What you do for a friend
By Maz McCoy
“Alright son, take it easy,” the sheriff said, edging slowly closer to the blond, curly-haired young man who was pointing his gun at him. Blood ran down the right side of the young man’s face, from a wound across his temple, where a bullet had grazed him. There was a mixture of fear and defiance in his blue eyes as the sheriff approached. Chester Wholforth was in his late 50’s and had faced enough desperate men in his career, to know this had to be handled carefully. The blond man had his back to the rock face and there was nowhere left for him to run. The young man’s gun, reputedly so steady and accurate, wavered in his weakening hand. Beside him on the ground was a dark-haired man. Blood covered the front of his shirt. The sheriff thought the man was dead; he certainly did not appear to be breathing, but he was not about to mention that to the man standing before him. The young man was defending his friend, dead or alive, and that made him dangerous. The lawman swallowed hard and got back to the task at hand; talking a wanted outlaw out of shooting him. “It’s time to give up son. Your partner needs a doctor and by the look of it so do you. If you want to save your friend, you have to let us take you in. Hand over your gun, Mr. Curry.”
Kid Curry looked at the lawman. He knew the man was standing still, but his vision was blurry, and he was having trouble keeping him in focus. He wiped the blood away from his right eye. Kid stood in front of Heyes, determined to protect him to the last, but he could see the sense in the sheriff’s words. His partner needed a doctor or he would surely die. Kid fixed his blue eyes on the sheriff and, carefully released the hammer, before slowly opening his hand and letting the gun fall.
“Get ‘im!” someone cried and two deputies all but pounced on Kid Curry. His hands were dragged behind his back and he felt the handcuffs click tightly shut around his wrists as he staggered to keep upright. The world was fading fast.
“Easy boys,” the sheriff said. “He’s hurt enough, no need to add to it.”
“Take care of my partner,” Kid Curry said before he passed out.
It started with an innocent remark. Eileen Farley, the sister of Reverend Farley, was standing on the boardwalk one bright sunny morning, when she noticed a handsome young cowboy across the street. He was outside the general store putting something into the saddlebag on his horse. Eileen was studying the curly-haired blond man with the appreciation of a 30 year-old spinster’s eye, when her friend Millicent Weatherby came out of the dress shop. At that moment an equally attractive dark-haired man came out of the general store, asked something of the blond man and disappeared back inside.
“You don’t see a handsome man in Cinder Valley for weeks and then two come along at once,” Eileen remarked to Millicent. Eileen checked her dark hair was all pinned up at the back of her head. Millicent dusted off the front of the dress that hugged her slim frame. The two women watched appreciatively as the young man climbed into the saddle and adjusted his hat to shield his eyes against the sun. His dark-haired partner came out of the store carrying a brown paper bag. He was clearly not happy and told his friend so, but the blond man just smiled, which seemed to irritate the other man even more. The dark-haired man tucked his purchase into a saddlebag before climbing onto his horse and his friend handed him his reins with a smile.
“Typical,” Eileen said, only partly in jest. “I finally spot myself two potential husbands and they’re leaving town.” However Millicent was not listening. There was something about the pair that seemed familiar. Now what was it? A train? She had seen them on a train.
“Oh,” Millicent said. “Oh, my.” Her friend turned to face her.
“Millicent, what is it?”
“Come with me,” her friend instructed, grabbing Eileen by the arm. The two women walked swiftly along the boardwalk towards the sheriff’s office.
“Millicent, what’s going on?” Eileen asked her.
“Keep an eye on them,” Millicent told her and disappeared into the sheriff’s office. Keeping an eye on two attractive young men was hardly an arduous task, so Eileen turned to face them. The men turned their horses away from the storefront and pointed them towards the west. As they did so the dark-haired man caught Eileen watching them and he politely touched the tip of his hat.
“Ma’am,” he said and Eileen blushed as he smiled at her. Turning away she saw Millicent and the sheriff looking out of the window. Millicent said something, Eileen couldn’t hear, and the sheriff pointed at the men. Millicent nodded, the sheriff disappeared from view and then the door burst open and the sheriff flew out, gun in hand.
“Oh, my goodness!” Eileen cried alerting the men on horseback. Seeing the sheriff they exchanged no more than a glance before digging their heels into their horses’ sides.
“Stop them!” the sheriff yelled as the two men rode away. “It’s Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!” Shouts went up along the street, a man ran into the saloon and a woman screamed.
“I’m getting a posse together. Who’ll join me?” the sheriff asked, by which time the two young men were already on the outskirts of town.
They rode as fast as their horses would allow. One man or the other threw the occasional glance over his shoulder to see if they were being followed. It was not long before Heyes spotted the familiar cloud of dust, that told him a posse was on their tail. They turned their horses into the trees that lined the base of an escarpment. Kid rode in front, his eyes scanning the terrain ahead for the easiest path. At the top of the hill they emerged from the trees and looked below. The posse had reached the trees and, although out of range, several shots were fired in their direction. Exchanging a brief look they urged their horses on.
On the other side of the hill the ground was loose beneath their horses’ hooves and the descent was tricky. Kid eased his horse slowly down a track, the reins tight in his hands, his voice encouraging the horse. Behind him Heyes did the same whilst hoping his horse would follow where Kid’s had gone. A shot hit a nearby tree and he turned surprised that the posse had gained so much ground on them.
“Damn they’re close,” he said but he knew his partner had already guessed that. “Maybe we should split up.”
“Shut up Heyes, and concentrate on getting’ down this slope alive,” Kid retorted never one to warm to the idea of them separating.
“Well if you let me go in front we’d probably get down quicker,” Heyes told him. “You always were a slow rider.” Kid shot his partner a look, but did not dignify that with a reply. His horse reached more stable ground and he turned it into a gap between some tall rocky outcrops which would give temporary cover from the men following them. As Heyes reached the rocks he turned to look back, checking for any sign of their pursuers. More shots rang out and Kid heard his partner cry out. Turning he saw Heyes slump over his saddle.
Heyes held his left shoulder, pain etched on his face, blood running through his fingers.
“Damn it,” he said as he drew next to Kid. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“Hold on,” Kid instructed as he took the reins from Heyes’ hand and kicked his horse forward. Heyes’ horse picked up the pace and they were soon out in the open riding hard. Kid shot the occasional glance back to check that his partner was still holding on. As the pain ran over him in waves, holding on was all Hannibal Heyes could do.
The posse showed no signs of quitting. It had stayed on their trail all day and as dusk came, they were still within sight. Kid Curry knew his partner needed rest but there was nothing he could do, they had to keep moving. When they entered a wooded ravine Kid risked pulling their horses to a halt. Jumping down he was soon at Heyes’ side.
“How you doin’?” he asked but the pale sweat-stained face that looked up at him from beneath the black hat, told Kid all he needed to know. Heyes hand was covered in blood, his breathing was rapid. “Let’s see what I can do,” Kid said but Heyes shook his head.
“If I get down, I won’t be able to get back up,” he said and met his partner’s concerned blue eyes.
“I’ll getcha back up,” Kid assured him and gently helped his friend down from his horse.
“I’m sorry Kid,” Heyes said as his partner made him sit on a nearby boulder. “I shouldn’t have looked back.”
“Well if you hadn’t, you’d have a bullet in your back right now, and I don’t think that would have been any better do you?” Kid busied himself as he spoke.
He opened his saddlebag and found a shirt to use as a bandage. Opening Heyes’ shirt he looked at the raw bloody wound and the flesh torn by the bullet. Kid did his best to pad the wound and then he bound Heyes’ arm tight against his body with another shirt. That should stop him moving the arm too much he thought, and then froze as he heard horses.
“C’mon,” Kid said pulling Heyes to his feet. The dark-haired man cried out in pain and staggered. Kid caught him and supported him until his partner’s strength returned enough that he was able to climb back into his saddle, with a boost from his blond-haired cousin. Kid’s mind was racing. What could they do? They had to keep moving, although that was the worse thing for Heyes right now. They had no choice. Climbing back onto his horse, Kid picked up the reins and moved both horses on.
Kid was on foot, leading the horses along a track as the light was beginning to fade. Heyes was quiet, his head bobbed about and he leant over the saddlehorn. Kid was not sure if he was still conscious. A shot hit the tree just beyond Kid and he ducked. The second shot hit him in the head.
Kid Curry stared at the blood on his hands, slowly realising it was his own. The bullet had grazed his right temple and the world was spinning. Somewhere, far away, someone was calling his name. He reached up to the wound and flinched at his own touch. Kid focused on the ground at first, then the trunk of the nearest tree and finally, when that was in focus he saw the horses waiting patiently to one side. Hannibal Heyes clung to his horses’ neck but he looked up at his partner.
“Kid? Kid, you alright?” he asked weakly. There would not be much he could do if his partner was not. He did not know how long he could remain conscious but he had to know Kid was okay.
Kid Curry slowly stood up, holding onto a tree to do so. He staggered towards his partner.
“I’m okay,” he assured his friend and they both knew he was lying. “I’m okay,” he repeated not sure for whose benefit. Kid picked up the horses reins and began walking again. Behind them he heard the sound of someone creeping through the undergrowth.
