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 4.9 Familiar Faces by Leah Anders

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Join date : 2013-10-13

20150502
Post4.9 Familiar Faces by Leah Anders

Ott said, “Heard there was some excitement over at the saloon yesterday, fellas. Should we start counting the silver after every meal?” He snorted loudly, amused by his own joke.

His sister slapped Ott soundly on the back of his head, “Ott! I’m surprised at you. You shouldn’t talk to our guests that way.”

“No, no. It’s all right, Mrs. Campbell,” Heyes smiled, silently wishing he could give the man a slap of his own.

Kid said, “Yeah…good one, Mr. Howard. You oughta go on the road with that comedy act."

“But you know that those notorious and incredibly brilliant outlaws would never stoop to stealing silver. Trains and banks, those are their preferences. Your cutlery is safe…even if we were them--"

“Which we ain’t,” Kid finished.


Starring

Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry

Guest Stars



Rudy Vallee as Winford Fletcher


Henry Fonda as Ott Howard


Olivia Hussey as Molly Howard


Angela Cartwright as Miranda Howard


Familiar Faces
by Leah Anders



The scene was a familiar one. Two men were seated alone at a corner table in a dingy barroom. It was early afternoon but the room had already taken on a decidedly grayish cast, an offshoot of the muddy light coming in the big front windows. Rain pattered against the tin roof and every once in a while, the dull rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. If there was lightning accompanying that thunder, it never quite managed to penetrate the murky shroud that seemed to have covered the room.

The powerfully built blond man studied the man sitting across the table from him. Suddenly he smiled. "You know, Joshua, I'm real impressed with how good you're taking being cooped up so much these last few days."

Hannibal Heyes was leaned back in his chair, one foot up on the square bar table in front of him, the picture of relaxation. A half-empty bottle of rotgut whiskey stood on the table next to his sole-worn boot. Both men had been in the saloon for an hour or so and were getting contentedly loose. The ex-highwayman nodded in the direction of his boot before turning to focus, with just a little difficulty, on his partner. "Why, thank you, Thaddeus. I'm mighty impressed with myself too." He graced his partner with a well-oiled smile.

Curry smirked back at him. "Yep, only thing is…maybe it's time we thought about leaving this town. We've been here almost a week waiting to start work on that ranch job and the rain ain't let up once. If we don't get some money soon, we won't be able to keep paying for the room, let alone food."

The saloon was not as full as it would be later in the day but there was plenty of action going on nonetheless. A couple of poker games were in full swing and the men at the bar were tossing dice to see who would buy the next round. Loud, raucous laughter assaulted the senses from all directions but this was music to the ears for Heyes and Curry. So far, nobody had gotten into any fights or thrown any punches but there was still hope that this type of excitement would materialize before the afternoon was over. Heyes and Curry enjoyed a good bar fight as much as the next man as long as they weren't the ones getting the worst of it.

"Thaddeus, you worry too much. Try to be more like me. Relax and enjoy yourself for a while. Have another drink." He shoved the bottle towards Kid with the toe of his boot as his eyes wandered up; following the retreating back of a saloon girl who swished past their table, appreciating the graceful movement and enticing rustle of her satin skirts as she walked away. She glanced over her shoulder at him as she passed, casting her most flirtatious smile his way. "Besides, we got enough money to last a few days yet. I don't relish the thought of setting out on the trail with everything being so muddy like it is." Heyes' eyes were still locked on the saloon girl's form. "I'll be back in a minute, Thaddeus," he said as he rose from his chair, just a tad unsteadily, patting Kid's arm.

Kid smiled. "Take your time, Joshua." It didn't take a genius to figure out where Heyes was going. He watched his friend weave his way through the tables, wondering how much of his newfound calmness came from the whiskey bottle. It didn't matter much. He was just pleased that Heyes seemed so relaxed. He worried about Heyes sometimes.

Heyes was almost halfway across the barroom floor when Kid heard someone shout out, "Hannibal Heyes?"

Heyes froze in mid-step, instantly sober, afraid to even turn around in search of the source of the voice. It felt like every eye in the room was looking in his direction even while he tried to make himself disappear.

Kid swiveled in his chair, hand on his weapon, trying to see who it was that had hollered Heyes' name. Whoever it was, he was concealed from sight by the throng of men standing at the bar. Seconds passed and still no one moved. Convinced that their only chance of escape rested with him using his gun, Kid deliberately rose from his chair, trying to attract as little attention as possible while unsnapping the gun from his holster. Every nerve in his body was on alert, anticipating trouble.

Just as he was about to make his move, the men at the bar broke out into another round of rowdy laughter. Nearly every man in the place, not to mention the working girls, joined them. Only three people appeared to be left out of the joke…Heyes and Kid and the man who had caused the commotion in the first place.

The voice shouted again, more adamant this time, "And there's Kid Curry, too." This declaration was met with another round of laughter, louder and more hilarious than the first. Still stunned, Heyes forced himself to join in. His eyes wide, he forced a smile onto his face. With a little more effort, he managed to force a half-hearted laugh out after it. He looked over at Kid and, communicating only with his eyes, let him know to follow along. It seemed as though no one else was taking the voice too seriously so they needed to look like they didn't either.

Neither Heyes nor Kid had placed the voice yet but there was a certain familiarity about it that Heyes knew he should recognize. As the laughter died down again, a boisterous fellow pounded his palm onto the top of the bar and hollered, "Winnie, you kill me, you know that? How many times is that now, five-six?" Turning to stare at Heyes and Kid, the enthusiastic gent motioned them over with a broad, sweeping gesture, "Heyes, Curry --- c'mon over here. Let Bud Aimes buy you a drink. Ain't every day we get a couple of famous outlaws in our bar." He roared in laughter and continued, "Truth be told, it's been a far sight more offen since old Winnie came to town." Amused at his own wit, he slammed his palm into the bar a couple more times.

Hesitantly, but with his fake smile still firmly set in place, Heyes approached the bar, signaling Kid to do the same. Kid, who still had his hand close to his gun, warily went along, his blue eyes clouded with doubt. Bud threw his arm around Heyes as if they were long lost buddies and pulled him in next to him at the bar, shoving against the man on his other side to make room. "Sam, set my friends here up with a couple, would ya?"

From where he stood, Heyes could see every man bellied up to the bar. His smile slipped just a bit and his eyes widened in surprise when he finally realized who had yelled his name a minute before. Standing, but just barely, at the end of the L-shaped bar was someone who he and Kid had met on two prior occasions.

If he had passed this man on the street, Heyes was sure he wouldn't have recognized him as he was now. The fellow leaning against the edge of the bar had fallen far indeed. The clothes he wore had at one time been expensive and elegant but now they were tattered and dirty. His well-manicured fingernails had become ragged and caked with grime. His hair, once meticulously cut and combed, now hung in stringy sections around his face. But his eyes were still the same little beady ferret eyes Heyes remembered and right now those eyes were staring, a little unfocused at Kid and him.

His head drooped forward into his chest, the weight of it apparently too much for his neck to sustain. He stayed like this for a full minute. Then he seemed to remember where he was and what he was doing. He lifted his head to look across the bar at Heyes and Curry again. In a heavily slurred voice, he said to the men gathered near him, "I'm telling you…this time I'm right…these two really are Heyes and Curry." The effort of speaking seemed to be too much for the poor fellow and he leaned even more heavily against the bar.

Bud snickered again. "Hey, Ralph - why don't you help old Winnie get home? Sounds like he needs to sleep this one off."

"Yeah I guess I could do that. I'm 'bout done here myself anyways." Ralph grabbed Winnie, who made only a feeble protest as to how "this time it really is them", and propelled him out the door.

Heyes was dumbfounded. The last time he and Kid has seen Winford Fletcher was back at Red Gap. He had a feeling they would run into him again sometime but never imagined they would find him like this. Still uneasy but even more curious to find out how 'Winnie' ended up here, he was eager to strike up a conversation with Bud.

By this time, two beers had been placed on the bar in front of them courtesy of Bud's giving nature. Heyes hefted his glass and took a greedy swallow to calm his nerves. When he found his voice, he said, "Mighty nice of you to buy us a beer, Bud. My name's Joshua Smith and this here is my partner, Thaddeus Jones," making sure to emphasize their 'names' in hopes of avoiding any more confusion.

"Smith and Jones, huh? Maybe Winnie IS right this time." Just as Kid's gun hand started itching a little bit, Bud whooped with laughter again.

Heyes forced another laugh from his own throat and slapped Bud on the back, glancing at Kid to let him know everything was ok. "So who is that guy? And why does he think we're those two vile outlaws, Hannibal Heyes and That Kid Fellow?"

"Oh, there's quite a story there all right…if you're inclined to believe it. Word is that Winnie used to be quite an impressive figure. Claims to have been a big real estate investor over at Silver Springs. Big shot, you know. Lots of money, fancy clothes."

"Uh, what happened to him?" Kid asked.

"Seems he had a couple of run-ins with Heyes and Curry. Took him for a pile of money on both occasions. I figure it just about drove him crazy. Anyways, after the last time, he vowed he'd get even with those two crooks even if it took everything he had…I reckon it's done just that."

