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 3.19 Heroes by Sally Wheaton

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Join date : 2013-10-13

20150523
Post3.19 Heroes by Sally Wheaton


"It was there this afternoon Heyes, I saw him put it in there and lock it. It must still be in there. You're not looking properly."

Heyes stood aside as Curry pushed past him and searched through the contents of the drawer. Finally he looked up puzzled.

"It was there earlier."

Heyes just shrugged at him, as if to say, I told you.

Together they made a thorough search of the office, Curry looking through all of the papers on the desk and Heyes unlocking and checking in the other two drawers.

"It's not here" declared Curry at last, leaning against the edge of the desk.

"Which means someone moved it - but who and why?"


Starring

Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry


Guest Stars


Michael Learned as Meg Fulton


Robert Donner as Oscar Fulton


John Schneider as Bill




Heroes
by Sally Wheaton



Kid Curry shifted slightly in his seat, trying to get comfortable. It was a blisteringly hot day, one of those where the air was oppressive and so heavy that you almost had to lift it in order to walk through it. It was most certainly not good weather for a five hour stagecoach journey. Kid gave up trying to sleep and, removing his hat from his face, he sat up straighter. Next to him his partner, Hannibal Heyes, turned briefly to look at him before returning his gaze to the passing scenery. Opposite him, the light-haired woman who had earlier introduced herself as Mrs Fulton, smiled at him.

"Too hot to sleep Mr Jones?"

Curry nodded and smiled back. She was an attractive woman and a little conversation might just be a better way of passing some time.

"I don't remember too many that have been as hot as this one."

"You're obviously not from these parts then Mr Jones?"

"Nope. You're right. I've given myself away haven't I?" he laughed.

She laughed back, her eyes twinkling.

"Well, this is fairly normal for around here so it didn't take much to figure out that you're a stranger here. May I ask where you are from?"

Curry glanced out of the window. He knew what Heyes would say. His partner could get very jumpy when he started talking about their past, but Curry couldn't see any threat in their current situation. He didn't think it would cause any harm to answer a simple question.

"Kansas" he replied boldly, sensing rather than seeing Heyes tense next to him. Curry risked a quick glance at his partner but he was still staring out into the wilderness, giving the impression that he was taking no notice of the conversation between the other two occupants of the stage. Curry knew better than to believe that though.

"Really?" asked Meg in surprise. "How astonishing."

"Astonishing?"

"Why yes Mr Jones. Truly astonishing. My sister Hettie lives in Kansas, Lawrence to be exact."

OK Heyes, so you were right groaned Curry inwardly, whilst outwardly smiling back at his travelling companion.

"In fact, I'm travelling back home after visiting her for a few days."

"I trust you had a good visit?" ventured Curry, hoping to distract her from talking about Kansas.

"Well I surely did Mr Jones. Hettie has done some wonderful work in raising the funds we need and thanks to her I think we will have enough to start work."

"It sounds like a successful visit then ma'am."

"Oh call me Meg please, Mr Jones. Ma'am seems so official. I hear enough of that back home."

"OK Meg. And you should call me Thaddeus."

"Thaddeus." She nodded at him, smiling once more.

"May I ask what it is you're hoping to start work on, now that you have the funds?" he asked.

"Oh of course. As soon as we arrive in Black Butte anyway, you'll soon find out. The whole town has become very excited about our project and they'll be delighted to find that Hettie has been so successful in finding us the funds. It will be the talk of the town I'm sure. I think they just might be a little surprised too" she exclaimed excitedly. "I think we will be able to start the building work in just a few weeks."

Curry smiled patiently, his curiosity almost getting the better of him.

"Building what exactly?"

"Why the orphanage of course!"

This time Curry didn't even look at Heyes. Didn't need to. He knew his partner's reaction to that word would be the same as his own.

"Orphanage?"

"Why yes. It's the talk of the town. For the past year, the ladies of Black Butte have been trying to raise enough money to build a home for orphans, somewhere where they can live safely and receive a proper education. Why Thaddeus, you wouldn't believe how serious a problem this is." she said earnestly. "In the past, these orphans have had no-where to go and when there was somewhere, it wasn't, well, let's just say it wasn't exactly satisfactory. This has been a big problem. These children never had a chance and so many of them were growing up and becoming …" she leaned forward in her seat "outlaws." She finished in a conspiratorial tone. "We had to do something about it in our town."

Curry felt his partner's gaze on him and turned to glance at him. Yes they understood. Far more than Meg would ever imagine.

"And now, at last, we have the funds to actually start the building work. Would you believe that here in this bag I have two thousand dollars?" she said patting the bag at her side.

"Well, I wouldn't go shouting that around too loudly if I were you, but ..."

The shot stopped him short and peering out of the window, he sighed.

"Holdup" he stated flatly.

"Another?" asked Heyes in surprise. "Now what do you suppose the odds are of that?"

Curry just shook his head at his partner's reaction as the door to the stagecoach was yanked opened and he saw that the stagecoach driver had already dismounted at gunpoint.

The assailant was a large man with long, scruffy red hair and a red face and nose that almost matched his hair. With gun in hand, he pulled first Curry and then Heyes roughly out of the stage, removing their guns as he did so and throwing them away to his right. Then, suddenly spotting Meg, he shoved the two men to the side as he looked her up and down, leering at her.

Heyes and Curry glanced quickly at each other. In his haste to reach Meg, "Red" had actually pushed them almost to where they had thrown their guns. They weren't quite within reach, but a slight distraction might give them a chance. Heyes watched the man carefully. He appeared somewhat clumsy, certainly drunk and most definitely not the brightest around. Kid nodded to him, almost imperceptibly. Yes, their chances were good, if they waited for the right moment.

