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 A Bad Couple of Days part 1

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Maz



Posts : 6
Join date : 2013-09-27

20131121
PostA Bad Couple of Days part 1

Thought we could start alphabetically

A Bad Couple of Days

By Maz McCoy

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry sat on the porch outside the saloon. It was a bright sunny day and they sat watching the people going about their business on the main street of the small town of Valentine. Each man smoked a cigar, slowly breathing out a cloud of smoke. Kid Curry had his feet up on the hitching rail, his chair tilted back on two legs, rocking gently. Hannibal Heyes blew out another long trail of smoke and a sigh followed.

“You know Kid, I could get used to this,” he said to his blond-haired partner, who nodded in agreement. “Things are going real good for us at the moment. We’ve got money in our pockets, the sheriff has no idea who we are and …” Kid’s chair returned sharply to four legs.

“Heyes, if you say one more thing to jinx this I will flatten ya,” Kid Curry interrupted the ex-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang, fixing him with an icy blue stare. The dark-haired man gave his partner a hurt look.

“What d’you mean? I’m not going to say anything to jinx this. I’m not gonna say ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ or anything. I jus’ mean our luck has been good for a while, things are peaceful for once and they look like they’re gonna stay that way too, leastways for a bit. You should be pleased and…” he stopped speaking as he noticed his partner was no longer listening to him. The blond man was watching a young woman, across the street, as she struggled with several packages. She was in her early twenties with mousey brown hair. She had fairly plain features and was holding the top parcel on the pile, in place, with her chin. She searched for the edge of the step with her foot.

Hannibal Heyes knew what was coming next. As he expected Kid got up and walked across the street. He tipped his hat to the young woman and she smiled at him, somewhat shyly, her long brown hair covering part of her face. Her name was Alice McCloskey. Heyes watched as his partner took the packages from her, and she led the way towards a buckboard. Kid placed the packages in the back and then followed Alice around to the front. He held out a hand, which she took, and helped her up onto the seat. They exchanged a few words and the young woman blushed, not used to having such a handsome young man pay her so much attention.

Heyes watched his partner making another woman’s day, by his kind actions, but then his smile faded as two scruffy looking men walked along the boardwalk towards the buckboard. The men stopped dead in their tracks having noticed the blond-haired man holding Alice’s hand. They quickened their pace. One of the men placed a hand on Kid’s shoulder and he turned to face them. Heyes saw his partner’s expression change from the sweet smile he had given the woman to one of patient resignation. Hannibal Heyes stood up and extinguished his cigar. What had Kid said about jinxing things? Now who was going to flatten who?

“What d’ya think yer doing?” the older of the two men asked. His name was Frank McCloskey and he was a few years older than Kid. His lined face and dark eyes suggested he had led a hard life. His clothes were worn and dusty, his hands callused and his eyes tired. Kid Curry was being very patient with the man.

“I was jus’ helpin’ the young lady with her packages,” he told the two men who stood facing him.

“Is that what you call it?” the younger man, Frank’s brother Thomas, asked. His lank blond hair was hidden under a brown hat. He was skinny and as dusty and tired looking as his brother.

“Well, that’s what I was doin’,” Kid said.

“Ya had yer hands on m’sister,” Frank McCloskey stated.

“I was helpin’ her up, that’s all.” Kid noticed the men moved to stand side by side, each with their hands hanging by their guns. Neither man wore his gun tied down. Kid sighed heavily. When he spoke, he used his patient voice. “Look, I just helped your sister carry some parcels and made sure she…” but the first man did not let Kid finish.

“Ya had yer hands on m’sister. I don’t like that and I don’t like yer attitude mister,” he told the man before him.

“Well, I’m sorry about that but I meant no offence,” Kid told him honestly.

“Well ya sure caused some,” Thomas, told him. Kid turned to the young woman.

“I’m sorry ma’am, did I offend you?” he asked but she looked at her feet and did not reply. Alice was clearly afraid of her two brothers.

“Don’t care what she says,” the older McCloskey told him. “I say ya offended her and I want…”

“Somethin’ wrong gentlemen?” Heyes asked coming up behind them. The two men turned, realising now, that they no longer out numbered the blond man. Both men noted that the dark-haired man wore his gun tied down, just like the man who had touched their sister. “My partner was just helpin’ the young lady with her parcels. Is there anythin’ wrong with that?” The men consider the situation. They were no longer sure they could win this argument and there was a man on either side of them, carrying a gun he looked as if he could use.

“Come on Tom,” Frank said. “Let’s get outta here.” He stared at Kid, a hardness in his eyes, telling the blond man , that Frank McCloskey was not happy . “You stay away from her or this ain’t the last you’ll see of us,” he warned.

The two men climbed up onto the wagon squeezing their sister between them. She looked uncomfortable and gave Kid a slight grateful smile before looking quickly away. The older McCloskey took the reins and they moved off.

Kid watched them go and Heyes watched his partner.

“What was it you were sayin’ Kid?” the dark-haired man asked. “Somethin’ about flattenin’ me if I did anythin’ to jinx our comfortable time here in Valentine?” His partner looked at him, knowing what Heyes was implying.

“Say whatcha hafta Heyes.”

“Just wondered if it worked both ways? Cos I’m ready to flatten ya right now.” He gave his partner a patient smile which did not reach his eyes , masking his real feelings.

“Look Heyes I didn’t do anythin’ wrong. I jus’ helped her carry some packages. Jus’ did what a gentleman should; what we was raised to do,” Kid said defiantly and proudly.

“Yeah, well, your need to be a gentleman has got us into trouble more than once.”

“Meanin’?”

“Meanin’…” Then Heyes saw the challenging and hurt look in his partner’s blue eyes. He couldn’t be angry any longer. Heyes shook his head. “Meanin’ nothin’. Just be careful who you help, will ya?” He put his arm across his partner’s shoulders and felt Kid relax.

