See Notes at end
See Notes at end
Lady of the Light
He stumbled along the
cobbled street, bumping into other men who angrily cursed his clumsiness and
shoved him aside. He was so cold and
tired. He forced his shivering hands deeper
into the pockets of the dark blue pea coat he wore. It didn’t feel right on him. Any more than the dark breeches and tall
black boots. But then nothing felt right
since he woke up on board the
That day, the first one on the ship, he’d been awakened by a sharp kick to the ribs. He was pulled to his feet and shoved to the end of a line of men. He looked at the shackles on his arms. At his clothes. At his surroundings. This wasn’t right. He struggled to clear his head of the fog that enveloped him.
A man they called the Captain told he and the other men that they’d work for their food and be grateful they got that. He remembered saying he didn’t think he belonged on a ship. He remembered the blow that dropped him to his knees. But he didn’t remember much else. After a while he stopped trying to remember anything. He concentrated only on making it through each day.
Hour after hour, day after day of
labor first in the remorseless sun and then in driving rain and cold left him
numb with emptiness. The food was scarce
and the beatings plentiful. Talk among
the men wasn’t encouraged. But he had
asked questions whenever he could find someone willing to talk and finally
learned that he’d been conscripted into the service of Captain Eamon Means,
skipper of the
His confusion threatened to overwhelm him. He tried talking to the man with the whip, but was rewarded for his question with night duties. That meant he spent the night freezing in the cold rain on deck. After that he focused only on the job. Fix the rigging. Tend the lines. He didn’t think he’d ever been on a ship before, but he learned quickly. He learned not to look anyone in the eyes. Especially the man. Never look the man in the eyes. Don’t do anything to cause him to notice you. Don’t do anything to draw the whip.
The whip. He’s endured it once, learning that to argue, to say anything even in the defense of someone innocent of wrongdoing was futile. The others looked at him in astonishment when he challenged the man. Then they looked at him in anger when they were denied their evening meal because of his action. He learned quickly.
He scratched a mark into the wood next to where he slept each night. Fifteen marks. Fifteen nights. He closed his eyes. A face drifted across his memory. A smile. He couldn’t quite grab hold of it. Something about that smile made his heart ache. Maybe it was the loss of that smile. He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure of anything. His sleep was restless. His dreams unnerving. People and places flitted just on the outside of his consciousness. Never close enough to reach. And always that one. The one he wanted to reach more than anything.
The ship finally docked. He looked at the buildings that framed the waterfront and the grand mansions that decked the hill above. It was so green here. Trees covered hillsides. Flowers bloomed wildly. He had no idea where he was. It didn’t matter. He’d made a decision.
He performed his duties in an unobtrusive manner as he could. But he watched from the corner of his eye as the Captain went ashore.
The man with the whip checked the
chains that bound the men. Satisfied
they were secure, he broke out the bottle he’d been saving and ordered his
subordinate to keep watch. The man
sneered his answer, retiring to the ship’s aft section, grumbling over the work
that kept him from the small room in back of the herb shop down a narrow alley
The man took a breath and looked around. Whatever was out there had to be better than this. It was now or never. He slid the nail out of his boot and hid it in his palm. As casually as he could, he wandered to the side of the ship closest to the dock. He knelt, seemingly recoiling the ropes that lay everywhere on the deck.
The tall ship rocked to and fro with the wind that blustered around her. The sky blackened and thundered. Flashes of light sparked in the distance.
He’d found the nail under some tarps. He didn’t know why he picked it up and slipped it in his boot. It just happened. Now, he was grateful for whatever instinct made him do it. And whatever was telling him how it could now be exactly what he needed.
The nail slid into the lock and with fingers stiff from cold he gently twisted it until he heard a soft click. He slid his arm out of the iron shackle, flexing his bruised, but still strong wrist. He undid the second shackle. He was almost free.
Cautiously he turned. No one watched him. The man whose whip had made his back bleed was unconscious and unheeding of anything other than his rum induced dreams.
From somewhere inside him he found the last bit of strength he had and leapt from the ship to the dock. He fell, rolling the last few feet from the gangplank.
Someone shouted. Then many voices called out that someone was escaping. There was no bond between these men. If helping capture an escapee meant an extra portion of bread or maybe a drink of rum, well, everyone in who worked this ship knew that was the way of life.
He ran, as hard as he could, until his chest felt like it would burst from the pain. He ran, until there was nothing left for him to run with. An empty warehouse offered meager shelter from the pounding rain that drenched him. He ducked in, gasping for breath. As his vision adjusted to the darkened building he quickly surveyed his accommodations. Deciding, he headed for the furthest corner.
He sat on the damp wooden floor, his back to the wall, his knees drawn to his chest, an attempt to keep any remaining body heat from escaping. He listened for pursuers, but heard nothing. The world right now was quiet, but for the rain on the tin room, the sounds of the waves crashing outside and the steady drip of water from the window.
He told himself, he’d rest here and in the morning things would be better. The throbbing in his head subsided as he sat, eyes closed. He was free. Now he could figure things out. Like where he was. And more importantly, who he was.
The clanging of a bell woke him. He blinked at the stream of sunlight coming in through the window and rubbed his eyes open. He found his legs wobbly as he tried to stand and wound up pushing his back up against the wall and clawing his way to an upright position. The room swam. He clung to the wall and closed his eyes against the nausea he felt.
He remembered hunger this bad. He closed his eyes, but only saw more strange images of people he didn’t know. A little boy asking for more food. A tall man in the black-frocked coat shouting and striking him. He shook the image away. Probably someone he’d met somewhere.
His vision cleared and things stopped moving. He took a tentative step and finding his legs seemed to be working, another. He took a deep breath tasting the salty air. Straightening himself he started for the door, peeking hesitantly outside making sure no one was there who might be interested in him. He saw no one that looked familiar, so he stepped out into the morning.
The smell of food teased his already growling stomach and even though there was no money in his pockets, he headed towards it. He’d work for food. Anything to make the ache go away.
He stumbled along the cobbled
street, bumping into other men who angrily cursed his clumsiness and shoved him
aside. He was so cold and tired. He forced his shivering hands deeper into the
pockets of the dark blue pea coat he wore.
It didn’t feel right on him. Any
more than the dark breeches and tall black boots. But then nothing felt right since he woke up
on board the
The roughly dressed men and gaudily dressed women who made the waterfront both a place called home and work stared at him as he made his way up the street. They laughed as he stumbled and hung onto a lamppost to steady himself. “Pace yourself laddie,” one of the old timers shouted. “Don’t be takin’ all yer pleasures at once.” He heard the raucous laughter surround him.
He squinted at a group of men coming towards him. He couldn’t quite focus on them, the sunlight blinding him. But he knew. Some long ago developed instinct told him to run.
He turned back the way he came and once again started running. The shouts came closer. He ran as though his life depended on it. He was certain it did.
The men drew closer, he could hear their shouts. He swerved down an alley, skidding to a stop at the end. There was no place to go. No place but the water. The end of the alley lead directly to the sea. It was now at his back. The men were fast approaching in front. His mind struggled for an answer.
He heard someone shriek some harsh profanity and lunge out of the shadows. Something hit him and he felt himself topple backward off the wharf. He flailed out as he fell, grasping at anything that could break his fall. But there was nothing. He heard the men’s shouts. They were angry he was falling. Somehow that comforted him. But only for a moment. Then there was nothing but a stinging wet blanket and a blackness that was terrifying in it’s promise of peace.
She always walked the shore in the morning. It was good being here again. Walking this particular shore. Finding bits of glass and drift wood for her collection. This was her time. Time before the day’s work began. Time to walk and enjoy the cool air and the smell of the sea. Time to think. Time to look upon the vast ocean before her and hope that one day she’d find him. It had been twenty years and in her brain she knew he wasn’t coming home. But in her heart…the love they had shared for only a few years had been the happiest she could remember in her life. After he’d disappeared, she’d never sought to replace it as her friends had urged her. No, she lived the life she wanted here by the sea. Solitary perhaps, but full. And every morning she walked the shore. One day she truly believed she’d find him.
“Mornin’ Miss Laura.” The elderly man unclamped his teeth from his long handled pipe and rose as she walked by.
“Good Morning Mr. Cutler. Is your leg better today?” Laura Blach Stratton smiled at the man as she passed him.
“Yes ma’am. Nice to see you again. Things over to Ediz Hook good for you?” He sat down slowly, favoring his right leg, still wrapped in bandages.
“Yes, Mr. Cutler they’re just fine. Although I must admit I miss Point Wilson. But I understand Mr. Littlefield is doing a fine job. Take care of yourself.” She walked on, eager to be at her place. She only had a few more weeks of time here before she had to return to her own post.
The man nodded and returned to smoking his pipe. He watched the woman wind her way down the path to the sea and wrapping her shawl closer around her, start off on the sand. The tide was out and the beach glittered with items washed up.
She turned and waved at the man before she rounded a curve and was lost from his view.
The sun was warmer here and she removed her tightly woven shawl and used it to hold the treasures the outgoing tide left behind. Even though the sea had taken the true love of her life, she loved it. Its ever-changing nature beguiled her. She knew she’d live her life out near it.
She picked up a broken glass float in a deep green color and held it up to the light. Humming softly, she gathered a largh conch shell, a branched piece of driftwood, more bits of glass, a man’s pipe, a brass button. She picked up her pace some and tied her shawl closed. There were chores to be done. This post was bigger and more difficult to manage than her own.
She turned to make the climb to the street when something moved in the shadows of the tangled mass of logs washed up against the wall that separated the ocean from the town. She approached tentatively, but still couldn’t quite make it out, hidden as it was. “Is someone there?” She took another step and cried out in shock as she discovered what it was.
“Oh my God.” She cried out as she saw the crumpled figure. “John! Oh John is it you my love.” Her heart pounded and she mouthed a silent please as she knelt beside him and gently turned the body over. Sadness washed over her. Not her lost love. Another’s perhaps. She checked the pulse at his throat, astonished he was still alive. The sea did not give up its victories easily.
“Can you hear me?” She tapped his face gently. “Please, try and open your eyes.” She smoothed the long hair back from his forehead and tried to sit him up, leaning him against the logs. His skin was ashen and he was too thin for the clothes that clung to him. She didn’t know how long he’d been lying here. His clothes though damp, were not wet. She shaded his face from the sun. His cheeks were flushed. She placed her fingers on his forehead. He was warm, she couldn’t tell if it was fever or just the sun.
He stirred, moving back from her so suddenly that she fell back, startled. He didn’t speak, but the eyes that fixed on her were desperate and fearful and something else. Behind those eyes was a man who didn’t give up easily. If at all.
“Come, we have to get you somewhere warm. I don’t know how you survived the sea, but you’re hurt. Come. My home is close by.” She didn’t know why she said that. She was a woman alone. She should call the Sheriff and let the law take custody of this man. But something in the way his eyes studied her, in the set of his jaw, reminded her of the man she’d fallen in love with so many years before. And something told her to follow her heart not her mind. “Let me help you.” She put an arm around him and helped him to his feet.
He flinched at her touch, but held her arm tightly and used the logs to balance as he pulled himself up. “Thank you.” His voice cracked. It hurt to swallow and he was having difficulty remaining on his feet.
“Hush now. Don’t talk. Can you walk?” She tried guiding him forward, but he almost fell.
A tiny smile formed on his lips. “Depends on how far I need to go, ma’am.” He whispered and sagged into her.
“It’s not far. My carriage is close by. Just there. Please you must try.” The sky, just a moment ago clear and blue was now darkened with black clouds that threatened to open at any moment. “It’s not far and then you can rest.”
He hesitated for a moment trying to sort things out. He remembered falling. And the water. The suffocating blackness. A violent shiver ran through him. He knew he’d beaten death once again. He relived the moment when the ocean had given up and tossed him back to shore. He looked around suddenly frightened. He was running. No he was being chased. The men. Were they here? He struggled to run, but she held him. He looked for the men. But there was no one save the woman. And something in her eyes told him he could trust her. For now.
“Yes ma’am. I’ll be fine.” He took a step forward, then another. His mind blocked out the pain. It blocked out everything but taking one step after another.
The house stood on a solitary spit of land a short carriage ride from where she found him. At its front stood the tall trees and lush grown of the forest. Behind, the steep cliff that dropped to the rocks below.
He’d sat rigid for the trip, forcing himself to stay conscious, while every rut the carriage hit caused sharp, stabbing pain to shoot through him. He didn’t cry out. Something, he didn’t know what, made him afraid to speak. As though speaking would cause more pain.
He nearly fell into her arms as he tried to climb down from the carriage. She struggled to guide him up the gravel path that lead to the house. His breathing grew more ragged with each step. She was nearly exhausted by the time they’d reached the porch steps. It was all she could do to get the man inside and out of the driving rain that now pelted them.
He didn’t have anything left to draw upon. Physical and emotional exhaustion was overtaking him. The swirl of images, mixed with some deep-seated terror bombarded him. He was dizzy and sick and now, though moving, was barely conscious. She bore most of his weight, practically dragging him forward.
“It’s not much farther. Just in there.” She moved towards a small room off the parlor, falling to her knees as she deposited him on the simple iron bed set against a corner of the room.
He didn’t move. He couldn’t. No words formed as he tried to focus on the voice telling him it would be all right. His eyes fluttered closed as he surrendered to unconsciousness.
She stayed kneeling by the bed for a while, gathering her breath and thoughts. Then rose and lit the logs in the small fireplace that John had built for them when this house had been theirs. The room would be warm soon. She returned to the bed, studying her visitor. So much like John. The John she’d loved so long ago. The coloring was close enough to be the son she’d hoped to give him. But this wasn’t John. And there’d been no child. She pulled herself up. This young man was hurt and ill and needed her help. When he was well he’d leave of his own accord. That was as it should be. She heard the church bells chiming from town. She needed to hurry. There was much work to do before night fell.
She hurriedly removed his clothing. She was well past modesty. It had been a hard life. She’d rescued dozens of men from the sea, nursing them to health and sending them back. The clothes were damp, thin and old. The pummeling he’d taken from the sea had left them torn in places. She could mend them tonight. She unbuttoned his shirt, holding him gently. She gasped in shock when she finished removing it.
His back was a mass of purplish-blue bruises and red lash marks. He’d been beaten badly and not that long ago. The cuts were beginning to heal. The skin was warm around the cuts. They’d need treatment or they’d become infected. She’d seen cuts like this before. She knew the instrument that could inflict them. She’d lived by the sea long enough to have heard stories of the sea captains that drove their crew with the whip. She finished undressing him. He had to have been on a ship. And he had to have run away. Looking at the injuries again, and the bruises on his wrists and ankles from the manacles, she said a silent prayer of thanks that he’s gotten away. And lived. And that he would find the strength to continue to fight for life.
She found the ointment that would help the wounds heal, and gently smoothed it into the cuts.
He moaned at her touch and tried to turn away.
She held him still. “Shhhh, now. This will ease the pain. Hush, sleep.” She finished, covering the cuts with soft white linen bandages. The physical marks would disappear over time. She wondered if the emotional scars would disappear as well. She checked the fire and added another log, stoking it so the flames caught.
She had to go. The sky was darkening and she wasn’t ready yet. She wouldn’t have the luxury of a quiet afternoon. The ships that were approaching the harbor needed her skill now.
She covered him with blankets and a handmade quilt. Checking his forehead again, she nodded. He was feverish, but it didn’t seem too high to her. With one last backward glance, she closed the door and climbed the narrow staircase to the small room called the Pilot House, the place where she’d spend the rest of her day.
The storm raged throughout the day and night. She took only hasty breaks to check on the still sleeping man. He was restless at times, moaning and crying out, dreaming of things that she hoped he wouldn’t remember when he woke. Then he was so still she searched for a pulse to make sure he was still alive.
She force fed him a few spoons of soup, but finally gave up and took the steaming bowl back upstairs with her.
By morning she was nearly spent. But the storm passed and there had been no rescues to make. She walked wearily downstairs to the room that would have been hers, but now belonged to this stranger. She eyed the bed longingly, but knew he needed it more than she did.
He was still sleeping. Nearly a full day. He looked peaceful. And so very young. She saw his clothes lying in a pile on the floor. They needed washing. She gathered them up, searching through the pockets for anything that might belong to him. Nothing.
Sighing, she went to the small kitchen to do the washing and to make some tea. She’d try to get him to take some. He seemed to be all right, but if he didn’t regain consciousness soon, she’d go for the doctor.
A short time later, the clothes were hanging on the line and the tea was made. She walked quietly back check on the man. She gently swung the door to the room open, hoping the creaking hinges wouldn’t disturb him.
He’d been drifting towards consciousness since she had come in. The creaking of the door reminded him of something else. He was walking on something that creaked like that. There was more creaking. This time it startled him awake. He sat up quickly only to succumb to a wave of dizziness and fall back upon the bed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you. Although I was afraid you’d sleep another day away.” She came and sat by the bed setting the cup on the small table that stood next to it. She laid her hand against his forehead. “Why your fever is gone. Are you feeling better?”
In truth he didn’t know how he felt. Warm, for the first time in weeks. The bone deep weariness wasn’t so evident. He ached, but didn’t hurt. He was still confused and the fear that haunted him was still there. But there was something else. Safety, he wondered. Kindness in the eyes of the woman who smiled across from him. “Yes ma’am. I don’t remember much, but you saved my life didn’t you? You brought me here. Is this your house ma’am?” The effort taxed him and his eyes closed.
“This is my house and you’re welcome here. Can you take some tea?” She held the cup to his chapped lips and watched as he gulped the hot, sweet liquid. “Are you hungry? I could make you some toast or some broth.” But he was asleep again. She drew the cup away. “I suppose we can introduce ourselves later.”
She pulled the covers back up to his chin, then checked the fire. Yawning, she at last made her way to the small parlor and touched another match to the logs that lay in this second, larger stone fireplace. The warmth filled the room quickly. Curling up on the settee, she too drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
The chimes struck for the third time before she awoke. Stretching she rolled off the settee. A few more hours and she’d start her nightly duties. But for now, she had some time to see if her guest was awake.
He opened his eyes immediately as she entered the room and pulled the covers a little tighter against him. His head no longer pounded and his vision had cleared so he could actually see her. She’d been a beauty once. Hair still dark, pulled back in a loose tie at the nape of her neck. Eyes surrounded by fine lines, but dark and direct. He smiled at her. “Ma’am. Doesn’t seem like enough, but thank you for helping me.” He struggled to a sitting position. He grimaced at the pain when his back settled against the pillow, and compromised by leaning sideways into it.
“You don’t need to thank me. I couldn’t very well leave you out there. Are you feeling better? You’ve slept for a full day. Are you hungry at all. I was about to fix my afternoon meal. It’s not fancy, just stew. But it is filling.” She watched his eyes blink as he concentrated on listening to her. He was still struggling to sort out what had happened and his mind was not yet rested enough to help him.
“Sounds wonderful, ma’am.” His stomach growled to emphasize his words. He looked embarrassed. “Sorry ma’am.”
She laughed. “I hope you’re not sorry when you taste my stew.”
The savory aroma of the hearty stew made him salivate in anticipation. This time he did manage to get to an upright position, pulling the covers up as far as he could. His back ached but the pain seemed to have diminished.
He shifted the covers one more time having realized that he seemed to have lost his clothing somewhere between falling into the sea and waking up in the woman’s house. He was trying to get the covers to stay up to his chin while still leaving his arms free to eat when she came in carrying a heavily laden tray.
Laughing, she watched him for a minute. “Land sakes, don’t fuss so. Why I’ve pulled enough men out of the sea to not be shocked at much any more.” She settled the tray on his lap and motioned for him to start.
The need for food surpassed any embarrassment he might have felt. He picked up the spoon, but didn’t start on the food. “Where’s yours ma’am?”
She smiled. “Don’t you worry about me. I thought you might need yours first. You just get started, I’ll be back with mine in a minute. If you don’t mind some company.”
“It would be my pleasure ma’am.” He frowned.
“It’s Laura. Laura Stratton. And yours is?” She cocked her head encouraging him.
He looked confused again and frowned as he thought about her question. His name. This was stupid; of course he knew his name. But he didn’t. He looked up, a bit lost. “I don’t know ma’am.” He thought harder. “I don’t know what my name is. Or where I’m from. Or anything before I nearly drowned. All I know is that men were chasing me.” His chest rose and fell quickly, the realization hitting him, the panic starting to show in his eyes.
She looked startled. “Here now, calm yourself. Why you’ve had an experience most men don’t survive. It’s no surprise you’re confused. With some rest and good food you’ll be fine in no time and then, why I’m sure your memory will return. For now, my stew tastes better hot. All right? You mustn’t worry. It will just make it harder for you to get well.” She turned to leave.
He watched her, relief flooding his being. Of course. He just needed some rest. No sense in worrying about something that was sure to pass.
He turned his attention to the tray. Stew with chunks of beef, thick slices of bread, an apple and a big glass of milk. He took a tentative bite of stew and immediately forgot about anything else. He was entirely content trying to get every bit of food from every plate on the tray.
She wasn’t gone more than ten minutes, returning with another fully laden tray.
He looked up guiltily. He’d finished the stew and bread and was gulping the milk. It left a white coat on his mustache. A sheepish smile escaped. “I guess I was a mite hungry.”
She laughed again. “I’d say you were. Do you want some more?” She exchanged trays before he was able to say anything. “Here, take your apple. But this time, take a bit more time. You’re not used to this much food all at one time I think.”
“But this is yours…I can’t…I mean, please you eat this. I’m fine now. He held the apple out to her. He wasn’t sure why.
“Of course you are. But I insist. It’s been many years since anyone enjoyed my cooking this much. Go one. There’s plenty.” She pushed the tray gently towards him. “But slowly.”
This time a broad smile lit his face. “Thank you ma’am.” He took a bite out of the apple, savoring its sweetness. He almost felt good.
She returned with her own food. Balancing it on her lap, she sat opposite him. “Well, I suppose we should decide what to call you until you remember who you are.” She spoke gently as she could.
He looked up and took a deep breath. He didn’t say anything for a moment. “You called me something when you found me. I remember hearing your voice and wondering if I was hearing an angel.”
“Well no one’s compared me to an angel, except for my husband. And his name was John. I thought that…when I found you, I mean…that it might be he.” She took a small bite of stew and studied the bowl.
“I’m sorry Miss Laura. I didn’t mean to bring up a bad memory.” He frowned. “We’ll think of a different name. It’s just that John sounds familiar. Somehow. I don’t know why.”
She studied him. “Well perhaps it is your name. And it’s not so bad a memory. My husband is…was a sea captain. His ship, the Lady Laura, was lost at sea many years ago. He was a good man and I don’t think he’d mind you borrowing his name until you find your own. So if it’s all right, we’ll just leave it with John. I’m sure you won’t be needing it for long anyway.” She got up and started to leave.
“Yes, ma’am. That’s fine.” His questions stopped her just as she’d reached the door. “Ma’am, where exactly are we?”
She smiled gently and returned to his bedside. “I’m sorry, I thought…you’re in Port Townsend. Washington Territory.” She paused. “Well, I must get the light ready for tonight. If you’re strong enough to get dressed, your clothes are clean and dry.” She pointed to the neatly folded clothes on top of the chest of drawers.
“Washington.” He concentrated on the word hoping it would mean something to him, but it was just a word.
“Are you done?” She reached down and started combining plates and bowls onto one of the trays.
“Yea ma’am. It was wonderful. What did you mean ‘the light?” He looked around trying to understand what she meant.
“The light. You’re in my lighthouse…John. I’m the keeper of the light. And if I don’t get to my chores, there’s won’t be much light for the ships that count on it tonight. Rest. Get dressed if you like. It’s probably best you that you sleep. We’ll have time to talk tonight. Once the light is lit.” She closed the door.
He settled back enjoying the quiet. He snuggled down further into the covers. The calling of the sea birds was the only sound that he heard. Washington. He tried again. He didn’t think it was familiar. He scowled in disgust. Right now he was so confused he might have lived here his whole life and not known it. But he decided he liked the woman. There was a gentleness mixed with efficiency about her.
