The Long Road – Part 3
Kid drew his gun and checked the chamber, the others followed suit. They sat solemnly for a moment. "Everyone got their gun in hand?" Kid asked not being able to see Lom and Heyes behind him.
"Yep," they responded.
"Okay, when we go, we go left, right, left, right," Kid stated. "Captain and Lom go to your left. Joshua and I will go to the right. Get to the closest cover you can find." Kid took a breath and calmed himself. He sucked in another and as he exhaled yelled, "Let's go!"
The four men kick their horses and with guns drawn burst out into the opening. Flying out like they were blasted out of a cannon, they spread out and darted into the trees on both sides of the clearing. They pulled their horses up as they anxiously surveyed the area. The horses danced under them as they spun checking everything out. The clearing in front of them was about twenty feet wide. It was lined on both sides with woods, the right side ended with the rock wall and the left side ended with the gorge.
After a few minutes, Heyes gave a nervous chuckle. "Kid," he said quietly so no one else could hear, "Who'd a thought they wouldn't be waiting for us." He chuckled again.
"Yeah, Heyes," Kid replied quietly, "All that preparation for nothin’." Kid chuckled, "Maybe..."
Heyes glared at him, "Don't say it," Heyes admonished.
"I was just gonna say," Kid stopped himself. Sat up in his saddle and holstered his gun, "You're right. No sense jinxing us. Even though I thought maybe ridin’ with the army was a good thing."
"Kid," Heyes sighed, "Ya had to do it didn't ya? Well, let's hope his luck holds out so ours does too."
"You're the one that's always tellin’ me there no such thing as jinxes," Kid said to Heyes as they started out into the open. Seeing them leave the cover of the trees, Lom and the Captain did the same.
"Got lucky there boys," Lom said as they met in the middle of the clearing.
"Just sayin’ that to Hhh," Kid stopped himself, "Joshua. You know him, always the pessimistic one."
"I'm not pessimistic," Heyes snorted. "And since when do you use such big words."
"Pfft," Kid snickered as he rolled his eyes.
Heyes opened his mouth to say something but snapped his lips together and scowled at Kid.
"Okay, boys," Lom broke in, "That's enough. We still have work to do, we're not out of the woods yet."
Heyes nodded and relaxed his face, giving a very small grin.
Lom chuckled and rolled his eyes, "You two never change."
Heyes and Kid looked at each other shrugging their shoulders.
"So," the Captain said in a very business like tone, "Did they come in here or did we just go through that for nothing?"
Heyes looked around and dismounted. He walked a little ways up the incline that was in front of him and squatted down. Placing his hand on the ground he said, "They've been through here, fresh tracks." Standing up and walking a little further, "They went this way." He turned and returned to his horse.
"Well, they can be anywhere in here, keep a sharp eye," Kid said as they slowly moved forward.
Heyes and Kid led as Lom and the Captain followed closely behind. Hearing something, Kid pulled his horse to a stop as he held up his hand to let the others know to do the same. There was some rustling in the trees to the right and as they drew their guns, a fox darted out.
The Captain laughed. "Guess we're a bit jumpy," he said as he holstered his gun.
Kid opened his mouth to say something but was stopped by the sound of a gunshot and the bullet whizzing by his head.
"Damn!" Kid yelled out as he drew his gun and shot in the direction of where he thought the shot came from. A flurry of bullets flew in their direction as they kicked their horses and headed for the trees on the left. They quickly dismounted and took cover.
"Anyone see anything?" Heyes called out.
"No," came the reply.
"Damn, we can't return the fire if we can't see anythin’, we could hit the hostages," Kid stated.
"We're also pinned down," Heyes said. "There's no way out of here without going into the clearing." They sat there staring out, trying to see anyone or movement of any kind. Heyes finally said, "We figured there are five of them, right?"
"By all accounts of the survivors, yep," Lom answered.
"Thaddeus," Heyes said, "It didn't sound like more than one gun that shot at us. What do you think?"
"Was thinkin’ the same thing Joshua," Kid responded. "The first shot nearly took my head off, then I counted five real quick ones. Nothin' since we got in the trees. Didn't sound like different guns."
"You can tell what different guns sound like?" the Captain asked, looking on with disbelief.
"Thaddeus can," Joshua said proudly. "He's got the ear for it." Turning to Kid he said, "So what do you want to do about it?"
"Well, I can cover ya if you want to make it to the other side of the clearin' to see what we got."
"You can cover me? I was thinking I can cover you?" Heyes retorted.
"Now Joshua, whose got the better chance of coverin’ someone?" Kid started.
"Who has a better chance once they get over there?" Heyes asked.
"You both got points," Lom said. "But Thaddeus, fact is, it wouldn't just be Joshua covering you. The Captain and myself are on this side too. Once you get over there though, it's just you."
"You got a point Lom," Kid sighed. "Guess it's me that's goin'."
"I can," the Captain began before getting interrupted.
"No you can't," Kid stated. "That's my job." He checked the chamber of his gun, having already reloaded it. "Okay, on three I'm goin'. Keep firin' ‘til I get in the trees."
"I'll be right behind ya Thaddeus," Heyes stated.
Kid looked at him.
"Lom's right, it's not just you and me. Lom and the Captain can cover both of us. When we get to the other side, I can back you up."
Kid looked at Heyes and studied his face. Seeing the determination in it, he figured it was better to give in than try to fight it. "Okay," Kid said, "You win." He took a breath, looked at the men and said, "On three. One, two, three." Heyes and Kid ran out from the trees with guns drawn. They darted back and forth and dove into the trees when they got to the other side.
"Kid," Heyes said quietly, "It's awful quiet."
"Thinkin' the same thing Heyes," Kid replied. "Not one single shot. I don't know if they left or are waitin’ to ambush us."
"Could be a third possibility, Kid," Heyes whispered. "You could have hit whoever was doing the shooting in the first place." They got up and careful made their way towards where the original shots came from. As they neared the area they heard a noise. Heyes looked at Kid and they quickened their pace.
Looking through the bushes they saw the source of the sound. Propped up slightly on the trunk of a tree was a man with his hand holding his side. Still with guns drawn, they approached the man. He was breathing heavy, his eyes were closed but he still had a loose grip on his gun.
Hearing Heyes and Kid approach, he slowly opened his eyes. "Some shot," he huffed out.
Kid quickly went for the man's gun while Heyes crouched down in front of him.
Holstering his gun, Heyes tried to check out the wound, "How bad is it?"
"Not good," the man coughed and blood spilled from his mouth.
Kid stood up after taking the gun and scanned the area. "Where are the others?"
"Others?" the man croaked.
"Mad Dog and the rest of the gang?" Kid responded still on alert as he continued to look around.
"Up ahead, maybe at the cabin," the man responded.
Heyes lifted the man's hand to see a bullet hole on the left side right under the heart. Blood was spurting out indicating Kid had hit an artery. Heyes looked up at Kid who glanced down and lightly shook his head. He turned back to the man, "Where are the hostages and why are you alone?"
The man coughed up more blood and was struggling to breathe, "They're in the cabin. Mad Dog's gone nuts. He's plannin' on usin' the lady. Keepin' the kids to keep her in line." He stopped and tried to catch his breath as he continued to cough. "Little girl dropped her doll. She won't stop cryin'. I tried to come back and find it." He coughed again. Looking up at Heyes and Kid he continued to struggle to talk. "I didn't want nuthin' to do wit' this. It's all Mad Dog." He coughed again and was visibly becoming weaker. He looked at Kid, "Ralph said you was Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. I guess being shot by Kid Curry ain't such a bad way to die." The man coughed again, gasped and his head went limp.
