by Storm Richards
Hannibal Heyes swept away his footprints with the branch as he backed into the entrance. Tossing it to the side, he carefully pulled the shrubs in front, disguising the opening. Turning, he paused, letting his eyes adjust to the dimly lit cave as he focused on the still form lying on the ground about forty feet from him. As his eyes adjusted, he began to make out his partner's face as it glowed in the low light of the flames. Sighing, he frowned. It didn't look like there had been any movement in his absence.
Walking over, he crouched down next to him as he took off his glove and placed the back of his hand on his best friend's forehead. Grateful, that at the present time, the fever was under control; he let out the breath he didn't know he was holding.
Tapping Kid's shoulder, Heyes quietly called his name, "Kid? Kid?" With no response, he tried again a little louder, while he gently shook him, "Kid? Kid? Can you wake up? I got some cool water for you."
A slight moan escaped his partner’s lips.
Encouraged, Heyes shook him again, "Kid!"
"Ohh," Kid groaned, smacking his lips together but not opening his eyes.
"I got more water," Heyes stated. "I'm gonna lift you up a bit. Take a sip." With one hand under the blond’s head, he lifted it as he placed the newly filled canteen to his lips. "Come on partner, just a sip."
Obliging, Kid parted his lips slightly, taking in a little water.
"That's good," Heyes stated as he lifted the canteen so Kid could swallow. "You want some more?"
Kid moaned as he ever so slightly shook his head.
"Okay, that's enough for now; we'll try again in a little while." Heyes carefully lowered Kid's head, resting it on his bedroll.
"Heyes," Kid whispered.
"Yeah Kid?" he anxiously answered as he leaned in to hear what he had to say.
"Where?" he asked so quietly Heyes had to strain to hear him.
"We're in the cave. We're safe."
Kid quietly grunted and then fell silent.
Heyes watched as his partner's chest once again began to rise and fall to a steady beat. With his eyes fully adjusted to the lighting, Heyes looked around the cave. It was big; it had been used to hide quite a few of the Devil's Hole Gang from various posses throughout the years. Today it was just the two of them and their horses that were tied up a ways back in the cave. Heyes picked up the pot of coffee that was warming next to the fire. Pouring himself a cup, he leaned back against his saddle as he kept a watchful eye on his sleeping partner.
As he inhaled the first sip, the leader of the Devil’s Hole gang enjoyed the warmth as the dark brown liquid slid down his throat. He thought about the past couple of days searching for answers as to why Kid could possibly be fighting for his life. Heyes unconsciously shook his head, if it was a bullet wound or something he could see, he might know how to help. But this, on the outside Kid looked perfectly fine. Taking another sip, he searched his brain for anything that might give him the answers he needed.
Just four days ago, Hannibal Heyes was sitting on the North Fork Hotel porch, feet propped up on the banister, enjoying a cigar on a nice spring afternoon. As he watched the people of North Fork bustle through town, he took a long draw on his cigar, lifting his face to the sun; he slowly blew out the smoke. This is the life he thought. Taking another puff, his eyes caught a glimpse of his partner riding into town. Kid Curry pulled his horse to a halt in front of the hotel and dismounted. Heyes stood up, slowly walking over to him.
Tying his horse to the post, Kid stated, without turning around, "Train's due to pick up the payroll tomorrow. It should be at Sulfur Springs in three."
"Ah-huh," Heyes puffed again on his cigar as he held it in his teeth. As Kid turned around, he smiled and handed him one. Turning, Heyes headed back up to the porch and his chair.
Kid took the chair next to him, lighting his cigar as he propped his feet up on the banister.
"The gang's due at the junction tomorrow night." He took another long draw on his cigar, making circles as he blew the smoke out. "We hit the train as it slows down before the bridge."
A young lady walking down the boardwalk caught both Heyes' and Kid's eyes, halting the conversation momentarily, as they watched her disappear into the General Store.
"Mmm," a low guttural purr escaped from Heyes' throat. Shaking his head lightly brought him back to the matter at hand. "Did Mr. Handley make it to the train?"
"Nope," Kid chuckled, his eyes still glued on the General Store. "Seems he got distracted by a telegram saying he needed to get to Ciders Ridge right away."
"He's sure gonna be upset when he finds out there ain't no mail order bride waiting for him in Ciders Ridge."
"Yep," Kid smiled, his eyes still set on the General Store. "Hate to be the one to break it to him."
Heyes smiled, nodding in agreement as he glanced sideways at his partner. "I know what you're thinking and it ain't the time or place."
Kid finally took his eyes off the General Store and slowly turned to face Heyes. "I know," he smirked. "But there's no harm in lookin'." Smiling he raised his eyebrows as his eyes drifted back to the General Store.
"Just as long as it's just looking," Heyes seriously stated. "We're leaving in the morning and the less anyone remembers us, the better."
"You certainly know how to take the fun out of the afternoon," Kid glumly said.
"It's one thing to be with a saloon girl, and another to be with the lady that just walked into the General Store." Slowly removing the cigar from his mouth, Heyes blew the smoke into the air. "The saloon girl might not remember ya."
Kid turned and glared at Heyes.
Heyes continued, pretending not to notice. "The lady in there," he nodded towards the General Store, "she'll remember every last detail. Probably give them a real good description of ya."
Kid sighed, knowing his partner was right and turned his attention to the rest of the town.
"So, Mr. Handley missed the train," Heyes returned to the original conversation. "How many others will be guarding the payroll?"
"Just one," Kid stated, sounding a bit disinterested or more accurately annoyed with Heyes. Just because he knew Heyes was right, he didn't have to be happy about it.
"Hmm," Heyes pondered. "Ya think they'd have more."
"The railroad figures having Handley on the train is as good as four guards."
"He that good?"
"He's got the reputation and sometimes that's all it takes." Kid stated, fully aware of what a reputation affords one.
They sat there for a few moments in silence, both looking at the town, deep in their own thoughts.
Figuring he needed to get his partner's mind off of other things, Heyes sat up in his chair, letting his feet drop to the ground with a thud. Getting Kid's attention, he turned to look at him. "Sitting in the sun's got me thirsty. Think I'll head to the saloon for a whiskey."
Kid nodded, standing up with Heyes.
It was then that Heyes realized they would have to walk by the General Store to get to the saloon. Cursing to himself, he scanned the town. If he had only said he was hungry; they would be at the other end of town. Well, the damage was done, he thought, as he briskly walked towards the saloon with Kid by his side.
Passing the General Store, Kid quickly stated, "I'm gonna get some gun oil. I'll meet ya at the saloon," and darted inside before his partner had a chance to object.
Abruptly stopping, Heyes turned on his heel in time to hear a crash from the store. Walking over to the entrance, he looked in to see Kid holding onto the young lady's arm, steadying her with what appeared to be the contents of her bag, strewn all over the floor. "I'm sorry, Miss," Kid tipped his hat.
"No, it's my fault," she replied, sounding flustered. "I was in a hurry and didn't see you."
"No harm done," Kid smiled, looking deep into her eyes, "as long as you're alright."
Heyes noted his partner’s hand was still on her arm and scowled. "Everything alright," he called out, walking into the store. Leaning down he picked up a bottle, reading the label out loud, "Doc Brown's Miracle Elixir."
"Thank you," the lady replied as she reached out, taking it from him.
Heyes noted a bottle of willow bark in her hands along with a few others that looked like they were for medicinal purposes. "Not feeling well?" he directed his question to the young lady.
"I'm fine," she smiled, and then realized the reason for the question. "Oh, the medicine...it's for my brother, he's very ill."
"Doc Brown's Miracle Elixir?" Heyes raised a questioning eyebrow.
"It's supposed to be good for everything," she replied.
Heyes shrugged, not believing it did anything.
"I really have to go," she stated, remembering why she was originally in the store.
"You have your hands full Miss, let me help you," Kid smiled, locking his eyes on hers.
Mesmerized by his blue eyes, she held his gaze, once again forgetting she was in a hurry.
Heyes broke the silence, directing his statement at Kid. "You should let the young lady get back to her brother."
Kid could feel his partner’s piercing stare. Tipping his hat, "Miss," he smiled as he broke the gaze.
She smiled and with all of her things gathered, hurried out the door.
