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 3.4 Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls by Kate Ashe

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20150410
Post3.4 Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls by Kate Ashe

Heyes spoke resignedly, "I've a feeling that the day is about to go downhill" as he saw a Sheriff, two deputies and a young man enter the restaurant, where Heyes and Curry were sitting at a table, alone in the place, eating breakfast.

The deputies tied Curry's hands and removed his gun from its holster. After an exchange of looks with Heyes, Curry allowed himself to be led away, out of the restaurant.


Starring

Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry

Guest Stars

Jim Hutton as Tom Hodges

Timothy Hutton as Ben Hodges

Slim Pickens as Sheriff Perkins

Buddy Hackett as Deputy Hank Pryor

Robert Taylor as Bart Bonner

Jack Albertson as Judge Hanley

Monty Laird as Poker Player



Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls
by Kate Ashe


Prologue:

It was late, but the saloon was still crowded. There was nothing unusual about it; it was like a hundred others that Heyes and Curry had been in. There was a long bar against one wall, with a mirror attached to the same wall, a barman struggling to fill all the orders of the mixed group of men hanging around it. Others were sitting in wooden chairs at the round wooden tables peppered around the floor, that was wood, covered in sawdust. It was noisy, with the hubbub of voices. No one voice stood out and it was hard to hear what the man next to you was saying, let alone any other conversation. There was not, however, any music playing.

Heyes and Curry were not interested in conversation. They were sitting at a round table, at the edge of the room, playing poker against three other men, cowboys and drifters, something they'd done hundreds of times before. It was an ordinary night.

Curry tossed his cards down, yawned and stretched.

"I'll pass on this hand. I'm gonna get a drink. You want one, Joshua?"

Heyes looked up from his cards, an intent expression momentarily distracted.

"What? Er, no, thanks Thaddeus."

Curry pushed his way to the bar. It was packed and he waited patiently for the sole barman, a sturdy man about forty in age, pale from all the years spent inside, to reach him. Nearby, two men; one around forty, the other maybe twenty, with a resemblance to each other, were arguing. Having no interest in their row and not sensing any danger, Curry leaned casually on the bar, ignoring them, his back slightly toward them. Their voices grew higher and more agitated and then the young man pushed the older one, who stumbled back into Curry. Caught unawares, Curry sprawled over the bar, his body keeping the older man upright.

The man straightened and turned to face Curry, who was pulling himself up and wiping away traces of liquor.

"I'm sorry. You okay?"

Curry straightened and the man saw how his gunbelt was fastened. Concern and not a little fear flashed across his face.

"I'm sorry, so sorry, didn't mean to jog you like that, so crowded in here. Me and my son, here," he indicated toward the young man, "Got a little out of hand I guess. Sorry. Real sorry." The man spoke quickly and anxiously.

Curry was unperturbed. He held up his hands, palms out, in a conciliatory gesture, toward the man, noting his weatherbeaten face, the greying hair and his clothing, a checked shirt and tough denims, giving him the look of a farmer or small rancher. He also appeared to be unarmed.

"S'okay. No harm done. Apology accepted." He held out his hand to shake the man's and was surprised when the man was roughly pushed out of the way.

The young man thrust his face into Curry's. It was contorted with rage.

"You stay out of this!" he yelled, jabbing Curry in the chest with a stiff finger.

Curry raised an eyebrow and pulled back slightly.

"No intention of getting into it." He said calmly and turned away so that he didn't see the blow that caught him in the side of his face and knocked him sideways and to the floor.

Lying on the floor, his jaw aching, Curry was no longer calm. His face was dark with anger and his hand was resting on his gun.

"Get him out of here." He glared at the father and at the men who were standing around him, beginning to laugh. Their laughter died, as they saw the look on Curry's face. The father pulled the young man's arm. The young man was standing, legs astride, glaring at Curry. He was stubbornly refusing to move.

Slowly, Curry stood. He faced the young man, his hand hung unmoving by his gun butt. The men around the two opponents looked hastily around and tried to clear out of the area. Heyes became aware of movement and a small change in the atmosphere of the room. He looked up and suppressed a gasp when he saw Curry in the standoff. He placed his cards facedown on the table.

"Excuse me for a moment, gentlemen. I need to ask my friend to fetch me a drink."

He stood up from the table and strolled over to the bar. Standing behind Curry, slightly to one side, he spoke, "Everything okay here Thaddeus?"

"When the boy leaves." Curry replied, shortly. The look on his face said that the boy had better leave sooner rather than later. Curry was tired and a little travel sore and his temper was now strained.

The father tugged hard on the boy's arm, "C'mon!" he said urgently. "Let's take our argument outside."

"Do as he says."

Everyone turned to face the new speaker. The bartender had arrived and was pointing a shotgun in their direction. He appeared well able and willing to use the weapon and this seemed to give the young man the spur he needed. He spun on his heels and stalked out, followed by his father.

The shotgun moved to point squarely at Curry.

"You too."

"Me! What did I do?" Curry was aggrieved.

"I don't know and I don't care. I don't have trouble in my bar. Now git!"

Heyes' hand on Curry's arm restrained him. They exchanged a look and Curry stalked out of the saloon. Heyes smiled at the bartender and returned to the poker game.

He picked up his money.

"Sorry folks, another time." He followed Curry out of the saloon.

Out on the sidewalk, Curry was leaning against a rail.

"What was that all about?"

Curry shrugged.

"Can't leave you alone for a minute." Heyes said, teasingly.

"I'm beat. Let's just turn in." was Curry's blunt reply.


Heyes was concerned. His friend still looked annoyed, but was obviously in no mood to chat. The pair of them crossed the street and entered the hotel.


* * * * *

Act One:

Heyes and Curry rode into the next town. It was smaller than the one they had left and was not prosperous looking. There was a small Sheriff's office, a saloon, where serious poker games went on only at weekends and a small general store. Fortunately, it also had a run down, battered looking hotel.

