The End of Innocence
(Kid and Heyes, the Early Years)
by Maz McCoy
“Outta my way! Outta my way!” a frantic, 17-year-old Kid Curry yelled, pushing men aside in his urgency to get past the people gathered in the street. Sensibly, the crowd parted and, bursting through to the front, Kid stopped dead in his tracks. A tight fist closed around his windpipe, as his eyes fixed on the red stain slowly creeping across the fabric of the white shirt worn by the man lying on the ground. Blood. Why was there always so much blood? Two frightened and confused brown eyes looked up at him.
Kid’s knees gave way and he sank to the ground beside his friend.
“Heyes,” he said quietly.
“Hey watch out!” Kid warned, as a large man bumped his arm, spilling Kid’s beer over the bar. The man turned, giving the blond boy a disdainful look.
“What’s the matter?” he asked. His shoulders were broad, his black beard closely trimmed and his dark eyes hard.
“You spilt my beer,” Kid explained, sourly.
“No,” the man told him firmly. “You spilt your beer. You should be more careful son. If you ain’t old enough to handle your liquor maybe you shouldn’t be drinking?” The man’s friends laughed and Kid’s shoulders pulled back.
“Now wait a minute…” he began, as a cautionary hand rested on his arm.
“I’ll buy you another beer,” 19-year-old Hannibal Heyes said, beside him.
“You don’t hafta,” Kid informed him. “This guy spilt my beer so he…”
“I’ll buy you another beer,” Heyes repeated, through gritted teeth, as his grip tightened.
Kid met his friend’s gaze and knew what Heyes was telling him, he just didn’t want to hear it. The large man smiled triumphantly.
“Listen to your friend kid,” he advised. “I eat little boys like you for breakfast.” Once more, his friends dissolved into laughter.
Kid’s anger grew and Heyes hand grew firmer, pulling Kid away from the man and the bar.
“C’mon,” he said.
“Heyes!” Kid hissed.
“C’mon,” Heyes replied, equally as determined and having no intention of releasing his grip on his friend’s arm. Reluctantly, Kid followed him. The sound of laughter followed the young men from the saloon.
“What did you do that for?” Kid demanded, as they pushed through the bat wing doors and stepped out onto the boardwalk. “You made me look like an idiot!”
“No, Kid you managed that all by yourself,” Heyes told him.
Kid glared at him.
“The Colonel has a paying job for us,” Heyes reminded his headstrong friend. “I want that job. You mess with the local bully and we could find ourselves thrown outta here before the Colonel turns up.”
He met Kid’s angry scowl, watching and waiting for the moment when Kid recognised the sense in what he said and calmed down. The young blond man could see that his friend had a point. Kid’s shoulders relaxed.
“Okay,” he agreed, reluctantly. “Okay.”
Kid was just leaving the livery stables, having purchased two horses and saddles for himself and Heyes, when he saw the man who’d spilt his beer heading towards him. Clem Edwards saw Kid too. Kid Curry sighed. Although he knew the man was not actually after him, he knew there was no way they could avoid each other. There wasn’t even an alley between the buildings he could duck into. Kid knew Heyes was right. They had the offer of a good job. He couldn’t mess that up. He needed to stay calm and think before he spoke.
“Get outta the way boy,” Edwards sneered, as he drew closer to the young man.
With Heyes’ words ringing in his ears, Kid swallowed his pride and stepped to one side.
“Huh, I knew you was yella the minute I laid eyes on ya,” Edwards laughed as he walked passed the blond man. Kid’s hackles rose.
“I ain’t yella,” he said and instantly regretted it. He knew he should have kept quiet, but the man goaded him and he couldn’t help himself. He heard Edwards’ footsteps stop. Slowly Kid turned around and found the big man looking at him.
“I say you are, boy,” Clem Edwards told him, pointedly and Kid knew that if he said the wrong thing, they would be drawing against each other any moment now. “What’s the matter? Got nothin’ to say?”
“I don’t want any trouble,” Kid explained.
“Well you got it all the same and you should have thought about that before you started running off at the mouth.” The man’s hand dropped to his side, hanging close to his gun. Kid looked at the ground, praying for divine intervention because he didn’t want to draw and he knew Heyes would kill him if he did. How was he gonna get himself out of this one?
“Jed.” It seemed the angels were on Kid’s side that day. “Did you get the horses?” Heyes asked, as he walked up behind his friend. “Oh howdy,” he said casually to Edwards, as if he had just noticed the man. Heyes turned his attention back to Kid. “So what did you get? I hope you didn’t spend all our money. Did you get saddles too like we agreed? How much did he want? Do we have any money left for food or did you spend it all like last time? I never could trust you to…” He pulled Kid away from the stables, leading him back along the street. “The Colonel’s gonna pay us well, but you don’t hafta spend it all before he gets here you know. I hope you got yourself a quiet horse, unlike the last one.” Heyes jabbered on, as they walked away.
Kid looked over his shoulder and saw Edwards watching him.
“Keep walking or I’ll shoot you myself,” Heyes said through gritted teeth, a fixed smile on his face. Kid looked at his partner with surprise. “Don’t think I don’t know what you were about to do,” Heyes added, his tone telling Kid just how angry he was with him, despite his false smile.
“I wasn’t,” Kid protested but Heyes’ look told him he didn’t believe him. “He said I was yella,” Kid said, trying to explain.
“And I told you to stay outta trouble,” Heyes reminded him, as they stepped onto the boardwalk.
“Heyes I…” but his partner pushed him through the doors of the hotel before he could say anymore.
“Mr. Heyes, I believe?” Clem Edwards said, as Heyes stepped from the telegraph office that evening just before it closed. Heyes was surprised to see the big man, leaning against the wall, apparently waiting for him. Heyes tucked the telegram from the Colonel into his vest pocket.
“Mr. Edwards,” he acknowledged, politely.
“You’re leaving town tomorrow?” Edwards asked, although it sounded more like a statement than a question.
“No, we’re waiting for a friend to arrive,” Heyes said, wondering what the man wanted with him.
“It might be safer if you left,” Edwards said, scratching his beard.
“For whom?” Heyes asked, seriously.
“Well your baby-faced partner for one.”
Heyes took a breath, fighting the urge to defend his friend.
“We’re not looking for any trouble,” Heyes assured him.
“Well he found it.”
“He doesn’t want it,” Heyes replied.
