Gonna Shoot me a Sheriff

Gonna Shoot me a Sheriff

By Maz McCoy

The doctor watched as the dark-haired young man studied his cards. He had won a considerable amount of money from the other players at the table; money that was piled up in front of him. Two brown eyes focused on the cards in his dexterous hands.

“Well?” the dealer asked. The dark-haired man said nothing, his eyes still on his cards. He had impressed the doctor with his focus and coolness. Some of the other players fidgeted when they had a good hand or performed some nervous ritual, like rubbing their moustache or tapping their fingers on their cards. The dark-haired man did none of that. From one game to the next he was genial and pleasant but impossible to read. The doctor had bought a round of drinks and engaged the players in conversation but despite his friendly chatter this man had given very little away, apart from the fact that he was waiting for his partner to arrive in town. The doctor noted something different now in those brown eyes.

“Mr. Smith?” The young man didn’t reply. “Are you all right Mr. Smith?” the doctor placed a hand on Heyes arm, startling him.

“What?” Heyes looked at the faces staring at him.

“We’re waiting for you,” Doctor Harrison explained.

“For me?”

“It’s your turn,” the dealer told him. “You playing? D’you want any cards?”

Heyes looked back at his cards, thought for a moment, then placed them face down on the table.

“Deal me out fellas.” He pushed his chair back. “I’m going to get some air.”

“Are you all right?” Doctor Harrison watched with professional curiosity as Heyes pocketed his money.

“I’m fine.”

Heyes stood up, then swayed and grabbed an arm of the chair. The doctor was swiftly at his side. “Let me help you.” He offered a hand which Heyes accepted, the room was swaying more than his stomach liked and Heyes knew if he didn’t get outside quick he’d be asking for the biggest spittoon the bartender had.

“I don’t feel so good,” Heyes admitted as they headed towards the bat wing doors.

“Something you ate perhaps? Or drank?”

“I’ve had no more than a couple of whiskies Doc.”

The cold, fresh night air hit Heyes and he took a deep breath as they stepped onto the boardwalk. He placed a hand on the wall to steady himself. He couldn’t seem to focus.

“Where have you been the last few days?” the doctor asked as he steered Heyes towards a seat.

“I rode in from Spencer yesterday.”

“Spencer?”

Heyes looked up at the change of tone in the medic’s voice.

“Yeah, why?”

“I heard they’d had some sickness there.”

“Didn’t notice any.”

“Still we’d better get you checked out. Do you think you can walk? I’d like to get you to my office. It’s just over there.” He pointed to a store front across the street.

“I could just get some rest in my hotel room. I’m sure I’ll be okay Doc. I’ll sit here a while.”

“Better safe than sorry Mr. Smith. Come on.” He held out a hand and helped Heyes stand. “It’s not that far.”

Uncharacteristically, Heyes allowed himself to be led across the street to the Doctor’s office. He leaned against the wall as Doctor Harrison unlocked the door. Heyes stumbled as he entered the building. He felt so tired. Nothing would keep still and all he wanted to do was close his eyes and sleep. By the time the doctor had him lie down on a bed in a back room, he was hardly able to stand.

“Rest here Mr. Smith. I’ll get my things.”

“My friend. I need to let my friend know…Where I…Where I am.” Heyes eyes closed, his breathing deep. “Can you…let him…know?” The doctor watched Heyes’ chest slowly rise and fall.

***

Kid Curry looked casually around the room as he walked towards the bar. There was no sign of Heyes at any of the poker tables, although the hotel receptionist had informed him that Mr. Smith would be there. He and Heyes had separated to take two jobs for Big Mac and arranged to meet in Fuller’s Crossing, once they had finished and before heading back to Red Rock. Kid had been happy to see Heyes’ horse in the livery stables when he rode in and to see that his friend had got them a large room, with two comfortable looking beds, at the front of the hotel. He contemplated grabbing some much needed sleep before setting out to find his partner, but Kid wanted to see his friend. He’d sleep better if he knew Heyes was okay and that things had gone well. Neither man liked taking separate jobs but in this case the money had been too good to turn down. He ordered a whiskey from the bartender and then leaned back against the bar as he surveyed the room.

“I’m looking for a friend of mine,” he told the bartender. “Name of Joshua Smith. My height, brown hair, black hat with silver on the band. The desk clerk at the hotel said he thought he was over here.”

“He was; winning good too,” the man told him, as he picked up the whiskey bottle to pour the blond man another drink. “Left with Doc a couple of hours ago.”

