Cheating the Devil

by Michelle Pinkerton

 

Heyes was exhausted. Worn out, beaten down, dead-tired, exhausted. He and the Kid had outrun 2 posses in the last 5 days…the last one had hung on through rough country and the loss of Kid's horse to a prairedog hole. They had been forced to ride double for over 9 miles, until they had arrived at a ranch where they were able to talk the owner into the loan of a very old, very slow and very stubborn mule. That had taken every bit of Heye's silver tongue to obtain…and Kid had griped about having to ride that mule for the rest of the afternoon. It was probably not a great idea to go into Blue Sage, but by this time both he and the Kid were so tired that they really didn't care. They were low on food, low on money, and fresh out of patience; and all either of them wanted was a drink, a meal, and a bath; not necessarily in that order. Heyes was planning to sleep a week- although they only had enough cash for a room for one night. Heyes figgered that after a good night sleep he would be able to come up with a plan and some cash to stake them. He always did. After all, their luck had to turn soon…

"Heyes, next time, YOU get to ride the blasted mule!" Kid complained as they rode up to the hitching rail outside of the only hotel in Blue Sage. He groaned loudly as he dismounted the ugly gray animal, which laid it's overly large ears back and stomped.

"Now, Kid…stop growling. We were lucky to get him. At least we didn't have to ride double any longer," Heyes grinned at his partner.

"Good thing, too. My backside will never be the same," Kid said, rubbing the offended area. "Come on, let's go get a drink and a bath!"

The two men tied their mounts, stomped into the saloon and ordered two beers, which they quickly downed while watching the afternoon crowd of men playing poker and blackjack. Neither saw anyone that they knew, or anyone that concerned them. Kid took off his hat and banged it up against his leg, causing the traildust to fly and catch the sunlight coming through the saloon door. The man standing next to him at the bar glared and moved off. Heyes leaned against the bar and spoke to the bartender, a little man who could barely see over the top of the bar.

"Excuse me;" he said "could you tell me who the sheriff is in this town, and direct me to his office?" The dark haired man smiled gently at the bartender, who nodded and pointed out the door and to the west with his chin.

"Yeah, sure thing. The Sheriff is Cade Wagner. He lit out this mornin toward one of the local ranches, should be back 'afore dark, though. His office is three doors down, on the other side of the street." The bartender picked up Heye's and Curry's money and walked down to the other end of the bar where a very large cowboy was banging his glass on the bartop. Curry slapped his hat back on his head and followed Heyes out the door and to the east, toward the hotel where they had left their mounts.

"Well, Kid, at least we don't know the sheriff…maybe we can hang around here a couple of days and win enough at poker to buy you a horse and get some supplies" Heyes slapped his friend on the back and coughed when the dust flew.

"All I want right now is a nice, hot bath. Lots of hot water, clean towels, and a cigar Heyes." Curry led the way into the hotel, where they checked in and ordered each of them a bath. The desk clerk looked at the signatures on the guest book and glanced up at them.

"You will have to get the baths in the back, Mr. Smith; Mr. Jones. Ms. Warne will make sure you have plenty of hot water and anything else you might need. Please enjoy your stay here in Blue Sage." He handed Heyes the room key and rang for the boy to take their saddlebags up. They followed him into the back room where a pleasant looking young lady was preparing two huge iron tubs with hot water and soap, towels and razors.

"Ms. Kate Warne, this is Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. Please see to their needs. They are staying in room 14." The deskclerk nodded at the boys again and left quietly. Heyes and Curry both smiled and nodded as they dropped their gunbelts on the rung of the chair provided next to each tub.

"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Warne," Curry removed his hat and tossed it across the room onto a hatrack that stood next to the door. Heyes grinned and dropped his on the chair.

"Names Kate, Gentlemen. The water is hot. Soap is in the dish, towels are being warmed. I will bring you more hot water just as soon as it heats. The razors are sharpened daily, please be careful of your necks." She smiled at Heyes as she moved across the room and started to draw the curtain.

"Oh, you can be sure of that, Madam. Mr. Jones and I are ALWAYS careful of our necks…"Heyes grinned at his partner and pulled off his boots and dusty clothes, which he dropped on the floor before testing the water with his toes and finding it hot but not unbearable. He sighed deeply as he sank into the shoulder-high water, letting the tension of the last few weeks' drain from his body. He knew his partner was doing the same. He closed his eyes and had started to allow his thoughts to drift when he heard Ms. Warne returning. She took both his and the Kid's clothes off of the floor and had started back towards the alcove from which she had come when he called to her.