“Oh, you do his talkin’ for him?”
“Well unless you do his shootin’ for him too, tell him I’ll be waiting for him at the livery stables. Eight, tomorrow morning.” Edwards pushed off the wall.
“What for?” Heyes asked, hoping to buy time with, feigned ignorance.
“He knows.” Edwards stated, meeting Heyes’ eyes. “And so do you. Eight tomorrow morning.” He began to walk away. “I don’t like to kill a man before breakfast,” Edwards said over his shoulder. Heyes watched him cross the street and muttering a curse under his breath, went to find Kid.
“The Colonel wants me to what?” Kid asked, incredulously, sitting up and swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, early the next morning. He rubbed sleep from his eyes, as his bare feet touched the cold floor.
“He wants you to ride over to the next town and see how long it takes to get there and back,” Heyes told his friend, helpfully placing Kid’s saddlebags on the bed. “It was in the telegram.”
“Why didn’t you tell me last night?” Kid asked, as Heyes handed him his clothes.
“I forgot,” Heyes said, dismissively. He’d actually spent the evening grappling with what to do. They needed to wait for the Colonel, but he had to get Kid safely out of there. “So come on, off to Bakersville.”
“Why’s he want to know anyway?” Kid asked, still sleepy.
“He didn’t explain why,” Heyes admitted, opening the saddlebags.
“Well, why me and not you?” Kid wanted to know.
“He didn’t say,” Heyes told his friend. He looked up at Kid and used his most patient tone. “Kid, when the man paying for your next meal asks you to do something, something that isn’t unreasonable, even if it does seem odd, I think it’s best to just do it.”
Kid considered this.
“So the Colonel is on his way here?”
“Yes,” Heyes said, taking Kid’s shirts from the dresser drawer and stuffing them in the saddlebags. “Are you gonna get dressed?”
“Heyes what’s the rush?” Kid asked, grabbing the bags from his friend.
“Well the Colonel wants to know how long it takes, when he gets here, so you’ll hafta leave now.”
“Will you get on your horse!” Heyes snapped, irritably, as Kid fussed about tying his bedroll to his saddle outside the hotel.
“Heyes what’s got into you?” Kid asked. “Anyone would think you were trying to get rid of me the way you’re carrying on.”
Heyes laughed, innocently.
“Of course I’m not,” he said with a smile. “I just want you to get to Bakersville and back as soon as possible. I want you to be here when the Colonel arrives, then we can meet him together. So come on, get outta here.”
He patted his friend, affectionately, on the back and held out a stirrup for him. Kid shook his head in disbelief but climbed into the saddle. He gave Heyes a sideways glance. There was something he wasn’t telling him, he just knew it.
“I should be back in three days,” Kid said.
“That’s fine,” Heyes told him. “Take care of yourself, now go on get!” With a nod to his friend, Kid turned his horse and rode off along main street. Watching his friend go, Heyes gave a sigh of relief.
Hannibal Heyes stepped out of the livery stables into the sunlight, just as Edwards exited the saloon. He turned towards the stables and started walking. Heyes watched the big man approach, just as Kid had done the previous day, and wondered what he was going to say.
“You here to do your friend’s shootin’?” the large man asked, as he approached. His eyes sized Heyes up. The dark-haired young man wore his gun tied down, so he assumed he knew how to use it.
“No,” Heyes replied. “I came to talk.”
“I ain’t got nothing to say. This does my talking for me,” Edwards stated, resting a hand on his gun.
“Well I’d like to persuade you that my friend’s not worth bothering with…” Heyes began.
“You don’t hear too good do ya?”
“I mean, he’s young and headstrong…” Heyes continued.
“Son you’d better shut up and draw or go get your friend ‘cos I’m not here to talk.” Edwards stood feet apart, his hands at his side, ready to draw.
“I’m not gonna draw on you,” the young man told him, once more. “And I won’t get my friend.”
“More fool you,” the large man said.
“He’s left town,” Heyes added, quickly.
“I don’t believe you. I reckon he’s too chicken to show up and you know, you are really starting to annoy me.”
“Look, can’t we…” Heyes began.
“NO WE CAN’T!” Edwards snapped, angrily. “Now you’re wasting my time, so get outta here or draw.”
Heyes mind was racing, frantically trying to think of something to say. He was still young and perfecting, what would eventually become, his silver tongue. This wasn’t going the way he planned, not that he’d really had a plan. He just wanted to keep this man away from Kid for as long as he could. Heyes swallowed, and found his throat dry. Was this how Kid felt when he faced down a man?
“Please Mr. Edwards…” Heyes started.
“DRAW!” Edwards yelled, taking a step closer to Heyes. Startled, Heyes took a step backwards, put a hand out to balance himself, which Edwards mistook as a move towards his gun. The big man drew and fired.
Hannibal Heyes was just nineteen years old when the first bullet entered his body, ripping into his side and throwing him backwards. A searing pain screamed through his abdomen as he hit the ground. He couldn’t believe the man had actually fired. Just shot him, just like that, when he’d never even made a move to draw.
The man who first shot Hannibal Heyes stood over him, gun in hand.
“I told you son, I’m not here to talk,” Edwards said. “Just be glad I didn’t kill ya and next time let your baby-faced partner do his own dirty work.” With that, he holstered his gun, turned and walked away.
As something warm ran over his skin, Heyes looked down to see a red stain on his clean white shirt. The realisation that he was bleeding shocked him. As Heyes had never been shot before, he had no idea how serious this was. He just knew a person wasn’t supposed to lose so much blood, this quickly.
Heyes leaned back. Feeling nauseous, he placed a hand over the wound. A flood of thoughts ran through his mind and he wondered how far away Kid had ridden by now. He grew aware of a crowd gathering around him. Faces of strangers, curious to see what had happened, peered down at him, others were more anxious for the injured young man.
“Someone get the doctor!” he heard a man call.
Oh, it hurt, it really hurt. Heyes closed his eyes.
Kid Curry rode slowly out of town. He was still trying to decide why Heyes was in such a rush to get rid of him before he’d even had the chance to eat breakfast. Why would the Colonel want to know how long it took to get to Bakersville and back? Just beyond the last house, he pulled his horse to a halt, thinking. Heyes sure had been in a rush to get him out of the way, but why? In the still, early morning air, the sound of a gunshot carried. Kid heard it and somehow he knew it had something to do with Heyes. A knot in his gut tightened and he turned his horse back. As he rounded the corner, heading towards the livery stables, he saw a crowd gathered in front of the large open doors. A man in a dark suit, carrying a doctor’s bag was hurrying along the boardwalk opposite.
