By Maz McCoy
Kid Curry walked across the street from the livery, heading towards the saloon. He shook his head in disgust; given the price he’d just paid for feed, that livery owner ought to be charged with daylight robbery. It should only be a couple of days before Heyes got there and they could leave, but it was more the principal than the actual cost that bothered him. Well aware of the irony, Kid Curry didn’t like being robbed. He was also anxious to get out of Wyoming. There were too many people in the state who knew their descriptions by heart, and many more all too happy to turn them in for the reward.
It was a hot day and Kid removed his hat, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. His eyes scanned the street as he untied his bandana and wiped around the hat band. He could use a cool drink, a good meal and a soft bed. Fortunately he had enough money for all three. Things weren’t as bad as they could be. Now he just had to make it to the saloon without someone calling out his name and he’d be a happy man.
Kid heard a gunshot and something thumped him hard in the head.
Hearing the shot, heads turned and several people saw the man drop to the ground. The shot came from beyond the saloon but no one saw who fired. The sheriff ran from his office, strapping on his gun as he shouted for the deputy. The doctor came scurrying down the street carrying his bag. A small crowd had gathered around the fallen stranger by the time he reached him.
“Is he dead?” someone asked and the doctor pushed his way through.
“Let me at him boys. Come on outta my way. Stop gawping, Sam.” He crouched beside the young man. Blood ran down the side of his face from a wound on his right temple. The doctor placed two fingers on the man’s neck, searching for a pulse.
“Is he dead, Doc?”
Hannibal Heyes rode into the town of Sweetwater, tired, dirty and hungry. He toyed with heading to the hotel and finding Kid but the bath house sign swung in the wind, calling to him; the dust stuck to his sweat covered body had to go. He pulled his horse to a halt, eased himself from the saddle and strolled inside. Minutes later he lowered himself into a hot bath with a satisfied sigh. Leaning back he closed his eyes. That felt so good.
A Chinese man appeared from a back room carrying a bucket of water. He stood beside Heyes, waiting as the man soaped his hair. Then, without waiting to be asked, he poured the water over Heyes’ head. The fact that it was several degrees colder than the bath water didn’t seem to concern him. Heyes gasped and his body tensed as the man disappeared into the back room once more. Shivering, the ex-outlaw cussed and reached for a towel.
A cleaner, sweeter-smelling Hannibal Heyes entered the hotel lobby to be greeted by the owner. She was a tall, handsome woman, her red hair piled on top of her head, a pearl necklace adorning her slender neck. She smiled as the handsome stranger approached the desk.
Heyes touched the brim of his hat and set down his saddlebags.
“I believe a friend of mine is staying here and has a room booked for us. A Mister Thaddeus Jones.”
He expected her to, either remember Kid with that smile that women gave him when they’d been on the receiving end of his partner’s charm or, if not, to look in the ledger for his name. She did neither. Instead her mouth dropped open and a sorry expression crossed her face.
“Mister Jones is in room 4. You can go on up, the doctor is still there.”
“The doctor? What’s wrong with him?”
“He was shot.”
Without another word Heyes headed for the stairs, taking them two at a time. Scanning the numbers on the doors he stopped outside room 4, taking a deep breath before placing his hand on the doorknob and turning it.
The room was bright; the curtains open to allow as much sunlight in as possible. Kid lay still in the bed, a bloodstained bandage around his head. A small grey-haired man sat in an armchair beside the bed, writing notes in a book. He looked up, over the rim of his glasses when Heyes entered the room.
“Can I help you?” He set aside his book as he got to his feet. Then he saw the expression on stranger’s face as he looked at the young man lying in bed. “Mister Jones is a friend of yours?”
“Yes.” Heyes didn’t take his eyes from Kid as he replied. He took another step into the room. “You the doctor?”
“Gregory Pomeray. Medical practitioner. And you are…?”
“Joshua Smith.” Heyes watched Kid’s chest slowly rise and fall. “How is he?”
