The Fork in the Road
by Storm Richards
A couple of weeks out of Porterville, two riders rode silently into the setting sun. The warmth of the sun vanishing as the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in from beyond the horizon. Pulling up their collars, they hunched slightly over in an effort to keep warm. The rider on the left shot a glance out of the corner of his eye, checking on his partner. Neither one had spoken for over an hour. There were no more words left which to speak. There was nothing left to debate. Talking wasn't going to give any answers, so they continued on in silence.
Seeing a familiar group of rocks, the riders turned off the main path into the trees. After weaving in and out of trees for a short time, they pulled up their mounts. They looked at the worn and battered line shack, not much but it would protect them from the rain that was coming their way. Dismounting, they went about settling the horses in under the nearby shelter of trees. Working in tandem, almost as one as they had done this routine so often, they didn't have to talk to know what the other was doing or what needed to be done. They closed the door just as the heavens opened up for the fourth night in a row.
The partner with the dark hat used his finger to push the brim of his hat back after he placed his saddle, saddlebags and bedroll on the floor. He scanned the small shack. Seeing what he was searching for brought a small dimpled smile to his face. "Well," he said, "there is plenty of dry wood." Stepping towards the pile he added, "We'll be dry and warm tonight."
"Yeah," the partner with the brown hat said less enthusiastically as he dumped his belonging on the floor.
Heyes clenched his jaw, not looking back at his partner; he began to build a fire. He didn't want to get into a fight. He didn't want to get into the same argument the two of them had been having for the past week. Well, really ever since they left Porterville. Ever since Lom came back and told them they would be granted amnesty if and only if they proved to the Governor they could stay out of trouble. Heyes took a breath in and blew it out. Standing up he turned to face Kid. With his best disarming voice and the Hannibal Heyes charm that had gotten them out of more trouble than either could count he stated, "We'll be nice and toasty in no time."
Kid rolled his eyes and went to check out the cupboards. "Empty," he groaned, slamming the door shut, he watched as the door broke, crashing to the floor.
"More firewood," his Heyes quipped, still trying not to be goaded into the ongoing argument.
Blue eyes glared at at his partner; the cold calculating stare that would have most men running the other way as fast as possible. Heyes' shoulders slumped. Pointing towards the door, "You want to spend another night in the rain? I thought it would be nice to have heat, hot coffee, warm food but hey if you want to keep riding, let me know. I'm your partner. You lead, I'll follow." What had started quietly ended with a flourish and wave of his hand as he could feel his blood beginning to boil. More accurately he felt his head banging into the brick wall; better known as Kid Curry!
"No I don't want to go back into the rain, again," Kid snapped. "I want to be in a hotel, havin’ a nice steak dinner and maybe play some poker tonight. Instead I'm in this line shack that could blow over any minute, eatin' beans, drinkin' your coffee, and sleepin' on the floor!"
"Kid," Heyes sighed. "We've been through this over and over again." He paused, waiting for his cousin to reply. When he didn't he continued, "It was your idea to go for amnesty, I don't know what you want me to say."
"Maybe you could explain to me why we had to leave Porterville. Why we're ridin' all over the place. Why we can't get near let alone stop at any of the towns we've past." Kid threw his hand up in the air. With the fire doing its job, he began to unbutton his sheepskin coat. "We had jobs in Porterville; a hotel room and the Sheriff knew who we were and didn't care. Why couldn't we stay?"
Heyes removed his hat, placing it on a chair and then removed his coat, staling for time so that he could once again answer his partner instead of yelling at him. "Lom didn't care who we are, that's true, but," he paused for emphasis. "If someone else recognized us, Lom would have no choice but to arrest us. The Governor said it was a secret. No one can know. Lom couldn't turn his back and even if he did, our amnesty would be out the window." He walked across the shack and threw another log on the fire even though it didn't need it. "He stuck his neck out for us. Did you really want to put him in that position?" he turned back towards his cousin. "If you remember, the jobs you keep bringing up were at the bank. Do you remember what the bank looked like when we left?"
Kid shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly, raising his eyebrows.
"Don't really think those jobs are available right now."
"So why can't we stop in a town? Why do we keep ridin' south?"
"Did you know all the towns we passed?"
"Yeah," Kid groused.
"Why, cause we robbed the banks in most of them?"
"Yeah," Kid chuckled lightly.
"Then there are probably a few people in town, maybe a sheriff or two who can recognize us? Not the best idea when we are trying not to be noticed."
"Yeah," Kid sighed sounding dejected.
"Look," Heyes said walking towards his friend. "I'm tired of riding. I'm tired of sleeping in the rain. I want a nice steak dinner and a nice bed in a hotel. We just have to ride far enough south so we won't be recognized so easy."
Kid nodded his head.
Heyes sighed in relief, finally a break through. "How about I make some coffee? We can make some bacon and biscuits for dinner."
"Sounds like a Plan."
The two once again settled down into being partners, working along side of each other making dinner. They didn't talk, but they didn't have to; the tension that filled the silence before, was gone or at least put aside for the time being. After biscuits, bacon and coffee they set up their bedrolls and lay down. With full stomachs, dry clothes and a warm cabin, they gave into their bodies scream for sleep. Kid fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the bedroll; while Heyes, though tired, couldn't stop his mind from working overtime. The amnesty was his partner’s idea at first but after they discussed it, it became their idea. Now Kid was questioning the rational behind the decision. Heyes reasoned to himself that Kid's feeling made sense; he was tired and grouchy. Since they left Porterville, the weather had been horrible. They rode almost continuously, when they did stop, they had the cold wet ground to try to sleep on. Both Lom and the Governor told them to stay out of trouble and they were too well known in these parts. Trouble would surely come to them if they tried to stop in any of the towns they past along their journey so far. At first his cousin agreed, but as the weather got worse, his mood got worse. It rained so hard for the past three nights; they couldn't even get a fire going. They found the best cover they could under trees but sleep was almost impossible. Heyes sighed; three days of only eating jerky would make anyone grumpy. Three days of only jerky made Kid almost unbearable. He hoped a good night sleep would help change his partner's attitude.
As brown eyes stared at the ceiling, he wondered if they could make it; would they be able to stay out of trouble for a year. He figured at this point they really didn't have a choice. Stopping the rest of the gang from robbing the Porterville Bank twice probably didn't go over well with the boys. He wasn't so sure how welcome they would be back in Devil's Hole right now. Wheat had taken over and although Wheat had been posturing for sometime, he was never really a threat when they were on the inside. Now that he and Kid were on the outside, Heyes wasn't sure that was still the case. Besides, he told himself, this is a chance they never figured they would have. Now that they do, they have to give it a go, it was a challenge but he always liked a good challenge!
Heyes' eyes were getting heavy; his eyelids were beginning to sag as thoughts swirled around in his head. First thing they had to do was to find a town that no one would recognize them in and get jobs. Right now, money was okay. They still had some from the robbery before their infamous last train robbery, but that would run out soon. He rolled his eyes, if anything told them they should get out of the business, that day certainly did. He could always play poker for money he thought, his eyelids shut as he dreamed of the perfect poker game.
