Susan Moore  - ASJ Halloween RR 2005

Here goes...

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, 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 struggled to lift Kid off of him.  At first Kid was dead weight, completely mesmerized by the figure not more than ten foot from them, but as Heyes pushed, Kid came to realize their position and rolled to the side.

 

The match burned low as the figure bent to light a nearby lamp.  The sound of a clearing throat punctuated the chilly air.  Both outlaws were on their feet now, staring at the small, spry man before them.

 

“Where have you boys been?  It’s hell out there and your mothers are worried to death to have you out in this weather.  You should know by now not to worry your mothers so.  You’ll make them go gray before their time.”

 

Heyes blinked hard and he noticed Kid take a swipe at his eyes.  “Um…” Heyes started with an explanation, “we didn’t mean to be out so long in the storm…” he cleared his own throat before adding, “Grandpa.”

 

“That’s just it!  You two boys never mean to cause the problems you do but you do them anyway.  The both of you need to march in the kitchen and apologize to them right now!”  The stern look on the old man suddenly turned to a mischievous smile.  “Go on, Han and Jed!  Maybe we can get them to fix some hot cocoa for you.” 

 

“Mother is here?” Kid asked incredulously.

 

“Of course, boy!  Where did you expect her to be on a night like this?  Out riding around like you two yahoos?”  There was a familiar twinkle in the old man’s eyes.  “Ghosts wouldn’t be caught out on a night like this!”

 

Kid stole a glance at Heyes who quickly removed his soaked hat then nervously returned Kid’s look.  By now Heyes eyes had adjusted to the flicking lamp light and a chill run down his spine as he realized that they were indeed standing in the main room of Kid’s childhood home.  It was though the familiar furniture, fixtures, and personal items emerged from the lightening lit shadows.

 

“Jed?  Hannibal?” a soft anxious voice called as a candle drifted in their direction from a back room.  “Oh, boys!  We have been so concerned about you!  Where have you been, Jedediah?” 

 

Kid went sort of weak in the knees at the site of his mother rushing towards him.  He blushed with guilt in the damp darkness as though he really had been caught being a naughty young boy.  Heyes stared expectantly into the darkness past his Grandfather and the figure of Kid being embraced by his mother, who didn’t seem to notice that her young son towered above her.  Heyes stepped into the darkness, his eyes fixated on the doorway to the kitchen and shadow that stood there.  “Mother?” his voice was but a husky whisper.

 

“Oh, Hannibal, thank the Lord you are home safely!  But I’m very disappointed in you, leading your young cousin astray.  The two of you have worried your auntie so.  Your father and uncle are out there looking for you right now.”

 

Heyes stared at the woman before him.  She was much younger than he remembered, not any older than himself.  Yet she looked so tired.  Her eyes glowed in the eerie night with a sobering sorrow.

 

“I’m so sorry, Ma.” the words nearly choked in Heyes throat.  “I didn’t mean to lead Jed astray.  I tried to talk him out of going with me but he insisted we stay together.”  Heyes mind wandered back to the day that they pulled their first robbery together and the discussion that had taken place weeks before when Heyes told Jed to hit the road and find his own life.  The shouting match that ensued ended with Jed staying put to back up his cousin.

 

“Are you truly remorseful, Hannibal?” the mother figure tilted her son’s head so she could see into his eyes, shards of moisture shimmered from their corners.  “There, there, son,” a soft smile crossed her lips as she took a corner of her apron to wipe away the droplets. “I know that you only did what you felt you had to do.  The important thing is that you make amends and set things straight.”

 

“We’re trying to, Ma, but it isn’t as easy getting out of trouble as it is getting in.”

 

“It never is, dear.”

 

Heyes could have sworn he felt her lips press gently against his cheek before she turned and moved towards the cupboard. 

 

“You and Jed need to get out of those wet things and get some dry clothes on before you catch your death  She nodded towards the other room.  “Go ask your Grandpa if he has something that might fit you without swallowing you whole, though you are growing to be quite big.”  Heyes glanced down at himself to make sure he hadn’t shrunk in the rain and found that his clothes fit just as they had the last time he had been soaked to the skin with rain.  He really doubted that anything his now tiny grandfather owned would come near to covering his wet frame.  “Here are some towels you may dry off yourselves.”  Heyes took the dry cloths from her and turned to obey obediently.  “But Han?”  Heyes stopped.  “Could you go fetch some wood for the stove first? “

 

“Aw..” Heyes started to protest and point out that that there was a nice neat stack just to the side of the stove, just like he would have when he was ten years old.

 

“Please, Han,” his mother instinctively interrupted.  “I don’t want your uncle to have to bother with it after returning from searching for the two of you.  It would be very respectful of you to take care of this chore for him.”  The diminutive woman stood near the back door with her hands clasped properly in front of her. 

