The Search for Hannibal Heyes
By Maz McCoy
“Don’t come any closer,” the dark-haired man ordered, the gun wavering unsteadily in his hand as he aimed it. He glared at the cowboy standing before him. Although the man wore his gun tied down, his Colt remained in his holster, for now. The cowboy took a step towards him. The dark-haired man stepped backwards and his back pressed up against the rocks.
“Don’t come any closer,” he ordered again, as sweat ran down his face. His head hurt and he was having trouble focussing. The curly-haired blond man took another step towards him, his blue eyes fixed on the scared brown ones of his friend.
“Heyes,” he said kindly, holding out a hand. “Give me the gun.”
“You come any closer and I swear I’ll shoot,” Heyes told him.
“Heyes,” Kid Curry said softly, as he took another step forward. Hannibal Heyes squeezed the trigger. The sound of a single gun shot filled the air. Kid cried out as the bullet tore into his flesh and he fell backwards.
A Few Days Earlier
The dark-haired young woman glanced across the room at Hannibal Heyes and smiled seductively. Heyes met her gaze and returned the smile. She was beautiful, perhaps nineteen or twenty years old. Her long hair was piled on top of her head and pinned with two combs encrusted with diamonds. A diamond necklace hung around her delicate neck. He admonished himself for calculating the value of such beautiful jewels. Her figure was squeezed into a green dress, pulled tightly in at the waist, accentuating all her feminine curves. Her green eyes fixed on his and she actually fluttered her eyelashes at him. Heyes smiled once more. She was obviously a woman with excellent taste.
The young woman moved slowly across the room towards the attractive dark-haired stranger. She nodded and smiled at the dancing couples, as she made her way towards him. The man’s smile had revealed two attractive dimples in his cheeks. She wasn’t too keen on his brown suit but its contents were very appealing. As she weaved her way, between the dancers, she decided she was going to enjoy getting to know him; getting to know him very well.
Kid Curry moved to his partner’s side and handed him a drink.
“How much longer d’you think we’ve gotta stay here?” Kid asked, irritably.
“Oh, things are just beginning to get interesting,” Heyes told him, as the woman swished his way.
Kid’s eyes scanned the room, taking in the women in their evening dresses, the men in their starched shirts, the dancers and the musicians, as the babble of conversation assaulted his ears. Big Mac McCreedy had insisted they attend the ball to welcome businessman, Jonathon Oxford, to town. The man was an extremely wealthy landowner, who Mac expected to be doing business with very soon. He wanted to make a good impression and having two handsome young men around to flatter and entertain the ladies, couldn’t hurt.
Patrick McCreedy joined them, a cloud of smoke from his fat cigar engulfing them as he did so.
“Mr. McCreedy, how lovely to see you again,” the young woman said, as she finally reached them.
McCreedy turned to face her.
“Why Arabella, how lovely you look tonight,” Big Mac said, as his eyes admired her outfit.
“Won’t you introduce your friends to me?” she said, her eyes falling on Heyes once more.
“Oh, of course. Miss. Arabella Oxford may I introduce Joshua Smith,” she met Heyes’ eyes, as she offered him her hand. He took it in his and he knew she was smitten.
“How do you do Mr. Smith,” she said and there was something delicious about the way she ran her tongue over his name. Hannibal Heyes swallowed and smiled at her.
“I’m very pleased to meet you Miss. Oxford,” he said bending to kiss her hand. Arabella did not pull her hand away and if he wasn’t mistaken she was doing something to his palm with her fingers. Heyes eyes opened a little wider. She smiled at him, casting her gaze once more to his eyes. Beside them, Kid, stifled a smile.
“And this is my nephew, Mr. Thaddeus Jones,” Mac continued. Arabella’s head snapped up.
“Your nephew?” she asked, turning her attention to Kid for the first time.
“Yes, my sister’s boy,” Mac told her.
Arabella dropped Heyes’ hand like a hot rock and her eyes met Kid’s.
“How do you do Mr. Jones,” she cooed, savouring Kid’s alias just as she had done with Heyes’ only a moment ago. She offered him her hand. He shook it and from the expression on Kid’s face, Heyes knew she was doing that finger-in-the-palm thing to him. Arabella fluttered her eyes at Kid and, Heyes could tell, Kid was smitten. He sighed, disappointed. It seemed Arabella had an agenda of her own and he was no longer on it.
“I am hoping to do business with Arabella’s father,” Mac explained.
“Oh we don’t want to talk about business do we Mr. Jones?” Arabella said and Kid smiled.
“No, of course we don’t,” he agreed.
“Would you accompany me to the punch table?” she asked, slipping her hand into the crook of his arm and turning towards the table. Having no choice, Kid escorted the young lady away.
“Beautiful girl,” Mac observed, as he watched the young couple move across the room.
“Hmmm,” Heyes said in thoughtful reply.
“Something wrong?” Mac asked.
“Not yet,” Heyes stated, thoughtfully, his eyes still on young Arabella and her smitten quarry.
“She’s after something Kid,” Heyes told his partner later, when Arabellla had gone to ‘powder her nose’.
“Yeah, she is,” Kid agreed with a smirk.
“Not that!” Heyes hissed, although maybe she was. “I mean she’s after you because she heard Mac say you were his nephew.”
“You sure you’re not just saying that because she chose me instead of you?” Kid asked, smugly.
Heyes turned to stare his partner in the face.
“She had her eyes all over me before you showed up. She was batting her eyelashes at me and heading straight towards me.”
“Sure Heyes,” Kid said, unconvinced.
“She did something, with her fingers,” he didn’t know what else to say.
“What?” Kid asked, looking concerned.
“When she shook my hand,” Heyes explained and he knew she’d done the same to Kid. “She did it to you, huh?”
“It don’t mean nothin’,” Kid said, dismissively, but not convincing either of them.
“All I’m saying is, be careful. I think she’s up to something,” Heyes told his friend, as Big Mac drew alongside them. He was carrying two whiskies and handed one to each man. They thanked him, a little surprised to find the host playing waiter.
“Thaddeus, I’d like you to treat Arabella nicely,” Mac said, as he stood beside them.
“I did Mac,” Kid said, meeting the large man’s gaze.
“I mean especially nice,” Mac said and Heyes smiled knowingly at his friend.
“What exactly are you asking me to do?” Kid asked, nervous now.
“Whatever you have to. I want to do business with her father and if keeping Arabella happy helps me do that, you’ll do what it takes,” Mac told him firmly.
“I’m not leading her on Mac,” Kid stated.
“You’ll do what I ask Thaddeus. That man in the corner is a US Marshall. We wouldn’t want him looking too closely at you or your partner would we?”
“Don’t threaten us Mac,” Kid said through gritted teeth.
“Then go sweet talk young Arabella and they’ll be no need to,” Mac said.
The woman in question headed back to them. Arabella gave Kid a little wave; Heyes gave his friend a reassuring pat on the shoulder as his partner headed off to intercept her.
“Don’t threaten us again Mac,” Heyes warned, his dark eyes hard. Mac smiled.
“Who said I was threatening you boys?” he asked innocently. “Just pointing out one of my guests.”
Heyes held the big man’s gaze for a moment before he replied.
“So what’s the story with Jonathon Oxford?” Heyes asked, as they moved a little apart from the others in the room.
“What do you mean?” Mac asked, somewhat surprised by the question.
“I mean why have you got Thaddeus playing the charmer for you? That’s not the usual way you do business.”
“Jonathon Oxford is a wealthy man, I need a couple of investors for a project I have in mind.”
“It wouldn’t be anything to do with Armendariz would it?”
Big Mac shot the ex-outlaw leader a look.
“Who told you?”
“You just did.”
“Alright I want to buy some of his land but I need a substantial investment to do so and someone Armendariz won’t connect to me. And from what I hear Oxford has the cash.”
“So Kid has to keep his daughter sweet for you?”
“Yes. And why not. They make an attractive couple don’t you think?” They looked across the room to where the young woman was peering up at Kid, doe eyed. Heyes could tell his partner was revelling in the attention being lavished on him and that was what troubled him. Surely Kid should be lavishing attention on her? Anyone watching would think it was Arabella who had been asked to keep Kid sweet. Remembering how swiftly she had dropped his hand when she heard Kid identified as Mac’s nephew, Heyes frowned. Maybe that was precisely what she’d been asked to do.
“It’s awfully stuffy in here Thaddeus,” Arabella said. “Would you escort me outside for a breath of fresh air?”
“Of course,” Kid said, as always the perfect gentleman. He offered her his arm and she took it, snuggling close. They walked out onto the front porch. Another couple, caught in an embrace parted quickly and, blushing, moved swiftly passed them back into the house.
Arabella drew closer to Kid pinning him against the porch post. The soft skin of her neckline was tantalisingly close, her ample cleavage, thrust towards him.
“Thaddeus,” she cooed. “You can kiss me if you’d like to.”
Kid Curry, a man known for his charming way with the ladies, found himself uncharacteristically lost for words. He swallowed hard.
“I…er…It’s a little…”
“Don’t you want to?” she asked, feigning hurt feelings.
“No it’s not that. I mean yes I’d like to, I just think it would be a little forward of me.”
Arabella moved forward, and he was surprised to find her suddenly pressing herself against him.
“Oh Thaddeus, do you feel something growing between us?”
Kid’s eyes opened wide in shock.
“No!” he said adamantly, as he pushed her away from him, holding her at arms length.
“I can feel your heart beating,” she said, as she placed her left hand on his chest.
Kid smiled pleasantly. He could feel his heart beating too; actually he could hear it thudding away. He was confused.
“Arabella, I think we should be…” he began.
“Careful?” she suggested, as she caught hold of his hand, and gave a quick glance back at the ballroom. Kid was stunned by her behaviour. “Yes you’re right, we must be careful in case anyone sees us. They wouldn’t understand and we wouldn’t want a scandal would we? So where do you suggest we meet?”
“That’s all right I know of the perfect place. There’s an old barn on Mr. McCreedy’s land. I saw it when I was out riding yesterday. It’s near the river. You’ll be able to find it won’t you?” she said, confidently. She moved away from him still holding his hand at arms length. “I’ll meet you there tomorrow at noon.” Arabella smiled, let go of his hand and slipped back into the ballroom.