The morning came and the sun shone through the cracks in the line shack. Kid rolled over and groaned. "Mornin'," Heyes said cheerfully. "Coffee?"
Kid put his hand up to block the sun shinning in his eyes; he opened an eye and glared at his partner. "You're in a good mood," he accused.
"Sun's up, not a cloud in the sky. What's not to be in a good mood about?" he replied as he held out a cup of coffee for his partner.
He ran a hand through his blond curls as he and sat up. Taking the cup he grumbled, "We're in a line shack."
"Kid," Heyes interrupted before his partner had a chance to say anything else. "We've been through all of this over and over. Do you really want to start on it again? I mean we can go ‘round and ‘round in circles over this or we can wake up today, look at the sunny sky and say we have a chance. We have a chance we never thought we had. I said it last night and I'll say it again, we're partners. You decide you don't want to try for amnesty; I'll be right by your side. I just want you to think about what you're giving up."
"Ridin’ all the time. No place to go back to. Sleepin’ on the floors," Kid began to rattle off a list of complaints.
"No one shooting at us, a chance to settle down, maybe a family down the road," the brown haired man countered as he turned around.
Kid looked at the back of Heyes, he was packing his saddlebags. He shifted on the floor as he took a sip of coffee. He studied his partners back. He knew Heyes wasn't going to turn around and look at him until he agreed. Whenever Heyes was done with an argument, he would turn his back to him and busy himself with something. Somehow what ever he was doin' never got done until Kid agreed. He also knew Heyes was right. "What are we gonna do for money?"
Heyes smiled to himself as he slowly continued to pack his saddlebags. Most days it would have been done ten times by now, but he knew Kid needed time to think; time to come around. "Well, I figured we got jobs in Porterville, we can get jobs anywhere."
"We're friends of the sheriff in Porterville and experts. We can't go around boastin' that we're experts in the bankin' business now can we."
"No," Heyes agreed. "But we are."
Kid could tell by the sound of Heyes' voice, the size of the smile on his face and the glint in his eyes. He sighed, "Heyes."
"What are you thinkin' now?" Kid asked almost reluctantly.
Heyes finally turned to look at him. "I figured we're far enough south to be able to ride into the next town without everyone knowing who we are. Get a hotel room, hot bath and a nice steak dinner."
Kid smiled, then frowned, "Money's gonna run out if we don't get jobs."
"True, but maybe they'll be a game or two of poker tonight."
Kid smiled again as he stood up. Grabbing his bedroll, "Well what are you waitin' for? I wanna be in a nice soft bed tonight!"
Heyes suppress a smile as the two rode further and further away from the line shack. Kid had been talking almost none stop since they left a couple of hours earlier. He was content to listen to his partner talk for a change. He was just happy Kid's mood had improved and they were no longer fighting. The fact that the sun was high in the sky and a gentle breeze was blowing certainly didn't hurt. Heyes began to think of the possibilities the two of them had in front of them.
"Heyes," Kid said. "Heyes," he yelled louder.
"Ah-what," Heyes replied sounding confused.
"You ain't been listenin'," Kid accused.
"Yeah, I have," Heyes stated defensively.
"Then what did I say?" Kid demanded.
"Ah, you were talkin' bout things," Heyes said sheepishly.
Heyes frowned, "Last I recall you were talking about what you were having for supper."
"That was ten minutes ago," Kid growled as he pointed his finger at Heyes. "You ain't been listenin'."
"Well, you're thinking got me thinking."
"I'm serious, Kid," he interrupted. "All this thinking by you, well it got me thinking too. Got me thinking about what we're gonna do when we get to town."
"If you'd been listenin' to me, you'd know exactly what we're gonna do."
Brown eyes turned to meet blue eyes, waiting for him to continue.
"First we're gonna ride in and check out the Sheriff. Make sure we don't know him."
"Then I'm gonna get me the biggest steak I can get," Kid said enthusiastically."
"Looking like we do?"
Kid looked at Heyes and then himself. "Okay, we check out the sheriff, check into the hotel, get baths and THEN go get the biggest steak we can find."
"That's about it for me," Kid happily stated. "Maybe we can find a poker game in the saloon. Oh, I want some whiskey. We ain't had none since we left Porterville." Kid thought for a moment as they continued to ride further away from the line shack and closer to town. "I guess tomorrow we should look for some jobs." Turning towards his partner, he asked, "What kinda jobs do you think we should look for this time?"
"Let's see what the town has to offer before we decide. I might be able to make enough playing poker."
"Now that sounds like my kinda work. Not hard on the back at all."
They rode for a few minutes lost in their own thoughts when Heyes said, "There's one thing we have to do before we get to town."
Kid pulled his horse to a stop. "What?" he asked concerned.
"We have to get ourselves some names," he replied, continuing forward.
Confused, Kid nudged his horse to catch up. "We have names. You're Smith, I'm Jones."
"Not those names."
"Lom gave us the names and told us to use them. We can't use Heyes and Curry and there are a lot of Smith and Jones out there."
"Yeah, but how am I supposed to introduce you to anyone?"
"You say this is my partner Mr. Jones."
"Okay, say we're in the saloon and I'm playing poker. A pretty saloon girl walks up to you and starts to talk to you. How are you going to introduce yourself? Hi, I'm Mr. Jones? Don't think calling yourself Kid is a good idea. Jeddidiah and Hannibal are out of the question. So Mr. Jones, I ask you again, how do I introduce you?"
"Never thought about it. I've been Kid longer than I was ever Jed."
"Yeah, well I've been Heyes for forever but we have to come up with names that sound as normal as Smith and Jones."
Kid thought for a minute, "How about Harry?"
Heyes creased his brow as he studied Kid's face. "No. You don't have beady eyes and a pointy nose," he asserted. "No one would believe you were a Harry."
Kid shrugged. "How about Tom or Thomas."
Heyes nodded his head. "Thomas Jones. You could pass as Thomas Jones. Normal everyday guy."
"What about you Heyes? What do you want to be called?"
Heyes contemplated a minute, opened his mouth and then shaking his head closed it. Finally he said, "John, John Smith."
"Thomas Jones and John Smith," Kid agreed.
Continuing to ride towards town, they were once again both lost in their own thoughts. Seeing a fork in the rode up ahead, Kid asked, "Tom, which way?"
Heyes continued forward without answering.
"Tom," Kid said louder, "Which way?"
Confused, Heyes looked at his partner.
"Tom," Kid yelled. "I thought we should get used to callin' each other by our names."
Heyes gave a short nervous chuckle, "You're Tom, I'm John."
Kid closed his eyes. "How am I gonna remember you're John? You don't look like John to me. You look like Heyes."
"We've used aliases before; there's never been a problem."
"Yeah, well that was just last names and once maybe twice. I'm gonna have to remember to call you John all the time," Kid said sounding worried.
Heyes pulled his horse to a stop. "Maybe we just need names easier to remember."
"John is hard?"
"Cause you don't got nothing to remind you its John."
