Trailing behind the two outlaws, Allie watched as they rode along quietly talking to each other. She saw the delight on Jed's face every time he turned towards his partner and felt a small pang of envy that he had never looked so carefree and happy with her. Of course, the whole time she'd known him, he was either missing or mourning his partner. Now that she saw them together, she could see how close they were.
It had been hard for Allie to picture Jed as a famous gunslinger until they were ambushed by the two bandits. She had watched, amazed, as Jed took down the two would-be kidnappers with little effort. It was shocking to her that this gentle man she'd come to know and love could also be such an efficient gunman. It was as though, in that moment, he had become someone else; a stranger. Mr. Heyes was an enigma, too. She'd seen how easily he slipped from one role to another and she found herself wondering who he really was. Jed had told her so much about his cousin that Allie had felt as if she had known him, too. She didn't feel that way now. Mr. Heyes unsettled her more now than when she first met him. Her musings were brought to a halt as they reached the spot were Kid had left the two bandits. The two men were still tied up to the tall pine and had obviously been struggling to free themselves.
Clete had heard their approach and hushed Amos with a nudge. Warily, they watched as Kid, Heyes, and Allie emerged from the forest and dismounted their horses.
"Who's that?" whispered Clete to Amos as he gestured towards Heyes with his chin.
"How would I know? He must've been the one that spooked that stupid horse," said Amos sourly as he watched the dark-haired man approach. There was something familiar about the man even though Amos was sure he'd never seen him before.
Heyes squatted down in front of Clete and Amos. He stared them down until they averted their eyes and then he began to examine their wounds. Amos surreptitiously stared at the man; he knew that hat. He'd seen them haul Hannibal Heyes out of the Pioneer and he had watched as the deputy tossed that silver-banded hat onto the body. How did this man get it? "Ow," said Amos as the man poked at his arm and distracted him.
"Good shooting, partner. The bullets went clean through. Allie, in my mare's saddlebags there's an old coffee pot. You'll find some bandages in there," said Heyes, "Bring them to me." He watched her walk over towards Fannie.
Kid looked over Heyes's shoulder at the two men. "What'll we do with them? I'm not taking them with us," Kid growled.
Clete gulped and wondered if he was about to die. There was a cold, hard look in the blond-haired man's eyes that scared him to death. He wiggled weakly, pressing his back into the tree. Amos began to sweat profusely and watched the two men wide-eyed. These weren't ordinary travelers.
"I guess it's up to them what happens to them. Tell me what you know and don't make me ask twice," said Heyes menacingly to the sorry pair. "Who hired you?"
Amos started to open his mouth, but Clete beat him to it. "It was a Bannerman, Stafford. He hired six of us to keep watch on the roads out of Leadville. He's after the girl; said she'd been kidnapped by some no good gambler. Her family was paying good money to get her back. Mister, I can see she ain't tied up or nothing," babbled Clete. He wasn't about to cross these men again; they frightened him.
Allie had returned with the bandages and heard Clete's explanation. "That's right, I'm not tied up and, furthermore, I have not been kidnapped. I don't have any family besides my husband," she said with a loving glance at Kid. "Your Mr. Stafford has mistaken me for someone else," she said. Heyes glanced at her as she spoke and wondered at the ease with which she lied. He couldn't have done better himself.
"No, ma'am, he hasn't," said Amos. "He had a picture of you. It was you all right." He shut up right quick as the dark-haired man glared at him. Heyes frowned and looked up at Allie and then Kid. This was a complication they didn't need. He and Kid had spent their whole career making sure there weren't any photographs of them for the law to use. If Stafford was circulating a photograph of Allie, it wouldn't be long before someone spotted her with them. Kid knew what Heyes was thinking, but there was no way he was going to leave Allie on her own. She needed him more now than ever and he was going to protect her.
Heyes saw the stubborn look in his partner's eyes and he snapped, "Alyssa, help me clean up these two and we'll send them on their way." Clete and Amos visibly sagged with relief.
