Worth the Risk

by Storm Richards



"For the two most successful outlaws of the west..." the words hung in the air as Laurie rolled her eyes.


"What?"  Hannibal Heyes, ex-outlaw spit out.


"Let's just enjoy the scenery," Kid Curry urged as he once again maneuvered his horse between the two.  They had been bickering with each other for the past day and a half.  All three were hot, tired, hungry and covered head to toe in trail dust having left Devil's Hole over a week ago.    


"I'd like to hear the rest of the sentence," Heyes snapped.


 Laurie gave him a sideways glance as she urged her horse to go a little faster; frustration and undeserved anger built up inside her.


He caught up to her and grabbed the reins of her horse, pulling both horses to a stop.


The blond partner pulled his horse to a halt figuring it was best to give them a little space.


Brown eyes stared at her waiting for an answer. 


She diverted her eyes from his piercing glare.  She blinked as unwanted tears welled in her eyes, as the situation was getting the best of her.  "Aaarrrrggghhhh!" she screamed, and quickly jumped off the opposite side of her horse, darting into the trees. 


"Laurie!"  Heyes yelled as he dismounted, storming after her.


She took two steps into the woods and stopped dead in her tracks. 


"Laurie!" Heyes yelled again as he caught up to her; stopping a step behind her when he saw what was in their path. 


"Don't move," Kid called from behind as he slowly moved sideways to get a clear shot - BANG.


With the noise, Laurie tensed, turning; she buried her face into Heyes chest as he grabbed her, pulling her closed to him.  Rubbing her back he tried to reassure himself, just as much as her that everything was okay.


"I got you, you're okay.  Shhh it's okay."


Kid stepped around them, leaning over; he picked up a stick, scooping the headless snake up.  "One more step..." he shook his head and looked at the rattler.  "This must be at least four feet long." 


"Thanks, Kid," Heyes stated as he held onto Laurie.  Holding her so close, he couldn't tell whose heart was beating faster or harder. 


"I'm sorry," she squeaked out.


"Shhh," he continued to rub her back.  "You're okay, everything is okay."


She pushed off him a little, "No, it's not.  I've been mean and rotten to you and I am sorry.  I could have gotten you killed again."


"The snake was a foot away from you," Heyes stated sounding somewhat confused.


"I know but what if it was closer to you, I wasn't thinking.  I'm sorry."


He pulled her close to him again and kissed her head.  "It's okay.  Kid saved both of us; we're all alright."


Turning and looking at the snake dangling from the stick she said, "Thanks, Kid."


"Anytime," he smiled at her and tossed the snake off to the side.  "What'd you say we..." 


Heyes put his hand up.  "Listen," he whispered.


Kid moved his hand to the butt of his gun as he and Laurie strained to hear whatever Heyes was hearing. 


A smile slowly spread across his face.  Arching his eyebrows he said, "Follow me," as he continued in the same direction they had been going.  Walking about twenty feet more, he burst out into a clearing with a small creek and a trickling waterfall. 


The three stood staring and smiling at the creek, which was only about six feet wide and a few inches deep, but still, it was clean, cool water. 


"I'll get the horses," Kid stated, stepping back into the trees.  He figured he would take his time, giving Heyes and Laurie a few minutes to themselves in the hopes the refreshing water would ease the tension between them.


As though he knew his partner’s intentions Heyes pulled Laurie to him.  Gazing into her eyes he quietly said, "I know it's not a bath, but you can at least you can wash your face.  Maybe it will make you feel better."


Reaching up, she swept an errant hair off of his face with her hand.  "I'm sorry."


"I know."  He leaned in, kissing the tip of her nose.


Tears once again welled in her eyes.


"I know how stressful this has been." 


Pursing her lips, she nodded as a stray tear ran down her cheek.


"Come," Heyes led her to the creek.  Squatting down he dipped their hands in the water.  Reaching up, he lightly brushed the tear away with his cool wet fingertips.  "Does that feel better?" 


Laurie nodded, too tired and emotional to attempt to speak for fear she would fall to pieces.


Lifting her chin with his finger, Heyes leaned in, gently kissing her on the lips.  "I'm sorry too."


She leaned her forehead against his, still too afraid to speak.  She was trying to be strong, like she had promised them she would be.  She never imagined an innocent trip would turn into such terror; being chased by Jack Packer's posse, Heyes being shot, finding Devil's Hole by herself, digging the bullet out of him and then the thought that haunted her most, Heyes shooting Ribs to save her.  It wasn't the fact that he had to shoot him, because looking in Ribs' eyes she knew he was evil.  It's the fact that her actions could have gotten him killed.  She hadn't listened to him, figuring she had taken care of herself for so long; she could do it Devil's Hole.  Heyes' was still recovering, and Ribs was drawing his gun at him because she hadn't listened. 


