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 3.12 Hell and High Water Part 2: High Water by Kate Ashe

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20150408
Post3.12 Hell and High Water Part 2: High Water by Kate Ashe

Kid took off his gunbelt and began to clean his gun. Heyes began to pace the room. He did so for so long that Kid was able to finish his cleaning and undress and climb into the bed. He lay there, his arms folded behind his head, watching his partner pace the floor. Heyes’ face was set and his eyes were almost black. Yet, Kid saw no sign of any plan forming. Just the anger that Heyes had been so carefully hiding, until now, when they were alone.

Finally, Heyes stopped and looked over at the Kid, his expression dejected.

“Kid, I’m sorry. I owe Leighton. But I just can’t come up with anything.”

“You need some sleep, mebbe in the morning…….”



Starring

Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry

Guest Stars


Brian Dennehy as Jeremiah Leighton

Larry Manetti as Franks

Dick Davalos as Johnson

Rene Russo as Victoria 'Vic' Haines

Dennis Weaver as Sheriff Benson

Parley Baer as Jeffries

James Drury as Lom Trevors

J.D. Cannon as Harry Briscoe



Hell and High Water Part 2: High Water
by Kate Ashe



Previously: On Alias Smith and Jones ..

“I don’t know Heyes, I don’t like you going there on your own!” Kid Curry exclaimed.

“And pass up $500? Don’t worry, Kid, I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself. This is a simple delivery job. I’ll ride in, deliver the package and ride out.”

Heyes smiled again at the worried expression on the Kid’s face.

“Take care, Kid, you’re the hothead, remember? I’ll be waiting for you in Twin Forks in a week, I sure hope the poker’s good!” With a wave of his hand, Hannibal Heyes wheeled his horse and headed east.

Kid Curry watched him for a moment, concern still etched on his face, then the young man sighed and headed west.

***

Kid Curry had arrived in Twin Forks and was registering at the only hotel.

“There’s no Joshua Smith registered, Sir.”

“J. Smith? He should have arrived a couple of days ago.”

“No Sir. No one’s registered for several days.”

Kid was disbelieving. “He must have!

***

Later, Kid stood on the sidewalk and stared around him. Heyes should be here. It was all he could think. Heyes should be here and he wasn’t. At least, he hadn’t found him yet. Kid rubbed at his tired eyes, stretched to relieve his aching body and refused to think of the obvious, that Heyes had gotten into trouble and not made it to Twin Forks. He could only think that he’d not found him yet.

Finally, Kid admitted defeat, Heyes was not in Twin Forks. Feeling sick, Kid sat on the side of the bed in his hotel room and waited until daybreak.

***

Heyes groaned, tried to sit up and regretted it immediately. His head ached and he felt very cold. He realised he was lying on the ground. Next followed the realisation that his hands were bound at the wrists behind his back, his feet were bound at the ankles and his knees were also tightly bound. Finally, Heyes prised his eyes open and took a look around him.

Slowly, so very slowly, and painfully, the rawhide began to stretch and loosen. Finally, he reached the knots and began to pick at them. They quickly came undone. Heyes groaned as he brought his arms out front, his shoulders protesting. Exhausted, Heyes sank down and fell asleep.

Having found a nail and dug his way out, Heyes blinked in the light and peered out of the adobe walled cave. There was no man or horse in sight.

***

Kid Curry spent an anxious night on the trail to Lexville and set off at first light, following the same pattern of searching for Heyes by the side of the road. By nightfall, he’d seen no sign of Heyes or anyone else. As he made camp, he was aware that he had unconsciously realised that he was not going to find Heyes until he reached Lexville.

***

Heyes was exhausted. He barely noticed the road he’d reached. The whinnying of horses, as the driver pulled them up so suddenly they reared, caught his attention. Heyes turned toward the sound, saw the horses bearing down on him, tried to move rapidly out of their way, tripped, fell and passed out.

***

Vic Haines was concerned. Somehow, it seemed she would have to persuade this stubborn patient of the need to rest. Keeping her voice neutral she said, “It’s past nightfall. You shouldn’t be thinking of going out at this time. The night air could make you ill. I would be irresponsible to let you leave now.”

Heyes’ face hardened slightly, as he said testily, “I didn’t realise I was your prisoner. I didn’t think I needed your permission to leave.”

***

Heyes lay back on the pillows and pondered. He liked Vic, but it really was none of his affair. Except Leighton had left him to die of thirst – imprisoned and tied. He owed him. However, Heyes’ most pressing concern was the Kid. Leighton could wait.

***

A lone cowboy rode by. Curry watched him for a moment and his eyes narrowed. He slid back, regained his horse and rode down to intercept the man.

“Howdy.”

The cowboy looked at him and threatened, “This is Mr. Leighton’s land! He don’t hold with trespassers!”

“Really? I just wanted to ask – where’d you get that hat?”

“What?” the man asked, surprised and puzzled.

“Where did you get the hat?”

“Why?”

“See, wherever you got it, I’ll likely find my friend.”

***

Curry stood relaxed in the centre of the room, the narrowed eyes the only sign of the tension he felt. He folded his arms and stared hard at the large, heavy set, balding man in front of him. He did not respond immediately to Leighton’s question. Beads of sweat began to form on Leighton’s brow. Very slowly, he walked up to the large desk, unfolded his arms, placed his hands flat on the top and leant forward. Speaking slowly and quietly, his voice hard with suppressed anger, Kid Curry said, “Tell me where Joshua Smith is.”

***

The three men had arrived at a plateau.

“Where is he?” Curry’s frustration raised his voice.

Johnson stared and pointed at the store.

Curry followed the pointing finger and then swivelled back.

“You left him there?” he shouted, indignant. In front loomed a mountain, to the side was the start of a wooden area and below the edge stretched a prairie. Cut into the mountain was a building, the adobe brick wall facing them, with a gaping hole near the bottom.

***

In the saloon in Lexville, Heyes approached the coughing and choking Kid Curry. Throwing his arms around Heyes, in a bear hug, Kid yelled happily “Joshua!”

***

Kid Curry stood stockstill, staring down at the ground. Heyes stood quietly on the street, slightly looking up and waiting for his partner. After a few moments, Kid looked up. His blue eyes were glistening. “Heyes” he whispered, trailing off.

Heyes’ expression softened to that which only his partner ever saw. He smiled softly, nodded and said quietly, “I know Kid, I know.” For a moment, he held Kid’s gaze and tried to reassure his friend. A small smile appeared on Kid’s face. A gleam appeared in Heyes’ eyes as he said brightly, “C’mon, I have an appointment. Don’t want to keep my friend waiting.” He set off again across the street.

For a moment, Kid watched him, then he sighed and shook his head resignedly. Heyes would never change. It was obvious he had something up his sleeve, something he thought to surprise the Kid with. Resolving not to react, Curry set off, trotting to catch up.


