All In – Part two
Colorado Springs – One Week Earlier
Kid Curry sheltered his eyes with an elbow and groaned. The tattered shade on the single window of his miserably east-facing, third story room had been left open. He glanced toward the door. No chair shoved under the doorknob. Why hadn’t Heyes…? But then Curry remembered. Heyes had gone to Denver. He was here in Colorado Springs, alone. Cursing his own forgetfulness, he pulled a pillow over his face, attempting to block out the sun, as well as the soft tapping that had awakened him.
The tapping continued.
The Kid buried his head deeper in the pillow, trying to silence the offending noise.
“Mr. Jones? Mr. Jones, are you awake?”
“No,” the Kid responded, not loudly enough to be heard by anyone other than the spider who busily constructed her web in an upper corner of his room.
Despite his lack of acknowledgement, the door opened and a young doe-eyed blonde entered. “Housekeepin’, Mr. Jones. I’m sorry to disturb you. I’m here to collect your laundry. Mrs. Bertram sent me, and she says to remind you breakfast will be ready promptly at eight o’clock.”
Della Jenkins allowed her eyes to wander across the room and linger on the partially exposed torso of Thaddeus Jones, her favorite new resident at Bertram’s Bed and Board.
“What day is it?”
“Monday, sir. Laundry day. That’s why I’m here,” she reminded, reaching for a few items of clothing strewn across a chair while enjoying the view. “You want me to lay you out somethin’ clean from your dresser drawer?”
“I been dressin’ myself for quite some time now, Della. I think I can handle it.” Curry rose and moved toward the dresser, clad in only his long-johns.
Della’s eyes grew wide.
“Here.” He handed her a shirt from the floor. “I think that, along with the pile you’ve already collected, just about covers it.”
Della blushed and looked away. “Except for your unmentionables, Mr. Jones.”
The Kid met her eyes and raised an eyebrow, playfully. He reached for the waistband.
“No! I didn’t mean you should…I’ll leave a basket in the hall and you can put them in there, soon as you’re…” Della ran her eyes over the excessive amount of exposed flesh and swallowed hard. “Soon as you’re decent,” she finished before she darted quickly out of his room.
“Here you go, Della.” A freshly shaved and dressed Curry dropped his long-johns and a towel into Della’s laundry basket.
“Thanks,” she replied, shyly.
He paused momentarily and smiled. “Don’t believe anyone’s ever thanked me before for lettin’ ’em wash my dirty socks and drawers.”
Della giggled quietly. “If you’ll be out for the mornin’, Mr. Jones, I’ll clean your room and see to the changin’ of your sheets.”
“That’ll be fine.”
A yell could be heard from two stories below. “Della! You tell Mr. Jones his breakfast is waiting! You hear?”
“Yes, ma’am, Mrs. Bertram,” Della called back, then smiled and shrugged. “Mrs. Bertram says your breakfast is waitin’.”
“So I heard.” Curry walked toward the staircase, feeling Della’s eyes following him as he moved away. He turned around quickly, catching her staring, and grinned. “Oh, and Della, when you’re cleanin’ my room, I’m sure you’ll notice a spider web in the upper, southeast corner…”
“I’ll be sure to get rid of it, Mr. Jones.”
“No! Don’t do that. That spider’s kind of special.” He winked. “Kinda nice havin’ her around.”
He smiled again before he descended the stairs, and Della felt her heart skip a beat.
“I know what you’re thinkin’,” Della said as she tossed a sock from the wash basin into the rinse basin. “You’re thinkin’ I’d be just plain stupid to be thinkin’ like I am.”
A barn cat, basking in the sun on a nearby barrel, blinked twice.
“I know, I know. I’m just the maid and he’s a… Well, I don’t rightly know what he does for a livin’, but you seen him. That Mr. Jones… Thaddeus,” she sighed, savoring the sound of his name, “he sure ain’t your average drifter. You can take my word on that.”
A yawn expressed the cat’s indifference to the one-sided conversation.
“And I think he likes me,” Della continued, dreamily swirling the laundered sock around the rinse water before stuffing it into the wringer and turning the crank.
