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 4.10 Once More Into the Breach by Kate Ashe

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Join date : 2013-10-13

20150428
Post4.10 Once More Into the Breach by Kate Ashe

4.10 Once More Into the Breach
by Kate Ashe


Abigail’s horse whinnied sharply and swung round. Almost immediately, Heyes’ and Curry’s horses began to prance and pull away, dancing nervously on their toes. The three riders struggled to control them, while trying to figure out what was upsetting them.

Heyes caught a terrifying scent – “Smoke!” he yelled. “There must be a fire up ahead!”

Curry nodded, still struggling with his animal, having also caught the smell of the smoke.

Suddenly, Abigail’s horse bolted. Heyes set off after her. Curry tried to follow, but his animal had other ideas. It reared and bucked, sending the man flying, and set off at a gallop, panicked and seeking its own route away from the flames.

Curry found himself flying through the air, toward a tree and the ground. He curled and twisted, trying to protect himself, but not noticing the branch looming in front of him. His head smacked hard into it and he fell, limply, to the ground, where he lay, unmoving.



Starring

Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry


Guest Stars


Charlene Tilton as Abigail Lovern


Lorne Green as Mr. Lovern


Robin Sachs as Jeremy Lovern




Once More Into the Breach
by Kate Ashe



In a dusty town, swollen by the miners digging the local strike, several saloons were oozing music onto the street. Inside each one, there was the rattle of money changing hands. A great many poker games were going on and at one of the tables sat Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.

They’d arrived at this busy town a few days ago, having signed on to deliver a load of gambling equipment and liquor. After collecting their pay, they’d agreed between themselves to stay on - take a bath, relax in the saloons and enjoy a few nights resting in a comfortable bed. Generally the games were fair, so they were both ahead of their stake.

They had been playing the particular game for several hours and Heyes felt that it had run its course. A glance at his partner and the pair of them withdrew from the game. The other players displayed varying degrees of relief and annoyance at this, depending on how much each had lost to the two charming and affable men.

Out on the street, Kid blinked in the bright sunlight, stretched and yawned.

“You wanna look for another game?”

That had been Heyes’ intention, but a figure had caught his attention. Distracted, he didn’t immediately answer the Kid.

Kid Curry looked at Heyes and saw the expression on his face.

“Uh oh,” he groaned, “What now?”

“Huh?”

“What’s up?”

“Nothing, I hope.” Heyes hurried off across the street, followed by a bemused and worried Curry.

Curry followed Heyes down the street. They headed toward another saloon. As they approached, it became clear that a commotion was occurring, raised voices drifted out. A man was ordering someone to leave, a woman’s voice was refusing to go. As Heyes and Curry reached the entrance, a woman was propelled out, landing against Heyes, her back to him. Without looking round, Abigail Lovern straightened up and glared at the burly bartender who’d pushed her out. Kid Curry gasped at her sudden appearance and then glanced at Heyes and sighed.

“How dare you manhandle me in such a way. I, Sir, am a lady and do not expect to be treated in such a high handed manner. You are an uncivilized brute! I was merely wishing to search your grubby little establishment for two particular men and you have the temerity to refuse my entry and then use physical force to eject me! I demand admittance!”

The ‘brutish’ bartender stared at her, his lack of comprehension clear on his face. He muttered something about women.

Heyes was grinning. He leant forward slightly, “She wants to come in.” he interpreted.

“Why didn’t she say so?” complained the put-upon bartender. “Ain’t no woman comin' in here!” He finished, firmly, standing stolidly in the entrance, legs slightly apart and arms folded, a mulish expression on his face.

Abigail was furious. “I intend to enter and you won’t stop me!” She turned to the man beside her, “And I don’t require assistance.” She stopped, suddenly recognising the grinning figure. “Oh! It's you.”

“I don’t think you’ll get in Abigail.” Heyes said, still grinning broadly.

Setting her face firmly, Abigail turned back to the bartender. “Thank you for your assistance. I no longer require entry. You may leave!”

Putting a pleasant, smiling expression on her face, she turned back. “Joshua!” she exclaimed. “How nice to bump into you like this!”

“Really?” Heyes’ expression turned smug. “Well, it's nice to see you, but we were headed in..” He turned to the Kid, who had stood silently watching and waiting. “Thaddeus” Heyes’ voice held a question and invitation to follow as he started toward the door.

Suddenly anxious, Abigail caught hold of Heyes’ arm. “Erm, I wonder, is there some place we could talk. I’d like, well, I’d like to, er, catch up with you! Yes, catch up with you, that’s it!”

Heyes’ face hardened as he stared intently at her. It was a moment before he spoke, during which Abigail became increasingly uncomfortable. Finally he spoke, “Our hotel room.” He turned to lead the way.

Once everyone was settled in the room; Abigail seated, Curry stood against a wall, his arms folded, his face expressionless; Heyes looked at Abigail. “So, what is it you want from us?”

Abigail blushed. “I, why, what makes you” she stuttered.

“You haven’t come all this way without wanting something. And, you were looking for two particular men.”

Abigail sighed. “It’s true. I do need your help.”

“Go on.”

“Jeremy escaped from the Sheriff and disappeared. About two weeks ago, Father was kidnapped! A note was left, demanding $100,000! I’m sure it was Jeremy. I can’t raise that amount of money, even if I sold everything! I want you to help me find Father and get him back.”

Heyes exchanged a glance with Kid, who gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. He looked back at Abigail. “I don’t think so. It’s a job for law enforcement, not something we would want to get involved with.”

“Oh please. I don’t know anyone else. I know you can do it. I really need your help!”

“We’re rather busy at present. And, getting tangled up with the Sheriff is not something we want to do!” Heyes was firm.

“The Sheriff won’t do anything! You wouldn’t be getting ‘tangled up with him’!” Abigail paused a moment, a sly expression flitted over her face. “I could pay you, say, a $1000 each?”

Heyes smiled, “We’d be happy to help.”

Kid Curry gave a heavy groan.

* * * * * *

Kid Curry was sitting quietly, cleaning his gun. There was a slight air of tension around him.

Heyes was sat quietly relaxing on the bed, arms folded behind his head. He was waiting for the Kid to speak up.

Finally, Kid stopped and looked up. “Heyes, why are we doing this? I said no!”

“You heard. She needs our help.”

“Not to mention $1000, a piece!”

Maintaining an innocent expression, Heyes said evenly “Kid, if you knew the answer, why did you ask?”

Kid glared at his partner. “I suppose you remember how wrong things went last time?”

Heyes grimaced, scratching his arms absently, “Don’t remind me!”

“Well, this time, we gotta get to her place, track down Jeremy, find where he’s hid Lovern, rescue Lovern and probably git shot at and get Lovern back to his place again. And then try to git paid! A thousand dollars ain’t worth the aggravation!”

“Kid!” Heyes exclaimed, a mock shocked expression on his face. “What would your mother say!”

Ignoring him, Kid continued, “Last time, Lovern weren’t exactly eager to pay up, how do we know we can collect? That’s if we get Lovern out AND stay in one piece! Heyes, there’s an awful lot that can go wrong this time as well!”

Heyes sighed, suddenly serious. “I know Kid, but what can we do? She needs help and we said we would. We can’t let her down now.”

“We could.”

Heyes looked steadily at the younger man, their eyes locked and a silent conversation took place.

“But we ain’t gonna, are we?”

“No.” Kid broke the gaze and placed his gun in his holster, hanging that up on the bedpost. He undressed and climbed into bed.

“I’m just saying it ain’t gonna be easy.” was his final comment.

Heyes smiled ruefully, “When was it ever Kid?” he responded, and blew out the lamp.

* * * * *

The three of them rode out of town the next morning. Heyes and Abigail rode together, Curry behind. Though Heyes didn’t expect trouble, Curry still kept his eyes and ears open. While they rode, Abigail filled Heyes in on what had happened. By nightfall, they had had a peaceful day and made camp. Curry though was still nervous, even checking the camp thoroughly for weak trees, poisonous plants and dangerous wildlife! Heyes watched him, amused.

