5 The Unexpected Bullet

The Unexpected Bullet
(The Elizabeth Darkly series #5)

By Maz McCoy

“You know Heyes, I think he let you win,” Kid Curry said as he and his partner entered the hotel in Dalton’s Crossing. The dark-haired ex-outlaw put a hand on his partner’s arm and the blond man stopped walking.

“He did not let me win,” Heyes assured his friend, fixing his brown eyes on Kid’s blue ones, as he pushed back his black hat.

“Well, he didn’t seem too bothered when you raked in that last pot,” Kid pointed out.

“He was a good loser,” Heyes stated.

“You sure?” Kid asked, teasing his friend and he started towards the stairs. Heyes opened his mouth to speak.

“Mr. Smith,” the hotel receptionist called, interrupting Heyes, before he could think of a witty retort for his partner. The two young men exchanged a glance and then walked slowly towards the reception desk.

“Yes?” Heyes said.

“I have a message for you, sir,” the man told him. “Your fiancée is waiting for you in the dining room.”

“I’m sorry, there must be some mistake,” Heyes told him.

“Oh no sir, no mistake. She is waiting for Mr. Joshua Smith,” he pointed. “In the dining room.”

“My fiancée you say?” Heyes asked.

“Yes sir.”

Hannibal Heyes turned to face Kid.

“You don’t think it’s…?” Kid began and left the rest unsaid.

“Oh yes, I think it is,” Heyes said, with a mixture of resignation and dread. The two men entered the dining room. As they did so, a beautiful dark–haired woman, in a green dress, waved to them from a far table. The partners exchanged a glance, as if to ask each other the question, do we run or stay?

“Joshua! Thaddeus!” the woman called and their fate was sealed.

“Elizabeth!” the two men said in unison, with feigned enthusiasm and fixed smiles, as they walked towards her table. Elizabeth Darkly gave them a broad smile as they sat down. She waved a hand in the air and a waiter scurried to her side. “A glass of champagne for my fiancé and his friend,” she ordered.

“Just coffee,” Heyes told the man.

“For two,” Kid added.

“Bring a pot,” Elizabeth said and the waiter removed her empty plate before walking away.

“I’m not your fiancé,” Heyes told her, when they were alone.

“I know, but how would it look if an unmarried woman had dinner with two attractive, unattached, young men?” She glanced at their tied down guns. “Both armed and dangerous too,” she added, with mock disapproval.

“What do you want?” Heyes asked, coming straight to the point.

“What makes you think I want anything?” she asked, innocently.

“You always want somethin’,” Kid told her and she met his gaze.

“Alright, I do want something. I want you,” she told them, enjoying their confused looks.

“In what way, do you want us?” Heyes asked, instantly regretting it. Kid rolled his eyes.

“Now there’s a leading question,” she said, not missing the chance to embarrass him, and gave him a wicked smile. “What could I say to that?” Her eyes sparkled.

“What do you want?” Heyes asked, ignoring her comment, but Kid saw there was a sparkle in his eyes too. His partner was enjoying sparring with her.

“I need your help. I need someone I can trust,” she said, seriously.

“You trust us?” Kid asked surprised.

“More than you trust me,” she told him.

“To do what?” Heyes asked, his eyes on hers. At that moment, the waiter returned with the coffee. He poured three cups, left the milk and sugar and departed. “So why do you need our help?” Heyes asked, not about to let it drop.

“Because I’m being followed,” Elizabeth stated and watched their reaction. The partners exchanged a glance.

“By who?” Heyes asked.

“I don’t know.” Heyes was not sure he believed her.

“Are we going to get shot again?” Kid asked and Heyes smiled. Elizabeth looked at the blond man.

“You don’t always get shot when I’m around,” she stated.

“We always get hurt,” Kid informed her. “You’re a dangerous woman to know.” His blue eyes met her dark ones.

“I’ll admit this could be dangerous…”

“Ah ha!” Kid said and turned to his partner. “Okay, now it’s your turn to talk us out of this.” Heyes smiled at Kid, and then looked at Elizabeth.

“Why don’t you tell us your story?” Heyes suggested and Elizabeth agreed. She looked at them. Kid Curry had clearly recovered from the bullet wound he had in his leg, the last time she had seen him. She had not detected even a hint of a limp, as he approached the table. She noted that when he sat down, he took the seat that would give him the best view of the room; the one with its back to the wall. As they sat talking, his eyes scanned the room and the diners at their tables. He was always on the look out for danger, always watching their backs. Did he ever relax, she wondered?

Hannibal Heyes did appear relaxed, knowing that his partner was keeping an eye on the room. His brown eyes met Elizabeth’s as she studied him and Heyes smiled, revealing two dimples she found particularly attractive. Elizabeth smiled back. She wouldn’t mind being his fiancée for real. Of the two ex-outlaws he was certainly the one for her, with those warm brown eyes, that dark, slightly ruffled hair and…

“So Elizabeth, let’s hear what you have to say,” Heyes prompted.

“A few days ago I was in Buffalo Wells,” she said and the partners exchanged a surprised look.

“What were you gonna do?” Kid asked. “Spend time with Wheat and the boys again?”

“No, I was just passing through on the stage. I saw a man there and didn’t think anything of it, until I saw him again when we stopped at the next town. I saw him here in Dalton’s Crossing just a couple of hours ago.”

“I take it he wasn’t on the stage with you?” Heyes said.

“No,” she said, patiently.

“Just checkin’,” he told her. “What makes you think he’s followin’ you? It could just be a coincidence.”

“Yeah. I mean you’re in the same town as we are. Is that a coincidence?” Kid asked.

“You won’t believe me but it is,” she told him. “I was pleasantly surprised when I saw you entering the saloon this afternoon.”

“You’re right,” Kid said. “I don’t believe you.”

“The man…” Heyes said, getting them back to the matter at hand.

“It was the way he was looking at me. He was staring, like he knew who I was and he was biding his time before he decided to approach me,” she told them.

“Has he approached you?” Heyes asked.

“No, not yet, but everywhere I’ve been he’s been there, looking, watching and waiting.”

“D’you know where he is now?” Kid asked and Elizabeth had the feeling that if she had known the man’s whereabouts, Kid would have walked over there that very minute and dealt with him. It gave her a pleasant feeling just thinking about it.

“No I don’t,” she told him.

“Where did you see him last?” Heyes asked.

“On the street, a couple of hours ago. I was looking out of the hotel window.”

“D’you know if he’s stayin’ at the hotel?” Heyes asked.

“He’s not,” she told him. “I’ve already asked the desk clerk. I think he was heading towards the livery stable.”

“Can you describe him for us?” Heyes asked.

“Dark hair and dark eyes.”

“Well he should be real easy to find,” Kid said sarcastically. “Could be you Heyes. You been followin’ Elizabeth?” His partner shot him a look.

“The man is taller,” Elizabeth told him.

“Well, that makes all the difference,” Kid stated.

“He was wearing brown boots, black pants and a tan coloured shirt,” Elizabeth continued. “His brown hat had a metal band around it and a broken feather tucked in it. He wears his gun tied down and it has a silver handle. His belt buckle is oval and has a silver star in the middle of it.” She gave them a triumphant look.

“Well that’s much better,” Heyes said, clearly impressed.

“You didn’t get his name then?” Kid asked and she glared at him as Heyes sniggered.

“So do you have any idea why this man is followin’ you?” Heyes asked.

“No,” she assured him.

“What have you been doing since we last met?” the dark–haired man wanted to know.

“Nothing that would have someone following me,” she told him.

“And yet someone is,” Heyes pointed out, clearly not believing her.

“Hannibal,” she began and he bristled at the use of his name.

“It’s Heyes,” he told her.

“Alright, Heyes. I don’t know why this man is following me but he is. Now will you help me or not?” Hannibal Heyes’ brown eyes met hers and neither of them spoke. Kid looked at them; watching their eyes on each other, expecting sparks to fly between them. There was clearly a lot they had to say to each other and there was a lot that needed to be said.

“I’m gonna have a look around,” Kid said, as he stood up and pushed his chair back.

“You don’t hafta go,” Heyes told him.

“Yeah, I think I do,” Kid stated. He looked at the dark-haired woman. “Goodnight Elizabeth,” he said.

“Goodnight Kid,” Elizabeth Darkly said, her voice low so no one else would hear her use his name.

Kid left them.

“And so we are alone,” Elizabeth said.

“Yes, we are,” Heyes replied, his eyes fixed on hers and she gave him a seductive smile, which he slowly returned. Was it the reflected light from the candles or did she see a sparkle of something else in those deep brown orbs? “You shot me,” he stated seriously.

“Yes, I did.” Elizabeth said the regret evident in her voice, as she looked directly at him. “I told you I was sorry about that. I was desperate at the time and I would have done anything for money. It really wasn’t anything personal.”

“Well that makes it alright then,” he said sarcastically.

“No it doesn’t,” she told him. “I didn’t know you, either of you, so well at the time. I wouldn’t do it now and that’s the truth. I wouldn’t turn you in either, in case you wondered.”

“I did,” he admitted. “You could have killed me,” he added.

“I could have, but I told you I’m an excellent shot and that’s why you’re alive. I didn’t want you dead. I thought you’d forgiven me and I did stop Crow shooting you.” He considered this.

“Yes, you did and I know you helped Kid,” he told her. “Maybe saved his life. Thank you for that.”

“Oh Preacher saved his life, I just did a little hand holding and brow mopping,” she added dismissively.

“And chest strokin’, from what I heard,” Heyes told her with a smile.

“Are you sure that wasn’t Kyle?” she asked with a twinkle in her eyes. “So what happens now?”

“Now?”

“Are we friends? You know I want to be,” she told him and reaching across the table she took his hands in hers. Heyes did not pull away. Slowly he ran his thumbs over the back of her hands, admiring her delicate fingers and the softness of her skin.

“I suppose we could be,” he told her not letting go. There was just something about this woman that he couldn’t resist, despite everything she had done to them. He looked up and his eyes met hers.

“You know when I first met you…” but she didn’t finish. Elizabeth Darkly looked quickly into her empty coffee cup and gathered her thoughts. She took a deep breath before she spoke. “It’s late. Would you see me to my room?” she asked suddenly and he saw sadness in her eyes.

“Of course,” he told her.

***

“Well here we are,” Elizabeth said, as they stopped outside her hotel room. She removed the key from her purse.

“Allow me,” Heyes said and taking the key, he unlocked the door for her.

“You don’t have to go,” she told him.

“I think I do,” he replied, although he had her hands in his once more.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because Kid’s right, you’re a dangerous woman,” he told her.

“Surely Hannibal Heyes isn’t frightened of me? Besides, I thought you liked a little danger,” she said and her eyes fixed on his, as she teased him.

“I do,” he told her. Heyes smiled revealing two dimples. Elizabeth moved closer.

“So live dangerously. Don’t go.” Her lips touched his. Heyes did not respond at first and then she felt him relax and he pulled her into his arms as they kissed. Gently, he eased her back against the door, his body pressed into hers, as their kiss grew more passionate. Heyes felt behind her back for the door handle. Turning it, he opened the door to her room and the danger that lay within.

***

Kid had looked in the saloon for the man Elizabeth Darkly had described. He had a drink at the bar and casually asked a few questions, but no one admitted to knowing the man he was looking for. Kid had walked up and down the boardwalk a couple of times and peered through the window of the town’s small restaurant, but he had not seen anyone matching the description. The livery stable was locked so he found no answers there.

It was late, and he was tired, when he returned to the hotel. Elizabeth and Heyes were no longer in the dining room. Kid took the stairs two at a time and returned to his room. Heyes was not there either. Kid gave a slight smile and then frowned. He sure hoped Heyes knew what he was letting himself in for.

Kid sat on the edge of his bed and pulled off his right boot. He dropped it on the floor with a thud. At that moment, someone unlocked the door. Kid had his gun in his hand before the handle turned. Hannibal Heyes entered the room and, seeing his partner’s gun pointed at him, held up his hands. Kid smiled at his friend and returned his gun to its holster.

Without saying a word, Heyes walked to his bed and began to unbuckle his gun belt. Kid remained silent and the dark-haired man knew what his partner was thinking but he did not want to discuss it.

“So are we gonna help her?” Kid asked after a while. He watched his partner’s back noticing his shoulders stiffen.

Heyes hooked his gun belt over the bedpost but didn’t turn around,

“Yes, Kid, we are, or at least I am. I won’t decide for you,” he replied and finally turned to face his partner.

“Couldn’t we just ride outta here tonight?” Kid suggested. Heyes gave him a sympathetic look.

“You can. I won’t. You don’t hafta help her if you don’t want to.”

“She helped me Heyes, of course I’ll help her.” Then he added, as an after thought, “Oh God, I’m gonna get shot again. I just know it.” Kid shook his head and tugged at his other boot. Heyes smiled, grateful for his partner’s help and the fact that he was tactful enough, not to ask where he had been.

***

“What do you really think this is about?” Kid Curry asked his partner, as they walked along the corridor to Elizabeth’s room the next morning. Kid did not ask how Heyes knew which room it was. “I mean, I know you didn’t believe her story.”

“I don’t believe her and I don’t trust her, but I intend to find out what’s really going on,” the dark-haired man told him. Kid was not sure Elizabeth Darkly would tell them that easily. No matter how close she and Heyes were becoming.

“She didn’t let anything slip last night?” Kid asked and Heyes stopped walking. He looked at his partner who fixed two innocent blue eyes on him. Heyes took a deep breath.

“No. No she didn’t. We didn’t talk about…” but Kid held up a hand to stop him.

“I don’t need details Heyes,” he said and saw just a hint of a blush on his partner’s face as he walked off.

When they reached Elizabeth’s room, the door was open slightly, the lock broken. Both men were instantly on their guard. Having walked into one of her traps before, they approached cautiously. Kid drew his gun and Heyes followed suit. Kid nodded and Heyes pushed the door open wider. The room was a mess. The bedclothes had been pulled from the bed and clothes lay strewn around the room. Drawers were open, their contents spilled on the floor. A chair lay on its side and the broken pieces of a lamp lay scattered below the window. Cautiously they entered the room and looked around.

“You know I wouldn’t put it past her to stage this herself,” Kid said.

“I know,” Heyes told him. “But why would she? I’ve already agreed to help her.” He was now concerned for her safety.

“So what d’you think happened here? A struggle? Or a robbery? And why didn’t anyone hear it?”

“If Elizabeth is downstairs eating breakfast we’ll know the answer to that,” Heyes said.

But Mrs. Darkly was not in the dining room and according to the desk clerk, she had not been down that morning. He assumed she was still in her room.

“What do we do Heyes?” Kid asked as they turned away from the desk. “If she’s been taken by someone…” he watched his cousin’s face.

“I know. We should report it to the sheriff,” Heyes said and Kid could see his partner was thinking. “We hafta go after her. We hafta help her,” Heyes stated.

“Yeah,” Kid replied as he checked his gun and his partner caught an edge in his voice.

“You don’t think we should?”

“No Heyes, I do think we should.” He looked at his partner. “I do believe she’s in trouble and we hafta do what we can to help her. Just don’t let her know I said that.”

“We’d better go tell the sheriff,” Heyes said.

The blond-haired man smiled and put a reassuring hand on his partner’s shoulder as they left the hotel.

***

They had checked out the sheriff’s office the first day they arrived in town. Sheriff Harold Spencer was in his early fifties and preferred the quiet life. They did not know him and he did not seem the least bit interested in them, which was the way they liked it. He did not seem particularly interested in any stranger in town, which was the outward impression he was happy to let people believe. In fact, Sheriff Spencer was a very astute man and had his eye on all that went on in town.

He got slowly to his feet when the men he knew as Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones entered the office. He noted their tied down guns and was instantly on his guard.

“Howdy,” Heyes said, in his friendliest voice.

“How can I help you fellas?” Spencer asked.

Heyes explained that Mrs. Elizabeth Darkly seemed to have disappeared. He informed the sheriff of what they had found when they went to her hotel room just a few minutes ago and how they feared for her safety.

“Mrs. Darkly, you say?” the sheriff asked.

“Yes,” Heyes replied.

“Ain’t that your fiancée?” Kid raised his eyebrows at Heyes. News sure did travel fast in this town. Heyes decided it would be too complicated to explain the truth.

“Yes, that’s right,” he said and Kid did his best not to react.

“What’s the matter Mr. Smith? D’ya fiancée run off with another man? Is that what you’re worried about?” The sheriff laughed at his own joke but noticed neither of the men before him even broke into a smile. In fact, the dangerous look both men were giving him, was making him feel a little uncomfortable. “Alright, I’ll go take a look at her room and I’ll ask around and see what I can find out,” he told them seriously.

“Thank you sheriff,” Heyes said, although clearly he did not have a lot of faith in the lawman’s abilities.

***

In the early morning light, Elizabeth Darkly stood shivering on a riverbank beside a gently flowing stream. She was wearing only her underwear, consisting of, stockings, a chemise, under-drawers and a corset. Admittedly, it was an expensive corset trimmed with fine lace, embroidered roses and blue ribbon but it still provided little warmth.

Elizabeth had been dressing that morning, when the door burst open. Two men forced their way into her room and grabbed hold of her. One was the man who had been following her. His strong hands held her wrists firmly in his grasp as his dark eyes fixed on hers. His breath on her face was pungent and she noted a thin scar down his left cheek before she turned her head away. The other man, who held a gun to her head, was thinner, with straggly blond hair hidden beneath a tatty brown hat. His face was pock marked and he had a nervous laugh.

Elizabeth had struggled to get away but they quickly overpowered her, placing a hand over her mouth to smother her cries, before using a grubby piece of cloth to gag her. They tied her hands together and forced her into the chair as they searched the room. She glared at them as they rifled through her clothes and other personal belongings. Clearly, they had not found what they were looking for and so they had taken her with them.

As the sun shone over the distant hills, Elizabeth shivered once more. She looked at the two men, where they stood, drinking coffee, beside the fire.

“A gentleman would have offered me his coat by now,” Elizabeth told the tall dark-haired man, she now knew as Jake. He smiled revealing the gap in his teeth.

“But I ain’t no gentleman.” Jake replied and she glared at him. Rogers, the other man, laughed. Maybe he should have left the gag on her?

“Then can I at least have a blanket?” she asked. Jake picked one up from the ground and threw it at her. Catching it in her still bound hands, Elizabeth gave it a shake and a cloud of dust rose around her. She hoped it had only been dust in there. Trying not to think about what might be living in the fabric, Elizabeth wrapped it around her body, as best she could, and moved to stand closer to the small fire.

They had dragged her along the corridor and down the stairs at the side of the hotel. Jake had lifted her roughly onto his horse then climbed up behind her. He seemed to enjoy her discomfort as he held her tight, his body pressed close to hers. They had ridden for sometime before pulling their horses into a small gully that descended towards the river. They set up camp in a clearing where the river was little more than a stream and the riverbank wide.

They were clearly waiting for someone, but Elizabeth had no idea who. She wondered what Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry would do when she did not join them for breakfast as they had arranged. Would Heyes think she was avoiding him after last night? They had shared such a close and, she searched for the right word, pleasant evening together. Would he go to her room to find her? She hoped so. Reluctantly, she had to admit, they were her only hope of help at the moment.

At the sound of an approaching horse, Rogers and Jake reached for their guns and were ready and waiting when Christopher Mitchell arrived. Seeing who it was, Jake and Rogers holstered their weapons.

Mitchell was a tall grey-haired man in his early fifties. He wore a crisp white shirt with a brown tie and brown leather vest. A brown cowboy hat was perched at an angle on his head. To Jake and Rogers, his clothes always looked expensive.

“Hello Elizabeth,” Mitchell said as he climbed down from his horse. Elizabeth did not reply. “Did you find it?”

“Not in her room,” Jake told him.

“Did you search her?” he asked. The two men looked sheepish.

“Well only so far, boss we didn’t want to…” Jake began somewhat embarrassed at the thought.

“Hold her still,” Mitchell ordered and they grabbed a hold of her arms. The blanket fell to the ground and Elizabeth glared at Mitchell as he approached her. Then she turned her head away as his hands roughly searched her body and her clothing.