Red held his gun to the side of Meg's cheek and pulled her out of the door. As he did so, she tried to turn away from him at the stench of alcohol and the evil look in his eye. As he yanked her face back towards him, she threw her bag away from her, using every bit of her strength to make sure it landed as far out of reach as possible. She knew it wouldn't save the cash, but she couldn't just hand it over.

Kid almost reacted to his treatment of her, but Heyes placed a hand on his arm to stop him. They would lose any advantage they had if Kid reacted now and besides he was holding the gun so close to her face that it made it difficult. Kid nodded again, realising that Heyes was right, and continued to wait.

"What's in the bag little lady? What are you so all fired desperate to be rid of?" Red sneered at Meg. She stared back defiantly, without answering.

"Well, let's just see then shall we?" he growled and lurched forward towards the bag. As he did so, he seemed to sway and stumble and almost fell, bumping into Heyes as he did so and almost knocking him to the ground. As Heyes reached out to stop himself from falling, his hand came to the ground only inches from his gun and he reached out for it as he stood.

Perfectly in tune with his partner's actions, Curry stepped to his right in the same instant, to stand directly in front of Meg.

Red stood, his gun trained directly on Curry, Heyes' gun trained directly on him.

Heyes' eyes caught Curry's for a split second, a silent conversation taking place between them.

Wanna trade places Kid?

No need Heyes.

Red sneered at him. "So now it comes down to who has the most to lose maybe?"

Curry laughed.

"Sure! What does he have to lose if you shoot a total stranger?"

Their eyes met once more for the briefest moment.

Good plan Kid.

"Go ahead, shoot him if you want." Curry stated casually, pointing at Heyes, as if he could hardly be bothered with it.

We'll discuss that one later Kid.

"Just leave my wife alone" Curry finished, reaching behind him and taking hold of Meg's hand.

"Hey, take your hands off her" Red yelled, exploding with rage and pushing towards Curry, trying to shove him away from her.

The shot rang out.

Red fell to his knees and grabbed his arm, which was now bleeding profusely, dropping his gun as he did so.

Heyes heaved a sigh of relief.

Curry held a steady gaze on his partner, the touch of a smile on his face.

See? Told ya.

Heyes nodded slightly, but kept his attention on Red. He bent to pick up the discarded gun and with Heyes' back towards him, Curry let out a silent sigh of relief.

The stagecoach driver and Heyes made fast work of tying up Red as Curry turned towards Meg. Though she'd shown a great deal of courage at the time, it seemed that the whole incident was now catching up with her and she sank gratefully into Curry's arms, shaking like a leaf.

As Heyes handed her the bag of money, she looked up at him.

"You saved my life" she whispered.

Curry shrugged.

"No, he wouldn't have killed you, probably wouldn't even have fired."

Meg looked at him questioningly.

"You can tell from the eyes."

"Now you tell me" muttered Heyes under his breath as he pushed past Curry to climb back into the stagecoach.

* * * * *

Meg was quiet at first as they made their way on to town, but after a while she seemed to perk up and spent most of the journey talking incessantly about how they'd saved not only her life but also the money for the orphanage. Heyes and Curry just looked at each other. The last thing they needed was for anyone to start making a fuss about it.

* * * * *

A small crowd quickly gathered as they arrived in town and within moments, two deputies had appeared to take care of Red.

Curry helped Meg down from the stagecoach and as the driver passed down her luggage, her face lit up into a smile as a rather miserable, greasy looking man approached.

"Gentlemen, this is my husband Oscar" she smiled and as Curry reached out to shake his hand, a glint of sunlight seemed to reflect off his chest and caught Curry's eye. Looking towards it, a look of horror fleetingly crossed his face. He looked quickly at Heyes and judging by his exaggerated smile, he had seen it too. Heyes was pumping the man's hand vigorously in an over-enthusiastic handshake.

"Glad to meet you Sheriff."

Heyes met Curry's glance. She never mentioned that.

"Yes, well" replied the sheriff, seemingly disinterested and not even looking at them properly. He seemed to be distracted by his own thoughts and wasn't even paying any attention to his deputies as they escorted Red from the stagecoach to the jail.

As Meg rather excitedly described to him what had happened, he almost seemed to look right through her. She told him how Hettie had raised two thousand dollars but how she'd almost been robbed of it on the trip home and her life threatened. She told him how Mr Smith and Mr Jones had saved her life and also saved the money so that she still had the full amount in her bag.

"How much money did you say you raised?" he almost sneered.

"Two thousand dollars" she replied happily.

"For some pie in the sky idea about an orphanage. It's about time you turned your attention to more serious matters my dear and started raising money for where it really counts." He was clearly angry.

"You had another letter from the bank?" she asked more gently.

He nodded, and then indicating the two men standing with them, added "We'll discuss it later."

"Oh my, yes of course, how remiss of me. Oscar, this is Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones."

Heyes held out his hand again. Oscar finally looked up at him and as he did, his eyes widened in shock and for a long moment he simply stared at Heyes. Heyes wanted to look away from him but he forced himself to hold his gaze and keep smiling. Beside him he sensed the tension in Curry.

The sheriff looked from one to the other of them before finally smiling, falsely, decided Heyes, and replying, "Nice to meet you."

Suddenly eager to get away, Curry indicated across the street. "Well Joshua, we'd better get across to the hotel and get a room."

Taking his lead, Heyes slapped him on the back. "Good idea Thaddeus. It's been a long journey."

"And an eventful one by all accounts" replied the sheriff somewhat sarcastically.

Curry ignored him and tipped his hat at Meg. "Best of luck with the fund-raising Meg. Nice to meet you."

Heyes tipped his hat too and with that, the pair were away and across the road towards the hotel.

"You think he knew us Heyes?"

"I don't know Kid."

"I didn't like the way he looked at us."

"Me either, but he didn't arrest us."

"Maybe he just didn't like the look of us?"

"Could be."

"But what's he gonna do about it? If he starts looking through Wanted posters he might just find us."

"That's true."

