PAST NOT FORGOTTEN

Sharon Kennison

 

 

                “Tell me a story Daddy.”

          He pulled his gaze away from the fire in the fireplace and looked in the direction of the small voice.  His eyes met another pair, ones that were the color of chocolate, warm and trusting. Her hair was brown and shiny, falling past her shoulders. And the smile on her lips was enough to bring this grown man down to his knees. No matter how many times he looked into the face of an angel, he would never stop being amazed at this little wonder he had helped to create. And now she had her little arms wrapped around his neck and had buried her face in his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her, and bending down kissed the top of her head. His little girl. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of having a family and a home was enough to send this outlaw heading back to Devil’s Hole. But now, there was no way he could ever imagine wanting to be anywhere else but here.

          “Daddy.”

          “Sorry. Let me see. Once upon a time, there was this beautiful princess, living all alone in a little cabin in the meadow. One day there appeared a handsome prince on a stunning, white horse.  The princess fell madly in love with the prince, and they lived happily ever after.”

          “Oh Daddy, you are too funny.”

          He looked back into the eyes of his daughter. “What, don’t you believe me?”

          “Daddy, I know that the princess in your story is Mommy, and you are the Prince.”

          “Well, what is the problem with that?”

          The little girl sat upright in her father’s lap. “You don’t have a white horse.”

          He thought for a few seconds. “You are right….it was a brown horse. White just sounded better.”

          The little girl giggled and shook her head. Actions so much like her father, dimples in her cheeks, a smile which could light up the room.

          “Now it’s time for little girls to be in bed,” came a voice from the kitchen. She walked into the room, drying her hands on a towel. She had been watching the scene, tonight, like she did every night. They would finish supper, and he would sit in the chair in front of the fireplace, staring into the flames. He never said what he saw in them, but he continued to look. She worried sometimes that maybe he was getting a wanderlust to be heading out. He had been on the move for a long time before they came together. She always had a fear that someday he would regret tying himself down to a wife and child. But those fears were usually put to rest when she would watch their daughter climb into his lap, and his arms would close around her to keep her safe. There was no doubting the love she saw in his eyes when he looked at his daughter. They looked so much alike, and acted alike as well. To be so young, she was so smart, they would often have very grown up conversations. Oh she was going to be a handful someday, judging by her father.

          She walked to the chair, and looked down at the face of the only man she had ever loved. She often thought of the circumstances which brought them together several years ago, and everything that had happened to them in the years since. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she spoke to her daughter. “Time for bed.”

          The little girl looked at her father, who nodded in agreement. “Ok.” She climbed from the chair and reached out to take his hand in hers, leading him into her bedroom. After getting dressed, she climbed into bed and waited for him to tuck her in. Just like every other night for as long as she could remember. He folded in the blankets around her little body, and tucked in extra covers at her feet. Smoothing her hair from her face, he reached down and brushed his lips over her cheek in a kiss. “Night angel,” he said, than walked out the door, pulling it almost closed.

          She stood outside the door waiting. She always let him do this at night alone. It just seemed right. Even as a child, he would get up with her in the middle of the night, changing her, holding her, rocking her back to sleep. He had been there when she had taken her first steps, catching her so many times before when she fell. He had taught her to ride as soon as she was able to sit upright on a horse. She loved to go fishing with him, even baiting her own hook. Yes, they were quite the pair. And she loved them both.

          His eyes met hers, pausing long enough to communicate his love to her. Taking her hand, he led her to the spot in front of the fireplace. This was another ritual of theirs, occurring every night. Once Rebecca was tucked into bed, the rest of the evening was for them. Picking up the quilt, he sat down on the floor, pulling her in front of him, wrapping the quilt around them both. Holding her this way, breathing in the scent of her hair, reflecting on the events of the day, well it was his own heaven on earth.

          He gazed back into the flames, and remembered.

 

          After the visit with Lom, Heyes couldn’t wait to get back to Chris. Kid understood this, and together they left Porterville just as quickly as they could. The ride was short, but not short enough for Heyes. The amnesty they had been trying for for so long was now theirs. And now their lives could really begin. Never again to be hunted, never again to have to leave quickly in the middle of the night. A family, a home, a future, all of these could now be his. Could it be this easy? As the wind whipped past his ears, Heyes prayed that she still did want these as well. He knew what he had to do, what he had to say, and hoped he knew the answer, the one he so wanted to hear.

          They arrived at the ranch in the early morning hours, but even this early, there was smoke rising from the chimney. The barn door was open, and they could hear activity from inside. Heyes dismounted and looked up at Kid, a question and an insecure feeling revealed in his eyes.

          “Go on Heyes.”

          Heyes nodded and passed the reins to Kid, who had remained mounted. He knew that Heyes had to do this by himself. He just hoped that he would not have to pick up the pieces. After the last time, he didn’t think his friend would survive another separation, another shattering of dreams. But he would be ready, just in case.

          Heyes walked slowly towards the door, reminding himself to breathe. He could see her inside, forking hay into the stalls, talking to the horses as she was doing this. She reached up and stroked the muzzle of the mare, the one she had been riding on the day that they met. She was so much a part of him, already, that he couldn’t envision a future without her. Well, he couldn’t just stand here forever, so he cleared his throat and waited.

          Chris had heard him come in, but not knowing what he would say, was afraid to acknowledge his presence. He had said he would come by no matter what had happened in Porterville. If the news was not good, she knew he would be leaving again, a thought which made her so very sad. If the news was good, would he want to stay? Or would he realize that he could go anywhere and do anything, and that a country girl in the middle of nowhere was not what he really wanted? She was afraid of the answer. Her heart was pounding, tears close to the surface. She slowly turned around to face the man who had haunted her dreams for so long now. She gazed at his face and took in every feature. The dark brown eyes, so expressive usually, were now shuttered. There was no hint of a smile on his face, a smile which would cause the dimples on his cheeks to open and the room to brighten. His brown hair had gotten long, and now hung to just below his shoulders. His black hat, looking the worse for wear, as well as his jacket were covered in dust, as if he had traveled far and fast. But for what reason?

          “Hi,” she said. She wanted to run to his side, but found her feet were rooted to this spot in the barn.

          “Hi yourself.” He looked into the face of the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Eyes the color of coffee with a hint of cream, unreadable in the early morning hours, long brown hair pulled back at the present time, lips devoid of a smile. A brown jacket to ward off the early morning chill was apparently not enough, as he noticed she was shaking just slightly. Was she cold? Or was she afraid of him? Back in Porterville, he had revealed to her his real identity. It didn’t seem to matter to her at that time. Could that have changed?

          Time passed so slowly, neither having the courage to broach the topic they both knew had to be resolved. A topic both were afraid would end their dreams and hopes.

          Kid had waited, being able to hear the conversation from outside the barn. He knew Heyes well enough to know when he was afraid, and today he was petrified. Apparently Chris was not any more inclined to speak. Kid knew that at this rate, he would be sitting here until sundown, so he dismounted and headed into the barn. Giving people time was one thing, but he was tired and hungry, and at this rate he would get to resolve neither issue. Stepping into the barn, he positioned himself so he could see both Chris and Heyes. The looks in their faces were mirror images, but he knew they weren’t aware of that. Looking back at Heyes, he started to speak, but decided that actions would be more appropriate. Walking up to Heyes, he reached into his jacket pocket, withdrawing the paper that Lom had given them, the one declaring they were free men. Heyes made no attempt to stop him, just watching Kid as he carried the paper to Chris, handing it to her than stepping away to stand by Heyes.

          Chris looked down at the paper, up at Heyes, than back down to the paper. Slowly she opened the folded letter, and the words jumped out at her from the page. Amnesty. Free men. They had gotten it, finally. She looked up at Heyes, a smile starting to form. He remained with no expression on his face. Kid looked from one to the other and shook his head.

          “Heyes, speak.”

          Heyes looked at Kid than back to Chris, who still stood there, holding the letter. Than he said two words. “Marry me.”

          Chris shook her head, looking away, unable to believe what she had just heard. The words she had been waiting to hear from his lips. He had uttered them. She looked back up, ready to give him her answer when she noticed he was no longer standing in the barn. Kid looked at her, than ran from the barn. Chris too ran from the barn to find Heyes.

          Heyes was in the process of mounting his horse when Chris caught up to him.

          “Where are you going?”

          Heyes just shook his head, unable to speak, eyes glistening with unshed tears. She finally understood why he had ran out of the barn

          “Didn’t you mean it?”

          Heyes looked down at Chris, not understanding.

          “Joshua, I have waited so long to hear you say those words to me, I just can’t believe I actually heard them.”

          Heyes continued to look at her, hope starting to return. Kid stood beside his horse, ready to mount if he needed to.

          “Yes.” Chris looked up into the most handsome face she had ever seen, and waited.

          Heyes dismounted and placed a hand on either shoulder, looking her in the eye. “You will marry me?”

          A smile grew until it could get no larger. “Yes, absolutely, forever. I love you.”

          “And I love you.” And Heyes sealed the proposal with a kiss, so softly placed on her willing, upturned lips. Kid, feeling like an intruder, took the horses into the barn and prepared to give them some much needed grain, rubbing, and rest.

          The ceremony was held in the country church a few miles away. Kid was Heyes’ best man, while Susan who was married to her brother Joshua was her maid of honor. Heyes, along with Kid and Joshua worked on getting both ranches in working order, fixing fence, moving stock, preparing stores of grain. When Kid bought the ranch just down the road, all three worked on getting his place in order as well. Time passed and everyone settled into a routine, which suited all. Sunday saw the entire bunch getting together for a day spent relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Baby Jennifer was growing so fast, and was definitely the star of the group. Days saw Heyes and Kid together, doing what ever needed to be done. But in the evening, the rest of the world disappeared and left alone were the two who had waited so long for this future.

