Hellhouse
by
Tina Belcher
and
Kara Wilson


It was a dark and stormy night (no really, it was!). Kid and Heyes had been riding for what seemed like hours, the cold rain drenching them to the bone, the wind howling through the skeletal trees. They both knew their horses, and they themselves, couldn't take much more. Heyes was in front, letting his horse follow a faint track through some overhanging trees. It wasn't so much that Heyes knew where he was going, it was just easier to let the horse go where it wanted than to fight it along a different route. The cold and dark was lulling Heyes and Kid both into an exhausted stupor.

Somewhere through the fog covering his brain, Heyes realized that the horse had stopped. A screeching sound followed by a loud bang startled him into full wakefulness. In front of them was a large structure that on closer inspection was an old barn. Heyes dismounted, motioning Kid to do the same. They entered the barn cautiously, making sure to grab the banging door so it didn't spook the horses. Heyes pulled a match, thankfully and miraculously dry, from his pocket, lit it and quickly surveyed the surroundings. It wasn't a large barn, but it was snug against the storm. The dust and cobwebs gave them the idea that it hadn't been used in a long time, so they decided to bed down the horses for the night not that the horses or the men had any intention or desire to go back out into the storm.
Kid looked out through the crack between the doors; old habits making him check that no one had followed them.

"Heyes, look at this?" He held the door open a bit more so Heyes could see the outline of the large bulk of a house. They were both surprised they missed it as they rode up, but chalked it up to exhaustion and the dark. There were no lights on in the house, but the occasional flash of lightning lit up the surrounding area, giving the two-storied, gabled house an eerie look.

"Guess we better go announce ourselves to the owners." Heyes grinned, the state of disrepair of the barn telling them that no one had lived there for years.

"I don't know Heyes; the barn is fine with me." Kid couldn't explain the uneasy feeling that the thought of going into that house gave him. Maybe it was too many of Heyes' spooky stories when they were children.

"Oh c'mon Kid, it's got to be better than sleeping on moldy old hay. I'm going; you can stay here if you want to." Heyes headed back out into the storm, the wind grabbing the door and slamming it back against the outside wall. Kid sighed and followed, shaking his head.

They stepped up on the decrepit porch, making sure to glance in the windows just in case they were wrong about no one living there. The lightning lit up the interior enough for them to get a glimpse of broken furniture and more cobwebs.

"Looks pretty deserted to me; I'm going in." Heyes reached for the doorknob, which turned easily in his hand, but the door wouldn't budge. "Give me a hand here Kid." Kid thought about clapping, but common sense won out and he went over and both men threw their weight against the door. It held against them for a few seconds, and then flew open like it was pulled from the inside. Heyes landed on the floor first, Kid landing on top of him, knocking the breath out of both men. They looked up sharply at the sound of a match striking, and a raspy voice?

"It's about time you got here; I've been waiting for you."


Heyes and Kid scrambled to their feet as the room suddenly sprang to life. The light from the oil lamp revealed a mousy little man who had his back to them as he placed the lamp securely on the massive table that seemed to fill the entire entry way. Then he began to cough. The cough racked his slim frame, “the mistress said that you would be here hours ago. I was…” he turned and took a good look at the two men standing before him. “Good heavens. Who the devil are you?” He demanded, trying his best to sound stern and forceful. But since coughing and clearing his throat, his voice sounded anything but stern. It actually had more of a squeak to it. He was barely five feet tall and maybe weighted 90 pounds if he was soaking wet with all his pockets full of rocks. He was balding and his clothing hung on him like he hadn't had a good meal in months.

With a slight smirk Heyes reminded him, “You just said you were waiting for us.”
The man frowned at him with displeasure. “You are not the gentlemen that the madam told me to expect.” He pulled himself up to his full height and tried to look even taller.

“Ahmmm.” Kid began, “look we didn't realize that anyone was living here. The place looked deserted. We were just looking for someplace to get out of the storm and get dry. We don't mean you any harm.” The man continued to stare at the two men. Kid hastily added, “I’m Thaddeus Jones, this is Joshua Smith.” Kid jumped slightly at the feel of the large black cat that was winding itself around first his legs and then Heyes. The cat then looked at them both like it knew who they were and what they were thinking then slinked seductively out of the room and away.

The little man considered the pair for a moment. He glanced out the still partially opened door as lightning flashed brightly, thunder rolled across the clouds and rain poured from the sky. The wind blew the rain so hard that it was actually raining sideways. Deep in the shadows something moved, slinking from one shadowy object to the next. Each time coming closer to the house, but not quite daring to show itself in the light of either the lamp or the lightning.

“Yes well.” He stepped forward, closed the door firmly and locked it. This drew a sharp look from Kid to Heyes, “I suppose that would be all right.” As the door closed something outside screamed in anger or frustration. Heyes and Kid exchanged a longer look and then turned back to the little man.
“What the hell was that?” Heyes asked.

The little man looked at him blankly, “I’m sure I don't know what you mean sir.”
Again Heyes and Kid exchanged looks. Kid pointed toward the door, “you mean to tell us that you didn't hear that?”

“Hear what sir?”

Heyes smiled a smile that didn't reach his eyes and chuckled. “Okay! Now not only am I wet, cold and hungry. I'm losing my mind.”

“Well sir. I certainly couldn't be the judge of whether you are losing your mind or not,” He indicated a large room behind the boys. “But if you would follow me into the sitting room we can get a nice fire started in the fire place and you will be dry and warm in short order. I do apologize that Cook has left us, but I am certain I can find something in the kitchen. Maybe some nice coffee and something for sandwiches or soup.” He smiled a nervous smile at them. “That is if you gentlemen don’t mind handling making the fire in here.”

Kid shrugged, “No problem.”

The little man began to hurry out of the room. “Um, hey!” Heyes called to him.

“Sir?” He turned back .

“What exactly do we call you?”

The little man snapped to attention, “Oh excuse me, in all the excitement I seem to have forgotten my manners. I am Horatio Abderus Walters-Patterson.” As the man turned to leave the room, leaving Heyes and Kid to make the fire he added, “You may call me Abderus sir.”

“Right.” Heyes grinned as the man hurried out of the room. Looking around, the boys took in the many pieces of broken furniture, the dust and dirt, and cobwebs. The place was clearly not well cared for. Miraculously there was a wood box next to the fireplace that was full of dry wood and a couple of couches and a chair that appeared to be solid enough to be used.

Heyes caught the expression on Kid’s face, “Don't say it!”

Kid sighed, “Why did we have to come in here?”

