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 Traps by Coronado

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royannahuggins
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Posts : 419
Join date : 2013-10-13

20140223
PostTraps by Coronado

Starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy



Brian Kieth as Jack Benton



James Gammons as Tom Deegan



Paul Carr as Virgil Deegan


Margo Martindale as Ma Deegan


Terry Miller as Silas Conover







Heyes looked ahead to the sign and turned to his partner. “Coltsville – 2 miles.”

The Kid reined in his gray mare and looked at his partner, who also halted his horse. Heyes looked at him questioningly, and Curry heaved a huge sigh. “Remember the old days? When we always had plenty of money? Never had to worry about where the next meal was coming from, or winnin’ enough in a poker game so we could sleep anywhere but out on the trail?”

“Is this going somewhere?” Heyes asked in a disgruntled voice. “If I recall, along with all that money came an awful lot of grief. How about the posses? You forget about those?”

“Hell, we still got those chasin’ us and we haven’t robbed anything in more’n a year.”

“Still haven’t told me what you’re getting at,” Heyes complained as he took off his hat to run his hand through his thick dark hair.

“What I’m gettin’ at is I’m tired, hungry and filthy,” his partner answered disgustedly. “And in another mile you’re gonna be tellin’ me that we’ve only got enough money to either eat or sleep in a real bed.”

Replacing his hat, Heyes looked at his friend. “Well…” he began hesitantly.

“I knew it!” The Kid slapped his hand on his leg. “I just knew it.”

Urging his horse into a walk, Heyes looked back. “You coming?”

Not bothering to answer, Curry gave his horse a tap with his heels and once again was riding next to Heyes. “How much do we have?”

“Enough to get a decent meal and stable the horses while we eat. Then we’re going to have to keep riding.”

“Like I said,” the Kid muttered. “Remember the old days.”

When they reached the livery, they dismounted and, not seeing anyone around, Heyes called out, “Hello?”

Not receiving an answer, the Kid shrugged and they unsaddled their horses. Just as they finished, a heavyset man came over to them. “You gents gonna be stayin’ for the night?”

Heyes shook his head and gave the man two coins. “No, just until we get something to eat. Can you give them some grain and a rubdown?”

“Sure thing.” He led the horses into the stable and the partners began walking across the street.

Curry spotted the café to their right and began to turn when Heyes grabbed his arm and pointed to the saloon across the way. “It’ll be cheaper to eat there.”

Trying to brush as much trail dust off as he could, the Kid grumbled, “Don’t imagine we’re gonna have enough for a whiskey, huh?”

Heyes shook his head. “Not unless we order only one supper and share it.”

The Kid's jaw visibly tightened, but he refrained from saying anything further and followed Heyes into the saloon.

“You boys look pretty hungry,” the waitress commented as she came over.

The Kid opened his mouth to comment, but Heyes threw him a warning look just before he turned to the pretty red-haired girl. “Yes, ma’am, we surely are." He gave her a winning smile. "What'd you say your name was, ma'am?"

The waitress blushed, shyly. "It's Suzy."

"Well, now, Suzy, our funds being what they are…”

Suzy returned Heyes' smile. “It’s okay, boys. I’ll fix you right up, don’t you worry. The special today is beef stew – that okay with you?” She indicated a board on the wall with the meals and prices listed and the partners nodded. “I’ll be right back with some coffee.”

Glancing around, Heyes noticed a rugged-looking man with his foot propped up on a chair and a cane next to the table. “Wonder what happened to him?”

Looking over, the Kid snorted. “Maybe he had a partner and they got into a fight.”

"You know,” Heyes said mildly, “you’ve been riding that complaining streak pretty hard lately.” He glanced at his hands, reflectively, and then back at the blond. “Look, I know things haven’t been easy lately. Can’t find much work,” he stopped short at the glare from this partner. “Okay, can’t find any work, but is that my fault? You wanted to get out of that old life as much as I did. You don’t hear me griping about it all the time.”

The waitress came back with their coffee and a plate of warm biscuits. Nodding his thanks, the Kid spread butter over one and devoured it, washing it down with a swallow of coffee. Picking up another one, he hesitated and looked at Heyes. “I’m sorry,” he said apologetically. “I know you get sick of livin’ this way, too. But,” he grinned, “who else am I gonna complain to? My horse?”

Flashing a dimpled smile, Heyes nodded. “’S’okay,” he said, as he reached for a biscuit. “Guess I should be used to it by now."

A smile lit Curry's face and he gave another snort of laughter.

Hearing that, the man at the other table turned to look at the two friends. Taking in their disheveled appearance, he heaved himself awkwardly to his feet and, using his cane, made his way over to their table. “Hello, boys,” he said pleasantly. “Mind if I sit down?”

The two reforming outlaws exchanged a quick apprehensive glance and then Heyes nodded as he pulled out a chair. “Sure, what can we do for you?”

The man grinned. “I think it’s more the other way around, young fella.” He put his hand out, first to Heyes, and then the Kid. “Name’s Jack Benton.”

“I’m Thaddeus Jones and this is my partner, Joshua Smith,” the Kid said. “The other way around?” he questioned.

“First off, you boys looking for work?”

“Is it that obvious?” Heyes asked in amusement.

