A Tight Spot

by Maz McCoy

The rope tightened around the man’s neck and he had to point his chin upwards to prevent it from completing the job before the trapdoor opened.

“You got any last words?” the sheriff asked, hoisting up his pants by the waistband as he spat over the side of the scaffold into the dirt below.

“You haven’t listened to anything I’ve said so far,” Kid Curry reminded him as, hands tied behind his back, he tried to avoid a premature throttling.

“That all you wanna say?”

“I didn’t steal the horse.”

“So you said.”

A murmur went through the crowd. Knowing glances were exchanged. This was it. Jerky was chewed real slow and thoughtful-like. Eyes gazed up at the man on the scaffold. Any. Minute. Now.

The sheriff moved to stand in front of him. “Nothin’ else to say?”

“You’re makin’ a mistake.”

“You said that before too.”

Curry moved his head, hoping to ease the tightness of the rope but it only made it worse. He met the sheriff’s gaze. “Don’t I get a last request?”

The sheriff gave a heavy sigh. “All right. What is it?”

“Don’t hang me.”

“Regular funny guy, ain’t ya.”

Cue the Opening Credits.


Interior. Telegraph Office. Small unnamed town.

“Hadfield?” Kid Curry queried as he stood next to Hannibal Heyes in the telegraph office. Behind them the telegrapher was busy tapping out a message.

Hannibal Heyes looked at the telegram in his hand. “That’s what it says. If I remember right it’s a small town…” Heyes walked over to the map hanging on the wall and studied it. Squinting, he searched for the name. “Here.” He tapped the map with a gloved finger and Kid peered at the spot.

An eyebrow rose. “What’s there?”

“A job.”

Curry looked at Heyes, suspicious. “What kind of job?”

“A paying one.”

Kid’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of job, Joshua?”

Heyes tucked the telegram into his vest pocket. “One that will earn us enough money to take a few weeks off. Let us relax for a while. Maybe even head over to San Francisco. You’d like to see Soapy again, wouldn’t you?” Heyes turned to leave the office and Kid put his hand flat on the wall blocking his way.

“What kind of job?”

Heyes met his friend’s gaze. “You know, Thaddeus, sometimes you can be downright suspicious. Have I told you that?”

“What kind of job, Joshua?”

Heyes coughed and covered his next words with his hand. “One for Big Mac.” He pivoted and once again tried to leave.

Kid caught hold of his friend’s arm. “WHAT?” he snapped, then shot a look in the telegrapher’s direction, but the man was still deep in concentration, tapping away.

“You heard,” Heyes stated.

“Did you say, Big Mac?”

“I might’ve.”

“No, Joshua, we are not doin’ another job for him. It’ll be about that darn bust of Caesar again.”

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong. It’s got nothing to do with the bust or Armendariz. It’s a simple collection and delivery job.”

As Curry pondered this information, Heyes exited the telegraph office.


Exterior. Telegraph Office.

Outside the office, Heyes stood on the boardwalk and watched the townsfolk going about their business. He removed his hat, realigned the hat band and brushed some dust from its brim before repositioning it on his head. Curry came out of the telegraph office to stand beside him.

“I don’t like it,” Kid informed him.

“My hat?”


Heyes smiled. “What don’t you like?”

“Workin’ for Big Mac.”

“I know, but we don’t have more than six dollars between us; we can’t afford to pass this up.”

“So what exactly are we collectin’ and deliverin’?”

“Provisions for a party.”

“What kind of party?”

Heyes simply smiled and headed across the street towards the hotel.

“What kinda party?” When his friend did not reply, reluctantly, Kid Curry followed, muttering as he did so, “One of these days, Heyes, I’m gonna flatten’ ya.”


Interior. Hotel room.

“Champagne?” Kid Curry’s mouth fell open and he stopped shoving clothes into his saddlebags. Their hotel room was typical of many they had stayed in. There was a large, quilt-covered bed with a metal frame, a chest of drawers on which perched a washbasin and jug. A rickety-looking wardrobe did its best to remain upright and a moth-eaten arm chair stood in front of the window next to the small table on which Kid’s saddlebags rested.

Across the room, Heyes rolled his socks into a ball and pushed them deep into his own saddlebags. Only then did he look up at his friend. “Yes. Champagne.”

“The drink?”

“Is there any other type?”

“For this party Mac’s throwin’?”

“Yep. Champagne and a dinner service.”

“How much champagne we gotta collect? Do we need a wagon?”

“A jeroboam’s worth.”

“A what’s worth?”

“A jeroboam.”

“Who’s Jerry Bowman?”

“It’s not a who. It’s an a. A jeroboam.”

“Yeah, well what is it?”

“It’s…” Heyes considered this. “Well, it’s…It’s a lot. A lot of champagne. Enough for a party.”

A smile slowly formed on Kid’s face. “You don’t know, do ya?”

“I know more than you do about champagne.”

“So do we need a wagon, for this jerry-thing??”

“I’ll let you know.”

“Sure you will.” Kid shook his head, smiling as he shoved another shirt in his saddlebags. “What about the dinner service?”

