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 4.7 Make No Mistake by moonshadow

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Post4.7 Make No Mistake by moonshadow

Make No Mistake
by moonshadow

The drifter standing in the lengthening shadows hugged the side of the building a bit closer as he waited impatiently. For his plan to succeed he needed to know the whereabouts of that deputy! A cloud of dust caught his attention and his eyes narrowed as he recognized the portly figure of the man sweeping the boardwalk in front of the sheriff's office. He ducked back just in time as the man in question raised his head and looked in his direction. Even though he was unrecognizable, Hannibal Heyes felt vulnerable. He had to admit the disguise had served its purpose, but there was still a feeling of unease that he couldn't quite shake.

Reaching up, he patted his vest pocket. Along with the money the Kid brought in, they wouldn't be sleeping out in the open on the cold, hard ground for quite awhile. His partner wouldn't be grumbling about where their next meal would be coming from either. A grin appeared as his thoughts jumped ahead to include poker games. He'd be able to stake both the Kid and himself without having to worry about mundane things like food or shelter for quite a while. He took a deep breath, willing himself to relax. Leaning back against the wall, he shook his head not believing their luck. He and the Kid had been sure that Kettledrum was a safe town for them to meet up in.

Thoughts about the Kid brought his attention back to his current situation. He scanned the street once more, casting another glance in both directions for his missing and very late partner. He hated to admit it, but he was starting to get a bit concerned. Maybe that was why he felt so restless. What could be keeping the Kid?

Heyes cautiously peered around the corner and breathed a sigh of relief. The deputy must have stepped back inside the sheriff's office. His broom lay propped up against the wall and he was nowhere in sight. Pushing his dusty, battered hat further down over his eyes, the outlaw stepped out on the boardwalk and weaved his way unsteadily towards the livery stable. The rain which had been threatening all day, chose that moment to let loose. Heyes turned up the collar of his jacket.

"Great," he muttered scowling up at the darkening sky, "just what I needed!"

Making it to the safety of the stable, he quickly saddled up his horse while going over his plan. He'd ride out towards Clearwater; maybe get lucky and run into Kid along the way. Heyes didn't want his partner to ride into Kettledrum only to discover the same way he had, that while they had picked a town with a safe sheriff, the same couldn't be said about the deputy. How could we have known?And from past experience with the lawman, Heyes knew this was one deputy they didn't want to mess around with!

It was sheer luck he'd spotted the lawman before the deputy recognized him. With no way to get a warning to Kid in time, he was stuck in town waiting for him to show up. That was why he'd adopted the guise of a bearded, slightly drunk drifter. It had allowed him the freedom to go on about his business around the small town without arousing too much suspicion. With a faint smile, he recalled that he'd even won a few hands of poker, much to the disgust of the other players.

He shook his head again, marveling at their persistent run of bad luck. Staying out of trouble while waiting on that amnesty sure is getting more and more complicated. Will we ever be able to ride into a town without being recognized? he wondered.

Finished, Heyes swung himself up into the saddle. He paused a moment as he fastened the top button of his coat before urging his horse out into the now drizzling rain. Directing another glare at the dark thunderclouds overhead he spoke fervently, "Kid, I sure hope you're on your way!"

From the safety of the sheriff's office, the deputy followed the outlaw's progress. He watched intently as the man made his way to the livery stable.

The boss sure is gonna be interested in what I've got to report, yes sirree, mighty interested. His eyes narrowed as a smile slowly spread across his face.

"Lotta good that disguise did ya, Heyes!" And as he started laughing, a fanatical gleam appeared in the lawman's eyes.

**********

Jed "Kid"Curry was cold, wet, tired and hungry. Not a good combination even on a good day, and today was definitely not a good day. He'd left Clearwater two days ago just ahead of the storm, but the rain had quickly caught up with him and seemed bound and determined to keep him company for the entire trip. He shook his head and was rewarded with a shower of rain that made a river down the back of his neck. Grimacing and rolling his eyes heavenward Kid thought, It could be worse, it could be snowing.

Having to seek shelter every few miles had delayed him considerably. Kid knew Heyes would be worrying, so he hadn't bothered to stop and make camp, choosing instead to eat on the run. He knew that once he reached Kettledrum he'd be able to relax and enjoy a nice, hot meal with his partner.

Trying to think of something other than food and how miserable he felt, he thought instead of how much he looked forward to talking with Heyes. This time he had something really good to share. He'd done such a good job that the boss had paid him a bonus. A $100 bonus! Kid smiled. It wasn't often he was the one to bring in the extra money. Catching sight of the small town in the distance, he patted his horse's neck encouragingly, urging him into a trot, wanting to cover the remaining miles as quickly as possible.

Yep, it'll sure feel good to get outta these wet clothes, and to eat a nice hot steak dinner with all the trimmins'...I'll even offer to pay!He grinned as he pictured Heyes' reaction.

A sudden flash of lightning and crack of thunder sent him ducking for cover again. He yawned deeply as he sat in the shelter of the trees, waiting impatiently for the storm to calm down enough for him to start traveling again. He was getting mighty tired of all these delays, especially when he knew Heyes would be looking for him.
Yeah, and he'll probably try to pin all the blame on me, like I could control the weather, wish I was already in Kettledrum!Shaking his head resulted in another drenching shower of water. Shivering, he hunched his shoulders against the dampness. No good wishin' for somethin' when there's no way it's happenin'.

After losing nearly another hour, he was finally able to continue on his way. Smothering another yawn, he tucked his chin down snugly into his sheepskin collar, seeking the warmth it provided. Maybe I'll catch a little shut-eye while I can, the horse can pick his own way into town.

Almost an hour had passed as, head bent against the falling rain, the bedraggled outlaw made his way down the nearly deserted street. Exhaustion had finally claimed him as a victim and it barely registered as he rode into Kettledrum.

**********

The deputy's eyes narrowed in speculation as he shifted his attention away from Heyes and spotted the lone rider coming into town.

"Well it's the right direction, and that looks like his hat and sheepskin coat." The boss had made sure he'd memorized every little detail about both men. That had been well over six months ago, but he'd know that man anywhere. Yep, no doubt about it, that was Kid Curry alright.

Glancing back in the direction of the livery stable, his face wore a look of such intensity, it almost seemed to glow. "Now all I have to do is wait." He could be mighty patient when it came to waiting...

**********

After leaving the stable, Heyes had to pass directly in front of the sheriff's office to get out of town. He resisted the temptation to look, keeping his head tucked down. No use inviting trouble.The sudden neighing of a horse and the answering whinny of his own claimed his attention. Peering through the falling rain and the shadows of twilight, he was surprised to see a rider coming towards him. He was even more surprised to make out the familiar figure of the Kid. His face broke into a smile of relief and he noticed with some amusement that while the Kid gave every impression of sleeping, his hand still rested solidly on his Colt.

Heyes shook his head as Kid rode past him. It sure must've been one heck of a trip; I'll have to rib him later about falling asleep on the job!

Heyes turned his horse, intending to call out a greeting, but seeing a sudden flash of movement behind Kid, his smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared. He watched as the deputy drew his gun and pointed it straight at his partner! Shouting "NO!," and hoping to get both Kid's and the deputy's attention, Heyes swiftly drew his own gun.

The startled deputy froze. Kid's head jerked up and he turned to see the drifter with his gun pointed straight at him. His reaction was instinctive, his gun seeming to leap into his hand as he fired. Startled by the gunshot, Heyes' horse shied, even as the sound of another gunshot reverberated through the night.

Kid watched as the drifter's body tumbled to the muddy ground. Taking a deep breath, he leaned over his saddle trying to make sense out of what had just happened.

I only meant to shoot the gun out of his hand, if his horse hadn't spooked...He looked around and only then did he see the lawman standing on the boardwalk, a smoking gun in his hand. As the deputy's face swam into focus, Kid did a double-take and his eyes widened in disbelief. A shiver ran down his spine as he recognized the man.
There's no way, it can't be...A hint of desperation crept into his voice as Kid whispered, "Heyes, c'mon, where are you? I don't think I can take much more!"

Interrupting his thoughts, the deputy yelled, "Hey you!" and as he watched him raise his gun, Kid realized what little luck he had left had just run out. With one last apologetic glance at the drifter laying motionless, Kid pivoted his weary horse and made his escape out of Kettledrum.

The deputy slowly re-holstered his gun as he watched the outlaw ride out of town. Sure didn't take much to scare you, Curry! Don't worry, your turn's comin'. One down...and one to go. His eyes gleamed with anticipation as he turned to grab Heyes under the arms and drag him out of sight before some busy-body came along and started asking questions.

**********

After riding hard for several miles, Kid concluded there wasn't anyone following him. Not a posse, not the sheriff, not even that loco deputy. Why? he wondered briefly. Then, as he allowed his exhausted horse to slow down, he decided he didn't care.

Finding a secluded spot by a stream, he wearily slid down off his horse and leaned against a nearby tree. Angry and frustrated by what had happened, he smacked his palm against the trunk. It didn't make him feel any better, but at least the pain did give him something else to think about. It took his mind off the pain in his side. He gingerly pulled his shirt loose so he could inspect the damage. Wincing as he felt around, he was relieved to find an exit hole.

He smiled wryly. My luck must be turning, the shot went clean through. Well, that was one less thing he had to worry about. Funny, I never even felt the bullet hit, guess maybe I was a little busy with other things. And why in tarnation did that drifter try to save me anyway? Kid wondered if he'd ever know the answer to that question.
Trudging over to his saddlebag, he pulled out his oldest shirt and looked at it a moment, before using his pocketknife to cut it into strips and press it against the wound. Tucking his shirt back in, he sat down on a rock, letting his head drop wearily down onto his chest.

Drawing a deep breath and slowly releasing it, he wondered silently, How am I ever gonna explain this one to Heyes? He wasn't sure what to do next. Ride on to the next town? Wait until dark and risk going back to Kettledrum? Heyes was usually the one to come up with a plan.

Raising his eyes to stare out into the darkness, he whispered, "OK partner, I could use a little help..." After a few moments he stood up suddenly and shouted angrily into the still-falling rain, "AND WHERE ARE YOU?" The wind took his words, carrying them away and he was left alone in the silence.

He stood, head bowed, lost in thought. Guess it'd probably be better to head on into the next town, whatever it is. Get a message to Heyes, let him know where I'm at. Maybe he'd better save the why part for later? Shoot, knowing Heyes he probably already knows why. Innocent bystanders don't get shot up without somebody noticing! Great, now he'll be worryin' about that too. Guess the sooner I get to town, the sooner I can send that message.

Pulling himself wearily back up into the saddle, he grabbed the reins with his left hand, tucking it carefully around his wounded side and leaving his right hand free to rest on his holster, hoping the next town wasn't too far away.

