SHARON KENNISON

                Under normal circumstances, each man would have jumped up, clearing leather as they went. But both men recognized this voice, and even though they might classify him as a “friend” they nevertheless hated to see him arrive. Because one thing always followed him, trouble.

            Kid pushed himself off the floor, and reaching down, offered Heyes his hand.  Heyes grabbed Kid by the hand, and shaking his head, allowed Kid to help him from the floor. He took a few seconds to dust his pants with his hands before turning towards the man who had spoken.

            “Harry Briscoe, now what ever are you doing here?”

            “I was waiting.”

            “Waiting for what?” asked Kid, head cocked slightly towards the side.

            “Why, waiting for you boys.”

           Heyes and Kid glanced towards each other, than turned their gazes back to land on the man standing in front of them. Dressed all in black, except for the white shirt, Harry Briscoe was a constant reminder of just how wrong things could always go. From their first meeting on the train headed towards Brimstone, and the subsequent capture of the “other” gang of train robbers, their paths had crossed several times, and usually with strange outcomes. They had convinced him to return the gold that Charlie O’Rourke had stolen, they had led him from a life of crime involving the nun, and had saved him from disgrace in Utah, allowing him to capture those wanted outlaws and rejoin the Bannerman Detective agency. But, not even once, could they remember anything good happening for them during their meetings. And this didn’t bode well for this meeting either.

            “Harry, what do you want? And why here? Come to think of it, how here?” Heyes looked puzzled, as he surveyed the area. Most of the furniture was covered in dust, much of it broken. Obviously not used for a long time. He turned his head back in the direction where Harry stood, and noticed that there were several chairs beside the table, on which sat a pot of coffee and some cups. Empty plates were also resting there, so Harry had been here for a while at least.

            “Well, you boys just ain’t gonna believe this.”

            Kid groaned. “Harry, I hate it when you start a conversation like that.”

            “Now Kid, ya haven’t even heard what it is I have to say yet.”

            “I know Harry, but I have an idea I’m not going to like it.”

            Motioning towards the table and chairs, “Now, come on boys, sit down. Have some coffee. You must be tired.”

            Each man looked at the other before slowly walking towards the table, sitting down in chairs across from each other, where they both could keep a good eye on Harry. Harry seemed to not notice, and busied himself with pouring each man a cup of coffee. Pushing the cups in the boys’ direction, he sat himself in the remaining chair.

            Heyes slowly reached for his cup, and carefully placing it to his lips, sipped. The liquid inside was lukewarm and bitter, but still better than nothing. He chuckled to himself, just wait until Kid tastes this if he thinks mine is so bad.

            Kid, in turn, reached out to pick up his cup of coffee, eyes never leaving Harry. Placing the cup to hip mouth, he made the mistake of taking a rather large drink, and spewed coffee across the table and onto Harry. Harry, who took offense at this, jumped to his feet, brushing his coat with his hands.

            “Sorry Harry, didn’t mean to do that.” Kid tried to look regretful, which was hard, what with the taste still on his tongue and Heyes busting his buttons with laughter.

            “Guess you will never complain about my coffee again, will ya Kid?”

            “No Heyes, I guess I won’t.” Motioning towards Harry, “Sit down, will ya Harry. You’re making me nervous.”

Harry slowly returned to his seat, keeping his look on Curry. “Sorry Kid, don’t mean to make you nervous. Just wanted to give you something to warm you up, what with your long ride and all.”

            “It was a nice thought Harry. Now, what brings us all here tonight?”

            Kid looked again towards Heyes, who had tears running down his face from laughing so hard. Kid shook his head, than reaching out, hit Heyes upside the shoulder, effectively killing the laughter. Heyes looked at Kid, than smiled. Yeah, he would remember this one for a long time to come.

            Heyes finally managed to pull his look from Kid, and looked towards where Harry was sitting. He studied Harry for a moment, trying to find a meaning to them all being there. He knew Harry well enough to know that he often left out bits of information, and this usually got them into trouble.

            “So Harry,” Heyes started, “what is this meeting all about? And how did you manage to be here.”

            Harry looked down at his hands, shaking his head slightly. “You ain’ta gonna believe this boys, but I need your help.”

            Heyes smiled. “When haven’t you needed our help? How is this any different?”

            Harry looked up, meeting Heyes gaze. “Because this time, helping me means saving an entire town.”

            Heyes frowned. “Just what are you talking about Harry? What town? And from what?”

            “Bigfoot.”

            “What?”

            “Harry, what else have you been drinking?” Kid asked, picking up Harry’s coffee cup and smelling the contents.

            Harry was waving his hands towards the table. “I know how it sounds boys, but I really need you to help me out with this.”

            Heyes leaned forward on the table. “Harry, it still doesn’t make any sense. What are you talking about?”

            “Well, boys, the agency received some information regarding a mysterious being outside the town of Hallowtown, Colorado. They want me to go check it out.”

            Heyes pushed himself back from the table, leaning backwards in his chair. “And how does that affect us?’

            “Well boys, it is the other things that are going on around there.”

            “What things, Harry?” Kid asked, pushing his coffee cup out of the way, just in case he forgot and tried to take another drink. Heyes noticed and grinned, but was thoughtful enough to not burst out laughing again.

            “It’s, well, noises, sounds. Very strange indeed. Some say the town is haunted. Especially the saloon. That’s where you boys come in. I was hoping you would go to the town with me and help me check it out. See if we can find this creature, and see if the saloon is really haunted.”

            “Harry, this sounds unusual, even for you.” Heyes pushed himself to his feet. “And I think we will be going now. “

            Harry stood up quickly, knocking his chair backwards, it hit the floor with a loud bang, the sound echoing in the large, deserted house. “You just have to help me out here.”

            “Harry,” Kid started, “I agree with Heyes. It is time to head on, at least as far as the barn for the night.”

            “But there is a big reward involved, and I would be willing to split it with you.”

            Heyes looked at Kid, than shook his head. “No, I don’t think so this time Harry.”

            “But, did I tell you about the poker game?”

            Heyes looked at Harry, shaking his head. “What poker game?”

            “The one in the saloon, the one where you hear money clicking on the table, but no one is sitting in the chairs.”

            Heyes frowned. “Harry, I think you have been in the sun too long. What you need is rest.”

            Harry slowly shook his head,  No boys, what I need to do is solve this case. Else I am out.” And he sat down, forgetting that the chair had been knocked over previously, landing with a loud thud on the floor.

            Heyes and Kid looked at each other, than walked on either side of the table, reaching down to each grab an arm and pull Harry up onto his feet. Once safely there, the boys stepped back, each keeping an eye on Harry. Harry, dusting his breeches with his hands, just hung his head, muttering as he was shaking his head.

            “Harry, why don’t you sit down and tell us everything.” Heyes picked up the chair, and easily pushed Harry down into it. Then he and Kid sat down in their chairs, leaning their arms on the table. Each waited for Harry to start talking.

            Hallowtown is a small berg, very few residents. Something keeps chasing new arrivals away, and keeping old residents in town, until they are carted to Boot Hill. Several months ago, there was talk of seeing a creature running around the town. Big thing, it was too. Seven foot tall, covered in hair. Deep voice, screams out at times. And the kids….” Harry shook his head.

