A Picture’s Worth–Twenty Thousand
by Grace R. Williams
Two figures pressed themselves closely to a brick wall in an alley. From their hiding place, they watched as a patron exited the saloon across the street, mounted his horse, and rode into the night, leaving the town’s main street quiet and dimly lit. The men moved around the corner, abandoning the seclusion of darkness for the meager cover of shadows near a window at the front of a brick building. Above the door, three words were etched in stone: Denver National Bank.
Two sets of eyes peered, one set to the right, the other to the left, then met in the middle. With a shared nod, one man turned his attention to the bank window, using a tool to spread the metal bars apart, while the other man kept watch.
The town clock began to strike. As if on cue, the first man slipped through the window, immediately followed by the second. Before the twelfth chime, the swish of a dark, heavy curtain was the only evidence that the security of the Denver National Bank had been breached. The curtain stilled.
The sound of boots grew louder on the boardwalk outside–a deputy passing, making his midnight rounds. Inside the bank, the two intruders crouched beneath the window, holding their collective breath.
The footfalls faded, then vanished. With two near-silent exhales of relief, the pair moved swiftly and quietly to the vault.
“Let’s have it!” A dark-haired pixie of a gal stood near a dining table where Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry sat.
“Clementine!” both men exclaimed, rising to greet their old friend.
“Don’t you ‘Clementine’ me!” Clementine Hale crossed both arms in determination, the toe of her tiny boot tapping out its impatience. “I want it, and I want it now!”
The two men exchanged a look. Each man shrugged.
Kid Curry snagged the woman around her trim waist and yanked her close. He dipped her backward, planted a hard kiss on her mouth, then, smoothly flipped her upright and swung her toward his partner.
Hannibal Heyes moved in, dipping the little lady even further backward, dislodging her hat and causing Clem’s handkerchief, loosened from her weakening grasp, to flutter to the floor.
The Kid bent to pick up the lacy white linen. He crossed his arms and waited. He waited longer. He rolled his eyes. Loudly, he cleared his throat.
Heyes steadied a starry-eyed Clem on her feet before releasing her and signaling to a member of the wait staff for a third chair. Meanwhile, Clem made an attempt at recovery, correcting the position of her hat and distractedly primping at her hair.
“Nice to see you, Clem,” Curry smiled.
The waiter arrived and pressed a dining room chair to the backs of Clementine’s knees, causing her to plop awkwardly into it before she replied. “No it isn’t.”
“It isn’t?” Heyes checked, seating himself again and glancing around the dining room to see curious restaurant patrons self-consciously returning wandering eyes to their own tables.
Clementine, having finally regained her senses, lowered her voice to a harsh whisper. “I want it back, and I’m not leaving until I get it,” she insisted.
“Alrighty.” The Kid extended Clementine’s handkerchief.
“Very funny!” Clem snapped, swiping the hanky from his hand. “That’s not what I meant and you know it.”
“We know it’s not what you meant,” Heyes said. “Mind telling us what it is you do mean?”
“You know very well what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the bank you two robbed.”
“Which one?” The Kid chuckled.
Heyes gave both his tablemates a reprimanding glance. “You two mind keeping your voices down?”
“The Denver National Bank,” Clem answered, obediently lowering her voice to a whisper. “You two robbed it.” From her handbag, she produced a copy of the Denver Chronicle, evidence of the crime.
“Let me see that.” Heyes scanned the article. “You’re right, Clem. It does say here the Denver National Bank was robbed, but it doesn’t say anything at all about,” he lowered his voice even further, “about us being the ones who robbed it.”
“So you expect me to believe this is just a coincidence? That I just happened to find both of you here in Denver, the day after…” Clementine glanced cautiously over her shoulder, then gestured toward the article Heyes held. “The day after you know what.”
“Aw, Clem.” The slump of Curry’s shoulders and cadence of his voice projected deep, feigned disappointment. “Surely you don’t believe that we…”
“You better believe I believe it!” she barked.
“Shhh!” Heyes reminded before continuing. “It wasn’t us.” He shook his head and returned the newspaper to Clementine. “We don’t do that anymore, remember? By the way,” he leaned closer to the woman and smiled. “How did you find us?”