Now she was hot, tired, overly emotional and just wanted to get home.  Because of Packer, they left Devil's Hole, traveling the long back way to avoid the possibility of running into him again.  It had taken an extra week and a half to get where they were now and they were still a good day's ride to a town.  Not that that mattered; they didn't have much money.  The job that started this trek over a month ago was done more for the potential good will then cash.  Then both Heyes and Kid gave most of their money to the Devil's Hole Gang, thanking them for accepting them and more importantly Laurie into the Hole. Neither one knew the other was doing the same thing, so each thought they still had plenty of money to get them home.


They didn't know what the other had done until they reached the first town and stopped to send a telegram.  Realizing their mistake, they left town with only the supplies they needed to get home; not a hot meal at the café, a drink from the saloon, a warm cozy soft bed in the hotel or more importantly to Laurie - no long hot soaking bath. 


She continued to lean her forehead on Heyes', who was content in the contact, the closeness.  He realized how tough this had been on her and didn't think there was another woman out there that could have gone through what she just did and not have been curled up in a heap of tears.   On top of all that, the weather was unusually hot, so the trail was extremely dusty and she hadn't really slept since running from the posse, so he knew she was exhausted.


A cool breeze washed over the two of them and he felt her relax a little.  "Why don't you wash up a little?  Let the water run over your hands, wash your face and neck.  Take off your boots and put your feet in the water," Heyes whispered.  "It might make you feel a little better."


Laurie nodded lightly. 


"I'll tell Kid we're going to stay here tonight."  He kissed her forehead, stood up and headed over to the area where they originally came through the trees.


"Come on," Kid called out loudly. 


Heyes smiled as he greeted his partner at the tree line.  "Thanks," he looked at his cousin and smiled. 


Kid cocked his head. 


"Sure took long time to walk twenty five feet." 


Blue eyes smiled. 


"Oh, and I think the horses in the next territory want to know why they need to come too." 


Kid arched his eyebrows and they both chuckled lightly.  "Everythin’ okay," he nodded his head in the direction of Laurie.


"Better," Heyes sighed.  "Think this is as good a place as any to stay for the night." 


They led the horses to the creek and let them drink.


Kid looked around, "Good as any I can see; feels like a breeze is comin’ in too."  He looked at Laurie as she sat on the side with her feet in the water.  "Think there's any chance there're any fish in there?"


Heyes chuckled, "Maybe some minnows."   He patted Kid's back and then began to take the gear off his and Laurie's horses.  He looked over at her a couple of times but thought giving her some time and space was probably the best thing to do right now. 






Once the fire was started and the coffee was done, Heyes carried a cup over to Laurie.  "Coffee," he asked as he held the cup out for her.


"Thank you," she replied as she stood up, taking the cup. 


He reached up, brushing stray strands of hair off her face. 


She closed her eyes, leaning into his hands.  Opening her eyes she gazed into the dark brown pools that gazed back at her.  Any anger or frustration she was holding onto slipped from her body as she smiled at him.


"Feeling better?" he asked, seeing a light in her eyes he hadn't seen since the incident with Ribs. 


"Yes, thank you," she replied as she began to get lost in his eyes.  Composing herself, she took a big breath in and blew it out.  "The cool water really helped."  She paused and he could see sadness return to her eyes.  "I'm sorry I've been so difficult.  I know it's not what I promised."


"It's..." he began before she interrupted.


"I know you didn't sign up for this."  Heyes opened his mouth to speak; Laurie gently placed her hand on his lips so she could finish.  "I know I have complicated matters.  I know I promised and I am trying, it's just not always easy."


He waited a beat, "Are you finished?"


 Laurie gave him a tight smile and a slight nod. 


"No I didn't sign up for this..."


Her face tightened as he spoke the words, feeling the blow of what he said. 


Reaching out, Heyes took hold of her hand, "I didn't sign up for anything.  I had no intentions of falling for you or anyone else for that matter." 


A lone tear slipped from her eye and rolled down her face. 


He reached up and with a gentle caress, wiped it away.  "The fact is I did and as much as you don't think you're living up to your promises, I think you are.  I don't know of anyone else that would have gone through what you just did and be all happy and cheery.  Kid can get grouchier than you and probably would be if you weren't here."  Looking for a smile or some response, he paused for a moment.  Laurie just stood there so he continued, "All this is new to you; I don't expect everything to be perfect all the time."  He snorted, "What we have isn't exactly typical."


Laurie blinked, trying to regain her emotions; emotions she had closed off for so long that now seemed to be uncontrollable at the worst times.