“Lucky to be alive.” Finally, Heyes turned to face the older man. “Perhaps you’d better sit down?” Pomeray indicated the chair he had just vacated. Heyes sat.
“What happened?” He looked back at Kid.
“Someone took a shot at your friend as he crossed the street.”
Heyes’ glance snapped to the doctor and the medic felt a moments of fear at the anger in the look he received.
“The sheriff doesn’t know. There was a shot and your friend went down. Another half an inch and he’d be dead.”
Heyes let out the breath he’d been holding and clasped his hands together.
“How long’s he been like this?”
“Has he been unconscious the whole time?”
“Yes. I stitched the wound but it still weeps a little. Nothing to worry about. Of course I won’t be able to assess the full extent of his injury until, he wakes up.”
“Thank you for what you’ve done. You’ll have to tell me what we owe you.”
“Don’t worry. I was just working out my fee when you came in.” He smiled and Heyes felt some of the tension leave his body. The doctor studied the young man. “When did you last eat?”
Heyes thought for a moment.
“Last night. I was hoping Thaddeus could join me for dinner but…”
“Well he’s not going anywhere, so why don’t you go and get something to eat before the cafeteria closes?” He saw the dark-haired man’s glance at his patient.
“I don’t think so. I seem to have lost my appetite.”
“Do you intend to keep watch on him all night?”
“Then you need to eat. I’ll send someone for you if there is any change, I promise.”
As he tried to make up his mind, Heyes’ stomached rumbled.
“Go eat,” the doctor encouraged.
Hannibal Heyes stared at the menu at Molly’s Cafeteria. How could he even think of eating when Kid was lying unconscious?
“This ain’t a library, you know.” Heyes looked up at the young waitress and she took pity on him. “You want something, sweetie or not?”
“I’ll have the pie and a cup of coffee, please.”
She smiled and scurried away into the kitchen. Moments later, as he stared out of the window at nothing in particular, the aroma of good coffee and sweet apple pie wafted up from the table. As if she sensed his troubles a hand rested, momentarily, on his arm and then she was gone, back to the kitchen.
Heyes had just put a forkful of food into his mouth when the front door opened and a tall dark-haired man walked into the cafeteria. His boots made a deep thud on the floorboards as he approached Heyes’ table. Swallowing the pie, Heyes looked up and the first thing he saw was the shiny star pinned to the man’s chest. He swallowed.
“Mind if I join you?”
What could he say? Heyes waved a hand at the empty chair opposite him. The lawman pulled out the chair and sat down.
“Don’t let me interrupt your meal.”
“I reckon I’m about finished.”
The sheriff gazed at the food still on the plate.
“Not as much as I thought.” Heyes pushed his plate away as the waitress appeared with a coffee pot.
“D’you want a cup, Sheriff?”
“Thanks, Louise, I’d love one.”
“Top you up, Mister Smith?”
“Thanks.” He gave her a smile and they waited until she moved away before continuing the conversation.
“You’ve seen your friend?”
“Yes. D’you know who did it?”
“I was hoping you might help me with that. No one saw the shooter. Folks heard the shot, then your friend fell in the street. He’d only been here long enough to get a room and stable his horse. No time to get into trouble, so I reckon it was someone who was following him, or waiting for him here.”
“Assuming Thaddeus was the intended victim.”
“He was in the middle of the street. No one else was around him. If he wasn’t the intended victim, the shooter was one heck of a poor shot.”
“He could have been a random target.”
“That he could.” The sheriff studied Heyes. “What brings you to Sweetwater, Mister Smith?”
“I was meeting Thaddeus.”
“Then we planned to ride on.”
“Porterville. Our friend’s the sheriff down there. Lom Trevors.”
“I’ve heard of Trevors. Good man, so they say.”
“So what were you doing before you got to Sweetwater?”
“This and that?”
“Yeah. What specifically, were you doing?”
“I was delivering a package for a friend of mine.”
“Who?” The sheriff’s eyes met and held Heyes.
“And where would I find Mister McCreedy if I wanted to verify your story?”
“It’s not a story.”
“Where would I find him?”