            Heyes looked at Kid, than back towards Harry. “What about the kids?”

            Harry looked up to meet Heyes’ eyes. “They keep disappearing.”

            “Disappearing?” Kid asked.

            “There have been ten kids missing over the past several months. No signs of them. Parents are afraid to let their children outside. The town is becoming a ghost town, with residents.”

            “I still don’t see where Kid and I come into this plan of yours. And what about you being out of the agency? Can you explain that?”

            Harry continued to shake his head. “I haven’t been doing so well lately. They gave me this assignment, and said if I didn’t solve it, well, to not come back. And me, after all I have done for them.”

            “Well, Harry,” Kid said, “You haven’t been very consistant over the last few months. But to kick you out? There has to be more to it than that.”

            Harry kept his head down.

            “Harry?” Kid raised his voice some, drawing Harry’s attention.

            “Well, you see Kid, there have been a few cases since I last saw you boys, and they didn’t end successfully. So, since Bannerman men are productive, this is my last chance to prove that I am a Bannerman man.” Harry raised his head to met Heyes’ eyes. “And boys, this is all I have. You just have to help me.”

            Heyes shook his head. Leave it up to Harry to back them into a corner.

            “But I don’t understand a lot here. Like how did you find us?”

            “Well, Heyes, that was from the old woman.”

            “Old woman?” Kid repeated, looking towards Harry.

            “Yeah, the old woman outside the building.”

            Heyes rubbed his face with his hands. This was getting weirder by the minute.

            “Harry, if you don’t start making sense, we are leaving.”

            “Hold on Heyes. I’ll tell you everything.”

            Harry took a few seconds to take a drink from his cup, as if steeling himself for what was to come.

            “When I left the building, there was this old woman standing next to the building. I was thinking about what had just happened, and didn’t notice her for a few minutes. But something about her caught my eye. I walked up to her, and she started talking. She told me what I needed was to find my old friends, and they would help me. She told me to follow the old Jackson road as far as it went, and in the end, to sit in the dark in the house and await the arrival of those who would end the mystery.”

            “End the mystery?” asked Kid.

            “Of the missing town, of the poker players who aren’t there, and of the ghost.”

            “Ghost!” yelled Heyes. “Now you have got to be kidding. I don’t believe in ghosts.”

            “Well, you had better believe in these, cause they do exist.”

            “Go ahead, tell us the rest.” Heyes encouraged after a few minutes.

            “I told you about the creature. There are times inside the saloon when you can hear poker players, but there isn’t anyone there. They residents say they hear it all the time, and smell cigar smoke, but the saloon is empty. No one goes there anymore.”        

            “And you think this is a ghost?” asked Heyes, who in spite of himself, was intrigued.

            “Well, boys, what else could it be?”

            Heyes thought for a few minutes. “Someone trying to get everyone out of town for a reason.”

            “But what about the residents not leaving?” asked Harry.

            “Maybe someone needs the deeds to their houses, and thinks to get them when they are dead.”

            Kid and Heyes looked at each other. The look which passed between them told the entire story, but Harry had never been able to read the boys that well.

            “So Harry,” Kid started, “How much does this job pay?”

            Harry looked from first Kid to Heyes, than back again, amazed that they were thinking of helping him.

            “I am suppose to get $5000, I will give you $2000.”

            “Make it $3000, and you have a deal.”  Heyes glanced at Kid for confirmation, and read the slight nod of his head. Both turned back their looks to Harry, who was deciding on the offer.

            “It’s a deal boys,” said Harry, reaching out his hand towards the boys. Each shook hands with Harry, not realizing how this action was leading them down a path to one of the worse adventures they would ever have.

            “Hey, Kid, what day is it?” asked Heyes.

            Kid thought for a few minutes, “Ah, I think it is October 15. Why?”

            Heyes gave a half laugh. “Well, I was thinking. The town’s name is Hallowtown,  filled with ghosts and creaky sounds, and it is almost Halloween. Think it means anything?”

            Kid looked at Heyes. “I hope it means that they can’t read a calendar.”

            “Well, Kid, I think it is all a little too neat. So let’s go prove that ghosts don’t exist.”

            Standing slowly, Kid glanced at Harry before walking towards the door. “I hope you are right Heyes, I sure hope that you are right.”

 

            Morning found Heyes awake early, thinking about everything Harry had said the previous night. Looking over to where Kid slept, Heyes was concerned. Kid was restless, obviously having a nightmare. That was something that he hadn’t had since they were living in the boys’ home. Reaching out, Heyes shook Kid awake, blocking his hand when it settled around the butt of his gun. Some things never changed.

            “Oh, Heyes, is it morning yet?”

            “Not quite. You were having a nightmare. Do you remember it?”

            Kid rubbed his eyes, and nodded his head. “Yeah, I do. It was strange.”

            “How’s that?”

            “Well, Heyes, I was sitting on the ground, no one was around. Than I looked down at my leg, and there on my leg was this huge fly.”

            “A fly?” Heyes asked.

            Kid nodded. “Yeah, but not just any fly. This one was huge, with big beady eyes, and a striped body. I thought it was going to eat me. So I was trying to kill it, but it kept attached to my leg….” Kid was brought up short by sounds of laughter.

            “What’s so funny Heyes?”

            Heyes stood, continuing his laughter. “You are, you know it. A fly.” And he continued to laugh as he walked out the door.

            Kid stood, brushing his clothes. Picking up his hat, he followed Heyes out the door. “Yeah, but it was a humungous fly Heyes.”

 

            Two days later found the trio outside the town of Hallowtown. Heyes sat atop his horse, surveying the area. Kid was watching behind them, making sure they hadn’t been followed. He had the sensation that they were being watched, but could not see anything. Harry sat on his horse looking very nervous. Night had not yet started to fall.

            “So Harry, does this creature stop us from riding into the town, or does it throw us out after we get there?”

            Harry shook his head, ‘It isn’t funny Heyes, now come on!”

            Kid was chuckling as well. “OK, Harry. What do you think Heyes?”

            Heyes shook his head. “It looks quiet enough. I think we should just ride into town and see what happens. Ready?” he asked, looking at each man in turn. Kid nodded his head while Harry just barely grunted.

            “Harry, this was your idea.”

            “Yeah, I know that Kid. It’s just, well, what if there is something out there?”

            “Well, Harry,” says Heyes. “Just make sure it doesn’t get you until we get our money.” And he moved his horse towards town, followed by Kid. Harry only sat there for a few seconds before following them down the trail. None of the men saw the form lurking from behind the tree behind them, nor did any of them see the bright eyes as they followed the trio into town.

            Riding down the street of Hallowtown was like riding down any street of any town in the west except for one thing, it was deserted. No horses were tied to the hitching posts. All the store doors were closed, with shades pulled. No smoke could be seen rising from the businesses, even though it was a bit nippy outside this time of year. Looking down the street towards the end of town, Heyes could see rows of houses, all in a row. The windows were closed and shades closed as well, but wisps of smoke could be seen coming from the chimneys. Very strange indeed. Heyes looked towards Kid, who had noticed the same thing. Harry, well Harry just kept looking around as if he was afraid something was going to get him.

