The Unexpected Hero – part 2
Pushing his horse a little harder than the rest of the posse, Heyes looked up ahead. "Lom," he called out. "Did you send someone up ahead?"
"No," Lom replied. "Why?"
"‘Cause unless my eyes are seeing things, I just saw a rider at the bend," he shouted as he urged his horse to go even faster with Kid's horse matching Heyes' stride for stride.
"Damn," Lom cursed, and quickened his pace as well.
With their heads down and their horses at full gallop, Heyes and Kid led with Lom a half step behind them and the rest of the group right on their tails. As they rounded the bend, shots rang out and the posse spread out, trying to make more difficult targets.
"Gang's runnin' for their horses," Kid called out as they hurdled towards the group.
Heyes and Kid swiftly took in the chaotic view - passengers fleeing in every direction, outlaws trying to get on their horses, some of them spooked by the commotion, outlaws firing shots at the posse, and now the posse in the thick of things.
"Do you see her?" Heyes called out.
"No," Kid responded and then saw three people unmoving in the mass confusion. "There," he pointed as he steered his horse in that direction.
Heyes followed Kid's hand until it reached the target. Relief fleetingly washed over him and then panic, not knowing what was keeping her in the same place.
Passengers ran screaming every which way. Horses rumbled past them but Laurie and Doris, mostly in shock, stayed in the same place. The screams and the sound of thundering hooves blocked out as Laurie tried desperately to help her friend.
"Heyes isn't going to kill you, Kyle, but you're gonna kill yourself. Now stop being silly," she pleaded.
Kyle blinked slowly a few times as a lop-sided grin once again spread across his face. "Heyes..."
"Stop it, Kyle. Heyes isn't going to do anything to you. He's gonna thank you for saving me. Now please stop fighting and let me help you."
"Heyes," Kyle smiled, his eyes drifted towards the other side of Laurie. "Kid."
"Kyle," Heyes smiled tightly as he pushed his hat back and squatted down next to Laurie.
Laurie turned her head at the sound of his voice, meeting his eyes with hers; she closed them as tears streamed down her face and buried her head into Heyes' chest. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight against him.
"Sshh," he soothed as he stroked the hair down her back. "It's over, you're safe."
Kid leaned over to take a look at Kyle's wound. As he poked around it, Kyle gasped. "Stay with us, Kyle." Kid looked at Heyes and they held a conversation with their eyes.
Heyes gave Laurie one more smoothing stroke before relaxing his grip on her. Using his two fingers, he lifted her chin so he could look into her eyes. "I have to talk to Kyle now."
Laurie nodded and moved to the side. "It's not his fault"
"The leader of the gang was going to take Laurie with him, Kyle wouldn't let him," Doris meekly stated as she stood off to the side. "He saved her life."
"Oh, Doris." Having been so busy with Kyle, Laurie had forgotten that her friend was with her. She quickly stood up and went to her, placing her arms around her in a hug.
"I'm gonna kill Wheat," Heyes seethed as he checked out the bullet wound.
"Wheat ain't here," Kyle squeaked.
"What?" Confusion spread across Heyes' face. "We have to pack the wound," he told Kid. Heyes scanned the area for something to use.
Doris stepped forward and handed him her shawl. "It's old," she shrugged.
Heyes smiled and began ripping the shawl into strips he could use.
"It's not the Devil's Hole Gang," Laurie turned to watch Heyes and Kid and then added, "It's some guy named Taggert."
"Taggert," Kid slowly turned his head to look at Laurie.
"Kyle, what the hell ya doin' with Taggert?"
A rider with his horse stopped next to the group before anyone had a chance to answer. "Laurie," the Sheriff of Porterville tipped his hat. "Joshua, Thaddeus. Got the gang on the run - are you coming?"
"They can't go!" Doris declared.
"Excuse me, ma'am," Lom tipped his hat.
"They have to help that man," she replied.
Lom turned to see who she was referring to. His eyes narrowed as recognition registered.
"It's not the Devil's Hole gang," Heyes stated without turning or looking at Lom as he continued to pack the wound.
"It's the Taggert gang," Kid quickly added.
"But..." Lom started.
"He was forced," Laurie jumped in. "He got shot saving me."
Lom looked at the group as they stared back at him. "Get ‘im to town and have the doc look after him. Tell Harker." He turned his horse to head out. "Joshua, Thaddeus, help get these folks back to the train and to Porterville." Nudging his horse, Lom rode off with the rest of the posse.
"How's it look?" Kid quietly asked Heyes as Heyes stood up to stretch his back.
Kyle was lying peacefully on the ground passed out with Laurie sitting next to him, holding his hand.
Doris stood behind Laurie with her hand placed on Laurie's shoulder for comfort.
"He's lost a lot of blood but the bullet went straight through, so at least we don't have to dig it out. I've packed the wound and the bleeding's stopped for now. If we can get him to a doctor and there's no infection, I think he's got a good chance."
"Yeah, what about when he's in jail?" Blue eyes met brown. "If he goes back on the train with all these passengers, he goes to jail. Lom won't have a choice. They all saw him with the gang."
"Yeah." Heyes lifted his hat, ran his hand through his hair and put the hat back on. "I'll have to figure that out."
"You do that, Heyes, ‘cause that's what you're good at; keepin' us all out of jail."
Heyes puffed his cheeks and blew out a breath and gave Kid a tight smile.
Kid patted Heyes on the shoulder, "I have all the faith in ya." He looked down at Kyle, "I'm gonna go check the status of the tracks and the passengers. See how long it's gonna be before they can get movin'."
Heyes nodded as Kid walked by him.
"The tracks are cleared and all the passengers except Laurie and Doris are back on the train," Kid reported to Heyes. "Ya figure out what we're gonna do about Kyle?"
"Yeah," Heyes sighed.
"Ya feel like lettin' me in on what we're gonna do?"
Heyes turned to look at Kid, "We're not goin' to Porterville."
Kid raised his eyebrow in response.
"We'll take him to Salt River - its closer."
"And we know a doc that will patch Kyle up without any questions." Kid smiled.
"Correction. We knew a doc in Salt River; it's been a while since we've been through there needing his services."
Kid nodded. "What if he's not there?"
"We hope the new doc in town is just like the old one, and don't ask any questions."
"And if he isn't?"
"We hope he don't ask questions until Kyle's all fixed up?"
Blue eyes narrowed, "That's the plan? What if he does?"
"Joshua will come up with a story to appease him," Doris stated as she walked over and patted Heyes' arm. "That's what you do, isn't it?" she smiled.
"Yeah, Doris," Kid leaned over and kissed her cheek. "That's what he does."
Doris looked Heyes in the eyes, "She feels guilty."
"You're not going to let him go to prison, are you?"
"Good, I don't think she could handle that either," Doris lamented.
"Mr. Jones," the conductor walked up to the group. "Sorry to interrupt, but we're all set to move out. We just need to get the ladies on the train." The conductor stopped but appeared as though he had more to say.
"They'll be right along," Kid replied.
The conductor hesitated, turned towards the train and then turned back towards Heyes and Kid. "Mr. Jones," the conductor started rather meekly.
Kid looked at him.
The conductor fidgeted with his hands. "Um," he started then stopped. "Ah, what's gonna happen to that man?" He pointed at Kyle.
"What's it to you?" Kid stood up tall.
"Well, it's just," the man stammered. "It's just...well...some of the passengers were talking and wondering."
"Wondering if we're gonna bring him on the train." His voice sounding somewhat angry.