"I guess we should just leave town then" sighed Kid, stretching his back.

"Probably should" nodded Heyes as he opened the hotel door despite their words, and stood back to allow Curry to enter.

Curry hesitated.

"You really wanna go get on a horse and ride all night or sleep on the ground after five hours on a stagecoach?" asked Heyes.

"Nope. I don't."

"Me either. A proper bed sounds good."

"And we are standing here after all, we haven't just been thrown into jail, have we?"

"You're right."

"OK Heyes, you convinced me, we'll leave in the morning" grinned Curry as he walked past Heyes and through the hotel door.

Back out on the street, Meg looked at her husband.

"You're worried?" she asked.

"The situation is far more serious than you realise. I wish you hadn't already announced how much you'd raised."

"Oh Oscar, no!" she exclaimed horrified. "That money is for the orphanage."

"While we're destitute?"

"Is it really that serious?"

Oscar was staring across the street towards the hotel.

"What do you know about those two?" he asked

"Mr Jones and Mr Smith? Mr Jones is from Kansas, not much else really. Why?"

"Hm" he grunted. "Come with me" and frowning, made his way back towards his office with Meg following behind.

* * * * *

When Heyes woke the next morning, the sunlight was already streaming in through the window. Half sitting up, he opened one eye and saw Curry sitting on a chair by the window, looking out with a grin on his face. He flopped back down onto the pillow, intending to close his eyes again, but curiosity got the better of him and he sat up properly and looked over at Curry.

"What are you doing?"

"Looking out of the window" Curry grinned at him.

Heyes rolled his eyes. It was obvious that he was going to have to get out of bed if he wanted to know what was going on. Reluctantly, he climbed out of the bed and padded over in his bare feet to stand behind Curry.

The street below was thriving with activity. Groups of people were milling around whilst others were running backwards and forwards across the street. Some were carrying boxes and some were busily setting up tables on the boardwalk.

"Looks like some kind of town celebration" observed Heyes.

Curry nodded and pointed to a table at the far end of the street.

"Don't know what it's for, but it's going to be a good one" he replied, grinning again.

Suddenly Heyes understood why his partner seemed so happy this morning. The ladies of the town had obviously been baking in force and the table he was pointing at was completely covered in cakes and pies, with still more arriving even as they watched.

Heyes pulled on his clothes and gunbelt and picked up his hat.

"Come on then Kid, let's go and find out what's happening."

* * * * *

"Thaddeus! Joshua!"

They were hardly out of the hotel door when they heard Meg calling them. She came hurrying over, looking excited to see them.

"I'm so glad to see you both. I was afraid you might have left town late last night, but I'm so glad you didn't. After all, you can't miss your own celebration can you?"

"Our own celebration?" repeated Kid, confused.

"The town is having a celebration today" she told him. "In aid of the town heroes who yesterday saved my life and the money for the orphanage."

She looked down at her feet and twiddled her fingers, looking almost nervous thought Heyes.

"Ah yes, heroes. Of course." nodded Curry in reply, glancing at Heyes out of the corner of his eye.

"Like I told you yesterday, the whole town has been very involved with raising the funds for the orphanage." She stuttered over the words a little. "It means a lot to everyone and without you two, we would have lost two thousand dollars. We wanted to show our appreciation."

"Uh-huh" nodded Heyes, a little doubtfully.

Meg paused, looking at them both closely.

"Oh my, I never asked you if you had other plans. How remiss of me. You will be able to stay won't you? Joshua? Thaddeus?"

It occurred to Heyes to thank her and to tell her that unfortunately they did have other plans, important business to attend to. They really didn't need that amount of attention, everyone in the town looking at them. There was always the chance that someone would recognise them. It seemed safest to politely decline and just ride out of town.

However, she looked so worried at the thought that they might have to leave. He looked towards Curry, who seemed quite happy with the idea of being a hero and was staring up the street, smiling. Probably wondering how many of those pies would already have been reserved for the hero, mused Heyes. It would be nice to stay, he admitted. They didn't often get a chance to have some fun. The town had seemed safe enough so far, after all. If the sheriff had recognised them, he would have done something about it by now.

He turned back to Meg. "Of course we can stay Meg. It's just that we were a little taken aback I guess. We didn't expect anything like this. We didn't expect anything at all truth be told."

"Well that may be, but you surely deserve it, both of you. Come along, let me introduce you to my friends. They are very excited to meet you."

With that, she linked her arms in theirs and the three of them made their way up the street towards where the crowds were already starting to gather.

* * * * *

A while later, Curry was strolling across the street towards where he'd left Heyes talking to some of Meg's friends. He'd not had much interest in the conversation and so he'd made his way towards the tables of baked goodies. The ladies had been most obliging, each one eager for him to try their specialty. They were certainly some of the best pies he'd ever tasted in his life. As he walked towards Heyes, Meg joined him.

"Meg, you really shouldn't have gone to all this trouble just for us."

"Why not?" she asked, rather sharply, suddenly coming to a halt.

Her reaction didn't escape Curry. It was almost as if she were shocked at his words but he wasn't sure why that would be.

Shrugging, he smiled at her.

"Oh it's just that we really didn't do anything special you know. Everyone seems to have gone to so much trouble - we hardly deserve it is all."

She visibly relaxed and they started walking again as she laughed.

"You're too modest Thaddeus."

"Well, I can't say I'm not enjoying it" he smiled warmly at her. "Did you see how many pies the town's ladies had baked?"

"Yes I did. I saw you sampling them all too - and I don't think you missed even one" she laughed.

* * * * *

Heyes looked around him uneasily, but successfully plastered his usual smile in place. A rather large crowd had gathered to listen to Sheriff Fulton give a short speech, describing the events of yesterday and telling how Mr Smith and Mr Jones had done such a service to the town. Heyes and Curry were standing side by side, next to the sheriff and Meg, nodding to the crowd as they cheered, in between surrepticious glances at the sheriff's badge.

