The Hole

The Hole

by Maz McCoy

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry had been riding all day, having finally lost a rather persistent bounty hunter. They were both tired, dusty and a little saddle sore when they reached the clearing in the woods. It looked like a good place to stop for the night. There was a stream at the foot of a small incline which would provide water for coffee and the chance to freshen up. Lots of dry twigs lay scattered around to use for a fire and the ground looked flat enough to provide a relatively comfortable night’s sleep, although, they knew they would be taking it in turns to keep watch throughout the night.

Kid tended to the horses, while Heyes got a fire going and made the coffee. Having set up their campsite for the night, Kid settled down, his back against a tree, the cup of coffee in his hands, warming his cold fingers. He would take first watch. He had already checked his gun, making sure it was fully loaded. His partner, having checked the two pockets of his vest, was now rummaging in his saddlebags and from his muttering and demeanour it was obvious to Kid that he couldn’t find whatever he was looking for. He kept quiet, knowing Heyes would tell him what he couldn’t find soon enough. As if reading his partner’s thoughts, Heyes suddenly threw up his hands in despair.

“I can’t find it!” he stated.

Kid said nothing.

“It was here. In this bag.”

Still Kid said nothing. He took a sip of his coffee.

“Now it’s not there.” He looked at Kid, meeting his blue eyes. Kid sighed.

“Okay, what’s not there?” he finally asked.

“My lucky coin….”

“You mean your two headed coin?”

“It doesn’t have two heads,” Heyes stated.

“Two tails then,” Kid corrected.

“It doesn’t have two tails.”

“Well you always win with it,” Kid countered.

“That’s why it’s called a lucky coin!” Heyes snapped irritably.

Kid said nothing.

“D’you know where it is?” Heyes asked, with the slightest hint of an accusation in his tone, which did not go unnoticed by his partner.

Kid took a deep breath, reminding himself that they were both tired, both likely to be a little irritable after the long day they’d had and each might be a little quick to lose their temper. This needed to be handled with logic and thought. They both needed to be reasonable about this.

“Are you accusing me of stealing it?” he snapped back, ignoring his own advice.

“Well it’s not here and you’re the only other person I’ve seen all day,” his partner told him.

“Well I don’t have it!” Kid told him.

“Prove it!” Heyes replied.

“What?”

“Prove it. Turn out your bag!”

“I am not going to turn out my bag!” Kid yelled.

“Why? Because I’ll find a coin there?” Heyes accused, as he headed towards Kid’s saddlebags.

“No, you won’t,” Kid said, getting to his feet.

“Oh, so you hid it somewhere else?” Heyes asked.

“What would I want with your coin anyway?”

“Well you’re always complaining I win the toss every time.”

“No I’m not.”

“Well it sure sounds like it.” Heyes reached down for the saddlebags.

“Don’t touch them,” Kid told him, but Heyes picked the bags up and began to undo the buckle. “Heyes, hold it right there,” Kid warned and the dark-haired man turned to see Kid standing before him, his gun hand hanging beside his holster.

“What are you gonna do, shoot me?” Heyes asked, incredulously.

“You open my bags and I just might,” Kid told him.

“What? Are you serious?” Heyes asked.

“Deadly,” Kid stated, his gun hand not moving. “Leave the bags alone.”

“You’d shoot me because of a coin?” Heyes asked.

“Open those bags and we’ll find out,” Kid said. Heyes realised he had never actually been on the other end of Kid in a gunfight. This was the first time he had seen things from the other side, and he was impressed. Kid was cool and calm; his blue eyes fixed on his friend, his expression unreadable. Heyes hated to admit it, but at that moment, Kid was more than a little scary.

Hannibal Heyes considered this as he watched the fastest gun in the west standing before him, ready to draw. And then he smiled. Kid saw his partner suddenly smile at him. Heyes smile widened.

“You really gonna shoot me?” he asked, all the anger gone out of his voice.

Kid looked down at his right hand and then looked up at his partner. He smiled, sheepishly.

“Just thinkin’ about it,” Kid told him and his smile widened into a broad grin.

Heyes dropped the saddlebags.

“Sorry,” he said. “I guess I’m tired.”