“C’mon, I’ll buy you a drink,” Heyes said and they headed for the saloon.

***

Hannibal Heyes looked at his cards, and then looked over the top of them to the man sitting opposite him. It was one of the men they had met this afternoon; a man he now knew as Frank McCloskey.

“Call,” Heyes said and waited for the next man at the table to make his decision. The other men gradually threw in their cards until it was only Hannibal Heyes and Frank McCloskey left. With a smile that told Heyes, he was sure he had the winning hand; McCloskey laid his cards face up on the table. Two sevens and two sixes.

“Two pair,” McCloskey said smugly. He started to reach towards the pot but Heyes stopped him. Smiling, equally as confident, Heyes placed his cards on the table. McCloskey’s dark eyes looked at them and his smile faded. Heyes had placed down three jacks.

“Three of a kind,” Heyes stated, and reached towards the money in the centre of the table.

“Now wait a minute,” McCloskey said. “Somethin’s wrong here.” The other men at the table tensed, sensing the possibility of trouble, when McCloskey was around.

“What’s wrong?” Heyes asked calmly.

“I won that hand,” the man stated.

“I think you’ll find ‘three of a kind’ beats ‘two pair’,” Heyes told him.

“But where did that third jack come from? That’s what I want to know,” McCloskey told him. The other men slowly moved their chairs back from the table as the saloon fell silent. Heyes gave no sign of being the least bit concerned. Inside his head, he was working out the possible ways to successfully end the argument.

“Sounds like, you think I was cheatin’,” Heyes said. The other men moved further back. McCloskey pushed his chair back.

“Too right I do,” he stated. “Whatcha got ta say about that?”

“Only that I wasn’t cheatin’ and if you’d been watching the cards, you’d know that.” Heyes turned to the other men at the table. “Do any of you gentlemen think I was cheatin’?” No one wanted to say anything but two men shook their heads slightly.

“They got nothin’ to say. I guess they don’t believe ya,” Frank McCloskey stated.

“Well, I think the cards speak for themselves…”

“But I don’t. I say ya was cheatin’ and that’s my money in the pot. So just how far ya willin’ to go to claim it?” Heyes looked at the man, meeting his dark eyes.

“Somethin’ wrong Joshua?” a familiar voice asked. Kid Curry walked around the table to stand behind his partner.

“No, Thaddeus,” Heyes said, suppressing a smile at Kid’s approach. “This gentleman was jus’ about to tell me why he thought I was cheatin’.”

“I know ya was cheatin’.” McCloskey assured him.

“Can you back that up?” Kid Curry asked.

“Can yer friend?” the other man asked, pushing his chair further back.

“Look, I don’t want any trouble,” Heyes stated.

“Too late now, ya got trouble, boy.”

“If my friend says he doesn’t want any trouble, then that’s what he means,” Kid told him and everyone heard the subtle change in his tone.

“Stay outta this; it’s between me and him.” McCloskey told Kid.

“Not when you accuse my partner of cheatin’ it ain’t.” Kid told him.

“Ya just can’t keep outta other people’s business can ya? First m’sister, now this game. Well, I tell ya what. Ya want trouble ya got it.” McCloskey stood up. “Ya can get out now and leave me and yer friend here to sort this out or we’ll see how much of a man ya really are, cos I’m fed up with yer talkin’. What’s it to be?” His eyes fixed on Kid.

“I was just helpin’ your sister this afternoon,” Kid told the man. He slowly removed the glove from his right hand. He looked at the man as he did so, not taking his gaze from the other man’s eyes. Heyes saw what Kid was doing.

“Thaddeus, we don’t want any trouble,” Heyes said quietly but it had gone too far. Kid did not answer him, instead he spoke to McCloskey.

“An’ I know my partner doesn’t cheat at poker. He don’t have to, he’s too good at it.” He tucked the glove into his gun belt. “So, like I told you, I don’t want any trouble, maybe we can sort this out peaceable like.”

“Well ya got trouble boy. So what’s it to be?” The man stared at Kid, watching, waiting, oozing confidence. Then he went for his gun, only to hear gasps and whistles of amazement. Kid Curry had his gun in his hand before Frank McCloskey’s had even cleared his holster. McCloskey was dumbstruck as he realised what might have been, had the blond man pulled the trigger.

“Now, I told you I don’t want any trouble, and neither does my partner. So why don’t you take what’s left of your money, and leave.” It was not a question. The older man glared at Kid, not happy at being humiliated in front of people he knew, but equally glad to be alive. His eyes were still on Kid as he picked up his money and stormed out of the saloon. When he was convinced no one else was going to stand up to him, Kid slowly lowered his gun. As others in the saloon watched him, he unconsciously twirled his gun twice, and dropped it neatly into its holster.

Hannibal Heyes picked up his winnings, pushed back his chair and joined his partner at the bar as Kid ordered two whiskies and asked the bar tender to leave the bottle.

“Thanks,” Heyes said and Kid passed him a drink. “Where were you?”

“Around,” Kid told him and then his face broke into a smile. “Always got my eye on your back Joshua, you know that.” He slapped his friend across the back and Heyes relaxed and smiled at last. Just as soon, he turned serious again.

“I coulda handled it, ya know,” Heyes said.

“Of course ya could,” Kid told him.

“Not every situation hasta be solved with a fast draw.”

“I know that,” Kid acknowledged.

“I don’t want ya t’think I couldn’t have dealt with ‘im.”

“I don’t.”

“Of course, I’m really grateful for you steppin’ in the way ya did.”

“My pleasure, Heyes,” Kid said and Heyes was quiet, but Kid knew there was something eating at his partner.

“You know you don’t hafta put yourself in the firin’ line for me every time.” Kid let out a long breath. Now Heyes was getting to what was really bothering him.

