The Sheepskin Jacket
By Maz McCoy
Kid Curry looked at the jacket hanging in the window of the General Store and smiled. It was a tan sheepskin jacket with a white collar. It was a real nice jacket. It looked his size too. The wool on the inside, would sure keep a person warm. Hannibal Heyes saw the look on his partner’s face and turned his attention to the window. Seeing the jacket Kid was looking at, he took a moment to imagine his friend wearing it. Yes, it would look good on the young blond outlaw and he certainly needed a warm coat. Last night he’d heard Kid shivering, as he lay under his blanket on his bedroll, despite being close to the fire.
“Nice jacket,” Heyes said casually.
“Yeah,” Kid said.
“Looks warm,” Heyes observed.
“Sure does,” Kid agreed. He leaned forward and looked at the tag hanging from the left sleeve. He saw the price and stood back. “Expensive though.” He unconsciously touched the pocket of his leather vest, which he knew contained only a few dollars. He certainly did not have enough to buy the jacket and a meal. His stomach rumbled, reminding him of his priorities.
Heyes leaned forward and peered at the tag, reading the amount.
“Hmmm,” was all he said.
“Come on Heyes, lets get something to eat,” Kid suggested and walked away from the General Store, along the boardwalk towards the café. Hannibal Heyes gave the jacket one more glance, then ran to catch up to his friend.
“I say it’s more than luck,” said the large man with a bushy beard, sitting across the table from the dark-haired young man. The other players at the table fell silent, as the big man pushed his chair back slightly.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Heyes said, calmly. “You drew to an inside straight,” Heyes observed. “That’s always a risk.” He met the man’s eyes.
Behind Hannibal Heyes, Kid Curry pushed the saloon girl, he’d been cuddling up to, gently away. She looked a little annoyed, but Kyle Murtry, standing beside Kid, nodded his head at her and she was wise enough to move further along the bar and out of harm’s way.
Kid moved towards the poker table.
“Everything alright?” he asked his friend.
“This gentleman thinks my winning is due to more than luck,” Heyes told him.
“Guess he don’t know how good a player you are,” Kid said, his eyes firmly fixed on the large man.
“Guess he don’t,” Heyes agreed.
“This doesn’t concern you,” the large man told the young blond man.
“You accuse my friend of being a cheat and it does,” Kid stated.
The man looked at Kid, sizing him up. He didn’t look more than a boy. He wore his gun tied down, but he did not look experienced enough to know how or when to use it. The man pushed his chair back further and stood up.
“You making this your fight?” the man asked, his hand now hanging by his own tied down gun.
“Looks that way,” Kid said confidently.
“You don’t have to do this,” Heyes said to his friend. “I’m sure this gentleman will listen to reason.”
“Oh I can be real reasonable,” the man told them. “You admit you’ve been cheatin’ and I’ll show you how reasonable I can be.”
“I don’t cheat,” Heyes stated. “I don’t need to.”
“Then I got nothin’ more to say to you,” the big man told him. He turned his attention to Kid. “You got anything to say or you gonna use that gun?”
“That’s up to you,” Kid said.
“Well I guess a man should teach a boy a lesson or two, every now and then.” He said with a confident smile. “I hope you know how to use that thing kid.”
Heyes smiled at the man’s unwitting use of his friend’s name. The big man stared at the young blond man. Two blue eyes fixed on his and he sure didn’t seem as scared as the man thought he would be. It was probably just bravado. The man reached for his gun, but before he could remove it from the holster, he found himself looking down the barrel of Kid’s Colt. He swallowed hard, waiting for Kid to fire.
Hannibal Heyes gave a smug, and somewhat proud, smile. When he realised he was not about to be shot, without saying another word, the large man scooped up his money from the table and left the saloon.
Kid Curry twirled his gun a couple of times for affect, and then dropped it into his holster.
“Thanks,” Heyes said, as he collected his winnings.
“Want a drink?” Kid asked as Heyes stood up. Heyes nodded and joined his partner at the bar.
“Ya know Kid I think you’re getting’ faster,” Kyle Murtry said as Kid ordered two beers.
“Nah, Kyle. I thought Kid was a little slower,” Heyes stated with a smile. “But then he is still a boy.”
Kid said nothing, just pushed one beer along the counter towards his friend. Then those blue eyes fixed on the dark-haired man and stared at him.
“Will you please stop that!” Heyes hissed, as he opened the padlock on the door to the mining supplies store.
“What?” Kid asked, confused.
“Stop making that noise with your teeth,” Heyes complained. He removed the padlock. “You shake anymore and you’ll set the dynamite off before we can steal it.”
“Very funny,” Kid whispered, un-amused. “I’m cold, Heyes. I can’t help it if my teeth are chattering.”
“Then wear something warmer.”
“I don’t have anything warmer,” Kid moaned, as he followed his friend into the store.