"Hey, look this way" called a voice to their left. Heyes and Curry both automatically turned towards it and looked on in horror as their photograph was taken. A loud cheer went up and some of the townsfolk came forward to clap them on the back and talk to them and pretty quickly they became engulfed in the group of people around them. After a few minutes, the crowd slowly began to disperse until finally, the pair were alone with the Sheriff, Meg and a taller, younger man who Heyes recognised as the man who had taken their photograph.

"Mr Smith, Mr Jones, I'd like you to meet my brother, Bill" Meg introduced them. "Bill this is Mr Jones and Mr Smith who… oh silly me, of course you know all about them don't you?"

"I think the whole town knows them by now Meg" he laughed, a hearty guffaw and Heyes and Curry smiled a little anxiously and tried their best to laugh with him.

"Bill runs the local newspaper here in Black Butte" added Meg proudly. Heyes inwardly flinched at the news but outwardly at least, he remained calm.

"How interesting. I presume that's why you took the photograph?"

"Yes that's right. I'll be doing a story about the stagecoach robbery."

"Attempted robbery" corrected Heyes with a smile.

"Ah yes, of course. Attempted robbery. I thought it would make it interesting to include a photograph."

"Oh it certainly makes it interesting" nodded Curry.

"Do you have a newspaper office here in town then?" asked Heyes.

"Yes I most certainly do. It's only a small office but very up-to-date. I run the whole thing myself with some help from Meg of course."

"Bill is being very modest Joshua. We are very proud of our newspaper here in Black Butte. One of these days I fear we shall lose Bill to a big city newspaper."

"Meg, you flatter me, really. It's only a small newspaper Mr Smith, run from a small office."

"Ah, I see." nodded Heyes. "Still, I've never actually seen a working newspaper office. I hear it's fascinating though."

"Well you'd be most welcome to come and see it Mr Smith, you too Mr Jones, especially as you are going to be on the front page of the next issue."

"The front page?" Curry tried to remain calm despite a growing sense of panic inside. They'd have to do something about that.

"Of course." Bill assumed they were pleased.

"Not many people show much interest in how the newspaper is put together I'm afraid. They rather like to read it, especially the gossip I fear, but it would be a pleasure to show someone how it is produced. Would you like to take a look later this afternoon?"

"That's very kind of you Bill. We would certainly be interested to see it and this afternoon would be ideal."

With the final arrangements made, the pair tipped their hats at Meg and started back across the street towards the hotel and the relative safety of their room.

"I knew we should have left town this morning" grumbled Heyes as they walked through the door.

* * * * *

Later that afternoon, they met Bill outside of his newspaper office and he took them inside and showed them around.

"You're obviously very proud of your business" observed Heyes as they stood by Bill's desk.

"Well, yes I must admit that I am."

"And rightly so, I might add. It all looks very impressive."

"Thank you Mr Smith. Of course, I do have much bigger plans for it but it takes time to build a business. At the moment I only have a fairly small circulation and to be honest, it doesn't make as much profit as I'd like."

Heyes raised his eyebrows in surprise, and Bill explained further.

"The town of West Junction, about a day's ride away, has a newspaper with a much bigger circulation. What I'd like to do is to continue with my newspaper here, but also work for them. You know, maybe write some stories for them."

"Ah" Heyes nodded.

"And that Mr Smith, is one of the reasons why I'm so delighted to have you and Mr Jones here."

"It is?" asked Curry, a little concerned. He didn't like it when people wanted him around, there was usually an ulterior motive.

"Yes of course. You two saving Meg and the orphanage money of course, is big news, very big news."

"I was worried you were going to say that" groaned Curry.

Bill looked at him questioningly. "Why worried Mr Jones?"

Heyes slapped Curry enthusiastically on the back, laughing loudly.

"Thaddeus, we're going to be on the front page of the newspaper."

"Exactly" smiled Bill. "And I'm hoping that I'll be able to sell the story and the photograph to the West Junction Tribune for a tidy sum."

Heyes, who was still slapping Curry on the back, slapped him even harder and laughed even louder.

"You hear that Thaddeus?"

Curry glared at him and then turned to Bill.

"They're interested in us?" he asked.

"Oh yes, very interested. In fact, they want me to take it over to them straight away."

"That's wonderful news" beamed Heyes, nudging Curry. "Isn't it Thaddeus?"

"Sure is."

"Meg is happy about it too. She's going to come to West Junction with me. She's hoping that they'll give her some publicity for the orphanage fund."

"Sounds like a good idea."

Bill took a key from his pocket, unlocked one of the desk drawers and removed the photograph.

"This, gentlemen, is the photograph."

Heyes and Curry stood rooted to the spot, staring at it. It was a clear photograph and their faces were easily recognisable. They did their best to enthuse. Heyes had the urge to just grab it and run, but he knew he'd have to wait until tonight. When Bill glanced away briefly, they looked at each other and shuddered.

Heyes took the photograph and peered at it closely.

"So this is produced from a negative then?"

"Exactly Mr Smith. We produce one negative and then we can use that negative to produce a print as many times as we like. So we can have as many prints as we like."

Curry almost choked at the words. "As many as you like?"

"Yes Mr Jones. We could produce ten copies if we wanted to. Twenty even! One for every newspaper in the land."

It was Heyes' turn to choke and Curry's turn to slap him heartily on the back.

"You hear that Joshua? That's a lot of photographs" he beamed. Heyes nodded frantically, gasping for breath and still unable to speak.

Giving Heyes time to recover, Curry turned to Bill and took up the conversation. Bill had made no move to show them the negative and they needed to know where it was.

"So what does this negative look like?"

"Well, it's a negative see, everything is in reverse."

"In reverse?" asked Curry, frowning in feigned confusion.

"Here, let me show you."

