Broken Promises, Broken Heart
Continuation of the Wild Horse Adventure
He looked at the rider ahead of him, taking in the slumped shoulders and the head, which sagged just ever so slightly, and for the first time in his life was very worried. In all the years they had ridden together, Kid Curry had never seen his partner and friend Hannibal Heyes this dejected. Every since they left Porterville six months ago, Heyes had been withdrawn. And each day that passed just caused that depression to become more pronounced. Gone were the instant comebacks toward Kid, the reassuring smile which Kid knew to mean that he had come up with a plan, the quick wit of his best friend. And gone too were the constant reassurances of their amnesty. It seems like a lot had died that day in Porterville.
Kid saw Heyes ride up and dismount, and noticed that he did so as if the weight of the world was once again on his shoulders. His tack looked the worse for wear, but Heyes himself seemed to be fine. He had no idea what had transpired in the days since they had separated, but had a feeling that whatever it was, it had had an impact on his friend. He crossed the dirty street while calling out to his partner. Heyes had turned towards his name, but gone was the sparkle in his eye. Kid knew something was wrong, but in asking Heyes about it, he received the cold shoulder treatment. Heyes walked towards the door to the sheriff’s office, and Kid followed, just as he always did.
Lom Trevors looked up as the pair of outlaws entered his office. Lom had known the boys from his own outlaw days, and had been helping them with the governor to secure their amnesty. He tried to keep in contact with them, with regular updates, and was hoping to one day soon give them the news that they really wanted to hear.
“Howdy boys,” Lom said, not standing as they entered.
“Lom,” Kid replied. Pushing open his coat, he hooked his thumbs in his gunbelt, moving his feet apart to give him a wide base of support. He always felt he needed an extra advantage when he was in a sheriff’s office. He glanced towards Heyes, and was surprised to see Heyes just standing there, looking very, he thought until he found the word, unreadable. He wondered just what had happened, and when Heyes would tell him about the events of the last several days.
“Well, I guess you want to know what the Governor had to say I reckon.” Lom knew what they wanted to hear, and wasn’t sure how to deliver his next bit of news.
“Yeah,” Kid said. “Can you give us some good news? Has he decided to give us our amnesty?”
“He hasn’t, and he has no intentions to do so ever.” Kid and Lom together looked up, their eyes directly on the man that had just spoken. Heyes stood there, face expressionless.
“He didn’t say that Heyes,” Lom began, “Just not now.”
“Not now,” Heyes replied. “Not tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year.” Heyes walked towards Lom’s desk, and placing his hands on the desk, leaned towards his friend. “He has no intention of ever granting us amnesty, does he?”
Lom hesitated. He knew just how angry Heyes could be, even if that side of him didn’t appear very often. But anyone who knew Heyes knew to stay a fair distance away when he was riled that much. Unfortunately only a desk separated Lom from Heyes, and somehow he knew that would not be enough space.
“Boys you have to understand,” but the remainder of the sentence was cut off by Heyes slamming his fist onto the top of the desk.
“We have understood to death, and what has it gotten us? Nothing. We have done our part, have stayed out of trouble, have helped others when we could. And what do we get? Empty promises. Promises which the Governor can’t keep, cause it wouldn’t look good to the wonderful citizens of Wyoming. So we are suppose to continue to stay out of trouble until he decides we warrant his blessing? Enough.” Heyes voice elevated with each passing word, until at last he was shouting at Lom. Kid tried to intervene, but one murderous look from Heyes brought him up to a halt. He had never seen his friend this way, and was worried.
“I have had it Lom. You can tell the Governor to forget any deal he might have had with me. I’m done.”
“Heyes, what does that mean?” Lom also had never seen Heyes this way, and didn’t like what he was seeing, let along hearing.
Heyes straightened up. He had regained some of his composure and was trying to keep a tight rein on his emotions. “I’m done. I won’t be back. You can arrest me or I am walking out of here, but I won’t be back again.” Heyes glanced towards the wanted posters hanging on the wall of the office. “As far as I am concerned, Hannibal Heyes is already dead.” And he walked out the door, leaving Kid and Lom staring after him.
Lom looked towards Kid. “What’s going on Kid?”
Kid Curry shook his head and said, “I don’t know, but I don’t like it one bit.” And he headed out the door after his partner.
Kid reached Heyes’ side just as he was ready to mount his horse, and placing a hand on his upper arm, started to turn Heyes towards him. He was not expecting the fist which met his face. Kid fell backwards, landing on his backside in the dirt. The look Heyes gave him was enough to make Kid’s blood run cold.
Heyes turned back towards his horse, and placing his left foot in the stirrup, pulled himself up and into the saddle. Heyes rode out of town without another word. And Kid was left wondering what had happened to his friend.
Kid Curry brought himself back to the present, and glanced around to see where they were at the present time. Thick trees blocked a large part of the evening sun, but he knew they still had several hours of daylight left, too early to make a camp. After not having spoken for many hours, Kid decided to give it another try.
“Heyes, what do you think we should do next.” But Kid met only silence. Not an unusual occurrence recently. More often that not, Kid found himself talking to air, or at least himself. Heyes seldom answered, and when he did it was short one or two word sentences. Not his usual talkative self by any means.
