Another Bad Couple of Days

Another Bad Couple of Days

By Maz McCoy

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry rode their horses slowly along a trail through the woods. The sun shone through the leaves of the trees, casting shadows and dappled light around them. Birds sang in the branches over head, flowers bloomed on the shrubs and the sound of a distant woodpecker, hammering on a tree trunk, filled the air.

“You know Kid, it’s on days like these, that I’m glad we didn’t end up with normal jobs,” Hannibal Heyes said with a smile, as he turned his brown eyes towards his partner. “I mean we could be stuck behind a desk or slaving away in a workshop, but instead, here we are riding through this beautiful country with not a care in the world.”

“Except where our next meal’s coming from,” Kid muttered beside him. Heyes pulled his horse up sharp, pushed his hat back on his head and looked at his partner with disbelief. Kid stopped his horse too.

“D’you always have to think of your stomach?” Heyes asked exasperated that Kid would think of food instead of enjoying the beauty of their surroundings.

“Well I’m hungry,” Kid protested.

“You’re always hungry,” Heyes snapped back.

“That’s not true,” Kid said urging his horse on again. “And I do appreciate the fact that we’re not stuck inside on such a fine day. But since we had to leave Dawson’s Bend, in such a hurry, because you think you recognised the name of the sheriff…”

“I did,” Heyes told him and Kid continued.

“…we didn’t get the chance to have a bath, sleep in a bed or get a hot meal. So, yes, I’m still hungry.”

“But at least we’re not locked up in a jail or being chased by a posse. Which we would have been, had the sheriff spotted us,” Heyes reminded him.

“Not us Heyes, you. You said you knew him. I’d never heard of Sheriff John McGuire,” Kid told him. “I could have stayed in town, soaked in a hot bath and slept in a bed.”

“You’d have split us up for that? Chosen a bath and a bed over loyalty to your partner?” Heyes asked, preparing to be hurt.

“Well right now, with my stomach grumblin’ the way it is, I am tempted to say yes,” Kid told his dark-haired friend, as they rode their horses between two enormous rocks.

“Kid, I’m deeply wounded,” Heyes stated, as he rode in front.

“I didn’t say yes, I said I was tempted to say yes,” Kid told his friend’s back.

“And you think that makes a difference?” Heyes asked, over his shoulder.

“Well doesn’t it?” Kid asked, as they emerged from the rocks and entered the woods again.

Hannibal Heyes opened his mouth to reply but at that moment there was a terrifying growl somewhere above them. Both men looked up and spotted a mountain lion, teeth bared, saliva dripping from long canines, ready to pounce from the rocks. Kid went for his gun but Heyes’ horse gave a frightened cry and reared up, shoving Kid’s horse aside, at the very moment that the big cat pounced. Heyes was torn between struggling to control his horse and fending off the cat. The mountain lion landed on his back knocking Heyes from his horse. Kid could not get off a clear shot and watched, helpless, as Heyes and the cat went tumbling down the hillside.

“Heyes!” Kid yelled as he leapt from his horse and raced to the edge of the slope. He saw a black hat go flying, paws clawed the air, branches snapped, dust flew up and Hannibal Heyes could be heard cursing loudly. Kid Curry started down the slope after his partner. He fired a warning shot hoping to scare the cat off. The lion let out a yowl and then ran off into the underbrush.

Kid stumbled and slid down the hillside anxious to get to his friend. He found Heyes lying still at the bottom of the slope; the mountain lion was nowhere to be seen. Kid scanned the undergrowth around them expecting to be pounced on at any moment but there was no sign of the cat.

“Heyes?” Kid said, approaching his partner, who was now, thankfully, struggling to his feet. Hannibal Heyes sat up and tried to stand. He let out a cry of agony and grasped his right ankle.

“Ow! Damn it!” he cried as Kid reached him. Again he tried to stand but was unable to put any weight on his right foot. His blond-haired cousin looked concerned.

“You hurt?” Kid asked somewhat unnecessarily.

“Yes,” Heyes hissed. “My ankle.”

“Did the cat get it?” Kid asked dropping to his knees, expecting to see claw marks on Heyes’ leg.

“No,” Heyes stated through gritted teeth. “Hurt it in the fall.”

“D’you think it’s broken?” Kid asked with concern.

“No, just feels like it is,” his partner told him.

“Only twisted then?” Kid stated.

“Not only twisted; it’s twisted,” Heyes complained, fixing his angry brown eyes on Kid’s blue ones. Kid decided it was best to humour his partner when he was this proddy.

“Okay,” Kid said patiently. “So it’s twisted. Should I take your boot off and have a look?” Heyes looked at him, the pain he felt clear in his eyes.

“I might not get it back on again,” the dark-haired man stated. He was torn between what they should do and what would hurt the least. “Okay, I guess you should.”

“Alright,” Kid said, taking hold of the foot of Heyes’ boot. “This is probably gonna hurt,” he stated.

“I know it’s gonna hurt!” Heyes told him through gritted teeth. “You sure you’re not enjoying this?”

“No Heyes, I’m not, but you keep this up and I just might start,” Kid assured him and Heyes glared at his partner. “You ready?”

“No…okay now I’m re…” Heyes gave a cry as Kid yanked the boot off quickly. “What the hell did you do that for?” Heyes glared at his partner who gave him an innocent smile.

“Well you said you were ready,” Kid told him. He felt Heyes’ ankle, watching his friend grimace as he did so. “I can’t feel any bones broken,” he stated. It was probably just sprained, not broken.

“Oh, so now you’re a doctor?” Heyes snapped and instantly regretted it.

“No, I’m not but I don’t see one around here, we can get a second opinion from, do you?” Kid said and pretended to look around.

“I’m sorry Kid, I’m sorry,” Heyes apologised. “It hurts.”

“I know Heyes,” Kid said sympathetically. “I’m gonna get somethin’ to strap up your ankle.” Kid stood up and looked up the hill and then back at his partner.

“Heyes, when you were tumblin’ down here, did…?”

“No, Kid,” his partner interrupted. “Not Fort Worth.” Kid looked surprised.

“Just a very big cat,” Heyes told him and smiled. Kid smiled too.

“Okay. Don’t run off,” Kid said, with a smile, and Heyes gave him a look.

“Very funny, Kid.”

Kid Curry climbed back up the hillside using the branches of bushes and shrubs to pull himself up. When he reached the horses he rummaged through his saddlebags for some leather cords and chose his white shirt to make cloth strips from. Turning his back on the horses he looked for an easier way back to his friend. Suddenly he heard the familiar growl behind him. Kid’s hand went to his gun. He drew, turned, aimed and fired in a single motion. The mountain lion let out a scream as it leapt towards the horses. The bullet from Kid Curry’s gun hit it, as the animal was in mid-air. The big cat fell to the ground as Kid hit it with two more shots. The animal lay still. Kid breathed a sigh of relief. The horses however, were terrified by the mountain lion’s attack and the gunfire so close to their heads. Kid’s horse reared up, its hooves perilously close to his head, as he made a grab for the reins. Before he could get hold of them, both animals were galloping off along the trail. Kid gave chase but it was soon obvious, that he had no chance of catching them. Kid could do nothing more than watch as the horses disappeared into the trees.