"Well, yes...not really." The conductor looked back towards the train and then back at Kid. "See some of the passenger's just thought that...well...if he comes on the train, he's gonna end up in jail."
"Yeah...." Kid responded, softening his posture, wondering where this was going.
"See, a lot of us didn't really think he acted like an outlaw. He helped the ladies off the train. He was real apologetic and nice to everyone, ‘special that young lady sitting next to him. We saw what happened and if he hadn't stuck up for her," he pointed at Laurie, "he wouldn't have been shot. He's kind a...a hero."
"Are you saying that most of the passengers don't want him to go to jail?" Heyes asked after hearing the conversation.
"Well yeah, most would probably be accurate," he shuffled his feet. "Just don't think a man should go to jail when he done the right thing. He could have gotten on his horse and rode away like the others did, but he stayed and pulled her away from that no good excuse for a human. ‘Cause he saved her, he got shot. Just don't seem fair to go to jail, too. Think being shot is penance enough."
"Well if ya feel that way, if most of the passengers feel that way," Heyes resisted the urge to smile. "Mr. Jones and I can take him to Salt River instead."
"By horseback?" the conductor perked up.
"That's the only way I know how to get to Salt River from here," Heyes responded.
"I think that would be best," the conductor replied and turned to hurry back to the train. He took a few steps and stopped, turning back to Heyes and Kid, "You don't think it would...you don't think he'll.....um...die ‘cause he went to Salt River instead of Porterville, do ya?"
"The bleeding's stopped and the wound is dressed." Heyes paused for a moment, trying to convince himself as much as the conductor he was right. "No, I don't think it's riskier for him to go to Salt River instead of Porterville."
The conductor gave a tight smile and headed towards the train.
Kid walked over to Heyes and put his arm on Heyes' shoulder. "Do you really think they're worried about Kyle goin' to jail or are they worried about Taggert comin' back for him."
Heyes pondered the question for a minute. "I actually think they may be concerned for Kyle. In any case," Heyes smiled, "It gives us the perfect reason to take Kyle to Salt River."
"That it does," Kid smiled, dropping his arm from Heyes' shoulder and taking a step. "I'll get Doris to the train."
Doris smiled, walked over to Heyes and kissed his cheek. "Be careful."
"Always," Heyes stated as Kid walked Doris towards the train.
Still holding Kyle's hand, Laurie looked up at Heyes. "How are you going to get Kyle to Salt River?"
Heyes smiled as he held out his hand to her. She took his hand and stood.
"I'm hoping with this rest, he'll be able to ride." Heyes ran his fingers down the side of her face.
She closed her eyes and leaned into the sensation, the stress of the day catching up to her. "If he can't?"
"We'll make a stretcher to pull."
Laurie pursed her lips as tears welled in her eyes. "Is he going to make it?"
He pulled her into a hug.
"It's all my fault," she continued.
"Sshh," Heyes stroked her back. "It's not your fault."
Heyes stepped back and looked Laurie in the eyes. "If nothing." Heyes harshly stated. "Kyle shouldn't have been with Taggert - he has no place with that gang."
"Taggert was going to kill him if he didn't go with them. He didn't have a choice. He didn't want to be here."
"He saved my life."
"I know," Heyes assured as he rubbed her arms. "Kid and I will do everything we can."
Laurie blinked back tears.
"He may not look it but Kyle's tough."
"I know," she melted into Heyes as he wrapped his arms around her.
Heyes held her, not wanting to let go but knowing he had to. After a few minutes he ran his hand down the back of her hair as he tilted his head back to look in her eyes. "I need you to go on the train with the other passengers to Porterville."
"Get a hotel room with Doris and wait for the stage to take you home."
"But..."she started but Heyes interrupted.
"Kid and I are gonna be a while. We either got to get him back to the Hole or get one of the gang to Salt River." He paused to let her take it in. "Hopefully it will only be another week." He looked deep in her eyes. "I'm sorry, but we gotta do this."
"I know," she half-smiled, half-grimaced at him.
Heyes leaned in and gave her a soft kiss.
Laurie leaned into Heyes, taking in his scent. She calmed herself as she stepped back, "Well, I guess you better get me on the train. Kyle needs to get to the doctor." They turned and walked arm-in-arm towards the waiting train. "What if Lom gets back before I leave - what do I tell him?"
Heyes smiled to himself, "I don't think you'll have to tell him anything. I don't think he expects to see Kyle or us in town."
"He told you to get the passengers to Porterville."
"No," Heyes grinned. "He told us to help get the people to Porterville. The track is cleared, Kid helped get everyone on the train. I'm putting you on the train...so we helped get the passengers to Porterville."
"You really do see all angles and have a silvery tongue, Mr. Smith," Laurie stopped and turned towards him as they had reached the train. She reached up and pushed an errant strand of hair out of Heyes' eyes. "You be careful."
"I will." Heyes leaned in and softly kissed her lips; as they parted they stayed inches away from each other.
"I love you," Laurie closed her eyes and willed herself to be strong.
"Always, Heyes whispered.
"All aboard," the train conductor shouted.
Laurie gave Heyes a tight smile and turned towards the train. Kid put his hand out to help Laurie up the stairs. As she stepped on the first step, she leaned over and kissed Kid on the cheek. "Take care of each other."
"I'll bring him home to you."
The whistle blew and the train lurched forward as Laurie moved into the car, sitting down next to Doris.
"They'll be alright, dear," Doris soothed as she patted Laurie's hand.
"Kyle...Kyle," Heyes called out as he nudged him with his hand.
"Huh," a very groggy Kyle tried opening his eyes.
"Kyle," Heyes lightly shook Kyle's shoulders.
"Oh....yeah, Heyes," Kyle blinked, trying to focus on Heyes' face.
"How ya feeling?"
Kyle took a breath in and thought. "Don't know, Heyes."
"Ya think you can try sitting up?"
Kyle blinked his eyes, and took in another breath. "Don't know, maybe."
Heyes rolled his eyes at Kid.
"How ‘bout we help you sit up, Kyle?" Kid stated more than asked.
"O-kay," Kyle dragged out.
Kid crouched on the other side of Kyle and on three; they gently pulled Kyle into a sitting position.
"Ooooowwww," Kyle groaned.
"Kyle," Heyes began. "We got to get you to a doctor."
"Why?" Kyle stared blankly at Heyes.
"You were shot," Heyes deadpanned.
"That's why I feel so bad."
"Yeah, Kyle, that's why you feel so bad." Heyes began to wonder if his plan to take him to Salt River was such a good idea.
"We want to get you to Salt River to see the doc," Kid explained. "Do you think you can ride?"
"Sure." Kyle wobbled a little as he turned to look at Kid.
Kid glanced at Heyes.
"Maybe this isn't such a great idea." Heyes shrugged.
"We've ridden after we've been shot."
"Don't think we had a choice then."
"Don't think we have a choice here, either," Kid affirmed. "Makin' a stretcher's gonna take time and he's gonna get bounced around just the same. We got Taggert's gang on the run, and possibly a posse from Jefferson City. We don't need to be caught out here, slowed down because we're draggin' Kyle around."
"Yeah," Heyes sighed as he agreed with Kid. "You forgot about Lom and his posse."
"Well I figure we're safe with them. Convincing the posse from Jefferson City that we're Smith and Jones and not part of the gang that robbed the train is another story."
"Especially since we'll be with someone who's been shot," Heyes acknowledged.
"That's my thinkin'," Kid nodded.
"Kyle, you're gonna have to give it a try," Heyes announced.
"Sure thing, Heyes," Kyle gutted out.
"We best get movin'," Kid stated. "Think we should put as much space between us and this area as we can."
