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 4.3 Odds and Ends by JoAnn Baker

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Post4.3 Odds and Ends by JoAnn Baker

Odds and Ends
by JoAnn Baker



“Heyes, I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.” Kid Curry stood with his arms folded across his chest and a scowl on his face that would have made even the most hardened of outlaws think twice before crossing him.

The two men were standing behind the livery stable trying to keep their voices low to avoid calling attention to themselves. Two horses stood beside them, saddled and packed with gear and supplies. They had intended on leaving together, but a brief stop at the telegraph office had changed their plans.

“Kid, it only takes one of us to deliver that bill of sale to Franklin, and if one of us isn’t in Silver Creek by Monday – well that job will go to someone else and we could use the extra two hundred dollars right now.” Hannibal Heyes smiled, but received only an angry glare in return.

“Every time we do this something bad happens to one of us. Every – single – time!” He accentuated each word by jabbing his index finger at his partner’s chest.

“Well, look at it this way, Kid,” Heyes continued; a small smile slipping onto his face. “If something bad has happened every single time before, then the odds alone should convince you that we’ll be fine this time. Kid, would you stand on a twelve if all of the face cards had already been played?” He flashed a sly smile that made his partner roll his eyes.

“Heyes, this isn’t Black Jack, these are our lives we’re talking about.”

“Success in life is about calculating the odds, Kid, and the odds are definitely in our favor if we split up and collect for two jobs at the same time.” Heyes continued to smile confidently.

Curry groaned. He knew his partner well enough to know when his mind was made up and he had no choice but to go along with his plan. Maybe Heyes was right. Maybe nothing would go wrong.

The two set off together down the main street that headed out of town. At the end of the street, one headed north while the other continued east.


00000


One week later, Kid Curry strolled down the main street of White Fork, Colorado, where he and Heyes had planned to meet. He had delivered the document to Franklin and promptly received one hundred dollars. With plenty of money in his pocket for a nice room and a good dinner, he was in a much better mood than he had been in a few days before. He wouldn’t be completely at ease until Heyes arrived, but that wouldn’t be for a day or two, so he might as well get settled. The money Heyes was earning would bring their combined assets to three hundred dollars; enough that they wouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal was going to come from for a while.

Years of being on the run had developed in him the habit of almost unconsciously scanning his surroundings, noticing people, movement, actions, anything that might be out of the ordinary. This afternoon he found himself noticing a small girl who couldn’t be much older than five or six. She held a handful of wildflowers and was wandering along the edge of the street by herself. She seemed to notice more flowers growing in the weeds on the other side of the street and darted towards them. Kid smiled, wondering if her bouquet would make its way onto the family dinner table that night.

A thundering sound at the end of the street suddenly caught his attention and he looked up to see a stagecoach racing toward them – headed straight for the little girl who stood frozen in the middle of the street. She had dropped the flowers to the ground and was staring at the approaching horses. In a glance, Kid could see what looked like the slumped body of the driver lying across the seat and realized the coach was completely out of control. He raced into the path of the coach scooping up the little girl and reaching the other side of the street as the horses thundered past.

Kid looked into the startled face of the little girl he held in his arms and tried to give her a reassuring smile.

“Are you alright?” he asked as he gently set her down. She didn’t appear to have any injuries other than fright.

“They stepped on my flowers,” she said, pointing toward the crumpled stems and flowers strewn across the street. Her voice was shaky and she looked as if she was about to cry.

Kid smiled warmly. “Well, you can pick some more right here. Look how pretty these are.” He broke off a bright pink flower and held it out to her.

“Thank you.” She said, relaxing a little as she accepted the flower and began looking around for others.

Glancing up the street, he saw that some local men had managed to get the horses under control and were carrying the driver off. It appeared that the stagecoach had been empty.

“Elizabeth! There you are. What a bad girl you are.” A pretty dark haired young woman was hurrying towards them down boardwalk.

“Did you see that? She just ran right off into the street in front of that stagecoach!” The woman exclaimed loudly to no one in particular.

“Elizabeth,” she said again stopping next to the little girl and placing her hands on her hips in a frustrated manner. “What did you think you were doing?”

“I – I was looking for flowers to take home to papa,” she said timidly as her eyes filled with tears and she looked down at the pink flower in her hand.

“Now ma’am, there’s no harm done. Your daughter is just fine and you can still take some pretty flowers home,” Curry said smiling down at the little girl and trying to diffuse the awkward situation.

“My what? Oh – no she’s not my daughter.” The young woman smiled demurely at Kid as though noticing him for the first time. “I’m Charlotte Ford.”

“Thaddeus Jones, Ma’am,” Kid answered with a smile.

“Oh my, where are my manners? I really should be thanking you. I just don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t pulled Elizabeth out of the way of those awful horses. I’d have lost my job for sure.”

“Ma’am?” He stared at her as the smile faded from his face. “Your job?”

“Why yes, you see I’m Elizabeth’s governess and if she’d been injured…” The young woman sighed and shook her head. “I really am quite grateful.”

“Yes ma’am, well I’m glad your job is safe.” He stiffened and bit back the response he felt like giving.

Stay out of it. Heyes would say. It’s none of your business. He could almost hear his partner’s voice.

Kid squatted down and looked into the little girls eyes. “Good bye Elizabeth, you be sure and stay out of the street now, okay?”

Elizabeth nodded somberly and then gave him a small smile.

Slowly he stood and looked pointedly at the young woman. “Take good care of her ma’am, you wouldn’t want to lose your job.” He allowed a slightly threatening tone to slip into his voice before tipping his hat and heading back down the street toward the saloon.

Kid Curry spent the evening in the local saloon, and learned after a few hands of poker, that the stagecoach driver had suddenly taken ill just outside of town, but would recover. He also learned that talk of how a stranger had pulled a little girl from the path of the stage was also making its way around town. Great – Heyes you’d better get here tomorrow.


00000


The next morning, Kid waited impatiently in the telegraph office, pacing back and forth while the operator looked through the telegraphs received in the last few days.

“Just like I told you yesterday. No telegrams from a Mr. Smith or to a Mr. Jones.” The operator glared at him in irritation.

“Are you sure?” Curry asked tersely.

The telegraph operator gave a loud audible sigh. “Yes, Mr. Jones, I’ve checked three times.”

“Okay, thanks.” With slumped shoulders, Kid left the office and stepped out onto the street. He’d hoped that Heyes would have sent word by now that the job in Silver Creek was completed and he was on his way to White Fork. He was debating going to the café for an early lunch or taking his horse out for some exercise when he turned and came face to face with a deputy sheriff.

Kid tried to give the man an apologetic look and walk around him, but the deputy stepped to the side and blocked his way.

“Are you Thaddeus Jones?” The man asked in a serious tone.