Growing restless, the cat rose and stretched.
“You think I’m wrong? That I’m headed for a broken heart?”
The cat fixed Della with a seemingly knowing expression before she jumped down and meandered toward the barn.
Della’s shoulders slumped briefly in response, but then she lifted her chin proudly. “Well he’s worth the risk, that’s for sure. And broken heart or no, I’m gonna find out.”
“Another piece of pie, Mr. Jones?” Della asked, hovering with the coffee pot that evening after supper.
“I don’t think I could eat another bite. Everything was wonderful. Haven’t tasted home-cookin’ like that since, well, since my mama’s, back in Kansas.”
“I was in Kansas once,” Della began excitedly, but was interrupted by Mrs. Bertram.
“Mr. Jones, will you be staying with us here in Colorado Springs very long?”
“Not long at all I’m afraid, Mrs. Bertram. I’m just waitin’ for word from a friend of mine and then I’ll be movin’ on.”
“…I came through Kansas when I was little, when my family moved west,” Della interjected, trying to reclaim her place in the conversation. “Ferried across the Kansas River at a place called Lawrence.”
Before the Kid could open his mouth to respond, Mrs. Bertram interrupted again. “Della, may I see you in the kitchen please?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Della replied, and dutifully followed her employer from the dining room.
“Must I remind you, that the help does not fraternize with the guests?”
“Yes, ma’am. I mean, no ma’am; you won’t need to remind me again.”
A soft tapping interrupted Curry’s gun-cleaning session. He smiled at the now-familiar sound and moved to the door, opening it without reservation.
“I brought your clean laundry. Washed, dried, ironed, and folded. You want me to put it away for you?”
“Sure,” the Kid answered, holding the door as Della ducked under his arm. He watched as her capable hands tucked his clothing neatly into the dresser drawers. “Thank you.”
She stopped and looked at him questioningly. “Thank you for what?”
“You work hard, Della, washin’ clothes, changin’ sheets, cleanin’ rooms.” He pointed toward the upper, southeast corner of his room. “Leavin’ spider webs intact when requested,” he said with a smile. “Not to mention, cookin’ one of the best suppers I’ve enjoyed in a long time.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied shyly. “Doin’ those things, especially for a man nice as you, the work don’t seem hard.” She glanced nervously toward the door. “I should go. If Mrs. Bertram finds me up here fraternizin’ with you, she’ll have my hide.”
“Fraternizin’,” he chuckled. “Not everybody thinks like Mrs. Bertram, Della, and I kinda like fraternizin’ with you. Just don’t let her scare you off from what life’s all about, okay? Ya know, someday some nice fella’s gonna come along and figure out you’re everything he’s been wantin’ all along, and then…”
“Then what?” she gulped.
“Then Mrs. Bertram is gonna lose one heck of a good cook.” As he pushed a wayward strand of hair from her face, his fingers brushed gently across her cheek.
Without realizing it, Kid Curry had just wrapped those same fingers firmly around Della Jenkins’ heart.
Della drew a pan from the oven and inhaled deeply, savoring the sweet morning aroma of fresh cinnamon rolls – Mr. Jones’ favorite. Hadn’t he told her so only yesterday morning? A dreamy smile spread across her face.
Just then, the barn cat appeared on her daily tour of duty, keeping the kitchen and pantry areas clear of unwanted invaders. She looked toward Della and mewed her good morning.
“‘Mornin’, Miss Kitty,” Della greeted, bending to pick up the feline, and stroking her soft fur.
Miss Kitty purred.
“Just so you know, Mr. Jones does like me! Said so last night when I took his clean laundry up to his room.” She rubbed her cheek against the cat, remembering gentle fingers against her cheek. “He even hinted about the two of us gettin’ married.”
The cat lifted an eyebrow, seeming to indicate serious doubt.
“He sure enough did,” Della assured her. “Said someday some fella was gonna figure out I’m everything he’s been wantin’ and then Mrs. Bertram would lose a fine cook.”
Miss Kitty squirmed from Della’s arms.