"I agree." Heyes blew out a breath. "Kyle, you'll ride with me."
"I can ride by myself," Kyle said.
"You sure?" Heyes questioned.
"Well...I think I'm sure," Kyle responded.
Heyes looked at Kid.
"Alright, Kyle," Kid lightly patted Kyle on the back. "We'll see if you can ride. It will keep the horses fresher if we have to get out of anyone's way."
"What?" Kid asked.
"Nothing," Heyes continued to smile.
Kid glared at Heyes.
"Okay," Heyes said. "It's nice to know you're worrying ‘bout us. Keeps us safe."
"That's what I do," Kid acknowledged. "Now, Kyle, it's gonna hurt like the dickens, but we gotta get you up and onto your horse."
Kyle grimaced as he tried to stand up. "Could use a hand gettin' up."
Kid and Heyes helped Kyle stand up and then, after a few tries, onto his horse. By the time he was in his saddle, sweat was beading on his forehead but the wound wasn't bleeding. Heyes and Kid mounted up.
"Here," Kid handed Kyle a canteen. "Have a drink." Kid paused. "We'll take it slow. If you need to stop, just say so."
Kyle took a swig of water and then nodded at Kid.
"Which way you wanna go," Kid asked Heyes.
"The posse headed out north following the gang." Heyes looked around the area. "I think we'll head out south and come back around to the east; should keep us out of the way."
Kid nodded and they headed out slowly, both men keeping an eye on Kyle.
Pulling up to a small creek, Heyes announced, "Think this is a good spot to give the horses a rest."
"I'm just gonna take a look around," Kid stated and urged his mount to keep moving.
Heyes dismounted, letting his bay step up to the stream for a drink of water. "Alright, Kyle, let me give you a hand."
"‘Ppreciate it, Heyes," Kyle slurred as he slid off his horse towards Heyes.
Heyes guided Kyle down, until his feet were firmly on the ground. "Okay, Kyle," Heyes motioned to a rock by the stream. "Why don't you sit over there and I'll take a look at the bandages."
Kyle nodded and slowly headed towards the rock. "How much longer, Heyes?"
"The rocks, just a few steps. Oh... Salt River," Heyes thought a second. "Could be half a day's ride since we're taking it slow and went the long way."
Kyle nodded and slumped down on the rock.
"Maybe we'll stay the night," Heyes said as he looked at his exhausted friend. "Let's see what the wound looks like and..." Heyes stopped as he heard talking; he put his hand up to alert Kyle.
Kyle tried to sit himself up straight against the rock.
Heyes pulled Kyle's coat over to cover the blood-stained shirt. Standing slowly, Heyes turned his head in the direction of the voices as he glanced around to see if he could see Kid anywhere. Three riders broke through the brush about twenty feet from Heyes and Kyle.
"Howdy," Heyes smiled tightly as he greeted the men, giving them a quick once-over with his eyes; not too young, not too old, rough looking, probably ranch hands. The rider on the right looked to be the youngest, a little older than a boy; the one in the middle looked more weather-worn and therefore Heyes figured he was the oldest, and the rider on the left looked like he wanted to be anywhere but where he was right now. The three had their guns tied down.
"Howdy," the middle rider acknowledged Heyes.
Heyes could see all three of the men check him and Kyle out.
"What brings you all the way out here?" the man asked.
"Just passin' through," Heyes responded. He gave a quick sideways glance at Kyle to check for signs of recognition - there were none. "Stopped to give the horses a rest and some water." Heyes looked the man in the eyes, "You?"
"Same," the man shifted uncomfortably under the gaze. "Where ya headed?"
"Salt River," Heyes stated. "Why?" his voice dropped an octave.
"No reason...just curious," he stammered.
The two men stared at each other. Heyes quickly stole glances at the other two men. None of them moving, none of them taking their eyes of him and Kyle. He hoped Kid was near as he didn't know how much, if any, help Kyle would be if the riders wanted to cause any trouble.
"Where are you going?" Heyes stood at the ready.
The oldest flinched, and Heyes drew his gun in an instant, pointing it directly at him. With his eyes held fast to the other man's, Heyes very slowly, very carefully gave a short shake of the head, indicating it wasn't in the man's best interest to move.
The youngest looked as though he might want to move until he heard the cocking of a gun just a few feet from him.
"I wouldn't do that," Kid called out from the brush just a few feet away from the men on the horses.
Slowly, the boy turned his head to see Kid emerge from the trees, gun pointed directly at him. He smiled as he slowly raised his hands over his head. The other two riders sighed and raised their hands.
"Nice to see ya, Thaddeus," Heyes smiled.
Kid nodded back at him.
"Did you see anything, anyone else?" Heyes asked.
"Nope," Kid answered as he moved closer, gun still drawn and pointing at the three riders. "Just these three headin' this way, so I figured I'd come see what they wanted."
"Yes," Heyes turned his attention back to the men on horseback. "So exactly what do you want? Where are you heading?"
The three men looked nervously at each other. Finally the youngster spoke, "Oh...Geez..." he said nervously. He turned his head to the left and quietly spoke to his friends. "I don't think we would still be alive if they were part of the gang."
"You're right," Heyes stated.
The rider, shocked to realize Heyes heard him, turned back to look at Heyes.
"So who are you?" Heyes smiled in a threatening way.
"You might as well tell him, Taylor, you opened your mouth already," the middle man scowled.
Sighing, Taylor shifted in his saddle. "We're part of the posse from Jefferson City."
"And..." Kid prompted him to continue.
"And after we started out from town, Henry," he motioned to the rider on the left, "decided it didn't sound like such a great place to be so we volunteered to check out this area; figured the gang would be long gone out of here."
"So you're with the posse from Jefferson City," Heyes stated as he glanced at Kyle. "Who's the Sheriff?"
"Dolman," the oldest responded.
"Sheriff Dolman," Heyes repeated. "Don't think we know a Sheriff Dolman from Jefferson City, do we, Thaddeus?"
"Can't say we do," Kid smiled.
"He is the Sheriff!" Taylor insisted. "The train headed to Porterville didn't make it. Porterville sent out a posse and Sheriff Dolman sent out one, too."
"Shut up," the rider in the middle insisted.
"Got somethin' to hide?" Kid inquired.
"No," the man adamantly stated. "Just you know who we are, but we don't know who you are. You could be part of the gang for all we know."
"Now do we look like some no good train robbers?" Heyes' silky voice had a smile in it.
Kid shifted on his horse and Kyle had a lopsided smile plastered on his face.
"We're part of the posse from Porterville," Heyes continued.
"Why are ya all the way out here," the obvious leader of the three demanded. "Why do ya still have your guns pointed at us and what's with that fellow?" he pointed at Kyle.
"Oh," Heyes said almost sheepishly but not really pulling it off. He nodded at Kid and they both holstered their guns. "We're out here," Heyes started with authority in his voice, "because some of the gang split off this way. Sheriff Trevors from Porterville took half of the posse, and we took the other half following this group. Our friend is just resting up a bit; he had a little too much fun in town last night."
Kyle tried to straighten himself up, actually adding to the believability of Heyes' story.
"We're waiting for the rest of the men to circle back around."
"The gang's out here?" Henry's voice quivered.
"Haven't spotted them yet." Heyes looked at Kid. "Where are Hotchkiss and Rembacker?"
Kid smiled, "They were doin' a once-over before comin' to meet us here."
"Well," Henry looked uncomfortable. "Since you seem to have things under control, maybe we should head off."