The driver saw the fallen trees lying across the track and got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. It didn’t look as if the trees had fallen there naturally. As he pulled the train to a halt, he scanned the hillside watching for any movement, any sign of outlaws. When the train finally stopped, all that could be heard was a long hiss of steam. The driver and his engineer watched and waited and then the men appeared. Four men rode out on horseback from behind some large boulders. As the engineer turned to climb down from the footplate on the opposite side of the train, he came face to face with a Colt .45.
“Easy,” said the young blond man holding the gun. He climbed onto the train and, following his instructions, the driver and his engineer climbed down the other side.
A young dark-haired man rode towards them.
“Everything alright?” he asked the blond man.
“Yep,” was the reply.
“Howdy gents,” Hannibal Heyes said amiably to the two rail men. “We’re just going to make a withdrawal from the safe back there. It shouldn’t take too long and then you can be on your way. You just stay out of trouble and no one will get hurt.”
“Thanks,” said the driver without enthusiasm.
Another man walked towards them.
“Keep an eye on these two, Lobo,” the dark-haired man said.
“Sure Heyes,” the outlaw replied and, at the mention of the dark-haired man’s name, the driver and engineer exchanged a look.
“Devil’s Hole Gang,” the driver mouthed to his friend.
“Can you open it?” Kid asked, following his partner, as they made their way back along the train.
“It’s a Brooker…” Heyes said, by way of explanation.
“Oh,” was Kid’s response. “Kyle gonna blow it?”
They reached the boxcar, where Wheat Carlson and Kyle Murtry were busy preparing to blow the safe. Once the smaller man had pulled himself up into the boxcar, Wheat handed him a few sticks of dynamite.
“I’ll check no one’s around back,” Kid said, as he headed towards the end of the train. Hannibal Heyes watched the others from his horse. The train’s passengers were standing someway off, well out of harms way.
“You about ready?” Heyes asked when Wheat jumped down from the box car.
“Any moment now, Heyes,” Wheat told him. Heyes turned his horse away and headed towards the boulders.
“Everything set?” Heyes asked an out of breath Kyle, when he reached the boulders and hunkered down beside him.
“I just lit the fuse Heyes and she’s about ready to blow,” the scruffy little man told the Gang’s leader with a smile. Heyes got an unwanted view of a wad of chewing tobacco. The rest of the Devil’s Hole Gang sheltered beside them, or were down behind the rocks, further along the track.
They waited. They waited some more.
“Just how long is that fuse Kyle?” Heyes asked.
“Well I wanted to be sure everyone got far enough away, Heyes,” Kyle explained.
And then Heyes had a thought.
“Where’s Kid?” he asked. He stood up to look for his friend and at that moment the dynamite blew and the force of the explosion sent Hannibal Heyes stumbling backwards.
When the dust settled, one by one the members of the Devil’s Hole Gang stood up and looked at the remains of the boxcar. Around them, floating in the air, were numerous bank notes. Several members of the gang quickly began to grab for the money and they were soon joined by some of the passengers from the train. Heyes shook his head in disbelief.
“Just how much dynamite did you use Kyle?” he asked, incredulously.
“All of it, Heyes,” Kyle told him, as he wiped his nose on the back of his hand. “Just like you tol’ me to.”
“I didn’t tell you to use it all.”
“Well you said to blow the safe ‘no matter how much you hafta use’,” the little man stated.
“Blow the safe Kyle, not the train!” Heyes shook his head in disbelief.
Kyle gave the Gang’s leader an innocent smile. Heyes looked around, still not seeing the one person he was looking for. He walked towards the remains of the box car and then, he saw a familiar brown hat appear from behind a boulder, on the other side of the track. As bank notes fell about him, the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang strode towards his friend.
Kid grinned at his partner, but Heyes did not look too pleased.
“Just how much dynamite d’you tell Kyle to use, Heyes?” Kid asked, cheerfully.
“Enough to blow the safe!” Heyes snapped.
“Well he sure did that,” Kid said, as he held out his hat to catch a few falling notes. He placed a conciliatory hand on Heyes’ shoulder, watching Hank and Lobo dancing around, grabbing at the money as it fell.
Kid saw the look on Heyes’ face.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I’ve got a reputation to think of,” Heyes said, seriously. “I’m known for my skill and finesse.”
“Not anymore,” Kid said, with a smile.
Heyes shot him a look.
“Ah c’mon. Even Hannibal Heyes can have an off day.”
“I did not have an off day!” Heyes stated. “I told Kyle how much to use but he didn’t listen…” The sight of Wheat Carlson walking towards him, stopped Heyes’ tirade.
“We’ve got a lot of the money, Heyes,” Wheat said. “I reckon it’s time to ride out. I bet that explosion could be heard miles away. How much dynamite d’you tell Kyle to use?”
Heyes glared at Wheat and strode off to find his horse.
“I was just askin’ Kid,” Wheat explained.