**********

The deputy glanced uneasily behind him. The boss had been very clear. Hannibal Heyes was to be brought back alive. He scratched his head. He hadn't seen any signs of life from the body slung over the saddle since they'd started up the mountain trail. For all he knew, the outlaw could be dead already.

He'd done his best. Hadn't he patched up the wounded man the best he knew how? He couldn't help it if he weren't no daggone doctor! The wound wasn't deep, the bullet had gone clean through, but there were all kinds of things that could go wrong afterwards and he knew who'd be blamed for 'em if they did. The boss had made that perfectly clear too. If anything went wrong, there'd be the devil to pay! He swallowed nervously and looked back at his prisoner once more. Maybe I'd better go ahead and check, just to be sure?

Reining in his horse, he climbed down and walked back to the other man. Cautiously lifting Heyes' head, he was rewarded by a groan. Well, at least the varmint is still alive.He smiled maliciously. He might wish he wasn't after the boss gets done with him, though.

Satisfied, he let the outlaw's head drop back down and climbed up on his horse. Urging it forward, they started on the last leg of their journey. By his calculations, he figured they'd make it to the cabin by mid-morning. He smiled. Just in time for a late breakfast. I can turn the prisoner over to the boss and then Hannibal Heyes won't be my problem anymore.His smile grew even bigger and that look was back in his eyes, giving him an almost feral look. He was looking forward to carrying out the next part of the plan even more. The part that involved him and Curry. The baby-faced outlaw had been promised to him as a reward for a job well done. He liked jobs like this one. And this time, I won't be followin' no orders neither.

**********

As Hannibal Heyes slowly began to come around, he was careful not to show any signs that he was back among the living. He lay there playing possum, quietly listening. There was a murmur of voices, but he couldn't make out what they were saying. Well, he finally decided, whoever they are, one of them sounds really mad.

Heyes laughed mirthlessly. What else could he do? He had wakened only to find his hands were tied tightly behind him and he was gagged and blindfolded. He was no longer wearing the beard he had used to disguise himself with; someone had removed it. As he became more alert, he realized he hurt in places he didn't even know he had. He felt as if he'd been trampled by a herd of wild horses!

How in the world did I get into a mess like this? Who trussed me up this way? And why? Where am I? And where is the Kid? Was he somewhere nearby, suffering the same fate, or worse? He struggled against his bonds, testing the knots and wishing he had at least one clue as to where he was.

After a few moments he quit. It was no use. Whoever had tied him up had done too good a job. Despite the pounding in his head, he tried to remember what had happened. Something, anything. Anything that would help him figure out how he came to be here, wherever here was.

His brain working fervently, it came back slowly. It had been raining. He had been on his horse, riding out of Kettledrum to meet up with the Kid. And then..? He struggled to sit up as he suddenly remembered what had happened next. The Kid shot me!

Frustrated, Heyes gave up and fell backwards, fireworks exploding behind his eyelids. The pain in his left shoulder was real, there was a gunshot wound there alright, so it hadn't been a dream. His own partner had pointed his gun towards him and fired! He remembered falling, then nothing but darkness until now.

But that's not all, there was something else...I was riding my horse, it was raining, starting to come down harder. I remember hoping I'd meet up with Kid on the road outside of Kettledrum, didn't want him running into that deputy - Heyes stopped. The deputy! He'd jumped out of the sheriff's office, gun drawn, ready to shoot the Kid! I pulled my own gun and tried to shout a warning, but Kid turned and thought I was drawing down on him. Well, Heyes amended, the Kid didn't know it was me he was shooting at, with the disguise I had on, he didn't recognize me.What had happened after that? Had the deputy shot Kid? Had Kid shot the deputy? Powerless to get the answers he so desperately needed, Heyes realized he had an even more pressing problem.

Kid wouldn't know he needed help. He wouldn't have any way of knowing that instead of a drifter, he'd shot his own partner. If he was safely on his way to another meeting place, how long would he wait before he realized something was seriously wrong? Heyes would bet Kid would stay as far away from Kettledrum as possible after the shooting until finally, as a last resort, he'd come back looking for him. Right into that crazed deputy's hands. It could be a very long wait.

Gritting his teeth against the pain, Heyes tried again to sit up. His second attempt brought him success. Trussed up like a prized Thanksgiving turkey, he was at a slight disadvantage. He wished he could see his surroundings, maybe then he'd be able to figure a way out. Heyes tried wiggling his fingers, the numbness in them alternating with the waves of pain shooting up his arms was something else he'd like to forget. He needed to focus on getting loose and out of here first, then he'd work on finding the Kid.

Suddenly Heyes tensed. The voices he'd heard earlier were getting closer. He heard a door open and close, then the sound of two sets of feet as they came closer to him. One set belonged to a pair of worn out boots. He listened intently. The other set was harder to identify, almost as if the owner was deliberately trying to remain a mystery. Unable to ask even one of the hundreds of questions racing through his mind, Heyes was forced to wait impatiently until one of them spoke.

"Oh good, Joshua, you're awake. I'm glad to see you're still with us, I had my doubts about you there for a while. My, my, my, and you're even able to sit up, you must be feeling better." Then the sound of laughter.

Heyes' head had shot up at the first few words. He was sure he recognized that voice. But it couldn't be, could it?The pounding in his head was back with a vengeance, and he wished the blindfold would just drop off so he could see.

"Oh Joshua darling, I'm so sorry, how remiss of me. All tied up, gagged and blind-folded as you are...how could I possibly expect you to be able to communicate with me? I'll tell you what. If you promise to behave yourself, I'll have Charlie remove your gag. But I'm warning you, he can put it right back on just as quick if you start causing any trouble. Well? What do you say? Shall we give it a try, Joshua?"

Heyes nodded his head slightly. At least it was a start. He'd have promised his soul to the devil at this point. He needed to be able to ask questions so he could get answers.

He could hear the booted footsteps coming closer. He felt hands roughly removing the gag and carefully flexed his mouth to ease the stiffness.

"Is that better, Joshua?" He heard the rustle of silk and smelled the perfume as the voice came closer.

"Hello Blanche. It's nice to see you again. You're looking well, I see." His voice was raspy, barely audible as he struggled to get the words out past a bone-dry throat.

Hearing the dryness, Blanche spoke to the man next to her. "I think we could both do with something to drink. Bring us some...water please."Turning her attention back to the man seated on the bed she continued. "Why Joshua, I'm pleased you remember me, it has been awhile. And it is nice to see you still have your wonderful sense of humor."

As the man returned with the water, Blanche reached out and took one. "Here's something to wet your whistle, Joshua," and she pressed the cup to his lips.

Heyes drank greedily, letting the cool liquid slide down his sore throat. Having already determined that he was going to have to play the game by Blanche's rules for now, at least until he learned what he needed to know, Heyes gave her a cheeky grin.

"Now Blanche, what makes you think a man could ever forget a woman like you?"

"A woman likes to hope she's not too easily forgotten. Tell me honestly, Joshua. You haven't given me one thought since you handed me over to that lawman, have you?"

"Honestly Blanche? You're right."

Blanche lost her smile. It was replaced with a look of hurt and anger. She started towards him, but as Heyes continued speaking, she stopped.

Heyes never missed a beat. "I never gave you one thought because the truth is, I haven't been able to stop thinking about you."

Her smile back in place, Blanche's laughter rang out. "Charlie, could you bring a chair over here for me, please? Joshua and I are going to spend some time catching up with each other."

Heyes heard the sounds of a chair being dragged and then Blanche settling down in it. His mind still busy trying to figure out what was going on, he stiffened as he felt her hand on his arm.

"I'm not making you nervous, am I Joshua?"Blanche spoke teasingly. "Well, you don't have to worry, you don't have a thing in the world to be nervous about."

"Me? Nervous? Worried? Oh no, I'm not worried at all."Though it was a bit strained, Heyes managed a laugh.

"Why, I like you, Blanche."

"Ah, you're such a charmer. I think we need to take that nasty old blindfold off too, don't you? I want to be able to see those wonderful brown eyes of yours."

"You won't get any argument from me, Blanche, and I'll be able to see that beautiful face of yours too." With the blindfold removed Heyes knew he stood a better chance of planning an escape. He wished he knew what Blanche was up to. He had told Kid he could handle himself in the clinches, well maybe he was about to find out?

"Don't try too hard Joshua, you're overplaying your hand." Blanche stood up and leaning forward, reached behind Heyes' head. She untied the bandana, letting it drop between them and placed her hands lightly on his shoulders.
As the bandana fell away from his face, Heyes opened his eyes and blinked several times trying to adjust to the light. Letting his eyes slowly travel upwards until they met hers, Heyes whispered huskily, "Yes, I can see you've definitely been busy taking real good care of yourself, Blanche." He gave her another warm smile.

Blanche cupped Heyes' chin in her hand, lightly brushing her lips across his before stepping back and looking at him. "It wasn't easy, Joshua. I thought I was going to wither up and die in that prison! Then one day, the guards came in as usual, but this time they brought a message from the governor. Seems that the lawyers messed up legally somehow, and their mistake made me a free woman. Well, I wasn't about to argue or ask any questions so I got out of there as quickly as I could."

Blanche paused a moment as she sat down. Straightening her skirts absently, she began speaking again but Heyes noticed her voice had lost its honeyed sweetness.

"But do you know what, Joshua? I never gave up. I knew there'd be a chance to get eve- to get to see you again. We never did have the opportunity to get to know each other as well as I would have liked. There were too many interruptions. El Clavo, that scheming little liar Michelle and especially that baby-faced partner of yours, Thaddeus!" She leaned forward to look into his eyes, her face just inches away. "However, the little bit of time we did spend together, it was good, Joshua."

"I enjoyed our time together in San Juan too, Blanche. You really know how to make a man feel wanted."

Blanche's laughter filled the room. "Oh there's that wonderful sense of humor again, Joshua! And what an excellent choice of words. Wanted. Hmmm, you know that little word causes many things to come to mind. For instance, wanted men with big rewards on them. Two wanted men in particular. Men who travel together, under aliases. Like Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones!"

Poker-faced, without hesitation, Heyes replied smoothly, "Now Blanche, we've already been through all that. Don't you think that lawman at the border would have taken us right into custody if we really were Heyes and Curry?" He flashed her another smile.

"I had a lot of time to think about that too, Hannibal. I came to the conclusion that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry had made some kind of special deal with the law in return for bringing me back into the States so they could arrest me." Blanche leaned forward to look directly into Heyes' face. "That's what happened, isn't it Hannibal? You can tell me the truth now, just how much money did they bribe you with? What was your price to become bounty hunters?" At Heyes' silence, she added angrily, "Well, I certainly hope it was worth the price you're going to pay!" She stood up and walked away. "You tricked me into leaving San Juan. You played your part superbly. You knew exactly what to say and do...what a manipulator you turned out to be. You even used Michelle to make a fool out of me. Oh you two were good! Such a great plan. I bet you and Curry had a real big laugh over it later, didn't you?"