Bill trotted off to a cupboard on the far side of the room and returned with the negative, which he handed to Curry.

"It's just paper" Curry said, amazed.

Bill nodded. "That's the modern way."

Heyes smiled. It did make things easier for them.

"As you can see gentlemen, the negative is extremely valuable. That's why we keep them carefully locked away." He said as he took the negative back from Curry and then locked it back into the cupboard.

"Of course" agreed Heyes, handing Bill the photograph itself which he took and locked into the drawer of his desk before placing the key back into his breast pocket and then tapping the pocket with his hand.

"Better safe than sorry."

"When did you say your paper would be published Bill?" asked Heyes.

"In three days' time" he smiled. "You'll both be famous so I hope you're ready for all the attention."

"Uh-huh" Heyes smiled, raising his eyebrows and nodding slightly as he did so.

* * * * *

"It makes no sense Kid, it was here this afternoon. Where can it have gone?" Heyes rummaged further through the pile of paper he'd taken out of the drawer after unlocking it.

It wasn't easy to see in the semi-darkness. They'd pulled all of the blinds in the newspaper office, but didn't dare turn up the lamp in case someone saw the light from outside on the street. It was gone midnight and the town was quiet, but they didn't want to take any risks.

Heyes had picked the lock on the cupboard and then left Curry to search through the negatives whilst he moved on to work on the locked drawer and search for the photograph itself.

It hadn't taken Curry long to find what he was looking for and now he came to stand beside Heyes, waving the negative in his hand. Heyes acknowledged him with a nod as Curry folded the negative and put it into his pocket. Finding the negative was good news, but it was pointless if they couldn't find the photograph as well. Heyes looked back at the pile of paper in frustration.

"It was there this afternoon Heyes, I saw him put it in there and lock it. It must still be in there. You're not looking properly."

Heyes stood aside as Curry pushed past him and searched through the contents of the drawer. Finally he looked up puzzled.

"It was there earlier."

Heyes just shrugged at him, as if to say, I told you.

Together they made a thorough search of the office, Curry looking through all of the papers on the desk and Heyes unlocking and checking in the other two drawers.

"It's not here" declared Curry at last, leaning against the edge of the desk.

"Which means someone moved it - but who and why?" answered Heyes.

"The sheriff?"

"Why would he take it Kid?"

"Because he recognised us. He knows who we are."

"If he knows who we are Kid, he wouldn't need the photograph, he'd just arrest us. If he has taken the photograph then it can only be because he doesn't know who we are, but he's suspicious and thinks the photograph might help him find out."

"That doesn't make a lot of sense though Heyes. He knows we won't be in town for long - by the time he'd used the photograph to figure out who we are, we'd be long gone."

"You're right Kid. That's why I don't think he took it."

"You think Bill moved it?"

"Possible."

"But why would he move it? You think he's going to take it to West Junction before his paper is published?"

"He said they wanted to see it straight away."

Curry frowned.

"Either way, we have to find it" sighed Heyes. "If we left it here and they ever figured out who we were, we'd be in big trouble."

"And whatever happens, we can't let it be printed in a newspaper."

"The newspaper won't be published for three days, so I guess all we can do is stay in town until we find it. As they have the photograph itself, there's no reason for them to need the negative, so they shouldn't miss it. So we'll just take the negative and burn it and then worry about the photograph itself."

Curry pushed off the desk and shook his head as they left the newspaper office the same way they'd entered it, silently through the window.

As they made their way across the street, a figure leaned around the corner of the alley from where he'd been keeping watch all night. In truth, he was a little surprised he admitted. He'd thought the whole fuss was for nothing. He hadn't really expected to see what he'd just seen.

As soon as they'd entered the hotel, Bill crept out of the alley and took off down the street towards the sheriff's office.

* * * * *

The next morning, as they made their way to the hotel dining room, they were already discussing what to do about the photograph.

As they sat down to eat, Curry spotted Sheriff Fulton come hurrying into the hotel.

"He looks a bit happier this morning."

Heyes turned to see who he was talking about.

"Maybe less miserable, I wouldn't exactly say happier."

Curry laughed.

"Maybe he had good news from the bank this morning, huh?"

"Well, let's just hope he doesn't spot …"

"Smile Heyes" instructed Curry, interrupting him. "He's coming this way."

Heyes rolled his eyes and took another sip of coffee.

"Ah, good morning Gentlemen. You mind if I join you?" asked the sheriff, without a smile.

"Not at all, please do." smiled Curry, grimacing at Heyes as the sheriff sat down.

"What can we do for you sheriff?" asked Heyes, watching the man carefully as he fidgeted in his chair. He seemed almost nervous Heyes thought.

"Oh, N-nothing really."

Heyes and Curry glanced at each other. Something wasn't right. Curry's hand drifted to the gun tied to his leg. They waited for the sheriff to continue.

"Meg asked me to come and say goodbye for her."

"Goodbye?" asked Curry.

"She, er, she had to leave town this morning."

It became apparent that he wasn't going to elaborate. Heyes glanced at Curry again before asking "Something unexpected?"

"Yes, yes. You could say that I suppose."

"Well, it is a shame that we missed her." sighed Curry.

Oscar sat in silence for a few moments, looking uncomfortable.

"I hope she'll be safe this time, travelling alone." Curry finally broke the silence.

"She's not travelling alone. Bill went with her. She's not gone far, only about a day's ride."

At the mention of Bill and the day's ride, Heyes' head snapped up. The sheriff was already starting to rise but stopped dead in his tracks at the sound of Heyes' voice.

"Will you tell Meg goodbye for us too and say we were sorry to miss her?"

"Goodbye for you too?" he asked warily. "You're leaving?"

"Yes, we have to I'm afraid" explained Heyes.

"Have to find a job you see" added Curry regretfully.

Oscar looked at them for a long moment and then blurted out in a rush.

