A Mole in the Hole
By Maz McCoy
“Get down!” Heyes said when Kid pulled his horse to a halt in front of the cabins. Kid immediately knew something was wrong. There was no friendly greeting, no congratulations for a job well done, just a cold stare. Heyes’ stood grim faced, hands planted on hips, hat tipped back on his head. Saying nothing, Kid eased himself out of the saddle. No doubt his partner would explain soon enough.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, as he brushed the dust from his jacket. Heyes’ fist collided with his jaw. Kid went down hard, landing on his butt in the dirt. He stared up at the dark-haired man standing over him.
“Get up!” Heyes ordered, fists clenched.
“No,” Kid replied, holding his jaw. “What the heck was that for?” He saw Wheat and Preacher standing behind Heyes, shocked expressions on their faces. Other members of the Gang came out of the cabin to watch.
“You were supposed to be back here yesterday. D’you want to tell me where you’ve been?” Heyes demanded, angrily.
“Is that all? You couldn’t just ask?”
“When I tell you to do something, you do it! When I say get back, you get back. If you want to stay with this Gang you do as I say, is that clear?” Heyes fixed dark eyes on his friend. Kid stayed where he was, but his hand had moved to hang beside his gun. Each man held the other’s gaze. “I said is that clear?”
Kid gave a slight nod.
“Get yourself up!” Heyes sneered, and then, turning his back on his partner, he headed towards the leader’s cabin.
Kid shot a look towards the others. Wheat and Preacher could sense his embarrassment and anger. Kid pulled himself to his feet and set off after the man he considered his best friend.
Heyes stood by the fire, his back to the door, as Kid entered the cabin.
“Heyes?” Receiving no reply, Kid closed the door. The leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang turned around. Brown eyes met blue ones.
“You all right?” Heyes asked.
Kid rubbed his chin.
“Yeah. I told you when we were kids, you punch like a girl. Probably didn’t even leave a mark.”
Heyes smiled and looked at his friend’s face.
“You’re right,” he agreed. His fist caught Kid again sending the blond man sprawling backwards into the door. Kid fell to the floor, stunned.
“You okay?” Heyes asked with genuine concern as he crouched beside him.
“What was that one for?” Kid held the back of his head. His bottom lip was bleeding.
“Well, like you said, I didn’t leave a mark. It has to look convincing.”
Kid struggled to sit up. The room was spinning. He touched the back of his head once more and looked at his hand. No blood. Giving his partner a disgruntled look he felt his mouth, tasting blood. He winced.
“Well I guess you left a mark now.”
“I don’t know. If a bruise doesn’t show…”
“You’re not hittin’ me again!”
“It has to look right, Kid.”
“You want it to look right, then let me shoot ya!” Blue eyes met brown ones.
“I won’t hit you again,” Heyes promised, holding out his hand. When Kid took it he hauled him to his feet. “D’you think they bought it?”
“I sure hope so. I don’t want to think you humiliated me for nothing.”
“We’ll send some of the boys into town later. Word will soon get around. No one should doubt you, when you say you’ve had enough of me and want to join Ritter’s gang.” Heyes sat in a chair beside the fire and rested his chin on his hand.
“We shoulda just gone after him ourselves,” the blond man said, sinking into the chair opposite. “I’m sure if you’d put your mind to it you coulda come up with a less painful plan. Wheat and Preacher sure looked surprised. You’d better explain once the boys have gone.”
“Oh I don’t know,” Heyes mused. “I like them thinking I’d flatten ya.”
“You’re lucky I didn’t shoot ya. I’m not sure it’s done my reputation any good.”
“Kid, if anyone is foolish enough to question your reputation, you have a sure fire way of showing them how wrong they are,” Heyes reminded him.
There was a knock on the door.
“Heyes?” It was Kyle and he sounded nervous. Heyes smiled at Kid.
“WHAT?” he snapped in reply.
“We woz jus’ wondrin’ if…”
“IF WHAT?” Heyes asked, opening the door quickly and startling the man. Kyle stepped back.
“If everythin’ woz alright?” Kid had to give Kyle his due. It took a brave man to approach their leader after Heyes’ performance. “Ya know…between you an’…Kid?” He looked past Heyes to where the blond man sat, massaging his chin.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Heyes asked, flatly.