Beneath the anger and bitterness, Heyes sensed another reason and decided to take advantage of it. Slowly standing up, he spoke soothingly. "No, Blanche. That wasn't the way it was at all. I only told you what you wanted to hear...what I needed to in order to get you to do what I wanted. It wasn't anything personal. It was just a job." He took a step towards her, but stopped as he heard the sound of a gun being cocked behind him.

"Hold it right there Heyes, don't take another step! The only reason you're still alive and walkin' around right now is that my sister insisted I bring you back to her that way. It would've been a whole lot easier if we'd done it my way, a whole lot easier!"

"Your sister?" Heyes raised his eyebrows and looked questioningly towards Blanche. "Your brother?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive me. I guess in all the excitement I forgot to introduce you two. Hannibal Heyes, I'd like you to meet my brother, Charlie Graham. Charlie, why don't you come around and let Mr. Heyes get a real good look at you?"

Heyes knew something was wrong. Having regained her composure, Blanche was looking entirely too pleased with herself.

As the man slowly stepped into his line of vision, Heyes tripled his efforts to remain poke-rfaced. This was the deputy from Kettledrum! The one who could identify them - the one who'd tried to shoot Kid! And as Heyes continued to stare at him, he had the nagging suspicion that he'd seen the deputy somewhere else, but where? He frowned as he concentrated on figuring it out.

Charlie walked up to Heyes and grabbed him roughly, pulling him back towards the bed, and pushed him down. What in the world was going on? Heyes wondered as he stared up at the two of them.

"Actually, it's been quite a time for reunions for me lately." Blanche walked back and sat down facing Heyes. "You see, my brother was considered unpredictable, a bit dangerous you might say, and the authorities thought it would be safer for everyone if Charlie stayed in a sanatorium. After I was released, I went straight there and arranged for his release.I knew I wouldn't be able to get both you and Curry by myself so..."

Lowering his voice, Heyes leaned closer to Blanche. "Now Blanche, we can settle this another way. A way that would be mutually beneficial to both of us, not to mention, much more pleasurable..." Heyes smiled as he tried to catch her eye.

But Blanche continued on as if he hadn't spoken a word. "Then, as I made my plans, amidst all my preparations, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't need the both of you. There wasn't any real reason to keep Curry around, so I decided he was,"Blanched paused a moment before adding, "dispensable."

Smiling triumphantly at the set expression on Heyes' face, Blanche experienced a momentary feeling of satisfaction. She had guessed correctly, she had discovered the outlaw's Achilles' heel. Heyes couldn't maintain that calm demeanor of his where his partner was concerned. Good, that would make the rest of this so much more enjoyable. She wanted to make him suffer as much as he had made her suffer. And then? When she was through with him, she'd turn him in for the reward, along with what was left of Curry. Revenge and $20,000.00, not a bad combination. Heyes interrupted her musings.

"OK Blanche, enough of the fun and games. Where's Thaddeus? What have you done with him?"Heyes' steely tone chilled the room.

Blanche managed to keep her smile from faltering. Reaching out, she laid her hand on his arm. "Hannibal -"
Shaking free of her touch, Heyes glowered at her. "And quit callin' me that! It's Joshua - Joshua Smith!"

"Maybe you'd prefer Heyes?" At his stony silence she continued, "OK then, Heyes it shall be. Now, where were we, hmmm? Oh yes, now I remember, you were asking about Curry. Where is he? Well now, that's a very good question. Let me ask you one instead. If you were Curry and found out that you had done something - something so, shall we say unforgivable? Maybe even unbelievable, where would you go?"

"Blanche quit playin' these stupid games! Where is Thaddeus?"Aware that Charlie was again standing with his gun in hand, Heyes forced himself to relax, knowing he needed to keep a level head if he wanted to find out about the Kid.

Blanche wagged her finger at him in admonishment. "Now, now Heyes, losing your temper like that can be very bad for you. Remember what I told you earlier? If you start causing trouble, that gag goes right back on. So, either talk with me civilly or you won't be talking at all."

With barely concealed anger, Heyes took a deep breath, reminding himself he was just playing along. "I'm sorry Blanche, I shouldn't be taking my anger out on you. All I'm asking is for you to tell me what you've done..."

Reaching up and patting his cheek, Blanche smiled. "That's much better, Heyes. And, as a little reward, I'm going to let you read for yourself what your friend Curry has been up to. We haven't done a thing to him. He's done it all by himself, poor boy. Charlie, bring me that newspaper, please. You know the one I'm talking about, the one with the really interesting headline."

Heyes dropped his head to his chest, his mind racing. What could Kid have gotten himself into? Had he robbed a train? Held up a bank? Had someone out-drawn him in a gunfight? He raised his head sharply as another possibility pushed its way in. Could he have gotten himself...killed? If that deputy brother of Blanche's had anything to do with it...

Charlie came in with the paper, handing it to Blanche. Heyes didn't care for the way the deputy was smiling or for that look in his eyes either...Heyes blinked rapidly as recognition suddenly hit him like a freight train! He kept from revealing his discovery, but he also realized he was in more trouble than he had imagined. If they were telling the truth about the Kid...He closed his eyes at the thought.

Blanche tapped his knee sharply with the paper to get his attention. As Heyes opened his eyes and turned to look at her, she unfolded the paper so that he could read the headline. Blanche held it up in front of him and waited expectantly, a smile curving her lips.

"OUTLAW HANNIBAL HEYES KILLED BY PARTNER, KID CURRY." Heyes tore his eyes away to look at Blanche in confusion. "But he didn't kill m - Heyes. I mean, he couldn't have. There's no way he could have done it. "I was disguised, no-one knew who I was...and I'm not dead, so why accuse Kid of killing me?

"Listen Heyes, I'll read the whole story to you, maybe some of your questions will be answered.

"Outlaw Hannibal Heyes was gunned down in cold blood Monday afternoon, in the town of Kettledrum, by his long-time partner, friend and fellow outlaw, Jedediah "Kid" Curry. Deputy Charlie Graham, acting in the absence of Sheriff Blake King, witnessed the entire incident and considers himself lucky to be alive to tell the story. He cannot be sure what sparked the confrontation. Deputy Graham watched the drama unfold as Heyes and Curry faced off in the middle of the street at dusk on Monday evening. In the pouring rain, with both men still sitting on their horses, they drew their guns and fired. Curry got his shot in first, hitting Heyes straight in the chest and knocking him off his horse. It is believed that Heyes' shot may have managed to wound Curry, but this cannot be either proven or denied, since Curry took off for parts unknown immediately afterwards and has not been seen since. The body of Hannibal Heyes has been removed to an undisclosed location, pending positive identification. Anyone with information leading to the capture of Kid Curry is entitled to the $10,000 reward. Warning, Kid Curry is to be considered armed, dangerous and desperate. The reward will be paid for delivery of the notorious outlaw, dead or alive."

As Blanche folded the newspaper and laid it down next to him, Heyes sat there in stunned silence. Kid had shot him, but he wasn't dead. And he knew he hadn't fired a shot at the Kid. If Kid had read the headlines, or heard talk, he was eventually going to put two and two together and figure out that the drifter he'd shot that rainy afternoon was Heyes. He'd be liable to do something really stupid if he thought Heyes was dead and that he was the one responsible! And that newspaper article was like a signed death warrant. Every lawman, bounty hunter and their brother would be tracking the Kid, and they wouldn't be looking to bring him in alive. There was no way to let him know it was all a lie. Heyes raised his eyes to look at Blanche and asked quietly, "How long ago was that? How long have I been a prisoner here?"

"Let's see, that all happened on Monday, and today is Thursday, so you've been here for almost three days. A lot can happen in three days, Heyes."

Heyes remained silent. What else could he say? She was right. A lot could happen in three days, especially if it involved Kid Curry! Closing his eyes, Heyes sent a silent message to his partner, C'mon Kid, hang in there, I'm counting on you.

**********

Kid Curry knew he had to get his eyes open. Then he had to figure out where he was. He couldn't remember much past riding in the rain, feeling cold and trying to make it to the next town. He was dry and warm, he could tell by the feeling of softness beneath him that he was lying in a bed, so he was inside. He tried swallowing. His mouth was so parched he felt like he could drink a whole river dry. "Water..."he needed water...

Footsteps, then the sound of water being poured convinced him. He really did need to get his eyes open. There was just one small problem. He was enjoying the warm, safe feeling and he knew once he opened his eyes that feeling would disappear. The footsteps came closer and stopped. He heard a voice say, "Here, Thaddeus, let me help you sit up, it will be easier for you to drink that way."

Thaddeus? He released a small sigh of relief. Well, at least the voice knew him by his alias. He nodded, unable to get the words out. Concentrating on listening to the voice, he did as he was told. He cocked his head, listening. The voice was familiar, comforting even, but it wasn't Heyes. Disappointed and curious, he felt strong hands helping him as he struggled to sit upright against the pillows behind him. He felt a glass being pushed into his hand and grasped it eagerly. Lifting it to his mouth he drank greedily, not stopping until it was empty. Kid slowly opened one eye, then the other. So far, so good. He breathed another sigh of relief and looked up. His face broke into a huge grin.

"Reverend Spencer!" he rasped. Then a look of dismay flashed across his face. "Don't tell me I rode all the way to Taos? Did I go clear to New Mexico?" His voice laced with disbelief, Kid looked anxiously around the room.
Spencer laughed at the expression on his friend's face. "Hello to you too, Thaddeus. And no, you didn't make it all the way to New Mexico. I'm here in Lordstown for the big revival. We figured that since they were having the big Fourth of July celebration, there'd be a large number of people gathered in one place already, and we'd take advantage of that and invite everyone to attend our revival. Tonight's our last night. We've been drawing a pretty good crowd."

"That's a right smart idea, Reverend. I'm glad there's lots of smart people around here too. How've you been? How've things been going for you?"

Hearing the genuine gladness in the young man's voice, Spencer smiled back at him. Thaddeus hadn't changed a bit.

"Let me fill that water glass up again for you and then we'll talk. There's some, news I think you might be interested in, I've got something to share with you." The preacher turned and poured another glass of water. Handing it to Kid, he moved a chair next to the bed and sat down, keeping his eyes on his hands folded in his lap.
As Kid drank the liquid, he began to have a bad feeling. Keeping his eyes fixed on the man at his side, he saw that Spencer's face had lost its smile; in fact, he looked downright serious. Handing him the empty glass, Kid glanced apprehensively at the Reverend, afraid to ask but instinctively knowing that the news somehow had something to do with Heyes.

Spencer saw the look. He knew these two men had a special bond of friendship and he would have to tread carefully. The Reverend smiled. "Well, first I need to tell you that I know who you really are. You did a lot of talking while you were unconscious and it seems that the people's philosopher also has the infamous quick draw of a well-known outlaw."