And Now:
Hell and High Water continues:




At the restaurant door, Heyes paused and waited for Curry to catch up, he then opened the door and waved Curry through ahead of him.

Inside there were only a few occupants. One of them immediately drew Curry's attention, a young, pretty copper haired woman sat alone. Curry caught himself staring and blushed slightly when she looked up at the door and caught his eye. She looked expectant, but, on seeing Curry, her face fell and she looked back down at the table.

Heyes gave Curry a shove and said, "Quit dawdling in the doorway." As Curry walked in, the woman looked up again. She smiled happily at Heyes, who breezed past Curry, went up to her, took her hands as she rose and kissed her on both cheeks.

"Vic! Sorry if I kept you waiting. You can see, I met a friend." Heyes indicated toward Curry, who, despite his resolve, was staring open mouthed at the pair.

"Thaddeus, stop fly catching and come over and meet Victoria."

Stung, Curry walked over and shook the outstretched hand. "Pleased to meet you ma'am."

Vic smiled, "Thaddeus Jones I presume? I've heard quite a bit about you."

Curry flashed a sidelong glance at Heyes while responding, "All good, I hope?"

Vic just smiled. "Why don't we sit down?" She took her own advice and sat, followed by Heyes and Curry.

"Maggie? Would you bring us some coffee and the house special for three?"

Curry looked questioningly at Heyes.

"Vic found me and kindly took me in. I've been staying with her for the last couple of days and she brought me into town this afternoon. I seem to have lost my horse."

"He says his horse was spooked and threw him."

Curry looked at Vic. "So, do you know what happened to him?"

Vic shook her head. Curry turned toward Heyes, "Joshua, I know Leighton's involved."

"Leighton?" interrupted Vic. "I knew that that slimy, conniving, greedy, no good, son of a snake was involved."

Heyes smiled, "I don't think she likes him much!"

"Huh. He thinks he owns everyone around here. Wants to own all the land. He and his men are bullies. I knew that they were the ones who beat you up!"

"Me too. I want to know why though."

"I don't suppose it would do any good to deny this?"

"Joshua, They showed me where they put you!"

Heyes sighed, took a sip of coffee and began.


* * * * *

"After I left you, everything was going well. I got here without incident and after spending a night at the hotel, I rode out to Leighton's place, with the package. Simple, right? Well, I rode into Leighton's place and it was quiet. No one around."

"Didn't that seem strange to you?"

"Sure, but I figured maybe they were all out on a drive."

"You mean you figured you didn't want to leave without getting paid!"

"That too," grinned Heyes. "Anyway, I just rode up to the door, tied up my horse and let myself in."

"Joshua!" Curry groaned. "Why do you do things like that? It leads to nothing but trouble."

"Hey, I had to deliver that package, right?" Heyes responded defensively.

Curry just rolled his eyes.

Heyes continued, "So, I was inside the house and I heard voices, I opened the door to an office and saw two men, talking. Then, before I knew it, I was flat on the floor and I blacked out!

When I came to, I was bound and tied to a chair. A rough looking man was sitting on a chair in front of me and called out to someone. One of the two men came over and introduced himself as Leighton. He thanked me for delivering the package! Then, he asked me about what I saw. We, erm, chatted, for a while. I finally passed out. When I came to, I was in this odd room, with rock walls and an adobe brick front. Freed myself and set off walking and ran into Vic. You've been to the place they had me held?"

Curry nodded, aware that Heyes was glossing over much of the assault he'd faced.

"Vic helped me recuperate for a while and then gave me a lift into town."

"Do you know who the other man was?" Vic asked.

"No idea, but I guess Leighton wasn't too pleased that I saw him."

"No kidding!"

The three sat silently for a while, until Vic said, "So, what are you going to do about it?"

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance.

Heyes spoke for them. "I'm not sure that there is anything we can do. We need to be moving on, look for work elsewhere and there seems little point in going to the sheriff."

"There are other things that can be done."

"Such as?"

"Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry would do something about Leighton."

Heyes and Curry exchanged another glance. Vic looked closely at them, but they remained pokerfaced as Heyes said, "They might, if it happened to them. But what have Hannibal Heyes and what's his name to do with this?"

"Maybe nothing, maybe everything." Vic responded, somewhat mysteriously.
"Well, since they aren't around, its not important what they would do, is it?"

"Aren't they?"

"Aren't they what?"

"Around."

Heyes gave a short laugh, "Not as far as I know."

Maggie arrived with their meals, saving them from further conversation about Heyes and Curry. There was no further discussion about Leighton.

After their meal, the three went over to the hotel. Vic said goodnight and went up to her room. Heyes and Curry entered the hotel's bar and ordered a nightcap. They took their drinks to a small table in a far corner.

For a while, they sat silently, sipping their drinks and smoking a cigar. Finally, Curry asked the question they both had on their minds.

"So?"

Heyes pretended not to understand. "What, so?"

Curry grimaced, "So, does she know who we are?"

Heyes shrugged his shoulders, "Suspects maybe, can't know."

"Hmm. So what are we goin' to do about it."

Again, Heyes pretended to misunderstand. "Just go on denying it."

"Not Vic!" Curry said, frustrated with Heyes, "Leighton."

"Oh. You should have said." Heyes shrugged again. "Nothing we can do."

"We have to do something!"

"Such as? We can't go to the Sheriff, unless you intend to grab Leighton and beat him into confessing."

"We have to do something." Curry repeated.

"You said that. There's nothing."

"You can't come up with anything? You always have a plan. You can't want him to get away with this."

"Of course not!" Frustration and anger caused Heyes' voice to rise. Curry started slightly and Heyes slumped down. "Of course not." He repeated, quietly. "But I don't know what to do. Maybe if." He stopped.

"If what?" prompted Curry.

"Hmm?" Heyes said, absently.

"If what?"

"Oh nothing, nothing." Heyes drained his glass and stood. "I'll sleep on it. I do do my best thinking in the middle of the night. I'm going to bed. You coming?"

"Sure." Curry drained his glass and followed Heyes.

"What room are you in?"

"Yours."

"Mine!"

"Yep. You were paying for it anyway."

Heyes stared at the Kid, unable to fault this logic. Collecting the key, the two men went upstairs.

Kid took off his gunbelt and began to clean his gun. Heyes began to pace the room. He did so for so long that Kid was able to finish his cleaning and undress and climb into the bed. He lay there, his arms folded behind his head, watching his partner pace the floor. Heyes' face was set and his eyes were almost black. Yet, Kid saw no sign of any plan forming. Just the anger that Heyes had been so carefully hiding, until now, when they were alone.

Finally, Heyes stopped and looked over at the Kid, his expression dejected.

