The Bump and The Arrow
(The Elizabeth Darkly series #7)
by Maz McCoy
“What’s it say?” Kid Curry asked his dark-haired partner, as they stood on the boardwalk outside the telegraph office in Saw Town. Hannibal Heyes opened the telegram and studied it.
“It’s from Lom,” Heyes stated.
“And?” prompted Kid and his partner read aloud.
“Job for you. Cleaverville. Saturday. Widow Smythe needs escort to Porterville. Private coach. Good money. Mutual friend has concerns. Lom.”
“A widow named Smythe needs an escort?” Kid said. “In a private coach?”
“That’s what it says,” Heyes told his blond-haired friend.
“Why would she need an escort?” Kid wondered.
“He doesn’t say.”
“What d’you think?” Kid asked his partner.
“Well Lom says it’s good money and we could sure use that,” Heyes stated, truthfully. They’d had to leave their last job in a hurry when someone recognised them. Heyes had only won a few dollars despite playing several hands of poker, in the saloon, the previous evening. Heyes played so poorly and this was an event so rare, that Kid couldn’t resist the chance to remark that maybe, Heyes was losing his touch.
“You’re not getting any younger, Heyes,” Kid said, as he opened the door to their hotel room. “All those days of riding hard, jolting up and down in the saddle must have jarred your brain some. They do say your mind starts to go with age too.” Heyes glared at his partner’s back as he followed him into the room. Kid was beginning to enjoy himself.
“You’re older than me, so I guess I’ll notice it in you first.” He gave his friend a grin, which Heyes did not return.
“I just had a bad night,” the dark-hair man explained. “I’m tired. I’ll win just fine tomorrow.”
Now on the boardwalk, the following day, Heyes looked down at the telegram once more.
“Why would a widow need an escort?” Kid wondered again.
“Well I think you’re about to find out,” Heyes told him.
“You mean we’re about to find out,” Kid corrected.
“No Kid, I mean you,” Heyes told him.
“Why just me?” Kid asked, suspiciously.
“Because you’re the one always charming the ladies Kid,” Heyes reminded his partner unnecessarily. His mind was still on Kid’s comments from the night before.
“A widow? She could be a little, grey-haired old lady.”
“Or a young and vulnerable woman who has recently lost her husband and needs the care and protection of a dashing stranger,” Heyes said, straight faced. Kid looked at him.
“Yeah,” Kid stated, sceptically. “But I wouldn’t take advantage of a woman if she was in mourning.”
“I know you wouldn’t Kid,” Heyes said, placing a hand on his partner’s shoulder, an act which made Kid even more nervous. “You wouldn’t take advantage of any woman and that’s probably the very reason Lom’s recommended us for the job.”
“Exactly, Heyes. Us,” Kid reminded him. “Not just me. So we’re gonna take it?”
“Well you are,” Heyes stated.
“Like I said, why just me?” Kid asked through gritted teeth, as two blue eyes fixed on his partner.
“Because I want to see Lom and find out what he means about the Governor,” Heyes explained. “What’s he concerned about?”
“Well we’ll both see Lom when we get the widow Smythe to Porterville,” Kid reminded him.
“Yeah, but if I ride on ahead, I can ask all those questions beforehand and Lom can telegraph the Governor and we’ll have the answers by the time you arrive.” He could see Kid was not convinced.
“I still don’t see why it has to be me,” Kid complained.
“Because you’re the fastest gun in the west, Kid,” Heyes said, seriously. There was a twinkle in his eye his partner failed to notice. “If anyone can protect a defenceless woman you can.”
“What are you up to Heyes?” Kid asked. “Is this about last night? Your way to get back at me because…”
Heyes held up his hand to stop his friend.
“Of course not, Kid, that’s all forgotten,” he lied. “Look Cleaverville is about a day and a half ride away, then what, two more days to Porterville?”
“So, you ride to the widow and escort her back. I go see Lom and find the answers.”
“And…?” Kid said, still suspicious of his partner’s motives.
“And what?” Heyes asked, innocently.
“And what else are you going to do in the four days I’ll be gone?”
“Well I might just squeeze in a hand of poker, here in the saloon,” he said, innocently.
“I knew it!” Kid cried and a passing couple looked at him in surprise. Kid lowered his voice. “You really are worried about last night,” Kid accused.
“Yes you are,” Kid stated. “You’re still sore about my comment ain’t ya?”
“No,” Heyes said, jokingly.
“Yes you are,” Kid repeated.
“Kid I…” There was just the hint of a warning in Heyes’ tone.
“Heyes…?” came the reply.
“Oh all right! Yes, I lost and it bothers me,” Heyes admitted. “I lost more games than I won and that really bothers me.”
“Heyes I was joking. Your mind’s fine, honest.”
“I know that!” Heyes replied, tersely. “It just bugs me that I lost and to some pretty bad players too,” the ex-outlaw leader admitted. “I want one more shot at ‘em.”
Kid smiled kindly at his partner.
“Alright Heyes, I’ll go and escort the widow,” Kid agreed. “You stay here, beat the others at poker and regain your reputation. Then go see Lom and find out what’s going on.”
“They play for a fair stake here Kid. I’ll win us good money too,” Heyes assured the blond-haired man, confidently, pleased to have the chance to prove himself.
Kid smiled once more and placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder.
“C’mon, we can talk as I pack my things.” The partners headed back to the hotel.
As Hannibal Heyes watched his partner ride out later that day, he had a sudden sense of foreboding. They had split up many times before and one of them, usually the blond one riding away from him now, often got himself into trouble.
As he packed his saddlebags Kid had jokingly reminded Heyes, “The last time I rode in a private coach, I was accused of murder down in Santa Marta. Couldn’t happen twice could it?”
“Of course not Kid,” Heyes reassured him, before they headed over to the café for a bite to eat.
Now, as he watched Kid disappear into the distance, he wasn’t so sure that he had been right. Losing at poker had annoyed him more than he liked to admit. Lom’s comment, that their mutual friend was concerned, he also found a little alarming. As his friend disappeared from view, he began to feel just a little less sure of himself. Now that really did bug Hannibal Heyes.
Kid arrived in Cleaverville early the next morning. The desk clerk at the hotel gave the trail worn cowboy, a disdainful look as he booked himself a room and asked if he could have a bath sent up. Kid paid in advance and that seemed to satisfy the man.
Freshly scrubbed, wearing clean clothes and with a hot meal inside him, Kid headed off to find the Widow Smythe. She had booked a room at the hotel, but the desk clerk told him she had gone to the General Store, to arrange some supplies for her journey. A young boy looked up from behind the counter when the blond cowboy entered the store. He noted the man’s tied down gun and waited to see what he wanted. A box of bullets or some shells for a rifle? Maybe a look at the new Schofield his father had on display in the locked glass cabinet? He was surprised when the man asked after the lady talking to his father out back.
The boy led the man to the back of the store.
“That’s her there,” the boy said, pointing to a dark-haired woman standing on the other side of a wagon. She was arguing with a small, bespectacled man over the cost of something. Kid’s mouth dropped open. It was Elizabeth Darkly. He sighed. They should have known.
At that moment Elizabeth turned and saw Kid standing there, open-mouthed. She smiled.
“You’re the Widow Smythe?” Kid asked.
“Where’s the handsome one?” she asked, ignoring his question and looking past him for his friend.
“He didn’t come,” Kid stated.
“Why not?” she asked, clearly disappointed.
“I guess he’s finally learned not to get involved with widows,” Kid said, giving her a smug smile. Elizabeth refused to rise to his bait. She glanced at the storeowner expectantly.
“All right,” he said, agreeing reluctantly to her request. “I’ll have it all sent over to the livery.” He went back into his store.
Elizabeth walked around the wagon, towards Kid and his mouth dropped open even wider. He stared at her body. Then looking up, he met her gaze. She smiled but said nothing.
“You’re…” he began.
“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘pregnant’,” she said, helpfully.
“You’re pregnant,” he said, looking at the unmistakable bump under her dress.
“I’m glad you noticed. Little Jed will be pleased.” Elizabeth ran her hand over the bump, and then smiled up at Kid. He was not smiling back. In fact he looked a little sick.
“What did you call it?” he asked, as the blood drained from his face.
“If by ‘it’ you mean my baby, I call him Little Jed,” Elizabeth said, as she patted her bump affectionately.
“Why?” he asked, although he had a horrible feeling he knew what she was going to say.
“Well a lot of babies are named after their father,” she told him and turning, walked towards the alley at the side of the store.
Kid smiled, nervously and hurried to catch up.
“Are you tryin’ to tell me that baby is mine?” he asked.
“Yes. And I sure hope he’s a lot smarter than his father.”
“What makes you so sure it’s mine?” Kid asked.
“Didn’t you find my note?”
“Well I told you ‘we did’,” she smiled sweetly at him.
“You said ‘we did’, if we had, believe me, I’d have remembered,” he told her through gritted teeth.
“Why Kid how flattering,” she said and walked off. He watched her go, dumbfounded. After a few moments he set off after her.
“How do you know it’s not someone else’s baby?” he asked, as they reached the boardwalk. Elizabeth stopped and turning looked him in the eye.
“If by someone else, you mean Hannibal, I’ll admit I don’t. I guess when he’s born if it’s a little blond-haired cherub we’ll know it’s yours. Of course I’m hoping for a dark-haired beauty with chocolate brown eyes and two adorable dimples.” She watched this sink in.
“We didn’t,” he stated, categorically. “It’s not mine.”
Elizabeth met his gaze again and held it. Neither said anything. However, even Elizabeth Darkly, was unable to out stare the fastest gun in the west and eventually, she looked away, along the street.
“So I’m stuck with you?” she stated.
“No. You can always find some other fool to escort you,” he told her.
“Oh don’t worry, I’m sure there are plenty of men desperate enough to take money from a woman,” she retorted. “That is what you’re doing isn’t it? But if you want to abandon a pregnant woman and force her to travel all alone across dangerous country, well…”
“Now look, Lom asked us to help you so…” but she waved him quiet.
“Don’t upset yourself. If you want it so much I’ll let you escort me.”
“No you’ve convinced me,” she told him and Kid realised he’d been suckered again.
“You can take care of yourself. Why did you ask Lom for an escort?”
“I guess the baby is making me feel a little vulnerable right now.”
Kid raised his eyebrows, clearly not convinced, but there was something in her expression that told him some of what she said was true. He just didn’t know which part.
“Alright, I wanted to see Hannibal again. Especially now.” She gazed down at her bump. “So, if he’s not with you, where is he?”
“He rode ahead to see Lom. Chose the sheriff over you.”
“He didn’t know it was me,” she reminded him. “If he had he would have been here.”
“Don’t be so sure about that,” Kid told her although he knew it wasn’t true. “So when do you want to leave?” he asked and she smiled.
“Tomorrow morning,” Elizabeth told him.
Having escorted Elizabeth back to the hotel, Kid headed to the saloon.
“Whisky,” he said when the bartender looked up at the blond man leaning on the bar. “Better make that a double,” Kid added, miserably.
A saloon girl sauntered along the bar towards him.
“Hello handsome, fancy some company?” she asked.
“Truthfully? I’m having enough trouble with just one woman as it is,” he told her, honestly.
“Do you wanna tell me about it?” she asked, turning her blue eyes on him and giving him her sweetest smile. She was a pretty young woman and it wasn’t long before Kid succumbed to her charms.
Before they set off the next day, Elizabeth wanted Kid to escort her to the bank.
“I need to collect something,” she told him, vaguely.
Kid nodded. He wasn’t about to tell Elizabeth that he had a hangover and was not up to arguing about anything at that moment. So he followed her dutifully to the bank as she requested.
“I’ll be fine Mr. Gladwell,” Elizabeth Darkly assured the bank manager, as she picked up her carpetbag. “I have an exceptionally well qualified escort.” She nodded her head to where a blond-haired young man stood leaning against the wall of the bank, his arms folded across his chest. The bank manager thought he looked a little familiar, as he noted his tied down gun.
What Mr. Gladwell didn’t know, was that Kid Curry was trying desperately to remember if the Devil’s Hole Gang had ever robbed this particular bank. Something about the interior seemed familiar. He kept his head down, his eyes on the floor, praying Elizabeth would hurry up and complete her business.
Eventually, she walked towards him and he quickly ushered her outside and back to the hotel.
“I need to send a telegram,” Kid informed her, as she headed towards the hotel stairs.
“I’ll be ready in about half an hour,” Elizabeth said and they agreed that he would meet her outside when the private coach she had hired arrived.
The telegrapher waited patiently while Kid Curry counted the words in his telegram and added up how much it would cost him. He could hear Heyes’ voice in his head, complaining about the cost of the message and telling him to keep it short. When he was satisfied, Kid handed the paper to the man.
He read aloud, “To Joshua Smith. Care of Sheriff Lom Trevors, Porterville, Wyoming. Widow is ED. Leaving today. ED pregnant. TJ.”
Kid paid the man and then left, sorry he would not be there to see the look on Heyes’ face when he read that; particularly the part about her being pregnant. He also knew there would be no time to wait for a reply.
The private stagecoach stood outside the hotel. Kid leaned against the hitching rail, as he waited for Elizabeth. The door of the hotel opened, and Elizabeth appeared, carrying the small carpetbag and a valise. Seeing her, Kid dashed to her side.
“Why didn’t you call me?” he asked. “You shouldn’t be carrying heavy things,” he told her, gallantly.
“Thank you,” Elizabeth smiled, as she handed the bags to him. She rested a hand on her bump. “I didn’t realise how weak this little fella would make me feel at times.”
Kid threw the bags up to the driver, who fixed them onto the roof, then Kid opened the door. Turning, Kid saw Elizabeth grimace.
“What is it?” he asked, with concern.
“The bullet wound,” she said. “Sometimes it still catches me.”
“You’re still in pain?” Kid asked, clearly worried for her.
“The doctor said I may get the occasional twinge. I suppose the scar tissue stretches as the baby grows,” she explained.
“Well you can rest on the journey,” Kid told her. “Come on, let’s get you on board.” He offered her his hand, which she took gratefully. Elizabeth smiled at him, as he helped her into the coach.
Hannibal Heyes left Saw Town a richer and happier man. He was feeling particularly pleased with himself having beaten the very men he had lost to at poker the night before. His pride and, to some extent his over- confidence, had been restored. He couldn’t wait to tell Kid all about it.
His journey was uneventful and he arrived in Porterville just after sunset. Riding down the familiar streets brought back memories of the time they had first approached Lom Trevors about an amnesty.
As Heyes climbed from his horse, he saw Deputy Harker leave the sheriff’s office and wander off along the boardwalk. He hoped Lom would be alone now and that would give them time to talk. Tying his horse to the rail, Heyes headed towards the sheriff’s office.
The dark-haired sheriff looked up when the front door opened. Hannibal Heyes shot a quick glance at the cells to check that they were empty as he approached the desk.
“Howdy Lom,” he said, with a smile.
Lom Trevors stood up and held out his hand
“Good to see you Heyes,” Lom said as the two men shook hands. He looked behind the ex-outlaw leader but no one followed him into the office. “Where’s Kid?” Lom asked, turning to check that the blond-haired man hadn’t snuck in the side door again.
“He’s gone to Cleaverville to meet the Widow Smythe,” Heyes told him and noted the worried expression that appeared on the sheriff’s face.
“On his own?”
“Yeah.” Heyes paused, his eyes narrowed. “Lom what is it? What’s wrong?”
“Oh nothing,” the sheriff said, dismissively.
“Lom?” Heyes said, his tone letting his friend know he didn’t believe him.
“It’s nothing, really. I just thought you’d both go,” Lom told him.
“Well I wanted to find out about the Governor and the concerns you said he has.” Heyes perched on the edge of the sheriff’s desk.
“Take a seat,” Lom said and Heyes settled himself in a chair by the wall, beneath the wanted posters. Lom was one of the few sheriffs he knew who did not have the ones for Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry pinned up.
“The Governor isn’t convinced you two are trying hard enough,” Lom told him straight.
“WHAT?” Heyes asked, incredulously, as he leapt to his feet.
“Hear me out,” Lom said, holding up his hands to silence his friend. “He keeps confusing the jobs the Devil’s Hole Gang pull with you two. I think he hoped you’d be able to persuade the rest of the gang to give up too.”
“That was never part of the deal!” Heyes eyes were hard.
“I know and I’ve reminded the Governor of that and of the good things you boys have done.”
“But he still has concerns,” Heyes stated, as he sank into the chair once more.
“It’s a difficult time for him politically,” the sheriff explained.
“It always is Lom,” Heyes stated, sullenly.
“I think he was hoping for a dramatic gesture. He’s travelling to see the President soon and I think he was hoping to be able to make a grand announcement about you boys and the Devil’s Hole Gang.”
“So what do we do now?” Heyes asked, his dark eyes showing his disappointment and sadness. “What more can Kid and I do?”
“You do what you’ve been doing. You stay out of trouble and eventually the Governor will award you your amnesty,” Lom stated, confidently.
“I wish I had your faith, Lom,” Heyes told him and he wondered what he was going to tell Kid when he arrived.
