Uncertain of Jim Stokely's fate, Heyes and Curry continue to search for clues while they play a game of cat-and-mouse with a gang of suspected killers.
Pete Duel and Ben Murphy
As Hannibal Heyes and Jed “Kid” Curry
Monte Markham as Jim Stokely
Sam Elliott as Sheriff Walter Stone
Garth Brooks as Roy Lassiter
Scott Wilson as Thomas Martin
Elinor Donahue as Anne Martin
Michael Weatherly as Jonathan Bascomb
Larry Corbin as Cobb Winters
Tommy Lee Jones as Mitch
Max Thieriot as Carson
Ryan Kelley as Sam
Jared Padalecki as Jesse
Misha Collins as Marty
WATER THE CHANCES?
THE NEXT MORNING, OUTSIDE THE LINE SHACK
When Sheriff Stone woke up he discovered, somewhat to his dismay, that he was sitting in a chair on the front porch of the line shack he had gone to check out the night before. His hands and feet were bound and he was secured to the chair by a thick rope around his chest. In addition, although he couldn't reach up to touch it, he knew he'd find a sizable bump on the back of his head because it was pounding like he'd been kicked by a mule.
“Comfortable, Sheriff?” Heyes inquired solicitously as he approached the lawman.
“Hmph – what do you think?” the sheriff snapped and squinted up at him. “I'm guessing you're the one who jumped me when I came up here last night?”
Heyes' shoulders lifted in a noncommittal shrug.
Stone eyed him from head to toe. “So you're Kid Curry, huh?”
Heyes shook his head and grinned. “No; no, I'm not the Kid.”
“You're Hannibal Heyes, then!”
“I'm not admitting to that either.”
The lawman's eyes narrowed. “Well, what're you gonna do with me?”
“Just keep you outta circulation for a while, that's all.” Heyes sat down in the chair next to the sheriff. “And I'm even gonna tell you why.”
The lawman's brow furrowed as he cast the ex-outlaw a doubtful look.
“You see, Sheriff, it's like this: Even though you know that Winters swindled all those good people outta their money, you can't legally do one thing about it.”
“Well, yes, that's true but…”
“We've got a very good friend who's missing – Jim Stokely – might even be dead for all anybody knows. You can't do anything about that either, not without some kind of firm evidence.”
“Well, no, but I…”
“You can't, but I can.” Heyes leaned forward, his hands clasped together. “See, I've got a plan. The trouble is, I'll need a free hand for a few days to make it work.”
“If I wasn't an officer of the law I'd wish you luck, but as it is, it's my sworn duty to put you behind bars.”
Heyes stood up. “And that's exactly why you're here; so none of us will get hurt.”
Stone mulled that over for a moment. “Well, now that we've got that all settled, how about some grub?”
“Right away, Sheriff.”
THE MARTIN KITCHEN
“I think these look pretty authentic…” Curry, as well as his sentence, came to an abrupt halt when he entered the kitchen and saw the stranger seated on a stool. He quickly stuffed the papers he held into his pocket.
The man turned to face the Kid. Scraggly long hair covered most of his bearded face and his clothes looked as if they had seen better days, but there was something strangely familiar about him just the same.
Curry took a few steps closer. “Heyes?” he ventured tentatively. “Is that you?”
“I think you've got me confused with somebody else, mister,” the stranger cackled.
“Oh, there you are, Thaddeus,” Anne said as entered from the living room carrying a bottle of whiskey. “I see you've met Lester.”
After giving 'Lester' a thorough once-over, including a firm tug on the beard, the Kid grinned. “If I didn't know better... that's a great disguise – you've created a whole new person!”
“That's the idea,” Heyes grinned. “I'm going to be up close and personal with Winters' men and then Cobb himself; I have to be able to pass inspection.”
“You'll do. Speaking of inspection...” Curry dug down into his pocket and pulled out the papers. “Here. Took 'em out an' rolled 'em around in the dirt a bit.”
Heyes reached out and took them. After a quick glance he wadded them up and shoved them into a coat pocket.
“Here you go, Joshua.” Anne held out the whiskey. “Father's contribution to the plan.”
“Perfect. Tell him thank you for this, as well as helping with the map.” He held up an onion. “I'm not sure whether or not to thank you for this, yet.”
“He's delighted to be a part of putting Cobb Winters out of business. As for that,” she gestured to the onion, “just make sure you don't swallow it.”
Heyes nodded as he poured himself a glass of the whiskey, took a big swallow, swished it around in his mouth for a bit, then went to stand by the sink and spat it out. Next, he poured a liberal amount into his hands and splashed his face, neck and shirt several times. He picked up the onion with a grimace, and took a big bite. After chewing it several times, he leaned over to spit out the pieces in the trash bin.