With a gruff, almost growl from the oldest, "Maybe over that way," the three turned their horses and were off in the same direction they had come.
"You do that," Heyes smiled and then blew out a breath when the men had left. He gave a "that was a little too close" look to Kid.
Kid nodded in agreement. "How's Kyle?"
"Don't know," Heyes turned and walked towards Kyle. "They came before I had a chance to look at the wound." Squatting down next to Kyle, he asked, "How ya feeling?"
"Could be better," Kyle swayed a little. "Could be worse."
"You're a poet, Kyle" Kid said as he dismounted.
Heyes opened Kyle's jacket and lifted his shirt. Carefully he pulled the edge of the bandage up, Kyle cringed a little. "Sorry, ‘bout that, Kyle." He studied the area. "Doesn't look like there's any new blood on the front, so that's good." Heyes leaned Kyle forward a little so he could look at the wound on Kyle's back. "Ah," Heyes exhaled, "there's some new blood back here." Heyes lifted the bandage, "Looks like it stopped for now." He leaned back on his heels and looked at Kid. "What do ya think?"
"Still got a good three-four hours in the saddle." Kid looked carefully at Kyle.
Kyle's eyelids were sagging.
"Sun's gonna start goin' down in an hour or so - think this is as good as any place to stay for the night."
"Agreed," Heyes concurred. "Kyle, it's your lucky night, you get to just hang out while Kid and I get the fire going and take care of the horses."
"Thanks," Kyle let his eyelids close.
Heyes and Kid gathered some wood, built a fire and took the saddles off the horses while Kyle sat propped up against the rock, resting.
As the sun dipped, so did the temperatures. Heyes and Kid huddled around the fire to keep warm as Kyle slept nearby on the other side of the fire. Having left so quickly with the posse, the only food and coffee was on the pack horse. That horse along with all the food went with Lom and the rest of the posse when they went after the gang. Kid and Heyes had their canteens full of water, but that was it. Neither of them thought about it until they set up camp for the night.
"Wonder how Lom's doing," Heyes stated as he warmed his hands over the fire.
"Better than us," Kid snapped.
Heyes rolled his eyes. He wasn't happy they had no food, no coffee, and no bedrolls, but if he was unhappy, Kid would be downright miserable. "It will only be tonight," Heyes tried to sooth. "We should get going at the first sign of light."
"Good," Kid harrumphed as he shifted against the rock he was leaning on, trying to get comfortable
"Try to get some sleep, I'll take first watch."
Kid tugged his hat forward, crossed his arms in front of him and grunted.
Heyes smiled as he poked the fire.
With the possibility of the gang and the Jefferson City posse being in the area, Heyes and Kid took turns taking watch every few hours and keeping an eye on Kyle.
As the sun started to peak out over the horizon, Heyes rubbed his hands together and then gave Kid a nudge. "Think we should get moving."
"Huh," Kid groggily replied as he had finally just dozed off.
"Think it's best to be moving," Heyes reiterated. He stood and stretched. "I think we should get to Salt River as early as possible."
"Yeah," Kid concurred as he sat up and twisted, trying to get the kinks out of his back. "Probably best to get there before everyone's done their chores and hangin' around town."
Heyes moved over to Kyle and crouched down next to him. He placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder and gave him a shake. "Kyle...Kyle," Heyes called out. "Time to get up."
"Ugh," Kyle groaned.
"How is he?" Kid looked over at the two.
"Still alive," Heyes stated. "Kyle...how ya feeling?"
"Like I want more sleep," he replied.
Heyes chuckled lightly.
"Guess that's a good sign," Kid stated as he stood up. "I'll get the horses saddled, you can check the bandages.
Heyes was pleased with the look of the wound. No new blood and the wound was cool to the touch.
With a quick kick of dirt over the fire embers, they were off to Salt River before the sun fully emerged over the horizon.
As the three rode over the last ridge to Salt River, the sun was still rising in the sky. Kid pulled his mount to a stop. "Well, how do you want to do this?" he asked Heyes.
Heyes stopped alongside of Kid, "Figured we should head in the back way, coming in by the saloon. Not sure if Roxy is still there, but I'm betting some of the girls will still know us."
Kid nodded in agreement.
"Hopefully they'll let Kyle rest in one of the rooms and we can check out the doc. If it's still Doc Simons, I'll head over to his house while you stay with Kyle."
"Sounds like a plan." They nudged the horses forward. "Did you think of what we're gonna do if none of the girls know us?"
"I figured you'll just have to charm them," Heyes smiled.
Tap, tap, pause, tap; Heyes lightly rapped on the back door to the saloon. He waited a moment and then tapped quickly two more times a special knock he had used many times when he, Kid or any of the gang needed a safe place to hide out. He looked at Kid, who was about ten feet away, still on his horse and was about to give him a shrug, figuring that maybe no one inside remembered the knock or them, when the door burst open and a buxom brunette flew into his unprepared arms, almost knocking him over.
"Heyes," she exclaimed.
"Roxy," Heyes replied as he steadied himself.
"Roxy," Kid tipped his hat at her as she turned to look at him, arms still draped around Heyes' neck.
"Kid," she smiled. The smile slid off her face when she saw Kyle. Releasing Heyes from her grasp, she hurried over to where Kid and Kyle were. "Kyle," she whined, "What happened to you?"
"He was shot," Kid replied.
"Well, help me get him down and into the back bedroom," she instructed. Blowing out a breath, "Shelia is going to throw a fit."
"Shelia?" Heyes questioned as he walked over to help get Kyle off his horse.
"She and Kyle have a thing goin' on," she replied as she stepped back to let Heyes and Kid help Kyle. "Since Wheat's been in charge," she looked at the two. "Speaking of which," she put her hands on her hips, "heard some stories about you two. Stories that make me wonder why you're here with Kyle...where's Wheat?"
"No idea," Heyes grunted as he took Kyle's weight on himself as he helped him off his horse, "where Wheat is."
She looked at the two of them waiting for more.
"The rest's a long story we'd like to tell you about after we get Kyle looked after," replied Kid as he helped Heyes with Kyle.
Roxy nodded, "Follow me."
"Is old Doc Simons still in town?" Heyes inquired.
"Yep," she replied as she opened the door to a dark room. Stepping in, she lit the lamp as Heyes and Kid got Kyle to the bed, where he promptly passed out.
Letting go of Kyle, Heyes looked at Kid. "Stay with Kyle; I'll go get the doc."
Kid nodded. As Heyes opened the door, Kid called out, "Did ya figure out what you're gonna do if he wants money to forget who he's helpin'?"
Heyes shrugged lightly, "I'm hoping he remembers how well we took care of him in the past. Maybe forgets the money for old-time sakes."
"If not?" Kid asked.
"I'm figuring he doesn't want to mess with Kid Curry," Heyes smirked as he closed the door behind him.
Heyes made his way through the back alleys to the far side of town and Doc Simons' house. Stopping in the trees behind the house, Heyes gave it a once-over. It was hard to tell since the sun was now high in the sky, but under the shade of the trees, Heyes could see that most of the house was dark and quiet. The one lone light flickered in the back of the house in what Heyes assumed was the kitchen. After watching the house for a few minutes, he made his way to the back door. As he knocked, he stood off to the side of the door.
The door opened a crack, two eyes peered out. The door opened wider and the doctor stepped into view. He was an older man, grey hair, balding on top; glasses propped up on the top of his head, and stood about five feet tall and almost as wide.
"Mornin' Doc," Heyes smiled.
"Mornin'... Mr. Heyes," the doctor replied, sounding somewhat surprised. Pulling his glasses on, he looked around, "Your friend not with you?"
