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 The Fifth Suspect by Penski

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20140315
PostThe Fifth Suspect by Penski




Heyes is hurt.  Can Kid solve the mystery of the murdered miner?  Or will the murderer discover the true identities of Smith and Jones first?


Starring
(in order of appearance)

James Cromwell as the Hotel Clerk


Alice Nunn as Widow Barnes


Richard Anderson as Supervisor O'Neill


John C Reilly as Kelly


Ed Harris as Sheriff Jackson



The Fifth Suspect
by Penski



“Heyes?” A trail-weary Kid Curry took a sip from his canteen as his partner stopped for a drink. “How much money do you have?”

“Five dollars and fifty-six cents.” Heyes put the stopper back on his canteen and hooked it back on the saddle horn. “Why? How much do you have?”

“Only three dollars and twenty-six cents. ‘Member when our pockets were full and we had more than we needed?”

“And we were being shot at and chased by posses on a regular basis,” Heyes reminded him.

“Still are…” muttered the Kid. After a moment, he continued, “So that’s almost nine dollars.”

“Eight dollars and eighty-two cents to be exact. Why are you asking?”

“Just wonderin’ if we can afford a bed and some food that isn’t beans tonight. And I’d sure like to get a layer of this dust off of me.”

“Maybe just a night with one bed and a good meal.”

“And we’re gonna hafta take the next job available no matter what it is.”

“As long as it’s legal, yep, we can’t be picky.”

“Great,” the Kid mumbled as he urged his gelding down the path leading to Patterson, Colorado.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Riding into Patterson, the strangers saw a lively town with several saloons, a large hotel, a mercantile and several other stores, two liveries, a bank, and a sheriff’s office.

Stopping in front of the hotel, they dismounted and stretched. After tying their horses to the hitching post, they walked into an elegant lobby.

A wiry older man was behind the counter doing paperwork and looked up through his eyeglasses. He scanned the men in front of him and let out a disapproving sigh. “Can I help you?”

Heyes put on his friendliest smile. “We were hoping to get a room tonight, get a bath, and have the horses boarded.”

“The room is three dollars a night, the baths with a shave cost fifty cents each at the bath house down the street, boarding two horses will cost you a dollar each. And I suppose you will want to eat. Do you have enough money?”

The Kid watched as Heyes added up the numbers. “Sure… Is that room for three dollars with two beds or one?”

“Hmmph! One bed. Two beds will cost you a dollar more.” The clerk watched a silent exchange between partners. “May I suggest Widow Barnes’ Boarding House on the edge of town? She will give you room and board, a place for your horses, and a bath for three dollars a day.”

Two dirty men smiled at the hotel clerk as he snapped his book closed. “Thanks for the advice,” Curry said as they turned to walk out of the hotel. He stopped and looked at the clerk. “Is Sheriff Green still around…?”

“Sheriff Green?” The clerk did not try to hide his impatience as he rolled his eyes. “Never heard of him. Sheriff Jackson is the law in this town.”

“Thank you for your time,” the Kid said as he joined Heyes outside. “Don’t know a Sheriff Jackson, do you?”

“Nope. Guess we could check out this boarding house, huh?”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The boys walked their horses to a large white house with a picket fence and a sign welcoming them to Widow Barnes’ Boarding House.

“Nice lookin’ place,” Curry commented as they walked through the gate.

“And the price is right, if the clerk was correct.”

A plump, tall woman in her fifties greeted them at the door. “May I help you?” She eyed the strangers up and down.

“Yes, ma’am. Heard you might have a room for us and a place for our horses.” Curry gave a friendly smile.

“Are you staying long?”

“Well, ma’am, that depends…” The widow raised a quizzical brow and Heyes continued. “Depends if we can find a job tomorrow or not.”

The widow smiled and nodded an acknowledgement. “Oh, I see. Have you tried the Goldbug mine? They seem to always be hiring.”

The boys glanced at each other and frowned. “Thanks, ma’am, we’ll try ‘em first thing. About the room?” Curry asked.

“Oh yes, I do have a room, but only one large bed. Room, two meals, and boarding for the horses is three dollars a day. No drinking or smoking in the rooms. And you must be tidy. That includes taking a bath once in awhile. There is one in a room off of the kitchen.”

“That’ll be fine, ma’am.” Heyes reached in his pocket and handed the woman six dollars. “Here’s enough for two nights. We’ll take care of our horses and be back in a few minutes.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Half an hour later, they removed their hats and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” a voice inside replied.

Heyes walked in, followed by his partner. Kid noticed a scowl on the widow’s face as she ambled into the hall and saw Heyes hadn’t wipe his feet. “Ah, Joshua…” Curry wiped his feet.

“Oh, sorry,” Heyes said as he wiped his feet on the rug, too.

“Dinner is in two hours. Your room is the last one on the right side – it’s a corner one. And you’re welcome to heat water for baths before dinner.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Two hours later, clean men joined the widow in the dining room. The table was heavily laden with dishes of roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas, fresh bread, and a fruit cobbler.

“Looks delicious, Mrs. Barnes!” Heyes sat down at the table.

Curry joined him. “Sure does!”

Mrs. Barnes sat down at the head of the table, folded her hands and was about to say grace when Heyes began to put meat on his plate. The Kid, about to serve himself, glanced at the widow and noticed her folded hands. He folded his hands, too. “Ah, Joshua…”

Heyes looked up. “Oh, I’m sorry.” He put down a fork and folded his hands.

Both men quietly listened as the widow said a prayer of thanks. “God is great; God is good. Let us thank Him for this food. Amen.”

When it was over, they added in unison, “Amen.” Both politely waited until she began to serve the dishes.

“Looks real good, ma’am,” Curry said as she served him.

Both filled their plates and ate heartily.

“There’s plenty of food. Would you like seconds?” Ms. Barnes asked.

“Yes, please.” Kid Curry held out his plate.

As she served a smiling Kid Curry with a hearty second helping, Widow Barnes turned to Heyes. “And you?”

“Oh, no thank you.” Heyes pushed his empty plate a few inches towards the middle of the table.

“Is anything wrong with the food, Mr. Smith?”

“Ma’am?”

“I see you’re not eating much.”

“It was wonderful. I’m just full and leaving room for some of that berry cobbler.”

“Oh…I see. Well, I’m glad Mr. Jones is enjoying his dinner.”

The Kid nodded. “I sure am, ma’am.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Later in their room, Curry sat on the bed to remove his boots. “You sure didn’t win any points with the widow today, Heyes.”

“How was I supposed to know she always wants us to wipe our feet and say grace before a meal?”

“Just gotta be more observant, like me.”

“Hmmph…” Heyes lay down in bed. “Since you’re still up, turn off the lamp.”

“Sure.” Curry blew out the lamp and crawled into bed.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry and Heyes rode up to the mining office.

“I really hate minin’,” the Kid commented as he tied his horse to the hitching post.

“Me too, Kid, but there aren’t any other jobs around.”

“I know. But it’s only for a month and then we’re outta here.”

“Only for a month.”

They forced smiles on their faces and walked into the office. “Excuse me, are you hiring?” Heyes asked.

“Sure am. Name’s O’Neill and I’m the supervisor of the Goldbug Mine. Pay is $4.00 a day and we work in shifts. You’re responsible for your own equipment. And you have to leave those guns at home.”

“No guns?” the Kid verified.

“A bullet would ricochet in the mine and hurt someone. Have a problem with that?”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance and a mute conversation before Curry answered, “No, sir.”

“So all you have to do now is sign these papers making you employees of the mine.”

Heyes and Curry glanced at each other, nodded, and moved forward to sign the papers O’Neill pushed towards them.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A dirty Heyes and Curry walked through a dark mine shaft with lanterns and their pick and shovel.