Clementine sighed and rolled her eyes. “I just asked myself where I would go–IF I were the two of you, of course–with my pockets full of ill-gotten gains.”
“IF we had robbed the bank,” Heyes whispered angrily, “which we didn’t, we’d have high-tailed it out of Denver as quickly as possible.”
Curry nodded his agreement while spearing the last bite of pie with his fork.
She gestured toward both men’s empty plates. “Of course,” Clementine agreed. “But not before treating yourselves to dinner at one of Denver’s finest hotels.”
The Kid shook his head, his voice dripping charm as he placed a comforting hand over hers. “Clem, like we’ve been telling you, it wasn’t us. But I’m sure the bank will make good on whatever money you lost and…”
“It’s not my money I’m worried about.”
The countenance of each man fell simultaneously. “It’s not?”
“It’s the picture.” Clem’s voice began to rise, enough to cause a few heads to turn their direction again. “MY picture, that YOU…”
For the second time, the waiter approached their table. “Sirs, madam, please…” he began, only to be interrupted by Heyes.
“We were just leaving.” Heyes stood and nodded an apology, both to the waiter and a few of their fellow diners who glared at the trio.
“Sorry,” Curry muttered to the waiter, placing cash on the table. He grabbed one of Clem’s elbows while Heyes took the other.
Clementine, feet dangling in the air, was swept, despite her protests, upstairs, amidst snickers and twitters from dinner guests.
“Put me down!” Clementine insisted, once they were inside Heyes and Curry’s hotel room.
The men obliged her and the little lady rubbed angrily at both her biceps.
“Manhandled by thieves,” she muttered, and gave a shove at the reforming outlaw who happened to be standing closest.
Curry ignored the shove and gave her a threatening glare. “Clem, we told you to take good care of that picture!”
“I did! Or I thought I did. What could be safer than a safe?!” she argued.
Heyes gave a snort of sarcasm. “Do you really want me to answer that?”
“Exactly! No safe is safe with the two of you around,” Clem insisted. “Which is how I know that…”
Heyes held his hand up and made a vain attempt at covering the anger in his voice. “How about we start with you telling us everything? From the beginning.”
“I have told you everything. The Denver National Bank was robbed. In the process of the robbery, MY picture was taken from MY safe deposit box where I placed it for safekeeping, and… Wait a minute.” Clem studied the faces of the two angry men before her. “You really didn’t rob that bank, did you?”
“That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you,” Heyes muttered, raking his hands through his hair.
“But if you didn’t steal my picture, then who…” The abrupt falling of her countenance told both Heyes and Curry that Clem had caught up with their line of thinking.
“You mean, who else would want to steal a picture of us?” Curry posed Clementine’s unfinished question. “Oh, only a few dozen banks, a couple of railroads, every lawman and bounty hunter west of the Mississippi…” The Kid sighed and slumped into a chair, running a worried hand across his face. “Not to mention every Bannerman alive.”
“Right,” Heyes agreed with a sick-sounding laugh. “Or, any two-bit outlaw who thought he could turn a quick profit by selling a photograph of the two of us.” His voice became business-like. “What else was taken?”
“My grandmother’s brooch,” Clementine lamented. Her voice became apologetic. “I’m sorry, I should have known the two of you wouldn’t have stolen that. It was priceless! A family heirloom, passed from Great-Grandmother Hale to my father’s mother when she married Grandfather Hale, and from Grandmother Hale to my father, who gave it to my mother on the day of their wedding, and then to me after…”
Heyes interrupted Clem’s flow. “Anything else?”
“Well, money, of course,” Clem sniffed with a note of irritation, then suddenly held up her finger. “Wait a minute!” She fumbled through her handbag again, retrieving the newspaper. “According to this article, there wasn’t much money in the bank at the time of the robbery, due to a large transfer of funds.”
“Hmmm…” Heyes thought. “Any thief worth his salt would have made it his business to know that before going ahead with the robbery. Does the article mention anything else being taken, other than money?”
“It says, ‘…miscellaneous personal items were also taken from the safe deposits boxes of un-named bank patrons,'” Clem read.
While Heyes paced, Curry glowered at Clementine.
Clem focused her energies on the reforming outlaw who appeared more approachable at the moment. She caught up with Heyes, following one pace behind, as he crossed the small room, back and forth, back and forth.
