MY COUSIN THE DEPUTY
The deep blue eyes missed nothing; even though the man behind those eyes appeared to the world to be dozing, his face shielded from the mid morning sun by the wide rimmed hat. Years on the road and on the run had sharpened his instincts to where he could just sense trouble. Right now every one of those instincts was screaming at him.
He leaned back in the chair on the
porch of the
Those keen eyes spotted the flicker of movement from behind the wagon hitched in front of Dolly’s Kitchen a second before the explosion shattered the otherwise peaceful moment. Reacting more from instinct than from careful consideration of the concept of not courting trouble, his own gun cleared leather and he fired. The second explosion from the hidden assailant sounded almost as an echo of his. It came simultaneously with a scream of pain and the distinct thud of a falling body.
Then it seemed a lot of people were screaming; people ran for cover, diving behind wagons and water troughs. Women ducked or were pulled into shops whose doors were hastily slammed shut.
In one practiced movement the Sheriff drew his gun, spun around, saw one man down and turned back to the man on the porch; the man he’d actually seen fire his weapon. He raised the muzzle of his gun and focused it on the chest of one of the most notorious gunfighters in the West. Who did a most unusual thing, for a notorious gunfighter. He dropped his weapon, raised his arm and simply pointed to a spot behind the Sheriff.
The Sheriff did not move. His eyes remained fixed on the man on the porch. He heard people moving around behind him. Someone came up and asked if he was hurt. He brushed them aside without actually looking away from the man he’d focused on.
The noise level in the street increased. There were a lot of different voices speaking at the same time.
“Well, will ya look at that? Sheriff might’a been killed. Isn’t that Calvin Heartley? Old Will Heartley’s young’un. Is he dead? Who’da thought he’da tried to make good on his threat.”
The Sheriff looked into the blue eyes that stared back at him. An understanding passed between the two men. The Sheriff also worked on instinct. He ‘knew’ that the man they belonged to meant him no danger. He didn’t holster his gun, but he did glance behind him, turning back quickly to make sure the man on the porch continued to pose no threat. Finally he nudged his gun towards the man urging him forward.
The man kept his hands at an upright stance and walked very slowly towards the Sheriff. The lawman followed his progress until the man stopped. He’d placed himself with his back to the downed man. The Sheriff could now see what had happened behind him. Only then did the Sheriff lower his gun.
The Sheriff looked at the man in front of him. His own eyes, the color of a paler sky, then sought out the man who apparently had lain in wait for him. It was Cal Heartley. The same man who had sat stone quiet in the saloon turned courtroom listening while the Sheriff’s testimony had sent his father to the Territorial Prison. The man who finally broke his silence and screamed threats of vengeance against the Sheriff as the black, iron barred jail wagon took his father away. The very young man, hell, hardly more than a boy, who now lay dead before him. What a waste. He shook his head in disgust. Wait. The body twitched, an arm moved.
The Sheriff took a deep breath of relief. Not dead. Hurt. He turned back to the man who had saved his life. Their eyes met again. Both men nodded. They both understood and accepted that this was part of living where men wore guns and where life came and went quickly. The Sheriff eyed the tied down holster, wondering for a moment who this stranger was. His curiosity didn’t stop him from admiring a man who could make such a shot and still manage to leave his target alive. The Sheriff was a pragmatic man. He’d been a Sheriff for a long while. He’d learned to trust his gut. He figured if this man meant him harm he’d be dead. As that didn’t happen, this man must be trustworthy. Regardless of the gun, the stance that suggested he’d be ready for pretty near anything and that look of quiet confidence in his eyes.
The lawman strode quickly through the crowd surrounding the body. The other man did not turn around. Taking charge of things, the Sheriff directed some of the men to take the injured man to the Doc’s. Then he motioned to the town’s Mayor, banker and two other well-dressed men to follow him. They disappeared into his Office.
Kid Curry’s breathing slowly returned to normal as returned to the porch of the hotel. He picked up his gun and slid it into the holster that lay snug against his hip. He smiled at the people who ran up to meet the man who had saved the life of their Sheriff. “Thaddeus Jones, ma’am. No, just passing through. Waiting for a friend. Thank you sir. No, ma’am not married. Only did what I had to sir.” Unfailingly polite. Wishing they would leave him alone so he could do what he now had to do.
Finally they left. Shaking his head almost resignedly, he went into the hotel.
“Yes Sir, Mr. Jones. How can I help you? Wonderful thing you’ve done Mr. Jones. Just wonderful. Never seen anything quite like it. How ever did you see that man? Why he would of killed the Sheriff for sure.” The desk clerk was a thin mousy man. Timothy Higgins. Most of the town’s folk called him Higgy, mainly because they all knew how mad it made him.
“Maybe you could get my bill ready, Mr. Higgins.” Kid Curry seldom went out of his way to make anyone mad. Well maybe his cousin now and again. But that was usually deserved.
“You’re leaving, Mr. Jones? Now? Why ever for? Why you’re a hero. You can’t leave now!” Higgy’s voice was a high pitched squeak of astonishment.
“Got some business in
Kid opened the door to his room
and began stuffing his meager possessions into his carpetbag. He’d ridden in three days earlier having
split up from his partner just outside of
Kid tried to sort out what had
happened. Things had gone well for a
change. A job had actually paid
off. They thought about
Frowning, he also thought back on the man in the dark coat and scowling face that walked into the dining room. The man they thought they knew but couldn’t exactly remember why. They prudently decided they didn’t need to get reacquainted once they caught a glimpse of the very large, shiny star pinned to the vest beneath that dark coat.
He and Heyes had finished dinner as quickly as they could, sadly passing up on the tray of desserts that the pretty serving girl offered. Collecting their things, Kid ducked out the back to get the horses. Heyes paid the bill and slipped, they thought, unnoticed to the livery. They checked their desire to race out of town, instead walking their horses, drawing no undue notice. Once clear of the town limits they breathed easier and picked up the pace just a bit. No one seemed to be behind them. They both figured it was a coincidence. Until the next morning.
They’d broken camp early and set out, pleasantly ambling along enjoying the calm fall day. Then they spotted him. The man in the dark coat. The shiny star man. Not chasing them, exactly, just there. Always there. They exchanged resignation filled glances. This always happens. They picked up the pace some, just to see if he stayed with them. He did. They wondered why he didn’t just try and catch up. Maybe he didn’t know who they were. Too risky to wait and find out. Just before dawn they stealthily walked their horses out of what they hoped was earshot of the man. Then they rode furiously until they reached a two-pronged divide.
They thought about staying together. No, better, safer to split up. Always safer to have one of them free in case the other wasn’t. Heyes had drawn that coin of his out of his pocket. Kid had groaned and muttered something about eventually accidentally losing that thing. As usual, he’d lost. Heyes laughed. ‘That’s some lucky coin, ain’t it. Now you stay outta trouble in Troublesome, ok Kid?’ The broken sign at the divide had announced what town lay in one direction. ‘Think I’ll try my hand the other way. I’ll telegraph you when I get to whatever town’s down this road.” Heyes had teased him. Heyes always teased him. They’d laughed. A kind of laugh anyway.
Noise from the street jarred Kid back to reality. He stood up and checked the room. He hated these enforced separations from his cousin. Always felt like a big chunk of him was missing. And then there was the big pot of consternation he carried around, worrying ‘bout what trouble Heyes was getting into. Trouble that he sure enough was gonna be responsible for getting Heyes out of. And as if that wasn’t enough. There was that man. There’d been no sign of him in Troublesome. That only meant one thing.
He stopped his inspection of the room
for a moment and looked around almost expecting to find his other half
somewhere there; stretched out on the bed reading or dozing, pacing back and
forth conjuring up some scheme. That
ready smile and that silver tongue describing yet another plan. Heyes sure did have a knack for finding
trouble. Didn’t really have to look for
it neither. Heyes was just like one of
them, what had that salesman fella called it, oh yea, divinin’ rods. Put it near the ground and it would find
water all on its own. You could put
The smile changed into another frown. That was another thing. He walked to the window. How was he gonna let Heyes know where he was. Heyes was supposed to get back to him, here in Troublesome. He sighed. He supposed he’d just have to follow that other road, hopin not to run into that lawman coming his direction. Wonder where Heyes was right now. Probably livin’ it up in some saloon. Pretty girl on each knee and an ace high flush in his hand. At least he hoped his cousin was livin’ it up. Be easier to be irritated at him if he wasn’t in jail. Life sure had a way of getting complicated. He took one last long look out the window to the street below.
Yep, sure would have been nice to stay. Kid shifted his thoughts from his cousin to the pretty young woman leaving Cody’s Emporium. Carefully balancing the brightly wrapped packages, he watched her step daintily off the wooden beamed walkway and onto the dusty street. He followed her as she shared greetings with people she met as she made her way to a stylish buggy hitched in front of the hotel, right below his window.
‘Yes indeed, sure wish I could stay here a mite longer.’ Kid’s jaw tightened as he watched a young man approach the woman.
“Mornin’ Miss Jenna. Can I help you with your parcels?” The man’s voice carried up to the second floor window still occupied by Kid Curry.
“Thank you Mr. Jennings. But I’m quite able to manage on my own.” She smiled, but her voice was firm in dismissal. Kid relaxed both his jaw and his displeasure.
The man persisted. “Why, a lady like yourself shouldn’t be having to carry her own parcels, Miss Jenna. No siree. Lady like yourself should have servants to do that.” He gave her what he hoped was a convincing and sincere smile.
Kid heard her sigh. He nearly laughed at her obvious annoyance.
She flung the parcels onto the seat and raised her skirt so as to be able to climb onto the carriage. Her action allowed both men a glimpse of a shapely silk covered ankle. She seemed unaware of that. Settling herself on the black leather bench, she stared at the man who continued to smile ingratiatingly at her.
“Mr. Jennings, I am entirely capable of carrying my own parcels and of driving this carriage and of conducting all other aspects of my life without your assistance.” The words came out in a rush of breathless fury. “And as for servants, the individuals who are employed by my family have quite enough to do completing their own duties. They certainly don’t need to be following me about carrying my parcels. Nor would I wish them to do so.”
Kid’s smile grew broader. ‘You tell him Miss Jenna.’ He shook his head. No man could possibly miss the tone in the young woman’s voice. Had the man been listening at all, he couldn’t have missed her annoyance. A smart man would have cut his losses and tried again another day. He smiled to himself. Guess no one would be accusing Simon Jennings of being smart any time soon.
“Uh, I was wondering, Miss Jenna. If you aren’t otherwise engaged, of course,
would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the dance next week? Real fancy dress ball. Bet you’ve just been waiting to get all
dressed up. Bet you have a real pretty
dress all the way from
Kid couldn’t help himself. His reaction to the man’s question was loud enough to be heard by the couple on the street below.
The woman looked up at the intrusion. Their eyes met. It was not a friendly meeting. She glared murderously at him. The fact that her glare only made him laugh more did not help.
“Thank you Mr. Jennings, but I have made a religious commitment to never go out with a man on Saturday’s in October.” She glared at Kid again. Then turned on the man, still holding the reins. “Please release the reins, Mr. Jennings.” Her voice was icy.
“Religious commitment?” The man would not give up.
Kid laughed again.
The woman did not look up. “Oh good grief.” Grabbing the reins, she ordered the horses forward at a noticeably faster pace than could be considered safe.
Yep. That Jenna Alexander. Kid didn’t know whether he liked her cause she was the prettiest girl in town or because she was the feistiest. He sure wished he’d have had a chance to figure that out.
They’d only met once, by accident. He ran into her coming out of the Emporium his first day in town. She did not seem excited by the meeting. He’d enjoyed having his arms around her, even if it were only for the moment while he was trying to help her up. He had been hoping for another accident. Actually, for the past couple of days he’d been thinkin’ of accidents that he might be able to help along.
He sighed. Nope. Not to be. He shook his head. Returning to the bed, he picked up his saddlebags, rifle and carpet bag and walked out of the room. He started downstairs. Too much attention on him. No call to think it was gonna turn into a problem, but too many people had seen that shot he made. The speed and the accuracy. Just no need to take chances.
He rounded the turn and had reached the head of the stairs. Looking down he found a large group of men at the foot of the stairs looking back up at him. The group included the Sheriff, the Mayor, the banker, and those two other men Kid didn’t know.
He thought for a split second about making a break for the back stairs, but dismissed it just as quickly. Too many of them. Oh well. Guess it was gonna be Heyes’ turn to rescue him. Sure hope Heyes wasn’t in jail himself. And all because he saved the Sheriff’s life. Didn’t seem right somehow. Guess that didn’t really matter.
“Sheriff.” He dropped his belongings, raised his hands and slowly walked downstairs towards his fate.
The Sheriff seemed startled at the action of the man on the stairs. “Put your hands down, Jones. No need for that. We just want to talk to you. Hopin’ you might be willin’ to help us out. Got a real problem.” The Sheriff started up the stairs.
Kid cautiously dropped his hands and stared at the Sheriff. He took a deep breath. “Sure Sheriff. If I can.” He hoped he was smiling. He wasn’t sure.
“You’re not planning on leavin’ now are you?” The Sheriff was eyeing the bags on the ground.
“Well to tell you the truth Sheriff,
I’m meeting my friend in
“Real shame, Jones. Got us a problem. After what we saw this mornin’, Mayor Figley, Banker Townsend here, well we all figured you were exactly the sort of fella that we’d need to help us out.” Mayor Figley joined the Sheriff. The banker and the other men followed the Mayor.
Kid looked at the men. The stairs were sure getting crowded. “Well Sheriff, Mayor, couldn’t hurt to hear what you had in mind.” He heard voice. He didn’t mean to say those words. He sure wasn’t thinking staying around was a real good idea. He was really thinking Heyes why in hell are you never around when that silver tongue of yours could actually do me some good.
Mayor Earnest Figley stepped forward, a broad, toothy smile on his face. “Why that’s just fine. Just fine, Mr. Jones. Higgy, you just take Mr. Jones’ things back up to his room. Mr. Jones, you just come on over to the Sheriff’s office with us and we’ll explain everything. Bet a man like you will just be itchin’ to help us out. Find a bit of excitement in the process.”
Kid looked at the Mayor. He was trying as hard as he could to smile
and act like what was happening was something good. Like maybe he was enjoyin’ all the
attention. And not like he was
completely confused and equally concerned that he was about to be arrested and
jailed for the major part of the rest of his life. Excitement.
Yea, that’s exactly what he was looking for. Just about as much as he was looking for a
reservation at the
Unfortunately, right at this moment he couldn’t quite figure a way out of his predicament. So he nodded pleasantly, turned his belongings over to the desk clerk and followed the men downstairs.
The delegation made their way out of the hotel and proceeded slowly down the now quiet main street of town. With the Mayor on one side and the Sheriff on the other, the banker and those other fellas a polite three paces behind, Kid Curry, hero of Troublesome, Colorado was escorted to the Sheriff’s office.
“See it’s like this. I’ve got to go to
Kid was still trying to digest what was happening. In the span of a couple of hours he had gone from unknown stranger, to hero, to maybe Deputy Sheriff. Heyes was never going to believe this. He barely believed it himself.
