Against the Clock
By Maz McCoy
“Let me get this right, Heyes. You want to go into the bank and withdraw some money?” Kid stood leaning against a post on the boardwalk, his back deliberately turned towards said bank, his blue eyes shadowed by the brim of his hat.
“That’s right, Kid,” Heyes smiled innocently.
Kid lowered his voice to a whisper.
“You know we ain’t supposed to do that anymore, right?”
“So what the heck are you thinkin’?”
“I’m thinking of making a withdrawal.” Heyes stepped from the boardwalk into the dusty street. He strode towards the bank, pausing to cast a glance over his shoulder at his friend. “Coming?”
Still confused by Heyes’ actions, Kid quickly caught up.
“What you up to?”
“I’m doing what any ordinary citizen does; I’m going into a bank and taking out some money.”
“But you ain’t no ordinary citizen!”
“Hannibal Heyes walking into a bank is not – Ordinary!” Kid wiped a hand across his brow. “You don’t have an account. How are you gonna make a withdrawal?”
“Trust me, Kid, I know what I’m doing.”
“Now I really am worried.”
Reaching the bank, Heyes walked up the steps, opened the door and stepped to one side allowing his friend to enter first. Still suspicious, Kid stepped inside.
The Bank of Cutter’s Crossing was like so many others they had entered before. There were three tellers’ positions, a desk at which sat a stout, important-looking man peering at financial documents through round glasses. A door at the back had the words Bank Manager stencilled on the glass and behind the tellers positions stood a large grey safe.
Kid caught hold of Heyes’ sleeve
“Did we ever rob this bank?” he whispered.
“You already know the answer.”
“It sure looks familiar.”
“Trust me, we’ve never been to Cutter’s Crossing before, we don’t know the sheriff and we never…” Heyes touched the brim of his hat to a pretty young lady as she passed them. Kid opened the door for her.
“Thank you, sir.”
Kid gave her the full force of the Curry smile. She smiled back. Having watched her go, Kid turned his attention back to his friend.
“We never,” Heyes repeated.
“I guess you’re right. After a while all banks start to look the same and…”
Heyes followed the direction of his friend’s gaze. A Pierce and Hamilton ’78. Nope they’d never been in this bank before.
Heyes walked casually towards the one open teller’s counter and waited his turn. Kid felt a knot tighten in his gut as he stood beside Heyes. He looked around but no one met his gaze. He pulled at his collar and tried to convince himself that he was not sweating beneath his hat. When the position became vacant Heyes walked to the grill and smiled at the young man on the other side.
“Good morning. How can I help you, sir?”
Heyes reached into his jacket and withdrew a folded piece of paper. He slid it under the grill just the way Kid had seen him pass a note to a teller many times before. Kid rested his hand on the butt of his gun and swallowed hard. He had no idea why Heyes was doing this but he had every intention of backing his friend.
The teller opened the piece of paper, studied it. This was it. Any moment now. The man began to count out the money.
Nervously, Kid scanned the faces around him. No one seemed to have noticed.
Heyes smiled as he turned to his partner.
I am gonna flatten him, then I’m gonna kill him!
Heyes grinned and those dimples some women seemed to find appealing, deepened.
Don’t play innocent with me, Heyes. If we get outta this alive, I’m gonna kill ya!
“Did I forget to mention that Big Mac gave me a cheque this time? He didn’t have enough cash.” Heyes looked back at the teller, who smiled and pushed a pile of bills towards his customer. Heyes picked up the money, then turned back to Kid. “You feeling all right? You look a little pale, Thaddeus.”
“You are not funny!” Kid told him in a tight whisper.
Three men, cowboy hats pulled low, stood by the bank wall counting loose change in the palm of their hands.
“If we can’t open it what do we do now?” Billy, the youngest, asked as he pulled his hat further down to shield his face from the other customers.
“We find someone who can,” Edwin Castor informed him.
“Like the bank manager?” Weaver asked.
Castor glared at him. He may be his sister’s husband but he was still an annoying little… He took a deep breath.
“Yeah, like the bank manager.”
“But he’s outta town and he doesn’t trust the staff with the combination. So what next, Cast?”
Why couldn’t his sister have married that dumb farmer? At least he didn’t argue all the time and…
“I’m workin’ on it.”
“You’d better work faster before someone gets suspicious of us hanging around here.”
Yep that farmer was looking better all the time, even if he did smell of…
“If we hafta take the whole bank hostage and demand the bank manager be brought back from Porterville to open it, so be it.”
“I’m not sure it’s worth it, Cast,” Billy moaned.