“I know Wheat.” Kid ran to catch up to his friend.
As the gang rode away from the train, the driver and one of the guards stood looking at the remains of the box car.
“I always thought Hannibal Heyes opened the safe’s himself. You know, twiddled the dials and stuff, real delicate like,” the driver said.
“I guess you can’t believe everything you read in the papers,” the guard observed, with a shake of his head.
When it was safe to do so, the Gang slowed their horses. There was no sign of a posse and so they headed for Devil’s Hole. As they travelled through higher ground, the skies darkened, and it began to snow. Still disgruntled from the fiasco of the train robbery, Hannibal Heyes turned up his collar and rode hunched over his saddle. Behind him he heard Kid curse.
“You know with the money we got from this robbery I’m gonna buy me a new jacket,” Kid said, decisively, as he began to shiver.
Heyes slowed his horse allowing his partner to catch up.
“Well it’s about time, Kid,” Heyes said, looking at the thin cloth of the brown jacket Kid wore. “I don’t think I can take much more of your teeth chattering away.”
It was Kid’s turn to shoot a look in Heyes’ direction.
Once in the safety of their hideout, the Devil’s Hole Gang could relax, as they rode through the canyon that led up to their cabins. The snow had dusted the trees and covered the ground, but the Gang were not admiring the beauty of the scenery. In their minds, each man was trying to decide what he would do with his share of the money. A share that was decidedly smaller than they had hoped. They had managed to grab a considerable amount of money despite the fiasco with the dynamite.
Tired, but contented, the men climbed from their horses when they reached the place they now called ‘home’.
Kid stretched his shoulders as he dropped from the saddle. Then he touched a hand to his head, feeling a bump where something had caught him, during the explosion.
“You okay?” Heyes asked.
“I’m fine,” Kid said, dismissively, with the bravado of youth. Heyes smiled and undid something from his saddle.
“Here,” Heyes said, holding out a parcel to his friend. Kid eyed the brown paper package suspiciously.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Open it and see,” Heyes said and Kid took it. He pulled at the string and then tore off the paper. Kid held up the sheepskin jacket he had seen in the window of the General Store and admired so much. He smiled with delight, but then quickly frowned.
“I can’t take it,” he said, handing it back to Heyes.
“What?” the dark-haired man asked, incredulously.
“I won’t take it,” Kid stated, firmly and Heyes took back the jacket.
“I’m a little confused here Kid,” Heyes told him. “You’ve been shivering from the cold right?”
“You need something to keep you warm at night?”
“You wanted this jacket right?”
“And I got it for you. So why can’t you take it?”
“I won’t take something that was stolen,” Kid stated.
Heyes mouth opened, but for a moment, he was speechless. Maybe it was the whack on the head Kid had received. Then, he smiled as he shook his head.
“In case you’ve forgotten, you just took part it a train robbery,” he reminded the young blond–haired man.
“I know that,” Kid snapped. “But we don’t rob ordinary folks.”
“Well whose money d’you think that was in the safe?” Heyes asked, tetchily.
“You know what I mean.” Kid glared at his partner, but eyed the jacket with regret.
Heyes sighed, and then felt in his pocket for something. He pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to his partner.
“What is it?”
“Look at it,” Heyes told him.
Kid opened it and read. Then he looked up at Heyes.
“It’s a receipt,” Kid stated. “For the jacket.”
Heyes said nothing.
“You bought it?”
“Yeah, I bought it,” Heyes said. “Maybe now I can get some sleep and won’t have to listen to your teeth chattering all night.”
“Heyes, I’m sorry. I thought…” Kid began, trying to apologise.
“Forget it Kid, I know what you meant.”
“Thanks. This is a great jacket.” Kid smiled and hastily pulled it on. It fit, as they both knew it would.
“Heyes, the boys are ready to divide up the money,” Wheat said, as he approached the two men. He looked at the blond man. “Nice jacket Kid.”
“Thanks Wheat,” Kid said, with a youthful grin. “Heyes bought it for me.”
“Well ain’t that nice,” Wheat said with little interest. “The money Heyes?”
“Yeah. Divide it eight ways,” Heyes told him.
“Eight ways?” Wheat seemed a little confused. “But there are nine of us,” he pointed out.
“Well Kid seems to have got some principles all of a sudden, so I don’t think he’ll want anything that’s been stolen,” Heyes said and he met two blue eyes.
“You don’t want any of the money Kid?” Wheat asked, with surprise.
“Heyes is just joking Wheat,” Kid told him but his eyes were fixed on his friend. “Divide it nine ways.”
“Okay,” Wheat said and headed back to the rest of the gang.
“You’d better watch those principles, Kid,” Heyes warned. “Next thing you know you’ll be trying to get me to go straight.”
Kid just smiled.
“C’mon, let’s go check on the others. I’m not sure Kyle can actually count up to nine,” Heyes said, placing a hand on his partner’s sheepskin clad shoulder.