Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry-- Alias Smith and Jones
horse stumbled and Jedediah Curry would have fallen off if his partner,
Hannibal Heyes, hadn’t grabbed his arm.
go to sleep, Kid!” Heyes shouted in his ear. “If you do, you’ll
you tell me what difference it makes if I freeze to death in the saddle or
in one of those snow drifts,” Curry shouted back. He shivered and tried
to pull his hat farther over his ears. It didn’t do any good. The wind
snuck under the brim with all the subtlety of a cannonball.
find something soon,” Heyes reassured him.
wind intermittently spat snow and sleet. If not for the accursed posse,
they’d be sitting snug and cozy in Evansdale. Warm, dry, safe; stomachs
filled with tasty dinner. But no, they managed to get caught in front of a
blizzard in a town where one of the old gang had also found refuge. There
was no loyalty in a whisky bottle, Curry thought.
horse stumbled again. Curry leaned over and tapped Heyes on the leg.
“Think my horse is going lame.”
was a muffled curse from his companion. “Check it out. I’ll stand
dismounted and checked his mount’s legs. He didn’t even have to pick
up the right rear to know the horse’s trouble. There was blood in the
snow. The horse pulled his leg away with a snort. A deep cut ran down the
leg, across the hock almost to the hoof.
He pulled off the saddlebags and then removed the gelding’s
bridle and saddle. The saddle remained in the snow where it dropped, while
he looped the bridle over his shoulder. With a sigh, he patted him on the
withers. Maybe the poor beast would help confuse those following.
on up,” Heyes told him, extending a hand. He didn’t look at the Kid;
his eyes were flicking back and forth, trying to see into the dark corners
of the narrow valley floor.
hesitated a moment and then took the proffered hand. What else could he
do? If he told Heyes to leave him, his cousin twice removed would just
give a derisive laugh and tell him sixteen reasons why it wouldn’t be a
good idea. They had been together for years. Guess when the time came,
they’d go out together.
horse walked about ten feet and stopped, head hanging down. No help there.
The Kid swung up behind his darker-haired cousin and clamped his knees
high against the horse’s flanks. Curry felt the steamy heat from the
sweaty mount and knew it wouldn’t be long before this horse gave out,
too. They had to find some kind of shelter soon.
rang out. One smacked a limb just above Heyes’ head, causing it to
explode in a shower of splinters and snow. Another whistled past his ear.
Heyes kicked the horse. It squealed and shot forward, clattering near the
bottom of the narrow valley. There were several more shots before trees
and brush gave promise of sheltering them from their ambushers. Curry felt
something slam into his thigh and down his leg toward the knee. The pain
followed, making him gasp in surprise and shock.
need to give Heyes anything else to worry about. “No. I’m frozen,
tired and hungry,” he snapped. The last was a lie, but the first two
griping. It could be worse,” Heyes countered.
could be in jail.”
it’s warm and out of the snow and they feed you at least two squares a
up and keep an eye out for a way out of here,” Heyes told him.
horse struggled, crunching through ice and occasionally slipping on the
rocks. Curry winced with each step the horse took. He felt the cold of wet
cloth and knew the wound was bleeding pretty badly. “Heyes, look up
there.” Curry pointed. There was a track; probably a deer trail leading
up the side of the slope.
easy for them to follow, but we don’t have much choice.”
clamped his hand over his wound. He saw blood clotting down the horse’s
side. It was only a matter of time before he would lose consciousness.
“Absolutely no choice.”
Kid, you smell something?”
was in too much pain to joke around. He tried to pay closer attention to
what was around him. “No.”
tested the air again and smelled a very faint current. “Yeah, I do
now.” They had started up the slope. “But I think it’s below us now.
In the valley.”
stopped the horse and tested Curry’s summation. “You’re right, but
if there’s no other way out….”
thought and several others flitted through his mind. “Send the horse on
and we double back?” Even as he said it, Kid was sure he couldn’t be
able to do something like that.
saw how successful that was with your horse,” Heyes commented with deep
was lame,” Curry responded wearily. He felt his lethargy beginning to
press down on him like a thick fog.
heard Hannibal sigh. “It’s getting colder and the wind’s picking up.
Even if they track us, they wouldn’t be able to take us out in this.
It’s getting worse, believe it or not.”
And I don’t know how much farther we can go either, Heyes.”
though on cue, the horse stumbled and fell, pitching both men off. Heyes
grabbed a branch and swung clear. Curry wasn’t so lucky. He missed being
rolled on by the floundering animal, but felt ravaged muscles in his leg
protest when he hit the ground. He sat up where he had fallen, too tired
to get to his feet.
horse scrambled to his feet, took several steps and pitched forward. He
groaned, tried to raise his head and then was still.
the hell?” Heyes choked out. He examined the horse and cursed in
earnest. “Dead!” He studied his glove, and wiped it on the snow. “He
must have taken a hit.”
so did I.”
eyes widened. “What?” He wallowed through a snow drift to get to the
Kid. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
was too tired and cold to say anything snappy. “Wouldn’t have made any
difference. Couldn’t take
you!” It was approaching dusk. It didn’t help that the clouds were
lowering as well. “Where?”
gently felt his partner’s leg.
Curry cried out, then bit his lip.
me find something to bind your wound.”
get out of here,” Curry told him.
uh, Kid. Doesn’t work that way.”
felt his mind clearing a bit. “Sure it does, if you go on up the slope.
They might think we’d gone out of the ravine.” He thought hard.
“Then you double back and we look for that cabin or whatever it is
we’re smelling the smoke from.”
stared at him. “Kid, you’ve come up with a winner!” He was silent as
he dug through his saddle bag, but Curry knew he was thinking at the same
time. “Storm’s going to get worse. They’ll have to hunker down,
too.” He quickly got to work, over the Kid’s protests. “Quit
griping. I don’t have a snowball’s chance of helping ya if that leg
isn’t taken care of. Gotta stop the bleeding.”
it was useless to argue, Curry asked, “What do you want me to do?”
answer, Heyes broke off a five foot stick from a nearby tree and thrust it
in the Kid’s hand. “Best I can do until I get back to help you. Now
sit still and let me finish.” He worked swiftly, jerking a shirt from
his saddle bag and ripping it up.
a minute! Isn’t that the good shirt you bought in Rock Springs?”
it is.” Heyes continued working. “Read in a book not long ago about
things you can only see in a microscope….”
leg was throbbing and Curry was ready for any kind of a distraction. “A
It’s a little like a magnifying glass, but better and it lets you
see things that are too tiny for the eye to see. Germs.”
does that have to do with your good shirt?”
the cleanest one I have. Germs are in dirty things and if they get in a
wound, they can make you sick.”
know that, but you didn’t have to tear up your….” Heyes tied the
strips tight around his leg. Curry gasped at the spiked pain.
it or not, most of the time I like your company, Kid. So if the book says
to keep a wound clean, then I do what I have to do to keep it clean.”
Heyes tied a knot to hold the makeshift bandage tight.
shut up and let me finish.”
did as he was told.
finished and sat back for a moment. His breath puffed out in the chill
evening like steam from a train engine. Kid realized in that few seconds
just how precarious everything was. This was nothing they could talk their
way out of, charm away or work a scam. As though to emphasize the point,
the wind gusted. Snow fell more earnestly, mostly sideways. “Get on up
the path. Hand me your saddle bag.”
shook his head. “You have enough to worry about with your leg. Go on and
I’ll hide your tracks.”
have to work hard to do that.” Indeed the snow was cold and dry enough
that even the dead horse had snow drifted against its back.
take the saddlebag, Kid. You just concentrate on finding that warm, dry
couldn’t argue. He never could, even under good circumstances. He limped
off through a copse of trees, trying hard not to make an obvious path. He
knew he wasn’t succeeding. The bandage constricted his movement, but not
enough to stop the pain that radiated to below his knee and up through his
hip. In all their years together, he had never stopped a bullet like this.
Yeah, he’d been hurt; he’d stopped bullets. Glancing down, he saw the
bandage was already showing blood. He looked ahead; gauged the path,
wanting to avoid anything that would trip him up. Hard to tell with all
the snow, but in the remaining light, he could only hope for the best. He
had to look at the bright side; at least he didn’t have a broken leg.
worked his way down the slope toward the floor of the valley. It had
widened out until it actually deserved the name of valley. A creek flowed
on one side fed by half-frozen rivulets between boulders and rocks. He was
wary of the well defined path that meandered alongside the stream, but
there was little he could do about it. Exhaustion was setting in and the
Kid knew he couldn’t keep dodging roots and rocks much longer. Pain
waned into the deep corners of his being, but so too did his will. Even
the cold didn’t bother him anymore.
wind rose again and one gust almost knocked him into a drift. He clutched
onto the staff as though it was a lifeline. The valley widened until he
was unable to see where the valley walls rose on either side. There was only the path and only the directive by Heyes to
find the source of the wood smoke they had detected.
when Curry thought he couldn’t go any further, he saw it. It seemed to
be a part of the rocks and brush on one side of the slope. When he stopped
and looked closer through the murky darkness, he could see that the cabin
had been built butt up against the rock wall. Icicles hung from an
out-hanging porch. Some were almost long enough to touch the ground.
were no animals in sight, but there was a small pile of bones on one side
of the porch, half-covered with snow. Most likely from a recent deer kill.
Curry saw no windows but there were a couple of boards over what might be
spy slits. All this he took in as he hobbled the last few steps to the
door. He had to stoop down to get under the overhanging porch.
thought he could smell roasting meat. Kid felt dizzy and nauseated. The
door seemed to waver and tilt. Curry reached forward to knock and lost his
balance. As he fell, everything seemed to lose definition and grow dark.
He was not conscious when he hit the ground.
the cabin, the back of which was partly cave, the smell of venison stew
warred with the earthy smell of horse and cow manure, sweat and wood
smoke. Mandy Woodburn used the iron hook to move a heavy lid from the top
of a large cast iron pot. The two men seated near the fireplace made her
nervous, but Daniel had been certain of their credentials. They were from
some detective agency, she remembered them saying. She had been busy and
had not paid as much attention as she ought. That there were two wanted
criminals in the area frightened her even more than these two strangers.