“Well…” Benton hesitated, “you both appear to have hit hard times. I’ve got a proposition for you.” Again the partners exchanged glances, but waited for Benton to continue. “I’d hire somebody local, but most of the able-bodied men around here are working for the ranchers. They’re gathering up the herds to begin the cattle drives next month.”

The waitress appeared with their plates of stew and Benton asked her for another cup of coffee. “You fellas okay for now?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the Kid answered, his mouth full of stew. “It’s real good.”

She gave him a smile and a pat on the shoulder and went back to the kitchen.

Heyes rolled his eyes at his partner, then looked to Benton, apologetically. “You don’t mind if we go ahead and eat, do you?”

“No, not at all. Appears you must’ve missed some meals recently.”

“You have no idea,” Curry muttered through a mouthful of stew, and Heyes kicked him under the table.

“You were saying something about a job?” Heyes prompted.

“Oh, yeah. Well, up until a few weeks ago, my partner and I were running a trap line on a piece of land that borders that mountain over yonder.” He pointed out the window and Heyes and Curry followed his gaze. “Dave died last week – got some kind of sickness.”

Heyes and Curry both paused mid-chew and stared at the man.

“Oh, it’s okay, boys. I made my peace with it right after it happened. Anyway, we had just laid down about ten new traps up there right before Dave got sick. I hurt my leg a few days ago and can’t go back up there for another couple of weeks.”

“So,” Heyes began, “just so we understand this – you’re looking for somebody to ride up there and get your traps for you?” Heyes asked.

“That’s all. I’ve decided to retire. I can sell those traps and get at least part of my investment back.” He paused and then said, “I’ll give you a couple of pack mules and plenty of supplies – won’t cost you anything.”

Pushing aside his empty plate, Heyes sipped at his coffee and a silent conversation took place between him and the Kid. Finally Heyes nodded. “Before we give you our answer, what are you paying?”

“I’ll give you ten dollars for every trap you bring back. Sound fair enough?”

This time it was the Kid who nodded. “Yeah, sounds pretty fair.”

“You boys staying in town tonight?” Judging by the downcast expressions on their faces, Benton smiled. “I didn’t think so.” As they both gave rueful grins, he continued, “I’m about done in town, anyway. Why don’t you ride out to my place with me? I can at least give you a place in the barn – better than sleeping out on the trail.”

“We appreciate that,” Heyes said as they looked up to see the waitress approaching with three plates of apple pie.

“Figured you’d like one too, Mr. Benton.” She set the plates down and asked, “More coffee, boys?” At their nods, she walked away and returned with the coffee pot. “Anything else?”

“No thanks, ma’am,” Curry told her with a smile. “Everything was real good.”

“I’ll tell my ma – she’s the cook. She always likes to know if our customers are satisfied.”

She gave them a nod and hurried off to take care of several other customers that had just taken seats. Two of the new arrivals looked even more down on their luck than Heyes and the Kid. Their faces had several days of stubble and their clothes were patched and worn. Taking a seat, they took note of Benton and the other two at the table.

“Wonder who they are?” the one murmured and the other shook his head.

“Damned if I know – never seen ‘em before. Must be strangers in town.”

“Yeah, well, Benton seems to know ‘em. Sittin’ down with ‘em real friendly-like.”

While they ate, Benton pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it on the table.

The two men at the other table watched with great interest. “Look at that, Virgil. You reckon it’s what we think it is?”

“I dunno, but maybe we better follow ‘em when they leave here.”

“That’s a good idea, Tom.” The men ordered dinner when Suzy came over, but kept an eye on Benton and his tablemates.

Heyes nodded toward the paper. “You drew a map?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty accurate – in order to cover more ground, we split up. This way, both of us would know where all of the traps were set.”

“What are the traps set for?” Curry asked. “Mountain lion? Bears?”

Benton laughed. “No, no bears. Mostly we ended up with mountain lions. Made a pretty penny selling the hides. And for a few years, the ranchers were offering a nice bonus for every animal we caught.”

Heyes and the Kid exchanged a look and Heyes explained, “We hired out once to do that. Did pretty good, too.”

When they had finished their pie and coffee, they paid Suzy and then headed for the door. As they passed the table closest to the window, Benton tipped his hat to the unkempt men sitting there. “Tom, Virgil. How’s your ma these days?”

One of them sneered and answered, “She’d be a lot better off if you hadn’t stolen that land from our daddy.”

Benton stood there calmly, leaning heavily on his cane. “Your father sold me that land, fair and square. I can’t help that I made a good living off it with my traps,” he said mildly. Then he turned to the door where Heyes and the Kid were waiting and they all left the restaurant.

“I take it they’re not friends of yours?” the Kid asked as they halted on the boardwalk.

Shaking his head, Benton answered, “Not really. Virgil and Tom Deegan.” He gestured toward a small wagon hitched in front of the general store. “That’s my rig – I’ll wait for you boys and I’ll tell you the story on the way to my place.”

Heyes and the Kid headed over to the livery stable to collect their horses. Benton waited for them in his small wagon and led the way down the road out of town.

Virgil and Tom Deegan were watching from the boardwalk outside the café and Tom turned to Virgil. “You know what Ma’s always said, right?”

“Yeah, that there ain’t no way Benton made all that money workin’ no trap line. She swears he found gold up there.”

Tom nodded. “Let’s git home an’ tell her about these fellas. Maybe she’ll have an idea of what we should do.”