“I know,” Kid told him.

“I don’t want you gettin’ hurt on my…” Kid held up a hand.

“Drop it Heyes. It’s okay. It’s dealt with.”

“Okay Kid, but even so…”

“Heyes, shut up before I wish I’d let him shoot ya.” He raised his eyebrows at his partner and Heyes had the sense to realise, no more needed to be said. He smiled and Kid poured him another drink. “Here,” he said handing it to the dark-haired man.

“Thanks,” Heyes said and then was quiet for a while.

“I guess we’ve outstayed our welcome now,” he stated sadly.

“Yeah, I guess we have,” Kid agreed. “Shame, it’s a nice town. If only you hadn’t said so this afternoon.”

“Me? If you hadn’t gone off to play the white knight once more we coulda stayed here for a lot longer.” Kid looked at Heyes, a little shocked.

“You didn’t expect me to sit by an’ see a lady strugglin’ did ya?”

“Knowin’ you Kid, no, and that’s jus’ the point. Do you have to be so predictable all the time?” Kid didn’t know what to say. He gave his partner an exasperated look and finished his drink.

“You finished here?” he asked and the dark-haired man shook his head.

“Kid, I can win another couple of games, I know it. It would be a sin not to share my talents with these fine people, especially if we’re gonna hafta leave.” Kid nodded at Heyes’ overconfidence.

“D’you want me to stay?” he asked but his partner shook his head.

“I don’t expect any trouble now.”

“Okay, I’ll see you back at the hotel,” Kid told him and left Heyes as he returned to his seat at the table.

***

Kid Curry walked along the boardwalk, returning alone to the hotel. Lights burned in a few of the windows but the main street was empty except for a couple of horses tied to a hitching rail and a man asleep, on a seat outside the saloon.

“Hey!” a voice called from an alley and Frank McCloskey stepped out of the shadows and stood in front of him. Kid stood still, waiting to see what the man wanted. His gloves were still tucked in his gun belt so he was ready to draw should he need to. “I want a word with ya,” McCloskey told him.

“I thought we’d said all we had to,” Kid told him.

“You, maybe. Me? I’m not finished with ya.” The man ran a hand over his developing stubble and smiled. A heavy blow hit Kid across the back of his shoulders and stunned, he fell to the ground. Another blow caught him at the side of his head and, before he had the chance to regain his senses, he was dragged into the alley as a voice said, “Time for a little payback.”

***

Hannibal Heyes was feeling pleased with himself, and he had a definite spring in his step, as he took the hotel stairs two at a time. There was money in his pocket and, if he and Kid had to leave Valentine, at least they would do so with a good stake to support them. Reaching their room, Heyes turned the handle and found the door locked. He knocked on the door.

“Thaddeus, open up,” he called but there was no reply. Maybe Kid was asleep. He banged harder on the door, raising his voice. “Thaddeus, it’s me, Open the door.” Again, there was no reply. After several more attempts to get his partner to open up, Hannibal Heyes reached into his boot and, removed a lock pick. Bending down he examined the key hole and unlocked the door. The room was in darkness as Heyes entered. He found his way to the washstand, struck a match, and lit the lantern that stood on it.

“Kid?” As the room was slowly illuminated, Heyes turned to the bed, expecting to see his partner asleep, but the room was empty. There was no sign that Kid had ever returned.

Now the ex-outlaw leader was concerned. There was no reason that Heyes could think of, why his partner should not be in the room now. It was not like Kid to go off without telling him where he was going. Heyes went down to the hotel reception. The smartly dressed clerk was a small bald man with a pencil-thin moustache. He looked up, eager to help, as Hannibal Heyes approached the desk.

“Can I help sir?” he asked hopefully.

“Has my partner been back tonight?” Heyes asked. “Blond man, curly hair, about my height?”

“I know him sir. He hasn’t been back, not since you both went out earlier this evening’,” the desk clerk told him politely. Keys hung on a row of hooks on the wall behind him. The clerk turned and removed a key. “Do you want your key?” Heyes took it but did not return to the room. Instead, he went out onto the boardwalk and looked up and down the street searching for any sign of his partner. If they had not had a run in with McCloskey he would not have been quite so worried. Heyes went back to the hotel room, looked around and, finding no clue as to Kid’s whereabouts, he left, locking the door behind him.

Heyes retraced his steps to the saloon but the bartender told him his partner had not been back. Heyes wondered where he should look next. The last time Kid had gone missing like this he’d been found in the middle of nowhere by a sheriff. Hannibal Heyes hoped things were not repeating themselves.

Kid might have gone to check on the horses. It was unlikely but he decided to check it out, just in case, and he couldn’t think of anything else to do. When Heyes reached the livery stable, he found it locked up for the night. He leaned his back against the door, crossed his arms over his chest, and looked along the main street, hoping for inspiration. The sound of a piano carried from the saloon and a couple of drunken cowboys were weaving their way across the street towards the hotel. Apart from that, all was quiet in Valentine. Heyes walked slowly back towards the hotel giving each alley he passed a cursory glance.

It was as he looked into the alley nearest the saloon, that he noticed the hat. It was a floppy, brown cowboy hat with a buckle band. Heyes bent down and picked up the hat. It was Kid’s hat, there was no mistaking it. The alley was deserted. A torrent of thoughts went through his mind but all of them told him one thing. Kid was in trouble and he had no idea where he was.

The only people they knew in town, who might wish them harm, were the McCloskey brothers. Hannibal Heyes went back to the saloon and walked up to the bar. He beckoned the bar tender over. Harry Fellows was a personable sort, with a long black moustache and a large waistline that hung over the top of his pants. He stood before Heyes wiping the inside of a glass wondering what the dark-haired man wanted now.

“Harry, those men my partner and I had trouble with this evening…” he began.

“The McCloskey brothers?”

