Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry had just left the town of Black Rock after finishing up a job they had gotten on a local ranch. "Don't know about you Heyes, but I sure am glad that's over." Kid looked exceptionally tired atop his black gelding.
"But, on the bright side, we got three hundred dollars out of it!" Heyes looked equally as tired.
"I still think we shoulda asked for more. Three hundred is pretty cheap for all the work we done, building a fence, repairing the old one, building new stalls in the barn, reroofing the house...they probably don't work a body that hard in prison."
"Well, at least we got enough to relax on for a little bit. You'll feel better once we get to the next town, get a soft bed, good meal, good poker game..." Heyes kept it up for a good five minutes straight.
"Why don't you relax your mouth a little." Kid knew he was proddy, but he just couldn't help it at the moment.
"Just tryin' to make you feel better." This was followed by another five minutes of nonstop chatter.
"Hey, look up there. What is that?" Kid pointed and was inwardly thankful for the distraction.
"Don't know. Kinda looks like a child."
A minute or two later, they had reached the youngster. "Hello there lil' miss," Kid smiled down at the girl who couldn't be no more than six. "What are you doing all the way out here by yourself?"
"I losted my way back to where my pa is camped," the child whimpered. "He telled me not to wander off, but I did and now I can't get back." Her bottom lip quivered ever so slightly.
"Kid, can I speak to you, privately, for a minute?" Heyes smiled at the young girl. "We'll be right back darling." They dismounted and stood with their horses blocking the girl's view of them. "Kid, something about this seems...I don't know...not right."
Kid regarded Heyes incredulously. "She's just a lost little kid Heyes. What on earth do you find suspicious about that?"
"I can't really explain it. I just sense...danger. Besides, doesn't it seem logical that her Pa would be out looking for her, and in doing so, would be calling out her name? I haven't heard anybody hollering."
"Maybe he's too far away to be heard."
"Could be I guess."
"Heyes, you're not honestly thinking about riding off and not helping this girl!? She can't be no older than five or six! We can't leave her out here. It'll be getting dark soon."
"NO, I don't want to just leave her here! But she can't come with us. Plus, what if we take her back to Black Rock and her Pa can't find her? Somebody could easily accuse us of kidnapping and I do believe the Governor might just look at that a little badly!"
"Well then, let's just try to find her Pa." Kid's simple answer was spoken with a tone that said his mind was made up. And as proddy as he'd been during the course of the day, Heyes didn't feel like getting into a heated argument with him. And both he, and Kid, knew that neither one of them would leave this child to fend for herself.
"Alright, let's go." They walked back over to the wide-eyed, nervous little girl. "Honey, what's your name?"
"Well Emily, which way did you come from?" Heyes asked with huge dimples. Emily pointed back to a grove of trees. "Me and my partner here are gonna help you find your Pa, okay?" The girl was instantly excited. The trio headed off towards the trees, leading their horses behind them.
About twenty minutes later, Kid brought their little assembly to a stop. Looking at Heyes he asked, "You smell that?"
Heyes tested the air for a second. "Yeah. Smells like a campfire. Suppose its Emily's Pa?"
"Could be." Kid bent down to Emily's level. "Sweetie, what's your Pa's name?"
"Okay." Kid looked up at Heyes who was suppressing a laugh. He stood up. "We can't just walk around here yelling 'Pa'. They'll think we're crazy."
"Let's let Emily do the hollering." It was Heyes turn to kneel down. "Emily, you think you could holler reeeal loud for your Pa to hear you?"
"Sure!" Heyes wasn't prepared for the ear-shattering noise that followed. "PAAAAAAAAAA!"
"My fault," he said standing up. "I shoulda moved first." Now it was Kid with the smile on his face. Heyes took a step or two back. "Go ahead and yell again Emily."
"PAAAAAAAA!" A second or two later, her call was returned.
"PA!" At that, Emily took off in a run towards her dad's voice with Heyes and Kid close behind. Eventually, they made it to a small campsite consisting of four men. "Hi Pa! I got's 'em!" Emily said happily. Upon hearing that, Heyes and Kid looked at each other confusedly.
"What'd you get Emily?" Heyes asked carefully.
Emily's Pa answered for her by pointing a rifle at the two ex-outlaws. "She got YOU!"
"What do you mean?" Kid asked raising his hands.