“Uh, yes sir,” he replied hesitantly and tried not to look too concerned.

“The mayor wants to see you.” The deputy’s manner implied that he was not being given an option.

The mayor, well, that was better than the sheriff he supposed.

They walked the short distance to a newer looking corner building and Kid was ushered into a modest but nice looking office.

A tall well dressed man in his early forties looked up and immediately hurried over to Curry.

“Mr. Jones?” The man asked looking questioningly at the deputy, who affirmed with a nod.

“Uh, may I ask what all this is about?” The former outlaw asked nervously.

“I instructed Deputy Rogers not to let you get away.” The mayor replied.

“Get away?” Kid swallowed hard and stared back at the two men, his eyes moving from one to the other.

“¬¬– Until I had a chance to properly thank you for saving my daughter’s life yesterday.”

Recognition dawned in Curry’s blue eyes and he relaxed slightly.

The mayor grabbed his hand and pumped it heartily. “My name is William Graham and I’m the mayor of his town, but more importantly I’m Elizabeth’s father and she means the world to me. I don’t know how I can thank you enough for what you did yesterday, but I can get started by inviting you to my home for dinner tonight – and I won’t take no for an answer.” He smiled broadly and Curry found himself breathing a sigh of relief and thanking the mayor for the invitation.

So much for keeping a low profile, he thought as he left the mayor’s office and headed toward the livery stable. Word seemed to have spread through town and all along the street people were stopping to shake his hand or tip their hat. Kid cringed. Maybe someday this kind of recognition would be a welcome change from the kind he and Heyes usually experienced. Someday – but not today. Kid hoped that taking his horse out for some exercise would relieve a little of the tension he had built up. He might even run into Heyes on his way into town.


00000


Heyes wasn’t doing any better at keeping a low profile than his partner was. His prospects for dinner, however, weren’t looking nearly as good. He sat in the center of the group of six army soldiers, quietly staring down at the meager plate of beans in front of him.

“Excuse me? Do you think you could unlock these so I could handle this spoon a little easier?” He smiled and held out his manacled wrists.

“You can manage well enough,” the captain next to him grunted and returned to his own plate.

Ah well, it was worth a try. Heyes sighed and maneuvered his hands for another bite. He wasn’t sure what bothered him the most, being taken prisoner by this army detail, or admitting that his partner had been right. He only hoped the Kid had fared better than he had.

Everything had gone fine for the first few days, but just as he reached the outskirts of Silver Creek, his horse had gone lame. The arrival of the group of soldiers had seemed like a stroke of luck when they offered to give him a ride into town so he could arrange his business. The men had been riding for only than a few minutes when the looks that one of the lieutenants was giving Heyes became all too obvious. After a few whispers between the lieutenant and the captain, Heyes had found himself staring into the business ends of their revolvers. He had tried unsuccessfully to convince the man that he was mistaken, but was finally forced to wait out the situation – at least until he came up with a plan.

Riding along with the soldiers, Heyes watched the man who had identified him, searching for some recognition or memory of when he had seen him. He couldn’t remember the man’s face, but that didn’t mean much. He’d long ago realized that passengers on a train that he was holding up were much more likely to have his face etched on their mind than he was to have theirs. It was one of the things that made both Heyes and Curry edgy when meeting strangers and so they had learned to be cautious and watch each other’s backs. Curry wasn’t with him now though, he was alone with six armed soldiers and he knew what his chances were if he tried to buck those odds.


00000


Later that afternoon, Kid returned to his hotel room and dressed in his gray pinstripe suit. The ride had given him a chance to relax and clear his mind, but he hadn’t run into his partner. The job had probably taken a day or two longer than Heyes had anticipated. Meanwhile, he’d enjoy the hospitality of the mayor of the town and have a good meal. Hopefully Heyes would arrive tomorrow and they could both dine at the mayor’s before heading out. He supposed Heyes had been right after all, everything was working out just fine and they’d have three hundred dollars to split when they met back up.

Kid Curry rode briskly down the dirt road that would lead him to Mayor Graham’s home. After following the road for half a mile he saw the gates that he’d been told to look for. Reining his horse to a stop, he sat upright in his saddle and stared open mouthed at the sight in front of him. He blinked and shook his head. The white pillared home before him could better be described as a mansion than a house. The two-story building and surrounding gardens looked like something that belonged in one of those rich eastern cities ¬¬– not here out west.

Kid nudged his mare forward and rode through the gates toward the large front entrance. As he approached the house, he was greeted by a shy looking young man who seemed to be expecting him.

“You must be Mr. Jones.”  The stable boy said reaching for the reins.  Kid nodded and dismounted, then took a deep breath and started toward the house.

The young man cleared his throat. “My name is Hank, sir.” He said nervously. “I’ll take care of your horse and your, uh, gun.” Seeing wary look, on the guest’s face, he went on. “The mayor doesn’t allow guns in his home. I can keep that here for you with your horse if you’d like.” He gave Curry an apologetic look.

Kid hesitated for a moment, glancing from the young man to the house and around the grounds. Sensing that everything was safe, he slowly unbuckled his gun belt and handed it over. After his horse was led away, he stepped onto the porch and rapped lightly on the door.

He was greeted by a well dressed older gentleman with a serious expression. “Good evening Mr. Jones. Mayor Graham will see you in the library.” The man seemed to evaluate Kid with his eyes and Kid smiled nervously.

“This way.” The gentleman turned and led the way to the library.

Kid stepped hesitantly through the doorway into the library and saw Mayor Graham look up from where he was seated in a high backed chair. Graham rose and gave him a broad smile as he walked forward to shake his hand.

“I’m so glad you could make it.” The mayor exclaimed. “I trust you’ve been treated well?”

“Uh, yes sir, everything’s fine.” Kid nodded.

“Good, good, can I offer you a drink before dinner?” He indicated a tray that held a crystal decanter and two glasses.

“Yes sir, don’t mind if I do.” Kid replied.

As the Mayor Graham poured two drinks, he found himself looking around the room and his eyes widened in amazement as he took in bookcase after bookcase that reached from the floor to the ceiling. Each filled with more books than he had ever seen in one place. *Heyes is gonna love this* he thought as he continued to scan the bookcases and wondered how many of them Heyes had read. *How would Heyes even know where to start looking? So many* “books”. Kid said out loud without realizing it.

“Mr. Jones?” The mayor was looking at him expectantly.

“What?” Kid looked back blankly.

“I said, are you a writer or a publisher?”

“Sir?” Kid asked, realizing that he hadn’t heard what the mayor had asked him.

“I asked what line of work you were in and you said ‘books’. Are you a writer or publisher?” Graham repeated patiently.

“Uh, writer.” Kid replied in a slightly vague tone.