"I would have thought you would have been staying in town long enough to see the newspaper article but I guess if you have to leave, you have to leave."

He was breathless when he'd finished and went back to staring at them, still in a half standing position.

He looked more nervous than ever, thought Heyes. He looked at the Kid who clearly was no more comfortable with the situation than he was.

"Well good day Gentlemen" and with that, he was gone.

Heyes and Curry stared after him.

"Strange man" noted Curry.

"A nervous man."

"Which might make him a dangerous man."

Heyes looked out towards the street and frown slightly.

"He doesn't look that dangerous though does he?"

"It's not him, it's the badge that's dangerous Heyes."

Heyes smiled. "You're right."

"So, you think that Meg and Bill already left for West Junction with the photograph?"

"It seems likely."

"Yeah, I think you're right."

"And anyway, we don't really want to hang around here for too much longer with Sheriff Miserable in such a bad mood do we?"

Curry laughed.

"You think he knows us?"

"I really don't know Kid. He seemed really uncomfortable."

"And he was surprised when we said we were leaving."

"But he made no attempt to do anything about it." Heyes kept his voice low so as not to be overheard.

"Well then let's not give him too long to change his mind on that."

They finished breakfast, collected their gear and checked out of the hotel. As they made their way to the livery, they looked up and down the street, but everywhere was quiet and there was no sign of the sheriff. A few minutes later, they trotted out of town on the road to West Junction.

As they passed the sheriff's office, Sheriff Fulton watched them ride by and as they reached the edge of town, he stepped out onto the street and watched them disappear, a rare smile on his face.

Curry sat on his horse, laughing, as his partner bent close to the ground, struggling to find the tracks of the two horses in front of them.

"Heyes," he asked finally "just how many trackers were there in Southern Utah that year you made champeen?"

Heyes glared at him and Kid smiled back.

"Well, if you need any help at all, you just let me know" he offered, without making any move to get out of his saddle. He smiled to himself, Heyes was gonna have to ask.

His smile disappeared as Heyes stood and pointed.

"That way" he said confidently, getting back on his horse and starting off towards where he'd pointed.

Curry looked at the ground doubtfully. Now what? he wondered. Heyes had called his bluff and for all he knew, they could be heading off on a wild goose chase. Maybe he should have got off his horse and taken a look himself.

"You need any help back there Kid?" called back Heyes, who was now several yards in front of him, down the track. Kid shrugged and took off after him.

They'd been tracking Bill and Meg for most of the day. They didn't appear to be travelling especially quickly and Heyes and Curry were finding it relatively easy to follow them. As they crested a small hill, Heyes came to a stop.

"Well, would you look at that." he sounded pleased with himself. Not far ahead, Bill and Meg had stopped to give their horses a rest and were both sitting on the ground beside them.

Kid shook his head.

"Maybe you're just better at tracking horses than cats?"

Heyes chose to ignore him.

"West Junction can only be an hour or so ahead."

Kid looked up at the sky.

"Plenty of daylight left. We could just go in, surprise them and take the photograph?"

"It might make them suspicious though. Probably best if we can do it without drawing attention to ourselves."

"You want to wait until they've handed over the photograph?"

"It might make more sense Kid."

"Might be more risky too, if we lose their tracks, we won't know where it is."

"We know they're taking it to the West Junction Tribune office - how hard can it be to find a newspaper office in a small town? Might be worth the risk?"

"So we stay on their track until they hand over the photograph and then break into the offices tonight?"

"I think so."

"OK, well if they're taking a rest, we might as well too."

They clambered out of the saddles and sat back, leaning against a couple of trees, all the time keeping a close watch on Bill and Meg.

* * * * *

It was getting late in the day when the two followed Bill and Meg into the town of West Junction. It was a much bigger place than Black Butte. The main street was busy and bustling, with people, horses and carriages all coming and going. It meant that Heyes and Curry could get close enough to Bill and Meg to watch where they went without being seen themselves.

They watched them pull up outside the hotel. Bill helped Meg off her horse and then she went straight inside, presumably to get rooms, while Bill took a small leather case and started to walk up the street. Curry nodded to Heyes and they left their horses near the saloon and followed Bill on foot. He looked around him several times, but didn't seem to be in any hurry.

"He looks kinda nervous now" commented Heyes.

"Maybe they're just a nervous family?" replied the Kid.

As they watched, Bill crossed the road, almost walking into the path of a carriage. The driver yelled loudly at him and Bill shouted back, waving his leather case in the air.

"He does like to draw attention to himself doesn't he?" laughed Curry.

As he reached the other side of the street, Bill stopped on the sidewalk and looked all around him once more.

"What's he waiting for?" asked Curry.

Heyes shrugged.

After a few moments, Bill walked right out into the middle of the street and then stood there for several seconds, looking down the street towards them. Curry pulled Heyes back around the wall they were hiding behind.

Peering round the wall, Curry watched as Bill finally made his way into an office. Looking at the sign above the door, Curry smiled.

"I think he's just about to deliver the photograph Heyes."

* * * * *

Later that night, Heyes and Curry crept around the back of the newspaper office, which was now in darkness. Heyes reached up and gently opened the window and then the pair of them stepped through. Curry pulled the blind down and then settled near the window to keep watch. Heyes waited a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the darkness and then made his way to a desk where he could see the outline of a lamp. He lit the lamp but kept it low so as not to draw attention to them. He would rather not have used any light at all, but as they'd never even seen the office before, he would need some light to work by. Ready to start his search for the photograph, he turned towards the main office.

He sucked in a long breath and called "Thaddeus, we got a problem."

Noting the unexpected use of his alias, Curry turned abruptly.

"Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry I assume?" said the sheriff, flanked by two deputies as he trained his gun directly at them. Standing on either side of them were Bill and Meg.

"You're under arrest."

Heyes and Curry looked at each other. Heyes opened his mouth to object, but the sheriff waved his gun at him. Heyes closed his mouth, there'd be time for that later.