Heyes lifted his cup to his mouth again, taking a mouthful of coffee. Speaking to Kid as though he was sitting next to him having a cup, instead of lying next to him unconscious, he asked, "Is that how you got sick? Did she give you whatever her brother had?" Heyes shook his head at Kid, admonishing him for his behavior. "I told you your heart was gonna get you in trouble one of these days. You don't have to help every pretty girl you see. Now look at the mess you're in."
Heyes took a moment to look at his partner as he lay quietly, his head resting on his bedroll, eyes closed, buried under his coat, and the blankets from Heyes' bedroll; his hat dangled from his saddle that was lying by his feet. Absently he took another gulp of coffee before he continued. "Now don't get me wrong, I like women as much as you do, but all you have to see is someone of the fairer sex, and you fall for them. I told you, right now, we gotta stick with the working girls. They're real nice, good looking; take care of our needs and don't care who we are. The thing they ain't, is clingy. We don't need no woman clinging on us when we gotta ride out of town. And we don't need to break no hearts so that they give the sheriff a good description of us."
Heyes picked up a stick and poked the fire with it, waiting for the argument that wasn't coming. He glanced at Kid through the corners of his eyes, wanting to avoid eye contact, but Kid's eyes were still closed. Dropping the stick, Heyes once again sat back as he took another sip of his coffee. Looking at Kid's face, he willed his partner to open his eyes but instead he could hear all the arguments Kid would have against him. In response, Heyes tried to sooth things over. "I know there might be a day when we want to settle down. Have a home, a white picket fence," Heyes began to chuckle lightly, "have a ranch, or a nice steady job," he snickered, "but that ain't now. That is unless there's something you forgot to tell me."
He contemplated their lives and then patted the saddlebag that was next to him. "We got almost twenty-five thousand dollars in here. Even split up with the gang; that's over three thousand dollars apiece. You ready to give that up for a job that's gonna pay ya fair wages and be hard on your back?"
Heyes stared at Kid, taking his silence as a 'no', he added, "Didn't think so."
He sighed as he continued to think. "You, know, she really didn't look sick. Maybe ya didn't get this from her. You started to look pale that night and even worse the next morning when we were getting ready to leave town. You didn't eat all your breakfast. I knew something was up." Shaking his head he clenched his teeth for the lack of anything else to do, angry with himself for not doing something then. He snorted, thinking of the conversation he would have had with the doctor. You don't understand; he didn't eat his breakfast. He's sick! The memory hung in the air as Heyes thought back.
"By the time we met up with the gang, you were almost doubled over." Heyes dug deep in his brain as his facial expression turned serious, "You don't think you got sick from those sick cows, do ya?" he asked Kid and then answered his own question. "Nah, I don't think you got sick from the cows." He ran his hand through his hair. "That would make more sense, well not getting sick from them, but when you got sick. We saw those cows five days ago. Now that makes more sense about when you got sick. Getting sick from the pretty girl was too soon." Heyes stopped and rethought things; "She did say her brother was real sick, so maybe it was her. I don't know of nobody getting sick from cattle in these parts, and anyhow, we weren't close to them," he said trying to reassure himself.
Heyes lifted his cup to his lips and tilted it; it was empty. Without thought, he put it down as he once again went through everything he could remember until Kid got sick. They got up, checked out of the hotel and went to the café for breakfast. When they ordered, Kid ordered the regular amount, but then mostly pushed the food around the plate. Kid was just so stubborn, wouldn't admit being sick in the morning and wouldn't admit it on the ride to meet the gang.
"Ugh," Kid grunted as he unsuccessfully tried to hide his discomfort.
"You okay?" Heyes asked his partner as he pulled his horse to a stop. Looking Kid over he added, "You don't look good. What's wrong?"
"You been making all kinds of noises the past hour - yeah I heard ya - so don't be telling me nothing's wrong."
"Heyes, I'm fine," Kid said through gritted teeth. "We have to meet the gang at the junction. Can we just keep goin'?"
"No, we can't keep going ‘til I find out what's wrong." Heyes began to really study Kid. He was very pale and as Heyes squinted, he could see sweat dripping down the side of his face. "You're sweating!"
"So, it's cold."
"Well I'm not cold."
"I ain't sick."
"Well then, you're pig headed."
Kid frowned. "Okay, I've felt better, but I'm okay."
Brown eyes continued to study Kid.
"Now can we just keep movin' or are you tryin' to be a nursemaid?"
"Hmrpf," Heyes snorted. "Fine, you want to ride, we'll ride. Just don't go falling off your horse and expect me to help you out."
Kid nodded and they set off again.
"I should'a made you go see the doctor when you didn't eat your breakfast. I knew something was wrong," Heyes chastised Kid, who was still lying quietly on the floor of the cave.
Brown eyes scrutinized his partner’s face in the dimly lit light and then he saw small beads of sweat that had formed at Kid's temples. "Damn," he quietly cursed as he moved over next to him. Placing his hand on his partner's forehead, he could feel the fever once again taking over. Heyes closed his eyes and took a small breath in. "Kid," he placed his hand on Kid's shoulder. "You gotta hang in there. I'm doing everything I know how, but you gotta fight this." Heyes took his bandana and poured water from the canteen on it. Wiping Kid's brow Heyes quietly added, "Hang in there." He laid the damp bandana on Kid's forehead as he began to remove the layers he put on him when Kid had the shakes. After Heyes unbuttoned Kid's shirt, he took Kid's bandana, wet it with water, and placed it on his chest.
"Kid," Heyes tried lightly shaking him awake; he was still unresponsive.
Sighing, Heyes looked around the cave, empty except for him, Kid, their gear and horses. There were a few useless odds and ends strewn across the cave that had been left from previous stays; a mangled cup, a rusted canteen, a couple of old money bags and a single boot. Heyes chuckled lightly when he saw a single boot lying across the cave wondering how one boot was left behind. As far as he knew, none of his boys had left the cave with only one boot. He surmised that others besides the gang may have used the cave, but he still chuckled, thinking of a one booted man riding away.
The cave was a safe haven for the gang when they were running from a posse. The entrance sat back from the main trail and the view of the entrance was tucked behind large boulders. Unless you knew the entrance was there, it looked like a rock wall with trees in front of it. Since the cave was large enough for not only the gang, but also their horses, once the footprints were wiped away, there was no evidence they were there.
Heyes picked up the canteen again; bringing it to his lips he stopped an inch before they touched. Scanning the ground around him, he searched for his canteen, spotting it next to his saddlebag. He placed the one Kid drank out of next to Kid and picked the one next to the saddlebag up, taking a swig. Still having a conversation with the unconscious Kid he stated, "Good thing I didn't drink out of yours. Can't have both of us sick now, can we?" Rolling his eyes he added, "Then again, I'm not doing much to help you, so would it really matter."
Standing up to stretch his legs, Heyes continued to talk. "Wonder how Wheat and the boys made out. They should've lost the posse at Boulder Creek. If I thought you could have made it that far, I would'a kept going, but I figured you'd be off your horse well before then." Heyes reached his hands over his head and stretched as he started to pace. "So if it took ‘em to nightfall to Boulder Creek, Wheat would want to wait a while before circling back." Heyes snorted, "And you know he'll be circling back as soon as he can ‘cause we got the money." Sighing, he wondered if Wheat and the rest of the gang got away from the posse.
Crouching down, Heyes emptied the rest of the contents of the coffee pot into his cup. Thinking of Wheat, he remembered how proddy he was when they met up at the junction before the job.
"It's about time ya got here," Wheat stated as Heyes and Kid finally made it to the junction. "I was thinkin' about headin' back to the Hole."
Heyes glared at Wheat.
Lifting his hand up defensively, Wheat added, "No offense, I just figured you bein' the one always on time, somethin' might have happened, seeing you're comin' up on three hours late."
Heyes continued to glare at Wheat.
Turning his head to break eye contact, Wheat noticed Kid, "You look like hell."
Kid tried to stare Wheat down but wasn't up to it. "Wheat," he angrily stated instead.
"No need gettin' proddy," Wheat stammered.
Kid nodded as he plopped down by the fire. During the night he went from shivering cold, to taking off his coat and walking away from the fire. He knew he was sick, but he also knew Heyes and the rest of the gang were counting on him. The plans for this train robbery had been in the works for some time now and it was a one-time deal. There was almost twenty-five thousand dollars on the train and their biggest threat with Handley had been neutralized. They wouldn't have this opportunity again, so Kid determined his feeling a little under the weather would not stand in their way.
