The Price You Pay
By Maz McCoy
“Jed?” The blond man did not respond. “Jed?” Twenty-year old Hannibal Heyes repeated, urgently, as he placed a hand on his partner’s arm. Still Kid did not take his eyes away from the man, lying in the dust, just a few feet away; the bloodstain in the middle of his chest growing larger.
“Come on, let’s go,” Heyes encouraged but the young blond man didn’t move. His feet were rooted to the spot. His eyes fixed on the red patch on the man’s shirt. “Jed!” Heyes hissed, pulling his friend harder and Kid staggered backwards, finally following Heyes towards the horses. Without a word he pulled himself into the saddle. Heyes was still watching him as they rode out of Fleetwood, a trail of dust thrown up in their wake. From behind the white lace curtains of a hotel room, a pair of brown eyes watched them leave.
They rode in silence for a while, just trying to put as many miles between themselves and the town as possible. Kid followed Heyes. He didn’t look at the terrain, didn’t turn in the saddle to check if anyone was following them, didn’t ask where they were going. He just kept his eyes on his partner’s back and rode.
Finally Heyes pulled his horse to a halt, breathing hard.
“I don’t think anyone followed us,” he stated, looking back along the trail and squinting against the fading sunlight. “I reckon we can walk the horses for a while. We should find somewhere to camp before it gets dark.”
“I didn’t want to kill him.” It was the first thing Kid had said since leaving town.
Heyes looked across at his friend, his gaze met by two sad blue eyes.
“D’you think she saw?”
“I didn’t want that either.”
“I know, Kid.” Heyes had seen Ellie at the window, seen her face as she had pulled back the curtain to watch the scene unfold in the street below.
“I didn’t want to kill him.” Kid closed his eyes, as he leaned forward on the saddle horn.
Heyes knew there was nothing he could say. Kid had taken more than a passing interest in Ellie Hobbs. It had been a long time since he’d seen his friend so smitten with a woman. Unfortunately, once again, Kid had chosen the wrong woman.
“If you’d seen the marks on her back Heyes.” Kid looked across at his partner. “He had no reason to…well…he had no reason.”
Kid was right, but a man like Wesley Hobbs didn’t need a reason to throw his weight around.
“We can’t go back can we?” Kid asked, although he already knew the answer.
“No, we can’t.”
Kid knew that Fleetwood, and the woman he left there, were destined to become no more than bittersweet memories for him.
The sheriff had seen the shootout. They had been trying to leave town when Hobbs had called Kid out. Despite Heyes’ efforts to intervene and stop the inevitable, Kid strode courageously into the centre of the street to face the man. He hadn’t long recovered from a bullet wound to the shoulder and Heyes wasn’t sure if he had his speed back. Hobbs taunted the younger man. He managed to put an awful lot of venom into the word boy. Although at only eighteen, to many folk, Kid was still just that.
The farmer drew first, the lawman agreed with that, but he had still encouraged them to leave Fleetwood before Hobbs’ brothers rode in and caused more trouble. He didn’t want gunfighters in his town and having seen Kid’s speed, he was convinced that’s what he was. Heyes knew his friend would have stayed to face them, stayed to protect Ellie if she needed it, but he dragged him away instead.
Hobbs’ youngest daughter had already sought shelter with the sheriff and his wife. She would be well protected and had made it plain to Jed Curry, the night before, that she had no desire to go off with a no good drifter. If, like Heyes, he had seen her face at the window that afternoon, he would have been less inclined to believe her. When Kid stepped out to face her father; it was clear, to anyone watching, who Ellie Hobbs was most fearful for.
“I reckon we should ride for another hour,” Heyes suggested. “Then find somewhere to camp. What do you think?”
Kid looked up from his saddle. What did he think? Couldn’t you tell? Wesley Hobbs had received…a certain justice for his crimes, but he had left a trail of suffering in his wake and hardened at least one heart.