“Will you relax? It can’t happen twice!”

“Yeah? You said that about stage robbery too.” Curry was unconvinced.

Abigail sat quietly, pushing her food around. Curry glanced at her and then sat down quietly beside her. Heyes watched him with a mixture of concern and acceptance.

“You should finish that, need to eat whenever you can on the trail.” Curry told her.

“I’m not hungry.”

“I know. But you should still eat it, never know when you’ll get another meal.”

Abigail threw the plate on the ground, tears sparkling in her eyes.

“I’m not hungry.” She said, angrily, brushing her hand across her face.

Curry placed a hand on hers. “It’ll be alright,” he said qently, “Your father will be fine. We’ll find him.”

Abigail looked up, searched his face, looking into his eyes. “Are you sure?”

Curry nodded as Heyes said firmly, “Of course we’re sure, Abigail. Now, if you’re finished, perhaps we should all get some rest?”

Abigail nodded and settled into her blanket.

Curry tidied and cleared up and did the same. Before settling however, he looked at Heyes, a question clear in his blue eyes.

Heyes nodded, don’t worry, his own look answered.

Satisfied, Curry tipped his hat over his face and went to sleep.

* * * * *

Kid Curry woke with a start. The fire had gone out and the stars were thick and bright in the velvet black sky. It took a moment for Curry to adjust, unsure of just what had woken him. His hand on his gun, he lay quietly as his eyes adjusted and his surroundings became dark shadows. He sat up and looked about. A coyote howled. Suddenly, he realised that the pack animal was missing and its load was spread about the area.

“Dang and tarnation!” he cursed, “Joshua! Wake up!”

Curry stood and pushed Heyes with his foot, “Wake up!”

Heyes groaned and turned over, muttering. Curry shoved him again, “Wake up!”

“What?” Heyes grumbled.

“If you get up, you’ll see.”

Heyes shoved his blanket aside, stood and stretched.

“What happened to the fire?”

“It went out.”

“I can see that! Why?”

Curry stared at him, his face a picture of astonishment.

Heyes shrugged. “What happened to the mule?”

“I figure the coyotes chased it away.”

“Pretty quietly.”

“Yeah, and it shed its load.”

Heyes went over and checked the lines. He looked back at Curry, his expression accusing.

“Don’t look at me! It was your turn to tie it up.”

“I thought you did.”

Curry groaned, “I knew this would be difficult.”

“Don’t blame Abigail, it was just a simple mistake.”

“Yeah,” Curry muttered, “like sleeping under a tree covered in poison ivy!”

Heyes threw him a sharp look, but the Kid’s face was expressionless.

“We’ll reclaim what we can and pack it on the horses - don’t worry!”

Curry was bent over, scooping up what he could. He paused and raised his head to glare at his partner, “Sure Heyes” was his dry response.

Heyes glanced over at Abigail. She had her eyes closed and was breathing evenly and steadily. Satisfied, he whispered, “Quietly.”

The two men spent twenty minutes repacking the supplies, trying to see and gather up as much as possible, while avoiding gathering in sand, rocks and wildlife. Finally, as Heyes slung the packs over the horses, Curry got the fire going. With more than an hour till dawn, both rolled up into their blankets to catch a little more sleep. Heyes could feel Curry’s bad mood.

“Cheer up, Kid, it couldn’t be as bad as last time.”

“Huh,” grunted the other man, “and we could be sheriffs.”

Knowing he couldn’t be seen, Heyes grinned, but he couldn’t keep the grin out of his voice as he wished Curry a good night. The grunt he got in response broadened his grin and he fell asleep, still smiling.

* * * * *

Morning came quickly. Curry rose first and brewed coffee. He took a cup to Abigail, squatted on his haunches, shook her gently by the shoulder and waited while she yawned, stretched and sat up. He handed her the cup. Standing, he stepped around Abigail to shove Heyes with his foot. He returned to the fire and began making biscuits. Heyes rolled over and sat up.

“Any coffee?”

“Sure, in the pot.” Curry replied shortly, indicating the coffee pot with the knife in his hand.

Heyes rolled his eyes and stood, stretched, stepped over the fire and lent over to pour coffee into a cup. He stood sipping it and warming up. Biscuits done, Curry relented a little to pass a plateful up to him, before carrying another to Abigail. The three munched in silence, the dawn cold slowly seeping out. Finished, the men cleared up while Abigail brushed and refastened her hair and smoothed her clothes. She decided it was safer not to mention the missing mule.

* * * * *

After breaking camp, the trio were quiet as they rode out. Curry wasn’t talking to Heyes and Abigail was too worried about her father to indulge in chatter. Occasionally, Curry would mutter something about carelessness or confidence. When Heyes asked sharply what he’d said, his reply would be a curt ‘nothing’ and there would be silence again.

After a long day, by the fire, over a cup of coffee, Heyes coughed and caught the others’ attention.

“If we push on tomorrow, we should make the waterhole. It’ll then be another couple of days to Mather City, where we can take the stage. Or we can continue on horseback and go over the hills - which will probably shorten the journey by a couple of days but will be harder.”

Abigail spoke up immediately, “The stage will take too long! We have to continue on horseback!”

“Fine with me.” Curry consented.

“Okay. Better get plenty of rest, it could be the last for a while.”

* * * * *

At sunset the next day, after a hard day’s ride though a landscape that became steadily drier and barren, the party pulled up at the edge of the waterhole. Curry leaned across his saddle and stared unhappily into the hole. Heyes sat upright, a slight shock on his face.

It was Abigail who finally spoke up, “Where did all the water go?” Instead of a deep, shining pool of water, there was a muddy puddle.

Curry shrugged, “Joshua?”

“Why ask me? How would I know that!?”

“Maybe it sprung a leak?” Curry suggested helpfully, drawing a disgusted look from his partner.

Ignoring Kid’s remarks, Heyes added, “The question is what to do?”

“Supper.” Curry said firmly, dismounting.

* * * * *

“So,” Curry said, sipping his half cup of water, “tomorrow?”

“We could go back,” Heyes began, noticing how Abigail started and sat up as he spoke, “but it’s a shorter ride to go on. Though it’s not going to be easy, without water.”

“We do have some, don’t we?”

“Sure, but we’ll need all of it to get the horses through, with luck. And we’ll have to walk much of the way, to save them. That’ll add to the time.”

Abigail stared at the ground for several moments. When she looked up, her eyes glistened with unshed tears. She felt desperate and helpless and she only now realised how much she had believed that these two would rescue her father.

“Please,” she whispered.

Heyes looked at her, surprised. “Take it easy Abigail. I said it wouldn’t be easy, not that it couldn’t be done or that we wouldn’t do it.”

Curry nodded and patted her hand. “We’ll get there, just maybe a day later. We’ll make up the time when we cross the mountains. Now, why don’t you turn in?”

Abigail nodded, rolled up in her blanket and quickly fell asleep. Heyes and Curry followed shortly after.

* * * * *

Three exhausted, very thirsty people walked wearily into the town of Mather City. Their feet dragged along the ground, scuffing the dust up; their horses straggled behind, on a loose rein. They were covered with dust and gave every appearance of being about to fall over. Their arrival drew the Sheriff’s attention. He approached them as they slowly and haphazardly hung the reins over a hitching post outside the hotel.

“Gentlemen,” his sharp voice had Heyes and Curry swivelling their heads. Immediately catching sight of the shining silver star, a quick glance of concern passed between them.

“And Ma’am,” the Sheriff added, more softly, taking off his hat as he realised the third member was female.

Heyes’ voice held a hint of caution, “What can we do for you Sheriff?”

“You’re quite a sight”

“And you’d like to know why?” finished Heyes.

Abigail stepped forward. Fire in her eyes, she challenged the Sheriff. Curry groaned softly!