 

“I’ll help you, Han.”  Kid pushed into the room closely followed by his own youthful mother and their grandfather.  “I want to hurry up and get dried off for the night.  It’s been a long day.”

 

Heyes stared at the gathering in the small kitchen then turned to Kid and whispered, “Are you sure you want to go back out there?”

 

“It’s just a bit of a storm, Heyes.  We’ve faced worse.”  Kid returned his stare and shrugged at him like ‘what’s wrong with you?’

 

Heyes again whispered, “Aren’t you afraid they will all be gone when we come back in?  Or, what if we can’t find our way back in?”  Then he faced the family, smiled sincerely and asked the two new arrivals to the room, “Don’t you think that’s enough wood  for tonight?  I’d be happy to get up early and fetch more before breakfast.  I’ll bring in enough for several days if you want.”

 

He was surprised by a hearty laugh from all three adult figures. 

 

“You get up early, Hannibal?  Your uncle will probably be done with two cups of coffee before you show your face over the rail of the loft,” his aunt chuckled affectionately.  Heyes had forgotten how much he loved that sound.  Kid sounds so much like her, he thought when he caught a glimpse of Kid smirking, too. 

 

Kid’s face turned serious as he asked, “You okay, Heyes?”

 

Heyes wasn’t sure anymore.  Setting the towels on the table, Heyes dutifully headed for the back door wondering if he would be able to have two cups of coffee in the morning yet bothered with the possibility of the spell being broken as soon as he stepped through the door.

 

He could feel Kid at his back and the rain in his face as the door slammed shut with the wind.  A streak of lightening illuminated the wood pile which was about 20 paces from the door, the same place it had been when Kid lived at home as a child.  Kid passed Heyes and quickly started loading his arms with wood.  Heyes began stacking more into Kid’s arms.

 

“Doesn’t this seem really freakish to you, Kid?” Heyes laid another log into the pile. 

 

Kid glanced back at the warm glow coming from inside the house before answering, “I know it’s odd and can’t be real but it feels so good to see them again.  I just hope you’re wrong about them being gone when we go back in.” 

 

Heyes loaded his own arms with wood before putting his head down against the wind and rain and following Kid back to the light and warmth of the house and hopefully … family.

 

“How about some warm milk before going to bed, Han?  Jed?” Hannibal’s mother asked as she removed a pan from the stove just as Heyes and Kid re-entered the small kitchen.  It hadn’t taken them long to dry themselves off in front of the fireplace and then change into the dry clothes Grandpa Curry offered them with a wink.  Kid held his breath afraid he was going to be given childhood clothing meant to fit an 8 year old instead of a twenty-eight year old but much to his pleasure the long johns were man sized.

 

“Have any cof…”

 

Heyes question was interrupted by a jab in the ribs by Kid who answered for him, “Warm milk would really hit the spot tonight, ma‘am..” Heyes flashed him a ‘blech’ face.

 

“Well, you two need to drink up and then get to bed!  You’ve had enough adventures for awhile,” Jed’s mother noted as she handed each of them a cup of warm milk and when she turned her back Grandpa Curry winked again and quickly added a little something to each cup from a flask pulled from his shirt.  Hannibal and Jed smiled at the man gratefully and did as they were bid -- drank up.

 

Heyes couldn’t contain his curiosity any more, “Why are you here tonight?” he asked of his mother, aunt, and grandfather.

 

“Because you need us, dear,” his mother answered, “I will always be here for you when you need me.  I think I speak for the rest of your family as well.”

 

Heyes looked to his grandfather who nodded agreeably.  “But there have been other times that I needed you more, where were you then?” Heyes asked over the brim of his cup.

 

“The real question is, where were you, Hannibal?” Grandpa Curry’s knowing look bore deep into Heyes.

 

Without waiting for an answer Jed’s mother demanded, “Now off to bed with you boys!  Tomorrow is a day full of adventures.  Do be quiet in the loft.  Don‘t wake your sister, Jed.”

 

“’Night, Ma,” Kid dutifully and happily leaned to kiss his mother’s upturned cheek.  “Sorry we’ve worried you.  We’ll try not to do it again.”

 

“You’re a good boy, Jed,” she patted his shoulder lovingly.

 

Heyes stood to follow Kid, “Thanks for everything, Ma.  I’m working hard at being good.”  He felt so childlike. 

 

“I know you are doing your best, Han.  You are a good son and a good man.”  She pulled him to her in a warm embrace.  “Until morning..” she kissed her fingertips and then touched his cheek.