“Damn it!” he cursed and his shoulders dropped. Kid turned and walked slowly back to where he had dropped his shirt.

“Kid! Kid! You okay?” Heyes called, from somewhere below.

“Yeah! I’m fine,” Kid called back, picking up his shirt. He looked down the slope to where Heyes waited for him, then back at the dead body of the mountain lion and then along the trail where the horses had fled. He did not relish telling Heyes the news. With a heavy sigh, Kid set off down the hill.

Having heard the commotion above him, Hannibal Heyes watched his partner approach, with concern.

“What was it?” Heyes asked as he pulled himself up onto a boulder.

“The mountain lion came back,” Kid told him and Heyes looked worried. “It’s okay, I shot it. It’s dead,” his blond partner told him.

“So d’you want the good news or the bad news?” Kid asked as he sat down beside his partner. Heyes looked confused.

“The good news,” he said decisively.

“It didn’t get the horses and I’ve got something to strap up your ankle,” Kid told his friend as he held up the straps and his white shirt.

“Okay, so what’s the bad news?” Heyes asked.

“The horses ran off. You’re gonna hafta walk,” Kid told him bluntly.

***

Kid Curry used strips of his white shirt and the leather cords to strap up Heyes’ ankle, giving it as much support as he could. Then he pulled the sock over the strapping. As expected, that meant Heyes couldn’t pull his boot back on. So Kid had tied what was left of his shirt around Heyes’ boot, making a strap, so that he could carry it.

Kid found a large branch and, using the knife Heyes always kept hidden in his boot, he removed the side branches and twigs. In this way he fashioned a sturdy walking stick for his partner.

“Here you go,” he said handing the stick to Heyes. With Kid’s help, the dark-haired man pulled himself to his feet. Heyes put his weight on his foot, cried out in pain and collapsed back onto the boulder he had been sitting on.

“Damn! Damn it!” the dark-haired man said, biting back the pain.

It was obvious that Heyes could not put his weight on his foot for very long and even more obvious to Kid Curry that his partner was not about to climb back up the hillside. There was only thing for it.

“Okay Heyes, give me your hand,” Kid said and Heyes held out his hand to his partner, confusion written all over his face. Kid took hold of Heyes hand, bent down and hoisted his partner over his shoulder.

“Whoa! Kid what do you think you’re doin’?” Heyes asked as Kid shifted his partner’s weight on his shoulder and caught hold of his legs across his chest.

“You can’t walk, so I’ll hafta carry you,” Kid stated.

“You can’t carry me all the way up the hill,” Heyes protested from his position, upside down on his partner’s back.

“I guess we’re about to see if you’re right Heyes,” the blond-haired man said and set off up the slope once more. Kid grabbed hold of the rocks and branches of trees to pull himself up. “It’s a good job you’re skinny,” Kid told his partner as he climbed.

“I’m not skinny,” Heyes reminded him. “I’m…”

“Lean and lithe,” Kid finished as he breathed heavily. “Yeah, I know, I remember. Like a race horse. Although by the weight of you, you sure it wasn’t an old cart horse?” Kid teased as he shifted Heyes to a more comfortable position on his shoulder.

“It was a thoroughbred,” Heyes corrected and he heard Kid scoff. Heyes smiled and did his best not to move, to let his partner get them both up the hill safely.

Kid huffed and puffed as he slipped and stumbled his way towards the trail above them. He lost his footing and cursed as his knees made hard contact with the ground and a twig just missed poking him in the eye. Kid slipped, grabbing a branch to stop them both falling back down the hill. Then, he adjusted his hat and started off again.

“Kid, you know I probably could have walked up. I mean my foot…” Heyes turned his head around so that he could see up the hill and the trail Kid was making for. “I mean the exercise would probably be good for my ankle. Oh wait, there’s a hand hold to your left, no to your left. No, not that one, just below it. No, I said to your left, you should grab that branch with the big leaves, no further… Are you listenin’ to me?”

“Heyes,” Kid panted.

“Yeah, Kid?” his partner said cheerily.

“Do somethin’ for me will ya?”

“Sure Kid, anything to help. What is it?”

“Shut up!” Heyes looked hurt, but he stopped talking and let his partner struggle on.

By the time he reached the top of the hill and the trail, Kid was exhausted and Heyes felt as heavy, on his back, as the race horse he claimed to be. Kid eased his partner down onto his good foot. Heyes leaned against a rock. He was concerned to see his partner’s face, red and running with sweat. The front of Kid’s shirt was also covered in sweat and clung to his body.

“Okay…so…,” Kid puffed after the exertion of carrying his partner up the hill. “I guess I could carry you…I mean …I could,” he took another deep breath.

“Kid, just get your breath back first,” Heyes suggested and Kid nodded, rested his hands on his knees and took several deep gulps of air. Heyes looked at the body of the mountain lion which lay a few feet away. “You know that cat’s worth a decent bounty,” Heyes remarked.

“I am not carryin’ that as well,” Kid snapped.

“Just thinking out loud,” his friend told him.

“Well don’t.” The two men remained silent for a while and Kid began to recover from the climb.

“We hafta find the horses,” Kid said when his breathing returned to normal. He looked at his partner. “If you stay here I could walk on aways and see if I can find ‘em.”

“And if you don’t find ‘em?” Heyes asked.

“Then, I’ll keep going and leave you for the buzzards,” Kid said with a smile.

“Nice,” Heyes said.

“So what d’you think?” Kid asked.

“Go on. I’ll sit here and wait for the buzzards.” Kid set off along the trail. After he had walked for a while he had still not seen any sign of their horses. He knew it could be some time before he did and so he headed back to his partner.

“Any sign?” Heyes asked, silently relieved to see Kid back.

“Nope.” Kid looked at Heyes. “They could be long gone. How’s the ankle?”

“It hurts,” his partner stated honestly.

“Well we can’t go back, so I guess we’ll hafta go on. Maybe we’ll find the horses when we clear the trees.” Kid looked at Heyes ankle, then along the trail. “I’m not sure how far we’ll hafta walk. Or we could stay here until your ankle’s better but we’ve no food, water or blankets.”

“Let me try to walk for a while,” Heyes said. “You can’t carry me all the way to the next town and the movement might actually be good for it.”

“D’you believe that?” Kid asked sceptically.

“No but I thought you might,” Heyes said, with a smile.

Despite the pain it caused him, Heyes had no intention of letting his partner kill himself carrying him. He let Kid help him to his feet. Then he walked a few steps, using the stick Kid had fashioned for him, to demonstrate to his partner that he could do it.

“Okay, Heyes, you win,” Kid said, pleased not to have to carry his friend again.