Kid Curry, ex-outlaw, the fastest gun in the west, stared after her, still not sure what to say or what exactly had happened. She sure was fast.
“Everything alright?” Heyes asked with a smile, as he walked up to his friend. He had seen Kid re-enter the room. His partner looked decidedly uncomfortable.
“No,” Kid said, flatly.
Kid looked at his friend and saw the amusement in his brown eyes.
“She wants me to meet her tomorrow,” Kid said, quietly.
“Well that’s nice,” Heyes said pleasantly.
“No. It isn’t. She just pressed herself against me out there, Heyes,” Kid said, clearly horrified at the young woman’s brazen behaviour.
“Well she’s an attractive young woman, don’t you like that?”
“Well of course,” Kid said. “It’s just she’s supposed to be…” He was lost for words. “I mean I’m supposed to be the one that…Well the man’s supposed to…”
Heyes raised his eyebrows at his blond friend.
“Care to elaborate on that?” he asked.
“She’s a little fast!” Kid appeared to blush slightly.
Heyes stifled a smile.
“So where are you meeting the delightful Arabella?” the dark-haired man asked.
“I’m not meeting her!” Kid stated, definitely.
“Kid, you heard Mac, you have to keep her sweet.”
“Not that sweet.”
“Well you can’t not show up,” Heyes told him. “It would be ungentlemanly.”
“If you’re so concerned, you go and meet her.”
“I would but it’s you she wants,” Heyes reminded him. “What’s the matter? I thought you’d appreciate the attentions of a beautiful young woman.”
“Maybe I’m getting too much attention,” Kid muttered irritably. “Heyes I can’t meet a young woman in the middle of nowhere. Two of us, all alone.” He rolled his eyes.
“It’s not as if you haven’t done it before. Or are you afraid she’ll try to take advantage of you?”
Kid shot a glare at his friend as Big Mac walked towards them.
“Actually I think she might.”
“Well how about I come along as your chaperone?” Heyes smiled.
“I think I’ll need one.” Kid thought for a moment. “We might both need one.”
“Ah Joshua, can I have a word?” Mac said, as Heyes descended the stairs the following morning.
“Sure Mac,” the dark-haired man replied following the big man into the study.
“I need to get a letter to a business partner of mine, Joseph McGregor. It’s to do with the deal I’m hoping to make with Arabella’s father.”
Heyes nodded, understanding.
“I need to know it has been delivered. I want you to take it.” He let his request sink in.
“Where does your friend live?”
“He has a ranch outside a small town called Silverwood. It’s about fifty miles north of here.
“Well I promised Thaddeus I’d act as chaperone when he meets Arabella today.”
“I think he can take care of himself,” Mac said.
“With Arabella? I wouldn’t be so sure.”
Mac considered this.
“I could be their chaperone. What do you say?”
Heyes gave the idea some thought.
“I’ll pay you to deliver the letter of course.”
“Mac, you’re letting us rest up here for a few days. I couldn’t…”
“Yes you could,” Mac insisted. “I’d pay another man to deliver it so why not you? I know you could use the money.”
Heyes considered this. Mac was right, they did need the money and he was grateful to Mac for his hospitality.
“Alright, but I need you to promise me something,” Heyes said.
“What?” Mac asked cautiously.
“Look after Thaddeus. I think Arabella has him worried.” The two men exchanged a knowing smile.
“Just be careful Kid. She’s after something and I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t think it’s your body,” Heyes told his friend as he sat on his horse, ready to leave. He leaned forward, casually resting his arms on the saddle horn.
Kid said nothing, just gave his partner a look. Heyes was too used to that look to be worried by it.
“Someone finding you two in a compromising situation, now that would cause all sorts of problems for Big Mac,” Heyes continued. “We’ve both seen con artists pull that one before.”
“I’ll be careful Heyes,” Kid assured him.
“I’ll be back in a couple of days,” Heyes told him. Kid nodded and stood beside the horse looking up at his partner. Heyes detected something unsaid in Kid’s eyes. “Alright, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“I don’t know Heyes. I just feel uneasy about this,” Kid told him. “I can’t explain it.”
“You sure it’s not Arabella who has you spooked?” Heyes asked with a grin.
“No it’s not,” Kid said adamantly. “Heyes there’s something else. Oh, I don’t know.”
The dark-haired man respected his partner’s intuition enough not to disregard this.
“I’ll be fine,” he assured his friend. “You’re just worrying cos you’re not there to watch my back.”
Kid smiled, maybe Heyes was right.
“Go on. You go deliver the letter and I’ll play the dutiful nephew. See you in a couple of days.”
“Watch yourself with Arabella. Don’t get into any trouble. I don’t want to get back and find Oxford has you lined up for a shotgun wedding,” Heyes teased.
“Thanks Heyes,” Kid said without humour.
Heyes touched the brim of his hat to Kid then turned his horse and rode away. Kid stood watching his partner ride out.
“Just be careful Heyes,” the blond man said quietly, still not sure what was making him so uneasy.
At noon, as arranged, Thaddeus Jones stood beside the old barn on McCreedy’s land. He was leaning with his back against the wall, arms folded, characteristically, across his chest. He did not look happy. This was not the usual way he wooed a young woman and he was uncomfortable at Arabella’s forwardness.
Big Mac sat in his buggy a little way off, trying unsuccessfully to hide his amusement at the young man’s predicament. Big Mac reached into his pocket and took out his watch. He glanced at it. It was twelve thirty. It seemed Thaddeus Jones had been stood up by the young lady.
Kid looked up at Mac, his growing annoyance and irritability showing on his face. Mac smiled encouragingly as Kid pushed off the barn wall and strode towards him.
“I’m not waiting any longer Mac,” Kid said gruffly, as he untied his horse from the back of the buggy. Big Mac was sensible enough not to comment. Kid rode off and Big Mac flicked the reins and followed in the buggy.
That evening Arabella and her father had been invited to dine at the McCreedy Ranch. Kid sat opposite Arabella, Mac and Jonathon Oxford taking a seat at either end of the table. With her father present, Kid was discreet enough not to mention Arabella’s failure to turn up at the barn. Kid was still feeling uneasy at the attention shown to him by Oxford’s beautiful daughter and was perplexed. He thought about what Heyes had said to him, before he rode out. He was the one supposed to be keeping her sweet and yet Arabella was all over him as if he was the one with the money. Kid had a sudden thought. Just how much did Mac know about his new friend?
Suddenly he felt something on his leg. His eyes shot up to meet Arabella’s, as a stockinged foot moved slowly up his left calf. She smiled innocently at him. Then head down, she cast her eyes up to his as her foot moved higher. Kid coughed and moved his chair back taking his leg out of range.
She suppressed a smile.
After dinner Mac and Jonathon stood by the fire each smoking a cigar. Kid would have liked to join them but both men encouraged the ‘youngsters’ to step out on the porch and get some air. Reluctantly, Kid escorted Arabella outside.
“Thaddeus, I’m sorry about this afternoon?” she whispered when they were out of ear shot. “Daddy wouldn’t let me ride out on my own. Did you wait long?”
Too long Kid thought. Instead he smiled and said, “Well I’m glad you didn’t go against your father’s wishes. I wouldn’t want to get you into trouble.”
“Oh Thaddeus…would you get me into trouble?” she asked, lowering her eyes and then peering up at him, coyly, as she placed her hand on his arm. Kid swallowed. He hadn’t said that quite right.
“Look Arabella, I don’t want you getting the wrong idea…”
“Oh I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t,” she assured him.
“It’s just that I don’t think we should be rushing things so much, do you?”
“Did you think me too forward to suggest a meeting?” she asked, turning her eyes to the ground.
Kid shifted, not knowing quite what to say. He always felt comfortable around women but Arabella was…well she was a difficult one to handle. To his relief the door opened and Big Mac and Jonathon Oxford emerged, having given the young couple long enough on their own.
“What a beautiful evening,” Oxford remarked, as he looked up at the star filled sky. Inwardly, Kid sighed with relief.
When the Oxfords were ready to leave, Kid volunteered to see that their carriage was brought to them. Mac wanted to send one of his hands but Kid relished the opportunity to get away from Arabella and have a moment to think.
When he returned from the stable, he could see Arabella and her father silhouetted in the house lights as they stood on the front porch.
“Well is he falling for you?” Oxford asked.
Certain he was the topic of their conversation and curious as to what Arabella would answer, Kid slipped unnoticed behind a bush and listened.
“Well of course he is,” Arabella replied in a more assertive tone than Kid had heard her use. “I have him eating out of my hand. If I play it right you’ll find the two of us in a compromising situation any day now.”
“Good, because I need to get the money and send it to Rockwood before the fifteenth.”
“Don’t worry Daddy, I’ve done this before and it’s always worked. I don’t think Mr. McCreedy will want a scandal.”
“Let’s hope he’s willing to pay to avoid one with his nephew,” her father replied and just then the front door opened and Big Mac stepped out.
“Here’s your shawl my dear,” Mac said, handing a silk shawl to Arabella.
“Thank you for fetching it for me,” she said with a smile.
Kid slipped from his hiding place and strode purposefully around the corner of the house.
“Your buggy will be here in a minute,” Kid said.
“Thank you Thaddeus. It will be late by the time we reach the hotel and Arabella needs her beauty sleep,” Oxford told him. “I’m sure you appreciate that,” he added, casting a knowing glance at Kid.
“Oh, your daughter is quite something, Mr. Oxford,” Kid said with a smile.
“Why Thaddeus, you are too kind,” Arabella said, cooing once more; the assertive daughter having disappeared beneath the shawl.
“Yes, you really are quite something,” Kid said knowingly, as he tipped his hat to her.
“What are you trying to say?” Big Mac asked, his voice raised, as he stood beside the fireplace in his study.
“I’m tellin’ you what I heard,” Kid told him. “I think they’re playing the Badger game with us. She’s planning for you to find me and her in a compromising situation and they’re hoping you’ll pay to avoid a scandal. It sounded like they’d done this sort of thing before.”
McCreedy considered this.
“Just how much do you know about Jonathon Oxford, Mac?” Kid asked.
“Well only what…” Big Mac paused, suddenly concerned.
