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The Final posse

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Title: The Final Posse

By Avoca

Chapter 1

 

The heat of the day was building. The sky was painted a brilliant blue and the sun was shining down on Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. The two reformed outlaws had broken camp just after dawn so they could cover some ground before the heat became near intolerable. They were headed to Soul Burg, a small town, about two days ride away, where jobs were waiting for them. The boys were to carry out some maintenance on a property owned by one of Lom Trevers’s acquaintances who at present was honeymooning in San Francisco and who wanted to have his ranch to be ready for the arrival of his new bride. Heyes and Curry weren’t particularly suited to that line of work but it was honest and they felt they owed a favour to Lom.

Heyes was recounting some tale of the members of ‘The Hole in the Wall’ gang and Curry was enjoying the story, which related to some nonsensical act on the parts of Wheat and Kyle. All in all it was a good day. The men had breakfasted well on the remains of a rabbit, which was left from their dinner. What could possibly mar the day? They should have known it was too good to be true and so it was that fate kicked them in the teeth again. Curry heard it first. He shushed Heyes and turned in the saddle.

Dust! A great moving wall of dust, which meant only one thing; a Posse. The duo didn’t want to investigate the dust cloud. They spurred their horses on. The Posse seemed to be going at a steady pace, fast but not breakneck. They had sped up when Heyes and Curry took off but after an hour they appeared to be gaining no ground, however as Kid pointed out they weren’t loosing any either. It was kind of spooky to be chased by such a constant cloud of dust. After several hours the chase was still going on. Heyes and Curry had tried a few manoeuvres but still the Posse stayed on their trail. Curry called to Heyes. “I think they’re speeding up.”

“Well I would if I was them, Kid. They must know our horses are tiring.”

“That’s what I like about you, Heyes; your cheerful way of looking at things.”

Heyes’s reply was drowned out by a scream from Curry’s horse as it stumbled heavily and tried unsuccessfully to regain its balance. Heyes looked on, horrified as Curry was thrown to the ground and his terrified horse fell and rolled over on to Curry’s prone figure. The horse raised himself off Curry and scrambled to its feet. It appeared to be unscathed from its fall. Heyes reigned in his horse and dismounted quickly, throwing the reigns to the ground.

Curry was out cold when Heyes reached him. Heyes hunkered down, then fell on his knees as he lay his head against Curry’s chest. For a moment Heyes looked stricken but suddenly he heard it; a rhythmic beat. He raised Curry’s head and called his name. “Kid! Come on Kid you need to come out of this.” But there was no response. For a moment Heyes considered the option of mounting his horse and escaping. That, his mind cried out was logical. He couldn’t help his friend to escape if the two of them were captured, but he dismissed the idea as quickly as it came. He wouldn’t, no couldn’t leave his partner alone.

Heyes cradled Curry’s head in his hands and waited for the Posse. The thing that scared him most was the fact that there was no response from his partner. Curry lay pale and silent on the ground. Heyes was so focused on him that he took no notice of the fast approaching dust cloud.

Suddenly he was relieved of his gun and pulled away from Curry. “Well boys, look like it’s our lucky day. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry in the flesh and even better Curry is in no position to shoot us.” The voice was harsh and was greeted by laughter. Heyes was dragged to his feet spun around and his hands were tied roughly behind his back. Heyes looked at the Posse. Six men in all stood around him. He tried to pull away from his captors but he was held firm, The man who had spoken was in his late forties, about the same height as Kid but far heavier.

The first man reached down and shook Curry’s still form, when he got no response he leaned against Curry’s chest and he stood up. “Curry’s alive. Tie him to his horse.” Curry’s horse stood quietly near Heyes. Two men, both middle aged approached Curry and swung him none too gently over the saddle of his horse and tied him to the animal with a rope. Heyes attempted to intervene. “Hey! You don’t have to be so rough. He’s in no condition to travel. I think he’s hurt bad.” Heyes was ignored by the Posse. He was about to proclaim the innocence of himself and his partner by stating that their names were Smith and Jones but he didn’t get to say it. One of the younger members of the Posse, a man aged about the same as Heyes, with dark hair and leathery skin dismounted and strode over to him. “Don’t bother to deny who you are. I rode with ‘The Devil’s Hole’ gang.”

“ I remember it, Bob, our bunch wasn’t blood thirsty enough for you.”

“That’s right, Heyes, and I owe Curry for pointing that out to me. I ride on the right side of the law now. Me and the boys have tracked quite a few wanted men, but I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw you two at the livery getting ready to leave. It took me all day to get the boys together but I knew we’d catch up.” He leered at Heyes, who tried not to inhale too deeply because of Bob’s halitosis.

The afternoon wore on as the Posse made its way to the town of ‘Log Pine’ it was a two day ride away and Heyes’s pleas to head to the nearer town of ‘Soul Burg’ were ignored. In fact the leader, who was referred to as ‘Captain’ by the others, seemed to take great pleasure in telling Heyes that the sheriff in ‘Log Pine’ was much more agreeable. He ignored the dubious past of the Posse members. Heyel felt sick as the sun shone relentlessly and Curry’s soft moans filled his head. Curry did not regain full consciousness but moaned as his horse jolted him over the rough track. Heyes felt very frightened. His so called ‘silver tongue’ was not working on the Captain or his men. Heyes appeared to be the only one whose Curry’s involuntary groans affected.

By late afternoon the heat of the day burned itself out and a cooling breeze rose up. At last the Posse stopped in a small clearing beside a stream. Heyes was relieved to be dragged from his horse as the men set about establishing a camp for the night. The men must have ridden together for quite a while as each man set to his tasks without interference. Heyes had tried to free his hands all afternoon but to no avail. The man who pulled him from his saddle laughed when he saw Heyes’s bleeding wrists. “Look like the great Hannibal Heyes has lost some of his fancy moves.” All the men joined in the laughter.

The man pushed Heyes along and another man joined them as they made their way a few yards from the camp site. For a minute Heyes thought they were going to kill him but he realized that he was getting a toilet break as the second man untied his hands and pushed him against a tree. The first man cocked his hand gun and pointed it at Heyes. “Go take a piss now. We don’t want to travel with your stench for the next few days.”