"It's Allie, not Alyssa, and you can do it yourself," said Allie with irritation. She didn't like the way he assumed command and she didn't like being told what to do. She dumped the bandages in Heyes's lap and stomped away. As she passed Kid, she angrily asked, "Is he always so arrogant?"
Kid laughed. "Yep, almost always."
Clete and Amos, wounds neatly dressed, sat mounted on their horses with their hands tied to the saddle horn in front of each of them. Heyes took the reins of each horse and knotted them up through the bridles. "If I were you, I'd let these horses wander their way back home. It'd be best to keep quiet and take your time; you wouldn't want to get run off with," he said with a laugh as he slapped first one and then the other horse on its hind end and sent them ambling off. Heyes watched for a few minutes to be sure the horses were headed back towards Twin Lakes. Satisfied, he turned and walked back to where Kid and Allie stood.
"So, you're a runaway. That explains a lot," Heyes said to Allie.
"Heyes, there's a little bit more to the story than that," said Kid.
"There always is with you, Kid. When are you going to learn to leave the needy be?" said Heyes tiredly. He was worried about the photograph and he was annoyed that his partner had been so careless; but most of all he was concerned about Kid's relationship with this woman. Kid fell in love all the time, but he'd never run off with a gal before.
"Mr. Heyes, I am not needy!" said Allie. "I was perfectly comfortable travelling on my own, I simply asked Jed to accompany me because I enjoyed his company."
"Just how much company did you enjoy?" said Heyes with a smirk. "Oww," he yelled as Allie struck him hard across the face. Kid stepped between the two.
"That's enough! Heyes, you're out of line," he said angrily. Turning away from his partner, he faced Allie, "Settle down, can't you see he's baiting you?" Swinging back to his partner, Kid said, "Cut it out, Heyes, you're the one who turned her life upside down," as soon as the words were out, Kid wished he could take them back. He saw the flicker of pain in Heyes's eyes and then it was gone, hidden from Kid and the world. Heyes was still hurting over Decker's death and Kid knew he'd just rubbed salt in the wound.
"Fine," Heyes snapped, "tell me why she has a detective trailing her if she's not a runaway." Kid looked at Allie and she nodded. Heyes saw the wordless exchange between the two and felt absurdly threatened by it. He was starting to feel like the odd man out. This woman was making him feel unbalanced and he didn't like it one bit.
"She took off with $60,000 her pa left her. Her ma's after her for the money," explained Kid.
Heyes's eyes widened and he looked at Allie, "You've got sixty grand on you?"
"I do, and it's mine. I didn't steal anything that wasn't already mine," she sniped. She knew it was childish of her, but he made her want to lash out.
Heyes grinned at her audacity and said, "Well, that explains the detective. Did you and your mother have a falling out?"
"She, for all intents and purposes, sold me to Bill Decker in exchange for a townhouse. I will never speak to that woman again," said Allie, bristling.
Heyes was surprised by what she said and he could see her pain. He couldn't imagine being betrayed by his own mother. It made him ashamed that he had baited her. "I'm sorry," he said sincerely. He had made such a mess of things and here he was taking it out on Allie. Awkwardly, he walked off and left her standing with Kid, who slipped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. Allie stared after Heyes, confused by the apology and the abrupt change in his demeanor.
Kid and Allie prepared dinner while Heyes tended to the horses. Kid was patting out some biscuits, while Allie prepared a canned stew. Glancing up from the pot, Allie saw Heyes, bent over, examining Patches's leg. She put down the spoon she had been stirring with and walked over to her horse. Kid watched as Heyes looked up and smiled at her. Kid was glad to see it. His partner and Allie didn't seem to like each other much and it was making him nervous. He wanted to tell Heyes about his feelings for Allie, but he would wait until they were getting along better. Kid was worried about alienating his partner right after he got him back. He and Heyes hadn't been getting along real well lately and Kid had no desire to stir up anything now that they had re-united. He had no idea what he could offer Allie, being an outlaw, and he was sure Heyes would have plenty to say about that. He wasn't in the mood to hear it.