Heyes smiled again, this time more genuinely. "Huh! Imagine that. Poor deluded fellow."

"Yep. I heard he's spent up all his money looking for them, private detectives and all that. He's just been going from town to town searching for them and finally ended up here, flat broke. Now he spends most days right here in this saloon."

Bud took a huge swallow of beer, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before continuing, "Hardly a week goes by he doesn't accuse some poor saps of being Heyes and Curry. You'd be surprised how many fellows resemble that pair. Sheriff took the first couple of times more seriously but now everybody, including him, just ignores him."

"Poor devil."

"Yep. He's plumb crazy."

"Huh. Sad story." Heyes drained his beer, signaling Kid to do likewise. "Bud, it was nice meeting you and we thank you for the beer. C'mon Thaddeus. Let's go."

Back at their own table, Kid and Heyes went over what had just happened. "So what do you think Heyes? You think maybe it might be a good time to leave town now?" Kid asked, somewhat impatiently.

"Why would we want to do that?"

"Why? I'll tell you why. Because we just got identified to every man jack in this here whole town, that's why!"

"You heard Bud. He said nobody takes Fletcher seriously. And I can see why. That man's fallen harder than an oak tree in a tornado. I ain't never seen anything like it. I almost feel sorry for him." Heyes tsked quietly and then seemed to let his mind wander somewhere else.

Kid stared at his partner for a few seconds, amazed at how unruffled he seemed to be. Maybe a mite too relaxed, he thought wryly. Finally, frowning, he asked, "But what if he manages to convince somebody…like the sheriff…then what?"

"Hm?" Heyes asked, his mind still elsewhere. "Oh. Oh yeah. Well, we'll just worry about that when the time comes, Kid. In the meantime, I have some unfinished business with that little filly over there." His warm brown eyes were fastened on the saloon girl he had been pursuing earlier, before Winford Fletcher distracted him from his course. She was leaning against the bar staring back at him. If anything, she appeared to be even more interested in him now that there was the possibility, no matter how slight or farfetched, that he might be the dangerous outlaw Hannibal Heyes.

Heyes got up from his chair again, all unsteadiness gone, and set out across the barroom one more time. This time he was not stopped. Kid watched as his friend sidled up to the pretty girl in the satin dress. Heyes smiled at her and she batted her lashes teasingly at him. Heyes motioned for the barman to bring them some drinks and settled his arm around the girl's narrow waist, pulling her in close.

Kid watched as the couple at the bar drained their shots. Then he watched as Heyes caught the young woman's chin with his fingertips, turning her face towards his before kissing her deeply on her painted lips. At this point, Kid turned his attention to the poker game going on a few tables away. He guessed that Heyes was going to be busy for a while and poker would be as good a way as any to pass the time for a while.

Kid got up and walked over to the other table. From the corner of his eye, he could see Heyes and the girl walking hand in hand up the stairs.

* * * * *

Kid was still sitting at the table an hour later when he felt his partner watching from a few steps behind him. The dealer had just passed him the one card he asked for. He picked up his hand and deliberately spread the cards…eight of diamonds, five of clubs, nine of clubs, six of hearts…and the card he drew, two of hearts. He could almost see Heyes' mocking smile as he threw in his hand disgustedly. "Thaddeus, what did I tell you about the odds of drawing to an inside straight?"

"Yeah, well…a fella is bound to get lucky once in a while isn't he?" Kid retorted as he pushed his chair away from the table. He picked up his winnings and said to the man holding the cards, "Deal me out, will ya?"

Kid gave Heyes a good once-over. If anything, his partner looked even more relaxed than before. "Did you have a good time, Joshua?" Kid smirked.

"Now Thaddeus, you know I never kiss and tell," Heyes grinned.

"Hmm. So what do you wanna do now?"

"I dunno…get something to eat? I'm starved."

"Works for me. Let's go." Both men turned up their coat collars before they walked out of the barroom. The sky was a deep shade of blue-gray, the same as it had been for several days in a row. Rain continued to fall softly as they made their way down the boardwalk. It pattered off their hats and splattered on the wooden walkway. They watched as townspeople struggled to cross the muddy street. Getting to the other side was an adventure as their feet slipped and slid in the wet muck. Men held onto the arms of their womenfolk who had the added inconvenience of trying to keep the hems of their dresses from becoming too caked with the stuff that sucked against the soles of their shoes with each step.

Thunder rolled across the town just as they entered the café, safe from the rain once more. The clouds burst forth with a new round of moisture, pouring from the already rain-soaked sky with a fury. "Made it just in time," the waitress smiled wearily at them as they sat down at a table near the wall.

She set coffee cups on the table before them and said, "I heard the river rose another inch since yesterday. This keeps up and the whole town is gonna be under water soon. The road out of town is already in danger of being taken out."

They absorbed this information but didn't say anything except, "What's good today?"

"You've eaten here before. You know what's good."

"Yes, ma'am. We've eaten here before. So far, we ain't seen that much good," Kid answered.

"We'll just have the stew," Heyes smiled prettily at the woman before she had a chance to serve Kid a piece of her mind. She glared at them before turning on her heel and stalking away.

"Not a good idea to make the cook mad at you Thaddeus. You should know that by now. What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing's the matter with me, Joshua. I'm just a little tired of sitting around this town. I never thought I would say it, but I'm getting bored with sitting around the saloon and playing poker. I need to find something else to do."

"Well, you could always get a book and -"

"And what about Fletcher?"

"What about him?"

"It doesn't bother you that he's here and he just told everybody who we are?"

"I told you, Kid, nobody believes him! If anything, it's a perfect cover for us. Fletcher just made sure that no one thinks we're anything except plain ol' Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones. Matter of fact, this might just turn out to be the safest town we've ever been in."

Kid considered this, doubt etched on his face. "Maybe you're right, but sooner or later, these things have a way of turning around on themselves. I just hope that when it does, we have a chance to get out of the way."

The waitress set two plates of steaming hot beef stew in front of them. Heyes smiled sweetly at her, winning a fond look from her. Kid looked first at his plate of food and then at Heyes' plate. "Hey, how come he got more'n I did?"

She faced him, hands on her hips. "He did? I didn't notice." Heyes hid a smile as she walked away.

"I told you not to make the cook mad at you," he said, digging into his food hungrily, enjoying every mouthful to the utmost. "Ummm…this is delicious. Eat up."

Kid scowled fiercely and said poutily, "Don't matter much. She makes the worst stew I've ever tasted." Heyes couldn't help it…he broke out laughing at his friend's misfortune.

Around mouthfuls of food, Kid continued, "You know what else I don't like about this town? That boarding house we're staying at. That place makes me jumpier than a frog in a frying pan."

Heyes had to admit that he agreed with Kid on this one. The town's only hotel was full when they had arrived in town so they had found a room with a woman by the name of Thelma Campbell who owned a big, rambling home near the edge of town. They had heard that at one time, she had been married to a rich man who had come to an unfortunate end, the result of a long night of hard drinking. Seems the poor fellow had ended up down at the river with a couple of his drunk cronies and had somehow drowned. Due to a series of bad investments, he left her a lot worse off than she had expected, so since then, she had been taking people into her home to help pay the bills.

That in itself wouldn't be bad but the woman had recently opened her home to her widowed brother, Ott Howard, the father of two daughters, Molly and Miranda, who were twenty-one and nineteen years old; pretty little things. His wife had died several years past and the man had raised his daughters on his own, out in the country, before moving in with his sister. Now his mission in life seemed to be getting his offspring married off as soon as possible. Not an easy chore in a one-horse town like this one.

He'd been giving Heyes and Curry appraising looks since the first moment he laid eyes on them the night they arrived at the house, pushing one daughter or the other in their direction every chance he got. The two men had taken to sneaking into their room quietly, glancing around corners to make sure the coast was clear, but it never seemed to do much good. Everywhere they turned, they bumped into one of the girls who seemed eager to acquiesce to their father's wishes. Maybe a little too eager.

The girls were cute enough and would probably make good wives…for the right men. Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones might be the right men, but Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes were definitely not the right men, and there was no way around it - you couldn't get one without the other.

Kid was finished with his lunch but he still had a dissatisfied and restless look about him. He tapped his fingers impatiently on the table, glancing around the room as though looking for inspiration on how to fill the rest of the day. "So what do we do now, Heyes?"

"You want me to lend you a book?"

Kid sighed deeply and stood up from his chair, "Let's go play some poker."

* * * * *

Heyes threw his hand in again, third time in as many deals. Lady Luck was not smiling on him tonight. "Thaddeus, I think I'm gonna call it a night for a while. I'm gonna head back to the boarding house. You comin'?"

Kid was concentrating on the cards fanned out in his own hand. His stack of chips had grown considerably this evening. If the Lady was not with Heyes, at least she seemed to hold Kid in her favor. Winning did not seem to do much to improve his mood though. His normally relaxed demeanor had a slight edge to it, an edge that would go undetected to almost anyone who didn't know him as well as Heyes did. "Hmmm? No, you go ahead. I'm too keyed up to sleep anyway and, before you feel the need to ask, I ain't interested in your books. I'll just stay here for a while longer."