Releasing a drawn out sigh, Kid didn't bother to deny it. He and Heyes both had the annoyingly bad habit of talking in their sleep and spilling their guts when they were hurt or sick. It didn't surprise him at all and he knew the Reverend wouldn't hold it against them.

"Yeah, and a pretty big mouth too, it seems." He returned the smile and shook his head. He felt the knot slowly begin to unravel inside his stomach. The news hadn't been about Heyes after all. "It's not the first time," and with another deep sigh added, "and it's probably not the last time either. If we keep this up, pretty soon the whole territory's gonna know who we really are! I'm sorry we had to lie to you..."

"I understand, Thaddeus. You have a good reason for keeping it a secret. It doesn't change things between us a bit. By the way, how is Joshua doing? Did he manage to get himself shot up too? Or is that another one of your specialties?"

Kid grinned. "Well, it all kinda depends on who you're askin'. If you ask Joshua, he'll probably tell you I go lookin' for trouble and that trouble follows me around, but honestly, I think we're both pretty much even with catching stray bullets."

"Your wound isn't from catching a stray bullet Thaddeus, you were shot from behind." Spencer gave him a searching look as he continued. "Now just what did you do to deserve getting shot in the back?"

Not looking at Spencer, Kid took a moment before answering quietly. "I wasn't sure until now. There were...two shooters, and it could've been either one, but I was kinda hopin' it was the way you said." He looked up. "It's sorta complicated, Reverend. If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not talk about it anymore right now." He smiled to soften the harshness of his words.

Gently, Spencer prompted him. "And Joshua? Where is he hiding himself? Or are you two supposed to meet up somewhere?"

Kid turned to look at Spencer with worried eyes. "I wish I knew Reverend! We both were working separate jobs for about two weeks, then we were supposed to meet back up in Kettledrum-" Remembering what had happened, he stopped abruptly. "I...well, something happened instead and we never found each other." Kid shifted his eyes uneasily, ashamed to tell the preacher what had really happened.

"Kettledrum you say? Well now, that's not far from here. Maybe Joshua is still waiting there for you. Would you like me to send a telegraph to him? Let him know where you are? Tell him that you're OK?" Spencer continued to study the young man's face intently as he spoke.

Kid's face broke into a smile of relief. "Could you? That would be great if you would, Reverend. I need to let him know as soon as possible. See, he worries about me and then gets mad at me for making him worry. If he knows I'm OK, he can ride over here and we can all have a meal together, I know he'd really enjoy seeing you again."

Spencer looked down at the floor and prayed for guidance as he began speaking.

"Thaddeus, there's something else. After listening to you these past few minutes, I must admit I'm really confused. After you read the newspaper, maybe you can help straighten things out."

Puzzled by the man's words, Kid echoed, "Read the paper? Why? Straighten what things out? What's that got to do with me?" He watched as Spencer brought the paper back. The knots were back and twisting twice as bad. There was something wrong. Almost afraid to take the paper the Reverend was holding out, Kid forced his hand to obey. The headline seemed to leap out at him and he turned grief-stricken eyes to the Reverend. His voice barely audible, Kid whispered, "Reverend Spencer, can this really be true? Something happened in Kettledrum, but not this!"

"I know it's difficult Thaddeus, but continue reading the story. See if it makes any sense to you. You're going to have to trust me enough to tell me what really happened when you're done." Spencer held Kid's gaze steadily until finally the young outlaw sighed and nodded in agreement.

Kid stared at the paper in his hands. There was just no way... The drifter I shot, how could they think he was Hannibal Heyes? And how did anyone know I was Kid Curry? Kid held his head in his hands, trying to ignore the headache...he felt like there was something he was trying to remember but couldn't quite grasp it . He was still exhausted and finding out this news about Heyes... Why would anyone say that he'd shot and killed his own partner? Was it some loco plan to lure them into a trap? He turned a questioning glance towards Spencer, looking for answers, but as the preacher shook his head, Kid bent his head to continue reading,

Spencer silently watched the young outlaw as he read the paper and saw the flood of emotions that crossed his face. Pain, worry, confusion, disbelief. "I've been in contact with the deputy in Kettledrum, Thaddeus. He confirms everything in the paper. He says the body has positively been identified as Hannibal Heyes and that he himself watched Kid Curry shoot him. You said something happened while you were in Kettledrum. Can you talk about it, Thaddeus? We might be able to get to the bottom of this, if you can."

Kid raised his eyes to meet Spencer's. "Reverend, in all my years of outlawin' I've shot plenty of men and as long as I've been together with Heyes, I'm positive I'd know if I shot and killed him!" Taking a deep breath, he continued. "Everything in the paper sounds right, except it wasn't Heyes! It was just some drifter. And I didn't gun him down in cold blood!He had his gun out, already drawn, I thought he was gonna shoot me, so I fired at him. I only meant to wing him- you know, shoot the gun outta his hand, but then his horse spooked and...I guess the bullet must have caught him in the chest. I never meant to kill him, honest- it was an accident! Then when I saw the deputy standing behind him, with his gun out. I realized the drifter had just been tryin' to save my life. I don't know why he was, but I'd give anything to do it all over again. I was cold and tired, I just did it without thinking." Defiantly he added, "But I do know it wasn't Heyes...I wouldn't make no mistake like that!"
Even to his own ears, Kid knew he sounded defensive. And to add to his pain, there was that feeling again, like he was forgetting something important, but the more he tried to figure it out, the worse the pain got. He thought it had something to do with the shooting, but as another wave of pain caused him to grit his teeth, he realized he might have to wait a while to find out.

Spencer sat down and placed a hand gently on his arm to draw his attention. "Thaddeus, listen to me. Would there have been any reason for Heyes to be wearing a disguise? Has he ever done something like that before? Is there any possible way that drifter could have been Heyes?" At the look of pain that crossed the younger man's face, Spencer was sorry for having to put him through all this. He was only going by the information he'd received from the deputy and from his expression, it was obvious Thaddeus had not known.

"Reverend, are you saying-" Kid paused to take a deep breath. "Do you know something you're not tellin' me? Are you telling me that drifter- that it really could've been Heyes? That he was wearing a disguise and I shot him? That I really am the one that killed him?" Groaning he fell back against the pillows, his head throbbing fiercely and closed his eyes, wishing he had stayed unconscious for just a while longer.

"Well, that's what the deputy says. I'm beginning to think that maybe there's more to it. I wanted to hear your story first before I said anything, but when I asked who had identified the body-" As Kid winced, Spencer gently squeezed his arm. "I'm sorry Thaddeus, Deputy Graham told me it wasn't any of my business, but he assured me that it definitely was Hannibal Heyes. I told him I was a Reverend, had known Heyes and would like to perform the service. I was told the bod- that Heyes was being sent to Wyoming and they would take care of it there. Thaddeus, something's not right... there's something going on in Kettledrum and I think we need to find out what it is!"

At the mention of the deputy's name, an image had appeared briefly but as he tried to make it out, it faded. Another flash of pain jolted Kid. Trying to ignore it, he was barely able to get the words out of his mouth.

"Reverend, what if it's true? If Heyes was that drifter, wearin' some kinda disguise, then it was me! There isn't any reason for anyone to want me to think I had killed him, if I didn't, unless it's some kind of trap..." Kid closed his eyes and leaned back wearily. As he thought back over the reverend's words, he suddenly realized what Spencer had said. Kid's eyes flew open as he turned to glare at him. "And just what do you mean by we? There's no way I'm lettin' you get mixed up in this!"

Spencer smiled as he remembered another time Thaddeus had been angry with him. At least this time he was laying down in bed.

"Well, Kid, it looks like I'm already mixed up in this whether we like it or not. Besides, you're still recovering from a gunshot wound, your partner is missing and we've got a mystery to solve in Kettledrum. Would you deny a friend the chance to help out a friend, when that one friend owes the other so much?"

As Kid listened to Spencer's words, an answering grin appeared on his face. Heyes had taught him long ago when to throw in a losing hand. The reverend's next words however, wiped the smile clean off his face.

"Now we need a plan. Have you ever wondered what you'd look like with dark hair, Thaddeus?"

_________________
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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4.7 Make No Mistake by moonshadow :: Comments

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Re: 4.7 Make No Mistake by moonshadow
Post on Sat 21 Mar 2015, 1:52 pm by royannahuggins
The two preachers rode into Kettledrum without drawing more than a cursory glance from most of the townspeople. From habit, the dark-haired one with the beard kept his right hand close at his side, wishing for the familiar feel of cold steel. Spencer had made him pack it in his saddlebag. Kid had tried reasoning, bribery and even threats, but Spencer had remained firm, no gun. Once they knew their plan was working, and they were out on the road away from town, Kid could put it back on.

Kid glanced up apprehensively at the scattered rain clouds one more time. I sure hope the Lord has a good sense of humor as well as one of forgiveness!He'd waited the whole trip for a lightning bolt to come streaking down from the sky and strike him for pretending to be a preacher. Wearing a reverend's outfit and hiding behind the disguise felt wrong somehow. Seeing himself in the mirror had convinced him. Despite Kid's protests Spencer had gradually worn him down, telling him everything would be fine. The Reverend had taken every argument Kid had voiced and found an answer, just as Heyes would have done. That was what had finally convinced the outlaw.

The two men had sat up late into the night devising a plan. Now it was time to put it into action. They tied their horses in front of the sheriff's office and walked inside. Kid stayed slightly behind Spencer, head bowed and silent.

"Good Morning Deputy...?"

"Graham, Deputy Charlie Graham. Reverend...? And what can I do for you?"

"I am Reverend Spencer and this young man with me here today is one of my newly appointed associate reverends."

At the Deputy's blank look, Spencer added, "My new assistant, his name is Reverend Beauregard Hotchkiss. He is traveling with me, learning how to preach the gospel and lead sinners in the path of righteousness. I did send you a telegram letting you know that we'd be here today. I sincerely hope it was delivered to you."

"Yes sir, it was. I wish I could've gotten it sooner, I might've been able to save ya a trip. A long, unnecessary trip. See we already sent Hannibal Heyes' body on to Wyoming. They'll see he gets what he deserves!" The deputy laughed raucously.

Ignoring Kid's sharp intake of breath, Spencer continued. "I'm real sorry too, that we didn't get here in time. Mr. Heyes was kind enough to help our small town once and we were very grateful. Could you please tell me something, deputy? Who was it that identified the body? Did Lom Trevors, the sheriff out of Porterville come all the way down here just for that? Or maybe someone from the Governor's office, perhaps?"

While the two men were talking, Kid wandered around the office, pretending to read the wanted posters. He stopped and stared at two posters prominently displayed on the wall directly in front of him. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Wanted. Dead or Alive. $10,000 reward. Dead or alive...did it matter anymore?