Heyes did as he was told and when he had buttoned up his hands were retied behind his back then he was led back to the camp. Heyes spotted Curry lying on his back. Kid was deadly ashen faced. Heyes’s stomach flipped. His partner looked terrible and he still appeared to be out of things. The two men who had accompanied Heyes now made their way to Curry but not before they tripped Heyes and bound his feet together when he fell to the ground.

Heyes lay there, completely unable to help his partner. One of the men slapped Curry’s pale face but that got no response. He immediately rolled Curry on to his right side and pulled his arms roughly behind him and tied them with a length of rope. Once again Heyes tried to intervene

“For God’s sake! He’s unconscious; he’s hurt bad you don’t have to truss him up like that.”

“Heyes I’ll remind you once again the price on both your heads is dead or alive.” The Captain had emphasised the word ‘dead’. Heyes tried again. “Look, untie me; I’ll give you my word that I won’t escape. Kid needs attention, I’ll try to patch him up and then you can retie me.” That was greeted by guffaws.

“Heyes you are a disappointment to me in the flesh; no silver tongue just the ranting of a desperate man. Now I suggest you cease talking or my boys will be forced to gag you.” The Captain’s voice was chilling.

Heyes saw blood on the back of Curry’s head as his partner was turned over on to his side. But still he remained silent. Both Heyes and Curry were positioned near a tree and with their hands and feet tied it was unlikely that they could escape. The Posse cooked some rabbits that one of them shot but nothing was offered to Heyes or Curry. The night wore on and Heyes noticed that the Posse members took it in turn to stay awake and watch both the prisoners and the quiet camp.

Snores filled the evening air and Heyes could see the guard smoking a cigarette at the edge of camp. He tried once again to rouse Curry but this time he was successful. Kid came aware with a long exhalation of breath. He moved his head searching for his partner. Heyes whispered again. “Kid. Can you hear me?”

“Heyes? What’s going on?” Curry’s voice was tight and low and Heyes could almost feel his partner’s pain in it.

Heyes tried to move to a more comfortable position as he answered his friend.

“Your horse stumbled and you had a nasty fall, but we’ve other troubles too. Remember Bob Thornton? Well he sure remembers us. He’s riding with a group of semi bounty hunters and we’re on our way to Log Pine because the Sherriff there don’t appear to ask too many questions.” Heyes resigned himself to his uncomfortable position and carried on. “How’re you feeling?”

“Like I just got run over by a stampeding buffalo heard. My head hurts and my chest ain’t much better. I don’t remember much about today.” In fact as Curry became more aware of his surroundings the nightmare journey of the day came like broken fragments to his mind. He remembered the heat of the sun burning through his cotton shirt and a mixture of voices but it was all fragmented, mixed with what could only have been dreams. Curry strained at the rope, which tied his hands but quickly realized that wasn’t an option as pain flared through his body. Heyes’s voice faded in and out of his consciousness as he tried not to vomit. His head pounded while his chest pain seized him in a vice like grip. Curry could truthfully say there wasn’t one place on his body that didn’t ache; even his hair seemed to hurt.

He tried to understand the meaning of Heyes’s words as they drifted across the night. He concentrated on the shape beside him and realized it was Heyes, who was trussed up like him. It wasn’t a deathly dark night. There was enough light coming from a half moon and the glowing embers of a camp fire for Curry to be able to see reasonably clearly when he focussed hard enough and it became clear that both he and Heyes had been secured too tightly to break their bonds.

Heyes talked softly, explaining about the days events and Curry felt unease rising as Heyes mentioned Bob Thornton’s name. Curry remembered with some distaste his run in with that outlaw. Thornton was a bully. Curry had discovered him, on the morning of a planned train hold up, browbeating Wheat and causing some discontent among the gang. Curry had challenged him on it and Thornton had immediately backed down but Curry had seen enough to ensure that he kept an eye on Bob during the hold-up. This was just as well as ‘The Devil’s Hole’ gang had a reputation of never harming anybody and they nearly lost it that day. Thornton was just about to pistol whip one of the passengers; a large, loudmouthed middle aged man. The man was obnoxious but that was still no reason to harm him in Curry’s book. Curry had drawn his pistol so fast that the man shut up immediately but the gun was pointed at Thornton. Once again Thornton backed down and the gang made a clean get away. That evening Thornton had been asked to leave ‘Devil’s Hole’ and he had ridden away swearing retribution on Heyes and especially on Curry.

Heyes and Curry spent an uneasy night. Their bonds were so tight that it made sleep almost impossible. Curry had a throbbing headache and his chest felt like it was on fire and Heyes, though he would never admit it, felt so worried about Kid that he couldn’t settle either. Dawn signalled the start of the day and the possie began to break camp. Heyes was relieved to see that Thornton was busy saddling horses while the same two men of the night before once again led Curry and Heyes separately out of camp to complete their toilet. These men were good at what they did and both Curry and Heyes realised that there was no chance of escape offered there.

Heyes asked about breakfast and the Captain replied that there was no responsibility on them to feed prisoners; however they were given water but nothing else. The canteen was held to their mouths as they drank and their arms continued to be tied behind their backs but at least their feet were untied and they were led to their horses. Heyes noticed the look of pain which passed over Curry’s face as he was helped up. It was awkward to mount a horse with your hands tied behind your back as Heyes well knew but what it must be like for an injured Curry he could only guess. During the break up of camp Curry took advantage of the noise to whisper to his partner. “Got a plan yet?”

“No, Kid but I’m working on it.” Heyes lied.

 

Chapter two

The day was hot and it was a nightmare for both Kid and Heyes. Kid’s body hurt and with every movement of his horse the pain in his chest intensified. He was pretty sure that he had a broken rib but stayed quiet because he could read the worry in Heyes’s face. The posse stopped around mid day and once again the boys were given a toilet break and a drink of water but nothing to eat. The posse members ate jerky and sat around in the shade of some trees while the worst heat of the day passed. Kid and Heyes were pleased with the break from riding and to be out of the glare of the sun. Kid in particular had felt the sun’s rays on his fair skin and because of his tied hands he was unable to draw his hat down to offer some shade from it. Both of them had lost all feeling in their hands as the day had progressed and when they were released from their bonds for a few minutes the awful feeling of pins and needles had assailed them. The posse remained at rest for an hour then once again the dreadful journey began again.

