Faith in your Friend
By Maz McCoy
Written for the 2015 Virtual Season
Main street. Avondale.
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry rode into the town of Avondale just as the sun reached its highest point in the sky. Heyes tilted the brim of his hat as he studied the name above the sheriff’s office.
“Sheriff Opply.” Heyes looked at his partner. “Know him?”
Kid shook his head. “Nope.”
“Guess it’s safe to stick around then.”
“Good, I could use a bath.”
“Yeah, you could.”
Curry shot a glare at his friend.
Heyes pointed further ahead where a battered sign announced the Restawhile Hotel.
“Sounds like the place for us.”
Kid habitually scanned the faces of the townsfolk as they headed towards the lodgings. His eyes fell upon a vision in a blue dress carrying a shopping basket and he smiled. The young woman turned and her long, blonde hair, tied with a ribbon that matched her dress, swung against her back. She stepped onto the edge of the boardwalk preparing to cross the street. When she looked up to check the way was clear she found two cowboys on horseback waiting to let her pass. Kid Curry met her gaze and touched a finger to the brim of his hat. He smiled. The young woman lowered her head but her eyes remained on the blond man. She smiled shyly. Kid Curry watched as she reached the other side of the street and disappeared inside the mercantile. He sighed.
“We’re supposed to stay outta trouble, remember?” Heyes leaned his hands on the saddle-horn studying his friend.
“Well, that’s trouble.”
“Aww, Heyes,” Curry scoffed.
“Don’t aww, Heyes me. I saw the way you looked at her. She’s probably the sheriff’s daughter. Or the…”
“Mayor’s?” Curry supplied with a smile.
“We’re not staying here longer than it takes me to win us a decent stake.”
“Then you’d better work fast, ‘cos she is certainly someone I’d like to say hello to.”
“Don’t.” Heyes kicked his horse and Kid followed him along the street towards the hotel.
Interior. Restawhile hotel reception.
The desk clerk looked up at the sound of Hannibal Heyes’ saddlebags landing on the reception desk. A small cloud of dust rose from the bags.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?” he asked.
“We’d like a room,” Heyes informed him. “Front of the hotel if possible.”
“And a hot bath,” Curry added.
The receptionist studied his ledger. “How long will you be staying?”
“A couple of days,” Heyes said, casually.
“Or maybe more.” Curry received a glance from his friend and smiled. “Depends on how things work out.”
“I need two day’s payment in advance.”
“Why’s that?” Heyes queried.
“No offense, sir, but some of our customers don’t always check out by the front desk. It’s hotel policy to take a deposit.”
Heyes searched in his vest pocket then tapped Curry in the stomach. Curry reached into a pocket and pulled out some coins. He held them out to Heyes who took what he needed and paid the man. The desk clerk turned to retrieve a key from a board behind the desk.
“Room six. Up the stairs and on the left.” He handed the key to Heyes who took it and followed Kid toward the stairs.
Interior. Avondale cafeteria
Sitting in the Avondale cafeteria Hannibal Heyes wiped his mouth on a red and white check napkin. He was clearly well satisfied with the meal he had just consumed.
Beside him at the table Kid Curry was still working on his food. He picked up his coffee cup and studied his friend. “What d’you want to do now?” His tongue worried over a piece of meat at the back of his mouth.
“Head over to the saloon. See what the poker players are like.”
“Think I’ll take a walk, see what else the town has to offer.”
Hard brown eyes met Kid’s. “She’s trouble. Stay away from her.”
“I’m just gonna take a walk, Heyes.” Kid Curry oozed innocence.
“Yeah and we both know what you’re looking for.” Heyes pushed back his chair and stood. He threw the napkin on the table. “Behave yourself.”
“Don’t I always?”
“D’you really want me to answer that?”
Main street. Avondale.
“Oh!” The young woman in the blue dress gasped in surprise as she turned around and walked into a man’s solid chest. She followed it up to a face she recognised.
“Pardon me, ma’am.” Kid Curry touched the brim of his hat with a finger as he stepped back.
The young woman smiled. “It was my fault; I wasn’t looking where I was going.” There was an awkward pause and then she added. “I saw you riding into town earlier. With your friend.”
“I remember.” Kid smiled too.
“Are you in town for long?”
“A couple of days.”
“Do you have business here?”
“You’re full of questions ain’tcha?”
She blushed. “I’m sorry I shouldn’t…”
“It’s okay. I guess you could say we’re here on something of a financial nature.” Kid Curry smiled and she smiled shyly back.
“You have business at the bank?” She studied him as she kept the conversation light.
“Not this time.”
She chewed her lip, considering this. “There’s a fair here on Saturday. You should stay for that. They’ll be entertainers from all over the state. People come in from all around.”
Kid nodded. “Sounds like something I should see.” He kept his eyes on hers. “Are you goin’ with your…er…husband?”
She laughed. “No, I’m not married.”
Again she smiled and shook her head. “I’m not engaged.”
“There has to be a young man you’re steppin’ out with?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Then the men in Avondale must be blind or stupid.”
She giggled. “I couldn’t comment on that.”
“Well, if I am still in town on Saturday maybe you’d allow me to escort you to the fair?”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that.”
He didn’t hide his disappointment. “Why not?”
“I couldn’t possibly go to the fair with a man whose name I didn’t know.”
Realisation hit Kid Curry. He removed his hat. “Thaddeus Jones, ma’am.”
She held out her gloved hand. “Eloise Webster,” she said as he took her small hand in his.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Miss Webster.”
Interior. Avondale Saloon.
Kid Curry strolled into the saloon and propped himself against the bar as his eyes scanned the room. He settled his gaze on a table in the far corner of the room where Hannibal Heyes sat playing poker with four other men. The bartender approached and Kid ordered a beer. When it arrived he took a sip then casually walked between the tables to lean against the wall near the poker game. Curry watched the game and drank his beer. When the game was over Heyes collected his money and pushed his chair back.
“Keep my place fellas,” he said as he stood up. “Just need to speak to my friend but I’ll be back.” He gave them a cheery smile and joined Curry.