Curry wandered over to join him.
“How do I smell?” Heyes stepped closer and exhaled heavily in Curry's direction.
The Kid waved his hand vigorously in front of his face, fanning it while his nose wrinkled in disgust. “Whew – like you've been swimmin' in a whiskey lake filled with soured onions!” he choked out and hastily took a step backwards, rubbing at his nose. “All you havta do is get real close to Winters an' breathe jus' like that an' we won't have to worry 'bout him anymore!” he quipped.
“The whole idea is for them not to get too close.” Heyes grinned and took another swig of the whiskey.
“Well, one whiff of you an' they'll stay far away!” Curry chuckled.
“From now on, it's up to you, Thaddeus. Don't forget I'm in that place if it comes to any shooting.”
“Don't worry; I've got your back.”
Anne saw them to the door and waved them off. “We'll be keeping our fingers crossed; good luck to both of you.”
THE WATERING HOLE SALOON
Heyes weaved his way through the batwing doors of the saloon and bellied up to the bar, leaning heavily on it for support. He removed his hat from his head and let it drop down onto the bar. “Hey, barkeep,” he slurred as he mopped his brow with his shirtsleeve. “What's a man gotta do to get a drink? My throat's real parched an' I wanna drink – right now – ya hear?!” He slapped his palm down on the bar for emphasis.
The barkeep meandered over and eyed the newcomer with a morose expression.
“My name's Lester,” the man announced in a loud voice and slapped some coins down on the bar. “An' I wanna whiskey.” He smacked his lips and rested his head down in his hands, elbows propped on the counter.
The barkeep picked up a nearby bottle and began to pour.
“Hey – I don't none of that cheap whiskey! I wanna drink the good stuff today 'cos I'm celebratin'!”
The barkeep rolled his eyes as he reached down under the bar to grab another bottle, poured the drink and set the glass down in front of his customer with a thud.
Lester leaned down closer to the bar, eyeballed the glass and then reached for it, but missed. Squinting, he tried again and this time he came close enough to grasp it with his fingers, but when he tried to lift the shot glass, it slipped from his hand, spilling its contents all over the counter. “What happened?” he cried and looked askance at the barkeep. “Why'd ya do that for? I was gonna drink it!” His face clouded over. “Now it's all gone.”
Shaking his head in exasperation and heaving an exaggerated sigh, the barkeep mopped up the mess and took the money Lester had laid down. “If ya want more, it's gonna cost ya, mister.”
“I got money – I got plenty of money! Why, I'm gonna be rich once I find Mister Cobb Winters.” He dug around in his pocket, pulled out more coins and tossed them onto the bar. “Maybe ya know him? Hey – ya know where I can find him? I'll even give ya some money after he helps me find the trea…” he slapped a hand across his mouth.
After a furtive look around, he lowered his hand and continued. “Whoopsy-daisy, dang near spilled the beans! Shhh...” Lester put a finger to his lips and stage-whispered. “It's a secret; I can't tell nobody 'cept Cobb Winters. Yesirree, my treasure map's a BIG secret,” he chortled. “A $50,000 secret!”
He picked up the glass and, as he raised it to his lips, he tilted his head back just far enough to glance into the mirror that hung on the wall behind the bar. In it, he could see the reflections of the five men sitting at the table right behind him. Their poker game forgotten, they were all watching him intently. Downing the drink, he slammed the glass down hard on the bar. “I wanna see Cobb Winters right now!” he demanded.
“He's not here right now, so you're jus' gonna havta wait. Do ya want another drink or not?”
“'Course I do – there's my money – pour!” Lester commanded. Once the drink was sitting in front of him, he reached out to cradle it with both hands and pulled it towards him slowly. He brought it up to his lips and downed it in one gulp. “Ahhh, that sure 'nough hits the spot!” he sighed. “Pour me another!” he demanded and turned around to face the room. Elbows propped on the bar behind him, Lester smacked his lips while his eyes scanned the room.
“Sure wish Winters was here,” Lester continued, talking to himself in a mournful tone. “I really need to see him. I wanna show him my map so he can find out where the treasure's buried.” He hung his head and stared at the floor. “All that money,” he sighed, “jus' sittin' there, buried an' waitin' for someone to find it...”
Lester heaved a sigh of deep regret and raised his head to look at the poker players. “Hey, maybe one of you fellas can tell me how to find Cobb Winters?” He stumbled towards the table and, once there, he slapped the back of the player closest to him. “Can ya help me, mister?” he leaned down and breathed hard into the man's face. As he did so, his arm brushed up against a bottle of whiskey. It toppled over, spilling the liquor all over the table.
