“All I’m sayin’ is why not hit the train outside of Cloverville?” Kid asked as he and Heyes stepped out of the cabin and into the sunlight.
“It’s too open there,” Heyes explained as he adjusted his hat. “There’s nowhere to lie in wait.”
“And nowhere for any posse to spring from either.” Kid positioned the brim of his own hat so that it shaded his eyes.
“There won’t be any posse waiting for us.”
“Heyes, you do the plannin’ and let me worry about the security side of things.” Kid placed a friendly hand on Heyes’ shoulder.
Heyes’ retort was cut off by the sound of an explosion. The partners exchanged a glance.
“Kyle?” Heyes enquired as a cloud of smoke rose from behind the trees.
“Kyle,” Kid confirmed. He removed his gun from the holster and opened the chamber. “I need to get more bullets next time we’re in town.”
“Add them to the list,” Heyes said as they followed the pall of smoke into a clearing.
Kyle and Wheat were crouched over something on the ground muttering in hushed tones. Suddenly Kyle yelled, “Go!” and they both ran away from a small object lying in the dirt.
Heyes held up a hand. “Whoa fellas, what’s…?”
BOOM! The object exploded.
“What the hell was that, Kyle?” Kid asked as he watched bits of twig and paper floating back towards Earth.
“Heyes. Kid. Not bad, huh?” The small man smiled as he headed towards them. “They’re percussion caps. Got ‘em from a railway shack.” He held up a small metallic device. “They let you know a train’s comin’.”
“By doin’ what? Blowin’ the thing up?” Kid brushed a falling leaf from his shoulder.
“No, Kid. You place ‘em on the rail and they go bang when a train passes over ‘em.” Kyle turned to Heyes. “I put some together. I reckon we can use ‘em to blow a safe. What d’ya think, Heyes?”
Heyes took one of the caps and studied it. “You could be onto something here.”
“Heyes, you sure about that?” Kid looked back at the smouldering pile of rubble the explosion had left behind. “That didn’t look like a controlled explosion.”
“We could use that old safe to try it out,” Wheat suggested as he pointed to a rusting hunk of metal lying on its side in a nearby bush.
Heyes’ eyes narrowed in thought and Kid rolled his eyes. “Heyes…”
“It’s all right, Kid, I think Kyle might be onto something here.” He studied the device in his hand. “These will be easier to carry and easier to conceal.” Lost in thought he headed off towards the metal box. Wheat followed no doubt to give him the benefit of his advice.
Kid studied one of the percussion caps. “How old are these?”
“I don’t know.” Kyle spat a gloop of tobacco in the dirt.
“How many d’you find?”
“We didn’t find ‘em, we stole ‘em.”
“So how many d’you steal?”
“I reckon we got about…” Kyle appeared to do some complicated arithmetic in his head. “We got a lot.”
“You sure these things are safe?”
Hannibal Heyes staggered backwards his hands over his face.
“Heyes?” Kid ran over to his friend.
Heyes’ eyes were squeezed shut. “My eyes! Ah.”
“What? What?” Kid didn’t know how to help his friend. He spotted the black powder around Heyes’ eyes. “Wheat, get water. Now!” Carlson headed to the water trough and Kid grabbed Heyes by the shoulders. “Heyes, sit down.”
“I can’t open my eyes.” Heyes sat on a rock Kid guided him to. “Ah, it stings. Ah!”
Kid shot a glare at Kyle. “What the hell was in those things?”
“Just gunpowder, I guess.”
“Well, what else would be in them?”
“I don’t know!”
“Could we focus on my eyes?” Heyes asked his face contorted in pain. “I can’t open them. I can’t see.”
Wheat returned with a bucket of water.
Kid pulled off his bandana and soaked it in the water. “Heyes, let me clean your eyes.” His friend squirmed as Kid wiped the cloth across his eyes. There were small burn marks all over Heyes’ face.
“I saw a bright flash and…” Heyes grimaced as Kid worked. “I don’t know what happened. They just exploded.”
“I’m gonna have to flush out your eyes with water,” Kid said solemnly. “You’re gonna hafta open ‘em, Heyes.”
“You pry ‘em open, I’ll pour the water in,” Wheat suggested, as he reached for the bucket.
“Nobody’s prying my eyes open!” Heyes stood up, caught his foot on a tree stump and fell forward. He would have hit the ground if Kid hadn’t grabbed him.
“Sit down!” the blond man commanded.
“Trust you to get bossy!” Heyes retorted.
“Shut up, Heyes. Now stop squirmin’ and hold still.” Kid gently pulled the lids of Heyes’ right eye apart and Wheat poured water into them. Heyes complained and shifted but Kid hung on. “SIT STILL, DAMMIT!”
When the eye was well flushed out, Kid let Heyes close it. “Anyone ever tell you you’re damn proddy?” Heyes grumbled.
“Yeah, you.” Kid turned to Wheat. “Let’s do the other one.” Kid and Wheat repeated the process on Heyes’ left eye.
“Will you stop pouring, you’re drowning me!” Heyes complained.
“Keep pouring!” Kid instructed.