"Suit yourself. Gentlemen." Heyes nodded at the other players at the table and stood up to leave. "See you later, Thaddeus." Heyes made his way through the crowded barroom headed for the door. The place was packed, as expected for this time of the evening. They had considered themselves lucky that Winnie had not reappeared tonight to torment them. As it was, they had been greeted by shouts of "Heyes" and "Curry" as they came back into the barroom earlier. It had been a surreal experience to say the least, making the pair want to run right back out into the rain and make muddy tracks as quick and as far away as possible. But the shouts were followed by peals of good-natured, drunken laughter and assorted cowboys and farmhands smacking them on the back as though they had just shared the greatest joke in the world. Even the sheriff had enjoyed the punch line.

As he was leaving, Heyes spotted his pretty saloon girl standing near the bar, talking to another one of the working girls. She smiled at him and he stopped to talk to the pair for a minute before venturing out into the dark. After a few minutes of conversation, Heyes gave her a tight hug and left the bar, promising to come back and see her another time.

Outside, the rain had nearly stopped for now and Heyes walked alone through the misty damp night. The air smelled fresh and he was in no particular hurry to get back to the boarding house so he took his time, enjoying the crisp cool feeling of the night air. The cloud cover was lighter than it had been for a few nights and the moon peeked out to guide him on his way. He was lost in his thoughts as he rounded a corner and ran right into a wobbly Winford Fletcher. The older, drunker man would have lost his balance entirely if Heyes had not reached out and grabbed him, setting him against the side of a building to steady him.

Fletcher's bloodshot eyes widened in surprise and fear to see Heyes again. He blurted out, "Hannibal Heyes! I know it's you, you know. No sense denying it." Heyes could tell Fletcher was afraid of him, even in his beer soaked condition, as they stood nose to nose in the shadows of the building with no one in sight except the two of them. He smiled wickedly at the drunk, just to see him squirm.

Still holding Fletcher upright against the wall, Heyes said, feigning ignorance, "Winnie, isn't it? I'm real sorry, old boy, but you got the wrong fellas. Me and my friend are just a couple of law-abiding citizens, just like you. You really ought to lay off the liquor."

"You…you might fool the rest of the people in this town but you don't fool me, Mr. Heyes. And by the time I'm finished, I'll make sure everyone knows who you are!"

Heyes' eyes took on a darker tinge. He was done fooling with this man. Fletcher saw the subtle change in his appearance, even in the semi-darkness. When he spoke, his voice held an edge, hard as granite. "Listen, Winnie, if you know what's good for you, you'll keep your mouth shut. Besides, who's gonna believe you? What happened to you anyway?"

"You and your partner happened, that's what!"

"Well, take my advice, Fletcher. Get your act together. And don't do anything to make me or Thaddeus mad." The thinly veiled threat was not lost on Winford Fletcher. He stood, immobile, as Heyes finally let go of his shirt and strode off down the street. He didn't see the broad smile that slowly spread across his rugged features or hear the low cheerful whistle that issued from his lips.

Heyes chuckled softly to himself. He couldn't help having a little sport at Fletcher's expense. The man had been a thorn in their side too many times already and he hadn't forgotten the long walk into Red Gap that he and Kid had made because of him. Practically wore out a pair of boots that night. Not to mention the whole episode with the banker that nearly cost them their chance for amnesty. If it hadn't been for Fletcher identifying them then, none of that would have happened. No, he didn't feel bad for old Winnie at all.

Heyes' pace slowed a little. The boarding house was within sight now and all he wanted to do was get to his room without being seen. Walking softly, he rounded the side of the house and headed for the rear entrance that led upstairs. Bending over, he quietly removed his boots. With them in hand, he peeked around the back of the house. Seeing the coast was clear, he made for the door. Just as he grasped the knob in his hand, the door swung open and he was face to face with Molly and Miranda!

It took Heyes several minutes to disentangle himself from the girls' attention. Finally, he got loose and made a dash up the stairs, closing the door to his room firmly behind him and turning the key in the lock, just for good measure. He leaned his head against the door for a moment and chuckled at his predicament. He and Thaddeus didn't make a practice of running away from pretty girls but then again, pretty girls didn't generally throw themselves at them so transparently with marriage on their minds.

He undressed down to his long johns and stretched out on the bed to read. Later, minutes or hours, having lost track of time, he heard the doorknob rattle softly as someone tried to enter. Heyes slid off the bed, grabbing his gun from his holster and leveling it at the door. "Joshua, let me in. Hurry up."

When he opened the door, he saw Thaddeus standing there, muddy boots in hand, casting quick glances around and behind him. He ducked into the room, looking relieved.

"Did you run into the girls too?" Heyes asked, smirking.

"Nope. I took my boots off and snuck up here. Didn't see a soul," Kid replied, smugly. "You?"

"No, just like you…didn't see a soul."

"Uh, huh." Kid knew Heyes was lying but didn't see much point in calling him on it.

"So…anything exciting happen at the saloon after I left?"

"As a matter of fact it did."

Heyes smiled broadly. "Really? What?"

"I won seventy four dollars at the poker table, that's what."

Heyes' smile quickly faded, "That's all?"

"What did you expect," Kid asked suspiciously.

Heyes frowned and said, sounding irritated, "I don't know. Somethin' more than that, I reckon."

Kid stared hard at his partner. "You know, Heyes, sometimes I worry about you. You're a puzzlement. I'da thought you'd be happier than that about seventy-four dollars. I know it's not a fortune, but--" He sat down hard on the edge of the bed and pulled off his soggy socks. "Turn out the light, will ya? I'm bone tired."

* * * * *

The next morning dawned as gray as the one just past. The men ate breakfast at the boarding house, under the increasingly watchful eyes of the other residents. Finally, Ott said, "Heard there was some excitement over at the saloon yesterday, fellas. Should we start counting the silver after every meal?" He snorted loudly, amused by his own joke.

His sister slapped Ott soundly on the back of his head, "Ott! I'm surprised at you. You shouldn't talk to our guests that way."

"No, no. It's all right, Mrs. Campbell," Heyes smiled, silently wishing he could give the man a slap of his own.

Kid said, "Yeah…good one, Mr. Howard. You oughta go on the road with that comedy act."

"But you know that those notorious and incredibly brilliant outlaws would never stoop to stealing silver. Trains and banks, those are their preferences. Your cutlery is safe…even if we were them -"

"Which we ain't," Kid finished.

Ott was still rubbing the spot on the back of his bald head where his sister had reprimanded him. Grimacing, he said, "I know that. Cain't a feller make a little joke around here without getting his brain rattled around?"

Molly and Miranda were silent through the adults' exchange. The only real acknowledgement either one made of the conversation were the exaggerated eye-rolls that followed their father's attempt at humor. But Kid did notice that both girls seemed to be appraising them more curiously than before. Their close scrutiny only made him more uncomfortable with their current living arrangements.

After breakfast, they went back to their room, mostly because they didn't know what else to do. It was still raining. Heyes picked up his tattered, dog-eared book and made like he was going to spend the next several hours peacefully reading. Before he could open its cover, however, Kid snatched it away.

"No sir, Heyes. You ain't gonna sit here all day reading this danged book. I need to have something to do too."

"You wanna read the book?" Heyes asked, teasingly.

"No. I don't wanna read the book!" A slightly pouty expression touched his boyish face. "Let's talk."

"Talk?"

"Yep."

"Kid, you're the one who's always telling me I talk too much. Now you wanna talk?"

"Yep. There's a time and place for talking and this here's the time and I reckon this is as good a place as any."

Heyes sat down on the edge of the bed and sighed, "Ok, then. Let's hear what's on your mind."

Kid crossed his arms across his chest confrontationally. "I want to leave town." If he was expecting an argument from Heyes, he wasn't disappointed.

"I told you before, Kid, Fletcher has provided the perfect cover for us. We can't leave now. It's just too easy. Besides, the rain -"

"The rain is exactly what I'm thinkin' about. What if the road goes and we're stuck here when you finally decide it's time to move on."

"That's not gonna happen. Anyway, you just let me worry about it. Go on now. Find somethin' to occupy yourself. Clean your gun, maybe. We'll walk over to the saloon later and play some poker, how 'bout that?"

Kid fumed, "I done cleaned my gun three times this week already. If it gets any cleaner, I'm likely to wear right through the barrel." With a fierce glare at his partner, who had already started settling in against his pillow, book in hand, Kid Curry yanked his gun out of its resting place on his thigh.

"Ya know, I haven't even fired this once all week - but right now, the temptation is getting pretty high."

Heyes chuckled deep in his throat-but he never did look up, not even once.

* * * * *

Heyes could see the front entrance from where he sat at the poker table. The Kid sat at his left elbow, waiting to see the next deal. It'd been a couple of days since their last encounter with Fletcher. They'd seen him pass by the saloon numerous times, his round, beady eyes just visible over the curved top edge of the swinging doors, searching them out. But each time, after making eye contact with one or the other of them, he dashed off down the boardwalk. A subtle change was coming over the little man as the effects of too much cheap whiskey wore off; he was starting to look more and more like his old self.

"Looks like he took my advice," Heyes reflected softly as he watched Fletcher retreat across the street for the third time that day.