"Even you reminded me that if you weren't with us when I was shot, I'd probably be dead; so I think I'm pretty lucky.  You saved my life."


"You saved mine twice," she squeaked out.  Gulping hard she continued, "First, in Small Falls and then with Ribs..." She closed her eyes as tears streaked her face.  "I'm sorry," she sobbed as Heyes pulled her into a hug.


"You're my family," he said soothingly as he held her close.


"You have Kid; you didn't need to be burdened by me."


"Yeah I had Kid and now we have you."  Leaning his head back slightly, Heyes looked down at her.  "Don't you know how much you've changed our lives; both Kid's and mine?"


"I know; I'm sorry," Laurie said sounding dejected as she took a step away from him.  Then in rapid fire she blurted out, "You never intended to be tied down and then you felt sorry for me.  I'll understand if you keep going after you get me back to Small Falls.  If you find someone else or just decide not to come back.  Please just send me a telegram saying you're okay so I don't wonder if you're dead or not.  I wouldn't like not knowing.  I know I have changed your lives.  I know you like the west; you like traveling the west.  I'm sorry, I really am."  The few moments she stood there seemed like days.  In such a short time, she had convinced herself everything she had was gone.


Heyes watched the confident woman dissolve in front of him.  "Sweetheart," he quietly said, reaching out and lifting her chin with his fingers, Laurie diverted her eyes.  "I know things aren't perfect.  I know Kid and I have to leave sometimes, but I'm home more than I thought I could ever be."


Laurie blinked and looked at Heyes when he said home. 


"Yes, home.  Sweetheart, you are my home.  I never thought we would have another place to call home.  Maybe I liked traveling the west so much because we had no home."


She smiled at him, "Still got your silver tongue." 


Pulling her into a hug, Heyes kissed the top of her head.


"You don't mind not traveling the west?"


Heyes chuckled, "We still get to do that when we have to leave, or have a job for someone."


"Kid okay with it?"


"He's fine with it," he gave her a squeeze.  "He likes your cooking."


 Laurie giggled; things were going to be okay.  After a few moments holding onto him, she loosened her grip.  "I should go see what I can cook for us.  Kid will be complaining soon." 


He gazed into her eyes for a few minutes, conveying feelings he rarely spoke.  Kissing her nose he chuckled.  "I'll help." 


She smiled and Heyes leaned in softly kissing her lips.


The rest of the evening was pleasant, as the creek did seem to bring relief from the heat and the tension that had filled the air.






The next morning, the bedrolls were rolled up; the saddles were on the horses as the three sat having their last cup of coffee.  "It feels a little cooler this morning.  If we push the horses a little today, we might be able to hit Two Rivers late this..." Heyes abruptly stopped speaking.  He and Kid looked at each other, with a slight nod; his partner quietly got up and disappeared into the trees.


"Mornin' folks," tipping his hat, the scruffy rider said as he cleared the trees across the creek. 


The slightly younger rider tipped his hat as well as he emerged from the trees stopping his horse to the right of the scruffy man.


"Morning," Heyes said with a tight smile on his face.


Laurie could feel and sense the tension, but with Heyes' disarming smile, didn't think the riders could tell. 


Heyes noted the tied down guns as the two riders sat on their horses, not moving.


"Coffee smells good," the rider on the left stated.


Heyes stood up, "Wish I could offer you a cup but, we just finished the pot and are about to move on.  I'll leave the fire so you can make some if you like."


The scruffy rider shook his head, "Nah."  Turning his head he spit a wad of tobacco.  "What brings ya out here?"


"Just passing through," Heyes pleasantly stated.


"Where ya headin'?" he inquired.


"Farmington to see my wife's family.  What brings you all the way out here?"  Heyes asked, smiling at the man though he was not liking the questions or the non-movement of the riders.


"Heard Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were spotted out this way," the younger rider stated. "We're gonna catch'em and git the reeeward!"


"Shut up!" the scruffy rider barked. 


The once cool calming wind from the creek seemed to become stifling; restricting the air Laurie could breathe as she felt the tension increase. 


Turning back to Heyes, his beady eyes looked him up and down.  "Ya look familiar?"


"Me?"  Heyes chuckled.  "Not from around here so I wouldn't know."


The scruffy man's eyes darted around the area.  "Why ya got three horses?"


Heyes' eyes narrowed as he was just about done with the man's questions. 


"You know dear," Laurie stepped from behind her husband, "you do look a little like Preacher John.  Maybe Preacher John has been this way."  Turning to look at the scruffy man she smiled.  "Sir, do you know Preacher John?"


"Who?" he responded, sounding annoyed at the question.