Kid dropped from his saddle and ran.
“Outta my way! Outta my way!” a frantic, 17-year-old Kid Curry yelled, pushing men aside in his urgency to get passed the people gathered in the street. Sensibly, the crowd parted and, bursting through to the front, Kid stopped dead in his tracks. A tight fist closed around his windpipe, as his eyes fixed on the red stain slowly creeping across the fabric of the white shirt worn by the man lying on the ground. Blood. Why was there always so much blood? Two frightened and confused brown eyes looking up at his own.
Kid’s knees gave way and he sank to the ground beside his friend.
“Heyes,” he said quietly, his eyes moving from his friend’s shirt to his partner’s face. “What happened? What did you do? Aw, Heyes what did you do?”
The dark-haired man grabbed Kid’s sleeve with a bloody hand. “It hurts,” he gasped.
Kid’s brain suddenly snapped back into action and he pulled off his bandana. He raised Heyes’ shirt, swallowed at the sight of the bloody hole in his friend’s side, and pressed the bandana over the wound. Heyes flinched.
“Sorry,” Kid apologised. “Sorry. Sorry.” Anger flared up in him. “What happened?” he yelled, turning to face the group of men standing behind him. No one dared say a word. “Who did this?” Kid snarled.
“I saw what happened,” a thin, young man said and Kid’s eyes fixed on his.
“Who was it?” Kid asked.
Kid’s expression turned hard and something sinister flicked across his eyes. His jaw clenched as anger grew inside him. However, he could do nothing about it now. A voice brought him back to the present.
“Let me through. I’m the doctor!” a voice called.
Kid turned and the man in the dark suit appeared through the crowd. He dropped to his knees beside Heyes.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Someone shot him Doc,” a man told him, helpfully. The doctor made a brief assessment of the wound. Heyes groaned as the man touched his side. Then the doctor looked around, spotting a wagon and horses at the blacksmiths.
“We have to get him to my house,” he said to the anxious young man kneeling beside him. “Help me get him up.”
Kid looked back at Heyes, his expression softening as he leaned closer. “Can you stand?”
“I don’t think so,” his friend replied, truthfully. He looked down at the blood on the left side of his shirt and covering his hand. His blood.
“I can help you,” Kid told him and Heyes caught hold of Kid’s sleeve once more.
“Don’t let me die, Kid,” Heyes pleaded. Kid’s eyes held his friend’s.
“I won’t,” he assured him.
With the help of two other men, they carried Hannibal Heyes a few short steps and loaded him into the back of the wagon for the journey to the doctor’s house. When he saw the injured man was settled, the wagon’s owner took the reins and they headed off. The doctor and Kid rode in the back with Heyes, who was fading in and out of consciousness.
Doctor Phillip Draper was forty-two years old and lived with his wife Hannah on the outskirts of town. Their house stood alone, surrounded by the small garden Hannah loved to tend and where she grew vegetables and her favourite flowers. The Drapers had lived in Cedar Springs for six years. They were a popular couple, still waiting for the blessing of a child of their own.
The wagon pulled to a halt in front of a white picket fence. A woman was hanging washing on a line in the garden. Kid jumped down and opened the gate, then Heyes was carried up the steps to the front porch, into the house and to the downstairs bedroom where Phillip treated his patients. Seeing the men arrive with a patient, Hannah Draper put down her laundry basket and hurried into the house to help her husband. The wagon owner left and Kid found himself alone with his friend, while the doctor went to collect some things he needed.
“Heyes?” Kid said, as he stood beside his friend. Two brown eyes opened.
“It hurts,” Heyes said and, not knowing what else to do, Kid offered him his hand. Heyes took it, his grip tightening as he fought the pain.
“What’s his name?” a voice asked behind them, and Kid turned to see a dark-haired woman standing in the doorway. Her hair was pinned back but a few strands had broken loose and hung beside her face. She wore an apron over her brown dress. Her smile was kind and comforting as she approached.
“Heyes. Hannibal Heyes,” Kid told her. The doctor came into the room and moved quickly to the bed. Kid did not want to move.
“And you?” Hannah asked, removing his hand from Heyes’.
“Huh?” Kid said, looking into her eyes.
“What’s your name?” she asked, placing a hand gently on his arm.
“Oh, Jed. Jed Curry.”
“Well Jed, why don’t we let my husband take care of Hannibal?”
“I won’t leave him,” he told her stubbornly.
“You don’t have to,” she said, clearly having had experience of dealing with anxious friends and relatives. “We just have to keep out of his way.” She led him away from the bed and towards a dresser near the window. Kid stood quietly and watched. Hannah moved to the other side of the bed. Kid’s eyes focussed on the doctor’s experienced hands examining his patient. Buttons were undone and they eased Heyes out of his shirt, trying to ignore the young man’s cries of pain. A bloodstained white shirt dropped to the floor, Kid’s own blood stained bandana was removed from bloody torn skin, and a bowl of clear water gradually turned red with each rinse of a cloth.
Kid’s eyes focussed on the blood stained shirt lying beside the bed. Red blood on white fabric. So much blood. The memories came flooding back to him. It was as if his world had stopped turning once more.
Hannah Draper turned to see if the young man was all right. She saw him staring and followed the direction of his gaze. Hannah picked up the shirt and moved it out of sight. Kid followed it with his eyes and when he could no longer see it, he found Hannah smiling reassuringly at him.
“The bullet’s still in there, but I can get it out,” Doctor Draper announced, turning to face them. “Are you squeamish, son?” he asked Kid.
“No sir,” Kid stated, wondering what the doctor was going to ask him next.
“Good, because I could use your help.”
Kid swallowed, not relishing what was no doubt about to happen, but knowing that there was no way anyone would stop him helping the doctor save his friend.
“What do I have to do?” he asked, bravely.
Seventeen-year-old Kid Curry sat on a chair by the window, his face pale, fighting back the tears he refused to shed. He looked at his hands, clean now since Hannah had made him wash up, but recently covered in his best friend’s blood. He had helped hold Heyes down. Held his shoulders as the doctor probed with long metal instruments into the bloody gaping wound. Held Heyes as he cried out, his eyes wide with fear and pain; held him and let someone hurt him, hoping they were not killing him with what they did. Kid took a deep breath and looked at his friend lying still beneath the clean white sheets. He hoped he would survive.