“Yeah, me too,” Kid said. “Got anymore of that awful coffee? If I’m on first watch, I’ll need that to keep me awake.”

“I’ll get you some,” Heyes said, leaving the saddlebags and heading towards the fire.

***

The next morning, Kid and Heyes soon found themselves arguing once more over the missing coin. They both realised it wasn’t the coin that was making them irritable. They’d been on the trail for three weeks. As well as the recent run in with the bounty hunter they had been forced to leave the last two towns in a hurry because someone recognised them. They were tired and needed a chance to rest themselves and their horses. Heyes had suggested they head for Porterville to see Lom and rest up there for a few days. But until then, they continued to bicker about even the smallest thing, like a missing coin.

“Well when did you see it last?” Kid asked, trying to be helpful, as Heyes packed up his bedroll.

“When you had it!” Heyes snapped back and Kid took a deep breath once more.

“I haven’t had it,” Kid told him, in a tired voice.

“Yes you did, when we tossed to see who slept in the bed in that seedy hotel in Knoxville,” Heyes reminded his partner.

“That was two weeks ago!” Kid exclaimed. “And I lost and you put the coin back in your pocket and I slept on the floor.”

“Well then you had it in Painter’s Crossing,” Heyes stated. “When we tossed to see who walked Emily Bridges home.”

“And,” Kid reminded him, patiently. “I lost again and you didn’t show up ‘til the next mornin’.”

“Oh yeah,” Heyes said, with a smile, as he remembered the delightful Emily. “But I don’t remember you giving me the coin back,” he added.

“I don’t have it Heyes. You lost it, that’s all. So can we please drop this?” Kid asked, his patience pushed almost to the limit, over the damn coin. “Why don’t you look in your clothes just once more, just in case?”

“I already did that!” Heyes moaned. However, he realised that, perhaps, he had over reacted and he ought to appease Kid in some way. He muttered as he shook out his clean underwear and then they both saw something drop on the ground. It glinted in the early morning sunlight. Kid and Heyes looked at the coin; neither man said a word. Eventually Heyes met his partner’s eyes and gave a little grin.

“Well Heyes, I don’t want to be the one to say I told you so,” Kid began. He wore a smug expression that made his partner want to hit him. “But I told you so.” It was Kid’s turn to smile.

“Yeah alright Kid,” Heyes said, hoping to shut his partner up.

“I was right all along,” Kid stated.

“Yeah, okay you were right,” Heyes conceded, as he stood up and carried his saddlebags towards his horse.

“All along. You thought it was me but nope, not this time.”

“Okay Kid, you’ve made your point.” He looked up and Kid was still grinning at him. Heyes walked backwards heading towards the trees and the horses, waving his arms in a dramatic gesture, as he berated his partner. “You know you can be the most annoying, irritating, stubborn man I…” Suddenly, he felt the ground give way beneath his feet. As if in slow motion, his arms began to flail in the air, as he desperately tried to stop himself falling. Kid watched, in astonishment, as his partner disappeared from view.

“Heyes!” he cried, and was quickly on his feet and heading across the campsite to where he’d last seen his partner. To Kid’s surprise, a large hole had opened up in the ground. Under a mass of fallen branches and twigs was a dark cavernous drop. It was as if a trap had been set for some passing large animal. He closed his eyes praying it was not a bear trap; not one of those with stakes at the bottom waiting ominously to impale any poor creature unfortunate enough to tumble into the hole.

“Heyes?” Kid called, as he dropped to his knees and edged his way carefully to the rim of the hole. It appeared to be about fifteen feet deep and there, at the bottom, lay his friend, unmoving. “Oh no,” Kid muttered. There were no impaling stakes, but even so, Heyes lay motionless at the bottom of the hole.

Kid looked for a way down or a way for his partner to climb out. He saw none.

***

Heyes groaned. A mass of dirt, twigs and mouldy leaves had, thankfully, broken his fall, but his body felt as if it had been hit with a sledgehammer. Something soggy and decaying was plastered to the side of his face. He opened his eyes, turned his head and saw a bright circle of light high above him and the silhouette of a man, in a cowboy hat, peering over the rim.