Kid nodded in agreement.
"We need to come up with names that we got something to remember them by."
"How we gonna do that?"
"It can't be anything hard and it can't be anything too close," Heyes stopped and smiled. "How about Joshua and Thaddeus?"
"You did it again, Heyes," Kid smiled. "All I got to do is think of the stories Grandpa Joshua and Grandpa Thaddeus used to tell us while we sat on the porch."
Heyes produced his hand to shake.
Kid looked at it curiously, then shook it.
"Please to meet you Thaddeus Jones," Heyes stated.
"It's good to know ya, Joshua Smith. Now which way do you want to go Joshua?"
"Sign says 15 miles west to Gila City and 10 miles south to Johnson City. I vote for Johnson City."
"Sounds like a plan Joshua."
The two rode to town, talking back and forth using their new names the entire way. As the sun began to set, they could just make out the outline of Johnson City.
"Joshua," Kid said wistfully, "I can just smell the steak dinner." He took a deep breath in, "To cut into a big juice steak." He kicked his horse and urged him on faster.
"Thaddeus," Heyes yelled from behind. "Slow down."
Kid continued to race forward.
Kid pulled on the reins to slow down his horse. He turned his head towards his partner and looked at him in disgust. "I just want to get to town. I want to eat a steak, I want to sleep in a bed," he growled.
Heyes put his hand up to stop the onslaught of words. "I know, but remember, no trouble."
Kid glowered at him.
"All I'm saying, is we got to remember we have to stay out of trouble. The first thing we have to do is check who the sheriff is. Then we can go to the hotel, get cleaned up and then we can get that steak you want so bad."
Kid softened his glower and almost mimicked Heyes.
"All I'm sayin'...I know all you're sayin' Heyes. It's all you've been sayin'…Stay out of trouble."
"It's not me that's saying it Kid, its Lom and the Governor. If you don't want the amnesty...."
"What I want is a nice hot juicy steak," Kid spat.
"You don't have to get all proddy," Heyes said meekly.
"Heyes," Kid whined. "I want the amnesty. I just want a good meal tonight. Can we get to town so I can get it."
"Sure Kid," Heyes stated lightly. "You just had to say so."
Kid bit his tongue and they rode to town.
Heyes nudged his horse to quicken the pace, he was just as eager for a nice dinner and a warm dry bed to sleep in, maybe even a game or two of poker tonight. He smiled to himself as they reached the first buildings in town.
Johnson City was a fairly typical town in the west. They passed a small church and graveyard at the entrance of the town. The general store, a dress shop and the bank lined one side of the street while the hotel and saloon were on the opposite side. The sheriff's office and jail sat separated from the other buildings on the boardwalk next to the bank. The livery and blacksmith were at the end of the town.
As they rode by the sheriff's office, Kid asked, "Joshua, ever hear of a Sheriff Ethan Adamson?"
"Sheriff Ethan Adamson," Heyes repeated. Smiling he replied, "No, I don't believe I have. Have you Thaddeus?"
"Can't say I have." Kid smiled back.
"Well then, let's get these horses to the livery and us cleaned up so we can have that steak dinner you have been wanting."
"Sound like the best plan you've had in a while Joshua."
Heyes and Kid settled their horses, checked into the hotel, took the quickest baths they ever had and went to get dinner where they lingered enjoying every bite of the biggest steaks they could order. Then it was off to the saloon for poker and whiskey. The night was good and got even better when they laid their heads down on the nice soft pillows on their extremely comfortable beds.
Kid sighed with contentment, "Heyes."
"Maybe goin' for amnesty's not such a bad idea after all."
"You know Kid, I think you're right." Heyes smiled and closed his eyes.
Just as his partner was about to drift off, Kid called out, "Heyes."
"Yeah Kid," he mumbled, half a sleep.
"Guess we have to start lookin’ for jobs tomorrow."
"What kind of job, should we look for?"
"You're in a talkative mood tonight," Heyes grumbled.
"Just thinkin'," Kid stated as he folded his hands behind his head.
"I thought we had an agreement about that."
"Fine," Kid huffed.
Trying to smooth Kid's ruffled feathers Heyes finally answered, "Something not too hard on the back."
"You asked me what kind of job we should look for and I said something not too hard on the back," Heyes stated innocently.
Kid bent his elbow and propped his head up on his hand.
"If I had it my way, I'd just keep playin' poker."
"You think you can keep winnin'," Kid asked.
Heyes glared at Kid incredulously.
"What I meant is, can you keep winnin’ enough money so we can keep livin' like this?"
Heyes thought about it for a minute. "I don't know the town well enough yet. I won tonight, and not too much so that I'll still get a seat at a table tomorrow. I'm not sure if there are enough new bodies willing to keep playing if I keep winning." Heyes shrugged, "We'll have to wait to see what tomorrow brings. In the meantime, we still have enough money not to have to jump at the first job, if it's too hard on the back."
"Alright Heyes, whatever you say," Kid said sleepily, rolling on his back.
Just as his partner's breaths got heavier and he was drifting off to sleep Heyes whispered loudly, "Kid." When there was no answer he called louder, "Kid."
"Huh, what?" he blurted out startled as he bolted straight up in bed, gun in his hand.
Heyes chuckled. "Kid, you can relax."
"Oh," he said, somewhat confused looking at the gun in his hand. Holstering his gun, he lay back down.
"Kid," Heyes called again.
"What?" Kid grumbled.
"Just remember, tomorrow, when we're not in the room, call me Joshua."
Blue eyes glared at Heyes.
"Night, Kid." Heyes said cheerfully and rolled over on his side away.
Kid glowered at his partner. Angrily he hit his pillow attempting to fluff it, snorted, then plopping his head down he turned his back to Heyes.
The next couple of days were quiet and peaceful. Heyes and Kid casually asked around town for any jobs but weren't successful. If they stayed around long enough, they could help out at the feed store when Mr. Booker had to go back east for a short visit and there was a cattle drive forming to the north in Clearwater in a couple of weeks or so. With a little money still in their pockets, nice beds to sleep on and good food, Heyes and Kid spent most of their days lazily relaxing on the hotel porch; sitting back, smoking cigars and watching the people of Johnson City. All in all, Johnson City was a nice pleasant place. Everyone was very nice and better yet, kept to themselves. At night, the partners would wander over to the saloon to play poker. They were very careful not to win too much money, as they were not ready to move on yet. Heyes figured as long as the locals didn't loose too much money at any one time, they wouldn't object to them playing.
Eating breakfast in the café on the fourth day, Mr. Stanton, the town lawyer approached them. "Good morning gentlemen. May I have a word with you?"
Gesturing with his hand towards the open seat across from them Heyes replied, "What can we do for you?"
"I understand the two of you are looking for jobs?"
"That's right. Do you have somethin' for us?" Kid asked.
"I have some important papers that need to be taken out to the Circle R ranch. I need them signed and returned to me as soon as possible. I'm waiting for a telegram so I can't go," the lawyer answered.
"Where's the circle R?" Heyes inquired.