As they entered, Heyes checked out the Sheriff's office. The name of the Sheriff had been hung on a shingle. Heyes did not recognise it. He turned to mention it to Curry but decided against it. Curry was still in a foul mood from the confrontation. He had hardly spoken the whole trip. Heyes had been chatting breezily at the start but had also fallen silent. So it was that they entered the town, two quiet, dangerous looking men.


* * * * *

Curry yawned, stretched and squinted. The morning sun was shining brightly through the thin curtains and it was hurting his eyes. He peered around the room. The rooms were as indicated by the outside appearance of the hotel.

Heyes was standing at the washbowl, placed on a beaten up chest of drawers in front of a mirror. He was shaving.

"Heyes, have you even been to bed?" Kid groaned, sat up and rubbed at the back of his neck. "That whiskey was nothing but rotgut! How well did you do, or didn't you?"

Heyes paused and looked at Curry through the mirror. "I did well enough to buy you breakfast, if you're feeling up to it!"

"When did I pass up breakfast? Aren't you finished yet? Reckon I could do with a shave too, before breakfast." Curry responded, pointedly stressing the word 'before'.


* * * * *

A short while later, cleaned up and clean shaven, the two men were sitting in a nearby restaurant. It was a pleasant, functional place, with small square tables covered in white linen tablecloths. It was cheap and hearty food and Curry at least was taking full advantage of having a meal cooked for them. He was smiling broadly, not least because of the interchanges taking place between him and the pretty waitress. Heyes was shaking his head.

Curry looked at him. "What's the matter with you? It's a beautiful morning. We have money, food and", he paused, "interesting prospects." He finished, looking at the waitress.

As he finished speaking, the door of the restaurant opened and the young man from the incident in the saloon came in, followed by the Sheriff and two deputies. Heyes looked up as the doorbell rang and saw them enter. He didn't recognise them, but he did recognise their intent.

"I've a feeling the day is about to go downhill." He said resignedly.

Curry looked up at him questioningly and Heyes indicated behind him. Twisting in his chair, Curry saw the three men approaching them. He groaned. Since they were alone in the place, it was obvious who they were coming to see!

"That's him!" the young man pointed at Curry and shouted. "He's the one that threatened Pa!"

Curry stared at him in amazement. "What are you talking about? I never threatened your Pa. You, maybe." He added injudiciously as Heyes rolled his eyes.

"You know this man?"

Curry glanced at Heyes, who nodded imperceptibly to all but the partner who knew him so well.

"We've not been introduced, but we've met."

"His father?"

"He was with an older man."

"Then you're under arrest, for the murder of Tom Hodges!"

Heyes and Curry looked at each other. They said nothing but in a few seconds a conversation took place. Here we go again, Curry silently said. Heyes' response was to warn him to be calm, while he figured it out. Everything would be okay, he said. Curry shrugged and got up, allowing the deputies to tie his hands behind him and remove his gun. The group left the restaurant.


* * * * *

Heyes watched the group leave. He had stayed behind to talk to the young man. As the young man left, Heyes caught hold of his arm.

"Wait a moment."

The young man turned and glared at Heyes. "Wadda want? You wanna kill me too?"

"I haven't killed anyone, but I might start with you. Sit down." Heyes' voice was cold and deadly and the young Hodges found himself sitting in a nearby chair, somewhat against his will.

Heyes towered over him. "Why did you accuse my friend? He has nothing to do with you and your father."

"He shot my father!"

Heyes stared hard at the young man. Firmly, slowly and quietly he said, "No. He did not." He paused for a moment and leaned in close, "Why did you say he did?"

Hodges paled, but the arrogance of youth enabled him to stay quiet. He stared down at the floor, unable to meet the hard, unflinching stare of the older man.

Heyes was impressed, not many held silent under his enquiry; but he was also angry and frustrated by the youth's silence. He continued to stare; when Hodges finally cracked and looked up again, Heyes said, deadly quiet, "I will find out."

With that, he spun and left the restaurant.

Ben Hodges found he was unable to breathe well and that he couldn't stand up.


* * * * *

In the Sheriff's office; a small, musty smelling place, with 'dobe walls, a wooden floor, a pot bellied stove, a coffee pot on top of it and no frills; Curry was marched into a cell. The Sheriff opened the door, while the deputies untied Kid and then pushed him inside. The Sheriff slammed the door closed and locked it, with a triumphant air.

"Bet you thought you'd git away with it, here in a little hick town! Well, we showed you!"

Curry stared at him as though he'd gone mad. "I didn't think I'd 'git' away with it! I mean I didn't do it! So how could I get away with it! I have no idea what you are talking about!"

"Tell it to the Judge."

The Sheriff walked away and sat down at his heavy wood desk. Behind him was a row of rifles and at the far wall a large number of wanted posters were displayed. Curry went cold when he saw that one of the ones peeking out from under held the words 'Hannibal Heyes'. His couldn't be far away. Fortunately, they appeared to have been covered by other, more recent posters and the Sheriff didn't seem to be paying them any mind, but it was uncomfortable to say the least. Curry turned away and sat down on the bunk, placed at right angles to the small, barred window. The Sheriff put his feet up and leaned back in his chair, his work done.

Both men were startled, the Sheriff nearly falling backwards, by the front door banging open. Hannibal Heyes walked in. His brown eyes were dark and slightly narrowed. Though it was already hot, the Sheriff felt a chill when he looked up at the man.

Heyes went straight up to the Sheriff's desk and leant his hands on it. His gaze met the Sheriff's and held it, until the Sheriff paled and looked away. When Heyes spoke it was with a frightening calm.

"Sheriff, I'm sure that if you consider your position, you will understand that Thaddeus had nothing whatsoever to do with this, whatever this is."

The Sheriff was more than a little annoyed by the interruption; he had wanted to catch up on his sleep. He was also annoyed by this saddletramp badgering him in his own office. Finding himself under pressure, he straightened himself up and he glared back.

"This man", he gestured at Curry, "has been accused of murdering a citizen of this county. Until the Judge arrives, he is staying in this cell! I do not need to explain myself to you!"

Curry had been watching the exchange. He sighed.

