Allie rushed out of the restaurant and looked to her right and then her left. She saw Steven racing down the sidewalk; already a block away. He wove his way in and out of the crowds surging in the direction of State Street. Picking up her skirts, Allie ran after him at a very unladylike speed. What on earth had gotten into him? It wasn't like Steven to be drawn to another person's misery. Why would he rush to the scene of a shooting?
Ruthlessly shoving aside anyone impeding him, Kid ran on, his breath burning in his lungs, and his mind racing far ahead of his limbs. He can't be; Heyes can't be dead. He skittered around the corner, hanging on to a post, and continued on, forcing his way through a steady stream of curiosity seekers. The Pioneer was in the center of State Street and Kid could see the mob that clustered around the front of the building. He slowed; the crowd was closing in on him and falling back from the sidewalk at the urging of the Sheriff's deputies forming an elbow to elbow line across the sidewalk. Kid was stopped cold against a wall of people. There was someone coming out.
Kid saw a young deputy first, his hands up gesturing to the crowd to back off. Behind him were two other men carrying a stretcher. The man on it was obviously dead. Kid breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't Heyes; someone had just misidentified the body. It had happened before and Kid thanked his lucky stars. Kid pushed and shouldered his way to the front of the crowd only to be stopped by a burly man with a club.
"That's far enough, laddie. Back off, and let us get on with our business," he said warningly slapping the club into his palm.
Poker Annie, an old friend of the boys, came out of the door with a second, sheet-covered body on a stretcher. She was sobbing and cursing while clutching a lifeless hand that had fallen out from under the bloody fabric. Kid stared at the stretcher in shock. Those were Heyes's boots. His mind started to go blank and he reeled alarmingly. Poker Annie saw him and her eyes widen in shock. She slowly shook her head and mouthed, "I'm sorry."
"Hey, hold up! I got Heyes's hat," yelled a man coming through the door. He ran up to the stretcher and tossed Heyes's silver-studded hat onto the body. Kid felt his knees go weak.
Allie burst through the crowd next to Kid and clutched his arm as he swayed. All the blood had drained from his face and he looked as if he was going to pass out. She shook him with all her strength and cried, "Steven, what's wrong?"
The sound of her voice was like a spray of cold water. Kid blankly looked at her and then he looked past her. There, not 50 feet away, was the detective following determinedly in her wake through the crowd. Kid grabbed her roughly and yanked her along behind him as he plowed across the street disappearing into the sea of onlookers.
Kid pulled Allie into an empty bake shop; the owner had apparently wandered into the street leaving the shop open. He towed her roughly out the back door and let her go. Steven never looked at her as he started to run blindly back towards their hotel. Allie didn't hesitate. She kicked off her shoes to make running easier and charged after him.
The smarmy man had lost sight of them when a heavy-set man had shouldered him sideways jockeying for a better look. He only faltered for a second, but when he looked up, Miss Harcourt and that man had vanished. He turned and looked wildly about him, but they were nowhere to be seen. At least, he knew they were here and he would redouble his efforts to find them. There were only so many places a 'respectable' couple could hide and he was a Bannerman; he'd get them eventually.
Heyes, too, had heard the commotion from a saloon up the street. He had arrived in town a few hours ago and had begun his search for Kid. There were numerous hotel, liveries, and boarding houses to cover and he had canvassed many of them before deciding to duck into a small café for a late dinner. Word of the shooting had reached the other businesses quickly and when the cook had yelled out that Hannibal Heyes had been killed, Heyes ran into the street with the rest of the patrons. The café had been several streets over and by the time he had arrived on State Street, the crowds had already clogged the street. Heyes shouldered his way through the crowd, stepping on toes and elbowing openings. He got to the Pioneer right after the body was removed. Heyes didn't need to see it; he was pretty damn sure that Clint had just learned a hard lesson about revenge, too.
He found a high point in the street by standing on a water trough and he thoroughly scanned the crowd looking for Kid. There was no sign of his partner. Heyes was sure he'd be here if he was still in town. Kid would've heard the news and he knew his partner would have been desperate to know if it really was Heyes who had been killed. This had happened before; bounty hunters and lawmen who were quick to believe they'd found the notorious outlaws. It wouldn't be the last time some poor soul was mistaken for one of them. Of course, Clint had gone out of his way to make that happened by decking himself out in Heyes's gear. Heyes stayed until the crowd dispersed. There was still no sign of the Kid. He must have passed through and was already on his way out of town. Heyes felt dejected. He'd really thought he'd find Kid here. Heyes climbed down from the trough and walked up the street. He'd find a room for the night that overlooked the undertaker's. If Kid was still here in town, Heyes knew he would have to know the truth.
