By Maz McCoy
“Twenty two,” Kid stated.
“What?” Heyes looked up from where he leaned against a crate, reading.
“Twenty two what?”
Heyes glanced at his partner, lying on the straw-covered floor of the boxcar, legs characteristically crossed at the ankles, hat tilted to cover his face. Heyes sighed. He had a feeling he was going to regret asking.
“Twenty two trains that what?”
“We’ve hopped in the last six months.”
“You’ve actually counted them?”
“Not much else to do.” Kid used one finger to push his hat up, revealing two day’s growth of stubble on his chin and purple bruising around his left eye. “Twenty two trains and five stage coaches, although we didn’t hop those just rode ‘em.”
Heyes’ eyes narrowed as he studied his friend’s face. “That still hurt?”
“You said that.”
“I know but…”
“Heyes, if it would make you feel better I’ll happily flatten ya here and now.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Don’t feel that bad huh?”
“Not enough to want to feel your pain.” Heyes put down his book and stood up. Kid watched as he wandered over to the open boxcar door. The wind blew his hair and ruffled his shirt, but it was a welcome relief from the hot air inside. “He was a big fella.”
“I noticed; especially when he was pounding me with his fists.”
“He did that a lot.”
“Not worried enough to intervene, huh?”
“Never seemed like the right time.”
“But you did find the right time to kiss his sister.”
Heyes smiled as he turned back to Kid. “Yeah, that I did.”
“Too bad he didn’t pick the right Smith to fight with.”
“How was I to know he was that protective of her?”
“I didn’t even know what I was being accused of when he pulled me out of that poker game. If he’d been wearing a gun I mighta drawn on him. Then what?”
“Joshua Smith would have become the fastest gun in the west.”
“It’s not funny, Heyes.”
Heyes suppressed a smile. “You’re right, Kid, it’s not. Although the Smith-Jones confusion thing could be useful if…” Kid wasn’t smiling. “No you’re right, not funny at all.”
“I told Lom he shoulda picked different names. Smith and Jones is too easy to mix up. Heck for the first couple of days even I wasn’t sure which one I was.”
“Miss. Porter didn’t seem to have trouble telling us apart.”
Kid smiled, his eyes revealing that his thoughts were now somewhere else, somewhere more pleasant. “Nice lady.”
Heyes smiled too. “Yeah.”
A noise further down the train caught their attention and then there was the sound of boots on the roof of the boxcar. Heyes returned to the open door, quickly surveying the passing landscape. “There’s a flat bit of land coming up on the next bend. We can jump off there if we need to.”
More footsteps sounded above them. Men’s raised voices. From their cries they appeared to have caught someone riding for free in another car. Time to get off while they could.
Kid got to his feet and stood beside Heyes, studying the approaching bend.
“Guess we’re gonna be making it twenty three real soon.” He looked Heyes in the eye. “And if I get another bruise from jumping, I really will flatten you this time.”
Before Heyes could answer, Kid jumped from the train.