“Well ‘course he meant him and me. Who else would he been talkin’ about?” Della placed her hands on her hips and shook her head, but as the cat stalked away, doubt began to slither in. She bit her lip, nervously. “All I need is a little more time. Just a few days, maybe a week. If Mr. Jones will just stick around long enough, I’m SURE he’ll figure out I’m everything he’s been wantin’ all along, like he said.”
Just then, a knock came at the back door. Wiping her hands, Della opened the door.
“Telegram for a Mr. Thaddeus Jones,” a boy informed her.
Della fished in the pocket of her apron for a coin, and handed it to the boy. “I’ll give Mr. Jones his telegram,” she mumbled, shutting the door.
To Thaddeus Jones – Colorado Springs. From Joshua Smith – Denver.
I’m just waitin’ for word from a friend of mine and then I’ll be movin’ on. Mr. Jones’ words echoed inside her mind and reverberated inside her empty chest, in the place her heart had occupied until moments ago before it had fallen to the pit of her stomach.
“Time,” she whispered. “I just need a little more time.” Checking over her shoulder, Della stuffed the telegram deep inside her pocket.
Five Days Later
“Sunday services will be over by noon, so I’ll be back before dinnertime, Della,” Mrs. Bertram explained to her employee. “Are you sure you can handle everything here alone?”
Della glanced toward the dining room where Thaddeus Jones sat, finishing his breakfast. “Everything will be fine, ma’am. See you after services.” She shut the door behind Mrs. Bertram and headed to the dining room with the morning newspaper.
“More coffee?” Della offered, setting a copy of the Colorado Chronicle on the table, near Mr. Jones.
“Sure. Awful quiet around here this morning. Where is everybody?”
“Church. It’s Sunday.”
“Right. Guess I wasn’t thinkin’.” He set his napkin to the side. “How come you’re not there?”
“Because it’s my Sunday to work. You’re the only one here, so you can sit as long as you like.”
“Thanks. I think I’ll just relax and read the mornin’ paper while I enjoy another one of your cinnamon rolls.” He reached for one, giving her an appreciative wink, and opened the newspaper.
The words that exploded from Kid Curry’s mouth at that moment had never before been uttered in Mrs. Bertram’s Bed and Board.
Della’s hand flew to her mouth in shock as she saw Mr. Jones jump up abruptly, sending his coffee spilling across the tablecloth and his chair crashing to the floor behind him. Taking the stairs two at a time, he reached the third floor in no time.
Della righted the chair, then cautiously read the headline that seemed to have caused the ruckus.
NOTORIOUS OUTLAW ARRESTED!
Notorious outlaw, Hannibal Heyes, was arrested this week in Denver, in the attempted murder of Arizona Governor C. Meyer Zulick. Mr. Heyes, also known as Joshua Smith…
Trembling, Della reached into her pocket.
To Thaddeus Jones – Colorado Springs. From Joshua Smith – Denver. Come to Denver immediately. Good News.
Della squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then opened them. Steeling her nerves, she ascended the stairs.
“Can I come in?” Della asked. Since the door to his room stood open wide, there had been no need for her to knock. “Mr. Jones?”
The Kid didn’t answer. He was too involved in shoving clothing from the dresser drawer directly into his saddlebags.
Della watched him packing. Packing to leave for good. “Mr. Jones, can I talk to you?”
“Look, I really don’t have time right now.”
“I know. You have to get to Denver, to help your friend, Joshua Smith.”
Curry stilled immediately, and then turned to look directly at Della. “That’s right, Della. I need to get to Denver to help my friend, Joshua Smith.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “You wanna explain just how it is you know that?”
“From the article in the newspaper… On the table…” Della stammered.
“Nope,” the Kid shook his head. “That’s not gonna cut it.” He moved closer, his eyes cold and accusing. “The article might have mentioned Joshua Smith, but it didn’t say anything about him bein’ my friend.”
Della looked down, unable to hold his gaze. Backing away, her legs bumped into a chair and she sat, abruptly.