“The article said ‘boxes’ not just one box, so the robbery could have been random,” Clementine offered.
“Or, they knew exactly what they were looking for, and emptied other boxes hopin’ no one would guess they were really after the photograph of us,” the Kid added. “Clem, you sure you didn’t tell somebody our picture was stashed in there?”
Heyes stopped pacing and Clementine bumped into his back. “Or,” he said, “they were after something else completely.”
“After something else like what?” Clem wondered. “My brooch?”
“I doubt they were after your brooch, Clem. But if we can find out what else was taken, who else lost items from safe deposit boxes, it might lead us straight to whoever robbed the bank.”
“And my picture,” Clem cut in.
“OUR picture,” Curry corrected.
“Let’s just calm down and think this through,” Clem suggested. “First, we need to get the picture back. Second, as soon as we do…”
“What do you mean, ‘WE’?” Heyes asked, already shaking his head.
“Look, fellas, I’m as worried about getting that photograph back as you are. My face is in that picture too.”
“Nothin’ doin’, Clem. Your face may be in that picture, but it’s OUR backsides that are wanted. Me and Heyes got a lot ridin’ on gettin’ that picture back and WE are gonna take care of it. Him and me. YOU, are goin’ home.” Curry placed his hands on her shoulders and steered her toward the door while Heyes opened it.
“I’m certainly not going to sit back quietly while the two of you…”
“Oh yes you are,” Heyes insisted. “You are going home, while WE,” Heyes’ finger motioned between himself and Curry, “come up with a plan to find that picture.”
“Oooh!” Clem stomped. “You two can be so infuriating! Fine, have it your way.” She started out the door. Abruptly, she turned back toward them. “What are you going to do?” An adventurous spark lit her eyes.
“We’re going to do some investigating.” Heyes began shutting the door.
“When?” Clem poked her boot into the doorframe, blocking the door from being shut completely. “I could help you,” she nearly begged.
Using his own, much larger boot, the Kid cleared the doorframe of its obstruction while Heyes managed to push the door shut and turn the lock.
“I could help you!” came a muffled whisper from just outside their door.
“Goodbye, Clem!” the two men answered from inside.
“I’ll see you in the morning!” she proclaimed. Angry footsteps were heard retreating down the hallway.
Heyes muttered, “Not if I can help it!”
The sun had yet to make an appearance but from the home of Clementine Hale, its rays were already beginning to stain the eastern horizon with vivid shades of pink and purple.
Kid Curry stepped onto the porch and glanced over his shoulder before tapping out their secret code–two taps, two taps, two taps, one.
Clem arrived at the door in short order, allowing Curry to slip inside.
“What are you doing here?” She fastened her robe at the waist. “Shouldn’t you be off investigating the bank robbery with Heyes?”
The Kid pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down, elbows resting on the red and white checked tablecloth. “We figured it’d only take one of us to talk to folks at the bank.”
“And you had nothing better to do than come over here to keep me company?”
“Truth is,” the Kid confessed, “Heyes and me wanted to make sure you didn’t try and do somethin’ stupid, like meetin’ us at the bank, so we decided I’d pay you a visit and…”
“…Hold me hostage in my own home,” Clem finished with an exasperated sigh. As she spoke, Clem held up an egg, gesturing toward an iron skillet on the stove. “I don’t suppose you’ve had breakfast.”
“I was hopin’ you’d offer,” he smiled.
“I’m afraid the bank is closed to all business transactions today, sir,” said a bank clerk, in front of whose desk stood a finely-suited Hannibal Heyes, bowler hat in hand.
“I’d like to speak with the president of the bank.”
“I’m not sure if Mr. Fuller can see you, sir. He’s been quite busy, since the robbery. May I tell him who’s calling?”
“Smith,” Heyes stated. “Joshua Smith.”
“And your business with Mr. Fuller, Mr. Smith?” the clerk inquired.
Heyes shook his head. “Classified information. I could tell you but then I’d have to… Could you just tell Mr. Fuller, please, that Agent Smith is here to see him?”
“Agent Smith?” the clerk checked.
Heyes nodded, raising one finger to his lips, indicating that this was considered highly confidential. “Agent Smith, Bannerman Detective Agency.”