“What about it?”

“Well, do we go and get that first or go wait for the champagne to turn up in Hadfield?”

Heyes stopped packing and considered this. “I think we’ll have to split up.” He held up a hand to stop Kid from interrupting him. “I know you don’t like it when we split up…”

“That’s cos one of us always ends up in trouble when we spilt up.”

“…But we don’t have time…”

“And that someone is usually me.”

“…To hang around in Hadfield waiting on the train when we could…” Heyes looked up at Kid. “What do you mean it’s usually you?”

“Well, it is. We split up and I went to Santa Marta and look what happened there. Then there’s the time we split up and I ended up on a train with Annabelle. And that was a whole load of trouble.”

“I got beat up that time!”

“That’s what I mean. Trouble happens if we split up.”

“Then by the law of averages this time we’ll be all right.”

“How do you work that out?”

“You want me to explain it?”

Kid Curry shook his head. “No. I just don’t want us to split up.”

“I know but it makes sense.”

“To you.”

“To both of us.” Heyes thought for a moment. “One of us goes to Carville…”

“Carville? You never mentioned Carville before.”

“I told you there was champagne and a dinner service. Plates. Saucers. Crockery.”

“But you never said anything about Carville.”

“Well, that’s where the dinner service is.”

“So one of us has to go there?”

“Yes,” Heyes said, using his patient voice. “And he picks up the dinner service…and before you ask, yes we will need a wagon for that. Then he…” Heyes raised a hand to stop Kid before he could interrupt again, “…Whoever, he is, can meet the other one, who has sat around in Hadfield waiting for the champagne to arrive on the train and in the meantime has been playing a little poker and winning a few more dollars for him and his partner.” Satisfied he had made a good point, Heyes smiled at his friend.

Kid’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “And exactly who is the poker-playin’ patient one of us?”

“I didn’t like to volunteer, but you always say you don’t like sitting around, you’re more the man of action…”

“Go on.”

“So I thought I’d offer to sit around and do the waiting while you…”

“Drive a wagonload of crockery across rough country with the smell from the back end of a couple of mules for company?”

Heyes had the good grace to look sheepish. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

His partner was unconvinced. “Yeah, I bet you hadn’t.” He glared at his partner. “So why’s Mac need crockery anyway? Don’t he have enough of his own?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t say. Maybe it’s something special he’s had shipped in from Europe. You know what he’s like.”

“I know a load of crock when I hear it that’s for sure.”


Exterior. Easily recognisable southern Californian terrain posing as Texas.

Freshly bathed and travel-ready, Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes rode out of town later that morning. They passed a sign on the trail helpfully indicating their direction as ‘West’.

Kid looked over at his friend with a smile. “Makes a change for you to be pickin’ up the wagon.”

“Must be feeling generous. I guess.”

“You don’t think it had anything to do with me usin’ my coin for once?”

Heyes cast a sideways glance at his partner. “Almost sounds like you think I cheat, Kid?”

“Naw, Heyes, I’d never accuse you of that.”

Brown disbelieving eyes narrowed.

“But I’d defend the right for you to think it.”

“Just don’t get yourself in any trouble this time!”

“Thought you said the odds were against that?”

“That’s when I thought I’d be the one sitting around waiting.”

Kid Curry smiled and they rode on.


Exterior. Dusty trail.

When they reached a marker nailed to a tree, Heyes pulled his horse to a halt. Kid looked at the crumbling wooden sign. It indicated Hadfield to their south and Carville to the east.

“Well, Heyes, this is where we split up.”

The dark-haired ex-outlaw didn’t look too pleased. “See you in a week,” Heyes said, turning his horse towards Carville. “Try to stay out of trouble.”

“How can I get into trouble, Heyes? I’ll be doin’ all that sittin’ around and waitin’.”

The dark-haired man scoffed and, with a wave, Heyes rode off. Kid smiled and then turned toward Hadfield.


Main Street. Hadfield

A tired Kid Curry rode down the middle of Main Street, Hadfield. Tumbleweed blew across the street as he rode passed buildings with shutters over the windows. A man scurried across the street in front of him and hung on tight to his hat when a sudden gust of wind blew. As Kid reached the centre of town, he pulled his horse to a halt and stared at the scaffold in the middle of a small square. Three rope nooses swung in the wind. Kid shook his head and rode on. He pulled his horse to a halt outside the saloon and climbed wearily from the creaking saddle. Curry’s eyes scanned the street as he tied his horse to the hitching post. He gave the animal a pat on the neck before stepping onto the boardwalk and pushing through the batwing doors of the saloon.

Curry’s jacket was covered in dust as was his hat and the two days growth of beard that adorned his chin. He leaned on the bar, watching three men seated at a table in the corner playing cards. They glanced up, discarded Kid as anyone of importance, and returned to their game.

The bartender strolled over to him “What can I get ya?”

“Beer,” Curry ordered. “Say,” he added quickly before the bartender walked away, “I saw the scaffold…”

“Quite something, ain’t it?” The man placed a beer in front of Kid then uncorked a bottle and poured himself a drink.