"It's about two hours south of town. Big ranch," Stanton stated.
"Who owns it?" Kid asked.
"Can't say I've heard of him," Heyes smiled.
"Didn’t think you would have," Stanton explained. "He just moved from the east. That's what the papers are for; he's transferring everything out here now. He wants to be a real western cowboy."
"Yeah, not sure how long he will make it, but I'm getting paid to get everything set up, so that's what I'll do. So, do we have a deal?"
"How much?" Kid asked.
"Fair wages and I'll give you a bonus if you can get back before the stage leaves at four," Stanton said.
Heyes looked at Kid and nodded. "We'll take the job."
"Good. I'll head back to my office to get the papers together. Meet me there in fifteen minutes." Stanton stood up, shook their hands and left.
"Well we got ourselves a job, we better get moving," Heyes stated. "We got time to stop back at the hotel."
The partners walked across the street towards the hotel. As they were walking up the steps, six riders rode in from the east.
Approaching the hotel, one of the riders out front did a double take. "What's the matter Toby?" his brother asked.
Toby turned to look at the rider along side of him and then looked back at the hotel porch. The door was shut and the two men he just saw had disappeared.
"Toby," Sticks called louder.
"Huh?" Toby responded sounding confused.
"What's the matter?" Sticks barked.
"Nothin'," Toby replied to his brother.
"What were you lookin' at?" Sticks demanded.
Toby shook his head, "I swear I jist saw Hannibal Heyes an' Kid Curry."
"On the hotel porch."
Sticks looked around his brother and back in the direction of the porch. "There's no one there."
"I know," Toby said scratching his head.
"Then where are they?"
Sticks turned to the four riders following, "Anyone see anyone on the hotel porch?"
"Nope," the riders replied in unison.
Sticks turned back to his brother, "Think you was imaginin' things."
"I'm tellin' ya, I saw Hannibal Heyes an' Kid Curry."
"Well they ain't there now and anyway, what would Heyes and Curry be doin' all this way south? They's workin' out of Devil's Hole?"
"I don't know what they're doin' here, but I'm tellin' ya they're here," Toby insisted.
"Well fine then. We could use a couple more men on the bank job anyway."
"Really?" Toby's eyes lit up with excitement of the idea. "Us working with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Ya think they'd work with us?"
Annoyed at his brother's exuberance at the thought, Sticks grumbled, "Well if you see ‘em again, you can ask. And why wouldn't they work with us? We're robbin' the bank, that's what they do."
Sticks, Toby and the gang checked into the hotel and then checked out the bank. They busied themselves around town all day, trying not to be noticed. Trying to be as casual as possible, Toby and Sticks wandered into the bank while the rest of the gang went to the General Store looking for supplies they needed. All day, Toby kept an eye out for Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. They were nowhere to be seen and he began to believe he must have imagined them. He had wished he had kept his mouth shut since every time they crossed paths with someone different in town, Sticks would blurt out, "Oh look Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry," to the hootin' and hollerin' of the rest of the gang.
At three thirty the stage pulled into Johnson City with a load of new passengers to drop off. Mr. Stanton looked out the open door of his office, his packed bags at his feet. There was no sign of Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones. He paced, he stopped, looked out the window, paced some more, looked out the door. He saw new horses being harnessed to the stage. Pulling his pocket watch out, he anxiously looked at the time - three fifty. Sighing, he resigned himself to loosing the bonus he was promised for making the four o'clock stage. Placing his watch back in his pocket, he bent down to pick up his bags; he would have to wait two days for the next stage. Standing up, he caught of glimpse of a dust cloud moving left to right behind the livery. Straining his eyes, he noticed two riders rounding the livery and quickly racing his way. A smile spread across his face as he grabbed his things, closed the door of his office and headed towards the stagecoach. He reached the stage just as the two riders pulled up.
"Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones," he shouted above the noise.
Dismounting with a flourish, Heyes greeted the man with his hand, "Mr. Stanton."
Kid dismounted, walking up along side of his partner.
"I was getting worried you wouldn't make it," Stanton stated as he turned and handed his bags up to the stagecoach driver.
"You should have had faith Mr. Stanton. We told you we would make it back by the four o'clock stage," Heyes informed the man. Taking out his watch he added, "By my accounts, we're six minutes early." He reached into his shirt and pulled out an envelope of papers. Holding them out for the lawyer he said, "I believe we made it in time for the bonus."
"That you did," Stanton chuckled. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out an envelope and exchanged it with Heyes. "It's all there plus the bonus."
Heyes opened the envelope and counted the money.
"It's been a pleasure doing business with you Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones. If you're still around when I get back I'm sure we can work together again. If you ever need anything, let me know."
The partners laughed nervously at the thought of having to do business with a lawyer again.
"If you're ridin'," the stagecoach driver yelled. "We're leavin'."
"Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones," Stanton tipped his hat and stepped into the stage just as the driver urged the horses forward.
Heyes opened the envelope, pulled out a couple of bills and handed them to Kid. Closing the envelope, he placed it in his shirt pocket. "Think it's time for a drink." He started off towards the saloon.
"Sounds good to me," Kid started following, then stopped. "I'm gonna head over to the General Store to get some gun oil. I'll meet you in the saloon."
Turning towards his partner, Heyes groaned, "Don't you have some?"
"I'm almost out."
Brown eyes rolled.
"I don't go botherin' you ‘bout stuff you need. I don't ask you why you need another book."
"You don't need to be getting all proddy. I just asked if you had some already."
Kid relaxed a bit.
"I'll take the horses to the livery while you go to the General Store. I'll meet you at the saloon."
"Sounds like a plan," Kid smiled, patting Heyes back as he walked past him.
Heyes grabbed the reins of the horses and headed towards the livery while Kid walked in the opposite direction.
Walking into the General Store, Kid was almost run over by the first four unpleasant people he had met in Johnson City. The snarls and the sneers on the men's face made him take note. Stepping aside to let them by, he noticed the tied down guns on the scruffy men. Shaking his head he hoped they weren't there for trouble. He watched them for a moment as they walked down the boardwalk. Seeing no indication of trouble, he went into the store.
Momentarily blinded by the setting sun, Kid stopped as he left the General Store. As his eyes adjusted, he noticed the group of men being joined by two others. Squinting as he shielded the sun's rays with his hand he stared at the group. Sucking his breath in, he quickly stepped back into the shade and cover of the door. Peering at the gang from behind the door, his head dropped - his first instincts were right, they were trouble! The two men joining the four he had seen earlier were Sticks and Toby Burrows.
The Burrows brother's gang usually worked south of Devil's Hole, but had wandered up into their neck of the woods a few times, waiting for the heat to settle down. They stuck mostly with holding up stagecoaches but recently they had heard rumors that the gang were getting into bigger things. Kid watched as the group walked to the side alley of the bank. Groaning to himself he shook his head, Heyes was not going to like this at all. They were supposed to stay out of trouble and the Burrows brothers were nothing but trouble.