Over the past six months, they had ridden from town to town, picking up odd jobs along the way. They stayed in a town just long enough to pick up some money for food and supplies, and to rest their horses. Then they moved on. Their last job, a week ago, had netted them enough money to pay for a room for a few days, where they could rest and enjoy some well earned down time. But Heyes had wanted to move on, and had not listened to Kid’s advice to stay a few extra days. Kid knew that he was not going to be able to convince Heyes, so he gathered his things and mounted his horse, once again playing catch-up with Heyes. Heyes no longer waited for Kid, but seemed to be happier being alone.
Several hours later, sitting across from their campfire, Kid tried yet again to start a conversation with Heyes. But Heyes was having nothing to do with this, and wrapping himself up in his blanket, turned his back on Kid, effectively ending any further attempts. Kid knew that he wasn’t asleep, something else he seldom did these days, but had no idea how to draw him out of the shell he had placed around himself. Standing and picking up the plates, Kid noticed the uneaten food on Heyes’ plate. Glancing at his friend’s back, Kid shook his head. He didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, didn’t talk, and had seemed to give up caring about anything. And Kid was powerless to do anything to help. Feeling very lost, Kid cleaned the remnants of their meal, stowed the gear away, and added some wood to the fire. He than wrapped up in his own blanket, and after checked to see that his gun was where he could get to it if needed, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Heyes laid awake long after he heard snoring from the direction where he knew Kid was sleeping. He turned over onto his back and crossing his arms behind his head, stared into the stars. He was hoping to find an answer, but knew there wasn’t one. He glanced over in the direction of Kid, but shaking his head, once again look upwards. He knew that Kid didn’t understand anything that was happening, and to be correct, Heyes didn’t understand it either. So he couldn’t explain it to Kid. He just knew that nothing mattered anymore. They were never going to get their amnesty, and some day would be hunted down and killed. He didn’t want anything to happen to Kid, but as for himself he just lacked the desire to care. He turned back towards his side and closed his eyes, trying to sleep. But when several hours later the first rays of the morning sun appeared on the eastern sky, Heyes had already been up and moving, preparing for the next day in a life that had become useless in his mind.
Following a breakfast of warm coffee and cold biscuits, and no conversation, Kid and Heyes found themselves in the saddle and heading back down the road. Each day was dissolving into the next, and things were not getting better. Kid didn’t know how much longer he was going to be able to take this, not knowing what was going on inside Heyes’ mind. The one thing they had always had was the ability to read each other’s thoughts. This had saved them many times. But for the first time, Kid couldn’t tell what Heyes was thinking. He only knew that it wasn’t good. And that could be dangerous.
Shortly after noon, they found themselves outside a ranch house. The house itself was two story, painted white, with a huge wrap around porch. A smoke house was off to the left of the main house. Several barns had been erected towards the west and a large corral connected the barn. A bunkhouse was nearby, with smoke coming from the chimney. They had ridden past a very large herd of Herefords on the road leading to this place. Large spreads usually needed ranch hands, so the boys figured they might as well try to find a job, as their money would not last forever. Heyes and Kid dismounted, but Heyes elected to hold the reins, making no effort to walk to the house. Kid glanced towards Heyes, but knew well enough by now that talking to him would make no difference. That being the case, Kid walked up the steps to the door, knocking several times than stepping back.
The door was answered by a black man dressed in a white coat. “May I help you?”
Kid glanced at Heyes and than back at the butler. “I was hoping to speak to someone regarding a job.”
“Oh, than you need to speak to the foreman Jessie. You can find him at the bunkhouse this time of day.”
Kid stepped backwards slightly. “Thank you.”
The butler nodded and shut the door.
Kid walked back down the steps and returned to where Heyes still stood. “You want to go with me?” But he already knew the answer.
“Nah, I’ll just stay here with the horses.”
Kid walked in the direction of the bunkhouse, looking around and noticing the lay of the land. Several horses were in the corral, obviously well cared for. He could hear another horse inside one of the barns, probably the stallion. Upon arriving at the bunkhouse, Kid walked through the open door, stepping inside the building.
This bunkhouse was like every other one that he and Heyes had been in over the years. Rows of bunkbeds were along one wall. A stove provided heat and was situated towards the center of the room. Along the opposite wall was the kitchen area, where shelves held dishes and pans. A separate cookstove was visible, and it was here that he saw a man dressed in jeans and a shirt, but with a leather apron around his waist. The man noticed Kid and looked up.
“I was looking for the foreman. Know where I might find him.”
“He’s right behind you,” said a man, coming in the door. Kid turned around at the sound of the voice. The foreman was tall, over six feet, with a dark brown moustache and salt and pepper hair. Brown eyes bore into Kid, not missing any details, including the gun which hung low on his hip and was tied down. Kid met the foreman’s eyes, his gaze never wavering. A lesser man might have been intimidated, but Kid had learned long ago that the best way to gauge one’s opponent was to not break eye contact. Usually the first one to back down through the eyes was going to lose in whatever contest they were involved. Kid hated losing at anything.
“Howdy. My partner and I were looking for work. Thought you might be hiring.”
The foreman continued to watch this blonde headed man. He noticed his stance, relaxed but at the ready, his eyes maintaining contact at all times. He figured him for a gunfighter, but they seldom asked for ranch jobs, so this had him confused. “That your partner out there?” He pointed to where Heyes was standing with the horses, not looking towards the bunkhouse.