“The doctor?”

“Yeah. I gotta say your friend wasn’t looking too good.” Kid looked concerned.

“Where’s the doctor’s?”

The bartender gave him directions and Kid was soon striding across the street towards the office of Doctor Albert Harrison. It was early evening and there was a light burning inside. The door was locked and seeing no one about, Kid rapped on the window. A moment later he watched as a small, balding man hurried from a back room.

“I’m with a patient,” the doctor announced, when he opened the door.

“I’m looking for my friend. The bartender at the saloon told me he left with the doctor.”

The doctor took another, longer, look at the blond man.

“You must be Thaddeus Jones.”

“Yes, are you the doc?”

“I’m Doctor Harrison.” The small man smiled. “I’m very glad to see you Mr. Jones; very glad. You’d better come in.” Kid entered the room, looking around at the bottles and jar lined up on a shelf, as he politely, removed his hat. “Your friend is through there.” Doctor Harrison pointed to the back room and Kid headed towards it.

“Is he all right? They didn’t say what was wrong.” Kid couldn’t hide the concern in his voice. He turned to look at the doctor. “Doc?”

“We’ll talk when you’ve seen him.”

That did nothing to allay Kid’s fears. He entered the room. A single lamp burned on a bedside table. Heyes lay on a bed; at first he appeared to be sleeping but then he began to mutter incomprehensibly. Kid stepped closer. Shadows danced across his partner’s face. Heyes opened his eyes, hearing someone approach. He looked up at Kid but was unable to focus on his friend.

“Hey partner, how you doing?” Kid said, gently.

“Thadde…you? Ki..?” Heyes closed his eyes.

“What’s wrong with him?” Kid asked, watching as Heyes fought to regain consciousness.

“Nothing that can’t be cured, Mr. Curry.” Kid froze at the sound of his name and there was an ominous click. Kid turned slowly, looking back over his shoulder, to find the doctor standing in the doorway, a Colt .45 pointed directly at him.

“What’s going on doc?”

“Unbuckle your gun belt and drop it on the floor, please.”

“I don’t know who you think I am but…”

“I know exactly who you are. You’re Kid Curry and he’s Hannibal Heyes.” He waved the gun in Heyes’ direction. “Your gun belt, please.”

“You’re making a mistake doc. I’m Thaddeus…”

“Jones,” the doctor finished for him. “And he’s Joshua Smith and you’re both law abiding men, just passing through town. Please save me the lies. If you waste my time your friend will die.” The coldness in the doctor’s tone sent a chill through Kid. “Your gun belt.” Reaching down Kid untied the string from around his thigh, and then unbuckled the belt. All the time his eyes fixed on the doctor and the gun in his hand, watching for any opportunity. When he had removed the gun belt, he held it in one hand.

“Drop it on the floor.”

Kid complied.

“Now kick it under the bed.”

Kid did as he was asked and the gun belt slid into the darkness.

“Why are you so sure we’re Curry and Heyes?”

“Because I was on a train you robbed and I got a very good look at your faces.”

“I never knew the railroad carried so many people,” Kid muttered.

“What?”

“Nothin’.”

“Wos…goin’…Wos…happen?”

Kid cast a quick glance at his friend.

“So what’s wrong with my partner?”

“Nothing at all.”

“He ain’t normally like that.”

“I know.”

Realisation hit Kid.

“What did you do to him?”

The doctor smiled when he saw the anger well up in the young man’s eyes. Yes, this was exactly what he needed.

“Ki…I don’t f…Don’t fe…s’good.”

“What did you do?” Kid asked again.

“He’s drugged, that’s all.”

“With what?”

“Chloral hydrate, if that means anything to you?” He could see that it didn’t. “It’s a sedative; works on the central nervous system. I slipped some into the drink I bought him earlier.”

***

Doctor Albert Harrison couldn’t believe his luck when he’d seen Hannibal Heyes walking across the street from the hotel to the saloon. The bank robber, Hannibal Heyes! Now if his partner was in town too that would be more than he could hope for. A plan began to develop in his brain. Oh yes, this was exactly what he needed. He learned at the hotel that Mr. Smith was indeed waiting for his partner, Mr. Jones to arrive. Smith and Jones, well that certainly lacked imagination, but then what could you expect from a couple of outlaws? Clearly they were not as smart as he’d been led to believe by stories in the newspapers.

Dr. Harrison returned to his office and selected a bottle from his medicine cabinet. He slipped it into his jacket pocket and headed towards the saloon.