“Can’t think of a better man to help us out, Mr. Jones. I mean, after your heroic action of this morning. We’re willing to pay you the same as the Sheriff. Five dollars a day and room and board. At least for the time you’re acting Sheriff. If you say you’ll do it, we can swear you in right now.” Mayor Figley’s eagerness was apparent; he kept poking Kid in the arm emphasizing every point.
“Ya know if I could, I’d sure like to
help you. I mean, you got a real fine
town here. But I got this friend. And if I’m not in
“So all we have to do is let your friend know where you are and then he can meet up with you here in Troublesome? If he’s anything like you, well I’ll tell you what we’d be willin’ to do. Why you just tell your friend that he can be your deputy. How’s that? Half your wages.” The Mayor blocked the door.
Kid’s face broke into a huge grin. He experienced a moment of absolute and total
happiness, thinking ‘bout how he’d get to break the news to
The Mayor beamed. That smile could mean only one thing. “Well then it’s settled. Mr. Jones you’re the answer to all our
problems. You go telegraph your friend. Better yet, why don’t we just have the
Sheriff look him up when he gets to
Kid was jarred out of his reverie by the Mayor’s voice. “Huh?”
“Sheriff, don’t we have a badge for Mr. Jones? Ah, there it is.” The group was smiling as the Sheriff pinned the shiny star on Kid Curry’s vest.
Everyone shook hands and slapped each other on the back. Everyone smiled. Everyone, except Kid Curry who was looking down at the star, wondering if maybe Heyes wasn’t the only one who was part divining’ rod.
“So, things are real quiet. Just like the Mayor said. You shouldn’t have no problems at all.”
It was the morning after Troublesome had found it’s new Deputy, and soon to be acting Sheriff. The good citizens of Troublesome had thrown quite a party the night before. The Sheriff and the Mayor and the banker and those other fellas has insisted on continuing the celebration at Dolly’s Other Place until the wee hours of the morning. They’d insisted that their new Deputy join them.
Kid, never at his best without breakfast, was also fighting off a Dolly sized hangover. He really wanted to lie down, close his eyes and wake up to find he had dreamed the entire last two days. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Well, time to be goin’. You ready, Jones?” The Sheriff stared at Kid’s closed eyes.
He re-opened his eyes slowly. OK, it was real. “Seems so, Sheriff.” Kid followed the man out of the office.
“What was the name of that fella you
wanted me to talk to. In
“Not important anymore Sheriff. I’ll just send a telegram.” Kid didn’t figure it was worth wasting anyone’s time having the Sheriff look someone up who wasn’t there anyway.
They walked briskly towards the train station and stood silently on the platform.
“There’s just this one thing.” The Sheriff faced his newly appointed Deputy Sheriff Thaddeus Jones.
Kid felt his stomach turn.
“Shouldn’t be any problem for a man as
good with a gun as you are, Jones.” The
Sheriff threw his bag onto the train.
“Got a real famous outlaw coming in tomorrow. Wanted on up in
The train’s whistle drowned out the Sheriff’s final word. He frowned at Kid. “Talk is that maybe this fella’s a bad’un. Pretty sure it’s just talk. Wouldn’t worry, though. Way you handle a gun. Anyway town’ll be real helpful if’n ya need anything. Anyway, see ya in a couple of weeks. Month at the most.” The Sheriff boarded the train just as it pulled out leaving a very dumbfounded Kid Curry standing alone on the platform.
Kid watched the train leave. Well at least he knew where Heyes was. Guess he wouldn’t be getting to tell him about the deputy’s job that was available after all. He hoped his cousin was all right and wondered how he’d managed to get caught. And how he was going to fix it. Must’a been that fella. Should never have split up. Heyes mind always did get to wanderin’.
He walked slowly back to the office that was now all his. At least temporarily. He looked around. He tested the Sheriff’s chair. Hmmm. Now what?
He spent the rest of the day worrying. Drinking way too much coffee. Pacing back and forth in the small office, expending restless energy. He wandered about town. People greeted him cordially, shaking his hand. Even Miss Jenna actually smiled at him, her blue eyes appraising him just a shade differently than at their first meeting. At , he locked up the office and went back to his room at the hotel. He stripped off his clothes and crawled into bed. After spending hours tossing and turning, he forced himself to lie still and pretend to sleep. At dawn he gave up and went back to the Sheriff’s office.
He sat down behind the desk and fumbled with the papers stacked there. Wanted posters. He found the familiar ones. Great. Maybe he should arrest himself too. He sat there staring at the two pieces of paper that had been chasing he and his cousin for what seemed like their entire lives. He ripped them in half and crumpled the torn papers into a ball. He walked over to the stove and tossed them in. ‘Well Heyes. Guess I won’t have to figure out how to get hold of you. And I suppose we won’t have to work real hard at getting you out of this place.’ He really figured as soon as an opportune moment presented itself, he’d just let Heyes out and together they’d get out of Troublesome. He poured himself a cup of his own coffee. He shuddered; it suddenly didn’t taste much better than that stuff Heyes made. A fact he didn’t think he’d be sharing with his cousin anytime soon.
It was near lunchtime when the door
opened. “Sheriff? Howdy.
Got a prisoner for ya.” A
middle-aged man, dusty and unshaven, entered the office. “Randy Evans.
I’m the Deputy over in Fairplay.
I’ve been assigned to escort this here prisoner and hand him over to
you. Real famous, at least so’as I’ve
Kid looked startled. “Huh, who?” It wasn’t Heyes. A giant weight lifted from Kid’s broad shoulders. “Absolutely. You just bring that fella right on in here.”
Evans nodded. “Bring him in boys.” There was the sound of scuffling as the prisoner was shoved into the office.
“Ok, Sheriff, here he is.
A suddenly startled Kid Curry found
himself looking up into the equally startled eyes of
“Huh?” Baritone merged with tenor. They stared at each other, smiles creeping onto both faces.
“Yep Sheriff, as smooth talking a snake
oil dealer as ever there was, at least so’as I’ve heard. Found him over in Fairplay. Sittin’ there at that poker game just as easy
as you please. Wanted in
“Huh? Uh, no. Why would I know him? Gimme them papers.” He scowled at the papers then at Heyes. A bit bruised, covered with dried mud. He looked like one sorry mess. One unhurt sorry mess. Actually he was smiling. A relieved smile. Kid was glad someone was relieved.
“Everything in order there Sheriff? With them papers and everything?” Evans pushed the papers a little closer to Kid.
“Yea Sheriff. Everything in order with them papers?” Heyes spoke for the first time. His voice was a bit hoarse, but it was still
Heyes. As annoying as ever.
Kid did not return the grin. He was already annoyed at havin’ to be Sheriff. Now what was he supposed to do with this prisoner by mistake.
“Want us to lock him up for ya Sheriff? No sense in your getting all dirty. Kinda had an accident. Horse this fella was on slid. Dumped him in this big old mud hole. Boy, I tell ya, if that weren’t the funniest thing me’n the boys ever seen. Oh, the horse is fine, by the way.” Evans looked back at his men. They all laughed.
Heyes wasn’t laughing. Well not for real anyway. “Yea Sheriff, want them to lock me on up?” Heyes was really working hard at bein’ annoying. He usually didn’t have to work at it. Kinda came natural. In this case, he figured he had nothing to lose. He absolutely knew what Kid’s answer was going to be.
Kid glared at him. Then smiled. A real slow, I’m about to get even for a lot of annoyin’ years kind of smile. “Well now boys, I think that’ll be just fine. Mighty nice of you to offer. Hate to get these nice clean clothes dirty just getting’ this no account, shifty varmint locked up. Best leave those handcuffs on. Slippery as this fella is. Hate to have to get you boys out of your beds to track him down again.” He joined the posse in congenial laughter.
One of the men looked at Heyes and pointed back towards the cellblock. “Let’s go partner. Coop’s back that way.” He shoved Heyes towards the opening that led to a block of two cells, their doors standing open.
Heyes looked at Kid. He cocked his head in complete astonishment. He opened his mouth. Nothing came out. He tried again. The silver tongue seemed to have vanished. A first in and of itself.
Evans half escorted, half shoved him into the cell. Heyes winced as it clicked shut.
Kid had followed the lawmen and their prisoner to the cells. His voice was still congenial. “If’n you boys have time, Dolly’s Kitchen serves some of the best fried chicken and biscuits around. Apple pie too. You just tell Dolly you’re a friend of the Sheriff. She’ll take real good care of you. You just tell her to just send the bill on over here to me.
“Why thanks Sheriff. That’s real neighborly of you. We’ll just be takin’ you up on your offer.” He looked at the other men who nodded vigorously.
“Maybe you can do me a favor?” he continued. I’m gonna be stuck here guarding this fella. Can you ask Dolly to send over some lunch for me and some for him?” They nodded again. “Fine boys. That’s just fine.” Kid followed them out of the cellblock and back to the office, nodding at them at they left. He was still smiling as he poured himself another cup of coffee and settled into the Sheriff’s chair.
Kid leaned back in the chair and propped his long legs up on the desk. This was almost as good as lettin’ Heyes be his deputy. Oh he knew he’d let him out. They both knew that. Just a question of when. Kid closed his eyes and thought hard on just how long Heyes needed to stay in that cell. He grinned at the thought. Was kinda nice to be on the giving end of the joke for once. He sighed happily.
Back in the cell Heyes was also wondering how long he was supposed to stay in there. He listened to the sounds from the office. Liquid being poured. Squeak of a chair as someone sat down. Nothing else. “Kid?” His voice was a plaintive question. He’d had tried to fight off calling out to his cousin. But he was dirty and hungry. And Kid was not showing any inclination to unlock that door. He waited for a response. Nothing. “Kid? Are you gonna come back here and let me outta this cell?” he yelled, his pleas becoming less plaintive and more irritable.
Kid stretched and slowly swung his legs
down from the desk. He whistled some
tune he’d heard somewhere and ambled back to the cells. He leaned back against the wall opposite the
cell and smiled at his cousin. “Why
Heyes’ mouth dropped open. “Why you miserable ingrate. After everything I’ve done for you. You’re plannin’ on leaving me in here? And who’s Sheriff Travis – oh don’t even tell
me. It’s Lom, right? Lom’s comin’ here to take
Heyes didn’t enjoy being on the receiving end of a joke. He was much better prepared to be on the giving end. Right now he was irritable. And put out at his cousin. And dirty. And hungry. And not about to get his question answered.
The sound of the office door opening diverted both of them. “Sorry, Texas Jack. Got another person who needs the Sheriff. Guess you didn’t need to worry ‘bout me gettin’ into trouble in Troublesome.” He took a couple of steps. “Fairplay, huh? Sounds like a right friendly town.” He grinned about a broad a grin as was humanly possible and walked back down the hall.
Kid heard a strangled sound coming from the cell. ‘Yep, Heyes sure was grumpy.’
Kid was trying real hard not to be enjoying this as much as he was. He really wanted to laugh. He thought he had controlled himself pretty well, all things considered.
“Oh Sheriff. I hope I’m not bothering you.” Jenna Alexander set a very large tray down on the desk. “I ran into Dolly and she just looked so rushed I thought I might help her out. She said there was lunch for you and your prisoner.”
For one of the few times in Kid Curry’s life, he was not interested in food. Even though the savory smell of freshly fried chicken filled the air. He looked at the girl smiling at him. Maybe bein’ Sheriff of Troublesome was goin’ to be a good thing after all.
“Uh Sheriff? Do I smell fried chicken? Sure could use some of that food. Real hungry back here Sheriff.” Heyes voice drifted out from the cells. He was plaintive again, his voice actually broke.
Kid shook his head. “Sorry Miss Jenna. Prisoners. Got no manners at all.” He shouted back at the cells. “Uh, sure, Texas Jack. Be right with ya.” He returned his attention to the woman who had moved closer to the cellblock. “That was real nice of you Miss Jenna. Mighty nice. Sure smells good.”
“What? Oh yes, Dolly is a wonderful cook.” She was peering down the cellblock.
“Anything else I can help you with, Miss Jenna?” Kid watched her. He was beginning to get this sinking feeling that maybe the reason Miss Jenna had decided to help Dolly out had more to do with her wantin’ to see the famous outlaw and less to do with her wantin’ to see the new Sheriff. “Miss Jenna?”
“What?” She blushed. “I’m so sorry, Sheriff.” She turned back to Kid. “It’s just that I’ve lived my entire live in Troublesome. And it’s not. Troublesome, I mean. Not even a little. Why Texas Jack Langan is the most exciting thing that’s happened to Troublesome in…well, in forever.” She looked up at him. “Can I meet him?”
“What?” It was Kid’s turn to be surprised and a little exasperated. “Why would’ya want to meet someone like…” he paused, “Texas Jack Langan.”
“Because. That’s all. Just because he’s someone famous and it’ll probably be my one chance to meet anyone famous and just because. Does there have to be some other reason. And anyway I want to be a writer and he could be my inspiration. Please. Just for a minute. Please? What could happen?” The woman moved closer to Kid and looked at him through big blue eyes, expectantly, almost impatiently awaiting his answer.
Kid returned her stare. Thinking furiously. What could it hurt? I mean it wasn’t like Heyes would do anything to hurt her. He knew the ‘real’ Sheriff would no more let a woman back in the cells as he’d leave the occupied cell doors open. But Kid wasn’t the ‘real’ Sheriff. And he really did want Jenna Alexander to think kindly about him. On the other hand, Kid had little interest in introducing her to his cousin; covered in mud or not, he’d watched the legendary Hannibal Heyes’ charm in action for most of his life. He really didn’t want to see it here.
“I could bring him his lunch. No need for you to do that. I mean. It is,” she grimaced, “…woman’s work.”
Kid laughed. “Miss Jenna, I don’t think any man in his right mind would tell you, you should be doin’ woman’s work. Not if he wanted to live through the conversation, that is.”
She laughed too. “I guess not. But there’s really no reason for me not to meet him. He’s never killed anyone. Just swindled them out of their money.”
Kid looked down at the tray of food. He thought about one last little bit of payback for all the schemes Heyes had gotten him into; for all those coin tosses. He hoped he was right about the prisoner’s ‘lunch’. Oh, he knew he’d be paying for all this teasing. He was sure that just when he’d forgotten Troublesome and being a Sheriff and the mud and having to put Heyes in a cell, that Heyes would find just the right way to pay him back. But right now, the temptation was just too much for him to pass up.
He smiled at the woman. “Well all right, Miss Jenna. I don’t see how it would cause any problems. I’ll just go in with you to make sure you’re safe. Now let’s see. What did Dolly send over for his lunch?” Kid uncovered the large tray.
A heaping platter of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and a full half of Dolly’s famous apple pie greeted him. His mouth started watering. “Are we supposed to split this between us?” Kid looked up at her laughter. He noticed a smaller covered tin plate off to the side. He picked that one up. It looked out of place among the nice “company” plates Dolly used whenever she served him. Guess he was right about what Heyes would be having for lunch.
“Oh Sheriff. That’s so funny.” She laughed as she reached for the small covered plate. “Prisoners all get the same meal. You know that. They are prisoners, after all.” She walked towards the cells.