          They had decided that it would be easier to be known by their aliases, in case someone hadn’t heard about the amnesty. The local sheriff was informed, but he liked the pair of young men, and had no trouble keeping the secret. Winter turned to spring and with it the rebirth of life. The greatest joy for Heyes was the birth of his daughter. How he wished his parents were still here to see this day. His sadness lasted for only a brief time, as his daughter reached out and grabbed his finger, thoroughly wrapping herself around his heart.

          Life had been good to him and Kid the last few years. No one bothered them; they had adapted to this lifestyle very easily. Kid was engaged to be married, to the mayor’s daughter. Funny, that was the story they had given Joe the bounty hunter so many years ago. Now, it was the truth. Kid, married. Heyes smiled and shook his head. Some things were still hard to believe, that life could be so good.

          She brought his face even with hers. She knew he had been taking a walk through the past again. She knew that someday he would tell her everything about himself. He still didn’t talk much about his family, other than Kid. When he was ready he would. He had remained so very close to Kid, something she knew would happen and approved of. They had only had each other for so long, that one could not expect that to change. He got along very well with her brother, who at first had not liked the idea of his little sister being married to an outlaw. But once he saw them together, he knew that Heyes would rather die than ever hurt his sister. Life was good. She reached up and placed a kiss on his cheek, than turned back around and snuggled in closer to him.

          They had sat that way for a while, when they heard a horse ride into the yard. Footsteps ran to the door and a pounding on the door brought Heyes off the floor, grabbing his gun from its holster. Even though they were now free men, Heyes always kept his gun ready, the holster hanging from the coat rack. Kid too continued to wear his gun, practicing some every day.

          As he reached for the door handle, he heard words from the other side of the door which made his blood run cold.

          “Heyes it me. Lom’s been shot.”

 

          Chris went through the motions of packing some food for them to take. Looking into the other room, she could see Heyes packing his saddlebags with extra supplies, including ammunition. He had previously wrapped extra clothes into his bedroll, taking only what he thought he might need. His rifle had been quickly gathered, checked that it was clean and ready, and placed with the pile of growing gear. She knew that Kid had headed out to the barn to saddle Heyes’ horse and prepare for the night ride into Porterville. Turning back to the table, she finished her task and stood silently. She should tell him, he had the right to know. But looking back at her husband, she knew that if he knew he would stay, and that he had to go. Lom was his friend, he had helped them out more than anyone would ever realize. And Heyes was very loyal to his friends. Which she knew would mean that he would have to go. She decided to keep her secret, until he returned from this mission.

          She stepped to his side and quietly watched him finish his preparations. Looking up, he saw the worry in her face, and was saddened by that look. He reached out and pulled her to him, holding her closely, hoping that all the love he felt for her would flow from him to her, and that it would stay with her for as long as he was gone. How long that would be, he had no clue. But he was already counting the minutes until he would return.

          Kid stepped into the room. “Ya ready to ride?”

          Heyes shook his head. “I have one more thing to do.” And he walked into his daughter’s room, pushing open the door as quietly as he could. He sat down on the bed, brushing her hair out of her face as she slept. “I hate to have to leave you, but there are some things which must be done. Some things which can’t be avoided. You take care of Mommy while I am gone. Remember that I love you always.” And he brushed a soft kiss on the side of her face. She stirred for a moment, but continued to dream of her own prince.

          Heyes returned to the living room, slinging his saddlebags over his left shoulder, tucking his bedroll under his arm, and placing his rifle in his left hand. He glanced at Chris once more, than gathered her to his side in a long, last hug. Brushing a quick kiss on her cheek, he released her and followed Kid outside. After putting his gear onto his horse, he quickly placed a boot into the stirrup and mounted. One last look at Chris, he turned his horse down the road and kicked him into a fast canter. He didn’t look back. Knowing that if he did, he would never be able to leave.

          Chris watched him ride away, and had a feeling that it would be a long time before she would see him again. She turned and walked back into the cabin, slowly closing the door behind her. She leaned against the door and cried.

 

         Heyes and Kid rode hard all night, arriving in Porterville as the sun was breaking over the ridge. They first went to the sheriff’s office, being directed to the doctor’s office down the street. They headed in that direction, their strides long and purposeful. Anyone seeing them knew they were determined, and cut them a wide path. This pair no one wanted to tangle with.

          The doctor opened the door and saw before him two tall, lean cowboys. He started to refuse them entry when Kid pushed the door open and they entered.

          “Here now, what are you doing?”

          Kid looked at the doctor. “Lom? Where is he?”

          “What do you want with him?”

          Heyes stepped forward. “We want to know how he is, than find out who tried to kill him and why. Where is he?’         

          “Just who are you?”

          “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry,” Heyes replied. The look on the doctor’s face was a mixture of relief and fear. He had heard of these two, and while they had a reputation of not killing, looking at their faces right now he found that hard to believe.

          “Kid?” could be heard coming from behind another door. Kid Curry stepped around the doctor and headed towards the voice, with Heyes right behind him. Opening the door, they looked down into the face of their old friend.

          Lom’s face was pale, almost blending into the sheet. He was sweating and his lips were dry. Looking down the sheet, they could see a blood stain over his abdomen and a bandage peeking out above the sheet, covering his chest. This too contained a large bloodstain.

          “How you doing Lom?” Kid asked, easing himself onto the side of the bed. Heyes remained standing behind Kid. They heard the doctor enter the room and seat himself to the right of the bed, where he could watch his patient and still keep an eye on these two cowboys.

          “Not too good Kid. I didn’t see it coming.” Lom had an episode of coughing which lasted for several minutes. Kid eased a glass of water to his lips, but he only took a tiny sip.

          Heyes asked, “What happened?”

          Lom shook his head. “Don’t really know. Was making rounds, same as always. Next think I remember is a burning in my chest and my gut. Heard horses ride out at a fast pace, but didn’t see anyone. Next I remember, being here in this bed.”

          “You have any idea why anyone would want to do this?” asked Kid, glancing at Heyes.

          “You been a lawman for as long as I have, you make enemies. Not to mention all that time before, when I knew you guys.”

          “Lom, what do you want us to do?”

          “I don’t know boys. But thanks for coming.” Lom’s eyes were drifting closed. The doctor stood up, shooing Heyes and Curry from the room. “He needs his rest,” he told them after he had closed the door.

          Heyes looked at the doctor. “How bad is he?”

          “Too early to tell. Took one to the chest, lodged near a rib, had to cut it out. Took one to the belly, went clean through, but no telling how much damage it did while it was in there. He is running a fever, not good. Going to get worse really soon.”

          “He going to make it?” Kid asked the question that had been on both of their minds since they had arrived.

          “No telling. Will have to wait and see. It will be a long road to getting better, if he gets better.”

          Heyes and Curry left the office, and headed down the street, stopping to look in all directions. They returned to the sheriff’s office, and spoke with a deputy, who gave them what information he knew about the shootings. Heyes headed back out the door, and towards the section of town where Lom was gunned down.

          It didn’t take Heyes long to figure out where the men were standing, and how they had gotten out of town so fast. Now to try to figure out who and why. As they stood there, they heard footsteps approaching. Turning, they saw the figure of an older man, with a white beard. He stopped several paces from them.

          “I take it you are Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry?”

          Heyes and Kid looked at each other, than back at the man.

          “Yes. And you are?”

          “Judge Jackson. Lom Trevors told me you might show up here. I have some business with you gentlemen. Could you come to my office now please?” And he headed down the street, not waiting for an answer.

          Kid and Heyes looked at each other, and shrugging their shoulders followed the Judge.

         

          “You want us to do what?” Heyes asked.

          “Track down the men who did this and bring them back to Porterville for trial. Here are you badges and if you will raise your right hands, I will swear you in as deputies of Porterville.”

Kid and Heyes looked at each other and as one raised their hands. Returning their gaze to the Judge, they repeated the oath and were officially sworn in as Deputies of Porterville. Now to move on to the job at hand, finding the persons responsible for shooting their friend Lom.

         

          A week later, they were no closer to finding these persons than when they left Porterville. They had gone to Devil’s Hole, to try to find out any information they could from Wheat and the boys. They found that the reception they got there was a bit stormy.

         

          After having fired the password, they walked their horses into Devil’s Hole. They had not visited this place since obtaining their amnesty. They had seen some of the boys from time to time, but had not spent much time with them. They knew they were not doing as many jobs now, at least not on the big scale as when Kid and Heyes were the leaders. But much time had passed, and they were unsure of the reception they would receive.

          They stopped their horses in front of the main cabin, and waited for the gang members to finish exiting the building. There were a few familiar faces, but most were men they didn’t know, who had not been in the gang years ago. As one, the faces were dark and unfriendly. This might have been a mistake.

          “Heyes!” Turning around, they saw coming towards them Kyle. Kyle had been in the gang since before they started for their amnesty, and had helped them out many times. He wasn’t the smartest person around, but he did remain loyal to Heyes and Kid, even if Wheat didn’t approve.

          Heyes dismounted, walking to great Kyle, shaking hands while Kyle rambled on about how much he missed seeing Heyes and Kid. Kid, on the other hand, remained mounted, keeping a weary eye on the remaining gang members. Guess they should have remembered to remove those badges before entering the Hole.

          Heyes turned towards the building and nodded. “See you have gotten a few new members.”

          “Yeah, was Wheat’s idea. Thought it might help get some more jobs done.”

          Heyes laughed, “But it didn’t help?”

          “Nah. Still can only pull small jobs. Just not the same without you Heyes.”

          “Now, you can try to go straight any time you want to. We will help you.”

          “I know Heyes, just don’t think I could pull it off the way you and the Kid did.”