When he failed to find what he was looking for, he stood back and stared at her.

“Where is it?” he asked with anger in his eyes.

“I told you I don’t have it,” she replied and he struck her across the face.

“Don’t lie to me woman. Where is it?”

“She met two men in town,” Jake told his boss and Mitchell turned to him.

“Who?”

“Two men called Smith and Jones. She told the hotel clerk Smith was her fiancé.” Mitchell turned to Elizabeth and smiled.

“How romantic,” he said, and then looked up at Jake. “So bring me her fiancé.”
***

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry stood on the boardwalk outside the sheriff’s office.

“Her things were still in the room, at least as far as I could tell,” Heyes said. “No one saw her come down, so if she was taken against her will they must have gone down the side stairs.”

“So what do we do now?” Kid asked.

“Well she’s either in town or…she’s not,” Heyes stated confidently.

“I can see why they call you a genius Heyes,” Kid said sarcastically and his partner gave him a smile. “I’ll check the livery stable, see if he noticed anyone riding out or if anyone borrowed an extra horse, or if he knows anything at all,” Kid said.

“Alright. I’ll ask a few questions around town and meet you back at the hotel in, what, half an hour?” Heyes asked and Kid agreed.

Further along the boardwalk two men watched the partners go their separate ways. Then they set off after Mr. Smith.

***

Kid was looking around the stable when Digby, the stable manager, came in from the corral. He was a small, thin man with a few wisps of grey hair and a pronounced limp.

“Oh, hello there. You come for your horse?” he asked Kid, in a loud voice, as he rubbed his dirty hands on the legs of his jeans. Kid remembered the man was a little deaf.

“No, I wondered if you’d seen anyone riding out, last night or early this morning, with a dark-haired woman? Anyone been here to buy a horse?” he asked loudly and waited to see what Digby would say.

“No, Mr. Smith, no one’s been here today,” Digby told him. “Why’d ya ask? This woman somethin’ to ya?”

“Er my name’s not…” Kid began but then decided it was not worth the time to explain. “So how about yesterday? Anyone after an extra horse?”

“No sir,” Digby assured him. “The only business I’ve had in the last few days has been lookin’ after your horses. Things are a little slow at the moment.”

Kid’s eyes scanned the stalls as Digby went about his work. They were all empty; the horses were outside in the corral. He followed the man as he entered a stall and began to clean out the soiled hay. Kid leaned against the wall.

“Sorry I can’t help ya,” Digby said, and then shouted conversationally. “I hear you’re getting’ married,”

“Who told you that?” Kid asked curious as to how the man had heard Elizabeth’s story.

“I did,” a voice said and there was a familiar click behind him. Kid froze. With Digby, shouting and scraping the hay, he had not heard the man approach. “Don’t move.” The gun was pushed into his back. Kid felt his own gun being removed from his holster. From inside the stall Digby watched but said nothing. A tall dark-haired man with a scar down his left cheek moved to stand in front of him. His gun was aimed at Kid’s stomach.

“Put you hands behind your back,” Jake ordered and Kid did as he was told. Behind him, another man grabbed Kid’s hands and tied his wrists together, not leaving a lot of room for his circulation.

“What do you want?” Kid asked. The man ignored him and a bandana was pulled around Kid’s face and forced into his mouth. “You’re coming with us Mr. Smith,” Jake told him.

“Ny..ames..not…iff,” Kid mumbled as the gag was tied tightly behind his head. He was shoved out of the stable towards the corral. Under the men’s instructions, Digby had already saddled Kid’s horse and it was tied to the corral fence, alongside two others.

“Get on your horse,” Jake told him.

Kid gave them a look.

“I ant…ny…ands…are…ied,” he said through the gag and indicated his hands, tied behind his back. Jake tilted his head towards Kid and Rogers helped push him up onto the horse. Kid struggled to gain his balance and eventually got his feet in the stirrups and his body centred in the saddle. The men climbed onto their own horses, Jake took hold of the reins of Kid’s horse and they moved off. Digby watched them ride away. They had paid him well, but now he wondered if he had done the right thing.

***

They rode in a line, Jake in the lead, then Kid and finally Rogers bringing up the rear. When they reached a fork in the road Kid saw his chance, he spurred his horse forward, which wrenched the reins from Jake’s hand and Kid’s horse set off down the left fork. Kid urged his horse on but he was having trouble staying in the saddle. He kept low over the horse’s neck and pressed his knees into the animal’s side sensing the two men gaining on him. When a fallen tree blocked their path, Kid’s horse stopped suddenly, then turned sharply into the trees. Kid had no chance of remaining in the saddle. He was thrown and hit the ground hard. Momentarily stunned he lay still in the dirt, bruised and aching. He heard two horses approaching slowly.

“You about done?” Jake asked, looking down at him. Kid struggled to sit up. He was covered in dust, his hat hung in front of him and his arms hurt where he had fallen. He gave Jake a look that said, Can’t blame me for tryin’. Rogers climbed down from his horse. He caught hold of the reins of Kid’s horse and handed them to Jake who tied them to his saddle horn. Then Rogers roughly pulled the young blond man to his feet and shoved him back into the saddle. The three men returned to the trail.

***

When Heyes returned to the hotel Kid was nowhere to be seen. The dark-haired man waited in their room. He sat on the bed and opened a book he had found in a drawer. He flicked through the pages, but he could not settle. He put the book down, got up and looked out of the window. No sign of Kid. Heyes checked his watch. They had arranged to meet back after half an hour. An hour had now passed. Where was Kid? Something just did not feel right. Heyes began to pace, then picked up his hat and headed for the door.

“Hello!” he called as he entered the livery stable. His horse was in a stall but he could not see Kid’s. Digby came out of a back room.

“Oh, hello there Mr.Jones,” he said in a loud voice.

“It’s Smith,” Heyes told him.

“Yes, he was here earlier,” Digby said. Knowing the man was a little deaf, Heyes was about to correct him, when he saw the look that came over the older man’s face. Digby had realised that he might have said something he shouldn’t.

“When was Mr. Smith here?” Heyes asked, his voice raised so that Digby could hear him. The other man looked away. “Digby?” Heyes said and the man faced him again, as he chewed on a wad of tobacco.

“He was here with the other fellas,” Digby told him reluctantly.

“What other fellas?”

“I don’t know their names but they said they was playin’ a joke on him on account of him gettin’ married soon,” Digby explained. “Now that I think about it, they sure did ask a lot of questions first.”

“Tell me what happened,” Heyes said.

“Two men came in earlier askin’ about Mr. Smith’s horse. Which one was it? Had he been ridin’ out much? Did him and a woman go for a ride? Stuff like that.” Digby spat out some tobacco juice. “That’s when they said they were friends of his, and wanted to play a joke on him. It was on account of him gettin’ married soon.”

“Go on,” Heyes prompted.

“When Mr. Smith came in, they tied him up and gagged him. They all rode off together but now I think about it, Mr. Smith didn’t look too pleased about it. If it was a joke he sure weren’t laughin’.”

“Do you know where they went?” Heyes asked, trying to hide his concern for Kid, as he picked up his saddle and started towards his horse.

“No.”

“Well did you see which way they headed?” Heyes asked anxiously. He threw a blanket over his horse’s back then put the saddle on.

“Oh sure,” Digby stated and pointed. “Shouldn’t be too hard to follow ‘em if that’s what you got in mind.”

“Why not?” Heyes asked, looking up at the man as he tightened the cinch on his saddle.

“Well there was an odd lookin’ shoe on one of those fellas’ horses. I asked him if he wanted me to change it but he said no. I’ll show you,” Digby began to draw the shape of a horseshoe in the dirt. “There was an extra bit of metal on it, gave it a bulge on one side. No good for the horse at all. Don’t know who made that for him. Real poor job.” Heyes looked at the pattern.

“You any good at trackin’?” Digby asked.

“I’ve done a bit,” the once champeen tracker of all southern Utah told him.

“Then you should find your friend, no problem.” Digby smiled.

***

They dragged Kid into the camp and pushed him to his knees. Four bedrolls lay around the fire and sitting off to one side, on a large boulder, with a blanket wrapped around her, was Elizabeth Darkly. Kid shot a quick glance in Elizabeth’s direction, seeing her bound hands and a slight bruise on her cheek, then turned his eyes towards the grey-haired man before him. Jake and Rogers stood behind him as Mitchell approached. Jake removed Kid’s gag.

Mitchell looked down at the blond man.

“So you’re Joshua Smith?” Mitchell stated and Kid did not reply. Mitchell’s hand flew out and struck Kid across the right side of his face. Kid fell backwards, tasting blood from his split lip. “I asked you a question,” Mitchell stated.

“Yeah, I heard,” Kid said, as he struggled to his knees. The man hit him across the face again. Once more Kid fell backwards. If Heyes had been there, he would have rolled his eyes, telling Kid not to push it, but sometimes, Kid had to admit, he just couldn’t help himself.

“So I’ll ask again,” Mitchell said. “Are you Smith?”

“What if I am?” Kid asked, as he pulled himself back to his knees. He almost expected to be hit again.

“Elizabeth, please explain to your fiancé that it really is in his best interests to cooperate with us,” Mitchell told her.

“He’s…” Elizabeth began, but Kid cut her off.

“It’s alright sweetheart. Don’t worry about me,” Kid said sending her a look. Elizabeth was confused, but she was also quick witted and knew instantly to play along.

“Elizabeth, perhaps you can help your young man understand that if he does not tell us what we want to know, we will continue to hurt him,” Mitchell told her.

“Do what you want to him,” Elizabeth said. “He means nothing to me, anymore. Not since he spent the night with Millicent Evans.”

“What?” Kid was stunned. That wasn’t going to help at all. “Elizabeth! Sweetheart,” he glared at her. What are you doing? His eyes asked as Elizabeth stood up and approached him.

“Oh yes you did! The desk clerk told me he saw you go up to her room!”

“It wasn’t me! I swear it. You know I only have eyes for you!” Kid pleaded and once more, his eyes were telling her to cut it out. He was trying not to make her out a liar but equally confused as to how this was going to help either of them.

Mitchell laughed.

“Stop it the pair of you,” he commanded. “I don’t care what’s going on between you two. It still doesn’t mean you didn’t give it to him.” Kid was even more confused. The grey-haired man turned his attention to the kneeling man.

“Where is it?” Mitchell asked.

“Where’s what?” Kid asked and Mitchell’s fist knocked him backwards.

“She said we can do what we want to you,” Mitchell reminded him. “If you won’t cooperate, and tell me what I want to know, I guess we’ll do just that.”

“I really have no idea what you’re talking about,” Kid said.

“Please don’t take me for a fool,” Mitchell told him. “Whether or not she is going to marry you is of no concern of mine, but you are obviously her partner. So where is it?”

Kid shook his head. Jake and Rogers moved in front of him and the punches began to rain in on him, as he failed to answer Mitchell’s questions.

“Wait! Stop!” Elizabeth cried, watching as they hit Kid repeatedly. Blood ran from Kid’s nose and mouth, but Mitchell flicked his hand in her direction and Rogers dragged her away. He sat her down behind the boulder, then went back to help Jake.

“Who are you?” Kid asked through a bloody mouth, when the blows finally stopped. The grey-haired man looked down at him.

“My name is Christopher Mitchell,” the older man told him.

“What do you want?” Kid asked looking at the man through swollen eyes.

“You know very well what I want.”

Jake raised his hand to strike him again.

“Alright!” Kid said weakly. “I had it, but I threw it away.”

“I don’t believe you. Search him,” Mitchell ordered. Jake and Rogers grabbed hold of Kid, roughly pulling him about as they began to search his clothes.

“I hope you warmed your hands,” Kid joked, when they pulled his Henley up. He did not know how much longer he could remain conscious and he still had no idea what this was all about.

“You said there were two men?” Mitchell asked Jake.

“Yes sir.”

“Well then maybe the other man has what we want.” He studied Kid’s face for any sign that this might be true. “Tie him up. Make it good. I don’t want either of them getting away. I think we’ll pay his friend a visit.”

***

Hannibal Heyes followed the tracks away from town. Just as Digby had said, the odd shaped horseshoe was easy to follow until the trail turned onto rockier ground. However, there were enough patches of soft earth for him to work out which way they were headed.

His partner and Elizabeth Darkly had now both disappeared. It concerned him that Kid had been tied and gagged. He had no idea what was going on, but did not believe Elizabeth had told them the truth. That would be typical of the woman he found so attractive. His feelings towards her also troubled him. She had brought them nothing but trouble and yet he found himself drawn to her. She was quick minded, smart and had proved last night that she had a softer, gentler side; a passionate side he found so damned attractive. Kid was never going to let him forget it, and yet he wasn’t teasing him the way he usually did, and that told him how worried his partner was about his feelings for the dark-haired woman.

Heyes urged his horse on.

***

Kid’s hands were tied above his head and around a branch. Elizabeth was dragged behind him.

“Hey they’re gonna be married. I think it’d be real nice if they were tied together,” Jake said.

Elizabeth’s hands were placed around Kid’s body, tied together and then looped over a smaller branch above their heads. She stood on her toes, with her body pressed against his back. The men laughed at their predicament and returned to the fire.

“This is cosy,” Elizabeth whispered in his ear.

“Hmph,” was all Kid said.

“Are you alright?” she asked, with genuine concern.

“No,” he told her. “You told them to do what they wanted and they did. Thanks for that.”

“Well I didn’t think they’d actually listen to me,” she said. “I thought they might go easy on you.”

“Well they didn’t,” he informed her. The blond man was silent for a moment, thinking.

“Why did you pretend to be Joshua Smith?” Elizabeth asked, in a whisper.

“Shh!” Kid hissed back and turned his head to watch the men. He could make out movement in the trees and imagined they would be saddling their horses, for the ride into town, the ride to get his partner. The blond man and the dark-haired woman stood silently listening. Eventually they heard the sound of horses riding out. The campsite fell silent.

“I guess it’s just the two of us now,” Elizabeth said seductively, in Kid’s ear. “A man and a woman, their hands bound, bodies pressed against each other in the dim glow of a campfire.”

“Will you shut up,” Kid said.

“What’s the matter Kid, don’t you think this is romantic?” she teased.

“No, as a matter of fact I don’t,” he told her. “My head hurts, I’ve been beaten up, my wrists are sore, those men are riding off to do who knows what to my partner and if that wasn’t bad enough I’ve got you twittering in my ear!”

Elizabeth smiled and decided not to reply.

Kid wrestled with the ropes above his head, desperate to free his hands but to no avail. He was bound tight. After struggling for a while, his wrists grew bloody but the ropes remained tight. He stopped for a rest.

“Why didn’t you tell them you’re not Joshua Smith?” Elizabeth asked.

“And have them go after Heyes?”

“You took a beating to protect your partner?” she asked incredulously.

“Haven’t you noticed? It’s what we do,” he stated.

“They’re still going after him,” she pointed out.

“Yeah,” Kid replied and she caught the worry in his voice.

Elizabeth rested her head against his back, listening to the rhythmic thump of his heart and feeling the tension in his muscles. Eventually he relaxed a little.

“How come you‘re undressed?” Kid asked, over his shoulder. “What were you trying to do seduce him into lettin’ you go?”

“I was getting dressed this morning when they burst into my room. They wouldn’t let me get the rest of my clothes,” she explained.

“I guess you should be glad they didn’t arrive any earlier,” Kid stated. “Ow!” he cried as she kneed him in the butt.

“What did you do that for?” he asked.

“Because I could,” she told him. Looking up she studied the ropes and began to wriggle about behind him.

“What are you doin’?” he asked irritably.

“Trying to get free,” she told him. She stopped struggling. For a while they stood there, hands tied above their heads, Elizabeth resting her head on Kid’s back, each lost in their own thoughts. Then a thought struck Elizabeth. “You know my hands are only looped over that branch. Brace yourself, cowboy,” she said, cryptically.

“What?” he asked and suddenly she pulled herself up and wrapped her legs around his body. Kid groaned as he took her weight. Elizabeth slipped her hands over the branch and then dropped back to her feet. She now had her hands around Kid’s body. Slowly Elizabeth lowered them. She held his chest, resting her head on his shoulder.

“You know in different circumstances…” she cooed but Kid interrupted her.

“Will you just get yourself free,” he snapped and could not see her smile. Elizabeth pressed her hands as flat as she could against his chest and then moved them lower, passing over his waist. She tugged playfully at his belt and he rolled his eyes. “Will you watch where you’re puttin’ your hands!” Kid said indignantly as she moved a little lower.

“Your partner wouldn’t complain,” Elizabeth told him, as her hands moved lower still.

“I’m not my partner,” he told her through gritted teeth.

“I noticed,” she said matter-of-factly.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked with concern.

“I’d embarrass you if I explained,” she told him as she moved her hands down his legs. Kid thought about this for a moment.

“Never had any complaints before,” he muttered with a hint of wounded pride.

“Hmph.”

“What d’you mean by that?” Kid asked.

“Some women are easily impressed.” Kid’s mouth dropped open and he looked down at her. Elizabeth’s hands were now around his ankles. “Step out please.” Kid stepped over her bound wrists. Elizabeth pulled herself to her feet and moved to face Kid. She got her first view of his beaten face, his bloody nose, swollen left eye and bruised cheekbone.

“Does that hurt?” she asked, tenderly.

“Yes,” he told her honestly. “How ‘bout you?” he asked looking at the bruise on her cheek.

“I’m fine,” she assured him and Elizabeth moved closer. She slipped her hands over his head to rest them around his neck. She was now uncomfortably close; her breath warm on his face and Kid was not sure what she was going to do.

“Should I kiss it better?” she asked sweetly.

“Elizabeth, we really should be gettin’ outta here,” Kid said, but she smiled and kissed him. For a moment, Kid remained impassive, but when Elizabeth did not break free he began to enjoy it, Elizabeth’s fingers caressed his hair as the kiss grew more passionate and she pulled herself against him. Eventually she broke free and smiled as she ran her tongue over her lips. Kid smiled too, as Elizabeth lifted her hands over his head and walked a few steps away. He looked like the cat that got the cream and then she spoke.

“Hannibal’s is a better kisser,” she informed him.

“What?” he cried indignantly and she gave him a wicked smile. “You were kiddin’ right?” he asked, but she did not reply.

Elizabeth turned her back for a moment.

“Oh c’mon Elizabeth. You can’t say somethin’ like that and then not back it up,” he pleaded.

“Well, when we find Hannibal I’ll do a comparison test,” she assured him.

“Yeah, well, then you’ll see,” Kid stated, satisfied. Elizabeth Darkly smiled, with Kid it was just too easy to tease him, but it was fun all the same. “Now will you get me outta here, please,” Kid asked.

Elizabeth looked around and saw a fallen tree trunk off to her right. She managed to catch hold of a branch with her bound hands and dragged it over to where Kid stood tied up. Climbing onto the tree trunk, Elizabeth began to untie his hands as best she could. Kid grimaced as she pulled at the ropes around his now bloody wrists but when they were finally free he dropped to his knees and pulled the last of the ropes away from his tender skin. Elizabeth got down and stood at his side, watching as he examined his wrists.

“Are they alright?” she asked, noticing the bloody and torn flesh.

“They will be,” he told her. “The ropes didn’t cut too deep.” He was quickly on his feet and untying her hands. Kid looked at her standing before him in her underwear. He pulled off his leather vest and handed it to her.

“Thank you,” she said as she put it on. It was too large, but gave her some dignity back. She turned away but Kid caught hold of her arm.

“Alright, what’s this all about?” he demanded to know.

“You’re hurting me,” she told him, but he did not loosen his grip. Icy blue eyes fixed on hers.

“They think I have something that belongs to Mitchell,” she told him.

“I gathered that. What is it?”

“I don’t have it.”

“So what do they think you have?”

“Kid please,” she struggled in his grasp and his grip tightened, his eyes locked onto hers. “This isn’t the time. You want to get to Heyes, don’t you?”

Kid glared at her.

“The combination to a safe,” she said and satisfied, he let go of her wrist. The rest he could hear later.

“Let’s see if they left my horse,” Kid said and walked off.