            Heyes looked up as they came even with the saloon. The barroom doors were open, and a lamp was lit inside. No sounds could be heard. Heyes pulled his horse over to the hitching post, and with a quick nod at Kid, dismounted his horse. Kid stepped off his horse as well, looping the reins loosely around the rail. Harry stayed seated on his horse.

            “You comin’ Harry?” asked Heyes.

            Harry shook his head, looking around nervously. “I think I should stay here with the horses, just in case.”

            Heyes grinned and nodded. “That’s a good idea Harry. Protect the horses. Come on Kid.” And they pushed aside the barroom doors and walked inside.

            The inside of the saloon was like so many they had been in over the years. The bar took up almost an entire wall on one side, with a piano up in the corner. Tables and chairs were scattered around the remaining floor space, all set up as if waiting for someone to sit down, one pushed away from the table. No glasses were seen on the top of the bar, but a heavy layer of dust was present. Dust also covered every object inside the saloon, save for one, and the floor was covered in dust. No footprints were visible in the dust, evidence that no one had been in the saloon for a long time. The lone source of light was from lamp hanging in the middle of the room. The globe to that light was clean, as if recently dusted. Heyes frowned, trying to figure out how someone could light the lamp without leaving footprints on the floor. No sounds could be heard.

            “Well, this is interesting,” said Heyes looking around, walking as he talked.. “Ever see a saloon totally empty in the daytime?”

            “No, Heyes, can’t say that I have.”

            “Come on Kid, lets go explore the rest of the town.” Heyes reached out and pushed the lone chair back up underneath the table, and wondered why a lone chair was back when the rest were scooted underneath the tables. But, he reasoned he might never know the answer to that question. He glanced at Kid, shrugging his shoulders. Heyes and Curry turned and headed to the door. They were brought up short with the sound of a chair scuffing on the floor, as if it was scooted backwards. Each man turned, Kid with his gun jumping into his hand. Looking around, no one could be seen standing behind them. Heyes walked over to a table, where one chair was now pushed back away from the table. No footprints were visible in the dust on the floor, except for those made by Heyes and Curry. Heyes walked around the table, but could not find anything unusual. So he pushed the chair back up to the table, and glancing around again, walked back to where Kid stood and nodded. Kid reholstered his gun and turned back towards the barroom door, walking next to Heyes. Heyes lifted his hand to push open the door, when again they heard the sound of chair scraping on floor. Each man stopped, and slowly turned around. The same chair had once again been pushed away from the table.

            Heyes and Kid looked at each other, and without another word, left the saloon.

They saw Harry, still sitting on his horse, beady eyes looking around, obviously very nervous.

            “Did you see anything Harry?” asked Heyes.

            “No Heyes, I didn’t. Did you?”

            Heyes and Kid looked at each other, before answering. “No Harry, we didn’t see anything,” answered Kid. Which was the truth.

            Heyes reached out for the reins of his horse. “Lets see if we can find a hotel for the night.” And mounting his horse, he headed down the street, stopping in front of the only hotel in town. Kid and Harry followed.

            Dismounting, Heyes surveyed the building. Once very beautiful in design, the hotel had been allowed to deteriorate into a shadow of its former self. The windows were caked in dirt, not having seen a cleaning in a long time. One door hung on a single hinge, threatening to fall at any minute. No lights were visible inside the establishment. Heyes shook his head. This was going to be a long night. And he glanced around at the sky, which was just starting to darken towards nightfall.

            Heyes stepped up to the door, opening the side which was still on both hinges. As he started to push the door open, he heard a loud squeak of protest from the door. Harry screamed, startling both men and horses. Kid managed to bring his horse under control, and grabbing for Harry’s, kept the mare from bolting.

            “Harry! For crying out loud!” Heyes said as he headed towards his saddlebags. Reaching inside, he withdrew the oil can which he kept there, and stepping back towards the door, oiled the hinges both top and bottom. When next he tried to open the door, the hinges no longer protested, and no sounds could be heard. Heyes smiled as he turned around, and replacing the can inside the saddle bag, looked at Harry.

            “Sorry boys, guess I am a bit jumpy.” Harry tried to look sheepish, but didn’t succeed.

            “I guess,” said Kid.

            Heyes shook his head, turned and walked back towards the door, pushing it open and walking inside. Kid also dismounted, and handing the reins to Harry, followed Heyes inside.

            The inside of the hotel spoke of wealth and prosperity, at least at one time. Heyes could tell that the decorations were very rich and expensive things, now sitting in disarray and filth. No one had cleaned or done anything here in a long time, it was such a shame. He walked over to the desk, and turned the register around, reading the names and dates. No one had signed the register in over six months. And the last name was smeared with what looked like blood. Heyes motioned Kid towards the register, who looked at the spot with question. Heyes reached out his gloved hand to touch the spot, and drew his finger away wet with the substance.

            “Now how could that be?” asked Kid.

            “I don’t know. But I think there is more here than meets the eye. And I don’t mean in a ghostly fashion. Come on Kid, let’s look upstairs.”

            Walking towards the staircase, each man walked up the steps slowly, looking around as he went. The stairs were old and creaked with each step, echoing in the empty building. At the top of the stairs, the boys separated, each taking a different direction, opening doors as they went. Each room was like the previous one, with a pair of beds and dresser, water pitcher and bowl. Each room long ago had seen a cleaning, dust was thick everywhere. Nothing distinguished one room from the other. At the end of the hall, each man retraced his steps, joining his partner at the top of the stairs.

            “Well, now what Heyes?”

            Heyes looked around, than back to Kid. “I say we pick a room and get it cleaned up. Than explore the rest of the town.”

            Kid nodded, “Yeah, right after we find something to eat.”

            Heyes grinned. “Ok, Kid, after we find something to eat.”

            Each man pointed towards a room, and since it really didn’t matter, they chose the room that Kid pointed towards. Harry could have the other room.

            Kid went down to get Harry while Heyes started cleaning the room. Opening the window to air out the room, he took a few minutes to survey the street. Quiet wasn’t the right word for it, eerie better fitted the mood. Heyes shook himself, pulling his head back inside the room. Stripping off one of the quilt, he returned to the room, shaking the quilt of accumulated dust. Turning back to the bed, he noticed that the sheets appeared to be clean, and dust free, so returned the quilt to the bed.

            Kid and Harry stepped inside the room.

            “Harry, take the room next door. We are going downstairs to find something to help clean this room some. You go see what you can do with your room.” And with that Heyes stepped out of the room.

            Harry looked scared. “But boys, are you going to leave me here alone?”

            Heyes stopped and turned around to face Harry. “Harry, we are only going downstairs for a few minutes, we will be back.” Than proceeded back down the stairs, Kid on his heels. Harry looked around, and not knowing what else to do, sat on the now clean bed to await the return of Curry and Heyes.