"Preacher John," the younger, innocent rider replied.  "No, don't think we know a Preacher John."


"Will you shut up," the scruffy man barked. 


"I was jes..." the young rider tried to explain before being interrupted.


"I don't care what you was jes, nothin'," exclaimed the older man.  "I wanna know what theys doin' out here and why they has three horses!"  He turned his glare on Heyes.


"As I explained, we are going to visit my wife's family," Heyes reiterated.


"The three horses?" the man barked.


"My partner went to take care of… um…business."


Looking at the older rider the young man asked, "Jasper, you don't think he's Hannibal Heyes do ya?"  


If looks could kill, the younger rider would have dropped from his horse with the glare that came his way.


Laurie giggled. 


The scruffy man turned his glare on her, "What's so funny?"


Laurie giggled again.  "I'm sorry," she looked at Heyes and continued to giggle.  "Just the thought that you could think my Joshua was Hannibal Heyes; that I was here with Hannibal Heyes.   Oh my," Laurie broke out into a full laugh.   "I mean, do I really look like a woman that would be with the notorious Hannibal Heyes?"   Laurie fanned herself as she pretended to be trying to control her laughter.


The scruffy rider relaxed his glare.  "Well ma'am, now that you mention it," he blushed.  "Guess Heyes and Curry wouldn't be travelin' with a lady."


Laurie's eyes grew wide, "Curry," she blurted out before once again bursting into laughter.  "Thaddeus...Kid Curry!" She gasped for air, as she laughed so hard.


Heyes smiled at her and began to laugh. 


She looked up at the riders; "You just have no idea how funny that is."


Feeling rather foolish the scruffy man tipped his hat, "Sorry to have bothered you, we'll be on our way."


"No bother at all," Laurie giggled.  "Thank you for the laugh."  She waved as the riders turned their horses and headed off down the creek.


As they disappeared from view Kid stepped out from the trees, right behind where the riders had been.


Laurie could see Heyes' body relax as he turned towards her and smiled, "That's my girl," he stated as he leaned in, kissing her lightly.


Kid crossed the creek.  Deciding to get under his partner’s' skin a little, he sarcastically stated, "Thought I was gonna have to help ya out Joshua until Laurie stepped in."


Heyes shot a sideways glare at him.  "Time to get moving," he stated, not allowing Kid the satisfaction of a response.


Laurie walked over to Heyes, taking the reins of her horse from him; she kissed him on the cheek.  "I love you."  Smiling she mounted her horse and waited for the partners to do the same. 


"Still think it's a good idea to head to Two Rivers?"  Kid asked as they headed out.


Heyes shrugged, he had been wondering the same thing.  How many people thought Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were in the area?  Would they be safe in town?  With Laurie along with them he had to trust they would.   "I hope so," was all he said.






The three rode hard in anticipation of reaching Two Rivers.  If nothing else, they reasoned they had enough money for a hotel room for the three of them and with any luck; poker would bring enough for a good meal and maybe even the bath Laurie so desperately wanted.  Unfortunately, there were too many obstacles in their way for them to make it in a day.  They spent another hot sticky night sleeping on the ground.


As they woke the next morning, the tension that had eased by the creek had begun to build again.  With barely a word, they had a quick cup of coffee and were off on their horses once again.  With the unforgiving sun high in the sky, the light breezes were hot and filled with dust from the rock hard ground.


Finally, late in the afternoon, they arrived in Two Rivers.  Entering from the far side of town, they could see a large gathering and a lot of noise at the other end of town.  Glancing at each other they shrugged as they stopped in front of the hotel.  Dismounting, they paused to look at the crowd again before going inside. 


Stepping up to the front desk Heyes asked, "We'd like a room." 


The desk clerk looked at the three of them.


"Two beds," he added.


Shaking his head slightly the desk clerk turned to get a key.


 Heyes saw Laurie drop her head as she looked at the floor.


"One room," the disapproving voice of the desk clerk spat out.


The ex-outlaw leader clenched his jaw as he took a breath in.


"I can find another place to stay tonight," Kid jumped in.


"No, Thaddeus," Laurie spoke softly as she placed her hand on his arm.  "We're all staying in the room or we're all sleeping on the ground." 


Kid opened his mouth to say something but was cut off.


"I for one am not going to sleep on the ground tonight, so neither are you." 


The desk manager looked curiously between Heyes, Kid and Laurie. 


"It's not your fault we don't have the money for two rooms."  Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Heyes give her a cross look.  "Oh dear," she cooed as she turned towards him.  "It wasn't your fault either."  Seeing she had the full attention of the desk clerk she added, "What both of you did was very admirable it's just a shame it was done at the same time."