 

 

Pale tentative sunlight poked through the thin cotton curtains while the unmistaken aroma of coffee wafted through the loft.  The outlaw pulled the pillow over his head to prolong the dawn but then rolled to his back and reluctantly opened his eyes.  A soft smile crossed his lips as he recalled the strange events of the night before.  That smile faded and was replaced with confusion.  The man lifted himself up on his elbow to take a better look at the light coming through the window fitted between the rafters in the peak.  The cracked window with the tattered curtains.  Heyes bolted upright throwing off the stained and worn quilt that covered him.  He looked again to the rafters to see great cobwebs gathered between their beams.  Dust more than covered the surrounding area.  The rest of the loft was vacant other than a few more rumpled blankets left near Heyes and a neat pile of his clothes on his other side.  Heyes pushed his fingers through his hair then retrieved his pants and pulled them on.  He dug some sleep from the corner of his eyes before slipping into his shirt.  There must be cobwebs in his head, too, because he couldn’t remember folding his clothes so neatly the night before.  In fact, he could have sworn he had left them downstairs hanging up to dry in front of the fireplace.  His mo… mother… must have brought them up.  Heyes looked around the loft again and shook his head no as he pulled on both boots.

 

His booted feet felt clumsy descending the loft ladder as though it had been made for smaller feet.  The smell of coffee was undeniably real and got stronger as he found himself in the kitchen.

 

“It‘s about time you got here; I‘ve been waiting for you.”

 

Heyes froze with his hands still on the ladder as a ripple of deja vu pulsed through him.

 

“I was beginning to think you were never getting up.”

 

Heyes sighed and turned to see Kid sitting at a small battered table cleaning his gun.

 

“Want some coffee?  There was plenty of dry wood stacked in here so I took advantage of it.  There’s a cup here on the table.”  Kid stopped his work and glanced at the silent Heyes.  “Heyes, you feelin’ okay?”

 

Heyes swallowed and licked his dry lips, “Coffee smells mighty good.  Did you fix it?”

 

Kid paused again and looked around the little kitchen, “Yes, Heyes, who else would have fixed it?” 

 

“I thought perhaps your …” Heyes caught the intense look from Kid and stopped before adding ‘ma’.  He picked up the cup and turned to the small stove to pour himself some coffee.  Coffee would do him some good, help clean out those mental cobwebs.  He sipped carefully at the hot brew while absorbing the warmth from the liquid and the stove.

 

“Kid?  Was there anyone else here when we got here last night?” Heyes could hear Kid holster his weapon and feel his cool blue eyes on Heyes back.  Heyes was not eager to turn to face Kid because he already knew the answer to his question. 

 

“Heyes, sometimes you really worry me.  I think that bump on your head from knocking in the front door jarred something loose.  You never did answer me.  Are you feeling okay?”

 

Heyes sent an exploring hand to his forehead and was surprised to find a nice sized goose egg shaped tender spot on his head.  “Yeah, Kid, I think I’m fine.  I just thought I remembered someone else being here.  I guess I got whacked pretty good.”

 

“Laid you out cold for a few minutes.  You going to be okay to ride today?  Looks like the storm has passed but if you’re not up to it we could hold up here another day or two.  Sort of seems like home.”  Kid lifted his cup and drained the last drop of coffee before standing to refill the cup.

 

“Yes,” Heyes agreed quietly, “it does feel like home.”  Heyes lifted the shabby curtain on the back door and stared out the wood pile.  He reluctantly added, “But it’s not ours, Kid, and we should be moving on.”

 

“Whenever you are ready, Heyes.”

 

Half an hour later the two outlaws lead their horses from the barn.  The sun was shining in earnest now and had begun to burn off the chill left by the night’s rain.  It felt good on Heyes shoulders and back as he checked his gear one more time before mounting.

 

“You ever been sorry you won that argument with me before that first robbery, Kid?”  Heyes asked as he stuck his foot into his stirrup and swung easily into the saddle.

 

“Nope.”  Kid answered immediately.  “I wasn’t going to be separated from you again, Heyes.  It just didn’t feel right not being by your side.  And right or wrong, we should stick together.”  Kid grabbed the saddle horn and settled into his saddle.

 

“I’m glad you won that one, Kid, but I’m sorry I took you down the wrong path in life.”   Heyes turned his horse so he was facing the small rundown house.  He blinked hard when he thought he caught site of his grandpa leaning against the porch rail tipping the mouthpiece of his pipe in Heyes’ direction.

 

“You didn’t take me anywhere I didn’t want to go, Heyes.”  Kid urged his horse forward.

 

Heyes fell in beside Kid.  Rubbing the bump on his head Heyes took one last glance back at the little house that had tricked him into thinking they were home again.

 

Or maybe it was a treat.