"Kid, I'm sorry. I owe Leighton. But I just can't come up with anything."

"You need some sleep, mebbe in the morning……."

Heyes nodded, "maybe……"

He undressed, folding his clothes neatly on the chair, Kid having thrown his in the corner. Their hats went on the chest of drawers. However, both men were careful to hang their gunbelts within easy reach.

"Night Heyes."

"Uh." Heyes grunted.

Curry turned on his side and went to sleep. Heyes, meanwhile, lay awake for a long time, pondering.


* * * * *

In the morning, Curry woke and yawned. He stretched and then rolled over and shut his eyes again. He was jerked awake when a wet cloth hit him in the back!

Rolling back, he rubbed his hands over his tousled hair and yawned again. "Why did you do that?" he asked a cheerfully whistling Heyes.

"C'mon, we've got things to do!"

"What things?" mumbled Curry, yawning for the third time.

"Leaving town! Now, do you want to have breakfast before we start, or sleep in?"

"Breakfast! Breakfast!" exclaimed Curry. "Wait up," he grumbled, hurrying to wash, shave and dress all at the same time, to catch up with the impatient Heyes, hovering at the door. He fastened on his gun as Heyes opened the door and trotted out. What had he to be so cheerful about anyway?

"Joshua!" called Curry, struggling to tie his gun around his leg as he ran after Heyes.

The two men left the hotel and began to walk across the street to the restaurant. Out of the corner of his eye, Curry noticed a man hovering by a post on the sidewalk. The street was quiet and Curry felt a prickle at the back of his neck. A movement from the opposite sidewalk caused Curry to react.

He dove at Heyes, pushing him onto the ground. Drawing himself into a crouch, he drew his gun and fired at the man on the sidewalk at the same time as the man finished raising his pistol and fired at the place Heyes had been standing. Heyes was also, by now, crouched, his gun out and firing at the man Curry had first seen.

A rifle opened fire on them from an upstairs window. Heyes and Curry scooted across the street and under the eaves. Curry fired up into the balcony and a man screamed in pain.

With a holler, a man came around the corner, whipping his horse and firing wildly at Heyes and Curry. Curry carefully and calmly aimed and fired, bringing the man off his horse, which continued to gallop along, dragging the man, whose foot had caught in his stirrup.

It had taken approximately five seconds. The Sheriff hadn't even gotten out of his office by the time the street fell silent again, save for a few moans of the injured men.

Curry stood and holstered his pistol. He turned to Heyes.

"Heyes? You okay?"

"Apart from a few bruised knees and elbows!" complained Heyes. "Why'd you push me over like that?"

Curry rolled his eyes at the temerity of his ungrateful partner.

"You could say thank you. He was about to shoot you. I probably saved your life!"

"I could've broke something! You could've yelled!"

"Next time, I'll stand there and let 'em shoot ya." muttered Curry.

"What?"

"Nothing Heyes. Nothing."

Heyes then gave a slight shake of his head and indicated behind Curry with his eyes. Curry turned and saw that the Sheriff was approaching, his jaw slack as he walked past the injured men.

"What happened?" he gasped.

Heyes smiled at him, his face open and innocent, "Why Sheriff, we have no idea. We were just on our way for breakfast when this shooting started. Well, we just had to take cover, we might have been killed!"

"They weren't shooting at you?"

"Why, I have no idea. Thaddeus, can you think of any reason they would be shooting at us?"

Curry shook his head, unable to speak.

"I thought that we just got caught in the crossfire. Well, if they were shooting at us, I think that we had better consider leaving town. Sheriff, you don't mind if we have breakfast and then leave?"

The Sheriff mutely shook his head.

"C'mon Thaddeus. I'm starving. Can we leave it to you to get the doctor? Good. Well, thank you Sheriff, good luck."

Heyes began to walk over to the restaurant, followed by Curry.

Inside, they sat at a table by the window. After giving their order to the waitress, Curry looked at Heyes. His expression was serious and unforgiving. One look at his face and Heyes realised that he'd reached the end of Curry's rope.

He tried to pacify his angry partner.

"Now look, Kid. We don't want to get involved with the Sheriff. And those guys are unlikely to say anything, leastways, not till we're out of town. It's not like we can stay and testify anyway."

"You know who sent them?"

"No, who?"

"Heyes!" Curry exploded. "This innocent game may play with the Sheriff but I've had enough of it! You had better start talking sense or,"

"Or what?"

"I'm going to the Governor myself and turn you in!"

Heyes gave a slight smile, "Sure."

"Heyes," hissed Curry, "I mean it! I'm tired, hungry and I've just been shot at!

Enough already!"

"Okay, okay," Heyes said quickly, "No need to get proddy. Leighton, obviously, is behind this. I guess he really doesn't want me around."

"And what are we gonna do about it?"

"What can we do? It just ain't practical. I haven't been able to come up with anything and if we stick around, there'll be more gunplay. It just makes more sense to leave."

"And let him get away with it? Not to mention what he's doing round here to the farmers and small ranchers. And what about Vic? What'll happen to her if Leighton's allowed to continue?"

"Kid, that just ain't our business."

The arrival of their breakfast saved Heyes from any further argument. Curry ate silently, freezing Heyes out. Heyes could feel his anger, but really could not think of any other course of action. Sighing, he put his fork down and stared out of the window. A man was walking across to the bank. Heyes watched him and then called the waitress over.

"Excuse me, do you see that man?"

"Sure."

"Do you know who it is?"

"Jeffries, the bank manager."

"He doesn't own the bank?"

"No. Acts like he does."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." She walked away.
Heyes stared out of the window, his expression dreamy. Curry looked at him and grinned. There! That was what he'd been waiting for! Heyes caught his expression.

"What?"

"You got a plan!"

Heyes smiled, "Almost. Kid, I don't want Leighton to get away with it anymore than you do and now, I think I have a way. So, shut up and eat and let me think."

Several coffees later, Heyes got up. "We got work to do. C'mon."

Outside, Heyes paused. "Kid, go around the town - find out all you can about Leighton and Jeffries, the bank manager."

Puzzled, Curry declined to comment and simply nodded as Heyes continued without pause, "I'm gonna have a word with Vic and then telegraph Lom."

Curry stared at Heyes' retreating back - open mouthed and then, shrugging, set off on his assigned task.


* * * * *

A few days later, a dusty rider entered Leighton's ranch. He was tall and dark haired, ramrod straight, with a few days' growth and a sharp look in his brown eyes. He rode up to the bunkhouse and dismounted. After tying his horse to the rail, he entered.

A couple of men were playing cards.

"Howdy, is the foreman around?"

The men looked at him suspiciously. "Why'd you want to know?"

"Looking for a job, understand may be one here?"