“Better let me go first Miss Jenna. No tellin’ what a man like that will do or say.” He stepped in front of her and led the way to the cell.
“Well it’s about time. Is that fried chicken? I’m hungry enough to eat a horse. Hell, right now even beans sound good. And when do these handcuffs come off?” Heyes hadn’t moved from the spot where Kid left him. He was glowering at his cousin as Kid walked towards him.
“Quiet down, Texas Jack. Lady here wants to meet you. So you just mind your manners.” Kid stepped aside so Jenna could get a look at the ‘famous’ outlaw. He was trying really hard to keep his voice Sheriff-like.
Heyes’ glower turned into a dazzling smile as the young woman stepped out from behind Kid. “My pleasure, Miss…” He removed his hat. “Joshua Smith, at your service.”
She had studied him curiously until he said his name. “Joshua Smith? But I thought…Sheriff, isn’t this Texas Jack Langan? Who’s Joshua Smith?” She turned angrily to Kid.
“Now Miss Jenna. All outlaws have alias’. It’s how they stay one step ahead of any duly elected officers of the law. Don’t you mind anything he has to say. Why, man like this would say just about anything to charm a lady like yourself.” Kid’s voice was beginning to crack under the strain of watching Heyes face do contortions.
“And what exactly do you mean by that? That being as I’m just some silly woman, that I’m likely to believe whatever this…” she dismissed the dusty, mud covered man before her with a wave of her hand, “...this man might say.” Her indignation at the implication was apparent; the color that had started rising in her cheeks.
The momentary pain Heyes felt at the woman’s insult vanished quickly. He sensed an opportunity had presented itself. “Excellent question, Sheriff. Why this lovely young lady seems perfectly capable of clear thinking.” Heyes for one brief second felt control moving back to his side. He favored the woman with another brilliant smile.
“Oh do shut up, no one was talking to you anyway!” Jenna directed her fury at Heyes whose smile faded. “Don’t you believe in bathing? You’re covered in mud. How can you eat dinner as dirty as you are?”
Heyes looked stricken. He always took great pride in his appearance. He looked at his mud-covered hands. Kid was choking and finally turned away no longer able to contain his laughter.
Heyes was furious at Kid. He was mortified by his appearance. He was tired and sore and his head hurt. None of that mattered. None of the insults he’d been forced to endure were even important right now. He heard only one word that mattered.
“Dinner, ma’am? I’d be powerful appreciative if that plate has some food on it for me. I’m about as hungry as…well, it’s been a while since I had a good meal. Be glad to wash up if the Sheriff there’ll let me.” He made an attempt to jar some of the dirt loose from by hitting his hat against his dried mud covered trousers. All he managed to accomplish was to send a large cloud of dust circling around him and drifting out towards Kid and the woman. “I’m so sorry.” He tried to force it away by waving his arms around. All it did was send it directly in the woman’s face.
“Will you please stop that? Sheriff, please tell him to stop waving his arms around like that.” She had stepped back to avoid the dust cloud.
“OK, that’s enough of that Texas Jack.” Kid took the plate from the woman’s hands and handed it through the slot in the door to Heyes. “Here’s your dinner. “'Spose a little more dust isn’t going to make a whole heck of a lot of difference to you now is it?” He looked at his cousin who looked less like the former leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang and more like, well an image of Kyle Murtry popped into his head. He lost the fight with being Sheriff like and burst out laughing.
Heyes just glared at him. Then at the plate. Didn’t smell like fried chicken. He lifted off the cover. Beans. Beans? He looked at Kid. “I thought I smelled fried chicken. This don’t look like any chicken I’ve ever seen.”
“Well, Texas Jack. Seems like they got a rule here in Troublesome. Sheriff gets the fried chicken. Prisoner gets beans. That right, Miss Jenna?”
She looked at Kid. Standing tall. Sunlight streaming from the windows making those dark blond curls shine Blue eyes clear as the sky over Troublesome. He smiled at her. Her heart beat a little quicker.
She looked at Texas Jack. Slumped. Covered in mud. Dark eyes full of a very clear invitation to danger. He looked directly at her, then smiled. Her heart jumped.
The two men looked at each other. The smiles they exchanged were transparent. She knew something was going on. She didn’t know what. But she was going to find out.
“Ma’am?” The prisoner looked hopeful. It didn’t last.
“Huh? What? Oh, yes of course. Lunch. It’s always beans. What else would it be?” She turned back to the Kid who was swallowing a smile.
Looking as serious as possible, Kid took the woman’s arm. “We should be going now Miss Jenna. Let the prisoner eat his beans.” He steered her out of the cellblock.
“We got some things to talk about there Sheriff. You’re coming back, aren’t you?” There was a familiar tone to Heyes voice. One that promised Kid he’d be on the receiving end of payback. And when that happened he’d have no one to blame but himself.
“You just eat them beans, Jack. I’ll be back presently. Miss Jenna, Maybe I could walk you to your buggy. Don’t you mind him now. I told you, can’t trust a snake oil seller.” The door closed behind them.
Heyes frowned as he watched the two leave. “Snake oil seller, huh? OK, Kid if that’s the way you want it.” He stared at the closed door. Hannibal Heyes took one more swipe at his dirty clothes, raising yet one more dust cloud. Sneezing in response, he sat down on the bunk and eyed his dinner. “Beans.” He shook his head. “I really hate beans.” He looked at the closed door. “Hope you enjoy that fried chicken, Kid. May be the last chicken you ever see.” He set the still full plate on the floor and stretched out on the cot, his arms folded behind his head.
His mind drifted back to the coin toss. He’d laughed as he once again won. He watched Kid ride off towards Troublesome and paused only for a moment before he headed down the other road. Hoping that that fella had managed to get lost somewhere.
It was nearly half a day later when the shadow re-appeared. ‘Damn. Guess he’s mine Kid.’ Prodding his horse, he took off at a gallop the man in black ever present behind him.
It was dusk, three days since they’d left Georgetown when Heyes finally reached the town at the end of that other road. Fairplay - he hoped the town’s name was a good omen. The man was once again nowhere in sight. He checked into the hotel and liveried his horse. Now he was ready for some food, poker and companionship. He remained cautious perhaps, but he told himself if that man’d really been after him he’d have pursued him harder. Heyes decided to take the risk.
The restaurant was full. Owner said it’d be another hour before they had a table for him. Sighing, he crossed the street and headed to the saloon. He figured he might just as well get started on the second and third items on his list of things to do.
He looked around. “Looks OK Kid.” He stopped, smiling a bit to himself. He never felt entirely dressed without Kid around. Bet he’s somewhere helpin’ a lady out of trouble. Kid sure was good at helpin’ ladies. All it ever meant was that Heyes was gonna be responsible for helping him out of the trouble he was probably getting’ into helpin’ some lady out of trouble. He pushed his black hat back on his head so as to give his brain room to straighten that thought out.
Sighing, he pushed open the batwing doors of the saloon and looked around. Two men at the bar didn’t look interested in anything but the beers in front of them. Piano player working on missing every note in the song he was playing. Pretty brunette in a green dress walking towards him in an unmistakably inviting way. Card game. He frowned a bit. Did he catch everything? He was used to having Kid check out the territory. He allowed the brunette to slide an arm around his neck and knock his hat off.
“What can I get you honey?” She whispered huskily. There was very little doubt as to what she meant.
Heyes smiled. ‘Yep, Fairplay. Hope you’re not in too much trouble Kid, ‘cause I think I’m gonna like it here.’ He allowed her to lead him to the poker table. “Room for one more, gentlemen?” He smiled at the men around the table.
“Looks like it’ll have to be room for two more. Sally there seems to be fairly attached to ya.” The thin man directly across from Heyes said. They all laughed at the way the woman was clinging to Heyes’ arm. “Sit yourself down, both of ya.” They all laughed again.
Heyes pulled out a chair and sat.
Sally accepting this as an invitation that included her, immediately sat on his lap, wiggling closer and returning her arms to what she apparently felt was their rightful position around his neck.
Heyes’ smile was enough to make her blush. Something she’d not been known to do for some years.
The other men also smiled, assuming this newcomer’s concentration was going to be on the woman not on the card game. Sadly for them, they were about to be introduced to Hannibal Heyes’ powers of concentration.
Two hours later he was $200 richer and considerably hungrier. He rose from the table. “Well gents, I think I’m gonna go get myself some dinner.”
The men reminded him that he owed them a rematch. Sally reminded him that she was prepared to give him dinner too.
“Here honey, let me just give you some dessert.” She pulled him towards her and planted a very enthusiastic kiss on his mouth.
So engrossed was he in her enthusiasm, he didn’t see the men approach the table. “Texas Jack Langan, you just stay right there. Don’tcha move a muscle. We got him boys. And the reward to boot.”
He disengaged from Sally to find a group of men pointing guns at him. “Sorry sir, you seem to have made a mistake. My name Joshua Smith…”
They started laughing. “Smith? Come on Jack, you can do better’n that. Smith. Hear that boys? He’s some fella called Smith.” They all laughed heartily as they removed Sally from around him and put the handcuffs on his wrists.
They led him from the saloon. He kept trying to tell them about their terrible mistake, until they threatened to gag him. He made a face, but stopped protesting. He’d have time to work this out. Surely someone knew Texas whoever it was. And he could have someone send a telegram to Kid. He looked at the men. Puzzled. “Where’s that other fella?”
“What other fella?”
“The one in the black coat? The one who’s been behind me since…, well for a couple of days? Isn’t he with you fellas?” Heyes was examining each man, looking for the shadow.
“Son, I don’t have no idea who you’re talking ‘bout. Man who runs the saloon told us ‘bout you. Let’s go now. Long ride to Troublesome.”
‘Troublesome’. He smiled and relaxed a bit and went quietly with the lawmen. He figured he’d just saved six bits on that telegram he was gonna have to send. “Can I get my things?”
The men had just laughed and ignored him.
It was a pretty uneventful trip till his horse had taken that slide. Head first into a mud hole. He came up coughing mud and hearing the laughter of the men still on their horses. One of them got him up and back on his horse. Now in addition to being hungry, he was bruised and sore and wet and muddy. Somehow that lucky coin didn’t seem all that lucky after all.
There was a distinct rumble. He scratched his still empty stomach. When he opened his eyes, he saw the iron bars, a sturdy reminder that he was in a jail cell. And that he was still sore and muddy and hungry. Resigning himself to play out Kid’s game for a while longer, he set his black hat over his eyes and drifted off. He knew Kid would be back presently. With dinner. He just didn’t know exactly when. Until then, he figured he would have time to figure out exactly when and where and how he’d get even. His stomach growled again. “Oh yea. Gotta think of something special for ya Kid.”
Less that half an hour later, Kid put on his sunniest smile and returned to the cell . “How’re you doin’ Heyes? Have a nice nap? Bet you’re hungry. Got some real nice fried chicken and biscuits right here for you. Apple pie too.”
Heyes was jarred out a very pleasant dream by the rattling of the door. He moved his hat from over his face, opened his eyes and smiled at his cousin. He very slowly swung his legs down off the cot and sat up. A small dust cloud ensued. He coughed.
Kid set the tray down on the bench that sat against the wall opposite Heyes’ cell. “Here, let’s just get that door open.” He opened the door and turned to pick the tray up. He felt rather than saw Heyes eyes. He swallowed hard. Maybe teasing Heyes wasn’t such a good plan after all. “Here ya go. Still nice and warm. You just dig right in, you’re probably starved.”
As if to confirm Kid’s observation, Heyes’ stomach gave a loud growl. Kid choked back a laugh.
Heyes smile grew broader. It didn’t make Kid feel any better. He knew that smile. It was the one that said, ‘I’m just bidin’ my time Kid, till the exactly right opportunity to get even presents itself. And we both know it will. Sooner or later. But it will.’
Kid waited for the dust cloud to disperse and set the tray down on the cot. He sat on the other side of it. And waited. “Here Heyes, let me just get those bracelets off you.” He unlocked the handcuffs and watched Heyes rub his chafed wrists. “I’ll just get that cover for you.” He pulled the cloth from the tray, exposing a plate full of fried chicken and biscuits. “There you go. You just dig right in.”
“You’ve already eaten?” Heyes finally spoke.
Kid was so relieved at the sound of his cousin’s voice he spoke without thinking. “Oh sure, Heyes. Miss Jenna and I had some while it was still…” Kid stopped. He stared at the darkening eyes of his cousin.
“…hot?” Heyes muttered.
“Aw, now Heyes. Nothin’ like cold fried chicken. You just eat up. You’ll feel a lot better once your stomach ….quiets down.” Kid was finding out that sometimes the harder you try the worse it got.
Heyes just smiled and held up his hands.
Kid knew he was dead. Oh not literally, but sure as anything Heyes was gonna make him pay. “Heyes you can put your hands down. I’m just acting Sheriff.”
Heyes opened his mouth. Then closed it. He squinted at Kid. The smile disappeared. It came back. “Think I might wash up, Kid?”
Kid looked at Heyes hands – covered in mud. He laughed. “Sure Heyes. Don’t know what I was thinking ‘bout. You just come on outta here and we’ll get you cleaned up.” He got up and started out of the cell. He turned back just as he cleared the cell door. And ran into Heyes who was right behind him, raising another dust cloud. They both sneezed. Kid laughed. Heyes kept smiling.
“Think there might even be a bath somewhere out there, Kid?” Heyes was talking through clenched teeth.
“Why sure Heyes. No problem. You want to do that first? I mean before you eat. I suppose the chicken can’t get much colder.” Kid shook his head. He couldn’t look at his cousin. It kept getting worse.
“No, Kid I’m pretty sure it’s as cold as it’s gonna get.” He followed Kid into the office and headed towards the door.
“Uh Heyes?” Kid’s voice implied he was about to say something he really didn’t want to day but couldn’t figure a way around.
Heyes froze. “Uh huh.”
“I’m gonna have to put the cuffs back on you.” Kid held up the handcuffs.
Heyes hadn’t turned around. “Kid.” He hadn’t unclenched his teeth. “Have I ever gone out of my way to inflict pain on you?” He turned very, very slowly. He looked tired and dirty and hungry and very put out. “Haven’t I always taken care of you? When you were hurt or in need?” He turned dark, soulful eyes on Kid.
“Heyes, I’m the Sheriff. What do you want me to do? Just walk Texas Jack Langan right across the street to the hotel and order him a bath?”
Heyes stared at him. He sighed. Deeply. He closed his eyes and held out his hands. Every inch the martyr.
“Aw Heyes, don’t do that. I really hate it when you do that.” Kid approached his cousin.
Inside Heyes was smiling. He knew Kid wouldn’t handcuff him. He just knew it. Kid was kin. He understood what was right. Hell, they’d been together their whole lives.
It was the loudest click he ever heard. Heyes’ eyes flew open. The dark eyes met the blue ones. They wandered to the still muddy wrists. Now encircled by two sturdy silver bracelets.
Heyes blinked. And looked back at Kid. “I can’t believe you did that. You actually handcuffed me. After all we’ve been through together.” He shook his head.
“Heyes, I don’t got any choice. You know that.” He stared stonily at his friend.
