1 Harry Briscoe’s Gold

Harry Briscoe’s Gold

by Maz McCoy

A piano was playing as the dark-haired man entered the smoke filled saloon and made his way to the bar. He wore a smart suit with a gun belt strapped around his waist and a gun on each hip. He rubbed his thin moustache as he approached the bar. Waving a hand, he beckoned to the bartender and ordered a beer. Harry Briscoe, Bannerman Detective, scanned the room. He was searching faces, looking for two men who might prove suitable for the job he had in mind. The bartender placed the beer on the counter in front of him and Briscoe took a long drink. His eyes fell on the game of poker in a far corner of the room. The men were deep in concentration.

Kid Curry threw in his cards and sat back watching his partner across the poker table. There were times when he thought he could read Hannibal Heyes’ face, as he played, but this was not one of them. The man next to Kid raised and Heyes was happy to see him. Kid looked up and his eyes scanned the room. They stopped when they fell on Harry Briscoe. The Bannerman man gave Kid a smile and raised his glass to him, in greeting. Kid Curry muttered a silent curse and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, Harry was still there. The young blond-haired ex-outlaw gave Harry a nod of acknowledgement. Hannibal Heyes pulled the pot towards him and Kid caught his partner’s eye. He nodded towards the bar and the dark-haired ex-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang turned around. His face dropped and he looked quickly back at Kid. They shared a moment’s prayer but knew they would have to go and see Briscoe.

“Excuse us fellas,” Heyes said, as he pushed back his chair. “Deal us out for a while.”

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry walked to the bar.

“Boys! Am I glad to see you,” Harry said as they approached. “Let me buy you a drink.” He caught the bar tender’s eye and ordered two beers.

“How are you Harry?” Kid asked, accepting the beer with thanks. His partner was still pocketing his winnings.

“Never better Smith, never better.”

“I’m Jones,” Kid reminded him and Harry nodded, as he spotted an empty table near the wall and beckoned them to join him. Grabbing his beer from the bar, Heyes followed the Bannerman man and his partner.

“You boys working at the moment?” Harry asked, casually, as he sat down.

“Just finished a job,” Heyes told him vaguely.

“I’m glad I ran into you,” Harry told them. “I’m looking for some trustworthy men to help me with a little venture of my own.”

“I wish you luck Harry,” Kid told him, having no intention of working with the man.

“I was hoping I might persuade you two, to help me,” Harry said. “I need a sharp mind and a fast gun.”

“Well that sounds like me Harry but don’t you have anything for Joshua to do?” Kid asked and Heyes shot him a look, receiving a sweet smile from his partner in return.

“What’s the job, Harry?” Heyes asked, as he took another sip of his beer. He sensed Kid’s irritation and it was his turn to smile at his partner. It would not hurt to hear the Bannerman man out. Harry Briscoe leaned forward, conspiratorially.

“Gold,” he whispered and Kid and Heyes exchanged a tired look.

“Gold?” Heyes asked, sceptically, as Kid rolled his eyes and then scanned the room for anyone who may have overheard them.

“$50,000 worth,” Briscoe replied.

“And what bank are you plannin’ to rob, to get it?” Kid asked.

“I’m not. I’m going to dig it up,” Harry announced and sat back waiting for them to be impressed. He was disappointed to see that they were anything but. Harry let out a long trail of smoke from his cigar.

“Got yourself a gold mine?” Heyes asked, conversationally.

“No,” the Bannerman man replied. “Well not in the conventional sense,” he added, cryptically. Kid was in no mood to play games.

“Alright Harry why don’t you just tell us what you’ve got?” he said.

“Buried gold,” Briscoe stated.

“Go on,” Heyes prompted.

“I was escorting a prisoner back to Denver, a couple of months ago, when he offered me $50,000 to let him go. He would tell me where the money was buried and I would look the other way, so he could escape.”

“You didn’t fall for that did you?” Heyes asked hopefully.

“No! I’m not stupid.” Heyes and Kid exchanged a look but decided not to comment. “It turned out he was part of a gang that robbed an army detail transporting the gold to Mexico. Only it never got there. The gang got the money and left all the soldiers dead. Then the gang’s leader and my prisoner buried the gold and killed the rest of the gang to save having to share it.”

“Nice friend you got yourself Harry,” Kid observed, disdainfully.

“Then the gang leader, Willard Fraser, was captured somewhere in Mexico and my man was on his way to dig up the gold when…”

“He was caught by Bannerman’s finest?” Heyes finished.

“No. Actually, it was a young deputy in Caulderville. I was just in the area and they asked me to bring him in. So I got to escort ‘Blackheart Brady’ to Denver.”

“Blackheart Brady?” Kid asked, his interest sparked by the outlaw’s name. “Ned Brady?”

“No, Matt Brady,” Harry told him. “Do you know him?”

“Don’t think so,” Kid said, but there was something in his voice that made Heyes look at his partner. He saw the look of concern on the blond man’s face.

“So what did he tell you about the gold?” Heyes asked.

“He didn’t. The fool tried to escape and the deputy shot him.” Kid and Heyes looked at the Bannerman man in disbelief. Why was Harry wasting their time? As one, they pushed back their chairs and got to their feet.

“Nice seeing you again Harry,” Heyes told the dark-haired man.

“Boys wait!” Harry pleaded. “I’ve got this…” he withdrew, a folded piece of parchment, from the pocket inside his jacket and unfolding it, spread it out on the table. It had on it, a roughly drawn map. There was a line that could be a river, some crudely drawn houses possibly denoting a town or two, a mountain range or hills, a lake complete with wiggly lines for waves and something that looked like a tree. There were no names on the map only an N, S, W, and E to show the points of the compass. There were numbers between the buildings and the landmarks, which could have indicated miles. There were rough drawings of footprints and more numbers, which could mean ‘paces’. And of course, there in the middle, was an ‘X’ to mark the proverbial ‘spot’

“You got yourself a treasure map, Harry?” Kid observed.

“It was Brady’s,” Harry told them, not mentioning how he happened to have it.

“This tells you nothing,” Heyes told the Bannerman Detective. “It could be a map of anywhere. It won’t help you unless you know where to start lookin’.”

“I do,” Briscoe stated and the two men sat back down. “Brady told me they had waited for the army detail in Tinderville.” He tapped one of the buildings on the map.

“Then, after they’d buried the gold, they went West and hoorayed in Harlow Gap for two days.” He tapped the other houses on the map.

“You don’t know that’s Tinderville and Harlow Gap,” Heyes pointed out.

“No, I don’t,” Harry admitted. “Not for sure, but isn’t it worth the risk to look?” He could see he had their interest.

“No Harry we’ve been here before, with Charlie’s gold remember?” Heyes said. “You left us in the desert then. No, we can’t afford to be involved in this. If you want to keep stolen money or gold or whatever it is, you go right ahead but count us out.”

“Boys I don’t intend to keep it,” Harry stated. “I told you both once before, I don’t intend to do anything crooked again.”

“You don’t?” Kid asked, sceptically.

“No. We’d be recovering it for the Bannerman Detective Agency, who will pass it onto the Army,” Harry assured them; surprised they would think such a thing of him. “To be honest with you, they still don’t fully trust me in the BDA. If I could bring in a boxful of stolen gold, well Mr. Bannerman himself would welcome me back with open arms. Of course, there is also a reward. $5000 last I heard. What do you say boys? Will you help me? Are you in?” he looked hopefully from the blond-haired man to his dark-haired companion.

“What do you think, Joshua?” Kid asked using his partner’s alias, although Harry was one of the few people, who knew their real identities.

“You buy all the provisions,” Heyes stated, looking at Briscoe. “Food, tools, whatever we need.”

“Alright,” Harry agreed.

“You pay our hotel bills, wherever we stay.”

Harry considered this.

“Alright,” he said.

“If we find it, how do we split the reward?” The dark-haired young man eyed Briscoe.

“Three ways?” Kid suggested.

“”I can’t do that,” Briscoe told him. “80:20.”

“50:50,” Heyes replied.

“70:30,” Briscoe offered.

“60:40,” Heyes countered, as Kid watched the interplay. “Final offer.”

“Done!” Harry cried and Heyes shook his hand. Kid wondered why he didn’t feel the urge to smile at that.

***

“Heyes you don’t really believe there’s any gold, do you?” Kid asked, as he packed his saddlebags in their hotel room the following morning.

“I don’t know Kid but like Harry said, it’s worth a look. It could take a couple of weeks and with Harry paying all the bills, what have we got to lose?”

Kid smiled.

“I like your thinkin’ Heyes,” he told his partner slapping him on the back. Then Kid paused. “This will be okay won’t it? I mean with the Governor and Lom?”

“Sure. We’re helping to recover stolen property for the army. Why it might even help to hurry our amnesty along,” Heyes told him optimistically.

Kid looked sceptical.

“You don’t really believe that do you?”

“Well there’s always a first time Kid,” Heyes replied, as he buckled up his saddlebags. “You ready?” Kid nodded and settled his hat onto his head as he followed Heyes to the door.

***

They rode out of Mason’s Bluff later that day. Heyes rode in front, Harry in the middle and Kid bringing up the rear, one hand holding the reins of a well-laden mule. Kid pondered on the fact, that once again, he was the one at the back with the mule but couldn’t come up with a reason why.

They headed southwest for Tinderville, riding at a leisurely pace. Kid had to admit Heyes probably had the right idea when they agreed to help Harry. They had no other job lined up although Big Mac McCreedy had suggested they get in touch with him if they were without work. He had a job that might suit them. Both men had a suspicion it had something to do with the bust of Caesar yet again, or maybe even Elizabeth Darkly. So for now they were happy not to need to contact their friend.

On the second night out, they made camp on the bank of a fast flowing river. It would be safer to make the journey across in daylight. As Kid attended to the horses, Heyes set about building the fire and Harry sat on a log, staring at his treasure map.

“We should be in Tinderville late tomorrow,” he announced, as Heyes handed him a cup of coffee. Harry put the map back into the inside pocket of his jacket. He sipped on the hot drink. He was getting used to Heyes’ coffee now and barely showed signs of his continued surprise every time he tasted it. How did Kid stand it he wondered?

“How d’you want to play it, when we get to town?” Kid asked, as he took a cup from his partner.

“We’re just three men passing through,” Heyes said.

“Yeah and one of us just happens to wear a suit and looks like a Bannerman detective,” Kid added, as he sat down next to Briscoe. “Harry do you ever not wear a suit?”

“A Bannerman man has standards to uphold Thaddeus,” Harry told him, seriously, as he straightened his tie. The partners exchanged a glance. Harry had not always been so keen to uphold those standards.

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’,” Kid said.

“We’ll say Harry sells insurance to farmers,” Heyes suggested.

“Why can’t I just be who I am?” Briscoe asked.

“We don’t want to put anyone on their guard Harry, nor have their suspicions raised when they hear one of Mr. Bannerman’s finest is in town.” Kid smiled into his coffee at Heyes’ remark.

“That’s true Joshua.” Harry didn’t seem to want to use their real names. The partners were happy to leave it that way. The last thing they needed was Harry calling them Heyes or Curry in a moment of panic.

“Good thinking,” Harry said, as he chewed on his cigar. “You’re a smart man Joshua, that’s one reason I like you.” He smiled at Heyes and then added as an after thought. “You too Thaddeus. No offence.”

“None taken Harry,” Kid assured him good-naturedly, as Heyes shot his partner a smile.

***

The bank descended steeply into the river but tracks marked this as a regular crossing point. With trepidation, Hannibal Heyes edged his horse forward into the deep, fast flowing water, keeping his boots clear as best he could, his feet high on the saddle. When he was midstream, Harry followed. He was not as good a horseman as Heyes and soon appeared to be having difficulty controlling his horse in the fast current. The horse adjusted its footing making Harry nervous. Kid watched from the shore then, as Heyes reached the far bank, he started down the slope, pulling the reluctant mule with him. Like Heyes, Kid pulled his feet up on the saddle, attempting to keep his boots dry.

Harry was struggling to control his horse, as the fast flowing water spooked the animal. Suddenly, his horse stumbled on a loose rock then righted itself, but Harry was now losing the battle. He pulled at the reins trying to control his horse but it turned in a circle, stepped back and then reared up, crashing into Kid’s horse. Kid felt his leg crushed between the horses and then the mule began to thrash about in the water at the very moment his own horse became skittish. Heyes turned back to see his partner struggling. With the mule turning about and his horse rearing up, Kid stood no chance of keeping control; the mule’s reins were pulled from his hands and then, as he struggled to remain in the saddle, Harry’s horse crashed into him once more. Kid was thrown backwards into the raging water. Heyes could only watch as his friend disappeared beneath the surface.

“Kid!” Heyes cried, as his partner reappeared above the water, spluttering for breath. The current carried Kid away.

Kid’s horse and the mule hurried back up the bank they had just descended. Harry’s horse decided to follow them.

“Harry, look after the horses,” Heyes ordered, as he set off downstream frantically searching the river for a sign of his partner.

Kid opened his mouth to call out but swallowed a mouthful of the river instead. He fought to keep his head above water as he was swept along. Kid was a good swimmer but the weight of his gun belt and the water rapidly filling his boots were pulling him down. He could not fight against the fast flowing current and struggled to control his course. He crashed into a boulder, his left arm slammed against the rock. Kid cried out but the noise of the rushing water drowned his cries. He grabbed for a branch that hung out over the water. His fingers caught hold of a handful of twigs and leaves but they broke off, the branches slipping through his fingers, and he was carried further downstream, bouncing off a couple of submerged rocks as he went.

Once out of the water Harry grabbed hold of the mule’s reins and then caught up to Kid’s horse. Tying the animals to a tree, he rode off along the bank searching for a sign of Kid in the water. The bank was higher than the far one and he had a better view of the river. Up ahead, he spotted a brown hat mid stream and urged his horse on.

Heyes scanned the water, frantically looking for his friend. The trail veered away from the water’s edge, into the trees and he could do no more than ride away hoping it would bring him closer to the river further down stream. Fortunately it did just that. Through the branches, Heyes saw flashes of his partner, arms flailing in his desperate efforts to swim and keep himself afloat.

Kid saw a fallen log up ahead and caught hold. His legs were dragged away from him but he held on tight. He was finally able to catch his breath and, above the sound of the water, Kid thought he heard his partner calling his name.

“Heyes!” Kid cried and he heard someone shout his name in reply. “I’m over here!” he shouted and then he saw Heyes, running towards him over the rocks. Heyes slipped, his knee hit the rocks hard and he grimaced but pulled himself back to his feet, relief on his face at having found his partner. Kid wanted to wave but he was not about to loosen his grip on the log.

“You okay?” Heyes called, across the river.

“Yeah,” Kid replied, breathlessly. “Can you get me outta here?”

“I’ll get some rope,” he turned away, then turned back. “Hey Kid,” he called.

“Yeah?”

“Hang on,” Heyes told him, straight faced and then he gave his friend a smile, which told his blond friend just how relieved he was.

“Very funny, Heyes just go get the rope, and be quick!” Kid replied, tersely. The cold water was sapping his strength and he didn’t want to spend any longer in it than necessary. Then he felt the log move. Heyes heard it too. He froze in his tracks and looked back over his shoulder. The tree trunk shifted position again. Kid held on tight. One end of the trunk dropped and Kid saw the fear in his partner’s eyes as the log hit the water. From his position on the bank, Heyes could only watch as Kid was carried away from him once more.

As the current picked up speed Kid crashed into another boulder. His hat had fallen off and was now full of water, the cord around his neck threatening to choke him. Kid pushed himself away from the rocks and failed to see another fallen tree trunk lying across the river until it was too late. His head collided with the bark and the world of cold rushing water turned to darkness.

***

“Harry can you see him?” Heyes called across the river, to where Briscoe rode along the far bank.

“Nothing,” came the reply. Heyes had climbed back onto his horse and set off after Kid but now he was once again on foot, running along the bank desperate for any sign of his partner. He refused to let the fear he felt take hold of him. His eyes scanned the white water, searching every twist and turn of the meandering river, every, inlet for any sign of Kid.

“He could be miles downstream by now,” Harry stated, dramatically. Heyes knew it could soon be true but he was not about to give up. He wouldn’t let himself think about that. He wouldn’t allow into his mind any other possibilities than finding Kid alive. As he turned a bend, the water finally grew calmer, as the river became wider and shallower, the once raging torrent now tumbling gently over rocks and boulders. Heyes froze. In the middle of the river lying face down was Kid Curry. Heyes ran into the water, splashing and slipping, as he lost his footing on a loose rock but righting himself again.

“Kid! Kid!” he yelled, as he ran “Harry! Get over here!”

Although face down, Kid’s head was above the water, his chest lying across a rock. Heyes waded knee deep, through the water, towards his partner.

“Kid,” Heyes said gently, suppressing his own fear, and his partner groaned. Relief swept over Heyes. Kid was alive.

Heyes carefully turned his friend onto his back. Blood flowed from a horizontal cut across Kid’s forehead. Kid’s wet hair was plastered about his face.

Harry pulled his horse to a halt and climbing from the saddle, scrambled down the bank.

“How is he?” he asked, as he splashed his way across the river to Heyes’ side.

“Alive,” Heyes stated. “Help me get him to the bank.” Between them, they carried Kid to a flat sandy patch at the river’s edge and lay him down. Heyes removed Kid’s hat from around his neck, pouring out the water as he did so. As he tilted his partner’s head, Kid groaned again and then he began to cough. Convulsing coughs wracked his body as Kid rid his stomach of river water. Heyes turned him onto his side and held him firmly, supporting him as Kid retched again and again, coughing and heaving before finally collapsing back, exhausted, his breathing heavy. Water ran from his hair and carried a stream of blood across Kid’s face. Kid took great gulps of air. Eventually, he grew calmer and opening his eyes, looked up at his friend.