As they rode along, Benton started the conversation. “My wife and I came here about 20 years ago. When she died a few years back, an old friend of mine, who was down on his luck, came knocking on my door and asked if I could use a hand around the place. We got along real well so it was just the two of us. You boys have any place in particular to call home?”

Heyes hesitated before answering, “No, we drift around. Pick up jobs here and there.”

“They’ve been pretty scarce,” the Kid added. “Ranches are always needin’ hands, but me an’ Joshua try to avoid cattle, if we can.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured that since you didn’t sign up to work on one around here.” Benton grinned. “I used to be a drover, years ago. Sure were long hours in the saddle.” He shifted on the wagon seat and remarked, “Sometimes I still feel pain in my back from all that riding. Food was usually pretty good, but the pay left a lot to be desired.”

“You got that right,” Heyes agreed.

Benton glanced up at the sky and commented, “You boys should have pretty good weather while you’re out there, but it’ll be pretty cold at night. I’ll make sure to pack up some extra blankets.”

“We sure do appreciate that,” the Kid told him sincerely.

“So,” Heyes began, “you were going to tell us about those fellows back in the café.”

“Oh, yeah, Tom and Virgil Deegan. They’re brothers and their pa used to own the land my traps are on. He was trying to make a living using it as pasture for cattle, but we had a couple of years with too little rain and the grass dried up. He was in a bad way and needed money so I offered to buy him out. I figured that if the land wasn’t good for cattle or farming I could try using it for traps. Turned out to be a pretty good idea and when my old friend Dave came to visit me after losing his little farm to a big cattle fellow, I offered him a place to stay. He was a real hard worker and not too long after he showed up, I asked him to be my partner.”

“I guess the Deegans aren’t too happy that you’ve made a success of that land?” Heyes offered.

Benton gave a loud snort. “You got that right. Their pa died about a year ago and when I went to the burying to pay my respects, their ma, Alice, spoke right up and accused me of killing her husband because I had stolen his land. Everybody knew that was a lie, but to this day those boys still hold on to that notion.” He pointed up ahead to a cluster of small buildings. “That’s my place. It’ll be nice to have you boys around for tonight. Kinda lonely since Dave died.”

* * *

Alice Deegan was standing on the front porch of their dilapidated cabin when her sons rode into the yard. Hands on her hips, she stared at them; her eyes narrowed and a frown on her face. “I thought I told you two not to stay in town. You were supposed to pick up those things at the mercantile and come right back. You weren’t at the saloon, were you?”

“No, Ma,” Virgil crossed his fingers behind his back, lying earnestly. “We just went to the café to get a cup of coffee and a piece of pie, but…”

“Wait’ll you hear, Ma,” Tom told her, his words coming out in a rush. “Benton was in there an’ then he sat down with these two fellas an’ they were talkin’ real polite-like…”

“What two fellas?” Alice asked, her curiosity overriding her earlier irritation.

“Don’t know,” Virgil answered. “But Benton handed them a piece of paper an’ we could see it had these red marks all over it an’ we think it’s a map to the places old man Benton mighta buried all his gold!”

A greedy, speculative look came over Alice’s face and she reached out to grab each of them by the arm. “Come on in an’ tell me more about these two fellas.”

The interior of the cabin could only be described as unkempt, with dishes strewn about the area partitioned off as the kitchen and some on the rough-hewn table. Ma Deegan poured herself a cup of coffee and gestured for her two sons to sit down with her.

Virgil glanced at his brother and then began. “Well, we was mindin’ our own business eatin’ at the..." he paused, clearing his throat nervously, "café when these two fellas walked in and while they was eatin’ ol’ man Benton come over to ‘em and started talkin' to ‘em.”

“Then he pulled out a piece of paper and showed it to ‘em. Then the three of 'em rode out of town together, headin' up toward Benton's place. That’s all we know.”

“You sure you never seem ‘em before?” she asked, taking a sip of her coffee.

“Nope,” Virgil answered positively. “They looked like they just rode into town.”

“Okay, first thing tomorrow mornin’, you’re gonna ride out and wait at the edge of the trail where you know these two are gonna be ridin’. They have to start there if they’re gonna head up the ridge. You follow ‘em and see what they’re up to.”

Virgil and Tom looked at each other. “You mean we gotta get up early?”

Ma Deegan slapped the nearest brother on the side of his head and muttered, “’Course you do! Can’t lay around waitin’! You gotta start out early so you kin follow ‘em!” Shaking her head, she finished her coffee and stood up. “I’ll make supper now an’ then you two better turn in.”

“Yes, Ma,” they dutifully said and as her back was turned, both grimaced at each other.

“Gonna be a long day,” Tom muttered and his brother nodded.

“Yup, shore is.”

* * *

When they reached the small homestead, Heyes and the Kid took their horses to the stable and settled them for the night. They also unharnessed the wagon and took care of Benton’s horse before going into the neat, frame house. Benton was putting away his supplies in the pantry and asked, “Like some whiskey? Or I can put on a pot of coffee.”

“Whiskey,” they both said in unison.

“Okay, then,” Benton laughed.

They sat at the table and sipped their drinks, while Benton again brought out the map and spread it on the table. “Take an old man’s advice and ride all the way up the ridge, then work your way back.”

Heyes nodded. “Makes sense.” Finishing his drink, he looked at the Kid. “Guess we better turn in – need to get an early start tomorrow.”