 

            Several hours later found the boys walking down the street, with Harry tagging along behind them. Upon return from their scavenger hunt for cleaning supplies, the boys had found Harry sitting on the bed. After an argument, short lived as it was, they finally got Harry to clean up his own room, while the boys did a quick cleaning on theirs. After a sweep job, quick dusting,  and shaking the quilt of the other bed, the room was livable. At least they wouldn’t sneeze all night from the dust. Sticking their heads into Harry’s room, they found that he was cleaning with one eye towards the door. Heyes shook his head, as if that would help him if attacked by ghosts.

            They had helped him finish his room, and after a discussion of a plan, headed back down the stairs. All three missed the image which watched them leave the upper level.

            “So where do you think we might get something to eat tonight Heyes? There doesn’t seem to be anyone open for business.”

            “I noticed that Kid. Guess we will go check out the store, see what is there.” And they headed across the street in the direction of the general store.

            The door was locked with Heyes tried the handle, but being a resourceful fella, he pulled the lock pick from his boot and opened the lock without any trouble. Heyes smiled as he returned the pick to his boot, and opened door.

            The store resembled the other businesses in town, empty and covered with dust. Canned goods set on the shelf, bolts of material in a barrel in the corner of the store, kegs of nails unopened in the middle of the store. Heyes noticed some very nice, unique furniture sitting in another corner, covered in dust. Someone obviously had a great skill at furniture making. Heyes walked over to the shelf where the canned goods were stacked, reading each label before removing several cans. They might not eat well, but they would eat. Kid also picked up some cans, adding to the pile Heyes was stacking on the counter. Heyes smiled as he picked up one of the cans Kid had placed there, Peaches. He always did have a sweet tooth.

            After a search of the store didn’t turn up any additional items they would need, they planned to use the kitchen in the hotel to fix their meals, they totaled the amount they owed, and waited for Harry to leave the money in the drawer. Harry grumbled, but knew that he had no choice. Heyes placed the items in a sack, and together with Kid, headed back out the door, locking it behind them.

            Each man took the time to look up and down the street, looking for anything moving. An unspoken agreement led them to continue back down the street, headed away from the hotel. Might as well find out what was down this way while they were out.

            As they passed the alley, Kid heard a noise, like a slight scuffing. He reached out to touch Heyes’ arm, but Heyes had already heard the noise too. Only Harry continued to walk. Kid’s gun was in his hand, and using hand signals he motioned that he was going to go to the left, while Heyes was to head to the right. A slight nod of Heyes’ head indicated he understood and each man headed in their appointed directions. Harry’s footsteps could be heard fading down the sidewalk.

            Heyes stopped behind some boxes and watched Kid’s progress down the alley and passed a pile of crates. Kid started to continue down the alley when he heard again the slight scuff, and knew the sound was between the boxes and the crates. He motioned to Heyes who nodded that he too had heard. With a silent count to three, the outlaws stepped as one towards the space between the crates and boxes, guns pointed, cocked and ready. Each man was brought up short at the sight before them.

            Lying crunched up as small as possible was a young boy, no more than ten. Dark brown hair peaked out from under the cap perched atop his head. The sound was his foot scrapping against the crate. Both men reholstered their weapons, and Kid reached in to touch the shoulder of the boy.

            “Hey kid, what’s your name?”

            The young man slowly untucked his face, to make eye contact with Curry. “Jeff.”

            “Well, Jeff, what are you doing out here, all alone?” Heyes asked.

            Jeff turned his gaze to Heyes and slowly sat up, realizing these men meant him no harm.

            “I was looking for something to help feed my family. I heard you coming, and was afraid it was the creature, so I’s hid.”

            Heyes lowered himself to the boy’s level. “What creature?”

            The boy’s eyes grew wide with fright. “The one that prowls around here. They say he eats young children. That’s why no one goes out at night.”

            Heyes continued to maintain eye contact with Jeff. “But you did.”

            The boy nodded. “My maw, she is sick. And the little ones are hungry. I thought I could get something and get back before it got dark, but I didn’t make it.”

            Kid stood up. “Well, we have some food, so why don’t you show us where you live and we will see what we can do about getting’ everyone fed.”

            The boy stood, and nodding, started out the alley. He came to a halt when a shadow filled the end of the alley, tall and spread out.

            “It’s the creature…….” The boy yelled.

            Heyes and Curry just laughed. “No, that’s just Harry.” Heyes said. And walked to the end, where Harry was waving his hands in the air.

            “Boys, where did ya’ go? I was walking one minute besides ya, and the next you’s was gone.”

            Harry stopped when he realized they were not alone.

            “Harry,” started Heyes, “this is Jeff. And we are headed to his house for supper. You coming?” And letting Jeff lead the way, the group started off down the street.

 

            Heyes was brought up short upon entering the house. The smell was one of being closed up too long, of bodies not bathing, and cleaning not being done. Sitting in chairs at the table were two other children, about five and three years of age. Sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace was an older woman, hair pulled back, face drawn. It was obvious that she was not well. Heyes signaled to Kid to tend to the children while Heyes walked over towards the mother. Jeff was talking very quickly about the men finding him in the alley, so the little ones were not afraid.

            Heyes squatted down in front of the woman, touching her forehead. It was cool to touch, and she pulled away at his touch.

            Maam, I only want to help. My name is Smith, Joshua Smith.”

            Her eyes darted around the room, touching on each man for a brief second before passing to the next one. “Maggie, Maggie Dawson.”

            “Well, Mrs. Dawson, I don’t want to hurt you. Jeff said you were not feeling well.”

            “I’m not sick, Mr. Smith, just hungry. We are all hungry. I told Jeff to stay inside, but he is as stubborn as his father.”

            Heyes looked around the room. “Where is his father?”

            Mrs. Dawson hung her head. “He left a month ago, was going to go see if he could bring us some help. And I haven’t heard anything from him since. I think he is probably dead. Else he would have been back.”

            Heyes nodded in understanding. “Well, I can’t do anything about that, but I do have some food. If you would be kind enough to help prepare it, we would be very willing to share with you and your children.”

            Maggie Dawson looked into Heyes’ eyes, and smiled. “I could do that.”

            Heyes returned the smile. “Good, cause otherwise Thaddeus would have to cook, and it wouldn’t be worth eating.”

            “I heard that Joshua.”

            Heyes laughed as he stood back up, holding out his hand to help Maggie from the chair. She stood, and using her hands to straighten her hair, went into the kitchen, where Kid had placed the sack of canned goods. While she was rummaging through the sack, Heyes walked over to the window, and pushing apart the curtains, opened the window. Cool night air rushed inside the room, removing some of the closed in feeling. The kids all stared at the window, and even Maggie stopped doing what she was doing.

            “Mr. Smith, I know you mean well, but we keep the window closed as a way of protecting ourselves.”

            Heyes turned around to face Maggie. “From what?”

            Maggie stammered. “From the creature.”

            Heyes shook his head. “We will talk about that later, but for now, Thaddeus and I can protect you from anything that is outside. The kids need the fresh air, as do you.”

            Maggie was far from convinced, but could see how much better the kids were acting with just this small amount of outside air, so for reasons unknown to her, put her faith in these two men.