Heyes checked into the hotel, declining Lom’s offer to stay at his house. He wanted to be alone to think. They would also need room for Kid when he arrived with the widow.
Having washed and changed his clothes, Heyes headed to the saloon. Lom had arranged to meet him there for a drink. The tall, if slightly dim, Deputy Harker was waiting by the reception desk, as Heyes descended the stairs. He looked up when Heyes approached.
“Oh Mr. Smith,” he said, nodding a greeting to the dark-haired young man. “A telegram came for you today, care of the sheriff.” He rummaged around in his vest pocket, took out a piece of paper, read it, and then stuffed it back in his pocket. He found another piece of paper, opened it, and read it.
“It’s from Mr. Jones,” Deputy Harker said. “He’s in Cleaverville.”
“Thank you Deputy,” Heyes interrupted and held out his hand for the telegram. Harker handed over the piece of paper and bade Mr. Smith good evening. Heyes read the telegram.
“WHAT!” Heyes shouted and the desk clerk was startled by the dark-haired man’s outburst. He smiled apologetically and turned away from the man. “She’s pregnant!” he muttered. Heyes considered this for a moment. “Oh no, she’s pregnant.”
Then Heyes had a terrifying thought.
“What if it’s mine?”
The front door burst open and Hannibal Heyes strode into the sheriff’s office.
“Lom! Why didn’t you tell me it was Elizabeth Darkly?” Heyes yelled.
“Come on in Mr. Smith,” Lom said, patiently. “And why don’t you close the door behind you, quietly!” Lom added, sarcastically.
“I’m sorry,” Heyes apologised. He walked back and closed the door and then returned to stand by Lom’s desk. “Well?”
“Mrs. Darkly wanted to surprise you.”
“Well she’s sure done that,” Heyes snorted, as he sank into one of the chairs by the wall. “And I bet it sure was a surprise when Kid found out.” Heyes shook his head. “I let him ride in there alone; to her alone.” He stood up and began to pace back and forth.
“That’s Kid Curry, the fastest gun in the west, you’re talking about Heyes,” Lom reminded him, with a smile. “And Kid knows how to handle a woman.”
“Not this one!” Heyes looked at Lom. “He’s the fastest gun, Lom. Fastest gun. Elizabeth is…well she’s…she’s fast, but in other ways!”
The sheriff hid a smirk, surprised to see the ex-leader of the infamous Devil’s Hole Gang, worried that his partner, the legendary Kid Curry, was alone with a woman.
“I’m sure Kid can take care of himself.”
“Oh Lom, I wouldn’t be so sure.”
“I didn’t think you’d take the job if you knew,” Lom explained. “She specifically asked for you two and she’s paying well. I knew you could use the money. I thought you liked the woman. I thought you’d appreciate the chance to travel in comfort for once. I thought you and she had something special. What’s the problem?”
“Oh there’s something special between us. There may be something very special between us,” Heyes said, cryptically. He met the Sheriff’s gaze. “Did you know she was pregnant?”
“Kid says it in his telegram.” Heyes handed the telegram to the lawman, and then sank back into the chair. Lom read it. He looked up at Heyes.
“Oh,” he said. “And you think…?” Lom left the rest unsaid.
“I don’t know Lom. I don’t know what to think,” Heyes admitted as he put his head in his hands, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Well at least she’s with Kid and he’ll keep an eye on her; get her here safely.”
“Oh Lom, I’m more worried they might kill each other,” Heyes told him with a heavy sigh.
At that moment, as the stagecoach rocked and jolted its way to Porterville, the fastest gun in the west opened his eyes and saw Elizabeth and ‘the bump’ sitting opposite him. Oh boy.
He didn’t have much experience with pregnant women. He remembered his Ma had been pregnant, when he was a small child. One or two of his ma’s friends had been pregnant too, arriving at the house with a bump beneath their dress and returning a few weeks later with a crying pink baby all swaddled up for the ladies to coo over. One or two of the ranchers they had worked for had wives who were expecting but other than that he had not encountered too many pregnant women in his life. He was trying to figure out when they had last seen Elizabeth. She had been shot and was on her way to friends in Denver to recuperate. How many weeks and months had that been? Could the baby be his? Kid was not convinced that it was because he still did not believe that he and Elizabeth Darkly had done anything necessary to create a baby. But just supposing that it was his, or more likely Heyes’, how big would she be by now?
Elizabeth smiled, as she watched Kid’s face. His expression told her his brain was trying to work something out.
“Something troubling you Kid?” she asked, having reverted to calling him that now that they were alone.
“Just doing some figurin’,” he told her, vaguely.
“How many months pregnant are you?” he asked and she realised what he had been trying to work out. Elizabeth looked down at ‘the bump’.
“Trust me Kid, there are only two men who could be the father to my child,” she told him and Kid felt a little sick. “Oh!” Elizabeth exclaimed suddenly and placed a hand on her bump.
“What’s wrong?” Kid asked, wide eyed, as he leaned towards her.
“Nothing,” Elizabeth said with a smile. “I just felt him kick.”
“Oh,” Kid said relieved. “Just as long as he’s not practicing his fast draw, I’ll be happy,” he muttered and Elizabeth laughed. “What?” Kid asked, meeting her bright eyes.
“You know that was actually quite funny,” she explained.
Kid smiled at her.
“Would it be so bad if he was yours?” she asked. Kid didn’t say anything. “Well I’m just hoping it turns out to be a little dark-haired child with dimples. Then we’ll all be happy.”
“Whoever the father is, you know we won’t be able to stick around,” Kid told her, seriously.
“You mean Hannibal won’t be able to stay don’t you?”
“Yes,” he said and she turned her head to gaze out of the window.
“So what’s she up to?” Heyes asked his friend, as he sat opposite Lom at dinner. It made a change for the sheriff to dine in the hotel rather than fix something for himself. Lom considered Heyes’ question.
“Elizabeth has a delivery to make,” the sheriff explained. “She wanted you two to escort her.”
“A delivery? What kind of delivery?” Heyes had a sudden thought as he said it. “I guess she does indeed have a delivery to make.”
“Oh no there really is something else, not the baby. I happen to know that Wilbur Stubbs paid for her private coach.”
“Yes. He’s a wealthy rancher and businessman. Owns a large spread to the north of town, but he also spends a lot of time in Denver.”
“How d’you know he paid?” Heyes asked.
“Yours isn’t the only secret I can keep Heyes,” the sheriff told him.
“Is she working for Stubbs? Delivering something for him?”
“I think she could be,” Lom said.
“Something that made her decide she needed protection on the way?” Heyes mused. Now he really was worried about his partner and Elizabeth Darkly travelling alone. “What’s Stubbs involved in?”
That night they camped beside a shallow stream. The coach driver, a scruffy, surly man named Preston, saw to the horses, lit a fire, but drew the line at cooking for the woman who had hired him. He muttered something about it not being his job to cook too. Kid prepared a meal for them instead. Later, Preston made himself a cosy bed beneath the stagecoach, rolled over and was soon fast asleep with his back to them.
Kid and Elizabeth lay out their bedrolls near to the fire.
As he pulled his blanket up to his chin Kid could hear Elizabeth shivering behind him and then the sound of her teeth chattering. Kid gave a heavy sigh and turned over.
“You alright?” he asked, reluctantly, already dreading the inevitable answer.
“I’m cold,” she told him. “Do we have any more blankets?”
“No,” was his reply, as he pulled his own blanket up to his chin once more. He heard her shifting about and then felt a rush of cold air as his blanket rose and Elizabeth snuggled in close to him.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doin’?” Kid asked, sitting up quickly, although it was pretty obvious, what she was doing.
“Sharing bodily warmth,” she replied. “You don’t mind do you?”
“Do I have a choice?” he asked, petulantly, as he struggled to decide. “What about the driver?”
“Well you can invite him to join us if you want to, but I’d prefer it if it was just us two,” she told him with a smile.
“You know what I mean,” he stated, refusing to rise to her bait. “He’ll see us.”
“Oh don’t worry I won’t take advantage of you. Come on lie back down, the blanket’s getting cold. You don’t want a pregnant woman to freeze to death do you?”
Eventually he lay back, realising the logic of her suggestion. She placed an arm around his waist and snuggled closer.
“You know this doesn’t mean anything,” he told her.
“Of course not,” she said, pressing her body into his.
“I just don’t want you getting’ the wrong idea,” he stated, as he felt her breath on his neck.
“Don’t worry. I think I have the right idea,” she whispered in his ear and it was a good thing he couldn’t see her smile.
The next morning when they broke camp, Kid helped Preston load their bags onto the roof. When they were almost finished Kid went to fetch Elizabeth. She was sitting on a boulder enjoying the view of the surrounding countryside and watching the men work. Kid picked up his blanket, shook it and carried it over to where she sat.
“D’you need a hand to get up?” Kid asked.
“No, I’m fine,” she said, easing herself to her feet. She noticed the sideways glance he gave her. “What is it?”
“Just wonderin’ what you’re up to.”
“Up to? Now why would I be up to anything?” she asked, indignantly.
“You usually are,” he stated, honestly.
“You still don’t trust me?” she asked. Kid looked around and figured it was safe to talk. Preston was too far away to hear what he said.
“You shot Heyes. You planned on turnin’ us both in. How many more reasons do you want? I don’t know if I’ll ever trust you,” he said, exasperated. He shook out the blanket and began to fold it.
“I won’t do that again. I’ve told you that,” she said.
“Elizabeth, every time you turn up one of us gets hurt.”
“That’s not true.”
“I got shot in the leg!” he reminded her. “Heyes got shot and not just by you.”
“Oh well that might be true but I nursed you through that,” she retorted. “And I’ve looked after both of you. Doesn’t that count for something?” she asked him
“I didn’t say I wasn’t grateful,” he added. “Just pointin’ out a fact.”
“People can change you know,” she said and Elizabeth smiled as a thought came to her. “They can give up their old ways; make a fresh start.”
Kid could see what she was hinting at.
“Try for an amnesty.”
“Okay I get your point,” he told her.
“Maybe I could do that?”
“Try for amnesty?”
“Why not? I’ll promise to stay out of trouble; not shoot either of you or turn you in. If I can do it for, what shall we say? One year?” Kid smiled. “Then you promise to trust me after that.”
“But in the meantime, I still won’t trust you,” he told her, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes. Do we have a deal Mr. Curry?” she asked, holding out her hand to him. Kid considered this as he met her gaze. Finally her took hold of her hand and shook it.
“Deal, Mrs. Darkly,” he said, not expecting her to keep to her side of the agreement.
“Oh, call me Elizabeth,” she said, not letting go of his hand. Her eyes held his blue ones as her smile turned seductive. He let her move closer. Elizabeth ran her tongue over her lips. “Since we’re going to be on better terms…” she began, standing only as close as the bump would allow, but still close enough for him to feel her breath on his face. For a moment he found himself lost in her eyes. “…Maybe we should get to know each other a little better, let a few barriers down so to speak? Wouldn’t you like to remove some of my barriers?” Her eyes still held his. She really was a beautiful woman it was just…
“No! And will you please stop doing this,” he said, as he let go of her hands. His cry was loud enough to make the coach driver look up. He saw the couple, standing close together. It seemed Mr. Jones was a fast worker. He’d seen the two of them cuddled up together beneath Jones’ blanket last night, when he’d got up to answer a call of nature.
“You really are something,” Kid told her, backing away.
“Why thank you Kid,” she smiled.
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
Elizabeth said nothing.
“I don’t understand you. I thought you were after Heyes.”
“I am, but it doesn’t mean you and I can’t have a little fun. You might even enjoy it. I know you find me attractive.” She moved closer once more. Kid stood his ground.
“You’re pregnant!” he reminded her and Elizabeth scoffed. “Elizabeth, for some crazy reason, which I still don’t understand, my partner has feelings for you, even though you put a bullet in him. So whatever I feel about you, as far as I’m concerned while he has his eye on you, you’re off limits.” Kid hoped that would put an end to this.
Elizabeth was silent once more, considering what he said.
“So if Hannibal didn’t want me you would? That’s sweet,” she said, placing her hand on his chest. She gave him a wicked grin and walked away.
“That’s not what I…” Kid began, but she had her back to him. “Damn it!” he said.
Elizabeth smiled and headed for the stagecoach. It was always too easy with Kid.
“The Devil’s Hole Gang just robbed a stage,” Lom announced, when Heyes entered the jail that morning.
“What? They don’t rob stages,” Heyes told him.
“Well they just did. I’ve just received this telegram warning us to be on the look out for them.” He held up a piece of paper. “What was Wheat thinking?” Lom wondered, with a shake of his head.
“If they held up a stage, he wasn’t,” Heyes observed. He sank into a chair. A sudden thought came to him. “What stage?”
Lom looked at the telegram he’d received. “It’s all right; it was one heading for Denver.”
Heyes noticeably relaxed. He smiled.
“For a minute there I thought…”
“Yeah, me too,” the sheriff told him. “Wouldn’t that be something to see; Kyle opening the door and coming face to face with Kid Curry?”
Imagining this, Heyes’ smile widened. When Heyes looked back at the sheriff, he saw Lom studying him.
“What?” he asked.
“Did you get any sleep last night?” Lom asked, noticing the dark circles under Heyes’ eyes.
“Not much,” the younger man admitted.
“They’ll be fine.”
“So you keep tellin’ me Lom,” Heyes said, but the lawman could tell he didn’t believe it.
After an hour or so they stopped to rest and water the horses at a small station run by Deke Gibbs and his wife. Kid helped Elizabeth down from the stage as Martha Gibbs came out of the house, wiping her flour covered hands on a cloth, as she strode towards them.
“Why don’t you bring your wife inside?” she suggested to Kid. He was about to reply and correct the woman.
“That would be nice, wouldn’t it Darling?” Elizabeth smiled sweetly at Kid. He rolled his eyes, as she nestled against him and they walked towards the house.
“I’m not doing this again!” Kid told her, pulling her arm from his and striding on ahead.
“Ow,” Elizabeth said unconvincingly, and Kid looked back. She touched her side where she had been shot. She looked to him, hoping for some sympathy.
“Forget it,” he scoffed, shaking his head. Elizabeth shrugged and smiled at him. “C’mon,” he said, holding out his arm to her. She looped her arm in his and he escorted her into the house.
Having taken the chance to freshen up, Elizabeth and Kid bade Martha goodbye, leaving her to her baking, and went back outside to wait for Preston. The surly stage driver insisted he was entitled to a rest, before they headed off again, so they wandered over to the corral.
Elizabeth looked towards the distant hills.
“Are you worried about what the Governor might say?” she suddenly asked. Kid had told her the reason Heyes had wanted to ride to Porterville.
“No. I’m not sure he’ll ever grant us the amnesty,” Kid admitted, as he stood beside her. He leaned on the fence and rested one foot, on the bottom rail.
Elizabeth turned to face him.
“And yet you’re still going straight?”
“Well there’s always a chance he might think it’s the right thing to do…for him that is,” he told her.
“And what will you do when you get it?”
“I have no idea,” he stated, kicking a stone as he said it. “Something that’s not too hard on the back, I guess.”
“And what about the man with eyes the colour of melting chocolate?”
Kid held up a hand and she paused to stare at him.
“You’re talkin’ about Heyes right?” Kid asked, jokingly.
“Yes,” she told him patiently.
“Just checkin’,” Kid told her and she smiled.
“You don’t think his eyes are adorable?”
“It’s not something I’ve ever thought about,” he told her, honestly.
“Well how would you describe him?”
“Not like that.” Kid assured her and he could see she wanted to know more. “He’s proddy in the mornings, makes lousy coffee, still does that damn twist when he draws, pretty good poker player, not bad at opening safes…”
“…and the best partner a man could have.”
“Which is why you’re so protective of him. I understand that. I promise you, I won’t hurt him.”
“If he falls in love with you, you will,” Kid said and he saw his words sink in. “If that baby really is his, what do you think that will do to him? He can’t stay and that could break his heart.”
Elizabeth looked at her feet, as she considered his words. She came to a decision.
“Kid there’s something you should…” she said, as she looked up, but Kid was already walking back to the stage.
“Wilbur Stubbs owns all the land from here…” Lom tapped the map that was spread over his desk, “…to here.” He tapped the map again.
Heyes studied the map but said nothing.
“Evan Surefoot runs the ranch for him when Stubbs is in Denver, which is often for several months at a time,” Lom continued.
“And Elizabeth was staying with Stubbs and his wife when she was convalescing?” Heyes asked.
“And now she’s riding in a coach he hired and delivering something for him, to who? Someone in Porterville?” Heyes looked at the sheriff expectantly.
“I don’t know,” Lom admitted.
“I wonder what she’s delivering?” Heyes pondered. “Documents? Something valuable? Something you couldn’t or wouldn’t trust to the normal mail service?”
Lom poured out two cups of coffee, handed one to Heyes and they both stood over the map studying it, as if it might give them inspiration.
“What’s this section here?” Heyes asked, pointing to an area next to Stubbs land.
“That’s Clay Peterson’s land,” Lom told him.
“And the river runs right through it?”
“Good watering holes?”
“Some of the best, yes.” The sheriff looked at his friend. “What’s on your mind?”