“How you doin’?” his friend asked.
Heyes shook his head and smiled, keeping his voice hushed. “You wouldn’t believe how bad some of these men are.”
“So you’re winnin’?”
“Of course I’m winning but I gotta be subtle about it, don’t want to scare them off.”
“That mean you’re losin’?” Kid’s eyes narrowed.
“It means I’ve won enough to feed us for a few more days.” Heyes looked at his friend. “What have you been up to?”
“Took a walk around town. Met some nice friendly people.”
“Anyone in particular?”
Kid smiled. “Her name’s Eloise. Eloise Webster.”
“Webster?” Heyes’ expression conveyed recognition of the name.
“Yeah. That mean somethin’ to you?”
“One of the men was talking about a fella name Webster. He’s the town blacksmith.”
“An honourable profession.”
“True. From his description he’s a BIG town blacksmith.”
“And you think that’s a problem for me?”
“Just means he has access to heavy tools and hot pokers. Watch yourself.”
“I’ve been the perfect gentleman.”
“Well, make sure it stays that way.” Without a backward glance, Heyes returned to the poker game.
Exterior. Avondale saloon.
Kid Curry stepped out of the saloon onto the boardwalk and studied the scene before him. A cart went by pulled by two tired horses. A woman dragged a reluctant boy along the boardwalk and he stepped out of their way. Across the street a man was loading supplies into a wagon. The door of the haberdashers opened and…Kid Curry smiled. Eloise Webster stepped into the afternoon sunshine carrying several packages one of which she dropped. Needing no further cue Curry raced across the street to the aid of the damsel in distress.
“Can I help you with those?”
She looked up at the sound of his voice and smiled. “We meet again Mister Jones.”
“Call me Thaddeus.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that. We’re little more than strangers.”
“Then let me help you carry your parcels and you can ask me anything you want. If you know something about me we won’t be strangers, will we?”
The way she smiled told Curry she was aware of his ruse. “No, I suppose we won’t.” She held out a parcel toward him and he took it. She gave him another and then two more.
“What are all of these?” he queried.
His eyebrows rose. “Prizes?”
“Yes. The church is running a competition at the fair for the children and I volunteered to wrap the prizes for Father Mulligan.”
“That’s real nice of you.”
“We all do what we can in Avondale.”
She set off along the boardwalk.
“Where are we going?” Curry asked.
“I have to take these home.”
“I hear your father’s the blacksmith.”
She stopped mid-stride and turned to fix him with a gaze. “Have you been asking questions about me Mister Jones?”
Kid Curry gave her his most charming smile. “Yes ma’am.”
“Then I suppose I should ask something about you.”
She started walking again. “Where are you from?”
“Originally or just today?”
“I was born and raised in Kansas and today we rode in from the direction of Hartleyville.”
“And what do you and your friend do?”
“In general or just today?”
She smiled. “Both.”
“Well, we do a little of this, a little of that. We’re pretty much open to any kind of work as long as it’s not too hard on the back.”
“So you’re drifters?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that.”
“Then you have a permanent home?” She crossed the street and he followed her, dodging a stray dog as he did so.
“Either you do or you don’t.” She stopped to face him, waiting.
Curry smiled. “I guess you could say we travel around a lot.”
Exterior. The Webster house.
Kid Curry watched Eloise as she walked down the path towards the house. It was a typical home. A white picket fence surrounded a well-tended garden, the blue of her dress matching the flowers that lined the path. He let the gate swing shut as she reached the porch. Eloise placed the package she carried next the others on a chair beside the door. She turned, smiled and waved.
Curry returned the smile, touching the brim of his hat. “Goodbye, Miss Webster. I’ll call for you tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here…Thaddeus.”
“No, you won’t!” a man bellowed as he appeared from around the side of the house. His soot covered face, leather apron, tied at the waist, and large biceps told Kid Curry this was Eloise’s father.
“Pa!” the young woman cried, confirming Kid’s suspicions.
“Eloise, get in the house!” His eyes held Curry’s as he waved a hammer in the direction of the front door. Curry’s eyes assessed the six-foot plus mass of metal-wielding, angry father. “Obey me, girl.”
With a sad look at Kid, Eloise turned to the door. Only then did Webster speak to Curry.
“You.” The hammer pointed at Kid’s chest as he strode towards him.
“Name’s Jones. Thaddeus Jones, Mister Webster.” He held out a hand in friendship.
Webster ignored it. “I don’t care what your name is…”
“We haven’t done anything wrong, sir.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
“We’ve just talked and I was gonna take her to the fair. I…”
“No. You’re not.”
“I really like your daughter, sir and I think she’s old enough to…”
“You deaf boy?” The muscles in Webster’s arms bulged beneath his sweat-stained shirt.
“No, sir.” There was a hard edge to Curry’s tone.
“Then you hear me real good. I don’t want no saddle-tramp hangin’ around my daughter. You ain’t the kind to stick around; you’ll have your fun and leave. I won’t have her hurt by the likes o’ you.”
“You got a real low opinion of me don’tcha?”
“Yeah, boy I do.”
“You don’t know me.”
“But I’ve met your type before and you ain’t gettin’ near my daughter. You want a bit o’ fun; I reckon the saloon’s the place for you.” Webster spun on his heels to face Eloise who stood with her hand on the door handle.
“I told you to get in the house!”
With one last look at Kid Curry, Eloise opened the door and went inside.
Webster turned his attention back to the young man. “You understand me?” The look in his eyes told Kid there’d be hell to pay if he didn’t.
Reluctantly, Curry nodded. “I reckon I do.”
“Good. I don’t expect to see you around here again.”
Without another word he turned his back on Kid Curry and walked toward the house.
Music played as Hannibal Heyes entered the saloon. Different men from the ones he had played cards with earlier sat around the poker tables. Heyes smiled at the sight of fresh victims. A few saloon gals worked the room and one with a mass of orange feathers tucked in her hair and an exposed cleavage gave him a smile. Heyes smiled back and headed towards the bar where a familiar blond cowboy was nursing a beer.
