The game little bay mare was limping. She had started shortly after Heyes and Curry had eluded yet another posse by heading down the side of a rock-slide on their horses; after she had run mile after mile without a needing the tap of a heal on her side to communicate her rider's desire to put distance between them and those who pursued relentlessly. Heyes stepped down out of the saddle and moved around to her off side, gently lifting the foreleg to examine the swelling just above the fetlock. As he gently pressed on the area the mare jerked slightly, but calmed immediately under the gentle hand of her rider.
Heyes sighed deeply as he stood up and gazed up at his partner Kid Curry, who was sitting in the saddle of his black horse, one arm leaning on the saddle horn, the other holding the black's reins. Kid's hat was pushed up, the rawhide straps dangling under his chin.
"She can't go anymore, Kid."
Heyes moved around and started uncinching the saddle from the bay, who now stood quietly with her head bowed.
"Shin splints. She may be fit to ride in a few weeks, maybe a month…"
"Heyes, we don't have a month. Lom said…"
Kid trailed off as his partner yanked the saddle and bridle off and slapped the mare across the rump, causing her to trot a few feet away and then slow to a walk. Heyes whirled back around, interrupting the Kid's train of thought.
"I KNOW WHAT LOM SAID, KID!!!" He yelled, "What do you want me to do, ride her into the ground?"
Heyes voice dropped back to a frustrated whisper as Kid sat up in his saddle, surprised at his cousin's display of temper, a hurt look crossing his tanned features.
Heyes shook his head and looked up at his partner.
"Kid, I'm sorry. I don't mean to take my dark mood out on you…"
Sky blue eyes met his frustrated gaze as forgiveness passed between them. How often had he asked for, and received that gift over the years from this man who rode at his side? How many more times would he need it in the future? He wondered….The last few weeks it seemed that too frequently he was snapping at his best friend. He was irritated with himself, really. Angry that he couldn't shake his despair. It was the Kid who took the brunt of it, though.
Heyes stashed his tack under a rock overhang and walked back over to the Kid's horse. Wordlessly, Kid reached down and offered him a hand up behind him. Sighing deeply, Heyes vaulted up behind Kid and slowly they moved down the trail toward the next town. Heyes was already busy, his brilliant mind working on the details of how to replace his horse and gear without spending money…money that they did not have at present. Lom had wired them that he had news, and they had responded with the last dime between them that they would arrive in Porterville day after tomorrow. Now, it looked like a delay was going to keep him in the dark about what Lom had to tell them for at least another day, maybe longer.
Heyes was tired. Like many men with high intelligence, Heyes was prone to moods ranging from quietly introspective to rough and rowdy; his "highs" higher than most and his "lows" lower…and lately he seemed to be stuck in a low spot. Patient enough when he was busy planning a job or working out a con; forced inactivity had the effect of rubbing salt into a wound. He was jumpy, irritable, his temper ready to snap at the slightest insult to it. Not sleeping well, he felt achy all over and bone weary. He was tired of the trail, tired of being chased, and tired of being tired. Heyes wanted nothing more than to walk into a saloon, order a bottle of whisky, eat a steak big enough to choke a cougar, and take a long, hot soak in a tub. Then he would like to sleep for a week or two, without having to worry about someone recognizing him and the Kid and turning them in for the bounty on their heads. God, how he hoped that Lom had good news for them! Had the amnesty come though?
Kid had tried a couple of times to start a conversation, giving up after the third time he asked Heyes a question and got a "Hummm" for an answer. They rode in silence, neither noticing the heavy set black woman, the pretty redhead, or the gentle looking blond man standing on the trail behind them.
"Tess," the redhead asked, looking over at the darker woman. "Why are we here? That one man looks so unhappy…am I here to help him in some way?"
"No, baby. Not directly, anyway. This assignment we are here to assist Andrew. Those two men are Hannibal Heyes and Jed "Kid" Curry.. two of the most notorious outlaws that ever rode the west."
"Oh, my. They are criminals, then? Are we here to see that they are punished?" Monica asked.
"No, angel-girl. Andrew is going to try to help them…and we are going to help him." Tess smiled up at her two charges, who nodded and looked down the trail at the two disappearing shapes moving farther off into the growing darkness.
Kid had started the small fire shortly after they found the sheltered cove of trees and rocks that would allow them to keep warm without being seen. He had offered to flip a coin to see who would cook dinner, and of course, as usual Heyes won. A strangely sad smile had floated across his lips when Kid had commented on his remarkable luck.
"Yeah, Kid, that's me…Lucky."
He moved off to stare quietly out into the darkness, his thoughts once again playing havoc with his peace. Kid watched him silently, then shook his head and decided that tomorrow he would MAKE Heyes tell him what was going on. He knew his partner better than he knew himself…and he was getting worried. Not that Heyes hadn't had these periods before; mind you. But usually Kid could tease him out of them, or else Heyes would wake up some morning, and having fixed breakfast for his still sleeping friend would then greet him with a smile that looked like sunshine breaking free from the clouds after a prairie thunderstorm. Rarely had his partner been so distant, so difficult to reach.