“How you doin’?” Heyes asked, gently. Two weary blue eyes focussed on his and Heyes had his answer. “Just take it easy.”

“Heyes,” Kid said weakly and followed it up with more coughing.

“It’s okay. Just rest,” Heyes told him as he placed his bandana on Kid’s forehead. Heyes felt his partner flinch beneath his touch. “Hold still,” he said as he held the bandana in place, hoping to stop the flow of blood. Kid closed his eyes again.

“Is there anything I can do?” Harry asked as he stood at Heyes’ side.

“Yeah, see if you can find some dry wood. Start making a fire. We need to get him warm and dry.” Pleased to have something useful to do, Harry set off in search of firewood.

A sudden gasp from Kid drew Heyes’ attention back to his friend. Kid coughed again. He looked pale, despite the blood covering his face. Kid gave his friend a weak smile.

“You know you scared me half to death,” Heyes scolded, kindly.

“I wasn’t exactly having fun out there,” Kid protested, as he pulled himself into a sitting position. He coughed and held his abdomen as the coughing was beginning to hurt his sides.

“Yeah, well try not to fall into any more rivers, okay?”

“I wasn’t plannin’ on it Heyes,” Kid assured him. Reaching up he took the bandana from Heyes. “I got it,” he said and looked at the amount of blood that had soaked into the cloth before holding it back in place. Then as he sat back resting against a boulder, Heyes saw his eyes growing heavy, then Kid’s hand, and the bandana he held, slid to his side. Heyes moved quickly, gently lowering his friend to the ground. Heyes took hold of the bandana, tying it around Kid’s head.

“I’m just a little dizzy,” Kid told him.

“It’s not surprising from that lump on your head Kid,” Heyes said lightly, hiding his own worries. “Any idea what you hit?”

“A tree, I think. I don’t know,” Kid said and he started to shiver.

“I’ll get you a blanket,” his partner said and went to get the blanket from his horse.

“You need to get out of those wet clothes.” Heyes told Kid, when he returned.

With a helping hand from his partner, Kid sat up. He began to unbutton his shirt, his fingers trembling from the cold. He groaned as he twisted to remove his arm from one sleeve. As Kid removed his shirt and Henley, Heyes took them from him. He wrung out as much water as he could, then hung Kid’s soaking shirt over a bush and laid his Henley out on a rock in an effort to get them dry. He kept an eye on his partner as he did so. Kid’s movements were slow and he was still shivering, as he wrapped himself in the blanket.

“What about your jeans?” Heyes asked.

“I am…not gonna…sit here…nekkid,” Kid stammered.

“You could get pneumonia,” Heyes informed him.

“Not if…someone gets…dry clothes…for me,” Kid said and Heyes decided not to comment on how stubborn his partner could be at times.

Harry soon returned with armfuls of wood. He saw Kid sitting against a boulder, the blanket around his shoulders and the bloody bandana tied around his head. Kid looked up at the detective’s return.

“I’m sorry Thaddeus,” Harry said. “I couldn’t hold my horse.”

“It’s okay, Harry. These things happen,” Kid assured him, his teeth beginning the chatter.

“Yeah, they just keep happening to us that’s all,” Heyes muttered and Kid gave a weak smile. He saw the worried look in Heyes’ brown eyes.

“I’ll be okay,” he assured his friend, as he shivered.

“He needs to get into some dry clothes,” Heyes stated.

Harry dumped the wood on the ground.

“I’ll go get your horse and that mule,” he volunteered and walked back across the river to his horse.

After they watched him go, Heyes set about making a fire, sending a casual glance Kid’s way as he piled up the wood, selected some kindling and watched the fire grow. Kid’s eyes closed and Heyes thought Kid might be sleeping but as the flames grew the blond man eased himself nearer to the fire, holding his hands out to the flames as he shivered once more.

Heyes knelt in front of Kid, and then sat back on his heels.

“So how are you really?” Heyes asked, as he lifted the bandana and examined the wound.

“I’m okay,” Kid assured him. Heyes gave him a disbelieving look. “At least I will be. My head hurts. I just need some time to rest.”

“Is your vision okay?”

“It’s fine, so don’t even think about that finger back and forth thing, cos I know you don’t know what you’re doing,” Kid told him. “I can see just one of you Heyes and that’s enough for me.” Heyes looked his partner in the eye and smiled.

“Alright,” he conceded.

“I’m fine.”

“Hmmmm,” was all Heyes said. The bleeding had almost stopped but Heyes placed the cloth back on Kid’s forehead. “We’ll camp here. We can ride on tomorrow.”

“Heyes, I can…” Kid started to protest.

“I’m still the leader Kid, at least until we get our amnesty,” Heyes told him, expecting that to be the end of the matter.

“I’m too weak to argue with you,” Kid told him. “But, when I feel better, we need to discuss that.” He closed his eyes.

Heyes looked up at the sound of approaching horses and instinctively reached for his gun. Kid’s eyes shot open and his hand was quickly at his side. It was only Harry. He pulled Kid’s horse and the mule behind him, across the river.

“Why didn’t we cross here?” Kid asked and his friend could only shrug.

Heyes went to meet him and untied Kid’s saddlebags, finding his partner a change of clothes. Harry saw to the horses and mule, as Heyes returned to his partner.

Kid dropped the blanket and pulled on the dry Henley and shirt Heyes handed him. Then he removed his, socks, jeans and long johns, before dressing in dry ones. Heyes draped the wet items of clothing on other bushes and propped his socks on sticks by the fire.

Kid pulled a blanket back around his shoulders and huddled by the fire once more. Heyes made a pot of coffee. He thought his partner, Kid Curry, the fastest gun in the west, that most feared gunslinger was looking a little sorry for himself. He walked over to his friend, holding out a steaming cup of coffee. Kid nodded a ‘thanks’, as he took it, enjoying the warmth on his hands. Heyes eased himself down beside his friend. Kid said nothing as he sipped the warm brew. Kid made no comment about Heyes’ coffee and the dark-haired man knew his friend was hurting.

Harry joined them and they sat in companionable silence, each watching the flames dancing around in a gently evening breeze. Heyes saw the cup in Kid’s hand begin to tilt and, reaching forward, he took it carefully from his friend. Kid did not seem to notice. Kid’s head dropped forward and it wasn’t long before he was sound asleep.

***

Heyes sat keeping watch on the campsite but mostly he was keeping an eye on Kid, who was now lying, stretched out on his bedroll, close to the fire. His blond-haired friend was sleeping peacefully.

Harry came to sit beside him, resting back against the same boulder. He noted the object of Heyes’ attention.

“I’m sure Thaddeus will be all right,” Harry said and Heyes turned to look at the man with his combed hair and thin moustache.

“I hope so Harry. He does have a pretty thick skull,” Heyes said and smiled.

“I envy you two, your friendship. I never had a best friend. Not even as a boy,” the Bannerman man told him.

Heyes said nothing, letting the other man talk.

“I had a dog. “A boy should have a dog,” my father said,” Harry had a far away look in his eyes, as he remembered his childhood pet. “Damn thing bit me every chance it got.”

Heyes suppressed a smirk.

“You don’t have a lot of luck do you Harry,” Heyes observed.

“To tell you the truth Joshua, no I don’t. But this time…” he patted his pocket where the map was. “Well who knows. We have gold to dig up and a reward to claim. And I’ve got you boys to help me, so what could go wrong?”

Heyes had a good idea of all the things that could go wrong but he decided it was best not to say anything. After all Kid’s trip downstream had nearly cost him his life, so this was turning out to be far from the easy job they had hoped for.

“You’re feeling lucky?” Heyes asked Harry.

“You know, I think I am.” Harry smiled.

A sudden cry caught their attention and they looked towards Kid. He was breathing fast, clearly in the middle of a dream or maybe, after the day’s events, it was more like a nightmare. Heyes moved to his partner’s side and laid a hand gently on his shoulder.

“Kid,” he said softly, then again a little louder. “Kid.”

Two blue eyes shot open and for a fleeting moment, Heyes saw fear on his partner’s face. Yes, it had been a nightmare.

“S’it my watch?” Kid asked, relieved to see his partner’s face.

“No. You were having a bad dream.”

“Oh.”

“Go back to sleep. I’ll wake you when it’s your turn,” Heyes assured him.

“Make sure you do,” Kid said sleepily.

Heyes watched as his partner returned to sleep, having no intention of waking him that night.

***

Heyes awoke the next morning grumpy from a lack of sleep. At first, he tried not to show it. He was making a fresh pot of coffee, when a groan behind him caught his attention.

“Oh God!”

Heyes turned round to see Kid, lying on his back beneath the blanket, holding his head. He walked over to his partner and crouched down.

“Headache?” he asked.

“I think it’s going to explode,” Kid told him. He looked at his partner through narrowed eyes. “You didn’t wake me.”

“No I didn’t,” Heyes admitted. Kid thought about it.

“Thanks,” Kid said, as he eased himself onto his elbows. He groaned again.

“Let me have a look,” Heyes said, as he knelt beside him and lifted the bandana around Kid’s head.

“Ow!” Kid complained, as the cloth had stuck to the dried blood.

“I’ll have to wet it to get it off.”

Heyes went down to the river and returned with a cup of water. He poured a little over the cloth, untied it at the back and gently eased it away from Kid’s head. The wound was smaller than he remembered but there was some painful looking purple and red bruising across it.

“How does it look?” Kid asked.

“Impressive,” Heyes told him. “You’ve got a rainbow of colours there.”

“You should see it from this side.”

Heyes washed his bandana in the river, watching as Kid’s blood flowed from it and was carried downstream. He’d seen too much of it spilt lately. He squeezed the bandana to remove as much water as possible, then laid it on a boulder in the early morning sunshine to dry and returned to his friend.

Kid had pulled himself unsteadily to his feet and was supporting himself with a hand on a large boulder. His eyes were downcast; his shoulders low, telling Heyes all he needed to know about his partner’s condition. He was suffering but probably wouldn’t admit it.

Harry began to stir beneath his blanket. He stared at them through half open eyes, and then sniffed the air.

“Is that coffee I smell?” he asked, hopefully.

“Yeah and I don’t want any complaints!” Heyes snapped.

“I didn’t…” Harry began to protest.

“Well don’t!” Heyes told him sharply.

“Boy you sure got out of the wrong side of the bed roll this morning, Heyes,” Kid remarked.

“Yeah, well if you hadn’t fallen in the river I mighta got a good night’s sleep,” the dark-haired man complained.

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Kid told him, fixing his partner with a stare.

“Maybe not but you’re the reason I’m grumpy so don’t go complaining,” Heyes told him and turning away he knocked over his cup of coffee. “Damn it!” Heyes yelled and kicked the cup across the campsite. His shoulders sagged and then he was silent, composing himself. Without a word, Heyes walked off in the direction of the horses.

“Boy, Joshua sure is tetchy today,” Harry observed as he pulled himself to his feet. Kid stared after his partner.

“Yeah, ain’t he just,” he said with a far away look in his eye. He set off after his friend. He found Heyes leaning with his back against a tree. He ran his hands through his hair, brushing back a few floppy strands from his face. Heyes looked up as he saw Kid approach and he gave him a slight smile.

“Is it safe to approach, or do I need my gun?” Kid asked.

“It’s safe,” Heyes told him. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re tired,” Kid said, as he stood at his friend’s side. Heyes sighed. “What’s wrong?”

Heyes looked up about to deny that anything was but Kid saw the look in Heyes’ eyes and knew he was about to lie.

“You’re right. I’m tired,” Heyes admitted.

“And?”

“And that makes me grumpy,” Heyes admitted.

“And?” Kid asked again.

“Boy you sure are persistent this morning,” Heyes complained. Kid just looked at his partner, waiting for an answer. “And…you coulda been killed yesterday and I had a lot of time to think last night.”

“About what?”

“About everything. The amnesty, Lom, the Governor, the number of times we’ve been hurt or shot.” Kid didn’t say anything, giving Heyes time to collect his thoughts. “What if we don’t get the amnesty Kid? What are we gonna do? I mean here we are trying to go straight and we get hurt more than we did when we were outlawing! We’re not getting any younger either.”

“You really did think about everything didn’t ya,” Kid smiled as he said it. “Heyes…” his partner looked up at him waiting to hear the words of wisdom Kid was about to impart. “Let’s have breakfast,” Kid said placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder. Two dark eyes met his.

“Food?” Heyes asked incredulously. “I just tell you all of that and all you can think about is food?”

“Well Heyes, if you’re gonna figure it all out, that sharp mind of yours is gonna need sustenance,” Kid told him. His partner considered this. Heyes finally smiled, revealing two dimples.

“You know Kid, I think a little of my genius is rubbing off on you.” Kid smiled, deciding it was best not to disagree, and they turned back to the campsite.

***

They reached Tinderville that afternoon. It was a small town, the saloon being the largest building and most profitable enterprise. It was on the stagecoach route only because it was on the shortest line between Hogwood and Harlow Gap but that was enough to bring people to the town. It also meant they soon had a bank, telegraph office, doctor and a sheriff. They rode passed a building with the word ‘Jail’ written on a board above the door. There was no name but a few discreet questions from Harry identified the sheriff as Walter Clark. Harry watched his companions relax as neither had heard of the man before.

They took two rooms at the Hotel. Harry was beginning to regret offering to pay as Heyes arranged for a large room, at the front of the hotel, with two beds, for himself and Kid, and another room for Harry. Heyes was still a little concerned about his partner who had said very little since his fall in the river.

“D’you want a bath Thaddeus?” Heyes asked as they registered at the hotel. Kid just glared at his friend and Heyes smiled.

He wanted Kid to see the doctor but knew that would not go down well with his partner. When they were finally alone, Harry’s room being three doors away from theirs, Heyes decided to broach the subject.

“You’re quiet Kid,” he said casually.

“Got nothin’ to say,” Kid stated as he sat down heavily on the bed. “Besides, I’m always quiet.”

“Not always, but this is different,” Heyes told him.

“Maybe I’m tired,” Kid said and Heyes did not miss the reference to his own moodiness that morning.

“Does your head still hurt?” he asked.

“Yes,” Kid admitted.

“I think you should see the doctor,” Heyes stated and Kid’s eyes looked up at him.

“I don’t need a doctor.”

“Now don’t get all defensive. You took a blow to the head and don’t think I haven’t noticed you protecting your left arm. You hit that too?” Kid touched his arm where it had been slammed against the rocks. It hurt like hell. He tried not to let anyone know but he should have known he couldn’t hide it from Heyes.

“It’s not broken, just bruised, I think,” Kid stated.

“Exactly, you think. Well we need to know for sure. You rest here. I’m going to see who the doctor is in this town,” Heyes headed for the door, as Kid sat on the edge of the bed. Kid looked up at his partner.

“Heyes.” The dark-haired man stopped at the mention of his name, expecting another argument. “Thanks,” Kid said. Heyes nodded and left the room.

When he was alone, Kid eased off his leather vest and began to unbutton his shirt. He removed it and then pulled his Henley over his head, flinching as he did so. Kid stood up and approached the mirror that sat above a chest of drawers. He saw deep purple bruises on the upper part of his left arm and bruises and scratches across his ribs. He brushed his hair aside and looked at the gash across his forehead and the bruising around it. He looked a sorry sight. Kid ached all over.

He returned to the bed and unbuckling his gun belt, hung it on the bedpost. Then he sat down on the bed and, with an effort, pulled off his boots. Easing himself back onto the pillow, Kid gave a long sigh as he lay down. He was beginning to think Heyes’ idea to work for Harry had not been such a good plan after all. It was supposed to be a few easy days with Harry paying all the bills. It didn’t feel easy at the moment.

The sound of someone at the door startled Kid Curry awake. He was reaching for his gun, when the door opened and Heyes walked in with a man Kid did not know. Heyes smiled kindly at his partner. Kid looked tired and confused.

“Thaddeus, this is Doctor Scott. He’s come to take a look at you.”

“Well he’s seen me, now let me get back to sleep,” Kid said uncharacteristically impolite. He lay back on the bed, turned onto his side and closed his eyes. Heyes wore a fixed grin as he whacked his partner on the rump with his hat.

“Get up!” he said, through gritted teeth, while maintaining the grin purely for the doctor’s benefit.

Kid opened his eyes and looked at his partner. Heyes gave him a smile but his eyes told him to get up or else. Kid was too tired to argue. This was another thing they would be discussing later. Maybe he should be making a list. He sat up slowly, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. Kid looked up at the thin grey-haired man in the dark suit.

“Pleased to meet you Doc,” Kid said. The man appeared to have taken no offence by Kid’s earlier response.

“How do you do Mr. Jones,” he said, giving the curly-haired blond man a pleasant smile, as he placed his bag on the nearby table. “Your friend tells me you went for an unexpected swim.”

“You could say that,” Kid admitted, as he turned two blue eyes on his partner.

“Did you swallow much water?” Doctor Scott asked.

“Only about a bath full.”

The doctor smiled slightly.

“Any get into your lungs?”

“Yes, but I think that all came out.” Kid looked up at Heyes, as he stood leaning against the wall. His partner gave him a knowing smile.

“Mind if I take a look?” the doctor asked, although as Kid had fallen asleep before replacing his shirt and Henley, the doctor had already cast a professional eye over the bruises on the young man’s torso. He examined Kid, as Heyes stood by the door watching with concern. He too had noticed the purple marks on his friend’s body. They looked painful and it was typical of his partner not to let on how badly he had been hurt.