“Only what he’s told me about himself,” Mac admitted. “We met in a poker game a few months ago. We got talking and I mentioned the possibility of a business deal.”
“Did you ever see him with money?”
“Well of course I did. It was a high stakes game. $10,000 dollar buy-in.”
“Did he win?” Kid asked.
“Well now that you mention it, no, he lost almost all of it…”
“And maybe it was money that wasn’t his, or maybe now he owes someone and he can’t pay them? I don’t know Mac, all I know is they’re planning a little blackmail and I’m the bait.”
“The question is what do we do about it?” Mac asked.
“I don’t know but I know a man who would,” Kid said, wishing Heyes was there.
Hannibal Heyes rode into the town of Silverwood as the sun began to set. He was tired and thirsty. He pulled his horse to a halt in front of the saloon, climbed wearily from the saddle; cast a few glances along the main street, before he pushed open the bat wing doors.
Walking up to the bar, Heyes waved a hand at the bartender.
“Beer please,” he said and the large bearded man went to get the drink.
“Hi, handsome, want some company?” a dark-eyed saloon girl asked, as she sauntered along the bar towards Heyes.
“Sure,” he replied as the bar tender placed his beer on the counter. He turned to the girl. “What’ll you have?”
She ordered a whiskey.
“So what brings you to town?” she asked, as she slipped her arm in his. He smiled at her. She was a pretty young girl; brown hair cascading down over her bare shoulders, brown eyes, and a beauty spot drawn on her over rouged cheek.
“A job,” Heyes told her vaguely, as he sipped his beer.
“Is it real important?” she asked hopefully and downed her whiskey in one. Heyes smiled and caught the bartender’s eye once more. Another drink was poured into her glass from the, no doubt watered down, bottle.
“What’s your name?” he asked the girl.
“Lily,” she replied, leaning closer to give him a better view of all her best features.
“Well Lily, it’s a real important job,” he told her and he was rewarded with a beautiful smile.
Thaddeus Jones waited once more beside the old barn on McCreedy’s land. The object of this clandestine meeting, the lovely Arabella, soon arrived in a buggy. Their rendezvous had been arranged by the exchange of some hastily written notes delivered by Big Mac’s employees. Arabella’s notes contained a sense of urgency, suggesting she had something important to tell Thaddeus.
Arabella climbed from her buggy, as Kid walked slowly towards her. He smiled and she ran towards him, throwing herself at him.
“Oh Thaddeus,” she cried, as Kid caught her in his arms and took a step back to steady himself. “I’ve thought of nothing but you since last night.” Her arms were wrapped around the back of his neck, her wide eyes gazing up at him. Kid put his hands on her waist and she smiled.
“Well that’s real flatterin’ Arabella,” Kid said. “But…”
“Oh please tell me you feel the same,” she begged and then she covered his mouth with hers. Kid was not so unfeeling that he couldn’t take a moment to enjoy the kiss. In fact Arabella turned out to be a real good kisser. She was a beautiful young woman and she smelled nice too. Her hair felt soft as he ran a hand through it and she pressed herself closer. Despite all he knew, Kid was a little disappointed when she broke free of their embrace.
Taking one of his hands in hers, she led him into the barn, towards an empty stall, casting a glance at the large barn door as she did so. Her glance did not escape Kid’s notice. When they reached the stall, Arabella looked into Kid’s eyes and smiled seductively. Reaching up she placed her hands flat on his chest. Slowly she undid the top button of his shirt. Kid did not move, just watched her, saying nothing.
“Do you like me Thaddeus?” she asked, as she undid another of his buttons.
“Of course,” he replied, returning her smile.
“I’m glad,” she said and stepped back, placing a hand on the sleeve of her dress. Suddenly she ripped it at the seam.
“Hey Arabella, what are you doing?” Kid protested, although he had a pretty good idea.
Arabella just smiled, but it was no longer a pleasant smile. She took hold of the lace around the neckline of her dress and tugged at it, ripping it free, tearing the fabric in the process, and exposing a little more of her soft flesh than was considered decent.
“Oh no!” she gasped, her voice no longer that of a coy young lady. “Thaddeus, what have you done? Are you attacking me?”
Kid stood and watched her unemotionally and that surprised her. His blue eyes, fixed on her, were hard and not shocked as she had expected. Then he took a step backwards away from the stall and Arabella cast another glance towards the barn door.
“You expecting someone?” Kid asked calmly and at that moment the figure of a man appeared silhouetted in the doorway.
Arabella smiled, triumphantly.
“Help me!” she cried and ran towards the man. She collided with Big Mac and, although not expecting him, she continued to play her part. “Oh Mr. McCreedy thank goodness you’re here,” she wailed. She shot a look back at Kid who was leaning against the stall, his arms crossed over his chest. His lack of concern confused her but she ploughed on regardless.
“Thaddeus…Thaddeus…Oh, Mr. McCreedy he attacked me!” Arabella buried her face in Big Mac’s waistcoat. The sounds of sobs could be heard.
Mac looked at Kid, who rolled his eyes. Big Mac placed his hands gently on Arabella’s shoulders and pushed her away from him.
“Now then Arabella, tell me what happened,” he said in a fatherly tone.
Kid did not miss the second look of triumph she gave him before looking up at the large man.
“Thaddeus was trying to force me to kiss him,” she said and then sniffed away another sob.
“My, my, that doesn’t sound like Thaddeus,” Big Mac observed, as he gave Kid a look. Kid shrugged.
“Don’t you believe me?” she asked, looking up at Mac with tear filled eyes. “Look, he tore my dress.” As if suddenly realising how much of her body was showing, she attempted to cover herself.
“My, your dress does seem to be torn,” Mac said matter-of-factly. His tone confused her. This was not going the way she expected.
“He was like a savage!” she exclaimed.
“A savage?” Mac enquired, his eyes opening wider, almost impressed and Kid gave him an innocent smile.
“Yes, yes. I thought he would…he would…” she turned away and made sobbing sounds.
“Hmmm,” Mac said. “This seems to happen to you a lot doesn’t it?” Mac observed and the sobs stopped. Arabella did not move. “I mean there was that young man in Denver. Harvey Williams wasn’t it? You said he attacked you. I believe his father was about to pay your father several thousand dollars to avoid a scandal, when you had to leave town in a hurry?”
Arabella turned to face McCreedy.
“The sheriff received a telegram about it, a couple of hours ago.”
Arabella looked shocked, and then she looked beyond Big Mac, searching for someone. Someone stepped into view.
“If you’re looking for your father, he’s outside with my deputy,” the sheriff informed her, as he entered the barn. Arabella turned to look at Kid.
“Thaddeus, help me, please?” she pleaded, her eyes meeting his.
Kid felt a twinge of sadness for her. After all he was a wanted outlaw himself and he took no pleasure in helping to send someone to jail? He said nothing. What happened to them now was not his decision.
“What do you want to do Mr. McCreedy?” the sheriff asked. “It’s your money they were after and your nephew’s reputation they were trying to ruin.”
“Thaddeus, what do you think?” Mac asked.
Two days after he arrived in Silverwood, Hannibal Heyes rode along a trail, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his face and admiring the beautiful scenery around him. It wasn’t often he got the chance to just look around and appreciate the terrain he was passing through. Usually he and Kid were running from someone, maybe a posse, sometimes a bounty hunter. At the thought of his partner he smiled. He wondered how Kid was fairing with the lovely Arabella. Poor Kid, she’d set her sights on him because she thought he was Big Mac’s nephew. He had to admit he had secretly enjoyed seeing his partner squirm in a woman’s company. It sure made a change.
The trail wound up into the hills. Narrowing as it passed along the edge of a ravine. Trees lined one side and he held the reins tight as he peered down at the precarious drop to his left.
Having delivered his letter for Big Mac, the previous day and waited dutifully for the verbal reply, Heyes had spent another very pleasant evening playing poker, winning a sizable amount of money and enjoying the attentions of the lovely Lily.
The rattlesnake lay basking on the rocks, as the sun warmed its long reptilian body. The appearance of a horse and rider caught it by surprise. Instinct took over and the snake began to shake its tail, warning of an imminent strike.
The horse, contentedly plodding along the track, was equally startled to hear the rattle, as the snake adopted its coiled, threatening pose. It reared up, taking a few unstable steps backwards.
“Easy. Easy,” Heyes said, trying to sooth the animal as he clung onto the reins. The snake lunged forward narrowly missing its intended victim. The horse’s nostrils flared, its eyes were wide with fear as it stepped and stumbled backwards.
“Whoa! Easy!” Heyes cried again, but the horse was too spooked to stop.
Heyes clung desperately to the saddle horn but, when the horse twisted sideways, he felt his grip loosening as the horse also lost its footing and gravity started to win and slowly Heyes began to slip from the saddle.
When Hannibal Heyes fell from his horse, to his surprise, instead of hitting the ground on the trail, he continued to fall, plummeting into the ravine. When he finally hit the ground, he found himself tumbling down the slope towards the bottom of the steep incline. Heyes rolled, flipped and slid down the hillside. His body hit the side of a tree; he tumbled through shrubs, breaking branches and thumping into rocks, picking up speed as he rolled and sending a cascade of stones, dust and gravel ahead of him. The world turned round and round as he tumbled over and over. He closed his eyes, found himself propelled head over heels and then THUD! His head hit something hard and everything went black.
“He should have been back by now,” Kid said, as he speared a potato with his fork during dinner, that evening.
“Silverwood’s a nice town,” Mac told him from across the dining table. He cut into his steak. “Joshua probably found a poker game and lost track of the time.” Somehow Mac still couldn’t bring himself to call the boys by their given names.
“Maybe,” Kid said, but he didn’t sound convinced. Things had settled back to normal since they sent Arabella and her father on their way that afternoon. No charges were to be brought against them, but the Oxfords were under no illusions as to what would happen to them should they return to Red Rock. Now Kid was free of Arabella’s attentions, Kid’s mind returned to his partner. He had that nagging feeling inside telling him something was wrong. Mac saw Kid’s eyes move to the curtained windows, the concern for his partner evident. Kid pushed his food around on the plate. He put down his fork and sat back. “I’m sorry Mac, I’m not hungry,” he announced.