Kid had reached for the coffee pot when he noticed the blond-haired man standing not 4 feet in front of him, at the edge of the fire. He hadn't heard anything, and the shock caused him to burn his hand on the hot coffeepot.
"Ouch! Dang it…Where the hell…" His gun was out of the holster and pointed straight at the man's midsection before Heyes had a chance to turn around in response to his friends surprised outburst. The first thing that Heyes noted was that although most people who had the bad luck to be in Kid Curry's sights usually looked pretty scared, this man simply stood there and watched them both. There was something about his eyes… Heyes moved across the camp to stand next to Kid.
"Mister, my friend here just burned his hand because of you, and considering that he now has a gun in it, I think you might want to explain just why you felt the need to walk smack dab into the middle of a camp at night without notice. Who are you?"
"My name is Andrew, Mr. Heyes. Mr. Curry, I assure you that I am unarmed and mean you no harm."
The man pulled his coat away from his body to show Kid that indeed, he did not wear any sort of a weapon. After checking further, the gun twirled and disappeared as quickly as it had come into his hand, and he was sucking on the burned digit with a look of irritation and amazement on his tanned face.
"I am afraid that you have made a mistake, sir.." Heyes started as Andrew smiled slightly and shook his head.
"No. You are Hannibal Heyes, and your friend there is Jedediah Curry."
Andrew moved over to the rock face and leaned against the ledge, looking at the outlaws with that same gentle smile.
Heyes glanced at his partner, who shrugged his shoulders and sat down. Heyes moved closer to Andrew, dark eyes meeting gentle green ones. This man had a very expressive face, but as far as Heyes could tell, there was no sign of fear or uncertainty in those eyes. It was strange..
"Alright, Mister Andrew.."
"Just Andrew, Hannibal. You want to know why I am here. I'm here to help you."
Andrew once again flashed that gentle smile at both men. It was beginning to irritate Curry, who didn't trust easily and wasn't used to being so "friendly" with strangers.
"Yeah? Did Lom send you? How did he know we needed help?"
Curry asked as he again squatted down and reached gingerly for the coffee pot. "Coffee?" He asked Andrew, who shook his head.
"No, thank you. That's Monica's passion, I have never developed a taste for it myself."
He moved around the fire to sit across from Kid, whose interest increased dramatically with the mention of a female.
"Monica? That a friend of yours?" He asked.
"Yes…we..work together sometimes. She and Tess, another friend, will meet us tomorrow in town. They run the dining room at the hotel and the Livery. When we get there they can replace your supplies and horse, Hannibal. Then I can escort you to Porterville to see Lom."
Kid had had about enough.
"Mister, we don't know you. We don't know what you want, or why you are here. We have never needed an "escort" to see Lom before, and we sure as hell don't need one now!"
He got up, threw out the dregs from his coffee cup and stashed it into his saddlebag, at the same time removing his bedroll and dropping it next to the fire. His partner was doing the same. Neither had noticed the man wince at the Kid's crude language. Kid kicked his bedroll out and sat down on it, making a point of removing his gun belt and checking the loads in his specially balanced Colt 45. He then pulled his hat down over his eyes and crossed his arms on his chest, still holding the gun.
"Don't do anything you will regret, Andrew…Kid said as he closed his eyes. I WILL hear you, and I would hate to shoot that pretty smile offa your face…"
Andrew looked at Heyes, who gave him a smile that did not include his eyes.
"Sorry..my friend is a little untrusting of people he doesn't know." The smile died. "So am I."
He laid down on his bedroll, turned his back and closed his eyes, confident that Kid really would hear any sound not in the range of normal, and act before he was even fully awake.
Andrew sighed and sat down, his back against the rock wall raising up behind him, the fire before him. He looked upward, toward the millions of stars that shined like beacons in the heavens. This time, although the smile was as gentle as it had been before; it was a little sad, too.
Two, maybe three hours had passed when Heyes gave up pretending to sleep and sat up. The fire was still burning, someone had recently added wood. Heyes looked over at the Kid, whose deep snoring was evidence that at least *someone * in camp was getting his rest. Andrew was not in sight. As Heyes stood up, he heard a rustling sound coming from Kid's blanket, then a tell-tale rattling that brought his full attention to his friend. Kid had heard it too, and was awake but not moving. The diamond-back had been looking for someplace warmer, and had found it. He was at least 5 foot long, and was coiled to strike. There was no way Kid could shoot him before he did…and Heyes had foolishly left his gun next to the bedroll. His partner was going to die, and because he was so busy feeling sorry for himself…
"Be gone. Here, let me help you. You are going to have to find another warm place, this one is taken.."
Heyes had not seen Andrew as he appeared out of the darkness on the other side of where Kid lay frozen on the ground. Now the blond man slowly reached down and picked up the rattler behind it's head and halfway down the body, turning to carry it away into the night.
"Sorry…" He smiled at Kid as he walked off. "I will put him far enough away that he will not be tempted to share your bed again."