“So Stubbs doesn’t own the water rights?” Heyes asked.
“Who owns this?” Heyes asked, pointing to the map again.
“Morgan Kramer. A real unpleasant man.” Lom met Heyes’ eyes. “So what are you thinking?”
“I don’t know. Just trying to figure out what she’s involved in this time.”
“But you think it could have something to do with land?”
“Could be. I’m clutching at straws Lom.”
“Well Kramer and Stubbs have had a long running battle over those water holes. Peterson let’s both men water their cattle free, but if one of them ever owned it outright…well who knows what would happen?”
Heyes looked back at the map and wondered.
Kid had his hat over his face, feet up on the other seat, asleep, despite the jostling of the stagecoach. Elizabeth was bored with watching the scenery pass by. She wanted to talk to someone and although Kid was hardly the best conversationalist, she decided to wake him up. Elizabeth knocked his feet off the seat.
“Huh?” he said, as his eyes shot open. He pushed back his hat.
“Is that all you’re going to do?” Elizabeth asked.
“What?” Kid asked, confused, as he rubbed his eyes and stretched his arms and shoulders.
“Sleep? Are you going to sleep all the way to Porterville? You’re supposed to be guarding me.”
“From what?” he asked, irritably, looking out of the window. She looked away, but there was something in her expression that troubled him. “From what?” he asked again, only this time more seriously.
She remained silent and suddenly a sense of unease overwhelmed him.
“Elizabeth what aren’t you telling me?”
“Why Kid what makes you think I’d keep anything from you?” she asked, innocently.
“Past experience,” he stated, as the coach hit yet another pothole and they were bounced around again. “Well?”
Before she could reply, the coach began to slow down.
Kid put his head out of the window and shouted up to the driver.
“What’s wrong? Why are we stopping?”
“Looks like one of the horses is lame,” the driver explained, as he pulled hard on the reins.
“Stay here,” Kid said to Elizabeth when he opened the door, as the coach had finally stopped. He looked around, but did not recognise the terrain. He tried to remember which way the stage usually arrived in Porterville. Something was wrong, he couldn’t think what, but something did not feel right. It nagged at him, as he joined Preston who was peering down at one of the lead horse’s legs.
“How is it?” Kid asked, as he came alongside the man.
“Well it seems okay now, but he was sure favouring it a minute ago,” the driver told him. “I’ll let him rest up a bit and then we can head on.”
“Okay,” Kid agreed and headed back to tell Elizabeth. The dark-haired woman had her head out of the window. As he walked towards the coach, Kid looked up at the sun and something clicked in his brain. The sun was in the wrong place, or rather if they were heading to Porterville it should be on his left but it was now on the right. They were going the wrong way.
“What is it?” Elizabeth asked, noticing the concerned look on his face, as she stepped out of the coach.
“One of the horses pulled up lame.” Kid said, vaguely, still looking around. “The driver wants to rest it for a while.”
However, Elizabeth could tell there was something else on his mind.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but I think we’re going the wrong way.”
“Wilbur Stubbs is trying to buy that land from Clay Peterson,” Lom said, as he sat down opposite Heyes at a table in the saloon. The sheriff had been checking out their latest theory on what Elizabeth Darkly was involved in. Hannibal Heyes put down his beer, waiting to hear more. “I think Elizabeth is bringing the money to help him pay for it.”
“What makes you say that?” Heyes asked.
“I checked with the bank. Mr. Porter tells me no large amounts of money have come through from Denver and yet Peterson has been telling people he’s expecting a lot of money to come his way soon.”
“Kinda foolish of him,” Heyes observed.
“Stubbs has been robbed a few times before. He was apparently on a train the Devil’s Hole Gang held up.” Lom watched for Heyes’ reaction. Heyes gave him a sweet smile. “So now he doesn’t trust trains. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s why he didn’t ask Elizabeth to carry the money.”
“You sure you’re not putting two and two together and making five, Lom?”
“I could be, but then I just ran into Peterson and he told me he’s selling his land to Stubbs.”
“Sheesh Lom, why didn’t you just say that in the first place?” Heyes said with exasperation.
It was Lom’s turn to give a sweet smile.
“What?” Elizabeth asked.
“We’re travelling in the wrong direction,” Kid told her. “Just what do you know about Preston?”
“Not much. He came with the coach. D’you think he’s up to something or just lost?”
“I don’t know, but I…” and then an arrow hit the side of the stagecoach, stopping Kid mid sentence.
“Oh my God! Indians!” Elizabeth cried.
“What? Where?” Kid said, his gun already in his hand, as he spun around, searching for whoever fired the arrow.
Six men rode out of the undergrowth, all wore bandanas over their faces. Four guns, a rifle and a bow and arrow were trained on Kid and Elizabeth. “Stay behind me. Let me do the talking,” Kid said, as he moved to stand in front of her.
“Hold it right there mister,” said one of the men and he edged his horse forward. Surprisingly, he removed his bandana. He was a dark-haired man, with a flat nose and a few days stubble on his chin. He sat tall in the saddle and a battered, black hat was perched on the back of his head. He pointed a rifle at Kid as he approached.
“What’s going on here fellas?” Kid asked, innocently.
“Drop the gun,” the dark-haired man ordered. Kid considered this, but did not comply. “If you don’t I will shoot her,” the man stated. The rifle swung towards Elizabeth, who stood behind the blond man.
Kid stepped to his right, shielding her with his body once more.
“Now ain’t that real brave of ya?” the other man said with a smile. His rifle swung back towards Kid’s face. “Drop it,” he said. “Before I feel the need to blow your head off.”
Two blue eyes fixed on the man, as Kid weighed up the situation.
“Mr. Jones it’s alright,” Elizabeth said, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Kid threw down his gun. The dark-haired man climbed from his horse.
“Mrs. Darkly, please step from behind the cowboy,” he said and Kid’s eyes opened wider. So this was no run of the mill hold up.
“Over there,” the man said, indicating for her to move a few paces to the right. “Nice to see you again Elizabeth,” the dark-haired man said with a smile. She glared at him.
“I can’t say the same for you Mr. Lynch,” Elizabeth replied.
“So where is it?” Lynch asked, as he walked towards her.
“Where’s what?” she asked, innocently.
“Where’s the money?”
Kid watched, impassive. He thought back to their trip to the bank and the carpetbag now sitting on top of the stagecoach. Surely if it was full of money, Elizabeth would have carried it inside? Who were these men?
Elizabeth just smiled.
“Get their bags,” Lynch commanded and a thin man with a pointed nose and sunken eyes, climbed from his horse. He clambered up onto the stage roof. One at a time, the man threw down the bags. On the ground Preston walked towards the bags. He gave Kid a smug smile and Kid glared at him, as it all fell into place. Stupidly he had allowed them to be led into a trap. Preston reached down and began to open the bags, spilling the contents on the ground. He searched amongst their clothes and possessions. There was no money.
“Where is it?” Lynch asked, grabbing Elizabeth by the wrist. She flinched and Kid had to bite down hard to stop himself from responding. There was nothing he could do right now, although his gun was just a few paces away. As if reading Kid’s thoughts, Preston stooped to pick up the Colt, and tucked it in his waistband. He gave Kid a satisfied grin. Kid looked back at Elizabeth and Lynch.
“I know you’re taking it to Peterson,” Lynch told her. “So where have you hidden it?” Lynch asked again. Elizabeth squirmed as he tightened his grip.
“I don’t have it,” she told him, firmly.
“DON’T LIE TO ME!” Lynch yelled in her face. Elizabeth closed her eyes. He looked at her, as if noticing she was pregnant for the first time. He let go of her arm and stood back. “You pregnant?”
“Kinda quick ain’t it?” Lynch said, cryptically, as he thought. “Take off your dress.”
“Now wait a minute!” Kid said stepping forward.
“Do it,” Lynch told her, ignoring Kid.
Elizabeth did not move. Lynch slapped her across the face and she stumbled backwards. Kid lunged towards Lynch, something whistled through the air and Kid felt a searing pain in his left thigh. He fell to the ground as his leg collapsed beneath him. His face contorted with pain, Kid clamped a hand to his leg where an arrow now protruded.
“You’re lucky he didn’t aim for your heart,” Lynch told him with a smile. Kid could only watch, teeth gritted, as Lynch advanced on Elizabeth.
“Take off your dress,” Lynch repeated. “Or he gets another arrow.” Elizabeth met Lynch’s gaze and then looked at Kid. His expression conveyed the pain he was in and an apology, for not being able to help her.
Elizabeth looked back at Lynch as she began to undo the buttons on her dress. Behind their leader, the other men on horseback smiled, as they settled in for what promised to be a good show.
Kid did not know where to look, but when Elizabeth stepped out of her dress, despite his own agony, his mouth dropped open in astonishment. Elizabeth stood in a lacy white petticoat, under drawers, camisole and long black stockings. However, around the front of her body she wore a strange bag, straps ran around her waist and over her shoulders holding it in place where her ‘bump’ should be. Slowly Elizabeth undid the ties that held the bag. When she removed it, she no longer looked pregnant.
Kid shook his head in amazement. Elizabeth had never been pregnant. She had lied to him again.
Mrs. Darkly held out the bag to Lynch. Taking it, he located the opening and, reaching inside, pulled out a handful of money. He gave her a satisfied smile.
“Thank you Elizabeth,” he said. “And may I say how fetching you look in white lace.”
She looked away from him.
“I guess it won’t matter if you reach Porterville now,” the dark-haired man said, as he walked back to his horse. Lynch pulled himself into the saddle. “It was a real pleasure to see you again, Elizabeth,” he said.
“You’re just leaving us here?” she asked.
“Yes I am,” he stated.
“But we could be attacked by wolves or mountain lions,” she cried, somewhat pathetically. Lynch looked at her, unsure how serious she was. “At least leave us his gun,” Elizabeth pleaded, casting a hand in Kid’s direction.
Lynch looked down at her pleading eyes, beginning to fill with tears.
“Please, Mr. Lynch.” Elizabeth looked genuinely frightened. He wasn’t being paid to kill them, just to delay her and get the money. Lynch turned to Preston and nodded. Reluctantly the stage driver removed the gun from his waistband, opened the cylinder and emptied the bullets onto the ground. When the chambers were empty he threw the gun into the bushes. Then Preston, climbed back onto the stage and, with a flick of the reins, urged the horses forward, before turning the stage towards Porterville. They watched as it disappeared from view.
Lynch smiled at Elizabeth and touching the brim of his hat, turned his horse away from them. The men rode out leaving Kid, lying on the ground clutching his leg and Elizabeth standing in her underwear.
Ignoring her own state of undress, Elizabeth ran to Kid’s side and dropped to her knees.
“Kid! Are you alright?” she asked, with genuine concern.
“I have an arrow in my leg, what do you think?” he asked her, through gritted teeth. Sweat covered his forehead, he was clearly in a lot of pain and also very angry. “So you’re not pregnant,” he observed, as he tried to sit up. Kid grimaced and held his leg tighter. The arrow had gone right through his thigh.
“No,” Elizabeth admitted, as she looked at the wound. Blood ran between his fingers.
“You lied to me again,” Kid stated. “So much for our deal about trusting you.”
“I know, but I couldn’t resist it. When I saw your face, when you saw my bump, it was just too good an opportunity to miss,” she admitted. She gave him a sweet smile.
“You made me think…”
“I told Heyes you were pregnant.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, with genuine regret. “What can I do?” she asked, indicating the arrow.
“Stay as far away from me as possible,” Kid stated and then groaned in agony as he moved his leg.
“We can argue about this later,” she said. “You can yell at me all you want to, but right now, we have to stop you bleeding to death.”
“You have such a way with words,” Kid observed, as he began to undo his belt. “No wonder you and Heyes get on so well.” Kid removed the belt from around his waist.
Elizabeth reached for the arrow.
“DON’T!” Kid cried.
“So what do we do?”
Kid considered this, as he placed the belt around the top of his thigh and began to buckle it up. He had never been shot with an arrow before. He remembered seeing someone break off the flight and then push an arrow through a man’s arm once. He didn’t relish trying that on his leg and the head of the arrow had gone right through his skin.
“Should I try and push it the rest of the way through?” Elizabeth asked.
“No,” Kid told her firmly. He pulled the belt tight and grimaced.
“So do we pull it out then?”
“No! We, don’t do anything,” he stated.
“Well then what do you want to do?” she asked, exasperated.
“I don’t know. I’m trying to think.”
“Can you afford to wait that long?” she snapped. Kid glared at her and pulled the belt tighter still.
“Oh damn it!” he cried and his face lost its colour. Kid closed his eyes and took deep breaths.
“Do you carry a knife in your saddle bags?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes. Why?” He eyed her, suspiciously.
Elizabeth didn’t answer him. Instead she stood up and began to search through their scattered possessions.
“Don’t even think about trying to cut this out,” Kid told her. Still she ignored him and continued her search. When she had found the knife, she returned to his side.
“I’m going to cut open the leg of your jeans, cut it away from the arrow. Then we can see how bad this is.” Elizabeth met his gaze and waited. Kid’s blue eyes looked at her and he nodded his agreement.
Taking a handful of the material, she began to cut. The arrow had just caught the edge of Kid’s leg, missing the bone and going right through. Kid flinched as Elizabeth pulled at the jeans and it caught on the arrow.
“Sorry,” she said, but continued to cut until most of Kid’s thigh was exposed and the material was away from the arrow’s shaft.
“If I can break off the head I should be able to pull it out,” Kid stated, although he sounded neither confident nor ecstatic about the prospect.
“We can pull together,” Elizabeth said. Kid looked nauseous. “I could do it. Knock the head off with a rock maybe.”
“No, I’ll do it,” Kid told her, his eyes on the arrow that was now red with his blood. The question was how? The arrowhead was small. It would have to be a clean cut or there could be splinters left in his leg when he pulled it through. “Give me the knife,” Kid said and Elizabeth handed it to him.
Kid spotted a nearby boulder and dragged himself towards it. He turned his leg so that the arrowhead rested on the boulder. Kid steeled himself and took a deep breath. For once Elizabeth was wise enough to refrain from commenting. Kid was breathing heavily. Using the knife, he swiftly removed the arrowhead, but it sent a shockwave through his leg and he cried out, cursing.
“Sorry,” he said, meeting her sympathetic eyes.
“You don’t have to apologise.” Elizabeth gave him an encouraging smile.
Kid shook his head.
“I told you we always get hurt when you’re around,” he said.
“At least I didn’t shoot you, so you can’t blame me for that.”
Kid met her gaze, smiled and then returned his attention to his leg. He took another deep breath and took hold of the arrow. He was looking pale. His pulse was rapid, his breathing fast. He felt sick.
“Are you all right?” Elizabeth asked.
“No,” he said, honestly, trying to control his breathing. Kid could feel his heart thumping in his chest and then he pulled real hard. “AHHHHHH DAMN IT!” he yelled and collapsed backwards, the bloody arrow dropped from his hand.
“Kid?” Elizabeth asked. He didn’t reply. “Kid?” she said leaning over him. Still Kid didn’t respond. His eyes rolled, he was fighting to stay conscious. Kid’s face was contorted with pain. He groaned.
Elizabeth looked down at the badly bleeding wound. She removed the bandana from around Kid’s neck and quickly tied it around his leg. Then she went looking for one of her bags. She found one of her petticoats, where it had been thrown on the ground, and began ripping it into shreds. A few moments later Mrs. Darkly returned to Kid’s side with the makeshift bandages and a bottle of whisky.
Elizabeth pulled the top off the whisky bottle, removed the bandana, and poured some of the alcohol over his leg. Kid writhed as the liquid flowed into the wound. Elizabeth was about to place the bandana back over it when she saw how big the wound was. It needed stitching. She thought back to what Margaret Tudor had done for Hannibal when he’d been shot. Could she do that for Kid? Reaching into her bag she found her sewing kit. Elizabeth removed the largest needle she had and then studied the selection of threads.
“What colour do you think?” she asked the semi-conscious blond man. “Green, black or white? No,” she shook her head. “Pink? Definitely not, although…” She held it up to his skin. It was a closer match than the purple. She knew she was rambling to control her nerves. Finally she settled on the blue, not because it matched his eyes, but because it was the strongest thread. Elizabeth poured some whisky over the needle and threaded it.
What stitch to use? Blanket? Cross stitch? The correct stitch to use for sewing up wounds had not featured strongly at her mother’s weekly quilting circle. Elizabeth took a deep breath; this wasn’t going to be pleasant. She wasn’t sure if she could, or should, do this. And then, with determination, she pierced Kid’s skin. He cried out and tried to pull his leg away, but she gritted her teeth and held on tight until Kid relaxed. She tried to sew again, and once more he began to writhe beneath her touch.
“Stay still!” she told him, but he wouldn’t. She got up and straddled him, pinning him down with her weight, her back towards him, as she sat across his hips.
“If someone comes along now, I’m never going to be able to explain this,” she told him, over her shoulder.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice weak and distant. “Sheesh, Elizabeth, this isn’t the time to…” he drifted off.
“Huh! You wish,” she said, then took a deep breath, looked at the bloody flesh and summoned her courage.
