The previous day and night had taken its toll on the partners, and they slept all afternoon.  Kid was the first up; and had to wake his partner up to see if he was hungry.  Heyes got up and went to check on Laurie.  As he quietly opened the door, he saw Doris sitting in a chair next to Laurie's bed reading.  She looked up, motioned to him to be quiet and then walked over to the door.  "She's still resting.  You're looking better than this morning. I'm glad you got some rest.  Why don't you and Thaddeus go get some dinner?  I think Laurie will be asleep for a while.  The soaking salts really make you tired.  Add in the trauma of broken ribs and I don't think she'll be up for some time.  I'll stay with her and get her some food when she wakes up.  You should go get something now; I know you haven't eaten anything since you got back." 






The partners went downstairs and had dinner.  Kid had almost two dinners; he was so hungry not having eaten since breakfast.  After dinner, they went to the saloon for a drink and a little poker.  Not much was happening at the poker tables and Heyes really wasn’t into it anyway.  His head was pretty much in a fog from everything that happened.  He stood up and motioned to Kid that he was heading back to the room.  Kid nodded and figuring his partner wanted time alone, stayed and played poker.






Laurie was lying in bed staring at the ceiling.  She heard the door to the room next to hers open and close.  Then she heard the door between her room and Heyes' creak open and his eyes peeking in.  Seeing her awake, he entered the room and said quietly, "Hey, sweetheart, you're awake. How ya feeling?"


"Better now that you're here," she answered with a smile and tried to sit up in bed but winced instead.


"Hey, careful.  Let me help you.”  He gently helped lift her up and placed a pillow behind her for support.  “Good," he said as he carefully sat down on the bed and gave her a gentle kiss. "Have you eaten anything?"


"Yes, Doris brought me some soup and biscuits a little while ago," she said, and then pleading, added, "Heyes, I want to go home, please take me!"


"Shhh," he said comforting her, "You have to stay here and get better, doctors orders."


"I can deal with losing you, but I don't know if I can deal with losing you and all of this," she cried as tears filled her eyes and started to cascade down her cheeks.  "It's just going to be too hard. I won't be able to handle it.  Even Sam is getting use to being here. He's not going to want to come home with me."


"Sam will go wherever you go.  He hasn't left your side all day.  Not even for food.  And, Doris and Walter want you to stay with them, even when you're better.  You don't have to go back if you don't want to."  Heyes paused and took a deep breath, then continued with pain in his voice, "You know, I would stay here with you if I could, or if I thought it was safe, I would take you with me.  I can't do either. I'm sorry I hurt you. I didn't mean to." Heyes’ voice trailed off and Laurie could see sadness in his eyes.


"No, no, you didn't hurt me, no," she said reassuringly and placed her hand on his face, "You did everything but hurt me.  You loved me; you showed me what love was. YOU made me happy, happier than I have ever been.  Please, please," she pleaded, "Don't feel bad.  I knew what I was getting into. I knew who you were. I knew you had to leave and couldn't take me.  I love you," she said as more tears began to run down her face.  She stiffened up and wiped the tears off her face, "I'm sorry, I promised I wouldn't cry.  I won't." Changing the subject, she added, "What time are you leaving tomorrow?"


"Leaving?" Heyes asked with surprise in his voice.


"I know you sent Colonel Marker a telegram. The job is over. I assumed you had to leave in the morning," she replied quietly.


"No, not yet.  We sent the telegram, but haven't gotten a response.  Would you mind if we had to stay for another day or two?”


"As long as you want," she said and Heyes leaned in to kiss her.  "Will you stay with me tonight?" she whispered when they separated.


"I can't…" he started.


Laurie jumped in hurriedly and said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't."


Heyes put his fingers on her lips to stop her.  "If you let me finish," he said intently looking into her eyes with his lips only inches from her, "I can't because I don't want to hurt you.  I want to, I REALLY want to, but I can't risk hurting you.  I feel horrible about last night."


"Oh," she said shamefully, looking down.


"What's the matter?" Heyes asked moving a little further from her face.


 Laurie sat there for a few moments, looking at her hands, trying to figure out what to say.  She knew what she wanted to ask, but was afraid of the answer. 


He waited patiently then placed his hands on hers and asked very quietly, "What's the matter, Sweetheart?"


"Well," Laurie started as she continued looking down, then with trepidation she blurted out, "Do you think less of me because of last night?  Now I just asked you to stay.  What I mean is do you think I'm ..." Laurie couldn't finish her question and she closed her eyes.


Heyes could visibly see her get tense. "No," he said with such compassion, "Remember, I’ve fallen for you.”  He placed his hand on Laurie's chin and lifted it so he could see her face, "What happened last night was incredible.  I feel horrible about last night because of your ribs.  If you didn't have broken ribs, you wouldn't have had to ask.  I can’t be with you because of them, not because I don’t want to.”  He moved in close and gave her a gentle kiss.  Leaning his forehead against hers he said, "I guess there is no reason I can't hold you until you go to sleep.   That is, if you don’t mind.”


“I don’t mind.”


Heyes stood up and took his gun belt off, hanging it on the bed post, then sat on the bed and removed his boots.  “Can you move over a little?”


Laurie smiled and carefully scooted over so he could lie along her side. 


He started to lie down on top of the covers causing Laurie to laugh, "Aren't you going to be uncomfortable?"


"Nope," he said, sounding as if he was trying to convince himself, "I'll be just fine."


Laurie giggled, "I don't bite!"


Heyes gave a guttural sound, "Oh, boy, this is not going to be easy!"  He paused and added, "I'm fine on top of the covers, no need to," he stopped, looked at Laurie who was laying there with an incredible smile, "Don't even think of doing that lip thing!"  He laid down in a huff and put his arm out for Laurie. 


She moved close, placed her head on his arm, then gave him a kiss on the cheek.  "Thank you," Laurie whispered and they fell asleep with their arms around each other.






After playing poker for a while, Kid was getting tired and decided to call it a night.  When he got back to the room, the lamp was on, and the door between their room and Laurie's room was open but there wasn't any noise. He quietly crept over and peeked through the door.  Suppressing a laugh when he saw his partner fully clothed sleeping on top of the covers, he quietly walked into the room, grabbed a quilt and covered him.  He then motioned to Sam to follow and closed the door behind them.  Sam got up and slept in Heyes' bed. Once again, Kid was asleep seconds after his head hit the pillow.


When Laurie opened her eyes the next morning, she saw Heyes looking at her.  "This is the second day in a row I've woken up in your arms with you watching me," she said dreamily, "How long have you been awake and why didn't you wake me?"


"Not that long," he responded, "And, I like watching you sleep, you're so peaceful." 


She tried to roll on her side towards Heyes and moaned.


"Hey, take it easy; those ribs are going to be really sore and stiff especially after you just slept."


"I just wanted to give you a little kiss," Laurie said and winced as she tried to move again, "besides; your arm has to be asleep. You've been holding me all night."


"Don't worry about my arm; it enjoyed holding you all night.  I think you need to soak again this morning. I'll get Doris."  Heyes got up and opened the door between the rooms.  Sam bounced happily into the room and sat down on the side of Laurie's bed.  Heyes laughed and continued through the door. 


Kid was sitting on the bed putting on his boots, "Mornin’," he smiled, "Sleep well?"


"Yes," Heyes retorted, "I assume you put the quilt on and closed the door."


"I was givin’ you your privacy," Kid smirked.


Heyes glared at the Kid; "She has broken ribs!"


Before Kid could harass Heyes anymore, there was a knock on their door.  "Come in," they both replied.


"Good morning Joshua, Thaddeus," Doris said pleasantly, "I didn't want to wake the patient up if she was still sleeping.  I brought some breakfast for Laurie. I assume the two of you are going downstairs to eat."


"Laurie's awake, Doris, just checked on her," Heyes answered, "I was coming to find you. She's really sore this morning. I think she should soak again.  I was hoping you could help her."


"Of course, I'll give Laurie her breakfast and then get the water started.  Why don't you go and get breakfast."






The two ex-outlaws checked the telegraph office after breakfast.  There was nothing from the Colonel.  Laurie soaked in warm water with salts and then went down and sat on the porch with the Heyes, Kid and Sam.  This was very different for her; she never just sat on the porch, she was always too ashamed to be in town if she wasn't busy doing something.  She sat next to Heyes with Sam lying between them and the whole world looked brighter to her.  Everyone who passed on the street would smile, or wish her well; some even stopped to check on her and said they were glad she wasn't hurt more seriously.  When the subject of getting some of Laurie's things from the shack came up, she didn't fight it.  She agreed to let the partners ride out and get them while she rested. 






Heyes and Kid rode out to the shack to pick up Laurie's things.  They went into the shack and looked around.  "What should we get?"  Kid asked.


"Everything that looks personal.  I'm hoping if she has everything, she'll stay in town and never come back out here," Heyes responded.


"Okay, but you get all of her under thingies," Kid said as he waved his hands trying to describe what he meant.


Heyes laughed and shook his head. 


They gathered all her things, including the locket her father had given her and seventeen dollars Heyes found in an old children's book.  He put the seventeen dollars in his pocket with the locket and the rest of the stuff in bags and brought it all back to town.  When they arrived, the doctor was examining Laurie.  They left her stuff, with the exception of the seventeen dollars and the locket in their room and told Doris they would be back.  They went to the telegraph office to check if there was word from the Colonel.


"Just came in," Mr. Quimby, the telegraph manger, said and handed it to Heyes.


He picked it up, and read it as they walked out of the office, "Under the weather. Too risky to travel.  Maybe a couple of days.  Stay put until you hear from me.  Colonel Marker."


"Well, I guess we’re staying in Small Falls a little longer," Heyes said.


"Laurie will be happy," Kid said and his partner smiled. "Do you think he's sick or is it too risky?"


"I think this is what we're getting paid for.  I think whoever they didn't want to know, either knows or suspects something.  Just hope waiting doesn't give them time to come up with some plan."


They reached the hotel as the doctor was leaving.  "Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones," the doctor said.


"How's she doing?" Heyes asked.


"Ribs are still sore, will be for awhile.  The salts are helping the swelling and the stiffness," the doctor replied then added, "She's a tough patient.  Doesn't want pain medicine, doesn't want to rest.  Maybe between you and Doris, she'll listen."


"Oh," Heyes gave a throaty laugh, "I think she's a little more headstrong than that.  She wanted to go home last night.  I think if she wasn't so exhausted, she probably would have gotten up and walked home.  But, I'll certainly do my best to keep her here."


"You do that Mr. Smith. Have a good day," the doctor said and walked away.


Kid chuckled and said, "I bet you will."


Heyes stopped dead in his tracks and glared at the Kid, "What's that supposed to mean?"


Kid shook his head and tried to suppress a smile and laugh, "It's just that things are lookin’ pretty cozy for you and Laurie.  That's all."  Then he added, "I'm not sayin’ there's anythin’ wrong with that.  Just that I'm sure you would like to keep her here in town."


Heyes stared at Kid, paused, and then replied, "You're sick. She's up there in bed with broken ribs."


Kid shot back, "I never mentioned bed."


Heyes smiled and raised his eyebrows "Yeah." They turned and went up to see Laurie.  They knocked on the door and Doris let them in.  Laurie was sitting on the side of the bed looking through the clothes they had brought back. 


"Passed the doc.   He said you're doing good."  Heyes paused and sternly said, "Except that you are doing too much."