He looked up at Heyes, the snake now coiled around his arm.
"I will be back shortly, if you would like to talk for awhile while the Kid sleeps." Heyes met Curry's eyes as both watched Andrew walk away, a deadly rattler draped on his arm as if it were a kitten.
"Kid, did you see what I saw?" Heyes asked, running his hand through his dark hair.
"No. No, I did not see a dang thing, Heyes."
Kid laid down again and closed his eyes, a slight shudder running the length of his tall frame.
"Good. Neither did I," answered his partner as he trailed off to find Andrew.
Might as well spend a few hours getting to know this enigmatic man who had just saved his partner's life.. He wasn't getting any sleep, anyway.
Andrew and Heyes sat far enough from the fire that they could talk quietly without bothering the sleeping Kid. Andrew had been willing to share the darkness and the silent company until the other man's natural intelligence and curiosity overcame him. Heyes couldn't see Andrews face in the darkness, but somehow that didn't bother him. It was as if, for some reason totally unknown to him, Heyes was certain that the other man would not lie to him.
"Lom didn't send you." It wasn't a question.
"No, Hannibal. Lom didn't send me. But I do know him. And I am here to help you, wither you believe it or not."
"Help me do WHAT, Andrew? I'm just trying to survive here. I have no plans beyond seeing if Lom has news for us that we have been waiting almost a year for. If he does, fine… Kid and I will go on from there. If not..well. Then…"
Heyes voice trailed off into nothing as he stared at the night sky.
"Then what, Hannibal?" Andrew asked. "What if the amnesty doesn't come through?
Heyes blinked. Somehow, he wasn't surprised at Andrew's knowledge of things he should know nothing about.
"I don't know. I just don't know. I have been trying.. I swear I have. But I am so tired, Andrew. I have seen things, lived with things that no man should have to. I feel older than I am. Too old. "
He looked over at the other man, his dark eyes glistening with the weight of his burden. Andrew reached out, and put his hand on Heyes shoulder. Heyes looked at him, surprised. No one but the Kid had ever offered comfort, understanding. Then again, up till now, he had never been so low that he had needed more than Kid had given. He felt a twinge of guilt, that he was talking to someone other than his partner about something that was eating him…but then wasn't that the root of it? Guilt. Guilt that he knew his partner would not understand, would push off as Heyes' overactive mind without a creative outlet. And that wasn't the problem. Not this time, anyway.
"Hannibal. There is no need to carry the weight of your guilt around with you like this. You are human. You make mistakes like any other human. You are NOT, however, responsible for everything that has happened to you and your friend. He has made decisions that were his to make, his to live with. It is not good to take responsibility for another when he has the freedom to do so for himself. Kid has a free will, you know. "
Heyes was shaking his head as he looked down at his hands before answering.
"You don't understand…Kid looked up to me when we were much younger…and I was responsible for letting him into the Devil's Hole gang. If it weren't for that, maybe he would have gotten a job, married, settled down somewhere…instead he rides with me, one step ahead of a posse and a twenty year prison sentence. He has saved my hide more times than I can count."
Heyes glanced over at the man in question only to be answered by a loud snore. He looked back at Andrew.
"And you have saved his, as well Hannibal. Curry made those decisions for himself. He rides with you because there is no place he would rather be and no one he cares more about. If I were you, I would feel blessed, instead of guilty. At any rate…tomorrow when we get to Porterville and Lom gives you his news, Curry will handle it-- whatever it is. I have no doubt of that. I do wonder about you, though. How will YOU handle it, Hannibal?"
Andrew watched as the other man got up and walked back toward the camp to wait out the rest of the night, his voice trailing behind him saying "I have absolutely no idea…none at all."
Kid was up early stoking the coals into flame and making coffee. He walked over to Heyes and nudged him with his boot, then offered him the coffee cup. Heyes groaned and shook his head, sitting up and holding his aching head in his hands as he did. Blasted headache…
"Sleep well, partner?" Kid asked as he watched Heyes and took a cautious first sip of his hot coffee.
"Yeah. Sure. Where'd Andrew go?" Heyes answered as he slowly pulled himself upright.
"Went for a walk, he said. Heyes." Kid sat the coffee cup down and got up, facing his friend.
"What. Kid?" He asked testily.
"You look like hell. You didn't sleep at all, did you. What's wrong, partner? Why didja lie to me? TALK to me, Heyes!"
Kid reached up to grab his friend by the shoulders and gently shake him, but stepped back when Heyes slapped his hands away and stalked off toward Kid's black horse, tossing it's blanket over the broad back.
"Dammit, Kid…why can't you just back off? Let it go, ok? I don't want to talk about it. Not now. Not with you. Do you understand?"
Heyes frustration and anger at himself for blowing up at his friend were surpassed by the quick anger in the Kid's bright blue eyes. He took the bridle from Heyes and quickly finished saddling his mount. When he spoke, his voice was low, clipped and shaking with rage.
