All In – Part three
Hospital – Denver
Doc Donovan paced the hallway in the Denver hospital where his boss and friend, Governor Zulick, lay unconscious. “Nurse?” he said, touching the arm of the young woman who had just exited the governor’s room. “How is he? Is he any better?”
“I’m sorry,” the young woman said, apologetically. “I’m afraid there’s no change. Even though the bullet only grazed his head, he’s still in very serious condition. It’s hard to tell how much trauma the impact caused.” She gave the older man a gentle smile. “He’s very lucky to have a friend like you.”
Friend like me Donovan thought ruefully. I brought that man into Conrad’s life. I hired Heyes and Curry and now Heyes has shot him. He shook his head in confusion. It didn’t make any sense. The man he’d spent several days with, and believed he knew, wasn’t a violent man. Hadn’t he and Curry said they’d spent most of their lives trying not to use their guns? And yet, I saw him standing over Conrad with the gun in his hand.
“Sir?” the young nurse touched his arm. “You can sit with him if you’d like. Some people think it helps to hear a familiar voice.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll just stay out here,” Donovan said, looking uncomfortable.
The young woman gave him a scolding look. “If you’re his friend, you should sit with him. Talk to him,” she said, and then turned down the hall and disappeared around the corner.
“Why would Heyes do it?” Donovan wondered aloud. “He had amnesty. He had the second chance he said he wanted. Why would he do it?”
“That’s right. Why?” A voice behind him asked, and Donovan spun around in surprise.
“Trevors, what are you doing here?” Donovan asked, regaining his composure.
“I wanted to see how the governor is doing,” the Wyoming lawman answered. “and I’m wondering the same thing you are. Heyes had no reason in the world to shoot Governor Zulick…unless…there’s more to that story about Mexico? Did something happen down there that would make Heyes want to shoot him?”
“No!” Donovan said emphatically. “Everything was fine. You heard what Conrad said last week. He was very grateful to Mr. Heyes.”
“Then why would Heyes do something so stupid? He must have known he’d never get away with it.”
“I don’t know,” Donovan mumbled.
“Well, you were with him. You found him standing over Zulick. What do you think happened?” Lom raised his voice, eliciting a very reproachful look from the nurse at the end of the hall. “What did Heyes say when you found him?”
“He denied it, which was ridiculous because he was holding the gun. He said something about the aide, Parker, coming in, but Parker was right behind me when we rushed in.”
“This aide, Parker, were you with him the whole time Heyes was in with Zulick?”
Donovan frowned. “Well, no, I waited in the outer room and Parker took Heyes in to see Conrad, but he was right outside the door when I ran in and we entered Conrad’s private office together. You don’t think that Parker…”
“I don’t know what to think, Doc, but someone shot Zulick, and Heyes, Parker, and you were the only men there.”
Donovan was silent for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was soft and steady. “I can’t think of any reason that Parker would want Conrad dead, but if he did, then Conrad’s life is still in danger. I’m going to see that he’s guarded and then I’m going to look into Parker’s background. Don’t repeat this conversation, Trevors. If Parker did do this, I don’t want him to know we’re on to him.”
“Let me know what I can do,” Lom offered. “I’ll try and meet you later, but first, I have to go see the federal marshal that arrived this morning.”
“Don’t worry,” Donovan said confidently. “I’ll find out if Parker had anything to do with this.”
Trevors and Donovan shook hands and Trevors left the hospital.
Sheriff’s Office – Denver
“You wanted to see me, Marshal Tucker?” Trevors stood facing the United States federal marshal.
“That’s right, Trevors,” Tucker said, eyeing the other man with suspicion.
“I’ve given my statement to Sheriff Wilson. He has everything I have on Heyes and Curry.”
The marshal smiled grimly, “Hardly everything, Sheriff. You rode with the Devil’s Hole Gang. You’ve been friends with Heyes and Curry for years.”
“I don’t understand,” Trevors said, narrowing his eyes. “Where’s Sheriff Wilson?”