Keeper of the light. A woman? He’d never heard of a woman doing that kind of work. At least he didn’t think he’d heard of anything like that. He knew what a lighthouse was though. He thought maybe he’d seen one. Somewhere. Sometime. He remembered a tall building, painted white. He remembered climbing the stairs to the top and he remembered the light. He remembered something else. Someone actually. Someone laughing. The memory comforted him, but he didn’t know why. He exhaled angrily. Why couldn’t he remember?
He arched up and peered out the window. Night was approaching. He was suddenly tired again. How could that be? He’d slept for hours. He thought about getting up but couldn’t. I’ll just rest for a while. He closed his eyes and sank into sleep.
The dreams started almost immediately. Flashing images he struggled to connect. He was on horseback, riding fast. Men were chasing him. There was a train. And money. And a voice. He wasn’t alone. He pushed himself to see the face, to hear the voice. There was safety with that voice. The images shifted. A ship He was on a ship. Suddenly he was terrified. And mad. He was running and running. Someone was behind him, chasing him. No face comforted him this time. Why. Why was he running. He wouldn’t wake up until he knew the answer. This time…
“Shhh. It’s all right. No one will hurt you.” She sat on the bed beside him, shaking him gently out of the dream.
Her voice broke through the images. His eyes flew open and he grabbed the hands that held him. “NO!” He shouted, holding her hand away from him.
“It’s all right. You were dreaming. That’s all.” She pulled free of his grasp. “Hush now son. Don’t be frightened. You’re safe here.” She brushed the dark hair from his forehead.
“Dreaming. I was dreaming.” He blinked at her. “I saw someone. I think I know him. But men were chasing me. There were horses. And a ship. I was on a ship. Could that be how I got here?” His breathing quickened. “If I could just see the end of the dream.”
She covered his hands with hers. “I’m sorry. You were crying out. I didn’t know if I should let you finish the dream or stop you.”
“It’s all right. I seem to get closer with each dream.” He looked intently at her. “I remember running and that men were chasing me. Ma’am. I don’t think I should stay here. The men who were chasing me will be searching for me. They’ll come here, someone must have seen you helping me. I don’t want you to be in danger.”
“Nonsense. No one will think twice about your being here. I’ve put up dozens of men here over the years and the worst that’s come of it is they’ve eaten me out of all my stores of food.” She laughed.
“Thank you. If, you’re certain, I don’t want to be any trouble for you. I can work around here. Fix things that need fixing. Though I don’t know if I know how to fix things.” He shrugged.
“Right now, just concentrate on resting and getting stronger. We’ll take care of the rest in time. And try not to worry. She adjusted his pillows so he could sit up.
He settled back against them and winced. “Did I get hurt somehow? You took care of my back didn’t you?”
She didn’t know what to tell him. “Yes, you must have been injured when you either fell into the sea or washed ashore.” She didn’t think the truth would do anything but hurt or confuse him more right now. “I’ll need to change the bandages and put some more salve on the cuts later.”
He nodded slightly. “But I probably was on a ship.” He said hopefully. It wasn’t much of a memory, but for now it was all he had.
“Yes. I think so. Many ships put in here. And your clothes were similar to what the seamen wear.”
“Maybe someone knows me.”
“Perhaps. When you’re stronger, we could go to the docks and see. You could talk to some of the men.” She smiled encouragingly.
“Yes…” He frowned, deep creases cutting his forehead. “No. No, the ship. No.” He was becoming agitated.
“All right. We don’t have to do anything. Why don’t we just take one day at a time.” She patted his hand to calm him.
He smiled gratefully. “How did you become a…keeper of the light? Is that what you said?”
“Seemed natural I suppose. John, my John, was a ship’s captain. He loved the tall ships and he loved the sea. He lived here all his life. He built this house so the sea would always be at his back. We met when he came to San Francisco. We were married shortly after and I came here to live. We had ten wonderful years together before…before I lost him. That was twenty years ago.”
“But this house is where he lives still.” She swept her arms around. “And when I’m here I can sense him.” She looked embarrassed at the display. “Well, there had been so many tragedies, so many ships lost on the rocks, so many men lost that the town council decided we should have a light to guide the ships safely into the harbor. It needed a home and this was just the best place for it. So they asked if they could build it on top of the house.”
She looked wistful. “I suppose I thought that if it were here, perhaps it would guide John home to me.” She cleared her throat. “And it was for the best. I had no income, with John gone. They purchased the house from me for the light. I don’t know why, I think they just assumed I’d be the keeper. I’ve since learned that many women do this.” She looked out the window at the gulls flying by. “Leaving the Point was the hardest thing I ever had to do, when they appointed Mr. Littlefield to be the keeper here.”
“You don’t live here? Did someone make you leave? Why would they do that?” The dark eyes narrowed with concern.
“No, I haven’t lived here for some time. I don’t know exactly why the council asked Mr. Littlefield to take charge of the light here. And in the end, it did turn out well.” She brightened. “I’m the keeper at Ediz Hook. That’s not far from here. And perhaps it was good to put a little distance between myself and the memories. They’re all the sweeter when I am able to return.”
“Are you just visiting here?” He decided that he liked Laura Stratton.
“Well I suppose I am. Mr. Littlefield had to go east. Family matters I understand. The former keeper at Ediz Hook is watching that light. I came here for a month to tend this one. We all try to help out when we can.” She rose. “I must tend the light. Can I get you anything?”
“No, thank you ma’am. I’m fine. I think I’ll try getting dressed.” He blushed slightly and smiled.
“Can you manage…of course. Take your time. I’ll be upstairs for a while. Don’t try to do too much.” And she was gone.
He straightened and slid out of bed, wrapping the quilt around him. His legs wobbled for a minute as he took a tentative step, but they held him up. He looked around the small room, seeing his clothes, clean, folded and waiting for him. He looked around again, then stealthily let the quilt slip to the floor. He dressed slowly, his arms and legs not moving with any degree of ease. The clothes hung loosely on him. He examined each piece as he put it on as though there was a clue somewhere in or on them that would help him remember.
He walked to the chest of drawers and peered into the mirror that hung above it. He stared at the image not entirely recognizing the face he saw. Dark eyes ringed with black shadows focused on the pale gaunt face, brown hair falling long past thin shoulders. A long dark beard, flecked with red. He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. Something was missing. A hat. Something shiny reflecting against the sun. He shook his head. There were a lot of things missing.
He jumped at the second image in the mirror and turned. He hadn’t heard anyone come up behind him. He was alone in the room. He was shaking as he turned back, clinging to the chest for support, suddenly feeling very tired again. He sank back onto the bed and held his head in his hands. Who was this man? This face that haunted him. Was it a friend? Or enemy.
“Are you all right? What’s happened?” She’d entered unheard. “I heard you cry out.”
He rose quickly, a mistake as he saw the room swim by again. He guided himself back down onto the bed. “Yes ma’am.” He paused. “No ma’am. I don’t know. There was a face in the mirror. The one that’s been in my dreams.”
“You mustn’t worry.” She sat beside him and took his hands. They were trembling. “Please. You’ve been through a great deal. You must give your body and your mind a chance to rest. I have no doubt that you’ll remember everything.” The eyes that looked at her nearly broke her heart with the anguish she saw there.
“Thank you Miss Laura. I believe you. It’s just that I’m not a patient man.” Something sparked in those eyes.
“See there. I told you you’d start remembering. Now we know you’re impatient.” She smiled gently. “You know, I used to cut John’s hair and beard. Would you like me to trim yours?”
He nodded. “I don’t exactly know how it used to be, but I don’t think it was like this.”
“Very well then. I’ll go find the scissors. The light is lit and there are no ships due in for a while. Come along into the parlor. The light’s better there. You know, the man you keep seeing might be a friend. Someone who’s trying to find you and somehow wants you to know that he’s there.” Her eyes grew sad. “Sometimes I still see and feel….” She stopped, lost in her own memory. “I’m sorry. You’ve heard quite enough of my foolishness.” She paused at the door. “John, before long there’ll be a routine in each day. It will bring you comfort. And over time you will remember who you are.”
He thought about what she said as he followed her out of the room. Maybe the man in his dream was a friend. The visage did bring him comfort. “I hope you’re right ma’am. More than anything, I hope you’re right.”
Kid Curry slapped the man hard. He was not a man prone to violence for its own sake. But it had taken him the better part of two weeks to find the man who’d had his partner kidnapped. He’d ridden through every town between Denver, Cheyenne and Laramie only to find the two men who had actually drugged Heyes. Kid persuaded them to give him the information he needed. That led him back to the outskirts of Cheyenne, where the man he sought lived in a small run down shack.
He was tired and scared and angry and had long run out of patience. His voice, raspy from lack of sleep was sharp and direct. “Where is he? For the last time, Butler, I know you had him kidnapped. The men who drugged him already told me that. They said they delivered him to you. Now you got one minute to tell me what you did with him or so help me nothing is going to save you.”
The man bound to the chair paled. His eyes, bloodshot from too much whiskey, stared at the man who stood before him. He hadn’t expected to meet with this man. He thought he’d managed to put Hannibal Heyes and all he’d been responsible for behind him. He thought he’d gotten even. And for a while it appeared he was right.
Richard Davison Butler had been wealthy and powerful. Part owner of one of the biggest banks in Wyoming. Banking was Richard Butler’s business. When the banking day ended, Butler found his way to a less attractive part of town to take his pleasures in the brothels and opium dens. That was where he met Ling.
Ling, the old Chinese man with only one name. Ling, who ran a profitable business providing opium, prostitutes and almost anything else that might be considered illicit to the wealthy men of Cheyenne. Ling, who could keep a secret, until it proved more valuable to sell it.
Butler enjoyed all of the pleasures of Ling’s parlor. Up until the bank was robbed and burned to the ground. His source of cash gone, Butler was forced to sell his fine mansion and it’s contents to continue his addictions.
When the money was finally gone, so was Butler’s invitation to Ling’s parlor. Butler turned to begging from men who used to be his friends. But now looked upon him as an embarrassment. At first they gave him money. But as time passed, their generosity ceased and it was made clear to him that they’d prefer he bother them no more. His anger and bitterness grew.
Each time there was a report of another bank robbery, the wound grow deeper. The Devil’s Hole Gang garnered most of his hatred. They were almost viewed as heroes. Robbing from the rich. He grew to blame them for his problems. And their leader, Hannibal Heyes was the center of his rage.
One day one of Butler’s former friends visited the at this shack. A man well known for his own addictions, as well as his powerful status in both the railroad and banking communities, he looked around the one room with disgust.
The disgust grew when the man looked at Butler. He barely entered the shack to explain his plan, preferring to stay close to the door. When he was finished he took a thick envelope out of his coat and handed it to Butler.
Butler’s finger’s trembled as he pulled out a thick wad of bills.
The man explained in specific detail what would happen if Butler used the money for anything other than executing the plan or if he revealed who had arranged for this to happen.
Butler nodded. He understood. This was a chance to right the wrong. It may not have been Hannibal Heyes that had burned his bank. But it might just as well have been. In Butler’s opium damaged mind, he had decided that it was surely Hannibal Heyes who needed to pay for everything that had happened to him.
The man asked again if Butler understood what he needed to do.
Butler nodded again.
The man left as quickly as his fine carriage could take him.
The next day Butler visited Ling and explained what he was going to do. He didn’t mention that other man.
Ling thought it an interesting proposal. He knew Butler had not planned this. He also knew under the right circumstances, he might learn who did. And that knowledge could mean power or money. Or both.
So he handed Butler a small pouch containing a white powder. Dropped into a drink they were all but unnoticeable. But the person drinking would put up no argument after. He repeated the instructions twice, staring at Butler’s almost unfocused eyes.
Butler took the pouch with trembling hands, as well as the other small packet. A gift of the flower from one friend to another.
So Butler began. He knew of Hannibal Heyes association with Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville. Word had it that Heyes and Curry came to town frequently to see him. He talked to people he thought might know Heyes. Finally he found a man who had ridden with Heyes on one job. For $100 he was more than happy to describe him.
Butler went to town every day and waited. Every day for three months he stood in the shadows of the alley across from Sheriff Lom Trevor’s office. Watching and waiting. Waiting for Heyes to appear in Porterville. Knowing sooner or later he’d appear.
It was a long wait. But he made good use of his time. Every minute of every day he stood in that alley, he focused on Hannibal Heyes. How everything had been his fault. How he had to pay. And pay with his life. But not right away. Heyes had to suffer. Like he himself had suffered. The man who’d employed him said Butler could do what he liked, as long as eventually Heyes was returned to Cheyenne. What Richard Butler liked was to cause as much pain to Hannibal Heyes as possible. He was only sorry he couldn’t be there to watch it. But that was too close. He’d have to make due with telegraphed reports.
So he waited. From time to time he’d wander to the saloon. There he found the men he’d hire to carry out his revenge. Two drifters, guns tied at the thigh, not talking to anyone. He approached them one quiet night with the offer of $1,000 if they’d do a small job for him. They didn’t spend much time thinking about it, before accepting his offer.
And finally, one night, standing at the bar in the saloon he was rewarded. Hannibal Heyes walked in. Alone. He watched as the two men he’d hired did exactly as they’d been told. Engaging Heyes in a poker game, managing to distract him enough to slip the drugs in his drink. Laughing as Heyes lost consciousness, joking about their friend not being able to hold his liquor and carrying him out of the saloon to the train station, dumping him onto a seat.
Butler gave them $500, and told them all they had to do was to get him to San Francisco, and a man would give them the other half of their money. He watched the train pull out, and went to send two telegrams. He had managed to get even with Hannibal Heyes. Or so he thought. He was snapped back to reality by cold rage in the voice that addressed him.
“Well.” Kid’s eyes were an ice cold blue. “Time’s run out Butler. Now you gonna tell me what you did with Heyes?”
“I’m not afraid of you Curry. You can’t kill me. You’ll never find Heyes if you do.” There was a note of arrogance in the man’s voice. A desperate arrogance borne out of fear. And they both knew that.
They also knew that Butler was hurting. He’d had no drugs for nearly 24 hours and he was feeling the effects of withdrawal.
Kid narrowed his eyes. When he spoke his voice was deadly soft. “Butler, I found you. And I’ll find Heyes. With your help or not. So I don’t figure I got much to lose if I just blow your head clean off right now.” He took his gun out and laid it on the table next to a tired and torn black hat with a unique band laced with silver conches. It had been Butler’s personal trophy for dealing with Hannibal Heyes.
He unbound the man’s hands from the arms of the chair and tied them tightly together in front of him.
“But I figure if’n I wait just a couple hours longer that poison you were smoking is gonna be completely gone. Understand when that happens…well, men have been known to chew their own hands off trying to get to that stuff.” He pointed at the packet containing a dark substance, which lay on the table. “Maybe killin’ you would make me feel better, but maybe you’ll be persuaded to talk if we just wait a while.” He smiled, poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down, as though he had nothing better to do than wait.
“You wouldn’t do that. Anymore than you’d kill me. You’re not…” Butler looked into those blue eyes.
“Not what? A killer? Well any man has it in him, Butler. And I figure maybe Heyes is already dead. That’s why you’re not so eager to talk to me. So I guess it just don’t matter if I kill you right out or watch you die slow.” Kid slowly spooned sugar in. Spoon after spoon. He watched the hunger grow in Butler’s eyes for anything that would take the pain away. He sipped it slowly, never taking his eyes off Butler. “A little too sweet for my taste. Want some?”
The man nodded desperately.
“Where’s Heyes.” Kid set the cup down, spilling a few drops tantalizingly close to the man’s outstretched hands. He played with the packet of opium, bouncing it from one finger to the other.
The man’s finger reached one of the drops of coffee and he raised it to his lips hungrily.
Kid caught the hand and knocked the liquid off. “Where’s Heyes.” There was a white heat behind the soft voice.
“Please, I can’t think. Just give me something and I’ll tell you.” Butler’s eyes overflowed and tears poured down his cheeks.
“I’ll give you something…” Kid raised his hand, stopping as the man cowered in fear, hunched over the table.
Something broke in Curry. He was not a violent man, despite his prowess with a gun, his outlaw past or his legendary temper. He didn’t enjoy inflicting pain, even on this man.
He lowered his hand and his voice softened. “Look. We’re done here. We both know what you did. And we both know that with or without this stuff, you’re not gonna be alive much longer. You’re already dead Butler. Inside. You died when you did all this. You got one chance and that’s to tell me where he is. I can try to get you help, but you gotta help me first.” Kid sank into the chair, exhausted beyond measure. He pushed the cup close enough for the man to reach.
Butler grabbed the cup and gulped the hot, sweet coffee. Then he stared at Curry and gave up. “Didn’t mean for him to end up…well I just wanted him to hurt that’s all. For all he did to me.”
Kid’s heart froze. “What he did to you Why you crazy….” He didn’t move. He knew if he did he’d kill the man with his bare hands. “What did you do.”
Butler’s face was covered in sweat. It dripped onto his torn and dirty shirt. He wished he’d never picked up the telegram that told what had happened. He wished he could just say nothing. He looked into Curry’s unwavering stare and clutched the now empty cup as though it was his last grasp at life. He knew he couldn’t lie to this man. That he’d know. “They took him to San Francisco. They were gonna put him on a ship. Don’t know where it went. They were supposed to teach him a lesson… then bring him back. I was gonna turn him in. Didn’t mean for him to die. Without the body, he’s no use to me.” He saw the rage flare up in Kid’s eyes. “It was an accident. Heyes ran off. It wasn’t my fault he fell off the dock and drowned. If he’d stayed put on the ship he’d be fine. It wasn’t my fault. You can’t blame me for this.”
Kid heard his own breathing quicken. Heyes was dead. Drowned. He wanted to say something. He wanted to shout and deny it and rail against the words. He took a very deep breath and held it. No emotion betrayed what Kid was feeling when he finally did speak. “What ship?”
“I don’t know. I swear. I just had a name. That’s all.” Butler’s voice broke.
“NAME!” Kid slammed his fist onto the table.
“Means. Eamon Means.” He looked up. “You gonna let me go?”
Kid didn’t speak. He picked up the gun and shoved it in the holster. He put his heavy jacket on and picked up Heyes’ hat. He re-tied Butler to the chair.
“Curry, you gonna let me go?” Butler whined.
“Friend of mine will be here soon. Name of Trevors. Sheriff Lom Trevors. You tell him I’ve gone to find my cousin.” He started for the door. “What’d Heyes do to you that you’d do this.”
“He burned my bank. Ruined everything that was mine.” The man looked up at Curry.
Kid turned, sick to his stomach. “We never burned any bank, Butler. Yours or anyone else’s. Ever.”
“You’re lying. I know you did…Heyes took what was mine. I took what was his. You can’t lie to me Curry…I know the truth.” The man glared at Kid defiantly.
Kid shoved the packet of opium at the man and without another word strode out of the room. He stepped down from the porch and kept walking onto the dirt that ringed the cabin.
His pace quickened. Quicker and quicker till he was running. For nothing. Heyes died for nothing. God. Why. Why. He pushed through trees and shrubs, finally tripping on a log and sprawling face first on the leaf and pine needle covered forest floor.
Everything he’d feared and been afraid to face came to him in one giant rush of scream that escaped his lips. “HEYES.” Then softer, whispering the words. “Heyes.”
He lay there, he didn’t know how long. Long enough to hear the horse that brought Lom Trevors to the house. He pulled himself up and slowly walked back. “Lom.”
Sheriff Lom Trevors had known Heyes and Curry for years. He didn’t have to ask what was wrong. “Where is he, Kid.” He walked to the younger man.
“Butler says they took him to San Francisco then he was supposed to get taken to some ship. Says he’s dead Lom. Heyes. Drowned.” He looked at his friend, trying not to break. Not making it. “God, no.” Then he sank, caught only by his friend’s grip.
“You sure Kid?” Trevors helped the younger man straighten. “The Hannibal Heyes I knew could talk himself out of pretty much anything.”
“He said Heyes was dead, Lom. Dead. Not talking. Dead. For nothing. A mistake. A stupid, damn….” He closed his eyes.
The lawman tried to digest what Kid had said. “I…look Kid, I know you and I know Heyes. Unless I saw…I mean unless I was sure, I wouldn’t believe that he’s gone.” He didn’t want to give Kid too much false hope. But right at this moment, he thought maybe he was needing some himself.
Kid’s eyes lightened and his forehead smoothed with that tiny grain of hope. “You think so Lom?
The lawman shrugged.
Kid was looking for anything to hang on to. He grabbed hold of Lom’s words. “You’re right Lom. Why I’ll bet Heyes is fine. Probably with Soapy or Silky tryin’ to get word to me to come join them. And me travelin’ around probably just missed the telegraph.” The desperation was apparent in his voice. Then he stopped. “I gotta go find him Lom. If he’s alive, I gotta…”
“Go on Kid. I’ll take care of Butler. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he won’t be talking to anyone for a while.” Trevors dug in his pocket and brought out a sheaf of bills. “You’ll need this.”
“No, Lom, I’m fine. Really.” Kid pushed the money away.
“Kid, it’s gonna cost money to get from here to San Francisco and wherever else you need to go to find Heyes. Take it. Pay me back when you find him.” He stuck the bills in the pocket of Curry’s coat. “Now go. You got a lot of travelin’ to do.”
“I’ll find him Lom. Whatever it takes.” Kid mounted his horse and headed for Cheyenne.
He paced nervously waiting for the train. He was going to San Francisco and find that man, Means. And then he’d know what happened to Heyes. And if Means had been responsible for Heyes’ death, well…no. One thing at a time. Get on the train. Get to San Francisco. Find Heyes.
An intense sadness washed over Kid as he boarded. He took a seat in the last car. He didn’t want to talk to any one. He didn’t want to see anyone. He squeezed his eyes shut. Heyes, you can’t be dead. You can’t.
Kid usually enjoyed trains. They were more comfortable than horseback or stagecoach. This trip, however, seemed interminable. The towns between Cheyenne and San Francisco, California clicked by slower than he thought possible.
The Union Pacific line had steadily grown, traveling across the West. It was the fastest way to get to where he needed to be. He knew that. In his mind. But it was not his brain that ached. But every time the train stopped, each town where he watched friends greet each other, each day that closed added to the ache in his heart.
Finally, the conductor announced they were approaching the California border. It wouldn’t be long now. Kid’s brain started to race. What should he do first. Soapy or Silky. He thought he remembered something Heyes had said about Soapy traveling somewhere. But Silky could help. Silky knew everyone in San Francisco. He’d know where to start. Silently he urged the train on, finally hearing the clanging of the bell announce that they’d arrived in San Francisco.
He pounded at the door until he heard footsteps. “Silky!” He shouted, not caring who he disturbed. Or the fact that it was nearly midnight.
The older man who answered the door explained that Mr. O’Sullivan had retired for the evening, and tried to close the door.
Kid wasn’t in the mood to be polite. He pushed past the man, and started up the stairs. “Silky!”
The man himself had appeared at the top of the stairs wearing a heavy silk robe and carrying a shotgun.
“This had better be important…Kid! What the…what’re ya doing pounding on my door this time of night. And where’s Heyes? This had better be important, waking a man out of a sound sleep.” Silky O’Sullivan was not known in San Francisco’s polite society as a man in possession of a calm demeanor. In truth he was known as one of the orneriest men in the city.
Kid’s explanation behind his visit had taken the ornery out of the man. He sat stiffly on the burgundy velvet settee in his expansive parlor, stunned and speechless. He’d done well with the money he’d acquired during a life of conning the wealthy. He expected to live out the balance of his life content and happy. He didn’t like bad news. Especially about someone he considered a friend.
“You sure about this Kid?” He didn’t sound like the orneriest man in San Francisco any more. His shoulders slumped as he faced Curry. “I just can’t believe it. Heyes. Dead. Just don’t seem possible.”
“That’s what Butler said Silky. But I have to find out for sure. I need your help in finding the man who put him on that ship. Man’s name is Means. Eamon Means. If I can find him, I can find out what really happened to Heyes.” He looked imploringly at the older man. “Can you help me?”
“Why, don’t even need to ask. Course I’ll help. First thing in the morning we’ll go down to the docks…” Silky put his hand on Kid’s shoulder.
“No…Silky we need to go now. What if Heyes is in trouble somewhere.” Kid jumped up, ready to start out immediately.