Suddenly Heyes was smiling again. “Sure Kid. I’m sorry. I know you’re only doing what you have to. Do I still get that bath?” Heyes wasn’t being a martyr anymore. He was being Hannibal Heyes.
Kid preferred martyr. Maybe he could make the payback less painful. “Course you do. Let’s go on over to the hotel. We’ll get you a bath. And see ‘bout some real food.” Kid opened the door onto the street.
“That’s great Kid. Just great.” Heyes preceded his cousin outside into the sun.
They walked side by side in silence to the hotel.
Higgy perked up considerably when he saw the Sheriff. “Mr. Jones. I mean Sheriff Jones. How can I help you this afternoon?” He gave Heyes a disgusted glance. “You want me to lock him up in the broom closet while you get lunch, Sheriff.”
Heyes gave Kid a look that said if you even think about it I won’t be responsible for what I do to you. Never mind the consequences.
Kid gave Heyes a look that said I’m sorely tempted to do just that. But they’d probably hear you hollering all the way to Denver. “No thank you Mr. Higgins. If possible, what I’d like is to give my prisoner…” he ignored the scowl on Heyes face “…the opportunity to clean up. Makin’ quite a mess over to the jail. Don’t want the Sheriff to come back and find that.” He laughed.
Higgy laughed too. “Why sure Sheriff. Hate to have the Sheriff come back here and find this no account varmint has messed up one of the cells. Why we can set up a barrel out back. Not too much privacy, but well who’s gonna be looking at the likes of him anyway.”
A growl was distinctly heard coming from Heyes’ general direction. It was hard to tell if that was Heyes’ stomach or just Heyes.
Kid refused to look at his cousin. A barrel out back. In public. Could he do it? And live. He really wanted to. He knew one look at Heyes and he would.
“Out back?” Heyes voice was a thin whisper. “Outside, out back?” The tone of his voice said clearly, ‘Kid, I’ll flatten you. Repeatedly.’
“Uh, maybe we’ll just give him a special present, Mr. Higgins and let him use that nice big tub upstairs. And maybe we can get someone to get some clothes for him, while his are being cleaned up.” Kid smiled at the clerk. He continued to avoid his cousin’s eyes.
“Certainly Sheriff. If you think that’s for the best. He signaled for his young helper to go get the tub ready. “Clothes? Well I don’t know. Wait, old Folkstone is sure to have some extra things. Want me to go check.” The man was already moving from behind the desk.
“Uh, Folkstone? Edgar Folkstone?” Kid was ushering Heyes towards the stairs.
Heyes was frowning sensing there was something else he didn’t know.
“Yep, Sheriff. Only one Folkstone in town. Been the town…”
“Well that’ll be just fine Mr. Higgins. Just fine. Come on Texas Jack. Water’s not getting any warmer.” Kid finally smiled at Heyes.
“Just like the fried chicken.” Heyes muttered. “Who’s Folkstone?”
“Uh, who? Just a fella lives here in town. Never met him myself, just heard the name. Heyes, you want that bath or not.” Kid fairly shoved him into the room where the desk clerk’s assistant had just finished filling a tub with steaming hot water.
“Thought you could use some of that smelly stuff some of the ladies use.” The young man snickered as he left the room and the two men.
Heyes looked at the tub, steam rising upwards, frothy bubbles covering the surface; and the distinct aroma of flowers. “Kid. It smells like roses.”
To his credit. Kid didn’t laugh. He did smile. And it was apparent he was having a great deal of trouble speaking. “Yep, Heyes. Sure is. Roses. Real pretty. Darn sight better than what you smell like right now.”
To his credit, Heyes didn’t hit his cousin. He just held out his hands. “You gonna take these things off, or am I gonna have to take a bath with them on?”
Kid looked like he was actually considering his answer. Then he gave in and unlocked the cuffs.
Heyes rubbed his wrists again. “Glad you’re havin’ such a good time with all this.” He started unbuttoning his shirt. “Think there might just be some form of hot food out there somewhere Kid?” He’d finished removing his shirt and sat to take his boots off. “Don’t suppose the Sheriff can give his ‘prisoner’ a drink can he?” Heyes looked hopefully at Kid.
Kid was still smiling. “Well probably we can figure out how to get you a hot meal; wouldn’t look too good for the Sheriff to be buying you a drink.” He walked over to the window and looked out on the street. “Funny don’t you think Heyes? Me losin’ that coin toss and winding up in Troublesome and savin’ the Sheriff’s life and now windin’ up Sheriff myself. And you winnin’ and ending up in Fairplay and then in that mud hole and now in jail. Gotta admit that’s pretty funny.” He turned when he heard his cousin’s deep sigh as he got in the tub.
“Yea, Kid that’s real funny. Funniest thing I’ve heard all day. You gonna stand there and watch me or are you gonna go get me some food?” Heyes was really grumpy, although he did seem to be enjoying the warm sudsy water. His teeth were gradually unclenching. They clenched again with the knock on the door.
“Everything all right in there Sheriff?” Higgy’s voice came through the door. “Got them clothes you wanted. Folkstone had some just like I thought. Do that fella just fine. And the fella who previously owned them sure won’t be needin’ them.” The man’s laughter penetrated the door.
“Kid? Who’s Folkstone? And why does that fella always sound like someone’s got his arm twisted behind his back.” Heyes watched Kid retrieve his muddy clothes, walk to the door, trade bundles with Higgy and return them to the chair next to the tub. He frowned. He knew Kid better than he knew anyone in the world. He knew there was something going on that he was not going to like. Even more than being hungry. Which he still was.
“Aw, he’s alright Heyes. Just a lot like Kyle.” Kid was still having trouble meeting his cousin’s eyes. Oh yea, payback was gonna be something. “Look, if I lock the door, I think I can go get you some food. How’s that?”
Heyes was quiet for a long moment as he studied his cousin. “Think I might make a break for it, Kid.” His voice was teasing, but of the gentle kind. “Bein’ such a famous outlaw and all.” He finally smiled. A real one.
Kid took a deep breath. Maybe he would live through payback. “Yea Heyes. A real famous outlaw. Texas Jack Langan. Real slippery con artist. Mean spirited fella, from what I’ve heard. Look, why don’t you just finish your bath and I’ll go get you the best lunch in the whole town. Then we can get you all locked up…” Kid paused as he watched Heyes wince at the reference to where he’d be spending his evening. “Sorry. Ya know I don’t really have a choice but to put you back in that cell. I mean for the time bein’. At least until we can figure out what to do. Come on Heyes will ya stop looking at me like that.”
Heyes sighed. Why were there days that just went from bad to worse? He put on his very best wounded little boy face. “Fine Kid. Food then a cold jail cell. If that’s really what you need to do.” Whatever else he was gonna do to his cousin, he might just as well start making Kid feel as miserable as he could now.
Kid gave his cousin one last look before leaving the room. Heyes sat in the tub, covered in foam, looking as innocent as an altar boy. Whatever Kid muttered was lost as he slammed the door.
Thomas Higgins was waiting outside, an apprehensive look on his face. “Ah, Mr. Higgins. I’m gonna go get this fella some food. Room’s all locked up. Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.”
“You want me to watch the door, Sheriff.” The mousy man pulled a gun from his belt and aimed it at Kid.
Kid dodged to the side and grabbed the man’s arm. “Don’t…” he shouted, startling the little man who reacted by pulling the trigger which sent a bullet through the ceiling. Pieces of wood rained down on them both. “…point that thing…” Kid sighed. “Maybe you’d best let me have that, Mr. Higgins.” He spoke quietly.
Heyes, wrapped in a towel opened the door, took one look at the chaos, smiled at Kid and stood watching for a moment. As doors started opening, he closed his door and went back to his bath.
“What’s goin’ on?” The ribbon salesman opened his door and peeked out.
“That outlaw try to make a break for it?” The young couple, just married opened the door a crack.
He frowned at the little desk clerk. Obviously Higgy had shared the ‘outlaw’s’ presence with some of the other guests.
“An outlaw? Loose in the hotel!” The elderly woman fainted in the hallway at Kid’s feet.
“No, nothin’s wrong folks. Just a little accident.” He glared at Higgins, who was as pale as Kid’s white shirt. “Everyone just go on ‘bout your business. “Why? OK? Why me?” Kid asked no one in particular as he tried to help the women onto the bed in her room.
“Oh Sheriff. Thank goodness you’re here. Is there really a horrible criminal loose here? I’m a single woman. Oh whatever shall I do if he tries to break into my room?” The woman was clinging to Kid’s arm as though it was the last bastion of safety open to her.
Kid was having little success in prying her fingers loose when Jenna Alexander suddenly appeared.
“Good heavens, what happened? Mrs. Dalloway, you’re cutting off circulation in the Sheriff’s arm.” She gently took the older woman’s hand and hung onto it. “I’ll stay with her Sheriff. If you have other things to do I mean.” She smiled at Kid.
“Yes, ma’am. I was gonna get the prisoner some food. Just didn’t seem right him just havin’ beans.” Kid smiled back at her.
“Well that’s very nice of you Sheriff. I certainly agree that there’s no reason to mistreat prisoners. I suppose beans could be considered mistreatment. Well I’ll stay with Mrs. Dalloway as things seem to be quiet out there now. You just run along. I’m sure Dolly will be real glad to make something up.”
Kid caught something in her eyes. Something that reminded him of his cousin. Something that said her rush to get him out of the room was not entirely due to Mrs. Dalloway’s fainting spell. ‘Nah, you’ve just been around Heyes too long. Getting so as you’re suspicious of everyone.’ He shook off the worry. “Thank you Miss Jenna. ‘Preciate it. I won’t be long.”
She favored him with her friendliest smile. “Oh do take your time Sheriff. We’ll be perfectly safe here.”
Kid left the room wondering what was gonna happen next.
Thomas Higgins was sitting on the floor holding his head. “I’m so sorry Sheriff. You might have…well you might have been killed. Oh, what am I going to tell Mr. Jenson. I’ve put a hole in the roof. He’ll fire me for sure, Sheriff. What am I to do?”
Kid wondered if there was anyone in Troublesome that wasn’t in trouble. “No one’s gonna fire you, Mr. Higgins. I’ll explain it to Mr. Jenson. You just go on back downstairs. Everything’s gonna be just fine.” He helped the man up.
“Oh Sheriff. How can I ever thank you. You don’t want me to stand guard over this criminal while you’re gone? What happens if he gets loose?”
“He’s handcuffed Mr. Higgins.” Kid figured a little lie now and again wouldn’t hurt anyone. “Trust me. That fella’s not goin anywhere.” He sighed again as the little man nodded and headed back to his post at the front desk. His eyes moved to the door, behind which his cousin was relaxing in the bathtub. At least he hoped Heyes was still there. With the way things were goin’…. He unlocked and opened the door. “Heyes.” He whispered. And gave a deep sigh of relief. Heyes was still in the tub – eyes closed, looking very peaceful. Way too peaceful.
“You ok Kid? Eh, sorry. Sheriff. Got yourself a right good deputy. Yep, crack shot. Why I couldn’t have done any better if I’da been aiming at the ceiling myself.” Heyes had a highly developed talent of being annoying. He’d certainly had enough years and a patient enough partner to perfect the art. His voice was a blatant taunt. His eyes may have been closed, but there was no doubt that behind those pale lids, they were dark chocolate lit with firecrackers.
“Shut up Heyes.” Kid whirled out of the room slamming the door and trying very hard to ignore his cousin’s laughter. “Should’a handcuffed him to the tub.” Kid muttered to no one in particular as he went to find that dinner.
“Are you feeling better Mrs. Dalloway?” Jenna Alexander had moved to the window and peered out, her attention on the area of the street in front of the hotel’s entrance.
“Well no dear I’m shaking and horrified that a known criminal is right across the hall. A woman alone with that, that…creature. Why anything might happen. Do you think I’m in danger Jenna?” The woman was looking at the closed door as though it would burst open at any second allowing in armies of villains, all with the sole purpose of ravishing her.
“What? Oh yes, Mrs. Dalloway.” She smiled slightly as she watched Kid exit the hotel. He certainly cut a fine figure of a man. She gave him another moment’s study before turning to the horrified glare of the other woman.
“I thought so. I’m going to demand a different room. I’ll not have a moment’s peace with that man right over there.” She pointed a thin finger towards the door.
“Huh? What do you want another room for?” She paused, then smiled and ran over to the woman. “Uh, why that’s a good idea. Yes, a wonderful idea. I’ll go tell Mr. Higgins to get it ready for you right now. Now you just stay right there and lock the door behind me.” She nearly ran out of the room pulling the door shut with a loud bang.
Slowing down, she walked to the outlaw’s door. “Now, let’s see if this works on a hotel room as well as the library.” Jenna pulled a hatpin from her yellow silk, ribboned straw hat. She looked around cautiously before kneeling in front of the locked door. Had anyone been watching, they would have declared this to be behavior of the most extraordinary kind. The truth of it was much simpler. Jenna was impatient. Especially around Christmas when the presents were hidden in the library of her home. She got quite good at opening that door with a hatpin. Snick.
“Hah. Works every time.” She cautiously knocked on the door and turned the handle. For a moment she hesitated, her courage fading.
“Ki…, uh, Sheriff? That you? Don’t smell dinner.” The voice was a melodic baritone.
She took a deep breath and pushed the door in. “No, it’s not the Sheriff, Mr. Langan. Can I come in?” She didn’t wait for an answer but flung the door open and boldly walked in. “I wanted to speak to you. Oh my, you’re not handcuffed, oh…I’m sorry, I mean. Oh dear.”
Hannibal Heyes, having just gotten out of the tub stood in the center of the room wearing nothing more than a towel and a startled expression on his face.
Jenna having moved quickly into the room found herself directly in front of this mostly naked, dripping and very attractive man. Embarrassed more for what she was thinking rather than the sight he made, she backed up a step. She’d moved quickly and caught her heel on the wooden floor. She cried out as she started falling. Heyes reached forward to catch her, shouting as he himself slipped.
They went down together, Heyes falling backward the woman on top of him. They lay there for a second stunned by the fall.
When she finally did open her eyes she found the most intense brown eyes she’d ever seen studying her carefully with a decidedly wicked gleam.
“Ma’am” a melodic baritone whispered.
She felt his arms around her. She moved her hand. Skin. Skin? Frowning she lowered her eyes just a bit. Skin!! “Oh my God, you’re naked!!! She started screaming at the top of her lungs.
Kid had finally found some good luck. Dolly had just finished a new batch of fried chicken. In a few minutes he had a double sized lunch packed up and was on his way back to the hotel. ‘Maybe things will get better.’
“Help you Sheriff?” Higgins met him at the door.
“No, thanks Mr. Higgins. I can manage.” He climbed the stairs feeling almost good. Once Heyes was cleaned up and fed, he’d see that there hadn’t been any choice about keeping him in jail. Sure. Heyes would understand. He had just about gotten to the room when he heard the thud of bodies falling followed by a woman’s scream. The door to the room stood open. He dropped the tray of food and took off running.