Kid flinched a couple of times beneath the doctor’s touch and answered the man’s questions truthfully. Eventually Doctor Scott stood back and removed his glasses, clearly ready to give his prognosis.

“Well nothing seems to be broken,” he announced. “You’ve got some fine bruises there and I imagine they’ll be a little painful for a few days. That cut on your forehead is healing nicely. I see no reason for any stitches and I see no signs of concussion either.”

“So is he gonna be alright?” Heyes asked.

“As good as new in no time,” Doctor Scott said cheerfully as he packed up his bag.

“Thanks Doc,” Kid said gratefully, although clearly still tired.

Heyes paid the man his fee, thanked him once again and saw him to the door.

“I told you I just need some rest,” Kid stated, as Heyes closed the door.

“It’s always best to be sure Kid,” the dark-haired man told him. “Especially with a head injury. You know that.” Kid knew from Heyes smile how relieved he was.

“Thanks Heyes, thanks for worrying about me,” Kid said, as he lay back on the bed and closed his eyes.

“Well somebody has to,” Heyes said as he moved to the window watching the people on the street below. “You’d never stay outta trouble if it wasn’t for me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to get you out of some mess or other.”

“Whatever you say Heyes,” Kid replied, sleepily.

“You get yourself in more gunfights than is good for you. You know Kid…” Heyes turned towards the bed to see if his partner was listening. The steady rhythm of Kid’s breathing told him that his friend was asleep. Hannibal Heyes picked up a blanket and placed it over Kid’s bruised body. Then he picked up his book, from the table, and settled down, on the other bed, to read and, once more, keep an eye on his friend.

***

“You coming down for breakfast?” Heyes asked.

Kid had slept almost continuously from the time the doctor had seen him until that morning, waking only occasionally to give Heyes a sleepy smile or a confused look. Heyes had joined Harry for dinner in the hotel restaurant but had declined to join him at the saloon, actually forgoing a game of poker to return to check on Kid. He had found his partner sound asleep.

This morning Kid looked much better. His blue eyes had their sparkle back. The bruises looked impressive and he was obviously still in pain but to Hannibal Heyes he seemed more like his old self and Kid was hungry too.

“I don’t have any money,” Kid informed his partner and Heyes gave him a quizzical look. Kid had won quite a bit in the last poker game they had played.

“Why not?”

“I fell in the river, everything fell out,” Kid explained.

“C’mon, Harry’s paying remember?” Heyes reminded him and they headed towards the door. “Although, I don’t know why you can’t stuff some money in your boot,” Heyes added, as he opened the door.

“Do you?” Kid asked, already knowing the answer.

“No, but that’s not the point.”

“It ain’t?”

“No. I’m not the one who can’t buy himself breakfast.”

“Well even if I could buy myself breakfast, you’d never shove money in your boot, so why should I?”

“For occasions like this,” Heyes told him.

“Like what?”

“When you can’t buy yourself a decent meal.”

“But Heyes we just…” Kid looked at his partner. “You know there are times when…” But words failed Kid and Heyes stared at him waiting to hear what was coming next. Kid shook his head in defeat.

“Let’s get breakfast,” he said and they walked along the corridor in search of the hotel restaurant.

***

They rode out of Tinderville two days later. Kid had argued that he was fine and able to ride but Heyes was adamant. They would all rest up, gather the extra supplies they needed and ride out when Kid was fully recovered. Secretly, Kid was pleased. His body ached and his head was still groggy but after two days rest, he was keen to get going again.

Once again, Heyes rode in front, Harry in the middle and Kid brought up the rear with the rope attached to the, fully laden, mule, wrapped around his saddle horn.

Harry had an excited air about him. Several times, he took out the map, studied the surrounding terrain and then put it back in his pocket. Later Heyes took it from him and they discussed what sort of landmarks to look for.

They rode in silence, the hot sun soon had each man wiping away beads of sweat, or adjusting his hat against the glare. Heyes and Harry regarded the landscape with new interest as they neared what they believed to be the site of the ‘buried treasure’.

The sun was high overhead when Harry pulled his horse to a halt and looked around.

“I think we’re here boys,” he said, as he took the map from his jacket pocket once again. Kid looked at Heyes who shrugged. “Yes, look. There’s the tree, the rocks. Here look.” He showed the map to Heyes and pointed. “This is it boys! It’s time to dig!”

Harry jumped down from his horse and began to scour the ground. Kid and Heyes eased themselves from the saddle.

“C’mon. Let’s get digging!” Harry urged and Heyes turned to his partner.

“You heard the man. Start digging.”

Kid gave him a look.

“Where?” Kid asked. Harry was soon beside them with the map.

“Joshua what do you think?” Harry asked and, after some consideration, Heyes led him to a rock near a dead tree.

Under Heyes’ direction, Kid paced out four paces north and stopped. He looked at Heyes.

“Ten paces south,” his partner told him. Kid turned and took ten paces south and stopped. “Okay this is where we dig,” the dark haired man announced. He handed Kid a shovel.

“I thought you just said we,” Kid remarked as he took it.

“I did,” Heyes assured him. “You go first.”

“Why do I hafta go first?” Kid asked.

“You’ve got the shovel,” Heyes pointed out helpfully as he sat down on a rock and folded his arms across his chest. Kid could have argued that he only had the shovel because Heyes had just given it to him but somehow it just required too much energy.

“You know Heyes, there are a few things you and I need to talk about when this is over.” With a sideways glance at his partner, he dug the shovel into the ground.

The three men took turns to dig. The ground was relatively easy to break but it was still hard dusty work and all three soon built up a sweat. Kid and Heyes removed their gun belts and shirts, preferring to work in their Henleys. Harry removed his jacket, gun belt and loosened his tie.

“Is that it Harry?” Kid asked. “You could take that tie off you know.”

“Standards, Thaddeus,” the Bannerman man replied. “I like to keep up standards.”

Kid looked at his partner hoping Heyes could explain that to him but Heyes just gave him a smile and shrugged his shoulders.

After some time digging Kid found himself in a hole up to his knees.

“Do you really think they would have dug any deeper?” he asked his partner. The bruises on Kid’s side and arm were hurting him and he was hoping for a chance to rest.

“Well any shallower and someone might find it.” Heyes waved his hand at his cousin. “Keep digging,” he instructed. Two blue eyes shot in his direction and then Kid dug the shovel in the dirt once more.

“C’mon Thaddeus put your back into it,” Harry encouraged. Kid stopped and looked at Harry who was suddenly glad Kid’s gun and holster were lying on the ground out of reach.

“I’m gonna remind you two that I’m an injured man,” Kid stated tetchily.

“Well you don’t want those bones to stiffen up do you?” Heyes asked him. “Exercise is good for you.”

“Then you do some!” Kid snapped and dug the shovel into the ground. There was the thump of metal on wood. Kid looked up at the two dark-haired men and Harry Briscoe grinned.

“You’ve found it!” he cried.

Kid scraped more dirt away to reveal a box. Heyes joined him in the hole and soon more of the box was exposed. It was a strong box, the sort used to transport money…or gold.

“Pull it up here, let’s see what we’ve got,” Harry instructed and Kid and Heyes hoisted the box out of the hole. There was a padlock on the box. Heyes removed his lock pick from his boot and had the padlock open by the time Kid climbed out. Heyes carefully lifted the lid and the three men held their breaths waiting to see what was inside.

A frown appeared on Heyes’ face. He removed a piece of paper from the box, which was otherwise empty. Opening it, he studied it for a moment, looked disappointed and then began to read it aloud, word for word.

“I knew you’d double cross me Brady or maybe I is dead. Either way it ain’t here. So ha ha. You want it you will have to find it. So here’s another map.”

“Another map?” Kid moaned. He turned to Briscoe. “Harry!”

“I didn’t know boys. You know that.” Harry looked over Heyes’ shoulder at the note.

“I thought you said they were stupid?” Heyes said as he looked at the map. Once more, there were buildings, rocks, trees and squiggles drawn on the parchment. Compass points and crudely drawn footsteps told of the location of another ‘X’. Heyes looked at it for a while, comparing it to the first map and trying to work out where they had to go next. Then he handed it to Harry as he stood up.

“Kid, I think…” was all Heyes said and then there was the sound of a gunshot and a bullet grazed a nearby rock.

“The next bullet hits the first man that moves,” a voice called out. Kid and Heyes exchanged a glance, and then looked at Harry who was sensibly rooted to the spot. No one moved. “Raise your hands above your heads,” the voice instructed and they did as they were told.

Five men rode into view, two from beyond the trees and three from behind a nearby rocky outcrop. One man, obviously the leader, with sandy brown hair tucked under a brown hat, edged his horse slightly in front of the others and Heyes saw Kid’s shoulder stiffen. He tried to catch his partner’s eye. Kid was tight lipped. Oddly, the blond ex-outlaw’s gaze was focussed, not on the men riding towards them, but, on the ground. He knew Kid was thinking and thinking fast.

“Step away from the box,” the leader ordered, as the other men pointed their guns at them. The two ex-outlaws and the Bannerman detective did as they were told. Harry removed his hat wiping beads of sweat from his brow before replacing it. The leader looked at Kid and Heyes saw a look of recognition on the man’s face. The man gave a slow ironic smile.

“Well, well, well, if it ain’t Kid Curry,” the man said and he urged his horse forward. He stopped in front of the curly-haired man and, finally looking up, Kid met his gaze. “Remember me?” the man asked.

“I remember you Brady,” Kid said and Heyes thought back to the day in the saloon when Harry had first told them about the gold.

“Remember what I told you?” Brady asked. Kid looked at him, his eyes narrowed but he said nothing. Brady urged his horse closer. “I asked you a question.”

Again, Kid didn’t respond and the blond-man could sense his partner’s growing irritation with him. Heyes was sending a silent message to his friend. Damn it Kid! Answer him will you. Don’t you push it. Kid remained silent.

Brady took his foot from the stirrup and suddenly kicked out at Kid, catching him a glancing blow to the chest. Kid staggered backwards falling to his knees. He held his chest as the breath was knocked out of him.

“I’ll ask once more, do you remember what I told you?” Brady said.

“I remember,” Kid replied, still holding his chest as he gasped for breath. His injuries from the river plunge were still fresh and painful and that kick hadn’t helped them heal.

“Good,” Brady said smugly. “I’ve been waiting for someone to come for the gold. I knew it was around these parts, just had to watch and wait. Had my boys keeping an eye out…and then you turned up.”

He edged his horse forward and looked into the empty box.

“Where’s the gold?” he asked.

“Looks like someone expected your brother to double cross him,” Harry replied. “He’s buried it somewhere else and left us another map.” Harry waved a piece of paper in Brady’s direction as Kid and Heyes rolled their eyes and exchanged disbelieving looks.

“Tie ‘em up and bring me the map!” Brady ordered. Two men slipped from their horses and approached the three men. They removed the guns from the prisoners’ holsters, pulled their hands behind their backs and bound them together with rope. One man grabbed the map from Harry and passed it to his boss.

“You men should know I’m a Bannerman Detective,” Harry told them full of self-importance. “The BDA don’t take too kindly to their men being manhandled.” Brady’s men exchanged a glance, wondering if they should be concerned. They shook their heads. Heyes and Kid also exchanged a look, certain it was better if Harry kept quiet about the BDA. Brady climbed from the saddle.

“You’re a Bannerman Detective?” Brady asked incredulously. “So what are you doing with these two?”

“I hired them,” Harry told him.

“And you didn’t know he was Kid Curry?” Brady asked, pointing a finger towards Kid.

“Kid Curry?” Harry feigned surprise.

“Yeah. You didn’t know?”

“Of course not!” Harry replied indignantly. “Do you seriously think a Bannerman Detective would be associating with a known outlaw?”

Brady just looked at him, waiting to hear more.

“I hired these men in Mason’s Bluff. I needed two men to help dig up the gold.”

Brady gave him a sideways glance, trying to decide if he was lying or not. He turned his attention to the map instead. He opened the map, looked at it, then looked around.

“D’you know where this is?” he asked Harry, as he tapped the map.

“Well I…” Harry stammered.

“He’s no good at reading maps,” Heyes said. “But I reckon I can find it, if it follows the same pattern as the first,” Heyes told him honestly, hoping to buy them all some time.

“Mr. Bannerman himself will send out men looking for me if I don’t report in on time,” Harry continued. Brady stood in front of the dark-haired man and Harry’s moustache twitched slightly.

“Shut up!” Brady snapped and Harry stared at him briefly before looking away. Brady looked at Heyes, sizing him up. Turning back to his men, he waved a hand towards the prisoners. “I want to get back to camp before dark. Get them on their horses and let’s get outta here.” Brady ordered.

“We’re taking them with us?” a tall willowy man named Mead asked.

“Sure,” Brady replied. “Wouldn’t want them to miss out on all the fun would we?” His men laughed, but Heyes had a feeling it wasn’t going to be fun at all.

Heyes, Kid and Harry were helped into their saddles, the reins were taken from them and the horses were led by Brady’s men, as they rode off.

Brady took the lead, followed by Hallows, then Heyes, Stubbs, Kid and Harry with Guthrie and Mead at the rear. They rode for an hour before descending into a valley with a stream running through it. They finally stopped in a clearing beside the stream, in front of three small wooden buildings; two were cabins and the other a store of some kind. The prisoners were pulled from their horses and made to kneel down in front of the larger cabin. The horses were led away by the stocky, bald man, Hallows. Brady strode before his prisoners like a general before the big battle.

“You didn’t say if you was pleased to see me,” he said to Kid.

“I think you know how I feel,” Kid stated and Brady hit him across the face with the back of his hand. Kid fell back, then pulled himself onto his knees again.

“You already got some nice bruises there Kid,” Brady observed. “Guess I ain’t the first person you annoyed recently. So now you’re trying to collect some more?”

Heyes closed his eyes in despair; willing his friend to cooperate. Just once Kid, couldn’t you answer the man’s questions?

“Get ‘em up,” Brady ordered and they were pulled to their feet and Brady hit Kid again in the stomach. Then, as Kid stood doubled over, he turned his attention to the two dark-haired men. “We know this is Mr. Important Bannerman Detective,” he said as he stood in front of Harry. Then he looked at Heyes, then back at Kid and smiled.
.
“So this must be Hannibal Heyes,” Brady said, as he stood in front of Kid’s partner. “The great Hannibal Heyes. Heard a lot about you,” the outlaw told Heyes.

“All good I hope,” Heyes said pleasantly and Brady hit him across the face with the back of his hand. Heyes stumbled backwards but did not fall. Kid moved forward only to have Stubbs and Guthrie behind him, grab his arms to prevent him helping his partner. Brady smiled.

“I don’t remember tellin’ you, you could talk,” Brady said as Heyes was shoved in front of him. Heyes ran his tongue over the blood on his split lip. Brady noted the murderous look he was getting from Kid Curry.

“Want to protect your partner Kid?” Brady asked casually. He grabbed Heyes by the hair, tilting his head back as he looked at Kid. “What you plannin’ on doin’ to help him?” Kid pulled against the men holding him.

“Don’t Kid,” Heyes warned him and a blow in the ribs from Brady, knocked his breath from him.

“Didn’t you hear me? You don’t talk unless I tell you to,” Brady said again. “Bet you’d like to pay me back for that wouldn’t you?” he said to Heyes. “You too huh Kid?”

Brady’s eyes fell on the blond man. Heyes and Kid both stared at the man but neither spoke. Brady looked from Heyes to Kid, and then cast a glance towards Harry.

“Tie that fool to a tree,” he waved a hand at Harry. “I’ll figure out what to do with him later.”

Harry looked worried, as they dragged him towards a large tree and proceeded to tie him with his back against the gnarled trunk.

“Don’t do this! I get terrible claustrophobee,” he complained but they ignored him. “And I have an allergy to tree sap!”

“Gag him,” Brady ordered and a bandana was stuffed into Harry’s mouth and tied around the back of his head.

“I’ve been waiting to pay you back for a long time, Curry. Seems I found me a way to start.” Hallows returned from taking care of the horses. “Hold him,” Brady instructed Stubbs and Guthrie and they pulled Kid’s arms backwards hard, wrenching them in their shoulder sockets.

Brady waved a hand at Heyes and signalled to Mead and Hallows, now standing behind Heyes.

“Rough him up a little, boys.” Brady ordered and then stepped back. Kid could only watch as Mead threw a punch at his partner catching him in the jaw. Heyes staggered backwards, then righted himself as Hallows took his turn and another blow hit the dark-haired man. Kid flinched as punches rained into his friend’s face and body. Heyes doubled over as a blow hit in the ribs and another in the stomach. He dropped to his knees. With his hands tied behind his back, he had no way to defend himself from the onslaught. He looked up at the men but they gave him only a moment to catch his breath before pulling him roughly to his feet. His left eye was now swollen and blood ran from his nose, mouth and from a cut on his left cheek.

Kid struggled against the men holding him and finally managed to break free. However, he experienced only a moment of freedom before the butt of a gun hit him across the back and he fell stunned into the dirt.

Brady looked down at Kid, who fixed him with an icy blue stare.

“If looks could kill, huh Curry?”

Kid glared at him.

“This is between you an’ me Brady,” Kid said. “Do whatcha hafta, to me. Just leave my partner alone. He’s no part of this.”

Brady laughed and then he looked back at Kid, clearly thinking.

“Ah now ain’t that sweet. You care about him. Alright, we’ll leave him alone, for now.” Brady began to pace. “You’re not much use to your partner now anyway Kid, not without your gun. No use at all.”

Kid looked at him, but he said nothing. Still thinking, Brady looked around. Then a sudden idea came to him.