“Yeah. That’s him.”
“You ever done any ranch work?” the foreman asked, moving to sit at the table in the kitchen.
Kid followed, sitting in the offered chair.
“Yes sir, have done a lot of ranch work. Rounded up cattle in Mexico. Helped drive a herd to Tenstrike once. Spent some time helping out a family with fence mending, the husband had broken his leg and couldn’t do the work.” Kid refused the cup of coffee the cook had offered.
“I see. What is your name?”
“Thaddeus Jones. And my partner is Joshua Smith.”
“Well Jones, we have been looking for a couple of hands. Have a lot of work to do before winter gets here. If you are interested, will give you a try and see how things work.”
Kid shook his head. “That sounds fine with me. Thanks.” He reached out his hand, which the foreman took.
“There are a few rules you must be aware of. No drinking, at all. You can go to town on Saturday night and drink all you want, but you are to be ready to work on Sunday. No gunfights allowed, scares the stock. You make your own bunk and help keep the place cleaned, it isn’t a pigsty. And when cook calls meals, ya had better be here and ready to eat, cause he is very particular about his food, if you miss the mealtime, ya miss eating.”
Kid thought about these and nodded his head.
The foreman raised his hand. “There is one more rule. No fighting, at all, ever. Fighting will get you fired no matter what the cause. My crews don’t fight, I won’t tolerate it.”
“Well, as I don’t know any of your crew, that shouldn’t be a problem.” Kid stood when the foreman stood.
“Name’s Jessie. Welcome.”
Supper had been cleaned up and the rest of the crew was talking, preparing for bed. Kid was in the upper bunk, hands behind his head, thinking. Heyes hadn’t said much about the job, just accepted that Kid had gotten it for them, and stowed his gear. He hadn’t eaten, which caused raised eyebrows on the cook, who didn’t like anyone to ignore his cooking. Heyes had been stretched out on his bunk for about an hour now, not saying a thing. As the light was turned out in the bunkhouse, Kid hoped that things would start to get better, but afraid they wouldn’t.
The next day found the crew branding the new calves. It was hot, tiring work. One of the crew roped a calf, than another man would take that calf down, holding it while a third applied the brand. This was the Triple J ranch, so the branding iron was the JJJ shape. After the branding iron was applied, the calf was released to rejoin its mother. The bunch was then driven back out into the pasture and a new set brought in, the process repeated. Heyes had been at the branding iron all day, not allowing anyone else to do the job. When they took a break, Heyes sat apart from everyone, a fact that was not missed by anyone.
“What’s wrong with your friend?” one of the crew said to Kid.
“Just not interested in talking’s all,” replied Kid.
Heyes glanced towards Kid, saw the questions in his eyes, but instead of answering them he looked away. He knew that something was going to have to change, but he wasn’t sure what that would be. Standing, he resumed his position at the branding iron. Groans could be heard from the rest of the crew, as now they too had to get back to work.
Supper was a repeat of the previous night. Meal cleaned, men sat around talking or cleaning tack. A poker game was started at one of the tables, but Heyes didn’t even look in their direction. Kid watched, and knew that Heyes could beat everyone here. Shaking his head, he laid down on his bunk. The old Heyes would have been in that game. He wished he had the old Heyes back.
He was standing in a meadow. In front of him was a wild horse, a beautiful creature with powerful muscles, bright knowing eyes, ears alert to danger. He was hurt but still wary of Heyes, as he tried to walk closer to him. As he reached out his hand it started to rain, big heavy droplets which were ice cold. He turned around to move out of the rain, but behind him he saw fire, a burning barn. He ran towards the burning building and could hear the cries of the terrified animals inside. The flames were too hot and he couldn’t get any closer. He tried, but burned his hand, and pulling away turned again. He saw a cabin behind him, with the door open. It looked familiar. Walking towards it, he saw someone lying on the floor in the doorway. He slowed his walk, afraid what he would see, knowing he had to move forward. The cries of the animals continued and the flames burned hotter, he could feel the heat on the back of his neck. He reached the doorway and looked down and saw…..Heyes sat bolt upright in the bunk, drenched in sweat, breathing labored and rapid. He could feel his heart pounding and his throat was dry. He could still feel the heat of the fire and looked down at his hand. But it was fine, not burned. He looked around and finally realized he was in the bunkhouse. Lying back down, he tried to control his breathing. This was one of the reasons he seldom slept. When he did he had this dream, one which always ended in the same place. He never saw who was in the doorway, but recognized the house as being his home in Kansas. The burning barn was his parent’s place. And he reasoned that the person in the doorway was his mother, killed those many years ago by the raiders. But the horse, that was from a more recent time. What it all meant, he didn’t know. But he knew that he didn’t want to have the dream again, cause the next time he might see the person in the doorway, didn’t want to see his mother dead once again. And didn’t want to know that the person in the doorway might be someone else, and her death he couldn’t handle at all. So Heyes laid awake the remainder of the night, waiting for the start of another day, afraid of another night and the possibility of the conclusion of the dream.