Another player was welcomed at the poker table. The doctor smiled and introduced himself to those men he didn’t know. Hannibal Heyes shook the hand the doctor offered and then turned his attention to his cards. It had been so easy after that. He went to the bar and bought a round of drinks, insisting on carrying the tray back to the table himself. On his way back to the table he pretended to struggle and put the tray down. With his back to the room he slipped the bottle from his pocket, poured a few drops into one particular glass then proceeded to the poker table. He smiled pleasantly as he placed the glass in front of Mr. Heyes; watching with satisfaction as the young man took a sip. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the drug to take effect.

***

“What’ll it do to him?” Kid asked.

“What you see now. In the right dose, it’ll just knock him out for a while. He may seem vague, as you can see but, when he wakes up, he’ll have little more than a bad headache and nausea.”

Kid looked at his friend with concern. Heyes lips moved but there was no sound and his eyes were now closed, his breathing heavy.

“Of course if I was to administer the wrong dose…” Kid’s eyes shot back to the doctor. “Then he’d be dead before you could do anything about it.”

It was the doctor’s cold, matter-of-fact attitude that scared Kid. He wouldn’t give this small balding man a second glace if he passed him on the street. He looked meek and mild mannered. Who would have thought the kindly town doctor was a calculating killer?

“I didn’t think doctors were supposed to kill their patients?”

“Not usually, but this is different.”

“So are you turning us in?”

“Oh no Mr. Curry. When this is all over you will both be free to go.”

“When what is all over?”

“When you’ve done what I need you to do.”

“And what’s that?”

“You’re going to kill the sheriff.”

Wind rattled the windows as Kid and Doctor Harrison faced each other.

“You must be crazy. Why should I kill a man I don’t even know?”

“Because if you don’t, I’ll kill your friend.”

“How do I know you won’t do that anyway, or haven’t already done it with whatever it is you’ve given him?”

“You don’t, but at the same time, I’m not sure how safe it is to keep Mr. Heyes sedated for so long. So even as you keep me talking, you could be helping to kill him yourself.”

Kid’s eyes fixed angrily on the gun in the doctor’s hand.

“Please don’t try anything. I can assure you I know how to use this and I’m betting you don’t know how to revive your friend.” He had called Kid’s bluff and the blond man knew it. Doctor Harrison moved to a small cabinet, opened a drawer and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “Put these on.”

He threw them at Kid, who caught them in one hand.

“Where’d you get these?”

“From my friend the sheriff. Put them on!”

Kid hesitated.

“Put them on!”

Kid placed one of the hand cuffs around his left wrist.

“Close it.”

Again Kid hesitated. The doctor pulled the hammer back on the gun.

“I know how to wound you, so that you’ll still be able to do what I want. Close it!”

There was a click as Kid did so.

“Now the other.”

Kid looked at the doctor.

“If you insist on wasting my time, I’ll increase the dose I give him!”

Kid put the other cuff around his right wrist and closed it.

“Good,” the doctor said with a smile. “Now we understand each other.”

“I’m not going to be able to kill anyone with these on.”

“You don’t need to just yet. The sheriff is out of town; due back tomorrow.”

“You’re gonna keep him like that until then? I thought you said it’s not safe?” Kid asked, not bothering to hide his fear for his friend.

“I’m a doctor; I know what I’m doing.”

“Why don’t I find that reassuring?”

Doctor Harrison smiled.

“I hope I haven’t ruined your faith in my profession?” Kid didn’t reply. “I need to keep you out of sight until the time is right. Shall we?” He indicated the door.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Just keeping you out of harm’s way.”

With a final glance at Heyes, who was again trying to focus on the world around him, Kid walked out of the room. The doctor pointed in the direction he should go and Kid walked to a door in the far wall.

“Open it,” the doctor instructed. Kid did so, to reveal a flight of stairs leading down into the darkness of a cellar. A wave of the Colt told Kid he should start down the steps. The only light was from the room above. As he neared the bottom he hit his head, hard, on a beam. Harrison heard the thud. “Oh, I should have warned you about that.” He didn’t sound too sincere.

As Kid descended into the darkness he desperately tried to think of a way out of this, but the man had a gun and he didn’t, the man had drugged Heyes and he had no idea how to help his partner. When he reached the bottom of the stairs he found himself in a space no bigger than a packing case. It was just a deep cupboard or cold store.

“How long am I gonna be down here?” Kid looked back up the stairs at the doctor, silhouetted in the doorway.