Heyes’s humour grew darker with the passing afternoon. On more than one occasion he thought Kid was going to pass out. His friend looked dreadful. Curry’s face was burned red from the sun and he was slouched low in the saddle, held in place by sheer will power. For the first time Heyes questioned whether their outlaw days had been worth the price they paid. Both he and Kid were tired of running and looking over their shoulders and it had been nearly two years since they entered into their agreement with the Governor. A black cloud descended on Heyes as the journey continued.

In the late evening they made camp and the same procedure as the night before was adhered too, Once again their feet were tied and they were left to manoeuvre into a very uncomfortable position. Heyes was deeply worried about his friend. Curry had said little just moaned as his feet were tied together. Heyes made another plea, which fell on deaf ears.

“Captain, come on. You know we’re not going to escape so how about leaving Kid’s feet untied?”

The Captain’s retort was short. “Heyes I wouldn’t trust you or Curry as far as I could spit. You boys should know something about this here posse; we ain’t ever had a prisoner escape. Once or twice they’ve died trying.” The other members of the posse laughed.

That’s when Thornton moved over to Curry. “You ain’t such a big man now?” He kicked at Curry’s bound legs.

Curry glared at Thornton. “I’m a bigger man than you will ever be.” That earned Curry another kick, this time in the back and Heyes tried valiantly to intervene to save his friend another assault. “Thornton, it don’t take much of a man to attack someone who’s all trussed up.” Thornton turned his attention to Heyes and lashed out with his foot to Heyes’s stomach. The air was knocked out of him but he distinctly heard his partner.

“It’s not Heyes you want, Thornton, it’s me. I was the one who stopped your fun,” Kid wriggled into a semi sitting position against one of the large trees in the clearing.

“Damn right! You bastard but I ain’t playing games with you. I don’t need to; I have you exactly where I want you and just maybe you won’t make it to Log Pine. A lot can happen in a day.” He turned away from the outlaws and turned his attention to the horses.

“You okay, Heyes?” Curry whispered as Heyes managed to get himself into a sitting position beside his partner. “Yeah, he’s as bad with his feet as he is with his mouth.” Heyes grunted.

Curry moaned softly without realising he was doing it. Heyes knew his partner was in a bad way but he also knew that Curry would try to play down how sick he really was. “How you doing?”

“I’ve been better.”

The smell of roasting rabbits came from the camp fire and made Curry nauseous. His body ached so much that al he wanted to do was slip into sleep but instead his rising fever caused him to slip in and out of a grotesque unconsciousness. Heyes tried to whisper to him but Curry was too ill to respond. During the course of the evening neither Heyes nor Curry was offered anything to eat but they were given water from a canteen held roughly to their lips. Curry was in such a bad way that he swallowed hardly any of the life preserving liquid. All thoughts of Heyes’s were on Curry and not on escaping, which Heyes knew Curry would be unable to take advantage of any plan. In truth no plans of escape came to him he just concentrated on his best friend and prayed to a God he no longer believed in to let Kid make it to Log Pine. Surely there would be medical attention for him there. Heyes no longer cared about prison or anything else he focussed his attention on willing Curry to stay alive.

Heyes’s brilliant mind faltered and for the first time in his life he didn’t know what to do? His worry for Kid absorbed all his thoughts. Heyes slept fitfully. He was exhausted and hungry but the only thoughts that occupied him was Kid’s fragile state. Heyes heard Kid moan during the night and he knew by the groans that Kid was running a high fever. Heyes fought against the restraining rope on his hands and feet but neither gave an inch. Heyes tried whispering to Curry during the course of that awful night but Curry was out of it with a spiralling fever. The dawn was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because the night was finally over and Log Pine was within reach and a curse because it meant that Kid faced hours more in the saddle. The two men who took Curry and Heyes outside the camp had to drag Kid there and back. Curry was in an awful way. His face was bright red, which was a combination of sun burn and a fever. Heyes knew Curry was unable to travel. He had been barely able to sip at the water canteen as it was held to his lips. Heryes, once again intervened on his partner’s behalf. “For God’s sake Kid isn’t able to travel any more. Why don’t one of you ride ahead and get a buggy for him?”

Thornton laughed. “A Buggy? You’re not in charge now, Heyes.” The Captain interrupted. “Bob’s right I’m in charge and either Curry sits a horse or I shoot him here and now. Remember ‘dead or alive’. The choice is his.”

Heyes didn’t respond, he just looked at his partner. It took two men to sling Curry over his horse and he was tied on with a rope, which went under the belly of his horse. Heyes knew the position much be excruciating from the pressure on Curry’s injured chest so he was thankful that his partner seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness. There was little else to be thankful for in their current predicament.

The posse moved out and so began the worst day of Heyes’s life. The sun was high and the heat seemed to sear at your very being. There was little or no talk among the posse members just the odd reference to what they would do with twenty thousand dollars between them. Heyes listened without interest his whole attention lay on his partner as he watched him slowly dying. Heyes wanted to shout out at the unfairness of it all but he held his tongue. Curry groaned quietly as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Thornton took great pleasure of pulling Kid’s head up by the hair from time to time under the pretext of checking his to see if he was still alive.

The hatred that Heyes felt for Thornton grew throughout the day. Heyes had very rarely felt such anger at another human being it was normally Kid who got riled up at some injustice but Heyes knew if he had a gun he would kill Bob Thornton without a glimmer of guilt. Heyes had witnessed much evil in his life but never had he felt such a burning hatred for another human being.

By late evening they reached Log Pine and Heyes was somewhat relieved. Surely the Sheriff would get a doctor for Kid. Curry had been silent for some time now and Heyes was terrified that his partner was dead. Even Thornton’s cruel ministrations had ceased to evoke any reactions from Curry. Log Pine had a prosperous air to it and although the town was mainly dark and quiet the light and noise of a busy saloon drifted on to the main street. The one of two people who walked the street stopped and stared at the sight of the posse. Captain led the way and halted at the Sheriff’s office at the end of town. There was a light outside the office and Captain called his men to halt and he dismounted and entered the office.