Pa motioned for one of his companions to relieve the both of them of their six-guns. "I mean, I saw you too in the saloon last night and overheard you talking about leaving today, so I came out here to wait for you. I didn't want to chance you getting nervous and running when you saw me, so I got Emily to pretend she was lost. I told her what you, your horses, and your hats looked like so she'd know who to stop. That black hat's pretty easy to spot."
"How many times I told you to get rid of that antique hat of yours," Kid hissed. Heyes ignored him and looked at Pa.
"Mister, I don't know who you think we are, but..."
"Save your speech Mister HEYES. I know perfectly well who you and your partner are." Another of Pa's companions started tying their hands behind their back.
Heyes started to protest, but just managed to ask, "How? How do you know that for sure?" Those wanted poster descriptions could match half the population of the western part of the country."
"Because I seen you before. See, a while back, I lived in a little place named Junction City. And guess what. I saw two guys bring in some bank robbers. Then I found out, that they were really Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. And THEN, guess what. They just up and disappeared. I didn't never hear what happened to them. But I found out last night in that saloon. So, I figured to get me an easy twenty thousand dollars. Now, my boys here are gonna help you on your horses and then, we gonna take a ride back to Black Rock."
"You know mister. That was pretty low to use your daughter like that. How did you know we wouldn't just shoot our way out of here?" Kid spat out as he was helped into his saddle.
"Oh she was all for helping...after I told her all the toys and candy twenty thousand dollars could buy." Pa ignored the rest of Curry's statement. "Mount up boys. We got some money to collect!"
The short ride back into town wasn't eventful. The opportunity never arose for an escape. They made it to the Sheriff's office right at sundown. "Alright you two. Get down. The rest of you boys stay out here and watch Emily." Pa then led Heyes and Kid into the jailhouse.
After they were safely confined in their cell, Heyes commenced to his usual pacing. "Didn't I tell you Kid? Didn't I tell you something wasn't right about that situation?"
"Well, you knew we couldn't just leave her. Her Pa figured on that too. That was one dirty trick."
"Yeah. Well, it just goes to show you."
"That no good deed goes unpunished."
"You did WHAT?!" Madeline Walker paced angrily in front of her husband seated at the kitchen table.
"I captured Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry", Paul Walker said.
"THAT'S not the part I'm mad about", Madeline yelled, slamming her hands down on the table. "I'm mad because you used our DAUGHTER as BAIT! How could you do such a thing?! She coulda been hurt or killed! Those two are OUTLAWS!"
"Outlaws that never killed nobody. I knew they wouldn't hurt her. All the stories I've heard of their robberies, seems they're apparently pretty polite, especially to the ladies."
"You didn't know that for sure! There could always be a first time. What if they had just decided to take her with them, hold her for ransom?!"
"I tell you they just don't seem to be the type to do such things. I mean, you yourself, saw how they acted in Junction City."
"I still can't believe you had the gall to do such a thing just to get a little money."
"Its not 'just a little money'. Its twenty thousand dollars!"
"I don't care if its twenty MILLION! Its not worth putting our daughter in danger!
"Don't you 'Maddie' me mister! I think it best you go find yourself something to do outside for a while!"
"Alright FINE! But I'll bet you'll be changing your tune when that twenty thousand dollars gets here!" Paul got up and left the house, headed for the barn.
Madeline turned to look out the window at Emily playing outside. Her little Emily, used like a pawn in a game of chess. If Madeline would admit it, she, herself, didn't think Curry or Heyes would've hurt a little girl. She'd heard the stories too, a few of them being of kindness the two outlaws had shown to people. She even heard a rumor or two that they were trying to go straight. But that wasn't the point she reminded herself. You don't use children, especially your own, for such purposes. She watched as Emily caught a butterfly, then seconds later, let it go free. Thoughts of retribution crept into her mind. 'Somebody needs to be taught a lesson', she thought as a slight smile played along her lips. 'And I know just what I'm gonna do'...
Hannibal Heyes paced relentlessly inside the jail cell. "Heyes, will you PLEASE give the floor a rest?! You're gonna wear a groove straight to Hades if you don't sit down." Kid Curry was fast becoming a nervous wreck.
"We gotta get out of here Kid and you know I do my best scheming when I'm pacing." Heyes started yet another circuit.
"Why can't you do your best scheming sitting down being quiet?" Kid mumbled to himself pulling his hat further over his eyes. Heyes began his three hundredth lap.