“Sheriff, does it really…?”
“What was Mister Jones doing before he came here?”
“Delivering a package.”
“Let me guess, for Mister McCreedy?”
“Does Mister McCreedy send a lot of packages?”
“You’d have to ask him that.”
“Any idea what was in these packages?”
“I think that’s his business, don’t you?”
“Not if it got your friend shot and brought a gunman to my town.” Heyes kept quiet. “So you have no idea who’d want to kill your friend?”
“Sorry, I can’t help you there sheriff. You see Thaddeus and me, we’re real peaceable men.”
“Men who wear their guns tied down and that’s a real fancy piece your friend carries.”
“Doesn’t mean we’re not peaceable.”
“Isn’t there anyone in town who might like taking pot shots at folk?”
“Nope.” The sheriff took a sip of his coffee. “Until your friend came here, we hadn’t had a shooting in a year.” He pushed back his chair and stood up, tossing a coin onto the table to pay for his coffee. “If you think of anything, you’ll find me at the jail.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Heyes didn’t breathe again until the sheriff had left the cafeteria.
Heyes pushed open the door gently and stepped into the room. Kid was still unconscious. The doctor had gone, to be replaced by an elderly woman, who sat in the chair, knitting. She looked up as Heyes entered and placed a finger to her lips silencing him.
“He’s sleeping,” she whispered. “You’re Mister Smith?”
“I’m Agnes Peabody, Gregory’s my brother-in-law.”
“Pleased to meet you, ma’am. You said he was sleeping? He woke up?”
“Did he say anything?”
“No. His eyes opened but that was all.” She packed away her knitting. “I’ll leave him in your care. Gregory said he will be over first thing in the morning.” Agnes headed for the door. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight ma’am and thank you.”
She smiled, rested her hand briefly on his arm and then left.
Heyes removed his hat and hung it on the back of the door. He ran his hands through his hair to straighten it, then sat down in the armchair. He looked at his friend.
“Well, Kid. Here we are again. I leave you alone for five minutes and you get yourself shot. It’s down to you now. You gonna wake up or what?”
A knock at the door woke Heyes. He groaned at the stiffness of his neck and struggled to his feet. Taking his gun from his holster he headed to the door.
“Who is it?”
Yawning, Heyes opened the door, smiled when he saw Pomeray, then stepped to one side allowing the man into the room. The doctor eyed Heyes gun.
“Can’t be too careful until I know who shot him.”
Doctor Pomeray placed his bag on the table.
“How is he?”
The doctor approached the bed and felt Kid’s pulse, lifted his eyelids to examine his pupils and felt his forehead. He turned to Heyes.
“Did you get much sleep?”
“Not a lot.” Heyes stretched his arms above his head, then massaged the small of his back.
“Why don’t you go and grab some breakfast?”
“You always so concerned about what people eat?”
“Only when they’re watching my patients.”
“Maybe I’ll grab a cup of coffee later but for now I…” A groan from the bed interrupted him.
Kid opened his eyes a fraction.
“Mister Jones? Thaddeus?” Kid focused on the man at the edge of the bed. “Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” Kid croaked.
“How are you feeling?”
“I imagine it would. Any nausea?”
Kid closed his eyes and thought for a moment.
“Can you open your eyes for me?”
Kid did so.
Kid focussed on the man’s face, at least he tried to.
“Can you see me clearly?”
The doctor moved further away.
“What about now?”
“You’re still blurry. Is that bad?”
“I’m sure your sight will return to normal soon.”
Kid closed his eyes as he struggled to stay awake.
“Do you remember what happened, Thaddeus?”
Kid looked at the doctor, curiously.
“Is that…Is that my name? Thaddeus?”
“Yes.” The doctor turned his worried gaze to someone standing behind him and then back to the injured man. “Don’t you remember?”
“What do you remember?”
Kid’s eyes narrowed as he thought. He frowned as he tried to recall, then shook his head.
“Nothing. I can’t…remember…Can’t remember anything.”