“Drag him over here boys,” he ordered pointing to a log that lay near the fire where it was used as a seat. Kid was dragged towards it, his feet scattering a few cold embers as they caught the edge of the extinct fire. “Untie his wrists and tie his right arm out straight over the trunk. Make sure it’s good and tight,” Brady instructed them.

A little uncertain what to do, Stubbs and Guthrie exchanged a look and Brady waved his arm in an effort to explain. Untying the ropes around Kid’s wrists they shoved Kid to the ground, then pulled his right arm straight out across the log, still not sure why. They tied his arm firmly in place. As much as Kid struggled, he could not free his arm from across the tree trunk. The bark scratched at his flesh and he tried to loosen the ropes. His mind raced trying to work out what Brady was going to do. He had a few ideas, none of them pleasant. Brady laughed again.

“You struggling to get free Kid? Afraid o’what I got in mind? Worried about your gun arm there?”

Brady walked away. He had his back to them and Heyes strained to see what he was up to. His swollen eyes opened wide with fear when he saw Brady turn, carrying an axe.

“Oh Jesus no,” Heyes muttered under his breath, as Hallows and Mead held him.

Brady strode purposefully towards Kid, then stood over him. Kid saw the axe. His eyes opened wide, unable to hide that moment of panic, however, it was gone before Brady saw it.

“Now you boys make sure his arm stays real straight and tight. Don’t want him moving it do we?” Brady smiled wickedly at Kid, as Stubbs and Guthrie realised what their boss was about to do. They checked that the ropes around the log were going to hold.

“Brady, you ain’t gonna…?” Stubbs began.

“I sure is gonna,” Brady told him, mimicking the smaller man. “Hell, if a gunslinger ain’t no use without a gun, what’s he gonna be like without his gun hand?”

Kid’s eyes fixed on Brady’s and he tried not to show the fear he was feeling. He could face down a man in a gunfight and show not the faintest emotion because he knew he had a pretty good chance of beating him, but now, lying helpless with a madman waving an axe he felt dangerously out of his depth. Brady met the hard blue eyes that focussed on him now. He tried to out stare Curry but he couldn’t do it even now with Kid at his mercy, the blond man seemed so calm and cool. For a moment Kid saw doubt enter the other man’s eyes.

“Oh God don’t let him cut off my hand,” Kid pleaded, silently.

“Brady, you never told us what he did that’s so awful,” Heyes called through a bloody mouth, trying to distract the man. His mind was racing for a way out of this and it was failing miserably.

From his position tied to the tree Harry could see Brady, wielding the axe, swinging it back and forth in his hand as he stood over Kid, whose arm was stretched out over the unfortunately named stump.

“Oh no, Thaddeus,” Harry said, as he too realised what Brady had in mind but his words were muffled by the gag.

“I mean what could he possibly have done to make you angry?” Heyes continued. “Well, Brady, what did he do? I know he can be annoying. He sure can be irritating at times. I’m his partner and there are days when I could strangle him myself.”

Kid shot Heyes a look, even as he realised what his partner was trying to do. He wasn’t sure if this was the right way to go about it. Don’t go giving him any more ideas Heyes, or he’ll be stringing me up next!

“So I can understand if he angered you in some way,” Heyes continued. “For all his…”

“Shut up!” Brady yelled. Heyes fell silent and Brady turned back to Kid. “Hold him still boys.”

“Brady I don’t think…” Stubbs began.

“That’s right Stubbs, you don’t,” Brady told him. “And I don’t pay you to neither.”

Against their better judgement and because they were more afraid of Brady, Stubbs and Guthrie held Kid down. Kid struggled, trying desperately to free himself but it was no use. Brady stood over him and raised the axe.

“Brady don’t! For God’s sake man. Don’t do this!” Heyes cried, but Brady was not listening. Harry closed his eyes tight not wanting to witness what was coming next and hoping to drown out the cry of pain he expected to hear at the same time.

“Well Curry, you ready to be called Lefty?” Brady laughed.

“Brady, for pity sake!” Heyes cried.

Brady raised the axe above his head. Heyes stopped breathing. Brady’s eyes met Kid’s. Kid could not move and he did not turn away. His jaw was clenched tight. He was breathing heavily through his nose as a pulse thumped visibly in his neck. Brady gave the axe a couple of dramatic swings. Still Kid did not look away. He prepared himself for the excruciating pain he expected to feel at any moment.

Heyes’ eyes dropped to the ground, muttering prayers he’d forgotten he knew. He could not watch this.

Brady raised the axe. Kid’s hand balled into a fist and finally he closed his eyes, gritting his teeth as Brady brought the axe down.

THUD!

Heyes waited for Kid to cry out; waited for a scream of agonising pain from his best friend.

Nothing. There was an ominous silence.

Heyes eyes shot open. Guthrie stood in the way so he could not see what had happened. Why didn’t Kid make a sound? Oh God please not…?

Brady laughed and took a step backwards. Stubbs and Guthrie moved away too and Heyes saw the axe imbedded in the log a few inches above Kid’s arm…and his partner’s hand was still intact.

Heyes allowed himself to breathe again.

“Oh God thank you,” he muttered, though not usually a praying man.

Brady bent down to Kid, his eyes meeting those of the blond man. Kid Curry said nothing. In truth he couldn’t speak. If he did he thought just a squeak would come out. That had been just too damn close.

“Like I said Curry, this is gonna be fun,” Brady told him. “Put those two in the store, and make sure you tie ‘em up again,” he ordered as he headed for the main cabin. Stubbs and Guthrie exchanged a relieved look and, after untying Kid from the tree stump, they dragged him to his knees, grateful that they could tie both of his hands behind his back once more.

***

Hands tied behind their backs, Kid and Heyes were thrown roughly into the small storage shed, the door locked behind them.

“Heyes? Heyes?” Kid scrambled onto his knees and moved to his partner’s side, desperate to see if he was all right.

“I’m okay,” Heyes told him, through a bruised and bloodied mouth. “Kid?” Heyes said gently. “You alright?”

“I will be,” the blond man stated.

“What exactly did you do to him?” Heyes asked, as he lay on his side on the dirt floor.

“It’s a long story,” Kid told him. He struggled to free his hands. Beside him, Heyes struggled too, and finally, raised himself into a sitting position.

“I’m all ears. Hell they’re about the only part of me that doesn’t hurt at the moment,” Heyes stated as he leaned back against the wall. He looked at Kid through bruised and swollen eyes. His partner looked a little shaken, which was not surprising.

Kid didn’t speak.

“I thought he was really going to do it,” Heyes told him, gravely. “I really thought he was going to cut off your hand.”

“Yeah, so did I,” Kid told him and Heyes heard in his voice, the faintest trace of the fear his partner had felt. The fear he had not shown to Brady. Kid looked up at his friend. “So did I,” he repeated. Heyes gave him a reassuring smile.

“That was just too damn close,” Heyes said.

“Yeah, it was.”

They were both silent for a moment and Heyes realised they couldn’t dwell on it now.

“Well? What did you do to him?” Heyes prompted, waiting to hear what his friend had to say. Kid let out a heavy sigh and looked at him.

“It was after the job we did in Farlow Junction. We’d split up remember?” Heyes nodded and Kid struggled for a moment with his bonds. “I was with Kyle and a couple of the boys in some small town when Ned Brady and his gang rode in. Kyle was drinking at the bar and trying his luck with one of the saloon girls when Brady stepped up. Next thing I know he’s yellin’ at Kyle for knocking his arm and spilling his beer. Brady went for his gun.”

Kid struggled again. His wrists felt sore, but he was making headway and could definitely feel the ropes loosen.

“And?” Heyes prompted once more.

“I shot his holster off before he could draw,” Kid stated and Heyes smiled, always proud of the way his cousin could do that. “Brady didn’t take too kindly to that.”

“I don’t imagine he did.”

“It was time for us to leave town anyway, so I got the boys together but as we were saddling up Brady came out into the street. He’d got another gun and holster from one of his men. He starts calling me out…” Kid looked tired as he remembered that day.

“What happened?”

“Well I couldn’t just ignore him Heyes!” Kid said, exasperated more by Brady than his partner. “I told him I had no quarrel with him but he wasn’t gonna let it drop. He went for his gun again and I shot him in the arm. I could hear the boys yellin’ and one of Brady’s men was laughin’ too. Someone called out ‘That’s three ti…twice…Brady when you gonna learn?’” Kid sighed.

“I can see how that would annoy him,” Heyes said shifting to gain a more comfortable position. It was a fruitless task.

“I heard him calling out. ‘I’ll get you Curry!’ as we rode out.”

“He knew who you were?”

“Yeah, we’d been there before and the town didn’t have a sheriff, so we were pretty safe.”

“I guess he’s a man that holds a grudge,” Heyes observed.

“I wasn’t trying to humiliate him.”

“I know Kid but that’s what he got and in front of his men too.”

Kid finally got his hands free and pulling them in front began to carefully rub his wrists, encouraging the circulation back. He held out his right arm, looking at the upturned palm. Kid opened and closed his hand.

Heyes watched his partner.

“Hey,” he said and Kid met his gaze. “You all right?”

“I guess,” Kid said, although he did not convince himself, so he doubted Heyes believed him.

“Anything else I should know about?” Heyes asked, returning to their original conversation.

“No, that was pretty much it,” Kid said, as he edged towards Heyes, but the look on Kid’s face told his partner there was something more.

“You sure there’s not more to it than that? I thought you started to say ‘three times’ just then?”

“Well…”

“Kid?”

“It’s nothin’ Heyes,” Kid told him, as he reached behind his friend’s back to untie his hands.

“Well these bruises ain’t nothin’ and I’d like to know why I got ‘em and why I might be getting a few more,” Heyes told him over his shoulder. “You beat the guy in a fair gun fight but that isn’t all is it? You must have done something to make him want to chop off your hand!”

Kid said nothing.

“Well?” Heyes snapped, but not meaning to. He was taking out his anger at Brady on Kid and he knew it was unfair. Kid sighed.

“There was a girl,” Kid stated.

“Oh Kid,” Heyes rolled his eyes. “Not another one! When are you ever gonna learn?” Heyes closed his eyes and shook his head, instantly regretting it. Kid freed his friend’s wrists and moved to kneel in front of Heyes.

“She was…” Kid began.

“Don’t tell me. Blond hair, blue eyes, a smile that just broke your heart and you fell for it.” Kid just looked at his friend, as Heyes rubbed his wrists. “And I bet she was Brady’s girl too.”

“Yeah, she was.”

“And you did what? Got a little too close for his liking? He didn’t like the attention you were showing her, or did it go further than that?” Heyes asked, venting more of his anger on his partner. His wrists hurt and Brady swinging that axe had terrified him.

“No, Heyes, it didn’t!” Kid snapped. “I didn’t like watchin’ him beat her.”

“Playing the white knight again huh?” Heyes flicked the ropes away.

“Somethin’ like that,” Kid admitted, grudgingly.

“Maybe the lady could take care of herself? Did you ever think of that, Kid? Did you ever stop for one moment to think that maybe people can manage on their own? Maybe they don’t need you rushing to their rescue all the time?”

“Well I would have, Heyes, but as she was seven years old I didn’t want to wait and see.”

Hannibal Heyes’ mouth dropped open.

“What?” he asked.

“Brady’s girl was seven years old. His daughter by one of the saloon girls. She ran into him, he didn’t like it and slapped her across the face real hard. She started crying and he yelled at her to stop. When she didn’t he started laying into her and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch.” His partner didn’t say anything. “That okay by you?” Kid glared at his partner and saw his beaten face soften.

“Yeah, Kid, that’s fine by me,” Heyes told him sheepishly. He should have given his partner credit for knowing when to do the right thing.

“So what do we do now?” Kid asked.

“I don’t know. Get out of here if we can. He has the map now thanks to good ol’ Harry. What was he thinking?” Heyes wondered.

“That’s just it, he don’t think.”

“Well Brady’s gonna go after the gold that’s for sure.”

“Yeah but what’s he gonna do to us?” The look in Heyes’ eyes told Kid he had a pretty good idea already.

At that moment, the door opened. It was dusk outside. Hallows, Guthrie and Mead entered, none of them surprised to find the prisoners had their hands free. Hallows pointed a gun at Kid moving him away from his partner. The other two pulled Heyes to his feet and dragged him out the door.

“What’s going on?” Kid called as they disappeared into the darkness. “Where are you taking him?” They ignored him and the door slammed shut, a key turned in the lock, leaving Kid to wonder what they would do to Heyes this time. His partner was hurt and it was all his fault again.

***

Kid could do nothing but wait and worry. He rattled the door but it wouldn’t open. He pounded on it, and kicked it for a while, trying to distract them from Heyes but they ignored him. He paced back and forth, back and forth, just like his partner did when he was trying to come up with a plan. It didn’t seem to be helping Kid much and he wondered if it really did work for Heyes. Maybe it was just something to do while he…

A sudden single shot startled Kid. He strained his ears to hear what was going on outside. Another shot followed, then silence.

“Hey what’s going on?” Kid called, as he pounded on the door once more. “BRADY!”

A key turned in the lock. Kid stood back, not sure what to expect but praying that his partner was alive. Ned Brady stood in the doorway smiling and waving a gun at Kid.

“How you doin’ Curry?” he asked although he clearly didn’t care about Kid’s health.

“Where’s my partner?” Kid asked, his eyes narrow, his jaw set firm. Brady threw something into the room. Kid looked down and saw a familiar black hat lying on the floor.

“Guess he won’t be needing that anymore.” Brady laughed as he said it. Kid said nothing, controlling his anger, his hands clenched into tight fists. “Now what you have to decide is, is your friend alive or dead? Maybe he’s out there tied to a tree, like the detective man, bleeding a little but still breathing. Or maybe I found another use for that axe and that’s the sound of a shovel you hear and my men are digging a hole, six feet long. A body sure can start to stink out here if you don’t bury it soon.”

Brady laughed again and turned towards the door.

“I’ll let you think about that,” he grinned. “Like I said, Curry. This is fun.” He left, locking the door behind him.

Kid stood looking down at his partner’s hat. Slowly he bent down and picked it up. He turned it in his hands but saw no signs of the blood he was looking for. Kid let himself breathe again. They wanted him to think Heyes was dead. Maybe he was but he did not know that for sure and he always thought he would know if something like that happened to Heyes. He thought he would feel it somehow. So until he knew for sure, he would not give up hope. Kid turned Heyes’ hat in his hands again and his anger grew.

“When I get outta here …” Kid muttered and it was a good job Brady was not around to hear the rest of his threat.

***

It was in the early hours of the morning when the door finally opened. Kid was sitting with his back to the wall, knees bent, and Heyes’ hat resting on one knee. Kid pulled himself to his feet. The early light of dawn cast long shadows of Guthrie and Mead as they entered. Mead waved a gun at Kid, indicating he should make his way out the door. Kid dropped Heyes’ hat to the ground, then did as they asked. As he was shoved into the open, the sun was just about to rise over the distant hills. Mead and Guthrie pushed him to his knees in front of the main cabin. He could see Harry still tied to the tree, his head on his chest as if asleep, but there was no sign of Heyes. The cabin door opened and Brady strolled out. He stretched and yawned, acting like a man who had enjoyed a good night’s sleep, on a soft bed, followed by a hearty breakfast and a hot cup of coffee, which was exactly what he had done.

Brady looked at Kid and gave him a slight smile. He clicked his fingers and Hallows and Stubbs appeared from behind the cabin dragging Heyes between them. He had been beaten again, but was conscious. Kid let out a breath, relieved when he saw his partner was alive.

Heyes lifted his head and after searching the faces before him, met Kid’s eyes. He smiled and Kid gave him an encouraging smile back and rolled his eyes and that look said. ‘What have we gotten ourselves into this time?’ He hid his concern having seen the bleeding cut above Heyes’ left eye and the new bruises on his face.

“We’re gonna to be leavin’ for a while,” Brady announced. “Mr. Heyes is going to read the map for us and lead us to the gold.” He smiled smugly.

“I’m afraid you can’t come with us Kid,” Brady said as he leaned down face to face with the blond man. “We’ve no need for a fast draw where we’re going. In fact, I don’t think many people need a fast draw. You’re surplus to requirements Kid.”

Kid was dragged towards the tree where Harry was slumped dejectedly. He was tied on the opposite side to Harry. They both had their backs to the tree and their arms forced backwards around the trunk so that their hands overlapped.

Ned Brady walked towards them and looked down at Kid.

“Don’t go anywhere Curry. I’ll be back. I still have a score to settle with you and I intend to enjoy every minute of it,” Brady sneered menacingly. Kid just glared at him. Brady bent down and lowered his voice conspiratorially. “I won’t bring your partner back. You should know once he’s done what we want he’s a dead man. You let that gnaw at you while we’re gone.” He gave Kid a smile and then pushed Kid’s hat down over his face.

Kid shook his hat off and it hung down in front of him, the cord still around his neck. He watched Brady walk away then sat back listening to the sound of horses riding out.

***

“C’mon Harry get these knots undone!” Kid urged.

“I’m trying Thaddeus but they’re too tight,” the Bannerman man called from the other side of the tree. He could reach the ropes around Kid’s wrists and would have to do his best to free the blond man, one handed. “I was out here all night you know. There were animals sniffing around. I coulda been bit by anything. May have been a cougar out here too.”

“Try an’ get my ropes loose,” Kid pleaded, ignoring the Bannerman man.

“I coulda been eaten!” Harry complained.

“Harry!” Kid snapped. Harry worked his hands down the trunk to where Kid’s were once more. After a moment Kid felt Harry’s fingers working on the cords around his wrists. Suddenly Kid felt the bonds loosen. He pulled one hand from behind his back and threw the remaining bindings off his wrists. Kid turned his attention to Harry and quickly untied him, pulling the dark-haired man to his feet.