“I see,” the clerk responded. “One moment, sir, while I inform Mr. Fuller.” The clerk moved quickly toward the office of the bank president.
Mr. Fuller, President of the Denver National Bank, and Agent Smith of the Bannerman Detective Agency, stood together in the bank’s cellar. Mr. Fuller watched as the Bannerman inspected every detail of the vault. The agent measured the vault’s door and checked the lock and the safe deposit boxes inside, pausing periodically to jot facts onto a notepad.
“I believe the perpetrators gained entry through a window on which the bars had been spread,” the bank president told him.
Agent Smith nodded and diligently jotted that fact too.
“And the vault is exactly as you found it, immediately after the robbery?”
“Yes, though I was not on duty the morning following the robbery.”
“Oh?” Heyes paused and raised an eyebrow. “Then you weren’t the one who reported the robbery.”
“No, that was the bank’s vice president, Mr. Wylan.”
“So he discovered the robbery.”
“I’ll need to speak with him, as well as the last person in the vault before the robbery.”
“The vault is checked, either by Mr. Wylan or me, each and every evening to ensure it is sealed before closing.”
Heyes nodded, then turned his attention back to the task at hand. “Interesting,” Heyes observed. “Some of these boxes have been pried open, yet others don’t appear to have been tampered with at all. I’ll need a list from you–names of everyone holding a security box here at Denver National, along with the coordinating number of their assigned boxes.”
The banker agreed. “Yes, of course.”
Heyes thoughtfully rubbed his chin with one finger. “Are bank patrons allowed access to this area of the building?” he asked.
“Never. When a customer requests access to his or her safe deposit box, a bank employee enters the vault and retrieves the box, carrying it to a room on the main level, where the customer can review the box’s contents privately.”
Heyes turned abruptly to face the banker. “Then I’ll also need a list of bank employees.”
“Agent Smith, if you are suggesting that one of my employees had something to do with this robbery,” Mr. Fuller stated, firmly crossing both arms in front of himself, “I can assure you, you are sorely mistaken!”
“Perhaps, Mr. Fuller, but I doubt it.”
“What makes you so certain?” Fuller challenged.
Heyes smiled. “Look here, Mr. Fuller,” Heyes instructed, pointing to the lock on the vault door. “This is a time lock, an S & G. Sargent and Greenleaf Lock Company, out of New York. Excellent security, even used by the U.S. Treasury Department.” Heyes paused long enough to shake his head. “I presume the vault is left open throughout the business day?”
“Your burglars gained access to the bank at night when the time lock should have prevented them from entering the vault. If indeed the vault was locked it would have taken a blast of nitroglycerine to open it.”
“Perhaps they manipulated the tumblers,” the banker suggested.
Again, Heyes shook his head. “No-sir-ee. Not this lock,” he assured the banker. “You’ve got yourself one secure vault. Why, not even Hannibal Heyes could have cracked this one. Not without a little help.”
“You mean inside help, like a crooked employee. I would hate to think that one of our own had something to do with this.” Fuller shook his head.
“Excuse me, Mr. Fuller,” a bank clerk interrupted.
“Pardon me, Agent Smith.” Fuller stepped several paces away to confer with the clerk.
As the two men talked, Heyes physically inspected the vault’s lock with his hands, running his fingers over the intricate parts of the locking mechanism.
When the clerk ascended the stairs, Fuller turned his attention toward Heyes again. Heyes closed his notepad, placing it in his jacket’s inner pocket.
“I’d like to speak with Vice President Wylan, now.” Heyes smiled.
“That’s right, Agent Smith. I checked the vault myself just before closing time, just as I do each night I’m on duty.”
“Yet sometime during the night perpetrators were able to gain entry to your vault. How do you explain that, Mr. Wylan?” Heyes’ dark eyes studied the face of Vice President Wylan.
“I, well, perhaps I uh…” Mr. Wylan stumbled for words, looking from the agent to his boss, Mr. Fuller, and finally to the floor. “I have no explanation. All I know is that the vault was secure when I left.”
“Good stuff, Clem.” Curry yawned, pushing back his plate and stretching in his chair. “Sure hope I don’t have to do any runnin’ from a posse anytime soon. Bein’ this full of your eggs, bacon, and potatoes, I think they’d manage to catch me inside of ten minutes.”
