The Edge

The Edge

By Maz McCoy

A run in with bounty hunters proves life threatening for Heyes and Kid

Kid Curry sat on the bunk in the cell, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together, as if still bound by the handcuffs that had left red marks on his wrists. He stared at the stone floor, oblivious to the pain in his head or the blood on the back of his shirt. He was numb, empty. Time no longer had any meaning to him. The murmur of voices nearby held no interest. His life had stopped in one mad moment. Heyes was dead and he was looking at twenty years in prison. What was there left to live for?

***

Sheriff Bill Stanton looked up as the door opened and Doctor Stuart McPherson entered the jail. McPherson was lean, in his late thirties, with dark hair and a pleasant disposition. He was also handsome enough to have had half the women in the town developing unexplained illnesses and needing tending until his wife had arrived on the next train.

“Morning, Bill, I hear you’ve got a patient for me.” The doctor placed his bag down on the lawman’s desk.

“I sure have; Kid Curry himself.” Stanton pushed back his chair and stood up, trying to hide some of the layers of flab, the doctor had been trying to get him to lose. McPherson eyed the young man in the cell. He sat, elbows on his knees staring, blankly, at the floor.

“He’s been like that since they brought him in. Not a word out of him.”

“Who’s they?”

“Bounty hunters.”

“How’s he hurt?”

“Head wound, but…”

“What?”

“His partner, Hannibal Heyes, was killed. They brought him in, did the paper work and then headed back out to pick up the body. Should be back tomorrow morning.” Stanton put the key in the lock of the cell door and turned it. Still Kid failed to acknowledge the presence of either man. The only word the doctor could think of to describe the expression on his face was vacant. “I reckon its hit this young fella hard.” The sheriff pulled open the door. “The doctor’s here to look at your head, Kid.” When there was no response he glanced at McPherson and shrugged.

“Leave this to me.” The doctor entered the cell, approaching Kid, cautiously. “Mr. Curry? Kid? It’s Jed isn’t it?”

When the blond man still failed to respond, the doctor placed his bag on the bunk and opened it.

“I’ll take a look at that head wound for you.” There were dark stains all over Kid’s collar and down the back of his white shirt. “Bill, could you get me some water, please?” The sheriff did as asked and the doctor moved closer to the prisoner. He touched Kid’s hair, finding the back matted with blood. Kid flinched, the first response the doctor had to his presence.

“Looks like you took quite a whack,” McPherson observed. “Any idea what they hit you with?” The sheriff opened the cell door and passed in a basin of water. Placing it on the floor, the doctor soaked a clean cloth in it and then placed it on Kid’s head to clean the hair away from the wound. When he moved aside strands he saw a large open gash. “This will need stitching.”

No response.

“Mr. Curry?”

Still no response. The doctor prodded the wound.

“OW! Dammit!” Kid turned and glared at the man.

“Well, now I know what gets your attention,” the doctor smiled pleasantly as the young man glared at him. He took a moment to assess the bruises on his face. “I have to stitch this wound. It’s going to hurt.”

“Don’t bother.”

“What?”

“Don’t bother with it. It doesn’t matter.”

“I can assure you it does. If this gets infected…”

“I don’t care.”

McPherson understood. It was time for another approach.

“So you’d happily die a long agonising death due to an infected wound?” Still no reply, but the young man turned his head slightly, observing the doctor out of the corner of his eye. “Well as a medical man, it’s my job to care.” He rummaged in his bag once more.

“The sheriff tells me your friend died. That must be very hard for you.”

Kid’s shoulders stiffened.

“You don’t have to stay Doc. Go treat someone else.”

“I can’t. You’re in the sheriff’s care now and he doesn’t take too kindly to prisoners dying of infected wounds in his cells. Leaves a horrible smell too.”

The doctor cleaned away the blood around the wound, then prepared the needle and thread he’d use for stitching.

“My best friend is dead and I’m facing twenty years in some hell hole of a prison.”

The doctor smiled; so he was finally ready to talk.

“And now you don’t see any reason for living?”

A shrug.

The doctor considered this.

“Any nausea?”

“No.”

“Headache?”

“Yes.”

“Blurred vision?”

“No.”

“How did you get caught?”

Kid was thrown by the sudden change of topic. He sighed.

“What does it matter?”

At least he was talking; McPherson took that as a good sign.

“Humour a nosey man.” He held the skin around the wound together. “And it might take your mind off the pain.”