“Hey – get offa me!” The man made a face and pushed him away. “Phew – the crazy old coot stinks to high heaven!”
Lester staggered backwards, fighting to keep his balance, until his back hit the bar. He stayed where he was and gazed with bleary-eyed reproach at his antagonist.
One of the other players righted the bottle the drunk had knocked down in his stupor and gave the speaker a pointed look. “Now, is that any way to treat our new friend, Jesse?”
“He hasn't breathed on you yet, Mitch!”
Mitch turned to the newcomer. “Hey, mister. Why don't you come back over here and we'll see if we can help you,” he coaxed. “We'll even pour you a drink.”
“He don't need no more to drink!” grumbled Jesse. “He can barely stand up now!”
While Lester stumbled his way back to the table, Jesse was quick to move the bottle of whiskey out of his way.
“Here, mister,” Mitch patted the chair. “Sit down right here next to me.”
“My name's Lester,” the newcomer hiccupped and dropped heavily down onto the chair.
“I'm Mitch. You've already met Jesse.” Mitch pointed to each man in turn. “Next to him is Carson, the one with the busted hand is Sam, and this one's Marty.”
“Hiya, fellas.” A silly grin on his face, Lester waved and blinked as he tried to focus on each of their swimming faces.
“Now, what's this about a map?” Mitch asked casually as Jesse poured a drink and sat it in front of Lester.
Eyes wide in shocked surprise, Lester's voice was strangled as he gasped, “Ya know about my map?” He attempted to put his elbow on the table, narrowly missing it and almost fell out of his chair. “Whoa – who moved the table?” he chortled and reached for the shot glass. When he grabbed air instead, he sat staring at his empty hand in a stupor.
Rolling his eyes, Mitch reached for the glass and put it into Heyes' hand. “The map?” he repeated with a hint of impatience.
Lester reached into his pocket and pulled out the papers, holding them in a tight grip. “I can only tell Cobb Winters. Nobody else, 'cos it's a treasure... gold. Nobody's 'sposed to know.” He put a finger to his lips. “Shhh, it's a secret.” He hiccupped and rambled on. “See, my friend wrote me a letter – he's in prison now – robbed a mine 'round here 'bout five years ago an' got $50,000 in gold.”
The men at the table reacted with various expressions.
“There was a robbery here about five years ago,” Carson mused. “The way the story goes, the gold from it was never found.”
Lester nodded several times and then held his head as if dizzy. “Shouldn't do that,” he mumbled and then smacked his lips several times before he continued. “My friend wants me to go find the gold, wherever it is. He buried it somewhere, under somebody's house, at some farm 'round here... but I dunno one place from another, an' that's why I wanna see Winters. He knows 'em all. He'll know where the gold is.”
Cobb Winters was passing by their table, but paused to listen when he heard the words gold treasure and his name mentioned.
Although Mitch and the others noticed Winters' presence, they didn't acknowledge him; all of the men wore scowls upon their faces.
Lester didn't give any indication that he was aware of the man standing near them and tried to put the glass on the table. He missed and the liquid spilled all over Jesse's feet.
“That's it!” he snapped. “YOU can sit next to this fool – I'm going over to the bar where it's safe!” Jesse stomped away in an effort to get the whiskey off his boots.
“Some people ain't very so-she-a-ble,” Lester muttered.
Mitch ignored him and said smoothly, “Say, if you'll just share what you know with us, we might be able to help you find what you're looking for.”
“Nosiree.” Lester shook his head. “My friend said the treasure's buried around here somewhere... on a farm... but there's so many, I'm not sure which one. That's why I gotta show Winters my map. He can tell me what farm it is. I don't know one place from another 'round here. An' that's why I'm only gonna talk to Mister Cobb Winters.” He sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “I'm not gonna say another word 'til I see him.”
Winters stepped forward and tapped Lester on the shoulder. “Well, mister, you're in luck, 'cos I'm Cobb Winters.”
“You are? Really? I been lookin' all over for you!” Lester stood up and hugged him, breathing hard into the man's face. “I gotta gold map right here, see?” He shoved the papers in Cobb's face.
Winters quickly disengaged himself from Lester and steered him towards his office. “Let's go into my office to talk; it's much more private.”
“Wheee, hey – we're goin' really fast!” Lester chortled, stumbling along with Cobb. “Hey, wait a minute, I need to get my hat…” he pulled free of Winters' hand and barely managed to grab his hat before Winters' caught up to him and took him by the arm again, half-dragging, half-carrying the inebriated man. “Whoa... the whole room's spinnin' 'round n' 'round,” he hiccupped as he was shoved into Winters' office. While the other man was otherwise occupied, Lester quickly shoved the papers down deep inside his pants pocket.