"Heyes, I have put up with your silences and one sided conversations. I have tolerated your short temper and your sullen attitude. I have tried to be understanding, even though I don't understand. No more, Heyes. We are supposed to be partners. I want to help you, but you won't let me. We are supposed to depend on each other, trust each other, and be there for each other, no matter what. Now, I have tried to do that…but let me tell you something, partner. You ain't holding up your end anymore. So….I am gonna give you what you seem to want. You let me know if and when you want to be a team again. Until then…leave me alone, Heyes. I am tired of this."
Kid slapped his hat on his head, mounted his horse, and turned it toward the trail that lead to town just as Andrew came around the side of the cliffs leading two horses. Kid ignored the proffered smile as Andrew handed one set of reins to Heyes,
"Sorry you have to ride bareback...this was my pack horse and I don't have an extra saddle…what's wrong, Hannibal? Did you and Kid get to talk?" Andrew asked as he mounted his horse. Heyes was already on the packhorses back. Kid's voice drifted back to the other two men..
"No. I see that he didn't have any trouble talking to a stranger though. Guess it's just his partner he won't talk to!"
Kid kicked the black into a trot as Heyes sighed deeply and followed behind. Andrew took up the rear, wondering if things could get any worse. Somehow, he had a feeling that they could…especially if Hannibal Heyes didn't stop ignoring The Message that Andrew was trying to convey to him. They should be in town soon, and Andrew was looking forward to discussing this assignment with Tess and Monica. Maybe one of them could come up with something. Something he was missing. Before it was too late…
Curry, Heyes and Andrew rode into Porterville. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Heyes and Andrew rode in followed by Curry, who had trailed them by a good fifty feet all afternoon. The look on his face discouraged Andrew from riding along side or talking to the Kid, so he rode beside Heyes. Not that he was any more verbose than his friend, but Andrew had to ride somewhere and Heyes looked less dangerous than the younger man. As they pulled up to the hitching post outside of the saloon, Kid swung his leg over his mounts head, slid out of the saddle and draped it's rein over the rail, headed for the batwing doors. Andrew frowned.
"Ah, shouldn't we take the horses to the stable?…"
Kid didn't turn around. "I want a drink."
Andrew turned to Heyes, who had likewise tied his horse and was looking up and down the street out of nervous habit. He spotted the sheriffs office and started across the street.
"Heyes… the horses?"
The dark haired outlaw didn't answer as he opened the door to Lom's office and disappeared inside. Andrew looked from the office to the saloon, then at the three tired animals. Sighing deeply, he gathered the animals and lead them in the direction of the livery stable, where they would be given a good grooming, some hay and water, and a much deserved ration of oats. Andrew figured that Curry was in no mood to be reasonable, and Heyes? Well, Heyes was his assignment and he was very unsure at this point that he would be able to reach the other man. All he knew was that he would try.
Heyes was sitting at a table in the dining room of the hotel when Andrew found him. Kid came in as Andrew accepted the seat Heyes had offered by gesturing toward it with his head. Kid sat down and started looking at the menu as Heyes spoke.
"I ordered you a big steak and potatoes, cornbread and coffee, Kid.. I figgered you would be starving…"
"I could eat…" Kid replied, still not meeting his friends eyes. Silence reined as the young lady came to bring Kid his coffee and set utilsils down beside him. She had lovely long reddish hair and a gentle smile, which she offered to both Heyes and Curry. It was evidence of just how much the Kid was upset that he didn't seem to notice her until Andrew drew his attention by starting introductions.
"Mr. Hannibal Heyes and Mr. Jed Curry, I would like you to meet one of the friends I told you about last night..this is Monica."
Andrew smiled up at Monica as she nodded to both men and offered her hand. Curry started to tip his hat until he remembered he had removed it when he sat down, so he nodded and smiled instead.
"It's a pleasure, Miss Monica." Heyes leaned over and spoke to Andrew in a irritated whisper.
"Look, Andrew…Curry and Heyes are WANTED men.. please don't call us that in public. My name is Joshua Smith, and Kid is Thaddeus Jones. I would like to see Lom and then get a room for the night…if you keep calling us Heyes and Curry that room is liable to have BARS on it!"
He sat up and offered Monica a slightly worn rendition of his hundred-watt smile.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Monica."
Monica smiled back at him as she put a huge plate of steak and potatoes in front of the kid. Heyes was wondering how they were going to pay for it when Monica laid that fear to rest.
"The pleasure is all mine, gentlemen. Any friend of Andrews is always welcome here for a meal…on the house, of course."
Kid smiled his thanks and dug into the two inch thick piece of rare beef. He had a quarter of it gone when he looked up at Heyes and noticed that the other man wasn't eating.
"You gonna eat that, or just guard it?"
Kid pointed at Heyes's untouched plate. Heyes looked at his meal as if it had dropped out of the sky and then pushed it towards Andrew.
"Not hungry. I am gonna go get us a room for the night, Kid. The deputy said Lom would be in just a little before dark. We can go finish our business there and head out first thing in the morning."
Heyes stood up and put his hat on his head as he turned away, not waiting for an answer from Kid. Curry's voice stopped him at the door, but he didn't turn around.