“What?” The doctor pierced Kid’s skin with the needle and Kid swore and flinched, gritting his teeth as he pulled away, his knuckles turning white as he gripped the edge of the bunk. McPherson placed a firm hand on Kid’s shoulder to stop him moving.

“I told you not to bother!”

“And I told you I will. So, what happened?”

Kid sighed, some of the tension leaving his shoulders. After a long moment, he spoke.

“They caught us and my friend got killed.” Another flinch as the needle did its work. Kid gritted his teeth once more and kept as still as he could. “They lay in wait.” Flinch. “Dragged us off our horses.” Teeth clenched. “OW!” The doctor received the full power of a Kid Curry blue-eyed glare.

The doctor smiled, kindly.

“Go on.”

“We were on a mountain trail, close to the edge. One of the men tripped, Heyes caught him, stopped him going over the edge.” His shoulders stiffened again and the doctor was sure he heard the man draw in a breath. He waited, knowing Kid Curry was struggling with what he’d seen and the pain it caused him. “As he pulled the man back, Heyes lost his footing and…he…um…he…er…I tried to…to, um…I couldn’t do…I guess they thought I was trying to escape. I woke up tied to the back of a horse.”

McPherson stilled his hand, waiting for Kid to regain his composure.

“Just a couple more stitches.” Kid held still as the doctor finished his work. Then he placed a dressing over the gash and tied a bandage around Kid’s head. The man’s eyes revealed his pain, but not from any visible wound. As he replaced his instruments into his bag, Stuart McPherson looked at his patient. “The pain will ease.”

“I told you I don’t care.”

“I didn’t mean your head.”

Kid looked up at him and the doctor saw the anguish in the young man’s gaze.

“You’re still alive. What would your friend want you to do?” He closed his bag as Kid watched him thoughtfully. The sheriff opened the cell door and the doctor stepped outside. He looked back at Kid as Stanton locked the cell. “I’ll come by later and check on the dressing.”

Two blue eyes watched him leave the jail.

***

“NO!” Kid Curry said, adamant, as he rode beside his partner, along a mountain trail.

“What do you mean, no?” Heyes eased his horse in behind Kid’s as the trail narrowed, close to a precipitous drop.

“What does anybody mean when they say no, Heyes? I mean no!”

“No you won’t think about it or no you won’t do it?”

“No and NO!”

“Sheesh, you sure are proddy today.”

“Proddy? I am NOT PRODDY!”

“Well you’re shouting, and that sure sounds like proddy to me.”

“I am only SHOUTING because you keep coming up with ridiculous ideas!”

“It is not a ridiculous idea.”

“Then you do it!”

“I can’t. You’re the fast gun, not me.”

“I’ll teach you.”

“Kid, as much as it pains me to say this, I’d never be as good as you with a gun.”

“Well at least you admit it at last.”

“Hey, I’m still better then most.”

“Hmph.”

“So?”

“No, Heyes I’m not doing it! You’ll have to come up with another plan.”

The sound of rifles being cocked stopped their argument.

“Hold it right there fellas!” a deep voice called from behind them. “Getcha hands up!” Slowly, they raised their hands. There was the sound of footsteps and then a young man appeared on the trail in front of them, a rifle aimed at their heads. He wore a long mud-splattered coat and his dark hair hung down over the collar.

“Throw your guns on the ground,” he commanded.

“Look, I don’t know who you think…”

“SHUT UP!”

Heyes, shut up. Carefully they removed their guns and tossed them to the ground. Kid kept his eyes on the man as they heard someone approaching behind them. Large hands dragged first Heyes and then Kid from the saddle. This man was older than the first and huge, in height and breadth. He wore a long coat as dirty as the first man’s and a long painful looking scar ran down his right cheek. Kid glanced from the man to the ravine below. There was nowhere to run. His hands were pulled behind him and he felt the cold metal as the handcuffs clicked shut. Kid watched as the younger man used rawhide to bind Heyes’ hands in front of him. The partner’s eyes met. Neither had any idea how to get out of this situation yet, it was a watch and wait scenario.

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

“He told you to shut up.”