“Son, there’s nobody at the docks at this time of night. There are dozens of saloons and other places where those fellas go. We’d waste the whole night and probably not find out anything. And you look like you could do with some sleep yourself.” He raised his hand to silence Kid and rose. “Now, you not gettin’ any sleep is gonna make you not see things clear. In the morning we’ll go get the information. Now come upstairs. I’ll have Daniel bring you some food. Daniel!” He shouted for the man who’d answered the door and responded to the determined look in the Kid’s eyes by pointing towards the stairs. “Go on now. We’ll have the information in a few hours and then figure out what to do.”
Kid frowned. He wanted to get started. He wanted to do something. He wanted to find Heyes. Alive. He wasn’t a man to just sit back and wait. He exhaled. “All right Silky. We’ll do it your way. But first thing.”
The older man nodded. “Daniel, take Mr. Jones here upstairs and get him something to eat.”
Silky watched Kid walk slowly up stairs. He poured himself a large brandy and contemplated what he was reasonably sure they’d find in the morning. He knew Captain Eamon Means. By reputation. A ruthless man known for shanghaiing men to work his ships. If Heyes was with him…well he didn’t want to think about losing that young man. And he didn’t want to guess what Kid Curry would do to Means if he found that he’d been responsible for Heyes death.
The man sighed deeply and ran a gnarled hand through his fringe of white hair. Heyes. Dead. He shook his head unbelieving and found himself wondering if there was any way this would turn out well.
Kid slept fitfully. He knew Silky was right. He needed rest. But he also knew he’d not be able to get that till he found Heyes. Alive. He believed in his heart Heyes was still alive. He had to.
He was up at dawn. Washing up as quickly as he rushed downstairs, prowling the first floor of the house in search of his host. He didn’t have long to wait.
“Well. I figured you’d be up and about early. Let’s get some breakfast and they we’ll head….” He looked at the blue eyes. “Like I said. Let’s get started. No sense wasting time on food.” He grabbed his hat. “Well come on, what’re ya waitin’ for.”
The waterfront in San Francisco never saw quiet. During the day it was a cacophony of sounds – ships pulling out, ships docking. Men shouting at each other in a variety of languages that blended together.
Merchants hawked their wares to the people who staffed the grand mansions of the San Francisco elite. Men and women who populated the waterfront during the day worked in the café’s and the shops and the old timers who had spent their lives at sea, even after they no longer set sail, couldn’t get the sea out of their blood. During the day, the waterfront almost appeared respectable. But no one was really fooled by that disguise. People minded their own business and no one looked too closely at what anyone was doing. It was safer that way.
At night the waterfront turned into a carnival. Pleasures of all kinds waiting to be found in the opium parlors and brothels enticed the respectable and the not so respectable alike. Class lines blurred here, except that the wealthy found their pleasures at elegantly appointed homes, where French champagne flowed freely. Those down on their like made do with less elegant establishments where cheap whiskey was the drink served.
Gunfire, heard over raised voices, blended with laughter of men and women conducting business in houses and on street corners and in dark alleyways. It was different on the waterfront when dark fell.
The people who populated the waterfront at night were watchers. They knew where the wealthy denizens of the city went. And who they saw. Men whose business was knowing things, traded bits of information for money. At night, what went on here was both everybody and nobody’s business depending on who was willing to pay. And how much.
Dawn was the one time when there was peace here. Neither night nor day, the waterfront and its people waited for whatever was going to happen to happen. They were seldom disappointed.
The two men got out of the carriage. Silky told the driver to wait. He pointed towards a cluster of men, standing at the end of one of the piers. “That’s where we start. Look Kid, these men aren’t gonna want to talk about Means.”
“They’ll talk.” Kid unbuttoned his jacket, making sure his gun was clearly visible. “Silky, they’ll know the name of Means’ ship. And they’ll know where it went. And maybe they’ll know more.” Kid didn’t wait, but strode purposefully towards the men.
Silky shook his head, but followed the younger man.
Kid faced them and smiled pleasantly. “Any of you men know a man named Means. Supposed to be in charge of one of these here ships.”
The group was silent, staring at Kid and at the gun slung low on his hip. They all shook their heads.
“I can and am willing to pay $100 for the answer to some questions.” Kid took a stack of $20 gold pieces from his coat pocket.
Silky groaned. These men would cut your throat for one of those pieces of gold. He didn’t care to think about what they’d do for five of them.
The men stared hungrily at the money. Finally one of the men looked furtively around him and whispered. “Ain’t healthy for a man to be askin’ questions like that Mister.”
“Ain’t healthy for a man to not answer them either.” Kid said to him, walking closer. “You know Means?”
“Mister, we all know Means.” Another voice whispered conspiratorially.
The group stared at him and one by one started moving away.
Kid and Silky could hear them muttering as they left. “Man’s crazy to say anything.” “Asking for it, I’d say.”
“Kid…” Silky warned quietly.
Curry brushed the warning aside. “Mister, if you know Means, I need to talk to you. And I can pay for the information. Is he here?”
The man’s eyes glittered and danced around. He stared at the gold pieces in Kid’s hand, weighing the risk of sharing the information he had against the pleasure he could find with that money. “He ain’t here. Sailed two days ago. Up the coast to Washington again. Seems he lost somethin’ that somebody wanted pretty bad. He ain’t gettin’ his money till that somethin’s been found.” He reached out to take the money.
Kid drew it just out of his grasp. “That something. Is it a man?”
The man narrowed his eyes. “Might be. Might be that somethin’s already dead and gone, washed out to sea. Might be nothin’ a’tall.” He reached again.
“Where in Washington?” Kid let the man touch the coin.
“Little place. Where he always goes. Port somethin’. He don’t share with them that isn’t needin’ to know. If’n you take my meanin’.” His eyes widened as he finally got control of the gold. “You didn’t hear any of this Mister. Means isn’t someone you want to cross.” He slipped back into the shadows and vanished.
The Pirate’s Cove was nearly empty when the two men walked in. The night dwellers had long since departed. And the day people hadn’t shown up yet. The men chose a table in the back where they hoped they could talk without too many listening.
“Silky, you know Means. Do you know what that fella was talkin’ about. Where would he go?” Kid sipped his coffee. “The fact that Means is still lookin’ for Heyes is good. Right. Maybe Heyes isn’t…” He had trouble voicing the word. “Well maybe he’s alive.”
“Kid, I know how much you want to believe that. But Means isn’t the kind of man who leaves loose ends. I don’t know what Means is lookin’ for. I sure hope its Heyes. And if there’s any man who can beat the odds, well it’d be Heyes. But just don’t go gettin’ your hopes up, till you know for sure.” Silky O’Sullivan truly liked the two young men he’d known during his years as a con man. He wanted to believe he’d see them both again. But he was a realist. And he knew exactly what Means was capable of.
“This Port place. You know where that is? And how I get there before Means.” Kid pushed his coffee away.
“Well there are a lot of ports up thataway. We’ll go talk to my friend David Jacobs. Over at the Harbormaster’s office. If anyone knows where Means is headed he’ll be the one.” The older man nodded. “Yep, he’ll know exactly where we should go.”
Kid looked up. “We?”
“Well o’course we. You didn’t think I’d let you do this alone did you? Now don’t go tryin’ to talk me out of it. I’m comin’ and that’s that.” He glared at Kid, daring him to argue.
“Silky there’s bound to be trouble with Means…” Kid didn’t want the older man hurt, even if his company on the last part of the trip would be welcome.
“Plenty of reason for me to come along. Keep you out of trouble. Now you comin’ or you just plannin’ on sittin’ here all morning?” He shoved his chair back under the table and walked to the door.
Kid smiled fondly at the old man. “I’m comin’. Hey, Silky, wait up.” He hurried to catch up with the man who was walking quickly towards a small building at the end of the street. “Thanks. I mean for helping me with this.”
“Now don’t go getting all sappy. Heyes owes me a rematch on a poker game. And I don’t like the idea of him gettin’ off without me gettin’ a chance to win my money back. That’s all. There’s the place.” He pointed towards a sign on the front of a building labeled Harbormaster.
“Sure Silky. I understand.” Kid put an arm around the older man’s shoulders. “Believe me, I understand.”
David Jacobs was pouring over a stack of charts when the two men entered. He looked up and smiled as he saw who had disturbed his work. “Why Silky O’Sullivan. You old coot. How are you?” He got up and pumped the man’s outstretched hand.
“I’ll old coot you…why any day I can’t take you is the day I just curl up and meet my maker. David this here is Thaddeus Jones. Friend of mine. We got a problem and we could use your help with it.”
“Course I knew Eamon Means. Few don’t. Most men who captain ships are good men, they treat their workers decently. Means, well if we could have proved that he conscripts men into service then treats them worse than any prisoner at hard labor, we’d have filed charges years ago. But the men he has working for him don’t complain. And if they do, they disappear.” Jacobs made a disgusted sound. “He’s brutal and ruthless. I’m sorry, Mr. Jones, if Means did indeed take your friend, I’m afraid you may never know his fate.”
“I’m not giving up until I find him Mr. Jacobs.” Kid stood up, pacing the small office. “If you know where he might be headed and how we can get there before him, I’d be grateful for the information.
Jacobs nodded and pulled a journal from his desk. “Means alternates between the China Seas and the Double R Queen. He was scheduled to take the China Seas back to Port Townsend. He sailed yesterday. Should be arriving in about a week’s time, depending on the weather. There are train connections available now between here and Seattle. You could get there in three to four days. A ship will need to take you across to Port Townsend. I can help you with the last part. Here, talk to this man. He captains a small ship that takes passengers across Admiralty Bay.” He scribbled the name on a sheet of paper and handed it to Kid.
“’Preciate the help David. Maybe we can help put Means out of business.” Silky walked to the door.
“Good luck. And be careful. Means would rather kill a man than worry about him.” Jacobs closed the door.
Kid shivered in the morning sun. Jacobs' last words cut through him like a knife. “I’m leaving now Silky.”
“I know Kid. I know. Let’s go see about that train.” Silky waved for his carriage and instructed the driver to take them to the train station as quickly as he could.
“Tomorrow!” Kid took his frustration out on the hapless ticket seller.
“Ye...yes sir. Nothing going to Tacoma until tomorrow.” The man looked worried that the younger of the two men who stood outside his ticket window was going to come through the not too sturdy bars that separated them.
“We’ll take two first class tickets.” Silky shoved some bills at the man.
“Silky…” Kid turned to him.
“Now it’s a long trip and I’ve gotten used to my comforts.” Silky took the tickets and put them in his pocket. “Let’s go to the telegraph office. We need to get hold of that fella that David mentioned. The one with the ship. To get us to Port…what was the name of that place again? And we’ll be needing tickets for the train that’ll get us from Tacoma to Seattle. If we do all that now, it’ll save us time.”
Kid was normally a patient man. He was trying to remain patient with each delay. But it was getting more and more difficult. “Port Townsend. He’s there Silky. I can feel it. I just hope we get there before Means.”
They walked slowly back to the carriage.
“No reason we shouldn’t. Train’s got to be faster than ship. Why I’ll bet we could be on the dock to greet Captain Eamon Means and maybe ask him real polite to tell us where Heyes is.” Silky’s smile was not that of a genial con artist, but the one of the dangerous man he could be when and if he had a reason.
“I hope you’re right Silky. More than anything, I hope you’re right.” Kid laid his hand on his gun.
They exchanged glances clearly understanding that whatever it took, they’d persuade Captain Eamon Means to tell them what they needed to know.
The journey up the coast should have been a pleasant one. The rugged coastline and occasional views of the Pacific Ocean were beautiful enough to capture most people’s attention. But for the two men who occupied the first class car, this wasn’t a pleasure trip.
The older tried to make conversation, reminiscing about past adventures.
The younger tried to be interested. But his heart just wasn’t in that train car. He willed the train along the tracks, his frustration at the slow pace growing at every stop. He wrestled with the demons that tried to convince him Heyes was dead. He kept fighting them back, but they kept haunting him with a question that try as he would he couldn’t find an answer to. If Heyes was alive why didn’t he send word. He finally gave up, spending the last days of the trip staring out the window lost in his own thoughts or prowling the aisle like a tiger too long in search of his prey.
At last the conductor walked into the car and announced they’d be in Tacoma shortly and that the connection from Northern Pacific Railroad’s main line to the spur line from Tacoma to Seattle would be waiting to take them to Seattle.
Kid took a deep breath and looked out. If Heyes was out there, he’d spend the last ounce of energy he had finding him. Alive or not. And God help anyone who tried to stop him. No. He wasn’t sure even God would be able to stop him from exacting revenge if Heyes was really dead.
He was suddenly cold. He heard his words echo inside his head. If Heyes was dead. He’d said it. Accepted the possibility that the only family he had left was gone.
Something churned inside him and he felt an emptiness, an aloneness he’d one felt once before. A long time before on a summer morning. A aloneness that had been filled then by a little boy with a quick mind and a silver tongue who grew up too quickly making sure his younger cousin had food, shelter and a small portion of the childhood that had been stolen from them both. The pain that knotted itself around Kid’s heart was more intense than bullet had ever caused.
“NO!” He slammed his fist into the side of the train car.
Silky jumped at the word and the thud that followed. “Kid?”
“He can’t be gone Silky. He can’t.” It was a very quiet, very young voice that spoke those words.
Silky O’Sullivan didn’t have children. But somewhere inside this cantankerous, gruff man was a genuine fondness for the two young men he’d met so many years ago and shared cons with. They might have made him do things he’d never live down, but they’d also saved his life a time or two and he knew he owed them both more than he’d probably get a chance to repay.
He looked over at Kid who was studying the scenery coming into view as the train slowed down. “Listen Kid. Now, we’re almost there. We can’t be thinking about what might’a gone wrong. Why I’ve seen Heyes beat odds that would’a killed most ordinary men. If anyone had a chance of beatin’ these, it’d be Heyes. Let’s just go find him. That all right with you?”
Kid looked over. He finally took a breath and nodded. “All right.” He paused and turned back to the window. “Silky, I’m grateful for your help. And for your being here….” He frowned, wanting to say something else, but not knowing exactly what. “Thanks.”
“Now don’t start all that agin.” We got a job to do. So let’s just get on with it. I got things to do back home. I can’t be spending my remaining days on earth travelin’ the world with the likes of you.” Silky got up and reached for the traveling bag he kept with him.
Kid smiled at the man, knowing what he was trying to do. “Guess we’d best get on the next train then.”
Northern Pacific’s just recently completed spur line wasn’t luxurious, just two passenger cars with simple wooden bench seats. But it was considerable faster than stagecoach or horse at completing the short journey.
They jumped of the first train and saw it immediately. It sat at the station in Tacoma, steam puffing all sides as it prepared to depart. They ran to catch it, barely making it on board before it pulled away.
Silky collapsed onto one of the seats, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief. He tossed his bag on the seat and closed his eyes. He dozed for much of the trip.
Kid didn’t mind the solitary time. He looked out the window of the car and worked out plan after plan on how Means was going to pay if he’d killed Heyes. If. He kept hold of the hope that they’d find Heyes alive. Try as he did, he just couldn’t figure out why Heyes hadn’t sent word. Unless he couldn’t. Unless he was so bad hurt…or dead. He kept coming around to the inevitable. And he kept refusing to believe it.
Kid was so deep in thought that he was startled when the conductor walked through the car, calling out Seattle. The whoosh of steam announced that they’d arrived. One more journey. A few more hours and they’d be ready to greet Captain Eamon Means.
The last step they had to take was getting from Seattle to Port Townsend. A short distance, but one that had to be taken by ship. There were no regular ferries across and David Jacobs’ friend had already sailed earlier that morning. He wouldn’t go across again for another full day.
Kid exploded at the news. “We’ll get another ship. Look at all of them, Silky. There has to be one that will just take us….” He looked around and headed for a group of men.
Silky waited patiently until he’d talked to at least a dozen and was angrily heading back.
“Can’t believe no one will do it. What’s the matter with people, Silky. Can’t they see…I mean…ah hell, I don’t know what I mean. We’re just so damn close.” Kid’s face was flushed red with anger.
Silky gave him a moment. “Kid, if there were a way for us to get the thing across that…” He pointed at the broad expanse of water. “…I’d buy a damn boat. But all we can do is wait another day. Maybe we can find out something in town. Come on son, let’s go. My old bones don’t like this damp weather.”
Kid shifted from anger to concern. “Are you all right? I wasn’t thinkin’ Silky.” He inhaled deeply and he looked desperately at the horizon. He could almost see land through the fog. The proximity to his destination and his inability to just get there was chewing his insides to shreds. He knew argument was futile. One more day. Hang on Heyes. Just hang on one more day. He exhaled. “Tomorrow.”
Silky took charge of making the arrangements. Never one to skimp on his comforts he had the carriage take them to the best hotel in Seattle.
The Occidental Hotel was a beautiful white building sitting at the end of First Street. John Collins built this new triangular shaped hotel to replace the original, much less elegant structure. He wanted it to rival the fine hotels he’d seen in San Francisco, Denver and Cheyenne. Every modern convenience that was available to Seattle was to be found at the Occidental.
Kid watched the city go by as the carriage took them to the Hotel. He saw every detail of everything that swam before his eyes. He was fighting as hard as he’d ever fought anything to not give in to the despair that came of frustration. It had been over a week since he left Cheyenne. Nearly a month since Heyes had been kidnapped. His mind played with all that could have happened to him during that time. He squeezed his eyes shut against the thoughts.
“Uh, Thaddeus…” Silky jostled him as he climbed down.
The white palace loomed in front of them. Young men dressed in burgundy uniforms took their luggage and preceded them into the hotel.
Kid brought up the rear, slowly following into the hotel. He was tired. So very tired.
He let Silky register them and silently followed the uniformed men upstairs. The room he was showed into was larger than he was used to. There were flowers on a table and a large window with crisp white lace curtains. The wallpaper was a rich burgundy floral and the bed a large four-poster with burgundy, gold and deep green linens. The young man put Kid’s carpetbag on the stand at the foot of the bed and lit the fire. He stood at the door for a moment, before realizing that the man leaning heavily against the velvet covered settee that sat in front of the fireplace hadn’t even noticed him.
“Get some rest. I’ll call you when it’s time for dinner.” Silky patted his shoulder and addressed the young uniformed man. “Well what’re ya waiting for, show me my room and get me a bath.” He pulled the door closed and left Kid alone.
Kid watched the flames flicker, burying his face in his hands. He stood there for a while, not moving or thinking. Eventually he approached the bed and slowly took off his heavy jacket and boots. He pulled a chair next to the bed and slung his gunbelt over the back. Stripping off the rest of his clothes and dropping them carelessly on the thick carpet, he pulled the covers back and slid into bed. It was barely one in the afternoon, but he was so tired. He gave way to the warmth of the room and the softness of the bet and drifted into sleep almost immediately.
He heard the pounding from a long distance away. He forced his eyes open and blinked.
“Thaddeus, you awake?” Silky called from the other side of the door.
Kid wrapped himself in a quilt and opened the door. “What time is it?” He mumbled groggily.
“Nearly six. Reckon you were tuckered out. Now, there’s a bath waitin’ for you down the hall and dinners at seven. So get movin’. I’ll be downstairs in the bar.” Silky didn’t wait for a reply.
Kid scratched his head and looked around. His clothes were lying on the floor, his bag where the young man had left it. That’s right, they were in Seattle. He dressed quickly and picked up his bag. Wandering down the hall he quickly found the washroom. He knocked and was surprised when the door opened.
“Mr. Jones? Mr. O’Sullivan said you’d be along. Your bath is ready. Just leave your clothes right here when you’re finished. I’ll have them cleaned and ready for you in the morning. Is there anything else sir?” The young man held the door open and then as Kid entered, pulled it shut. “I’ll check back in a while, sir.”
“Thank you” Kid eagerly got out of his dirty clothes and into the large, froth-covered tub. All the aches of too much worry, too many days on trains, too little food and sleep were catching up with him. He drifted off again, letting the hot water and steamy room sooth him.
Forty-five minutes later, rested, bathed and dressed, Kid joined Silky in the dining room of the hotel. He felt better. His mind more focused on what he needed to do.
“The ship sails tomorrow morning at 7AM. It takes an hour to cross. I arranged for us to be on it.” Silky studied the menu.
“I’ll be ready. I’m ready now.” Kid said quietly.
The food arrived promptly and despite his eagerness to be on his way, Kid ate voraciously. The steak was thick and perfectly prepared. The potatoes covered with a fragrant cheese sauce. The bread fresh. Silky ordered a fine Bordeaux which they now sipped, while waiting for the chocolate soufflé to be prepared.
Kid Curry felt like himself. For the first time in a month, he was calm and prepared. For whatever they’d find in Port Townsend.
“When we get there, Silky…I mean, I’m grateful for everything you’ve done…but there may be things I have to do that you shouldn’t be involved in. And it may be dangerous. If you want to stay behind here, I’ll understand. Might be better.” Kid lit Silky’s cigar, then his own.
Silky angrily flicked cigar ash onto the floor. “Stay behind! I like that. As though I’d just sit here and wait to see what trouble you get into. You young…”
Any further comment Silky was going to make was silenced by the arrival of the soufflé and coffee. He waited until the waiter had served the fragrant chocolate dessert and left before he started. “Now look Kid…” he lowered his voice so that only Curry could hear. “…I’m going to see this through. And don’t get any ideas about leaving me behind. Why I can outrun you any day of the week.” He stabbed the soufflé on his plate for emphasis.
Kid chuckled. “I believe you just could. All right partner. Tomorrow we find Heyes.”
He woke up and stretched. The weeks that had passed had been peaceful for him. The days found him working around the lighthouse or accompanying Laura into town to shop or visit. He avoided the docks. He’d regained some of the weight he’d lost on the ship. His face wasn’t as gaunt and his coloring was no longer gray. He sometimes sat with the men in town listening to their tales of life at sea. Mostly he stayed at the lighthouse. He plowed a place for her garden and planted vegetables and flowers while she slept. Laura had been right. He’d found comfort in a simple daily routine. Although there were times when he found himself disquietingly anxious or impatient with things. Fidgety she called him. Restless was what he felt at those times.
Some nights when sleep eluded him he’d join her. She’d call out ship sightings and he’d carefully note them in her journal. She taught him how to tend the light and why it was so important to carefully note the weather each day, the name and type of each ship that passed by and any other information might be important. He read the journal that was kept in the Pilot House and found it fascinating, reading of the different ships.
He enjoyed their talks. She was a kind and gentle woman who had an inner strength that he admired.
She enjoyed the companionship in what was usually a very lonely profession.
He got used to the name John, although he was now certain it wasn’t his. The image of the man he’d seen in the mirror still came to him in dreams and sometimes he could almost get close enough to see him clearly. Almost.
Each day that passed brought fleeting glimpses of who he was. He remembered some things very clearly. He announced one day at breakfast that he was sure that he wasn’t a seaman. Or a laborer either.
She’d laughed and told him she could see that from his hands.
He’d raised his hands and turned them around, studying them in the morning light. They were not marred by scars or calluses; definitely gentleman’s hands, she’d teased. He smiled. Maybe I robbed banks he joked.
She laughed again and told him whomever he was, he wasn’t a bad man. She was soon to find out they were both right.
“There it is.” Kid pointed at the buildings just ahead. He’d been in the hotel lobby a good hour before Silky had come down and once on board the small sailing ship he had spent the hour of the crossing in a now familiar prowl along the deck watching for the town to come into view.
Kid was the first one off the ship, followed quickly by Silky. He looked around, the blue eyes taking in every detail of the dock area. He studied the faces, willing one of them to be Heyes.
Silky talked to some of the men who populated the dock and determined that the China Seas was due in within the week. They weren’t sure exactly when.
“Well, let’s find someplace to stay, then we can look around.” Silky shielded his eyes against the morning sun. “Understand there’s a place called The Belmont right on the main street.”
Kid turned. “Silky can you get us checked in? I want to look around.” There was a tone of eagerness mixed with of desperation in the man’s voice.
“Sure Kid. Sure. You go on. I’m gonna see what I can find out at the hotel.” Silky waved down a carriage.