Heyes crouched there for a second longer and then stood up.
As Heyes stood up he saw Lom and the Captain out of the corner of his eye. He turned and looked at them.
"Didn't hear any more gunfire so we thought we would see what was going on," Lom said as he looked at Heyes.
Kid turned and faced them, "The other four are further up the mountain. They still have the woman and her kids."
"The money?" the Captain asked.
"Didn't have time to ask," Heyes stated. "Just assume he still has it but that's not my concern."
The Captain looked at Heyes.
"At this point the woman and children are my concern." Heyes nonchalantly touched the outside of his coat where the doll had been tucked on the inside.
"Well," Kid said turning towards the clearing, "Time to go get them. We'll take care of him," he said as he nodded his head in the direction of the man, "later if we have time."
As they walked across the clearing to their horses Lom asked, "Any idea what cabin he was talking about?"
"There's a cabin a ways up the mountain. Was built by a gang but don't think it's been used in a while. Found it was too hard to live there, not much comes in and out of here. Not even wildlife. Too hard bringing in supplies," Heyes stated.
The four men mounted their horses and started up the trail to the cabin. Kid and the Captain took the lead, Heyes held his horse back, wanting to talk to Lom. "How long were you there?" Heyes quietly asked.
"Long enough," Lom replied then added, "the Captain was behind me so I don't know how much he heard."
"Hmm." Heyes thought for a moment. "He didn't say anything so maybe he didn't hear." They rode is silence for a stretch as the four men vigilantly surveyed the area. Finally, Heyes quietly asked, "Lom, what are you gonna do if he asks you if we're Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry?"
Lom looked at Heyes, "Been thinking about that since you brought it up back there." Lom paused and contemplated what he would say. "I could say that the guy was dying and was mistaken. Neither of you confirmed his allegations. But as I thought about it, I decided the best thing to do would be to tell the truth. After all, he would be a good witness for the Governor. You had lot of chances to take the payroll and didn't."
"What if he wants you to arrest us or if he tries?"
"Well then, I guess the two of you would just have to get away," Lom stated.
Kid pulled his horse up and turned, "Everythin’ okay back there?"
"Everything's fine," Heyes responded as their horses caught up. "Just..." Heyes stopped and drew his gun as he looked around Kid already had his gun in his hand having heard something and motioned for them to take cover.
From up ahead on the trail the sound of horse hooves closed in on them. As four riders started to ride by their hiding place, a shot rang out and one fell from his horse. Kid, Heyes and Lom looked at the Captain in shock. Before they had a chance to say anything, the other three riders had drawn their guns and started shooting in their direction. Diving for cover they returned fire. The riders spread out and took cover in the trees.
"Of all the stupid...what the hell did you do that for?" Kid snarled at Captain Turner.
"I thought I could take him out, make the odds better or if I hit Mad Dog, maybe the rest would just run," he responded.
"Haven't you ever heard of a tactical advantage?" Kid said as he crouched, trying to scan the area for the gang and stay covered at the same time.
A volley of shots rang out from the trees to the right of the men. Pinned down, they couldn't get a shot off at the man running towards the left.
"They're trying to back us up to the gorge," Heyes stated.
"Yeah," Kid agreed. "We better move so they can't." He looked around. "Lom, you and the Captain get the horses movin' to the left and follow. There's only one guy up there. Joshua and I will go towards the right."
The shooting started again, this time, from both sides. "Damn," Heyes growled as he and Kid crouched behind a tree. Peering around each side they returned fire. They could hear Lom and the Captain doing the same. Bullets flew by hitting trees and splintering branches. "We better move or they're gonna move around us," Heyes stated as he reloaded his gun.
Kid continued to fire in the direction of the two men. "Yep," he said. "They've already separated and are tryin' to come around." Taking his turn he reloaded his gun. Then it got quiet as all guns fell silent.
The four men anxiously looked around trying to find their attackers or any movement. The silence was deafening as their eyes darted everywhere and then it started. Gunfire erupted as Mad Dog and his men had surrounded them and began to move in, attempting to move them back to the edge of the gorge.
The four returned fire, holding their ground. A scream was heard as the man closest to Lom and the Captain's side went down. The bullets continued to fly and the Captain yelled out. Kid turned to see one of the men closing in on the fallen man and quickly shot his gun out of his hand. Hearing a roar coming in their direction, Kid turned to see Mad Dog running at them with guns in both hands firing at will. Heyes, Kid and Lom returned fire bringing him down in a flurry of bullets. Then once again, the air was silent.
The three stood for a moment making sure there was no more movement. They looked over at the man whose gun was shot out of his hand, and was now face down on the ground. Heyes walked over to examine him and rolled him over. There was a bullet hole in his forehead. "Looks like Mad Dog took out one of his own," he said.
Kid walked towards Mad Dog kicking the guns out of his hands. Crouching down, he checked for a pulse then stood up.
Heyes walked to the first man the captain had shot while Kid checked the one over by Lom. Both were dead. Heyes and Kid holstered their guns as they walked to Lom who had knelt down next to the Captain. "How bad is he?" Heyes asked as he approached.
"I'm alive," the Captain grunted.
"He took a bullet in the thigh. It's still in there. And was shot in the side. That bullet went straight through," Lom said. "I got some supplies in my saddlebag, if you can get them, I'll bandage him up." Kid brought the saddlebag over and Lom went to work. "This is going to hurt," Lom said as he started to bandage the leg. "Bullet's still in there but I got to stop the bleeding."
The Captain nodded and gritted his teeth as Lom worked.
When he was done Heyes said, "Lom, the Captain needs attention now. We still need to get the hostages. The cabin is probably still an hour up the mountain and it isn't an easy ride. We'll help you get the Captain on his horse and then you should head back to town. Thaddeus and I will get the woman and her children."
"Joshua," Lom started to protest but was cut off.
"Lom, he needs a doctor now," Heyes stated. "We won't be able to make it to the cabin and back through the Needle before it starts to get dark. We're going to have to stay the night. That's a night the Captain may not have. The gang's all dead. All we have to do is get the woman and her children. I think Thaddeus and I can handle that."
"Lom," Kid said, "Joshua is right. We can handle the woman and her children. The Captain needs to get out tonight. You can get through the Needle and keep riding even as it gets dark. Even if you wait here for us to come back with the hostages, we won't be able to get to the Needle with enough light to make it safely."
"You take the Captain and three of the four horses," Heyes said. "We'll need one for the woman.
We'll get to them, stay the night in the cabin and leave at first light. We'll meet you back in Lewistown."
"The money," the Captain said weakly. "You have to get the payroll."
"Captain," Heyes said. "With all due respect, the woman and her children are more important than the money right now. See those clouds in the mountains? As I mentioned before, they're snow clouds and it means we're going to get snow soon. First snowfall comes and the only way out of the Needle is closed. The hostages and anyone else left here will not survive the winter. It is too brutal and there isn't enough food to last. We get the hostages and if the payroll happens to be sitting on the table in the cabin, we'll get that too. If not, you and the army can come back in the spring to look for it cause it ain't going no where." Turning to Lom, "Let's get him on the horse and get you moving."
Lom and the Captain sat on their horses. Lom looked at Heyes and Kid, "I don't like doing this."
Heyes and Kid nodded.