“And please call me Thaddeus. How long have you and Elizabeth lived here?” He asked, hoping to change the subject.

“I’ve been here eight years, Elizabeth was born right here in this house.” Graham smiled pleasantly, and then returned to the earlier topic.

“Your friend that you’ve been waiting to meet, is he a writer too?”

“Actually, he’s a publisher.” Kid said, taking another drink from his glass of whiskey.

“How interesting.” Graham commented as he took a sip from his own glass.

Kid had immediately regretted telling Graham that he was a writer. *What if the mayor asked him questions?* His only hope was to keep the conversation away from the subject of books.

“Tell me about yourself, Thaddeus.” Graham said casually.

“Well, I’d really rather not talk about myself, you see, I’m traveling around the west doing research for a new book on the people of the west, so I’d really much rather hear about you. For example, how is it that you have a home that looks-“He paused groping for a word “like this” he gestured around with his arm “out here in the west?”

Graham smiled as though recalling a fond memory. “Well, you see this was all for my wife really. You see she was from a very wealthy family back east. High society you know–“he gave Kid a wink. “Anyway, she wanted to raise Elizabeth with culture and refinement. I tried to give her a little bit of *home * so she wouldn’t feel so isolated out here.”

A melancholy look spread across his face. “She died of small pox when Elizabeth was two. She was expecting our second child, and well, she just couldn’t fight it off. I promised her that I would raise Elizabeth to appreciate all of the fine things that were so much a part of her mother’s life.

“But now back to you Thaddeus, where did you say you were from?”

Kid squirmed uneasily in his chair, and was granted a temporary reprieve with the arrival of Elizabeth and Charlotte.

“Mayor Graham, Elizabeth wanted to say hello.” Charlotte remained in the doorway, looking cautiously at Kid.

“Daddy! This is the man who saved me.” The little girl announced excitedly.

“Yes, I know sweetheart.” Graham laughed, scooping his daughter up for a hug. “He’s going to be joining us for dinner tonight.

Charlotte, why don’t you show Mr. Jones to the dining room? Elizabeth and I will be along in a minute.”

Charlotte Ford gave Kid an inviting look and led the way out of the library. As soon as they had stepped into the hallway, she leaned toward him and spoke in a hushed tone. “Thank you for not telling the mayor that Elizabeth had been alone on the street.”

“He didn’t ask. If he does - I’ll tell him the truth. Or if I have any reason to believe that Elizabeth is in any further danger.” Kid said quietly as they walked to the dining room.

*Who appointed him guardian of the world.* Charlotte thought haughtily, then took a breath and resumed her efforts.

“Of course I wouldn’t ask you to *lie.* Perhaps, we can get together later?” She proposed slyly.

Kid involuntarily took a step backwards as she pressed in closer to him. She reminded him strangely of a cat eyeing its prey.

“I don’t think so ma’am. I have some business to attend to and I’ll be leaving soon.

Charlotte stepped away from him and flashed him an angry glare, then stormed off toward the dining room. Kid followed her into the dining room and let out a surprised gasp when he saw the table.

The table was filled with fine china with pretty little roses painted on it. Each place had multiple plates, bowls, cups, glasses, and six or seven pieces of silverware. Kid blinked several times. He had eaten in some fancy restaurants a few times, but nothing like this.

After Elizabeth and the mayor arrived and were seated, the cook began bringing in the food. There was soup, salad, roast beef, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and the best biscuits Kid had ever eaten.

At first, Kid had been nervous about which utensil to use, but Elizabeth had nudged him and pointed to the correct spoon to use for his soup and he had slowly taken his cues from Graham and Charlotte for the rest.

The conversation had stayed light at the dinner table, with Elizabeth chattering away to the two men about all of the events of her day. Kid would have expected the mayor to lead the conversation, but he seemed to enjoy listening to his daughter.

Only Charlotte seemed uninterested in the conversation. She sat quietly at the table and studied Mr. Jones curiously. The man she had met in town yesterday had seemed different from this man across the table. Yesterday he wore cowboy clothes and had a six-gun strapped to his leg. He had a ruggedness about him that suggested cowboy or outdoorsman, not the refined author that he was purporting to be tonight. His quick reflexes, speedy dash across the street and strong arms that had swooped Elizabeth up in one fluid motion, didn’t seem to fit someone who spent their days at a desk with a quill and inkwell.

After dinner, Elizabeth gave her father a hug and kiss goodnight, and then bounced over to Kid to give him the same. The gesture surprised him at first, but he gently returned the hug and told her goodnight. As Elizabeth trotted off with Charlotte, Kid looked up to see the mayor watching them with a troubled expression on his face.

“That little girl is my whole world, Thaddeus. I really don’t want to think about what could have happened if you hadn’t been on the street yesterday. Will join me in the library for a cigar?”

“Well, Sir–“

“William, please call me William.”

“Uh, William, I really should be getting back. My par–publisher is due in any time and I’d really like to be there when he gets in.”

“Just for a few minutes, there is something that I must ask you.”

Curry’s heart skipped a beat, but his face remained neutral. “What about?” He asked casually, following the mayor into the library. His right arm hung loosely at his side. The habit had become an involuntary response over the years to stress and danger.

Graham handed the younger man a cigar and lit it for him, then he lit his own.

“Yesterday morning, when Elizabeth ran into the street, did you see where she came from?”

Kid looked back at the mayor in surprise. This was not what he had been expecting. “Came from?” He asked puzzled.

“Yes, did she run out of a shop, was she walking with Charlotte?”

*Well, he had told Charlotte that he wouldn’t lie to the mayor.* “No, she was walking along the street by herself, she was picking wildflowers. She looked over at some real pretty pink ones across the street and just started to run over when the horses came running into town. She sorta froze for a minute and didn’t run out of the way. That’s when I ran over.”

“I see. That’s not the story that Charlotte told me. She said that Elizabeth had been with her in the mercantile store and just ran out the door and across the street while she was at the counter making her purchase.”

Graham stared across the room in silence for a few moments. “It seems I’ve been a poor judge of character. I will have to address this problem with Charlotte tomorrow.” He sighed and returned his attention to Curry. “Again, I owe you a great debt, you have my deepest gratitude.” He said nodding.

Kid stayed a few more minutes and then headed out to collect his horse and gun and ride back to the hotel.

---

The next morning, Kid walked out of the telegraph office with a frown on his face. Still no word. He had half expected to find Heyes waiting for him in his hotel room when he returned from dinner the night before, but the room had been empty.
As good as things had been going for him the last two days, he couldn’t quite shake the uneasy feeling that something could still go wrong. He knew he wouldn’t be able to relax until Heyes arrived and he knew for sure that he was safe. Waiting around had never been something that Curry was particularly fond of. He had promised to return to the mayor’s home for dinner, but he had hoped his partner would be with him. Glancing up an down the street – more out of habit than any real concern – he decided that a game of poker might take his mind off of Heyes for a while.