They’d seen men shot before and heard their cries as someone tended their wounds but this was the first time it had happened to either Kid or Heyes.
Kid had kept watch all day, as the Doctor tended patients who called at the house or went to visit others in their own homes. The Doctor’s wife had brought Kid something to drink and a sandwich around midday. He thanked her but did little more than pick at the food, having no appetite, while his friend was fighting for life. All the time Heyes lay so still, so quiet almost as if he was…
The door opened and Hannah entered the room. She smiled kindly at Kid. Hannah carried blankets and a pillow.
“Are you sure you’ll be all right sleeping in the chair?” she asked, as he took the blankets from her.
“I’ll be fine ma’am,” he assured her. “I’ve slept on the floor before, camped out on hard ground too. This is fine, really.”
“Well you give me a shout if there’s anything else you need.” She turned to look at the injured young man and then back at his friend. “I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight Jed,” she said before leaving.
Kid made himself as comfortable as he could in the chair. He sat, watching Heyes, determined to be ready should his friend need anything, but his eyes soon grew heavy and he began to drift off to sleep.
Jed Curry concentrated on placing one foot in front of the other and walked, slowly, towards the man lying on the ground. Flames engulfed the barn behind him and he heard beams crashing through the rafters. He didn’t turn round. His Pa never lay down, except at night in bed of course and there was that time when the family had a picnic down by the creek. Jed remembered lying on his back, legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles, his head resting on his hands, mirroring his Pa. As father and son lay side by side, on the grass, in the warm sunshine, they stared up at the clear, blue sky watching the buzzards circling overhead, as they rode the thermals.
“D’you think a man could ever fly like that Pa?” Jed had asked.
“Up that high?”
“Well I don’t know. We’re getting awfully clever with the things we can build these days,” Mr Curry said, thoughtfully. “Maybe you or Han will invent something like that.”
Beside him, the young blond boy gave a broad smile.
His Pa was lying on his back now, but he wasn’t smiling or watching for buzzards. Jed took a step closer. He could see his mother and one of his sisters lying close together near the house.
Jed stood over his Pa. There was a large red stain all over the front of his father’s white shirt. So much blood. There was so much blood. Some of it was pooling in the dirt beside his own boot.
“Pa,” Jed said, forlornly.
“Jed!” The sudden cry woke Kid and he sat bolt upright in the chair. Moonlight shone through the curtains, illuminating the figure in the bed. “Jed!” the cry came again and Kid made his way quickly to Heyes’ side. His friend was barely conscious. His eyes fluttered open and then closed. He groaned, his head turning from side to side as he fought the demons in his dreams and the pain coursing through his body. Heyes’ eyes opened once more, he held out his hand and Kid caught it, holding on. Heyes’ grip tightened, as he fought another wave of pain.
“It’s okay, Han,” Kid said, trying to comfort his friend. Heyes looked at him, confused.
“Where are we?” Heyes asked.
“At the Doctor’s house,” Kid explained. “He’s fixed you up real good. You’re gonna be up and about in no time.” Kid tried to keep positive. “You just hafta rest and get better.”
At that moment, the door opened and Phillip Draper entered the room, carrying a lamp. He wore a long red robe, tied about his waist with a braided cord.
“Everything all right?” he enquired. “I heard him calling out.”
The worried look on the young man’s face told him, told him all he needed to know. The Doctor stepped forward.
“Let me take a look,” he said, stepping closer and Kid moved to one side. There was blood on the bandage around Heyes’ waist, when the doctor pulled back the bed covers. He felt the dark-haired man’s forehead. Heyes’ temperature was high. The Doctor felt the pulse in Heyes’ wrist.
“Is he okay?” Kid asked, anxiously.
Draper replaced the covers over Heyes and two brown eyes opened and stared up at him, vacantly. The Doctor smiled, comfortingly. “Rest easy, son,” he said, then turned to Jed. “His temperature’s up but that’s to be expected. I’ll give him something to ease the pain.” He studied the blond man, little more than a boy, standing before him. “You should rest too.”
“I need to keep an eye on him,” Kid explained.
“I know,” the Doctor said, understanding and Kid yawned. He quickly covered his mouth. “But you won’t be much use to him in the morning, if you can’t stay awake.”
Kid knew that was true, but he was scared of his dreams and of what he might find when he awoke.
Seeing Jed was fast asleep, Hannah Draper crept quietly into the room, the next morning, and walked towards the bed. Hannibal had developed a light fever and sweat covered his forehead. Hearing footsteps on the wooden floor, Kid opened his eyes. He was instantly alert when he saw her at Heyes’ side.
“Is he okay?” he asked, struggling to keep his eyes open.
“I’m just checking,” she told him. Kid stood up and moved to the end of the bed. Hannah pulled back the sheet to examine the bandage. There had been no more loss of blood thanks to her husband’s expert stitching. Heyes moaned and Hannah Draper laid a hand gently on Heyes’ head, brushing a few stray strands of dark hair away from his expressive eyes.
“Rest easy Hannibal,” she said, kindly. Kid stood with his hands around the metal bedstead, watching, pleased to have her help.
Heyes opened his eyes and tried to focus on the outline of the woman standing beside him.
“Ma?” he asked, weakly. “Ma, that you?”
Kid’s hand gripped the metal tighter.
“Shhh,” Hannah soothed.
“Ma?” Heyes asked again, as he drifted off to sleep. Hearing a movement, Hannah looked up in time to see the door close behind a departing Jed Curry.
Doctor Draper found Kid at the woodpile. He stood back for a moment, watching, as the young blond man took out some of his anger on the logs. The wood was placed, the axe swung with more force than was necessary, THWACK! Two pieces of kindling were created.
“Jed,” the doctor said, approaching slowly. The young man looked up, his eyes red and moist. He turned quickly away, focusing intently on the logs, hoping the doctor had not seen.
“I thought you could use some more wood,” Kid explained, as he set another log on the chopping block.
“That’s very kind of you.”
“Just thanking you for what you’ve done,” Kid said.
“Hannah said Hannibal called out for his mother,” the doctor stated.
“I wondered if we could contact her?”
