Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 Locked by Nell McKeon

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Join date : 2013-10-13

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Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
and Ben Murphy as Kid Curry
Locked by Nell McKeon Heyes_12

Guest Starring

Kevin Kline as Sheriff Martin Rhitt
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Glenn Campbell as Deputy Steve
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Michael Landon as Deputy Dan
Locked by Nell McKeon Michae10

Rod Steiger as Clive, the blacksmith
Locked by Nell McKeon Rod_st10

by Nell McKeon

The sheriff exited his office to go about his late afternoon rounds.  He nodded to the family passing by in a fully loaded wagon.  He waved to the schoolmarm leaving the busy mercantile across the street with an armload of school supplies.

“Hiya, Sheriff Rhitt,” called a man hammering a joist in place on a building being constructed down the street as the lawman strolled down the boardwalk, receiving a friendly nod in return.

The clerk at the stage depot and post was updating the slate hung on the building’s wall with the stage coaches’ arrival and departure times when he noticed the sheriff striding down the boardwalk across the street.  He called out, “Sheriff!  Hey, Marty!”

Sheriff Rhitt paused and looked over to where the shout came from.

“Marty, I’ve got a package for you.  It just arrived on the last stage.  Do you want it now?”

“Thanks, I’ll pick it up on my way back.”  The lawman continued down the busy main street.

The Sheriff arrived at the blacksmith’s.  He casually leaned against a post and watched the large man work for a few minutes.

“Hey Clive, I see you’re working hard.”

Clive, the blacksmith, looked up, wiping the sweat from his grubby brow.  “That I am.  With more people moving into the area, I have more work than time.  I might have to take an apprentice.”

“Well that’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?  Don’t look so glum.”

The blacksmith stared at the sheriff for a moment before a grin broke out.  “You know what, Marty?  You’re right.  Anything I can do for you or are you just here passing time on your rounds.”

The sheriff straightened up.  “You know I like to keep up with the goings on around town.  No way to do that unless I talk to people, now is there?”

“Whatever you say, Marty.”  Clive’s grin grew into a teasing smile.

“But in this case, I do have a message from bank manager.  He wants you to stop by at the end of the day to discuss putting up bigger or better bars on the windows.  He’s nervous about the bank getting robbed now that the town is growing and more people are putting money into the bank.  He wants additional security measures.”

“Okay, sheriff.  Thanks for the message.  I’ll be sure go see him later,” Clive assured the man before resuming his work.

Along the way back into the center of town, Sheriff Marty Rhitt picked up his package addressed to him at the stagecoach depot and post, muttering to himself as he studied the parcel, “I was expecting a letter, Herta.  What’s this?”

Stepping off the boardwalk into the street to avoid the ladders and scaffolding of a new building going up, the sheriff stepped back up to enter the saloon.  He collided with the first of two men, pushing through the batwing doors just as Sheriff Rhitt was reaching for them, and rocked back unsteadily.

The blond’s blue eyes widened and fixated for just a moment on the shiny tin star before he tipped his hat in apology as he righted himself.  The emerging dark-haired friend steadied the sheriff by the shoulders before letting go and moving off down the boardwalk.

“Thanks,” Marty acknowledged the help that kept him from falling on his backside.

“No problem, sheriff.  Have a nice afternoon,” the black-hatted fellow replied as he followed the blond.

“Hiya Henry, let me have a small beer?  How’s business?” Marty inquired as he carefully placed his package on the polished wood of the bar.  He leaned forward, watching Henry, the bar owner, cleaning and polishing glasses.

“Here ya go.  Pretty good, Marty, pretty good.  I’m doing well enough.  I’m thinkin’ of hiring a full-time bartender during the day to add to the two I have at night.  You know, it’s funny you should stop by just now.  I thought I might need you a little while ago.  There was a lunch time poker game, only broke up a few minutes past.  The sore losers are still sitting there in the corner.”  The bartender pointed with his towel wrapped hand.

Marty sipped at his beer.  “Was there trouble?  Someone cheating?”

“No one was cheating, although one guy was accused of it.  Did ya see the two guys who just left?”

Marty nodded affirmatively.  “Yeah, one walked right into me, by accident.  Almost knocked me over.”

Henry picked up the story where he left off.  “Well there was that dark-haired guy who was winnin’ big and his fair friend was the second biggest winner at the table.  The black-haired guy with the mustache, I think he’s a foreman at one of the mines, accused the dark-haired guy of cheating.  Nobody else agreed though.  From what I could see or tell, the guy was just a good poker player.  His friend was no slouch either.  Anyway, the black mustache man gets all hot under the collar and the big winner is talking him down but then Tom, you know Tom over there from the saddle makers?  Well, Tom is a bit of an instigator and likes a fight, as long as it’s not him fighting.”  Henry took a breath.  The sheriff’s eyes were focused on the corner table and moving from spot to spot as the bar owner related his story.

“Well, Tom gets Black Mustache all riled up again.  So Black Mustache pulls back his chair and threatens to pull his gun.  I’m thinkin’, who can I send to get you but the big winner isn’t interested in any gunfight.  Black Mustache gets egged on by Tom and he stands up.  Before you know it, the fair friend stands up and takes over, tryin’ to avoid any shootin’, which I can appreciate.  No luck and the guns are gonna come out.  Faster than you can blink your eyes, the fair-haired fella drew but didn’t fire.  He just stood there pointing his pistol straight at Black Mustache before the poor guy could even get the gun out of his holster.  I swear Marty, I’ve never seen anything like the speed of that guy.  It could have been real nasty but the two friends remained calm.  They gathered their money and left.  Then you walked in.”

Marty finished his beer, put the mug back on the bar, and wiped his mouth, all the while watching the conversation between the remaining poker players in the back.  “I guess I better go talk some sense into Tom about instigating fights and find out a little more about Black Mustache Man.”

“Sheriff!  Sheriff!  It’s Heyes and Curry!  I saw Heyes and Curry right out there in our town!  Hurry Sheriff!” panted the thin, middle-aged bank manager, who appeared and hung onto the batwing doors.

The lawman’s and Henry’s eyes met as Henry whispered, “You don’t think?”

“It could be.  A blond fast draw and a dark-haired, slim poker player, both in their mid to late 20’s about six feet tall.”

Marty quickly crossed to the panting, wheezing bank manager and pulled him along as they exited the saloon.

“Hey, Marty you forgot your package!” shouted Henry after the departing sheriff.

“Drop it off at the jail on your way home, will ya?” Marty shouted over his shoulder before turning back towards the bank manager.  “How do you know they were Heyes and Curry?”

“I used to live in Wyoming.  Worked in the banks up there before moving down here to New Mexico Territory for my breathing.  I’ve been robbed twice by the Devil’s Hole Gang.”

Marty sped up, then stopped and pulled the bank manager to a halt.  “They’re robbing the bank now?”

The thin man was shaking in anger and frustration.  “No, I’ve been robbed twice up in Wyoming, in two different towns and two different banks.  They’re not robbin’ the bank here, they’re going to the livery!”  He turned and pointed to the other end of town.  The manager’s face flushed bright red and his voice rose an octave as he shouted at the top of his lungs, “They’re right there!  Heyes and Curry are getting away!”

Marty Rhitt ran as fast as he could to the sheriff’s office and jail, shouting, “Dan, Steve, get out here!  We need to ready a posse to go after Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!  Now!”


Heyes scanned the countryside, searching for the slightest bit of cover amidst miles of flat savanna and scrub, anything to provide places to disappear or hide in.  The experienced outlaw kept heading east as he spotted the western slopes of the mountains, the reddish-pink hues of the steep sides were visible in the distance.  He kicked his chestnut into a gallop, having reached the beginnings of the foothills and chanced a glance back to check on his partner.

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The Kid had kept pace with Heyes, following a few yards behind and to the right, trying to keep out of his partner’s gelding’s dust trail.  Curry divided his attention equally between watching where he was going and keeping a wary and worried eye on their back trail.  “The posse is far too close for comfort.  You got a plan?”

“Kid, this way!  If I remember right, the foothills around here climb into a series of steep rocky canyons, before we can get to the pinon and junipers.  Harder to track over rock and we can lose them in the canyons or if not in the forest of Sandia Crest.”

“I hope you’re right, Heyes, ‘cause they’re gainin’ and we ain’t exactly hard to miss.”

“At least they’re not shooting at us yet.”

“They will as soon as they come within range.”

“Come on, we’ve got to reach the canyons before then.”

The Kid suddenly ducked down flat against his black’s neck instinctively at the sound of a gunshot.  A split second later he righted himself.  His glance shot forward.  “Heyes?  Heyes are you okay?”

“Jeez, they are in range!  I’m okay,” Heyes shouted above the pounding of the horse’s hooves.  “For now, at least,” he added under his breath.

Curry’s thighs tightened against his horse’s sweaty flank.  He drew while simultaneously twisting in the saddle.


Sheriff Rhitt glared over at the overeager posse member who wasted a shot.  “Men, save your ammo, we’re barely in range with a revolver.  Even if we were standing still, any one of us would be lucky to hit anything this far out.  Wait for my orders and we’re not shooting to kill, unless we have to.”

Clive holstered his six-gun with reluctance and spurred his mount faster, but pulled back as his tall brown Stetson went flying backwards off his head and the sound of returning fire rang in his ears.