As he walked Heyes let out the occasional involuntary groan or yell and Kid would put out a hand to support his friend. However it wasn’t long before it was obvious to Kid Curry that the pain Heyes felt was considerable and what’s more it was making his partner increasingly irritable.

Kid hoped they would find the horses a short way along the trail, munching on some grass. He scoured the ground for hoof prints.

“Maybe you should be lookin’ for tracks, Heyes,” he said with as much humour as he could manage. “After all you were the ‘champeen tracker’.”

“Well if you hadn’t blasted away with your gun they’d have never run off,” Heyes scoffed as he hobbled behind his friend.

“Oh, so this is my fault?” Kid asked. “What was I supposed to do? Let the cat get ‘em?”

“I don’t know Kid,” Heyes conceded. “All I know is my ankle is killin’ me, we are miles from the nearest town and now we have no horses. So I hope you’ll excuse me if I’m not exactly laughing!”

“Heyes, shut up and limp!”

They walked on in silence for a while then the trail split in two and Kid stopped, trying to decide which way they should go.

Heyes sat down on a rock, momentarily dejected. Without saying a word, Kid Curry sat beside him. He put a hand on his partner’s shoulder.

“I could walk back to town or maybe there’s a homestead up ahead where I could buy some horses,” Kid suggested.

“No Kid, we should stay together. You know things always get worse when we split up.”

“Things could get worse?” Kid asked and smiled at his friend. Heyes struggled back to his feet and looked up at the fast moving clouds and the now darkening sky.

“C’mon. We’ve got a long walk ahead of us.”

***

They had walked for sometime, with no sign of the horses. Heyes’ ankle was causing him considerable pain but he was trying his best not to let it show. However, Kid was well aware of his partner’s discomfort, yet was helpless to do anything to help his friend.

“Let’s stop for a while,” Kid said and he turned to face his cousin. Sweat ran down his face. “Heyes?” The dark-haired man met his partner’s blue eyes.

“I’m okay, Kid,” Heyes assured him, as he sank onto a boulder. “Just give me a minute to catch my breath.”

“D’you want me to carry you?” Kid asked.

“No, I’d like to hold onto what’s left of my dignity for just a while longer if that’s okay?” his partner told him with a smile.

“Sure Heyes.”

At that moment, Kid’s stomach began to rumble.

“God, I’m hungry,” Kid complained.

“Well you’re supposed to be the fastest gun in the west,” Heyes snapped. “Go shoot somethin’!”

“Don’t tempt me,” Kid retorted, glaring at his partner.

“Oh so you’re threatenin’ to shoot an injured man now?” Heyes asked with mock horror.

“Just the one,” Kid retorted. “The irritable, moanin’ one, with the limp!”

“Yeah well, if you’d kept your gun in your holster we wouldn’t be in this mess!” Heyes said.

“Ah ha! You do blame me!” Kid cried. “I knew it! I knew you thought this was all my fault!” It was beginning to get dark but Kid was sure it was only early afternoon. There was a sudden rumble.

“That your stomach again?” Heyes asked, hopefully.

“Nope,” Kid told him. A flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder overhead told them all they needed to know. Heyes looked up at the darkening sky and felt a droplet of water on his face, then another and another. There was another flash of lightning; another rumble of thunder and then the rain began to fall. Large drops of rain fell, on the two ex-outlaws, as the heavens opened.

“Oh terrific,” Heyes muttered, as the rain pounded on his hat. He looked at Kid, who soon had a small river of rain water, running off the brim of his hat. Kid stood up and offered his friend a helping hand.

“C’mon, Heyes,” Kid said. “On your feet. I mean foot.” He gave Heyes a smile which was not returned by the dark-haired man. “Maybe we’ll find some shelter up ahead,” Kid said, optimistically.

“Yeah or maybe we’ll get washed away in a flood!” Heyes muttered and Kid suppressed a smile as he watched his partner hobble off.

Twenty minutes later they were both soaked to the skin and what had been left of their sense of humour, had been washed away. Heyes limped along the path through the trees and leaned on the stick Kid had given him. The sock on his injured foot was covered in mud and soaking wet too as was Kid’s makeshift strapping.

Kid’s wet jeans clung uncomfortably to his legs. Rain ran down his neck and his shirt and Henley felt cold and wet against his skin. Beside him, Heyes stumbled as his ankle gave way. Heyes went down hard onto his knees, cried out as he hit the muddy ground and ended up face down in the mud. Two white eyes blinked at Kid Curry from the grey mud covered face of the ex-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang. Kid suppressed the urge to laugh. Biting his lip he pulled his friend to his feet. The dark-haired man’s pants were already covered in mud from two previous falls and now the rest of his clothes were in the same state.

“You okay?” Kid asked above the noise of the rain.

“Do I look okay?” Heyes asked him, tersely.

“You look muddy,” Kid told him. Heyes wiped the mud off his face and from around his eyes. Turning his face to the sky the rain began to wash some of the mud off leaving him with grey streaks down his face, like a bad attempt at camouflage.

“C’mon, we have to keep goin’,” Kid said.

“I know Kid I just don’t know how much longer I can.” He looked down at the mud soaked sock Kid had pulled over the strapping. The strapping had also come loose and was trailing along the ground. Heyes pulled it off and rested a hand against a tree. He looked at his partner and managed a smile.

“Give me your hand,” Kid said and Heyes knew what his partner was about to do.

“Kid I don’t need…I mean you can’t…” but his partner was not listening. Grabbing hold of Heyes’ arm Kid hoisted his partner onto his shoulder once more and set off along the muddy track.

***

The rain finally stopped but the air in the woods remained damp, as water dripped from leaves and branches and the sky above stayed a dreary grey. Kid set Heyes down and the partners sat, on the trunk of a fallen tree, to rest. For a while the only sounds that could be heard were Kid’s heavy breathing and water dripping all around them. Suddenly Kid cried out and leapt to his feet.

“Ow! Damn it!” he began to pull his clothes away from his body as best he could whilst beating at something Heyes could not see. “Ants!” Kid cried as the tiny creatures crawled all over him. Heyes leapt up, not wanting to have the ants on him too. He hobbled a few feet away, watching in amusement as his partner did a strange kind of dance, whacking at his body or brushing at his clothes, whilst cursing and muttering. At least one of the insects was now inside Kid’s clothing and Kid began to pull off his shirt as he scratched and cursed.

Kid threw his shirt to one side and Heyes saw three or four ants running across his back. Kid was brushing down his pants and stomping his boots as Heyes watched the ants scurry over Kid’s Henley and around his body. Kid brushed three of them off but there was one determined little fella clinging onto the material of Kid’s Henley. Heyes moved closer and whack!

“Ow!” Kid yelled and glared at his partner who gave him a triumphant look, as he held out his open palm to show Kid the squashed ant.

“Got ‘im!” Heyes said, with a smile

“Thanks,” Kid said, without enthusiasm, convinced that Heyes’ thump was going to leave a bruise. Kid picked up his shirt and shook it, then he shook it again and then a third time just for good measure before he put it back on. They moved away from the tree stump which, they could now see, was situated over an ants nest. Heyes put his hand on a tree and leaned into it. He smiled at his partner who was scratching his hair.