“He was called out of town so I’m in charge now, and I have a few questions of my own. You recommended amnesty for those two outlaws and you’ve been their advocate in Wyoming. You vouched for Hannibal Heyes when he came into this city to meet with the Arizona governor. And then…Kid Curry uses your name to break Heyes out of jail. What I want to know is, were you in on it with them from the beginning?”
“Marshal, I can assure you that I had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on Governor Zulick—or the jail break.”
“That’s good, because I want you to lead the special posse that I’m putting together.”
“But, Marshal, I can’t…”
“Are you refusing to assist in their capture?” the marshal interrupted.
“Then you can prove that by bringing those two fugitives in. That Wyoming amnesty paper is no good here—and I assume it will be revoked as soon as Governor Moonlight takes care of the paperwork. Meanwhile, Heyes is wanted for attempted murder, and Curry for assault with a deadly weapon, obstruction of justice, and aiding a fugitive. Bring ’em in and maybe there won’t be any charges filed against you as an accomplice. Understand?”
“Understood,” Trevors muttered.
“One more thing, Sheriff,” the marshal began. “I’m going to need you to talk to my sketch artist so we can get their likenesses on these new posters. There’s a reward out for their capture—dead or alive,” he added ominously.
Miner’s Shack – Cripple Creek, Colorado
“Heyes, you’re gonna want to see this,” Curry said, holding up the newspaper that Della had brought.
Heyes took the paper and scanned the front page. “So,” he huffed, “Lom’s heading up the posse. Says here he was given the job because he knows our habits and likely associates.”
“Do you think he’ll go to Clem’s?” Curry asked.
“Maybe, but it won’t matter, she hasn’t seen us in months.” A frown crossed Heyes’ face. “Lom knows we were in Colorado Springs.”
“Which is why he won’t think we came back here, right?”
“I don’t know,” Heyes said, pensively. “I got a bad feeling.”
Sheriff Lom Trevors and a posse of eleven other men stepped out of the livery in Colorado Springs.
“Men, Heyes and Curry were here recently, so there are bound to be townsfolk who remember seeing them. They would have been using the aliases, Smith and Jones. Split up, go in and talk to folks two at a time. We’ll make a thorough search, then stay the night. Tomorrow at sunup we’ll follow up on any leads we come up with.”
“Split up? What if they’re still here?” one of the younger riders asked nervously.
“I doubt they’ll be staying in town.” Trevors waved a hand dismissively. “We’re looking for anybody who’s seen them, or helped them. See who looks nervous when you ask about them. But…” Trevors looked around the group and into each man’s face. “If you do suspect they’re here, do not approach them by yourself. Do not shoot. Wait for back up and we’ll take them alive.”
“Why?” demanded a tall, thin man with a mustache.
“Yeah, why not shoot?” asked another, shorter and plumper man.
“That reward says dead or alive. I’m takin’ a shot if I got one,” exclaimed another.
“Not while you’re under my authority!” Trevors shot back angrily. “You wait and we take them alive, or you ride on back to Denver right now. Everybody got that?”
Shakes of eleven heads assured Lom his instructions were clear.
“Leary, you’re coming with me,” he informed the young deputy from the Denver Sheriff’s Office.
“Me? You’re picking me? I got to tell you, Sheriff Trevors, what an honor it is having you choose me to…”
“The rest of you,” Lom interrupted, “pair off and start searching.” He fixed each member of the posse with menacing eyes that demanded obedience. “But, remember,” the sheriff called out, reclaiming the group’s attention as they moved to follow orders, “Curry and Heyes are to be taken alive!”
Several nods of acknowledgement from members of the posse assured Lom his directive had been heard. Still, a sliver of doubt remained. Would his order be followed? Lom watched as the group paired off and moved to begin their search. One Nervous Nellie, one itchy trigger-finger, could result in tragedy. The lives of this posse were in his hands, not to mention the lives of Heyes and Curry. A voice at Lom’s side suddenly shook him from his thoughts.
“…I just can’t tell you how glad I am you picked me to be the one to come with you, Sheriff Trevors,” Bud Leary went on. “You have no idea how many dime novels I’ve read about those outlaws, Heyes and Curry. All them trains and banks they robbed, and never shot anyone!” The young deputy shook his head in awe. “And to be the one with you when you catch ’em! You say you used to ride with ’em? You were an honest to goodness member of the Devil’s Hole Gang?”