Time rolled on, not stopping for anything. The job went well, and after the trial period, the foreman agreed to keep Kid and Heyes on for an extended length of time. Days were spent fixing fence, moving herds, preparing feed for the winter, stocking up on supplies. Nights were spent in the bunkhouse playing cards, fixing tack, mending clothes, and for Heyes hiding from the rest of the world. On Saturday nights, the crew headed into town. It was their only night of the week to relax and have some time to blow off steam. They drank too much, talked too loud, and tried to impress the women as best they could. And at the end of the night, they staggered back to the bunkhouse and into their beds. All except for two, who always stayed behind. Heyes had no desire to go into town, and Kid didn’t want to leave him alone. If Kid needed something, he just sent the money to town with one of the crew, along with a list, and they brought it back to him. Oh Kid had tried to convince Heyes to go into town, but even the mention of a high stakes poker game caused no stir in Heyes. He just lay in his bunk, facing the wall, and never spoke to anyone.
One Saturday night, after the rest of the men had headed off into town, Kid decided that it was time to do some talking. He had woken during the night to hear Heyes talking in his sleep, something about a horse and a fire, but the remainder was garbled. He had heard Heyes wake, heard his fast breathing, and finally listened as he walked outside, returning almost an hour later. It wasn’t the first time he had noticed this about Heyes and wondered what he was dreaming about. Kid had sent a telegram to Lom the other day while he was in town getting supplies, but it had said the same thing regarding their amnesty, and Kid was starting to wonder if Heyes was right after all. Lom reassured him that the Governor was thinking about it, but it had been so long and nothing was happening. He needed to talk to Heyes. But would Heyes talk to him?
Kid sat at the table, watching Heyes. He was cleaning his saddle, getting rid of all the mud from the previous day’s riding. Now was as good a time as any.
“I sent a telegram to Lom the other day.”
“Just thought you should know.”
“Didn’t get our amnesty, did we.”
“No, not yet.”
Heyes picked up the saddle, and placed it near the door. He walked back over and lay down on his bunk, placing his arm over his eyes.
Kid walked over and sat on the corner of the bed. “Heyes?”
“What dream haunts you?”
Heyes moved his arm and looked into the eyes of his partner of so many years. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Yes you do. I heard you last night. You were talking about a horse. Than you mentioned a fire. I could hear how frightened you were when you woke.”
Heyes sat up abruptly, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
“Heyes, talk to me, please.”
“Nothing to talk about.”
“Yes there is. I feel as if I am losing you and I don’t know what to do.”
“Kid, there is nothing to lose. Nothing worth anything at least.” Standing up, Heyes walked out the door. Kid followed, catching up to him at the water trough.
“Talk to me, won’t you. Don’t keep shutting me out.”
“Leave me alone.”
“No, I won’t. I have done that for months now, and it is not any better. What is wrong? What happened during that time before we met up in Porterville?”
“Nothing happened.” Heyes looked out towards the open pasture, where he could see dark images of cattle grazing.
“Liar.” The one word was like a knife being shoved into Heyes. All the anger of the past six months erupted at that time. He swung a fist at Kid, connecting solidly, knocking Kid down to the ground. Heyes straddled Kid, punching again and again until Kid managed to get his hands up and blocked the punches. He called out Heyes’ name several times before Heyes realized what he had been doing. Looking down at his friend, he slowly stood up. He glanced down and saw the blood on his hands, blood from his best friend. What had he become?
Kid sat up, wiping his nose, which was bleeding. Upon standing he kept an eye on Heyes. This attack he had not expected. That mistake he would not make again.
‘Are you all right?” Heyes reached a hand towards Kid, but Kid pushed it away.
Heyes looked again at the blood on his hands. He walked to the water trough and quickly rinsed his hands. Glancing at Kid once again, Heyes retreated into the bunkhouse. By the time Kid entered, Heyes was once again lying with his back to the door. No words were uttered, no apology spoken. Just the sound of a creaking bed frame as Kid slowly climbed onto the top bunk. The sound of silence. The sound of a friendship shattered.
Kid woke early the next morning and knew instantly that something was wrong. His senses never let him down, and they were screaming this morning. He listened closely but didn’t hear anything. And that is when he realized he couldn’t hear Heyes’ breathing. Looking over the edge of the bunk, he knew what he would see, or rather not see. Heyes was gone.
Hannibal Heyes rode quietly for hours, stopping only long enough to rest his horse. He skirted towns, not wanting to talk to anyone. When it was necessary to go into town, he often went in late at night, and left just as quickly as he could. After what he had done to Kid he just couldn’t bring himself to be around people any more than necessary. If he could hurt someone that he cared about, what could he do to a stranger? He needed to get somewhere totally away from everyone, so he couldn’t hurt anyone else. The best place to do that was the mountains. Away from everyone and everything he knew. Maybe he could find some peace. Or at least an end to the torment.
The next town was like every other little town along the way. Heyes knew he needed to get some supplies for the winter, so he had to go into town in the morning. Riding up to the general store, he hitched his horse and walked inside.
The storekeeper was busy with another customer, so Heyes walked around to see what was offered. He had previously made up a list of supplies and now removed that list, checking to make sure everything he needed was included. It was going to be a long time before he came back into town so wanted to get all that he needed now. Seeing the previous customer leave the store, Heyes walked to the counter, handing the storekeeper his list. “How long will it take you to fill this order?”
The storekeeper scanned the list. “Take several hours. Some of these supplies I am out of, but there is a wagon due here shortly.” As if on cue, a wagon pulled up in front of the store, the driver jumping down.