“I told you the sheriff should be back tomorrow morning.”

“You gonna leave me here all night?”

“Don’t tell me Kid Curry’s afraid of the dark?”

Kid didn’t answer that.

“What have you got against the sheriff anyway?”

“He killed my wife.”

The doctor could see Kid wanted to hear more and he decided to oblige him, after all he was going to kill the man, so he might as well know why.

“There was a bank robbery here, two years ago. As they were getting away the sheriff and his deputies rode into town. There was a shoot out and the robbers fled back into the bank. My wife was in the bank at the time of the robbery. She and several other people were held hostage. The bank robbers made several demands but they promised to let the hostages go if their demands were met. The sheriff refused to do as they asked. I pleaded with him but he wouldn’t listen. He insisted on doing it his way.” He paused as he remembered. When Doctor Harrison had composed himself, he continued. “There was another shoot out and the robbers were killed, along with three hostages. My wife was one of them. If the sheriff had done as he was asked she would still be alive today.”

“I doubt that the sheriff…”

“YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HIM!” Kid was taken aback by the venom in the doctor’s words. “Now you will do as I say or I swear I’ll let your partner die and then I’ll turn you in. If you call out I’ll simply tell people I have captured Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes. Do you understand me, Mr. Curry?”

“Yeah, I understand you.”

“Good.” Without another word, the doctor closed the door and Kid listened to a key turning in the lock and then the sound of something being dragged across the floor. He stood in total darkness, letting his eyes adjust. Eventually he could see just a faint glimmer of light through the keyhole. Kid began to climb the stairs, but forgot about the low beam and once again cracked his head against it. For a minute the world spun. He sat down in the steps and waited for his head to stop hurting. When his headache was tolerable, he pulled himself to his feet, focused on the tiny pinpoint of light and started towards it.

***

“Woz zat…zat my fr…friend?” Heyes muttered as the doctor stood beside him. Brown eyes searched the room for Kid. “Thad…Thad…Ki…Ki woz here?”

“Yes, he was here. He’s very worried about you.” Doctor Harrison placed a finger on Heyes’ wrist counting his pulse. The young man’s eyes opened and closed. He tried desperately to look directly at the doctor but was having little success. “You need to rest Mr. Smith, you’re very unwell. And drink some of this, it will help.” He held out a small glass
and managed to get Heyes to drink some of the mixture it contained.

“Wot…wot is…in…it?”

“It will help you rest. You need rest.” The doctor smiled, satisfied, as Heyes slowly drifted into a more restful sleep.

***

Kid Curry pressed his ear to the door and listened. He could hear someone moving about; the sound of footsteps on the wooden floor, as the doctor moved from one room to the next, and then the light went out. A door opened and closed. Kid listened. He heard nothing, except his own breathing. The doctor must have left. He waited, listening, just to be sure it wasn’t a trick and then, when he was certain he had gone, Kid began his escape attempt. He felt in the darkness for the door handle and turned it. Nothing happened. So much for Plan A. In a well thought out Plan B he stood up and threw himself at the door.

“Ow! *$@#*!” He cried, as pain reverberated through his shoulder. He collapsed onto the top step, missed that and landed with a painful thud on his butt on the third step down. “$@#*!” So much for Plan B. The door was obviously more solid than he had at first thought. However, Kid knew he had to get out. He had to get his partner away from the doctor before he got back, before he gave him anymore of that floral…stuff or whatever he called it.

He got to his feet, returned to the door and pushed against it again. There was no movement, no give in the wood and presumably there was something blocking the other side too. He shoved it with his shoulder, bracing himself this time for impact. When his shoulder proved unsuccessful, Kid raised his leg and swung at the door, landing the ball of his foot squarely next to the lock. Unfortunately his hands were cuffed firmly together and the laws of motion were not in his favour; they sent him backwards; he missed his footing and went tumbling down the stairs, hitting his head once more on the low beam and landing in a heap at the bottom.

There was a single groan and then nothing.

***

As dawn was breaking the next day, Doctor Harrison unlocked the door to his office. He felt a buzz of excitement. He had Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry at his beck and call. This was the day! He gave a satisfied smile when he saw the cold store door closed and the heavy table still in front of it. He headed to the back room, unlocked the door and went inside.

Hannibal Heyes’ eyes opened as the doctor entered the room. He tried to focus on the man before him.

“Good morning, Mr. Smith. How do you feel?”

