Heyes left the Pioneer and started to head to the livery to pick up his horse. He wanted to look for his mare, but he didn't have time. There were too many places she could be and he had to catch up to the Kid before he went to ground. He had to let his partner know he was alive. He couldn't imagine what Kid was going through, thinking his cousin was dead. Kid was being followed by a detective and that meant trouble any way Heyes looked at it. He hated leaving Fannie behind, but he had to. Kid was more important. He'd come back to Leadville as soon as he could and see if he could trace her. He loved that horse and he was real sick of losing things he loved.
On his way to the livery on the south end of town, he passed by the undertakers. He walked on a few yards further and then slowed. The sheriff had to be on the lookout for Kid Curry; but, with Heyes's dark, full beard and slighter build, no one would mistake him for his partner. He saw no one on the streets at this early hour. Making his decision, Heyes hurried down the next alley and circled back to the rear of the funeral parlor. He checked over his shoulder to see if he'd been followed. Stopping at the double-door delivery entrance, Heyes reached up and pulled out a lockpick from a concealed pocket sewn into the underside of his shirt collar. He made quick work of the padlock and quietly pried one door slightly ajar, slipping inside. It was still early and no one had arrived yet for work. Heyes would be careful not to disturb anything.
He finally found Clint laid out in the front parlor. The body had been dressed in a suit and there was a piece of heavy brocade fabric covering Clint's head. The undertaker would be selling viewings of the notorious outlaw and he had to be presentable for the public. Heyes had seen it all before, when someone famous died there was money to be made. Curious, Heyes lifted one corner of the material and quickly dropped it back into place. He really wished he hadn't done that. Reaching into the coffin again, he felt Clint's pockets but they were completely empty. Heyes wanted his grandfather's watch. He didn't see his hat or holster anywhere either and, while he saw that Clint was going to his grave in Heyes's favorite top grain leather boots, he wasn't about to start undressing corpses. He realized that his watch must be somewhere else. After all, he was famous; most likely the undertaker was planning to sell his possessions, too. Heyes patted Clint's shoulder gently, murmured an apology, and crept from the room.
Heyes searched the rest of the parlor and, in a back room, he found the business's safe. Crouching down, he admired the Hall's Safe Company, Model 10. It was a fine old safe, but it wouldn't be hard for him to crack. Heyes put his ear to the tumblers and went to work. It didn't take long before he swung the heavy metal door open and peered inside. There, on the bottom shelf; was his grandpa's watch, his hat, and his gunbelt. Picking up his watch, Heyes checked it and saw that it had stopped. He carefully wound it and slipped it into his jacket pocket, patting it protectively. He pulled his gunbelt and hat out, removed the hat he had on and tossed it into the safe. There was a small bundle of cash on the top shelf; probably Clint's poker winnings, but he left that as well. He didn't steal from average citizens and Heyes figured the theft of his possessions was going to be loss enough for the undertaker. Swinging the door shut, he put on his silver-studded hat and chuckled out loud; thinking about the rumors that would fly about; how Hannibal Heyes had cracked one last safe from beyond the grave. Grabbing his rolled-up holster, he stood and left as quietly as he had arrived.
Allie rode some distance behind Kid. She knew he wasn't in the mood to talk and she didn't want him to feel as if he had to make conversation. She had discreetly allowed Kid to slowly pull ahead of her and she now followed him by a few hundred feet. The horses plodded along placidly. The sun was fully up now and the dew was sparkling in a light breeze on the meadow grasses in the Arkansas Valley. It would have been a beautiful morning, but Allie could feel no joy at the sight; her friend was so deeply unhappy.
She barely knew Mr. Heyes, but it was obvious there were people who loved him very much. She thought back to the first time she had met him masquerading as Mr. James, ranch foreman and gunman. She had been surprised by how intelligent and charismatic he had seemed; she wasn't surprised now, everyone knew Hannibal Heyes was a criminal genius. His well-planned robberies were the talk of the west, even in her circles. Maybe she should say her mother's circles. Allie had no intention of returning to that stifling life.
Allie glanced at Jed again. She marveled that she was now friends with one of the most famous gunslingers to have ever lived. She had to admit to herself that if she had met him as Kid Curry, she would have been too frightened to have learned who the person behind the legend really was. As much as she hated being fooled, she was grateful that she had come to know Jed so well. He was one of the kindest men she'd ever met and she cared for him very much. Allie would do everything she could to help him through this awful tragedy.