Kid was up and running towards the cabin. Inside he scanned the table, bunks and shelves. He found his gun belt thrown on one bunk but there was no sign of the gun. He put it on anyway hoping to reclaim his gun later. Heyes gun belt was also there, but the double holstered one Harry wore was missing. Kid picked up his partner’s gun belt, slung it over his shoulder, and then went back outside. Kid strode purposefully towards the store, disappeared inside and returned carrying Heyes’ hat. He headed towards his horse. Harry, who had been leaning on the tree, limped after him.

“Thaddeus wait! My foot’s gone to sleep,” he complained. Harry caught up to Kid as he was throwing a saddle onto his horse. “Thaddeus it’s all right. They won’t get the gold,” Harry told him.

“I’m not worried about the gold Harry!” Kid snapped.

“Oh no…no of course not…I mean it’s Joshua we have to save. Of course it is. It’s just.”

Kid sensed something was wrong. He looked at Harry.

“How do you know they won’t get the gold?” he asked. Harry looked a little sheepish.

“Well…” Harry began. “It’s just that I…”

Kid shoved Harry up against a large tree.

“What have you done, Harry?” he asked, through gritted teeth, taking out some of his anger at Brady and the fear he felt for his partner on the Bannerman man.

“Nothing! I just…” Harry stuttered.

“Just what?” Kid snarled.

“I switched maps,” Harry told him.

“What?”

“I have the second map. Smith has the original one.”

“When?”

“What?”

“When did you switch maps and why?”

Harry rubbed a hand over his moustache with concern.

“When they first rode up. I had both maps and I put the second one in my hat and waved the original one at them.” He removed his hat, revealing the map hidden inside it.

Kid had to admit it had been pretty quick thinking of Harry and it was good that Brady didn’t have the second map leading to the gold, but what would happen to Heyes when Brady found out?

“So help me Harry, if anything happens to Heyes because of you, I’ll bury you up to your…moustache!” Kid threatened and Harry swallowed.

Kid turned away from the Bannerman man.

“Get your horse saddled,” Kid said, through gritted teeth.

***

When Brady had first waved the map at Hannibal Heyes, he realised it was the wrong one or rather the first one. When Brady had held it out in front of his bloody face last night and asked him if he could read it and lead them to the gold, Heyes had tried not to give in too easily. Several bruises later, he relented and agreed to help Brady find the gold. Exactly where he was going to lead the men he was riding with he wasn’t sure. He kept his expression neutral as he studied the map and pretended to be working out which direction they should take.

When had Harry switched them he wondered? Good old Harry Briscoe! He’d done something right for once. Or at least he had, as long as Brady didn’t realise it was the wrong map.

Heyes wanted to keep Brady away from Kid for as long as possible. It was clear the man intended to do his partner serious harm and he had been only too pleased to share with Heyes some of the pretty nasty things he considered doing. Chopping off Kid’s gun hand had only been one of them. If he could keep them searching, there was more chance Kid would free himself and get away. Heyes knew his partner would come looking for him, but at least he would face Brady on his own terms.

“Well?” a voice snapped beside him. Heyes gave Brady a smile and pointed to a distant ridge.

“That way,” he stated, confidently. “See these lines on the map are that ridge and the wavy…” but Brady brushed him aside.

“I don’t need to know. Just lead us to the gold,” he growled at Heyes. The ex-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang nodded. Brady had let Heyes know in no uncertain terms what would happen to him, and more importantly to Kid, if he discovered he was lying to him.

“This way,” Brady told his men and urged his horse towards the ridge.

***

They rode out following the tracks of six horses. Kid had no idea where Heyes would lead them or how soon he would realise he had the wrong map. Kid’s mind raced. He hoped Heyes was all right. He didn’t know why no one had stayed behind to guard them but he suspected they were all going to be riding out the moment they found the gold. And with Heyes no longer useful… Kid put that thought to the back of his mind.

Why did this keep happening to them? Just when things seemed to be going right, they found themselves at the mercy of a mad man or a crazy trapper. Or Elizabeth Darkly showed up, batting her eyelashes as Heyes and they all ended up battered and bruised again.

At least the trail, was easy to follow.

They reached the brow of a hill and Kid pulled his horse up sharp. Riding through a valley, carved by a now dry river, were six men. One dark-haired man in the middle had a familiar bearing in the saddle. Kid smiled. The men rode slowly and then stopped. Kid watched as the man in the middle pointed to something, the men dismounted and two reached for shovels. One was handed to Heyes and they all began to walk.

“Alright Harry, we play this my way. You understand?” Kid stated.

“Oh sure Thaddeus, whatever you say,” the Bannerman man agreed.

“And no more surprises.”

“None. You have my word. A Bannerman man’s word…” but Kid held up his hand.

“That’s fine Harry.”

Kid and Harry dismounted and crept down the slope and through the undergrowth, trying not to alert the others to their presence. Kid ducked and grabbing hold of Harry’s sleeve, pulled the Bannerman man down beside him. They lay on their stomachs and watched as all six men headed away from their horses and out into the open.

As the men stood in the middle of the dry riverbed, Kid could see his partner talking and gesturing. He’d taken up the stance he always had when addressing the Devil’s Hole Gang just before a job. Persuading Wheat and Kyle that his plan would work and persuading the men to do what he suggested. Of course the Gang would often cast doubting looks at each other. Maybe scratch their heads or spit before asking Heyes a question or see if Kid actually agreed with what sounded like a really dumb plan. Kid always backed his partner up. By the time Heyes told the boys what they were going to do; Kid had already discussed it with his friend. Any doubts Kid had were usually, although not always, settled before they approached the rest of the Gang.

This time, Heyes was not in charge. Brady stabbed a threatening finger into Heyes’ chest and the ex-outlaw leader was ordered to dig.

Kid and Harry crept closer to the men’s horses. Kid left Harry on watch, as he made his way quietly between the animals, uttering soothing words so as not to frighten them. He searched the saddles for a weapon, and then untied the horses, urging them away. A few moments later he returned to Harry’s side carrying two rifles, a Colt and a box of ammunition. Kid checked the weapons. All were loaded. He handed the rifles to Harry.

“Harry, stay here. Keep them in your sights. When I reach that tree,” Kid pointed to a crooked tree that grew between the rocks, close to where the men were digging. “Fire one shot above their heads. They’ll probably go for cover. Then fire another as I make my move and stay down. You got that?”

“Of course. No problem Kid. One shot. They drop. One shot as you move,” Harry replied and Kid looked at him. It was the first time he had called him that. Kid nodded.

“Just remember to shoot above their heads. Keep them down if you can.”

“I can do that. Every Bannerman man has to be a crack shot,” Harry informed him.

“Just shooting above their heads will be enough for now, Harry,” Kid told him. “I just don’t want you to hit me.”

“That’d be a thing wouldn’t it,” Harry said, with a wry smile and Kid gave him a questioning look. “If I shot Kid Curry,” he explained.

“Yeah that would be a thing but Harry the way my lucks been going I wouldn’t put it past you.”

“Oh Kid I wouldn’t…”

“Just fire over their heads Harry,” Kid told him as he moved away.

***

“How deep do we hafta dig?” Guthrie moaned. He had also been given a shovel and was now in the hole with Heyes, up to his ankles.

“Just keep digging ‘till I tell you to stop,” Brady told him.

“The first box was pretty deep,” Heyes informed him, helpfully. Brady shot him a glare and Heyes dug the shovel into the ground once again.

Suddenly a rifle shot whizzed over their heads. Everyone hit the ground, drawing their guns as they did so. They crawled for any kind of cover they could find, behind a rock, tree stump or bush. Heyes saw his chance and ran. As the men raised their heads to fire, at their escaping prisoner, more shots rang out and they put their heads back down. Heyes ran in a zigzag path until he reached the undergrowth, then he dived into the bushes. Brady took aim with his six gun but another bullet hit the ground in front of him sending a spray of dust into his face and he put his head down once more. When he looked up, Heyes was nowhere to be seen.

“Damn it!” Brady cursed.

Kid kept an eye on the men as he watched his partner run. Soon realising that there was probably only one or two men out there, Brady and his men grew braver. They began to spread out, keeping low and hugging any available cover, as they crept into the surrounding terrain, all in search of the shooters.

“It’s Curry I bet,” Brady muttered.

“We tied him up,” Mead stated from his hiding place close by.

“Exactly,” was Brady’s reply.

Kid altered position as one man crept closer. Kid gave a slight smile when he saw the gun the man was holding. Hallows kept his head down behind a boulder scanning the rocks ahead for any sight of Curry. He was sure at least some of the shots had come from up ahead and then he heard the click of a Colt, as it was pressed against the back of his head.

“Easy,” a voice whispered. “Put down the gun.” Hallows did as he was told, laying the gun on the ground beside him.

“Push it back,” the voice instructed. He knew it was Kid Curry and he wasn’t about to argue with him. Hallows pushed the gun back to its owner. The blond man picked it up, relishing the feel of the gun, like a meeting with an old friend. “Take off your bandana,” Kid instructed, Hallows did as he was told.

“Tie it around your mouth and head as a gag.”

“Hey, I…”

“Shh…” Kid interrupted. “You’re making my trigger finger twitch.”

Hallows did not complain again and he pulled the bandana tight around his head, gagging himself.

“Lie down on your belly,” Kid told him. “I’m gonna be here watching your friends. You make one sound and you’re a dead man. Nod your head if you understand,” Kid told him. Hallows nodded frantically and stayed silent long after Kid had moved away.

Happy to have his own gun back, Kid reloaded it, all the time keeping an eye on the positions of the other men and Brady in particular.

The rest of Brady’s men began to fire in the direction of the original shots and bullets began to whiz through the trees and hit the boulders where Harry Briscoe was hiding. Harry edged his way further up the slope. The first rifle was empty and he left it behind. Then he saw Heyes, pulling himself up between the rocks and scrub, getting closer all the time.

Hannibal Heyes scrambled over rocks and crawled on his belly under bushes, gradually making his way up the hillside to whoever had given him his chance of freedom. He hoped to see his partner at the top of the rise.

“That you Curry?” Brady called, searching the hillside for a sign of the young gunslinger.

Heyes froze at the mention of his partner’s name. He looked back. If it was Kid out there he did not reply.

“Curry?” Brady called again.

Kid stayed where he was, firing his gun to give his partner as much cover as he could. He spotted Heyes as he reached the top of the hill and several shots rang out around him. His partner dived for cover once more. Kid eased himself from his hiding place and began his own climb back to their horses. Feeling safer behind the trees, Heyes scoured the hillside for Kid. There was a sudden sound behind him and Heyes spun around to find himself face to face with Harry Briscoe.

“Sheesh, Harry don’t do that!” Heyes snapped. Then he saw the rifle in Harry’s hand. “Is Kid down there?”

Harry nodded.

“Give me the rifle,” Heyes said.

“It’s loaded but there’s no more bullets left after that,” Harry said as he handed it over.

“Mead?” They heard Brady call out.

“Yeah, Brady!” the man called back from his hiding place.

“Guthrie?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” came the reply.

“Stubbs?”

“What?” Stubbs asked, tersely.

“You there Stubbs?” Brady asked, pointedly.

“Course I am Brady,” Stubbs replied.

“Hallows?”

There was no reply.

“Hallows?”

Kid smiled. The poor man wouldn’t know what to do. Then they all heard the man cursing.

“Damn! Son of a…. Yeah I’m here Brady!” Hallows yelled. “Curry was here too. Damn it!”

Heyes took up a position on the top of the ridge, as Harry went to get the horses. Heyes looked around for Kid, and then spotted him edging closer. He also saw the men following him. Heyes only had two shots left and intended to use them as best he could to help his partner.

In the last few feet between the cover he was hiding in and the top of the hill, Kid would be out in the open. That, Heyes decided, was when he would shoot. He watched and he waited. Suddenly Kid ran. From around them shots rang out as Brady’s men aimed at the young blond gunslinger. Mead appeared above a rock, aimed at Kid and fired. He missed. Heyes didn’t and Mead dropped to the ground clutching his right arm. Hallows had Kid in his sights but the second bullet Heyes fired grazed the man’s shoulder before he could get off his shot. With two of their party groaning in pain the others kept their heads down just as Heyes looked up and saw Kid stumble, fall to one knee, before pulling himself back to his feet. He ran up the hill once more. Bullets pinged off rocks or thudded into the trees but eventually Kid made it to the top of the hill and the safety of the tree cover.

***

“You sure took your time!” Heyes said, when Kid finally reached him but his eyes told Kid just how pleased he really was to see his friend. “I didn’t know how long I was gonna hafta keep them digging until you decided to show up.”

Kid smiled, but he looked tired as he leaned one hand on a tree, his eyes still watching the valley below for any sign of Brady, or his men, approaching.

“You should be glad Harry and I didn’t just leave you and ride after the gold,” Kid told him.

“You’d do that? To your partner?” Heyes asked and he ducked as a stray bullet hit the tree trunk beside him. His face was bruised, his eyes swollen. They were indeed a sorry pair.

“Well if you keep yakkin’ on I might wish I had,” Kid replied.

“Well that’s the gratitude I get for saving your skin,” Heyes moaned.

“What?” Kid started at his friend. “Who just rode to the rescue here?”

“Who kept them busy so Brady didn’t decide to kill ya?” Heyes replied.

“Heyes, I’m too tired to argue with you. You look like hell and I feel like it. Let’s get to the horses.” Heyes smiled at his partner and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Okay partner let’s get outta here.”

They found Harry and the horses not far away.

Heyes removed his hat from the saddle horn on Kid’s horse and settled it on his head. He smiled, Kid always knew. He quickly strapped on his gun belt then climbed onto Kid’s horse and, turning in the saddle, called back to his partner, who had been keeping watch.

“C’mon Kid, get on.”

Heyes kicked his foot free of the stirrup. Kid pulled himself up behind his partner and the three men rode off. Brady’s horses joined them for a while in a strange herd but, eventually, the three men lost them, as they headed away from their captors. At that point they were concerned only to put as much distance between themselves and Brady as possible.

After some time they slowed their horses to a walk, resting them.

“So where now?” Harry asked.

“You got the second map?” Heyes asked the Bannerman man.

“I do,” Harry said, as he patted his jacket pocket.

“Alright let’s head for a town and get some more provisions, then see what it says.”

“What about Brady?” Kid asked. “He’s not going away.”

“No, he’s not,” Heyes admitted. “But we need to rest up. You okay with that Harry?”

“That’s fine by me boys except…”

“Harry, let’s discuss your concerns when we’ve had a look at the map,” Heyes told him.

“That’s not it. It’s just…”

“Let’s just get to town, get some food and a beer. What do you say?” Heyes asked, not in the mood for a discussion at that point.

“Alright,” Briscoe relented. It could wait. What he had to say wouldn’t be important until they got to town anyway. Heyes urged his horse on, noting that his partner had kept quiet all through his exchange with Harry.

“You still there Kid?” he called, cheerfully, over his shoulder.

“Hanging on Heyes, just hanging on,” Kid told him.

The terrain changed to open plain and they began to pick up speed again, each man pleased to put even more distance between themselves and Brady’s gang. Suddenly Harry’s horse went down hard, throwing Briscoe over its head. He landed hard on his back, winded. Heyes pulled the horse to a halt and throwing his right leg over its neck he slid from the saddle.

“Harry?” he called. The Bannerman man lay still. “Harry, you okay?”

“Oh God!” Harry moaned, his eyes closed.

“Harry?” Kid said, as he eased himself from the saddle.

Harry opened his eyes, then shielded them from the blazing sun.

“Oh God!” he said again, as he sat up. Dust covered the back of his jacket. Heyes picked up Harry’s hat and whacked it against his leg a couple of times, removing a cloud of dust. He crouched beside the Bannerman man.

“You okay?” he asked with genuine concern.

“I think I’ve bruised a little more than my pride Joshua,” Harry told him.

Heyes handed him his hat, which Harry replaced on his head, then gave him a hand as Harry staggered to his feet. They waited for the detective to recover his composure. Heyes brushed the dust from the back of Harry’s jacket.

“There, good as new Harry,” Heyes remarked, as he gave the man a smile.

“Thank you,” Harry said walking a little stiffly to where Kid stood beside his horse. Kid looked down at one of the animal’s front leg. The horse held its hoof off the ground.

“Doesn’t look good,” Kid said. The Bannerman man led his horse away, watching as it hobbled. He would not be able to ride the animal now that it was lame.

“Three of us and one horse,” Heyes stated. He looked at Kid. “How far do you think it is to the nearest town?”

Kid turned slightly, looking back the way they had ridden, trying to judge the distance and then they heard a distant train whistle. Kid moved swiftly to his horse. He put one foot in the stirrup and pulled himself up on his horse, to gain a little extra height. Shielding his eyes with a hand, he scanned the horizon.

“That way,” Kid said as he pointed ahead of them. “I think I see a water tower. It’s not far; we can make it on foot. D’you want to ride ahead?” Kid asked his partner.

“No you go, check it out and we’ll catch up,” Heyes stated. Kid nodded, settled himself in the saddle and rode off.

Abandoning the detective’s horse, Heyes and Harry set off at a run, the ex-outlaw suffering as his injuries made themselves felt. Harry surprised himself by keeping up with the younger man. Soon they saw the water tower Kid had spotted and stretched out beyond it, the railway track.

Reaching the water tower, Kid climbed from the saddle, surveying the surroundings as he did so. There was no one about. He tied the horse to the base of the tower, removed his saddlebags and leaned against it as he waited for the others to arrive.