Kid nodded briefly and walked down the street. He caught glimpses of men of the right height or hair color, but they weren’t Heyes. He spun a couple of the men around, only to be met by stranger’s angry faces and angrier words. It was past noon when he found The Belmont. He sank onto the bench outside and closed his eyes.
“I’ll go over to Mr. Chatham’s, Laura and find that new journal you wanted. See you back here in half hour.” He waved at the woman who smiled back at him. He looked up at the morning sun, enjoying the warmth on his face. He liked the clothing he wore too. Same black breeches and boots, but a new dark blue heavy muslin shirt. It felt better than the torn, white linen one he’s arrived with.
He walked quickly towards the bookseller’s, greeting people as they passed. The people of Port Townsend had gotten used to the young man who Miss Laura had rescued. He knew they felt sorry for his situation. He didn’t feel sorry over the fact he still didn’t know who he was. He was annoyed and frustrated. Sometimes he was mad. He knew he couldn’t stay sleeping on the sofa at the lighthouse. Miss Laura only had another week there before the regular keeper of that light came home. Then she’d go back to her own house. She’d said he could go with her, but he was anxious to try and trace his steps back to a place where someone might know who he was.
As he walked, his mind wandered to the list of things he could do to find out his true identity. He probably could have started sooner, but physically and mentally, it had only been recently that he’d been strong enough and his mind clear enough to even think about it.
But this morning he’d made a decision. He was going to get started. He was going to send telegrams to lawmen in San Francisco, and some of the bigger towns and give them his description. He hoped someone had reported him missing. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
He was totally immersed in his thoughts and his excitement as getting his life back, and not paying attention to the activities going on around him. He crossed just before he reached The Belmont Hotel, stepping off the wood planks that served as a walkway, just before Mr. Baskin and his four sons rode wildly into town, stopping in a cloud of dust just in front of the Hotel. He dove for the safety of the walkway, shaking his head. Shaken from his thoughts by what had happened, he frowned and looked around.
Townspeople were shouting at the men and a fight broke out. He knew many of the people involved, recognizing some of the names as he heard them called out. The Sheriff ran out and tried to pull the men apart. He dusted his shirt off and walked towards the shop when he heard a voice. Someone was shouting a name. He couldn’t quite make it out. Joshua? Was that was it was. For a moment he thought the voice sounded familiar. He tried to get a glimpse of where that voice came from, but there were too many people moving around. And right them Miss Emily, the town’s elderly schoolteacher was pushed into him by part of the crowd. He steadied her, discovering she was headed for the same place he was. He held the door open for her, and the voice forgotten, followed her into the shop.
“Heyes!” Kid leapt up at the face he thought he saw. Catching himself he shouted again, this time the alias. “Joshua!” Was it him? Dark hair, height was right, beard was wrong…damn…was it possible. Had he found him. He strained to see where the man had gone. “Get out of the way!” He shouted at the men, pushing by the horses into the center of the street. He looked at where the figure had been, up one way, then the other. He whirled in a circle looking desperately at everyone. But the figure had vanished.
“Thaddeus?” Silky came rushing up. “I heard you shouting. Did you find him? Is Heyes here?”
“I saw him. I mean I think I saw him.” He exhaled in frustration. “I don’t know Silky. I been seeing him all morning in half the men in this town. But I thought…it felt like Heyes. I know that sounds crazy, but I don’t know how else to say it.”
Silky looked around. “No, it don’t sound crazy. Maybe from anyone else…but you two, well, if you say you saw him, then I believe you.”
“I’m gonna start looking in each of these shops. Starting there.” He pointed shop selling maps and charts. “You start at the Hotel and we’ll work around. If he’s here, someone must know him. He’s here Silky. I know it. And he’s alive.” The anger and frustration had been replaced by hope and a growing eagerness to find his cousin.
The older man nodded and started back across the street.
Kid took a deep breath and walked into the shop.
“Thanks Mr. Chatham. I know Miss Laura will appreciate your holding this for her. We’ll see you tonight.” He closed the door, just as the carriage pulled up.
“Did he have it John?” Laura held the horses as he climbed onto the seat.
“You know he did. I think Mr. Chatham would do anything to make you smile Laura.” He took the reins and guided the horses out of town.
She blushed and laughed. “Now John, the way you exaggerate.”
“Well I invited him to supper today. He said he’d be pleased. Now no arguing. A woman as beautiful as you shouldn’t be alone in a lighthouse.” He laughed at her shocked expression.
She frowned. “Whatever you are, you’re a trouble maker, that’s for certain.” She chewed her lip worrying. “We have nothing in the house to serve him. We’ll have to stop at Mr. Abney’s farm. And Mr. Henderson, the butchers. Whatever will I cook? He’s such a proper gentleman. He’ll be expecting…well I don’t know what he’ll be expecting. And what about the light. It’s my duty. Oh, John, what have you done. Perhaps we can postpone it until another day when I’m more prepared. Yes, that’s it. We’ll go back and explain and he can come another day.” She sputtered, hoping he would give her the escape that she’d asked for.
He didn’t. “Whatever you cook will be fine Laura. He’s coming to see you. Food’s just an extra.” He grinned and headed the carriage towards the butcher’s shop. “And don’t you worry ‘bout that light. I can tend to it just fine while the two of you have a nice supper.” He grinned to himself. Maybe before he left Port Townsend he could do the woman who’d saved his life a favor in return.
Two hours and over two dozen shops later, the two men met back at the Belmont Hotel Saloon. The bar was cool and dark, the bartender uninterested in their conversation and the beer welcome to two parched throats.
“Well what’d you find out?” Silky wiped the foam from his lips.
“He’s here. Or at least a man that sounds like Heyes is here. Been livin’ at the lighthouse with the woman who takes care of it. People wouldn’t say much more than that.” Kid looked up, his blue eyes, dark with confusion. “Silky I don’t understand. If he’s all right and here, livin’ with some woman, why didn’t he send word. I mean, he knew I’d be looking for him. Why didn’t he try to get word to me?”
Silky took a handkerchief out of his pocket and rubbed his neck. “I don’t know Kid. But if it is Heyes, he’d better have a good reason for making us go to all this trouble to find him.”
Kid rose. “I’m goin’ out there Silky. Now. If it is him, I want to know he’s all right. And why he didn’t send word.” He started to walk away. “Then I’m gonna flatten him.”
The older man scrunched his face up. “Guess I’d best be comin’ along then. Hate to see you murder anyone. Especially Heyes. Without me gettin’ to watch I mean.”
It was nearly dark before they got started. Silky wanted to find a carriage, riding by horse not his first choice. It has taken a while to find there were none available and then to find horses they could use. Kid, a skilled rider was used to rough trails such as the ones they found. Silky was no longer used to riding. He was having trouble keeping up with Kid. He told Kid to go on, that he’d catch up, but Curry wasn’t inclined to leave his friend behind. It proved to be an excruciatingly slow trip.
They heard the church bells chime seven times as they approached the house. They tied the horses to the fence and walked to the door. They heard voices inside. Male and female. Laughing.
Kid knocked. He took a step back, surprised at the person who answered. Quickly removing his hat, he stumbled just a little suddenly unsure. “Ma’am.”
She was older than he somehow expected. Wearing a dark blue dress that contrasted nicely with porcelain skin. Dark hair in a soft bun, and wispy bangs that fell softly on her forehead. Dark eyes studied him curiously. “Can I help you? We don’t often get visitors to the Point.”
“Uh, well ma’am…sorry to disturb you, we’re looking for someone. Heard he might be here.” Kid fidgeted, shifting his hat from hand to hand.
She narrowed her eyes. “And if there was someone here, what business would that be of yours.”
“He’s a friend, ma’am. I’ve been looking for him for a while now. Is he here?” Kid took a tentative step forward.
She closed the door an inch. “I’m having supper now. Why don’t you come back in the morning and perhaps we can talk then.” She backed into the house and started closing the door.
He pushed it back open. “No. I’m sorry ma’am. We’ve come a long way to find our friend and we’re not leavin’ till I see if he’s here.” He stepped into the house.
“Sir, you have no right…” She backed away from him.
Kid looked apologetic, but continued into the house. “I’m sorry.” He repeated as he faced the only other man in the dining room. “Who are you?”
“Well the question, sir, is who are you and by what right do you enter this lady’s house.” Mr. David Chatham drew himself up to his full 5’10” height and looked up at Kid.
Kid looked at Silky.
The man shrugged and cleared his throat. “Ma’am, we’re sorry to have interrupted. Come on, Thaddeus.” Silky pulled Kid out of the house and down the steps towards the horses.
“Silky, it has to be him. The people in town said…I’m gonna go back in there and find out what’s goin’ on.” Kid started back.
“Wait. Kid, now listen to me. If Heyes is in there, maybe he’s got reason for not tellin’ you. You ever thought that maybe he can’t? Maybe that’s the reason he hasn’t contacted you.” The man slowly pulled himself onto the saddle.
Kid swung up. “He’s hurt or they’re holding him somehow. But that’s all the more reason to go back.” He thought for a moment. “Maybe a little later. Do some lookin’ around when they think we’ve gone back to town.”
Silky nodded and turned his horse towards town. “Let’s let them think we’re goin’ back. And see what happens.”
They found a stand of thick trees and once again dismounted. Tying their horses so they could feed on the grass, they crept back towards the house. The only shadowy figures they saw through the curtains were the man and woman. Two hours later, they were both surprised to see the man shake the woman’s hand and leave. They heard him ride by.
“Well now I don’t know what’s goin’ on.” Silky muttered.
“This doesn’t make any sense, Silky. Can you follow him?” Kid whispered.
“And leave you here?” Silky sounded skeptical.
“I’ll be fine. But I want to know where he goes. Anyway, nothin’s gonna happen tonight. I’ll just watch the house. You follow him, then get some sleep. Come back in the morning and we’ll go talk to the woman.” He nudged the man to go and watched as he slowly ride away. “Be careful.” He called out softly.
Kid Curry was many things. A man to sit back and wait for something to happen wasn’t one of them. He didn’t know who was in that house, but he didn’t want his friend to be in danger. He didn’t believe for a second that the man they’d seen in the house was a threat. But it would get Silky away from here and back to the hotel where he could get some rest and be out of danger.
Whatever happened now, Kid would deal with it.
He crept to the house, now darkened, save for the light coming from the small room at the top. Giving silent thanks for a well-oiled door hinge, he opened the front door wide enough to slip in.
He could hear muffled voices from up a narrow staircase. He removed the tanned leather glove he always wore and stuffed it in his pocket, before drawing his gun and slowly taking the steps upward.
The voices got clearer as he approached the top of the stairs. The woman was speaking.
“But John, what if he really is your friend. He had such pain in his eyes when he spoke of his friend. What if he really has been looking for you and…” She stopped.
Kid’s heart froze at the sound of the man’s voice. The voice he’d grown up with. Laughed with. Argued with. Shared things no one else in the living world knew. Heyes’ voice.
“Maybe, Laura. But what if he’s one of the men who were chasing me. The ones who seemed perfectly happy when they thought I had drowned. No, it’s too much of a risk to just trust this man. I should leave. I don’t want whatever’s following me, to hurt you.” His ears caught a minute noise and he motioned her to be silent. He went to the small desk and took out the gun left there for protection. He put a finger to his lips and pointed her away from the door.
Kid’s hand touched the cold metal of the doorknob and he yanked it open.
The woman screamed as he burst into the room.
Kid skidded to a stop, his gun pointed at the gun pointed at him. Held by his only living relative, Hannibal Heyes.
“He…Joshua.” Relief flooded his voice. He holstered his gun and took a step towards Heyes.
“Hold it.” The gun in Heyes’ hand didn’t waver. His eyes were dark and hooded. He knew this man. He felt it. But he didn’t know if he was friend or enemy. “
“Joshua, it’s me. What’s the matter with you? Don’t you know me?” Kid frowned and took another step forward.
“No, he doesn’t.” Laura stepped between them and gently put her hand on Heyes’ arm, lowering it. “He was injured.”
Kid took another step forward. “Injured. Are you all right?” He studied the man in front of him.
Heyes hand lowered. “Do I know you?
Kid looked at Heyes, astonished. “What d’ya mean do you know me. He..Joshua, we’re cousins. Now stop foolin’ around.”
Heyes didn’t move.
Kid looked at him and then at the woman and then back at Heyes. “You really don’t remember anything?”
Heyes closed his eyes and shook his head.
Kid took a deep breath. Well that at least explained why there had been no contact. “He been to a doctor?”
“Of course. There’s nothing that can be done. We were hoping that with rest and as his injuries healed his memory would return. It hasn’t done so yet.” She turned, quickly making a note in her journal. “The Emperor’s Gold. She’s safely through.”
“His real name is Joshua?” She studied the blue eyes carefully.
Kid glanced at Heyes who was watching him curiously and intently. “Uh, yea. Joshua Smith. I’m Thaddeus Jones, ma’am. I’m sorry ‘bout breakin’ in earlier.”
“No need for apology Mr. Jones. I can fully understand your anxiety. Why don’t the two of you go downstairs and talk. I’ll tend the light. The Frisco Queen is due in an hour, then it should be quiet for the rest of the night.” She settled on the chair and started writing in the book.
The two men exchanged looks.
“You comin’?” Kid asked.
Heyes looked at the woman and finally nodded. “Maybe talkin’ will help.”
“Well one thing you never had a problem with…Joshua…was talkin’.” Kid smiled and led the way downstairs.
“There’s coffee if you want it.” The woman called out as the door to the small room closed.
“OK, Heyes, what’s the game.” Kid turned as quickly as they’d reached the bottom of the stairs. “You really don’t remember anything or is there somethin’ else goin’ on?”
The dark eyes looked startled. “Heyes? I thought you said my name was Smith?” His hand rested on the gun, he’d tucked into the waistband of his trousers.
Kid opened his mouth to speak, then stopped. “You really don’t know me?”
“I’ve seen you. I think I know you.” He struggled not knowing exactly what to say.
Kid’s concern was evident in his face and his voice. “I don’t know what to do Heyes. How to help you, I mean. You want me to tell you about yourself?” He scowled at how odd that sounded.
There was a flash of humor in the brown eyes. “What’s my name?”
Kid sank onto the settee. Where does someone begin to tell his closest friend everything they’d shared over a lifetime. He looked up. “Heyes. Hannibal Heyes. You’re my cousin. Why does she call you John?”
“Hannibal Heyes. Hannibal.” His face wrinkled in thought. “It was her husband’s name. Seemed as easy as anything else.” He paused. “Heyes.” There was something comfortable about the word, but he didn’t know it as his name. “And we’re cousins. Do we have other family?”
The words stung Kid and flashes of memory assailed him. “No.” It occurred to him that he would have to tell Heyes what happened so long ago. He’d have to give him back the images that he had always prayed his cousin could forget.
He was once again plagued by the thought that maybe he should have just let well enough alone. Heyes, whatever injury he’s suffered, looked all right now. And he was safe. Did he have the right to destroy that. Just because he missed his cousin. Did he owe it to Heyes to help him get those memories back.
The dark head cocked at the tone in the man’s voice and the pain that flashed through his blue eyes. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what this man could tell him. It was peaceful here. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know everything about a past that had gotten him to this point. “You want some coffee?”
Kid smiled. “Is it yours?”
“What’s wrong with my coffee?”
“Nothin’ if you like mud.”
The sparring felt natural. “I’ll get it.” The sketchy trust Heyes felt grew a bit. “It’s Laura’s.” He returned a moment later with a large pot of coffee which he set on a quilted pad on the coffee table. “All right. Who am I?” He said simply and sat in the rocking chair next to the fire.
Kid took a deep breath, unsure what to say or how much. A man of few words, he usually left the talking to Heyes. But now…. He looked into the curious eyes fixed on him and just started talking.
He talked about Kansas. And Devil’s Hole. And everything that came between. He stopped only to answer questions. The pot was empty when he sat back and waited. He watched the brown eyes cloud over and the now bearded face try to digest what he’d heard. He knew the questions Heyes was asking himself. He knew the doubt that crossed his mind. He didn’t know how hard to push. “Anything sound familiar?”
“Not really. And yes.” He sighed. “I need to think.”
Kid couldn’t disguise his disappointment. He’d hoped, well he hoped a lot of things. He tried to remember that the important thing was that Heyes was alive. “You remember the ship that brought you here? Or this Captain Means fella?”
Heyes shook his head. “All I remember is waking up here. Laura and I figured I’d been on a ship, but I can’t remember it. Means was the man who kidnapped me?”
There didn’t seem to be anything more to say.
Kid hesitantly rose. “Guess I’ll be heading back to the Hotel, then.”
Heyes nodded. For some reason he couldn’t identify, he didn’t want this man to leave, but he didn’t quite know how to ask him to stay.
Curry slowly walked to the door. “You’re all right. Otherwise, I mean. She said you’d been hurt.”
“Yes, I’m fine. She, Laura, has been very kind. I don’t want to see her in danger from my being here. Where are you staying?” He walked Curry out.
Kid suddenly turned around, voice raised in annoyance and worry. “Heyes, I’m not just gonna leave you here. The men who kidnapped you are still out there. Look, I know you’re confused, but you gotta trust me. I may want to flatten you from time to time, but no one else gets to.”
Heyes stopped short and stared at this man. It was surely the face in his dreams. Then he knew. It might have just been the only thing he was sure of. He laughed. He did trust this man. “All right, look, nothing’s going to happen tonight. If Means isn’t in by now, he won’t be in tonight. Go get some sleep. We’ll try to sort this out tomorrow.” He turned away.
Kid stood there, just a bit lost. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow. Glad you’re all right.” He started back down the path to where his horse was.
“Hey…” Heyes called suddenly.
Kid turned back.
“People really call me Hannibal?”
Kid smiled. “Heyes. Just Heyes.”
“Just Heyes.” He nodded. “What do I call you?” He asked hesitantly.
“What? Oh. In public, Thaddeus.”
“How ‘bout not in public?”
A wave of sadness or maybe loss washed over Curry. What if Heyes never remembered him. “Kid.”
“Kid. That’s not your real name though.”
“No, Heyes. It’s not.”
There was silence.
Heyes studied him then turned away.
Kid studied the dirt as he walked away.
“Night Jed.” And the door closed.
Kid stared at the door for a full minute. “Hell and damnation. Why can’t it ever just be easy.” He practically ran to his horse and pushed it to a dangerous gallop till they arrived back at the Hotel.
Kid stomped up the stairs and towards his room when Silky’s door opened.
“Well?” The old man demanded.
Kid hadn’t wanted to talk about it. He didn’t understand what was happening, he hadn’t wanted to leave Heyes out there and he had no idea what to do. But he couldn’t just ignore Silky’s glare. “Well nothing. He’s there and he’s fine. ‘Cept of course he can’t remember a blamed thing. Nothing not me, not him, nothin’. Other than that he’s just fine.” Kid followed the man into his room and angrily flung his hat at the settee.
Silky scratched his head. “Can’t remember anything? Well if that don’t beat all. Somethin’ happen to him to cause that? At least we know why he didn’t try to get word to you. You didn’t bring him back here?”
“I couldn’t exactly drag him back Silky. He’s staying out there tonight and that’s that. Seems safe as anyplace else. I figured earliest Means would be in is tomorrow morning anyway, so he should be all right. He said we’d figure it out. I don’t know what that means.” He sank onto the sofa. “I don’t know what that means, Silky. What if he doesn’t remember me. I mean, we talked for hours. I told him most everything about who he was…is. Nothing. Nothing at all.” Kid got quiet. “Maybe that’s best. He seemed happy out there. And safe. Maybe he could just start over. He wouldn’t have to remember…things. Maybe we just should’a left him alone. He could’a had a life.”
“He’s got a life Kid. And I’ve never heard him complain about it. Not once. Now, let’s try to do what he’s probably doin’. Getting some sleep. He’s right. Come mornin’ we’ll figure this out.” He rose. “Kid, listen, whatever’s happened to Heyes must’a been pretty bad for him to forget his past. Takes a body a while to get over something like that. He’ll come round. Probably just needs to think it through.”
“Thanks Silky. I guess you’re right. It’s just that Heyes gave up a lot to make sure I stayed alive. I just wonder if this is supposed to be his chance to get that life of his own.” Kid retrieved his hat.
“That’s just plain foolishness. Now, I’m goin’ to get some sleep. I got a few things I plan on saying to Hannibal Heyes in the morning. And I want to be clear headed enough to say them.” He walked Kid out.
Kid walked the short distance to his room and for a moment stretched out fully clothed on the bed. He crossed his arms under his head and tried to sort out everything that had happened over the past month. He was tired. And angry. And scared. He didn’t want to find Heyes just to lose him. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Wearily he started undressing. Why didn’t Heyes remember him. Maybe other things could be forgotten. But he didn’t understand how Heyes could have no memory of their lives spent together. He slid under the soft comforters and closed his eyes, his mind full of unanswered questions, concerns and a whole lot of other things he couldn’t even identify. Heyes, you always gotta make it a puzzle.
“Is your friend gone John. No, I suppose I should call you Joshua now.”
He was sitting in the parlor when she’d finally come down. “John’s fine.”
“No. Joshua’s your name. We need to get used to that now. Are you all right?” She sat beside him.
“So, you believe him. That’s he’s my friend.” Heyes finally looked into her eyes.
“Yes. I do. I don’t sense danger from him. And I am a very good judge of character.” She smiled and touched his arm. “You’ll go see him in the morning?”
“Yes. I have to. Laura, I need to tell you some of what he told me.” He looked desperately troubled.
“No, no you don’t, Joshua…”
“I do. It’s not right that you don’t know. Not after what you’ve done for me. Laura, if it’s true, then I’m a wanted man. An outlaw. He said my name is Hannibal Heyes and I rob banks and train. And he’s my partner. There’s $10,000 on my head. There must be more.” He fought to say the words. “It’s wanted dead or alive. I must have killed someone Laura. They don’t issue those for robbery. I’m pretty sure of that. He just didn’t want to tell me.”
Her eyes flashed angrily. “You are not a killer, I know that for certain. I’m sorry Joshua. I confess I listened to the last part of what Mr. Jones was saying. He said you’d done some things that were wrong. But he also said you were trying to change your lives. Not commit any more robberies. And that you’ve done so for almost a year. And that one day you wouldn’t be wanted any more. That tells me I was right about you. Did any of what he told you jar any memories?”
It was his turn to be angry. “Memories? Aren’t you angry or worried? I just told you I’m an outlaw. I’ve spent my life breaking the law. Probably why I was on the ship. Trying to run away. The men chasing me were probably a sheriff’s posse.” He jumped up. “I should leave now. The longer I’m here, the more danger you’re in.”
“Nonsense. You’ve been here all this time and what’s the very worst thing that’s happened. I got a bit more sleep than I expected thanks to your helping with the light.” She teased him gently. “ Oh and someone other than myself enjoyed my blackberry cobbler. Just try to get some rest tonight. Tomorrow you’ll talk further with Mr. Jones. I think he’s a good man to trust. Promise you’ll stay.”
He hugged her. “You’re a remarkable woman Laura Stratton.” He kissed her cheek gently. He released her and walked to the fire. “I know him Laura. From somewhere in here.” He tapped his chest. “Doesn’t make sense does it.”
She joined him, putting her hands out to warm them. “Doesn’t have to Jo..Joshua. I think you must be someone who always follows his mind. You think through problems and find reasonable solutions based on fact.” She took his face in her hands. “Joshua, sometimes you just have to follow your heart. And pray for the best. And that’s what you’ll do tomorrow. Now, I have to go upstairs. I’m still keeper here for a few more days. Will you be all right?”
He turned quickly. “No. Please, I’ll do it Laura I got some thinking to do. Maybe bein’ up there will help me get things clear. Up here.” He tapped his head. “And here too.” He lay his hand over his heart.
“I’ll say a special prayer for you my dear.” She kissed his forehead and left him alone.
He sat in the Pilot House for hours, watching the stars and the moonlight over the sea. It was a still night. He unlatched a window, listening to the sound of the waves. There was nothing to note in the journal. He rubbed his face, up and down. Ran his hands through his hair. What was the truth. What did he know and what did he just want to believe he knew. The more he tried to sort it out, the more complicated it became. Maybe Laura was right. Maybe he should just believe. He wondered if he ever did. Just believe. In anything or anyone.