From ‘Stand and Deliver', to the whoops and hollerin' of the boys as Heyes cracked the safe, everything went as planned. They got away, split the gang in two in case a posse followed and later that night, met back at the junction. Everything went picture perfect and Kid held his own until he dismounted. As Kid's feet hit the ground, the world around him spun.
"Hey Kid," Heyes grabbed his partner's shoulder, steadying him. "You okay?"
Kid closed his eyes, willing the spinning to stop; he ever so slightly nodded his head as the meager contents of his stomach were trying to revolt.
"Go sit, I'll get the horses," Heyes instructed.
Kid turned and stopped as he tried to regain his equilibrium.
"Kyle," Heyes called, as he held the reins out.
"Got ‘em Heyes," Kyle replied as Heyes took Kid's elbow and led him towards the area with the fire pit.
"Here," Heyes let go of Kid's elbow, "have a seat, I'll get the fire going and make some coffee."
"I think I'll pass." Kid blinked his eyes, trying to get everything to stop spinning.
"It might..." Heyes started and then stopped as he saw how flushed Kid looked. "Hey,"Heyes placed his hand on Kid's forehead, "you're burning up!"
"I'm fine." Kid unsuccessfully tried to assure.
Rolling his eyes, Heyes stated, "If fine means ya ain't dead, then yeah you're fine. If you're trying to tell me you feel okay...you're a lousy liar."
Kid gave a halfhearted snort trying to make a joke of things but once again, it failed.
"Kyle, bring me Kid's canteen."
Taking it from Kyle, Heyes opened it and held it out for Kid. "Take a sip, it might help."
"Don't think that's such a good idea right now," Kid groaned.
By now, the rest of the gang had gathered around the area and were staring at the blond leader.
Heyes looked at them, "He's not a circus side show."
The gang looked at each other, shrugged and sat down, bunched up on the other side of the fire pit.
Heyes scowled at them sitting so far away from their sick friend. "Wheat, get the fire started and make some coffee. Kyle where's my saddlebag?"
"Right here," Kyle held it up. "Got Kid's too."
"Good," Heyes said as he accepted the saddlebags from Kyle. Digging through it, he pulled out a pouch with whitish powder in it along with a cup. He dumped some powder into the cup and then added water. After a quick swirl of the water with his finger, Heyes handed the cup to Kid. "Here, drink this."
Kid grimaced as he looked at the water and closed his eyes.
"Come on, it will make you feel better."
Opening his eyes, Kid swayed, "I'm not so sure about that."
"I am, so drink it," Heyes demanded as he put the cup in Kid hand and helped him bring it to his lips. "Good," he said, taking the cup once it was finished. "Kyle, get me Kid's bedroll."
After placing Kid's bedroll down by the fire and helping Kid lie down on it, Heyes stood up and looked around. "Who's taking the watch?"
"Hank and Lobo," Wheat replied.
Heyes nodded as he picked up the saddlebag with the money in it and tucked it between Kid and the log he sat down on.
The rest of the night was fairly quiet. Heyes sat next to Kid, leaning against the log he had previously been sitting on, watching his partner and occasionally dozing off for a minute here and there. Not sleeping was normal for Heyes after a job...Or more rightly, any time he had something on his mind. Kid could sleep anywhere, anytime. Heyes on the other hand had to have a quiet mind to sleep. Being the outlaws they were, that didn't happen often, especially outside of the security Devil's Hole granted them.
"Ooohhh," Kid groaned as his eyes fluttered.
"Hey," Heyes shot up, placing his hand gently on Kid's shoulder. "Kid," he lightly called out. "Kid," he said a little louder.
Kid's eyes fluttered a little more and then opened.
As they slowly began to close Heyes called him again, "Kid, Kid, stay with me."
Blue eyes focused on brown ones.
"Hey, how ya feeling?" he asked as a dimpled smile spread across his face.
Confusion spread across Kid's face.
"We're at the junction. We just finished the Tilson payroll job." Heyes could see Kid relax as he remembered where they were.
"Water," Kid gasped.
Heyes picked up the canteen and helped Kid lift his head to take a sip. Putting the canteen down, Heyes placed his hand on Kid's forehead. "Fever's down a little." He gave him a tight smile.
"How long...what time?" Kid stammered trying to put a sentence together.
"Sleeping," Heyes tilted his head, "over there."
Kid ran his hand across his face, leaving his palm on his forehead. "My head feels like it's gonna fall off."
Giving Kid a small smile, Heyes sarcastically stated, "Too thick headed for that to happen."
"That bad, huh?"
"Nah, no blood, so it can't be that bad," Heyes said trying to comfort Kid as much as himself.
Kid nodded slightly as his eyes closed.
"Get some rest," Heyes patted his partner's shoulder. "I got the watch."
Heyes must have dozed off as the sun began to rise because the next thing he heard was footsteps running towards them. Drawing his gun, he was on his feet in a second.
"Posse's comin'!" Kyle yelled.
"Wha....Huh....Where?" were all heard as the gang was abruptly woken up.
"How far?" Heyes called out as he looked at Kid and wondered what to do.
"A ways down the hill but they look like theys ridin' fast," Lobo answered.
"I thought we lost them last night," Wheat cursed.
"Kid," Heyes brusquely shook his shoulder. "Kid, come on, you gotta wake up."
Kid's eyes shot open and then slowly started to close.
"No, ya don't," Heyes shook him again. "Posse's coming, we gotta move." Over his shoulder Heyes called out, "Kyle..."
"Comin' with yur horses," Kyle responded without being asked.
"Let me help ya up," Heyes stood up, pulling Kid up by his shoulders just as Kyle arrived with the horses. "Ya need help getting on your horse?"
Kid glared at Heyes, "I've been gettin' on my horse by myself for a long time."
Reaching down, Heyes grabbed the saddlebags, shoving half the open bedroll into one. Impatiently he stated, "Well ya better do it now unless you want the posse to help ya."
Throwing the saddlebags on his horse, he quickly leaned down and with his shoulder, helped to hoist Kid into his saddle. Kicking his horse as soon as he mounted, the gang was off.
"Wheat," Heyes called out as he watched Kid struggling to stay on his horse and keep up with the gang, "Kid's not gonna make it far. We gotta split up or we'll all be caught."
Wheat nodded in agreement.
"Kid and I will break off into the trees. Hopefully the posse won't see and will keep following you. I'm gonna take Kid to the cave. Take the rest of the gang and head through Boulder Creek. You should lose the posse there and then can circle back around to Devil's Hole."
Wheat nodded. "I'll come t' get ya when it's clear."
"To Boulder Creek," Wheat called out and the gang followed as Heyes grabbed hold of Kid's horse's reins pulling them hard to the left and into the trees.
"We're splitting up," Heyes told Kid, after the fact. "We're taking the money and heading to the cave," Heyes stated, not wanting to get into an argument on how fit or unfit Kid was. "Hopefully, the posse will follow the gang."
"Heyes," Kid said weakly, "thanks."
Heyes sighed as he sat propped up by his saddle in the dimly lit cave, coffee cup in hand, next to Kid. He looked at his best friend lying in the same place, same position as when they arrived yesterday. The only difference had been whether Kid was buried under covers to stop shivering or like now, lying with his shirt open with a damp cloth on this forehead and chest.
The plan worked and when the sun was high in the sky, Heyes and Kid arrived at the cave. That was yesterday. Kid barely made it. Heyes was sure he was going to have to ride double to keep Kid on his horse, but of course Kid was too stubborn for that. Heyes began questioning if whether the extra effort could have cost Kid some of his energy to fight whatever he was fighting.
Pulling up to the cave entrance, Heyes dismounted and walked over to Kid's horse and waited for Kid to dismount. When Kid made no movement to do so, Heyes reached up, tugging on his partner's arm.
"Come on," Heyes grunted as Kid slid off his horse onto Heyes' shoulder. "Let's get you inside."
Kid hung onto Heyes as Heyes got the two of them into the cave.
Once he got Kid seated and propped up against the wall, Heyes went back for the horses and gear.
Leading the horses into the cave, Heyes stopped near Kid, taking the bedrolls and saddlebags off the horses. Glancing around, he was happy to see they had left enough wood in the cave last time they were there to start a fire. Gathering the wood quickly, Heyes built a fire as Kid still sat propped up by the cave wall, eyes closed with his hat in his lap.