Heyes looked back towards the storekeeper. ‘I’ll be back,” and walked out the door.
Heyes spent some time at the livery but was finally able to buy a packhorse and tack. He walked the horse to the hitching post, tying it next to his horse. Glancing into the store, he saw that the storekeeper was still busy gathering supplies. Heyes looked around surveying the town. He finally decided to have a quick drink, and headed into the saloon. Walking up to the bar, he purchased a beer and picking it up walked to an empty table.
He sat with his back to the wall, watching the door. The bar was fairly empty this time of the day. No poker games were in progress, not that he was interested in poker. Picking up his drink, he sipped the beer and considered what he was going to do. He could never forgive himself for what he had done to Kid, still couldn’t believe it himself. In all the times they had been together, they had pulled as one. There was that time in West Bend where he had threatened to fight Kid, but they both knew it was an idle threat. He had always protected Kid, as Kid had him. But somewhere that had gotten thrown off kilter. And Heyes knew exactly when.
Before Porterville. That time that haunted him to this day. He tried to not think about those days, but sometimes they encroached on his mind, like they were doing today. A few days, just a few short hours, and they impacted his entire life. Brought the loneliness to the surface and made it so much more real. Heyes never thought he could be this lonely. Not even after his parents were killed. But he had Kid to care for back in those days, and it made him have something else to dwell on instead of himself. Now, he didn’t have that luxury.
Heyes put the almost untouched glass back on the table and stood. One of the saloon girls looked his direction and smiled, but Heyes didn’t even notice. His mind was on brown hair and brown eyes, in a cabin far away from here. He walked out the swinging doors, not bothering to look in her direction.
Heyes rode for several days, pushing up into the mountains. One afternoon he came to a cabin, which looked deserted. On closer inspection, he could tell that it had been empty for a while now, having a thick layer of dust all around. There was a partial supply of wood stacked in the back, a small barn and corral for the horses, and a stove and bed inside. Heyes decided that here he would wait out the winter, wait for whatever would come.
Days turned into weeks. Heyes spent the daytime hours cutting wood, patching the barn and corral, preparing supplies for the long winter days. Nights he spent cleaning and patching the house, getting rid of the dust and making things more presentable. Anything to wear himself out so much that he didn’t dream. This would find him going to bed when it was almost morning, and being up again before the first rays of the sun.
The days were getting colder and many a morning there was frost on the ground. There was a good supply of wood ready, as there was feed for the horses. He knew that it wouldn’t be long before the snow was flying, and woke one morning to this exact thing. Snow had fallen during the night and was knee deep. So after hiking out to the barn to care for the horses, Heyes found himself back in the cabin with very little to do. And this was something he didn’t want to do. He spent some time cleaning his tack, than cleaning the already clean cabin. Sitting down in the chair in front of the fireplace, he stared into the flames. He was taken back to another cabin and another fireplace. A place where he so wanted to be. Would he ever be able to go there?
Kid pulled up his horse, and surveyed the crossroads. Which way to go now? He had spent the last four months looking for Heyes, but so far had not crossed his path. When Jessie had seen him that next morning, he could tell that he had been fighting, and true to his word had fired Kid. He was aware that Heyes was already gone. Kid had not been concerned, as he had planned to leave anyway to find Heyes. In the months which had followed, Kid had visited every little town and hole in the wall looking for him. He had ridden back to Devil’s Hole even. He was hoping that Heyes would have returned there, but also figured it would be a dead end. He had spoken to Kyle and Wheat, and put them on the look out for Heyes, telling them to cut him a wide birth. He had been in communications too with Lom via telegraph. Lom was aware that he had no idea what was going on or where Heyes was, and was going to keep a close ear out for any signs of him.
Kid rode into the town in early evening. This town was like so many others. Horses lined the hitching posts and music could be heard from inside the saloon. Kid wanted a drink, but figured that if Heyes had stopped here he might have needed supplies, so he headed for the general store. Entering, he saw the storekeeper tallying in a book. Walking over to the counter, he waited for the storekeeper to head his direction.
“May I help you sir?”
Kid nodded. “Yeah, I’m looking for a friend. Might have been in here in the past few months. Tall fella, dark hair and eyes. Wears a black hat and brown coat. Would have been quiet, not saying much. Riding a brown horse.”
The storekeeper thought for a moment. “There was a fellow in here several months ago that might fit that description. Ordered a bunch of supplies and loaded them onto a pack horse.”
Kid could feel a hint of excitement building, the first in a long time. “Are you sure it was him?”
The storekeeper nodded, “Yeah, pretty sure. Wore a gun, kinda like you, low down. His eyes took in everything, didn’t miss anything. Paid for his stuff and rode out.”
“Did he mention where he was headed?”
The storekeeper shook his head. “No. But I figured he was headed up into the hills.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because he had enough supplies to last for six months, axe, rope, bedding, things to get through the winter. Iffn' he was to be close to town, he could come in for those things. Men from the mountains load up for the winter, don’t see them again until spring.”
Kid shook his head. This was the closest he had been to Heyes in the past four months. “Thanks a lot mister.”
Kid walked back out the door and headed towards the telegraph office. Sending Lom a message, he waited for an answer. When he got it, he knew it was more important than ever to find Heyes. It might make all the difference in the world.