Maybe he shouldn’t have brought the kid either? Sheesh this was turning into a nightmare before they even…
“Trust me it is. We just…” He smiled as his eyes fell on a familiar face. “I don’t believe it. God can’t have abandoned me after all. D’you see who that is?”
“Who?” The younger man looked to where two men, one in a brown hat the other a black hat, were deep in conversation near the teller’s counter.
Castor lowered his voice.
“That dark-haired fella is Hannibal Heyes.”
“You’re kiddin’ me?” Weaver looked at the men, then back at Castor.
“That blond fella with him hasta be Kid Curry.” Castor smiled at his friends. “I tell you boys, this is our lucky day.”
“C’mon, I’ll buy you a drink. You look as if you could use one.” Heyes placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder and smiled; Kid, was still glaring at him.
“You know I was about to draw on that teller.”
“No you weren’t.”
“I thought you’d handed him one of those notes. You know those notes.” He realised Heyes wasn’t listening to him. Kid turned to see the focus of his friend’s attention. Three men stood behind him.
“Excuse me, sir.” The tallest man’s accent suggested he’d come from the Deep South. “But I need your help.”
“What can we do for you?” Heyes asked.
The ex-outlaws studied the Colt held in the second man’s hand. Weaver’s hand didn’t waver as he held the men at gunpoint. Billy moved towards the other customers.
“What’s going on fellas?” Kid asked, his hand having moved, casually, next to the gun on his hip.
“This is a hold up,” Castor told him with a smile as he stepped back and addressed the others in the bank. “Ladies and gentlemen I need your cooperation. We are going to be making a withdrawal from the bank today. I’d like you all to step over there by that desk where my friend will take care of you.”
The teller looked at the stout man behind the desk wondering what they should do. The man got to his feet and spoke for his staff.
“I’m the assistant manager. We don’t have the combination of the safe. I can’t open it for you.”
“I know that.” Castor smiled at the man. “We don’t need your help. We have an expert here who’s gonna open it for us.”
Confused looks were exchanged amongst the staff and three customers-two men and an elderly lady. Castor turned to face Hannibal Heyes.
“Ladies and gentlemen I’d like you to meet Hannibal Heyes. He’s the only outlaw I know recorded as opening a Pierce and Hamilton ’78 and we have him here today.” Castor smiled at Heyes. “Ain’t we the lucky ones?”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken,” Heyes stated. “My name is Joshua Smith.”
“No, it isn’t.” Castor stood facing him.
“I can assure you he is Joshua Smith,” Kid informed him.
Castor smiled and looked at Kid.
“You’re Kid Curry.” Castor held out his hand. “I’ll take that gun.”
Kid met the man’s gaze, then caught a glimpse of the Colt pointed at him. Weaver motioned with the gun. Billy’s gun gave an ominous click as he pointed it at the female customer. Kid slowly withdrew his gun from his holster. Turning it in his hand he held it out and Castor took it, shoving it in his waistband.
“Get over there with the rest of them.”
Kid shot a look at Heyes and took a step to his right and no more.
“I’ll take yours too.”
Heyes handed over his gun and Castor tossed it to Billy, who now had two guns to point at the hostages.
“Open the safe, Heyes.”
Castor stepped closer to him.
“You heard what I said. It’s on the record that you…”
“I’m not Hannibal Heyes.”
Castor withdrew Kid’s gun from his waistband. He studied it clearly impressed. He pointed it at Heyes.
“Look, I can’t…
“D’you want to be shot with your partner’s gun?”
“I’m not who you think I am. Believe me if I could I would but I really can’t open it.”
Castor shook his head, disappointed. He thumbed back the hammer on the gun; Heyes continued to meet his gaze, all too aware of the closeness of the Colt. Castor turned, aimed the gun at Kid and fired. Kid staggered backwards collapsing onto the floor. Heyes was swiftly at his friend’s side. Kid grimaced, teeth gritted tightly together as he fought the pain in his left shoulder. Blood was already soaking into his shirt. He touched the wound carefully.
Ignoring the bank robbers, Heyes pulled off his bandana and folded it into a rough pad. Opening Kid’s shirt he placed it over the bloody wound. Blue eyes met his.
What the heck? He just shot me! Just like that. He shot me. What the heck is going on, Heyes?
I don’t know, Kid, I don’t know.
Kid flinched as Heyes applied pressure.
“OW!” Sheesh, that hurts!
“Sorry.” Heyes turned to face Castor. “You didn’t need to do that.”
Heyes looked at the bandana, already turning darker with his friend’s life blood.
“He needs a doctor.”
“Yeah, I guess he does. Open the safe and we’ll get him one.”
“I told you I’m not…”
Castor aimed at the woman who cowered with the others.
“Are you sure you can’t do it?”