"Mebbe. I'll go see if he's free."

One of the men left.

The newcomer sat on a nearby chair, propped his feet up and tipped his hat over his eyes. He appeared asleep.

The man left behind stood and approached. A gun appeared in the newcomer's hand. Without moving, he drawled, "I trust you were leaving?"

"Yeah, yeah, sure." The man left, banging the door shut.

Immediately, the newcomer was on his feet. He holstered his gun as he began to move around the room, searching lockers and under mattresses. He'd covered maybe half the room when he heard voices approaching. Quickly, he resumed his pose.

The door opened and he pushed back his hat.

Johnson stood in the doorway. "You looking for a job?"

"Yep."

"What can you do?"

"Anything you'd like me to do." The man rested his hand on his gunbutt and said again, meaningfully, "Anything."


Johnson nodded slowly. "How'd you hear we was looking?"

"Met a guy called Franks. Getting drunk in a saloon. The liquor loosened his tongue. Thought you might want a better man to replace him."

"Come outside."

The newcomer followed Johnson. He headed to behind a barn where there was a shooting range.

"Let's see you."

The man fired. He was fast and accurate. Firing several shots, all of which hit the target, in quick succession.

Johnson whistled. "Hooee, I need to clear it with the boss, but I reckon you're hired. What's your name?"

"Thomas, Lee Thomas."

"Harris!" A hand appeared. "Show Thomas where he can bunk. I'll see you later."

Johnson headed for the ranchhouse.

Harris extended his hand. "Welcome. Follow me."

They headed back to the bunkhouse.


* * * * *

Johnson knocked on the study room door.

"Come in."

He entered. Leighton was sat at his desk. He looked none the worse for his recent ordeal at the hands of Smith's friend. He still looked pompous, arrogant, overbearing and portly.

"Mr. Leighton, a man just arrived, name of Thomas, looking for work. He's real handy with a gun and doesn't seem to have any objections to how he uses it."

Leighton sat back in his chair. "Smith and that other fella?"

"Erm, well Sir, we, we lost track of 'em. Got away in town and from the second attempt. They ain't in town anymore and no one seems to know where they went." Johnson spoke nervously. He was well aware how much Leighton wanted those two men dead and their constant evasion of the attempts to catch them was humiliating. Johnson would be pleased to see their end as well.

"Ask Sheriff Benson about Thomas and then, if he checks out, see if he can hunt them down."

Leighton returned to his books, dismissing Johnson. Johnson returned to the bunkhouse. Thomas was playing cards with the two men who'd been there earlier.

They stopped and looked up as Johnson entered. "Well, boss says you're okay. I'll start you on tomorrow. You sorted out here?" Thomas nodded. Johnson left and the men resumed their game.


* * * * *

Vic had spent a very pleasant evening and was feeling quite perky as she drove into town, Joshua's kiss still lingering on her lips. Her imagination drifted, pursuing pleasant dreams until a jolt in the road drew her back to reality. "Stop it," she scolded herself. "You have serious business in town." By the time she arrived in town, she was in quite a distressed state. She pulled up outside the bank and entered.

Inside, she approached a clerk.

"I have an appointment with Mr. Jeffries." She murmured, unhappily.

"Just a moment." The clerk hurried out to the back of the bank, returning a short time later.

"Come with me please."

Vic followed him through the gate and across the floor, passing the clerk's desk, until they came to an enclosed office, with smoked glass. The clerk knocked on the door and opened it.

"Mrs Haines, Sir."

Jeffries stood up as Vic entered.

"My dear Mrs Haines, how are you?"

"About to be foreclosed."

Jeffries was a little taken aback by her bluntness.

"Well, yes, er, then lets get to business."

Twenty minutes late, Vic left, having sold her ranch to the bank for $15,000.


* * * * *

Night time. Two shadowy figures slipped down the street and went around to the rear of the bank. One of them produced a barspreader and began to use it on the bars of a window. In a short time, the bars had a gap, a foot wide. The man slipped a knife under the window, slid the catch across and then pushed the window upwards. He turned to his companion and smiled, "When are they gonna get better security?"

The man with him grimaced. "You'd better hope they don't, or our days of doing this are well and truly over."

"Just don't tell the Governor that they're not over yet!"

Both men climbed inside. Hannibal Heyes went over to the large safe stood against the wall. He smiled - it was old and not very secure, it didn't have to be as it didn't hold the bank's money. He lent his head against it and spun the tumblers. Curry glanced at him and then settled by the window.

The safe open, Heyes began to go through the contents. Kid perched at the window, listening and peering behind the blind to survey the street. He had his gun drawn. Heyes glanced at him and a small smile appeared on his face.

"Kinda like the old days huh?"

"Yeah." Kid answered shortly, not taking his eyes off the street, "And like then, you'd rather talk!"

"Proddy, ain't we?" Heyes teased.

Kid threw him a look of disgust. Heyes chuckled and turned back to searching the safe. Kid had never liked this part; he worried whether they would be caught and whether there'd be a shoot out. Heyes though lived for these moments. The rush as he struggled to open a safe, knowing time was limited and reassured by the Kid at his back, watching. There was nothing like it. And the Kid's reaction added to his amusement!

After a close examination of the contents of the safe, Heyes placed a piece of paper in his pocket and then closed the safe. He began a methodical search of the office. It didn't take him long to uncover a hidden safe. It had a simple combination and it was open in moments. Inside, Heyes found a ledger. He took it over to the desk and poured over it. Finally, he closed it with a self satisfied smile, returned it to the safe and closed that. He turned off the light.

"Let's go Kid."

As they exited, Kid asked, "Get what you want?"

"Yep." Heyes replied shortly. Kid looked at him. It was obvious Heyes wasn't going to explain further, lost in thought as he was. Kid walked beside him in silence, to the hotel.


* * * * *

Lee Thomas was perched on a bale of hay, mending rope and quietly observing the activity. There seemed nothing out of the ordinary for a ranch, though Thomas accepted that his was not a practised eye for ranching. As he sat weaving strands of hemp together, a buggy entered the compound. It was driven by a well dressed, portly man.

The buggy pulled up at the porch of the ranch house. Thomas' attention was fully focussed on it, though he held himself relaxed on the hay and continued to twist and wind the rope.

The man climbed out, knocked on the door and was let in. Thomas glanced around, the yard was empty. Quietly, he made his way over to the house. Casually, he moved around the building.

Leighton looked up as Jeffries entered his study. He smiled wolfishly. "Well, have you some more good news for me?"

Jeffries returned the smile, "Indeed Mr. Leighton. Yesterday, Vic Haines came to see me. Seems the ranch is just too much for her, since her sad loss." Jeffries did not sound as though he thought it was a sad loss. Thomas frowned at the hint of a smile in the voice.