THUD! The axe was buried in the chopping block.
“Our folks are dead,” Kid Curry explained not turning to face the doctor. “We lost our families in the war.” Kid’s shoulders stiffened and realisation hit the doctor.
“I’m sorry,” Draper said. “He’s delirious, he must have thought…”
“He’s all I have left,” Kid said, suddenly.
It was a simple statement but one that encapsulated all the anxiety Kid was feeling. The doctor stepped forward and placed a comforting hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“Is he gonna die Doc?”
The doctor looked at the face of the young man before him, a man who now looked no more than the boy he still was. Kid’s eyes were pleading for the answer he wanted to hear.
“I’m going to do my darnedest to see that he doesn’t,” Doctor Draper assured him. Kid could not ask for more.
Not trusting his voice not to betray his emotions, Kid just nodded.
“I have a bottle of whisky, Hannah lets me keep,” Draper said. “For medicinal purposes only, of course.”
Kid finally met the doctor’s eyes and smiled.
“I prescribe a glass for us both. What do you say?”
“Thanks Doc.” The two men headed back to the house.
“I’m heading into town,” Phillip Draper announced, peering through the doorway at Hannah and Kid, as they sat with Hannibal. “Is there anything you need?” he asked his wife.
“I have a list,” Hannah told him with a smile. Draper shot Kid a look and rolled his eyes. Kid gave the doctor a sympathetic smile.
“I could come with you,” Kid offered, getting to his feet.
“No need,” Doctor Draper said. He looked at his patient, lying pale and still in the bed. “I think Hannibal needs you more.”
Kid had to agree.
Later that day, as he was leaving the General store, armed with two well-laden bags, the Doctor met Sheriff Barney Truelove. Barney was a stout man in his mid forties, with a head of neatly trimmed, thick, brown hair. The lawman exchanged a few pleasantries with the doctor and then asked how the injured young man was doing and when he could ask him some questions.
“He’s in and out of consciousness at the moment,” Draper told him, vaguely, not wanting his patient disturbed.
“In that case I’ll leave it ‘til tomorrow; stop by then,” the Sheriff replied. “I heard he had a friend with him,” Barney added. “He gonna cause trouble?”
“I don’t think so Barney. Jed seems like a real nice boy and at the moment he’s just worried about Hannibal.”
“I hope you’re right Doc,” the Sheriff said, clearly concerned.
Kid Curry sat in the chair beside the bed, cleaning his gun.
“Hey Jed,” a weak voice rasped and Kid looked up to see Heyes watching him. A broad grin broke out on the blond man’s face.
“Hey you’re awake!” Kid exclaimed with obvious delight. “You okay?” He was quickly at his friend’s side.
“I could use a drink,” Heyes told him and Kid went to the dresser, where Hannah had left a jug of water and two glasses. Returning with a glass for his friend, Kid helped Heyes take a few refreshing sips.
“Thanks,” Heyes said, weakly. Kid looked at Heyes, trying to figure out how he was doing. Heyes saw the concern on his friend’s face. “I must have given you quite a scare, sorry,” he said.
“Yeah, just a bit,” Kid admitted with a smile, but his eyes quickly clouded over as the memory of that bloodstained shirt returned. Heyes saw the change in his friend.
“You all right?” he asked and Kid looked up, sad blue eyes meeting his friend’s.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Kid lied, pushing the memories back into the dark corners of his mind.
“Good, ‘cos I wouldn’t…” Heyes paused; sleep starting to reclaim him again. His eyes closed.
Two brown eyes opened.
“Wouldn’t want you…getting into trouble,” Heyes finished. Kid said nothing, as Heyes drifted back to sleep.
When the Doctor arrived home, Hannah greeted him at the gate, a finger placed to her lips, warning him to be quiet. The reason why was soon obvious to the medical man. Jed Curry was asleep in one of the porch chairs.
“I sent him out here to get some fresh air while I sat with Hannibal,” Hannah explained. “I don’t think he slept much last night. The poor boy’s exhausted.”
Quietly the Drapers crept into the house.
“I saw Barney in town,” the Doctor told his wife. “He’ll be by tomorrow to question Hannibal if he’s awake. He’s worried about Jed too, in case he goes after Edwards.”
“Oh Phillip, you don’t think he’d do anything foolish do you?” Hannah asked. “Jed’s just a boy.”
“He wears his gun like a man,” the Doctor pointed out. “And that Colt’s pretty fancy too. He must know how to use it.”
The Drapers stood together in the kitchen, in silence, each hoping no one else would get hurt, but knowing there was a real possibility someone they had grown to care about, might.
Doctor Draper put his head around the door the following morning, found Hannibal Heyes resting comfortably and Jed Curry asleep in the chair beside him. Kid’s head was at an awkward angle, his gun arm hanging down at his side, the blanket Hannah had provided, lying on the floor at his feet. The doctor was again reminded just how young the blond man was; how young both men were. He resisted the urge to pull the blanket up over Jed, not wanting to wake him. Hannibal had had another troubled night. Phillip Draper had checked on him several times. Heyes’ temperature had risen but so far, the wound showed no sign of infection. On every visit, Jed had been swiftly at the doctor’s side, ready to help if needed, anxious to know how his friend was doing. Seeing Jed asleep at last, the doctor smiled. The young man could certainly use the rest, but as Draper approached the bed, Kid began to stir. Seeing the doctor at his partner’s side, he was instantly alert.
“What’s wrong? Is he okay?” Kid asked anxiously, dragging himself from sleep and sitting upright in the chair.
“He’s fine,” the doctor said, turning to face him. “I’m just checking on him.”
Two sleepy blue eyes blinked at him, as Kid massaged his aching neck.
“He’s doing well,” Phillip Draper assured him, as he replaced the blanket over Heyes. “Now why don’t you go wash up? Hannah’s making breakfast and she doesn’t like folks to be late.”
Hannah Draper was an excellent cook and she appreciated Kid’s compliments as well as his appetite. It made a change from the occasional “Uh huh” or “It’s nice” she would have to drag out of Phillip when a new dish she was trying was presented to him.
Kid was just swallowing the last of his third helping when there was a knock at the door. Phillip Draper put down his coffee, pushed back his chair and went to see who was there. He found Sheriff Truelove standing on the front porch, his hat in his hand.
“Morning Doc,” the sheriff said. “I came to see how the young fella is.”