"Is there a problem here?" the desk clerk skeptically looked at her.  "You got the three dollars for the room?"


"Oh yes sir, we have three dollars for the room, we just don't have six dollars for two rooms.   Well we do have six dollars but if we get two room, we can’t eat. " 


The desk clerk's brain was starting to spin as Laurie continued.


"You see my husband and his cousin were both so concerned with a needy family we came across, they gave them money.  Problem was they didn't realize the other one was doing the same thing, so," she sighed, "we're caught in kind of a bind...no money to make it home.  We've been traveling for almost two weeks now and my back just can't take lying on the hard ground.  I need a bed for a night.  So here we are.  Three people looking for one room, two beds.  Do you have one?"


The desk clerk blinked and shook his head trying to make sense of the avalanche of words that was just spewed in his direction.  "One room, two beds," the desk clerk held the key out.  Reaching out, Heyes went to take the key when the clerk added, "Three dollars." 


Heyes smiled, handed the man the three dollars and took the key.  As they turned towards the stairs Heyes asked, "What's all the commotion down the street?"


"Carnival; tenth anniversary of the town," the desk clerk replied.  "I hear there is lots of fun free entertainment."  


The three nodded and headed up to the room.


"Needy family," Heyes chuckled as they walked into the room.


"Of course they're family, the Devil's Hole Gang looks out for each other - that's a family," she smiled.






After getting cleaned up in the room, or more accurately to Laurie, partially human using the water basin, they headed out.  Heyes and Kid were going to take the money they had left and hope there was a poker game they could get into.  Laurie was going to check out the carnival.  As the three walked down the street they heard, laughter and excitement from the crowd and then gun fire - five rapid shots.


With no one running away or screaming they looked at each other, shrugged and then headed over to find out what was going on.  Leaning against a porch pole, Heyes smiled and pointed. 


Blue eyes lit up.


Heyes shook his head lightly, "I know what you're thinking Kid, but it's too risky." 


"I think I've heard you say that before," Kid scowled.


"You know Jasper and his pal heard we were in the area," he reasoned, "We can't take the chance."


"I know," Kid grumbled, "But I don't have to like it!"


"Step right up, five dollars to win fifty dollars," the carnival barker called out.  "Fifty dollars to the first person that hits all five plates, step right up."


Laurie looked between the partners.  "You're not going to enter?"


Kid shook his head once. 


"You're not going to let him?" she pleaded with Heyes.


"Too risky."


"We could get a second room, food, a bath!"


Heyes just watched the contest. 


"This is a sure thing, poker isn't." 


He creased his brow at the suggestion he might not win at poker, but didn't respond.


"Ugh!" she huffed and stormed off.


Heyes took a breath in and blew it out. 


Kid patted him on the shoulder.  "She could be right." 


Brown eyes glared at blue. 


The blond put his hands up in defense.  "We don't even know if they play poker here."


"I know, but it's still too risky."


"I know that, and you know that, but this is all new to Laurie.  Don't be so hard on her."


"Hard, I wasn't hard on her, I didn't yell at her."


"Ignoring her is just as bad."


"When did you become an expert in relationships?"  Heyes snidely asked.


"I'm just sayin’," Kid started before being interrupted.


"I know, I know."  He shook his head.  "I'll talk to her." Turning Heyes looked around to see if he could see where she ran off too.


Blue eyes began to scan the crowd as well.  Pointing, he stated, "She's behind the guy shootin’." 


"What's she doing over there?"


They watched her watch the next three contestants.  "She sure looks interested in the shooter," Kid stated. 


Heyes rolled his eyes and took a step, heading in her direction, before his partner stopped him with a hand to his arm. 


Heyes turned questioning him until he followed Kid's extended arm.


"What?"  He blurted out.  His eyes widened and bulged as he watched Laurie step up to the carnival barker and produced the last five dollars the three of them had.


"I'd like to enter?" she said quietly to the man.


"You?" he questioned, "A pretty little lady like you?"


"Yes, me," she firmly stated.


"Do you even have a gun?" he sarcastically asked.


Heyes stood frozen, not sure of what to do as the rest of the crowd had now quieted and was intently listening to the conversation.


Laurie blinked, determined not to back down.  "Well," she thought, "Since you don't seem to have one, I can borrow my husband's."


"Your husband's," the response came out as a cackle. 


Kid looked at Heyes.


He chuckled nervously as the crowd looked around. 


"Yes, I'm sure he would lend it to me."


Heyes walked over to Laurie as Kid stepped into the background.  "Sweetheart," he said smiling as he reached her, placing his hand on her arm.  "What's going on?"


She exhaled, "I'm trying to enter the contest and this man isn't letting me."


