Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 August 2011

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August 2011 Empty
PostAugust 2011

Denver is a likeable town...

After 15 years in the Wyoming Territorial Prison, Heyes and Curry decide Denver is a likeable town...

Spring 1903


Heyes quickly closed the book, took his glasses off, and stood at attention as the guard unlocked his cell. As the door swung open, he grabbed the uniform’s cap, placed it on his head and waited for instructions. He knew the drill well – almost fifteen years of the same routine.

“Follow me, Heyes,” the guard informed him and then, as a second thought, “And grab your glasses.”

“My glasses? But I only use them for reading.” Heyes immediately did as he was told as he mumbled under his breath.

“After years of being in here, one would think you’d remember prisoners are not allowed to talk.”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” Heyes exited the small cell with just a bed, a small table, and a pot in the corner. As he followed, he looked up at another guard, who manned a post in a caged guard’s ‘nest’ at the top corner where they could carry a gun and have a view of half of the wing.

They walked out of the cell section and into a corridor towards the kitchen, but instead of turning to the left, the guard turned right, to open the locked door opposite the kitchen that led to the warden's office.

“Sir? Have I done something wrong?” Heyes hesitated to go through the door. He had been to the office a few times and none of the visits were pleasant.

“Besides talking when you’re not supposed to be?” the guard replied and gave him a push through the door so he could lock it again.

Straight ahead was another locked door – one he and Kid entered years ago. To the left was the room where they were stripped of their former life and donned the heavy black and white uniforms and loafer shoes. Official pictures of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were taken that day. To the right was the warden’s office, where the guard was knocking on the door.

“Sir, I have Hannibal Heyes,” he informed the man behind the door.

“Bring him in,” came a muffled response.

The door was opened and Heyes saw the warden hunched over his large desk with his back to the door, concentrating on paperwork. “Sit. I’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

The guard stood back by the door, ready if he was needed, as Heyes removed his cap and sat, twisting it in his hands. Nervously, he looked around the room. A male secretary worked at a smaller desk, shuffling papers from pile to pile; a stuffed white owl and a prairie chicken stood guard from their perches near each other. He studied the wallpaper, wondering if its pattern was designed to produce a hypnotic effect. Minutes passed, but to Heyes, they seemed like hours.

Heyes remembered the first time he was in the warden’s office. After being processed, he and Kid were handcuffed and taken into this office. Warden Boswell briefed them on the rules and what was expected of them. They were being led to their cells when they stopped near the stairs and Kid was taken away, presumably to a cell on the first floor, where Heyes later discovered the 'dangerous' prisoners were kept, then he and the guard continued up the stairs to the 2nd tier to his own 'home'. The second visit to the warden’s office came from arguing with a guard. He was right but learned that day that the guards are always right, no matter what. He had to miss several Sundays of seeing Kid and hearing the lectures as a punishment. The third visit came after a fight with another prisoner, who was saying things about Kid. That earned both of them time in the dark cells. Another time Heyes didn’t respond to a guard’s orders fast enough. He spent the day with his arms extended up and handcuffed to a support from the tier above.

Finally the burly gentleman took off his glasses and turned to face the prisoner. “Hannibal Heyes…” Warden McDonald paused and looked at the man in front of him and then the picture in the file on his desk. The prisoner looked similar to the picture taken when he entered the institution, but was now in his late forties with a little grey throughout his dark hair. Prison had not been kind, but had not aged the man.

“Sir,” Heyes acknowledged the warden, making eye contact.

“It seems that the politicians have decided to close this prison and decisions are being made as to where each prisoner will go.”

Heyes involuntarily held his breath at this news. Although he had never been allowed to speak to Kid throughout their 15 year confinement and only saw him from across the room at Sunday lectures or glimpses of him crossing the grounds on the weekdays, the thought of being permanently separated was terrifying.

“And the powers that determine such matters, having taken into account my opinion, have decided, because of good behavior, that you will be set free.”

“Free, sir? I don’t have to finish the rest of my sentence?” Heyes couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Free, Mr. Heyes. Officer Becker will begin the process of checking you out now. You’re dismissed.”

“Thank you, sir.” Heyes stood and turned toward the door, but hesitated. “Sir, what about my partner – Curry?”

“Dismissed, Mr. Heyes!” The warden waved him off as he turned back to his paperwork.

The guard guided Heyes across the hall to the processing room. “Here is your box of belongings. Remove the prison uniform now.”

Heyes took the proffered box and peered inside. There were his boots, tan pants, navy shirt, gun belt without the gun, long johns, jacket, and a black hat that had seen better days. After years of being in prison, Heyes didn’t think twice about changing in front of someone. He felt strange putting on his old clothes that still fit him, though slightly baggy.

Once he was changed, the guard took another picture of him and took papers out of a folder, laying them on a desk.

“Here are your discharge papers. Sign them here and here.” Becker pointed to two locations.

“May I ask a question?”

“You can, but I may not answer.”

“Why the picture when I’m leaving?” Heyes asked.

“The state wants a clear picture of what you look like presently in case you decide to go back to your previous life of crime.”