“Heyes?” Kid’s voice called from a long way off. “Heyes you all right?”

“Do I look all right?” Heyes muttered into the rotting pile of leaves, as he tentatively moved his legs and then his arms. He was okay. Nothing broken. Bruised and winded but otherwise okay. He pulled himself slowly into a sitting position.

“You okay?” Kid asked again, unable to hide the concern in his voice.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine,” Heyes said, but Kid couldn’t hear him.

“Heyes?” came a more demanding cry.

“WHAT?” Heyes snapped, more from wounded pride than any real anger at his friend. “I’M FINE!”

Kid smiled.

“Good,” he said. A snappy, proddy Heyes was a good sign.

Hannibal Heyes pulled himself to his feet and took a look around his new home. He was at the bottom of a large hole, about fifteen feet deep. Was it the shaft of a well? He dismissed it as too wide. A mine shaft? Perhaps but what were they hoping to mine? And, why had they stopped? Then, he saw a collection of long thin poles carved to a sharp point at one end. It was an animal trap and fortunately for him, an unfinished one.

Heyes picked up his hat, whacked it against his leg a couple of times, to remove the dirt and then placed it squarely on his head.

He looked up at the silhouette of his friend and his hat.

“Can you get me outta here?” Heyes asked.

“You sure you need help from someone so annoying, irritating and stubborn?” Kid smiled smugly down at his friend.

“Yes, I need your help,” Heyes admitted.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Kid told him, charitably. “I mean you’d think you’d have seen a hole this big,” Kid scoffed.

“I was walkin’ backwards,” Heyes explained.

“What fool walks backwards?” Kid asked.

“The hole was covered up. I couldn’t see where I was going,” Heyes explained.

“That’s why most people walk forward Heyes,” Kid reminded him.

Heyes decided to ignore that remark.

“I wonder why we never noticed it yesterday,” Kid remarked.

“We were both tired; not exactly…Look it doesn’t matter why we didn’t see it!”

Kid smiled again.

“Heyes?”

“What?” came the terse reply.

“Don’t go anywhere,” Kid said with a grin.

Before Heyes could snap off a witty retort, his partner disappeared from view.

***

Heyes took a closer look around the hole. It was damp, mosses covered the dirt walls and tree roots were sticking out of the sides. There was nothing he could use to help him escape, although maybe he could do something with the unused poles. They were also covered in moss and ferns, suggesting the hole had been abandoned for a long time.

Heyes contemplated the poles and what he could do with them, engineering great scaffolds in his mind. There was a loud snap, as he stepped back on a twig and then a less welcome sound. Heyes froze at the sound of the rattle. His eyes dropped to the ground and fixed on the snake, coiled and ready to strike, not three feet away.

“Kid,” Heyes said but his voice was barely more than a whisper. He kept perfectly still. His eyes focussed on the reptile. Slowly, inch by inch, he moved his hand towards the butt of his gun. The snake seemed to sense this and moved closer, still ready to strike. Heyes‘ hand froze.

“Kid,” he said again, but still too quiet for his friend to hear. And then the sound of a gunshot filled the air and a bullet blew the snake’s head off. Above him, Kid stood peering down, his gun still in his hand. He twirled it casually.

“Sheesh that was close,” Heyes complained, as he looked up at his friend. “I felt the bullet pass my arm! Could you be a little more careful next time?”

“I’ll let the snake have the first shot shall I?” Kid asked, not rising to Heyes’ provocation, as he holstered his gun

Heyes looked up and smiled.

“Thanks,” he said, the actual depth of his gratitude encapsulated by that one word. Kid smiled too.

“You’re welcome,” he said and Heyes knew his partner was relieved to find his friend unharmed. “You see anything down there that might help get you out?”

“There are some poles, but, I don’t know,” he said. “I thought I saw a white rabbit with a watch but that’s all,” he added flippantly.

“Huh?”

“I said there was a white rabbit down here with a watch…” Heyes began, but then he realised Kid had not read that book.

“There was a rabbit down there?” Kid asked.

“No. Forget I said I saw something.”

“You’re seeing things?” Kid asked with concern. “Did you hit your head?”

“No it’s from a book,” Heyes tried to explain.