“What’s wrong with you?” Hannibal Heyes asked when he joined his partner. He caught the bartender’s eye and signalled with his hand, ordering a beer.
“Nothin’.” Elbows leaning on the bar, Kid continued to stare into his drink.
“Well, you sure look like you just lost your last dollar.” Heyes caught the beer the bartender slid down the bar toward him, took a swig and wiped the froth from his mouth with the back of his hand. He turned to face the room, leaning back against the bar as he scanned the three poker tables. Brown eyes casually watched the games as he summed up the players. One table was passing small change back and forth in the pot. The next looked more promising with a sizeable pot, but there were no free seats. The last…
“Remember the girl?”
“Huh?” Heyes turned to look at his friend.
“The girl. Eloise. The one we saw when we rode in.”
“How could I forget? Just wish you had.”
“Nothing. What about her?”
Curry didn’t elaborate, just sighed and the beer still held all his interest.
Heyes frowned. “The girl whose father is the blacksmith? The tall man I saw earlier with biceps the size of cannon balls? Looks like he’d wrestle a bear just for pleasure?” Heyes smiled mischievously. “Yeah I remember her.” Curry shot him a look. “What about her?”
“I met her again this afternoon. Got talkin’ to her.”
“Brave of you.”
“Stupid more like. Her Pa, the blacksmith, he warned me off.”
An eyebrow rose. “You do more than talk?”
Curry glared. “No!”
Heyes smiled. “Aren’t you a little old to still be getting warned off by a girl’s father?” Kid just gave him a look. “So why’d her Pa warn you off?”
“Just doesn’t want me seein’ her.”
“Since when has that ever stopped you?”
“It’s what he said, Heyes.”
Heyes’ brow furrowed. “What did he say?”
“Called me a saddle-tramp. I’m not good enough for her.”
“He’s her Pa, what d’you expect? He’s bound to want to protect his daughter.”
“But he’s right. I am a saddle-tramp. I got nothin’ to offer her. Hell, if he knew the truth…”
Heyes sighed. “You know that’s what fathers say. No man will ever be good enough for his daughter. If I had a daughter I wouldn’t let you court her.”
“You wouldn’t?” Kid’s eyebrows rose.
“Why the heck not?” Curry asked, clearly wounded. “I’m your best friend.”
“You’re an outlaw!” Heyes looked quickly around making sure no one had heard him. “I’m not having any daughter of mine stepping out with an outlaw.”
“Don’t seem to bother most women.”
“My daughter is not most women!” Heyes informed him indignantly.
“You don’t have a daughter!”
Heyes sighed and took a sip of beer. “I’m just saying, if I did.”
“I wouldn’t be good enough for her!”
Blue eyes narrowed. Kid leaned towards his friend. His teeth gritted as he spoke. “You know sometimes Heyes; I could really flatten you.”
“Don’t do it today. I got my eye on those poker tables and we need the money.”
Kid’s shoulders relaxed.
“But I told you she was trouble.”
“More like her father is.”
Heyes shot a sideways look at his friend. “So you gonna see her again?”
Kid smiled. “I asked her to the fair tomorrow. Guess if she goes I’ll see her there.”
Heyes shook his head. “Guess you will.” He returned his attention to the poker tables. “How much money you got?”
“I’m gonna win us some more.”
Curry reached into his vest pocket.
Exterior. Avondale Fairground.
The fairground was set up in a large field on the edge of town. The townsfolk of Avondale had turned out in large numbers to mingle amongst the stalls and entertainers. Two familiar hats could be seen moving in the crowd. Heyes and Curry wandered casually through the fairground. Every now and then the attention of one or the other was caught by something. A dog in a dress walking on its back feet hopped towards Heyes. A woman with a beard fluttering her eyelashes at Kid and he smiled back. A man led a camel across their path and both men followed it with their eyes, mouths agape.
“You ever see one of those before?” Kid asked.
“Never.” Heyes watched until the camel was out of view. He turned to find his friend scanning the crowd. “Any sign of her?” Heyes tossed another roast peanut into his mouth.
“Nope. I guess her Pa didn’t let her come after all. Probably has her under lock and key. I’m too old to be dealin’ with irate fathers.”
“Then stop focussing your eyes on their daughters.”
“Harder than it sounds, Heyes.”
“Then try harder.”
Kid scoured the fairground for Eloise. A pony ride drew a crowd of children. Merchants’ extoled the virtues of their wares both medicinal and mechanical to anyone who would listen, conjurers dazzled with magically appearing scarves and flowers. Music played and families mingled with uniformed soldiers. A man on stilts strolled amongst the crowd, good-naturedly stealing the hats from men’s heads or bowing low to offer a young lady a flower.
Heyes offered the packet of nuts to his friend and Kid absently took one and put it in his mouth and…
“Sheesh! You didn’t tell me they were hot!” He spat out the nut and fanned his tongue as Heyes stood watching him, a wicked grin on his face.
“Least you ain’t thinking about her now.”
“I think you burnt my mouth.” Kid glared at him as he stuck his toungue out to cool it..
“They’re not that hot.”
“Anyone ever tell you, you got an evil side?”
“Yeah, well you do.” Frowning, Curry returned to scanning the crowd. His expression turned thoughtful. “She said she liked walkin’ by the river. I’m gonna head down that way, see if she’s there.”
“You sure she’s worth it?”
“I’d just like the chance to talk to her one more time. Make sure she’s all right.”
“Well, if I spot her Pa, I’ll do what I can to distract him.”
“You don’t know what he looks like.”
“Yes, I do. I took a stroll past the forge earlier. Always good to know the enemy, Kid. Right?”
Kid slapped his friend on the shoulder. “Thanks, Heyes. You’re a real friend.”
“True, but you’re still not getting my daughter. Go on, but behave yourself.”
Kid grinned, cockily. “Hey, I know how to treat a lady.”
Heyes watched him go. “Yeah, that’s what worries me.”