“I can’t…can’t seem to…fo…focus.”

“That’s one of the symptoms of the sickness, I’m sorry to say. Did you sleep well?”

“Woz goin’ on Doc? My fr…”

“Don’t over exert yourself Mr. Smith. Everything is fine.”

“My friend…he woz…here?”

“Yes, that was last night.”

“Sheriff..Wot…abou..sheri…?”

The doctor looked down at Heyes. So he had heard them and was clearly not as sedated as he hoped.

“I don’t know what you mean, young man. You’re very confused. Here take some more of your medicine.” He placed a glass to Heyes’ lips and watched as the dark-haired man drank. “Excellent.” He gave a satisfied smile as he placed the empty glass on the bedside table. The doctor headed for the door.

“Rest, Mr. Smith. It’ll all be over soon.” He left the room, closing the door behind him.

Heyes’ eyes opened. He turned, slowly, onto his side and spat a mouthful of liquid onto the floor.

***

The stagecoach pulled to a halt outside the hotel. Several people climbed out, tired from their long journey. Bags were thrown down from the roof by the driver. Friends greeted the travellers. Rapid conversations were held. Relatives were hugged. One weary soul headed for the hotel.

“Hey sheriff we’re here!” the driver called, when he realised one of his passengers had yet to alight. There was no reply. The driver thumped on the roof. “Sheriff!”

“WHAT?”

“We’re here.”

A brown haired head appeared from a window.

“Oh, thanks, Carl.”

Sheriff Wilbur Langdon opened the door and climbed out of the stage. He looked up at the driver. The man threw a bag down and the sheriff caught it. He waved goodbye and headed across the street to his office, wondering what awaited him and how many people his eager young deputy had arrested in his absence.

Unseen by the lawman, a blind moved in the window of the doctor’s office. Doctor Harrison smiled. He was back.

***

Gun in hand, Doctor Harrison opened the door and peered into the darkness below. Kid Curry sat at the bottom of the stairs; his face was bruised. He hadn’t slept and dark circles beneath his eyes attested to the fact.

“Are you all right?” the doctor asked.

“What do you care?”

“Oh, you are vital to my plans Mr. Curry. Your welfare is of the utmost concern to me.”

“Unlike my friend.”

“He is sleeping peacefully, like the proverbial baby. You need not worry about him.”

“I’ll make that decision for myself.”

“Suit yourself.” The balding man stood to one side. “Come out please.”

Steadying himself with his cuffed hands, Kid climbed to his feet and walked up the stairs, avoiding the low beam, this time. When he reached the final few steps he looked up at the doctor.

“I want to see my friend.”

“You’re in no position to make any demands.”

“Well if he ain’t alive, I got no reason to do anything for you.” Two intense blue eyes fixed on the medical man. The doctor considered this.

“All right. You may see him, briefly.” He stood back as Kid climbed the final few steps. “The sheriff returned a few minutes ago. You will go over to the jail and kill him. I’ll be here with your friend. If I don’t hear a shot from the jail, I’ll inject Mr. Heyes with enough chemicals to kill him. Do you understand that, Mr. Curry?”

“I understand.”

“If you try anything foolish, I will destroy the antidote your friend needs.” Two ice-blue eyes stared at the doctor. “You know what you have to do?”

“Yes.”

“Say it.” Kid breathed out a heavy sigh. “SAY IT!” The doctor glared at him.

“I’m gonna shoot me a sheriff.” Kid looked at Harrison. “Satisfied?”

“Very.”

“Now can I see my friend?”

“Of course.”

***

Heyes eyes were closed as Kid approached the bed.

“Heyes?” There was no point in using their aliases now. “Heyes?”

To Kid’s relief his friend opened his eyes. Kid smiled.

“Ki…”

“How you doin’?” The blond man tried to keep the conversation light, not wanting to give his partner anything more, than his own recovery to worry about. “You feelin’ better?”

“Don’t…do…it.” Heyes whispered. Startled Kid looked at his friend’s eyes. There was no mistake. Heyes was more alert than he had been the night before.

“You getting enough rest?” Kid didn’t want the doctor to know he had seen the change in Heyes.

“Don’t…Please.”

“I have to,” Kid mouthed.

“No!” Heyes shook his head.

“Time’s up Mr. Curry. You have a sheriff to kill.” The doctor stepped further into the room, brandishing the gun for good measure.

“Ki…Kid…Don’t.”

Kid Curry couldn’t look at his friend. He put his shoulders back, and walked with determination out of the room. Doctor Harrison smiled at Heyes.