“Oh.” Heyes signed the papers. “Now what?”

“Many prisoners have families that take them home. Since you don’t have family, the state of Wyoming is graciously returning the money you had in your pocket at the time of arrest - $73.00.” The guard handed him the money. “And now you may go.”

They exited the processing room and Officer Becker unlocked the front door. “You are a free man now, Mr. Heyes. Good luck.”

As he exited the door into a cloudy spring afternoon, Heyes stopped. “Officer Becker, can you please tell me about my partner? What’s gonna happen to him?”

“Sorry, I’m not at liberty to tell you about your partner. One of the rules we guards got when you two came in here.”

Heyes sighed and bowed his head.

“But, I can tell you that across the river is Emma’s Café. They are known to have the best pie in Laramie.”

Heyes look up puzzled. “Pie?”

“That’s right. Emma’s is on Lincoln Street. You can’t miss it.”

“Thank you, Officer Becker. I appreciate the advice.” Heyes put his hat on and headed towards the bridge crossing the river after the guard closed and locked the main door.

Unfamiliar with his surroundings, Heyes wandered until he found Lincoln Street and then the café. There must be a reason why Becker told him to come here. He took a deep breath and opened the door. There, in a corner table, was his partner – a little older, a little thinner, but with his curly blond hair, sheepskin jacket and brown floppy hat. Heyes found himself smiling like he hadn’t in a very long time.

Curry looked up when the door opened and grinned when he saw his friend enter the café. “Heyes,” he said softly so only Heyes could hear as he stood up.

Heyes grabbed him in a hug and they patted each other’s backs. “Kid!”

“I was hopin’ I’d see ya. They wouldn’t tell me anything about you when I was set free,” Kid quietly said once Heyes sat down.

“They wouldn’t tell me anything, either. Becker just told me to have a piece of pie here.”

“That’s what he told me, too, when I was leavin’. Thank goodness for him settin’ up a place for us to meet.”

There were a few minutes of awkward silence.

Heyes broke the quiet. “Seems strange being out. I couldn’t wait to leave and now… Even being able to talk seems odd.”

“Yeah,” the Kid agreed. “Now what? Do you want some pie? It is good, but I’ve been here an awful long time.”

“Nah. Maybe we can find a saloon and have a drink?”

“That sounds good.”

They left Emma’s and walked down the street until they found a saloon. Entering, they felt uneasy with everyone staring at them.

“Seems our clothes are a little dated,” Heyes commented as he quickly glanced around the room.

“And look at the price of a beer!” Kid discreetly pointed to a sign on the wall.

“Maybe just buy a bottle and leave – find someplace to talk about what to do next,” Heyes suggested. “I’m feeling out of place around here.”

Kid instinctively dropped a nervous hand toward his empty holster and then agreed, “Yeah, me too.”

They walked aimlessly down the street with their whiskey bottle.

Heyes turned towards his partner. “Do you have any money?”

“They gave me the $43.00 I had in my pocket before I left.”

“Gave me some, too, but we don’t have enough for horses and it’s too late for a train or stage. Guess we’ll have to spend some more time in Laramie.”

Kid frowned. “I wanna leave as soon as we can.”

“Let’s get a room and some dinner. Then we’ll talk.”

Wanting to be frugal with their limited funds, they rented a one-bed room in a rundown hotel by the river and went back to Emma’s Café for dinner. Sitting across from each other, they said very little. After years of not being able to speak freely, neither one of them were comfortable with speaking their thoughts.

After dinner, they went back to their room and lay on the bed sipping their whiskey – Kid resting on the headboard and Heyes leaning against the foot board.

“Now what,” Kid asked. “We had plans for if we got amnesty, but never talked about after we got outta prison.”

“I dunno, Kid,” Heyes answered truthfully.

“Jed,” Curry corrected him.

“Jed?” Heyes’ eyes met his partner’s blue ones.

“Kid Curry’s dead.”

Heyes looked puzzled at his friend. “Dead?”

Curry nodded. “Kid Curry died in there. I just wanna be Jed now and not the famous gunslinger.” He looked at his partner for understanding.

“All right, Jed it is,” Heyes agreed. “Been a long time since I’ve used that name. Might forget and call you Kid once in a while.”

Curry took a sip of whiskey. “That’s okay.”

More silence was broken by Heyes. “I’ve missed ya, Jed. Missed talking to you.”

“And I’ve missed listenin’ to you.”

Heyes chuckled. “Can’t believe we survived that place.”

“Almost didn’t. If it wasn’t for seein’ you on Sundays and catchin’ glimpses of you once in a while…”

“I know. I looked forward to Sundays so I could see you and make sure you weren’t in trouble.”

“Me! What about you? Heard you got in trouble a few times for talkin’.”

Heyes grinned. “Maybe a few times.”

“Heard you were sick, too.” Curry frowned. “One or two of the guards would tell me when you were in trouble or sick, but nothing else.” Resentment clouded the blue eyes for a moment. You okay now?”

“Yeah, I had some stomach troubles. I gotta watch what I eat.”

“Should you be drinkin’?” Kid asked, concerned.