Heyes frowned at him, “It seemed like a good idea at the time, besides I was just thinking…”

“No, no, you weren't either.” Kid turned toward the fireplace and began to load wood from the box next to it into the open space. “Don’t start reading into this. You and your ghost stories.”

Heyes turned and plopped down into a nearby chair, “Reading into what Kid? Surely you would rather be in here warm and dry than in that old barn.”
Kid turned slightly away from his task and shot his cousin a look, “you’re the one who just had to come in the house. The barn was dry and warm enough. No. That wasn’t good enough for you. We just had to come in.” From outside the scream sounded again as the front door rattled like something was trying to open it.

Heyes turned toward the front door, “You really want to spend the night in the barn with whatever that is out there?” He turned and met Kid’s eyes.

Kid shrugged, “Okay;” He conceded reluctantly. “You have a point.”

Heyes smiled in satisfaction of having won that round. As the room grew brighter, Heyes noticed Kid unconsciously flexing his hand and shaking it, allowing drops of blood to fall to the floor.

“What happened to you?” Heyes jumped up and grabbed Kid's left hand to take a closer look.

“What? Oh, I scraped it on a piece of wood just inside the door when I was trying not to land on you with all my weight.”

Heyes inspected the cut making certain no splinters were left. Satisfied, he took out his bandana and quickly wrapped Kid's hand. Kid thanked him and placed another log on the fire.

By the time Abderus returned with soup and a pot of coffee, Kid had a nice fire roaring in the fireplace and the room was beginning to lose it’s chill. As he sat the tray with the coffee and soup on a nearby table. “If you gentlemen will excuse me, I shall go upstairs and open a couple of bedrooms for you and inform Madam that you will be spending the night.”

“That’s not necessary.” Heyes began, “we can bunk right here on the couches next to the fire.”

“Oh no sir;” Abderus firmly shook his head, “Madam would have my skin to wear for a coat if I allowed guests in this house to do such a thing.” He turned to leave the room.

“Um, where exactly is this Madam you keep referring to?” Kid asked curious.
Abderus turned back to face the two outlaws, “Madam hasn’t been well sir And...” clearly he was lying and trying to think of something to say. From outside there came a new sound. This time rather than a scream, there was a growl. Low and menacing that sounded like it was just outside the sitting room window. All three men turned and looked at the window. Against the curtain there was a shapeless shadow that quickly moved away. Slowly Heyes and Kid turned their attention back to Abderus. The little man had gone deathly pale and was visibly shaking.

“Abderus,” Heyes smiled at the little man, “surely you're not going to tell us that you didn't hear that?”

“No sir.” Abderus attempted to return the smile. “Some unfortunate animal appears to be trapped outside in the storm and is very frightened.” He shook his head sadly, “tis a pity really.”

“Uh-huh.” Heyes shook his head in disbelief as Abderus left the room quickly and headed upstairs to open the bedrooms.

Kid looked at Heyes sitting there thoughtfully. “What are you thinking?”

Heyes smiled, “You really don’t want to know. Just say I listened to Grandpa and too many of his stories.”

“And you're supposed to be the smart one,” Kid laughed. “Besides, the ones you used to make up were just as bad or worse than Grandpa’s.”

As Kid picked up his spoon to get his first bite, he smiled at the faces Heyes was making while eating his soup. “Problem?”

“You know how we don’t complain about the food in jail?” Heyes looked at Kid.

“Yep” Kid blew on the soup and relished in the warmth.

“This isn’t jail.” Heyes dropped his spoon in his bowl.

“Mine tastes fine. Pretty good in fact.” Kid lowered his spoon back to the bowl.

“Let me see that.” Kid rolls his eyes as Heyes spooned some from his bowl.

“Know what, Kid? Yours does taste better. Wanna swap?”

“No, I don’t want to swap.” Kid tried to take another bite.

“Mine might taste okay to you. Here, try it.” Heyes shoved his bowl at Kid.

“Heyes, I don’t want . . . okay, if you will let me eat in peace.” Kid reluctantly tastes the soup. “It tastes fine, Heyes.”

“Then you won’t mind swapping.”

“Fine, I’ll swap. Will you eat your soup now and let me be?”

“Sure, Kid.” Heyes looked content.

When the soup was done and bowls taken back to the kitchen, Abderus collected the men to show them to their rooms. As they neared the top of the stairs, they glanced to the left at a room with an open door. They were able to see a terribly frail old woman lying on a bed in a well lit, immaculate room. She was as decrepit as the house, while the room seemed utterly out of place with its splendor.

Abderus turned right at the top of the stairs and opened the first room, offering it to whichever man wanted it. Kid and his gun were the first line of defense, so naturally he angled around Heyes to take the room nearest the stairs. Just as Kid was about to enter, they heard a banging coming from the front door. “Excuse me gentlemen. The men we’re expecting seemed to have arrived.” Abderus turned to begin to make his way back downstairs.

“I guess we'll be sharing again.” Kid smiled only briefly before he had to catch a suddenly collapsing Heyes.

“Oh dear.” Abderus exclaimed as Kid gently lowered Heyes to the floor. “Is he all right?” the man said heading back to both men. In his concern to care for Heyes Kid missed the faint smile that crossed Abderus' face. From Madam’s bedroom a soft chuckle could be heard by no one and the light seemed to grow slightly brighter.

“He’s burning up.” Kid said as he felt Heyes face. He looked up at the little man,

“You go on and see to the new arrivals. I can take care of this.” He pulled an unconscious Heyes to his feet, supported his cousin’s weight, carried him into the ramshackled bedroom and deposited him on the bed that had been turned down for him. Pulling Heyes’ boots off and lifting his legs so that he could tuck him under the covers.

When Abderus returned with the other two men, he stopped in the doorway. “Excuse me Mr. Smith…”
“Jones.” Kid absent-mindedly corrected him.

“Ahm yes, Mr. Jones. I do hope that it won't be too much of an imposition, but I’m afraid I will have to ask…”

Kid cut him off, turning to face the man from where he was laying Heyes’ gun on the table closest to the bed, “It’s fine. We can share.” He looked back at Heyes, “I’m not going to leave him alone in this condition anyway.”

“Oh thank you sir.” Abderus appeared relieved, “there just aren't many other rooms suitable to be used at the moment sir.” Then the little man started almost as if he had forgotten the other two men were behind him, “Excuse my manners sir, this is Mr. Browning and Mr. Sullivan. They will be in the room next door.” Abderus indicated Kid, “This would be Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith. How is he doing by the way?”

“He’s out and has a fever.” Kid frowned puzzled, “Funny though, he seemed fine earlier.”

One of the new arrivals cleared his throat, “If I may be of any assistance…” Kid looked at him with some suspicion. “I’ve had some medical training sir. Maybe there is something I could do.”