Clear water tumbled loudly over algae–covered rocks as Kid Curry made his way along the river bank. The fairground could hardly be heard beyond the thick cover of trees and shrubs. Curry looked up and down the river before his shoulders dropped. Clearly there was no sign of the woman he was looking for. He lowered himself onto a large boulder and after a moment of thought, reached down to grab a handful of small stones.
Curry tossed the pebbles, one at a time, into the water. He strained his ears to listen to the distant sounds of the fair. A hurdy-gurdy played, children laughed and a man was hollering about the world’s greatest something or other.
As he sat there a small beaver appeared from within the undergrowth, made its way into the river and paddled across to the other side. Kid watched it ease itself onto the other bank and tend to its fur.
As he pushed himself to his feet and the beaver looked up. “Only me,” Curry informed the animal. “Just me. All alone.”
Turning away from the river Curry headed back to the fair.
Exterior. Avondale Fair.
Back at the fairground Hannibal Heyes stuffed another peanut into his mouth and chewed. He touched the brim of his hat and smiled as a couple of pretty young ladies strolled by. They giggled and sent him another glance as they scurried away. He shook his head when offered a turn at a game of chance and scanned the crowd in case he saw…the blacksmith. Heyes frowned.
Webster was making his way through the crowd and he did not look happy. Absently, Heyes brushed the front of his vest, tucked the peanuts in his pocket and with a cheery grin stepped in front of the blacksmith. “Mister Webster?”
“What?” The man’s response was gruff as he looked down at the young man offering him his hand. Reluctantly he shook it.
“Name’s Joshua Smith. I’m riding out tomorrow and I think my horse may need a new shoe. When would be the best time to come to your shop? I mean, what time do you open up your establishment? Oh, I know it’s a strange time to be talking about shoeing horses what with all the festivities and all, and may I say your town sure knows how to put on a good show, but I’m real anxious to leave on time and I don’t want to be last in line when I bring ol’ Rebel by.”
But Heyes was not giving Webster a chance to speak.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I should let you go and enjoy the fine entertainment this fair has to offer. Why, I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun. Magicians, a hurdy-gurdy, men on stilts. Even a camel! It reminds me of a fair I saw outside of New Orleans one time. Say you ever been to N’Orleans? It sure is one heck of a town, and the French Quarter. The ironwork on those balconies would astound you. I bet you’d love to see them, why you might even reproduce the patterns in your workshop. I sure could see ‘em adorning the buildings in this town. How they get some of those shapes is beyond me. But what am I doing? Going on and on and holding you up from all this fine entertainment. But while I have you here I wonder if I might have your opinion on something of a metallic nature. And sorta linked to what I was just talking about.”
Webster’s brow furrowed. “What?”
Heyes reached to place a hand on the man’s tall shoulder found it a little too high and patted Webster on the arm instead. He beckoned him closer. “Like you, I deal in the metallic elements. Gold, silver. Yes sir, I sure do love to get my hands on them. But tell me…” Heyes held up a hand indicating he expected honesty from the man. “Do you favour wrought or cast iron?”
Kid Curry placed his hand on a large tree trunk, his boot on a protruding root and stopped in his tracks. He listened. He turned back and looked along the path he had taken. No one was there. He rested his hand on the butt of his gun. He heard it again. This time it was more of a whimper. Slowly, Kid retraced his steps. Ever cautious he moved quietly along the river bank. He rounded a large cottonwood tree and someone ran straight into him throwing him off balance and into the rough bark of the tree. “What the…?”
A mass of hair and fabric filled his vision as hands clawed at him in an attempt to get away. Kid raised his hands to protect his face from the onslaught of scratching and slapping. “Ouch! Hey, hold on there, you ran into me!”
His voice seemed to calm the volatile creature for the fighting suddenly stopped. Kid righted himself and looked at whoever had run into him.
Her face was dirty, her pretty dress covered in mud and torn at the neckline. She was crying, her nose running and…and…blood was on her cheek and in her hair.
“What the hell happened?” He reached for her but she backed away, fear in her eyes. Kid lowered his voice, speaking gently to her. “Eloise it’s me, Thaddeus, Thaddeus Jones. Sweetheart, you’re hurt. What happened? Did you fall?”
Eloise looked at him and promptly fainted.
Exterior. Avondale Fairground.
“Mister you talk too much!” Webster loomed over Hannibal Heyes. “I’ve had enough of you yammerin’ on. I have to find my daughter.” Webster turned towards the trees.
“I’ll come by in the morning with my horse!” Heyes called after him. “Sure hope you didn’t find that girl, Kid,” he muttered as he watched the blacksmith storm off.
And then he saw them. Kid Curry strode from the woods towards them, carrying someone. A young woman lay slumped in his arms, unmoving. Her clothes appeared dirty, disarrayed and torn.
“Oh, no,” Heyes groaned.
Webster had also spotted them. Fear and rage washed over the blacksmith’s face and he took off at a run towards them. “That’s my daughter! What did you do to her? Put my daughter down!” Webster bellowed. “Put. My. Daughter. Down!”
Heyes followed close behind.
Kid Curry kept his grasp on the unconscious girl. “She’s hurt.”
“Put her down!”
“Eloise?” A woman also ran toward them, tears streaming down her face. “Eloise!” She held her arms out. “Please. Give me my daughter!”
“Mrs. Webster?” Kid checked.
When the woman nodded, he gently laid the injured Eloise on the ground near her mother, who immediately began ministrations. “Get the doctor,” she called to someone in the crowd that had gathered.
Curry turned to face the girl’s father. “Sir…”
The punch caught him square in the jaw sending him backwards and onto the ground. Hands grabbed at his shirt front hoisting him effortlessly to his feet. Before he could protect himself another blow caught him on the cheek and glanced across his nose. Blood started flowing. Curry’s vision blurred and his knees buckled but he didn’t hit the ground. Webster had a firm grip on his shirt front.
Even as his world spun, Kid tried to protect himself, his arms flailed in Webster’s direction but connected with nothing but air.
The blacksmith continued pummelling Curry.