"Joshua!" he called out. "Er, Joshua!" Then, more urgently, "JOSHUA!"

Heyes looked across at him.

"Can I have a quiet word with you?"

Shooting an angry glance at the Sheriff, Heyes strode over.

"What is it?" he hissed, a little upset with the Kid for interrupting.

"Heyes," Curry whispered, "Wouldn't it be better to ask him what's goin' on?"

Heyes stared at him, "I was going to do that, when you wanted to speak to me. If that was all you wanted to say.."

He started to leave, but was stopped by another urgent whisper from Kid.

"Heyes."

"What!"

Faced with the wrath of Hannibal Heyes, Kid Curry merely mildly pointed, discreetly, so as not to attract the Sheriff's attention, at the far wall, where the wanted posters were.

Heyes looked in that direction and his anger disappeared, chased away by the cold fingers running down his spine. He walked slowly over to the Sheriff's desk.

"Er, Sheriff, we er, we seem to have got off on the wrong foot. May I apologise for my, um, hastiness. I was somewhat taken aback by your arrest of my friend. Perhaps we should start with introductions?"

The Sheriff peered cautiously at Heyes, unsure how to take this sudden change in attitude. The man seemed perfectly reasonable now, practically friendly.

"Sheriff Perkins. What can I do for you?"

"Joshua Smith. Would you be so good as to explain what led up to your arresting my friend?"

"Ben came in early this morning, with his father's body. He said he'd been shot and that he knew who'd done it. He pointed out your friend. So, I arrested him!"

Heyes took a deep breath. "Mr. Jones and I only arrived late last night."

"Yes, but you do know them, he said so!"

"There was a", a slight pause, "small incident in a saloon. We did not know them nor where they lived. Mr. Jones was in the hotel most of last night…."

"Were you there as well?"

Heyes felt he was betraying his friend as he answered. Silently, he asked the Kid to forgive him but to understand he had to be truthful. "Well, I was playing poker…."

"So you don't know what he did?"

"I know he didn't kill Tom Hodges."

"Like I told him, tell it to the Judge!"

Gathering the last vestiges of his patience, Heyes said, "What about his son?"

"What about Ben?" The Sheriff suddenly bolted up, "You're not saying that he killed his father! Git! Before I arrest you!"

"Sheriff, he's…"

"GIT!"

With a small apologetic glance at the Kid, Heyes left.


* * * * *

Act Two:

Hannibal Heyes was getting footsore and frustrated. He had been to practically every building in the small town, asking about the Hodges. With a distinct lack of enthusiasm, he entered the undertaker's, the most prosperous looking building in the town and his last stop. A bell rang. No one was in the front, in fact there was very little in the front room, so Heyes headed, without stopping, towards the back. At the doorway, he met the undertaker coming out, taking the stout man by surprise. The undertaker took a step back, alarmed by the boldness of the customer. Heyes was surprised by the undertaker's appearance. He had expected a sad looking man, of slight frame, as most undertakers he'd met were. Instead, the undertaker of South Bends was short, around 5 foot 4, stout and red cheeked and looked as though he had a cheerful disposition, though at present he looked more alarmed than anything else!

"C-c-c-c-can I help you Sir?" he stuttered.

"I understand Ben Hodges is here?"

Hodges, in the back room, heard the man's voice and panicked. Heyes heard the sound of running feet and a door slam. He tried to get past the undertaker, but, as he moved, so did the man and by the time they finished their dance and Heyes got to the door, Hodges had disappeared again.

Heyes turned away from the door and faced the undertaker, who was still upset.

He motioned toward a casket, "Mr. Hodges?"

The undertaker nodded vigorously. The expression on the man's face did not incline him to disagree or argue!

Heyes walked over and looked at the man lying within. It was not a pleasant sight.

"He was killed with a shotgun!"

"Yes, shot in the head." The undertaker shook his head sadly, "Poor Ben. His father is practically unrecognisable. So sad."

"Quite. When is the funeral?"

"This afternoon. Ben was just in here, finalising the details."

"I see. Thank-you." Heyes started to leave, then turned, "Oh, if he's unrecognisable, how do you know that it's Mr. Hodges?

"Why, Ben said so!"

Heyes frowned, took a final look at the man in the casket and then left through the back door.

Outside, he paused for a moment. Something hadn't been quite right, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Shaking off the feeling for the moment; not thinking about it might encourage the thought to surface; he headed over toward the jail.

A glance through the front window showed Heyes that the Sheriff was inside, apparently asleep. Deciding not to risk waking him, he went around to the side of the building, to a window where he thought he might be able to speak to Kid.

Sure enough, he could see Kid lying stretched out on the cot, his hat over his face. Heyes stood at the window and hissed at him, "Kid!"

When Kid Curry did not stir, Heyes spoke more loudly, "Thaddeus!"

The recipient of this pushed his hat back and looked up at the window, a quizzical expression on his face.

"Oh fine! I'm out here, getting hot and thirsty, beating my brains out to figure out what's goin' on and you're fast asleep!"

"So you figure its gotta be the son?" Curry stretched and gracefully rose to his feet. He crossed the cell and came to stand by the window, so they could talk with low voices, avoiding waking the Sheriff.

"Gotta be. Who else? We know they argued. 'Sides, Hodges was killed with a shotgun, so it can't have been you."

"So, you only now eliminated me?" Curry said with a hurt expression. "Heyes!"

"Well, you coulda gone out. And you were awful mad!"

"At the boy! Thanks Heyes, its real nice to know how much you have faith in me!"

"Well, a man's gotta look at all the angles……."

"Heyes, have I ever told you, you can be a little weird sometimes?"

"Frequently," Heyes replied with a long suffering tone and an expression that clearly said that the thought was mutual.

There was a moment's silence and then Curry asked, "Whatcha gonna do next?"

"Go to a funeral."

"Okay, enjoy." Curry returned to his cot, lay down and replaced his hat over his face.

Heyes stood for a moment, sometimes he appreciated the way the Kid didn't ask questions and sometimes it was infuriating! Deciding now was a time to appreciate it, since he couldn't really answer anyway, he slipped away.