If all that Thaddeus Jones or Jedediah Curry or Kid or whatever his name was, had told him was the truth, he was horrified that he could have just lost it. If all of that was true. He knew in his heart it was. He knew that the images he’d had rush by in his dreams were pieces of the story that man had told him. They were disconnected and made no sense, but he knew they were all part of the puzzle that lived inside him.
“Cousin. Jed.” He rubbed tired eyes again. The words had no meaning to him.
He felt he was close to remembering. But did he really want to. Maybe that was what was stopping him. He thought that part of him did. The part that ached with a loneliness that he couldn’t understand. Something that reminded him every time he looked in the mirror that something had been stolen from him. A part of him had been taken. And that he had to get that back to ever feel whole again.
The other part…well, if he was truly an outlaw, on the run, why go back to it. That life was hundreds of miles away. He didn’t have to go back to Wyoming. No one could come here looking for him. He knew Jones would keep his secret. Maybe he’d even want to stay. They bouth could stay here, find work, make a new life. He had friends. They’d help him. Or he could go with Laura to Ediz Hook. She needed help. A new life. It was very tempting.
But that face was always there. The ready smile and the clear blue eyes. The face he tried to push away, but couldn’t. Laughing. Encouraging. Challenging him to remember. Begging him to remember.
Heyes opened another window and climbed the ladder to the light. The soot from the burning oil covered the glass again. He placed the heavy glass on the floor, while he trimmed the wicks. He tried not to breath the acrid smoke; happy the breeze seemed to be carrying it out to sea. He finished by carefully cleaning the soot from the glass and replaced it.
He looked out at the sea one more time before latching the windows. He couldn’t run away. Whatever life was his he wanted back. He knew Thaddeus Jones or Kid Curry or whoever he was, was the man to help him do that. He also knew for certain that he wanted to deal with the men who’d stolen it from him.
He looked out. Nearly dawn. The lamps would be extinguished in a few hours as the sun rose. He walked slowly downstairs and lay down on the sofa hoping to find some rest before he faced his past.
With morning came dark clouds and a scattering of rain. The sea churned and frothed white and angrily crashed against the shore. The men who’d lived their life at sea looked each other knowing what that meant. They stood watching her grow darker and angrier and wondered what prize she would claim today.
The China Seas approached Port Townsend on a steady deliberate course. Captain Eamon Means was eager to find the man he’d lost. He needed the money he’d been promised for doing that job. He screamed orders to his second in command as he inched the wheel around. His mood matched that of the sea. No man beat Eamon Means. Not ever. He was going to take pleasure in killing Hannibal Heyes. Slowly. He swore at the sea as she beat and pounded at his ship. He needed to get to port safely today. Today in particular he wouldn’t brook any delay or mishap which prevented him from finding the man who’d escaped him and finishing the job he’d been hired to do. He scanned the horizon and a cruel smile appeared on his face. Not much longer. He’d be arriving early this trip.
Kid Curry woke early, dressed and walked downstairs. The lobby was empty. He opened the door leading to the street and looked out at the increasingly ominous clouds. No one was out yet. The streets quiet. He tugged his hat on more securely and started walking. He was at the docks in less than ten minutes. The men he talked to had no information or more likely, weren’t interested in talking. But there was a schedule posted at the Harbormaster’s Office listing the sailing times. He scanned the long list until he found the one he was looking for. The China Seas was one of Means’ ships and she was due in at 10 that morning. He had at least four hours. Enough time to talk to Heyes. He hoped he could find the right words.
The rain had picked up and by the time he returned to the warmth of the lobby he was wet and cold. He looked around. Heyes wasn’t there and Silky hadn’t yet come down. He hung his jacket on one of the chairs close by the fire and dropped into the other. He could see anyone coming into the hotel. And they could see him. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wasn’t sure whether it was hoping that Heyes would be show up. Or that he wouldn’t.
Hannibal Heyes was also awake early. He washed the sleep from his face as quietly as he could so as not to disturb Laura. But when he returned to the parlor she was waiting for him. He buttoned the heavy woolen pea coat and prepared to leave.
She looked at the gun that he wore.
He caught her glance. “Found it in one of the drawers. Hope Mr. Littlefield won’t mind.”
“It’s been here for some years. One of the men who came here left it.” She hugged him. “I’ll be praying for you Joshua. I know you’ll know the right thing to do.”
“He smiled. “Thank you Laura. For everything.” He saddled the horse that the man at the stable had let him use and rode slowly into town. He wasn’t sure why his words had such finality to them. But he was calm for the first time in days. Whatever waited for him there, he was prepared to face it.
“Breakfast is being served in the dining room sir.” The man behind the front desk watched this Mr. Jones for an hour. Finally he couldn’t take it any more. Aside from the man’s rather large presence in his neat and well ordered lobby, he looked like he was terribly worried about something. “It’s just off the lobby. Whomever you’re waiting for…”
The lines on Kid’s forehead softened. “Thanks. Maybe that’s a good idea.”
“Some good hot coffee and perhaps the day won’t seem so bleak. Just this way.” The man showed Kid to a table and returned to the desk. He’d just started reading yesterday’s paper when his calm lobby was once again disturbed.
Heyes walked into of the Hotel Belmont, shaking the rain off the jacket and hat he wore. “Morning Mr. Perkins.” He looked around the empty lobby not seeing the man he fully expected to see.
“He’s in the dining room.” The clerk pointed to the doors.
“Who?” Heyes turned back at the man’s voice.
“Mr. Jones. That is who you were looking for wasn’t it?”
Heyes frowned at the question. “Yea. Yes, I suppose it was.” Strange, when he entered the hotel and no one had been there, he’d felt…he didn’t know the word. Like something he’d been expecting hadn’t happened. He looked around the dining room and immediately spotted those blue eyes watching him from a corner table.
“Morning.” Heyes sat down and for some reason found himself grinning at the plates laden with eggs, bacon, biscuits, and flapjacks. “Guess you were hungry.”
Kid grinned in return. “A mite. You want some?” He didn’t miss the gun strapped to the other man’s waist.
“Nah. Thanks. I’ll take some coffee though.” He motioned for the girl to bring another cup.
“Morning John. Is there anything else I can get for you Mr. Jones? The girl had the pot of coffee in her hand, but her attention was directed at Kid.
“No thank you Mary, everything was just right.” Kid smiled at the girl.
“Just some coffee Mary, when you have a chance.” Heyes smiled in amusement.
“Oh, of course John. If there’s anything else I can get for you just holler.” She smiled at the two handsome men at the table and finally filled Heyes cup. She hoped they wanted something so she could talk to them some more, but they seemed preoccupied and she finally gave up.
Left alone, there was an awkward moment as Heyes sipped his coffee and Kid finished his breakfast.
“Means’ ship is due in this morning.” Kid finally broke the silence. “Wasn’t sure if you knew.”
Heyes felt his stomach lurch. “No, I didn’t. Why didn’t you tell me last night.”
“Didn’t know till this morning. Anyway, I figured I gave you enough to think on.” Kid pushed his plate away.
Heyes tried to smile. “Yea. You did that. Did a lot of thinking last night.”
“Come to any decisions.” Kid felt his pulse quicken.
“Well, see you two gettin’ reacquainted.” Silky sat down.
“I take it I know you.” Heyes said morosely.
“Yep.” He extended his hand. “Silky O’Sullivan.”
“Any more of my friends stayin’ here?” There was a humorous sarcasm to his voice.
“Not that I’ve seen.” Silky got serious. “Kid told me you don’t remember anything.”
Heyes nodded. “He’s told me some. How do I know you?”
Silky and Kid exchanged glances.
“Never mind. He always eat that much?” Heyes changed the subject. His anger at not knowing for sure who these men were rising. He wanted to trust them. He needed to. And he thought he could. But he wasn’t sure. And it was that uncertainty that was driving him mad.
Kid looked at him, trying to look put upon. Now that sounded like Heyes.
“Him?” Silky studied the empty plates and chuckled. “Why he seems to be off his feed if’n ya ask me.” Silky smiled at the two young men. “Now what have you two got cooked up?”
The two men turned instinctively to each other.
Kid spoke first. “Heyes, with the China Seas coming in this morning and him wanting you that bad, well ya know if I could find you that easily….
Heyes paled. “China Seas.” Something twisted inside him and a tremor ran through his body.
Kid and Silky exchanged concerned glances. “Heyes? That ring a bell? Is that the ship you were on?”
Heyes pulled himself together. “Ship? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t been on any ship.”
Kid frowned, confused. “Heyes, you had to be on a ship. That’s how you got here. Maybe it was this one. Means only has two ships, Heyes maybe if you saw the ship your memory would come back.”
“I said I haven’t been on any ship. Now drop it.” There was a harshness in Heyes voice that he regretted when he saw the reaction it caused in Kid. “Look, I’m sorry. But I don’t remember any ship. Right now I just need to get back to the lighthouse. If Means’ is looking for me he’ll go there. Laura’ll be in danger.” He rose instantly.
Kid held up his hand. “Man I talked to this morning wasn’t sure. But there was a schedule posted. Means’ ship isn’t due in for an another couple of hours. There’s plenty of time for us to get there.” Kid pulled on his jacket.
“Us?” Heyes looked at the two determined faces before him.
“You think you’re gonna do this alone?” Silky scowled at him.
“Look, I’m still not even sure I know you both. Anyway, there’s no sense in you two gettin’ involved. It’s my problem and I’ll take care of it.” He put his hand on the gun strapped to his waist. “I’ll take care of Means.
Kid watched Heyes hand then glared at him. “Ya know Heyes, there for a while I was thinkin’ that there was hope for some improvement in your attitude, not knowin’ who you are I mean. But you’re Heyes all right. Annoyin’ as ever.” He pushed his chair in. “Now are we goin’ or are we just gonna stand around arguin’.”
Heyes crossed his arms in front of him and glared back. “I am not annoying. I am being completely sensible. I….”
“Will you two just stop arguing and get on with it. Now what do you want me to do? Silky looked up at the men.
“I suppose you want to come along too?” Heyes muttered.
“Course I do. Somebody’s got to keep you both out of trouble.” He smiled in a distinctly superior manner.
“We’re gonna look like a parade.” Heyes grumbled as the three left the hotel. But inside he felt like he’d done this before. And it was a comfortable feeling. At least as comfortable as he could be right now.
Heyes turned to Kid, shouting. “You never could read a schedule.” He dismounted and looped the reins around some brush.
“That’s cause they…” Kid blinked. “Heyes did you hear what you just said?” He shouted against the roar of the wind, the shifting of the trees and the crunching of hail as they approached.
They crept along the edge of the forest, skirting the cleared area around the house until the forest thinned and trees ended. The bluff and then the ocean lay in front of them. They had a clear and direct view of the lighthouses back door. A clearing of about 50 feet separated them.
They watched the house carefully. There was no movement behind any of the windows. The man could be anywhere. Then Kid pointed up. A figure walked by the windows in the Pilot House.
“I’m going first.” Heyes silenced the others with a look. “Look, Laura saved my life, it’s because of me that she’s in danger. Anyway, I know the house. I’m going in. If it’s clear, you two follow.”
“Heyes…” Kid grabbed his arm. “Just be careful, all right.”
A grim smile accompanied the nodding head. He turned, but found Kid’s hand still holding him back. He faced the man with an annoyed, questioning glance.
“Almost forgot I had this.” He pulled a well used and cracked at the crown black hat from under his jacket. The rain splashed on the conches. He handed it to Heyes.
Heyes narrowed his eyes studying the hat. He took it slowly and settled it on his head. Something flickered across the dark eyes. “Thanks.” Then he turned, crouched low and ran towards the small back door.
Kid and Silky watched carefully. Kid’s gun was drawn and ready to cover Heyes if anyone appeared at any of the windows.
Heyes ran a straight path to the door, reaching it without problem. He drew his gun and inched the door open and at the last second, burst through.
He ducked in expectation of someone to be waiting for him, whirling from one side of the small kitchen to the other. Empty. Exhaling, he signaled the other men to move. Soon all three were standing in the kitchen. Any noise they’d made had apparently been unheard by the people in the house, covered by the pounding of the rain and the rushing of the wind.
Kid put his finger to his lips. The muffled sound of voices could be heard as could the creaking of the floorboards. It appeared that the only occupants of the house were upstairs.
They made their way carefully through the kitchen to the parlor, guns drawn and ready.
Heyes was frightened. But strangely he knew he was worried about the woman, not himself. He somehow knew he’d been in this type of situation before. And he hadn’t been alone. He and Kid had done this before. The man seemed to know where he’d be and always seemed to be in a position to cover him. And he seemed to do the same as they moved through the house. He recognized an instinctual communication on who would go where, both always making sure the other was covered. Both of them watching out for Silky.
Slowly, taking each step as quietly as they could, they moved towards the staircase that lead to the Pilot House.
“We can’t all go up. My turn, Heyes.” Kid started up.
Heyes drew him back, whispering. “No. Look, I gotta do this. Anyway, you gotta stay alive so you can fill in the blanks about all those banks and trains we robbed. Who know if I’ll ever remember.” He took a step up before the other man could argue. Then another. He was almost to the top when the step creaked loudly under his foot. He swore silently, jumping the final two steps and crashing through the door, ripping it from its hinges.
Kid took two steps at a time to get to the top. He burst through the door and rolled to the side, gun in hand. He looked around to see Heyes in a similar position under the large series of windows that looked out to sea.
Heyes and Curry exchanged glances. They didn’t immediately see anyone else. They both looked around, seeing Silky just at the top of the landing. The old man squinted at them acknowledging his presence. Kid made a slight move with his hand, enough to tell the Silky to hold his ground outside the room.
The two men heard the noise simultaneously from the shadows in the corner of the room. The big man chuckled cruelly as he stepped into the light of the room, dragging the woman along. He twisted her arm behind her as much to enjoy her pain as to emphasize his control.
He glared at Heyes. “So you are alive. We’ll have to take care of that. Not right off mind you. You cost me money. I want to make sure you make that up to me. Drop the guns.” Captain Eamon Means smiled.
The two men exchanged glances. Both had strong opinions of men who mistreated women. Both jaws clenched at the look of pain on Laura’s face.
But what startled Kid was the way Heyes changed when he stopped looking at Laura and looked at the man holding her. He’d seen Heyes scared and he’d seen him really scared. But this, this was something different. He was deathly pale and frozen to the white boards that lined the walls below the window. There was desperation in his eyes, a terror that Kid couldn’t fathom. He’d only seen that look once before. A long time ago in the eyes of his nine-year-old cousin on the day he’d discovered the legacy of Quantrill. His eyes widened in horror. What had this man done to Heyes to cause this.
Heyes couldn’t breath. He was nearly overcome by the need to run from this man. More sensations flooded his brain. Other men, hunger, pain…such pain, too many images to separate and identify. He felt sick and slumped sideways onto the floor, the gun clenched in his hand.
“I said drop the gun. Or the lady here will lose the use of her arm.” Eamon Means stood at least six and a half feet tall and carried at least 250 pounds of well-conditioned muscle. He gave the appearance of someone even bigger. The jagged scar that traced his cheek down past the dirty collar of his shirt gave testimony to his violent nature. He twisted Laura’s arm tighter and she yelped as the pain shot through to her shoulder.
“Ok, don’t hurt her.” Kid shoved his gun towards the man.
“Your friend don’t seem like he understands. Maybe he’s just stupid. Only one way to deal with a stupid man.” Means picked up Kid’s gun and walked over to Heyes. He kicked Heyes hand viciously, hard enough to dislodge the gun from his hand. It slid sideways long the baseboards skidding to a stop three feet beyond where Heyes lay.
The sudden attack and the resulting pain from Means’ action seemed to startle Heyes. He was still pinned against the wall but his eyes studied Means as though he was seeing him for the first time. They darkened and smoldered.
Kid knew that look too. He knew what it meant to men who’d been on the receiving end of it. Usually he intervened. This time he didn’t plan on doing anything to interfere with what Heyes had in mind for Eamon Means.
“Well now. I expect we should get on with this. I could tie you both up and have a bit of fun with the woman, but then I’d have to worry about you breaking free and interrupting us. I want to make sure you enjoy how I’m going to kill you, Hannibal Heyes. So I think what I should do is kill your friend here. Then the lady and I can enjoy ourselves. Then I can take my time killing you. You won’t stop me will you. No, we took care of that on the ship didn’t we.” He showed rotting teeth as he smiled, enjoying his moment. He drew Laura closer to him. “A little older than I like, but she’ll do for now.” He ran a hand along the woman’s waist enjoying her repulsed reaction.
A woman alone, doing the job that Laura Stratton did was always at risk. She’d learned to defend herself when some of the men she’d rescued thought that rescue included receiving her favors. She brought her free hand up and scratched Mean’s face.
He howled in pain.
His distraction was long enough to give Laura a chance to bring her sturdy booted food firmly down on the man’s instep.
He screamed, flinging the woman to the side, hopping on his undamaged other foot.
All hell broke loose.
Kid lunged at Means nailing him against the wall.
Silky raced to the woman and helped her to her feet, half carrying her to the opposite side of the room.
Means was a cruel man who enjoyed inflicting pain on people. He also had at least fifty pounds on Kid. He used that to his advantage, sending Kid to the floor under a barrage of jabs to his mid section.
Kid was giving as good as he got, pounding on Mean’s body. The blows didn’t seem to affect the man. “Heyes!” Kid grunted. “I could use a little help!” He folded double under a sharp blow to the abdomen.
Heyes, at the sight of Kid falling to his knees, finally broke out of the almost hypnotized state he had been in and scrambled to his feet lunging at Means back.
Means tried to shake Heyes off, but couldn’t. In blind rage, he placed his hands around Kid’s throat, squeezing the air off.
Heyes saw Kid’s face redden from lack of air. He pummeled Mean’s face and ears with blows until the big man finally let go of Curry and directed his wrath at Heyes who now had his arms locked around Mean’s own throat.
Kid fell against the window, gasping for breath.
Means screamed profanities as he broke free and shoved Heyes against the window.
Kid jumped up and stood next to Heyes waiting for the next attack.
Means stood in the center of the room for a second watching them. “I’ll have you both dead and gone! No one bests Captain Eamon Means!” Fists waving wildly he rushed forward.
Means’ forward momentum was fortified by rage. He leapt forward reaching towards the two men.
Heyes and Curry dove out of the man’s way, scattering one to one side, and one to the other.
Means tried to stop, but couldn’t. He screamed, shattering two of the glass panes, as he crashed through the window, his hands reaching for anything that might stop his fall to the sea below.
Kid was closer and instinctively reached for him.
Means reached out and caught Kid’s hands. It was enough to stop his fall. But the impetus of Means’ fall and those fifty extra pounds of weight were too much.
Kid his arms pulled straight by Means, was thrown completely off balance. All he got out was HEYES! as he was pulled head first through the window, coming to rest on his stomach on the steeply angled gable of the roof. He felt himself being pulled down.
He struggled to get a hand free so he could stop his slide down, but Means wouldn’t let go.
“You’ll die with me, damn your eyes!” Means shrieked.
Kid flailed wildly, trying to break free. “Heyes!” Kid shouted as he slid another foot down the pitched roof of the house.
Heyes raced to the window and grabbed Kid’s legs, holding on with every ounce of strength he had. Silky and Laura joined him. Heyes reached out the window and grabbed Kid’s belt. “We have you. Hang on. We’ll pull you in.”
The rain pelted them through the open window, and the three in the house struggled to not fall and to hold on to Kid.
Kid slid another foot. This time dragging Heyes further out the window.
“Heyes, let go of me. You can’t hold on!”
“Shut up and stop moving. We’re going to get you in.” Heyes anchored his boots against the wall, giving himself a bit more steady leverage and reached out again. “Laura, you have any rope? If we can tie him to the light, we should be able to use that to bring him in.”
“Yes. I’ll get it.” She slowly let go, letting Silky trade get a better hold.
But the old man didn’t have the strength in his hand and let go of Kid’s leg.
The freed leg swung wildly hitting the window frame, before Silky and Laura got hold of it. “Heyes! If you’re gonna pull me it, will ya just do it!”
Between that sudden unexpected movement and the hail that attacked him, it was too much for Means. He lost his grip on Kid’s hand.
Kid felt the man’s hands slid out of his grasp. “Hold on!” He tried to get a better grip on the man, but he was still sliding himself. There was nothing he could do but watch.
They all heard Means’ screams. “I can’t hang on! You can’t let me die! My curse is on all ye!” The rest of his words were lost as he slid the rest of the way down the high-pitched roof and fell to the rocks below.
They hung there for a second, trying to get their breaths, before they slowly began pulling Kid forward.
Heyes stopped. “Laura, get a blanket.”
She looked at him curiously, then realized what he wanted to do. She rushed to a small chest of drawers and pulled out a heavy blanket.
“Heyes. Any time you want to finish pulling me is would be fine.” Kid tried to sound like he was calm. It wasn’t working. His voice trembled.
“Kid, I’m gonna lower a blanket to you.” Heyes nodded at Laura to start and what he wanted her to do.
She nodded understanding and shook the blanket out, sailing it forward so it covered Kid from waist to over his head.
“Thanks Heyes, but if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather come in out of the rain.” He did catch both ends of the blanket; reasonably sure Heyes had something in mind.
“There’s glass on the window. We’ll cut you to ribbons if we pull you in. Wrap yourself in the blanket as best as you can.” Heyes knocked as much of the glass away as he could and then motioned to Silky and Laura to hold him.
Silky moved to take Kid’s left leg. Laura had his right.
When they had his legs secured, Heyes reached forward and took hold of Kid’s belt with both hands.
“You ready.” Heyes shouted.
“As I’ll ever be. Just do it.” Kid hollered back and closed his eyes.
Heyes nodded and started pulling Kid in.
They moved slowly, afraid they’d slip or lose hold and let go.
Finally his legs were in. They guided his feet to the floor and gently helped him into the room.
Kid glared at his cousin “Well you sure took your time, Heyes.” Kid tossed the blanket aside and sank onto the floor, looking up with grateful eyes. “Thanks, partner.”
There was silence for a moment. Then Kid smiled. Heyes, Laura and Silky all exhaled as one and joined Kid on the floor. For a moment they just sat there, realizing just how close they had come to death and waiting for their hearts to stop pounding.
Finally Laura rose and turned to the window.
The men silently joined her, all looking through the rain to the smooth, unmarred rocks. There was no evidence that anything had happened. The waves that had washed the body of Captain Eamon Means out to sea, continued to crash on the rocks reminding all who watched that she was indeed a harsh mistress.
She said a silent prayer before turning to the men. “The sea has her prize back now.”
Heyes told Kid to go downstairs with Laura. The woman was exhausted. Kid seemed unharmed, until he moved his hand exposing an angry and still bleeding gash on his side where the glass had cut him.
Laura had to pull him out of the room, he kept arguing that he was fine and that the bleeding would stop. He had been soaked through by the freezing rain and was trembling. She scolded him gently that his getting sick wouldn’t help anyone. He finally agreed and went with her.
Heyes and Silky, ignoring their own wet clothing, boarded the window and cleaned up the glass. They were just setting the small desk back on its legs and straightening Laura’s papers and journal when Kid and Laura re-joined them. They were both in dry clothes.
Kid picked up the small chair that normally sat in front of the desk and handed it to Heyes.
“You all right?” Heyes asked as he took set the chair down.
Kid nodded. “You?”
“Fine.” He shivered. “Laura? Silky?”
“No, I’m not fine.” The older man shouted. “Every time I get mixed up with you two something like this happens.”
They all laughed.
Laura wearily walked to the narrow ladder that lead to the light. “I must get the light prepared for tonight. There are still two ships scheduled to arrive and it’s already dark and treacherous out there. If the storm gets worse…well I don’t intend on losing anyone else today.”
Heyes walked to her and put an arm around her shoulders. “It’ll be all right Laura. I’ll tend to the light now. And tomorrow, we’ll see about getting the windows fixed. Right now though, I think you should go downstairs and get some rest. You’ve been through too much. Nothing will happen tonight. We’ll stay and keep watch. ” He caught himself. “I mean, I’ll stay.”