Within a minute a young man in his early twenties appeared on the porch. He had blonde hair cut short and he was pulling on his left boot as he came out side. He was saying to Captain. “The Sheriff will never believe this; Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, here at our jail. I’ll just go get him.” He stared at the posse as he ran past it. Heyes called out to him. “Deputy, my partner needs a doctor. “But his words were ignored.

The young deputy appeared a few minutes later with an older man in his fifties with grey hair and a worn face, he was obviously the Sheriff. He greeted the posse leader as he neared him.

“Captain, you’ve outdone yourself this time, Heyes and Curry.”

“That’s right; Adams and we claim the reward on them.”

“Not so fast, you know the way this works. I’ll send a telegram in the morning and once it’s verified the money is yours. Now which one is which?”

Heyes spoke up. “I’m Heyes and that’s Curry but he needs a doctor real bad.”

“So you’re the famous Hannibal Heyes; you don’t look old enough to have caused all that trouble and as for Curry needing a doctor, that’s for me to decide, Son.”

Heyes was manhandled off his horse and pushed into the office. He couldn’t see what was happening with his partner. He was pushed into one of two empty cells and then Curry was dragged in and dropped on one of the bunks. Curry groaned as he made contact with the wooden bed and it was the best sound Heyes had ever heard. It meant his partner was alive now all he had to do was to secure a doctor for him.

“Sheriff, my partner’s in a bad way, you can see that for yourself he needs a doctor.”

“Look, Son, there’s something we should get straight right now. You boys are my prisoners and I don’t take kindly to prisoners telling me how to run my jail. Either you shut up or I swear I’ll gag you. Curry will get looked at in the morning. I’m not going to get Doc. Grey out of his bed for some miserable outlaw. Do you understand me?”

Heyes didn’t reply. He knelt down beside Curry’s cot. He pushed some wet curls back from his partner’s forehead and stared at the face he knew so well, Curry was teaming sweat and his eyes were closed. “Kid.” Heyes called gently and at the sound of his voice Kid’s eyes fluttered open but he seemed to be unable to focus clearly on his friend’s face. Heyes turned to the Sheriff who was standing just outside the cell with Captain. “Could I have a bowl of water for him?” The Sheriff kept on talking with Captain but he waved his hand towards his deputy. The young man immediately fetched a basin from the desk in the office and poured some water from a jug, which stood on a table behind the desk. Before the young man lifted the basin the Sheriff walked up to him and said. “We’re gonna’ have to be careful dealing with those two, Nicky. First take off your gun and leave it on the desk. When the young man had done this he picked up the basin and walked towards the cell. The Sheriff drew his gun from its holster and aimed it at Heyes. “Heyes you get up and walk to the far end of the cell while Nicky delivers the water.” Nicky opened the cell door and placed the basin beside Curry’s cot.

Heyes waited until the young deputy left the cell before he moved back to Curry’s cot. He removed his bandana and rinsed it in the water. He wiped his partner’s face and Curry grunted and opened his eyes. Curry’s pupils were dilated but he recognized Heyes. “What’s happening?” He asked

Heyes wiped Curry’s forehead again and said. “Take it easy, Kid, we’re in jail but the Sheriff will get you a doctor in the morning so you’ll just have to make do with my docterin’ ‘till then.”

Curry tried to smile. “You didn’t come up with a plan, then?”

“No. I’m still working on it.”

Curry drifted off again and Heyes looked up to see the Sheriff and Captain watching him. Heyes addressed himself to the Sheriff. “Could you at least let me have some clean cloths?” Heyes moved down the cot as he spoke and began to remove Curry’s boots. This action evoked no reaction in his partner.

The Sheriff addressed the young Deputy and told him to get some cloths that they kept for emergencies in a press behind the desk. The Deputy got them and pushed them in at Heyes through the bars of the cell. Heyes took them and returned to sitting beside his friend. Heyes gently turned Kid’s head and began to bathe the large lump his fingers found there. The cloth came away stained brown so Heyes hoped that Kid’s head was no longer bleeding. He took this as something positive. He moved his hands to Curry’s chest, he remembered Kid saying his chest hurt. He opened Curry’s shirt and stopped dead when he saw the livid bruises that covered almost all of Kid’s chest. Heyes felt sick, How the Hell had his partner stayed on a horse in that condition? He gulped down the bitter taste in his mouth and ran his hands over Kid’s chest. He was no doctor but he and Kid had both seen each other through enough injuries for him to realize that at least one of Kid’s ribs was busted. Kid groaned and tried to move away from Heyes’s fingers but he was so weak that he was unable to do little to help himself. Heyes didn’t know whether to try and bandage Kid’s chest or to wait until the doctor came in the morning. He examined the few cloths that had been given to him and he realized that none of them was big enough to wrap round Kid’s chest. To be truthful he was grateful that the decision had been made for him because he didn’t want to inflict further pain on his partner. Heyes left Curry’s shirt open and grabbed the blanket off his own cot and covered Kid’s torso with it. Kid was lying on his own blanket and Heyes didn’t wan to move him unnecessarily.

Chapter Three

The night passed in a haze of images, which burned into Heyes’s mind. Thornton was the man the Captain had chosen to stay in the Sheriff’s office guarding the prisoners. When the Sheriff had objected to this arrangement Captain had dug his heels in and reminded the older man that the ‘Devil’s Hole Gang’ was likely to come a calling as soon as word of the outlaws capture made it to the local paper and so the Sheriff agreed to extra ‘help’ with a nod.

Kid stirred restlessly in his fever induced state of disquiet. Sometimes he babbled on saying half formed words but always Heyes stayed sitting on the cot beside him. During the night Thornton tried several times to rile Heyes. Making comments about Kid’s chances of living through the night. The Sheriff told him several times, to be quiet but his words failed to find their mark. Heyes was too preoccupied with Curry to even hear him.