“Webster, get off him!” someone shouted.
“Let him go!” another man yelled.
“Stop! You’re gonna kill him, you don’t know what happened!”
“You saw her. You saw what he did!” Webster glowered at Kid.
“You don’t know that!”
Curry heard the shouts but the world was spinning and he was fading fast. When Webster finally released him, he collapsed on the ground, coughing as he spat blood into the dirt. Blood dripped from his nose. His breathing laboured he clutched his ribs.
“Thaddeus?” Familiar boots stepped into view.
Curry attempted to lift his head, but failed and allowed it to hang facing the dirt.
Heyes crouched before him. “What happened to her?”
“Step back, son, I need to speak to this young man.” A different set of boots appeared. A man crouched next to Heyes.
Kid raised his head and squinted through cut and swollen eyes. Brown eyes peered at him from under two different black hats. Something pinned to the man’s chest caught the light. Seeing the sheriff’s badge, Curry closed his eyes and sighed.
“We’d best get the doctor to take a look at you. Reckon you can stand?”
“Why you botherin’ with him? Didn’t you see what he did to my daughter?” Webster growled from where he stood next to his wife and child.
“Brad, help me get her home,” Webster’s wife pleaded. “Please.”
The blacksmith took a step toward his wife and daughter.
Kid wiped his hand across his mouth smearing the blood that flowed from his cut lips.
“Innocent until proven guilty, remember, Webster?” the sheriff said as he turned to Kid. “Here.” He held out a hand but Heyes reached for his partner too.
“I got him,” he informed the lawman. Curry let Heyes haul him to his feet. He swayed and his friend steadied him. Their gaze met and Heyes shook his head, his disappointment clear.
Interior. Doctor’s office.
The doctor, tall, willowy with a chin-strap beard, pushed the needle through the flesh above Kid Curry’s right eyebrow. Kid, seated next to a table of stomach-churning instruments, gasped but kept his teeth firmly clamped together as thread followed the needle and pulled his broken skin together.
From his position leaning, arms crossed, against the wall near the window, Hannibal Heyes winced too. The sheriff was seated beside the doctor’s desk reading a newspaper.
“Is Eloise gonna be all right…” Kid asked. “Doctor…?”
“Rosenberg,” the doctor filled in as he focussed on the cut. “She has a nasty bump on her head and has yet to regain consciousness.” The needle pierced the skin again and Curry kept still as the metal slowly, excruciatingly slowly, made its way through. “The Webster’s are well respected in this town. I’d hate to find out she’d been hurt deliberately.”
“She wasn’t,” Kid informed him. “Not by me anyway.”
With another pierce and wince from Kid, the thread was drawn through the meshing skin.
The doctor met his patient’s gaze over the top of his glasses. “My oath requires me to treat anyone who needs me, both the innocent and guilty.”
“Just finish stitchin’ him up, Jerry,” the sheriff advised. “Leave the investigation to me.”
Doctor Rosenberg looked over at the sheriff, who peered back over the top of the paper at the medic.
“Whatever you say, Sheriff,” the doctor nodded, and returned his attention to his patient, pulling the stitch tight.
Kid Curry gasped again.
The door to the doctor’s office burst open and the sheriff was quickly on his feet when Webster strode purposefully into the room.
Heyes pushed off the wall, hand on the butt of his gun.
“Sheriff, I want that man charged with assault!” the blacksmith yelled, pointing an accusing finger at Curry who was still attached to the doctor by way of the stitching thread and needle.
“Calm down, Brad,” the sheriff advised, coming to stand between the blacksmith and Kid Curry.
“You saw her; you saw what he did to my Eloise.”
“I saw she was injured.” The lawman raised his hands, palms facing Webster in a calming gesture. “The doc says she has a nasty head wound but is otherwise unharmed.”
“You don’t know what else he did to her!”
“And neither do you,” Sheriff Opply reminded him. “So we hafta wait until Eloise wakes up…”
“If she wakes up.”
“She’ll wake, trust me Brad,” the doctor assured him.
“So we wait until she wakes up and then we deal with whatever she tells us happened.” The lawman watched the irate father.
“And I assume you’ll be taking a statement from my friend here, too,” Heyes said as he moved closer to the sheriff.
“Of course, I will, once the doctor’s finished we’ll go over to the jail and I’ll take his statement,” Opply confirmed.
“And you’d believe a word he says?” Webster asked.
“Right now I got no reason not to.”
“And what if he leaves town?”
Heyes exchanged a glance with his partner, almost as if they knew what was coming next.
“He won’t,” the sheriff assured the blacksmith. “I intend to hold him in jail.”
“On what charge?” Heyes demanded.
“On account of I don’t know either of you and Webster’s right. I got no reason to believe you fellas will stick around long enough for the girl to wake up.” He turned to face Kid Curry. “I’m arresting you on suspicion of assault.”
Kid let out a long breath.
“I’ll take your gun.” Opply held out his hand and reluctantly, Curry handed over his Colt. The sheriff turned to the doctor. “You finished with him?”
“I’ve done what was needed.” The medic picked up a pair of scissors and cut the thread close to Kid’s eyebrow.
“All right.” The sheriff hitched up his pants by his belt. “Webster, you go back home to your wife and daughter.” He turned to his new prisoner. “What’s your name, young fella?”
Kid tossed a resigned look in Heyes’ direction. “Jones,” he told the sheriff. “Thaddeus Jones.”
“All right, Mister Jones, you’re coming with me.”
“I’ll come along too, Sheriff,” Heyes insisted.
“If you must, but I’ll take your gun as well.”
“What in the world for?”
“Call it a precaution.” The sheriff’s eyes met Heyes’. “Mister…?”
“Smith,” Heyes supplied.
The sheriff’s eyebrows rose. “Smith and Jones, huh?”
Exterior. Doctor’s office.
Kid Curry exited the doctor’s office; hands cuffed behind his back, shoulders slumped. He didn’t look at Heyes. He didn’t look at anyone. He kept his gaze fixed firmly on the boardwalk.