An hour later, Kid was fifty dollars down and beginning to think he had underestimated the poker talent at the table. Either that or he was having exceptionally bad luck today. With a sigh he threw down the cards he’d been holding. “Deal me out boys.” He muttered to the other players as he rose to leave. As he headed toward the door, he noticed a crowd gathering in the street and wondered what all of the commotion was about.

“Hey, what’s going on?” He asked one of the men standing outside the saloon.

“Group of soldiers just showed up, they’ve got a prisoner with ‘em. Some famous outlaw or something.” The man said with a shrug. “You’d think the president himself was here to hear them.” He nodded down the street toward a group gathered outside the sheriff’s office.

Kid felt a knot tighten in his stomach. *It couldn’t be Heyes, it couldn’t possibly be. If he’d been recognized in Silver Creek he’d have been jailed there, not brought here. And the men who brought him in weren’t bounty hunters. No, whoever it was, it couldn’t be Heyes.*

Unable to convince himself, Kid walked slowly toward the sheriff’s office, studying the crowd for any familiar faces. As he approached the group, his hope sunk as he heard the words “Devil’s Hole Gang” and “Hannibal Heyes” being bantered about. *Maybe this is another case of mistaken identity, like with Alex or Fred what’s-his-name.* He told himself, trying to hold on to some hope. Looking past the men and through the window of the sheriff’s office however, his fears were confirmed. He could clearly see Heyes being escorted past the window by the sheriff – into the jail cell he figured.

Curry looked away and took a deep breath. *Don’t look too interested,* he cautioned himself, scanning the group again for anyone he recognized. He wanted to let Heyes know he was there, not to worry, that he’d work out a plan. He *wanted* to barge in there right now with his gun drawn and demand they release Heyes. He concentrated on taking long deep breaths to slow his racing heart. *How am I going to get you out of there Heyes? We wouldn’t get five feet outside the sheriff’s office before one of those soldiers took us down.*

Slowly, he slipped out of the crowd, keeping his head down and trying not to call any attention to himself. He stepped into the shadows by the side of the mercantile store and leaned against the wall. He had a good view of the sheriff’s office from there, and wouldn’t be noticed by the soldiers or the townsfolk out in the street. He felt like a coward for hiding, but Heyes stood a better chance with him on the outside. *After all, Heyes was the logical one right? The one who always played the odds. He was the impulsive one, the hotheaded one who solved problems with his gun or his fists rather than his head. Heyes needed him to stay calm.*

His mind wandered to what Heyes was probably doing inside. Pacing restlessly, wondering if Curry was in town, wondering if his partner knew he was in jail. Already forming a plan, although he wouldn’t have anyone to tell it to. *Would Heyes try something on his own, or wait for me to make a move?*

Kid closed his eyes and slumped against the wall. He had to think, had to clear his head. Thinking over his options, he walked back toward the hotel.

Once in his room, he dressed again in the suit he’d worn to the mayor’s the night before. The mayor was bound to have information about Heyes. Maybe if he probed carefully he could figure out a way to get Heyes out of there – without getting them both killed in the process.

---

Arriving at the mayor’s home, Curry stepped up onto the front porch and was promptly greeted at the door by a smiling and jumping six year old. “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting aaaaall day.” She gave him a stern look but couldn’t hold the mean expression for more than a few seconds before a grin once again filled her face. “Do you know how to play jacks?”

“Yep,” Kid laughed and smiled down at her, “I used to play with my brothers a long time ago.” A shadow crossed his face for a moment but Elizabeth didn’t seem to notice. “Is your father home? I need to speak with him.”

Elizabeth frowned and shook her head. “No, he had to work late again.”

Kid gave her an understanding nod.

“What about Charlotte? Is she around?” He looked past the little girl into the sitting room and down the hall. He didn’t see any sign of the nanny.

“She’s packing.” Elizabeth said flatly. Daddy says she’s getting a new job in town.

“Oh, I see.” Kid looked down at the little girl. “I suppose you will miss her.”

“Maybe a little, but she wasn’t that nice sometimes.” Elizabeth looked down at the floor and began fidgeting with her feet.

“Well, maybe a game or two of jacks while we wait.” Kid said encouragingly.

She brightened instantly and ran to get the jacks and ball.

He didn’t feel at all like playing games, but he didn’t want to let Elizabeth down. He also knew he had to act as if nothing was bothering him. If the mayor arrived home and found him there in a panicked state, he was sure to suspect something. Any chance Heyes had depended on his remaining above suspicion.

“Hey, you’re pretty good, do you practice a lot?” Kid asked after a few rounds.

The little girl smiled up at him proudly. “Maaaybe.” She said slyly.

Kid grinned and shook his head. “I don’t know, you may beat me, it’s been a long time.” He said tossing the ball and snatching up five jacks.

“Uh uh, you’re way too fast.” She said in awe.

“He sure is fast, isn’t he?” A voice called from the doorway.

Kid looked up, startled, and immediately rebuked himself for becoming so engrossed in the game that he hadn’t heard someone walk in. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “It sorta comes back to you.” He said as casually as he could.

Mayor Graham nodded, staring curiously at Curry for a moment, and then smiled contritely. “I apologize for getting home so late, there was some business in town that needed my attention.”

“Uh, yeah, when I was leaving I noticed a big commotion. What was that all about?” Kid drew on all of his experience to appear calm and unruffled.

“An Army detail was coming through on their way to Denver. It seems they are transporting a special gold shipment that had been left behind by a renegade group of Confederate soldiers after the war. Coming through the mountains they ran into a man whose horse had gone lame. One of the men recognized him. It was Hannibal Heyes. I don’t know what he was doing in Colorado, and all alone without Kid Curry or the Devil’s Hole Gang.” The mayor shook his head and frowned.

“Yeah, sounds kinda careless to me. I’d always heard Hannibal Heyes was supposed to be real smart too.” Kid agreed.

“Say, did you’re publisher show up yet?” The mayor asked casually.

“Uh, actually, I did get a telegram from him today and he’s running a few days behind schedule. He wants me just to meet him next week in Denver.” Kid lied smoothly, hoping he didn’t look as nervous as he felt.

“I see. Well, then you’ll be heading out soon.” Graham said it more as a statement than a question.

“Well, I don’t have to leave right away. I may stick around for a couple of days.”

The mayor seemed to ponder that for a moment. “I see. Well, let’s have dinner. I’m starved.”

On the way into the dining room, they passed Charlotte, who glared at Curry as she headed for the front door. In the dining room a meal equal to the one that had been served the night before sat waiting for them.