          Heyes looked around. “Where’s Wheat?”

          “Ah, he went to town. Heard about some big payroll coming in by train next month, wanted to check it out. Be back later tonight. What brings you here?”

          Heyes’ eyes sobered. “Did you hear about Lom?”

          “Yeah, I did Heyes. How is he?”

          Heyes shook his head. “Not good. He almost died Kyle. Now we want to find the men who did it, bring them to justice. Was hoping you and the boys could help.”

          “Not sure what we can do, but ya know we will try.” Kyle started towards the building, but found their way blocked by gang members not willing to allow these strangers entry into their domain.

          Kyle, amazed that anyone didn’t recognize these guests, pulled up short and looked up at the group of men. “Don’t ya know who they are? It’s Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Now move outta the way.”

          As one, the gang members looked at Heyes and Curry, than stepped apart, allowing Kyle and Heyes to enter. Kid slowly dismounted, keeping his gun hand free. When he entered, he walked in backwards and shut the door behind him.

          Turning around, he addressed Kyle. “Where did you find them?”

          “Most of them found us. Didn’t have no place else to go. They help out around here, so Wheat said they could stay. Just not the same without you boys tho.”

          “Well, thanks Kyle. But we like being free.” Kid kept a wary eye on the door and windows, but no one seemed inclined to enter.

          Sitting at the table, Heyes brought up the subject of their visit. “So what can you tell me about Lom being shot?”

          Kyle thought. “Not sure I can tell you much. Heard in town that there was a plan to gun down a sheriff, didn’t say no name, so nev’r figgured it would be Lom.”

          Kid spoke, “Who was planning it, do you know?”

          Kyle rubbed his chin. “Not sure. Was a group of men, never saw them before. Just heard talk that they was gettin         even for him something from earlier. Didn’t make much sense to me at the time. Not sure it makes much sense now.”

          Heyes looked at Kid, than returned his glance to Kyle. “What did they look like?”

          Kyle shook his head. “Aw Heyes, you know I’m not good with faces. They just looked like men, but hard looking ones. Most had mustaches, some small beards. But it was their eyes.” Kyle shook his head.

          “What about their eyes?”

          Kyle looked up to meet Heyes’ look. “They had the look of death in them. Cut right through to the center of ya’. Scared me just lookin’ at them, so I headed out of town as quick as I could.”

          “When was this Kyle?”

          Kyle again rubbed his chin as he was thinking. “A few weeks ago.”

          Heyes looked at Kid and nodded. Turning back towards Kyle, he stood and reached out his hand.

          “Thanks a lot Kyle. You have been a lot of help.” And he stepped away towards the door.

          “Heyes, ya think Lom is gonna be ok?”

          Heyes stopped and slowly turned back towards Kyle. “I don’t know. But if he doesn’t make it, there won’t be a place these animals can go to hide that I won’t find them. No matter how long it will take.”

          Kyle looked into the face of his friend, and the look he saw chilled him to the bone. He had never seen Heyes look so mad before, and hoped he never saw that look again.

 

          Heyes and Kid rode side by side, neither one talking. They had been out searching for the ones responsible for shooting Lom for a month now, but seemed to be no closer than they were when they had started. The air held a definite hint of winter, the time when Heyes had hoped to be preparing for the holidays with his wife and friends. Now, here he was, hundreds of miles from home and those he loved. Whenever they rode into a town with a telegraph, Kid would send a wire to Porterville, to see how Lom was doing. There had been some improvement recently. Lom was no longer running a fever and was in no further danger of dying. But he was having trouble moving his legs. It seemed that the bullet had grazed the spinal cord, causing some damage. How much was a question that only time would tell. For now he was not able to walk, and this was causing frustration on his part. And he was no closer to remembering any details of that night that would be useful. They only hoped that some day soon he would remember something that would lead them to the gang.

          While Kid was wiring Porterville, Heyes would wire home. He missed his wife and daughter, but knew that her brother was helping out around the ranch. He also was keeping things going at Kid’s place. Something for which both men were grateful. Heyes missed the talks he and Chris had at the end of the day.  He missed tucking his little angel into bed at night. But mostly, he missed sitting on his porch and staring up at the stars. He often thought of his life before the war, and how often he and his Pa used to do this exact same thing. They would see who could count the most stars, or talk over the events of the day. Those were times he really missed. He had never realized how much until he had married and had his own family. He wanted to leave lasting memories on his family. Would he be able to do that?

 

 

          Dusk was starting to fall as Heyes and Kid rode towards Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There was a decidedly sharp mix in the air, a hint that winter wasn’t too far behind. The days were much shorter, making the nights even longer. Heyes had hoped to be celebrating Thanksgiving at home, not chasing across the country after outlaws. The past few weeks had seen them chasing shadows, often arriving just after the gang had moved on. Two days ago they had heard the rumors that the gang was planning a bank job in Jackson Hole, which led them to where they were today. Both were tired, cold, and hungry, and ready for a break from sleeping outside.

          They were about a mile from town, collars turned up and hats pulled down low against the winter wind, which had started to blow, when the sound of gunfire erupted from the direction of town. Together they broke their horses into a gallop, covering the last mile very quickly.

          As they entered the town, bedlam was apparent. Two men were propped up against different buildings. Blood staining both of their shirts. A quick glance showed that both were still alive. The smell of gunsmoke drifted across the street to be quickly carried away by the blowing wind. An occasional shot was fired, to be returned from inside the bank. Heyes and Kid jumped down from their horses, grabbing the first person they saw.

          “What’s happening?” Heyes asked of a man in his mid-fifties, apparently a farmer based on his dress, holding a shotgun unsteadily in his hands.

          “They’re trying to rob the bank!”

          “Who is?” Kid asked, glancing in the direction of the bank.

          “Don’t know really.” Shaking his head he continued, “Someone said it was the Kane Gang, but I doubt it.” And without another word, the farmer ran across the street, hiding in the doorway of the mercantile store. Heyes and Kid looked at each other and silently agreed. They parted, each going down the opposite side of the street, both headed towards the bank. Heyes stopped and watched as Kid disappeared around the corner of the bank. No additional shots had been fired for several minutes. Heyes started to walk towards the street when he felt a hand grab onto his shoulder and spin him around. The person hadn’t expected Heyes’ gun to come out as he turned, and was looking straight into a long barrel.

          “Ah, wait just a minute there fella,” the man stammered.

          Heyes glanced down and saw the star on the left side of the man’s shirt, and slowly lowered his gun, returning his look to the sheriff’s face.

          “Where do you think you are going?” the sheriff asked Heyes.

          Heyes held his gaze for a few seconds longer than necessary before  answering, placing his gun back in its holster.

          “I have been chasing that gang for weeks now. They are wanted for the shooting of a sheriff in Porterville. I intend to find them and take them back. You have a problem with that?”

          The sheriff swallowed hard before answering.

          “See here fella, I am the law here.”

          Heyes tipped his hat farther back on his head and placed his hands on his hips.

          “So that means….” Heyes let the question hang in the air. The sheriff, glancing down to the gun hung low on his Heyes’ hip, licked his lips before lifting his eyes to meet the stare of the brown-eyed former outlaw.

          “I…” The rest of the response was halted by a yell from the crowd.

          “There he is. Shoot!”

          Heyes pivoted as he yelled, “NO!” But any further words were drowned out in the sound of gunfire aimed for the bank. Heyes ran down the sidewalk towards the bank, gun in hand.

          Gunfire slowly ceased as Heyes neared the bank. Crouching behind a water trough, Heyes peered over the top, looking for any signs of Kid.

          “Thaddeus!” he yelled. No movement could be seen inside the bank. “Thaddeus!” he repeated. He looked back towards the townsfolk, than carefully stood and walked to the door of the bank.

          His hand reached for the door handle, and slowly turned the knob, pushing it open slowly. At first glance Heyes could not see anyone. Pushing the door open quickly and ducking down, Heyes got a wide look at the room. His eyes spotted a hand unmoving from behind the teller’s window. He stood, and quietly walked towards the hand, not sure of what he would find.

          Heyes was approximately a foot from the hand when he heard a noise and spun to his left, gun pointing in the same direction. His eyes rested on his partner, coming through a doorway which apparently led to the alley. Heyes let out a sigh of relief, glad to see that his friend was not injured. Kid pointed towards the body and reholstered his gun. Heyes knew what that meant.

          Heyes walked around the half-wall and looked down at the man lying on the floor. That he was dead was obvious. He lifted his eyes to meet Kid’s.

          “I really wanted him alive. He is no good to us dead.”

          “No, he isn’t. But at least he won’t hurt anyone else ever again.”

          They squatted down near the body, Kid turning him over onto his back. He searched his pockets but found no means of identifying the body or any hint of their next location. Both men raised up when they heard someone coming through the door. Heyes recognized the sheriff and looked in his direction.

          “Well, your wonderful citizens were successful. He is dead. But dead men don’t talk.”

          “I am sorry about that, but this man was trying to take these peoples life savings. You can’t expect them to stand by and do nothing.”

          Heyes walked directly to the sheriff, stopping just inches from his face.

          “That sheriff is a friend of mine. And I intend to capture each one of them responsible. This was the closest lead we have had. And your townspeople killed him.”

          Kid walked over and reached out his hand, placing it on Heyes’ right shoulder, pulling him slightly back away from the sheriff. The sheriff didn’t miss the motion, and stepped back slightly.

          “I am sorry about your friend. If it is any help, the rest of the members headed south out of town, just minutes before you arrived. Guess they didn’t think this one was worth waiting for.”

          Heyes stopped to digest this information before stepping around the sheriff and out of the bank. Kid followed. Both stopped when they reached their horses.

          “Heyes, it will be dark soon. How about we get something to eat and rest before heading out in the morning?”