A flurry of bullets went flying from the riled posse’s revolvers as the group as a whole slowed to take aim.  Horses swerved, reared, and panicked as lead thudded in front of hooves and dirt shot into the horses’ eyes.

Marty Rhitt scanned his 10-man posse and all appeared intact, but two were missing hats.  Deputy Dan kept his eyes front, squinted to see better and focused on the blond gunman in the distance.

“Marty, Steve, get a load of that.”  Deputy Dan pointed with his chin as he walked his horse to give him time to reload.  He continued, half in amazement, “Well, I believe they’re Curry and Heyes alright.  And even if they’re not, whoever he is, he’s experienced and dang good.  I can’t hit anything, not at this range, and never mind reloading at a full gallop.”

“Well no one’s in range now, because Curry just bought them time and distance.  Come on, men, put the darn hats back on your heads and get back on your horses.  That’s $20,000 worth of outlaws gettin’ away!”


The partners were keeping ahead of the posse but it was a temporary advantage at best.

“We’re still ahead of them,” the Kid noted, giving his partner a small measure of reassurance.

“Yeah, but our horses can’t keep up this pace much longer.”

“If we could just get out of this flat landscape.”

“I’m detouring through every gully or copse of trees I can.  Kid!  Kid, this way!  We made it to the Sandia Crest.  Look, the ground’s getting rockier and it’s starting to rise,” Heyes shouted as his partner pounded past him on the right.

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Curry snapped his attention from the following dust cloud back to focus on where he was going.  He pulled hard left on the reins and the black only just managed to swerve into the canyon opening Heyes’ chestnut disappeared into.

The partners slowed the horses as the animals began to climb the boulder strewn lower slopes of the crest.  Savanna grassland gave way to more and more junipers.

Curry twisted and unbuckled his right saddle bag.  Leaning back, he felt around until his hand closed around two small cardboard boxes, which he pulled out.

“Heyes, you got any spare cartridges on you?  I mean besides what I can see on your gun belt?”

“No, I’m all out and, as you know, we didn’t get a chance to stop at the mercantile before we had to hightail it out of that town.”

“Here, take these.”  The Kid tossed a box of .45’s, which Heyes caught easily.  “Keep them on you, just in case we have to lose the horses.”  Curry stuffed his remaining box of cartridges in his shirt pocket.


“I know, Heyes, I’m not plannin’ a shoot-out, but we might have to do more convincin’ than we like to do.  And havin’ a gun without anything to put in it is almost as bad as going completely nekkid.  These guys followin’ have a right big incentive to be keepin’ up with us.  And we’re on the wrong side for an easy way up; too many sheer drop offs, pinnacles, cliffs, and little water.”

“Well, we have a bigger incentive to get up and over the crest and lose them.”

“Don’t I know it, partner.  Lead on.  There’s still hours of light left until the sun sets.”


The sheriff kept a tight hold on his roan as he bent down to examine the ground.  

“Sheriff, stop lookin’.  Them outlaws went right.  It’s the trail that leads to the easiest ways over the Sandia Crest,” stated one of the posse members.

Five of the men nodded in agreement.

Deputy Dan watched the sheriff and Deputy Steve closely as they scanned the trail leading right and examined the entrance to the canyon on the left.

Marty Rhitt looked up.  “No, they’re not known for doing things the easy way.  It looks like they moved off the trail and are gonna try the steeper slopes.”

Deputy Steve spoke up in agreement, “We’ll have them for sure if they went right.  We know the shortcuts.  It’s just our luck they went left.  But I have to agree with Marty, look here, you can see where one of them pulled his horse hard left.  The animal skidded a bit; musta turned suddenly and fast.”

“Men, don’t give up now.  The sun doesn’t go down for hours yet.  And unless they’ve got horses with wings, Heyes and Curry are more likely to wind up with their backs to a sheer rock wall; there are just too many dead-end canyons on this side of the crest.  A man has to be very familiar with the area to get over the crest that way.”

The posse’s faces turned from gloomy to hopeful.  Clive fingered his pistol, smiled, and prepared to get started again.  “What are we waitin’ for?  I can sure use my share of the reward money and the sooner we pull them in, the sooner we get our money.”  The sheriff gave the town’s blacksmith a sideways glance.

The posse members were regaining their enthusiasm.  The lawmen mounted and the sheriff addressed the group, “I want each of you to remember that these are cunning men.  They haven’t been killers up to now, but if we do manage to corner them, remember that desperate men are doubly dangerous.  The situation can change as well, keep an eye out for an ambush.  And wait for my orders before any shooting occurs.”  He kicked the roan into a trot entering the canyon left of the trail; the posse following somewhat more soberly.


Heyes drove his horse higher up the steep slope of the narrowing canyon.  He kept glancing up at the ridge face.  “Come on, if we follow the green we should be able find a way up and over.”

Curry hung back, listening hard.  “I hope you’re right ‘cause I don’t like what I’m hearing.”  Curry dismounted, broke a branch of a puny pinon pine and started to sweep the tracks away.  He moved quickly but did a thorough assessment of the surroundings.

“You’re hearing things, Kid.  I don’t hear anything unusual.  Those local guys know the way over the crest was in the other direction,” informed the confident leader of the gang of two.

Curry glanced up at his partner before jumping back on his gelding.  “You hear what you trained yourself to hear.  Things up close and quiet.  Trust me, they’re comin’ and they’re not far away.”

Heyes’ brows furrowed and worried frown passed quickly over his face.  “I do trust you, partner.  I’m just not sure if I trust myself to get us out of here.”

Curry’s blue eyes found honest browns and the Kid offered a tight smile.  “Well if anyone can, you can Heyes.  Lead on.  One way or another you’ll figure something out.  You’ve never let the gang or me down yet and you never will.”

Heyes flashed the Kid a confident grin then slapped the reins on the chestnut’s hindquarters to get him going again.

The partners followed a game trail until it petered out and was no longer discernible, all the while picking their way through trees, around boulders, and pushing their reluctant scrambling horses ever higher.  They came to a rocky outcrop that towered up, obscuring their long-range view.  

“Whaddya think?  The right seems to head towards that cliff from what I can see through the trees, but I can’t tell where the left heads at all,” panted Heyes after a particularly hard climb.  He grabbed for his canteen and sipped at the warm water, then held up the container and shook it.  “This reminds me, the horses have got to be as thirsty as us.  We’ll need to find water at some point; sooner rather than later.”

The Kid nodded towards the left.  “We’ll have to take the unknown unless we want to leave the horses and play targets if we try climbing that cliff to the right.”

“Left it is, then.”

They continued up through the narrow twisting canyon.  The steep slopes were increasingly peppered with pinion pines mixing with scrubby junipers providing an illusion of cover.  They passed through a narrow opening partially blocked by rock falls on either side.  Suddenly the canyon opened up into a roughly square shape and the partners reached a dead end.

Curry muttered an oath as he pulled his mount up short.  “Where now?  The sides of this canyon are too steep to climb with horses and I’m not sure we could do it without the horses, either.”

Heyes studied the canyon walls for a moment.  “We could, you know.  We could climb the ridge on the one side on foot if we could get on the other side of this canyon wall.”

The Kid swung his horse around and started back down the trail only to stop a couple of hundred yards away.  He held up his left hand in a silent signal for Heyes to stop and be quiet.  He needed to listen.  A faint rumble became detectable.

Both men’s eyes widened for a scant moment before lips tightened and bodies stiffened in resolve.

“It’s a dead end back there.”

“It’s an end, but it won’t be dead, if I have anything to do about it.  BACK!  NOW!  GO BACK!” Curry insisted.

The partners sped through the boulders at the base of the canyon entrance and jumped off the horses.  The animals immediately headed off towards the back, left wall of the clearing.  Heyes and the Kid scrambled up the right side of the opening.  The Kid flattened himself along a ledge, ignoring the sharp stones that dug into his legs and stomach and took a good long look.  Raising up on his hands and knees, Curry backed down the sharp incline.  He stood for a moment with his head down, blew his cheeks out in frustration, and looked up to meet the watching steady gaze of his longtime partner, who had scrambled down before him.  He nodded and both men completed a swift but thorough survey of their immediate surroundings.

Locked by Nell McKeon 3_kid_10

The Kid trained his eyes over Heyes’ shoulder and remarked matter-of-factly, “The horses found water, that’s good.”

Heyes glanced over his shoulder, and sure enough both animals had their heads down along the left, back side of the canyon.  They appeared to be drinking. His eyes traveled upwards and noticed the darkened wet looking rocks.

“Seems to be coming from those rocks up there.”

Heyes’ attention snapped back to the front as the Kid started to speak with quiet determination.  “Okay, they’re not far off.  This is how we’re handling it.  It’s most likely gonna end up being a siege and will be a question of who can out last who.  We have a water supply, they don’t, but that’s the only thing in our favor.”

Heyes frowned.  “I don’t like those odds one bit.”

“Neither do I, but unless you want us to throw up our hands and surrender, I don’t see another option.”

“I’m not partial to surrender.  You buy me some time to think and maybe I’ll come up with something.  We might have to cut our losses and give up then try for an escape, but for now what do you have in mind?”

Curry started moving left as he explained, “We’ll have to make them think twice about stormin’ in here.  I want you on the right side of the entrance.  I’ll be on the left; it has the wider field of vision from cover, and we’ll set up a cross fire pattern.”