“Here’s hoping you and Heyes won’t be running from any posses at all. Period.” Clementine refilled the Kid’s coffee before joining him at the table with a cup of her own. “You were careful on your way over here this morning, weren’t you? No one saw you?”
The Kid raised an eyebrow. “Do you really think I’d have chanced comin’ over here if I had the slightest hunch anyone was watchin’?”
Clementine shrugged, indicating she was none too sure. “Not like it hasn’t happened before,” she ventured.
Curry set down his coffee cup with a twinge more force than necessary. “Clem, you’re not tellin’ me that ‘club’ has formed up again, are you? Stakin’ out your place, lyin’ in wait for me and Heyes to show up?”
“Now don’t get excited, Kid. No, no one’s been snooping around here at all, not since last time when that sheriff, Ted Thompson, stalked us all the way to Santa Marta. Everything around here has been quiet.” Her eyes fell to the tablecloth and her finger dawdled distractedly about the rim of her coffee cup. “Too quiet. Fact is, I’ve been sort of lonely,” she sniffed. “I’ve missed you, and Heyes, and…”
This prompted an immediate response from the Kid, who reached toward his despondent friend, pulling her off her chair and into his lap.
“…And Ramon!” she finished.
“Ramon?” Curry abruptly stood, nearly depositing Clementine onto the floor in the process. “You miss Ramon, the alcalde from Santa Marta?”
“Now, Kid, there’s no reason to be jealous.”
“Jealous?” he snapped. “You think I’m jealous?”
A soft knock at the door brought the dispute to a quick end and Curry’s hand to the butt of his Colt.
“Who is it?” Clementine called in a sing-song voice.
“It’s me,” came the uniquely recognizable voice of Hannibal Heyes.
Clem opened the door, greeting Heyes with a more than friendly hug.
The Kid rolled his eyes.
“What did you find out?” Clementine blurted, unable to contain her excitement.
“About what?” Heyes gave Clem his most innocent smile before giving in to the injured look she sent his way. “A little bit,” he shared, pouring himself a cup of coffee and taking a seat at the table. “The newspaper article was right. There wasn’t much cash in the vault at the time of the robbery, only a little over a thousand dollars.”
Curry’s brow furrowed.
“And not all the safe deposit boxes were opened, only a few. Four to be exact. Yours among them, Clem.”
“That’s odd,” Clementine remarked.
“Maybe the burglars got interrupted and took off before they finished doin’ what they came to do,” Curry ventured.
“That’s possible,” Heyes mused. “I have a list, names of the folks whose boxes were broken into.” He withdrew the paper from his jacket. “Any of these names sound familiar to you?”
Heyes produced his notepad and Clementine read. “Orrin Gallagher, Reginald Dobson, and Mitchell Scott.” She shook her head. “Sorry.”
“Okay then, you better get dressed.” Heyes sipped at his coffee.
“Dressed? You mean, get dressed because you’re going to let me help you investigate?” Clementine’s eyes gleamed with excitement.
“That’s right,” Heyes smiled. “You and I are having lunch with the President of the Denver National Bank.”
After Clementine had left them, Curry questioned his partner. “You really think it’s smart, takin’ her with you?”
Heyes shook his head. “Do you really think I’d let Clem help with our investigation?”
“But you just said…”
“We’re not really having lunch with the bank president, but Clem don’t need to know that. I figure it’s going to take both of us to get to the bottom of this robbery, Kid, and if Clem thinks she’s helping, well, between the two of us we ought to be able to keep her close enough she can’t cause any trouble.”
He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and removed a small chunk of steel. “I found that lodged in the vault’s locking mechanism. Someone had to have placed it there deliberately, preventing the door from locking properly.”
“An inside job,” the Kid surmised. “You got any idea who?”
“Maybe. That hunk of steel look like anything to you?”
“Looks like metal scrap, the kind you see layin’ all over the floor in a smithy’s shop.”
“Exactly,” Heyes grinned. “And there’s a blacksmith’s shop directly behind the bank.”
“So anybody could have grabbed this hunk of steel and shoved it in there.”
“But only bank employees have access to the vault. The bank’s vice president, Ivan Wylan was the last employee near the vault before it was robbed, and also the one who discovered the robbery.”