"Get the hostages and get out. I'll meet you in town tomorrow night, next morning at the latest. Be careful." He shook both their hands, as did the Captain.
"You too Lom," they said.
"Lom," Heyes said, "send a telegram to Laurie when you get in town."
Lom nodded, "Will do."
Heyes and Kid watched Lom and the Captain start to head back down the mountain. "Guess we should go get the hostages," Kid said.
Heyes nodded and they headed in the direction of the cabin.
"Heyes," Kid asked, as they rode, "Why isn't anythin’ easy? I mean we did our job, got the money to Lewistown. Why couldn't it have ended there?"
"You mean how come we didn't just turn around and leave town?" Heyes replied. "Cause Kid, with you and me, nothing is easy. Ever since we decided to go for amnesty, things just always seem to get complicated. I just figured we was being tested and if we can hold on long enough, it will come through."
"Glad you got your positive attitude back Heyes," Kid said, smiling at his partner.
They rode for almost an hour before they could see smoke rising from a chimney. Heyes motioned to Kid, "Cabin's just ahead. I think we should split up, just in case there were more than four men with Mad Dog. Who knows?" Heyes pulled his horse to a stop as he looked at the cabin, "The cabin looks like someone fixed it up recently. He might have had some men waiting for him here."
"Just what I was thinkin'," Kid replied. "We'll leave the horses here, you go to the left, and I'll go to the right." Heyes nodded. Dismounting they checked their guns and carefully slinked their way to the cabin. They both arrived at the front door at the same time. Heyes held up three fingers and when he got to one, they both burst into the room, guns drawn.
They stopped dead in their tracks as they saw the woman tied to a chair with her two children gagged and tied to each other sitting on the floor across the room. Heyes held up his hand as the three looked on terrified. "Sshh," he whispered, "We're here to help you. Is there anyone else here?" Heyes walked slowly towards the woman, still with his gun drawn.
Kid quietly made it to a door on the side of the cabin and burst in.
Heyes continued to the woman as he said, "We're here to take you home. Is there anyone else in the cabin?"
The woman looked petrified with her eyes widening as Heyes got closer.
"Mrs. Brewster, are you alone?" he asked again as he stopped about a foot away. Hearing her name, she finally whimpered and nodded her head. Heyes holstered his gun.
Kid walked out of the side room, "All's clear in there, it's the store room and it's packed." Eyeing the rest of the room he holstered his gun.
Heyes looked the woman in her eyes and smiled. He quietly and calmly said, "Mrs. Brewster, we are here to take you home. I am going to untie you now." Calling over his shoulder he said, "Thaddeus, why don't you untie the children?"
"You know who we are," she said as her voice trembled.
"Yes," Heyes said as he began to untie her. "We've come to take you home."
The children sat quietly as Kid approached. "I'm gonna take the gag off and untie you, okay?" he said as he smiled at them. "I'm gonna need you to stay still so I don't hurt you."
As soon as he removed the gag, the children began to scream.
"I'm not gonna hurt you," he said as he jumped back and put his hands up in front of him. "I'm here to help," he yelled over their screams.
"Rachael, Daniel," Mrs. Brewster called out. "Children, it's okay. These men are here to help." Mrs. Brewster struggled to get the ropes off her hands.
"Ma'am," Heyes said loudly to be heard, "If you could stay still I might be able to get the ropes off quicker."
Mrs. Brewster stopped struggling but continued to talk to the children hoping to soothe them and calm them down.
Kid sat back on his heels, with a look of dismay across his face he tried desperately to calm them down. "I'm not gonna hurt you. I promise," he said as he tried to reach out and untie the ropes. Each time his hands got close to them, both children let go with everything they had. Kid could not believe the volume that was coming out of these two small children.
Heyes finally removed the last of the ropes. Mrs. Brewster jumped up and ran over to the children. She knelt down and hugged them both. "Sshh," she said. Mr...." She turned to look at Heyes and Kid. "I'm sorry, I don't know your names."
"Joshua Smith, ma'am," Heyes tipped his hat. "My partner there on the floor is Thaddeus Jones."
"Ma'am," Kid said, tipping his hat and then winced as the kids let out an ear-piercing screech.
"Stop that," Mrs. Brewster said firmly as she became flustered. "Mr. Jones is just trying to untie the ropes. Please be quiet so he can help."
Kid finally untied the ropes. Mrs. Brewster scooped up Daniel and held him tight. Rachael grabbed onto her mother as tight as her little arms could. The two of them continued to cry.
Heyes walked over to Rachael and crouched down in front of her; her face was buried in her mother's arm. Heyes pushed back his hat and looked at Mrs. Brewster for approval. She gave Heyes a nod and a smile.
"Rachael," he said in a warm and soothing voice. "I think I heard your mother call you that." Heyes paused Mrs. Brewster smiled at him. "Rachael, it's all over. My partner and me are going to take you home." Heyes looked at Mrs. Brewster as he talked and explained what they were going to do. Both Rachael and Daniel began to settle down at the sound of Heyes' voice. "It's going to be getting dark soon, so we're going to have to stay in the cabin tonight."
Mrs. Brewster, Rachael and Daniel stiffened as terror ran through them. "No," she said in a panic, "we have to leave now." She tried standing up but with the way she was kneeling with Daniel and Rachael on her, she was unable to.
Heyes gently placed his hand on her shoulder, "It's okay."
"No, the men..." she said hysterically.
"They're gone," Heyes said, as he looked her in the eye. "They're gone. You don't have to be afraid of them any more."
She looked at him longingly.
Heyes smiled warmly at her. "I promise, they are gone. Mr. Jones and I are here to take you back to Lewistown. It will be too dark to get safely through the passage tonight. We will stay here tonight and at first light we can head out." Heyes continued to look at the woman.
Mrs. Brewster studied the man's face and nodded. "Rachael, Daniel," she said. "Mr. Smith and I'm sorry Mr.," she looked at Kid.
"Jones, ma'am. Thaddeus Jones," Kid smiled putting a small smile on his face.
Heyes looked down at the floor to hide the grin that was forcing its way out.
"I'm sorry," she said again. "Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones are here to help us. They will bring us back to your father in the morning. It is too late to leave tonight. "
"No mama, we have to go now," Rachael protested and started to cry. "The men, mama, please we have to go."
Heyes carefully placed his hand on her back, "Rachael, the men won't be back, I promise." Then putting his hand in his coat, he reached in and pulled out the doll. "Perhaps this will help you make it through the night," Heyes said as he held the doll out for her.
"Penelope!" Rachael exclaimed grabbing the doll and hugging it close to her. "Penelope, you're back!" She stood squeezing the doll as tight as she could. As Heyes started to get up, she threw her arms around him and held on. "Thank you, thank you, Mr. Smith. Thank you for bringing my Penelope back to me."
Heyes stayed there dumbfounded as to what to do next as the little girl hung on to him. Finally, he loosely wrapped his arms around her and returned the hug. After a few minutes, Heyes attempted to stand up, but the little girl wouldn't release her hold. Heyes could hear Kid chuckle at his dilemma.
"Joshua," Kid said, "Since you're otherwise occupied, I'll go bring the horses up to the cabin."
"Ma'am," Heyes said looking desperately at Mrs. Brewster as he waved his hands lightly in the air not knowing what to do with them.
Mrs. Brewster, arms full with Daniel, said, "Rachael, let go of Mr. Smith." When the little girl didn't do as asked, her mother pleaded, "Rachael, please, let go of Mr. Smith now."