“Damn things make me itch,” Kid muttered, and then he caught Heyes looking at him and smiled back. They were both covered in mud and soaked to the skin. They looked a sorry sight. “If I’d known when we got up this morning…” Kid left the rest unsaid. He shook his head. “What next?” Kid said rhetorically.

As if to answer him there came the sound of wolves howling in the distance. Kid closed his eyes, a pained expression on his face.

“Oh terrific,” Heyes said, his shoulder hanging low. “Now we’re going to get torn to shreds by wolves!” he looked at Kid who smiled and shook his head again.

“Maybe we can outrun them,” the blond man joked.

“No point,” Heyes told him. “We’re dead meat. Leave me here. Save yourself,” he said like a true martyr.

“You mean it?” Kid asked cheerfully and he saw the appearance of concern in Heyes’ eyes. Was his friend really going to leave him?

“No, of course I don’t mean it!” Heyes said indignantly and Kid grinned at his partner. Heyes relaxed when he realised Kid was only teasing. The pain in his ankle was making him a little proddy.

“C’mon,” Kid said, holding out his hand to his partner.

“Kid you don’t hafta…”

“C’mon Heyes,” Kid said and his partner held out his hand and Kid hoisted Heyes back onto his shoulders. “At least with you on my back, if the wolves do pounce they’ll get you first,” Kid said cheerfully.

“Thanks for that. It’s good to know I’m still of some use,” Heyes replied. He was silent for a moment and then added. “Is that an ant in your hair Kid?”

“What?” Kid looked up concerned and Heyes laughed.

“Very funny Heyes. I could drop you on the nest you know,” Kid muttered as he set off along the trail again.

***

The ground was slippery and Kid seemed to find every tangled root to trip over. Each time he fell, he would hoist his partner back onto his shoulder and walk on again. Heyes knew Kid was tiring, but there was little he could do to help.

As he hit the ground for the umpteenth time, Kid cried out and this time Heyes fell off and lay winded on his back. Breathing heavily, Kid got to his knees.

“You alright?” he asked his friend.

“Yeah,” Heyes said and sat up. “You?”

“Yeah, terrific,” Kid said, although he looked exhausted, but then he began to smile, his attention drawn to something behind the dark-haired ex-outlaw.

“Heyes,” Kid said. “Look.” Heyes turned around. There, in a clearing, was a small wooden cabin. It looked a little run down and unused, but, to the two bedraggled ex-outlaws, it was the nicest cabin they had ever seen. Standing a little apart from the cabin was a shack, they assumed was the outhouse and another building that looked like a store shed with a lean-to attached. Kid smiled at his partner and pulled Heyes to his feet. Using the stick to support himself, Heyes limped, beside his friend, towards the cabin. When they reached the door Heyes put a restraining hand on Kid’s arm.

“Wait!” Heyes said. “You go in first Kid. The way my luck’s been goin’, there’ll be a family of skunks in there, just waitin’ for me.” Kid smiled at his partner, who eased himself down onto a large tree trunk. From the marks cut into it, it was obviously used as a chopping block. Kid drew his gun and Heyes gave him a concerned look.

“Just in case the critters turn out to be armed,” Kid said smiling as he approached the cabin. Kid eased open the door and walked cautiously into the building. It was a one room cabin, with a single bunk on either side of the stone fireplace. Two shelves on the wall above one bed contained several books and some cans, which Kid hoped contained food. There was a small wooden table in the centre of the room and two wobbly looking chairs. A torn curtain covered part of the glass window. Kid turned at a sound behind him and Heyes limped into the room.

“I thought the skunks had got you,” Heyes told him, as he looked around. He flopped down onto the nearest bunk sending a cloud of dust into the air. At any other time he would have minded the dirt, but today he didn’t care. His ankle felt as if was going to explode. All he wanted to do was take the weight off it and get some rest. He let out a sigh, as he sat back, resting his back against the wall, shivering.

Kid knelt by the fire, grateful to whoever had left enough dry wood and matches behind. Before long the cabin was filled with the warm orange glow of a crackling fire. Shadows danced around the walls as Kid made a pot of coffee. They had stripped off their clothes and wrapped themselves in the blankets from the bunks. Their clothes hung around the room or were draped over the chairs, dripping and steaming beside the fire as they dried.

Sitting comfortably on a bunk, Heyes opened one of the cans from the shelf above his head. It turned out to contain peaches.

“D’you want them warm or cold?” he asked his partner. Kid looked at what his partner had found and smiled.

“It’s food Heyes, I don’t care what temperature it’s at, just as long as it’s edible,” he told his friend.

By the time they had eaten, their long johns and Henley tops had dried and they pulled them back on, grateful for the warmth they provided. Their pants would take longer to dry out.

Heyes cautiously rotated his injured ankle.

“How is it?” Kid asked.

“It hurts,” Heyes told him honestly. “But for some reason I don’t care as much. Actually it does feel a little better. Thanks for…”

“Forget it Heyes,” Kid said dismissively and his friend sat back, hugging a warm mug of coffee. Kid Curry smiled. He checked their damp clothes were a safe distance away from the flames before lying down on the other bunk. He sighed as he lay his head on the pillow, his own mug of coffee resting on his chest.

“What a day!” Kid said, as exhaustion overtook him.

“Yeah, Kid, we don’t want too many more like that,” Heyes agreed.

“Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can make it to a town,” Kid told him, yawning sleepily. “You’ll be okay here and…I… I can…” his words drifted off and soon the sound of deep breathing caught Heyes’ attention. He looked across at the other bunk. His partner was asleep and the mug of coffee, rising and falling, on Kid’s chest, was precariously poised to spill its contents at any moment. Heyes got up and gently took the mug from Kid’s hand. Two tired blue eyes met his.

“Get some sleep partner, you’ve earned it” Heyes told him. “It’ll be a better day tomorrow.”

***

The cold metal of a shot gun pressed against his temple woke Kid Curry the next morning. He opened his eyes to stare along the barrel and into the grizzled face of Harold Walker.

“Don’t move son,” Walker instructed. In the other bunk Hannibal Heyes heard the stranger’s voice and opened his eyes to see a large, bearded, grey-haired man, in his fifties, wearing a bear-skin coat, standing over his partner. The man held a shot gun to Kid’s head. Heyes slowly reached towards his holster which hung on the back of a chair, only to find the holster empty.

“My trigger finger can get real twitchy when folks do stupid things around me,” Walker said and Heyes’ hand froze mid-air.

Walker did not flinch as he stepped back and Heyes saw two six guns tucked in the man’s waistband.

“Sit up, real slow,” he instructed Kid.

Kid did as he was told. Walker pulled out a chair and sat on it facing the two young men. The shot gun swung from one to the other and his finger looked worryingly unsteady on the trigger.