“One week of mining over,” remarked Heyes.

“And three still to go,” gloomed Curry.

When they came to a fork in the path, they stopped.

“It’s left to get outta here, isn’t it?” the Kid inquired.

“No, it’s right,” Heyes corrected him and led the way.

“Are you sure? I could’ve sworn it was left.”

“Of course I’m sure. Just follow me.”

The boys emerged from the shaft as it opened into a small room and then narrowed and went down in elevation.

Curry shook his head. “Just follow me…” he mimicked his partner’s direction in a disgusted voice. “I knew it was left.”

Heyes shrugged his shoulders and held up his lantern to see the area as he turned to head back. “All these tunnels look the same.”

“Whoa, Heyes!”

“What is it?”

Curry held up his light in a large crevice. A glint of gold was shining back at them. “It’s a vein! See it?”

Heyes peered in the gap as his partner held the lantern. “Kid! It’s gold!” He picked at the rocks around the vein for a better look and saw the vein widen. Setting his tools down, he turned towards his partner with a big grin. “We need to tell O’Neill—could get a bonus for finding it. Let’s head back.”

Curry led the way. “Don’t forget your pick and shovel.”

As they came to the fork in the tunnel, they veered left. Behind them, unnoticed, a shadow emerged from the dark recesses of the mine.

Heyes’ voice was full of excitement. “Wait until others hear what we discovered! Can’t believe no one found it before now. Owner of the mine will definitely need to be told.”

The shadow followed them for a single pace – hesitated – then turned and went down the right shaft.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

As the ex-outlaws emerged from the mouth of the mine, blinking in the sunlight, Heyes was still in full flow. “I reckon that vein’s gotta be at least twice the size of the one they found down in...”

“Joshua…”

“Musta been a good – what – ten inches deep…”

“Joshua…” the Kid said patiently.

“Huh?”

“Where are your tools?”

“Tools? Sheesh…I must’ve left them back there.”

“You better go get them. You heard O’Neill say that we’re responsible for ‘em.”

“Aren’t you coming?”

“Why? I’m not the one who forgot ‘em.” With a bland smile, Curry sat down and made himself comfortable. His eyes closed, enjoying the afternoon sun. A moment later, one blue eye opened to survey a disgruntled dark-haired partner. “You still here? Thinkin’ maybe if you wait long enough maybe your shovel’ll get lonely an’ come find ya?”

The blue eye re-closed. With a snort which could be interpreted any way Curry liked, Heyes turned and headed back into the mine and Curry was about to doze when several minutes later…

KA-BOOM!

“HEYES…JOSHUA!” Curry jumped up and, with his lantern, ran back into the mine. He followed the path Heyes would have been on. Coughing from the dust, he removed his bandana and held it to his mouth and nose. Up ahead he saw a crumpled body amongst the fist-sized rocks.

“Heyes?” the Kid whispered as he knelt down and checked his partner over. He lowered his ear to Heyes’ chest and, a split second later, let out a sigh of relief.

A fallen timber support lay across his partner’s legs.

“HEY…” Curry yelled toward the entrance to the mine. “Need some help!”

Almost at once there was the sound of boots hurrying down the shaft.

“Over here!”

Several miners came around the bend. “Is he…”

“Still breathin’,” the Kid answered their question. “Need help gettin’ this timber off of him.”

“I’ll go fetch the doc,” one miner said as he returned to the entrance.

The men that remained lifted the wood off the injured man they knew as Joshua Smith.

While the others checked the area for instability and cause of the explosion, the Kid examined his unconscious partner. A deep gash in the back of his head was bleeding freely, so Curry put pressure on it and tied a bandana around his head.

One of the miners came back from the site of the explosion. “Blocked the old shaft off. Wonder why…?”

The supervisor, O’Neill, and the miner who had run with the message to fetch the doc came running around the bend. “What the… Is he alive?”

“Yep,” the Kid answered as he checked for broken bones. When he moved Heyes’ foot to straighten it, a groan escaped from the injured man.

“Bet that foot is broken,” commented one of the miners as he handed the Kid a knife. “I’d remove the boot now before it swells too much and while he’s out.”

Curry took the knife. “Sorry to do this, Joshua,” he mumbled as he cut the boot off.

“Get him outta here!” O’Neill barked as he looked around at the damage to the support beams. “Not safe down here.”

The miner who had returned with O’Neill stepped forward. “Brought back a blanket. Thought we could use it to carry him out.”

“Thanks.” Curry took the blanket and unfolded it. Then he and three other miners rolled Heyes onto the blanket and, using it as a stretcher, began carrying the unconscious man out of the mine.

“Jones!”

The men stopped and Curry turned slightly towards the supervisor. “What? Can’t this wait?”

O’Neill curtly nodded. “Want to see you in my office first thing tomorrow.”

“If my partner’s okay, I’ll be there.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

O’Neill sat at his desk doing paperwork when a tap came at his door. “Come in!” he growled as he continued to write.

Curry came in and stood near the desk. “You wanted to see me?”

The supervisor looked up from the report. “What was Smith doing near that shaft and alone? Rules say men work in pairs and not wander into the old shafts.”

Curry took off his hat and sat down. “We got turned around and went the wrong way. Joshua left his tools and went back for it. And boss, that ain’t all.”

A quizzical eyebrow rose and waited for the rest.

“We saw a vein.”

“A vein? Where?”

“In that old shaft that’s now blocked from the explosion.”

“But that shaft was mined out. A supervisor and a geologist said there was nothing more down there.”

The Kid shrugged his shoulders. “Just sayin’ what we saw. When we turned to leave, our lanterns caught the glitter. We picked at it and the vein was gettin’ bigger. It was in a crevice. Maybe that’s why the others didn’t see it.”

“And you’re sure about this?”

Curry raised his eyebrows. “Guess we’d know a vein when we saw it.”

“Speaking of Smith, how is he?” O’Neill put down his pen and gave the worker his full attention.

“Well, I’m here so he must be okay. Doc says he has a concussion, lots a deep bruises and a broken bone in his foot. Has to stay in bed for a few weeks.”

“That’s good news that he wasn’t hurt any worse.”

“Widow Barnes said she’d keep an eye on him while I worked.”

“Glad to hear that I won’t be losing both of you.” O’Neill stood up, dismissing Curry. “Thanks for the information about that vein. I’ll talk to the owner about opening it up again. And, no promises, but there might be a small bonus in it for you.”

The Kid grinned as he stood up. “If you don’t mind, I’ll go back to my partner today and come to work tomorrow.”

“Sure. And give Mr. Smith our best.” O’Neill escorted Kid out and, after closing the door, he leaned on the back in deep thought. “Hmm…” Grabbing his hat, he left at a rapid pace.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Kid Curry walked into their boarding house room. “Heyes, you’re awake.” He sat down on the bed next to his friend.

“Yeah, but wishing I wasn’t. My head sure hurts!” Heyes sounded groggy and put his arm up and covered his eyes. “Did the doc leave anything for the pain?”

The Kid got up and shut the curtains, making the room darker. “Better?”

Heyes lifted his arm and let his eyes adjust to the dim light. “Yeah, a lot better. Where were you?”

“Had to go talk to O’Neill about what happened yesterday.”

“Did you tell him about the vein?”

Curry poured a glass of water, mixed in some powder, and handed to Heyes. “Yep, and he said there might be a small bonus. Sounds like we’ll be openin’ that shaft again. He’s gonna talk to the owner.”

Heyes grinned. “Didn’t I tell ya?”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A week after the explosion, Curry walked into the boarding room and plopped down on a chair. “Sheesh… What a day!”