"Oh no, Reverend. There weren't no need for anyone that important to come all the way to Kettledrum. See, I was the one that identified him." The deputy was watching the young Reverend while he talked. Sure is awfully nosey for a preacher-man.

Noticing where the deputy's attention was focused, Spencer knew he had to get him to shift it elsewhere or their plan wasn't going to work.

"You?" Reverend Spencer smiled tolerantly at the deputy as he stepped between him and his view of the Kid. "You must be really proud of yourself. So that means that you yourself have had dealings with those two notorious outlaws before, right?"

Kid glanced at the cells, both of them stood empty. As he looked into the second cell, he stepped forward and gripped the bars tightly with both hands, hardly daring to breathe. Empty, except for the familiar black hat laying on that cot. Heyes had been here! But was this good or bad? Finding it only proved that his friend had been in the jail cell, not that he was still alive. He forced himself to relax, and released the bars, letting his hands drop to his sides as he drew in a deep breath and slowly released it. He listened to the deputy's response.

"You bet I have! Why I saw 'em both a few months back in Springville. Almost had 'em too, but they got away before we could nab 'em. I knowed it was Heyes, even with that disguise he had on. Didn't fool me none."

Kid turned sharply and looked at the man. Springville? Wasn't that where that loco deputy...? He drew in a ragged breath. It was him! Feeling slightly ill, Kid realized this was what he had been trying so hard to remember. The man sitting behind the desk was the same man he'd had seen that rainy day in Kettledrum when he'd shot that drifter, his mind stubbornly refusing to allow him to think it was Heyes.

He was also the same man from Springville. He knew he'd never forget the man who'd put such a scare into both him and Heyes. He'd trailed them all over and around the small town until both men were spooked. Then, without warning one day, the man had come charging at them, yelling out their real names loud and clear, announcing to the whole town who they were. The sheriff had come after them, leading a large posse and they'd barely escaped with their lives! Kid was positive without a shadow of a doubt that this was the same man sitting in the chair, talking with Spencer. If he'd touched one hair on Heyes' head... Kid's hand automatically went for his gun, before he remembered. Then it hit him. The deputy had said the man was wearing a disguise... Spencer's voice barely penetrated his pain and anger.

"Well, Deputy, you should be highly commended for the bravery you've shown in the face of such adversity. Why, there aren't many courageous men such as yourself left in this country. Men who are willing to risk their very lives, just to see that justice is served. May I shake your hand, sir? It would indeed be an honor to claim that I shook hands with the man responsible for bringing such a notorious outlaw to justice!" Spencer held out his hand.

After a moment, the deputy hesitantly put his own hand out and grasped Spencer's hand. He was a bit dazed by all the big fancy words the Reverend had used, but he had understood one part very clearly.

"Uh, Reverend? If ya don't mind my askin', what exactly did ya mean when ya said I was riskin' my life? I mean, I didn't do anything dangerous, jus' told everyone who Hannibal Heyes was. Why should I be worried 'bout my life? Why would anyone wanna hurt me?"

Spencer turned, and noting Kid's expression, gave him a wink. "Hotchkiss, I want you to pay close attention. Here is a fine example of human nature at its finest, and it will be a wonderful lesson in how to deal with someone who truly needs compassion and understanding. We must help him all we can." Turning back to the deputy as Kid came to stand silently behind him, Spencer added, "This fine young man, standing here with me, has had to deal with many hardships already in his own young life. One of the hardest lessons he ever had to learn was turning the other cheek. And you sir, that is what you must be prepared to do...turn the other cheek!" Spencer pounded his fist down on the desk for emphasis, startling the poor bewildered lawman. Kid quickly turned away trying to hide his smile, both at Spencer's performance and his choice of words. After receiving a stern glare from Spencer he turned back as the deputy started speaking.

His voice bordering on whining, Graham sputtered, "But Reverend, I jus' don't see how that's s'posed to help me. What other cheek are ya talkin' 'bout? An who do I turn it to?" The deputy was looking thoroughly confused by this time.

"My good man, surely you see the consequences of your folly? Must I really point them out to you?" As the deputy mutely nodded, Spencer continued in a voice that gained strength and momentum, until he reached the fevered pitch of a revival preacher warning about fire and brimstone. "In providing the identification of their leader, you will surely have invoked the wrath of the entire Devil's Hole Gang, not to mention the man's partner, the fastest, deadliest gunslinger around, this side of the Mississippi, Kid Curry himself!" They are all probably right now, at this very moment, on their way here to exact vengeance upon your person! If it were me, I would be quaking in my boots, but here you sit, unperturbed, relaxed, calm even. How do you manage to accomplish such a daring exhibition, Deputy Graham? You have the most amazing sense of fortitude I have ever witnessed in a man. Sir, you are to be sincerely congratulated on exhibiting such an amazing feat of accomplishment!"

Kid knew he was in imminent danger of spoiling everything. He had been unprepared for such a performance by Spencer. His beard helped to hide much of his face but he knew he was not going to be able to contain his laughter much longer. He mumbled an excuse and hurried out of the office and down the street as quickly as he could. Once he felt he was far enough away, he sat down outside a store and let loose with such a laugh that it drew the attention of several nearby townspeople, who found themselves smiling as they heard the infectious sound of the young preacher's laughter. Kid wiped his eyes. Spencer was worse than Heyes! His laughter died quickly. Busy with his thoughts, he missed the small voice speaking to him, but he couldn't ignore the little hand tugging impatiently on his sleeve.

"Hey mister. I'm talking to you. Are you a preacher?" Not bothering to wait for an answer, the dark-haired little boy rushed on. "'Cos if ya are, we need to borrow you. See, our preacher fell off his horse and can't do the special stuff he was s'posed to do. The whole thing will be ruined if you can't help us...please?" Kid found himself looking down into golden brown eyes, sparkling with mischief. Eyes that held a dare in them, and reminded him greatly of his missing partner.

Smiling, Kid admitted defeat and stood up. "So, just what do I have to do?"

Grabbing his hand and dragging him along behind him, the boy looked over his shoulder and answered, "Not much, trust me."

And with those few simple words, Jed "Kid"Curry, alias Reverend Beauregard Hotchkiss, knew he was in trouble.

**********

Spencer stepped out of the Sheriff's office and looked around for Thaddeus. He looked in both directions and across the road, but still there was no sign of him.

"Reverend, are you looking for your friend? The other preacher?" asked a voice.

He turned and found himself looking down into the face of a young girl.

"Why yes, I am. I seem to have misplaced him."

She giggled. "He's not lost, he's helping out over at the church."

"The church? What's he doing over there?"

"Well Reverend, he is a man of the cloth..."

That brought a smile to Spencer's face as he pictured his friend helping out. He had better go see if Thaddeus needed rescuing himself.

"I'm heading over that way if you'd like to walk with me?"

"I would be honored to escort you to the church, Miss...?"

Giggling again she replied. "My name is Arabella, but most folks just call me Belle. I have a twin sister named Annabella, but everyone calls her Anna." Belle kept up a running conversation all the way to the church and by the time they'd arrived, Spencer felt as if he already knew half of the congregation, at least by name. He also had a fairly good idea of just what Thaddeus had gotten himself into.

As they drew near the church, the sounds of a song being sung could be heard over the other everyday noises of the town. Rounding the corner, Spencer watched as Reverend Hotchkiss continued leading the children and the few adults gathered in the last part of the song.

"...To turn, to turn, will be our delight and by turning, turning, we come 'round right.

"We want to sing it again! Again! Please Reverend Beau. One more time, please?"

Spencer smiled as blue eyes found and locked onto his, pleading for a miracle. Taking pity on his friend, he stepped forward through the crowd until he stood next to Thaddeus and turned around.

"Aha, so you are the ones responsible for stealing my helper away from me!" He smiled at all the children who were waiting anxiously to see what was going to happen next.

"We didn't steal him! He wanted to come!" A dozen voices answered him.

"He did, did he?" Arching his eyebrows, Spencer looked at Thaddeus for an explanation.

"Well, it was kinda like this Reverend...See I was sitting there minding my own business, when Tommy," Kid pointed at the boy sitting on the ground in front of him, "That's him right there, well he came up to me and said they needed me. I just couldn't say no, Reverend. It was like looking right into Hey-Joshua's face. I'm sorry, I know it was wrong of me, I shouldn't have-" Kid hung his head, reminding Spencer of a schoolboy waiting to be reprimanded for some wrong-doing.

"Reverend Beau, you've done a wonderful job so far, there's absolutely nothing to be sorry about. I do think though, that maybe you might like a little assistance from me for the next part, am I right?" Spencer's eyes twinkled as he saw the relief that crossed Kid's face as blue eyes raised to meet his.

Turning back to the children, the Reverend leaned forward and in a conspiratorial voice whispered loudly enough for them to hear, "See boys and girls, Reverend Beau here is just learning how to be a preacher. I'm his teacher and it's kind of like he's going to school." The sounds of the children's laughter rang out as they pictured such a big boy going to school.

Spencer and Kid's laughter joined theirs and then speaking softly so only Spencer could hear, Kid confessed, "I was hoping you'd get here before we got to the water part. I'm not sure I wouldn't have drowned a few of 'em!"
Smiling broadly, Spencer spoke to the crowd. "OK, you can sing one more chorus and then we'll all head down to the river for the baptizing. Reverend Beau, they're all yours. I'll see you down at the river when you're done. You might as well learn something else while you're here." The look he received in return promised retribution.

The children laughed again. Spencer held his own laughter as he walked towards the water until he heard the voices raised in song again.

Yes, he was sure Thaddeus would have something to say to him later when they were alone.

**********

Both Blanche and her brother had left the room immediately after Charlie had blindfolded and gagged Heyes again, only this time they hadn't pulled the door completely shut behind them. He had managed to overhear them discussing how important it was that Charlie get back into town to relieve the other deputy so as not to arouse suspicion. This would leave Blanche alone with him, shifting the odds a bit more in his favor.
Maybe the hand he'd been dealt wasn't so bad after all?

**********

The sound of a horse riding up outside caused Blanche to wait cautiously by the door. It was too early for Charlie. Putting her hand in her apron pocket, she touched the cold steel of the gun hidden there. Hearing the footsteps on the porch, she waited for the door to open. When it did, she took one look at the man standing in the doorway and strode forward, seething with anger.

"What are you doing back here already? That was not the plan! Do you realize that you could ruin the whole thing by coming back here like this!"

Paling visibly, he tried to placate her. "Blanche, I just had to come back. They told me Hannibal Heyes was free an' that Kid Curry and him were comin' after me. And not only them, it was the whole daggone Devil's Hole Gang too! They was all comin' to get me! Don't be mad, I jus' had to make sure he was still here. I promise, I'll go right back and do jus' what you tell me to, OK?"