          Heyes response was to mount his horse and turn it towards the south. Kid mounted his horse, and pulling his collar up around his neck, followed.

 

          Two weeks later found them riding into the town of Taos, New Mexico. Each attempt to make contact with the gang had ended as before, with them just steps behind. Now they seemed to be headed south, and Heyes and Curry continued to follow them. Telegrams with Lom showed that he was getting better, now about to take some steps. But he was still in pain and not able to ride a horse. And for Lom, that was almost a death sentence.

          Heyes continued to send telegrams to Chris. He had not been lucky enough to receive any from her yet. But he knew that she was doing well, as Lom occasionally mentioned her in his replies. Kid had not heard anything from his fiancée, but he did send her telegrams as well. Heyes knew Kid missed his girl, but it was something they didn’t speak of, it was just too painful.    

          Kid and Heyes surveyed the town. They had never been here before, but had heard of the town before. As they walked their horses down the street, they could hear the peal of church bells. Not having realized it was Sunday, they eased over towards the church and sat atop their horses waiting for the doors of the church to open. They were rewarded as the doors swung open and out stepped their old friend Reverend Spencer. They had met Rev. Spencer in West Bend, Texas while they were doing a job for Big Mac. When they left West Bend together on the stage, Rev. Spencer had told them he was headed back here, but they had not had any word from him since. They were glad to see that he was still here, apparently doing what he said he was going to do.

          They walked their horses towards the church, smiles in place. Rev. Spencer was greeting members of the church as they exited when he glanced in the direction of the horse he could see from the corner of his eye.

          Reverend Spencer could not believe who he was seeing sitting there on horseback. His old friends Smith and Jones. He stepped away from the church and hand outstretched, walked towards the tired cowboys.

        “Gentlemen, it is good to see you.” He shook hands with each of them. “How have you been? Please, dismount, come in.” He stepped back towards the church, turning slightly to see if they were following him.

          Heyes and Curry looked at each other before stepping out of their saddles, tying the horses to the hitching post. They dusted their clothes as best they could with their hands, and followed the Reverend, removing their hats before they entered the church. The exiting church members made a path for the two cowboys, noticing their guns and the stars on their shirts. Reverend Spencer led them into an office to the left, sitting behind a desk and pointing to two chairs. Both boys sat down, grateful to not be in a saddle for even a short amount of time.

          “So, how have you been. What brings you here?” Reverend Spencer looked from first one than the other. He could see how tired they were, how dusty their clothes. But he could also see the pain in each of their eyes. He just didn’t know what had put that look there.

          Heyes was the first to speak. “How have you been? It looks like you have been successful. You look good.”

          Reverend Spencer nodded his head and folded his hands on top of the desk. “Yes, I have been doing very well, thanks to you. When I arrived back here, I spoke to my congregation, telling them what had been happening since I was gone. I asked them for another chance, and they gave me one. I have been here every since. And I owe it all to you.”

          “No Reverend, it was your doing.”

          “Yeah,” Kid said. “We just kinda pushed you in the right direction.”

          “Well, gentlemen, no matter. Without your intervention, there is no telling what would have happened. I shall forever be grateful to you. But what about you? What has been happening to you?”

          Heyes looked down to the hat he held in his hands. Kid glanced at Heyes, than looked back at the Reverend.

          “We are doing well. Right now we are chasing a bunch of men who shot the sheriff in Porterville, Wyoming. We heard they were traveling in this direction. Thought since we were this close, we would come into town to see if you were here.”

          “And I am glad that you did. Please, you must come to dinner. Meet my wife.”

          Kid smiled. “You got married?”

          “Yes, yes. To a very nice young lady here in Taos. We have been together for two years. She is a very good cook, I promise.”

          Heyes looked up, making contact with the Reverend’s eyes. “Thanks, but we need to be heading out. Can’t delay any more.” And he stood, effectively ending any further conversation.

          Kid stood more slowly, looking first at Heyes than at the Reverend.

          Reverend Spencer knew there was a problem, but had no idea how to broach the subject. So he did the only thing he knew to do, he lowered his head and prayed.

          “Our Heavenly Father, please be with these two very fine, young gentlemen. Keep them safe in their endeavors, watching over them constantly. Let your love shine though them and guide them safely back to their homes. Amen.”

          Heyes reached out his hand towards Reverend Spencer. “Thanks Reverend.” And he turned towards the door.

          Kid also shook hands with the Reverend, but didn’t leave, standing where he was.

          “He is very troubled, isn’t he Thaddeus?”

          “Yes he is Reverend. He is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and I don’t know how to help him.”

          “Sometimes, the best way to help is to just be there. As you have always been.”

          Kid nodded, “That goes without saying.” And he turned and walked out the door.

         

          A week later found the pair high in the mountains. Snow swirled around them, and the temperature was dropping quickly. They had been searching for a place to get out of the weather for hours when Kid spotted a cabin in the distance. Reaching out to tap Heyes’ arm, as talking was impossible, he pointed in the direction of the cabin, both of them turning their horses towards it, faces turned down away from the blowing wind. The horses were having some trouble breaking through the crusted snow, as freezing rain had fallen earlier. All in all, it was a miserable day.

          They arrived at the cabin and quickly surveyed the area. The cabin had been abandoned for a while was obvious, but seemed to be intact and therefore some shelter from the storm. A barn nearby was perfect for the tired horses, so they headed in that direction. Pushing the doors open, they could tell that the place was empty, and there were some small holes in the roof, but the majority of the barn was solid and would provide adequate shelter for the horses. They unsaddled and rubbed down the pair of faithful companions, placing them in separate stalls. They were able to find some hay which, when they pulled down into the middle of the bale, contained hay which they were able to feed their mounts. Leaving the pair happily munching, the tired cowboys headed back out into the weather, which had turned to a full blown snowstorm, and towards the cabin. Entry into the cabin was easy, and inspection showed it to be sturdy and without any holes in the roof. There was wood stacked along the fireplace and some old quilts on the beds. While Kid was making a fire, Heyes shook the quilts, returning them to the beds, and looked around the cabin for anything else useful. There were some old canned goods still in the cabinets, and the kitchen was full of pots and pans. It seemed that whoever had left, had done so in a hurry, leaving most of their possessions behind. That was good for the tired pair, as their supplies were dwindling down rapidly.

          Kid had a roaring fire going, without any apparent blockage in the chimney, and they placed their wet clothes in front of it to dry. After melting snow for water, they prepared a meager meal, taking no energy to talk, but consumed the fare in total silence. Each lost in his own thoughts. Afterwards each retreated to a bed, content on making up some of the sleep that they had been losing lately, knowing there was no going back out until the storm broke.

          Several days had passed since they had sought the refuge of the cabin. Hay was lasting to feed the horses, and with being careful there was enough food to sustain them for several more days. Each hoped they could move before then, but with the way things had been going for them lately, it was more likely they would be here for a week.

          Four days after being stranded in the snow-bound cabin, they found themselves sitting around the fireplace. Conversation had been very seldom until this point in time. Now, as they were looking at it being Christmas Eve, each found a reason to miss what they used to have.

          “Heyes?”

          Heyes looked up to meet Kid’s eyes. “Yeah.”

          “Is there anything that I can do?”

          Heyes frowned, “About what?”

          “To help me find my old friend.”

          Heyes looked at Kid with blank eyes until what he had said finally settled on him. “I am right here.”

          Kid shook his head. “No, his body is right here, but he has been gone a long time now. And I want to know what to do to get him back.”

          Heyes stood up and paced away from the fireplace. “You’re talkin’ crazy Kid.”

          “No I’m not Heyes. Every since we left Porterville I have seen you slip further and further away. And I don’t know what to do to get you back. I don’t know what to do to get back my best friend. And it scares me.”

          Heyes turned around to meet the look in the eyes of his friend. And he slowly walked back towards the couch, sitting back down. He hung his head, not knowing what to say.

          “Heyes, I know you are hurting. But don’t shut me out in the process. I might not be able to do anything to correct the problem, but I want you to know that I am here.”

          “I know that Kid.” Heyes lifted his head. “But sometimes it seems like we will be out here forever, and here is not where I want to be.”

          “I know. And if you would say the word, we would head back home right now. Is that what you want to do?”

          “Of course it is. But you know we can’t. We have to do this for Lom. Even if it means we never get home.”

          Kid thought for a while. “Is that what scares you? Not getting home?”

          Heyes shook his head. “No, it is what might not be there when we get back.”

          Both thought for a while, listening to the sound of the wind.

          “Heyes, do you remember that last Christmas, before we lost our parents?”

          Heyes nodded his head.

          “You remember how your mother wanted it to snow just a little bit, but the weather had been so warm that year? All week she kept saying it was going to snow. And do you remember what happened that morning when we woke up?”

          Heyes smiled, the first smile Kid had seen for a long time. “I remember waking up early that morning, and looking out the window. There was snow all over the place. Just like what my Mom wanted. She was so happy. She sang for a week. She really had a great time that year.”

          “Heyes, what do you miss most about home?”

          Heyes closed his eyes tightly against the sheen of unshed tears forming there.

          “I was making a cradle for Rebecca’s doll. She had eyed one in the store all year. It was finished, just needed to have a big bow put on it. I was looking forward to the look on her face tomorrow morning when she woke to see that cradle under the tree.”

          “See.”

          Heyes opened his eyes. “See what?”

          Kid smiled. “Home. Used to be home was in Kansas. Now home is where Chris and Rebecca  are.”

          “So?”

          “So, Heyes you have become a family man. The thing we  never thought would happen for either of us.”

          Heyes laughed and nodded. “You are right Kid. Remember when we used to talk about riding around the country forever, never settling down, never having a family to care for, or about? Remember when the most important thing to either of us was the next train or bank job we would pull? A lot has changed. We have changed.”