Mac studied the blond man’s face. One thing he did know about Thaddeus, was his love of food. He really is worried about Joshua, Mac thought.
The sun beat down on the lifeless body of a man, sprawled across a rock at the bottom of the ravine. A small river of blood ran from a cut across his temple, trickling down the side of his face and dripping onto the ground at his side, forming a dark red stain in the dust. The sun moved across the sky, climbing to its zenith, its strong rays bearing down on Heyes, as he lay unmoving.
The sun sank over the horizon, as the moon rose and cast its reflected glow into the ravine. A gentle breeze blew the branches of trees and bushes, scattering shadows over Heyes’ inert form. A small rodent scurried around the man, sniffing at the dried blood, then scampered away into the night. In all that time Heyes did not move, nor had he by the time the sun rose again the following morning.
Kid Curry stood on the porch, a steaming cup of coffee in his hand, watching the sun rise. He had slept fitfully the night before and rubbed his eyes as he looked towards the horizon, but there was still no sign of his partner.
Hannibal Heyes’ eyes fluttered open and instantly clamped shut as the sun’s glare hit the back of his retina. A pounding pain thumped in his head and he groaned. Reaching up, he felt the patch at the side of his head, where his blood had already dried. Shielding his eyes against the sun, he opened them once more. He saw a bird high in the sky above him. Its wings were spread out as it carved circles in the air. He was transfixed by the creature’s delicate flight. Another joined it, circling over his head; watching for a dying animal, a potential meal. Heyes had yet to realise he was the object of their attention. Heyes coughed, a dry rasping sound came from his throat but no more than that. His lips were cracked, his mouth and throat dry. He desperately wanted a drink. His mind imagined cool, clear water tumbling over rocks, crystal clear pools of water sparkling in the sunshine. He coughed again. Slowly he turned onto his side.
“AH!” he cried out in pain, as his head screamed at him. The world spun and it felt as if someone was trying to crush his head from both sides. He waited, letting the nausea pass before he eased himself onto an elbow and then sat up. The world swam around him again and he retched. He threw up in a bush, and then sat back, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. He felt his head again, and flinched at his own touch.
Heyes looked around. He was at the bottom of a ravine, surrounded by rocks, trees, scrub bushes and not much else. He heard a bird call out, or rather screech; its shrill cry, piercing in his head. He desperately needed water but he saw no stream or beckoning pool.
Eventually he dragged himself to his feet and was promptly sick again. Having emptied the contents of his stomach onto the parched earth, he staggered a few feet and collapsed onto his knees. He took a moment to compose himself and then, searching around, he found a broken branch and used it, as a support, as he pulled himself to his feet.
Confused thoughts ran around his head. He tried to remember anything that had happened to him in the last few hours. He couldn’t remember a thing. How long had he been there? He tried to remember where he had been recently. No idea. Where had he been going? No idea. Okay let’s try something easy, he thought. What’s my name? Nothing. My name, that’s simple. So what is it? Nothing came to him. Fear gripped him.
Heyes tried to recall anything that would help him. He looked down at his clothes for a clue as to who he might be. He wore a dark blue shirt and tan pants. He wore a gun that was tied down and he knew that was for a fast draw. Now why could he remember that but not his own name? And then a feeling overwhelmed him. He was being followed. Or more accurately, he was being hunted. That was it. He knew he was used to being hunted. Whatever else he couldn’t remember…well that would come back to him soon enough…but for now he had to run. He had to hide. Adrenaline began to flow as if to confirm his fears. He might not remember his own name, but his body remembered how he felt. He knew he had to be careful. Someone was probably hunting him now. Maybe that was how he’d been hurt. He had to get away from here. He could not let them catch him.
Reaching down, he drew his gun from his holster. A gun. He held it in his right hand staring at the barrel. There was someone he knew who was good with a gun. Was it him or the person chasing him? He opened the chamber, checking it was fully loaded. Heyes looked around. He knew they would be there soon, whoever they were. He had to get away from there.
Heyes stumbled off along the bottom of the ravine. He fell to his knees a couple of times, scraping them as he did so. The world swam. Slowly he pulled himself to his feet once more and staggered off.
High above him, Hannibal Heyes’ hat swung from the branch of a tree.
Kid looked at the clock ticking in McCreedy’s study. He chastised himself for being so foolish. Heyes was a grown man; he could take care of himself. Mac was right, if Heyes was in the middle of a poker game and saw a golden opportunity, he wouldn’t want to leave. How many times had they argued about that?
Kid knew this was true. So why was a feeling of dread still gnawing at him?
His throat was parched, the glare of the sun was blinding. His cracked lips were bleeding and he was desperate for a drink of water. The image of the cool liquid slipping down his throat was all Heyes could think about; his subconscious tormenting him every step he took. His ears searched desperately for the sound of running water. A stream, the trickle of run-off down the rocks; anything to quench his unbearable thirst. He stumbled to his knees and looked up at the sun. Its searing rays were relentless, beating down on him as he made his way along the ravine. Heyes head was throbbing, a tight band of pain clamped around his forehead, pounding at the side, where he had hit the rock. The dried blood had matted his hair. He still could not remember who he was or where he was supposed to be going, but another surge of adrenaline pushed him on. They were looking for him; he couldn’t let them catch him. He was sure they would be here soon.
By evening, Heyes was still not back. McCreedy found Kid standing on the front porch looking out at the distant horizon, as the sun slowly sank. Kid began to pace. He was not a pacer, that was what his partner did when he needed to think, but now Kid was pacing. He walked back and forth, stopped, cast his eyes to the horizon and paced again.
“He’ll be fine,” McCreedy said, as he came to stand beside Kid. The blond man didn’t turn around, just listened to the approaching footsteps and caught the whiff of cigar smoke. “I told you. They have a fine saloon in Silverwood. A man with Joshua’s skills would find it hard to pull himself away if he got into a high stakes game.”
“Maybe,” Kid said. They’d had this conversation before and he still didn’t believe it. “Something’s not right. He should have been back by now, poker game or not. Heyes should have been back before dark.” Kid turned to face McCreedy and for just a brief moment the big man thought he saw something else in Kid’s eyes. Was that the slightest hint of fear? Fear for his friend’s safety?
“I just got a feelin’ Mac, that’s all,” Kid said and went back into the house.
Big Mac found Kid in the study. He’d removed his gun from its holster and was checking the chamber.
“Where are you going?” McCreedy asked, recognising the signs in Thaddeus.
“I don’t know,” Kid admitted. “But staying here is driving me crazy. I just need to look for him. I’ll be the first to admit I was a fool if he comes riding over that ridge before I get there.”
“Well if you must go, wait until morning,” Mac advised. “You won’t pick up anyone’s trail in the dark.”
Kid could see the reasoning in the other man’s suggestion but he didn’t relish the prospect of waiting another night before searching for his friend.
As night fell, Heyes found a wide crevice, in the rock face and pulled himself into the gap. He was terrified to sleep in case he was found, but at the same time, exhausted from the blood lost from his head wound, the concussion he’d sustained and a lack of water. As the temperature fell, Heyes began to shiver. He pulled his knees up, hugging them close to his body, unconsciously reducing his surface area, in an attempt to keep warm. Shock had also lowered his body temperature and his teeth chattered. He wanted to start a fire, to get warm, but he had no means of making one and THEY would be alerted if he did so. Eventually, cold and shivering, Heyes fell into a troubled sleep.
As the midday sun beat down, the rider brought his horse to a halt on a hill overlooking the small town of Silverwood. He adjusted his hat to shield his eyes against the glare. He scanned the main street, the livery stable at the far end and the corral, where a lone horse trotted. One or two figures were visible moving between the buildings. Apart from that, all was quiet. He urged his horse towards the town.
Kid Curry tied his horse to the hitching rail outside the saloon. His eyes surveyed the street. He did not recognise the name of the lawman, written in fresh paint, above the sheriff’s office. He pushed open the bat-wing doors and entered the saloon. A man sat at a table, nursing a half full glass of beer. A red-haired saloon girl, with a large cleavage and too much make up, leaned against the bar. She was talking to the bartender, a large, bearded man, as he cleaned a glass with a dirty cloth. The bartender and the saloon girl headed towards the new arrival, as he walked up to the bar.
“A beer please,” Kid said and the bar tender turned to collect a glass. The saloon girl eyed the young man. His blond hair was hidden beneath a floppy brown hat and when he turned to look at her two blue eyes met hers.
“Hi honey. You’re new in town ain’t ya?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Kid Curry replied.
“Thought so. I’d remember a handsome young man like you,” she cooed, as she drew closer and ran a finger along his arm. “You shouldn’t be drinking alone.”
He smiled and looked up at the bartender who was waiting expectantly.
“Beer?” Kid asked the woman.
“Whisky,” she said and Kid nodded to the bartender. “I’m Della. What do I call you?”
“Thaddeus,” he told her.
“Well Thaddeus, what brings you to our fine town?” the red-head asked as the drinks arrived and Kid tossed some coins onto the counter.
“Lookin’ for someone,” Kid said, casually, as he took a drink. The cool liquid felt good as it cut its way through the trail dust in his throat. The woman noted his tied down gun, recognising all too well, the sign of a man wanting a fast draw.
“Who you lookin’ for?” Della asked. “Maybe I know ‘em.”
“A man named Joshua Smith,” the blond man stated, taking another swallow of beer.
“What do you want him for?” she asked, hoping he wasn’t looking to shoot him.
“He’s a friend of mine. He was supposed to meet me but he didn’t show up,” Kid explained and she saw the genuine worry in the young man’s eyes and relaxed.
“He real handsome with dark brown eyes that just melt your heart?” she asked and Kid smiled.
“Well, that’s not the way I’d describe him, but that could be him.”
“A young fella, about your height, slimmer build and wears a black hat?”
“That’ll be Joshua. I take it you’ve met him?”
“Sure honey. He was in here a couple of nights, playin’ poker and winnin’ too from what I could see. Cast those brown eyes in my direction a few times, but he spent most of his time with Lily.”
He looked at her, looking beyond the make up to the woman beneath. She was in her early thirties and had probably worked the saloons for most of her adult life. Her low cut green dress was clean and there were no holes in her stockings.
“Lily?” he asked.
“She works here.”
“Can I talk to her?”