“All right!” Heyes took a deep breath. “All right.”
“I knew you’d see things my way.”
Heyes pointed at Kid.
“Let him go and I’ll open the safe.”
“No can do, Heyes.”
Heyes leapt to his feet to face the man. They stood less than two feet apart, brown eyes threatening Castor with murderous intensity.
“Let him go and I’ll do what you want.”
“Oh you’ll do it and you’d best get on with it. You’ve got until he bleeds to death.”
Heyes jaw tightened, muscles twitched, fists clenched. HE WAS GOING TO KILL THIS MAN. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath.
“Have someone look after him. I’ll tell you what I need.”
“Knew you’d see things my way.”
Heyes watched as the teller and assistant manager half-carried, half-dragged Kid over to the wall. Once there the small, stout woman with greying hair took charge. He watched as she fussed over Kid, accepted the bandanas that were offered as additional dressings and gently placed them over the wound. Kid flinched as she tended him, then looked up at Heyes, giving his partner an encouraging nod.
Yeah, right, Kid. You’re not bleeding to death at all.
Heyes glared at Castor.
“Don’t waste your time, Heyes. He’s not going anywhere. Now what exactly do you need?”
“HELLO IN THE BANK!” a man’s voice boomed outside before Heyes could answer.
“Right on cue. Write me a list, Heyes.” Castor pointed to the counter where there was paper and a pen, then moved towards the door. He opened it a crack as Billy and Weaver watched the hostages. “MORNIN’ SHERIFF! WE’VE GOT A SITUATION HERE. I NEED YOU TO KEEP EVERYONE BACK UNTIL I TELL YOU WHAT TO DO OR THERE ARE GONNA BE SEVERAL DEAD FOLK IN HERE.”
“WE HEARD A SHOT. IS EVERYONE ALL RIGHT?”
“WE HAD TO SPILL A LITTLE BLOOD TO GET THINGS STARTED. I’M GONNA GIVE YOU A LIST OF THINGS I NEED. IF YOU WANT THESE FOLKS ALIVE YOU’LL GET THEM REAL QUICK.”
“WHO ARE YOU?”
“JUST SOMEONE FROM OUTTA TOWN. DON’T WORRY YOURSELF ABOUT THAT SHERIFF.” He turned away from the door and held out his hand to Heyes, taking the quickly scribbled list from him. Castor looked around and gestured to an ink blotter on a nearby table. “Give me that.” Heyes handed it to him and Castor looked at the list.
“You sure you need all of this?”
“If you want that safe open I do.”
“Tell them not to jiggle it too much.”
Castor wrapped the list around the blotter.
“HERE IT IS SHERIFF!” Castor threw it into the street and watched as the lawman edged forward and to retrieve it. “GET US WHAT WE WANT. YOU GOT TWENTY MINUTES!”
The door of the bank closed.
“How you doing?” Heyes sat down on the floor and leaned back against the wall beside Kid.
“I’ve had better days.” Sweat covered Kid’s face, his breathing was rapid and he was trying hard to hide just how much pain he was in. “How ‘bout you? You gonna open it?”
“I can’t do anything else.”
“I hope you’re thinking of a way to get us out of this, cos I ain’t thinking too straight right now.”
“Do you ever?”
Kid gave Heyes a look. His friend smiled.
“Don’t worry, I’m working on it.”
“You’d better do it fast ‘cos I’m not sure I can…” Kid grimaced and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
“I’m working on it.” He studied his friend. Kid was concentrating on just breathing. “As soon as they send in the things I need I’ll have one of them working on the Bryant pump.” Heyes gave Kid a smile. “Unless you want the job?”
“I’ll pass this time.” He coughed, grimaced and closed his eyes once more.
“You just take it easy.”
“Can’t do much else.”
“YOU IN THE BANK! WE GOT YOUR STUFF! IT’S OUTSIDE THE DOOR.”
Heyes looked up at the sheriff’s call.
“Get over here,” Castor ordered. Heyes got to his feet and walked towards the bank door. “Go get that bag.” Heyes studied the carpet bag lying in the dirt outside the bank.
“Aren’t you afraid I’ll make a run for it?”
“Not while your friend’s still bleedin’.”
Heyes rested his hand on the door handle.
“Keep your hands raised so I can see ‘em, Heyes.”
Heyes took a look at Kid then, hands dutifully raised, opening the door, he stepped out into the sunshine. He walked slowly; all too aware that several pairs of eyes and no doubt several gun barrels were trained on him. Men hid behind a wagon and crouched behind a horse trough. The town was ominously quiet as Heyes strode towards the bag that sat in the street a few more paces away. Reaching the bag he bent down, grabbed the handles and opened it, examining the contents. Inside was everything he’d asked for including a box containing a carefully packed bottle of nitro-glycerine. Heyes carefully picked up the bag then returned slowly to the bank. Castor grabbed him pulling him inside then slammed the door shut.