“Well you jus…I mean everyone saw…” Kyle pointed back to where Kid’s horse was still tethered. “I mean…”
Heyes fixed Kyle with a look. He received a view of Kyle’s tobacco in return.
“I’ll go tend to Kid’s horse,” Kyle told him and walked swiftly away. Kid looked at Heyes.
“I guess they bought it.”
Heyes watched as several of the gang rode out, heading into town. Satisfied, he turned away from the cabin window. Kid sat in a chair by the fire, cleaning his gun. Did he never get tired of doing that? Heyes picked up a book, as he sat in the other armchair, but he didn’t open it. He turned his head back to the window. Kid looked up.
“Did they go?” he asked, sensing his partner’s restlessness.
“Reckon they’ll say anything?”
“I hope so.”
“And if they don’t?”
Heyes looked up at his friend and smiled.
“Then I’ll just have to let you shoot me.”
“Don’t tempt me.” Kid returned his attention to his gun.
“They were talking about it earlier. I overheard them.”
“I’ll ride out later,” Kid stated, absently as he looked into the open chamber of his Colt.
“Don’t forget to look angry.” He examined Kid’s face when he looked up. “I’m not sure that bruise really shows.”
“You’re not hitting me again! It’s fine and it sure hurts.”
“Sorry. We’ve got to know who’s giving away our plans,” Heyes mused.
“Well, there are only a few men who know all the details.” Kid didn’t need to name them. It was hard suspecting men they had trusted with their lives. Kid stood up and began to buckle on his holster. “I might as well go in now.”
“Heyes, the only one hittin’ me lately, is you.”
The saloon was crowded when Kid pushed through the bat wing doors. He was eager for a drink to cut through the trail dust in his throat. He became aware of the stares he was getting as he headed towards the bar. Heads always shot up when someone new entered the saloon, but now they were studying his face, noting the bruises and muttering to each other. Even the bartender looked closely at Kid, when he asked for a whiskey. It seemed word had indeed, got around. A brown-haired saloon girl, dress cut low to reveal her ample cleavage, walked over to him.
“Hi Kid,” Jessie said, as she linked her arm in his. “I hear you’ve been having trouble with Heyes.” Yep, word had definitely spread fast.
“Now who told you that?” Kid asked, innocently, his eyes appreciating what he saw.
“The boys were talkin’.” She nestled in close. “Do you need comforting?” Kid smiled.
“Maybe later.” He took a sip of whiskey.
“I’ll make you forget all your troubles,” she cooed, her breath warm on his ear.
“In that case, definitely later.”
“Why not now? I’ve got a room free.”
“I need to talk to someone,” he said, giving her an affectionate wink. Jessie liked Kid, liked him a lot. She reached out and touched the bruise on the side of his face. He did his best not to pull away.
“Did Heyes really do that?”
“Yeah, he did,” Kid told her, flatly.
“Well I hope you two make up real soon. A good friend’s worth making the effort for.”
“I know. I just don’t have a good friend anymore. I’ll see you later.” Kid pushed off the bar and walked away, leaving Jessie saddened by his words. He and Heyes were closer than brothers; she hated to see them fall out. Jessie watched as Kid headed towards the table where Toby Ritter and a few of his gang sat playing poker.
“Well boys, look who it is,” Ritter said, loud enough for the whole saloon to hear.
“Can I have a word?” Kid asked.
“I hear you and Heyes have been fighting. That true?” the gang leader asked. Kid met his gaze. Neither man spoke. Eventually Kid shook his head.
“Forget it.” He turned and walked away. Ritter watched him, curious. Unconsciously, he rubbed a hand across his dark moustache.
“Hey, Curry, wait!” Ritter pushed back his chair, got up and followed Kid back to the bar. Kid leaned on the counter, one foot resting on the rail. The bartender poured him another whiskey as Ritter approached. Sally, a buxom, brunette joined them and, Ritter put an arm around her waist, pulling her close. “What did you want to talk about?” he asked Kid.
“In private,” Kid stated, peering into his drink.
“Oh don’t worry about Sally; unlike some folk, she knows when to keep her mouth shut.” He looked at her. “Don’t you?” Sally smiled.
“I sure do Honey.”
“No offence,” Kid told her.