“Hey….” His gun drawn, he crossed the threshold and froze. A frown crossed his face. “What the…. What’s goin’ on here? Miss Jenna?” He frowned as he watched his practically naked cousin and the woman he liked a whole lot, wrestling on the floor. At least that’s what it looked like. She was hollering and pounding on Heyes’ chest. He was hollering and trying to hold off being punched in the face.
“Get him off me.” She screamed. “I slipped. He, well, he, oh I don’t know, just get me up. Don’t just stand there like a dunce. Good grief.” She was pushing Heyes away. Which was difficult, him still being bubble bath slippery. It was difficult at that moment do tell whether they were embarrassed or angry, both being red faced and yelling at each other, at Kid and at pretty much everyone else.
Kid lifted the woman off his cousin and settled her on her feet.
Heyes clutched the towel around him as though it was the last shred of dignity he might ever find.
“Well I never. You’re a horrid man and I hope they hang you. And you…” she stormed over to within a foot of Kid. “…what kind of a Sheriff are you anyway. Leaving this disgusting criminal alone up here?” Jenna stopped shouting. She glared at Kid. She turned and glared at Heyes, still lying on the floor. “And…and you smell like a rose garden! Oh do get dressed, you look ridiculous in that towel.” She whirled around and stomped from the room.
Kid watched her leave and turned to Heyes. His expression said clearly that if they weren’t blood kin, he’d toss him out the window with or without benefit of clothes.
“Kid, I didn’t….” Heyes started to get up.
“I heard a noise. Oh Sheriff. Oh my.” Mrs. Dalloway curious about the noise, chose that moment to peek into the room, caught one look at Heyes still struggling to keep the towel in place, and fainted again.
Kid looked at the woman once again prone on the floor. He looked at his cousin, equally prone on the floor. He looked up towards Heaven. “Why me?”
“Heyes, just don’t talk. If you talk, if you so much a open your mouth I won’t be responsible for what happens. And as Sheriff, no one’ll ask question.”
“But Kid, I was just…” Heyes had gotten into the legging part of the long johns and was reaching for the trousers. He looked at the dark blue of Kid’s eyes. He coughed, deciding for once that pushing Kid any farther would be unhealthy. He held up the trousers that had been provided. Nice material. “Thanx, Kid.” He pulled them on and pulled the long john top over his head. “Who’d you say gave you these clothes? Any chance we can have someone bring mine from Fairplay? Those fellas didn’t give me a chance to even get my razor.” He ran a hand over his face, scratchy with a few day old growth of beard. He’d buttoned the top and held up the shirt, admiring the fine textured deep blue linen. He frowned and held the shirt up to the light, opening it wide.
Kid made a funny strangled sound.
Heyes slowly turned around, giving Kid a murderous glare as he stuck his forefinger through the neat round hold in the back of the shirt.
Kid started laughing. “Nice shirt Heyes. Comes complete with ventilation.” He started laughing again. “Great for those warm days here in Troublesome.”
“You can’t expect me to wear this.” Heyes was outraged. “I mean, there’s a…well…” He grimaced. He squinted at Kid, thinking back on the conversation when they first entered hotel. “Kid? Who’s Folkstone?” At the look on his cousin’s face, Heyes groaned. “He’s not. Tell me he’s not the…”
“…undertaker. They both said it at the same time. Kid grinning. Heyes shuddering.
“Ya know Kid, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were takin’ a perverse kind of pleasure in all this.” Heyes gingerly held up the shirt again, ignoring the chuckle emanating from his cousin. “What d’ya he did to get this?”
“Just temporary Heyes. I’ll telegraph the Sheriff over’n Fairplay and see if he can have someone bring your stuff.” He walked over and carefully examined the shirt. “Sure hope your luck’s holding better than the first guy who owned this.” He grinned happily. He was really enjoying teasing Heyes. He began to see why his cousin enjoyed doing it so much.
Heyes swallowed whatever he was going to say. There’d be time. “Nice girl that Miss Jenna.” At the look on Kid’s face, Heyes knew he’d chosen correctly. “Yep real pretty. Kinda nice accident…havin’ her fall on me an all.” He had put the shirt on and was finishing buttoning it up. He purposely studied the buttons, ignoring Kid entirely. “Kid? She smells like flowers. Did you know that? Real nice, felt good too, havin’ my arms around her.” He sighed with the pleasant memory and looked innocently at Kid.
Kid’s face was red and his jaw set. “Heyes, that’s not even a little bit funny. Now, don’t you get any ideas at all ‘bout her. She’s a…, well, I…, well just don’t. Anyway, no reason for you two to even see each other again, you goin’ back to jail.”
Heyes’ stomach growled in response. He raised his hands in temporary surrender. “Kid, you win. Can I just get some food? I may just have a reason to visit your friend Folkstone if I don’t get some food here soon.” He stuck his stockinged feet in the boots, at least one size too big. There was another deep sigh and a defeated look on his face.
Kid knew what that look meant. Hannibal Heyes may have been momentarily resigned to his fate. But it was only momentary. “Come on Heyes, let’s just get you some food. I think we can make an exception and let you eat at the restaurant. Put your hands out so I can get the cuffs on and we’ll be all set.” He held out the cuffs.
Heyes made a series of faces, which amply described what he was thinking. He said nothing. He just smiled pleasantly, walked over to Kid and held out his hands. “Whatever you want Kid.”
It was at that moment that the door burst open. Kid whirled around gun in hand. He drew back as he saw it was Higgy. “Mr. Higgins, a man can get killed doing that.” He returned his gun to its holster.
“Oh Sheriff, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t wait to tell you. I just heard. Sam at the telegraph office was tellin’ everyone. It’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in Troublesome.” The little man was nearly jumping with excitement.
“Calm down Mr. Higgins. Thought arresting this fella was the most exciting thing that’s happened in Troublesome.”
“Him?” He gave Heyes a look of total dismissal.”
Heyes face darkened at the comment.
“All right, what happened?” Kid gave up trying to make anything better happen out of all this.
“Well sir, we got us another famous outlaw. Must be our month for ‘em. Yes siree, same bunch of fellas who brought this varmint in are coming back with none other than Hannibal Heyes himself.” Higgy drew himself to his total height of 5’5” and his chest swelled with the importance of delivering such news to the new Sheriff. He was a bit surprised at the response.
Kid looked like he’d been slugged.
Heyes started laughing. And laughing. He only stopped when Kid turned and in words unspoken reminded him that a gag as well as handcuffs could be his if he didn’t stop. Then he looked deeply hurt.
“What the hell d’ya mean they caught Hannibal Heyes?” Kid was tired of this. His head hurt. He really wanted to get on his horse and ride to somewhere quiet and solitary. “Where? How’d they know it’s him, there’s no pictures.”
“Well I don’t know any of that Sheriff, but we just got a telegram that said they were bringing Hannibal Heyes for transport to Wyoming. That Sheriff Travis is going to pick up both of these criminals. Why he should be here any moment. You can just ask the men who brought this fella in.” He looked curiously at Kid.
Kid thought furiously, a frown on his face. “OK, first things first. Come on Jack, let’s get you back to jail. Gimme your hands.”
Heyes paled. “Thought we were gonna get some food, Sheriff.” His eyes pleaded, his thoughts unspoken, but clear. ‘Kid, life will be so miserable you’ll wish you were in prison if I don’t get fed soon.’
“Sorry, Jack. Looks like I got a real famous outlaw comin’ in. Imagine those beans are still in the cell though.” He snapped the cuffs on Heyes’ wrists with a decidedly annoyed click.
“You mean the beans that have been sitting over there for…”
“Yep, got no more time for talk. Let’s go.” He took hold of the cuffs and practically dragged Heyes from the room.
“Kid, I’m warning you. You can’t do this. Kid I’m beggin’.” Heyes was trying to keep up with Kid’s long strides as they crossed the main street of town. Something made very difficult in those one size too big boots.
“Shut up Heyes I’m thinkin’.” They’d reached the Sheriff’s office.
“Kid if I had some food I could help you. I promise.” Heyes really did sound desperate.
“Oh all right. Stay put, I’ll get someone to get some food for you.” He locked the cell, turned and was gone before Heyes could get a word out.
Heyes looked around the cell. Then he looked at the plate of very cold beans on the floor. Then at the cuffs on his hands. His dark eyes fairly danced with the possibilities of getting even. One thing about Hannibal Heyes. It might take a long time, but he always got even. He put that aside. He had other things to work out now. He smiled to himself. They’d captured Hannibal Heyes huh. Well that should prove interesting. Especially when Sheriff Travis showed up.
Kid returned with a plate. He passed it to Heyes who awkwardly held it in still cuffed hands. “Well put it down and give me your hands.” Kid was really annoyed now. “You got all this worked out yet?” He snapped as he uncuffed Heyes’ wrists. He dragged a chair over to the front of the cell and straddled it, resting his arms on the chair’s back.
Heyes didn’t answer. He was busy gnawing on a drumstick. “Got any coffee, Kid?” He sighed with happiness as he took a bite of a warm biscuit.
“Heyes? This is serious. You got it figured out?” Kid persisted, even though he just knew this was the beginning of payback. “Heyes, you’re not still mad about me bein’ Deputy and your bein’ in jail are you?”
Heyes paused in mid bite and favored his cousin with a pleasant smile. “Me Kid? You think I’m so small I’d hold a grudge against you? Nah. Why you’re blood. That’s thicker than any payback that you’ve probably earned a hundred times over.” He went back to eating. “Sure would like some coffee, though Kid. If you have the time.”
All right, there was no escape. He accepted it. Just as he accepted he wouldn’t know what it was that was gonna get him or when. But it would. He rose to go get the coffee.
Heyes munched on the last biscuit. A contented feeling settling over him. Clean and full. Yep, except for being in jail, he felt pretty good. And he expected he’d be out of jail pretty soon anyway.
“Here ya go Heyes. Nice and hot.” Kid passed the cup through the bars. “Now, you got it figured out?” He resumed his position on the chair.
Heyes had just opened his mouth to speak when a shout from the office quieted him.
“Sheriff!! Hey Sheriff Jones. It’s Randy Evans and I got another’un for ya.”
“Damn.” Kid shoved the chair away and stood up. “I’ll be right back.”
“I’m not likely to be goin’ anywhere now am I Kid.” Heyes answered quietly as Kid started away.
Kid stopped in mid step, took a deep breath and resumed his course.
“Evans” Kid reached forward and took the man’s hand. “Didn’t think we’d be seeing you back here again.
“Well Sheriff, gotta admit we were real surprised to be needin’ to come back. But well, we came upon this fella on our way back to Fairplay. And right off someone says, why that’s Hannibal Heyes. Now we thought the fella was pure crazy. But he up and says he saw this fella robbin’ a bank not all that long ago and he recognizes him. Real shifty like. Eyes all beady like. Well we just figured that we might just as well take him back here, long as that Sheriff fella’s gonna pick up the first one we brought anyway. So we sent Sam back to Fairplay to send word. You did get it didn’t ya? Do we get the reward now? Or do we gotta wait till that Sheriff gets here?” He sat down in one of the chairs beside the pot-bellied stove, exhausted from his lengthy narrative.
“Maybe we otta bring this Hannibal Heyes in here.” Kid was trying very hard not to run through the front door to see exactly who they did have.
“Huh? Oh bring him in. Why sure Sheriff. Bring him in.” He went out chuckling at himself. “OK, boys let’s bring this one in nice and gentle. Don’t want to mess up such a famous fella. Worth $10,000 he is.” For the second time in what was proving to be a very long day, a man was shoved into the Sheriff’s office. “Here he is Sheriff. Hannibal Heyes.”
Kid looked at a slender man with dark hair and darker eyes. He wore a ready grin. He shook his head. Close enough to be family. Well that’s all he needed. Another one of ‘em. “So you’re Hannibal Heyes.” He grumbled at the man and took a few steps toward him.
“That’s right Sheriff. I am Hannibal Heyes.”
“Huh? What’d you say?” Kid stopped, startled at the man’s admission.
“I said, I’m Hannibal Heyes, Sheriff. You hard of hearing or somethin’?”
Kid glared at the man. It could have been Heyes. He sure was annoyin’ enough. “The bank robber?” Kid’s head was beginning to hurt.
“Oh we robbed trains too. Me and Kid Curry. You look plum pee-ked Sheriff. You gonna live?” The man smiled. A dazzling smile.
Kid turned his coldest look on the man. “I’d stop smiling, uh, Heyes. If’n you are who you say you are, you’ve got twenty years waitin’ on you in Wyoming. Thanks boys. I’ll take this one off your hands too.” Kid shoved the newest prisoner back towards the cellblock as Evans and his men left the office. “Hey.” The man turned back. “Do me a favor. Don’t pick up any more outlaws on your way back to Fairplay? Seems to be gettin’ real crowded here’bouts.” Everyone laughed but Kid. “Move, Heyes.”
“Howdy Sheriff, sure could use a refill on that coffee.” The real Heyes was holding his cup through the bars.
“And I could use a free ride to San Francisco.” Kid snapped at him. “Oh, maybe you two should meet. Texas Jack Langan, meet Hannibal Heyes.”
Heyes had stuck his hand out to the new prisoner in a friendly greeting. Both men stared at each other as though they were seeing a mirror image.
Kid finally ended the meeting. “OK, enough of that. Heyes, you make yourself comfortable right in there. He shoved the ‘newest’ Heyes in the cell and slammed the door.
“Uh Sheriff.” The ‘real’ Heyes inquired as Kid strode by.
“Not now. I gotta think.” A second door slammed as Kid left the cellblock to the two prisoners.
Kid sat at the desk. He had Heyes in a cell identified as Texas Jack Langan. He had some other annoyance in a cell admitting to be Heyes. He, Thaddeus Jones, who was really Kid Curry, was the Sheriff of a town called Troublesome. Sheriff Travers or Travis who sure as shootin’ was gonna turn out to be Lom was coming to arrest Langan or Heyes or …. Right now Kid wasn’t sure that he cared who Lom arrested, even if that meant he wound up in the coop. A few quiet days or years for that matter in a nice cell with three meals was sounding better and better to him.
“Hey Sheriff, old Dan Walker’s got hisself all liquored up and is threatenin’ to shoot Olaf over ta the Shamrock Saloon. You’d best come do something.” Glen Perkins, the one of the merchants, burst through the door.
“Course he is. Been nearly two minutes without trouble. Who named Troublesome anyway?” He shoved his chair back and nearly ran over the man on his way out of the office.
“Well it was a miner fella who kept running into the strangest things when…” Perkins started.
“Never mind.” Kid shouted over his shoulder and kept walking.
“So you’re Hannibal Heyes?’ Heyes asked his double. This should be interesting. He leaned on the bars at the man who was stretched out on the cot in the adjoining cell.
“Yep. You heard of me I imagine.” The man looked up, but didn’t move.
“Oh everyone’s heard of Hannibal Heyes. Most famous outlaw round these parts. Why I heard he’s robbed two hundred banks easy. That true?” Heyes had a well developed pride in his own accomplishments.
The man looked up. “Why’re you so interested?”
Heyes grinned. ‘Cautious enough to be me, I suppose.’ “Oh just passin’ the time. Heard this Sheriff Travis was comin in tomorrow to take you back to Wyoming.”