“When’s the hangin’?”

“Five weeks ago.” The bartender smiled when he saw Kid’s confused expression. “It was actually built for the Williams Gang a year back. Hung all five of ‘em on the same day. Then someone suggested that as the scaffold was built so well we could use it again. So the sheriff sent a message to all the local towns tellin’ ‘em we could ‘Hang ‘em in Hadfield’. That’s our slogan now. ‘Hang ‘em in Hadfield’. Kinda catchy huh?”

Kid nodded and took a long swallow, letting it clear away the dust in his throat. Sunlight, through the saloon doors, highlighted the dust trail his footsteps had made.

“So that’s what we do now. Any town got someone they need hung, they send ‘em here. One fella shot a man in the morning and we hung him that afternoon. Last two swung five weeks ago. If you’re here next month, there could be another from over in Reed’s Crossing.”

“I don’t think I will be.” Curry grimaced and shook his head.

“Pity. We put on a real good show.”

A man approached the other end of the bar and the bartender walked over to serve him. Kid finished his beer, placed the empty glass on the bar and exited the saloon.


Exterior. River bank.

At the edge of a river, Hannibal Heyes urged his horse down a steep embankment and into the water. He pulled his legs free of the stirrups as the horse made its way slowly and carefully through the current. Heyes’ eyes scanned the tree line with habitual, well-practiced care. He studied the far bank, warily and rested his hand on his gun. When horse and rider reached the far river bank, Heyes returned his feet to the stirrups and patted the animal’s neck before urging the horse on.


Exterior. Hadfield.

Outside the saloon, Curry untied his horse and led it along the street towards the hotel. Once there he tied his horse to the hitching post and removed his saddlebags from behind his saddle.

“I’ll get me a room, then I’ll take you along to the livery,” he informed his horse. “That okay by you, fella?” The horse nodded his head and Curry patted his neck. Turning away he climbed the steps and entered the hotel.


Exterior. Carville.

A tired, dusty, stubble-adorned Hannibal Heyes rode into Carville as the sun began to sink in the afternoon sky. He made his way along Main Street towards the railway station at the other end of town. Tying his horse in front of the station building, he climbed from the saddle, took a long look around and then, taking the steps two-at-a-time, disappeared into the station office.


Interior. Hadfield Hotel lobby.

The hotel reception was typical of many Kid Curry had been in. There was a large potted plant he recognised but couldn’t name, a couple of padded seats, an ornate rug and a large painting of a Western landscape on the wall. A petite lady stood behind the reception desk. She smiled as Kid approached.

“Can I help you?” she inquired.

“I need a room for about a week. One at the front of the hotel if you have one,” Curry informed her.

“I’ve got just the one for you.” She turned to a board behind her, unhooked a key and handed it to him. “Room four. Up the stairs and on your left. Got a nice view of the street and it’s above the dining room so it’ll be real quiet once dinner’s over.”

“Sounds good to me.” Kid smiled at her as he took the key. She turned the register around so he could sign his name, then tapping the brim of his hat to her, he headed for the stairs.


Interior. Carville train depot.

A weasel-thin man stood behind a desk writing on a large board in chalk. Hannibal Heyes approached the desk and waited until the man had finished writing. It seemed the noon train was due in around 3pm. The man looked up, suddenly realising Heyes was there.

“Oh, sorry, sir. I didn’t see you there. How can I help?”

“I’m here to collect a delivery for Mister McCreedy. Should be a couple of crates.”

“Well, let me grab my storage manifest and we’ll go have a look.”

Heyes looked bemused.

“I got all the cargo in the storage barn, Mister…?”

“Smith. Joshua Smith.”

“Pleased to meet you.” The man held out his hand. “Name’s Egan. Egan Spills.”

Heyes shook the offered hand and then followed Egan Spills out the side door and along the platform.


Interior. Hadfield saloon.

A freshly-bathed Kid Curry entered the saloon, caught the bartender’s eye and ordered a beer. He leaned his back against the bar and studied a group of men playing poker. After a minute or two, Kid picked up his glass and wandered over to the table.

“Got room for one more, fellas?” he asked.

The men looked up at him, noting the six-gun hanging on his hip. They exchanged a glance or two. A man pushed out a chair with his foot.

“Take the weight off.”

“Thanks.” Kid sat down.

“Buy-in’s whatever you got in your pocket,” a weather-beaten, square-faced old man told him. His skin was the colour of old leather and his teeth were yellowed with age.

Curry rummaged in his pocket, pulled out a few coins and placed them on the table in front of him.

The third man dealt the cards.

“What’s your name?” the man who had pushed out the chair asked.

“Jones. Thaddeus Jones.”

“I’m Ned Parker.” He completed the introductions, pointing to each man at the table in turn. “That’s Otto Blanch, Jake Pemberton and the old guy’s Walter. No one knows his last name. Doubt he can remember if he has one.” The men laughed. “We all work at the Lazy J. What about you? You lookin’ for work?”

“No, I’m waitin’ for a friend.”