"What's that you say, Joshua?"

"Oh. I suggested to Winnie that he clean up his act. Looks like he decided to take my advice."

"Is that a good thing?"

"Good for him, maybe. Bad for us, I think."

Kid leaned in close to Heyes' ear, keeping his voice low so that none of the other players would hear his question. "Leave town?"

"Thaddeus, I think it just might be time to start thinking about that. But first, why don't we go see what our friend Fletcher is up to." Excusing themselves from the game, amid unhappy grumbling from the other players who would be going home with lighter pockets than they had arrived with, Heyes and Curry picked up the money scattered on the table in front of their seats.

Once through the louvered doors, Kid stopped in wonderment. "Would ya look at that!"

Heyes tensed, suddenly cautious. "What?"

"It's not raining! There's actually a patch of blue sky above us!" Kid smiled happily.

Heyes relaxed and smiled too, out of amusement at his friend's delight. "Maybe it's a good sign, Kid." They started walking in the direction they had seen Fletcher head. "Maybe -"

Kid put his hand out and stopped. Heyes followed his cue and stopped as well, looking to see what had captured his friend's attention. "I don't think so, Heyes."

Across the street, not more than one hundred yards away from them, Fletcher stood toe to toe with another man. They were deep in conversation and Fletcher was gesturing towards the saloon Heyes and Curry had just left. In his hand, he clutched two large, tattered sheets of paper that he kept shoving under the second man's nose. The other man happened to glance in their direction and when he saw them standing there, his expression changed from one of concentration to one of startled fear.

Ott Howard grabbed Winford Fletcher by the forearm and pulled him into the shadows, out of sight.

Heyes and Curry stood unmoving in the middle of the muddy street. "Now what do you suppose that was all about?"

Heyes pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I don't know, but I don't think it's a good sign. Not a good sign at all."

"You don't suppose -"

"Sorta looked like it, Kid. In any case, I think it's finally time I listen to your idea. We better get out of town."

"Now?"

"Tonight. We'll wait until tonight and sneak out."

"Yoo-hoo! Mr. Heyes! Mr. Curry! Would you come here a moment?" Molly and Miranda Howard stood almost in the same place their father and Winford Fletcher had occupied just seconds ago, shoulder to shoulder on the wooden boardwalk, beckoning them to come over. Despite the chill that ran down his spine from once again hearing their names spoken so loudly and plainly, Hannibal Heyes, sensing they might have information that he could use, put a smile on his face and, bringing Kid Curry with him, met the girls under the awning of the mercantile.

Kid touched his fingers to the tip of his hat. "How do, ma'am."

"Hello, ladies. What can we do for you?"

The girls looked at each other, then looked at the men. Molly, the older one, spoke first, stepping in close to Heyes. "We were wondering if you both might want to take me and Miranda on a picnic tomorrow?" As she talked, she traced a finger lightly down his shoulder, ending near the collar of his shirt.

Heyes glanced at Kid, whose arm, by this time, had become tightly entangled within the grasp of the younger sister. He was trying to gently pull himself free from her grasp, without seeming rude, but she would have none of it.

Heyes smiled charmingly at Molly, catching her hand in his, effectively halting its wandering across his anatomy. "A picnic, Molly? Isn't it a bit rainy for that?"

"Well, folks are saying that the rain is about done. Ain't you noticed the blue sky?"

"We noticed, alright," Kid agreed. "And I actually thought it was a good sign. Ain't had nothing but trouble since."

In a mildly conciliatory tone, Heyes said, "We'd love to take you girls on a picnic, Molly." At this slight encouragement, she moved to grab his arm in much the same fashion that Miranda was still showing Kid. Sidestepping her, he continued, "But I just don't think it would be right."

Disappointment washed across the girls' faces. "But why not?" Miranda asked, pouting prettily.

"For one thing, we're just too old for you girls. You need to find some nice boys from around here and settle down…start a family. Now we know your daddy thinks we might make good husbands for you all but I can tell you for a fact that -"

"Oh, our daddy don't think that anymore at all. Not since he started talking to that old drunk, Winnie. And besides, we don't wanna settle down with some old dirt farmer or ranch hand green behind the ears. We want excitement, adventure. We want you two." She grabbed for him again and this time, Heyes was too preoccupied with what she had just told him to outmaneuver her. She wrapped her arms around his waist, reaching up on her tiptoes to plant a light kiss on his lips.

Startled, he pulled himself free. "Molly! I'm surprised at you. Nice young ladies don't act that way - especially not right out on the street like this."

"Oh, psshh! It was just a little kiss. Nothing to get so worked up about." She looked like she might start to cry.

Ignoring her, Heyes continued, "Waddaya mean - your daddy don't think we'd make good husbands anymore?"

Sniffling softly, Molly brightened and said, "That's right. He's been talking to Winnie, that old fleabag, and he's decided that maybe the old coot is right this time. He thinks you maybe are Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry." She stopped talking and just stared at Heyes, her eyes gleaming with delight and excitement.

Kid looked at her and then looked down at Miranda, who had been listening intently to her sister talk. She had the same excited light in her eyes. It was downright scary to see! "Joshua?" he said worriedly.

"Why would he think that, Molly? What's changed? Fletcher is just a raving old drunk."

"That's true…'cept for the fact that last night he came over to the house with a couple of wanted posters on Heyes and Curry. My, those are some wicked bad men - very bad…" her voice trailed off.

"Molly!" Heyes impatiently brought her attention back to the present.

"Hm? Oh yeah, sorry. Anyway, he had those wanted posters. Me and Miranda read the descriptions," she stared at his face for a long moment. When she was done, she gave Kid the same scrutiny. "You sure do look like them."

Kid forced a laugh and argued, "Come on, now. Those descriptions on those posters are so poor, they could be just about anybody."

"Maybe," she agreed doubtfully. "So how about that picnic then?"

"We'll see," Heyes appeased. "But first tell us what else your daddy and Fletcher said."

"Only if you promise - the picnic?"

Lying smoothly, Heyes promised. "What else did they say?"

Shrewd in her own way, Molly replied, "I can't remember. The picnic?"

Drawing in a deep breath, Heyes exhaled through his slightly clenched jaw. "I'm gonna be honest with you Molly. We don't intend to be here tomorrow. We're leaving town tonight."

"Oh? How you gonna do that?"

"Same way we always leave a town. On horseback."

"Hope your horses can swim then. Ain't you heard? The road is gone - washed out by the river."

Kid Curry looked at his partner with reproach. "I told you we should have left earlier."

Heyes refused to make eye contact with Kid, preferring instead to continue his conversation with Molly. "Where'd ya hear that? I ain't heard that."

"My aunt Thelma told me," she answered smugly, having gotten one up on him.

"Mrs. Campbell?"

"Uh, huh. Aunt Thelma was down at the river this morning. Every since Uncle Clarence died, bless 'im, Auntie spends a lot of time down there just thinking about him. She saw it with her own eyes. The road is completely gone."

"Ok, ok." Heyes nervously considered their situation. "There must be some other way out of town though, right?"

"Well, there is the trail to the old mining camp up yonder. But that hasn't been used in so many years. I'm sure it's mostly overgrown with brush by now. You sure wouldn't be able to use that after dark. Too dangerous. In some places the trail's edge is a straight drop several hundred feet. I can't imagine what condition it's in after all this time. Especially with the rain we've had."

No longer interested in conversation, Heyes tipped his hat, battered and worn, to the girls and started to walk away. Before he got too far, Molly called to him one more time. "Oh, there is one more thing you might like to know. Something I overheard Daddy and that vile Mr. Fletcher say…"

Eyes glittering impatiently, he retraced his steps until he was standing before her once again, "Alright, what is it?"

She smiled coyly at him and, cheeks reddening, she boldly said, "I'll tell you for a kiss."

"What?!"

"A kiss. Just one kiss, that's all."

Miranda giggled. Molly glared at her over Heyes' shoulder. Heyes swore he heard Kid giggle from somewhere behind him as well. Sighing deeply, he planted a chaste kiss on Molly's forehead.

"Uh, uh. A real kiss."

"Molly," Heyes warned, his eyes darkening.

"What I have to tell you is very important. I swear it'll be worth it to you."

"Go on, Joshua. It's just a kiss," Kid teased. "You've kissed girls before…once or twice."

Frustrated and annoyed, Heyes rubbed his face roughly with his hand. With a lethal glare at Kid, he made his move. Planting his feet squarely in front of the young woman, he looked deep into her eyes. Flustered by the intensity of his gaze, she tried to turn away, suddenly unsure of the wisdom of her teasing request for a kiss. As she did, he reached out and gently caught her chin between his fingers, turning her face so her eyes were looking directly into his. She was unable to look away, fascinated by the depth of his brown, almost-black eyes.

Slowly, Heyes lowered his face towards hers until their lips nearly touched. She could feel his breath on her lips for a few unending seconds before he pressed his lips to hers, gently at first and then with more urgency.

Heyes wrapped Molly in his arms for a moment and then released her. Swaying, she took an unsteady step backwards, her face flushed.

Wiping his lips with the tips of his fingers, he pressed, "Ok, tell me."