Kid rode unseeing; his horse following the trail without guidance. He was numb. He kept going over and over what Poker Annie had said until he could see it in his own mind. He saw Heyes lying on the filthy floor of a crowded saloon in a pool of his own blood; killed by a head shot; and surrounded by morbid onlookers. Kid shuddered and felt the tears starting to spill again. He was grateful Allie hung back; he knew what she was doing and he was glad. He never cried, but he couldn't seem to help it. Kid just couldn't believe Heyes was gone.
Why had he ridden off and left Heyes like that? He had known that Heyes would follow him, he nearly always did. Heyes had wanted to talk. He had wanted to explain, but Kid hadn't wanted to hear what his partner had to say. He'd been furious with Heyes and had accused him of killing Bill Decker. Heyes had orchestrated a confrontation, but Kid had known, even then, that Decker died because of his own ugly temper. Kid had been angry at Heyes for nearly getting killed and he had lashed out at his partner wanting to wound him. Kid knew he had been unfair and he had deeply hurt Heyes with his harsh words. Kid had ridden out and left an easy trail for Heyes to follow. He always wanted Heyes to come after him, because that proved that Heyes still needed him as much as he needed Heyes.
By his own selfish behavior, he had put Heyes in that saloon. If he hadn't ridden out, if he'd just stayed and fought it out with Heyes, none of this would've ever happened. It wasn't his wild risk-taking that had killed Heyes; it had been Kid's inability to handle his anger and his tongue. Kid cursed out loud, startling his horse and Allie. She pulled up alongside him and reached over to rub his arm. He patted her hand but looked away.
"Jed, let's stop for a while. Please," she said. She knew she needed to distract him, but she was unsure how. Everyone knew that Heyes and Curry were legendary partners. They were famous for their loyalty to each other and she knew that Kid Curry would never be the same without his partner. Her heart was breaking for him.
Heyes rode out of Leadville before the sun was fully up. He was sure the Kid was heading over Hunter's Pass towards Aspen. It was the only direction that made any sense and it was not a well-used trail. There had been a recent silver strike in Aspen and some of the prospectors from Leadville had been using that route but it was still not well-known by the regular folk. Heyes and Kid had been over it years before when it had really been just a footpath. Heyes had a remarkable memory when it came to trails and geological features and he had ridden these mountains extensively with both the Devil's Hole and the Plummer gang. They'd hidden out in Aspen more than once when it was still called Ute City. Heyes knew that there was a shortcut out of Leadville that passed between Mt. Elbert and French Mountain and cut a lot of time off the route. It was rough going and Heyes was sure Kid wouldn't try it with a lady along. He could intercept the two. His partner was too careful to risk it. Heyes wasn't.
Kid had refused to stop. Even though he'd set it up with Poker Annie to send the man following them on a wild goose chase, he couldn't be sure that Annie had had the chance to misdirect the detective. Kid wanted to put as many miles between them and Leadville as he could. It was nearly dark by the time he called a halt and the evening had grown chillier. The seasons were changing and the signs were everywhere. The shrubs were turning color; shades of yellow and bright, strong reds. There were small patches of yellow leaves on the aspens they had passed. The light was changing, too, taking on a crisp clearness from the cooling temperatures. Darkness was falling earlier each day and it wouldn't be long now before this land was covered for the winter under a thick blanket of snow. That thought brought another. Heyes; it wouldn't be long before he was lying under the snow, too. Heyes always hated being cold.
Allie watched Jed as she dismounted. He was already pulling the tack from his gelding and perfunctorily setting up camp. There would be no bantering or joking today, not like the other nights when they had prepared other camps together. She led Patches over to a spindly aspen and tied him up. Jed had said that they would keep the horses close in case they needed to leave in a hurry. The fun, carefree quality of their trip was long gone. She felt a knot in her stomach at the thought of being hunted and tried to imagine what Jed and Heyes's life had been like, on the run, always being hunted by lawmen and bounty hunters. Pulling off Patches's saddle, she lugged the heavy tack over to the fire ring Jed was building. At least they could have a fire tonight, she was already feeling cold. It was time to pull out the winter coat she had rolled up inside her bedroll.
"Jed, if you get the fire going, I'll heat up a can of stew. We can warm the loaf of rye alongside the fire," she said hoping that she could strike up a conversation.