The broad shoulders drooped. "What is it, Kid?"
"We gotta talk, Heyes."
He moved out the door, closing it quietly behind him. Kid watched helplessly as his partner disappeared into the hotel lobby. He started to thank Andrew for the meal, tensing when he felt the man's hand close around his arm, sinking back down into his chair and looking at Andrew expectantly.
"Give him some time, Jed. He feels responsible for you, and he is really counting on this amnesty coming through…"
Andrew blinked in surprise as Kid leaped up from the table, tipping his chair over backward so that it crashed loudly on the floor, causing the other patrons to take notice of the tall golden curly headed man. The black lady that Andrew had been talking to on the trail came out of the kitchen to see what the ruckus was about. Kid rubbed a frustrated hand though his curls and slapped his hat on.
"Dammit! I have told him, and I will tell you. He is NOT responsible for me. I can take care of myself. I can make my own decisions, good or bad, and I can live with the consequences! I can deal with the amnesty when it comes though; and I can deal with it if we don't get the amnesty. What I CANNOT deal with is a partner who walks around taking the world on his shoulders and then shutting me out when I try to do for him what he does for me every day. THAT I cannot deal with. What I do need from Heyes is for him to let me care for him the way he cares for me. The way it used to be. The way it HAS to be again. If he can't do that then this partnership is over. I'm gonna wait to see what Lom has to say…and then one way or the other; free or on the run; with Heyes or alone…tomorrow I am leaving. Thanks for the dinner, Andrew. Oh…one more thing."
Curry stopped at the door on his way out and met Andrews green eyes with his own bright gaze. (Funny…those eyes don't bother me anymore..) Kid thought.
"Are you staying in Porterville for awhile?" At Andrews affirmative nod the Kid continued. "For some reason, Heyes finds you easy to talk to. If the amnesty doesn't come through….watch him, Andrew…" Kid's voice drifted off and he stood in the door, looking at his partners new friend with pain clearly showing in his eyes. He turned and walked out.
Andrew looked up as Tess came to the table and sat down next to him. Monica joined on the other side.
"The young man has a lot to offer his friend, if his friend could only accept it." Tess shook her head sadly.
"They both have a hard life to lead, Tess. Hard enough alone. I hate to think of them trying to do it without the support of each other. But it's beginning to look just like that's what's going to happen…I wish the Father would give me some idea about what His Plan is, Tess…Andrew stated. Monica was already shaking her head.
"Now Andrew… you know the rules. We are given what we need…when we need it. Not before."
Andrew smiled at his friend and nodded. "I know, Monica. But I do have an idea that might give Heyes something to think about…"
Heyes had indeed secured a room for the night at the only hotel in Porterville. He had then walked over to the sheriffs office to wait for Lom Trevers to return. He was sitting in the sheriffs high-back chair when he heard someone ride up and tie their horse, then enter the office. Heyes automatically smiled at the slightly irritated look his friend tossed him when Lom saw Heyes in his chair. He walked over to the locked gunrack and, glancing quickly over at Heyes, then shifting so that Heyes lines line of sight was obscured by his back, Lom unlocked the gunrack and placed his Winchester 30/30 in the rack. Locking it again, Lom moved to the desk and held out his hand, which Heyes obligingly shook.
"How you been, Heyes? I was expecting you yesterday. I was starting to get worried. Where's the Kid?"
Lom looked around for sign of Heye's other half. You could bet, where you found one..the other wasn't far off. Sorta like rattlesnakes, Lom thought to himself, and grinned at the comparison. Heyes got up out of the sheriffs chair and moved around the desk to the other side, where he again sat down.
"Hi, Lom. I see you're keeping busy…the Kid and I had a problem with a horse…it went lame and we had to make other arrangements. Kid is here, he's over at the dining room putting away a cow and a bag of potatoes…"
Lom shook his head and grinned as he sat down and put his feet up on his desk. "Kid can put away the groceries, can't he? Hey, you had him tested, Heyes? That boy may have a tapeworm!"
Heyes grinned and nodded at the ex-outlaw turned sheriff. Then he sat forward, forearms on knees, smile dying on his lips. Lom caught the intensity of Heyes gaze.
"Ok, Heyes… I guess you would like to know why I called you to Porterville. I won't keep you waiting. I got a letter from the governor last week. He is impressed by the fact that you and the Kid have gone almost a year without any trouble. He is convinced that you are serious about going straight. Problem is…" Lom stopped and scratched his head, looked down at his desk, moved a stack of papers from one side to the other. Heyes waited.. thinking that if he were playing poker right now they would take him for every dime he DIDN'T have..his poker face was nonexistent.
"What, Lom? We are gonna get the amnesty, right? The governor isn't gonna welsh on the deal, is he?"
Heyes was up, leaning over the desk with both hands planted on top. Lom shook his head.
"No, Heyes.. he isn't exactly welchin' on the deal…more like changing the rules in the middle of the game."