Elizabeth began to sew. Kid tried to move away, but he was fading in and out of consciousness.
When the entry wound was closed, with a struggle, Elizabeth rolled Kid onto his side so that she could work on the exit wound. When it too had been sewn up, she placed the bandana, over the entry wound, and tied it in place with some of her petticoat. She dressed the exit wound in the same way, using a wad of petticoat. There wasn’t much more she could do for him at the moment. Elizabeth sat back on her heels, looking down at her blood covered hands. She never wanted to do that again.
“Well blue eyes, what do we do now?” she asked. Kid didn’t answer.
Pulling herself to her feet, Elizabeth went in search of a canteen of water.
“They should have been here by now,” Heyes stated, looking at the clock on the wall in the sheriff’s office.
“A journey by stage can never be precisely timed, you know that. They could break a wheel; a horse could throw a shoe…,” Lom said vaguely, without looking up. He was sitting at his desk, going through some paperwork.
“I know Lom, I know,” Heyes said. He stood up and looked out of the window. As he gazed along the street, his expression was one of concern. Then he began to pace. He strode towards the cells, turned and walked back to the window. He pushed his hat back on his head, looked out and then headed back towards the cells.
“Sit down, they’ll be here,” Lom said. Heyes turned back to his friend.
“You don’t think the Gang would have held it up do you?” he asked. Lom laughed, and then saw his friend was serious.
“Well if they did, the minute they saw it was Kid, they’d let it go on its way. Wouldn’t they?”
“Yeah, of course they would,” Heyes said, casting his eyes back to the window. Lom watched him. Kid and Elizabeth together, that was what was troubling Heyes. Heyes began to pace once more. Lom shook his head and returned his attention to his paperwork.
A sudden groan caught Elizabeth’s attention and she turned back to where Kid lay. She had dressed herself and reclaimed most of her things, from where the men had thrown them. Elizabeth stuffed a dress into her bag and walked towards the blond man.
Kid groaned again.
Elizabeth smiled at him, as two bleary blue eyes tried to focus on her.
“You okay?” she asked, as he began to pull himself onto one elbow.
“I don’t know,” he said, honestly. “Did I pass out?”
He looked at his leg and the lacy dressing it bore.
“Thank you,” he said and she smiled.
“You’re welcome.” Elizabeth held up a canteen. “Would you like a drink?” He nodded and she handed it to him. Kid took a long drink, and then Elizabeth took it back, replacing the cap.
“It’s a pity it’s not something stronger,” he said, collapsing back on the ground. Elizabeth rummaged in her bag and pulled out the small bottle. She held it out to him.
“Will whisky do?” she asked and he gave her an incredulous look. “For medicinal purposes of course.”
“Of course,” he agreed, happy to accept some. The alcohol felt good as it slid down his throat. Elizabeth took a drink too before replacing the cap.
Kid sat up, a little too quickly, and he cried out, grabbing hold of his leg. Despite his makeshift tourniquet, and Elizabeth’s stitching, the bandage was already turning red with his blood. He looked around. They had no horses, they had been travelling in the wrong direction and he had no idea for how long. They could be well off their intended course, which reduced the chance of anyone finding them. In truth Kid had no idea where they were and at that moment he wasn’t too sure he wouldn’t bleed to death before they could get help. They were in trouble. Big trouble.
Kid thought he was going to be sick, but fought off the nausea as he pulled himself up and leaned back against a boulder.
“You don’t look too good,” Elizabeth told him, eyeing his pale, clammy skin.
“That’s not very encouraging,” Kid said.
“I thought you wanted me to tell you the truth from now on?”
Kid smiled weakly, but then closed his eyes and a wave of pain went through his leg.
“We can’t stay here,” he told her. “We’re way off course, no one will be looking for us here.”
“You can’t go anywhere on that leg,” she said.
“Well I can’t very well leave it behind,” he joked. Two blue eyes met her brown ones. She could see how much pain he was in, but knew he was right.
“I can go,” she told him, decisively.
“You don’t know where we are either. You’re not exactly dressed for a hike across country. You could run into…” Suddenly, Kid sat back and his eyes closed, as he fought the pain.
His eyes opened.
“We’ll go together. Can you help me up?”
“You can’t walk,” she told him, firmly.
“Well I guess we’re about to find out if that’s true,” he said, struggling to get to his feet. Taking pity on him Elizabeth held out a hand and pulled him to his feet. Kid said a few choice words, which Elizabeth chose to ignore, and then he was standing, albeit with help from Mrs. Darkly. Kid leaned against the nearest rock and looked at their possessions. They would need the canteen and a few things he had in his saddlebags. They couldn’t carry it all. Elizabeth noted the focus of his attention.
“What do you think we should take?” she asked.
“The canteen…” he looked a round, having had a sudden thought. “Did you find my gun?”
“Yes.” She took his Colt from her bag and held it out to him. Taking it Kid opened the cylinder, loaded it and then slipped it into his holster.
“Do we have any food?” he asked.
“No, I mean for later,” he explained.
“No, it was all on the stagecoach.”
“Okay. I’ll take my saddlebags. Can you carry your bag? Take only the bare essentials.”
“Yes, but I don’t see how you’re going to carry…” as she said it Kid bent down to pick up his bags. He swayed as he stood up, but she admired his determination, as he swung the bags over his shoulder.
“I need a stick or something, to help support my leg,” he stated. They both scanned the ground, and then Elizabeth found him a long branch to use as a crutch. She picked up the small carpetbag, which was now stuffed to bursting. With Kid limping beside her she set off in the general direction of Porterville.
“You fool. You left her alive?” Morgan Kramer asked, as he paced back and forth in his study. He was a tall, grey-haired man with a thin moustache. Lynch nodded, turning his hat in his hands. “You were supposed to make it look like an attack.”
“You never said that. You just said to get the money from her and stop her reaching Porterville in time for the sale. Well we did that and I want paying for it.”
“But now she can tell everyone it was you, Lynch, and that will lead them back to me,” Kramer explained.
“I’m leaving anyway. No one has any proof. It’s just her word against yours.”
Kramer glared at him.
“You want her dead?” Lynch asked with little emotion and Kramer shot him a look, considering the question.
“Yes,” he stated definitely.
“What about the man?” Lynch asked, matter-of-factly.
“Some cowboy she hired to protect her. She got a little cosy with him by all accounts. You want me to kill him too? If so, it’s gonna cost you a lot more than you’re payin’ now.”
Morgan Kramer sat down and looked at the map laid out on his desk. Was it really worth it he wondered. He looked up at Lynch.
“Kill them both,” Kramer told him. Lynch nodded.
“That’s it, I’m riding out to look for them,” Heyes stated and picking up his hat he headed for the door. When he had his hand on the door handle, he turned back to look at the sheriff. “You comin’ Lom?” he asked.
The lawman thought for a moment but did not move. For the past couple of hours he had listened to Heyes trying to find a reason for the delay and watched him pace back and forth, back and forth.
“Heyes, it’s Kid out there…” Lom reminded the younger man.
“Exactly, and he should be here by now. He’s with Elizabeth and you know I think he’s right. As much as I like that woman, trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes.” He waited for the sheriff to make up his mind.
Lom shook his head, pushed back his chair and stood up. He collected his hat from the hat stand and followed Heyes out the door.
It had been a long time since Hannibal Heyes and Lom Trevors had ridden together. Now, as they rode along a wooded track, it felt strangely familiar and comfortable and yet Heyes’ stomach would give a flip every time he caught a flash of the silver star pinned to his friend’s shirt.
“Lom d’you think you could do something about your badge?” Heyes finally asked. “It’s making me nervous.”
The sheriff smiled and pulled his vest over the badge.
“You don’t have anything to worry about from this sheriff, you know that,” he assured his friend.
“Maybe, but I’ve been on the run for too many years not to get nervous at the sight of a tin star.”
Some time later, Lom began to question precisely how Hannibal Heyes had convinced him to ride out and look for the missing stagecoach. Yes it was overdue, but he had offered valid reasons for that. Heyes was a reasonable man and yet here they were, miles from Porterville, scouring the ground for tracks, when he was sure at any moment Kid and Elizabeth would appear over the next ridge, complaining about a busted wheel on the stage.
Admittedly, he hadn’t exactly put up much of a fight when Heyes suggested they go and look. In truth he had welcomed the chance to ride again with his old friend. Riding beside him now brought back some happy memories of their early carefree outlaw days. Days when they had seemed invincible and the posses had been decidedly slower and he had been considerably younger.
“What do you think you’ll do when you get the amnesty?” Lom asked, conversationally, as they walked their horses.
“I like your confidence Lom,” Heyes said with a smile. “You said when, not if.”
“You’ll get it, it just might take a little longer than we thought,” the sheriff said.
“Maybe.” Heyes didn’t sound too convinced.
“So what will you do?” Lom asked again.
“Oh, I think I’ll become a bank manager,” Heyes said, flippantly.
Lom shot him a look and Heyes grinned back.
“Or maybe a sheriff. It worked for you. Kid would be good at that.”
“Hmm,” was Lom’s only reply.
“He would,” Heyes protested and then he thought. “Yeah, he would. I think I’d make a pretty good sheriff too.”
“Whatever you say Heyes,” Lom said with a smile and urged his horse on.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Heyes called, but the sheriff didn’t answer. “Lom? Lom!”
“So why were you carrying the money?” Kid asked Elizabeth, as he limped beside her.
“I was taking it to a man in Porterville, to pay for some land,” she told him.
“Why the secrecy?”
“My friend didn’t want anyone to know the deal was going ahead, especially his rival. The land he wants to buy gives him the rights to water,” she explained. Kid looked at her, waiting to hear more. “To his neighbour’s land.”
“So you smuggle the money in, the deal is done and the neighbour gets a nasty surprise?”
“That’s about it,” she admitted.
“Lynch said something about a sale? I thought it was a secret?”
“I don’t know how he found out, but the man selling the land agreed to sell it to my friend, Wilbur Stubbs, as long as he got the money to him by the fifteenth of the month. That was his wife’s birthday. After that he’d sell it to the highest bidder.”
“You were cutting it a bit fine,” Kid observed.
“Wilbur had trouble getting the money in cash. That was what Peterson, the man selling the land wanted.”
“So how d’you get involved with Stubbs?” Kid asked, trying, unsuccessfully, to take his mind off the pain.
“It was his family I went to stay with after I’d been shot,” she explained. “It was a way for me to say thank you.”
Kid nodded, understanding her need to repay them.
“So whose idea was the pregnancy?” he asked.
“You’re amazing,” he said, with a shake of his head.
“Why thank you Kid, you’re not so bad yourself.” She gave him an impudent smile and Kid smiled back.
“Who the heck was the guy with the arrows?” Kid asked, grimacing as he walked. “Who uses a bow and arrow these days?”
“I don’t know. I never met any of Lynch’s men. He was just at the Stubbs’ House one day when Kramer was in Denver and came to call. Wilbur got angry and they didn’t stay very long,” Elizabeth told him.
“I mean a bow and arrow. The fastest gun in the west, brought down by a bow and arrow. Sheesh, Heyes will never let me forget this.” Kid shook his head in disbelief. Elizabeth smiled sympathetically.
They walked on in silence for a while and then Kid stumbled, landing on his knees. He pulled himself up with a moan. When Kid collapsed to the ground for the third time in as many minutes, he looked up at the blue sky for help or inspiration and groaned again.
“Boy you sure do make a lot of fuss,” Elizabeth told him. “Come on, get up.”
Kid shot her a sideways look. Blood ran down his leg and the wound was throbbing with pain. He was tired and thirsty. He was surprised he had managed to cover as much ground as he had. Elizabeth stood over him.
“Come on, get up,” she repeated, firmly.
“I can’t,” he said weakly, shaking his head with despair, as pain threatened to rip his leg in two.
“Of course you can,” she told him, confidently. “You can’t lie there, you’ll die.”
“I know that,” he told her, his teeth gritted with determination. “Just give me a minute.”
She nodded and waited.
“All right, let’s go,” she said, a few moments later.
“Boy you sure are like Heyes,” he grumbled, as he tried to stand. He couldn’t find a way to put his weight on his right leg without his left one screaming in agony.
“Come on,” she said again.
“Well try harder!” she snapped. “C‘mon concentrate. If you concentrate on something enough you can make it happen,” she encouraged.
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m concentratin’ on somethin’ real hard, right now,” he told her, fixing his eyes on hers. “But it ain’t workin’.”
“Nice,” she said and grabbed hold of his arm. “Come on cowboy,” she said, as she hoisted him to his feet. He stumbled and fell into her arms, pushing her back against a tree. Their faces were a breath away from each other. Two blue eyes fixed on hers. She smiled wickedly. “You’re not going all romantic on me are you Kid?”
“No!” he told her, as he got his breath back.
“I hope you’re not trying to take advantage of me now I’ve shown you my softer side.”
“I’m not,” he stated, positively.
“I mean, you’re up, but I don’t think you’re up to it.” Elizabeth let him go and Kid hobbled backwards. She grinned, mischievously at him.
Kid closed his eyes, fighting a wave of nausea and pain. When he opened them her saw Elizabeth looking at him, with sympathy.
“C’mon,” she said, and taking his left arm, placed it around her shoulders. “Let me help you.”
Kid did not brush her away; grateful for her support. Leaving his saddlebags on the ground, they moved on.
“Heyes?” Wondering why his friend didn’t answer him, Lom looked up. Heyes’ eyes were fixed on the horizon where an ominous trail of smoke, snaked its way into the sky.
They urged their horses towards it, each man lost in his thoughts, each dreading the worst.
When they rounded a bend, Heyes pulled his horse sharply to a halt. There was just the slightest hint of fear in Hannibal Heyes’ eyes. That was enough to worry the sheriff.
Up ahead was the burnt out shell of a stagecoach. They rode towards the smouldering remains. When they reached it, Heyes climbed slowly from the saddle, his eyes scanning the ground, as he did so. He approached the charred stage and paused at the door. He did not relish the prospect of what might lay inside, but knowing he had to look, he opened the door and peered into the dark interior. His shoulders visibly relaxed, no one was there or, more accurately, no bodies were inside. Heyes closed the door.
“It’s empty,” he announced, with much relief.
“Notice anything?” Lom asked, pointing to the roof of the stage.
“Yeah, it’s burnt out,” Heyes said, not in any mood for games.
“No luggage,” Lom told him. “If it’s their coach, where’s their luggage?”
“And what about this?” Heyes said, pointing to an arrow embedded in the frame beside the door. “Are there any renegades around here?”
“Not that I know of,” Lom told him. His brows furrowed, as he studied the flight, not recognising any of the markings. “Besides, if it was Indians, I think they’d use more than one arrow, don’t you?”
Heyes looked around. It was true there were no more arrows. Now that was odd.
“It might not be theirs,” Lom said, although, somehow, they both knew that it was.
“There’s no sign of the horses,” Heyes stated, as he looked around. He studied the ground more closely. There were a few footprints, made by a man’s boot, but nothing that looked dainty or feminine.
“I wish I knew what the heck was going on Lom,” Heyes said, as he pulled himself into the saddle once more. “I wish I knew where they were.”
Kid eased himself down onto a rock and took his arm from around Elizabeth’s shoulders. She took the canteen from her bag, took a long drink and then passed it to him.
“Thanks,” he said and took a sip. There wasn’t much left; they’d have to be careful with the rest. They had only the few things Elizabeth still insisted she needed, in her carpetbag. Kid screwed up his eyes. “Is it hot?” he asked, after a moment.
“The water?” Elizabeth queried.
“No the air.”
“Not especially,” Elizabeth told him, studying his face. She reached out, placing a hand on his forehead. Kid didn’t pull away. “You’re burning up; I think you’ve got a fever. You may have the start of an infection in your leg.”
“Terrific,” he said. Elizabeth gave him a reassuring smile. “But honest,” he added and smiled back. Kid closed his eyes.
Elizabeth reached into her bag and withdrew a partly torn petticoat. Kid opened his eyes at the sound of tearing material.
“I’ll replace the bandages,” she told him, seeing his enquiring look.
“Thanks,” he said. No smart remarks this time. He was hurting more than he’d like to admit. Kneeling beside him, Elizabeth untied the bloody material and gently peeled it away from his leg. He flinched when it pulled at the skin. She poured just a little of their precious water over the wound. Most of the stitches were still in place. Carefully, Elizabeth wrapped clean pieces of her petticoat around Kid’s leg.
When she had finished she looked up at him. Kid had his eyes closed. She knew they were in trouble. He would not be able to walk much further and she had no idea how far it was to Porterville. She looked up ahead and suddenly saw a trail of smoke rising into the blue sky.
“Kid,” she said and opening his eyes he looked at her. “Look.” She pointed off into the distance.
Kid squinted to see what she was indicating.
“What do you think it is?” Elizabeth asked.
“I don’t know, but I sure hope it’s help,” he stated.
“Or it could be them,” she said sadly.
“Well there’s only one way to find out,” the blond man told her, as he pulled himself to his feet.
Heyes and Lom left the smouldering stagecoach and followed the wheel tracks carved in the parched earth. Neither man spoke for a while, each lost in his own thoughts; each dreading what they would find further along the trail.