Imperiously, Abigail said, “I have no intention of explaining myself to you. I require a drink, a bath and a change of clothes and I do not intend to delay in idle chatter with you!”

Abigail turned sharply on her heel and began to walk toward the hotel. At the steps, she stopped and looked back at Heyes and Curry.

“Well?” she snapped.

With a glance of contrition at the Sheriff, whose jaw was hanging slackly, Heyes and Curry hurried after her.

Stalking up to the reception desk, she banged on the bell. A man appeared.

“Two rooms,” she demanded, her tone still haughty. “You will provide baths. And see that our bags are brought up immediately. They are on the animals outside. They need to be removed to the livery and taken care of. You’ll see to that of course.”

The man was bobbing his head rapidly. After signing the register, Heyes took the keys and the three headed up the stairs.

Turning a corner on the landing, Abigail let out a huge sigh and smiled at the two men.

“What did you think?”

They were staring at her.

“Well, you didn’t want to talk to the Sheriff, did you? And it sure gets things done!”

Heyes cocked an eyebrow, “It sure does,” he said, drily. He handed Abigail her key, “C’mon, Thaddeus, lets go get some of this dust off.”

* * * * *

Sunlight filtered in through the grimy curtains, waking the Kid. He yawned, stretched and, with his foot, kicked at Heyes. Heyes grunted, muttered and turned over. Kid lay quietly, staring up at the ceiling, aware of the ache in his legs and feet. He was about to rise when a loud banging on the door hurried him up. Heyes sat bolt upright, shock on his face.

“Abigail.” Kid said, matter of factly as he opened the door.

Abigail bounded into the room.

“What are you doing still in bed? We have to get going!”

“Morning Abigail.” Kid said calmly from behind her. Heyes glared at her.

She spun round, “Huh?”

“Morning.” Kid repeated.

“Oh right, yes, morning. Now, will you hurry up?” adding as an afterthought, “please?”

“As soon as you’ve left.” Heyes said firmly.

“I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Kid shut the door behind her and then grinned broadly at Heyes. Heyes shook his head and sighed.

* * * * *

After a hasty breakfast, Kid insisting they had to eat, they checked out, recovered their horses, visited the grocery store and then headed off across country.

As they travelled, Heyes questioned Abigail in detail, over and over. Behind them, Curry smiled quietly to himself, enjoying seeing Heyes’ preparation and attention to detail from the sidelines for a change.

The land changed from desert to woodland. They began to climb. Curry found himself constantly looking back and around. There was a prickle on his skin at the back of his neck that he couldn’t shake. He didn’t see anything, but he couldn’t rid himself of the feeling that they were being followed.

Finally, he drew Heyes to one side.

“Heyes, you notice anything?”

“Like what?”

“I dunno. Just got a feelin’.”

“What sort of feeling?”

“We’re being watched.”

“Kid, this trip has got you spooked. Who’d be watching us?”

“I dunno. Maybe Jeremy’s men?”

“Well, how would they know where we were? Wouldn’t we have seen something before now? And, why ain’t they trying to stop us?”

“I dunno Heyes,” Kid said testily. “I just know that someone is watching us!”

“Well, if that’s all they’re gonna do, there’s no need to worry, is there?”

“Mebbe, but, if’n you don’t mind, I’ll continue to worry!”

“Sure Kid, I like it when you worry, I know you’ll take better care of me!” Heyes strolled away to the campfire, Kid’s glare following him.

* * * * *

Kid’s eyes flew open. In the darkness of a moonless night, the bright blue colour was not visible. His hand slid slowly over to his gun. He lay motionless, adjusting to the dark, waiting for his rapidly beating heart to settle a little and trying to identify the sound that had woken him.

There it was again!

A strange, snuffling sound, not far away.

It was so dark, he couldn’t make out anything farther away than the gun in his hand, but he felt the presence of something close by. The snuffling grew closer and then something soft and warm brushed across his face, knocking his hat away. Kid Curry then stared up into the large muzzle and even larger teeth of a bear!

He froze. Even his heart stopped and leapt into his mouth, which had gone dry. He couldn’t even open his mouth to yell. He could feel the bear’s hot breath on his face, it smelt rancid. The bear’s nose twitched as it snuffled around Kid’s face. Suddenly, the bear’s mouth opened, revealing the full set of fearsome teeth. The bear yawned. The sight of the teeth galvanised the Kid! He scrambled away and yelled “Heyes!” Startled, the bear reared up and growled loudly. Kid Curry was still backing up as quickly as he could.

Heyes jumped to his feet and yelled, he fired his gun into the air several times and the bear, with a final, protesting growl, lumbered off.

Stumbling over unseen rocks and branches, Heyes rushed to his friend’s side. He knelt down by the Kid and laid his hand on his shoulder. He could feel Kid shaking underneath his hand. Giving him a reassuring pat, Heyes asked quietly, “You okay Kid?”

Kid Curry found he couldn’t speak. His eyes focused on Heyes’ face as he gasped, taking in a deep breath. Slowly, hesitatingly, he nodded. Heyes noticed the gun clutched in Kid’s hand and frowned. The Kid must be pretty shaken not to have used it.

“Coffee, I think.”

Abigail was sitting up, trying to see what was happening. Heyes built up the fire, giving her the light to see Kid Curry lying away from his bedroll, propped up on his elbows, gun in one hand, panting. She hurried over to him.

“Are you alright?”

Curry turned his head and looked at her, seeing the deep concern and fear etched into her pretty face. He smiled, in what he hoped was a reassuring way, and nodded. He sat up.

Heyes returned. “Here,” he said, handing a cup over to the Kid, “Coffee. Gonna be pretty strong, it's what was left over.”

Kid took the cup and sipped it. The strong coffee warmed and strengthened him. The colour returned to his skin and he found his voice.

“Thank you,” he said, sincerely.

“What happened?”

“Woke up to find it standing over me. Gave me a start.”

“Yeah.” Heyes agreed.

Rather tactlessly, Abigail asked “Why didn’t it attack you?”

“You’d rather it did?” Heyes asked.

“Of course not, I just, that is..” she trailed off.

“Well, Thaddeus is such a ladies man, maybe he attracted a lady bear.” Heyes joked, rather lamely.

“Oh yeah,” Curry responded drily. Draining his cup, he added, “I think I’ll have another and then mebbe get back to sleep.”

Heyes was concerned about his partner, not believing that he was over the scare yet, but he took the hint.

He rose, stretched and yawned. “Yeah, I coulda done without the interruption.” He dropped his hand onto Abigail’s shoulder. “C’mon. We’ll turn in. I’m sure that if it comes back, this time Thaddeus will yell before it’s towering over one of us!”

“Sure, loud enough to wake the dead!” Curry smiled, wanly.

Abigail was far from happy about returning to her blanket. She was dubious that Kid was okay and she was afraid that the bear would return. But, it didn’t do to argue with them so, Heyes and Curry being the only people she didn’t argue with, she did as she was told.

It wasn’t long before Heyes and Abigail had fallen asleep. Curry, however, remained awake the rest of the night, sitting by the fire and ensuring that it didn’t die back.

* * * * *

At first light, Heyes woke. Remembering the night’s events, he sought out his partner. Curry was just walking into the camp. Heyes stretched, drawing Curry’s attention.

“I was just gonna make breakfast. Will you check the horses?”

“Sure.” Heyes stood and began to walk to the string. Casually, he stopped and looked back over his shoulder, “You okay?”

“Sure Heyes.”

“Where’d you go?”

“Get more water, why?” Curry asked, puzzled.

“Oh, was just wondering if you’d been visiting your lady friend.” Heyes said, in his offhand way, as he continued, a little quicker, to the horses. Curry set the coffee pot on the fire and threw a small pebble at his partner’s retreating back.