“Well she’s asleep right now.” Della nodded her head towards the stairs.
“It’s real important that I speak to her,” Kid said. “I can make it worth her while,” he added and Della drew closer.
“I bet you could,” she cooed seductively as she pressed herself against him. Kid smiled.
“I meant money,” he stated, just to be sure she understood.
“That’s a pity,” she said. “Maybe later you and I could do a little negotiating of our own?”
“Not this time,” he told her gently.
“Oh well.” Della pulled away, disappointed and headed for the stairs.
Kid took a sip of his beer.
Della descended the stairs a few moments later, followed by Lily. She was young and pretty with long brown hair hanging around her shoulders.
“Della tells me you’re looking for Joshua,” Lily stated. Yep Heyes had obviously taken a shine to this young woman and Kid could see why. Maybe the reason for Heyes’ late arrival at Big Mac’s was standing in front of him.
“He moved on a couple of days ago,” she told him. “He said he’d finished his job and he was heading back to his friends. That you?”
“Yeah, only he didn’t show up.”
“Well I sure hope nothing’s happened to him.”
“Me too,” Kid told her.
“He has a lovely smile. Nice dimples too.”
“So I’m told,” Kid said with a smile. He asked her a few more questions but Lily didn’t know any more.
Kid thanked her and paid her for her time. Then, finishing his beer, he made to leave.
“I’ll be here all night honey if you feel like company,” she called, as he headed for the door.
“I’ll remember that,” he told her, then stepped out onto the boardwalk. Kid led his horse across the dusty street to the hotel. He tied it to the hitching rail, removed his saddlebags and entered the building. There was no one at the reception desk so he hit the bell. The ‘ting’ it made resonated around the lobby and a man appeared from a door behind the reception desk. He gave Kid a smile, obviously pleased to see a potential customer.
He couldn’t sleep. He had watched the moon rise into the night sky and now it was sinking again towards the distant horizon. The cold chilled him to the bone as shadows danced about him. Someone was laughing at him, he could hear them or perhaps it was just the wind blowing through the branches. Every snap of a twig or rustle of a leaf made him jump. He put one hand on the butt of his gun; waiting. He had to be ready when THEY came.
When Heyes finally slept, dreams troubled him. Faces taunted him, voices yelling out for him to “Hold it right there.” The click of handcuffs, the clang of a cell door echoed through his nightmares. Why these images were so important he could not remember.
And then there was a man with his back to him. A blond man stood some distance away but he didn’t know what name to call, he didn’t know how to get him to turn round. All he knew was the man was a friend. Someone he could trust.
The following morning, dehydrated, concussed and disorientated, Hannibal Heyes’ mind was still swirling with these images from his dreams, as he stumbled on. He knew only one thing. He could not stop. They were still after him, even though he could not remember who THEY were. A sound behind him caught his ears and he stopped, listening to his own rapid breathing. He strained his ears to catch a footstep, a broken twig, a shoe on rocks. There was nothing. He crouched behind a rock, drawing his gun once more. The Schofield felt comforting in his hands. He waited.
The next day, after a filling breakfast, Kid took the road out of town that Heyes would have to follow back to Red Rock. He had visited Joseph McGregor the previous day and found the man pleasant and welcoming. McGregor told him that Joshua Smith had been to the ranch and he showed Kid the letter Heyes had brought to prove it, although there had been no need, Kid had not demanded proof. McGregor told him he had given Mr. Smith a reply and there was nothing he knew of, to make the young man a target for anyone. He was sorry to hear Joshua had gone missing but could offer no further help.
Kid had spent the night in a comfortable room at the Silverwood Hotel. On another occasion he would have appreciated the clean sheets and soft bed, but his sleep was troubled. He was glad when dawn came and he could get moving once more.
A man couldn’t just disappear could he? Kid’s eyes scanned the surrounding trail and hillside. There were many hoof prints, but it was a well used trail and nothing to point directly to Heyes. The feeling of dread he couldn’t shake washed over him once more. He didn’t know what it was; just a feeling that something was very wrong…and then he saw it. It was so subtle he almost missed it but, as a gentle breeze blew, a slight movement caught his eye and he looked down towards the branches of a tree where a black hat with a silver band swung from a branch. He knew that hat well. The joy at finding a sign of his partner was quickly replaced by fear. It gripped him like a vice. Heyes and that hat were inseparable. At least they always had been.
Climbing from the saddle, Kid carefully descended the slope until he was level with the branch. Reaching forward he caught hold of the cord, un-snagging the hat from the tree. He turned it in his hand, searching for any sign of blood. He was relieved to find none.
Kid returned to the trail and scanned the ground with renewed focus. There was no sign of the animal his partner had been riding. He peered down into the ravine, and noticed broken twigs and branches; a path appeared to have been cleared, intentionally or not. Bushes and grass were flattened, scree dislodged and scattered as if something had gone crashing through it in a hurry.
Not wanting to leave his horse, Kid looked for another way to reach the bottom.
Having found a safer way down for himself and his horse, Kid searched along the gully, trying to locate the flattened path he had seen from above. Having finally found it, he scanned the area around him and then he saw the stain on the rock. A dark red stain. It was blood. He’d seen enough in his life to know. It was relatively fresh and someone had lost quite a lot of it. It could have been from an injured animal, but he had an awful feeling, in the pit of his stomach, that it was his partner’s blood. Scouring the ground around the rock Kid spotted two foot prints.
Kid followed the trail. Whoever was leaving it was certainly not trying to hide their tracks. He set off tracking what he hoped was his partner. If Heyes was injured he needed to get to him soon, but where would he go?
Round about the time Kid left Silverwood, a horse bearing the McCreedy brand, arrived back at the ranch. It walked towards the corral and stopped to drink from the water trough. One of the ranch hands caught hold of the reins and walked the horse, bearing a saddle and saddlebags, up to the ranch house. Having been summoned by his staff, Big Mac watched as the horse was led towards him. He didn’t need to look any closer to know it was the horse Heyes rode out on. It seemed Kid had been right. He only hoped he was able to find his partner and they would both return safe.
Heyes’ throat hurt every time he swallowed, he was desperate for a drink. The glint of sunlight on something up ahead caught his eye. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Heyes ran towards the small pool of water lying in a bowl, in the rocks, in the shade of a tree. Heyes dropped to his knees and began to scoop handfuls of the stagnant water into his mouth. He didn’t care how bad it tasted; the feel of it on his tongue, slipping down his throat, was like nectar. Heyes smiled and his parched lips cracked. He touched them gingerly with his moist fingers. He took another swallow of water. When there was too little water to scoop up, he placed his bandana in the pool and let it absorb what remained. He placed it back around his neck and let it drip on his skin as it cooled him.
Despite the much needed drink, the pounding in his head wouldn’t stop and, when he got to his feet, he swayed with every step he took.
A sound caught Heyes’ ears. Something was creeping through the bushes towards him, he could hear it. Tiny footsteps, a crushed leaf, a movement in the dust. The wind blew the bushes and he twitched at every movement, expecting someone to appear at any moment. The crack of a twig behind him startled him and Heyes spun round, his gun in his hand, and fired.
The bullet hit the tree trunk dead centre and a jackrabbit dashed off into the undergrowth unharmed. Heyes collapsed back against the rock, his heart pounding in his chest, as adrenaline coursed through his veins. He had a terrible feeling he had just let his pursuers know where he was. Heyes set off at a run.
Kid had been following the tracks for some time when he heard the gun shot. His head snapped up. It was close by. The shot had come from up ahead of him. Cautiously, he set off at a trot. When he rounded the corner, he caught a quick glimpse of someone disappearing between two large boulders; a flash of a dark-haired man in a dark shirt. His heart leapt at the sight of his friend.
“Joshua!” he called, not risking using his friend’s real name until he knew if anyone else was around. His partner didn’t stop.
THEY were here. THEY were following him. Someone had called out a name. He had to get away, had to hide. It was what he did, he knew that. And then he saw him; a man, approaching someway off. He was leading a horse, his eyes scanning the ground for tracks and the trail up ahead for…for him! Heyes looked around, saw a gap between some rocks and dashed towards it.
“Heyes!” Kid called this time, but his partner did not reply. In fact as Kid rounded the boulder he saw his friend setting off at a stumbling run.
There was something familiar about the man’s gait. Something nagged in the back of Heyes’ mind as he pulled himself further into the gap between the boulders. He was so thirsty, so tired. He didn’t want to run anymore. As he stared at the blurry figure walking towards him, memories came flooding back. He just couldn’t think straight. Faces sneered at him. Men who wanted to harm him were looming closer. Stars glistened on their chests and guns waved in their hands. He could see metal bars and sense ropes around his wrists cutting into his flesh. Heyes rubbed his wrists, almost feeling the cut of the cords. This man was linked to that he knew, but how?
The sun was sinking behind the hills now, a shadow moving across them as it did so. Heyes looked up and saw that the blond cowboy was smiling at him as he approached. Clearly the man was glad to have caught up with his prey, but he wasn’t going to give in so easily. He tried to focus on the man’s face but like everything else it was a blur now. Nothing was in focus anymore. Things seemed to be in constant motion, no more than outlines of their true forms.
Heyes didn’t want the man to catch him. He would have to move further away. He saw his opportunity and ran. In his confused state he had no idea how much noise he was making, as he crashed through the bushes.
“Heyes!” the man called, as the dark-haired man ran for his life. “Heyes!” the call came again, seeping into his subconscious, slowly finding its way beyond the fear, the pain and dehydration.
Kid followed his friend, noting the gun swinging carelessly in his partner’s hand and the dried blood on the side of his face. Heyes stumbled, righted himself and moved on. Kid was closer now but holding back. When Heyes had shot a look in his direction, Kid had seen a wildness in his eyes. Something was clearly wrong. Heyes looked frightened of him. He knew he had to be careful. And then there was nowhere left for Heyes to run. His partner had chosen a dead end. The walls of the ravine closed around him. He backed himself up against a large boulder.
A voice drifting into his consciousness was calling a name, but Heyes was no longer listening.
And then the blond man was there in front of him, holding out his hand towards him. He focussed on the hand as it waved about. Did the man have a gun? A gun? Was the man pointing a gun at him? It was a trick. It must be. He was saying something, speaking to him. He wanted him to hand over his gun. Did this man think he was crazy?