          “Yeah, we have. And you know what?”

          “What?”

          “I like us better now.”

          Heyes laughed. “So do I, Kid, so do I.”

          “Heyes, don’t worry. You will be able to give that cradle to Rebecca soon. And she is going to love it, because it is from you.”

          Heyes was quiet for a long time.

          “I miss them so much Kid, I never believed it was possible.”

          “I know you do. But I bet they understand.”

          “Well, I wish you would explain it to me, cause I don’t understand.”

          “Yes you do.”

          Heyes nodded his head. “I know. But that doesn’t make it any easier.”

          “I know Heyes.”

          Each was silent. Lost in thought of where they really wanted to be tonight.

          Heyes stood and walked to the window, looking out. He was panning along the tree line when a motion caught his attention. Looking more closely, he noticed a yellow horse standing there. I looked like...but that was impossible. It couldn’t be, not here, not now. But the more he looked, the more it looked like him. The horse wasn’t moving, just standing there, mane whipping in the wind, looking right towards the window where Heyes was standing. Than with a toss of his head, he turned and galloped away. Minutes later Heyes turned from the window, not knowing if what he saw was really there or not. But the feeling of calm which he had now was amazing. He returned to the couch and sat down.

          Kid had watched Heyes walk to the window, not knowing what had drawn his attention or why he had stood there for so long. Now, upon his return, he looked at the face of his oldest friend, and noticed that he looked less tired. He wasn’t sure why, but for some reason Heyes seemed younger now.

          “Kid, I am sorry about the way I have been lately.”

          “That’s ok.”

          “No, its not. I don’t know what I would have done without you all these years. And I hope to never have to find out.”

          “Same here.”

         They talked long into the night. They talked about things which previously had been forbidden. They talked about growing up, and the wonderful times they had back then. They talked about the sad times since they lost their parents. They talked about dreams which had been lost. And mostly they talked about dreams which were ahead of them. They talked until long after the midnight hour and the arrival of Christmas.

          Each had realized how late it was getting and each was torn between needing to get some sleep and the desire to not lose the special place where they currently were. Because each knew that, with leaving this place, this special feeling could be lost in the everyday business of living, and neither wanted that.

 

          In another cabin, miles away, sitting in a rocking chair in front of the fire, Chris sat thinking about the coming morning. She didn’t want to tell Rebecca that her daddy wouldn’t be home to see this Christmas morning. She looked towards the Christmas tree, sitting in the corner. Underneath was the cradle that Joshua had made for Rebecca. Oh, she knew he thought she didn’t know, but she did. She had watched him working on it late at night when he thought everyone was asleep. And touching it brought him closer to her.

          She closed her eyes, wondering where he was, if he was safe. She held in her hands the telegrams she had received from. Each a lifeline to him. It had been a while since he had last written, so she knew he either was moving fast, or away from a town. No matter, she hoped he was safe. And that he was missing her as much as she was missing him.

          She continued to rock, when a noise caught her attention. It was the sound of a pounding hoof. Getting up from the chair, she walked to the window, pushing back the curtain. The moon shone brightly on the new-fallen snow. And against the snow, she could see the outlines of a horse. But not any horse. This one was golden yellow, with a regally held head. And he was looking right at the cabin.

          Chris blinked to be sure she was seeing what she thought she was. And in looking again, she still saw the magnificent animal. He was pounding his hoof on the ground, and tossing his head. Than he stopped, and bowing his head down to the ground, held that position for several seconds. He raised his head again, and rearing into the air, pawed the air. He than pivoted and galloped away.

          Chris was not sure why, but for some reason she felt better now, like everything was going to be fine. The golden horse brought memories of the first time she met Hannibal, and that brought back found memories. And the sense that things were going to work out, for the good. Closing the curtain, she blew out the candle and walked into the bedroom.

 

          Heyes, being the one to always lead the way, knew it was time to end the night. But not before one additional thing had been said.

          “Kid.”

          “Yeah, Heyes?”

          “Merry Christmas.”

          “Merry Christmas Heyes.”

          Morning found the snow had stopped and the sun had come out, starting to melt the snow. Leaving their snow-bound cabin behind, each started out on the next leg of their journey with high hopes and a new understanding of each other. Gone were some of the childish dreams they each had. These to be replaced with adult desires and wishes, of families and good times, of many more Christmas’ together. And the promise of many more years together.

 

          January found them hard again on the trail of the Kane Gang. They had been riding for what seemed days and seemed to be just a short ways behind the outlaws. There were rumors that some of the outlaws were hold up in a small town called Apache Flats in Arizona. Kid and Heyes rode carefully into town towards evening, eyes ever alert for signs of danger.

          Dismounting and tying up at the hitching post outside the saloon, both men scanned the streets for any sign of trouble. As one their eyes rested on the sorrel horse tied up just down the street. Together they walked over to the animal, talking softly to calm the frightened animal. Kid reached down and picked up the front hoof, inspecting it, than nodded at Heyes while lowering the hoof back to the ground. It was the same hoofprint they had been following for the past several days. Which meant that one member of the gang at least was in town. And the most likely place was inside the saloon. Stepping onto the sidewalk, they pushed open the swinging doors and entered the smoke filled room.

          They walked over to the bar and ordered a beer each, sipping it slowly looking as if they were enjoying their drinks, when they were spending the time looking at the patrons in the room. Heyes’ eyes landed on a man sitting at one of the poker games. His clothes were dirty and road worn, his face with several days growth of beard. But the thing which registered most was the hardened look in his face. Heyes was sure they had found their man. Nudging Kid with his elbow, Kid followed Heyes’ eyes to where the man sat at a table, not aware that he was being watched. Kid nodded softly, than the men walked over to the empty chairs, and sat down.

          Their arrival was noticed by all at the table, but more for the arrival of new money as opposed to the gentlemen themselves. Their quarry barely looked in their direction. Placing their money on the table, Heyes and Curry joined in the game, winning enough to stay ahead, but losing enough to keep in the good graces of the players in the game.

          After about an hour, the man they had been chasing was starting to look worried, as he was losing a lot of money to these new arrivals. He now took the opportunity to look directly at the dark-haired cowboy sitting across the table from him. What he saw chilled him to the bone. Eyes like night bore into him. No hint of a smile graced the face, the edges of facial structure very prominent through the skin. Swallowing hard, he tried to concentrate on the game. Heyes decided now was the time to play his trump cards.

          “Did anyone hear about the shooting of the sheriff over in Porterville last fall?”

          “Yeah, I heard about that,” Kid said, glancing at Heyes first than at the man across the table. “I hear that the ones responsible have an appointment with the hangman’s noose.”

          “Yeah, and that’s if they make it that far. Iffn’ they don’t get killed before that.” Heyes’ eyes bore into the outlaw sitting across the table.

          The outlaw was sweating, and not sure what to do, did the only thing he could think of doing, which was drawing his gun. But that was a mistake. Before he could even clear holster, Kid had his gun out and cocked, pointed directly at the outlaw. The other members of the game stood up quickly and stepped away from the table, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire.

          “Now, if you want to live, just take your hand away from that gun. Right now we are interested in talking. But push the point, and you die.” Kid never wavered in either his gaze or his gun, knowing that right now they needed information.

          The outlaw dropped his hand away from his gun, placing both his hands on the table.

          Heyes leaned forward. “Now, what’s your name?”

          The outlaw looked at both Kid and Heyes before answering. “Jenkins.”

          “Well, Mr. Jenkins, I want you to tell me everything you know about the person responsible for the shooting of Lom Trevors.”

          “Why should I help you?” Jenkins said.

          “You want to live?” Heyes’ eyes turned darker, like storm clouds rolling in on a clear day.

          “But he will kill me if he finds out I told.”

          “Not if we find him first. Now talk.”

          Jenkins shook his head, not sure what to do. Looking again down the barrel of the gun currently residing in Kid Curry’s hand, his decision was made.

          “Kane is headed up to Grand Pass Arizona, near Tuba City. Thinks there is a bank there which will be easy pickings.”

          Heyes looked at Jenkins. “Why didn’t you go?”

          Jenkins shook his head. “I was suppose to stay behind to check the trail. Make sure no one was chasing him.”

          Kid looked at Heyes and than back at Jenkins. “Guess you messed up.”

          Jenkins hung his head. “Yeah, guess so. But who woulda figured someone was after him?”

          “There is something I want to know. Why did he shoot the sheriff? What reason did he have?”

          Jenkins shook his head. “I don’t know, he never told me. Just had me watch him make his rounds, so he could pick the best place to do it.”

          Jenkins looked into the eyes of Heyes first and than Curry. “I didn’t shoot him, I swear.”

          Heyes stood, motioning with his gun for Jenkins to follow suit. “That will be for a jury to decide. Come on, out the door.”

          “Ya gonna shoot me?” The look on his face was now one of fright.

          Kid shook his head. “No, not that that is not what you deserve. But we are taking you to the sheriff’s office. Wait until the judge comes around. Than you will be sent back to Wyoming, where they will hang you.”

          “But I didn’t do anything,” Jenkins pleaded with Heyes and Curry.

          “Than you shouldn’t have been there at all. Now lets go.”

          And the three men left the saloon, Jenkins with his hands up in the air, and Heyes and Curry knowing they had one less man to hunt for.

 

          Tuba City had been a dead end for the pair. Upon arriving in that town, they found out that the bank had closed years before, so if any members of the Kane Gang had been in the town, they had left just as quickly. They telegraphed Lom, to let him know about the captured gang member in Apache Flats, and to try to get some information regarding how he was doing. A return telegram showed that Lom was in fact getting better, now about to walk several steps at a time. He still didn’t remember any details of that night, but was glad to hear that the boys were making some progress. He didn’t remember anyone named Kane, so was no help to them about who had tried to kill him. Heyes sent another telegram to Chris, desperately wanting information about his family. But after waiting around for several hours, both knew it was useless to continue to wait here, while the trail was getting colder and colder. So after restocking supplies, the pair headed out of town, trying to pick up any signs of the correct direction. And hoping that soon they would be able to end this current task and go home.