            Heyes and Kid looked around the small house, noticing signs of neglect in the structure. These could be fixed without much problem, probably developing since Mr. Dawson had left. Harry, they noticed, had sat down on the couch and had not moved. At least he wasn’t in their way.

            “Where is there some water Ma’am?” asked Kid.

            “There is a pump in the back yard. But no one has used it in a while.”

            “Why’s that ma’am?” Kid asked.

            “Why,” Jeff started, “That would put your back to the woods. We just can’t do that.”

            “I see. Well, I think I will just risk it.”  And picking up a pair of buckets, Kid headed out the back door. The children rushed to the window, and pushed aside the curtains so they could watch Kid fill the water buckets. They were waiting for him, holding the door open, when he approached the house. Sitting down the buckets, Kid picked up the ladle, filling glasses with water, handing one to each of the kids. The kids drank like they were dry, emptying their glasses and handing them back to Kid for a refill. Kid smiled, and refilling each glass, passed them back to the kids. He than filled a glass, and handed it to Maggie.

            “Oh, thank you, but the kids need it worse.”

            “No maam, there is plenty of water in that well. You drink up too.” She reached out to take the glass from his hands, sipping the liquid slowly at first, than rapidly, until it was all gone.

            Kid continued to refill glasses until everyone had had their fill, than after putting some water on to boil, Kid returned to the well to refill the bucket, returning to the safety of the house once again.

            While Maggie was cooking supper, Heyes was exploring the house, finding a small bathing tub. Dragging it into the corner of the room, he and Kid took turns filling buckets and setting pans to heat, until there was enough water in the tub for the kids to bathe. One by one, the kids sat in the tub of water, washing off weeks of grime. Heyes and Kid took turns drying off the young ones, while Maggie found them clean clothes. After four bathes, the water was very dirty, so they carried the tub outside, emptying it of its contents. After returning the tub to the corner, they promised Maggie that they would fill it with water later so she too could bathe. A smile played at the corner of her mouth, the idea of a real bath very delightful.

            After sitting the plates on the table, and grace said, everyone started eating. With clean bodies and clean clothes, and no longer thirsty, the kids all started talking as they were eating. Heyes smiled, remembering how it was not allowed to talk at the table at the boys’ home. This is the way a family table should be. He only hoped that some day he would be able to sit at a table surrounded by his own bunch of kids. He shook himself out of his dream, and glanced at Kid, who had watched the play of emotions cross Heyes’ face. He knew what he was thinking, and hoped that they both would some day have Heyes’ dream.

            Supper over, and with full tummies, the kids went to bed early, happier than they had been for a long while. While Maggie tucked the little ones into bed, Heyes and Kid busied themselves with heating water and refilling the tub. Heyes fashioned a curtain around the tub, to afford Maggie some privacy. Harry had returned to the couch, content to wait to see what the boys were going to do next.

            Maggie halted as she returned to the living room, taking in the curtain around the tub. She smiled and turned her head to make eye contact with Heyes. He returned the smile, nodding his head. She stepped behind the curtain, and shortly thereafter, they could hear the sound of her bathing. Each man smiled, liking that good feeling of being able to help someone else. While she was bathing, the boys went back outside, Heyes to refill the water buckets while Kid chopped some wood. By the time the woodpile had been restocked, and all the water containers filled, Maggie had finished her bath, putting on the clean clothes the boys had thought to put out for her to use. Picking up the dirty clothes, she placed them in a pile, ready to clean tomorrow.

            Maggie put on some coffee, indicating to the boys that they should sit down at the table. Harry decided to join them, placing himself on the opposite side of the table as Heyes and Curry.

            Heyes decided it was time to get some answers.

            “Maggie, what can you tell us about the goings on around here lately?”

            Maggie shook her head. “Not much. Mostly what I have heard from others.”

            “And what is that Maggie?” asked Kid.

            “That some kids are missing, and there is a creature prowling around in the woods. And that the saloon is haunted.”

            “Have you seen any of this yourself?” asked Heyes.

            Maggie again shook her head. “No. I have only heard it from others.”

            “And have they seen it themselves, or have they only heard it from others.”

            Maggie frowned, thinking. “Everyone I have heard have only heard about it from others. No one has seen or heard it themselves.”

            “Just what I thought.” Heyes said.

            “What’s that Joshua?” Kid asked.

            Heyes looked at each one of them before answering. “Someone is trying to scare everyone in this town. There must be something here that someone wants, bad enough to kill for it.”

            Maggie gasped.

            “What do you mean He….Joshua?” stammered Harry. “Kill?”

            Heyes cocked his head sideways, tipping his head back slightly. “People are holed up in their house, families are hungry. Someone is starting and spreading these stories to scare people. That amounts to murder as far as I am concerned.”

            “But what about the missing kids?” Kid asked.

            Heyes looked at Maggie. “Do you know any of the kids that are missing? Actually know them?”

            Maggie shook her head. “No. I have just heard that there are some missing.”

            “Another rumor. One which is intended to frighten families into staying indoors.”

            “So what are we going to do about it?” asked Kid.

            Heyes had a determined look on his face, one which Kid rarely saw, but which always meant trouble for someone. “We are going to put a stop to it.”

 

            They were walking down the street, headed back to the hotel. Each wrapped up in their own thoughts, determined to find a way to end this deception. And a deception they all believed it was, at least Kid did. Harry, now it was hard to know what he really believed. But Kid was relying on Heyes to find a way to end this mystery, and get them their money.

            In passing the saloon, Heyes stopped. There was something he just didn’t understand, and he intended to find out the answers, and now. Stepping through the swinging doors, he faced the empty saloon floor, empty save for the table and chairs. There was something not right here, and he intended to find out what that something was.

            The lamp was still lit, and the tables still empty. The chair, which had moved earlier, was still pushed away from the table. And it was here that Heyes walked.

            “Heyes, don’t ya think we should be getting’ back to the hotel?” Harry was very nervous, looking around inside the saloon.

            “In a minute. First, I want to try something.” And with that, Heyes pushed the chair back up to the table, and waited.

            Several seconds passed, than the chair scooted backwards again, stopping in the same location as before. Harry, seeing this, jumped and yelled. Kid drew his gun, but wasn’t sure what to aim at. Heyes, now Heyes stood there frowning, rubbing his jaw. Than he pushed the chair up again to the table, to watch it scoot away once again. Stepping away, Heyes walked back to the center of the room, and took down the lamp, still burning brightly. Retracing his steps, he again pushed the chair up to the table, this time bending down towards the floor, holding the light where it was shining on the floor. When the chair once again scooted backwards, Heyes had the answer to one question. Standing up, he looked towards Kid and smiled. Than he heard it, the sound of clinking coins.

            Kid as well heard this, but couldn’t decide where it was coming from. Heyes looked around, walking the inside of the saloon, listening for the sounds once again. Than it caught his eye. A vent in the wall. Walking over to the wall, Heyes tapped on the wall, listening for the return sounds. The wall was hollow. He turned to Kid, “Let’s go. We will come back tomorrow when there is more light. And than I will show you how the chair moved.”

            “OK, Heyes. If you say so.” Kid didn’t want to admit it, but he was a little bit shaken by what he had seen and heard. Harry, well Harry was petrified, and hit the door running, headed back to the hotel. Heyes just laughed.