"Er…Ms. Warne?"

"Yes, Mr. Jones?" She smiled at him again, and he felt his heartbeat take a leap.

"Ah, no. I'm Smith; He's Jones. Actually, my name is Joshua, Ms. Warne…and those are the only clothes we have here with us…" He looked up at her as she moved toward him, reaching across to the small table holding a humidor. She removed two cigars and gave one to each of the men, lighting them for them, as their hands were wet. She smiled at Heyes.

"My name is Kate, Joshua. Please use it. As for your clothes, I had the boy bring a change of clothes for both of you when he took your things up to the room. They are over there, on the table when you are ready for them. Please relax and enjoy your cigars; and I will have hot water in a few minutes." She left by way of the alcove again, Heyes following her with his eyes as she moved across the room. "Very nice looking woman, that…" He sighed again as he closed his eyes. He opened them again as his partner said

"Don't even think about it, Heyes! We are not going to be here long enough for you to get involved." Curry was grinning around his cigar and his blue eyes sparkled as he ribbed his cousin. Heyes barely spared Curry a look of irritation.

"Damn, I must be more tired than I thought…I am thinking aloud," he said, as he reached for the bar of soap in the dish next to the tub. Curry was already lathering his beard in preparation for removing the week old growth from his baby-face.

"Yeah, well just don't go talkin in your sleep, partner…or we are going to have a real falling out…" Curry said as he carefully moved the straight razor down his neck.

"Don't you worry, Kid" Heyes said as he worked his soap into a lather and proceeded to scrub the grime from his lean but well muscled body. "I am too tired to do anything but snore."

"Great. Just what I wanted to hear." Curry muttered.

A second after the hairs on the back of the Kid's neck started to tingle, and not even a half of a second before he reached for the gunbelt on his chair, both men knew that they had made a mistake in allowing themselves to relax quite so completely. Kate Warne's voice was familiar, but both the tone and the words confirmed what their "sixth sense" was telling them.

"Both of you boys will get plenty of rest very soon…" Kate stated as she moved around and snagged Kid's gunbelt off of the chair, followed by Heyes. The pistol she had leveled at Kid Curry spoke volumes. "Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Agent Kate Warne. I work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, out of Chicago. Perhaps you have heard of us, Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry? Or, if not I am sure you have heard of several of the outlaws that our agency has brought to justice? Frank James? Jim Younger? The Wild Bunch?" Kate shook her head and smiled at Curry as he shot a look at Hannibal Heyes. "No, Mr. Curry. Don't even think about it. I assure you that I am very good at what I do, and I would truly hate to hurt you. I am aware of your reputation for having a temper. Please do not do anything hasty. I need to talk to your partner about your futures. Do be patient, the water is warm, the cigars are imported." She smiled again as he glared silently, then she turned her attention to the dark haired man who was watching her with an innocent smile on his face…one that did not quite reach his midnight colored eyes.

"Mrs. Warne…Kate. I am afraid you have us confused with someone else. We are just two weary men who have spent several weeks on the trail and would like."

"Mr. Heyes. Please, don't waste your time. You are quite famous for that silver tongue of yours…but I assure you that I do know who you are, in fact, I have been tracking you for the last six weeks. I know about both posses that you have out-run. All I had to do was travel to the closest town from where you lost each and wait. You may be able to elude a posse…but even the great Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry have to have supplies, and you both have a reputation for creature comforts. I knew that eventually you would show up in one of these small towns. And I was waiting." Kate sat down in one of the chairs between the two tubs. The gun never wavered. Heyes cleared his throat.

"Uh, Kate. I am not saying that we are these two outlaws you think that we are… but if we were, why would the Pinkerton's be after us? They usually focus on active, high profile criminals. Heyes and Curry haven't robbed a bank or a train in almost a year. Why would Allen Pinkerton waste his time on them? Chicago is a long way from Wyoming."

Kate nodded her head, looking pleased that he seemed knowledgeable about her employer.

"I will explain, in due time. For now, we will be moving to your room. I need to send a telegram, and I am going to have to tie the two of you up before I leave to do so. Let's go, gentlemen…" she said as she backed up away from the tubs to give them room. "Bathtime is over." The men looked at each other and back at her. Neither one moved.

"Now, gentlemen!", she said as she tossed both a towel. Heyes looked at Curry and shrugged, then both men proceeded to stand up as water sluiced down their bare bodies into the tub. Kate reddened slightly and sighed.