“I just don’t want you to be disappointed,” Heyes continued. “We don’t have any money if you’re planning to rob us and…”

“You don’t need any money, Heyes, you’re worth $10,000 apiece to us.” The big man smiled. “I’m a professional bounty hunter. Name’s Gaiter Hobbs and this here’s my nephew Will. I know exactly who you are and what you’re worth. I also know you,” he pointed to Kid, “are the fast gun and you,” he pointed to Heyes, “are the smart mouthed one. Now it says dead or alive on your posters. So you decide. We can have a nice, dull ride at the end of which you arrive hungry, saddle sore but alive, or, we can have a real exciting ride where you and your partner try some of your escape tricks and we take you in dead and slung over your horses. Me, I’m all for the dull, hungry and saddle-sore option. What do you think?”

Heyes sighed, “Hungry and saddle sore, will do just fine. But, you’re making a mista…”

“As for the yakkin’,” went on Gaiter, raising his voice to drown out the silver tongue, “…I’ll give you another choice. Shut up, or I’ll put that fancy bandana of your’n to good use and you ride gagged.”

A pause.

“Have you shut up?”

Heyes opened his mouth to reply.

“Be real careful with your answer now. Have you shut up?”

Heyes shut his mouth and nodded with a reluctant and rueful smile.

“I thought you’d see it my way.”

***

“Is there someone you want me to contact for you?” the sheriff asked as he looked at Kid through the metal bars. “Let them know where you are and what’s gonna happen?”

“No.”

“No family? Friends?”

Kid knew Lom should be told but the sheriff would hear about it sooner or later. Selfishly, he just couldn’t face anyone now.

“No one.”

“Well, there’s still time if you think of anyone.” He picked up Kid’s gun belt. “This is a real fancy gun. You can’t take it with you. What do you want me to do with it?”

“Sell it, give the money to…” Kid thought for a moment. “Could you see my friend gets a decent burial? Have someone say some words over him?”

“Of course.”

“Give whatever you get for the gun to the undertaker.”

“All right.”

“If there’s enough, place a marker on his grave.”

“Sure.”

***

Something spooked the horses. Maybe a rattlesnake, Kid would never know, but whatever it was, it had the animals snorting and dancing around. Will Hobbs tried to calm them and that’s when he tripped. Fear flashed across his face as he started to topple over the edge of the cliff. Heyes grabbed the young man’s shirtsleeve and pulled him back. Will shot Heyes a look of relief and gratitude and then his mouth gapped in stunned surprise as the dark-haired man staggered backwards, the ground giving way beneath his feet.

“GRAB HIM!” Gaiter yelled.

“HEYES!”

But, with the horses racing passed him, Will was too slow and Kid could only watch in horror as Heyes went tumbling.

Kid shoved passed the big man heading towards the place where he’d last seen his friend, but Gaiter mistook it for an escape attempt and grabbed hold of Kid’s arm. Kid struggled, kicking out before he rammed his shoulder into Gaiter’s side. The big man stumbled backwards.

“Will, stop him!” Gaiter called as he grabbed for Kid’s foot. Kid turned round to shake the big man off when a sharp pain rang through his head and day turned to night.

***

Sheriff Stanton looked over at the man in the cell before he went to make his nightly rounds. He had said nothing since their conversation about his gun. The sheriff couldn’t bring himself to sell it so soon after the young man’s arrest but he would do so once Heyes was brought in. Stanton had been a lawman for many years and was not known for his sympathy for hardened criminals but there was something about Curry that intrigued him. He was nothing like the gunslinger he’d imagined and Curry’s sense of loss was all too evident.

Kid lay back on the bunk, hands tucked behind his head as he stared at the ceiling. Without a word the sheriff turned and left his office.

***

“You should eat something,” Deputy Burt Hammond said as he looked down at the bowl of uneaten porridge, still in the gap beneath the cell door where he’d left it for the prisoner.

“I’m not hungry.”

“You should keep your strength up.”

Kid cast him a look.

“What for?” he asked, genuinely interested to know what anyone thought he had to look forward to.

“The doc said he’d be in later to take another look at your head. Food will help you heal.”

Kid did not reply he just sat on his bunk, leaning against the wall, one leg bent at the knee on which his right arm rested. Picking up the bowl the deputy returned to his desk. As if on cue, Doctor McPherson entered the jail. He exchanged a greeting with Burt and then walked over to the cell.

“Good morning, Mr. Curry.” Kid did him the courtesy of looking up even if he didn’t reply. “How’s your head?”

“It’s fine,” Kid lied.

“Well, I’ll take a look at the stitches.”

“Do you have to?”

“Yes.”