Kid’s horse stood patiently tied to the picket line, where the others had been.

“I suppose you could walk,” Elizabeth said as the blond man undid the rope.

“What?” he asked.

“Well there’s two of us and only one horse. You don’t expect me to walk do you?”

“It’s my horse,” he pointed out through gritted teeth.

“You’d let a lady walk?”

“Not if one turns up,” he countered and smiled at her shocked expression. Elizabeth glared at him. “We’ll share,” he told her and he pulled himself into the saddle. Kid kicked his foot from the stirrup and leaning down, held out his hand. Taking it, Elizabeth put her foot in the stirrup and pulled herself up behind him.

“If you say this is cosy, I’ll make you walk,” he said over his shoulder, as she smiled and snuggled into him, her arms around his waist. Elizabeth decided not to say anything as Kid picked up the reins and they headed back to Dalton’s Crossing.

***

As Hannibal Heyes rounded a bend, he heard the sound of a horse approaching. He pulled his horse into the trees, drew his gun and waited. He was surprised to see his partner ride into view with Elizabeth Darkly sitting behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist.

“Howdy,” Heyes said cheerfully, as he edged his horse into their path. Kid nearly had a heart attack as he pulled his horse to a halt and found his partner pointing a gun at him.

“Damn it, don’t do that!” Kid cried. “I coulda shot ya Heyes!”

“You’d already be dead,” Heyes stated, flippantly. “I heard you coming five minutes ago,” he told his friend. Kid raised his eyebrows, not believing that. “Besides you don’t appear to have a gun.” Heyes said, with a grin as he holstered his. Drawing closer, he saw the bruises on Kid’s face.

“I see you got hurt,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, I got hurt, but you’re the one they beat up,” Kid told him, cryptically.

Heyes looked confused.

“I’ll explain later,” Kid told him.

“You alright?” Heyes asked, with concern.

“Yeah,” Kid said, although he clearly wasn’t.

Elizabeth Darkly smiled, over Kid’s shoulder, at the dark-haired man. Heyes saw her stocking feet and followed them up, noting, with interest, her state of undress.

“Where are your clothes?” Heyes asked. He looked from Kid to Elizabeth. “What have you two been up to?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye as he raised his eyebrows at his partner.

“Nothin’,” Kid stated, firmly.

“Kid, she’s in her underwear,” Heyes reminded him. “And she’s holding on real tight.” Kid turned in the saddle to face Elizabeth.

“Will you please tell him,” Kid asked.

“Should I tell him all the details? Your every passionate move?” she asked, suggestively. Kid closed his eyes, took a deep patient breath and then, reopening them, looked at his partner’s face. He pointed at Heyes.

“Now you know, nothin’ happened between us,” Kid stated. Heyes simply smiled at him. Kid looked over his shoulder at Elizabeth. “And you can stop suggestin’ that anythin’ did.” He turned back to Heyes. His partner had a wide grin on his face.

“And you can wipe that smirk off your face or so help me Heyes, when I get a gun, I really will shoot ya!” Kid told him.

Heyes eased his horse closer and looked at the dark-haired woman, with a bruise on her cheekbone. She was dressed only in her underwear and Kid’s leather vest. He reached behind him for his jacket and handed it to Elizabeth. Taking it, she thanked him as she put it on.

“I hope you’re going to explain later too,” he said, as she looked at him. He turned back to his partner.

“It was a man named Christopher Mitchell and two others. They’re after Elizabeth of course,” Kid told him. “They’ve ridden into town to find you. Didn’t you pass anyone on the way here?”

“No, I didn’t see anyone,” Heyes told them.

“Well they were goin’ after you.”

The sound of a shot filled the air and Heyes jerked backwards and fell off his horse.

“Heyes!” Kid cried out jumping quickly from his horse. He pulled Elizabeth from the saddle and turned the horses, using them as a shield between themselves and the direction the shot had come from. His eyes scanned the hills around them, but there were no further shots. Kid reached his partner’s side.

“Heyes? Heyes?” Kid cried. Heyes was lying on the ground. He had a hand clamped over his left shoulder. Blood ran through his fingers. Heyes’ eyes showed pain and confusion. He gritted his teeth against the pain.

Kid reached forward and removed Heyes’ gun from his holster. Two brown eyes watched as he checked it was loaded and dropped it into his own. Heyes did not say a word. Kid was taking over and he was right. It was better if Kid had it. Kid’s eyes scanned the hills again but still there were no further shots, nor signs of the attackers.

“How bad?” Kid asked as he lifted Heyes’ hand and took a look at the wound.

“I don’t know. I think it went right through,” Heyes told him. “Same damn shoulder. Every time she’s here it’s the same damn shoulder.” Despite his partner’s pain, Kid smiled.

“Well at least she didn’t shoot you this time,” he said. Heyes groaned, as Kid eased him forward to look for the exit wound. It was easy to find. A bloody hole in the back of Heyes’ shirt revealed where the bullet had left his body. Kid looked up at Heyes’ horse, but there were no saddlebags. Heyes had not expected to be away from town too long. It also meant he had nothing to make a bandage out of. Kid looked at Elizabeth. Women usually had too many petticoats but she was wearing little enough as it was. There was only one thing for it. Kid pulled his shirt off and began to rip off the sleeves.

“We get through too many shirts this way,” Heyes said, weakly as he lay back and watched his partner prepare the makeshift bandages. “Still the sky’s clear. It’s a nice day for it.” Kid shook his head.

“Will you stop talking?”

“If I stop talking I’ll pass out,” Heyes told him weakly, through gritted teeth. He fought the pain. He was losing a lot of blood and too quickly. Both men knew it, but neither would admit it to the other.

“Can I do anything?” Elizabeth asked from where she hovered behind Kid and he could tell she was worried too.

“Just hold onto the horses,” Kid said. “And keep an eye out. If you see anyone, yell.”

Kid folded one sleeve into a dressing. He tore the rest of his shirt into shreds to keep the dressings in place. Kid unbuttoned Heyes’ shirt and pulled it off his shoulder. Heyes grimaced, as Kid pulled his Henley to one side, exposing his partner’s blood covered shoulder. Then he placed the folded sleeve over the entry wound. Heyes cried out in pain, writhing beneath his partner’s touch, as Kid applied some pressure. Kid held his partner still, and then placed the second folded sleeve over the exit wound. He used the torn strips of fabric tied together to hold the dressings over the wound. Heyes watched his partner work saying nothing, grateful for his help and care.

Heyes’ breathing was now rapid and shallow. He could see how worried Kid was.

“It’s okay, Kid,” he said, weakly. “I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute.” But Heyes was growing weaker.

“Sure Heyes,” Kid said, unconvinced.

Kid looked at his partner through his own swollen eye and bruised face.

“I thought you said, you were gonna get shot,” Heyes reminded him.

“I guess it wasn’t my turn,” Kid told him and smiled. “We hafta get outta here. Think you can ride?” Kid asked and the look Heyes gave him was answer enough. Kid looked at Elizabeth and she brought the horses closer.

“Okay. Let’s get you up.” He pulled his partner to his feet and Heyes groaned, his knees gave way and he collapsed against Kid. Kid Curry struggled to support his friend and keep him on his feet. “C’mon partner you can do this.”

“Course I can,” Heyes said, with exaggerated confidence. “Nothin’ to it.”

“Hold the horse still,” Kid told Elizabeth and after some struggling, he got Heyes into his saddle. Kid climbed up behind his partner and Elizabeth got onto Heyes’ horse. Hannibal Heyes sagged forward and Kid held onto him.

“Heyes?”

“Kid I…” Heyes said, but another wave of pain interrupted him. “I don’t know…how much help I’m gonna be. Damn it hurts.”

“It’s okay I gotcha Heyes. We’ll getcha back to town, to the doctor. He’ll fix you up in no time,” Kid told him as he urged his horse forward. He didn’t know if that was true anymore than Heyes did. They rode away from the clearing, leaving a black hat lying on the ground.

***

“What did you just do?” Mitchell demanded to know.

“I shot Jones, just like you tol’ me to,” Rogers replied somewhat indignantly, as he eased himself away from the cliff edge.

“That’s Smith! The other one is Jones!” Mitchell yelled.

“But I thought we just beat up Smith,” Rogers said as he replaced his rifle in the scabbard on his saddle.

Mitchell closed his eyes, controlling his anger at the idiots he had hired. They had learned in town that Jones had left to find his friend. Except that they already had Jones tied up at the campsite. The desk clerk at the hotel had proved to be a far more reliable source of information than Digby at the livery stable. The man they held hostage was Thaddeus Jones. Elizabeth’s fiancé, Joshua Smith had left town to look for him. So once again it was Smith they were looking for. They had taken a different route into town; one Jake assured them was faster. They followed the original route back to their campsite searching for Smith.

Having seen the riders below, Mitchell had ordered Jones shot to delay them, but the fool had shot Smith instead. The man they needed, very much alive in order to locate the combination to the safe, now lay wounded.

“If he dies…” Mitchell did not finish his threat to the two men.

***

They rode on, Kid trying to watch their backs, as he held Heyes in the saddle. No one seemed to be following them, but he couldn’t be sure of that. Elizabeth rode silently beside him but he saw her worried glances over her shoulder and concerned looks towards the two men she rode with.

Heyes was growing weaker, Kid could tell. He felt the warmth of Heyes’ blood soaking into his Henley from the bullet’s exit wound. His partner’s body grew limp in his arms as Heyes slumped forward.

“Hang on partner,” Kid urged his friend but received only a groan in reply. Kid knew they had to stop soon. Heyes couldn’t take the ride all the way to town and then he saw the buildings up ahead.

***

Henry and Margaret Tudor owned a small homestead, a few miles outside of Dalton’s Crossing. They had a few cows and a large vegetable garden where they grew enough food for themselves and a little excess, which they sold in town to help buy other essentials. At times there was even enough money left over, to put a little in the bank for that inevitable rainy day. They liked their life and were very comfortable together.

A loud banging on the door startled the couple as they sat reading by the fire. Henry got up and took down the shotgun from above the hearth.

“Who’s there?” he called, as he stood by the door, the gun in his hand. He was a huge man, over six feet tall with broad shoulders and large muscular arms. In his early fifties, a few grey hairs now streaked his head of brown hair.

“Sir, we need your help. My friend’s been hurt,” a man’s voice called. The couple exchanged a worried glance.

“Please help us. My husband’s been shot!” a distressed woman’s voice added.

The man looked at his wife. In contrast, Margaret was a small thin woman, with grey-hair, although she was only a year older than her husband. She nodded, and Henry removed the wooden bolt from across the door.

A young, blond, curly-haired man stood in the doorway. His face was covered in bruises and he had on a Henley top but no shirt. His Henley was stained red with blood. He was holding up a dark-haired man who was slumped at his side. Blood covered the front of his shirt and the makeshift bandage around his left shoulder. His face was deathly pale. Behind them, a worried young woman stood quietly with tears in her eyes and a bruise on her cheek. She was dressed only in her underwear apart from a tan leather vest and a black jacket that was too big for her.

“Oh my!” the woman exclaimed. “Henry, bring them in!” her husband ushered them into the house. As he did so he noted the men’s holsters were tied down and he hoped he was not making a terrible mistake.

“Bring him in here,” the woman said and led the way into a room at the back of the house, the spare bedroom.

Kid sat Heyes down on the bed, and then gently eased him back onto the pillow.

“Easy Joshua,” Kid said gently not rushing his friend. His partner cried out in pain as he twisted his body to lie on the bed. Heyes’ skin was clammy and his breathing erratic.

“What happened?” the man asked, as he stood watching them from the doorway.

“We were taking a ride and I had just been for a swim. I was dressing when we were bushwhacked! They would not let me finish dressing,” Elizabeth told them, relating the story they had agreed on before knocking at the couple’s door. “They beat up Thaddeus, took all our money and they made me…” she covered her face to hide her embarrassment and tears filled her eyes.

“Oh dear you don’t have to tell us,” Margaret said, coming quickly to the woman’s side.

“No, you should know. We got away but they shot at us,” Elizabeth explained, her voice trembling as she did so. Kid had to give her credit for her acting skills. That woman sure could lie so you believed her. Elizabeth put a hand to her face and stifled a sob. “They shot Joshua. My Joshua. Oh, please say he’ll be all right. We’ve only been married a month.” Kid did his best not to react to that.

“Oh you poor dear,” the woman said going to Elizabeth’s side. “Come and help me get water and bandages. I’ll see if I have something to cover you up. We’re not the same size but maybe we could use…” She led Elizabeth back into the front room and gave her husband a quick glance, which conveyed instructions, only years of marriage, could decipher. The man looked at the two young men. The dark-haired man was in a lot of pain and his blond friend was clearly concerned about him.

“What’s your name son?” the man asked and Kid turned to face him noting how the man looked at the bruises that covered his face.

“Thaddeus, Thaddeus Jones,” Kid told him and the older man held out his hand.

“I’m Henry. Henry Tudor, just like the king.” He smiled as Kid shook his hand.

“This is Joshua Smith,” Kid said pointing a thumb in Heyes’ direction. “And Elizabeth,” he added nodding towards the other room.

“We’d best get the sheriff,” Henry said.

“Can’t that wait?” Kid pleaded. “I don’t want to leave my partner and Elizabeth’s been through enough for one day. We sure were glad when we saw your lights,” Kid added.

“Where were you headed?” Henry asked.

“Back to Dalton’s Crossing. We have rooms at the hotel but…” Henry thought for a moment, as he watched the blond man struggle with what to say. Kid nodded towards Heyes. “I didn’t think Joshua would make it that far.”

“Well, I guess we can decide what to do later,” Henry said. “Now we’d best get Joshua’s clothes off so we can have a look at that wound.” Kid nodded with relief.

***

When they had removed his shirt and Henley, Kid could see how much blood had soaked into the makeshift bandages. Heyes looked up at his partner, seeing the worry in his blue eyes.

“Hey,” he said, tapping his hand against Kid’s. Kid looked down and smiled but it did not reach his eyes. “I’ll be alright,” Heyes told him, his voice little more than a whisper.

“Sure. Sure you will,” Kid said, although neither man was convinced it was true. A sudden wave of pain ran through Heyes’ shoulder and he cried out grabbing hold of Kid’s hand as he did so. Kid felt his partner’s grip tighten as he fought the pain. “Sure you’ll be fine Joshua. Just gotta patch you up, that’s all,” Kid told him, silently praying that it was true.

Heyes gritted his teeth and held on. Henry watched them from the doorway.

***

Margaret and Elizabeth entered the room carrying a bowl of steaming water and bandages. Elizabeth was wearing jeans that were too big for her, held up with a tightly buckled belt. She also had on a large man’s blue shirt, which she had tied at the waist. Henry looked at the dark-haired woman, then at his wife.

“My clothes are too small for her,” Margaret explained and Henry knew to say no more. Kid gave Elizabeth a slight smile seeing how she was dressed.

Margaret sat on the bed beside the injured young man. Kid had removed the makeshift bandage from Heyes’ shoulder but left a dressing over the still bleeding wound.

“Let’s have a look at Elizabeth’s husband,” Margaret said, gently.

“Er…ma’am…” Kid began, but she turned to look at him as she placed a cloth in the bowl of warm water, which now sat on the cabinet beside the bed.

“Before you say anything, young man, I should tell you that I was married to a doctor for ten years before he passed away and I met Henry.” Kid took this in. “I’ve helped deliver babies, set broken bones, removed more bullets and sewn up more wounds than I care to remember. So will you let me see what I can do for your friend? Or do you want to wait a day or two while you go and get the doctor. If I remember rightly Doctor Middleton is out of town this week,” she said kindly, waiting for his decision.

“You go right ahead ma’am,” Kid said and returned her smile.

Margaret nodded and turned to look at the torn flesh and inflamed skin on Heyes’ shoulder.

“Joshua?” she said, gently brushing a strand of dark hair from the young man’s damp forehead and Heyes opened his eyes. Two brown eyes fixed on hers. He was certainly handsome. Elizabeth was a lucky woman.

“Ma’am?” Heyes said weakly and gave her a slight smile. He was having trouble keeping her in focus.

“It’s Margaret,” she told him. “I’m going to clean your wound. This may hurt a bit.”

“You mean more than it does right now?” he asked and she smiled. He could see Kid at the end of the bed, standing with his back to the wall, arms folded across his chest, concern and worry etched on his face. Kid gave him an encouraging smile.

“I’ll be as gentle as I can,” Margaret assured him and touched the cloth to his skin. Heyes flinched and cried out, as she wiped the cloth over the wound, removing dried blood so she could see the injury. The bullet had gone right through which saved her the problem of digging it out, but her main worry was the amount of blood the man had lost. “This will need some stitches,” she said after a while.

“Joshua?” she said.

Heyes opened his eyes and looked at her. He had to concentrate hard on what she was saying and to keep her in focus. He was growing weaker and she did not think he would remain conscious for much longer, which could be a good thing, knowing what she was about to do to him.

“I’m going to stitch the wound. I may need to cauterise it, but we’ll see,” she told him. “I don’t have any laudanum but…Henry go fetch the whisky.” Her husband left the room, returning a moment later with the opened bottle and a mug. Taking the bottle from him, Margaret poured a little over the needle she would use. Henry handed her the mug and nodded at Heyes.

“Joshua, drink some,” she said as she held the mug to his lips. Heyes drank the whisky and then on her insistence a little more. “It will help,” she told him. Around her Kid, Elizabeth and Henry watched with concern.

I could use some of that myself, Kid thought as he watched his partner.

“If it hurts, you yell out as much as you like, you hear?” Margaret said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Heyes replied. “I’ll try not to curse,” he added with a smile.

“Well I’ve probably heard most of it before, so don’t worry about that. D’you want something to bite down on?”

“No ma’am.”

Margaret turned to face Thaddeus and her husband.

“I’ll need you to hold him still.”

Heyes looked at Kid as he approached him. Their eyes met and more thoughts and feelings were exchanged in that single glance than any words could convey. Kid placed one hand on Heyes’ right shoulder, to hold him down. They had done this before, too many times. They knew what was about to follow and that it would test them both. At least this time there was no posse on their trail. At least Kid hoped not. He was sure the shot had come from Mitchell or his men but where were they now?

“Okay?” Kid mouthed and Heyes gave a slight nod of his head. Margaret poured what remained of the whiskey in the mug, over the open wound and Heyes cried out, writhing in Kid’s firm hold and his hands grabbed a handful of the bedcovers.

“Damn it!” he said, through gritted teeth.

Kid kept his eyes on his friend’s, knowing there was worse to come, as Margaret pierced Heyes’ skin with the needle. Heyes closed his eyes in pain, his teeth clamped tight as he struggled beneath Kid’s tight grasp. Henry held Heyes’ legs still and Elizabeth joined him in helping to hold Heyes down. Elizabeth remembered doing the same to Kid when he was at Devil’s Hole. Pain was etched on the young man’s face and Margaret worked as quickly and as neatly as she could but each touch of the needle caused him more agony. Heyes cried out and cursed.

Kid could feel his friend growing weaker, his breathing came more rapidly and he took in less air with each breath. As they gently turned him onto his side, so that Margaret could work on the exit wound Heyes finally lost consciousness. No longer worried about the amount of pain she caused the dark-haired man, Margaret was able to work faster. Kid admired her skill. They had been lucky to find her. The wound was soon stitched and bandaged. Hannibal Heyes lay pale and still when the job was done but at that moment there was no telling if he would make it.

“I’ve done all I can for him for now,” Margaret said. “Rest is the best thing for him.”

“I’ll prepare some willow bark tea,” Margaret said decisively. “That will help ease the pain when he wakes.”

Kid stood at the end of the bed, watching as Margaret took away the bowl of red coloured water and Henry followed her with a pile of bloody bandages. Elizabeth placed a hand on Kid’s arm as she moved to stand beside him.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” she said gently, seeing the fear in his eyes as he looked at his partner’s inert body.

“Now you know what it was like, when you shot him,” Kid said through gritted teeth, his anger barely contained. Ice blue eyes fixed on hers, startling her.