“Travis, huh. Yep, I know him. Make it a practice to know all the lawmen here’bouts. Travis. Yea, honest, for a lawman that is.”
“So you really robbed all them banks. And trains. And led the Devil’s Hole Gang.” Heyes persisted.
“Well I got a partner. He helped some. But I do all the thinking’ Curry was just back up, you understand.”
“Yea, Kid Curry. Heard he was more of an equal partner. Fast gun. Real fast, at least so’as I’ve heard.” Heyes wondered how Kid would feel to know he was ‘back-up’.
“Who’re you anyway. Y’ask too all fired many questions.” The man pulled his hat down low over his face.
Heyes assumed a similar position on his own cot. He was grinning. ‘Wonder if it would be better to be Texas Jack than Hannibal Heyes.’
It was dark before a very tired, very cold and very hungry Kid Curry returned to the jail. “Never seen a town as small as this with so much trouble.” He muttered to himself. He’d just started back to check on the prisoners when the door burst open again. “No, no more. I’ve settled all the trouble I’m gonna settle today.” He turned to find Jenna Alexander staring at him with wide eyes.
“You have Hannibal Heyes in there. I need to meet him. Please. I’ll do anything. I mean, well, within reason of course. But I have to meet him. Texas Jack is nothing compared to Hannibal Heyes. Please Sheriff. May I call you Thaddeus? Of course. And you must call me Jenna. There. Now that we’re friends you will let me in won’t you. Just for a while. I’d really love to say I met the real Hannibal Heyes. You don’t suppose his partner is around anywhere?
Under other circumstances, Kid would probably have said no. But he’d only been Sheriff for a matter of hours, really. He’d wound up with way too many Heyes’. He was very tired. And very, very hungry. He just didn’t have the energy to argue with the lady. Or the strength to try to keep up with her. She talked faster than Heyes and that was something.
He just sighed and opened the door.
She looked down the cellblock, smiled happily and ran to meet the second famous outlaw. She stopped first at the cell containing the real Heyes.
“Ma’am.” That smile had conquered many female hearts.
“Humph.” She sniffed and walked by him to the second cell. “Are you Hannibal Heyes?”
He slowly looked up and smiled. A dazzling smile. A Hannibal Heyes smile.
Heyes frowned. He looked at Kid who was watching the scene with a mixture of annoyance and interest on his face.
“Yes ma’am. That I am. Hannibal Heyes at your service. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He rose from the cot in one fluid movement and was almost at the bars when Kid stepped up.
“Let’s not get too close. All right, uh, Heyes. Just back up.” Kid quickly stepped between Jenna and the cell bars.
“Maybe the little lady would enjoy gettin’ better acquainted with the infamous Hannibal Heyes.” The man’s smile suddenly seemed a bit oilier.
“OK, that’s it. Miss Jenna, you can now tell your friends you’ve met Hannibal Heyes. In all his glory.” She took her arm and was guiding her out of the cell area.
“Come back anytime little lady. Sure be my pleasure to tell you all about Hannibal Heyes.”
“I think you’re disgusting. And I think I know everything about Hannibal Heyes that I need to know. Thaddeus, please stop pulling me. I’ve had quite enough of outlaws on my own. I think you both deserve whatever you get.” She pulled her arm free from Kid’s hand and gathering her skirts, moved hastily out of the cellblock. They all jumped at the slam the front door made.
The real Heyes groaned. He was watching his reputation sink lower and lower.
“Come on Jack, you and me have some things to go over, before that Sheriff Travis gets here tomorrow.” Kid unlocked the cell door and led Heyes out.
There was no one in the office when the two men entered. Kid locked the door and pulled the shades. “Well?” He handed Heyes a cup of coffee and poured another for himself.
“Well what? Did you hear that guy? Miss Jenna thinks I’m him. Why I’ve never talked that way to a lady in my whole life.” He shook his head. “Ya think she’ll tell anyone else?”
“Heyes? I don’t care if she stands in the middle of town and shouts it at the top of her lungs. Have you figured out what we’re gonna do? Lom’ll be here in a matter of hours. Now he’s gonna know pretty quick that that’s not Hannibal Heyes in there. Well at least one of you isn’t Heyes. Oh, you know what I mean. Say, maybe you can just escape. You could overpower me and just escape. I’ll even let ya hit me, just to make it look good. Or better yet, we’ll both go. I’ll get the horses and we’ll just ride out.”
Heyes looked up. His partner looked very serious. Well given everything hitting Kid might help. Nah, his reputation was already taking some pretty substantial blows. Hitting his partner wouldn’t help. Now it might make him feel better, but nah, it wouldn’t help. There’d be time for that later. “Kid? Think about this. We both ride out tonight, Lom shows up tomorrow and identifies that guy as not bein’ Hannibal Heyes, well someone’s bound to put it all together. Then we’ll have another posse riding after us. I’m gettin’ pretty tired of bein’ chased. Wonder why that fella is so all fired eager to be me anyway.” He looked at the wall of posters behind Kid. He stopped in mid sip. His eyes lit up.
Kid smiled. He’d been watching that look since they were kids. “What? I know you got it. Spill it.”
“Kid? Think it’ll all work out tomorrow. Still don’t know why that fella’s so bent on bein’ me, but I do think I know who he is.” Heyes smiled mysteriously and nodded upwards at the wall covered in posters.
Kid looked behind him. And smiled. Course. Who else could it be? He turned back to Heyes. Heyes was still smiling. Maybe he’d forgotten about all that stuff that had happened. Kid laughed. Maybe he’d survive Troublesome after all. “Think Lom’ll know him?”
“Well, seein’ as he’s wanted in Wyoming, and Lom seems to know everything that happens in Wyoming, I’d imagine it’s likely. Wonder how he’ll take to your bein’ a Sheriff.” He finished his coffee. “Suppose you’ll need to put me back in the cell. That about right Kid?” Heyes set the coffee cup down on the desk.
Kid remembered what made Heyes such a great leader. He never forgot anything. “Sorry, Heyes. Not much else I can do. Only be one more night. Then, you should be free and clear.”
“Yep, I suppose one more night isn’t that much. Free and clear. Yep.” He sauntered back towards the cellblock, leaving Kid to wonder if he’d ever be free and clear.
The night passed quietly. Kid said a silent prayer of thanks that Troublesome had decided he deserved one peaceful night. He brought the prisoners their dinner, and had made sure there was an extra large slice of Dolly’s chocolate cake on the tray for Heyes. The real one. Kid was getting tired of remembering who he was supposed to call Heyes and who really was Heyes. One had always been plenty for him. A lot of the time one had been way too much.
He stayed at the desk through the night. He hoped that if he didn’t get a good night’s sleep, Heyes might not feel so bad about having to spend the night in jail.
Next morning Kid woke stiff, sore and hungry. He stretched trying to work out the knots in his back and legs. He knew he had to go check on Heyes and that other fella. He shook his head. Heyes in the morning, in a jail cell. It couldn’t get much worse than that.
“Morning Sheriff.” Heyes was stretched out on his cot. Arms folded behind his head, he was bright, cheerful and obviously rested. “You look terrible. Rough night? Any coffee ready? Can’t get the day started without a good, thick cup of coffee. My partner, well he’s a nice enough fella, can’t make a decent cup of coffee to save his life. Relies on me to get him started. So, any way a thirsty man can get a cup of coffee?” He nearly jumped off the cot and bounded to the cell door.
Kid glared at Heyes. He contemplated how quiet life would be without him. Peaceful. Nah. Take too long to break in another partner.
“Any way you can keep him quiet?” The not so real Heyes spoke, grumpily turning over on his cot. “Durn fool kept me awake half the night, chattering away. Never saw a man who could talk that much.”
“Strangest thing Sheriff, always thought that Hannibal Heyes fella had this silver tongue. Why that fella was dumb as a rock.” Heyes said pleasantly.
The other Heyes sat up. “I’d be careful of that kind of talk. I could take offense and you wouldn’t like that. Might not be too good for your health. Remember my partner’s out there. Just waiting to break me out. Now, I told him to just ride back to Devil’s Hole and get the boys, but he’s a gunfighter. Liable to just take a fancy to comin’ right in here and blowin’ your fool head off.”
“Kid Curry? Why Sheriff, am I in any danger from this man’s associates? Maybe you otta move me to someplace safer.” Heyes continued to smile pleasantly.
Kid was about to tell Heyes that blowing his fool head off seemed like a good idea. Fortunately the Office front door slammed shut again. He just mumbled something about family as he stormed off.
“Oh Sheriff it’s so wonderful to meet such a famous lawman. And to be able to watch you as you arrest those two …criminals.” Jenna Alexander drew out the last word, a disgusted tone in her voice.
“Yes, ma’am. Ma’am, I’m not sure you should be here…” The man didn’t finish his thought for the door to the cellblock opened. Seeing who it was, he drew his weapon.
Kid Curry coming through the door saw only the movement of the man’s hand to his gun. Acting once again on instinct alone, his hand moved instantaneously as his eyes caught the movement, his gun was out and pointed at the chest of the other man.
They stood facing each other. The woman frozen to the spot.
Kid relaxed, lowering the gun and smiling. “Lom.”
Sheriff Lom Trevors just stood there, mouth open, gun halfway pointed as Kid’s chest. “Ki…Jones. Just what the…” He glanced at the woman beside him. He looked at Kid. He looked at the star pinned to Kid’s shirt. “Sheriff?”
“It’s a long story Lom. Coffee? Miss Jenna? Are you all right? Maybe you’d like to sit down.” He reached to help her, but she shook her head.
“Wherever did you learn to draw your gun so fast, Thaddeus? I’ve never seen anyone who could do that.” She was looking at him intently.
“Nothing much to it Miss Jenna. Hardly that fast at all. Just looks faster, cause the Sheriff here is so slow.” There was that look in her eyes again.
Lom coughed and stared at Kid as though he’d grown a second head. “You’re the Sheriff?” He finally got out.
Kid was wondering why someone just didn’t shoot him. It would have been less complicated.
“Will you gentlemen excuse me?” Jenna said suddenly and fairly ran out of the office.
Both men looked at the open door.
“She always like that?” Lom asked. “Now, what the…why are you wearing that badge. Where’s Heyes? I’m supposed to arrest him and some other fella.” He stared at Kid’s grin. “Don’t try to tell me that you arrested Heyes. I don’t believe it. Kid? Don’t just stand there. Say something and say it quick before I decide to arrest you.”
“No need to get all proddy Lom. What do you want to know first?” He held up his hands. “It’s a long story. Maybe you’d better come back and meet Hannibal Heyes.”
“What the…” He sighed. “What d’ya mean meet Heyes? Why I’ve know you two…. Kid, you’d better start explaining and it’d better be good.”
“Come on back Lom. Maybe this’ll help.” He opened the cellblock door and preceded Lom down the short passageway. “Hannibal Heyes, rise and shine, got someone to see ya.”
Lom stopped at the first cell that contained the real Heyes. He looked at Kid who was smiling. He looked at Heyes who was smiling.
“Morning Sheriff Travis. Nice day isn’t it?” Heyes said pleasantly.
“Uh, no not that one. That’s Texas Jack Langan. Thought ya might know him.” Kid pointed to the next cell. “That one.”
“Which one. I thought you said….” Something in the way Kid smiled, and the way he cocked his head towards the other cell made Lom take a few more steps. He looked in the other cell and stopped cold. There couldn’t be two of them. The world or at least the West would never be ready for two Hannibal Heyes’.
“Well there he is Sheriff. Hannibal Heyes in the flesh.” Kid said proudly.
The real Heyes beamed.
“I don’t know what the two of you are talking about, but that’s no more Hannibal Heyes than I am.” Lom glared at the two smiling men.
“But he admitted to being Hannibal Heyes. Came right out and said it. Isn’t that right, uh, Heyes.” Kid asked the question in such an earnest manner, the real Heyes began chuckling.
“That’s right, Sheriff Travis, I am Hannibal Heyes. And I admit it here and now. Take me away. All I ask is that I don’t have to ride with that fella.” He pointed at Heyes.
Heyes feigned hurt.
“OK, now I don’t know what’s goin’ on here, but I know for a fact that you’re not Hannibal Heyes. And I think I do know who you really are. Who’d you say that other fella is…Sheriff?” Lom was having difficulty using that word in connection with the tall, curly haired blond fella who stood in front of him.
“Well Sheriff Trevors…” He emphasized Lom’s last name. “… this here fella claims to be some plain, old ordinary fella called Joshua Smith. Posse brought him in, claimed he was this Texas Jack Langan fella. Then they up and bring that other fella in claiming to be Hannibal Heyes. Real busy few days around here.”
“And you’re the Sheriff?”
“Well that’s a whole nother story.” Kid seemed embarrassed about discussing his heroic action.
“Saved the Sheriff’s life, he did Sheriff. That Sheriff went off to Denver, so a grateful town made him Sheriff.” Heyes, regardless of how annoyed he was with Kid was always proud of his accomplishments.
“Huh? Which Sheriff went to Denver? Oh never mind. You will tell me everything that led to this. Later.” He turned back to the not so real Heyes. “Now as for you.”
“Take me away, Sheriff. I’m Hannibal Heyes and I’m ready to serve my time.”
“You just be quiet, Jack. No, don’t bother arguing. We both know who you are. Oh you’re as annoying as Hannibal Heyes…” He ignored the noise coming from the other cell. “…, but you’re not him. You’re Texas Jack Langan, and I believe some folks back in Wyoming are gonna be real pleased to see you.”
“Why Sheriff, are you sure that’s not Hannibal Heyes. I mean he said he was. Why would he do that if he was that other fella?” Kid really wanted to know the answer to that one.
“Well, I think I can answer that. Seems that Texas Jack swindled a lot of money out of a lot of very important folks. Seems like they know a lot judges who might just be persuaded to lock up Jack here and throw away the key.”
“Yea, but if he pretended to be Hannibal Heyes, wouldn’t he get the same sentence?” Kid asked
“Not if someone conveniently showed up to say he wasn’t Hannibal Heyes. Like Sheriff Travis here.” He ignored the dirty look Lom gave him. “Someone who might or might not know he was Texas Jack. ‘Specially if Texas Jack was already supposed to be caught. He could just say he was some drifter lookin’ for a reputation. No one to prove otherwise, he’d just ride off with all that money.” Heyes finished the details and nodded appreciatively at the man. “Might’a worked. Not a bad plan. Not a Hannibal Heyes plan of course, but not a bad plan.”
The man just scowled at Heyes. He didn’t say a word.
“Well that clears pretty much everything up. Sheriff, how ‘bout we get you some breakfast. There’s a place here in town that makes the best flapjacks you’re likely to find.” Kid slapped Lom on the back and started out of the cellblock.
“Uh Sheriff?” Heyes called out in a pained voice. “Aren’t you forgettin’ somethin’?”
“What’s that?” Kid knew exactly what he was forgettin’. But he’d gotten into the habit of teasing Heyes. It was hard to stop.
“Lettin’ me outta here. I told you my name’s Joshua Smith and I’m just a straightforward, honest citizen. Now will you let me outta here.”
“What d’ya think Lom? I mean he seems honest enough, but you can never tell about some folk.” Kid really couldn’t stop himself.