The Kid leaned forward, resting one hand on each of the chair’s arms, effectively trapping Della where she sat. “Well?” he demanded.
Della took a deep breath and pulled the telegram from her pocket. She extended it toward him and lifted apologetic eyes to his. “I figured Joshua Smith was your friend ’cause he sent you this,” she hesitated, then finally finished, “five days ago.”
“Five days ago?” His volume seemed to increase with each word and his eyes flashed angrily.
The girl shuddered, but rushed on. “I should have given it to you soon as it got here. I’m sorry!”
Curry snatched the telegram from her and scanned it briefly. After a few moments, he spoke again, but this time his voice dead calm, so emotionless that it frightened her. “You should go, Della. I’m busy.” He returned to his packing.
Visibly quaking, Della rose and made her way toward the open door. With one hand on the doorframe, she turned to look at him again. “I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. Truly I am.”
He turned to look at her, his eyes cold again. “I was waitin’ for that telegram, Della! Why’d you go and do somethin’ stupid like that?”
Della hung her head low. “You’re right, I am stupid.”
The Kid’s shoulders slumped, her words striking a raw nerve. Are you callin’ me stupid? No, Kid, I said don’t DO anything stupid.
“I didn’t say you were stupid, Della, I said what you did was stupid.”
“Sounds like the same thing to me.” She turned to leave. “I’m really sorry, Mr. Jones.”
The Kid stepped toward her again and caught her arm. “Why’d you do it, anyway?”
“Don’t matter,” she sniffed. “Like you said, it was stupid.” Della swiped a tear from her cheek. “But if there’s anything I can ever do to make it up to you,” she vowed, “anything at all!”
Brown Palace Hotel – Denver
Lom Trevors opened the door to his hotel room, took off his hat and tossed it on the bed. Closing the door behind him, he let out a long sigh. He took a step into the room and then froze when he sensed more than heard the presence of someone directly behind him.
“Howdy, Lom,” a familiar voice said.
Lom turned slowly to face Curry’s Colt, which was pointed directly at him.
“Kid, put that gun down! Didn’t you get Heyes’ telegram? You’re not wanted any more. You finally got everything you’ve been waiting for.”
Trevors frowned. “I don’t know what happened in there between Heyes and Zulick, but it doesn’t affect you. You still have your amnesty. Don’t throw it all away.”
“The devil it doesn’t affect me!” Curry exclaimed. “We both get amnesty or neither of us do. That’s the deal.”
“You did both get amnesty,” Lom growled, “in Wyoming Territory. Now, Heyes is charged with attempted murder—in Colorado.”
“I don’t believe that,” Curry stared into the other man’s eyes.
“I don’t want to believe it either, Kid, but the facts are the facts. If Zulick dies, they’ll hang him within the week.”
Curry sucked in a breath of air. “Well then, we’d better get him out of here before that happens.”
“Kid, I can’t help you do that. I’m a sworn lawman.”
“You’ve helped us before,” Curry pressed.
“Not breaking the law,” Trevors said flatly. “I work for the governor of the Territory of Wyoming. In fact, when Moonlight heard what happened, he ordered me to get back here to make sure Heyes doesn’t escape.”
“Moonlight isn’t in town?”
“No, he went back to Cheyenne to file your amnesty papers,” he added ironically. “He’s being kept apprised of Zulick’s condition. The two were old friends.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“No. I tried, but my reputation is on the line here, and if the governor dies…” Lom let his words trail off.
“Then I’m sorry, Lom,” the Kid said simply. “Turn around.”
“What?” Lom’s face showed sudden surprise and a trace of fear.
“Turn around,” Curry commanded, his voice flat and devoid of emotion.
Trevors hesitated and glared at the younger man, then reluctantly obeyed.
Curry lifted is his gun and brought the butt down hard on the back of the lawman’s head. Trevors crumpled to the floor.
Sheriff’s Office – Denver
The afternoon sun was beating down as Kid Curry stepped onto the porch of the Denver Sheriff’s Office. He nodded to the deputy standing guard and proceeded into the building.