Kid just looked at the man with a blank face, “No thank you. I can take care of him.”

“Well sir sometimes these things just come out of no where.” Abderus sighed, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Gently he closed the door leaving Kid alone with the unconscious Heyes.

Kid thought about the fact that Heyes had seemed completely fine earlier. “Before we ate,” Kid muttered to himself. Heyes stirred and moaned, tossing as if he was having a bad dream. Distracted from his train of thought, Kid found a cloth and some water in a pitcher. Wetting it, he placed it on Heyes’ forehead gently washing his face as he tried to cool the fever. “Easy Han,” he said softly, “everything is gonna be okay.” Outside he heard the growl again. Only this time it seemed farther off. The storm seemed to be getting worse if that was possible, as hail began to ping against the window.

It was a long night. Kid dosed off and on, on the chaise lounge that was in the room. Each time he would begin to drop off to sleep, Heyes would waken him muttering in his sleep about things Kid couldn’t quite make out or understand. A time or two Kid could have sworn that Heyes was talking to someone and responding to something that he himself couldn’t hear. But he shook it off as being too tired, worried about Heyes and being, if he were honest with himself, a little spooked by the house and storm raging outside. Somewhere just before dawn Kid finally managed to fall into a deep restful sleep. Heyes’ fever had broken and the storm finally seemed to be passing. Later that morning Kid was awakened again by Heyes’ stirring, but this time Heyes opened his eyes.

“Hi.” Heyes greeted Kid as he tried to sit up.

Kid got to his feet and joined Heyes at the side of the bed, “Easy there, you had a rough night. How you feelin’ this morning?”

“Like I got throwed.” Heyes looked met Kid’s eyes, “what happened?”

Kid shrugged, “You tell me. One minute you seemed fine, the next I was picking you up off the floor.”

Heyes frowned, “I passed out.” Kid nodded. “Huh?” Feeling weak but more like himself, Heyes grinned, “Told you there was something wrong with that soup.”
Kid frowned at him and shook his head, heading back to the chaise lounge to pull his boots back on. “Well since you're feeling better, let’s get the hell out of here.”
Heyes threw the covers back and started to stand up. As he did, a wave of dizziness hit him and he sat down hard on the bed. “Or not.”

Kid's head shot up. “You okay?”

“No, not really.” Heyes lay back on the bed. “I’m thinking standing up wasn’t such a good idea.”

“Maybe you just need to take it slower. You were pretty sick last night.”

Heyes tried again to stand, taking it more slowly this time. Although he felt dizzy and slightly nauseous, moving more slowly seemed to help. Weakly he grinned at Kid, who returned the smile relieved. “Come on.” Kid headed toward the door. “Let’s see about getting out of here.”

Together they headed out of the room and down the stairs. Kid was careful to make sure that Heyes stayed in front of him so that he could keep an eye on him. As they rounded the corner of the sitting room they had left the night before, both men stopped short at the door. The room was completely new again. The fire still roared in the fireplace, but now the furniture was polished and new. The fabrics were bright and beautiful, the paint and wallpaper no longer were peeling from the wall and woodwork, the dust and cobwebs had disappeared and the rug was no long thread-bare and torn. Slowly the two men looked at one another.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” They both jumped slightly at the sound of Abderus’ voice.

“Took most of the night and morning, but it’s finally complete.”

“You did this?” Kid asked with more than a little skepticism in his voice.

Abderus merely smiled, “If you gentlemen will come on in and get comfortable, I will fetch breakfast for you from the kitchen. Mr. Browning and Mr. Sullivan have already eaten and are outside surveying the damage.”

“Damage?” Heyes asked.

“Oh yes sir. It was quite a storm we had last night. Must have been a tornado or something. ‘Tis quite a mess out there.”

Kid and Heyes turned as one and headed toward the front door. Pulling it open, they stepped out on the porch and groaned. The road was a sea of mud and fallen trees and the barn where they had left their horses was partially collapsed. From the barn they could hear the sounds of the horses still restless from the storm and uncomfortable with the fact that they could not get out of the building. Coming toward the house was Browning and Sullivan both covered with mud.

“Hope you boys weren’t planning on going anywhere soon.” Browning spoke up.

“Why’s that?” Heyes asked.

“Horses are all trapped in the barn. They don’t seem to be hurt and with all the rain they have access to plenty of water. It looks like there’s some hay that’s good where they can reach it, but there's not gonna be any easy way to get ‘em out of there without the whole thing coming down.”

“Wonderful.” Heyes sighed.

Sullivan added to the tale, “Not that it matters.”

“Why’s that?” Kid asked this time.

“Road is solid mud from just beyond the barn there.” He pointed in the direction that he meant. “I managed to get around it, but it wasn’t easy. There are trees down all over the place, when I finally made it to where the main road should have been.”

“Should have been?” Kid glanced at Heyes.

“Yep, it’s under water.’ Sullivan nodded, “good 3 or 4 feet of it.”

Heyes cocked his head to the side thoughtfully, “I don’t remember a stream or anything as we road in.”

Kid frowned, “Me neither.”

“We was just talkin’ about that.” Sullivan went on, “Neither one of us remembers it either. But we figured it might have been pretty easy to miss in that storm last night.”

Heyes looked around like he was looking for something.

“What?” Kid asked him.

“Did you hear that?”

Kid shook is head, “What?”

“Laughter.” Heyes looked at him, “I heard someone laughing.” The others all looked at him strangely. Heyes looked at Kid, “don’t look at me like that. You hear that right?”

“Ahmm, I think maybe you’re sicker than we thought. Maybe you should go back and rest.”

“I’m tellin' you someone was laughing. It sounded like an old woman.”
Kid gave Heyes a skeptical look, “Heyes you saw that old woman upstairs.”

“Glimpse.” He nodded.

“Well, did she look like she was capable of laughing out loud so that you could hear it down here outside?”

Heyes opened his mouth to respond, but common sense won out, and he remained silent. From inside Abderus called him and Kid to breakfast.

Heyes sat quietly enjoying watching Kid explain to Abderus why he would be making their breakfast, and only took one threat of bullets to skin to make the little man scurry away. Having a full stomach helped Heyes regain most of his strength. It was decided that the best thing to do was for Heyes to rest while Kid and the other gentlemen tried to clear the debris from the stable. Heyes complained bitterly, but in truth, fell asleep within moments of laying down.

While pulling out pieces of lumber and miscellaneous odds and ends, Kid questioned the two new men.

“What brings you fellas out here, if you don’t mind me askin’?” Kid tossed aside a handful of shingles.