“The coach was sure following an odd route,” Lom said, eventually breaking the silence.
It did nothing to help the growing feeling of unease Heyes had.
Elizabeth Darkly was sure Kid was delirious. He was muttering incoherently to himself and was apt to stop, suddenly and shoot suspicious glances at the bushes or the trail behind them, as if convinced they were being followed.
“What’s wrong?” Elizabeth had asked, patiently, the first few times.
“Nothin’,” had been his reply on each occasion.
Now she just took it in her stride and didn’t ask.
“D’you wanna marry Heyes?” Kid asked, suddenly.
Elizabeth stopped walking and propped him up against a tree. His speech was becoming slurred.
“Where did that question come from?” she asked, looking him in the eye.
“Me,” he said, confused.
“I mean why ask that?”
“I’m interested to know what you want from him,” Kid told her, resting his head back against the bark.
“We don’t know each other well enough to get married,” she stated.
“I’d say you two know each other real well,” he said.
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Well you must know whatcha feel.” Kid began to sway. “I thought women always looked ahead. A man casts one glance in your direction and you’re tryin’ on his name for size, an’ pickin’ out a dress. Elizabeth Heyes. I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t been seein’ how you like the sound of Elizabeth Curry too.”
Elizabeth stared at him shaking her head in disbelief.
“Well you sure have a high opinion of yourself,” she stated, although she could see it was partly the fever talking.
“Well you keep throwin’ yourself at me, every chance you get,” he reminded her.
“I told you that’s just a bit of fun. I prefer Hannibal.”
“Don’t know why. Don’t know what he’s got that I ain’t.” Kid’s eyes were no longer focussing on her. Sweat ran down his face.
Elizabeth watched him swaying. Kid gave her a soppy grin and then she kicked his good leg out from under him. He went down hard. Kid cursed and cried out in pain as he hit the ground.
“What the hell d’you do that for?” he asked through gritted teeth, as he lay on the ground.
“I thought it might help bring you to your senses,” she said, standing over him.
“What?” He looked up at her, confusion in his eyes.
“You were starting to talk nonsense,” she told him.
“I was not!” he protested.
“I think you just made a pass at me,” she told him and he looked disgusted.
“Oh,” he said, considering this. “Well thanks for stoppin’ me.”
“You’re welcome,” she said.
Elizabeth looked down at the man at her feet. She took in the blood soaked bandage, his pale face and the blue eyes that now held her gaze. Elizabeth held out a hand, which he took in his own.
“C’mon,” she said and pulled him to his feet once more. He put his arm around her shoulders and they set off towards the rising smoke.
“I’m don’t like it Lom,” Heyes said, as his eyes scanned the hillside. “Just where did that stagecoach come from? This isn’t the route it should have been on.” He studied the wheel marks in the dirt.
“I know,” was all the sheriff said. He had to admit, things were not looking good.
“Elizabeth, I can’t go on,” Kid told her. His breathing was fast and shallow, his eyes were heavy and his face covered in sweat.
Elizabeth felt his weight increase on her shoulders.
“Kid, it’s not far.”
“I can’t, I just can’t,” he said weakly. His knees began to give way. Elizabeth could not hold him up and he collapsed to the ground. Elizabeth sat down beside him. “You go on. Leave me…here. No sense…both…” Kid lay back, his eyes closed, his breathing almost too shallow to detect.
“Kid! Kid!” she cried, but he didn’t respond. She shook him. “Damn it, don’t you die on me! Hannibal will never speak to me again if you do.”
“Might be…worth it…just for that,” Kid gasped suddenly and, startled, she hit him on the arm. Kid smiled weakly and then passed out.
“Oh don’t you dare!” Elizabeth said and shook him again, but this time Kid’s eyes did not open. Elizabeth sat in the dirt beside him. She looked around. They were near a stream. Perhaps she should make a camp here for the night. The trail of smoke had disappeared. Elizabeth felt very alone.
“You know I’m really proud of you and Kid, proud of what you’ve done and what you’re trying to do,” Lom told Heyes, as they rode.
“Lom…” Heyes said, as his eyes scanned the terrain ahead for any sign of Elizabeth or his partner.
“No, you should know it. When you two showed up that night, waving that pamphlet, I thought it was a joke. But once I knew you boys were serious, I have to admit I was pleased. I’ve always been worried something would happen to you. I’d read about a bank or train robbery, where someone took it upon themselves to play the hero and got themselves killed. Then you and Kid would be wanted for murder. Or the railroad would get fed up with you and raise the reward or hire a bunch of bounty hunters. I expected to open the newspaper one day and see a picture of you two laid out on a boardwalk somewhere with some smug looking…”
Heyes looked at his friend; saw the sadness on the lawman’s face.
“You tryin’ to cheer me up, Lom?” Heyes asked, jokingly.
“Just hear me out. I want you to get that amnesty, just as much as I wanted my own. Maybe more so, because I don’t know how long it will be before Kid’s gun gets you both on a murder charge or killed.”
“D’you really believe that, Lom?” Heyes asked, suppressing his anger. “Kid’s not a killer.”
“Makes no difference to some.”
“It does to me.”
“And to me,” Lom assured him, hoping to calm the younger man’s rising anger. “But not to others.”
“Kid has never killed anyone in cold blood.”
“But he has killed and he wouldn’t flinch from it if he had to do it again. No one’s gonna believe the fastest gun in the west hasn’t killed someone, before he had the chance to draw.”
“Do you think the Governor thinks the same way?” Heyes asked, with concern.
“Not anymore,” Lom said confidently, giving Heyes a reassuring smile.
Heyes didn’t say anything for a moment and then, when he spoke his voice was little more than a whisper.
“I’ve watched Kid draw and wondered if this was it, the time he came up against someone faster, someone deadlier. Or maybe there’d be another man out of sight, with a rifle pointed at his back; someone I didn’t see in time.” Heyes swallowed. “I watch and I don’t say a thing, Lom. I don’t let him know how scared I am for him, because if he knew, he might just be that little bit slower.” Heyes looked up and found Lom staring at him, understanding in his eyes. “I want that amnesty Lom.” Lom nodded.
Elizabeth’s head shot up. She had heard something. Straining her ears, she listened. It was the sound of horses. Reaching over, she removed Kid’s gun from its holster and headed towards the top of the rise. Creeping slowly to the edge, she looked down on two men riding towards her. There was a flash of light, as the sun caught something metal on one man’s chest. The man riding beside the sheriff wore a black hat with a silver band.
“Hannibal,” she whispered and a wave of relief and excitement swept over here. Elizabeth was startled by the strength of the reaction this man induced in her.
Standing up, Elizabeth began to wave frantically at the riders.
“Over here! Over here!” she called and two heads looked up at her. Lom pointed and they turned their horses.
“Elizabeth!” Heyes cried, dropping from the saddle, as soon as he reached her. Elizabeth ran towards him. Heyes caught her in his arms, pulling her close. Elizabeth held on tight, still struggling to understand the vulnerability she felt.
“Oh thank God you’re here,” she gasped, enjoying the comforting feel of his arms around her and just wanting to hold on tight.
“Are you all right? What happened? Where’s Kid?” Heyes asked in a rush.
“I’m so glad to see you,” she told him, finally pulling away from Heyes. Her eyes met his and he smiled.
“Elizabeth are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she assured him. “Hello Lom,” Elizabeth said, turning to the sheriff.
“Elizabeth,” he said, touching the brim of his hat.
“Are you hurt?” Heyes asked, checking her over. He saw the bruise on her cheek and reaching up, he ran his thumb gently over the mark. It was then that he noticed the blood on her dress. She saw what he was looking at.
“It’s not mine,” she said, but did not elaborate. Heyes’ eyes met hers.
“Kid’s?” he asked, and her expression gave him his answer. The colour drained from his face. “How bad?”
“He’s alive,” she added, quickly, but he was still worried. What could she tell him?
“Where is he?” Heyes asked, a trace of fear detectable in his voice.
“He was hit by an arrow. He’s just over there,” Elizabeth said, waving a hand towards the hill.
“Show me,” Heyes said, climbing back onto his horse. He kicked his foot free from the stirrup and held out a hand to her. Elizabeth took hold, placed her foot in the stirrup and he pulled her up behind him. Slipping her arms around his waist, Elizabeth clung on tight. Heyes urged his horse on and headed up the hill. Despite knowing he was worried, Elizabeth breathed in his scent and listened to the beat of his heart. She was surprised by the feeling of safety his closeness gave her.
When they reached the clearing, Heyes could see someone lying on the ground beside a small fire. Once Elizabeth had climbed down, he quickly swung himself from the saddle and went to his friend’s side. Kid’s eyes were closed, his breathing shallow. The blond man’s face was covered in sweat. Kneeling beside his partner, Heyes looked at the lacy blood soaked bandage around his leg and the belt acting as a tourniquet. He placed a hand on his partner’s forehead. Kid was burning up.
“Kid,” Heyes said, gently. Kid did not respond. Heyes began to undo the bandage so that he could take a look at the wound.
“Sweetheart please,” Kid suddenly muttered.
Heyes looked up at his friend, an amused smile on his face, despite his concern. He peeled off the first layer of blood soaked cloth.
“Sweetheart please…Just leave it,” Kid pleaded and Heyes watched, as his friend began to regain consciousness.
“Easy,” he said, as two bleary, blue eyes looked up at him.
“Heyes?” Kid asked, hopefully.
“Well I sure ain’t sweetheart,” Heyes told him with a smile, but Kid was too confused to understand.
“It doesn’t matter,” Heyes said, as Lom Trevors joined them and placed his saddlebags on the ground.
“Lom?” Kid asked, weakly.
“Yeah Kid, I’m here too,” Lom said.
“Must be a dream,” Kid muttered. “You can’t…both…be here…”
Lom looked at Heyes with concern, as Kid slowly began to fade into unconsciousness once more.
“How bad is it?” the sheriff asked, looking at the blood soaked bandage Heyes had removed. The dark-haired man examined the wound and then his eyes met the sheriff’s and Lom knew; it was bad.
“We have to get him to a doctor,” Heyes stated. “I can take him on my horse. Lom can you take Elizabeth?”
“Of course,” the lawman told him. “But it’ll be dark before we get to Porterville.”
“I know, but I don’t think we can wait until morning do you?”
The sheriff looked at his injured friend.
“What’s the matter Lom, afraid you won’t be able to find your own town in the dark?” Heyes joked, trying to hide how worried he was.
Lom gave him a look and the decision was made.
“Alright,” Heyes said. “Let me put a fresh dressing on this first. Then we’ll get going.”
Heyes fashioned a clean dressing for Kid’s wound out of the petticoat strips Elizabeth handed him. When he was finished, he returned to his horse. Elizabeth followed him.
“Kid said you were pregnant,” Heyes stated, as Elizabeth stood beside him, while he untied the reins from around a tree.
“I was. Well not really, but I looked it. It’s a long story,” she said and gave him a smile.
“I look forward to hearing it,” he said, unemotionally, not facing her. He led his horse to where Kid lay.
He turned, hearing the question in her voice.
“I thought you were pregnant,” he said, his expression serious and he headed back to Kid. She watched him lead his horse away, realising what it had meant to him.
Between them, Heyes and Lom pulled Kid to his feet. Kid cried out, but did not regain consciousness. They got him to Heyes’ horse and somehow, into the saddle. Heyes pulled himself up behind his partner.
“Hold on Kid,” he said, as his friend groaned and slumped forward. “It won’t be long. We’re gonna get you back to Lom’s and get a doctor to take a look at your leg.” He wasn’t sure how much Kid heard or understood.
Elizabeth climbed up behind the sheriff and they headed back to Porterville.
When they were not far from town, Lom and Elizabeth rode on ahead, to find the doctor and prepare for Kid’s arrival. It was dark by the time Heyes pulled his horse to a halt in front of Lom’s house. Lights burned in several rooms. The front door opened and the sheriff stepped onto the porch.
“Dr. Colby’s waiting inside,” he said.
Together, Heyes and Lom eased Kid from the horse, carried him into the house, and up the stairs, to a bedroom.
Doctor Edwin Colby was a grey-haired man in his fifties. When they had placed Kid on the bed he tried to shoo the others out, but Heyes refused to go.
“I’m staying,” he said and seeing the determined look in the young man’s eyes, the doctor did not waste time arguing.
“Alright, help me remove his jeans,” the doctor said, as he began to undo the belt around Kid’s leg. When they were done, Dr. Colby unwrapped the bandages.
“Hmmm,” he said as he got his first look at the entry wound. Heyes wasn’t sure if that was a good ‘Hmmm’ or a bad one. “Ah ha,” the doctor said when the exit wound was revealed. Kid groaned as the doctor examined his leg.
“Is there anything I can do?” Heyes asked, anxiously, hoping the doctor would give him a task to help take his mind off his concern for his friend.
“Not yet,” the older man said.
“Will he be all right?” Heyes asked, somewhat impatiently.
The doctor detected the concern in the younger man’s voice. He looked up at the worried brown eyes.
“I’m going to clean this up,” the doctor explained. “He’s lost a lot of blood by the looks of it, but I think you and your friends have done all the right things. Whoever stitched him up saved his leg and probably his life.”
“So is he going to be all right?” Heyes asked again.
“I don’t know for sure,” the doctor admitted, voicing his concerns, as he turned back to Kid. “During the war, with wounds such as this, I would probably have had to amputate…”
“WHAT?” The colour drained from Heyes face.
“Oh no, no, I’m not going to do that,” the doctor said quickly, not realising he had spoken this thoughts out loud. He saw how scared Heyes was. “Look I’m going to get on. I need some warm water. Can you fetch some for me?”
“Sure Doc,” Heyes said and left the room, happy to have something to do and be able to help.
Having got rid of the anxious, young man, Dr. Colby was able to return his attention to his patient.
“Now then son, let’s see what we can do for you,” he said.
When the doctor had finished, Kid lay beneath the covers, a clean bandage over the re-stitched arrow wound. The doctor turned towards Heyes and placed a reassuring hand on his arm.
“He’s resting peacefully. Try not to worry. I’ll come back in the morning to check on him. By the look of you, you could do with some rest too.” Dr. Colby left and Heyes stood leaning with his hands on the closed door, taking slow deep breaths.
“Heyes?” a voice from the bed called weakly. The dark-haired man spun around.
“Hey, how you doing?” Heyes asked, moving quickly to his partner’s side and trying to sound cheerful.
“Lynch,” the blond man said.
“What about him?” He knew the name. Elizabeth had explained what had happened.
“I think…he’ll be…back,” Kid told him. “Be…careful.”
“I always am,” Heyes told him, trying to allay his partner’s fears.
“You just get better, partner, okay?”
“Jus’…be…careful,” Kid said, as his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.
“I will, if you promise to get better,” Heyes said and sat down heavily in a nearby armchair.
Heyes stayed in the armchair, watching his friend, not willing to leave him until he knew he would be all right. He had been worried about his partner and Mrs. Darkly for several days. He had had little sleep for the past couple of nights and, as he sat there in the dim glow of the lamp, his eyes began to feel heavy.
Lom quietly opened the door and entered the room, casting a glance at Kid, as he did so. He saw Heyes, struggling to fight sleep, his head dropping and then rising in quick jerks. When a floorboard creaked Heyes’ head snapped up and he shot a glance at the sheriff. He pretended to be wide awake. However Lom had known both young men, for too many years, to be fooled.
“I’ve put some blankets on the sofa downstairs,” he informed his friend. “Go get some sleep. I’ll keep watch.”
“I’m fine Lom,” Heyes lied.
“You were falling asleep. Go.” Lom’s tone was firm and Heyes was too tired to argue. Seeing the sense in Lom’s suggestion he stood up. When he reached the door he stopped and looked back at Kid.
“Lom if he…” but the sheriff cut him off.
“I’ll wake you. I promise.”
Heyes nodded his satisfaction and closed the door behind him.
Lom sat down in the seat Heyes had just vacated. He looked at the young blond man, lying in bed. The doctor was worried about infection, but had not told Heyes. Lom knew Kid was very weak. He had survived equally bad wounds, but just how much could one body take? The sheriff sat back in the chair. Kid was a fighter. He hoped he had enough fight in him this time too.
Lom had given Elizabeth Darkly his bedroom. Until her head touched the pillow, she had not realised just how tired she was. However, her sleep, when it came, was disturbed. Eventually when she woke for the third time, she decided enough was enough, and got up. Having abandoned her bag, Elizabeth had slept in her underclothes. Lom would be sending someone to find the rest of their belongings the next day. Finding Lom’s robe hanging on the back of the door she put it on, tying the cord around her waist. She crept quietly downstairs, to the kitchen, to make some coffee. When it was ready she poured herself a cup and stood looking at her reflection in the glass of the kitchen window.
“I thought I smelled coffee,” Lom said behind her and Elizabeth jumped.
“I didn’t hear you come down,” she said.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to startle you,” he apologised.
“Want a cup?” She held up the coffee pot.
“Yes please. It’ll help keep me awake,” Lom stated.
“Is Kid all right?” Elizabeth asked.
“He’s still asleep,” Lom said, as he studied the beautiful dark-haired woman. “I like your robe, I have one just like it,” he said with a smile.