         

          March found them heading once again into Colorado.  Moving from town to town, they were able to pick up some leads, which led them to the town of Las Animas. This small town was the first they had stopped in for several weeks. Needing to resupply their stock, they first headed to the general store, where they picked up needed supplies. While talking to the storekeeper, they were able to learn of two men who had ridden into town earlier in the day. The storekeeper described the men as hardened, and that most of the town was steering clear of them. Heyes and Curry decided to look into these two, and after paying for their supplies, headed into the saloon.

          This saloon looked like so many others they had been in. Tables set up for cards, a piano in the corner, and a bar reaching the entire distance of the room. It was to this bar that the boys first walked, scanning the room as they moved. After ordering a beer each, they leaned back against the bar, taking the time to check each face. Their jackets were open in the front, but they had long ago removed the stars which the Judge had place on there months ago.

          Looking towards the back of the room, their eyes landed on a pair of cowboys, which fitted the description the storekeeper had given them. Dusty clothes, several days growth of beards, and hair to their shoulders, these men sat with tension in their chairs. Looking at each other, Heyes and Curry moved as one towards the table. Their movements had not gone unnoticed by the pair at the table. In an instant, they had shoved back their chairs and were going for their guns. The other members of the game didn’t have any time to react, and sat still, in shock at the turn of events. The pair was fast, but still not as fast as Kid. Heyes, who also drew his gun, was only a fraction of a second behind Kid, and neither of the other two managed to clear leather.

          “Hold it boys, right there,” Kid managed to say to the pair.

          The pair looked at each other than back at the pair of guns pointed in their direction. Where the previous outlaw had given up without a fight, they both knew that this time things would be different.

          “You are under arrest for the attempted murder of Lom Trevors.”

          The taller of the two spoke. “Under arrest? Try it.”

          Heyes leered at the man. “I just did. Make one move, and it will be your last.”

          The second man looked first at Heyes than at his partner. “Jake, its not worth it.”

          “Shut up.” The one called Jake continued to look at Heyes, and Heyes knew this was going to end in bloodshed.

          “I would rather take you in, but if you want to die, I am ready to oblige you at this point. Your choice.”

          In the past, Jake had been successful with staring others down. But after a few seconds, he realized that that would not happen this time. Because he was looking death in the face, and knew that if he fought, death would win. Dejected, he raised his hands into the air, his partner following suit.

          Kid walked over to the two, relieving them of their guns. With Kid keeping his gun trained on them, Heyes reholstered his, and walked towards the pair.

          “Now, tell me where Kane is, and why he tried to kill Trevors.”

          Jake swallowed, than decided that if he wanted to live, his best bet was to answer.

          “Trevors shot his brother.”

          Heyes shook his head. “Trevors doesn’t know anyone named Kane, so that doesn’t work.”

          “That’s cause his name wasn’t Kane, it was Duncan.”

          The name took both men back to a time when Lom was first made sheriff of Porterville. They had been visiting him, when someone tried to rob the bank. They had rushed outside with Lom, when they were bombarded with gunshots. Returning the fire towards the escaping men, one bullet had found its mark on an outlaw. The rest of the gang made it out of town. Walking over to the man who was face down on the ground, they knew he was dead. When they turned him over, they saw the face of a kid, no more than fifteen. They never knew who’s bullet had lodged in the youngster’s heart, and the incident had haunted them for a long time.

          Coming back to the present, they eyed the pair. “He was trying to rob the bank, shouldn’t have been doing that.” Heyes eyed first one outlaw than the other. “Kane was to blame, no one else.”

          Jake spoke up. “Well, he doesn’t see it that way. I hope your sheriff is dead.”

          Heyes saw red and walked over to the outlaw, pushing himself till he was nose to nose with the outlaw.

          “He isn’t dead, or else you would be. And Kane will be soon.”

          Jake turned pale as the words settled into his brain. And he was glad that he was not going to be in Kane’s shoes when these two caught up with him.

          Heyes stepped away, and redrawing his gun, motioned the pair out the door. Heading to the sheriff’s office, they knew they were closer to getting Kane. And now they had the reason behind everything. Telegraphing Lom with this latest news, they waited for an answer.

          Lom remembered the incident, as they knew he would. And now figured they were heading back into Wyoming. And this direction was the one that Heyes and Curry took. Heyes only hoped that it would lead them back home soon.

 

          April found them once again scouting around Wyoming for the remainder of the gang. There were six members when they started out. Now with one dead and three captured, that left them chasing two, including George Kane. They decided to head back to Devil’s Hole, to see if Kyle had learned anything else out.

         

          Sitting inside the cabin at Devil’s Hole, they talked to Kyle about events which had been going on. Kyle had heard about George Kane, and decided he was the devil himself.

          “What do you mean?” Heyes asked.

         Kyle shook his head. “He would kill anyone, just for looking at him. Don’t make no difference, man or woman. Has been known to kill members of his own gang.”

          Kid and Heyes looked at each other. “That was why the first outlaw was so afraid of him.”

          “Yeah, no doubt. He is evil, through and through.”

          “Kyle, thanks a lot for your help. Do you mind if we stay here tonight, before heading out?”

          “No, sure thing boys. Heyes, you know you are always welcome here.”

          Heyes and Curry picked up their belongings and headed towards the empty cabin behind the leaders’ cabin. Settling in, they went to eat supper, feeling very out of place with the former members of their gang. Not that there were many left they had ridden with. Time and bullets had taken their toll. And the boys were more than grateful that they had managed to avoid that end.

          Settled back into the cabin, Kid noticed that Heyes was unusually quiet tonight, which considering how he had been recently, was saying something. He looked at Heyes several times through the evening, but Heyes only looked down at his hands. He didn’t even bother to pick up any of the books which surrounded them, a tribute to the library that Heyes had started while he was leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang.

          “Heyes, what’s the matter?”

          Heyes shook his head. “Nothing.”

          Kid slammed down his hand of the table, which started Heyes into looking up.

          “Heyes, I am tired of you avoiding my questions. I have known you too long for you to think you can fool me. Now what is wrong?”

          Heyes looked into the eyes of his friend, and realized that he had been forgetting the years they had been together. He lowered his gaze, and shrugged his shoulders.

          “Just missing home, that’s all.”

          “No, it is more than that, you always miss home. What is so different about today?”

          Heyes didn’t answer, but suddenly Kid didn’t need him to, because he realized the answer.

          “Heyes, I am sorry. I have just lost track of the time, all the days seem to run together. Happy Anniversary.”

          Heyes nodded, but kept his head down.

          Kid got up from where he was sitting, and walked over to the bed where Heyes was. He placed his hand across his shoulder, not talking, just being there.

          After several minutes, Heyes started to talk.

          “Do you remember that day? How scared I was? How pretty Chris was?”

          Kid nodded his head. “I was afraid you were going to pass out, or run away. I don’t remember when I last saw you that scared.”

          Heyes looked up, making contact with Kid’s eyes. “I do. It was that morning, when we found our parents dead. When I realized that we were all alone, and that they weren’t coming back again. I had never felt so alone or scared before in my life.”

          “Me either Heyes.”

          “Kid?”

          “Yeah?”

          “Do you think she misses me as much as I miss her?”

          “I know she does buddy, I know she does.”

          “How?”

          Kid lowered his eyes for a brief second, before regaining contact with Heyes.

          “Because love like that only comes around once in a lifetime, and neither of you are going to lose that.”

          Heyes nodded his head, no able to trust his voice. Each was thinking back over the last five years, and how things had changed. Each wondering what the next few months was going to bring. And when it would all end.

                  

          May found them in the northwest part of Wyoming. They were traveling towards the town of Junction Pass, outside of Cody Wyoming. Rumor had it that the gang was headed that direction, and Heyes and Curry did what they had been doing for months now, following the gang. Early afternoon found them entering the town, eyes always alert for any signs of the remaining members.

          They didn’t have long to wait. As they entered the store, there was a paper sitting on the counter. Anxious for news, Heyes picked up the paper, scanning the headlines. ‘Bank Robbery Attempted, Prisoner In Custody.’ Heyes showed the article to Kid, and agreed that they needed to head to the sheriff’s office. Something told each one that they had finally caught with another of the men they had been chasing these long months. In leaving the store, Heyes’ eyes landed on some ribbons. Pretty blues and reds, vivid greens and yellows. Heyes walked over to where the ribbons were, and purchased two of each color. He was tucking them into his saddlebags when Kid noticed his actions. But Kid knew not to ask, knowing the reason. Today his little girl turned four.

 

          June 20th found Kid and Heyes camped out near Newcastle Wyoming. The trail had kept them in Wyoming, but too far away from home to drop in. Heyes knew he would never be able to do that anyway, because he would not be able to leave.

          With the capture of one gang member in Junction Pass Wyoming, there remained only the leader, George Kane. And lately they had not even come close to where he was. They had traveled over the greater part of the state without ever crossing paths with him. Some days it seemed like they never would.

Supper was over, and Kid had turned in for the night. Heyes was staring into the fire, thinking of home. The wonderful feelings from Christmas had long since faded into the past, to be replaced by emptiness. Feeling this was never going to end, Heyes kicked the fire up, cleaning his already clean gun.

          A sound caught his attention, coming from behind him in the woods. He glanced at Kid, but noticed that he had heard nothing. Heyes listened, thinking maybe he had been mistaken, when he heard the sound again. Standing quietly, Heyes glanced again in Kid’s direction, than slowly turned and walked into the woods.