“Look, Leary,” Lom leaned closer until his nose was inches from Bud’s face. “You’re the only member of this posse, other than me, who can identify Heyes and Curry on sight. I want you right here, next to me, where I can keep a real good eye on you, understand? Last thing I need is you going off half-cocked and identifying the wrong two fellas.” Or, Lom thought, identifying the right two fellas without me there to make sure you don’t get them killed!
“Yes, sir,” Bud beamed, seemingly oblivious to the threat that hung heavy in the air around him. “And like I said, Sheriff Trevors, it’s just an honor to be servin’ with…”
“No time for small-talk, Leary.” Lom moved toward the boardwalk with Bud at his heels.
“…yes indeedy, a man who actually rode with Heyes and Curry!”
Hospital – Denver
“How is he today, Nurse Henderson?” Donovan asked the young brunette who had now become accustomed to his frequent visits.
“He’s stirring and showing signs of waking up,” the young woman said, flashing a bright smile. “The doctor will be in to check on him this morning.”
“That’s good news,” he said, careful to keep his enthusiasm in check. “Do many people with head injuries like his make a full recovery?”
Nurse Henderson’s face turned thoughtful. “Some do, Mr. Donovan, and I have a feeling that Governor Zulick will be one of them.”
“Thank you,” Donovan gave her a grateful smile. “Now I think I’ll go down the hall and just say hello.”
“I’m sure your visits help,” she called after him.
“Morning, Billy,” Doc Donovan greeted the deputy sheriff who sat outside of Governor Zulick’s hospital room. “Any visitors during the night?”
“No, sir, not a soul since I’ve been on duty.”
“Good,” Donovan frowned. “I hear from the nurse, that he might be waking up. I want you to stay alert, is that understood?”
Billy’s face paled. “You think Heyes and Curry will try and come back to finish the job? I sure don’t want to meet up with those two again. That Curry, he’s a mean one alright.”
Donovan was surprised by the deputy’s comment. “No, I don’t think they’ll come back, but I thought you said Curry and Heyes didn’t hurt you?”
“Well, they didn’t. They just looked real mean. Especially Curry, he had eyes that bore right into you,” Billy bristled. “I mean, I would have tried to stop him, but I thought he was gonna kill me.”
Donovan was silent, remembering the friendly, blue-eyed man he’d traveled with. Even during Conrad’s rescue, Curry had remained even-tempered and he hadn’t treated any of Zulick’s captors harshly.
“Just guard this room. I don’t want any visitors seeing him but me, is that clear?”
“Yes, sir, you can count on me,” Billy nodded quickly.
“Alright, I’m going to go in and see how he’s doing.”
Donovan walked slowly into the room and stood by his friend’s side. “Good morning, Governor, I hear you’re feeling better. I sure am anxious to talk to you.”
To his surprise, the man’s eyes fluttered open and looked back at him in confusion. “Wha…wher…” The eyes closed for a moment and then opened again, staring back at him. “Doc?” Zulick said at last.
Donovan broke into a broad grin and almost laughed out loud. “That’s right, Conrad, I’m here. It’s good to hear your voice!”
“Wha…what’s going on?”
“You’re in the hospital. You’ve been injured. Do you remember what happened?” Doc waited in nervous anticipation.
Zulick furrowed his brow and was silent for a few moments. He started to shake his head, then winced and closed his eyes. “Head hurts,” he mumbled.
“That’s okay, Conrad, you just rest. I’m going to go get your doctor.”
“So his memory loss may not be permanent?” Donavon was sitting with the doctor in the small hospital office.
“Oh, it’s very common for patients with head injuries to take a little while to remember things. Some remember everything and some never remember the actual injury or the events immediately preceding. The fact that Governor Zulick knew you right away is a good sign, though.”
“Doctor, I want to keep the specifics of his condition confidential. I don’t want any of the hospital staff to speak to the reporters or mention the memory loss.”