“Afternoon, deputy, we didn’t get a chance to meet the other day. I’m Lom Trevors from Porterville.” Curry smiled and displayed a tin star and credentials.
The man rose from behind the desk and eyed his visitor cautiously, with one hand near the gun that hung on his hip. He silently made eye contact with the second deputy, who assured him with a glance that he too, was on guard.
“Pleased to meet you, Sheriff. I’m Billy Foster and that there is Bud Leary.” He gestured toward the man standing in the doorway. “I’ve heard good things about you. I thought you’d be older.”
“I hear that all the time,” Curry said with a laugh, thankful that apparently neither of the two deputies had ever met Trevors. He had watched deputies come and go until he was sure that the two men who had been guarding Heyes during Lom’s earlier visit were not the same two on duty.
“The sheriff didn’t expect you back today or he’d have made sure he was here himself to see you,” the deputy said, apologetically.
“Well, that’s okay. He told me all of his men were completely trustworthy when I asked him about the security around here. That man in there is awful dangerous, you know.”
“Oh, we know, that’s why we sure were happy to hear you were coming down to help keep him in line—you bein’ an expert on Heyes and Curry, that is.”
Curry raised his eyebrows in surprise at this comment. “Well, I wouldn’t say expert, but I do know their habits pretty well. Speakin’ of that, I have somethin’ real important I remembered I need to tell the sheriff. Where is he?”
“He had to go out to his place and check on his stock. He’s got a ranch couple of miles outside of town.”
“You’d better send Bud out to get the sheriff right away.”
Billy hesitated. “Well, I don’t know, the rule is there always has to be two of us here guarding Heyes.”
“Well, I’m here, aren’t I? You and me make two, don’t we?”
The deputy smiled. “Well, yeah, I guess we do. Bud, you go get Sheriff Wilson and tell him Sheriff Trevors has something real important to tell him.”
Bud hesitated for a moment before he nodded and headed off.
Curry looked around the small office. “Nice place you got here.”
“Why, thank you, Sheriff,” Billy said with a smile.
“There’s just one thing I need you to do,” Curry said, returning the smile.
“Anything at all, Sheriff,” Billy offered.
“Give me your gun,” Curry said, smoothly drawing and leveling his own gun at the deputy.
“What?” Billy stammered.
“You heard me; take it out nice and slow and hand it over.”
Billy complied, a sick look coming over his face.
“What are you doing, Sheriff Trevors?” Billy asked, hoping that what was happening wasn’t really happening.
“Get the keys and open Heyes’ cell,” Curry told him, his voice calm and steady.
“But why?” Billy stammered.
“I’m takin’ that man outta here, and you’re not goin’ to stop me—if you want to live.” Curry’s voice hardened as finished the sentence.
Billy sucked in a ragged breath. “I want to live,” he said as he reached into the desk drawer.
“Slow—and don’t go for a gun. You know I can kill you before you’d ever get it in your hand.”
Billy nodded, and pulled the key from the drawer.
“Okay, let’s go,” Curry ordered, gesturing for Billy to lead the way through the heavy wooden and barred door to the cells.
Heyes was standing at the bars with a grin on his face when Curry and Deputy Foster approached his cell. “Well, you sure are a sight for sore eyes,” he said with a broad grin.
“Told ya not to go off without me, didn’t I?”
“I’ll never doubt you again, partner,” Heyes said, smiling, as Billy Foster fumbled with the key to unlock the cell door.
“Partner?” Billy Foster looked from one man to the other, and groaned as the situation became clear.
Heyes reached for the bandana around Foster’s neck and slipped it up over his mouth. He tied it securely and then retrieved a pair of handcuffs to secure the man’s hands behind his back.
“Wouldn’t want you to take that gag off and call for help now, would we?” Heyes asked the man, who shook his head in defeat.
“Time to go,” Curry said impatiently, and handed him the gun he’d taken from the deputy. “Don’t know where yours is, so this will have to do.”
“Evidence, I suppose,” Heyes muttered. “It being the murder weapon and all.”