Kid sighed and swung his legs onto the floor, knowing the man wouldn’t take no for an answer. Hammond unlocked the cell and the doctor entered.

“Did you get any sleep?” he asked, looking at the dark circles beneath Kid’s eyes.

“Not much.”

“Headache still there?”

“Yes.”

“Any nausea or blurred vision?”

“No, just an annoying sound every time you stop by.”

The doctor laughed. Maybe there was hope for the young man after all.

“I’m sorry doc, I don’t mean to be rude, but you really don’t need to help me.”

“Humour me, Mr. Curry. I spent a long time training to be a doctor, let me feel all that studying was worth it.”

Kid didn’t say anymore as the man removed the bandage.

***

It was dusk when the door to the jail flew open. Stanton shot to his feet, reaching for his gun.

“Sheriff, they’re back!” Deputy Hammond announced.

“Sheesh, Burt! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“Sorry Sheriff, but they’re back.”

“Who?”

“The bounty hunters.”

“Where are they? Undertakers?”

“No, they headed for the saloon.”

That was odd, still the sheriff knew he had to go and talk to them. He glanced at the cell and saw Kid Curry staring back at him. He wanted to know too. Picking up his hat, the sheriff headed out of the door.

Kid didn’t know why he felt anxious. After all Heyes was dead, what else could they tell him? He just needed to know that they had brought Heyes’ body back and that he was not lying out there, left to rot.

***

Kid looked up from the bunk when the door opened and the sheriff returned. He waited to hear what the lawman had to say. Stanton walked over to the cell and leaned against the bars, his expression serious.

“I saw them bounty hunters.”

Kid waited.

“They didn’t bring your friend in.”

Kid felt the anger grow inside him, were they leaving Heyes to rot out there? But that was crazy, if they wanted the reward money. He looked at the sheriff.

“Why?” It came out as little more than a whisper.

“Said they couldn’t find him.”

“What?”

“They searched the area where he went over the edge, long and hard, but there wasn’t a sign of him. They’re pretty angry about it too. Not like Hobbs to lose his man. They’re over at the saloon now, blaming each other.”

Heyes couldn’t be found. For a moment Kid let a glimmer of hope enter his heart. Maybe, just maybe, he was alive! But then reality hit home. He’d seen how deep the ravine was, he’d seen Heyes stumble backwards…surely all hope was lost, no one could survive such a fall…not even the great Hannibal Heyes?

“Strangest thing, huh?” Kid didn’t know what to think or say. “I reckon they’ll make up a story about this. Turn it into the legend of Hannibal Heyes and how he mysteriously haunts the hills.”

The legend of Hannibal Heyes. Kid allowed himself a faint smile. Heyes would have liked that.

***

The following day the sheriff was having lunch at the cafeteria and, from the hints the deputy had been dropping, no doubt sweet talking Maisie Roberts, the owner. Kid stared at the ceiling looking deep into the cracks. His own sweet talking days were over. His days of doing anything were over.

The main door opened and Kid cast a casual glance to his left. His anger rose quickly and he got to his feet as the bounty hunters approached the cell. Will Hobbs, looking awkward one moment, trying to swagger the next, seemed unsure what to say.

“They…er…they lookin’ after you alright, Curry?”

Nothing.

Will squared his shoulders, tried to sound brash, “We’re just waiting for our reward money to come through.”

Still nothing.

Will shuffled his feet.

“Shame we couldn’t find that partner of yours.”

Kid’s hands tightened on the bars; he stared at the young man, unnerving him. Will moved closer, somehow needing to prove himself.

“You trying to scare me, Curry? Seems to me you’re on the wrong side of the bars for that.”

“Will,” Gaiter cautioned. “Leave him be.” The older man met Kid’s eyes, “Can’t say I don’t have a bad taste in my mouth about what happened to your partner. Not the right way to go. I’m grateful for my nephew’s life, even if he’s got a big mouth.”

The younger man was still covering his fear of the blue-eyed legend staring at him with bluster, “Heyes may have saved my life, but he’s still a thieving outlaw, he don’t deserve mourning over.”

Kid lunged forward grabbing the young man’s collar, with his left hand, pulling him hard against the bars. Kid couldn’t get a proper grip on Will before Gaiter intervened. Will slipped from Kid’s grasp; murderous blue eyes fixed on him.

“What the heck’s going on here?” A gun hammer clicked. “Get away from the bars!” Sheriff Stanton ordered.