“Mr. Donovan, you can rest assured, I would never speak about a patient’s medical condition to members of the press.”
Dusk fell, shadows lengthening across the town of Colorado Springs. Inside Bertram’s Bed and Board, Della Jenkins crept from the root cellar, her burlap sack nearly full, and tip-toed through the silent kitchen into the pantry, scanning the shelves. A couple loaves of bread, baked fresh this morning, and four left-over cinnamon rolls. She shoved them into her sack and pulled the drawstring tight. Quietly, she opened the back door and checked in all directions, making sure no one else was in sight. She stepped outside, into the quickly falling night, and was just about to pull the door closed behind her.
“Della! Are you going to answer that front door?” Mrs. Bertram’s voice called.
“Yes, ma’am! On my way, ma’am.” Della glanced furtively around the kitchen for an appropriate hiding spot for her sack of loot. Pressed for time, she shoved the goods into a corner of the pantry behind a potato bin before hurrying to the front door, just in time to hear another impatient knock. Flinging the door open wide, Della greeted the newcomers breathlessly, “Welcome to Bertram’s Bed and Board.”
“Welcome,” Mrs. Bertram said, arriving at the front door only a moment behind Della. “How can we help you, gentlemen?”
Two men entered, removing their hats. “We need some food, ma’am. And rooms for the members of our posse to spend the night.”
“Posse? Of course. Always willing to lend a helping hand to those upholding the law. I’m sure we can accommodate you and your men, Sheriff…”
“Trevors, ma’am. Sheriff Trevors, Porterville, Wyoming. And this is Deputy Leary, of Denver.”
Della stood, transfixed, her eyes moving from the tin star on Sheriff Trevors’ chest to the deputy badge on the younger man, and back again.
“You’re a long way from home, Sheriff Trevors. You must be on very important business,” Mrs. Bertram pried. Turning to Della she whispered, “Check all the rooms. Fresh water, you know the routine. Then get into the kitchen and help me get supper on for a hungry crowd. You and I are going to be busy tonight.”
Della nodded and moved to comply. She hurried up the stairs, her mind whirling, her heart pounding. Sheriff! Posse! Were they looking for Mr. Jones and his friend? They had to be. That newspaper article had said something about Mr. Jones’ friend being connected to a murder attempt. What had she gotten herself into by agreeing to hide them? Trouble, that’s what. Big trouble. With trembling hands, she went through the motions of her tasks, all the while scrambling for a way out of the precarious position into which she had planted herself.
“Please, gentlemen, come in and sit down.” Mrs. Bertram signaled toward the parlor. “Will your posse be arriving soon?”
“They will, ma’am, but first, if we may, we have a few questions.”
“Of course.” Mrs. Bertram sat near the two lawmen.
“We’re looking for two men. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. We know they recently spent some time in Colorado Springs.”
“Oh dear! Those dangerous outlaws here in Colorado Springs?” she shivered. “I certainly didn’t see them, Sheriff. If I had, I would have…well, I don’t know what I would have done!” she finished, fanning herself as if she thought she might faint.
“Well, they were probably using aliases. They often go by Smith or Jones, ma’am; false names.”
“Jones. Hmmm. We did have a guest by the name of Thaddeus Jones, but he could not have been a desperate outlaw. He was very polite. No, I’m sure that Mr. Jones cannot possibly be the man you’re looking for.”
“Thaddeus Jones is a name often used by Kid Curry.”
“Mr. Jones, Kid Curry? It seems unlikely, Sheriff, but I’m certain you know your business.”
At the top of the staircase, Della took a deep breath. The sheriff and the deputy were still in the parlor with Mrs. Bertram. With luck, she could make it down the stairs and into the kitchen unnoticed. Quickly and quietly, she descended the stairs.
“Do you know where he may have gone, Mrs. Bertram?” Lom inquired.
“No, no. Mr. Jones left no forwarding address. In fact, now that I think of it, he never even said goodbye. Not to me, anyway. Della was the only one here when he checked out. Miss Jenkins will be down in a few minutes. Perhaps she can help you more than I. She did seem rather fond of Mr. Jones; not that I approve of my staff fraternizing with guests, mind you.” Catching movement on the staircase from the corner of her eye, Mrs. Bertram turned. “Oh, here she comes now. If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I really need to begin preparations for your supper.”