 

            Heyes was up early the next morning. Kid, sound asleep by the sounds of snoring, needed his rest so he left him alone. Today, he decided, he would end this ‘haunting’ and they would be headed out of here. Picking up his gun and hat, he left the room as quietly as possible.

            He walked outside, into the barely early morning sunrise. Shadows were everywhere, casting eerie images all over the town. Heyes decided that this, coupled with the rumors, made the townsfolk even more afraid. Prisoners in their own town. At least he and Kid could ride away. These poor folks didn’t have the nerve to even walk outside their houses, let alone walk the town. And that needed to change. And he was going to do everything he could to see that that was exactly what happened.

           In surveying the town, Heyes’ glance touched on an image, one which cast a large shadow, and was moving, quickly. Heyes took off in the direction of the image, determined to chase it down. He followed into the woods, tripping a few times over hidden sticks. His hearing helped him know he was still after the image, as it was breathing a bit harder all the time. Heyes continued to run, until he stumbled into a clearing. Drawing himself to a halt, Heyes looked around him. In front of him was a small cabin, with a barn and corral. Inside the corral was a bay horse, trotting around. Smoke flittered from the chimney. And inside the cabin, a curtain was hastily closed. So much for a creature thought Heyes.

            Heyes took a moment to catch his breath, than readjusting his hat, walked up to the door and knocked. No sound could be heard from inside the cabin, so he knocked again.

            “I know you are in there, so you might as well open the door.”

            Slowly, the cabin door opened. And Heyes came face to face, for the first time, with the creature.

            Heyes found his gaze moving up and up. The person, as it was not an animal, was tall, standing well over six feet. A full beard and long hair added to the tale of a wild animal. As did the fur coat he was wearing.

            “Hi. My name is Joshua Smith. Can I come in and talk to you?”

            The man in the door stood there for a few minutes before speaking. “Why do you want to do that?”

            “Cause there are some things which need clearing up, and I believe you are the man that can do that. May I come in?”

            The man stood for a few more minutes, before stepping back and opening the door wide. Heyes was amazed at the view inside the cabin. Large furniture, hand crafted, adorned the room. The room was very clean, the windows shining. The aroma of coffee was obvious. Heyes stepped inside the room and waited until the door was closed behind him.

            “Your name would be?” putting out his hand.

            The man hesitated before reaching out a hand, one which dwarfed Heyes’. “John.”

            “Hi John. May I sit down?”
            John indicated a chair, and Heyes removed his hat before sitting down. John moved to the stove and indicated whether Heyes wanted any coffee, which he nodded yes. John poured two cups, handing one to Heyes before he sat down in a chair across the room. Heyes took a sip of the coffee and was amazed at the wonderful taste contained inside the cup.

            “This is absolutely wonderful. Best cup of coffee I have had in a long time.”

            “Thanks.”

            Heyes sat enjoying his coffee for a few more minutes before broaching the subject of his visit.

            “So John, how long have you been here?”

            “Why?”

            “Only because the townsfolk seem to think you are a creature, prowling around stealing their children.”

            “What!” John replied. “I never took nothing that didn’t belong to me.”

            Heyes raised a hand, “I don’t doubt that. But people are scared of what they don’t know. And obviously they don’t know about you.”

            “No, they don’t. I don’t go to town in the daytime, only at dark. And not recently hardly at all.”

            “What do you know about what is going on?”

            “Nothing. I know that the store clerk used to have groceries for me outside, but over the last few months, nothing.”

            Heyes looked down into his cup for several more minutes. Prying into a man’s personal life was not something that he liked doing, as it was something he didn’t like having done to him. But he knew that to get to the bottom of this mystery, he would have to do just that. No time like the present. Lifting his eyes to meet John’s he started.

            “John, I hate to have to ask you, but is your story? What brings you here? And why do you hide out?”

            John let out a large sigh, than started to relate his story.

            “I am from back east, Illinois. As you can see, I tend to stand out in a crowd, and most people are uncomfortable with things that are different then they are. I learned to do woodcrafting as a trade, and really enjoy working with my hands.”

            Heyes looked around at the furniture in the cabin, and was once again amazed at the quality of the work. He obviously was very good at what he did.

            “A few years ago, it became almost impossible to live where I was. I am a private person, and passive by nature. And those things just don’t go together when you are my size. So I packed up my tools and headed this direction.”

            “The year I arrived here, winter was coming in strong. I was late getting into town for supplies, and I guess  I scared just about everyone that saw me. The storekeeper agreed to provide me provisions, just as long as I didn’t come to the store in the daytime. So I started to show up when it was dark, so no one would see me.” John paused here, the memory of this feeling obviously painful.

            Heyes sat drinking his coffee and allowing John to continue at his own speed.

            “I guess, as time passed, it was easier to just stay out of town, and out of everyone’s way. The storekeeper puts my furniture in his store to sell, and gives me the money it makes, less his commission of course.”

            Heyes interrupted, “I saw some of your furniture in the general store. Very nice looking.”

            “Thanks. So I guess, over time, I became more of a hermit than before. Let my hair grow, as well as my beard, since it was easier to do that than to try to keep it cut neatly. Lately, I have been driving my team to Jackson, about a day’s ride from here, for supplies. That’s how I first saw you.”

            Heyes frowned. “What do you mean?”

            John shrugged his shoulders. “I was coming back yesterday when I saw you with your friends, just before you rode into town. I stood behind you, saw your friend keep looking around, but don’t think he ever saw me.”

            Heyes smiled. “Yeah, Thaddeus said he felt like he was being watched, but we all put it down to the stories about the town.”

            Taking another drink of coffee, Heyes continued. “But what about this morning? What were you doing in town?”

            “I wanted to see what you were up to. I saw you go into Maggie Dawson’s place last night. Wanted to make sure she and her young ones were alright.”

            “You watch them a lot?”

            John shook his head. “No, only since her husband left town.”

            “Do you have any idea where he might be?”

            John again shook his head, “No, but I don’t think he just left her, that’s for sure. I used to see them together, and it was amazing. To have someone care that much for a person, why you would never give that up.”

            Heyes lowered his eyes, the memory of his own longings brought to the forefront of his mind. When he had time to collect his thoughts, he again raised his eyes to meet with John.

            “So now that I know you aren’t Bigfoot, can you tell me if there is anything in the area around here that would make people want to drive new families away? Or keep others here and scared in their homes?”

            John nodded. “Only one thing. The silver.”

            Heyes frowned, “Silver?”

            John nodded his head again. “Yeah, several months ago, I heard rumors that they had discovered a new vein of silver, running along the bottom of the town. ‘Cept Old Man Jackson couldn’t get to it, as most of the vein ran along other people’s property.”

            Heyes continued to frown. “So why didn’t he just buy their property?”

            “Cause that would mean having to spend money, which he doesn’t like to do. Easier to drive people away.”

            Heyes shook his head. “But people are staying, not leaving. That doesn’t make sense.”

            John stood, and walking to the cupboard, opened a drawer. After rummaging through it for a few seconds, he withdrew a piece of paper. Turning, he handed the paper to Heyes, who quickly scanned it for information.