“Well, how ‘bout we see how much of your money we can win before your friend gets here?” Parker suggested.

“You can try,” Kid stated as he reached into his shirt pocket for a cigar.


Exterior. Carville train depot storage barn.

Hannibal Heyes stood in the doorway of the railway station storage barn. He waited as Mister Spills scurried amongst the piles of assorted boxes, sacks and crates stored there. Eventually the thin man reappeared and approached Heyes.

“I got your crates,” he announced, tapping the paperwork in his hand as he did so. “All fourteen of ‘em.”

“Fourteen?” Heyes’ mouth dropped open.

“That’s right.” Egan Spills studied his notes. “Fourteen crates for a Mister Mac Reedy. I sure hope Mister Reedy has a wagon waiting.”

“It’s McCreedy,” Heyes corrected.

“That’s what I said. So you got a wagon?”

“I should have. I telegraphed ahead to the Carville Livery. You got someone who can help me load it?”

“Sure, but it’ll cost ya.”

Heyes sighed. “Somehow I knew you were gonna say that.”


Interior. Hadfield saloon.

“Where ya from?” Parker asked, as he studied Kid over the top of his cards.

“Here and there,” Kid informed him, vaguely.

“That’s where you’re from, ain’t that right, Ned?” Walter asked with a smile.

“Used to be. Till I settled.”

The men around him laughed and Curry sat back in his chair and looked at the cards in his hand.


Exterior. Carville train depot storage barn.

Hannibal Heyes hovered nervously to one side as two young men loaded a crate into the back of a wagon.

“Easy, fellas,” he urged and they gently set the crate down amongst the others already loaded.

“Jus’ two leff, Misser Smiff,” the younger of the two informed him as he jumped down from the wagon.

“That’s good, Hobby,” Heyes replied watching as the men disappeared into the store. A moment later they reappeared carrying another crate between them.

“Thiss sure iss heffy,” Hobby lisped. His companion remained mute as they struggled with their load.

“Heavy but fragile,” Heyes reminded them as the crate was loaded. Pointing his finger at each crate in turn, Heyes did a quick count when the men returned for the final crate. He moved around the wagon to make sure he didn’t miss any and had just reached thirteen when the men returned.

“Las’ one.”

“That’s great, fellas.” When the last crate was loaded, Hobby and his friend stood before Heyes expectantly. Heyes reached into his vest pocket and pulled out some coins. He handed each man some money. Hobby looked at the coins in his palm, clearly pleased with what he saw there.

“Thanks, Misser Smiff,” Hobby beamed. His friend remained expressionless. “Danny thanks you too, he jus’ don’ talk much.”

“That’s okay. You fellas did a good job. Thank you.” Heyes watched them go, and then walked around the wagon, checking the crates were secure before hauling himself up to the seat. He picked up the reins and flicked them. The horses took a step forward and Heyes was on his way to Hadfield.


Exterior. Hadfield train station.

Kid Curry entered the railroad office and strode purposefully up to the counter. There was no one there. Spotting a bell on the countertop, he tapped it and a resounding DING rang out. No one appeared. Kid hit the bell again. DING!

“All right!” came a cry from a distant room. “Don’t break the darn thing!” A moment later a door opened and a short, overweight man entered the office, brushing crumbs from his round belly as he did so. His suspenders did their best to hold up his pants despite gravity’s best efforts to pull them down. The man looked at Kid. “What can I do for ya?” he asked as his tongue searched his mouth for the remains of his meal.

“I’m waiting for a delivery for a Mister McCreedy. It should be a large crate. I’m expecting it anytime soon. I saw a train just pull out. Wondered if it was on that?”

“Hmm. A crate, you say?”

“Yeah.” Kid nodded.

The man turned his back on Curry and picked up a pile of papers. Placing them on the counter he began to look through them one at a time. “A large crate?”

“I don’t really know.” Kid peered at the papers, trying to read them upside down.

“Hmm. For a Mister Greedy?”

“No it’s McGreedy, I mean McCreedy.”

The man finished going through his papers. “Nothin’ here yet.”

“When’s the next train due?”

“In which direction?”

“Any one.”

The man pulled a watch from his vest pocket, flipped it open and studied it. “Late this evening.”

“I’ll be back.” Curry turned and the man watched him leave.


Exterior. Dusty uphill trail.

Hannibal Heyes flicked the reins and the horses pulled the wagon up a small rise. The wheels found every rut and stone and the horses’ hooves threw up a cloud of dust. Heyes pulled his bandana up to cover his nose and mouth at the same time as he tried to keep his balance on the narrow wagon seat. He risked a glance behind him to check the crates were still tied firmly in place. Satisfied that they were, he squinted into the dusty trail ahead.


Interior. Hadfield saloon.

“Okay if I join you again?”

The men playing poker looked up when the blond man approached.

“Sure.” Parker stated. He pointed to a round-faced man. “That’s Forbes.” He indicated the men next to Forbes. “Lassiter and Creed.”