Benton got up and went to a wooden chest, pulling out several blankets. “Here you go. Should be warm enough once you settle down in the hay. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Thanks,” Curry nodded.

* * *

“Sure am grateful for a soft dry place to bed down,” Heyes commented, removing his boots.

Curry responded with a grunt, tossing a boot toward the place where both of Heyes' lay.

“Better than hard ground, that's for sure. And the hay,” Heyes breathed in deeply. “Gotta appreciate the sweet smell of fresh hay, huh Kid?”

The Kid tossed a second boot, this one coming curiously close to hitting Heyes directly in the chest, before it was deflected.

Heyes opened his mouth, but the lift of a single eyebrow above a blue eye caused him to close it again. Instead, he nestled down into the hay quietly. Finally, Heyes broke the silence. “How long you think this’ll take?”

“At least a week,” the Kid mumbled as he yawned. “’Night, Heyes.”

“G’night, Kid.”

* * *

At first light, Heyes prodded his partner awake and they stumbled out of the barn. Heyes was rubbing his hands together and the Kid quickly pulled on his jacket.

“Sure is cold,” Curry said.

“It’ll be colder up there in the high country.” Heyes nodded toward the mountain ridge to their right.

Benton was pouring some hot water into a basin sitting on a bench by the door and he smiled at them. “Figured you’d like to wash up some before breakfast.” He handed them each a towel as he opened the door.

Kid's stomach growled and he sniffed hungrily as he accepted the towel. “Breakfast sure smells good, don't it?”

Heyes just shook his head and they proceeded to wash their hands and faces before going inside.

“Sit down, sit down,” Benton urged them. “Dig right in – there’s plenty.”

He had plates of bacon, eggs and fried potatoes at each place setting and began filling cups with coffee.

“This is real nice of you,” the Kid said as he began eating.

“Can’t send you off without feeding you,” Benton grinned. “You’re going to be living off trail rations for awhile up there.”

He added a plate of biscuits hot from the oven to the table and Heyes commented, “You’re a good cook, Benton. We really appreciate this.”

“Glad to have some company for a change.”

* * *

Benton got the pack mules ready while the partners saddled their horses. The Kid eyed the bulging sack each mule carried and looked at Benton. “Reckon we won’t starve,” he grinned.

“Nope, I think you’ll be fine.” He shook hands with each of them and they mounted their horses. “Good luck and be careful up there. Never know when a mountain lion could be wandering around.”

“We will,” Heyes told him.

* * *

As the Kid and Heyes rode out of the yard, the Deegan brothers were saddling their horses. Alice came out to see them off and handed Virgil a burlap sack. “Never know when this might come in handy.”

He peeked inside and gave her a grin. “Thanks, Ma.”

“Just keep it away from your brother. He’s liable to blow hisself up.”

“Yes’m, I will.”

As they mounted their horses, she began walking back towards the cabin and then turned to shout, “You make sure you git that map, you hear?”

“Yes, Ma,” they chorused before pushing their horses into a ground-eating lope and out of sight.

* * *

They set out with the mules in tow and the Kid pulled out his gloves. “Be glad when the sun’s up a little higher.”

The partners rode along in companionable silence, with the quiet chirping of the birds the only sound in the early morning stillness.

Heyes drew in a deep breath of fresh air and exhaled loudly. Turning to his partner, he began, “Kid…”

“Don’t,” came the terse order.

“Don’t what? You don’t even know what I was going to say,” protested Heyes.

The Kid looked over, eyebrows raised. “Don’t even think about sayin’ what you were goin’ to say,” he cautioned.

“Okay, you’re so smart, what was I going to say?”

“No.”

“No?” Heyes asked in disbelief. Then he continued, “Because you have no idea what I was going to say,” he said smugly.

“Yeah, I do. I know exactly what you were goin’ to say. But I don’t want to hear me say it either.”

Staring at him, Heyes shook his head. “You know, you’re kinda hard to get along with sometimes.”

The Kid grinned. “So you’ve told me…more than once,” he drawled.

Conversation halted again, until the flat land ended at the base of the ridge and the trail began to wind upward. The Kid sighed in resignation. “Okay.”

“Okay, what?” Heyes demanded.

“You were gonna tell me how simple this job was goin’ to be and we wouldn’t have any trouble gettin’ those traps for Benton. And then you were gonna tell me that it was probably goin’ to be the easiest money we’ve made in a long time.” He glanced over at Heyes and smiled at his disgruntled expression. “Well?”

“Hmmph,” Heyes snorted.

“I was right, wasn’t I?” He glanced over at his partner, but the other man remained silent. “And every time you say that, we end up in more trouble than we did when we were robbin’ all those banks and trains.”

“But you’ve got to be thinking the same thing,” his partner insisted.

“Nope. I’m thinkin’ it’s just another job and when we’re finished and collectin’ our pay, then I’ll let you know if it was easy or not. Not before then.”

“You know what your problem is?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re gonna tell me.”

“You have no imagination.”

“Heyes, you have enough for both of us.”

The sun had risen to a point almost directly overhead before either man spoke again. Then, Heyes said aloud, “So, we’ve already ridden a pretty fair distance – how long you think it’ll take us to get up there?” But there was no answer and he called out, “Kid?” When that didn’t get any result, he gave a heavy sigh. “Are you listening to me?” Heyes asked irritably, and the Kid wrenched his attention back to his partner.