“Morning Barney. Come on in,” the doctor replied, stepping to one side to let him pass. “There’s coffee in the pot if you’d like a cup?”
“Oh no, I’m fine thanks,” Barney said, as he entered the hallway. Hannah appeared from the kitchen.
“Barney, how are you?” she asked, as she wiped her hands on a towel.
“Fine thank you Hannah. So how’s the boy?”
At that moment, Kid appeared in the kitchen doorway.
“Sheriff Truelove, this is Jed Curry,” Phillip Draper said, introducing the young man to the sheriff. “He’s Hannibal’s friend.”
The sheriff and Kid exchanged a nod.
“Have you arrested Edwards?” Kid demanded to know.
“No son, folks seem to think it was a fair fight,” the sheriff told him. Not liking the young man’s tone.
“A FAIR FIGHT?” Kid exclaimed, stepping forward. “HE SHOT MY FRIEND! HEYES DIDN’T EVEN DRAW HIS GUN!”
Hannah turned and held her hands up in front of her to stop Kid in his tracks.
“Jed Curry!” Hannah said and he glared at her. “I’ll thank you to lower your voice in my house.” Kid looked embarrassed, as if his own mother had told him off.
“Sorry ma’am,” he apologised, fighting to control his anger.
“Can I see him?” Truelove asked and the doctor led the way to Heyes’ room. Kid followed them.
Heyes opened his eyes when the three men entered the room. He smiled when he saw Kid then looked concerned when the man with the star pinned to his chest stepped closer.
“Hannibal, this is Sheriff Truelove,” the doctor explained. “He’d like to ask you some questions. Do you feel up to talking?”
“Yeah,” Heyes said although he wasn’t sure how long he could stay awake. Kid stood at the foot of the bed, leaned back against the wall, his arms folded across his chest.
“What happened between you and Edwards?” the lawman asked. He was a portly man and Heyes’ eyes fell to his belt, which seemed to be holding up his stomach as well as his pants.
“I was just talking to him,” Heyes said.
Heyes’ eyes shot to Kid and then quickly back to the sheriff.
“Son?” Truelove prompted.
“My friend,” Heyes stated and Kid shifted, uncomfortably.
“I heard they had a bit of a run in, in the saloon the other night,” the sheriff said.
“A RUN IN? He knocked over my beer and I…” but the sheriff held up a hand to silence the volatile young blond man.
“Go on,” he said to Heyes.
“Edwards wanted to…call him out,” Heyes told them, weakly. This was news to Kid who looked at his friend, suddenly realising why he’d been sent out of town. “I tried to…talk him out of it, but he wasn’t…gonna let it go.”
“Your friend?” the sheriff asked, eyeing Kid expectantly.
“No, Edwards.” Heyes shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position. He cried out as a pain shot through his side. He held the wound, closing his eyes as he grimaced.
“What happened next?” the lawman asked, when Heyes had composed himself.
“He kept on at me to…get my friend or draw,” the dark-haired man explained. “I wasn’t about to…do either…and then…he shot me.”
“You’ve gotta go after him Sheriff. You heard that! HE JUST SHOT HIM FOR NO REASON!” Kid exploded again.
“Mr Curry,” the sheriff said, patiently. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell me how to do my job.”
“But you heard him, he…”
Once again the Sheriff silenced the agitated young man, with the wave of a hand. He turned back to the injured man.
“I have two witnesses who say they thought you were reaching for your gun.” Kid didn’t know what to say. Surely Heyes wouldn’t have been that stupid? “Mr Heyes, did you go for your gun?”
Heyes looked so tired. He struggled to think clearly; to remember.
“I stepped back…lost my balance…then he fired,” he said. “I wasn’t…” He closed his eyes, fighting the pain.
“I think that’s enough for now,” Doctor Draper said, turning to the sheriff.
“All right,” Truelove agreed. “You rest up Mr Heyes. I’ll come back and see you again tomorrow.” As he moved to the door, the sheriff fixed his gaze on Kid. “You help your friend get better. Take my advice. Stay away from Clem Edwards,” he warned. Kid said nothing, his jaw clenched as he watched the sheriff leave. He looked back at Heyes and two brown eyes focussed on him.
“Hey,” Heyes said, weakly.
“How you doin’?” Kid asked, trying to sound cheerful, while still concerned.
“It hurts…so much,” Heyes told him.
“The Doc said he could give you something for the pain. D’you want it?”
“Yeah. I didn’t know it would…hurt so. Sheesh, it’s just a…little bit of metal, you’d think…”
“Why didn’t you tell me about Edwards?” Kid interrupted.
“I thought I could sort it. I didn’t want you to…get hurt,” Heyes admitted. A sudden thought crossed his mind. “Don’t do anything stupid. D’you hear me?” His eyes focussed on Kid’s.
“I hear.” Kid said, flatly.
“Promise me you won’t go…up against him,” Heyes pleaded. Kid Curry said nothing. “Kid?”
“I can’t promise that,” the young man admitted.
“Please Kid, don’t get yourself killed.”
“I don’t plan to,” Kid stated and there was a stubborn look of determination in his eyes that worried his best friend. The door opened and Hannah came in, preventing Heyes from arguing anymore.
Two days later, Clem Edwards looked up from his beer when a figure appeared in the doorway of the saloon. The man pushed open the batwing doors and strode purposefully towards the bar. Edwards watched as the young blond man caught the eye of the bartender.
“Whisky,” Kid Curry ordered, resting one foot on the rail at the base of the bar. He leaned on the counter. Kid turned his head, glancing briefly at Edwards out of the corner of his eye. He had to say something soon, he just didn’t know what. He needed a drink to steady his nerves. The bartender placed a glass in front of him, filled it and Kid downed the drink in one swallow. He threw some coins onto the counter.
“I’ll have another,” he said. The bartender poured again. Kid could hear Heyes’ voice in his head, telling him to stay away, stay out of trouble. It fought with Kid’s desire for revenge; his desire to pay Edwards back for what he’d done to his friend. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he headed into town, grim determination on his face. Unlike Heyes, he didn’t have a plan. Now that he was here, did he really want to get them both into more trouble, by calling the man out? Heyes had taken a bullet trying to keep him out of trouble, was his friend’s suffering going to be in vain? The Colonel had sent word that he had been delayed, so there was still the chance of a well-paid and honest job for them both once Heyes was well.
