The Long Road – Part 4
Heyes rolled over and before he even opened his eyes he knew what the night had brought. He could feel the chill in the air even though the fire was still burning. He considered staying tucked warmly in his bedroll but the sound of the wind beginning to howl dragged him out of the warmth into the cool air of the cabin. He quietly got up and threw a log on the fire and then went to the door. He carefully opened the door a crack and his worst fears were confirmed. At least three inches had fallen in the early hours of the morning and by the look of the dark clouds on the horizon it looked as though it was just beginning. They weren't going anywhere today and possibly not for a long time. Heyes hoped that the early season snow would be brief and there would be a warm up long enough for them to get off the mountain. He closed the door and walked over to check on Kid. Leaning over him Heyes pulled the covers up making sure he was warm.
"Heyes," Kid said groggily, "It's cold in here."
"I'll put another log on the fire Thaddeus," Heyes replied. "How ya feeling?"
"Like I've been trampled by a herd of cattle," Kid groaned.
"You kind of look like ya have," Heyes smirked.
"Nah, just a little beat up. How's your head feel?"
"Well, rest. I'll get some more wood on the fire," Heyes said as he lightly patted his partner's shoulder and stood up. Heyes added some more wood and picked up the coffee pot. He was thankful he had brought in extra water last night and didn't have to go out in the storm. He prepared the coffee, put the pot on the hook and swung it over the fire then sat down in one of the comfy chairs. He closed his eyes and asked himself would it ever be easy for the two of them?
It snowed heavily the rest of the day. Heyes stayed busy checking on the horses and making sure the pile of wood on the porch was covered and dry. Kid slept through most of the day only waking occasionally for some water and Heyes did get him to eat a little of the stew and a biscuit. Mrs. Brewster and the children stayed behind the sheet most of the day. When they came out, Mrs. Brewster kept both Rachael and Daniel close to her even though they wanted to play. As night approached Heyes once again laid on the bedroll staring at the ceiling and listening to the howling winds finally falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning.
Morning came and as Heyes opened his eyes, he didn't hear anything. He lie there for a moment and listened, still nothing. He got up and walked to the door, opening it a crack, he was momentarily blinded by the brightness of the sun reflecting off the newly fallen snow. Heyes let his eyes adjust and then walked out onto the roof-covered porch. It was still snowing ever so slightly but Heyes figured it was only a matter of time before the flakes stopped. He walked to the edge of the porch, picked a log up from the pile and placed the end into the snow. Inserting it all the way until it hit the ground and then pulling it out. Looking at the mark left behind he frowned; about twelve inches of snow had fallen. He placed the log back on the woodpile and headed back inside. Picking up a dry log from inside he placed it on the fire and then stirred the embers. He sat back in the chair.
As he stared at the fire he was startled by the touch of a little hand on his. Heyes turned to see Rachael looking up at him with one of the saddest looks he had ever seen. "Hey, no sad faces," he said as he smiled at her and touched the side of her face. Rachael said nothing but climbed up on his lap and curled up leaning her head against his chest. Heyes smiled and wrapped his arms around her. "Sshh," he whispered to her, "Everything going to be alright."
They sat there quietly for about five minutes when Heyes heard movement behind the curtain. Mrs. Brewster suddenly burst out from behind the curtain and grabbed Rachael out of Heyes' lap. "How dare you," she said incensed as daggers flew from her eyes.
Heyes stood up and put his hands up in front of him. "I meant no harm. She crawled up on my lap."
"You had no right!" she said as she placed Rachael down on the bed behind the curtain instructing her to stay put.
"I was only trying to make her happy."
"Do not touch my children again!" She demanded and went to return to the curtained area.
Heyes gently placed his hand on Mrs. Brewster's arm then looked at her. He calmly said, "I'm not sure what I may have done but I can assure you, I have no intention of hurting you or your children."
Mrs. Brewster glared at Heyes. "You have no idea," she huffed in a loud whisper.
"I can assure you ma'am, I have no idea. Perhaps if you tell me…" Heyes began before being cut off.
"On the porch. Daniel is still sleeping and I have no intentions of upsetting Rachael," she seethed as she whirled around and headed towards the door.
Heyes followed her onto the porch. There was some snow on it, but the porch roof had kept the majority of the snow off and the wind whipped snow had come in from behind the cabin. Heyes closed the door quietly behind them and then waited for Mrs. Brewster to start.
Mrs. Brewster looked at the snow and rage filled her voice, "This is all your fault!"
"We are stuck in this cabin for who knows how long and it is all your fault, you and your partner's. I should be home sitting by a nice warm fire with my husband instead of here in this horrible place."
"Mrs. Brewster I wish we were off this mountain too and that you were home with your husband, but we're not. We are going to be here for a while. It would make it easier if we could all get along. If you could tell me what I did," Heyes said in a very conciliatory voice.
"You, you," Mrs. Brewster blurted out and then turned her back to Heyes in a huff.
"I know you're upset but I can't control the weather."
"You planned all of this!" Mrs. Brewster exclaimed as she whirled back around to face him.
"I planned this!" Heyes said incredulously. "I planned for YOUR son to run out onto an old bridge, for my partner to save him and in the process get a concussion and dislocate his shoulder. And if that wasn't enough, I planned for it to snow in OCTOBER!!!" he exclaimed as he waved his hands fervently in the air. "You want to explain that?" he asked with his eyes almost popping out of his head.
"You planned this!" Mrs. Brewster insisted as she became flustered at his tone and stare. "You and your partner never had any intention of saving us, you just wanted the money!"
Heyes' shoulders sank and a scowl appeared on his face. "The money? We don't want the money. We were hired to protect the money and then out of the goodness of our hearts we came after you and your children."
"Right, you came after us without any ulterior motive?" Mrs. Brewster said sarcastically.
"What ulterior motive?" Heyes asked exasperated.
"You know full well what I'm talking about Mr. Heyes!"
Heyes calmed himself, "I don't know..." he began before being interrupted.
"I know who you and your partner are," Mrs. Brewster said angrily. "You are Hannibal Heyes and your partner is Kid Curry. If you came to save us it is only so you could get the payroll and then probably hold me for ransom."
"Why would we do that?" Heyes asked stunned.
"Because of who I am?"
"Ma'am, you have me totally confused." he said as he ran his hand over his face and then made a fist in frustration dropping it to his side. "As I said, my partner Mr. Jones and me were hired to guard the payroll. When you were taken hostage, we came with Captain Turner and Sheriff Lom Trevors to find you. The money was secondary."
"So what did you do to Captain Turner and Sheriff whomever?" she asked as she became very agitated.
"We didn't do anything!" Heyes exclaimed. "One of Mad Dog's men shot the Captain and Sheriff Trevors took him back to town. Mr. Jones and I decided we would continue after you. We were supposed to follow but then Daniel changed the plan!" Heyes ran his hand over his face and through his hair.
"Stop playing games with me. You want the money and were planning on holding us hostage. That's why the cabin is full of supplies!"
"Mad Dog stocked the cabin. I want OFF this mountain as much as you and why would we hold you hostage?"
"Because of my father!"
"I have no idea who your father is!"
"Yes you do!!"
Heyes stared at Mrs. Brewster with a bewildered look. He knew she was upset but he had no idea what she was talking about. "Ma'am," he said quietly trying to calm her down. "I really have no idea what you are talking about. Mr. Jones and me were just trying to get you back to your family, nothing else. I don't know why you would think anything else."
"Because you're Hannibal Heyes and he's Kid Curry!"