“Kid, I…” Kid glared at her and shot a glance at the open door at the use of his name.

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “You know I’m sorry.” Elizabeth turned to leave and Kid caught hold of her wrist.

“Ow, Kid, you’re hurting me,” she told him, as she struggled in his grip.

“Good,” he replied, the anger still in his eyes. Kid did not notice that Heyes had opened his eyes and was looking up at him. He was drifting in and out of consciousness but could hear his partner’s voice. “Now I asked you once before, what’s going on and I’m askin’ again. And this time I want the truth. My partner’s fightin’ for his life and I really don’t care what happens to anyone else right now, you included. If he dies because of something you’ve done, I swear I’ll kill you. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said, as she struggled in his grip. A groan from the bed drew their attention, but neither knew that Heyes had heard their exchange.

“Good. So let’s hear it.”

“They think I have the combination to a safe,” she stated.

“So you said,” Kid told her angrily. “Go on.”

She realised he needed to hear all of her story. Elizabeth glanced at the open door and pushed it shut. Keeping her voice low, she began to explain.

“I met a man called Alexander Lynch on a train out of Denver. We got talking and he happened to mention that he was extremely wealthy.” Kid raised his eyebrows but said nothing. Ignoring his disapproval Elizabeth continued. “The line we were travelling on was notorious for hold ups. The train had been attacked on three occasions in the last month by thieving outlaws…” she paused but Kid did not rise to the bait.

“Go on,” he prompted.

“I had a valuable necklace with me. Nathaniel gave it to me. Alexander offered to place it in his safe. I would wear it to dinner and then he would lock it up in the safe in his carriage. That last evening, Alexander Lynch died. I was at his side when the poor man’s heart gave out.”

“You were at his side? Did he die of natural causes?” Kid asked flatly.

“Yes,” she told him knowing what he was suggesting. “We were at dinner. He was 68 years old and had a heart condition.”

Kid was a good poker player and Elizabeth had no idea whether or not he believed her.

“Go on,” he said again.

“When we reached West Ford, Alexander Lynch’s son Bertrand was waiting for us. He took the safe off the train and had it transported to his house. He refused to return my necklace. He told me everything in the safe belonged to him now and he claimed that I was lying. I had no receipt for the necklace and no proof either.”

“Why didn’t you go to the sheriff?” Kid asked.

“Nathaniel’s family didn’t exactly inherit the necklace.”

“You mean it was stolen?”

“Well not by me or by Nathaniel, but they certainly wouldn’t want questions asked about it.”

“You are just full of surprises, you know that?” Kid stated. “So where does Mitchell fit into all of this?”

“Christopher Mitchell worked for Alexander Lynch and was travelling with him when I met them. Alexander owed Mitchell more than a month’s wages, but Bertrand refused to pay him. He told Mitchell he no longer needed him and fired him. He wants his money and he thinks, because of the necklace, Alexander told me the combination to the safe as he lay dying.”

“Did he?” Kid asked.

“No,” she stated and tried to pull away.

“So why are they still after you?” Kid asked, not loosening his grip.

“Because I told him I knew how to open the safe and they think that means I have the combination.”

“So how are you gonna open it?” Kid asked. Elizabeth simply looked at him, and then cast her eyes towards the man lying unconscious in bed. It slowly dawned on his blond-haired partner. “Heyes?”

“Yes. I realised that to open the safe I would need an expert safecracker and I knew just the man.” Kid just shook his head. “I went to Buffalo Wells looking for Heyes. I thought I might hear something to tell me where you were. I’d already tried Porterville but Lom Trevors was out of town. Anyway, I heard you’d moved west and followed you to Dalton’s Crossing. So you see I was telling the truth. I really don’t have what they want,” she snapped off the last few words.

Finally, he released her hand noting the red marks on her wrist where he had held her. She rubbed her wrist, looking at the marks then her eyes, full of anger, met his.

“You know Kid, for a while I thought you were different but you really are a cold bloodied gunslinger just like all the rest,” Elizabeth said and she walked off leaving her words to sink in. At that moment, Kid really did not care whether she was telling the truth or not. Kid Curry turned back to the bed and the man fighting for his life. He could use his gun to protect them when it was needed, but now, with Heyes badly injured, there was nothing he could do. He did not know how to help him.

“Don’t you die, Heyes,” he whispered, as he looked at his friend. “Just don’t die on me, partner.”

***

Margaret returned a few moments later to check on Joshua. She found him sleeping and turned her attention to his friend, still standing at the foot of the bed. The young blond man looked quite lost, she thought. He seemed more worried about Joshua than the man’s own wife was. Elizabeth had stormed out of the bedroom and was sitting now at the table. Margaret looked at Kid’s bruised face and the blood stained Henley he wore.

“Let’s get you cleaned up,” Margaret said, as she rested a hand gently on Kid’s arm. Kid looked up at her and then at Heyes, the worry he felt visible in his eyes. “He’ll be alright, he’s sleeping. We can leave the door open so you can keep an eye on him,” she assured him and Kid followed her out of the room. Margaret had Kid sit in a chair at the table.

Not wanting to be in the same room as the blond outlaw, Elizabeth returned to sit with Heyes. Margaret did not miss the look the young woman gave him, before she left them or the way Kid avoided her eyes.

The front door opened and Henry Tudor returned from tending to their horses, Margaret looked up, pleased to see him.

“Henry, will you fetch Thaddeus one of your shirts?” she asked him. Henry looked at the young man before heading towards his bedroom. “Take that off,” she said to Kid pointing at his Henley. “I’ll put it in to soak but I don’t guarantee all that blood will come out.”

Standing up, Kid pulled the top over his head and flinched as he did so. Margaret saw the bruises on his ribs.

“They certainly worked you over,” she observed, but Kid did not say anything. He sat down, lost in his thoughts. Margaret touched a cloth to a cut above his left eye and Kid pulled away. “Hold still,” she said and he tried not to move as she cleaned his wounds.

“Thank you ma’am, for what you did for Joshua,” he said. She smiled and then noticed the torn flesh on his wrists. He had been tied up too; although that hadn’t been mentioned in their story.

“It’s Margaret,” she reminded him. “And you can thank me when your friend is well again,” she told him. She took hold of his arm and turned his hand over as she examined his wrist. Kid’s blue eyes met hers, wondering what she would say. Margaret gently cleaned the torn skin. “They tied you up then?”

“Yes ma’am.” He didn’t say much more except to thank her when she had finished bandaging both his wrists. There was a distant look in his eyes, which worried Margaret. A movement behind Kid caught her attention.

“Will this do?” Henry asked and his wife smiled. Kid turned to look at the large red check shirt Henry was holding up. Kid’s eyes opened wide when he saw how bright the shirt was and he looked at Margaret as if to ask “Do I really have to wear that?” She smiled at him sympathetically.

***

“Do you believe their story?” Henry asked his wife in a whisper, as she tidied away her medicine box. Kid Curry had gone to sit at his partner’s bedside.

“Not a word,” Margaret replied.

“I don’t know what to do about it,” her husband admitted quietly, as he sat at the table.

“There’s nothing we can do, unless you want to ride and get the sheriff.”

“I won’t leave you alone with them,” he told her.

“Then we’ll see this through together,” she said putting a hand on his arm. “I don’t think they’re a threat to us. Joshua can’t be moved now and Thaddeus is clearly worried about his friend.”

“What about the woman?” Henry asked.

“Well she’s not Joshua’s wife. I can tell you that,” Margaret stated confidently.

“How do you know?” Henry asked her.

“A woman can tell, especially a married woman.” She gave her husband a smile.

“What if whoever did this comes after them? Comes here?” Henry asked her.

“We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” Margaret said and he nodded, wishing he could be as optimistic as his wife.

***

When Henry entered the room sometime later, he found Elizabeth sitting in an armchair across the room from the bed. Kid sat on a stool at the foot of the bed, his back resting against the wall, his arms folded across his chest. He fixed his eyes on Heyes, as he slept fitfully, trying not to look at the blood soaked bandage.

“I could fix you two a place in the barn for the night. Make a couple of real cosy beds out there?” Henry offered but neither Kid nor Elizabeth wanted to leave Heyes’ side.

“I’ll be fine here sir,” Kid said politely. “I want to stay with my friend and keep an eye on him.”

“I won’t leave Joshua,” Elizabeth stated looking up at the older man, and played the dutiful wife.

“Alright,” Henry said. “I’ll fetch you folks some blankets.”

“Thank you, for all you’ve done for us,” Kid said getting to his feet, but he did so too quickly and the room began to spin. He reached for the bedpost and Henry put out a hand to support the young man. Kid’s knees buckled. Henry caught him and Elizabeth was quickly on her feet and at his side. They sat Kid in the armchair.

“I’m okay,” Kid lied, wondering when the room would stop spinning.

“You need to take it easy young fella,” Henry advised him. “You took quite a beating from what I could see.”

“We don’t want anything happening to you, Thaddeus,” Elizabeth said just a little too sweetly for Kid’s liking. “Why, what would we do then?” She gave Kid a smile and he leaned back, wishing everyone would stand still even though he knew they were.

***

Kid’s eyes grew heavy from exhaustion and eventually he could keep them open no longer. Just a few minutes, he told himself. I’ll close them for just a few minutes. Soon Elizabeth heard the sound of his deep breathing along with the shallower breaths of his partner. She looked from the blond man to his dark-haired friend. They had both been hurt because they were helping her. Elizabeth sighed. Kid had been right after all.

Feeling someone close by, Kid was suddenly awake. His hand went instantly to his gun. Elizabeth smiled as she stood over him, her hand on his gun hand stopping him from drawing.

“It’s only me,” she said softly. “I brought a peace offering,” she added as she settled a blanket around him. This time there was no malice in her eyes. Kid said nothing and watched as she went around the bed to sit at Heyes’ right side. She sat on a chair, she had brought from the other room, and took Heyes’ right hand in hers, the way she had done for Kid when he lay wounded at Devil’s Hole. Elizabeth looked up to see the blond man watching her. Clearly satisfied that she was no threat to his partner he closed his tired eyes once more.

***

Heyes developed a fever and began to moan and mumble as his temperature rose and his body fought the growing infection. Hearing his partner call out, Kid woke and moved quickly to his side. Heyes’ face was covered in sweat and he was clearly in some distress but despite his concerns, Kid smiled at his partner’s nocturnal mumblings.

“What is it?” Elizabeth asked, as they listened to the dark-haired man.

“404…can’t open it…I can’t hear…hear…tumblers…need to…78….78…needs a pump…too dangerous…Kid…just need to…” Kid smiled and Elizabeth gave him a quizzical look as she took Heyes’ hand once more in her own.

“It’s safes,” Kid explained. “He’s dreamin’ about safes. Typical.” He was about to go back to his chair when Heyes’ grip on Elizabeth hand tightened as his partner fought a wave of pain. Heyes cried out and Elizabeth saw the worried look on Kid’s face. Heyes’ body tensed as he fought the pain. They stayed at his side until he was calm again, his breathing steady. Kid returned to his seat, but it was a long time before his eyes began to close.

***

Margaret got up in the night and pulled on her robe.

“Where are you going?” Henry asked.

“I want to check on Joshua,” she said in a whisper.

“They’re keeping an eye on him,” Henry said, irritated to have been woken.

“He’s my patient,” Margaret said. “Go back to sleep. I won’t be long.” Henry grunted a reply and he turned over in bed as she slipped from the room.

Margaret found Kid awake when she entered the room. He looked up through tired eyes when the door opened.

“How is he?” Margaret asked, keeping her voice quiet so as not to wake Elizabeth.

“Feverish,” Kid told her and was about to give her his seat, when Margaret put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

“You stay there,” she said. “I won’t stay long.”

Heyes moaned, his brow furrowed as he fought another wave of pain. Margaret saw Thaddeus tense, as he watched his partner, knowing he could not ease his suffering. The grey-haired woman examined the bandage. The wound was still weeping. Heyes groaned beneath her touch.

“Rest easy, Joshua. Thaddeus and Elizabeth are here, watching over you,” she smiled at Thaddeus, but he didn’t smile back. Margaret rested a hand on the blond man’s arm. “You’ve done all you can for him. It’s up to him now and he seems like a fighter.”

“He is,” Kid assured her.

“Then you should rest too.” Margaret left then, returning to her husband. Kid leaned back in the chair and slowly drifted off to sleep.

***

Much later, Henry Tudor stood in the doorway. The blond man was asleep in the chair and the dark-haired woman sat by the side of the bed holding her husband’s hand. She rested her head on the bed and was sleeping. The injured young man was feverish and muttering in his troubled sleep.

“Kid,” he suddenly called out, but neither of his friends stirred. “Kid we gotta run…posse…after us Kid…can’t shake ‘em, get back..back..get to the Hole…Kid…” Henry listened with concern a while longer as the man mumbled names he had heard before, then he turned away, closing the door quietly behind him.

***

Hannibal Heyes pressed his ear to the safe and smiled as the last tumbler clicked into place. His partner was sitting a few feet away at the bank manager’s desk. He had his feet up on the desk, the chair pushed back on two legs and he was twirling his gun casually, as he looked at his watch.

“Two more minutes Heyes and the sheriff will be back,” Kid said.

Hannibal Heyes nodded, turned the handle and opened the door of the safe. He gave his partner a wide grin. Grinning back, Kid returned the chair to its four legs.

“What have we got?” he asked.

There was the sound of rapid gunfire, the window in front of the desk disintegrated in a shower of wood and glass. Kid’s body jerked backwards, his chest riddled with bullets. Kid fell off the chair and lay stunned on the floor. Heyes’ eyes met his friend’s blue ones as blood began to soak into the front of Kid’s bullet riddled shirt.

“Heyes?” Kid gasped weakly, as fear and confusion covered his face.

“Kid!” Heyes cried out, as he watched the light beginning to fade from his partner’s eyes. Heyes gave the inside of the safe a quick glance. It was empty. He looked back at his partner as Kid’s eyes finally closed.

“Kid! Kid!” Heyes cried out. He sat up in bed, his hand clasped to his shoulder. Sweat ran down his face as he looked around the room in confusion. “Kid!”

Kid was quickly at his partner’s side, as Elizabeth sat up in the chair.

“Heyes, it’s alright. I’m here,” he assured his partner as the dark haired man looked at him with confusion. “You’re alright Heyes. It was a dream,” Kid explained. Brown eyes met his as Heyes fought desperately to understand what his partner was saying. Heyes was breathing fast, his torso glistened and his shoulder hurt like hell.

“Kid? You’re alive,” the dark-haired man stated.

“Yeah, Heyes, I’m alive.” Kid Curry gave his partner a reassuring smile.

He’s alive, Heyes thought. It was a dream. An all too familiar dream he’d had, too many times before. He knew exactly what it meant too.

“Oh God, that hurts,” he said suddenly, as he held his shoulder.

The door to the room opened and Henry burst in, carrying a rifle.

“What is it? What’s happened?” he asked, a worried expression on his face as he stood before them in his nightclothes.

“Joshua had a bad dream,” Elizabeth explained noting the weapon he carried. She went to Henry’s side. “It’s alright, really.”

“We heard him calling out,” Henry told them. “I thought we were being attacked.”

“I’m sorry he woke you,” Elizabeth said apologetically.

“No problem,” he added, giving Kid and Heyes a look before he left the room, closing the door behind him.

Elizabeth turned to look at the two men. Heyes lay back on the pillow, his eyes closed once more, his breathing slowing, and his face etched in pain.

“How much d’you think he heard?” she asked Kid.

“Enough, I imagine,” he replied honestly and she knew he was concerned.

***

In the early hours of the morning, Henry and Margaret Tudor woke, washed and dressed and then began their daily chores. Henry went out to the barn to see to the animals. Margaret set about preparing things for breakfast. The smell of coffee soon filled the house. Margaret tapped lightly on the bedroom door before opening it. Joshua lay quietly sleeping. Blood stained the bandage at his shoulder and she made a mental note to change that after breakfast. Two pairs of tired eyes looked up at her as she entered the room.

“I thought you to might like to freshen up,” she said. “I’ll sit with Joshua for a while.” Elizabeth gave her a grateful smile as she stood and stretched her aching shoulder muscles.

“Thank you. I’d like that,” she told the older woman.

Kid was a little less concerned about his own needs. Margaret saw the reluctance in his eyes.

“It won’t be for long,” she told him. “And you’ll be more use to him once you feel fresher.” Kid considered this and nodded. His eyes were heavy from lack of sleep and some cool water on his face would certainly help wake him up.

“And I like a man to be clean before he sits at my breakfast table,” she added and was rewarded with a smile and a flash of two dazzling blue eyes.

***

Henry had found a spare razor for Kid to use. Having washed and shaved Kid stood on the front porch, leaning forward with his hands on the rail, to support his weight. His knuckles were white as he tightened his grip. He stared out at nothing in particular, lost in his thoughts. Elizabeth took a step towards him and hearing someone approaching Kid looked up quickly. His eyes glistened in the early morning light and seeing Elizabeth there, he turned his head quickly away.

“Nice shirt,” Elizabeth said. “I meant to tell you last night.” Kid turned to face her and held out his arms to show her the shirt swamped him. He shrugged.

“I’m not sure it’s really your colour though,” she said with a smile. Elizabeth had tied the one Henry had given her in a knot at her waist. Kid had to admit it flattered her figure.

“You look good, Mrs. Smith,” he said teasing her, but then a memory clouded his face. Kid looked away again.

“I’ve never seen you look scared before,” she told him as she moved closer. “I’m sure he’ll be okay.” Kid did not say anything. Thinking he wanted to be alone, Elizabeth turned away, and then felt a firm grip on her wrist as Kid stopped her. This time there was no anger in his eyes and his touch was gentle. Silently he pulled her towards him, his eyes pleading with her to stay. He wrapped his arms around her and they stood, holding onto each other; neither one saying a word. Kid Curry needed the comfort only another human being could give.

***

After breakfast, Elizabeth perched on the bed beside Heyes and ran a cool cloth over his brow, wiping the sweat from his face. The dark-haired man was mumbling again but she could not make out what he was saying, although he was clearly troubled by whatever he was dreaming about. Every now and then, pain would etch his face and he gave a moan. Elizabeth rinsed the cloth in a bowl of cool water that sat on the cabinet then wiped it across his chest. The dark-haired woman ran a hand gently over Heyes’ chest feeling the softness of his skin and the outline of his ribs beneath her fingers.

“I’ll be outside,” Kid said and she was startled, having forgotten he was in the room. She looked up at the blond man. “I don’t want him waking up and thinkin’ that was me,” Kid explained and she smiled. The tension between them had considerably eased. Kid stopped when he reached the door.

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he told her and left the room before she had the chance to reply.

***

“Come and give me a hand,” Henry said to Kid when he found him sitting on the porch steps. Kid got to his feet and followed the large man into the barn. After Henry had given the blond man his instructions, Kid cleaned out the stalls and then put fresh hay into them. It felt good to be doing something useful and at the same time, the physical work helped take his mind off things. When he had almost finished he heard the older man behind him. Kid turned to face him and saw a concerned look on Henry’s face.

“Your friend was pretty talkative last night.” Henry told him. “And you have rope burns on your wrists.” Kid did not say anything. Henry stood in the entrance to the stall.

“Elizabeth is not Joshua’s wife. We can both see that.” Henry told him but still Kid did not speak. He simply watched the man before him and listened to what he had to say. “Joshua called out a name. One I’ve seen on a wanted poster. So when are you going to tell us what really happened and who you really are?”

“What makes you think we’re lyin’ to you?” Kid asked.

“My wife and I are not fools son,” Henry told him.

“What name d’you hear?” Kid asked flatly. His hand hung at his side, his fingers close to Heyes’ gun, which sat in his holster. Henry Tudor did not miss this fact.

“He was calling out Kid,” the big man continued. “Made me think of the description I’ve read of Kid Curry.”

Kid Curry did not say anything.

“The description fits you too I reckon,” Henry said and Kid had to admire the man’s courage. If he really believed he was Kid Curry, then he was taking an awful chance challenging him about it. Surely, he also knew Kid’s reputation with a gun? And yet he stood before the young man, unarmed.