Curry nodded a greeting, pulled out a chair and sat. As he waited for the current game to finish he studied the men at the table. The only man he’d met before was Parker. Three new faces greeted him. When the next game started, the dealer tossed cards in Curry’s direction without a word. Kid picked them up, spread them in his palm and considered his options.

The game continued. A pot was won, cards were dealt and coins tossed into the centre of the table as the next game ensued.

“You’re pretty good at this,” Parker commented. His eyes narrowed before he took a swallow of whiskey.

“Beginner’s luck,” Kid said with a smile as he raked in the pot.

“You ain’t no beginner,” Forbes observed gruffly, eyes fixed on Curry over the top of his beer glass.

“I mighta played a time or two before,” the blond man admitted.

“How ‘bout we raise the stakes?” Parker suggested. “Make things a little more interestin’.”

“What do you have in mind?” Kid Curry looked from one man to another.

“No limit.”

“Everyone has a limit,” Kid stated with a smile.

“We’ll accept IOUs,” Forbes informed him.

Curry considered this. “All right.” He didn’t miss the smug expressions that passed between the other men at the table before the dealer tossed the cards around again.


Exterior. Dusty trail.

“C’mon!” Heyes cried as he flicked the reins yet again. The horses continued at their slow-but-sure pace up the hill. “Aw c’mon, ladies. At this rate the dinner will be over before the plates get there.”

The horses seemed unconcerned at such an event and unaffected by Heyes’ attempt to make them go any faster. Heyes wiped his face with the back of his hand in an attempt to clean off some of the dust the horses’ hooves and the wagon wheels threw up. “No wonder Kid didn’t want this job,” he muttered.


Interior. Hadfield saloon.

“You really think you got that good a hand, huh?” Parker asked, sitting back in his chair as he studied Kid’s face.

“That’s for you to find out,” Kid reminded him, his expression impassive.

Parker counted the bills on the table in front of him. “I don’t have enough here.” Curry remained silent. “I’ll throw in my horse and saddle.”

Kid considered this.

“It’s the chestnut, outside. Red saddle blanket,” Parker added when Curry seemed reluctant to accept.

“I saw it.” He waited before making his decision. “All right.”

Parker turned to Forbes. “Write out an IOU for me.” The man did as requested and passed it to Parker, who placed it on top of the tempting pile of cash in the centre of the table. “Let’s see what you got.”

Kid laid his cards on the table.


Exterior. Dusty trail.

Heyes eased himself down from the wagon seat and stretched his back. Reaching into the back of the wagon he pulled out first one and then a second feed bag. Picking them up, he walked around front to the horses. “Here you go, girls,” he soothed as he placed the bags over their ears, allowing them to eat. “Time for lunch.”

Heyes returned to the wagon, reached under the seat and pulled out a paper bag which he unwrapped and peered inside. “Hmm.” He pulled out an apple and rubbed it on his jacket, instantly regretting it as it came away covered in trail dust. He looked around, then down at his clothes. Everything it seemed bore a fine film of dust. Heyes looked at the apple. “It’s not like I ain’t already ate dust.” He blew on it a couple of times then took a bite.


Exterior. Hadfield street.

“Hey you!”

Kid Curry pulled the horse to a halt at the man’s cry. Turning in the saddle he found himself looking at a stout man, sporting a thick black moustache and a Colt hanging low on his right hip. “Somethin’ I can help you with?”

“There sure is,” the man stated as he strode towards Curry. As he lengthened his stride the black leather vest he wore flapped open, revealing a shiny sheriff’s badge. Kid cringed and braced himself as the man drew alongside. “That horse you’re ridin’.”

“What about it?”

“Where you takin’ it?”

“To the livery.”

“It ain’t yours.”

“Yes, it is, Sheriff.”

“It’s not the one you rode into town on.”

“That’s true. I just won it in a poker game off a fella named…”

“Ned Parker. I know. He just informed me you stole it.”


The sheriff removed his gun from its holster and pointed it at Kid. “Get down, son.”


Exterior. Dusty trail.

Hannibal Heyes pulled the wagon to a halt beside a signpost. The post was tilted to about forty-five degrees and Heyes tilted his head likewise to read it. In letters faded by the sun, it informed him that Hadfield was five miles away.

“Almost there, girls,” he informed his travelling companions. “Bet you can almost smell the hay. I can sure smell the beer.”

Heyes made a clicking sound with his mouth and the horses moved on.


Interior. Hadfield saloon.

“You can’t hold court here!” a handcuffed Kid Curry proclaimed as the sheriff led him into the saloon.

“In this town, I can hold court anywhere I like.” The lawman grabbed Curry’s sleeve, tugged him towards a table and pulled out a chair. “Sit.”

Kid sat.

The sheriff turned to the bartender. “Barney, go fetch the Doc, Mason and Wensley Harris.”

“Sure thing, Sheriff.” The barman set down the cloth he had been using and scurried away. Kid turned to face the men sitting at the table across the room. Smug smiles adorned the faces of Ned Parker, Forbes and the others he had only recently been playing poker with.

“All right fellas, we’re gonna have ourselves a trial,” the sheriff announced.