Jed nodded and walked away to tend to the horses.
Heyes had just crossed a narrow portion of the trail that wound around the flanks of Mt. Elbert. The path was dropping down into a small, sheltered meadow where he planned to stop for the night. The sun was going down quickly and he didn't want to risk going any further in the twilight. The footing was too rocky and loose and his gelding had already stumbled several times. Heyes had no desire to break his neck in the middle of nowhere.
Funny he'd feel that way, because he'd sure been risking his neck one way or another for most of his life. Why should tonight be any different? Heyes was slowly coming to realize that he was changing. He wasn't sure when it started or why it was happening; maybe he was finally growing up or maybe almost dying had something to do with it. Either way, it'd been a real long time coming. He had been an angry man most of his adult life, but he could feel that anger fading away.
It had begun the day their folks had been killed. At first, he'd been angry with himself for not dying along with them; for having chosen that day of all days to shirk his chores and go fishing with his little cousin, Jed. Why had he done it? He'd known at the time that his parents would be angry, but he did it anyway. After, he'd been sick at the thought that he hadn't been there. He knew as an adult that there was nothing he could've done, but as a child he had thought otherwise. There were many times, he wished he had died with his family, but then he'd look at Jed and know that he was needed. It still hurt, even now, to think that his ma and pa had gone to their graves not knowing where he was or that he was safe.
Valparaiso had only fed the anger. Heyes had been sullen and rebellious. Overwhelmed with the task of caring for his eight year old cousin and grief-stricken as well had proven to be a bad combination and he had begun to act out. It was small things at first. Fighting the bullies who were anxious to establish a pecking order with the new kids was the start; Heyes had to make sure that he was at the top of that order or his small, heart-broken cousin would suffer. Jed was an easy target to pick on and Heyes knew he had to protect him. Heyes had used his natural cunning to intimidate the older, rougher boys into leaving them alone. He'd never forget the sight of mean old Jimmy Watson jumping out of his bunk screaming. Heyes had stuffed a snake, just a harmless but huge six-foot long kingsnake in the foot of Jimmy's bed. That had earned him the first of many beatings from the headmaster, but Jimmy never bothered them again. Young Mr. Heyes was so emotionally closed off that a good sound whipping had no effect on him and he was soon in trouble again. Eventually, his delinquent reputation was passed down to Jed. Jed was protective of his older cousin as well and as he grew tougher and harder he had begun to back Heyes up.
Heyes chuckled at the thought. That was the start of Kid watching his back and he had done a fine job of it for many years. It hadn't been easy for Kid, not when his older cousin was so angry and so determined to take crazy risks to better their lot in life. At first, they went hungry; too young to compete with the able-bodied soldiers returning after the war. Out of desperation, Heyes soon learned to be an efficient thief, as did Kid. If it weren't for Jed needing him, Heyes wouldn't have cared if he lived or died, but Heyes soon discovered that he loved the thrill of stealing; that intoxicating feeling of extreme risk. One day, Heyes had stolen an old pistol from a second-hand store and Jed had discovered his talent. His little cousin had soon grown into a rangy teen learning the skills that would save their lives so many times. They had started stealing food when they were starving kids and they progressed over the years onto stealing just about anything they wanted. It gave them a control over their lives that they would never have working honest lives. But had it really? Look where they were now; they had more money than they could spend; they were the best of the best; and they were the most wanted men in the country. The bounties on their heads had grown to astronomical sums and now it was only a matter of time before someone managed to collect on them. Heyes, by being very good at what he did, had for all his self-proclaimed genius, backed them into a corner they could never get out of.
He was growing tired of being an outlaw and he suspected Kid was too. His partner had danced around the subject several times lately and Heyes knew that Kid was waiting for some signal from him that he felt the same way. Perversely, Heyes didn't let on that he was having the same thoughts. What was the point? They'd chosen this trail many years ago and it was too late to ride another one. They had been too famous for too long to ever be able to disappear. Kid liked to believe that they could go to Mexico or South America and live quietly, but Heyes knew better. The world was changing and it was growing smaller. Americans were traveling abroad in record numbers now. The United States was becoming a world power and was being courted by foreign governments anxious to establish a friendship with the young, bountiful country. There was an exchange of information on an unprecedented scale and Heyes knew there was cooperation between the law enforcers, too.