Heyes closed his eyes for a moment, then looking at the snow and knowing they weren't going to be leaving the mountain anytime soon he gave in. "Mrs. Brewster, even if I was Hannibal Heyes and Mr. Jones was Kid Curry, why would we want to take you hostage? I know you said your father but I really have no idea who he is."
Mrs. Brewster stared at Heyes and stood up as straight as she could. "My father, as you well know Mr. Heyes is Jay Gould."
Heyes caught her stare and returned it. Jay Gould, the name was familiar but he couldn't place it. As he stared into her eyes it hit him. "Oh," he said meekly as his entire body sagged in defeat. Things had gone bad enough as it was, now this. There goes the amnesty for sure. If Jay Gould thought like his daughter, he and Kid might as well stay on the mountain or high tail it to Mexico.
Not paying attention to Heyes and his reaction, she continued, "That's right Jay Gould. THEE Jay Gould of the Union Pacific Railroad." Mrs. Brewster stopped talking and looked at Heyes. She saw him transform right before her eyes. Where once stood a confident and defiant person stood someone who looked lost. "You didn't know, did you?" she asked quietly.
"No ma'am. I didn't," Heyes said just as quiet and turned away from her. "It's cold outside, you should get back into the cabin."
She looked at the back of him and started back into the cabin. "Mr. Heyes," she said quietly to his back. "Would it have made a difference if you had known?"
Heyes didn't answer.
"Would you have still come after us?"
"No difference ma'am. We wouldn't have left you with Mad Dog." Heyes stared out into the snow and watched it silently fall. "You should really get inside and get warm ma'am."
Mrs. Brewster turned and walked into the cabin, closing the door behind her.
Heyes continued to stare at the flakes slowly falling from the skies for sometime before turning and walking back into the cabin. As he entered, Kid called for him. "Joshua," he said quietly and Heyes walked over to the side of the bed. Kid noticed how dejected Heyes looked. "Everything okay? I thought I heard yelling on the porch."
"Everything's fine," Heyes said quietly to his partner.
"Heyes," Kid said quietly as he looked at his partner. He knew something was up just by the way Heyes sat down.
"She's worried we'll run out of food," Heyes lied to his partner.
Kid raised an eyebrow at Heyes.
Heyes smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Everything's fine," he repeated not wanting to concern his partner about something neither one had any control over. "Rest so you can get better and we can ride out of here when this snow melts." He stood up patting Kid on the shoulder and walked to the fire adding a log just to look busy and not have to discuss it any more.
Kid knew something was bothering Heyes but figured he would let Heyes handle it for now.
The rest of the day went by very quietly. Heyes busied himself in the storeroom. He moved bags here and then back to there. Put things in one pile just to move them to another pile just to keep out of the main room. Kid slept most of the day and Heyes figured it was best to give Mrs. Brewster and the children as much room as possible. He also checked on the horses and brought more wood inside so that by the time he was done, the entire wall by the fireplace had a nice neatly stacked pile of wood. He then grabbed a couple of buckets and pots and filled them with snow and placed them in the storeroom.
Kid was awake and sitting up when he came in with the last pot of snow. "Joshua, you're making me tired with all this runnin' around and I've been sleepin' all day."
"Just want to make sure we have enough water."
Kid tilted his head.
"It has to melt and there is always a lot less water than snow," Heyes explained.
"Yes," Kid replied, "but you have to have at least five or six buckets and pots filled."
"Eight," Heyes replied and placed his hands on his hips satisfied with his work.
"Eight," Kid snorted. "Joshua, there is plenty of snow and if we need water, we can sit it by the fire and it will melt in no time."
Heyes twisted his face and creased his brow. "Hmpf." Heyes paused and looked disgusted. Kid didn't even appreciate his hard work. "Well it's done now. Guess I'll see what I can make for dinner." Heyes turned and walked back to the storeroom.
Heyes stayed in the storeroom for some time. He moved the supplies around again, telling himself he was organizing things better. Truth is, he was just keeping busy. He didn't want to be in the main room. He didn't want to be near Mrs. Brewster. Her accusations about him and Kid really bothered him. They risked their lives to save her and her children and she just thought the worst. Because of her, he was away from Laurie. Because of her, Kid was hurt. Because of her.... Heyes slammed down Kid's saddle and placed his hands on his hips. He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. He was going to be stuck in the cabin with her probably until spring. He had to find a way to make the best of it, even if she didn't want to, even if she wouldn't talk to him. Oh well, he decided, at least Kid will heal soon and he will be able to talk to him. He smiled, wouldn't that just drive Kid nuts! He chuckled and went back to work, moving the storeroom around.
Beans and biscuits were Heyes' choice for dinner. He wasn't in the mood to eat but knew Kid would be hungry.
Kid sat up in bed as he watched Heyes make the biscuits. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed he moaned.
"Hey," Heyes said as he saw his partner sway and quickly got to his side. "You got to take it easy. Lie down."
"Joshua," Kid said groggily, "I've been in bed now better part of two days. I should get up."
"You got a big lump on your head Thaddeus that says you need to lie down. Anyway, what's the rush?"
Kid looked at Heyes and sighed, "We're not leavin’ any time soon are we?"
Heyes frowned and shook his head.
"‘Bout a foot."
"Damn," Kid said shaking his head and then moaned from the movement. "I'm real sorry Joshua."
"No need to be sorry. Don't think you planned on giving yourself a concussion or dislocating your shoulder."
"By the way," Heyes asked seriously, "How's the shoulder?"
"Well if my head didn't hurt so much," Kid said with a straight face. "I think my shoulder would be killing me."
"Well then, I guess it's a good thing your head hurts!" Heyes chuckled. "Good thing it's so hard too!"
Kid motioned with his head towards the curtained area, "What's that about?"
"I guess privacy or being proper. You know, a married lady sharing a cabin with two men and all."
"It's not like we planned it." Kid said sounding slightly annoyed then added, "How's she takin' it?"
"Not good," Heyes sighed. "She's scared."
"You'll make it better. You always know what to say."
Heyes chuckled, "Don't know about this time Kid." He sighed. "Well, you rest, I'll make dinner."
Kid started to protest and as he moved, his head began to pound again. "Okay. If that's what you want Joshua, I'll rest. I'll make it up to you some other time."
"I know you will partner. Rest and I'll bring you a plate when it's ready."
It was late at night and once again Heyes couldn't sleep. He couldn't help but think about the predicament they were in and more than that Laurie. He was stuck on the mountain without any way of telling her he was alright. She had been sick before they left and now he couldn't even get to her to make sure she was better. He couldn't hold her, he couldn't touch her, talk to her, kiss her. His mind was reeling and what he really wanted to do was to go saddle his horse and head for home. But since that wasn't possible he got up.
Heyes walked over and placed another log on the fire. He sat down and stared into the flames as they danced. He reached into his pocket pulling out his watch. First checking the time and then looking at the heart charm Laurie had given him. He closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed the charm between his fingers. He sat there staring into the fire, unconsciously rubbing the charm.
"She must be really special," a quiet voice came from beside him.
Startled, Heyes turned to the voice, "Ma'am?"
"Who ever gave you that charm," she nodded her head in the direction of his hands. "She must be very special."
"Yes ma'am," Heyes said quietly turning back to the fire.