* * * * * *

After breakfast, the threesome were once more on the trail. No one spoke about their visitor. Heyes continued to question Abigail, while Curry trailed them, leading the mule. Curry was jumpy, turning in his saddle often at small sounds and constantly scanning the trees.
In addition to still being on edge from his previous night’s encounter and lack of sleep, Curry had not shaken the feeling that they were being followed and watched. He found himself reacting to every rustle and groan. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was expecting to see, but he didn’t want to be caught by surprise a second time!

When Heyes called a halt, Curry was so preoccupied with peering into the woods that he didn’t hear him and practically walked his horse straight into the rear of Heyes’ animal!

“Hey, watch it!” called Heyes.

“Sor-ry.” Kid apologised.

Heyes looked hard at him. “I thought you said that you were going to take good care of us,” he teased.

“Nope, I said I was worried!” Curry responded.

“You mean, you aren’t gonna take good care of us?”

“Er, well, of course, I mean, I just, I didn’t say I would, not that I wouldn’t!”

“So, what are you doing riding into the back of me?”

“Well I didn’t mean.” Curry stopped abruptly and then pulled a face, “Shut up Heyes!”

Heyes laughed and dismounted. He led his horse over to where Abigail had tied hers and then helped Kid unload the night’s provisions. Abigail had gotten a fire going and they were soon settled for the night.

* * * * *

Kid’s eyes flew open. Silently, he swore to himself. Regardless of Heyes’ views, he was nervous and so he’d determined to remain on watch. He hadn’t realised he’d fallen asleep. In the darkness of the moonless night, the bright blue colour of his eyes was not visible, nor was it possible to see the cold hardness in them. His hand slid slowly over to his gun. He sat motionless, adjusting to the dark and trying to identify where the sound that had woken him had come from.

A soft rustle reached his ears, followed by a small, metallic sound. Kid flung himself to one side and fired almost simultaneously with the flash of light from the trees. A bullet landed in the ground by the side of him with a thud. Kid fired again, followed by a second shot from within the camp.

Heyes fired in the same direction. He grabbed Abigail and pulled and dragged her away from her blanket, to the cover of nearby trees. Curry continued to exchange fire with the unseen gunmen.

“Stay here and stay down!” Heyes hissed at Abigail. He ran, bent over, to the Kid.

“How many?”

“Three, maybe four.”

“No problem then.”

“If we could see them.”

“They can’t see us.”

“If you don’t shut up, they’ll hear us!” Curry retorted angrily, trying to listen for the men.

Giving his partner a squeeze on the shoulder, Heyes moved quietly away, back to Abigail.

Curry concentrated hard. He blocked out the sound of his own heart, the blood rushing through his head, the soft sigh of Heyes’ feet in the leaves and pine needles underfoot. He listened for the sound of a click, a grunt or unknown footfalls. He fired in the direction of each sound and was rewarded by a groan or shout. Finally, someone yelled, “Let’s get out of here!” followed by the sound of running feet and then horses.

Heyes stood up, reaching for Abigail. “They’ve gone.”

Abigail was hugging her knees, her back against a tree trunk. It had all taken a matter of minutes and she had barely had time to get used to the gunfire, let alone that it was over and they were still alive! She didn’t see the hand Heyes offered. He shrugged and headed for the fire.

He met Curry. Cautiously, Heyes tried to lighten the mood, “You know, we really have to build bigger fires.”

“Huh!” Curry snorted in response.

“C’mon, you can’t be blaming me for this! I didn’t expect anything like this until we were nearer the ranch.”

Curry just looked at him.

“Okay, okay!” Heyes tried to pacify him. “Next time, I’ll listen!”

“You always say that Heyes.”

Curry walked over to Abigail, leaving Heyes to tend the fire.

Kid squatted down besides the pale-faced girl. “Abigail,” he said softly, “Come over to the fire.” He took hold of her hand and rose smoothly, pulling her up. He walked her over to the fire, pushed her down and put a cup of coffee into her hands. He then took his own cup, proffered by Heyes.

“Guess they were Jeremy’s men.”

“Yep. Figure they must have followed Abigail all this time.”

Abigail looked up, “This is my fault?” she murmured, anxiously.

“No. This is Joshua’s fault cos he won’t listen.”

Heyes glared at Kid while saying to Abigail, “No Abby, it's not your fault. You wouldn’t know you were being followed. And Jeremy was bound to try and stop you bringing help.” He paused and looked thoughtful, “Maybe they were behind the missing mule and dry waterhole.” He pondered.

“Now you think of that! You couldn’t have thought that earlier?”

Heyes shot Kid a look of annoyance.

“We’ll need to keep a watch now of course,” Heyes continued as though there had been no interruption.

“Who’ll take the first watch?” Kid said suspiciously.

“Toss for it?”

Kid sighed.

* * * * *

The rest of the night passed quietly and the morning found Heyes in an optimistic mood despite his broken sleep. However, lack of sleep made Kid irritable so it wasn’t long before the two were arguing. The discussion was about their direction of travel. Curry wanted to leave the woods, which would mean a longer route, because the trees gave too much cover for the bushwackers. Heyes was convinced that they had driven them away and that it was safe to continue on the shorter route. Abigail, of course, preferred Heyes’ option. A coin toss decided the matter.

The little group continued making their way through the trees, heading over the mountains. Curry drifted behind, alternatively scowling at the backs of Heyes and Abigail and nervously scanning the woods.

Abigail’s horse whinnied sharply and swung round. Almost immediately, Heyes’ and Curry’s horses began to prance and pull away, dancing nervously on their toes. The three riders struggled to control them, while trying to figure out what was upsetting them.

Heyes caught a terrifying scent - “Smoke!” he yelled. “There must be a fire up ahead!”

Curry nodded, still struggling with his animal, having also caught the smell of the smoke.

Suddenly, Abigail’s horse bolted. Heyes set off after her. Curry tried to follow, but his animal had other ideas. It reared and bucked, sending the man flying, and set off at a gallop, panicked and seeking its own route away from the flames.

Curry found himself flying through the air, toward a tree and the ground. He curled and twisted, trying to protect himself, but not noticing the branch looming in front of him. His head smacked hard into it and he fell, limply, to the ground, where he lay, unmoving.

* * * * *

Abigail’s horse continued its flat out run, swerving through the trees, desperate to escape the rapidly encroaching flames. Abigail hung on, bent low to avoid hitting branches and praying that the horse wouldn’t lose its footing. It was taking all her concentration to remain in her saddle, she was unable to do anything to slow the horse down.

Heyes pushed his horse to keep up with her. His hat hung down his back, his hair blew in the wind and small branches whipped against his face and body.

Suddenly, the animals cleared the woods and Abigail sat up, pulling on the reins. Heyes caught up with her and grabbed hold of the bridle by the horse’s cheek, pulling the head round as he pulled up his own horse. The two animals came to a halt, flanks covered in sweat and blowing hard.

Heyes and Abigail slumped in their saddles, panting. It was only then that Heyes realised that Kid was not with them. He swung his horse around, intending to head back to see where he was.

The woods behind them were ablaze. The fire had reached the edge and was roaring along the line.

Pushing down the fear that gripped his heart, Heyes jumped off his horse and raced toward the fire. Panicked, Abigail followed him. She ran faster than she’d ever run in her life and caught up with him before he’d covered half the distance to the flames.

She caught at his sleeve and pulled hard, crying “Stop! You can’t!”

Heyes twisted round to pull her hand off. “Let go! I have to pull Thaddeus out!”

Grabbing hold again, Abigail yelled, “The fire’s too big!”

“Let me go!” Heyes hollered back, heading again for the woods.

Abigail flung her arms around his waist, dragging her feet and pulling on him. Heyes gripped her wrists hard and pulled her off. Angrily, he turned to face her.

“Don’t you understand? I have to find Thaddeus! I have to get him! Before he’s, before..” Heyes’ voice broke, unable to finish the sentence.

“You can’t get to him! If you try, you’ll be killed too” Abigail sobbed.