Sun up came and the Sheriff made some coffee. He slipped a metal cup of it through the bars to Heyes. Thornton had objected to that small gesture but the Sheriff had reminded him of just who was in charge and ignored his words. Heyes wrapped his fingers around the hot cup and took a tentative sip. It was bitter tasting and scalding hot but he drank it anyway, hardly conscious of what he was doing.

Heyes’s whole attention was centered on his partner. In the dawning light, as shadows chased across the cell it became apparent that Curry was in a very bad way. His skin was clammy and he was very hot. His blond curls lay stuck to his head and damp. The Sheriff didn’t comment but wondered to himself how Heyes would react if Curry died because he thought Curry looked that ill.

Heyes once again requested a doctor for his partner and the Sheriff said he would fetch the local one just as soon as he sent a telegram to the state Capitol reporting Heyes’s and Curry’s capture and with an admonition to his Deputy to stay alert and a brief nod to Thornton he left the office, Heyes’s thoughts were as sluggish as molasses. He had only one concern now; saving his partner’s life. Jails and trials could wait. Heyes realized how important Curry was to him. They had been together since childhood and the thought of life without Curry was just too awful to contemplate. Heyes carried on with his ministrations and the time crept by. Heyes asked the Deputy about the doctor but no one knew what was keeping the Sheriff. Finally after, what was probably, an hour but felt much longer the Sheriff reappeared.

He came in through the door with a telegram in his hand. He looked perplexed. “Go get the Captain.” He snarled to Thornton and added “Now.” Thornton wanted to know what was going on but the Sheriff’s tone was too strident to argue with. Thornton left the office.

“Where’s the doctor, Sheriff?” Heyes asked from his position behind the bars of the cell.

The Sheriff stared at him and said. “I only intend to explain this once so let’s just settle down ‘till Captain gets here.”

Heyes was furious. “Where the Hell is that doctor?”

“Just hold your horses, young fella.”

Heyes by this stage was nearly pushing the bars apart by sheer desperaation.

Suddenly the Captain entered followed by Thornton. The Captain greeted the Sheriff with a smile. “When do the boys get our money?”

The Sheriff studied the two men before he answered. “Well it seems there’s a problem about that.”

“WHAT?” The captain was furious and moved closer to the Sheriff. The sheriff pushed him back a few feet then continued on. “There’s no point in getting riled at me. It seems Heyes and Curry just earned themselves an amnesty. It was granted two days ago but isn’t common knowledge yet.”

“WHAT?” Four voices asked together. The Sheriff cleared his throat. “Seems like Heyes and Curry are free to go.” He pushed the telegram into the Captain’s hand then walked over to Heyes and opened the locked door.

The Captain’s face changed to fiery red. “What about our reward?”

“There is no reward; Heyes and Curry have gotten an amnesty.” The Sheriff repeated as if he couldn’t quite believe it himself.

Heyes was on his feet looking dazed. The elusive amnesty was finally here but it didn’t matter a damn if Kid was going to die. Heyes addressed the Sheriff. “Where’s the doctor?”

“Well Heyes the way I figure it, you and Curry are no longer my responsibility. It’s up to you to get him whatever attention he needs.”

“You Bastard! You said you’d get him a doctor.”

“Well young man I got delayed in the telegraph office so you’ll have to get him yourself. The Doc’s house is at the far end of the town just down from the livery. Now get your partner and get out of my jail.” The Sheriff backed away from the door. The Captain and Thornton looked as if they were going to punch their fists through a wall. The Captain tried to interrupt the Sheriff. “That can’t be so. The Governor would never give two so well known criminals an amnesty.”

The Sheriff was obviously trying to control his anger. “It’s here in black and white. These boys are no longer wanted in the state.” He handed the telegram to Thornton who quickly read it and pushed past the Deputy and the Captain land left the office. The Captain left silently. Meanwhile Heyes sat on a corner of Curry’s cot. “Kid, we got it, we finally got the amnesty.” But it was obvious that Kid was too ill to understand what was going on around him.

“Young man take your partner and get out and I want the two of you out of my town as soon as possible. The word about you two won’t take long to spread and I don’t want every fast draw in the territory try their luck with Curry.”

Heyes was furious; a cold passion fuelled anger filled him. “Where do you suggest we go?”

“I don’t care, just as long as you don’t hang around town too long. I know Curry is sick but after the doc has a look at him, get out of my town as quick as you can.” The Sheriff handed their two guns to Heyes. Heyes put his into his holster and slipped Curry’s into the waistband of his own pants. Heyes manoeuvred Curry’s feet into his boot with some difficulty. He pulled Curry to his feet. Curry swayed on his feet and for a moment it looked like they both might collapse. Heyes felt dizzy and the room seemed to sway. He hadn’t had anything to eat for two days and he had slept little since his capture. Heyes closed his eyes and fought the nausea. He righted himself and pulled Curry’s body towards him. Curry was lost somewhere between lucidity and unconsciousness. Heyes didn’t quite know what was keeping his partner standing. The young deputy came forward and took some of Curry’s weight. He spoke to Heyes. “Suppose we bring him to the hotel and while you help settle in I’ll get Doc Grey to come and look at him.”

Heyes was genuinely touched by the young man’s words. “Thank you.” Together they shared Curry’s weight and shuffled out of the jail. The hotel was about half way down the town and they made it there with some difficulty.

Balancing Curry between them they made their way into the foyer of the hotel. It was decked out in gaudy colors of red with gold clothed chairs arranged opposite the reception desk. A small man, barely able to see over the top of it stood leaning on the desk. The trio of Heyes, the Deputy and Curry was almost knocked down by a tall lean man who swept out past them through the doors. He made no apology and kept going. Heyes noticed the man had his shirt sleeves rolled up and held in place by two white garters and wore a peaked half cap on his head.

The little man behind the desk stared at the small party as they entered. Heyes smiled politely and asked for ‘a room for two.’ The man behind the desk snapped the reservations book closed with and audible bang.

The small man cleared his throat loudly. “We have no rooms available. We don’t want known out laws here. It would upset our other guests.”