The older detective had barely come in, warning them that they’d have
company pretty soon.
was in the cave seeing to the animals and their stores. Between him and
the two detectives, no harm would come to her and the unborn child she
knew was coming soon. She rubbed her swollen belly, trying to relieve the
tightness that caused her skin to itch.
was the sound of something dropping or falling outside the porch. Icicles?
In an instant the two men were on their feet, their guns drawn. Mandy
froze for several heartbeats, then she dared to push aside a strand of
light brown hair that had fallen in front of her eyes.
two men continued at ready, their eyes hard in concentration. Finally the
older one motioned to the other and the younger, light-haired, almost
blond lawman stole to the door. The other man followed.
height, heavily muscled with almost black hair, the older of the two men
stood against the wall. “Open it,” he ordered his companion, his voice
a quick motion, the young man pulled the bar and jerked the heavy plank
saw two men there; one with his hand upraised as though he had been about
ready to knock on the door. The other was slumped on the ground. Stained
white material on the unconscious man’s leg stood out starkly. He fell
across the threshold as the door opened.
your hands up, Heyes, and come in slowly,” the older detective said.
noticed Daniel was by her side now. He had an ax in his free hand. The
other was around her waist, holding her close to him.
bringing my friend in with me,” Heyes said.
remembered the older one’s name now. It was Jackson. Carter Jackson.
until we relieve you of your guns.”
stood quietly while the younger detective, whose name she had not caught,
took his and the unconscious man’s pistols.
haul in the Kid,” Jackson ordered.
did as he was told, dragging his friend in close to the fire. He knelt
down to take care of the injured man.
you don’t,” Jackson repeated.
bleed to death if he’s not taken care of,” Heyes protested.
poster says dead or alive, so your concerns don’t mean a thing to us,”
the younger lawman barked.
you know what our orders were. They’re to be taken alive.”
looked like he had just eaten a Mexican chili, but he didn’t argue.
me take care of my friend,” Heyes said softly.
saw a great deal in the outlaw’s face. What she saw the most was a deep
kinship with the injured man. If these two weren’t related in blood, she
thought, their brotherhood had been forged in their trials.
the fire and lamplight, Jackson peered at the injured man sprawled on the
smooth dirt floor. “Appears he’s been tended to already,” Jackson
replied, but he nodded.
Heyes could do anything, Mandy said, “I’ll take care of him.”
Despite the fact these two were wanted criminals; she couldn’t let this
man bleed to death in her house. “Daniel, get me some hot water and
Mandy,” Daniel protested. “The baby…”
be well cared for and we’ll have plenty for him,” Mandy countered.
“Right now this man has greater need.” He looked young. Too young to
be a hardened criminal. “What’s his name?” she asked without looking
Curry,” Jackson said.
Jones,” Heyes said at the same time.
two lawmen laughed in derision. “Heyes, I know who you two are,”
ignored the two men, fixing his dark eyes on Mandy. “I’m Joshua Smith,
keep your friend as quiet as you can. Thaddeus, you said?”
ma’am,” Smith/Heyes answered.
started to say something, but Mandy cut him off. “Right now it doesn’t
matter what their names are. That can all be straightened out later.”
Thankfully, the two detectives didn’t argue with her. “Mr. Smith.”
you tend to him earlier or did he do this himself?”
ma’am, as soon as I knew he’d been hurt, I put a bandage on. It
wasn’t much. Just tried to bind his leg to keep it from bleeding any
more. It had bled pretty badly even before he told me.”
began removing the stained bandage as Daniel brought her clean cloth.
“You did a good job. I can reckon it wasn’t easy out there in that
ma’am, it wasn’t. We appreciate the hospitality,” Smith said.
his boots off.” Mandy began tossing out orders and didn’t care which
one of the men followed them. She hadn’t worked with her mid-wife mother
for seven years before her first marriage without learning something about
doctoring in general. “I’ll need a couple of blankets. I need a sharp
knife. It will be easier to cut away the material of his trousers then to
remove them. It will be quicker if someone goes out and gathers snow to
ma’am,” Jackson said, holding a large skinning knife in his
outstretched hand. His gun was in his holster, but loose. Mandy was
grateful. It was distracting when the men-folk all acted like they were in
the middle of a war. She cut the material, then untied the soaked bandage.
The wound was still oozing blood. That wasn’t good, but at least the
bleeding wasn’t profuse.
was a blast of cold air as someone went out the door. Curry/Jones shivered
and moaned softly. “Wrap him as best you can without moving him,” she
directed Smith, pointing to a blanket by the injured man’s head.
Jones asked, his voice no more than a whisper.
going to be all right, Thaddeus.”
you have to keep as still as you can,” Mandy added. She gazed into the
blue eyes and saw youth and age in their depths. “Are you feeling a lot
shook his head, then winced. “Mostly cold.”
soon take care of that. I am going to examine your wound, Mr. Jones. It
will most likely be painful.”
hands were quick and sure as she washed the area and tried to determine
the path of the bullet. Jones had been on horseback and shot from behind,
maybe a little below, she figured. It had gone in the bottom of his upper
thigh and traveled toward his knee, probably near the bone. “Were you
able to walk on this?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am, about a quarter
mile to your cabin.”
motioned to Daniel to give the injured man a drink of water. He would need
much more before long. “I think I should get the bullet out soon. This
storm will prevent any traveling for several days. Not that the nearest
town is within reasonable distance.” She shot a meaningful glance at her
husband. “I don’t want any infection to set in.”
a doctor, ma’am?” Jones asked, his voice tight set against the pain of
her prodding. “Not that it matters. You know what you’re doing.” He
closed his eyes as though this little bit of talking had worn him out.
handed Smith a mug filled with cold spring water.
here’s something to drink.” He lifted Jones’ head up.
injured man drank several swallows, then shivered. “Cold.”
get some water warmed up in a minute, Mr. Jones,” Mandy said with a
slight smile. “And then you’ll need to drink as much as you can.
You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
but my name is Thaddeus, ma’am.”
my name is Mandy.” She couldn’t help it; she was warming to these two
men, despite what Jackson had told her about them. It seemed ludicrous
that these two could be killers or vicious robbers. Then she remembered
Martin. He was as cold-hearted as they came, his evil soul lodged behind
the friendly smile and cheerful blue-gray eyes. She steeled herself
against these two men’s obvious charm and friendliness. “I don’t
have anything to dull the pain, uh, Thaddeus. Still I think it would be
unwise to leave the bullet in much longer. And no, I’m not a doctor. I
did help my mother a great deal, though. She was a midwife and we often
had things other than birthing babies to deal with.”
gave a tired sigh. “Do what you need to do.”
will be a short while before I have everything ready.” She left the
injured man in his friend’s care and walked to the fire where Daniel had
a large pot of snow melting.
hot. Should be boiling shortly.” He peered at her as she leaned forward.
“You feel up to doing that, Mandy?”
was just rememberin’, Daniel.” She dug a large tin can from off a
shelf and pried off the lid. It contained a leather pouch with several
implements she had inherited from her mother.
didn’t answer with anything more than a nod, but she knew he understood.
This had been a difficult and terrifying time and she truly wished these
four strangers had not come into their life now. She and Daniel had just
begun to get comfortable. She had begun to think Martin and the terror was
over. “Yes, I can do this. It has to be done.” She clutched her
mother’s bag above her stomach. “How long do you think it would be
before they could get Jones into town for treatment? How long will this
it’s only his leg! You don’t have to do this, Mandy,” Daniel argued.
mother spent her life doing what needed to be done. This needs to be done.
Otherwise he’ll bleed to death. Doesn’t matter that it’s in his leg.
You can bleed to death if it’s a scratch, if it’s in the right place.
I can’t let him suffer like that.” She saw the look on Daniel’s
face. “And it doesn’t
matter what he’s done or who he is. I have to try.”
she had assembled everything, Mandy returned to Jones’ side. His friend
had not left his side. “I don’t have anything to give you for the
pain, Thaddeus,” she repeated. “Are you sure you want to go through
trust you, Mandy.”
nodded. “Daniel, is the water boiling yet?” she asked over her
shoulder. At his affirmative, she took her implements and dropped them
into the pot of water. She handed her sewing scissors to Smith. “Cut his
pants up a little higher.”
glared at his companion. “Just take them off,” he growled. “And get
it over with.”
me a favor and don’t take off the long johns; cut them away from the
wound,” Mandy returned.
the gravity of the situation, Smith smirked and choked back a chuckle.
Even Thaddeus gave a weak smile.
was happy enough for the distraction from what was going on with her
uh, have a bottle, a small bottle of . . .”
frowned. “I thought my husband said we would tolerate no spirits in our
true, ma’am, so I left it in the saddlebag, but if it would help Curry
there tolerate you diggin’ that bullet out.”
reminded her of a little boy who had been caught stuffing a frog down a
girl’s dress. Despite her disapproval of alcohol, his offer might be of
great benefit to the young man. Ultimately, it would also help her. “Mr.
Jones, do you want to take up Mr. Jackson’s offer?”
ma’am, I would.” His eyes met hers. “I would just as soon be a
little numb when you start cutting on me.”
it, Mr. Jackson. The sooner, the better.”
went back into the cave where the stock was being kept and was soon back
with a fist-sized flask. He unscrewed the cap and handed it to Jones, who
wasted no time taking a drink. Thaddeus gasped, coughed and then took
only pack the good stuff,” Jones stated before taking another couple of
made a sour face. “Yeah, Curry, you’re drinking the last of my good
finished what was in the flask and handed it back to the detective.
“Thanks, Mr. Jackson. I appreciate your, uh, sacrifice.”
grunted. “Had to have a bullet dug outta me once. Hurt like hell and I
didn’t have anything at all.”
had cut and rolled material for bandages. Mandy watched him fish out her
instruments and laid them on a clean strip of cloth near her patient.
Jacob watched from his seat in the corner, his eyes almost predatory.
He’s enjoying this, she
didn’t take too long for the whiskey to begin working on the injured
man. On an empty stomach, it usually didn’t, Mandy thought, remembering
Martin. Still, she didn’t take much stock in the numbing effect of
liquor. She waited a while longer before kneeling down next to Jones. At
least he was a happy drunk. Thaddeus had been joking with his friend for
the past few minutes. She wondered if he was really this outlaw Kid Curry.