Leighton's smile broadened. "Excellent!" His face changed and became his usual hardness. "What will it cost me?"

"It's a good bit of land and in the right position…"

"Bottom line Jeffries!"

"$30,000" Jeffries spluttered out the figure and then involuntarily stepped back, expecting an outburst.

Leighton leaned back in his chair and templed his fingers. He stared up at the ceiling for a long time, while Jeffries and Thomas began to sweat. Finally, he leaned forward.

"Seems reasonable."

Jeffries sighed with relief. Thomas smiled slightly.

Leighton opened his safe and began to count out the money, while Jeffries prepared to transfer the ownership of the land. Soon the deal was done and the two men shook hands.

"I hope to do business with you again soon Mr. Leighton."

Leighton looked up from his ledger and, with a wave of his hand, dismissed the banker.

Jeffries left, feeling humiliated but buoyed by the feel of the money in his pocket.

Thomas walked around the house and watched him leave. He headed for the stables.


* * * * *

Kid Curry groaned. His back ached, his rear ached and he was hungry, again. Heyes had sent him on a wild goose chase for sure. There were no outlaws hiding out in these hills and, even if there were, he had no idea why it mattered. But, Heyes had been insistent, so he was traipsing all over the back country, in the hopes of stumbling over them!

Making camp for the night, he cursed the cold. Heyes had forbidden him to build a fire, he'd explained that he wanted Kid to locate and track the gang, unobserved. Munching on hard tack and jerky, Kid brooded for a while and then wrapped himself up in his bedroll and tried to sleep.

By dawn, Kid was feeling extremely irritable. If Heyes had been there, he would have felt the lash of Kid's tongue. The irony that only a few days earlier, Kid Curry had been frantic with worry about finding the person he was now cursing was not lost on the Kid! Part of his irritation was being forced by Heyes, again, to separate when there was a clear danger; from Leighton's men. He knew Heyes would not pay sufficient attention to that danger, caught up as he was in his plan; whatever that was. And there was the cause of further irritation. Heyes would say nothing about the plan, just issued him with orders! They were partners weren't they? When Heyes got into this way of thinking and acting, it was almost as though Kid didn't exist. There was nothing Kid could do about it, except be irritated.

It began to rain gently and Kid Curry turned up his collar and thought even darker thoughts about the friend and partner he had been so worried about!

Lost in his thoughts, Curry almost missed the signs. He rode over them before his brain registered the tracks. Turning back, he dismounted to make sure. Yep, several horses, the tracks, now he looked properly, were unmistakable. They'd been through recently. Crossing his fingers and praying to lady luck, Curry followed them.

They led him to a canyon entrance. Curry pulled up and surveyed the area. There didn't appear to be any lookouts. "Amateurs", thought the ex outlaw, as he directed his horse off the trail and up. Leaving the animal tied to a tree, he climbed the rest of the way, crawling the last few feet, until he came to the crest and could peer over. He lay flat on his stomach, trying to ignore the damp seeping into his clothing. Muttering to himself about ungrateful, miserable, demanding partners, he observed the camp below.

Around 10 men were down there, lounging around. A card game was in progress. Someone was making a meal. Curry could smell the hot stew and his stomach rumbled in response. Another man was shooting at tin cans and mostly missing. Several were just lying there. All in all, the scene had a desultory air; bored men waiting. Curry had seen it before, been there in fact with the Devil's Hole Gang, waiting on Heyes. He felt a certain sympathy for them, until he realised they had shelter and hot food!

The horses were tied some way off. Curry wasn't very impressed with their organisation. "Amateurs" he thought again and then settled down to watch.


* * * * *

Lee Thomas arrived at the clearing and dismounted. He tied his horse to a tree and sat down to wait.

It wasn't long before he heard the sound of a horse approaching. He rose and moved to a place to enable him to watch unseen.

Hannibal Heyes rode into the clearing. He drew his horse to a halt and lent on his saddlehorn.

"Glad you make it Lom." He said casually.

Lom Trevors emerged into the clearing and pushed his hat back. "Heyes. Good to see you again. How's the Kid?"

"Fine, last time I saw him. I sent him off to find that gang. How did you get on with Leighton?"

"You were right, they wanted a gunhand. Leighton wants you and the Kid real bad. What did you do to him?"

"Nothing. I saw something I wasn't supposed to."

"Well, like you said, Jeffries came by and sold some land, belonging to a Mrs Haines, to him for $30,000."

Heyes whistled softly. "Quite a profit." he murmured.

"Pardon?"

"Huh? Sorry, Lom. Okay. Can you go back to the ranch and keep an eye on things? There'll be another visitor, who may need some backup! But, I will definitely need you at the end of this."

"End of what Heyes?"

"Jeremiah Leighton."

After a few more pleasantries, and some reassurance from Lom that the Governor was still interested in their progress, the two men parted.


* * * * *

It was unbelievably boring. He'd seen more life in a dying beetle! Getting cold and stiff, Kid Curry slid down the hill and got one of the blankets and then returned. He lay on his back and wrapped the blanket around him and watched the grey sky grow dark. Every now and then, he rolled over to check the camp. There was little change. Curry stared up at the darkness, dreaming.

The sound of running horses jerked him awake. He was fortunate that Heyes wouldn't know he'd fallen asleep at his post, he'd never live it down!

Rolling over, he watched the camp stir. He could just make out, in the dull moonlight and firelight, the arrival of several horses. There seemed to be much commotion and excitement. He didn't blame them, anything was better than the previous monotony. One of the figures was dragged off his horse. Maybe someone had been injured in a raid. The men crowded around, it was difficult to see what was happening.


* * * * *

Heyes had been riding from his meeting with Lom when the three men came at him. He'd sensed them and taken off before a shot was fired and had been steadily pulling ahead when, curse his luck, his horse had thrown a shoe, stumbled and fallen, tossing Heyes off. He could have still gotten away, if he hadn't hit his head hard against something and passed out!

When he came to, he found himself once more bound and gagged and his head throbbing. Twice in two weeks was possibly a record, even for him. He was draped over a saddle, the horn pressing into his side. There was little he could do but wait. Maybe the Kid was right, thought Heyes. I can't look after myself. Deciding that it was just a run of bad luck, Heyes started figuring what he might say to get out of this.

It was after dark when the men galloped into a camp, whooping and hollering. Heyes struggled to stay on his horse. They were surrounded by near a dozen men and several hands grabbed at him and yanked him off, throwing him onto the ground, on his face. Someone sat on him. "Hmnphf," he spluttered through the gag.

"I reckon its him."

"Nah, we'd not be that lucky!"

"No, fits the description."

"Let's see him."

Someone grabbed his hair, at the back of his head, and yanked his head backward. Heyes squeezed his eyes shut to clear the pain.