Kid slowed to a walk about a block from the Clarendon, and the full impact of what he'd just seen crowded in on him just as Allie caught up.
"Oh geez, please, no, please," he said as he bent over, gasping for air.
Allie put her arm on his back and lean over with him, "Steven, are you all right? What's wrong?"
He looked at her with tears in his eyes and grabbed her arm, starting to run again, "C'mon," he said. He calmed a little as they entered the lobby, trying to pull himself together and not attract attention. There was no need, no one was there. Everyone had spilled out into the street to try to see the body. Kid took the stairs two at a time, with Allie stumbling to keep up with him. He dragged her down the long hallway and into the suite; shutting the door and locking it behind them. When Kid turned back to face her, the look on his face was terrible to see.
"Steven, what on earth is going on?" she asked. "Why are you so upset? What did you see?"
Heyes found a room, overlooking the street, at one of the bordellos. He'd had to pay for it by the hour, but he was happy to do it. If the Kid tried to bluff his way into the sheriff's or the undertaker's down the street, Heyes would see him. He ordered up a pot of coffee and dragged an old stuffed chair over to the window.
Several hours later, he was pacing the room in an effort to stay awake. He knew the news would've have gotten around town and probably to the next town by now. As he passed the window on each turn, he would duck his head and look out to see if there was any activity. Kid wasn't coming or he would've been here by now. The next town was Granite and the Kid could've been there and back by now. Heyes plopped down in the chair and picked up the coffee pot, but it was empty. No point in staying awake;Heyes sighed heavily; there'd be nothing to see.
Allie left Kid sitting miserably on the couch and ran downstairs to fetch some whiskey. He was calming down, but he was still quite upset and she was worried. Returning quickly, she splashed a generous glassful of liquor into a teacup and shoved it into Kid's hand.
"Drink this," she said. Kid upended the cup and held it out for more without looking up. She filled it to the brim and he downed it again. "Hold on, now. You don't get any more until you tell me exactly what is going on here. I have a right to know," she said.
Kid studied her intently and then nodded, "I reckon you do and there's no reason not to tell you now." He knew she was going to figure it out sooner or later.
"Tell me what?" asked Allie; suddenly not sure she wanted to know. She didn't like his tone at all. He was defeated and she couldn't understand why.
Kid took her hand and pulled her down onto the couch next to him. He held onto her hand and looked deep into her eyes as he said, "Heyes is dead." His voice cracked and he gave a dry sob.
"Steven, did you know him?" asked Allie. Of course, he did. Steven was a gambler and it was well known that Hannibal Heyes was a master poker player. They must've met at some point, but she was surprised that they had been close enough for Steven to be this upset.
"Yes. He was my best friend. Allie, we've been together our whole lives," said Kid miserably. Tears streamed down his face. Allie watched him as it dawned on her what he was saying.
"Mr. James?! Cole James was Hannibal Heyes?" gasped Allie. "Your life-long friend was Hannibal Heyes?" She jumped up and stared at him, turning pale. "You're Kid Curry, aren't you?" she whispered.
Kid stood up and Allie backed away from him until she bumped into the chair opposite the couch. She fell down into it and stared at him.
"Allie, I wanted to tell you. A hundred times, I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't. I'm a wanted man and I couldn't. It doesn't matter now. Nothing matters now. You can turn me in. Get the reward money and use it to get away." said Kid miserably. Heyes was gone. He'd never see him again.
"Stop! Please stop spouting nonsense. I am not turning you in! I will not have that on my conscience," said Allie angrily.
Kid rubbed his eyes on his shirt sleeve as she watched him. He looked like a heartbroken little boy, not the most famous outlaw in the West. She wasn't stupid; she knew he couldn't have told her the truth; but she still felt duped. Her friend, her companion, was Kid Curry. The irony struck her and she began to laugh. Here I am traveling the west with a notorious outlaw to keep me safe. Well, you couldn't get much safer than having Kid Curry look after you.
Kid watched her sadly and she stopped laughing knowing that he was in pain. She stood up and said, "It's Jedediah, isn't it?"
"Call me Jed," said Kid.
"Well, Jed, what do we do now?" asked Allie.