Grumbling and mumbling to himself, with purpose in his stride, he headed to the saloon to tell Heyes. Neither brother had ridden with the Devil's Hole Gang, but they had crossed paths enough times for both to recognize both he and Heyes on sight.
"There he is," exclaimed Toby, pointing towards Kid as the gang stood at the entrance way to the alley.
"You sure," Sticks replied skeptically as he could only see the man's back.
"I'm sure," his brother reiterated.
"Follow him," Sticks ordered. "I'll be there in a minute."
Toby nodded and quickly set off across the street to catch up with the man that just entered the saloon.
Stepping inside the saloon, Kid once again stopped to let his eyes adjust from the bright sunlight of the day to the dark and dank saloon. The smell of whiskey and cigars hung in the air. Scanning the interior, he checked out the few patrons that occupied the saloon at this hour. The bartender was busy moving glasses behind the bar. A lone man sat at the poker table playing solitaire. There were three men standing at the bar drinking beer and one man at the end of the bar having a hard time warding off the attentions of one of the working girls. Kid spotted Heyes sitting at a table in the back corner. Taking a step towards him, he felt a slap on the back and froze.
"Hey Kid, I thought that was you and Heyes I saw earlier," Toby said as he greeted the ex-outlaw with an enthusiastic slap.
"Sshh," Kid glared, looking to see if anyone overheard the use of their names.
"Oh oh," Toby stammered. "I'm sorry," he continued as he put his hands up in front of him apologetically.
"It's okay," Kid said quietly, trying to calm the man down. Turning he placed his arm over Toby's shoulder in a friendly manner. "Let's have a seat and I'll buy you a beer." Talking quietly, he ushered the man to where Heyes was sitting and out of earshot of the few patrons in the establishment.
"Hhhh," Toby caught himself. Swallowing hard, he looked into the penetrating brown eyes looking back at him.
Standing up, Heyes presented his hand to shake, "Joshua Smith."
Toby nervously looked down at the outstretched hand and then back up to the eyes that could bore a hole straight through him. "Toby Burrows," he gulped.
Never taking his eyes off of Toby's, Heyes indicated for him to have a seat. Toby slid into the chair across from Heyes. Kid walked around the table and sat next to his partner. Before anyone had a chance to say anything, Sticks walked into the saloon. He stopped and called out, "Toby."
Heyes rolled his eyes as he shook his head. Taking in a breath, he flexed his hand before settling it on his chin.
"Over he....re," Toby called out loudly only to have his voice fade away with Heyes' expression. Seeing his brother, Sticks headed to the back corner of the saloon.
"Well I'll be," Sticks called out loudly as he approached the three sitting men. "Dang if you weren't right."
Heyes clenched his jaw as he stood up. "Joshua Smith," he stated forcefully as he presented his hand. Slightly tilting his head toward Kid as he stared into Sticks' eyes, "This is my partner Thaddeus Jones."
Sticks looked between the two men. Neither showing any indication they knew him, or pleased to see him.
Kid pushed the chair next to Toby out with his foot as his ice blue eyes told the man to sit.
Sticks looked down at Toby, and then back at the two men before sitting down quietly.
Never taking his eyes off of Sticks, Heyes sat back down.
Confusion was apparent on Sticks face as he asked, "Smith and Jones?"
Kid gave a nod.
Heyes' eyes became darker as he focused on Sticks'. He barely moved his head side to side indicating no, but he got the full implication of the meaning.
Sticks swallowed hard.
Kid waved his hand at the bartender indicating three more beers. The four sat in silence waiting for the beer to arrive. Kid staring the two into submission, Heyes figuring out what to tell them since the deal with the governor was a secret. Toby and Sticks sat nervously waiting to know why their friends had turned on them.
The bartender handed the men their beer and headed back to the bar. Heyes leaned in quietly and asked, "What are you doing in town?"
"Shouldn't we be askin' you that?" Sticks replied. "This ain't Devil's Hole."
"Will ya keep it down," Heyes growled between gritted teeth. "I'm Smith, he's Jones and we don't know anything about Devil's Hole."
Sticks looked nervously around the saloon; looking for a sheriff, bounty hunter, someone that would get Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry to act this way. Seeing only the few patrons in the saloon and no one paying attention to them he turned his focus back on Heyes. "Riiiigggghhhht," he dragged out as he slowly nodded his head. He looked at Heyes and then at Kid, "Heat's on?"
Heyes figured it was as good an explanation as he could come up with, nodded his head once.
"Okay, Mr. Smith," Sticks announced loudly enough for the rest of the saloon to hear.
Heyes closed his eyes and scrunched his face; Kid rolled his eyes and leaned forward. "How ‘bout keepin' it down. We're just tryin' to blend in here," Kid stated firmly.
"Oh," Sticks and Toby said as they nodded their heads in unison.
Heyes looked at Kid; this wasn't going to be easy. Heyes leaned in, "We got chased by a posse for weeks. We kept loosing ‘em and then they would catch up with us."
"Apache?" Toby interrupted.
"Yeah," Kid replied quietly.
Sticks and Toby nodded their head in understanding.
"Anyway, Kk," Heyes caught himself and stopped. "Thaddeus and me decided we would come down here for a while. Relax, sit back and put the feet up." Heyes paused and looked at the two men. "So what's your story?"
Sticks looked around the saloon again. Leaning into the table he whispered, "We're gonna rob the bank."
Heyes pushed back from the table. He ran his hand across his face, he didn't hear that correctly. He looked at Kid's expression, he did. The Burrows brothers planned on robbing the bank in the town they were in. Thoughts flooded Heyes' brain. They travel all this way just to be in the same town as a bank robbery? How were he and Kid gonna explain this to Lom and the Governor? If they got up and left now, did anyone recognize them? Would they be blamed anyway? Heyes calmly leaned back in, "Come again?"
"We're," keeping his finger right in front of him, Sticks pointed back and forth between himself and Toby. Then very slowly continued, "Gonna rob the bank."
Toby shook his head enthusiastically, blurting out, "Wanna help?"
Heyes and Kid's eye bulged at the comment. "Didn't you just hear me say, we came to relax, let things cool down a bit?"
"There ain't nobody lookin' for ya down here," Sticks stated as he looked around the near empty saloon.
"And we'd like to keep it that way for a few days," Kid replied.
"Oh we ain't gonna rob it today," Toby informed them. Looking at both Kid and Heyes Toby's heart sank, "You won't even consider it?"
Sticks sneered at Toby. "We can do it without them."
"I know but I just thought how great it would be ridin' with Hhhh," Toby stopped when Heyes turned his gaze on him. "I just thought it would be great ridin' with the two of you," Toby stuttered.
"Appreciate the sentiment," Heyes stated as he softened his glare. "Think we'll sit this one out."
Feeling a little hurt being so abruptly turned down, Sticks stood up. "Well, we'll be seeing you. Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones." Sticks turned and started to stalk out the saloon. When he realized Toby wasn't following, he called over his shoulder for him. "Toby!" Toby jumped to his feet and quickly was at Sticks side as they left the saloon.
"Oh Heyes," Kid moaned.
"I know Kid, I know."