Heyes nodded his agreement and moved off to position himself among the boulders on the right.  He stopped and looked backed when he heard the Kid continue.

“Heyes, you’re about as far away from trigger happy as an armed robber can be and since we’re short on bullets and may have to make every one count, maybe we should just shoot over their heads so they know if they come in they’ll be in a cross fire.  We can’t afford to spray the lead around so that should be enough to give them pause.  Be careful and don’t take too many chances.”

“Sound like a plan, Kid.  You be careful, too.”

“I will.  Oh, one other thing.  See up on the top edge behind me, behind that clump of pine next to the two big boulders?”

Heyes squinted up, over, and behind the Kid to where he indicated and asked, “Yeah, so?”

“I’m gonna be payin’ attention to the danger in front.  Well, from what we could tell, I think you were right, a man could probably climb the canyon edge on that side.  If he had a rifle, and was a good shot, he might be able to aim where I need to be and possibly hit me.  I’m gonna need you to watch my back, partner.”

“Always Kid, always,” Heyes affirmed solemnly as he once again moved to get into position.  



The posse followed the twists and turns of the outlaws’ trail.  The sheriff slowed as the group approached the narrowed section of the canyon with the two rising broad pinnacles on either side.  He raised his hand and called a halt.  “This looks like a good place for an ambush.  I’m gonna check it out.  I want you all to hang back a bit.”

Sheriff Rhitt rode forth cautiously, his gun drawn and his eyes scanning from side to side.  He was almost through before he realized his peril, the canyon dead ended.  He ducked at the sound of two gunshots, one right after the other, then two bullets came whizzing by over his head from different directions.  He pulled his horse to a hard stop and backed up a bit.

“Stop right there!” Heyes shouted.  “Who are you and why are you following us?”

I’m Sheriff Rhitt,” the lawman called out.  “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, come out with your hands up.  You are under arrest.  We have you trapped.  Come out before anyone gets hurt.”

Heyes took a deep breath and rose up slightly so his voice would carry.  “Who did you say we are?  And how do I know you’re really a sheriff and not a bunch of robbers?”

The Kid, his gun trained on the sheriff, took a peek around his stone hiding place to check with Heyes.  He lifted an eyebrow when their eyes met.  Heyes shrugged.

Deputy Dan and Deputy Steve advanced to just behind the sheriff, one pointing his revolver left, the other right.

“You’ve been identified as Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry by an eyewitness to two of your bank robberies.”

The Kid, hidden from the sheriff’s view, hung his head before once again sighting the sheriff.

“You’re mistaken.  I’m Joshua Smith and my friend is Thaddeus Jones.  And we’re not those notorious bank robbers, just drifters looking for work.”

“You did run…”

“We’ve been mistaken for those miscreants before and it takes a lot of time and effort to clear our names.  Besides, we didn’t know who was chasing us.  You could have been a gang of outlaws for all we knew.”

“Like I said before, I’m Sheriff Martin Rhitt and I have a ten-man posse with me.”  The lawman grabbed his vest and held the portion with the star far out from his body in display.  Simultaneously, Deputy Steve spotted the top of a dark head and took his shot.  Heyes ducked as stone splintered around him.

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A return shot echoed and the sheriff felt a fleeting sharp tug as the vest sprung free from his hand to fall flat against his chest.  He looked down and spotted a neat round hole right in the middle of the sheriff’s tin star.  All three posse members paled slightly and retreated hastily.

Heyes rolled his eyes skyward and shook his head as he turned towards Curry and mouthed, “Really?” at the showmanship.  The Kid’s smirk dissolved into a half-hearted shrug of sheepishness before snapping his attention back to the area in front of the gap.  


The posse retreated out of easy shooting distance and sought cover behind a rocky outcrop.

“Okay men,” Sheriff Rhitt began, “There’s only two of them…”

“Yeah, but one of them is Kid Curry, and he can outshoot all of us, all by his lonesome.”

“Fellas, he’s just one man, against eleven of us.  And Heyes can’t plan his way out of a dead end box canyon.  We’ll outlast them, we just have to sit tight and get them to see reason.  Although, I’d prefer if we end this and have them in custody before it gets dark ‘cause I sure don’t want them to somehow get by us.  They’re slippery ones.  We’re gonna have to make them waste ammunition.”

The men surrounded the lawman in a tight circle as he outlined where he wanted each man to take position and what they were supposed to do.  They moved off into their assigned positions, surrounding the entrance on both sides.

Deputy Steve and Clive climbed the rocks over-looking the shooter on the left.  They separated but kept a short distance between them as each man cautiously peered around.

“Can you see anyone?” whispered Clive.

Deputy Steve turned to the side and shook his head.  “No, but he’s gotta be down there in those rocks somewhere.”

They kept an eye on the sheriff, positioned in the center, behind a large rock outcrop pushing up from the dirt.  The sheriff raised his arm then dropped it down rapidly.  A fusillade poured through the canyon entrance and down on either side, the sounds echoing around the space, making the effort sound more fearsome than its effectiveness warranted.  The posse members ducked back under cover as an answering retort skimmed close over their heads.

“My gun!”  Clive gave a sudden cry as his right hand flew up.  He quickly cradled the appendage close to his chest.  He slid down the back slope with Deputy Steve scrabbling down beside him.

“Let me see.  Are you hurt?  Bleeding?”  Deputy Steve grabbed Clive’s hand to examine it.  They both looked in relief at the reddened but intact hand.  

The injured posse member snatched back his hand and shook it vigorously.  “It stings, a lot” he announced as he spotted his revolver, with a bent barrel, further down the slope and set off to retrieve the damaged firearm.

Sometime later, the shadows were lengthening and the sky was turning pink, lavender, and orange.  There was a break in the ongoing standoff of trading shots between the outlaws within and the posse on the outside of the canyon.  The sheriff gathered his men around him from the relative safety of the copse of trees.  He studied each posse member.  “Anyone hurt?”

Clive waved his red stinging hand.

“Well, Marty, you can see I’m bleeding from this cut on my forehead.”

“My hat’s got a hole in it and my gun’s ruined.  The barrel’s bent.”

“So’s mine.”

“My hat has a hole in it, too.  And I just bought it last week.  It cost me ten dollars.”

“If I unwrap my bandana from my wrist, you can see a big bloody graze.  It huts like the dickens, burns some.”

“Yeah and my shiny tin star has a neat, round hole through the center of it,” snapped the lawman.  “I mean is anyone seriously injured not just little cuts, scratches, and ruined hats and guns.”  He paused but no one spoke up.  “No one hurt then.  That’s good and bad.  Good, because it tells me that even though Heyes and Curry are cornered, they’re not desperate and Curry is using his skills to only hold us off.  Bad, because that means they think they have options and Heyes must be working on some sort of plan.  It also probably means that we haven’t touched them with our bullets.”

Deputy Steve spoke up, trying not to sound too angry and defensive, “We should have hit one of them with all that lead flying their way.  I know we’re not all bad shots.”

“Don’t worry about it Steve.  Those two have had a lot of experience in this sort of thing.  They picked their positions really well.  Time and ammunition is on our side, though.”  Marty Rhitt sought to sooth his riled deputy and flagging posse members.

One of the townsmen spoke up.  “Marty, the sun’s gonna set in an hour or so.  I don’t fancy being this close to Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry in the dark.  Who knows what they’re gonna do.”  Several others nodded their agreement.

Sheriff Marty Rhitt rubbed his jaw.  His eyes narrowed in thought as he bowed his head.  The posse leader’s head came up and his gaze traveled along the left, lower, broader pinnacle.


“Yes, Marty.”

“You’ve got your rifle with you, dontcha?”

“I do.”

“You’re the best shot in town with a rifle.  Do you think you could climb that left ridge?  See those two big boulders and the clump of pine over there?”

“Yeah. I could probably get there.”

Locked by Nell McKeon 5_land10

“Come over here for a minute.  I’ve got an idea.”

The deputy and the sheriff huddled together, speaking quietly before Dan nodded his agreement and moved off towards his horse to get his rifle.


“Can you see anything?” hissed Heyes when the quiet seemed to go on and on.

The Kid crept up and darted his head higher to get a look.  “Not much; it seems as if the posse is havin’ a pow wow down by the trees.  There’s too much shadow to see any detail.”  He ducked back down and laid flat along the incline.  The gunman rolled over onto his back, checked the canyon rims one more time, stared hard for a few moments at a spot on the left edge before shaking his head and then set about taking count of his meager remaining ammunition.

“How’re you doin’, Heyes?”

“What do you mean how am I doing?  I’m just dandy.”  Heyes slid down a little, glanced towards the back to check on the horses.  “The horses are doing okay, nice and rested.”  He laid his head back and stared at the beginnings of a spectacular sunset.

Curry rolled back onto his front and inched up the incline once again.  “Whoa, they’re gettin’ into position again.  One last hurrah before night comes, maybe?  Sure is gonna be a long, cold night.  Got any ideas yet?”

“Not a one, but I do my best thinking in the night.  I’ll bet the posse doesn’t, though.”

“Probably not.  I wonder how many they’ll keep on watch?  Get ready Heyes; we only have a few cartridges left.”