The bad thing with all the snow is it gave a person time to think. The good thing about all this snow, it gave a person time to think. And Heyes had found himself thinking a lot. About what had happened between himself and Kid. About his parents, their deaths. About running from the law and all the things they did in the past. And about her. He had spent many hours thinking about her, their short time together. He wondered what she was doing now, how she had been. If she had ever seen King again. If she ever thought of him. It might be useless to think, but he did it anyway.
The spring thaws started, and with it the renewal of life. But life outside the cabin was not the only thing being renewed. As the trees started to bud, and the new baby animals started making an appearance, Heyes too was being reborn. He had spent hours thinking over the past, and finally realized that the future was still out there. Waiting for him. And no matter how long it took, he too could have what he wanted. A future, as bright as the eyes of the newborn creatures of the woods. And this is what he wanted, and where he needed to be. But he had some fences to mend as well. And to this end, he knew he needed to start now.
Heyes packed up his belongings, and pulled the door of the cabin closed behind him. He stopped, placing a hand on the door as if to say goodbye to the past. Turning around, he looked up to the heavens. The first rays of morning were starting to appear, with their bright reddish streaks along the skies. And there, to the left, he saw it. A shooting star. A wish to be made. A future to be enjoyed. Heyes smiled as he stepped towards his horse and mounted. He needed to head home.
Heyes had ridden for many days, trying to decide just where he might find Kid. Standing in a few saloons, he had listed to the conversations but heard no mention of anything having to do with Kid Curry. So he rode again, trying to decide where he would be if he were Kid. But he knew where he would be, he would be beside Heyes. If Heyes had only allowed him to be, trusted him, not pushed him out. He had so much to make up for, and wanted to start as soon as possible. Heyes reached up and rubbed his beard. That is why he hadn’t shaved yet. So that maybe the punch which he deserved and would get from Kid wouldn’t hurt so much. Heyes smiled at the thought. He hadn’t smiled in a long time.
Heyes walked down the streets of the town, and leaned up against a post. Another town, no luck finding Kid. He was thinking of sending a telegraph to Lom to see if he had any idea where Kid was. He was sure he kept in touch with him, and would tell Heyes where he might be able to find Kid.
Glancing down the street to try to find the telegraph office, his eyes passed a woman dressed in jeans and a brown coat. Dark hair spilled from under the hat sitting atop her head. Something made him stop and stare. It couldn’t be her, not here, not after all this time. She was looking in the window of the store, not aware he was there. He knew it was her by the way she stood and moved. Heyes straightened, starting across the street when he was stopped by someone calling her name. She turned towards the voice and the smile lit up her face. Coming towards her was a tall man, slightly older than her, with brown hair, moving with the easy stride of someone used to walking quickly. In his arms he carried a small baby, bundled ever so tightly. The man reached her side and enveloped her in his arms, and she wrapped them around him as well.
Heyes stepped back onto the sidewalk and tried to walk away, but couldn’t. He couldn’t pull his eyes off the scene playing out in front of him. He saw her take the baby and swing it into her arms, and she looked so natural in doing so. She looked up into the face of the man, and reaching up kissed his cheek. So she had found her future at last. Heyes was glad for her, even if he was dying inside. Taking one last look, he slowly turned away, but not able to bring himself to walk away just yet.
She held the baby in her arms and looked down at the tiny, sleeping infant. She softly smiled when she gazed on the closed eyes and upturned nose. So perfect. So innocent. So wonderful. Glancing up towards the man who stood in front of her, she felt so at ease and content, except for that place which was empty. But she tried to push that aside for now, as she marveled at the miracle of life.
Something drew her gaze up off the baby and across the street. Roving her eyes up and down the street, she only saw horses at the hitching rail, and people passing along the sidewalk. Her eyes passed him once, than again, and for some reason settled right on him. There was something about him, which she couldn’t dismiss. Handing the baby back to the man in front of her, she turned and looked directly at him. Whether this caused him to look or not, she would never know, but look again he did. And she knew it was him. Even with the longer hair and the full beard she knew. For that brief second that their eyes met, she knew it was the one who had caused her so many sleepless nights, and empty days. The one she had been dreaming about, and wanting so much to find again.
She stepped off the sidewalk headed in his direction about the time he stepped away. The events that occurred next all seemed to blend in to one. She called out, “Joshua,” about the time that same name was called from down the street. The man stopped, and turned, first looking at her, than turning to look in the direction of the other voice.
Heyes looked in her direction, and could see her questions in her eyes. She had stepped onto the street, but was not moving any closer to him. He glanced in the direction of the other voice, which he recognized, and saw coming towards him rapidly was Kid. The smile on Kid’s face could light up the sky, and upon reaching him, Kid wrapped his arms around him in a bear hug which threatened to shut off his air. Great thought Heyes, I only punched him, he is going to strangle me.
“Heyes, where have you been,” asked Kid when at last they separated. “I have been looking for you everywhere.”
Kid looked into the eyes of his old friend, and was amazed to see in his eyes, once again life. The hint of sparkle was in those brown eyes, and an upturned smile peeked through the brush of a beard, which was now covering that face.
Heyes looked at the face of his partner of years. In it he saw none of the anger which was there the last time they spoke. He saw only relief. And concern.