The ex-outlaw partners sat in silence as they nursed their beer. After finishing the first beer, they nursed the second. Kid looked at Heyes occasionally but didn't speak. He could see his partner deep in thought, desperately trying to figure out their next move. The saloon slowly began to fill as the sun set.
With one last swallow of his beer Heyes shook his head. "I just can't work it out Kid."
Curry looked at him but didn't speak. He knew Heyes wasn't done talking, in fact he knew he had just begun; just begun to verbalize the thoughts that he had been trying to reconcile. He waited quietly.
Brown eyes stared at the mug in front of him. "I just can't work it out," Heyes repeated himself. "Everything I come up with," he let the sentence hang in the air, exasperated as he was. "If we stay; we'll get blamed. If we leave; we'll get blamed." He ran his hand threw his hair and finally looked at Kid. "I even tried to figure out how to talk them out of robbing the bank, but why? Why should they listen to me? What do I have to offer?"
"Your expertise," Kid replied.
His partner listened intently.
"Toby was sure excited to work with you."
"Sticks wasn't," Heyes reminded Kid.
"Yeah, but maybe the rest of the gang is."
Heyes snickered, "I don't see how this is helping us. The idea is NOT to work with them."
"If you tell them it's dangerous, maybe they would listen."
Heyes chuckled. "Yeah, that's gonna work." His sarcasm apparent as he continued, "Boys, I don't think you should rob the bank, it's dangerous."
Kid scowled at his partner. "Not if you do it that way. Use your silvery tongue. Tell them you heard the Sheriff was all set up for a robbery. Something, I don't know, you're the one that thinks things up."
Heyes gave a small nod to Kid. "Yeah, that's what I'm worried about." He tapped the mug in front of him sighing as he looked around the saloon. Where did all these people come from he wondered. Hearing Kid's stomach rubble, he chuckled to himself. "It's getting late, let's get something to eat. Maybe I can come up with something then."
"I always think better with a full stomach," the blond man stated as he stood up.
Heyes chuckled again; he patted Kid's back as he followed in step.
They ate dinner in relative quiet. Well Kid ate as Heyes pushed his food around the plate taking a bite here and there but mostly just moving it around. Coffee was poured and Heyes instinctively raised it to his lips. Taking a sip he gasped as the heat hit his mouth.
Kid smiled, "Welcome back."
Confused, brown eyes stared at blue.
"Even you have to admit, you were a million miles away since we sat down."
His partner smiled and nodded. "That obvious?"
Kid returned the smile.
"Thaddeus," he stated placing his coffee cup on the table. "I think we've outstayed our welcome here. There are no jobs in the future so I think it's time to move on. I know you aren't too fond of cattle drives but the one forming up in Clearwater might be our best bet."
"When do you want to leave?"
"At first light."
Heyes looked at his partner. Seeing the displeasure on his face he leaned in. "Look Kid, I know it's not what we want to do but I think it's our best shot."
"We get out of town before anything happens. If people think back on it, they won't think of us. We're leaving for a cattle drive. Since when would Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry join a cattle drive and announce that's where they're going."
"Heyes what if someone does put us together. We'll be sittin' ducks on the cattle drive."
"We have to hope no one does," Heyes emphatically stated. "It certainly doesn't look like anyone knows now, so we just have to believe no one will when we leave." He paused for a second and then continued. "Sticks, Toby and the gang will still be here when we leave. None of them looks like our descriptions on the wanted posters."
Kid looked at his partner for a long minute. "Alright, but if they try to have me ride drag, I'm outta there."
Heyes smiled, "I'll be right behind you."
Leaving the café and entering the quiet street Kid stopped. "Heyes, no one said goin' straight was gonna be so hard on the back."
"We knew it wasn't gonna be easy."
"Yea, but I didn't realize I was gonna have to give up sleepin’ in beds and eatin' good food."
"It's character building."
Kid glared at his parnter.
Heyes' smile slipped some before returning bigger. "No one says we have to give up all the comforts tonight. Can I interest you in going to the saloon Mr. Jones?"
Kid smiled broadly, "Sounds like a plan Mr. Smith."
The partners stepped off the boardwalk just as their names were called out. "Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones."
Stopping they looked at each other before turning around. Seeing the tin star pinned to the man's vest Heyes pasted a smile on his face. "Good evening Sheriff. What can we do for you?"
"You Smith and Jones?" Sheriff Adamson inquired.
"Yes sir," the silver tongued partner replied in his best disarming voice. "I'm Joshua Smith. This is my partner Thaddeus Jones. Is there something we can help you with?"
"I'd like a few minutes of your time if you wouldn't mind."
"Don't mind at all," Heyes stated; smile still plastered on his face, hands resting on his belt buckle.
"Good," the Sheriff replied. "Why don't you just come to my office."
"We can't talk here?" Heyes meekly asked, the smile vanishing from his face.
"No. My office would be better."
"Oh," he gulped as he glanced at Kid. "After you Sheriff."
"I think after you, Mr. Smith," the lawman stated firmly.
Heyes nodded as he and Kid turned towards the jail and started walking.
Walking into the office, they startled the deputy sheriff who was sitting with his feet up on the desk nodding off. The young man jumped to his feet, fumbling as he tried to draw his gun. "Settle down Jimmy," the Sheriff bellowed. Seeing the Sheriff and the two men with him, Jimmy nodded. "I need a few minutes with Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. Why don't you get some fresh air and stretch you legs."
The young man stared at the Sheriff for a moment. "Oh, all right, Sheriff," he stammered as he tripped over his feet trying to leave the office. Stopping at the door he turned around, "Is it okay if I stop in on Melissa? She was making a pie when I came in today."
"Sure thing Jimmy. Just be back before its time for rounds." Jimmy nodded, bumping into the door before he left.
Sheriff Adamson shook his head and laughed. "He's a good boy. Just got two left feet." He chuckled some more before turning his attention back on Heyes and Kid. Pointing to the chairs by his desk, "Have a seat." The lawman made his way to the chair his deputy had just vacated.
Sitting down, Kid scanned the jail. Noting the wanted posters on the wall, he glanced at Heyes who had also seen their posters predominately posted in the middle of the wall right next to the Sheriff's desk. Confidently, Heyes sat up straight and looked the lawman in the eyes. "So Sheriff, what can my partner and me do for you?"
"Got some questions to ask you."
"About what?" Kid inquired.
Adamson looked at Kid. He was not the nice pleasant one of the two. The Sheriff studied the steel look in his eyes.
"What my partner means, Sheriff," Heyes smiled broadly as he talked in a soothing voice trying to remove the scrutinizing eyes from his partner, "Is what possible questions could you have of us? We've only been in town a few days and don't know anybody."
Taking his eyes off of Kid, the Sheriff turned towards Heyes. "You were seen in the saloon talking to two men earlier today."
"Yes sir," he replied wondering where the question was leading.
"Who were they?"
Heyes opened his mouth to speak then closed it, he was going to have to make this look and sound convincing. Confusion spread across his face. "I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"No. I don't think they ever told us." Heyes looked at Kid for confirmation, knowing his partner would follow his lead. "Thaddeus, did they tell us?"