* * * * *

A large group was standing at the graveside, heads bowed. All were dressed in 'Sunday best', dark suits and dresses. Heyes stood a distance away, watching the proceedings. The Sheriff was there; he had pointedly ignored Heyes. Ben Hodges was there of course, but he kept shooting little, fearful glances over in Heyes' direction. The Minister was just finishing off his recitation. For such a well liked man, whose son was grieving over him, it had been a rather plain, uninspiring, short and impersonal service. Once again, Heyes felt that something was not quite right.

As the funeral ended, Heyes moved forward until he was able to intercept Ben Hodges.

Ben looked at him, "What do you want?"

"I still want to know why you said my friend killed your father. He was killed with a shotgun. Thaddeus never uses a shotgun."

"So?" was the truculent response.

"So, I think you killed him."

Ben glared at Heyes. "I DID NOT!"

"You were there. My friend wasn't."

"I have not killed my father! I haven't killed him!" Ben indicated toward the casket being lowered into the ground and covered with soil. "You can't make me say I did, cos I didn't!"

Ben's voice had risen. The Sheriff looked over and ambled across.

"Mr. Smith."

"Sheriff."

Ben took the opportunity to flee. Chagrined, Heyes watched him go. He looked directly at the Sheriff. "Did you want something?"

"You still on about it being that boy?"

"Yes. Sheriff, Hodges was killed with a shotgun. My friend.."

"I told ya" interrupted the Sheriff, "tell it to the Judge. And 'bout that. You won't have to wait long, he's due day after tomorrow. Just got word. He's heard about this and changed his schedule."

"Why?"

"Seems your friend is quite important."

Heyes was puzzled. "Who is the Judge?"

"His Honor, Judge Hanley."

Fortunately, the Sheriff didn't notice Heyes pale slightly. Instantly adopting a neutral expression, Heyes asked casually, "Isn't he the Judge at Junction City?"

"Was. Now he covers the whole area. Been a big help, having a judge travel round regular…"

The Sheriff continued to rattle on about the advantages of a judge and how it helped law and order, while Heyes imagined what would happen when the Judge arrived and found that it was the same T. Jones who'd admitted being Kid Curry!

"He didn't say why he was coming?" It was Heyes' turn to interrupt.

"What?" The Sheriff's flow was broken.

"Did he say anything?" Heyes asked, firmly and urgently, demanding a response.

"Just that he'd changed his schedule and would be here in two days and to do nothing until he arrived."

Heyes was relieved. Obviously, the Judge had his suspicions but he'd not passed them on, yet. So, he had until the end of tomorrow to figure this out, get the Kid out of jail and leave South Bends. What was it that meant that they were always having to cut it so tight?

He looked around and could just see Ben, heading for the grocery store.

"Sheriff, great to talk, gotta go!" Heyes left the Sheriff standing, with his mouth hanging open.

Heyes took up position where he could watch Ben. He watched him load up a wagon with a few supplies. He then followed Ben into the saloon, where he sat watching Ben chat with friends and playing a friendly poker game. He also watched Ben drink a considerable amount. Twice, Ben noticed Heyes and raised his glass to him and smiled.

Irritated, Heyes had to work hard to quell the feeling of time running away.

Finally, Ben left the saloon and headed for the hotel. Heyes followed and stood behind him while he checked in, collected a key and walked upstairs. Heyes collected his own key and went up behind him.

Ben opened his room's door. He turned and looked at Heyes. "Night!"

Heyes stood silent and impassive, though his eyes were as dark as coals and burned with anger and frustration.
Suddenly extremely tired, Heyes listened for a short while at Ben's door. It was quiet, the occasional creak indicated the room's occupancy. Heyes debated with himself, exhaustion won out and he headed to his own room to grab a few moments sleep.


* * * * *

Heyes slept for over an hour. The bed was thin and the springs dug into him so he woke feeling only marginally better. He had a quick wash and brush up and then returned to stand outside Ben's hotel room door. He listened. And grew worried as silence reigned.

Cursing, he tried the door handle. Finding it locked, he let himself in. The room was empty.

Annoyed with himself, he headed over to the jail. Seeing the Sheriff inside, his annoyance grew. He went around to the little, barred window.

"Thaddeus!"

Kid appeared immediately at the window.

"Oh. I thought you might be asleep."

"I've been waiting for you. Do you know who the Judge is?" Kid spoke quickly, obviously worried.

"Yes, the Sheriff told me."

"Heyes! We can't wait until he gets here. He's not gonna let us go again. Look, there's just the Sheriff here, he'd be easy….."

"Kid, are you ever gonna learn to let me do the thinking?"

"You wanna spend 20 years in jail?"

"You want to be wanted for murder, Thaddeus Jones?"

Heyes waited while it sank in.

"Oh."

"Yeah. Never mind the amnesty. Where'd you want to go, Mexico or further south?"

"Okay, okay. Just what are you gonna do?"

"Well, if I can't resolve this before the Judge arrives, I guess a jailbreak'd be in order. Till then, well Ben Hodges is my only lead, just gotta break him."

"You spoken to him?"

"Yeah, at the funeral. You know Kid, there's something off here. There's something about the body, but I just can't put my finger on it. Ben didn't look too unhappy at the funeral either, but I guess he's not gonna be grieving."

"He still the main suspect?"

"He's my only suspect! I've not found anyone who disliked Tom Hodges. Most folks say nice things about Ben too. And, I even found myself believing him when I spoke to him. But, we know they quarrelled. I've been following him most of the day, but all he's done is get supplies, play poker and go to the hotel."

"He ain't there now."

"I know." Heyes was embarrassed. "I had a short nap and he skipped out." He looked up at the Kid, "And don't say it!"

"Wasn't gonna say a thing." Kid said, innocently.

Heyes gave him a look which said, "oh yeah?" He was going to respond when a thought struck him.

"How'd you know he wasn't there?"

"Saw him 'bout ten minutes before you arrived."

"Why didn't you say?"

"You didn't ask."