“Oh, you want me to throw down something for you to read?”

“No!” Heyes called, exasperated. “I’m not planin’ on stayin’ down here that long unless you’ve got other ideas.”

“Well I’m tempted to leave you down there you being so proddy an’ all,” Kid muttered.

“Are you actually doin’ anything up there to get me outta here?” Heyes demanded to know.

“You don’t expect me to answer that do you?” Kid asked in reply, before disappearing again.

***

“Okay,” Heyes said, decisively. “Now to get outta here.”

He looked at the walls lining the hole for any foot or hand hold he could use to climb out. He saw a few promising ones and, reaching up, took hold of a tree root. Heyes placed his foot into a small crevice and pulled himself up. His hand reached up for another tree root and his foot found a protruding rock. Heyes began to climb. Before long, he was four feet off the ground. Where next? His eyes scanned the wall above him, he could see nothing of any use. He appeared to have reached a dead end. Then, Heyes realised the last tree root he had taken hold of, was beginning to feel decidedly loose. It began to slip from the muddy wall. It was a dead piece of root no longer attached to the living plant.

As the root came free, Heyes felt himself begin to fall backwards. He landed on one foot, stumbled and ended up back on the mouldy pile once more. A loud “Ooff” rose from the hole and Kid returned quickly to the rim.

“What happened?” he asked, with concern.

“I fell,” Heyes stated.

Kid saw his friend sitting, dejectedly, at the bottom of the hole.

“Oh, okay,” Kid said, matter-of-factly and disappeared.

“Yeah, it’s okay Kid, I’m fine,” Heyes muttered, in true martyr-like fashion. “No need for you to worry about me,” he added, wounded by his partner’s swift departure. He stood up, brushed crushed mouldy leaves from his clothes and stared at the sky above. If he wasn’t mistaken the clouds were growing decidedly darker.

***

Above ground, Kid pulled at the stem of a plant growing around the base of a tree. Maybe it would prove useful as a rope. He tugged again and it snapped off leaving him holding a piece no more than three feet long. Nope, that wasn’t going to be any help. Neither partner had a rope on his saddle. The last time either of them had carried one was when they had been driving cattle for a rancher on the Wyoming border. So, he had no rope and could find nothing to make one with. Kid looked around. Maybe he could find a fallen tree stump, long enough to provide Heyes with something to climb up, high enough for him to reach his hand.

Something hit Kid’s hat. Then something hit his arm, then his boot, and then his hat again. Kid looked up at the darkening sky, as the rain began to fall.

“Oh terrific,” Kid muttered, as the cold drops of water plinked on his hat and some found their way inside his shirt collar and began to trickle down his neck.

Down in the hole, Hannibal Heyes heard the first drops as they hit some dry leaves on the ground around him. Then he felt more hit his hat.

“Heyes,” Kid called down to his friend.

“What?” Heyes asked, somehow not expecting great words of wisdom from his partner.

“If it rains enough maybe the hole will fill up and you can float to the top. It’s a good job you can swim.”

“Or maybe I’LL DROWN IN THE PROCESS!” Heyes yelled. “Will you please hurry up and GET ME OUTTA HERE!”

Kid smiled again, even the rain couldn’t seem to dampen his spirits much to Heyes’ annoyance.

***

It proved to be only a short shower, just enough to cool a hot tempered ex-outlaw leader, sulking in a hole. As Heyes seethed below ground, Kid had found a fallen log he thought might be long enough to get Heyes out. Now, if he could just drag it close enough to the hole to push it over the edge.

Kid removed his leather vest as he worked up a sweat. Heyes could hear a lot of huffing and puffing, as Kid struggled with something.

“Kid, you okay?” There was no answer. “What are you doing?”

“Just dragging half the forest around ‘cos you can’t look where you’re going,” Kid grumbled, as he heaved the tree trunk closer to the rim. Kid stopped and sat down on the trunk to catch his breath.

Behind him, in the bushes, two eyes fixed on the man sitting with his back to the trees. The predator watched its prey. It was a large animal and would no doubt provide a substantial meal. It crept stealthily towards it. The juvenile cougar had not been very successful in its last two attempts to catch itself a meal. The deer had escaped and the skunk had been a bad choice. An unpleasant odour still clung to some parts of its coat. Hunger had made it brave.