"She is!" Doris agreed, "Right now, we're going through what you brought back, so that shouldn't be too strenuous.  I've also brought in a pile of things that no longer fit me that should fit Laurie with a little alteration here and there. I'm sure they're large enough to fit over the bandages."  She sat down next to Laurie and held her hands, "Laurie, I hope you are feeling more at home here. I, we, Walter and myself would really like you to stay.  We do need help around here, so it wouldn't be charity and," Doris paused. She got choked up, with tears in her eyes, "We would like you to be part of our family.  Please think about it okay?"  She stood up, gave Laurie a kiss on the forehead and said, "It's time to get to the kitchen.  Thaddeus, are you hungry?"  Doris left with Kid following closely behind.


Heyes walked over and sat down next to Laurie. He put his arm gently around her shoulder while she laid her head on his shoulder. "You okay?" he asked quietly. 


She nodded. Tears were in her eyes and she was afraid of not being able to control her emotions if she spoke. 


"I know it's a lot all at once," Heyes said in a very comforting voice, "Walter and Doris do care very much about you.  They aren't going to hurt you. They aren't going to leave you. I think you should really think about what Doris said."  He kissed her on the top of the head and decided to add, "I want to take care of you too.  Make sure you’re okay, have some money…”


Laurie abruptly pulled away from Heyes and turned to face him.  The quick movement sent a wave of pain through her body.  Taking a breath and allowing the pain to subside, Laurie adamantly stated, "I never asked you!"


Heyes put his fingers on her lips to stop her. She tried to continue, but he shook his head no, "I know you never asked.  This is something I want to do!  You take care of people you love.  If things were different, this wouldn't even be a discussion. I would be staying here with you or you would be coming with me.  We wouldn't be apart so I could take care of you.  Since that isn't possible, I have to do what I can, understand?"  He finally removed his fingers.


"I love you, but I don't want to be a burden.  You have enough to worry about, taking care of yourself and Kid.  You don't need someone else to worry about."


"I don't NEED anyone, I WANT you!" he whispered as he leaned in to kiss her gently on the lips.  "And I NEED to do whatever I can for you, okay?"


Laurie smiled bashfully and nodded her head yes.  Looking around at all her old horrible clothes, she said, "Doris' hand me downs are so much nicer than these, I think these should be turned into rags."  She looked at Heyes in amazement and added, "How did you fall for me when I was wearing this stuff!"


"Easy," he smiled. "I never looked at the clothes," he leaned in and kissed her more passionately this time. 


As they were kissing, Kid walked in.  Under his breath he mumbled, "Broken ribs" and shook his head, then added, "Doris wanted me to bring this tray up for the two of you.  Guess you told Laurie."


"Told me, told me what?" Laurie asked surprised.


"No Kid, I didn't tell her yet," Heyes replied, sounding slightly annoyed. He looked at Laurie, "Kid's referring to the telegram from the Colonel. Looks like we'll be here a couple more days."


A huge smile appeared on Laurie's face. Looking seductively into Heyes' eyes, she said to Kid, "Thanks for bringing up the tray. Please put it on the dresser and make sure you tell Doris we said thank you when you go back to the kitchen."


Kid stood there stunned.  Very politely, she had dismissed him and had done it without even looking at him.  With a confused look on his face, Kid turned, put the tray down, and left the room, closing the door behind him.  He stopped in the hall, gave a look at the door, then turned back and went down stairs.


Heyes gave a very low guttural laugh. "What's so funny?" Laurie said curiously.


"You, I mean, Kid, I mean the way you spoke – instructed him, his head was spinning, his face," Heyes laughed. "Oh, boy," he said, seeing the look in her eyes, "I've got my hands full with you. You're trouble alright."


The expression on Laurie's face changed. She wasn't sure how to take what he had just said.  She knew she was acting forward but she loved him and was going to lose him soon.  She didn't want to lose any time being with him.  Now she may have gone too far.  "I'm sorry," she stuttered.


"No, it’s okay," he reassured her, "I meant that as a good thing."  Laurie looked puzzled and he continued, "Kid knows no one has ever affected me the way you have. He knows I've never had…shown these feeling before.  He also knows that you've got me wrapped around your little finger.  You're trouble because you have broken ribs and all I can think about is... there you go again, biting that lip.  You know I can't think straight when you do that!"


Laurie giggled, smiled and blushed.  She leaned over, put her hands in his hair and kissed him.  "Good, I'm glad that I'm trouble then," she said with a very sultry voice. 


Heyes grabbed her, but bumped her ribs this time and she sucked her breath in and winced.   "I'm sorry!" he exclaimed, "Are you okay? Should..."


Laurie put her hand up to stop him, "It's okay, it’s just going to take a minute."  She paused for a second to get her breath back. "Maybe you're right, I'm rushing things.  I'm kind of tired. I think I'll take a rest, okay?" 


"Sure, sweetheart," he said as he stood up, "Lie down, rest, okay?  Do you want me to stay or should I go?"


"Go," she replied. "Go find Kid, have dinner, play poker and then come back to check on me, okay?"


"Okay," he said, leaning over to give her a kiss, "Oh, I almost forgot." He reached into his shirt pocket, "Here's the locket from your father and seventeen dollars I found in a book.  The book is in my room.  I didn't want it to get messed up with the clothes."


"Thank you. I haven't gone through everything and was hoping you didn't just get the clothes. I feel better with daddy's locket and I'm glad the money didn't get lost.  The book was my favorite book.  ‘The Night Before Christmas'." Laurie giggled softly, "I would make daddy read it over and over to me, even in the summer," she said with a sad smile on her face.  "I've been trying to save to get a stagecoach ticket and leave, start over.  I wanted to make sure I had enough so that wherever I went, I wouldn't be a street girl again."


"You'll never be a street girl, not here, not anywhere, I promise," Heyes reassured. "Now, rest. I'll be back."






Heyes found Kid on the front porch.  He told him that he had to take care of something and then they could go to dinner.  When Heyes was done, they went to dinner, and after headed to the saloon, played poker and just like the night before, Heyes got up and left early.  He went to his room and opened the door between the two rooms.  Laurie was in bed, lying on her side, sleeping.   He quietly called Sam out of the room, and then got undressed to his long underwear.  Carefully, he crawled into bed and under the covers, snuggling up to Laurie, being extra careful when he put his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him.


"Hmm," came from Laurie.


"Shhh," Heyes whispered in Laurie's ear.  "Stay asleep, I got you."  He kissed the nape of her neck and slowly moved up to the ear.  Laurie purred like a kitten.  Heyes really liked the sound, but considering the amount of pain she was in this afternoon, he knew he had to stop.  They fell asleep curled up together.  Kid walked into the room with Sam on Heyes’ bed, walked over gave him a pat and went to bed.






Laurie woke up first but she didn't move.  It felt amazing being held by Heyes. She thought she could stay like that forever.  When he woke up a short time later, she teased, "Decided I wouldn’t bite?"


"Well, you were asleep when I came in," he replied, then kissed her neck "How are you feeling this morning?"


"Not as bad as yesterday."


"Good. Have breakfast with me and Kid."


They got up and got ready for breakfast.  Heyes was ready first and went down to let Sam out.  Laurie and Kid were about to leave the room when she stopped and looked at him, "Thank you," she said, "thank you for not judging me."


"I have no right to judge you," he responded, "and no reason to."


"I know you know that Heyes has been sleeping in my bed," she stated.


"Still no reason to judge," Kid paused, then added, "I know he's never felt the way he does about you.  I know that if he had a choice…he wouldn't be leavin’.  Sometimes people do things because they don't have a choice."


Laurie stood on her toes and gave Kid a kiss on the cheek, "Thank you."






They ate breakfast downstairs and then Laurie went to talk to Doris.  Heyes and Kid went to check the telegraph office.  "Just got in," Mr. Quimby told the two of them as they walked through the door. He handed the telegram to Kid who looked at it and handed to Heyes. 


"Thanks, Mr. Quimby," Heyes said and they left.  "Tuesday, where I saw you last, Colonel Marker." He paused, and then stated, "It's a three day ride to River Gap. We'll have to leave in the morning." 


"You okay?" Kid asked his partner. He knew the answer was no, but he didn't know what else to say.  Heyes looked like he'd been shot.


Heyes looked up and saw Laurie walk out of the hotel; "I have to go tell her."  He took a couple of steps, turned around and said; "Kid, I think I'd like to spend the day with Laurie."


"I'll get everything together," Kid said solemnly.  He felt for his partner as he watched him walk across the street.  He knew what he was about to do was going to break both of their hearts.


As Heyes walked towards Laurie, she saw the telegram in his hands.  With as much composure as she could muster, she asked, "When?"




"Okay. Can we spend some time together today, or do you have things to do with Thaddeus?"  Laurie said in her best brave voice.


Heyes placed his hand on her face, "Today's ours."


"I think I would like to try to walk out to my house, if that's okay with you."


"Are you sure? It's far, I don't want you to push too hard," he said with concern.


"Yes, it's my home. It's also where I fell in love with you and I think I'd like to spend some time there with you.  I'll ask Doris for a lunch basket; maybe we can have it by the stream.  I'd say we could fish, but I don't want to worry about that today. I'll be right back." 


Kid walked over to his partner, "How'd she take it?"


"Fine," he numbly said. "She wants to walk out to the shack.  She went to get lunch from Doris."


Kid didn't know what to say. He couldn't remember a time when his partner looked or acted like this, well, not since their parents were killed.  He was worried about him. 


Heyes turned to Kid and said, "I have to go pick something up. Wait here in case Laurie comes out.  Tell her I'll be right back."  He walked down the street and out of sight and was back in ten minutes.


Laurie came out of the hotel, "We're set," she said as she came down the stairs, "Thaddeus, thank you for lending Joshua to me." She reached up and kissed him on the cheek. 


Heyes, Laurie and Sam started down the road to the shack.  "Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked with concern, "I can get a carriage."


"No carriage," Laurie said with authority, "No carriage!  I'm done with carriages and anyway, I think I could use the exercise. I haven't done anything in three days!"


"Oh," Heyes chuckled. He took Laurie's hand in his and they walked all the way to the shack. 






Laurie stopped when they rounded the bend; "This is where you were, the first time I saw you when you came out.  I remember coming out from around the house to see why Sam was barking and there you were.  I wanted to hide, but you had already seen me.  Then wanted to die, but that didn't happen either." She giggled, turned to Heyes and said, "I'm glad you came out that day, I'm glad, grateful for everything that has happened since I met you.  You will always be my one love."  Heyes opened his mouth to say something but Laurie didn't let him, "Please let me finish, and then you can say anything you want or nothing.  We will have a wonderful day. I just need to tell you some things, okay?"


Heyes nodded his head.


"Anyway, you are my one true love. I will be here and wait for you forever.  I know you are leaving and I may never see you again. I just want you to know that if you ever want to come back, I will be here for you.  I don't expect you to be faithful, but I’ll always be faithful.  You can come back anytime. I will be here and I will always protect you.  You gave me my life.  I've been dead since I was eight.  I know things won't be perfect when you leave, but the memories of these past weeks are enough to last a lifetime.  I love you, Hannibal Heyes and I always will.  Thank you."  When she finished she reached up and gave him a kiss on his cheek and started to walk away.


"Hey!" Heyes yelled, "You said I could talk when you were done."


"Changed my mind. Time to move on and have a wonderful day," Laurie yelled over her shoulder as she continued to walk. 


Heyes shook his head and laughed. Now, he knew how Kid felt, she really did that well.  They laughed, played with Sam and then sat down by the stream for lunch.


When they were done, Heyes lay with his head on Laurie's lap; she ran her fingers through his hair.  It felt so good and so right to be here, he looked up at Laurie and promised, "I'll come back as soon and as often as I can; I don't want to leave." Laurie leaned over to kiss him and winced, Heyes sat up quickly, "Are you okay?"


"Yes, I'm fine," she reassured him, "I shouldn't be the one bending."