Realising neither of them could sit their horses any longer Kid took one last risk. He helped his partner down from his horse and sat him down behind a tree before he waved the horses on. As he watched them gallop off, Kid hoped he had not just made the biggest mistake of his life. Turning to his cousin Kid hauled him to his feet.
“C’mon Heyes,” he said. “Don’t get lazy on me.” The two men stumbled and staggered up the hill towards the rocks Kid had spotted earlier. If they could get there before the posse reached them he hoped they could hide there and watch their pursuers pass by. With Heyes’ right arm around his shoulder, Kid was taking as much of his partner’s weight as he could. He felt his friend grow suddenly heavier.
“Kid, you hafta leave me,” Heyes said but his partner ignored him. “Did you hear what I said?” Heyes asked weakly.
“I heard,” Kid informed him wiping his own blood out of his eye.
“Well, will you do what you’re told for once in your life,” Heyes in frustration despite his growing weakness.
“Now? You want me to start now? When there’s a posse on our tail and you can’t even walk without my help?”
“It would be a start,” the dark-haired man said weakly. “You know you really are the most stubborn man I’ve ever met.”
“Well, I’m glad you think I’m good at somethin’,” Kid told him only partially listening as he concentrated on getting Heyes up the slope. His partner’s legs suddenly gave out.
“I can’t go on,” Heyes mumbled.
“So you’re gonna give up, is that it?” Kid asked angrily. “Jus’ sit down here and wait for ‘em?”
“Kid, I can’t…” and then Kid felt Heyes sag against him.
“Heyes? Heyes?” Kid stopped. His partner’s face was deathly pale in the moonlight and he had finally lost consciousness. “Heyes! Dammit, don’t you die on me. D’you hear me? Don’t you die on me.”
He knew he would have to carry him. Kid bent down and pulled his friend over his shoulder. As he stood up the world spun again and a wave of nausea overcame him. He took a moment to regain his balance before setting off up the hill. Kid had no idea that the sheriff from Cinder Valley was watching his every move.
Kid Curry could go no further. He had reached the rocks and laying his partner down on the rough ground; he drew his gun and checked the chamber. It was fully loaded. Kid sat with his back against the rocks. His head hurt and he brushed a trickle of blood away from his eye and waited.
Something moved in the undergrowth. It was too dark for Kid to make out any detail but he knew something, or more likely someone, was there. Kid got to his feet and pointed his gun at the bushes, keeping his breathing as quiet as possible. He strained his eyes to see. A figure moved and Kid waited not wanting to fire off an unnecessary shot and alert them to his exact position. More blood ran into his eye and he brushed it aside. When he looked up a man was standing in front of him. How had he got there so fast? The only thing about him that Kid could make out in the moonlight was the silver star he wore. Kid pointed his gun at the sheriff not wanting to fire first but waiting for the sound of the hammer on the lawman’s gun.
“Alright son, take it easy,” the sheriff said.
Kid Curry opened his eyes and once again saw the familiar bars of a jail cell. His head hurt and he was sure the room was moving, or at least the bunk he was on was. He groaned and raising a hand to his head felt a bandage across his forehead. He tried to remember what had happened. It came back slowly. The posse, the chase and Heyes was hurt. Turning his head very slowly to one side he looked at the other bunk; it was empty. Beyond the cells he saw a young man sitting at the sheriff’s desk on the other side of the bars. He had not seen the man before. He was certainly not the sheriff Kid remembered. The young man saw Kid stir and, easing himself out of the chair, wandered over to the cell.
“Wondered when you’d wake up,” he said. He was in his twenties with sandy brown hair and a friendly smile.
“Where’s my partner?” Kid asked his voice hoarse; his throat dry.
“He’s at the doctor’s house. He was shot up pretty bad.”
“He gonna be alright?” Kid asked the concern he felt obvious.
“It’s still touch and go. At least that’s what I heard. Guess I’d best go get the sheriff an’ the Doc, now you’re awake.” He walked off and a moment later Kid heard the sound of a door closing.
Kid closed his eyes. Still touch and go. He remembered the blood covering Heyes’ shirt; remembered his partner’s pale face and how he pleaded with Kid to leave him. Heyes would fight it; he knew that. Didn’t he? The sheriff had been right. If he had not given up, Heyes would be dead by now. They could not have kept running. At least he still had a chance. He’d done the right thing. Kid wondered who he was trying to convince.
He must have dozed off because the next thing he knew someone was speaking to him.
“You awake Mr. Curry?” It was the sheriff. The grey-haired man sat on the bunk opposite him, his big shiny star pinned to his battered black leather vest. Kid looked at him through tired eyes. “How you feelin’?”
Kid tried to sit up. His head swam; his vision blurred and for a moment he thought he was going to be sick. He held his head in his hands until the nausea passed. He looked up at the sheriff, who had remained silent, giving Kid the time he needed to compose himself.
“The Doc will be here soon t’take a look at ya.”
“How’s my partner?” Kid asked and the sheriff nodded, as if he should have known this would be his prisoner’s first concern.
“Doc says he’s doin’ as well as can be expected. Whatever that means.”
“He gonna make it?” Kid asked, straight to the point.
“Too early to say.”
“Not yet, Mr. Curry.” Kid took all of this in.
“You think I’m Kid Curry?” The sheriff nodded. “What makes you think that?”
“Well, I got me a witness says you robbed a train she was on; you ran when I was after ya. Your partner’s been callin’ out for ‘Kid’ and you were mutterin’ ‘Heyes’ a while back.” He let the blond man think on that.
“What happens now?” Kid asked. He felt awful and gently touched the bandage on his head.
“Someone from Wyoming will come getcha,” the sheriff informed him. Kid considered this.
“Any chance you could contact someone for me?” Kid asked looking up at the older man.
“Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville.” The sheriff was surprised by the man’s request. “I can pay for the telegram. At least I could, if I still had my money.”
“You money is safe with your other things.” The sheriff looked at the young man before him. “Sheriff Trevors? You sure?””
“Yeah,” Kid told him.
“Well, you tell me what you wanna say and I’ll tell you if I’m willin’ to send it.” He called to the deputy to bring him a pencil and paper and when the man had done so the sheriff looked up at Kid expectantly.
“To Sheriff Lom Trevors, Porterville, Wyoming. In jail, Cinder Valley.” He looked up at the sheriff to confirm this. The sheriff nodded and Kid continued. “Smith shot bad. Help needed. T. Jones.”
It was the first time Kid had ever written a telegram so succinct. Normally Heyes would cross out half of the words he used and chide him over the cost. This time Kid knew exactly what to say to get Lom’s attention and he did not need many words to do that. The sheriff considered what Kid had said.
“Why would a sheriff help you?” Kid Curry did not answer him. “An’ what’s with this Smith and Jones?” Kid did not reply at first; he just looked stubbornly at the floor.
“We haven’t robbed a train or bank in over a year,” was all he said and suddenly the sheriff understood.
“Amnesty?” he whispered and Kid gave only the slightest nod of his head as he looked the lawman in the eyes. “Did the governor of Wyoming offer you two amnesty?
“I didn’t tell you that,” Kid said but Sheriff Wholforth knew what he meant.
“Well I’ll be. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, offered amnesty.”
“We weren’t supposed to tell anyone. It was a secret…but we were, I mean we are, still wanted,” Kid said, a hint of sadness in his voice.
“I’m sorry,” the sheriff told him with genuine regret. “It’s a pity someone in town recognised you.” He stood up, left the cell and his deputy locked the door. He stood for a moment looking down at the young outlaw.
“I’ll send your telegram Mr. Curry, and I’ll see how your partner is.”
“Thank you sheriff, I’d appreciate that,” Kid said, but there was not a hint of the man the sheriff had met on the hillside, the day he was captured. All the life seemed to have gone out of the young man in the prison cell.
The young dark-haired man moaned and Amelia Jackson wiped his forehead with a cool cloth. His face was covered in sweat and he called out again, his head moving from side to side as his body fought the infection and fever. The unconscious man had been mumbling incoherently for some time. He started to mutter again.
“Kid! Get out!” he said becoming increasingly agitated. “Kid! It’s not safe.”
Amelia went to a small desk and took a pad of paper and a pencil from the drawer. Returning to the man’s side she began to write down what he said in case it proved to be important. Amelia was in her early twenties and an intelligent young woman. She would often help her father, the doctor, with his patients. The sheriff had told her who this particular man was, when he had brought him, injured, into their house.
“Kid,” the man said again and then cried out in pain as his movements pulled at his injured shoulder. Amelia put down the paper. Perching beside him on the bed she gently wiped the young man’s forehead once more, and then wiped the cool cloth over his arms and chest, making soothing sounds as she did so.
“Hush now or you’ll open up that wound again,” she said gently, not sure if he could hear her. “You need to rest. Your partner’s safe.” She brushed aside a few strands of his dark hair that had fallen across his handsome face. He opened his eyes and looked directly at her. Amelia wasn’t sure if he was awake or not. He seemed to be trying to focus on her. There was confusion in his eyes.