"I'll get the fire going and then get your bedroll out," Heyes informed Kid.
Kid grunted in response.
With the fire burning, Heyes laid Kid's bedroll out next to it. "Come on," he said as he lightly tapped his partner's shoulder. "Let's get you lying down so I can take care of the horses." Heyes looked up at the pair and chuckled, "They're giving me the eye," he joked with Kid. "They haven't eaten or had anything to drink since we left this morning. We might be looking like some nice big hay bales to them."
Kid snorted lightly, his eyes still closed, "Maybe you," Kid sounded groggy, "me, I make sure to give them apples and carrots. They know not to mess with the hand that feeds them."
Heyes smiled, glad that Kid still had his sense of humor. "I make sure they get plenty of treats too," he grunted out as he tried to help his partner get to his bedroll. "Me, I'm moving around; you, they see a brown lump. You know... the color of hay."
"Okay Heyes," Kid slurred as he lay down on his bedroll, "I'm here, take care of the horses. I think I got a couple of carrots in my saddlebag..." the words turned into a whisper as Kid fell asleep.
Heyes smiled, anyplace, anytime, Kid could fall asleep in a second. He hoped that when his partner woke up, he would feel better. "Alright," he said to the horses staring at him, "time to take care of you."
With gear removed, Heyes led the horses towards their place in the back of the cave. He picked up an empty bucket from the area and patted his horse on the neck. "Here's a carrot," he handed each horse a carrot he had retrieved from Kid's saddlebag. "I'll get you some water."
Turning he carried the bucket back to their gear and picked up both his and Kid's canteen. "I'll be right back," Heyes told Kid, just incase he could hear him. "I don't expect Wheat to be back before morning, so I'm just gonna get some water from the lake before it gets dark." Heyes looked at the few remaining logs and added, "and some wood."
The brown haired man got water, gathered wood and headed back to the cave. As he approached the entrance, he took a branch and carefully swept his footprints away and then pulled shrubs in front to disguise the entrance even more.
After tending to the horses, Heyes headed back to where his partner lay silently. He watched Kid's chest rise and fall with his rhythmic breathing. Satisfied that he was resting, Heyes went about making coffee, adding wood to the fire and setting up his bedroll and saddle.
As he finished, he looked at the opening of the cave; it was dark. Pulling out his pocket watch he checked the time, seven-thirty. He wondered if Wheat and the boys made it back to Devil's Hole safely. Shrugging he blew out a breath. Nothing he could do about that now. Hopefully, Wheat would arrive at the cave sometime mid-morning to tell him the coast was clear. Until then, Heyes would have to sit back wait, and let Kid rest.
Pouring himself a cup of coffee Heyes, propped himself up with his saddle as he began to think of the job. Everything went the way it was planned. They stopped the train, he cracked the safe and they were on their way before Kid gave a time warning. In and out, no posse followed. So how was it that a posse caught up to them early this morning? Were they followed? He shook his head. He never saw anyone behind them. Shrugging he remembered, he did keep an eye on Kid, but nah, he wasn't worried about Kid until he got off his horse.
Heyes turned to Kid, "How ya think they found us?"
Still asleep, he didn't answer.
"We weren't followed, I know we weren't. I checked." Heyes thought about it for a moment, "You checked. You weren't sick then. Well maybe you were but it didn't look it. Did you miss something?" he paused, shaking his head. "Nope, not possible. Even a sick Kid Curry sees things that other men don't." Heyes concluded, "We weren't followed. So how'd they know?"
Twisting his face, he didn't like the things that were rattling around in his brain. "Kid," he hesitantly asked, "Do ya think one of the gang set us up? Could they have told someone where we meet?"
Taking a sip of his coffee, he pondered the thought. "No one in the gang would do that…would they?" Heyes tried to remember if anyone acted strangely. If anyone had disappeared or gone missing; nothing, he came up with nothing.
Staring at the fire, his eyes grew wide as he remembered a newspaper article he read. "Damn," he said out loud. "Kid," he continued his conversation though there had been no movement or acknowledgement from his sick partner. "When I was waiting for you to come back after seeing Handley, I read the newspaper." Heyes chuckled, picturing the eye roll Kid would give him. "It said the Jefferson Gang was tracked down and caught because they had hired an Apache to track ‘em. Said he could even track through the night." Heyes gulped, "Ya think they got an Apache in this posse?"
Nervously, he tapped his cup with his fingers before taking another sip. Sounding concerned, Heyes continued, "It's the only thing I can think of. Can you think of another way they found us?"
He looked at Kid, waiting for an answer.
"Neither can I. I know we were careful getting there. We always are." Sighing, he added, "Maybe the gang was followed and didn't notice." He thought about it, "Nah, say what you want about Wheat, he knows when he's being followed and KNOWS not to bring the posse with him to the junction. He would have kept riding if he knew he was being followed. And anyway, if they followed us, why wouldn't they have waited until most of the gang was asleep and come for us then?"
Running his hand over his face, he concluded, "No, an Apache is the only explanation." He looked towards the dark opening to the cave. "Wonder if they knew we split off?"
Heyes shifted uncomfortably, unconsciously his hand slid down to his gun in his holster. "Kid," Heyes whispered, "ya think an Apache can track in the middle of the night?"
Thinking for a moment, his eyes drifted to Kid's gun belt, lying next to him. Reaching over, he slid the belt a little closer to him but still within reach of Kid. Quietly he sat, listening.
"Posse," Kid called out, startling Heyes as he had just dozed off.
Heyes jumped to his feet, gun in hand in a blink, his eyes darting around the quiet cave.
"Heyes, duck!" Kid yelled.
Ducking, Heyes searched for what Kid was yelling about. His eyes fell on his partner, still lying on his bedroll next to the fire.
"Look out," Kid commanded.
Heyes instinctively flinched as Kid's hands flew in the air.
Realizing he must be dreaming, Heyes holstered his gun and squatted down next to him. "Kid," he tapped his shoulder. Getting no reaction, he tried shaking him, "Kid, wake up. You're dreaming. Kid."
"Ahhh," a hand came up and swatted at Heyes' arm. "Let's move!" Kid cried out as his hand went to where his gun should be. "Heyes!" He let out a blood-curdling scream. "I got ya," Kid's voice showed his panic. Furiously moving his hands in the air as though he was doing something he continued. "Gotta stop the bleeding. Heyes hang in there, don't leave me!"
Heyes' eyes shot opened, "What in the world are you dreaming, Kid?" Heyes' eyes grew wide with fear. "Kid, wake up...you're asleep... Kid!" Heyes looked at Kid's face, sweat was running down the sides. Placing his hand on his forehead he cursed, "You're burning up!"
Grabbing the front of Kid's coat, Heyes tried to unbutton it but Kid thrashed out at him, swatting his hands away.
"No, no," Kid adamantly shouted. "Heyes, I can't break free."
Heyes sat back on his heels, trying to figure out how to deal with one very agitated partner. "Kid, Kid, I'm here. It's okay, we gotta get your coat off, then I can pull you free."
"Okay," he responded. "Hurry, they're comin'!"
"I know, I know," Heyes tried to reassure as he once again attempted to settle Kid down, as his nimble fingers quickly unbuttoned the coat. "Okay, I'm gonna pull you free now. Help if you can."
Reaching down, Heyes tugged on Kid's sleeves. Once he freed the arm, he scooped Kid up with one arm, as he slid the coat off with the other.
Kid reacted by grabbing hold of Heyes, giving him a big hug.
Heyes was shocked by the reaction and then horrified when he felt the heat emanating from Kid's body. "Alright, you're free, Kid. Everything's okay." Heyes tossed the coat to the side. "You can let go now."
Kid relaxed his grip and Heyes carefully laid him back down on the bedroll. Blue eyes met brown, "Thanks for saving me, Heyes. I thought I was a goner. I owe you one."
Heyes looked deep into Kid's eyes; gratefully they were opened but wondering where Kid thought he was. Obviously, the fever was giving him some sort of hallucination. He smiled tightly, "I think we're even."
Kid reached up, touching Heyes' chest with terror in his eyes, "The blood?"
"I'm all better. You saved me," Heyes reminded Kid.
Kid's eyes closed.
"Kid, Kid," Heyes called out.
Kid's eyes opened again.
"Stay with me."