“None taken, Kid.” She looked around. “Heyes not here?” Sally was Heyes’ girl when he was in town.
“Not this time.” He looked at Ritter. “I’ll be over there.” Picking up his drink, he headed for a table in the far corner. The gang leader was intrigued. Not long after Kid had sat down, Ritter approached; a full beer glass in his hand.
“All right, what is it?” Ritter asked, sitting down opposite the blond man.
“Have you got room for a fast gun in your gang?”
For a moment Ritter was confused. Then realisation hit him.
“You’re leaving Devil’s Hole?”
“Maybe.” Kid sipped his drink. Ritter took a gulp of beer, froth coating his moustache.
“I heard about the trouble you’ve been having with Heyes but I never realised it was that bad.”
“I thought you were his best friend? His partner? What happened to your loyalty?” Ritter asked.
“Loyalty don’t buy you a meal or a beer. It doesn’t pay for a warm woman on a cold night and there have been a lot of cold nights.” Ritter nodded his understanding. “The Gang hasn’t robbed a bank or train in months now. You’ve had more luck than we have. I’m tired of my pockets being empty.”
“What does Heyes say about this?”
“I don’t care. Can you use me or not?”
“You know I can. Heck we’re gonna take the Flyer next week. We sure could use your help.”
“The Flyer?” Kid was stunned. This was the very train Heyes had been planning to rob. He’d been working on it for weeks…and he had told Kid, last time they were in town, that he thought they should do so…Kid ran through the dates in his head…next week. Who could have known that? Did someone overhear them talking? Kid’s eyes scanned the room, searching out each member of the Devil’s Hole Gang in turn. No one was paying him the slightest attention, all lost in their card games or the arms of a saloon girl.
“You don’t think we can take it?” Ritter was asking, when Kid returned his attention to him.
“I don’t know. I was just wondering how you were gonna do it,” Kid told him innocently, hoping to learn something to help them find the informant.
“I only tell members of my gang that.” Ritter took another swallow of beer.
“Well, let me know if I’m in,” Kid said and, finishing his drink, he pushed the chair back, stood up and caught Jessie’s eye. Ritter watched him go, watched as he was joined by Jessie at the bar. Kid shook his head at something she said and the girl looked a little disappointed but her smile returned as he pulled her close. Just imagine it, Kid Curry in the Ritter gang, now wouldn’t that be something. The outlaw leader smiled.
“We want a word with you,” Ritter said later, as he approached Kid at the poker table. Kid looked over to where five other members of Ritter’s gang sat, drinking and playing cards.
“What about?” Kid asked, casually, as he glanced at his cards. He tossed a coin into the pot.
“About you joining us.” Heads shot up around the table, including Wheat’s. This was news to him.
Kid looked at his cards once more, and then tossed them onto the table.
“Deal me out for a while fellas,” he said to the other players, and then followed Ritter back to his table. He was well aware that Wheat and Kyle were watching him.
“Sit down Kid,” Al Garvey said, pushing out a chair with his boot, as the blond man approached. He was a large man with a big, bushy, black beard and probably the best with a gun in Ritter’s gang. Kid met Garvey’s gaze and then sat, waiting.
“I’ve been telling the boys, you want to join us and we’ve been talking it over,” Ritter stated. The other men nodded their agreement. “You can join us but we need proof you’re serious, first.”
“What proof?” Kid asked.
“We reckon you need to do some sort of initiation test,” Cole Parson, Ritter’s second in command told him. He was a year or so younger than Kid with a nasty looking scar running down his left cheek; the result of a knife fight with his older brother many years before. It was a fight his brother didn’t survive.
“An initiation test? You’ve got to be kiddin’?” Kid scoffed.
“We’re deadly serious.” Ritter’s eyes met the blond man’s. “We want to know you are too. If you want to join us you’re gonna hafta prove it. We were just discussing what the test should be.”
“I suggested you run naked down the street,” Garvey told him and Kid shot him a look. Garvey lost his smile.
“I thought maybe you should kiss old Ma Emerson,” Parson added, laughing. “I reckon she’d be a challenge for any man.” The others sniggered at the thought of the formidable woman, known to quell a man, with just a look, at forty paces.
Kid pushed back his chair and stood up.
“Forget it fellas,” he said with disgust.