Cobb closed the door and locked it, shutting off any further observations from the men sitting outside.
The men left sitting at the poker table watched the door close in silence. Jesse wandered back over to join them.
“Don't that beat all? $50,000!” Carson whistled softly. “I ain't never seen that much money before in my whole life!”
“If we'd had just a few more minutes, I could've talked that old timer into letting us have a look at that map!” Mitch groused and poured himself a drink. “Now I bet Winters' gonna hog it all!”
“Yeah, you're right,” Sam agreed and downed his drink in one swallow. “Ain't that the way it always is?” He held up his injured hand. “An' this is what I got to show for all my trouble!”
“Just for once I'd like for us to get what we deserve!” Marty snapped. “We're the ones doin' all the dirty work an' takin' all the chances. How come we never get any of the money?”
“It's true – every time we run into something good we never get any of it!” complained Jesse. “Why should Winters be the one who always gets it?”
“We'll see about that. This time things are gonna to be different!” Mitch vowed, his eyes coming to rest on the closed door.
INSIDE COBB WINTERS' OFFICE
Winters pushed the drunk into a chair by the desk.
“$50,000 sure is a whole lotta gold,” Lester slurred.
“Yes it is,” Cobb agreed and sat down next to him at the desk. “Now, let's see that map of yours.”
Lester fumbled around in his pockets, one at a time, then began all over again, patting each one before he searched inside. “I dunno what happened to it; it was right here a minute ago.” When he came up empty-handed again, he leaned over towards Winters and began to search Cobb's pockets one by one, breathing heavily into the man's face while he patted each one as he searched.
Winters turned his face to the side, not bothering to hide his disgust and slapped Lester's hands away. “It wouldn't be in my pockets!” he snapped.
“I can't see anything...” Lester mumbled. “Everything's all fuzzy.”
Winters reached over and, with thinly-veiled annoyance, pulled the drunk's hat back and brusquely brushed his hair out of his face. “There!”
“Hey – I can see!” Lester chortled. He leaned forward, slid out of his chair and ended up on the floor. He looked up at Cobb in confused surprise. “What happened?”
Cobb heaved a deep sigh of annoyance, picked the man up and shoved him none-too-gently back into his chair.
“Oomph!” Lester said and hiccupped loudly.
“The map?” Cobb ground out through clenched teeth.
Lester looked around and put a finger to his lips. “Shhh, not so loud. It's a secret.”
“There's nobody in here but you and me!” Cobb snapped.
“Good.” Lester patted a pants pocket and grinned. “Hey, here it is!” he announced with child-like wonderment as he pulled papers out. “Looky – I found the map!”
“Finally!” Cobb put his hand out, but the map was snatched away out of reach.
“Hold on – I can't let jus' anyone see this map. It's a lotta gold, mister. I ain't gonna show it to nobody 'cept Mr. Cobb Winters.”
Cobb drew in a deep breath. “I am Cobb Winters!”
“How do I know you're really him? Can ya prove it?”
Nostrils flaring, Winters stared at the other man in frustration. “See that window in the door over there? It says 'Cobb Winters, Owner. THIS is Cobb Winters' office. YOU are sitting in Cobb Winters' chair, inside Cobb Winters' office and right now you are looking at Cobb Winters – I am Cobb Winters!”
Lester squinted at him. “Oh... yeah, ya do kinda look like him.”
With thinly-veiled patience, Cobb held out his hand. “The map?”
Eyeing him with mistrust, Lester held the papers tight against his chest. Slowly he lowered them and held out them out.
Cobb grabbed the papers and unfolded them. Once they were flat, he began to peruse them.
Lester swung a companionable arm around Cobb's shoulders and leaned in to read along with Winters, once more breathing heavily into the man's face.
Cobb shook off the arm and moved his chair a few paces away.
With an affronted expression, Lester slid to the end of his chair and stabbed his finger at a place on the paper. “See right there…”
Cobb cut him off. “I'm trying to see!” he snapped. “Now sit there and be quiet so I can look these over!”
Lester smacked his lips a few times while his eyes roamed the room. “Nothin' to drink in here,” he muttered and hiccupped loudly.
Winters ignored him and continued to read the letter. Next he perused the map. “Let's see, here's the stream, and there's the town...” He rose and walked over to a file cabinet. Opening a drawer, he began to rummage around in it. “Ah, this looks like it...” he mumbled under his breath.
“Did ya find it?” Lester piped up eagerly.