If so, he had become adept at his alter identity. Never once had he called
his friend anything other than Joshua. Regardless…. “How are you
feeling, Thaddeus?” she asked when he turned his attention to her.
smiled. “Not too bad, Mandy. I want to thank you for doing this for
is what my mama taught me to do . . . to help those in need. Besides,”
she said with a smile of her own. “You might want to wait until I am
finished and see if you still feel thankful.”
smile was gone. “Want to thank you now, in case….”
be fine, Thaddeus. With God’s help, you’ll be up and about before this
ma’am.” Then in a softer voice, “I’m ready whenever you are.”
asked his friend for a handkerchief and Smith handed him one.
can’t get the bullet out the way it went in,” Mandy explained. “It
traveled somewhat parallel to the bone. You were on horseback, weren’t
nodded. “Riding behind Joshua. My horse went lame.”
things occurred to her at once. There had to have been more men than these
two. “Mr. Jackson, are there any other men out there?” In this
weather, that was unthinkable.
would you think that, Mrs. Woodburn?”
a feeling I have. Jacob here arrived around noon, warning me about these
two desperate criminals. And yet he didn’t go out to help you after he
had warned me. In this weather, given the reputation of these men, why
would your agency send out only one man to catch two experienced outlaws
made no answer. When Jacob-- Ford, she remembered now, started to say
something, Jackson motioned to him to keep quiet.
shot Mr. Jones?” she asked
did. Wasn’t trying to. Only wanted to shoot the horse.” Jackson pulled
out a pouch and began to roll a cigarette. “We sent the others back to
town. They were mostly a quickly deputized posse. A couple more of our men
were with them and we didn’t need them possibly gettin’ lost or frost
bit.” He paused. “And you sure didn’t need more mouths to feed.”
Mandy did appreciate that little consideration, she felt Jackson was
trying to take her off the track she was heading down. “Of course, after
you had incapacitated these two and Mr. Ford was situated here,” Mandy
continued, her anxiety rising. “So you were here to catch these two men.
What was Mr. Ford here to do? He claimed he came upon our cabin by chance.
Did he, Mr. Jackson? Or had some of your men been looking for it, too?”
Icy fear began to creep up and down her spine. She cursed Martin for her
newly found paranoia. There couldn’t be any more to this than a manhunt
for two outlaws. Could there?
sighed and then licked the cigarette paper. He put the cigarette between
his lips without lighting it.
already knew we were here, didn’t you?”
nodded as he lit a twig in the fireplace and then used it to light his
cigarette. “Knew it day before yesterday.”
you all weren’t here just to catch these two,” Mandy confirmed.
and his partner were here to find you and your . . . husband.”
sent you,” Daniel demanded.
can’t tell you. That is privileged client information,” Jacob Ford
drawled. He had bit off a plug and was chewing lustily.
hires you to track me and it’s confidential? It concerns me!”
Mandy’s voice rose and she felt her hands tremble. “If Martin Crenshaw
hired you to find me then you need to know that Daniel and I are out here
in this hole in the ground because of him! He beat me and used me like a
common slut after he married me. I filed for divorce, but the judge
wouldn’t grant it. I tried to have him arrested after he broke my arm,
but the judge just laughed and handed me back to my ‘husband’.” She
laughed bitterly. “Husband! Ha! Daniel is more of a husband than Martin
could ever conceive of being. The preacher who married us signed an
annulment decree and said he’d file it.”
don’t know the details, only the assignment. I am a senior detective in
the agency so I sent Ford and Bingham out to find you. The paper from the
court stated you had deserted your husband.”
shuddered but got control when she felt Daniel’s hand on her shoulder.
be all right, Mandy. We’ll fight it.”
squeezed her eyes shut and took a shuddering breath. There was nothing to
be done about it now. The storm had taken care of that. It was then the
baby kicked hard and moved and then kicked again. Everything was at a
standstill except for the baby and Mr. Jones’ injury. She opened her
eyes and looked down at Thaddeus.
was watching her with sympathetic eyes. “Are you all right, Mandy?”
nodded and then shook her head. “I, uh, I can sympathize with you.
Always looking over your shoulder, always wondering when someone is….”
Mandy stopped. “I’m sorry, you need your wound taken care of.”
Mandy, you don’t have to. I’ll be all right until we get to town.”
she replied with a half smile. She took the knife and cut away more of his
long johns. She had to get her mind back on this task. Stop thinking about
Martin. Her hands weren’t shaking now. That was good. “I need you to
help hold Thaddeus still,” she said to Smith.
ma’am,” he said.
shot him a quick look. “Mandy.”
ma’am, Mandy. And I’m Joshua.”
Joshua. Daniel, would you hold his legs?”
got in position as Mandy cleaned the wound again.
sucked in a deep breath when she began working on him. She studied the
position of the bullet, remembered what she knew of physiology and then
said a quick prayer. She heard Daniel murmur at Jones’ feet and knew he
was doing the same.
she began cutting, Thaddeus stuffed part of the handkerchief in his mouth.
Still she could hear his cries of pain through the cloth. Joshua was
talking to him, reassuring his friend. Even so, she was relieved when he
that out of his mouth. I don’t want him choking to death before I’m
done,” Mandy ordered. It didn’t take very long to dig the bullet out.
There was more blood than she would have liked, but not unexpected. Again,
she washed the area around the wound and bound his leg up, making sure to
bind up the entry wound as well as the place where she had extracted the
bullet. Finally she was done.
clean up, Mandy, why’nt you go lay down a while,” Daniel said softly,
massaging her stiff shoulders.
I’ll rest in the rocker and watch him for a few minutes,” she replied.
Her back ached fiercely and her feet were numb.
dish you up some stew,” Daniel told her. His eyes were troubled.
nodded. “The others are probably hungry, too.”
sat near the Kid, listening and watching but not saying anything. It
seemed they had managed to get themselves into a royal maelstrom this
time, but there was nothing to be done about it now. From the way the
storm was developing, they’d probably be here for at least a week. He
wondered if the Woodburn’s had enough to feed four other people. Daniel
handed him a bowl of savory smelling stew and a spoon.
normally have some bread to go with this, but we’re kind of low on
flour,” Daniel told him, partially answering Heyes’ unasked question.
I appreciate you sharing what you have.” Heyes lowered his voice. “Do
you have enough for all of us?” Woodburn hesitated. Heyes noticed that
he was a little younger than he was; maybe middle twenties. His face
seemed openly honest and without any kind of deviousness.
It was obvious he was very much in love with his wife.
only asking because with four extra mouths to feed for however long this
storm lasts, you’ll need extra food.”
we have some grub set aside; what’s left of a couple of deer I shot,
bags of beans and rice, one bag of flour, few cans of that new fangled
milk.” He looked uncertain.
you want more meat, there’s my horse that was shot out from under me
about a quarter mile back. And my friend’s horse was lame; it’s
probably not much further. May even be dead by now, too. No need for the
coyotes to get it all.”
looked toward the door and then to Mandy. “Can’t leave Mandy. She’s
nodded, but didn’t say anything. He knew Jackson had been listening and
realized of the two detectives, he was the smartest. He was also the one
who didn’t have a mean streak like the other one. Dedicated, yes; mean,
know, Mr. Woodburn, Heyes is right. You all are goin’ to be needin’
more meat, with all of us holed up here for a while. One of us could go
out and get what we can tomorrow, while the other stands guard.” Jackson
paused. “Course, needs to be two men out there.” He looked
meaningfully at Heyes. “And you know where the horses are.”
I do. If the snow hasn’t drifted too much to find the dead one. The live
one?” He shrugged. “If he’s still alive, shouldn’t be hard to
find. Don’t think he was moving around much.”
morning, might be debatable, but it’s worth a try. Meat’s meat,”
Jackson said. “Now that you’ve eaten, I think I need to let you know
that you’ll be tied up during the night, Heyes.”
just chuckled. “If you insist.”
think I’d run out on my friend? In this weather?”
Jackson shrugged. “I have a job, Heyes” As Heyes began to protest the
detective waved him off. “Smith. Regardless, I have a job to do and
I’m going to do it.”
just sighed. If he had a
nickel for every time he and the Kid had been tied up in the past couple
of years, they could have been living high in Mexico right now. Where it
was warm. “You don’t take much stock in my loyalty to my friend, do
think you’re loyal, all right, but I take more stock in my orders.
Allowed me to keep my job all these years. So I’d suggest you take care
of any needs before you sack out.”
didn’t say anything. He turned his attention to the Kid. Curry seemed to
be fairly comfortable right now. His breathing was even. The bandage only
showed a small amount of blood. Heyes had to hand it to Mandy, she was
good. Glancing up, he saw that Mandy was watching him. “He seems to be
doing good, Mandy,” he told her.
need something to drink during the night any time he’s awake. Some of
the broth from the stew, if he can stomach it.”
smiled. “I can almost guarantee his appetite will be the first thing to
recover. I can sleep here, if it won’t be in the way,” he suggested.
“And take care of Thaddeus.” She looked ready to protest. “You need
your sleep, Mandy. For the baby.”
finally nodded. “We can set up a pallet for you.”
brought my bed roll. That will be enough. I can stoke the fire through the
night.” Even though he meant every word in an unaltruistic way, Heyes
didn’t think there was harm in making himself temporarily indispensable to the family. So it was that he carried in firewood from the porch under
the watchful eye of Jacob Ford. It was during the last load the Kid
finally began waking up. Hannibal finished stacking the wood, while Mandy
sat on the hearth, watching.
filled a mug with water and sat down beside his partner. Curry continued
his journey to awareness. “Bout time you came back to life, Thaddeus.”
raised in a barn?” Curry muttered, not opening his eyes.
a matter of fact, mmm, yes. At least part of the time. So were you.”
Kid appraised him. He didn’t say anything, but his gaze locked on the
mug Heyes was holding. “Any chance…?” With Hannibal helping, he
almost drained the mug before lying back down with a contented sigh.
Heyes figured it could have been bathwater and it would have tasted good.