“No wait!” Ritter said his eyes fixed on something behind Kid, on someone who had just entered the saloon. “I know what you need to do.”
Kid looked over his shoulder, and saw Heyes walk towards the bar. A feeling of dread engulfed him. What did Ritter want him to do? He gave a heavy sigh.
Kid cast a quick glance at the poker tables, as he walked towards the bar. Lobo and Wheat were watching him, over the top of their cards. Kyle was talking to a saloon girl, in a far corner, but his eyes were on Kid, wondering. All wanted to know what was going to happen, between the gang leaders, next.
“Whiskey,” Kid said to the bartender, as he stood beside his friend. Heyes did not acknowledge his presence. The bartender poured the drink and placed it in front of the blond man, his eyes moving from Kid to Heyes, wondering why they were not talking to each other and sensing the growing tension between them. Kid picked up the glass and took a swallow.
“You okay?” Heyes asked, quietly, his eyes focussed on the glasses behind the counter.
“Terrific.” Kid didn’t sound pleased.
“Any ideas yet?” Heyes swirled the drink around in his beer glass.
“Nope, but I’m about to join the gang. I just have to take an initiation test first.”
“I wish I was Heyes,” Kid told him, honestly.
“What do they want you to do?”
Kid didn’t answer, just looked into his now empty glass.
“So you want to quit Devil’s Hole?” Heyes asked, loud enough for all to hear, as he turned to face his friend.
“Yes.” Kid glared back, picking up his partner’s lead.
“You really think you’d be better off with Ritter’s gang?”
“Yeah and I’ll tell you why.”
“Oh I’m fascinated to hear this.”
“No, better still, I’ll show you.” Kid looked at the floor, clearly preparing himself, and then his fist collided with Heyes’ jaw. The force of Kid’s punch propelled the dark-haired man backwards into a table. Cards, coins and several beers went flying as the table fell over and Heyes landed on his back. Heyes lay on the hard, wooden floor, nursing a bloody lip. When he looked up, Kid was standing over him, fists balled. “Did I make myself clear, Heyes?” the blond man asked, menacingly. “I quit. Did you hear me that time?”
The saloon had fallen silent. On the floor, Heyes massaged his chin and met his partner’s gaze.
“I heard you.”
“I don’t hang around with losers anymore. Go find yourself another partner.” All eyes were on Kid as he walked away. He cast a glance at Ritter’s table. “Satisfied?” Kid asked, through gritted teeth.
Ritter nodded and smiled. Kid pushed through the bat wing doors and out into the cool evening air. Heyes watched the doors swing closed.
Shocked, by what she had seen, Jessie’s eyes fell, sympathetically, on Heyes and, despite a disapproving look from the bartender, she followed Kid outside.
When Kid was out of sight, the Devil’s Hole Gang dashed to their leader’s side.
“Heyes, you all right?” Kyle asked, as he offered him a hand. Heyes took it and Kyle pulled him to his feet.
“I’m fine,” Heyes told him. He rubbed his chin once more. Kid sure had a hard punch. He knew they had to make it look real but…he needed to talk to him about that. He licked the blood from his lip.
“What’s going on between you two?” Wheat wanted to know. “It ain’t right you fighting like this.”
“Yeah, we need to have a word with him,” Lobo said as he shot a look at the saloon doors.
“Leave it Lobo, it’s between me and Kid.” Heyes picked up his hat.
“Is he joining Ritter’s gang?” Wheat asked, concerned.
“He ain’t!” Kyle protested. “Not Kid!”
“That’s what it sounded like to me,” Lobo told him, casting a look towards the other gang’s table.
“Just let me and Kid sort this out. Go back to your game boys, it’ll be fine,” Heyes said. They looked at each other, no one was convinced. “Go on, it’s okay.” Reluctantly they returned to the poker table, leaving Heyes alone. He looked at Ritter, wanting to wipe the smug smile off the man’s face. Instead he headed towards the door.
“Kid?” Jessie said, gently when she found him leaning against a porch post, gazing out into the street. Lights glowed in a few windows above the stores, but there was no one about. “What’s going on?” she asked, as she took his hand in hers. He smiled, to reassure her, but it did not reach his eyes. He pulled her close, enjoying the feel of another human being.
“Why don’t we go upstairs?” she suggested.