"That was amazing," she said.

"Not that! Tell me what you heard your father and Fletcher say. And it better be good, Molly."

"Hmm? Oh. Oh, that! Um, yeah…"

"Oh for Heaven's sake, Molly! Let me tell him," Miranda interrupted. "Fletcher told Daddy that he had telegraphed the sheriff from Silver Springs about you two. Said the sheriff was going to be coming here to check out his story."

"Oh, no," Kid moaned. "This just keeps getting better and better."

"Ladies. Later." Heyes grabbed his partner by the shoulder and the two of them started down the boardwalk. If they had chanced a glance back at the young women, they would have been met with doe-eyed faces, sadly watching them leave.

Once out of hearing range, Kid laid into his partner, angry that he hadn't listened to his words of warning earlier. "This is bad, Heyes. This is really bad. We're stuck in this town with a crazy man; no, two crazy men; and the sheriff from Silver Springs, someone who probably will believe we are who we are, is on his way here to check us out."

Heyes was thinking, his brow furrowed. "Kid, I admit it looks bad. But maybe it's not as bad as you think. After all, if we can't get out of town, then it stands to reason that the sheriff can't get into town either. So we have some time."

"Maybe so," Kid agreed, some of the edge taken out of his voice. "But it's still bad. Once the road is open, how are we gonna get out without the sheriff catchin' us?"

"We're not gonna wait for the road to open. I think we oughta leave now…take the mining trail up into the hills that Molly was telling us about. But we don't want to be caught out there in the dark so we have to go now."

"That sounds right to me. The quicker we get out of here, the better I'm going to feel."

The two men made their way to the livery stable where they paid the owner a few dollars extra to get their horses and gear ready "as fast as you can." While waiting, they discussed the wisdom of going after their things at the boarding house. After some argument, with Kid erring on the side of caution, they decided they would sneak back to their room and retrieve their belongings. Heyes was partial to some of the things he had left there and didn't want to give them up so easily.

Horses and gear in tow, they walked to the boarding house, keeping to side streets and alleyways to avoid running into any of the town's citizens, especially Fletcher or Ott Howard. They managed to reach their room, collect all their worldly goods, leave payment for their accommodations on the bed stand, and creep back down the stairs without incident.

Kid's hand was reaching for the door knob when the first sign of trouble was heard rather than seen. The familiar, ominous click of a hammer being pulled back and engaged reached their ears. Heyes squeezed his eyes shut tightly and cursed under his breath. He knew Kid was looking at him, ice-blue accusation coloring his eyes. Rightly so too, since he was the one who had insisted on coming back for their things.

"Don't open that door, boys, and don't turn around. Just take off your gun belts and push 'em away from ya."

Heyes and Curry dropped their bags and reluctantly complied with Ott's demands. Reaching down to untie his holster from his thigh, Heyes risked a glance over his shoulder. Ott and Fletcher stood in the doorway leading into the parlor. In Fletcher's hand was the very handgun he had used the last time they had crossed paths on the way to Red Gap, a dainty little firearm more suited for ladies' handbags than masculine hands.

With gun belts removed and out of reach, the two reformed outlaws were allowed to turn and face their tormentors. "Hands up, boys."

Grabbing air and newly stripped of his own weapon, Kid Curry shot a verbal round at Fletcher. "Winnie, don't you think it's time you get a real gun? That little bitty thing is sorta girly, ain't it?"

"I assure you, Mr. Curry, this gun is sufficient to do the job. If you don't believe me, I could give you a demonstration. I believe the reward on the two of you is offered 'dead or alive'. I don't have any qualms about shooting you."

"Calm down, Winnie," Ott said. "They aren't going to give us any trouble." Reaching beneath his jacket, he pulled his own weapon, a fifty-four caliber derringer, from where it had rested, nestled inside his waistband. "I think you might be more impressed with this gun, Mr. Curry? Big enough for you?"

"That'll do," he agreed, dryly. Heyes glanced his partner's way and rolled his eyes.

"Gentlemen," he began, in a placating voice. "What's this all about? I mean, I know what Winnie thinks, Mr. Howard, but I would have given you more credit than this! You don't actually believe his story, now do you? Same story he's apparently told over and over again since coming into town?"

"Well, now see, Mr. Smith or…Mr. Heyes…I got my doubts about Winnie's story, that's true. But seein' as how he has a couple of wanted posters with your descriptions - well, I prefer to err on the side of caution. After all, half of twenty thousand dollars is plenty of reason to go along with him."

"Don't listen to him, Ott. This man will say anything to get you to believe that they're not Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, but I'm telling you I'm right! These are the same men who swindled me out of fifty thousand dollars and then cheated me out of more money a few months later."

"Mr. Howard - if we had fifty thousand dollars of this poor, crazy fool's money, do you honestly think we'd be riding around, town to town, looking for whatever employment might afford us a few meager coins? Of course not! We'd be living in the lap of luxury somewhere…San Francisco or Denver or Gila Bend, someplace nice like that. What Winnie is saying just don't make sense. You can see that, can't you, a smart fellow like yourself?"

Doubt flickered fleetingly across the other man's face. For one exhilarating moment, Heyes thought his silver tongue was going to convince Ott that Winnie was wrong, again, in his assertions. But Ott's countenance hardened again. "You could be telling the truth…and then again, maybe you ain't. And you do seem to be leaving town in sort of a rush all of a sudden - that's a mystery in itself since the road is impassable right now.

"So I don't see any harm in just holding you two fellas here until the sheriff from Silver Springs gets here. If we're wrong, well, we'll owe you a big apology for the inconvenience; but if we're right…"

"Oh, we're right, all right. You'll see. I'm finally going to exact my revenge on you two men -"

"Quiet, Winnie. You're gonna make me regret my decision to believe you if you start sounding crazy again. Get their guns and stick 'em in the closet over there. As for you two - upstairs."

Heyes started to lower his hands and raise his voice in protest, "Oh, now wait a minute…“

"Hands up, Mr. Heyes. You don't want to make me nervous. Haven't had much experience with this gun. Hate to have it go off accidentally."

Heyes extended his fingers towards the sky and tried again, "Mr. Howard…Ott…Can I call you Ott? You don't seriously intend to hold us here, in your sister's home! With your children living here?"

"Well, it's true that Thelma probably won't like it much - but I figure you'll be safe and, more importantly, harmless upstairs tied up in your room. It won't be for very long. I reckon tomorrow or the next day, the water will recede enough to make crossing the river possible. Then we'll turn you over to the sheriff and collect the reward. No harm done."

"No harm done? Oh no, not at all! Unless you count the fact that you're imprisoning a couple of innocent men. Why, the worst thing me and Thaddeus ever were involved in was swiping a few licorice whips from the general store back when we was hardly old enough to walk. Got our hides tanned for that one good, didn't we Thaddeus? Since then, it's been nothing but the straight and narrow for us."

"Don't listen to him, Ott. He can talk the paint right offa the wall if you give him half a chance." Fletcher gestured towards the stairs with his miniature handgun. "Go on, get up there. I won't waste time asking again."

"Nice job, Joshua. You got them eating right out of your hand. Silver tongue…" Kid muttered under his breath as the four men ascended the stairs, two of them with their hands still pointed at the ceiling.

Their room looked bleaker and drearier than the last time they saw it, even though the rain had stopped and the sun had come out since. The gloom came more from within the two men than from their surroundings.

"Please sit, gentlemen..."

Heyes and Curry looked around the room. "Where?" Kid asked, seeing there were no chairs.

"The bed. Sit down."

"What?"

"Listen, you're going to be confined here for a couple of days. I just thought you'd be more comfortable chained to the bed. At least you can lie down and rest." Ott smiled.

"Mighty thoughty of ya, Ott."

Heyes and Curry sat down on opposite sides of the big bed. While Ott watched over them with his derringer, Fletcher pulled a pair of handcuffs out from within his suit coat.

"Where'd you get those?" Heyes asked.

"Never mind about that. Just give me your hand. No, not that one, the other one."

Fletcher placed one cuff around Heyes' left wrist, and then he slipped the chain around one of the iron bars in the headboard of the bed. "Now you, Mr. Curry, your right hand, please."

He fastened the other cuff around Kid's right hand, effectively locking both men to the heavy bed and to each other. They had enough mobility that they could either sit or lie down in relative comfort. On first consideration, the only way for them to get away would be to take the whole headboard with them.

"That should about do it. I don't think you'll be going any where. Now you boys just relax. Once the sheriff gets here, we'll check out Winnie's story and if he's wrong, we'll let you go on your way."

"Awful neighborly of you."

Ott chuckled, fully aware of the sarcasm dripping from Heyes' words. "You boys behave yourself and I'll send some supper up here for you later. Let's go Fletcher." Ott and Fletcher left. Heyes and Curry heard the soft clatter of the lock being engaged from outside.

"I am getting SO tired of people tying me up, Heyes!" Kid said, angrily. He tugged at the chain vigorously.

"Ouch, Kid! Don't do that, you're only bruising my knuckles! We aren't gonna get out of these cuffs that way."

"You gotta better idea?"

"I ain't sure yet. But I might if things work out the way I hope. We just gotta wait and see what supper brings."