"Oh, how about if I sit and do this" Heyes leaned over, gently pulling Laurie to him and kissed her.


"That's good," she said breathless.


Heyes gave her another kiss. When he pulled back, he took something out of his shirt pocket, "I can't be with you, at least not now, so I give you my heart."  He handed her a beautiful silver heart on a chain.  The back of the heart was engraved with "Forever mine, J.S."  Laurie's eyes fill with tears as Heyes put the necklace on her.  "As long as you wear the necklace, I will always be yours; you have my heart," he told Laurie, then gently wiped the tears that had started to fall down her face and kissed her. "No tears," he quietly teased, "You promised."


"I promised when you left, not if you gave me a necklace," she corrected.


Heyes stopped her, "It's not a necklace; it is my heart.  I never thought…” the words drifted off and then said, “You’ve stolen my heart and I'm glad."


“Stolen?  An interesting word…” she smiled then looked at the necklace and put her hand on the heart, "Oh my, it’s so beautiful."


Heyes interrupted, "I'm sorry the initials are J.S. but it's safer."


"I know, and the name doesn't mean anything. I fell in love with you, but just so I know, what should I call you when we're alone? Joshua, Hannibal, Han, Heyes, what do you like?" Laurie asked.


Heyes gently pulled Laurie close and whispered, "When we're alone, you can call me anything you want."  Looking into her eyes, he gave her a gentle kiss and then gently pulled her closer and gave her an incredibly deep passionate kiss.  When they finally stopped, Heyes said, "It's getting late, we should start back to town."  They got up and walked arm in arm all the way to town.






As they entered town, people on the street smiled at them and told Laurie how happy they were to see her up and about and hoped they would see the two of them at the big dance the next night.  Laurie smiled and replied to a few.   When Mrs. Quimby stopped to talk, Laurie said, "Thank you, but unfortunately Joshua is leaving for business in the morning so we won't be at the dance.  It's probably better anyway. I don't think I'm up for that quite yet."


Mrs. Quimby smiled and said, "Perhaps you're right, dear.  Hopefully, Mr. Smith will be in town for the next dance."






Kid was sitting on the porch when they arrived, Sam ran over to greet him.  "Just about to get cleaned up for dinner, anyone hungry?"


"I think I may have overdone it a little," Laurie sighed.  She turned to Heyes and smiled, "I'm fine but I think I would like to rest.  Joshua, why don't you have dinner with Thaddeus?"


Heyes was going to say ‘I told you so', but decided not to.  He agreed to have dinner with Kid and they all went up to their rooms.  Laurie went into hers and Heyes came in through the adjoining door.  "I can stay and rest with you," he said as he walked in and put his arms around her.


"I like the sound of that, but I really am going to rest, and I won't if you're here.  Come back when you're done. I'll feel much better then."  She gave him a kiss and he left with Kid for dinner.  Laurie lay down and rested for a while.  When she got up, she decided to soak in the tub.






At dinner, the talk of the entire dining room was about the dance.  Doris came over, "Mrs. Quimby tells me you're leaving in the morning?"


"Yes ma'am," Kid responded.


"That's a shame; Laurie has never been to a dance. It would have been nice to see her there.  By the way, where is she?"


"She's resting," Heyes said. "She admitted she wore herself out today and went to lie down.  She said she wasn't hungry.  I know she did eat lunch, but I'll make sure to bring something up to her later."


"Thank you for taking such good care of her Joshua, Walter and I do appreciate it.  I just hope that she decides to stay with us," Doris said, and then turned to go to the kitchen.


As Doris left the table, Kid looked at Heyes, "I've been thinkin’." His partner gave him a look. "Yeah, I know, that's your job, but anyway, all day, all I heard about was the dance.  It's a really big thing.  I bet Laurie would really like to go.  I thought if we rode real hard, we could cut the ride to River Gap to two, two and a half days.  Maybe we could stay and leave tomorrow night after the dance or real early Sunday mornin’."


Heyes sat quietly for a moment; he was very touched by his partner's idea, "Kid, I don't know," he started.


 Kid looked at Heyes.


"You're right. I think she would like to go to the dance.  If you're sure you don't mind, let's ride out first thing Sunday morning."


"Sounds like a plan," Kid said with a big smile.







Laurie had been soaking in the tub for a while; it was so relaxing and felt so good.  She was thinking of the past few weeks and how wonderful they had been.  She had decided she would figure out what she was going to do after Heyes had left and not before.  It was too confusing and all she wanted was to enjoy the time she had left without any distractions.  She was getting out of the tub and drying off when she heard the door going into Heyes and Kid's room open and footsteps approaching the connecting door.   As she only had a towel wrapped around her, she stepped towards the dressing screen.  Heyes opened the door that joined the two rooms, not seeing her, called out, "Laurie."


"Over here," she said, turning around clutching the towel in front of her.  "You're early. No poker tonight?"


Heyes' face lit up with a smile and a very devilish look in his eyes, "Noooo, no poker," he grinned, shaking his head ever so slightly, "I wanted to see how you were doing."  Walking closer to Laurie he added "If this is what I can expect when I'm early," he placed his arms around her waist and pulled her close.  With his lips only inches from hers, he whispered, "I think I'll make it a habit."  Then he kissed her.  As the kiss got more passionate, Laurie could feel Heyes' warm hands on her bare back.   All of a sudden, he pulled back and turned around, "I can't."


Laurie was stunned. She had no idea what had just happened or why.  She stood there in shock for a moment and then turned around, with tears in her eyes and shame in her voice almost crying," I'm sorry."


Heyes whipped around when he heard the hurt in her voice, "It's me. I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have, I mean," he paused, "Your ribs. I don't want to hurt you.  I can't because I'm afraid I'll hurt you."  As Heyes spoke quietly, he looked at Laurie. Her back was still towards him.  The towel she had wrapped around her was hanging just like the blanket had, exposing her bare back.  It was an incredible back, so soft, and he reached out to touch her.  His hand sent shivers through her whole body.  He kissed her shoulder and worked his way up her neck very slowly to her ear   "I want to more than anything," he said so quietly it could barely be heard, "I don't want to hurt you, I..."


Laurie turned around to face him, "You won't.  I know you won't. You are the most kind, giving man, and so gentle. You won't hurt me.  Hannibal, I love you." She reached up and kissed him. 


Looking into her eyes, he reached up and pulled out the hairpins that had been holding her hair piled on top of her head.  Laurie's long brown hair cascaded down her neck and back.  "That's the way I like it," he said and pulled Laurie close, kissing her deep and hard.  The kiss was so passionate that Laurie released her grip on the towel and put her arms around his neck.  The towel was only being held up by the closeness of their bodies.  She was melting into him as Heyes reached down and gently scooped Laurie's legs up as he continued to kiss her.  He walked over to the bed and laid her down with the towel gently draped over her. Brown eyes gazed into hers, never breaking contact: he quickly undressed.


They stayed in each other's arms all night.  As they were lying there, with the sun beginning to come in the window, Laurie asked, "Was it okay that I called you Hannibal?"


Heyes lay on his side next to her, stroking her face, "Yes. Nobody calls me that but I like the way you say it."  He leaned over and started to nibble her ear.


Laurie purred. "Hannibal," she purred again, "When do you have to leave?" 


"Early tomorrow."


"No," Laurie corrected, "It's Saturday. You're leaving this morning."


"Ooohh," Heyes said and Laurie looked at him, "I forgot to tell you. It's not my fault you were in a towel!  We're staying for the dance tonight and leaving at dawn tomorrow.  Sorry. Mad?"


Laurie gave him a kiss and happily exclaimed, "No!" Laurie lay cuddled up in Heyes' arms. Thinking out loud, she said, "My new dress got ruined on the picnic. I wonder if there is anything in Doris' pile I can wear."


Looking deeply into her eyes, he said, "Let me take care of that.”  Placing a finger on her lips before she had a chance to respond, he sternly added, "I'm going to buy you a dress and I expect you to wear it tonight for the dance!"  With a smile, he softly added, "Okay?"  Laurie nodded her head yes and was about to kiss him when she was interrupted by a knock on the door between the rooms.  "Give us a minute," Heyes yelled.


They got up, got dressed and opened the door between the rooms.  Kid was sitting in the chair with Sam on the floor next to him, "I'm starved. Are the two of you eatin’ breakfast or stayin’ in?"


"I'm starving!" Laurie blurted out, "Let’s go get breakfast," and she walked to the door.  Kid smiled at Heyes; he had a smile on his face from ear to ear.  As if she could see what was going on and being insinuated behind her back, Laurie yelled over her shoulder, "I didn't eat dinner last night. I haven't had anything since the picnic lunch!"  She turned to Kid and said, "I think you would be starving too, Thaddeus."


If the smile could have gotten any bigger on Heyes' face it would have, as Laurie had once again needled Kid.  Heyes saw a very mischievous look appear on Laurie's face as she turned back around and he chuckled.  Kid missed the look and gave Heyes a ‘what's going on look’ which made Heyes chuckle even more.






At breakfast, everyone was thrilled to hear that Joshua and Thaddeus would be staying for the dance.  Sarah, who worked in the café, was especially happy that Thaddeus was staying.  Laurie, being in such a good mood, continued to tease Kid all through breakfast, which made Heyes love her even more.  After breakfast, Laurie said she had some things to do but would meet them later.  She gave both of them a kiss on the cheek and ran down the road.


Heyes told Kid he had to go buy Laurie a dress and they headed to the store. Charlotte and Gwendolyn were also looking at dresses.  Mrs. Quimby, who owned the store, walked over to them, "I heard you are staying for the dance."  The partners looked at each other. "It's a small town, good news travels fast," she said adding, "I am so happy.  Laurie must be happy, too."


"Yes, she is.  That's why we're here." Heyes responded with enthusiasm, "I came to buy her a dress."  He heard Charlotte and Gwendolyn snicker behind him.  “I want to show her how special she is," he said as he turned and glared at the two women. 


"I know the perfect dress," Mrs. Quimby said, "I've seen Laurie look at it, so I think she likes it.  It's not too fancy or a dress that those trying to look pretty buy; it's a dress for someone who already is beautiful.  It will bring out the color in her eyes. I think she will look stunning."  She showed Heyes the dress. It wasn't fancy, but it was very nice. The royal blue color would make her eyes shine and the white trim would show off her face.  Heyes told Mrs. Quimby to put in all new under garments and stockings for Laurie.  As Heyes was paying, she said, "You are a good man, Mr. Smith, taking care of Laurie like this.  She deserves to be happy and it's obvious that you make her very happy.  See you tonight at the dance."  Heyes and Kid tipped their hats at Mrs. Quimby and headed back to the hotel.






When Laurie left Heyes and Kid after breakfast, she ran down to the jewelry store.  She asked the jeweler, Mr. Collins, if he had a small heart charm, one that could be put on a watch chain.  She found one and asked for an "L" to be engraved on the back.  She waited for it and then headed back to the hotel.  When she got back to her room, the dress was on her bed.  She squealed, ran into the adjoining room, and jumped into Heyes' lap as he sat in the chair by the window. 


"Does this mean you like it?" he laughed.


"Yes, yes, I love it," she yelled and she went to give him a big kiss. She twisted and had to pull back as she winced.


"Hey, you alright?" Heyes said with concern.


"Yeah," she said, getting her breath back, "I just moved too fast and the wrong way. I'll be fine.  Thank you for the dress. I love it.  Now I have to go get ready."


"You're welcome and it's not..." Heyes said as Laurie got up and left the room before he had even finished talking, "for four more hours."






It was six o'clock and time for dinner.  Heyes knocked on the door between the rooms.  Laurie called back, "I'm almost ready.  I'll meet you downstairs in five minutes."