“What about this man?” The doctor stepped aside. Kid stared at the dark haired man. Heyes smiled.
Kid shook his head.
“I…I don’t…know him.”
“Are you sure?” The doctor looked at Heyes, who continued to stare at his friend. “This is Joshua. Joshua Smith. Doesn’t that name mean anything to you?”
Kid looked again at the man standing beside him.
“I’m sorry. I don’t remember you.”
“Will he get his memory back?” Heyes asked, keeping his voice low as he stood by the window with the doctor.
“It’s possible. Usually the memory returns slowly, small facts or faces begin to make sense or trigger a memory. Sometimes the patient loses the events directly prior to the head injury or cannot remember the last few days but sometimes…”
“Sometimes the memory never returns.”
Heyes stared out of the window.
“Can you tell if…? I mean how do you know when that..?”
“There’s no way of telling. Only time will reveal how much of his memory he regains.”
“But there’s a possibility he’ll never remember who I am?”
Heyes cast a glance back at the bed. The doctor laid a hand on his arm.
“I’m sorry, but yes, that is a possibility.”
Kid sat up in bed. A pulse in his head throbbed painfully as he watched the dark-haired man reading in the armchair. The man knew him well; claimed to be his best friend; told him they’d grown up together; so why couldn’t he remember him? Surely he wouldn’t forget something like that? He searched his memory for anything that was familiar about Joshua Smith; for any clue as to how he knew him but there was nothing.
“What you reading?”
Heyes looked up.
“Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.”
“Yeah. It’s an alias.” Heyes waited, hoping for a sign of recognition from his friend.
“Why’d he need an alias? Was he wanted?”
“Twain? No. Why d’you ask?”
Kid thought for a moment.
“I don’t know.” Kid studied the man. “So what’s the book about? Maybe I read it?”
“No, Thaddeus, I don’t believe you have.”
Heyes sat in the cafeteria nursing a cup of coffee. He had no idea what to do to help Kid. He didn’t know who to talk to, who to ask. He didn’t want to admit it to himself but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so lonely.
“Someone’s miles away.”
Heyes looked up to see Louise standing before him. He gave her a smile.
“I said, you were miles away.”
“Just thinking about my friend.”
“Does he remember anything yet?”
Louise pointed to a chair. “Mind if I sit down?”
“Of course not.”
She pulled out the chair and sat. “Does he remember you?”
She placed a hand on his arm. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m just trying to figure out how to get through to him.”
“My brother lost his memory once. He worked in a lumber yard and got hit on the head by a falling plank. We didn’t think he’d ever remember us but gradually his memories came back. We put all his favourite things in his room so he could see them. We took him out to a river where he liked to fish. Anything we knew he liked that might spark a memory.”
“And did he get his memory back?”
“In the end.”
“How long did it take?”
Heyes didn’t say anything. Two years. Was it going to take that long for Kid? How would he keep him away from the law if he didn’t even remember that he was wanted?
“Mister Smith? Are you all right?”
“I need to go help my friend remember.”
“Remember when you got this?” Heyes held up Kid’s sheepskin coat.
“No.” Kid leaned back against the pillow; his legs were stretched out in front of him on the bed, crossed at the ankles.
“How ‘bout this?” Heyes put Kid’s hat on his own head. “Remember you liked the band?”
Kid’s favourite shirt was held out.
Heyes did his best not to look irritated. “You sure you’re trying?”
“Of course I’m trying. D’you think I want this?”
Heyes gave a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry, Thaddeus. I know it must be hard for you.”
“D’you always get so irritated? I don’t remember that either.”
“Normally I’m a real peaceable man.”
Despite his lack of memory, Kid looked sceptical.
“The fresh air will do you good, Thaddeus,” the doctor said as the blond man lowered himself into a chair on the porch in front of the hotel. He squinted against the brightness of the sun and eased the chair back into the shade. When the doctor had bid them good day Heyes pulled up another chair and sat beside his friend. People cast a glance in their direction as they walked by. Some men tipped their hats, while the ladies smiled.