“Of course.” Both men rose and moved to the foot of the stairs as Mrs. Bertram disappeared into the kitchen. “Miss Jenkins, we’d like to speak with you,” Lom requested, placing himself directly in her path.
“Mrs. Bertram needs my help in the kitchen,” Della countered, never meeting Trevors’ eyes. Stepping to the side in an effort to go around him, she found the deputy blocking her way.
Lifting a hand to her elbow, Deputy Leary ushered Della toward the parlor. “We only need a moment of your time.” Depositing her onto the couch, the deputy sat directly across from her.
The sheriff never sat. Instead, he paced the room. “We’re looking for a man by the name of Jones,” Lom began.
“There is no one here by that name, Sheriff,” Della said, wondering just how far one could stretch the truth, before it would be categorized as an outright lie. “In fact, so many guests come and go, surely you can’t expect that I would remember the names of each and every…”
“Mrs. Bertram already told us Thaddeus Jones stayed here.”
“Thaddeus Jones. The name sounds vaguely familiar.” Della tapped her chin, as if deep in thought.
“We think you know where he is.”
“Oh yes. Thaddeus Jones. I remember now. He checked out.” She made an attempt to rise, but Lom pressed her back down with a finger on her shoulder.
“I’m sure if you ask Mrs. Bertram, she could check the books and…”
“I’m asking you!” Lom thundered.
Della flinched at the harsh tone of the sheriff’s voice, then mumbled, “Sunday.”
“Where is he now?” Lom demanded.
Della’s eyes dipped toward the floor, guiltily. “Before he left, he said something about helping a friend in Denver.”
“I know he’s not in Denver, Miss Jenkins, and so do you.” Lom leaned closer and whispered, threateningly, “Where is he?”
Della gulped, and cast a nervous glance toward the kind face of the deputy, silently seeking an ally.
“Deputy Leary isn’t going to help you, Della. I want to know where Kid Curry is, and I want to know NOW!”
Della’s head snapped up. “Kid Curry?” she asked in astonishment.
“That’s right, Della. The man you know as Thaddeus Jones is really Kid Curry.”
“You’re wrong,” Della insisted, shaking her head.
“No, I’m not.” Lom’s voice softened and he sat next to her on the couch. “There’s a posse after him, Della, him and Hannibal Heyes.”
“I don’t know anything about Kid Curry,” she stated emphatically, a hint of fear in her voice.
“But you do know where Thaddeus Jones is,” Lom countered. “We need to get to him before the rest of that posse does. Kid Curry is wanted dead or alive, Della, and that posse doesn’t care how they deliver him, no matter what name he’s going by.” He paused several moments, allowing his morbid statement to penetrate Della’s weakening defenses. “Deputy Leary and I want to take him in, alive and unharmed. Will you help us?”
Della lowered her head, weighing her options, or the lack of them. Finally, she met the eyes of Deputy Leary, then Sheriff Trevors and nodded. “Alright. I can take you to him.”
“Let’s go.” Lom reached for his hat.
“Not tonight. I’d never be able to find my way in the dark.”
“Then just tell us where…” Deputy Leary began.
Della shook her head. “I can’t explain it. I need to show you.”
Lom and Bud exchanged a look. Bud shrugged.
“Alright. We’ll leave at first light,” Lom agreed. “But not a word about any of this when the posse shows up here tonight, understood?”
Brown Palace Hotel – Denver
“Evening, Parker,” Donovan said brightly when the other man opened his door. Looking past Parker, Donavan observed a suitcase open on the bed. “Are you going somewhere?”
“Yes, I’m going back to Prescot. Acting Governor Richards is going to need my help sorting through the current issues that Governor Zulick has been working on.”
Donovan raised his eyebrows. “Oh, Richards might not need to worry about that for too much longer.”
“What do you mean?” Parker paled slightly.
“Governor Zulick woke up today! He’s recovering,” Donovan grinned broadly.