“Not at all. Mr. Browning and I were recently recognized by our church for our work with the orphans and wayward youth that are located in the home not far from here. Jake has spent a great deal of time trying to teach the youngsters to read and write. While I was seeing to their medical needs. Then both of us have been trying to teach those that have been in trouble with the law a better way to make their way in the world. It’s a new program and something unique. See Mr. Jones we believe that there really aren’t any bad kids out there, just ones who need to be taught a better way of getting by. We received a telegram from a Mrs. Etta Aradia asking us to come here to be recognized for the work that we have been doing. She mentioned in the telegram that she had lost a nephew when he became involved with the wrong crowd after the death of his parents. She said she wanted to ensure that our work was able to continue by making a donation to the program. That she felt if something like this had been available for her nephew, she might still have him.” As Mr. Sullivan concluded his story, Kid stopped to wipe his brow.

“This bit of wood seems to be stuck, Mr. Jones.” Kid looked up to where Browning was perched on the roof, and made his way up to help loosen the timbers around a support beam. As they sat on opposite sides, Browning remarked, “The beam seems damaged but sturdy enough for now.”

The shriek of a rather large cat startled everyone. Kid’s hand went for a nonexistent holster and the horses stomped and shifted in fear. The cat screamed again and one of the horses slammed up against the damaged beam.

The voices which had kept him company since the night before had been mostly silent throughout Heyes' slumber. About mid afternoon, they began to reach a crescendo ending with horrifying screaming. Heyes bolted upright. Rubbing his eyes, he realized he was still hearing a great commotion from outside.

When Heyes reached the barn, Sullivan was trying to talk a white knuckled Browning off a shaky barn roof. “Where is Thaddeus?” Heyes shouted.

“He’s buried underneath, but we can’t get to him until Jake is off the roof.” At Heyes’ furious look, Sullivan continued, “If we move another board, Jake will come down on top of your friend. It could kill them both.”

Heyes steeled himself not to rush in looking for Kid. Sullivan was right, Browning had to get down first. “Fine, go grab those bales of hay near the tree, and group them to his left.” Heyes focused on the man sitting on what was left of the roof.

“Mr. Browning?” No recognition was forthcoming. “Jake?” The man slowly looked toward Heyes. “I need you to get down. My friend is in trouble and we can’t get to him with you up there.” Jake slowly shook his head and looked down at where Kid must surely be trapped. It was all Heyes could do not to stare as well. “Jake! I will get you down safely, but you have to trust me.” Jake slowly looked back up at Heyes and nodded. Stalling until the bales were lined up, Heyes risked questioning Jake. “Can you see Thaddeus?” A nod. “Is he hurt badly?” Another nod. “So much blood.” Came the shaky reply. Heyes couldn’t stay rooted for much longer.

“The hay is ready.” Sullivan called next to the pile.

“Jake, listen to me. I need you to jump. Arthur will be there to catch you.” Jake furiously shook his head. “Jake! Thaddeus is going to die if you don’t jump!” Leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang had just made an appearance and Jake responded. He inched his way to the edge of the roof took several deep breaths and jumped.

As soon as he landed safely, Heyes immediately picked his way over boards to reach Kid’s side.

Arthur Sullivan, having taken a moment to check Jake over, approached Kid as well and helped begin the tedious task of removing debris.

“What has happened?” Abderus called from in front of the barn.

“Mr. Jones is injured. Get some water and bandages ready.” Heyes was grateful to hear Arthur's calm voice.

Both men worked slowly and carefully removing each board. Twice, more boards fell on top of the men or on Kid when they shifted a piece of wood unknowingly holding up several others.

The final board removed, Heyes breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Kid breathing. There was a great deal of blood, but it was mostly from a head wound. He knew how much a simple wound to the head could bleed, and prayed this would be the case.

They tried to roll Kid over, but found, to their horror, a piece of wood impaling Kid’s side. Heyes drew in a slow breath and reached for Kid’s wound with a shaky hand. “Oh my God!” Heyes startled, not realizing Jake had appeared next to him until he heard his exclamation.

Heyes looked up with horror filled eyes, steeled himself, looked back at his best friend and began ripping the shirt to get a better look. What he found forced Heyes to sit firmly and quickly on the ground. To their great relief, the board made a shallow slice in the skin and only impaled the shirt. It would be painful, but nothing serious. Heyes’s grin changed to a wince as he once again heard laughter that no one else could hear.

The three men, Jake having recovered, lifted Kid and made their way to his room. Heyes nearly dropped his partner at the top of the stairs when he noticed the old woman sitting up in bed looking somewhat more alive than the day before. Pushing it out of his mind, they got Kid situated in bed. Browning went to find Abderus in the kitchen to bring up the bandages and water he had gone there to heat.

Gently Arthur began to clean Kid’s wounds. Heyes grabbed his arm, “What do you think your doing?” he growled.

“Mr. Smith…” Arthur gently placed his hand over Heyes, “Joshua. It’s okay. I know what I’m doing, I’ve had some medical training. I have been studying to be a doctor as well as attending the seminary.” He met Heyes gaze without blinking or flinching, “I promise I will take very good care of Thaddeus.”

Heyes looked at him for several long minutes, trying to size up the man and decide if he was willing to trust this stranger with his cousin’s life. Slowly he nodded and removed his hold on Arthur’s arm. Standing aside he allowed Arthur to do what needed to be done. “Just as long as your name isn’t Chauncey Beauregard.” Heyes mumbled.

“What?” Arthur tilted his head trying to figure out what the man had said.

“Nothing.” Heyes rubbed his eyes and sighed .

Jake took his place at Arthur’s side. It was clear from the way they worked together that Jake had aided Arthur before. First Arthur cleaned all the blood away from Kid’s head wound. Shaking his head he commented, “Well this doesn’t look too bad.” He glanced up at Heyes, “But you never can tell with head wounds. We will have to wait and see.” Heyes nodded, feeling a little bit like a helpless little boy.

Next Arthur moved to the slice wound on Kid’s side. Slowly and carefully he and Jake lifted Kid into a sitting position long enough to finish removing his ruined shirt. He smiled as he finished wiping the blood away. “This isn’t serious at all. It will heal nicely. Doesn’t need stitches and shouldn’t even leave a scar. However it will be somewhat painful.”

With Jake’s help he wrapped a bandage that Abderus had provided around Kid’s midsection. Once they were through, Jake carried the now dirty water out of the room to get rid of it and Arthur turned to Heyes, “I will admit that I am concerned about the head injury and the fact that Thaddeus hasn’t woken up yet.” It truly pained Arthur to say his next sentence, but he knew he had too tell Heyes everything, “The longer he’s out…”

Heyes cut him off, “Yeah I know. The longer he’s out the less likely he is to wake up.”