Cobb whirled around, suddenly recalling there was someone else in the room. “What?”
“The house the treasure's buried under.”
“Oh, uh... well, yes and no,” Winters prevaricated. “You see, I'm just not sure; I'll have to do some more checking up on this.” He walked back towards the other man. “Hey, I've got an idea; why don't you leave this here with me for a few days? I'll have time to go through all my records and see what I can find.”
With his elbow on the edge of the table, his head propped up in his hand, Lester mumbled, “Well, guess that'd be alright...” He sat up suddenly, as if someone had lit a fire under him. “But ya gotta give me some kinda receipt for it. I ain't leavin' here without no receipt; nosireee.” He shook his head. “I don't want no problems when I come back. If ya don't, then I'm not gonna leave it here; I'm gonna take it with me.”
“Fine – I'll write you out a receipt!” Cobb snapped. He snatched up a pad of paper and scribbled on it furiously. He then tore the sheet off the pad and practically shoved it in Lester's face. “Here – come back in two days!”
Lester squinted, attempting to focus his eyes on the words. He even brought the paper up close to his face and scrunched his eyes again.
With a roll of his eyes and a sigh of exasperation, Winters reached out and turned the paper right way up.
A silly grin on his face, Lester chuckled, “Oh, that's much better!”
Cobb yanked Lester unceremoniously up and out of the chair, then gave him a shove in the direction of the door.
Lester turned in Winters' arms and grabbed him by the shoulders, breathing heavily into the other man's face. Cobb tried to pull back, but Lester only tightened his grip. “Two days,” he slurred, holding two fingers up against Winters' chest. He stared at the fingers and repeated, “Two days. That's the day after tomorrow – right?”
“Yes!” snapped Cobb as he broke free at last from the other man's embrace. He opened the door and pushed Lester through it.
Lester spun around, put his foot in the door and held up two fingers. “Remember... I'll see ya in two days.” He stood in the doorway until Cobb kicked his foot out of the way and shut the door in his face.
“Stupid imbecile!” Winters muttered and turned to walk back to his desk. Before he had taken more than a few steps, there was a series of loud, pounding knocks on the door. “Now what?” He crossed back to the door and when he opened it, he blinked in surprise when he saw the drunk standing there.
“I forgot to give ya back your gun.” Lester held the weapon out.
Cobb looked down at his empty holster and snatched the gun from the man's hand. “Get outta here!” he ordered and slammed the door.
The men sitting at the poker table watched in silence as the office door opened and Lester stumbled out, then leaned against the wall for support. When the door slammed shut, they turned back to the table.
“Looks like they're all done sharing secrets,” Mitch commented sourly.
“Hey,” Sam hissed. “Lester's heading our way!”
“Good,” Carson nodded. “Let's see what he has to say.”
They waited until the inebriated man weaved his way towards them.
“Hey, there you are, buddy,” Mitch called out as he poured a drink. “So,” he inquired with nonchalance, “was Mr. Winters able to help you?” He held the glass out.
Staggering to the table, his eyes focused on the glass in Mitch's hand, Lester licked his lips. “You fellas are my friends – my best friends,” he slurred as he reached out and took the drink. “An' I'm gonna give ya some of my gold when I find it.” Putting the glass to his mouth, he finished the drink and then tipped his head back to get the last drop. In doing so, he lost his balance and fell backwards into Jesse's lap. “Whoopsy daisy,” Lester chortled, his breath hitting the other man straight in the face. Mouth curled up into a silly grin, he swung an arm around Jesse's neck. “Hiya, friend.”
Jesse gave the drunk a hard shove.
“Hey!” Lester protested. From his position on the floor, he looked up in bewilderment. “Thought ya said ya was my friend?”
“Yeah, Jesse, remember, you should be real nice to our friend here. He was just about to tell us something, weren't you, Lester?”
“Maybe.” Lester crossed his arms across his chest and looked towards the bar. “Maybe not.”
Mitch stood up and reached down to help Lester to his feet. “Aw, c'mon Lester. You didn't mean no offense now, did you, Jesse?” When Jesse didn't answer, Mitch gave the man a pointed look.
“Naw,” Jesse grudgingly muttered. “Guess I didn't.”
“See? Now sit down right here and tell us what happened,” Mitch prompted.
Lester dropped into the empty chair and looked around the table with a confused expression. “What happened where?”
“In Mr. Winter's office.”
“Ohhh... ” Lester's face scrunched up. “We did a lot of talkin'. Well, mostly he talked an' I listened.”
“Did he find that place where the gold is buried?”
“Shh!” Lester put a finger to his mouth and glanced around. “It's a secret.”