“Why’s everybody staring at me?” Kid complained.
“Well, it’s not everyday you see a man shot in the head. Besides that bandage is a mite conspicuous.”
“Maybe I should take it off.” Kid’s hand moved to his head but Heyes grabbed hold of his arm.
“Leave it! You heard the doctor; it’s still not fully healed.”
Kid slumped back in the chair and grimaced.
“Just a headache. Had one since I woke up.”
“D’you want some of that stuff the doc left?”
“No, I want to be able to think. Keep my head clear.”
“So sit back, relax and rest. That’s the best thing for you, Thaddeus.”
“Who made you a doctor?”
Heyes smiled but didn’t comment. Kid sat back and closed his eyes. After a few moments his breathing took on the slow, steady rhythm of sleep. Heyes leaned back in his chair and watched the people of Sweetwater going about their business. A wagon pulled to a halt in front of the general store and supplies were unloaded. Two women, a mother and daughter from their similar features, entered the haberdashers. Two small boys, one blond, one dark haired, were clearly up to something outside the Sheriff’s office. They knelt down in a conspiratorial huddle. Heyes smiled at the all too familiar scene. Suddenly the boys took off at a run leaving something smoking in the dirt. A moment later a firecracker went off and Kid leapt to his feet reaching for the gun that wasn’t on his hip. Wide-eyed, he stared at his empty hand in bewilderment.
“It’s just a firecracker,” Heyes explained as he stood beside him. He placed a hand on Kid’s shoulder. “Sit down,” he said gently.
Dazed, Kid did so. He looked at his hand once more.
“You remembering something?” Heyes watched his friend’s face.
“Where’s my gun?”
“Hanging on the bedpost, where you always keep it.”
Kid looked at Heyes. “Always?”
“When you’re not wearing it.”
“I always wear it?”
“And I’m good with it?”
“Fastest man I know.”
Stunned, Kid looked at Heyes. “Did I kill anyone?”
Heyes rubbed his hand over his mouth, considering his answer. “We both have. Nothing either of us is proud of. We just did what we had to, to survive.”
“But I have a reputation?”
“What are you remembering?”
“Joshua, tell me. Do I have a reputation with a gun?”
There was fear in the blue eyes that fixed on Heyes.
Heyes sighed. “Yes.” Kid closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair. “But you’re not a gunslinger. You’re just fast, that’s all.”
“I think I’d like to rest if that’s okay with you?”
“D’you mind if we don’t talk for a bit.”
Heyes sighed, knowing his friend needed time to grow accustomed to each new memory.
Kid looked along the street, not focussing on anything in particular. He was a fast gun and he remembered enough to know that a man didn’t get a reputation without due reason. That meant he’d drawn his gun enough times to be noticed. He had a reputation but was it a good or bad one? He wasn’t sure he trusted Joshua to tell him the truth. His friend seemed like a good man but how could he be sure?
Kid’s eyes fell on two young fair-haired children playing outside the livery. The girl chased the boy, attempting to reclaim her hair ribbon. They looked to be about six or seven years old. From the familial likeness he assumed they were brother and sister. The girl’s squeal of exasperation drifted towards him along with the boy’s teasing laughter.
Kid smiled. She reminded him of his own sis…Kid’s mouth fell open as an image formed in his mind’s eye. Two small blonde girls sat on a porch and played with a rag doll. They laughed and giggled as he approached. One of them called to him. “Jed!” and he felt himself smile and wave to them. This was a happy time and these girls were part of his family. His sisters. A dog barked in the distance and his mother’s voice rang out from somewhere inside the house, reminding them to wash up for supper. Kid smiled at the memory. He had two younger sisters. And then a darker image came to him. There was blood, so much blood and gunfire, and the happy giggling turned to screams. The ragdoll lay discarded in the dirt, two crumpled bodies nearby. Blonde hair covered in blood, pretty dresses bloodstained and torn and a man, a man in a white shirt, lay bleeding…
“Thaddeus?” Heyes leaned forward in the chair when there was no response. “Thaddeus?” He followed the direction of his friend’s gaze noting the vacant look of horror in Kid’s blue eyes as he stared at the children.