“Huh? What did you say?”

Heyes gave an impatient shake of his head, “I was asking you how long you think it’s going to take to get to the ridge where we’ll find the first traps.”

Curry shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow. If that map’s accurate, those traps are all over this mountain so it might take longer than a week.”

“Yeah, Benton did say that he and his partner each took different parts of the ridge,” Heyes remembered.

Casually reaching behind him, the Kid appeared to be trying to get his hand in his saddlebag. He couldn’t quite manage it so he turned slightly in the saddle. “I think we’re being followed,” he said quietly as he once again faced forward.

“Are you sure?” Heyes started to turn around, but Curry grabbed his arm.

“Don’t look,” he hissed. “I just think somebody’s watchin’ us.”

“Like watching us with a rifle to shoot us?” Heyes asked grimly. “Or watching us to see where we’re going?”

The Kid rolled his eyes. “How should I know?”

“Well, you’re the one who thinks we’re being followed.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know why. Or how many there are.”

Glancing up at the sun, Heyes noted, “It’s pretty early to stop for the day and make camp. I say we keep going for a couple more hours.”

Curry nodded and they continued on their way, and now Heyes was sending furtive glances around them at the brush and trees to the right and left of them. Suddenly a rustling on the trail ahead caused Heyes to catch his breath and when a rabbit jumped across in front of them, he pulled back on the reins, causing his horse to toss its head and sidestep nervously.

The Kid couldn’t help a grin as his partner reined his horse back onto the trail. “Kinda jumpy there, aren’t you?”

“Me? You’re the one who insists we’re being followed. I was fine until you had to bring it up.”

“Yeah, but you gotta admit my instincts have saved us more than once,” the Kid reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. And I like it when you worry – I can trust you to look after me better.”

This got a laugh out of Curry and he suggested, “Why don’t we pick up the pace a little? Trail’s pretty good and I’d like to get a bit further before dark.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

They made camp just as the sun was setting and over coffee Heyes pulled out the map. “I figure we can make the top of the ridge by noon tomorrow.”

The Kid nodded. “I think so, too.” He glanced around at the darkness beyond the light of their campfire, then nodded toward the horses and mules on their picket line. “If there is somebody out there, they’re not close. Horses are real quiet.”

* * *

Sunrise found Virgil and Tom Deegan, again, following Heyes and Curry up the mountain trail.

“Don’t you wanna git closer?” Tom asked his brother. “I kin hardly see ‘em.”

“No,” Virgil answered. “’Cause we already know where they’re goin’. They’re gonna go up to the top of the ridge – that’s why they’re stickin’ to the trail. Whatever they’re lookin’ for is up there.”

Tom and Virgil watched from a distance as Heyes and the Kid dismounted and began looking at the ground, pushing aside the sparse brush.

“What in the hell are they doin’?”

Virgil shook his head. “Can’t tell – they’re too far away.” He turned to glare at his brother. “Be good if we had Pa’s spy glass, but we don’t ‘cause you were stupid and broke it.”

“Weren’t my fault,” Tom protested. “Damn fool horse spooked under me an’ I dropped it. Stupid horse stepped on it.”

“You had no business takin’ it in the first place.”

Tom brought his brother’s attention back to the matter at hand by pointing up the hill. “Look, they’re puttin’ somethin’ in a sack and puttin’ it on the mule.” He turned to his brother. “We could sneak up there an’ git that map real easy.”

“No. Maybe they’ll lead us to the mine an’ not jist where the old man buried the gold.”

“But they ain’t diggin’, Tom. You mean that gold’s jist lyin’ there on the ground? Fer anybody to find?” He shook his head in disgust. “Well, that’s *** plumb stupid if you ask me.”

Virgil rubbed his chin, thoughtfully, then gave a sly grin. “No, I reckon they’re makin’ it look like they ain’t after no gold. ‘Member the old man said somethin’ ‘bout a trap line? I figure they’re fetchin’ the traps to make us think that’s all they’re up here for.”

“But they don’t know we’re followin’ ‘em…” His eyes widened and he went on, “Do they? How would they know that?”

“I reckon those fellas are real smart,” Virgil nodded slowly. “But we’re smarter; come on, they're mountin' up again. We'll follow 'em, but from a distance.”

* * *

“This has got to be it, Kid. See here that huge oak over there, the one that looks like it's been struck by lightning? It's right here on the map, too. See? According to this 'X' the trap should be right over there.”

Heyes took the lead, but suddenly the dirt beneath his feet gave way. The quick hand of Kid Curry pulled him clear of the crumbling earth and both men fell to the ground.

“You okay?” Curry asked as they both stood up, brushing themselves off.

Heyes nodded, trying to get his breathing under control as he looked over to the spot where he had just been walking. “What just happened?”

Carefully walking to the edge of the hole, they dropped to their knees and peered over. The bright sunlight illuminated timbers wedged into the dirt and they could see a small passageway leading off into the distance. “Must be an old mine,” the Kid offered and his partner nodded.

“Benton didn’t mention anything about a mine,” Heyes said thoughtfully. “Wonder why?”

“Probably ‘cause there’s nothin’ there but caved in tunnels and rotten wood.” Curry stood up. “Come on, last thing we need to be doin’ is pokin’ around an old mine.”

“You're sure right about that,” Heyes agreed. “C'mon. We got traps to find.”