"Kid!" Heyes sighed, aware that the Kid was enjoying being able to pass on this information, gleaned while in custody. "Okay," he said resignedly, "Go on."

"Saw him pull up in his wagon behind the grocery store, break in and take a passel of supplies - enough for a very long trip. Food, a rifle and boxes of ammo. Seemed kinda odd to me. Figured you'd want to know." Kid ended, a touch triumphant.

Heyes nodded absently, thinking.

Kid shook his head in wonder, "a pair of boots, oddest thing he took, why a pair of boots?"

Heyes slammed his hand against his forehead.

"Boots! That's it! That's what was wrong. Kid, wait here, I'll be back soon and have you outta there!

A slightly bemused Kid Curry watched him go, "Heyes," he said to the empty window, "Where would I go?"


* * * * *

Act Three:

Heyes found fresh wagon tracks easily, the full moon helping.

He soon caught sight of a wagon, with one man and he fell behind, following. They drove up into the hills, into increasingly uninhabited wilderness, where the track narrowed and twisted. Heyes had difficulty keeping the wagon in sight. He had to keep stopping and listening.

It was well past dusk when Heyes spotted a light in the distance. Moving closer, he saw a small log cabin, in a clearing in the trees. The wagon was hitched outside, empty. As he watched, a man came out, climbed aboard and drove away.

Heyes waited no longer. He rode down to the cabin and up to the door. The light was still on but no one came out. He dismounted and, drawing his gun, approached. He peered in through the window. No one was visible. Certain someone was inside, he reckoned that they were waiting behind the door.

Soundlessly, he positioned himself at the door. Suddenly, he kicked the door in and dove through, turning, ready to fire.

Standing with his back to the wall, to one side of the door, was Tom Hodges.

Heyes drew himself up and holstered his gun. Hodges was unarmed.

"W,w,who are you?" the man quavered.

"Joshua Smith."

Suddenly, recognition dawned. "I remember you! You was with that blond gunfighter!"

"That's right. The blond man whose been accused of your murder!"

"What! I, I don't understand! What murder? MY murder? I've not been. Ben said he'd tell the Sheriff. How did he. Why." Tom was shocked, stumbling over his words, thoughts half finished and in a jumble.

"Mebbe revenge, for losing that fight. Whatever, it doesn't matter. You have to come back into town with me. If you don't, Thaddeus is likely to be hanged!"

"I can't come back! I'll be jailed, mebbe hanged myself!" Tom was agitated and upset.

Heyes sighed. "Sit down Mr. Hodges. Who was the man that just got buried as you?"

"I don't know!"

"Mr. Hodges, I knew you weren't dead. Now, someone else may figure it out. Do you know what to do on the run? You'll have to leave your place. No friends, little money, no place to go or stay! You'll never be able to visit your son again! Do you really want to live that way? After all those years working your farm?"

"How did you?"

Heyes sighed, "If it really matters, the man who got buried had his boots on the wrong feet, big feet and your son got new boots. Do you think Ben can keep this deceit? Someone may have seen him take those goods from the store - he stole them you know? Your actions are gonna bring him nothing but trouble. He's bound to be worried about you, wondering what's happening to you. You want that for him?"

Hodges sat down at the small wooden table, a beaten man.

"I think you'd better tell me the whole story" Heyes commanded.

"I don't know where to begin."

"Take it from when you left the saloon, after you and my friend 'met'."

Hodges rose and poured himself a cup of coffee, added some whiskey from a small bottle and then settled back into the chair. He looked at Heyes. "Why are you so interested?"

Heyes stared hard at him. "My partner is in jail. I want to get him out. Of course I'm interested! Now, why aren't you dead?"

Hodges sighed. The recent events had been troubling him. Here was a chance to get it off his chest. And something about the man led him to believe that it would be better for him if he did tell the whole story…

After leaving the saloon, Ben stormed off. Tom had no idea where he went. At that point he was too tired and frightened to care much. He returned to their hotel room and lay on the bed. But he couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned and fretted over Ben. The last few months, Ben had been difficult, truculent and defiant. He picked fights, refused to do his chores and was always disappearing. It was not like him. Although things had been tough on him, his mother dying all those years ago, he had been a good child, helpful and polite, until a few months ago. Tom was afraid that he'd gotten mixed up with troublemakers and outlaws.

The next day, Tom completed his business and began to search for Ben. After checking some of the saloons, he went to the stables to get their horses ready, as time was running out.

To his surprise, he found Ben waiting there, the horses saddled.

"Hi Pa."

"Ben." Tom was aware he sounded annoyed and suspicious.

"Pa, I'm sorry 'bout last night. Don't know what was wrong with me - especially threatening that gunny."

Heyes winced slightly at the term used to describe his peaceful, quiet partner, but Tom continued, lost in his thoughts…

Tom smiled at Ben, "Alright, no harm done. Let's go home."

They rode out of the town. It was a beautiful, quiet day, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. The two chatted quietly, about everyday, family things. At midday, they made a small, quick camp. They ate and brewed coffee. It was comfortable and familiar, a reminder to Tom of how things had been.

After their rest, they resumed their journey. Tom was relaxed. Then they heard the sound of a horse approaching, from behind them. Tom pulled his horse over a little, expecting the faster moving man to want to pass by. Ben slowed down, forcing Tom to do the same.

The man pulled up alongside them. Black haired, with a couple of days of stubble, he wore dark pants, a fancy shirt and a black leather vest. The only thing that looked worn was his hat. He was obviously not a farmer or cowhand, though his hands looked hard.

"Afternoon."

"Afternoon." Tom responded cautiously.

"Mind if I ride along?"

"We're not in a hurry."

"Me neither."

"You sure sounded as though you were."

"Pa! Don't be so unfriendly. Sure, don't mind if you travel with us. You goin' far?"

"Dunno. Where you headed?"

"Next town, South Bends."

"Well, waddya know? That's where I'm headed!"

Tom was now very concerned. Something was wrong. He was afraid of what might happen, afraid of the man, but didn't know what to do about it. The man had the look of someone who could take good care of himself. His gun was slung low and tied down and looked well used. Another weapon was fastened to his saddle.