Heyes pulled his horse up and dismounted next to a small stream. Letting the horse drink his fill, Heyes loosened the cinch and pulled the saddle off letting it fall to the tall grasses growing along the banks. At least, he'd have a soft bed for the night. He tugged the reins, lifting the gelding's head and walked him over to a grassy area. He put a pair of hobbles and a small bell on the horse and turned him loose for the night. The animal wouldn't stray too far from the grass and Heyes would be able to hear him during the night. Returning to the streamside, Heyes pulled his bedroll off the saddle and spread it out. He wouldn't be able to read tonight as the sun had already gone down behind French Mountain and he couldn't risk lighting a candle in the grass. He was more interested in being comfortable. He was tired. He'd been awake for better part of three days. Crawling into the cold bedroll, Heyes pulled the top tight and fell quickly into a sound sleep.
The light wind that had blown all day dropped off just after sunset. It was cold now, but the fire in front of Kid and Allie was warm. Kid stared into the flames morosely, but Allie felt comforted by the crackling and popping as well as the heat. Jed hadn't said a word since dinner and she knew his thoughts were straying to his friend.
"Tell me about him," Allie said softly.
"Hmmm?" said Jed.
"Tell me about your partner. You'd said that you had known each other all your lives. Did you live in the same town?" she asked.
Kid didn't say anything. He was deciding how much he should tell her. She already knew who they were, it was no secret now. Kid was sick of secrets. They'd lived in the shadows for so long he wasn't sure he'd ever crawl out of the darkness. Clearing his throat, he slowly began.
"We're cousins," said Jed. They never told anyone they were related; not since Valparaiso. They'd learned then how that knowledge could be used against them and, once they'd run away from that hellhole, Heyes had made him swear never to tell anyone again. It didn't matter now. Heyes was dead and it couldn't be used to hurt either of them ever again. Kid wanted someone to know the truth, he had loved his cousin and he wanted someone to know. Allie was the right person. Jed trusted her and he didn't trust easy.
"My pa and Heyes's ma were brother and sister. The Heyes's had the farm next to ours so I really have known him my whole life. My ma used to say that we were two peas in a pod. She use to tell me I was a fussy baby and Han was the only one I'd quiet for. He was an only child and missed not having a brother so he told everyone that I was going to be his," Kid laughed, "I guess that was his first theft. He stole me right then and there. I used to follow him everywhere. It got to be a family joke. One time, just after I learned to talk, I went missing. My ma had six of us to keep track of and it was hard for her to be everywhere at once. I got out of my crib after a nap and took off through the cornfield towards the Heyes's farm. My pa found me before I got there and told me that I set up an awful squaller, screaming and yelling that I wanted Han. He had dragged me home then and there. He said that I had kept the whole house up until I screamed myself to sleep crying for my cousin."
"You said you grew up in an orphanage. Was there an accident?" asked Allie carefully. She knew his emotions were already raw and she had no desire to hurt him further.
"No, our folks were killed in the war. We're from Kansas," said Kid flatly.
"Oh," said Allie. She knew about Kansas's bloody history; the border war and the raiders. How sad for those poor children, to have lost their families that way. "How old were you?" she asked.
"I was eight. Heyes is…was, two years older. He was only twenty-eight when he died, but I guess we both did a whole lot of living in a short period of time," said Kid. It still just didn't seem possible that Heyes could be gone.
"How on earth did you survive at that age?" asked Allie.
"We'd gone fishing; Heyes and me. We'd had chores to do but it was one of those crystal clear mornings, kind of like this one was, and we knew the fishing would be good. It was, too. We caught lots of fish. Heyes more than me, but he shared his so that I could take enough home to feed my whole family. That took a lot of fish. I remember starting out through the cornfield hanging onto that stringer full of fish. It was real heavy. The corn was high and closed in tight to the rows. I had to fight my way through it, and about halfway across, I realized I smelled smoke. I dropped the fish and started to run. The stalks and ears beat me about my head and shoulders, but I couldn't stop," said Kid.
He talked long into the night, telling her everything; the loss of their parents, Valparaiso, their struggle to survive on their own. He confessed their descent into crime and he told her tales of their lawlessness as the flames withered to a glow of embers and finally died away into darkness. Allie had long since cuddled under his arm and fallen asleep; he held her tight as he remembered it all.