The man advanced on him.
“Give me the gun,” the blond man said.
There was no way he was going to hand over his gun to this man.
“Don’t come any closer,” Heyes ordered, the gun wavering unsteadily in his hand as he aimed it. He glared at the cowboy standing before him. Although the man wore his gun tied down, his Colt remained in his holster. The blond cowboy took a step towards him. Heyes stepped backwards and his back pressed up against the rocks.
“Don’t come any closer,” he ordered again, as sweat ran down his face. His head hurt and he was still having trouble focussing. The curly-haired blond man took another step towards him, his blue eyes fixed on the scared brown ones of his friend. It had been a lifetime since he had seen his friend look so afraid.
“Heyes,” Kid said kindly, holding out a hand. “Give me the gun.”
“You come any closer and…I swear I’ll shoot,” Heyes told him.
“Heyes,” Kid said softly, as he took another step forward. Hannibal Heyes squeezed the trigger. The sound of a single gun shot filled the air. Kid cried out as the bullet tore into his flesh and he fell backwards.
The act of shooting a man startled Heyes and he opened his eyes wide, staring at the man lying on the ground in pain. He had one hand clasped at his side, something red flowed through his fingers.
Heyes focussed on the red, the blood, so much blood. He had seen so much when their families had been killed. He was startled by this sudden memory. Their families. He concentrated hard on the face of the man before him, willing it to come into focus.
Kid lay on the ground, a hand clamped to the left side of his abdomen. Oh, that hurt.
“Damn it,” he said.
Would Heyes fire again?
He looked up at his partner, but Heyes backed away, fear in his eyes, the gun still wavering dangerously in his hand.
Kid pulled himself onto his side.
“Heyes,” he said and saw the confusion in his partner’s eyes. Kid managed to get to his knees. Watching Heyes all the time, he pulled himself to his feet, grimaced and edged towards his friend, his eyes still fixed on the gun in his partner’s hand.
“Give me the gun Heyes,” Kid said. “You don’t need to fire again. Just give me the gun.”
Heyes focussed on the bloody hand that was held out before him. Noises in his head screamed at him. He looked at the blood-stained palm, and then followed the arm back to the man’s body, then up to his face. A face he was finally able to keep in focus. It was a familiar face. A man he knew so well, who now had pain in his eyes. A name. If he could just remember his name.
Heyes raised his gun.
“Who are you?” he asked desperately, as he aimed the gun at the blond man before him. “I know you.” But was it for a good or bad reason? Was this man friend or foe?
Slowly Kid drew his gun from his holster, trying not to startle his friend as he did so. If Heyes was going to fire again he would have to shoot the gun from his hand first.
Kid pointed his gun at his friend, something he never believed he would do.
“Put the gun down Heyes, please,” Kid pleaded.
Heyes stared at him trying so hard to remember. He focussed on the gun held now in the bloody hand. He looked at the man’s face and then two blue eyes, pleading with him met his own; two familiar blue eyes. Suddenly a name flooded into his mind.
“Kid?” Heyes asked weakly.
“Yeah, Heyes,” Kid said. Relief swept over him as Heyes began to remember. “Yeah it’s me. Now give me the gun.” He edged closer. Heyes didn’t move.
“Kid? I don’t know what happened? I don’t know who I…?” Heyes muttered, so confused.
Kid held out his left hand, keeping his gun on his partner.
He wrapped his hand around the barrel of the gun Heyes held. Heyes released his grip on the weapon and, taking it from his partner’s hand, Kid tucked it into his belt, grimacing as he did so. Kid put his hand over the bullet wound and groaned. When he looked up Heyes was slowly moving away.
“C’mon Heyes, you’re hurt. We need to get you back,” Kid said. We need to get me back too, he thought.
His partner did not appear to hear him. He was staring beyond Kid. Suddenly his eyes rolled and Heyes collapsed to the ground.
“Oh terrific, now you pass out. You couldn’t have done that before you shot me,” Kid muttered. He had a bullet wound in his side and his partner was unconscious. He had one horse, tied someway back along the ravine. He could see his partner breathing. He had to tend to his own wound first or he would be unable to help either of them. Kid staggered back to his horse and removed bandages from his saddlebag.
Opening his shirt, Kid looked down at the wound. The bullet had passed through his left side and was more painful than he would like to admit. His blood flowed freely and Kid was beginning to feel nauseous and light headed. Removing his shirt he dressed the wound as best he could and wrapped the last bandage around his waist, securing the dressing in place, before he tugged his shirt back on.
He picked up his canteen, took a long drink and then moved to his partner’s side. Heyes groaned when Kid touched his shoulder and his eyes opened momentarily. With Kid’s encouragement he took a few slow sips of water, and then grasped at the canteen desperate for more.
“Take it easy,” Kid advised, pulling the canteen away. Heyes fixed his eyes on his partner.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey yourself,” Kid said and smiled.
“What’s my name?” Heyes asked and this caught Kid off guard.
“My name. Who am I? I don’t remember.”
“You’re Heyes,” Kid said, realising, with some shock, his partner really didn’t know. “Hannibal Heyes.”
“Oh,” Heyes said and his eyes closed.
Kid led his horse towards a rock. Returning to his partner he bent down and took hold of Heyes’ shoulders. The dark-haired man opened his eyes. With a cry of pain, Kid heaved Heyes to his feet.
“Come on buddy, help me out here,” he said as Heyes swayed and looked at him with confused eyes. Somehow, after a struggle he got Heyes to the rock. Heyes picked up one foot and slowly, he climbed onto the boulder. Now Kid needed to get his foot in the stirrup and Heyes up onto the horse. Then, just as Kid thought he was going to get him sitting in the saddle, Heyes passed out again. Kid held his partner upright but then pain overtook him and he let Heyes fall across the saddle. It wasn’t going to be the most comfortable way to travel, but at least he would be able to get him back to Big Mac’s.
Kid groaned and looked down at his side, his shirt was already stained with blood. It hurt, it really hurt. Pulling himself up into the saddle behind his friend, Kid urged his horse back along the ravine.
It was dark by the time Kid saw the lights of Big Mac’s house. Relieved, he urged the horse down the hill towards the buildings. Kid’s world was beginning to blur as he pulled his horse to a halt in front of the porch. His eyes closed and he breathed a sigh of relief. He could hear voices, Manuela, Big Mac’s housekeeper, was shouting something to one of the ranch hands. Kid sensed people around him and then hands were pulling him from the saddle.
“Thaddeus?” He heard Big Mac speak his name but Kid didn’t have the strength to reply. “Go fetch the doctor!” was the next command and footsteps ran off towards the house. Slowly Kid felt himself sinking into unconsciousness.
Big Mac had been hosting a meeting of one of the Red Rock town council sub committees. His guests included, Godfrey Peters, owner of the Red Rock Hotel, Harvey Paisley owner of the General Store and rather fortunately, the new doctor in town, Phillip Willoughby. Hearing the ranch hands’ cries, Willoughby was soon at his host’s side. He saw the blood stain on Kid’s shirt, as the young blond man was carried upstairs to a bedroom. At the same time, Heyes was carried in and Willoughby took a moment to assess his head injury before giving instructions to Mr. McCreedy’s employees to fetch water, clean towels and bandages. He followed the men up the stairs.
“Could someone get my bag please?” he called, as he entered one of the bedrooms.
“What happened to them?” Willoughby asked, as he sat beside Big Mac’s nephew and examined the wound in his side.
“I don’t know,” Mac told him.
The doctor removed the bandage Kid had applied, as Manuela arrived with a basin of warm water. As the doctor cleaned the blood from Kid’s skin, he saw there was both an entry and an exit wound. Fortunately it did not appear that any of the young man’s organs had been hit. He had been lucky, although in his present state Kid would not necessarily have agreed.
“This is going to need stitches,” the doctor announced.
“Do whatever you have to for him,” Mac said and the young doctor noted the concern in his voice.
“I’m sure your nephew will be fine,” the doctor said in his best comforting tone, practiced during many a medical crisis.
A young man placed the doctor’s bag beside him and Willoughby opened it and reached inside for the instruments he needed.
Kid’s eyes fluttered open.
“Mac?” he said and the big man was swiftly at his side.
“Thaddeus, what happened?”
“How is he?” Kid asked weakly, his first thoughts for his partner.
“Joshua’s fine,” Mac lied. The doctor had cast a quick glance over the unconscious man and his head wound and pronounced it more important that he stop Mr. Jones’ bleeding first. “Can you tell us what happened?”
“He’d fallen. Head wound. Shot,” Kid muttered, but it was clear he was having trouble arranging his thoughts.
“Yes, who shot you?” McCreedy prompted.
“Shot me,” Kid stated.
“Thaddeus can you tell us who shot you?” Mac asked again.
“Mr. McCreedy I think this can wait don’t you?” Doctor Willoughby interjected.
“Doc, if there’s someone out there after these boys I need to know. I don’t want trouble turning up unexpected,” the big man told him.
The doctor nodded his head in agreement.
“Doesn’t know who he is,” Kid said.
“Thaddeus who shot you?” Mac asked again and Kid finally met his eyes, while struggling to maintain his focus.
“Alone,” he said weakly and, realising it could have something to do with their true identities, Big Mac looked at the doctor.
“I need to speak to my nephew in private,” he announced.
“I’ll look in on Mr. Smith. You have two minutes because I’m not finished here,” the young doctor stated firmly and left them alone.
“Who shot you?” Mac asked when the door had closed.
“Heyes,” Kid stated. “Heyes shot me.”
Big Mac sat down hard on the nearest chair.
Manuela blushed, when the doctor pronounced her tending of Heyes’ head wound to be ‘excellent’. The dark-haired man had regained consciousness long enough for them to get him to drink some water.
Big Mac stood by the wall, lost in thought, as he studied the man, lying in bed.
“He needs to drink more,” the doctor told Manuela. “Small amounts, whenever you can get him to take some.” She nodded her understanding.
“How is he?” a voice asked behind them and all three turned to see Kid Curry standing in the doorway, a hand on either side of the doorframe to support himself. He wore only the clean long johns Manuela had left beside the bed. The fresh bandage at his waist was already bloodstained. He looked pale and ready to collapse at any moment.