Kid looked at Heyes, "We haven't seen her for four hours and she needs five more minutes?"  Heyes put his hands up, shook his head and laughed as they headed downstairs.    As it happened, most of the town had gathered at the hotel waiting to go to the dance.  It was the biggest event of the spring. First there was the dinner, then a small carnival with street entertainment, later there was dancing.  Laurie had never been, but had always wanted to go. The ex-outlaws were talking to Walter and Doris with their backs to the stairs when the room got quiet.  Turning around, they saw Laurie walking down the stairs. She blushed as all eyes were on her and she froze.  Heyes stepped forward and reached his hand out; their eyes locked and she continued down the stairs placing her hand in his.  She was wearing the blue dress and the locket.  Her hair was down, the way Heyes liked it. 


As she reached the bottom stair, he lifted her hand and kissed it.  "You are more beautiful than I could ever have imagined," he said softly as brown eyes continued to gaze in her eyes as if they were the only two people in the room.


Kid walked up behind his partner, gave him a pat on the back, took Laurie's hand and gave it a kiss.  "You look beautiful Laurie; can you please save a dance for me?"


Heyes broke his gaze from Laurie, looked incredulously at Kid and snapped, "No, she's dancing all the dances with me."


Laurie giggled and with a small pout on her face, "Joshua, he is your cousin, maybe one short dance."


Heyes smiled and with a slight nod of his head okay put his arm out for Laurie to take.  The two of them walked out the door with everybody watching.  Laurie felt like a princess as she walked arm and arm with her prince.  A short way down the street, Kid caught up and offered his arm as well.  The night couldn't be any better, she thought as the three went to dinner.


Dinner was wonderful and Laurie was the talk of the town.  Nobody could believe how beautiful or happy she looked.  Most of the town stopped by their table, wished the three of them well and commented on the beautiful heart locket Laurie was wearing.  Even Sarah came over to see if Thaddeus was going to be at the dance.  Everything was perfect.  After dinner, the three strolled down the street stopping and watching the entertainment along the way.  They found three chairs and sat down to watch and relax a little before the dancing started. 


As they were sitting and watching the street entertainment, Laurie remembered she had forgotten to give Heyes the small heart she had bought, "I forgot something back at my room. I'll be right back," she announced as she got up.


"I'll come with you," Heyes said as he stood up.


"No, stay with Thaddeus. Finish your cigar. I want to dance when I get back."


"If you're sure," he said, "Hurry back."


Laurie nodded her head and ran down the street towards the hotel.  The further away from the dance area she got, the more deserted the street was.  As she approached the hotel, the street was empty.  She was walking past the alley by the General Store, when out of the shadows; two arms reached out and grabbed her.  She started to scream but a hand quickly was placed over her mouth and a gun into her broken ribs.  "If you scream, move, or try to get away," a low voice said, "I will kill you, then I'll go kill your boyfriend and his partner." 


Laurie was terrified; she didn't know what to do and couldn't see who had grabbed her.  As she was being pulled down the alley, Laurie caught a glimpse of Mr. Carlson's face.  Panic spread as she tried to think of what she could do to get away. Kick, scream, anything; but she didn't want him to hurt Heyes.  Carlson finally stopped dragging her down the alley and pushed her up against the wall.  He was pressing the gun into her ribs so hard; she thought she was going to pass out from the pain.  He leaned into her, holding her in place with his body.  The way he was leaning on her, she wasn't a threat to get away so he put the gun in his pocket.  Laurie could see the look on his face, he was totally mad; he hardly even looked like Mr. Carlson. 


"You are my property," he scowled at her; "Mine and I will have you."


Laurie's eyes started to fill with tears. Her legs were weak because of the pain; he was too heavy for her to push him off.  She tried struggling with him, but he just leaned harder into her ribs until she could barely breathe.  She managed a very muffled, "Please don't."


Mr. Carlson laughed a horrible, evil laugh and ripped the top of her dress.  Laurie fought so hard to break free, but couldn’t.  Mr. Carlson tried to kiss her. She turned her head and tried to scream but before she could, he smacked her across the face.  The sting dazed her.  Carlson, even madder than before, put his hand on Laurie's throat and began to grab, rip and pull up her dress.  She attempted to stop him but everything was spinning as she gasped for air. Holding her legs tightly together she closed her eyes, sending tears rolling down her face as he undid his pants.


"You are a street whore!" he said in a maniacal voice as he began to rape her.  There was a noise at the end of the alley.  Carlson yelled out, "Who's there?"  The noise was enough of a distraction for Laurie to push him off her.  "You," Carlson seethed at her. "If I can't have you, no one will."


He started an all out assault, punching her as hard as he possibly could; his fists brutally slamming into her.  Then he grabbed a knife from his pocket and slashed her. Laurie tried with all her might to defend herself.  Another noise at the other end of the alley distracted Carlson once again.  Gathering what little strength she had left, Laurie timed her last ditch effort perfectly pushing Carlson.  Catching him off guard, she turned to run out of the alley.  He reached for her, but his pants were still down and he stumbled.


With sheer panic and terror racing through her, Laurie lunged for the street.  He grabbed her arm. She frantically fought to get free.  Swinging her arms she hit the gun Carlson was removing from his pocket and sent it flying.  Trying to run, she tripped with him right on her heels.  Falling to the ground, she reached out, grabbing the gun, turned and fired.  Laurie kept firing until all the bullets were gone.  Even then, she kept pointing and pulling the trigger.  Mr. Carlson was hit four times in the chest at point blank range and fell at Laurie's feet.






Heyes and Kid were done with their cigars and waiting for Laurie to come back.  Heyes started to get impatient and a little worried.  "How long do you think she's been gone?"


"Don't know," Kid responded, "A while."


"She said she would only be a minute," Heyes said, sounding worried, "I'm going to go check on her. I'll be right back."


"I'm comin’," Kid told his partner. "I'm not gonna sit here and wait for you to come back too."


As they started down the street towards the hotel, they heard a scream.  Startled eyes looked at each other.  Heyes yelled, "Laurie" as they ran down the street when gunshots rang out.  By now, all the townspeople on the street heard and went running in the same direction.


As Heyes and Kid got close to the hotel, they saw Laurie on the ground holding a gun with a man face down at her feet.  Heyes ran over to her, "Laurie," he called out and crouched down next to her.  "I’m here,” he said soothingly, "Give me the gun."  He took it out of her hand. She sat staring straight ahead, not saying anything or moving. 


Kid stooped down next to the body on the street; rolled him over and saw it was Mr. Carlson.  He looked at Heyes and shook his head indicating he was dead. 


Heyes was still trying to get Laurie's attention, "Sweetheart, what happened?"


The blond partner stood up, noticing the top of Laurie's dress was ripped, took of his jacket, "Heyes,” he said and handed it to him. 


The street was getting crowded as everyone from the dance was coming to see what happened. Laurie sat still, not moving, not talking, just sitting there.  Heyes was trying to get her attention when Doris came running, "Oh my, what happened.  Laurie dear, you're covered in blood."


"It's Carlson's blood," Heyes mumbled.


"Heyes," Kid said a little too loudly, "I think it's more than that!" Kid looked at the pool of blood that was forming on the bottom of the dress. 


Brown eyes widened in horror.  Scooping her up he yelled "get the doctor" and ran with her towards her room with Kid and Doris in tow.


The others on the street just looked at Mr. Carlson.


Sheriff Hardy came running around the corner with his gun drawn and stopped when he saw Mr. Carlson dead in the street.  "What happened?"


Since no one actually saw what happened, there was murmuring in the crowd.  Charlotte stepped to the front of the crowd.  "Laurie shot Mr. Carlson," she said.


A gasp was heard throughout the crowd, "What?" the lawman asked.


"Laurie shot Mr. Carlson," she repeated. “I saw it.”


"Charlie," the Sheriff called for his deputy, "Take Charlotte to my office. I'll be there in a while.  No one is to see her - understand?"  Charlie nodded his head and guided Charlotte to the Sheriff's office.  "Now, where's Laurie?" he yelled.


"Joshua took her to the hotel. She's hurt real bad," Walter said. "The doctor just went to see her."






Heyes ran all the way to the room holding Laurie with Kid half a step behind him. He laid Laurie on the bed; Kid and Doris came in right behind him.  "Kid," Heyes shouted, "Her legs must be cut, I need your help.  Doris, get as many clean sheets and bandages as you can find" Doris turned and ran out the door. Kid didn’t move.  "Kid," Heyes yelled again, "I can't do both legs. I need you to help put pressure on her thigh.  She's going to bleed to death if you don't!" 


"But, Heyes, I can't touch her there," Kid stuttered.


"Close your eyes if you have to. She needs us. She needs you to stop the bleeding. Please?" he pleaded. 


Kid stepped forward, closed his eyes and put pressure on the thigh.


Doris came back with bandages and sheets. 


"Great, start with the leg Kid has. Wrap it the best you can, and tight. We need to stop the bleeding so we can see how bad it is."


Doris stepped next to Kid, "Thaddeus," she said, "Move your hands around me as I wrap her leg."


The doctor came bursting in the door.  "How bad is she?" he yelled.


"I'm not sure. I think both legs are cut. I’m trying to stop the bleeding so we can see how bad it is," Heyes cried out.


"Okay, I've got it from here. Doris I need your help," the doctor said.


"I'm staying," Heyes stated with a look that the doctor knew not to argue.


"Okay, but Mr. Jones, you should leave."


"Thaddeus, go check with the Sheriff and see what’s going on," Heyes said to Kid.


Kid let go of Laurie's leg and left, closing the door behind him.


"Joshua," Laurie said very faintly.


Heyes let go of Laurie's other leg as the doctor came to examine it.


"I'm here, sweetheart," he said as he picked up her hands and leaned down close to her face.


"I'm sorry," she barely whispered, tears starting to form in her eyes.


"Hush," he quietly responded, "It's okay, you'll be okay."


The doctor and Doris continued to work on Laurie's legs.  The bleeding was slowing down.  She had some deep gashes, but most of them weren't too bad.  If they could stop the bleeding, there would be a good chance she would be okay, unless there were more serious wounds he hadn't discovered yet.


"Mr. Carlson," Laurie sobbed, "He attacked me. I'm sorry. I tried to make him stop.  I tried to fight him off."  Laurie couldn't talk anymore; tears were flowing down her face.


Heyes sat there for a moment, wanting to throw up as the realization of what Laurie had said hit him.  He knew, for her sake, he couldn't show the anger and pain he was feeling.  "Shhh, it's okay. Doc will fix you up.  I'm here. I promise I won't leave," he tried to reassure her.


"But," Laurie cried.


"I'm here. I'm not leaving you, understand?  I'm not leaving you," he said emphatically and kissed her gently on the forehead. 


Kid came back to the room, standing in the connecting doorway of their rooms.


"Laurie, I need your help," the doctor said, "Can you help me?"


Heyes looked at Laurie, "Sweetheart, you can look at me and just nod your head if you want."


Laurie nodded her head yes.


"I see the slashes from a knife.  I can also see some deep bruising starting on your arms.  Are there other wounds?  Did Mr. Carlson do anything else to you?”


The Sheriff and Walter stopped at the doorway leading into Laurie's room.


"Did Mr. Carlson do anything else to you?  Are there more injuries?”


Laurie closed her eyes as the tears streamed down her face. 


Heyes closed his eyes as he fought hard to control himself.   His worst fears were just confirmed.


"Laurie, I'm going to have to stitch some of the wounds. I also have to examine you better.  None of it is going to be very pleasant, it’s going to hurt.  I want to give you a shot of morphine to help," the doctor said.


"Doc," the Sheriff interrupted, "I need to talk to Laurie before you give her the shot."