Finding the next trap, they deposited it onto the mule, mounted their horses and began walking to the next spot on the map. They were going slightly downhill now and the horses were beginning to slide in the soft shale.

Suddenly a bullet whizzed by Heyes’ ear and slammed into a boulder to his left. Immediately Heyes and the Kid both dismounted and pulled their horses behind a rocky outcropping with the mules behind them. Another shot rang out and lodged into a tree behind them. The Kid had his gun out and while he peeked around the boulder and fired a few shots, Heyes tried to see where the shooters were located.

“See ‘em?”

“No, did you?” Heyes asked.

“I figure they’re off to the right, behind that line of trees. They’re usin’ rifles so they’re not that close. What do you think they want?”

“Whatever it is, I don’t think we have it.”

A pause in the shooting allowed Curry to glance around the boulder again. “There,” he pointed. “I can barely make out two men in that heavy brush.”

A loud shout followed. “You two! Give us the map or we start shootin' again!”

“Map?” Curry looked at his friend. “Why would they want a map that shows where a bunch of traps are set?”

“I’m betting that’s not what they think we’re after,” Heyes answered grimly. Leaning out slightly, he called, “What map are you talking about?”

“The one that leads us to the old man’s buried gold!” Tom yelled back.

Gold ? The partners mouthed in unison.

Heyes rolled his eyes in disbelief and the Kid muttered, “How do we get into these things?”

“I don’t know, but the important question is, how are we going to get out of it?”

“Well?” came a shout from Tom. “You fellas gonna give us the map? Or do we have to start shootin’ again?”

“We don’t have a map to any gold!” the Kid yelled back.

Another bullet chipped a piece of rock off the boulder they were hiding behind and Heyes rubbed at a cut on his forehead. “Damn, that was close.”

“Here.” The Kid pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. “It’s bleeding pretty bad,” he commented, dabbing at the wound while more shots echoed off the rocks.

“I’ll be okay.” Heyes pushed his partner’s hand away and narrowed his eyes in thought.

Abruptly the shooting stopped and the partners looked at each other. “Somehow I don’t think that’s a good sign,” Heyes offered. He peered around the rock, but there was no shooting.

Just then, a stick of dynamite landed a few feet in front of them and exploded, showering them both with dirt and rocks. Their horses, tethered a few feet away, nickered nervously, stamping their feet, uneasily.

“We better hope they don’t bolt,” the Kid said, just before another stick exploded, this time to their left.

“They’re getting closer,” Heyes observed, then looked toward the horses who were neighing in fright. “We’re going to have to get out of here,” he added, just as the horses broke free and ran, mules following them, down the trail.

“Guess you better come up with a better plan,” Curry said mildly.

“I already have,” Heyes told him. “But you’re not going to like it.”

“Can’t be worse than gettin’ blown up. An’ right now I see that as a real possibility.”

“We need to split up,” Heyes said reluctantly. “Since there’s two of them and two of us, I figure one’ll go after me and the other one after you.”

Curry stared at him. Before he could say anything, another explosion erupted behind them and they both covered their heads with their arms. When the showering rock settled, the Kid asked, “Just how is that goin' to help us?”

“Because I’m going to head in the direction of that hole I almost fell in.” Heyes gave him a grin.

“What if they both come after me?”

"They won't, but it wouldn't matter anyway, 'cause you'll be running toward that same hole, only coming at it from the opposite direction. Here, give me the map.” Heyes took the offered piece of paper and ripped it in half as the Kid cried out in protest.

“What’d you do that for?”

“Because we each need to take a piece. Watch.” He stood up and waved the piece of paper so that the two men could see it. “Hey! If you want the map, you’re going to have to come up here and get it!” He took off at a run.

Tom started to rush out of their hiding spot and Virgil grabbed him. “Not yet – what if the other one starts circlin' 'round behind us? They’d git us between ‘em.”

Then Curry stood up and waved his part of the map. “I’ve got a piece of the map, too!" he yelled, taking off in the other direction.

“Damn,” Virgil swore. “Now we gotta split up to chase ‘em.”

“Look – they’re gittin’ away!” Tom jumped up and tore after Heyes.

Virgil started running after the Kid, who was heading up the ridge, but away from where Heyes was leading Tom.

As the Kid struggled through the rocky terrain, he muttered under his breath, “Sure hope you know what’re you’re doin’ Heyes.”

Heyes paused, panting, but when Tom came crashing through the brush, he began running again. Up ahead he could see the huge oak that had been struck by lightning. Heyes ducked around an outcropping of rocks and Tom followed doggedly behind him.

Heyes deliberately slowed his pace which allowed his pursuer to catch up. Then, he heard Tom's triumphant shout. “Hey, Virgil! I got...”

The rest of the sentence was lost as Tom’s leg abruptly sank into the earth and he clawed at the ground to keep from dropping any further.

Heyes quickly pulled out his gun and leveled it at Tom. “I’d stop struggling if I were you,” he advised, “or you’re going to find yourself in even more of a mess than you are now.”

Just then the Kid burst out from behind a tree, getting the drop on the Deegan brother who had been chasing him. A startled Virgil found himself facing the wrong end of Curry’s pistol. Taking in his brother's situation at a glance, Virgil glared. “What the hell’d you go and do now, huh, Tom? I swear…”

He got no further as the Kid quickly grabbed Virgil’s gun out of its holster and tucked it into his belt. “That worked out pretty well, didn’t it?” The Kid gave Heyes a grin.