“What do you intend to do about it?” Kid asked. Henry looked at Kid’s hand hanging beside his gun, ready to draw if needed.

“Nothing right now,” Henry said. “I don’t think I have anything to fear from you, do I? Unless you’re plannin’ on using that gun?”

Henry watched Kid’s face trying to work out what he would do next. He was no more successful than any other man had been, when they stood before Kid Curry in a gunfight.

“I’m not plannin’ on using it unless I have to,” Kid told him. “You didn’t mention the sheriff,” he reminded the older man.

“I’m not going into town for a while. I imagine you’ll be long gone before I have any reason to see the sheriff.” Henry saw Kid’s shoulders relax slightly. “If I remember rightly you boys never hurt anyone when you robbed those trains.”

“Not if we could help it,” Kid told him admitting who they were at the same time. “And we don’t do that anymore.”

“I’m glad to hear it. You can stay here while Joshua gets better. Then you’ll leave.”

“Thank you,” Kid said. “Why are you helping us?”

“My wife has a good feeling about you. A man who’s been married as long as I have knows when to listen to his wife.” He gave Kid a smile, which the young man returned. “We need more firewood. There’s an axe over there,” Henry said pointing off to his right. Kid nodded and Henry returned to the house.

***

Elizabeth sat at Heyes bedside. She had now sat beside both men as they fought to recover from the effect of a bullet wound. Two men she realised she cared a great deal about. Elizabeth reached forward and touched Heyes’ hand, remembering how he had held hers.

“You know if you don’t get better it’s going to kill Kid,” she stated. “You’re not going to do that to your partner are you? I won’t be too pleased about it either because I need you alive and well. I have a safe I need opening. Now if that’s not incentive enough for you to get better I don’t know what is.”

And at that moment, Hannibal Heyes opened his eyes and was met by the smile of a beautiful dark-haired woman.

“Hello Elizabeth,” he said weakly.

“Well it’s about time you woke up,” she scolded him, affectionately.

“Where are we?” Heyes asked, as his eyes scanned the room.

“A homestead,” she explained. “Owned by a nice couple. His name’s Henry Tudor.”

“Like the king?” Heyes asked.

“Yes.”

“We’re staying with royalty?” Elizabeth smiled at that, as Heyes thought for a moment, remembering. “There was a woman,” he added and grimaced as he shifted position.

“Margaret. She’s Henry’s wife. She stitched your shoulder up. Oh and you’re my husband now.”

“We got married?” he asked, confused and for a moment, she was tempted to pretend that it was true. However, Heyes looked so weak she didn’t have the heart to tease him this time.

“It’s just for show,” she explained. “Unless you’re planning on proposing for real?” He smiled but said nothing. “I didn’t think so. Still you can’t blame a woman for asking, especially when you turn those big brown eyes on me like that.” He held her gaze for a moment longer.

“Where’s Kid?” Heyes asked.

“Chopping wood. The Tudors have enough to see them through the next four winters. If you don’t get better soon there won’t be a forest left.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Heyes assured her. He took her hand in his, noticing the red marks on her wrist. “You alright?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she said.

“Who did this?” Elizabeth looked away and he remembered something he’d seen and heard. “Did Kid do this?” She looked up quickly wondering how he would know and realised she had just given him his answer.

“Hannibal I’m fine.”

“It’s Heyes,” he reminded her. “And this is not fine. I remember I heard you two arguing.” His thumb gently caressed the marks on her wrists. Their eyes met and leaning forward she kissed him.

***

Elizabeth watched as Kid swung the axe down onto the wood. His shirt hung on the branch of a nearby bush and she could see the purple and yellow bruises on his torso. Every time he bent down to reset the block, he winced at the pain his bruised ribs were giving him. He didn’t think anyone had noticed, but in fact, they all knew he was hurting in more ways than one. Elizabeth watched as he chopped the block into two, taking out the anger he felt on the wood. The growing pile on the ground beside him told her he had been dealing with a lot of anger.

Kid turned as she approached and Elizabeth smiled. Kid said nothing, waiting to see what she wanted.

“He’s awake,” she told him and Kid buried the axe into the chopping block, before grabbing up the shirt and heading back to the house.

***

Kid sat down beside the bed and, sensing someone close by, Heyes opened his eyes.

“Hey,” he said his voice a little raspy; his throat dry.

“Hey yourself,” Kid replied, smiling. “How you feelin’?”

“Hurts too much to know,” Heyes told him. “I hear you’ve been choppin’ wood.”

“Yeah, well you know me. I don’t like to sit and do nothin’.”

“Elizabeth says they have enough wood now,” Heyes waited for this to sink in and then smiled as Kid realised what he was telling him.

“Yeah, I guess they do,” Kid agreed, smiling at his partner.

“Thanks Kid,” Heyes said. “You alright?” he asked, studying Kid’s bruised face.

“I’m fine,” Kid told him. “You’re lookin’ better.”

“Any sign of whoever shot me?”

“No and no one’s been here looking yet. D’you want a drink or somethin’?”

“Go easy on her Kid,” Heyes said, ignoring his partner’s question.

“Heyes, you don’t know…”

“Yes I do,” Heyes said, cryptically. “I know enough and I can’t concentrate on gettin’ better if you two are fightin’ all the time.”

“We’re not fightin’,” Kid insisted. “At least not now.”

“You told her you’d kill her,” Heyes stated, his expression serious.

“You heard?” Kid looked a little guilty.

“Yes.” Kid did not know what to say. He looked at his gloved hands, feeling like a schoolboy caught up to no good. “I saw the marks on her wrist too. That’s not like you.” The blond man looked a little awkward. He did not say anything.

“Something happened to her Kid,” Heyes told him. “I don’t know what but there’s a reason why she does what she does. Same as there’s a reason for what we’ve done. She might tell us one day, but until then…”

“Heyes, I know you like her and…”

“Just let her be, Kid.” Heyes fixed his gaze on his partner and Kid looked his friend in the eye.

“Alright, but I’m doin’ this for you, not her.” Kid said. They were silent for a while before Kid spoke again. “I’m glad you’re feelin’ better Heyes. You had me worried for a while. You just rest now,” he said.

“Yeah I think I’ll just close my eyes,” Heyes said. “Oh and Kid…” His friend looked up at him.

“Yeah?”

“Nice shirt.” Heyes said and smiled as he closed his eyes. Kid watched his friend until he was sure he was sleeping. Then he stood up and left the room.

***

Hannibal Heyes was sitting up in bed, with his left arm in a sling, when Elizabeth entered the room. Steam rose from a bowl on the tray she carried. She gave Heyes a smile and set the tray down on the bedside cabinet.

“I’ve brought you some soup,” Elizabeth told him as she sat on the bed beside him and placed a napkin across his chest. “I hope you’re hungry because Margaret’s an excellent cook and this is delicious.”

“What is it?” Heyes asked.

“Chicken broth,” she told him. Elizabeth picked up the bowl and a spoon. Scooping up some of the soup, she held the spoon out towards him.

“I can feed myself,” Heyes told her.

“Don’t be silly. You can’t hold the bowl.”

“Elizabeth, I can feed myself,” Heyes repeated and she handed him the bowl. Heyes took it in his right hand. Elizabeth held out the spoon. Heyes transferred the bowl to his left hand and she watched as it began to tremble in his weakened grip, tiny circular ripples spread out across the surface of the soup. Heyes took the spoon from Elizabeth and the bowl, and the soup it contained, began to tilt. She grabbed the bowl as it began to slip in his hand, and then took back the spoon.

“You were saying?” Elizabeth scooped up some soup and held it out to him once more. “Open up,” she said with a smile.

Heyes gave her a stubborn look.

“I can feed myself. You hold the bowl I’ll hold the spoon,” he said.

Elizabeth held the spoon closer to his mouth.

“If you don’t open up I might just spill hot soup all over you. Then of course, you’d have to have a bath. Now we both know you’d never manage that one-handed.” Elizabeth feigned shocked realisation. “Or is that what you want Hannibal? Do you want me to help you have a bath?”

Heyes grabbed her hand and guided the spoon into his mouth. She smiled as he swallowed. When he let go she scooped up more soup.

Kid opened the door and walked into the room to find Elizabeth feeding his partner.

“Now ain’t this a cosy scene,” he said giving his partner a sweet smile. Heyes shot him a look as Elizabeth held out the spoon once more. “Well ain’t you gonna eat your soup Heyes?” Kid asked. Heyes opened his mouth and took the soup, his eyes not leaving Kid’s as he did so. Kid was under no illusion as to what the look he was receiving meant.

***

When Kid Curry entered the room sometime later he found his partner sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in his pants but exhausted from the effort it had taken.

“Hey what do you think you’re doin’?” Kid asked.

“I’m getting up,” Heyes stated. “I’m fed up with lying in bed all day,” Hannibal Heyes complained.

“I thought you’d appreciate the chance for a rest,” Kid said.

“Not like this. Help me up Kid.” He held out his right hand but Kid did not take it.

“Are you sure about this Heyes? I mean it’s only been…” but his partner cut him off.

“I know what I’m doin’. C’mon,” he urged, waving a hand in Kid’s direction. Kid Curry still did not offer any help and two brown eyes turned on him. “Will you do as you’re told for once.”

“I don’t think you should be gettin’ up,” Kid stated.

“Alright, your opinion is noted,” Heyes told him. “Now give me a hand.” Still Kid did not move.

“Heyes your stitches…”

“Will be fine. The sooner I can walk about the sooner we can leave. Those men could come back any time. You know that’s true.” Heyes looked at his friend and his demeanour softened. “Please Kid, I want to try.” Kid relaxed, gave it one last thought and then held out a hand to his friend.

Heyes got to his feet and swayed a little. Kid put out a hand to support him and his partner gave him a smile, revealing the dimples on his face.

“No problem,” Heyes said confidently. “Don’t know what you’re worried about Kid.”

“Is that right? Well let’s see you make it to the door on your own,” Kid challenged, secretly pleased to see his friend was on the mend but it would still be some time before Heyes was well enough to travel, let alone sit a horse.

***

Over the next day or so Heyes grew gradually stronger. Margaret’s soup was as delicious as Elizabeth claimed and did much to help build up his strength and speed his recovery.

Heyes sat in a chair on the front porch; his left arm in the sling Margaret had fashioned for him, a blanket lay on the ground at his feet. Kid approached the house and smiled when he saw his friend asleep in the chair. Heyes had a better colour today, not so pale looking. He still tired easily and his shoulder hurt more than he would admit. Kid picked up the blanket and gently placed it over his friend. He stood back and saw Margaret watching him from the doorway.

“He’s getting stronger,” she whispered, as Kid came to stand beside her.

“Yes ma’am he is.”

“You two are very close,” she observed.

“He’s all the family I’ve got left,” Kid told her and she was clearly waiting for an explanation. “We lost our families during the war,” he added.

“You must have been very young,” she stated.

“Yes ma’am we were; just kids.”

“Is that why…?” but she left the rest unsaid. “It’s none of my business.”

“Is that why we became outlaws?” he asked, anticipating her question, and she nodded. “I guess it was the start of that road. Don’t know what route we would have taken if things had been different.”

Heyes stirred and opened his eyes. He looked around and saw Margaret and his partner. They gave him a smile.

“Hey,” Heyes said, pulling himself upright with his right hand.

Kid gave Heyes a curious look.

“What is it?” Heyes asked.

“Something’s missing,” Kid told him and his partner’s eyes narrowed.

***

Henry found Kid in the stable saddling his horse.

“You leaving?” he asked with concern.

“No. There’s something I hafta do,” Kid told him as he led his horse out of the barn and into the sunlight. “I won’t be long. You think you’ll be alright for a while?” Kid pulled himself into the saddle.

“I know how to use a gun and so does Margaret,” Henry told him.

“Give one to Elizabeth to if you have to,” Kid told him. “She knows how to shoot.” Henry nodded and watched the young man ride off, wondering if he intended to return.

As Kid rode away from the homestead, he did not see the two men on horseback watching him from the shadows of the trees.

***

Elizabeth and Margaret sat at the kitchen table, each nursing a cup of coffee as Margaret took a moment for herself between her chores.

“So how are you?” Margaret asked.

“Fine,” Elizabeth assured her as she sipped her coffee, a hand unconsciously touching her cheek where Mitchell had hit her.

“Joshua’s a handsome young man,” Margaret said, continuing to use the men’s alias.

“Yes he is,” Elizabeth agreed, her smile was filled with genuine affection. Kid had told her they knew she was not Heyes’ wife so she no longer had to pretend. Elizabeth looked at her left hand.

“I was married,” Elizabeth said. “I’m a widow. We just thought it best if I said I was married. We did not think you would understand what an unmarried woman was doing with two men.”

“Two men who clearly care about you?” Margaret asked.

“Are you sure?” Elizabeth asked sceptically.

“Oh yes. A woman can tell that too.” They two women shared a smile. “Although, I sense a little tension, between you and Thaddeus.”

“I irritate him and I must admit, I enjoy that. He is just so easy to tease,” the dark-haired woman told her. “I think he’s protecting Joshua from me.”

“Does he need protecting?” Margaret asked.

“Yes, he probably does.” Both women laughed.

At that moment, the door opened and Henry walked in. The two women stopped talking as they noticed the concerned look on his face.

“Thaddeus just rode out,” he said.

***

Jake and Rogers sat on their horses hidden from view by the trees. They watched as the man they knew as Thaddeus Jones rode away from the homestead.

“What do we do?” Rogers asked. He brushed aside his shaggy blond hair, resettling his hat on his head.

“We tell Mitchell,” Jake replied. “I’ll follow him. You okay here?” When Rogers gave a brief nod, Jake turned his horse away and rode after Jones.

***

“Where have you been?” Elizabeth demanded to know, as she entered the stall. Kid looked up as he was unbuckling the cinch on his saddle. “You didn’t think to tell me you were going somewhere? You just left us? What if they came here?” she asked and he could tell she was angry. Kid didn’t say anything.

“Damn it, answer me!” she cried as she grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him away from his horse. Elizabeth was met by an icy blue stare.

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Kid said through gritted teeth and they held each other’s gaze for a long moment. Eventually Elizabeth looked away and let go of his arm. Kid went back to unsaddling his horse.

“So where were you?” Elizabeth asked as she leaned back against the wall, her arms folded. She watched as Kid pulled the blanket off the horse. He looked up at her and pushed his hat back.

“There was something I had to do,” he told her. Elizabeth watched him walk out of the barn and noticed that in his left hand he was carrying a battered black hat.

***

Hannibal Heyes lay on the bed asleep, his breathing steady, and the expression on his face peaceful. Kid sat at Heyes’ bedside turning his gun around in his hand. Now his partner was recovering well, he allowed himself to think about what they would do next and about Mitchell and the others. He wanted to get back at the men who had done this to his partner. Anger welled up in him and he could almost picture what he would do to them. Except that he wouldn’t. That wasn’t his way. Everyone thought he was a gunslinger, maybe he was, but mostly he was just fast. He could be riled but he was also known to calm down quickly, especially if spoken to by the man lying asleep in the bed. Heyes wouldn’t want him riding out and shooting someone on his behalf. And then there was Elizabeth and the necklace…

As if sensing his partner’s anguish, Heyes opened his eyes and saw Kid sitting in the chair at his side, the gun turning in his hands, the serious expression on his partner’s face.

“Hey partner.”

“How you feelin’?” Kid asked, as he casually holstered his gun.

“It hurts,” Heyes admitted. “But don’t tell them that or they’ll give me something and I don’t want to sleep anymore.” He blinked to wake himself up and ran a hand over his eyes. He focussed on his partner. “What about you? You alright?”

Kid met his partner’s eyes and Heyes had his answer.

“I’m fine,” Kid lied.

“I hear you rode out,” Heyes said.

“Yeah,” Kid stated.

“Elizabeth thought you’d deserted us.”

“I know. Now you’re out of bed I thought you might need this,” Kid said as he picked up something from the floor then held out the black cowboy hat to his partner. Heyes’ eyes opened wider and a broad smile developed on his face. He remembered his hat falling off when he was shot.

“Thanks partner.” Kid smiled and put the hat on the bedpost.

“You’re not thinking of doin’ anything stupid are you?” Heyes asked him as he eased himself up on the pillow, and Kid looked annoyed so Heyes smiled.

“Such as?” Kid asked tersely.

“Oh I don’t know, you usually think of something.”

“Well thanks Heyes, it’s good to know you have confidence in me.” Kid looked down at the floor.

“Hey I’m joking okay?” Heyes said with concern and Kid looked back at him.

“I know,” he said. “It’s just…” He did not know how to express what he was feeling.

“Well you shootin’ someone won’t do me any good,” Heyes told him, knowing his partner all too well.

“Might make me feel better though.”

“But for how long?” Heyes kept his gaze on Kid and slowly Kid’s anger disappeared.

“Why d’you hafta be so smart all the time?” Kid asked.

“That’s just one of the burdens of being a genius Kid,” Heyes told him, with a smile.

“Hmph,” Kid replied, but Heyes saw the smile develop on his face.

“Thanks,” Heyes said and two bright blue eyes focussed on him.

“For what?”

“My hat.” Both men looked up at the bed post.

“It’s not you without it,” Kid told his friend.

“Don’t you have wood to chop or forests to fell?” Heyes asked his partner, hoping to get his mind on more useful things.

“You tryin’ to get rid of me?”

“No, just don’t want you brooding.”

“I don’t brood.”

“No o’course you don’t,” Heyes said sarcastically and he met his partner’s gaze.

Eventually Kid smiled.

***

“I need my things,” Elizabeth said to Kid. He was sitting on the porch steps. She stood in front of him, blocking out the sunlight and casting her shadow over him. Kid looked up, his eyes narrowed in the bright sunlight, as he stared at her silhouette.

“What things?” he asked.

“My things at the hotel. My clothes, personal items.”

“We have things in town too,” Kid told her.

“So when can we go and get them?”

“We can’t,” Kid stated.

“Then I’ll go alone,” she said and headed towards the barn.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he told her as he followed her.

“You’re not the only one who can go for a ride when they want to. The hotel will only hold the room for so long. I didn’t pay them to keep it forever,” she told him over her shoulder as she kept walking.

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Huh!” she said as she entered the barn. “You still went and for a hat!”

“It was important to Heyes. They could still be out there. D’you want them to capture you again?”

“No, but then I don’t intend to get caught,” she countered and turning she gave him an overly sweet smile.

“Elizabeth, wait!” Kid said and he caught hold of her arm as she reached for Heyes’ saddle.

“What are you going to do? Add a few more bruises?” Kid let go and looked as if he had been punched in the gut. She turned back to the saddle.

“I’ll go,” Kid said quietly, but she did not seem to hear him. Elizabeth struggled with the saddle and found herself face to face with Kid. He caught hold of the saddle as she was about to drop it. “I’ll go,” he said again, meeting her gaze.

Elizabeth handed him the saddle and he put it down. Kid turned to face her.

“I told you I was sorry,” he said sullenly.

“I know. It was a low blow,” she admitted. “Worked though didn’t it,” she stated with a smile. Kid shook his head.

“You really are something,” he said.

“Don’t say that when Heyes is around,” she teased, putting her hand on his this time. “We’d only make him jealous.”

Elizabeth turned and walked away.

“Let me know when you’re ready to leave. I’ll write you a list of the things I want.”

Kid Curry stood watching her walk back to the house.

***

As Kid Curry rode into Dalton’s Crossing his eyes scanned the faces of people on the boardwalk. No one took much notice of the curly-haired cowboy riding towards the hotel. Kid climbed from the saddle and adjusted his hat as he walked up the steps and into the hotel. The desk clerk looked up as Kid entered the lobby and was surprised to see him. Only traces of the bruises on Kid’s face remained. The partners had argued with the clerk when he insisted they pay for their room in advance. Kid was glad now that they had paid for the week he had insisted on.

“Mr. Jones!” he said. “We wondered where you’d got to.” Kid took that to mean, we wondered if you’d ever come back and pay your hotel bill, if you were away any longer.