“I’m afraid so.”

Heyes head snapped around as again he heard the laughter. Only this time he heard whispering as well. “What did you say?” He turned to find no one in the room but himself and Arthur.

“Joshua, are you all right?” Arthur questioned with deep concern.

Heyes turned back to the man standing beside him, “You didn’t hear that?”

“I’m sorry…” Sullivan shrugged.

Heyes ran his hand through his hair. He couldn’t believe that this was happening.

“Look Joshua…” Sullivan began trying to comfort Heyes, “I’m sure it’s nothing. I understand you had a very rough night and now with the shock of your friend’s injury…”

Heyes shook his head, “No, no, no!” He said firmly, “Something is going on here. I don’t know what exactly but something.”

Sullivan looked over Heyes shoulder at Browning who had reappeared in the doorway. The two of them exchanged a look of concern. Heyes looked from one to the other. “I’m not losing my mind.” He told them firmly, “I know what I’m hearing and it’s real.”

“Sure.” Jake agreed. Thinking it was best to change the subject, “Art, maybe we should see if we can find where those horses got to. With all that mud and high water out there it can’t be safe for them.”

“Well I really should…” Arthur began.

“No it’s okay.” Heyes told him, “go ahead. I’ll stay with Thaddeus and WHEN…” Heyes strongly emphasized the word, “he wakes up I give you a holler.”
Sullivan nodded in agreement. “That’s fine. Perfect solution in fact since I think it wouldn’t hurt for you to take it easy yourself a while longer.”

As the other two men left the room Heyes again heard the laughter. Accompanying it this time somewhere in the distance he could have sworn he heard the sound of wood splintering and furniture moving. But he knew that wasn’t possible. Stepping out into the hallway to see if he could pinpoint where exactly the sounds were coming from Heyes noticed that the old woman was no longer sitting up in her bed. She had moved to a chair and was now dressed in a fine silk dressing gown. As he began to take a step toward the room to go speak to her he heard Kid moan behind him and all thoughts of the old woman were forgotten as he turned to Kid’s bedside.

Unbeknownst to Heyes, downstairs in a room that none of them had seen as of yet, the room began to renew itself as the other rooms had done. The dining room had been empty and varmint infested. As the furniture began to right itself and the fabrics and paint became new again the mice and other creatures that had made the room home began to flee in terror.

By morning the room would look as new and fresh as it had after the house had been built. The fine maple table would gleam and shine, waxed and polished to a fine high shine. The carpet once a fine Persian rug, would once again be bright and as beautiful as it had been years ago. Against the wall would once again be the china cabinet that match the maple table and sideboard, inside would be the fine English china that had once been the lady of the house’s pride and joy. Delicate and hand painted with a rare design. Above the fireplace there again hung a portrait of a woman. No one had seen the picture in years. When the four men currently in the house arrived, the portrait was broken and faded showing a woman who appeared to be at least 100 years old. As the old woman upstairs in the master bedroom began to get stronger, the woman in the portrait began to become younger and more beautiful. The frame was no longer broken and the color in the painting was becoming brighter and clearer.

“Let me in,” Kid mumbled as he rocked his head back and forth. “Begins. Second.” Kid’s brow was creased in agitation. Heyes looked from the door back to his friend and quickly sat down and spoke gently trying to quiet him.

“Thaddeus.” Kid kept mumbling. “Kid.” The mumbling increased. “Jed, wake up.” Kid silenced immediately. Turning his head toward Heyes, Kid slowly opened his eyes. “It must be stopped.” Kid’s voice was cold and distant. After uttering the words, Kid closed his eyes again.

“Who are you talking to, Kid?” Heyes mumbled more to himself than really expecting a reply, but it looked as if Kid would answer. Before he could, there was a knock at the door. Heyes dropped his chin to his chest and sighed. “Come in.” Nothing happened. Just as Heyes was going to call out again, the door knob slowly turned and the door was slowly pushed open. A dry, reedy voice called out, “Hello?” It was followed by a frail, boney hand appearing as the door opened more. The woman Heyes had seen only barely the last several hours slowly shuffled into the room. Heyes immediately stood.

“Can I help you Ma’am?” Heyes tried to keep the suspicion and annoyance out of his voice.

“No, no young man. I had heard your young friend was injured and I wanted to check on him. What a terrible thing to happen. Is he going to be alright?” Heyes moved slightly so she could sit.

“He’s going to be just fine, Ma’am.” Heyes studied her very closely. She was still terribly frail, but definitely stronger than the first time he saw her.

“The certainty of youth. That’s good.” She smiled weakly and reached a hand to place on Kid’s.

“We appreciate you putting us up here, Mrs . . . “ Before she could open her mouth, Kid began to have trouble breathing. Heyes stepped between her and Kid, breaking the hold she had on Kid’s hand and tried to wake him again.

“Oh dear, I’d better let you tend your friend. You are a truly good boy, I can see that.” She walked out the door much stronger than she walked in, and he was surprised he could just make out a flower print on what he had thought had been a solid grey dressing gown. Seconds after she left the room, Kid’s breathing somewhat improved. Heyes rushed to the door to see the woman slowly walking in a shuffle again.

Whatever was going on had Heyes angry and, to be honest, a little frightened. He marched back into the room, closed the door and sat next to kid. He reached out his hand and placed it on Kid’s forehead to make certain he wasn’t feverish, and instantly noticed that Kid’s breathing was back to normal.

While Heyes kept a restless watch over Kid, Jake and Arthur were out wading the water and the mud trying to find where the frightened horses had run to. In places it was hard going, the mud seemed to suck at them, pulling them down as if it intended to swallow them up. They were careful to avoid the high water. Not only did it seem to have come out of nowhere, it had a very swift current to it. There was no chance at all that it could be crossed. This brought some relief to the two men, knowing that if they couldn’t cross the water, then chances were good that the horses had been frightened away from it as well. Although the prospects of one of the animals being stuck in the mud was equally as frightening to them. After several long hours of searching they finally located the frightened animals huddled together under a stand of trees on a slight rise. The two stood on the path they had found and surveyed the area trying to figure out the best way to get to the animals.

“How the heck did they get up there?” Jake puzzled, “This is all mud around here.”

“Maybe it’s not as deep as it looks.” Arthur volunteered.

“Maybe.” Jake frowned, “I don’t know Art. It looks pretty bad. Maybe we should go back to the house and get some help.”

Arthur frowned at him, “From who? Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones are in no shape to help anybody and that mousy little butler feller wouldn’t be any help.”