“It’ll all be over soon, Mr. Heyes. Just don’t expect to see your friend again.”

He followed Kid to the door of his office. The blond man looked out of the window.

“I’m going to remove the handcuffs,” the doctor announced. “Remember your friend needs that antidote, in the correct amount or you could kill him. You need me.”

Without saying a word, Kid held his wrists out and the doctor unlocked the handcuffs. Kid removed them and threw them on the nearby desk. He rubbed his wrists.

“I need my gun. I can’t kill the sheriff without it.”

“I know.” The doctor opened the desk drawer and pulled out Kid’s gun belt. He held it out. Kid took it, noting the absence of bullets in it and buckled it around his waist. “There is only one bullet in the gun. I hope you’re as good as they say you are.”

“And if there’s a deputy there?”

“You’ll just have to hope there isn’t.”

Kid didn’t reply. He tied the string around his thigh and placed his hand on his gun. The doctor tensed. Slowly Kid withdrew his gun and opened the chamber to check the bullet was there. He returned the gun to the holster, then gave a final glance at the back room, before opening the main door.

***

Kid Curry stepped out onto the boardwalk, his expression grim. The wind blew a swirl of dust along the main street and a tangle of tumble weed rolled by. He pulled his hat down to shield his eyes, and then pulled on his gloves. Two blue eyes narrowed and focused on the sheriff’s office across the street. Kid knew how to control his fear; knew how to prepare to face a man. He would do the same this time. He took a deep breath, stepped down into the street and began to walk towards the jail.

As every step brought him closer to an act of murder, he told himself this was for Heyes. He had no idea what he was going to do when he reached the sheriff’s office but if he had to shoot a man to save his partner’s life… Kid looked at the name above the door, Sheriff Langdon. He’d never heard of the man, never met the man, but there was a possibility that he was going to have to kill the man. Would he do it? Kill a man in cold blood to save Heyes? He had only a few strides left to think of a way out of this. Turn himself in? Tell the sheriff what the doctor had in mind and why? Who was the sheriff going to believe; the highly respected town doctor or a drifter and his poker playing friend?

Kid was in the middle of the street now, almost half way there. If the doctor detected anything wrong he would kill Heyes.

***

Heyes pulled himself into a sitting position, then hauled himself to his feet using the bedpost for support. The room swayed; his stomach flipped and he retched but nothing came up. Heyes placed two hands on the bed and slowly eased himself towards the door.

At the end of the bed he felt for the wall, reassured by its stability. The room was still moving as he made his way, hand-over-hand, along the wall to the door.

***

A pounding on the back door drew Doctor’s Harrison’s attention away from the window. He cast an angry glance at the door, willing the noise to stop but the pounding came again.

“Doc! Doc!” a young voice called.

“Damn it!” the doctor cursed. He cast another glance at Kid Curry and headed swiftly to the back door. Opening it he found ten-year-old Jimmy Lundstrom standing there.

“Doc, you gotta come quick, my Pa’s been hurt!” the boy cried. Harrison was torn with what to do. “Doc, please!” Jimmy reached out and grabbed hold of the man’s sleeve, pulling him.

“Wait! What happened?” He wanted to keep an eye on Curry, wanted to make sure he did what he was supposed to do. Had he reached the sheriff’s office yet? Why did this have to happen now?

“Pa was fixing the roof. He fell off! He fell on the axe. He’s bleedin’ bad. Come on Doc!” Jimmy gave another tug on the doctor’s sleeve.

The doctor looked down at the boy, two blue eyes pleading with him to help.

“Let me get my bag.” Harrison ran back into the office. He took a moment to look out into the street and saw Curry still on his slow, path to the sheriff’s. Turning, the doctor grabbed his bag and followed Jimmy back to his home.

***

As he reached for the door handle Heyes heard the doctor returning. He froze and listened. If the doctor entered the room there was nothing he could do to stop him. There was movement and then a door closed loudly. Silence followed.

Tentatively, Heyes opened the door and peered out. Nothing moved, including the room which was a blessing. He staggered towards the front door, hitting his leg on a table and knocking over a few bottles in the process. He looked frantically around, but no one came running at the sound. When he reached the front door he opened it and squinted as the bright light hit his eyes. Through a blurry haze he could see Kid walking up the steps to the sheriff’s office. No!

“Kid!” he called but his voice was barely more than a whisper. “Kid!”