“CAREFUL! This bag has nitro in it!”
Castor considered this.
“Get to work!”
Hannibal Heyes removed his jacket and emptied the bag laying the items on the floor in front of him. Bryant pump, putty, nitro, alarm clock, safety fuse, tubing…
“Got everything you need?” Castor asked.
“So get on with it.”
“This will take some time.”
“Your friend don’t have much of that.”
Hard brown eyes met Castor’s. The bank robber smiled.
“How’s Curry doin’?”
Castor looked down at Heyes and smiled.
“Better get to work.”
“Your friend’s putting putty around the door of the safe,” Eliza Wainwright informed Kid. The men had helped lay him down on the floor after he informed her that the room was spinning. With his head resting on the assistant manager’s jacket and his eyes closed, Kid nodded as Eliza kept him informed of Heyes’ progress. Breathing was taking all of Kid’s concentration. “Can he really open it?”
“Yes, ma’am.” The relentless pain in his shoulder was taking its toll too.
“So he really is Hannibal Heyes?”
Kid opened his eyes and met her worried gaze.
“I can’t – answer that.”
“I understand.” She laid her hand on his. “Don’t worry, we’ll get a doctor for you soon, Mister Curry.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about, ma’am.”
“Why the putty?” Billy asked.
“You gotta make sure no air gets in.”
Castor walked towards them watching.
“What now?” he asked when Heyes had finished applying the putty.
“Now we wait.” Heyes picked up the alarm clock and turned the hands.
“For how long?”
“That’s how long it takes the putty to dry.” Heyes set the alarm clock on top of the safe and headed toward the hostages. He knew Castor was watching him but he didn’t turn around.
“Putty drying?” Kid asked as Heyes settled down beside him.
Kid’s face was pale.
“You know it’d be really ironic if I was to…die now…during a bank robbery I wasn’t actually…part of.” Kid’s eyes closed.
“That’s not funny.”
“Never said it was.” Kid’s eyes remained shut. “Just…ironic.”
“You reckon you can hold on for that doctor?”
“Don’t think I’ll be conscious…to find out. Room’s been…spinning for a…while. Sure hope I don’t embarrass myself…and throw up.”
“And ruin that tough guy image?”
Kid’s response was a shiver.
“Sure is cold in here.”
It wasn’t. Heyes placed a hand on his friend’s forehead. Warm. He glanced up to find Eliza looking at him. She understood his concerns.
“May I borrow your shawl ma’am?”
“Of course.” She picked it up from where it lay on top of her reticule, handing it to Heyes.
“It’s not really your colour but this should keep you warm.”
Kid met his friend’s gaze but his only reply was another shiver.
“Reckon I should take a look at that wound.” Heyes reached for the bandana but Kid’s hand was swiftly around his wrist.
“We both know there’s…nothing you can…do.” Kid gritted his teeth. “Let me know when…When you need me to…be ready.” Kid’s eyes closed again. Heyes sat back on his heels and ran his hand across his mouth. How the heck was he gonna get them out of this?
Heyes sat beside his friend and tried not to think about the blood drying on his hands. He had nothing to wash it off with so had wiped his hands on his pants. Dark stains on his legs were a constant reminder-if he needed one-of his partner’s fate. Kid was right. Being held hostage in a bank robbery was ironic. He sure hoped Lom understood when he heard about this and he was bound to hear. Kid’s wound was still bleeding and even a few strips of Mrs. Wainright’s petticoats-torn when she turned her back to them and pulled up her skirts with as much dignity as she could muster- hadn’t stemmed the flow for long. Fortunately Kid hadn’t woken even as Heyes applied enough pressure on the wound to make him yell.
The alarm clock’s ring startled everyone. Heyes calmly got to his feet and headed for the safe. Turning off the alarm he tested the putty with his fingers, then reached for the long length of tubing. Heyes pointed to Billy.
“I’ll need your help.”
Billy looked to Castor for advice. The leader nodded and Billy joined Heyes at the safe.
“I’m gonna need you to pump the air out of the safe. So when I set this up…” Heyes reached for the Bryant pump and the tubing. “You’ll start pumping.”
Billy watched as Heyes went to work. Once again he picked up the alarm clock.
“What are you timing now?”
“I’m setting it for sixteen minutes. That’s how long it takes to pump the air out. We have to create a vacuum.”
“How d’you know all this stuff, Heyes?”
“I’m a professional. Not an amateur like Castor.”