The cat placed one paw quietly on the ground and eased itself forward. Its prey sat forward resting his elbows on his knees. Then he leaned back, stretched his shoulders and gave a heavy sigh. Kid was unaware that the cougar was now within striking distance. As he stood up, a low growl behind him finally caught Kid’s attention; he turned slightly at the very moment the cat sprang at him.
The cat pounced, catching Kid squarely in the chest, flattening him to the ground.

Instinctively Kid rolled, lashing out with his hands and then grabbed the cat by the neck in a desperate attempt to keep its saliva dripping canines away from his own neck.

Heyes heard the scuffle.

“Kid? Kid you okay?” he called, but there was no reply. “Kid what’s happening up there?” He heard something that sounded like a growl.

“KID! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” he called . His eyes anxiously scanning the rim above him for any sign of his partner.

Still there was no reply. There were thuds, snaps, growls and crashing sounds. He thought he heard Kid curse. A scuffle of some sort was clearly taking place, but Kid wouldn’t or couldn’t answer him.

Kid was grappling with the cougar. It wasn’t the biggest cat he’d seen, probably a juvenile, he thought, as its teeth snapped close to his face. Kid rolled from one side to the other hoping to tire the animal. It was certainly working on him.

Somehow, he managed to get enough leverage to suddenly fling the animal off him. The cat landed a few feet away, panting. It fixed its eyes on Kid once more, as it prepared to spring. Kid wasn’t about to let it get the chance. As the cat leapt into the air, Kid drew, and fired his gun.

Below him, Heyes heard the gun shot!

“KID!” Heyes cried and suddenly a large animal fell from the sky, landing on Hannibal Heyes. He struggled with it and flung it from his shoulders. Heyes drew his gun and aimed it at the cat, waiting for it to pounce, before he realised it was already dead. The cougar lay on the ground, a bloody wound in its side.

All fell silent. Heyes could hear his own breathing, as he stared up at the rim. He held his breath, straining his ears for any sound, any clue as to what had happened to his friend.

“Kid?” he called, far too quietly for his partner to hear. “KID!” he yelled at the top of his voice.

Eventually, he heard a noise and Kid looked over the edge.

“Heyes,” Kid said, clearly exhausted.

“Kid, you all right?” Heyes asked.

“Yeah,” Kid gasped. “Cougar.”

“I know, it’s down here!” Heyes snapped. “What are you trying to do, fill the hole with as many dead animals as you can? Maybe I can climb up the pile if you keep at it.” Heyes looked up and saw his partner’s face. Kid was not smiling at Heyes’ attempt at humour.

“Heyes, so help me if you don’t shut up, I’ll throw a skunk down there next time!” Kid snapped.

“No need to get proddy Kid,” Heyes said and then looking up asked, “You sure you’re all right?” concerned, but his friend did not answer.

Kid turned over, lying on his back, breathing heavily. His left sleeve was torn, his shirt ripped across the chest where the animal’s claws had caught him, tearing into his flesh and blood was running down his body. He was in pain, but he was alive.

“Kid?” Heyes asked again, his voice echoing in the depths. The question in that one word obvious to his partner.

“I’m okay,” Kid called back, to reassure his friend. He certainly didn’t feel okay and Heyes didn’t believe him either.

As Kid lay on the ground, he looked around and for the first time his eyes fell on a strange mound in the trees. Kid’s eyes narrowed in curiosity. He pulled himself to his knees. He clutched at his chest, smearing his own blood as he did so. He winced and looked at the red liquid on his hands. Then standing up, a little unsteady on his feet, he headed for the mound. It was neither a natural rise in the ground nor a tangle of shrubs. After a few moments of closer inspection, Kid bent down, brushed aside long growths of vegetation, and pulled back a leaf and twig covered tarpaulin. Beneath it, protected from the elements, he found tools, old and rusty, but tools never the less; some rope, a pick axe and a crudely made wooden ladder. Kid smiled.

***

“Heyes, am I the best partner a man could have?” Kid asked, pointedly, as he peered down at his friend.