“They were all killed.” Kid’s voice was little more than a whisper. He turned glazed eyes towards his friend. “We lost them all, didn’t we?”
Heyes swallowed. There was no way he could ease the pain he saw in Kid’s moist eyes.
“We lost them all?”
“Yes, yes we did.”
Heyes said nothing as Kid walked back into the hotel.
“I want you to tell me everything you know about me. You can start with the fact that my name isn’t Thaddeus. It’s Jed, right?”
Kid glared at Heyes and then began pacing back and forth in the hotel room.
“Will you just slow down? Sit down!”
“No. I want to know what you know about me. Just who the heck am I?”
“The doctor thinks it will be better if we let your memory come back on its own.”
“I don’t give a damn what the doctor thinks! I want to know who I am, what’s happened to me and what the heck I’ve done!” He strode angrily towards Heyes. “And so help me, if you don’t tell me…”
“What? Just what will you do, Thaddeus?” He met Kid’s glare. Kid sighed heavily and turned away. However he turned just a little too fast and the room began to spin. Heyes grabbed his arm as he staggered. “Sit down!” He pushed Kid onto the bed and waited for the colour to return to his friend’s face.
“Who am I?” Kid asked.
“A man who needs to rest.”
“I can’t rest until I’ve filled in the spaces in my head.”
Kid put his head in his hands.
“I’m going to get the doctor to take a look at you.”
“I don’t need the doctor. I need answers.”
“Well, now I know your memory’s not working or you’d remember that I’m always right.”
Without another word, Heyes left the room. Kid lay back on the bed. He stared at the gun hanging in the gun belt on the bed post. Kid pressed his hand to his temple. If he could just stop the throbbing long enough, maybe he’d be able to think straight.
Kid was asleep when Heyes cracked open the door and peered into the room. Doctor Pomeray followed him inside and stood for a moment watching Kid breathe, noting the rhythm.
“He seems to be settled. It’s best to let him rest. I’ll call back later.”
“Okay, Doc. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
“It wasn’t wasted. From what you’ve told me, his memory is beginning to return. That’s a good sign.” He patted Heyes on the arm. “A good sign. Make sure you help him all you can, but you’ll need to be patient with him.”
“I’ve always needed to be that.”
Pomeray smiled and when he left, Heyes sat in the armchair and pulled off his boots.
Help him as much as you can. That’s what he was doing wasn’t it? He wanted Kid to remember but if he suddenly blurted something out it could cause trouble for both of them. Heyes leaned back in the chair and picked up his book. He found the page he’d been reading. Unable to concentrate he closed it again. It was going to be another long night.
Kid came slowly awake. Opening his eyes he looked up at the ceiling. His headache had eased. Images flashed into his mind. Blonde girls, guns, blood, money, metal bars, screams and shouts and the smell of burning. What did it all mean? What did the bars have to do with the family he knew he’d lost? Could he trust his memories? Turning his head he saw Joshua Smith sitting in the armchair. Once again he was reading.
“You’re still here.”
Heyes put down the book. “Well, a good friend of mine got himself shot in the head and I happen to care what happens to him.”
“I’m sorry I don’t remember more.”
“Give it time.”
Kid sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Do we have any water?”
Heyes looked across at an empty jug sitting on the dresser. “I’ll get some more.”
“When you get back will you tell me who I am?” Heyes picked up the water jug. “Well?
“I told you the doctor said…”
“I need to know. So unless you’re deliberately keeping me in the dark about something…?”
“I’m going for some more water.”
“I need to know who I am. What has money got to do with us? A lot of money?”
“I’ll get the water. Anything else you want?”
“DAMMIT HEYES! WILL YOU JUST TELL ME?”
With his hand on the doorknob, Heyes froze. Slowly he turned around and met Kid’s gaze.
“So you’re not Joshua Smith and I’m not Thaddeus Jones?”