“You didn’t need to cuff him,” Heyes stated.
“You let me be the judge of what I do and don’t need to do,” Sheriff Opply told him.
They started their slow walk across the street to the jail. As they did so, townsfolk stepped out of the way or stopped to stare. Snippets of conversation could be heard as the procession of three men passed.
“Did you see the state of her?”
“What did that young man do to her?”
“Just another saddle tramp, what did anyone expect?”
“Did you see the scratches on his face? She must have fought him.”
“She’ll not find a man to marry her now.”
“Ruined her, that’s what he’s done. Ruined her.”
“They should string him up.”
“Who the heck is he anyway?”
Hearing the whispered conversations around them, the sheriff caught hold of Kid’s arm and advised, “Keep walking.”
Curry and Heyes did just that; kept walking and did their best to ignore the comments of the people around them.
Finally they reached the sheriff’s office. Opply opened the door and motioned Kid inside. Heyes followed, with the sheriff entering last and closing the door.
Interior. Sheriff’s office.
Once inside the sheriff pointed to a spot on the wooden floor. “Stand there,” he ordered Kid. The blond man did as he was told, waiting as the sheriff headed to his desk, opened a drawer and rummaged amongst the contents.
“Thaddeus, you okay?” Heyes asked softly.
Curry stared at the floor. He shook his head. “I didn’t do anything to her.” His voice was little more than a whisper. Finally he looked up, bruised and swollen eyes meeting Heyes’. “I didn’t do it.”
Heyes inspected the scratches on his partner’s cheek. “Your face is all scratched up. Webster’s fists sure didn’t do that.”
“Eloise must’ve scratched me. When I found her, she was fightin’ and strugglin’. She didn’t even know who I was at first.” Curry’s eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute. You don’t believe me?”
Heyes turned quickly to the sheriff. “What will happen now?”
Sheriff Opply pulled himself upright, a set of cell keys jangling in his hand. “You wait here.” He turned to Curry. “All right, son, get goin’.” He pointed at the cells.
Kid gave Heyes a look then walked towards the cell.
Heyes watched his partner walk away. “Thaddeus didn’t do anything to that young woman.”
“We’ll leave that to the jury to decide.”
“Jury?” Heyes queried. “You’re planning to take this to trial before you even take his statement or talk to Miss Webster?”
The sheriff fixed Heyes with a hard look. “I said I’d talk to Jones, and I will. And if Miss Webster wakes up, I’ll talk to her.”
“And if she doesn’t?” Heyes ventured.
“If she doesn’t, you and your friend had better pray I can keep Brad Webster from showing up here with a lynch mob.”
Kid remained silent, seemingly accepting of his fate.
Opply opened a cell door and Kid walked inside. He stayed with his back to the sheriff as the handcuffs were removed. When the metal door clanged shut Kid Curry sank down on the bunk, rested his elbows on his knees and stared at the floor. The key turned in the lock and the sheriff returned to his desk.
Heyes looked at his friend. He addressed the sheriff. “I thought you were going to take his statement?”
“I will once I find where my deputy hid my pen.”
“Can I talk to him?”
“Sure, but leave the gun belt here.”
“You already have my gun.”
“I know. Hand over the belt.”
Heyes gave the sheriff a look out of the corner of his eye but reached for the string tied around his thigh. He undid it and unbuckled his gun belt before placing it on the lawman’s desk.
Heyes strode to the cells and gripped the bars. “Thaddeus.”
He lowered his voice. “Kid.” A twitch of a jaw muscle told Heyes his friend was deliberately ignoring him. “Dammit! Will you look at me?”
Curry looked up. “Why?”
“’Cos we need to talk.”
“What’s the point? They’ve already made up their minds. I attacked her.”
The glare Kid sent his friend could have fried an egg on a winter’s day. He got slowly to his feet, not taking his eyes from Heyes as he walked towards the bars. “That what you think?”
“You sure? ‘Cos everyone else thinks I did it.” Heyes didn’t reply. “And as you pointed out I have scratches on my face.” Heyes looked at his feet. “You know I would never hurt a woman, you know that. Don’t you?”
“Yes. I know it. But I don’t understand what happened.”
“You want my statement too?”
Curry gripped the bars, his voice low so only Heyes could hear. “I was down by the river. That’s where Eloise liked to walk. She told me she sketched the flowers there. I didn’t find her so I started back, but then I heard a noise and she came runnin’ out of the bushes, scared half to death. She didn’t know it was me and started fightin’ to get away and then she fainted.”
“And you’ve no idea what scared her?”
“Why’d she fight you?” That glare shot Heyes’ way again. “Just answer me.”
“I don’t know. Maybe I startled her.”
“I guess you did.”
Curry looked at his friend through the metal cage. “What am I gonna do?”
Heyes didn’t have an answer to that.
Building interior. Corridor.
Hannibal Heyes stood in a corridor outside a door with a glass panel. “Thomas Harper, Attorney at Law” was written in italics on the glass. Heyes tapped lightly on the door twice.
“Come in,” called a man’s voice from within.
Heyes reached for the handle, turned it and went inside. A stout man with an equally robust moustache sat in a large leather chair behind a desk that was covered in files and books. The man leaned back in his chair and studied the young man before him. His hat was battered, his clothes worn and dirty. The lawyer turned up his nose.
“Are you Thomas Harper? The attorney?” Heyes inquired.
“I am. What can I do for you?” Harper asked.
“My name’s Joshua Smith and I need a lawyer for my friend.”
“What’s he done?”
“Then I doubt he needs a lawyer.”
“It’s what he’s accused of doing he needs you for.”
“And what is that?”
“And who is he accused of assaulting?” Harper reached across his desk and opened a cigar box. He withdrew one and studied it.
“Eloise Webster. She’s the…”
“I know who she is and I heard about her attack. News travels fast in Avondale.”
“Then I hope you also heard that there is no evidence against my friend.”
“I did not.”
“But you are a lawyer and my friend may well need one.” Harper remained silent. “How much do you charge?”