Heyes watched as a small cloud of dust rose from the Kid's clothes. "Boy, you're dirty. If Widow Barnes saw you…”

“Of course I’m dirty! I was workin’ in a mine all day. Do you wanna hear what happened today or not?”

“Yeah I wanna hear. Just warning you about Widow Barnes; she isn’t nice!”

“Isn’t nice?” Curry shook his head, skeptically. “She’s the sweetest, dear lady! Why, she’s heatin’ water so I can get cleaned up AND makin’ me supper.”

“Well, she must like you better ‘cause she’s sure isn’t nice to me when you’re not here. So what happened in the mine?”

“Finally broke through to the old shaft and…”

“And O’Neill saw the vein we found.”

“Well, that too, but…”

“That too? As if that isn’t important.”

“Heyes, would ya listen for a minute? Found a dead body in the shaft.”

“A dead body? Was it the guy who set off the explosion?”

“Nope. I’m guessin’ it’s been there for maybe a year.”

“Huh? That means… I wonder if…”

The Kid leaned forward in his chair closer to the bed. “I’m thinkin’ someone didn’t want the body found and set off the explosion.”

“And you thought of it all by yourself?” Heyes grinned. “I must be rubbing off on you.”

“Well, I’ve been thinkin’ about it all day while workin’. What do you think?”

“I’m thinking the same thing. Maybe someone heard or saw us in that shaft. We got too close to the body so they set off the explosion.”

“Thaddeus,” a sweet voice sang from out in the hall. “Your bath water is ready.”

“I’ll be right there.” Curry smiled, wiped off the dust from the chair, and grabbed clean clothes. “Told you she’s nice. I’ll be back in awhile.”
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Heyes grinned to himself as sounds of distant splashing drifting up through the floor were joined by cheerful – if off-key – faint singing, indicating that somewhere downstairs Kid Curry was enjoying his bath. Suddenly, the bedroom door opened with a bang as the widow entered with a tray of food.

Heyes quickly covered up. “Don’t you knock?”

“My hands were full with your supper.” She set the tray down on the bed so the soup spilled out of the bowl.

Heyes frowned and picked up his spoon, stirring the soup. “What is it?”

“Chicken soup.”

“Where’s the chicken?”

“I put chicken in it – and vegetables, too!”

“Thanks,” Heyes grumbled as she left the room.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A much cleaner Curry walked into the room with a tray of food and sat down. “Smells good.” A sip of soup. “Tastes good-real good. Lots of meat and vegetables in it. And this warm bread. Must’ve just come outta the oven.”

“Warm bread? My piece was stale. And my soup didn’t have much stuff in it – more like flavored water.” Heyes grimaced.

“Well, maybe the widow thinks you should be eatin’ light, since you’re sick and all. She told me to eat up since I’m workin’ so hard in the mine. Even gave me extra bread. Want some?” The Kid handed over one of his buttered pieces of bread to Heyes.

“You got butter? My stale piece didn’t have any!” Heyes took a bite. “This is good. Told you she likes you best. Think you can get more?”

“More? There’s a pie coolin’ downstairs. I wanna save room for it.” Curry continued to eat. “About the body…”

“Do they know who it was?”

“O’Neill and the sheriff aren’t sayin’, but the talk in the mine says it’s a man that disappeared close to a year ago.”

“This man have a name?” Heyes furrowed his eyebrows as he listened.

“Yep.” Curry finished the last morsel of food on his plate. “Gosh, that was a good meal. Name of the man who disappeared was Chuck Taylor.”

“We know a Chuck Taylor?”

“Did… ‘Member the Miller gang?”

When Heyes nodded, he continued. “Red Taylor’s real name was Chuck.”

“How do you know that?”

“Readin’ wanted posters to pass the time while in jail.”

“I thought you just put your hat over your eyes and slept.”

Curry rolled in eyes. “But I don’t think the folks here know about him bein’ an outlaw. Don’t appear to, at least.”

“Red Taylor… Wasn’t worth much, was he?”

“Nope. Last poster I saw on him said $200.”

“So a small-scale robber – one even the sheriff might not notice.”

“Yep. But he wasn’t tryin’ to blend in. Wasn’t well-liked in town. In fact, a few people were happy when he up and disappeared. Thought he had just moved on.”

Heyes though a moment. “So his killer may have set the explosion.”

“Yep.” The Kid stood up and grabbed Heyes’ tray. “Told the widow I’d bring both trays down when I got my pie. Sheesh, Heyes, you made a mess. You spilled most of your soup in the tray.”

Kid Curry turned, missing the incredulous expression on Heyes’ face. Heyes’ mouth opened as if to protest his innocence, shut it with a ‘why bother?’ shrug and, as his partner closed the door behind him, was struck by sudden qualm.

“Don’t forget MY piece of pie!”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry arrived with one piece of pie. “Here ya go.”

“Where’ve you been? It’s been almost an hour!” Heyes exclaimed as he took the plate.

“Chattin’ with Widow Barnes. Nice lady. She’s gonna pick out a book for you to read tomorrow—says she has a few to choose from. Figured with the headaches goin’ away, you might be bored.”

Heyes nodded absent-mindedly. “About Taylor… Are you sure it’s Red?”

“I’ve been tryin’ to remember the description on the poster. There was something about him, but I don’t remember.”

“Well, we need to be certain it’s him.”

“Why do we need to be certain? How’s this involve us? Isn’t that the sheriff’s job?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“But it’s givin’ you something to think about-- a challenge for you.” Heyes sheepishly nodded and Curry continued. “Well, it’d draw attention if I went to the jail and asked to see Red’s poster.”

“What if you sent a message to Lom asking him about the description and if there’s been any new jobs by him.”

Curry sat on the bed and removed his boots and began to unbutton his shirt.

“Are you going to bed already?”

“Heyes, I work! Hafta to be up before the sun.” A pair of pants joined the shirt draped over a chair.

“Fine, but don’t forget to send out that telegram.”

“I won’t. Now can I turn off the light?”

“I guess.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry pulled out a note from his pocket as he walked into the telegraph office. “I need to send a telegram to Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville, Wyoming.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A tired and dirty Kid Curry came into the room and sat on the chair.

Heyes shook his head. “Would you get changed before sitting there? She’s gonna blame me.”

“How could she blame you? You got a lot of mine dust there in bed with ya?”

Curry closed his eyes and relaxed. “Speakin’ of her, did she bring you a book?”

Heyes gave a disgusted snort. "Some book about a bunch of sisters." He indicated the table next to the bed. "It's over there--haven't looked at it yet. And who gets a man a book about women? Don’t tell me that she don’t have any other books to choose from.”

The Kid walked over to the table and read the title. “Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.” He looked at Heyes. “You’ve read dumber-soundin’ books. Give it a try.” Then he looked at the foot propped up by pillows. “So, how’s your foot?”

“Swollen. Don’t it look swollen?” Heyes curtly answered.

“Hey, no need to get proddy!” Kid sat back in the chair.

“So, did you send Lom the message?”

“Yep.”

“And did you get a response yet?”

“Nope.”

“Any more news?”

“Well, that vein’s turnin’ out to be a nice size.”

“Not the mining...the murder!”

The Kid grinned. “Oh, that! Well, heard that Chuck was seen fightin’ with quite a few people before he disappeared. One was a miner by the name of Paul Hopkins.”

“What was the argument about?”

“Not sure. Something about tools and money. I’ll hafta ask around more.”

“Well, that’s a possibility. Who else?”

“Actually, Widow Barnes.”

“Widow Barnes?”

“Yep. Guess he was leavin’ and refusin’ to pay his bill. She was heard yellin’ that he’d regret it.”

“Now that’s enough to make her a suspect, too.”

“Heyes, she’s a widow! A sweet one at that!”