“Well, we're your friends, and friends share secrets, right?”
“We're sharing our bottle of whiskey with you and you're sharing your secret with us. So, what did Winters find?”
Lester looked around the room and then leaned in closer. “He thinks it's buried out at the Martin place,” he whispered. “Under the dinin' room table. He's goin' out there to check it out as soon as he can.”
The five men exchanged glances.
Lester rose unsteadily to his feet. “Well, friends, 'ol Lester's gotta go now.” In a stage whisper he added, “Don't forget – I'm gonna share my gold with ya – so don't go leavin' town, okay?”
The men nodded and watched Lester stumble his way out of the saloon. Once he had pushed his way through the batwings, they began to converse in low tones.
“You know what we've gotta do, dontcha?” Carson asked.
“Yeah, and fast.” Keeping an eye on Winters' door, Mitch rose to his feet. “C'mon, let's get outta here.”
Collecting their money, the five men exited the saloon.
Once they were outside, Mitch motioned for them to go down the boardwalk away from the other townsfolk. “Jesse, you, Sam and Marty head on out to the Martin place. You heard what that old coot said, right? He told you where to look. Remember to be careful and, whatever you do, don't get caught!”
“Where're you gonna be?” Jesse cocked his head and looked at Mitch with suspicion. “I thought you wanted to find that gold? Why aren't you doing this yourself?”
“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “Why us?”
“Because we can't all go taking off – it'll look really suspicious. Nobody'll pay any attention to the three of you riding outta here. Carson and I will make sure nobody follows you. All you have to do is go out and check under that dining room table. Don't touch anything except what you're there for – and then come back to tell us what you found, okay?”
Mollified by the man's words, Jesse, Marty and Sam nodded.
“Now get going; we'll meet you back here afterwards.”
Waiting until the three men had walked out of earshot, Carson turned to Mitch. “You sly ol' devil, you,” he chuckled. “I swear, you almost had me believing you there for a minute!”
“Some men are more gullible than others,” Mitch grinned. “C'mon, I'll buy you a beer while we wait.”
Curry was waiting for Heyes in the alley with their horses. He gestured for Heyes to join him behind a pile of wooden crates. “I'm guessin' Winters didn't recognize you this time. So, how'd you do?”
“You're right; he didn't wanna get too close to me after I breathed on him a few times,” Heyes grinned as he began to remove some of his disguise. “He couldn't shove me outta his office fast enough. That map we made should lead him straight to Stokely's. I made sure those men of his knew exactly where to go; they seemed very interested.”
“Winters never said anything about Jim, did he?”
“No, and I never got the chance to ask,” Heyes answered as he traded Lester's clothing for his own. “He shoved me outta his office before I could see if he'd give anything away.”
“We're not any closer to findin’ anything more out about Jim than we were when we first rode in here!” Curry snapped. “For all we know, he could be dead!”
“No, we're not any closer,” Heyes agreed, settling his black hat on his head. “But we've almost got Winters; once that happens, we can let the sheriff take over. And just for the record, I don't think Stokely's dead. We're going to find him and when all this is over and done with, I'm going to tell him he owes us a steak supper, okay?” When Curry gave a reluctant shrug, Heyes added, “For now, let's get back to Jim's place and see who shows up first.”
As Heyes and Curry approached the Martin homestead, Roy and his men rode in from the opposite direction.
“You fellas have great timing!” Roy called out. “Three of Winters' men are on their way out here. They're just coming over the hill and should be here in a few minutes!”
“Already? Okay, everyone get in your places and remember, we're only trying to catch them, not kill them. Hold your fire and don't shoot unless they do.”
“Right,” the men chorused and spread out.
Heyes turned to the Kid. “Let's me and you get inside and make sure the coast is clear. I asked Anne to take Thomas for a ride so they'd be out of the way in case something went wrong.”
They checked out the house and found it empty.
The Kid was standing by the window when the men rode up. “They're here.”
“Head for the pantry. We can hear everything and still be out of sight in case anyone checks the kitchen.”
Curry nodded and Heyes followed him from the room.
OUTSIDE THE MARTIN HOME
“Hello?” Sam called out. He waited and then called out again in a louder voice, “Hello to the house – anybody home?” There was no answer.
“Looks like the place is empty,” Jesse called out after riding around the building. “Didn't see anyone out back.”
“There's only the two of 'em,” Sam shrugged. “Maybe the old man and that girl of his went into Little Bend.”
Jesse turned to the others. “You two wait out here while I go inside and have a look around. Holler if you hear or see anyone,” he added and went up the steps. He knocked on the door and waited. When no one answered, he eased the door open and called out loudly, “Hello, anybody here?” All he heard was silence so he shut the door and went into the dining room.