"Mr Carson?" the sheriff addressed them. "We'll get these two secured in the jail and then if you and your wife would like to come over to my office, we'll sort out the reward for you. Congratulations to you both and thank you!"

Heyes looked directly at Meg. Wife? he mouthed. She looked down at the floor, refusing to meet his gaze. She looked around her uncomfortably and tried to hide behind Bill, as if she were embarrassed. Bill on the other hand, looked greatly relieved and, Heyes noted, no longer nervous.

Suddenly it all came to him. This "nervous family" weren't nervous without reason.

"Sheriff?" he asked, as the two deputies secured their wrists. "Can a sheriff claim those rewards on Heyes and Curry?"

The sheriff laughed. "Of course not boy! We're paid to enforce the law and part of that job is to identify and arrest wanted men. We don't expect no rewards. And we don't get none! No, those rewards will go to Mr and Mrs Carson here."

"That's what I thought" mumbled Heyes as they were led away to the waiting jail cell.

* * * * *

"So let me get this straight Heyes." Curry was lying on the bunk in the jail cell. "Sheriff Fulton recognised us when he met us in Black Butte?"

"Seems so Kid. I remember him giving us a strange look."

"And we know he's got a problem with the bank, probably in debt right?"

Heyes nodded.

"So he knew there was a reward on us but he couldn't collect, being a sheriff?"

Heyes nodded again. "So he sets up the town celebration and gets Bill to take a photograph - knowing that if we really were who he thought we were, we would have to get hold of that photograph."

"Then he sends Bill and Meg here knowing that we would follow them and they could turn us in without the sheriff here knowing they were related to the sheriff of Black Butte."

"Uh-huh. The whole thing was a set-up Kid. A trap."

"And we walked right into it Heyes."

"Seems he was willing to do just about anything to get the money to clear that debt."

"Yeah, including taking Meg's two thousand dollars orphanage money. The sheriff I can figure, but what I can't understand, is Meg's involvement."

"She probably didn't have much choice Kid."

"I hope you're right Heyes. I really hope you're right. She never struck me as the sort of woman who would do a thing like that."

"Because she was building an orphanage?"

Kid sighed. "Maybe." he agreed.

There was a long pause before Kid spoke again.

"Heyes?"

"Hmm?"

"Remind me never to trust anyone ever again, will ya?"

Heyes looked up at him. "Anyone?"

Curry looked him straight in the eye.

"Yeah, Heyes, anyone. I trusted you to figure these things out before we land in jail, not after."

At that moment, the door opened and Meg Fulton walked in.

"Sheriff, I'd like to visit the two prisoners if that is possible?" she asked politely.

The sheriff looked doubtful, but finally agreed, provided she allowed him to search her first.

"Rules is rules ma'am."

"Of course" she smiled.

After the sheriff had satisfied himself that she wasn't carrying a gun or a knife, he allowed her through to the back of the office where the jail cells were. Heyes and Curry stood and moved to the door, Curry standing to the side and slightly behind Heyes.

"Meg, what are you doing here?" asked Curry, a little confused.

"We're kind of a little surprised to see you" added Heyes "after what happened back there."

"Yes, well. I suppose you figured out what happened?"

Heyes nodded.

"Yes, pretty much. But Meg, there's one little problem see. We're not Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. My name really is Joshua Smith and my friend here is Thaddeus Jones. I don't know why you'd think we were those two outlaws. We saved your money, not stole it, remember?"

"Yes." She nodded thoughtfully. "I do remember. I also remember that you saved my life. I suppose you must think I am very ungrateful."

"Why Meg?" asked Curry gently. "What happened?"

"When I got back to Black Butte, Oscar was angry at how I'd nearly lost the money. It really is for the orphanage fund, but I think he was hoping we could keep at least some of it to help with the debt. Then he told me that you two were Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry."

Curry shook his head. "Arh Meg. He's not right."

"To be honest, I don't know what to believe. You were so fast and so good with that gun during the holdup." She looked at Heyes as she said it.

He glanced at Curry before he spoke.

"Meg, I'm not good enough nor fast enough to be Kid Curry. Believe me."

She sighed.

"Why did you do that?" she asked.

It was Curry's turn to sigh.

"You said that I couldn't possibly understand how badly orphans are treated."

She looked up at him.

"I do Meg. We do. We know."

She nodded. "I wondered that. I will make sure that money does go to the orphanage fund."

"We know you will Meg. And you'll build a fine orphanage, something to be real proud of."

"I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to have anything to do with it. At first I refused. Apart from anything else, I thought you might be very dangerous."

Heyes smiled. "We're not dangerous Meg. Heyes and Curry, well, I guess they probably are, but we're not."

"So you keep saying Joshua. Anyway, I just wanted to come and say hello and er, wish you luck I suppose. They said the authorities will be here to collect you tomorrow morning."

Curry nodded. "That's what they said."

"Well, I really ought to be going." She reached up to straighten her hat and adjust a stray strand of hair as she said it.

"I still don't know what to think about who you are, but I guess that if you really are Mr Smith and Mr Jones, then they'll sort that out pretty quickly in the morning won't they? And it's not long to wait is it? One night in jail is not too bad is it?"

"No Meg, one night is not too bad" sighed Heyes.

She looked from Heyes to Curry and as she did so, her hat tilted almost across her face. She pushed it back on top of her head and a long strand of hair fell forward, almost covering her face. She pushed it back quickly, seeming a little impatient with it.

She looked back towards Heyes.

"On the other hand, if you are who they say you are …. "

She reached her hand towards his and clasped it.

" … well then, I guess … "

She looked down at their hands, still clasped palm to palm. Heyes squeezed his fingers around hers.

"Thank you" he mouthed silently.

She pulled her hand away, adjusted her hat once more and turned to go. Suddenly, as an afterthought, she turned back to Heyes.