"Yep, see, dark hair, dark eyes, plain features."

Heyes scowled on hearing that!

"Right height. Gotta be him!"

"Well, Jeffries is coming tomorrow, he'll tell us if he's the right one."

"And if he ain't?"

"His bad luck!"

The men laughed and wandered away, leaving Heyes face down in the mud. He rolled over and sat up. He appeared to have been left alone, so he began to work on the ropes binding his wrists behind him, until a sharp jab in his back from what felt like a six gun stopped him.

"Now, now, can't let you get away!" One of the men who had caught him knelt in front of him and then suddenly, without warning, slapped his face hard! Heyes was sent reeling to the side.

"Now, behave!"

Heyes was dragged backwards, a rope passed through his arms and bound to a tree. When left alone again, despite the warning, Heyes again began to work on the ropes, carefully.

Up above, Curry had been watching the men with increasing concern. From the way they were treating the man, it appeared he was their prisoner. This was confirmed when they tied him to a tree. There was something very familiar about the man and Curry felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He slid back down the hill and fetched a pair of small binoculars from his saddlebags. Back at the top of the hill, he focussed on the man at the tree. At first, it was too dark to see clearly, but a break in the clouds let the moonlight through and Curry groaned. Heyes!

Once more, Curry made his way down the hill. He retrieved his horse and set off around the edge of the canyon to the other side.

It was difficult terrain and it was close to dawn as Curry approached the camp from the other side. The outlaws were all soundly asleep. Quietly, he walked down into the camp, keeping to the trees and coming up behind Heyes.

Heyes had fallen asleep. Despite all his efforts, he had failed to untie the ropes and so had no option but to wait and see what would happen. He awoke with a jerk when he felt the ropes loosen and fall off. A voice whispered in his ear.

"I thought I was supposed to find the outlaw camp."

A huge grin lit up Heyes' face.

"Let's get out of here." continued the voice.

Both men made their way, silently, up and out of the canyon.

Safely over the edge, Heyes turned to the Kid. "Thanks."

"Huh-uh. Can't leave you alone for a minute. When you gonna learn that I'm the only thing keeping you alive?" groused Kid. "You got me running all over the place, getting cold, wet and hungry, not to mention bored and stiff and then you turn up in the very place you wanted me to find! You have to stop trying to do everything yourself!"

Heyes grinned broadly, "I'm real pleased to see you too! Now, you haven't seen my horse have you?"

"Nope. And you ain't having mine. Serve you right to havta walk!"

"Thanks!" Heyes exclaimed, sarcastically. "Maybe I can 'aquire' one." He added thoughtfully.

"Heyes, they're gonna be rising soon and then they're gonna be coming after us."
"Yep, just what I need."

Curry sighed. "Okay, I'll lead them away. Now that you know they're here, what do you want me to do?"

"Keep track of 'em. Let me know what they're doing. I need to get back to town, meeting a friend today."


* * * * *

Heyes was waiting at the railroad station. He gave little indication of his impatience, the only sign was the way his eyes kept shifting to stare up the track.

Finally, the train whistle could be heard and the train puffed its slow way into the station. Heyes waited at the end of the platform until he was approached by a shifty looking man, aged around 45, with dark hair and a mustache and wearing a rather battered looking suit and trilby hat.

Heyes sighed heavily; this had not been his first choice; then he adopted his easy, practised smile as the man drew near. The man greeted him loudly and heartily, such that Heyes cringed inwardly and prayed no one had noticed!

They made their way to the hotel. Heyes stood in front of the newcomer. He was slightly dishevelled. He ran his hand through his hair.

"Harry!" he said, exasperated. "It's simple! How is it you're still with Bannerman?"

Harry Briscoe looked hurt. "There's no call for that. I've given up a good job to come here to help you."

Heyes sighed. "I'm sorry Harry. I am" Heyes paused momentarily, which Harry didn't notice, nor did he notice the slight grimace as Heyes continued "grateful. Jeffries knows me or I'd come in with you." He walked to the window and peered out.

Mollified, Harry said, "Well, I suppose I do owe you, a friend in need and all that." He paused, suddenly puzzled. "Where's the Kid?"

Heyes rolled his eyes, trust Harry to have only just noticed. He turned back, "Out, following a group of outlaws."

"Oh." Harry was really none the wiser.

"Look Harry, you just need to enter the bank, announce you're a treasury agent and demand to see the books, in private. Once you're in, let me in and I'll do the rest."

Harry nodded. "Got it."

After Heyes had straightened Harry's tie and brushed his hat and coat, Harry left, observed from the window by Heyes; who would have crossed his fingers if he had been given to outward displays of emotion.

Heyes watched Harry enter the bank and then he slipped out the back way.

The cashier looked up. A rather shifty looking man was standing in front of his counter.

"Can I help you Sir?"

"I wish to see the manager."

"May I ask why Sir?"

Harry was haughty. "You may not."

The clerk looked at him, surprised. There was a moment's silence while each stood, staring at each other.

"Well?" Harry said, "Move man!"

The cashier disappeared. He returned moments later.

"I'm afraid Sir, that the manager is unable to see you without an appointment."

Harry remembered who he was. "I'm from the Treasury," he boomed, "I do not need an appointment."

The deputy manager looked up from his desk at the bank and gulped. He hurried into the manager's office and emerged followed by a rather red looking Jeffries.
Jeffries hurried over. "I had no idea that you were coming, Mr.?"

"Good. No one was informed. It's a" Harry paused, trying to remember the phrase Heyes had given him, "a er a an unannounced erm au. au. look." He finished finally.

"Er, a what?"

"I need to take a look at your books, in private. I trust that's not much trouble, for you to accommodate the Treasury?" Harry was making his way toward the manager's office, followed by Jeffries.

Once inside, Harry seated himself at the manager's desk. "And now, the books please?"

Jeffries opened the safe and took some large, heavy ledgers out and placed them in front of Harry.

"Thank you. Please close the door on your way out, I need to work in peace and quiet." Harry opened the first ledger and began to pore over the figures. Jeffries hovered by the desk.

After a minute, Harry looked up and gave him his best withering glance. It wasn't much but the bank manager was already sufficiently flustered for it to affect him.

"Why are you still here? I meant peace and quiet - alone."

"Oh, certainly, certainly, if you need anything though……"

"I'll be sure to ask, though I'm also sure I won't need a thing. Goodbye!"

Harry stared hard at the manager until he left the room. Quickly, Harry stood up and went over to lock the door. He then went to the window, "Smith," he hissed, "You there?"

He jumped when a voice behind him answered, "Here, Harry."

Harry Briscoe turned round, surprised to see Heyes already in the room, "When? How?"

Heyes ignored him and went to the small painting on the wall. Moving it to one side he opened the small safe revealed there and took out a ledger.