“Someone shot Kid,” he said, clearly distressed. “I can’t help him.” He tried to sit up.
“No, you can’t get up,” she said forcefully, putting her hands on his chest. He offered no resistance and rested his head back on the pillow.
“Help him. Help my partner…” He grew weaker as he spoke. “Shot him…help him.”
Amelia stayed beside him and finally his breathing took on the slow rhythm of sleep.
Kid Curry sat on his bunk looking at the floor as his mind raced over all the possibilities open to him. It didn’t take long as there appeared to be none. He was in jail and Heyes was fighting for his life. It was only then that he noticed the blood on the front of his shirt. It wasn’t his blood. It was Heyes’ blood, from when he had carried him. It seemed days ago instead of hours. Kid gently touched the material. It was stiff now that the blood had dried.
The sheriff watched the young outlaw and seeing what had caught his attention; his heart went out to him.
Chester Wholforth was not an unkind man.
“Steve,” he said to his deputy. The young man looked up from the newspaper he was reading. “Why don’t you go see if you can find Mr. Curry, a clean shirt?” The deputy followed the sheriff’s gaze and saw the pained expression on the face of the young man so many were said to fear.
“Sure Chester,” he said and slipped out of the office.
Hannibal Heyes opened his eyes and saw an angel. She had golden hair, wings and a harp. She was smiling and singing to a group of rosy-cheeked angelic children. If he was in Heaven then God must have decided to overlook a little bit of robbery after all. If he was in Heaven then why did his shoulder hurt like Hell? Heyes focussed on the angel. She was not real. The painting hung above a washstand at the foot of the bed. Heyes’ eyes scanned the room. The walls were covered in a pretty wallpaper. There was a tall free standing mirror, a sturdy wardrobe and sitting in a chair beside the bed was a beautiful young woman, sewing something. She was in her early twenties, had long blonde hair much like the angel in the painting but wore a pale blue dress with a pattern of flowers or something very similar. Heyes tried to speak but his throat was so dry.
“Excuse me,” he rasped and the woman’s head shot up in shocked surprise.
“Oh, you’re awake.” She quickly put down her sewing and, standing, came to his side.
“Could I have a drink of water?” he asked and she poured a glass full from a jug on a stand, beside the bed. She had to help support him, as he struggled to raise his head enough, to take a few refreshing sips. “Thank you,” he said as the cool liquid ran down his throat.
“You’re welcome,” she replied.
“Who are you?” he asked, still not convinced she was not an angel.
“Amelia Jackson. I’m the doctor’s daughter. This is the doctor’s house,” she explained. Her smile lit up her whole face. She was the most beautiful nurse Heyes had ever had. “I’d best go fetch my father. He’ll be so glad you’re awake.” She walked towards the door although Heyes was convinced she floated.
“Wait,” Heyes called and she stopped, her hand resting on the door handle. “My partner. He was hurt. Is he alright? Where is he?” Her face clouded over.
“He’s in jail, Mr. Heyes,” she said and left the room. Hannibal Heyes thought about what she had said. She had called him Heyes and told him Kid was in jail. What was going on? He remembered they were on horseback and he had been shot. A posse. They were running, as always, from a posse, but why? Kid was hurt too, he remembered that, but he was now in jail. Was he alright? Heyes could not remember what had started it all and he had no idea where he was now. He tried to sit up but felt so weak, then a searing pain through his shoulder convinced him it was better to just lie down.
The door opened only a few minutes later and a man entered the room, followed by Amelia.
“It’s good to see you finally awake,” the doctor said as he approached the bed. He was in his late 40’s with thick dark hair and a full well-trimmed beard. He gave his patient a friendly smile. “How’s that shoulder feeling?”
“Painful,” Heyes replied honestly. He tried to move it.
“No, no. Don’t try moving it yet. I had to put some stitches in and it’s going to take a while to heal. You’re a lucky man. You lost a lot of blood.” He looked at his daughter, then back at Heyes. “To tell you the truth, we were not certain you were going to make it.”
“Stronger than I look, Doc,” Heyes told him but his voice betrayed how weak he really was.
“So it would seem.”
“Is my partner alright?”
“Ah, Mr. Curry. He took a bit of a graze from a bullet. In fact I was just with him.” He saw Heyes questioning look. “Yes, he’ll be fine.” He assured the injured man who smiled at the news.
“He has a pretty thick skull. Least that’s what I’m always tellin’ him,” Heyes said affectionately. “The young lady said he was in jail.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. We’ve not had proper introductions. I’m Doctor Henry Jackson and this is my daughter, Amelia.” He smiled at his daughter then turned back to the wounded young outlaw, his voice serious as he answered his question. “The sheriff has your partner in jail. He is Kid Curry after all and you I believe are Hannibal Heyes, which is why there is a deputy, on guard, outside this room.”
“Who says we’re Curry and Heyes?”
“Why, someone in town recognised you, I believe, and you did both run.”
“Yeah, I guess we did,” Heyes said weakly his eyes beginning to close.
“And you were a little delirious for a while and kept calling out for ‘Kid’.” Heyes didn’t need to say anything. “We’ll leave you to rest,” the doctor said seeing his patient was already tiring.
“Doc,” Heyes said as the man and his daughter headed towards the door. He fought to stay awake. “Could you tell my partner I’m alright? He’s sure to be worried.” The doctor smiled.
“Of course,” he said and Heyes drifted off to sleep.
“I’ll go,” Amelia said. “You still have Mrs. Higgins to attend to.” They exchanged horrified looks at the thought of the pregnant Mrs. Higgins.
“Hey, Curry! You got a visitor,” Deputy Steve Carroway called and Kid opened his eyes to see a vision walking towards him. She was slim with long blonde hair cascading over her shoulders. Her blue patterned dress was pulled in tight at her trim waist. Kid got swiftly to his feet and then grasped the wall as his head swam. The young woman smiled.
“I wouldn’t get up that fast, if I was you,” she told him. “Not after a head wound.”
“I think you’re right,” Kid said and her blue eyes fixed on his, and he felt his heart beating faster. She was beautiful. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” he asked turning on his charm. Amelia Jackson blushed and her eyes focussed on the floor as she tried to compose herself. Only her father had dealt with this young man’s injury. She had not expected him to be so handsome.
“My father sent me. He’s the doctor. Your partner is at our house.” Kid moved towards the cell door his expression suddenly serious.
“Is he alright?” His hands gripped the bars as if he expected bad news.
“He’s awake now, very weak, of course, but I think he’s going to be fine. He wanted you to know, so you wouldn’t worry.” The man in the cell let out a sigh and rested his head on the metal bars.
“Thank you,” he said as he looked back at her. “Miss…?”
“Jackson. Amelia Jackson,” she told him.
“I’m Thaddeus…” He stopped himself. There was no point pretending. “I’m Jed Curry.”
“I know who you are. The whole town’s talking about you two.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That was tactless of me.”
“But truthful I imagine,” Kid observed and she nodded.
“We don’t often have famous outlaws in town.” He looked away not sure what to say.
“May I ask you something?” Kid nodded. “Why do you do it? Why do you steal? Why rob trains and banks?”
Kid suddenly felt embarrassed and was surprised to find he also felt a little ashamed by her question.
“Well, my partner always says ‘because that’s where the money was’.” He could see she wanted to hear more than that. “To tell you the truth, I guess I wasn’t much good at anything else.”
She was about to say something when the deputy called out.
“You finished ma’am?”
“Yes,” she told him and turned away from the cell.
“Ma’am. Miss. Jackson,” Kid called and she looked back. “Will you tell my partner, I’m okay?”
“Of course. It’s right what they say about you two. You do care a lot about each other.”
“We’re all we’ve got,” he told her. “Will you come and see me again?”
“Yes, Mr. Curry, I will. And it’s Amelia” The smile she gave him as she left told him that she would be back.
Chester Wholforth approached the cell, a folded piece of paper in his hand.
“Well, Mr. Curry, I got a reply to your telegram.” The sheriff handed the paper through the bars to the blond outlaw. Kid opened it and read what Lom had sent.
“Have gone to see our mutual friend, Lom,” Kid read aloud.
“I guess that means the Governor of Wyoming?” the sheriff said.
“Yeah,” Kid said flatly, not exactly pleased at the news.
“You thought he’d come here?”
“I hoped he might,” the blond man admitted.
“If you don’t mind my sayin’ Mr. Curry, you’re lookin’ a mite lonely in there without your partner.” Kid’s eyes shot a look at him. “But I’ll tell you somethin’ son. You best be getting’ used to it. I don’t suppose they’ll let you two stay together in prison.” On that less than cheery thought the sheriff went back to his desk. Kid Curry sat forlornly on his bunk and slowly crumpled up Lom Trevors’ telegram.
Hannibal Heyes had his ear pressed against the metal door of the safe listening intently to the sounds within. He cut out everything else as he concentrated on the safe’s locking mechanism and the sound of the tumblers. His blond-haired partner sat just a few feet away at the bank manager’s desk. He had his feet up on the desk, the chair tilted back on two legs. Kid Curry twirled his gun casually as he waited. He kept an eye out of the window, looking for any sign of trouble. He looked at his watch.