The little girl finally loosened her grip and let go of Heyes.
He tipped his hat, stood up and backed away quickly stumbling into a chair. Flustered by the attention he turned and walked out onto the porch of the cabin just as Kid finished bringing the horses up.
Seeing the somewhat dazed look on Heyes' face he chuckled. "Oh, you seem to have lost something," Kid stated.
Heyes looked at him confused.
Motioning with his hands, with a grin on his face Kid continued, "Little girl attached to your neck, ‘bout three maybe three and a half feet tall, real cute." Kid's grin got bigger as he watched his partner's face sour. "I was wondering how you were going to break the news to Laurie you had a new lady friend." Heyes glared at his partner and Kid burst into laughter as he walked up the steps to the cabin. Heyes' face softened as Kid placed his hand on his shoulder. "Loose your sense of humor again Joshua?" he chuckled.
Heyes looked somewhat embarrassed and broke out into a grin.
"Very touchin' givin' the doll to Rachael. Where'd you get it?"
"Found it in the brush we cleared to get to the Needle," Heyes said. "Thought it might come in handy."
Kid chuckled softly, "Just knew you had a soft spot in there." Kid patted his back.
"Well, if you're done," Heyes said sounding a little annoyed with Kid's teasing. "These people may not have eaten for a while, we should see what we can scrounge up."
Kid looked at his partner in amazement, "You didn't check the cabin out."
"I was gonna," he said sounding defensive. "Just didn't get the chance."
Kid motioned to Heyes to follow him into the cabin. They went in and to the side room. If was full of supplies. Kid walked over and picked up the payroll bags.
Heyes shook his head in disbelief then walked into the room and did a quick inventory of what was there. Turning to Kid he said, "This is all new."
Kid nodded his head in agreement.
"Looks like Mad Dog and his men were planning on staying for a while."
"Hidin' out until the posses went home. Until the law wasn't lookin' so hard for them," Kid replied.
"Looks like this was their destination the whole time. They got a coral and a make shift barn for the horses."
Heyes put his hands on his hips, "Mad Dog planned this for a long time. It was no accident he hit the train where it was. When the first attempt failed, this must have been “plan B”. Either place and the trails lead right up here and they would be far enough ahead of a posse, they would ride right by the opening and never find them."
Kid nodded. "Wonder if the army was plannin' on usin' the train was the plan from the start or if it was just in the right place at the wrong time?"
"Yeah," Heyes said, "And what poor soul lost his life being Mad Dog's inside man." They stood there for a moment contemplating the life they had left behind and all the lives that had been lost for this one payroll. "Well," Heyes broke the silence, "Better get some food for the folks."
They had dinner and set up some beds for the Brewsters. Heyes and Kid took turns on watch.
Heyes woke the group up as the sun began to rise. "It's time to get ready Ma'am," he said.
She nodded her head and woke the children.
Kid went and saddled the horses and brought them around the front of the cabin.
"Brrr," he said as he walked in the cabin closing the door behind them. "There's a real chill in the air this mornin'." Turning to Mrs. Brewster, "Might want to take some blankets for the children to keep them warm."
She smiled and nodded.
"Ma'am," he said, "Do you know how to ride?"
"I'm no expert, but I have been on a horse before," she replied.
"Comfortable enough to have one of the children ride with you?" Kid asked.
"Oh, dear, I didn't think of that," she said sounding worried. "I don't know if I could do that. I mean I've been on a horse and all but I don't think...oh my what are we going to do?"
"No need to panic, ma'am," Kid stated. "Joshua and I can handle the children. We'll each take one of them."
Heyes gave a small stiff smile.
"When we get down to the Eye..."
Mrs. Brewster looked confused.
"That's what they call the area that goes right along the ravine."
She nodded acknowledging she understood.
"Well, anyway, when we get there, I'll ride first, you'll be second and then Joshua. Okay?"
"We ready to head out?" Heyes asked.
"Before breakfast?" Kid whined with a crestfallen face.
Heyes chuckled, "Guess you're right Thaddeus, we can eat first and then go."
After breakfast, they got their gear, a few extra blankets for the children and Mrs. Brewster, some food for the ride and went out to the horses.
"Would you like me to help you up ma'am?" Kid said kindly to Mrs. Brewster as she stood next to the horse.
"Thank you Mr. Jones," she replied. "I really wasn't sure how I was going to get on. I remember the horse I rode before being much smaller." She giggled lightly. "Oh, should we get the children on the horses first?"
Kid turned to Heyes. " Joshua can hand me Daniel once I'm on my horse and Joshua can get Rachael on the horse. She’s old enough to hold on until he mounts his horse."
Heyes raised an eyebrow at Kid.
"Thought Rachael might be more comfortable with you, Joshua," Kid smirked.
Heyes gave Kid a grin that said ‘you will pay for this’. Kid turned his attention back to Mrs. Brewster, helping her up. He then mounted his horse and Heyes handed Daniel to him. Heyes then tried to pick up Rachael to put her on the horse.
"Excuse me, sir," she said sounding indignant. I am a lady and ladies are not just picked up by men."
Heyes looked at her shocked.
Kid snickered lightly as he watched.
Heyes in turn gave Kid a dirty look.
"Rachael dear," her mother said. "Mr. Smith is just trying to help you. He already picked Daniel up and gave him to Mr. Jones."
"Mother," she said trying to sound very grown up. " Daniel is two and a half and a boy. I am four and a half years old and a lady. It just isn't proper for a gentleman to be touching me."
Heyes' eyes widened, having no idea how to deal with the situation.
Kid tried to control his laughter caused mostly by the look on Heyes' face. The ex-leader of the Devil's Hole Gang had been shot down and tongue tied by a four and a half year old little girl.
Mrs. Brewster looked horrified and tried to reason with her daughter. "Rachael, I am sure Mr. Smith is only trying to help you up on the horse."
"Mother," Rachael interrupted. "Father explained to me that young gentlemen sometimes say one thing and mean another."
Finally finding his voice again Heyes said as he removed his hat from his head. "Rachael, I'm sorry, Miss Brewster. I assure you that my intentions are honorable. I was just trying to help you up on the horse. I understand you are a young lady and if there was another way to get you up on the horse, I would. Since the horse is rather large, I don't see any other way and we do have to get moving." Heyes paused for a moment and then said with all the charm he could must, "Miss Brewster, would you please allow me to assist you getting on the horse?"
Rachael smiled and looked Heyes in the eyes, "Well, since you have asked so nicely and have said you have only have honro.."
"Honorable," Heyes said quietly.
"Honorable," Rachael repeated and then continued, "in..."
"Intentions, I will allow you to help me up on the horse Mr. Smith. Oh and you can call me Rachael."
"Thank you," Heyes said and picked her up and placed her on the horse.
Kid sat and watched completely bemused by the situation.
Mrs. Brewster rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath but loud enough for Kid to hear, "I'm going to kill my husband and mother-in-law."
Kid couldn't hold it any longer and let out a loud howl and then desperately tried to control himself.
Rachael looked at him and shook her head, "Men," she huffed.
Heyes looked at the ground and gave a low guttural chuckle before mounting his horse having Rachael sit in front of him.
The five rode down the mountain talking and laughing. Kid was playing with Daniel and Rachael was asking Heyes a million questions about everything she saw. It was a very pleasant ride. About two hours into the ride Kid's horse pulled up and began to limp.
"Joshua," Kid called out, as Heyes was looking the other way talking to Rachael.
Heyes turned his head towards Kid.