“You don’t know her like I do, Kid. And…”

“And Joe Clark.”

Heyes’ eyebrows furrowed. “Joe Clark? Do we know him?”

Curry shook his head. “He became the town drunk – right after Taylor’s disappearance. Heard they were best friends.”

“Hmm, could be him, too. Anyone else?”

“Oh yeah, there’s the lovely Daisy. She’s one of the saloon gals, the one dressed in yellow, and everyone heard their fight. He was cheatin’ her outta services given. He said they only did…well, and she said they did…more, lots more. Maybe I should go talk to her?” Blue eyes twinkled.

Heyes scowled. “And how would she have gotten the body in the mine and set off the explosion?”

“Dunno, but I’d be willin’ to check it out.” Curry grinned. “And if you’re gonna be so quick to eliminate her, you gotta dismiss Mrs. Barnes for the same reasons.”

“We’ll see. That’s four possible suspects. Keep your eyes and ears open for anything else.” Heyes thought a moment. “When do you think we’ll hear from Lom?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. Depends if he’s even in Porterville.”

“But you’ll check…”

“I’ll go by the telegraph office before I come back tomorrow.”

“Okay. You better get washed up. I mean it, Kid; Widow Barnes will tan you one if she sees you sitting on her chair that dirty.”

The Kid stood up and began to remove his filthy clothes. “Ya know, Heyes, if you’d be nicer to her, maybe she’d be nicer to you.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry entered the telegraph office and a few minutes later walked out, grinning and slapping a piece of paper in his hand.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The Kid came into their room. “Got it!”

Heyes looked up from a book. “Got what?”

Seeing the book was the one about sisters, Curry smiled. “How’s the book?”

“Dumb – the girl’s name is Jo and the man’s name is Laurie.” Heyes shook his head in disbelief. “What’d you get?”

“Lom’s telegram. Forgot about it already?”

“Oh.” Heyes put the book down on the table. “What’s it say?”

“Read it yourself.” Curry handed the telegram to Heyes. “I really gotta clean up tonight. Widow Barnes is heatin’ water for a bath. She took one look at me and told me to go get clean clothes and come right back down. No talkin’ to you.”

“What?” Heyes put the piece of paper down. “What d’ya mean, no talking to me!”

“That’s what she said.” The Kid grinned. “And there’s more pie for tonight. I’m not gonna make her mad at me, too.” He headed to the door. “Be back in a few minutes and then we’ll talk.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Over an hour later, the Kid came back with a tray of food for Heyes. “Brought your supper; it’s chicken and biscuits. Really good.”

Heyes glared. “A few minutes?”

“Huh?”

“You said you’d be back in a few minutes and then we’d talk. Where’ve you been?”

Curry set down the tray of food on the bed. “Took a bath and then had dinner with Widow Barnes. She’s lonely since her husband died.”

“She’s lonely… What about me? No one to talk to all day long. Thanks, partner.”

“You sure are proddy!”

Heyes glared at him and said testily, “You’d be too if you were stuck in bed all day with no one around – just a dumb book about the March sisters.”

The Kid sat down and ran his hand through his hair. “You better eat your dinner while it’s warm.”

Heyes shrugged his shoulders and took the tray in his lap. “Don’t mean to complain, it’s just…”

“You need someone to talk to, I know. Should’ve come back up after my bath and eaten with you.” Curry waited for Heyes to take a few bites of his dinner. “Did you read Lom’s telegram?”

“Yeah. Did the description match? Red Taylor hasn’t been involved in any robberies for awhile.” Heyes commented thoughtfully.

“The dead man did have red hair and bandana. Couldn’t tell about any scars. Strange thing was a rabbit’s foot on his hat band.”

“Rabbit’s foot?”

Curry nodded. “Yeah, but that isn’t in the telegram.”

“Now that you mention it, Kid, I do remember a member of the Miller gang with red hair and a rabbit’s foot on his hat. Just didn’t know his name was Red Taylor. So…”

“The dead man must be him!”

Heyes nodded as he chewed his dinner. “This is good chicken, huh?”

“Wait 'til you have some of the pie.” Curry waited a moment. “So, now what?”

“What day is it?”

“Friday. Payday is tomorrow.”

Heyes grinned. “Well, as much as I enjoy your company, guess you’re gonna hafta go to the saloon tomorrow and find out more about this friend of his, what was his name? Town drunk?”

“Joe Clark. What about Paul Hopkins?”

“Him, too.”

“And the lovely Daisy.”

Heyes scowled. “I thought we ruled her out?”

“You ruled her out, Heyes; I didn’t. Not done…uh…” the Kid grinned, "investigatin’ her yet.”

“Fine, but don’t stay all night. I’ll be waiting up to hear what you found out.”

Curry stood and stretched. Stifling a yawn, he asked, “You about done? Told the widow I’d bring down your tray before goin’ to bed. I’m tired and sounds like I have a big night tomorrow.”

Heyes frowned. “Not too big. Remember you have a partner waiting to hear what’s going on. Maybe I could…”

“You heard the doc, Heyes. Hafta stay in bed for another week or could hurt your foot for good. I promise I’ll be back early so you can talk with someone.” Curry was about to leave with the tray. “Hey, I could ask Widow Barnes to visit with you tomorrow afternoon. Maybe the two of you can discuss them Little Women.”

“Don’t you dare!”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry entered the saloon and walked up to the bar. “A bottle of whiskey and two glasses.” He scanned the room and found who he was looking for at a corner table. “Mind if I sit down, Joe?”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry quietly opened the bedroom door. He heard a gun click coming from the direction of the bed. “Joshua?” He froze with the door open.

“Oh, it’s just you!” Heyes uncocked the gun as the Kid came into the room and shut the door.

“Yeah, it’s me. Who were you expectin’?”

“Widow Barnes.”

“Heyes, you can’t pull a gun on the widow! Why would you do that?”

“She was gonna give me a bath!”

The Kid wrinkled his nose. “Well, it has been awhile.”

“She is NOT giving me a bath!”

“And she came up here to do it?”

“Uh huh and I told her you would help me tomorrow since it’s Sunday and your day off. She said you needed a day of rest and she was gonna do it.”

“So you pulled out your gun?” Curry shook his head in disbelief.

“No, she left to get the water and towels and then I pulled out the gun. Kid, she’s not gonna see me indecent.”

The Kid went over to his partner and grabbed the gun. “Give it to me. Heyes, you’re supposed have the silver-tongue. Use that on the widow and not the gun. Sheesh…”

“Kid, I’m telling ya, you don’t know how she’s like when you’re gone. She’s…she’s rude and sour. Yells all the time. Isn’t there another boarding house in town?”

“This is the only one with a vacancy.”

“Well, that don’t surprise me at all with the way she acts.”

“I’ll talk to her. Just promise me no more drawin’ guns on Widow Barnes – use your brain and silver-tongue instead.”

“Fine.”

“Promise me, Heyes.”

“Okay, I promise not to aim a gun at the widow again. Satisfied?” A moment later. “What’d you find out in the saloon?”

“Well, Daisy didn’t do it.”

Heyes rolled his eyes. “I know that!”

“And Paul Hopkins... Don’t think he did, either.”

“Why you say that?”

“‘Cos he was with Daisy that night,” Curry said with a smile.

Heyes furrowed his eyebrows. “Maybe they did it together.”

“Nah, there were too many people who saw ‘em both in the saloon together that evening. Miss Rose has a room next to Daisy and she heard lots of noise comin’ from that room all night. You know…bed creakin’ noises.”

“Ahh, so not them. You talked to Rose?”

Curry grinned. “You could say that. Had to make sure you could hear noises from Daisy’s room, didn’t I?”