The three men continued on. Ben and the stranger talked, following behind Tom. As the minutes passed into half an hour then an hour, Tom relaxed a little. Perhaps he was being too cautious.

Behind him, the stranger eased the weapon out of the holster strapped to the saddle. Ben watched, fascinated. He aimed it at Tom's back.

A prickling feeling ran down Tom's spine and he half turned. He saw the weapon pointed at him and he dove off his horse as the shot rang out.

Tom hit the ground hard, knocking the breath out of him. His horse whinnied wildly and took off.

Ben's horse reared a little and danced about. Ben struggled to regain control.

The stranger pulled his horse up and jumped off.

He pointed the gun at Tom again.

Tom lunged at the man, grabbing for the gun. As he did so, he was amazed at himself. He caught the end of the gun and pushed it up into the air and then he drove his head into the dark man's stomach. The man doubled and fell to the ground, but he still had a hold of the gun. Tom and the man wrestled. One, trying to pull it away, the other to fire it.

There was a second shot.

The explosion was so loud, it made Tom's head spin, going off so close to his ears.

Tom lay on the ground, gasping for breath.

A silence descended.

Ben jumped down off his horse and dropped besides the stranger's body but only for a moment. Turning, he crawled to his father's side.

Tom saw Ben's lips moving, but couldn't tell what he was saying. He couldn't focus. He felt sick to the stomach and his whole body was shaking. Ben's face swam in and out of his vision. Something seemed to be happening to him, but he could feel nothing, see nothing but the flash of the explosion and a sea of red. All he could hear was a buzzing in his ears.

"Pa! Pa! He's dead! You killed him! You hear me Pa?" Ben stood and looked around wildly. For a moment, his head spun as he tried to decide what to do.

"Pa." His father was not responding. He lay, white and shaking, on the ground. Ben came to a decision. He went over to the gunman and began to remove his clothes.

Having stripped the top layer from the man, he returned to his father.

"Pa? You hear me Pa? You gotta hide out. Who knows what the Sheriff will think. I'll take him into town. Tell the Sheriff what happened. See what the land's like. If its all clear I'll come back." As he spoke, Ben was removing his father's shirt and pants. He dressed his father in the dead man's clothing.

He knelt over his father and shook him. "Pa! Pa! C'mon! You've got to get moving. Go to that little cabin we found, you remember, few years ago?"

Tom stared at his son, unable to comprehend.

"Pa! You gotta head for that little cabin. I'll meet you there, soon. You hear?"

Tom nodded.

"C'mon, get on your horse." Ben pulled Tom up and marched him over to the stranger's horse and pushed him on board.

"You remember now? That little cabin?"

Tom nodded again, his face still ashen. Ben slapped the rear of the horse and it started and headed off. Ben stood for a few moments, watching them leave, making sure that his father stayed on board and that the animal kept moving. Then, he mounted his own and went after his father's horse. Retrieving it, it hadn't gone far, he returned and hauled the body up into the saddle. Then he headed into town.

Being on a horse shook a little sense into Tom and he regained enough of his senses to stay on board and head for the little cabin Ben had referred to.

Once there, he automatically took care of the animal, hardly noticing that it wasn't his horse. He went into the cabin, a single room, with a potbellied stove, a sink, rough table, benches and a couple of chairs and a large fireplace and mantel. In one corner, against a wall was a bunk. There were a few supplies and a blanket was folded on the bunk's mattress. He carried some logs in and made a fire in the fireplace and stove and set some coffee going. Then, he collapsed onto the bunk and lay, dazed…

Slowly, Tom's mind came back to the present. His eyes focussed onto Heyes' face. "That'd be a day, no, day before yesterday. Since then, I've been just waiting here. Trying not to remember……"

Heyes nodded. "Shotgun's are an unpleasant weapon. A dreadful experience, but I don't see the problem. The man attacked you. You was just defending yourself. You tell that to the Sheriff and the Judge and you'll be fine. So, why did Ben say it was you?"

"He didn't. I mean, he told the Sheriff what happened. He told me that the Sheriff said that he didn't believe it, that he was looking to arrest me."

Heyes shook his head. "No, Ben told the Sheriff that my partner, my friend, had murdered you. Earlier today," Heyes glanced at his watch and amended that, "yesterday afternoon, now, I went to your funeral."

"Look, Mister."

"Smith. Joshua Smith."

"Look, Mister Smith, I am not dead! I killed a man. He's the one who's dead and just buried."

Heyes felt his patience wearing thin. "Hodges, I'm telling you. Your son told the Sheriff it was you that was killed. Why would I lie about that? My friend IS in jail. Why would I lie about that? What would I be doing here, if that wasn't true?"

Hodges stared into his mug. "But, why would Ben say such a thing?"

"I can think of one reason."

"What?"

"He wants you dead."


* * * * *

Act Four:

"WHAT?"

"He. Wants. You. Dead." Heyes spoke slowly and patiently.

"Don't be ridiculous."

"What other reason could there be? Ben probably hired that man to do it. Since he failed, this gives him the chance to do it himself."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Think about it. Ben was riding next to the man. Ben wanted him along. Ben must have seen him take the shotgun out, but he didn't stop him. Ben has lied to everyone about what happened. Why would you say he did that?"

Hodges shook his head mutely.

Heyes frowned. "What I don't understand is why, if he wants you dead, he didn't do it now, when he delivered the supplies?"

Tom Hodges was unable to answer. He seemed to have lost the power of speech. Heyes looked at him, somewhat concerned. The man had been through some difficult times and it must be gutwrenching to think that your own son might be behind some of the worst of it. On the other hand, the Kid was his only concern right now and Hodges had to be able to ride.

Heyes got up and poured some more coffee, laced with a little of the whiskey into Hodges' mug.

"Here, drink this. I know it's late, but we have to be riding out of here. I have to get you back to town as soon as possible."

Hodges looked up blankly at Heyes.

"We must get back to town. Tonight. I'll go saddle your horse. You get your things together, if there's anything you want."