Lom looked at Heyes apologetically. "It's an election year. He is afraid that if he grants you amnesty now, he will lose the election. He wants to extend the provisions of the deal for six months.. until after the election…" Heyes was pacing the room, anger pulsing from his every pore.
"That's not fair, Lom! That wasn't the deal. The Kid and I were to stay straight for a YEAR, Lom…not 18 months! Look, Lom, what happens if he doesn't GET reelected? Do the Kid and I just lose out entirely, then?"
Lom was shaking his head.
"No, Heyes. The governor told me that he has already written a proviso that will grant you and the Kid amnesty when he leaves office, if he doesn't win the election. Look, man. It's only another six months. Heyes! Where do you think you're goin? HEYES!"
The snick of the hammer on Lom's gun stopped the other man just inside the door. Heyes waited.
"What, Lom. You gonna shoot me now? Why don't you just wait..chances are someone out there will take care of it for you in the next six months!"
Heyes gestured out toward the street as he looked at his friend.
"Hell, you might be doin me a favor, Lom."
Heyes opened the door, turning away from Lom.
"I gotta find the Kid. We will stop by before we ride out, Lom."
Trevers nodded as he released the hammer on his gun and replaced it in the holster.
"You okay, Heyes? You seem…I dunno…"
Heyes glanced back over his shoulder as he stepped out into the street.
"Would you be okay, in my place, Trevers?"
Heyes closed the door and walked away in search of his partner.
Trevers reply was only heard by the cockroach making it's way across the floor of cell # 1.
"No, can't say that I would be…"
Heyes was walking by and glanced in the window of the bank. Habits die hard. He moved on toward the hotel, glancing toward the saloon for his partner. Kid wasn't in the saloon, but Heyes heard his voice coming from an alley around the corner from the hotel. He sounded angry, and he was talking to someone. Heyes drew his gun and quietly moved up behind Kid, ready to do what he did best, which was back up his partner. He started to call out quietly to let Kid know he was there when he stepped on the tail of a dark colored ally cat that had been hiding. The cat screeched indignantly. The Kid glanced toward the sound, and the man he had been talking to decided now was his chance to notch his gun, pick up a reputation for having bested Kid Curry in a shootout, and collect $10,000 all in one shot. He drew and fired, hitting Curry in the fleshy part of the upper arm of his gun hand. Curry turned and fired in one smooth fluid movement, hitting the man in the upper right chest. The gunman fired another shot, a wild shot that hit the brick wall of the hotel and ricocheted, hitting Heyes, who hit the ground like he had been pole-axed.
People started to respond to the shooting, pouring out of doors up and down the street to see what was going on. Kid ran over to where his partner was lying, face down in the dirt at the head of the dark alley.
"Heyes? Oh, God, no…HEYES! Heyes, don't you die on me! Don't you go leavin' me, partner! HEYES!??"
Kid had reached him the same time that Monica, Tess and Andrew came from around the corner in the dining room. Andrew knelt down and gently turned Heyes' still body over, grimacing at the blood pouring from the man's right temple. Kid had dived onto the ground next to his friend and now pulled Heyes into the circle of his arms. Andrew placed his hand on the Kid's shoulder as he reached over to feel for a pulse. Slowly, he stood up and looked over the crowd, where a dusty man that he had come to care for stood looking back at him. Kid looked up at Andrew; and hope died as he saw the look on the angel's face. Andrew shook his head sadly, his green eyes filling with unshed tears.
"Kid..I'm so sorry. Heyes is dead."
Kid's head dropped toward his chest as he continued to sit in the dirt of a dark alley, tenderly cradling the body of his best friend. He didn't notice as Andrew got up and moved through the crowd toward the figure waiting for him at the edge of the alley. If he could have seen anything at that point, Kid still would not have seen the man that looked just like his partner, nor would he have seen the two of them just disappear into the dark at the back of the alley…
Andrew looked over at Heyes, who hesitated at the other end of the alley.
"What is it, Hannibal?"
Heyes looked at Andrew and then down the alley at the growing crowd of people. He could barely see his partner on the ground in the middle of the crowd holding something and rocking back and forth.
"Andrew…I'm afraid I am just a bit confused here. One minute I am trying to find Kid and tell him about the amnesty…and the next thing I know someone cracks me in the head and I'm standin here with you. Am I dead? If so, why are YOU here? What the blue blazes is goin on!"
Heyes hooked his fingers on his gun belt and planted his feet in a "I ain't goin anywhere until you explain this" posture. Andrew reached out and hooked his arm around Heyes shoulder.