“When do I get a lawyer?” Curry asked.

“That’s who Mason is,” the sheriff informed him.

“We’ll need time to discuss the defense.”

“You’ll have time.” The sheriff turned away and strode towards Parker. Curry couldn’t hear their conversation but glances were sent in his direction every now and then. Tilting his head back he closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. He didn’t open them, even when footsteps approached.

“I take it you’re the accused?”

Kid opened his eyes. A tall man in a frock coat stood before him. The man’s shirt collar was attached on one side only and on his feet he wore…slippers. Curry raised an eyebrow.

“Forgive my attire, I wasn’t expecting to be called upon today.”

“So I see. You a lawyer?”

“I am.”

“You win any cases?”

The man smiled and held out his hand. “Earl Mason, attorney at law.”

Kid held up his handcuffed hands and shook the offered hand as best he could. “Thaddeus Jones, the victim.”


“I took an IOU in a game of poker. Now I’m accused of horse theft. I reckon I was the gullible mark.”

“Ah, I see. And the gentlemen at the table across the way are the accusers?”

“Yeah, that’s them.”

“Ned Parker and his friends. You’re not the first to fall foul of their sport.”

“I don’t call this a sport.”

“Neither do I.” Mason looked down at Kid. “Mister Jones, I will do my best on your behalf but in the event that I fail to obtain a postponement is there anyone I could contact for you?”

“That don’t exactly boost my confidence.”

“You’re in Hadfield, things work a little differently here.”


Interior. Hadfield jail.

“You’d hang me on his word?” Kid Curry gripped the bars of the jail cell and stared at the sheriff.

“And that of three others,” the lawman reminded him.

“All friends of Parker.”

“True, but you heard ‘em, they swore on oath.”

“That don’t stop ‘em lyin’!”

“Mister Jones, an oath on the Bible is a sacred thing.”

“So’s my life!”

“You had a fair trial.”

“In a saloon! With a lawyer you got out of bed!”

“You got to say your piece.”

“Lot of good that did me.” The sheriff sat at his desk and opened a ledger. Kid rested his head on the bars, thinking. Looking up he faced the sheriff. “Look, I need to contact someone.”

“Let me know who and I’ll have a message sent to them.”

“A friend of mine’s the sheriff in Porterville, Wyoming. I’m sure he’d know a judge who…”

“Won’t make a difference.”

Blue eyes fixed on the sheriff. “Why not?”

“Cos’ we’ll be hanging you today.”


Exterior. Dusty trail, not far from Hadfield.

“Almost there, ladies.” Heyes said as they passed a mile marker and the wagon eased over the top of a hill. Below them, the rooftops of several buildings and a railway line stretching into the distance heralded the town of Hadfield. Heyes smiled. “All downhill from now, girls. I hope Kid got us a room with a bath cos’ I sure could use one.”


Exterior. Hadfield Main Street.

The rope tightened around the man’s neck and he had to point his chin upwards to prevent it from completing the job before the trapdoor opened.

“You got any last words?” the sheriff asked, hoisting up his pants by the waistband as he spat over the side of the scaffold into the dirt below.

“You haven’t listened to anything I’ve said so far,” Kid Curry reminded him as, hands tied behind his back, he tried to avoid a premature throttling.

“That all you wanna say?”

“I didn’t steal the horse.”

“So you said.”

A murmur went through the crowd. Knowing glances were exchanged. This was it. Jerky was chewed real slow and thoughtful-like. Eyes gazed up at the man on the scaffold. Any. Minute. Now.

The sheriff moved to stand in front of him. “Nothin’ else to say?”

“You’re makin’ a mistake.”

“You said that before too.”

Curry moved his head, hoping to ease the tightness of the rope but it only made it worse. He met the sheriff’s gaze. “Don’t I get a last request?”

The sheriff gave a heavy sigh. “All right. What is it?”

“Don’t hang me.”

“Regular funny guy, ain’t ya.”


Kid Curry stood over the creaking trap-door, his feet shifting as he tried to prevent the rope from strangling him. A bead of sweat trickled down his forehead. Kid’s eyes fixed on the sheriff. He watched as the lawman turned towards a balding man whose hand hovered close to a lever. Curry swallowed. The crowd fell silent.

“You sure you don’t want a hood or a blindfold?” the sheriff asked.

“No.” Curry assured him. “Just get it done.”

It was time. The lawman turned back to the bald man. “All right Barney, when I give…”

A gunshot rang out and the sheriff spun on his heels, his attention captured, by a man driving a wagon at full speed down Main Street.

“What the…?” the sheriff cried.

The crowd scattered as the horses skidded to a halt, in a cloud of dust when the driver pulled back hard on the reins.

“STOP THE HANGING!” Hannibal Heyes yelled as he stood up, gun waving above his head. “STOP!”

“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?” the sheriff demanded.

“Joshua Smith and that man up there is a friend of mine.” He pointed to Kid.

“Then you’re in time to say goodbye,” someone in the crowd called out and several people chuckled.