          After several minutes, Heyes could find nothing to cause the sound. He was turning to head back to the camp when the sound was repeated, from directly behind him. Spinning around, gun in hand, Heyes came face to face with the noisemaker.

          There, standing regally, with head erect and eyes facing Heyes, was a golden yellow horse. White blaze down the face. And no sign of fear. Heyes looked for several minutes before walking in the direction of the horse. Reaching out his hand, he stroked the muzzle before pressing his face in the horse’s neck. How it could be, he didn’t know. But somehow King was here. And having him here was like having a part of Chris with him.

          Pulling back from the horse, he looked King in the eye. “What are you doing old friend? How did you happen to know I would be here?”

          King tossed his head and pushed his head into Heyes’ chest.

          Heyes once again lifted the horse’s head till he could see his eyes. “If you see Chris, can you tell her that I love her and I want nothing more than to get home to her and Rebecca?”

          King tossed his head, as if in answer. Than he slowed backed away. He tossed his head once again, than spun around and galloped away. Leaving Heyes to stand there wondering.

 

          Miles away, Chris stood on the porch, looking up at the stars, and missing Joshua more than she could understand. Silent tears fell down her cheeks, and she closed her eyes, so as to better be able to see his face. She stood that way for several minutes, when she heard the sound of pounding hooves. Looking up, she waited to see the arrival of the horse obviously coming towards the cabin. She was startled to see a golden horse arrive, with a flowing white mane, and a blaze down the face. Stepping carefully off the porch, she reached out a hand and stroked the muzzle of King.

          “Hey boy, how you been?”

          King tossed his head, and carefully pressed his muzzle against Chris’ stomach.

          She ran her hands along either side of his face, scratching behind his ears. King lifted face, and looked into her eyes.

          “If you see Joshua, tell him I love him and miss him. And that I am here waiting.”

          King backed up, tossing his head. Than he pivoted and galloped away. Chris stood watching him until he was no longer in sight. Than she too turned, and walked back to the porch, entering the cabin and closing the door behind her.

 

          July came quickly. They had finished most of the month, not getting a glimpse of their quarry. They were currently headed towards Colorado Springs, in the hopes of catching him at last. Telegrams from Lom showed that he was doing better, and was hoping for a full recovery, someday. Heyes had not received any telegrams from Chris, and was losing more hope each day. Kid didn’t know what to do to help his friend.

          Riding into Colorado Springs, they scanned the horses tied at the rails. They had been to Colorado Springs before, helping their friend Harry Briscoe. They hoped the luck they had here the last time would return to them this go-round.

          They entered the saloon, scanning as they did. It seemed they spent more time these days looking at men, scanning faces, looking at horses, riding in and out of towns. Each day slipped into the next, as did each month. They had almost lost track of how long they had been gone. But neither lost track of what they had left behind. Kid missed his girl, longing for what Heyes had found. But he knew his pain was nothing to compare to what Heyes was feeling most of the time. He hoped that his girl loved him half as much as Heyes loved Chris. But more than that, he hoped that Chris loved Heyes half as much as he loved her. He had spent months seeing his friend turn into the ghost of the man he used to be. And in spite of trying to bring him back, he was not able to do so. He just hoped that he wasn’t too far gone to ever come back.

          Kid was brought out of his thoughts by a tapping on his shoulder. Kid turned towards Heyes, glancing in the direction that Heyes was pointing. There, sitting I a chair at a back table, drinking all alone, was the person they had been chasing for almost a year. The person responsible for all the lonely nights, sleepless nights, and heartache they had gone through these past many months. There sat George Kane.

          He was exactly as Kyle had described him. Eyes like the devil, black as night and piercing. Eyes which were always moving, and which now landing on Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes. The instant their eyes met, they all knew who the other person was. Kane looked at Kid, but than settled his eyes on Heyes. Of the two, this one was the most dangerous. Of that, Kane was sure. Heyes looked into the eyes of Kane, and for some reason, knew what he was planning. Kane picked up his drink, downing it in one swallow, and than slowly placed the glass back on the table.

          What happened next, well people will be talking about for a long time to come. Many are not exactly sure, everything happened so fast.

          In one fluid motion, Kane stood up, drawing his gun as he did, leaning towards his right. Kid Curry drew his gun, but for the first time in his life, he was slower than his partner. Hannibal Heyes drew his gun, and fired, towards his left. His bullet caught Kane dead center in the chest, causing Kane’s shot to go wide, breaking the mirror behind the bar. Kane was dead before he hit the ground.

          Heyes stood still for a short time, not able to believe it was finally over. Kid walked over to where Kane had fallen, checking for signs of life, not finding any. He looked towards Heyes, shaking his head. But Heyes already knew that. He returned his gun to his holster, and slowly lowered himself into a chair. Months of chasing now were ended. But what he was going home to, he didn’t exactly know. Time had changed him. Had it also changed what he had? He would soon find out.

 

          Days later, both Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes rode into Porterville. Ten months had passed since they had ridden into this town, to see their friend lying near death. Now they entered the sheriff’s office, once again to see their friend.

         “Howdy boys.” Lom was sitting behind his desk, writing, when they entered. As he looked up, they could tell that he hadn’t full recovered from his injury. His face was leaner than it used to be, and still very pale.

          “Howdy Lom. How are you doing?” Kid walked over and took a chair next to the desk. Heyes elected to remain standing near the door.

          “I’m fine Kid. Still have a ways to go, but getting better.”

          Lom looked at Heyes. “Howdy Heyes.”

          “Hi Lom. Glad to see you up and around.”

          “I’m glad to be up and around.” He looked down and cleared his throat before continuing.

          “I can’t ever tell you how much what you did means to me. I know it has taken a lot of time on your parts, and that you would do that for me….” He let the rest of the sentence trail off into silence.

          Kid spoke up. “Lom, it is only repayment for what you did for us. Without you, we would still be wanted men, or worse, in the Wyoming Territorial Prison.”

          “I only presented the idea to the Governor, you boys did the rest.”

          “But it was knowing you were there for us that helped.”

          Heyes walked over to the desk and held out his hand. Lom stood shakily and grasped the outstretched hand.

          “Lom, thanks for everything. I think it is time for me to head home.” And he unpinned the star from his vest, handing it to Lom. Kid as well handing his star to Lom. The room was quiet as all three men reflected on their own lives, and how each man in the room impacted each other. A circle tied together. Never ending. Friendship without limits.

          Heyes nodded at Lom, than turned around, quietly closing the door behind him.

          Lom looked at the closed door, than back to Kid. The unspoken question in Lom’s eyes would remain just that, unspoken. Because it was a question Kid Curry didn’t have an answer for. Maybe he never would.

 

          The pair sat atop their horses, both looking down different roads toward an unknown future. Kid looked at Heyes at the same time Heyes lifted his eyes to Kid. Even after so many years, the unspoken communication between the pair was sharp. Kid knew what was bothering Heyes even without him saying a word. He had seen him over the last few months withdraw more inside himself, smiling less, talking less, sleeping less. Looking at his best friend, he could see that the time had taken its toll as well. Heyes had lost a lot of weight, being more thin than he had ever seen him, he looked tired. He no longer had a shine in his eyes, rather his eyes were shuttered most of the time, as if this would protect him from the outside world. His hair was long, hanging past his shoulders. He was not the Heyes who had ridden out with him ten months ago, headed to Porterville to help a friend. Kid hoped that the old Heyes hadn’t died along the way.

          Kid glanced down the road towards town, than back at Heyes. “You coming with me?”

          Heyes shook his head. “Nah, think I need to get going.”

          “Heyes,” Kid started, than paused. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “If you ever feel the need to pack up and hit the road again, ya know all you have to do is say so, I’ll be ready in a short amount of time. We have done it before, and if need be we can do it again.”

          Heyes nodded, but had trouble meeting Kid’s eyes.

          Kid noticed the lack of eye contact, and knew Heyes’ was hurting, hurting from not knowing. “The one constant either of us has had since we were kids is each other. That hasn’t changed. Nor will it ever. I will always be there for you, no matter what happens. You understand?”

          Heyes nodded again, sitting quietly for a short amount of time before pulling his horse over next to Kid’s. The next action took Kid by surprise, as it was something they seldom did. Heyes reached out and grabbed Kid by the shoulders, pulling him into a hug. Not since they were kids had they hugged like this. Brothers could not be closer, but their expressions were usually limited to a hand on the shoulder or a pat on the back. This told him just how frightened Heyes was of losing his future. And Kid provided the rock that he would need if that happened. Kid held on tight, telling Heyes in that action, that he would always be there for him, no matter what happened now or in the future. That was a promise.

          When they separated, Heyes caught Kid’s eyes for a few seconds, telling him thanks. For always being there for him and for the promise of being there in the future. A future which would be decided soon.

          “Well Heyes, I think I am going to go and see if my gal is still my gal. If you need me, you know where to find me.”

          Heyes nodded his head and turned his horse to head down the road. He pulled up short when Kid started to speak.

          “Remember Heyes, that Chris loves you. She will be waiting for you. I just know it.”

          Heyes looked at Kid. “I hope you are right Kid, I so hope you are right.” And he tapped on the flanks of his horse, breaking out into a canter down the road to a place he hoped he could still call home.

 

          The sun was sinking lower in the west when Heyes at last headed down the road towards the cabin. Pulling his horse into a walk, Heyes thought about the time which had passed since he last was on this road. When he left, he felt that he owed something to a friend, and now that he was headed home, he knew he was right. He just hoped Chris understood that.