"Oh, boy. Robert and William are never going to believe this…"

Twenty minutes later, with both men clothed and tied to the bedstead in room 14 of the Blue Sage Hotel, Kate was getting ready to head down to the telegraph office. She turned to speak just as she reached the door.

"Ok, boys. I am going to send a message and order our dinners. I will not be gone more than ten minutes. If, by chance, someone happens to come by and find you two tied to the bed, you should know that I know Sheriff Cade Wagner quite well, and he does NOT know who you are, or that you are in town. If he did know, you would quickly be placed in his jail pending transfer to the Territorial Prison, where you would stay until you stand trial; after which I am sure you are aware that you would not be leaving said prison for the next twenty years. You should also know that while I do have plans for the two of you, I am not interested in the $20,000 bounty on your heads. Unless you attempt to escape and force me to do so, I have no intention of turning you over for trial. At this time, I am not at liberty to explain what plans I do have concerning you…but please believe me when I tell you that they will benefit us both. Please be patient, gentlemen, and I will explain as soon as possible." With that cryptic statement, she nodded at Curry, smiled at Heyes and closed and locked the door behind her. Kid started working at the ropes binding him to the bed. Heyes sat quietly, thinking and staring at the door.

"Heyes, don't just sit there, start working on those ropes.we gotta get out of here!"

"No, Kid. It would take half a day to work these ropes free.she's a pro, all right. Besides, I believe her. And I want to know what she's up to." Heyes looked at his partner, who was staring at him with his mouth wide open, a look of astonished disbelief on his face.

"You are kidding, right Heyes? Please tell me you are NOT falling for this.this…FEMALE AGENT!" Kid was starting to look worried. Heyes shrugged.

"Kid, listen. She knows who we are. She could have turned us in already, but she didn't. She didn't even bat an eye when she mentioned the $20,000…like it isn't a factor at all. I just want to wait awhile, and find out what her angle is. There has to be one, right? No one turns down a $20,000 reward unless they have bigger plans. Anyway, we need to be patient and wait until our chance comes.then we can turn the tables on the lovely Ms Kate and move on. Trust me, Kid." Heyes looked at his cousin. Curry returned the look, thoughtfully. Finally, he slowly nodded.

"Okay, Heyes. I just hope your thinking with your head…and not your heart. I don't fancy losing my freedom because you lost your head over a pretty girl."

He stopped working at the ropes, (He hadn't made any progress anyway, that woman knew how to use ropes!) and settled back nervously to wait for the next development. He didn't have long to wait. Less than 10 minutes after she left, Kate was back, with a wide smile for Heyes and fried chicken, rolls, fried potatoes, and apple pie (Heyes's favorite!) for all of them. She had also brought coffee and a bottle of good scotch. She untied them; one at a time, to allow them to eat unhindered. Sitting across the room with her gun across her lap, she ate quietly and watched both men. After the meal was finished, she again tied the outlaws, this time in such a way that both could lie down without discomfort, and checked to make sure that the blood was not cut off to their hands. Her gentle fingers lingered as she tested Heye's bonds. She pulled off both of their boots and tossed a light blanket over each, then moved back to the chair and doused the light. The only illumination came from the gaslight across the street, which dimly lit her figure as she settled in the chair.

"Good night, Gentlemen. Sleep well. Tomorrow I expect an answer to my telegram. After I get it, we will be leaving by horseback. By tomorrow noon, I should be able to tell you everything…"Heyes wondered at the excitement in her voice. As the Kid's breathing slowed into the rhythm of sleep, Heyes quietly lay next to his partner, worrying about the fact that for some reason unknown to him, and in spite of his instincts, he was not worried about being this woman's captive. Finally, unable to fight the exhaustion tugging at him any longer, he slept…and dreamed. In the chair next to the window, she watched him sleep…and waited for dawn.

The three had been riding for several hours when they approached a steep ridge with a narrow trail leading down into a small valley. Pulling their mounts up, they gazed down at the little stream that ran from one end of the valley to the other, where it disappeared into the rocky hillside. Kate had not retied them today, instead explaining that her actions up to then had been dictated by her boss and founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Allen Pinkerton. Now that she had the telegraph that she had been waiting for, she was going to make a judgement call and simply request that they not leave her until she had explained herself and her actions to them. After she told them her story, if they wanted to do so; they would be free to go. The boys had looked at each other and some silent understanding passed between them. They would give her the opportunity to justify her actions. Besides, by this time the curiosity was about to kill Heyes. He wanted to know what made this female tick. He had never heard of a woman detective before, and he told her so as they stopped under the trees beside the stream to eat lunch.