Kid gave a heavy sigh and pushed off the bar. Instead of walking over to Edwards, he headed for the door. Behind him, Kid heard the scrape of a chair pushed back on the floorboards, but he kept walking.
Outside on the boardwalk, Kid berated himself for his inability to do what he had set out to. Angry at himself, he whacked his hat against the railing.
“We’re you looking for me boy?” a man said behind him. “I hope you weren’t runnin’ away.”
Kid turned to face Edwards, considering his response.
“No,” he said, as he replaced his hat.
“No you weren’t lookin’ or no you weren’t runnin’?”
“I wasn’t running away,” Kid stated.
“I thought maybe you’d come seeking revenge for your friend,” Edwards said with a smile. He stepped closer. “He sure did bleed some. He dead yet?”
He saw Kid’s jaw clench.
“C’mon boy what are you waiting for? You wanna get back at me for him, I can tell. You wanna draw don’tcha?” Edwards goaded. “You pack a gun like a man, you prepared to use it?”
“I can use it,” Kid stated.
“Well go on then.”
Kid remained motionless. He glared at the big man but made no attempt to draw.
“I guess you really are yella after all,” Edwards goaded and then with a mighty shove he pushed Kid backwards off the boardwalk. Kid landed, heavily, on his butt in the dirt. Edwards laughed, as did his friends, peering over the top of the saloon doors. Kid was fighting to contain his anger as he scrambled to his feet, his fists balled.
“I didn’t promise Heyes,” Kid whispered to himself. “I didn’t promise.”
Hannibal Heyes opened his eyes and saw Hannah Draper sitting beside him, sewing something; he couldn’t make out what it was. Seeing Hannibal stir, she smiled at him and he smiled back, revealing two dimpled cheeks. Heyes looked around the room.
“Where’s Jed?” he asked, his voice rasping.
“He’s gone into town with Phillip,” Hannah told him, putting down her sewing and pouring the young man a glass of water.
“What?” Heyes said, concerned. “You hafta stop him!” He struggled to sit up, his face contorted in pain as he did so. “I hafta get up.”
“Oh no you don’t young man!” Hannah scolded, as she quickly put down the glass. “You stay right there or you’ll bust those stitches open.” She placed a hand, firmly, on his shoulder.
Heyes put a hand to his side and groaned. “Please Ma’am, stop him,” he pleaded.
“Who? Jed?” she asked and Heyes nodded. “Why?”
“I think he’ll challenge Edwards,” Heyes told her.
“Oh Hannibal, he wouldn’t, would he?” she was clearly concerned.
“Yes ma’am,” Heyes told her, as he grimaced from the pain in his side. “He would.”
Hannah tried to think what to do.
“Please, stop him,” Heyes pleaded once more.
“So what’s it to be boy?” Edwards asked, as he stepped down into the street. The man smiled but there was now something hard in the young man’s eyes that made him pause. Maybe this boy wasn’t going to be quite so easy to deal with as he’d thought? That could be youthful bravado and the effect of the two whiskies he’d seen him drink. Clem Edwards knew he could out draw every man in town and he had no doubt that he could beat Jed Curry too.
Kid’s throat was dry. He resisted the urge to swallow in case Edwards saw it and took it as a sign of fear or weakness. He had drawn on men before, usually in a saloon, when the other man was a little worse for drink and shooting off his mouth to impress his friends. He had never been outdrawn yet and he didn’t expect Edwards to beat him now, but he had never faced a man alone in the street. It wasn’t exactly high noon, more like twenty five past ten but it felt equally portentous.
Out of the corner of his eye Kid saw two women scurry into a store, out of harms way and a man led his horse away from the hitching post in front of the saloon; all expecting the inevitable. Kid could hear his heart pounding in his chest. And then he could hear Heyes’ voice in his head telling him not to do anything stupid. Well this was probably about as stupid as you could get, so he’d failed on that score. If Edwards didn’t kill him, Heyes surely would.
“I don’t want to shoot you,” Kid said, his eyes on Edwards.
“Then why you packin’ a gun?” Edwards asked. “Why you here boy?” He smiled confidently. He could outdraw the kid, no problem.
Kid remained silent, thinking. He took a deep breath and then, slowly, he removed the battered leather glove from his right hand. He tucked it into his vest pocket.
“You ready to prove you’re a man?” Edwards called.
“Whenever you are,” Kid replied and dropped his hand to his side, close to his gun, as he watched the man.
The two men stared at each other. Kid was surprised by how calm he felt. His right hand hung by his gun, as he stood, watching and waiting. There was not a movement on the street now, nothing to distract either man from what lay ahead. Edwards licked his lips, a bead of sweat running down the side of his face. Two intense blue eyes fixed on his and then Edwards went for his gun.
Sheriff Truelove heard the gunshots as he was filling in some paperwork. He moved quickly to the door of the jail. Opening it, he found the street empty except for one man standing, a gun in his hand, outside the saloon. Another man lay on the ground not far away. He knew who they were, knew what had happened and chastised himself for not doing enough to prevent it. Barney Truelove gave a heavy sigh and started across the street.
Jed Curry was just seventeen years old when he first killed a man. He hadn’t meant to. He was aiming for Edwards’ gun arm and would have hit it too, had the man not moved so much, when he fired. The bullet from Kid’s Colt, hit Edwards square in the chest and he dropped to the ground, dead. Jed stood perfectly still, too shocked to move. He looked at Edwards, willing him to get up; to show some sign of life, but he saw none. Instead, a blood red stain began to spread across the white shirt Edwards wore. Kid recognised the bitter irony of that and he stared at it watching the red patch grow.
Sheriff Truelove came up beside the young man.
“Mr Curry?” he said, gently. He received no answer. “Jed?” he tried, seeing the fixed expression on the young man’s face. He placed a hand on Kid’s shoulder. Kid looked at the lawman and Truelove was momentarily startled by what he saw. There was something hard in those blue eyes; something deep had surfaced and was then quickly suppressed.
“I was aiming for his arm,” Kid said, finally, angry at Edwards for letting himself be killed. “I was aiming for his arm. Why’d he move like that?”
Kid holstered his gun and waited, expectantly.
“Are you gonna arrest me?” he asked, the sheriff.
“I guess that depends on who drew first; who started this,” the lawman told him. “But I don’t imagine he’d be dead now if you hadn’t come seeking him out.”