“Now I’m wonderin’ what you fellas think you’re doin’ in my cabin. Eatin’ my food and usin’ my wood. I call that stealin’. D’you know what we do with thieves up here?” The two men thought they had a pretty good idea and decided not to say.

“We didn’t realise anyone was still living here,” Heyes explained. “We’ll gladly pay for whatever we’ve used.”

“Oh you’ll pay alright,” Walker told them and Heyes had the feeling that he wasn’t talking about money.

“We were caught in the storm. Our horses ran off,” Kid explained. “We only wanted to get dry and shelter for the night.”

Walker looked at Kid. His eyes narrowed as he studied the young man’s face, as if trying to remember something. He ran a hand over his grey beard.

“What’s your name boy?” he asked.

“Jones, Thaddeus Jones,” Kid told him. Walker considered this.

“What about you?” he asked Heyes.

“I’m Joshua Smith, Mr…?” He waited expecting the man to tell him his name in return. Walker thought for a moment.

“Walker, Harry Walker,” the man said begrudgingly.

“Well I’m pleased to meet you Harry,” Heyes told him cheerfully, although he detected something dangerously unpredictable, about this man. “My partner and I were on our way to Powell River to meet up with my wife and son. Thaddeus here, is getting married soon to a beautiful girl, daughter of the mayor no less. So we had some errands to run and we got caught in the storm,” as Heyes talked, Walker continued to study Kid. For his part Kid returned the man’s gaze and said nothing. “Then the thunder and lightning started and that startled the horses. Old Monty threw me, now he’s never done that before, just got spooked I guess. I landed awkwardly and twisted my ankle; it sure hurt something awful. I could hardly walk. So we were really glad to find shelter. Like I said to Thaddeus last night…”

“You sure do talk a lot,” Walker stated and Heyes stopped. Kid raised his eyebrows at his partner. “Did you leave me any food?” Walker asked.

“Yes sir, we did,” Kid told him. “Do you want us to leave now?” he asked, coming straight to the point. Walker looked from Kid to Heyes.

“Your ankle still hurt?” he asked the dark-haired man.

“I don’t know,” Heyes told him honestly. “I haven’t tried to put any weight on it yet.”

“So try,” the trapper instructed. Carefully, Heyes placed his feet on the floor and stood up. He grimaced and took a step forward, clearly still in pain.

“I reckon I can walk okay,” he lied not wanting to let Walker know how hurt he really was.

“You don’t lie too good, do ya?” Walker stated and Heyes bit back the desire to challenge him on that and Kid stifled a smile. Walker came to a decision. “You boys can stay, for now. You’d better get dressed!” Walker ordered and they did as he suggested. Heyes was pleased to see the swelling in his ankle had gone down and he could put his boot back on. Kid picked up his gun belt, buckling it about his waist.

“Can we have our guns back?” he asked. “I feel kinda nekkid without it.”

“You plannin’ on shootin’ me?” Walker asked him. “I got nothin’ else worth stealin’.”

Kid shook his head.

“Not unless you give me a reason,” Kid told him honestly and grimacing, Heyes closed one eye, fixing the other on Walker, waiting to see what he would say. Why did Kid feel the need to provoke people?

Walker smiled.

“At least you’re honest,” he said pulling Kid’s gun from his waist band. He handed it to the young blond man. “It’s a nice gun,” Walker observed as Kid checked the chamber was full, then twirled it a couple of times, before dropping it neatly into its holster.

Heyes shook his head at Kid’s flamboyance and then he saw the look on Walker’s face. He would have sworn it was a look of recognition. As Walker passed the other gun to Heyes he kept his eyes on Kid.

“Your ankle all right?” Walker asked Kid.

“It’s fine,” Kid assured him with some amusement..

“Good, then you can chop some more wood. There’s some out under the lean to.” Kid exchanged a quick look with his partner, who gave him a nod and then the blond man went outside. It was a clear, crisp morning. Kid walked towards the pile of wood stored under the lean-to. Selecting a few logs he placed them beside a chopping block. In the shed he found an axe and began to chop the wood into kindling for the fire. As he worked he did not notice Walker watching him from the doorway of the cabin.

Kid built up a sweat as the pile of kindling grew. Picking up the wood he carried it into the cabin.

“That all you done?” Walker asked unimpressed as Kid dumped it in a box beside the fire.

“You want more?” Kid asked eyeing the box which was almost full.

“I figure it’s the least you can do to repay an old man for his hospitality,” Walker said straight faced and Heyes rolled his eyes at Kid. The blond gunslinger said nothing and went back outside.

As Kid brought the axe down, he saw Walker approaching. Kid stopped cutting.

“You carry that gun like you can use it,” Walker observed. “Can you?”

“I usually hit what I aim at,” Kid admitted. “Why, d’you want me to shoot somethin’ next?” Walker laughed.

“Just choppin’ the wood will be fine for now,” he told Kid. The blond man picked up the axe, swung it splitting a block of wood. Walker watched him for a moment and then turned back towards the cabin. Kid reached down to reset the wood on the chopping block and felt a sudden pain in the back of the head. Kid dropped to his knees and Walker moved to stand in front of him, watching but not helping him. Kid looked up at him through confused and bleary eyes. The trapper took a step towards the young man and struck him across the face. Kid fell backwards, saw the crumbling wood of the lean-to roof above him and tasted blood in his mouth. He struggled to his knees, ready to defend himself but another blow from Walker caught him hard across the face knocking him back again. Walker’s angry face peering down at him was the last thing Kid saw, before he passed out.

The old man bent down and removed Kid’s gun, tucking it into his waistband. He caught hold of Kid’s arms, by the wrists, and dragged Kid Curry’s unconscious body into the shed. Grabbing some leather ties from a hook, he bound the blond man’s hands tightly together and then pulled his arms over his head. Walker tied Kid’s bound hands to a metal loop that was the top of a giant metal stake hammered deep into the ground. It had served as a place to tie up the various dogs the grey-haired man had owned over the years. It had once proved strong enough to hold a live bear, Walker and a partner had captured. He didn’t think this young man would be able to pull it from the ground if a black bear couldn’t.

Placing a hand on the young man’s chin he turned Kid’s face roughly from side to side, noticing the developing bruises without emotion.

“You hear me?” Walker asked but Kid did not regain consciousness. Walker gave a satisfied nod. Once outside, Walker shut the shed door and locked it, slipping the key into the pocket of his old leather vest.

***

Walker carried the wood, Kid had chopped, into the cabin. He tossed it into the box beside the fire. Picking up the coffee pot he poured himself a cup and sat down at the table. Heyes watched him, wondering where Kid was.

“You got Thaddeus chopping more wood?” Heyes asked, conversationally.

“Nope,” Walker said as he sipped his coffee.

Heyes could not hear anything outside.

“He doing more chores for you?” he asked, trying to keep his voice casual, although something in Walker’s attitude, was beginning to worry him.

“Don’t worry about him young fella. That outlaw won’t harm you now,” he told Heyes and the ex-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang could not believe what he had heard.