Over dinner Kid learned that the soldiers planned to stay in town the next day to rest their horses and re-supply for the rest of their journey. They intended to leave Heyes in the custody of the town sheriff until extradition to Wyoming could be arranged. It seemed they were on a tight schedule and didn’t want to be bothered by transporting a prisoner any further than necessary. This was encouraging, Kid thought, since taking on six soldiers single handedly wasn’t something he was looking forward to.

Suddenly a thought occurred to Curry. He’d been kicking himself for telling the mayor that he was a writer ever since the words had spilled out of his mouth, but now, maybe he could use it to find a way to help Heyes.

“You know, William, I sure would like to interview a famous outlaw. It would make a fascinating article, or maybe even a whole book. Do you think there’d be any way I could visit him tomorrow?” Kid smiled as innocently as he could.

Mayor Graham frowned and thought for a moment. “Well, he’s not supposed to have any visitors” He paused again as though wrestling with the decision. “But, he’s very well guarded, so there shouldn’t be in any danger. I’ll speak with the sheriff in the morning and tell him to let you in.”

“Thank you William, I appreciate you doing that for me.” Kid said gratefully.

“Yes, well, I do owe you more than that after all.” The mayor said as he glanced over at his daughter who was devouring a big slice of apple pie.

Kid’s eyes traveled to Elizabeth and then back to the mayor. The two men’s eyes met and held for a moment and Kid had the feeling Graham knew more than he was letting on. Kid smiled uneasily and scooped up a bite of his own slice of pie.  Regardless of the risk, he had to see Heyes. Together they could figure out a way to get out of this. They just had to.

---


Two quiet figures stood in the shadows behind the stable.

“Charlotte, when will be able to see each other if you’re staying in town?” He spoke in a hushed voice, but the pleading tone was still evident.

“Well Hank, you’ll have to take that up with Mr. Jones.” She answered bitterly and turned away. “I’ll find a way to make him pay for what he’s done to me.” Her eyes had a distant and slightly menacing look that might have frightened her companion if he had seen them in the light. “Just drive me to town. I want to get settled into the boarding house tonight.” She was already walking toward the carriage.

“Well, if you want my opinion, he’s not who or what he says he is.” Hank mumbled as he reached to give the harnesses a tug to check that they were secure.

“Why do you say that?” Charlotte spun around and looked directly at Hank.

“That gun he carries for one thing.” He replied with a shrug.
“He said he has it for protection when he travels alone. Lots of men carry guns.” She said skeptically.

“Not one like that.” Hank said as a slow smile spread across his face.

This time she looked intently into Hank’s face, as though gauging the value of what he had to say. “Why?”

“Well…” He began, speaking slowly and savoring the fact that he now had her undivided attention.

“It’s a single action revolver, which means you don’t have to cock it in between shots. That’s for rapid fire – like in a gunfight. Also the balance, it’s perfect. You can’t buy a gun like that; you have to build it in yourself.”

She was staring at him in fascination. “How do you know all of that?”

“Well, I’ve always been kinda interested in guns. I talk to people, pick things up. My uncle is a deputy sheriff up in Wyoming and I spent one summer with him. Learned a lot from him. There’s more.”

“Go on, what else did you notice about Mr. Jones’ gun?”

“Well, there’s the way he wears it, low and tied down – that’s for a fast draw. That’s not a gun for an amateur or some city slicker just lookin’ for a little protection. That gun’s for a *professional.”* He added with emphasis.

“A professional what?”

“Marksman – soldier, lawman…gunfighter…outlaw.” He paused.

“Lots of cowboys and ranch hands are good marksmen.” She challenged.

“Sure, but then why lie about it? Unless…”

“Unless he was wanted.” She finished the sentence and then rewarded him with a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Let’s get into town. I want to see what else we can find out about *Mr. Jones.”*

Hank grinned triumphantly as he climbed into the carriage and grabbed the reins.

***

Hannibal Heyes rolled over and began to register his surroundings. Hard mattress – not a very good hotel room. Indoors – better than on the dirt. *Kid?* He slowly opened his eyes and groaned as the memory of where he was returned to him. Still lying still on the cot, he cautiously surveyed the room. One medium sized jail cell, occupied by him. Two deputy sheriff’s seated on the other side of the bars looking like they wanted nothing more to crawl into a warm bed – must have spent the whole night just watching him sleep. He chuckled at the thought. Sometimes lawmen sure seemed to overestimate his abilities, considering the measures they took to guard him. He sighed. *No, no miraculous escape this time.* He was sure that the soldiers who had delivered him to this fine establishment were close by also, judging by the presence of the crate he saw sitting behind the two deputies. He knew that it contained gold bars that the army detail was escorting to Denver.

“Morning gents, sleep well?” Heyes asked pleasantly. He sat up and slowly swung his legs over the side of the cot. “Don’t suppose a fella could get a shave and a bath?”

The first deputy laughed dryly. “I heard you had a real sense of humor, Heyes. Looks like I heard right.”

The second deputy, younger and friendlier looking stood up and walked towards the bars. “Good morning Mr. Heyes, I’m real pleased to meet –“

“Carl.” The other man snapped. “Git back here. You can’t go up to those bars while you’re wearing that gun. He’s likely to rip it right outta that holster and shoot you with it!”

Carl’s face went white as he stepped back. “I’ll go tell the sheriff he’s awake.” He said as he turned and walked toward the door leading out of the cell area.

Heyes tried to hide a smile as he watched the young deputy fumble to open the door.

Breakfast was brought in and a new shift of guards relieved the two whom Heyes had awoken to find watching him.

The two new guards had just begun to deal out a card game when the door opened and the sheriff walked in followed by two men in suits. As the second man entered the room and turned toward the jail cell, Heyes’ eyes widened and he immediately turned his head to hide his shock. Running his hand over his face, he composed himself and looked back with a neutral expression. *Kid, I sure hope you know what you’re doing,* was all he could think.

“Mr. Jones, this here is Hannibal Heyes, the most famous outlaw in all the west.” The sheriff announced proudly, as though the mere fact that Heyes was in his jail made him important also. “You’d better not get too close to those bars, there’s no telling what he might do. We’re being real careful with him.”

“Well, I won’t need to get too close, just ask him a few questions. This is a wonderful opportunity for me.” Kid said in a voice that reminded Heyes of times he had pretended to be a sophisticated gentleman.  

“Are you uh, my lawyer?” Heyes asked cautiously.

“Oh no, Mr. Heyes, this is Thaddeus Jones. He’s a writer. He’s working on a book about the west and he’d like to include an interview with a famous outlaw like yourself. My name is William Graham, and I’m the Mayor of this fine town.”