“Two minutes, Heyes and the sheriff will be back on his rounds,” he informed his partner, who still had his ear glued to the metal door. Heyes heard the final click and turned the handle on the safe. Brown eyes focussed on blue ones as he gave his partner a triumphant smile and opened the safe door. Kid nodded, appreciating his friend’s skill.
“Let’s see how much we got,” Heyes said and peered inside. His expression changed to one of shock. The safe was empty.
At that moment they heard the front door of the bank rattle, as someone tried the lock, and both men looked towards it. At the same time the window Kid Curry was sitting by exploded in a shower of glass and the sound of gunfire filled the air. Hannibal Heyes stared in horror as Kid jerked backwards, his body riddled with bullets.
“Kid!” Heyes cried out as his partner lay unmoving on the floor, his shirtfront slowly turning red with his blood. “Kid!”
Kid’s eyes fixed on Heyes’ as he struggled to comprehend what was happening to him. Heyes saw the pain and fear in his cousin’s eyes.
“Heyes,” Kid whispered desperate for his friend’s help.
“Oh my God!” was all Heyes could say.
Heyes sat up in bed, his face shocked by what he had seen, sweat streaming down his face. He clasped his shoulder in pain, as he frantically searched the room for his partner. Amelia approached the bed, concern on her face. The bedroom door burst open and a young man, with a star pinned to his shirt, rushed into the room, gun in hand.
“It’s alright, deputy,” Amelia assured him. “He was just dreaming.”
Heyes looked from the deputy to the young woman and gradually realised where he was. Amelia sat down beside him on the bed.
“You were dreaming,” she said kindly and he slowly lay back on the pillow, his breathing still rapid. Heyes gritted his teeth as pain ran through his wounded shoulder.
“You sure my partner’s alright?” he asked Amelia.
“I told you, I’ve seen him and he’s fine,” she told him honestly, giving Heyes a reassuring smile. “Really he’s fine. He’s quite handsome too,” she added as an afterthought.
Heyes raised his eyebrows and studied the look on her face. Amelia blushed, embarrassed by what she had just said, but she was clearly smitten with his blue-eyed partner. Yes, Heyes thought, she had seen Kid and his partner had obviously worked his charm on her. Heyes closed his eyes. If Kid was well enough to charm a pretty woman, he knew Kid would be all right.
“Get up Mr. Curry, there’s a young lady here to see ya,” the sheriff called out and Kid looked out from under his hat. Amelia stood on the other side of the bars.
“Hello,” she said shyly and Kid was swiftly on his feet.
“Hi,” he said, a smile on his face as he straightened his shirt.
“How are you?” Amelia asked, her blue eyes on his.
“I’m …er..I..er,” Her eyes are so blue, Kid thought as he stumbled over his words. “I’m okay,” he finally managed to say.
“Good.” She smiled back at him.
“Is it alright for you to be here? I know I asked you to come back but…” She looked puzzled as he spoke. “I mean a young lady probably shouldn’t be visiting an outlaw in jail.”
“I’m here on official business,” she told him. “You are still my father’s patient and, as he’s looking after your partner, I’ve been sent to check on you.” She leaned closer to the bars. “At least that’s what I’ll tell anyone who asks me,” she whispered.
“How’s my partner?” Kid asked.
“As worried about you as you are about him,” she stated. “He’s doing well. He just needs to get his strength back and try not to rush things. My father had to put some stitches in the wound but he’s anxious to get up and more likely to break them if he does. I know he’d like to see you. I don’t think he believes us, when we tell him you’re okay.”
“Will you tell him I asked after him?” Kid asked her.
“Of course. Anything else I should say?”
“No. He’ll know.”
They were silent for a moment.
“Oh here,” she said remembering something. Amelia went back to the sheriff’s desk and collected a small package. She passed it through the bars to Kid Curry. “It’s a cake. I made it.”
“Thank you. Is there a file in it?” He asked and she shook her head, her smile lighting up her whole face.
“No. It would have to be a very small one and that wouldn’t be much use. It would take too long to escape.”
“I’ve got twenty years,” he stated bluntly and a sadness came over her.
“I’ve been asking people about you,” she told him. “They say you never stole from the passengers on the trains you robbed.”
“Not if we could help it. We didn’t steal from ordinary folks.”
“Didn’t seem right.”
“But robbing a bank did?”
“No. We always knew it was wrong or at least against the law.”
“Why didn’t you leave your partner?” she asked suddenly. “He’d have been looked after. You could have got away.”
“He’s my partner. I wouldn’t leave him anymore than he would have left me,” Kid told her.
“But you were facing twenty years in jail.”
“He’s my best friend,” Kid simply stated. “I guess that’s what you do for a friend.”
“You confuse me,” she told him. “I expected you both to be hard embittered men, even violent, but you seem like two ordinary people. I don’t understand you. I wish I could get to know you better.”
“No you don’t.” He told her and she detected a hardness entering his voice. “It wouldn’t be proper. Amelia, don’t come back. I don’t think people in town will understand.”
“You don’t want to see me again?” she asked disappointed.
“I didn’t say that. I jus’ don’t think you should be associated with my kind,” he stated sadly.
“Oh, but that’s not right at all. Why I don’t care what people think about me,” she stated defiantly.
“But I do,” he told her gently and smiled at her. “Thanks for the cake.” He said and she knew he hoped she would leave, even though he clearly did not want her to.
“I don’t understand.” She turned away but then turned back to look at him and found he was still watching her, as she knew he would be. “If I can help you in any way, I will.” Kid watched her leave and then noticed the sheriff was looking at him.
“That’s a nice thing you’re trying to do for her Mr. Curry,” the lawman said. The blond man sat down on the bunk and looked at the cake.
“Yeah, well, look where trying to be nice has got me,” he stated more to himself than the sheriff.
The sheriff didn’t look too pleased as he approached Kid Curry the next morning. He noticed the plate Steve had given the young outlaw for breakfast, still contained uneaten food. The young blond man had hardly eaten a thing since he had regained consciousness. It was as if he was slowly reconciling himself to his situation and giving up on life as he did so. Chester didn’t think the news he was about to impart, would make Kid Curry feel any better, but he had to deliver it all the same.
Two blue eyes fixed on the sheriff as he reached the cell.
“I’ve just received a telegram tellin’ me I’m to take you to Wyoming,” he told Kid. The man looked both surprised and anxious at the news. “Seems the Governor can’t send someone for you after all. So I’ll be your escort. Your partner will be sent on later, when he’s well enough to travel.”
“They’re separating us?” Kid asked as if he had almost expected it.
“Yes, they are.”
“When we leavin’?”
“First stage tomorrow.”
Kid considered this and the sheriff thought their conversation was over when the blond man asked, “Can I see my partner before we leave?”
There was just a fleeting moment when the sheriff thought he saw the pain in the young outlaw’s eyes and then it was gone, covered up once more, by a defiant mask.
“I’ll think about it,” Sheriff Wholforth told him as he returned to his desk.
The doctor’s house was situated diagonally opposite the sheriff’s office and a few stores away from the bank. The doctor’s office and treatment room were on the ground floor opening onto the boardwalk and the living quarters were upstairs.
Kid Curry quietly entered the bedroom his partner occupied. It was bright and airy and not quite what he had been expecting. Hannibal Heyes lay in bed, his eyes closed, and his face pale. Kid looked at the bandage across his partner’s shoulder and the slight spot of blood that had soaked through it. Amelia sat in a chair beside the window reading a book. Her face lit up when she saw the blond man enter the room. Kid was reminded, once more, just how beautiful she was and he thought he heard his heart, give a sigh. Why do I always meet the right woman, at the wrong time, he wondered? She gave Kid a reassuring smile as he approached the bed. Hearing someone in the room, Heyes opened his eyes, and, seeing his partner, he gave a slight smile.
“Hey Jed,” he said weakly and Kid was taken aback. It had been a long time since his partner had called him by his given name. He must have been feeling vulnerable. It had been a while since he had seen Heyes look so helpless too.
“Hi,” Kid said as he stood at the end of the bed. “How you feelin’?”
“Sore,” Heyes told him. “How ‘bout you?” He looked at the wound across Kid’s temple.
“Got a headache,” Kid said and smiled at his partner. He moved to the chair beside the bed and sat down next to his friend.
“I hear you’re in jail. Can’t keep out of trouble huh?” Brown eyes scanned his partner’s face.
Kid smiled at his dark-haired friend and raised his arms to show Heyes the handcuffs around his wrists.
“Can’t shoot my way out of it either.”
“I forgot to say thanks,” Heyes told him.
“You could have left me,” Heyes stated.
“The thought did occur to me.” Heyes saw the look in his partner’s eyes and knew the thought had never crossed his mind. Kid shook his head. “No, I couldn’t and you knew I wouldn’t.”
“Yeah, but thanks anyway.”
“Look I don’t think they’ll let me have long here and I won’t be able to come and see you for a while.” He looked up at the sheriff who stood by the door.