“He’d be the obvious suspect then. Maybe too obvious.”
“Exactly. That’s why Clem and I are going to have lunch at the hotel.”
“Huh? What does the hotel dinin’ room have to do with findin’ out who’s got our picture?”
“Nothing.” Heyes’ grin was back.
“So, what’ll I be doin’ while you and Clem are doin’ your non-investigatin’?”
“Clem and I are going to lunch at the hotel so you’ll be free to visit the Gray Goose.”
“Yep. The saloon on Main Street, directly across from the bank, owned by Orrin Gallagher. The same Orrin Gallagher whose safe deposit box was broken into.”
Two men walked together down a dirt side-street nowhere near as populated as Denver’s bustling Main Street. Many businesses in this section of town appeared in need of attention, with only a few worn-looking customers patronizing them.
Far in the distance, a clock struck the hour. The men glanced left and right, then entered through a doorway and took the stairs up to a third-floor office. Painted words on the door’s window read: Denver Investigations – Ted Thompson – Private Investigator.
The two men entered the office and closed the door behind them. The small office was starkly furnished. Other than a few chairs and a rickety file cabinet near one corner of the room, its only other furnishing was an old desk, covered in papers, with a burly investigator seated behind it.
“I take it our venture was successful?” The investigator stood.
“Sure was, Mr. Thompson,” one of the men answered. “Got it right here.” He patted a file-sized leather case which was tucked under one arm, then held it out toward Ted Thompson.
“It’s all there, Mr. Thompson,” the second man assured. “Everything that was in safe deposit box twenty-three.”
“Good. The amount we agree upon, gentlemen.” Ted Thompson extended a stuffed envelope toward man number one. “Now you two need to disappear, just like we planned, understand?”
Both men nodded while man number one reached to accept the envelope, then he and his partner departed as quietly as they had come.
Ted Thompson seated himself at his desk again and carefully opened the pouch. He emptied its contents onto the desk: An antique brooch and two sealed envelopes. He smiled, then dragged a letter opener across the first envelope’s seal.
The faces of two men, a young woman between them, stared from the sepia tone of a photograph.
“Clementine Hale,” the man declared, “you’ve made me one very happy man!”
Clementine Hale checked the tiny watch pinned to her jacket. “It’s disgraceful, Mr. Fuller being this late for our lunch meeting. Especially when he knows my picture, I mean, the contents of my safe deposit box, has been stolen.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Heyes agreed, hiding the grin that tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Disgraceful. I think we should go ahead and order our lunch.”
“More like supper at this hour,” she sniffed.
Kid Curry was seated at a poker table, cards in hand, while in the background a piano player pounded out a lively version of “The Old Gray Goose is Dead.”
“That’s it for me,” the Kid said, pushing back from the table. “You fellas have all but cleaned me out.”
“Cleaned you out,” one of the other players snickered. “Like Wylan cleaned out the bank.”
“Cleaned out the bank?” Curry asked, his interest piqued.
Several of the other players began to chime in:
“Where you been, young fella? The Denver National Bank was robbed.”
“An’ old Orrin,” an anonymous player inclined his head toward an office and the man inside, “says the deed to this place got stolen right ‘long with all the cash.”
“Rumor has it, the bank’s vice president done the robbin’ himself.”
“That ain’t what I hear,” another player added. “Wylan ain’t the type. Anyway, Helen said that…”
The first player interrupted. “Helen, Helen, Helen! When are you going to learn you can’t believe half what Helen says?”
“You boys lookin’ for me?” A tall, red-haired saloon gal appeared at Curry’s shoulder.
He glanced up at the woman, grinned, then stood. “Gentlemen,” he nodded to the group, picking up his hat, and his small stack of remaining coins, as he left the table. He turned to the saloon gal. “It appears I have enough left to offer you a drink, ma’am.”
“I know you?” Helen asked softly. Her head tilted in contemplation as she took the Kid’s arm and guided him toward a table at the back of the Gray Goose.
Curry seated the lady before sitting down next to her. “Been a long time, Helen.”
Helen snapped her fingers. “I got it!” she smiled. “Jones!” She touched his cheek affectionately. “Always the gentleman.”
“What brings you to Denver?” The Kid poured her a drink.