"Well, Hannibal.. It's like this. I am an angel. I was sent by God to help you get through this… valley …you were walking thorough. Tess and Monica are angels, too. We were trying to get you to see that no matter how you may feel…no matter how down you get or how hard it is for you to go on day after day…you were truly blessed. God loves you, Hannibal. And He knows you, too. He gave you that great intelligence..although you have not always used it in the manner He would have approved of! He gave you free will…and again, you have not always done with it what He had intended. But God is a forgiving God, Hannibal. He recognized that despair was overtaking your ability to be grateful and to take advantage of the help He had already given you. So He sent us, to show you how to go on. But you kept pushing away my help. Worse yet, you pushed away His original gift to you. Your partner. Do you think that it was by accident that the two of you compliment each other so well? It isn't. And your partnership is not one-sided, although you seem to think so lately. Kid Curry needs you, Heyes. Not to protect him..no. But he needs you as much as you need him. As different as the two of you are.. light and dark.. midnight and high noon…neither of you are completely happy without the other. You robbed Kid of his part of the partnership. Now, it's too late to do anything about that…"
As Heyes watched in amazement, Andrew started to glow with a brilliant light that seemed to light up the space around his snow-white clothing. His gentle smile moved across his face, and those intense green eyes watched Heyes sadly…(He looks like love, Heyes thought.)
"You see, Hannibal.. my primary job is not casework. I am the Angel of Death. I take souls Home when they are ready to leave their earthly bodies…" Andrew trailed off as Heyes started to back away from him.
"Look, Andrew. I'm not sure I buy all of this..but at any rate, want to thank you for being a friend over the last few days. I get your point. Now, if you don't mind.. I'll be goin back to my partner…"
Heyes frowned at the angel and kept backing away towards the front of the alley where Lom Trevers was leaning over Kid, trying without success to get him to let go of Heyes body on the ground.
"But.. Hannibal! You don't understand! You can't go back..you're dead. Now come on, and I'll try to make your Transition as easy on you as possible…"
Andrew reached for Heyes as the other man continued to back away, shaking his head.
"No, Andrew. You don't get it. I ain't goin with you. Not now, anyway. I have an apology to offer my best friend.. and I am gonna make sure he get's it. You were right. I got the point. I need to give Kid the chance to support me when I need him, just like I support him when he needs me. And I intend to do JUST that!"
Heyes turned and started to run back down the alley. He saw the man on the ground who had tried to gun down Kid just as he reached the gun he had dropped when Kid returned his fire and hit him in the chest. No one had been paying attention to him, what with everything else happening at the same time. Heyes started to yell at Curry to warn him of the man's intention to finish the fight…but neither Curry nor anyone in the crowd heard his warning….
"BANG!" The gun went off.
"BANG!" The door to the sheriffs office slammed loudly and the chair, which Hannibal Heyes had tilted up against the wall hit the ground dumping the outlaw on his head. He blinked himself awake and stared up at Lom Trevers, who had just come through the door.
He walked over to the gun rack, and, glancing quickly over at Heyes, then shifting so that Heyes line of sight was obscured by his back, Lom unlocked the gun rack and placed his Winchester 30/30 in the rack. Locking it again, Lom moved to the desk, and held out his hand, which Heyes obliging took to pull himself up off of the floor.
"How you been, Heyes? I was expecting you yesterday. I was starting to get worried. Where's the Kid? I guess you wanna know about the amnesty, right?" Heyes started toward the door, leaving Lom standing in the middle of his office.
"Heyes? Hey, Heyes… where the hell are ya goin?? Don't you even wanna know about your amnesty??!"
Heyes was already halfway down the street, running toward the alley with the taste of fear in his mouth.
Heyes heard his partner's voice coming from the alley around the corner from the hotel. He sounded angry, and he was talking to someone. Heyes drew his gun and quietly moved up behind Kid…
"Kid! Behind you! Watch him!" Heyes jumped out into the alley, his gun cocked and ready…and stared at Kid Curry, who was shaking his finger at a young ragamuffin boy around the age of 12 or so. Kid looked at Heyes with a look of disgust as he turned back to the kid, who looked like any 12 year old who was being chewed out by an adult.
"Now, you just remember what I told you, Kid. The sheriff of this town is an old friend of mine, and he is going to keep his eye on you from now on. If I hear ONE complaint about you trying to pick pockets again…I am gonna come back here and turn you over my knee and tan your hide! Do you understand what I am sayin here, Kid?"
Curry was towering over the youth, who kicked at the dirt clod at his feet and reluctantly shook his head. Curry reached into his vest pocket, pulling out one of the last two dollars he and his partner had and handing it to the boy.
"Good. You just remember that. Now, take this, and go over to the dining room and get some dinner. You can keep the change…"
A huge smile broke out on the kids face as he grabbed the coin and turned to run across the street towards Tess's kitchen. Kid turned toward Heyes, a look of caution crossing his handsome features as he caught his partners gaze. Heyes just stood there, grinning at his friend so hard that his face was starting to hurt. Curry blinked and waited. And waited.
"WELL??! What are you waiting for, Heyes? You trying to kill me with anticipation or something? WHAT DID LOM SAY???!!!"
The huge smile faded a little..
"Oh. Ah…Kid, I sorta forgot to ask him about the amnesty…"
Heyes shrugged his shoulders as his friend dropped his jaw in amazement.
"You FORGOT to ask him? Heyes, correct me if I am wrong.. but isn't that why we are HERE?"
Kid pushed his brown hat further back on his head as he glared at his partner. Heyes was shaking his head.