"I didn't say you couldn't," he replied, plucking the money from her hand.


"Good," Laurie smiled.  Turning to Heyes she sweetly asked, "May I borrow your gun dear?"


The smile fell off his face.  Turning to the man he said, "Excuse us for a minute," as he led her to the side.


"Hey, he still has our five dollars!"  Laurie complained as he was leading her away. 


Turning to the man Heyes politely asked, "May my wife have her five dollars back?"


"Oh no," he smiled broadly, enjoying the tension between the two.  "She's entered the contest.  I'll give you a minute or two but then she'll forfeit the money if she doesn't shoot."


Heyes glared at the man and then pulled Laurie to the side.  "What are you doing?"


"Entering the contest."


"I told you it was too risky."


"No you told Kid it was too risky.  I'm a woman; nobody can confuse me for you.  Can I have your gun?"


"No, you can't have my gun," Heyes indignantly replied.


"I'd ask Thaddeus but I think it might be too heavy.  I've picked yours up before so I think I know the weight."  Looking around she sighed, "I'll guess I'll have to borrow someone else's but who knows if they take care of it.  I could miss just ‘cause the site is off."


Turning to the man Heyes called out, "Can I take her place?"


"No," the man happily replied.  "She entered, she has to shoot."


Creasing his brow he turned back to Laurie. 


She stared deep into his eyes.  "I can do this," she stated with resolve. 


He stood there, looking at her, at her posture, seeing her determination. 


"I want a bath," Laurie decisively stated. 


 Heyes gave her a slight nod and began undoing his gun belt.


"Time is running out," the man called out.


"One more minute, she's getting the gun on now," Heyes replied.   He helped Laurie with the gun belt, holding up the thong he shrugged and dropped it, not knowing how to tie it around her leg while she was wearing a dress.  Stepping back, he chuckled lightly to himself, it certainly wasn't a site seen very often if ever at all. 


Stepping to the side, Laurie stepped forward, in her dress, with Heyes' gun belt on. 

Walking towards the man, she turned and placed her hand on Heyes, "Stay over here, I don't want you to be a distraction."  She smiled, he nodded and she said, "Thank you."  Reaching the line Laurie asked the man, "May I just have a minute or two to hold the gun?"


"Sure," he chuckled as he looked at the larger crowd that had now formed around his contest, dollar bills danced through his head.


Laurie took Heyes' gun from the belt and held it in her hand for a minute, trying to feel the balance.  She raised it and looked at the chute the plates came down.  Satisfied she turned to the man.  "I'm ready," as she placed the gun back in the holster.


The man nodded, "Okay we have our next contestant," he called out.  "Miss," he looked at Laurie in search of her name.


"Laurie," she smiled.


"Our next contestant, Miss Laurie," he announced as the crowd clapped and then quieted down.


"Ready?" he inquired.


She nodded; a few seconds later the first plate dropped down the chute and into the air as she drew the gun and fired taking a hunk off the top of the plate.  Laurie made a quick mental note to lower the gun a tad.  The second plate dropped and flew out of the chute as she drew and fired again, hitting the plate dead center.


Heyes watched, dumbfounded as his wife proceeded to hit plates three, four and five. 


As she finished, Kid walked up and patted his partner’s back.


As the pieces to last plate hit the ground, Laurie returned the gun to the holster for good.  


The carnival barker stood frozen, mouth agape as he looked at the five plates that had been shot.


Beaming, Laurie turned and put her hand out, "Five plates, that's fifty dollars!"


Stunned the man slowly turned to look at her; the words she was saying were not making any sense.


"Fifty dollars," she reiterated. 


"Wha..." the man mumbled.


"I believe that will be fifty dollars," Heyes proudly stepped up next to his wife.


Laurie smiled ear to ear as her eyes danced. 


The man looked between the two, "Somethin's not right."


"What do you mean not right?" Laurie angrily asked.  "I was the first one to hit five plates, I get the fifty dollars."


"It was too easy," the man started before she jumped down his throat.


"Too easy," she angrily yelled.  "Let's see you do it!  Why not ask the men that tried before me?  Too easy!!  You just don't want to pay the money!" Laurie looked at the crowd, "This man thinks that something's wrong that I didn't shoot those plates myself.  Did any of you see me cheat?" 


The crowd shook their heads and started to get a little noisy.  "Give the little lady her money,"  "Pay her,"  "She won fair and square." 


Satisfied Laurie put her hand out again, "Fifty dollars please."


The man looked around the crowd.  "I'll tell you what," he nervously said.  "Double or nothing; you do that again and your five dollars will turn into one hundred dollars."


"No thank you," Laurie said.  "I have plans for my fifty dollars."