“Law givin’ you trouble?”
“You could say that.” Kid thought what to say next. “If I don’t come and see you, it’s not because I’m not thinkin’ about you.”
“Hey Kid, you sound kinda serious.”
“Well, I know how your mind gets to worryin’.” He looked down at his handcuffed wrists trying to put his feelings into words. “I just want to thank you for lookin’ after me when we were kids. I know I don’t say it as much as I should,” Kid said, a little embarrassed.
“That was a long time ago, Kid. I know how you feel about that.”
“Yeah, but I want you to know I appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome. Besides, you’ve watched my back enough times since.”
“I wouldn’t have done anything different you know? I mean we’ve had good times, yeah?” His partner was looking worried.
“Kid what is it? What’s wrong?” Kid said nothing, just looked at the floor. He was finding it hard to meet Heyes eyes. Heyes knew something was not right. “Hey I ain’t dyin’ am I?” Kid shot him a look.
“Then, why you gettin’ so serious? Why the need to tell me how much you ‘ppreciate all I’ve done?” Heyes’ eyes met Kid’s and he wasn’t sure what was going on inside his partner’s head.
“Well, you got shot and I…” Kid didn’t know what to say and was beginning to feel awkward. Heyes smiled.
“You care, don’t you? That’s real sweet Kid.” Kid shot him a look, embarrassed, as he realised his partner was making fun of him.
“Hey, what is it really, Kid?” Heyes knew his partner had not said what he really wanted to. He knew the man well enough to know something was definitely going unsaid.
“Nothin’, I’m just not sure I like bein’ on my own so much. I got used to your constant chatter.”
“Well don’t worry about that. As soon as I’m well enough I bet the sheriff will have me joinin’ you in jail.” Kid smiled but it did not reach his eyes.
“I guess,” he said. Heyes lowered his voice and beckoned Kid closer.
“I’m workin’ on a plan to get us outta here,” he said in a conspiratorial tone. “Haven’t got all the details sorted out yet but it’s coming together. I’ll get word to ya when I know what you need to do.”
“That’s good Heyes,” Kid said feigning enthusiasm. “But don’t worry y’self too much. You jus’ concentrate on gettin’ your strength back.”
“I thought after this we could go see Lom. We haven’t heard from him in a while. We could see if he’s heard from the Governor. What d’you think?” Heyes eyes were filled with hope.
“Yeah Heyes, whatever you want.”
“Lom won’t let us down.” Kid said nothing. “Be nice to see him.”
“Can’t wait,” Kid stated but Heyes heard the tone in his voice.
“You got faith in Lom ain’t ya Kid?” Heyes eyes narrowed.
“Sure Heyes,” Kid assured him with a cheery smile. “Good ol’ Lom.”
The sheriff coughed. Kid’s time there was up.
“I guess I hafta go. You take care of yourself Heyes,” Kid said. He looked uncomfortable but he knew this might be the last time he ever saw his friend.
He stood up. The man in bed was like a brother to him, and now he had to say goodbye.
“You hurry up and get yourself better.” Heyes held up his right hand and Kid took it in his. He held it for a long time; longer than Heyes expected, and their eyes met. Heyes did not like what he saw in his cousin’s blue eyes.
“Kid, what is it?” he asked again but Kid Curry looked away.
“Take care of yourself Heyes. Remember I won’t be there to watch your back. Bye, Han,” he said and walked quickly away. When Kid Curry reached the door his dark-haired partner called out to him.
“See you, Kid.” The blond man turned back, for one last time. Was Heyes imagining it, or did his eyes look moist? Kid gave his partner a smile, one that again did not reach his eyes, before leaving the room. The sheriff looked at the young man lying in bed before following Kid Curry out of the room.
Hannibal Heyes was confused. The look in Kid’s eyes he had seen before, a long time ago, in a small blond boy, in Kansas. It was one of resignation, of hopelessness and hurt. Heyes did not understand what was provoking those emotions in his cousin now. Kid had also called him Han and he hadn’t done that in as many years. What was all that about not seeing him for a while?
“Hey, what’s going on?” Heyes asked as he saw the look on Amelia’s face; saw the tears in her eyes. “Amelia?” But all she could do was look away.
“Let’s go sheriff,” the blond man said as they stood outside the bedroom. The lawman saw a change come over the young man’s face. There was dangerous hardness in Kid Curry’s eyes the sheriff had not seen before. It was a look, he assumed, many men had seen when facing this man down, waiting for the man to draw.
He’s defending himself, the lawman thought, but not from any hurt a bullet can do. Right now I’d say he was in more pain than his partner. He put a hand on the blond man’s elbow and steered him towards the stairs.
As they left the doctor’s house, Kid could only think that, it had probably been the last time he would see his cousin. It wasn’t how he’d expected them to part. He wondered if he should have told Heyes what was happening, but it was too late now. At least his partner would concentrate on getting better and not worry about what was happening to him. Kid had not felt this way since he was a boy in Kansas. Emotions, he did not like, were rushing at him and he wasn’t listening to a word the sheriff was saying; he just let himself be led back towards the jail. He had never expected the law to separate them; he’d always assumed, if they ever got caught, they would be in jail together. When he finally took notice of where he was Kid realised they were outside the town’s small cafe.
“You want somethin’ ta eat?” the sheriff asked him. Kid shook his head. He didn’t think he’d ever feel hungry again. “Steve, go get us somethin’ to take back. Get somethin’ for Mr. Curry too just in case his appetite returns.” The deputy disappeared inside and Kid looked along the boardwalk and came face to face with a man he recognised. He was a squared faced man with a broken nose and a lined face. He was several years older than Kid. His battered brown hat was pulled down low over his eyes but Kid knew who he was. He looked quickly away before the man saw him. Kid tried to remember the man’s name. It began with a B but what was it?
The sheriff led him back to the jail as Kid struggled to remember the name of the man he had seen. As the key turned in the lock it finally came to him. Blake. That was the man’s name. He had met him once at Devil’s Hole. There was only one reason Blake would be in a town like Cinder Valley. Now Kid had to decide what to do about it.
The sheriff watched as the young man paced backwards and forwards in his cell. He was clearly troubled by something and Chester Wholforth assumed it was saying goodbye to his partner. They would start the journey to Wyoming tomorrow. The prisoner had not been one to pace before but who could tell how a man would react to a stressful situation?
“Sheriff,” the young outlaw called, his decision made.
“What is it?” Chester Wholforth could see the young man was uncertain whether or not to say something. “Mr. Curry?”
“When we came back from the doctor’s house, I saw someone I recognised,” Kid stated. So that was it. The sheriff’s mind was racing. Was it a member of the Devil’s Hole Gang? Perhaps they were planning to break their friends out.
“Who?” the sheriff asked cautiously, but the prisoner suddenly seemed reluctant to say. “Who?” he asked again.
“A man named Blake,” Kid finally said.
“An’ if he’s in town he’s probably plann’ to rob the bank.” The lawman looked confused.
“He one of your men? Devil’s Hole?”
“No,” Kid stated flatly.
“Why you tellin’ me this?” the sheriff asked sceptically.
“Because he’s a killer.” Kid met the sheriff’s gaze. “The last time he robbed a bank two innocent women were killed.” The sheriff considered this.
“Where’d you see ‘im?”
“Goin’ into the saloon.”
“What’s he look like?”
“Sheriff, you can’t go after him on your own,” Kid told him.
“Describe ‘im,” the sheriff said.
“I’m not saying you aren’t capable, I’m just tellin’ you this man is a killer and he won’t ask questions before he starts shootin’.”
“Son, I’ve been a lawman a long time. I know how to handle this.” Kid was not convinced. “His description, please.” Kid still wasn’t sure. He could be sending the sheriff into danger and, despite all that was happening to him, the man had treated him fairly.
“Sheriff, take someone with you. Blake won’t come quietly.” The sheriff nodded.
“Alright. Now, what does he look like?”
“About you height. He’s got black curly hair. He’s wearing a brown shirt with a black leather vest.” Chester Wholforth checked his gun.
“Steve,” he said and the deputy looked up. “Check your gun son, we’ve got a job to do.”
At that moment the front door flew open and a young blond boy burst in.
“Sheriff! Someone’s robbin’ the bank.” He announced and Wholforth shot a look at the man in the cell, before he and his deputy ran outside.
Amelia entered the room to find Hannibal Heyes dressed in his jeans and struggling to pull on his boots. He had yet to attempt putting on a shirt.
“What are you doing up?” she asked with the concern of a good nurse.
“Will you help me with my boots?” he asked her weakly.
“No I will not. You shouldn’t be out of bed,” she scolded.
“Then will you find someone who will help me?” Sweat ran down his pale face but there was a steely determination in his eyes.
“No, Mr. Heyes. You’re not well enough to…” but he cut her off.
“Amelia, I want to see my partner before they take him away.”
“I wish I’d never told you,” she said. “I wasn’t supposed to say anything. He didn’t want you to know.”