"I know," Kate smiled as she handed him and Kid big ham sandwiches and a canteen that she removed from her saddle. "Very few people actually believe me when I tell them who I work for. Mr. Pinkerton hired me in 1856, just 6 years after he started the agency. Do you remember hearing about an assassination attempt on President Lincoln before he was inaugurated, in 1861?" Heyes thought about it for a moment, then nodded.

"Yes, I do remember reading something about a rumor that an attempt had been made before he became President…was that true, then?"

Kate nodded. "It was. Mr. Pinkerton found out about it, and Mr. Lincoln's traveling plans were changed in route. I handled that. By the time it became public knowledge, everyone thought it was a rumor that the President had started to gain sympathy votes. Mr. Pinkerton and I had done such a good job at keeping it all quiet that no one believed it was real. Mr. Lincoln was embarrassed by it and Mr. Pinkerton ended up leaving the secret service. That same year his two sons, Robert and William Pinkerton both went into the field, chasing both the James and Younger gangs. By that time we were working for S.M. Felton, president of the Philadelphia,Wilmington, & Baltimore railroad. That lead to the agency becoming involved in the capture of part of The Wild Bunch, after they robbed the Great Northern Railway train at Wagner, Montana. After Butch Cassity and Sundance left for Bolivia, the agency started working on other projects…which brings me to the two of you." Kate smiled at both men as she reached inside her vest pocket for the telegram she had received that morning before they had left Blue Sage.

"The Pinkerton Agency has a reputation for recognizing the value in "out-of-the-ordinary talent" she said as she handed the telegram to Kid, who handed it to Heyes. "One example would be me, the first female detective working for a major agency. Another would be our interest in the two of you." Kate stood up, moving to put her canteen back on the saddlehorn of her buckskin mare. She walked in front of Heyes; her eyes widened as she saw the posse and she shifted herself a split second before a rifle shot rang out. Both men had their guns out and were up and running for their mounts before the second report rang out. It wasn't until Heyes glanced wildly around, trying to locate the direction the shots had come from, that he saw Kate stumble as she tried to leap aboard her horse.

"Kate!" Heyes shouted, then "Kid, She's hit" as he spurred his own bay toward the agent who was trying to pull herself up on the buckskin, which was already running. Heyes grabbed her by the gunbelt and lifted her into the saddle as the two horses ran side by side away from the group of men who had just come over the top of the ridge and were now chasing them. Kid was also mounted, but he had hung back a little to cover his partner and the injured woman. As there was no place to use for cover, he had to shoot and ride…not a good thing, when you had to consider a six-shooter against the rifles that the group of men were using. The telegraph lay forgotten on the ground where Heyes had dropped it when he saw Kate was hit. She was riding hard; her mouth set in a grim line against the paleness of her face. Heyes and the Kid rode on either side, their fresher mounts slowly leaving the posse further and further behind. Heyes called across to Kate, asking how badly she was hurt, Kate only shook her head and said, and "It's ok Keep going. We have to get far enough away that they can't ride up on us in the dark…" And so they rode hard, Heyes worriedly watching this brave, fascinating woman who was tougher than most outlaws that he had ridden with, and yet had some gentle quality that made him feel uncertain and out of sorts; something he was neither familiar with or comfortable feeling. The Kid watched their backs and worried about his partner, and this unknown factor in the equation of their relationship. He was almost certain that the woman had placed herself in front of Heyes and taken a bullet that would have gotten him. As he rode he scanned the landscape ahead, looking for a place to camp for the night. It was late in the year, and dark would make it dangerous to travel before long. Kate made the decision for them when she pulled her horse to a stop beside a rock wall that surrounded them on three sides. The buckskin danced sideways away from Heyes, who had stepped down and turned to reach for Kate.

He barely caught her as she slid from the horse and collapsed in his arms, unconscious. Alarmed, he looked up at Kid as he gently laid her down on the ground, using his coat as a pillow. Her own coat had hidden it from view, and there was no exit wound on her back, which was why he hadn't seen the bullet wound that was now revealed on the right side of her chest, just below the collarbone. The wound that even now was seeping blood, and bubbling slightly with every labored breath she took. Heyes looked up at his partner with none of his characteristic humor.

