Late one night two men rode into the yard of a small cottage on the outskirts of Porterville.
"Abby, go on to bed now, it's late." Marie said to her adopted daughter.
"Ma, it's just past-"
The girl goes to her bedroom and leaves the door cracked open. Marie moves to the window and sees two of her old friends on the porch. She opens the door to let them in.
"Heyes, Kid, it's good to- what's happened?"
"Got jumped by a posse a few days ago, Heyes got shot in the side and the doc over in Meadowburg dug the bullet out and did his best to patch him up."
"Let me help you get him on the settee, then you go fetch Doc. Burns."
She helps Curry get Heyes into a comfortable position on the settee, and then he heads out to fetch the town's doctor. In the dim lamp light Heyes looked as white as a ghost. She kneels at his side and brushes his bangs from his forehead and gently places her head on his chest and hears a faint, but thankfully, steady heartbeat; she sighs with a hint of limited relief.
"Abby," she calls, "Get me some cool water and a clean cloth."
The ten year old girl quickly answers her mother's bid then asks, "Who is he Ma?"
Should I tell her who Heyes really is or should I feed her the 'Joshua Smith' story? "Well, Abby, this is… Hannibal Heyes…"
"The outlaw? Ma, I'll go get Sheriff Trevors-"
"No, Abby, listen, Heyes and his partner, Kid Curry, are going for amnesty and have not robbed a bank or train for the better part of two years. They are good friends of mine and I owe them a favor."
"Mr. Heyes seems to be on Death's doorstep," Abby dips the cloth in the bowl of water then wrings it out and places it on the dark-haired man's fevered brow; she then notices a dark stain spreading on his shirt. "Ma," her voice wavers, "I think he's bleeding."
Marie's eyes widen in fear. "Abigail, go put some water on the stove and get me some linen bandage cloth, hurry now, time is of the essence."
Abby sped off at once to collect what was needed by her mother. By this time Marie had removed Heyes bandanna and was using it to try and stop the blood flow; much to her dismay and horror she was fighting a losing battle. Abby came back with a few rolls of bandage cloth.
"Thanks Abby, now get me the bottle of whiskey from the kitchen."
Abby leaves and returns with a bottle of whiskey labeled with a high proof number. "Here Ma,"
"Thank you Abby, now run along to bed, there's nothing more you can do to help me."
"Ma, someone needs to try and bring his fever down, you can't keep pressure on his wound and do that at the same time."
"Kid and Doc. Burns will be here shortly, if I don't get this wound to stop bleeding he'll die, and I don't need to cope with that right now." Marie takes a deep breath to recompose herself. "Tell you what, why don't you go put a pot of coffee on and start making some willow bark tea."
At that moment Kid returns with the doctor. Milton Burns looks over and sees Marie visibly pale, to him she looked tense and her eyes betray the fear, worry, and the guilt she felt.
"I'll take it from here Ms. Walker," Burns said as she reluctantly moved from Heyes' side. "If you could heat some water I'd really appreciate it."
Marie went into the kitchen followed by the Kid. She took the coffee pot from the stove and pours a cup for herself and the Kid.
"Thank you," he says with gratitude, "Don't worry I've seen Heyes come outta worse than this."
"Ma, Doc. Burns needs the water."
Marie makes no reply as she lifts the stew pot off the stove and takes it into the parlor. She returns and sits down at the table, her green eyes unfocused. Kid looks over at the ten year old girl.
"Marie sent word saying that she adopted a little girl; I take it you're Abby."
"Yes sir," Abby answers. "Ma says that you and Mr. Heyes are old friends of hers."
"We are, helped her out of a tight spot a few years ago." Curry glances over at Marie. "Why don't you and your ma go and get some rest, I can handle things 'till morning."
Abby went on to her room while Marie willed herself to stand. The action causes her to sway a little before collapsing against the table. Kid wraps an arm around her waist and gently guides her to her bedroom.
"You sure you don't want to take my room for the night?" She asks.
"Marie, it would be a sin for me to take your bed, I'll make do with an armchair in your parlor; I'll come and wake you if there's any change."
"Kid, tell me what happened."
"In the morning after you've rested up a bit."
"Okay, you had better wake me Kid Curry or you're likely to end up in a pine box."
"I'm a man of my word." He leaves the room to let Marie get the rest that she needed and returns to the parlor. "How is he Doc?"