Mrs. Brewster walked over and quietly took the chair next to Heyes. She sat and studied him for a few minutes; this outlaw that risked his life to save her and her two young children. She had seen how he took care of his partner, how concerned he was for him. And now he was sitting silently in the dark, holding his watch and playing with the charm. He had motioned to put the watch away when she asked about it but it still sat in his hand as he continued rubbing the charm absently between his fingers. She could see the sad look of longing in his face. "You miss her?"
"Ma'am?" Heyes said dazed, having been lost in thought.
"You miss her?" She got no response from him. "Well if she feels the same way about you as you do about her, she'll wait for you," Mrs. Brewster said.
Heyes sat quietly, then turned to look at her. "It was a long time ago ma'am. She's not waiting for me." Heyes turned back to the fire placing his watch back into his pocket. Picking up a stick, he poked the fire as he added another log. Mrs. Brewster knew who he was he wasn't going to allow her to know that Laurie existed.
"Then she doesn't know about your life of crime?" Mrs. Brewster asked.
Heyes didn't respond as he continued to play with the fire.
"Oh," she said quietly, "Maybe that's why she isn't waiting for you."
They sat there for a while in silence, Heyes finally turned to her. "Maybe you should try to get some sleep ma'am. The sun will be up in a few hours and so will your children."
"What about you Mr. Heyes, don't you ever sleep?" Mrs. Brewster inquired.
"It's Joshua Smith, ma'am and I don't need much," he stated then added, "Don't have any kids."
She smiled and stood up, "Well then, perhaps you're right Mr. Heyes. Good night." Mrs. Brewster turned and started to walk back to bed. She looked over her shoulder at the man sitting by the fire. He was once again playing with the charm on his watch chain. She smiled and then continued to bed.
It had been three days since Lom arrived back in Lewistown with Captain Turner. Heyes and Kid were supposed to follow with the hostages in the morning. Lom waited all day for them to ride into town. He kept telling himself that they were traveling with a woman and her two young children they probably had to take it slow. He shook his head; he shouldn't have left them up there alone. The Captain was hurt and needed to get to town as soon as possible. As it was, it was still pretty much touch and go. The doc said he would probably make it but they did have to surgically remove the bullets and there was always the possibility of infection. That first night back Lom watched out the window for them, not expecting them, but hoping. While he waited, he could feel the air changing.
Lom woke up the next morning sitting in the same chair he was in the night before. As he opened his eyes, his heart sank. The town was covered in snow and the mountain was a blur of white as the storm was obviously stronger up there. He got up, splashed water on his face and left his room. He first stopped and knocked on Heyes and Kid's door. He paused hoping for an answer and then knocked a little harder. When no one came he turned and walked downstairs to the front desk. "Excuse me," Lom said as he approached the desk. "Did Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones arrive sometime during the night?"
"No sir," the desk clerk responded.
"Damn," replied Lom as he banged his fist on the desk. Turning, he walked to the front door and headed over to the sheriff's office. Entering the office Lom shook hands with the sheriff. "Sheriff, I would like to get some men together to go out and look for Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones and the hostages," he said.
The sheriff shook his head, "Can't do that. Have you seen the mountain? Anyone that goes up there won't be coming down alive. Let's hope your friends found some shelter and aren't too far away. We'll go look for them after the storm but not before it ends."
Lom saw the logic in the answer and he would have said the same thing, it just didn't make him happy. He tipped his hat and returned to the hotel to wait at the window.
Heyes once again was the first one up. He seemed to be getting less and less sleep as the days went by. Continuing his usual routine, he prepared the coffee, hung it on the hook, swung it over the fire and then sat in the chair until it was finished. Just as she had done the morning before Rachael woke up next. She tiptoed out of the curtained area and stood looking at Heyes with her big hazel eyes. Heyes turned to see her and smiled as she reached her arms up for him to pick her up. Heyes' smile disappeared. "Rachael, why don't you come sit in the chair next to mine," he said quietly.
She shook her head and held her arms up.
"Rachael," Heyes sighed. "I can't. Remember the first day you didn't want me to pick you up and put you on the horse? You said it wouldn't be proper."
Rachael nodded her head.
"Well this is the same. It's just you and me awake and a young lady such as yourself shouldn't be alone with," Heyes paused trying to figure out the word to use. "You know, some one like me."
Rachael put her arms down and began to pout.
"Please don't do that," Heyes pleaded. "When your mother's up, if she says it's okay."
"She won't," Rachael said sounding as though she might cry. "She wouldn't let me stay with you yesterday. She won't even let me come out and talk to you or Mr. Jones. We have to stay behind the curtain."
"Your mother only wants what is best for you," Heyes said as he touched the side of Rachael's cheek. "Come sit in the chair next to me."
Mrs. Brewster had been lying awake since she heard Rachael tiptoe past her. She listened quietly to the conversation between her daughter and the outlaw. "Rachael," she said as she appeared from behind the curtain. "Are you bothering Mr. Smith?"
Rachael looked stricken as her eyes became wide and she looked like she was going to burst into tears.
Heyes touched the little girls hand and then looked up at her mother, "She's not bothering me. We were just talking." Heyes stood up from his chair, "Now if you'll excuse me ladies, I'll give you some privacy." He gave Mrs. Brewster a tight smile and then turned to walk away.
"Mr. Smith," Mrs. Brewster said hesitantly.
Heyes turned to face her.
"I didn't mean for you to leave. I just didn't want Rachael to be bothersome." She looked at him and forced a smile as best as she could. "Please sit down. I believe it's my turn to make breakfast."
Heyes froze in his tracks; she was trying to be nice. He returned her smile with a genuine one of his own. "If you're sure, ma'am. If you would like, I could help."
"Thank you but I believe you have been doing everything up until now, I think it is my turn," she said as she noticeably began to relax. "Anyway, after today, you may not want me to cook again."
Heyes raised an eyebrow.
"You see I'm not much of a cook."
Rachael looked up at her mother in horror, "You're going to make breakfast mama? But Celia's not here." Turning to Heyes she said, "Mr. Smith, aren't you going to make breakfast?" she asked with pleading eyes.
First looking at the little girl's wide eyes and then at her mothers crest fallen face Heyes said, "Rachael, I'm sure your mother is a wonderful cook. If she would like, I would be more than happy to help."
"Mama, you want Mr. Smith's help don't you?"
"Rachael, I think I can manage some breakfast," she said sounding as though she was trying to convince herself. "Why don't you stay with Mr. Smith while I get things ready. That is if you don't mind Mr. Smith."
"I don't mind, and it's Joshua."
"Okay," Rachael replied with a smile that went from ear to ear.
"Okay," Mrs. Brewster took a breath and blew it out. "Joshua it is." She turned and started towards the storeroom. Turning back around she said, "Joshua, I'm Margaret."
Smiling, Heyes nodded at
Daniel and Kid had woken up to the clatter of pots and pans as Margaret made breakfast. Heyes and Rachael sat watching as she swished around the cabin. When the coffee was done Heyes poured himself a cup and offered one to her, but she declined saying she would wait until breakfast was ready.
As Kid woke up he sat up slowly. Getting up, Heyes walked over to him with a cup of coffee. "How's the head feeling today?"
"Better," Kid replied taking the cup of coffee from Heyes. "I wasn't as dizzy when I sat up just now."
"That's a good sign," Heyes said as he sat down in the chair next to Kid's cot. "How ‘bout the shoulder?"
"As long as I remember not to try to move it, it's okay?"
Kid gave Heyes a dirty look, "It hurts, any more questions?"
"No need to get proddy Thaddeus. Just checking my doctoring skills."