Kid blinked at Heyes and his fevered eyes slowly closed again.
Well, Heyes thought, at least he was quiet. Taking off his bandana, he poured water from the canteen on it. Carefully he wiped Kid's brow in an attempt to cool him down. Wetting the bandana again, he laid it on his forehead and then unbuttoned Kid's shirt leaving it open. This time, he used Kid's bandana to cool him off, finally leaving the damp cloth on his chest.
With Kid resting, Heyes sat back to keep an eye on his partner. Looking at Kid's relaxed face, he pondered what Kid could possibly have been thinking about earlier. The shear panic on his face, in his voice…was so apparent, that whatever he was thinking about was happening to him at that moment. But, was it a nightmare or was Kid reliving some incident from their past.
Heyes shivered as the cave cooled. Picking up a stick to poke the waning fire, his eyes caught Kid's flushed face and the sweat beading at his temples. Sighing, Heyes dropped the stick, buttoned up his coat and then poured himself a cup of coffee. Taking a sip, he reveled in the warmth. He took another sip and then put the cup down.
Lifting the bandana off Kid's forehead, Heyes once again wet it with water from the canteen. He wiped the sweat off of his partner’s face and neck before rewetting it and placing it back on Kid's forehead. He repeated the motions with the bandana lying on Kid's chest. Looking at his flushed face, Heyes contemplated waking him up, to try to get him to drink some water and give him something for the fever. Since Kid was resting peacefully, he decided against it, figuring the best thing for him was rest.
Sitting back, he picked up the coffee cup and held his hands around it for the warmth before finishing the cup. Once again, Heyes sat watching his friend as the rise and fall of his chest lulled Heyes to sleep.
Woken by the cold air and grunts from his partner, Heyes shivered as there were only glowing embers left of the fire. His hope that the cold air from the cave would help bring Kid's temperature down, didn't materialize, as he could still see sweat beads on Kid's face.
"Huh," Kid grunted as he moved, eyes still closed. He licked his lips and swatted at something in the air.
Leaning towards him, Heyes tapped Kid's shoulder. "Kid, ya awake?" No response. "Kid, ya awake? Ya thirsty?"
"Go," Kid yelled out, thrashing out, his fist connected with Heyes' jaw.
Caught by surprise, Heyes fell backwards, hitting his saddle. As he rubbed his chin he was at a loss as to what to do next. "Damn," he cursed.
"Heyes, look out!" Kid cried out. "Nooooooo!" Kid's arms reached out as tears welled in his eyes. "Hang on Heyes, don't leave me..." his voice trailed off to a whisper.
Heyes closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. Kid was reliving the first time Heyes was shot. It wasn't Kid's fault. It really wasn't either of their faults. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, but Kid blamed himself for not protecting him. The nightmares from that day were always too real and Kid always woke up exhausted and drenched.
Over the next hour, Heyes watched Kid grow increasingly agitated; grunting, yelling and flailing at things that weren't there. Each time there was an outburst, Heyes tried to wake him up, only to get a push, or a shove but luckily no more shots to the chin. The harder Heyes tried, the more violent Kid got.
Worried about his partner's deteriorating condition, Heyes sat back, trying to come up with a plan, anything that could help Kid. Finally, a small smile spread across his face, how could he have forgotten. He chuckled lightly to himself; maybe it was the fist to the chin.
Digging through his saddlebag he found what he was looking for. Grabbing a cup, Heyes poured some of the whitish powder in and then added water. Once again he shook Kid's shoulder as he called his name. "Kid...Kid," he called out louder. Setting the cup down, he used both hands to shake him harder.
Kid moaned, thrashing about, but didn't open his eyes.
"Kid, I got some willow bark for you. I need you to drink the water."
Suddenly Kid's arms shot up grabbing Heyes' arms as his eyes flew open. Kid swallowed hard as he stared at Heyes' chest. Slowly he moved his hand to the spot he was looking at, "I'm sorry Heyes. I should'a stopped the guy." Pain and anguish were etched on Kid's face.
"Hey," Heyes yelled loudly as he placed his hand on Kid's hand. "Hey," Heyes yelled again. "Look at me!" Heyes demanded. "LOOK! AT! ME!"
Blue eyes slowly worked their way up from Heyes' chest to his eyes.
Heyes tried hard to hold Kid's gaze. "I'm alright. You saved me."
"Noooo," Kid whimpered.
"YES!" Heyes insisted. Lifting Kid's hand, Heyes showed it to him.
Terrified blue eyes drifted from his own hand back to a set of sympathetic brown eyes.
"See, you saved me. I'm alright." Heyes assured.
Kid smiled as his eyelids slowly closed and his grip loosened.
Carefully, Heyes placed Kid's hands by his side.
Remembering why he woke Kid up to begin with, Heyes picked up the cup as he tapped Kid's shoulder again.
"You have to drink the water," Heyes stated.
Kid didn't open his eyes but parted his lips.
"That's good," he lifted Kid's head and brought the cup to his mouth. "I got ya, take your time. Just drink it all."
Kid did as he was told.
"Good," Heyes said, slightly encouraged by the fact that Kid could at least hear him. He put the cup down and blew out a breath, hoping the willow bark would bring down the fever. As Kid rested, Heyes once again wiped Kid's face and chest with the wet bandana, using the last of the water in the canteen.
With the fire almost out, Heyes shivered again. Not wanting to lose all of the heat, he put a small log on. Within minutes, small flames erupted and Heyes squatted down to warm his hands.
Looking towards the cave entrance, he noticed a slight lightening. "It's almost sunrise, Kid. What time do you think Wheat will be here?" He rubbed his hands over the fire. "If I know Wheat, he'll be leaving soon and be here by breakfast." Looking at Kid, Heyes continued. "No, Wheat's not gonna send somebody else. He'll come himself." He snorted as if responding to something Kid said. "We have the money, that's how I know. Wheat's gonna come and probably Kyle. He'll have the rest of the gang stay at the Hole."
Rolling his eyes he added, "I'm sure he's been telling ‘em all how things would have gone if he was the leader. Now I'm not so sure how he's gonna explain how he would've kept you from getting sick, but I'm sure he is. Then there's the posse." Heyes sighed, not liking what he was thinking.
"Hmmm...wonder what Wheat thinks went wrong. Kid, you think somebody in the gang set us up? Sure hope not." With his hands warm, Heyes sat back down.
Bored, and not being able to sleep, Heyes pulled out his pocket watch; four thirty in the morning. With a glancing check on Kid, Heyes stood up and stretched. Seeing as how his partner was resting peacefully, he began to roam around the cave. He poked in and out of the nooks and crannies figuring maybe he'd find something new, something that was useful. Being that there were very few nooks and even less crannies, Heyes was done in less than fifteen minutes.
Standing towards the side, he arched his back, stretching it as he looked around, trying to find something to occupy himself. If Kid were awake, they could always play cards. Playing cards by yourself was boring to Heyes. There was no real thought needed, no challenge, so why bother?
As his eyes roamed the interior of the cave, he spotted the entrance and walked over to it. Gazing at the sky through the opening, he could see early signs on the horizon that the sun was about to rise, though the dark sky above was still studded with stars. This was the most peaceful time of the day for him. He often sat on the porch of the leader's cabin at this time, somewhere between the end of one day and the beginning of the next, and did some of his best thinking and planning while the rest of Devil's Hole was silent. Unfortunately, the main thing on his mind right now was Kid and he had no clue as to why he was sick or how to make him better.
The other thought rattling in his brain was whether or not Wheat and the gang got away from the posse. Nothing he could do about that either. There was nothing to plan, he just had to wait. There were very few things Hannibal Heyes hated more than not being in control of the situation and waiting was up there on the list.
Turning, he scanned the dimly lit cave. Seeing a couple pairs of eyes staring back at him; he strolled over to the horses. Stroking the neck of his horse he said, "We should be out of here in a few hours. No rush to get back so we can take it easy; let you graze some. I'll make sure to give you a good brushing once we're in the Hole."
Heyes' horse nickered as though she understood.
"Thought you'd like that," he smiled as he patted her.
Turning he rubbed the neck of Kid's horse, "Don't worry, if Kid's not up to it, I'll make sure you're tended to, too."
By the time Heyes made his way back to Kid, he was curled up with his arms wrapped around his chest, shaking. Alarmed, Heyes ran to his side. "Kid, Kid," he tried to wake him up.