Heyes jumped down from the wagon and strode purposefully towards the scaffold. He ran up the steps, gave Curry a swift glance and came face to face with the sheriff. “What’s he accused of?”

“Horse theft.” The sheriff, hands planted squarely on his hips, eyed the stranger suspiciously. “And if you don’t put that gun away I’ll have one of my deputies arrest you.”

Reluctantly Heyes holstered his Schofield. “Where’s the horse he’s accused of stealing?”

“Down there.” The lawman pointed to a tall chestnut mare saddled and tied to a hitching post outside the saloon.

“I won it in a poker game,” Kid explained through gritted teeth, chin still tilted to the sky.

“Will you loosen the rope?” Heyes snapped.

“Not until you give me a reason why I should.”

“So we can discuss this.”

“Nothin’ to discuss.”

“Just give me a minute. Hear me out. That’s all I ask.”

The sheriff tilted his head, pondering, and then turned to Barney and nodded his head. The bald man stepped behind Curry and loosened the rope. Kid lowered his head and took a deep breath.

“Can you tell me what happened?” Heyes asked.

The sheriff jerked a thumb at a mean-looking fella leaning against the porch post outside the saloon. “That’s Ned Parker. He says the horse is his and Jones stole it. I have witnesses to back him up.”

“All friends of Parker,” Kid pointed out.

“A trial was held, fair and square.”

“In the salon and without a judge,” Curry reminded him.

Kid’s eyes met Heyes’. Heyes sighed.

The sheriff studied the new arrival, perplexed.

Heyes looked at the horse. He looked at Parker. He looked at Kid. He looked up at the sky. He removed his hat, wiping sweat from his brow. Heyes studied the wooden scaffold, thinking. Finally Heyes looked up and met the sheriff’s gaze. “I reckon I know a way we can solve this,” he stated.

“Yeah. Hang him!” Parker cried and several men in the crowd laughed.

“Let the horse decide.” There was a sudden hush at Heyes’ suggestion.

Curry’s eyes opened wide as they met Heyes’. “Joshua! Are you crazy?”

“Let the horse decide?” The sheriff looked incredulously at the man beside him.

“Sure. Why not?” Heyes scampered down the steps and over to the horse. The crowd parted, allowing him access to the animal. Heyes walked around the horse, studying it, and then rested a hand casually on its rump. “I reckon she knows who owns her. I can’t think of a fairer way, can you? I mean, if you think a trial in a saloon without a judge is fair, then why not let this lady…” He patted the horse’s rump, “…decide her own fate?”

“And mine,” Kid muttered but no one appeared to hear.

On the porch Parker was grinning. “Let’s do it, Sheriff. This I gotta see.”

The lawman rubbed his whiskery chin. “I don’t know if this is strictly legal…”

“Hangin’ me without a proper trial ain’t legal, either,” Curry pointed out in a voice that was growing raspier by the minute.

“Well, Sheriff?” Heyes and the crowd waited. All eyes turned to the man with the badge.

The lawman thought about it. He looked at Parker. He looked at Curry. “All right. Barney, cut him loose.” Barney moved behind Kid and loosened the noose before removing it over the blond man’s head. As Curry took several deep breaths, Barney untied his hands.

“Come down here, Thaddeus,” Heyes called as he moved to one side of the street. Rubbing his sore wrists, Kid Curry descended the steps. The gathered crowd eyed him suspiciously but moved aside to let him pass. He made his way towards his friend. “Bring the horse into the middle of the street,” Heyes ordered. The man nearest the horse looked to the sheriff, who nodded. The animal was dutifully untied and led into the centre of the dusty thoroughfare.

“This is the best you could think of?” Kid snapped at his friend as he drew alongside. “Let the horse decide? What kind of stupid plan is that?”

“Just stand there and do as I say.” Heyes pointed to the precise place he wanted his friend to be.

“You are about to get us both killed, d’you know that?” Curry stood where Heyes pointed.

“Well, when this goes wrong you can say I told you so.”

“When this goes wrong they’re gonna have a double neck-tie party.”

“Moan, moan, moan. You’d have been swinging by now if I hadn’t arrived when I did.”

“Well, I told you we shouldn’t have split up.”

Heyes walked towards the horse. “Mister Parker, why don’t you stand over there, sir.” Parker moved to the boardwalk outside the saloon entrance. Heyes looked up at the lawman. “When you give the word, Sheriff, you let the horse loose and we’ll see who she goes to.”

“What do you think, Parker?” the lawman asked.

Parker shook his head in disbelief. “Sounds fair to me.”

“All right,” the sheriff agreed. “You, holding the horse. What’s your name?”


“Okay, Wilbur. Let go of the reins.”

Wilbur did as asked. A hush fell over the crowd. The horse looked from one side of the street to the other.

“Come on, horse,” Parker encouraged. The horse looked at him but did not move.

“Hey girl,” Kid called. “Come on over here.” The horse looked at Curry but stayed where she was.

“Come on, girl!” Parker beckoned.

“Hey, there,” Kid tried.

The horse looked at Parker. “That’s it!” he cried. “Come on, this way.”