"I'm fine Heyes," he said a little too loudly and winced, hoping no one heard. "You're doctorin' skills are just fine Joshua," he emphasized, this time loud enough for everyone in the cabin to hear.
Mrs. Brewster turned around, "So glad you're sitting up Thaddeus, are you going to join us at the table for breakfast?"
"Mrs. Brewster, that sounds like an offer I can't refuse," he said enthusiastically.
"Good," she replied. "Oh and it's Margaret. Joshua and I decided since we may be here awhile it would be better to be a little less formal.
"Margaret it is," Kid smiled at her and then turned to look at Heyes. "Your silver tongue?"
"Not me," Heyes jumped in quietly. "She's the one that started."
Kid's smile got bigger.
Heyes' eyes narrowed, "She just decided to be nice today, I didn't do or say anything."
"Okay," Kid chuckled
Heyes' glare became more intense as he stood up so quickly the chair he was sitting on fell backwards with a crash. Startled, he fumbled to pick it up which made Kid's chuckle turn into a laugh. "I'm going to check on the horses," Heyes announced and stomped out of the cabin.
As the door slammed, Kid broke out into full laugh and then moaned as he grabbed his head. "Thaddeus," Margaret said, "I think you might want to take it a little easier. You did sustain a rather large bump on your head."
"Oh, I think you're right," Kid moaned. "I was feelin’ so much better I forgot."
"Well, just rest up, breakfast is almost ready."
About half an hour later, everyone was sitting at the small table anticipating breakfast. Margaret had been buzzing around and finally presented a pot full of oatmeal.
"Oatmeal, my favorite," squealed Daniel as he stood in his chair clapping.
"Careful Daniel," Margaret said as she picked him up and sat him down on her lap as she took the chair. "Shall I do the honors?" she asked with a smile on her face, looking around the table.
"By all means," Kid said and Heyes nodded in agreement.
Margaret picked up a bowl and with a large spoon scooped up a large pile of oatmeal out of the pot. She turned the spoon over to place the oatmeal in the bowl, but it didn't come off the spoon. She shook the spoon as she tried to get the oatmeal in the bowl.
After watching for a few minutes Heyes said, "Here, let me try. With Daniel on your lap, you really only have one hand."
Margaret tried one more shake and then handed the spoon over to Heyes.
Heyes picked up the bowl and tried to shake the oatmeal off the spoon. After several tries, he picked up one of the small spoons for eating and scraped at the oatmeal. It fell with a thud into the bowl. Heyes stuck the small spoon in the oatmeal and handed it to Kid. Kid watched as Heyes put the bowl in front of him and then without moving his head, his eyes looked up at Heyes. Heyes smiled back at him and indicated with his hand to give it a try.
"It's only proper to wait until everyone is served," he stated. Heyes' smile slid into a frown and then a half forced smile. Heyes filled the remainder of the bowls and handed them out. Rachael poked at hers as she crinkled up her face. Margaret sat and smiled at everyone, oblivious to their apprehension.
"Dig in," Heyes said as he tried to smile.
"Do I have to?" Rachael whined.
Kid jabbed his spoon into the oatmeal and lifted. The entire bowl came up with the spoon. Heyes stared at it as his eyes widened. Having the use of only one arm, Kid shook the spoon and nothing happened. He shook it again more violently and still the spoon stayed stuck in the oatmeal, which suspended the bowl. Finally, he banged it on the table and the spoon was released. He looked at it and then at Margaret. She had a huge smile as she stared at him in anticipation of his reaction. Kid swallowed hard and stuck the oatmeal in his mouth. Closing his eyes, he willed himself not to choke but give a tight smile. As he tried to pry his mouth open to remove the spoon, he looked at Margaret and gave a muffled, "Good." Kid moved his eyes to Heyes.
Heyes' face sunk. Snickering lightly he took a spoonful into his mouth. Swallowing hard, he reached for his coffee and took a swig. He smiled tightly at Margaret, still trying to pry the oatmeal off the top of his mouth with his tongue.
"Oh good," Margaret said enthusiastically, "I was so afraid I made it wrong. You know I don't usually cook."
"Couldn't tell," Kid replied with a sarcastic twinge to his voice.
Rachael looked at the two men, "Mama, I don't think I'm hungry right now."
"Rachael, you have to eat. This is breakfast, you love oatmeal."
"But Celia didn't make it."
"No but I did. It will make you grow big and strong."
"Mama, I'm a lady, I don't want to be big and strong."
"Rachael, please eat your oatmeal."
"Yes mama," she said as she stared at the glob on her spoon.
Heyes and Kid smiled and nodded.
They sat there and dutifully finished the oatmeal. As they struggled to get it down, Heyes was amazed that Margaret smiled, eating the oatmeal with no effort. When they had finished she looked at Rachael, "Rachael dear, please get a bucket of water from the storeroom we can soak the dishes in." Rachael got up and did as she was told.
Pushing his chair back from the table and standing up, Kid swayed. Heyes stood up next to him and grabbed him to steady him. "Time to go lie down again, partner."
"I just stood up too quickly," Kid replied.
"I'm sure you did but you still have a big knot on your head. You still need to rest," Heyes replied. "I'm going to head down to the Needle to see if the pass is blocked."
"I thought you said we were snowed in?" Margaret questioned.
"I believe we are, but until I see it with my own eyes, I can still hold out some hope. I think Thaddeus is well enough to ride if I can clear a path."
"Joshua, you shouldn't go down there by yourself," Kid stated.
"Don't worry Thaddeus, I won't take any chances," Heyes replied giving Kid a reassuring smile.
"But," Kid started but was interrupted by Heyes.
"I need to check now." He looked his partner square in the eyes. "I can see snow over the horizon. It should be here by tomorrow morning. If there is a chance, it's today."
Kid looked at Heyes and though he didn't want to, gave him a nod of approval.
"Well, now that that's settled, I just need to get my saddle from the storeroom and I'll be off."
Kid put his hand on Heyes' arm as he went to turn towards the storeroom. He held Heyes' gaze for a minute. Heyes gave an acknowledging nod and smile, then patted Kid lightly on the back and went to get his saddle.
Heyes began to put on his heavy coat and stopped. More layers would keep him warmer. He knelt down and began to dig in his saddlebag for another shirt to place over the one he was already wearing. As he dug his hand found something hard and he pulled it out. Wrapped in brown paper with a string around it appeared to be a book. On the brown paper covering there was writing. ‘To bide your time until you are home and we are in each other's arms. Be safe. Love always, Laurie. P.S. Don't completely ignore Kid on the trail while you read.’ Heyes closed his eyes and held the book to his heart. Startled by a noise, he shoved the book back into the saddlebag. Glancing back he saw Margaret in the doorway. "Can I help you?" he said as he removed the shirt from the saddlebag.
"Mr. Heyes," she said as she walked in.
Heyes head snapped around as he was standing up. With a confused look on his face, speaking softly he said, "I thought we had that covered Margaret." He looked intently into her eyes, "I'm Joshua Smith, remember."
"Mr. Heyes," she repeated. "Just because I called you Joshua in front of the children doesn't mean I don't know who you really are. My children both know who Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry are and I certainly don't want to frighten them."
Heyes gave a low guttural chuckle, "If you still think I'm Hannibal Heyes and I'm such a horrible person, why were you trying to be nice?"
"Because you told me we were snowed in and now you tell me we may not be," she huffed.
"No, I didn't say we might not be. I just said I have to see it with my own eyes to believe we are," Heyes stated as he put the second shirt on over his existing one. "It's a real long shot, but I have to try."