“How are you feeling?”
as hell, but better. Feel weaker than a newborn kitten.” He was having
trouble keeping his eyes open. He yawned. Before drifting off again, he
murmured, “Mandy did a bang up job.”
thank you, Thaddeus,” Mandy replied, smiling tiredly.
cracked open one eye and returned the smile. Then he was asleep.
to be bossy, Mandy, but I think you should follow his example,” Heyes
I think you’re right.” She got up stiffly and made her way to the
bedroom. Daniel followed her, closing the door behind them.
placed another log on the fireplace and spread out his blanket.
came over with a length of rope.
know, it’s going to be hard to tend the fire if I’m all trussed up,”
Heyes pointed out.
going to tie your feet. And we’ll be taking turns keeping an eye on you
two, so we can stoke up the fire occasionally,” Jackson pointed out.
truss me up at all and I hope it’s more than occasionally.”
just chuckled. “Quit your jawing. At least you’re closer to the
wasn’t going to point out that Jackson and his partner had heavier
bedrolls than he did. He just held out his hands, wrists together. The
detective tied his hands in such a way that he would be able to put a log
on the fire, but not much else. Resigned to his fate, he lay down near the
Kid and tried to get warm.
woke up feeling chilled, but knew instantly that the cold wasn’t the
reason for his wakefulness. The room was lit only by the light of the
fire. He sat up, looking around, first at the Kid, then the rest of the
room. That was when he noticed the line of light under Mandy and
Daniel’s room. It was from there he heard moaning, soft at first and
then louder. That was what had awakened him, thinking the Kid was having
problems. Realization dawned on him now. Mandy was having her baby.
An icy chill raced through him and his mind reverted to the past.
remembered his cousin, Sarah, his mother’s sister’s daughter.
She and her husband, Samuel had taken him in when no one else could
or would. That was where he had bonded with Jedediah.
He was their only son, third child in a family of four, but he was
the closest in age to Hannibal. For
a year, they had been inseparable. Even
then, he had been the one with the plans, and he and the Kid carried them
out. Heyes was the one who had begun calling Jedediah, Kid. Looking
several years younger than his actual age, gangly and only
semi-coordinated, Kid had been the perfect lackey for his schemes at
first. That quickly changed,
though, and even to this day, Heyes couldn’t pin-point what the change
was or how it came about. The Kid became his partner, confidant . . . and
friend. They fought like brothers, loved each other like brothers and
played pranks on each other and on the rest of the family.
Life was idyllic for that year. Heyes thought it would last
before she should have, Sarah was gone, dying having a baby the midwives
said was too big for her. Just like his mother had been jerked out of his
life when he was eight. It
had been a blow to the fourteen-year that had been difficult to overcome.
It had been even worse for the Kid.
Samuel had changed after that. He was moody and easily angered.
Thankfully, he hadn’t taken to the bottle like Hannibal’s father had,
but he was either working or sleeping. There was less time for pranks, no
time for school except in the dead of winter. The girls kept the house
going and took care of the youngest child. Heyes and the Kid worked the
stock and in the fields. When
there wasn’t work on his farm, Samuel hired them out to other ranchers.
It was during that time Kid realized he had an excellent eye, especially
with a gun.
Heyes was eighteen and the Kid sixteen, they left, deciding if they were
old enough to be hired out for pay, they were old enough to get that pay
for themselves. There had
only been a few times they had not worked together. One of those was when
Heyes had learned the monetary benefits of robbing banks and holding up
trains with Plummer. When Hannibal had formed his own gang, Kid eagerly
joined him, becoming his right hand man. Big boy games where you played
loud cry brought Heyes back from his memories. He sat up against the
hearth and stared at the door.
Kid whispered. “It’s all right. She’ll be all right.” There was a
painful hiss of breath and Curry was sitting next to him.
are you feeling?” Heyes whispered back.
a hell of a lot better.”
reached around for the mug he had refilled and then jerked up short when
his bound hands restricted him. With a soft curse, he maneuvered his body
and got the mug.
tied up?” Curry asked as he took the mug.
do you think?”
was no answer, only the sound of the mug being drained.
refill it until it gets light,” Heyes muttered. “And when my hands are untied.”
all right. This helped a lot.”
sat in silence, listening to the sounds in the bedroom for a long time.
The moaning came more often now, but no louder. Heyes felt the Kid tense
next to him, but he still said nothing. They heard Mandy giving
instructions to Daniel in between her labor pains; they heard him
reassuring her. Heyes felt Curry lean against him, relaxing a little.
going to be all right,” Curry murmured sleepily.
I think she is, too.”
Kid’s head lolled on his shoulder, Heyes heard the soft crying of a
jerked awake. “Did you hear that?”
Mandy and Daniel have a baby. Wonder what it is?”
tell us soon enough,” Jackson growled. “Shut up so we can sleep.”
way you could get my friend something to drink?” Heyes asked.
“I’m a little tied up at the moment.”
funny,” Jackson snapped.
plank door burst open and light silhouetted Daniel. “It’s a boy!” he
cried. “We have a little boy!”
Mandy all right?” Heyes asked, hoping for a break from his depressing
but fine. I have to get some water and clean cloths.”
you like some help, Daniel?” Heyes asked. Woodburn looked hesitant.
“Gathering what you need, that is.”
nodded, then noticed Hannibal’s hands. “How?”
bit off a caustic answer. “Sorry, forgot.”
can help you, Mr. Woodburn,” Jackson offered.
“What do you want me to get for you?”
told him and Jackson gathered the supplies.
He handed them to the new father and the bedroom door closed again.
Jackson grunted and filled the mug with water from a wooden bucket sitting
near the door. He also threw another log on the fire.
Heyes said. The Kid was back on his bedroll, curled up asleep, but he’d
want the water when he woke up.
set down a bowl near Heyes’ leg. “He might want some stew when he
it, Mr. Jackson.”
muttered again and then chuckled. “Now you have your water. Go to
grinned. To the backdrop of small sounds from the bedroom, he lay back
down, curled up in his blanket. His back was to his partner’s and he
felt the warmth of Curry’s body. It
wasn’t the warmth of fever, thank goodness. After listening to Jacob’s
intermittent snoring for a while, Heyes drifted off to sleep.
next morning, the happy father showed off his new son. He seemed too tiny
to Heyes, but he knew the baby really wasn’t. The infant sighed, blinked
in the light and made little baby sounds. “What are you naming him?”
shrugged. “We haven’t decided on a name yet. When Mandy is rested.”
Daniel took the baby back into the bedroom.
made breakfast. After his hands were untied, Heyes made coffee and set the
table. The Kid woke up with a groan. He sat up carefully, favoring his
injured leg, and rubbed his eyes. “I had the most realistic dream,” he
a dream,” Heyes said, pouring another cup of coffee. “Want a cup?”
Curry nodded. “How do you
my dream was about.”
dreamed you heard a baby.” Heyes
looked smug as he handed his partner the mug. “You actually did
hear a baby. Mandy had a baby boy. You missed Daniel bringing him out and
showing him off.”
did they name him?”
shrugged as he lay out the mismatched plates. “Didn’t say.” He
filled a plate at the stove and brought it to Curry. “Enjoy. Not as good
as Mandy’s I’ll wager, but better than what I could have cooked.”
Kid grinned but didn’t say anything. He studied the plate in his lap,
and then tried the meat and gravy. Apparently, they were satisfactory,
because Curry ate a couple more bites in quick succession. Although he
didn’t finish all that was on his plate, Curry ate enough to verify
Heyes’ statement about his friend’s appetite. The Kid was yawning by
the time he had eaten all he wanted.
didn’t waste any time going out for the horses. Reluctantly, Heyes
pulled on his coat and gloves.
try anything, I’ll shoot ya before you get two steps,” Jackson warned
shot him a disgusted look. “You already know my disposition on that. I
don’t abandon my friends.”
shrugged. “Like I said, doin’ my job. Let’s see if we can get that
meat in here.”
snow had eased up to a few flurries, although the wind kicked up from time
to time, blowing dry powder into their faces and down their necks. Heyes
didn’t think he’d ever be warm again. It took them two hours to cover
the ground to Heyes’ dead animal, part of that time spent digging
through drifts trying to find the carcass. It was a set of tracks that
finally told them where the horse was. Probably coyote, thought Heyes.
Regardless, the carcass was too heavy and frozen for them to drag to the
Jackson mused. “Let’s mark this one and find the Kid’s horse.”
horse,” Heyes corrected.
snorted. From the look on Jackson’s face, he realized the detective
figured it to be a game and was willing to play along. “Let’s get
going.” He looked toward the sky. “Looks like the sun might actually
come out later.”
was mid-afternoon before they located the lame horse. It had traveled down
to the valley floor before collapsing and dying. Heyes stuck his hands
under his armpits and tried to coax some warmth into them. Nothing but
more cold seeped through his coat to his stiff, gloved hands. They marked
that horse as the wind began to pick up. Jackson made sure the stick was
tall enough to show even through a drift. He didn’t say anything but
motioned for Heyes to follow him back to the cabin. When they got back,
Daniel and Ford had prepared a hot meal. For several moments he could only
hold the bowl of soup, letting its heat thaw half-frozen fingers.
next day Jackson took an ax and they managed to hack off a haunch from
each horse. They were back at the cabin by mid-afternoon. The Kid was more alert, and Heyes knew he was chafing over
though it’s not snowing anymore, it’s colder than . . . uh, well,
it’s cold,” Jackson declared. “Still don’t know how long we’re
going to be here. At least until Jones is well enough to ride. That means
we need that horse meat out there.” He paused and took a deep breath.
“I know you want to stay with your wife, Mr. Woodburn, but it’s going
to take all four of us to get those carcasses back here.”
blanched and shook his head. He glanced meaningfully at the Kid, sitting
on the hearth.
make sure he’s tied up before we leave, and with four of us, we
shouldn’t be out all day.”
shook his head. “I know you need the help, but….”
wife is gettin’ around pretty good now; the baby’s doing good, too.”
be all right, Daniel,” Mandy assured him. She was sitting in the rocking
chair with the baby. “We have to have the meat—for all of us.”
sighed and nodded.
it was the next morning, Curry sat in front of the fireplace, his hands
bound in front of him. He watched the others as they trudged out the door.