“I hope you don’t mind?”
“Not at all. It look’s better on you.”
“Oh I doubt that. You’re a very handsome man, Lom Trevors. I’m particularly fond of that moustache,” Elizabeth said and was surprised to see the sheriff blush. Elizabeth handed him his coffee. Out of the corner of her eyes she watched as he smoothed down his moustache with a thumb and forefinger. Elizabeth smiled.
Elizabeth took a cup of coffee into Heyes, but he was still sleeping soundly. Despite years on the trail listening for the slightest sound that might herald an approaching posse, he did not stir. He knew he was safe at Lom’s. Heyes was clearly exhausted. Lom told her he had not slept until he’d found Kid. Elizabeth set the coffee down on a nearby table and studied the sleeping man. Heyes lay on his side, one arm stretched out in front, the blanket having fallen half onto the floor. He looked so peaceful.
Careful not to wake him, she picked up the blanket and covered him up. A strand of his hair had fallen across his face and she had the urge to reach out and brush it aside. She resisted temptation and moved to a nearby armchair. Sitting down, Elizabeth pulled her feet up under her and sipped on her coffee.
When she looked up again, she saw Lom standing in the doorway. The lawman smiled at her.
“I’ll be with Kid,” he mouthed and she nodded her understanding.
Elizabeth watched Heyes sleeping. She longed to join him on the sofa and snuggle up beside him. Since their initial reunion they had not been alone together. Heyes was worried about his partner and she knew his mind would be on nothing else, until he knew Kid was going to be all right.
As the early light of dawn broke through a crack in the curtains, Elizabeth took a book from the shelves and sat flicking through the pages.
Some time later, hearing Heyes stir, she looked up from the book and found two sleepy brown eyes watching her. Heyes smiled.
“Mornin’,” he said, rubbing his eyes. He eased himself up onto one elbow. “You been there all night?”
“No,” she assured him.
Heyes threw back the blanket and swung his legs onto the floor. His hair was ruffled and again Elizabeth had the urge to straighten it. Heyes ran his hands through his hair, pushing it back from his face. He yawned and stretched.
Putting down the book, Elizabeth walked towards him.
“Want some coffee?” she asked.
“Yes, thank you.” He thought for a moment. “What time is it?”
“A little after eight,” she told him.
“You were up early?” he asked.
“I couldn’t sleep, but you clearly needed yours.”
“Lom’s with him. He’s fine,” she told him.
Heyes pulled on his boots and stood up. He noticed the robe she wore.
“Is that Lom’s?”
“Yes.” Elizabeth moved closer. “Can I get you anything other than coffee?” she asked seductively, as she played with the robe’s cord, which she had tied in a loose bow at one side.
“What do you have on offer?” he asked, his eyes sparkling as they met hers.
“Well…” she said and pulled the cord. The bow came undone and the robe dropped open. Heyes could see her lacy underwear. He slipped his hands inside the robe and around her waist.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to face Lom in this robe again,” he said, as he pulled her close. His mouth covered hers and he kissed her.
His kiss grew hungrier as he pulled her close. He breathed in her perfume. Elizabeth gasped, as she responded, and then suddenly he pulled away from her. Heyes saw the confusion in her eyes.
“I can’t, I’m sorry,” he said. He looked away.
“It’s alright,” she assured him. He took hold of her hands and ran his fingers gently over the back of them, lost in thought. Then he looked into her eyes.
“I thought you were pregnant,” he said, placing a hand gently on her abdomen.
“Oh Hannibal, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise…I…”
“It’s just something we don’t talk about. We don’t let ourselves dream about…a family.”
He looked up, embarrassed.
“Sorry,” he said. “Probably just as well. Imagine a lot of little Hannibal Heyes’ running about.”
“I think it would be wonderful,” she told him.
“You didn’t know me as a child.”
“I’m sure you were adorable.”
“I don’t remember that adjective being used too often. On Kid, yeah, but me…?” At the mention of his partner’s name his face clouded over.
Elizabeth reached out and placed a hand on his arm.
Heyes cast a quick glance towards the stairs.
“Kid?” she asked.
Heyes didn’t answer.
“Hannibal, he’s going to be all right.”
“I hafta get back to him,” Heyes said. His eyes met hers. “You look lovely this morning, Elizabeth.” He smiled gently and then headed for the stairs.
It was noon when Lom returned to relieve Heyes. He had been into town, to check that Deputy Harker had everything under control. Then he returned to his house to catch up on a couple of hours sleep. Heyes didn’t want to leave his partner. Kid’s temperature was up and he was rambling in his sleep. But once again the sheriff convinced him to trust him with Kid’s care and ‘go get some fresh air’. Heyes sat on the porch staring at the mid-day sky. The door opened and Elizabeth stepped out. He smiled and she sat down beside him. They were silent for a while.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” he said, suddenly.
“That’s all right. I understand,” she told him.
“What do you want from me Elizabeth?” he asked, turning to face her.
Elizabeth looked at him, surprised by his question, and met his enquiring brown eyes.
“Fun,” she told him, after a moments thought.
“Fun?” He was surprised.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Can there be more?”
“No,” he told her honestly.
“Then I’ll settle for the occasional bit of fun.” She paused. “And I quite like the cuddling up.”
He turned to face her, his eyebrows raised, an interested grin on his face.
“Oh you like that?”
“Yes, it’s not bad.”
“Quite pleasant in fact.”
“Quite pleasant?” he asked, intrigued by her description and astounded by her underestimation.
“Hmmm,” she said.
“You sure I’m not disappointing you?” he asked, flippantly.
He shot her a look.
“If I have any complaints, I’ll let you know,” she said and patted his knee affectionately.
Heyes shook his head and she reached over and took his hand in hers. They sat together watching the sun cast shadows across a distant field. She saw Heyes’ shoulders sag, his expression darken.
“He’ll be alright,” Elizabeth told him, knowing who his thoughts had turned to.
“Thank you for taking care of him.”
“That’s twice now. He owes me big time,” she told him and Heyes chuckled.
“Yeah, he does and he won’t like that.”
“I’ll try not to tease him too much.”
“Now why don’t I believe you?” he asked and she smiled innocently.
“Go on, go check on blue eyes,” she said.
Heyes stood up, her hand still in his.
“Elizabeth, I’m sorry, I…”
“It’s alright. We both know.”
They held each other’s gaze for a moment. He leaned forward and gently kissed her lips.
“Go see Kid,” she said and he went into the house.
The fever had taken hold and Kid did not seem to be getting any better. His breathing had become laboured and shallow. Heyes had done a lot of pacing by the time the doctor returned that afternoon. Delirium, Heyes had seen before, and he knew how to cope with that. You just waited for the fever to break. But this; the silence; the need to strain his ears just to hear Kid breathing; this scared him more.
“He’s weaker isn’t he?” Heyes asked, when the doctor examined Kid’s sweat covered body.
“From the looks of the scars on his body I’d say he’s been shot a few times before,” the doctor observed, not answering Heyes’ question, as he felt the blond man’s pulse.
Heyes gave a slight nod.
“There’s only so much a body can take,” the doctor told him, laying Kid’s arm back down.
“What are you saying Doc?” Heyes asked, anxiously.
“I’m saying he has a fight on his hands.”
“Yeah, well he’s a good fighter,” Heyes stated, defensively.
“He’s going to have to be.”
Heyes stood back, watching his friend suffer, angry at the men who had done this, angry at himself for allowing Kid to face them alone, while he selfishly played poker. But most of all, he was angry at his own inability to do anything to help his friend. He watched as the doctor removed the bandage once more.
“The wound’s infected. I’m going to have to drain it. I just hope I can save his leg,” the doctor proclaimed, as he looked up from the bed.
Anger suddenly welled up in Heyes and he grabbed the doctor by the front of his shirt. He pushed the man against the wall. The doctor’s expression was shocked and stunned.
“Now you listen to me. You are going to save his leg and his life. Do you hear me?”
“I hear you Mr. Smith,” the doctor said calmly, clearly having encountered anxious friends and relatives before. “I am also greatly touched by your faith in me, but I am a doctor not a miracle worker.”
Heyes glared at him.
“I promise you; I will do all I can for your friend, if you promise not to pin me up against the wall anymore.”
Heyes suddenly realised what he was doing and let the older man go, stepping back, shocked by his own actions. He looked up and the doctor smiled, understandingly at him. Heyes looked ashamed.
“I’m sorry Doc…I…” Heyes stumbled, apologetically.
“You’re worried, I know and I do understand. Now will you help me look after your friend?”
Hannibal Heyes nodded.
As he sat watching his partner battling for life, Heyes brooded; thinking about the man who had done this to Kid and planning his own form of revenge, should anything happen to his partner. He felt a knot tighten inside him.
Elizabeth entered the room, carrying a basin of water and a cloth. Heyes watched her from the armchair, as she placed the basin on the bedside table and sat down on the bed beside his friend. Taking the cloth, Elizabeth began to wipe it across the blond man’s forehead, then over his chest and down his arms. The cooling touch seemed to soothe Kid. Elizabeth turned and looked up at Heyes, giving him a smile. The dark-haired man’s eyes were sad and distant. Placing the cloth in the basin she stood up and walked over to the man she cared so much about. Crouching down in front of him, she put her hand on his.
“Why don’t you go and get some rest?” she suggested. Heyes’ eyes had a haunted look.
“I hafta be here, if he wakes up.”
“I’ll call you if he does,” she told him.
“I hafta be here, if he…” but he could not finish his sentence.
“If he what?” she asked and Heyes turned two brown eyes on hers. Elizabeth understood. “He’s going to be all right.”
“You don’t know that,” he told her. “No one knows that. I’ll stay with him.”
She knew it would be pointless to argue with him. Elizabeth stood up, collected the basin and headed for the door.
“I’ll bring you up some coffee,” she told him before she left.
“How is he?” Lom asked when Elizabeth entered the kitchen.
“Kid or Hannibal?” she asked, placing the basin on the table and sinking into a chair.
“Both I guess.”
“Kid looks so weak. When he was at Devil’s Hole, he was hurt, but I’ve never seen him look like this before. I’m scared for him, Lom. Scared for them both.”
Lom nodded. He understood. He’d seen it too. He was worried about Kid, but he would not voice his concerns to Heyes.
“And Heyes?” he asked, although he had a pretty good idea how he would be.
“He looks exhausted. I think he’s worried Kid won’t…” She suddenly buried her face in her hands. “Oh this is all my fault.”
“No it isn’t,” he said coming to her side.
“I tricked Kid. I…”
“You didn’t fire that arrow into him and you didn’t ask anyone to hold up the stage, did you.” He looked down at her. “Did you?” he asked firmly.
“No, of course not.”
He smiled, relieved.
“But if I’d told him the truth from the start, he’d have been more careful. Kid might have realised sooner what was going on.”
Lom placed a hand on her shoulder, not sure what else to do.
“Heyes,” Kid said weakly and Heyes looked up at his friend.
“Hey, how you doing?” Heyes asked, trying not to let on how worried he was.
“I don’t feel so good,” Kid said and Heyes realised how much effort it was taking his friend just to speak.
“You’re gonna be fine,” the dark-haired man assured him.
“I don’t know Heyes…I don’t think…I can fight it…this time.”
Heyes was shocked.
“What?” he asked angrily. “What do you mean, you can’t fight it? Of course you can. You’ve been hurt before, it just takes time to get better, you know that.”
“I…I don’t feel…” It was taking all Kid’s strength just to speak. “Don’t feel strong…strong enough.”
“I know Kid, but you gotta fight it.”
“I don’t think…I’m gonna…make it…Heyes.”
“Now don’t you talk like that!” Heyes was angry now. “Never tell me you’re giving up, d’you hear me?”
Kid looked at him through half open eyes.
“Go with…Elizabeth…Go to…just go with her.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Will you stop talking like this? You’re beginning to scare me Kid,” Heyes told him truthfully.
“I’m…sor…sorry. I…I…just can’t…fight…it…I’m…so…tired.” Kid’s eyes closed and Heyes could no longer hear him breathing.
“Kid? Kid?” Heyes was on his feet. He grabbed Kid’s shoulders and began to shake him. “KID! KID!”
At that moment the door opened and Lom and the doctor entered the room. Dr. Colby was quickly at the bedside. He tried to push Heyes out of the way, but Heyes would not leave his partner. Lom had to pull him off and hold him back while the doctor examined Kid.
“Get him out!” the doctor ordered.
“I’m not going anywhere!” Heyes yelled angrily and Lom knew it would be pointless to try and remove him from the room. They waited and the doctor hovered over Kid’s lifeless body. Try as he might, Heyes could not see Kid breathing; could not see the slightest movement in his chest. He had no idea what the doctor was doing or why it was taking him so long. Lom maintained his firm grip on his friend.
“Doc?” Heyes asked desperately. The doctor did not say anything. “Doc, please?”
“Hannibal! Hannibal! HEYES!” a voice yelled.
Heyes opened his eyes and came face to face with Elizabeth Darkly, crouching down in front of him. She was shaking his arm. Elizabeth looked worried.
Heyes looked scared and confused. He looked towards the bed, where his partner still lay. Heyes was swiftly on his feet.
“He’s fine. He’s sleeping,” Elizabeth told him.
Heyes studied his friend’s face, watching him breathe. Reaching out he placed his hand on his partner’s head, slightly ruffling some of his blond curls. He felt cooler.
“You’re okay,” Heyes said, giving an embarrassed smile. It had been a dream, or more correctly a nightmare. “Don’t do that to me for real Kid, okay? Don’t ever do that to me for real.”
Clearly shaken, Heyes turned away from his partner and saw Elizabeth looking at him with concern.
He smiled self-consciously and reaching out, she placed a comforting hand on his arm.
“Bad dream?” she asked. “You were calling out.”
“I guess,” he said. Then he looked up at her, thoughtfully, and smiled. “You called me Heyes.”
“Well I needed to wake you up. Don’t worry it won’t happen again.” She turned away and headed for the door. “Are you staying or coming down for something to eat?”
Heyes looked at Kid.
“I’ll sit with Kid for a bit longer,” he told her, not wanting to admit that he just wanted to watch his partner breathe, just to make sure Kid could.
“Kid called you sweetheart,” Heyes said, finally smiling at her. “Anything I should know?”
She walked back to him.
“Well, Kid wanted to wait, but I suppose I can tell you, in the circumstances.”
Heyes looked at her, intrigued.
“He asked me to marry him and I said yes,” Elizabeth told him.
Heyes raised his eyebrows at her. He bit back a smile.
“Oh alright, that’s not true. I have my heart set on another. He’s a handsome, dark-haired devil.” She moved even closer, and Heyes smiled at her. Elizabeth placed a hand flat on his chest and licked her lips.
“He has such warm brown eyes.” Her eyes held his and he smiled, appreciatively. “Do you think Lom will have me?” she asked with a smile.
“D’you want me to ask him?” Heyes asked, not missing a beat.
There was a groan from the bed and Heyes’ expression was suddenly serious. Kid’s eyes flickered open. He looked up at the man and woman standing before him.
“I didn’t…ask her…to marry me,” he said and Heyes grinned, with relief.
Heyes and Elizabeth exchanged a smile.
“I know Kid,” his partner told him, his voice kind, pleased that at last, his partner had regained consciousness.
“She’s yours Heyes, all yours,” the blond man told him, as he drifted off to sleep once more.
Heyes smiled with relief.
Kid Curry opened his eyes and saw wallpaper and a light through a billowing curtain. He was lying in bed. Soft clean sheets covered his aching body. At first he had no idea where he was, although there was something familiar about the room’s décor. He was aware of an ache in his left thigh. He pulled himself onto his elbows and as he sat up a pain shot through his leg. He clamped a hand on his thigh.
“Oh, damn it!” he cried out and lay back down on the pillow. That hurt. That really hurt.
“Oh, you’re awake,” a woman’s voice said and lifting his head he came face to face with Elizabeth Darkly standing in the doorway. She held a steaming cup of coffee in her hand. Elizabeth smiled sweetly at him. “How do you feel?”
The hold up, the arrow, the long trudge all came back to him like a horrible nightmare. Kid Curry closed his eyes. Had he dreamed that Heyes was there and Lom too?
“Want some coffee?” Elizabeth asked. He nodded and gingerly pulled himself into a sitting position, leaning back against the bedstead. The room swam as he sat upright.
Elizabeth held out a coffee cup towards him and Kid took it from her. It shook in his hand, spilling several hot drops onto his chest. She took it from him and held it to his lips. Kid did not protest and took a sip. His eyes opened wider.
“Heyes is here,” he said, meeting her eyes. “That’s his coffee,” Kid stated, knowingly.
“It is,” she confirmed. “Awful isn’t it?” She smiled and Kid looked relieved.
“He and Lom are downstairs. They found us,” she explained. “We’re at Lom’s house. I’ll go and get Hannibal,” she said, as Kid leaned back, with a sigh and closed his eyes once more.
Kid opened his eyes sometime later and saw Hannibal Heyes sitting in the nearby armchair, reading. He smiled. What else would his friend be doing, if he had to wait?
“Hey,” he said, his voice little more than a rasp.