“Outlaw?” he asked, innocently, although now he really was worried.

“Yep. He may have told you he was someone called Thaddeus Jones but that sure ain’t his real name,” Walker stated confidently.

“It isn’t?” Heyes said.

“No it ain’t,” Walker assured him.

“Well who do you think Thaddeus is?” Heyes asked dreading Walker’s answer. He let his hand fall to his side, ready to draw his gun. As if reading the dark-haired man’s mind, the trapper suddenly pointed a six gun at him. Heyes stared at the weapon and felt a tightness in his chest. It was Kid’s gun.

“I’ll take your gun back,” Walker said calmly, as he met Heyes’ eyes. “Don’t want you gettin’ any ideas about misplaced loyalties now do we?”

As he slowly handed over his weapon, Heyes wondered what the man had done to get hold of Kid’s gun. He had not heard any shots but that did not mean Kid was okay.

“I don’t understand, Harry. Who do you think Thaddeus is?” he asked again.

“That boy’s Kid Curry,” Walker stated.

“What? Kid Curry!” Heyes shook his head feigning disbelief as his mind whirled with thoughts of what to do now. He needed a plan and quickly. “I’m really sorry Harry but you’ve made a mistake. Why I’ve known Thaddeus all my life. I told you he’s going to be married soon.”

Walker held up a hand.

“I don’t care what he’s told you young fella, I know who that is out there in my shed and that’s Kid Curry.”

“In your shed?” Heyes asked trying to hide his concern for his partner.

“Uh huh.”

“What have you done with my friend, Harry?” Heyes asked but Walker missed the dangerous edge that had crept into Heyes’ voice.

“Hit ‘im with my gun. He’s out cold and trussed up like a turkey,” Walker informed him and Heyes closed his eyes as he thought. Walker stood up and walked to the fire.

“What makes you so sure he’s Kid Curry because like I told you I’ve known Thaddeus all my life and he can’t be Kid Curry?”

“You’d be surprised how easy it is for a man to have an alias son. Why a fella can have himself a secret life real easy out here; even his own family wouldn’t know about it.”

“But Harry…”

“I was on a train the Devil’s Hole Gang robbed, oh must be a couple years back now,” Walker told him and Heyes wondered just how many people there had been on the trains the Gang had robbed. The darn things must have been packed full every trip judging by the number of people they’d met who had seen them during a train robbery.

“I was on my way to…now where was I goin’?” Walker continued. “Oh well, it don’t matter. Anyway, a young blond fella gets on board and orders all the passengers off. Real polite he was too. Then someone drew on him and I ain’t never seen anyone shoot a gun out of someone’s hand like that before. He was fast. Sure lived up to his reputation. I looked Kid Curry in the eye that day. Never saw him again until today. When I gave your friend his gun back and he spun it and dropped it back into his holster. That’s when I knew it was him. That’s Kid Curry out there I’d stake my life on it.”

Why did you have to show off, Kid? Heyes thought.

It amazed Hannibal Heyes that Harry Walker did not suspect him in the slightest. He was convinced Kid was an outlaw but seemed equally certain that the man with him was an innocent misguided fool.

“But Harry…” Heyes protested.

“I’m sure he’s your friend but I hafta tell you Mr. Smith, your friend’s been lyin’ to you. He’s a notorious outlaw and I aim to turn him in dead or alive.”

Oh terrific, Heyes thought. And I thought yesterday was a bad day.

“I’m gonna go shoot us something to eat,” Walker said, picking up his shotgun. “When you can walk we’ll head down into Dawson’s Bend and turn Kid Curry in. Now don’t you get any ideas about helpin’ him. I know you think he’s your friend but I think you’re just a gullible young fella and I’d hate to hafta tie you up too. I will if I hafta. That man out there’s worth $10,000 last I heard and, like I told you, I aim to claim that reward. Just remember it’s dead or alive. If he’s your friend I imagine you’d prefer him to be alive but it makes no difference to me. I’ve killed bigger men than him in my time. I don’t flinch at a little blood neither.” With those words of comfort Walker left.

***

Opening his eyes Kid groaned. The left side of his face hurt, the top of his head hurt, his left eye felt swollen and he could feel dried blood around his mouth. Kid’s arms were pulled high above his head and leather cords around his wrists were biting into his flesh. Kid pulled frantically at them, twisting his wrists trying to loosen the cords and the leather cut deeper into his wrists. Still groggy he pulled himself forwards on his belly and used his teeth on the leather, trying to loosen the bonds. But Harry Walker was a trapper and he knew how to tie up an animal so that it would not get free. When his wrists were sore and bloody, Kid gave up, for now. He would try again once he had his breath back.

Kid lay on his back and looked up at the shelves overhead. He tried to remember what had been on them when he was there earlier looking for the axe. Kid could remember seeing a few tools alongside cans and packets. He did not know what they contained but what would a man store in a shed? Was there anything up there he could use to help him escape? Kid could not think straight. His eyes felt heavy. His head hurt and things were beginning to fade again. Kid closed his eyes and slipped into unconsciousness again.

***

When he was convinced Walker had left, Heyes got to his feet, testing the strength of his ankle. He could walk on it. He limped quickly to the door. Standing in the doorway of the cabin, his eyes scanned the tree line for any sign of Harry Walker. The man was nowhere to be seen. Heyes set off, across the clearing, towards the shed. He gritted his teeth against the pain in his ankle as he limped from one building to the next. Reaching the door he tried the handle but found the shed locked.

“Kid?” Heyes called in a loud whisper. There was no reply. “Kid can you hear me?” he called again. Reaching into his boot Heyes withdrew his lock pick and bending down inserted it into the lock. With a few expert twists and turns he quickly unlocked the door. Opening it, he peered cautiously inside.

“Kid?”

Kid Curry lay on the ground, his hands tied above his head. Heyes was quickly at his side.

“Kid?” he said with concern as he knelt beside his unconscious partner. There was blood around Kid’s mouth and bruising and swelling on the left side of his face.

Reaching into his boot, Heyes withdrew his knife and cut through the leather cords holding Kid’s hands. Kid groaned as Heyes lowered his aching arms and peeled the straps carefully from his flesh. Kid’s bloody wrists would need tending. He hoped there were some bandages in the cabin. Heyes placed a hand carefully on his friend’s head. His partner moaned as he began to regain consciousness.

“Hey partner, come on, talk to me,” Heyes said, gently.

“I don’t wanna talk. My head hurts,” Kid complained. “You’re the gabby one, you talk.” Heyes smiled. His friend was going to be alright. Kid opened his eyes and groaned.

“It was Harry,” Kid stated.

“I know,” Heyes told him. “You okay?”

“No,” Kid told him honestly as he slowly eased himself onto an elbow. He felt sick.

“Take it easy,” Heyes suggested.

“Where is he?” Kid asked, concerned the man might return at any moment.

“Gone to get lunch,” Heyes told him, then noting the confused look on his partner’s face he added. “He’s off shootin’ somethin’.”