Kid sighed. “Well I’m just too tired and injured to try getting back to town now, so ‘pears that you’re stuck with me too, ma’am.”
They all turned to Silky. “Don’t be expecting a man of my years to go gallivanting around in the middle of a storm. Anyway, this lady’s company has got to be better than the both of yours.”
Heyes found himself relaxing. “Anyone ever tell you, you’re one cantankerous fella.” He grinned at Silky.
“I’ll cantankerous you, you young pup…”
She looked at the three of them, brushing away the tears that overflowed her eyes and traced their way down her cheeks. “Thank you all so much. You’re all so kind. But the light is my responsibility.” There was an awkward silence. “Now if someone wants to see to dinner, I would be most grateful.” She smiled and hugged each man. She cleared her throat. “John…I, I mean Joshua…perhaps you can show Mr. O’Sullivan where Mr. Littlefield’s things are. I’m sure he won’t mind lending some of his clothes to such a brave man.”
“Right at the foot of the stair. And I’ll even make dinner.” Heyes preceded the other two men out.
“Well then I’m not hungry.” Kid grumbled.
“What’s the matter with the way I cook?” Heyes sounded hurt.
“It’s worse than your coffee.” Kid sounded hungry.
“Will the two of you shut up. Man can’t get a moment of peace and quiet with you two around. I’ll cook dinner. And one word about my cooking and you’ll both go hungry.” Silky pushed ahead of them into the bedroom and slammed the door.
The two men once again exchanged glances. But this time they were laughing.
A short time later the two young men stood in the bedroom of the house. Silky had put on dry clothes and was now in the kitchen.
Heyes and Kid had avoided talking up to now, but the silence was becoming louder and louder with every passing minute. Heyes sat on the bed shaking the last traces of water out of his boot.
Kid broke the silence. “Heyes? You remember anything?”
The man stopped pulling on his boot and shook his head.
Kid came and sat beside him on the bed. “What’s it like? I mean…well I guess I don’t know what I mean. I don’t understand how you can just forget everything Heyes. I mean we spent our whole life together. How can that just be gone?” He looked into the dark eyes and suddenly wished he hadn’t asked the question.
Heyes looked at the Kid. He only saw concern etched in his eyes. He stumbled over the answer. “I don’t know. I woke up here.” He frowned desperately. “Do you think it’s something I chose?” Without letting the other man speak, he jammed his foot in the boot and stood up. “Well it’s not. It’s a hole. An emptiness. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do or say or feel. ‘Specially with you. You say you and me are friends. Family. That we’re outlaws. I don’t know any of that. Not for sure. I mean I’ve seen you…” He stopped, scrunching his face at the comment he hadn’t wanted to make. He walked to the window and stared out.
“Seen me? What d’ya mean you’ve seen me? You mean before yesterday?” Kid joined him at the window. “Heyes, talk to me. Don’t go all quiet now.”
“Is that what I do? Go quiet?” He smiled then spoke softly. “I’ve been having dreams. I think I see someone. You. Then I saw you in the mirror.”
“What d’ya mean in the mirror. Never mind. Look, I don’t know what you’re seein’. But I know this is gonna work out. It’s gotta. I mean…don’t give up Heyes. We’ll work this out. We’ve been in a lot of tough situations and you always figure them out.” He put his hand on his cousin’s shoulder.
He didn’t doubt the sincerity in Kid’s words. But it didn’t help. “Yea. But when. The Doc here says there’s no guarantee I’ll ever remember anything. What then? What if I never remember anything.” Heyes turned away.
Kid didn’t know what to say. He shrugged. “I don’t know Heyes. I wish I did. I wish I knew exactly what to do to make this better. I know you’ll remember. And I’ll be here till you do.” He thought and then spoke the hardest words he’d spoken to his cousin in a long time. “That is, if you want me to stay.”
Heyes didn’t speak. He walked to the chest of drawers and picked up the black hat sitting there. “Kinda beat up for a successful outlaw. Were we successful?” He settled it on his head and looked into the mirror. Sighing, he pushed it back.
Kid closed his eyes against the familiar gesture. And against what he thought the man was going to say. “Yea Heyes. We were.”
Heyes tried to smile. “Yea, if you got the time, I’d like you to stay. Laura’s going home in a few days and I promised to help her pack. Maybe by then….” He left the words unspoken.
Kid allowed himself to breath. “Ok, I’ll go get my things.”
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable at the hotel? And what about your…our friend.” It just sort of slipped out. Maybe some of the fear of knowing surfacing in trying to push Kid away.
“Silky will be fine at the hotel. Look Heyes, I’ll go if you want. Your call.” Kid waited a moment, then tried something else. “But it might be better if I was around. To jog your memory.”
Heyes nodded. “All right. If you don’t mind. The house isn’t very big…”
“I can sleep on the floor. Hell we both slept in worse places. Like that time we got trapped in the canyon and you thought we could walk out which would’a worked ‘cept for the bear. Biggest damn bear we’d ever seen. And fast too. Chased us halfway down that canyon. Never climbed a tree that fast in my entire life. Had to stay there the whole night. Thought that bear would never leave. Now that was uncomfortable.” He slapped Heyes on the back. “Don’t worry ‘bout me.” He slipped by him. “I’ll go tell Silky and Miss Laura.”
Heyes frowned at himself. He wasn’t exactly sure, but he thought he had just been conned. “Bear in a canyon.” He snorted in disbelief, but found himself smiling at the way Kid had told the story. He stared at the image in the mirror again. This time the face that beckoned him this time was his own. Calling him to remember.
The next few days brought sun to Port Townsend. Silky happily returned to town and to the comfort of the hotel leaving Heyes and Curry working around the awkwardness that they still felt around each other and that didn’t show any signs of going away.
There had been no real change Heyes. He had fleeting images of things that Kid tried to explain. Sometimes he saw faces of people and places in his dreams. He’d describe them to Kid and Kid would try to figure out who or what he was talking about. Under other circumstances it would have been an interesting game. But the two men were both preoccupied with what was going to happen once Laura’s stay at the lighthouse ended. She’d be going home. Neither man was sure where they would be going.
It wasn’t all bad though. The days spent working around the lighthouse were proving beneficial to both men. No one was chasing them here, the routine of work, regular meals and a good night’s sleep was one they seemed to fall into gratefully. They’d go to town and have dinner with Silky. They found laughter in unexpected places. Heyes beat Kid at poker, but Kid got even by betting he could make five pat hands out of twenty-five cards; Kid joked about now being a good time to flip a coin for something. Heyes laughed, knowing this was some long standing game between them. It drifted across his mind, just escaping from his grasp.
One of the hardest things Kid had to face was seeing the marks on his partner’s back one morning while they were getting dressed. Kid recognized instantly what they were. He felt sick looking at the now fading scars. Then he got mad.
Heyes didn’t remember exactly how he’d gotten them, although he got very pale when he turned to look at them in the mirror.
Kid prayed Heyes might never recover that memory and the pain he knew it would bring. He wondered if the man responsible for them had been Means. He hoped it had been. Because if not, that meant there was someone else out there who might just need to be dealt with.
Heyes veered between frustration and acceptance, optimism and discouragement. There were days when his laughter seemed real and he and Kid sparred like the friends they were. There were days when Heyes lashed out in anger. He was always sorry.
Kid understood his frustration. At least he tried to understand it. But it was getting harder for him to find the words to encourage his friend to keep trying.
The town sent men out to search for the body of Captain Eamon Means. They’d found nothing. His body had not been washed up anywhere they searched. They finally gave up. This time the sea was keeping her prize.
The Sheriff came out and asked Heyes, Kid and Laura questions. He seemed satisfied with their account of what had happened and indicated he was ruling the death as accidental.
The Harbormaster immediately took charge of the China Seas upon learning of Means’ death. He and his assistant boarded her to do the customary inspection. The report of their findings on that ship had shocked and sickened the small seaport town.
No crew could be found. A dozen men had been found chained together in the hold of the ship, freezing with cold, malnourished and suffering from a wide variety of maladies. Their chains were broken and they were helped to the doctor’s office. Various families took them in until they could find transport back to the places they’d been shanghaied from. It took a great deal of convincing to persuade them they were safe enough to speak of what they had endured.
Kid had asked Heyes only once if he wanted to see the ship. To see if he remembered being on it.
Heyes reaction was immediate and vocal. He’d never been on a ship. That one or any other.
Kid didn’t mention ships again.
The night before Laura was to leave, their bookseller friend David Chatham came for dinner. He was a vivid storyteller and found himself answering some innocuous question of Laura’s with a detailed account of the ship and what had been found there. He seemed to forget himself so caught up was he in recounting the condition of the men and the horrors that they’d been put through. They all seemed spellbound by the story. He had just started talking about the bullwhip they’d found. Horrible thing, three separate strips of leather, braided together and formed into a point. He spoke of how the doctor, examining the men found ample evidence that all of them had been beaten with it.
They all looked away, horrified at the tale and then turned to Heyes as they heard him moaning softly.
Heyes was ashen and shaking, the coffee cup rattling on its saucer. “I’m sorry,” was all he could gasp out before rushing from the room.
“I...I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset him.” David Chatham whispered staring after him. “Does he have a connection to someone on that ship? Oh…oh my Lord…he wasn’t on that ship was he?”
Kid barely heard those last words before rushing after his friend, not knowing exactly what to expect when he found him. His brain worked through the implications of what Chatham had said. Heyes had been so emphatic with saying he hadn’t been on a ship. Of course he’d been on the ship. Kid had known that. He just didn’t know how bad it had been. And Heyes just couldn’t or wouldn’t remember what he’d been through. Kid silently cursed himself for not putting it together sooner.
Heyes hadn’t gone far. Just to the edge of the cliff. He’d dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands. He felt like he was being pulled over and he didn’t know if he had the strength to fight back. Worse, he didn’t know if he wanted to.
“Heyes, I’m sorry. It was stupid of me to not figure this out. Let me help you.” Kid knelt beside him, putting a hand on his arm. “How ‘bout we move away from the edge.” He tried to pull the man up, but Heyes shoved his arm away. “Come on Heyes, its not exactly safe here.”
Heyes looked at him some deep terror burning in his eyes. “Does it matter? Does it? I don’t have a past or apparently much future. I have this hole inside me and as hard as I try I can’t find the memories to fill it up.” The desperation so apparent in his voice, it tore at Kid’s heart.
“We’ll figure this out Heyes. Hell, you figured out tougher things than this your whole life. Like keeping us alive, like getting us amnesty. You just gotta give it more time. That’s all. Just give some more time.” He watched his partner digest his words, his face contorted in a struggle. Something had surfaced in Heyes mind. Something so terrible that Heyes even as desperate as he was to remember, didn’t want to let out. As though talking about it would make it somehow more real than it already was.
Heyes shoulders slumped and he closed his eyes, weary of the struggle, he surrendered to the memory. “Time. It heals all wounds. Or so they say. That right Kid. Well some wounds it won’t ever heal.”
“Heyes you were on that ship weren’t you. The China Seas.” The knowleged of what had caused those scars on Heyes’ back was horrifying enough. But with the information Chatham had given him, full realization of exactly what his cousin had to have gone through was settling in Kid’s brain. “I…I didn’t know…Heyes, I’m sorry. Is that what you’re remembering? Heyes? Tell me. What happened on that ship. You gotta talk about it. You can’t let it fester inside you.”
Heyes looked up, weariness etching lines in his face. “You want me to talk about it.” There was a resignation in his voice. “It was hell.”
Kid put a hand on Heyes shoulder.
Heyes flinched as though he’d been hit. He closed eyes. The voice that came out of his mouth was emotionless. Detached. “He’d come to the hold. Where we were kept. It was cold and wet all the time. The rats…” He shuddered and rubbed his forehead. “Someone was beaten every morning. Didn’t have to be a reason. Just something that was. They’d strip the man to the waist and lash him to one of the wooden poles. The man with the whip would practice snapping that thing, until the man would beg for him to not do it. That’s when he’d start. Sometimes Means would do it himself. Sometimes the other man. Sometimes only a few lashes. Sometimes too many. We’d all sit chained too far away to do anything. And we wouldn’t have anyway. If we did anything we’d be lashed to that pole. We’d listen to the man screaming and we did nothing. When it was done, the man would stay there. Tied. Bleeding. Till he died or till the man came and cut him down. Could be quick. Could be he hung there all day. When they died, they got tossed overboard. Like they were nothing.” He paused. His voiced broke when he started again. “Did you know that down there the air is so salty it’s almost the same as if someone poured salt on you. Did you know that Kid?”
Heyes opened his eyes. Tears fell steadily on his cheeks, but he didn’t notice. His eyes were glazed, reliving those days. “We did nothing. Except pray that it would be someone else the man chose in the morning.” He finally blinked and wiped his face with his hands. “What does that make us. What does that make me?”
Kid swallowed hard and followed him, catching him at the back door. “Heyes you couldn’t have done anything. You couldn’t….Heyes…I’m sorry. I’m….”
“Don’t. You can’t know what it was and there’s no way I can tell you. Not really.” He looked back at Kid, a combination or angry and hurt and scared. “Look, I’m sorry. I know you want me to be the man I was. I know you want me to remember. But I don’t. I don’t remember you and I don’t remember anything of what you say we did together. I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know if I even want to try to right now. I’m tired. From a place so deep in side I don’t know if I can ever be not tired again.” He hated that he was hurting this man, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Look, I’m going with Laura tomorrow. It’s better. You go back with Silky. Back to whatever you left behind. It’ll just be better that way.”
Kid took it all. His face tightening more with each word. “I’m not leavin’ Heyes. Not till you’re better. Then if you want to split up, well fine. But for now, I’m not leavin’. You can’t ask me for that.”
Heyes turned, his face a mask of cold rage. His voice deadly quiet when he finally hissed the words. “It’s not up to you. Don’t you get it. I’m not asking you. I’m tellin’ you I’m leavin’ and you’re not comin’ with me. Stay here, go back, go anywhere. I don’t care. Just leave me alone.” He entered the house, slamming the door shut behind him.
Kid stood there shaking in the night. The cold wind seeped through him, but the chill he felt had nothing to do with the weather. Was this really the end. Had this taken the life out of the partnership that began long before they’d lost their families. He’d always figured some day they’d have different lives, families maybe. But he never figured they’d be apart. He couldn’t picture a life without Heyes in it.
He stayed out there for a long time. He thought about just going back to town. He tried to push the hurt away. But it was hard. The words Heyes had thrown at him burned. He reminded himself how badly Heyes had been hurt. Physically and emotionally. And that that was the real reason for the anger. It still hurt. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe it was time for them to find out if they could have a life separate from the other.
He shook himself straight. It was late. It would be morning soon. What would morning bring. He didn’t want to think about it now. He’d stay the night. He couldn’t leave. Not like this. Not in anger. Not until he was sure that was really what Heyes wanted. Or needed. Head down, he walked to the house.
The house was silent. Laura was upstairs tending the light. He saw it go on, casting a ghostly glow to the land and the water below.
He looked around the house not sure what to do. He finally, removed his boots and gunbelt and tiptoed into the parlor. He saw Heyes, curled up in a tight ball on the settee, apparently asleep. He stood there for a while watching his cousin. He wanted to say something. He didn’t know what.
He sank wordlessly onto the soft nest of quilts and covers Laura had arranged for him next to where Heyes slept. The quiet of the room, the crackling of the fire and the wind rustling the trees calmed him some. He could hear Heyes breathing. Maybe it would be all right come morning. Please God. Please let him remember. It was a disquieting sleep that finally found him.
He bolted to a sitting position awakened by a dream he could no longer remember in its entirety. He was alone. That much he remembered. Alone. He turned quickly to the settee. The covers disassembled, Heyes was gone. Damn. He shoved the covers aside and shoved his fee into his boots. Heyes couldn’t have gotten far, it was still early. Damn. He’d wanted to get up before Heyes.
Kid’s heart quickened. Whatever the outcome, he decided he wasn’t going to let Heyes just leave. He had to get his memory to work again. Then if he wanted to split up, well that would just have to be figured out then. But not like this. He pulled himself up, determined to shake some sense into his cousin.
Rubbing his eyes, Kid looked around. He knew Laura was asleep in the small bedroom. He searched the house with his eyes, catching a reflection of movement from the alcove at the front door. He rose slowly and walked towards it. Heyes was staring into the heavy wood framed mirror that hung on one of the walls. Kid steeled himself for the confrontation as the man turned and walked towards him.
“Mornin’.” Heyes was looking at the room as though he’d never seen it before.
“Now look. Whatever happened…I mean all that stuff that you said last night, we’ll work it through, Heyes. Runnin’ off isn’t gonna solve anything. You can’t just walk away. Even if you are scared. I know you Heyes, you have to solve this or you’ll go plum crazy. So don’t even try to tell me that it’s better if I leave, cause I know it’s not.” He ran out of wind as he ran out of word. “You got anything to say?” He glared at his partner.
Heyes looked at him curiously. “Yea. What’re ya so mad about Kid? I’m not scared. Who’s runnin’ away? And what problem am I trying to solve.” He screwed up his face. “And how’d did I get this beard?”
Kid stared at him. “What?”
“How’d I get this beard? And where are we anyway.” He scratched his head.
“Heyes?” Kid cocked his head, not wanting to hope his cousin had somehow returned.
Heyes shook his head in amusement. “Well who’d you expect? Wheat? What’s the matter with you Kid?” Heyes grinned. “You all right? You don’t look all right? You been sleepin’ ok?”
“Heyes!” Kid flung his arms around the other man drawing him close in an emotional bear hug.
Heyes, surprised by his cousin’s action, laughed and pushed him back. “What’s the matter with you? Where are we Kid? I remember the saloon and that poker game, but everything else is sort of hazy.” He looked out the window to the ocean, peaceful, blue and to his mind, not belonging in Wyoming. “That’s a lot of water Kid.”
Kid laughed. “Yea Heyes, it sure is.” Then he laughed some more. “A lot of water.” He stopped laughing and smiled. He rested his hands on his partner’s shoulders. “Welcome home Heyes.”
“Huh? Kid you sure you’re all right? You’re sure not makin’ any sense.” He looked startled as a side door opened and a woman entered the room.
“Good morning Joshua, Thaddeus. Looks to be a glorious day outside. Would you two boys like breakfast? I think it’s a waffle day. With some fresh blackberries, if I can convince someone to help pick them.” Laura hugged Heyes then Kid. She couldn’t help but notice strange reticence on Heyes part and how he pulled back. She looked at Kid. “He’s remembered.”
Kid nodded, a smile on his face that lit the room.
“Oh Joshua, that’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you. I knew you would, I prayed for it every night. For a miracle. I’m so happy I was able to share this with you.” She hugged Heyes again, tears escaping down her cheeks. “It just took time that’s all.” She held his face. “Why you even look different.”
“Ma’am?” Heyes blinked at her oddly.
“Oh…I hadn’t thought…you don’t remember me do you.” She said softly.
“I’m sorry. I don’t exactly…I mean, I do know you, but I don’t know exactly how.” He shrugged.
“You’ve had amnesia Heyes. Laura saved your life and put up with you till now.” Kid couldn’t stop grinning.
“Amnesia.” Heyes frowned. “I don’t remember that.” He caught his words and blushed as the others laughed. “Well I don’t.” He said forcefully. A smile tipped his mouth and he chuckled. “Maybe you two could explain over some breakfast. I’m sure hungry.”
The sat around Laura’s table, talking, laughing. Mostly laughing. It was like the black cloud handing over them had finally passed.
Heyes had so many questions. He looked around in wonder when they told him he was really in Washington Territory.
Kid told him about Butler and what had happened after that poker game. Heyes asked for a lot of details. He wanted to know everything Kid had found out from him. Kid knew exactly what was going on. He tried to brush over it, hoping Heyes could just let it go. But this was definitely Heyes again. Kid wondered how long it would be until Heyes decided just how he wanted to get even.
Laura brought another pot of coffee and filled in details of how she’d found him.
Kid interrupted her. “What she’s not saying is that you nearly drowned, but she saved your life. Brought you back here and made sure you stayed alive.”
Heyes looked at her again. “I remember the water. And the voice of an angel. I guess that must’ve been you.”
She laughed. “That’s the second time you’ve called me that Joshua. Now I really don’t know what to call you. Either of you. Is it Joshua or Hannibal. Thaddeus or Jedediah.”
Heyes nearly dropped the coffee pot.
“It’s a long story Heyes. Laura knows all about us.” Kid helped mop up the spilled coffee.
Heyes frowned. “Long story, huh. One I can’t wait to hear. As for what to call us, well best stay with Joshua and Thaddeus for now Laura. What happened after I got here?”
She took the towel from Kid and finished cleaning the spill. “Well nothing really. You were so badly hurt and weak and of course you were struggling so to remember. Then Thaddeus arrived with Mr. O’Sullivan…”
Heyes eyes widened in surprise. “What? Silky’s here? How the…Kid, how’d you arrange that? Where is he?”
Kid laughed again. “He’s at the Belmont Hotel. In town. Probably wondering what’s goin’ on out here. Didn’t have to do much arranging, Heyes. He wanted to come. Said you owed him a rematch of a poker game.
“Silky…here. If that don’t beat all. How many more of these surprises do I have coming?” He shook his head in astonishment. “Go on Laura.”
She looked at Kid and thought for a moment. “Well there isn’t much more….”
“Well except for me almost fallin’ out the window of the Pilot House and that Means fella doing just that. Not much more a’tall.” Kid sort of grinned.
Heyes jerked his head up. “What? You what? Where was I?”
“Pulling me in. I forgot. Thanks.” He had a thoughtful look on his face. “Not too much more. Well, there’s that $50 I loaned you.” Kid smiled innocently.
“When did you loan me $50…” Heyes caught the twinkle in Kid’s eyes and gave him a dirty look. “Funny Kid, real funny.”
“Joshua. Do you remember anything of your time on the China Seas.” Laura touched his hand.
He shook his head.
“Just as well.” Kid looked at the table.
Heyes looked at Kid curiously. “Did I tell you what happened?”
“You gonna fill me in?”
Kid thought for a while. “No Heyes I don’t reckon I am. One of these days if you really need to know, maybe. But till then, maybe it’s my turn to keep those pictures for you. Just like you did for me once.”
Heyes studied his partner.
Laura watched the two men talk to one another with their eyes. While she was relieved and happy for them both, her heart was sad that this would be their last day here at the lighthouse. She’d miss them. But it was time to go. “Well I have to finish packing. Mr. Littlefield will be here shortly. Time for me to return home.”
The men stood up.
“I’m sorry I don’t remember my time here with you, Laura. Don’t know how I could have forgotten you saving my life. But I put you in danger, and that’s not right. I’m sorry.” Heyes started collecting the dishes. “Did I thank you?”
“Hush now. As frightened as I admit I was when Means broke into the house, as soon as I saw the two of you, I knew it would be all right.” She suddenly looked much younger than her fifty some years. “And it was more excitement than I’ve had in many, many years. Joshua, my dear, you thanked me every day. You gave me something I thought I’d never find. And I’m more grateful to you than I could ever say. It’s truly a miracle that you’re well and strong and that you have yourself back. The rest, well don’t let it trouble you. You and Thaddeus have a full life in front of you. Live in that. Don’t dwell on what’s past.” She patted his arm reassuringly and walked to the bedroom to finish gathering her things.
The two men looked at each other, each thinking the same thing. Don’t dwell on what’s past. She didn’t know the full extent of her words.
“She’s right Heyes. Maybe the rest will come back to you. Like this part did. Maybe it’s best that it don’t.” Kid carried the dishes to the sink and started pumping water.
“Yea, maybe you’re right Kid. But I know one thing I remember.” Heyes scratched his face. “Why I never liked a beard.”
Laura’s things were loaded and the house straightened and ready when David Littlefield arrived. Laura went in with him to go over her journal entries and to bring him up to date on what had happened while he was away.
The two men wandered to the bluff for one last look at the ocean. They hadn’t spent that much time in a place like this. It was a bright, clear day. The water varied from deep blue to a clear green, with gentle foamy tops washing over the rocks.
Heyes ran a hand over the lower half of his face. He’d shaved the beard and the sun’s warmth tickled the pale skin.