"Should we all go with you in case?"
"No. It's too cold for the children. At least as far as I can see, you only have the clothes on your backs."
Heyes put his coat on and buttoned it. "If I can get through, I can make it back up here to get you and we'll be through the Needle before night fall."
"Are you coming back or are you going to desert us here?"
"I don't know what kind of a person you think I am Mrs. Brewster," Heyes said firmly, "But I do not desert people; especially my partner or a mother and her children." Heyes grabbed his saddled and huffed out of the storeroom. Turning to Kid, "Rest, I'll be back soon."
Kid went back to bed and rested after Heyes left. He dozed off and on for a few hours. He got up and sat by the fire. He paced back and forth to the door and out on the porch several times. By now, more than half the day had passed and Kid began to get antsy; Heyes should be back by now. Kid stood on the porch one more time and stared down the mountain. Heyes where are you? he thought.
Margaret walked out on the porch; "He left us here didn't he?"
Kid whipped his head around so quickly, everything started to spin and he had to grab the support pole just so he would not fall. "What?" he yelled.
"Mr. Heyes isn't coming back, he left us here," she stated as her shoulders drooped.
"Joshua," Kid emphasized the name, "Would never abandon us."
"Mr. Curry," she said with a tremble in her voice, "I know who both of you are. Maybe Joshua Smith wouldn't leave us here but Hannibal Heyes found a way out and left his injured partner along with a mother and two young children to die on the mountain."
“I don't know what you think you know," Kid said as things stopped spinning and he straightened up. "My name is Thaddeus Jones and my partner is Joshua Smith. We came to rescue you and your children. The reason I am hurt is because of your son." He stopped and studied the woman standing in front of him. She looked lost. "Look, I know you are scared, but if he was who you said he was, wouldn't he have taken the money with him?"
"He knows where it is, he can come back and get it in the spring and no one would know Hannibal Heyes took it, they would still be blaming Mad Dog."
"I don't know why you keep insisting he is Hannibal Heyes."
"If he wasn't going to leave you here, why didn't he tell you I knew who you were and who my father is?"
Kid stared at her with a blank expression on his face.
"He didn't, did he? My father is Jay Gould," she paused to let the name sink in. "Union Pacific Railroad."
Recognition spread across Kid's face.
"So if he isn't Hannibal Heyes and you aren't Kid Curry, and he wasn't going to leave us here to die, why didn't he tell you who we were?"
Before Kid had a chance to answer something caught Margaret's eye and she put her hands to her mouth and gasped.
Kid whipped around and once again had to grab the pole for stability. As things stopped spinning, he saw Heyes' horse emerge from the tree-lined path. Heyes was sitting hunched almost completely over as he had his arms draped around the horse's neck as it trudged through the snow towards the cabin. "Heyes!" Kid yelled as he bound out into the snow towards the horse. Moving too quickly he fell and landed on his right side and screamed out in pain. He was trying desperately to right himself with one arm in the deep snow when he felt a hand reach down to give him some help. With the help of Margaret, he was able to stand up just as the horse made it to them.
"Joshua," Kid said quietly, as he saw his partner covered head to toe in frozen snow.
"I couldn't do it," Heyes pushed the words out with the little strength he had left. "I tried."
"Joshua, let's get you in the cabin, we'll talk there," Kid said stepping closer.
Heyes lifted his head slightly and tried to focus on Kid. "There was too much snow. It slides off the mountain right into the Mouth." He paused and panted. "I tried digging us out, I just couldn't." As the words fell out of his mouth Heyes lost his grip on the horse and started to slide off.
"Hey I got you," Kid said leaning into the horse with his left shoulder to hold him in place. Margaret stood behind him with her hands clasped in front of her mouth in disbelief at what she was hearing. "Margaret," Kid called, "I'm going to need your help getting Joshua down."
Hearing her name, Margaret shook her head and stepped forward. "Of course, what can I do?"
The two of them helped Heyes off the horse and with their arms around his waist helped him stumble to the door of the cabin. As they walked in Margaret said, "He is soaked to the bones, we need to get him in front of the fire. Thaddeus, if you can hold him, I'll move one of the cots there." She left Kid and Heyes propped up along the wall as she grabbed a cot from behind the curtained area and placed it in front of the fire. Turning she quickly added a few more logs and then went back to help Kid.
"Okay, Joshua," Kid said quietly, "We're gonna get you to the cot. I need you to help walk."
Heyes moaned and there was an almost imperceptible nod of his head.
Kid and Margaret got Heyes to the cot and sat him down. As Kid was going to let him lie down Margaret yelled out, "Don't let him lie down."
Kid looked up at her in surprise.
"We need to get the wet clothes off, if he lies down we'll never be able to."
"You help him stay sitting and I'll get the jacket and shirts off."
"Mama," Rachael cried out as she ran to her mother's side. "Mama, what can I do?"
"Rachael dear, go check the store room for any extra blankets." Rachael turned and ran off. Having removed his jacket and two shirts she moved to remove his boots and socks. "We are going to have to remove everything, he's soaked to the bones and his skin is really cold and slightly blue."
"Margaret," Kid said looking at her as she began to undo his gun belt. "I'll take care of him."
"Thaddeus, if I thought you could get him undressed with one arm, I would gladly allow you to do so."
"But..." was all Kid got out before she continued, "I am a married woman and have two children. I know what a naked man looks like. Joshua will never get warm if even a stitch of these freezing clothes are still on him."
Kid looked at her, nodded and smiled gratefully at her, knowing she was right.
Rachael returned with some more blankets and placed them on the bed. "Thank you Rachael," her mother said. "Now I need you to take Daniel behind the curtain and take care of him." Rachael looked at her mother and was going to protest when Margaret continued, "I need to help Mr. Smith and I can't have Daniel in the way. Please take him behind the curtain and take care of him." Rachael did as she was told.
Margaret removed Heyes' Henley and Kid helped her lay him down on the cot. He then picked up a blanket and covered his partner. Reaching under the blanket he unbuttoned his pants and indicated to Margaret she could pull them off. When all the clothes were off, they began to wrap him in the blankets. As they finished Margaret looked at Kid, "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry I assumed the worst. I'm sorry I thought he left us here."
"It's okay ma'am. You don't know him well, you didn't know and you're scared. I knew he would never leave us."
Kid sat next to Heyes dozing in and out as he kept watch on his partner all night keeping the fire stoked as he listened to the wind howl down the mountain as the snow storm approached. By the time he woke in the morning the snow was coming down heavy and there was no sign of relief. He was resigned, as he knew Heyes would be when he woke up, they would be there until the spring thaw.
Placing another log on the fire, Kid heard Heyes start to stir. "Hey," Heyes said as he looked up at his partner looking down at him.
"What time is it?"
"Awful quiet to be six. You cooking?"
"Nope, and it's six in the mornin’." Kid stated as he sat back on the chair.
"Morning?" Heyes said sounding very confused.
"Mornin’," Kid repeated. "What's the last thing you remember?"
"Digging," Heyes said and then creased his brow as he concentrated. "I was trying to dig out the passage, it was too much snow." Heyes looked at Kid with his arm still tied to his waist and a perplexed look appeared on his face as he lifted the bunch of blankets on top of him. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. Finally he said, "How?"
Kid chuckled softly, "Margaret."
Heyes' eyes bulged as he quickly sat up pulling the blankets around him. "Margaret?"
"Relax," Kid laughed, "I unbuttoned ya and put a blanket over you before she took off your britches."