“He’s okay. We’ve done a lotta jobs. He knows what he’s doing.”
“Taking hostages and having the sheriff waiting outside don’t strike me as too professional. We never shot anyone during a robbery either.”
“Well you got yourself suckered into opening a safe. I reckon that don’t make you so smart. And I thought Curry was fast. Castor shot him real easy!”
Hard brown eyes filled with an unspoken menace met Billy’s. The younger man swallowed.
“Are you sure that ain’t enough?” Billy asked. Sweat ran down his face and stained the underarms and back of his shirt, but he continued to pump the air from the safe under Heyes’ instructions.
“Sixteen minutes remember? I’ll tell you when to stop.” Heyes calmly worked on the fuse. Billy cast a glance at Castor who was standing at the window watching the street. Weaver stood watching the hostages. Curry lay unmoving on the floor and the elderly woman beside him gently stroked his hair.
The alarm clock rang. Heyes hit the button, turning it off.
“You can stop now.”
Billy stepped away from the pump, exhausted and watched as Heyes picked up the bottle of nitro-glycerine. He swallowed, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, hoping the man knew what he was doing with that stuff.
“Hand me that,” Heyes pointed to the funnel lying on the floor.
Billy did so.
“Hold it for me.”
“You shot my partner. Who else is gonna do it?”
“I didn’t shoot him.”
“You’re part of the gang Billy, you’re all responsible.”
“But Castor pulled the trigger.”
“You don’t think that matters to the sheriff do you? Or to Kid Curry?”
“Will he come after us?”
Billy nodded. Heyes held out the funnel, waiting. Billy took hold.
“Keep it steady.” Heyes began to pour the nitro.
“Will he? I mean if he survives?”
Heyes stopped pouring, dark eyes turned on Billy.
“I mean, he will, I’m sure of that. I mean he’s strong right?” Billy swallowed. “So do you think he’ll..?”
“I reckon so. I’ve never known a man as stubborn as Kid Curry. He once trailed a man for two months just because he…” The funnel began to shake. “Hold it steady Billy or you’ll blow us all up.” Sweat ran down Billy’s forehead and Heyes smiled as he continued to pour the nitro into the funnel. “Yep, once Kid gets an idea into his head there’s no shifting it. But it’s not him you should worry about. I don’t take too kindly to anyone hurting my partner.”
Heyes stopped pouring and looked Billy in the eyes. Billy let out a breath and nodded at the nitro.
“You know what you’re doin’ right?”
“How’s it going?” Castor asked. Billy didn’t take his eyes off the funnel and the yellow liquid trickling from the bottle Heyes’ held.
“So far so good.” Heyes stopped pouring. “By the way you should know that when the vacuum sucks the nitro in, this whole thing might blow up.”
“Careful Billy, don’t jiggle it.”
“You’re kiddin’ right Heyes?” Castor tried to see the truth in Heyes’ expression.
“Never more serious.”
“Well it better not blow up or I’ll kill everyone in this bank.”
“If this blows, I’ll have done that job for you.”
Heyes carefully took hold of the clip and gently released it. Billy held his breath as the nitro was slowly sucked into the safe. He breathed a sigh of relief when the thing didn’t immediately blow up.
“I need a blasting cap and the roll of fuse,” Heyes informed him. Billy happily handed over the tubing to Heyes and went to fetch the cap and fuse. Heyes removed the tubing then placed the blasting cap into putty and attached the fuse wire. He looked at Billy. “How long should I give it?”
“You don’t know?”
Heyes smiled and unravelled the wire.
“Just wondered if you had a preference.” He led the way behind the bank counter then withdrew a match from his pocket. “Everyone take cover!”
The hostages crouched behind a table. Eliza turned her back, one hand protectively over her head, the other covering Kid’s face as she shielded him with her body. Heyes watched in admiration. Eliza Wainwright was quite a woman. Weaver and Castor huddled by the bank doors as Heyes joined Billy behind the teller’s counter. Heyes looked from Kid to Castor then lit the fuse watching as it sparked a path across the bank floor.
As the burning fuse glowed and spat everyone waited, hands over their heads, for the inevitable BOOM. Heyes eyes flicked from Billy to Castor to Weaver. Not one of them was watching the hostages or Heyes. He edged towards Billy. The young man’s gun lay in its holster temptingly within reach. He edged closer and still no one stopped him or even noticed that he moved. Amateurs, but dangerous amateurs. The burning fuse disappeared around the teller’s counter. Heyes edged further towards Billy and then he too waited.
The door of the safe flew open in a clatter of metal. Dust filled the air as everyone covered their heads protecting themselves from the possible fall out; everyone except Heyes. With the explosion still ringing in his ears he grabbed Billy’s gun, scrambled to his feet and pointed the weapon at Castor’s head.