“Can I have the key to my room please,” Kid asked. The clerk clearly wanted to know where he had been and where his friend and Mrs. Darkly were but despite his subtle questions Kid told him nothing to fill in the gaps. “Mrs. Darkly would like her things sent on. She had to leave urgently. Can you have someone pack up her things?”

“I heard she had been kidnapped,” the desk clerk stated, not responding to Kid’s request. “The sheriff came to examine her room. It was in some disarray. Is Mrs. Darkly safe?”

“Yes she’s fine. She just had to get away quicker than she expected. So can you have someone pack up her things? Oh and pack a small bag for her to use over the next few days.”

“I’ll get right on it sir,” the clerk assured him.

Kid headed for the stairs and his room. The desk clerk headed for the sheriff’s office.

***

It did not take Kid long to pack up the possessions he and Heyes carried with them in their saddle bags. He buckled the bags, had a final look around the room and then headed for the room Elizabeth had occupied. A maid was busy folding Elizabeth’s clothes. She had already packed two bags and was now tending to a small carpet bag. There was no way Kid would be able to carry all of Elizabeth’s things on his horse and he had no intention of hiring a mule for her clothes.

The maid looked up as Kid entered the room.

“Mr. Jones?” she asked and he nodded giving her a smile.

“Is there a bag Mrs. Darkly can use for just a few days?” he asked. “I have a list of things she wants.” He took the folded piece of paper Elizabeth had given him from his vest pocket.

“I’m packing this one for her,” the maid told him holding up the carpet bag. That Kid could fit on his horse, somehow. “I’ll check what the lady wants,” she added as she took the list.

“D’you think they’ll be able to store the rest until Mrs. Darkly can send for it?” Kid asked.

“Oh you’d have to ask Mr. Thompson that,” she said. “But I don’t think it will be a problem.” When she had finished packing the small bag, Kid picked it up, surprised by the weight of it. What did women need for just a few nights that made their bags so heavy? Thanking the maid, he left the room. As he walked along the corridor towards the stairs Kid saw the sheriff heading towards him with his deputy.

“Mr. Jones!” the sheriff cried, feigning friendly pleasure at seeing him.

“Sheriff.” Kid was instantly on his guard.

“I hear you found Mrs. Darkly.”

“Yes, we did.”

“What happened?” the sheriff asked and Kid knew there was no way he was going to be allowed to leave until he told them.

“We found her just outside of town. She’d been taken as part of a practical joke. Some friends heard she was engaged to Joshua and thought it would be funny to whisk her away from him.”

The sheriff did not look convinced.

“Hmm,” he said as he considered what Kid had told him. “Can’t say I approve of their joke.”

“Me either. Joshua sure was worried and we regret the trouble it caused you,” Kid added hoping to sweeten things with the sheriff. “You should have heard what Joshua said to them when he found out. They’re too shamed faced to come into town and apologise and Elizabeth is embarrassed by the whole thing. So it was down to me to get our stuff and pay the hotel bills.” Kid gave a shrug hoping to win the lawman’s sympathy.

“So she’s alright?” the sheriff asked again, wanting confirmation of the fact.

“Yes sheriff she is.”

“She doesn’t want to press charges?”

“Not against her friends, and I don’t think they’ll do this sort of thing again,” Kid said glad that he had talked to Heyes about what he should tell the sheriff.

“Well alright then, but you let them know I sure don’t approve of that sort of thing either,” the sheriff told him.

“I sure will sheriff, I sure will,” Kid said as he backed away and headed for the stairs.

Kid paid the desk clerk and gave him a look that told the man he knew he had called for the sheriff. The desk clerk did not like the look in Mr. Jones eyes and the icy blue gaze that fell upon him so he refrained from asking any more questions. He agreed to store the rest of Mrs. Darkly’s things until she could send for them. Kid left the hotel then, heading for the hardware store where he bought himself a new gun. He wanted to give Heyes his gun back. The gun he bought didn’t feel right but he would work on it, adjust it until it felt comfortable in his hand. Comfortable enough to draw quickly and accurately.

Kid placed the saddlebags onto his horse and tied them to the saddle. He thought for a moment about the best way to fix Elizabeth’s bag onto his horse and then looped the handles over the saddle horn. Pulling himself into the saddle Kid adjusted his hat against the glare of the sun and rode out of town.

He rode in the opposite direction to the Tudors’ homestead, hoping to spot anyone following him and set a false trail at the same time. Kid did not see anyone suspicious and soon turned his horse, taking the long way back to Heyes and Elizabeth.

What Kid did not know was that Jake had followed him into town. As they knew where Elizabeth was Jake had been instructed just to watch and follow Mr. Jones and to keep a discreet distance. Jake knew where Jones was heading now and had no reason to watch his every move.

When Elizabeth Darkly made her move towards the safe, at West Ford, Mitchell, Jake and Rogers would be there too. When she finally opened up the safe Mitchell would be there to take what was rightfully his.

***

“So tell me about the safe,” Heyes said. Elizabeth had her back to him, as he sat in the armchair, so he did not see her smile. If he had, he might have thought twice about asking her the question.

“Well, I don’t know much about safes,” she said sweetly.

“Elizabeth, don’t play innocent with me. If your necklace is in a safe I imagine you’ve done your research on it by now.” She remained silent. “So what sort of safe is it?” he asked again.

“It said Miller Safe Co. Made in Philadelphia PA on the door,” she stated and Heyes smiled. “And if my research is correct, one man who can definitely open it is Hannibal Heyes.”

“Oh, I can open it,” Heyes told her confidently. “I just don’t see why I should.”

“To help me get my necklace back,” she told him. “To pay back the man who stole it.”

“I don’t need to pay anyone back.”

Elizabeth looked at him.

“Are you saying you won’t help me?” she asked.

“No, I’m asking what’s in it for me?” he admitted honestly. Elizabeth sashayed across the room and sat on his knees. Heyes did not resist and enjoyed her closeness.

“I’d make it worth your while, of course,” she told him seductively.

“Oh? How would you do that?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at her.

“Do you want me to spell it out?”

“Yes,” he said and she was a little taken aback by his response. At that moment, the door opened and Kid Curry entered the room. He saw Elizabeth sitting in Heyes’ lap and stopped in his tracks. He raised his eyebrows questioningly at his partner.

“Should I leave you two alone?” Kid asked.

“Elizabeth is telling me why I should help her open the safe,” Heyes told him and from the scowl that appeared on Kid’s face, Heyes could tell that he was not pleased.

“What did she say?” Kid asked.

“We haven’t quite got to that part yet,” Heyes told him. He looked at Elizabeth. “You were about to tell me what’s in it for me,” Heyes reminded her.

“Not with Kid here,” she whispered and he grinned at her. He looked around her at his partner.

“She won’t tell me with you here,” Heyes said and Elizabeth rolled her eyes at him. Kid smiled.

“Would she be embarrassed if I stayed?”

“I think she would Kid. Pull up a chair,” Heyes said. Elizabeth pushed herself away from the dark-haired man and stood up.

“You two are insufferable,” she told them. “Did you get my things?” she asked Kid.

“Yes,” he said.

“Good,” she said and left the room. Kid looked at his partner.

“Are you tempted by what she’s offering?” Kid asked seriously and instantly regretted the way he had asked the question. Heyes raised his eyebrows and smiled.

“I must admit, I’m thinking about that safe Kid,” Heyes told him.

“Are you serious?” Kid asked with disbelief.

“Sure Kid why not?”

Kid shook his head and left the room.

***

“There’s two men up on the ridge,” Henry said, as Kid strolled out of the house. Kid looked up and saw two men on horseback on the hill that overlooked the homestead. It could be Jake and Rogers. He stood with Henry and watched for a while, before heading for the barn. Moments later Heyes came out of the house; his arm was still in a sling and he walked slowly. Henry pointed at the men and Heyes looked up before going to find Kid.

“Alright what’s wrong?” Heyes asked his partner. He had found his friend in the barn brushing down his horse. The horse did not need it but Kid clearly had to expend some energy or release some anger on something and as the Tudor’s now had more firewood than they needed, Kid turned his attention to his horse.

“Nothin’s wrong,” Kid said. Brush. Brush. Brush.

“Nothin’ huh?”

“That’s right. Nothin’.” Brush. Brush. Brush.

“So why you takin’ it out on your horse?” Heyes asked and Kid looked up. His horse turned its head to face him as if agreeing with the dark-haired man.

“You gonna do it aren’t ya?” Kid stated. “You’re gonna try and open that safe.”

“I’m not sure I like your use of the word ‘try’ Kid,” Heyes told him. “It suggests a certain lack of confidence in my ability to do so.”

“Oh I know you can do it,” Kid told him confidently. “I just don’t think you should.” Brush. Brush. Brush.

“Kid, it’s a Miller safe, just like the one Armendariz had. I can open it.” Brush. Brush. Brush. “Will you stop taking it out on your horse?” Heyes asked and he took the brush from Kid.

Two blue eyes fixed on Heyes’ own.

“You know why I’m doing this. It’s for Elizabeth,” Heyes reminded him.

“No it’s not. It’s Hannibal Heyes opening a safe no one else can.”

“Are you suggestin’ this is all about my pride?” Heyes asked.

“Ain’t suggestin’ anything,” Kid said. “I’m tellin’ ya that’s what it is.”

Kid glared at his partner and walked off. Heyes sighed, closed his eyes and then opening them, looked heavenward for some inspiration. He followed Kid from the barn and found him just outside looking up at the hillside.

“They still up there?” Heyes asked, as they looked up at the ridge where two men sat on horseback.

“Yep,” Kid said. “I guess they’re waitin’ for us to go after the safe,” Kid added pointedly.

“Alright Kid, I know you don’t approve,” Heyes told him.

“We don’t know where it is,” Kid stated.

“Elizabeth said it was taken off the train at West Ford,” Heyes told him.

“Elizabeth said. That’s just the point Heyes. We’re relying on what Elizabeth said. How do we know there really is a necklace? By the way, from what she told me, it may already be stolen property. And if it’s a Miller safe it won’t take people too long to come up with a list of people who could open it. If they match that with a description of good ol’ Joshua Smith how long before they link you with Hannibal Heyes?” Kid finished rhetorically. He looked at his partner. “Have you thought of that?” Kid was only just controlling his anger.

“Well that is a problem with the plan,” Heyes told him.

“You already have a plan?” Kid asked incredulously.

“Well I like to be prepared, Kid.”

“You’re really gonna do this?”

“She’s helped us both,” Heyes reminded him.

“Yeah, helped us when we were shot or in trouble, which we wouldn’t have been, had she not shown up in the first place!” Kid yelled.

“Kid you’re yellin’,” Heyes told him in a quiet voice, which annoyed his partner even more.

“I know!” Kid yelled. “It’s what I do when I’m angry! So help me Heyes if you weren’t shot I’d flatten ya!” Kid yelled before he turned and stormed off. Heyes stood watching his friend. He wondered if maybe Kid was right.

***

Two days later, in the early morning light, Elizabeth sat on the horse Henry had loaned her. Margaret stood talking to her. Henry held the reins of the other horses. The cabin door opened and Kid and Heyes appeared. Heyes’ arm was no longer in a sling. Kid would never tell them the trouble they had getting his arm into the sleeve of his shirt.

Kid Curry hovered behind his partner as he pulled himself onto his horse. As much as he wanted to help him, Kid knew he had to let Heyes get on his horse by himself. Kid gave Margaret a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then pulled himself into the saddle and turned to Heyes.

“You alright?” Kid asked his partner.

“Remember what I said Kid? You worry about staying on your horse and I’ll worry about staying on mine,” his partner told him although Kid didn’t miss how the dark-haired man winced as he adjusted himself in the saddle.

Kid leaned down and offered a hand to Henry.

“Thanks Henry, for all your help. I appreciate all you’ve done for us.”

“Our pleasure, Thaddeus. You stop by and see us anytime you’re passing. I hope that amnesty comes through for you.”

“Me too sir,” Kid told him.

With their goodbyes and thanks said the three rode out. Henry and Margaret stood watching them go.

***

The train carrying the two young cowboys and an attractive dark-haired woman pulled into West Ford just after noon. It was seven minutes late according to the stationmaster. As the train jolted to a stop the dark-haired man opened his eyes. He had slept for most of the journey and for much of the time had done so in the position he woke up in, with his head resting on Elizabeth Darkly’s shoulder. Heyes sat up, blinking. He stretched to ease his stiff neck muscles. He gave Elizabeth a sweet smile and then caught his partner looking at him. Kid rolled his eyes.

“Thank you,” Heyes said to Elizabeth. “You make a lovely pillow.”

“I can do more for you than that,” she reminded him. Heyes met her gaze and held it for a few moments.

“When you two have finished, this is our stop,” Kid told them.

The two cowboys picked up their saddlebags. Kid picked up Elizabeth’s bag and followed Heyes as he escorted Elizabeth off the train. Anyone paying close attention to them would have noted how the dark-haired man favoured his left shoulder as he stepped down from the train.

They made their way to the hotel, registering as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mr. Thaddeus Jones. They asked for adjoining rooms and were allocated two at the front of the hotel with a connecting door.

Kid threw his saddlebags onto the double bed and went to the window. Heyes smiled as he watched his partner checking out the sheriff’s office across the street.

“Kid I think that’s your room,” Elizabeth said pointing to the room with the single bed next door. Kid looked at Heyes. It was his call.

“Elizabeth, you are my wife as far as the desk clerk is concerned and anyone else in town for that matter but you and I will not be sharing a room or a bed.”

Elizabeth walked towards him.

“You mean not yet, don’t you? We can get rid of Kid later,” she told him loud enough for Kid to hear. The blond man suppressed a smile but Heyes knew he had heard.

“I meant not at all,” Heyes told her firmly.

“Don’t be so sure of that,” she whispered in his ear. “You going all shy on me now?”

Heyes decided not to dignify that with an answer and Elizabeth carried her bag into the other room. Heyes turned to see his partner, arms folded across his chest, smiling at him. Kid raised his eyebrows, waiting for Heyes to say something.

“Whose idea was this anyway?” Heyes asked.

“Yours Heyes. All yours.”

***

They had dinner in the hotel restaurant and then Elizabeth returned to her room while Kid and Heyes wandered across to the saloon. Kid caught the eye of the bar tender and they were soon sipping on a beer. Heyes’ eyes lit up as he watched the poker game in progress at a corner table. He turned back to the bar.

“That guy just drew to an inside straight,” he said. “We hafta get into that game.”

“Don’t you mean I hafto?” Kid asked and his partner gave him a confused look. “You have a wife waiting for you at the hotel,” Kid reminded him with a smile.

“D’you want her?” Heyes asked.

“No Heyes, she’s all yours,” Kid told him. “This was your idea. You know my feelings. I don’t think we should be here but you wanted to help Elizabeth, so here we are.”

“You didn’t have to come,” Heyes stated and looked despondently into his beer glass.

“Yes I did,” Kid told him and Heyes looked up. “Someone hasta watch your back partner.” Kid smiled kindly, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder. Heyes smiled back.

“So…” Kid reminded him. “Your wife?”

“Well she’s a very understanding wife,” Heyes decided as he spotted two men leaving the game.

“I hope you’re right,” Kid replied, although he was sure Elizabeth would have other ideas. He joined his partner as he headed towards the table.

As they played a few games both men forgot about the woman they had left back at the hotel. That is until she walked across the saloon towards their table. Kid saw her first as she approached from behind his partner. He caught Heyes’ eyes just moments before Elizabeth Darkly stopped behind him.

“Hello Joshua,” she said affectionately, as she placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thaddeus,” she said sweetly and Kid gave her a smile. He wasn’t the one about to be in trouble.

“Elizabeth, what are you doing here? This is no place for you,” Heyes said, trying to sound like a concerned husband. He pushed his chair back and was about to get to his feet when he felt Elizabeth’s grip tighten on his injured shoulder. He winced a little as she pushed him back into his seat.

“I was bored all alone in my room. I just had to come and find my husband and meet some of his new friends,” she said with all the sweetness of a lioness on the prowl.

“I’ll be back soon my dear,” Heyes told her through gritted teeth.

“I know you will,” she cooed, as she leaned forward and whispered in Heyes ear, at the same time giving the other men at the table a view they were not unappreciative of. Kid did not know quite where he should look or what Elizabeth was saying but Heyes was beginning to look a little uncomfortable and if he wasn’t mistaken his partner was blushing slightly.

Elizabeth stood up and gave the men at the poker table a smile, which they all returned, all except Kid who just shook his head at her brazen behaviour. Her hand lingered on Heyes’ shoulder and then she walked away, with many pairs of eyes following the beautiful woman’s departure.

Heyes looked at the other poker players.

“Well if you gentlemen will excuse me I think I’d best go keep my wife company,” he said and no one disagreed with him. Kid shot Heyes a look unsure what he was expected to do.

***

Kid did not know how long he was supposed to wait before returning to the hotel room or whether or not he was supposed to wait at all. It had been a long day and he was tired. He just wanted to lie down on a soft bed.

Kid knocked tentatively on the door of the room he was sharing with Heyes.

“Joshua?” he called but there was no reply. Kid knocked again. “Joshua!” he hissed a little louder and was surprised when the door opened. Heyes stood before him holding a book in his hand.

“What’s the matter Kid? Did you forget how to open a door?”

“No I just thought…” Kid said and he saw Heyes’ eyebrows rise.

“Thought what?” the dark-haired man asked.

“I thought you and Elizabeth might…” Heyes eyes opened wider and Kid was beginning to feel embarrassed. He lost patience with his friend. “Oh forget it! Let me in!” Kid pushed past his partner and entered the room. Heyes smiled at his partner’s embarrassment and closed the door. He knew Kid was looking for Elizabeth.

“She’s next door,” Heyes told him as he enjoyed Kid’s discomfort. “In her room. In bed. Alone.”

“Okay Heyes, I get the picture,” the blond man told him, hoping his partner would shut up.

“Not with me,” Heyes added to embarrass Kid even more.

“Well not this time,” Kid retorted and then stopped. They were too near the truth now and venturing into dangerous territory.

“No, not this time,” Heyes said seriously. “I know you don’t approve.”

“It’s not for me to approve or disapprove Heyes. You’re a grown man…”

“Yes I am,” Heyes stated.

“So I guess you’re tellin’ me this is none of my business?” Kid said

“That’s right.”

“But it is Heyes.” Two dark eyes fixed on Kid. “Until we get the amnesty what you do affects me and visa…whatever,” Kid said. “After that we can go our separate ways and you can be with whoever you want to.” Kid looked at his friend.

“Yeah, that’s right I can,” Heyes stated defiantly. For a moment neither spoke, they just stood stubbornly looking at each other, wondering why they were arguing and who would blink first.

“I’ll admit I have feelings for her,” Heyes said and then gave Kid a dimpled smile that instantly diffused the situation.

“I don’t know why,” Kid said softening. “She shot you and she wanted to turn us both in.”

“I know but…”

“How do you know she won’t do it again one day?”

“I don’t. Even so,” Heyes interrupted.

“Couldn’t you just find a pretty saloon girl with big brown eyes?”

“I’m sure I could but I…” At that moment, there was a little cough behind them and they turned to see the dividing door open and Elizabeth Darkly standing before them in her nightgown. She made no attempt to cover herself with a robe and was well aware of the effect she was having on the two men.

“Any sign of Mitchell or his men?” she asked Kid.

“Nope,” Kid replied, not sure where he was supposed to look.

“Well if you two have finished talking about me, maybe we could get some sleep?” she said patiently. “I need you both thinking straight tomorrow.”

She looked at Kid.

“As I told Hannibal earlier, despite all his attempts to seduce me, I’m too tired for anything else tonight.” Elizabeth smiled and closed the door. Kid looked at Heyes his head tilted a little to one side waiting to hear what his partner would say to that.

“I know Kid, my idea, all mine!” Heyes stated and it was Kid’s turn to smile.