“He called me out,” Kid told him, flatly.
“Knowing Clem Edwards, I know that’s possible, but I told you to stay away from him, son and you didn’t.”
“He shot my friend,” Kid said by way of an explanation.
“And do you plan to kill every man who shoots a friend of yours?” Kid didn’t answer. In truth, he didn’t have an answer. “It could turn out to be real dangerous knowing you.”
Kid considered this but did not reply. The bartender, who had been watching from the saloon doors, stepped forward.
“It was a fair fight Sheriff,” he said. “Clem knew what he was doing. He followed this young fella outside.”
“You were walking away?” the Sheriff asked Kid.
“Tryin’ to,” Kid admitted.
“Anyone disagree with that?” he said to Edwards’ friends and a couple of other men watching from the saloon. No one did. The sheriff looked back at Kid. “I guess you’re free to go, then,” Barney Truelove stated. “But Jed Curry, you’ll leave my town just as soon as your friend’s well enough to travel. Somehow I don’t think I’ve heard the last of you.”
Kid nodded his agreement. When he looked up Doctor Draper was hurrying across the street to the fallen man. He shot a glance at Kid. There was an undeniable look of disappointment on the doctor’s face. Kneeling beside the big man, it didn’t take him long to officially pronounce Clem Edwards dead. Phillip Draper stood up and approached Kid.
“Jed,” Draper said and Kid looked him in the eye.
“He called me out,” Kid told him, unnecessarily needing to explain.
“Are you hurt?”
“No,” Kid said, but from the look in his eyes, the doctor wasn’t sure that was strictly true. “The sheriff wants me to leave town once Heyes is well enough.”
“That won’t be for a while yet,” Draper informed him.
“I’ll go back to the hotel if you…” Kid began, awkwardly.
“Hannibal needs you,” the Doctor told him.
“I thought you might not want me around, after this. Hannah might not want…”
“Is this over?”
“Then we’d better head back to the house. If Hannah heard the gunshot she may be worried.”
Kid looked at the Doctor and found nothing but kindness in his eyes.
“Not now,” Draper said, firmly and turned to walk home.
“Will there be trouble?” Hannah asked, with concern, once she was alone with her husband in the kitchen. Phillip Draper had explained to his wife what had happened, in town, although she’d known the moment she saw the look on Jed Curry’s face, as he walked through the gate.
“I don’t think so,” Phillip assured her. “Edwards shot Hannibal and now Jed has had his revenge. Barney says it was a fair fight and he’s satisfied it’s over too. Apparently Edwards’ friends are too.”
“Will Jed be alright?”
“He killed a man…” the Doctor left the rest unsaid.
“Oh Phillip, he’s so young,” Hannah said, sitting down at the kitchen table. “They’re both so young.”
Heyes opened his eyes and slowly the room came into focus. He looked around and saw Kid sitting in the chair cleaning his gun.
“Jed,” he whispered and Kid turned his head, his expression serious. Two blue eyes met Heyes’ and the dark-haired young man instantly knew something had changed. Kid said nothing. “Where d’you go?”
“Go back to sleep, Heyes,” Kid told his friend. “You need your rest.”
Kid looked away, focusing intently on getting his gun clean. Heyes could tell something had happened, something Kid clearly did not want to talk about. Heyes was too tired to pursue it further. He watched Kid for a while, watched him working on the Colt, until his eyes grew heavy and Heyes fell asleep once more.
Kid Curry sat on the steps leading up to the front porch, his elbows resting on his knees, staring at a bee busy pollinating the flowers in Hannah Draper’s garden. His expression was one of wistful sadness, his shoulders dropped, as he gave a despondent sigh. He heard the front door open but did not look round. He was used to the doctor or his wife checking on him. He saw how they watched him and how Hannah looked at the gun on his hip with disapproval. He couldn’t undo what he’d done.
At the sound of a groan, he turned and was surprised to see Heyes lowering himself into a chair.
“What are you doing out of bed?” Kid asked, quickly getting to his feet.
“Well I figured, if you wouldn’t come and see me, I’d better come to you,” Heyes told him, grimacing as he tried to get comfortable. “You’ve been avoiding me,” he told him.
Kid looked at the ground and then sat back down on the steps, with his back to his friend. They were silent for a while.
“The Doc says you shot Edwards,” Heyes stated, after a while. “Say’s he’s dead.”
Kid didn’t know what to say. ‘I didn’t mean to’ seemed so feeble. Was Heyes about to berate him for what he’d done? He wouldn’t be surprised, he was sure he deserved it. He’d relived the moment over and over in his mind, trying to find a way he could have avoided killing the man, but there was none. Edwards had moved into the path of his bullet. Kid was a killer now.
“Are you okay?” It was not what Kid had expected. Three simple words conveying all the concern Heyes felt for his friend. No recriminations, just care. Kid kept his eyes focussed on a plant growing out from under the porch.
Finally, Kid looked up at his friend. Those familiar blue eyes no longer held that sparkle of youth, instead there was a sadness in them Heyes had not seen for many years and an acceptance, of what he could never undo.
“Kid?” Heyes said, hoping his friend would talk to him about what had happened, hoping it would help.
“He was wearing a white shirt,” Kid said, thoughtfully. “My Pa. When they shot him.” Kid watched, as the bee headed for another flower. “So were you.”
Heyes didn’t know what to say. So he said nothing but he understood.
“So was Edwards.” Kid shook his head at the irony. “I told you a long time ago I won’t stand by and let someone hurt people I care about.”
“I remember,” Heyes told him.
“He called me out. I didn’t…”
“I know,” Heyes assured him. “I knew you wouldn’t.”
Kid turned to look at his friend.
“No Heyes,” he told his friend, definitely. “I would.”
From the look in the blond man’s eyes, Heyes knew that was true. Kid would shoot first if he thought he had to. Heyes wondered if he could do that too.
They sat quietly for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts. There was something else Kid had to tell Heyes.
“The sheriff wants me out of town. Says we hafta go as soon as you’re well enough to travel,” Kid finally said. “It’s been quite a week. The first time either one of us has been shot. The first time either one of us has killed someone. The first time we’ve been asked to leave town.” He looked up at Heyes, sad and tired. “I wonder what happens next?”
Hannibal Heyes had to admit he had no idea.
THE END…of innocence.