“What?” Heyes asked, confused by the question’s relevance to his current situation. He stared up at Kid.

“Just answer the question.”

“Well considering the mess I’m in, I’m not gonna say ‘no’ am I?” Heyes stated.

“So?” Kid asked, smiling down at his friend.

“Yes,” Heyes said, patiently. “You are the best partner a man could have. Okay?” he asked, looking up at his grinning friend.

“Do you believe I hid your coin?”

Heyes gave a heavy sigh.

“No,” he admitted, grudgingly.

“Okay, stand back,” Kid instructed.

“Why? What you gonna throw at me this time?”

“You’ll see,” Kid told him, cryptically.

Heyes stepped nervously back and looked up, shielding his eyes. A wooden ladder was lowered into the hole.

“Kid, you’re a genius!” Heyes cried.

“I’m glad you finally realised that,” Kid said, as Heyes made sure the ladder was stable.

Slowly the dark-haired man began to climb. Kid held the ladder steady, watching his friend ascend. Suddenly Heyes stopped.

“Heyes you okay?” Kid asked.

Through the rungs of the ladder, Heyes had spotted something sticking out of the wall of the hole. He brushed away some of the dirt and mud around the object.

“Heyes?”

“Kid, I found something,” Heyes told him. The object looked like a bag. Making sure he had a secure footing on the ladder, Heyes tugged at the bag half buried in the wall. Kid watched, hoping his partner wasn’t about to fall back into the hole again.

Eventually, Heyes pulled the bag free. He smiled. It was a small white bag. A familiar type of bag. He’d held similar bags many times before.

“What have you got?” Kid asked, but his partner remained silent, as he tucked the bag inside his shirt. Then Kid felt the ladder move and Heyes began to climb once more. Eventually, a black hat appeared at the rim of the hole, followed by a dirty face beneath it. Two brown eyes flashed at him from beneath a layer of grime. Kid held out a hand, which his partner took, and the blond man pulled his friend out of the hole.

“Thanks,” Heyes said, as Kid looked him over, checking his friend was really okay. Heyes reached inside his shirt and removed the bag. Kid looked at the bag.

“Is that what I think it is?” Kid asked.

“Sure looks like it,” Heyes said, as he began to untie the cord around the top of the bag. He opened the bag and peered inside. A wide smile formed on his face.

“What we got?” Kid asked, eagerly.

Heyes dipped his hand into the bag and pulled out a handful of coins. He held them out to his partner. Golden eagles glinted in the sunlight.

“We’re rich,” Kid said, with a grin. Then a worrying thought crossed his mind. “It’s genuine right?”

“It sure looks like it,” Heyes told him, as he examined the coins.

“Where d’you think it came from?” Kid asked.

Heyes looked at the bag but there were no tell tale markings.

“It could have been down there for years,” he said.

“Is it still legal?”

“Yep.”

“Can we keep it?” Kid asked. “I mean with the amnesty?”

“I don’t see why not. There’ nothing to tell us who it belongs to. Finders keepers and all that.”

“I guess it was a good job you fell down that hole after all.”

“I wouldn’t go that far Kid,” Heyes said. He looked up at his friend and suddenly noticed the bloody gashes across his friend’s chest where Kid’s shirt had fallen open. “Hey, you’re hurt.” He replaced the coins and dropped the bag on the ground.

“Heyes, I’m fine,” Kid lied, when he realised what his friend was looking at.

“Let me see,” Heyes told him.

“It’s okay,” Kid said, dismissively.

“Let me see,” Heyes said, firmly, in a voice Kid knew not to argue with. He stood still as Heyes gently pulled aside Kid’s torn shirt and studied the scratches on his partner’s chest. “This needs cleaning properly,” he stated.

“Yeah. Later when we’ve…”

“Now,” Heyes said, cutting him off.

“Heyes we…” but Kid could tell it was pointless to argue. “Okay,” he relented.

A few moments later, Kid sat shirtless on the log he had earlier been dragging towards the hole. He had to admit the cat’s claws had made a mess of his skin and the deep gouges were beginning to smart. Heyes poured water over Kid’s bandana and approached his friend. Kid moved back a little, knowing this was going to hurt. Heyes smiled.