The horse turned to face Kid. “That’s my girl,” the ex-outlaw smiled. “You know who I am don’tcha. Come on.”

The horse took a step forward and then another. The crowd fell silent. Long equine eyelashes batted. Nostrils snorted. The horse turned to Parker. The man grinned triumphantly. The horse stopped and looked at Curry. Parker scowled.

Standing next to Curry, Hannibal Heyes smiled and nodded. The horse took a step towards Kid as he continued to encourage her. Parker’s face dropped but his voice rose. “Come back here, you stupid horse!” The horse ignored him and continued slowly towards the blond man.

As she approached, Curry stepped forward to greet his horse and pat her neck in thanks. Gratefully he hung onto her halter as she tried to push past him.

“Well, Sheriff, I think we have our answer,” Heyes stated confidently.

“I guess we do,” the lawman conceded, still confused.

“I take it my friend goes free?” Heyes asked.

“He does,” the sheriff agreed.

“What?” Parker stepped into the street. “That’s it?”

“You agreed to let the horse decide,” the sheriff reminded him.

“That horse is mine!” Parker’s hand dropped to his hip. Instinctively, Kid Curry spun on a heel but had no gun to draw. Parker reached. Curry heard a click and smiled.

“I’d move my hand away if I were you,” Hannibal Heyes advised, as he pointed his trusty Schofield at Parker.

Parker met the hard, brown-eyed gaze of the outlaw leader. Slowly he moved his hand away from his gun. The sheriff descended the scaffold steps and approached him. “I’ll take that, Ned,” he stated, relieving Parker of his gun. “Just to be on the safe side.” The lawman glanced at Curry. “He won that contest fair and square. Let it go.”

As the two men continued to argue, Heyes stepped closer to his partner.

The blond man smiled. “You been practicin’, Heyes?”

“No, I wouldn’t want to rob you of the one thing you’re good at.” Heyes smiled.

Kid grinned and rubbed his neck. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Now you’d better let that horse have the drink she’s been dying for.” He pointed to the water trough behind Kid’s back. Curry turned to look. His eyes fell on the sparkling cool water. His brow furrowed in thought. He looked at his friend, who gave him a knowing smile.

Kid Curry grinned as he placed a hand on his friend’s shoulders. “Heyes, you know you really are a genius.”

“I know, Kid, I know.”


Kid Curry sat beside Hannibal Heyes as they rode out of Hadfield on a wagon. Behind them a large box marked with the word Champagne, in fancy writing, nestled between the crates Heyes had hauled from Carville.

Curry’s neck still bore a red mark where the noose had been. “You know, Heyes, I don’t understand why they’d let a man hang for a crime they know he didn’t commit.”

“You told me the lawyer said Parker’d done something like it before.”

“He said they had a little sport with any newcomer in town. I don’t know about hangin’ anyone.”

“Then you have your answer. It was just sport to them.” Heyes flicked the reins.

“Lettin’ a man die ain’t sport, Heyes.”

“I know, Kid. I know.”

Curry shook his head. “I reckon what they do’s worse than robbin’ banks. Messin’ with folks like that.”

“I agree with you. I doubt you’ll ever know the real reason they did it.” Heyes looked at his friend. “Nice of you to give the horse to the school.”

“That’s one horse I didn’t want to see again. Besides, I reckon they can sell it and use the money for books or somethin’. Thought you’d appreciate that.”

“It was a nice gesture, Kid.”

Curry smiled. “I guess goin’ straight’s having an effect on me.”

“I guess it is.” Heyes flicked the reins and the horses picked up speed.


Interior: Big Mac’s Ranch House. The study.

“I have to tell you boys, I’m very impressed. Very impressed.” Big Mac handed Heyes and then Curry a glass of whiskey. The partners exchanged a smile, raised their glasses to each other at a job well done and drank. “Not a single plate broken. Not even a chip.” Mac finished pouring himself a glass of the amber liquid.

“It wasn’t easy,” Heyes informed him.

“You have no idea,” Curry added.

“And the champagne wasn’t even warm,” Mac smiled.

It was Kid’s turn to beam with pride.

“It’s just a pity, though.” Mac opened a cigar box and removed one.

“A pity?” Heyes queried, eyes narrowing before exchanging a suspicious glance with Kid.

“Yes. A pity the dinner party was last week.”

“What?” Heyes’ mouth dropped open.

“Mac, you said…” But a raised palm cut Kid off mid-sentence.

“I know what I said but I had to bring the date forward. So you see, boys, I don’t need any of it now. In fact what I need you to do is take…”

“No!” Heyes informed him adamantly. “No. We are not taking it back!”

“Now, boys…”

Kid glared at him. “No! I nearly swung for that and I’m not doin’ it again.”

Putting down their respective whiskey glasses, the partners strode from the room. Mac quickly followed them to the door. “Thaddeus, come on. You’re like a nephew to me.”

A Voice is heard from the hallway. “Yeah? Well, goodbye, Uncle Mac!”

“Boys! Boys?”

Sound of door closing.

Cue end credits and closing music.