“Joshua?” She came up behind him. “Are you all right? My, you do look so much younger without the beard. Thaddeus, it’s beautiful isn’t it.”
“Yes ma’am. It sure it. Can’t get over how much water there is.” He smiled a little boy smile. “Can’t thank you enough ma’am. For everything you did. Whenever you two are ready, we can get started for town.” He left them to say their goodbyes.
He smiled at her. “I don’t know how I’ll ever find a way to repay you for takin’ me in, Laura. For savin’ my life. I know there’s a lot you’re not telling me. I wish I could remember clearly. But I remember your voice and your kindness. I know I would have died if you hadn’t been there. Maybe one of these days I’ll figure out a way to thank you properly.”
She paused. “Joshua, you don’t owe me anything. I have a confession. You remember when I said you gave me something very precious? I want to tell you what that gift was.” She looked out to sea. “It gets lonely sometimes, tending the light. It’s usually just the ocean and me. It was nice having someone to talk to.” Her face softened as she thought back on her own life. “John and I always wanted children. It wasn’t to be. But having you here, even for such a short time…well, it gave me something to hold on to. Something that could have been. No, please, I’m not sad. I’ve been waiting for John to come home now for so many years. Maybe he did. In you. Just a little. And maybe he wanted me to know that I shouldn’t keep looking back either.” She leaned forward and hugged him, kissing his cheek. “Take care of yourself. And maybe from time to time you could let me know how you and Thaddeus are doing.”
“Yes ma’am. I will. I promise. I’ll be along in a minute.” Heyes hugged her back and watched her make her way to where Kid was standing. He watched them laugh at something. Kid helped her into the carriage. Soon she’d be on her way home. As would he and Kid. Back to Wyoming. His face darkened. Yea, back to Wyoming. He had one unfinished problem to deal with.
“You ready?” Kid joined him at the cliff. “Laura’s all ready to go. We can get to town just in time to see Silky off.”
When Heyes faced his partner, those thoughts were hidden. “I can’t believe you convinced Silky O’Sullivan to come with you.” He shook his head.
“Well Silky kept saying you owed him a re-match, Heyes. Didn’t have anything to do with anything else.” He grinned.
“Sure partner. Maybe I’ll just let him have that re-match. Time to go I guess.” There was wistfulness in his voice as the breeze ruffled his dark hair. Then he grinned. “Wonder just how much Silky is prepared to lose.”
“Are you certain, we can’t take you home Laura. I don’t know if it’s safe for you to make the trip alone.” Heyes stepped out of the carriage and joined Kid on the walkway.
“Nonsense, I’m made it dozens of time. It’s a wonderful day and I shall be just fine.” Laura gathered the reins.
“Oh, I’m glad I caught you.” David rushed up, carrying a large carpet bag and a smaller traveling case. “I was…I mean, rather, well what it is was….” He cleared his throat and stood as tall as he could. “Miss Laura, I was hoping that I might accompany you on the trip to Ediz Hook. There are some books that I’ve arranged to purchase and, well, if it wouldn’t be inconvenient…” The shy bookseller turned red and suddenly couldn’t look at the woman.
She didn’t speak for a moment but looked at Heyes.
He nodded imperceptibly.
“Why, I’d be grateful for your company Mr. Chatham.” She slid over on the seat, to make room for them. “Thank you for offering to come with me.”
“Oh, well if you’re sure. That will be just fine. Long trip, nothing like some companionship. I mean, well the trip will go faster if we talk.” He sighed and climbed into the carriage, taking the seat next to the woman. “I’ll be happy to take the reins, Miss Laura, if you would like.”
She turned to the two men and smiled. Then she faced forward and handed him the reins. “That would be just fine Mr…David. Just fine.”
The men were laughing, very pleased with the way things had turned out for the lady who’d helped them. They simultaneously grinned a different smile when they heard a familiar voice behind them.
“’Bout time the two of you showed up.” Silky was his expectedly ornery self when he greeted the two young men. “See you finally shaved that beard off.”
“Well, it’s like this Silky. I figured I rode Kid so hard about that mustache of his, just wasn’t right for me to keep the beard.” He smiled and waited.
“Yea, I never did like…what did you say?” Silky stopped short when what Heyes had said finally sunk in. “Heyes? Is that really you?”
The dark eyes twinkled.
The old man reached out and put his hands on Heyes upper arms. “You got your memory back…that’s…” He caught himself and quickly pulled his hands away, embarrassed at the display of emotion. “And ye just got around to telling me. Just like you two. No respect for a man of my years.” His voice was gruff, but his eyes were suddenly watery. “Must be something in the air.”
Heyes laughed. “Understand I owe you a poker game Silky. Gotta admit I don’t remember that.”
“It’s you all right Heyes. And I don’t got time for no poker game. I’m goin’ home. Now get my cases in that carriage and don’t go dropping them.” Silky took out a handkerchief and wiped his face. “But the next time you’re in San Francisco, well I’ll show you how poker is supposed to be played.
“That’s a deal Silky. That’s definitely a deal.”
It was a short ride to the docks. Heyes grew quieter as they got closer. His eyes were focused on the masts looming tall in the distance.
Kid knew that somewhere inside of Heyes, his experience on the China Seas waited. He fervently hoped that it would stay buried.
Heyes refused to go on board the ship. A little too forcefully. He tried to make light of it, joking about his almost being drowned having put him off the ocean, but the other men knew him too well.
“You two headed back to Wyoming?” Silky paused, the breeze ruffling his white hair. He stood at the end of the plank leading up to the ship. It was as far as Heyes would go.
There was silence.
Kid held his breath, still not sure what Heyes’ answer would be. He seemed changed somehow. Kid figured that wasn’t entirely unexpected after what he’d been through. He hoped that in time…well right now he hoped they’d have the time to work it all out.
“Yep. Got some things to catch up with.” He said seriously, then slapped Kid on the back. “Time to be getting back Kid.”
Silky smiled and nodded. “Well don’t count on me helpin’ you out of whatever trouble you get into. I’m goin’ home. Man my age should be able to spend his golden years resting, not gallivanting around the world fighting.” He walked up the plank and waved at them from the deck.
Heyes backed a bit further away. Kid joined him and they watched the ship sail off until she was just a tiny dot on the horizon.
They took their time walking back to the Belmont Hotel. Silky had paid for the week, and making the excuse of the trouble getting his money back would be, left the room for the two men. It was a crisp day and the walk invigorating. The sun bounced off the Bartlett Building and reflected in the windows of the triangular, red brick Hill building. There was the sound of construction, new buildings were going up all over town. They were greeted by a number of people as they made their way back to the hotel.
The residents of Port Townsend had accepted Miss Laura’s amnesiac friend John without question. They looked at the two men with curiosity now, but no animosity. They seemed friendly and accepting of the men. There were no posses here. No nosy lawmen. The temptation to stay was strong. For both men.
Heyes stopped and pointed to a large mansion on the hill above them. “See that mansion up there Kid? Frank Bartlett and his family live up there. Frank and his brothers bury a jug of the best corn liquor to be had every June. Then they dig it up on New Year’s Eve and finish it off. Or so the story goes. Seems no one’s ever caught them at it. Now why d’ya suppose anyone would do something like that.”
Kid looked at the mansion, then at Heyes. “Well that’s plum crazy. Why do that? I tell you Heyes, some people just don’t make sense.” He started relaxing for the first time in weeks as Heyes looked, sounded and acted more and more like himself. “You sure you want to rush back Heyes? I mean, you been through a lot. You want to rest up here for a while longer?”
“I've been resting Kid. Time to get on home.” He pushed the door of the Belmont open. “Anyway, I got business to take care of in Wyoming.”
Kid knew that voice. “What business?” He watched his partner’s eyes narrow. “Heyes, we don’t even know the fella’s name. Anyway, men like that, you never find them. They’re always hidin’ in the shadows. They always work through other fellas. Like Butler. Heyes, put it out of your mind.”
Kid opened the door of their room
Heyes looked at the spacious, comfortable room and smiled appreciatively. “Silky always did like his comforts.” His voice changed. “He’s out there Kid. How do I know he isn’t plannin’ something just like this again. No, man like that needs to at least be told it’s not right.” He held up his hands. “I know, it’s risky and we don’t need that kind of trouble. But Kid I gotta at least know who it was. And I gotta face him. And tell him I beat him. I feel like everytime I get a piece of me back, I lose another, Kid. Like there are pieces of me out there I’ll never get back. And the man that made that happen…well I want to meet him. He’s got to pay, Kid.”
Kid tossed his jacket and hat on the settee and sat down in one of the large, velvet covered chairs. He watched Heyes stretch out on the bed, folding his arms behind his head. “So how you plannin’ on starting?”
Heyes opened his eyes, looked at his cousin. He smiled slowly. It was nice being himself again even if he was still missing a few pieces. “Could be dangerous Kid. You sure you to come along?”
Kid thought about all the things he could say. Most of them prefaced by what a dang fool his cousin was. “Where do we start?”
“Well, guess we’d best check train schedules back to Wyoming.” Heyes closed his eyes again. Things were normal again. No, they’d never be entirely normal. There was still a hole in him. A hole put there by the man who’d stolen a piece of him. He wouldn’t be whole till he’d found that man. And killed him.
The journey home almost didn’t happen.
Between the Northern Pacific and Union Pacific they could get from Seattle to Cheyenne and finally to Porterville. But to get to Seattle, they had to go by ship.
Kid had checked every possible alternative. There weren’t any. So there they were. At the dock. Waiting.
Heyes paced a safe distance away and watched the ship like it was some evil being waiting for his return.
“Heyes? Captain says if we’re goin’, we need to get on board.” Kid walked over to him.
“Uh huh. You go on. I’ll be right behind you.” Heyes didn’t move.
“Ya know, we don’t have to do this right now. We got time. We can take another ship. Tomorrow. Next day.” In truth Kid would have been happy not going anywhere. He had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that he knew exactly what his partner was going to do when they got home. Heyes had stopped any discussion of it with his customary change of subject. But Kid knew. Kid always knew.
“I said I was comin’ didn’t I. Don’t fuss over me.” Heyes immediately regretted the irritation in his voice. He reached out, finding Kid’s arm. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” His voice softened, to where Kid had to strain to hear the words. “Kid, I don’t know if I can get on that ship.” He smiled, embarrassed with the admission.
Kid thought back on what Heyes had said that night on the bluff. Hell. He understood why Heyes was scared. He didn’t know what to say to make that different. “Heyes, you been through more than most men and you made it. You lived through it. You got nothing to prove now. Staying here or getting on that ship. It’s you makin’ the call. No one else this time. And this time I’ll be with you. If anyone tries anything, I’ll just shoot ‘em.”
Heyes turned sharply at Kid’s words, but Kid had such a comical expression on his face he had to smile. He found himself laughing. “Nice to hear you have a plan, Kid” he joked.
Kid laughed too, but then got serious. Look, Means is dead. No one on that ship is gonna bother us. No one’s gonna do anything to you.” He watched the dark eyes cloud. “Tell you what. Let’s give it another day or so. Get used to the idea. Maybe we can talk it out so it’s easier for you.”
Heyes’ face softened. “Thanks Kid.” He looked at the ship. It’s tall masts and rippling sails were beautiful against the blue sky. “Let’s go. Another day isn’t gonna make any difference. Might just as well get it over with.”
This ship, the Frisco Trader was captained by Patrick Hanrahan, a genial man who greeted each passenger personally. He eyed Heyes cautiously, noting his shaky demeanor. He asked if he’d done much sailing. Heyes paled and tried to laugh it off, saying he preferred the four footed kind of transportation. He walked forward and found a place in the open.
Kid greeted the captain and quietly explained what had happened to his partner at the hands of Eamon Means.
Hanrahan swore under his breath. “Well you tell your friend there’s none of that on my ship. Means was the devil himself, but I hear tell he’s not goin’ ta be causin’ anyone any more pain.”
Kid nodded gratefully and tried to explain that to Heyes.
But Heyes seemed lost in thought. He spent the short time on the ship holding on to the railing with a death grip. He nodded or grunted replies to Kid’s statements, but didn’t really speak. He didn’t move from the spot he’d chosen when they first boarded. When the ship docked, he was the first one off.
That was a week ago. Now they approached Porterville. The last part of their journey.
“Porterville Station!” The elderly man called out as he walked from car to car.
The two men stepped from the train to the wooden platform outside the station house. They looked around, expecting Lom Trevors to be there.
“Maybe he didn’t get the telegram.” Kid said hopefully.
“Yea, maybe. Why don’t you get us checked into the hotel. I’ll go see if he’s in his office.” Heyes started off.
Kid watched him suspiciously. “Heyes…”
“Now don’t start worrying. I’m just goin’ over to see Lom.” Heyes frowned. “Oh all right, we’ll both go see Lom if that’s gonna make you happy.”
“Yep, that’s gonna make me happy Heyes.” Kid smiled genially and started towards the Sheriff’s office.
“You two both know better than to just walk in here. Telegram said ten tonight. Not ten this morning.” Lom Trevors pulled the shade on the window facing the street and bolted the door. “Heyes. Glad to see you’re alive.” Trevors shook their hands.
Heyes smiled. “Yea me too. You got Butler in here Lom?”
Trevors squinted at Heyes then at Kid. “Guess Kid told you what happened.”
“Guess he did. You gonna answer me Lom.” There was no emotion in Heyes voice and his eyes were trained on the cell block door.
“And if I do, you’re gonna do what?” Trevors addressed his question to Heyes, but his eyes were trained on Curry. Something had happened that he didn’t know about.
Heyes smiled, a slow, easy, deadly smile. “Why I just want to talk to him Lom. Seein’ as he took such a personal interest in me, I think it only right that I introduce myself. In person.”
Lom Trevors had known Heyes and Curry for many years. Had outlawed with them. He knew them better than most. He’d helped broker their amnesty deal with the Governor of the Wyoming Territory. More than almost anything, he wanted these two young men to get that deal. He looked at Heyes. There was that look in his eyes. He’d seen that look in Heyes before. And he knew it meant that the need for revenge was driving him now. Nothing else.
“He’s not here Heyes.” The lawman held up his hands at Heyes expression. “After you left, Kid, I brought him here. Didn’t know what else to do with him to tell you both the truth. Seemed to just accept what was happening. Didn’t put up a fight or anything. But of course I couldn’t get him any of that poison he’d been taking. Got pretty bad after a day or so.”
“Lom?” Heyes nudged him to continue, but the lawman hesitated. “You’re not tellin’ me he’s dead.”
“No Heyes, not exactly. Might be better off if he’d made it. He tried to hang himself.” He paused at the shocked expressions on both faces. “I cut him down…but he’d done a lot of damage. He’s over at Doc’s.” Again, Trevors stopped. “Heyes he’s tryin’ to die. Won’t eat…Doc says it’s just a matter of time. And there won’t be a lot of that.”
“He can’t die Lom. Not yet.” Heyes turned and walked out of the office. The force of his steps ricocheted on the wooden floor.
“Heyes…” The lawman started after him.
Kid shook his head and quickly caught up with his partner. “Heyes…will you slow down.” He grabbed his cousin’s arm and stopped him.
Heyes tried to shake free, but Kid’s grip was unyielding.
“You can’t just bust in there and if you did, what’re ya gonna do.” He dropped the arm. “You’re plannin’ on killin’ him aren’t you. That’s crazy. How many times you talked me out of doing that same thing. Heyes you can’t do it. You’re not a cold blooded killer.”
“Kid…” Heyes started to respond angrily. “Kid, he stole my life. It wasn’t an accident. He and the man who hired him did it on purpose.” He spoke quietly now, the rage, smoldering beneath the lack of comprehension as to a man who could do such a thing. “I want it back. I want to know why. And I don’t want you involved. Go back to Lom’s. Please Kid, I gotta do this. And I gotta do it alone.”
Curry hesitated. “Well I gotta do things too. Right now I gotta put off flattening you. But when this is done, well that’s a whole nother story.”
It was Heyes turn to pause. The stiffness in his neck and shoulders relaxed and a small smile played at his mouth. “Kid….”
“Shut up Heyes, ‘fore I change my mind and flatten you now.” Kid took a step. “Well, you comin’ or not.”
“Yea, Kid I’m coming.”
They walked in silence towards the doctor’s office.
“Thanks Kid.” Heyes turned the knob and they entered the waiting room of Doctor Frederick Miller’s office before Curry could respond.
The man was escorting an elderly woman out of one of the examination rooms and seemed startled by the presence of the two men. “Now you just rest up Mrs. Meeks and you’ll be just fine.” He closed the door behind her and addressed the men. “Gentlemen, now what can I do for you?”
“You have another patient back there Doc? A man?” Heyes’ eyes wandered down the short hall to the closed door at the end.
“And if I do?”
“I need to talk to him.” Heyes turned and started down the hall.
The doctor tried to stop him. “Now wait just a minute. I know you’re not family and he’s in no condition to be seeing people.”
Heyes stared at the man. “Don’t get in the way Doc.”
Something in Heyes’ voice made the doctor do exactly that. “What’re you planning on doing, son.”
Heyes didn’t answer. He just looked back down the hall. “I’ll know when I see him.” He turned slowly and made his way to the door.
The doctor started after him.
Kid shook his head.
Heyes opened the door and walked in. It took him a moment to adjust to the dark. He heard moaning and coughing. His eyes slowly focused on the place the sounds emanated from.
Richard Davison Butler lay curled in a ball on a narrow cot. His clothes were in disarray, sweat pouring from his body. Tremors racked the emaciated body.
The smell in the room assailed Heyes and he felt his stomach lurch.
“Is that you Doc? You gotta give me something.” The voice was a cracked whisper, filled with the agony of withdrawal from opium. “The pain….” He gasped and curled tighter as another spasm hit him.
“It’s not the doctor, Butler.” Heyes walked close enough to see the man’s arms tied to the iron bed frame. “But you know who it is don’t you.” Heyes leaned over and pulled the cord that adjusted the shade on the window.
The man turned away from the light, screaming in pain. “No…no, I don’t know you…can you help me…I need something for the pain…the Doc…won’t give me…” The coughing fit prevented him from continuing.
Heyes studied the form on the bed. He’d seen men addicted to laudanum during the war, and those addicted to opium afterward. He’d never seen the aftermath of addition to either. It sickened him. He stared wordlessly at the man.
Butler stopped coughing and wiped his face on the pillow. His eyes slowly cleared and he saw the man standing next to him. Pain gave way to terror.
“You know me don’t you.” Heyes’ voice was barely audible.
Butler heard it. He nodded. “He..Heyes.”
Heyes’ eyes darkened.
“Are you gonna kill me?”
Heyes took a breath. “I thought I might.”
Butler almost looked relieved.
“But I think I won’t. Looks like any payback I could come up with wouldn’t be near as…effective as what you did to yourself.” Heyes drew up a chair. But you have information I want. And you’re going to give it too me. He turned, hand on his gun, as the door opened. He relaxed when he saw it was Kid.
“Just checkin’ Heyes.” Kid stood next to his partner. “He tell you anything?”
“No, but he will. Won’t you Mr. Butler.” He smiled at the man. That particular smile that caused the man to start shaking.
“I can’t…he’s…he’ll kill me…I had to do it….you don’t understand…you can’t ask me to….” The man’s watery eyes darted from one man to the other, seeking some degree of understanding. There was none.
“He will or we will. Looks to me like you killed yourself Butler. You got a chance to make right some of what you did. Might help where you’re goin’.” Kid straddled a chair next to Heyes.
Tears streamed from the man’s eyes as he tried to decide what to do. “Everett. Daniel Everett.”
Heyes rose and kicked the chair away. He drew his gun and pointed it at Butler. “And where does Mr. Daniel Everett live.”
“Cheyenne…you gonna kill me now.” Butler choked out a whisper.
Kid could hear his own breathing as he also rose. “Heyes…he’s nearly dead anyway.”
“So what would it matter Kid. If I just finish it. Eye for an eye, Kid. Remember. He took a part of me, why shouldn’t I just take a part of him. A leg or an arm, maybe. Not enough to kill him, just enough to make sure he knows what it feels like to be missin’ something that’s yours.” Heyes cocked the trigger and pointed it at the man’s leg, holding it close enough so that the man flinched. “Understand if you shoot a man through the knee, most times you have to take the whole leg. That is if rot don’t set in and just slowly chew a man to death.
“Please….” Butler hissed.
“Hear him Kid.” He directed his eyes, now nearly black with rage, at Butler. “I begged too. On the ship, when the whip hit me. When the chains were so tight I couldn’t feel my feet. I begged too. Why should I care about you?”
“Heyes…” Kid put his hand over Heyes’. Heyes’ knuckles were white and Kid could feel the hand shaking. Kid knew Heyes was reliving being on that ship. His eyes glassed over.
Heyes jerked his head towards his partner. “Why. Why Kid? Why shouldn’t he pay. Why shouldn’t he feel some of what I did? Huh, Kid. Some of the pain, some of the…” Heyes choked out the words, eyes closed, his hand now visibly shaking.
“It’s not who you are Heyes. That’s why. It’s not who you are.” Kid gently took the gun from his partner’s hand and uncocked the trigger. He put an arm around Heyes’ shoulder. “Come on, partner. Let’s get outta here.”
Butler’s sobbing could be heard as they left the doctor’s office. It was hard to know if they had done him a favor by sparing his life.
Heyes clutched the wooden beam supporting the roof’s overhang, outside Lom’s office. The street was almost empty. He felt like the world was spinning around him. Images swum by, clear one instant, then blurred into the next. He heard Kid’s voice, but he wasn’t sure if it was real or part of the nightmare.
“Heyes. Heyes, come on partner.” Kid stood next to his partner and tried to talk him out of the place he was lost in. He’d been doing this every time Heyes went inside himself. One moment Heyes seemed fine. Another, he was lost somewhere. He’d get mad. Then he’d be fine again. This was different though. And this time Kid knew what was happening and why. Seeing Butler had freed up all the rest of Heyes memory. All the pictures, all the pain was coming back to him now.
Heyes barely made it out of the doctor’s office and across the street before he blanched, and stumbled, holding onto the wooden pillar as tightly as he’d only just held his gun, eyes forced shut, jaw working, but no words escaping.
Heyes suddenly opened his eyes and stood straight. He spun around, panicked not knowing where he was.
“Easy, partner.” Kid waited till recognition replaced fear. “You’re safe. You’re here in Porterville. All right?”
Heyes nodded. “The ship….”
Kid watched him with worried eyes. “I’m sorry you got those pictures back Heyes. I was sort of hopin’ they’d stay buried.”
“Maybe it’s best they don’t.” He reached around and felt his back. He squeezed his eyes shut again. When he opened them, he looked straight ahead and took a deep breath. A tiny unsure grin creased his face and he nodded. He was shaking. “Is it cold out here Kid?”
Curry thought for a moment. It wasn’t cold. “Yea, sure is. Come on, Lom’ll have some nice hot coffee.” He stepped put an arm around Heyes’ shoulders and guided him into Lom’s office.
“Everything all right?” The lawman noted Heyes pale and shaky demeanor.
“You know a fella named Daniel Everett, Lom.” Heyes gratefully accepted the cup of coffee Kid handed him.
“Everett? Midwest Railroad Everett? Sure, lives in Cheyenne in a big mansion right opposite the Governor. Owns a bank or two and part of the railroad. Talk is he wants to be Governor…oh now hold up. You telling me Everett was behind all this? Why? Why now? You two haven’t robbed a train or a bank in almost a year?” Lom eyed them suspiciously. “Right?”
Kid almost pulled off the look of total innocence. “Lom. Now what kind of thing is that to say.”
Lom growled something under his breath. “Well then, why does Everett want you?”
“Guess I’ll have to ask him that when I get to Cheyenne.” Heyes put the empty cup down.
“That’s funny Heyes. When you get to Cheyenne. You plannin’ on knocking on Everett’s front door and asking him real polite what he’s got against you? My God, that’s exactly what you are plannin’. Why I’ll lock you up right now, before I let that happen.” The lawman had walked over to where Heyes was sitting and now towered over him. “Kid will you tell your thick skulled, fool of a partner how crazy that is.”
“Lom’s got a point Heyes.” Kid nodded his head in agreement.