"Thaddeus, I'd be lyin' to ya if'n I said that Joshua's going to be alright. I got that wound stitched back up and wrapped, I'm gonna tell ya straight, he's lucky to still be alive. His fever ain't started to come down, best try to get some willow tea down 'im. Be best to stay here for a week or two, and when you do leave I'd suggest you take the train or the stage."
"Doc, will he live?"
"Son, he's lost a lot of blood, and it's a wonder he didn't bleed to death when he was shot. I may have to buy Ms. Walker a new settee 'cos this one's likely to be stained." Burns turns to face the Kid. "Now, whether he lives or not is up to his own constitution and a little help from the Almighty."
"Thanks Doc, do you mind stopping by the sheriff's office and telling Lom we're staying with Marie, he said he had something to tell us."
"Don't wake Ms. Walker; she's in need of a good rest. I'll tell Lom that you and your friend are stayin' here." With that the doctor left.
Marie woke the next morning to see Abby sitting on the edge of her bed.
"Morning Ma, Mr. Curry's worried about you."
"I've spent more time with them than I should have in my younger days; did you make breakfast?"
"No, I asked Mr. Curry if he wanted anything and he said no, he seems to be really worried about his friend."
"He's not the only one, and it's about time you get to school."
"Ma, can't I stay here?"
"No, now go on before you have to explain to your teacher that two of your mother's old friends are staying here."
As the girl leaves for school, Marie went to the kitchen and poured cup of coffee for the Kid. She takes it into the parlor and offers it to him.
"No, thank you, Marie,"
"I don't need another sick man in my home, Kid; besides, it's not like Heyes made it fresh this morning."
"In that case I'll take it."
"Good; now how's Heyes?"
"Better than last night, he seems to be breathing easier. Oh, Doc. Burns said that he'll replace your settee."
"Just so long as Heyes is on the mend." She moves to kneel down at Heyes' side and gently feels his forehead. "His fever's down, but it may not hurt to get some willow bark tea in him; there's some on the stove in the kitchen."
Kid went and poured a cup while Marie tried to roust Heyes. His dark eyes flicker open, unfocused at first, but then focus on the green-eyed girl kneeling at his side.
"Marie," he rasps as he tries to sit up, only to have her gently restrain him.
"Easy, somewhere along the line last night your stiches busted when you left Meadowburg, and if it hadn't of been for my adopted daughter you just may have bled to death here on the settee."
"Sorry if I've scared you to death,"
"Heyes, I thought I was going to lose you last night." Tears came to her eyes.
"Hey, we're together now and that's all that matters." Kid enters the room with the cup of tea.
"Feel up to drinking anything?"
"No, but I might as well." Kid and Marie help him into a sitting position, then hand him the cup. "Geesh, this is bitter."
"Welcome back partner,"
"Get some rest Heyes, Doc. Burns' orders not mine; I've got to be getting over to the café, Kid, later if he's feeling up to eating anything there's some chicken broth in the ice box that you can heat on the stove for him. When Abby gets home be sure to have her do her homework before she does her chores."
After her long shift at the café Marie found herself nearly running home; hoping beyond hope that Heyes was back to his old self, but with the amount of blood that he'd lost it would take a few weeks.
"How is he?" she asked as she entered her home.
"Resting, the doc came by earlier to change the bandage and said if all goes well Heyes should be back to normal in a few days, oh and his fever's gone and it hasn't spiked for a few hours, so there's a great possibility that it will not be coming back any time soon." Kid answered.
"That's the best news that I've gotten all day, but you and I both know that Heyes is just too cuss stubborn to kill out right." She gives Heyes a side long glance. "Has Abby gotten home yet?"
"No, not yet; you look tired, why don't you sit down and rest for a while."
Marie made no complaint and sat down in the arm chair across from the settee. Kid pours her a glass of brandy, from the decanter on the sideboard on the opposite side of the room, and hands it to her. She takes a timid sip as she was never one to drink alcohol in front of anyone.
"Go lay down for a little while, Marie, I'll take care of making supper."
She nods and goes to her room and lay down on the bed. Even though Heyes was going to pull through worry still gripped her mind. What if an infection takes hold and his fever comes back? What if Heyes just takes a turn for the worst? She decides to go and have a word with Lom after dinner.
A few minutes later Abby walks through the door, panting as if she had run all the way home from school.
"Hey, slow down kid, where's the fire?" Kid asks
"Sorry I'm late Mr. Curry, but Ms. Porter, the town founder's granddaughter, my teacher, asked me to stay after and help her grade papers; she said that she heard that you and Mr. Heyes were in town and that she wants you to take her to dinner this evening at six-thirty." Abby answered between gasps.