"Horse has pulled up, we have to stop."
Heyes nodded and pulled his horse to a stop. He got down and then helped Rachael. Looking at Mrs. Brewster he asked, "Would you like some help ma'am?"
"I would appreciate it Mr. Smith," she replied. Heyes helped her down and then took Daniel from Kid and handed him to her. "The gorge is right over there," he said pointing a short distance away. "The ground can be very loose on the sides and that bridge is so old and worn, it probably couldn't hold a butterfly if it landed on it. It would be best if you and the children didn't get any closer."
She nodded. "Stay with me children," she said as a fox darted out from the bushes; Rachael screamed and grabbed hold of her mother's leg. Mrs. Brewster smiled, "Well Mr. Smith, I don't think that will be a problem now."
Smiling, Heyes turned toward Kid who was looking at the horses' hoof. Seeing a stone wedged in the shoe, he took the tip of his knife and pried it out.
"Daniel, stay still," Mrs. Brewster, said as the young boy squirmed in her arms. "Daniel."
"Down," the little boy said, continuing to squirm.
Mrs. Brewster looked exasperated as she gave in and put the boy down holding his hand. "Stay here with me Daniel," she instructed. Seeming happy to be standing, he amused himself watching leaves fall from the trees.
As Heyes and Kid checked the other horses, Daniel broke free of Mrs. Brewster's grip and headed straight for the dilapidated bridge. Mrs. Brewster screamed for him to stop but was unable to move fast enough to grab him having Rachael seemingly attached to her leg. Kid turned at the sound and saw Daniel dart out onto the bridge, without thinking he quickly ran after him.
From there everything went into slow motion as Heyes turned and yelled, "Nnnnnoooooo, Thhhhhhaaaaaadddddddeeeeeuuuus!"
Kid reached Daniel about seven feet out on the swaying bridge. Scooping him up in one arm, he turned to run back to solid ground.
Heyes could see the strings of the rope stretch and as he watched they began to shred and pop. Turning towards the bridge and running Heyes thought the world had stopped except for the sounds of the cracking and snapping of the wood and rope on the bridge. "Thhhhaaaaaadddddddeeeeeuuuus, rrrruuuuuuuunnnnnn!"
Kid felt the boards crack beneath his feet as he tried to move. The fraying and snapping of the ropes holding the bridge together were deafening in sound. He reached for the support rope and managed to grab it and twist it around his wrist just as everything around him sped up. The boards cracked and the rope snapped in half. The bridge broke in two sending broken pieces of wood along with Kid and Daniel plummeting into the gorge. As the floor dropped below his feet, Kid instinctively held the boy closer and tighter to him. As they plunged to their sure death the rope Kid grabbed became taut, stopping them with a jerk. He screamed out as his full weight along with Daniel's yanked at his arm and shoulder holding the rope. Then with great force the two swung towards the side of the gorge. Seeing the rocks they were about to smash into, Kid turned his body protecting Daniel and taking the full impact of the hit.
"Kkkkkkiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddd," Heyes yelled as he reached the side of the ravine and dove onto his stomach so he could look over the edge. "Kid," he yelled again.
A pained voice rang out in the air, "Heyes."
Heyes crept closer to the side leaning over edge but was unable to see him, "Hang on Kid, I'm coming."
An ear piercing shriek brought the two back into the present. "Daniel!" Mrs. Brewster wailed, as she stood frozen by grief and shock.
"Thaddeus," Heyes yelled, "I'll get a rope, hang on."
"Won't do any good Joshua," Kid forced out. "No hands to catch it with."
"Where are ya?"
"Hanging ‘bout five feet below ya," Kid strained to get out. "Got Daniel tucked in my arm. Holdin' on to the rope. Don't know how much longer though."
Heyes leaned further into the ravine frantically trying to see his partner. What he saw was the rope that was holding Kid and Daniel was slowly disintegrating. Finally, he saw Kid's hand wrapped around the rope, or was it the other way around. Kid's hand was holding the rope that had been wrapped around the wrist cutting into it as it peeled away the skin. Heyes desperately tried to reach him but was unable to. He ran his hand through his hair and quickly got up. "Got a plan Thaddeus. Hold on, I'll be right back."
"Not goin' anywhere Joshua," came the weak reply.
"Mrs. Brewster," Heyes called out. "Mrs. Brewster," he repeated louder trying to get her attention. Running over to her, he put his hands on her arms and shook her, "Mrs. Brewster," he said loudly into her face.
The blank stare that had been on her face was replaced by an acknowledging look.
"I need your help, now."
She didn't move or say anything.
"If you want to save your son, we have to work quickly. I need your help!"
"What can I do?" she replied in a whisper.
"I'm going to take the rope and tie it to my horse and then my waist. I want you to take charge of the horse. Listen to me and when I say now you are going to back the horse up. Understand."
She shook her head no.
"I'm going to have to go over the edge to get them," Heyes explained as he tied one end of the rope to the horse. "When I reach them, I will yell NOW and you will get the horse to move backwards pulling the three of us up. Okay." He walked quickly back to the edge. "Just another minute, Thaddeus," he yelled over the side. He tied the rope around his waist and tested the knot.
"The quicker the better, Joshua," the reply came in slurred words.
Turning back to Mrs. Brewster, "We have to do this now."
She nodded her head.
Heyes got down on his stomach and began to inch himself over the edge. His eyes caught sight of the rope holding Kid and seeing it was down to the last few threads before it too snapped, he propelled himself forward with more urgency as he began to feel the rope around his waist become strained. The blood began to rush to his head, which hung down as he eased himself a little further over the edge. He closed his eyes for a second forcing away the wave of light-headedness he was beginning to experience. Peering over a rock he finally saw the top of Kid's head. "Almost there," Heyes croaked out as he continued his descent. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the threads of the rope pop and he reached out with both hands grabbing Kid's wrist just as the rope disintegrated. "I got you," groaned Heyes as the rope around him cut into his waist with the full impact of Kid's and Daniel's weight. He was relieved to feel Kid's hand grip his wrist. "Now," he squeaked out. Nothing happened. "NOW," he yelled. Still fighting the dizziness of being upside down and the strain of the weight he was finding it hard to breath. Digging deep inside he boomed out, "NOW," and slowly he began to feel himself being dragged up the side.
Reaching the top and solid ground they lay there breathing heavily but not moving. Mrs. Brewster came running over and scooped Daniel up into her arms, hugging him close to her as she cried.
A few deep breaths and Heyes tried to loosen the rope that had dug into his waist and hips. "Kid," he forced out. "Thaddeus," he corrected himself, "you okay?"
Heyes finally pulled off the rope, still breathing hard, he managed to roll over and get to his knees. He crawled over to Kid, "Thaddeus," he repeated. He looked at his partner sprawled out on the ground, his arm was still straight up over his head. His wrist was ripped up and covered in blood; the rope from the bridge was still in his grip, though it wasn't attached to anything anymore. As Heyes got closer, he noticed blood running down the side of his face. "Oh Thaddeus," he said as he got to him. "Had to go playing hero again and got yourself all banged up."
Kid opened his eyes at the sound of Heyes' voice but was unable to focus on the man leaning over him. He groaned as Heyes touched his head.
Finally looking down Mrs. Brewster asked, "Is he alright?" She stood looking at the two men, clutching Daniel in her arms with Rachael once again clinging to her leg.
"I'm trying to see," Heyes said as he removed his bandana and dabbed at the blood on Kid's face.