“Oh, well, Mayor Graham, I’m not sure I can agree to an interview.” Heyes said shaking his head. He glanced at Kid whose jaw had dropped open. “With all of these people present.  The only way I’ll agree to talk to him is if it’s an exclusive interview. He’s the only one in the room.”  Heyes stepped back and crossed his arms. His face had a look of firm resolution.

The sheriff glanced doubtfully at the mayor. Graham cleared his throat and gave Curry an appraising look. “Well, I don’t see how ten minutes could hurt. Your men can be right outside the door. You just shout if you have any trouble, won’t you Thaddeus?”

“Oh, absolutely, but I’m sure I won’t have any trouble at all.” Kid gave the mayor a smile that was so charming and innocent that Heyes had to look away again to keep from letting out a laugh.

“Alright, ten minutes, but no more.” The sheriff motioned to his deputies and all four men walked out and closed the door.

As soon as the door closed, Heyes was at the bars gripping one tightly in each hand. “What on earth are you doing?” He hissed. “How long do you figure it’ll take them to match the description of my ‘visitor’ up with Kid Curry, huh? Your poster is right over there on that wall.” He pointed accusingly at the side wall.

Kid looked hurt for a moment “Heyes, don’t worry. William - Mayor Graham likes me. I’ve had dinner at his house two nights in a row. Believe me Heyes, he trusts me. On account of his daughter.”

On the word *daughter* Heyes eyes flew open. “Oh great, just great. I sit here in jail while you’re romancing the mayor’s daughter.”

Curry stared back, confused at first but then a broad grin spread across his face.

“Heyes, I saved her life. A runaway stagecoach was about to trample her. She’s six years old.”

“Oh.” Heyes said sheepishly. “Well, I guess that’s a little young. Even for you.”

“C’mon Heyes. Give me a little credit.”

Heyes grinned at his partner. “Kid, do they really believe you’re a writer?”

“Well, yeah sure. Why wouldn’t they?”

Heyes shrugged. “No reason.” He replied innocently, and then unable to keep a straight face gave in to a small chuckle.

“Well I’m glad you’re in such a good mood.” Kid said dryly. “So what are we going to do?”

The joking was over and Heyes’ face took on a somber expression. “Okay, okay, we don’t have much time. How many men they got out there?”

“Too many, Heyes. They’ve got the two in here, two in the outer office – plus the sheriff. Then two or three of the soldiers taking turns outside on the street. ‘Round the clock, all through the night. We wouldn’t get ten feet without getting shot down. Maybe a lot of townsfolk too.”

Heyes nodded slowly, thinking about all of the extra security. “I don’t think that’s all for me. I think it’s on account of that gold over there.” He glanced toward the box that sat across the room. “After the soldiers leave with it, the security should drop some.

Heyes began to pace as he formed his plan. You’ll have to get the key to the cell, or something I can use to pick it with. I’ll need a gun – and bullets. Maybe if you can get your hands on some dynamite you can create a diversion, or at least blast through that wall there. Maybe tonight¬¬ –“

“We’ll have to wait until tomorrow, the soldiers are supposed to leave in the morning.” Curry interjected.

“Oh? Your friend the mayor tell you that?” Heyes snapped.

“Yeah, he did, and you should be happy he likes me. He could be a real big help.” Kid shot back defensively.

Heyes’ face softened and he allowed a small smile. “I am Kid, really I am. Look, if things don’t work out and this is the end, then–“

“Heyes.” Curry cut him off. “This isn’t how it ends. I’m gonna get you outta here.” He said confidently.

Heyes was momentarily taken aback by the determination he saw in his friends face.

“I know Kid, just don’t do anything stu – dangerous. Look, sometimes if you get swept down a river you just have to let it carry you along for a while until you see your opportunity. Fighting against it can kill you.”

Curry narrowed his eyes and glared at his partner. “Heyes, I’ve *been* swept down a river and it *did* almost kill me.” He said through clenched teeth.

Before Heyes could respond, they heard the heavy door creaking open and saw the sheriff and mayor returning, followed by the two deputies.

The partners locked eyes for a moment before Curry turned to head out. Heyes indicating that he had faith in his friend’s ability to break him out and Curry pledging his commitment to do just that.

Mayor Graham followed his young friend into the outer office, and then pulled him aside.

“Look, Thaddeus.” He began and then paused, as though searching for the right words. “I told you last night that I owe you for saving Elizabeth and I still feel that way, but there is something else I need you to understand.”

Curry blinked and looked guardedly back at the mayor.

“I owe *you*, no one else.” His eyes darted toward the room with the cell. “I also have a responsibility to this town. Now I may overlook a few coincidences and *resemblances*.” He paused and looked straight at Curry. “But I won’t lie and I won’t break the law. And I most certainly will not place this town or anyone in it in any kind of danger. Now that you’ve had your visit, I think it would be best if you were on your way. Do I make myself clear?”

Curry’s stomach knotted but his face remained calm. “Yes Sir.” He replied flatly, and turned to walk out.

“Thaddeus.” Graham called after him. “Good luck and – stay out of trouble.”

Curry smiled wryly. *Why did everyone keep saying that?* “I’ll try Sir.” He replied and stepped outside.

***

From across the street, Charlotte and Hank watched Kid Curry leave the Sheriff’s office.

“I knew it, checking through those wanted posters really paid off.” Charlotte whispered, quite pleased with herself.

“Yep, he matches the description of Kid Curry alright, and seeing him go to visit Hannibal Heyes just about clinches it.” Hank agreed.

“Kid Curry had the highest reward of the bunch too.” She reflected with satisfaction.

“Ten thousand dollars, Charlotte. We could get married and start our own ranch with that much of a stake.” He grinned broadly.

Charlotte turned her back so Hank wouldn’t see the expression on her face – which had turned to a frown.

“Well, we can talk about all of that later. First we have to capture him and turn him in to the Sheriff.” The smile returned to her face.

“And just how do you plan to do that?” Hank asked.

“I’ll invite him up to my room and you can be there, hidden of course. When his back is turned you can hit him over the head with something and then we’ll take his gun and tie him up.” She replied, confident of her plan.

“He’s going into the mercantile. I’ll talk with him when he comes out and invite him to my room tonight.”

Hank stared back in shock. “Charlotte, what’s he gonna think of you inviting him to your room like that?”

“Well who cares what he thinks, I’ll be doing it for us, and after all you’ll be right there.”

The young man seemed satisfied with that, but one reservation remained. “Charlotte. What if he says he won’t go?” He asked cautiously.

She hesitated for only a moment before answering. “Then I’ll hint that I know who he is, and that I can help him get his friend out of jail. I suspect he’s willing to take a risk if it means saving his friend. Otherwise he’d have left town as soon as he heard Heyes had been arrested. He’ll come. She smiled confidently and Hank’s concerns faded away.