"He's with another friend that needs some help."
"Ah...I see. Is he far?"
"I'll get my bag."
"I'll meet you over there."
The doctor smiled, "Still not trusting." He looked Heyes in the eyes. "It's alright, I understand."
Heyes tipped his hat and turned around to leave as the doctor closed the door.
Ten minutes later the doctor arrived at the back entrance of the saloon. He knocked lightly on the door. The door was opened by a voluptuous blonde in a silk bathrobe.
"Mornin, Miss Matilda," the doctor tipped his hat.
"Mornin', Doc," she cooed. Stepping to the side, she let him in. "He's in the first door on the right.
The doctor knocked lightly on the door.
Heyes opened the door slowly at first and then all the way when he saw the doctor was alone.
Doc Simons smiled and stepped into the room just as Kid was finishing filling Roxy in on, limited details, of what he and Heyes had been up to. He basically told her that the stories of them going straight were true; they were trying to stay out of trouble and only came across Kyle because they were helping out their old friend, Lom Trevors. There was no mention of Laurie or the fact that the boys had settled down, as much as someone with ten thousand dollars on their head could settle down, in Small Falls.
"Well, if you'll excuse me," Roxy smiled as she passed the man entering the room. "I have some things to take care of." Turning her head over her shoulder as she was leaving, she stated, "Mostly keeping Shelia out of your hair until you're done." She closed the door behind her.
"Doc," Kid tipped his hat at the man entering the room.
"Mr. Curry," the doctor replied as he moved into the room and over towards Kyle. "The patient, I presume," he placed his medical bag down next to Kyle on the bed and removed his hat and coat.
"Hmm, gun shot," he stated more to himself then to anyone else in the room and sat down on the bed to get a closer look. "Through and through...bleeding's stopped...wound cool to the touch." He looked up at the boys, "Nice field dressing. Stopped the bleeding real good...probably saved his life."
Heyes gave the doc a tight smile.
"When did this happen?" the doctor inquired.
"Yesterday," Heyes replied.
"Good...Good," the doc nodded.
Heyes and Kid gave each other questioning glances.
The old man chuckled, "I was referring to the fact that your friend here was shot yesterday and the wound is still cool to the touch. It means there are no signs of infection yet and since he is still breathing, it's doubtful he'll die from the blood loss." The doctor paused for a minute. "In other words, you did a good job looking out for your friend." He studied Heyes and Kid. "If you don't mind me asking, I thought the two of you were done with this stuff."
Shocked, Heyes and Kid looked at each other.
The doc chuckled again. "What, you don't think an old man hears things. Haven't seen you two in quite some time. Who do you think has been taking care of that bunch you left behind?"
Heyes smiled, "You."
"That's right, me." He paused. "I hear the two of you are trying to get on the right side of the law and after all this time, you show up with one of them bunch shot."
Heyes sighed. "Well...sometimes things aren't always easy."
"And sometimes when you're faced with a hurt friend, you do whatever you can to help them out." The doctor took off his glasses and wiped them with a cloth he pulled out of his pocket. "Don't look so shocked, Boys. You've been around as long as I have, and you help some of the people I do; you're bound to hear things...see things." Placing the glasses back on his face he continued. "For instance, your friend Kyle here...yes I know this poor boy's name is Kyle. And as I'm sure you're aware, Kyle likes to talk."
Heyes began to squirm a little, wondering what the doctor was getting at...how much Kyle had talked.
The doctor stood up and dipped his fingers in a basin full of steaming water sitting on the table next to the bed. "Ah...just a little cooler." He dried his fingers on the towel that was next to the basin and continued as he pointed at Kyle, "He's very fond of both of you."
"I don't mean to interrupt, Doc," Heyes nervously butted in. "But is there anything you should be doing for Kyle?"
The doctor snorted slightly as he smiled at Heyes, "Don't worry, Mr. Heyes, I think Kyle was in very good hands yesterday. Right now I'm just waiting for the water in this basin to cool a bit more and I'll clean the wound good and then re-bandage it." He paused for a minute as he looked at Heyes and Kid. "As I was saying, your friend Kyle here, he likes to talk. Last time he was in town, not sure if Roxy told you, he was interested in one of her girls, Shelia, I believe - anyway he was telling me how good the two of you are doing"
Kid crossed his eyes as he looked at Heyes, he too now becoming uncomfortable in the direction this was going.
"Tells me that he hopes to follow in your footsteps, well not in those exact words...you how Kyle talks...and do the same...settle down," the old man looked directly at Heyes.
Heyes swallowed hard as he straightened up. "I hope Shelia feels the same," Heyes' smile didn't reach his eyes as he held the doctor's gaze.
"I'm sure she does, Mr. Heyes," the doctor turned and slipped his fingers into the water again. "Perfect. Now Kyle, let's get this cleaned up," he said as he unwrapped the bandages.
With the sound of his name and the touch of the doctor's hands, Kyle stirred.
"Well, that's a good sign," the doctor said. "Kyle...Kyle...can you open your eyes."
Kyle squirmed as he tried to open his eyes.
"Kyle...come on, boy...open your eyes," the doctor insisted.
The patient instead lay still.
Heyes stepped forward, hesitated a moment and then in his best leader voice instructed, "Kyle, open your eyes."
With first a stretch of the eyelids and then a flutter, first one, then both of Kyle's eyes opened and then slowly closed.
"Kyle," Heyes growled.
Kyle's eyelids flew open. "Heyes," he quietly said.
Heyes' posture relaxed, "Yeah, Kyle, I'm here. So is Kid and Doc Simons."
His eyes opened and closed a few times as Kyle tried to understand what Heyes had told him. "Where?"
"Salt River. Do you remember?" Heyes asked.
Kyle's hand searched for his side. "I was shot." His eyes flew open as they bulged, "Laurie..."
"No one else was hurt," Heyes interrupted as he walked over to Kyle. "You were the only one hurt. Now let the Doctor fix ya up," Heyes deliberately stated, hoping to silence his friend.
"But you already did, Heyes," Kyle gave a droopy smile.
The old man chuckled, "Yes he did but since I went to school for this and this is my job, let me take a look, clean ya up and bandage you."
Kyle looked unsure at the doctor.
"You do want to see Shelia don't you, son?"
Kyle smiled wide.
"Then let me take care of you so Roxy can let her in."
"‘Kay," Kyle slowly closed his eyes.
"Well," the doctor said, "I've done as much as I can now...actually didn't do a whole heck of a lot thanks to you two." He smiled at the boys. "He really shouldn't be moved for at least a week...probably longer, but I know you boys have to do what you have to do."
Heyes gave a quick nod. "Thanks, Doc."
"Don't mention it," he laughed a little. "Little guy grows on ya...hate to see him in a bad way." Standing up, he started to pack his bag. "I'll be back to check on him a little later. I'll write up some orders to follow." He looked at Heyes and Kid, "Looks like the two of you could use some rest yourself."
"Yeah, but I think a cup of coffee will have to do," Heyes answered.
"He'll be resting for awhile. Why don't you go to the café and get some food. I'll be back after I write up some notes."
"Doc," Kid tipped his hat as Heyes let the older gentleman out the door.
The door closed behind the doctor. "Food?" Heyes asked Kid.
"Right now I think I would rather have a drink first."
Kid glared at Heyes.
"Sounds like a plan."
Kid opened the door. "Maybe you can figure out what we're gonna do next."
Heyes blew out a breath as he shut the door behind him. "I'm hoping a shot of whiskey might help."
They walked a few feet. "One shot and then breakfast."