            Heyes nodded his head. “Can I keep this?”

            “Sure, for a while. Why?”

            “Because I have someone to prove something to. Are you planning on coming into town any time soon?”

            John shook his head.

            Heyes stood. “Can you meet me in town tonight, just after sundown?”

            “Why?”

            Heyes smiled, “Cause I think it is time this town got a wake up call. And I think you and I are the ones to do it.”

           

            Heyes sat outside on the porch, waiting for Kid and Harry to show up. He had spent the last several hours sitting quietly, working on a plan to rid this town of its fear. He just hoped that it all pulled together as he hoped.

            Heyes looked up to see Kid wander out the door, nodding his head, and taking the chair next to his. Together they surveyed the street, even though both knew they would not see anyone out walking. The town was in a grip of fear which could not seem to be broken.

            “So, what do you have planned today Heyes?”

            Heyes pulled his gaze back to meet with Kid’s, smile starting to form at the corner. “Today, Kid, we get paid.”

            “How’s that?”

            Heyes nodded. “I figured it out, now just trying to finalize the plan to reveal to this town that there are no ghosts scaring them. I already know there is no Bigfoot.”

            “How’s that Heyes?” Kid asked.

            “Cause I met him.”

            “Met who, Heyes. You know, you are starting to sound like Harry Briscoe, and that ain’t good.” At the mention of his name, Harry walked out of the hotel, stopping to nervously glance around the town.

            “Morning Harry. Did you sleep well?” asked Heyes, laughter only slightly under the surface. Heyes had heard Harry toss most of the night.

            “No, Heyes, I didn’t. The sooner we can figure out this mess, the sooner we can get out of here.”

            “We Harry?” asked Kid. “Just what have you figured out so far Harry?”

            Harry stammered, unable to complete an answer to that question. He decided to sit down instead.

            Heyes smiled, watching the interaction between these two. Harry would never learn that he would not win in a battle of wits with Kid Curry.

            The attention of the three was turned towards the street, at the sounds of laughter. Looking up, they saw Maggie Dawson and her children walking down the sidewalk towards where the boys were sitting. As they approached, Heyes and Curry stood, removing their hats in greeting. Maggie waved them to sit down, which they did, returning their hats to their heads.

            “Morning Maggie,” said Heyes. “How are you doing today?”

            “Just fine, Joshua, thanks to you and Thaddeus. The children feel so much better this morning, that we all decided to take a walk and get out for a while. We were hoping to run into you and invite you to breakfast, unless you have already had yours.”

            “No ma’am, we haven’t. And we would sure be glad to join you.” Kid was never one to turn down food.

            “Thaddeus is correct. We would love to join you for breakfast. The fact is, I was wanting to talk to you anyway. Maybe we can do that after breakfast.”

            “Well, Joshua, Thaddeus, please join us. We would be most grateful for your company.” And gathering her children’s hands, the group started back towards the small cabin that as once again starting to feel like home to the Dawson family.

 

            Night was starting to fall as the trio gathered once again on the porch of the hotel. The day had been spent exploring the town, with Kid and Harry walking around the town, and Heyes riding the area surrounding the town. Harry had interrupted several conversations with the boys, and they had not enlightened him of the contents. Heyes figured that all would be revealed shortly.

            Heyes and Kid were talking when the quiet of the night was interrupted with the sounds of footsteps. Harry, already nervous, jumped up and ran inside the hotel, peeking out the side of the window. Heyes and Kid just waited to see what materialized from the dark. They didn’t have long to wait. The shadow, which was large and imposing, gradually took shape as the person neared the hotel. Heyes stood on his feet, reaching he hand out to greet John.

            “Thanks for coming.”

            John took his hand in greeting, being careful to not squeeze too hard. “Glad to do it Joshua.”

            Heyes indicated Kid, “This is Thaddeus,” and nodding towards the hotel, “And that person hiding behind the door is Harry Briscoe.” At the sound of his name, Harry stepped back out onto the porch, taking care to keep his hand close to the butt of his gun. Heyes saw the motion, and indicated for Harry to move his hand, which he did reluctantly.

            “This is John. Meet Bigfoot.”

            Kid extended his hand towards John. “Nice to meet you. Joshua told me of your conversation of this morning. Thanks for helping us.”

            “Thaddeus.”

            Harry, intrigued in spite of his fear, stepped forward. “What conversation?”

            Heyes turned his look to Harry. “I met John this morning. We had an interesting conversation, one which has shed a lot of light on the town and its current fear. And with his help, I plan to show you who is behind it, and why.”

            With a quick glance towards Kid, Heyes stepped off the porch and headed towards the saloon, Kid following. Harry looked quickly at John, than followed the pair of outlaws. John’s face sported a small smile as he too followed the trio into the saloon.

            Heyes stopped in the center of the room, looking around. Nothing had changed. The light was still lit, the room empty. No footprints were visible in the dust save for the ones they made yesterday. And one chair was pushed away from a table, just as it was when they left. Heyes nodded towards Kid, than stepped to the wall, halting beside a vent in the wall. Leaning down, he carefully listened to the sounds coming from the wall. In a muffled tone he could hear voices, and footsteps. Standing back up, he indicated to Kid where he needed to stand. Heyes took a position on the opposite side of the vent as Kid. On the silent count of three, Heyes and Kid started to beat on the walls as hard as they could, making as much noise as possible.

            Harry stood in the center of the room, frowning. He had no idea what they boys were up to. He also kept a close eye on John, who’s presence made him very nervous.

            As the boys were pounding on the walls, John walked over to the wall which contained the vent, and with one swift blow, punched a hole in the wall. Grabbing thin paneling, he started pulling the wall down, aided in this quest by Heyes and Curry, who both grabbed at loose wall and pulled. Soon a hole big enough for John was opened, and the trio quickly darted inside the wall, following the path which led away from the saloon.

            They quickly found the end to the tunnel, right inside a cabin just outside of town. That there had been someone there recently was obvious, by the plates of food and the cigars still smoldering in the trays. Heyes smiled, he guessed they were frightened away by the ‘ghosts’ of the town.

            The tunnel was once a path from the mine into town, dug through the stone. The town had been built on the other side of the tunnel, the wall erected, and people had forgotten about the tunnel. Sound crossed down the tunnel and into the saloon, through the vent in the wall. As did the smell of cigar smoke. In surveying the room, Heyes noticed cards and chips on a shelf. It didn’t take much other figuring out to decide the rest. Heyes indicated they should return to the saloon, starting off in that direction.

            When they were outside the saloon wall, Heyes walked to the left side, not entering the saloon, but following another tunnel for a short distance. This opened into a smaller room, just a few feet away from the vent. Inside the room was a stand, on which sat some sort of machine. It contained pulleys and string, and some counter weights.

            Heyes walked up to the machine, and looked around, spotting the lantern. He reached into his pocket, withdrawing a match, and lit the lantern, fixing the wick so that a soft glow was evident. Walking back over to the stand, he indicated the machine.

            “Joshua, I don’t understand.” Said Kid, frowing.