Stunned the outlaw looked up at the sound of the click and Heyes pressed the cold metal barrel into his temple.
“The rules just changed.”
“Kid?” Heyes crouched beside his friend as the sheriff and his deputies led Castor, Billy and Weaver out of the bank, hands cuffed behind their backs.
Kid opened his eyes staring somewhere over Heyes’ shoulder, struggling to bring his friend into focus.
“How we doin’?”
“It’s all over.”
“D’you blow the safe?”
“Knew you…could.” Kid’s eyes drifted towards a man who appeared behind Heyes.
“I’m the doctor,” the stranger announced and Heyes stepped aside to allow him access to his friend.
“The bullet went right through,” Doctor Alistair Rowland announced somewhat unnecessarily as he examined Kid’s left shoulder. “Not a very pretty wound.”
“Sorry about that.” Kid took deep breaths and tried to stay conscious.
“We need to get you patched up, son, but I need to take a better look first. Don’t want to move you until I’m sure I have all the…Hmmm.”
“Iz zat good…or…bad?” Kid’s eyes were definitely not focusing properly now.
“Doc?” Heyes prompted.
“Oh, just a technical Hmmm.”
Heyes didn’t look convinced. The doctor pulled Kid up so he could place a dressing over the exit wound, then he lowered him back to the floor and…
“OW! DAMMIT! YOU Ssss…” Kid lost consciousness the minute the doctor started probing the entry wound.
“Let’s get him to my office,” Doctor Rowland stated matter-of-factly, clearly unperturbed by his patient’s outburst. He stood up and gestured to two men standing on the doorway of the bank. “Seymour. Bill. Help us carry him.”
The doctor had been right; the wound wasn’t a pretty one, but then ripped muscles, torn ligaments and gushing blood vessels never were. Heyes watched as the doctor cleaned both entry and exit wounds, stitched them up and applied a dressing. Kid groaned as the doctor worked, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. Heyes fetched and carried at the doctor’s command. When he was finished Rowland stood back, wiping his bloody hands on a towel.
“We’ll let him rest now but I’d like to try something first.” He turned and reached into his bag.
“What’s that?” Heyes asked suspiciously as the doctor placed a wooden box on the table beside the bed.
“Sphygmomanometer. It’s a new instrument they’ve been developing in Europe. It measures blood pressure.”
“Blood pressure? What’s that?”
“You know how water in a pipe has pressure. Well it’s the same for you blood as it flows in your veins and arteries. In a healthy man it should flow in a certain way. If you lose a lot of blood it falls.”
“And you think his will be..?”
“Low.” The doctor produced a piece of tubing and tied a band of some sort of material around Kid’s arm, wrapping it tight. “It’ll also tell me how well his heart is working.”
“You think there’s something wrong with his heart?” Heyes couldn’t hide his anxiety.
“He’s lost a lot of blood.” The doctor clearly thought that was enough of an explanation. He placed the ear pieces of his stethoscope into his ears and the metal disc on Kid’s skin as he listened for a pulse in his arm. Doctor Rowland squeezed something in his hand and the band around Kid’s arm started to inflate. The doctor stood the box up and Heyes watched as a column of…Was that mercury? The silver liquid rose up the tube.
What the…? Heyes watched in fascination. The doctor studied something that looked like a small watch but with a different type of dial.
“Doc what…?” The doctor held up a finger, cutting Heyes off as he listened intently. The band began to deflate and the doctor removed it from around Kid’s arm as he pulled the stethoscope from his ears.
“His pressure’s low but that’s to be expected. I’ll monitor it over the next few hours.” He saw Heyes eyes on the instrument. “Would you like to know more about this?”
“I sure would.”
The doctor looked at Kid.
“We’ll let him sleep.” He packed away his instruments. “Let‘s get cleaned up then I’ll tell you about this instrument. How ‘bout some coffee too?”
“Got anything stronger?”
The doctor smiled.
“You’re a man after my own heart, Mister Heyes, let’s find the scotch.”
“Come in sheriff. Mister Heyes is in the kitchen.”
Heyes slowly turned around at the sound of the doctor’s voice, steeling himself for the arrival of the law. His hand gripped the coffee cup tighter as Sheriff Archibald Grimes entered the room. The sheriff paused in the doorway, noting Heyes’ free hand resting on the butt of his gun.
“I come in peace, Mister Heyes, so they’ll be no need for you to draw on me, although I hear it’s your partner who tends to do that the most.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear.” The sheriff entered the room, Doctor Rowland followed.