The cold wind that had blown in reminded him that he was the lucky one,
but the dull throbbing in his leg had him reconsidering.
you can, bar the door when we leave,” Daniel reminded him.
came back and helped the Kid to his feet. “You make it there and back
nodded. “I walked more’n a quarter of a mile with a bullet in me.
Think I can do this.” After he had barred the door, he looked around
restlessly. His leg ached fiercely, but it was getting better. He was
still abominably tired and always thirsty, but he ignored both as he
slowly made his way back to the fireplace. It seemed too cold. Mandy had
told him that was another sign he had lost a great deal of blood. He
pushed the chairs in and looked at the dishes left on the table. Daniel
had made sure everything had been cleaned up and put away yesterday, but
had rushed everyone out of the cabin this morning. Guess it would be hard
to leave a newborn son, the Kid thought.
picked up several dishes and took them to the sideboard. The utensils
followed. By then his leg muscles were twitching in exhaustion. His body craved rest. Disgusted, Curry headed back to the
hearth. Just as he was sitting down, he heard the creak of a door and he
saw Mandy come out of the bedroom. Her son was in her arms. She gazed
around the room, first at the barred door and then at him. Mandy seemed
very nervous. Probably she was worried about Daniel being away. Then it
dawned on him. She was afraid of him!
I won’t hurt you.” He held up his bound hands. “I couldn’t if I
wanted to, which I don’t.”
know, Thaddeus; that’s not it.” Her eyes settled on the stack of
dishes on the sideboard.
followed her gaze. “I’m sorry. I’m going to do them, but I had to
take a break.
shook her head. “No, you aren’t. I didn’t say too much at the time,
but you were in pretty rough shape when I took that bullet out. I almost
didn’t do it because I knew you had already lost a lot of blood.”
better now, thanks to you. But you just had a baby!” he tried to argue,
but her soft laugh cut him off.
we are a fine pair, aren’t we?”
had to grin in agreement.
believe I am in better shape than you are. The baby came easy and
Daniel’s been waiting on me hand and foot the past couple of days.”
She shook her head as she considered the mess. “Lord bless him, but I
don’t know how he made out the year after his wife died.”
still like to help you if I could.” He studied his tied hands.
“I swear I won’t try to get away or hurt you or the baby.”
thought there was no honor among thieves.” There was no smile now.
be surprised,” he blurted and realized his blunder. He mentally kicked
walked over to the sideboard and with her free hand, dug through a deep
drawer. When she straightened up she held a carving knife. “Hold out
your hands, Thaddeus.”
sawed through the ropes and he rubbed his wrists. She was showing a great
deal of trust putting away the knife where he could see it. She couldn’t
know if he would keep his word or not. Somehow, he thought she did.
will you answer a question for me?”
would someone want to rob a bank?”
mentally kicked himself with the other leg. What could he say? It had been
glorious those first months and years. Success after success after
success. “I guess it’s to prove you’re smarter or quicker. Maybe
shrugged and almost said he wouldn’t know, but he couldn’t lie to
Mandy. The blue eyes reminded him of his older sister’s and ultimately,
his mother’s. “I
guess.” He was still trying to define how he had felt all those years
ago—how they had felt. He and Heyes had exulted in their ability to take
down the rich big wigs. It had been equally exulting to outsmart, outride
and just plain get one over on those who had always been telling them what
you the outlaw Kid Curry?”
it would have been easier to lie to her, but just like before, he could
not do it. Not only did he
feel she trusted him, but he trusted her as well. He and Heyes had seen so
much and gone through so many situations in the past two years that he
knew he wasn’t the same carefree and egotistical kid he had been when
they had ridden out of Kansas. He
nodded. “My name is Jedediah Curry.”
you for your confidence, Thaddeus.” She was sitting in the rocker,
gently rocking the baby. He began fussing and she threw her shawl over her
shoulder. “Will this bother you? I can go in the bedroom to feed him.”
did feel a little uncomfortable, but he wasn’t about to inconvenience
her. “No, Mandy, you go right ahead.” He leaned back against the stone
fireplace. He noticed that Mandy continued to call him Thaddeus. “For
what it’s worth, I never killed a man except in self-defense.”
why rob a bank at all? Why do something where you might have to kill
remembered Hannibal’s comment some time back. “Banks are where the
you think about the people who might have had their money there?”
I guess we didn’t; at least not until after we decided it was too
dangerous to keep robbing them.” He wondered if Mandy had had money in a
bank that was robbed. That thought gave him a pang of guilt and he
realized how self-centered his statement was. Of course, that was exactly
why he and Heyes had decided to go for amnesty.
you haven’t robbed anyone lately?”
shook his head. “Not for almost two years. We really are trying to go
concentrated on feeding the baby, while Kid thought about what she had
said. What about all those they had robbed? Was there total amnesty when
someone’s life savings might have been wiped out in one night’s work?
They had given some of the money to those who were worse off, but they had
also lived high at times, too. In the end, they hadn’t had anything to
live on except what they had earned during their amnesty. Near the end,
there just hadn’t seemed to be enough.
can help me, Thaddeus,” Mandy broke into his reverie.
was glad to leave his thoughts behind. That kind of introspection had come
more often lately and it wasn’t comfortable. When he looked up, he saw
Mandy holding out the baby for him to take. He gaped at her in surprise.
After what he had told her….
have held a baby before, haven’t you?” The question was asked
seriously, but her eyes were crinkled with humor.
want me . . . I mean, you trust me to . . . take care of . . . to hold
make sure you support his head,” Mandy instructed him.
with that Curry had a baby in his arms. He gazed into the new, pink face.
The baby opened his eyes and looked sleepily at him. “What did you
decide to name him?”
want to name him Daniel, but Daniel doesn’t want to.”
Daniel, if the name held, stuck a fist into his mouth. He sucked on it
noisily and then waved his slobbery fingers in the air. Curry thought his
little sister might have a baby this age by now. He had no idea how many
nieces and nephews he had. The last time he had made contact, a bounty
hunter tried to use that to trap him. So other than a hasty note to each
sister at Christmas, he had simply stopped any contact at all.
It was close to Christmas and he hadn’t sent anything. He saw Mandy
setting dishes in a washtub on the sideboard. She poured bacon grease into
a tin can and wiped crumbs off the counter.
day is it?” he asked.
stopped and thought a moment. “Why, I believe it’s only a few days
they’ll bring in a Christmas tree on the way back,” Curry suggested
facetiously. He ran a finger gently down one cheek, under his chin and up
the other side of the baby’s face. The infant gurgled and yawned again.
Kid brushed the feather light hair to one side. The baby’s hand reached
for his finger. He hung on for a minute and then let go. “You’re a
strong little rascal, aren’t you?” he murmured with a smile. The baby
hiccupped and then settled down. Soon he was sound asleep.
you have children of your own, Thaddeus?”
How can I have children when I’m always on the run?” Curry suddenly
felt as though he was deprived of something special. He squelched a sudden
pang of jealousy for Daniel.
always feel as though I’m looking over my shoulder. I sometimes wonder
about the little one and how unfair I have been to bring him into a world
Curry asked, leaning back against the hearth with the baby still sleeping
in his arms.
decided to ask a question of his own. It was something that had bothered
him since Mandy’s outburst the first night. “Why would someone beat up
a woman?” It was almost totally unheard of.
don’t know and he didn’t before we were married.”
would he hire Bannerman detectives to find you?”
Daniel?” she added. “Most likely for revenge.”
Against you or Daniel?”
both. You don’t know Martin, Thaddeus. He can be so smooth he can charm
the spots off a leopard and the leopard would thank him. When we met I
thought him the most wonderful man on earth. We married in Ft. Collins and
he took me to his ranch across the border. It wasn’t what I had
expected, but he promised he’d fix it up, make it a palace.”
shook her head. “When I asked about cleaning out the well, I got the
first lesson in what a monster he is. I stopped asking about anything, but
that didn’t stop his ‘punishments.’ If I didn’t cook the meat
enough or I cooked it too much. I couldn’t satisfy him in anything.”
She wiped her eyes with her apron.
shook her head. “We’ve been hiding for eight months. Daniel has done
his best to try and protect me and the baby. It’s all for nothing.
I’ll have to go back to him.”
looked around, wishing he had his gun. His leg might be bummed up, but he
could still shoot. “Mandy, something will work out.”
was as though she hadn’t heard him. “He’ll find out the baby is his
and he’ll be even more furious.”
Kid’s mind was reeling. He looked down at the baby and then back at her.
what makes Daniel’s sacrifice so wonderful. He not only is willing to
try and protect me, but the baby, too. He wants to raise him as his own
son. And what’s most remarkable is that Daniel’s something of a
did he come into the picture?” Curry bit his lip. “I’m sorry, I
shouldn’t pry like that.”
that’s all right, Thaddeus. It’s only right. I’ve asked you personal
questions.” She took a deep breath. “Daniel had paid for some land out
west of Evansdale and was coming out to see what he’d paid for. He was
staying with a cousin of his just outside of town. I finally had enough
with Martin. I knew I was pregnant.” She laughed. “I knew because I
was sick enough to die, but I was afraid to tell him. It became
unbearable, trying to keep him happy, or at least happy enough to leave me
alone. I snuck out one night and walked toward town. I was going to see
the sheriff. I was going to try and find someone to take me
home—anything to get away. I think it was near dawn. I don’t remember
much of that night, except walking, being sick and walking some more.
have any shoes, but I quit feeling my feet, too. I found Daniel’s
cousin’s barn and collapsed in an empty stall. Daniel found me in the
morning. He thought I was dead at first but I woke up enough to beg him
not to take me to the doctor. As it turned out the doctor was tending to
people up north anyway. He and his cousin and his cousin’s wife took
care of me that first week when I didn’t know if it was day or night.”