"Cold," Kid replied through chattering teeth.
Heyes quickly felt Kid's forehead, cool, well actually cold; the fever had broken. With one quick swipe, he removed the bandana from Kid's forehead and chest, pulling his shirt closed in the process. Reaching, Heyes seized Kid's coat and put it on top of him. Picking up his blankets from the bedroll, he placed them on Kid as well.
"I'll get the fire going," he told Kid as he placed a few logs on the fire and stirred the embers to ignite them.
Kid continued to shake.
Taking off his own coat, Heyes added it to the layers. "You'll be warm in no time," he stated as he squatted down and did his best to tuck the covers around Kid.
Rubbing his arms for warmth, he was happy the fire was growing in size and emitting heat. "Ya want some coffee?"
Kid didn't reply as Heyes noticed his eyes were closed.
Without a coat, Heyes was grateful to feel the warmth of the fire on his back. After a few moments, he saw Kid's body relax. Thankful, Heyes twisted around and gazed into the fire.
The rest of the early morning hours went by without further incident as Kid got a few hours of needed rest. Heyes did what he had been doing since arriving at the cave yesterday afternoon; sitting, waiting, and watching Kid. There really wasn't anything else he could do considering the condition his partner was in. He hoped with Kid's fever seeming to be held at bay, his condition would improve and they would be able to leave when Wheat arrived.
Running his hand over his face, Heyes tilted his head back. He stared at the top of the cave. Why? He didn't really know, but it was the only place he hadn't looked at since they arrived.
A faint moan by Kid made Heyes' head snap forward.
"Kid, Kid," Heyes anxiously called out as he moved closer. "Kid," he repeated himself as the hope of him waking up started to wane. Heyes huffed, "This beauty sleep is getting a bit old. Once Wheat gets here, you're gonna get your butt in the saddle." Heyes frowned. With no response after a jab like that, Kid most likely wasn't ready to wake up. For what seemed to be the thousandth time, Heyes placed his hand on Kid's forehead. "Think the fever is gone," he muttered.
Antsy, he glanced around the cave again with his eyes stopping at the entrance. "Sun's up. Been up a long time. Surprised Wheat ain't here yet." Heyes twiddled his thumbs. "Ya think they got caught?" Heyes stared out the entrance. "Nah, I don't think they got caught. I sent ‘em towards Boulder Creek. No one can track through Boulder Creek. Not even an Apache." Heyes waited a beat. "Ya think they got caught? Well if they did, it's more for us," Heyes stated as he patted the saddlebag full of money.
Scowling, Heyes turned back to Kid as if his partner was talking to him. "I was only joking. I know we'd have to try an' break ‘em out." Heyes paused and then added, "Then again, ya think Wheat would come after us if we didn't have the money?"
Heyes picked up a stick and jabbed at the fire. "You know Kid," Heyes stood up as his voice got louder, "this would be a lot better conversation if you would join in." He turned to stomp away.
"You seemed to be arguin' with yourself jus' fine," a faint voice stated.
"Kid?" Heyes whipped around, crouching next to him. "Hey, Kid," he called louder.
"Can ya keep it down, I'm tryin' t' sleep," Kid whispered, his eyes still closed.
Creasing his brow, Heyes stated very loudly, "No, I can't keep it down. You've been sleeping long enough!"
Kid smacked his lips together.
"Thirsty?" Heyes asked with concern.
"Uh-huh," Kid murmured.
Heyes picked up Kid's canteen, "Here," tilting the canteen towards Kid's mouth Heyes helped Kid raise his head. "Done?"
Kid gave a slight nod.
Heyes eased Kid's head back to the bedroll.
Even with his eyes closed Kid sensed Heyes staring at him. "Can ya stop starin' at me?"
"Stop lookin' at me."
"I told you, I'm tryin' to sleep."
"And I told you, ya slept long enough," Heyes scolded as a grin spread across on his face.
"Why ya smilin'?"
"Who says I'm smiling?" Heyes grouchily asked. "And what's it to ya anyway?"
"Heyes, I can tell," Kid quietly declared. "Cause I'm tryin' to sleep."
"And me smiling is preventing that?"
"Kid, sometimes you make no sense at all." Heyes poked Kid. "Now open your eyes and wake up."
"Cause I'm the leader and when the leader tells you to do something, you're supposed to do it," Heyes adamantly stated.
"Well, if we're partners, you ain't the leader."
Heyes glowered at Kid. "Well then, a partner's supposed to do what the other partner says!"
Kid sighed, "Well if you're not gonna let me sleep..." Kid's eyes opened slightly, then closed.
"Come on, Kid," Heyes encouraged.
As though they had weights holding them closed, Kid willed his eyes to open. Ever so slowly they opened to see a blurry figure hanging over him. As his eyes adjusted to the dim lit cave, they focused on two brown eyes staring down at him.
"Hey," Heyes smiled.
"Hey," Kid replied as his eyelids went through a series of exaggerated blinks while they tried to focus. "I told you, you were starin' at me."
Heyes shrugged and sat back a little.
"Where are we?"
"Not sure." Heyes looked back at the opening of the cave and wondered where Wheat was.
Kid tried to lift his hand to run it over to his face only to feel like a stuffed sausage. "Why is your coat on me? And why am I buried under all this?" he asked as he yanked his hand free, busting it out from the side.
"You were cold."
"Well I'm not now."
"No need getting proddy," Heyes stated as he first took his coat off the pile and then started to yank on the blankets that were tucked around Kid. "I was up all night taking care of you; you could show some appreciation."
Kid ran his hand through his hair and moaned.
"You okay?" Heyes nervously asked.
"My hair hurts," Kid moaned. Blue eyes met concerned brown eyes.
"Let me get you some willow bark."
Kid groaned at the thought.
Having mixed the willow bark in a cup of water Heyes handed it to Kid. "Here drink this."
Kid raised his eyebrow skeptically.
"It will make you feel better."
Kid dutifully drank the cup and laid his head back on the bed roll. "I seem to be missing some details; maybe you could fill me in."
"Sure," Heyes smiled. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Kid thought back. "The girl in the General Store."
"Figures," Heyes rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Do you remember anything else?"
Kid thought for a moment and then shook his head.
Grateful Kid had forgotten the nightmares; Heyes sat back and filled Kid in on what he didn't remember. As he was finishing, he once again looked up at the entrance. Looking back at Kid, he could see him struggling to keep his eyes open.
Placing his hand on his partner's shoulder, Heyes quietly said, "Think you've been up long enough; maybe you should try to get some more rest before Wheat gets here."
"Whatever ya say partner," Kid slurred as his eyes closed.
Standing up, Heyes stated, "You rest, I'm gonna go check out the area. See if I see anything. I'll be right back."
Kid grunted an acknowledgment.
Heyes lightly chuckled to himself; his partner could fall asleep at the drop of a hat, healthy or not. Pleased with the turn of events, he turned and headed out the cave entrance.
Heyes checked the area outside the cave; all was quiet. There wasn't a trace of anyone in the area or having ridden through recently. Walking down to the lake, he paused before stepping out from the cover of the trees. Once again, he saw nothing. Crouching down, he dipped his hands in the water. Cupping them, he brought them to his face. The cool water felt refreshing. As he splashed his face, some of the tension from the past twenty-four hours was released.
Taking in the view, Heyes admired the beauty of it all. The lake was pristine; the sky was blue with a few puffy white clouds lazily floating along with the pleasant breeze. A perfect day except for the fact he was hiding out in the cave, Kid was sick and Wheat was missing. Well not actually missing, just, well Heyes couldn't figure out just how to describe where Wheat was. He couldn't even really say he was late because there wasn't an exact time he was supposed to be there. Heyes had just assumed Wheat would be on his way to the cave at first light, but maybe Wheat figured he didn't have to leave early. The fact was, Heyes didn't know; he didn't know if he was on his way, he didn't know if he was captured by the posse, he didn't know if he was still running from the posse, he just didn't know and that's what bothered Heyes the most. He didn't know.
Dipping his hands in the water again, he let them linger for a moment, enjoying the coolness. Feeling a nibble, he looked down to see a school of fish seemingly interested in his fingers. Wiggling his fingers in the water, he was amused by the fish following them.