Heyes nodded.

“Where would I find ‘em?”

“You don’t want to go messin’ with them, you saw what they’re like and they ain’t worth the time…” But then Harry saw the look on the young man’s face. “They got a cabin outside of town. Work an old silver mine and do a bit o’trappin’. Gotta ‘nother sister too, lives out along the river.”

“Can you give me directions? To the cabin?” Heyes asked and the man nodded although it was obvious he thought the man before him was just asking for trouble.

***

Kid Curry slowly opened his eyes. It was dark but he couldn’t see the sky. He shifted and found his hands were tied behind his back but his feet were free. He shuffled about. He was inside, but inside what? There was a damp and dusty smell in the air. His head hurt, his jaw ached and he thought he was going to be sick. Other than that, he was having a great day. Kid tried to sit up and failed. He wriggled about some more and eventually raised himself to a sitting position and rested his back against a dirt wall. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, there was just enough light for him to make out the walls of a tunnel. He appeared to be in some sort of mine workings. The tunnel was supported by occasional wooden beams, some of which did not look strong enough to hold up the rock above them. Kid leaned back against the wall waiting for his head to stop spinning as he remembered the McCloskey brothers beating him up. He remembered laughter, the smell of whiskey, the feel of a fist on his face but no more after that. He could feel dried blood around his nose and mouth and his left eye felt a little swollen.

Kid tried to free his wrists but the bindings were tight. He continued to work on them even though they made his wrists sore. The cords became damp and he knew that his wrists were probably bleeding. He did not feel he had made any headway with the leather, so gave it a rest. There was a faint breeze coming from his left, which suggested the direction of the tunnel’s entrance. If he could get to his feet, he could walk out of the tunnel. Heyes was never going to let him hear the last of this. He’d told him to stay out of trouble; not to get involved and what had he done? It was then, that he heard someone or something moving about up ahead of him.

***

Hannibal Heyes rode towards the cabin at the mine, following the route Harry had described, and then he turned his horse away from the path into the trees. Heyes climbed down from the saddle and led the horse slowly along a track until he could see the cabin. Heyes tied the reins to a tree and crept slowly towards the clearing. From his vantage point, Heyes surveyed the McCloskey’s homestead and the entrance to the mine.

There was no one around. No horses tied to the hitching rail outside the small wooden cabin; no tell tale wisp of smoke rising from the stone chimney, no just-washed clothes hanging from the line. He crept closer, staying within the cover of the trees. Still there was no sign that the camp was occupied. When he reached the edge of the trees Heyes waited a few moments and then moved into the open. He checked out the cabin first. The door was unlocked and inside, in the main room, he found three wooden chairs around a small table, a rusty looking stove, a few cans of beans on a single wooden shelf, a couple of worn books about silver mining, neither of which he had read and a few pots and pans.

Heyes examined the two rooms at the back. One clearly belonged to Alice McCloskey. There were a few wild flowers, in a vase on the stand beside the bed, and a picture of a dress had been cut from a catalogue wish book and tacked to the wall. The other room was her brothers’. There was a gun belt, minus the gun, in the middle of one bed; laying as if it had been thrown there. Heyes picked it up. It had a few scratches and marks on it, familiar scratches and marks. This was Kid’s gun belt.

Just the feel of something so indicative of his partner brought a lump to his throat. He doubted Kid had removed it voluntarily. Heyes remembered the arguments he had had with his partner over wearing his gun and how Kid always complained that he felt ‘nekkid’ without it. There was that time with Joe Briggs… Heyes had been so proud of Kid for not drawing on the man sooner. God knows Briggs deserved it for making Kid do that jig. How many times had he watched his partner buckle the gun belt and how many times had he hoped he would not have to use the gun it carried? Hoping he wouldn’t be called out by some drunken cowhand trying to make a reputation for himself by taking on Kid Curry? If Kid wasn’t wearing it, Heyes doubted it was by choice. Heyes put the belt over his shoulder and headed towards the door.

Where was Kid? Leaving the cabin, he looked around and walked towards the entrance to the mine. The opening was surrounded by a crumbling wooden frame. Heyes stepped into the entrance of the tunnel and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. There was only so far that he could go without a lantern. Looking around, he found one hanging from a hook. Heyes shook it and discovered it still had some oil in it. Striking a match, he lit the lantern. Holding it out in front of him, he ventured further into the tunnel. It was cooler inside, and on the floor, things lay scattered and abandoned. There was a hammer, some discarded nails, pieces of timber and an old bucket. A few cobwebs hung above his head. If the McCloskey’s were working the mine, they did not appear to be working it very hard. The air had a damp smell to it and there was something else, something even less pleasant, as if an animal had crawled in and died. Up ahead, Heyes saw a shape slumped against the wall. The shape moved.

“Thaddeus?” he called out holding the lantern higher, trying to illuminate the shape further. There was no reply. “Thaddeus? Kid?”

“Heyes? That you?” a familiar voice called back. Quickening his pace, Hannibal Heyes was soon at his partner’s side. Kid was sitting with his back to the wall and in the glow of the lantern, Heyes saw his partner’s beaten face.

“Looks like they worked you over real good. You okay?” Heyes asked, clearly concerned.

“Yeah, I guess. You should see it from this side,” Kid suggested giving his partner a smile, which quickly faded, as it pulled at bruised muscles.

Putting down the lantern Heyes untied the blond man’s wrists, noticing as he did so the bloody marks where the rawhide had cut into his flesh. Kid groaned as the leather cords were finally removed. Kid Curry looked down at his bloody wrists.

“We have to get those cleaned and covered up,” his dark-haired partner said, removing his bandana from around his neck. “What happened?” he asked as he tied the cloth around Kid’s right wrist, which appeared to be the most bloody and raw.