"Kid, I don't know how she rode with this for so long…but if we don't get her to a doctor soon, Kate is gonna die." Fear showed clearly in the dark, pain-filled eyes. Kid felt his throat tighten and cleared it as he met his partner's gaze.

"I know, Heyes. I just ain't sure what we can do about it. We are a long way from anywhere."

Kid quickly made camp, starting a small fire with dry buffalo chips…a hot, smokeless fire that would burn all night and chase some of the chill from the air without alerting anyone of their presence. Heyes tried to make Kate as comfortable as possible, taking his own coat off to cover her with. Kid watched silently as his partner tended the woman who had made a split second decision that had saved his partner's life.and would probably cost her own. He was fairly certain that Heyes was unaware that she had done it, figuring that his partner thought she had just caught a stray bullet. He knew better…and the knowledge permanently aligned him on her side. Whatever her reasons, Kate Warne had taken a bullet that would have killed Heyes, and Curry would ride through hell and beyond if he could save her. He and Heyes discussed it as they tried to stop the bleeding from Kate's shoulder.

"Heyes, you stay here with Kate. She can't ride, and she needs a doctor. I am going to ride on to the nearest town and try to bring one back here." Kid Curry was already standing, loading a few supplies into his saddlebag and taking one of the three canteens. Heyes nodded without looking up from tending the unconscious woman.

"Thanks, Kid. Hurry, partner. I don't know how much time we have, or how far behind that posse is…" Heyes dropped his hat on the ground next to him and looked up with worry. Kid nodded.

"Look, Heyes…if that posse gets too close…" He trailed off as his cousin shook his head negatively.

"I am not leaving her, Kid. She can't ride, and I won't leave her behind. If they find us, they find us. That's just the way it is, Kid." Their eyes met, communication flowed both ways in the unspoken bond between them. Kid started to gather his reins as the voice of his partner stopped him.

"She took that bullet for me, Kid…you know that, don't you?" Heyes looked up at the Kid, pain and something else glistening in his dark eyes. Kid nodded.

"Yeah, Heyes. I know. I just hope we get the chance to ask her why." He spurred the horse and disappeared into the darkness. Heyes crossed over to sit next to the woman who was such an enigma to him…and as he looked up at the multitude of stars he found himself asking for the opportunity to spend the rest of his life discovering her secrets. And he waited.

Hannibal Heyes added a few buffalo chips to the dying fire. He figured that Kid had been gone a little over three hours, and in that time Kate hadn't moved or regained consciousness. Her breathing was rough and faster than normal, and although the bleeding had stopped, Heyes knew that the bullet in her lung didn't bode well for her survival. He hated the waiting and the helplessness that he felt because there was nothing he could do for her but wait. And wonder. At some point, he must have drifted off…

Dawn was not far off when Kate groaned and opened her eyes. Curry was no where in sight, but Hannibal Heyes was sitting on the ground beside her, and he smiled as she met his dark gaze.

"Hi there, outlaw." Kate smiled and shifted her weight slightly, which caused a sharp intake of breath as the pain went through her chest in waves. Heyes reached over and placed his hand on her uninjured shoulder, gently pressing her down. Had he been watching her all night? She wondered.

"Hi there, yourself. I was beginning to think that you didn't like my company anymore, Kate. You were out for quite a while." He moved over to bring the canteen to her lips, holding her head up while she drank and then readjusting the coat under her head when she had finished.

"Yeah, well don't take it personal, Hannibal. I am a bit of a baby when it comes to pain, and I prefer to sleep through it. Where's the Kid?" Kate looked around and then back to the worried eyes of the man she considered to be the best looking fella she had ever had the pleasure of lying eyes on. Thinking back to the scene at the hotel when she had told them both to get out of the tub, she grinned slightly. She should know, she thought.

"He rode to get a doctor, Kate. We were afraid to try to move you. It's not good, Kate. I think the bullet hit your right lung…" Heyes met her brown eyes with his own. She nodded, then her eyes widened as a thought occurred to her. She again tried to sit up, this time grabbing his arm as he shook his head and pushed her back down.

"Kate, you have to lie still, or you are going to start bleeding again!"

"But Heyes! The posse! We can't sit here and wait for them to ride up and shoot you, now can we? They have already proven that they have no problem with the "dead" part of "dead or alive". She was clearly panicking now.the first time Heyes had seen her anything but composed.

"We are not moving you until a doctor can see you, Kate. Trust me, ok?"