Heyes looked horrified.
"You were soaked to the bones and you were turnin' blue. We had to get you warm."
Heyes looked around the room and saw all his clothes hanging. "Well," he said a little tersely, "You could be a partner and get me my clothes before they wake up."
Kid chuckled and got up to get his clothes. Handing them to Heyes he said, "It's okay Heyes, she said she's a married woman and has two children so she knows what a nekkid man looks like."
Heyes' eyes widened as he grabbed his clothes from Kid.
"Hold a blanket up in case they wake up," he told Kid as he dressed as quickly as possible.
"Well, at least we know one thing," Kid said as Heyes looked at him. "You've recovered from the cold." Kid chuckled again and Heyes glared at him.
It had been five days since Lom arrived back in Lewistown. Heyes and Kid were four days over due. When the first snowstorm had ended, Lom had the sheriff gather a rescue party and head for the mountain. As they feared, the pass had been snowed in and there were no signs of anyone coming through so the search was called off. Not giving up, Lom made the same trek two more times by himself in hopes that Heyes and Kid would find a way. Each time he headed back into town empty handed.
As the days went by Lom was loosing faith his friends would find a way out. He felt guilty for leaving them to bring the Captain back. He should have stayed with them until they all got off the mountain. Once again he sat and just stared out his hotel window. Looking up into the mountains and hoping against hope for any sign that they were still alive. He still held out hope that after the first snowstorm had hit there would be a thaw before the winter set in and the pass would be clear. He shook his head as he looked out; the entire mountain was covered in a white fog. As flakes began to fall in town, he knew another storm had hit the mountain and there was little if any chance Heyes and Kid would be able to make it out before spring. He prayed the cabin was in good enough shape to offer them shelter. As he pushed himself up from his chair he sighed, knowing he was about to send the most difficult telegram he had ever sent.
It was colder than usual for an October morning. Laurie got up early and headed into town. She had some errands to do and she was hoping to get a telegram from Heyes telling her when he would return. He had sent one telling her about the hostages and she told him to go save them. She knew he and Kid would be their only chance if they had been taken into the mountains. That was days ago and she hadn't heard anything since. She hoped today would be the day Heyes would tell her he was coming home.
Sarah was helping Laurie with her errands this morning. Doris was watching the two women from the hotel porch as she waited for Laurie to join her. Mr. Quimby walked out of the telegraph office and almost directly into the women. "Mr. Quimby, how are you today?" Laurie asked. Seeing the telegram in his hand she offered, "Would you like me to deliver that for you?"
Mr. Quimby's face went pale. "It's for you," he quietly said and he handed it to her.
Laurie looked at Mr. Quimby and then his hand as her blood ran cold. She took the telegram from him and read it. Before anyone could react Laurie's legs gave way and she collapsed on the street. Sarah knelt down next to Laurie and put her arms on her shoulders trying to get Laurie's attention but got no response. Doris saw what happened and came running, yelling for Walter and the doctor all the way. Laurie didn't move or say anything until Sam came bounding in and began to lick her face.
"Oh, Sam," Laurie said reaching up to pet her dog. Looking up and seeing people look down at her, she realizing she was on the ground. Embarrassed, she quickly stood up and brushed herself off. "Well Sam, it's time to go home," she said matter of factly.
"Laurie," Doris said with concern. "What happened? The doctor is on his way, let's get you in the shade and have a seat."
"I'm fine Doris," Laurie responded. "It's getting late and I want to get home before dark."
"Laurie, you should see the doctor," Sarah said. "You're white as a ghost. You have to remember what the doctor told you this morning. You have to take care of yourself. You have to save your strength."
A sad smile spread across Laurie's face, "I'm fine." Laurie turned to walk away.
"Please dear," Doris implored. "You must see the doctor. Joshua..."
Laurie interrupted Doris by handing her the telegram then turned and started to walk home.
To: Laurie Smith, Small Falls
From: Lom Trevors, Lewistown
Snowstorm came through a few nights ago. The snow has sealed the pass to the mountain. No other way down. No sign of Joshua or Thaddeus yet. I will keep looking for them. I'm sorry.
Doris put her hand to her face and gasped. "Oh my! Laurie dear," she said running after her. "Laurie!" she called.
Laurie continued to walk not hearing anything.
Doris finally caught up to her and placed her hand on her shoulder. "Laurie," she said and pulled her into a hug. "My dear, are you okay?"
"I'm fine Doris," Laurie said in a trance like tone.
"Laurie, dear," Doris said as Sarah reached the two of them. Doris handed her the telegram.
"I'm fine," Laurie repeated. "Now if you would excuse me, I would like to get home before it gets dark."
"Stay with Walter and me," Doris said.
"Can't," Laurie said. "I have a lot to do before Joshua gets home. I need to go home."
"But..." Doris started but was interrupted by Laurie.
"Doris, they're fine," Laurie said. "I know they're okay, I feel it."
"Please," Doris said.
"No," Laurie said shaking her head.
"Laurie," Sarah said quietly. "I have been wondering what it was like to live on my own. Do you think I could come and stay with you for a few days, until Joshua gets home? Just so I could find out?"
Laurie looked at her friend, "Sarah, I'm fine."
"Yes," Sarah said. "I know. It's just I might not get the opportunity again. With Joshua and Thaddeus out of town it wouldn't be improper for me to stay at your house. Plus we can sit up and talk about the boys. You can tell me all the things Thaddeus likes and his bad habits so I'll be prepared when he comes home." She smiled at Laurie.
Laurie giggled. "I guess we could do that. Poor Thaddeus, he won't know what hit him when he gets home."
Doris smiled and nodded at Sarah. Then mouthed, ‘Thank you'.
Sarah looped her arm in Laurie's and they set off to get some of Sarah's things before returning to the house.
Doris turned to Walter and pleaded, "Walter, please do something, the doctor said..."
"Sshh," Walter interrupted, "She needs to do this for herself. Sarah will be with her just in case. She'll make it through the night and tomorrow we will go out and get her." Doris tried to smile but the tears in her eyes gave her feelings away. "I know dear," he said as he pulled her into a hug. "Don't worry. We'll be there for her. Right now she has to deal with the probability of losing her husband. As long as Sarah is with her, we have to respect her wishes." Walter held Doris as she wept.
Kid and Heyes were sitting by the fire, drinking coffee when Rachael peaked out from the curtained area. "Mr. Smith," she exclaimed as she ran to him and wrapped her arms around him. "You're okay!"
Heyes chuckled and hugged the little girl back, "Yes, I'm fine."
"I was so worried." She looked at Heyes and appeared to him as all eyes. "You were so still and your face," she said as she touched Heyes' cheek. "It was blue." Tears began to well in her eyes.
Heyes smiled at her opening his arms, "Well, I'm not blue today am I?" Rachael smiled, shook her head no and jumped into Heyes' lap giving him a big hug.
Daniel ran out from the curtain and stopped in front of Kid, he looked at Rachael in Heyes' lap and then at Kid. Kid smiled, putting his arm out, "Come on," he said. "Just be careful."
Margaret appeared just as Daniel was climbing into Kid's arms, "Daniel, no!"
"It's okay, he knows to be careful."
Margaret smiled at Kid.
"I'm glad to see you up and about Joshua," she said with a smile.
Heyes smiled and nodded.
"Well, since both of you appear to be occupied, I'll make breakfast."