The woods were an inferno, the heat almost unbearable, even at this distance. Sparks and cinders flew around in the air and thick smoke hung over the tops of the trees.

“No! I won’t give up on him!” Once more Heyes began to run toward the fire.

Abigail launched herself at him, knocking him to the ground. Heyes gave a wordless cry and twisted and turned, trying to shake her off. His elbow caught her above her eye, but Abigail was determined and remained wrapped around him. Suddenly, he lay still and Abigail sat up, astride his chest. Just as suddenly, Heyes lashed out at her, knocking her to one side. He scrabbled up to his feet, but Abigail caught hold of his ankle and brought him crashing down. All the time, they were getting closer and closer to the fire.

Heyes lay still on the ground. A sob caught in his throat. “You don’t understand! Thaddeus is in there,” he whispered.

Abigail lay next to him, her arm across his shoulders. “There’s nothing you can do,” she said softly. “If you go in…”she tailed off.

Heyes pushed himself up onto his knees and scrabbled forward. Abigail leant on his back and pushed him down. She lay heavily across him, “Please! Don’t go! Don’t go!” she begged while Heyes kept trying to push her off and move closer. Finally, getting tired, Abigail picked up a nearby rock, whispered sorry and smacked Heyes across the temple. She felt him go limp. She pushed herself off and sat next to him, breathing heavily. Not far away now, the flames crackled and flickered, consuming everything in their path.

An eternity passed.

Night began to fall and the fire had moved on. Abigail could still feel the warmth of the dying embers. Next to her, Heyes stirred and groaned. She backed away, a little afraid of what he would do.

Heyes sat up. He put his head to his temple and pulled it away, examining it for blood.

“You’re not bleeding.” Abigail told him.

He glared at her. “What did you hit me with?”

“A rock.”

“Why?” Heyes cried. He turned to face the woods. “I could have gotten him…”

“You would have gotten yourself killed!”

“That wasn’t for you to decide! He’s MY partner!”

“And what about MY father?” Abigail shouted, tears in her eyes.

Heyes stared at her, then turned away in disgust.

Heyes sat crossed legged. His hands were clenched into tight fists. Staring into the embers, Heyes whispered “Kid, Kid, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

* * * * *

Through the night, Hannibal Heyes sat unmoving, staring at the embers of the forest fire. The flames had moved on through the wood and gave the distant sky an orange glow. It left behind the blackened, spear like, stunted trunks of the trees and perhaps something else. New life would spring up in time, but Heyes couldn’t believe that anything caught in the inferno could have survived. His face was blank with shock and he hadn’t spoken for hours. Abigail tried to get him to drink some water, but he angrily brushed her away. Finally, she curled up by the side of a large rock and tried to sleep.

* * * * *

When Abigail woke, the sun was quite high. She saw Heyes was standing by the horses, slipping something into one of the saddle bags.

“Hello” Abigail said, cautiously.

He looked over toward her. “Morning.” His voice was flat, expressionless, his brown eyes dulled with pain. “Since we’ve nothing to eat, I suggest that we get moving immediately.”

“Where?” Abigail asked, surprised.

“You still want to find your father, don’t you?”

“Well, yes, but..”

“I promised. I keep my word. Let’s go.” Heyes mounted and looked at Abigail expectantly.

She walked slowly over and also climbed aboard her horse.

“Don’t you want to go..?” she indicated toward the wood.

“No.” was the flat answer, as the pair set off.

* * * * * *

The sun was high in the sky when Kid Curry’s eyes opened and he groaned. He had passed out again. He was very hot and thirsty and his head was pounding, like a thousand cows were stomping on it. The bright sun stabbed at his eyes and he was disorientated by it, unsure of where he was, until he realised that the fire had burnt away all the trees, leaving the area exposed. He got to his feet, brushing the dirt away, and immediately sat down, feeling sick and dizzy.

After a few minutes, he cautiously rose again, testing. This time, there was no dizziness and so he took a good look around.

The area was acrid with the smell of smoke. The leftover remains of the trees stood starkly against the sky. The view stretched beyond the tree line, up into the high hills. There was nothing in sight and no sound - not a single bird or animal was moving. Slowly, Curry’s mind cleared. No birds, animals or people! He remembered that the last time he’d seen Abigail and Heyes, they were headed for the tree line. There was no sign of them now. There was also no sign of his horse. With a sigh of resignation, he began walking.

* * * * *

Heyes pushed the two of them hard, stopping only for water and barely stopping for sleep. They ate by chewing on some jerky that Heyes had in his saddlebags. Heyes barely spoke and the pace meant that Abigail had no energy to converse.

In two days, they reached the Lovern ranch; trail stained, hungry and very tired. Abigail gratefully slid off her horse and went to greet the woman who came out of the ranchhouse.

“Dottie!”

“Miss Abigail! Gracious, you look terrible!” There was a large bruise over one of Abigail’s eyes.

“Well, thank you for that Dottie!” Abigail said, annoyed, adding “It has been rather a difficult time.”

“You poor dear! Why don’t you wash up and I’ll set the table. Will your friend be joining us?”

Abigail turned round to face Heyes, surprised to see that he was still sitting on his horse.

“Joshua? Will you come in for some supper?”

Heyes shook his head. “I’m going to head into town. I have some questions to ask. Stay here, so I know that you’re safe at least!” Heyes wheeled his horse around and left Abigail standing.

* * * * *

Kid Curry slumped down onto a handy rock. Exhausted, hungry and thirsty, his head ached, his feet almost as much. The sun beat down. Slowly, he slid down the side of the rock until he was sitting on the ground, his back against it. His eyes closed.

* * * * *

Someone was shaking him, talking. He pushed at them, muttering, “Go away, Heyes” A gunshot sounded next to him, deafening him. Reflexively, he reached for his gun, while still opening his eyes.

“Hey there young fella! Take it easy! Jes’ wanted to wake ya!”

A grey bearded man was stood in front of Kid, a rifle in the crook of his arm. Kid holstered his gun and rubbed at his face.

“Lost my horse a ways back. Just resting up a while.”

The man nodded. “Where ya goin’?”

“Next town.”

“Wan’ a ride?”

Kid looked up at the man, “Sure!” he exclaimed, gratefully.

“Hop up into the back of the wagon, ya can rest up in there.”

Slowly, Kid got to his feet and limped round. He was about to climb in when the man said, “Jes’ to be safe, I’ll take your gun.” He half pointed the rifle to emphasize his point.

Kid was too exhausted to object. He took his gun out and handed it over, then climbed into the wagon.

The man climbed into the driving seat and placed the sixgun under the seat, the rifle next to him. “Name’s Abels.”

“Jones.”

“Pleased to meet ya Jones. Gidd’ up!” The man raised the reins and Kid settled back, tipped his hat over his eyes and fell soundly asleep.

* * * * *

Heyes entered the saloon and scanned the room. He was covered in dust and there was stubble on his chin. Gone was the easy manner and bright smile. Instead, his tension was palpable, ominous. His eyes, his whole face was hard and cold.

Heyes approached the bar. When the barman stood in front of him, he tossed a dollar on the bar and said “Looking for Lovern.”

The barman looked at him. “Who’s that?”

Heyes looked up and locked eyes with the man. His eyes were black and dangerous, his smile was threatening.

“Listen,” he said softly and menacingly, “I’ve had a long ride and Lovern wasn’t where he was supposed to be. I am tired and I am mad. If I don’t find him, I may have to find someone else to deal with. You understand me?”

The barman gulped. “I dunno where he is, but Mackay over there,” he indicated a man across the room, “He’s one of Lovern’s men.”

Heyes smiled coldly and picked up the dollar before walking across.

He stood in front of a chair and spoke to Mackay. “Mind if I sit here.” he said, sitting down. It wasn’t a question.

Mackay looked at him, “Yes. Hey! What ya doing? I said..” he tailed off at the look on Heyes’ face.