Heyes sat up a little in preparation for getting back into his shooting position.  He flicked his eyes upward to the clump of pine and the big boulders on the canyon rim.  Brown eyes suddenly widened in consternation.  There was a flash of golden light that shouldn’t be there.  “KID, MOVE, NOW!”

Curry immediately slid down, popped up to a crouch and aiming though the gap started shooting while running over to Heyes’ side.  A rifle retort echoed in the canyon.  The Kid’s left leg started to buckle and he stumbled and slid to land at the bottom of the rock-strewn steep slope Heyes was positioned behind.  He lay there, clenching his jaw, as the burning pain shot through his thigh, down his leg and up to his hip.  The left hand he had clamped to the back, outer part of his thigh became warm and slick with blood welling up from the wound.

Locked by Nell McKeon 6_kid_10

Heyes rapidly aimed upwards at the clump of boulders on the left rim and let loose a few shots.

“Save it Heyes.  He’s out of range with a pistol.  Watch the gap!” panted the Kid.

Heyes slid down to where his wounded partner was lying.  He knelt where he could attend to Curry while still keeping an eye out for any attempt to enter the canyon by the posse.  The waning light of the day and the shadows of the pinnacles made it difficult to see clearly.  Curry grabbed his bandana from his pocket and handed it to Heyes who folded it in a square and placed it on the torn bleeding flesh under the ripped trousers.

“The bullet’s still in there, Kid.”

“Thought so.  Terrific.  This is gonna put a crimp in any escape plans for later tonight.  Good thing the horses are rested ‘cause I ain’t gonna be walkin’ or climbin’.  Help me get my belt off to use as a tourniquet to slow the bleedin’.”

The shooting had stopped as the light died away with the setting sun.  Most of the posse members were lounging around a roaring camp fire, sitting on several fallen logs.  Two men stood just outside the ring of light, standing guard and keeping watch on the canyon’s entrance.

Heyes and Curry were huddled down in a gap between two boulders.  Heyes glanced down at the Kid.  “You cold?  I could build us a small fire.  It’s not as if they don’t know we’re here.”

“I appreciate the thought, Heyes, but that’ll compromise our night vision in case they try somethin’, like gettin’ the jump on us in the dark.”

The older man moved a little closer to his wounded partner as both men settled down for a long night.

Heyes broke the resulting silence with a whisper, “You’re shivering.  I’m gonna get the horses.  You need the bedroll and I need more bandages for your leg.

Curry raised up on his elbows and looked to the front and then to back of the canyon.  He lowered himself back down.  “No, the watch will hear the horses movin’ while you’re getting the stuff and they’ll have a clear line of sight through the gap to where you’ll be.”

“Okay, wait, if I whistle maybe they’ll come to us.”

“They probably will, and then maybe they’ll decide that there’s more fodder though the gap and join the posse’s horses.”

“Jeez, I’m just trying to help.”

“I know, sorry.”

Heyes looked down at his partner who, even in the moonlight, looked paler than he did just a little while ago.  He noted the blood covered right hand that was still firmly holding the Colt .45.  He also noticed that his partner’s right hand was about the only part of Curry that wasn’t shaking.  The Kid had broken into a cold sweat and was shivering non-stop.

“Kid, you still with me?  Do you trust me?”

“Always, partner.  Always.  Why?  Have you got a plan?”  Curry words came out as a breathy pant.  He shook his head to clear it and grimaced in pain when his leg inadvertently moved.

“Sort of, not the kind you’re gonna like, though.”

“Go on.”

“Kid, we haven’t cleaned the wound.  The bullet is still in there and you’re going to need a doctor.  Even if I could get the horses and get you on yours, you’re not able to ride hard and fast and that’s the facts, whether we like them or not.  The posse is camped right on the other side of this mound of dirt and rocks.  They’re still gonna be there in the morning.  They have a fire.  I say we call out to them and surrender.  I’ll give them the Smith and Jones routine and won’t admit to being Heyes and Curry, but they know who we are.  So far, the sheriff leading them seems to be pretty competent, but not the big hero type that wants to bring us in dead as the warrant allows.  You listening to me?”

The Kid heaved a big sigh and shifted to look up at Heyes.  He couldn’t suppress a quiet, agonized groan and his brows drew down into a deep frown as he noted the dark serious eyes, thin rueful lips, and his partner’s restless hands adjusting the black hat and running though lank, dark hair.  “Yeah, I’m listen’.”

“I’ll get us out of this, I promise.  But our priority now has got to be getting you medical care as soon as we can.”

“Heyes, I don’t think…”

“I do the thinking.  We don’t have a choice.  That’s it.  Give me your gun and gun belt.”  Heyes rose to his knees and gently took the gun from Curry’s reluctant bloody grip.  He stripped the Kid of his gun belt and holstered the Colt.  Heyes then removed his own gun belt after securing his revolver in the holster.

“SHERIFF!” Heyes shouted out.  “SHERIFF!  This is Joshua Smith.  I’m tossing my and Thaddeus’ guns out to you.  We’ll surrender now if you agree to take care of Thaddeus by your fire and get him to a doctor as soon as it’s light.  One of your men shot him in the leg and it’s bleeding bad.  Do we have a deal, Sheriff?”

Sheriff Marty Rhitt left the fire and cautiously came forward.  “Yes, Heyes you have a deal.  Put your hands up.  Once we have you secured, I’ll send men in to get your partner and your horses.”  He watched Hannibal Heyes toss two gun belts with their revolvers in the holsters to the ground several feet in front of him.”

Heyes steeled himself, glanced back at the Kid and held his eyes.  He reassured him quietly, “It’ll be okay.”

Locked by Nell McKeon 7_heye10

Hannibal Heyes raised both hands and walked towards the fire light.  He was met halfway there by the sheriff and five men, two with makeshift torches.  The two with deputy stars on their vests pulled his hands behind his back and tied them together securely, before patting him down for additional weapons.

“Hello, Heyes,”

“Joshua Smith.”

“Nope, I don’t think so.  I’m Sheriff Martin Rhitt and you’re under arrest.  As you can see, I’m wearing a sheriff’s star.  It would say sheriff across the middle if your partner hadn’t shot a hole in it.  Clive, take Mr. Heyes over to the fire and get him settled.  The rest of you guys come with me to get Curry and their horses.”

Heyes was sitting down by the fire, his ankles now tied as well as his wrists, warming up, and worriedly watching for his partner to appear.  The deputies arrived with the Kid between them, his arms draped across the deputies’ shoulders as they more than half carried the wounded outlaw.  The sheriff followed closely behind with his gun drawn and pointed at the Kid.  The other two men led Heyes’ and Curry’s horses over to join the posse’s on a line strung between the trees.

The sheriff called out, “bring their bedrolls and Curry’s saddlebags, willya?”

“Which horse is his?  I can’t remember,” came an answering question from the posse member.

“The black belongs to Thaddeus.  The chestnut with the blaze is mine,” a subdued Heyes answered.  He watched as his partner’s bedroll was laid out close to the fire, but on the opposite side from him.  Kid Curry was laid down on his side with care taken not to jostle the wounded limb unnecessarily.  His wrists were tied in a similar fashion to Heyes, only in front of the body, not in the back.  Once Curry was secured with posse members holding his shoulders and ankles in position, the sheriff proceeded to wash and dress the wound, using a faded blue shirt from the outlaw’s saddle bag as a makeshift dressing.  He didn’t attempt to shift or remove the bullet.  The Kid tensed but managed to keep relatively still and only quietly cursed under his irregular breaths as he struggled to remain conscious during the process.

The deputies stood guard on each of the prisoners while the rest of the posse observed the outlaws with interest.  Both Heyes and Curry were given drinks from canteens.

“How’s it look, Sheriff?” asked Heyes.

“Not great, but it could be worse.  It appears like the bullet only caught muscle and missed the bone.  We’ll get moving as soon as it’s light and get him to the doctor by late morning, I expect.”

The sheriff looked down on his pale sweating prisoner. “If I didn’t know better, Mr. Curry, I might believe you were Thaddeus Jones.  You look younger and a lot more innocent than I would have thought a gunman of your reputation would be.  We’ll see how you’re doing tomorrow, but I’m planning on putting you on your horse and tying your hands to the saddle horn.  Without being able to use your legs properly, I don’t think you’ll be able to stay on for long otherwise.  We may have to put a rope around your waist to the saddle horn, too.  We’ll see.”  He glanced over at Heyes.  “Don’t either one of you try anything.  I’d hate to shoot more holes in you.”

“Thanks for keeping your word, Sheriff.  We won’t do anything.  Just want to clear our names, right Thaddeus?” Heyes assured the lawman.  “Thaddeus,” he continued, his tone worried, “will you be okay tonight?”

“Don’t have a choice, do I, Joshua?” Curry responded wearily.  “I’ll be fine.”  He rose shakily up on his elbow and looked around at the men sitting and standing around the campfire, who one by one averted their curious stares or looked elsewhere.  “By the way, Sheriff, who was the shooter?”

Marty Rhitt’s face settled in a stern look with a straight mouth and narrowed eyes, he drew himself up and looked directly into the gunman’s expressionless, cold, blue eyes.  “It doesn’t matter who took the shot.  I was the one who gave the order.  I needed to end the standoff and I took the best way for the men under my command.”

Deputy Dan spoke up, his voice hinting at a mixture of defiance and controlled fear.  “It’s all right, Marty. I shot you, Curry.”