“I don’t know why he hit me,” Kid said, groggily.

“He knows you’re Kid Curry,” Heyes told him.

“What? How?”

“He was on a train we robbed.”

“Oh great, another one,” Kid said.

“Yeah, I know. I never realised we robbed so many.”

“What about you? Does he know who you are?” Kid looked at his dark-haired friend through narrowed blue eyes.

“No, I guess I was opening the safe. He thinks I’m just a poor fool you’ve conned.”

“He got that bit wrong then,” Kid said and Heyes smiled.

“Come on, we need to get away from here, before Harry gets back.” Heyes helped his partner climb unsteadily to his feet. Kid put a hand to his head feeling the bump developing there. They made for the door. Kid squinted in the bright light and put a hand on the shed wall to steady himself.

“Heyes, wait,” Kid said and his partner turned back. “We can’t go.”

“What?”

“How far would we get before he set off after us? We’re unarmed and you can’t run on that ankle and I don’t know how long I could walk for.”

Heyes considered this.

“So what are you suggesting?”

“I want my gun back,” Kid told him and Hannibal Heyes saw that look. It was the same look he had seen on Kid’s face the day he faced down Joe Briggs. It was Kid’s dangerous, stubborn look. A look that told his partner he was determined to do what had to be done, whatever the cost.

“So you want to wait for Harry to come back, and do what? Jump him? You’re in no condition to take him,” Heyes pointed out.

“He’s an old man! And I’ve got you to help me,” Kid reminded him.

“Oh yeah, a guy with a limp. I don’t know Kid, I…”

“C’mon, Heyes, we lock the shed so he thinks I’m still in there, you wait in the cabin, talk to him when he returns, you’re good at that. Then I’ll sneak up behind him.”

“Great plan Kid, ‘cept he doesn’t like me talkin’ and you’re not exactly the sneakin’ up type.”

“So come up with a Hannibal Heyes plan,” Kid told him as he leaned back against the shed wall. The dark-haired man considered his words.

“No, I think the Kid Curry plan might just work…with a little help from Hannibal Heyes,” the ex-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang stated and smiled at his partner.

***

When Harry Walker returned he found Joshua Smith sitting innocently on the bunk, sipping a cup of coffee. He noted the young man sat with his boots off and his injured right ankle up on the bed.

“That still hurtin’ you?” Walker asked.

“Yeah,” Heyes told him. “I tried to walk on it but I couldn’t even get as far as the door.”

“Well you won’t hafta walk into town. I found your horses. Got ‘em tied up outside.”

“That’s great Harry,” Heyes said with enthusiasm. “Did you get something to eat? I have to admit I’m getting hungry.”

Harry dropped a dead rabbit down on the table.

“You know how to skin one I hope?” Walker asked.

“Sure.”

“Get to it then, I’m gonna check on Curry.” Walker turned to leave.

“Harry!” Heyes called. “I’ll need a knife.” Harry reached inside his coat and pulled out a large blade. He stabbed it into the table and walked out. Heyes watched him go and then reached down for his boots.

***

As Walker approached the store shed he heard Kid Curry calling.

“Hey Joshua, you there? Joshua, get me out of here!”

“Quit your yellin’!” Walker called back as he reached the door and Kid fell silent. He checked the door satisfied to find it still locked. He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out the key. As he did so he caught a movement out of the corner of his eyes and spun around to come face to face with Kid Curry as he crept out from the side of the shed. Kid had a log raised above his head and Walker spotted him mid-swing. As Kid brought the log down Walker moved and the blow glanced off the side of Harry’s shoulder. The large man stumbled backwards but quickly re-gained his composure. He might have been old but he was tough.

Kid sighed, Heyes was right; he wasn’t the sneaking up type.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Walker told Kid, as he reached into his belt for a gun but Kid was too quick for him. He leapt at Harry knocking him to the ground. The two men rolled together and Harry caught Kid with a punch to the jaw. Still recovering from Harry’s previous blows, Kid fell back, momentarily stunned.

Heyes watched as his partner got slowly to his feet and Harry advanced on him. Harry made a grab for Kid and caught his leg, tripping the blond man. Kid went down hard and Harry leapt on him. Heyes saw Kid flinch as Harry punched him again and again in the side. Kid turned, got in a couple of punches of his own then pulled himself free. He staggered a few steps away regaining his breath and giving his head the chance to clear.

“Kid!” Heyes called and he threw the skinning knife to his partner. It landed just a few feet away and Kid dived for it. He was quickly back on his feet with the knife in his hand.

Harry Walker smiled and let his coat fall open revealing the guns in his waistband. Kid swallowed, Oh great he’s going shoot me. But instead of drawing a gun, Harry took off his coat and threw it to one side, then pulled a large curved knife from a scabbard at his side.

“So you want a knife fight?” Harry said with a glint in his eye. “I’ll give you a knife fight boy.”

“Oh terrific!” Kid muttered, without enthusiasm, under his breath. The big man lunged at him and Kid jumped back. The two men circled each other. Harry lunged again and again. Harry Walker may have been an older man, but he was as fit as Kid Curry and he knew how to use a knife. The young blond man swiped the knife through the air causing Harry to stagger backwards and one of the guns, he had tucked into his waistband, fell out. Heyes fixed his eyes on the weapon and began to edge towards it.

Walker lashed out once more and Kid jumped back from the larger blade trying to stay out of its reach. He stumbled. Heyes cried out as he saw Walker approaching his partner. As Kid staggered to his feet Walker swiped again. Heyes heart was in his mouth. A horizontal gash appeared in Kid’s shirt, followed by a terrifying red stain as Kid’s blood began to soak into the fabric. He saw Kid wince, as he dropped to his knees, a hand holding his stomach. He fixed his gaze on Harry and quickly pulled himself back to his feet. The grey-haired man advanced on the young ex-outlaw backing him up against the wooden shed. Kid had nowhere to run and Harry had a longer reach.

A sudden shot rang out and Harry yelled and dropped the knife as a bullet hit his hand. Everyone froze.

Heyes had finally reached the fallen gun.

“Don’t move, Harry,” the dark-haired man called. The old man looked at Heyes.

“Misguided loyalties boy; I warned you about them. You won’t shoot me,” Harry said, as blood ran through his fingers where he held his injured hand. He moved towards his fallen knife.

“Don’t bet your life on it,” Heyes told him, through gritted teeth and Walker saw the dangerous look in the young man’s brown eyes. “You’ve just cut my partner, Harry! I’d drop the other gun if I was you.” Walker took only a moment to think about it and then did as he was asked.

***

“How bad?” Heyes asked his partner. Kid was on his knees, a hand holding his stomach.

“Doesn’t feel deep,” Kid said, clearly in pain. “Flesh wound I reckon.”

“I told you you weren’t the sneakin’ up type.” Two unimpressed blue eyes met Heyes’ brown ones.

“Yeah well, what part of all that, was the Hannibal Heyes plan?” Kid asked, as he gritted his teeth against the pain.