Will stood to one side watching nervously. Gaiter faced the sheriff and his deputy.

“We just came to see if you had any news on the reward money.”

“And took the opportunity to rough up my prisoner at the same time, I see.”

“He started it,” Will moaned.

“He’s in a cell.”

“Don’t mean he didn’t start it,” Will grumbled.

“I used to respect you Gaiter and the way you treated your prisoners. Maybe you should think twice about having this young pup with you. He’ll get you killed. Now get out boys. I’ll be in touch when your money’s here.” The sheriff looked at Kid. “You must have been standing damn close to the bars for them to grab ya. Anyone’d think you were trying to get yourself killed.”

The blue eyes that looked at him showed no sign of denying it.

***

Dr. McPherson shook his head when he entered the cell and set his bag down. The bandage around Kid’s head was blood stained. The Doctor unwrapped the bandage, examining the wound.

“How did you manage to bust your stitches in a jail cell, Mr. Curry?”

“Just naturally stupid I guess.”

“I’m inclined not to argue with that….Hmm.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“I didn’t think you cared?” McPherson met Kid’s gaze and smiled.

“Just making conversation.”

“Well then you might be interested to hear that I can fix this, but it’s going to hurt.”

“Doesn’t it always?”

This time the doctor smiled and reached into his bag.

“We were so close,” Kid muttered to himself but the doctor heard him.

“Close to what?”

Startled, Kid hadn’t realised he’d spoken aloud.

“What?”

“You said you were so close.”

“Did I?”

“Well?”

“It’s nothing.”

“So…go on then.”

Why the heck not, Kid thought. What could it matter now who knew?

“We were working for our amnesty. We just had to stay out of trouble for a year, except it’s been nearly two years and we don’t seem to get any closer.”

“The Governor offered you amnesty?” The doctor tipped some powders into a glass of water. He stirred it and then handed it to Kid. “Drink this, it’s for the pain.”

Kid took the glass, looked into it suspiciously and drank. He made a face at the sour taste.

“I didn’t read anything about the amnesty,” McPherson commented, ignoring Kid’s grimace.

“It was a secret. Only a few people were supposed to know. I guess it doesn’t matter now.”

“Why not? Surely you could still get amnesty?”

Kid hadn’t thought of that. Did he want it?

“I don’t think I care.”

“Wouldn’t your friend want you to take the chance?”

Yes, he would. Kid knew Heyes would want that just as he would want the same for his partner…but now? The doctor packed up his bag and stood up. Kid yawned, feeling suddenly tired. He looked up to see the doctor watching him.

“What?”

“How d’you feel?”

“Drowsy. Why?” McPherson didn’t reply and Kid grew suspicious. “What did you give me?”

“Something to help you sleep.”

“I don’t need anything.”

“Too late, you just swallowed it.”

“Dammit! You should have asked me!” Kid stood up and the room swayed. The doctor put a hand on his arm.

“Sit down, Mr. Curry.” Kid did just that. “Get some sleep. I’ll come back and see you tomorrow.”

“Isn’t that against some kind of doctor’s oath? Tricking your patient?”

“I must have been absent that day.” McPherson smiled and placed his hat firmly on his head. “Rest.”

With that he left and Kid settled back on the bunk.

***

Kid heard the door to the jail open but he didn’t bother to look to see who it was. He was still drowsy from whatever it was the doctor had given him. Any day now someone would arrive to take him to the Wyoming State penitentiary, he had nothing to do but wait and he certainly wasn’t anxious to see them arrive. He kept his eyes closed and the murmur of voices reached him. The sheriff’s familiar footsteps approached the cell.

“Mr. Curry? Kid? There’s someone here to see you, says he was sent by Sheriff Trevors of Porterville, Wyoming.”

Kid sighed. So Lom knew what had happened. He was surprised the sheriff hadn’t ridden there himself. Kid opened his eyes. Stanton stood by the cell door. There was someone behind him but he couldn’t see who, just caught a glimpse of a brown suit.

“The man says his name’s Harry Brisco.”

Harry! Oh sheesh, that was all he needed. Anyone but Brisco!

“I don’t want to see anyone!” Kid closed his eyes.

“This man’s come a long way and he got roughed up by some fellas on the train journey here, apparently. Least you can do is talk to him.”