Heyes shook his head. “What about Joe Clark?”

The Kid sat on the bed and removed his boots. “Now him I can’t figure out. From what others said, him and Taylor were close—always together. When I bought him a drink and asked how he knew Red, he didn’t know who I was talkin’ about. So he don’t know Taylor’s outlaw name.”

“Maybe didn’t know him when he was an outlaw.”

“I guess, but they got to be good friends that fast? Move over, will ya?” Curry stretched out on the bed with his hands behind his head.

“Aren’t you gonna take your dirty clothes off?”

“In a minute…”

Heyes elbowed him towards the edge of the bed. “Now! I don’t want that Widow Barnes any madder at me.”

“Okay!” Curry got up and removed his pants and shirt then crawled under the covers. “Better?”

“Yeah, but you’re not goin’ to sleep yet, are you? You can sleep in tomorrow and we haven’t finished talking about Clark yet.”

“I guess not.” The Kid stifled a yawn. “What d’ya wanna know?”

“Well, was he always the town drunk?”

“Nope,” Curry answered succinctly.

“Only since Taylor’s disappearance?”

“Yep.”

“Wonder why?”

Another yawn. “Dunno.”

“Maybe…maybe he is guilty. Maybe Joe accidentally killed his friend, panicked and hid the body. He’s full of remorse and drinks to forget.”

“Remorse?” Yawn.

“Yeah. Guilty and sorry about it.”

“Guess he could come across that way.” Yawn. “I’m still wonderin’ why they were so close.”

“Well, maybe they knew each other when they were kids? Raised on nearby farms—they’d be like brothers. Or maybe they worked together before Taylor became an outlaw. Or maybe…” Heyes stopped and glanced at his partner when he heard a gentle snore. “Or maybe we can talk about this tomorrow and let you sleep.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A persistent tapping on the door. “Thaddeus, oh Thaddeus! Will you be joining me for church?” Louder tapping. “Thaddeus!”

Heyes hit his sleeping partner, jolting him awake. “It’s for you.”

“Huh?” Curry lay back down.

“Oh Thaddeus.” The knocking was getting louder. “Time to wake up for church.”

“She’s gotta be kiddin’,” groaned the Kid.

Heyes rolled over. “Nope. Told you she wasn’t nice.”

“Sheesh!” Then louder, “Comin’, Mrs. Barnes.” Curry threw the covers off and walked to the door. Standing behind it, he opened it a few inches. “What can I help you with, Mrs. Barnes?”

“It’s time to wake up for church. You ARE escorting me this morning, aren’t you?” She paused. “I have bacon and flapjacks about ready.”

“Well, ma’am, you see…me and my partner …”

“That stinking Mr. Smith! He held a gun on me yesterday!”

“Yes ma’am, I heard and we need to talk about that, but about church…”

“You are going – I refuse to take no for an answer. Get dressed and we’ll discuss your friend and his conduct over breakfast.”

“Yes ma’am.” The Kid sighed in defeat. “I’ll be right down.”

“You’re really going to church with her?”

Curry sat on the bed after putting on a clean pair of pants and pulled on his boots. “Yeah. Hafta make peace with her after my smart partner pulled a gun on her yesterday.” He turned and glared at his friend.

“But she wanted to pull off my pants!”

“That’s what I’ll be doin’ this afternoon – you really are beginnin’ to smell, Heyes. I’m tired and I’m sore from workin’ in the mine and I’m ornery and--and--you two are gonna hafta start gettin’ along. You hear me?”

“Loud and clear. Just tell Widow Barnes to leave me alone.”

“She can’t—someone has to help you out while I’m at work.” The Kid finished buttoning his shirt and put on his vest. Grabbing his hat, he headed for the door.

“Uh, Kid?”

“WHAT!”

“You’re going to church without shaving first?”

Curry took a deep breath and exhaled. Taking off his hat, he poured water into the basin. “No, I’m gonna shave first. Just you two have me so rattled.”

The Kid felt his clean-shaven face as he headed to the door. “I’ll bring up some breakfast and coffee before we leave.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry returned to the room and plopped on the bed.

“OW! Did you hafta fall down on the bed like that? Now my foot hurts.”

Blue eyes closed. “Sorry about that.”

“How was church?”

“We sang and the preacher talked about lovin’ your neighbor as yourself. I talked to Mrs. Barnes about bein’ nicer to you on the way home. Kinda went along with the sermon.” The Kid’s arm went over his eyes. “Wouldn’t have hurt you to hear that one, too.”

“Are you taking a nap?”

“With the way you’re yappin’? No.”

Heyes smiled. “Good, ‘cos I’ve been thinking about Joe Clark.

“Uh huh…”

“Well, you’re my best friend and if I accidentally killed you…”

The arm came up and a blue eye opened. “If you killed me? Why’d you do a thing like that?”

Heyes exhaled a breath in exasperation. “It’d be an accident! Can I continue?”

The Kid waved an arm to go on and he placed it over his eyes again.

“I MIGHT be inclined to bury your body, not tell anyone what happened, and take to drinking.”

“You’d become a town drunk because of me dyin’?” Curry sat up, taking interest.

“I dunno; I said I might, being full of guilt and loneliness and perhaps remorse.”

“Aww, Heyes--you’d miss me!”

“Kid, that isn’t the point! I’m just thinking of possibilities for why Clark started drinking after Taylor’s disappearance. Maybe he’s our killer, even though it was an accident.”

“Well, he was workin’ in the mine at the time so knew where to dump the body, but that don’t explain the explosion to close that shaft. O’Neill fired him on account of his drinkin’ so there was no reason for him to be in the mine and hear you talkin’ about a discovery.”

Heyes pondered. “No, it don’t.” A few minutes went by. “Guess you’re gonna hafta go back to the saloon and buy Joe Clark another drink or two.”

“Maybe later.”

“Why not now?”

“Promised Widow Barnes you’d get properly bathed and into new long johns before I did anything else this afternoon. She wants to burn the pair you got on. You could certainly use a shave, too.” Curry grinned. “Unless you want me to go to the saloon and have the widow help you get cleaned up.”

“Burn my long johns? They’re not that bad, are they?”

Kid said nothing, lifting one eyebrow.

Heyes raised an arm, sniffed, then coughed. "Paying Joe a visit later'll do fine."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Heyes lay propped up in bed with wet hair, clean-shaven face, and dressed in a fresh pair of long johns. He rubbed at his face and remarked, “Sure feels good to get rid of that stubble and be clean again. Thanks for the help.”

“Now I don’t hafta smell you.” Curry grinned.

“Soaking in a bath would’ve been better, though.”

“Not until the doctor says you can stand on that foot.”

“It’d be nice to have fresh bedding now, huh?” Heyes said as he tried to get comfortable.

The Kid agreed. “I’ll go ask Widow Barnes when I leave.”

“Leave? Where are you going?”

“To the saloon…” Seeing that Heyes had forgotten their earlier conversation, he continued, “To talk to Joe Clark?"

“Oh, that’s right. Guess my head still hasn’t recovered from that blow yet.”

“Guess not.” Curry checked his gun, holstered it and grabbed his hat. “I’ll be back soon. Won’t stay long.”

“Good, ‘cos I wanna hear what he has to say.”

“Me too.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Two hours later, Curry entered the room and found an angry partner with his arms folded in front of his chest, glaring. “What’s the matter with you? And Widow Barnes is madder than a wet hen… Heyes, you didn’t draw on her again, did you?”

“No, because you didn’t give me back my gun! Some partner you are!”

The Kid hung up his hat and sat on the bed. “What happened now? I wish you two would…”

“Kid, she could be the killer.”

“The killer?”

“Yep! Do you know what she did?”