“I got jumped on the way back to the hotel. The McCloskey brothers,” Kid told him as he gingerly touched his swollen eye and cheek. He groaned as he moved and put a hand to his bruised ribs.

“Say how’d you find me?” Kid suddenly asked and his partner raised his eyebrows and gave him a look. “Stupid question. Thanks for coming for me.”

“Well, I’m not going to abandon the man who watches my back, am I?” Heyes told him helping his partner to his feet. Kid was a little unsteady as the blood rushed to his head and he put a hand on the wall to support himself. It was then he noticed his gun belt over Heyes shoulder. The dark-haired man handed it too him. “No gun I’m afraid. I got your hat on my horse. Found it in the alley.”

“’ppreciate that Heyes,” Kid smiled and then winced again as he buckled the belt around his waist. A growl from somewhere in the darkness of the tunnel stopped both men in their tracks. They stood in silence; listening. The growl came again.

“I assume that wasn’t your stomach?” Heyes said and his blond partner gave his head a slight shake. The growl grew louder and a snuffling could be heard. “Let’s get outta here,” Heyes suggested unnecessarily and both men moved swiftly towards the tunnel’s exit.

They did not want to run in case the animal, which sounded to them both like a bear, started to chase them. As they reached the tunnel’s entrance there was enough light for Heyes to look back. It was a bear, a grizzly bear, with a scruffy brown coat and a long muzzle. It didn’t look pleased and it was following them. It was not the biggest grizzly they had ever seen; it looked like an adolescent one. However, it was still large enough to be treated with respect, and big enough to kill them. Both men knew that you weren’t supposed to run from a bear, it was just real hard not to. They were hoping that it had just been disturbed by their presence and would wander off the minute it was outside.

They backed slowly away. The bear lumbered forwards sniffing the air as it did so. It fixed them with a stare and bared its teeth at them, snorting a couple of times. Once free of the tunnel the large animal broke into a trot, homing in on Heyes. The bear was closing the ground on the ex-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang. As his partner moved backwards fast, Kid Curry tried to distract it.

“Hey! Hey!” he called and for a moment, the bear looked at the blond man. Heyes drew his gun, ready to fire a warning shot and took another quick step backwards. His expression changed to one of surprise. His arms flailing in the air, he seemed to be falling and then he disappeared into the undergrowth. Kid heard crashing in the bushes but had no time to see what had happened to his friend.

The bear was now looking menacingly at Kid Curry. Searching around, Kid saw a pick axe leaning against the rocks at one side of the tunnel’s entrance. He edged towards it; the bear watched the man’s movements. With teeth bared, the large animal let out another growl and saliva dripped from its mouth. Kid could not avoid noticing how large the bear’s canine teeth were and what huge front paws it had. The carnivore was hungry and Kid Curry looked like a sizable meal to a bear in need of food. The grizzly picked up speed and charged at Kid. The gunslinger reached for the nearest weapon. Clasping the wooden handle tight in his grip, he swung the axe, as the bear made its final lunge. Kid felt the axe make contact with solid ursine muscle. It penetrated deep in the animal’s side with a sickening thud.

The bear let out a guttural howl and fell on the blond man, its claws lashing out at him; together they went crashing to the ground. Kid struggled frantically under the heavy weight of muscle and fur; desperate to get away from the thrashing claws and the teeth that were snapping so close to his face. As he pulled himself free, he watched the bear collapse as it took its last breath, the axe imbedded deep in its left side. Kid Curry felt no satisfaction at the animal’s demise. He sat back, breathing heavily, watching to make sure the animal was no longer moving. It was then that he felt the searing pain in his right side and looking down saw the rip in his shirt beneath the tan leather vest he wore. Gently he moved the fabric to one side and saw three long gashes in his flesh where some of the bear’s claws had caught him. Despite the pain telling him contrary, the scratches were not too deep. They looked a mess but were hopefully not life threatening. He’d been as lucky as you can be, when you’ve been attacked by a grizzly bear.

Convinced the bear was no longer a danger; Kid pulled himself to his feet, wincing as he did so and went to find his partner.

“Heyes?” the young blond man called, venturing further into the undergrowth where the ex-outlaw had disappeared. His foot slipped and Kid Curry grabbed a branch to prevent himself from tumbling down a steep incline. The slope was hidden by the bushes and he now realised his partner must have fallen. Kid peered carefully down the hill searching for any sign of his dark-haired friend. At the bottom of the slope, in a dry gully, a figure lay motionless.

“Heyes?” Kid said. “Oh, no.”

Kid Curry eased himself down the slope using the branches of trees and bushes to prevent him from falling. Kid cursed as he lost his footing several times, sending an avalanche of small stones clattering down the slope ahead of him. He grabbed frantically at branches or rocks to stop himself falling in the same way as his partner. Kid reached the still figure. Heyes was lying on his stomach, one arm under his body, his clothes dusty and covered in twigs and leaves. Kid was afraid to move his friend in case he was badly hurt but there was no way to assess his injuries without turning him.

“Heyes? Heyes, can you hear me?” Kid asked hopefully, laying a hand on his cousin’s shoulder. The dark-haired man groaned and Kid let out a sigh of relief. “Heyes?”

Hannibal Heyes moved slightly and turned his head. Kid Curry saw the blood across his partner’s temple. “Take it easy, you had a nasty fall.”

“The bear?” Heyes asked groggily.

“It’s dead,” Kid stated flatly. “Where you hurt?”

“Everywhere,” the dark-haired man stated definitely. He looked up the hill noticing the trees, shrubs, rocks and bushes he must have fallen through or over. “You know Kid, as I was tumbling down here…”

“Let me guess,” Kid interrupted. “The floor plan to the Bank of Fort Worth?” he grinned at his partner as he waited for his answer.