***

The day progressed uneventfully for Hannibal Heyes. He watched the guards play cards and change shifts. The deputies had been ordered not to talk to him or get close to the bars, so joining in their game or conversation wasn’t an option. A bowl of beans was brought in for supper and he prepared to spend another night sleeping alone on the hard cot.  Hopefully Kid had been able to find dynamite and ammunition without calling too much attention to himself.

Heyes was mentally sitting on his cot and rehearsing the plan he’d been formulating when four of the soldiers who had captured him entered the room. A knot tightened in his stomach when he saw that one of them carried a pair of shackles – the same kind they’d locked his wrists in after the young lieutenant identified him.

“What’s all this about?” Heyes rose and walked to the bars.

“Sorry Heyes, looks like you won’t be getting much sleep tonight. We’ve been ordered to move out early and take you with us.”

“What? Why? I thought a Marshal from Wyoming was coming down.” Heyes demanded, grabbing a bar in each hand and giving the Captain a dangerous glare.

Impervious to the attempted intimidation, the Captain stepped up to the bars and looked the outlaw straight in the eyes.

“Frankly, we’d rather not have you along, but those are our orders.”

“Orders? From who? Why aren’t they sending a Marshal?” Heyes knew he was starting to sound desperate but he needed more time. He’d been making a plan to escape from jail, not on the trail. *Would Kid even know he’d been taken? How long before he found out?* He forced his panic down and concentrated on maintaining a strong front.

“Alright Heyes, let’s go.” The door was swung open and the heavy shackles were locked around his wrists. Heyes walked behind the Captain while the others followed, guns trained on his back. The crate containing the gold bars was loaded onto their wagon and Heyes was helped into the back. He would ride in the wagon this time, while two soldiers sat up front and the other four rode on horseback along side. They left quietly, hardly noticed by the sleeping town.

Heyes wondered again what Kid would do in the morning when he found him gone, and wondered if he’d even be told when they’d left.

***

The pink glow peaking out from behind the mountain peaks would have earned at least a moment of appreciation on any other morning, but Hannibal Heyes was in no mood to admire this particular sunrise. His mood had been sullen ever since the group had ridden out of Silver late the night before. Any last shred of hope that his partner had followed them was nearly gone. Certainly the mountain pass that they had ridden through would have been the best place for an ambush and darkness would have provided the best cover. No, as the sun began to rise, Heyes’ hopes were clearly sinking.

“Lieutenant, aren’t we going to make camp and get a little rest soon? We’ve been traveling all night. What’s your hurry?” Heyes asked as the young soldier rode up alongside the wagon.

“Captain Lewis wants to keep moving as long as possible.” The Lieutenant replied. “We’ve had reports of outlaws in this part of the country and our orders to get these gold bars safely to the Denver mint.”  

“Oh, outlaws. I can see that you don’t want any of *those* near this here chest.” Heyes observed wryly, as he looked down at the box containing the gold bars.

“Don’t get any ideas. You aren’t going anywhere with that.” The Lieutenant scoffed and rode back up toward the Captain.

“Something I said?” Heyes asked the soldier riding on the buckboard.

“Some of the men are just a little annoyed at the change in orders. They think having you along makes us a bigger target.” The young man shrugged. “But I figure if your old gang was going to try anything they’d have done it by now.”

Heyes looked away and back towards the trail. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He admitted gloomily.

“What’s your name soldier?”

“Private Wilson, Sir.”

“So, Private Wilson, why are you escorting me to Cheyenne?” He asked, anxious for anything to occupy his thoughts other than his prospects for rescue.

“We’re not; we’re just meeting the Marshals from Wyoming up by Fort Collins, before we head down to Denver.”

Heyes looked back in Surprise. “They’re still sending a Marshal to pick me up? Why didn’t they just send the Marshal to White Fork where I was safe and locked up?”

“Political pressure.” Wilson replied. “That’s what Captain Lewis said. Someone didn’t want you in that town.”

“Why? It would have made the town famous. A lot of towns would love that kind of publicity.” Heyes was becoming interested.

Again the soldier shrugged. “Maybe they thought you’d attract the wrong element.” He looked back at Heyes and grinned. “Maybe they just didn’t want to feed you.”

“Hm,” Heyes grunted. “I can’t imagine why. Nobody in their right mind would eat that food by choice.”

The young man smiled again, a real smile this time. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I feel the same about some of the rations we get sometimes.”

Heyes laughed and the two continued to joke and share a light conversation as the morning wore on.

When the group finally took a break to give the horses food and water, the young Private helped Heyes out of the wagon to stretch his legs. Heyes looked warily across the landscape. If he made a run for it he’d be shot before he got ten yards out. Even if he made it, where would he go? Especially with his wrists still shackled together. Sighing, he paced back and forth, aware that he was being closely watched. He wondered again what the Kid would do when he awoke and found him gone.

“Move out, men.” Captain Lewis ordered, and Heyes was helped back into the wagon as the men mounted up.

The afternoon dragged on and Heyes was beginning to feel bruised and sore from riding over the bumpy trail. Now he knew how Kid had felt when he’d been tied up in that chuck wagon on the drive to Tenstrike.

Heyes had just begun to doze off in the afternoon sun when he was awoken by the jostling of the wagon. Quickly looking around, he realized that they were heading down a rocky bank toward the river. He tried to catch the eye of the Private riding next to the driver but both soldiers were concentrating hard on the finding the best way for the wagon to get down to the river. Looking ahead, he saw Captain Lewis and his Lieutenant already wading into the river. “Isn’t this river a little high to cross right now?” He asked hoping to get the attention of one of the soldiers.

The driver glanced back nervously. “The Captain says we can do it.” He replied, but Heyes thought his words lacked conviction.

Heyes took a deep breath and braced himself. At least this would add a little excitement to the trip.

The wagon made its way precariously down the river bank, each rock jostling its cargo. Heyes grabbed the edge of the wagon and held on. Finally the reached the river and the driver ordered the horses forward. The water was deep, but not deep enough to flood the wagon. Heyes breathed a sigh of relief. At least he wasn’t going to get too wet. The horses struggled slightly against the current, but plowed ahead.

Captain Lewis and his Lieutenant had almost reached the other side when the first shot rang out. The soldiers immediately reached for their firearms and searched for the source of the shot. Two more shots fired almost simultaneously from behind a large rock formation above the river. One of the shots took the Captain’s hat off and the other knocked the gun from Lieutenant’s hand. Both soldiers were caught off guard and before they could recover three more shots fired from a location on the other side of the rocks.

“Retreat!” The Captain yelled. “Take cover and regroup.”

“There’s a whole gang of ‘em.” The wagon driver shouted as he struggled to turn the team around.