"Supper? What difference is supper gonna make?"

"Wait and see, Kid. Supper could make ALL the difference."

* * * * *

_________________
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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4.9 Familiar Faces by Leah Anders :: Comments

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Re: 4.9 Familiar Faces by Leah Anders
Post on Sat 02 May 2015, 5:06 pm by royannahuggins
The hours dragged by for Kid Curry with little to break up the monotony. He spent long minutes staring out the window watching the clouds, now white and fluffy where previously they had been dark and heavy, drift by. When he tired of that, he found himself peering over Heyes' shoulder, reading along with him out of the book that he had found, still in reach on the table next to the bed.

Normally, this would have set Heyes' teeth on edge, to have Kid leaning in, breathing on the side of his face, quietly moving his lips while he tried to follow the words on the page; but today he patiently allowed his friend to read with him, knowing that there was little else to occupy his attention.

He did this out of kindness and also because he was aware that if Kid became restless, he himself would be the one to suffer most. So the two of them passed the time in this fashion, reading from the same pages; Heyes allowing Kid time to catch up before turning the yellowed leaves of the book.

Once in a while, Kid's mind would wander back to their problem at hand and he would press Heyes for more information on how he planned to get them out of their current mess but Heyes refused to tell Kid any more than he already had. So Kid waited. Waited and trusted Heyes' instincts.

Presently, Heyes closed the book and looked out the window. "Must be getting nigh on supper time, wouldn't you say, Kid?"

"Yep, I'd say so. You wanna tell me yet?"

"Just a little longer Kid. Trust me. If this goes how I think it's gonna, we'll be outa here before you know it."

Just then, they heard the scrape of a key being shoved into the lock. Both men tensed slightly, sitting up straighter in the bed, waiting. The door opened slowly.

Molly and Miranda entered cautiously, each one carrying a bed tray covered by a cloth napkin. "We brought you your supper," Molly said, shyly.

Heyes' face lit up in a brilliant smile. Kid could tell he was genuinely happy about something. He wasn't sure yet what that was but he planned to watch and wait to see, just like Heyes wanted him to. He found himself smiling too, in anticipation.

"That's terrific, Molly! We're starved, aren't we, Thaddeus? Bring it right over here."

Suspicion narrowed her eyes. Heyes rushed to assure her, "It's ok. We aren't gonna try anything. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't get out of these cuffs."

Her expression softened but her voice became stronger, "Just so you know…we ain't got the keys for those handcuffs. So it won't do you any good to try anything with us. We can't help you…no matter how much we might like to," adding, "which we don't," when she realized what she had said.

"Exactly right," he agreed. "Now just bring those trays on over here, would you?" Heyes sat up even straighter, rubbing his right hand against his pant leg, seemingly eager to get his dinner.

The girls set the trays down where the men could reach them easily. With a final wistful glance at Heyes, Molly turned to leave; digging the key to the room out of her apron pocket as she went.

"Oh, Molly? One more thing?"

Turning to look at him, she waited to hear what he wanted. His eyes bored into her but he didn't speak right away. Finally, several seconds later, not being able to hold out against his stare any longer, she asked, "What is it?"

"I was just wondering…do you remember that kiss we shared earlier today?"

Miranda giggled, unable to stop herself. The only thing that her sister had been able to talk about all afternoon had been that kiss! Oh, yeah, she remembered it all right!

Molly didn't seem to notice her sister's laughter. All her attention was, again, focused on the smoldering, rugged cowboy sitting on the bed, one leg bent at the knee, the other one dangling over the side of the mattress, toes brushing the floor.

Heyes didn't wait for her to find her voice. Watching her carefully, he said, "I was hoping that you might consider letting me have another? Seein' as how I might be sent away for quite a while soon, I mean."

Color rose in her face and breath caught in her chest. Flustered, she suddenly didn't seem to know what to do with her hands. First they dangled nervously at her sides, then crossed over her stomach and finally settled back down near her sides. "No, I don't think so."

"Please Molly? You wouldn't deny a condemned man a last request, would you?"

"You aren't exactly condemned."

"Not yet, but if the sheriff decides we are Heyes and Curry and we can't convince him otherwise, then we'll be sent away for twenty years. That's a long time to be alone, Molly."

"I'm sorry, truly I am…but my daddy would kill me if -"

"How's he gonna find out? Right, Miranda? And besides, it's just a kiss. Isn't that what you said to me earlier?"

"Yes…I suppose I did say that. But I'm not -"

"Please?" Heyes gave her his most charming look, dimples blazing.

"Go on, Molly," Miranda encouraged.

Molly could almost feel her knees knocking against each other underneath her full skirts. The idea of kissing Hannibal Heyes, if that's who he really was, was even more exciting this time, now that it was his idea. Finally, when she felt steady enough to walk, she moved to where he sat on the edge of the bed. Bending down, she, deciding to play it safe at the last instant, planted a chaste kiss on his forehead and quickly straightened up. She would have spun away from him and left it at that if he hadn't reached out and caught her arm with his hand.

"A real kiss," he insisted, bringing her round to face him. After a brief hesitation, she bent forward again, bringing her face within inches of his. He reached up and cupped the back of her neck with his free hand, drawing her closer to himself.

Gently, he kissed her as his hand moved up into her hair, holding her in the kiss. Then it was over. "Thank you Molly. That was all I'd hoped it would be."

Slowly, she straightened and turned to leave. At the door, she stopped once more. "Mr. Heyes? I'm sorry my father is doing this to you. I wish there was some way we could help, but there just isn't."

"Don't worry, Molly. We know you'd help if you could."

The young women left. Heyes chuckled, immensely pleased with himself. "As a matter of fact, you already did," he said to the closed door. Kid was watching him speculatively.

"What just happened, Heyes? How could a kiss help us? Have you gone loco?"

"No, Kid. I'm completely sane. And incredibly brilliant. That worked just the way I hoped it would."

"What did? I don't see how we're any better off than -" Kid's words trailed off as Heyes opened his free hand. The one that he had used to retrieve a shiny gold hairpin from the upswept hair of Molly Howard.

With a subdued whoop of glee, Kid admired his friend's finesse. "Heyes, you are a genius."

"Without a doubt, Kid, without a doubt. With this little hairpin, our troubles are soon to be over. All I gotta do is pick the lock on these cuffs and we-are-outta-here!"

"Well, what are you waiting for? Let's do it."

"Patience, Kid. I figure we should wait until dark when everyone is in bed. That way, there's less of a chance of anyone coming to check on us until morning. We'll have a bigger head start on them if we wait."

Kid laughed, "Genius, Heyes, pure genius!"

"Yeah. So now, let's just eat our dinner and then later, we'll make our escape."

"Good idea. Let's eat."

* * * * *

Three hours later, the house was finally silent. No light crept in underneath the door leading out into the hallway. With unspoken agreement, the pair decided the time had finally come for them to move. Heyes extracted the hairpin from within his waistband where he had earlier tucked it away for safe keeping. With only the milky moonlight seeping in through the curtained window to aid him, he set to work on the handcuffs. Within seconds both he and Curry were free.

Heyes headed towards the window and was just about to raise the glass so they could shimmy down the side of the house and make their escape when he noticed Kid was waiting by the door to the hallway. "Hey, whaddaya waiting for? Let's go."

"Uh, uh," Kid answered stubbornly. "Come open this door. I wanna get my gun. It'll only take a second."

"What!" Heyes hissed loudly. "You can get another gun later. Let's just get out of here," he insisted, gesturing towards the window.

"Nosir! Not this time! I'm tired of having my gun taken from me. You know how hard it is to find a good gun. I aim to keep this one. Besides…I just cleaned it. Now git over here and unlock this door."

"Kid -"

"Uh, uh."

Heyes glared at his friend for a split second. Then, in half-light, through silent encouragement, he tried once more to convince him to use the window. Kid refused to be swayed, however, and stood with his arms folded across his chest, leaning against the door, unmoved and unmoving.

With a sigh that originated deep in his chest, Heyes walked over to where Kid stood near the door, muttering irritably under his breath. Kid couldn't make out any of the words but the meaning was clear. Didn't matter none to him though…he planned to get his gun.

With a magician's touch, Heyes manipulated the simple lock. Within seconds, he heard the tell-tale click that let him know he had worked his own brand of magic. He smiled in spite of himself, enjoying the thrill he got in opening a lock, any kind of lock.

With a flourish, he stood back from the door so that Kid could do the honors of opening it. Kid smiled and tipped his hat in recognition of Heyes' finesse with the hairpin. Then, gently and carefully, he turned the round knob listening for any sounds coming from the house. When he heard none, he opened the door just wide enough for the two of them to squeeze through. Once in the hallway, they listened again. The house was silent.

As quiet as two men in cowboy boots can be, they tiptoed down the stairs. With Heyes watching his back, Kid, in the semi-darkness, found the closet where Fletcher had stored their guns. Hurriedly, they buckled the belts around their hips, tied the holsters across their thighs and straightened up.

"Satisfied now?"

"Yep," Kid grinned, relishing the weighty feel of his gun resting against his leg.

"Let's go then."

"No argument from me."