“Yeah,” Heyes smiled back. “Exactly.” Heyes thought for a moment and then looking at Kid said. “You killed a bear?” Heyes pulled himself up on his hands. Kid helped him, watching his partner’s movements, looking for any sign of injuries. Heyes’ vision looked a little shaky.

“Yeah, I killed a bear,” Kid said as his friend sat back on his heels. Heyes looked at his partner through unfocussed eyes as blood, from the cut, ran down his face. Kid removed his bandana and wiped the blood away from Heyes’ eye. The dark-haired man flinched and took the bandana from his partner. He dabbed gently at the cut on his temple whilst still looking at his young cousin.

“You killed a grizzly bear, but you’re unarmed,” Heyes stated with admiration. Kid looked at his partner, noticing his expression.

“What?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Kid, you killed a grizzly bear,” Heyes was clearly thinking about this.

“Yeah, I know,” Kid told him, not real happy about having to kill such a magnificent animal.

“Can I call you Grizz Curry?” Heyes asked. He was still a little woozy and gave his partner a lopsided smile.

“Not if you want to live,” Kid told him. “C’mon.” He helped his partner to his feet and the dark-haired man swayed as he tried to get his balance. He did not notice Kid wince as he helped him. Heyes groaned and touched his head. His eyes were still a little glazed. Apart from the blood, which still flowed freely from the cut on his temple, and a few bruises and scratches, he appeared pretty much in one piece, with no bones broken. Kid then bent down to pick up Heyes’ black hat, which had fallen into a bush, not far away. He hit it against his leg a couple of times and a cloud of dust flew up. Kid handed it to his partner. Heyes looked at Kid and his partner gave him a reassuring smile. Heyes put the hat over his head and let it fall down his back, to hang by the strap, not wanting to put anything on his head at that time.

“Where’s your horse?” Kid asked, keeping an eye on his partner. He wasn’t sure how serious his head wound was.

“I left it in the trees, behind the cabin. Just in case anyone was about, but there was no one there,” Heyes explained as he dabbed at his temple. “I think I’ll need your help to get back up there.”

They heard the sound of horses above them and listened intently as the animals grew nearer. The two ex-outlaws crouched behind a bush waiting to see who was there.

After a few moments a voice called, “He ain’t here.”

Heyes mouthed, “Tom McCloskey?” and Kid nodded.

“What?” another voice asked. It was Frank. The partner’s looked at each other as they waited silently in the undergrowth below.

“I tell ya Frank, he ain’t here,” Tom told him.

“Well where the hell is he?” Frank asked.

“Frank! Frank! There’s a dead bear! He killed a bear! What kind of man kills a bear?” Tom’s voice revealed the twin emotions of shock and admiration. Heyes gave his partner a look that said I told you it was impressive. Kid shook his head dismissively.

“Find him Tom!” Frank said flatly. Heyes looked around and saw his gun lying in the dirt a few feet away. He went to pick it up but his head swam as he bent down and Kid steadied him. Seeing the object of his partner’s attention Kid picked up the Colt. He handed it to Heyes.

“You take it,” Heyes said. No explanation was needed. They both knew Kid was better with a gun and Heyes was still having trouble focussing. Kid checked it was fully loaded before slipping it into his holster. They heard more movement above them.

“C’mon,” Kid said leading his partner along the gully. Heyes stumbled a couple of times, and the blond man pulled him back to his feet or offered a hand to steady him. They moved quietly through the bushes, ever cautious in case they were spotted by the men above. Whenever they stopped, Kid noticed Heyes’ hand went to his head. His partner would not complain if it hurt but Kid knew that it did.

Kid Curry began to move up the hill heading back towards the cabin. Heyes followed keeping up as best he could. His arms and legs felt battered and bruised and his head hurt but he knew Kid was hurting too. His partner had not said much but Heyes had noticed him wincing and the way he favoured his right side. The McCloskey brothers had left enough marks on his cousin’s face for Heyes to realise Kid’s body had taken a beating too.

Kid looked back at his partner and knew he was struggling to keep up. He offered him a hand, which Heyes took gratefully. Kid pulled him up between two large boulders and they moved into the trees. The tree trunks and branches provided useful hand holds and they found it easier to climb here. As they drew near to the clearing, they heard the McCloskey brothers moving about. The two ex-outlaws kept low in the undergrowth watching the two men.

Frank McCloskey stood in the open doorway of the cabin. His face was a picture of fury. His brother, Tom, appeared from the tunnel; a gun on one hand and the leather bindings, which had been around Kid’s wrists, in the other.

“Found these,” he said as he held up the rawhide straps. “I don’t understand how he got loose Frank, cos they was my best knots. Hell ain’t nothin’ ever got outta them before.” Frank took the straps from the younger man and examining them.

“Looks like blood,” he stated.

“Yeah. Guess they weren’t so easy to get off after all,” Tom conceded. “Where’d ya think he’s gone?” Tom looked towards the trees. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry froze. The younger McCloskey brother appeared to be looking directly at them but clearly, he could not see them. They decided to keep it that way for as long as possible.

“Maybe the bear got ‘im first?” Tom suggested looking down at the body of the dead animal. Frank shook his head, his eyes narrowed as he looked at the bushes beyond the bear.

“Naw, he’s out there. I know it. I can smell ‘im.” He seemed to come to a decision. “Tom, get the rifles, we’re goin’ huntin’.” The younger man smiled at his brother then ran to where their horses were tied. He took a rifle from the saddle of each horse before returning to hand one to his brother. Frank McCloskey checked his rifle was loaded before heading towards the dead carnivore. He gave it a kick as he passed, calculating that the pelt would be worth a tidy sum. Maybe he should thank Mr. Jones when he found him; before he shot him. Then Frank looked at the ground around the dead creature, searching for tracks.

“This way,” he said and Tom followed him into the trees.