“For a case like this?” Harper looked Heyes up and down. “I’m not sure you can afford it.”
“Just tell me how much.”
“Mister Smith, I have a reputation in this town…” He let his sentence hang as if Heyes was supposed to know precisely what that meant.
“You’re a lawyer aren’t you? I want to hire a lawyer.”
“Yes, for the man who assaulted the Webster girl.”
“He didn’t assault her!”
“So you said.”
“So how much?”
“Brad Webster’s a well-respected man in this town.”
“My friend’s well respected too.”
“He didn’t attack Eloise Webster and he deserves a fair trial. So do you believe in upholding the law or not?”
When a brown-eyed stare fell upon him, Thomas Harper did his best not to squirm in his chair.
Interior. The jail.
The door to the jail opened and Hannibal Heyes stepped inside. Seeing his friend, Kid Curry rose to his feet eager for any news. Heyes strode purposefully to the sheriff’s desk behind which sat a young deputy.
“All right if I see my friend?” Heyes asked.
“Sure. Just leave your gun belt here.” The deputy waved vaguely at the desk.
Heyes removed his gun belt, laid it on the desk and approached the cells.
“Where you been?” Curry asked, stepping closer to the bars.
“Went to see a lawyer.”
Kid frowned when Heyes did not look happy about it. “What’s wrong? He refuse to take my case?”
“No, he’s taken it. You are now officially the client of Thomas Harper, attorney at law.”
“But it’s gonna cost us.”
“Do we have the money?”
“Not yet.” Heyes shook his head. “Although I doubt I’ll be too welcome at the poker games since…” He waved his hand at the cell.
“So we can’t afford him.” Curry rested his head on the bars. “Which means I’m stuck here.”
“I’ll find a way.”
“Heyes, just grab your gun and break me outta here.”
Heyes shot his friend a look. “You’d better be joking about that.”
“I’m not so sure I am. There’s no way I’ll get a fair trial in this town.”
Brown eyes met blue ones. “I’ll get the money. I’ll think of something. You just…sit tight.”
“That ain’t funny, Heyes.”
Interior. The Saloon.
Hannibal Heyes pushed through the bat-wing doors of the saloon and strolled inside. He studied the men at the poker tables. One or two looked back; their gaze was decidedly unfriendly. Heyes shot a quick look at the bar and spotted something that made him smile. At the far end stood a group of men he had not seen before. Heyes thought for a moment, and then strode purposefully along the length of the bar towards the men.
“Gentlemen.” He smiled as he approached. Heads looked up studying the new arrival. “You look like the sort of men interested in a fair wager.”
“What makes you think that?” one of them inquired.
“I can see from your attire you are men of the world. Men of intelligence, such as yourselves, are surely curious by nature?” Heyes stated with a questioning tone.
The men exchanged a glance. “What are you selling?” another asked.
“Selling? Nothing. I have a simple proposition for you.”
“A proposition?” a third queried, his interest peeked.
Heyes eyed the bowl of eggs on the bar. “Why yes, sir, I do.”
Interior. Jail cell.
The jail was in darkness. A noise roused Kid Curry from sleep. He turned over on the bunk and peered over the top of a thin grey blanket, to see and hear men silhouetted at the door to the jail. Curry frowned and sat up. He glanced at the sheriff’s desk but there was no one there. Suddenly the door burst opened and several men, carrying rifles and handguns entered. Even in the shadows it was easy to see Brad Webster leading the way. A sneer formed on his face when he spotted “Jones” in the cell.
“Get the keys,” Webster ordered and a man behind him moved to the sheriff’s desk and lit the lamp that sat there. The flame quickly rose casting ominous shadows about them. The man opened the drawer and pulled out the bundle of keys. The men approached the cell.
Webster waved a rifle at Kid. “Get up. You’re comin’ with us.”
Curry swung his legs over the side of the bunk. His eyes met Webster’s. “This your lynch mob?”
Webster didn’t take his eyes off Curry. “I said get up.”
“I heard.” Curry remained seated.
“Open the door.” The man with the keys moved past Webster, fumbled nervously with the keys and finally, finding the one that unlocked the cell, inserted it into the lock and turned it.
Kid got to his feet but stood his ground as the cell door opened and Webster entered.
“So what you gonna do? Shoot me here or take me out and hang me? Or maybe you plan to just beat me to death in this cell?”
“You’ve ruined my daughter’s life.” Webster loomed closer.
“I didn’t touch her. She was already hurt when she stumbled into me. I don’t know what happened to her before that.” Webster ignored him, so Curry turned his attention to the men outside the cell. “And what about you men? You happy to hang an innocent man?” He looked from one man to the next. “Or is one of you gonna shoot me? You want a murder on your conscience? Have you asked anyone what the truth is?” He tried to catch someone’s eye but they all looked to Webster.
“Shut up!” the blacksmith snapped. He turned slightly to the men behind him. “Give me the rope.” A man stepped forward, handed him a rope and Webster held it up in front of Curry revealing a hangman’s noose. “Looks like your size.” He turned to the men behind him. “Take him outside boys.”
Interior. Jail cell.
Kid Curry woke with a start. Sweat covered his forehead. Throwing aside the rough blanket he swung his legs over the edge of the bunk. He shot a look at the sheriff, leaning back in his chair. The man was asleep, mouth open, oblivious to the world.
Curry stood up and grabbed hold of the bars, fingers tightening around the metal as he rested his head against them. “One heck of a dream,” he muttered.
His eyes wandered to the notice board next to the door. Several WANTED posters adorned it; the edge of two particular ones drew his interest. Someone WANTED ‘eyes and ‘urry. Fortunately the rest of the descriptions were hidden. The sheriff had no idea he already had ‘urry locked up. Kid let out a long breath. He sank back down on the bunk, resting his elbows on his knees. “I hope you can get me outta here, Heyes,” he whispered, so only he could hear.
Interior. Sheriff’s Office.
The main door to the jail opened, sunlight streamed inside and Hannibal Heyes strode into the office. “Mornin’ Sheriff.”