Looking thoughtfully at her brother, Blanche's eyes narrowed. "Charlie, who is they? Who told you that Heyes was free?"

"Jus' them two preachers that come by to see about the body. I didn't tell 'em anything, honest! 'Ceptin' they swore they'd heard someone had seen Hannibal Heyes over in Two Springs and then they said that both Heyes and Curry were in a saloon in Silverton."The deputy's voice took on a pleading tone. "Dontcha see now why I had to take a chance and come on back and check it out? I was afraid for you. I didn't know what those two desperadoes would've done to you if they'd caught you. Blanche, please don't be mad at me jus' 'cos I wanted to make sure you were alright." His eyes were filled with fear and worry, but his sister had already turned away, a thoughtful look on her face as she paced back and forth.

"Two preachers you say, hmmm? Now, I wonder why two preachers would be so interested in Hannibal Heyes?" She turned around to face him. "You saw them and listened to them. Do you think they were telling the truth?" Blanche advanced slowly towards her brother and smiled at him as she touched his arm and spoke in a deceptively soft tone, "Charlie, did you make sure you weren't followed?"

Relieved that Blanche was no longer mad, Charlie relaxed and spoke up confidently. "Do you think for one daggone minute that if I thought they was gonna try and follow me here that I would've just led them straight to you? I'm too smart to fall for that one." At Blanche's skeptical look he added, "No, I think they was tellin' the truth. They left town ahead of me, said they had to get back to Lordstown for some big revival or somethin'."

"Well just to make sure, you'd better go outside and take a look around. And I mean a good look. We don't want things to go wrong now that we've made it this far. And remember Charlie, you'll still get to take care of Curry when this is all over." Brother and sister smiled at each other, and then they began to laugh.

**********

From the bedroom where he was being held captive, Heyes had continued working steadily at the knots binding his hands behind him. He could tell by the sticky wetness on his wrists that they had started to bleed, but he welcomed this since he hoped it would help to make the bindings slide down his hands easier. That encouraged him to keep at it, despite the pins and needles he could feel creeping into his hands and up his arms.

Hearing the horse ride up he had dared to allow a flicker of hope, but after hearing Blanche's voice raised in anger and then recognizing the deputy's voice, he had wondered what had happened. Listening to the deputy's explanation, he too was mystified why two preachers would be asking after him. The final straw was hearing them refer to taking care of the Kid like that. He renewed his efforts at freeing himself from the knots as he worked on Plan B, just in case.

After seeing for himself that Heyes was still very much a prisoner, and making sure that no-one was anywhere near the cabin, Charlie took leave of his sister, calling out that he'd see her in a couple days.

I'll sure be glad when all this is over and we get that reward money on those two. $20,000! He'd be able to hand in his star. He and Blanche would never have to work again.

**********

The two men had been riding for a while when Spencer broke the silence.

"Thaddeus, are you sure he's not too far ahead of us? I know it's my fault we got a late start. I'm sorry-"

"There's no need to apologize. That deputy's leaving a trail even a blind man could follow. It gave me the chance to slip inside that jail cell and grab Heyes' hat." He paused a moment before adding quietly, "'Sides that, I'd have felt real awful if we'd have left Widow Jackson all alone with nobody to look after her. This way, we'll both rest easy knowin' those folks will take real good care of her."

"I wish people had the chance to get to know the real men behind those aliases. Maybe that amnesty wouldn't be such an out-of-reach prize."

"Amen to that, brother," Kid answered fervently.

At Spencer's look, Kid grinned. "Just practicin' Reverend, never know when it might come in handy."As the preacher shook his head, Kid continued. "You know, I never did find out what you said that finally convinced that deputy he had to leave town so sudden-like."

"Well, it was really very simple, Thaddeus. I used your idea, I just casually happened to mention to him that Hannibal Heyes had been seen in two different towns. He didn't need much more encouragement than that."

"Well, let's just hope our plan works. If not, I don't know what we're gonna do next."

They rode in silence for several miles, Kid keeping his eyes on the tracks left behind. Suddenly, he held up a hand and then put a finger to his mouth. Spencer nodded.

Dismounting, Kid walked through the trees and disappeared from view. Moments later he returned and made his way to the preacher. Talking quietly, he told Spencer of his findings.

"Not too far down the road there's an old cabin. That deputy's horse is in the corral and there's three other horses as well. Smoke's coming out the chimney, and I didn't see anyone outside, so I guess whoever they are they must all be inside. The only thing that worries me is we don't have any idea how many we're dealing with for sure. We're gonna have to wait until that deputy leaves, which will make it one less. Besides that, neither of us can go near that cabin without being recognized by him. Maybe later I can sneak up closer and get a better look, but until then we'd better backtrack a bit and find us a place to hole up in. Sorry Reverend, but it looks like it'll be a cold meal for us. We can't afford to light a fire, that'd be a dead giveaway for sure."

"Don't worry, Thaddeus. We'll make do. One night won't hurt us and if we can find out the truth about Joshua, it will all be worth it."

Kid nodded his head in agreement. Yes, if they could just find Heyes, if he could see with his own eyes that he was alive...he'd be willing to eat cold food and sleep out under the stars for a month of Sundays. He swung himself up into the saddle and began to search for a place where they could wait for the cover of darkness to arrive.

**********

Blanche took one last look around before stepping inside and closing the door. After making sure it was bolted, she busied herself with making supper and when it was ready, took a bowl in to Heyes. She removed the blindfold and gag and gave him a drink of water before settling herself on the chair in front of him.

"Well Heyes, it's just you and me, all alone together in this nice, cozy little cabin. No-one to bother us, no interruptions, and nothing to keep us from getting better acquainted. I'd say those are pretty good odds now, wouldn't you?" She fed him a spoonful of stew and waited for his answer.

Watching her with his eyes, he swallowed. "I guess that all depends on what we're holding in our hands, Blanche." Heyes bowed his head, hiding his expression. "The way I'm all tied up, guess I won't be holding anything." He heaved a big sigh of regret and then raised his head to look up at her.

As she fed him another mouthful, Blanche smiled. "You guessed right about that, Heyes." As he stopped chewing, she laughed. "What? Did you think that just because you looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes of yours I would change my mind? I've worked too hard and too long to quit now."

"Blanche, have you really thought this all the way through? What are you going to do? Keep me tied up for the rest of my life? Keep me as something to be brought out every now and then to be toyed with? This can't keep going on like this forever. I'll never give up trying to escape, surely you must know that?"

"Don't worry about how long this is going to go on, Heyes." Giving him a sly glance she continued. "I've got big plans for you. You're worth $10,000 to me and even though the wanted posters say dead or alive, I think I can somehow manage to make you feel that alive is the better choice. At least for now."

Bringing the spoon to his mouth, Blanche paused while he ate. Watching him as he swallowed, she spoke tauntingly, "The one you should really be worrying about is that partner of yours. Pretty soon now he won't be around to worry about ever again. And then, before too long, you won't be worrying about anyone anymore either."

As she held another spoonful of food out, Heyes clamped his mouth shut and shook his head. "I don't think I can eat another bite. This stimulating conversation has kind of made me lose my appetite." Directing a glare her way, he turned sideways and laid down, closing his eyes.

Shrugging her shoulders, Blanche stood up. "Well, it's your stomach. Suit yourself, Heyes. You go ahead and rest up. I'll be back in a while and we can finish our... conversation." She walked out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

Relaxing, Heyes realized his plan had worked. She hadn't bothered to blindfold or gag him. When he was sure she wasn't coming back in, he sat up, bringing both of his hands slowly forward, keeping a wary eye out as he listened for Blanche. Rubbing his hands and arms briskly to get the circulation going again, he looked around the room. There was only one window, and without knowing the layout of the rest of the cabin, it looked like that was the way he would be leaving.

Standing up while still watching the door, he cautiously edged his way towards the window. Slowly testing it, he breathed a sigh of relief as it slid silently upwards. Climbing through and landing on the ground outside, Heyes quickly surveyed the area and decided to make a run for the trees. Just as he reached their safety, he heard the sound of horses coming around the bend.

Quickly concealing himself, he watched with interest as the two men stopped short of the cabin, just out of sight. With the sun gone and the moon not yet risen, it was difficult to see the men clearly. One rider dismounted and after a brief conversation with the seated rider, headed towards the barn. The other one continued on his way towards the cabin. But even from his hiding place, judging by the way they were dressed, Heyes figured them to be preachers.

Maybe the same two preachers that had been inquiring about him at the sheriff's office? And although Heyes knew he should be on his way, his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to stick around long enough to see how the hand played out.

**********

"OK Reverend, this is where we split up."Kid's voice was low, but Spencer heard him easily. "Now remember, all you're supposed to do is keep them busy. Get them talkin' and I'll scout out the cabin, alright? Any sign of trouble and you get out, fast!"

"For the tenth time Thaddeus, yes I remember what I'm supposed to do!"Reverend Spencer allowed a hint of exasperation to show in his voice. "You've drilled me over and over again the whole ride here. Relax, you're a good leader and I promise I won't do anything to get myself into any trouble."

Giving him a thoughtful look, Kid slid off his horse. Must be how Heyes feels when he's tryin' to get me to listen. Like a child reaching into a candy jar in the general store, Kid eagerly dug into his saddlebag, grinning as he pulled out his holster. Strapping it on and tying it down, he reached back into the bag and removed his Colt. After checking it, he spun the barrel and dropped it into his holster where it belonged, With a satisfied look he turned to look up at the other man.

"That's just the thing, Reverend. I'm not the leader, Heyes is. He leads, I back him up. We work good together."

"You've done a fine job so far. You need to believe in yourself, Thaddeus. I do. I'm going to go now and soon we'll have this whole thing settled."

Spencer started towards the cabin, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned back to Kid saying, "You just have to have faith in me."

Shooting him a look as Spencer passed by, Kid said softly, "I think you've been doin'a real fine job yourself, Reverend...at least I thought you were, until you said those last few words." He shook his head and pulling his horse along behind him, disappeared behind the barn.

**********

Hearing a horse for the second time that day when she wasn't expecting anyone, Blanche looked through the window and saw the solitary figure of the preacher as he made his way to the cabin. Remembering her brother's words, she slipped a hand into her apron pocket and got a good grip on the gun. She watched as he climbed down and approached the cabin. Opening the door before he could knock, she smiled as she said, "Good afternoon, Reverend. What brings you all the way out here? There's not much out this way. We don't get many visitors just dropping by."

"Good afternoon, ma'am. I believe that it's divine intervention that brought me to you. My horse started going lame just about a mile back and I was praying that I would be led to someone who would be able to provide some other means of transportation and maybe perhaps some light refreshments before I start out on my journey again." He smiled at her. "Do you think perhaps that you might be able to help me with these small requests?"