"I've got the bleeding under control, but you're going to have to make it quick," the doctor responded.  He placed a sheet over Laurie for privacy.


"Okay," the Sheriff said, "Doc, you can stay. Everyone else out until I talk to Laurie."


"I'm not leaving!" Heyes argued.


"Mr. Smith, I have to talk to Laurie alone to find out what happened tonight, I can't have anyone influencing what she says."


"I am not leaving her!" Heyes shouted.


"Joshua," Laurie whispered, "It's okay, I'll talk to the Sheriff.  I don't want you in here, please, I can’t with you here..."


Heyes looked at Laurie.  Doris jumped in, "Joshua, I'll stay and hold Laurie's hand while she talks to the Sheriff.  I will come and get you as soon as it's over.  Is that okay, Sheriff?"


Resigned to the fact that someone was going to be staying the lawman agreed, “Sure Doris."


"I love you, Joshua," Laurie said with a tear running down her cheek.


Heyes bent over, wiped the tear off and whispered, "I'll be right next door."  He got up and went into the room with Kid, but only closed the door partially so he could hear what was going on.  Kid gave him a glass of whiskey before he even sat down.


Pointing at the partially open door, Kid asked, "Are you sure?"


"Yeah," Heyes said, sounding defeated, "I need to know.  I can't help her unless I know."


Walter said, "I'm going to put a pot of coffee on." He turned and walked down to the kitchen.






The Sheriff walked into the room and closed the door behind him. "Laurie, I need you to tell me exactly what happened tonight, okay.  Take your time, but you have to tell me everything."


Laurie shook her head.  She took a deep breath, or tried to take a deep breath, it hurt so much that she started to cough and cry.  Doris stroked her hair and face.  Laurie tried again, "I forgot to give Joshua the heart I bought him, so I was coming back to the room to get it.  It's in the top drawer of the dresser." 


The Sheriff opened the drawer and found a small heart charm wrapped in cloth. 


"It's just like the one Joshua gave me," Laurie said, putting her hand to her neck, "It's gone, the heart is gone.  Joshua gave..." she paused trying to control her sobs, "He said it was his heart, it's gone."  She broke down crying.


"We'll find it, Laurie," the Sheriff said, "please continue."


"I was coming back to the hotel and when I got to the alley next to the General Store, someone reached out and grabbed me.  I tried to get free but they had their hand on my mouth and a gun in my ribs.  It hurt so much, I didn't know who it was or what was happening. Then he pushed me against the wall and I saw it was Mr. Carlson."


"Are you sure, absolutely positive; Mr. Carlson grabbed you?"  Sheriff Hardy asked.


"Yes," Laurie cried, "He pushed me up against the wall and he leaned into my ribs. The pain was so bad, I couldn't breathe.  Then he, then he," Laurie stopped and closed her eyes.  Tears were pouring down her face.


"Laurie, it is important you tell us everything. I have to know," the Sheriff said, "Do you understand?"


"Sheriff," the doctor interrupted, "We need to hurry this up.  I can give you a full description of Laurie's wounds.  Is it necessary for her to relive everything?"


"We'll make it quick, Doc, and yes, it is necessary.  Of course, I'll still need your report." the Sheriff stated. "Laurie, can you continue?"


She nodded her head yes, "You have to promise me, Joshua can't know. Please, he can't know," Laurie pleaded and the Sheriff nodded his head yes. Trying as hard as she could to compose herself, Laurie continued.  "He pushed me up against the wall and he, he, he said I was a street whore and he was going to have me."  The tears flowed down Laurie's face as she closed her eyes but continued, "He was leaning into me so hard, I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I tried to get away.  I tried to scream.  He said he would kill me then Joshua and Thaddeus if I made noise but I tried." She paused for a few seconds to compose herself. "He put his hand on my throat to choke me and then pulled down his pants and he lifted my dress up. I tried to keep him away," Laurie sobbed, "I couldn't." 


Doris and the doctor listened in horror.  Heyes and Kid sat in the room next door listening.  Heyes had his face buried in his hands.  If Carlson wasn't already dead he would kill him.  If he had gone with Laurie, nothing would have happened and if he'd tried, he would have killed him.  Laurie didn't want him to know she was raped.  He took another shot of whiskey.  Kid sat there, watching his partner being tortured as he heard the details of what happened.  He wanted to close the door to save him from anything else, but he was paralyzed by the situation.


Laurie started talking again. This time there were no emotions or inflections in her voice, she sounded numb.  “There was a noise in the alley. At the end of the alley. It startled him. He yelled out asking who was there.  It was enough for me to be able to push him off.  I did and tried to run but he grabbed me and was so angry.  He said that if he couldn't have me he would ruin me.  He started hitting me so hard.  He was just pounding away.  I thought I was going to die.  And then he took out his knife.  He slashed the dress and my legs.  I kept fighting back.  He heard another noise and this time I pushed and caught him off balance.  He tripped and I started to run.  He grabbed my arm and I swung at him.  I must have hit his gun.  It went flying in front of me.  He grabbed at me and I fell.  I reached for the gun, turned and pulled the trigger.  He fell at my feet.  Joshua and Thaddeus came.  Others too, but I don't remember."  She lay there staring into nothingness. 


"Sheriff, I have to take care of her. If I don't do it now, she might not be able to tell you anything ever again," the doctor said.


"That's enough for tonight," the Sheriff swallowed hard and turned to leave. 






Heyes took another shot of whiskey and was at the door before the Sheriff left. He turned to Kid, "Thaddeus go with the Sheriff, please."


Kid nodded and followed the lawman. He knew Heyes wanted to know what was going on and what the Sheriff was thinking.


The Sheriff turned to Thaddeus, "Think we'll go check the alley to see if her necklace is there or if we can find anything else. We'll probably have to wait ‘til morning, but we'll try."


Heyes walked into the room and around the bed to where Doris was sitting. She stood up and gave Laurie's hand to him. He leaned over and kissed Laurie on the forehead and wiped her tears away. "I love you," he whispered in her ear.


She looked up, "I'm s..."


Heyes lightly placed his fingers on her lips to stop her, "Hush, this is not your fault," he said and then added, "Will you marry me?"


Startled, Laurie asked, "Do you think I'm going to die?"


"No, sweetheart. I love you and I want you to know how much," he reassured her.


"Then, no," Laurie replied weakly. "You can ask me again when I'm better and I don't think you're asking because you feel sorry for me."


Heyes smiled, "Okay. I'll ask you again when you're better. You better say yes then."


"Excuse me," the doctor interrupted, "Laurie, I'm going to give you a shot of morphine now. Then I'm going to stitch you up and examine you. I know that your ribs are bad, you have a welt on your face and throat but I don't know about anywhere else. I have to give you a complete examination. Doris will stay, okay?" Laurie nodded, "Is it okay for Mr. Smith to stay?" Laurie nodded again and the doctor gave her the shot of morphine.


Heyes continued to hold her hand and look in her eyes. After a few minutes, he could see she was having a tough time keeping them open. "Shhh," he whispered as he kissed her forehead, "I'm here, go to sleep. I'll be here when you wake up." Laurie drifted off.


The doctor stitched up the deep gashes on Laurie's inner thighs. He then examined her and determined that not only had she been raped, but she took a brutal beating at the hands of Mr. Carlson.  He was concerned because there could be internal bleeding. Bruises were forming on both of Laurie's arms and lower abdomen to go along with the nasty bruises on her face and throat. Heyes sat there the entire time, staring at Laurie's face. He was careful not to look at anything the doctor was doing and not particularly listening to what he was saying.


The doctor finally said, "I've done everything I can tonight. The bleeding has all but stopped. I have bandaged the minor cuts on her thighs and her ribs and stitched up the deep wounds. The morphine should keep her asleep until at least mid morning. I'll be back to check on her then. I've done all I can do; it's up to Laurie now. She's lost a lot of blood, but she is young and strong. Good night Mr. Smith, good night Doris," as he walked to the door he said, "If anything changes come and get me right away."


"Joshua," Doris started, "Laurie will be out until morning. Why don't you get cleaned up and get some rest?"


Heyes sat, holding Laurie's hand, not moving, "No, I promised I would be here. I'm not leaving."


"Joshua, dear," Doris came over and placed her hands on his shoulder, "You're covered in blood. You don't want Laurie to see that when she wakes up.  I'll stay here with her. You go get cleaned up."


Kid stepped into the doorway connecting the rooms. Heyes looked up at him. "We didn't find the necklace. I'll look for it again when the sun comes up. How's she doin’?"


"Doc gave her a shot of morphine," Heyes mumbled.


Kid had never seen his partner so out of it.  Of course, he had never seen Heyes take care of him when he was hurt or injured. "Joshua," he said calmly, "Doris is right. You need to get cleaned up. Laurie doesn't need to see you like this. I'll get some water and your things. You can do it in here.  You won't leave the room. I'll hold Laurie's hand." He didn't wait for an answer; he went to get the things he needed.


"Joshua, I'm going to go check on Walter and Sam," Doris said.


Almost in a catatonic state, Heyes told Doris, "Bring Sam up here. Laurie would want him to be here. I'm sure he would want to be here."


Doris left the room, carrying the pile of bandages and sheets that had been used, all covered in blood. She knew Laurie was young and strong, but she didn't know if anyone could survive the injuries she had. Doris walked downstairs to Walter, who was waiting in the kitchen, and fell into his arms crying. She hadn't cried all night. She didn't want Laurie or Joshua to see her; she had to be strong for them.


Kid walked back in the room with Sam in tow. He filled the basin with water, put Heyes' soap and stuff next to it. He got clean clothes and laid them down on the chair next to the dresser then walked over to his partner and put a hand on his shoulder; he didn't move. "Come on, Heyes," Kid said quietly, "Give me her hand. It won't take long and you can't let her see you this way."  Brown eyes slowly looked up at his partner standing next to him. Heyes knew he was right, but he couldn't move. Finally, he stood up, gave Laurie's hand to Kid and went to wash up.






It was a rough night for everyone in town.  Laurie was never violent and she seemed so happy earlier in the night. What had happened?  Talk and speculation flew through the town.  Some people blamed Laurie; some people blamed Mr. Carlson.  No one really knew what happened, no one had been there, well, no one had been there for the whole event. 


Sheriff Hardy walked back into his office after searching the alley for the necklace.  He placed two men at the alley, one on each end, so nothing would be disturbed until he had a chance to look in the morning.  The townspeople were gathered around outside.  Some watched as the Sheriff walked past, others asked what he found, and there were the few making comments that they hoped Laurie was dead or suffering for what she had done to Mr. Carlson.  The Sheriff didn't talk to anyone; he walked past the crowd straight to his office.  A deputy was stationed at the door; he gave two knocks as the lawman approached and the door opened to let the Sheriff in and then closed immediately after he was inside.


It had been a few hours since everything had happened.  Charlie was sitting with Charlotte; she was having some tea.  The Sheriff walked over, sat down at his desk and put his hands to his face.  "Rough night.  Are you okay, Charlotte?" 


"Yes," Charlotte replied, "How is Laurie?"


"Don't know," the Sheriff stated, and then corrected himself, "She's alive for now, if that's what you're asking.  She's in real bad shape.  Can you tell me what you saw tonight?"


She shook her head and started to tremble.


"It's okay, Charlotte," the Sheriff said, "You're not in trouble, I just need to know what you saw.  Just take your time."


Charlotte swallowed hard and then started, "It was getting cold and I had gone back home to get my shawl.  As I was walking back to the dance, I heard noises coming from the alley.  I walked over to see what it was when Laurie came bursting out.  I was going to laugh. She was a mess, her hair…her dress was ripped and then I saw blood.  She was screaming and trying to get away from something or someone and then Mr. Carlson grabbed her.  She swung her arms and something went flying.  I just stood there.  I didn't try to help." She began to cry.