"Harry!" he called. "Come and take a look while I explain this to you."

Glancing back at the door, and wishing he were outside, Harry took his seat back behind the manager's desk.

After an agonisingly long hour, Heyes finally gave up trying to explain it to Harry in any more detail. Both he and Harry were hot and tired. He wrote down what he wanted Harry to say, replaced the ledger in the small safe and went to the window.

"I'll be outside. If you need anything, tell him to leave and then ask me."

Heyes checked up and down the street and then slipped out of the office window. Harry unlocked the office door. A short while later, there came a tentative knock and a voice.

"Sir, have you done yet?"

"Come in" called Harry

Jeffries entered.

Harry looked up at him. "These books are very interesting. This item, the mortgage of Mrs Haines' farm. You loaned her $15,000 and, after foreclosure, you apparently sold it to Mr. Jeremiah Leighton for $25,000?"

"Yes."

"But, Mr. Leighton believes he paid $30,000 for it."

Jeffries paled. "You, you've spoken to him?"

"I am aware of the transaction. He was given a forged document, the deed for this property Mr. Jeffries. What do you have to say about this?"

"I, I can't explain, I, I'll have to look into it, at once. I." Jeffries paused, looking rather frightened. "Mr. Leighton has a forged document?"

Harry nodded.

"But, I took the deed from her, I myself took it from the safe before" He trailed off, looking more than worried, almost frightened in fact. He wrung his hands, unsure what to do.

Harry didn't know what to do either. He hadn't expected this. Before he could figure out his response, a commotion began in the bank. A woman's voice could be heard steadily rising. Harry headed out to see what was going on. As he left, Jeffries seemed to come to a decision. Unnoticed by Harry, he moved purposefully over to the small safe, opened it, took out bundles of cash which he placed in a Gladstone bag and then he climbed out of the window.

At the end of the street, a figure was leaning casually against the wall of a building. Under the brim of his hat, Hannibal Heyes never took his eyes off the bank office window. He smiled a smile of satisfaction as he saw Jeffries leave.

A moment later, Heyes strolled into the bank.

Vic Haines was surrounded by bank employees and Harry. She was demanding to see Jeffries, in as loud a voice as she could manage. Alternatively, she was sobbing loudly and apparently uncontrollably into her handkerchief. The employees were all trying, unsuccessfully, to calm her.

Vic saw Heyes enter and a miraculous transformation took place. Immediately, her tears stopped and she calmly said, "Well, I suppose I shall have to see him tomorrow. Goodbye." And she walked out, leaving all but one of the men with their mouths open. She winked at that lone man as she left, forcing him to suppress a grin.

Heyes turned and watched her go and then, composed, he turned to the men.

"Mr. Briscoe? Mr. Briscoe?" he called. "I have a message for Mr. Briscoe."

Harry stepped forward.

"Ah, there you are. Mr. Briscoe, would you come with me?"

Harry followed Heyes out of the bank and across to the Sheriff's office.


* * * * *

Twenty minutes later, the Sheriff hurried out of his office, followed by Heyes and Harry. They went across to the livery stable, the Sheriff rounding men up as they did so. Within minutes, a posse was heading out of town, Heyes smiling to himself at the irony of him being included.

He knew that he was still in danger, from the Sheriff, if he found out who he was and, on that point, Harry was not really reliable; then there was the outlaw gang and Leighton's men. He could hear the Kid's voice in his head, warning him. But he just couldn't help it, he was enjoying himself!

It was easy to pick up the buggy's trail and it wasn't long before they could see it in the distance, moving quickly. Heyes pulled out of the group and then pushed his animal as hard as he could along the back trails, scrambling over rocks and riding fast between the trees. He crested a ridge and could see the buggy below, with the posse closing. Recklessly, he plunged down the ridge, arriving back onto the road ahead of the buggy and out of sight behind a corner.

The posse, once they had their man in sight, galloped as fast as they could make their animals go. Harry was soon left behind. The chase didn't last long, a matter of minutes and Jeffries heard them coming up behind. Glancing back, he broke into a panic and whipped his horses to go faster, faster! The poor animals were sweating and their sides heaving as Jeffries urged them on and the posse grew closer.

One of the men fired a shot, one of Jeffries' horses stumbled and then Jeffries rounded the corner. His animal reared into the air, spooked by the sudden appearance of a single horse and rider and Jeffries was thrown back into his seat, dropping the reins. His horse came to a standstill, head hanging, too exhausted to go on. As the rest of the posse rounded the corner, they nearly ran into the back of the buggy.

Heyes was taking hold of the reins as Sheriff Benson pulled up.

"Howdy Sheriff." He said casually. "Hello Mr. Jeffries, remember me?", he went on, his voice now hard.

Jeffries was white and shaking. He nodded mutely.

Sheriff Benson addressed him, "You're under arrest for theft, fraud and attempted murder." He got no response from the terrified man.

The party returned to town, collecting Harry on the way back.

Once in the Sheriff's office, Benson sat Jeffries down. "Okay, what do you have to say about it?"

Jeffries was still shaking and his voice trembled. "You can't keep me here! You can't!" he cried. "I'll be killed! Sheriff, you have to protect me. I'll, I'll be killed! I can't stay here. I can't say anything!"

"What are you blabbing on about man? Who will kill you?"

"No, no, nooooo. I can't say. I can't stay here." Jeffries whimpered.

Heyes walked over to him.

"Listen to me." He spoke firmly and with such authority that Jeffries quietened and looked up at him.

"If you say nothing, you can't be helped. I know what happened, but you must tell the Sheriff. Only then can he protect you. If not, then you'll be left here until Leighton finds out and then…." Heyes looked hard at Jeffries and didn't need to finish the sentence left hanging. Both knew what would happen. Leighton would see that Jeffries never spoke another word in his soon to be very short life.

Jeffries buried his head in his hands. Heyes and Sheriff Benson waited. Finally, Jeffries looked up.

"Alright. What do you need to know?"


* * * * *

Sheriff Benson locked Jeffries into a cell and posted several deputies around. He turned to Heyes.

"Alright, now what?"

Heyes smiled.


* * * * *

Harry Briscoe drove his buggy into the large and imposing ranch. He was sweating and his collar was tight. Once again, Heyes had persuaded him to do something that went against everything he believed about protecting himself!

Outside the main house, he got down, crossed the porch and knocked on the door. The butler opened it just as Harry brushed off the trail dirt. Dust flew around, causing the butler to cough. He was eventually able to splutter out, "Can I help you Sir?" With all the coughing, it didn't come out as officiously as he would have liked!

"I wish to see Mr. Leighton. My name is Briscoe and I have important bank matters to discuss with him, concerning his purchase of certain land."

"I will inform him Sir." The door closed.