Easing his gun from his holster, Jesse pushed open the door to the study and then went into the kitchen. Satisfied that the house was empty, he holstered his gun and went back into the dining room. Pushing the table to the side, he lifted the rug underneath and stomped on the floor. Once he had located the hollow spot, he knelt down on his hands and knees and took out his pocketknife.
In the kitchen, Heyes and Curry emerged silently from the pantry and Heyes went to the side door to check with Roy. He then joined the Kid in the middle of the room and pulled his gun from his holster.
“Roy and his men are ready,” Heyes whispered. “I'll stay here and cover you while you go out and take care of whoever drew the short straw.”
Curry nodded and eased his gun out.
Heyes followed his partner as far as the dining room door and moved to the side as the Kid stepped through it. Easing the door open just enough to peer through without being seen, Heyes kept his eyes on Curry.
The Kid watched as Jesse eased the blade into the thin slits cut into the floorboards and reached down into the hole.
“Whatcha lookin' in there for?”
Jesse whirled around, gun in hand. His finger tightened on the trigger.
Curry fired and Jesse's weapon dropped to the ground.
Once Heyes was certain Jesse was taken care of, he went out the side door and found Roy and his men already tying up the other two. He caught the rope Roy tossed his way and re-joined his partner.
Curry tied Jesse up and pushed him out the door. “Okay, get on out there with the rest of your friends.”
When Sam saw that it was Curry who followed Jesse out the door, his features hardened. Twisting free from the man who was knotting the rope that bound his hands, he lurched towards the Kid. “You just can't keep your nose outta other people's business, can you?” he growled. “Lucky thing for you I'm all tied up, mister! Otherwise your friend would be plannin' your funeral!” Sam was pulled up short when Roy's man caught up to him and grabbed him by the arms.
“Luck has nothing to do with you being tied up,” Curry answered as he turned Jesse over to one of the other men. “It has to do with being a walk-off.” e turned to Roy and Heyes. “You ever noticed how big a man can talk when he doesn't have to back up his words?”
“Untie me!” Sam snarled. “I'll show you! Just give me the chance…”
Heyes stepped forward and pulled Sam's bandana loose from around his neck. Pulling it tight across the struggling man's mouth, Heyes knotted it in the back, then had to step back to avoid being head-butted by the prisoner. After listening to the muffled words that came from the irate man's mouth, Heyes grinned. “That's okay, you can thank me later, Sam.”
Heyes pulled Roy aside and spoke to him quietly, “They're all yours, Roy. Take these three into town and, since the sheriff's kinda 'tied up' at the moment, drop them off at Winters' place.” As Roy turned away, Heyes added, “Oh, and when you do, don't bother to untie them.”
“Sure thing, Joshua,” Roy winked. “All part of the plan, huh?”
“Yep,” Heyes nodded.
“That should take some of the orneriness outta 'em,” Roy chuckled. “Give 'em a taste of their own medicine! C'mon, men, let's get these varmints back where they belong.”
As the gang members were being led away, Sam pivoted about to give Curry one last glare of hatred, his animosity impossible to miss.
“Roy was right, Kid,” Heyes commented quietly as they watched the group leave with their prisoners. “Sam really has it in for you.”
“He wouldn't be the first,” Curry shrugged. “Whaddya think they'll do next?”
“I don't think they'll do anything,” Heyes answered. “If I'm right, Winters will be the next one to show up. I'm pretty sure he'll come alone, and when he does, here's what we're going to do...”
THE WATERING HOLE SALOON
When the three men reluctantly walked into the saloon trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys, the patrons began to laugh. Amid jeers and catcalls, Winters walked out of his office to see what was going on. Upon seeing Cobb's expression, a couple of the laughing poker players jumped up and began to undo the knots.
“What is this?” Winters demanded. “Some kinda game?”
“Not the kinda game I wanna play!” Jesse grumbled as he was being untied. “Those homesteaders jumped us and…”
“Homesteaders?” Winters gave a derisive snort. “What were you doing – making mud pies with 'em?”
“Mitch sent us out…” Jesse's protest was cut short when Winters held up his hand and turned to glare at Mitch, who was seated with Carson at a nearby table watching the show.
“Get into my office now!” Winters snapped at his henchman before he pivoted about and strode towards the door.
Mitch and Carson exchanged glances, then Mitch shrugged and rose to his feet languidly. As he passed by Jesse he gave him a hard stare. “Thought I told you not to get caught!” he hissed. Without giving Jesse a chance to reply, Mitch entered Winters' office. The door slammed shut behind him.