“You mean he’s not as fast as they say?” The sheriff’s eyebrows rose, a glimmer of a smile eased up the corners of his mouth. Heyes felt himself relax slightly.
“He’s fast, just not fast enough this time.”
“I’m truly sorry he got hurt. Doc tells me he’s lucky to be alive.” Heyes didn’t answer. The sheriff pointed to the coffee pot. “I’ll take a cup of that if it’s still hot.”
Heyes turned, keeping one eye on the sheriff as he poured him a cup. At Heyes’ glance the doctor shook his head, he didn’t want one. Grimes pulled out a chair and sat, taking the coffee with a nod of thanks.
Heyes leaned back against the small sink, waiting.
“I’ve got me a problem,” the sheriff announced. “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry apparently helped three local outlaws to rob the bank.”
“You know that’s not true!” The sheriff tensed at Heyes outburst.
“It’s what folks will believe.”
“Only if no one tells them the truth.”
“I imagine you’re right. But then again you were there and you did open the safe.”
“I had no choice.”
“Not sure folks will see it that way.”
“And just what folks are we talking about?”
The sheriff leaned back in his chair as two intense brown eyes focused on him.
“Take it easy Mister Heyes; I’m not here to arrest you.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Well like I said I got me a problem. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were in the bank and the safe was opened. Now everyone knows only Hannibal Heyes has been able to open a Pierce and Hamilton’78. I have three outlaws in custody but none of them opened the safe. So what am I to do?”
“Maybe one of them got lucky? Opened it by chance.”
“Hmm, that’s possible.”
“Or maybe they’d heard how Heyes opened the safe and…” Both men turned to look at the doctor. “Not possible?”
“It’s possible, doc.”
The sheriff looked at the doctor.
“You know Al, you may have something there. Why I bet there are lots of stories of how Heyes opened that safe. I bet in outlaw circles they all know how he did it.”
“So maybe Heyes wasn’t the one that opened it?” the doctor prompted.
“Maybe he wasn’t. Why I bet Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were never here.”
Heyes smiled, although he could hardly believe what he was hearing.
“I know a young man named Thaddeus Jones was hurt in the robbery. His friend Joshua Smith has been staying here helping with his care.”
“Don’t you go worrying yourself Mister Heyes. I reckon me and the doc have sorted it out. Now why don’t you go see how Mister Jones is and let me worry about what I tell the editor of the newspaper to print.”
“You’re welcome. Although for some reason I feel I should be thanking you and a sheriff thanking a notorious outlaw; now that can’t be right can it?”
“No, I suppose not.”
Hannibal Heyes sat in the armchair beside the bed watching his friend breathing. Keep doing that Kid. That’s all I ask. Heyes opened the telegram he’d picked up earlier that morning and read it again. Lom had replied to his own message sent yesterday.
TO MISTER JOSHUA SMITH CUTTER’S CROSSING STOP
HOPE T WELL SOON STOP WILL EXPLAIN TO MUTUAL FRIEND STOP LOM
The Governor was sure to hear of a Pierce and Hamilton ’78 being blown and he’d know full well just which outlaw was capable of doing that. He hoped Lom was persuasive with their mutual friend.
Kid moaned and shivered. He had yet to regain consciousness. Heyes needed someone to talk to. Kid would listen and tell him, if not what to do then at least what not to do.
“Feel free to wake up anytime you want, Kid, then I won’t hafta sit here talking to myself. I could sure use your sage advice about now.” The only answer was another shiver. Heyes got to his feet, picking up the blanket Rowland’s wife had left for him. He laid it on top of the ones already covering Kid. “I didn’t see this coming. I should have…We walked right into this and I… I wasn’t looking…I…”
“You can hear me, huh?”
“You really can? Kid, can you hear me?”
“Being your usual eloquent self, huh?” No answer. A shiver. Heyes patted his friend’s arm. “Just take it easy. The sheriff says Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones can stay here until you’re well enough to travel. Seems Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were never in town.”
Heyes lowered himself into the armchair and folding Lom’s telegram he slipped it into his pocket.
Kid Curry opened his eyes and waited for the ceiling to come into focus. Oh boy, his shoulder hurt. Bad, pain was bad. It was only his shoulder, so that was better. He took a moment to assess his surroundings. He was in a bed with soft sheets, that was good. The room was clean, also good and…He had a memory of being carried up a flight of stairs and cursing whoever did the carrying. Kid raised his head off the pillow. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. The room continued to spin even after he closed his eyes.
“You’re finally awake then.” Footsteps approached the bed but even though Kid had recognised Heyes’ voice, he had no intention of opening his eyes to look at him.
“Stop the room spinning will ya?”
“D’you want to try sitting up?”