The outlaw and the deputy exchanged a long measuring look.  Deputy Dan broke out in cold sweat under the penetrating gaze of the Fastest Gun in the West.  He averted his eyes, but maintained his defiant posture.

Curry softened his face into rueful, reluctant admiration.  “Congratulations, Deputy.  Nice shot.”  The Kid’s voice trailed off as he finally lost consciousness.

Deputy Dan brought his head up sharply.  With widened eyes, raised brows, and a tug on the mouth upwards into a slight grin, he commented to no one in particular, “Is he kidding?  Did Kid Curry just give me a compliment for shooting him?”

Heyes chuckled in spite of his predicament.  “Nope, Kid Curry did not just give you a compliment.  But Thaddeus Jones recognizes skill when he sees it.”


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.

Last edited by royannahuggins on Tue 20 Nov 2018, 9:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Locked by Nell McKeon :: Comments

Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
Post on Tue 20 Nov 2018, 9:26 pm by royannahuggins
Hannibal Heyes paced to the back of the cell.  He grabbed the bars of the tiny window and craned his neck to stare down the street as far as he could see.  The caged outlaw turned from the window, muttering to himself, “Can’t see the doc’s office from here.  Where is the doctor’s office, anyway?”  He sat down for a few minutes, his restless hands picking at the blanket before popping back up again.  Heyes paced the short distance to the front of the cell and idly stopped to watch the sheriff at his desk fiddling with an intricately carved, wooden puzzle box.

“Sheriff, you got any word on how my friend is doing?”

Locked by Nell McKeon 8_heye10

“Locked,” muttered the sheriff to himself as he deposited the puzzle box into the cardboard box sitting in the middle of his desk and slammed the lid down.  Sheriff Marty Rhitt looked up and answered with audible strained patience, “Like, I’ve told you before, Heyes, Kid Curry is still running a high fever from an infection, which is under control and stopped now.  Doc Colton says it’s to be expected; after all, it’s only been three days since he removed the bullet from the Kid’s left leg.”

“It’s Smith, and my friend’s name is Jones, Thaddeus Jones.  Can I see him?”

“You’ll see him when my deputies guarding your partner at the doc’s house let me know that the Kid’s been cleared to be moved to the jail.  Now, as to who you are, that will be settled when the marshals from Wyoming arrive to identify you two and transport you back for trial.  You did run, even if you’re not Curry and Heyes; odds are you’re still wanted.”

“Now Sheriff, you’d run too if people seemed to be chasing you for no reason.  Besides, if Thaddeus was really Kid Curry, don’t you think that he wouldn’t be the only one to wind up with a bullet in him?  I’ve always heard Kid Curry is an eagle-eyed shooter.  And if I were Hannibal Heyes, I sure wouldn’t have lead us into that dead-end box canyon.  Heyes is supposed to be smart, a genius planner and escapist.  We’re just a couple of drifters looking for work, who thought you were a gang of robbers when you started chasing and shooting at us.”  Heyes tried his innocent act one more time.

Marty Rhitt rose from his desk, ambled over to the cell and leaned against the bars.  He looked Heyes in the eyes.  “That’s the thing.  I couldn’t help but notice that your partner was the only one who was taking aim, you seemed to be shooting over our heads.  Hats got shot off, guns flew from hands, dust kicked up right in front of our faces, and a nice round hole was shot in the middle of my tin star.  I don’t believe they were unintentional misses.  Not many men being shot at, outlaw or not, are capable of such accuracy and control.  Kid Curry is.  Curry and Heyes are known for not being killers, neither is any posse member I’m in charge of, but I did need to get him to stop shooting and for you to surrender peacefully before someone did get killed with all that lead flying around.”

Heyes didn’t have a return argument so he decided a change in subject was in order.  “Say Sheriff, what was that you’ve been fiddlin’ with on and off for three days now?”  He watched as the sheriff’s ears turned red as the man straightened up and turned abruptly away.

“Never you mind, it’s nothin’ you need to concern yourself with.”

“Come on, Sheriff, you can tell me.  There’s no else here, who am I gonna tell?  Maybe I can help?  I’m going crazy here and could use something to keep my mind off worrying about my partner.”  Heyes wheedled.

Marty Rhitt knocked the lid off the cardboard box on his desk, peered inside with frustration.  He studied the contents intently, scratched his head, and glanced back toward the cells with indecision clearly written across his face.  He met the curious brown eyes of his watching prisoner.

“If you’re so convinced I’m Hannibal Heyes and you know Heyes is known for being a problem solver, why don’t you let me work on your problem?  If I help you out, maybe, you can let me see my partner for myself.”

“I don’t think I should be gettin’ any help from an outlaw.”

“Maybe I’m an outlaw, maybe not.  What do you have to lose?’

Sheriff Rhitt relented.  He lifted the cardboard box from his desk, fished the keys from his pocket, and approached Heyes’ cell.

“Back up against the wall Heyes or Smith, whatever your name is.”

Heyes backed up and watched the sheriff with interest.

Marty Rhitt juggled the box in one hand while he opened the cell door with the other, and proceeded to carefully place the box on the cot.  He then backed out of the cell and re-locked the door.  He indicated his permission for Heyes to look with a nod of his head.

The intrigued prisoner peeked into the box then looked up.  Heyes was surprised to see a fleeting glimpse of real anguish in the dark brown eyes looking back at him.

“Your problem’s in the box?  You’re that upset about not being able to open a puzzle box?”  Heyes reached in to pull out the large puzzle box.  He held it out carefully in two hands towards the sheriff.

Locked by Nell McKeon 9_puzz10

“Yes, in a manner of speaking.” Sheriff Martin Rhitt sighed heavily.

Heyes lifted one dark eyebrow.  “Okaaay, something about this box has you fretting something fierce.  Let’s have it, Marty.  What’s inside?”

Marty took a deep breath, opened his mouth then abruptly shut it.

The outlaw put the puzzle box down.  He waited beside the bars, watching the lawman watching him.  When no further explanation was offered from the sheriff, Heyes stretched out on the cot.  He started singing in a soft baritone,

“Did you ever hear tell of Sweet Betsy from Pike,
Who crossed the wide mountains with her lover Ike,
Two yoke of cattle, a large yeller dog,
A tall Shanghai rooster, and a one-spotted hog.
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-oo-ra-li-ay.

They swam the wide rivers and crossed the tall peaks,
And camped on the prairie for weeks upon weeks.
Starvation and cholera, hard work and slaughter--
They reached California 'spite of hell and high water.”

“All right!  You wanna know why the puzzle box is so important?”

Heyes stopped his singing and sat up, his attention once more centered on his jailer.

Locked by Nell McKeon 10_she10

“My problem is I fell in love with a wonderful woman, Herta Bauer.  Herta’s family is originally from Switzerland, now they live in Saint Louis, which is where I’m from before I took this job.  Her father is a clock maker, and a master wood craftsman.  Mr. Bauer doesn’t think much of my career choice because he thinks that I could get killed by some dirty outlaw in the Wild West and leave his daughter a widow before her time.”  Sheriff Rhitt glared meaningfully at the outlaw behind the bars of his jail cell.

“Not that I’m admitting I’m an outlaw, but I’d wager that an outlaw, especially one wanted dead or alive, is more likely to be killed than a competent sheriff, which you seem to be,” Heyes countered.

Another sigh escaped before the sheriff continued, “Maybe.  Who calculates the odds on these things?  We do what we have to do.  Anyway, he was happy I moved here.  He was wrong to think I’d forget Herta, though.  Once I settled in, we kept writing letters back and forth.  Now that I’ve made a career and things look good for me to stay as sheriff, I proposed.  Herta’s answer is inside this box, which I can’t open.  I have to send something back that’s in the box and I don’t know what that is either because I can’t open the dang gone box!  Her father constructed and carved the thing and he probably made it difficult on purpose.”

Heyes quickly wiped the self-satisfied grin forming off his face.  “So, do we have a deal, Sheriff?  I’ll work on opening the box, you let me see my partner when I get it open, then I’ll teach you how I did it so you can honestly say you opened the box.”

“It’s a deal, Heyes.”


“Whatever you say, until the marshals arrive.”

The sun moved across the barred window.  The prisoner ignored the chiming of the clock as the hours passed.  Hannibal Heyes sat on his cot in intense concentration hunched over the beautiful wooden box.  He bit back a smug smile of satisfaction as the mechanism finally unlatched under his sensitive fingers.  He flicked his eyes up to spot the sheriff pacing back and forth.  Heyes muttered to himself, “Don’t make it seem too easy, Heyes or he’s gonna know it’s me.  Who am I kidding?  He’s already convinced we’re who we are.”  He pushed the mechanism closed.

Marty Rhitt dropped down into his office chair disheartened.  Deputy Steve returned to work for the night shift.

“Hey Sheriff, you look really tired.  You want me to pick something up at the café for your dinner before you go home since I’m heading over there now for somethin’ to eat for me and Heyes?”

“I’m not tired, just…oh never mind.  Yeah, dinner would be good.  Thanks.”

Deputy Steve left and Marty came over to the prisoner’s cell.  “Don’t suppose you’ve got it open yet?” Marty wondered wistfully as he leaned against the bars.

“You’d be supposin’ wrong.  Wanna see how it opens?”  Heyes couldn’t help but grin in response to the widening smile of genuine gratitude breaking out on the lovelorn sheriff’s face.