“The bit where I shot the knife out of his hand, and saved the day,” Heyes told him with a smug smile. “You gonna be okay for a minute?” Heyes asked. Kid nodded and Heyes passed him the guns. Despite the pain he was in, the gun Kid held in his hand, remained rock steady, as he focussed it on Walker. Having his hand around the handle of his gun was somewhat comforting for Kid Curry.

“Into the shed,” Heyes ordered the older man.

“What about my hand?” Walker complained.

“Use your bandana,” Heyes told him and Harry untied it then wrapped it around his bloody hand. Then Heyes tied the large man’s hands behind his back.

“Hey careful that hurts,” Walker told him and Heyes pulled tighter. Harry decided not to complain anymore. “I don’t understand it. Why are you helpin’ him? He’s an outlaw. He’s lookin’ at twenty years in jail.” Walker said as Heyes ushered him into the shed.

“Think about it Harry,” Heyes urged him. “If you’re so convinced he’s Kid Curry, who do you think I am?”

“I don’t know. Some poor fool he’s managed to string along,” Walker said with a hint of pity in his voice.

“No Harry, think about it, real hard. Who does Kid Curry ride with?” Heyes asked him.

“Oh, you mean that other fella?” Kid smiled weakly at this and Heyes encouraged Harry to continue.

“Yeah, that other fella,” Heyes said politely. “Who does he ride with?” Walker thought about it.

“The Devil’s Hole Gang,” Harry proclaimed.

“Yeah, but who was the leader of the Gang?” the dark-haired ex-outlaw asked him.

“Oh, him. Yeah, I’ve heard of him.” Harry nodded.

“Good,” Heyes said. “So if you’re still convinced he’s Kid Curry who does that make me?”

“Oh, now I get it,” Harry said and Heyes smiled at Kid. Harry knew who he was. “You’re Wheat Carlson!” Kid bit his lip to stop himself from laughing.

“Shut up Harry!” Heyes snapped closing the shed door and locking it. “Not a word Kid!” Kid put a hand on his stomach trying not to laugh because it hurt too much.

***

Kid sat breathing heavily on the bunk. He put a hand on his stomach gingerly feeling the wound. Heyes crouched down beside him.

“How is it?” he asked his partner clearly worried.

“I don’t know,” Kid said. He hadn’t had the chance to look too closely. His shirt was wet with his blood but he did not think the wound was very deep. “Just hurts like hell.”

“Let me see,” Heyes said and Kid removed his hand and pulled his shirt open. There was a gash across his abdomen but as Kid suspected the blade had not cut deep. It was a nasty flesh wound; sore, but not life threatening, unless it became infected. Heyes found bandages and cleaned the wound as best he could. Kid flinched and gave his partner a glare.

“You’re not getting your own back are you?” Kid asked and Heyes smiled innocently before wrapping the bandages around Kid’s body.

“We’ve gotta get you to a doctor,” Heyes stated. “We’ll hafta go back to Dawson’s Bend.”

“You sure?” Kid asked. “What about the sheriff?”

“We hafta risk it Kid,” Heyes told him. “Maybe we can ride in after dark and find the doctor.”

“Yeah but the way our luck’s goin’ …” Kid left the rest unsaid and his partner could only shrug his shoulders.

***

With Harry locked in the shed and Kid’s wounds temporarily bandaged it was time for the partners to head into town. They would let someone there know that Harry was locked up and hopefully Kid would find a doctor to look at his wound. Despite Heyes’ concerns about the sheriff, Dawson’s Bend was the closest town.

After all the walking they had done, Heyes felt a sense of relief to see the horses waiting patiently, beneath the trees where Harry had tied them. As he climbed onto his horse, he turned to his partner.

“Kid, I know I promised we’d try for the amnesty but why don’t we just go back to robbing banks and trains? It was a whole lot safer.”

Kid’s smile turned to a grimace, as he pulled himself into the saddle and he felt the skin on his stomach begin to stretch.

“You’re right Heyes. I say we get to town, send a telegram to Lom and then rob the bank. After the last two days I don’t think twenty years in prison could be any worse.” He turned to see his partner looking at him.

“You know I was only jokin’ don’t you?” Heyes asked seriously.

“Do I look in any condition to rob a bank?” Kid asked and a smile broke out on his friend’s face.

“Just checkin’,” Heyes told him and they urged their horses away from the cabin.

***

It was dusk when they rode into Dawson’s Bend. Lights were beginning to appear in the windows and music from the saloon filled the air. Hannibal Heyes kept his hat low over his eyes and his head down. They walked their horses into the livery stable and arranged for them to be fed and watered.

“You are drawing more attention to yourself, with your hat like that, than if you just acted normal,” Kid hissed as the stable manager gave the dark-haired man a curious look.

“I’m sorry Kid but I don’t want us to get caught.”

“Neither do I but you keep that up and I’ll arrest you myself,” Kid assured him.

“Well Sheriff McGuire was just one man in a posse, maybe he won’t recognise me. Once we get to the doctor’s I’ll stay out of sight.” Kid shook his head, as he watched his partner lean close to the stable wall, his eyes scanning the main street and the sheriff’s office across the way.

“Is Sheriff McGuire in town?” Kid asked the stable manager, pointing, across the street, to the name above the jail.

“Oh no, that’s an old sign. John McGuire left months ago. We’ve only got Deputy Hank Evans at the moment,” the stable manager told them. Kid looked at his partner.

“Did you hear that Joshua?” Kid said through gritted teeth. “Sheriff McGuire left town months ago.” Heyes did not like the look of the smile that appeared on his partner’s face. It was not a friendly smile.

“Well that’s news to me Thaddeus,” Heyes said innocently, as he backed away from his friend. There was a hint of menace in Kid’s blue eyes.

“We coulda stayed here all along,” Kid stated through gritted teeth. “We coulda slept in a bed, had a bath, eaten hot food. I wouldn’t have hadta struggle up a hill with you on my back. I wouldn’t have been knocked out, tied up or cut in a knife fight.”

“You’re angry at me aren’t you?” Heyes said, in an understanding tone, as he limped backwards.

“Oh no, Heyes, anger doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m feelin’.” Kid assured him.

“Kid, it was a genuine mistake. How was I to know he’d left?” Heyes asked, as his back touched the stable wall. His partner continued to walk towards him. “Kid, what are doin’? Kid put your hands down…You don’t mean this…”

Heyes eased sideways along the wall and away from his blond friend.

“Kid, be careful, remember you’re wounded…You don’t want to open that gash up again.” But Kid Curry was not listening to his friend. “I’m your partner. Kid my ankle hurts real bad, you don’t want to…You wouldn’t hit an injured man? What are you doin’?”

Kid grabbed hold of Heyes hand and flinched as he pulled him onto his shoulder once more. As he struggled, to get free, Heyes spotted the direction Kid was heading.

“Not the water trough!” he cried.

The stable manager looked up from his work, at the sound of a splash.

THE END

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