Heyes shrugged. “I don’t know. Haven’t had anything to drink for a long time.”

More silence.

“You almost ran about ten years ago, didn’t you, with Thomas Madden and the others.”

Jed noticed that this was not a question and that Heyes already seemed to know. He shrugged his shoulders. “I thought about it. How’d you know?”

“I saw you out in the yard from the kitchen window. You could have, but you didn’t.”

“No, I couldn’t have escaped.”

“Sure you could’ve. You were in the right place at the right time.”

"Nope. Couldn't 'a made it." Kid glanced sideways at his friend. "Not without you there, watchin' my back."

Heyes smiled. “Glad you didn’t try. You could have been shot like Madden was or thrown into the dark cell like the others for beating up Warden Briggs and Officer Steward.” He paused a moment. “And I would’ve missed seeing you on Sundays.”

“Besides, escapin’ in January with all the cold and snow? Just bad plannin’.”

Both men chuckled and then remained quiet for a while.

“Ya know, that place wasn’t that big, and yet we didn’t see much of each other.” Heyes stood up, stretched his back and looked out the window to a deserted street.

“They did a good job keepin’ us apart. I made more brooms in all different sizes… I’d be glad if I never saw another broom in my life.”

“And they kept me working in the garden and kitchen.”

“That’s why the food wasn’t any good.”

“Hey, that wasn’t my fault,” Heyes chuckled as he lay down again. “Had to do some carpentry, too, on that new wing and made some cigars.”

“You got to make cigars with Julius Greenwelch?”

“Yep. Did you have to make brooms the whole time?”

Jed shook his head. “Nah, I made candles and painted the new part of the prison, too.”

“Not many skills we can use out here to get a job,” Heyes contemplated.

“No.” Curry paused. “Heyes, what can we do? This money won’t last long. And we’re too old to drive cattle.”

“Wonder if they still drive cattle like that.”

“Didn’t think about that.” Curry raked his fingers through his curly hair. “Even our clothes seem kinda out of date.”

“Yeah, we’ll have to buy a few new things tomorrow before we leave town.”

“And go where?”

Heyes shrugged. “I dunno. Denver’s a likeable town and not too far away. Big enough for two former outlaws to get lost and find some jobs.”

“Think Clem still lives nearby?”

“Don’t know. We can find out.”

“Maybe she’ll let us stay there a night or two until we find a place.”

“And we might think about using alias names again. New ones or going back to Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones.

“I didn’t mind bein’ Thaddeus. Better than Curry.”

“Maybe people have forgotten all about Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

“Not likely with all ‘em dime novels about us.” Jed yawned.

Stifling his own yawn, Heyes rubbed a hand over his face. “Think it’s time we got some sleep; I’m pretty tired.”

The former outlaws and convicts quietly got ready for bed. Heyes took his glasses out of his pocket and put them on the dresser as Curry climbed in bed.

“You need glasses, Heyes?”

“Yeah, but just for reading,” Heyes said defensively. “Don’t you need any?”

“Nope, not yet. Gonna turn the light out?”

Heyes turned the electric light off and crawled into bed beside his friend.

Heyes put his hands behind his head. “I am gonna miss Sundays, hearing the lectures.”

“Me too. And I loved hearin’ Ms. Preston Slosson preach. And she wasn’t like the other chaplains threatenin’ us with hell if we didn’t change.”

There were a few minutes of silence as they both adjusted to sleeping next to each other in a bed.

Jed yawned. “Ya know, Heyes, I figured I’d be sleepin’ with a pretty gal my first night outta prison and not with you.”

“Me too, Jed. Me too,” Heyes mumbled as he fell asleep.

This challenge can about because of Ghislaine’s July challenge (that I can’t seem to get out of my head) sending them to prison… And maybe the fact that I was at the Wyoming Territorial Prison about a month ago.

The prison opened in 1872 and held to the Auburn system – prisoners were not to talk unless addressed by a guard or minimal talking to another prisoner regarding work only. Prisoners worked 10 hours a day and six days a week. When they were not working, they were in their cells. Prisoners were expected to keep themselves and their cells clean. On Sunday, they were allowed to go to hall to hear a chaplain and other college professors lecture. The prisoners’ favorite preacher was the first woman chaplain – Dr. May Preston Slosson. The following link is a picture of May Preston Slosson preaching to the prisoners - . Slide 220 has an article about Dr. Slosson and the prison.

Thomas Madden did try to escape on January 10, 1893, with five others when they overtook Warden Briggs and Guard Steward. Madden was shot and recaptured. He was released on November 4, 1897.

Julius Greenwelch killed his wife when he visited his favorite brothel and saw her working there. He was sent to Wyoming Territorial Prison in 1897 and talked the warden into teaching a few prisoners how to make cigars. Greenwelch died of heart failure in 1901, one of two prisoners to die at the prison. Some say Julius is still hanging around – one of the hauntings of the old prison.

The prison closed in 1903 because of the cost of $1.00 per day for each prisoner. Many prisoners were sent to a prison in Joliet, Illinois where the cost to house the prisoners was free and there was a newer prison in Rawlins, Wyoming.
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