Heyes demonstrated the process to open the puzzle box without lifting the top completely and then he put the box gently on the floor and backed up to the opposite wall of the cell.

The sheriff nodded his thanks, took the keys from his pocket, opened the cell to retrieve the box, and then re-locked the cell.

Heyes came forward.  “Go on,” he encouraged, “open it.  You waited long enough.”

Marty carried the box to his desk and proceeded to repeat the steps the outlaw had shown him as Heyes watched carefully from across the room.

“Hey Sheriff, I get to see my partner, no matter what the answer is, right?  I held up my end of the bargain.”  Heyes had no sooner got the words out when he noticed Marty’s face falling into disappointment.

“What?  Is there a problem?”


“No?  She said no?”

“No, I mean I don’t know what she said, ‘cause there’s another puzzle box in the first puzzle box.  And it looks harder to open.”  Marty lifted another intricately carved box out of the larger box and held it up so Heyes could see.

“Jeez, you’re sure you want this Mr. Bauer as a relative?  ‘Cause it sure seems he’s not anxious for you to marry his daughter.  This Herta must be someone special.”

“She is, take my word for it.”

“I don’t suppose I get to see Thaddeus until that box is opened, huh?”

“You suppose right.  Kid Curry won’t be havin’ you as a visitor tonight.  When Steve comes back with dinner, I’ll let you have a go at this part.”

“It’s Thaddeus Jones.  You said harder.  Harder in what way?”

“It’s not really a box, more like the whole thing is multi-layered jigsaw puzzle.  You’ll see.”


Rays of sunshine slanted through the tiny window illuminating the dust motes dancing in the breeze drummed up by a frustrated outlaw pacing determinedly back and forth.

“I’ve been watching you all day, Smith.”  He emphasized the prisoner’s preferred name with a grin.  “You’ve been ponderin’ over that puzzle box all day long and it don’t look like you’re any closer to openin’ it than you were at first light.  Heyes is supposed to be some kind of genius at locks, maybe you really are Smith.”

“How’s my partner doing?  When can I see him?” Heyes called out.

“You have the puzzle apart yet?  I don’t see a reply from Herta in your hand,” Rhitt retorted from behind his desk.  He held up one hand to stop the response he saw coming in Heyes’ dark eyes.  “But, I’ll tell you what, I’ll stop at the doc’s on my late rounds and give you an update if the deputy, who’s stationed there, doesn’t get here first to report after his night relief arrives.”

Heyes halted and sat on the bunk.  He picked up the wooden contraption, his sensitive fingers ghosting the surface for subtle joins of wood, and applying pressure at a point here or there and then a push or a pull that yielded…nothing.


The tired deputy rubbed his eyes as the early morning sun streamed through the jail’s front windows.  His boots thumped to the floor and he rose to start the coffee.  

Hannibal Heyes stretched under the warm blanket on the semi-comfortable cot.  He looked around as he sat up and reached for the pot under the cot.

“Is that coffee I smell, Deputy Steve?  Any chance of getting some?”

“Sure Heyes, you like it black, right?  Push the pot under the slot in door when you’re done and I’ll slide a cup under while I take the pot out back and empty it.  You want a basin of water to wash, too?”  The deputy filled a mug with the steaming brew and walked over to the cell.

“Thanks, yeah, if I can’t have a bath, a wash will do.  Say, I see my partner’s still not here.  Any word on how he’s doing?”

Steve replied over his shoulder while walking towards the rear door of the jail, his hands occupied with the covered chamber pot and a tin basin.  “Nah, but everythin’ was quiet at the Docs when I made my last rounds.  When Marty comes in, he may know more since he’ll actually go in to check on Curry and Dan, who had the night duty at the doc’s.”

The morning rituals completed, Deputy Steve sat at the desk waiting for his relief, trying not to fall asleep.  Heyes pulled the large cardboard box containing the puzzling puzzle box over to the cot and continued working on solving the intricacies of its construction.

The front door opened and a draft of cool air blew in, ruffling the papers on the sheriff’s desk.

“Sheriff, any word on my partner?”  Heyes stood and gripped the bars in frustration.

Marty Rhitt looked towards his concerned prisoner and offered what little information he had sympathetically.  “He’s still running a fever, although, the doc says it’s not as high as it has been.  Apparently, his wound is looking better, too.  Dan says that the Kid ate breakfast and was able to keep the meal down for the first time.”  Marty strode to the desk and patted Deputy Steve on the shoulder.

“Go home Steve.  I’ve sent Dan home also.  I’ve deputized Clive from the smithy to watch Curry while Dan gets some sleep and food before he goes back.  When it’s time to come back in the afternoon, swing by the doc’s, will ya?”

“No problem, Marty.  Thanks, see you later.”  Steve got up slowly from the office chair.  He lowered his voice and leaned in towards the sheriff’s ear.

“I see you got Heyes workin’ on your problem.  If his reputation is anything to go on, you’ll have your answer soon.  I don’t know why you bother.  You know she’s gonna say yes.  I’d have bashed the box with a hammer and said the darn thing was damaged during shipping.”

Marty chuckled balefully.  “I don’t know she’ll say yes; I think so, but I don’t know.  And lying isn’t an honest way to start a life together, is it?”

“Maybe not, if you’re caught.”

“I think our prisoner would be an example of what happens when lying comes natural and you take the easy way out and get caught.”  The sheriff’s eyes traveled over to Heyes from across the room.

Deputy Steve shrugged his shoulders as he shuffled tiredly out the door on his way home to bed.

Heyes spent most of the morning and early afternoon alternating between fumbling with the puzzle box, making little progress, and having more success during the respites playing solitaire.

“Hey, Marty, wanna play a few hands of poker or blackjack?  I’m tired of solitaire and I’m beginning to really dislike your future father-in-law and I don’t even know him.”

“He’s not a bad guy, just real protective or rather over-protective of his girls,” the sheriff explained.  He finished cleaning and inspecting the office’s firearms and he placed the last rifle on the rack and locked it before he meandered over to the cells and idly watched Heyes shuffle the cards one-handed.

“Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of card sharp, too, Heyes?  You have a reputation of being quite the poker player.  In fact, wasn’t winning big at poker how you started out in our town.”

Heyes looked up and grinned.  “I’m not a card sharp.  I’ll admit to being very good at poker, but I play an honest game, always.  I don’t lie about that, Sheriff.”

A jangle of a door opening had both men turning towards the front door.  Three men awkwardly entered the jailhouse semi-sideways through the door.  Kid Curry arrived noticeably limping with his hands handcuffed in front of him and supported on each side by a deputy.  Heyes’ eyes traveled in relief from his friend’s pale, tired, and slightly flushed face to the left thigh, wrapped in a large bulky bandage visible through the split seam of the Kid’s pants.  The deputies Steve and Dan uncuffed Curry’s wrists then deposited him on the cot in the small cell adjoining Heyes.  Curry slowly lowered himself into a recumbent position while the deputies gave their report to the sheriff.

Curry turned his head towards the other occupied cell and found his partner crouched on the other side of the bars in order to look Curry in the eye.  “I’m fine.  The fever broke in the early morning and now the leg is just sore and weak.  How’re you doin’?  You look like hell, partner.  You get any sleep?  Are you eatin’?”

Heyes just shook his shaggy head at Kids questions.  They both glanced at the lawmen then lowered their voices to just above a whisper.

“The doctor said I can be moved soon, as long as I don’t hafta ride a horse.  Horse riding’s out for at least 6 weeks, accordin’ to Doc Colton.  Have you worked out a plan to get us out of here yet?”

“That could be a problem for us since it will only give a few days at the most before the marshals from Wyoming arrive and they’ll know we are who the Sheriff thinks we are. The sheriff was gonna wire them when you were moved to the jail.  He’s a pretty thorough sheriff.  They found all my lock picks and I’m not given anything that can be used to pick a lock.  Riding a horse won’t be an issue you’ll have to deal with if we can’t get out of this cell.”

“You’ll think of somethin’, you always do.”  Curry yawned and his eyes started to close.

Heyes rose and crossed back over to his cot and picked up the puzzle box.  A snort of self-mockery escaped the dark-haired outlaw as a piece refused to come apart in his hands.  He quietly swore an oath and mumbled under his breath, “now I have two challenges to keep me occupied, getting this box apart and getting us out of these cells.”


Early the next morning Sheriff Rhitt was offering Heyes a cup of steaming coffee through the bars.  “Deputy Steve will be bringing your breakfast shortly.”  He peered into the cardboard box sitting on the floor along the bars and smiled.  “Hey, I see you’ve made some progress with my box.  There are two more pieces you got apart.”

Heyes accepted the coffee, blew across the top before taking a small sip.  “Thanks, the coffee is a little weak for me, but it’s just the way my friend likes it.  That is if he finally wakes up.  The smell of food ought to do it.  And, by the way, those two pieces took me most of the night.  You’re right about your potential father-in-law not being happy about the situation.”

The sheriff’s face fell into a look of chagrin.

“Don’t worry, Sheriff, I’ll get it opened.  Impossible situations are my specialty.”

Sheriff Rhitt’s look of chagrin transformed into one of all business.  He pointedly stared at the lock on the cell door and slowly and firmly stated, “As long as you’re focused on the impossible situation in a cardboard box and no others, we’re good.”