“You sure didn’t think so when I told you about it,” his partner retorted.

“Yeah, well, I guess I was wrong.”

Tom’s voice cut through their banter as he yelled out, “Is anybody gonna get me outta here?”

Heyes looked at the Kid and shrugged. “Guess we better haul him up. Too bad we don’t have any rope.”

Taking off his bandanna, Curry deftly tied Virgil’s hands behind his back. “We’ll have to make do until we can find the horses.”

Heyes pulled Tom up into a standing position and tied his hands. “Now that we’ve got them,” Heyes looked at his partner, “what are we going to do with them? Our horses are somewhere down the ridge.”

The Kid shrugged. “Maybe their horses are closer – we can make these fellas walk down to where they tied ‘em.” Hearing someone coming up behind them, the Kid whirled, gun in hand.

A man that looked to be in his fifties, with gray hair, held up his hands and gave them a disarming smile. “Looks like you fellows could use a hand.”

Curry stared at him, his gun still unwaveringly pointed at the stranger. “Who are you?”

“Name’s Silas Conover. I’m a friend of Jack Benton's and when I paid him a visit yesterday he told me about the two fellows he’d hired to go and collect his trap line. I guess that’d be you and your friend, there.”

Heyes narrowed his eyes slightly and asked, “What are you doing up here?”

“Can I put my hands down first?”

A glance passed between the partners and the Kid nodded before he replaced his gun in his holster.

Conover gave a loud sigh. “Thanks. Well, like I said, I knew you two would be up here working for Jack and then early this morning I see Tom and Virgil ride by my place and you might say I was real curious. See, Tom and Virgil never did an honest day's work in their lives and to see the two of them up before midday is something kinda hard to believe. To see them riding somewhere is nothing short of a miracle, if you get my drift.”

Both Heyes and Curry visibly relaxed, breathing sighs of relief.

Tom and Virgil sat on the ground, identical disgusted looks on their faces as the other men talked.

The Kid looked at the Deegan brothers, then grinned at Silas. “Where’s your horse?”

“Well, once I started climbing the ridge, I saw two horses and two mules kinda wandering along, grazing as they went, and then I got even more curious. I found the bag of traps on the one mule and figured that the mules belonged to Jack and the horses to the guys he’d hired to come up here. So I left ‘em all tethered down the trail and walked up here. Then I started hearing dynamite and decided you two might be in a bit of trouble.”

“We were,” Heyes admitted ruefully, “but I almost fell into this hole when we found the first few traps and I was hoping I could lead one of them close enough so he’d fall in.”

“Good plan,” Silas nodded.

Suddenly Tom burst out, “Traps? That’s what yous were up here for? Traps?!”

Virgil shook his head. “What about the gold?”

Silas laughed heartily. “Son, there isn’t any gold and there never was. That old mine never had much more than a few veins of copper in it and not much of it could be gotten out. Jack and his friend Dave took a good look when they first came up here and realized that it was a losing proposition.”

“But Ma said…” Tom began in a whining tone, but Conover cut him off.

“Your ma just couldn’t believe that Jack could make a good living off this land after your pa sold it to him. She’s been filling your head with stories about gold and mines for years and there never was anything up here but scrub and trees. And enough coyotes and mountain lions for Jack to make a decent living off his traps.”

“Ma’s gonna skin us alive,” Toms said darkly.

“She won’t get a chance,” Silas said. “If these boys want to press charges with the sheriff, they can lock you both up. You could’ve killed them with all that dynamite you two were throwing around.”

Heyes and the Kid exchanged a look and then Heyes said to Silas, “Think you can manage getting these two down by yourself? Me and my partner would kinda like to finish the job we started.”

“Oh sure,” Silas nodded. He jerked his head to his right and went on. “There’s a ranch less’n a day’s ride in that direction – I can take them there and get somebody to ride back to town with me. Come on, I’ll take you to where your horses are.”

After checking to make sure the bandannas were still tight around Tom’s and Virgil’s wrists, they herded them onto the trail and slowly made their way down the ridge. Once they reached the horses, they replaced the bandannas with rope and helped the Deegans mount their horses.

Conover climbed onto his chestnut and gave the partners a grin. “Guess you got more than you bargained for when you signed on for this job, hey, boys?”

The Kid gave Heyes a withering look and replied, “We’re kinda used to that. Happens to us a lot.”

Silas laughed and Heyes added, “Thanks again for taking these two off our hands. Don’t know what we would’ve done if you hadn’t come along.”

“Oh, I’m sure you would have come up with something,” Conover said. “You two look like you’re pretty capable of handling just about anything. Soon as I get these boys settled, I’ll tell Jack what happened. He’ll be real glad to know you’re all right. Seemed to take a real shine to you both. Good luck!”

They watched as the small procession rode off and Heyes turned to the Kid. “Happens to us a lot, huh?”

“Well, it does,” Curry retorted as he mounted his horse.

Heyes gave a snort of amusement and added, “But at least this time it turned out okay. I guess we better get back to finding Benton’s traps. Give me your piece of the map.”

* * *

Two pack mules, loaded with traps, two weary horses and two equally weary reforming outlaws made their way back toward Benton's house. When it was finally in sight, Heyes grinned at his friend. “I guess you can say it now.”