There was another blast of a railway whistle, as Heyes and Harry reached Kid’s side. Sweat ran down the faces of both men and plastered their shirts to their bodies.

“You two okay?” Kid asked, with a slight smile on his face.

“Not..a word…Kid,” Heyes panted. “Next time…I keep…the…horse.”

Heyes took a moment to check out the lie of the land.

“What do you think?” Kid asked. They had done this many times before; waited for a train, usually planning to rob it but occasionally hoping to climb into an open freight wagon.

“We’ll jump it if we can. If not the Bannerman Agency will just have to buy us a ticket,” Heyes said decisively.

“Joshua, about that…” Harry began, but Heyes brushed him off.

“I was joking Harry.”

As a plume of smoke came into view, Kid released his horse and watched it walk away, as if unsure what to do with its new found freedom.

The three men crouched in the bushes as, finally, the train came into view. A huge column of smoke billowed from the engine, the iron wheels grinding, with a squeal, slowly to a halt in front of them. The engineer climbed on top of the coal wagon, pulled the feeder pipe across from the water tower and soon the engine was taking on water.

They spotted two boxcars with their doors temptingly open. The safest time to board the train was now, with the train at a stand still. However, two burly guards were patrolling the track, each swinging a large baton, and wearing a gun tied to his hip. Heyes, Kid and Harry watched and waited impatiently for their chance.

Finally, the train began to move off. They watched the wheels turn and the guards disappear inside the last car.

“Now!” Heyes cried and they broke cover and ran. Harry ran as fast as he could be it was soon apparent that he was not as fit as he thought he was. The run to the water tower had clearly used up most of his energy. He was soon panting to keep up. When they reached the first open boxcar, Harry tried to pull himself on board. Heyes ran behind him, grabbed hold of Harry by his belt and hoisted him up. Harry lay half in, half out of the car, his legs swinging in mid air, as Heyes ran frantically along side him.

“Get in Harry!” Heyes yelled and he shoved Harry unceremoniously into the car. The train was moving faster now.

Once Harry was inside, Heyes pulled himself up and swung into the car, then turned to find Kid. Kid Curry was running for his life as the train picked up speed. Having waited for the other two to get on board, he had missed the opening to the car and was now trying to grab a hold of the ladder at the end of the boxcar. Kid ran for all he was worth, but the events of the last two days had sapped his strength.

When his blue eyes met Heyes’ dark ones, his partner knew, Kid was not going to make it. Kid shook his head, made one final valiant grab for the ladder, missed and gave up running. He collapsed on the ground. Hannibal Heyes turned to the Bannerman man.

“Harry, wait for us in the next town. We’ll meet you there,” Heyes told him.

“What?” Harry asked, but he was talking to himself. All he could see was the open doorway. Pulling himself to the door he looked out and back along the track in time to see Heyes tumbling down the embankment.

On his knees in the dirt beside the track, Kid watched as the train pulled away from him, cursing his own lack of energy. Moments later he was staring, open mouthed, as his partner was in mid air. Heyes hit the ground and began to roll down the embankment. Kid pulled himself to his feet and went to find his partner.

Hannibal Heyes hit the ground and began to roll. He disappeared into the trees. He felt himself hit bushes, stones and the occasional boulder. He cursed his own stupidity, for jumping from a moving train, before a blinding pain shot through his head and the world went black.

***

Kid spotted Heyes, lying on his back, in the undergrowth, at the bottom of the embankment. He was not moving. Kid had a horrifying flashback, to the time Heyes had been shot in the head when they were helping to remove cougars from around the Carlson place. Kid had watched his partner, fall from his horse and go tumbling down a slope, just like this one. He had jumped from his saddle not knowing if his partner was alive or dead…dreading what he would find when he reached Heyes’ side…and those same fears came back to him now, as he scrambled towards his friend.

“Heyes?” Kid said, when he reached his partner’s side. “Heyes?”

He sank to his knees. Heyes was breathing but unconscious. Blood ran from a wound on the side of Heyes’ head, above his right ear, matting Heyes’ dark hair. Kid didn’t dare move his friend, not knowing what other injuries he might have.

“Crazy fool. You coulda killed yourself Heyes,” Kid scolded the unconscious man.

The head wound was bleeding badly and needed bandaging.

“I’ll be right back,” Kid said, not sure if his partner could hear him.
He went to find his saddlebags.

When he returned Kid took a shirt from the bags. He sighed; it was a blue one he had taken a liking to. Another shirt used for another wound. Maybe they should think about buying some bandages next time they were in town. He began to rip off the sleeves. As gently as he could, Kid placed a folded piece of his shirt over the bleeding wound and then bound it with strips around Heyes’ head. It was soon showing a red stain as Heyes’ blood began to soak into the fabric.

Heyes groaned at Kid’s touch.

“It’s okay Heyes, it’s just me,” Kid said, speaking gently to his friend. “If I don’t do this you’ll be running out of the red stuff and you and I have lost too much blood lately.”

Heyes groaned again.

Kid sat back on his heels. The wound was covered and Heyes was sheltered from the sun by the bushes and shrubs around them. All he could do now was wait. Kid leaned back against a tree, keeping an eye on his friend and hoping he would regain consciousness soon.

As the time passed, Kid kept himself busy. He checked his gun. It was loaded. He looked at Heyes, he was still unconscious. He got to his feet and went to look for Heyes’ hat. Finding it in the branches of a tree, he dusted it off and returned to the undergrowth where his friend lay. Heyes was still out cold.

“I’m gonna be right here, Heyes,” he told his friend. “Anytime you want to wake up that’s fine by me. But in case you feel you need to lie there a little longer, I’ll be sitting here, watching your back like always.” He looked at Heyes. Still no movement.

“Take all the time you need,” Kid told him, then added in a quieter voice, “Just be okay, alright? Just be okay.”

If Heyes did not wake up, what would he do next? There was no where around for him to find help and no telling when the next train would be through. And, in the back of his mind, like an ominous cloud on the horizon was the nagging thought that Brady was out there somewhere and he knew the man would be looking for them too.

***

Hannibal Heyes could hear a thump, thump, thump in his head as he regained consciousness. He soon realised it was his own pulse pounding away. He opened his eyes a fraction and the light hurt. He screwed them tight, and then bravely opened them again. Oh God his head hurt! Reaching up, he touched the side of his head, feeling where his head had hit the rock. He felt the rough bandage then looked around. Kid Curry sat with his back against a tree, his hat tilted down over his face. His chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm that told Heyes his partner was sound asleep.

“Kid,” Heyes said, his dry voice barely more than a whisper. “Kid?” he said again and this time it was enough to startle Kid awake. Kid pushed his hat off and stared down at his friend.

“Heyes?”

“Oh God!” Heyes replied as he tried to turn onto his side. Everything moved and kept spinning. He thought he was going to be sick.

“You okay? How d’you feel?” Kid asked, although having been in the same position many times before, he had a good idea exactly how his friend was feeling. The retching sounds Heyes was making were a pretty good clue too.

“I feel awful,” Heyes stated. “Oh my head hurts,” he added, as he looked up at Kid.

“I can imagine. It musta hit a rock.” His friend gave him a reassuring smile.

“Did I jump off a train?” Heyes asked.

“Yep.”

“Am I crazy?”

“Well you’re supposed to be the brains of the outfit, so if that’s what you think Heyes …” he smiled down at his partner. His dark-haired friend considered this.

“Well I couldn’t leave you on your own could I?” he stated with a grin. “You always get into trouble if I let you go off by yourself.”

“Not always,” Kid protested.

“Mostly,” Heyes told him and Kid smiled too, as Heyes pulled himself up onto his elbows. He sat up slowly and felt his head again.

“How bad is it?” he asked.

“It bled a lot at first,” Kid told him. “A doctor would have put stitches in it. I didn’t think you’d want me to try.” Heyes shot him a look and Kid gave him an innocent smile.

“Harry?”

“He stayed on the train.”

“Good. I told him to meet us in the next town.”

“D’you really think he’ll be there?” Kid asked.

“I don’t know. If he still wants to go after the gold, I imagine he’ll wait. Unless he can read that map himself.”

“I guess we’ll have to walk to town then. Once you’re feeling better that is,” Kid said.

“We could wait for a train.”

“Could be a while before the next one. We don’t have much food, just some jerky I think. But we‘ve got a tower full of water.”

“Well let me rest up a bit and we can start walking. If we follow the tracks we’ve gotta reach somewhere,” Heyes said.

Kid did not disagree but he knew Heyes was in no condition for a long walk anywhere.

They sat quietly for a while, lost in their own thoughts.

Kid looked at his right hand, his gun hand, the hand Brady so nearly chopped off with an axe. Heyes saw what held Kid’s attention. He whacked Kid’s hand away.

“Stop it!” he admonished.

“What?” Kid asked innocently.

“Stop looking at your hand. He didn’t cut it off. You still have it, you’re all right,” Heyes informed him.

“But what if he had?” Kid asked seriously.

“Well you heard the man, we’d be calling you Lefty,” Heyes realised his attempt at humour had not worked.

“Yeah, but what if he had? I mean what would I have done? The only thing I’m any good at is drawing a gun fast and shooting it.”

Heyes realised his friend was serious. He pulled himself up slowly and leaned back against another tree.

“Now don’t you talk like that. You’re not just a fast gun Kid. You’re good at lots of things,” Heyes stated confidently.

“Such as?”

“Well I can’t think of ‘em if you’re gonna pressure me.”

“Well one would be nice Heyes!” Kid said, exasperated.

“Well alright.” Heyes looked determined as he thought. “Poker,” he finally said. “You’re good at poker.”

“Not as good as you,” Kid told him dismally.

“Well that’s true Kid, but you’re still pretty good.”

“What else?” Kid asked hopefully.

“You want more?” he could see Kid needed him to say something. “Okay…well…there’s…girls! You’re good with girls an’ women. They seem to like you. You give them a flash of those big blue eyes and they go all sweet on you.”

Kid smiled, he liked that one.

“Yeah, I guess they do,” he admitted, happily. “Okay, so I’m good at poker and better than you with women.”

“I didn’t say you were better than me with women,” Heyes reminded him. “Just said some seem to like you.”

“Okay,” Kid relented. “So what else?”

“Sheesh Kid! I gave you two examples. What more do you want? I’ve got a head injury here.”

Kid looked again at his hand.

“He didn’t take your hand Kid,” Heyes said kindly. “You’re okay and you’re more than just a fast gun. You’re the best friend I have and you always will be…however many hands you have.”

Kid met Heyes’ eyes. He could tell Heyes was worried about him. Slowly Kid gave him a smile.

“Okay Heyes, I guess you’re right.”

“You know I’m right Kid. When am I ever wrong?” Heyes asked with a smile. Kid looked at him out of the corner of his eyes.

“D’you want me to give you some examples?” he asked with a smile.

***

“How long have we been here?” Heyes asked, some time later.

“I don’t know,” Kid said from under his hat. He was leaning against the tree again, his head on his chest, and his hat over his eyes.

“D’you think we should start walking?”

“Maybe we should wait until the sun goes down,” Kid suggested.

“You want to walk at night?” Heyes asked.

“I don’t want to walk at all, but we could…” Kid fell silent as they heard the sound of an approaching horse. He pushed up his hat seeing Heyes’ eyes on his, he knew his partner had heard it too. They lay flat on their stomachs almost not daring to breathe, hoping they were well hidden in the shade of the undergrowth. A lone horse came into view; they could only see the animal’s legs. The horse stopped. There was not a sound. They could not see the rider. Still the horse did not move.

Eventually Kid eased himself forward on his stomach. The horse moved backwards a pace. Kid froze. Did the rider know they were there? The horse snorted. Kid looked up and came face to face with the horse’s head. One big brown eye studied the blond man lying on the ground. Kid breathed a sigh of relief. It was his horse. Kid closed his eyes and dropped his head to the ground.

Carefully, so as not to startle the animal, Kid got to his feet and caught hold of the horse’s reins. He patted the horse’s neck as he spoke soothingly to it. It nuzzled him as he did so, glad to see a familiar face.

“Heyes, we won’t have to walk,” Kid called to his partner.

***

Later that day they rode into the town of Hogwood. Two men riding one horse drew several curious glances from the locals, something neither of them wanted. They both threw a glance at the sheriff’s office but this was one town that didn’t advertise the name of the man chosen to uphold the law. They exchanged a look and knew they would have to remain vigilant. It was then that they noticed the man sitting on a long bench outside the saloon. He had his arms crossed over his chest, legs stretched out, one ankle crossed over the other, and his chin resting on his chest as he slept. Harry Briscoe didn’t notice the men pull the horse to a halt in front of him, nor did he see them dismount. Kid threw the reins around the hitching rail and then followed Heyes up the steps to the boardwalk, the slow, stiff movements of both men reflecting the injuries each had suffered. Kid and Heyes eased themselves down onto the bench, one on either side of the sleeping detective.

“Harry,” Heyes whispered. There was no movement from Mr. Briscoe. “Harry,” he said again gently and Harry mumbled something. Kid shoved him hard and he fell into Heyes who shoved him back.

“Wh..what? Who the..?” Harry woke and quickly focussed on the men on either side of him. “Boys!” he cried in delight, as he recognised them.

“Hi Harry,” Kid said.

“Am I glad to see you,” he told them.

“Us too Harry,” Heyes smiled at him. “Let’s get a drink.” They each hooked a hand under one of his arms and hoisted him to his feet, leading him through the bat wing doors.

The bartender looked up to see three dust covered men stagger inside. They looked trail worn and from the smell of them, all three could do with a bath. One he recognised as the man who had been asleep outside for the last hour or so. The other two were covered in cuts and bruises. The dark-haired man had a swollen left eye and a bandage around his head. The blond man had a nasty looking gash across his forehead and a bruised face.

“Beer please,” Heyes said, his voice rasping from the dust in his throat as he leaned against the counter.

“Three,” Kid said holding up three fingers and waving vaguely between himself, Harry and Heyes.

“You got any money?” the bartender asked, not sure these three men would be able to pay for the drink. Three heads shot up and for a moment the bartender’s resolve faltered but then he took a second look and realised the men looked pretty weak from whatever hardship they had been through.

“I’d like to see your money first,” he stated and then two icy blue eyes fell on his. Despite the bruises on his face, the dirt on his clothes and his split and cracked lips, Kid Curry still managed to strike a chord of fear into the heart of the bartender. Kid fixed him with a look, then flicked his hand towards Harry.

“Pay the man, Harry,” he said. Briscoe looked up at the blond man.

“What?” he asked.

“Pay the man,” Kid repeated.

“But I don’t…” he stopped, as Kid and Heyes turned to stare at him.

“The deal was that you would pay for our food, board and essential expenses,” Heyes reminded him. “Believe me right now one cold beer is an essential expense.”

“I know that boys, I’m not disputing that, it’s just that I …,” he turned away from the bartender, as Kid and Heyes moved in closer. “I don’t have any money,” Harry whispered. “I tried to tell you that before.”

“What?” Heyes hissed.

“Brady’s men took it,” the Bannerman man explained.

“If you’re lyin’ to us Harry so help me…” Kid did not finish his threat.

“I’m not boys, I swear it. When we headed in here I thought you might buy me a drink,” he told them hopefully.

“Well I don’t have any money,” Heyes snapped. “They took mine too.”

They looked at Kid.

“I fell in the river,” Kid stated as his answer.

“You boys drinkin’?” the bartender asked. They turned to look at him, not knowing what to say and then Heyes eyes moved along the bar to a bowl of eggs sitting on the counter. An almost imperceptible smile came over his face and he looked up at the bartender.

“Are you a betting man?” Heyes asked.

***

Later, before Hannibal Heyes could settle himself down to a poker game, his friend dragged him across the street to the doctor’s office. Heyes sat in a chair glaring at his partner, who insisted he have the doctor check him over, just as Heyes had done for him.

“After all Joshua, you can’t be too careful,” Kid reminded him with Heyes own words. “Especially with head wounds.” He gave his partner a sweet smile, which made Heyes want to hit him.

The doctor, a small man in his mid-fifties, with grey hair and a thickening waist, was initially concerned at seeing the young man’s injuries but after a closer examination he was happy to pronounce Mr. Smith, free of concussion. He let Heyes go as long as he promised to rest.

Heyes fought hard to convince his partner that a game of poker constituted rest.

“I’ll be sitting down, Kid,” he reasoned.

“I don’t think that’s what the Doc had in mind Heyes,” Kid protested.

Heyes won the argument only when he agreed to let Kid keep an eye on him and that he would quit if he felt at all dizzy or otherwise unwell. He also promised not to get into any arguments over the games and ignore any form of cheating. Kid wasn’t convinced Heyes would do it but it was the best he could do, apart from throwing his friend over his shoulder and locking him the hotel room.

However the money Heyes won, from the very bad poker players in Hogwood, allowed the three men to pay for their rooms at the hotel.

***

A muffled cry woke Hannibal Heyes from a particularly pleasant dream involving a dark haired beauty named Maxine. She was just about to succumb to Heyes’ charms, when he was woken by the sounds. Irritated to be wrenched from the beautiful woman’s arms, Heyes turned over in bed and soon located the source of the noise. Kid Curry asleep in the other bed was obviously in the middle of a less pleasant dream. He moaned and muttered, as he fought whatever demons troubled him.

Suddenly Kid sat bolt upright, breathing heavily and wide awake. Heyes remained quiet keeping a watchful eye on his partner, as moonlight lit the room. Kid held out his right hand, studying it as he opened and closed it.

Ah, so that was it, Heyes thought.

Heyes sat up in bed.