Heyes looked like he was going to explode but said with icy calmness. “I want a room right now.” But the clerk only stared harder at him. “I won’t be intimidated by an outlaw. We run a respectable business here. Take your ill gotten money and get out.” He smiled a reptilian like grimace. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You need to keep out of trouble and the Deputy is my witness, I’ll say it again. There are no rooms available.”

Heyes was so concerned about his partner that all the fight seemed to leave him. The Deputy hoisted more of Curry’s weight and spoke up. “Mr Heyes, I suggest we get Mr Curry to doc Grey’s house with any luck he’ll take him in.” Heyes nodded dejectedly, scowling at the small man he once again hoisted his partner and the trio left the hotel. Curry’s feet dragged along the wooden walkway. He had once again pitched into unconsciousness and he made quite a heavy weight for the other two.

Within a few minutes they found themselves outside a neat looking house. It was painted white and a small shingle hung over the door announcing ‘Dr Grey’. The Deputy knocked hard against the wooden door and within a few moments the sound of shuffling feet could be heard. The door was pulled open and a man appeared. He was about sixty with deeply tanned skin. His face was heavily wrinkled and his sharp nose was quite prominent on his face. He eyed the trio on his doorstep but said nothing.

“Doc, this here is Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the Captain brought them in last nigh for the reward but it seems they have been granted amnesty so they’re free men but Curry’s hurt bad.” The Deputy stopped talking as if he had run out of things to say.

The doctor looked at the men but his eyes focussed on Curry. “Well you boys better bring him in and let me take a look at him.” The doctor led the way into a room on the right side of the hall. It was obviously his office as there was a long leather covered bench in the middle of the room. The room was of average size but because of the walls being lined with shelves, which were covered in book and strange looking apparatus, it looked kind of poky. Heyes and the Deputy deposited Curry on the bench. The Deputy put out his right hand and shook Heyes’s. “Well I better be going. Good luck to you and your partner.” With a backward glance he was gone.

The doctor shuffled over to Curry but kept his eyes on Heyes. “Young man you need to sit down before you fall.” He pointed to a chair, which stood against a carved desk behind the bench against a wall.

“I’m all right it’s my partner who need you.” Heyes stayed standing beside Curry’s prone figure.

“What happened to him?”

Heyes took off his hat and threw it on the chair the doctor had indicated. He ran his hands over his face and said. “He had a bad fall from his horse three days ago. The horse rolled on top of him. He was unconscious for hours after it and unfortunately the posse, which caught us weren’t too gentle with him. He was tied to his horse. He has a nasty lump on the back of his head and I think his ribs are hurt. He’s had nothing to eat for two days and he’s had very little water either.” Heyes seemed to deflate as he finished speaking.

The doctor began to undress Curry in a gentle but practical way. He didn’t acknowledge his feelings as he took in Curry’s bruised body. He placed his stethoscope on Curry’s chest and listened for a few moments. Then, without saying anything to Heyes he gently turned Curry’s head sideways and felt the back of his head with his fingers. Curry moaned weakly but didn’t regain consciousness.

“Well your friend is very ill but you probably know that. He’s got a nasty bump on the head, which is the reason he’s slipping in and out of consciousness” The doctor stood back from the table after examining the rest of Curry’s body and added. “He has a broken rib and probably most worryingly he’s got a Hell of a high fever. He’s in a world of trouble and you say he hasn’t been eating or drinking.” He went on as if he was talking to himself. “The no eating doesn’t matter too much it’s the not drinking that’s dangerous.”

Heyes broke into the doctor’s words. “He’ll be all right, won’t he?”

The doctor lifted his eyes from Curry and met Heyes’s. “He’s young and he obviously strong but I’d be lying to you if I said he wasn’t in trouble.” The doctor said.

Heyes shouldn’t have been surprised by the doctor’s words, after all it was clear that Curry was very ill but somehow the doctor making the pronouncement made it all too real. Heyes shuffled back and removing his hat from the seat he sat down.

The doctor smiled kindly on Heyes. “Look I’ll do all I can for him, that’s all I can do.” He turned his attention back to Curry. Curry now lay bare chest on the table with just his long john bottoms covering his lower body. The doctor fetched water and added some liquid to it before he dabbed a cloth in the mixture and began cleaning the cut on Curry’s head.

Heyes smelled the iodine and for a moment he was back at the home for way wards where he had stayed with Kid. Heyes pushed against his closed eyelids with his fingers and sighed. He realized the doctor was talking to him.

“What did you say?”

“Young man, I know you need sleep and probably food too but right now I need you to hold your friend sitting up as I wrap his chest.”

Heyes immediately got up from the chair and went to the bench. The doctor lifted Curry’s upper body from the table and Heyes slipped his hands over and took hold of his partner’s shoulders. Some how he managed to hold the unconscious man while the doctor wrapped Curry’s chest tightly. Curry’s flesh was hot against Heyes’s fingers. After the doctor finished strapping Curry’s chest Heyes laid his partner’s head down.

“We have to get that fever down and quickly.” The doctor ran a cool wet cloth over Curry’s face and neck.

“What can I do?” Asked Heyes.

“Well we need to move him to a bed. There’s two empty beds in the next room. I’ll go and pull the blankets down on one of them then you can help me move him to it. The doctor left the room and Heyes moved the cool cloth over Curry’s forehead s he addressed him. “Kid, you need to wake up. You’re scaring me.”

The doctor bustled back into the room. He went to the end of the couch and lifted Curry’s feet. Heyes lifted Curry’s head and upper body. They made their way gingerly out of the room. Another door further down the hall was open and Heyes moved into it. It was bright and clean. There were two beds side by side. One of the beds had the blankets turned back and the doctor and Heyes laid Kid on the bed.

The doctor pulled the blankets up on Kid but left his bandaged chest uncovered. “Young man I am going to fetch some ice from the general store’s ice house and when I get back we’ll set about lowering his fever.”

‘Ice’ the word filled Heyes’s brain but didn’t make sense but then nothing made sense any more. Here they were over two years into their going straight and they had achieved it but Heyes was numb. Nothing mattered if Kid wasn’t there to share it. He sat on the edge of Kid’s bed. The doctor was gone about half an hour. Heyes spent the time bathing Kid’s face but still Kid’s temperature didn’t seem to be falling.