"Plans?" he asked sounding confused.


"Yes, plans," Laurie, stated.   "First a really nice steak dinner, another room in the hotel and a very long luxurious bubble bath; fifty dollars will cover that."


The man twisted his face, "Triple or nothing."


Laurie looked deep into Heyes' eyes as she thought about the offer. 


"Triple your money," the man repeated.


With her eyes still locked on Heyes' she replied, "Triple or four fifths."


"You sure?" Heyes whispered. 


Laurie nodded.


"Four whats?" the man asked.


"Four - fifths," she smugly stated as she held Heyes' gaze.  "I get one hundred and fifty dollars if I hit all five plates again.  If I don't I walk away with ten dollars."


Heyes held her gaze.


Quietly so only Heyes could hear she said, "We'll still eat good and get another room.  I'll give up my bath."  


Heyes gave her one of the biggest dimpled smiles ever, knowing she was confident in winning.   He knew giving up the bath would be the last thing on her list.


"No, it has to be all or nothing," the man argued.


"Then no thank you," she replied again, taking the gamble that the growing crowd had made the man extra greedy. 


Seeing her resolve and his money walking away from him he acquiesced. "Fine," he said through gritted teeth.  "You lose, you get ten dollars."


"I WIN, I get one hundred and fifty dollars," Laurie stated loudly.


"Yeah, yeah," the man mumbled.  "I need to go set up the machine."


Turning quickly to Kid, she said, "Go watch him, make sure he does nothing but load the machine with the plates."


"You don't trust me?" he barked.


"I just want to make sure it's all fair," she smiled.  "Is it a deal?"


"It's a deal," he grumbled.


The man walked over to the machine and loaded it.  "Ready?" he called out. 


Laurie nodded as the plates began to drop and fly through the chute.  Just like the first time, she hit all five plates.   The crowd cheered wildly.


Heyes practically ran over to her, lifting her into the air and twirling her around.  "You did it," he exclaimed, as he planted a kiss on her lips.  Releasing her, he stated, "I believe you owe my wife, one hundred and fifty dollars."


The man tried to take a step back but was blocked by Kid.  "What don't you trust me?"


"No I don't," Laurie stated.  "Not with the way you're treating me or the fact that I still don't have the money I won."  She saw the tin star out of the corner of her eye and gulped. 


Heyes turned his head towards the crowd.


"Is there trouble here?" the town's Sheriff asked.


"No, sir," Laurie said meekly. "I was just trying to collect my winnings from the contest."


The Sheriff looked around the crowd.


"That's right," the desk clerk from the hotel, piped up.  "She hit all five plates and now this carnival thief isn't giving her, her winnings and after her husband and cousin gave all their money away to a needy family.  That's right, they just checked into my hotel.  Heard the whole story about how they only had enough money for one room.  She just wants a nice meal and a bath and this scoundrel is trying to cheat her!"


"No, no I'm not trying to cheat her," the man stuttered, "just trying to put on a show."


"Then give her the money she won!" the desk clerk replied.


The man swallowed hard and pulled out a large wad of cash.  The crowd counted with him as he handed the money to Laurie.


She took a few bills and handed the rest to Heyes.  "This is for new CLEAN clothes.   Why don't you and Thaddeus get a drink at the saloon, I'll get the clothes and I'll meet you back at our rooms in the hotel before dinner."  She turned to the desk clerk, "Can we please have the room next to ours and a bath set up in the first room?"


"It will be my pleasure," the desk clerk replied as he headed back to the hotel.


"Well I'll meet you back at the hotel," Laurie started off.


"Um," Heyes said as he held up his finger indicating he had something to say. 


She looked at him.


"My gun?" 


Laurie covered her mouth and laughed, "With all the excitement I forgot."


 Raising his eyebrows Heyes smiled at her as he helped undo the belt.


Tying the thong around his leg he said, "We'll walk you to the General Store.  Holding out his arm Laurie grabbed it and Kid's as they began to walk towards the Store. 


As they got out of earshot from the crowd Heyes asked, "How'd you do it?"


Laurie smiled at both of them.  "It was easy." 


They listened on intently. 


"It's all in the timing."


"Yeah, we know that," Kid stated.


Laurie stopped and looked around; they were all by themselves.  "It's in the timing," she stated again.  "When the carnie trips the switch for the plate to fall, it makes a click." 


Heyes and Kid nodded.


"My father taught me a trick to beat it." 


They listened with interest.


"The plates are timed to fall at the same rate accept one, usually it's the last one.  That's why I was standing behind the shooters; I was seeing which plate took longer to fall."


"How," Heyes started and stopped, "When?"