Hearing his stomach rumble, Heyes realized it had been over forty-eight hours since he ate anything. On the morning of the job, as always, he just had coffee. When they got back to the junction, he was too concerned with Kid to eat anything. Kyle had given him a plate, but he just pushed the food around.
Heyes grinned; Kid was the only one who really made sure he ate. When he was planning, food was the last thing on his mind and yes there were several times he got so caught up in things he would forget to eat. Kid on the other hand, ate. He liked to eat. Heyes couldn't think of a situation or a time when Kid forgot to eat and he always made sure Heyes ate something.
Since they were carrying the money, they weren't carrying any supplies, well except coffee. For some reason, Heyes always had coffee in his saddlebag. Snorting to himself, he figured there were times Kid would rather he had forgotten it. For the life of him, he just couldn't figure out why Kid always made snide remarks about his coffee. He liked his coffee. Sure it was strong, but why bother making it if it tastes like dirty water.
Heyes stomach rumbled again; coffee wasn't going to satisfy his hunger. With no supplies, Heyes figured a piece of hard tack would have to do for now. Shaking his head, he knew that wasn't gonna work for Kid. Hard tack wasn't exactly great on a good day, when you were sick, especially as sick as Kid had been, it really wasn't good.
Smiling, he looked down at the school of fish, "You might be supper if Wheat don't get here soon," he said out loud. "That is, if I can figure a way to catch ya."
Heading back to the cave, a rabbit darted across his path. That would be supper if it was up to Kid. One quick shot. Heyes shook his head; he certainly didn't want to bring attention to them being there. If the posse was still in the area, a gunshot would most certainly do just that. Kid wasn't ready to travel. No, he would figure out how to catch a fish if Wheat didn't show up soon. Blowing out a breath he hoped Wheat would be there.
Kid was still asleep when Heyes got back to the cave. Feeling less like he had to keep a constant eye on his partner, he went about taking care of the horses. He brought one horse out of the cave, down to the lake, and let them graze a little, before bringing them back and repeating the process with the other horse. Sitting out in the sun, even under the cover of the trees, lifted Heyes' spirits, that and the fact that he had a conversation with Kid. No, it wasn't a long conversation, but Kid did open his eyes and he did talk.
As he sat there, he picked up a tree branch and absently whittled the end into a sharp point. His mind went back to the job, the posse and Wheat. He really wished Wheat would show up. He wanted to find out what happened after he and Kid split off and if Wheat knew or suspected anything. He gazed around the area, "Where the hell are you, Wheat?" he asked out loud.
A horse's snort brought Heyes back to the present. "All done girl?" he asked, as he walked over and rubbed the bay's nose.
Neighing, his horse practically nodded her head.
"Okay," he chuckled. "Let's get you back inside and check on Kid."
As he entered the cave, he stopped to allow his eyes to adjust from the bright sunlight to the darkness of the cave. He touched the pointed end of the stick with his finger before putting it down. "Should do just fine," he informed his horse, "if Wheat don't get here soon." Walking further into the cave, Heyes left his horse with Kid's and then went to check on Kid.
"Hey Kid," he called out. "You awake?"
Heyes creased his brow, "If your not awake, how come you answered?"
Kid lay there silently.
"Now you go quiet on me."
"Are you tryin' to wake me up?"
"Then why do you keep talkin' to me?"
"Cause you answered me." Heyes waited a beat. "I made a spear to catch us a fish for dinner."
Kid sighed, "Heyes?"
Tired blue eyes looked up in search of brown ones, "You want me t' get up?"
"No," Heyes said sympathetically. "You need your rest, go back to sleep."
Kid rolled his eyes before closing them.
The hours ticked by as Heyes tried to busy himself while Kid rested. He looked at Kid's gun lying next to him and thought of cleaning it. That's probably what Kid would be doing but then again, the posse could still be out there and he didn't want to be in the middle of cleaning it if they found them. So, Heyes sat, took care of the fire, watched over Kid, looked around, finally broke down and played some solitaire and then closed his eyes for a needed nap.
Late in the afternoon, Heyes woke up. He turned his head to see Kid sleeping soundly. His eyes traveled to the cave entrance. He could tell the sun was beginning to set. Rubbing his face, he rolled over and sat up taking out his pocket watch; four-thirty. Sighing, he looked around the cave. Wheat hadn't made it yet. Thoughts of Wheat and the gang behind bars ran through his mind. Looking at Kid, he knew there wasn't anything he could do about it now; he would have to wait until Kid was well enough to ride.
"Kid," Heyes called out. "Kid," he repeated himself.
"Huh?" murmured Kid.
Reaching over, Heyes placed another log on the fire. "Wheat's not here yet, I'm gonna go try to catch us a fish for supper."
"Okay," Kid practically snored out.
Patting his partner's shoulder, he stood up. "Rest, I'll be back."
With spear in hand, Heyes headed back to the lake. Stopping in the same location as before, he crouched down and dipped his hands in the water. Within ten minutes, he was smiling as he walked back to the cave, a nice twelve inch trout on the end of the spear.
After cleaning the trout, Heyes shoved two ‘Y' shaped sticks into the ground; one on each side of the fire. He then placed the skewered fish between them to cook and made a fresh pot of coffee.
As the aroma filled the cave, Kid began to stir. Kid opened his eye to see his smiling partner.
"Thought the smell would wake you up."
"Think you're up to eating?"
"Yeah," Kid hesitated. "When did I last eat?"
"Three days ago."
"Three days!" Kid exclaimed.
Heyes chuckled, "Yeah, you've been really sick."
"Three days," Kid repeated. "I must be hungry."
"Here," Heyes moved over to Kid, moving Kid's saddle over to him. "See if you can prop yourself up."
Kid went to sit up and the cave swirled around.
Heyes placed his hands on Kid's shoulders to steady him. "Take it slow."
After helping Kid get propped up, Heyes took the fish off the spit, and placed it on their plates. Handing him the plate he said, "Small bites, remember, you haven't eaten in three days so you don't want to be throwing it up."
"Bein' a nursemaid again."
"No," Heyes snapped. "I worked hard catching the fish and cooking it. I don't want it to go to waste."
"Now ya sound like a wife," Kid teased.
Heyes scowled at Kid until he saw the grin Kid was trying not to show.
Snorting Heyes asserted, "Eat your fish."
Finishing the last bite of fish and last sip of coffee Kid placed his dishes down. "That was really good."
"You're welcome," Heyes replied. "I was getting hungry too."
"That's not what I meant," Kid said in a serious tone.
Heyes shrugged. "You'd do the same."
Kid nodded in agreement. "So, what do you think happened to Wheat?"
"Wish I knew. He was gonna take the gang through Boulder Creek before looping around to the Hole."
"Ya think they got caught?"
"I don't know what to think. I didn't think you could be tracked through Boulder Creek, but Wheat ain't here." Heyes stared out the cave entrance, seeing only black. "He can't find the opening at night, so we'll have to wait to see if he shows up in the morning. If he don't, I'll ride out and see if I can find anything."
"We'll ride out. I'm goin' with you."
"Kid, you've been real sick. I don't know if you're up to it. What if the posse is out there?"
"I'll be fine in the mornin'."
"We'll talk in the morning."
Seeing Heyes was digging his feet in for a fight, and not having the strength to have one, Kid nodded.
"Glad you see it my way," Heyes stated as he took his last mouthful of coffee.
The night went by quietly. Kid dozed on and off while Heyes watched over him. They talked about the last four days, trying to figure out how Kid got sick, how the posse found them and then, what may have happened to Wheat.
With Kid asleep for the night, Heyes once again walked over to the cave entrance and stared out into the night as a light rain began to fall. "Wheat, where the hell are you?" he said quietly to the darkness. With an uncertain morning approaching, Heyes decided to turn in.
The rain continued to fall over night; from a drizzle, to a drenching rain. Awake before dawn, Heyes waited for a lull in the storm to make his way down to the lake where he caught another fish.
Once again, Kid stirred as the aroma of roasting fish and coffee filled the cave.
"Perfect timing," Heyes stated as he put the fish on the plates.
"Not counting on Wheat showing up?"
"Not this morning. It's been raining all night and I don't think it's gonna stop anytime soon."
"Guess you're not gonna go look for ‘em now."
"The clouds to the west are black. I don't feel like riding into it if I don't have to. Anyway, if they're holed up for cover somewhere, I could ride right past them and not know it. I'll wait for a break in the weather." Heyes looked at Kid, who was still lying down. "Ya gonna sit up for breakfast."