“No.” Heyes sighed. “You really should get some rest and I’ll get some more water. I promise you I will explain everything.”
“When I get back.”
“I’ll hold you to it.”
Heyes left the room and Kid looked at his gun, hanging on the bedpost. Who were they?
Kid was lying on top of the bed asleep when Heyes returned to the room. He picked up the blanket hanging half off the bed and covered his friend. Heyes sat down on the other bed and pulled off his boots. As he dropped one on the floor, Kid stirred, his eyes opened.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” Heyes ran a hand through his hair as Kid sat up.
“It’s all right. I was dreaming.” Kid yawned, rubbed his eyes and then stared at the man before him as an image flashed in his mind. An explosion! He blinked, his mouth fell open when he saw Smith, no wait that wasn’t his name, Heyes, that was it. He saw Heyes on his knees in front of a safe. He held money in his hands and smiled. Kid turned his gaze away and another image filled his thoughts. Heyes was shouting at him, telling him to run.
Heyes saw the confusion on Kid’s face. “What is it?”
Kid glanced up at him. “You’re a bank robber.”
Heyes’ mouth dropped open but no words came out. Kid waited for a response. “Thaddeus…”
“No! My name is Jed, remember?” He continued to stare at Heyes. “You rob banks. I saw you.”
“In a dream?”
“That’s right, Heyes.” Heyes didn’t like the look of smug satisfaction on Kids face. “I saw you open a safe.”
Kid stood up as realisation hit him. “You told me to run. I rob banks too. I’m a thief. A gunman and a thief.”
Heyes got to his feet, his hands held up trying to placate his friend. “Look it’s not as bad as it sounds.”
“WE’RE BANK ROBBERS! How much worse can it be?”
“Will you keep your voice down?”
“Why? You afraid someone will HEAR THE TRUTH?”
“As a matter of fact I am! You keep shouting and you’ll get a good reminder of what it’s like to be in jail too!”
“I’ve been in jail?” Kid’s eyes opened wide. He didn’t need to wait for Heyes’ answer. “Oh terrific, some friend you are!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, you got me robbing banks!”
“How do you know that? Until a few minutes ago you didn’t even know my real name.”
“So you admit it’s Heyes?”
“Yes, KID, I do!”
“I’m Hannibal Heyes and you’re…” A finger poked Kid in the chest. “Kid Curry and we each have a $10,000 price tag on our heads, so unless you want to shout about it some more, I’d keep your voice down if I was you.” Heyes sat down heavily on the bed leaving Kid to stand there looking stunned. Damn! So much for his silver tongue.
“Bank robbers usually are.”
Kid stood dumbfounded as Heyes struggled to contain his annoyance. “Devil’s Hole.”
“It’s all coming back to you now, huh?”
“I guess it is.”
“Sorry if getting my memory back’s inconvenient for ya!”
“It’s not it’s just…”
“What?” Heyes was smiling when Kid glanced up at him. “What?”
“It’ll be good to have you back. Even if I do want to flatten ya.”
“Well, I don’t remember everything yet. It’s coming at me in images and…”
“What is it?”
“We met Harry where?” Kid’s voice asked in the darkness.
“Can these questions wait until morning?” Heyes asked, his eyes firmly closed, the blankets pulled up to his chin as he lay in what had to be one of the most comfortable beds he’d slept in. Correction, tried to sleep in. His partner’s constant questions put paid to any chance of sleep.
“Brisco. That’s his surname, right?”
“Kid, please, I need some sleep.”
“Oh, right, sorry. Goodnight, Heyes.”
It fell silent. Heyes smiled and snuggled under the covers.
“Murty! That’s his name! And Wheat is Wheat…Carter, no…Carstairs…No that’s not right.”
“Kid, please LET ME SLEEP!”
“Sheesh, Heyes you sure are proddy. I didn’t remember that about you.”
“What?” The dark haired man stuffed his shirt into his saddlebags, waiting for Kid to ask yet another question.
“I just remembered something else.”
“Well that’s good. Real good. I mean after last night, I can’t think of anything I’d rather hear than another one of your memories coming back to you!”