“Kid, I am glad to see ya. There are so many things I want to talk about, to tell you. Things I should have told you about a long time ago.”
Kid shook his head. “When you are ready Heyes, you know I will be here. But right now I have something to tell you…..” but he pulled up short when he realized they were no longer alone. Looking to his right, he saw her walk up towards them, not taking her eyes off of Heyes, stopping within three feet of where they stood. Glancing at Heyes, he knew he too had seen her, and was watching her, a look of sadness in his eyes.
She glanced towards Kid and nodded, before turning her gaze back to Heyes.
“Hello. How have you been?”
“Fine. How are you?”
“Not doing too bad.”
Heyes swallowed hard and continued. “Didn’t expect to see you out this way, so distance from home aren’t you?”
She nodded. “Yes, but there were some things I needed to do, and couldn’t do them back home.”
Conversation was stilted. Neither knew what to say. Kid could tell there was some undercurrents here, but was hard pressed to understand them totally.
“I can see congratulations are in order,” Heyes started out saying, “It looks like you found what you were looking for.”
She was puzzled for a few seconds, but following Heyes’ eyes, she glanced to where the man was walking towards them, carrying the infant.
“Yes, isn’t it wonderful. I never imagined this would happen.” The love which shone in her eyes was bittersweet to Heyes, reflected in the disappearing shine from his eyes, something that Kid didn’t miss. And to him, it was all starting to make sense now.
“Well, I hope you will always be happy. You always wanted a family, so now you have it again.”
She smiled and nodded. “Yes. And to be able to see this little girl grow up, that will be a pleasure.”
Heyes held out his hand towards the man, “Congratulations to you sir. She is a wonderful woman.”
The man shook Heyes’ hand, frowning slightly. Heyes turned back towards Kid and introduced him to the pair standing in front of him. “This is my friend I spoke of, Thaddeus Jones.” And to Kid, “This is Chris, and I don’t believe I know your name…”
Chris looked at Heyes. “Yes you do.” She started to laugh. “Yes you do.”
Heyes looked at Chris, not understanding what she was saying. He was glad she was so happy, but he was miserable inside, and only wanted to get away.
Chris stopped laughing as she realized that Heyes didn’t understand. Stepping up towards him, she reached out, placing her hand along his upper arm. “This is my brother Joshua.”
Heyes looked at the man, realization finally settling in. Her brother. Not her husband. Not her child, but her niece. Heyes face split into a smile bright enough to light up the night sky. He looked into her eyes and saw the answer he was looking for. Reaching out, he swung her into his arms and held her tight. She in turn closed her arms around him, squeezing him just as tightly as he did her. Neither wanted to ever let go.
Kid watched these happenings, and watched the face of the man holding the baby. He had no idea what was going on, that was for sure. Kid felt that he had some understanding now of what had happened all those months ago. He hoped this was a sign that Heyes was back.
They slowly separated but maintained their grip on each other, hands locks as well as eyes. Kid knew he had to get Heyes alone to tell him the news he had, but wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to be able to do this task.
“Ah, I hate to interrupt, but I need to talk to you. Now.” Kid was pulling Heyes with him as he was trying to walk down the sidewalk. Turning towards Chris he said, “We will meet you in the café in one hour.” Heyes resisted, but this time Kid was not going to be left dangling.
Kid headed them to the closest hotel, and registering them, led Heyes to the room. A tub was brought with water and placed in the center of the room. With a little coaxing, Kid managed to get Heyes into the water, trying to soak a winter’s dirt from his skin. After the bath, and a change of clothes, Heyes felt better, if nothing else cleaner. His mind was down the street with a dark headed woman, one who had haunted his every waking hour.
“OK, what is so important that you drug me away from her?”
Kid smiled at his friend. “Who is she?”
Heyes stared at his friend, than laughed. “That’s what was so important to talk to me about? Could it not have waited?”
“Nah, but I thought you might want to look presentable after all this time. I mean, it’s been almost a year since you last saw each other, and a lot of things have happened.”
Kid stood, waiting for a comment from Heyes, and was surprised a bit when all he did was walk over to the bed and sat down, resting his elbows on his knees.
Kid walked over and sat beside him. “So you wanna tell me about it?”
Heyes paused, thinking. But in the end figured he owed Kid that much at least.
“I met her during that time we were separated. I was only around her for a few days, but Kid she did something to me. She awakened in me a need I didn’t know existed. She caused me to see a future, a future that I can’t have while we are still on the run.”
“When I saw her today, holding that baby, I was afraid that I was never going to have that future, that she had married and started a family. A family I wanted to have with her.”
Kid was very quiet. This was more than even he could have imagined. “Does she know who you are?”
Heyes shook his head, “No. All I told her was that for now it was impossible. And we parted.”
“So the blow-up in Lom’s office?”
“A result of the anger, at having to leave her, at the Governor always telling us no, at everything.” Heyes looked up and made contact with Kid’s eyes.
“Kid, I am so sorry for hitting you, for hurting you. I would give anything to be able to take that back.”
“Well Heyes, I knew that something was up with you, it’s just not like you to do things like that. I was scared when you left, that I would never see you again.”
“Kid, truth be told, I didn’t want to be found again. I headed into the mountains, and had hoped to never come back. But after a while, things started to make more sense. And when spring started to arrive, it made me think things weren’t all that bad. I started back to find you, to try to patch things up with you. If you will let me.” Heyes sat there, waiting for an answer. Hoping it would be the one that he wanted.