She shrugged. “Money. You?”
“Awww, Helen,” Curry schmoozed. “I came lookin’ for you, of course.”
“Right!” She threw her head back to laugh out loud.
The Kid’s eyes oozed false sincerity. “Why, Helen, I am shocked. Surely you remember I told you, there’s only one girl in my life. You.”
Helen snorted. “What is it you want, Jones?”
He leaned close to whisper in her ear. “Just a little of your time. And,” he discreetly tucked a coin into her hand, “a little information.”
Helen glanced down, opening her hand to check the coin’s denomination. She stood and began to walk away, then turned back toward the Kid. “You comin’, Jones?”
“A horrible waste, that’s what it was! A waste of an entire day. I could have been talking to people, interviewing the sheriff, the tellers, the bank clerk. But no, you had the bright idea we should talk to the bank president–AGAIN–and we got nowhere! We’re no closer to finding my picture now than we were…”
A coded knock at the door interrupted Clementine’s tirade. She whipped the door open, catching a surprised Kid Curry mid-knock.
“Where have you been?” she demanded.
“Nice to see you too, Clem.” The Kid entered and tossed his hat onto the table. He flopped into an armchair and put his feet up. “What’s for supper?”
Heyes smiled. “Clementine and I already had our supper, at the hotel dining room. But I’m sure Clem wouldn’t mind…”
“You better believe I mind! Besides, don’t you two have a hotel room in town?”
Heyes moved closer to Clem and placed an arm around her shoulders. “Now, Clem, we’ve been through this. It makes no sense, me and the Kid spending all that hard earned cash on a hotel room, when you have plenty of room right here for a couple of guests.”
“And besides,” Curry added, “your pancakes are better than that fancy hotel cookin’ any day.”
“Now you’re just being silly,” Clementine fumed. “You just want to keep me trapped here so I can’t help get my picture back!”
“Clem.” The Kid moved in, elbowing Heyes out of his way. “Have either one of us even mentioned that picture?”
“Well, no, but that doesn’t mean you’re not thinking about it.”
He wrapped both arms around her, drawing her into a tender embrace. “Right now, all I’m thinkin’ about is…” He slowly leaned closer to her ear, then whispered, “Food!”
Clementine gave him a playful punch. “Fine! I’ll feed and house the both of you, but you better find my picture.”
“Believe it or not, we probably want it back even more than you do,” Heyes assured her. He turned to Curry. “Any luck at the Gray Goose?”
“What’s the Gray Goose got to do with this?” Clementine wondered.
Both men ignored her question.
“Yeah, actually I found out quite a bit. Helen said that…”
Clementine cut in again. “Who’s Helen?”
Heyes echoed, “Who’s Helen?”
Out of the corner of his mouth, Curry tossed a couple of words Clementine’s way. “A friend.” He then continued his previous sentence, directing it toward Heyes. “Helen said that Ivan Wylan didn’t close the bank the night of the robbery.”
“And Helen knows this, how?” Heyes wondered, his skepticism obvious.
“‘Cause from Helen’s window at the Gray Goose, she’s got a clear view of the bank, and on the night of the robbery, she saw Wylan leave before closin’ time.”
“So he left early. How many bank vice presidents haven’t closed early when the boss was away?”
“Only he didn’t close the bank when he left.”
“If he didn’t, who did?”
“Lorna Kozinski?” Heyes looked to his partner with a shrug of his shoulders. “I give. Who in the world is Lorna Kozinski?”
“A friend of Helen’s. Does some cleanin’ at the Goose and over at the bank too, only a bank employee’s always supposed to be there while she’s cleanin’. You know, for security purposes.” The Kid leaned back in his chair and stretched, proudly lacing his fingers behind his head. “Wanna know who Lorna’s sweet on?” Curry baited.
“Not Ivan Wylan.”
“Nope. A fella by the name of Reginald Dobson.”
“Dobson?” Heyes’ brow arched with interest.
“Now you’re gettin’ it, Heyes. Same Dobson who had his safe deposit box broken into. And Dobson’s got a cousin, Mitchell Scott…”
“Whose box was also broken into.” Heyes grinned.
“Exactly,” Curry replied.