"Oh I'm sure we can reach some mutual agreement Reverend. Why don't you just come on inside and we'll discuss it over some hot coffee and some fresh apple pie." Blanche waited until he was inside and she had shut the door, before bringing the gun out.

Spencer froze as he heard the sound of the hammer being pulled back. Turning around to face her, he smiled disarmingly as he looked into her eyes.

"Surely you don't think I pose any kind of a threat, my good woman? I am merely a servant of the Lord and you shall come to no harm at my hands."

"I don't think you pose anything, preacher. There were two of you at the sheriff's office. I want you to sit down in that chair right over there and be quiet. And you might as well be warned, I'm not afraid to use this gun. We're going to play a little game of hide and seek. And while we're waiting, you and I are going to keep on talking like we're old friends." Blanche stepped back until she was hidden by the door, keeping the gun trained steadily on him.

Finding the open window, Kid cautiously peeked inside and looked around. Not seeing anyone, he crawled inside and listened to the voices coming from the other room. Glancing at the cot, he noticed the ropes and bandana. Easing his gun from its holster, he crept quietly towards the door. As he stepped through it, he saw Spencer, but before he could act, he felt the door being shoved against him, catching him off-guard and knocking him to the ground. His gun went sliding across the floor.

"Don't make any fast moves preacher or your friend over there is going to be burying you. I want you to stand up nice and easy, hands in the air, facing the wall."

Realizing he had no other choice, Kid did as he was told. He raised his hands above his shoulders and kept them there. Hearing a female voice, Kid shook his head in disgust. He couldn't believe he'd been bested by a woman!

As his glance locked with Spencer's he shook his head.

Blanche walked over and picked up his gun. "Now, turn around slowly, and keep your hands in the air!"

As he turned and saw the woman standing there, his eyes widened in disbelief and he felt like he'd just been sucker-punched. He quickly ducked his head to hide his face.

"I bet you never thought my brother would tell me all about your little trip to his office now, did you?"

Kid couldn't speak. He was too busy trying to figure out how Blanche fit into all this.

Wait a minute. She had mentioned a brother. Her brother was at the sheriff's office? The only one at the sheriff's office was that deputy- Kid felt like things were going from bad to worse way too fast. If those two were responsible for all this...He wondered what they had done with Heyes.

"OK preacher number one, you take that rope laying over there and tie preacher number two up real good and tight. I'll be checking those knots myself and if they aren't done right, well then, there will just be one less preacher to keep track of."

Kid did as he was instructed, whispering "Sorry" when Spencer winced as he made the knots secure. Spencer nodded to show he understood.

"Now you, go on over there and sit down in that chair."She stepped back as he walked past her. "Maybe I'll let my other guest join you, since you seem to be so interested in him." She looked into the bedroom. Both men cringed as she began screeching with rage.

"No, it can't be! He was tied up too good, there's no way he could have gotten loose!"She turned and aimed the gun straight at Kid. Her hand was shaking as much as her voice. "It was you, wasn't it? You helped him escape!" She waved the gun wildly towards Spencer, "while he was keeping me busy, you climbed in through the window and set him free!"

Kid swallowed nervously as the gun was turned back in his direction and she stepped closer. She already had the hammer pulled back, and with all that shaking there was a good chance the gun could go off accidentally.

Since Kid liked his body parts just the way they were, he tried talking to her. "Uh ma'am, excuse me but could you please point that thing somewhere else? I didn't do any of those things you're accusin' me of, honest. We just got here. I didn't even have time to get over here to check things out. And I sure don't have the faintest idea of who I'm supposed to have helped escape." He hoped that by feigning ignorance she would continue to buy his story and give them a chance to figure out a way to escape.

Blanche took one more step closer. Still looking at Kid, she spoke to Spencer, "You know any good prayers, preacher? Because this man is surely going to need one in just a few seconds if he doesn't tell me what I want to know!"

Spencer looked inquiringly at Kid who shook his head. The Reverend cleared his throat as he said quietly, "Sometimes it's better to quit a loser, rather than to lose your life over something so trivial, Thaddeus." At Kid's wide-eyed look, Spencer quickly realized his mistake.

Blanche hadn't missed it either. "Thaddeus? He called you Thaddeus!" She strode purposely over to Kid, grabbed his chin and looked into his face. "I should have known you'd show up sooner or later, Curry! Well, I guess one of you is as good as the other for what I have planned. I'll just use you for bait instead. Now all I have to do is set the trap."

Knowing this might be his only chance, Kid jumped up and grabbed the arm holding the gun. It went off, shooting a hole in the ceiling. As another shot went wild, Spencer hunched down even further in his chair. He watched anxiously as Kid wrestled with the woman, squeezing his eyes shut as yet another shot was fired.

Finally pinning her with his body, Kid reached up and forcibly took the gun from her hand. Breathing heavily from the struggle, he gasped raggedly, "My mama raised me to never hit a lady, but you're sure makin' me regret my promise to her Blanche! Now before I let you up, you're gonna tell us what you've done with Heyes and where he is!"

Blanche glared mutinously back at him but remained silent.

Kid stood up and pulled her unceremoniously to her feet. Shoving his gun back in his holster, he brought his face close to Blanche's. "Well, my mama never said I shouldn't tie up a lady, so I guess we'll try that next." He pulled her over to a chair and pushed her none-too-gently down into it.

Still seething with anger, Blanche hissed, "I don't know any more than you do! Heyes was in that bedroom right before you arrived. He was tied up real good. If you didn't help him escape, then somehow he managed to do it by himself. He must have taken off as soon as he got free. Who knows where he could be?"

With the rope dangling threateningly in his hand, Kid glared down at her. "You know, if it was anyone but you tellin' me that story, I just might believe them." He took a menacing step towards her, grabbing her wrist. "Now Blanche! I want to know, right now, what you've done with Heyes! And if you've hurt him in any way-" he stood towering angrily over her, causing Blanche to lean back in her chair.

"I've told you the truth, I don't know where he is!" Seeking to hurt him, she spat out, "The only wound he has is the one you put in him. You're the one that hurt him Curry! In fact, your mistake almost killed him. If we hadn't fixed him up, he'd be dead right now!"

Relief washed over him as he heard Blanche's words. Heyes was alive, he hadn't killed him! Caught up in the joy of finding out about his partner, he was a bit careless. As he stepped closer, Blanche surprised him by jumping up and plowing head-first into him. Caught off balance, Kid fell backwards carrying Blanche along with him. Landing on top, her elbow jabbed into his wound. Kid sucked in a deep breath, feeling like he'd just been kicked by a mule. He grabbed her by the arms, pushing her to the side.

Not giving up so easily, Blanche grabbed his gun, but he managed to get his hands on it just as she pulled it from his holster. Blanche got her finger on the trigger and pulled. The shot went through a window, causing it to shatter. The sound of the door bursting open, slamming into the wall and the gunshot that followed caused them both to look up in surprise, neither one letting go of their hold on the gun.

Blanche smiled as she recognized her brother. Kid groaned in defeat as he released the gun and fell backwards. Why couldn't things go right just once?

**********

Heyes had witnessed everything from his hiding place up on the hill. He had heard gunfire but no-one had left the cabin. Then there was quiet and he was just about to go down to investigate when he saw the rider approaching the cabin. Ducking back into the trees, he was surprised to see the deputy again. He watched as the man jumped off his horse and raced into the cabin with his gun drawn. There was more gunfire, then silence.
Heyes crept closer to find out what had happened. Glancing in through the curtained window he was surprised to see both preachers bound and gagged. Blanche and Charlie stood with their backs to him talking, while the deputy kept his gun trained on the men. Heyes stood there undecided as to his next course of action even as his mind worked on finding a solution. He looked at the preachers again. For whatever their reasons, those two men had been willing to help him, now they needed help. Maybe there was something he could do for them in return.

Making his way back up the hill, he was struck by a sudden thought. It's a good thing Kid's not here, he'd be sure to tell me I was just inviting trouble by sticking around like this. What I need now is a plan. Within moments he wore a satisfied smile on his face as he made his way towards the cabin.

**********

Inside the cabin, Kid and Spencer exchanged worried glances. So much for their plan, now what were they going to do? There was another reason for them to be concerned. Blanche and Charlie hadn't bothered to hide their conversation as they discussed what to do next.

Charlie's eyes were gleaming with anticipation. At last he was going to have Kid Curry all to himself. No one to interfere. His sister's hand on his arm drew his attention back to what she was saying.

"Well, I'm just glad you decided to come back one last time or I'd be the one all tied up hoping for a miracle to happen."

A wheedling tone in his voice, Charlie looked into his sister's face. "So, can I? Can I take Curry with me when I go this time, huh? Please Blanche?" Almost drooling with excitement, he rocked back and forth, shifting from one foot to another as he waited impatiently for her answer.

Smiling indulgently at her brother, Blanche patted his arm then slowly turned so that her gaze included Kid. "I think that is a splendid idea. That will leave me with only preacher number two to dispose of and you can take your own sweet time with Curry. I know you will both have an...interesting time together."The sound of their laughter grated heavily on their prisoners' ears.

After hearing their words, Kid doubled his efforts to get loose, despite the pain caused by the ropes as they cut into his wrists. He figured the odds were better here than they would be being alone with that deputy! He shot a look of encouragement at Spencer and received a similar one in return. As he felt the wetness on his wrists Kid hoped it would be enough to shift the odds more in their favor.

**********

Heyes had taken up a post by the bedroom window, waiting for the right moment. He had been unable to hear anything they said, but by the way they were acting he knew that something was going to happen soon.

As he watched through the curtained window he saw the deputy jerk the preacher roughly to his feet and when he saw how the man resisted, he knew that time had come.

As his chair hit the floor, Kid twisted sideways, pulling free of the deputy's grasp, and stumbled into the wall. Losing his balance, he slid to the floor.

Taking advantage of the confusion in the cabin, Heyes crawled through the window unnoticed. Blanche had drawn her gun and since she was closest, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Coming up behind her he grabbed her wrist and twisted it slightly, just enough to make her drop the gun. Shoving her to the side, he dove for it and was back on his feet within seconds.

The deputy had grabbed Kid by his shirt and was hauling him unceremoniously to his feet. He shoved the outlaw up against the wall, his face just inches away as he pulled his gun.

"That was a pretty stupid thing to do! You're lucky I have more important plans in store for ya or else I'd be shootin' ya full of holes. Maybe I oughta shoot ya a few times just for bein' so stupid, huh?" But Charlie never got the chance to carry out his threat.

"You're not going to be drilling anyone full of holes today, Charlie. Just drop the gun and step away from the preacher and you and I'll have us a nice, friendly little chat."

Heyes was the object of everyone's attention. Blanche glowered up at him from her position on the floor. Spencer was wishing he could tell him how relieved he was that he had shown up when he did. Charlie had frozen at his voice and still held the gun next to Kid's chest.