***

The next day they rode out to the house of Bertrand Lynch. Heyes hired a buggy for himself and Elizabeth and Kid followed beside them on the horse he had obtained from the livery stable. The Lynch house was an imposing white building at the end of a tree lined drive, some miles outside of town. Alexander Lynch had made his money in banking and land speculation. His son had been happy to live on the money his father made and do as little as possible for it. He was equally happy now, to spend his inheritance

Heyes pulled the buggy to a halt outside the large white front door. He winced as he climbed down and then offered a hand to Elizabeth. She met his gaze as he helped her down.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“I’m fine,” he told her but she was not convinced.

They were shown into the study by a large man, who uncharacteristically for a butler, if that’s what he was, wore a gun belt. As they entered the room, all three spotted the safe in the corner. The words Miller Safe co were written on the front. Elizabeth squeezed Heyes arm and smiled at him. Bertrand Lynch arrived a few moments later.

“Good day to you folks. What can I do for you?” he asked as he entered the room. He did not offer to shake their hands and he froze when he recognised Elizabeth Darkly. Heyes was sizing up the stout grey-haired man even before he spoke.

“Mr. Lynch, my wife tells me you have a necklace that belongs to her locked in your safe. That safe I believe,” Heyes said getting straight to the point. “She asked your father to look after it for her and she tells me you have refused to give it back.”

“I didn’t realise Mrs. Darkly had remarried,” Bertrand Lynch said buying himself some thinking time.

“It was a whirlwind romance,” Elizabeth told him as she placed a hand on Heyes’ arm.

Lynch looked at the pair sitting before him. Kid stood behind them leaning with his back against the wall, his arms folded across his chest.

“Who’s he, your hired gun?” Lynch asked, pointing to the blond man.

“Mr. Jones is an associate of mine,” Heyes told him calmly, leaving Lynch to answer his own question.

“There’s nothing in my safe that belongs to your wife,” Lynch stated.

“Would you mind opening the safe to prove that? Or are you suggesting my wife is a liar?” Heyes asked and Lynch met his gaze. Bertrand Lynch had never faced down a man in a gunfight, and never stood in front of a group of outlaws as one or more challenged his authority with a gun at his hip. He was unable to outstare Hannibal Heyes and he soon became flustered and looked away.

“I don’t have to prove anything to you. I’m merely suggesting your wife was mistaken,” he said clearly irritated. “Now, I’m very busy. I think we’re finished here and I’d like you to leave.” No one moved. Lynch walked to the door and opened it.

“Garwood!” he called and approaching footsteps could be heard. The large man who had greeted them at the door appeared. “Show these people out,” he ordered with disdain.

Garwood rested his hand on the gun tied to his hip, clearly expecting them to do as they were told. Kid smiled but the smile did not reach his eyes. Garwood grew uneasy. Heyes smiled too as he watched his partner intimidate the man with his body language. Garwood stepped back to allow Lynch’s visitors to leave. Heyes and Elizabeth stood and walked towards the door. Kid followed, his eyes still on the big man. Heyes turned to face Lynch.

“Holding onto something that doesn’t belong to you is theft Mr. Lynch,” Heyes told the older man.

“So go to the sheriff,” Lynch suggested.

“I think we might just do that,” Heyes replied and touched the tip of his hat before they departed.

***

“So what are we going to do now?” Elizabeth asked as they rode back to town. “I assume we’re not going to the sheriff?”

“That’s right, we’re not,” Heyes told her.

“So..?” she prompted.

“Why did you want me?” Heyes asked. “Apart from the obvious,” he added with a wicked smile.

“Well, apart from the obvious,” Elizabeth said. “I needed you to op…Oh, I see.” She smiled and gave his arm a squeeze.

***

The man across the poker table from Hannibal Heyes threw in his cards and sat back in his chair. As the game continued, he met Heyes’ eyes.

“How’s your shoulder?” he asked with a smile. Heyes froze. The man had long straggly blond hair and a pockmarked face.

“My shoulder’s fine thanks,” Heyes informed him. “Now I’m wondering why you would ask?” Heyes remained calm not about to rise to the man’s provocation.

Rogers didn’t quite know what to say, without incriminating himself. Mitchell had decided to change his approach. He’d had Jake and Rogers show themselves on the ridge above the Tudor farm. Now he wanted Rogers to unnerve Smith, let him know the man who had shot him was in town and watching him. Rogers didn’t know why, Mitchell had said something about wanting everyone’s attention on them. Rogers thought it might just scare off Smith, Jones and the woman but Mitchell seemed to have other ideas. Maybe he was right; Smith didn’t seem too scared at the moment.

“Everything alright Joshua?” Kid asked as he moved to stand behind his partner. Rogers had not seen the blond man enter the saloon.

“This gentleman was just inquiring about my shoulder,” Heyes explained.

“How’d he know you’d been hurt?” Kid asked.

“That’s what I was trying to find out.”

Rogers looked worried now that Mr. Jones had appeared. This wasn’t part of the plan.

“This gentleman and I have a few things to discuss too,” Kid told Heyes.

“Thaddeus don’t,” Heyes said quietly, without looking at his partner but recognising the change of tone in Kid’s voice.

“It seems you shot my partner,” Kid said, ignoring Heyes and fixing Rogers with an icy stare. “I’ve got a score of my own to settle with you,” Kid added.

“You think you’re up to it?” Rogers asked, with renewed confidence. He pushed back his chair and the room went silent. Kid smiled and slowly removed the glove from his right hand.

“Thaddeus,” Heyes said through gritted teeth but Kid was in one of his stubborn moods. Rogers stood up and his hand dropped to his side. Others at the table moved away. Heyes remained seated, at his partner’s side and looked up at Kid no longer hiding his irritation.

“Anytime you want,” Rogers told the blond man. Kid had not taken his eyes from the man opposite him. Heyes knew it had gone too far now to stop. The saloon had fallen silent and then Rogers reached for his gun, only to find himself staring down the barrel of Kid’s Colt.

“Now about my friend’s shoulder,” Kid said and the colour drained from Rogers’ face.

“What’s the problem boys?” a voice asked and Heyes looked behind him to see a stout man with a star pinned to his shirt.

“Howdy sheriff,” Heyes said and gave Kid his ‘now look what you’ve done’ look.

“Boys I’ll ask you to put aside your differences when you’re in my town,” the sheriff said. He looked at Kid. “Holster your gun,” he ordered and Kid Curry did as the lawman asked but kept one eye on Rogers. The man opposite him glared at Kid Curry, and then stormed out of the saloon.

The sheriff looked at the blond man.

“I think you’re finished here for the night too, don’t you?” It was not a question. Kid shot Heyes a glance but his partner merely gave him a sweet smile, leaving Kid to sort things out on his own.

“I’ll see you later,” he told his partner, nodded to the sheriff and walked out. He half-expected Rogers to be waiting for him outside but the man was nowhere to be seen. Kid made his way back to the hotel, knowing full well his partner would be speaking to him about this later.

***

“What d’you think that was all about?” Kid asked when Heyes returned to their hotel room.

“I don’t know,” Heyes admitted. “We know they’ve been watching us but why come right out and show yourself like that?” It troubled him because he couldn’t think what the men were up to.

“Fool coulda got himself killed too,” Kid stated as he checked his gun before removing his gun belt.

“I don’t think he expected you to be there,” Heyes told him. “Still we’ll hafta be careful. If they’re watching us we can’t let them know when we go after the necklace.”

***

A hand placed over Heyes’ mouth woke him. His eyes flew open and fell on two brown ones staring back at him. Elizabeth Darkly had a hand to her lips telling him to be quiet.

“What is it?” Heyes asked, concerned to find the woman at his bedside.

“We need to talk,” she whispered. Heyes cast a glance at his partner. Kid was sound asleep, snoring. Heyes threw back the covers and got up. Dressed in his underwear and socks he followed Elizabeth into her room.

“Okay, I’m here so what is it?” he asked as he yawned and tried to wake himself up. Elizabeth shut the dividing door.

“By this time tomorrow we could have the necklace,” she stated.

“If everything goes to plan,” Heyes agreed.

“We may not get the chance to say goodbye properly,” she told him and Heyes shot her a glance.

“What?”

“I said…”

“I know what you said,” Heyes snapped, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “I mean did you just wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me that?” He sounded a little cross.

“Are you angry with me Hannibal?” she asked, casting doe eyes at the floor.

“Stop it!” he said and she looked up. “Elizabeth it is the middle of the night. I am tired. We have a job to do tomorrow. After that, yes, we will be going our separate ways. And as much as I am tempted by what you’re offering I think I’ll return to my own bed.”

She looked irritated by his attitude, and then stood to one side as he marched towards the door. Turning the handle, he found the door locked. Heyes turned back to her.

“You locked it?” he asked incredulously.

“I didn’t want Kid disturbing us,” she stated sweetly.

“Open it.”

Elizabeth just smiled and slipped the key into the bodice of her nightdress.

“You’re kiddin’?” Heyes said.

“If you want it…”

Heyes put his hands on his hips and shook his head as he sighed in disbelief.

“Seeing as though you’re stuck here maybe we could…?” Elizabeth left the rest to his imagination.

“No we couldn’t,” he told her firmly and reached into his sock. Finding what he needed he bent down and began to work on the lock.

“You have a lock pick in your sock?” she asked incredulously. “Who keeps a lock pick in his sock?”

“I do,” Heyes informed her, fixing two brown eyes on hers. He gave her a triumphant smile and turned the handle. The door opened.

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” she informed him, as she drew closer and ran her fingers down his chest. Heyes took her chin in his hand.

“Yes I do,” he reminded her before placing a kiss gently on her lips. “Goodnight Elizabeth, get some sleep.” Heyes returned to his room and closed the door.

“That was quick,” Kid said without opening his eyes as Heyes sat down on the bed. A smile formed on his face. “Could ruin your reputation with the ladies Heyes.”

“Nothing happened,” Heyes informed him.

“That will definitely ruin your reputation,” Kid replied.

“Shut up and go back to sleep!” Heyes snapped and he heard his partner snigger.

***

The plan was agreed on. Heyes would open the safe and retrieve Elizabeth’s necklace. However, they knew Mitchell and his men would be watching and did not want to alert them or have them lying in wait. As soon as they had the necklace, they would leave but they needed to make anyone watching believe that they were in no rush to make their move or leave West Ford.

They spent the next morning around town. Elizabeth did some shopping and in the afternoon all three went for a ride. That evening, Elizabeth retired to her room claiming to be feeling unwell.

“My wife has remained in our room,” Heyes told the desk clerk. “She’s not feeling very well. I hope you’ll see to it that she is not disturbed?”

“Of course sir,” the desk clerk assured him. “I hope Mrs. Smith will be feeling better soon.”

“Thank you,” Heyes said, with a grateful smile. “So do I.”

“Spoken like a real caring husband, Heyes,” Kid said with a smile, as soon as they were out of earshot.

Kid and Heyes had their meal in the hotel restaurant and then walked across to the saloon where they joined the poker game. Rogers was not in the saloon tonight. After a few games Heyes excused himself explaining that he wanted to check on his sick wife. Kid played a few more hands of poker before retiring for the night.

When the town was asleep Hannibal Heyes led Elizabeth Darkly along the corridor to the side stairs. She held on tightly to his hand as they descended the stairs to the alley that ran beside the hotel. Kid was waiting for them with their horses. Elizabeth handed him her bag and then climbed onto her horse. Heyes pulled himself into the saddle and they rode quietly away from the hotel and out of town.

When they reached a bend in the road, Elizabeth pulled her horse to one side and climbed down. She led the animal into the trees and tied the reins around a branch. Returning to them she stood beside Heyes’ horse.

“Remember, wait here until Kid comes for you,” Heyes said as he reminded her of the agreed plan. He leaned down as she tilted her face up to his. Heyes kissed her.

“Take care of yourself,” she said and the smile she gave him was genuine. “You too Kid,” she added as an afterthought. Kid raised his eyebrows.

“Oh don’t worry about me. This is a Hannibal Heyes plan. What could possibly go wrong?” He gave them both an innocent smile. “Elizabeth,” he added as he touched the tip of his hat and they rode off.

***

Heyes slid his knife between the wooden window frames and felt it touch the metal catch. Carefully he moved the knife forcing the catch open. Heyes pushed up the window and beside him Kid winced as the window gave a squeak. When the window was open Heyes pushed aside the curtain and, stepping through the window, entered Lynch’s study. Kid followed and once inside closed the window. Kid looked for any sign that they had been spotted. When he was happy they had not been, he drew the curtain. Once again he was watching their backs as they fell into a familiar routine.

Heyes lit the lamp on Lynch’s desk. Shielding it with his body, he moved to the safe as Kid settled himself in the chair behind the desk. He knew this would take some time. His partner was not to be rushed. He tilted the chair back, his feet resting on the edge of the desk, his eyes moving between the window, the door and then back to Heyes.

Hannibal Heyes settled himself in front of the safe. He stretched his left arm, trying to ease the muscles, an act that did not go unnoticed by his partner. He looked at the safe. It was a beauty; the metal highly polished. Heyes took a deep breath and ran his thumbs over his fingers as he studied the dial. He pressed his ear against the cold metal door and took the dial in his hand. Hannibal Heyes took a deep breath, cutting out everything around him. Closing his eyes, he began to turn the dial, listening for the safe’s heartbeat, the familiar sound of the tumblers within. His own heart was beating faster; his pulse racing and he smiled enjoying the familiar sensations and the rush of adrenaline. The dial felt right beneath his fingers and he had to admit this was one thing he did miss now they were trying for their amnesty.

***

Some time later Hannibal Heyes sat back on his heels and turned the handle, smiling as he opened the safe door. He had done it. He turned to his partner but his triumphant smile was quickly wiped off his face when he saw Kid falling backwards off his chair. Suddenly everything was moving in slow motion. It was Heyes’ nightmare come true.

“Oh my God,” he said. “Kid!” he cried as he got to his feet. Kid Curry lay on the floor, struggling to get up as his partner reached him. Kid’s eyes were a little glazed and he looked stunned by what had happened.

“Kid!” Heyes said, as he searched the front of his friend’s shirt for a bullet hole, all the while expecting blood to appear on Kid’s shirt at any moment. “It’s alright Kid, stay still,” Heyes told him.

“Heyes what are you doin’?” Kid asked.

“Where are you hit?”

“Heyes, will you get your hands off me!” Kid snarled, patting his friend’s hands away as Heyes started to unbutton Kid’s shirt. “Heyes!” But then he saw the fear in his partner’s eyes and stopped fighting him.

“Heyes,” he said gently. “It’s alright, I’m not hit.” Kid explained. Two brown eyes fixed on his.

“But you fell backwards,” Heyes stated fearfully.

“Yeah.” Kid looked a little embarrassed. “I fell off my chair.”

“What?”

“I fell of my chair. Hit my head on the wall too.” Kid gave him a smile, hoping for a little sympathy, as he touched the back of his head.

“You’re not hit?” Heyes asked, confused.

“Nope,” Kid assured him.

Heyes let this sink in then punched Kid hard on the arm.

“Ow! Damn it. What d’you do that for?” Kid demanded to know, as Heyes moved away from him.

“For scaring me half to death that’s why!” Heyes told him. Kid pulled himself to his feet and returned the chair to its four legs, while shooting his partner a murderous glare.

“Let’s get a move on before you wake the whole house,” Heyes said tersely, as he turned back to the safe. He couldn’t explain to Kid how much that had scared him. Behind him Kid Curry stood rubbing his arm as he watched his partner. He had no idea what that was all about.

On the top shelf of the safe was a blue box just as Elizabeth had described. Heyes picked up the box and opened it, as Kid reached his side. On the blue velvet interior there lay a sapphire necklace. There were five large, separate stones, the centre one larger than the rest.

“Remind you of something?” Kid asked thinking of the necklace Elizabeth had stolen from Big Mac McCreedy and their first meeting with the beautiful woman.

“Yeah, it does,” Heyes said.

“What’s that say?” Kid asked pointing to the inscription in the top of the box.

“To Elizabeth, for eternity, Nathaniel,” Heyes read.

“Nice,” Kid said flatly.

“I thought you were the romantic one?” Heyes said.

“Not where Elizabeth is concerned,” Kid said, then realised he may have insulted a woman Heyes had feelings for. “Sorry,” he added.

“No need to be,” Heyes told him as he slid the box into his pocket. Then he turned his attention to the other contents of the safe. Several piles of money lay on one shelf; Heyes and Kid exchanged a look but reluctantly left it there. The rest consisted of documents, deeds to land and property. Nothing Heyes felt they need worry about. He carefully closed the safe and turned the dial. They returned to the window and Kid drew back the curtain in preparation for their escape.

In the darkness two men rode quietly away from the Lynch house. When they reached a particular bend in the road they separated. With a nod of the head to his partner, Heyes returned to town and Kid headed off to find Elizabeth.

***

As Kid rode slowly towards a stand of trees, he heard a sudden swishing sound just before a rope fell over him and tightened, trapping his arms against his sides. Kid struggled but as the rope grew tighter, he was pulled backwards off his horse. He hit the ground hard, landing uncomfortably on his right side. Kid lay stunned, his arms pinned at his sides. He heard the sound of approaching horses behind him and struggled to turn around hoping to see who it was. Two men strode swiftly towards him, while another sat close by on a dark-coloured horse, the rope tight around his saddle horn.

***

Hannibal Heyes crept back to his room at the hotel and the next morning he went down to breakfast on his own.

“Good morning Mister Smith,” the desk clerk said, as Heyes approached the desk.

“Morning,” Heyes replied. “My wife’s still not feeling very well. In fact she’s been sick these past three mornings. I have no idea what’s wrong with her,” he said innocently.

The desk clerk, a father of three boisterous children, had a pretty good idea as to what may have been troubling Mrs. Smith, but he did not feel it was his place to say.

“And now my partner appears to have drunk a little too much last night, and tells me he can’t face breakfast either.”

Heyes made sure he was seen around town that morning. After breakfast, he wandered across to the telegraph office to see if there were any messages for him. Then he went to the train station and made a point of asking about the next train out of town and the cost of tickets for three people. At one point, he thought he saw Rogers lurking in an alley watching him. Then Heyes went to the livery stable. He made sure to mention to the stable manager that he was just going for a ride and would be back by late afternoon, when he hoped his wife would be feeling better.

***

When Hannibal Heyes reached the rendezvous, he was a little surprised to find no one else there. Waiting in front of the cave they had found, he settled himself on a large rock, enjoying a peaceful moment in the sunshine. He looked at his watch. After another half an hour Heyes began to pace. His eyes scanned the trees. Where were they? And why weren’t they here? There was the sudden sound of an approaching horse and, drawing his gun, he slipped back into to cave to watch and wait. Recognising the rider who appeared on the trail, Heyes walked out to greet Elizabeth, holstering his gun as he did so.

“Where’s Kid?” Heyes asked, concerned, as she rode up alone.

“He didn’t show up. If you two decided to change the plan, you should have told me,” Elizabeth told him angrily as she slid from the saddle.

“We didn’t change the plan,” Heyes replied. “Why did you leave here?”

“He didn’t show, so I went looking for him,” she snapped. “Did you get it?”

“Yes.”

“So hand it over,” she demanded.

“You were supposed to wait for him,” Heyes reminded her.

“I did. I waited longer than we agreed. So where is he?” she asked, not liking the tone he was taking with her.

“I don’t know,” Heyes stated and Elizabeth was about to snap back but there was something in his voice that stopped her. “Don’t you get it Elizabeth?” he said patiently. “We didn’t change the plan. So where is he?” Heyes cast his eyes beyond the cave and Elizabeth could see how worried he was.

***

Kid Curry opened his eyes and groaned. He reached up and touched his head.

God, that hurts, Kid thought. There was a large lump on the back of his head and his hair was matted with dried blood. He sat up and instantly regretted it. He felt nauseous and retching, deposited the contents of his stomach in the corner of the room. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, Kid lay back exhausted. The room was spinning. He closed his eyes hoping the movement would stop but it did not.

He remembered being pulled off his horse. The faces of men he did not know and then…nothing. He had no idea where he was. He assumed he was in Lynch’s house. It looked like he was in a cellar. There was a small narrow window high up on one wall.

Kid heard voices and the door opened. A shaft of bright light shone in his face. He closed his eyes and turned away. He heard approaching footsteps, then rough hands pulled him to his feet.