"Ah, now then, do you have any homework?"
"No, Ms. Porter never assigns homework on Fridays." She pauses and looks over at Heyes. "I can tell he's resting easier today. Is Ma working late over at the café?"
"No," was Kid's simple reply.
Abby looked at the Kid, his ice blue eyes betray the worry that he felt, not only for his partner, but for Marie, he knew what it would do to her if Heyes were to take a sudden turn for the worst and die. "Oh," she said at length. "Shall I make dinner?"
"Well since Ms. Porter has asked me to accompany her to dinner and if Heyes is feeling up to it we'll all go to the café for dinner, but I'll make a little something in case. Now, I believe your mother keeps hens and I'm sure they're fed twice a day, hop to it."
Abby goes out the kitchen door to tend to the hens. Kid hears Heyes wake on the settee.
"Yeah, I'm here,"
"Where are we?"
"Just outside of Porterville at Marie Walker's place."
"Good Lord, she must be worried sick!"
"Whoa, take it easy, will ya? Your side's been sewn up twice and you nearly bled to death right there."
"Dang, the poor girl must be scared out of her wits."
"If she is, then she hides it well,"
"Kid, why do I get the feeling that there's someone, other than Marie, here?"
"She's adopted a little girl since the last time we saw her."
"Get some rest Heyes you really need it," Kid takes his pocket watch from his pocket and looks at the time. "Sheesh, I got to go take Ms. Porter to dinner."
After she, Abby, and Heyes finished their light dinner of corn bread, Marie went to the sheriff's office to give Lom more details then she had told Doc. Burns to give him.
"Marie, this is a pleasant surprise," Sheriff Trevors said as she entered.
"Considering the circumstances," she takes a breath. "Lom, do you think you could come by the house sometime this evening, as you know Heyes is recovering from a gunshot wound and Doc. Burns has ordered him to stay in my front parlor. Anything you have to say to them can be said in front of Abby and I."
"Yes I am aware of that Marie, the Governor has finally given a straight answer to their bid for amnesty and he wants to meet them in person… here in Porterville."
"Here, in Porterville?" Marie's breathing and pules quicken, forcing her to sit in one of the chairs against the wall.
"That's what I said; now we could use your place for the meeting."
Marie pales visibly. "Oh my,"
"Marie, you are alright with that, aren't you?"
Lom realizes he's just added more stress to her mind, "I'll come by your place as soon as I finish up here and we'll discuss it then."
Marie nods in agreement; she tries to stand and her knees buckle under her, causing her to collapse back into the chair. Lom instinctively pours her a shot of whiskey, which she takes with an air of gratitude.
"Sorry that I don't have any brandy,"
"I think I needed something stronger anyways." She stands and walks out of the office and makes her way home. She was relieved to see that Heyes was finally awake and a bit proddy that he had to stay on the settee for a few days. Not long after she's home Kid returns from his evening with Ms. Porter.
"Sheesh, the governor is coming here?!" Kid asks, exasperated.
"Mhmm…." Marie replies.
"Marie, you're looking a little pale, why don't you sit down for a little while." Heyes suggested.
She complies and sits down on the high backed armchair. Heyes sees her relax slightly, but notices the color is still absent from her cheeks. Abby comes from the kitchen with a cup of coffee.
"Here's your coffee Mr. Cur- Mr. Heyes, you're looking much then you did last night."
"Why thank you, Miss. Walker." Heyes said, showering the ten year old with a dimpled smile.
"Would you like anything Mr. Heyes, some water perhaps?"
"No, I'm fine Abby."
Abby turns to her mother and looks as if she's about to ask her something. "Ma-"
Marie was now slumped against the side of the chair, seemingly asleep.
"Good Lord, Kid get her into bed, the poor girl must be exhausted."
Kid gently picks her up and carries her to her room and gently lays her on the bed. As soon as he comes out of the bedroom there is a knock on the door. Kid opens the door to let the sheriff in.
"Good to see you Lom,"
"Well, at least you both got here in one piece."
"Lom I could take a turn for the worst at any time, I suggest you say what you gotta say."
"And hello to you too Heyes," Lom sighs, "I told Marie that the governor would like to come here to personally congratulate you on getting your amnesty, but there's a catch."