I DO trust you, Heyes; it's that posse I have lost faith in!" Kate submitted and again relaxed against the ground. It was clear, however that she was not through trying to get him to protect himself from the men who wanted him dead.

"Heyes, it's time to tell you everything. Maybe after you hear my story you will get on your horse and get to the nearest telegraph office."

"Go ahead and talk, Kate…but whatever you have to say, I am NOT going to leave you here." Heyes had a stubborn look on his face that made Kate think of her boss. He had a reputation for being a stubborn man, but a fair one. She thought that the two had a lot in common.

"Do you have the telegram that I had handed to you before the posse showed up?" She asked.

"Nope, dropped it when the shooting started. You have been talking about that message since we met, Kate…what's so important about it?"

"Hannibal, that telegram might have kept you alive when that posse rode in. It was from my boss, Allen Pinkerton. Addressed to myself and Lom Trevors." At the mention of the sheriff that Heyes and Curry considered a friend, as well as their contact with the Governor regarding their bid for amnesty, Heyes looked at Kate with surprise.

"How do you know Lom, Kate?" the outlaw asked. "What's going on here?"

She met his gaze with her own steady confidence. "Allen Pinkerton, as I said earlier, is interested in talent. He is willing to go out of his way to obtain agents that are intelligent, well trained, and able to think on their feet. The banks and railroads are all contracting with Pinkerton's to protect them from people in your prior line of work, Heyes. And Pinkerton's needs people who know how outlaws think. Someone who can open any safe that Brooker can build, plan security from the "other" perspective, and protect the interests of those companies that Pinkerton's contracts with. Someone like you and the Kid, Heyes." Heyes started to laugh at the idea of himself and the Kid as Pinkerton Agents until he looked at Kate again. She wasn't smiling. She was SERIOUS!

"Kate." Heyes started.

"Just listen, Hannibal. I need to finish this. Allen Pinkerton has connections back east. He is developing a network in the west, as well. He contacted the Governor on your behalf, explaining that he would back the Governors bid for senate next year if he would push your amnesty through. After all, you and the Kid have gone almost a year…" A fit of coughing left her breathless and gasping as Heyes stared at her with disbelief in his eyes.

"You mean…Pinkerton got the Governor to approve our amnesty?" Heyes wasn't sure he had heard her right.

"Part of my job was to research possible recruits for him. Mr. Pinkerton is a good man, Hannibal; and he trusts my judgement. I spent several months reading everything I could find on the two of you. Then, I traveled to Porterville to talk to Lom Trevors. He believes in you both, and he convinced me that you are doing your best to be law abiding.even if you do have to "bend" the law on occasion, you don't break it. I knew from my research that you were the type of men that Pinkerton's would be proud to call our agents." Kate offered him a slight smile as she finished her explanation. Heyes shook his head. It was just almost more than he could grasp. No more running, or sleeping in the cold? No more wondering if they would catch a bullet in the back, or end up in the Wyoming Territorial Prison until they were old men? He still wasn't sure that he wasn't dreaming.

"Kate, you are telling me that you and Allen Pinkerton are directly responsible for the Kid and me getting our amnesty. If that's the case, why did you arrest us back in Blue Sage? Why not just send a telegram…" Confusion was written all over his face as he tried to figure out the details of this latest complication in his life.

"Think about it, Heyes. I had spent months researching you and Curry. I almost feel like I knew you before we met. Would you have believed this story if I had just sent you a telegram asking you to accept a job as a Pinkerton Detective? Or, would you have thought it a trap, and hightailed it out as fast as your horses could have carried you?"

Heyes silently considered. 'You're right, Kate. We would have been gone so fast; you would have had no way to locate us.not for awhile, anyway. So, the telegram was the notification that our amnesty came through, huh? Kid isn't gonna believe this. I am not sure I believe it, yet!" A wide grin spread across his face as he jumped up, unable to sit still and process the fact that he was a free man.