“You alright?” he asked and Kid turned his head slightly, giving Heyes a quick glance.

“I’m fine,” he lied.

“Bad dream?”

Kid just sighed.

“Sorry if I woke you,” he said.

Heyes gave him time to decide if he wanted to talk about it or not.

“He threatened to cut off my hand, Heyes,” Kid said, quietly.

“But he didn’t,” his partner reminded him, as he leaned back against the bedstead and rubbed a hand over his eyes.

“But what if he had?”

Kid was serious and Heyes decided this was not the time to remind his friend of the Lefty joke. Instead he lit the lamp on the table beside the bed. Heyes ran his fingers through his hair brushing it back from his face.

“I thought we’d been through this,” Heyes said, as he yawned and scratched his head. He stretched his shoulders too. Immediately he saw the expression on Kid’s face, he realised just how scared his friend had been. “You’re not going to expect me to come up with more examples are you? I mean it’s the middle of the night Kid, and even a genius needs time to get his brain going.”

Kid shook his head, but did not smile.

“Just thinking out loud, I guess” he said, not looking at his partner.

“Kid it was a close call. I was terrified for you too.” Now Kid looked up.

“You were?” he asked, touched by his friend’s concern.

“Yeah.” Heyes shivered dramatically. “Just the thought of all that blood and you screaming.” He screwed up his face and Kid looked dumbfounded.

“Well gee Heyes; I’m sorry if it was going to be unpleasant for you!” Kid snapped.

Heyes smiled, as he finally got a reaction. Kid realised his partner was joking. The blond man’s shoulders relaxed a little and he gave his friend a slight smile. Heyes studied Kid’s face as it clouded over again.

“Brady’s still out there,” Kid stated.

“Yeah he is,” Heyes said. “Does that bother you?”

“He’ll still be looking for us, or at least for me.”

“He might,” Heyes conceded.

“Could be another Danny,” Kid said quietly, referring to Danny Bilson.

“Not necessarily,” Heyes said, again seeing the concern on Kid’s face.

“But if it is…”

“Kid…” but Heyes, the man reputed to have a silver tongue suddenly found himself lost for words. Kid looked so young sitting in bed in just his long johns, his hair messed up, sadness in his eyes. He would carry the weight of Bilson’s death on his shoulders for the rest of his life. Being the fastest gun in the west was often more of a burden than a blessing.

“Kid, I don’t…” but Kid cut him off.

“It’s okay Heyes. I guess I’d better make sure my gun is clean, just in case,” Kid remarked.

“When isn’t it?” Heyes asked, incredulously and finally Kid gave him a smile. The dark-haired man yawned. “Kid it was unthinkable, unbelievable and thank God he didn’t do it. Brady is clearly deranged. You already know you’re faster than him. We know he’s out there now, so we’ll be more cautious.”

“I guess you’re right,” Kid agreed.

“Of course I am,” Heyes stated, confidently and Kid raised his eyebrows. “Can we get back to sleep now?” Heyes asked, hopefully.

Kid looked at his friend, grateful that he had not left him to work though his worries alone in the dark.

“Sure Heyes,” Kid said. “And thanks.”

“That’s what friends are for, Kid,” Heyes replied. Hannibal Heyes looked at the blue eyes focussed on him now. There was that little boy again, he thought, as he gave his partner an encouraging smile. “Get some sleep Kid. Things’ll look better in the morning.”

Kid settled back, his hands behind his head on the pillow as he gazed up at the ceiling. Heyes put out the lamp.

“I hope you’re right, Heyes,” Kid said so softly he didn’t think his partner would hear him. Heyes did and he could only hope his friend would get some sleep before morning.

***

The next morning Harry visited the telegraph office, hoping to have some funds transferred to the Hogwood bank. He was unsuccessful. So Hannibal Heyes used the rest of his winnings, from the previous night’s poker game, to purchase horses, a mule and provisions. They left Hogwood just after lunch, Kid having insisted that they all get a decent meal before setting out.

Heyes had studied the second map intently over breakfast and under his confident directions they rode back to where the first box had been buried. Kid’s eyes constantly scanned the surroundings for any sign of trouble. Heyes was well aware how nervous and edgy his friend seemed, but decided it was better not to comment on it. A nervous Kid Curry would work hard to keep them all alive. Although Heyes would rather not have his friend worried at all.

When they reached their destination, Hannibal Heyes climbed from his horse and stood beside the hole where they had found the first box. He looked down at the second map. He looked to his left, then to his right. He looked behind him and screwed up his face in concentration. He looked at the map again.

Kid Curry leaned forward and rested his arms on his saddle horn. He pushed his hat back with one finger, fascinated, he watched his friend.

Heyes walked off to the left to a large boulder and began to take large strides counting as he did so. He stopped beside a tree. Heyes looked around again.

Harry Briscoe, also still on his horse, watched the dark-haired man intently, impressed by his concentration. His partner was less impressed.

“Heyes, do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Kid asked.

Heyes shot him a look but did not dignify that with an answer. Kid continued to watch him, an amused smile on his face. Once more Heyes began to pace.

“…two…three…four…five…six…” he stopped and turned. He surveyed the area, and then looked up at the two men on horseback. “Here,” he stated confidently as he pointed to the ground.

Kid raised his eyebrows. Now it was his turn not to say a word.

“Here,” Heyes said again, as he pointed. “It’s buried here.”

“Oh, right,” Harry said, as he climbed from his horse. He removed a shovel from the mule’s pack and walked to Heyes’ side. Kid remained where he was. Heyes looked up at him.

“Something wrong Kid?” Heyes asked.

“D’you seriously think he buried it so close to the first?” Kid asked his partner sceptically.

“Yes,” Heyes could see Kid expected an explanation. “He’s pretty clever Kid. Think about it. He doubles back after Brady’s brother leaves. He’s probably on his own and has a lot of heavy gold to move. He can’t carry it so he reburies it just a few feet away. It’s easy to find later when he has more time to come back and get it. It’s ingenious. Brady’s brother would never think of that.” Heyes was clearly impressed.

“Maybe Fraser didn’t either,” Kid said. “Maybe only Hannibal Heyes could think of something like that.” His partner looked up at him, not sure if he was being sarcastic or complimentary.

“So you going to get down?” Heyes asked.

“No. I figured I’d let you dig first this time. I’ll stay up here and keep watch,” the blond man said amiably.

Harry and Heyes took it in turns to dig. Heyes shot his friend the occasional glare as Kid had still not taken his turn, but every time he looked up the blond man had his eyes fixed on the horizon, ever watchful. Heyes had to admit Kid was working too.

A cloud of dust in the distance caught Kid’s attention and his eyes narrowed. He watched the dust cloud moving closer.

“Heyes,” he said, without taking his eyes off the cloud. His partner continued to dig. “HEYES!”

The dark-haired man looked up, irritated that his friend had still not taken a turn at digging. His expression changed when he saw the look on Kid’s face.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I think we got company,” Kid announced. “You’d better dig faster.”

Heyes and Harry exchanged a look and did just that. The shovels threw up more and more dirt until they heard a THUD! Heyes dropped to his knees in the hole and brushed away the dirt from three small sacks. He placed two on the ground and began to untie one.

“Heyes we don’t have time!” Kid warned, watching the dust cloud.

“Just need to know what we’ve got Kid,” his partner replied.

“NOT NOW!” Kid yelled and Heyes looked up. Seeing how close the dust cloud was he threw the shovel to one side, stuffed the bags into his open saddlebag, then threw himself into the saddle. When he was sure Heyes was mounted, Kid spurred his horse on, Harry followed, pulling the mule behind him and Heyes brought up the rear.

The three men rode, as if their lives depended on it, which was just as well because if Brady caught up to them they were surely dead men.

The dust cloud grew closer and they could make out three men on horseback.

“Leave the mule!” Kid cried and Harry let go of the mule’s reins. As the animal dropped back one of the men took the time to check it out.

Memories of days spent riding hard to escape a posse flooded back to the two ex-outlaws. Heyes took up the lead, making a trail down through a wooded gully, then along a river bed. The horses’ hooves splashed in the shallow water, then clattered out onto hard rock. Unfortunately the wet hoof prints would be easy to follow if their pursuers arrived before the marks dried.

***

Brady and his men were good trackers and they were soon hard on their trail. The extra weight Heyes carried in his saddlebags slowed his horse down and Harry’s insistence on dragging the mule along for a while had proved to be a costly mistake. Now Brady was gaining on them. And then the shooting started. Bullets pinged off rocks or thudded into trees. The men were still too far away to fire accurately but there was always the chance that a stray bullet would hit one of them.

If ever the two ex-outlaws needed all their skills at evading a posse, now was the time. They rode hard for the rest of the day. When they reached a narrow pass through a long ridge, Heyes spotted a cave and they took refuge there. Kid watched as Brady and his men rode by. Then Kid, Heyes and Harry retraced their trail, resting the horses only when they felt it was safe to do so.

Eventually, as dusk fell, Heyes felt confident that they had lost the men on their tail.

They camped that night by a creek. Not wanting to risk a fire, they settled down on the hard ground to a cold meal of jerky. Heyes opened his saddlebags and withdrew the three sacks. He dropped them to the ground and Kid looked quickly up at his partner. There was something about the sound the bags made, hitting the ground, something not quite right.

Kid and Harry watched in anticipation as Heyes opened the first sack. The dark-haired man placed his hand inside and then an odd expression came over his face. Confusion? Surprise? Disappointment? He withdrew his hand from the sack, clutching some of the contents. Heyes opened his hand. The three men stared in disbelief at the handful of pebbles Heyes was holding.

“That’s not gold,” Kid stated unnecessarily. Heyes and Kid looked at Harry. “That’s not gold,” Kid said again.

“Well don’t look at me boys. I’m as surprised as you are,” the Bannerman man told them. Heyes poured out the contents of the bag. All pebbles. Kid opened the second bag while Harry tugged at the strings around the third. They poured out more pebbles. Then from Harry’s bag, a piece of paper fell. Heyes picked it up. Somehow, they all had an idea what it would be.

Heyes opened it and then he began to read.

“Ha. Ha. Brady. Bet ya thought I woz dead.”

“That’s it?” Harry asked, taking the note from Heyes.

“Yeah, Harry, I’d say that was definitely it,” Heyes replied. He sat down on a boulder. Kid looked at his friend.

“No gold,” he said.

“No gold,” Heyes confirmed.

“All this for nothin’,” Kid said, as he sank down beside his friend. “Why do these things keep happening to us Heyes?” he asked, disheartened.

“You’re giving up boys?” Harry asked, incredulously. They looked at him.

“Harry, you saw the note, Fraser got here first. He‘s not dead. The gold’s gone,” Heyes told him pointedly.

“So you’re giving up?” Harry stated.

“Harry. It’s gone,” Kid told him, anger creeping into his voice and as much as Harry wanted to find the gold and go after the man who had it, he didn’t want to anger Kid Curry. The realisation of Kid’s words hit him and Harry sank down on his knees.

“All this for nothing,” he muttered. The weight of his words ran through their minds as they sat in silence. They had been threatened, beaten up, shot at and all for nothing. No gold. No reward.

Dejected and tired, they eventually settled down for the night. Harry threw the sacks away in disgust but kept the note to show his superiors at the Bannerman Agency. He lay out his bedroll, then lay down, trying to find a comfortable position. Harry was soon sound asleep, deep rhythmic snoring coming from under his blanket.

Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes decided to take turns keeping watch, neither trusting Harry to do it right at such a crucial time; both men conscious that Brady was still out there.

So they shared the watch between them. Kid walked around the perimeter of the camp, watching and listening for any sign of trouble, for anyone approaching. Then he sat down with his back against a boulder, twirling his gun in his hands as he kept guard, watching his partner sleep and knowing deep down that a confrontation between himself and Brady was going to happen some time. Brady was angry with him. It wasn’t Heyes’ fault. He just hoped he would be able to protect his partner when the time came.

“Heyes,” Kid said softly, as he gave his friend’s shoulder a gentle shake. Two brown eyes opened and fixed on Kid, not happy at being woken.

Kid gave him an overly sweet smile, which his partner returned with a glare.

“My watch?” Heyes asked.

“No, s’mornin’,” Kid told him. “Time to get up partner.”

Heyes rubbed a hand over his eyes and slowly sat up. The hard ground had taken its toll on his tired and bruised body. Dawn was just breaking to reveal a cloudless sky.

Heyes noticed Kid looking off into the scrub.

“What is it?” Heyes asked, recognising a certain familiar look in Kid’s eyes.

“I don’t know. Just somethin’. Not sure. I’ll feel better when we’re on the move again,” Kid told him. Then he smiled reassuringly at his partner. “C’mon, get up. It’s a pity we can’t have some of your coffee. That’d have us awake in no time.”

“Nice,” Heyes muttered, as he pulled himself to his feet.

Heyes watched, as Kid walked off, wondering what he had detected.

Heyes went down to the creek for water. He splashed a few cold handfuls over his face waking himself up, and then lowered his canteen into the water. He wished they could have a warm drink but it was too soon to risk alerting anyone with smoke from a fire. It was a bright, clear morning with the promise of being a fine sunny day. Maybe things weren’t so bad after all. They didn’t have the gold but they were no worse off than before Harry put the idea to them, apart from a few bruises. Oh and Ned Brady was gunning for Kid, threatening to do worse than kill him, but…Heyes shook the thoughts from his mind. It wouldn’t help to think about that.

Heyes stood up and stretched, helping to ease his aching muscles. He turned and came face to face with Ned Brady and Ned’s Colt.45. Brady gave Heyes a triumphant smile, pleased with the look on the dark-haired man’s face.

“Mornin’,” Brady said. “Take you gun from your holster with your left hand and make it real slow,” Brady instructed. Still holding the canteen in his right hand, Heyes did as he was told.

“That’s good,” Brady said. “Now throw it over here.”

Heyes threw his gun on the ground at Brady’s feet and kept his eyes on the man as he bent down to pick it up.

“Start walking,” Brady ordered. Heyes started back towards the camp, his mind racing.

***

Hearing his partner returning to the camp, Kid looked over his shoulder and saw Heyes walking towards him with his hands on his head. Instantly knowing something was wrong, Kid spun round, his gun swiftly in his hand. Ned Brady stepped into view and Kid saw the gun held at Heyes’ head.

“Fast Curry, but not fast enough. I don’t think even you could hit me before I put a hole in ol’ Heyes here,” Brady scoffed. “Throw your gun over here.” As Brady gave his instructions, Stubbs and Guthrie rode into the camp. They had left Mead and Hallows to make their own way to a doctor before setting off after Kid and the gold. The sound of the horses and the men dismounting startled Harry Briscoe awake. He saw the men, guns drawn, standing in front of him, waiting for instructions from their boss.

Heyes rolled his eyes at his partner as Harry emerged from the tumble of blanket and clothes.

“What the..?” but Guthrie had a gun pointed at him before Harry could utter another word.

“Your gun, Kid,” Brady prompted and Kid threw his gun towards him.

***

Kid Curry knelt in front of Brady, hands on his head, his eyes, hard and ice blue as the man stood before him. Heyes and Harry adopted similar postures on either side of the blond gunslinger. Stubbs and Guthrie stood behind them trying their best to look menacing.

“Are you glad to see me again?” Brady asked Kid. Kid just glared at the man as he walked past, then Brady spun around swiftly and hit Kid across the face with the back of his hand. Heyes winced at the blow, as Kid fell backwards. Kid slowly pulled himself back to his knees, licking away a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth as he did so. Here we go again, he thought.

“I asked you a question,” Brady reminded him.

“You do a lot of that,” Kid said and Heyes rolled his eyes. He was doing it again!

Stubborn idiot! Heyes tried to catch his partner’s eye but he was soon aware that Kid was deliberately ignoring him. Heyes just hoped Brady did not intend to finish what he had started with the axe. At least there did not appear to be one around.

“You just can’t keep that mouth of yours shut, can ya?” Brady sneered.

“I thought you wanted an answer,” Kid reminded him. No Kid, don’t get smart now!! Heyes eyes pleaded. Whack, another blow hit Kid’s face.

“Where’s the gold?” Brady asked, as Kid pulled himself to his knees once more. Heyes laughed and Brady turned to face him.

“Something funny?”

“There isn’t any gold,” Heyes told him. “We found three bags at the second site. Three bags full of pebbles. Fraser isn’t dead. He didn’t trust your brother so he reburied it, drew that second map, then some time later came back for it. Fraser has it. You want the gold you’ll have to find him.”

Brady looked from one man to the next.

“Search their things,” he ordered and Stubbs began to search their bed rolls, saddle bags and saddles. He soon declared there to be no gold.

“Maybe they buried it,” Guthrie suggested.

“We just spent hours digging it up!” Heyes told him. “You found us at the second site. Do you really think we’d want to bury it again?” Heyes asked and Brady had to admit he didn’t think they would. He walked over to Harry. The Bannerman man looked up at him nervously.

“This true?” Brady asked, not expecting Harry to have the courage to lie.

“It’s true,” Harry told him. “The army said they had a report that Fraser was killed in Mexico but he wrote that note. I’ve got it in my pocket if you want to see it?”

“Alright,” Brady said as he held out his hand.

“I’ll have to move my hands,” Harry reminded him not wanting any of what Kid had received.

“Just do it slow,” Brady told him.

Harry lowered his arms and reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out the note that had fallen from the last bag of pebbles. Brady took it and studied it intently.

“So no gold,” Brady now seemed resigned to the fact. He turned slowly to face Kid. “Still I got Kid Curry at my mercy, so it’s not been a completely wasted day. It’s a pity I can’t hand you in for the reward, but I got my own wanted poster. Oh I may not be in your league but I’m not walking into a sheriff’s office voluntarily either.” He looked at Harry.