“Yeah, well, Kid tries to protect people, it’s what he does. Amelia, I want to see him one more time, because there are things I need to say to him. Quite honestly, I’ll do it if it kills me.” She saw the look in his eyes and knew there would be no talking him out of it. “So will you please help me, because I really can’t get my boots on by myself.”
As Amelia helped Heyes finish dressing Doctor Jackson entered the room.
“What’s going on?” he asked and his daughter looked guiltily at Hannibal Heyes.
“Mr. Heyes wants to see his partner before he leaves and he wouldn’t take no for an answer,” she explained. “Short of tying him to the bed I didn’t know what else to do. So I thought it best to help him.”
“Please don’t try to stop me doc,” Heyes said although he didn’t think he could best the man in a fight in his present condition.
“There’s no need. Your partner isn’t going anywhere.” Heyes looked at him sceptically.
“Don’t try an’ fool me Doc. Amelia told me they’re taking him to Wyoming.”
“I’ve just come from the telegraph office,” the doctor explained. “I was checking that my supplies are on their way and whilst I was there, a telegram came in for the sheriff.” He could see he had their attention now.
“I just happened to see it,” he told them.
“Happened?” Amelia said sceptically.
“Alright, Bob thought I should know because Mr. Heyes is in my house and was alone with you.”
“So what did it say?” she prompted and her father looked at Hannibal Heyes.
“It was from the office of the Governor of Wyoming himself. Apparently the Governor is sending a man here and Chester is to hold you and your partner until he arrives.”
Heyes sat down on the bed. Who was coming? What for? To take Kid back? To take them both back?
“If you’re lyin’ Doc…” Heyes left the rest unsaid.
“Mr. Heyes, I never lie to my patients.” Heyes and Amelia both gave him a sceptical look. “At least, not when I think they might shoot me, if I did.” He gave them both a smile and nodded at his daughter which told her he was telling the truth.
“I believe my father,” she told the injured man. “I think you should too.”
“I wouldn’t shoot the man who saved my life,” Heyes told him.
“Your partner saved your life, when he surrendered to the sheriff. I just sewed you back together,” the doctor told him modestly.
And then they heard the sound of shots in the distance.
Kid heard the shots from inside the jail. His mind was working overtime imagining what might be going on outside. There were screams and more shots. He could only hope no innocent bystanders were getting hurt.
Blake edged his way along the boardwalk, his dark eyes taking in all around him. Holding a woman close to him, he reached back, and tried the door handle of a clothes store. It rattled but would not open. Someone inside had locked it; they probably heard the shooting. He tried another door, dragging the woman with him using her as a shield, his gun pressed firmly under her chin. Finally a door handle turned, the door opened and he dragged the woman inside. Ironically, Blake found himself in the sheriff’s office. Blake laughed, kicked the door closed and dragged the woman to the sheriff’s desk. He pointed to the chair behind the desk.
“Si’down,” he ordered and the woman sat. She was in her early twenties with her long brown hair tied up behind her head. The young woman was clearly terrified.
Blake looked around. There was a line of rifles in a rack on the wall. His eyes fell on the cells and stopped on a young curly-haired blond man sitting on a bunk in the far corner.
“Who are you?” Blake demanded to know as he approached the cell.
“I was gonna ask you the same thing,” Kid Curry said casually.
“Yeah, well, I’m the guy out here with the gun.”
“So I see.” Kid was clearly unimpressed. “Gotcha self a pretty hostage too.”
Blake didn’t say anything. He was sizing up the man behind the bars.
“How long you figure, before they burst in after ya?” Kid asked.
“They won’t come in here, not with this littl’ lady in danger.” He turned towards her and she edged back in the chair. “Besides I got the door covered,” Blake said confidently.
“There’s a back door too,” Kid informed him calmly. Blake looked nervously towards the rear of the office. He was a man used to riding with a gang, and having other’s watch his back. He did not appear too happy at the prospect, of facing a siege alone.
“Let me out and I’ll help you,” Kid offered. “You’ll need someone to watch your back. Been told I’m pretty good at that.”
“Why wouldya help me?”
“I wanna get outta here too.” Kid said flatly.
“Yeah, well, I’ll be shootin’ my way out for sure.”
“Don’t bother me. I got nothin’ to lose. I’m on my way to jail for a long time, so I’d ‘ppreciate any chance to get outta here,” Kid told him still sitting on the bunk, his back to the wall, acting as if he did not have a care in the world.
“How long they puttin’ ya away for?” Blake asked.
“Twenty years,” Kid told him.
“Holy! What d’you do, rob a whole bunch a banks?” It was then that he took a closer look at the blond man in the cell. “Hey, don’t I know you?”
“Well, they say I got a common face,” Kid stated.
“No. I know you.” Blake approached the cell, his face close to the bars. Suddenly his eyes opened in amazement. “I saw you at Devil’s Hole. Holy! You’re Kid Curry!” Kid stayed silent. Blake was now convinced who he was.
“Yes, sir. I remember it now. Remember it real well. I rode into Devil’s Hole with my men, askin’ t’hole up there for a few days but your partner, Hannibal Heyes, wouldn’t let us stay. Reckon I’da shot him then an’ there for that, but you was standin’ close by with your hand by your gun. I knew who you were an’ I weren’t takin’ no chances. Knew your reputation alright. Damn. You’re Kid Curry! Never did get to find out if you’re as fast as they say. Just as well I reckon.” He shook his head in wonder. “We had a posse on our tail for three days coz a your partner.”
“Yeah, well he ain’t my partner no more. They separated us an’ I’m not gonna see him again. So like I said, you need help an’ I’m offerin’. Whatcha say?”
Blake was clearly considering the options available to him.
“Where’s the keys?” Blake asked.
“Desk drawer,” Kid told him slowly getting to his feet. Blake found the keys and returning to the cell opened the door. The metal gave a creak as the door swung open and Kid stepped out of the cell. The butt of Blake’s gun came down hard on his head and he fell to the floor, surprised and stunned by the blow.
“Don’t even think about double-crossin’ me, boy,” Blake told the young blond man. The man on the floor said nothing so Blake bent down and grabbed a handful of blond curls, pulling Kid’s head up. “You hear me?”
“I hear ya?” Kid said. Blake released him and Kid touched the back of his head almost expecting to feel blood in his hair. Fortunately there was none. He held Blake’s gaze. There was mutual distrust and loathing in their eyes. “I need a gun,” Kid said.
“What for? So ya can shoot me in the back?” Blake asked him. Kid gave the man a look that told him he was considering it.
“No, so I can watch it,” the blond man stated. Blake nodded towards the sheriff’s desk.
“Top drawer. Saw it when I got the key,” he said. “Might even be ya’own.” Kid got slowly to his feet, still holding his head. He felt dizzy but could not let Blake know that. He staggered a little, towards the desk where the young woman sat, and saw the scared look on her face.
“You alright?” he asked, his voice little more than a whisper. She was barely more than a girl. She saw something, in his eyes, which told her his concern was genuine. As he opened the drawer, she nodded. Kid pulled out a gun and gun belt. It was his all right. “What’s your name?” he asked as he placed the belt around his waist and began to buckle it.
“Agnes,” she whispered.
“Well, Agnes, I won’t let him hurt you.” Kid winked at her and she allowed a slight smile to cross her face. As he tied the holster to his leg Kid felt properly dressed at last. He checked the chamber of his gun, making sure it was loaded. Then, as Blake watched, he twirled it several times before dropping it neatly into his holster. It was unnecessarily flamboyant but, seemed to have the effect on Blake, he was hoping for. He gave the killer a nod and Blake simple sneered at him, his own gun levelled at Kid in response.
Kid moved to the back door. Opening it slightly, he peered out and a shot hit the doorframe, sending splinters of wood into the air, just inches from his face. Shutting the door quickly, Kid turned to Blake.
“Well, the back way’s guarded. You won’t get out that way withouta fight.” Kid looked at the dark-haired man. “So what’s your plan?” Somehow he doubted Blake had a plan. The man moved towards Agnes and grabbed her by the arm.
“Get up,” he said as he pulled her to her feet. Kid tensed.
“Whatcha gonna do?” he asked.
“They won’t want her hurt. I’ll tell them to get us horses or we’ll shoot her.” Agnes shot Kid a terrified look, as Blake opened the door a fraction, dragging her in front of him. He held his gun to her waist as he called out.
“Sheriff, you hear me?”
“I hear you,” came the reply.
“I want horses, saddled and at the back door now,” Blake demanded.
“Horses? How many you plannin’ to ride?” Chester Wholforth asked.
“Just get three horses round the back, now, or I’ll shoot the woman.” Blake waited and when the sheriff did not reply he fired a couple of shots in the lawman’s direction then pulled the young woman closer, pressing the gun to her head. Agnes cried out in fear. That was enough for the sheriff.
“Alright Blake, I’ll get ya horses,” Wholforth called back, leaving the bank robber to wonder how the sheriff knew his name.
“I want food on the saddles too,” Blake told him. “Get moving sheriff, my finger’s real unsteady on this trigger and I got me back up now. You tell your men Kid Curry has them in his sights.”