Well that sounded like Harry, all right. He guessed he did owe him the courtesy of hearing what he had to say. Swinging his legs over the side of the bunk, Kid sat up and looked at the cell door. Stanton moved to one side and…Kid’s mouth dropped open. It couldn’t be.

Hannibal Heyes smiled back at him. It was a good job Kid was already sitting down because he’d have fallen on his face otherwise. The sheriff returned to his desk. Kid continued to stare at the man on the other side of the bars. He had to be dreaming. He was still under the influence of the medication.

“Aren’t you going to come over and say hello to your old friend, Harry?” Heyes was speaking but Kid couldn’t believe it. It sounded like Heyes’ voice but…how? Kid summoned the strength to get to his feet and walk the few steps to the bars.

“Heyes?” he asked in a whisper.

“Hello, Kid.”

“You’re dead.”

“Bruised maybe, but not dead.”

“You went over a cliff.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“What the heck’s happening?” Kid grabbed hold of the bars, for support. “The doctor gave me something…You can’t be here.”

“It’s me, Kid, really.” He patted Kid’s hand. “See, I’m real.” Kid looked less than convinced.

“I don’t…How did you..? You went over a cliff.”

“I woke up on a ledge.”

“A ledge?”

“Yeah, that piece of rock saved my life. One foot to the left and I’d have been at the bottom of that ravine. I may take up geology as a way of giving thanks.”

***

The wind whistled about his head as Heyes slowly regained consciousness. His head hurt, his arms were numb and…OW! Sheesh it was painful to move them. His hands were bound at the wrists. Oh boy, what had he and Kid got into now? There had been two men. Were they bounty hunters? They handcuffed Kid and then…? Did someone trip? It was hazy after that. He felt sick and there was someone hammering in a very stubborn nail, inside his head. He shuffled on his side and looked over the edge to a ravine below.

Oh boy, he was in trouble. That was one heck of a drop. Heyes wasn’t afraid of heights. It was falling from them he wasn’t so keen on. He wriggled his hands and was amazed to find his bonds loosening. Whoever had tied the ropes hadn’t done much of a job. When his hands were free he slowly moved his cramped arms, grimacing as the blood flowed back into them. The side of his left thigh hurt. He wondered if he’d landed on that. It didn’t feel as if he’d broken anything. Raising himself to his knees he assessed his situation. He was on a narrow ledge of rock a few feet below the top of the cliff and a good hundred feet about the floor of the ravine. He was in trouble.

Carefully he stood up and looked at the face of the cliff before him. It was craggy, with numerous foot and handholds for someone willing to risk the climb. He wasn’t exactly willing but what other choice did he have. He glanced down. Nope, jumping was not an option.

Heyes reached up and gripped the rocks. He raised his right foot and placed it in a crack in the rock face and began to climb.

***

“Are you okay?” Heyes asked, looking at the bandage around Kid’s head.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Not true but he wasn’t about to admit it. “Heyes…” Kid was dumfounded to see his friend.

“I’m Harry Brisco. I’m here to report back to good ol’ Lom.”

“Lom knows?”

“I have no idea, but it was all I could think of to see you. I’m gonna get you out of here.”

“How?”

“When I know that, I’ll tell you.”

“Well, you’d better work fast because they’re taking me to Wyoming any day now.”

“Trust me, Kid. I’ll get you out, somehow.”

“The bounty hunters are in town.”

“I saw them, but as they think I’m dead they won’t be looking for me.”

“It won’t stop them recognising you. Be careful.”

“I will.”

“I still haven’t got over the fact that you’re alive.”

“Missed me huh?”

Kid smiled and shook his head in disbelief.

“Where’d you get the suit from? It looks just like yours.”

“It is mine, I…”

“You done, Mr. Brisco?” Stanton interrupted as he walked towards them. “Well it’s nice to see you got a smile out of him. This young fella’s taken the death of his friend pretty bad. Never seen a man give up on life like that.”

Heyes looked at Kid, but his friend fixed his gaze on the floor.

“I’ll be back later to see you, Mr. Curry,” Heyes said, still watching his friend. “Don’t give up hope. I’m sure there’ll be a way to get you out.” He shot a quick look at the sheriff. “Legally of course, Sheriff.”

“Of course.”

Kid finally looked up and Heyes nodded.

“Thanks.”

Kid watched his friend walk out the door. So they did answer your prayers after all.