Marty Rhitt nodded over to the still sleeping Curry in the next cell.  “Doc Colton will be coming over to check up on your partner sometime in the afternoon.”  The sheriff walked back over to his desk and started on some paperwork.

Heyes chuckled and smiled with false innocence as he muttered, “I’m working on both and when I have a workable plan, I’ll be good.  Now if the Kid recovers quickly, we’ll both be good.”

Breakfast came and went with Heyes, for once, finishing both his and most of Curry’s eggs, bacon, and biscuits.  The chimes of the clock striking the hours failed to rouse the Kid.  Not even the sun’s rays hitting the sleeping injured outlaw full in the face as the light traveled from one barred window to the next woke the blond.  The lawmen were in and out all morning on their daily duties.  Heyes had dragged his cot to the other side of the cell to be closer to the Kid as he continued to work on the puzzle box, and Curry slept.

“Kid?  Kid, wake up.  I’ve got an idea,” hissed Heyes.

The Kid rolled over and cracked open bleary blue eyes to stare through the bars.  “I’m awake.  Glad to hear you have a plan.  What do you need me to do?”

Locked by Nell McKeon 11_kid10

“Listen, when the doctor comes to check your wound, he’ll probably have his doctor bag with him, right?”

“I guess so.”

“Right.  I know you’re not feeling your usual self, but I bet your hands are still fast and you haven’t lost your pickpocketing skills.  When the doc opens the bag, he’ll most likely put it on the cot next to your leg or on the floor; the important thing is it will be within your arm’s reach.  What I need you to do is to swipe something out of the bag I can use to pick the lock; it just has to been long and thin.  You think you can manage that without getting caught?”  Heyes nodded his head as he talked and grinned confidently at his partner.

“If that will help get us out of here and avoid a trip to Wyoming, you can bet I’ll give it my best shot.”

Several hours later, Doctor Colton entered the jail to check up on his patient.  Deputy Dan brought a stool for the medical man and let him in Curry’s cell, locking the door behind him.

“Well Mr. Jones, let’s see how you’ve been doing.  Any increased pain?”

“It’s Kid Curry, Doc, we’re sure.  You’ll see when the marshals get here in a day or two,” called Marty Rhitt from across the office.

The doctor sat on the stool alongside his patient.  He helped the injured man lower his pants past the cotton drawers to expose his thigh and placed his bag on the cot.  He opened the bag and removed bandage shears and new bandages then proceeded to go about the process of examining the wound’s healing progress and changing the bandage.

Heyes watched the activity in the adjoining cell from the cot on his side of the bars with avid interest.

Curry jerked his leg in response to a prod of the doctor’s fingers, knocking over the doctor’s bag, spilling the contents onto the cot and floor.

“Look what you did, Thaddeus.  You should be more careful,” admonished Heyes.

“Sorry about that Doc.  I couldn’t help it; the leg was sore but that spot you prodded sent a shooting pain though it.  Here, let me help you gather them up.”  Curry sounded contrite as he gathered the instruments spread around on the bed while the doctor picked his tools and supplies of the profession off the floor, both men depositing their finds in the black bag placed back on the cot.

Sheriff Rhitt inquired, “You get everything back, Doc?” as he watched the commotion.

The doctor twisted around to face the lawman.  “Yes, I did.  Thank you.”  He turned back to find Mr. Jones closing the bag.

“Don’t want to spill everything out again.  How about you sittin’ here with me and put the bag on the stool,” suggested Curry.  “How’s the wound lookin’?  I’m still pretty worn out and sleepin’ a lot.  How much can I do with the leg?  Not that there is a lot to do in jail,” he continued as he shifted closer to the bars between the two cells.


“Heyes, are you still trying to figure out that box thing?  How can you even concentrate with that deputy snoring up a storm over there?  Can you see?  He’s got the light pretty dim.”

Heyes flicked his eyes up to meet the Kid’s through the bars then returned to what he was doing.”  I can see just fine.”

“Will that probe thing of the doc’s work, do you think?”

“Yep, quiet for a minute, I think I almost figured out this piece.”

The Kid ignored him.  “So, we’re leavin’ tonight?”

“No, not tonight.”

“Why not tonight?  I think we should go tonight.”

“You can’t ride.  If we use our horses, we’ll have to ride hard and fast.  The deputy is only gone about an hour or two when he does his night rounds.  I think the timing depends upon if a certain dove is in the saloon or not.  I haven’t heard any trains coming by in the middle of the night yet and I don’t think any stages are leaving.  Now go back to sleep and get some rest.”

“I’ve been restin; for days now.  I can ride.  It won’t be the best thing for my leg, but I’ll keep up with you.  I think we should go tonight.  I don’t want to take a chance of the marshals showin’ up early.”

“Shush will ya?  I’ve almost got this figured out.”

“Heyes, is openin’ that box keepin’ us here?  We leave tonight.  Give me that thing!” snapped Curry with quiet annoyance.  He stuck his hand through the bars and snatched the puzzle box out of Heyes’ hands.

“Kid, I kinda feel sorry for the sheriff.  His girl’s answer to his proposal in in the middle of that thing.  He was struggling even more than me to get it apart without ruining the craftsmanship.  When I get it open, that lawman is gonna feel a little bit kinder towards us and maybe a little obligated to not be so strenuous in pursuit of law and order.  It was made by Herta’s father who doesn’t want his daughter to marry a sheriff.”

“I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry a sheriff either.”

“That’s ‘cause you’re an outlaw.  Marty Rhitt is pretty decent, for a sheriff, kinda like Lom, I bet.  Now give me back the box.”

The Kid sat up in bed and studied the object in his hand.  “No, let me try for a little while.  Hand over the pieces you have apart already.  Then try to rest.  We leave tonight.”


“Hand them over, Heyes.  If I get it apart without breakin’ it, can we leave tonight?”

“Have I ever told you that your stubbornness is annoying?”

“Many times, but my stubbornness is gonna keep me on my horse and movin’ fast when we leave later.”

Heyes sighed.  He handed over the pieces from the cardboard box then got as comfortable as one can get on a jail cell cot for some shut eye.

Three hours later, Heyes was drifting back to awareness when he detected a satisfied quiet humming coming from his partner’s cell.  He sat up, rubbed his eyes and stared in shock at Curry.  Heyes’ jaw dropped open.  Kid Curry was sitting on his cot, a small pink piece of paper unfolded on his lap, the fully assembled puzzle box sitting on the cot and a small red enameled heart-shaped box being lightly tossed from hand to hand.

Locked by Nell McKeon 12_hea10

The Kid smiled.  He held up the unfolded pink piece of paper and read aloud, “Yes.  I will marry you.  I love you with all my heart.  Ahh, I guess the father will have to get used to having a sheriff for a son-in-law whether he likes it or not.”

“You opened it?  You opened it in that short a time?” accused Heyes is disbelief.

“Yep.  Can we leave tonight now?”

“Prove it, show me,” demanded Heyes.

Curry did just that, he slowly demonstrated the tricks and intricacies of the puzzle’s construction by disassembling and reassembling the object to Heyes reluctant satisfaction.

“Heyes, don’t sulk and take your problem with the puzzle box to heart.  You’re still a genius planner and problem solver.  You get past any lock that you put your mind to and can figure out the most intricate plan.  The thing is that this wasn’t a lock.  I should probably be insulted that you didn’t think I would be able to figure the thing out.  I’m just gonna say it was easier for me ‘cause I’m used to takin’ apart and puttin’ back together mechanical things with small parts that have to work a certain way, like my gun.  I have to be, our lives depend upon it.  It’s second nature, like you with a new safe.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, I do.  And you know what else I think?  I think we can leave tonight.”

Heyes looked once more at the puzzle box and the lock on the cell door.  The deputy snored on.  The dimple appeared as the grin spread across Heyes’ face.  He pulled out the doctor’s thin metal probe from beneath his mattress and put it into his pocket.  “You’re sure you can ride?  The doc said…”

“I know what the doc said and we both know that doctors are cautious.  Caution outlaws, or ex-outlaws like you and me, can’t afford.  Yeah, I can stay on my horse.  You just get us to the livery.”

“All right, Kid, we’ll go tonight as soon as the deputy leaves on his rounds.  But before we go, we have to leave a note explaining how take the thing apart and put it back together again on the sheriff’s desk.  Who knows?  Maybe he’ll be so grateful – nah he won’t, but he might be intrigued enough that it will slow him down on forming a posse.”

“Now, that’s a plan.  I told you you’d think of somethin’.  You always come through.”

“Better rest up now, Kid, ‘cause as soon as the deputy leaves to do his rounds…”

“We’re outta here!”

Four Months Later

Deputy Dan returned to the sheriff’s office.  He dropped a brown paper wrapped parcel on the desk in front of his boss.  The sheriff looked up in surprise as the package thudded down.  “When I stopped by the stage stop and post, the clerk asked if I’d deliver this to you since I was goin’ back to the jail.”

“What’s that?” inquired Deputy Steve from across the office where he was rearranging the wanted posters on the bulletin board, Hannibal Heyes’ and Kid Curry’s still prominently displayed.

“I don’t rightly know.  I didn’t order anything and there’s no return address on the package.  It’s posted from Winslow, Arizona.  I don’t know anyone in Arizona.  Do any of you?”


