This story follows Not Again! I appreciate all your great support and questions. Kid fans, I confess – this is a Heyes story. But hang in there – the Kid gets some of the best scenes. Cat Christy is back, too. This story is, again, dedicated with love and gratitude to the teachers out there.
I want to repeat my important disclaimer about aphasia, which is what Heyes suffers from here after a gunshot wound to the head suffered in the previous story, Not Again! I have invented symptoms and treatments to suit my own dramatic needs - nothing medical in this story is accurate. This is a very real and serious ailment and I have no intention of making light of it in any way. Also, of course, I apologize for borrowing these characters that other people invented and I have merely enjoyed.
At 10:00 on a cold, bright October morning, Heyes went downstairs at Christy's Hotel in Louisville, Colorado. The retired outlaw was all packed and dressed in his best brown suit. He was carrying his heaviest coat and his carpet bag for the train ride east to New York City. Curry was carrying Heyes' crammed saddle bags. Kid didn't have to look hard to see that his partner was nervous, with his jaw tight and his eyes bright with anxiety. The Kid didn't blame him for being worried. Heyes was without a gun on his hip, without his silver tongue, without his partner, and headed for a place that was utterly strange to him.
Thin, gray, Dr. Grauer had come to say good-bye. "Mr. Smith," he said, with an emphasis on the name that made Heyes wonder how much the man had figured out, "I wish you the very best in New York. I know you'll get well, with all the work you're putting in. Dr. Leutze speaks very highly of your determination. And your intellectual gifts. It's no surprise to me. We shall miss you very much in Louisville. I hope you can come back and see us now and then."
Heyes wanted very much to say something, but he knew he couldn't. The silent outlawed man could only nod and shake the doctor's hand. This man had saved his life, and then looked after Heyes ever since.
More friends than he ever knew he had in this little town were gathering to bid Mr. Joshua Smith farewell. Heyes smiled more and more widely, his dimple deepening as he shook hands with the bar tender and piano player and kissed all the saloon girls good-bye. It was a happy surprise for Heyes, as shy as he had become since the shooting, to realize how much all of these people cared about him, and how much he really cared about them. The saloon girls and other employees were all so enthusiastic in wishing him luck and saying how much they would miss him. There were customers there, too, including men Heyes had beaten badly at poker. But they actually liked him! It just hadn't occurred to Heyes before that moment that anyone at Christy's place, other than the Kid and Cat and Peggy, and the Doctor down the street, had really paid him any mind. This was the largest group of people outside of the outlaw trade who had ever liked, or even known, Heyes since he had been a boy at school. Some of the saloon girls even tried to get back in line to get a second kiss – Heyes' charms were not lost on them. Heyes knew that he would, indeed, miss all of these new friends. He wished that he could tell them how much they meant to him, and most of all that he could properly thank them. After all, they had all given up $10,000.00 to keep him free, when he couldn't even speak to them. That would be $20,000 if you included the share on his partner. He was already thinking about when he could come back and see them all. Maybe at Christmas?
As he stood by the door, ready to button up his coat and pick up his bags, Heyes took Cat's hand to say his silent good-bye. But the slender golden-haired young woman threw her arms around his neck and gave him a proper hug and kiss. "Come back soon, Joshua. Don't you dare stay too long in New York! Work hard, but come back. Don't wait to get your speech perfect. Just come back as soon as you can. We're going to miss you so much every day. The Kid and I need you – just you come back soon!" Heyes nodded and nodded in answer to her repeated pleas. He blinked hard and wished desperately that he could properly thank her. He would absolutely not have been alive and free without her help. Or as free as a silent man could be.
Peggy the saloon girl who was closest to Heyes was there, too. Despite their cool parting of the night before, he relented and held the quiet little woman in his arms and kissed her thoroughly. As he let her go, she grabbed onto his coat and he kissed her again. As he turned at last to go, he put a little piece of folded up paper into her hand. As Heyes went out the hotel's front door, Peggy opened the paper that Joshua had given her. She saw that it said "2-1=1".
She showed it to Cat in puzzlement. Cat said "I guess that's closest he can get to good-bye, Peggy." Peggy snuffled into her handkerchief and ran up the hotel steps. The relationship between Peggy and Heyes had never been more than physical. She knew well that they had no future together. But she did like him.
As Heyes and the Kid and Dr. Leutze started off, Heyes looked back at Cat, who came out the door to watch him off. She stood just outside the door shivering in the mountain autumn air. He gave her a broad wink and a grin. She wiped her eyes and waved her handkerchief at the departing former outlaw. Maybe he really would be alright, as she had told the Kid that he would.
Heyes and the Kid walked slowly and thoughtfully to the Louisville station with Dr. Leutze. Curry was wearing his old blood-stained shearling coat. Heyes had his old saddle bags over his shoulder and the infamously lost carpet bag in his hand, but he had no reason to bring his rifle or his saddle or his bedroll. This was going to be a different trip than any he had ever taken. There would be no riding a horse on the other side, no camping out in the desert, no small western town, no swinging doors, no dusty hotel rooms. His partner wouldn't be at his side. But Dr. Leutze would be there; that was what counted. The only man on the North American continent who had any real chance of helping Heyes would be taking him to where he could get well again.
The three men stood awkwardly as they waited for the train, Leutze being careful to leave the two partners some space as they awaited a long parting for the first time in many years. As the train east pulled in, right on time, Curry shook Dr. Leutze's hand and wished him luck. Heyes shook the Kid's hand awkwardly. There wouldn't have been words for what he needed to say even if he could have spoken perfectly.
"Joshua, you're gonna be just fine. You know that!" said Curry, his voice hoarse. "You'll be back here in no time, talking a blue streak just like you used to. Maybe I won't complain about it like I used to. I want to hear all about what you see when you get past the Mississippi!" Heyes nodded and tried to smile, but the Kid saw the scared look in his partner's brown eyes.
Heyes mimed writing and looked at the Kid, who nodded and said, "Sure, I'll write to you! When you can, you just got to write back!" Heyes grabbed the Kid in a hard bear hug – no need for a bounty hunter to make him do it.
As the two men stepped apart and the train pulled in, Heyes looked anxiously at the Kid. It had finally penetrated the silent man's mind – he was really leaving not only the Kid, but the West that was all he had ever known. He really couldn't speak, for practical purposes, at all. His two words failed him when he tried to say them to anyone but the Doctor and the Kid. Good-bye and thank-you, the words he needed most right now, were not in his vocabulary even to the Kid. Heyes really was gambling everything on a stranger who didn't even know who he was. The Kid wished he could do something more helpful than to clap his frightened partner on the back and then wave good-bye.
As the train pulled away, the Kid found it unutterably strange to stand there all alone in the cold mountain autumn. He trudged back to Christy's place, looking down and scuffing his boots in the dust of the unpaved street. He didn't look up to see the magnificent snow-capped mountains that surrounded the little town.
Cat was waiting near the door for the Kid, shivering under a wool shawl. She ignored the fact that Jed was blowing his cold-reddened nose more than the frigid weather could account for. Jed put his arm around her and they walked in the door together. Just as the bat-wing doors closed behind them, the Kid turned to look over his shoulder. He saw a thin stream of smoke vanishing into the distance and heard the train whistle echoing off of the mountain sides.