The Sheriff walked over to Charlotte, "It's okay, take your time.  Have a sip of tea.  Continue when you can."


Charlotte tried very hard to compose herself, then continued, "Something flew into the air and hit the ground in front of Laurie.  I didn't see what it was.  Then Laurie fell and she reached and crawled for it.  Mr. Carlson was grabbing at her," Charlotte's voice trailed off.  "I didn't realize it was a gun until Laurie picked it up and turned and shot him.  She sat there on the ground and she kept shooting the gun, even when there were no bullets left I could hear it click.  Sheriff," Charlotte looked at him, "I didn't help.  It all happened so quickly.  Maybe if I yelled, Laurie wouldn't have had to kill him."


"By what you just told me," Sheriff Hardy said, "It sounds like you really didn't have a chance.  What happened next?"


"Laurie sat there holding the gun and pointing it at Mr. Carlson, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones came running.  So did a lot of other people but they stayed back.  Mr. Smith sat down next to her and took the gun away from her.  Mr. Jones rolled Mr. Carlson over and checked to see if he was alive.  Then Mr. Jones gave Mr. Smith his jacket to cover Laurie, her top was ripped down and you could," she paused, "she wasn't decent."  Charlotte took another sip of tea, trying hard not to get hysterical.  "Mr. Smith was trying to talk to Laurie, then someone yelled ‘blood’ and the whole bottom of Laurie's dress was full of blood.  It wasn't there to start with…it was spreading.  Mr. Smith picked her up and ran with her, I think to the hotel, yelling to get the doctor.  Mr. Jones and Doris followed him.  Then you came."


"Okay, Charlotte.  Do you remember anything else?"


She shook her head no.


"Are you sure?"


She nodded her head yes.


“That’s all I need tonight.  Now, there are a lot of people out front.  I don't want to take you through that.  We can try to go out the back or you can stay here for the night."


"I think I would like to go home," she said.


"Okay, Charlie. I'm going to take Charlotte home.  Wait five minutes, then go out and tell everyone to go home."






Heyes cleaned himself up as Kid sat and held Laurie's hand.  When he was done, he went back to Laurie's side.  Kid got up and moved to the other chair.  Sam lay by the side of the bed, under Heyes’ feet.  There was a knock on the door. Doris and Walter came in, "Just checking on you. Do you need anything? Coffee, tea, something to eat, something to help you sleep?" they asked.


Heyes shook his head no, never even looking at them.


Kid said, "Thanks, but I think we're fine.  You should probably try to get some sleep."


"We'll try, but don't think that's going to happen. You both should try as well.  If you need anything, or something changes, come and get us right away," Walter said.


As Walter finished, the Sheriff walked up behind him.  "Doris, Walter," he said, then, looking at Heyes and Kid, "Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, I would like to talk to you now."  Walter stepped aside and let the Sheriff into the room.  "I need to find out what you both know."


Doris and Walter said good night and left the three of them in the room.


"Don't know much," Kid said, "We were waiting for Laurie to come back to the dance.  We thought it was taking too long so we started to go look for her.  We heard her scream, started running and then heard gunshots.  When we came around the corner, Laurie was on the ground holding the gun and Carlson was face down in the street.  She was still pulling the trigger even though the gun was empty.  Joshua took the gun from her and tried to talk to her.  I checked on Carlson."


"How did your jacket get blood on it?" the Sheriff asked, holding up the jacket.


"When I was done with Carlson, I looked up and realized that the front of Laurie's dress was torn. I gave it to Joshua to cover her up. Then we saw the blood beginning to pool on the bottom of her dress.  Joshua picked her up and brought her here."  Kid stated, "That's it. She was in shock and we had to stop the bleeding.  Her legs are all sliced up.  Carlson really ..." he stopped and swallowed hard.  It was too hard.  He remembered what he had heard Laurie tell the Sheriff. 


"Mr. Smith," the Sheriff turned to Heyes, "Do you have anything to add?"


Heyes just shook his head.  Then with no emotion in his voice, "Something was wrong with him. The first day we saw Laurie he was dragging her out the back alley.  She never walked on the same side of the street as him.  She would never say when I asked, but I think she was afraid of him."


"What?  Why am I hearing this for the first time?"


"She didn't think anyone would believe her because she," he paused and looked down, "she thought she was nothing.  She thought everyone would believe Carlson," his voice trailed off as he stroked her hair.


"Well, I have to tell you, it looks like Laurie acted in self defense.  Charlotte was there."


Heyes whipped his head around; "She was there?" he seethed.


The lawman put his hand up, "Only at the end. She saw the two of them coming out of the alley.  The way she described it, Carlson was attacking Laurie.  She wasn't there when they were in the alley, but she told me basically the same story as Laurie, so I have to believe Laurie told the truth about what happened in the alley.  Even if it was different, the way Charlotte described it, what happened when they came out of the alley; Laurie was still acting in self defense."


"What if Mrs. Carlson or someone else doesn't believe it?" Kid asked.


"That's why it's good it was Charlotte who was there.  Everyone in town knows she didn't like Laurie.  No one would believe she'd make up a story to protect her," the Sheriff said.  "Well, it's getting pretty close to morning. I guess we should all try to get some sleep.  I'll be out at the alley in the morning, Mr. Jones, if you want to help look for the necklace."


Kid nodded and let the Sheriff out.  He dimmed the light and sat back in the chair. The rest of the night was uneventful.  Kid sat in the chair, dozing in and out.   Heyes sat holding Laurie's hand, stroking her hair and face every once in a while.  He closed his eyes for a couple of minutes at a time, but didn't really get any sleep.  Around seven in the morning, there was a quiet knock on the door. 


Doris opened the door and quietly said, "The doctor is here to check on Laurie."  She let him in.


The doctor nodded at Kid and Heyes and walked over to Laurie's side.  He checked her pulse and listened to her heart.  "She made it through the night, that's a good thing.  She still has a long way to go to get out of the woods, but she is strong and the toughest night should be behind us.  Mr. Smith, you probably saved her life with your quick thinking.  Applying the pressure to the wounds slowed the blood loss.  I don't know if she would have survived if she lost any more.  I'll come back in a few hours. If she wakes up before then, send someone for me."  He turned and walked to the door.


"Thanks Doc," Kid said. Heyes sat silently.  Kid couldn't remember when his partner had been this quiet for so long.  When their parents had been killed, Heyes had taken care of him.  He made sure everything was okay and never showed how much he hurt; always keeping everything bottled up inside him.  Kid had only heard him cry late at night when Heyes thought he was asleep.  He didn't know how to help his cousin this time.


Doris knocked and brought a tray in with breakfast and coffee.  "I brought this for the two of you. When Laurie wakes up, I'll get her something.  Eat. Thaddeus, please make sure Joshua eats, he needs to keep up his strength."  Doris put the tray on the dresser, walked over to Laurie and kissed her forehead.  She put her hand on Joshua's shoulder and kissed him on his head.  "She's strong. She loves you.  She has something to fight for."  She patted his shoulder again and left. 


Kid ate breakfast and tried to get Heyes to eat too, but it was no use.  He did take a couple sips of coffee but that was about it.  The sun was coming in the window when Kid announced he was going to go check in with the Sheriff, find out what was going on.  He got up, walked over to his partner, patted his shoulder and left.


There were a few people milling around town when Kid left the hotel, but for the most part, it was the quietest he had seen since they'd arrived.  He saw the Sheriff walking out of his office and went over to intercept him.  "Anything new?"  Kid inquired.


"A couple of things. Mrs. Carlson is calling for Laurie's head. She wants her punished for killing her husband.  And, Laurie's house burnt down last night.  Looks like it was set on fire around the time the dance was going on.  With all the commotion in town and because it's out there by itself, no one knew until it was too late.  Nothing anyone could do about it. Word has spread around town how bad Laurie is hurt and with her house burning down, I don't think most folks blame her.  They all knew that he didn't like her.  I say we go find the necklace and anything else we can in the alley."


"Sheriff, what do you think?" Kid asked, "I mean, do you think Laurie acted in self defense?"


"I'm a lawman. It's not what I think, it's what the evidence is," the Sheriff stated, and then added, "Yes, I think Laurie acted in self-defense and I'll do everything I can to prove that.  I also think that Carlson probably set the fire, and then went looking for her.  I think that if Laurie hadn't gotten away, he would have killed her.  So I think we go see what evidence we can find in the alley to help her out."


The Sheriff and Kid searched the alley all morning long.  They couldn't find the necklace and didn't really see anything that would sway the argument either way.  There was an area that looked like a scuffle had taken place but it could have been anything.  Then Kid noticed a speck of red on a couple of overturned crates.  As he went to examine them, he crouched down and called out, "Sheriff, I think you'll want to come see this."


The Sheriff came over and together, they moved the crate to expose a knife covered in what appeared to be dried blood.  "I guess when Laurie pushed Carlson; he knocked the crates over and dropped the knife.  This has to be the one that was used last night." 


"Still no necklace," Kid said, "I'm positive she had it on when she left us.  It has to be here somewhere."


"That might be," the Sheriff announced, "But I'm going to take a break and bring the knife over to the office and lock it up.  It's a valuable piece of evidence."


"I have to send a telegram. I'll walk with you," Kid stated.






Heyes sat and held Laurie's hand for hours.  She hadn't moved all night long.  She looked so peaceful but very pale.  He was so worried.  If he had just gone with her, none of this would have happened.  Still holding her hand, he rubbed his face with his other hand.   "You don't look so good," Laurie whispered in an almost inaudible voice.


Heyes jumped, "Sweetheart," he gushed, "You're awake!"  He closed his eyes for a second to compose himself.  Then he leaned over and kissed her cheek.


Laurie smiled a small smile, "Have you been holding my hand all night?"


"I promised I wouldn't leave you.  How do you feel?"


"Like a herd of cattle stampeded on me."  Laurie moaned, then started to cry, "I'm sorry, I tried…"


"Shhh," Heyes quickly said and got real close to her face, wiping her tears away, "Shhh, it wasn't your fault, you did nothing, shhh."  He tried to comfort her as Laurie started to cough.


Laurie whispered, "My mouth is so dry, can I...."


"I'll get some water, I'll be right back," Heyes said, jumping up.  As he got the water, he yelled for Doris.


Doris came running, "What?"  She stopped as she saw Laurie's eyes open.  "Laurie, dear, I'm so glad you're awake. I'll go get the doctor."  She smiled, placed her hand on Joshua's shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.  "I'll be right back."


Kid stepped into the room just as Doris was about to leave. She smiled at him and he looked from her face to Laurie's.  A huge smile spread across his face.  He walked over and gave her a kiss on the head, "Glad to see you this mornin’."


"Kid," Heyes called, "Laurie wants some water.  If I hold her up, will you help her with the water?"


"Sure," Kid said, taking the glass from Heyes.


"Okay sweetheart, this might hurt.  I'll be as gentle as I can, okay?"


Laurie nodded.  Heyes lifted her shoulders up and he slid onto the bed behind her to keep her up.  Laurie had a few sips and then motioned it was enough.  Heyes stayed behind her and held her.  He closed his eyes.


The doctor knocked and walked in.  "How's the patient this morning?"


"Sore," Laurie replied quietly.


"That's expected. I want to check your injuries and change your bandages. Mr. Jones, can you step out? Mr. Smith..."


"I'm not leaving," Heyes stated.


"Didn't think you would," Doc informed him, "I just thought if you could hold her like you are and move her when I ask, it might be a little less painful for Laurie.  Is that okay Laurie…that Mr. Smith stays?"


"Yes," she said. 