He groaned and tried to move his head away from Heyes' touch. Heyes frowned, as Kid didn't say anything and his eyes closed again. Heyes continued to wipe the blood away to see how bad the cut was.
"Stop," Kid finally moaned and Heyes sat back on his heels with a slight grin on his face. Kid was going to be okay. As Heyes looked at his partner, he noticed the strange angle his arm was in and the frown returned to his face. He moved around him to get a closer look at the arm and shoulder.
Heyes sighed. "Thaddeus," Heyes said, "I'm going to try to move your coat so I can look at your arm. This might hurt."
Kid nodded his head and then groaned at the movement.
Heyes carefully lifted the coat off Kid's shoulder sending excruciating pain through Kid's arm and shoulder.
"Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh," Kid screamed out.
Heyes let go of the coat and once again sat back on his heels to think for a moment. "Thaddeus," he finally said when Kid's breathing had slowed to almost normal. "You dislocated your shoulder." He paused, letting the words sink in. "I'm going to have to put it back in place for you to move." He paused again, letting Kid digest what he was saying. "I know how much it's gonna hurt, but we don't have a choice." He paused again. "I'm gonna have to get your coat off so I can maneuver your arm." Heyes paused and Kid nodded his head slightly letting Heyes know he understood. "I'm going to have to lift you up some so I can get it off." He turned and looked up at Mrs. Brewster, "Ma'am, I could use a little help."
She nodded, "What can I do?"
"I'm going to lift him up and I need you to slide the coat off."
Mrs. Brewster gave Heyes a terrified look.
"Just get it off of his left arm and shoulder, I'll do the rest."
"Okay, Thaddeus," Heyes said quietly, "Here we go." Heyes lifted Kid up, Mrs. Brewster leaned over, having deposited Daniel and Rachael a few feet away and helped remove Kid's coat. Heyes looked at his partner and with a quick movement he leaned into the shoulder and jerked the arm. Kid let out a blood-curdling scream "Heyes," and then passed out. Heyes carefully bent Kid's elbow and place his arm on his chest. Standing up he said, "I need to immobilize his shoulder and check out the head and wrist injuries." Looking up at the sky and the clouds he said glumly, "He's in no condition to travel today. We're going to have to go back to the cabin."
Mrs. Brewster, who was back holding the children, cried out, "But we have to?"
"Ma'am," Heyes said rather sternly, "My partner just risked his life to save your son. There is no way he can ride a horse and get through the Needle alive." He looked at her with disdain because of what she had said and then softened his face. "I know you have been through a lot and I apologize for being gruff. I want to get off this mountain as much as you do. The fact is, we can't. Thaddeus is in no condition to ride, especially on the narrow ridge of the Eye. Besides his shoulder, he has a head wound. I'm not sure if it's a concussion or not yet but I'm not taking the chance." He stood looking at her and waiting for a reaction then added, "You can take a horse, you can have two if you need them and make your way down the mountain if you like. Me, I'm going to build a travois for him and get him back to the cabin."
Heyes proceeded to look for some branches that would work to build the make shift stretcher. When he had found two suitable branches, he used his knife to strip them of any remaining leaves and twigs. Then he removed the rope from the horse and began to tie the branches together.
Mrs. Brewster stood silently off to the side watching, the children at her side. As she watched Heyes tie the branches together she broke her silence. "Mr. Smith," she said taking a small step towards him. "Is there something I can do to help?"
Heyes continued to work, never looking up when he spoke. "You can get me some of the extra blankets we brought."
Mrs. Brewster moved her children to a large rock to sit on and instructed them to stay put. She then went and retrieved the blankets. Handing them to Heyes she said quietly, "I am sorry your friend is hurt, Mr. Smith. I am extremely grateful for Mr. Jones saving Daniel and I don't think I will ever be able to repay him. Well, either of you for all you have done. I was upset when I said what I did, I would like to help."
Heyes paused and took the blankets Mrs. Brewster held out in her hands. "Thank you," he said as he took the blankets, putting all but one on the ground. He took a couple steps over to Kid and carefully covered him with the remaining blanket. He paused for a moment to watch Kid's breathing and then went back to work. As he leaned over to pick up the blankets he said, "I have to secure the blankets to the branches. If you can come over here and hold them it would help."
Mrs. Brewster nodded and did as Heyes instructed. In no time the travois was constructed and secured to Heyes' horse.
Heyes stood and looked at Kid contemplating how he was going to get him onto the device. Finally, realizing there was no way to do it without causing his partner pain, he walked over and squatted down next to his partner. "Thaddeus," Heyes said quietly. "Thaddeus," he repeated. Kid groaned lightly and Heyes continued. "Thaddeus, I have to pick you up."
"Heyes," Kid moaned quietly as he was only partially conscious. "Heyes," he said again, "Don't think I can ride."
Heyes winced at the repeated use of his real name but tried not to show any acknowledgement hoping Mrs. Brewster didn't hear. "Thaddeus, you don't have to ride. I built, well Mrs. Brewster," he said emphasizing her name and hoped Kid would remember they were not alone. "Mrs. Brewster and I built a travois for you. Do you need me to pick you up or can you get up and walk over to it?"
Kid stared at him blankly then closed his eyes again.
"Okay," Heyes said, "I'll pick you up and put you on it. It's gonna hurt, but try to stay with me."
"Whatever you say Hh," Kid started and caught himself, "Joshua."
Kid opened his eyes and looked at his partner, "My head hurts."
"Well," Heyes quipped, "If it's just your head, you'll be just fine." He gave his partner a reassuring grin. It didn't reach his eyes but it was enough to comfort Kid. "Here goes," Heyes said and reached down and scooped up Kid as gently as possible and then deposited him just as gently on the travois. Even so, the movement shot pain through Kid's body and he screamed out in agony. Heyes carefully rearranged the blanket over Kid. Standing up he looked at Mrs. Brewster, "I'm going to have to tie Thaddeus' horse to yours and you will have to ride with one of the children. Rachael will probably give you less trouble."
"Well then," she said as she looked at Heyes and her eyes dropped to his torso. "You're hurt Mr. Smith," she exclaimed, noticing blood on the front his shirt.
"Just some scratches, nothing serious," he replied.
"We should check..."
"I'm fine ma'am. I'll take care of them when we get to the cabin."
Mrs. Brewster nodded. "If you're sure."
Heyes gave a slight nod.
"Well then, let's get Mr. Jones back to the cabin. If you'll help me up, you can hand Daniel to me."
"I said Rachael would be less trouble."
"That's exactly why I will have Daniel. You'll have enough to worry about dragging Mr. Jones like that. Seems you shouldn't have to worry about keeping Daniel on the horse too."
Heyes smiled and nodded. He helped her onto the horse, and then handed her Daniel. He then put Rachael on the horse and got on behind her. They slowly headed back to the cabin.
As Heyes led the way back to the cabin, Mrs. Brewster followed. She wondered about the two men in front of her, one on the horse and one on the travois. Something was different about them. As she stared at Mr. Jones' face she remembered. One of the men that took them hostage mentioned that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were in the area and probably going for the payroll too. The man lying there had blonde hair and blue eyes, his partner had brown hair and brown eyes just like the wanted posters stated. She knew every detail of those posters, and now that she thought about it, they were the right height, weight and age. How could she have possibly missed it!