            “It’s simple. This is a set of weights and counter weights. Last night, when we were in the saloon, I thought something was interesting about that chair moving on its own. So I looked closely.”

            “Yeah, I remember that.”

            “Well, what I saw was a fine string, tied to the leg of the chair. Because it was so fine, and light in color, it blended into the dust on the floor, unless you were actually looking for it you probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all.”

            Turning back towards the machine, he continued. “That string is connected to this machine. When the chair is pushed up to the table, it sets off this reaction,” and Heyes pulled on the string, drawing it taunt. “The weights move, sliding to the other side. As the weight on that side gets heavier, the string is drawn back, thus moving the chair back away from the table. Once the weights balance out, the chair stops moving.”

            Heyes looked up and grinned. “There you have it, one moving chair.”

            Kid smiled. “And the coin clinks?”

            Heyes stepped away from the machine. “The men in that room were playing cards, gambling with coins, and smoking. Because of the echoing of sound, the noises were transmitted through the tunnel and into the saloon, as was the small odor of smoke. Thus, you have a poker game with no players.”

            “Joshua, you are a genius.”

            Harry stepped towards Heyes. “But why all of this?”

            “Because of silver.”

            “Silver?”

            Heyes nodded and looked towards John. “Come on, lets get out of here and get some more light.”

            The group of men reentered the saloon, sitting down at one of the table. Heyes withdrew from his pocket the paper John had given to him at his cabin. Heyes opened the paper carefully, spreading it out on the tabletop.

            “Back many years ago, before Hallowtown was even a town, there was a mine here that produced Silver. But the mine played out, and finally closed. The owner of the mine sold the property to various people who formed a town, which became known as Hallowtown. But the one provision in the sale of the property, the property could never be sold to anyone other than the original owners. Not sure why he did that, maybe had a hunch. Anyway, a few months ago they rediscovered a new vein of silver and wanted to reopen the mine.”

            “But now?”

            “You are right, Thaddeus. But now the mine didn’t belong to them anymore, and the vein of silver was on several different properties. They wouldn’t tell them of the silver find, they didn’t want to share in the profits. And they tried to buy the property back, but the owners didn’t want to sell. So they had to find out a way to get the property back. What better way than to devise a ghost, in a town named Hallowtown.”

            Heyes looked towards John. “John just had the misfortune to be seen coming into town. With his size, it didn’t take long for the rumors to start, what with all the ‘ghostly’ activity that had been seen and heard.”

            “What about the children?” Harry asked.

            “Never were any children stolen. Just a bunch of rumors created to scare people into hiding.”

            Harry shook his head. “But I am still confused. Why not get the people to just leave?”

            Heyes pointed to a paragraph in the paper, which was a deed to the property that John owned. It too sat on the silver vein. “There was a provision. If the owners just abandoned the property, it reverted to the town, which reverted to the state. Mine couldn’t get their hands on it that way. But if the owners died, the property reverted back to the original owners, the mine. Strange provision, but people didn’t take the time to read everything. So see, they had to keep the owners prisoners until they either signed the property back or they died, in which case they would regain control of the property.”

            “But what about Maggie’s husband?” asked Kid.

            “Oh, I think he is safe. Probably a prisoner himself, but safe. Couldn’t have him clueing the rest of the state on what was happening here in Hallowtown. Lom should have contacted the authorities by now.”

            “You sent him a telegram?”

            Heyes shook his head. “Nah, not me. But John did. He knows how to tap into the lines, so he sent the message for me. Got the return too. Lom notified the authorities, and they are searching the area for anyone involved in this.”

            Heyes and Kid looked at each other, as the sound of horses riding into town could be heard. Standing, they walked quickly to the saloon doors, stepping out into the night. Riding into town were several members of a posse, the moon reflecting off of their stars. In the middle of the group, several men could be seen, hands behind their backs. The group halted in front of the saloon.

            “Which one of you is Smith?” asked a voice from the front of the group.

            Stepping forward, Heyes acknowledged the voice. “I’m Smith.”

            The rider stepped down from his horse and stepped onto the porch. Holding out his hand towards Heyes, he introduced himself. “I’m Sheriff Duffy, from Jackson. We received your telegram from Sheriff Trevors. We did as he asked, and found this gang of men hiding in the hills. There was evidence everywhere to what you said was happening. We plan to take them back to Jackson in the morning to stand trial.”

            “Glad that things worked out.”

            “Thanks to you.”

            Heyes tried to look sheepish. “Just being a good citizen.”

            Sheriff Duffy stepped off the porch, remounting his horse. “Let’s move out boys.” And the group of men headed out of town, riders in the middle very sullen. Heyes and Curry watched the group of men until they could no longer see, than returned to the saloon.

            Heyes turned towards John. “So what are you going to do now John?”

            “Guess I will head back to my cabin. Hopefully in a few weeks things can get back to normal here, and I can return to my peaceful life.”

            “This time,” Heyes started, “Don’t be afraid to let people see the person that you really are. Because there is an amazing person hidden under all that hair. People should get to see the real you.”

            John stroked his beard. “Maybe you are right. I will think about it.” And holding out his hand, shook with both Heyes and Kid, before walking out the door and into the night. Somehow Heyes didn’t think the stories of Bigfoot would be circulating again around here for a long time to come.

            Heyes looked at Kid. “Well, I think it is time to hit the sack. We have a long day before us and it is getting late.”

            “But, no supper?”

            Heyes shook his head. “Will you come one Kid?” and walked out the door. Kid followed quickly, leaving Harry to stand alone in the saloon. He looked around the room, amazed at the turn of events. Heyes was truly an amazing person. And than he too walked out of the room, headed towards the hotel.

 

            Morning found the trio saddling their horses, preparing to leave the town of Hallowtown. That morning they had watched Maggie Dawson’s husband ride back into town, having been freed by the posse from an abandoned cabin in the hills. The reunion was a joyful one, with all parties involved crying and holding each other close.

            They mounted their horses, preparing to leave.

            “Ok, now Harry, you owe us $3000. When can we get paid?”

            “Just as soon as I wire all this to the agency, they will wire a draft to me, and I will pay you boys.”

            “Just don’t think you can back out now Harry,” said Kid.

            Harry looked hurt. “Now Kid, would I ever try to do that to you?”

            In unison, the boys said, “Yes!” Harry quickly shut up.

            The group turned their horses back down the street, and slowly headed out of town.     

            “There is just one more thing I don’t understand, Heyes.”

            “What’s that Kid?”

            “The light in the saloon. How did it stay lit? Who refilled the lantern? There were no footprints on the floor below it, save for ours.”

            Heyes started to answer, than realized he had no answer. And Kid continued. “And what about the drop of blood in the hotel, on the register book? Where did it come from, and who did it belong to?”

Heyes frowned as he realized that he didn’t have an answer to either of these questions. As he was leaning on the saddlehorn and frowning, and eerie sound reached all of their ears. It was the sound of laughter, starting slowly at first than building into a very loud sound. Each man looked at each other. Than as one, put heels to flanks and headed their horses out of town. Maybe there was more to Hallowtown than met the eye. And for once, these boys didn’t want to know any more than they already did.