"How does it look? Jed said he must've taken a bad step. It was puffy this morning," Allie said. Despite her animosity towards Mr. Heyes, she was worried about Patches, and wanted to know what he thought. Jed had said that Mr. Heyes had a wonderful knack with horses and she was hoping he might be able to help her gelding.
"It's still puffy. I don't think this rocky trail has done him much good," said Heyes, patting the paint. Allie watched as he stooped down again and gently rubbed his hands up and down the tendon for several minutes working the fluid out of the leg. Patches nuzzled him on the back of his neck, chuffing into his hair. Straightening up again, Heyes untied the gelding.
"What are you doing?" asked Allie.
"I'm going to stand him in that cold stream down the trail a ways. It'll help draw the heat out of his leg and then I'll put a poultice on it and wrap it," said Heyes leading her horse off.
"Jed, I'm going with Mr. Heyes," she called out. Jed waved his understanding and smiled. At least Allie wasn't avoiding Heyes altogether. He wouldn't have blamed her if she had after that comment earlier.
"I'll make you a deal. I'll call you Allie, if you promise to call me Heyes. No mister, okay?" Heyes said to her with a grin.
"Deal," said Allie with a smile of her own.
Patches was standing contentedly in the stream, his head tied snug to a tree on the bank. The paint stood quietly allowing the icy stream to ease the pain in his leg. Once Heyes knew the gelding would stay put, he walked up the bank and out into a small meadow with Allie following along.
"We need onions. See here, this is what they look like," said Heyes as he reached down and pulled up a clump of the wild vegetables. He held them out to Allie and showed her the small bulbous ends and had her sniff the skunky aroma.
"Don't you think it's a bit late? The stew is nearly done and it's getting late. I don't think Jed will be willing to wait for dinner, do you?" she asked.
Heyes laughed, "Kid does get cranky about food. No, they're for a poultice. I'll cook them a little, mash them up, and make a paste to help draw the swelling out of his leg." He continued to stoop and pull up onions as she walked next to him. They idly wandered about the meadow.
"Oh, I see. You certainly seem to know a lot about medical care, Heyes," said Allie. She had been surprised by his gentle handling of the two bandits' wounds. He had efficiently cleaned and bound the injuries before sending them on their way. Despite his arrogance, he did seem to have some redeeming qualities. Allie decided she would focus on them. She bent down and pulled up a clump of bulbs. Smiling, she held them out to Heyes.
"I've dressed a few wounds. Getting shot is an occupational hazard for outlaws," he said; "That ought to be enough. Let's get your horse and head back, Kid'll be getting worried about his stomach soon."
"His name is Patches," she said as they walked toward her paint, "I picked him out myself. I've never had my own horse before. My parents had me learn to ride sidesaddle, as that was the ladylike thing to do, but I used to sneak out and ride our carriage horses bareback whenever I could."
Heyes grinned at the thought of this polished lady sneaking about. "You ride well. Fannie isn't easy to handle," he said approvingly. When he had met her with Decker, he had admired her and wondered why a woman of quality would end up with a brute like Decker. He was glad to know it hadn't been her choice.
"What is Jed's horse's name? I've never thought to ask and he's never told me," said Allie.
Heyes chuckled. "It's Knucklehead. Kid never calls him anything but Knucklehead so it's kind of stuck." Sobering, Heyes said, "The boys don't tend to name their horses. Too often, you have to abandon your animal or it gets shot out from under you. It doesn't pay to get too attached to anything."
Allie looked at his face, but he was expressionless. Still, she understood what he hadn't said; anything, meaning anyone. Was he warning her off Jed or revealing his own sadness? "But you've named your horse," she said.