“I don’t know Heyes. That was a pretty cheap shot you took.”
Kid didn’t have the heart to make him wait any longer. “But I guess I will forgive you. Like you always forgave me for the stupid things I did.”
Heyes smiled and once again embraced his childhood friend.
Pushing apart, Heyes looked at Kid. “What WAS the thing that was so important that you needed to talk to me about?”
Kid stood and walked to the dresser, pulling out a piece of paper from his pocket. He turned and retraced his steps, handing the telegram to Heyes. And stood there waiting while Heyes read the telegram.
“From Lom Traverse, Porterville Wyoming
To Thaddeus Jones, Flagstaff Arizona
Jones, when you find Smith head here immediately. Have good news.
Heyes looked up at Kid. “Do you think this means…”
Kid shook his head, “I don’t know, but that sounds better than anything we have heard in a long time.”
“Kid, it would be almost too much to expect.”
“Maybe. But for now lets get you to the barber than go meet your lady friend at the café. Our hour is almost up.”
Riding along side his friend, Heyes thought back to the meeting at the café. Chris was waiting for them when they walked in. Heyes felt much better without all the extra hair, and knew it was worth it when he saw her expression. He had found out that her brother had arrived in town that same day, and in the time he had been gone had married and started a family. They had purchased a parcel of land near Chris’ place, and were buying supplies for the trip to their new home. Heyes had told her about who he really was, and she said she understood. He didn’t tell her about the telegram that might have been too much.
Good-byes were hard. They had just found each other again, but until this amnesty was resolved, there would be no future. But this time, Heyes promised to ride to see her after completing his business in Porterville. She promised to be waiting. A promise they both intended to keep.
Several days riding brought them to Porterville, and as they tied their horse at the post, Heyes was transported back to a time almost a year ago, when he left determined to never return. Now, what happened inside that office could change everything once again? He took a deep breath and headed towards the door.
Lom was sitting at the desk. He had seen the boys ride up, and knew how anxious they were.
Kid once again assumed his stance, with thumbs tucked inside his gunbelt. Heyes walked over to the other side of the desk, remaining quiet. “Howdy Lom,” Kid said.
Lom looked at Heyes, and standing slowly, reached out his hand. Heyes took the offered handshake, knowing that he had made peace at last with everyone connected to that fateful day.
Sitting back down, Lom opened a drawer in his desk, and pulled out a packet of papers.
“Sit down boys.”
Heyes spoke for the first time. “If you don’t mind, I think we would rather stand.”
“Suit yourselves. Might take a while.”
Kid looked at Lom, “How’s that?”
Lom unfolded a piece of paper from the top of the stack, and scanned it again. Not that he had read it a hundred times already.
Clearing his throat, he began to read. “The Governor of the territory of Wyoming does hereby, on this date, grant amnesty to Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. From this date forward, all wanted posters will be null and void, the bounty removed, and Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry will be free men. Signed this sixteenth day of April…” Lom looked up at Kid and Heyes, moving between each of them. Neither said a word, but did take the previously offered seats.
Heyes was the first to speak. “So he finally did what he promised?”
Lom nodded his head. “Yes Heyes, he did. You are no longer wanted, but are free men. You can live you lives without having to worry about posses or bounty hunter. Course for the first few months I would be careful. That is why I have signed letters that you can use if need be. But boys, remember, you have to continue to stay out of trouble, or else these charges will be reinstated and that would be a bad thing to have happen, after all this time.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” Kid said. “We have gotten used to going straight, kinda gets to be a habit.”
“Glad to hear that boys. Now if you will just sign some papers, we can get this done and you can be on your way.”
Stepping out of the sheriff’s office an hour later, both the boys stopped to think about what being free meant. Heyes knew, and knew what he was going to do. He turned to Kid.
“Kid, you ever think about settling down?”
“Why sure, who doesn’t. Why?”
“Well, I know this place, where the land is fine and the grazing is wonderful. I know for a fact that there is some land for sell. Thought you might like to buy some of it, so we can be close together.”
Kid looked at Heyes. “And what are you going to do?”
“Go after that future I so want.”
“Heyes, what about your nightmare, the dream you were having, what happened with that?”
Heyes looked down at the saddle, than up again into Kid’s face. “I dreamed about the day the raiders came to our place. The barn was on fire and when I turned around, I could see someone lying in the doorway. I always woke up before I made it to the door, and one day I didn’t.”
Kid waited, than finally asked, “Who was in the doorway Heyes?”
Heyes smiled that sly smile of his and answered, “I was. See it took me a while to figure it all out, but I finally realized that I was dying, just as surely as if I had been killed that day with my family. It just took me a while to understand. When I walked up and looked down at my own face, I understood. If I didn’t get off the destructive path I was on, I would be dead. And wouldn’t have a future at all.”
“And does that future have brown hair and brown eyes?”
Heyes nodded his head. “If she will still have me.”
“Well, partner, maybe it is time to head that direction and find out.”
They smiled at each other and, kicking their horse into a gallop, sped out of town. But this time they were headed towards a future, one they had both dreamed of. One without broken promises, without posses, without bounty hunter. And with a heart which had finally been healed.