"Mr Smith?"

"Yes?"

"Is Kid Curry really even better than that?"

Heyes smiled and nodded. "Much."

She smiled at them and turned again to leave. As she walked past the sheriff, she nodded at him and thanked him and as she did so, her hat twisted almost right around. She pushed it back into place quickly and was gone.

"She really should do something about her hat" whispered Heyes.

Curry looked at him, puzzled, and then beamed from ear to ear as Heyes opened his hand to reveal a hat pin and a hair pin in his palm.

* * * * *

They had to wait for the right moment but eventually they were able to make an escape. They ran down the street to the livery, where the sheriff had taken their horses, intent only on getting away from the town without being caught. They were surprised, but pleased, to see that their horses had been saddled and were ready waiting for them.

"Meg?" suggested Curry.

"Most likely" agreed his partner.

As Heyes put his foot up into the stirrup and reached out to take hold of the saddle, his hand brushed against something pushed underneath the saddle. It was difficult to see in the dark, but tugging at it, he discovered it was an envelope.

"Hey Kid" he called softly.

Curry came around to stand beside him.

"What is it?" he asked.

Heyes untucked the flap of the envelope and then reached in and pulled out a photograph. It was of two men, both strangers to them, standing on a street in the middle of what appeared to be a town celebration.

"Who are they?" asked Curry.

"I don't know" grinned Heyes "but they could easily be Mr Smith and Mr Jones, the two men who saved Meg's life and the orphanage fund."

"I knew I liked Meg" smiled Curry. "I'm so glad I was right."

"Hold on Kid, there's a note as well."

Heyes unfolded it and read it out to the Kid.

I don’t know whether you need to know this or not but your photograph is in the main newspaper office, locked in the drawer of the third desk from the right at the back, in an envelope addressed to Ralph Parker. I’m not sure that I ever want to know whether you need this information, but I guess I will know when I see the photograph that eventually appears in the newspaper.
Meg.

* * * * *

Once again they found themselves outside the newspaper office and this time they approached it with even more caution. Rather than use the window, Heyes picked the lock on the door whilst Curry kept a careful watch on the street. As Heyes felt the lock release, he nodded to his partner. They both drew their guns and Heyes gently pushed the door open. They waited a few moments but there didn't seem to be any movement inside. Silently, they stepped through the door and positioned themselves on either side, guns ready. Again, they checked carefully but could detect no movement nor presence. Nodding to each other, they started to make their way across the office, using only the moonlight and keeping to opposite sides of the room.

Another nod signified their agreement that this time they were alone, and Heyes lit a lamp, setting it to give out only a small amount of light.

They easily located the drawer Meg had described and Heyes quickly set about opening it.

He pulled out an envelope and seeing that it was addressed to Mr Ralph Parker, he opened it and pulled out a photograph. He smiled and indicated to Curry to come and take a look.

Curry took the photo from him and looked at it carefully.

"Who would have thought that one photograph could cause so much trouble?" he smiled.

Heyes nodded and placed the other photograph into the envelope.

"We'd better get moving fast Kid, before that deputy wakes up and misses us." Heyes blew out the lamp and as fast as they could, they crept back out of the same door, again taking care to be certain that the alleyway was clear. Heyes locked the door behind them in the same way as he'd unlocked it, and then they ran across the street and back to the livery and within moments, they were on their way out of town.

* * * * *

Kneeling on the ground by a large boulder, Heyes rummaged in his saddlebags and brought out a match. He held it up to Curry, grinning. Curry rubbed his hands together and grinned back, relieved that they were finally about to destroy the evidence.

They'd ridden as hard as they could for the rest of the night and by morning they'd been exhausted. Having seen nor heard any sign of pursuit, they'd decided it was safe enough to stop for a short rest.

Curry took the match from Heyes and struck it against the boulder. As the flame flickered, he held it out to the edge of the photograph which Heyes was holding. In a few seconds, the bottom half of the photograph was alight and they watched as the flames crept upwards.

"Oh Heyes, that's a good sight" laughed Curry.

Heyes looked up at him, laughing too and then jumped suddenly as one of the flames licked up the back of the photograph and struck his finger and he dropped the photograph on the ground.

Curry laughed even louder.

"Heyes, when will you learn that flames hurt?"

Heyes laughed too and then took Meg's note out of his pocket and held it to the burning photograph until it too was alight. Together they watched the evidence crumble into ash.

* * * * *

It was several days later when the two ex-outlaws rode cautiously into the small, lawless mining community not far from West Junction. The newspaper should have been printed the day before and they were hoping to be able to find a copy without going back into West Junction.

Curry waited outside, his hand resting on the butt of his gun, whilst Heyes pulled his hat low over his forehead and walked into the general store. Just a few moments later, he nonchalantly walked out again.

"Well Thaddeus, it seems we missed quite a lot of excitement in the town of Black Butte a few days ago. Look here, front page of the newspaper. It seems that these two gentlemen here are the heroes of the town. They saved the sheriff's wife from being attacked on a stagecoach and rescued the money she'd raised to build an orphanage in the town."

He held the newspaper up towards Curry and pointed at the large photograph on the front page underneath the headline: Heroes.

Curry smiled. "Now that Heyes, is what I call a good photograph."

* * * * *

In the town of Black Butte, Meg watched as the men gathered round the stagecoach which had just arrived in town. It was bringing the newspaper from West Junction and there was much interest in the town. Bill was in the centre of the crowd, anxious to see what the "big town" newspaper men had done with his story. As he set eyes on the front page, his face fell.

Meg turned and walked back across the street, smiling quietly to herself. When her husband had told her who those two men were, she'd known instantly that he was right. She remembered back to the way that Kid Curry had shot that gun out of her attacker's hand and the fancy talk that Hannibal Heyes had used when he'd pretended not to know his friend. Yes, they really couldn't have been anyone else.


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