Heyes chuckled. "One shot and then lunch." Kid creased his brow as he looked at Heyes. "Breakfast is long over." He chuckled again. "Why not get a double serving of lunch to make up for it." He gave a friendly clap on the back of his partner.
Opening the door between the bedrooms and the saloon, Heyes and Kid stopped to let their eyes adjust to the bright sunlight streaming in through the windows and the batwing doors. Heading towards the bar, Kid raised two fingers when the bartender lifted a bottle in the air. The glasses were filled and waiting for the pair as they settled into the bar.
"Thanks, Scotty," Heyes said to the bartender as he placed the money for the drinks on the bar top.
"So now what," Kid asked as he lifted the amber liquid to his lips and took a healthy sip.
Heyes sighed, "Once of us can ride to the Hole and get someone to come down and get him." Heyes took a swig that turned into a gulp of the whiskey. He set the empty glass back down on the bar.
"I'll ride to the Hole," Kid stated. "You'll go home." Kid looked at Heyes' empty glass and quickly emptied his as Scotty walked over to refill them.
"We should flip..."
"No," Kid adamantly stated as he turned to face Heyes. "Kyle will be fine here, I'll..." Kid stopped mid-sentence as he watched a new arrival enter the bar. A smile began to spread across his face.
Confused, Heyes looked at Kid and then in the direction he was looking. As Heyes turned his head, a smile broke out as he watched the man look around the bar. As two brown eyes met another pair of brown eyes and a set of blue eyes, the man scowled and then sauntered towards the bar.
"Hmphf," the man snorted. "Fancy meeting the two of you here."
"‘Bout to say the same thing about you," Heyes smiled.
"Wheat," Kid tipped his hat.
"Kid," Wheat quietly groused.
"So what brings you to Salt River?" Heyes inquired.
"I'm not robbin' the bank," Wheat snapped.
"No ones accusin' you of nothin', Wheat. We just wanted to know what brought you to Salt River," Kid calmly stated as he gave an icy blue stare.
"Geez," Wheat rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. "If ya gotta know," he paused as he looked at the two pairs of eyes staring at him, "Kyle's been missin' for ‘bout a week or so. Thought maybe he came to town." He shuffled his feet, "He's got a thing goin' on with one of the girls."
"You softy," Kid joshed.
Wheat stood up tall, yanked on his belt and firmly stated, "Just bein' a good leader...knowin' where your men are at...if they're in trouble...makin' sure they don't bring no trouble to you."
"No offense, Wheat. I was just rilin' ya," Kid replied.
"None taken," Wheat nodded. "So what brings ya t' town?"
"Kyle," Heyes calmly answered.
Wheat's eyes widened.
"Been shot," Heyes continued.
Wheat's eyes got even wider as the blood drained from his face.
"He's okay," Heyes tried to reassure. "For now at least. He's in the back room resting. Doc Simons was just in with him."
"Doc Simons," Wheat reiterated. "Good...good. What'd he say?"
"Said Kyle is strong and should be alright if he doesn't get an infection. He wants him to rest here at least a week or for as long as he can before he has to ride again," Heyes reported.
Wheat repeatedly nodded his head, then stopped. "How'd he get shot and why are you with him?" he accusatorily asked.
"Wheat," Kid growled.
"No offense, Kid," Wheat responded.
"None taken," Kid retorted. When Wheat softened his stance, Kid continued. "He was involved in a train robbery and got shot."
"Kyle?" Wheat asked in disbelief.
"Yeah, Kyle," Kid answered. "Seems he met Taggert..."
"Taggert!" Wheat exclaimed as he glared at Heyes. "The same low life that can't stand your guts."
"The same," Kid pushed himself off the bar, standing inches from Wheat.
"Kid," Heyes almost whispered, as he put his hand out in front of Kid's chest.
Kid took a step back.
"He threatened Kyle that if he didn't do the job with him, he would kill him on the spot," Heyes explained. Heyes looked out the doors of the bar, "Laurie was on that train."
Wide-eyed, Wheat looked at Kid.
"Yeah," Kid quietly said. "Laurie was on the train and Kyle got shot protectin' her from Taggert."
"Did she...?" Wheat gushed.
"Laurie's fine," Kid assured. "Kyle took the bullet as the posse arrived."
"Posse?" Wheat looked totally confused.
"Yeah, the posse Porterville sent out when the train was late," Kid explained.
Wheat looked at the two men in front of him and then with his finger pointed at them. "Pfft...now I've seen everything!" he guffawed.
"Yes, we were part of the posse," Kid confirmed. "We were in Porterville waitin' for Laurie."
"Did Taggert know who she was?" he asked.
"No," Heyes turned back towards the bar and threw back the second shot of whiskey. He swallowed, relishing the sensation as the liquid burned its way down. "When she got off the train, Kyle was there to help the passengers off. They both stopped when they saw each other. Taggert was watching and wanted to know who she was. Kyle told him that she reminded him of his sister."
"After that," Kid continued the story Laurie had told them, "Taggert continued to harass her. He was tryin' to take her with them when the posse showed up. Kyle stopped him."
"And got shot doing it," Wheat sighed.
"Yep," Heyes motioned to Scotty for another drink and one for Wheat. He poured the drinks and the three men downed them in one gulp.
"Wanna go see Kyle?" Heyes turned towards Wheat.
Wheat nodded and the three headed to the back bedroom.
Lom opened the door to the sheriff's office and paused as he looked towards the empty holding cells. With a small shake of his head, he headed towards his desk. "Harker," Lom greeted his deputy.
"Sheriff," Harker quickly jumped to his feet. "Welcome back. I've been taken care of everythin' while yous was gone."
"Appreciate that, Harker." Lom stated as he placed his hat on the corner of his desk. "Anything of interest?"
"Nope, no. All's quiet." Harker stated as he thought about the last couple of days. "Well, you do know the train came in...been robbed. But I guess you know that."
"Yep, the Taggert gang."
"Ah-huh, ah-huh. That's what I heard." Harker nodded vigorously. "Did ya catch ‘em?"
"Sheriff up in Jefferson City's got ‘em."
"Oohh," Harker dragged out. "Guess they was closer."
"Yeah. We drove them towards the posse comin' down from Jefferson City. It was easier to take ‘em in and I just as soon have him handle them anyway. Didn't know how many passengers were still in town. Figure they've gone through enough; didn't need to see the gang right away."
"Might nice of you, Sheriff."
Lom gave an appreciative nod, looked around the jail. "Anyone have to see the Doc?"
"Nope, not that I know of. He did go to meet the train when we finally heard the whistle. Heard you headed out with a posse so thought he should be there just in case anyone needed medical attention...but they didn't."
"Was Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones on the train?"
Harker thought a minute, "Mrs. Smith was on the train but I don't recall seeing Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones. Haven't seen ‘em around town since they left with you."
Lom gave a knowing nod. "Mrs. Smith still in town?"
"Yes. Hmmm, now that's funny. Ya think if Mr. Smith were in town, he would be with Mrs. Smith." Harker replied.
"Sounds reasonable to me."
"Her and her friend checked into the hotel. Said they were waiting for the stagecoach that's due in tomorrow."
"I see." Lom picked up his hat, placing it on his head. "Think I'll go see how Mrs. Smith and her friend are doing."
Lom started towards the door. "Sheriff," Harker called out.
Lom turned to look at Harker.
"A lot of them passengers said Mrs. Smith had a real tough time with the gang. She looked kinda shook up when she got off the train."
Lom blew out a breath, gave Harker a short nod and left, heading towards the hotel.