Jake sighed, “I guess your right.” He looked around for what could possibly have been the path the horses had taken to get to the little rise.

Arthur spotted what looked like hoof prints in the soft mud, “Here this looks like the way they went.”

Jake looked at the path that Arthur indicated, “I don’t know, that doesn’t look very safe Art. Why don’t we just go back and at least talk it over with the others. I mean we may just have to wait…”

“Look Jake, I don’t know about you but I would like to get away from this place. It’s just….” He struggled to find the word he wanted, “strange here. All these bizarre things are happening. Didn’t you notice how much different those rooms looked this morning, Mr. Smith seems to be hearing things and now Mr. Jones is badly hurt. I don’t want to run off and abandon those boys but we need help here and someone needs to go for it.”

Jake turned to him, “Sure I noticed those things and I want to get out of here as much as you do, but Arthur it’s not gonna happen unless we get those horses. You’ve seen the shape the road is in, there is no way any of us could walk out of here. It will most likely not be passable even with the horses. But those horses are our only chance. Especially if we are to try and get Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones out of here as well.”

Arthur nodded, “I know.” He shuddered and looked around. He almost felt as if something were watching them, something making him now hesitate to go for the horses, but he knew that wasn’t possible. There was nothing around for miles. He turned back to Jake and with a sigh said, “Okay come on.”

Together they started along the messy path toward the horses. Despite how it looked the mud was deep and sloppy. They managed to reach the animals who were still skittish and shying away from them. By moving carefully and slowly they managed to get harnesses and reins on each of the animals. Carefully watching their footing they began to lead the animals back the way they had come. From some where not too far away came a low growl. Not loud at first, but enough to cause the already nervous horses to begin to fight being lead away. Jake and Arthur both glanced around.

“There.” Arthur pointed off to the East. Slinking from one downed tree to another was the shadow of what appeared to be a large cat. Then the cat screamed. Shrieking loudly as the shadow disappeared from sight and its form shifting shape. The already panicky horses, bolted. The reins were ripped from Arthur’s hand leaving a large bloody blister along the palm of his hand. Jake was dragged off his feet as the horses took off in a panicked run across the muddy ground. Jake tried franticly to untangle the reins from where he had wrapped them around his hand. But the more he tried to get himself loose the more tangled he became.

Arthur tried to run after to help his friend. The horses where running full on and with the sinking mud and the high water it wasn’t long before the horses disappeared in and out of sight, and Arthur was bogged down unable to follow. Pulling himself out of the mud to his knees Arthur watched helplessly as Jake was dragged through the mud, bouncing off of rocks and tree branches that the horses ran over and around. In short order Arthur had lost sight of the horses and Jake. He dropped his head to his chest and then looked out along the muddy field that lay before him as tears started to wash a path down his dirt caked face. He finally, with some effort managed to pull himself out of the mud he had sunk into and headed back toward the house.

In Kid’s room, Heyes had fallen into a reluctant and restless sleep as he sat by the bed that Kid slept peacefully in. Heyes was deep in a dream. In the dream he was roaming through the house they were in now. Searching for something he wasn’t sure what or where it was. Escape was the first thing that came to mind. He was looking for a way out and he couldn’t find it. Everywhere he turned the house would at first appear to be falling in on itself, only at second glance to be new and beautiful.

As the dream continued, he stood in the main hallway as a woman’s form came toward him. She was tall and slender, and dressed in a sheer negligee that was so tight across the bust she seemed to be bursting out of it. It swirled seductively around her legs, hinting at pleasures hidden underneath. She seemed to beckon him to come her, drawing him in, seducing him without ever, as yet, having touched him. Heyes seemed reluctant to approach the woman and accept what she was offering him, but still he was drawn to her. The dangers that he sensed kept him from touching her. Somehow he knew to touch her would be the end of….everything.

Laughter filled his ears as he jerked awake. He looked around the room to see if anyone else was there. He found himself alone with Kid. Heyes pushed out of the chair he was in, finding it a painful process. He couldn’t explain it, he hurt everywhere as if he had been beaten. Taking the few steps toward the bed he felt stiff and awkward. He sat on the edge and gently placed his hand on Kid’s forehead. As he did Kid’s eyes fluttered open.

“Welcome back.” Heyes told him, “How do you feel?”

“Like a building fell on me.” Kid answered quietly.

“Funny you should say that.” Heyes grinned at him.

As Kid pushed himself into a sitting position, there came a knock at the door.
“Come in.” Heyes called.

The door opened quickly as Abderus entered, “Mr. Smith there seems to have…Oh Mr. Jones. Nice to see you looking so much better sir. You gave us quite a scare.”

“What’s the matter Abderus?” Heyes prompted.

“Oh yes, there seems to have been another accident sir.”

Heyes and Kid exchanged looks. Kid was more alert now and attempted to push the covers aside and get out of bed.

“Whoa!” Heyes tried to stop him, “Take it easy there now. You literally did have a building fall on you.” Then he turned to Abderus, “tell us what happened.”

“It seems sir, that Mr. Browning has been killed while trying to bring the horses back to the house.”

“Killed!” Kid was in shock. “But how…”

“I will allow Mr. Sullivan to explain everything to you sir. He should be up here shortly. The poor fellow is covered from head to toe in mud and in quite a state of shock. If you will excuse me now I will inform Madam of these events and then see to dinner.” Abderus left the room, leaving the door open behind him.

Kid looked at Heyes, “Is it just me or did he seem rather….”

Heyes finished the thought, “He did seem pretty calm didn’t he.” Heyes’ head snapped around toward the open door as again he heard the laughter.

“What is it?” Kid asked.

“Nothing.” Heyes shook his head. Then looked at Kid and smiled, “nothing at all.”

Kid knew he was lying, and the smile hadn’t reached Heyes’ eyes. “Listen, I want to tell you about this dream I had.” Kid frowned, “anyway I think it was a dream.”

At that moment Arthur appeared at the bedroom door. Although he was clean now, he looked rough. There were dark circles under his eyes and he appeared to have several bruises on his face.

“Come on in.” Heyes indicated the empty chair. Arthur entered the room and dropped into the chair totally drained of all energy. The laughter Heyes heard was louder now. But it was clear to him that neither of the other two men heard it. Choking back tears he told the two outlaws what had happened to Jake.

Gently Kid spoke to him, “we will find him and give him a proper burial.”

Arthur shook his head, “I don’t think that is going to be possible.”

“What do ya mean?” Heyes asked.

“The last I saw of Jake was as the horses headed toward the rushing water up by the main road. The next time I saw the horses on the way back to the house, there was no sign of Jake.” He brought sad eyes up to look at both men. “I fear that the body came loose finally and was lost in the rushing water. I seriously doubt that it will ever be found.”