"There's always a catch with him,"
"The governor is pretty much ordering you to settle down here in Porterville. I'll leave it to the two of you to sort out living arrangements."
Marie woke up and went back to the parlor to find Lom talking to Heyes and the Kid, while Abby sat reading in the armchair. "Oh Lom, how long have you been here?"
"Not long, just got done telling the boys that they got the amnesty, and have to live here for at least two years."
"What about the governor?"
"I'll ask if he minds meeting in a lady's home."
Marie gives a nervous sigh and steps in to the room. "Heyes, I'm glad to see you're not as pale as you were. Would any of you care for coffee?"
"I'd love to Marie, but I have to be getting home." Lom exits the house, leaving the four sitting in silence.
"Kid, do you believe it? We've finally got it." Heyes said, breaking the silence."
"Well, I feel like celebrating, I'm heading over to the saloon and using my real, God given name."
"Ma, what's amnesty mean?"
"Means they broke the law, realized the error of there was, and begged the governor for a second chance to be law abiding citizens."
"Kid, if you don't mind I'm going to stay here and rest for a while, I don't think alcohol will agree with me right now.
A few weeks later Marie was frantic with anxiety. The governor was coming in on the eight-fifteen evening train and she was trying to get her home into respectable order for his visit. Heyes and the Kid had been escorted over to the newspaper office so their true story could be told around the state and the rest of the country.
"Ma, take a break, I don't think Governor Warren is going to notice a speck of dust."
"Abigail, this moment will end up in the history books, one speck of dust could be scrutinized."
"Ma, Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry are over at the telegraph office wiring their story as far away as New York City, can you imagine?"
Marie stops dusting the mantle. What if they have to go on tour and talk about their lives? She looks towards the door as it opens.
"Hey, Marie, some reporter from New York is here in town and wants to hear your side of the past few weeks."
"Heyes, this is you and the Kid's moment, I don't want to take that from you."
"Marie, to be honest I don't really want all this attention, so I'll see if I can help you a little."
"I'm done cleaning everything. Do you want to go for a ride; I want to be as relaxed as possible before the governor gets here tonight."
"Is your horse at the livery stable?"
"Yes, my tack is in the shed out back."
Heyes leaves and returns moments later with the horses. He sees that Marie has changed into a split riding skirt. He takes it upon himself to tack her horse. She mounts up and pulls onto the road.
"So, Champeen Tracker of Southern Utah, where do you want to go?"
"Lead on Lydia, today I follow you."
They go down the road heading out of town about a mile then turn down a side trail. The trail wound its way through the foot hills and opened up near a lake. "My favorite spot," she says. "Good land to start a ranch, the lake is fed by an underground cistern, but there's a lot of ranchers looking to buy the water rights to this place. I come up here to think, it eases my mind."
"It is a pretty spot; I wouldn't mind owning it myself."
Marie was now dressed in an older style dress with a wide skirt made with hoops. Both Heyes and the Kid wore their best suits and unreadable expressions. The train arrives a minute late.
"Leave it to the governor to show up late." She mumbles as the governor and two U.S. Marshals step out of the presidential car and on to the platform.
After the welcomes and the introductions they took a rented carriage back to Marie's cottage. Supper was a silent affair and then went back into the parlor to conduct business.
"As Sheriff Trevors told you, I have granted you your amnesty with the stipulation that you have to set up residence here in Porterville for at least two years."
"Yes, we are aware of that Governor, I don't know about my partner, but I aim to stay here with Ms. Walker, it's been a well overdue reunion for the both of us." Heyes interjected.
"Well, Ms. Walker, I trust that you will keep Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry in line."
"I will do my best Governor, but I won't make any promises."
"That's alright Ms. Walker, I trust your judgment."
A Few Years Later:
It didn't surprise anyone when Heyes had asked Marie to marry him, nor when he accepted Abby like she was his own. Kid had gotten a job as a guard for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Heyes had saved everything he had made working odd jobs in town to buy the land, that Marie had shown him, in hopes to start a horse ranch.
"Ma, when's Pa and Uncle Thaddeus coming back?"
"Abigail, stop pestering me, they'll be back in a few days, hopefully Kid quits working for the railroad so Heyes and I have an extra hand to help us run the place."
The door opened and Heyes, followed by the Kid, came in, "Marie, Abigail, come into the yard we have a surprise."
The ladies complied and followed; waiting for them was a string of horses. "Heyes, how on… never mind, I don't want to know." A laugh was exchanged between them.