Lom walked up the steps to the hotel, stopping on the top step as he saw who was heading out the hotel door.
"Lom," Laurie smiled at the lawman. "I heard you were back."
"Mrs. Smith," Lom tipped his hat. "Word travels quickly."
"Small town," she smiled. "Or maybe I saw you ride in while I was looking out the window." She raised her eyebrow at him. "Why the Mrs.?"
"Since Mr. Smith isn't here with you."
"Oh." Laurie sucked in her lips. "Would you like to walk with me, Sheriff Trevors?"
Lom stuck out his elbow for her to grasp hold of.
They walked quietly down the stairs and headed down the street. "Figured it might be easier to talk while we walked; less people to hear," Laurie said as they strolled.
"I'm all ears."
She stopped and looked at him, "Don't be mad at them, it's my fault."
Lom waited for more.
She began to walk again. "I begged them to take care of Kyle." She stopped again and this time when she looked at Lom, she had tears in her eyes. "He saved my life." Her eyes pleaded with his. "If he hadn't stepped in, he wouldn't have been shot...it's all my fault."
"It's Kyle's fault for being there."
"When Taggert saw him in town, he threatened to kill him then and there, so he didn't have a choice."
Lom turned his head and looked away.
"If Kyle didn't stop him, I would be dead, or worse," Laurie stated. "Even the other passengers didn't think he deserved jail when he could have easily gotten away instead of saving me."
He turned back to look at her. "The other passengers?"
"Yes, the other passengers. The conductor came over when all the passengers were on the train and wanted to know what was going to happen. Said a lot of the passengers didn't think it was fair for him to go to jail for doing the right thing. Thought being shot was punishment enough."
"Really," Lom thought. "Probably figured Kyle wasn't going to make it, anyway."
More tears welled in Laurie's eyes.
"So where are they?"
Laurie pursed her lips.
"Oh hell," Lom slouched. "I knew they weren't, well I figured they weren't going to be here when I got back."
Laurie smiled, "Heyes knew that." She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief.
"Yeah, I bet he did," Lom groused.
"They did help get the tracks fixed and the passengers on the train like you asked."
Lom shook his head as he rolled his eyes, "Heyes' always seeing all of the angles." They took a few more steps. "So what was the plan?"
"You aren't going to go after Kyle, are you?"
"Hold this against them?"
Lom chuckled. "No."
Laurie smiled. "They took Kyle to Salt River."
"That's what I figured. As far as I know, Old Doc Simons is still there so they should be alright."
Laurie blew out the breath she didn't know she was holding. "That's a relief. They weren't sure, but thought it was Kyle's best chance."
"I don't know."
"They gonna take him back to the Hole?"
"They were going to figure something out," Laurie shrugged. "I was to come here with Doris and then take the stage home. They would meet me there."
Lom nodded as they continued to walk down the boardwalk in silence. After a few minutes had passed, he asked the question he had been wanting to ask, "Did you see the Governor?"
Laurie stopped dead in her tracks. "Oh, with everything going on, I almost forgot." She reached into her purse and pulled out a sealed envelope.
Lom gazed at the envelope, at the seal, "You didn't open it?"
"No," she shook her head. "It's addressed to you and I didn't want to do anything against Governor Moonlight, though I don't think he is really interested in the deal."
Lom raised his eyebrow at her.
"Just the way he talked about his predecessors and that he can't always be expected to keep promises that were made before his time. Of course, he said that they shouldn't take that as a negative; just that they would have to convince him."
"In other words," Lom deadpanned, "stay out of trouble and we'll see."
Laurie nodded. "I'm glad they don't know that I went to see the Governor..." Laurie stopped when she saw Lom's expression change. "They don't know, do they?" she demanded.
"Well," Lom hemmed and hawed then blurted out, "Heyes was makin' me crazy...he was all over the place...opening things...gettin' in the way...it just slipped out!"
Laurie rolled her eyes, "He's not always a patient man."
Lom chuckled. "Surprisingly, no, he isn't."
"Open the letter, maybe I'm wrong," Laurie hoped.
Opening the letter, Lom read it and then shook his head. "No, you were right. He says though you are very lovely and appreciated you stopping to see him; he can't give them amnesty because a woman asked." Lom continued to read, "He says that all hope is not lost and as long as they live up to their end of the bargain, and convince him they will stay on the straight and narrow, he will live up to his predecessor's deal." Lom chuckled. "Oh," surprise was in his voice. "He goes on to say, please tell Mrs. Smith I appreciate her stopping by."
Laurie shrugged, "Well, it was worth a try."
"It was," Lom agreed and placed a comforting hand on Laurie's arm. "Don't discount the fact that he mentioned you... and by name. I think it is very important for him to see another face, a wife, representing the boys."
Laurie gave Lom a tight smile.
"To have him even mention you, you must have charmed him some and that certainly can't hurt their chances."
"Do you think they'll ever get it?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "Even so, I think people will forget about them if they stay out of trouble a little while longer."
Laurie raised her eyebrow at him.
He chuckled, "Well maybe a little longer than that, but I do think it's a possibility."
"Thank you, Lom," Laurie said and reached up to kiss his cheek. "How about gracing Doris and I with your presence for dinner. Before you turn me down, we leave on the stage in the morning."
"I would never think of turning you down," Lom lifted her hand and kissed it. "It would be my pleasure."
Kid opened the door to the room Kyle was staying in and walked in, followed by Heyes and Wheat. Sitting in the chair next to Kyle was the same blonde that had let the doctor in the back door earlier.
"He's still resting," she stated as she looked up to see who was coming in. "Oh," she jumped up and ran over to Wheat, practically jumping into his arms. "Wheat," she purred.
"Matilda," Wheat smiled and then stiffened up, he let the arms he had wrapped around her, drop to his side. "Later," he whispered out of the side of his mouth.
She offered him a hurt look.
He gave a slight shrug towards the boys.
"Oh," she apologetically put her hand in front of her mouth. "Okay," she winked at him. Standing straight, she tried to sound as professional as she could. "The patient is resting comfortably. The doctor should be back soon...that's what he said when he left and that he will be bringing instructions."
"Very well," Wheat stated.
There was a knock on the door and Matilda opened it. "Hi, Doc," she giggled.
"Miss Matilda," the old man tipped his hat at her as he walked in.
"Well, I better go see Roxy," she announced. "Bye," she winked again at Wheat and left the room, closing the door behind her.
"Ah, we have another visitor," the doctor looked at Wheat. "Nice to see you, Mr. Carlson."
"Doc," Wheat tipped his hat.
"Well, let's see how the patient is doing," the Doctor said as he made his way over to the bed. "Kyle...Kyle, my boy, can you open your eyes for me?"
His eyes fluttered.
"Come on," the doc accidently poked Kyle as he was lifting the bandages.
Kyle's eye shot open.
"Well," the old man chuckled, "didn't mean to do that, but it was effective. Now son, how are you feeling?"
Kyle blinked and looked around the room, his memory of where he was, was still a little fuzzy.
"Kyle," the doc called out again. "How are you feeling?"
He licked his lips, "‘Kay', I guess."
"Good, good," replied the doctor as he peeled back the dressing and checked the wound. "Still looking good, no redness and it's cool to the touch." He stood up and pulled out a piece of paper from his jacket. "I'll give Roxy these instructions for the girls to follow since it doesn't appear as though the two of you will be staying much longer." He smiled at Kid and Heyes. "Mr. Carlson," he turned to face Wheat, "Think you can find something to do for a week or so in town so your friend can get some healing done before he has to ride again."