She looked up alarmed. “I hope they’re all right. I hope he hasn’t
done anything to them.”
couldn’t offer much of anything about the cousin. “I’m sure his
cousin’s fine. Forewarned is forearmed, I think the saying goes. But,
it’s too bad you weren’t able to see the doctor. He probably could
have helped verify your case.”
but I don’t think even that would have mattered.”
not?” Curry looked down at the baby who was making tiny sucking noises
in his sleep.
the circuit judge was an old drinking buddy of Martin’s. They had served
together in the Indian wars and had even known each other before then.”
groaned. “So that’s why he wouldn’t grant your divorce.”
ordered me to go back to Martin like a good wife. Basically, he said I
belonged to my husband. By then Daniel had fallen in love with me and I
was beginning to fall in love with him, even though I knew it would be
dangerous. He finally talked me into going to the preacher who married
Martin and me.” A single tear slid down her cheek. “Preacher Thomas
believed me. Some of my bruises were still evident, even after a month,
and my arm and ribs were still not completely healed. He signed a paper of
annulment and sent a copy to Evansdale courthouse and to the state
capital. Then he married us. Bless him, he said it would probably have to
be done again after everything was straightened out, but he felt it was
the right thing to do, especially me carrying a baby. We knew we were
going to have to go into hiding.”
know someone who might be able to help,” Curry ventured. It was a long
gleamed in Mandy’s eyes. “Who?”
U.S. marshal named Lom Trevors. He’s the one who’s been helping us try
he be able to get you and your partner out of this mess?” she asked, as
though ready to change the subject.
shook his head. “As long as we stayed out of trouble and weren’t
caught, there was hope. But since we’ve been caught….
At least he can try to help you.”
had gotten cold all of a sudden and the Kid glanced at the fire. There was
no flame. Curry felt a draft coming down the chimney. There were only a
few more small logs to go on the fire. “Mandy, you take the baby. I’ll
go get some more wood.”
can.” She started to get up.
this time I can do it. You rest. I want to get rid of a little of this
enough to get by until the others get back. You need to stay off that leg
as much as you can for a couple more days,” Mandy admonished him.
ma’am,” he said with a grin as she took the baby. “He sure is a good
baby. Takes after his mama.”
blushed and blinked away more tears. “That is kind of you, Thaddeus.”
pushed to his feet and felt the muscles in his leg pull. The pain wasn’t
too bad and he slowly limped to the door. He shoved on his boots and put
his coat on. The hat and gloves stayed. He wouldn’t be out there long
anyway. Curry slid back the bar and opened the door just enough to slip
out. Wood was stacked to the roof on one side of the porch and halfway up
on the other side. He pulled a few smaller logs off the shorter stack and
limped back into the cabin. He set them on the hearth and headed out to
get another armful. Kid felt the wind blow a few flakes of dry snow in his
face. It may not have snowed in the past two days, but it was still cold
enough to freeze your fingers to a pump handle.
had several sticks of wood in his arms when he felt something nearby.
Before he could turn to look, the hard muzzle of a gun poked hard against
his side. A harsh voice growled in his ear. “Inside, Woodburn.”
mind raced. This could only be Martin Crenshaw and he had mistaken him for
Daniel. He was sure as soon as Crenshaw saw his face, he’d know. If he
only had his pistol. But he didn’t. Kid thought furiously. Crenshaw had
waited until his arms had been full. Did he know the others were gone?
inside, sissy boy,” Crenshaw growled. “And don’t try to tell me
there’s more’n you and that slut in there.”
him off, Kid thought. “But there is,” he said matter-of-factly.
gun poked harder. “I counted them on the trail. Two lawmen and those
outlaws. Ain’t no more’n you and her. Git in there!”
Curry got in.
was standing in the doorway to the bedroom, white-faced. Her eyes showed
abject terror. Thankfully, she had put the baby to bed.
mouthed the word ‘gun’. Her eyes showed understanding but she shook
her head, a movement so slight he almost missed it. She had said Daniel
was a pacifist so there wouldn’t be anything other than the rifle he
shot game with. He had taken that with him.
the wood and turn around. I want to look at you as I kill you.”
Mandy cried out. “No, Martin, please!”
up, you whore. I’ll take care of you later.”
felt his aching leg begin a drum-like cadence that went all the way to his
head. He dumped the wood and turned to face Mandy’s tormentor.
Time to try another tactic. “Hello, Mr. Crenshaw. Glad to meet
you!” Curry thrust out his hand. He succeeded in surprising the man but
only for the space of a few heartbeats.
sir, I’m not. Name’s Kid Curry.”
didn’t take his hand; he exploded. With lightning speed, he swung his
free hand and almost slapped the Kid off his feet. Curry had been waiting
for such a move, even if Crenshaw was faster than he expected. Kid grabbed
Martin’s gun hand and shoved it down. The pistol went off and a slug hit
the plank floor a couple of inches from his foot. Crenshaw’s arm seemed
as though it was made of iron. He slammed a fist in Kid’s ribs and the
pistol hand flew toward his head. Crenshaw almost connected but Kid’s
instincts were intact enough for him to duck. He received only a glancing
blow. Now if the hunting party was close enough to hear the shot….
lashed out with his foot. It connected with Curry’s injured leg. The
pain was intense and he almost went down. There was another heavy blow to
his ribs and this time Curry did fall. The world seemed to turn inside out
and then it cleared a little. Kid grabbed Crenshaw around his knees and
tried to pull him down. With little effort, Crenshaw wrenched out of his
grasp and grabbed Curry by the front of his shirt. He hauled the Kid to
his feet and threw him halfway across the room against a wooden cabinet.
The doors caved in. Broken wood dug into his already aching body as he
slid to the floor. Darkness flooded over him and Curry tried desperately
to cling to consciousness.
kick to his side drove shock waves through his body, but instead of
sending him further into unconsciousness, it jolted him awake. Curry was
aware of pain that ran up and down his body but he was more aware of
something hard under his shoulder; something that had a familiar feel and
shape. He was also aware of Crenshaw’s voice. “I’ll come back for
you later, Curry, after I take care of my darling wife.” He laughed.
“There’s no more to you than there is to that sissy boy who stole
Mandy from me!” There was
the thumping of his boots away from him.
Kid took a chance and cracked open an eye. Crenshaw was standing at the
sideboard, holding up the knife Mandy had used to cut his ropes and
muttering to himself. Curry only caught snippets of his words. “Much
better . . . than a bullet. Make her pay….” Crenshaw started toward
Martin. Don’t do this!” Mandy cried out.
was the sound of a slap on the other side of the room. As carefully as he
could, Kid rolled over. He bit his lip against the pain. There were more
sounds of slapping, hitting and punching. Crenshaw had dragged Mandy into
the bedroom. It sounded like he had thrown her against something, too. She
screamed. Curry reached beneath him and found what he had been looking
for. It was his gun. He checked and saw that there were three bullets in
the chamber. Good.
leg was bleeding again, but he ignored it. He tasted blood in his mouth.
Curry tried to speed his body up, but he felt like he was wading through
molasses. Crenshaw was
slapping Mandy again. Damn, why
can’t I move faster? Some other piece of furniture crashed apart.
More hitting sounds and Mandy cried out for him to stop. The baby began to
was a short silence and then Crenshaw’s cursing redoubled in ferocity.
“That sissy mama didn’t waste no time!” he roared.
hurt him, Martin. For the love of God, don’t hurt him.” More
wasn’t all the way to his feet; he couldn’t make it to his feet, but
he called out anyway. “Crenshaw, you sorry excuse for a man. Get out
here and dish it out to someone a little closer to your size!” He
thumbed the safety off and aimed where he felt the bigger man would
appear. Mandy screamed again.
appeared in the doorway, his arm around Mandy’s neck, holding her in
front of him. He had a
leering grin on his face. His gun was in its holster, but the knife was
near the base of Mandy’s throat. She was bleeding from numerous cuts on
her face and torso. There were bruises already showing on her arms. Mandy
mouthed two words.
knew what she was saying but he had never taken a shot like this before.
What if he missed? What if he killed her instead? He dropped the muzzle
it!’ she mouthed again. ‘Do
laughed hysterically, sure of his triumph. “Watch me kill my slut of a
wife, Curry and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it!”
that happened next occurred in the space of only a few heartbeats.
The knife moved up her throat as though in preparation for
Mandy’s execution. Curry fired. Mandy jerked away from Crenshaw, the
knife scoring a thin line across her throat. He was still standing, still
brandishing the knife, still snarling invectives, despite the fact that
one side of his face was a gory mess. When Mandy was totally clear of him,
Curry fired again, a clean shot to the heart. This time Crenshaw collapsed
into a bloody heap.
staggered back against the doorway, her eyes fixed on Crenshaw’s body.
The baby was no longer screaming.
was able to hold on to a chair as he pulled himself up. “Go take care of
him, Mandy. Close the door so you don’t have to see any more,” he said
rushed into the bedroom but didn’t close the door.
Kid started shaking and he sat down on the chair that had held him up for
those few seconds. The gun was still clutched in his hand. When the others
came . . . couldn’t have it in his hand.
He willed his fingers to relax enough for it to drop to the floor.
He had made the shot…. . Less than an inch from her face. What if? But he hadn’t….
He had done it….Mandy . . . the baby.
couldn’t hear anything at first and her heart clutched at the thought
that Martin might have killed her son when he kicked the cradle over. Her
head felt as though someone was bouncing up and down on it. The pain in
her wrist told her it was at least sprained, but that wasn’t important.
The baby; he was important. She heard whimpering and carefully pulled back
the blankets. As soon as he was uncovered, he began crying. She picked him
up and held him close to her chest with her good hand. He seemed all
took in a shuddering breath. How could Martin have gotten here with all
that snow and cold? He had traveled on a path of pure hate. He had come
here to kill Daniel and her, too. If he had gotten his way, he’d have
killed the baby as well. She realized that was the only reason he had paid
detectives to find her. So he could come after her. Thaddeus had saved
that moment, she heard the door crash open and Daniel calling for her.
“I’m in the bedroom. We’re safe.”
and Ford had tried to get through the door first, but Woodburn and then
Heyes were faster. The Kid was in a chair facing a corpse on the floor.
There was a gun laying at his feet. “Thaddeus?
You all right?”
two detectives had their guns out, one pointed at him, but Heyes made no
move for the Kid’s pistol. Woodburn was already in the bedroom.
the hell did he get that gun?” Ford asked.