“And I guess you knew who they were all along. I don’t like people lying to me. I bet you ain’t even a proper detective.” Brady leaned over Harry, and then shoved him back with a hard push. Harry fell onto his side. Brady grinned somewhat too manically for Heyes liking. Kid did not react.

“I guess this is it then Curry,” Brady said, as he stood over the blond man.

“Oh, you ridin’ out now?” Kid asked, sounding almost unconcerned. He was resigned to the fact that they were about to have their final show down and he had no idea what Brady had in mind; no idea what to prepare for.

“Soon, but before that, you and I have to say goodbye and I know just the way to do that.” Brady smiled and Heyes found himself uttering a silent prayer once more.

What did Brady have in mind for his friend this time, he wondered? Brady turned to Guthrie.

“Tie up the detective and Heyes, then bring Curry over here,” Brady ordered as he walked towards the centre of the campsite. “Stubbs, make a fire here,” Brady instructed the shorter man. As Guthrie grabbed some rope from his saddle, Stubbs got to work, collecting firewood and starting a fire. Soon orange flames were licking the air.

“If you’re making coffee. It’ll have to be black. I’m afraid we’re all out of milk,” Kid told Brady, conversationally. Heyes just rolled his eyes again. This time Brady said nothing, just gave Kid a glare.

Both Heyes and Kid were running through all the possible things Brady might be about to do and not liking anything they came up with. Guthrie quickly tied the detective’s wrists together, and then did the same to Heyes. He forced them to their knees someway back from the fire, and then joined Stubbs and Brady. Guthrie shoved Kid onto his knees close to the flames. Brady picked up a smouldering branch and waved it in the air as he spoke.

“We’re gonna be riding out soon, but, as you know, I still got a score to settle with you,” Brady said as he looked at Kid. “You made me look like a fool in front of my men, in front of my daughter. I don’t like to be made a fool of.” He swung the branch close to Kid’s face and the blond man leaned back trying to get out of the way but Guthrie was behind him now.

“People hafta know not to mess with me. People hafta know even Kid Curry don’t mess with me,” Brady stated. “So how do I let them know? Maybe I need to leave my mark?”

Brady had shoved Kid’s gun into his own waistband. He removed it now and laid it on the ground, the barrel in the fire.

“Hold him still,” Brady ordered and Guthrie and Stubbs grabbed Kid’s arms. Brady pulled on his gloves and picked up Kid’s gun from the fire. Kid struggled as Brady brought the barrel of the gun close to his face. He could feel the heat radiating off the hot metal.

Heyes struggled with his bonds and was surprised to find them loosening. In his haste to tie the men up, Guthrie had not done a very good job. Heyes caught Harry’s eye and held up his arms behind his back. Harry looked puzzled. Heyes indicated with some facial contortions that his hands were free. Harry was still confused. Heyes rolled his eyes in disbelief…the man must know what he was telling him. Finally, Harry caught on, his eyes opened wide with understanding. He struggled with his own ropes and soon he too had his hands free. Neither man wanted to alert their captors, who were currently, holding Kid close to the fire.

“Kinda ironic that the mark I leave will be from your own gun.” Brady smiled menacingly at Kid, the gun moving closer. “I’m gonna brand ya Kid,” Brady informed him.

“Just to let folks know, no one messes with Ned Brady.” Brady looked at the gun. “Oh, I think this needs to be hotter,” he decided and placed it back in the fire. He gave the gun time to heat up then bent down to pick it up once again.

Heyes watched with growing horror as Brady brought the gun close to Kid’s face for a second time. He waited for his friend to cry out as the hot metal seared into his flesh. Kid could feel the heat from the hot barrel on his face.

Heyes caught Harry’s eye and nodded towards the rifle Guthrie had left propped against the boulder when he was called to hold Kid. Heyes eyes danced instructions and Harry soon realised what the younger man wanted him to do. Harry shuffled on his knees closer to the rifle. Heyes shuffled forward a couple of steps. Harry copied him. Gradually, as the other men had their attention focussed on Kid, Harry and Heyes edged closer to the rifle, the fire and their friend.

“You always had the ladies buzzing around you didn’t you Kid,” Brady was saying as he waved the gun near Kid’s face. “That baby face of yours wont be so popular with ‘em when I’m through with ya this time.”

When he was sure Harry was ready, Heyes gave a nod. Harry got quickly to his feet and grabbed up the rifle

Heyes was swiftly up and running, straight for Brady. Brady looked up just as Heyes careered into him and the two men went tumbling backwards, through the fire. As they did so, a shot rang out.

“Hold it there boys!” Harry ordered in his best Bannerman’s voice. Stubbs and Guthrie froze. Harry gave them a sneer as he waved his rifle, indicating they should move away from Kid. The two men stepped back and Harry saw Kid on his knees at their feet. The blond man had his hand clamped over the upper part of his left arm. Blood ran through his fingers and stained his white shirt sleeve. Kid pulled himself to his feet. He cast a glance at Heyes and Brady who were slugging it out on the other side of the fire, then turned to face Stubbs and Guthrie. He glared at them and removed the gun from each man’s holster. Kid gave each a quick check to see that they were loaded, stuffed one into his waistband and then strode purposefully towards his fighting friend.

Heyes landed a punch to Brady’s jaw and the man fell backwards. Heyes landed a second and a third, venting his anger on the man. Anger at watching him wave an axe over his friend’s arm, anger at watching him threaten to brand Kid with his own gun, anger at just about everything.

Brady threw a punch of his own, connecting with Heyes’ jaw. Then as the dark-haired man steadied himself Brady landed two more. Heyes’ mouth was bleeding from Brady’s last two blows. Kid’s gun had fallen from Brady’s hand during the struggle for the weapon. Now the ex-outlaw leader made a grab for it, but Brady was on him, pulling at Heyes’ shirt, trying to keep him away from the weapon. The two men grappled for the Colt, neither willing to let it go.

And then a shot rang out, hitting the ground beyond the struggling men. They stopped fighting, neither sure who had fired the shot, or whether the shooter was friend or foe. They broke apart and turned to see Kid Curry standing before them, Stubbs’ Colt pointed at them. Heyes sat back, breathing heavily and relieved. He had Kid’s gun in his hand. He saw the blood stain on Kid’s left arm but seeing the look in his partner’s eyes didn’t move to help him.

Kid fixed mean, hard eyes on Ned Brady. He raised the gun, aiming it between Brady’s eyes.

“Kid,” Heyes cautioned softly.

“It ends here Brady,” Kid said. “It ends now. Just you and me.”

Brady did not say anything. Kid didn’t take his eyes off the man.

“Heyes give him the gun,” Kid instructed his partner. Heyes jaw stiffened. He knew what his friend intended to do. He looked at the ground, determination on his face, not looking at his partner as he spoke.

“No,” Heyes said firmly. He would not help his friend get himself shot.

Kid’s eyes flicked across to his partner; he met Heyes’ brown eyes, Kid’s expression did not change. He remained calm, he did not argue. He looked back at Brady. Slowly Kid placed Stubbs’ gun in his holster, then removed Guthrie’s’ Colt from his waistband. He threw the gun to Brady. It hit the ground at Brady’s side with a thud.

“Pick it up,” Kid told him. Brady looked at the gun, so tantalisingly near his hand, then back at the gunslinger.

“Kid don’t,” Heyes pleaded, but his partner was not listening.

“You want to end this Brady, well let’s do it now.” Kid’s right hand hung down by his holster. “Go for the gun if you want to. At least I’m offering you a fair fight which is more than you’ve given us.”

Brady’s eyes fixed on Kid Curry wondering what he would do; trying to judge the man. Suddenly Brady reached for the gun and turned it on Kid. A shot rang out. Brady cried out in pain, holding his right hand. Blood ran through his fingers. Kid stood perfectly still, Stubbs’ gun in his hand. He pointed it at Brady. Brady was clearly terrified that Kid would shoot. Kid raised the gun higher, once again aiming it at Brady’s face.

“Kid,” Heyes cautioned once more, watching his partner’s eyes for any clue as to what he would do next. And then he saw it, just a faint flicker and Kid pointed the gun at the sky, gave Brady a knowing smile and then twirled the gun a couple of times before dropping it into his holster.

At last Heyes breathed out. He got to his feet and walked slowly to Kid’s side. His friend was still staring at Brady. Heyes looked at the blood on his partner’s arm as it hung at his side. As if suddenly aware of the pain, Kid placed a hand over the bullet wound.

“Will you be okay for a minute while I deal with the others?” Heyes asked, not really wanting to leave his friend.

“Yeah, go do what you hafta,” Kid said, flatly.

Heyes went to help Harry tie up Stubbs and Guthrie, then he returned with more rope for Brady.

“Put your hands behind your back,” Heyes ordered, as he knelt beside Brady.

“My hand, I can’t stop the bleeding,” Brady whimpered.

“Use your bandana,” Heyes suggested and Brady removed it from around his neck and wrapped it clumsily around his right hand. All the time Kid stood watching him, unnerving the man. Heyes tied the bandana tight around Brady’s hand, not wanting him to bleed to death before they decided what to do with him.

He tied Brady’s hands behind his back, dragged him to his feet and pushed him over to the others. As Harry stood guard over the three men Heyes returned to his partner.

“Let me see,” he said and Kid removed his hand from his sleeve.

Heyes tore open the bullet hole in Kid’s shirt and looked at the wound.

“Not exactly funny being shot with my own gun,” Kid said through gritted teeth.

“Well at least you know the bullet’s clean,” Heyes said.

“Is that meant to make me feel better?” Kid asked, as Heyes examined the wound. He flinched at Heyes’ touch.

“Well there’s less chance of infection,” Heyes stated. “The bullet went right through,” Heyes told him, then he met Kid’s eyes and saw the pain he was struggling to control.

“I guess it’s time to tear up another one of your shirts,” Heyes announced.

“No!”

“Kid, I gotta bandage it.”

“No, I mean not one of my shirts,” Kid stated.

“Well I’m not using one of mine,” Heyes told him, firmly.

“We have bandages,” Kid told him.

“What?” Heyes asked, incredulously.

“I bought some in Hogwood, just in case. They’re on the mule.”

“You bought bandages?”

“Yeah. I thought it was about time we had some.”

“Well that’s a little pessimistic, don’t you think Kid?” Heyes scolded.

“The way we keep getting hurt? I thought it was more realistic.” Kid could see Heyes considering this. “Heyes!”

“What?”

“Will you please go and get them before I bleed to death.”

Heyes looked up, startled.

“Oh yeah, sorry Kid,” he said and headed for the mule. Then he stopped and turned back. “Were they expensive?”

“HEYES!”

“Okay no need to get proddy. Just wonderin’ how much you spent. I mean now that we don’t have the gold we’re gonna have to watch what we spend. If you want to go splashing out on bandages well…”

“HEYES! I’M BLEEDING!”

“Sheesh Kid, no need to shout.” Heyes walked off to find the mule.

***

Heyes found the bandages and had to admit it had been one of Kid’s better ideas to buy some. He had not relished the thought of tearing up another shirt.

“If I hadn’t jumped him you wouldn’t have been shot,” Heyes told Kid, as he tied the bandage around his arm. Kid flinched. “Sorry,” his friend apologised.

“If you hadn’t, I’d be wearing Brady’s special brand on my face. It wasn’t your best plan Heyes but it worked,” Kid told him.

“Believe me Kid, for once there was no plan.”

“This may need some stitches,” Heyes decided, as he finished tying the bandage.

“I’ll be alright,” Kid said.

“So you’re a gunslinger one minute and a doctor the next?” Heyes snapped and Kid’s eyes fell on his.

“Just did what I had to,” Kid said.

“Maybe,” Heyes said.

“You don’t approve of what I did?” Kid asked and Heyes realised Kid did not care whether Heyes did or not.

“Kid,” Heyes said.

“Not now Heyes,” Kid said as he got to his feet. His eyes fixed on his partner’s, held them for a moment. Yes, he knew there was something they had to discuss. “Not now.”

***

After much discussion between Heyes and Harry, they decided that they would take the men to the sheriff in Hogwood. As a Bannerman detective, Harry could turn them in. They got Stubbs, Guthrie and Brady into the saddle. Brady was still complaining about how much his hand hurt and letting them know all the things he would do to them if he got free. Heyes tied a bandana around the man’s mouth and everyone was grateful for the ensuing silence.

“You talking to me yet?” Heyes asked, as he pulled himself into the saddle.

“Never said I wasn’t,” Kid told him matter-of-factly, as he held out the reins to his partner.

“I just thought…” Heyes didn’t finish.

“What did you think? Did you think I’d shoot him between the eyes?” Kid asked his partner, with genuine interest.

“I have to admit that thought did occur to me.”

“Did you think it was another Danny?”

“Well I …maybe,” Heyes admitted. ”I didn’t back you up,” Heyes stated, clearly sorry.

“No, you didn’t.”

“Kid I didn’t want you to get killed. I didn’t want you to kill him and…”

“Brady hadn’t killed anyone Heyes,” Kid reminded him. “Although chopping off my hand woulda come pretty close.” Kid looked up at his friend and smiled, seeing the relief sweep over his partner’s face.

“You never had any intention of killing him did you?” Heyes stated.

“Oh, I don’t know. The thought might have occurred to me.”

“So what stopped you?”

“You did.” Heyes gave him a curious look. “You had that disapproving look on your face Heyes.”

“What disapproving look?”

“That one you do, when you think I’m doing the wrong thing.”

“I don’t have a look,” Heyes protested.

“Oh yes you do,” Kid assured him. “Anyway, there was that look and I thought how you’d go on and on about it if I killed him. Just the thought of you yakkin’ in my ear was enough to stop me.”

Heyes smiled, knowing his partner was only telling half the truth.

“No, Kid that’s not it,” he said. He met Kid’s blue eyes. “You’re a better man than you give yourself credit for. After what he did to you, a lesser man would have shot him dead.”

Kid said nothing.

“I would have shot him, Kid.” Heyes stated. “For what he did to you.”

Kid gave his friend a grateful smile.

***

When they reached Hogwood Harry took Brady, Stubbs and Guthrie into the sheriff’s office. Kid and Heyes waited and watched nervously, from the livery stables across the street.

“What do you think is going on in there?” Kid asked.

“Well Harry is explaining what happened and no doubt claiming all the glory for bringing in three hardened criminals,” Heyes told his partner.

“Just as long as he doesn’t mention he has another two waiting outside,” Kid grumbled. He adjusted his arm in the sling the doctor had made him wear. Kid had not wanted to visit the doctor but Heyes had insisted. Fortunately no stitches had been required in the bullet wound. The doctor had been able to provide some powders that he assured Kid would help ease the pain, as long as he took them as instructed. Kid assured the man he would.

Suddenly Harry emerged from the jail, looking pleased with himself. He spotted his friends hiding in the entrance to the livery stable and walked casually across the street to meet them.

“Well?” Heyes asked, when Harry reached them.

“I explained to the sheriff who Brady and his men were,” Harry told them.

“And?” Kid prompted.

“And he congratulated me on their capture. I told him it was no more than he could expect from one of Mr. Bannerman’s men,” Harry told them full of self-importance. “Of course Brady started complaining and told them Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes were working with me.”

“What did the sheriff say to that?” Heyes asked, nervously.

“He didn’t believe him. Said, did they really expect him to believe that a Bannerman detective would be working with Heyes and Curry and if he was, why wasn’t he turning them in for $20,000 instead of handing over a two bit thief like Brady.”

“I bet that didn’t go down too well,” Kid observed.

“I told him the men who helped me bring Brady in were also Bannerman agents. Two fine men named Grant and Gaines.” Harry smiled wondering if they would remember.

“Thanks Harry,” Heyes said. “Oh and Harry….”

“Joshua?”

“Did he mention a reward on Brady?”

“Well..he…I think…he…er…yes.”

“And?” Kid asked.

“Well they don’t always have..”

“How much?” Heyes asked.

“Well as I said they..”

“How much Harry?” Kid asked, firmly.

“Five hundred dollars.”

“And when do you get it?”

“Well I..we..”

“When?” Heyes asked sharply.

“This afternoon. The sheriff will get it from the bank.”

“Heyes you aren’t thinking of taking some of that reward money are you?” Kid asked. “I mean it don’t seem right. We’re still wanted and it never seemed right when someone wanted to turn us in for the reward.”

“Kid we’ll just take enough to cover our out of pocket expenses.” Heyes explained.

“But I..” Harry began to protest.

“Promised to pay for it all, Harry, remember?” Heyes reminded him.

“Yes Joshua, I remember.”

“So we’ll just wait with you until you go and meet the sheriff at the bank,” Heyes told him. The partners moved to stand, one on either side of the Bannerman detective.

Harry was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.

“Boys, you’re making me think you don’t trust me,” he told them jovially, as he looked from one man to the other. “And after all we’ve been through.”

“After all we’ve been through Harry, do you blame us?” Kid asked.

“But that wasn’t me,” he protested.

“No Harry, it wasn’t,” Heyes admitted. “So why don’t we all go over to the saloon. We can have a drink and you can wait with your good friends Grant and Gaines until it’s time to collect the reward.”

“Well alright boys, but I don’t want you thinking I’d double cross you,” Harry said as they steered him across the street towards the saloon.

“We don’t Harry,” Kid assured him, giving his partner a quick glance, as they reached the steps to the boardwalk.

“I mean you fellas are my friends. You got me out of more trouble than I care to remember,” Harry told them as they entered the saloon. “Why if it wasn’t for you…” his voice trailed off as the bat wing doors swung closed.

THE END

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s