"Well," Wheat shuffled his feet. "I think I can probably find something to do."
Heyes rolled his eyes and smiled at the comment.
With a swish and a bang, the door flew open and in burst a petite girl in her early twenties. She flew to Kyle's side and stopped dead in her tracks. "Oh Poopsy," she cooed.
Heyes and Kid looked at each other. Kid mouthed the word "Poopsy" to Heyes.
"Shelia," Wheat quietly stated to the two of them.
They knowingly nodded their heads.
Shelia carefully sat down on the side of the bed, "Oh my poor baby."
Kyle opened his eyes at the sound of her high-pitched voice, "Sugar cube."
With his eyes crossed, Heyes looked at Kid and mouthed "Sugar cube."
Kid rolled his eyes as they both tried not to laugh.
Wheat hung his head in disbelief that one of his men would talk this way.
"Well, I have to make some house calls," Doc Simons stated. "I'll give these instructions to Roxy when I leave and tell her to bring some broth for the patient." The doctor picked up his bag, "Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry, do you care to walk with me for a moment."
They looked at each other, shrugged and headed out the door behind the doctor with Wheat on their tails.
"Figured I'd give the two of them some time alone," he stated as he looked up and down the hall.
"Looking for someone?" Heyes questioned Wheat.
"Ah, no..um..just..um, checkin' the hall," he stammered.
"I heard footsteps going up the stairs when Matilda left the room," Heyes smiled.
"Oh," Wheat perked up. "Well, I guess you'll be goin' then. Good to see ya again." He quickly shook Heyes' and Kid's hands and then dashed up the stairs.
Heyes, Kid and the doctor chuckled and then continued down the hall. As they left the building, the doctor stopped and turned to face the partners. "Just wanted to say that it was good to see you again and don't take me wrong, I hope not to see you again." The old man winked. "You did a good thing taking care of your friend; I think he'll be alright. Take care of yourselves." The doctor stuck out his hand and shook both of the boys' hands. As he shook Heyes' hand he said, "Don't worry, Mr. Heyes, once a patient, always a patient."
Heyes tilted his head at the doctor, not sure of the meaning.
"Patient, doctor confidentiality," he smiled at Heyes. "I hold all my patients' information near and dear to my heart, my son. You should know that, being a former patient of mine. Don't worry; anything Kyle may have said when he was under the weather will stay with me and only me."
Heyes smiled, "Thanks, Doc."
"My pleasure," he replied. "I think you're doing a fine job turning your life around and maybe you can be an inspiration for the patient in there. Take care of yourselves, Boys." He smiled and turned and walked down the alley.
Heyes looked at Kid, "We never got lunch, how about an early dinner."
"Now that sounds like a plan," Kid enthusiastically slapped Heyes on the back as they headed to the café. Kid took a step and then stopped.
Heyes turned to look at him.
"You aren't gonna let me sleep in a nice comfy bed tonight, are you?"
"The comfiest bed is your own," Heyes smiled.
"We're not close enough to get there tonight...or tomorrow night for that matter," Kid groaned. He looked at Heyes, sighing, he asked, "You want to try to catch Laurie in Porterville?"
Heyes pondered the question. "Nay," he smirked. "Think its best not to run into Lom right now."
Kid nodded. "Probably right."
"We'll eat, get LOTS of supplies and head out to Small Falls. If we move fast, we might just make it in time to catch Laurie getting off the stage coach."
"Sounds like a plan, Partner!"
The boys mounted their horses and headed over to the café.
Three days later Heyes and Kid rode into town just as the stagecoach was departing the far side.
"Looks like she beat us," Kid teased.
"Porterville is a day closer, Heyes groused. "And if you didn't eat the café out of everything before we left, she wouldn't have."
Kid snickered, "And you say I get grumpy on the trail."
Heyes chuckled and then kicked his horse into a run as he saw Laurie on the hotel porch. Reaching the front steps, he dismounted, dashed up the stairs and picked her up, twirling her around. As he set her feet down on the porch, their arms still wrapped around each other, he leaned over and gave her a kiss.
"I missed you," she purred when he released her lips.
"I missed you, too."
"Doc thinks he'll be okay."
Tears welled in her eyes as she gave Heyes a tight smile.
"It's not your fault," he said as he ran his thumb over her lips.
She shrugged. "Still..."
"Still nothing," he pulled her into a hug. "He's gonna be okay."
"You just left him in Salt River."
"Wheat showed up."
Laurie tilted her head back she raised her eyebrow at Heyes, "Wheat?"
"Yeah, he came looking for Kyle. Seems he's been missing for longer than a week."
"Ah, that old softy."
"I wouldn't let him hear you say that."
"Of course not," she reached up and kissed her husband's chin. "You'd do the same for Kid and it wouldn't take you a week."
"I don't think so. Wheat would like everyone to think he doesn't need anyone but he counts on Kyle for a lot."
Heyes laughed out loud. "The blind leading the blind."
"Hmm," Laurie pursed her lips at him. "They were good enough to be in your gang."
"Because they had an exceptional leader."
"Ah...the genius, Hannibal Heyes," she smiled.
"I believe he wasn't the only leader," Kid stated as he walked up the stairs.
"Hey Thaddeus," she said. "I missed you, too."
Kid gave a quick kiss to Laurie's head as he walked by. "Going to get a bath and then food."
Laurie giggled. "Lom said to say ‘hi' to both of you."
Heyes dropped his arms and Kid stopped, turning on a dime.
She looked at Heyes, "You were right, he knew you wouldn't be in Porterville."
Both Heyes and Kid continued to stare at her.
"It's okay, he understands. He's not mad. Oh, he gave me the stuff you left in the hotel room. I haven't had a chance to bring it upstairs; it's in the front hallway."
Remembering what Lom had told them while they were in Porterville, Heyes quietly asked, "Did you see the Governor."
Heyes looked away.
She reached out and grabbed his hand. "I'm sorry."
Heyes didn't move.
"He was very nice and polite but he said he couldn't promise me anything. He's still too new to the job." She rubbed his arm. "He did say you were on the right path, so all isn't lost." Her heart sank as she could see the heartache in his face.
Kid stood silently, though he didn't think he had hopes, he felt a crushing wave of disappointment wash over him.
Heyes continued to look down the boardwalk, body stiff and unmoving.
"Lom said if you keep out of trouble a little longer, people will forget about you so no one will care anymore," she tried to sooth.
"Lom said what?" Kid indignantly stated.
"We're the best..." Heyes started to say before noticing Laurie trying to suppress a grin.
"And maybe being the best takes time for people to forget...forgive," Laurie reminded the two. She tilted her head to the side as she looked at Heyes.
Heyes smiled as he reached out and pulled Laurie close to him. "Nice," he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her nose. "Doesn't change anything right now, Kid."
Sighing, Kid agreed, "Yeah, going straight kind of sticks with ya." He looked at the pair gazing into each other's eyes and rolled his. "I'm going for my bath, I'm hungry."
"When aren't you?" Heyes chuckled.
"Hold up," Laurie let go of Heyes. "You should go too. Relax in a hot bath...it will make you feel better. I'm going to go help Doris make dinner for my heroes. Then the two of you can sit out here and have a cigar and a night cap."
"Heyes, you must be rubbing off on Laurie," Kid teased, "cause that's the best plan I've heard in a long time.
"Works for me," Heyes smiled as the two headed into the hotel.
"You know, Joshua," Kid stated as he took the stairs to their rooms by twos, "we got a pretty good thing going here."
"That we do, Thaddeus," Heyes clapped Kid's back as they reached the landing.