***

Kid Curry put his foot on the steps. One…Two…Three. He was on the board walk. He touched the butt of his gun, just to reassure himself. His heart was pounding in his chest. What the heck was he going to do? Shoot the town sheriff or turn himself in, and risk killing Heyes in the process?

“Morning Sheriff. I’m Kid Curry and Dr. Harrison wants me to kill you.” Well maybe he shouldn’t say it quite like that.

Kid let out a heavy sigh. Heyes’ words echoed in his brain.

“Kid…Don’t. Don’t…do…it…please.”

***

Hannibal Heyes stumbled out into the street.

“KID!” he called again, but his voice was lost in the wind. He staggered along the boardwalk, grabbing hold of the railing and squinting as dust blew in his face. He stumbled down the steps, crashing to his knees. Grabbing hold of a hitching post he hauled himself up again and staggered on.

“Hey fella, you all right?” a man asked but Heyes could not reply. Nothing would stay still. The world was a blur of shapes, colours and sounds. The only thing Heyes could focus on was his partner’s back.

***

Kid placed his hand on the door handle. It was now or never. Was he really about to shoot a man in cold blood? He looked at his gloved hand and his grip tightened.

***

“My friend,” Heyes muttered, raising a hand towards Kid.

The man looked to where he was pointing, just as Heyes collapsed.

“SOMEONE GET THE DOCTOR!” the man called. “Hey fella, this your friend? HEY, YOU AT THE JAIL!” Kid turned and saw a man leaning over someone lying on the ground. A woman ran from the General store to help.

“IS THIS YOUR FRIEND?” the man called again, stepping to one side as he did so. Kid looked at the man, lying on his back and immediately recognised the clothes he wore. It couldn’t be.

“Heyes?” he whispered, and then set off at a run.

He pushed his way to the front of the small crowd that had begun to gather, then sank to his knees beside his friend.

“Someone’s gone for the doctor,” a woman told him.

“NO!” Kid yelled.

“He needs help,” she stated.

“Not from the doctor. Help me get him to the hotel.”

“I really don’t think…”

“WELL I DO!” The woman took at step back at the ferocity of Kid’s words. The young blond man bent down and looked at his friend. Two brown eyes opened. Kid smiled.

“Don’t…do it.” Heyes pleaded. “Gotta stop you.”

“It’s okay partner. I didn’t do a thing.”

Hearing a commotion in the street, Sheriff Wilbur Langdon came out of his office, pushing his hat firmly on his head as he did so. He started across the street to where a man lay in the dirt.

At the same time, Doctor Harrison came rushing along the boardwalk from the direction of the Lundstrom house. The front of his shirt was covered with the blood of his most recent patient. He saw the Sheriff in the street.

“NO!” he cried, causing the lawman to look in his direction. The doctor saw Kid Curry crouched beside someone. He had not done as he was told to! “I told you to kill him! I told you to kill him! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE KILLED HIM!”

Hearing the cries, faces in the crowd turned to see who it was. They were startled to see the town doctor heading towards them, blood on his shirt, his face red with anger.

“Doc, what the heck’s wrong?” the sheriff asked.

“YOU! YOU SHOULD BE DEAD!” The doctor pointed at the sheriff. Kid got slowly to his feet and faced the doctor, watching to see what he would do. “You were suppose to kill him!” The man hissed, pointing a finger at Kid. The sheriff studied the young blond man with renewed interest.

Suddenly the doctor pulled a gun from his coat pocket. Kid’s hand went to his side. The doctor looked at Kid.

“Your friend is dead! And you’ve killed him!”

Kid met his gaze but showed no reaction.

“Doc, what are you doing?” the sheriff asked, gently. “Put that thing away.”

The doctor turned to face the sheriff.

“You should be dead.”

“What are you talking about?” Langdon asked.

“You killed my wife!”

“Doc…I?” but the sheriff suddenly realised what this was all about. Suddenly Harrison raised the gun and aimed it at the sheriff, pulling back the hammer as he did so. “Now wait a minute Doc.”

“You killed her. It was your fault!” The gun was wavering in his hand making him appear even more dangerous.

“We need to talk about this.” The sheriff held out his hands, showing he held no weapon; doing his best not to appear threatening.

“If you’d done as they’d asked you could have saved her!” The doctor was almost whimpering now.

“They were bank robbers! Do you honestly think they’d have kept their word?”

A sudden movement behind the sheriff caught the doctor’s eye. Harrison turned the gun on the Deputy. There was an explosion of gun fire. No one moved and then, slowly, the doctor dropped to the ground. Deputy Gilbert Tulloch ran across the street, his gun still in his hand.