The soldiers turned their horses back toward the other side of the river where there was more chance for cover. Three more shots came in rapid succession from yet another location. One of these came so close to one of the horses that it reared up, throwing its rider into the river. The fallen soldier struggled to stand and regain control of his mount, but lost his rifle in the process. Another bullet grazed the arm of one of the Privates and the third hit the wagon seat.

Private Wilson stood and aimed his rifle. “I think I have a shot, Sir!” He called just before another shot caused him to duck. At that moment the wagon lurched, sending Wilson tumbling into the river. Heyes watched as he was thrown into the river and winced as he saw his head crash into a large rock.

“Wilson!” Heyes cried out as he saw Wilson’s limp body begin to be swept down the river. The situation was fast becoming chaos as the soldiers struggled to control their animals and retreat from the river. Two already had minor injuries, three had lost their weapons and none of them were close enough to grab Wilson. Without another thought, Heyes leapt from the wagon and caught hold of Wilson’s arm. Struggling against the current he managed to hoist Wilson’s limp body up over the edge of the wagon.

“Help me!” Heyes shouted to the driver who was still concentrating on the team of horses. When he saw Wilson’s bleeding head wound, he jumped into the back of the wagon and hauled him aboard. Then climbed back up and grabbed the reins again. The wagon was finally moving in the right direction and almost out of the river. Four of the soldiers were already on the other side. Bullets continued to rain on them, coming close but not actually hitting any of them.  

Heyes struggled to stand in the river and looked over at the soldiers on the bank. None looked seriously wounded, but shots continued to land close enough to keep them from advancing or returning fire. He looked up at the rocks where the shots were coming from. None of them had been even close to him. His decision made in that moment, he laid back and was immediately caught by the rushing river. With the shackles still on his wrists, he wasn’t able to swim or direct his course so he let the current carry him and tried to use his feet to steer away from any dangerous rocks.

Back on the bank the last of the soldiers emerged from the river. “We’ve got three men bleeding pretty bad Sir, and Wilson needs medical attention for that gash on his head.” The Lieutenant reported.

“Okay, whoever they are they’ll have to cross the river to follow us, and I doubt they’ll put themselves in the same position we just found ourselves in. There’s a town about an hours ride west of here, we’ll take the wounded there and re-supply. We’ll cross at another spot next time, where it’s open and we won’t be ambushed.”

“Sir? What about Heyes?” The wagon driver asked, looking toward the bend in the river where Heyes had disappeared.

Captain Lewis seemed to notice for the first time that Heyes wasn’t in the wagon.

“He musta been hit after he pulled Wilson out. Poor devil, he won’t stand a chance shackled like he is.” The driver shook his head sadly.

“Should we go back for him Captain?” Another soldier asked as he glanced warily across at the rocks sheltering the bandits.

“No, our first priority is to protect our cargo and get medical attention for these men. We’d be disobeying orders if we jeopardized the gold. We’ll notify the Sheriff when we get into town and they can send a search party to look for the body.”

“But Sir,” the driver protested. “He saved Wilson’s life.”

“He’s a criminal, Private. He’s wanted dead or alive. I won’t jeopardize any more of my men or our mission by delaying any further. Move out!”

***
From his position behind the rocks, Kid Curry watched the four mounted soldiers and wagon team head west at brisk pace. He quickly jumped down from the rocks and began to run along the riverbank. As he rounded the bend, he let out a sigh of relief and shouted out to his partner. “Heyes! Hold on I’ll be right there.”

“That’s all I can do partner. You’ll have to pull me outta here.” Heyes called back, more relieved than he’d ever been to see Curry jogging down the riverbank.

Heyes was propped against the trunk of a large tree that lay across the river. He had the chain that stretched between his wrists looped around the nub of a branch and was anchored there.

Curry walked out onto the tree trunk and reached down to grab Heyes under the armpits and haul him up. The tree trunk was slippery on one side with moss, but after a few attempts both men were safely on dry ground. Heyes dropped to his knees and took a few deep breaths before flopping onto his back to stare up at a grinning Curry.

“What kind of plan was that?” He demanded. “You almost got me drowned!”

Curry’s smile turned to a frown. “Well you didn’t did you? It worked didn’t it?”

Heyes just stared at his partner in disbelief. “Kid, did you know that tree was there?” He asked after a moment.

“Sure Heyes, I knew you’d see your opportunity.”

Heyes took this in and then asked another question. “But how did you know I’d jump into the river?”

“Well, that was the hard part.” Curry admitted solemnly. “I just figured you’d see you had better odds that way.”

Heyes was quiet for a minute and then his face broke into a broad grin. “I guess I did, Kid, but how did you get here? I never spotted you following us.”

“Well, that’s ‘cause I was ahead of you.” He replied matter-of-factly.

At Heyes astonished look, he continued.

“That’s kinda the funny part. See, Charlotte – she was Elizabeth’s governess – well until I got her fired. Anyway, she invited me up to her room and said she’d help me rescue you if I got her job back for her. Oh, she figured out who I was by the way. So I thought it might have been a trap, but I was pretty desperate to find a way to get you out, so I figured I’d go find out what she had to say.”

Heyes was staring at his partner, completely confused.

“Well anyway, I was walking down toward the boarding house – that’s where she was staying – and I had to go right past the sheriff’s office so I was staying in the shadows. That’s when I heard the soldiers outside talking and complaining about having to leave at night and take you with them. They were going over their plans and their route so I stayed long enough to hear where they were headed and then I ran back and got my gear together. I could make a lot faster time on my own than they could with the wagon, so I stayed just far enough ahead to keep them in sight and looked for a good spot for an ambush.” He grinned and added “I wish I could have been there to see Charlotte’s face when she realized I stood her up.”

“Kid, that’s amazing.” Heyes said still not quite believing what had happened. “Do you know what the odds are that you’d be – never mind.” He shook his head and laughed. “Hey, you don’t happen to have a key for these things do you?” He held up his shackled wrists.

“Come on Heyes, since when did you need a key?” Curry asked grinning, as he pulled a lock pick from his pocket.

“That’s my pick. How did you¬?” Heyes grabbed the pick and had the shackles removed in less than a minute.

“I found it on the sheriff’s desk. I figure it can’t be considered stealing since it was yours in the first place.”

“Not bad Kid, not bad. I don’t suppose you have my gun too?”

“Nope, had to buy you a new one of those.” He smiled and produced the gun that had been wedged in the back of his belt. “Works pretty good too.”

Heyes took the gun and looked at it approvingly. “Thanks Kid.” He said simply, but his words contained far more than merely a thank you for the gun.

“You’re welcome Heyes.” Curry said nodding. “But next time we’re sticking together. All this planning has given me a headache.”

Heyes let out a robust laugh. “You’ve got a deal Kid, now let’s get out of here.”

_________________
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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