By Maz McCoy

Hannibal Heyes leaned back against the bed’s headboard, his legs stretched out in front of him, socked feet crossed at the ankles. He smiled as he read the medical dictionary he had found on the bookshelf. Nephrititis – who knew it really existed! Sheer genius on his part of course to have chosen the name of a real disease.
The door flew open and Kid burst into the room. Without a word to his partner he picked up his saddlebags from the chair.
Heyes watched as Kid fought with the bags’ buckle. “Something wrong, Kid?”
“Damn, right there’s something wrong!” The buckle finally gave up its fight and Kid yanked open the bag.
“Anything you want to share?”
Ice blue eyes fixed on Heyes. “Trust me, Heyes, this isn’t something you’ll want to share.”
The dark-haired man frowned and waited for Kid to explain. Instead his friend searched around for his clothes and found them neatly folded and stacked on top of the dresser. He picked up a shirt and was hit by the scent of clean linen and – sheesh was that fresh flowers? He’d miss that – clean laundry wasn’t something you got on the trail.
“You leaving?” Heyes asked conversationally as he closed his book.
“Yep.” Socks were stuffed into the saddlebags. Kid picked up another shirt. Flowers and fresh cotton. He stuffed it into the bag.
“You gonna tell me what’s got you packing in such a hurry?” Heyes put down the book on the bedside table and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Sitting up he rested his hands on either side of his legs. “Well?”
“Fear!” Clean folded pants were stuffed into the bags.
“What are you afraid of?”
“What’s gonna happen to me.”
Heyes’ brow furrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“Pain, Heyes. Pain and suffering on a grand scale.”
“Okay, now I really am confused.” Heyes stood up and walked over to his partner. More socks were stuffed into the bags. Who knew Kid owned so many pairs? Heyes placed a hand on Kid’s arm momentarily halting the packing. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Kid’s shoulders drooped and he let out a long sigh. “I like it here. I thought we were safe here. No more running from a posse, no looking over our shoulders every five minutes.”
“We are safe here.”
Blue eyes met brown ones. “No, Heyes, we’re not.” Kid started to buckle one of the saddlebags. “It’s gonna get bad, real bad.”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“I’m gonna get hurt. Maybe you will too but it’s definitely gonna be worse for me. It’s always worse for me.” He could see Heyes still didn’t have a clue what he was on about. “She’s gonna hurt me.”
Heyes laughed with relief. “Heck, that ain’t news, she always hurts ya. Then you have to be nursed and get to be all brave and manly.”
“It’s gonna be worse.”
“You always say that.”
“This time it’s true.”
Heyes frowned. “She gonna set Elizabeth Darkly on ya?”
“No!” Kid looked shocked at the suggestion, then reconsidered his answer. “Least ways I don’t think so.”
“So how’s it gonna get worse and why? Why would she hurt you even more?”
“’Cos of the monthly thing.”
Heyes coughed with embarrassment. “Kid, I don’t think we should talk about that sort of thing.”
“But we hafta.”
“Kid, that’s women’s stuff. I mean, sure they can get all moody and snappy but that’s no reason to really hurt you and you can always talk ‘em round with some of that chocolate. It’s worked before.”
Kid’s mouth dropped open. “Not THAT monthly thing! Sheesh, Heyes! Sheesh!”
“Well, then what the heck are you talking about?”
“That writing thing.”
“What writing thing?”
“The one Calico sets.”
Heyes smiled, he liked Calico, and she gave him clever dialogue and mysteries to solve. “What about her writing thing?”
“Do you know what she wants Maz to write about this month? Do ya? Huh?” Kid ploughed on before Heyes had a chance to answer. “Torture! Can you believe it? Torture! I am gonna die. I mean sheesh, if she sets a title called Orphans and Kittens Maz’d probably nearly drown me trying to save them!”
Heyes laughed. “Kid.”
“It’s not funny, Heyes!” The blond man scowled.
“Yes, it is.”
“She might pick on you too, ya know?”
“No Kid, she won’t.”
“Don’t bet on it!”
“Kid, it’s not gonna happen. Trust me, I know.”
“Oh yeah? Why’re you so sure?” He now stood less than two inches from Heyes, cheeks flaming red with anger.
“’Cos the title of this month’s challenge is Torch. That’s T-O-R-C-H. Torch. Not torture.”
Kid stared at his friend as this news sank in. “Torch?”
“Uh, huh.”
“Like a flame?”
Kid sank down onto the bed and let out a sigh of relief. “I thought she was gonna torture me.”
“Don’t worry, Kid, you’re safe…” Heyes cast a glance at the now occupied keyboard. “For now. Although those orphans and kittens could be in danger real soon.”
“Oh geez!”

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