“C’mon,” Kid said pulling Heyes to his feet and out into the open. They covered the distance from the trees to the cabin as fast as they could, trying to make as little sound as possible. Heyes indicated where his horse should be and they set off again towards the distant trees. Kid noticed his partner was limping slightly on his left foot but he could do nothing about that now. Heyes stumbled and again his hand went to his head. Kid dragged him to his feet once more.

As they entered the shadowed safety of the trees, Kid stopped and looked back. So far, no one was following them. Now he let his partner lead the way. Heyes’ horse stood quietly chewing on some leaves, exactly where he had left it. The dark-haired man removed Kid’s hat from the saddle horn and handed it to him watching as the blond man settled it comfortably on his head. Talking gently to his horse, Heyes untied it and led the animal back along the path he had ridden in on. Both men kept an eye on the cabin and the trees beyond, as they crept away.

A sudden shot caught them both by surprise and they ducked as a bullet hit a tree trunk near Heyes’ head. The dark-haired man held the reins tighter as his horse tried to pull away, having been frightened by the noise. A second shot whizzed over Kid’s head.

“Ya see ‘em Frank?” Tom McCloskey asked his brother, in a loud voice, as they ran from the trees into the open.

“Got ‘em in ma sights, Tom,” the older man assured him, as he raised the rifle again.

Kid drew Heyes’ gun from his holster. He fired three well-aimed shots at the men and Frank and Tom dived for cover. Nodding to his partner, they set off again. When they reached a clearer part of the trail, Heyes stopped and leaned heavily against the horse, his eyes closed.

“Get on,” Kid said and the partners exchanged a look. Heyes nodded admitting that he could go no further on foot. The blond man gave his partner a boost into the saddle then pulled himself up behind him. Kid gave a gasp as he did so. The McCloskey’s beating and his encounter with the bear had left their marks in more ways than one.

“What’s wrong?” Hannibal Heyes asked over his shoulder.

“Just a little bruised,” Kid said dismissively, typically playing down his injuries. Heyes knew his partner too well to believe him. Kid was hurt but there was no time to argue about that now.

Together they urged the horse on. They moved quickly away from the mine, eager to put as much distance between themselves and the McCloskey’s as possible.

***

The McCloskey brother’s were not about to give up and were hot on their trail. Frank and Tom fired at the two men as they clung to the horse. Their shots went wide but were enough to spook the animal. The brother’s were slowly gaining on the ex-outlaws. Kid turned back and fired the last two bullets in Heyes’ gun, catching Tom McCloskey high in the shoulder. Heyes pulled the horse to a halt in a lightly wooded area, at the edge of a river and Kid slid quickly from the saddle. Having swiftly reloaded the gun, Kid found a vantage point behind a fallen tree. Heyes pulled the horse into the trees and crouched down beside his partner. The two ex-outlaws waited for the brothers to ride closer. Tom was slumped over the saddle but Frank rode ahead determined to catch the men who had just shot his brother and who he felt had humiliated him too many times. Kid fired twice, hitting first, the ground in front of the man’s horse, and then knocking Frank’s hat off with the second shot. Frank pulled his horse sharply to a halt as Kid called out to him.

“Hold it right there McCloskey!” The older man scoured the riverbank for the blond man. “Come any closer and I’ll shoot ya,” Kid assured him, from behind the fallen tree.

“And if he don’t, I will ,” Heyes told him.

“Now I suggest you get your brother home before he bleeds to death,” Kid said. Frank McCloskey looked quickly back at his brother Tom whose eyes were pleading with him to do what the men said. Frank glared at Heyes and Curry, telling both men, without the need for words, that this was not over. Frank turned his horse, grabbed the reins from Tom and, leading his brother’s horse, rode off. The two ex-outlaws watched them go.

Kid turned to face Heyes and was shocked to see how pale his partner looked. Heyes rested back against the tree trunk. His breathing was faster than it should be and sweat ran down his face. Kid Curry moved next to his friend. Heyes looked at his partner and gave him a weak smile.

“I don’t feel so good, Kid,” he said. “Head hurts. I feel real dizzy.” Kid looked around them. The McCloskey brothers had ridden off, they were near water and the trees provided shelter. They could camp there and give Heyes time to recover, although he clearly needed to see a doctor. He turned to ask his partner what he thought. Hannibal Heyes lay unconscious on the ground.

“Heyes?” there was concern and a momentary hint of panic in Kid’s voice. “Heyes?” he said gently as he examined his partner’s face. He was breathing and alive. Kid did not want to risk moving him now. The decision was made. They would stay there for the night.

***

Kid Curry searched his partner’s saddle bags and used a shirt and bandana to bandage his partner’s head, taking care not to move him anymore than was necessary. The cut was not deep but the dark-haired man’s forehead was badly bruised. Heyes did not wake as he tended his wounds. Kid spoke to his partner but expected, and received, no response.

He set up camp beside the river; made a fire and found the coffee pot in the saddle bags. Kid made some coffee and put it on the fire to heat up. As his partner lay unconscious, covered by a blanket, Kid took the time to tend to his own wounds. He opened his torn shirt. The scratches in his side looked red and raw. He tore more strips from the shirt he had found. It was not one of Heyes’ favourites but, even so, Kid made a mental note to buy him a new one when they returned to town. Bending down at the river’s edge, he soaked one of the strips in the water, then wiped at the bloody marks on his side. Kid flinched at his own touch and gritted his teeth as he cleaned the wounds. He tied some strips of cloth together and ran them around his body so that they covered the three claw marks. It didn’t cover them very well but it would do until they reached town. Kid pulled on his shirt, buttoned it up and went back to check on his partner. Heyes was sleeping and his breathing seemed steady. Kid sat down, next to his friend, beneath the tree; a cup of coffee in one hand. He shivered at the first chill of the night, wishing he had his sheepskin coat to keep him warm but that was back at the hotel along with all of his possessions. Holding Heyes’ gun loosely in his hand, Kid Curry leaned back against the tree, watching the shadows move around the campsite as the fire crackled and snapped. His eyes darted from trees to bushes and back again and he listened for any sounds that suggested approaching danger. He watched his partner.