But, they came to save her and her children she argued with herself. How could they be the notorious outlaws? They risked their lives. They have been nothing but perfect gentlemen to her and so kind to her children. She decided she was just being silly and scared. And then her jaw sagged. She remembered, when the bridge collapsed, Mr. Smith called out to his partner. He didn't yell out Mr. Jones or Thaddeus. She concentrated hard trying to remember what he said and then remembered the blood-curdling scream of Mr. Jones. She could hear it in her head like it was just said, "Heyes". Mr. Jones yelled Heyes. And now that she thought about it, she was sure Mr. Smith called out for Kid. Her heart sank. Could they really be Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry? Maybe they didn't come to save them. Maybe they just came for the payroll. Her mind was reeling when they arrived at the cabin.
Heyes dismounted and then got Rachael down. He walked over to Mrs. Brewster and took Daniel from her arms and then helped a hesitant Mrs. Brewster down. "I'll just take Daniel and Rachael into the cabin," she said abruptly and ushered the children in.
Heyes did a double take at Mrs. Brewster's sudden apprehension and then turned his attention back to Kid. He walked over and crouched down beside him. He just hoped Kid's injuries weren't too bad and the weather would hold out until he was able to ride. It was only the end of October; Kid should be able to ride in a couple of days and maybe sooner. The cold wind blowing and the chill in his bones told him different. Heyes looked at Kid and sighed, couldn't anything be easy. He leaned over and tapped him. "Kid," he said quietly. "Kid, wake up."
"Huh," Kid said groggily. "What, Heyes?"
"Kid, I got to get you into the cabin. I think it will hurt less if I helped you walk than if I tried to pick you up. Do you think you can get up?"
"Yeah," he said without having any idea if he really could. All he really knew was that his head was pounding and if he could, he would remove his entire arm because the pain was so bad. He sighed and blinked his eyes trying to adjust to the light as he opened them. "Heyes," Kid moaned quietly, "My head is killing me." He tried moving his right arm only to look down and see it tied down around his waist.
Seeing the confused look on his partners face, Heyes said, "You dislocated your shoulder. I had to immobilize it. Do you remember?"
Kid laid his head back and thought for a minute, "Daniel?"
"Yeah" Heyes nodded. "You saved Daniel. In the process you dislocated your shoulder, messed up your wrist and you have a real big lump on your head. I fixed the shoulder but I got to get you in the cabin to take a look at the rest of you. You ready to try?" Kid nodded and Heyes helped him up and slowly, with Kid leaning on him, they made it to the cabin. Heyes guided Kid over to the cot along the sidewall.
Kid plopped down on the cot and sat looking somewhat dazed. Mrs. Brewster was huddled with her children over along the far wall. "Thaddeus," Heyes said quietly, Kid sat still as he slowly blinked his eyes. "Thaddeus," Heyes repeated quietly, Kid slowly lifted his eyes up to meet his partners. "You still with me?"
Kid nodded his head ever so slightly.
"Good. I'm gonna take off your gun belt. Then I gotta clean and check your head and wrist. You lie down and rest; I'll get the stuff." As Kid lay down Heyes said, "Try to stay with me, okay." There was an almost unperceived movement in Kid's head as his eyelids began to close. Heyes leaned over and covered him with a blanket. His hand lightly grazed Kid's shoulder as he turned towards the fireplace.
Looking across the cabin Heyes noticed how frightened Mrs. Brewster looked as she grasped her children close to her. He paused for a second as he looked at her, noticing her grip tighten on her children, he sighed and continued to the fire. Either she had heard them call each other their real names and figured out who they really were or perhaps, he thought, she was just scared to be back in the cabin. In either case, he would have to deal with it after he took care of Kid. He stirred the embers in the fireplace relieved to see they were still hot and a small fire began to burn. He added a few more pieces of wood. As the fire grew, he reached for the empty coffee pot, taking it out back to fill with water.
Coming back into the cabin, Heyes placed the coffee pot on the hook and swung it over the fire to heat. He then set forth to find the other supplies he would need, a basin, a clean rag to wash the wounds, something that could be used as bandages and the salve from his saddlebags. Moving through the cabin, he was keenly aware of Mrs. Brewster's eyes watching every move he made. Finding everything he needed, Heyes poured the now warm water into the basin and sat in the chair next to Kid's cot. He began to carefully rip strips of cloth from a sheet he had found in the supply room to make bandages.
Mrs. Brewster and the children sat quietly watching him. Rachael began to get antsy and ignoring her mother's quiet pleas to be still and stay put, she broke free of her mother's grip and ran towards Heyes. "Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith," Rachael exclaimed while she ran to him. "Mr. Smith, I can help! I'm really good at bandaging people, just ask Daniel."
Startled by the outburst from the little girl and a gasp from her mother, Heyes whipped himself around just in time to catch Rachael and stop her from running head on into the cot. "Whoa," Heyes said, "Let's slow down a little bit. I don't think Mr. Jones needs to be knocked into any more today."
"Rachael," Mrs. Brewster called out. "Rachael, come back here!" she demanded as she stood in place holding tightly onto Daniel with one arm and the other reaching out towards Rachael.
Seeing the terrified look on her face, Heyes turned his attention to Rachael. "Rachael, I think you had better listen to your mother."
"But I want to help!" Rachael began to protest.
"Rachael," Heyes said quietly as he looked into her eyes and held her hands. "You're mother has had a terrible scare today. She needs your help more than I do right now."
Rachael creased her brow and started to breathe heavily as she stuck her bottom lip out.
Heyes looked into her big eyes as they began to fill with tears, "I'll make you a deal," he said hoping to stop the onslaught of a tantrum.
Rachael's eyes widen at the prospect.
"You go help your mother out now and I'll take care of Mr. Jones."
The crease began to deepen in her forehead.
"Mr. Jones' bandages will have to be checked," he continued.
Her eyes widened again.
"If you help your mother now, you can help me check the bandages later."
Rachael reached up and wrapped her arms around Heyes giving him a big hug. Heyes returned the hug and added, "That is if your mother says it's okay."
Rachael pushed away from him and started to breathe heavily again.
"No, none of that," he said in a voice that let Rachael know he wasn't going to back down. "You have to listen to your mother. She only wants the best for you. You do this now and if your mother says its okay you can help me later. That's the deal. Alright?"
Rachael thought a minute and then smiled. "Deal," she said and she hugged Heyes again and then smiling went back to her mother.
As Heyes stood up he looked at Mrs. Brewster; she gave him a small tight smile. He nodded an acknowledgement and went back to work on Kid.
Heyes carefully began to clean the wounds, starting first with the head. Delicately, he dabbed the wet cloth on Kid's face and cleaned off all the dried blood, looking for the source. Heyes was relieved to find just a small gash on Kid's temple. He smiled to himself as he cleaned it, pleased that even though it bled like it was a huge hole in the side of Kid's head, it wasn't too big or deep and it had already stopped bleeding on its own. He moved his attention to Kid's wrist and once again was pleased to find it more of an inconvenience than an actual injury. The rope had ripped the skin away but it was more a severe rope burn than anything else. It would hurt like the devil, not having any skin to cover the raw area, but it too would heal and not cause any permanent damage. Having cleaned both wounds, Heyes put the salve on them and bandaged them both. He patted his partner lightly on the shoulder as he stood up. "Sleep well Thaddeus," he said. "I need your head to be clear so we can get off the mountain."
"Is Mr. Jones going to be alright?" Mrs. Brewster asked timidly, still sitting on the far side of the cabin.
"He should be," Heyes replied. "I'm still not sure if he has a concussion but he's resting well so I'm hopeful."
"When can we leave?" she asked.