“I think you’d better let him out of that cell, ‘fore I’ve got your murder on my hands.” Lom muttered. He’d finally relaxed some.
Kid walked over and finally opened the cell door and let Heyes out.
“Much obliged Sheriff.” Heyes ran a hand through his hair and settled his hat on his head. He managed a ‘payback is gonna kill you’ smile at Kid and walked past Lom on his way out.
“Uh, Mr. Smith?” Lom’s voice stopped Heyes in mid step.
He didn’t turn around. “Yes Sheriff. What is it now?”
“Did you know you have a hole in the back of your shirt?” Lom asked entirely innocently.
Heyes squeezed his eyes shut. Kid’s laughter rang in the passageway. Heyes dropped his head to his chest. He started to speak, but just shook his head, took a deep breath and walked out into the office.
Lom looked at Kid.
“I’ll explain later Lom. It’s a really long story.”
A good two hours later the three men sat laughing at a corner table at Dolly’s Kitchen. “I just can’t believe you actually pinned on that star, or that you arrested Heyes. Why that’s the best joke I’ve heard in years.”
“And that you managed to get yourself caught, Heyes. Maybe this amnesty stuff has softened that razor sharp instinct of yours. And that shirt.” He threw back his head in a burst of laughter.
Kid was trying every way he knew to catch Lom’s eye. Seemed like every time Heyes might be in a position to forget what happen, someone managed to remind him again.
“Well that’s all done now Lom. No sense in bringing it up again. Don’t you have to be getting back to Wyoming? Be real nice to get rid of that fella I got in jail.” Kid had gotten up. He was trying desperately to change the subject.
“You mean Hannibal Heyes?” Lom started laughing again. “Tell you boys, this has been the biggest laugh I’ve had in years. Wish I could tell someone. I bet the governor would really get a kick outta this tale. Maybe I’ll just pay him a visit when I drop Langan off in Cheyenne. Yea, got some real troubles he has. Probably could use a laugh.” Lom also rose.
“Lom, you are not gonna spread this around are you? I mean, who’d be interested anyway. Governor’s probably got more on his plate than he can handle. Why he’d probably be downright mad that you wasted his time on this.” Heyes finally got up. He was also desperate. Desperate to salvage whatever was left of his reputation.
Lom just started laughing again.
“Don’t nobody move.” The three men froze.
“It’s ok Sheriff, I got ‘em covered.”
Kid turned to see Randy Evans holding his gun on Heyes and Lom. He watched Evans look at the big star on Lom’s chest. Confusion appeared in the man’s eyes.
“It’s OK. This here’s Sheriff Lom Trevors from Porterville. Come to pick up the prisoner.” Kid spoke gently.
“But that’s the prisoner. Well at least one of ‘em.” Evan’s had not moved his gun.
“All mistaken identities. You’ll get a real laugh outta all this. This here really is Joshua Smith.” Kid motioned for him to lower his gun.
“Who?” The man slowly complied. “You sure of that Sheriff?”
“Just an ordinary fella, Evans. And I’m as sure of him being Joshua Smith as I am of being Thaddeus Jones.”
Heyes and Lom both rolled their eyes.
“Well, how ‘bout that. Sure sorry ‘bout the inconvenience Mister. Brought you your things.” He handed Heyes a muddy carpetbag.
Heyes grabbed the case smiling at the possibility of having a shirt without a hole in it. His smile faded when he opened it. He looked up at the men.
“Sort of had a similar accident in that mud hole.” He laughed as Heyes pulled out what once was a finely made white shirt. Now spattered with mud.
Heyes looked at Kid who was looked like at any second he’d start laughing and not be able to stop. He looked at Lom who was doubled over laughing. He clenched his teeth and thought of at least a hundred things he wanted to do right now. What he actually did was smile. Oh not a real one. Just one good enough to fool those who’d never met Hannibal Heyes under similar circumstances.
“Well least ways you still got that Hannibal Heyes fella over ta the jail.” Evans was wiping tears of laughter off his face. “Wonderin’ when me and my men could collect the reward.”
“Well we don’t actually have that fella in jail either.” Kid had regained some of his composure.
“What, don’t tell me he escaped.” Evans was suddenly not laughing. The prospect of losing a piece of $10,000 was not a pretty one. “That partner of his didn’t break him out did he?”
“No, no. Nothing like that. Turned out that he wasn’t Hannibal Heyes at all. He was Texas Jack Langan.”
Evans was scratching his head trying to figure it all out. “So what you’re sayin’ is that this fella here wasn’t Texas Jack, but the fella we thought was Hannibal Heyes is? Then who’s this fella?”
“Oh he’s nobody…” It came out before Kid could stop it. He knew the sound he heard was Heyes brain thinking up all the ways to get even. “Well we gotta be getting back over to the jail. Business to take care of.” He looked gingerly at Heyes before sighing. He started for the Sheriff’s Office, the other two men following.
“Look Heyes, it just came out. You know I didn’t mean you were nobody.” Kid should have learned by now to just leave things alone. It didn’t seem that for the period of time he was in Troublesome anything he said was going to come out the way he meant it. At least where his cousin was concerned.
As for Heyes, he’d had about as much of Troublesome as he wanted. He intended to put on his own shirt. Muddy or not. Then he was gonna get on a horse and go back to Georgetown. He could taste that steak. And he could visualize a lady. He wasn’t sure if she was blond, brunette or redhead. But he could visualize her just fine. And he was gonna make sure his cousin knew exactly where he was every moment. While he was stuck here in Troublesome, bein’ Sheriff.
They’d reached the office. Kid opened the door and they entered.
Heyes had eagerly unbuttoned the ventilated outer and long john shirts, pulling them off as they entered the office.
They stopped, startled at the man who stood in front of the desk. The man that started this whole thing. The shiny star man with the dark coat.
No one said anything.
“Oh Sheriff. I’ve been away on, business. Business too good these days I’m afraid. I just returned from visiting my wife’s folks in Fairplay and I was wondering…” The man looked closely at Heyes.
Heyes drew back a bit.
“Wonderin’ what?” Kid honestly had no idea what could possibly happen next.
“Well I was wondering if I could have my clothes back.” The man smiled cordially.
Kid stared at him. Then turned to Heyes who shrugged. Then to Lom who screwed up his face and cocked his head and then shrugged.
“Your clothes?” Kid finally asked.
“Yes sir. My clothes. Those clothes.” He pointed at the shirt Heyes was holding. “I’m Edgar Folkstone and that man is wearing clothes that I have responsibility for. I was wondering if I could have them back.”
“You’re Folkstone? The undertaker?” Kid took a deep breath. “Why’re you wearing that star?”
“This?” The man opened his coat and displayed a very shiny badge. “Honorary Sheriff of Troublesome.” The man said proudly.
“Why were you following me?” Heyes finally croaked out.
“Oh, I am sorry if that bothered you. I was, well, to be perfectly honest, I was afraid of traveling alone. I thought that if I stayed close to you and your friend, I’d be safe.” He smiled a thin lipped smile.
No one said anything. Two very distinct and loud sighs were heard. They just continued to stare. They were so lost in concentration that they didn’t hear the door open.
“Don’t any of you move. I arrest you Hannibal Heyes and you Kid Curry in the name of the law! Put your hands up.” Jenna Alexander stood in the open door holding a rifle in her small-gloved hands.
The four men did indeed freeze. And eight hands shot in the air. The shirts Heyes were holding fluttered to the floor. They’d all learned somewhere along the line that a rifle in the hands of a determined woman was more fearsome than the same rifle in the hands of almost anyone else.
She smiled triumphantly. Her eyes narrowed as she appraised Heyes. Shirtless. “Don’t you like clothes?”
He turned red and bent over to pick up the shirt.
“I said don’t move.” She turned the gun on him as she spoke.
He straightened quickly. “Ma’am. This truly isn’t what you think. We’re not who you think we are. You know Sheriff Trevors, he can tell you who we are.”
“He’s probably in on it with you. I checked. I have your wanted posters. I was going to write about you two. Oh this is wonderful. I’ve captured two of the most notorious outlaws in the West.” She smiled happily. “I’m going to write a story all about this.”
“Ma’am?” Heyes sounded resigned to Troublesome living up to its name to the last minute they had to stay there.
“What? Don’t you try any of your tricks on me?” She nudged the rifle to point at Heyes’ chest. He paled slightly and raised his hands a bit higher.
“Can I at least put my shirt on?”
She straightened. “Oh, well, of course. I mean don’t try anything.”
He bent over and picked up the shirts. He started pulling the long john shirt over his head.
It was enough of a distraction to allow Kid and Lom to move in from either side and grab the gun.
Fortunately Folkstone fainted and Heyes dove off to the side, avoiding collision with the bullet, which fired when Jenna fell to the floor as the two men tackled her.
Everyone lay there for a moment. It appeared that they were afraid to move. The door opened slowly. Thomas Higgins peeked in, his eyes wide in fear. “Sheriff? Everyone all right?”
“No.” Everyone shouted at once. He jumped and slammed the door shut, disappearing on the other side.
Lom and Kid got up and pulled Jenna to her feet.
“You all right Miss Jenna?” Kid brushed a curl from her face.
“Did I do that?” She asked in a small voice.
They suddenly noticed the quiet and turned as one to the body on the floor. Heyes was lying face down arms folded over his head. He wasn’t moving.
“Heyes?” Kid touched his shoulder. Concern crossed his face and he looked at Lom.
Lom was slapping the unfortunate undertaker on the cheeks. The man groaned and sat up.
The body moved. “I was wonderin’ when you’d noticed that I might’ve been killed. Tell me that crazy woman doesn’t have the gun anymore. Between her and that desk clerk, any number of innocent bystanders can get killed just ‘cause they happened to be in the way.” He didn’t show any signs of planning to get up.
Kid breathed a sigh of relief. “Come on, let’s get you up. Heyes, did I ever tell you, you’re a lot like a divining rod?”
Heyes uncovered his head and looked quizzically at Kid.
Kid just grinned and gave Heyes an arm up. “Miss Jenna, you shouldn’t go carrying guns. Someone could’a gotten hurt?”
Folkstone had gotten up and moved cautiously towards the door. “Well I must be leaving. You just keep those clothes as long as you like. Sheriff.” He nodded at Kid. “Sheriff” He nodded at Lom. “Uh, well, yes.” He nodded at Heyes. He inched by Jenna as though she might pull another gun and this time shoot him. “You, young lady are a menace to polite society.” He turned back when he reached the door, nodded again and hastily left the office.
Jenna turned to Kid. “I was just trying to capture you.” She said, tears filling her eyes.
“Well ma’am, there were easier ways to do that, if that’s what you wanted?” Kid gave her back her handkerchief that had fallen to the floor.
“Thank you.” She daintily dried her eyes. “You’re awfully nice for a horrible wanted outlaw.”
“Uh, you two prefer to be alone?” Lom chuckled watching the two.
“You are Kid Curry aren’t you?” She looked into his eyes.
“Well, I could lie to you ma’am. But I’m not gonna do that. I am Jed Curry. And that fella over there is Hannibal Heyes. And we are wanted men. But we’re attempting to mend our ways. If we do that, we could get an amnesty and have a chance to start new lives. Honest lives.” Few men could be as earnest as Kid Curry.
She sighed. “Oh, but that’s wonderful.” And she hugged him. Fervently.
Being a gentleman, Kid hugged her back.
Heyes and Lom exchanged ‘it figures’ glances.
Heyes finally got dressed.
Jenna finally let go of Kid.
Lom finally got to get his prisoner and go home.
And Kid Curry finally got a trouble free night in Troublesome.
It was three weeks later. They were riding slowly side-by-side back to Georgetown.
“Yea, Kid.” Heyes had been genially pointing out the sights and commenting on what a pretty day it was.
“I want to thank you.” Kid had spent three weeks waiting for the worst to happen. He’d looked up every time he crossed a threshold waiting to be doused with a pail of water. He examined his boots every morning before putting his feet in them expecting something to be in them that hadn’t been there when he’d taken them off. He ripped the covers off the bed expecting …well he didn’t know what, but something. Nothing had happened. Heyes just smiled pleasantly and chuckled.
Heyes had even played Deputy, helping Kid out when the boys from the Two U came to town for their usual monthly hoorah. He’d teased Kid about the two of them wearing stars and called him Sheriff in an exaggerated, drawn out drawl.
Heyes had taken to early morning rides. ‘Peaceful time of day to go for a ride, Kid. That’s all.’ Then he’d smile. One morning Kid had followed him. And watched as he met Jenna at a secluded spot. He couldn’t stay to watch.
The night before the Sheriff was due to return, the town had thrown another party. Both men spent a great deal of time dancing with pretty much every eligible lady in town. And a few that weren’t.
Kid was only slightly concerned when Heyes danced with Jenna, who was indeed wearing a beautiful yellow gown all the way from Paris. And who managed to ignore Simon Jennings completely. She and Heyes seemed to patch up their difficulties and were getting along.
He was confused when she seemed to prefer dancing with him. Maybe the lady couldn’t make up her mind.
They both walked her home that evening. She’d insisted. “Thank you Mr. Heyes. For absolutely everything.” Then to Kid’s dismay she kissed him, quite thoroughly.
“My pleasure Miss Jenna.” Heyes grinned. “Don’t forget, we’ll be at the Hotel de Paris.”
“Oh I won’t forget. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.” She turned to Kid. “Well, I suppose I’ll never see you again. I expect you’ll just forget me.”
Heyes had turned and began walking back towards the hotel.
“Miss Jenna, I think it’s fair to say I’ll never forget either you or Troublesome.”
She smiled happily. “Oh that’s good. Your friend said you’d understand. He said you were really a very understanding man. It’s been so lovely to know you. I hope you get your amnesty really soon.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. Longer and more fervently than the first kiss she’d bestowed that evening. Then she smiled and vanished inside the house, leaving Kid just a bit dazed.
‘Understand? Understand what?’ “Heyes? Hey, Heyes. What was I supposed to understand?” He ran to catch up with his partner.
Heyes just smiled and laughed. He slapped his partner on the back and told him he worried too much.
Kid didn’t believe that for a minute. But he knew he had few options. So he waited. And nothing happened. Except that smile.
Finally, they arrived in Georgetown and checked into the Hotel de Paris. Heyes insisted on the finest suite the hotel had. They’d rested for a time, cleaned up and were on their way to dinner when the desk clerk stopped them.
“Mr. Smith? Mr. Joshua Smith?”
“That’s me.” Heyes acknowledged the man’s question.
“Got a package for you. Sign here.” He offered Heyes a package and a small note pad.
Heyes studied the package as though he’d been expecting it, signed the receipt and gave the man a dollar tip.
The man looked at Heyes in grateful astonishment. “Thank you sir” he gushed.
Heyes nodded and started towards the dining room. “You comin?” He asked Kid who was lingering behind.
“Uh, yea. What’s in the package?” He eyed the brown paper wrapped parcel as though it might contain dynamite.
“You mean this?” Heyes nonchalantly looked at the parcel with sparkling, devious trying to be innocent eyes.