When the bucket was empty Kid, Wheat and Kyle stood back and looked at Heyes. The leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang was drenched. His dark hair was plastered to his head. His face blackened by the explosion of the percussion cap. His eyes still shut tight. He was obviously in pain.
“Heyes?” Kid queried. “Any better?”
Slowly, Hannibal Heyes opened his eyes. He wiped away the excess water clinging to his eyelashes. He blinked and tried to focus on the men standing before him.
“You all right, Heyes?” Kyle asked, tentatively.
“No. No I’m not.”
Kid stepped forward. “How bad is it?”
“They sting but…I…” Heyes looked up at his friend. “I can’t see you Kid. I can’t see.”
“Watch your step,” Kid advised as he guided Heyes towards the cabin door.
“If I could watch anything I wouldn’t need your help, would I?” his friend snapped.
“I’m gonna remind myself that you’re proddy because you can’t see,” Kid said calmly. “And not because you’re just a regular pain in the …”
“What happened, Heyes?” Preacher asked as he strolled towards them.
“I got blinded by a damn explosion. You got anything could help me?”
“You flush out his eyes?” Preacher asked Kid.
“Yeah. Not enough to shut him up though.”
“Let me get some linen and see what I can do.” Preacher headed back to the other cabin and Kid opened the door to the one he shared with Heyes.
“You need help finding the door?” Kid asked with exaggerated patience.
“Yes,” Heyes admitted reluctantly and Kid took hold of his sleeve and steered him in the right direction. Heyes’ tone softened. “Thanks, Kid.”
“You’re welcome.” The blond man shut the door behind them and guided Heyes to a chair by the fire.
Heyes dropped down heavily onto the seat and voiced his darkest fear. “What if this is permanent?”
“It won’t be.”
“How do you know that? You don’t know that!”
“All right, I don’t know that but I’m trying to keep positive here, Heyes.”
“What’s to be positive about? I can’t see. What good am I if I can’t see?”
“Let’s give Preacher a chance to have a look at ya and worry about that after.”
An uneasy silence filled the air. Heyes squeezed his eyes tight shut as if trying to force them back to health. Kid leaned back against a cabinet and watched his friend. What if Heyes couldn’t see again? He had no answer to that.
“Any better?” Preacher asked. Stepping back he studied Heyes’ face. The skin around his eyes was still black and as Heyes blinked the whites of his eyes were decidedly reddened.
“All I see is a blur.” Heyes looked around the room trying to find something he could focus on.
“Try getting some sleep,” Preacher advised as he cleared away his make-shift medical kit. “Hopefully the rest will help.”
“Thanks, Preacher.” Heyes listened as the man let himself out of the cabin and the door closed. He leaned forward in the chair resting his elbows on his knees.
“You okay?” Arms across his chest, Kid leaned back against the cabinet. He seemed to have taken up a permanent position there since Preacher arrived.
“I don’t know.” Heyes placed his hands on the arms of the chair and raised himself to his feet. Kid took a step forward. “I’m okay,” Heyes informed him, sensing his friend’s movement. “I reckon I can find the bed by myself.”
“I’ll make sure Kyle gets rid of those caps,” Kid stated.
“I should’ve known you were makin’ a mistake when you said Kyle might be onto somethin’.”
“Expensive mistake on my part.”
“Heyes, I didn’t mean…”
“I know, Kid, I know.” Heyes turned away from his friend and entered his room. He shut the door without another word. Kid stared at the closed door knowing there was nothing else he could do to help his friend.
Kid Curry sat in a chair outside the leader’s cabin. With one foot on the porch post he pushed the chair back on two legs and gently rocked back and forth, back and forth. Blue eyes, shaded by the brim of his hat, followed Lobo as he walked from the main cabin to the corral. Lobo gave Kid a casual wave and Kid responded with an almost imperceptible nod. He continued to rock.
The cabin door opened again and Kyle Murtry stepped outside. He pulled up his pants and stuffed his shirt into the waistband. With two hands he scratched his head turning his already dishevelled hair into something resembling tumbleweed. He headed towards the outhouse but stopped in his tracks when he saw Kid. The gunman’s gaze met Kyle’s. The hairs on the back of Kyle’s neck stood up.
“Mornin’, Kid,” he said hesitantly. There was no reply. “I blew them caps up like you said. Ain’t gonna hurt no one else.” Still the other man gave no response. Kyle swallowed. “How’s Heyes?”
The chair legs hit the floor and Kyle took a step backwards as Kid stood up.
“He’s sleepin’. You better hope he can see when he wakes up, Kyle.”
Murtry did the only thing he could think of. At a run he headed for the outhouse.
“Stop scaring Kyle.”
At the sound of Heyes’ voice Kid spun on his heels to face his friend. Heyes stood barefoot and jean-clad in the open doorway. His dark blue shirt was open to the waist, hair tousled from the pillow. He rested a hand on either side of the entrance.
“How are you?” Kid didn’t bother to hide the anxiety in his voice as he studied his friend’s eyes.
Those brown eyes fixed on Kid. “Well enough to know you need a shave.”
Kid Curry smiled.