“Nope, but I’m guessin’ you’re gonna tell me, huh?”

“She lifted me off the bed and plopped me in the chair! If she can lift me, she can carry a dead body into the mine.”

Curry shook his head in disbelief. “Wait a minute. She carried you to the chair? Why?”

“So she could make the bed up proper – so she said.”

“Well,” the Kid thought a moment, “I did ask her if we could have new bedding since you were clean, but I didn’t think she’d move you.”

“Came in without knocking, arms full of sheets and a blanket, and grumbling about my fault she has to work on Sunday. I told her to wait until Monday and then she went to grab me! Asked her to PLEASE wait til you got back. Told me to shut up and hold on. Lifted me like I was nothing.” Heyes paused to catch his breath. “I’m sure she did the killing now!”

Curry leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees and his head in his hands. “Heyes, did you try usin’ your brain and silver-tongue like you promised?”

“I did, Kid! Well, I tried. She wouldn’t listen to me.”

The Kid looked up. “Please say you were careful with your foot.”

“I was – propped it up on the other chair while she was making the bed. And I asked nicely if she’d help me hop back in bed instead of carrying me again.”

“And did she?”

Heyes nodded. “Uh-huh. And then I put my foot back on the pillows again.”

“Good. I’ll go talk to her later.” Curry paused and then mumbled. “Widow Barnes, the killer…”

“Well, we know she could’ve lifted the body.”

“But she didn’t set the explosion to close the shaft and hide it.”

Heyes folded his arms. “No, I guess she didn’t...unless she knows explosives from her husband or a family member who might’ve worked in the mine.”

“Heyes, that’s just plain dumb.” The Kid made himself comfortable on the bed.

“I guess. So what did you find out at the saloon? Was Clark there?”

“Yeah, he was there. Kinda reminded me of us.”

“How?”

“Well, Chuck and Joe were raised on neighborin’ farms before the war. Not a raid, but a disease wiped out most of their families, and they were sent to an orphanage. Sound familiar?”

Heyes looked down at his hands. “Yeah…”

“So they were all each other had until they got separated and adopted to different families. Joe had no idea what Chuck did while they were apart. Both were just happy to finally be together again and then…Chuck just up and disappeared after a fight. Joe blamed himself for the fight and for Chuck leavin’ again. Now Joe knows Chuck didn’t leave but was killed.” The Kid paused. “He’s not dealin’ well with the death of his best friend.”

Heyes thought for a few minutes. “Think he could’ve killed him? Maybe an accident?”

“Nope. He seemed more upset after he found out about the murder. Said he always had hope that Chuck would come back. Now that hope’s gone.”

“Did you tell Joe about Chuck being in the Miller gang?”

“No. Thought about it, but Joe really looked up to Chuck as a kid and then when they got back together. I couldn’t tell him his best friend went by Red Taylor and was wanted by the law.”

“So if he didn’t do it, who did? We had four suspects and now we don’t have any.” Heyes ran a hand through his hair. “We’re missing something, Kid, but what?”

“Well, I think it had to be a miner. Someone who knew that shaft was closed so he could dump the body there. Later heard us talkin’ about our discovery and thought it was the body we found, so set off the explosion to hide it.”

“Well, that narrows it done to about… How many miners are there?”

“About fifteen of us, includin’ O’Neill.”

“Well, I can rule out me and you since we weren’t here last year when Red was killed.

“Oh, so you’re gonna rule me out this time?”

Heyes grinned. “Yep, this time…’cos you and me are doing the eliminating together. And those are the rules.”

Kid snorted. “Right.”

“And we can cross out Paul Hopkins, too. Are there any others who got hired after the killing?”

Curry thought for a moment. “Not sure, but I heard Wilson, Johnson, and Evans got hired on just before us.”

“So that leaves us with nine.”

“Can’t see Lewis or Moore doin’ anything like that. They’re both family men who go to church. Stick to themselves while at work. Don’t socialize with anybody from work.”

“Okay. Down to seven.”

“Maybe… Just thinkin’ that it had to be someone in the mine when we were comin’ out. I can check the schedule and see who was workin’ that shift.”

Heyes grinned. “Yep, I’m starting to rub off on you. That’s a great idea! One of them has to be our fifth suspect.”

“Heyes, how much do you know about the Miller gang?”

“Not much. They ran north of Denver and normally stayed in Colorado. Not too violent, but someone in their gang killed a customer in a bank robbery. Heard the gang wasn’t happy about it and sent him packing. Why?”

“Just wonderin’… Would you know any of the gang members if you saw ‘em?”

“Nope. Didn’t know Red Taylor til you mentioned it. Would you?”

Curry shook his head. “Just know what I read on wanted posters when in jail.” Standing up, he stretched. “Guess I better go down and talk to Widow Barnes and charm her into some dinner for us. Need anything?”

“Some water would be nice.”

The Kid poured a glass and handed it to his partner. “Your foot don’t look so swollen today. Maybe I’ll ask the doctor to come by tomorrow and check on it, seein’ you were up some today.”

“Not my doing, Kid.”

“I know…I know and I’m gonna go talk to her about it now.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry looked around the mine yard and saw no one. He went to the office and knocked. No answer. Glancing around the yard again, he walked in and checked the desk drawers.

He rifled through a pile of papers. Holding aloft one labeled ‘Work Schedule – June 17 to 23’ he smiled, broadly.

Unseen by Kid Curry, a shadow watched him from the window.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The next evening, a tired and dirty Kid Curry came back from the mine. “Are you still readin’ that same book? Usually you go through ‘em faster.”

Heyes put down the book. “Well, it hasn’t exactly grabbed my attention so I’ve just been reading off and on. Been thinking about that murder, too, ya know. Did you look at the schedule?”

“Uh huh.” Curry sat down in the chair.

“And…”

“Kelly, Clark, Bryant and the Parker brothers were workin’ that day with O’Neill. Cox went home sick.”

“So that narrows it down to six.”

Curry removed his boots. “Yeah, but I don’t know about it bein’ O’Neill.”

“Why not?”

“He seemed excited about openin’ that tunnel again. If he had just gone to the trouble to close it with dynamite, would he be so eager to open it?

Heyes thought for a moment. “Just finding out there’s a new vein of gold…yeah.”

“Knowin’ we were gonna find a body?”

“That is puzzling.”

Curry stood up when he heard a knock on the door and answered it. “Oh, Mrs. Barnes.”

“Just checking when you’ll be ready for dinner, dear?”

“Right after I wash up.”

The widow smirked as she looked pass Curry to her patient on the bed. “And Mr. Smith, are you enjoying your book?”

Heyes scowled and was about to reply when the Kid answered for him. “Yes ma’am, he sure is.” Slowly closing the door, he added, “See you downstairs in a few minutes.”

“Why’d you tell her that?” Heyes asked, fuming.

“Because I’m about to eat and don’t want her angry at you,” Curry said as he pulled off his dirty clothes and washed his face and hands before putting on cleaner ones. “I’ll bring up your dinner in a few minutes.”

“Well, don’t sit and visit with her too long. You have a hungry partner waiting.”

Curry smiled as he walked out of the room. “I won’t.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

An hour later, the Kid was stretched out on the bed next to Heyes, who was eating his dinner. “Something’s still botherin’ me. Why would any of those five miners kill Red? I haven’t heard of any fights between them and Taylor.”

Heyes swallowed his food. “Maybe Red knew one of them and was blackmailing them.”

“So maybe one of ‘em was in the Miller gang, too?”

“Maybe.” Heyes shrugged his shoulders and continued to eat.

“Hmm… Who was in that gang?” The Kid laced his fingers behind his head. “Obviously there was a Miller.”