Heyes opened the door, as a shot rang out!

The bullet breezed past Heyes ear and splintered the wood of the door. Heyes ducked and jumped back inside the building, slamming the door shut.

He put the bar across the door and crossed to the window, his gun drawn. Peering out, he rubbed at the frame and then, exasperated, smashed the glass. He had seen where the flash of the gun had been, but the assailant was likely to have moved and he needed to find him, in the shadows of the gloom.

Heyes' eyes raked the trees and bushes in front of him. There were many places where a man could hide and two pairs of eyes were better than one. He wished the Kid was with him, but Hodges would have to do.

"Hodges, get over to the other window, see if you can find him!"

Tom Hodges hadn't moved since the shot and was now rigid in his seat.

At his lack of response, Heyes looked back toward him. "Hodges!" he yelled, exasperated. "Get yourself over to the window!"

As Hodges remained sitting, Heyes left his post and went over to him. He shook the man hard.

"Hodges! Hodges! For pete's sake!"

Tom Hodges focussed his eyes onto Heyes' face.

"I'm sorry", he mumbled.

"Sure, sure. Just get over to the window." Heyes pulled him up and pushed him over to the window. He returned to his previous post.

"Can you see anyone?"

Hodges peered out into the gloom. "Nope."

"Well, he can't get in without us seeing. But, we can't get out." Heyes was frustrated, but he kept his voice calm and neutral. Hodges was already spooked and he would need him, wouldn't do to send him over the edge.

Minutes ticked away.

Heyes rubbed his eyes. He was staring so hard into the gloom that he was beginning to get jumpy.

"Maybe he's gone?" he spoke quietly to himself.

"Huh?"

"I'm gonna see if he's still around." Heyes went to the door and unbarred it. He opened it a crack. A gunshot went off and the wood splintered inches from Heyes temple. He slammed it shut and barred it.

"Well, he's still out there."

Hodges smiled slightly, "He sure is!"

"Why don't you call out to him, he's your son."

"No way! That's not my son out there. He wouldn't shoot at me. Whoever it is must be after you!"

"Someone wants you dead, not me. First, you're attacked on the road, now this. That has to be Ben."

"It can't be!"

Heyes had no response. He continued to stare out of the window.

"It'll be dawn soon, then we'll have more of a chance. If he's going to succeed, he'll have to take us before then."

Heyes looked around. "It's gonna be hard for him to get in. We can probably just wait him out."

"You wait." With that, Hodges burst out through the door.

"Hey!" Heyes dove out after him, another shot narrowly missing him. Thanking lady luck that the guy was such a poor shot, Heyes circled around, keeping to the shadows. He could see a figure moving, but couldn't tell if it was Tom or Ben.

Silently, Heyes approached the figure. His weapon drawn, he drew a bead on the man. He was about to call out to him to halt when a movement at his side caught his attention. As he turned to look, he was sent flying as a body tackled him hard in his side.

Tom Hodges sat across Heyes' body.

"What in tarnation?" Heyes gasped. "Hodges, just what do you think you are doing? Get off me!"

"You'll shoot him! I won't let you kill him!" Hodges shouted at the top of his voice, near deafening Heyes.

"I wasn't going to shoot him! Get off me!" Heyes twisted suddenly and sent Hodges flying off him. Hodges quickly recovered and the two men grappled on the ground. As they fought, Heyes slowly gaining the upper hand, Ben Hodges approached.

Heyes found himself sitting on top of Hodges, pinning him to the ground. About to start 'explaining' things to the man, the click of a hammer froze him and stilled his tongue.

Ben Hodges spoke, his voice wavering. "Stand up."

Heyes rose. He turned and squarely faced the young man. Ben held a gun at him, but the fight he'd shown in the saloon, days ago, had gone. The hand holding the gun shook slightly.

"Well?"

"Well what?"

"What do you want me to do now? You gonna shoot me where I stand or what?"

Ben looked at his father, "Pa?" he entreated.

Tom Hodges stood. He looked at Heyes and then at Ben. His brow furrowed as he considered. Heyes waited, as patiently as a man could with a sixgun facing him.

Eventually, Hodges picked up Heyes' gun and then gently removed the gun from Ben's hand. "Mebbe we should talk?"

Heyes let out the breath he was holding. "My thoughts exactly." he said and then he led the way back into the little cabin.

Inside, he gestured to the other men to sit down. He faced them, one foot on a chair seat, he leant on his leg, "Now, lets get one thing clear, unless someone shoots at me, I have no intention of shooting anyone. All I want to do is get my partner out of jail. That means taking you, Tom, back. Should Ben try to prevent that, I'll have to do something about it." He straightened, reached out and took his gun back, replacing it in his holster. The message was clear to the two men.

Ben was slumped in his chair. There was no indication that he would attempt to stop Heyes. The events of the last few days had taken all the fight from him and he just wanted it to be all over.

"I'll go back with you, turn myself in."

"Why would you want to do that?"

"It's down to me that Bart's dead. Everything that happened."

"From what your father told me, I'd say that he was attacked by a stranger, trying to rob him, killed him in self defence. Nothing to turn yourself in for."

"But, I, I.."

"Did you hire him, to kill your pa?"

"No. Yes. Well, sorta."

"Ben, what did you do?" Tom Hodges asked, alarmed.

"After I left ya, I went to other saloons. Got real drunk. In one of 'em, I was goin' on 'bout how I couldn't take living with ya anymore and how I wanted to get rid of you. I kinda suggested that I might pay…" Ben trailed miserably off.

"You were talking to this Bart?"

"Among others."

"Man was obviously a fool. You don't make a deal like that with a young drunk. Regret it now?"

Ben stared up at Heyes, his eyes shining with unshed tears. He nodded vigorously.

"Why were you shooting at us just now, then?"

"I decided I had to tell Pa everything. Couldn't let him run like this. I came back and then I saw your horse and you came out and I thought that you must know and that you'd be after me and" Ben faltered, "I suppose I panicked." he finished lamely.

Heyes nodded, understanding. "Good thing you missed."