"Yeah, but you and the Kid are the only ones who know her name. I'd never hear the end of it if the boys knew," he said as they reached Patches. Heyes waded into the water and ran his hands down the leg. "It's cool and it looks good. Untie him and we'll head back," said Heyes.
This time Allie ignored the fact that he'd ordered, not asked. He was used to leading a band of outlaws; it only made sense that he was used to commanding rather than asking. She vowed not to take it personally when he forgot his manners. After all, he wasn't at all the type of man she was used to.
During the night, two riders wandered into Twin Lakes. They had been wounded, were bound to their horses, and appeared to be sound asleep. One man was snoring as he bounced and bobbled his way down the street.
Mr. Jenkins, who had just arrived that day at his summer home, had been enjoying a cool beer on his front porch when he saw the two coming by well after midnight. He stood up and stared for a moment and then hurried out into the road. "Hey, hey Mister, wake up," he said quietly as he reached the closest horse. Amos groaned and opened his eyes, struggling to straighten up. He saw a tall, gaunt man peering up at him with concern. Beyond the man, he saw Clete bent over his horse's neck snoring loudly.
"Clete, wake up, we's in town," yelled Amos. Mr. Jenkins was startled by Amos and looked over his shoulder nervously to see if the Missus had heard the commotion. He stared at his bedroom window for several seconds and then sighed; thanking his lucky stars she was still asleep. He'd married a mean woman and he'd learned to cherish the night and his beer. The Missus had no idea what he was up to.
"Shhh, Mister, don't wake the whole town. Here, let me cut you loose. What the heck happened to you two?" said Mr. Jenkins as he unfolded his pocket knife and sliced the straps securing Amos to his saddle horn. Amos rubbed the feeling back into his wrists as Jenkins caught up with Clete's horse. He untied the reins from the horse's bridle and led the still sleeping man back to his partner.
Amos had dismounted and he reached up and slapped Clete's head, "Wake up, will you?" he hissed. Jenkins was sawing at the leather binding Clete to his saddle.
Clete jerked upright, drool sliding down his chin. He snorted and opened his eyes. "Huh, what…Amos?" he said.
"We're in Twin Lakes. We've got to get a message to the Sheriff in Leadville," said Amos.
Clete looked at him in confusion, "You ain't planning on telling him what happened, are you?" he asked, worried that his partner had forgotten that they'd pulled their guns first and had attempted to kidnap a married lady.
Amos grinned up at him, "I sure am. I aim to tell him that we got shot by Kid Curry."
Both Clete and Mr. Jenkins stared at him as if he'd plumb lost his mind. Clete was the first to recover, "How in tarnation do you figure that?"
"Who else could've made those shots? And I recognized the hat that dark-haired fellow was wearing. It was Hannibal Heyes's hat. I saw it when they was taking Heyes out of the Pioneer," said Amos proudly. Seeing the confusion on Clete's face, he continued, "Don't you see? That hat was with Heyes's body and you can bet your ass it was locked up tight somewhere. Now who'd have the gumption to steal Heyes's hat except one of the Devil's Hole boys?" Clete was still looking at him like he was crazy and now that old man was doing it, too. Amos snapped, "Landsakes, do I have to spell it out for you? We was trussed up by Wheat Carlson."
Mr. Jenkins gasped, "The undertaker's was robbed the night Heyes was killed. Someone opened the safe without dynamite and stole Heyes's hat and gun. Everyone was talking about it the next morning. Heyes must've taught Carlson how to crack a safe!"
"Mister, is there a telegraph here in town?" asked Amos.
"Yessir. We've got a big shot mine owner here in town. He's got his own telegraph that goes right to his house in Leadville," said Mr. Jenkins. This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him and he had forgotten to keep his voice down. He heard the sound of the window opening before he heard his wife yell out, "Martin, what are you doing down there?"
"Go back to sleep, Winnie. This is man's work. I'm raising a posse," he yelled.