There came a knock at the door. All three men looked around to see Mrs. Aradia. Heyes frowned. The woman had transformed yet again. She was now dressed, though the dress was old and faded. It was clearly silk and had in its day been very stylish. But what struck him more was the woman’s appearance. She was no longer shuffling along when she walked and was standing much straighter. He wasn’t sure, but her hair seemed less gray than it had before. It was certainly more stylish than it had been when she came to see Kid. Arthur and Heyes were on their feet immediately as she entered the room.

“Oh my young Arthur,” She spoke with a voice that only held a hint of the age she appeared to be, “I am so sorry about your friend. What a horrible accident.”

“Ahmm, yes ma’am.” Arthur taking the hand that she offered him. “It was quite a shock.”

Her eyes then turned to Kid. “Well ‘Mr. Jones’ you’re looking so much better than the last time I saw you.” There was a hint of something in her eyes and in her tone of voice that made Kid think that she was aware that Jones was not his name, and she was just using it because of Arthur’s presence. She held out her hand and walked toward Kid as if to touch him again.

Heyes noticed the strange look on Kid’s face as Mrs. Aradia neared him. “It’s nice to see you feeling well enough to be up and out of bed, Ma’am. The blood of youth must be flowing through your veins.” Everyone stopped moving and stared at Kid. Mrs. Aradia’s hand dropped to her side.

Heyes did what he did best. Deflect attention off his partner. Laughing he clapped his hands once and rubbed them together, “Well, we’d better let Thaddeus rest. Arthur I’ll be down shortly and we can see what there is to be done about Jake.”

“Could you walk me downstairs, Arthur? Abderus should be done making the tea I thought you might need.” Arthur nodded and locked eyes with Heyes before painfully heading out the door with Mrs. Aradia on his arm.

“What was that?” Any trace of a smile gone from Heyes’s face.

Kid looked up without really seeing his friend. “What was what, Heyes?”

“The blood of youth flows through your veins?” Heyes sat on the sofa next to the bed.

“That’s a strange thing to say.” Kid closed his eyes.

“I know it is, that’s why I wanted to know why you said it.” Heyes scrubbed his face with his hands.

“I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t say that.” Heyes looked up sharply, but seeing the vacant look, decide to change the subject. “You said you had a dream? What was it?”

“Dream? I don’t remember any dream. I do remember talking with you earlier. You kept telling me about something coming. What was that about?”

Heyes stared at Kid, looking for any sign of a joke. He was even more worried for Kid. “Kid, you’ve been out for several hours now, I haven’t talked to you.”

“Huh. That’s odd.” Kid closed his eyes and immediately fell back to sleep. Heyes sat quietly let everything wash over him. He thought about the voices both men were hearing and now the death of a good man. Unconsciously, he reached for Kid’s hand wanting to check the cut he received when they first arrived. He froze. He slowly checked the other hand and looked back at the injured one. There was only the smallest sign that any injury had been there. He shook his head knowing he wasn’t going to find the answers here right now. Heyes studied Kid for several more minutes and decided to try to find some answers downstairs. As he reached the door he heard Kid mumble, “I know what to do.” Knowing he needed rest, Heyes struggled with himself but decided to refrain from waking Kid and questioning him.

To say he was stunned at the sight of the kitchen didn’t begin to describe Heyes’s reaction. Except for the two guest rooms, the house was nearly pristine. Heyes could even see parts of the outside of the house. It was brand new.

Heyes collected Arthur from the kitchen where he was having tea and chatting with Mrs. Aradia and Abderus. Together they headed out to see if they could find the horses and Jake's body. Heyes wanted to make quick work of this, as he was more than a little uncomfortable leaving Kid alone in the house. Especially since something seemed to be wrong. Arthur lead Heyes to the last place he had seen Jake, and he was shocked to see in just how bad of shape the area was. They searched until the sun began to set. At that point they reluctantly agreed that they might not find the body until the water went down some or might not find it at all. Arthur seemed very quiet on the way back to the house. As they approached the porch he stopped abruptly and just stood staring at the house.

Heyes turned from the steps and frowned at Arthur, “Arthur? What’s wrong?”

Arthur tore his eyes away from the front door of the house, “I…” he began then stopped and stared some more.

“Art?” Heyes walked back down the stairs and put a reassuring hand on Arthur’s shoulder.

Arthur eyes jumped to Heyes face and then back again to the house. The man was close to panic. “I can’t go back in there Joshua.” He began to back away. “Something very bad is going to happen if I go back into that house.” As the sun set, only the final rays that hadn’t faded remained to light the outside area, inside the house was ablaze with lights in what appeared to be every room of the house.

“Arthur?” Heyes’ frown deepened at the panic he was seeing. “Come on inside and we will…”

Arthur was shaking his head furiously, “No, no. I can’t.”

The shadow that had been slinking around the house began to draw near. Quietly, as if it was trying to over hear what the two men where saying. From a distance the sound of the cat’s scream sounded again. Slowly Arthur began to shake his head no and back away from Heyes.

“Arthur…” Heyes was deeply concerned now about what they man was going to do. Looking around, Heyes saw the shadowy figure slink behind the ruins of the barn. It was moving away as if the sound of the angry cat had frightened it. The sound of the cat’s cry and the shadow both gave Heyes a deep chill. A chill that he could feel deep in his bones, it frightened him in a way he had only felt one other time in his life and that was when he had seen the smoke rising from his family’s farm back in Lawrence all those years ago. “Art, please come inside and we will talk this through. Everything is going to be alright.”

Arthur again shook his head, “Nothing is ever going to be alright again.” Arthur began to take steps backward away from Heyes. Slowly at first, then the panic that had been building gripped him, he turned and began to run. Again the cat screamed. Only this time it was much closer than it had been before. Heyes started to follow Arthur, but decided that with a large cat so close, he should be armed. Heyes raced up the stairs and into the house, up the stairs to the bedroom that he was sharing with Kid, threw open the door and grabbed his gun.

“Heyes!” Kid called without thinking as Heyes darted back out the door and down the stairs to the front door. Kid threw off the covers and grabbed his own gun to follow Heyes down the steps. At the bottom Kid stood and watched as Heyes tried to pull the door open again. It wouldn’t budge. Kid allowed the hand his gun was in to drop to his side. “It’s begun.” He said.

Heyes turned to him, “What are you talking about?”

“Arthur. He’s dead isn’t he?”