“Jack Miller and his brother…”

“Harry.”

“That’s it. Didn’t Preacher run with that gang for a job or two?”

The Kid pondered a moment. “I think he did. And, of course, there was Red Taylor.”

Heyes wiped his mouth and hands on a napkin. “Are you taking this back downstairs?”

“Yeah.” Curry stood up and took the tray. “Oh, I saw the doctor and he’s comin’ to check your foot tomorrow. Be back in a minute.”

Taking a drink of water, Heyes settled back down. “Hmmm…” he thought aloud. “Who else was in that gang?”

The Kid walked back into the room and shut the door. “How about Joe Wilson? Was he in that gang?”

“I think you’re right. There was a short-tempered gunfighter, too.”

“There was… Who was that?” Curry removed his pants and shirt before crawling into bed. “I should know.”

“I would hope you’d know the competition.”

“Competition?”

“Someone else good with a gun who might call you out.”

“Whoever it was, Heyes, if he was that good, I'd'a remembered his name.” Curry yawned. “Are you ready to turn the lamp off? I’m really tired.”

“I guess so.”

The Kid got up, blew out the lamp and burrowed under the blankets.

“Jack Miller, Harry Miller, Red Taylor, Joe Wilson, and…”

“Heyes, go to sleep!”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The Eastern sky changed a few shades lighter as Curry tightened the cinch on his gelding. “I know, I’m tired of these early mornings, too. Soon as Heyes gets better, we’re leavin’. I really hate minin’.” He fed the bay a carrot before putting on the bridle. “Why can’t I remember the Miller gang’s gun? I should know him.” Mounting the horse, the Kid headed to the Goldbug Mine.

At the mine, Kid unsaddled the gelding. “Did you think of the name? Was it Sullivan? I think you’re right. It was Fred Sullivan. Thought I heard he got gunned down. He had a brother, too, that disappeared after Fred died. What was his name? Shoot, that’s gonna be botherin’ me all day thinkin’ of his name.” The Kid patted the horse’s neck and set it free in the corral.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

O’Neill stood before the assembled miners, reading from a schedule. “Hank and Zeb Parker – you’re in D shaft today. Jones, you and Kelly, you’re in F shaft…”

The Kid nodded affably at a thick-set miner and they left together.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Kelly and Curry shoveled the last of the rock on the ground into the cart and leaned against it while catching their breath.

"Sure hope it's almost time to quit." Curry picked up his canteen and took a deep drink and handed it to Kelly.

"I'm so tired. Helps that we've been switchin' around the jobs, though. And it's my turn to take it out. Rest a few more minutes. I'll be back in awhile.” He braced himself and pushed the heavy cart out of the shaft.

Curry nodded, put down his shovel and grabbed his canteen, again. Leaning against the wall, he took a deep drink and sighed. “Fred Sullivan’s brother was…Sully Sullivan.” His grin turned to a frown. “Well, he went by Sully, but his name was…” A long pause... “Neil! Neil Sullivan.” After another long pause… “Neil Sullivan…O’Neill… I wonder…”

Hearing someone, the Kid took another drink. “That you, Kelly?”

“Nope.” O’Neill came around the corner of the shaft. One glance at his set, angry face was enough to show that he had overheard the Kid’s final out-loud wonderings about the new alias of Neil Sullivan. His brows knitted, menacingly, as he said, evenly, “I think it’s time for you to clock out, Jones.” Like lightening, he lunged towards Curry. They wrestled on the ground, throwing punches at each other when they could.

"So here's where you disappeared to!" Panting. "Changed your name!" More puffing. "Then Red got here, recognized you," another gasp for air, "and you killed him!"

O’Neill struggled underneath. “He was threatening to tell others about me. I worked hard to change my life. Wasn’t gonna have him mess it up for me.” He bucked a tiring Curry off and soon gained control by sitting on him. Grabbing the shovel on the ground, O’Neill used the handle, trying to choke the Kid.

“Never...good 'nuff...reason...fer killin’!” Curry choked out, as he struggled to push the handle away from his throat, grimacing in pain. Both hands were on the handle trying to lift it up so as not to be suffocated. Sweat ran down the Kid’s face.

“Jones… Who are you really? If you know the Miller gang, you must be the law or…maybe you’re an outlaw. Hmm… Who could you be?”

The Kid mustered all his strength and using the shovel as leverage, managed to push O’Neill off of him. Surprised, O’Neill lost his balance and fell back. His head hit the pick tool on the ground hard and he lay there unconscious.

Curry wiped his arm across his face, drawing a few deep breaths. Then, he laid three fingers along O'Neill's neck, checking for a pulse.

“Thaddeus? Where are you?”

“Joshua?” The Kid grabbed at the wall to help himself up.

Heyes turned a corner and came into view. “Sheesh! Is he dead?”

“No, must’ve just been knocked out when his head hit the pick.”

Heyes hobbled closer with the use of a cane, a gun on his hip. “You look terrible.”

“Well, maybe if you had gotten here sooner…”

“Hey, I’m not even s’posed to be moving this much.”

The Kid ran his fingers through his hair. “Why are you down here?”

“Had to cover your back, didn’t I?”

“How’d you know?”

Heyes grinned. “Well, before the doctor showed up, I was bored and reading that book…”

“The one with the gal named Joe and the guy named Laurie?”

“Well, that’s the only one I have.” Heyes rolled his eyes. “Anyway, Laurie has a friend named Fred Vaughn who likes Amy…”

“Who’s Amy?”

“Jo’s little sister… Would you let me finish?”

The Kid waved a hand for him to continue.

“So while I was reading about Fred, I remembered the Miller’s gunman being Fred Sullivan and that he had a brother named Sully.”

"Heyes, you figured out a murder by just readin' that Fred wanted to date Amy?"

"Sure did, Kid! Well, that and this telegram from Lom."

“How’d you get the telegram?”

“The doctor brought it to me. Lom confirmed that Fred Sullivan was killed and his brother Neil “Sully” Sullivan disappeared shortly afterward. Gave a description of Sully that fit O’Neill.”

Curry furrowed his brow. “Did the doctor say you could be up and walkin’?”

Heyes nodded. “Have to use a cane for a week, but I can start getting up.”

“How’d you find me?”

“Saw Kelly going to the saloon right after work and asked him where you were. He said O’Neill was going back in the mine to tell you it was time to quit so he didn’t have not. I saw your horse still in the corral and figured you were in trouble.”

The Kid scowled. “Well, I’m guessin’ you’ve been on your foot more than the doc wanted you to. Let’s get outta here and go home.”

“Guess we should tell the sheriff about Sully.” Heyes glanced back at the man.

The Kid rubbed at the bruises already forming on his neck from where Sully had tried to kill him moments ago. "I don't know, Heyes. He was tryin' to go straight, like you an' me, but he did kill a man." Rubbing his neck again..."An' he was sure tryin' hard to do it again."

"If we know who HE is, there's a good chance he knows who we are, too."

"He don't know yet. But, there's a good chance he's gonna figure it out, soon as he wakes up. We could go to the sheriff now and get outta town 'fore he..."

"The sheriff would wanna know how WE know who Sully is, Kid."

"Right." The Kid thought hard before a light dawned in his eyes. "Or, we could tell somebody we trust."

"Trust? There IS nobody we trust."

"Sure there is, Heyes. Widow Barnes done a fine job carin' for you. We trusted her with your life an'," he quickly glanced at Heyes' leg, "...limb, didn't we?"

Heyes squirmed. "We? More like YOU!" he huffed. "Life an' limb..." He wrinkled his brow in consideration. Squirmed again. "C'mon. Let's go see the widow. And hurry up, would ya? I can't be standing here all day!"

“Are you gonna be good to ride?”