Heyes turned angrily to Kid.
“See. If you won’t listen to me, listen to Kid.” Lom surprised, but pleased to have Curry on his side of this argument.
“Yep. I gotta agree with Lom, Heyes. Definitely not the front door. Back door could work. Maybe a window.” He grinned.
Heyes smiled in return.
Lom threw up his hands. “You’re both bound and determined to get yourselves thrown in the Wyoming Territorial Prison aren’t you? And I won’t be able to help you if you do. You both know that.” He frowned, seeing no change in their expressions. “Yea, all right. I didn’t think I’d have much luck in changing your mind. You want me to come along?”
Heyes got up, extending his had to Trevors. “Thanks Lom. But you already know the answer to that. It’s gonna be dangerous enough for me. I don’t want either of you involved.”
“What!” Kid exploded. “Heyes so help me…we’re not gonna go through this again. And if you try to get on that train without me…well it won’t work. That’s all. So you might just as well stop talking about it.” Kid’s blue eyes blazed.
Heyes grinned in spite of the concern he was feeling. He didn’t want to make he trip to Cheyenne alone. He didn’t want Kid to be in the danger, but he knew just how much danger would most likely waiting and he didn’t want his cousin’s life or his amnesty jeopardized. But he was relieved. It was always better with Kid watching his back.
“No need to holler, Kid. We’ll send word when we get to Cheyenne, Lom.” Heyes pumped the Sheriff’s hand.
“Train don’t leave till 4. Be careful. Both of you.” Lom walked them out and watched them head down the street. He was glad they were both all right. He was also glad he wasn’t Daniel Everett.
“Where’re ya goin? You heard Lom. Next train for Cheyenne don’t leave for two hours.” Kid veered off from the direct route to the train station.
“Gotta get the tickets.” Heyes tried to veer back, but Kid cut him off.
“Gotta get lunch!” Kid’s face was that of a very determined little boy.
“Good Heyes. Laugh at me. Haven’t eaten all day. But go ahead and laugh. I’m gonna go get somethin’ to eat.” He stormed off in the direction of the Porterville Café.
Heyes watched him go. So much was still fuzzy. One thing wasn’t. He watched Kid’s back disappear inside the Café. Maybe some food would be a good idea.
Kid didn’t look up as Heyes joined him at the back corner table. “I ordered you a steak.”
Heyes chuckled as he sat down.
“What happened out there Heyes?” Kid folded the Porterville Gazette in half and set it on the table. “You remember everything now?”
Heyes’ smile dimmed. “Don’t know Kid. All of a sudden things were rushin’ by. It was me, but I was watchin’ it like it was somebody else.”
“What things Heyes?”
“You and Laura, other faces I’m not sure of. Here. The Hole. The water. Feelin’ like I was gonna drown.” He looked at Kid, paling at the memory.
“And the ship?” Kid didn’t know how exactly what to do. Whether to try and get Heyes to talk about it or now.
Heyes nodded. “Some. I remember the whip. The man’s face when he brought it down.” He looked almost apologetic. “Stings about as bad as those bees that chased us that one summer. Remember, Kid?”
“Yea Heyes. I remember.”
The waitress brought the two plates.
“The marks on your back Heyes…” Kid prodded asked as gently as he could.
Heyes took a deep breath, then nodded. “Means.”
“When does that train leave?” Kid pushed his plate away.
“Thought you were hungry.” Heyes chewed on a forkful of steak.
“Lost my appetite.”
Heyes hesitated. “Just like with the bees. Only time I ever saw you that scared. Darn near ran right past your folks’ farm. Kept looking around at dinner like they was at the door waitin’ for you.” Heyes smiled and pushed the plate back to him. “Eat. Shame to waste a good steak.”
“I wasn’t scared. I was mad.” He cut his steak. “Anyway, if you hadn’t been prodding that hive with a stick to cause everyone knows bees sleep in the afternoon, they wouldn’t have gotten mad.”
Heyes turned wide innocent eyes on his cousin. “Wasn’t my fault if those were afternoon bees.”
Kid looked at his partner. “Afternoon…Heyes, least you could’a done was use that silver tongue to convince those bees we didn’t mean to bother them.”
Heyes looked astonished. “But Kid, where’s the adventure in that?”
“We’ll find him Heyes and make him pay. I promise.”
Heyes sat up at Kid’s words. “I know. Thanks Kid.”
“For finding me. And helping me find myself.”
Kid smiled at the partner he was finally seeing come back. “Yea, well it’d take more time than I feel like spending to get used to a new partner. So don’t go gettin’ any ideas. Nothin’s changed. You’re still annoying as hell.”
“And you’re still stubborn as that mule Kyle brought to the Hole.”
“Are gonna talk or eat. We got a train to catch.”
“Man can do both ya know.”
Kid stopped in mid thought and started laughing. “Nice to have you back Heyes.”
“Nice to be back Kid. Nicer than you’ll ever know.”
The sun was setting as the train pulled into Cheyenne. It hadn’t been hard to learn where Mr. Daniel Everett lived. The two elderly women seated opposite Heyes and Curry were only too excited to talk to the two handsome, young men. The two men listened attentively, nodding and encouraging the two ladies.
By the time the men helped the women off the train and to their carriage, they knew not only Daniel Everett’s address, but the floor plan of his house, the fact that he was not married, that he never went to church and that he spent every Wednesday playing cards at one of those disgusting card rooms, The Cheyenne Club House, but at least it gave his house staff one night away from that terrible man.
“Heyes?” Kid waved to the women as their carriage pulled out.
“Uh huh.” Heyes whistled as they turned and started walking, crossing the tracks and heading up Hill Street to 17th. Heyes stopped as they walked by the Cheyenne Club House, it’s entryway bustling with the carriages picking up and dropping off well-dressed men.
“What day is it?” Kid buttoned his coat, as the evening wind grew cold.
“Wednesday.” He whistled a little louder.
“That’s what I thought.” He picked up the tune as they crossed the road and headed towards the center of Cheyenne.
The good citizens of Cheyenne apparently had better things to do than be outside this particular night. The streets that lead to Everett’s mansion were relatively empty. And the few people hurrying to their destinations weren’t interested in the two men.
Heyes nudged Kid towards a four story stone house. “Looks like no one’s at home.”
Kid scanned the house carefully. “Yep. Looks like the ladies were right.”
Heyes smiled. “Let’s go see what Mr. Daniel Everett keeps in his safe.”
The back door of the mansion didn’t prove difficult for the two men. They climbed through and waited for their eyes to adjust, finding themselves in a very well appointed kitchen.
Kid pointed towards the door and they silently made their way into what appeared to be the dining room. Tiptoeing to another door, they opened it a crack and slipped into the main part of the house.
There was a candle burning on a massive table in the entry way which gave off enough light for the men to see a pair of carved double doors directly opposite from where they stood.
“Let’s try that one.” Heyes whispered.
The doors were locked.
Heyes slid the stiletto knives from his boot and began work on the lock. “I told you I needed these.” Heyes smiled.
“Just open the door.” As annoyed as Kid got with Heyes, he’d be the first to admit relief as having his partner back. And Heyes seemed to be more himself. Curry had seen Heyes’ have bouts of anger, and he was still plagued by nightmares, but he seemed to be getting better. He was entirely focused on finding Daniel Everett. And what he planned to do once that happened. Kid just hoped he could find a way to talk Heyes out of killing him. So he could do it himself.
The door opened without a fight. They slipped in and eased the door shut behind them.
“What’re we looking for.” Kid muttered as he ran into a chair.
“Shhhhh. I don’t know. Papers.” Heyes said firmly. He snapped a match and was rewarded with a flicker of flame, small, but enough to get him to the large mahogany desk. He touched the match to the wick on the crystal oil lamp and slid the glass down. The room was bathed in a soft light.
Kid squinted at him, stifling the urge to tell his partner that he knew Heyes didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. “Papers. All right Heyes. We’ll look for papers. You sure he’s got a safe?”
“Has to. Man like this always has a safe.” He pointed at a large picture in an ornate gold frame hung directly over the large brick fireplace.
Kid rolled his eyes.
Heyes frowned and looked at the picture again. He gently tugged on the picture frame and turned back, victoriously, to Kid as the picture swung outward revealing a large safe. “Gotta have more faith, Kid.”
Kid just gave him a look that clearly described what he was thinking. “Think you can open it. I mean after all this goin’ straight?”
“Kid, I’m hurt that you’d think something like that.” Then he frowned. “Not exactly an easy place to hear the tumblers though.” He stretched up and leaned over the broad mantle, disturbing a china vase that wobbled around threatening to fall.
“Here.” Kid dragged a footstool from in front of a comfortable wing back chair over to the fireplace. “Probably put it there to discourage this kind of thing.”
“Downright inhospitable.” Heyes climbed onto the stool and found he was at the right level to work on the safe. “Check the desk.”
Kid walked back to the desk and shuffled through the papers left there. He didn’t see anything that looked interesting. He looked up. Heyes’ face was pressed against the safe door, his eyes closed. Kid started opening drawers.
Within a few moments Heyes swung the heavy door open. “Hey, Kid.” He whispered.
Kid looked up and smiled.
“Bring the light.” Heyes started feeling around in the safe.
Curry handed the lamp carefully to him.
Heyes held it up to the opening and let out a low whistle. He pulled out a thick stack of thousand dollar bills. “I’d say Mr. Everett is doing well.” He put the money away and took out a large and heavy brown envelope held shut with twine. He handed it to Kid, stepping down from the stool.
“Well, let’s see what Mr. Everett has to hide.” He pulled the twine loose and took a stack of smaller envelopes out. “Bancroft. Eames. Sinclair.” Each envelope had a name on it. He exchanged curious glances with Kid. He opened the envelope labeled Jenkins. “Deed to property.” He rifled through the others, opening them and pulling out similar documents. “All deeds to property.” He looked at Kid. “Looks legal to me. People selling their property to this Double R Land Company.”
“Any idea where the property is?” Kid leaned over to scan the document.
“Well this one is on 18th. Just down from the Cheyenne Club.” He took another one out. “Abney, also on 18th.
“Here’s Bell.” He looked up. “18th.”
“I wonder what else is on 18th. Or what’s gonna be.” Heyes pulled out the one labeled RR. “Hey, this is a deed from the Double R Land Company to Everett.”
“Double R Land Company bought the land so they could sell it to Everett?” Kid frowned.
Heyes pushed his hat back. “Not sell. Give. There’s a big zero where the cost should be. Kid. What if this is some sort of con. If Everett needed that land but didn’t want anyone to know he was buying it.”
“And he set up the Land Company to be the front? Could be. But why?” Kid looked out the window at the sound of horses. “Looks like he’s back.”
“I don’t know Kid. But I’ll bet there’s a real good reason. And I’ll bet Mr. Daniel Everett don’t want that reason coming out. Maybe if we ask real nice, he’ll explain it to us.”
They quickly replaced the documents in their envelopes.
Kid went back to the window, pulled the drapes aside to see what the man was doing. “Coming up the walk, Heyes.”
Heyes returned to the safe with the documents.
Kid turned back just as Heyes swung the safe door closed and replaced the picture, dusting his hands off like he’d handled something dirty.
“Let’s see how Mr. Daniel Everett likes having company.” Heyes pulled two cigars from the humidor on the desk and handed one to Kid.
Kid sat in one of the chairs that ringed the fireplace. He had a clear view of the door and of his partner.
Heyes turned the lamp down so it was just a soft glow. He moved to in front of the desk and leaned back perched on its edge. He listened as the front door opened and as the footsteps grew closer to the double doors.
The doors were pushed open and Daniel Everett strode in. He froze at the sight of the men facing him. “Who…who the hell are you? What are you doing in my house.” He reached for his gun.
“Uh, uh.” Kid’s gun was in his hand and pointed at Everett’s chest. “Now is that any way to treat guests.” He shook his head at the insult and waved his gun in the direction of one of the chairs.
“Have a seat Mr. Everett. Oh and don’t do anything to make my partner angry. His finger tends to shake when he’s angry. Terrible thing. Downright dangerous.” Heyes voice was almost cordial. Except that no one in the room missed the underlying threat in those words.
Everett did as he was told, taking the seat opposite Kid.
Heyes joined them, taking the middle seat, directly opposite the fireplace. “Nice night for a fire don’t you think. Why don’t you get that started, Mr. Everett. I’ll pour us some of that fine brandy you have over there. Then we can talk. Like gentlemen.” His eyes were slits as he got up and moved to a side table that held a variety of filled decanters and glasses.
“You heard the man. Get the fire started. Wouldn’t want your guests to get cold now would you?” Kid nudged him with another slight movement of his gun.
“Whatever you two want, you should know I’m a very important man. If you leave now, I’ll just forget all this.” Everett’s voice shook.
“Very important man. Well that’s good to know. Now, Mr. Very Important Man, I think you should get the fire started. My hands are getting cold. Could have an accident if it doesn’t warm up soon.” Kid had decided he didn’t like Everett before the man had entered the room. Nothing he’d seen so far had changed his opinion.
The man swallowed, but rose and lit the fire, stoking it until the flames surrounded the logs. He turned to Kid.
“Fine. Now go on back and sit down.” Kid smiled genially.
“Is it money you want? I can get it for you. Why I have a…hundred dollars in my desk. Take it and go.” Everett’s voice rose as he grew more afraid. And despite the bravado, Daniel Everett was very much afraid.
“A hundred dollars. Well imagine that.” Kid took the amber filled glass from Heyes. “That’s something isn’t it Joshua.”
Heyes sat down and sipped the brandy. “Sure is Thaddeus. A hundred dollars. Why that was just about how much I’d won in that poker game.” He swirled the liquid around and studied it in the glow from the fireplace. “Sure would be nice to have that back.”
“Think we should take the man up on his offer?” Kid set the glass down and moved the gun a little to the left, so that it pointed directly where Everett’s heart would be.
Heyes picked up his cigar from the ashtray and took a long drag, blowing the smoke out in a series of rings. He smiled. “Think a hundred dollars is enough Thaddeus? I don’t think a hundred dollars is enough.”
“How much. I can get more. Two…three hundred.” Everett’s voice cracked.
Heyes smiled. “Three hundred. Well that’s better. How about five hundred. Or better yet a thousand. Yea, a thousand would be nice.” He stopped smiling. “Or even better, how about we just kill you.”
“Ki…kill me, you can’t, you wouldn’t. Why? I don’t know you. What have I done to you?” Everett was shaking.
“Don’t know us? Why sure you know us Mr. Everett.” Heyes smiled again. “Think real hard. It’ll come to you.” Heyes took another puff on his cigar and glanced at Kid.
“Joshua, he don’t know. Think he knows? Nah, he don’t know. You’re gonna have to tell him. At least give him a hint.” Kid retrieved his own cigar. “Real nice cigar, by the way.”
“Hint? To a man like this. Why man this important knows everyone. He’ll guess. I bet he knows now. He’s just afraid to say it. That it Mr. Everett? You afraid to say who we are?”
The man paled to the color of his white shirt. “No…it can’t …you’re…my God.”
“See Kid. I told you he knew who we were.” Heyes smiled again. A slow smile that had nothing to do with feeling happy.
“Well you’re right Heyes. When you’re right, you’re right.”
“So you see Mr. Everett, we’re not here for the money.” Heyes blew another smoke ring. “Although that would come in handy to take care of the expense of finding you.”
“Anything. Anything you want. Just tell me how much. I’m a very rich man. I’ll get you anything.” Daniel Everett hadn’t spent much of his life being frightened. He was making up for that now.
“Anything huh. Well that might do. Money sure would come in handy.” Heyes paused. “Then again, I’d hate to have you think of us as blackmailers. Maybe it’d be best to just kill you. Kid? What do you think?”
“Well I’d hate to be known as a blackmailer, Heyes.” Kid frowned.
Heyes sighed. “See there Mr. Everett. That kind of thing could downright damage our reputations. So I guess all we can do is kill you.”
“Neither of you are killers. I know about you. You’ve never killed anyone in cold blood.” The last bit of bravado leaked out.
Heyes eyes darkened. “That you know of.”
Everett froze at the deadliness of Heyes voice. He seemed to shrink in the chair. “Please…please tell me what you want. Anything. Just don’t kill me. Please.”
Heyes didn’t move, just watched the man. When he spoke, the voice was soft at first, rising in intensity as he relived what had been done to him. “What I want? I want the time back you stole from me. I want to have that back Mr. Everett. I want that part of my life back that you took. Can you do that Mr. Everett? Can you give that to me? Can you take the pain of those days on that ship back Mr. Everett? The burning sun and the freezing cold. The rotting food and the stench of the hole where they kept us.”
Heyes loomed over the man, his voice growing quieter again, until what came out was a whispery hiss. “Can you do that Mr. Everett? Can you take away the manacles. And the whip. Can you change that Mr. Everett? Can you change this?” He turned and pulled his coat and shirt up, showing scars faded, but still plainly visible criss crossing across his back. “Can you?” Now he shouted. “Can you make this different Mr. Everett. You made a choice and now you have to live with it. Or die with it.” He drew his gun leveling it at a spot between the man’s terrified eyes.
“You can’t kill me. Please.” The man’s eyes filled, then overflowed.
Heyes finger tightened on the trigger. “Why.”
Everett looked confused. “I don’t understand.”
“Why did you do it.”
The man looked lost. “Because I could.” He closed his eyes, waiting to die.
Heyes faltered and he looked like he’s been hit. “What?”
Everett opened his eyes. “It was a bet. The men at the Cheyenne Club – you stole from them, from all of us for years. Then just like magic you wanted to stop. And the Governor, damn fool, said it was all right. We should just forget about everything. And we did for a while. But, it’s close. Your amnesty is close. We couldn’t let that happen. Someone should have killed you before now. But you think you’re so smart. How I hated you, Hannibal Heyes. How we all hated what you turned us into. Fools that couldn’t stop you. And now we’re supposed to congratulate you on changing your life? Welcome you into our homes? No! So we drew for the pleasure of killing you. I won. You took from me. So I took from you. Because I could. That’s all. Because I could.” He sank into the chair.
Heyes didn’t move. He didn’t speak. His jaw clenched and unclenched. “Kid.” He finally got out. He squeezed his eyes shut.
Curry rose and walked to him. “Look at him Heyes. Look at him.”
Heyes forced his eyes open.
The man shrank against those eyes.
“He isn’t worth it Heyes. His hate is gonna kill him. You don’t have to.” Kid touched his partner’s arm.
Heyes jumped at the touch. “I want to Kid.”
There was a helplessness in that voice that cut straight to Kid’s heart. “No, you don’t Heyes.”
“Listen to him, Heyes. You can’t kill me.” Everett had found his voice.
“Shut up, Everett or I just may kill you myself.” Curry’s eyes were icy as he stared the man back into silence. “Heyes, he’s nothing. Nothing. Big house, lots of money, but in here…” He tapped his chest. “…nothing, Heyes.”
Heyes eyes clouded and the crease in his forehead deepened. His finger drew the trigger back.
“Heyes…” Kid said softly.
“Damn you…” he whispered as he turned and uncocked the gun.
Everett choked and put his head in his hands, folding double and drawing his knees to his face. He rocked back and forth.
“Heyes?” Kid turned his attention to his partner.
Heyes turned to face him, the hate draining from his face. “I’m all right Kid. Now.” He was pale and looked like he needed support in remaining on his feet. But the smile that lit his face was real. And somehow at peace with what had happened.
Kid smiled back. “What d’ya think we should do with him.”
Heyes turned back to the man. He was silent for a while. “Leave him.”
Kid nodded. “You ready to go partner?”
“Yea. Nothin’ here left to take care of.” Heyes holstered his gun and slapped Kid on the back. “Let’s get outta here. I don’t like the smell.”
They were almost out of the office when the voice found them. “It’s not over, Heyes.”
Heyes turned slowly. There was no longer hate in his eyes. Just control. This was his game now. And he’d won. First when he hadn’t used that gun. But now, the final victory was about to be his. “Double R Land Company.” He was rewarded by the fresh look of terror that washed over the man’s face. “Now it’s over.”
They walked in silence out of the house into the cold night air and headed back to town. They’d almost reached the train station before Kid spoke.
“Nice bluff Heyes. Sure got to Everett. But what about when he realizes you don’t got anything it back it up with.”
Heyes began whistling something decidedly upbeat and walked ahead.
Kid paused, then broke into a run to catch up with Heyes. “Heyes, you don’t have anything. Right?”
Heyes chuckled. “Well Kid, seems I accidentally forgot to put these back in Mr. Everett’s safe.” He pulled the stack of envelopes out of his pocket. “Don’t know how I could’a forgotten. And now, well I figure we’d only upset Mr. Everett more if we went back to return them. So I guess we just have to figure out someone else to take care of them.”
Kid stared at Heyes, thinking through his words. Then a smile lit his whole face. “Someone like say a lawman.”
Heyes just smiled.
“A lawman who knows Cheyenne well enough to know what might be so important on 18th street.”
Heyes smile grew.
“A lawman who knows Cheyenne and say, has a couple of friends who could use his help in making sure this is really over.”
“Kid, I always told you, stick with me and you’d learn things.” He slapped some bills down on the ticket counter and took the two thin yellow papers.
The people waiting for the 9 PM train to Porterville couldn’t help but join in the whole hearted laughter from the tall, blond man and his dark haired friend.
Laughter that continued long into the journey back to Porterville.
“Heyes.” Kid was comfortably stretched out on one of the bench seats in the last car. It was empty save for the two of them.
“Mmmmm.” Heyes had his eyes closed. From time to time he’s smile with a passing thought.
“After we give the deed to Lom, where’d ya want to go.
Heyes was thoughtful. “Well I don’t know Kid. Been a pretty exciting few months. Maybe something quiet.” He turned to his cousin with a wicked grin. “Maybe a nice long sea voyage.”
Port Townsend was a very active shipping port during the 19th Century. The Port Wilson Light was first lit in 1879. David Littlefield was it’s keeper.
Laura Blach Stratton was keeper of the Ediz Hook Light until 1885.
Hmmmm......well, this is my take on it: As for
Heyes not acknowledging what Kid as gone through, I think poor Heyes
is just trying to get *himself* back. Even up to the end, I get the feeling
that he's still putting the last pieces of himself back in place. At the end when when he answers back, "Double R
Land Company" and says, "now, it's over." After that
is all settled, I think he is finally able to take a breath - free and
clear headed. And I'm also sure that those are issues that they
talked about on that train to Sherry So I'll keep raving about your story. I really thought
it was soooo good. I keep thinking about it, how you captured the
relationship between the boys-- at least, it's true to the way I see
it. I know you wanted feedback. The
only suggestion I have is that there was a conversation I wanted Heyes to
have with Kid-- I don't know where you'd put it, or if you'd agree with
me-- but I think at some point, he'd address the issue of how worried Kid
would have been that Heyes was missing all that time and what Kid went
through thinking Heyes was dead. The focus is so much on Heyes and his
anguish, but I think once he had his memory back, he'd realize what that
was like for Kid and say something about it. Or maybe not-- author's
discretion. But Terri, it was
really, really, really good! Are you going to post it or send it to Cynda
or what? Carla
Hmmmm......well, this is my take on it: As for Heyes not acknowledging what Kid as gone through, I think poor Heyes is just trying to get *himself* back. Even up to the end, I get the feeling that he's still putting the last pieces of himself back in place.
At the end when when he answers back, "Double R
Land Company" and says, "now, it's over." After that
is all settled, I think he is finally able to take a breath - free and
clear headed. And I'm also sure that those are issues that they
talked about on that train to
So I'll keep raving about your story. I really thought it was soooo good. I keep thinking about it, how you captured the relationship between the boys-- at least, it's true to the way I see it. I know you wanted feedback. The only suggestion I have is that there was a conversation I wanted Heyes to have with Kid-- I don't know where you'd put it, or if you'd agree with me-- but I think at some point, he'd address the issue of how worried Kid would have been that Heyes was missing all that time and what Kid went through thinking Heyes was dead. The focus is so much on Heyes and his anguish, but I think once he had his memory back, he'd realize what that was like for Kid and say something about it. Or maybe not-- author's discretion. But Terri, it was really, really, really good! Are you going to post it or send it to Cynda or what?