“I'm tired of your mistakes, Mitch! I'm paying you off – we're finished – through!” Winters went to the safe and removed some money. “Here.” He held out the bills.
“Alright,” Mitch drawled. “If that's the way you want it, but you might wanna keep in mind that there's a lotta things you should pay me to forget... Like that Blanchard murder, for instance.” He paused. “And that Stokely fella. Everybody's asking about him – even the sheriff. A few thousand jus' might help me keep my mouth shut a bit longer or…”
“Shut your mouth!” Winters blustered and pulled his gun. “Or I'll shut it for you!”
“Aw, I was only talkin',” Mitch retorted. “You know I'd never really do it, dontcha?”
“Yeah, that's the trouble with you, Mitch; you're all talk and no action. You're a worthless piece of garbage!” Winters stepped forward, the gun pointed straight at Mitch's chest. “If you ever blab about that Blanchard deal – or that Stokely fella – I'll fix it so that you'll never talk about anything ever again – you got that?!”
“Yeah, I got it,” Mitch answered still eyeing the gun.
“Good – take your money!” Winters threw the bills at him.
Mitch stared at the money as it floated around and landed on the carpet. Bills were scattered everywhere. He raised his eyes to look into Winters'. “Bet you think I'm too proud to crawl around and pick it up, don'tcha? Well, guess what? I'm not! Money's money and all that down there is mine!”
Cobb watched with a scornful expression as the other man got down on his hands and knees and crawled around for the bills.
As the last one was picked up, Mitch rose to his feet and headed for the door without a backwards glance.
Before the door shut, Winters called out, “Best remember what I said!”
Mitch left the office and joined Marty and Sam standing at the bar. After taking one look at Mitch's face, Marty poured the man a drink. Carson wandered over to join them, but before anyone could say a word, the door to Winters' office was jerked open.
“Carson!” Winters thundered.
The man turned in surprise.
“Get in here!”
“Sheesh – what now?” Setting his beer down on the bar, Carson muttered under his breath, “Wish me luck!” and took off towards the office.
Once the office door was shut, and without preamble, Winters snapped, “I wanna know what happened out at the Martin place?”
“Aw, they jumped us and…”
“I know that! What else?”
“Nothin' much. Well, except it looks like those two strangers organized the homesteaders.”
“So that's it, huh?” Winters murmured thoughtfully. “Those same two meddlin' strangers again? What were their names?”
“Smith and Jones. And it'll take the whole Cavalry to run those Martins off now!” Looking at his employer, Carson decided to take the bull by the horns. “You know, maybe it'd be a good idea if you go out there? That way you can see what's goin' on and figure out what you want us to do next?”
“That's a good idea; think I'll do just that,” Winters answered thoughtfully. “It's nice to know one of you has some brains in your head! Thanks; you've been a lot of help.”
“Anytime, Mr. Winters,” Carson replied. He managed to hide the smirk on his face until he left the office to join the others at the bar.
Winters strapped his gun belt on and hurried out of the saloon.
His men watched him leave with varying degrees of hostility on their faces.
“I know why he's in such a rush,” Jesse smirked. “An' I know where he's headin, too – the Martin place – it's where the gold's hidden!”
“You're sure?” queried Mitch. “How do you know?”
“Yep!” Jesse leaned in and lowered his voice. “'Cos when I was out there today, before they stopped me, I pulled up a couple floorboards and underneath 'em there were two cloth bags!”
Sam gave a low whistle. “So the treasure story's true; that's a pretty good deal.”
“For Winters you mean!” Jesse snapped. “50,000 good!”
“Yeah, too bad Winters won't share!!” Mitch grimaced. “This place makes me sick! C'mon, Carson, let's go someplace else and do our drinking.” He downed his beer and the two men left. Once they were outside, Mitch pulled Carson off to the side and down the alley.
“What's up?” Carson asked.
“He's not fooling me one bit! I know what he's up to – he's gonna try to buy back the Martin place! That's the quickest way to get rid of 'em. Sam was right; $50,000 is a great deal for anyone. The Martins don't know it's there and after all the grief we've been causing them, they should be ready to sell out for a song. Why should we let Winters get all the gravy?”
“Sounds real nice, but there's no way for us to stop him,” Carson shrugged.
“Sure there is.”
“I've got some money tucked away up in that cabin by the dam. You got any?”
“Well... yeah, some,” Carson grudgingly admitted. “But…”
“You willing to throw in with me?”
Carson's lips turned up in a smile. “I can't think of an easier way to make $50,000!”
“We'll go by the cabin to get my money and then we'll go pay old man Martin a visit.”
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.