Can you hear me?” Heyes saw that the Kid’s leg was bleeding again.
Blood trickled down one side of his face.
To put it bluntly, he looked like he’d been in a stampede.
shuddered and stirred. He focused on his cousin’s eyes. “He cut her
up. He was going to kill her. I couldn’t . . . let him . . . kill
her.” There was sobbing in the bedroom that was almost as loud as the
baby’s crying had been.
Thaddeus!” Heyes called out as Curry slumped into his arms.
still like to know how he got the gun!” Ford insisted as he picked up
eased the Kid to the floor and began an examination, hoping he would find
nothing serious. Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be any evidence of
gunshot wounds. When he pulled off Curry’s coat and shirt, he could
see bruises forming.
examined the body and the knife that was still clutched in Crenshaw’s
dead fingers. He turned and studied the rest of the room before his eyes
rested on Curry. “Find anything, Smith?”
nodded. “I think Crenshaw worked him over.”
sure he did. Suspect he shoved him into the cabinet. That’s how Jones
got his gun.”
in the devil could Crenshaw have gotten here through this snow?” Heyes
actually snowed in the past couple of days. The others must’ve told him
in Evansdale what we had found. If he rode a horse into the ground to get
here, it’s possible,” Jackson surmised. “Can get here in a day. You
and your partner did.”
And we killed two horses doing it.”
tell for sure, but think he may have cracked ribs. And his leg’s
bleeding again. Other than that, I don’t know.”
Heyes became aware of the noises in the back room again. “How’s
on cue, Daniel appeared at the door and stared down at Crenshaw’s body.
“It’s a good thing your friend killed him,” he said to Heyes.
“Because I would have if he hadn’t.”
was a fierce look in Daniel’s eyes that made Heyes really glad Woodburn
was on his side. “Is Mandy all right?”
beat her as bad as the first time I saw her. Worse. Wrist might be
broken.” Daniel’s hands were clenched. He looked at the two
detectives. “I’m going to need your help. One of you will have to fix
supper and another tend to the baby while I take care of Mandy. He cut her
up and she’s bleeding.”
can cook. I’ll look after the baby. Smith, you take care of your
friend,” Jackson ordered.
sat at the table, nursing a cup of hot coffee and smelling fresh biscuits
just out of the oven and ham frying on the stove. This was the first
morning since Crenshaw’s attack he had awakened without a headache. He
didn’t even know how many days had passed since Crenshaw’s appearance.
His ribs were still sore and his leg ached, but he didn’t feel like a
punching bag anymore.
are you feeling, pal?” Heyes asked.
I might live.”
snorted and grinned. “Take more than a hardwood cabinet to cave in that
thick skull of yours.”
sat down with him. “You feel up to telling me your version of what
nodded. “As long as breakfast doesn’t get cold.”
giving me the eye,” Heyes commented. “Guess I’d better go help him
finish gettin’ the grub fixed. What I wouldn’t give for a fresh
happy you’re getting ham and not horsemeat,” Jackson replied.
occasion. Merry Christmas,” Heyes countered as he got up.
Christmas?” Curry asked.
now your report?” Jackson prompted.
told him everything, just exactly as he remembered it, only leaving out
where he had told Crenshaw his name. He drained the mug of coffee when he
finished. It had gotten cold during their conversation, but it was wet.
much goes along with Mrs. Woodburn’s report,” Jackson said, finishing
his mug. He held out his hand for Curry’s mug and refilled both.
noticed a slight difference in the demeanor of the man and couldn’t tell
what it was. He held the refilled mug to his forehead and let its warmth
dispel the cold he always seemed to be feeling these days. He wondered how
much longer they’d be holed up together and then decided it didn’t
matter. In the end they’d be riding back to Evansdale and from there to
Cheyenne to stand trial. Somehow, he couldn’t elicit deep feelings about
do know what my conclusion to all this is, don’t you?” Jackson asked
softly, breaking into the Kid’s reverie.
aren’t many who could make a shot like you did.” Jackson rolled a
cigarette nonchalantly. “Enough
to count on one hand, I’d reckon. Heard tell of a girl back east who can
shoot a cigarette out of her husband’s fingers.”
was lucky,” Kid replied, not really caring about the conversation
anymore, especially the direction it seemed to be going. The smell of
redeye gravy began to assail his senses and his stomach growled fiercely.
chuckled. “Luck had nothing to do with it. It only proves what I have
known all along.”
didn’t say anything, but he noticed Heyes glancing his way and moving
you’re Kid Curry.” Jackson licked the cigarette paper and pressed the
ends together. He leaned back
to light his cigarette in the fire. “And I’ll be damned sorry to take
you two in,” he muttered around the cigarette. Only he and Heyes were
close enough to hear. Ford
continued stirring the gravy, seemingly oblivious.
could only stare at the detective in surprise.
the clear weather’s going to hold for a couple more days,” Jackson
continued, a bit louder this time. “I’m going to send you back, Jacob,
with the body and my report. You can give yours in person.”
Ford gazed at him in disbelief, but didn’t say anything.
that moment, Daniel and Mandy came in, he carrying the baby. She still
looked like death warmed over. Her bruises were all shades, her cuts a map
of half-healed scabs on her neck, face and arms. Her wrist was bandaged
and her arm in a sling. She walked slowly and deliberately, much like the
Kid did when he had moved around the past couple of days.
He suspected she would carry some of the scars to her grave. Curry
didn’t feel the least bit sorry for having killed Crenshaw.
Kid started to stand up, but Daniel motioned him to keep seated. Jackson
did get up though and offered Mandy his seat.
sat down and Daniel handed Curry the baby. This was the first time he had
held him since the attack. Mandy had not let the baby out of her sight or
reach. Kid wasn’t sure how he was supposed to respond, but his eyes were
drawn to the child’s. Like before he ran a finger down one cheek and as
before the baby grabbed it. Curry smiled softly, relaxing.
and I have decided on our baby’s name,” Mandy said, touching his knee.
looked up and saw her emotion filled eyes locked on his. “I thought you
wanted to name him Daniel,” he reminded her.
weren’t unanimous about that. We are about this one. We decided to call
him Thaddeus,” she announced, her eyes glistening, a soft smile on her
lips. “We haven’t quite settled on a middle name, but we’re sure of
the first name. His name is Thaddeus Woodburn, in honor of the man who
saved our lives.”
up and enjoy the honor,” Heyes interjected from just behind him. Kid
glanced up and saw Hannibal had a big grin on his face.
knew from the moment Martin appeared that all you wanted to do was to
protect me and the baby,” Mandy said.
“It amazes me how many honorable men I’ve met in this short
time.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “And I want you to
know that I will be at your trial and tell everyone what kind of a person
you really are.” She looked up at Heyes. “You, too.”
you, ma’am,” Heyes murmured.
cleared his throat. “Food’s ready.”
dinner, Daniel Woodburn read the Christmas story from his Bible. It only
served to remind Curry of his days back home when his mother was still
alive. Looking into Hannibal’s face, he could see the same thing
next day, Ford rode out, leading a packhorse draped with the half frozen
body of Martin Crenshaw. The detective didn’t look happy, but Curry was
glad to see him go. He much preferred the company of the older man.
rid of Ford didn’t give the pair more opportunity to plan an escape,
though. Jackson was a naturally vigilant man and didn’t leave anything
to chance. New Year’s Eve found them both back in the cave mucking out
stalls and feeding the livestock. Of course, Jackson had made sure the
exit was secure.
pitched manure on a pile near the outer door. Curry filled a trough with
hay. “We need to figure out how to get out of here,” Heyes muttered,
only loud enough for the Kid, the cow and horses to hear.
gave my word, Heyes.”
gaped at him. “When was this and are you crazy?”
was when you all went out to bring in the dead horses. It was so Mandy
would cut me free to help her around the house.”
chuckled. “A promise to Mandy does not constitute a certified all around
promise. You know that!”
didn’t say anything. The silence stretched and lengthened and still Kid
kept his thoughts inside.
Kid, out with it. What’s eating you? You want to spend the next 20 years
in a prison?”
course I don’t,” Curry snapped. “It’s just that….”
More silence. “Come on, talk to me. You’ve been moping around for the
don’t know, Heyes. It’s confusing. I thought it was all just about
staying out of trouble.”
Now I’m confused.”
out of trouble and then we’d get amnesty.”
and your point is, Kid?” Heyes prompted.
about all those people that we took money from?”
the railroad bosses and the bankers?”
the ones who put their money in the banks. Average people like Mandy and
had nothing to say for a long time. He savagely attacked the pungent pile
in front of him. “How the hell do you propose paying all those people
don’t know, Heyes. I really don’t.” He paused.
wasn’t like we took that money and lived like kings or anything, unlike some of those bank presidents.”
enjoyed a great deal of that money, as I recall. But I know what you’re
saying.” Curry paused, leaning on his pitchfork. “I miss home, too.”
His voice had barely risen above a whisper.
how were you going to get there if you’re in a prison? Tell me that!”
Heyes caught his voice rising and he brought himself under control. “You
are going to drive me crazy, Kid, you know that?” he hissed.
didn’t say anything.
frustrated Heyes most was the fact that he did understand what the Kid was
saying, or at least part of it. But how could someone go back and change
what had already happened? Even if they got amnesty, how could they know
who had been hurt by their actions? And not everyone had been hurt by the
robberies. “Look, Kid, just promise me you haven’t given up on me.
Just keep an open mind.”
threw the last pile of hay into the enclosure where the animals placidly
ate. “Heyes, you know I have never casually shot anyone.”
stared at his partner. The Kid was on several tangents. It had happened
before. He knew where this was coming from, too. “You didn’t casually
shoot Crenshaw. You were saving Mandy and her family.”
shot him in the head and he stood there with that knife in his hand
cursing. I shot him in the chest and I was glad.”
were you glad, Kid? Personal vendetta? He cheated you at cards and you
wanted to get even?”
snorted. “Don’t be funny, Heyes.”
not. I’m serious. He did something horrifying. He beat up on a kind and
gentle woman and was ready to kill her, her husband and her baby. If I had
been there and had the skill, I’d have killed him faster than you can
breathe. If I understood your statement to Jackson, he was going to kill
you, too.” Heyes put away his pitchfork. He walked over to his cousin
and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Look, I don’t have all the answers.