"No, can't say they did."
"They didn't tell you their names but you were seen talking to them," the Sheriff said suspiciously.
"Yes sir. They heard we were looking for jobs," Heyes explained.
"Jobs, they were offering you jobs?"
"Hmm, that's the strange thing," Heyes stated. "Now that I think about it they didn't offer us any jobs."
The Sheriff creased his brow, totally confused.
"I mean when they sat down, first the one and then the other, they mentioned maybe having a job for us. We talked for a few minutes and then the one guy got up." Heyes sat pretending to contemplate the situation. "I guess they must not have liked us. When the first one got up, he seemed angry and yelled for the other one to follow. That's the last we've seen of them."
The Sheriff looked at Kid, "Is that how you remember it?"
"No sir." Heyes once again answered. "We're leaving in the morning for Clearwater. We hear there's a cattle drive forming in a few weeks."
Adamson nodded. Looking at Kid he asked, "Do you ever talk more than a word or two?"
Kid glanced at Heyes then back at the Sheriff, "Don't usually have the opportunity to."
The Sheriff looked at Kid and then at Heyes. "No, I guess you don't. So you haven't seen either men since then?"
"No sir," Heyes jumped in.
Kid smiled, the Sheriff gave a knowing nod.
"Well that's all boys, you can go."
Standing up, Heyes couldn't resist asking, "They do anything bad Sheriff?"
"Not yet, they just look the type."
Heyes nodded in agreement.
"I didn't think the two of you were involved with them, but I had to check you out. I hope you understand."
"Not a problem Sheriff," Heyes smiled. Tipping their hats they left closing the door behind them.
"You still think we should stay until mornin’?" Kid asked quietly.
"More than ever," Heyes stated. "I just told the Sheriff that’s when we were leaving."
"Think we should head back to the hotel?"
"No I think the saloon is the perfect place tonight. The more people that see us, the better and a whiskey sounds really good right now."
The saloon had filled up rather nicely since the two had left. The bar was lined completely with men leaning against it drinking beer or whiskey. There were three tables of poker going, and the lone saloon girl from earlier had been joined by four new girls. Heyes stopped as he walked through the batwing doors and smiled. "Think this is going to be a good night, Kid."
Eyeing a particularly pretty blonde saloon girl Kid smiled and agreed. "Yeah, Heyes I think you're right."
Seeing an opening at the end of the bar as one of the saloon girls took the attention of one of the men propped up against it, the partners grabbed the spot. Kid motioned to the bartender for two whiskeys. The bartender placed two glasses down and poured. They both downed the drinks in one swallow and nodded for another.
"That's all for now, Jack" Heyes told the bartender as he placed the money on the bar. Jack nodded and headed back down to the other end.
The ex-outlaws turned and leaned against the bar, whiskey glasses in hand as they watched the patrons of the establishment. "Do you really think we can do it?" Kid asked.
"Amnesty," he whispered. "Do you think we can do it?"
Heyes shrugged, his on focused on the poker game to the left. "I think we aught to give it a try. Why?"
Blue eyes followed his parnter's gaze to a large sum of money sitting in the middle of the poker table. "Did you see the bank?"
"You thinking of joining Sticks and Toby?"
Kid thought for a moment. "It's gotta be easy money. Just lookin’ at the outside, you can tell it's an easy hit."
Heyes chuckled lightly, "No, now that pot over there, that's easy money. The guy took two cards and was looking for an inside straight." Turning to look Kid in the eyes he stated, "No bank is that easy. We make it look easy cause of all the planning and precautions we take."
"You know I'm right."
"I know you're right but do you think we can make it as model citizens?"
"I think we can do anything we set our minds to." He turned his attention back to the poker table. "Right now I have my mind set on getting into that poker game." Seeing another large pot won with just a pair he stated, "Nothing can be that easy." As they looked on, one of the men pushed himself away from the table. "See, Thaddeus," he said as he walked to the table. "We just gotta set our minds on it and anything is possible." He smiled as he reached the table and sat down.
Kid grinned at his partner's pleasure and then at the pretty blonde who had just slinked next to him.
"I thought he would never leave," she whispered as she wrapped her arm around his. "How about buyin' a girl a drink?"
Kid smiled and motioned to Jack.
"Where have you been all my life?" she cooed as she leaned into him.
"Here and there," he responded. "But I'm here now." Staring into her blue eyes, he ran his thumb down the side of her face.
"Mmm," she practically moaned. "I think you have the bluest eyes I have ever seen." She leaned into him harder. "What's your name sugar?"
"Well Thaddeus, I'm sure glad you're here tonight."
"That makes two of us."
Heyes reached into the middle of the table and pulled the large pot towards him. He glanced up at Kid and smiled; guess we're both going to have good nights he thought to himself.
This was the place to be as the rest of the town shut down; the saloon was filled with patrons and noise. The drinks were flowing, the girls were flattering and cards were being played. Heyes and Kid were in their element and enjoying every minute of it.
As the night wore on, most of the people had found their way to the door and hopefully home. The saloon girls had called it a night and the last poker game ended about a half hour ago. Once again, there were only a handful of people in the saloon. Heyes and Kid sat at the back table sipping one last whiskey while the bartender cleaned up. It was a good night.
"Sure is a shame we have to leave tomorrow," Kid sighed.
"Had a good time tonight?" Heyes smiled.
Kid grinned ear to ear and took a sip of his whiskey.
"Yeah, we could make a good living here if they play cards like this every night."
"Big enough that we can forget about the cattle drive," Heyes replied with a sparkle in his eyes.
"Kid it was like taking candy from a baby. They bet like they had great hands and had nothing. I had to try hard not to win every hand," Heyes chuckled.
"What about the Sheriff?"
The sparkle left Heyes' eyes. "What about him?"
"You told him we were headed for the drive."
"Oh," Heyes relaxed and smiled as he raised his eyebrow. "That was before tonight." He took a sip of whiskey. "We'll still leave town heading in that direction, but I don't think once we leave he'll think about where we're going."
"Not even after the bank is robbed?"
"Ya had to bring that up."
"Nah, even after the banks robbed. We told the Sheriff we didn't know who they were and we told him we were leaving town. That should be enough," he explained trying to convince himself as much as he was trying to convince Kid.
Jimmy sat in the Sheriff's office drinking coffee. He had been stuck on the overnight shift ever since the other deputy sheriff went to visit his folks back east. He was getting tired of staying up all night alone; Johnson City just wasn't exciting and after dark it was downright boring. He couldn't remember the last time they actually had someone in the jail that wasn't there sleeping off a night at the saloon.
He took out his gun and twirled it a time or two then checked to make sure it was loaded. Chucking to himself, he wondered why. Getting up to stretch his legs, he looked out the window and then at his watch. He would do rounds in about fifteen minutes; he could stop by the saloon to see if anyone needed a bed to sleep it off. With any luck, he'd have company for a little while, well until the guy passed out. Jimmy sat back down at the Sheriff's desk, propped up his feet and took a sip of coffee.