Heyes jumped up almost tossing Rachael on to the floor. He caught her in time and carefully placed her on the chair. Kid tried getting up but with Daniel occupying his one good arm he was a little slower. "Margaret," Heyes called after her. "That's okay, you made breakfast yesterday, I think it's my turn."
Turning, Margaret looked at Heyes and then at Kid and back to Heyes. "You were almost on your death bed yesterday and Thaddeus is struggling to stand up with Daniel." She paused a second and looked directly at Heyes, "Was the oatmeal that bad yesterday? I mean you should be resting, taking it easy and instead you jump up just at the thought of me cooking."
Heyes hesitated, trying to find the right words to say and not to hurt her feelings. His eyes drifted to Kid, but he gave him no help as Kid rolled his eyes looking at the ceiling. Finally, with a little shrug and an apologetic look on his face, Heyes nodded his head ever so slightly.
Margaret's shoulders sank.
"You probably aren't used to cooking over an open fire," Heyes said trying to defuse some of the hurt.
Margaret looked up at him and sighed, "No, Joshua it has nothing to do with where I cook. I don't know how to cook. I've never really been allowed to cook. We've always had people doing it for us. I was always told to stay out of the kitchen; shoo, go away was all I ever heard when I tried to go see what was going on." She stopped and looked at Heyes, a smile slowly formed on her face, "Joshua, do you think I could watch you? Maybe you could show me what to do?" she asked with hope in her voice.
Heyes chuckled and nodded.
"Does this mean we don't have to eat mama's cooking anymore?" Rachael asked as she stood up and looked over the back of the chair.
"No more of my cooking," Margaret replied. "That is until Joshua teaches me. I mean, if that is okay with you. I don't want you to think...."
Heyes put a reassuring hand on her arm, "I don't think anything. And I don't mind. Thaddeus will be able to help out soon too."
Kid nodded in agreement.
"We'll need to get some snow for water and then let's go see what we can dig up in the storeroom."
"Oh can I get the snow?" Rachael pleaded.
"Sure, take the pot and fill it," Heyes said.
"I'll help," Kid said finally standing up after Daniel got down.
Rachael and Daniel ran over to the door and yanked it open. They stopped dead in their tracks as they looked out at the snow falling heavily. Margaret walked over and wrapped her arms around her children's shoulders as she looked outside. Swallowing hard she quietly said, "Guess we won't be going anywhere soon."
Heyes and Kid walked to the door. "We're going to be here for a while," Heyes replied quietly.
"Thaddeus, why don't you get the snow? The children don't have coats." Kid nodded and Rachael handed him the pot. "Margaret, let's get the supplies for breakfast."
Nodding, she followed him into the storeroom and stopped. Tears filled her eyes. "We're going to die here aren't we?"
Heyes turned to look at her; she stood there trembling. Very calmly he said, "No, we're not going to die here. We have shelter and enough wood to keep us warm." Motioning to the sacks in the storeroom he said, "And we have enough food to get us through until the spring thaw. It won't be fancy, but it will keep us alive."
Margaret studied Joshua's face. He had been a stranger just a few days ago. She had no reason to believe him but looking at his face, she felt reassured. He was so confident he had to be right. She blinked the tears back, took a deep breath and stood up as straight as she could.
"That's it," Heyes said giving her a dimpled smile. "Now let's see what we have here."
They began to look through the sacks to see what they had. Even though Heyes had sorted through them several times before, he hadn't really taken inventory of what was there. He had been just going through the motions. They gathered a slab of bacon and the ingredients to make biscuits.
Margaret opened a sack and pulled out a bunch of roots, "Roots? Why on earth would they have roots?"
Heyes turned and looked, "Great find, I must have missed them. They're sassafras roots. We can make sassafras tea for the children. It will help keep them warm and the Indians also use it for medicine. Well," Heyes said, looking at the gathered supplies. "I think we have enough for a hearty breakfast, ready for your first cooking lesson?"
Margaret smiled and shook her head enthusiastically, all traces of worry erased from her face.
"Then let's start," Heyes said picking up the pile and heading into the main room.
Kid was sitting by the fire playing tug of war with Daniel. Well, Kid held the piece of rope with his one good hand while Daniel pulled and danced around with the other end. Rachael sat watching in amusement.
Looking up from Daniel, Kid eyed the pile of supplies in both Heyes' and Margaret's arms. "Joshua, you do know there are only five of us in the cabin?" Kid smirked.
"Sure do Thaddeus," Heyes said as he put his pile on the table. "No harm in having a hearty breakfast and this way Margaret can learn a whole bunch all at once." Heyes placed his hands on his hips and looked satisfied at the supplies.
"You certainly do like to teach, Joshua," Kid stated.
Heyes nodded and smiled broadly.
"Just one thing," Kid said as he turned to look at Heyes, "Don't teach Margaret how to make coffee. Won't want her to have to go through life with that hanging over her head."
Heyes' smile dropped instantly to a scowl as he stared at Kid.
"Oh, I already know how to make coffee," Margaret stated cheerfully missing the whole interaction going on between the partners. "I use to get up before everyone else. Celia would let me sit on the counter and watch her make the coffee. She always told me that a lady should always know how to make a good cup of coffee." She sighed, "I've never been allowed to make it, but that's what she told me." Her head perked up and her eyes opened wide, "Oh," she exclaimed, "I can make the coffee! Oh please, Joshua," she said grabbing and pulling on his arm in excitement, "Please can I make the coffee?"
"Yes," Kid's voice boomed from the chair. Looking at the disgusted look on Heyes' face he added, "I think Margaret should give it a try." He smiled at Heyes.
Heyes turned his sneer into a smile as he turned to Margaret, "Okay, you can make the coffee."
Margaret jumped up and down like a schoolgirl, "Thank you!" She quickly ran to get the pot and start the coffee.
About an hour later, they all sat down for a breakfast of pancakes, biscuits, bacon and coffee. Kid lifted his cup and looked into the dark brown liquid. Bringing it up to his nose he said, "Sure smells good."
Margaret looked on wide-eyed waiting for the first sip.
Kid gave a slight nod to her and then took a sip, his eyes lit up. "Celia taught you well!" he exclaimed. "This is good coffee."
Margaret smiled ear to ear as she heard the words.
She looked at Heyes and waited for his approval. Heyes looked at her and how happy she looked. He took a sip and nodded, "Thaddeus is right, this is good coffee."
Margaret clapped her hands in front of her as she was bursting with pride. "Yes," she exclaimed, "I did something right." Looking down at the plates of food in front of her she added, "Just wish my biscuits and pancakes looked as nice as Joshua's."
"Looks aren't everything," Kid said taking a rather flat looking biscuit off the plate. "I'm sure it tastes just fine," he said as he took a bite and his mouth was suddenly sucked in and stuck together. Margaret looked on in anticipation as he lifted his coffee cup for a gulp hoping it would help pry his cheeks apart. "Good coffee," he said as he lifted it in a toast and then took another sip.
Margaret's shoulders slumped.
Heyes patted her hand, "It's your first try, don't worry, Thaddeus is a picky eater."
Margaret sat up straight and with a stiff upper lip stated, "Well I guess it's a good thing you made most of the food Joshua." Taking a bite of a biscuit she made she added, "We can use my biscuits for," she paused and thought, "Building blocks. Look Daniel, you'll have something to play with when they cool off." Daniel looked as his mother confused and then smiled, stood up and gave her a hug.
"You'll get the hang of it Margaret," Kid said.
Margaret gave him a half smile and a shrug.
"In any case, I believe you will be in charge of the coffee from now on. Maybe you can even teach Joshua."