***

Heyes let out a sigh of relief as he reached the end of his climb. Pulling himself over the edge he lay on the ground breathing heavily. Now that was something he didn’t want to have to do again. Mountaineering was not for him. He touched the back of his head feeling a large bump that was tender to touch. The sky was blue overhead and he lay watching a buzzard riding the thermals until he felt his pulse return to normal. Now all he had to do was figure out where he was, find out where they had taken Kid and find a way to get there. Hannibal Heyes needed a plan. He got to his feet, brushed down his pants and looked around. Nothing plan-like sprang to mind.

As he was still working on which direction to go in, he heard a horse. With no gun he was defenceless. Heyes moved swiftly to the cover of the bushes nearby. Peering out, he watched as two horses drew closer. He couldn’t see the riders but the animals moved slowly as if approaching cautiously. He waited. He could hear the beat of his heart and the throbbing of the pulse in his head. The horses stopped. Heyes held his breath and then risked pushing aside a branch to improve his view.

What the…?

He stood up slowly so as not to frighten the animals. Walking out from behind the bush he approached them. The two rider-less horses looked up recognising the man. Wasn’t there usually a quiet talking, curly-haired one too? One who slipped them an apple now and then?

***

“Mr. Brisco?”

Seated at one of the dining tables in the hotel, a glass of wine in hand, Heyes looked up at the young waiter.

“Yes?”

“You were asking about the men who brought in that outlaw?”

“Yes.”

“Well they just entered the saloon.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem, sir.” He scurried away, leaving Heyes to his thoughts. He had to get Kid out of jail and with the bounty hunters where he wanted them, now was as good a time as any.

***

It all happened so fast. One minute Kid was lying on his bunk, wondering what Heyes would come up with to get him out of jail and the next people were shouting in the street that the Clayton Gang were outside town and heading this way! The sheriff grabbed his gun and rifle, then left the jail with the deputy hot on his heels. Men on horseback rode past the window and Kid assumed they had gathered a posse. He had no idea who the Clayton Gang were but clearly they warranted a speedy response. He sat back on the bunk, then got quickly to his feet again as the main door opened and Heyes walked in.

“What the heck’s going on?”

“Apparently someone spotted a band of fearsome outlaws outside of town,” Heyes informed him as he pulled a lock pick from his boot. “Outlaws who have robbed this town on two occasions in the past. A goodhearted citizen reported they’d seen them.”

“I wonder who that could have been?”

Heyes looked up and saw two knowing blue eyes stare back.

“I can’t imagine.” He twisted the lock pick in the keyhole and then pulled open the door.

“Heyes, you are amazing!” Kid exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear.

“I’m glad you finally realised that. Come on, they won’t be fooled for long.” He headed to the back door, with his partner close on his heels.

***

“You know Heyes, I hate to admit it but that was one smooth piece of rescuing.” Kid eased his horse into a stream.

“Not bad for Harry Brisco, huh?” Heyes rode beside him. Both men still bore the bruises and scars of their recent run in with the bounty hunters but as the days passed the visible wounds at least, were fading.

“I’m sure glad it wasn’t him.”

“Of course, they’re going to wonder who got you out of jail,” Heyes mused.

“They’ll figure out it was you.”

“But I’m supposed to be dead and haunting the hills.”

“I shouldn’t have told you that.”

“Why not? I like the idea.”

Kid turned to look at his friend and saw a man all too pleased with himself.

“The Legend of Hannibal Heyes. It has a nice ring to it don’t you think so, Kid?”

“I think you’re head is big enough already without turning you into a legend.”

Heyes feigned hurt.

“I’m the man who got you out remember.”

“And the man who got us into it, in the first place.”

Heyes pulled his horse to a halt in the middle of the stream and glared at his partner.

“And just how do you work that one out?”

“Well, if you hadn’t been trying so hard to talk me into that stupid plan of yours, we might have heard those fellas approaching.”

“If memory serves me right you were the one who was shouting.”

“Only ‘cos you wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“That’s because it’s a good plan!”

“No it ain’t, Heyes!”

Kid urged his horse on and up the bank on the other side of the stream.

“We should talk about this some more. I’m sure if you let me explain…”

“I don’t wanna know!”

“Kid, wait!”

“No, Heyes! I already told you it’s a dumb idea.”

“Kid, you gotta trust me on this!”

“NO!”

“You’re shouting again!”

“NO, I’M NOT!”

As the sun began to set the sounds of two men arguing faded into the distance.

THE END

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