“Sure, as long as it’s the horse walking and not me.” Heyes grinned. “Let’s get outta here.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

“Sheriff Jackson!” Widow Barnes rushed into his office. “Oh good, you’re still here.”

The sheriff, giving his deputy final instructions before leaving for the night, turned towards the door. “How can I help you, Mrs. Barnes?”

“Well, you’ve met my boarders, Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith?” He nodded and she continued. “I came home from dinner at the Moore’s house. You know how wonderful Emma’s pork chops are. She cooks them slowly all day and adds…”

“Yes, Mrs. Barnes… About Jones and Smith?”

“When I came home, they were gone. Packed up with no warning, but left this for you.” She handed an envelope with his name on the front to the sheriff.

Sheriff Jackson tore open the envelope and quickly read a note and the telegram from Sheriff Lom Trevors. “O’Neill is really Sully Sullivan? Hurt in the mine? Deputy, I want you to check the saloon for Kelly or another miner. Take them and the doctor to the mine to find O’Neill. He’s supposed to be unconscious in the area Jones and Kelly were working today. Bring him back here… Hurry!”

The widow gasped as the deputy ran out the door. “Hurt in the area Jones was working? Is Thaddeus hurt?”

“Appears they had a fight.”

“Well, I can certainly see Mr. Smith fighting, but not that sweet young man, Thaddeus. Are you sure?”

The sheriff was reading the note and telegram again more slowly. “That’s what it says. But how did they know and why would they leave town so fast, unless…”

“Unless?”

“Unless they aren’t really who they said they were.”

“Well, it does seem strange that they wrote a note for me to deliver and didn’t come by and tell you themselves. That Mr. Smith was untrustworthy; he even stole one of my books. But certainly NOT that lovely Mr. Jones!”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Curry and Heyes sat by a campfire drinking coffee.

Heyes looked over the brim of his tin cup. “Guess we’re not gonna be collecting that bonus for finding the vein.”

“And you’re not gonna find out what happened in that book.” The Kid took a sip of coffee. “Is Jo gonna date Amy or is Laurie or wait…now there’s a Fred.”

Heyes smirked and pulled his saddlebags closer. Digging in one side, he pulled out a book.

“Heyes, you took the widow’s book?”

“Can’t start a book without finishing it, can I?”

The Kid shook his head and smiled. He poured more coffee for his partner and himself. “Now who is Amy?”

“Well, first off, Jo is a girl, short for Josephine, and Amy is her younger sister. And Laurie…”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *



(Writers love feedback! You can let Penski know how you enjoyed the story with a quick comment. Just Post Reply - bottom right corner - to the Comments for The Fifth Suspect thread below the story. You don't have to sign in and you can be anonymous.)

_________________
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.


Last edited by royannahuggins on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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The Fifth Suspect by Penski :: Comments

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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:24 pm by royannahuggins
PENSKI - Okay, I can't comment on my own story, but I can give some credit where it is due...

Much thanks to the producers, Remuda and Sister Grace for all your long hours of reading and commenting on stories--you have been so dedicated and I really appreciate you! And much thanks to Calico for stepping up to help produce this story!

For being my last set of eyes and coming up with this great title, much thanks to Ghislaine!

For those writers who took the challenge to write a Virtual Season story (it ain't easy!) - thank you so much because there wouldn't be a VS without you!

And to the readers--if it wasn't for you, there'd be no reason to release my creativity in writing stories about our two favorite Pretty Good Bad Men, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!

Okay, feel free to comment away...
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:24 pm by royannahuggins
SILVERKELPIE - Really enjoying the virtual series. Don’t want give any spoilers but it wasn’t who I thought had done it! Loved Heyes getting sucked into ‘Little Women’ and the widow playing favourites. Thanks for another enjoyable read.
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:25 pm by royannahuggins
NM131 - Well the producers produced a great mystery addition to a stellar virtual season. Give yourselves a round of applause and extra round to this week's author Penski!. Before I start quoting the whole story, the conversations between Kid and Heyes had me laughing at the computer. VERY well done!!! The whole story was fast-paced, entertaining and I rushed through it to find out the ending before I read it a second time and appreciated the work that must have went into the VS episode. Heyes stealing the "Little Women" from Widow Barnes was the icing on the cake.
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:25 pm by royannahuggins
REMUDA - Wonderful story, Penski! A great murder mystery with a bit of everything for everyone -- a hurt Heyes, a Kid in detective mode, and wonderful banter between the boys as they discuss possible suspects and motives for the crime. Supporting characters are wonderful, and I love how one in particular plays favorites -- laughs galore! You've another hit! Well done!
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:25 pm by royannahuggins
Allegra here - Penski, I loved this episode. Very funny! A cranky bed-ridden Heyes and Detective Curry. The banter was perfect but one of my favourite lines came right at the beginning when Curry asked Heyes if he remembered when their pockets were full and they had more than they needed. Heyes then reminded him that they were also shot at and chased by posses on a regular basis. The Kid then comments, quite truthfully, that they still are! It made me laugh. The whole episode was a corker!! And thank YOU for producing the season.
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:26 pm by royannahuggins
FRISCOGIRL - What a great way to start the morning! You even had me suspecting the Widow!! How could she be so mean to the brown-eyed guy! Especially when he was hurting! And what a cute twist that Heyes ended up enjoying the book despite himself!
Thanks!!!
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:26 pm by royannahuggins
I can't believe I just found this website. I hope all the Vitual Season episodes are as good as this one. It was great fun picturing the episode in my head. I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks!
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:26 pm by royannahuggins
ANITAMS - Great story! Had a real feel of the original series, especially in the banter between the two of them Also I love the title!
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:27 pm by royannahuggins
(Max here)
Hey, you already know I love this one, huh? Lots of banter, proddy Heyes, Kid having to put on the detective boots for a change, a Kidette widow giving ol' brown eyes a bad time - and then, an all action denoument scene. What's not to like??? Pass the popcorn and run it again!
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:27 pm by royannahuggins
LANA COOMBE - Clever! How do you work out who dunnit Penski? So many twists and turns and all liberally laced with jolly banter and humorous visuals. Gotta love Widow Barnes - that woman sure knows a good man when she sees one - even if he has a little bad in him! Oh, that other fella's okay too!!!!
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:27 pm by royannahuggins
This is Skykomish. I am in awe of the work you all do to put on the VS. Thank you Thank you Thank you! This story was great. Loved the cranky, bedridden Heyes, and Kid was doing a great job detecting. You had me suspecting the widow no matter how unlikely she seemed, but then she was mean to the brown eyed guy. I'm a little blind where he's concerned. Thanks for the story and all of the hard work producing the season.
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:28 pm by royannahuggins
Can't believe someone could be so mean to Heyes!? Really fun episode, always nice to see Detective Curry. Thanks for sharing your creativity with us. CA
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:28 pm by royannahuggins
GHISLAINE EMRYS - Great banter in the opening section of the story; actually, throughout the whole story. Love how Heyes is all cranky, stuck in bed with nothing to do but read “Little Women;” it almost makes me want to read the book myself! And love how he kept it at the end so he could finish it. I really like these lines: “Readin’ wanted posters to pass the time while in jail.” “I thought you just put your hat over your eyes and slept.” This was a very satisfying mystery but also sad in a way: O’Neill was trying to go straight, just like the boys, but didn’t quite make it because of his past. It just shows how difficult it really would be for the boys to stay clean for a year to earn the amnesty. Well done!
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Re: The Fifth Suspect by Penski
Post on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 7:28 pm by royannahuggins
GHISLAINE - Me again. Forgot to say in my previous post: THANK YOU for all the work you've put in on this season's VS. You and the other producers are doing a wonderful job!
 

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