Heyes gave Kid a look as if he had lost his mind, “No, not yet. That cat is out there though. If we don’t get out there soon…” Heyes stopped as Mrs. Aradia appeared at the top of the stairs. By now the dress she wore appeared to be brand new. Yet it was clearly the same one that she had been wearing earlier. Her hair was a lovely auburn brown; her skin was clear and smooth. She appeared to be a woman in her late 20’s or early 30’s rather than the woman on death’s door they had seen when they first arrived. Heyes recognized her immediately as the woman in his dream.

The first sounds of a second storm could be heard. Darkness had fallen and lightning accentuated the already lit room.

“I’m afraid Hannibal dear, that you are wrong.” Heyes and Kid both turned to meet her gaze as she glided down the stairs. Beside her was a black cat, licking it’s mouth as if it had just enjoyed a tasty meal. “Poor, poor Arthur.”

From behind them the door rattled and there was a growl and a scream of frustration.

Without taking his eyes off the woman, Kid quietly spoke to Heyes. “Open the door.”

Not bothering to question his partner’s judgment Heyes reached behind him and tried to open the door. The knob would turn but the door wouldn’t open. Knowing that Kid would keep a watchful eye, Heyes turned his back on the woman and check to see if the door was locked and then tried again. Still the door wouldn’t budge.

“It won’t open.” Heyes told Kid trying to sound calm.

Thunder cracked and the sound of rain could now be plainly heard.

Etta chuckled, “Why of course not you silly boy.” She purred at them. “I need you both to stay.” She had reached the bottom of the stairs. She approached Heyes and caressed his cheek, “Especially you Hannibal.”

“Get away from him.” Kid raised his gun and pointed it at her.

“Why Jedidiah dear boy, you of all people should understand not to make me angry.” The woman lowered her hand from the caress to grip Heyes’ throat. Heyes struggled, but realized quickly just how strong this woman was. He would have to bide his time. Heyes’ wide eyes grew smaller again as calm overtook him. “It’s alright, Kid.”

“What do you want him for?” Kid was asking Etta but never took his eyes from Heyes.

“Well you are under the protection of that thing out there, while he is not. I need his energy. I need to live. The others had too much good in them. They died too quickly. You two aren’t quite as pure, which means you can last longer. Both of you would be preferable, but as that thing chose to help you, I’ll have to make do with one,” she sneered.

Scratching could be heard at the door.

“What is that thing outside?” Heyes was able to ask as her hold had lessened.

“It is another of my . . . well, let’s just say it means to do me harm, and with your help Mr. Heyes’, I plan to be stronger than ever.” with one finger of the hand around his neck, she resumed caressing his throat.

“Abderus, open the door.” Kid spoke as the old man withdrew from the shadows.

“My great-grandson help you? I really don’t think so. Poor boy, he was quite young and handsome a couple of years ago, but he gave all he could. Now it’s your turn,” she chuckled.

“Well, we’re not going to help you. You can’t drain me anymore.” Kid took two steps toward Etta.

“As I said before, your friend is not under it’s protection.” She slowly squeezed his neck again.

“No, but he’s under mine.” As soon as he uttered the words, Kid made a move to get her away from Heyes.

“I may not be able to drain you, but I can still hurt you!” she screamed. As Kid reached her, he was surprised to find a letter opener in his shoulder. He reeled from the pain and fell against the wall sliding down to sit on the floor. He pulled the opener from his shoulder and watched as Heyes took advantage of the distraction.

Heyes broke her hold, grabbed her arm, twisted it behind her and slung his other arm around her neck. “You’re going to open that door and let my friend and I leave.”

The screaming from outside grew louder and more frantic. The door’s hinges somehow holding.

“You will regret this!” Etta was becoming hysterical. She wasn’t strong enough to break his hold.

Heyes took a breath and looked at where Kid was leaning against the wall. His face was red and scrunched from pain, and his hair was now wet with sweat. Heyes was more than furious. He let his eyes once again rest on the neck of the woman who had tried to kill them both. “Lady, you have no idea how much I already regret this, now OPEN THE DOOR!”

“What will you do, Mr. Heyes? Kill a frail old woman?” As the lightning flashed, once again standing before him was the old, frail woman from the day they arrived. The next moment she was as young as he had seen in her dream. “Or would you kill a young woman who could offer you a lifetime of pleasure, however short that lifetime may be?” This outlaw had had enough. “If I have to.” His grip grew tighter.

The sound of the scream could now be heard in the room. It was a scratchy shriek that made everyone’s hair stand on end.

“That’s impossible,” Etta cried!

The shrieking continued. Heyes could see that Abderus was visibly shaking.

“That thing is inside now, and it’s going to kill you,” Heyes menaced, but didn’t loosen his hold.

“It can’t. It’s not possible!” Etta began to struggle.

“It’s going to kill you too, Abderus.” Heyes’ voice was laced with venom.

The little old man threw his arms up, wailed , ran to the front door and threw it open.

“NO!” Etta had seen the trick too late.

Kid looked up and smiled as he ran the edge of the letter opener against the stone of the fireplace eliciting yet another shrieking sound.

As Abderus flung the door open, a great wind threw Heyes and Etta to the floor. Kid shielded his eyes with his good arm, and darkness ensued.

Heyes opened his eyes to see the arrival of dawn. He felt as old as Etta first appeared to him. Etta! He quickly sat up and looked all around him. She was gone. He was instantly to his feet and by Kid’s side. “Hey.” He tapped his face. “Hey!” he said and tapped more insistently.

Kid startled awake. “Heyes?”

“Yeah, let me check your shoulder.” Heyes unbuttoned Kid’s shirt enough to take a look at the wound. He didn’t move.

“Heyes? That bad?” Kid was still trying to awaken fully.

“What? Oh no, in fact it’s already started healing.” Heyes replied with a lightness he hadn’t felt in days.

“Heyes?”

Heyes started cleaning the wound and answered distractedly, “Hmm?”

“What the hell happened?” Kid shuddered.

“I’m not really sure Kid, but I think you’re right. I think Hell happened.” Heyes finished cleaning the wound and closed Kid’s shirt. “You strong enough to ride?”

Kid tested out his arm, “What about the horses and all the water?”

Heyes reached down and clasped Kid’s good hand and pulled him up. “I’m kind of betting that won’t be a problem.”

“What makes you say that?”

Heyes waved his arm around, “Take a look around you.”

There was nothing left recognizable about the house. It had literally fallen down around them.

Standing nearby were the horses, all four of them. The road had mostly dried and a narrow path beckoned them. Kid and Heyes headed toward the barn to see if they could locate their tack which had been buried in the rubble of the barn.

"Ya know Kid," Heyes obviously began feeling more like himself. "Next time I think maybe we should just stay in the barn."

Kid shot him an annoyed looked, "Well I don't know why."