Heyes glared at Kid. Kid smirked back; he just loved to needle Heyes. It was just so easy to get under his skin about his coffee. Heyes gave a little snort realizing what Kid was doing, "Yep, Margaret, maybe you could teach me how to make coffee. Now let's eat," he said as he picked up a pile of pancakes, obviously by their appearance, made by Margaret and placed them on the plate in front of Kid and smiled. A smile that reached his eyes as he said, "Enjoy Thaddeus. Remember, you got to eat so you can get your strength back and your shoulder can heal."
Kid's smile disappeared as he looked at the pancakes. His eyes drifted up to Heyes' whose eyes sparkled as they returned the gaze. "Thank you Joshua," Kid said knowing he had just been paid back.
The day progressed slowly as they all took turns looking out the door and watching the snow come down. It was eerily quiet with the exception of an occasional squawk from a bird or a snort from the horses. Kid, Rachael and Daniel sat in front of the fireplace. Kid was playing solitaire with the deck of cards he always carried in his saddlebag. Rachael and Daniel watched as he tried to explain to them how the game was played.
Heyes and Margaret busied themselves preparing a vegetable stew for dinner to go along with the left over biscuits from the morning. When all was done and the stew was hanging over the fire, Heyes looked around for something to do. Noticing the cot he had slept in the night before was still by the fire, he went over to move it. He picked up the end and started dragging it towards the curtained area.
"Joshua, what are you doing?" Margaret asked as she sat down next to Daniel.
"I'm just putting the cot back behind the curtain," he answered. "Oh," he said as he stood up. "I'm sorry, I should have asked if it was alright for me to go back there."
"Don't be silly, of course it's alright. The only thing back there are the two cots," Margaret replied.
"Oh," Heyes said bending over to pick up the cot again.
"But why are you moving the cot?" Margaret asked.
Heyes stood up again and now was a little confused. "Because you only have two cots back there," he said pointing to the curtain. "There are three of you."
"But you," Margaret started and then gasped lightly. "Oh, my. You were going to sleep on the floor again."
"Yes ma'am. There are five of us, and only four cots. One of us will have to sleep on the floor. Right now the logical choice appears to be me."
"Joshua, no. Daniel can sleep with me on my cot."
Heyes was about to protest when Rachael spoke up, "It's okay Mr. Smith. Daniel has been sleeping with mama since we got here. No one has been using that cot."
Margaret's face turned red and Heyes chuckled lightly, "Well if you're sure it's not an inconvenience, I would be much obliged. It's a little cold on the floor." Heyes bent over and picked up the end of the cot, "Guess I'll just move it over there by Thaddeus' and get it out of the middle of the floor then."
After dinner, Kid sat with a satisfied look on his face. "You did a good job with the stew Margaret."
"Thank you Thaddeus but really all I did was chop the vegetables. Joshua did the rest."
"Well then you chopped very nice. Everything was just the right size."
Heyes pushed himself up from the table, "Well Thaddeus, I think I should take a look at your shoulder. Let me go take care of the horses and when I get back, I'll check it out."
"Oh can I come?" Rachael said as she jumped up out of her chair.
"Me too," Daniel yelled as he quickly got up and ran to stand next to his sister.
Heyes looked at both children with their pleading faces, "I'm sorry, not tonight," was all he got out before the children interrupted him with their pleas.
"Children," Margaret said sternly as she walked up behind them and wrapped her arms around them. "Mr. Smith is right. It is still snowing. It's dark and you have no other clothes to go play in the snow with or to get warm in once you come back." She paused and hugged them tightly to her, "I'm sorry."
Heyes looked at the group and then remembered. "I have a book in my saddlebag. How about after I take care of the horses and Thaddeus' shoulder, I read some of it to you?"
Margaret looked up at Heyes and smiled. "That would be wonderful, thank you. Now children, why don't you get some blankets you can lie on and set them up by the fire while I clean the dishes and Mr. Smith takes care of the horses."
Fifteen minutes later, Heyes opened the cabin door, stomping the snow off his boots before entering. "Horses are taken care of," he said as he hung his coat by the door. "Thaddeus, guess it's time to take care of you," Heyes turned and scanned the cabin. "Guess we should probably do this in the storeroom."
"Why can't you look at it here? The storeroom is cold," Margaret said.
"I'll be needin' to take my shirt off ma'am," Kid stated.
"Oh," Margaret said blushing.
"Don't worry, it won't take long. I can sit by the fire and have a cup of your coffee to warm up afterwards."
Heyes and Kid walked into the storeroom and closed the door. Heyes untied Kid's arm and helped him take his shirt off. Heyes poked at Kid's shoulder and then said, "How's it feel? Can you move it at all?"
Kid winced and moved his arm slightly, "That's about it," he said and frowned. "Still hurts like the dickens."
"It's only been a couple of days, it's gonna hurt." Heyes paused and maneuvered Kid's arm a little. "I think it looks pretty good. I think we can leave it untied just as long as you take it easy and let it heal."
"Don't think that's gonna be a problem," Kid said glumly as he shook his head. "How do we keep gettin' in these messes Heyes?"
"Wish I knew Kid," Heyes said sounding depressed. "Guess we have to make up for a lot of things in life."
"Heyes," Kid said sounding concerned. "You don't really believe that do you?"
"Well then you explain how these things keep happening to us. I mean we try to do a good deed and get stuck in a cabin with a mother and two kids for the entire winter. They can't even go out because they only have the clothes on their backs." Heyes stopped suddenly and a sparkle grew in his eyes.
Kid smiled when he saw the look. "What's the plan?" he asked.
Heyes looked curiously at Kid.
"I know that look, you're cookin' up somethin'," he said as he struggled to put his shirt on over his injured shoulder.
Heyes noticed and gave him a hand, absently buttoned Kid's shirt as he talked. "We have all these sacks of supplies. There are even some old ones in the corner."
Kid looked on intently trying to figure out what Heyes was getting at and then the smile grew on Kid's face. "Just like when were kids. Remember that Heyes?" Kid laughed as he remembered the makeshift outfits they made out of sacks when their mothers said they couldn't go back out in the snow cause all their clothes were still wet. There was going to be a snowman making contest and they insisted they had to practice. "We could barely move in those outfits we made. I fell down in the snow and I couldn't bend my legs to get up. You tried to help me and got stuck too! Good thing our pas found us or we would have frozen to death." They laughed. "Good thing they were too busy laughing at us to tan our hides."
"Yeah, but they did keep us warm and mostly dry," Heyes said with a smile. "This time we're wiser, we'll learn from our mistakes." Kid nodded and then Heyes added, "Let's keep this between us until we finish them, just in case they don't turn out any better."
Kid nodded in agreement. "Well, I'm ready for some of Margaret's coffee." He started towards the door. Turning back to Heyes he asked, "What's this about a book in your saddlebag?"
Heyes was retrieving the brown wrapped package as Kid asked. Heyes showed it to Kid.
"You okay Heyes?"
"Yeah Kid, I'm okay," Heyes said quietly.
"So what's the book?"
"Don't know. I haven't had a chance to look at it."
"And you offered to read it. What if it ain’t proper?"
"Kid, it's from Laurie," Heyes said as he carefully opened the brown paper making sure not to rip it. He looked at the book and then held it up for Kid to see.
"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain," Kid said as he read the cover. "Another book from that Twain guy. Still say that's an alias."
"Could be," Heyes chuckled. "Let's get some coffee and entertain the children. We can start on the outfits tomorrow."