Heyes looked up over the book and smiled when he saw Kid was awake. He put down the book, careful to keep his place.
“So you decided to wake up at last,” Heyes said with a smile. There had been a time when he wasn’t so sure Kid would and that had terrified him.
“How long have I been out?” Kid asked, pulling himself up a little on the pillow. He grimaced as he did so.
“Long enough,” Heyes told him, vaguely.
Kid nodded. It felt like a long time. His head was fuzzy.
“Got any water?” Kid asked. His throat was so dry. Heyes poured him a glassful from the jug Lom had left. Kid took the glass and drank slowly and, when he was finished, Heyes took it back from him.
“So you got hurt again, huh?” Heyes said, as he looked down at his friend.
“Yeah,” Kid replied, weakly.
“Can’t you stay outta trouble for five minutes?”
“I guess not. You know me,” Kid replied.
“Yeah, I do, all too well.” Heyes looked at the floor. “I’m glad you’re okay Kid. You had me worried for a while.”
“Sorry,” Kid said, realising how anxious Heyes had been. “Any sign of Lynch?” he asked, changing the subject.
“No. No one’s been here. I think they’ve moved on.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. I got a feeling about him and he knew Elizabeth.”
“I know, she explained what it was all about. Lom’s going after Kramer.”
“You can’t let him go on his own,” Kid stated, trying to get up.
“He’s not,” Heyes told him, pushing him back. “He’s sent for back up. Now will you stay down!”
“Heyes, I need my clothes,” Kid said, ignoring his friend and struggling against him to sit up.
“No you don’t, you’re not going anywhere,” Heyes stated, firmly.
“Heyes, you can’t let Lom face them on his own.”
“Didn’t you hear me? He’s not; some Marshall’s are coming in.”
“And you’re still here? Heyes you hafta leave you could get caught.”
“It’s all right Kid really. Will you stop that! You can’t go anywhere you’re naked and I’m not bringing you your clothes. Now stay in bed.” Heyes walked to the door. “Stay there, Kid. Sheesh and I was worried when you were unconscious!” he stated and left the room.
Elizabeth was walking up the stairs as Heyes reached the top. He looked down at her.
“That man is the most stubborn…” but a sudden thud, interrupted his tirade. Heyes turned quickly and headed back to Kid’s room, with Elizabeth close on his heels. When he opened the door Heyes found Kid face down on the floor, in a tangle of bedclothes.
“Kid what the…!” Heyes exclaimed, as he entered the room.
“I fell,” Kid groaned.
“I told you to stay in bed!” Heyes snapped.
“I tried to. Damn gravity.”
Elizabeth stood in the doorway and looked down at the blond man lying on the floor. He was naked and Elizabeth smiled at the view.
“Nice butt,” she said.
Kneeling beside his prone partner, Heyes turned and shot her a look of disbelief.
“The gun,” she said innocently, pointing to Kid’s Colt hanging in its holster on the bedpost. “Smooth to handle I imagine,” she added.
Heyes glared at her.
“You just keep your imagination to yourself,” Heyes told her, as he threw a blanket across his friend. “Now will you please shut the door?”
Elizabeth stepped into the room and closed the door.
“From the other side,” Heyes said, with exasperation. She smiled wickedly.
“Are you sure I can’t help?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Now go away,” he told her firmly.
Elizabeth winked at him and left the room.
On the floor, Kid groaned.
“I’m gettin’ cold down here,” Kid moaned.
“Well it’s your fault for walking about naked, Kid,” Heyes told him.
“I was not walking about. I fell outta bed,” the blond man complained.
“Well you should be more careful. I told you to stay there,” Heyes scolded, as he helped his friend back onto the bed. “What were you thinkin’? Flashing your assets at her like that.” Heyes smiled, as he helped Kid to his feet and back onto the bed.
“I was not flashin’ anything at her!” Kid protested. “I fell outta bed!”
“You know she doesn’t need any encouragement,” Heyes said, ignoring his partner’s complaints.
“That’s rich, coming from you!” Kid told his partner.
“I don’t know. I’m hurt. I can’t think straight,” Kid told him. “Heyes just get me some clothes please,” Kid pleaded pathetically. “I want to get up.”
“The doc said…” but Kid cut him off.
“I know what he said Heyes! But lyin’ here’s just drivin’ me crazy.”
“D’you want to bust those stitches open?”
“No, but I don’t want to lie here anymore either.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t done it already. Just another day or two Kid, that’s all,” Heyes urged.
“Easy for you to say. You’d probably like it ‘cos it’d give you time to read one of those damn books,” Kid grimaced as he tried to stand.
“Sit down, SIT DOWN!” Heyes said, firmly, as he placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder, applying pressure.
“You know me Heyes, I don’t like sittin’ around and if Lom…”
“I know Kid, I know, but Lom has help; so you don’t need to worry. You’ve only just regained consciousness. You’ve gotta let yourself heal.”
“I have healed,” Kid said weakly, as he took a deep breath, clearly exhausted already.
“That’s not what that blood on your bandage says,” Heyes told him.
“So you’re a doctor now?” Kid snapped.
“No, just a concerned friend who knows what he sees.”
Kid looked down at his leg. The bandage was once again dotted with red.
“Oh damn,” Kid said, giving up. He slumped back on the pillow. Heyes lifted his friend’s legs, swinging them back onto the bed. As the blond man lay back, catching his breath, Heyes pulled the covers over him.
“Now you stay there and do as you’re told, while I go and find you some underwear, or I’ll have to send Elizabeth up here to deal with you.” Heyes smiled at his friend.
Kid glared back.
“Oh yes I would,” Heyes assured him.
“What did you find out?” Lynch asked Lucas when the man rode up. Lynch was camped by a river, eating a biscuit.
“They’re at the sheriff’s house,” the thin man replied.
“Mrs. Darkly and the cowboy?”
“Well apparently the doctor has been making visits, so I guess he’s there too,” Lucas replied.
“Damn. Well the sheriff knows all about us by now.”
“So what do we do?” Lucas asked, eyeing the food hungrily.
“Well we can’t let them go telling tales to a circuit judge can we? The boss wants this finished, so we’ll finish it.” He turned to Lucas. “You get out there. Scout around. I want to know exactly how many people are in that house before we make our move.”
“I don’t know about killin’ a sheriff,” Lucas told him, nervously.
“Just do as you’re told!” Lynch snapped and Lucas left.
For the past few hours Kid had been driving Heyes crazy, waking, complaining that he was well enough to get out of bed, when clearly he wasn’t and then falling asleep again, exhausted. Heyes compromised by finding Kid some red long-johns to wear, as long as Kid promised not to try walking about the house on his own.
Lom sat in the chair at Kid’s bedside, going over the hold up with him and making notes on a small notepad. Now that he could think clearly, Kid was able to give good descriptions of the men, giving information Elizabeth had missed, or had not thought important enough to mention.
“Heyes said you’ve sent for some marshals?” Kid said, concern evident in his voice.
“I have. I have no intention of riding out to Kramer’s on my own and, with a man as influential around these parts as Kramer is, I want to go strictly by the book. Of course Lynch may well be long gone…” Lom told him.
The door opened before Kid could reply and Heyes entered the room, the smell of cooking wafted in with him.
“Do I smell bacon?” Kid asked and his stomach rumbled.
“Elizabeth’s cooking,” Heyes told him.
“Is she doing that deliberately?” the blond man asked.
“Well, when you can keep your food down, you can join us,” his partner said charitably. “It sure looks good.”
Kid glared at him.
“Lom, can you arrest him for tormenting an injured man?” Kid asked the sheriff.
“I don’t think that’s illegal yet,” Lom told him with a smile. He closed his notebook and stood up. “After breakfast I’ll go an’ check through my wanted posters; see if any of these match up.”
“Just make sure you keep ours in the drawer,” Heyes told him.
“Lynch will be back,” Kid said, confidently.
“You said that before, Kid. What makes you so sure?” Heyes asked.
“We can identify him. I think he let us live because he wasn’t paid to kill us.”
Lom and Heyes considered this.
“If I was him, knowing you know about Kramer, I’d be back,” Kid added. “I think Kramer might send him too.”
The room fell silent. Kid’s reputation with a gun and his knowledge of gunmen was not in question.
The sound of breaking glass interrupted their thoughts. The men exchanged a concerned look and Lom and Heyes headed for the door.
“Looks like there goes your breakfast,” Kid said.
Then there was the sound of breaking china.
“What’s going on down there?” the blond man asked, but Heyes and the sheriff had already left the room. Kid struggled to get up.
When they reached the top of the stairs Heyes and Lom could hear raised voices. There was a muffled cry. They started down the stairs and then froze, staring at the scene below. Elizabeth was at the bottom of the stairs. A man stood behind her. He had his hand over her mouth, a gun pressed into her side. Two other men stood behind them. Heyes looked into her eyes and despite his fear for her safety; he had to stop himself smiling. She was furious.
“Put your hands up real slow gentlemen and then come down the stairs,” the man said. “You don’t want me to hurt the lady, do you?”
Lom and Heyes did as he asked. Somehow, they both knew this was Lynch. Heyes mind was already running through the possibilities open to them. For now, it seemed best to cooperate with this man.
“Lucas take their guns,” the man said when they reached the bottom of the stairs. A thin man, with a pointed nose and sunken eyes, stepped forward, relieving the men of their weapons.
“Check up stairs,” Lynch ordered and the other man headed up the stairs. Lom and Heyes exchanged a furtive look. One thought in both of their minds, Kid.
They could hear the man opening doors and searching the rooms. They waited for the moment their friend was found; for the sound of a shout and a struggle or, even worse, a gunshot.
“Ain’t no one there, Lynch,” the man said when he appeared at the top of the stairs, a few moments later. “All the rooms are empty.”
The sheriff avoided Heyes’ eyes.
They were shoved into the front parlour.
“Down on your knees!” Lynch ordered and Heyes and Lom did as they were told. “Put your hands on your head.” They complied. Heyes stared at the man. So this was Lynch, the man responsible for his partner’s injury. This was the man who almost cost Kid his life. He studied him, analysing his opponent as he would in a poker game. The thought of what he had done to his partner, even if he had not been the one to fire the arrow, gnawed at Heyes. Leaving him to die…
Lynch still had the gun pressed into Elizabeth’s side. Finally, he removed his hand from her mouth.
“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?” she cried, startling them all. “Get your hands off me you filthy…”
The sight of Lynch’s gun, pointed in her face, stopped her mid sentence.
“I’d watch your mouth if I were you, Elizabeth.”
“You don’t frighten me,” she retorted.
“Weren’t plannin’ to. Just to kill you,” he told her with a wicked smile.
Elizabeth’s face clouded over.
“Why?” she asked, her voice almost timid.
Lynch just smiled.
Heyes watched the exchange. Lynch reached forward and grabbed Elizabeth’s chin. He turned her face roughly towards him.
“You play nicely Elizabeth and I’ll make your death quicker than theirs,” he told her.
“You haven’t got the guts!” she sneered and Heyes rolled his eyes at her.
Kid dragged himself out from under the bed. He tried not to cry out in pain, as he pulled himself up onto his knees and the newly healed flesh on his leg, stretched once more. He had heard the raised voices downstairs and, sitting on the edge of the bed, had tried to stand up. But, as he put his weight on his injured leg, it had collapsed beneath him. He’d grabbed onto the bed and then heard someone on the stairs. Quickly he caught hold of his gun belt and removed it from the bedpost. Sweat ran down his face. Kid had tried to stand once more and then thought better of it. If it was Lynch downstairs and he fired at someone now, what would happen to his friends? Kid had eased himself to the floor and pulled himself under the bed, gun drawn in case he was found. He’d watched as the door opened, two booted feet stood in the doorway as the man surveyed the room and then the door closed again.
Now, having escaped discovery, Kid took a moment to compose himself and looked around the room. There was no sign of his pants. He sighed and quietly cursed his partner. Kid strapped his gun belt around his hips, over the top of the red underwear Heyes had earlier, insisted he put on. Another time he would have smiled to see himself standing dressed in only his underwear and a six-gun. At that moment he didn’t have the time to worry about how ridiculous he looked.
Kid crept to the door. Opening it a crack, he peered out. There was no one around. Gun in hand, he moved quickly, as quietly as he could, to the top of the stairs. There was still no one in sight, but he could hear voices downstairs. Kid placed one bare foot tentatively on the top step hoping the board would not creak. When it didn’t, he made his way, slowly down the stair, wincing every time he had to put any weight on his injured leg.
The voices were coming from the front parlour. The door was open and he could see Lom and Heyes, kneeling with their backs to him, each with his hands on top of his head. He could not see Elizabeth or the men holding them.
A sudden noise caught his ear. Someone was coming out of the kitchen. Limping, Kid eased himself back against the wall. He was surprised to see a thin man appear, chewing on a sandwich. As the man entered the hallway, he felt the cold metal of a gun press against his head.
“If you make a sound, I’ll pull the trigger,” Kid whispered. The man was wise enough not to speak, although with a mouth full of food, it would have been hard to anyway. Kid removed the man’s gun from its holster and tucked it into his gun belt. “Back up, slowly,” Kid instructed him, keeping his voice low and his eyes on the front parlour, in case they were spotted.
Slowly Kid edged backwards and the man followed suit. When they were in the kitchen, Kid pushed him into a chair. The man’s mouth dropped open at the sight of a blond man, in just his long johns and a gun belt, standing before him.
“Take off your bandana and tie it around your mouth,” Kid instructed him and the man complied.
When the man was gagged, Kid moved behind him and checked it was tight. He tied the man to the chair with some rope he found under the sink. Then Kid moved back to the kitchen door. By now his leg was hurting and he looked down to see blood soaking through his underwear. The bound man watched as Kid supported himself on the doorframe, his eyes closed as he fought the pain. Then Kid shook his head and moved towards the front parlour.
In the parlour Lynch looked down at Porterville’s lawman.
“Well now, what am I going to do with you sheriff?” he asked. “You weren’t part of the plan. I’ve never killed me a lawman before.”
“Then let us go,” Lom told him and Lynch smiled.
“I can’t do that now, can I?” Lynch said.
“Why not?” Lom asked. “No one’s been hurt. Let’s end this now before you do anything you’ll regret,” Lom added.
“Oh, I intend to end it sheriff,” Lynch told him, confidently. He turned to Elizabeth. “Where’s your cowboy?” he asked.
“He left. I think you scared him off. The arrow wound didn’t help. That cost me twice what I’d agreed to pay him too,” she complained.
“What’s the matter Mrs. Darkly? Not used to men running out on you?” Lynch asked.
“As a matter of fact, no. You and I could have had a lot of fun with Kramer’s money, if only you’d asked.”
“You’d have run off with me?” Lynch asked, sceptically.
“Why not? You’re a handsome man Mr. Lynch, and I like a man who can look after himself. A man who knows what he wants.” Elizabeth gave him a seductive smile, which Lynch was clearly appreciating.
“You sure changed your tune. It’s a pity you didn’t mention this before,” he told her.
“We’ve never been alone before,” she reminded him.
“We’re not alone now.”
“Oh they don’t count,” she said dismissively, waving a hand at the kneeling men. “So let’s talk about us,” she cooed.
Lynch looked at her, suspiciously. Heyes coughed loudly.
“You got somethin’ to say?” Lynch asked.
Heyes gave him a grin.
“I’m just a man who obviously doesn’t count,” he said and Elizabeth rolled her eyes. He was ruining her plan.
“D’you two mean something to each other?” Lynch asked.
“No!” Elizabeth stated, firmly.
“Yes!” Heyes told him.
“Oh Elizabeth have you been lying to me?” he asked. He turned to Heyes. “So who are you?”
“Her husband,” the dark-haired man told him.
“What?” the flat-nosed man asked, stunned.
Lom did his best not to react.
“I’m Nathaniel Darkly. Let me guess, she told you she was a widow?” Lynch nodded. “Oh Elizabeth does that a lot. I know she only married me for my money, but you’d think she’d wait until I was really dead, before she told everyone she was a widow. By the way how much is this going to cost me?”
“Yes, to get you to let us go?” Heyes asked.
“Let you go? I ain’t gonna let you go. We’re all riding out of here, together, to a nice quiet spot and believe me I’m not planning on us having a picnic,” Lynch told him, ominously.
“But you are open to offers?” Heyes persisted.
“I don’t understand,” Lynch told him. He was losing control of the situation, but had yet to realise this.
“I’m a very wealthy man. Mr. Lynch, is it..?” Lynch nodded at Heyes’ question. “I don’t know what this man Kramer is paying you, but I don’t doubt that I could triple it.”
“Lynch,” the chubby man behind them said, liking the sound of the offer.
“Shut up!” Lynch snapped.
Heyes could see the man was torn.
“I don’t think you have any personal reason to kill us, do you?” Heyes asked. Lynch did not answer. Heyes knew he had the man’s interest. “You’re just doing your job, no doubt. So I will triple what you’re being paid.”
Lynch considered this.
A movement just to the left of the doorway caught Heyes’ eye. Kid put his head around the door frame and his eyes met his partner’s. Heyes looked quickly away. Lynch turned away for a moment and Heyes looked back at the door.