Kid gave his partner a hurt look. Heyes sighed and pushed his hat back on his head.
“What is it?”
“You owe me $20.”
“You owe me $20.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“Since when?” Brown eyes narrowed.
“When we were in Hartleyville you borrowed $20 for a poker stake.”
“Kid, that was over three months ago.”
“It don’t matter, you never gave it back, did you?”
“Well, no, now that you mention it, I guess I didn’t, but then we left with a posse on our tail because you…”
“I don’t mind. You can pay it back now.”
“I don’t have $20 right now.”
“That’s okay; you can owe it to me.” Kid smiled pleasantly and Heyes frowned.
“You know I think I liked you better when you couldn’t remember anything!” Picking up his saddlebags, Heyes headed for the door.
“You boys leaving?”
They turned from their horses at the sound of the sheriff’s voice.
“That’s right, Sheriff.” Heyes smiled pleasantly at the man. A young dark-haired boy, his head hung in obvious shame, stood beside the lawman. The boy kicked the dust with the toe of his shoe as Kid walked around from the other side of his horse.
“Mister Jones, I’d like you to meet the person who shot you.”
Two ex-outlaws were stunned into silence by the sheriff’s revelation. Their gaze moved from the lawman to the boy and back.
“You mean…?” Kid pointed to the boy.
“I didn’t mean to shoot ya. I was just playin’ with the gun. I didn’t know it was loaded. Pa wouldn’t let me see it so I took it but I didn’t mean to hurt anyone and I was only gonna look at it for a while and then I just pulled the trigger to see if it would fire and…I didn’t mean to…Honest I didn’t . Will they hang me? The sheriff says they could hang me but he says you can have the last word.” The boy finally drew breath long enough to wipe away the tears that had formed in his eyes. “Please don’t let them hang me.”
Kid looked at the sheriff.
“I told him they hang gunmen in this county.”
Kid turned to the boy. “What’s your name son?”
“Hannibal. Hannibal Johanson.”
Heyes’ swallowed his own spit as he took a deep breath and began choking. Kid whacked him a couple of times on the back before assuring himself his partner was going to survive.
“You all right, Mister Smith?”
“Yes, Sheriff, I’ll be okay.”
Kid looked back at his assailant. “Hannibal. You named after that general with the elephants?”
“No. Pa stuck a pin in the map when I was born and hit Hannibal, Missouri. Ma says it’s a good job he didn’t hit Champaign, Illinois ‘cos that woulda been worse.”
Kid did his best to suppress a smile and noted Heyes’ mixture of discomfort and apparent disapproval of the father’s methods of choosing a name for his son.
“I think it’s a fine name.” The boy looked up at Heyes. “But I don’t think the Great General Hannibal would approve of you shooting people in the street.”
The boy looked down at his feet. “I didn’t mean it.”
“You plannin’ on using that gun again?” Kid asked and two brown eyes met his. Sheesh did the kid hafta look so much like Heyes too?
“No, sir. My Pa said he’d tan my hide three ways till Sunday if I ever touch it again. It’s been kind hard to sit down since he found out.”
“What do you think, Sheriff?” Kid turned his attention to the lawman. “Should we let him off the hanging?”
“If it’s all right with you, Mister Jones?”
Young Hannibal waited, hopeful.
“I think he’s learned his lesson.”
Kid heard a heavy sigh as he pulled his horse to a halt on a ridge over looking the town of Sweetwater.
“D’you think that’s really what your Pa did? Stick a pin in the map to choose your name?”
“I mean he said he named you after the elephant man but what if he didn’t? What if he used a map too?”
“I was named after the man in classical literature.”
“You could have been St. Louis Heyes, Kansas City Heyes.”
“Will you shut up?”
“Oh wait, what about Charlotte? North Carolina? Charlotte Heyes. Now that really would take some explaining.”
“Kid, if you don’t shut up I’ll be the second Hannibal to shoot you in a week.”
“You know I still don’t remember you being so proddy.”