Doctor Grey bustled into the room. He was holding two cotton flour sacks. He placed the sacks on each side of Curry’s chest and Heyes’s numb mind registered that they each contained a small block of ice. “Let’s hope this does it. We’ll leave them in place until they begin to melt then we’ll remove them before the ice melts and saturates your friend.”

Heyes nodded. He was too exhausted to do anything more than that. Doctor Grey left and room and returned after a few minutes. “Help me raise him up and we’ll try to get some of this herbal medicine into him.”

Heyes did as he was told. Curry lolled in Heyes’s arms, while the doctor tried to pour some of the dark green liquid into Curry’s mouth. Some of the liquid dribbled down Curry’s throat. The doctor looked pleased as he removed the cup and Heyes placed Kid’s head on the pillow.

“We have to try and get some water into him now. It’s really important that we get some liquid into him.” Again Heyes lifted kid’s head and once more liquid was poured down Kid’s throat. Doctor Grey rubbed the bridge of his nose. “What do I call you?”

“Heyes is fine although we have been using aliases for the last couple of years.” Heyes’s speech dried up and it dawned on him it might be a good idea to continue to use their acquired names of Smith and Jones. There was something in what the Sheriff had said about every gun slinger coming after Kid. But he was too tired to think clearly.

“I’m going to make some lunch and after that I have some patients to visit.” Doctor Grey left the room and Heyes recommenced his vigil at Kid’s bedside. The doctor was back within minutes and he checked the flour bags and removed them as the ice had started to melt. “He’s cooler now.” He remarked to Heyes and then added. “Come with me.” Heyes followed the doctor from the room dreading what ever was coming next. Doctor Grey led him into a small kitchen from which emanated the smell of warm biscuits. “Sit down and eat and don’t tell me you’re not hungry. Your friend is going to need you so you’d better look after yourself.”

Heyes sat down and began eating the bacon, eggs and biscuits that were left out for him. He was joined by the doctor. Silence filled the room and suddenly Heyes felt sick. The food just seemed to lie in his mouth and he forced himself to swallow it. He couldn’t taste it but he just ate what was on his plate and fought a battle with his stomach to keep it down. He drank some of the doctor’s coffee. It was strong but not bitter. The doctor finished his plate first and walked over to a sink near the stove.

“Did you know about the amnesty when they captured you?”

“No Sir. We made a bargain to stay out of trouble and we kept to it for two years but I wasn’t aware that it had been granted until the Sheriff told me this morning.” He met the doctor’s eyes.

“Well it seems to me that you boys never used violence in your robberies and I admire that. That posse that brought you in is led by a man called Claymore, he used to be a captain in the army but he was dishonourably discharged and now him and that band of followers capture wanted men and every time they bring some one in I get called to tend to their prisoners. Your friend isn’t the worse case I have had to treat and what makes me mad is that the Sheriff turns a blind eye.”

“The sheriff wouldn’t get you last night said he didn’t want to disturb you.” Heyes’s voice was dejected and Doctor Grey tried to picture how this man standing in front of him had ever led an out law gang. He cared for his friend, that was obvious and there was something in the way he met your eyes that spoke of a certain nobility. Yes the more he studied Heyes the more he realized that that there were depths to the young outlaw and it might be interesting to get to know him better. “Do you want to sit with Curry—I can’t keep calling him that.”

“His name is Jed, Kid was a nickname that stuck because he looked so baby faced. I call him Kid.” Heyes’s voice was low and an air of sadness seemed to seep from his words.

“Come on, you go back to Jed and I’ll clean these dishes.”

Heyes did as he was bid and took his place on Curry’s bed. Kid’s temperature seemed to have fallen somewhat and he dozed in a fretful sleep. Heyes just sat and watched him.

Doctor Grey came into the room carrying an old stuffed armchair. Heyes rose from the bed to make room to accommodate it. “Here, you can sit on this and maybe get some sleep.”

“Thanks.” Heyes sat on the chair. Doctor Grey left to visit his patients and the house became deathly quiet. Heyes could hear the tall grandfather clock, in the hall, tick incessantly and chime out the hour. Heyes drifted in and out of sleep but he always woke when Curry murmured or moved restlessly and on these occasions Heyes would wipe the damp cloth over Kid’s face and murmur to him. If Heyes had been asked about what he said to Kid he would have been unable to say but whatever he said helped to ease his own worry and seemed to have a calming effect on Curry. Several times during the course of the day Heyes held Curry’s head and tried to get some water into his friend. He met with some measure of success. This was witnessed by the half empty jug on the bedside table.

It was early evening before the doctor returned. The sun was sinking and shadows moved around the room. Heyes was instantly awake when he heard the front door open. Doctor Grey came straight to Curry’s room. “How is he?” He asked Heyes who answered. “I think his fever has dropped a little.”

Doctor Grey nodded his head and felt Curry’s forehead. “It has but I’d be happier if he was a little cooler. It’s still higher than it should be, but at least he’s no worse.”

Heyes resumed his vigil while Doctor Grey left the room. After a long interval in which Heyes just sat and watched Curry Doctor Grey called out to him and Heyes made his way to the kitchen. Once more wonderful smells filled the air and Heyes saw two bowls of steaming stew sitting on the table.

“Doc, who cooks all this for you?” Heyes asked as he sat down.

“I do all my own cooking and cleaning and such like. I’m a bachelor. I never found a woman who interested me more than a book I grow my own herbs and plants and in fact it’s one of those plants that helped bring down Jed’s fever. You remember the drink I gave him well it was made of a plant that I grow out back in my small garden.”

Heyes realized that he was enjoying the rabbit stew and the conversation. He found himself opening up to Doctor Grey about Kid and their lives. If it wasn’t for the constant worry about his partner Heyes would have had enjoyed the Doctor’s anecdotes and he shared some of his own with the older man. After dinner Heyes insisted on helping to clear the table and then Heyes was shown the Doctor’s study.

