly, he saw again the shocked look on Bill Decker's face as Roy's bullet burst through his heart and out his chest. Heyes had felt the thump of the bullet, too, as it slammed into his own chest and he still carried a bruise where his lucky silver dollar had cushioned the blow. He'd never tell Kid. His cousin couldn't take it, not after everything he had said. It had been a close call, a lot closer than anyone knew. It was the second time in a few months that he'd nearly died, and he wondered why he was still here.
His life felt so pointless to him. Why would anyone besides Kid care if he lived or died? He had done nothing to further mankind; he'd performed no great acts that would be remembered other than robberies. He was an outlaw, a detriment to society not a boon. His parents had expected great things from him. He seriously doubted being a great thief would have made them proud. It would have made them angry.
Heyes was angry, too; he had been for a very long time and he was tired of it. His youth had been spent looking back at what he had lost, not forwards to what he would become like most kids. He had ignored his anger to focus on the day to day struggles to provide for him and the Kid. He'd pushed that anger deep down and locked it away and, in doing so, it had warped him. He knew it had and he did nothing to change. He'd slipped into outlawing like a custom-made suit and never looked back. Sure, they were infamous, and they were the best, but what value did that have? Where did they go from here? To their graves, that's where. Kid was right; he was hurrying his way to Hell.
Kid and Allie were making good time today and would be in Leadville by early tomorrow afternoon. Kid had decided to take a little known trail into town. It would cost them some time, but it would be safer. Kid had gone to considerable lengths to conceal their tracks where they had left the road, but it had been dark and he couldn't be sure he hadn't missed some signs. He kept a careful eye on their back trail. The detective would probably take the quickest route to Leadville. The man would be well aware of Allie's inexperience and had probably already surmised that they would be heading towards a town and not out into the wilderness. Kid was sure he could lose the man in the hubbub of Leadville, but the man certainly had plenty of incentive to find them.
Allie had started off the day tired and out of sorts. She brooded all morning about the detective and realized that she and Steven would have to part each other's company soon. It wasn't fair of her to drag him into her woes and she didn't want to risk his reputation. He was a good man and deserved better. She would send him on his way once they reached town and she would disappear again. The stage ran on from Leadville to Granite and then to Salida. Once there, she could head south, east, or west and from any one of those directions she could eventually get to San Francisco. Her aunt knew she was coming, but Allie had been careful to be non-committal as to when. It had been her plan all along to take a circuitous, hard-to-follow route to prevent her mother from catching her. She would have liked to have attempted the Ute Trail to Aspen, though. That was a direction no one would expect her to travel.
Steven had been awfully quiet today and seemed pre-occupied with checking the trail behind them. She had been surprised last night when he had dismounted and, using a branch he had broken off from a nearby tree, had swept the hoof prints off of the side trail to the cabin. He had her lead his horse, behind Patches, 20-30 yards down a small stream to hide their hoof prints. Allie was grateful he was working so hard to keep them safe.
Heyes chatted with the front desk clerk as he checked out. He slipped the man fifty cents to fetch him a sack lunch from the kitchen and while the clerk was gone, he stole a peek at the register. He saw Kid's handwriting but was shocked to see he had signed in as Mr. and Mrs. Boswell, party of two, and had not yet checked out. Heyes quickly spun the register around as he heard the clerk returning. The man handed a bag to Heyes who looked at it blankly. His head was spinning. Who was this woman? Had the Kid gone and gotten himself married? Was he so angry with Heyes that he wouldn't invite his only kin to the wedding? Who was this woman?
"Your lunch, sir? You sent me to fetch it," prompted the clerk, pointing to the sack, concerned by Heyes's confusion. Heyes blinked and looked at the man.
"Yes, of course. Thank you. By the way, I was supposed to meet up with my cousin and his new bride. His name is Steven Boswell. Could you tell me what room he is in?" said Heyes, the wheels turning again.
The clerk sniffed disapprovingly and he cooled his attitude significantly. "Your cousin checked in last night, sir. He apparently found our accommodations lacking and he and his wife left sometime during the night," said the clerk frostily, "The bed wasn't even slept in."
"Really? Do you have any idea where they might have gone? I'd sure like to catch up with them," said Heyes. If Kid had taken off in the dead of night, it meant someone had recognized him or he had recognized someone. The only question was who?
"I have no idea. Will that be all, sir?" said the clerk clearly dismissing Heyes.
Heyes hurried out the door and up the street to the livery. If Kid was here last night, he wasn't that far ahead. Heyes had a chance to catch up with him after all. He had to be going on to Leadville; anywhere else would require him to retrace his steps and that was highly unlikely. Heyes had a fresh mount and should be able to catch up with his partner and his 'wife' easily.
"Steven?" said Allie as they were riding along a narrow, over-grown trail. She reached up and pushed a low hanging branch out of her face.
"Yes?" said Kid. The branch snapped towards him, but he snatched it out of the way.
"Where did you grow up?" she asked out of the blue.
"What?" said Kid.
"Where did you grow up? You looked so upset when I talked about being a burden. I wondered why," she said.
"I was an orphan, I grew up in an orphanage. My folks were killed during the war," he said, ducking another low branch.
"How awful to be so alone in the world," she said sadly.
Kid didn't respond. His thoughts immediately flew to his partner and the years they'd spent together trying to survive that hellhole. If it wasn't for Heyes, Kid probably wouldn't have survived. He'd been small for his age and an easy target for bullies as well as vicious teachers. Heyes was two years older and he was scary smart. He had used his cunning and his wits to keep them both safe. It didn't always work, though, and they had the scars to prove it.
"I wasn't alone," said Kid.
"Oh, do you have a brother or a sister?" said Allie.
"A friend; I had a friend," said Kid. A friend, a partner, someone closer than a brother could be, he thought. He had to telegraph Heyes and let him know he was coming back to the gang. Would Heyes welcome him back or send him on his way? He was no longer angry at Heyes. He'd had a lot of time to think and he realized that his fear of Heyes's recklessness had caused him to react more angrily than he should have. He had accused Heyes of killing Decker. How could he have done that? Kid had killed; outright killed, and yet Heyes was always the one who rushed to reassure Kid that he wasn't a cold-blooded killer. Why had he been so quick to blame Heyes?
"Was it Mr. James?" asked Allie. Kid looked at her in surprise and she saw that she had been right. How sad that he and his friend had a falling out after all they had been through. She smiled kindly and said, "Steven, I am sure you and Cole will work out your differences. You've shared far too much to lose each other now."
He sure hoped so.