Heyes smiled coldly at him. “I’m looking for Lovern.”

“Don’t know him.”

Heyes leaned forward, a cold air of menace around him. “Lovern wants me for a special job. He wasn’t at the meeting point.” He paused before continuing in a voice so soft that Mackay had to lean in close to hear him. “I don’t take to being messed with.” Heyes’ fingers smoothed down the lapels of Mackay’s vest. He smiled the smile of a crocodile at Mackay, “Now, where can I find him?”

* * * * *


_________________
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.
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4.10 Once More Into the Breach by Kate Ashe :: Comments

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Re: 4.10 Once More Into the Breach by Kate Ashe
Post on Tue 28 Apr 2015, 3:24 pm by royannahuggins


Heyes paused outside the saloon doors. He sighed, pushed his hat back and rubbed his face. As he tried to shake the tension between his shoulders, he thought about his next step. He and the Kid….No, what was he thinking, not the Kid. Cold fingers squeezed his heart. Heyes shook his head slightly, focus on the job in hand he told himself as he began to walk slowly down the street toward the livery stable. He needed to return to the Lovern ranch and get some men from there to go with him to Jeremy’s hideout. A wagon passed him, going in the same direction. In the back sat a man with light coloured, curling hair, blue eyes; wearing a brown hat with silver band and a brown sheepskin coat…

Heyes caught a glimpse of the man and sighed, Even strangers are beginning to look like him he thought. He continued his slow plodding, his head down.

The man looked up, caught sight of the dark haired man in the black hat and yelled, joyously, “Joshua!”

Kid Curry shuffled off the end of the wagon and began to hurry toward Heyes.

On hearing the voice, Heyes looked up, saw the blond haired man coming toward him and for a moment thought he was seeing a ghost.

Kid called again, “Joshua! Hey! This is great! I figured it’d be days yet before I caught up with you.”

The two men met.

“Kid?” Heyes asked cautiously, suspiciously even, afraid to hope.

“Sure!” Kid laughed. “Who else?” He grabbed hold of the top of Heyes’ arms, “Sure am glad to see ya!” He stepped back then, “Hey! I’ve a bone to pick with you! Why’d you go off and leave me like that? I’ve had the devil of a time I can tell ya! Why, I hadta.” Curry broke off then, noticing Heyes’ expression for the first time. “What’s up?” He asked, more quietly.

Heyes’ mouth was slightly open, his eyes wide with shock. It was dawning on him that this apparition was real. He reached out and took hold of Kid’s arm; it felt solid and very real.

“Kid!” he exclaimed, suddenly grinning, the light appearing back in his eyes and his whole figure lifting. “You ain’t dead!”

“Dead? You thought… How?”

Heyes stared at him, dumbfounded.

“Oh!”, it dawned on the Kid, “The fire!” He paused and looked softly at his partner. “Ah, Heyes, I’m sorry.”

Heyes shook his head, “No, no. I’m sorry. I shoulda, well, I shoulda known.” He looked crestfallen.

Curry pulled a face, “You got any money?” he asked, trying for matter-of-fact. “I need a drink.”

Heyes looked at him, amazed. “You need a drink?! It may take me the whole bottle!”

Curry grinned and put his arm around Heyes’ shoulder. “You’re buying then.” he said, heading for the saloon.

Over a bottle of whiskey, Curry said, “So, Abigail must’ve been relieved that you continued?”

Heyes nodded.

“How far you got?”

“Found out where Jeremy’s been hiding out. Figured to go up there and nose around. I was gonna get a couple of hands to go with me, but, seeing as how you’ve managed to get here…”

“Out of the fire, into the frying pan, huh?”

Heyes groaned.

* * * * *

Stopping only by the general store to pick up some rations, they made their way to the livery stable. There, they bought an animal and equipment for Kid.

Packing away their supplies in the livery stables, Heyes suddenly pulled something out of his saddlebags.

Diffidently, he said “Er, Kid.”

“What?” Curry continued with his packing.

“Here.” Heyes thrust the small object at his partner.

Curry looked up. Heyes was holding his hand out toward him.

“What?”

“Open your hand, idiot!”

Curry opened his hand under Heyes’. A small gold angel fell into Curry’s palm. It was a little bent and covered in ash, but it was otherwise in good shape.

“What? Where’d ya get it?”

“I er, I found it.” Heyes was suddenly more interested in packing than talking.

“Where?”

“In the woods.” Heyes mounted, “You ready yet?”

“I guess it fell out when I fell from my horse.” Curry mused. He looked up at Heyes. “But, how’d you get it?”

“I told you, I found it!” Heyes answered a little annoyed.

Curry stared at him for a long moment, as understanding dawned. “I guess someone was watching out for me.” He mused.

“Well, you get yourself into so much trouble, you need more help n’ most.”

“Sure, Heyes,” Curry responded, chuckling and also swinging on board.

Irritated, Heyes glared at him. “Will you stop that!”

“What?”

“Grinning like that!”

“Ah Heyes.” Curry’s response was soft and gentle, reflecting the gratitude he felt at his friend’s loyalty.

“Huh!” Heyes paused then said, a glint in his eye, “You weren’t grinning so much after that visit from your rather large and furry lady friend.”

The grin slipped from Curry’s face. A little defensively, he said “So, what’s your plan then, when we get there.”

It was Heyes’ turn to grin at the change in subject. Then he answered, soberly, “Haven’t got one.”

“Great.” was Curry’s sarcastic response.

* * * * *

It was several hours past dusk when they finally decided to call a halt for the day and settle down for the night. Despite being still some distance from the area that Mackay had said Jeremy was hiding in, they didn’t take any chances, making do without a fire and eating a cold supper. Kid took first watch.

It was during Curry’s second watch that he began to sense something was amiss. There was nothing he could pinpoint, just a feeling, but Kid Curry had learnt to rely on his instincts. Placing his hand over Heyes’ mouth, he shook him awake.

Heyes’ eyes flew open. One look at Curry’s face warned him that trouble could be brewing. Wordlessly, they spoke to each other. Curry headed off westwards, while Heyes took east. Guns drawn, they began to circle round, searching.

In the dark, amongst all the shadows, Heyes and Curry searched for a darker shadow, something out of place. After a slow circle round, they met again near their bedrolls.

“Anything?” Heyes asked quietly.

Curry shook his head.

“Everything okay?”

Curry shook his head again, “Something out there. Just can’t find it!” There was frustration in the whisper.

“Probably just another bear.” Heyes teased.

Curry glared at him. Unfortunately for him, Heyes couldn’t see it in the dark and so he continued, “Why don’t you relax, get some sleep? There’s nothing out there.”

* * * * *

The dark shadows silently approached the campsite. They ringed the two men. A horse suddenly shot forward, its rider carrying a bright, burning torch. Curry was on his feet in an instant, his gun in his hand. Heyes followed immediately. The horse pulled up in front of them and Jeremy raised his hands.

“You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” His voice was smug.

Heyes looked at him cautiously, “Where’s Lovern?” he demanded.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly tell you. But my men will show you.” There was the sound of hammers clicking back and the men walked forward - almost a dozen guns pointed at the pair in the centre.

Heyes and Curry slowly raised their hands; Curry shooting annoyed little glances at Heyes. Jeremy was laughing so hard, he almost slid off his horse. Heyes glared at him, his face set hard and his eyes glittering black. Jeremy caught sight of Heyes’ face and stopped laughing. For a moment, his face paled and then he remembered who held the guns. He sniggered.

“I knew she’d go running to you for help. I suppose you think you’re clever, finding Mackay.” Jeremy exchanged a smug grin with his lieutenant, pleased with how clever he’d been.

Heyes clenched his jaw and resisted the urge to fling himself at the obnoxious little man. He also resisted looking at Curry, he knew the nature of the looks his partner was directing at him. Heyes realised Jeremy was speaking again.