“Yea I mean that?” Kid’s voice was loud enough to startle an elderly couple passing by the two men. “Sorry.” Kid removed his hat. “Yea I mean that.” He whispered furiously. “Heyes, you know what’s in that package don’t you?”
“Got a pretty good idea. I’m starved Kid. I want the biggest steak in the place.” The maitre d’ showed them to a corner table overlooking the street.
Heyes ignored Kid’s pleas for an explanation and proceeded to study the menu. He took an exaggerated amount of time ordering his dinner. He commented on everything from the fountain pouring out champagne in the entryway of the dining room, to the outrageous hat on the matron at another table. Everything but the parcel.
Kid finally gave up. He picked up a newspaper and held it up between them.
Heyes chuckled again.
They went on like that through dinner. Heyes chattering on about anything and everything. Kid maintaining a stony silence. The one sided conversation continued right through a delicious wild berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Right up until coffee was brought.
Kid heard the parcel being unwrapped. He couldn’t miss it. Heyes was making enough noise make sure he heard it. He wanted more than anything to put the newspaper down and see what Heyes had. He knew Heyes knew that. He knew that Heyes had to be one of the most annoying people God had ever planted on earth. He also knew he wasn’t going to give his cousin the satisfaction of doing what he was expected to do. He smiled smugly. He didn’t care what was in that parcel. He forced himself to repeat that. He also forced himself to read an article about the sale of a prize bull. He almost got through the first sentence when he heard it.
It started soft. A snicker. Followed by a sigh. Followed by the sound of paper rustling. Followed by soft laughter. Followed by loud laughter. Very loud laughter.
He couldn’t stand it. He put the newspaper down. Heyes was reading a book. A thick book. He was laughing at a book? “All right. What’s the book? And who sent it?”
“This book?” Heyes pointed at the open book. He was wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.
“No the other two books on the table.” He reached for it, but Heyes quickly snatched it away.
“Oh just something a friend sent. Just finished writing it. Seems there’s a lot of interest in this sort of thing. Letter says a publisher has printed at least 5,000 copies and is planning on circulating it throughout the West. East too if everything goes well. And I got the very first copy.” He looked like the first time he tried to open a safe and everyone said he couldn’t do it. And he’d opened it.
Kid sighed. A book. “That’s nice Heyes. Glad it made you laugh.” He went back to the article on the bull.
“Yep, should be a real best seller. Nice girl. Talks more than most, but real nice.” Heyes went back to the book, and started laughing again.
Kid slowly lowered the newspaper. He suddenly wasn’t feeling too good. “Who’s a nice girl?”
“What? Oh the author. Why didn’t I mention that? Jenna Alexander wrote a book. Pretty interesting. Downright scandalous in some places I’ll wager.” He picked up the book to show the off the cover.
Kid’s face fell. His mouth opened. Then closed. He grabbed the book. He looked at the cover. The cover that pictured a very muscular, bare-chested man, with flowing, curly blond hair and deep blue eyes. Holding a beautiful woman in his arms. The cover that read, ‘Kid Curry, Outlaw Lover’ by J. Alexander.
The picture could have been the real Kid Curry. It was sort of close from certain angles. Course it could have been any number of other men too.
Kid turned red. Might have been from embarrassment. Might have been from anger. Most likely a bit of both. “You knew about this.” His accusatory whisper should have been enough to chill most men. He suddenly remembered all those early morning rides.
It didn’t seem to faze his cousin. “Well Miss Jenna did ask for some help. And I felt obligated to tell her what I knew. Well it was her first book and all. Nice to see she took my advice.” He shook his head and sighed loudly, as though a fond memory had just occurred to him.
Kid was browsing through the book, turning redder and redder. “I never…, Heyes, did you read this?” He whispered miserably.
“Some of it. She has quite a distinctive writing style. At least the little I read.” Heyes was back in the position he enjoyed most. Tormenting his cousin.
Kid slammed the book shut. “Why I was never even in half the places she’s got me in. Heyes, we gotta stop this.” He paused remembering something Heyes had said. He swallowed. “How many of these did you say they were gonna make?”
“Uh, near as Miss Jenna can figure out, about 5,000. Think of it Kid. Why every woman in darn near the whole U.S of A. is gonna be readin’ all about your…” he thought for a moment “…exploits, yea that’s it. Exploits. Why Miss Jenna here says they might put it in Godey’s Ladies Magazine. In little bits. I guess one exploit per month. You’re gonna be real famous. Kid Curry, Outlaw Lover.” He choked and started laughing again.
“Heyes, I’m gonna kill you. So help me…” He pushed back his chair. “First I’m gonna go tell Jenna Alexander that she can’t do this. Then I’m gonna round up every copy of this, this…book and burn ‘em. Then I’m gonna come back here and flatten you. Heyes, how could you do this to me? It isn’t bad enough to have every lawman in the West chasing me. Now I’m gonna have every husband, fiancé…” He looked so miserable. “We’re through, this is it. You go your way. I’ll go mine.” He started out, then suddenly turned back, picked up the book and stuffed it in his pocket. “I just can’t believe you told her to do this. When I get back….” He jammed his hat on his head and practically ran out of the hotel.
Heyes watched in amusement as he ran across and down the street towards the livery. Sighing, he took another sip of coffee and picked up the second copy of the book that he’d slipped out of the parcel and put on the floor next to his chair. He stared at the cover and smiled, once again content with life. Plucking the letter from the pages he sighed again as he read the words written in a decidedly feminine hand.
‘Dear Mr. Heyes. I have done as you asked and sent the only two copies of this book to you. I’m still not sure why you asked for only two copies but as you were so helpful on the other story, I did exactly as you said. Father’s friends at the newspaper office thought changing the name from Buck Thorne to Kid Curry was very funny. I explained just as you instructed. That is was just a practical joke. I do hope some day you’ll explain it to me. And why you were so amused by my sudden opportunity to travel. Well I must leave; my train to Boston is departing soon. Your friend, Jenna Alexander.’
The pretty girl who refilled Heyes’ cup glanced admiringly at the cover of the book in lying on the table. “Oh, he looks similar to your friend.” She pointed to the man on the cover. “Who is he?”
Heyes looked up at the girl with a very wicked smile. “Him? Oh, he’s my cousin. The Deputy.”
Kid rode into Troublesome before dawn. The town was quiet. He’d ridden as hard and as fast as he could. The last night he’d burned his copy of the book in the fire he also used to heat his beans and coffee. Almost at peace, he slept. In the morning he raced his horse to Jenna’s house, leapt off and and even though it was way to early to disturb people, he pounded on the door.
“Who are you and what do you mean disturbing honest folk at this hour.” A very angry woman wearing a red flannel wrapper, her hair sticking out at odd angles whispered. She opened the door just a crack.
“I need to see Miss Jenna. It’s really important.” Kid whispered back. He’d taken off his hat and was trying to calm down. He had his hand on the door, fighting back temptation that told him to push it in.
“Well you can’t. Good heavens young man, it’s not even dawn. Come back later. After church.” She slammed the door. Kid heard the bolt slide into place.
He stared at the closed door. ‘After church.’ He took a deep breath. ‘OK, I can wait.’ Looking around, he saw nowhere he could just sit and wait. Sighing mightily he propped himself up against a large tree. Pulling his coat a bit closer around him, he tried to relax thinking of all the things he was gonna do to Heyes. Just as soon as he’d stopped that book.
He’d managed to have Heyes locked in a room just out of reach of food, water and female companionship when he felt someone kick him. He looked up to find Jenna’s father, Herbert Alexander, standing in front of him, scowling at the dusty, unshaven former Deputy Sheriff. “Uh, Mr. Alexander.” He jumped up. “Where’s Jenna. It’s real important I see her.”
“Well Mr. Jones, you can’t. She’s gone.” The man turned away.
“What d’ya mean she’s gone. Gone where. She can’t be gone.” Kid grabbed his arm.
“She went to Boston. Pursuing some nonsense about writing a book. Young women these days just do not know their place.” He looked at Kid’s hand on his Sunday coat.
Kid released the arm and stood gaping at the older man.
Mr. Alexander sniffed at the affront, gathered his wife and walked, rather haughtily off towards the town church.
“Boston.” Kid mumbled mournfully to himself.
“Kid, why would I want to go to Boston. Georgetown is great. Why the poker games are everywhere you look. And the ladies, well…, “ he cleared his throat, “…well why would I want to leave all this?” He swept his hand around the lavishly appointed suite.
“Heyes you gotta do this for me. I mean she’s in Boston. Talking to publishers. Heyes, we gotta stop that book.” He’d returned from Troublesome, desperate and irritated. He had decided to postpone flattening his cousin for a while. Just until he could help him get all this stopped.
Heyes sighed. A masterful sigh of understanding. “Kid.” He placed his hands on his cousin’s shoulders. “Kid. By the time we got to Boston and figured out where she was, she’d probably have finished her business and be gone. If we just wait long enough you can just talk to her when she gets home.” He shook his head. “ Although I sure can’t say that I understand why you’re so all fired upset with her. I thought the book was…well it was descriptive.” His laugh started somewhere around his stomach, rumbling up his throat. He cocked his head in a pensive way. “Yep, downright amusing. Sorry now I didn’t keep that other copy.” He casually stretched out on the bed, stretching contentedly.
“Other copy?” Kid was staring at him. It was a hard stare. Kid’s voice was flat. “There was another copy?”
“What? Oh yea. That Jenna. What a really thoughtful young woman. She figured we’d both want a copy. Shame though.” He frowned, and sighed again, this time sadly.
“OK Heyes. Where’s that other copy. You have it. Where is it?” Kid started opening drawers and throwing their contents on the floor. Not finding anything, he turned back to find those brown eyes watching him. They were twinkling. Kid walked over to the bed. He stood tall staring down at the prone form. His shoulders sagged. “What’d you do with it?”
“Well Kid if you’d asked I would’ve told you. There was this lovely young lady. She teaches at some school in Denver. She noticed me reading the book and inquired as to what it was. Well I had to tell her. I tell you she was fascinated. A book written by a woman and dealing with such a topic. She offered to buy it from me. Now she said she was going to use it in her classes at this girl’s school. That’s where she teaches. A girl’s school.” He stopped. He smiled and took a deep breath at the memory.
“Heyes.” There was an edgy tone to Kid’s voice that brought Heyes back to attention.
“What? Oh sorry Kid. Anyway, she was so dedicated in her teaching that I just didn’t have the heart to say no.” He smiled pleasantly at Kid.
“You gave her the book.” Kid sank to the second bed. “You gave her the book.” He made one dejected picture. “Do you know the school?”
“The school she teaches at. Do you know the name?” Kid jumped up and was staring down at Heyes again.
Kid grabbed Heyes by the shirt front and hauled him up. “Yes the school. The school where the woman teaches who you gave that infernal book to.” He gave up trying not to shout.
“Kid there’s no reason to holler. It was something School for Girls. Whattle. Whetstone. Something like that.”
“Pack. Don’t talk. Just pack. We’re going to Denver. I’ll be downstairs. You have ten minutes. If you’re not downstairs by then, I’m leavin’ without you.” He grabbed his still unpacked carpetbag from the bed and strode from the room.
Heyes watched him go with a mercurial smile on his face. He chuckled to himself. And very calmly started putting the things Kid had thrown on the floor in his own carpetbag. He took a wrapped package from between the bed frame and the mattress. Sitting at the desk, he took the ink pen from into fountain and wrote a quick note. He looked out the window. He really should tell Kid it was just a joke. Wasn’t nice of him to torment his cousin this way. Yep. He’d tell him all about it. Maybe as soon as they got to Denver. Although it might be interesting to see him ask all them lady schoolteachers if they’d seen a book called Kid Curry Outlaw Lover. He chuckled again. Maybe it would be best to not tell Kid right off. After all, he’d spent a lot of time in jail and muddy and hungry. Well, the right time would present itself. For now…’ His thoughts were disturbed by a knock on the door.
“Mr. Smith? You said you had a package you wanted on the noon stage.” The messenger held out his hand.
“That’s right. Here it is. Very important book. Going to Mr. Jonathan J. Saunders. Knob Hill. San Francisco.” He grinned broadly as he handed the package along with a crisp new dollar to the young man. ‘Wonder if Soapy will enjoy Kid’s adventures.’
“Yes, sir. Thank you sir.” He disappeared down the hall package in hand.
“You ready.” It was less of a question than an order from Kid Curry who passed the messenger in the hallway.
“Sure Kid. I’m thinking the Brown Palace. There was this little brunette…”
Kid looked at Heyes. He lovingly caressed the handle of his gun. No, maybe he’d shoot him later. “Are you coming?”
Heyes slung his arm around Kid’s shoulders as they walked down the hallway. “Sure Kid, sure. Whatever you want. Ya know you sure have been testy lately. A nice week or so in Denver is just what you need. Did I ever tell you about this club I know about? Biggest card games and prettiest ladies in all of Colorado. Maybe all of the West. I got this great idea how we can get in. They got these fellas that open the doors. All we gotta do is get you one of them fancy suits…”
“Heyes…” Kid turned dangerous eyes on Heyes. “ I am not dressing in some fancy suit so you can play poker. We’re going to Denver to find that book.”
“Huh? Oh sure Kid. The book. Why there’ll be plenty of time for that. I mean, how many girls you think she’ll have time to read that to. Now about that club…”
The two proceeded downstairs. Heyes cheerfully animated in describing yet another plan. Kid determined to get the book, then flatten his cousin, in public, on the busiest corner in Denver. Maybe outside that club he was so eager to visit. He had the strangest feeling that something wasn’t right. He looked as Heyes as they mounted their horses. Smiling way too much. Yea. Something wasn’t right. He sure wanted to know what it was. Well, the important thing was that they were gonna get that confounded book. And then he was gonna flatten Heyes. Yea, that was the important thing.
“So, when we get to Denver, I’ll do all the talking. We’ll be in that club…, uh, get that book with no problems at all. Trust me Kid. Have I ever steered you wrong?” Smiling, Heyes started walking his horse down the main street of town.
Kid followed him for a second with clear blue eyes, eyes that missed nothing. He finally just shook his head. Jamming his hat farther down on his head, he prodded his horse a bit quicker to catch up. “Heyes?” He shouted. But his cousin was already out of earshot. “Heyes, wait up. Heyes? We gotta talk.”
The people standing on the corner were heard to remark how plaintive his voice was. Well some said annoyed. Some said mad. Some just laughed, saying they’d sure like to see how the two of them did in Denver.
The messenger handed his parcel to the stage driver. Explaining it was a very important book. The stage driver tossed it on the floor at his feet and wondered why anyone would pay good money to send a book all the way to San Francisco. Ah, well there’s no telling ‘bout some people. He did watch the men ride off. ‘That blond fella sure seemed agitated. Must be family. No one agitates better than family.’ He looked again at the parcel at his feet and then at the riders in the distance. ‘Maybe I’ll just take a look at that there book.’ He picked it up and studied the wrapping as the passengers got on the stage. Tied with sturdy twine, he could just tie it back up. He gently slid the binding off and unfolded the wrapping paper. His eyes lit up. “Kid Curry, Outlaw Lover.” He smiled as he flipped through the pages. “Well, I guess the ride isn’t gonna be so dull after all.”