Kid opened his eyes.
“Since when have you been twins?”
Heyes reached behind Kid, lifted him up by the shoulders and pulled the pillows up, supporting him. Kid groaned. Heyes took a step back and studied his friend. He sure looked pale. The two days stubble and the dark circles under his eyes didn’t help either.
“You look rough.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
“Nope, just an observation.”
“Terrific.” Kid took a few slow, deep breaths.
“Should I get the doctor?”
“What, you don’t think he’s caused me enough pain?”
“He saved your life.”
“I’ll be sure to thank him.” Kid’s eyes met Heyes’. “It was close, huh?”
“What happened about the safe?”
Heyes explained how he’d pulled Billy’s gun.
“Regular hero, huh?”
“If you mean did Hannibal Heyes save the day again? Then yes, he sure did.” Heyes smiled smugly.
“You’re loving the adulation aren’t you?”
“Hasn’t been much of that.” Kid closed his eyes. “I heard from Lom.”
Kid’s eyes opened.
“Good news or bad?”
“I don’t know. He…”
“Did I hear voices?” The door opened and the doctor entered the room cutting off Heyes’ reply. Rowland smiled when he saw Kid was awake. “Well, I’m pleased to see you’ve opened your eyes at last.” The doctor approached the bed but Kid’s eyes followed Heyes as he stepped back.
What is it?
“I’m Doctor Rowland. You can blame me for those stitches in your shoulder. I had to do a bit of poking about in there.”
“I’m not complaining.”
“That’ll be a first for one of my patients.” The doctor leaned closer, studying Kid’s face. Reaching out he placed a hand on his forehead. “You’re temperature’s down. That’s good. I’ll change the dressing later. Let’s check your blood pressure.”
The doctor reached for a contraption that lay on the table beside the bed and began to wrap something around Kid’s arm.
“What is that?”
“A pigmanometer,” Heyes provided.
“A pig what?”
“Sphygmomanometer,” Rowland corrected but Kid was none the wiser however you said the word.
“What’s it for?”
“It measures the pressure of your blood.” Heyes had got that right.
“It gonna hurt?” Kid eyed the contraption suspiciously as the doctor began to pump the little bulb he held in his hand. The thing around Kid’s arm began to inflate and…
“Sheesh what the..? You’re cutting off my blood. Doc I…” Kid tried to sit up. “OW!”
“Shoulder still hurts huh?” The doctor said as he slipped the stethoscope into his ears. “It would. Let that be a lesson to you young man. Lie still.” Kid did just that. The cuff continued to inflate and squeeze.
“Doc! Doc! DOC!”
“Shhh, I have to listen.”
Blue eyes filled with panic fixed on Heyes.
“Will you stop him. He’s cutting off my…” And then the cuff deflated and Kid relaxed. The doctor removed the stethoscope from his ears and began to unwind the cuff.
“There, nothing to it was there. Of course it’s better if you don’t holler when I’m listening.”
“What the heck was that thing?”
“He told you, Kid. A sigmonometer.”
“So how’s his blood pressure doc?”
Kid sent a glare between Heyes and the doctor.
“It’s much better. Higher and that’s good.” Rowland patted Kid’s arm. “You rest up now. We’ll check it again later.”
“I can hardly wait,” Kid lied.
The doctor smiled and left the room. Kid examined his arm where the inflatable cuff had been. Seemed all right. No damage done. He yawned then looked at Heyes.
“Lom said what?”
“He says he’ll talk to the Governor, about what happened here.”
“I’m ready to leave whenever you are.” Heyes looked at his friend. Kid looked sheepish. “Well, maybe not right this minute but…”
“Don’t worry. The sheriff isn’t about to arrest us or run us out of town. You just heal up and get your strength back.”
Kid took a deep breath.
“You sure there’s no hurry?”
Kid yawned again and Heyes returned to his chair. Kid’s eyes closed. Heyes settled back, opening the book he had been reading.
“Whatever you did so I could heal up here.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Well, thanks anyway. I appreciate soft sheets for a change.” Another yawn. “Not sure I want the doc using that pig-thing again.” Yawn. “But I sure could use some sleep. I couldn’t ride today.” Yawn. “Maybe…Maybe tomorrow.” Kid’s voice grew quieter as he began to drift off to sleep. “Maybe I’ll…ride…to…”
Kid’s breathing took on a slow rhythm.
Hannibal Heyes looked down at his page and began to read.
Historical note: The author has had the audacity to overlook the true date of the invention of the sphygmomanometer to include it in her story. Artistic licence and all that. Sheesh, the cheek of some writers! And for those of you wondering how the heck you say that word try this…svig-mow-man-om-eater. Simples.