"Do you think we should've told the Sheriff what they were plannin'?" Kid asked.
Heyes thought for a moment. "No. He would just wonder why they would be asking us."
"Cause we're lookin' for jobs."
"There's lots of folks looking for jobs. Only two people who got asked to rob a bank."
Kid nodded and took the last sip of his whiskey. He looked over at his partner; he was staring at the half filled shot glass. "What's wrong?"
"Hmm," Heyes responded, not really hearing or paying attention.
"Joshua," Kid said loudly enough for the bartender to look over towards them.
"What?" Heyes asked, having his concentration broken.
Heyes swirled the brown liquid in his glass, sighed and then swallowed it in one gulp. "Gotta a feeling."
"Oh," Kid groaned. "I hate when you gotta feelin'."
"But Sticks," Toby said sounding very confused. "You said we was gonna check the place out for a couple of days before we robbed the bank."
"That was before," Sticks replied sternly as he continued to lead the gang through the back of town.
"Before what?" Toby questioned.
Sticks didn't answer he just glared at his brother.
"But we told Heyes and Kid we wasn't gonna do nothin' tonight. What if they changed their minds and wanted in?"
"They had their chance," Sticks barked. He pulled his horse up and dismounted. "Okay, we'll tie the horses up here and then go down the side alley to the bank."
Jimmy looked at his watch again; time sure was slow when you were bored. Finally it was time; he put his coffee cup on the Sheriff's desk and stood up. Removing his gun from his holster, he checked it to make sure it was loaded. Why, he wasn't sure since he had already checked it several times, but that's what he always did before he did rounds.
He opened the door just as the large boom from the bank was heard, jolting him backwards as the walls rumbled. Realizing what must be happening, Jimmy bolted through the door.
Still sitting in the back of the saloon, Heyes and Kid heard the loud noise; a boom they knew all too well. "Damn," Heyes growled. "They said nothing was happening tonight!"
Time seemed to slow down and all noise except the gunfire ceased. Bang, bang, bang. Their eyes grew wide upon hearing the rapid gunfire. Pushing themselves back from the table, their chairs tumbled backwards as they stood; they heard it again. Bang, bang, bang. Jack grabbed his shotgun from behind the bar as he headed for the batwing doors. Bang, bang. Heyes and Kid reached the doors just as Jack lifted his shotgun and pointed it at a rider. The rider was pointing his gun at a man down on the boardwalk near the Sheriff's office. BOOM! The man arched his back and fell face forward off his horse as smoke rose from the shotgun. Then there was silence.
"Jimmy!!" a voice from past the bank yelled.
"Over here Sheriff," Jimmy yelled from the boardwalk. "I think I got'em all."
"Get the Doc!" the Sheriff yelled as he ran towards him.
Heyes and Kid stood at the batwing doors, guns in hand, stunned by the bodies littering the street. Sheriff Adamson looked their way as he ran towards his deputy. Then all of a sudden, things sped up and people were shouting. Men were running towards the street.
"This one's dead."
"So is this one."
"Yep. These two are gonners."
"Think this one’s alive, but it don't look like for much longer."
"Boy Jack, you made a mess of this one."
Six bodies; all but one dead, one injured deputy. Heyes and Kid holstered their guns and made their way to the street, to the lone survivor of the gang. They reached the steps of the bank. Toby lay in a pool of his own blood. They looked down at him; he smiled and then coughed his last breath.
"See you boys are still up," the Sheriff said as he walked up behind them.
"Huh?" a startled Heyes replied. Turning to see the Sheriff, Heyes replied, "Yeah." Moving his hand in the direction and pointing with his thumb he continued, "We were just finishing up at the saloon."
"Really?" Sheriff Adamson said in an accusatory tone.
"Really," Kid stated defensively. "We've been in there since we left your office. You can check with Jack or anyone else that was in there tonight."
Adamson put his hand up. "Whoa, son; I'm not accusing you of anything."
Heyes put his hand on Kid's arm. "I'm sure the Sheriff didn't mean anything Thaddeus." He turned to look the Sheriff in the eyes. "I guess nerves are a little on edge right now."
"That they are Mr. Smith." Looking down at Toby he asked, "Do you know him?"
"He's one of the men we talked to in the saloon," Heyes replied.
"Do you see the other?" Adamson asked.
Heyes looked around and finally spotted Sticks. "He's the one Jack shot."
"Do you recognize anyone else?"
Heyes shook his head.
"No Sheriff," Kid replied quietly.
Heyes sighed and looked around; the doctor was attending to Jimmy. "How's Jimmy?"
"Oh he'll be fine," the Sheriff visibly relaxed. "He got lucky; he just got grazed by a bullet."
"Did he?" Heyes asked looking around.
"Two left feet but the fastest draw I've ever seen. Accurate too," Sheriff Adamson stated.
Heyes looked at Kid. Adamson missed the look as the doctor called for him.
"Excuse me," he said, turning to walk away.
Heyes and Kid were left alone, standing next to Toby. They looked at the bodies strewn about. "Still wondering about the amnesty," Heyes asked glumly.
"No," Kid replied. "Sleepin’ on the ground doesn't sound too bad right now."
Heyes and Kid packed their bedrolls and saddlebags on their horses. They looked around the quiet town. A couple of men were washing down the stairs to the bank and the boardwalk, trying to remove some of the blood. They were both deep in their own thoughts.
"Leaving so early?"
Heyes looked up to see the Sheriff approach them. "Yes sir." He smiled tightly. "Didn't think we would be getting much sleep after last night so we might as well be moving on." Heyes paused, "How's Jimmy."
Sheriff Adamson chuckled. "He's doing fine. Got all the women in town up in arms, being so young and shot. Now he's the hero and they're lining up to bake him pies and take care of him."
"He deserves it," Kid replied.
"Yes he does but I think he's gonna have his hands full tryin’ to fend off some of those women," he chuckled.
Heyes smiled in agreement.
The Sheriff became serious, "I checked with Jack, your story pans out, says you were in the saloon all night." He paused for a moment, "Sure glad you weren't involved. You seem like nice fellows, I'd hate to have had Jimmy shoot you."
"That makes three of us," Heyes smiled, producing his hand to shake. "Sheriff."
"Mr Smith, Mr. Jones," Sheriff Adamson shook their hands.
The partners mounted their horses.
"Heading up to Clearwater for the cattle drive?"
Heyes smiled. "Not sure where we're heading Sheriff."
Adamson looked on with interest.
"Did pretty good last night, might be able to avoid the cattle drive."
The Sheriff nodded.
"Maybe the next town's got some work, not too hard on the back."
"Maybe," Sheriff Adamson chuckled. "Good luck boys." He tipped his hat to them.
Heyes and Kid tipped their hats at the Sheriff and rode out of town. Reaching the fork in the road they looked at each other. Heyes looked at Kid, "Red Rock or Devil's Hole?"
It was a long ride to Red Rock; Kid figured there was a glass or two of whiskey for him when he got there.