“Not yet.” They heard footsteps on the boardwalk behind them. Kid turned and saw Heyes silhouetted in the light of the saloon doorway. When she saw the look in Heyes’ eyes, Jessie was frightened for both of them. Blue eyes met brown ones over the top of her head.
Without comment, Heyes turned and walked towards his horse, tied to a nearby hitching rail.
“Go inside Jessie,” Kid told her, as Heyes pulled himself into the saddle.
“Kid, you’re not gonna..?”
“It’s all right. Go inside.” He gave her a reassuring smile and, reluctantly, she did as he asked. Kid walked towards the horse and looked up at his partner.
“Watch your back,” Heyes told him.
Their eyes held each other’s for a moment and then Heyes turned his horse away. He didn’t like the idea of leaving his friend alone in town, there was no telling what Ritter would expect him to do next. Kid watched Heyes ride away and then returned to the saloon. When he reached the bar Kid caught hold of Jessie’s hand, gave her a smile and they headed towards the stairs.
Jessie looked at Kid as he sat on the edge of the bed. Kid made no move to remove his gun belt or boots, just sat there looking at the red mark on the knuckles of his right hand, the hand he’d hit Heyes with. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all. What else would Ritter ask him to do to prove himself? Kid looked up as Jessie sat down beside him.
“Why did you hit him?”
“I told you we’re not friends anymore.”
“I don’t believe that. Look at you; you hated what you just did.” Kid’s head shot up, his eyes meeting hers.
“It’s complicated Jessie.”
“And what are you doing hanging out with Toby Ritter?” He admired her candour, but then there were a lot of things he admired about Jessie, not all of which were currently on show.
“His gang seems to be having more luck than us lately,” Kid said by way of explanation.
“And for that you cast aside your best friend?”
“Heyes hasn’t come up with a good plan in a long time.”
“That’s not what I’ve heard.”
Kid looked at her.
“What do you mean?” Jessie looked away. “Jessie?” She stood up and walked to the window; Kid followed her. “Jessie what do you know?” he asked gently, placing a hand on her arm, turning her to face him.
“I know why Ritter’s gang has been so successful and you haven’t.”
“Yeah, someone’s been telling him our plans.”
“Do you know who it is?” he asked, hopefully.
She remained silent, and then walked back to the bed, undoing the laces on the front of her dress as she did so.
“Jessie do you know who’s been telling Ritter our plans?”
“You don’t know?” Jessie sounded surprised.
“No I don’t.” Kid stated. He sat beside her on the bed.
“Let’s not talk about it Kid. I know you have to go soon. Let’s not waste time.” She fiddled with the clip holding up her hair.
“Jessie, I need to know.”
“I thought everybody knew…well all the girls do. I thought that’s maybe why you…”
“All the girls know what?” His expression was serious. Jessie sighed.
“About Heyes,” Jessie stated.
“What about Heyes?” he asked with concern.
“No I don’t.” Which was true because, he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.
“I thought you’d know.”
“Know what?” he asked, exasperated.
“Jessie, you are making no sense. What the heck are you talking about?”
“What Heyes does…after…you know…” she left it vague.
“You KNOW…” she repeated, suddenly, uncharacteristically coy, as she nodded towards the bed.
“The girls all know that after…it’s what Heyes does.” Once again she nodded towards the bed.
Realisation hit Kid.
“We’re talking about…?”
“Oh.” This was embarrassing. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, if she was going to give him…details…about his partner.
“I thought you’d know.” Jessie removed the clip and let down her hair, shaking it as she did so. Without thinking Kid took hold of a long strand, running it through his fingers. “I thought you’d know what he did…after.”
“Fortunately, I’m never there,” Kid pointed out and she smiled.
“Well anyway…after…you know…he always falls asleep.”
Kid suppressed a smile; that wasn’t too embarrassing.
“He does?” he asked, not bothering to contain his amusement at this revelation and knowing he would tease his partner about it the minute he could. It wasn’t relevant though. “I guess you girls just wear him out…after…you know.”
Jessie smiled and brushed a strand of hair from his forehead. She leaned in close and kissed him. Kid smiled at her when she pulled away.
“Well it’s after that, that he…” she whispered in Kid’s ear, her cheek brushing against his as she did so. A frown came over his face. “And I know Sally…” she whispered some more. Kid’s frown deepened.