“C’mon, get up!” a man said gruffly as Kid’s knees buckled. The room began to move once more. Kid groaned and someone grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled his head up.

“Hey, you awake?” a different voice asked. All Kid could see were silhouettes. They dragged him towards the door and up some stairs. Kid’s head drooped and he found himself staring at the wooden floor as he was dragged along a corridor, into a room. Kid was shoved into a high backed chair. He raised his head and stared through narrowed eyes at Bertrand Lynch who was sitting behind his desk in the very chair Kid had fallen from several hours ago. To his right the safe stood with its door open. On the desk lay Kid’s gun. Kid was fighting just to stay conscious.

“Mr. Jones,” Bertrand said, as he sat back in his chair. “Where’s the necklace?”

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” Kid said, groggily and Bertrand gave an almost imperceptible nod. A man Kid did not know appeared at his side. He towered over the young blond man in the chair. The look he gave Kid was not a friendly one.

“Maybe you need persuadin’,” the man said, as he cracked his knuckles.

That has to hurt, Kid thought and then the man’s fist connected with his jaw. Now that did hurt. Kid saw lights in his head and for a moment, the room faded away.

“There was a blue jewellery box in my safe,” Bertrand said as he got up. “It contained a necklace. It’s no longer there. Mr. Smith was asking about a necklace. You were found riding away from my house last night. I think that’s too much of a coincidence, don’t you?”

“Not really,” Kid said pleasantly and the big man hit him across the face with the back of his hand. Kid wondered why he was always the one they beat up. If this was part of Heyes’ plan, he needed to talk to him about this part. Kid blacked out then and was shaken awake by the large man.

“Where’s Mr. Smith?” Bertrand asked.

“In town with his wife,” Kid told him.

“Why were you here?”

“I was out riding; exercising my horse.”

“At night?”

“I have a shy horse,” Kid told him dryly. The big man hit him again. I know Heyes, Kid thought, don’t push it.

“Don’t get smart!” the man said and Kid didn’t feel particularly smart. In fact, he was beginning to think this had been a pretty dumb plan.

“So where is the necklace?” Bertrand asked again.

“I don’t know.” Kid was beginning to get a feeling of déjà vu. Mitchell had asked him similar questions, when he thought Kid had the combination to the safe. Technically, he was telling the truth. Heyes had the necklace and, as he didn’t know exactly where Heyes was, he also didn’t know where the necklace was. Kid closed his eyes hoping unconsciousness would take him.

At that moment, the door to the room burst open and in strode Christopher Mitchell accompanied by Jake and Rogers. They each held a gun and Mitchell’s was pointed at Bertrand Lynch.

“Good evening Mr. Lynch,” Mitchell said cheerfully.

“What are you doing here?” Lynch demanded to know. “Put those guns down, you have no business in my house.”

“Oh, but I do have business here,” Mitchell told him. “You see, you still owe me my wages for all those months I worked for your father and I think they’ve gained a little interest in that time, don’t you?” He looked down at Kid, noting his bruised face.

“Well, well Mr. Jones, we meet again. Looks like you got on the wrong side of someone else, huh? Your partner, Mr. Smith and Mrs. Darkly seem to have disappeared. I thought we might find them here. I was hoping to avoid all of this. Still here we are.”

Rogers stepped into view and glared at the blond man but Mitchell put up a hand. “Our dealings with Mr. Jones are over, let it go,” he stated and, although clearly not happy, Rogers stepped back.

“Tie them up,” Mitchell instructed and Jake and Rogers tied up Bertrand and his two men. Their hands were bound in front of them and their ankles tied tightly together. Then the two men were gagged. “Not him,” Mitchell said when they turned their attention to Kid. “We have no further quarrel with him.”

Kid was surprised by this but didn’t have the energy to respond.

“I see you have the safe open,” Mitchell stated. “That will save us the trouble of me asking you to open it, you refusing and then some unnecessary unpleasantness. You see Mr. Jones; I didn’t need the combination after all.” Mitchell approached the safe and looked at Lynch. He smiled.

“Should I help myself?”

“How much d’you want?” Lynch asked.

“I don’t want to be vulgar and talk figures,” Mitchell told him, reaching in and taking out a wad of notes. “I think I’ll just take it all.” He smiled at Lynch who glared back at him as Mitchell reached in and removed more of his money. Jake appeared at his side with a bag and they proceeded to fill it with Bertrand Lynch’s money. When it was full, Mitchell closed the safe and turned to Jake.

“Gag him,” he ordered and Jake put a bandana around Bertrand’s head and pulled it tightly around his mouth. “Mr. Lynch, I didn’t want to do it this way. I was hoping to be here when Mrs. Darkly opened the safe; however, I think our business here is done. Good night.” With that Mitchell, Jake and Rogers left.

Kid listened to their disappearing footsteps then eased himself up out of the chair and picked up his gun from the desk. He checked it to make sure it was still loaded. It was. He looked at the three men, bound and gagged before him and twirled his gun a couple of times, pleased to see the effect that had on them. He pointed the gun towards them and their eyes opened wide as they clearly feared he would shoot.

“Like the man said, our business is done,” Kid told them and dropped the gun into his holster. The men sighed with relief.

Kid made his way out of the house. His head swam and the lump on the back of his head throbbed. He felt nauseous and had to put a hand on the wall several times to steady himself. He just wanted to sleep and Kid knew that wasn’t good. Somehow, he reached the stable without being seen. The door opened with a creak and Kid slipped inside. He found his horse in one of the stalls, still saddled and with his hat hanging on the saddle horn. Kid spoke quietly to the animal and leaned his head against the saddle. If only he could close his eyes for a while. Everything was spinning.

He led the horse from the stable and pulled himself into the saddle. He tapped the animal’s side with his heels and rode slowly away from the Lynch house. When he was far enough away he picked up the pace and headed for the rendezvous.

As he rode, Kid’s eyes grew heavy. The pain in the back of his head was getting worse. It felt as if his head was going to explode and he was having trouble remaining conscious. The constant jolting as he rode was doing him no good. Kid slowed his horse and slumped forward resting on the horse’s neck.

“Easy,” he mumbled to the horse and it walked on and eventually stopped but the man on its back did not move, his arms hung limply at his side.

***

Hannibal Heyes left Elizabeth at the cave and rode along the trail towards the Lynch homestead. As dawn broke he emerged from a stand of trees to see a lone horse in the distance. The animal was still, chewing on some grass. As Heyes drew nearer, he could see a shape on the ground beside the horse. Heyes urged his horse on and soon recognised the animal ahead of him and the figure lying on the ground. Heyes was out of his saddle before his own horse had stopped.

“Kid!” he cried, as he dropped to his knees beside him. Kid lay unconscious on his back. His face showed signs of a recent beating. Heyes scanned his friend’s body for blood on his clothes; for signs of any bullet wound or injury. He could see none and gently eased his friend onto his side. It was then that he noticed the blood on Kid’s collar. Heyes touched the back of Kid’s head and felt the matted hair. “Hey partner can you hear me?” he asked, gently.

Kid groaned and his eyes opened slightly.

“Heyes?” he asked, weakly.

“Yeah,” the dark-haired man replied, glad Kid could not see how worried he was. “Take it easy.”

Kid tried to focus on his friend.

“Elizabeth?” he asked.

“She’s at the cave,” Heyes told him.

Kid eased himself onto his side and then slowly onto his elbows, groaning as he did so. The world was moving but gradually it slowed and finally, thankfully, stopped. Kid looked at Heyes, who was now in focus, and caught the worry in his eyes.

“Do I look that bad?” he asked.

“What happened?” Heyes asked, not answering the question.

“They caught me,” Kid mumbled and Heyes decided the rest could wait until later.

“Think you can sit a horse?”

“Let’s find out,” Kid suggested but Heyes was not convinced he could. With his partner’s help, Kid got to his feet and swayed. Heyes steadied him and helped Kid into the saddle, then climbed onto his own horse. They set off slowly with Heyes keeping an anxious eye on his partner. By the time they reached the cave, Kid was looking pale. Elizabeth was waiting for them, anxious for their return.

“What happened? Where were you?” she asked as they pulled their horses to a halt. Then she saw the marks on Kid’s face, how pale he looked and Heyes’ worried expression.

“I got caught,” was all Kid said as he eased himself down from his horse. “Is that coffee I smell?” he asked, hopefully.

“Yes,” she replied looking towards the dark-haired man for some answers. Heyes’ eyes were serious, his expression concerned.

“Heyes make it?” Kid asked.

“No,” she smiled as she said it. Kid did not look well.

“Then I’d like a cup,” the blond man said and Heyes smiled at his partner but as Kid turned towards the fire Heyes’ face clouded over.

“Is he alright?” Elizabeth asked in a whisper.

“I don’t think so. I think he’s got a concussion but…” they heard the sound of a metal cup hitting the floor and looked up to see Kid fall to the ground.

They were swiftly at the blond man’s side. Kid’s eyes were unfocussed.

“I don’t feel so good,” he said and Elizabeth saw the worry on Heyes’ face. “I don’t feel so good,” Kid said again and passed out.

“He needs a doctor,” Elizabeth stated.

“D’you think I don’t know that?” Heyes snapped. “And to tell us what? That he should rest and we should watch him? I know that!” Heyes sat back on his heels and ran a hand over his mouth as he thought. Elizabeth placed a comforting hand on his arm.

“It’s okay,” she said. “We’ll look after him.” Heyes looked up and realised he had taken out his worry and anger on her.

“I’m sorry,” he apologised.

“Do you two get hurt this much when I’m not around?” she asked with a slight smile.

“Not quite as much,” Heyes told her. “Kid’s right about that.” They turned back to his partner.

***

Elizabeth and Heyes sat by the fire. Heyes watched his partner but for a normally talkative man he said very little and that told the dark-haired woman how concerned he was. Occasionally Heyes would sit beside Kid, lay a comforting hand on his head or adjust the blanket they had placed over him. In reality, Heyes knew there was little he could do to help his friend and that gnawed at him. The nearest doctor was in West Ford, and if they showed themselves there, Mitchell or Lynch were bound to find them. So for now they would wait. Heyes hoped he was doing the right thing for his friend.

Kid woke occasionally to mumble incoherently or fix unfocussed eyes on his friend.

“Don’t worry,” he said, when he woke in the middle of the night and saw Heyes watching him as he sat a little away from the campfire. Heyes gave him a reassuring smile and Kid’s eyes closed again.

Heyes and Elizabeth took turns to keep watch over Kid and watching outside the cave but it was well hidden and no one rode by. If their departure had been discovered hopefully everyone would think they had ridden out of town or taken the train.

Heyes began to pace while continuing to cast occasional glances at his unconscious friend. If Kid did not regain consciousness soon maybe he should fetch the doctor.

“Do you have to do that?” Elizabeth asked after Heyes had been pacing for five minutes without a pause.

“Huh?” he said, finally stopping. He looked at the woman sitting on a rocky ledge.

“I said do you have to do that? Pacing up and down, backwards and forwards?” She waved her hand back and forth to demonstrate.

“It helps me think,” the dark-haired man informed her.

“Well it’s annoying.”

“I need to think,” Heyes told her.

“So think, just don’t pace,” she suggested helpfully.

“Pacing helps,” he told her through gritted teeth.

“And I said it’s annoying me.” Elizabeth stood up.

“Elizabeth…”

“If you want to pace, pace outside,” she suggested.

“I am not going outside to pace,” he yelled, standing his ground as she approached. Elizabeth placed her hands on her hips.

“Hannibal if you start pacing again…” she said her jaw rigid.

“You’ll do what?” he asked, now standing with hands on hips too, mirroring her posture.

“I…I might…” Elizabeth began.

“I might just shoot both of ya!” Kid called out and they turned to see two blue eyes, confused and a little annoyed, looking up at them. “Sheesh can’t a man suffer in peace around here?”

“Kid you’re awake!” Heyes cried, moving quickly to his partner’s side.

“Well with you two yellin’ it’s not surprisin’ is it?” Kid asked as he put a hand to his head. Heyes and Elizabeth looked at him expectantly. “What?” Kid asked, feeling uneasy under their scrutiny.

“How d’you feel?” Heyes asked and Kid thought about it.

“Better,” he assured him. “My head’s clearer.”

Elizabeth saw the tension go out of Heyes shoulders. These two men, hardened outlaws had one weakness, the amount they cared about each other. Kid saw her smile at the dark-haired man.

“So, you two lovebirds fighting?” he asked mischievously as he pulled himself up onto his elbows.

“Don’t push it,” Heyes told him. “I know you can’t back it up.”

“You’d hit a man when he’s down, Heyes?” Kid asked.

“Well you won’t have so far to fall,” Heyes replied but he grinned and Kid smiled back. Placing a hand on the back of his head, Kid tentatively explored the wound.

“Ow. Still hurts,” he announced.

Leaning closer to his friend, Heyes held up two fingers in front of his face.

“How many fingers do you see?” he asked.

“Two,” Kid told him.

“Good. And now?” Heyes held up four fingers.

“Four.”

“Good. Now follow my finger with your eyes but keep your head still,” Heyes instructed and Kid followed the finger, Heyes moved from left to right and back again. “Good.”

“D’you have any idea what you’re doin’ that for?” Kid asked him sceptically.

“Well I saw the doc do it and I figure it’s checkin’ your focus and stuff,” Heyes told him confidently.

“An’ stuff?” Kid asked unconvinced.

“Yeah and you did it okay.”

“So, based on that, I’m fine?” Kid asked.

“Well you might be.”

“Sheesh Heyes. Some doctor you’d make.”

When his partner had finished his ‘examination’ Elizabeth handed the blond man a cup of coffee.

“Don’t drop it this time or I’ll think you don’t like it,” she told him and Kid smiled.

Heyes watched as Kid sipped the coffee. Kid paused, the cup still pressed to his lips. He looked at Heyes over the rim of the cup.

“I’ll be alright Heyes,” he said and his partner gave him a smile.

“Sure you will. Just keeping an eye on you.”

“Appreciate it,” Kid told his friend as he sat back and closed his eyes.

***

“Think you can ride?” Heyes asked later after Kid had managed to eat some breakfast. Kid had shown an uncharacteristic lack of appetite and merely picked at his food.

“Yeah,” Kid assured him although neither man knew if it was true. Heyes went to saddle the horses.

“He’s worried about you,” Elizabeth told Kid when the dark-haired man was out of ear shot.

“I know,” Kid stated.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I can sit a horse,” Kid told her.

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Are you worried about me Elizabeth?” Kid teased but she did not rise to his challenge.

“I don’t like seeing him worried.”

“I know how to take care of my partner,” Kid told her, his eyes meeting hers. “Or do you want that job now? Is that it?”

“What?” she asked indignantly.

“Maybe I should be asking you, what your intentions are,” Kid said and Elizabeth looked confused. “You’re all over him one minute, then running off the next. If anyone worries him, it’s you. Are you playing some game with him? What exactly do you want from him, Elizabeth? Apart from the obvious?”

“It’s none of your business,” she snapped and turned away. Kid caught her arm. “Oh not this again!”

“If you upset Heyes it becomes my business,” Kid told her, his expression serious.

“I’m not upset,” Heyes said and Kid let go of Elizabeth’s arm. They both looked a little embarrassed that their conversation had been overheard. Heyes looked at Kid. “I thought we’d discussed this?” he said and Kid did not know what to say.

“Elizabeth has her necklace back and she will be catching the stage from Brightwell to Denver. I said we’d escort her to Brightwell. Does that meet with your approval?” Heyes’ use of that word was a clear rebuff to Kid and his partner knew it.

“That’s fine,” Kid told him finally meeting his partner’s eyes and Hannibal Heyes turned towards Elizabeth Darkly.

“Elizabeth, Kid takes good care of me. The best care. You’ve seen that for yourself. Never question what we would do for each other. He watches my back, drinks my coffee, even lets me pace and I have no complaints.” He took hold of her hands. “But if I ever need someone else to help, I have a feeling you’ll find me.” Kid noted he didn’t say he wanted her to and secretly that pleased him. Heyes looked from the dark-haired woman to his partner.

“Now if we all know where we stand, maybe we should get going?”

They packed up the camp and loaded their bags onto their saddles. Kid moved cautiously and he knew Heyes was watching him as he climbed into the saddle.

“I’m alright, Heyes,” Kid told his partner. “But I appreciate your concern and what you said earlier.” Heyes nodded and gave his friend a smile.

They rode out, Heyes in the lead, Elizabeth in the middle with Kid as usual following at the rear.

***

They reached Brightwell two days later and discovered there was a stage due in two hours. That would take Elizabeth on the first part of her journey to Denver. They passed the time in the town’s only restaurant. Kid tucked into a hearty meal and Heyes knew then that his partner was alright. When they had finished their meal, they made their way to the stage depot and watched as a distant cloud of dust heralded the arrival of the one o’clock stage.

They stood by the stage ready to say goodbye. Much to Heyes’ surprise, Elizabeth walked over to Kid, smiled at him and then pulled his partner towards her, crushing her lips against his. They shared a long and, it would seem, passionate kiss. Kid did not pull away. In fact, Heyes soon realised Kid was enjoying himself. He had one hand around the dark-haired woman’s waist, the other across her back.

Heyes pushed his hat back with one finger and stood, arms folded across his chest, watching them. He wasn’t sure how he felt about this.

“You two coming up for air?” he asked after a few moments.

When Kid and Elizabeth finally broke apart, they smiled at each other and Elizabeth ran her tongue over her lips as if savouring the kiss once more.

“Hmmm,” she said. “Goodbye Kid.”

“Goodbye Elizabeth,” Kid replied, somewhat satisfied with himself, and he stood back as she turned towards Heyes.

“Well Hannibal, this is it. Once again, you are letting me go. Are you sure you don’t want me to stick around a little longer? There is so much more we could do together?”

“Elizabeth, you know how I feel about you,” Heyes told her.

“Not really. You’ve never actually said what you feel,” she told him.

“You know we’ll help you if you need us,” he said not wishing to be drawn any further on his feelings for her.

“Is that all you’re going to say?” she asked.

“I think it’s all I dare say just now,” he admitted.

“Then I suppose that will have to do.”

Elizabeth leaned forward and kissed Heyes. Then she put her hands around his neck and pulled him towards her. Her body pressed against his, almost crushing the breath from him. Heyes found himself mirroring Kid as he placed one hand around her waist and the other on her back. Elizabeth Darkly ran her hands through his hair, knocking his hat off as she pulled him closer. Now it was Heyes’ turn to enjoy himself. When they finally broke apart both had a silly grin on their face. Kid gave a slight cough and they both turned and smiled at him.

Elizabeth turned towards the stagecoach.

“Hey,” Kid called, somewhat concerned. “Well?” he asked and Elizabeth smiled. She climbed into the coach without answering him.

“Elizabeth?” Kid said insistently. “The ‘test’ remember?”

“I think I’m enjoying the research,” she told him sweetly.

“What’s your decision?” he asked pointedly, his eyes narrowing at her through the stage doorway.

“My research isn’t over yet,” she told him.

“Elizabeth!” he snarled, but she just smiled back.

“Goodbye boys,” she said as she closed the door and the stage started off. All Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes could do was watch it go.

“What research?” Heyes asked as the stagecoach disappeared from view.

“It’s nothin’,” Kid said dismissively.

“No, it’s definitely somethin’,” Heyes said turning to look at his partner. He began to connect events. “That was some kiss you two shared, but I know you don’t have feelings for her so..?”

“Drop it Heyes,” Kid told him sharply and his partner realised he had hit a nerve.

“So what is it? Something about the kiss?” Kid looked directly at his friend. His blue eyes fixed on Heyes’ brown ones.

“Drop it,” he advised and turned away.

“Or is it something about your kiss?” Heyes asked having no intention of dropping the subject. He smiled mischievously as he followed his partner across the street, towards the hotel. “Kid? Is that it? Did she say something about the way you kiss?”

Kid stopped in his tracks and turned. He glared at his partner and then turned back towards the hotel. Heyes had his answer. A new smile crept across his face, revealing two dimples and sparkling brown eyes. Oh, this was going to be fun!

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 )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s