"In a minute," Kid gently ran his hand over his face.
Heyes was over by Kid's side placing his hand on Kid's forehead in a blink of an eye.
Kid swatted Heyes' hand away.
"What'ya do that for?"
Kid glared at Heyes.
"Hey, it ain't normal for you to wait a minute for food. I thought you were having a relapse."
"Just takin' my time."
Brown eyes glared back.
"Okay," Kid gave in, "I could feel better."
Heyes' hand moved.
Kid put his up to block. "I'm not havin' a relapse, just not a hundred percent, that's all."
Heyes thought a moment and then gave a small nod. "Well the fish tastes just as good as last night so if you don't hurry up, I might eat yours."
Kid chuckled at the remark and Heyes joined in.
The rain continued a steady down pour all morning long. Kid continued dozing on and off but as far as Heyes could tell, he was sleeping less and looking better. Heyes played solitaire while Kid slept, and deciding a posse wasn't going to come while it was raining so hard, cleaned both his and Kid's guns.
Late in the afternoon Kid rolled over to see Heyes saddling his horse. "Where ya goin'?"
"The rain's practically stopped. Figured I'd see if I could find anyone."
Kid rubbed his face as he slowly sat up. "What time is it?"
Kid pushed himself up and started to walk towards Heyes.
"Where you think you're going?" Heyes asked as he tightened the cinch on the saddle.
"I'm your partner. I'm goin' with you."
Heyes chuckled, "I don't think so."
"I'm not gonna argue," Kid began before being interrupted.
"I'm not either. You're staying," Heyes emphatically stated. "I'm not going far, I'll be back."
"Still need to watch your back," Kid wobbled as he walked towards Heyes.
Chuckling Heyes said, "Without your gun?"
Surprised, Kid looked down and then turned around to see his gun and holster on the ground next to where he had been sleeping.
"You know you aren't well enough to ride." Heyes waited a beat, and then continued. "The Kid Curry I know, feels nekkid without his gun. And you were just gonna ride out of here without it." Heyes stared at Kid.
Sheepishly, Kid turned around and headed back to his bedroll.
"Glad you see it my way," Heyes laughed.
Halfway back to the bedroll, Kid froze as his hand went to where his gun usually sat on his hips. Scowling, he whipped his head around to Heyes, whose gun was already in his hand.
Quietly, Heyes motioned for Kid to get his gun. He had him covered as they both heard rustling out in front of the cave.
Just as Kid reached his gun, Wheat and Kyle came bursting into the cave. Throwing their hands up at the sight of two guns pointing at them, Wheat called out, "Whoa! It jus' me and Kyle."
Taking a breath, they lowered their guns. "Where ya been?" Heyes asked as he holstered his gun.
Kid plopped down and leaned against his saddle as he put his gun in its holster.
"Nice greetin'," Wheat replied. "If you remember, we're the ones that took the posse off your backs!"
"Well I expected ya yesterday," Heyes apologetically stated as he walked towards the two men as they moved farther into the cave. "I was beginning to think you were caught."
"Almost was," Kyle smiled. "Hey Kid, ya lookin' better."
Kid nodded at Kyle.
Heyes looked at the two men standing and Kid leaning against his saddle. "Where're your horses?"
"Tied up out front," Wheat replied.
"Bring ‘em in. It's too late to head back to the Hole now. Might as well sit down and tell us what ya been up to," Heyes said as he went over to the fire and added another log.
Kyle went to retrieve the horses as Wheat walked over to Kid. "You still look like hell, but better than last I saw you." Wheat sat on the other side of the fire opposite Kid.
Kid just looked at Wheat.
Wheat swallowed hard.
"So what happened after we split?" Heyes asked.
"The posse just kept comin'. Stayed on our tail ‘til we got to Boulder Creek," Wheat replied.
"Ya lost them there?" Heyes asked.
"Nope," Kyle stated as he joined the group.
"We gained a little ground there, but they kept comin'," Wheat added. "So we kept ridin'. Went all the way up to the pass and then split the gang. Kyle and me went down and the other boys went up."
"Who'd the posse follow?" Heyes asked.
"Neither," Kyle happily replied. With everyone's attention on him, Kyle continued, "We rode down the creek a ways and came up on the rocks. Guess it fooled them cause they weren't after us no more."
"The rest of the gang?" Kid questioned.
"When we made our way back around to the top, we could see the posse down the creek. The boys would be nowhere near there. Even if they picked up their trail again, the boys would have made it back to the Hole first."
"So where've ya been since then?"
"Me and Kyle followed the ridge trail and it took us to North Fork," Wheat responded.
"Yeah?" Heyes asked, looking for details.
"Figured we would check around to see we could find out why Kid was so sick," Kyle added.
This peaked both Heyes' and Kid's interest. "And...." Heyes inquired.
"Seems somethin's goin' around town. Most people get better but some did die." Wheat replied.
"Doc there didn't really know what was causin' it. Started with a boy. He got real sick. They didn't know what he had. Some folks said it was some sick cows that passed through the area. Seems he spread it to anyone that he came in contact with."
Heyes gave Kid an ‘I told you so look,' as Kid asked, "The boy...did he die?"
"Nope," Kyle jumped in. Taking something out of his pocket he thrust his hand towards Kid's face.
"He finally took this and got better."
Taking the bottle from Kyle, Kid read the label, "Doc Brown's Miracle Elixir." Kid opened the lid and took a whiff. As his eyes watered he said, "I guess it will either make you feel better or kill ya." He held the bottle out for Heyes.
Raising his eyebrow, Heyes took it out of Kid's hand. Smelling it first, he poured a capful for Kid.
"Here," he held out the cap for Kid, "Drink this."
"I'm not gonna drink that," Kid emphatically stated. "You drink it."
"I'm not sick."
"Well if everyone gets it from being in contact, you been in contact."
Heyes glared at Kid and then downed the capful of elixir. Coughing he tried to catch his breath. "That is the strongest whiskey I ever had!"
"Whiskey?" Kid, Kyle and Wheat exclaimed.
"Its got licorice or something in it but it's whiskey and its good strong whiskey!" Heyes said as he poured another capful.
"Let me try that," Wheat grabbed the cap and downed it. Coughing he nodded his head, "Dang."
Kyle had a capful and then finally Kid tried it. "Whiskey," he coughed. "No wonder it's a Miracle Elixir. You drink a capful or two of that and you'll pass out. You'll be too drunk to know you're sick."
The four of them laughed.
"Ya still didn't tell us what took ya so long to get here," Heyes reiterated.
"Oh, once we were in town, we found out there was an Apache in the posse. Said he's the same guy that tracked down the Jefferson Gang," Wheat answered.
"I knew there had to be an Apache!" Heyes affirmed, as he visibly relaxed, knowing a gang member wasn't involved.
"Yeah, well we didn't want to go back to the area too soon in case they were still out there. Then the rain started and well," Wheat let the sentence linger.
"Then what?" Heyes curiously asked.
"We found some real nice saloon girls to hang out with," Kyle blurted out.
"You stayed the night in town in a nice soft bed while Kid and I were here in the cave?"
Wheat diverted his eyes from Heyes.
"Kid could have been dying and you holed up with some saloon girls?"
"It started rainin'," Kyle meekly added.
"Well," Wheat looked at Kid, "Kid didn't die."
Heyes rolled his eyes. "Did ya bring any supplies?"
"Almost forgot," Kyle jumped and headed back to the horses. "Figured Kid would be starvin', so we got a bunch of food from the café." He walked over and plopped down a bag full of food.
"Heyes made coffee," Kid stated.
Wheat and Kyle smiled tightly.
"We could add some elixir," Kid stated.
Heyes glared at Kid.
"You know for...medicinal purposes," Kid explained. "You've been exposed Heyes, you should take precautions."
Heyes raised an eyebrow at Kid.
They chuckled as Kyle unpacked the food.
The four ate well, slept even better after downing the bottle of elixir and headed off the next morning for Devil's Hole. As they were dismounting in front of the leader's cabin, Heyes took his hat off, ran his hand through his hair and moaned.
Kid looked at Heyes, concerned.
"My hair hurts," Heyes groaned.
"Kyle," Kid called out. "How fast can you get to North Fork and get back with a bottle of Elixir?"