“How many?” Kid mouthed.
Heyes raised two fingers, his eyes glancing quickly at Lynch.
Kid pointed to where he knew Lynch was standing and then to behind the door. Heyes gave an almost imperceptible nod.
“Four times what Kramer’s paying me,” Lynch stated, decisively.
“Alright,” Heyes agreed.
“How soon can you get the money?” Lynch asked.
“Just as soon as you can get me to the bank,” Heyes told him.
“What?” Elizabeth asked. “You’re not giving our money to this man.”
“My money, Sweetheart,” Heyes reminded her with a smile. “My money.”
“Ours, Darling, surely,” Elizabeth cooed, sweetly.
“Mine,” Heyes told her firmly.
“Why you…My mother told me you were a snake. I should have listened to her.”
“Well I wish you had, then I wouldn’t have married ya!” Heyes told her.
“Hey, will you two stop it!” Lynch cried. He turned to the bickering couple and Kid saw his chance. He burst into the room.
Lynch and the other man went for their guns. Kid fired. Lynch cried out, his gun went off, as it flew from his hand and he fell to the floor. At the same time Heyes lunged for Elizabeth and gave a cry as he fell on top of her. The other man didn’t get off a shot. He stood face to face with an extremely angry looking, Kid Curry.
“Just give me an excuse,” Kid told him, his Colt pointed in the man’s face. The man stared into Kid’s ice blue eyes and dropped his gun.
Lom picked up the man’s gun and pulled his arms behind is back.
“Hey that hurts,” the man complained, but Lom ignored him. Removing the man’s belt he used it to bind his hands together.
Kid picked up Lynch’s weapon and looked down at him. Lynch held a hand to his right shoulder. Blood seeped through his fingers. He was in considerable pain and wouldn’t be going anywhere, soon. Kid showed him no sympathy.
“Lom can you deal with him?” Kid asked, flatly.
“Sure,” the sheriff told him, as he headed towards Lynch.
Kid turned to Heyes and Elizabeth. Heyes was still on top of her.
“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Kid said with a smile and then realised Heyes was having trouble sitting up. Grabbing his partner’s right arm he pulled. Heyes groaned, as he leaned back. He put a hand to his left arm, feeling the blood on his sleeve.
“You hit?” Kid asked, meeting his friend’s eyes.
“YES!” Heyes told him, proddily.
“OF COURSE IT HURTS!” Heyes snapped.
“Let me see,” Kid said, as he eased himself down beside his friend. The pain in his leg was worse now but he could not give in to it. Elizabeth sat to one side, concern on her face, as she watched the two men. “I reckon you just wanted a reason for her to nurse you,” Kid said and Heyes removed his hand allowing Kid to rip open the shirt sleeve. Kid looked at the wound. “Just a graze,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“Well it doesn’t feel like a graze,” Heyes told him, as Kid reached forward to remove Heyes’ bandana.
“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked with concern.
“Thank you Elizabeth, I’m fine,” Kid told her.
“NOT YOU!” she snapped and he grinned at her.
“He’s gonna be fine too,” he added, nodding at Heyes.
Kid tied the bandana around Heyes’ arm, then, with some difficulty and an unintended groan, he stood up and looked at their two prisoners. He pointed his gun at Lynch, who was still holding his bleeding shoulder.
“What do you wanna do with them?” Kid asked Lom.
“Get them to jail,” the sheriff said, angrily. “On your feet,” he said, grabbing hold of Lynch’s arm and hauling him up.
“Want me to come with you?” Kid asked and Lom looked at Kid.
“You’re not exactly dressed for it,” he told the blond man.
“Well I couldn’t find my clothes,” he replied, shooting a look at Heyes.
“I think I’ll manage,” Lom told him. “I can’t see you walking very far either,” he added, sympathetically.
“There’s another one tied up in the kitchen,” Kid told him.
Lom smiled at Kid, pointed his gun at the two prisoners and pushed Lynch towards the door.
“Lom, wait up,” Heyes said, fixing the sheriff with a determined glance. Lom stopped and waved his gun at the men for them to halt.
Heyes got to his feet and, holding his injured arm, walked towards the sheriff’s prisoners. Kid shrugged, when Elizabeth gave him an inquiring look. When he reached Lynch, Heyes stopped and stood facing the man. Two hard brown eyes focussed on Lynch. Heyes smiled, but it was not a pleasant smile. Lynch swallowed involuntarily, as Heyes moved closer.
“My partner nearly died because of you,” Heyes stated, his voice controlled, but filled with menace. Dark eyes fixed on the man before him. “I don’t appreciate watching people I care about bleeding like that.”
“Mr. Smith,” Lom cautioned, but Heyes ignored him.
“You’re lucky the sheriff here’s a good man or I’d be asking him to look the other way, about now,” Heyes told the flat-nosed man. Lynch didn’t say anything. “If they let you out, make sure you watch your back because I’ve got a real good memory.”
“Joshua,” Kid said, gently.
“Don’t worry, Thaddeus,” Heyes replied, keeping his eyes on Lynch. “I’m just giving Mr. Lynch, some friendly advice.”
“I think we’d better go,” Lom said, knowing Heyes was only just keeping a lid on his anger.
Heyes turned away and Lynch relaxed. He gave a little “Hmph,” which was a foolish thing to do. Heyes whipped round, lightning fast, landing a punch squarely on the man’s jaw. Lynch fell backwards into a cupboard. Kid took a step towards his partner but knew Heyes had done what he needed to. Two dark eyes glared at Lynch. This time the man remained silent as blood ran from the corner of his mouth. Lom waited and when Heyes had composed himself, he stepped forward and grabbed Lynch by the arm.
“C’mon,” the sheriff said, as he ushered the men towards the door. They heard the front door open and then close.
“You okay?” Kid asked, keeping his eye on his partner.
Heyes took a deep breath and then, turning to face Kid, gave him a reassuring smile.
Kid gave a slight nod of understanding and then his eyes fell on the blood on Heyes arm. He said over his shoulder, “Elizabeth, I think you’d better go fetch the doctor.”
Elizabeth stood up.
“You saved my life, Hannibal,” Elizabeth said and he finally relaxed and smiled at her, his mood softening. “I’m going to have to think of a way to show you how very, grateful I am, she said, as she moved close to him.
“Oh please, will you two stop it!” Kid pleaded and Elizabeth turned to look at him.
“I forgot to tell you how good you look in red underwear,” she said, sweetly, as she walked passed Kid.
Kid gave her a look.
“But you might want to get a bigger pair,” she said, casting her eyes downwards. “They seem a little…snug.”
Kid blushed as she left the room. He looked up to see Heyes biting his lip trying not to laugh.
“Will you grow up!” Kid snapped.
Two days later Kid sat on the porch at Lom’s house, watching Elizabeth and Heyes walking, side by side, back towards the house. They were laughing about something. Elizabeth had her arm looped around his right arm and Heyes had a sling on his left arm. Kid knew his partner and how quickly he recovered, and he didn’t think he needed to wear the sling anymore. However, it was certainly getting him a lot of attention from Elizabeth Darkly, which Kid assumed was precisely the point.
The Marshals Lom had sent for had arrived the previous afternoon and Lom had ridden with them out to Kramer’s. When dealing with such an influential man as Kramer, he wanted everything to go by the book. The rancher and several of his men had been arrested, including a man named John Dailey, who had a fondness for using a bow and arrow instead of a gun. Heyes and Kid had stayed well out of the way until the Marshals had left. Lom told the lawmen that Mr. Jones had been called away on urgent family business. However, Mrs. Darkly was available to give a full statement should the need arise. Not wanting reprisals in Porterville, Kramer, Lynch and the others were now on their way to an undisclosed destination to await trial.
The doctor had re-stitched Kid’s wound, scolding him, as he did so, about taking more care of himself. Still weak, Kid had slept a lot over the past two days. Sometimes waking in a chair to find himself covered with a blanket, or to see Elizabeth or Heyes sitting quietly in a chair beside him reading a book and ‘keeping an eye on him’. He hated feeling so tired, but knew he had to give himself time to heal. Heyes took great pleasure in reminding his partner ‘you’re just not as young as you used to be Kid’.
Until the situation with Kramer was resolved, Lom thought it safest if Elizabeth stayed at his house. She was, after all, his chief witness, although one or two of Kramer’s men were already telling all they knew to avoid a jail sentence.
Lom had chosen to spend the nights at the jail, allowing Elizabeth to remain in his bedroom and Heyes to sleep on the couch downstairs. Kid wasn’t about to tell the sheriff that from the noises he’d heard last night, coming from Lom’s room, he didn’t think the couch was getting much use. Elizabeth and Heyes had also been taking regular ‘walks’ into the woods beyond Lom’s house. Kid was too polite to comment on the amount of grass the two seemed to get over their clothes on these ‘walks’. However, he had to admit that he hadn’t seen his friend looking so relaxed in a long time. Whatever his thoughts or worries about Mrs. Darkly, she certainly seemed to be having a good affect on his partner.
Now he watched Heyes and Elizabeth returning from yet another ‘walk’.
The front door opened and Lom stepped out onto the porch. He gave Kid a quick glance and then saw what had caught the young, blond man’s attention.
“They look good together,” the sheriff said, as he sat down on a chair beside Kid.
“Yeah,” Kid said, vaguely.
“What are you worried about?” Lom asked him.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Kid asked. He did not look happy.
“That he’ll want to go off with her?” Lom suggested.
“No. Heyes doesn’t want that,” Kid told him. “At least not yet.”
“That she’ll break his heart,” Kid stated flatly, still watching the couple. Elizabeth suddenly snatched Heyes’ hat from his head and ran off. He gave chase and she screamed with laughter, as she ran away from him.
On the porch, Kid eased himself up out of the chair. Kid watched as Heyes caught Elizabeth and wrapped one arm around her waist. He had not seen the dark-haired man laugh as much in a long time. He gave one final look towards the pair and went into the house.
Having finally reclaimed his hat, Heyes and Elizabeth arrived on the porch, each panting and out of breath. They smiled up at the sheriff like a couple of naughty children.
“Howdy Lom,” Heyes said. “Everything all right?”
“Everything’s just fine, Heyes, just fine,” Lom told him, feeling distinctly fatherly at that moment.
“Kid all right?” Heyes asked, having seen him enter the house.
“Yeah, he’s just tired,” Lom lied, and Heyes knew he had.
That evening Heyes, Elizabeth and Lom chatted enthusiastically at dinner. Kid joined in with the occasional nod, smile or shake of his head at one of Heyes’ stories. Otherwise he was quiet. Then he excused himself, but instead of going back to his room he wandered out onto the front porch and eased himself down into the chair he had occupied that afternoon. A few moments later he heard the front door open and Heyes stepped out.
“You all right?” Heyes asked, moving to stand with his hips against the rail, looking down at Kid.
“Yeah. I’m fine,” Kid said, not meeting his friend’s eyes. “How’s your arm?”
“It’s okay.” Heyes said, removing it from the sling and stretching it. He studied his friend. “So what’s wrong?” Heyes asked and Kid’s head shot up.
“So you said, but I know you’re lying.”
Kid went to stand up, grimaced and sank back into the seat.
“Still hurts huh?” Heyes said.
“Yeah, still hurts,” Kid stated, subdued anger noticeable in his voice. He hated being an invalid. “We’re quite a pair.”
“So…” Heyes prompted.
“It’s nothin’ Heyes.”
“So there is something.”
Kid met Heyes’ eyes once more and his mood softened.
“I’m just worried about you,” he said, self-consciously.
Kid did not know how to say what he felt. He looked away.
“Well?” Heyes prompted again.
“Elizabeth,” Kid said.
“What about her?” the dark-haired man asked and Kid was sure Heyes wanted to add ‘this is none of your business but go on’.
“I’m just concerned she’ll hurt you again,” Kid said.
“Shoot me you mean?”
“No,” Kid looked at his friend. “Just how close are you two? Just what do you feel for her? You can’t stay with her Heyes, you know that. At least not until we get the amnesty.”
“Boy you sure have been doing a lot of thinking Kid. I thought we had a deal about that?” Heyes said, lightly, but he could see his partner was serious. He lowered himself into the chair beside Kid. “I like her. She’s smart, she’s…”
Kid held up a hand to stop him.
“I know what she is Heyes.”
“We’re just having…” he thought for a moment and remembered her word, “…fun. A little light relief before we have to high tail it out of here again.”
“Fun?” Kid raised his eyebrows. “And that’s all?” Two blue eyes met Heyes’ brown ones.
“It’s all it can be.”
“D’you want there to be more?”
“You really are serious tonight,” Heyes said feeling a little uncomfortable by his friend’s questions.
“I’ve had time to do some thinking,” Kid told him.
“Well that’s always dangerous,” Heyes said with a smile. He could see Kid was still waiting for an answer. “I don’t think about anything more.”
They were silent for a moment and then Heyes smiled, mischievously.
“Kid are you jealous?” he asked.
Heyes raised his eyebrows.
“NO!” Kid objected. “What the heck have I got to be jealous about?”
“Elizabeth and me,” Heyes told him.
“You don’t think I want her do you?” Kid asked, incredulously.
“Well she said you made a pass at her,” Heyes stated.
“What? I did not!” Kid protested.
“She said you wanted her to be Elizabeth Curry. Did you ask her to marry you Kid?”
“No! That’s not what I said at all.”
“She said you two snuggled up together at night.” Heyes waited for another protestation of innocence and raised his eyebrows when one didn’t come this time. “Kid?”
“It was for warmth Heyes, nothing more.”
“Uh huh,” Heyes said, clearly not convinced. “I just thought you might be jealous of me spending time with her,” he explained.
“Confused and dumbfounded I might be,” Kid told him. “’Cos that woman is trouble, and you can’t seem to see it. But jealous? No Heyes.”
His partner smiled.
“So you two can go off and play together all you want,” Kid told him.
“Thank you. It’s nice to have your blessing,” Heyes said.
“I didn’t say you had my BLESSING!” Kid objected and Heyes just grinned at him. “Oh sheesh Heyes, stop it.”
They sat for a while in companionable silence. Then the door cracked open and Lom stepped onto the porch.
“If you’re interested, Elizabeth thinks she can beat you two at poker,” he announced.
Kid and Heyes exchanged a look.
“Oh she does, does she?” Heyes said, rising to his feet. He turned to Kid who was now standing beside him. Kid nodded. No words were needed. Kid followed him into the house, the screen door shutting gently behind them.
A blast of steam shot out of the side of the engine as they stood on the platform of Porterville station a few days later. The trial of Lynch and Kramer would not be in Porterville and, with Kramer’s men now singing like proverbial canaries, it was considered safe for Elizabeth to return home. Lom would let her know when and if she was needed.
The sheriff handed her bags to the porter, bags that had been retrieved just a few days ago. All three men waited to see her off. Kid stood a little to one side, leaning against the wall, his arms across his chest. Elizabeth walked towards him.
“Will you miss me?” she asked.
“Not if you give me time to aim,” Kid told her with a smile.
“Very funny.” She smiled and leaned closer, her mouth beside his right ear. “Maybe next time we can be a little more friendly? I still have that research to complete,” she whispered.
“You said we did,” he reminded her, keeping his voice low.
“Well you know we didn’t, but I’d like us to,” she told him, honestly.
“You’re Heyes’ girl,” he said, a little shocked at her honesty.
“So you really don’t share?”
“Not knowingly and definitely not at the same time.”
“Well that’s a pity, because I’m beginning to like you a lot more these days.” She smiled when he met her eyes, and then looked along the platform to where Heyes stood waiting patiently. “Look after him.”
“I always have,” Kid assured her.
“Look after yourself too. You seem to get into an awful lot of trouble.”
Kid’s mouth dropped open but then he just shook his head.
Elizabeth leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. When she stepped back she met his gaze, softening.
“You take care, Elizabeth,” he said, kindly as Heyes walked towards them. He touched the brim of his hat and then walked away.
“My turn I think,” the dark-haired man said, pulling Elizabeth into his arms.
“I’m going to miss you Hannibal,” she told him and slipped a piece of paper into his vest pocket.
“What’s that?” he asked, intrigued.
“It’s where you can reach me,” she said with a smile. “When you realise you can’t live without me. Or you want to have a little fun. Or take a ‘walk’.” She put a lot of emphasis on those words.
It was Heyes’ turn to smile. He pulled her close.
“Oh Elizabeth,” he said, as he breathed her in. “I’m going to miss you.” Heyes leaned forward, his mouth tantalisingly close and then finally he kissed her. Elizabeth Darkly felt herself melting, as his kiss grew more passionate and his body pressed closer than was considered decent in public. She really didn’t care; she wanted his arms around her and was beginning to have serious doubts about her decision to leave.
Along the platform, Lom took out his watch and looked at it.
“You ain’t timin’ ’em Lom?” Kid asked, with shock.
“What?” the sheriff asked and then realised what Kid was looking at. “No! I was just checking my watch against the station clock,” he explained. “Mind you, by the look of those two,” he nodded at Heyes and Elizabeth, still locked in an embrace. “She won’t be catching this train.”
“Oh she will Lom,” Kid told him, positively. “Trust me, she will.”