"Believe it, Hannibal. It's true. As soon as you and Kid can get a telegram to Lom, he can send you the amnesty papers. Until you get those, you have no way to prove your story… I had hoped that the telegram would at least provide evidence in your favor, when the posse caught up with you. You both have a job with Pinkerton's, if you will accept it. I had hoped to train you, myself. I am so sorry, Heyes." A tear slid down Kate's face as she looked up at the man that she had come to care so much for, in such a short time. More than her own life, she thought, as she recalled the split second when she had looked up and saw the rifle aimed at Heyes heart, and made the decision that had brought them to the present. Even knowing what it was going to cost her, she knew she would not have changed her mind. Heyes would live. He might or might not become a Pinkerton Agent, but he would live. And, he and the Kid would be free to start their lives over and choose any path they wanted to take. She would not have everything she had hoped for…but it was enough. She had no regrets. Well, only one; she thought as she watched Heyes move around the camp, nervous energy making him unable to sit still. Finally, he sat down next to her and noticed that she was shivering. He had no other blankets to add to the two he had taken out of their bedrolls, so he reached over and took her hand in his. It was like ice.

"Kate, we owe you more than we can every repay." Heyes hesitated when she shook her head and looked away from him, tears falling in earnest now. "Kate?" "Are you hurting? Tell me what I can do, darlin'…"

"You don't owe me anything, Heyes." She said, hurt making her voice blunt. "You and the Kid didn't ask for this.you would have gotten it on your own, in a few months, anyway. All I did was hurry the process up a little. I had my own agenda, anyway. If you decide to accept the jobs, fine. If not, you are free to do as you will. Pinkerton's has no claim on you. Neither do I." She closed her eyes and tried to turn away. Heyes stopped her.

"Don't you?" He asked, brushing a tear away with his finger and tracing her mouth. He was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath as she reached for his hand, bringing the palm to her mouth and placing a reverent kiss there. Understanding passed between them as they studied each others features, she trying to burn the memory of him into her soul, He memorizing her face so that he would be able to close his eyes and recall the love he saw there. He shifted so that he could hold her against him.

"Hannibal?"

"Yes, darlin?" He smiled as she snuggled closer under his chin and laid her head on his chest.

"I do have ONE regret…" (God, he had dozens!)

"What's that, Kate?"

"The night we met…when I walked into the bath house at the hotel and saw you and the Kid there in the tubs with steam rising all around you, and your hair slicked back and dripping water into your eyes…I really regret that I didn't follow my first impulse and join you in that tub!" Laughter started deep in his chest and rolled out as he remembered the evening in question. Oh, how he was going to miss this woman! Maybe, since he had his amnesty, they could at least consider the offer. He really wasn't ready to let her go, just yet. He might never be ready, he thought as he held her against the light of false dawn. Just maybe…his luck was changing. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him, leaning back against the rock outcropping behind him.

"Heyes…" Kate whispered. He had barely heard her at all…

"Yes, love?" He answered.

"Hold…me…please."

Frowning, he looked down at the woman lying wrapped in his arms.

"Kate? KATE?!" Heyes rested his chin on the top of her head and stared off into the distance. And that's how Kid Curry found them when he rode into camp with the dawn.

EPILOGE

Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes stepped off of the train onto the platform at the Chicago station. He touched his silent partner's shoulder in a gesture of support as they moved toward the tall gentleman with the beard that they had been told would meet them. Kid Curry had been impressed when they had received the answer to their telegram…Allen Pinkerton was famous yet he had told them to expect him at the station when they arrived. Heyes had said nothing, as was his custom the last week since Kate had died in his arms. He didn't seem to have much interest in anything, including the fact that they had finally achieved their goal. He was polite. He did his share, never complaining. But he also didn't offer conversation, or rib the Kid in his usual good-natured way. Kid was worried. He missed Kate, too…but somehow, her death had stolen part of Heyes away. The Kid wanted it back. He spoke to his partner as they reached Pinkerton.

"Heyes, I'll see about getting our bags and, and ask about a wagon, for the…for Kate."

"I have a wagon, gentlemen. My man is taking care of everything as we speak." Mr. Pinkerton held his hand out, Heyes and Curry both shook it.

"Thank you, Sir. Kate spoke very highly of you, and it is an honor to meet you." Kid was uncomfortable with the social pleasantries that his partner usually handled…but Heyes was watching the offloading of a long black box from the cargo car. The box was carefully placed in the back of the wagon, and the three men followed close behind in the carriage belonging to Allen Pinkerton. They had accepted his invitation to stay with him at his brownstone. Kid wanted to talk to the man who had recognized the potential worth in Kate. Heyes simply didn't care where they stayed.