“Not me.  Open it, Marty.”

Marty Rhitt snipped the string and unwrapped the paper to reveal a slim hardbound book “The Origins and Secrets of Puzzle Boxes.”  As the sheriff picked the book up two pieces of paper fluttered to the desk.  One was a clipping of a wedding announcement for Sheriff Martin Rhitt and Miss Herta Bauer, formerly of Saint Louis.  The other was a short note.  “Congratulations on your marriage.  May you stay safe, keep your town safe, and have a long, healthy, and happy life together.  I see the puzzle box worked out for you.  Don’t bother looking at the post mark, we have long since moved on.  Sincerely Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, (Retired).”  At the bottom in a different hand was “P.S.  It was Heyes’ plan, but it took the gunslinger to solve the puzzle.  My leg is as good as new, please thank the doc.  And thank Deputy Dan for not breaking the bone.  It was a nice shot.”

Marty Rhitt howled in laughter.

The deputies competed to express their displeasure as their faces reddened, eyes narrowed, and brows furrowed.

“Can you believe that?” Deputy Steve slammed his flat palm in frustration on Heyes’ wanted poster.

“What unmitigated gall of those outlaws to rub our noses into it.”  Deputy Dan’s fist clenched.

“It took a lot of nerve to send that.”

“I was aiming to shoot him in the middle of the leg, now I wish my aim wasn’t off.  No, I should have shot him in the middle of both legs.  That would have stopped them from escaping.”  Dan’s fist unclenched to grip the butt of the revolver riding his hip as if he was ready to draw.

“Don’t worry, guys, those two have escaped from better men than us, and bigger jails.  Maybe they really have retired and fate feels they should be free.  I kinda liked them; under different circumstances I woulda liked them as friends.”  The sheriff’s chuckles grew into a full-fledged belly laugh at his deputies disgusted looks of disbelief and wounded pride.


Puzzle Box

A puzzle box is a box that can only be opened by solving a puzzle.  Some require only a simple move and others a series of discoveries.

Modern puzzle boxes developed from furniture and jewelry boxes with secret compartments and hidden openings, known since Renaissance time.  Puzzle boxes produced for entertainment first appeared in Victorian England in the 19th century and as tourist souvenirs in the Interlaken region in Switzerland as well as in the Hakone region of Japan at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.  Boxes with secret openings appeared as souvenirs at other tourist destinations during early 20th century, including the Amalfi Coast, Madeira, and Sri Lanka, though these were mostly 'one-trick' traditions.  Chinese cricket boxes represent another example of intricate boxes with secret openings.

Interest in puzzle boxes subsided during and after the two World Wars.  The art was revived in the 1980s by three pioneers of this genre: Akio Kamei in Japan, Trevor Wood in England, and Frank Chambers in Ireland.  There are currently a number of artists producing puzzle boxes, including the Karakuri group in Japan set up by Akio Kamei, US puzzle box specialists Robert Yarger and Kagen Sound, as well as a number of other designers and puzzle makers who produce puzzle boxes across the globe.

Sweet Betsy from Pike

"Sweet Betsy from Pike" is an American ballad about the trials of a pioneer named Betsy and her lover Ike who migrate from Pike County (probably Missouri) to California.  This Gold Rush-era song, with lyrics written by John A. Stone before 1858, was collected and published in Carl Sandburg's 1927 American Songbag.  It was recorded by Burl Ives on February 11, 1941 for his debut album Okeh Presents the Wayfaring Stranger.  The melody is of English extraction and is also that of the ballad "Villikins and his Dinah".  Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

The terms "Betsy" and "Old Betsy" were common frontier nicknames for rifles.  In the 1980s, poet and scholar John Ciardi theorized that the song was originally a comic tribute to a rifle, portraying it as a pioneer's trusty but fiery companion.  He suggested that amended versions sung by countless people had eventually turned it into a song about a real woman.

The most verifiable traditional lyrics, which are in the public domain, are:

Did you ever hear tell of Sweet Betsy from Pike,
Who crossed the wide mountains with her lover Ike,
Two yoke of cattle, a large yeller dog,
A tall Shanghai rooster, and a one-spotted hog.
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-oo-ra-li-ay.

They swam the wide rivers and crossed the tall peaks,
And camped on the prairie for weeks upon weeks.
Starvation and cholera, hard work and slaughter--
They reached California 'spite of hell and high water.

One evening quite early they camped on the Platte,
Twas near by the road on a green shady flat.
Betsy, sore-footed, lay down to repose--
With wonder Ike gazed on that Pike County rose.

Out on the prairie one bright starry night,
They broke out the whiskey and Betsy got tight.
She sang and she shouted and danced o'er the plain
And showed her bare arse to the whole wagon train.

The Injuns came down in a thundering horde,
And Betsy was scared they would scalp her adored.
So under the wagon-bed Betsy did crawl
And she fought off the Injuns with musket and ball.

The wagon broke down with a terrible crash,
And out on the prairie rolled all sorts of trash.
A few little baby-clothes, done up with care,
Looked rather suspicious, but all on the square.

They stopped at Salt Lake to inquire of the way,
When Brigham declared that Sweet Betsy should stay.
Betsy got frightened and ran like a deer,
While Brigham stood pawing the ground like a steer.

The alkali desert was burning and bare,
And Isaac's soul shrank from the death that lurked there.
"Dear old Pike County, I'll go back to you"--
Says Betsy, "You'll go by yourself if you do!"

They soon reached the desert, where Betsy gave out,
And down in the sand she lay rolling about.
Ike in great wonder looked on in surprise,
Saying, "Betsy, get up, you'll get sand in your eyes."

Sweet Betsy got up in a great deal of pain.
She declared she'd go back to Pike County again.
Ike gave a sigh, and they fondly embraced,
And they traveled along with his arm round her waist.

The Shanghai ran off, and the cattle all died,
That morning the last piece of bacon was fried.
Ike got discouraged, Betsy got mad,
The dog drooped his tail and looked wonderfully sad.

They suddenly stopped on a very high hill,
With wonder looked down upon old Placerville.
Ike said to Betsy, as he cast his eyes down,
"Sweet Betsy, my darling, we've got to Hangtown."

Long Ike and Sweet Betsy attended a dance.
Ike wore a pair of his Pike County pants.
Betsy was covered with ribbons and rings.
Says Ike, "You're an angel, but where is your wings?"

A miner said, "Betsy, will you dance with me?"
"I will that, old hoss, if you don't make too free.
Don't dance me hard, do you want to know why?
Doggone you, I'm chock-full of strong alkali."

This Pike County couple got married, of course,
But Ike became jealous, and obtained a divorce.
Betsy, well-satisfied, said with a shout,
"Goodbye, you big lummox, I'm glad you backed out!"

Reference - Wikapedia
Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
Post on Sat 24 Nov 2018, 5:01 pm by Penski
clap Love this episode, Nell McKeon! Such much tension in the beginning with the chase. Love how the Kid was able to do something Heyes couldn't. Great ending!
Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
Post on Sat 24 Nov 2018, 6:12 pm by aliasfluffyone
Enjoyed reading.
Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
Post on Sun 25 Nov 2018, 10:40 pm by Laura
I really liked this story. Heyes was right, Kid did not like his plan, but giving up was the only thing to do. Heyes was frustrated about not being able to open the puzzle box and not being able to see the Kid. I really liked that Kid got the box open in just a few hours when Heyes couldn't. The note they sent to the sheriff was a nice touch and had the added kicker of ticking off the deputies.
Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
Post on Sat 01 Dec 2018, 3:54 pm by InsideOutlaw
This read so visually I could really see the action. Sheriff Rhitt was a great character showing integrity, compassion, and intelligence.  Loved the authenticity of the shootout with all the details about planning for vantage points and likely scenarios between Heyes and the Kid as well as the sheriff and his posse.  It made it real. You really showcased our heroes talents, too.  Love the Kid solving the puzzle and his modest explanation to his partner. Thanks for a great read!
Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
Post on Thu 13 Dec 2018, 4:07 am by moonshadow
What a fun, action-packed adventure! As I read through it I could picture folks watching this as an episode and being glued to their seats during the chase and shootout.
Adding in such an intriguing thing as the puzzle box was a special bonus. Heyes did the first puzzle and Kid succeeded in the second one so even in puzzle solving they're a great team.
Lots of great bantering moments, quips and interaction with the other characters rounded this episode out and made for very enjoyable reading.
Your story made me decide to keep my eyes peeled; I'm gonna find me a puzzle box of my own and see how I do! smile
Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
Post on Sun 06 Jan 2019, 10:48 am by Nightwalker
Wonderful story. I just love your picturesque writing style.

A situation must be very serious, when Heyes feels the need to admit he might be wrong. And he’s instantly rewarded by his partner’s trust. You captured the relationship of the boys so well.
To Heyes his partner’s health has the highest priority, making the right decision was probably easier for him than convincing his partner.

Kid Curry has so many chances to show his talents and proof his worth. It’s so great that the Kid solved his part of the puzzle in the end. He is keen and skillful and nobody should ever underestimate him. So sweet that he show’s that he’s a good loser and appreciates the abilities of another got shooter.

I really like the side story about the sheriff in love and the trial by his future father-in-law.

The story ends with a beautiful epilogue and I have to admit, I really would have loved to see this episode on screen.
Re: Locked by Nell McKeon
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