Laurie smiled at Heyes' confusion.  "When I was little, actually not that long before daddy got sick.  You see, they're really a con game, you look at someone hitting four plates and you figure you can get all five.  Thing is, the slot for the last plate is slightly different than the others; the plate is ever so slightly bigger so it has to drop first before it can go into the chute.  Then it flies out; it takes an extra beat.  It's also a little heavier than the other plates so it's a little lower than the rest of the plates.  If you don't adjust, you will shoot over it."


"Beat?"  Kid questioned.


"Yep, beat," Laurie replied.  "Daddy taught me how to count it out." She giggled, "Actually how to sing it out." 


Heyes raised his eyebrow at her. 


Laurie stood as she had at the contest, pretending she had the gun belt on. "Baa Baa Black Sheep," she took her finger gun up and pointed, "have", pulled the trigger, "you," she put the gun away,  "any wool, yes sir yes sir," pointed the gun again, "three," pulled the trigger,  "bags," she put the gun away and continued the rhyme and demonstration finishing with pulling the last trigger on master.   "It's all in the timing," Laurie shrugged.  "I could probably do it with my eyes closed.  My father could."


"Your father taught you this when you were...?"  Kid asked.


"Seven," she stated.  "He was a lawyer and always trying to protect people from scams.  He actually confiscated a machine just like the one here and when mother wasn't around, we would play.  I got really good."


Kid shook his head, "I didn't even know you could shoot."  Turning to look at Heyes he repeated, "I didn't even know she could shoot."


"Neither did I," Heyes stated. 


"Didn't you ever ask?"


"No," he replied as though he thought his partner was crazy.  "Sweetheart, I love you, can you shoot a gun?  How about win the shooting contest the carnivals bring around?"


"She never said anything?"


"Kid, stop talking like I'm not standing in front of you.  No, Heyes didn't ask and to be perfectly honest I didn't tell him.  It's not that I didn't tell him, it's that it didn't come up in conversation."  Laurie rolled her eyes.  "Yes I love you, oh and by the way, I can win the shooting contest if one ever comes around." 


Kid shrugged, "I would've asked," he said quietly.


Heyes shook his head at his partner then ask Laurie, "You said it's usually the last plate that takes the longest."


"Yes, that's why I had Kid watch that all he was doing was loading the plates and not switching the timing.  He would've had to move the belt around to change the timing.  If he just put the plates in; the timing would be the same.   Sometimes they change it so it's another plate, but then it looks too hard to the people watching and they don't give it a try.  If it's not the last plate, the shooter will miss the plate and then try to compensate and miss the next plate too.  You either have to know the timing trick or be really good like Kid to win."


"Brilliant," Heyes chuckled; leaning in, he kissed her cheek.


"I want my bath, and clean clothes!"  Laurie announced as she kissed Heyes' cheek and went into the General Store.


As the three were looking at the clothing Kid looked up and saw the Sheriff, Jasper and the young rider stopped in front of the Store. Nudging Heyes, they quickly turned their backs to them as they stepped behind some racks.


"No kidding?" the Sheriff laughed.


"Really," the young rider replied.  "Jasper thought he was Hannibal Heyes until the wife spoke up."


"Oh?" the Sheriff inquired.


"Yep, she laughed.  She said him Hannibal Heyes.  I thought she was gonna burst she was laughin' so hard," the rider explained.


"What can I say," Jasper chuckled.  "Guess a lot of guys have brown hair and brown eyes."


"That they do," the Sheriff agreed.  Thinking a minute he added, "Think you used good judgment not bringin' ‘em in Jasper; I just can't see Hannibal Heyes lettin' a woman show him up, enterin' a shootin' contest and usin' his gun."


"No wonder she laughed so hard," the young rider chortled as the three broke into laughter as they continued down the boardwalk.


"Guess they're not married," Heyes stated.


"Why would you say that?"  Kid asked.


"They just don't understand, you don't stand in the way of a woman when she wants a bath," he chuckled.


"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you," Laurie said quietly.


"You didn't," Heyes grinned at her.  "You gave us a good cover."


"And a hundred and fifty dollars," she reminded him. 


His eyes lit up as he dipped his head, capturing her lips.






After purchasing new clothes they walked out onto the boardwalk.  "Well, I believe the two of you have a date with the poker table.  And I," Laurie sighed, "finally, have a date with a nice big warm bath full of bubbles."  Walking off the boardwalk and towards the hotel she called over her shoulder, "Take your time boys, ‘cause I'm taking mine!"


Kid placed his hand on Heyes' shoulder as they walked to the saloon.  "Yeah, Heyes, I think the reward would be twenty thousand on EACH of us if we met Laurie before."  The two chuckled as they walked to the saloon.