"I hope he'll be well enough to ride out in the morning," he said as he picked up the basin full of red colored water. He stopped and looked at her, "If you would like to take a horse or two you can make your way down the mountain. You can't really get lost, there's only one way to go."
"Mama," Rachael exclaimed, "We can't leave them here alone."
"It's okay Rachael, we won't. If it's alright with you Mr. Smith," Mrs. Brewster said quietly. "We'll wait for Mr. Jones to be able to ride."
"Fine by me ma'am. Actually, I would prefer it. Just didn't want you to do nothing you didn't want to." Heyes turned, walking out the door, he dumped the basin. He set it down on the porch and looked at the sky. The wind was changing and he could see the dark clouds approaching quickly. Just another day, he thought, just hold off another day. He sighed as a cold breeze sent shivers through his bones. Looking at the horses he decided to take care of them and get them into the make shift barn.
He unhooked the travois and then removed the saddlebags and the saddles, placing them on the porch. He stopped for a moment as he took Kid's hat off the saddle; it had amazingly stayed on Kid's head and then hung around his neck as he fell from the bridge. It only got smashed when Kid hit the side of the gorge and then was pulled up. A little worse for wear, but still in one piece. Heyes placed it on the porch with their other belongings. He thought it better be safe than sorry and store the gear in the cabin. There was little enough room in the barn area for the horses; he didn't want the gear to get wet if the weather changed.
Entering the corral Heyes was slightly surprised to find hay and feed for the horses. Obviously Mad Dog had thought long and hard about the robbery and where to hide out when it was done. Heyes was convinced he had planned on hiding in the mountain cabin. He figured there were enough supplies for the men and horses to get them through the winter. By the time Mad Dog had emerged from his hide out, the posse would be gone and most people would think he was dead. Almost the perfect plan to get away; having the foresight to stock a cabin that no one but Mad Dog and his men would get to. Leading the posse into the mountains. Most posses would have camped on the other side of the Needle, not wanting to take the chance coming in. They would figure they could catch Mad Dog on his way out. Once the first snow came, the pass would be closed and anyone remaining on the inside wouldn't last long so they would leave, come back in the spring to recover the bodies and the money. Since no one else came through the Needle, Heyes snorted, Mad Dog's plan would have worked if it wasn't for him and Kid. He finished taking care of the horses and headed back to the cabin.
Heyes stored the saddles in the storeroom and then walked over to Kid and placed his hat on the chair with his gun. Heyes stood there looking at his partner who was resting peacefully and then turned to Mrs. Brewster who still hadn't moved. Once again, he noticed the frightened expression on her face. He quietly walked back over to the fireplace and crouched down in front of it. He added another log and stared into it contemplating if he should attempt to talk to her or just let her be. As he continued looking into the fire he finally broke the silence. "I figured you, Rachael and Daniel can sleep on the remaining cots." He paused and then added, "I'm sorry there is only this room. I can hang a sheet to give you some privacy."
"I would appreciate that," Mrs. Brewster said quietly.
"But where are you going to sleep Mr. Smith?" Rachael asked with concern.
Turning to look at the young girl, Heyes winced, "I'll be alright on the floor by Mr. Jones."
Seeing the wince and hearing the touch of pain in his voice Rachael jumped down from her mother's arms before she could be stopped. Running over to Heyes she exclaimed as she looked at his shirt, "You're hurt!" Turning towards her mother, "Mama, Mr. Smith is hurt, we have to help him!"
Glancing at Mrs. Brewster and seeing the panic in her face Heyes said, "It's just a scratch Rachael, I'm fine."
"No you're not!" Rachael cried out. "Look," she said as she pointed to his shirt, "You're bleeding. You need help." Turning back to her mother she pleaded, "Mama."
"Rachael, if Mr. Smith says he's alright, then I'm sure he's alright," she said rather coldly.
Heyes could feel the chill in the air as she spoke. Standing up he said quietly, "Rachael, I just moved the wrong way and reopened some of the scratches from before. It's really nothing. I can take care of them myself."
"But..." Rachael protest.
"Rachael," her mother said sternly. "You must leave Mr. Smith alone. Now come over to me. You can help me hang a sheet up across the room."
Heyes closed his eyes slowly and sighed to himself, she knew, she had to know. Opening his eyes he looked down at his shirt shaking his head, another shirt ripped and covered in blood. He had been so busy taking care of Kid that he had forgotten he had been scraped up when he was pulled up the side of the gorge. Obviously the shirt had stuck to his side and when he turned, the movement ripped it away, causing the cuts to start bleeding again. Heyes walked over and retrieved the coffee pot to get some warm water. Taking the basin and warm water into the store room, Heyes removed his shirt to discover the worst of the cuts were located on the right side of his rib cage. Most of it was a large brush burn with some scratches but there were a few deeper cuts caused by the roots sticking out of the side of the gorge. He cleaned the area, and then put salve on it. After bandaging the deeper cuts, he pulled a clean shirt from his saddlebag and put it on. Emerging from the storeroom, he stopped; Mrs. Brewster had already moved the cots to the far side of the cabin and had strung sheets up with rope around them. He exhaled and hoped this would be the only night they had to stay in the cabin.
Heyes looked at Kid resting peacefully on the cot. He was tempted to set up his bedroll and just go to sleep, hoping when he woke, everything would be fine and they could all leave. His eyes drifted over to the hanging sheet. He could hear Mrs. Brewster whispering loudly to her children to stay put and not leave their area. Figuring Mrs. Brewster was not going to come out from behind the sheet anytime soon, Heyes decided he needed to make some food incase Kid woke up. He turned around went back into the storeroom and took inventory.
Looking at all the supplies and the diversity of what was there, he figured they must have been brought in on pack mules during the summer months when they could go over the mountain. Being in somewhat close proximity to Devil's Hole, he knew that the top of the mountains could only be negotiated in July and August. After that the weather was too unpredictable. Seeing all the sacks, he couldn't see how else they would have gotten there. A pack mule with all the supplies would never have made it through on the narrow ledge. Heyes gathered what he needed to make a vegetable stew, biscuits, and coffee and then he carried them out into the sparsely furnished room, placing them on the table.
Besides the small square table with four chairs that sat in the middle of the room there were four cots, three of which were now behind sheets. There were also two very worn but comfortable looking chairs by the fireplace. Off to the side of the cabin where Kid's cot was, were two shelves with some glasses and cooking utensils. Below it was a cabinet that held a few pots, pans, plates and utensils. The door to the cabin was off to the far end of the cabin with a small window that had been boarded up next to it. The storeroom was to the left as you entered the cabin.
As Heyes eyed the room something gnawed at him, something was off, something didn't add up. He turned and surveyed everything again. Then it hit him; there were only four cots. When they met up with Mad Dog and his men there were five of them. Was one of the men not staying or was one just not planned for? Heyes shrugged his shoulders deciding it really didn't matter since they were all dead. There was no one left to warn anyone that they were there or to cause trouble on the other side. Besides, he decided he was just letting his cynical side get to him. He went back to preparing the food. When he finished, he offered it to Mrs. Brewster who came out long enough to get a large plate and bring it back behind the sheets to share with the children. Heyes ate in silence as Kid continued sleeping. He was fairly sure at this point that since not even the smell of food woke Kid that he was dealing with a concussion. He threw a few more logs on the fire and then opened his bedroll next to Kid's cot. As he lay there in silence, he stared at the ceiling. After hours of lying awake he finally drifted off to sleep.