Tom spoke up. "But why? Why would you even want to say such a thing?"

A little of Ben's earlier fire appeared. "'Cos you won't let me go! You keep telling me I'm gonna run the farm, I can't do nothing else! But, I want to be an engineer!"

"What?!"

"I've bin visiting Mr. Grainger. He's bin teaching me. He reckons I could be good and I really like it. I don't want to be a farmer." Ben spoke defiantly.

"That's where you've been goin'? That's why you've bin arguing with me? Why didn't you tell me?"

Ben stared down at the floor and shrugged.

Tom Hodges looked up at Heyes, standing listening. "What are you going to do?"

"I told you. All I want to do is get my friend out of jail. I want you to come back with me, tell the Sheriff about how you both panicked when a stranger attacked you. Once Thaddeus is out of jail, we'll be leaving."

Tom Hodges looked into Heyes' eyes and understanding dawned.

"C'mon Ben, let's get these supplies loaded back onto the wagon."


* * * * *

It was a weary looking group that rode in the early afternoon into South Bends. They dismounted in front of the Sheriff's office and trooped in, led by Heyes.

One of the deputies, Hank Pryor, was sitting propped up behind the Sheriff's desk. As the door opened, he hurriedly and guiltily hastened out of the chair.

Heyes smiled at him, "Would you mind fetching the Sheriff?"

Pryor gaped, staring at Tom Hodges.

"Deputy?"

"Oh. Sure, sure." Pryor didn't move.

"Maybe you'd like to fetch him?" Heyes said pleasantly, followed by a sharp, "NOW!"

Pryor scrambled for the door and shot out.

Tom and Ben Hodges sat down. Ben slumped forward, his head in his hands. His father glanced at him and then put a comforting arm around his shoulders. Heyes watched them and shook his head in amazement. He ambled over to the cell where the Kid was stood, hands tightly gripping the bars, the only sign of the effort he was making to stop himself blurting out a thousand and one questions.

"How're ya doin'?" Heyes drawled.

"Fine, fine." Replied Curry tightly, his eyes flicking between Heyes and the Hodges, questioningly.

"Sheriff been treating you okay?"

"Yes. Hey, Joshua." Curry's patience was wearing thin.

"Good, good. We may need to ride outta here quickly. Wouldn't want you to slow us down."

"Heyes!" Curry managed to keep his voice low, but couldn't keep the exasperation out of it.

"Wait and listen."

Kid Curry rolled his eyes. At that moment, he could have cheerfully strangled his annoying and amazing partner! However, Heyes had walked away, and was helping himself to some of the coffee brewing on the stove, so, fortunately for that partner, the Kid couldn't get his hands on him!


* * * * *

Pryor ran along the street, his mouth still hanging open. He knew the Sheriff had gone to the saloon and he went there as quickly as his legs could carry him, which, as he was rather stout, wasn't very fast.

Out of breath and panting hard, he burst in through the swing doors, so that every occupant turned and stared at him.

The Sheriff jumped up, his chair falling over. It hit the floor with an ear shattering crash.

"What in tarnation are you doing here? Who's guarding the prisoner?"

Pryor was doubled over and still panting heavily.

"Speak up man!" yelled the Sheriff.

"Hodges. Office. Alive. Go." panted Pryor, taking deep gulps of air.

"What?"

"Hodges. Here. Alive. You. Go. Office."

"What are you babbling about?"

"Tom Hodges is alive!" Pryor shouted in frustration.

The room burst into a hubbub of voices. The Sheriff headed out at a run, practically knocking poor Pryor over in his rush to exit. Pryor sighed heavily and then proceeded to jog after him.


* * * * *

The door banged open and the Sheriff skidded to a halt to stand staring at Tom Hodges.

"How?"

Heyes held a cup of coffee out to him. "Here, Sheriff, have this. Sit down. I think we can explain." He looked toward the Hodges', who nodded vigorously.

Twenty minutes later, Kid Curry found himself out on the street, his hat and gunbelt thrust into his arms, the Sheriff babbling at him about being sorry and Heyes shoving his hat onto his head. There was confusion in his eyes and a faint expression of shock on his face. Heyes looked at his partner and smiled. He took the Sheriff's arm and steered him back into his office. Backing out, he took hold of the Kid's elbow.

"Buy me a drink?"

"Huh? Yeah, sure." The Kid paused and looked quizzically at Heyes, "Heyes, what just happened?"

"Let's get that drink and I'll tell you all about it."

The two men headed across the street to the saloon.


* * * * *

Epilogue:

A smart, well-appointed stagecoach pulled up outside the Sheriff's office.

An elderly man, slender and grey haired, dressed in a dark suit, climbed sprightly out. Judge Hanley had arrived. He entered the office. The first thing he noticed was that the cells were empty. He stared hard at the Sheriff.

"I thought you had a Jones in custody?"

"Er, yes Sir. I did Sir." The Sheriff was standing to attention.

"Where is he?"

"Er, he left this morning with his friend."

"I thought I instructed you to do nothing until I arrived." Hanley barked.

"Erm, well Sir, you see Sir, his friend…."

"Would that be a dark haired, silver tongued devil called Smith?" the Judge interrupted.

"Yes Sir! Er, do you know them, Sir?"

Hanley sighed.


* * * * *

The subjects of their conversation were riding along the road out of South Bends. They were relaxed and chatting amiably.

A worried expression appeared on Kid Curry's face.

"Heyes, do you think that the Judge has arrived yet?"

"Probably."

"Reckon he knows its us?"

"Probably."

"Reckon he'll send 'em after us?"

Heyes pulled up and looked thoughtful. "Well, Kid, as you know, I'm a good judge of character and I figure he'll leave well alone, 'specially when the Sheriff explains how it was all a mistake. And as how he's not actually seen us."

"If he doesn't?" Curry was more than a little doubtful of Heyes' character judgement.

Heyes looked at the Kid, disappointment in his lack of faith in him vying with his own growing doubt about the wisdom of trusting the Judge. Doubt won. Simultaneously, the two men spurred their horses into a run.

_________________
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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