“Is he dead?” he asked, remorsefully. “I didn’t mean to kill him, Sheriff , I swear! Oh no! Not the Doc! He shot at me first.”

“It’s all right Gil. You’re right. He was aiming to kill me too. What a mess.” He looked down at the man who had born a grudge against him for so long. He shook his head. “I had no idea. All these years. Maybe now he’ll find some peace.”

The sheriff turned his attention to Kid.

“Is that your friend?” He pointed to the man lying unconscious beside him.

“Yes.”

“You’d best get him seen to. Matt Darrowby’s the dentist. He’ll do what he can for him. Then you and I need to talk.”

Kid nodded and turned to Heyes. Bending down he grabbed Heyes’ arms and hauled him to his feet. With another man’s help he managed to lift Heyes onto his shoulder. Kid shifted his friend’s weight and headed for the hotel.

***

Matt Darrowby was a large bull of a man, well suited to holding down a patient with a particularly stubborn tooth. He talked to Kid Curry and then examined the semi-conscious Mr. Smith. He decided the doctor had used choral hydrate.

“I thought it was floral something,” Kid had remarked. “So what happens to him now? What can you do? I have no idea where the antidote is.” He looked anxiously, at his friend, lying on the bed.

“Nothing.”

“But there must be something?” Kid pleaded.

“I mean I don’t have to do anything. The effects of the drug will wear off.”

“He’s gonna be all right? He doesn’t need an antidote?”

“Is that what Harrison told you?” Kid nodded. “He doesn’t. Let him sleep it off. He’ll probably be tired for a while and you may want keep a sick bucket handy, but that’s all.”

“Thank you.” Kid leaned back against the wall, relief washing over him.

***

Heyes slept for the rest of the day. Kid sat in a chair, loading bullets into his gun belt and keeping an eye on his friend. Late in the afternoon there was a knock at the door. When Kid opened it, he found the sheriff standing in the hall way.

“We need that talk now,” the lawman told him. Kid stood to one side, allowing him to enter the room. Sheriff Langdon cast a glance at the young man asleep in the bed. “How is he?”

“The dentist reckons he’ll be okay. The drug the doctor gave him should wear off.”

“Well that’s good.” He looked at Kid. “I need to hear your side of the story; the Doc sure can’t say anything.”

Kid waved a hand at the chair and the sheriff sat. Kid lowered himself onto his bed.

“When I arrived in town yesterday I discovered my friend had been taken ill and was at the doctor’s. When I got there the man pulled a gun on me and locked me in the cellar. He told me he’d drugged my friend and would kill him unless I shot you.”

He met the sheriff’s gaze.

“Did he tell you why?”

“He said his wife was killed in a bank robbery and he blamed you.”

“Well that’s true. I just didn’t realise he still felt that way.” Langdon studied the young man. “Any idea why he chose you two?”

“No. Maybe because we were strangers in town? We were just drifters as far as he was concerned. I don’t think he intended to let either of us live.”

“Would you have done it?”

The two men looked at each other.

Heyes groaned and Kid went quickly to his side.

“Joshua?”

Heyes’ eyes opened.

“Where? Did you…?”

“No. I didn’t shoot anyone.” He looked up at the sheriff, who headed towards the door.

“The doctor?”

“He’s dead.”

“You didn’t?”

“No. No, I didn’t.” Kid looked at the sheriff.

“Take care of your friend. Let me know when you’re leaving town.”

Kid nodded and the lawman left.

***

Later that night, Heyes found Kid sitting on the porch steps in front of the hotel, staring across at the sheriff’s office. Kid turned, surprised to see his partner approach.

“You all right?” he asked.

“Fine.”

“Should you be out of bed?”

“The fresh air will do me good.” Heyes lowered himself onto the steps and leaned back against the porch post. Clearly he was still feeling groggy. They were silent for a while. Heyes watched his partner, saw his eyes return to the jail.

“You all right?” he asked.

“I’m fine.”

“D’you want to talk about it?”

Kid smiled. He didn’t need to ask what Heyes meant. He knew his partner would ask him about it at some point. It was the way Heyes was.

“Nothin’ to say.”

“Would you have shot him?”

Kid gave a heavy sigh.

“I don’t know, Heyes.” He looked at his friend. “But it was you or him; what do you think?”

Hannibal Heyes didn’t reply.

THE END

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