By Maz McCoy
“You sure about this?” Heyes asked. He sat on a chair in the corner of the hotel room watching as his partner strapped on his gun belt.
“What choice do I have?” Kid asked as he fastened the buckle.
“You could stay here,” Heyes suggested.
Kid gave him a look before bending to tie the holster string around his thigh. “And wait for him to find me? Maybe get shot in the back? I don’t think so.”
“We’re supposed to stay out of trouble,” Heyes reminded him unnecessarily.
Kid met his friend’s steely gaze. “And yet it still finds us.” He picked up his hat from the bed post and settled it on his head.
Heyes rose and walked to the door.
“You’re not gonna try and stop me are you?” Kid asked as his friend placed his hand on the door knob.
Heyes scoffed. “I’m not that brave.”
The street was empty when they stepped from the hotel onto the boardwalk. Lanterns illuminated the store fronts; casting dancing shadows in the dust.
“Who calls a man out at midnight?” Heyes asked rhetorically as he scanned the street in both directions. “Whatever happened to the traditional high noon?”
“Are you gonna keep jabbering on?” Kid asked, his eyes also taking in every movement of every shadow.
“Am I making you nervous?” Heyes asked.
“No, but I might forget which man I came here to shoot.”
Heyes feigned hurt and looked pointedly in both directions. “Don’t seem like much of a choice at the moment. You sure you got the right day?”
Kid gave him a look refusing to dignify the comment with an answer.
The sound of footsteps on the boardwalk put an end to any further conversation. The heavy thud of boots on the wooden planks reverberated in the still night air. Heyes saw the subtle changes in his friend’s stance as he prepared to face whatever danger lay ahead.
Kid saw Heyes move to stand beside him and then frowned as his partner’s expression changed to one of surprise.
“You gentlemen are out late,” an unfamiliar voice observed.
Kid turned and saw what Heyes had. The light glinted off a metal star pinned to the man’s buttoned jacket.
“Sheriff,” Kid said in greeting.
“What you boys doing out here this time of night?” the lawman asked.
“Just taking the air,” Heyes informed him before Kid felt the need to reveal the truth.
The sheriff’s eyes took in the gun strapped to Kid’s thigh.
“You wouldn’t be waiting for Owen would you?” The surprised look on the blond man’s face was answer enough. The sheriff chuckled. “Thought that might be the case when I saw you boys step outside.” Kid and Heyes exchanged a glance. “You wouldn’t be the first. Doubt you’ll be the last. Met you at the livery did he?”
“Yes,” Kid admitted, somewhat confused.
“Accused you of stealing his horse?”
“Yeah. Said the horse I rode in on was his.” Kid shot Heyes another look. What’s going on?
Heyes did not know either.
“Called you out over the horse I bet?” The lawman stated.
“Sheriff, is there something we should know?” Heyes asked.
The sheriff smiled. “What you should know is you have nothing to worry about. Hal won’t be turning up. Happens the same time each year. Must be going on ten years now. Hal shows up, accuses a stranger of stealing his horse and calls him out.”
“If he does this so often how come…”
The sheriff held up a hand interrupting Kid.
“He won’t show, son. We won’t see him again until the same time next year. You got nothing to worry about.” He touched the brim of his hat. “Good night, gents.”
Kid stood opened mouthed watching as the sheriff strolled off along the boardwalk. “What was that all about? Who calls someone out and doesn’t turn up?” When his friend did not reply Kid turned to face him. “Heyes?”
Hannibal Heyes watched the sheriff disappear into the dark. “Did you hear what the sheriff said the man’s name was?”
“Yeah, Owen, but I knew that.”
“I mean his full name.”
Heyes looked Kid directly in the eyes and waited. Kid thought back to what the sheriff had said.
“He said it was Hal. Hal…” Kid stopped.
Heyes nodded. “And you know what today is.”
“You don’t think..?”
“I have no idea what I think but I’m going back inside and in the morning we’re riding out of this town.”
Kid was not about to argue with his partner this time.