“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” the doctor scolded.
“How is he?” Kid asked again, ignoring the man.
The doctor stood up and approached the blond man.
“The head wound is not too deep. He’s very dehydrated but we got some water down him,” he said. “He has concussion. We’ll know more when he regains consciousness again.” He met Kid’s tired eyes. Kid nodded, grateful for his honesty.
“He was awake?” Kid asked.
“He say anything?” Kid asked, concerned as to what his partner might tell them, in his present condition.
“Nothing to trouble you, Mr. Jones,” the doctor assured him. “Now if you don’t get back to bed, I may have to knock you down and carry you back myself,” the doctor said, straight faced.
“D’you rate your chances Doc?” Kid asked, with a hint of a smile, as he studied the thin young man.
“Well I’ve done some boxing in my time and from the look of you now, Mr. Jones? Yes I do.”
Kid smiled again and turning, grimaced as he made his way back to the other room. The doctor turned to face Mr. McCreedy.
“He’s the stubborn one,” Mac explained, as he headed after his ‘nephew’.
“And what’s he?” the doctor asked, indicating the unconscious dark-haired man.
“The reason they’re both alive today. So you make sure he stays that way.”
For the next two days Patrick McCreedy found himself moving from one room to the other as he kept an eye on the two men. In truth it was Manuela who did the nursing. Big Mac would put his head around the door every now and again to see if either man was conscious.
Heyes muttered in his sleep, but when Mac asked, Manuela shook her head, there was no change. Heyes would wake occasionally, sometimes for half an hour or more. They had managed to get him to drink a little more water or take some of the soup Manuela made.
Kid developed a slight fever.
“Nothing to worry about,” Doctor Willoughby said, on one of his visits.
However, watching Kid toss and turn, as he fought the pain or as some bad dream took hold, Mac did worry. His partner had shot him. What kind of nightmare was that for Thaddeus? Mac liked these two boys. Heyes was sharp and he had yet to best him, as much as he tried. Kid…well Mac had a soft spot for the man he referred to as his nephew.
McCreedy looked down at the bed. Two blue eyes focussed on him. The big man smiled.
“Thaddeus,” he said, his tone fatherly.
“Heyes okay?” Kid’s voice was weak, his throat dry.
“Yes, he’s resting.”
“He remember anything?”
“I don’t know. He’s still struggling to stay conscious.”
“I know how he feels,” Kid said, his eyes growing heavy once more.
Sunlight streaming through the curtains woke Hannibal Heyes. He stretched out in bed, enjoying the feel of clean sheets on his skin. He was feeling so much better. His head hurt but he couldn’t remember why. He reached up then groaned beneath his own touch. The wound was tender. Heyes looked around. The room was one at Big Mac’s, one he occupied on one of their previous visits.
He pulled himself up in bed and leaned back against the head rest. He felt light headed and nauseous. Heyes tried to remember what had happened to him. What was he doing in bed at Big Mac’s?
Throwing back the sheets, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The room swam about him and he took a moment to regain his balance. His throat felt dry and he spotted a water jug on the bedside cabinet. As Heyes poured out the water, his hand shook and more splashed onto the cabinet than went into the glass. He took a long drink. He was dressed only in his underclothes and he could see his clean clothes on a nearby chair. Slowly he pulled himself to his feet.
Heyes dressed and then walked unsteadily to the door. Resting a hand on the wall for support, he opened the door and peered out. No one was about. He felt strangely breathless and a pulse thumped in his head. Heyes made his way to the top of the stairs and then caught the sound of people talking. The voices were coming from the room next to his. He walked, unsteadily, along the corridor towards the room. The door was half open, and with one hand he pushed it wider.
Big Mac had his back to him and was talking to someone in bed. When the big man stepped to one side, Heyes got his first look at the other man. It was Kid. He was sitting up in bed, a bandage across his abdomen, the dressing bloodstained on his left side.
“Kid?” Heyes said with concern and the two men looked up surprised to see Heyes standing there.
“Joshua,” Mac said, moving towards the dark-haired young man. “What are you doing out of bed?”
“I heard voices,” Heyes stated vaguely, as he entered the room, his eyes still on his injured friend. “Kid what happened? Are you alright? You’re hurt.”
Kid didn’t say anything, not sure what to say. He looked at Mac, but the big man said nothing. Heyes took a few steps closer and, as he did, so images flashed into his head. Kid with his hand held out towards him; himself hiding behind a rock watching the blond man approach.
“Joshua?” Big Mac said, worried by the vacant expression on Heyes’ face.
“Heyes you alright?” Kid asked, as he moved to get up. He held his side as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed.
Another image flashed in Heyes’ mind. Kid walking slowly towards him. Asking him something. “Give me the gun.”
A sudden look of horror came over Heyes’ face. He looked his partner in the eye.
“Heyes?” Kid said.
Heyes stared at his friend, as the image continued to flash in his head. Kid held his hand out towards him, saying something. ‘Give me the gun’. That was it. Kid wanted him to give him the gun but…he pulled the trigger…he shot him! He had shot his partner!
The realisation hit Heyes.
“Oh no Kid. I shot you.” He looked at Kid, hoping he would tell him it wasn’t true, but the look in his partner’s eyes told him all he needed to know. “I shot you,” Heyes said again
There was horror on the dark-haired man’s face and then his knees buckled. Mac caught him before he hit the floor and dragged him to a chair. He made Heyes sit with his head between his knees. He held Heyes’ head down even when he wanted to sit up.
“Mac, I’m alright,” Heyes protested but Mac wouldn’t let him up, his anger at what this young man had done to his partner, surfacing, consciously or not, as he forced Heyes to keep his head down until he, Big Mac McCreedy, could face the young man again.
“I shot him,” Heyes said, when Mac finally let him up.
“I know,” Big Mac stated, casting a glance at Kid. The blond man looked pale, as his long john clad legs swung over the edge of the bed. “He turned up here a few nights ago slumped over his horse, with you across the saddle. Another inch to the right and I’d have been sending for the undertaker. He’s lucky to be alive.”
“Mac,” Kid cautioned.
Already queasy, Heyes began to retch and Mac handed him a basin from a nearby dresser. Heyes threw up in the basin.
“Oh no, Kid, what have I done?” Heyes said, as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“You didn’t know Heyes,” Kid told him, as he eased himself back into bed. He leaned back against the pillow. “You were hurt.”
“I should have known. I should always know,” Heyes admonished himself, the sense of despair he now felt evident in his voice. Unconsciously, he touched a hand to his head wound.
Kid found himself more worried about his friend now than he had when he had found him in the ravine.
“Does it hurt?” Heyes asked suddenly, as he looked up at his partner.
“Heyes…” Kid didn’t know what to say.
“It does, doesn’t it? You’re in pain?”
“I’m gonna be fine.”
“But you’re in pain now, and that’s my fault. I coulda killed you!” Heyes said, as he got to his feet, instantly regretting it as the room swam.
“What with your lousy aim?” Kid asked. Heyes froze and two brown eyes met the blue ones.
“I coulda killed you,” Heyes repeated.
“Yeah, you could,” Kid admitted. “But I figured there was some part of you that would know it was me and would stop you doing that.”
“You took a big risk.”
“No. I knew you wouldn’t kill me,” Kid told him, confidently, as his eyes closed.
“I wish I had your faith that that was true,” he told his friend. Heyes sat beside him, not knowing what else to say. He felt so tired. He watched as Kid drifted off to sleep. “I’m sorry Kid. I’m so sorry.”
He had shot his best friend. The one person in the world he cared about more than his own life. What was he going to do now?
Heyes slept in late the next day. When he finally woke he hoped that it had all been a terrible dream but when he felt the wound on his head he knew that it was all too real. He had shot Kid. He had nearly killed his best friend in cold blood. Concussion or not, there was no way to deny the facts.
Heyes still had a pounding headache but he got up, dressed and then quietly opened the door to Kid’s room. His partner was asleep. Heyes approached the bed and, as if sensing his presence, Kid began to stir and opened his eyes to see Heyes standing beside him. Heyes looked worried and shame faced.
“Hey,” Kid said weakly, still sleepy.
“Hey,” Heyes replied, his voice barely more than a whisper. “How are you?”
“Sore,” Kid told him and he moved, grimacing as he did so.
“No Heyes, I mean my side is sore.”
“I’m sorry,” Heyes said and, turning, quickly left the room. Kid had no time to say anything before the door closed.
Leaning with his back against the door, Heyes took a deep breath. Then he followed the smell of coffee and descended the stairs.
Heyes entered the dining room and found Big Mac sitting at the large table, enjoying a hearty breakfast. Mac looked surprised to see him and peered at the dark-haired young man over the top of his glasses.
“Mornin’ Mac,” Heyes said, as he sat at the table. Mac sipped his coffee casually. “Is that fresh coffee?” Heyes asked.
“It is. Help yourself,” Mac watched Heyes out of the corner of his eye. Heyes poured himself a cup of coffee and took a drink.
“It’s good to see you up and about. You feeling better?” Mac asked.
“Yes,” Heyes said, with no intention of elaborating.
“Did you look in on Thaddeus?”
Heyes paused, his coffee cup almost to his lips.
“He woke up,” he reported, then took a sip of the hot brew. Mac saw the dark-haired man’s eyes cloud over. Heyes put down his cup, pushed back the chair and stood up. “Sorry Mac, I don’t seem to have much of an appetite,” he announced. McCreedy didn’t say anything as the younger man left the room.
Kid Curry spent the rest of the day either sleeping or resting in bed. Hannibal Heyes walked down to the corral to watch the horses and later sat on the porch, watching the ranch hands going about their business, until he fell asleep in the chair. Big Mac checked on him and decided to let him sleep, rest being the best medicine.
When he was awake, Heyes kept to himself, speaking only to acknowledge a remark addressed directly at him. In the late afternoon sunshine, he sat on the porch, a book open in his hands. He was not reading, just staring at the pages as he relived the past few days. Images still flashed in his mind. There were gaps in what he could remember, but one image gnawed at him; that of Kid holding out his hand to him, asking him to hand over his gun. Why hadn’t he recognised his partner? His best friend?