"To keep Laurie decent when I examine her, I'll get Doris to come hold a sheet up," the doctor stated. "Laurie, I'm sure this is going to hurt. Let me know if the pain gets too unbearable."


Laurie lay propped up against Heyes.  He was holding both of her hands. "I've got you, just lean against me and squeeze my hands as hard as you want."  He was trying so hard to be calm, he was so glad she was awake and talking. 


Doris came in to assist the doctor and he began checking the wounds.  Laurie squeezed Heyes' hands tight but made no sound.  When the doctor was finished, he said, "Looks like the bleeding has stopped. The wounds look clean. The bruises are bad and ugly and they’re going to get uglier as they heal.  The good thing is nothing feels warm so there is no infection and the bruises aren’t swollen any more than what one would expect.”


“Doc?”  Heyes inquired.


“I can tell if the wounds on the outside are healing, Mr. Smith, but it’s not so easy for other wounds.  Laurie took a real beating.  The bruises show there was some internal bleeding.   As long as they don’t get bigger, swollen or hot to the touch, the bleeding has stopped and she should be on the mend.”  He turned his attention back to Laurie, “It's important for you to try to eat something; you're going to need your strength. I'm going to give you another shot of morphine.  It will make you more comfortable and you'll be able to rest.  I'm going to go over instructions with Doris on cleaning the wounds. I see some food on the tray. Mr. Smith, why don't you help Laurie eat something and when I'm done with Doris, I'll give her the morphine."


Heyes helped Laurie eat about a half a muffin.  He could see she was getting paler and weaker and was glad when the doctor said it was time for the shot.  Laurie was so exhausted; she didn't even fight it.  Heyes held her hands and gave her a kiss, "I'll be here when you wake up," he told her and she fell fast asleep.






Shortly after the Sheriff returned to the office from the alley, Charlie came busting in with his son Jimmy.  "Sheriff," Charlie called, "Jimmy has something that might interest you."  Turning and scowling at his twelve-year-old son, he continued, "I just found out about it, otherwise I would have brought him in sooner.  Jimmy, what do you have to tell the Sheriff?"


Jimmy was looking at the ground and talked in a low voice, "Sheriff, I was in the alley last night."


Charlie yelled at him, "Speak up, the Sheriff can't hear you."


Jimmy started again.  "I…I…um…I was in the alley last night.  Pa told me to stay home, that the dance was for grownups, but I wanted to see.  I was going through the alley so no one would see me."


"Jimmy, did you hear or see something?" the Sheriff asked.


"Yes sir," he said, swallowing hard.  "I was walking through the alley when I heard someone, so I hid behind some stuff.  I didn't want Pa to know I disobeyed him."


"What did you hear or see?" the Sheriff inquired.


"Well, I don't really know.  I heard something and saw two people, but I didn't know who they were ‘cause it was so dark.  I couldn't tell the one person, it was a man, but the other one was Laurie.  I know her voice.  She was crying and begging him to stop.  I wanted to do something so I pushed stuff over.  The man yelled.  He wanted to know who it was.  I just hid.  I heard more noise and then a crash and Laurie screaming.  I started down the alley after her and heard gunshots.  I turned and ran all the way home."


"That it, Jimmy?" the lawman asked.


Jimmy nodded his head.


"You did good, Jimmy.  You can run on home now."


Jimmy looked at Charlie and then went home.


"Well," Sheriff stated, "That fills in another hole.  Jimmy was the first sound, Charlotte was the second."






Heyes stayed with Laurie all day, dozing in and out of consciousness. Late in the day, Kid came back to check on them.  He poked his head in to see them both sleeping.  Laurie looked pale and weak but she was alive.  Heyes looked more drained than he had ever seen him.  It was up to Kid to make a decision for both of them.  It was late afternoon when Heyes woke up enough for Kid to hear; he had been resting in their room.   Kid came to the door between the rooms and quietly asked Heyes, "How you feeling?"


"Better, I guess.  What time is it?"


"About four, you've both been sleepin’ for a while.  I'm gonna get Doris to bring up a tray and you will eat somethin’.  Then we need to talk.  Splash your face with some water.  It's in the basin.”  He looked at Heyes hesitate as he held Laurie’s hand.  “You can let go of her hand for two minutes, you're not leaving the room," Kid instructed.  Heyes agreed and got up to wash his face.  Doris brought up a tray and Kid came in as Heyes ate.  "You haven't eaten all day, you can do better than that," he scolded Heyes.  "Now, about the Colonel," Kid started. Heyes closed his eyes and groaned. "Don't worry, I sent a telegram to him this mornin’ and I got a response a little while ago.  We've moved the meetin’ to Friday.  Means we'll have to leave here Tuesday, worst case, before sun up on Wednesday."


Heyes looked at Kid, shocked then relieved, "You did all that?"


"You were busy," Kid said matter-of-factly.


"Thanks," Heyes said gratefully. 


There was a knock on the door. Kid got up to answer it, and the Sheriff stepped in.  "Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith. How's she doing?"


"Resting," Heyes said, "She's hanging in there."


"Good, good," the Sheriff said, "Well, Mr. Jones, I know why we couldn't find Laurie's necklace in the alley.  It was in Carlson's jacket pocket.  The undertaker found it.  He heard I was looking for a necklace and brought it to me a little while ago to see if this was it.  It must have fallen in there when he attacked her, probably when he gave her those bruises on her neck.  The chain was broken, but I took it to the jeweler and he fixed it.  I didn't want to give it back to Laurie broken.  She's been through enough and I know this means a lot to her.  I know you mean a lot to her, Mr. Smith."  Heyes gave the Sheriff a tight smile and nod. The Sheriff handed him the necklace; "This closes the book on the investigation.  Laurie acted in self-defense.  All you have to do is look at her injuries, and then you have Charlotte's testimony, the knife covered in blood and the broken necklace.  I found out that Jimmy, Charlie's son, was in the alley too.  He was at the far end hiding.  He didn't see Carlson but heard Laurie's voice.  He made the first sound Carlson reacted to. He was trying to help Laurie but turned and ran home when he heard the gunshots.  Oh, I went out to Laurie's place and it's fairly obvious that someone set it on fire."


 "Fire?" Heyes asked shocked.


"I didn't get a chance to tell you," Kid said, "Laurie's house burnt down last night.  It looks like it started about the time of the dance.  The Sheriff was thinkin’ Carlson set it on fire before he went lookin’ for Laurie."


"Yeah, by everyone's account he seemed to have gone completely crazy," Sheriff Hardy said and then turned to leave.


Heyes leaned over and softly kissed Laurie; she moved a tiny bit.  Then he carefully put the necklace on her.  He sat down, picked up her hand and held it the rest of the night and into morning.  First, being attacked and now to find out her house was burnt to the ground. He wasn't sure how she would handle it all.  He figured she didn't need to know about the house for a while.  She needed to stay here and get better first anyway, so there was time to decide what to do.






When Heyes woke up the next morning, Laurie was looking at him.  "Hey beautiful, how ya doing?" he asked and leaned over to kiss her cheek.


"Okay; have you been sitting in that chair and holding my hand the whole time?" she asked.


"Except for a couple of minutes, but I made Kid hold it when I couldn't," he said and stroked her face. "You have more color today.  That's good."  He then took her hand and placed it on top of the necklace.


"My heart, you found my heart, your heart," she gushed, well, as much as anyone in horrendous pain could gush. 


"The Sheriff found it in Carlson's pocket. It must have fallen there when he grabbed your neck." Heyes' eyes filled with tears as he stroked her neck; "He also told us that you've been cleared.  You acted in self-defense.  It's over. Now you have to get better."  He leaned down and, softer than ever, kissed her on the lips.


Tears filled Laurie's eyes and Heyes wiped them away; "I'm sorry," she started.


“Shhh," Heyes said, gently placing his fingers on her lips, "It's over.  It wasn't your fault.  You just need to get better, okay?"


A look of realization came over Laurie's face, "What day is it?"


"Monday," Heyes responded.


"Heyes, you shouldn't be here," Laurie panicked, "The Colonel."


"Kid took care of that. We meet on Friday.  I think I'll send Kid by himself."


"No, you have to go. This is important.  It could be for your amnesty," Laurie implored.


"Hey, don't get upset," Heyes said, trying to calm her down, "we have a few days, let's see how you feel.  Now I want to get you something to eat and check your bandages."  He smiled and corrected himself, "I could do it myself, I should do it myself, but I'll have Doris check your bandages."






Laurie slept most of the day.  She refused the morphine shot when the doctor came, so she didn't sleep well.  She moaned, cried and even yelled out a few times as she slept.  She made Heyes leave the room when Doris came to clean the wounds and re-bandage them.  She told him to take Sam outside for a while and to go get a drink.  He tried to fight her, but even though she was weak, she wasn't backing down.  She tried to talk to him a few times about leaving her in the morning, but he said he had until Wednesday to go.   When it was night, Laurie told Heyes to go sleep in his bed, he wouldn't have anything to do with it and once again slept in the chair holding her hand.


When Laurie woke up the next morning, she heard voices.  Heyes was just waking up too, when the door between the two rooms opened.  Kid was standing there with Sheriff Hardy.  "Can we come in?" the Sheriff asked.


"Sure, what's the matter," Heyes said, rubbing his face.


"Well," the Sheriff hesitated, "It's Mrs. Carlson.  She wants Laurie arrested for killing her husband.  I've tried to tell her it was in self-defense but she doesn't want to listen.  She has connections; she's called in a US Marshal to take a look at the case."


"Marshal Hanshaw, Joshua," Kid stated looking directly at his partner. 


"Oh," Heyes responded, "When is the Marshal due?"


"He should arrive here tomorrow on the morning train," the lawman responded.  "Laurie, there shouldn't be any problems. I'm just sorry you have to go through all of this again.  My hands are tied." He turned and left.


"Hanshaw, Heyes," Kid said, sounding concerned, "He can pick us out from the other side of the town.  We have to leave before he gets here."


"It's been a while since we've seen him," Heyes said, trying to sound convincing but not doing a good job at it. "Maybe he doesn't remember us.  I think you should leave and get to the Colonel and I'll meet up with you when Laurie is better."


"No!" Laurie said with a force that surprised not only her, but also the ex-outlaws.  "You have to leave to see the Colonel.  It could be your amnesty and now you tell me a U.S. Marshall is coming to town and he knows WHO you are?  You are leaving, both of you, go!"


"Calm down. We don't have to leave until tomorrow. Let me think," Heyes started.


"No, no thinking. You're leaving," Laurie tried to yell, but started to cough and then cry because the pain of coughing was so bad.


Heyes sat down next to Laurie and tried to soothe her. "Shhh, okay, it's okay.  Kid, get me some water."  Kid handed Heyes a glass of water and Laurie took a sip.  "I'm sorry sweetheart, calm down, it's okay.  Shhh, it's okay, we'll be okay.  Shhh," Heyes said, trying to comfort and calm Laurie.  The excitement was taking its toll on her; she was getting weaker as you looked at her.  Heyes wanted her to relax. 


Suddenly, Laurie remembered the small heart she had gotten for Heyes, "In my top dresser drawer is a small package, could you get it for me?" she asked.


Heyes opened the drawer and pulled out a small package wrapped in cloth and started to hand it to Laurie.


"No, it's for you.  That's what I came back to get the other night," her voice trailed off.


Heyes opened the package and found a small heart; "L" was engraved on the back. 


"You can put it on your watch chain if you want.  It's my heart," Laurie said, "I give it to you to take with you.  It's my heart and it belongs to you forever."