          When he entered the yard, he could see the barn door was open. Dismounting, he slowly walked towards the barn, peering into the interior, than stepping just inside the door. As his eyes adjusted to the darkening room, he could see her ahead of him. She was leaning against the stall gate, her arms around the neck of her horse, her face pressed against the mare’s face. She was so pretty, and he ached to hold her in his arms. But he had been gone for so long, he wasn’t sure she still wanted to be there.

          She held onto her mare, talking silently to her, when she heard a noise from the doorway which caused her to spin around. And standing in front of her was the person who had invaded her dreams every night for the last ten months. The one person she had loved and needed like no other. And now he was back. Without thinking she ran towards him, and threw her arms around him, holding him tightly. Heyes too threw his arms around her and held her. All the fears he had had for months washed away in that small space of time. She still loved him. He was home.

          When they at last separated, Heyes couldn’t break contact, so he put his arm around her waist and pulled her towards him. Looking into her face, he couldn’t help but reach out and kiss her, so soft and gentle. And she returned the action, caressing his cheek with her hand.

          “How is Lom?” she asked.

          “Better. Still has a long ways to go, but with time he should recover completely. How have you been? Where is Rebecca?”

          “She is in the house, taking a nap. She gets up early and does whatever she can to help me, so she gets tired about this time of day.”

          Heyes pulled Chris into his arms, holding her tightly. “You can’t imagine how much I have missed you. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by where I didn’t think of you and Rebecca, wishing I was here with you. I was afraid you might not want me to come back.” There, he had said it, the one thing which frightened him most. And surprisingly, he felt better for having told her this truth.

          Chris listened to the sadness in her husband’s voice. She too had missed him more than she ever believed possible. And was so glad that he was finally home with them.

          “Joshua, you did what you had to do. As we did.” She pushed away so she could look into his eyes.

          “The man I love understands about friendship, how important that is. You did what needed to be done. I know that. And Rebecca knows that. And I am glad that that is something you are teaching our daughter. That sometimes what you want comes second behind something that you need to do.”

          “But I was so frightened that…..”

          “Joshua, there was never a moment when I thought of anything but having you home again. I cherished each of your telegrams, reading them over and over again. I knew when you were finished with what you had to do, that you would be home. And now here you are.”

          Heyes pulled his wife back into his arms and held her close, hoping all the love he was feeling she would be able to feel. He was rewarded when he felt her warm breath on his neck and her arms tightened around his back.

          Parting once again, but maintain a touch on each other, they started out the barn and towards the cabin. Heyes quickly picked up the reins of his horse and together they unsaddled him and brushed him down. He had been a good and faithful friend over the past many months, and Heyes rewarded him for all that he did. When the task was completed, they again locked arms and walked towards the cabin. Heyes looked around as they walked, noticing that the place looked well maintained. And some of the jobs he had planned to do were completed. Chris noticed his glances and filled in the gaps.

          “Joshua came over as often as possible. And when the town heard of what you and Thaddeus were doing, well they came out and did most of the things you see done. I think they approved and understood what you were doing. And this was their way of showing it.”

          “It looks good. I am glad you had help. I am sorry to have been gone so long.”

          “Joshua, I am just glad you are home, and safe too. How is Kid?”

          Heyes laughed. “He is fine. He was heading into town to see if he is still engaged or not. If he isn’t, than I think we will be seeing a whole lot more of him around here than we saw before.”

          “Well, don’t plan to see much of Kid. My understanding is that Sarah has no intentions of letting him out of her sight until after the wedding.”

          Opening the door, Chris entered first. Heyes shut the door and stopped to unbuckle his belt, reaching up to hang it on the hooks on the wall. His actions were brought to an abrupt stop with the sounds of a baby crying. Heyes turned slowly, but Chris was nowhere to be seen. He followed the sounds into their bedroom, where he saw the most amazing sight. Chris was bending over a basket, and picking up the baby, slowly turned in Heyes’ direction.

          “I would like you to meet your son. Joshua Heyes Smith.”

          Heyes stared in disbelief at the sight before him. Shaking himself, he moved towards his wife, stopping within reach of her. “I don’t understand.”

          Chris looked into the eyes of her husband. “I knew I was expecting Joshie when you left. But I knew I couldn’t tell you. He was born on June 20.”

          Heyes looked into the face of his son, dark hair thick on his head. He held out his arms as his wife placed their son into his safe keeping. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he continued to be amazed at the sight he was holding. Chris sat down next to him, watching the play of expressions which were crossing her husband’s face.

          “So do you think you want to keep him?” she asked smiling.

          Heyes looked up at his wife, and smiling said, “Yeah, I think so.”

          Passing the now sleeping child back to Chris, Heyes stood and walked out of the bedroom, needing to get reacquainted with another member of the family. He pushed open the door to Rebecca’s room and for the first time in months had the opportunity to see the face of his little angel. He walked into her room, easing himself on the side of her bed. Pushing the wisp of hair from her face, he wished for her to wake. As if on cue, her eyes fluttered open and landed on his face.

         “Daddy, it is really you?” She sprang up and into his arms. Heyes engulfed her inside his arms, kissing her hair, and keeping her as close as he could.

          “Daddy, I missed you so much. Are you back home now to stay? Or do you need to go back out after some bad men?” She waited for the answer.

          “No angel, Kid and I caught all the bad men. I am home now to stay.”

          “Oh good.” She pushed away enough to be able to see into her father’s face. “Cause I have missed you so very much. And Mommy has too. I hear her crying at night, but she doesn’t know that cause she thinks I am asleep. I tried to take care of her, but sometimes I was just not enough.”

          Heyes smiled into the face of his girl. “I know you did. And I bet you did a wonderful job. Thank you so very much for being here to help Mommy. I know she is very grateful to you too.”

          Rebecca smiled back at her father. “I know. And I tried to help with Joshie as much as possible. I told him about you every night, so he would know you when you got home again.”

          “I’m so glad you did, thank you for that.”

          Heyes turned towards the sound of his wife walking into the room, and sitting down beside them on the bed. Rebecca broke free from her father, and stood close to her mother, causing Heyes to turn slightly. Chris placed his sleeping son in his eyes, and watched the play of emotions across both the face of her husband and her daughter. So much alike.

          “So Rebecca, you like your baby brother?”

          “Oh, that’s silly Daddy, of course I do.”

          Heyes reached out and ruffled the hair on his daughter, smoothing it before moving his hand away.

          “And some day maybe you can teach both of us to ride King.”

          Heyes pulled his gaze from his son to look at his daughter. “What did you say?”

          Rebecca looked at her mother quickly, before returning her look to her father.

          “King. Maybe you can teach us to ride him someday.”

          Heyes frowned. “What makes you talk about King?”

          “Well Daddy, he was here. And he is beautiful, and….”

          Heyes cut off the rest of the sentence. “What do you mean he was here?”

          Heyes turned his look towards Chris. Chris shrugged her shoulders.

          “I was standing outside the porch, just before Josh was born. I was thinking of you, missing you so very much. And all of a sudden, King ran into the yard. He came right up to me, and nuzzled me. I reached out, petted him, and cried on his coat. I asked him to find you and tell you that we loved and missed you. And I asked him to keep you safe.”

          Chris looked at Heyes, not missing the frown on his face.

          “What night was this?”

          “June 20, the night Josh was born. Why?”

          Heyes shook his head. You are not going to believe this, but I too saw King on that night. We were camped about 300 miles from here. I heard a noise and went to investigate. He came out of the woods and up to me. I talked to him for a while, and asked him to watch over you and Rebecca. He shook his head up and down, like he understood, than ran off back into the woods. I didn’t see him again.”

          All were quiet for a time, as this sank. How could both see the same horse, on the same night, and so very far apart? Their thoughts were interrupted by the sound of pounding hooves coming into the yard. Heyes stood, handing the baby back to Chris and headed towards the door. Grabbing his gun from its resting spot on the rack, he opened the door and stepped out onto the porch, coming up short at the sight there before him.

          Chris and Rebecca too walked out onto the porch and gazed at the sight in front of them. For there, tossing his head and pounding the ground with one hoof stood King. Heyes stepped off the porch and reached out to the horse, stroking his muzzle.

          “What is it ole boy? Did you come back to make sure everything is ok? Is this your doing?”         

          The horse tossed his head, as if to say yes.

          “How could you do it? Be both places at the same time.”

          He watched at the horse eased his muzzle towards his left hand jeans pocket, as if to find something inside. Or to put something in there.

          Heyes turned very pale, as a memory returned, one from his childhood. His father had often tucked little things into his left hand jeans pocket. Sometimes some change, sometimes a small present. He always said it was because he didn’t want the other kids to know and be jealous. To Heyes, it had been a special treat, one which he had cherished. King lifted his head again, seeming to look Heyes in the eye. And Heyes knew the truth.

          The neigh of another horse could be heard, and looking in the direction of the sound, Heyes was not surprised to see a beautiful brown mare, tossing her head in their direction.  King backed up a few steps and waited.

          “Thanks for everything. I am glad to know you are together. I will be fine now, thanks to you. And I will try to raise my family the same way you and Mom raised us.”

          King tossed his head, glancing at Chris with the children. Than he turned and raced back where the brown mare waited. One more look over his shoulder and both horses ran back down the road. Heyes watched them until they were no longer visible. Turning, he walked back up the steps to where Chris and Rebecca stood waiting. He picked up his daughter and placing a hand around the waist of his wife, they stood watching the sun set in the west. As the last rays of the sun disappeared, they turned and walked into the house. Heyes knew that tomorrow life would be one of working and providing. But for tonight, he thought it was time to talk about another life he had, one which wasn’t dead entirely. One which, from this time forward, would be a part of this house. Because Heyes finally realized that his past was not dead, not forgotten. It made him what he was, and had given him what he had. The time had come to tell the tells he had kept hidden for so long. To make the circle complete. A circle of love.