"Alright. Let's see. Maybe if we could indulge the deputy..." Heyes' thought process was interrupted when someone burst into the sheriff's office.
"Sheriff, SHERIFF!" a high pitched female voice cried frantically.
"WHAT?!" the sheriff replied nearly falling out of his chair. "What's wrong with you Mrs. Walker?! You sound like you got satan on your heels!"
"Haven't you heard?!" Madeline said breathlessly.
"That a bounty hunter is chasing Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry just south of here!"
"No he ain't. Heyes and Curry are sitting right back there in that cell."
"I don't think so Sheriff! You see, as I was on my way into town, this horse about ran me and my little mare over when they flew into the road from a side trail. The rider stopped to apologize, but that he had to run. He was on the trail of Heyes and Curry and he was needing to get some help. I told him those two were already in jail and he said 'no ma'am, that they just ran out of some town get that bounty money and that it was too bad I wasn't a man on account of he woulda split that reward money with me if I had helped him catch them."
"You don't say," the sheriff said looking back towards his two guests. "How far away you think he is now?"
"Well, I really can't say. But he did mention that he hated he had to stop to do...uh...his 'business'. I wasn't too far out of town when he ran into me."
"Hmm...," the sheriff appeared deep in thought. "Maybe I'll go check that out. If I catch up with him, maybe he'll split that money with me!"
"What about those two back there?"
"Well, I guess they should stay there for now, just in case that fellow was just telling you a big story. When I find him and come back, then I'll let them go, AFTER I find out for sure. If you'll excuse me Mrs. Walker." The sheriff grabbed his hat and ran out the door.
When Madeline was satisfied he was gone, she started looking through his desk and around the office. Not finding what she was looking for, she hurried back to the cell area. "Uh, excuse me Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry."
"Ma'am?" Heyes strolled over to the bars while Kid pushed himself off the board that passed as a bunk.
"Well, uh, I do know who you are since my husband is the one responsible for your current predicament. I'm Madeline"
"I'm sorry to hear that Ma'am." Kid punched Heyes in the arm upon hearing that response.
"Sorry that you're married to that, uh, particular person," Heyes tried to put it politely that he saw the man as scum for using his daughter in such a way.
"That's okay," Madeline smiled. "My mother tells me the same thing! Anyway, I was looking for the keys to the cell out there but I can't find them. Any idea where they might be?"
"I suppose you checked the desk and everywhere?" Kid asked.
"Yes, I checked all over."
"Well, Ma'am, if you would be so nice as to bring me my gunbelt, I can get this door open without the key," Heyes grinned at her.
"Just bring both gunbelts," Kid interjected.
Madeline retrieved the boys affects and returned to the cell. "Here."
Heyes immediately turned his gunbelt over and retrieved the lock pick he had stuck to the underside of it.
"How long you had that there?" Kid asked, looking surprised.
"Since the last time we were 'mistakingly' arrested!" Heyes set to work on the door. A couple of minutes later, he had it open.
"Wow. That was quick," Madeline said somewhat impressed.
"Well, practice makes perfect," Heyes smiled. "Just one thing Ma'am. Why are you here helping us?"
"Mr. Heyes, is it?"
"Yes Ma'am. I'm Heyes, he's Curry."
"Well Mr. Heyes. It was an absolute DEPLORABLE thing my husband did in capturing you. I just couldn't, and still don't, believe that he would use our daughter in such a way. And even though I do believe that criminals should be punished for their crimes, no offense by the way, I don't think he deserves one penny of that reward money."
"No offense taken Ma'am. And just for the record, we're trying to go straight. We haven't robbed in over a year now."
"I'm glad to hear that. I had heard rumors."
"Ma'am?" Kid started. "Won't you be getting yourself in a mess of trouble by doing this? We don't want to be responsible for any punishment you might get."
"Don't worry Mr. Curry. The sheriff is dense enough that he'll just think he lost the bounty hunter. And my husband won't do anything except get mad. He's too afraid of his father-in-law to hurt me physically in any way. Besides, you know what they say about good deeds."
"Yeah, they don't go unpunished," Heyes finished. "Ma'am, we sincerely appreciate what you're doing and someday, maybe we can repay you in some way."
"You're welcome Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry." Madeline shook both their hands. "Now, you better get while the gettin's good."
"We won't forget this," Kid said as they made a swift exit out the back door.
"I won't either," Madeline replied softly as she watched them go with a smile. "I won't either."