Curry gave him an inquiring look, but moved quickly toward the door. Once on the street, the two men walked casually to the horses that had been hitched to the post.
“What took you so long?” Heyes asked in a whisper.
“Fill ya in later,” Curry muttered.
“A woman?” Heyes asked, raising his eyebrows.
Curry responded with a sharp glare and said nothing.
The two fugitives kept off the main trails and rode into the night. They rode even though they could barely see the detail of the terrain. Trusting the horses’ instincts was not as dangerous as waiting for the posse that would surely come after them at first light.
“If we can get into those rocks up ahead before the posse comes over that last rise, we can lose ’em.”
Curry nodded, but his face registered doubt. “You think we oughta head north or south?”
“Well, they’ll expect us to head for Mexico, so we should go north. Except, Lom would figure we’re too smart to do what they’ll expect, so we’ll go south.”
“I dunno Heyes, Lom might not think we’re that smart these days,” Curry muttered.
Heyes thought for a minute. “You’re right. We’ll go north.”
“If we don’t make it to the rocks before sunup it won’t matter.”
“We’ll make it, then we’ll go somewhere unexpected and I’ll figure a way out of this.”
Curry shot him a skeptical look. “Well, Lom won’t be any help, that’s for sure.”
“Why not?” Heyes asked.
“I got a feelin’ Lom’s gonna be none too happy…once he wakes up.”
“Once he wakes up? What are you talking about, Kid?
“I’m talkin’ about the headache Lom’s gonna have.”
“Headache?” Confusion turned to anger on Heyes’ face. “You didn’t!
Kid shrugged. “It was the only way.”
“Couldn’t you have just tied him up and gagged him?”
“Sure Heyes, if I wanted him to follow me down to the sheriff’s office about ten minutes after I left.” Curry shook his head, and then his expression turned hopeful. “Do you think Silky can hide us out?”
“No, Lom knows Silky. They’d check his place for sure.”
Curry’s expression fell. “Maybe we should go to Mexico.”
“And live the rest of our lives with people thinking we’re killers?”
“You, Heyes, people think you’re a killer. Not me.”
“But we’re partners. They’ll figure you were in on the whole thing; especially since you broke me out. We have to find somewhere to hide out until we can figure out who set us up; we need someone who the law doesn’t know about to help us out.”
Curry sighed heavily and nudged his horse to go faster. “Heyes, we gotta go south.”
“But I thought we decided not to go to Mexico?”
“Not Mexico, Colorado Springs.”
“But Lom knows we were just there,” Heyes argued.
“Exactly, Heyes, there’s no way he would think we were dumb enough to go back to the last place he knew where to find us.”
Heyes’ expression turned skeptical and he opened his mouth to object.
“Besides,” Curry cut him off before he had a chance to speak. “I might just know someone who’d be willin’ to help us out.”
“Della, the maid at Mrs. Bertram’s Bed and Board. I got a room there after you left for Denver.”
“We can’t stay in a public boarding house,” Heyes complained.
“Didn’t plan to,” Curry said simply. “While I was there I was bored so I rode around a lot, looked for places to practice my shootin’. Out toward Cripple Creek, I ran across a lot of abandoned miner’s shacks —some of ’em real outta the way. Della owes me a favor. I think she’ll help us hide out and bring us supplies.”
Heyes gave his partner an appraising look. “Okay, Kid, if you say so,” he agreed, and continued riding.
It was nearly dawn and the first morning light had begun to spread a pink hue across the sky behind the mountains. The two had been riding side by side since the decision had been made to head back toward Colorado Springs. Along the way, Heyes filled his partner in on the events that had occurred in the governor’s suite.
“So there you have it, Kid, they caught me standing over the governor, holding the gun that had just shot him—my gun.” He shook his head miserably.
“What did Donovan say?” Curry asked.
“You mean after he almost shot me?” Heyes’ face soured. “I thought the man was going to kill me on the spot. He thinks I planned the whole thing to assassinate the governor. The circumstances makes Lom look pretty bad too. I sure hope this maid owes you a big favor, I think we’re going to need it.”
To be continued… All In – Part Three
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.