Heyes closed his eyes as he reined in his emotions.  Opening them, he rubbed the heart between his fingers before he took out his watch and placed the heart on the chain.  Then he walked over to Laurie, carefully sat on the side of the bed, leaned over and ever so softly kissed her on the lips.  "I love you," he whispered, then touched his forehead to hers. 


After a few moments, Laurie said, "I love you too, that's why you are leaving in the morning.  I am not going to be the cause of you spending twenty years in prison.  The US Marshal knows you.  You have to leave. You also have to bring the papers to the Colonel.  It's your future; it's our future. What do I have to live for, if you're in jail?  I'll stop fighting.  I don't want to live if..."


"Don't talk like that!" Heyes snapped.  He ran his hands through his hair and was visibly upset.  "You can't stop fighting. I can't lose you.  Don't you understand?" He ran his hand over his mouth, abruptly stood up and stormed out of the room. 


"Kid," Laurie, said, trying not to cry, "Talk to him, please."  She lifted her hand up to him and he came over and held it.  "Kid, please promise me that you will make sure he leaves before the Marshal gets here.  I don't care if you have to knock him out, please.  I'll give up now, just to make him leave, I'm begging.  I would die if he went to jail because of me. If I give up now, he'll leave and I can save him.  Promise me you'll take him."


Kid nodded his head, "I promise, now get some rest, you need your strength." He left to follow Heyes. 






The blond ex-outlaw found his partner with the black hat in the saloon, with a shot of whiskey in his hand.  He downed it and ordered another before Kid could walk from the door to the bar.


"You might want to slow down, it's not even the afternoon yet," Kid told Heyes.




"Because she still needs you.  You need to be strong for her and, if you keep it up, you'll be of no use to Laurie or me."


"She said she was going to stop trying," Heyes spit out, "How can she say that?"


"Heyes," Kid said quietly, "She's concerned about you!  She loves you and doesn't want anythin’ to happen to you."


"I can't do this," Heyes blurted out.  "I can't do this. I can't love her then lose her."  He shook his head and motioned to the bartender for another shot.


Kid, taken aback by his partner’s admission, shook his head, "You're not gonna lose her. She told you that, she gave you her heart."


"She can't give up, she just can't," Heyes said as he ran his hand through his hair.


"She won't. She just needs to know that you're gonna be safe.  If you want the possibility of any kind of future with her, you, WE have to leave at dawn to see the Colonel," Kid said emphatically.


"I know, Kid," Heyes said, sounding defeated.  "It was bad enough to leave when everything was okay, but now.  What's that make me?"


"Tryin’ to survive," Kid said with empathy in his voice.  "She doesn't want you to go to jail; I think that's more likely to kill her than you leavin’."






Doris saw Joshua leave.  It was the first time he had left Laurie's side without being told or without making sure someone was with her. He looked really upset.  When she saw Thaddeus leave, she knew Laurie was alone, she went up to check.  Doris quietly knocked then opened the door.  As she looked in, she saw Laurie crying, "Oh dear," she said with compassion in her voice. She walked over to the side of the bed, "What's the matter?" Doris leaned over and wiped the tears off Laurie's face.  "Are you in pain? Should I get the doctor? What can I do?"


"I'm okay," Laurie said, trying to force a smile, her lip still trembling.


"I can tell something is the matter, dear. Please, let me help you," Doris pleaded, sitting in the chair next to the bed and picking up Laurie's hand.


"Joshua and I had a fight," Laurie cried.  She closed her eyes to try to calm down, but she couldn't and crying only made everything hurt more.


"That's why he left.  It's okay; you both have been through so much.  The strain had to come out sometime.  He loves you.  He hasn't left your side for more than a couple of minutes.  When he's gone, he's made sure Thaddeus or I were here holding your hand.  He only wants you to get better," Doris explained, then wiped the tears off Laurie's face.


Laurie opened her eyes, "Doris, does he know?  I mean does he know everything?"  Streams of tears flowed from her eyes.  Her bottom lip was shaking and it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to breathe.


Doris placed her hand on Laurie and tried to soothe her, "Shhh, it's okay.  Shhh, try to calm down.  Everything is going to be okay, dear.  Joshua loves you; I can see it when he looks at you.  I can see it when he talks about you.  He loves you with all his heart."


"But does he know?" Laurie cried.


Doris paused.  "Yes. Joshua knows what happened. He knows everything that happened," Doris said calmly.


Laurie closed her eyes and cried, "Why won't he go then.  If he knows, why doesn't he leave?  He can't want me anymore, not after..." Laurie's voice trailed off.   She lay there with her eyes closed, tears flowing down her face and her lip trembling.  Her chest was almost heaving as she tried to breathe. 


"He loves you," Doris said as she sat there with her hand on Laurie trying to soothe her.  Slowly, Laurie calmed herself down and drifted off to sleep.  Not wanting to leave her alone, Doris sat quietly as Laurie slept.






Heyes and Kid stayed in the saloon for a while. Heyes didn't want to return to Laurie so quickly after downing four shots of whiskey in record time.  He thought he should sit, relax and get something to eat. He knew he had to go back and talk to her.  He didn't want to leave, but it wasn't just him.  He knew what he did affected Kid. He couldn't hang him out to dry, not even for Laurie.  Kid was family, more than just blood.  They had been partners for almost seven years and he didn't think either of them could survive for more than a few weeks without each other.  He wouldn't risk messing up Kid's chance at amnesty.  He had to go.  He always knew he would have to leave.  He just didn't want to face it any sooner than he had to. 


Kid let Heyes sit there.  He knew his partner would talk when he was ready.  He knew this was probably one of the toughest things Heyes ever had to deal with.  He knew, everyone knew, how much he loved Laurie.  Kid hadn't seen that smile, the Heyes special smile, in a long time, but all you had to do was mention her name to him and there it was, his whole face lit up.  Now he had to leave the lady he loved and he had to do it while she was still fighting for her life.  If it wasn't for Hanshaw, Kid figured he would meet the Colonel and come back for Heyes but with Hanshaw coming to town, Heyes had to leave with him.


"Kid," Heyes finally said, "Thanks."


"Thanks?" Kid asked.


"Yeah. Thanks for putting up with me.  You know, through all this.  I know it hasn't been easy," Heyes said.


"I'll always have your back," Kid replied.


"I know, and I'm grateful."  Heyes said quietly, "I think I better go talk to Laurie.  You should probably count on eating by yourself.  If she doesn't hate me, I think I'll stay with her ‘til morning.  We'll ride out at sun-up."  Heyes stood up, patted his partner's shoulder and left the saloon. 






Heyes walked into his and Kid's room.  He put his saddlebag on the bed and started to pack it.  He took his watch out and looked at the heart on the chain, rubbing it between his fingers.  This wasn't supposed to happen, he thought.  We came to town for a job, and now the world had turned upside down.  Laurie, the thought of her brought a smile to his face; it all centers on her.  These past few weeks had been incredible and now this, she didn't deserve this.  He slowly put the watch away and looked at the door between the rooms.  He decided it was time; he had avoided the possible wrath or rejection long enough. He walked over and lightly knocked on the door, then quietly opened it.  Doris was sitting in the chair. Laurie was sleeping. She looked so peaceful.  Heyes looked at Doris and gave a pained smile, and then he walked into the room.  Doris stood up and met Heyes at the bottom of the bed.


"Thank you for being here with her," Heyes said quietly.


Doris placed her hand on his arm, "She loves you."


"I know," Heyes replied quietly.  "I love her too."


"I know you do, dear," Doris said and smiled.


"Doris, I have to leave for a while. Will you look after Laurie while I'm gone?  I'll leave you money and I'll send more later."


"Joshua," Doris scolded, "You can not ask me that and I will not take your money."


"If I had..." Heyes started.


Doris squeezed his arm, "Dear, you can't ask because it's not necessary.  Of course I will take care of Laurie and I don't need your money to do it.  I know if you had a choice, you wouldn't leave.  I guess it has to do with the job you originally came here for."


Heyes sighed in relief, "I was supposed to leave Sunday morning.  Now I have to leave sun-up tomorrow.  If I could stay, I would."


"I know and so does Laurie.  Actually she was upset that you hadn't left yet.  She's worried about you and let me tell you, it's not helping her.  She needs to concentrate on getting better, not on you."


Heyes smiled, "Thank you, for being there for Laurie and thank you for making it easier on me."  Heyes leaned over and kissed Doris' cheek.  Doris gave one last squeeze to Heyes' arm and left.  Heyes walked over to the side of the bed and sat down in the chair.  He leaned over Laurie and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead and brushed the hair off her face.  Laurie slowly opened her eyes.  "Hey, sweetheart," Heyes said quietly with a huge smile as he stroked her face.


Laurie grabbed his hand and kissed it, then held it to her face.


"Everything is going to be fine, I promise," he said with such care and concern in his voice.  "I'll leave tomorrow if you promise you'll get better, okay?"


"Really?" Laurie smiled.


"Really. I don't want to, you know that, right?  I want; no, I need you to concentrate on getting better.  So I'll leave in the morning, but you have to promise." 


"Thank you," Laurie sighed.  "I promise."


Heyes bent over and kissed Laurie; then he leaned his forehead against hers.  They stayed there for a few minutes and he sat back up and stroked her face.  He stayed with her the rest of the day as Laurie slept on and off all afternoon.  One of the times she was asleep, Heyes got up and finished packing his saddlebag.  He also wrote a note to Laurie and left it with some money in the top drawer of the dresser.  He knew Doris said she didn't need the money, but it was something he had to do for himself.  Around dinnertime, Doris brought a tray for the two of them.  She had a nice steak dinner for Heyes and some broth for Laurie.  Heyes stayed by her side the entire night.  He sat in the chair, holding her hand and watching her sleep.  He only dozed for a few minutes here and there.






It was just about four in the morning when Kid knocked at the door, "We have to get goin’ soon.  I'll go down and get the horses."


Heyes nodded his head. Laurie, who had heard the door open, squeezed Heyes' hand and turned her head to Kid, "Thank you."


Kid smiled, "I'll be right back."


Kid came back with Doris and Walter in tow.  Heyes was sitting with his face just inches from Laurie.  They were staring into each other's eyes.  As Heyes stroked Laurie's face, he whispered, "Marry me?"


Laurie smiled and a tear rolled down her cheek, "No, you can't worry about me when you're gone.  You and Thaddeus, you take care of yourselves.  I love you with all my heart, but I can't have you worry about me.  I will always love you," she said as tears flowed down her face. She reached up to kiss Heyes on the lips.  "Please take care of yourselves and when you come back, you can ask me again."


"You better say yes then," Heyes barely got out; he gently kissed her on the lips.


Kid walked over and put his hand on Heyes, "It's time. We have to go now."  He leaned over and gave Laurie a kiss on the head, "Take care of yourself.  Get better soon, okay?" he said with a smile.


Heyes kissed Laurie one more time, then said, "I'll be back as soon as I can.  Please concentrate on getting better."


"I love you.  Take care of yourself and Thaddeus," she smiled.


As they walked to the door, Doris and Walter were waiting, "I packed you some food for your trip.  Don't worry; we're here for Laurie. Be safe."  She kissed Heyes and Kid on the cheek and hugged them both. 


"Ride safe. We'll take good care of Laurie, we promise," Walter said and shook their hands.


"Joshua," Laurie called out, "Please send a telegram when you get to the Colonel. Let me know that the weather is nice." Heyes smiled and nodded his head.   He knew that nice weather meant that they were okay.  He planned on sending a telegram then and anytime he could.


Kid put his hand on his cousin's back and said, "Sun's coming up. We got t’ go."  They left the hotel and got on their horses.  As they started off, Heyes turned and looked back at the hotel.  "You okay?" Kid asked with concern.


"Yeah," Heyes said quietly, "I'm okay."


They rode off to see the Colonel.