The last occupant of the room had also stilled but for a completely different reason. His expression said it all. At last he had proof that Heyes was alive! And as Heyes looked into the eyes of the preacher, he knew he need look no further for his missing partner. The brief look they exchanged spoke volumes.

"I ain't gonna give up that easy, Heyes! Me and this here preacher got us a little unfinished business to settle an' I've waited too long to jus' let you waltz in here and try to take him away from me. You'd better do as I say or he's gonna be on his way to meet his maker. Why don't you jus' drop your gun and I won't have to shoot 'im dead?"

Heyes and Kid exchanged another look, with Kid acknowledging the imperceptible nod of Heyes' head towards the deputy.

"Well Charlie, looks like we've got ourselves a little problem here. Think maybe I'll even out the odds a bit."

Reaching down he pulled Blanche to her feet, wrapped his arm around her and pulled her tight up against him.

"That's better. Now we both have someone to bargain with. Tell you what. I'll trade your sister for the preacher, what do you say?"

As Blanche opened her mouth to speak, Heyes moved swiftly to cover it with his hand. As she continued to struggle, he cocked his gun and brought it up to his side. Charlie's gun wavered in his hand as he brought it around and pointed it at them. Blanche eyed her brother nervously and quit fighting.

"Well, Charlie? You made up your mind yet? Or are we going to stand like this all night?"

The deputy nervously licked his lips as he looked back and forth between them and Kid. He did this several times, before turning with an almost animal-like growl and opening fire at Heyes. Pulling Blanche down with him, Heyes dove towards the floor. As Charlie started towards Heyes, Kid stuck out his leg, neatly tripping the deputy who hit the floor hard, the gun flying from his hand. He lay there momentarily stunned.

"Alright everyone, just stay put!" Gun in hand, Heyes stood surveying the room. Both Charlie and Blanche were laying on the floor and Spencer was looking mighty relieved in his chair. And Kid? He was still against the wall, but he had dropped to his knees and was watching Heyes intently. Heyes walked over and picked up the deputy's gun, tucking it into the waistband of his pants. Keeping a watchful eye on Blanche and Charlie, he made his way over to his partner.

"You know what Kid, it's kind of strange. There I was, thinkin' I was going to have to wait around for you to come riding in and save me."He grinned. "It's a good thing I'm such a genius at escaping. What happened? You getting too old for this kind of thing?" Heyes crouched down next to Kid and removed the gag. A closer glance into his partner's tense face told him everything. "Hey, you OK?" As Kid slowly nodded his head, Heyes took the opportunity to reach out and tug on the beard, eliciting a yelp of pain from his otherwise silent partner.

"Hey, watch it, that hurts!"

"Just wanted to see if it was real. Have you looked at yourself in a mirror? Sure can't call you Kid wearing something like this." He began working on the ropes. As they fell away Heyes sucked in his breath. "Aw Kid, you're bleeding. You sure were putting a lot of effort into getting loose, weren't you?"

With his hands free at last, Kid brought them forward. Looking down at his wrists he spoke quietly. "Had to. Knew I couldn't let Charlie get me alone. He had plans for me." Kid paused a moment and then lifted his head to look at Heyes. "But more than that, I knew that somewhere out there I had a partner that needed me. Guess it ended up me needing you, huh?"

Heyes grinned. "I think we both needed each other, Kid. Evened out the odds a bit, wouldn't you say?"

Kid returned his grin. Heyes rose, held out a hand to his partner and helped him to his feet. As he stood up rubbing his wrists, Kid looked over Heyes' shoulder and met Spencer's laughing eyes. With a stricken look he hurried towards the preacher, with Heyes following closely behind.

"I'm sorry Reverend, lettin' you sit here like this while me and Heyes stand around jabberin'- it's a wonder you don't feel like puttin' a few holes in us yourself!" Kid was busy untying the gag while Heyes was working on the ropes. As Spencer brought his arms around, Kid whistled softly. "You were tryin' awfully hard too, weren't you?"

"Well, the Lord helps those who help themselves, you know. I figured I'd better do my part if I expected Him to do His. And don't worry about taking time with your friend. It's been hard on both of you and it does me good to see your joy at being together again. I'm glad everything turned out alright for both of you."

After exchanging another look with Kid, Heyes turned around to look at Blanche and Charlie. "Yeah Reverend, it turned out a whole lot better for us than it's going to be for them." He walked over to Blanche and helped her to her feet. Using the rope he'd just removed from Spencer he tied her hands in front of her. Using her own words, he tied the last knot securely. "I won't gag you if you promise to be civil, Blanche."

She stepped closer and put her hands on his, gazing up into his eyes. "We could still have a good future together, Heyes. Just the two of us..."

Heyes removed her hands and took a step backwards. "Not the two of us Blanche. The two of you." He gestured towards Charlie. "You two will have a lot of time to think about your future." Heyes righted the chair that Kid had overturned and set Blanche down in it. He picked up the ropes that had recently been used on his partner, made his way over to the deputy and nudged him with his boot.

"Don't even think of trying anything, Charlie or it'll be the last thing you ever do!" Heyes pulled the deputy's hands behind his back, making sure they were knotted well. He looked over at Kid and Spencer and then back down at Charlie, knowing that the man was getting off easy compared to what he'd put all of them through. Oh, Blanche had certainly helped, but it was Charlie who'd done all the dirty work. Heyes could still feel the effects of the deputy's handiwork on his own wrists. And after what they'd put the Kid through, making him think he'd shot and killed his own partner... Heyes knew that had been far worse than everything else the pair had done.
Rising, he made his way over to where Kid sat next to Spencer. "Well, I don't think either of them is going anywhere soon. Reverend, thank you for everything. I'm glad Kid had you backing him up. That's usually what he does for me."

"Despite everything that happened, I was proud to be a part of it all, Joshua. Thaddeus did a fine job."

"Yes he did." Heyes cleared his throat. "Uh Reverend, I'm not quite sure how you found out who we were, but I'm sure glad you were on our side."

Spencer glanced at Kid before replying. "Well, how I found out doesn't matter and your secret will remain a secret as far as I'm concerned. You'll always be Joshua and Thaddeus to me."

Heyes smiled his thanks. "Considering everything you've already been through, we hate to ask anything else, but we can't go to the law ourselves. It might be a bit awkward, not to mention dangerous, if we were to take them in."

"It won't be any trouble Joshua. In fact, I was going to suggest that very thing. So you see, great minds work alike. I was hoping that you would accompany me part of the way, maybe as far as Silver Springs? I've learned a lot these past few days, but I must admit, I'd feel a lot more confident with you two along."

"It'd be our pleasure, Reverend. Let's go get that wagon hitched up and get on our way."

**********
When they were ready to leave, Kid called Heyes over to him.

"Got a little surprise for you in my saddlebag."

"A surprise for me? Aw Kid, you shouldn't have."

"Well, actually I didn't. It's something you lost."

"Something I lost?" With a quizzical look on his face, Heyes watched as his partner pulled something from the bag. Turning, Kid tossed it towards him.

Catching it, Heyes exclaimed, "My hat! I didn't think I'd ever see this again!" A smile lit his whole face. He looked at Kid. "But how did you-?"

"Let's just say I helped it escape from a certain deputy's jail cell in Kettledrum. Thought you might want it back." Shooting Heyes an amused glance, he continued, "Well, you gonna stand there all day admiring it or wear it? Wouldn't want you to get sunstroke or a brain fever from ridin' around without a hat. That's all I'd need, a loco partner! You're bad enough as it is, Heyes. Who knows what you'd be like if you didn't wear your hat-"

"Alright, alright already! You made your point. Look, the hat is on my head and that's where it's gonna stay. Now get up on your horse and let's get going."

The two men mounted up and when Kid had settled into the saddle, Heyes drew alongside him.

"Thanks, Kid."

Kid nodded and they turned to follow the wagon, one on each side of it, keeping an eye on the two prisoners while providing company for Spencer on the long ride to Silver Springs.

It was during one of their stops for water and rest that Kid became aware that Heyes was staring intently at him.

Becoming uncomfortable under Heyes'close scrutiny, Kid finally turned to him. "What? Something wrong?"

Heyes crossed one arm across his middle, resting his other elbow on it and put his finger under his chin as he continued staring thoughtfully at his partner.

Kid knew that look. Heyes was thinking. And when Heyes got to thinking... He looked at Spencer who raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders and shook his head in return. Clearly he had no idea either.

Real concern in his voice, he tried again. "Aw c'mon Heyes. What's goin'on? Why are you starin'at me like that?" As Kid reached up and felt the hair on his face he smiled with relief. "I know, it's the beard, isn't it?" He began to carefully peel the beard away from his face. "Boy, you really had me goin'there for a minute." Giving one final tug, Kid pulled the last piece of hair from his face. "That's what was botherin' you, right?"

"Noooo..." Heyes drew the word out, causing the smile to quickly disappear from his partner's face.

"Well, what is it then? Don't you think I've been through enough already without having to try and figure out what that genius brain of yours is thinkin'?"

Heyes stepped closer to Kid. Reaching out, he tipped Kid's hat backwards. "Well Kid, I was just thinkin'," he paused as a smile slowly spread across his face, "that with all that dark hair on your head, you sure don't look anything like the description on your wanted poster!"

Spencer's laughter joined Heyes' at the expression on Kid's face as he reached up to touch his head. In all the excitement he'd forgotten all about his hair!

Kid turned to Spencer. "It will wash out, right? That's what you told me, isn't it? I mean, I asked you before you dyed it and you said-"

"Yes, yes and yes!" Spencer's eyes were twinkling. "If I remember correctly, I believe it was somewhere around the time you were bargaining with me to keep your gun. You were a bit more interested in keeping your weapon than listening to me explain about the hair dye. I tried to get you to pay more attention, Thaddeus. But I promise you, it will all wash out." He paused briefly before adding, "just like I told you, in about two weeks."

"Two weeks?" Deep concern etched his face. "You mean I really have to walk around lookin 'like this for two weeks? Are you sure, Reverend? 'Cos I sure don't remember you tellin' me it would be two whole weeks! I'm positive I wouldn't make no mistake about something as important as that. C'mon, there's gotta be something I can do?" He looked hopefully at each of them. "You're just kidding around with me, right, Reverend? Heyes?"

"Cheer up, Kid. Two weeks isn't that bad, it'll be over before you know it." Heyes patted him on the shoulder as he headed towards his horse, hiding his smile as he winked at Spencer.

After giving Kid an encouraging smile, Spencer climbed into the wagon, released the brake and fell in next to Heyes.

Kid watched them leave, and sighed deeply as the sound of their laughter floated back to him. As he got on his own horse, he pushed his hat firmly down on his head and turned to follow them.

"It sure is gonna be a long two weeks,"he muttered. "Heyes is never gonna let me live this one down!"
 

4.7 Make No Mistake by moonshadow

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