Only one door remained between them and freedom and they didn't waste any more time in using it. They left the boarding house for what they hoped would be the final time, elated that they had managed to out-wit Winford Fletcher again. As Heyes and Curry closed the door behind them, two shadowy figures stepped into the foyer.

* * * * *

"Well, Molly was right. The road is definitely out." Heyes and Curry sat, leaning forward in their saddles, forearms crossed over saddle horns, looking out across the dark water swirling muddily in their path.

"Whaddaya think we ought to do, Heyes? Go try the mining trail into the hills?"

"No, I don't think so, Kid. Not at night. Wouldn't be safe."

"How 'bout we follow the river downstream. The water might be shallower there. At least shallow enough so we could cross."

"I think that's a good idea. One thing's for sure, we can't wait around here much longer. Just be careful, wouldn't want you ending up in the river again."

"You just worry about yourself. I plan to stay nice and dry."

Heyes and Curry urged their horses on, cautiously avoiding the slippery and unstable banks of the once placid, now agitated river. They picked their way deliberately, using the light from the almost-full moon as their guide. With the rain finished, the night was calm and fresh. The only sounds that disturbed the air were the rhythms of their own hoof beats thudding softly on the damp earth and the noises of night creatures.

About a quarter mile downstream, Kid drew his horse up and stopped suddenly. Instinctively, his right hand found the butt of his gun and rested there. Heyes caught the motion through the corner of his eye and turned to look at his partner quizzically. "What is it, Kid?"

"Did you hear that?"

"What?"

Both men stood perfectly still, heads cocked slightly Finally, Heyes shrugged and said, "I don't hear anything."

Kid frowned. "Yeah, I don't hear it now either but I would'a sworn I heard…" his words trailed off without finishing his thought.

"Maybe we should check it out? You think someone is following us?"

"I don't rightly know. Could be I'm just jumpy. Maybe it was just -"

A scream cut through Kid's words. Both men tensed visibly, their bodies frozen into place for the moment. Before they could react further, they heard another scream followed by a shout, "Miranda!"

Heyes groaned, "Oh, no!" The two men wheeled their mounts around and took off in the direction where the screams came from, no longer mindful of the dangerous ground beneath them. A few hundred yards upstream, they could see Molly, silhouetted in silvery moonlight lying prone on the edge of the muddy banks. She was reaching into the swirling waters. At first glance, she seemed to be reaching for a branch that was stuck out just beyond her reach. As Heyes got closer, he realized that she did in fact have the branch clutched in her hand. The other end of the branch was in the tenuous grasp of her younger sister who was desperately trying to hold on against the swift currents.

He and Curry jumped down from their horses and ran the few feet remaining between them and the girls. "Hold on, Miran -" At that instant, Miranda screamed again as she lost her grip on the slick branch. The currents started carrying her downstream, slowly at first but then picking up speed as she went.

Molly cried out, her voice trailing off in a choked sob. She struggled to her knees, her riding clothes heavy with muddy earth. "Help us!"

She needn't have said anything, however, because Heyes and Curry were already running hell-bent to save the young woman. Heyes stopped just long enough to retrieve a length of rope from his saddle. By the time he caught up with Kid, his partner had managed to overtake Miranda's progress downstream.

As luck would have it, a thick tree trunk stretched out from the bank across the swollen river. The tree had more than likely stood proudly on the edge of the river until the rising waters had washed away its stability, forcing it to topple over. Now it acted as a bridge at least a few hundred feet into the river's path. Heyes watched as Kid shimmied out onto its slippery surface. Kid moved cautiously but quickly, positioning himself finally in the spot where he guessed Miranda would pass. Lying on his belly, he could almost reach the water below him. He hoped that Miranda would have enough strength to reach for him and that he would be able to hold onto her well enough to pull her from the water. Otherwise, she was going to be dragged further downstream.

"Miranda!" he yelled as she came closer. "Grab my hand!"

The girl was coming fast, the current moving her quickly now. There would only be a split second where he would be able to grab her. He needed to make that second count. "Here I am, Miranda. Get ready!"

Kid didn't take his eyes off the girl, bobbing closer every second. He had judged well and it seemed like she would pass directly underneath him. "Come on, Miranda," he urged. The girl looked exhausted from her watery struggle and he prayed silently once again that she would have the strength to reach for him.

"Come on, Miranda!" he said in a more commanding voice. "Reach for me!"

He could see Miranda's eyes shining up at him. He could see the fear and fatigue in her eyes. At the sound of his voice, the fear faded, replaced by a look of grim determination. She raised her arms up out of the water and reached for his. Kid reached back. Their hands met but the current was strong. It carried Miranda underneath the log where Curry was perched. He lost his grip on her left hand but managed to maintain a hold on the fingers of her right hand. The current threatened to drag her further under the log and out of his grasp entirely.

He heard Heyes' voice calling from the bank, "Hold on, Kid. Just a second longer." Heyes was busy fashioning a lasso from the rope. With a flourish, he twirled the circle of rope over his head a few times, calculating his throw. Smoothly, the rope sailed out over the water, landing inches from Miranda's free left hand.

Kid saw the rope land before Miranda became aware of it. She was gasping for breath and trying desperately not to lose her grip on Kid's hand. "Grab the rope, Miranda. Joshua will pull you in."

"I can't," she cried, choking on the muddy water. The fear had returned to her face and Kid could tell she was too afraid of losing her grasp on him to reach for the rope.

"Yes, you can! Grab it! I can't hold onto you much longer. You have to reach the rope. Now!" Her fingers slipped another fraction of an inch away from his. "Hurry, Miranda!"

Finally realizing it was her only hope, Miranda reached for the rope. For a terrifying second, she felt that she wouldn't be able to reach it but a fortuitous current steered it a few inches closer. She grabbed the loop of rope with her left hand and held onto it for dear life. The rope was sodden and slippery and threatened to slide away from her fingers.

"Loop it around your arm, Miranda. Don't let go."

She struggled to do as Kid demanded. Once she had a firm hold on the rope, Heyes started to pull her towards him where he stood on the bank. With a few powerful strokes, he dragged her back to the river's edge. With Kid's help, he pulled a cold and drenched Miranda from the river into the terrified arms of her older sister. Both girls sank sobbing onto the river bank as the men looked helplessly on.

Heyes wanted to grab Molly by the shoulders and demand to know what she and her sister were doing following them, but he didn't have the heart to do it just then. Instead, he asked Kid to stay with them while he walked back to where they had left their horses. When he returned, a few minutes later, he had all four horses in tow.

Heyes grabbed his and Kid's bed rolls from behind their saddles, unrolled them and wrapped the blankets around the girls' shoulders. "Feeling better?" he asked, gently.

Miranda and Molly still clung to each other but they had both stopped crying. Miranda looked exhausted by her ordeal in the river; Molly just looked frightened. It was hard to say though if she was more afraid by what had just happened or by the look on Heyes' face. Unable to find their voices, both girls just nodded silently to his question.

"Good. Then you'll be able to explain what the devil you're doing out here." His voice was no longer gentle; it had taken on a harder, angry edge, one that had turned strong men's blood to ice water on numerous prior occasions.

Miranda started to cry again, choking back little strangled sobs. Molly held her more tightly and tried to look defiant in the face of Heyes' anger but after mere seconds her resolve collapsed under the weight of his gaze. In a small, childish voice she said, "We just wanted to see where you were going. We wanted to come with you." She grimaced, realizing how foolish her words sounded.

"You wanted to come with us!" Heyes shouted in disbelief. "Have you lost your minds? Do you have any idea what-"

"Well, we didn't want to stay with you, if that's what you mean. We - I - just thought it would be fun to -"

"Fun? Fun? You call this fun?"

"Of course not, but -"

Heyes held his hand up to silence Molly. Irritated, he turned away and paced back and forth a few times, rubbing his face vigorously. Suddenly, he whirled back to face Molly, a new question rattling through his mind, needing an answer. "How did you know we were going to be leaving tonight? Look at you…you're wearing riding clothes. You knew we were going to escape! How?"

A smile played at the corners of Molly's mouth. She made a conscious effort to conceal it though, knowing that Heyes would not be as amused as she was by her answer still forthcoming. "I knew from the second you stole my hairpin that you were going to be escaping tonight." Just a hint of smugness colored her answer.

Heyes' eyes widened in amazed disbelief. Behind him, he could hear Kid groan. 'Well, I'm never gonna hear the end of this,' he thought. "You knew?" He glanced sheepishly at Kid who was walking downstream away from them. Heyes swore he heard him chuckle softly as he walked away, shaking his head.

"Course I knew. I mean…the kiss definitely distracted me for a minute but when my hair started falling down as soon as I left your room, well, it don't take a genius to figure out what happened."

"So you just waited for us to break out? Why didn't you tell your pa?"

"What makes you think we didn't?"

"He's not here, is he? If you'da told him, he'd be the one chasing us down tonight, not you two."

"Well, that's where you've miscalculated, Mr. Heyes." Another voice, this one masculine and familiar split the inky darkness. The moon that had been shining brightly earlier had recently taken on a more subdued glow, courtesy of clouds building up in the midnight sky. "Don't draw your gun," the voice warned as Heyes reached for his holster. "I've got you covered and I'd hate to see anything happen before we get a chance to talk."