"Nope, Kid. That may be why we came to Porterville.. but it ain't why we are here. Not by a long shot!"
Heyes slapped his perplexed friend on the shoulder and pointed across the street at the saloon.
"Come on, Kid.. we need to talk about something right now."
Curry stopped and Heyes waited for him.
"Look, Heyes… I need to apologize to you for the way I've been acting the last couple of days…and I wanted you to know that I don't mind anymore if you wanna talk to Andrew. There is something about him…"
Curry started laughing and Kid stared at him as if he were touched.
"Kid, you have NO idea…but anyway, it's I who owe you an apology. You are the best friend I have ever had or ever hope to have…and I promise I will never shut you out again, partner. You have my word. Forgive me?"
Heyes stood in the middle of the dusty street, his hand held out toward Kid Curry, and look of uncertainty on his face. Kid dropped his eyes and stared at his boots for so long that Heyes started to get really worried. What if Curry were fed up with him? He didn't even want to THINK about that!
"Lets see, Heyes.. you are offering me the word of a liar and a thief."
Kid kicked the dust around his feet and glanced up at Heyes from under the brim of his hat. And grinned.
"Guess I can take that to the bank…it's gold!"
Kid reached out and firmly grasped the hand of his partner and shook it. From the door of the dining room across the street, Tess, Monica, and Andrew watched the two men shake hands. Tess was smiling as she looked up at the handsome angel.
"Angel-boy..whatever you did, it looks like it worked!"
Andrew was beaming as he watched the two outlaws change direction from the saloon and move toward them. Andrew stepped aside as the two men walked through the door.
"Well, Tess…I just gave Hannibal a little dose of what might-have-been…"
Monica looked confused.
"What could you have done? You have been with us, all evening!"
Andrew just smiled.
The boys stood outside the sheriff's office early the next morning. They had already said goodbye to Tess and Monica, and Andrew was standing on the boardwalk next Lom as they prepared to say their goodbyes to the two outlaws. Heyes was adjusting the bit on his new horse..a bay mare that looked remarkably like the little bay he had been so fond of. He had won her the night before in a poker game with his and the Kid's last dollar. That, and about Eighty dollars on top of her! Kid had just shook his head and muttered something about Heyes incredible luck. Heyes had just smiled at him and nodded.
"Well, Kid, Heyes… I am really sorry about the amnesty thing.. but like I said, the governor is worried about the reelection…anyway…six months isn't really so long, boys…"
Lom looked up at the two outlaws with discomfort. Kid rolled his eyes. Heyes reached up, tilted his hat back on his head, and grinned.
"It's ok, Lom. Doesn't really matter. The Kid and I will be just fine, and in six months we'll be riding back into Porterville to collect those amnesty papers. Don't you worry, Lom."
He nodded at the sheriff and moved his mare over to stand next to Andrew as Kid shook Trevers hand and mumbled something about Heyes being crazy. Andrew tried to hide his grin, failing miserably as he looked up at Heyes.
"Well, Andrew.. I don't guess you will be in Porterville the next time we ride through, will you?"
Andrew shook his head and reached for Heyes hand.
"Nope. We are leaving this evening, Hannibal."
Heyes nodded and the light sparkled in his dark eyes.
"I will be seeing you again, won't I." It wasn't a question.
"You will. But not for a long time, my friend. Not for a very long time…."
Heyes tipped his hat and backed the bay mare up and around Kid's black horse. Both men tapped their horses and took off down the street at a brisk trot.
"Heyes…I just have one question."
"Only one, Kid?"
"Just who WAS that guy, anyway?…."
"Kid, don't ask… you just don't wanna know. I will say this, though…I don't recommend that you fall asleep in Lom Trever's office!"
They reached the end of town and spurred their mounts to a gallop as a white dove few down from the top of the church belfry and landed on the hitching post next to where Andrew stood watching them leave, a slight smile resting gently on his lips.
The pathway is broken, the signs are unclear…and I don't know the reason why you brought me here.
But just because you love me the way that you do…
I'm gonna walk through the valley, if you want me to.
No I'm not who I was, when I took the first step…but I'm clinging to the promise-you're not through with me yet.
So if all of these trials bring me closer to you…
Then I'll walk through the fire, if you want me to.
It may not be the way I would have chosen…
When you lead me through a world that's not my home.
But you never said it would be easy…
You only said I'd never go alone.
So when the whole world turns against me and I'm all by myself…
And I can't hear you answer my cries for help.
I'll remember the suffering that your love put you through…
And I'll walk through the darkness, if you want me to.
So when I cross over Jordan with a sing and a shout…
I'm gonna look in your eyes and see that you never let me down.
So take me on the pathway that leads me home to you…
And I'll walk through the valley, if you want me to.
Yes, I'll walk through the valley, if you want me to.
*Ginny Owens-- "If you want me to…"
This story is dedicated to those who are the support system and lifeline to those of us who suffer from depression…who are there for us when we "walk through the valleys…"
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I'd love to hear what you think! Contact me at email@example.com