"Allie, there's something I have to do. I saw a woman, a card dealer, with Heyes; with his body. She knows him, Allie, she was there. I have to know how it happened. I need to talk to her," said Kid as he stood to leave. "Start packing. We're getting out of here. That detective saw us both and he'll be turning this town upside down looking for you now. That is, if you're still willing to ride with me?" said Kid, watching her reaction.
"Stev…Jed, I trust you. Just because your name has changed, doesn't mean you are a different person. You're still my friend," said Allie firmly. "Wait here while I pack. I don't want to be here alone; I'm coming with you."
"Allie, that's no place for a lady…" began Kid.
"Then our detective friend won't be looking for me there, will he?" countered Allie.
Kid and Allie entered the Pioneer Saloon. It was crowded despite being well after midnight. The excitement of the shooting had been good for business, thought Kid bitterly. People turned and stared at Allie. Not many ladies entered a saloon willingly. One drunken cowboy stumbled in front of her, starting to get friendly. Allie stopped and Kid turned around. He shoved the cowboy and stared at him coldly, "The lady's with me, got that?" he said loudly enough for the entire saloon to hear him.
Poker Annie was dealing a hand when she heard him. She'd known he would show up sooner or later. She wasn't ready to talk to him. Her nerves were shot and the gin she was sipping didn't help at all. The awful images ran through her mind endlessly. She'd been real fond of Heyes. They'd had some great games over the years. He'd been an excellent poker player and Annie had loved playing with him; she would miss him terribly. Taking a long drag of the cigar she was smoking, she exhaled, and hollered out, "Over here."
Kid turned in her direction, and she watched as he towed his little floozy towards her table. Poker Annie eyed Kid's woman up and down, taking in the expensive dress and the polished look to her. Annie was a well-dressed woman, too, and could certainly appreciate another woman of good taste. She smiled at Allie and said, "Have a seat, you two." Turning to her customers, she said, "Boys, I'm taking a little break. Come back in half an hour and I'll make you rich." The two men rose at her command, left her some of their chips as tips, and headed to the bar. Kid seated Allie and sat across from Annie. He didn't like having his back to the room, but he knew Annie could be trusted to keep an eye out for trouble.
"I've been waiting for you. I knew you'd come," said Annie.
"Allie, this is Poker Annie. Annie, this is Allie, my friend," said Kid, stressing the friend part.
Annie smiled knowingly and said, "I understand. It's good to see you." She wasn't about to say his name. The entire town was expecting Kid Curry to show up and she wasn't going to witness another friend going down. "I expect you want to know what happened," she said, tears beginning to fill her eyes. Kid nodded without speaking. He couldn't.
"It's been a real busy night. It's payday for the mines and those prospectors always show up on payday. I'd been on for about an hour and I was right here dealing not really paying much attention to what was going on in the rest of the saloon. You know how I am; once I start to play it's all about the hand. Anyways, I heard some yelling of the usual sort, you know, some sore loser mouthing off. The next thing I know, there's a shooting. I didn't see it, I only heard it, but, of course, that ended the game so I got up and wandered over to see what had happened just like everyone else," she paused and took a slug of gin, gulping it now to steady her nerves, and drew on her cigar. Exhaling, she continued, "I saw his hat first, lying next to the body, and then I looked." She started to cry. Kid had never seen Poker Annie show any emotion before and he could see that she'd loved Heyes in her own way.
"I'm never going to get that memory out of my head, not till the day I die," she couldn't look at Kid as she said, "It was a head shot. The bastard shot him in the face. That beautiful smile, all blown to hell."
"Are you sure it was Heyes?" Kid had to ask. He'd seen the boots, but he had to be sure.
Nodding, Annie said, "I'm sure. It was his hat and he had on that fancy holster with the silver trim. I knew it was him. I could tell."
Kid asked roughly, "Annie, who did it?" Allie saw the hard look on his face and started to worry.
"He was a stupid, unlucky cowboy and he's dead. Heyes got off a shot, too, and drilled him through the heart," said Annie reaching out her hand to Kid. "I'm so sorry. Heyes was dead before I got to him. I wanted to say goodbye, but I didn't get a chance." Annie started sobbing softly, and Allie got up and put her arms around the woman. Annie gratefully leaned against her and cried. Kid was crying now, too. Kid hadn't even said goodbye. He'd abandoned his partner and now he was dead. His last words to his cousin had been ugly ones. He'd told Heyes he wouldn't watch him die and he hadn't. Heyes had died alone.