Doctor Willoughby rode out in his buggy later that day and examined the partners. Then he sat on the porch and gave Heyes a medical explanation to answer all his questions. Heyes had been concussed and badly dehydrated, both of which could cause hallucinations. A blow to the head caused all sorts of trauma in the brain. Sometimes people never regained their memories. Heyes was lucky to have recovered so soon. However Heyes didn’t feel lucky. He still felt he should have known it was Kid. He just should have known.
The next morning, Kid entered the dining room just as Heyes was finishing his breakfast. Big Mac looked up, surprised to see his nephew up and about so soon. As Kid eased himself slowly onto a chair, Heyes watched him, watched his partner flinch as a twinge went through his side. Mac saw Heyes watching Kid. Suddenly Heyes pushed his chair back.
“I have some things to do,” he said vaguely and quickly left.
“What do I have to do Mac?” he asked exasperated. “He won’t talk to me.”
“Give him time,” the big man advised.
“Anyone would think I was the one that shot him, the way he’s been avoiding me,” Kid grumbled.
“He’s eaten up with guilt,” McCreedy explained.
“I know, but what can I do or say to show him I don’t blame him?”
“But it’s not your forgiveness he needs. It’s his own.” He could see Kid was confused. “He can’t forgive himself.”
The blond man considered this and then bit into his toast.
“Where is he?” Kid asked Mac, when he found the big man on the porch later that morning.
“Out by the corral,” Mac said, nodding his head in the direction of the ranch buildings.
Heyes stood leaning on the fence, one foot on the bottom rung, watching a large black horse prance and snort its way around the corral. Kid walked slowly across the yard towards his friend. Big Mac watched from the porch. Kid’s movements were stiff. The blond man was clearly still in some pain. It seemed both men were hurting in different ways and there was a wound between them Big Mac had no idea how to heal. Heyes heard someone approach, glanced out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t turn around.
“Heyes,” Kid said and his partner shot him a quick look. “You talkin’ to me yet?”
“Kid, I…” he said, then returned his attention to the stallion, prancing before him.
“You okay?” Kid asked and Heyes looked at the ground and sighed.
“Shouldn’t I be the one askin’ you that?” he asked, clearly angry with himself. “I can’t believe I shot you. I nearly killed you. I nearly lost the best friend I have. I just should have known.” He finally met Kid’s eyes and was surprised by the growing anger he saw there.
“Yeah, well the way you’ve been actin’ these past few days, I’ve already lost my best friend. He won’t talk to me. He avoids me every chance he gets. I’m beginning to wish he’d fired that second bullet and FINISHED THE JOB!” Kid shouted and turning on his heels, headed back to the house.
“Kid!” Heyes called, shocked by his partner’s outburst, but the blond man did not turn round. Kid suddenly stopped, halfway to the house, but did not look back. Gripped by a need to put things right, Heyes set off after his friend at a run. Reaching him, he caught hold of his partner’s arm. “Kid wait,” he pleaded but Kid did not turn round.
He always was so damn stubborn, Heyes thought and moved to stand in front of his partner, blocking his path. He expected to see Kid’s blue eyes stare back at him, with that icy glare he did so well, teeth gritted in defiance. He was not prepared for the pain etched on Kid’s face. The blond man held his side and doubled over in agony.
“Oh damn it!” he cried.
“Kid?” Heyes voice revealed his worry.
Kid looked up at his partner and then at his hand which had been clamped at his side. Both men stared at the fresh blood on Kid’s palm.
“Oh no,” Heyes said.
When they got Kid inside the house, Manuela scolded him in a barrage of Spanish and insisted he return to bed immediately. Kid found it easier to do as she asked rather than argue. So he lay on the bed waiting for the doctor’s arrival, while Heyes fussed about him, chastising him for storming off and not taking care of himself. Kid smiled. This was more like the old Heyes. At least a moaning Heyes was talking to him.
When the doctor arrived he ushered the others from the room so that he could examine his patient in peace.
“You’ve torn the stitches,” Doctor Willoughby confirmed, when he had finished his examination. “If you are going to make dramatic exits, I suggest you wait until you’ve healed properly.” He gave Kid a smile.
“I don’t know what else to do Doc,” Kid told him. “I want to shake some sense into Joshua; shake him outta this. I want my friend back the way he was, as proddy and annoying as ever.”
Doctor Willoughby looked thoughtful.
“Mac says he has to forgive himself,” Kid told the young doctor. “I don’t know how to help him do that.”
“Well we’d better think of something,” Willoughby said. “I can’t keep riding out here to renew your stitches.”
Hannibal Heyes was sitting in an armchair at the top of the stairs, waiting for news of his friend. The expression on the doctor’s face was grave as he exited the room. Heyes was swiftly on his feet.
“Doc?” Heyes asked, clearly worried.
The doctor met the dark-haired man’s eyes and then looked down, composing himself.
“Doc?” Heyes said again with almost desperation, in his voice.
“I’m sorry Mr. Smith,” Doctor Willoughby began. “I’ve done all I can for your friend.”
“What? What’s wrong?” Heyes asked, astounded.
“It would seem there have been some complications,” the doctor said, vaguely.
“Complications?” Heyes couldn’t hide his worry.
“Yes. If you have anything to say to your friend, I suggest you say it now. I don’t think there’s much time.”
Heyes was shocked. The doctor stood to one side and, still stunned, Heyes walked past him. Quietly opening the door, he entered the bedroom. Kid lay, unmoving, on the bed. The covers pulled up to his chest. His eyes were closed.
“Kid?” Heyes said softly, as he approached the bed.
“Hey,” Kid said, opening his eyes and giving his friend a weak smile. He looked tired.
“Hey Kid. How you doing?” Heyes asked, trying to sound cheerful, although inside he was still struggling with what the doctor had told him.
“I’m tired,” Kid admitted.
“The Doc stitch you up okay?”
“Yeah. I should be up and about in no time.”
“Sure. Sure you will,” Heyes said, although he did not sound too convinced. “Kid, I’m sorry. Sorry I shot you, sorry I’ve not been talking to you.”
“It’s okay,” Kid told him. “You were hurt too. You had concussion. You couldn’t know what you were doing.”
“But I should have,” Heyes stated, for the umpteenth time in two days.
“Heyes, please can you stop blaming yourself? For me? Please?” Kid asked. He gave a pathetic cough and closed his eyes for a moment.
“Okay Kid,” Heyes said, meeting his friend’s eyes when they opened. “For you, sure.”
“Well that’s great. At last,” he said. “I never thought you’d do it.” He pulled himself up in bed, wincing a little but suddenly looking a lot brighter. Heyes suspicions were roused.
“You feeling better?” the dark-haired man asked, and his eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, I think I am.”
“Good,” Heyes said thoughtfully, as the door opened. Dr. Willoughby stood in the doorway.
“Is everything all right?” he asked.
“Yeah, Doc, it’s fine,” Kid assured him.
Heyes looked from his partner to the young doctor.
“You know you sure do look a lot better Kid,” he observed flatly.
“I feel better,” Kid agreed, cheerfully.
“So everything’s sorted between you two?” Philip Willoughby asked. Heyes began to look angry.
“You gonna be alright then?” Heyes asked his blond friend.
“I sure hope so,” Kid told him.
“You mean you ain’t dyin’?” Heyes asked, through gritted teeth.
“Nope.” Kid gave his friend an innocent smile.
“But the doc said…” Heyes began.
“I never said he was dying, Mr. Smith, just that there were complications,” Doctor Willoughby reminded him from the doorway.
“But I thought you were dying.”
“We hoped you would,” Kid stated, with a smile.
“Ain’t that unethical?” Heyes asked, fixing a glare on the doctor.
The doctor simply smiled and closed the door as he left.
“Why you…” Heyes said, turning to his friend. “Of all the deceitful, despicable, down right sneaky…You tricked me!”
“Well that makes a change,” Kid retorted. Heyes looked momentarily lost for words. “How else was I gonna getcha to talk to me?” Kid asked.
“I thought you were dying!” Heyes repeated.
“Well I’m sorry to disappoint you Heyes. Maybe if you didn’t do that twist when you fire, your aim would be better,” Kid told him.
“I don’t do a twist,” Heyes protested.
“Yes you do,” Kid told him flatly. “When we go outside, I’ll prove it to ya.”
“Yeah, well why don’t we go out now?” Heyes said, standing up. “C’mon,” he said, with determination in his eyes.
Kid looked at him as if he was insane.
“Are you crazy?” he asked.
“What?” Heyes asked, irritated.
Kid just looked at his friend, waiting.
Heyes suddenly realised the absurdity of his words. He sat back down.
“Damn it Heyes, I don’t blame you. There’s nothing to blame yourself for either. Now will you please just talk to me and treat me like you always have?”
“You want me to treat you like I always have?” Heyes asked, angrily.
“Yeah,” Kid told him.
“Well for the stunt you and the Doc just pulled, I oughta…”
“I OUGHTA FLATTEN YA!” Heyes yelled, getting to his feet once more.
“I wish you would,” Kid stated.
“I can’t hit you, you’re hurt,” Heyes complained. “Making me think you were dyin’.” He looked away, disgusted.
“Well you can owe me a punch,” Kid offered generously.
“You can’t owe someone a punch.”
“Why not?” Kid asked.
“It’s just not something you can owe someone,” Heyes told him, knowledgeably.
“You read that in some fancy book I suppose?”
“No it’s just…” Heyes looked up and saw his friend smiling at him Two blue eyes met his brown ones and, slowly, Heyes returned the smile. “I don’t want you dead Kid.”
“I know Heyes, I know.”
“I’m sorry.” Heyes sat down.
“Yeah, me to.”
They were quiet for a moment and then Heyes looked at his friend.
“You know you never did tell me what happened with you and Arabella,” Heyes said, the change of subject signalling that things were returning to normal.
“Oh Heyes, you don’t want to know,” Kid said.
“Yes I do.”
“Well you were right. It turned out that she and her father…”
Outside the room, Big Mac smiled at the doctor, as he moved away from where he had been listening at the door.
“How about a drink Philip?” he suggested.
“I’d like that,” Willoughby said. “Will they be all right?”
“Yes,” Big Mac said. “I think they’ll be just fine.”