From floor to ceiling was packed with books. Heyes’s eyes flew wide open on seeing so many books in one place. Heyes fingered a few of them near the door of the room and opened a few to browse. He found a few by Mark Twain and there was even a play by Shakespeare. Heyes fingered the gold lettering on the outside of the small volume. ‘The Tempest’. The doctor’s words broke into Heyes’s thoughts. “Would you like to read it?”

“Yes, sir, thank you.” Heyes took the small volume into Kid’s room and laid it on the table beside the bed. The doctor had followed him and he sat on the edge of the bed and listened to Curry’s heart with his stethoscope. He smiled at Heyes.

“I think this young man has turned the corner. His fever is almost gone and his color is better than when he came in.”

Heyes beamed at the doctor and sat down in the armchair. “I could sit with him tonight if you want to rest.” The doctor addressed Heyes.

“No thank you I’d like to be here when he wakes up but I could do with a wash and tidy up.” Heyes smiled as he spoke the doctor’s words had soothed him and the realization that Kid was on the mend had eased his mind.

The doctor brought Heyes into the kitchen again and got down a large metal tub and boiled up several bucket loads of water. In no time at all Heyes found himself in a warm bath and for the first time in a week he found he could relax. Heyes heard a knock at the front door and then some voices talking low. The doctor entered the kitchen and handing a telegram to Heyes said. “I think this is for you.” Heyes took the telegram with a wet hand and noticed it was address to ‘Hanniabal Heyes’ It was the first time for a very long time that anything had come addressed to him using his real name. He read the message, which was from Lom Trevers. It said. “Congrats on amnesty .stop travel to Portaville as soon as pos. stop Governor wants to meet you. Lom.

Heyes handed the telegram to the doctor. “I guess it’s true. We really got it.”

“Appears that way. I kept the boy if you want to send a reply”

Heyes wrote his message on a piece of paper, which the doctor handed him. ‘Kid sick stop will be there as soon as possible. Heyes. It felt good to be signing his own name. Heyes handed the damp paper to the doctor. “There’s money in my pants’ pocket on the chair.”

The doctor took some change from Heyes’s pocket and left the room. Suddenly Heyes was overcome with emotion and he felt wetness on his cheeks. He hadn’t cried in a very long time and the emotion threatened to take him over. He closed his eyes and thought about his life and he realized how fortunate he was to be going through life with his best friend. He couldn’t wait to tell Kid the good news and he hoped his friend would wake soon.

An hour later found Heyes ensconced in the arm chair beside Kid’s bed with a large glass of whisky in one hand and ‘The Tempest’ in the other. Kid had slipped into a deep sleep and he seemed to be resting comfortably.

“What do you think of Mr Shakespeare?” The doctor’s voice was full of humour.

“I think Ariel puts up with a lot from this fella’ Prospero. Tell me does he get his freedom in the end?” Heyes put down the glass.

“Read it yourself and see.” Laughed Doctor Grey.

Heyes found the play so interesting that he read it through the night and at about five am he fell into a light sleep full of visions of storms and islands. His sleep was interrupted by a voice he knew well. “Heyes?” Then slightly louder. “Heyes?” Kid’s voice sounded croaky but it was all Heyes wanted to hear.

“Hey Kid, keep your hair on, some of us are trying to sleep.” Heyes beamed at his partner.

Heyes helped a weak Curry to sit up and he held the glass to Kid’s lips as he took a long draught of the cool liquid. At first, when Heyes told him about the amnesty Kid seemed shocked but when he saw Lom’s telegram he hollered in a voice that was still scratchy. “We did it. We really did it and the Governor kept his promise. We have to go to Lom.” Kid made a movement to get out of bed but paled as he swung his legs over the side of it.

“Whoa! Take it easy Kid. You’ve got a broken rib and a hell of a lump on your head.” Heyes helped Kid down on the bed. “I’ve got someone I want you to meet.” Doctor Grey entered the room. Heyes beamed at him. “Kid, this is Doc grey. He saved your life.”

The Kid seemed hesitant, almost shy as if wondering what to say to someone who saved your life. Kid put out his hand. “Thanks Doc. I feel sorry for you having to deal with Heyes as well as me. I know what kind of trouble he can be.” Kid grinned Doctor Grey laughed. “Well you’re right about that but I just introduced him to Shakespeare and that settled him down.2

“I reckon I owe this Shakespeare fella’ a thank you”

“You’re about two hundred years to late.” Doctor Grey exchanged glances with Heyes and they both laughed.”

 

Epilogue

The sun had barely risen in a glorious blue sky as Heyes and Curry made their way to the Stagecoach Depot. Heyes was carrying two saddlebags and Curry was moving slowly, like a man who had discovered that any sudden movements caused a lot of discomfort. Doctor Grey walked with them. The coach had just pulled in and it looked like Heyes and Curry were the only passengers. Heyes was grateful for that as he figured his partner could do with stretching out and getting some sleep. Kid was well on his road to recovery but he wasn’t quite up to par. The Sheriff watched them board the coach then he strode over to them. “Glad to see you boys are moving on.” He switched his glance from Heyes to Curry. “There are two gunslingers in town. I don’t know how Doc kept your leaving so quiet but he did.” The sheriff didn’t wait for a reply just turned his back and headed back down the street.

Curry climbed into the coach and Heyes stopped before he followed him in. “We owe you Doc. For a lot of things.” Heyes took the doctor’s hand and shook it strongly.

“You boys take care of each other.” The Doctor looked from one to the other. “I have a feeling you’re good at that and by the way Heyes I have something for you.” He handed Heyes a book. Heyes saw at once it was ‘The Tempest’. “I couldn’t take this. It’s such a wonderful book you’ll miss it.”

“The Doctor laughed. “I’ve never seen a man enjoy it the way you did.” And he pushed it back to Heyes.

The coach driver called out and the stage pulled out of town.

“What’s so great about the book?” Kid asked.

“Well you see it’s kin’a about a fella’ who had to endure a lot before he got his freedom.”

“Sort of like us, you mean?”

“Exactly.” Heyes stretched out his long legs and closed his eyes.