Sheriff Opply looked up from a ledger he was writing in. “Smith.”
“Mind if I have a word with my partner?” He waved a hand casually in the direction of the cells.
“Go ahead, just…”
“I know. Leave the iron here.” Heyes began untying the string around his leg.
Inside his cell Kid stood up, crossing to the bars where he waited.
His friend smiled at him as he dropped his gun belt on the sheriff’s desk and headed to the cell. “How ya doing?”
“D’you get the money?” Kid asked anxiously.
“Good morning to you, too.”
Curry sighed and lowered his voice. “Did ya?”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah.”
Heyes feigned hurt. “Of course. I used the ol’ standing egg trick.”
“D’you see the lawyer again?”
Before Heyes could reply the door to the sheriff’s office opened and the deputy put his head inside. “Sheriff! The Webster girl woke up,” he announced.
Sheriff Opply got to his feet, shot a glance at Heyes. “You’ll have to leave now, I gotta lock up.”
Heyes and Curry exchanged an anxious look.
Exterior. Outside the Webster House.
Hannibal Heyes paced back and forth on the boardwalk opposite the Webster house. He shot a glance at the front door. Nothing happened. He returned to pacing. Back and forth. Back and forth. He took a watch from his vest pocket, flipped it open and looked at it. He looked back at the door. He returned to pacing.
The deputy sheriff waited on the porch outside the house. He watched Heyes pace. He took a yo-yo from his pocket and let it drop. It rolled back up. He let it drop. Up and down. Up and down it went. Across the street Heyes paced back and forth, back and forth.
Heyes stopped and studied the lace curtains at the Webster’s windows. Nothing moved. The deputy followed the direction of Heyes’ gaze then returned to his yo-yo. And so the men continued to pass the time. Back and forth. Up and down. Back and forth.
Interior. Sheriff’s Office.
Kid Curry sat on the bunk in the cell and stared at the floor.
When the key turned in the lock and the door to the sheriff’s office opened Curry got swiftly to his feet, ready for…whatever he had to face. He could see shadows through the glass in the door. Curry wiped his palms on his pants.
The door opened wider and the sheriff stepped inside. Kid visibly relaxed, just a little, until he saw Brad Webster enter the office behind him.
Curry stepped back, moving away from the bars and closer to his bunk. His right hand dropped to the empty place on his right thigh. Nervously, Kid cleared his throat, then linked both thumbs onto his belt and stood firm. His eyes followed the sheriff.
The sheriff approached the cell, keys jangled in his hand. He had yet to meet Curry’s gaze.
“What’s going on, Sheriff?”
“Guess you heard Miss Webster woke up?”
“Yeah.” Kid shot a glance at the blacksmith. “She okay?”
“Doc says she will be.”
“That’s good, right?” Another glance at Webster.
“It is good. She’s talking too.”
Kid shot a look at Webster but the man’s angry expression revealed nothing new. “Did she tell you what happened?” he asked the sheriff.
“She did.” The sheriff finally met Curry’s gaze.
Kid didn’t move. “What did she say?”
“Said she was walking by the river and lost track of time. Seems she stumbled on a bear chomping on a blueberry bush. Forgot all she’d been taught and started running. She was convinced the bear was behind her, slipped and fell, hit her head and got spun around. That’s probably about the time she ran smack into you.”
Kid looked from the sheriff to Webster and back. “So you believe me?”
The sheriff looked directly at him. “Yes, son, I do.” He opened the cell door and stepped to one side. “You’re free to go.”
Curry took a step out of the cell but no further. “Why’s he here?” He nodded at Webster.
“Oh.” The sheriff looked across at the blacksmith. “Forgot about you, Brad. Go on, say your piece while I get this young man’s gun.” The sheriff headed to his desk and pulled open the top drawer. Slowly Curry walked towards them. His eyes met Webster’s. The blacksmith remained mute. “Go on, Brad,” the sheriff prompted as he passed the gun belt to Kid.
Finally the man spoke. “I guess I was wrong about you.”
Curry notched his gun belt around his waist, and then eyed the taller man as he tied the string around his thigh. “You were. About me and about your daughter.” He finished the knot and stood up, his hands hung at his side. The men faced each other. The air almost sizzled with electricity.
The office door flew open and Hannibal Heyes burst in. “Thaddeus I…” He took in the situation, Kid facing the blacksmith, hand beside his gun, the sheriff just a little too far away to intervene. “What’s going on?”
“Mister Webster was just apologisin’ ‘cos his daughter confirmed what I told him,” Kid explained, not taking his eyes from the blacksmith. “I never touched her.”
“Oh, right. That’s good.” Heyes smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. His eyes never left the two men. “That’s good right?”
“Yeah, it’s good.” Kid still didn’t look at his friend. “You ready to leave?”
“Leave, yeah that’s a good idea.” Heyes looked from one man to the other. “Let’s leave.”
“That’s all right isn’t it sheriff?” Curry asked his gaze still fixed on Webster. “You’re okay if we leave town?”
“That’s fine by me. Probably best fellas.”
Brad Webster received the full force of a Kid Curry stare before Kid touched the brim of his hat to the man and exited the sheriff’s office.
Exterior. Main street Avondale.
Seated on his horse outside the sheriff’s office, Hannibal Heyes turned to watch as Curry pulled himself into the saddle. “You all right?” he asked when his partner was settled.
“Yeah.” He didn’t sound convincing.
“I told you she was trouble.”
“Yeah, you did.”
“You really should start listening to me, you know?” Kid gave his friend a look. “Anyway, they know you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Sure they do.”
Heyes rested his arms on the saddle horn. “All right what is it?”
Blue eyes met brown ones. “We’ll never be good enough, will we?”
Heyes didn’t insult him by asking, for what. “I reckon amnesty’ll change that.”
“I hope you’re right, Heyes. I hope you’re right, ‘cos if you ain’t, what the heck are we doin’ it for?”
Before Heyes could answer Kid turned his horse and headed out of town. Heyes let out a sigh, and then followed his friend.
Cue end credits