It had taken a while for Kid to focus after talking to Annie. He had wandered the streets aimlessly with Allie keeping a watchful eye on him. Finally, he calmed enough to know that he had to get Allie out of here before he was recognized or the detective caught up with them. He couldn't leave her now. She'd been seen in his company. She was ruined and it was his fault. He would take her with him and get her to her aunt safely. Allie could start over. It was what she wanted, Kid knew that, and he was determined to help. She had stood by him even knowing who he really was. He'd take care of her.
Kid and Allie snuck into the livery. The wrangler was asleep in a stall. Kid gently shook him awake.
"Huh, what…who…what in tarnation are you waking me up for?" whined the hand.
"Sorry, we just got word that my wife's mother died. We need to head out now to get to the funeral on time," said Kid. Allie tried her best to look grief-stricken.
"Aww, I'm sorry, Ma'am. Okay, I'll get your horses," he said standing up.
"We can do that," said Kid, pausing for a moment as a thought occurred to him. "We'll need a pack horse, too. We've got a lot of luggage. The wife's been shopping, you know," said Kid winking at the wrangler. Allie had gone and pulled Patches out and was now saddling him up, listening in admiration as Jed spun his tale. No wonder he and his partner had been so successful. "We want to buy that sorrel mare in the last stall. My wife's taken a real shine to her and whatever the little lady wants, the little lady gets." Kid didn't know if Fannie was for sale or not, but she was the last thing of Heyes's that he could have and he was determined to have her.
The wrangler, all business now, said, "That's a fine filly, sir, I just bought her yesterday. You have a good eye for horse flesh, yes sir, you do. You can have her and her tack for only forty dollars."
Kid wanted to bargain, but he had instantly realized that the wrangler had no idea that was Heyes's horse. If he had, he would have asked a whole lot more for her. Smiling, Kid said, "You have deal."
Heyes woke the next morning as the sun was coming up. He gathered up his things and opening the door he crept out and down the hallway. The madam and the gals would still be asleep at this hour and he should be able to sneak out without being noticed. There was a grizzled old man idly pushing a broom around as Heyes entered the parlor. They looked at each other in surprise and smiled. Heyes stepped out the door and walked up the street. As he neared the Pioneer, he slowed and looked through the batwing doors. He couldn't help being curious, so he stepped inside. In the far corner of the saloon, he saw a familiar face sitting at the corner table, a nearly empty bottle of gin in front of her, and a half-chewed cigar in her mouth. She was staring drunkenly down at some cards scattered on the table.
"Hello Annie," said Heyes quietly as he slipped into the chair across from her. She looked up, startled, and said, "So, you're here to haunt me, are you? Well, sit down then, and let's play a round. You always were my favorite customer, Heyes. Why the hell did you have to go and get yourself killed?"
Heyes smiled. He smiled the huge, beautiful, shining smile she had so loved and he reached out and took her hand, "Annie, I'm not dead."
At his touch, she leapt up from the table, knocking over the chair and stared at him, sobering up instantly. "Heyes, I saw you dead." She quickly lowered her voice, knowing that she'd over reacted, but there was no one else in the saloon at this hour. He came around the table and put his arms around her, pulling her to him. She could feel him; she could smell him, too. It was true. She looked up into his eyes and said, "I've seen you do some amazing things, Heyes, but coming back from the dead beats all."
"It wasn't me, Annie. It was a bandit, Clint something. He held me up on the road into Breckenridge and stole my hat and gun. He stole my boots and horse, too." He added with a snort.
Annie started to laugh, "Was he trying to commit suicide? He held up the most famous outlaw in the West. Oh, Heyes, only you could have something like that happen to you!" She stopped laughing, and said, "Damn it. Kid was here last night. I told him it was you. I was sure it was you. Heyes, you've got to find him. He was real broken up."
"Kid was here? Did he go after the shooter?" said Heyes as he released her. He had to find the Kid.
"There isn't anyone to go after. The other man was shot dead, too," said Annie. "Heyes, Kid had a woman with him. Allie. He said there was a detective that might come asking questions. He asked me to cover for them. They were leaving town right then and there. You have to go after him, Heyes. He thinks you're dead and there's no telling what he'll do."
"Annie, did he say where he was going?" asked Heyes.
"No, but he wanted me to tell the detective they were headed to Salida to catch the train," said Annie.
If the Kid was laying a trail to Salida that meant he was heading off in a different direction. He had to have headed to Leadville for a reason. Heyes had it. Kid was heading west over Hunter's Pass and he was taking the woman with him. Heyes kissed Annie gently on her cheek and hugging her again, he said, "I'll be back, Annie. I owe you a chance to win that grand back from me."