“...wait for you and then direct you here, where we’d be waiting!” Jeremy stopped and looked between the two prisoners, expecting them to say something. He was disappointed. Curry’s face was expressionless, blue eyes looking at him without fear or anger, just simply watching and waiting. Heyes also remained silent, though his brown eyes were black and hard. Jeremy gulped a little, a sliver of fear gripping his throat.

His voice a little higher, Jeremy said, “Tie them up!” A couple of his men obliged and Heyes and Curry soon found themselves on the ground, with their wrists bound behind them and their ankles tied. Jeremy paced up and down, muttering.

Curry exchanged a look with Heyes and rolled his eyes. In his opinion, Jeremy was showing every sign of being somewhat touched in his head. Heyes also had misgivings, Jeremy was obviously unstable and thus unpredictable. The situation was fraught!

Suddenly, Jeremy stopped his pacing and said loudly, “Shoot them.”

Heyes and Curry tensed.

Several of the men looked awkwardly at each other. Guns were slowly drawn. Some pointed at the ground, others pointed half heartedly at the two bound men. Mackay narrowed his eyes and pulled back the hammer on his gun. He looked around at the men.

“Well, whatcha waiting fer?” he spoke with impatience, reluctant to be the first or only man to shoot the captives.

His men shuffled their feet and several gazed down at the ground. It was one thing to shoot in the heat of a raid, quite another to shoot two unarmed and bound men in cold blood.

Taking advantage of the pause, Heyes said, “Before you do, can I ask one thing?”

Jeremy looked at him.

“Condemned men are usually allowed a final request.” Heyes pointed out, his tone reasonable.

“Go on then.” Jeremy responded.

“Will you tell me where Abigail’s father is?”

“Why’d you want to know that? What’s he to you? He’s a thief, a scoundrel, a coward, a villain, a blaggard, the worst kind of varmit, lower than a snake!” Jeremy raved on, while his men stared at him, amazed. Finally, Mackay went over.

Touching Jeremy on the leg, he said, “Boss, you wanna we do it now?”

Jeremy came back to the present. He smiled slyly. Looking at Heyes, he said, “He’s with Abigail.”

Puzzled, Heyes asked, “Did she pay the ransom?”

“What ransom? I don’t want a ransom! I want to see the end of them!” A pensive look appeared on Jeremy’s face. Heyes felt a chill run through him. If Abigail was with Lovern and Lovern hadn’t been set free…. He looked across at Curry and could see that Curry also had the same idea, Abigail was Jeremy’s prisoner!

Jeremy was having a bright idea. Here was a delightful way to torture Abigail and Lovern. He turned to Mackay.

“Forget shooting them.”

Mackay’s face fell.

“For now” continued Jeremy. Mackay brightened.

“Throw them on their horses. I’m sure dear Abby will love to see them, one last time!”

Heyes and Curry were bundled onto their horses like a sack of feed.

Heyes called out. “Couldn’t we at least be allowed to sit up?”

Curry sighed, “Joshua,” he called, a clear warning in his voice, you’re pushing it.

“Gag them as well,” was Jeremy’s response.

Heyes and Curry spent a very uncomfortable day. They both struggled to stay on their horses.

Heyes’ horse jogged slightly over the rough ground and dislodged him. He fell to the ground feet first, sending a jarring pain up his legs and back. He was unable to maintain his balance and he fell heavily sideways, the breath knocked out of him. His side throbbing, Heyes knew he’d have several bruises. He lay on the ground, catching his breath and trying not to swallow the gag that was threatening to choke him. Fortunately, his horse stood patiently next to him. However, it was a few moments before there was a shout and sounds of horses stopping. Craning his head, Heyes saw men jumping to the ground and coming over. They heaved him back over the saddle. Once done, they were back on their way. Heyes curled around the saddle and clenched his muscles, reluctant to hit the ground again.

Time passed. Heyes and Curry were drenched in sweat from the exertion of remaining on their saddles. Their arms and shoulders ached from being pulled behind their backs and their wrists were bloody and sore from the ropes binding them, which chafed and rubbed. They were also both very thirsty.

Heyes was not surprised when they stopped again. He twisted his head but couldn’t see what was happening. However, he heard the others and realised that the Kid had also now slipped off. Heyes grimaced, his knees and side still ached from his fall and he figured the Kid couldn’t be feeling any better. Jeremy’s men were also not too pleased about having to keep pushing them back onto the horses. They argued with Mackay who finally went over to Jeremy, who sat staring into space.

“Can’t we untie their legs and sit ‘em astride, it’s gonna hold us up, them keep slipping off like this.”

“No.” was the terse answer.

Heyes could imagine Kid’s expression, see his grimace and eyes roll at the stupidity. Obviously not professionals, he would say, aggrieved, don’t know what they’re doing. Heyes couldn’t help grinning at the image in his head. The jolt when they set off again caused a surge of pain through his body and the grin died, to be replaced by grim determination.

Curry was doing no better. Jeremy’s attitude irritated him and the bang on his head; he could feel it swelling; had done nothing to improve his mood. Under the gag, he muttered darkly to himself about irresponsible partners who hadn’t the brains to see a trap as well as amateur outlaws without any sense. The muscles in his legs, back and stomach ached with the effort of remaining on board his animal and when his animal stumbled, dipping forward and to one side so that he slid off a second time, it was with a mixture of relief and annoyance.

Kid lay on the ground, staring up at the sky. He could feel blood trickle down his arm, must’ve cut it on a rock he thought. It didn’t hurt, leastways not above the throbbing in his legs and the pounding in his head and the ache in his throat. He hoped that now maybe they’d get a break. Jeremy’s men were complaining, Mackay was telling Jeremy they couldn’t continue like this. Kid wondered how Heyes was doing.

Jeremy finally brought his attention to the situation. He was highly irritated by the stopping and starting. Anxious to get to the hideout before dark, he listened to Mackay whine.

“They gotta ride. No one kin stay on a horse like that, lessen they’s held on.”

“So hold them on then.”

“How?”

“Do I need to do everything round here? Figure it out!”

Mackay sighed and walked back over to the two prisoners. He told the rest of the men to tie Heyes and Curry on. Lengths of rope were cut and used to tie the boys’ hands to their legs, passing the rope under the belly of their horses. The position strained their already aching muscles.

* * * * *

Eventually, to the relief of all, the group walked into Jeremy’s hideout. Heyes and Curry were exhausted and excruciatingly thirsty. When their ropes were cut, they fell to the ground. However, they were not left there, but were dragged, unceremoniously, to a shack.

Jeremy unlocked and entered it.

Inside sat Abigail and her father. Jeremy smiled evilly at them. “Got some surprise guests for you,” he motioned to his men, who dumped Heyes and Curry on the floor.

“Make them welcome, they’re not going to stay long.” Jeremy smirked and left, locking the door behind him.

Abigail gasped as she saw the condition of the partners. She shuffled over.

“Joshua, Thaddeus,” she said.

Heyes struggled to sit up. When he did, he glared at Abigail. “What are you doing here?” he snapped.

Abigail shrugged. “I was out riding. Got caught by Jeremy’s men.”

“What about a guard?”

“I didn’t know I needed one! I didn’t think Jeremy would come after me! How would he get the ransom?”

Heyes groaned, “Abigail, you are without doubt the most stubborn, irritating, annoying, thoughtless female.”

He was interrupted by Curry. “Joshua, before you continue to harangue the girl, you think mebbe we can get these ropes off. My hands are going numb.”

Heyes turned away from Abigail and shuffled over to Curry. They sat back to back.

“Whose turn is it?” he muttered.

“Yours.” Curry said firmly.

* * * * *

Some time and several curses and complaints later, Curry finally pulled his arms around in front of him. He rubbed his hands together and rubbed his arms to get his circulation going again. Heyes waited patiently until Curry turned to him and began the process of untying the knots around Heyes’ wrists.

Curry began to untie Abigail. Heyes went over to Lovern. He spoke as he began to untie him.