"Mr. Howard. I can't say that it's nice to see you." Heyes looked around, noticing that Kid had not returned from his stroll. His partner was nowhere in sight. Heyes eased his body sideways, positioning himself behind the spot where the two Howard daughters still sat huddled beneath blankets on the ground. He hated to do it, but if Ott had an inclination to shoot him, he'd at least have to think twice before doing it with his daughters in the line of fire.

"Just stay calm, Mr. Heyes."

Heyes smiled. "Ott, if you knew anything about me, you'd know that I always stay calm…always." There was something about Heyes' smile that made Ott's hair stand up on the back of his neck. He was calm alright, but it was a dangerous calm.

"Daddy? How did you find us?"

"Your Aunt Thelma heard something after she went to bed. She asked me to check it out. I found our friends here missing from their room. When I saw you girls were gone too…well, that about scared me half to death." To Heyes, he said, "How dare you take these two young girls with you on your dirty business, Mr. Heyes! Even if you are outlaws, I would have given you more credit for good sense than that."

"Now, listen -"

"They aren't to blame, daddy. We followed them. They didn't know. It wasn't until Molly fell into the river that -"

"What?! Molly fell in the river?" Ott's whole body seemed to tremble with alarm. He lowered his gun and moved to crouch near his daughters. "Are you ok?"

"She's ok, daddy. When she fell in, I tried to help her but I couldn't hold on to her. Mr. Curry and Mr. Heyes saved her." Ott hugged his daughters, forgetting the two wanted men for the time being.

Heyes glanced over his shoulder just in time to see Kid come into sight. He was holding his gun. In a calm, even voice he said, "Mr. Howard, I'd like you to move away from your daughters if you don't mind. I think we got some things to settle and we don't want them caught in the middle of men's affairs, do we? Go stand over there."

Ott stared down the barrel of Kid's six-shooter. Slowly he rose to his feet and moved away from Molly and Miranda. "Joshua, why don't you go get Ott's gun?"

"My pleasure, Thaddeus."

"Now we don't intend to let you take us prisoner again, Ott. So what do you think we ought to do with you?"

"Listen, Jones…or Curry, or whoever you are. I came out here to get my daughters back As for you two, well I wasn't sure what I was going to do about you."

"Why's that?"

"Well, as you know, this whole thing was that crazy Fletcher's idea. And when I went to find him tonight to have him help me find Molly and Miranda…well, let's just say he was in no condition to even sit a horse, let alone help me chase you all down."

"Drunk?"

"Dead drunk. So I'd already been rethinking my decision to fall in with him, you might say. And now, after finding out what you did for Miranda…well, it just wouldn't feel right for me to turn you over to the law. Especially since I'm not convinced that Winnie has the right men. Heck, I could end up being as big a laughing stock as he is. I gotta live in this town, ya know."

"Are you saying you don't intend to take us back to town? How do we know we can trust you?"

"You have my word as a gentleman. And my gratitude for what you did for my daughters." Ott's eyes never wavered from Kid's. He looked like a man who was telling the truth.

Heyes broke in, "So what do we do from here?"

"Well, how 'bout I take my girls back to town for some dry clothes and you two fellas keep headin' the way you were headin' before all the excitement?"

Heyes smiled broadly. This time Ott didn't feel prickly fingers of fear march down his neck, for which he was much relieved. He smiled back.

"What about the sheriff? What'll you tell him?"

"I won't tell him anything. I'll let Winnie do all the talking…until he talks himself into a corner he can't get out of, hopefully."

"Sounds like a good plan. I wonder if you would consider taking a message back to old Winford for us? I wrote this up while you and Thaddeus were talking just now." He handed Ott a sheet of paper, folded twice to form a small rectangle. "Maybe you could just leave it where he'll find it…maybe in our room?"

"My pleasure, Mr. Smith."
The men shook hands and then helped Molly and Miranda first to their feet and then onto their horses. "Keep the blankets," Heyes said kindly. "It's awful chilly out here tonight. Don't want the two of you catching cold."

Heyes and Curry rode through the night, putting plenty of miles between themselves and Winford Fletcher, the town drunk. Somewhere in the middle of the night, they had found a spot in the river shallow enough for them to cross over onto the other side. Once they did, it felt like a giant weight had been lifted off their shoulders.

Once morning came, they felt safe enough to finally stop and rest in the shade of a large willow tree. "How about we sleep for a while, Kid? I'm beat."

"We don't have any blankets," Kid answered, laughing.

"Oh, right…I forgot about that. Well, that's ok. We'll get some new ones in the next town, alright?"

"Fine. I'm so tired I could sleep on a pile of rocks." Kid lay down and pulled his hat down low over his eyes. He lay still for a few minutes before suddenly pushing his hat back up and looking over at his partner, already drifting off to sleep.

"Heyes?"

"Ummmm?"

"Heyes, what did you write in that note?"

"Hm? What note?"

"The note. The one you gave Ott to give to Fletcher. What did it say?"

Heyes sighed sleepily and rolled over, turning his back to Kid. "Nothing, Kid," he mumbled. "I just gave him a little friendly advice is all. Go to sleep, will ya?"

Too tired to press him any more, Kid did just that.

* * * * *

Sheriff Black knocked on the door at the home of Thelma Campbell. At his shoulder, Winford Fletcher wavered unsteadily on his feet. He reeked of old whiskey and stale barroom tobacco. The sheriff glanced distastefully at his companion and moved as far away as possible on the porch step.

Ott Howard opened the door. He looked quizzically at the men standing on his stoop. "Can I help you?"

"Mr. Howard? Mr. Fletcher here tells me that you might have a couple of wanted men locked up here in your home?"

Ott looked confused, glancing from one man to the other. "I'm sorry?"

The sheriff opened his mouth to speak but before he could, Fletcher interrupted, talking in a loud, shrill, albeit slightly slurred voice. "Let us in, Ott. I want that reward on Heyes and Curry as soon as possible!"

"Heyes and Curry? What on earth are you going on about, Winnie?" He rolled his eyes in disgust and spoke to the sheriff, "I have no idea what this man is going on about. There are no outlaws here. Never have been. My sister runs a respectable boarding house."

Sheriff Black looked suspiciously at Fletcher. When he received the telegraph from Winford Fletcher, previously a resident of his town and a respected member of the community, he dropped everything he was doing back home and rushed here, expecting to find that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry had been apprehended. Instead, he had found this old fool, drunker than a skunk at ten o'clock in the morning. He had been thinking he should have turned around and rode out of town as soon as he saw Fletcher, now he was convinced of it.

"Sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Howard. There's obviously been a mistake. We'll just be on our -"

"Mistake! There hasn't been a mistake. Heyes and Curry are upstairs, handcuffed to a bed." Fletcher pushed his way into the house and barged up the stairs.

Ott protested, "Now see here, man. You can't just go barreling into our home like this!" His apparent indignation was masked by a wicked smile, a smile that neither Black nor Fletcher saw, seeing as how both men preceded him up the stairs, Fletcher adamantly and Black apologetically.

At the head of the stairs, Fletcher stopped in front of the room that had, up until the previous night, held Heyes and Curry. To the sheriff, he said, loudly and proudly, as he swung the door wide with a flourish and stepped back for the sheriff to go in first, "Look for yourself, Sheriff!"

Sheriff Black looked into the room, empty except for its spare furniture. "Uh, huh." He sighed deeply and with a final look of disgust at Fletcher, turned to Mr. Howard. "Sorry to have disturbed you. If you don't mind, I'll just be on my way. I have a lot of important matters waiting for me back in Silver Springs."

"What?" Fletcher peered over the sheriff's shoulder, getting his first sight of the room beyond since yesterday afternoon. He pushed past the other man, moving to stand in the center of the room where he made a slow circle, his eyes as big as saucers, looking frantically for any sign of the two men who he had helped imprison here. "Sheriff, they were here yesterday, I swear." He turned accusingly to Ott, "What did you do with them? Where are they?"

"Who? I'm telling you there is no one here. Never has been since the last time we rented out this room. Sheriff, I'll walk you out. Fletcher, I suggest you leave too."

Fletcher spluttered and muttered a few words under his breath, still searching the room for signs of Heyes and Curry as the other two men left the room and headed down the stairs. The sheriff was still apologizing profusely for bothering Ott at home as the door shut behind him on his way back to Silver Springs.

As for Fletcher, he finally found what he was looking for. A piece of paper peeked out from beneath the covers atop the pillow where Joshua Smith aka Hannibal Heyes had slept. Frantically, he unfolded it and read:

Winnie,

I told you to clean up your act. You should have listened. If you had, maybe you wouldn't be in this mess. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Signed,
Your friend,
HH

Fletcher stared at the note, reading it over and over. In outrage, he tore the note into a hundred small pieces before realizing he had destroyed the only evidence he would ever have that he was telling the truth. A strangled shriek rose in his throat as he stood paralyzed in the center of the room.

Downstairs, Ott listened with satisfaction. 'All's well that end's well,' he thought happily, smiling at his daughters.

 

4.9 Familiar Faces by Leah Anders

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