“Oh, my, that is good news,” Parker said, his enthusiasm sounding slightly forced. “Has he, uh, talked about the shooting yet?”
“Oh, no, the doctor insisted we wait to talk to him until he’s a little stronger. He’ll probably make a full statement in a day or two though. I think you should stay right here until you’ve had a chance to see him. I’m sure it will give him great comfort to know you and I are both here for him.”
“Of course,” Parker agreed, looking relieved. “I’ll stay right here. When can I see him?”
“Nine o’clock tomorrow morning,” Donovan beamed.
“That’ll be fine; I’ll go over to the hospital first thing tomorrow morning.”
Parker stepped back and took hold of the door knob. “See you then, Doc,” he said as he closed the door.
Bertram’s Bed and Board – Colorado Springs
With twelve posse members successfully fed and shown to their rooms, Mrs. Bertram cleared the remnants of supper from the dining room table. “That’s the last of it.” She sank into a kitchen chair and removed her shoes. “My feet have had it.”
“You go ahead and turn in, Mrs. Bertram. I can finish up here,” Della suggested.
“Oh, but I couldn’t leave you to…” the older woman yawned, “to finish all by yourself.”
“Don’t be silly, it’s just a bunch of dishes. Besides, I’m nearly done. You go ahead; I’ll be fine.”
“If you’re sure,” Mrs. Bertram finally agreed.
“I’m sure. Good night, ma’am.”
“Good night, Della.”
Listening for the creak of the stairs as Mrs. Bertram retired to her room, Della continued washing dishes. She strained her ears until she finally heard the click of her employer’s bedroom door. Silently, she left the wash basin and crept to the dining room. Della held her breath, listening even more intently. Nothing. No sound at all, except for the pounding of her own heart. Less than two seconds later, Della Jenkins was out the back door, burlap sack in hand, into the night.
“You were right, Sheriff!” Bud Leary exclaimed from his post at the second story bedroom window. “Miss Jenkins is makin’ a run for it, just like you said she would!”
“Knew it,” Lom muttered, making a grab for his hat. “Let’s go.”
Quickly and quietly, Deputy Leary and Sheriff Trevors left Bertram’s Bed and Board by the back door, trailing Della from a safe distance.
A soft knock on the door of the old line shack brought both Heyes and Curry to their feet, weapons already in hand. Heyes moved beside the window and peered carefully out. “It’s Della,” he said, exhaling in relief. He let his gun drop into its holster on the bedpost and flopped back onto the lumpy mattress.
Similarly, Curry holstered his Colt and opened the door.
Della burst inside and thrust her burlap sack into his arms. “Here, take this and get dressed,” she ordered, tossing a shirt at the Kid. “You need to get out of here, right now!” She threw a hat in Heyes’ direction. “Both of you!” she insisted.
“What happened?” Heyes asked, already pulling on his boots.
“A sheriff,” Della told him, breathlessly, “and a deputy. They’ll be here at sunup so you have to leave now,” she repeated.
“How did they know where to find us?” Curry asked, securing his weapon to his right thigh.
“I told them! Or at least I told them I’d show them, tomorrow mornin’ at first light.”
The Kid stopped. “You told ’em?” He moved closer to Della. “Why?”
The girl hung her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. I know I owe you, for takin’ your telegram and all, but…” she lifted her eyes to his. “This sheriff, he said you’re Kid Curry.” They locked eyes for a long moment.
The Kid was the first to break their gaze and Della’s heart sank.
“He says you’re wanted, dead or alive. Both of you. His posse wants to bring you in dead. All the sheriff wants is to bring you in, alive and unharmed. So I figured if I…”
Heyes moved for the door, but Della grabbed Curry’s arm.
“Please don’t be mad,” she pleaded. “I didn’t want to take a chance. Not with your life. And I figured if I could warn you quick enough, then tomorrow mornin’ when the sheriff got here…”
“He’s already here,” Lom announced, stepping into the shack, weapon drawn, with Bud Leary right behind him.
To be continued… All In – Part Four
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
All historical people and places are used fictitiously.