“Good evening Mr. Lovern, how nice to see you again.”

Untied, Mr. Lovern’s response was to snap “So, how exactly do you plan to help when you’re locked in here as well?”

“Oh, there are always opportunities Mr. Lovern.” Heyes said airily.

Curry completed his survey of the shack. He peered through the cracks to check out the rest of the camp. He then filled Heyes in. Heyes sat quietly, his brow furrowed in thought. Lovern started to talk, intending to demand to know what Smith was going to do, but an icy look from Curry silenced him.

* * * * *

The night passed slowly. Hunger and thirst made it difficult for any of them to sleep and when anyone did doze off, they were restless. There was also very little talking, even between Curry and Heyes. By morning, all four were bleary eyed and weary.

Heyes stood to ease his aching limbs and back. Curry was crouched by a crack.

“Joshua,” Curry said, making it a low warning. Heyes picked up the thongs that had bound them.

“Sorry, but we need to tie you up again, we’ll do it loosely but it’ll need to look good, can’t risk them doing worse.”

Lovern blustered and complained, but Heyes simply pulled the man’s arms behind him, saying quietly, but authoritatively, “You do want to get out of here?” It was hard to resist the tone and Lovern had to admit the bonds weren’t tight.

Heyes and Curry then wrapped the ropes around themselves.

Several of Jeremy’s men entered. They cut the ropes around Heyes and Curry’s ankles and then hauled them up and pulled them outside. Lovern and Abigail were also pushed along.

Jeremy approached. He ignored Heyes and Curry, who were pushed roughly onto their knees. He spoke to the Loverns, “I hope that you said your goodbyes to Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones.”

Behind his back, Heyes and Curry exchanged a look. A moment passed and then both men exploded off their knees, driving into the body of the man nearest them. They flung the ropes off their hands. Each pulled a pistol from a handy holster.

The other men began to react and were pulling their guns.

Heyes and Curry rolled, firing as they did so.

Jeremy - discretion being the better part of valour - bolted for a horse.

Abigail screamed and Lovern threw himself onto her, pushing both of them to the ground. He quickly untangled his own bonds and began pulling Abigail’s off. Gunshots flew over their heads.

The fight was brief. By the end, all of Jeremy’s men were either lying on the ground groaning or beating a swift retreat.

Calling to Abigail and Lovern to take care of the men left behind, Heyes and Curry raced for the horses and took off after Jeremy.

Jeremy was racing along at breakneck speed. Heyes and Curry urged their horses on, though more cautiously.

The path was rocky and the reckless speed at which Jeremy was pushing his horse was dangerous. Neither Heyes nor Curry fired on Jeremy, content to pursue him. Eventually, Jeremy’s horse would slow from exhaustion and they would catch up. At least that was the plan.

Suddenly, Jeremy’s horse stumbled. It fell forward, its legs tangling. The momentum carried its body over its head and the animal hit the ground, rolling over and flinging its rider off. Jeremy somersaulted through the air and swan dived onto the ground.

Heyes pulled up and jumped off, running to Jeremy, who lay, unnaturally still. Curry went to check the horse. Heyes was not surprised when he heard a shot. He looked up as Curry approached, a sad expression in the blue eyes.

“Dead. Cracked his head.” Heyes said tersely. Curry nodded.

* * * * *

Abigail waited anxiously, standing and shifting from foot to foot. She stared into the distance. Finally, she saw horses returning.

Heyes and Curry wearily dismounted and tied up their horses. Abigail stared at the bundle slung over one of the saddles. Curry put his arm around her shoulder. Nodding at the bundle, he said “Jeremy.”

Abigail shuddered and leant against the Kid. Heyes walked over to explain Jeremy’s death to Lovern, who took it with considerable equanimity.

* * * * *

At the end of the day, the party filed into town and pulled up outside the sheriff’s office. Lovern entered first, followed by the captured men, then Heyes and Curry - guns trained on the captives - and finally, Abigail.

The Sheriff stood, his jaw hanging slackly. Lovern was loud and demanding; the captives were herded into cells and Heyes and Curry slipped away.

“Jeremy?” Curry asked.

Heyes nodded and the pair began to walk along the street, Curry trailing a horse. Heyes was frowning slightly so Curry asked him what was the matter.

“Just how did you get away from that fire? You never told me.”

“Oh, well, it turned out to …” Curry was interrupted by a shout from Abigail.

“Joshua! Thaddeus!” Abigail arrived and linked her arms through the pair. “How about a cup of coffee?”

Heyes removed his arm. “What is it, Abigail? What aren’t you telling us?”

Curry shrugged, “A cup of coffee sounds great to me. I’ll finish this business up and meet you in the restaurant, over there.” He pointed.

Heyes glared at him but headed over, Abigail’s arm once more linked with his.

* * * * *

It wasn’t long before Curry joined them.

Heyes waited until each of them had a coffee and then said, “Out with it, Abigail.”

Abigail stared into her coffee and absently stirred it around.

“Abigail!”

She blushed. “It’s about your pay…”

“What about our pay?”

She glanced up at Heyes and then looked away, softly she muttered, “I can’t pay you.”

“What!” Heyes exclaimed.

Curry groaned.

“Well, I can pay you, hmm, $100, when the bank opens tomorrow. I’ll have to owe you the rest.”

“Why? What about your father?”

“He said that as I hired you, I have to pay you. But I won’t have that kind of money until I inherit.”

“When is that?”

“Another four years.”

Heyes and Curry just stared at her.

Abigail was now a deep red colour. “Well, anyway, you should be grateful that I’m prepared to wait for my inheritance and not get out of paying altogether, Mr. Curry, Mr. Heyes.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a look.

“You should be a lot more careful you know, people aren’t always sleeping and I’m not deaf.”

“Four years?” Heyes found his voice.

“Yes.”

“Well, I guess we can wait four years, huh Kid?”

“I was sure that you’d see it my way, Joshua.” Abigail said smugly.

Heyes and Curry looked at each other. Curry sighed and said, “Abigail, I think that you are a dear, sweet girl - but seeing you again in four years' time will be too soon.”

* * * * *

Two horses with riders travelled along the dusty road, the $100 dollars in their pockets did not make them happier, however.

“Heyes, how do we end up in these situations?”

“I think it's because we got honest Kid.”

“Kinda makes you want to go back to robbin’ banks and trains.” Kid said solemnly.

Heyes stared at him and then smiled as a large grin broke across Kid Curry’s face.

“Yeah, guess it does sometimes.” He agreed. “Hey, I’ve just remembered - you still haven’t told me how you escaped the fire.”

“Oh, well, I buried myself.”

“You what?!”

“Buried myself. I figured, the ground doesn’t burn so if I’m under it, I should be okay.”

Heyes took a moment to absorb the comment and then said curiously, “How did you breathe?”

“Well, I didn’t bury my nose and mouth - that would have been stupid!”

“Yes, of course. But wouldn’t the fire..?”

“Covered them with my hat. Got hot and singed my hat, but, well, here I am!”

Heyes nodded. He was silent for a while, musing. Finally, he pulled up and dismounted.

Curry was caught out, “Why we stopping?”

“Gonna camp here. I need to practice.”

“It’s early to make camp isn’t it?”

“Need the light to practice in.”

“Practice what?”

Heyes was walking off.

“Heyes?” Curry called, dismounting to follow his partner. He found Heyes setting up some small rocks on a fallen log.

“That was pretty smart, the way you escaped the fire. And you figured we wouldn’t get paid. You’re gitten smarter ‘n me!”

“But what do you need to practice?”

Heyes drew and fired at one of the rocks, knocking it from the log, saying as he did, “Well, if you’re going to be doing our thinking, I figured I’d better learn how to shoot better!”

Curry was left to set up the camp.


 

4.10 Once More Into the Breach by Kate Ashe

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Stories: Alias Smith and Jones  :: Virtual Season :: Virtual Season Stories prior to 2008-
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