“Where you going?” Ritter demanded, as Kid stood beside his horse, in front of the saloon, adjusting the cinch.
“It’s none of your business.” He pulled the strap tighter.
“It is when you’re a member of my gang.”
Kid looked up at the man.
“I’m not,” he stated. The rest of the gang had already ridden back to Devil’s Hole, so he had avoided facing questions from Wheat or any of the others.
“I thought you wanted to join us?”
“I changed my mind.” Kid put one foot in the stirrup, then, with a characteristic bounce, pulled himself into the saddle.
“Oh no you don’t…” Ritter caught hold of the reins. Kid put out his foot and pushed Ritter away, watching as he fell on his butt in the dirt. Ritter’s hand moved to his side. Kid met his gaze, daring the man to draw. When Ritter didn’t reach, Kid pulled his horse away from the hitching rail and, without a backward glance, rode out of town.
Three gunshots heralded the return of Kid Curry to Devil’s Hole. Eager to hear what his partner had uncovered, Heyes was there to greet him when he pulled his horse sharply to a halt in front of the cabins. Light shone from the windows, casting long beams into the darkness. Kid stayed, shoulders slumped, in the saddle for a moment, composing himself, before climbing down. Kid looked tired; his clothes were covered in trail dust. He leaned against a hitching rail, his shoulders drooped.
“Did you find out anything?” Heyes asked, eagerly. Kid’s expression remained serious. He met Heyes’ gaze but said nothing. “Kid?” The blond man headed towards the leader’s cabin.
“Let’s talk inside,” he said, through gritted teeth. So it was serious, Heyes mused. Probably someone they thought they could trust. Not a man Kid had suspected. Surely not Wheat or Kyle? Heyes followed his partner. Maybe Lobo? He had some more money recently, but everyone thought he’d been lucky at cards.
“What did you find out?” Heyes asked, as he shut the door behind him. “Do you know who it is? The informant?” He was clearly excited by the prospect, but also concerned.
Heyes went to the stove and poured a cup of coffee.
“Here.” Heyes held it out to his friend and Kid took it gratefully.
“Who is it?” Heyes asked, turning to important matters at hand. Kid took a sip of the hot brew.
“You wanna know who it is?” Kid asked looking up at his friend, his anger barely contained.
“Of course I do.”
Kid put down the cup
“Then I’ll tell you Heyes.” He poked him in the chest with a finger. “I’ll tell you who’s been givin’ away our secrets.”
Heyes took a step backwards.
“Who can’t keep his mouth shut.”
“Who’s been giving away details.”
Heyes backed into the door.
“Because he talks in his sleep, after…you know.”
“Kid will you stop poking me!” Heyes snapped, angrily. “And what the heck are you talking about?”
“No I don’t!”
“I’m talking about someone who, every saloon girl knows, can’t keep his mouth shut, after…well after he’s BEEN with a saloon girl, especially when his head’s full of plans and schemes.” Poke. “Especially when he’s with a girl who happens to be Ritter’s…” Poke. “… favourite…” Poke. “… too.” Poke! “One who also slips something in his drink to make sure he sleeps real deep!” Poke.
“WHO?” Although Heyes was sure he knew.
Their eyes met. Realisation hit Hannibal Heyes before Kid could.
“Like you’re always tellin’ me Heyes, you’re a genius.” Kid turned and sank into a nearby armchair.
“Me?” Heyes repeated, his mouth open in disbelief.
“Yep. Seems Sally’s, Ritter’s ‘special girl’ too. And you sure are gabby when you’re exhausted!”
“Me?” Heyes sank into the other armchair. “It can’t be. I mean it’s not like I’m there that long…I don’t mean I’m quick…I mean not in that way…You know what I’m talking about…I mean after, I don’t…It was me?… It can’t be. Couldn’t be! Who told you it was me?”
“I’ve let you punch and humiliate me only to find out that the man giving away all our plans turns out to be YOU! You know Heyes it would have been easier if you’d let me shoot you in the first place.”
Hannibal Heyes was banned, by his partner, from going into town in the run up to any further bank or train robberies. The rest of the Gang were told it was so their leader could keep a clear head and do his thinking in peace. Kid knew that it was because of…you know.