“Hold still,” he told his friend.

“I was,” Kid stated, defensively.

“You were edging away,” Heyes accused. “This won’t hurt.”

“That’s easy for you to say, you’re not on this side,” Kid replied. He squared his shoulders, bracing himself for what was to follow. Heyes shook his head.

“You can be such a baby at times,” he accused.

“I’m not,” the fastest gun in the west stated, a little hurt by the suggestion.

“Then hold still.”

Heyes fixed two brown eyes on his partner, who gave him his best gunfighter’s stare in return. Kid held still. Heyes placed the wet bandana on the scratches and wiped away a little of the blood. He knew it had to hurt, but Kid’s jaw was clamped tight and he was trying harder than usual not to make a sound or to flinch. Heyes suppressed a smile. He turned away to get some more water and, as soon as his partner had his back to him, Kid screwed his face up in pain. Heyes spun quickly around and caught the expression on Kid’s face.

“Ah ha!” he exclaimed and Kid glared at his friend.

“Well it hurts!” Kid snapped.

“Baby,” Heyes accused, jokingly. “No wonder they called you Kid.”

Two blue eyes locked onto Heyes’ brown ones.

“Do you want to go back in that hole?” Kid asked, his expression serious.

“What?” Heyes asked, as Kid stood up, the blood, from the now wet gashes, running down his skin.

“I said do you want to go back in that hole?” Kid repeated.

“No,” Heyes stated, backing up. “Kid, what are you doing?”

“I’ve just dragged a tree trunk through the forest for you,” Kid stated, through gritted teeth. “I was attacked by a cougar and I’ve been accused of theft by a man who robbed banks for a living!”

Heyes worked harder at suppressing his amusement.

“Now, I’m not a violent man…”

“Says the fastest gun in the west,” Heyes muttered.

“…but so help me Heyes, right now…”

Heyes held up his hands in defeat.

“Alright Kid, I’m sorry,” Heyes told him. “Truly I am.” He studied Kid’s face. Slowly the anger the blond man felt subsided, his shoulders relaxed and his gaze dropped to the ground. Kid looked up, sheepishly.

“Want to draw on me again?” Heyes offered.

“I didn’t draw on ya!” Kid stated.

“I know, I know,” Heyes appeased. “Look, I’m sorry I called you a kid, Kid.” Two blue eyes sparkled. “I am. Let me clean you up and then we can get outta here.”

Kid considered this.

“And you can flinch as much as you want to and I promise I won’t say a thing,” Heyes told him.

His partner smiled and Heyes waved the wet bandana at him.

“I reckon I can stand the pain,” Kid said, bravely, as he sat down.

“I never doubted it,” Heyes told him. Slowly a smile broke out on his face.

“Just get on with it Heyes, then we can get out of this place and away from that damn hole.”

“Best idea you’ve had all day,” Heyes said, but noted his partner bristle.

“Best idea?” Kid asked, pointedly. “Best idea?”

Heyes smiled, nervously.

“I just got you outta that hole.”

“Yeah but the ladder was just lying there. I’m surprised you didn’t find it earlier.”

“What?” Kid cried in disbelief.

“Well it looks like a pretty big pile Kid…” Heyes remarked.

“Did you see it? When you were pacing up and down last night, accusing me of theft, did you see it?” Kid glared at his friend.

“Well no but…” Heyes admitted.

“Ah ha!” Kid said, triumphantly. Heyes looked at his friend. He considered this. Heyes smiled. Then he wiped the bandana over Kid’s scratches.

The sound of a loud yell filled the forest.

***

Later that day, two horses made their way along a trail though the woods. The dark-haired rider, on the lead horse, wore a smug smile as he looked around enjoying the sunshine through the trees. A white bag of shiny coins nestled in his saddlebags and his lucky coin was safely in his vest pocket.

The blond-haired man riding behind him, fixed two blue eyes on his partner’s back, and glared at him. The scratches on his chest were still smarting under his clean blue shirt, and the smug set of his partner’s shoulders was driving him slightly nuts.

Lom Trevors was going to have his work cut out for him when the partners arrived in Porterville this time.

The End

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