Oh terrific, Kid thought, why not tell them I’m in on the robbery too?
The bedroom Heyes occupied overlooked the main street. It was at this window that Hannibal Heyes now sat watching the drama play out below.
Heyes and Amelia watched as the sheriff eased closer to the building and sheltered behind a horse trough. The bank robber was using the young woman as a shield, calling his demands from the open door. Heyes was a little worried when horses were requested but even more concerned when the robber announced that Kid Curry had them in his sights. What was going on in there?
Why was the robber claiming Kid was helping him? Unless he really was? Heyes did not believe it. Who was this man in the jail? Heyes had asked the doctor to find out. It could help save the life of the young woman and his partner, if it turned out to be somebody he knew. Henry Jackson went to find one of his usual reliable sources, all of whom were about eight years old. The doctor’s tiny gang soon provided a name for the man. Blake. Heyes felt a rush of dread; it was a name he knew and one Kid would know too. The man was a killer and unpredictable at that. He hoped his partner knew what he was doing.
Kid Curry watched Blake pull Agnes back into the sheriff’s office. He kept hold of the young woman, using her body to protect himself, should anyone decide to fire at him inside the jail. He kept his gun at her waist. Kid watched, waiting for an opportunity to free the girl without either of them getting shot.
“So what now?” Kid asked
“Keep an eye out back for the horses,” Blake instructed and Kid walked slowly to the rear door and opened it a fraction. A little while later, a nervous looking man, led three saddled horses down the alley, towards the back of the jail. He tied them to a hitching rail and, seeing Kid Curry, backed slowly away before breaking into a run. Kid closed the door and looked at Blake. The man was still shielding himself behind Agnes as he watched the main street through the window.
“Horses are here,” Kid announced and Blake gave a satisfied nod. He dragged Agnes towards the back of the office, where Kid waited.
“How many horses?” Blake asked.
“Three, jus’ like you asked for,” Kid told him.
“Go outside and bring the horses to the door,” he ordered Kid.
“I’m not steppin’ out there to get myself shot to pieces,” Kid told him.
“Do as you’re told,” Blake said.
“Or what?” Kid asked.
“Or I’ll blow your head off,” Blake said raising his gun and aiming it at Kid’s face.
“Then who’ll get the horses?” The men stared at each other. “Send the girl,” Kid said. “They won’t shoot her.” Blake saw the sense in this.
“Go get the horses,” he told Agnes, his foul breath on her face. “Bring them to the door. I’ll have a gun on your back the whole time, so don’t even think about doing anything stupid.” Agnes looked at Kid and he gave a nod.
“Do as he says,” he told her as he holstered his gun. Kid held out his hand to the young woman as he opened the door. “They’re at the hitching rail.”
Agnes took his hand, felling comforted by the firm hold he had on her, and she walked towards the door.
“Bring them as close as you can,” Blake ordered her as Kid scanned the alley for any sign of trouble. He opened the door wider.
“Run, Agnes,” he whispered and she shot him a confused look. “Run!” he yelled and she felt his hand on her back propelling her out of the door. Agnes needed no further encouragement and she took off as fast as her legs could carry her. At the same moment Kid turned and threw himself at Blake before he had a chance to aim his gun. Both men fell backwards into the open cell. As they did so Blake caught his hand on the door and his gun went off.
At the doctor’s house Hannibal Heyes and Amelia heard the sound of a gunshot inside the jail. Amelia saw Heyes tense. The dark-haired man could only watch and wait, wondering what had happened to his partner; hoping the gun shot had nothing to do with him. Amelia put her hand on Heyes’ shoulder offering what little comfort she could. Together they watched the sheriff and his deputy edge closer to the jail.
Kid fell on top of Blake, then pushed himself up and landed a punch to the man’s jaw. Blake was a strong man and he pushed Kid back, and then landed a powerful punch of his own.
Kid’s head was spinning and before he could respond another blow caught the side of his face. Blake ran at the young blond man catching him in the abdomen, forcing him against the wall. It became an exchange of blows. Kid landed several to Blake’s head and body and Blake returned them. Kid Curry’s mouth and nose were bleeding and so were Blake’s. The dark-haired man had a cut above his left eye and Kid’s left cheek was bruised and bloody. Kid had no time to draw his gun.
As the fight spilled into the front of the sheriff’s office Blake grabbed a chair and swung it at Kid, catching him painfully across his left side. Kid staggered backwards as the chair broke apart. Blake picked up a broken and splintered chair leg brandishing it at the younger man, as he regained his balance. Swinging it wildly he advanced on the young outlaw and caught him in the ribs. Kid doubled over, leaping back to avoid further blows. Blake lunged at him and Kid found himself up against the wall with nowhere to go. A piece of wood speared Kid’s upper arm and he cried out in pain. Kid lashed out landing a massive punch to Blake’s nose and the older man went down hard. Kid staggered back surprised to find he had knocked Blake out.
Kid Curry leaned against the wall, gasping for breath. He held his left arm which was still impaled with a piece of wood. He looked down at the unconscious man and heard footsteps approaching from the back of the office.
“Hold it right there son,” a voice said and Kid did not move. “Raise your hands,” Sheriff Wholforth instructed him. The blond man tried to do what he was asked but he could only lift his right arm. His left arm hurt too much so he opened his hand to show the sheriff he was unarmed, although his gun was still in his holster. Deputy Carroway ran forward and removed the gun from Kid’s holster. He then turned to the man on the floor. Another man Kid did not know, joined them and together he and the deputy dragged Blake into a cell and locked him in. Sheriff Wholforth stared at Kid Curry, taking in his bloody nose and mouth, the cut on his cheek and the wood sticking out of his arm. The man looked ready to collapse. The sheriff lowered his gun and walked slowly towards the young outlaw.
“Agnes alright?” Kid asked. The sheriff nodded.
“For a while there, I thought maybe you’d thrown in with Blake. Guess I was wrong,” Wholforth told him. Kid did not say anything. “Why didn’t you take the chance to run?”
“My partner would never let me hear the last of it, if I did,” the blond man told him.
“But you’re the one on his way to jail.”
“Yeah, I am.” Kid met the sheriff’s enquiring gaze.
“You still coulda run,” the sheriff said but Kid Curry shook his head.
“Couldn’t do that to ‘im; couldn’t let ‘im down.”
“Still hoping for that amnesty?” Kid shrugged his shoulders and winced at the pain in his arm.
“Let’s get you looked at,” the lawman said and Kid nodded gratefully and allowed himself to be steered towards the door.
Kid sat in the doctor’s treatment room. He was stripped to the waist as Amelia bandaged his arm. With the eyes of a doctor’s daughter she noticed the bruises on his body and the scars from old bullet wounds. How many times had he needed someone to tend his wounds, she wondered? What sort of a life did he really lead? Amelia gently tended the cuts on his face, and Kid flinched, as she applied some ointment to his cheek.
“I think you’ll still be a little bit handsome,” she told him. “Maybe not as much as your partner but…” Kid raised his eyebrows at her as she teased him. “Oh, I’m sure some desperate ladies will still fall for you.”
“Maybe I’m only interested in one lady,” he said, his eyes on her. Amelia’s fingers gently touched his cheek and he put his hand over hers.
“I thought you didn’t want me associating with outlaws,” she teased him again, her eyes meeting his as he held her hand. She was feeling a little lost in those eyes.
“You can associate,” he said pulling her towards him. He held her close, grateful for the comfort of another human being. Amelia did not pull away, somehow she felt safe in his arms. They heard a cough and Sheriff Wholforth stood in the doorway watching them with only slight disapproval. The young couple smiled sheepishly and Kid let Amelia go, backing off as if caught by her father.
“Time to get you back to jail,” the sheriff told Kid. “Seems the Governor is sending someone to get you, after all.” A cloud passed over Kid’s face.
Kid Curry lay dozing on his bunk, his brown hat over his face to block out the light. Sheriff Wholforth stood outside the cell and for a moment felt a slight reluctance to disturb him. The young man had been through a lot in the last few days and he could certainly do with the rest.
“Mr. Curry. The Governor’s man’s here,” the lawman announced. Kid did not move. “Hey Curry! Wake up! Governor’s man’s here,” he called again.
Kid raised his hat with one finger, to peer out at the grey-haired man.
“Governor’s man’s here,” the sheriff repeated and another man walked into view.
“You? The Governor sent you?” Kid was quickly on his feet and striding towards the bars. Curry was astounded and then angry to see the man he thought of as a friend, standing outside the cell. “You’ve come to take me back? How could you Lom?” Kid asked his hands gripping the bars so tight his knuckles quickly turned white.
“Kid…,” but the blond man would not let Sheriff Lom Trevors finish.
“I thought you were our friend. You coulda said no, Lom. You coulda said no.” He walked away from the bars and stood as far away from Lom Trevors as he could get, his face a picture of hurt and anger.
“Kid,” Lom said gently but the younger man was in no mood to listen.
“Don’t. Don’t try to make things look better. Twenty years in jail Lom, and we were tryin’ so hard to go straight. You know that!” The dark-haired man ran a hand over his moustache as he watched Kid Curry and waited patiently for his friend to calm down.