“Say what?”

“That this job was pretty easy.”

“Easy?” the Kid all but shouted. “We were hunted down by two fellas who were after some gold that doesn’t even exist. We were just lucky that you almost fell into that mine…”

“Lucky?” It was Heyes turn to shout. “I don’t think it was lucky…”

“But it gave us a way to catch the Deegans, didn’t it?”

“Okay,” Heyes replied grudgingly, “but I don’t think lucky is the word I’d use.”

They were still bickering amiably when they rode into Benton’s yard and he came out to meet them. “Sure am glad to see you both back safe and sound,” he smiled. “I heard the whole story from Silas.”

The partners dismounted and Heyes took off his hat, running his hand through his disheveled hair. “We’re real glad he showed up when he did. We didn’t want to drag the Deegans along while we found your traps, but we didn’t think we’d have much of a choice.”

“Found every one of ‘em.” Curry said, as Heyes handed Benton back both pieces of his torn map.

Bewildered, their employer eyed the paper.

Heyes gave an apprehensive smile and began an explanation. “Ya see, Mr. Benton...”

“Don't worry about it," Benton stopped him, holding up a hand. "Like I said, Silas told me the whole story. Just glad you found all the traps. Now you boys take care of the horses and I’ll unpack the mules. I’ve got a roast on and you’ll stay for supper. No need for you to be leaving right now.”

“We accept,” Heyes told him gratefully. “Sure did get tired of trail rations.”

The Kid sniffed the air appreciatively and gave Heyes a withering glance. “What’re we waitin' for? Come on, I’m starvin’!”

Benton laughed and led the way to the table. Plates of roast beef and mashed potatoes were set in front of them. The Kid wasted no time digging in, while Heyes placed his napkin on his lap, politely.

“No need to hold back, son,” Benton urged him. “Plenty more keeping warm in the oven. Oh, and there’s biscuits, too. Let me get them.”

“You’re a real good cook, Benton,” Heyes complimented him as he buttered a biscuit.

“Kind of had to learn to keep from starving,” Benton chuckled. “After my wife passed away, I couldn’t keep riding into town for my meals so I had one of the gals from the café come over and teach me a few things.”

“Well she did a real fine job,” the Kid mumbled through a mouthful of food.

Heyes rolled his eyes.

“So, I guess you boys’ll be heading into town tomorrow to talk to the sheriff, right?”

Fork poised in mid-air, the Kid gulped. “Sheriff?” he asked hesitantly, and looked to his partner for help.

“I don’t know if we need to do that,” Heyes said thoughtfully. “I mean, it turned out okay and nobody got hurt.”

“From what Silas told me, those Deegans were being pretty careless with that dynamite,” Benton commented as he took a sip of coffee. “One of you could have gotten hurt.”

Curry pushed his empty plate away and leaned back in his chair. “Since we’re strangers here, I’m not sure the sheriff would really pay any attention to our story…”

“That’s right,” Heyes went on. “I mean, the Deegans have lived here for years – it’ll be our word against theirs.”

Benton regarded them for a moment and then asked, “Is there another reason? Something you two boys don’t want to share?”

A mantel clock ticked several times, ominously, before Heyes reluctantly said, “Well, Benton, we really didn’t want to have to tell you about this. I mean, it’s kind of embarrassing for Thaddeus…”

The Kid narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to speak when Heyes rushed on. “See, it’s like this. A few months ago we were in a little town south of here and Thaddeus met this gal in the saloon and, well, he had an awful lot to drink one night and…” He stopped and looked at Curry. “Well, go on, Thaddeus, you might as well tell him.”

Taking a gulp of air, the Kid fumbled, frantically. Seeming to latch onto an idea, he rambled, “Her name was Rosie and she really was really pretty, had long dark hair, beautiful green eyes and, well, I think I kinda asked her to marry me.”

Benton let out a huge whoop of laughter and the partners nervously joined in. “So you ran out on her, did you?”

Sheepishly the Kid nodded. “Yeah, I guess I did.”

“We’re not sure if she’d wired any of the sheriffs in the area,” Heyes added, warming to their tale. “So that’s why we’d rather not go to the sheriff about the Deegans.”

Benton nodded thoughtfully. “Well, I reckon I could just tell the sheriff about it myself and let him know that you two were kind of anxious to be on your way. I was going to ask if you’d like to stay on for a few weeks and help me out, but if you’re worried…”

“I don’t think that would be a problem,” Heyes quickly replied. “I mean, working out here and going into town aren’t the same thing, right, Thaddeus?”

“Uh, yeah, right,” the Kid hastily agreed. “Not the same thing at all. We’d be glad to take you up on your offer, Benton.”

“Then it’s all settled. You boys ready for a drink?”

* * *

Settling themselves in the barn that night, Heyes looked at his partner. His words were colored with admiration as he remarked, “You know, Kid, that was pretty quick thinking back there.”

“Hmmph. What the hell were you thinkin’ lettin’ me finish the story?” Curry asked in an aggrieved tone.

“Figured it would be better if it sounded as if we both knew the same tale,” Heyes grinned in the darkness. “Maybe I’ve underestimated you all this time and I should let you do the talking from now on.”

“Heyes?”

“Yeah?”

“One silver tongue between us is enough. Go to sleep.”

“G’night, Kid.”

“’Night, Heyes.”

_________________
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.
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