We did stuff we aren’t happy we did. We made some choices that weren’t
good back when we were young and foolish. At the time it all seemed right.
I don’t think everything we did was bad, just between you and me.”
Curry didn’t respond. “All we can do is try to do the best we can from
here on out. Just like we have tried to do for the past couple of years.”
aren’t going to do anything to hurt Mandy or her family to get out of
aren’t going to do anything to hurt Jackson, either,” Curry added.
given us a fair shake, too, Heyes.”
going to take us in, Kid.” He felt his frustration rising again.
“I’m not saying we shoot him or anything, only that we see what
happens when the weather breaks and you’re completely well. Maybe I can
talk him into giving us a head start or something.”
can talk a rabbit into a snake’s gullet, but I don’t think you’re
going to talk Jackson into letting us go, for all that he sympathizes with
not, but don’t give up on me.”
won’t. You drive me crazy, too, but I’ve never given up on you, Heyes.”
slapped him on the back as they turned to go back into the house. He
matched his stride with the Kid’s limping pace.
slipped out of the shadows and back into the house before the boys saw
him. He smiled and shook his head.
the next afternoon, as lowering clouds heralded the coming of another
storm on the first day of the new year, Heyes and the Kid went out to
bring in wood. They were getting their second load when Heyes heard the
crackle of something approaching through the crusted over snow of the
be out in this?” Curry asked.
who didn’t celebrate on New Year’s Eve?” Heyes suggested.
waited, each with a stick of wood in his hand, both feeling foolish. What,
after all, could a sixteen inch piece of wood do against a gun? Then they
heard movement at the gun slit and knew they were being watched.
“Someone’s coming,” Curry called out.
anyone could come out of the house a lone rider appeared down the trail,
hands on the saddle horn, totally relaxed. Heyes peered into the deepening
gloom, feeling he should know the rider. The man came closer and he
realized he did. “Lom.”
Kid stepped closer to the edge of the porch and sucked in a cold breath.
“Well, I’ll be….” He glanced at Heyes. “Why do you think he came
all the way out here? How did he know?”
could think of one reason for Lom’s presence, but he didn’t want to
get his hopes up too high.
Trevors rode up to the front porch and looked the two men over. “I heard
a rumor the detective might be inclined to let you two escape,” he
pointed to his stockinged feet. “What do you think, Lom?”
threw back his head and laughed. “I figured Carter Jackson was too
dedicated to allow anyone to escape from him, even you two.”
why’d you come out here, Lom,” Curry asked, shivering. “And can we
continue this conversation inside?”
to shelter my horse. He’s a bit worn.”
go in and open the door to the stable,” Heyes said, pointing to the
large door leading directly into the cave.
grabbed an armful of wood and headed in behind Heyes.
the four men were sitting around the table, holding steaming cups of
coffee. Lom studied Mrs. Woodburn, who in turn studied him with a hopeful
expression on her face. The bruises were slowly disappearing, mostly
yellow and pale green, but the knife wounds were still very evident.
brings you out here, Marshal?” Jackson asked.
two, mainly. There is a judge in Evansdale who wants the Kid here brought
in on murder charges.”
noticed that Lom said Kid instead of Thaddeus. For once he didn’t have a
clue what was up.
Ford tell that it was self-defense?” Jackson asked indignantly.
were buddies,” Curry said. “Crenshaw and the judge.”
that impression. But we all know it’ll be tossed out, especially in
another city. Anyway, that
wasn’t the reason for me coming all the way out here in that hellacious
did you come out here, Lom?” Heyes asked.
heard the Kid got pretty banged up. Wanted to see how you all were.” He
glanced up at Mandy. “Apparently it was true what Crenshaw did to you,
nodded. “I’m on the mend, thanks to everyone here.”
glad.” He turned back to Curry. “Figured it’d be a shame for you to
be too busted up to enjoy your amnesty,” Lom replied with a sudden grin.
and Curry gaped at each other then back at Lom. They looked at each other
again and hollered out a cry of triumph that woke little Thaddeus. Mandy
rushed back into the bedroom to comfort the frightened baby.
that might be why there was a stipulation to bring you two back alive,”
almost blew that one,” Heyes shot back. He saw Jackson’s face. “You
knew didn’t you?”
Heard enough rumor to guess. Figured you two were ready for it after being
around you for a few days.” He pulled out his almost flat pouch.
“Well, guess this calls for my last cigarette.”
is one condition,” Lom continued after everything had calmed down.
faces fell. “Condition?” Heyes asked. “Another one? Aw, Lom, what
more does the governor want?”
brought out an envelope from inside his coat and handed it to Heyes. Curry
leaned over as Heyes pulled out an official looking letter and unfolded
it. After a moment, Hannibal looked up at his cousin in shock.
Curry demanded, reaching for the letter. “You’re hiding it. I can’t
amnesty is in effect if we’ll work for the railroad and the Wyoming
Banker’s and Cattlemen’s Association.” Heyes looked as though he had
Curry repeated. He grabbed the letter and read it. “It’s a minimum six
year contract. About the same time period we were so successful robbing
them,” he mused. He read some more. “What’s a security
basically be under contract to help the banks and railroad be more secure
from the likes of you,” Lom explained.
the pair stared at one another. Suddenly, Heyes grinned, slapped the Kid
on the shoulder and laughed. Everyone was congratulating them. Heyes
sobered suddenly. “How quickly will this get around to sheriffs and
bounty hunters? We wouldn’t want to be shot trying to do our job.”
wouldn’t hurt if you continue with your aliases, boys. At least for a
while.” Lom shrugged. “And you’ll have papers from your employers,
the governor?” Heyes asked, suddenly suspicious.
figured it to be a safe way out of a possible political maelstrom,” Lom
explained. “This way, you’re doing something to pay back the people of
Wyoming, to earn that freedom you’re getting.”
shot a meaningful glance to his cousin. Curry had a look of relief that
was almost heartbreaking.
want to go back home and visit my kin. Think our bosses will let me….”
He saw the look on Heyes’ face. “Us do that?”
nodded. “Don’t know why not. You can talk to them when we’re able to
get out of here.”
want to go home, too,” Mandy said, the baby in her arms. “Home with
Daniel and little Thaddeus Jedediah.”
this weather breaks and you feel the baby can handle it, we can all go,”
Kid’s face broke into a great smile. “Happy New Year!” he crowed,
thumping the table.
you hadn’t finished off my last whiskey….” Jackson began.
will do,” Heyes said hastily when he saw Daniel’s frown. “It’s
going to be a great year!”
had come to the prairie. Wildflowers bloomed in a profusion of colors that
made the blue sky overhead seem even more brilliant. The two riders had
come from a nearby town that hadn’t been more than a couple of buildings
ten years before. They rode on a well-traveled wagon trail along fields
ready for the plow. Neither spoke a word as they turned up a track that
was familiar and strange at the same time.
They paused before a wooden gate that had recently been
whitewashed. Inside the picket fence several wagons and horses were
standing. A large barn stood behind the two-story house. Some of the new
barbed wired fencing kept in a small herd of cattle and horses in a field
the house the two men heard the chatter and laughter of a large group of
of the horsemen coughed nervously and they both rode through the open
gate. A child’s voice broke into the chatter and conversation lulled.
Several pre-teen boys clattered out the door and across the porch. They
stopped several yards in front of the horsemen, the shade of whose hats
were hiding their features.
horsemen were dressed in fairly new clothes, but were dusty from the road
that hadn’t seen rain for a week and a half.
do, stranger,” the oldest boy said politely.
It was obvious he was waiting for the two men to say something.
stranger coughed nervously again and said in a quiet voice. “I’m your
Uncle Jedediah, this is your cousin Hannibal. We thought we’d come
visit, if your maw and paw will have us.”
boy’s eyes grew large and he turned to the adults gathered on the porch.
“It’s Uncle Jed!” he hollered. “It’s Uncle Jed and Cousin
women on the porch gasped in shock and then two of them came flying toward
Curry. He dismounted just in time to be enveloped by his sisters. The
children gathered as Hannibal Heyes got off his horse.
Jed, it’s been so long. You look wonderful. You both do. Oh, God, it’s
been so long. Is it safe? We didn’t think we’d ever see you again,”
a cacophony of voice enveloped him.
been more than long. It’s been forever.”
youngest of the women pulled back, tears streaking her face. “Jed, is it
safe for you to be here?”
pulled out a wallet from his vest and opened it, handing her a small paper
and card. “I think so, Emily.” His mouth was quirked in a smile.
read it, put her hand to her mouth and then began laughing. “Amnesty!
You’ve been pardoned. Oh, Jed! You’re free.” She looked at Hannibal,
something flashing and then gone in her eyes. “You both are.”
nodded. “It’s good to be home, Cousin Emily.” He nodded greetings to
Curry agreed. “And good to be free.”
fitting, it being Easter and all,” Emily said.
and Heyes looked at one another in shock. “Easter?” they both asked at
the same time.
silly. Easter is tomorrow. Come in and celebrate with us. We have enough
to feed an Army.”
slapped Curry on the back. “Coming up in the world, Kid. A baby named
after you on Christmas, amnesty on New Year’s Day and home on Easter.”
The others looked at him in confusion. “A long story,” was all he
come in and tell it,” one of the family told them.
got the idea for this story from something Glen Larson had said about an
historical event that gave him the idea for the Alias Smith and Jones
series. It only seemed natural that when the boys were finally given their
amnesty, they would be hired by the bankers and railroad men to increase
security in their companies/facilities.
I did some research to get my general dates/time frames correct. I
figure the series to have taken place in the mid 1880’s. I don’t
recall any exact time frame given. Barbed wire was invented and began
being widely used in the mid 80’s.
The girl referred to was Annie Oakley, who toured with her husband
before being hired by Buffalo Bill in 1885. Canned milk was really popular
after the turn of the century but it was around in the late 1800’s. I
tried not to use any modern vernacular but may have messed up on that…..
Let me know anything that I have gotten wrong, whether continuity, grammar
or cannon based on the episodes. )
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