The funeral was held on the day after their arrival. Kate was laid to rest in the Pinkerton Family Plot there in downtown Chicago. Allen was there, (He had insisted on the use of his first name.) as were both of his sons, Robert and William. Neither Kid nor Heyes knew anyone else, but they were impressed by the sheer number of people. Some were Pinkerton agents, Allen told them. Others were simply here because Kate had in some way touched their lives. As the casket was lowered a strange and haunting melody came from two men playing some type of instrument that Allen called "bagpipes", which he said had come from his native country, Scotland. Both he and Kate were from the same "family", or Clan, as he called it. Heyes liked the music. Somehow, it fit.

They had decided to decline the offer to stay and work for Pinkerton's. Heyes had no interest, and the Kid was not about to go anywhere that Heyes wasn't. They had agreed to leave the following morning, after breakfast. They would take the train west as far as Porterville. They had contacted Lom by telegram, and he was expecting them. That evening, after dinner, the three men retired to the study for brandy and cigars. Allen Pinkerton was an understanding man, and he didn't push conversation, instead they sat, and smoked, and drew comfort in their shared grief. As they got up to bathe before retiring, Allen placed his hand on Heyes's shoulder. "Can I speak with you, for a moment, Hannibal?" Heyes nodded and the Kid headed down the hall toward his room and a hot bath. Heyes called out to him.

"Go ahead, Kid. Somehow, a bath just doesn't have much appeal, right now. I am going to talk to Allen for a minute." Curry nodded and moved off. Allen closed the door and motioned to the chair next to the fireplace, which burned brightly. Up to then, Heyes hadn't even noticed it.

"Hannibal. Kate had no next of kin. Except me, of course.and we were only related by clan. I do believe that she would have wanted you to have this." Allen handed him an envelope bearing a wax seal and a gold pocketwatch. He looked at his new friend with questions in his eyes.

"The envelope contains her company insurance. There is no one more deserving to leave it to. I gave the watch to her, on the first anniversary with Pinkerton's. I want you to open it, and read the inscription. I didn't put that in there, Hannibal. She had it engraved when she got it. and she carried it with her unless she was under cover. When you read it, do me a favor. Remember the woman who wrote it. Not as you last saw her…but as she was the first moment she walked into your life. Good evening, Hannibal. I will take my leave of you now, as it will be dawn when I leave in the morning. A good agent is never a slugabed!" Allen slapped Heyes on the back, smiling sadly at him as he left. Heyes opened the envelope, eyes widening as he read the promissory note in the amount of $50,000.00, payable at the First Bank of Chicago. Allen had entered his and Curry's names as the beneficiaries. Next he opened the watch, and read the inscription on the inside of the cover, which read:

"May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead!"

A smile started at the corner of his mouth, spreading as he started to chuckle. Kid came running into the room when he heard his partner laughing. Worried that Heyes had been though a little too much lately, Kid grabbed him by both arms and shook him.

"Heyes! Heyes, you ok? What.What's so funny, partner?"

Heyes met his eyes directly, causing Kid to blink. Then he handed him the promissory note and the watch and moved toward the fireplace. Kid glanced at the note, and then read the inscription. He grinned, turning to his partner.

"Kid, leave it to Kate to be so irreverent… so real…so alive. He met his partners gaze, and smiled just a little sadly. "Even in death." He reached for his watch and left his partner holding the note. "We will stop by the bank in the mornin, Kid. On our way home."

"You alright, Heyes? Anything I can do?"

"I will be, Kid…I will be. Just keep doing what you do best. Bein there."

This thing was inspired by all of the "tub talk" going on last weekend, which I guess was fodder for my over active subconscious. I dreamed the bathroom scene. The rest you can blame on my love of angst. Part of it, however is true. Allen Pinkerton, who was my husband's great great great grandfather (I think that's the right number of greats!) really did start the Pinkerton Detective agency in 1850. He was responsible for stopping the first attempt on Lincoln's life, before he was president; and Lincoln did have him removed from the head of the secret service because he was so good at what he did that no one believed the attempt had happened! Kate Warne really did work for Pinkerton, from 1856 until her death. She is buried in the Pinkerton Family Plot in Chicago, Ill. All references to Pinkerton's two sons are true, as are the associations with the Wild Bunch and the Great Northern Railway Train Robbery that took place in Wagner, Montana. If you are interested in the history of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, they have a website at http://www.pinkertons.com/history/index.html

Anything else is simply the fault of an over active mind and a case of insomnia. Hey, maybe that is where they got their motto!!?

THE PINKERTON DETECTIVE AGENCY-WE NEVER SLEEP!

Best,

Michelle

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Copyright 1999

I'd love to hear what you think!  Contact me at michellepinkerton@hotmail.com