“You just rest, Heyes,” Kid said although he doubted his partner could hear him. “I got your back covered.”

***

Hannibal Heyes opened his eyes and saw blue sky through the leaves and branches of a tree. A single white cloud drifted into view and a bird sang in the branches above him. For a moment, he had no idea where he was. He was then aware of a pain in his forehead and, raising a hand, found a makeshift bandage around his head. Having spotted his partner stirring, Kid Curry approached and crouched beside him. He held a steaming cup of coffee in his hand.

“Good mornin’,” he said, smiling as he studied his friend’s face, glad to see him awake and looking better.

“Hey Kid,” Heyes said sleepily.

“How you feelin’?”

“Better, I think,” Heyes said but he looked puzzled. “Did I pass out?”

“Yep.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t suppose you had a choice about it,” Kid told him. Heyes focussed on his partner’s face. Kid looked tired.

“How long I been out?” Heyes asked.

“All night.”

“You get any sleep?” the dark-haired man asked, concerned at how heavy Kid’s eyes looked and the dark circles beneath them.

“I’m okay,” the blond man said, not answering the question and Heyes took that as a ‘no’. Hannibal Heyes sat up and groaned. He ached all over. His legs, arms and body felt bruised.

“Did I fall down a hill?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Kid took a sip of his coffee. “D’you want some coffee?” Heyes nodded.

“Did I dream it or did you kill a bear?”

“Yeah, I did. Let it go Heyes, okay?” Kid stood up clearly irritated. Heyes watched his partner walk back to the fire. Kid winced, and held his right side, as he bent down to pick up the coffee pot. Heyes raised himself cautiously onto his hands and knees. His joints felt stiff and each movement was painful. Using the tree to support himself he got slowly to his feet. Kid walked towards him, watching for any sign that his partner might pass out again. Satisfied Heyes was okay, he handed him a steaming cup of coffee.

“What happened to the McCloskeys?” Heyes asked, taking a mouthful of coffee and appreciating the warmth of the liquid as it slid down his throat.

“I guess Frank took his brother to find the doctor,” the blond man said. “Somethin’ we should do for you.”

“You didn’t sleep in case they came back did you?” Heyes stated watching his partner’s eyes.

“Somethin’ like that,” Kid admitted, looking at his partner. “How’s your head?”

“Okay. Ache’s a bit but I’m alright.”

“You gonna be okay to ride?” Heyes nodded and his partner went off to start clearing up the camp. When the fire had been doused, the saddle bags packed and Heyes’ horse saddled, the two men were ready to leave.

Kid stood back to allow Heyes to mount first. He waited in case his partner needed a hand. Then he approached the horse. He winced as he took hold of the saddle.

“What’s wrong with your side?” Heyes asked.

“Nothin’,” Kid said.

“Kid.” Heyes tone told Kid he expected the truth. Kid was about to pull himself up behind his partner. He said nothing. Heyes looked down at his younger cousin not moving his foot from the stirrup. “Kid?”

“It’s nothin’,” Kid told him firmly.

“What’s nothin’?” Brown eyes fixed on his cousin’s blue ones.

“Just a scratch,” Kid said dismissively, hoping Heyes would pick up the reins and let him on the horse. “Can we get goin’?” His partner said nothing as he still looked at Kid. He had no intention of going anywhere; no intention of letting Kid get his foot in the stirrup until he knew what had happened. He moved his foot and the stirrup away from his partner. Kid shifted uncomfortably. “Oh c’mon, Heyes, please.”

“What’s nothin’?” Heyes asked and Kid finally relented.

“I got caught by its claws, okay?” He pulled Heyes’ foot from the stirrup as his partner thought about this. Kid raised his own foot and groaned.

“The bear caught you?” Heyes asked incredulously.

“Yeah, the bear caught me. Okay? Satisfied?” Kid tried to pull himself up but again groaned as the movement pulled at the wound where the skin had begun to knit together, pulling the wound open again. He rested his head against the saddle. Heyes slid from the saddle and stood concerned beside his partner.

“Let me see,” he insisted and their eyes fixed on each others. Kid looked away first.

“Heyes please, it’s okay.” But he could tell from Heyes’ expression that he was not going to let this drop. Reluctantly he opened his vest and Heyes saw the blood on his torn shirt.

“How bad?”

“Like I said, it’s just a scratch.”

“Let me see.” Kid opened his shirt and moved the bandage he had fashioned aside. Heyes saw three deep cuts in his partner’s flesh and the red inflamed skin around it. “Damn it Kid, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Nothin’ you can do about it. Can we get goin’?” Kid turned back to the horse and Heyes put a hand on his arm.

“You shoulda told me.”

“You were unconscious!” Kid reminded him.

“Not all the time!” Heyes said indignantly.

“Heyes, just get back on the horse,” the blond man pleaded.

“We’re partners Kid. I’m allowed to worry about you.”

“I know Heyes and I ‘ppreciate it. Really I do, but there was nothin’ you could do.” He thought for a moment. “I promise you next time I’m attacked by a bear, you’ll be the first person to know.” He looked seriously at his partner who suddenly found himself beginning to smile at the ridiculousness of the conversation. He struggled not to let Kid see but then a grin broke across his face.

“Okay Kid,” Heyes said. “That’s a good deal.”

Kid smiled and pushed his hat back.

“Let me guess,” he said. “Only you, me and this horse will know about it?”

“Exactly,” Heyes stated.

“Can we go now?” Kid asked. Heyes nodded and climbed back into the saddle. He moved forward, took his foot from the stirrup and Kid pulled himself up behind his partner.

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