Harry waited impatiently. He had little choice. He stood on the porch and looked around the yard. When the door opened behind him, the butler's voice made him jump.

"Mr. Leighton has agreed to see you Sir." The butler sounded disappointed.

Harry followed the butler into the impressive study. Leighton was seated behind his desk. He looked toward the door as they entered.

"Mr. Briscoe, what can I do for you?"

"Did you purchase land belonging to Mrs Haines from the Bank of Lexville, through the manager, Jeffries?"

"I did. Nothing wrong with it is there?"

"How much did you pay for it?"

"Is that any of the Treasury's business?"

"The land was mortgaged for the sum of $15,000. I believe that you paid $30,000?"

"How?"

"Mr. Jeffries has admitted theft and fraud. He is also suspected of committing forgery. The deed to the Haines land is most probably forged."

"What!"

"Do you have the deed Sir? I do need to examine it."

Leighton nodded and opened his safe, handing the document over.

"Thank you Sir. It's unlikely that we will need you to testify at the trial. Jeffries is admitting a number of matters, including terrorising the small ranchers to, shall we say, encourage them to sell. Thank you for your time."

Harry left Leighton, who was red with anger.

"Johnson! Johnson!" he bellowed.

Johnson ran in, "What is it boss?"

"Where's Thomas?"

"In the bunkhouse Sir."

"Fetch him!"

Thomas strolled into the office. "You wanted to see me?"

"There's a man in the jail at Lexville. The bank manager, Jeffries. He's become a problem which I want you to neutralize."

"There a bonus in it?"

"Sure, if you do it while he's in jail. I don't want him out alive."

"No problem. I may need to borrow a few hands, for a diversion." Thomas added.

"No, no hands. They'd be identified with me. There's a group of bandits who'll do the job."

"I'll need an introduction."

"I'll write you a note."

"They know your handwriting?" Thomas was sceptical. "They even read?"

Leighton leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands. He thought for a moment, then said "Let's go." He got up and led the way out of the ranch house and to the stables.

A hand saddled two horses and the two men rode out together, watched by Johnson; a look of annoyance on his face.


* * * * *

Curry and Vic were lying on their stomachs on the ridge, watching the outlaw gang. Vic had arrived earlier in the day, sent by Heyes she'd said, with food. The Kid realised that Heyes expected something to happen, something which would need Vic's presence. Whatever it was, he had no objection to some company, especially when it was this pretty.

The day had been quiet, the gang loitered about, doing little but play poker, eat and drink. Curry and Vic were bored.

Then, Curry straightened. In the distance, he could make out the sound of approaching horses. He tugged at Vic's sleeve and pointed. Two riders came into view. To Curry's surprise, one of the riders was Lom Trevors. The other was Leighton. At their approach, the men stood and waited while Leighton dismounted. Curry and Vic could hear clearly.

"This is Lee Thomas. He's taking over from Jeffries as your contact. You'll take your orders from him."

The men looked around at each other, what had happened to Jeffries?

One of them came forward. "What about our pay? We ain't had nothin' for weeks." he whined.

"You'll be paid. When the job's done. Thomas, use these. You know what to do?"

"Sure." replied Thomas, "You're all under arrest."

There was a stunned silence. Then Leighton began to laugh and the others joined in. Thomas drew his gun and pointed it at Leighton. Slowly, Leighton's laughter died away. He glared at Thomas.

"What are you doing? Who are you? And may I remind you that there is only one of you and near a dozen of us!"

"Sheriff Lom Trevors. And I think you'll find that you're surrounded."

One of the men made a grab for his gun, there was a whine of a bullet and he found himself clutching his hand in pain. Up on the ridge a man stood, gun in hand. Leighton looked wildly around and then ran for his horse. Another bullet whined, narrowly missing him, but Leighton continued his reckless dash, into the path of Hannibal Heyes. Leighton saw the man he knew as Smith sitting on a horse in front of him and wheeled to head out the other way, only to find this way blocked by the Sheriff and over a dozen men. Leighton went for his gun. A third bullet blew the holster clean off. The gang were already dropping their belts on the ground. Heyes reached over and took the reins of Leighton's horse. Even now Leighton blustered.

"Sheriff Benson, what is the meaning of this? This man coerces me to come here, probably to hold me to ransom and you treat me like this! He even claims that he's a sheriff!"

"Not the story that Jeffries has been telling. Then there's the attempted murder of Mr. Smith there."

"You're going to believe a thief and a drifter over a respected rancher. I have several important friends…."

Vic had been making her way down to the canyon floor and heard the last remark. "What about the word of a respected widow? And a Bannerman man." She indicated to Harry.

"And Mr. Trevors IS a Sheriff." Benson finished, fastening handcuffs onto Leighton, by now a beaten man.

Curry reached the canyon floor and went to stand by the side of Heyes' horse. They watched the Sheriffs and the posse lead Leighton and the gang away. Curry looked up at his partner; who had a satisfied expression on his face. He shook his head in amazement, then turned back to watch the departing group, certain that Heyes would eventually explain everything to him.


* * * * *

Epilogue:

A small group was gathered around a table in the saloon, a bottle of whiskey stood in the centre, half empty. The group were smiling and talking animatedly about their various parts in the capture of Jeremiah Leighton.

As he listened to everyone, Kid Curry couldn't help but feel proud of his partner. He knew Heyes had had a good plan from the moment he'd seen that look on his face in the restaurant, but this was impressive! He glanced at Vic. She was glowing with happiness. Not only had Heyes got her deeds back but there had been a substantial reward, it turned out, in total on all of the outlaws brought in and the four men had agreed that Vic should receive it all. Well, he, Heyes and Lom had agreed. Harry had tried to argue, but a look from Kid had silenced him. Vic had taken good care of Heyes, mebbe saved his life and the Kid reckoned he owed her. The money had enabled Vic to pay off her mortgage and seemed to have lifted a weight off her shoulders. Then, suddenly, the Kid's thoughts were interrupted by Lom Trevors banging his glass on the table.

"Joshua, that was some plan. I'd like to make a toast!" he declared. Everyone raised their glasses. "To a job well done!" Five glasses clinked.

Vic leaned over. "Thank you for doing this Joshua, or should that be Heyes?"

Heyes stared at her, pokerfaced, "Vic.."

She shook her head. "It doesn't matter. Besides, how would a Sheriff and a Bannerman man have two notorious outlaws for friends?" she finished, archly. Vic then leant further forward and kissed him. Heyes blushed furiously as the men grinned.

"To Joshua, the architect and Thaddeus, for his fine shooting!" Vic declared, when she straightened.

Curry joined Heyes in blushing. Lom and Harry smiled and responded cheerily, glasses clinking again, "To Smith and Jones!"

_________________
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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