“You about finished?” he asked. “You gonna let me get a word in edge-ways or do I hafta have someone gag ya so I can speak?”
Kid just glared at him and if looks could kill, people would be sending out condolences to Lom’s family.
“Say what you hafta.” Kid sank down on the bunk, his elbows resting on his knees as he looked at the floor.
“Thank you,” Lom said. Sheriff Wholforth opened the cell door and Lom entered, although he wasn’t sure if entering a cage with a man-eating lion, wouldn’t have been a safer option. Kid looked at him, distrust almost dripping from his eyes. Lom sat down on the bunk opposite the blond man. Kid was struggling to control his anger.
“You seen Heyes?” Kid asked and Lom smiled. Even now, when he clearly wanted to throttle someone, Kid’s thoughts were on his injured partner.
“I have,” Lom told him, but decided to make Kid speak to him. If he wanted to know more, Kid was going to have to work for it.
“He okay?” the blond man asked without looking up.
“He’s doing fine, although you gave him a bit of a scare with that trouble with Blake.” Kid took this in and nodded. Kid was even more surprised when Sheriff Wholforth entered the cell and sat down next to Lom. Neither man spoke as the young ex-outlaw looked warily from one sheriff to the other. Finally Lom Trevors began to explain.
“The Governor sent me to sort this mess out.” He raised a hand to stop Kid interrupting him. “Hear me out, please,” he added keeping his voice as calm as he could.
“After I received your telegram I went to see the Governor. He’d already had word you were here. We discussed what could be done. The Governor wondered if this might be a case of mistaken identity.” Kid looked confused. “The men described to us, were not doing anything illegal, at the time they were seen and maybe the witness was mistaken? Maybe they’re not the men she thought?”
“But, you know us Lom,” Kid whispered as if he didn’t want the man sitting next to him to hear.
“It’s not my word the Governor wants.”
“Sheriff Trevors you can identify Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry is that correct?” Sheriff Wholforth said.
“It is, but that’s not what I’ve been sent here to do. The Governor knows I can identify Heyes and Curry. What he wants to know is if these are the men your witness saw robbing a train. If not, then he has no further interest in them.”
“So if it’s a case of mistaken identity the Governor’s happy for me to let them go?” Wholforth asked for Kid’s benefit. He and Sheriff Trevors had already had this conversation and he was satisfied with all the man from Porterville had suggested.
“Yes, he is.” Kid looked at Lom Trevors, then at Sheriff Wholforth trying to understand what he was hearing.
“You asked the Governor to let us go?” Kid asked.
“I did,” Lom told him. Kid felt ashamed that he ever doubted the man.
“Lom, I’m sorry, I thought…” he was too embarrassed to finish what he was trying to say.
“I know what you thought, Kid,” the lawman told him and there was something in his voice, an edge, which told Kid they would be discussing that later.
Kid considered what the two lawmen were suggesting. He saw from their faces that they were serious. Slowly, Kid’s face broke into a smile.
“Well I’ll be,” he said grinning at the two men.
Millicent Weatherby arrived at the doctor’s house, a little flustered, and with her good friend, Eileen Farley, on hand to give her support. She had been at a meeting to arrange the food for the church social when Sheriff Wholforth had arrived, asking her if she wouldn’t mind coming to the doctor’s house, on a matter of urgency. The doctor greeted the women and the sheriff, and escorted them upstairs to the bedroom the outlaw Hannibal Heyes occupied. They were a little surprised and embarrassed to be taken into the injured man’s room but she knew what the sheriff was going to ask her.
The two women now stood at the foot of Heyes’ bed along with the sheriff and the doctor. Amelia sat in the chair by the window. They all turned to the door as it opened and Kid Curry was escorted into the room by Deputy Steve Carroway and another, dark-haired man, they did not know. The new man was tall and with a dark moustache. On his chest a sheriff’s badge shone proudly. Eileen Farley thought he was very good looking and had to turn her head away in case he saw her blush. He was definitely husband material. Eileen wondered how long he would be staying in town.
The young blond outlaw was ushered towards the bed, his wrists handcuffed. Kid Curry was even more handsome when you got close to him, Millicent thought. What nice blue eyes he had. The graze from the bullet was still clearly visible on his temple, but it was the man she knew as Hannibal Heyes, who had attracted her attention. He sat back on the bed, his left arm in a sling, his right arm through the sleeve of a shirt that draped over his left shoulder. His face was still pale and he was hiding how weak he still felt. Heyes’ brown eyes fixed on hers. She blushed and cast her eyes to the floor as he smiled at her. There was hope in his eyes.
“Millicent, I’m hoping you can help us,” Sheriff Wholforth began in his most official tone, for the benefit of all present. “Sheriff Trevors here has been sent by the Governor of Wyoming. He needs to know if these two men are the train robbers you saw. Millicent, are you absolutely positive that these two young men were the ones, that robbed the train you were on? Don’t let the fact that they will have to spend the next 20 years of their lives in jail, or the fact that this young man,” he pointed to Kid, “saved Agnes’ life, influence you in any way.”
Millicent looked at the two handsome young men; trying hard not to allow their appearance or the things Sheriff Wholforth had told her, to influence her in anyway. She saw the slight blood stain on the bandage at Heyes’ shoulder and felt a tinge of guilt. If she had not identified him in the first place he would not have been shot.
“Well, now that I see them up close,” she began and they all looked at her hopefully. “It was over a year ago and I only saw them for a moment.” In actual fact she, and her sister Martha, had stared at nothing but the two handsome young train robbers as they stood beside the train waiting for one of their gang, a scruffy little man, to blow the safe. In fact those two handsome young men were indeed the men in front of her now. There was no way she would have forgotten them. The thrill of a train robbery to two young women, the danger, two handsome young outlaws, the prospect of being swept off their feet and carried off to who knew where, to succumb to who knew what, at their hands…? She blushed now at the memory.
“If two such handsome young men, had robbed the train I was on, I would not have forgotten it or them,” Millicent stated. They could almost hear the cell door slamming shut behind them. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry knew it. Sheriff Wholforth knew it. Millicent did indeed remember them. They had robbed the train she was on; they could see it on her face. Everyone in the room knew it too. “I never forget a face, especially a handsome one,” she said to herself, then blushed again as she realised she was staring at Hannibal Heyes and everyone had heard her.
“No sheriff,” she suddenly said. “These were not the men.” Her words surprised them all. Kid let out the breath he had been holding and Heyes closed his eyes in relief. However they still had to hear what the sheriff thought.
“You’re sure?” Chester Wholforth asked her.
“Yes sheriff, I’m sure these men should not be spending 20 years in jail. I must have been mistaken.” That was good enough for the lawman.
“Thank you Millicent,” he said and she smiled at the two young men.
“Thank you,” Kid said and Heyes gave her a smile that almost broke her heart. Millicent blushed again and looked away, but when she raised her eyes he was still looking at her.
Millicent met Heyes’ brown eyes and he mouthed “Thank you.”
Several days later, Hannibal Heyes was feeling strong enough, to climb into the saddle and have a pretty good chance of staying on his horse, if it decided to move.
“I hope you gentleman won’t take this the wrong way, but I’d like you to get outta this town, and not come back,” Chester Wholforth told them as, Heyes, Kid and Lom Trevors, sat on their horses outside the sheriff’s office. Lom would ride with them as far as the border. They were looking forward to spending some time, with their old friend. Sheriff Wholforth offered his hand to Hannibal Heyes and the dark-haired man leant carefully forward in the saddle and shook it. “Take care of yourself Mr. Heyes.”
“Thank you Sheriff,” Heyes replied and the lawman turned away.
Kid leant over and shook the sheriff’s hand.
“’ppreciate your help Mr. Curry,” the lawman said. “You try an’ stay outta trouble you hear?”
“I’ll do my best,” Kid assured him.
They turned their horses away from the sheriff’s office. Dr. Henry Jackson and his daughter Amelia stood on the porch outside their home as the three men rode by. The doctor waved to them all but Amelia only had eyes for one man. Kid touched the brim of his hat and gave Amelia a smile, their eyes meeting for one last time. Amelia smiled back and Kid winked at her; associating with some outlaws wasn’t so bad after all.
“Kid, I gotta hand it to you,” Heyes said. “You’ve been in jail for much of the last few days, and yet you still managed to charm a pretty girl.”
“It’s a gift I have Heyes, just a natural gift.” Kid said matter-of-factly and his partner shook his head.
“You just can’t help yourself, can you?” Kid smiled at his partner, remembering how he had felt, not many days ago, seeing him slumped against the rocks in a blood covered shirt. It was good to be riding with him again.
Lom watched his two friends as they joked with each other, knowing what each man would give up for his friend. It had taken a lot to convince the Governor to agree to his plan to release them. Since Lom realised how serious they were about the amnesty, there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do to help them get it.
The two young men pulled their horses to a halt and, turning in their saddles, looked back at the lawman.
“Hey Lom, you coming with us or what?” Heyes asked giving his friend a smile. The sheriff urged his horse towards them.