“Well I’ll be,” Heyes remarked. “I don’t suppose your friend Helen knows where we can find Dobson and Scott, does she?”
The Kid smiled. Another knock came at the door.
“You two expecting anyone?” Clementine asked, more than a hint of nervousness in her voice.
Curry ushered a red-haired woman into Clementine’s home. “Helen, so glad you were able to find the place. I’d like you to meet Clementine Hale.” He motioned toward Clem.
Clementine eyed the new arrival skeptically. “How d’you do,” she managed, before turning back to her cooking with a disgusted huff.
“And Joshua Smith.”
Helen nodded at Jones’ friend, then took off her wrap and moved to hang it on a nearby coat stand.
“What’s she doing here?” Heyes whispered.
Curry gave a glance toward Clementine and leaned close to Heyes, speaking softly. “Helen’s gonna be stayin’ here tonight, so Clem don’t get too lonely while you and I are out.”
“Out?” Heyes asked, just as Helen returned. “Pleased to meet you, Miss Helen.” Heyes took her hand. “How kind of you to drop by,” Heyes said. “Thaddeus and me sure are grateful, you dropping in on our friend, Miss Hale.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Smith. Jones was tellin’ me how the two of you have been keepin’ an eye on Miss Hale here, since she lost everything in the robbery, and since…” Behind Clementine’s back, Helen made a circular motion around one ear with her finger, and mouthed the word, loco. “Since Ms. Hale’s been feelin’ poorly.”
With a full moon lighting their way, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry came to a fork in the road. Following the fork to the west they covered only a short distance before leaving the well -traveled trail for a narrow path.
“Mind telling me where we’re going?” Heyes asked.
“According to Helen…”
“Wait a minute. Just who IS this Helen, anyway?”
“A friend? Kid, you just met her today at the Gray Goose.”
“No, I didn’t. I’ve known Helen a long time.”
“Remember that poker game back in Hollis Town, the one where everybody but us was gettin’ killed?”
“I got shot in the head. Hard to forget something like that.”
“Well, that’s where I met Helen.”
“So, while I was recuperating from life-threatening injury, you were entertaining Helen?”
“No, while you were recuperatin’ from life-threatenin’ injury, I was interviewin’ Helen.”
“Yeah, gettin’ information. Keepin’ us alive and out of jail. That sort of thing.” He waved a hand, nonchalantly.
Heyes sighed. “And now Helen works at the Gray Goose, so you were ‘interviewing’ her again? Just to get information about the bank robbery, of course.”
“Exactly, Heyes. You catch on real quick. So anyway, Helen’s friend Lorna told her that Dobson has a huntin’ cabin up this way. And since Lorna hasn’t seen her boyfriend or his cousin for a couple of days, she figured they might’ve come up here.”
“I thought you’d think so, Heyes.” Curry looked into the distance and pointed toward a shack. “That’s probably it.”
“Just like that? We ride out here to the middle of nowhere and you think you’ve found the two fellas we’re looking for?”
“You see that real distinctive lookin’ rock up there?” He pointed up a ridge.
Heyes nodded. “Gotta admit, that’s a distinctive lookin’ rock alright.”
“Helen said Lorna told her the shack was real close to that. You smell that wood smoke?”
Heyes sniffed, then nodded again.
“That tells me somebody’s in that shack. You see two sets of tracks leadin’ that way? That tells me there’s two of ’em.”
Heyes shifted in his saddle. “Alright,” he conceded. “So now what, we just ride in there and demand our picture back?”
“Sheesh, Heyes, and they say you’re the thinker. I got us here, didn’t I? You’ll think of somethin’.”
Curry nudged his horse forward and Heyes followed.
Clementine reached into her hand and relinquished a four of hearts to her competition.
“Got any twos?”
“Wait a minute, it’s my turn.”
“No, it’s not,” Helen insisted. “When I ask for a card and you have one or more in your hand, I get to keep asking until I ask for one that you don’t have.”
“Forget it. I don’t want to play Old Maid anymore anyway.” Clementine sighed and laid her cards on the table, face up.
“No, wait! Don’t… Oh, doggone it, I can see all your cards now. Hold on.” The red haired saloon gal did a double take at Clementine’s hand. “I asked you for sevens two turns ago and you said no.”
Clementine stood up and walked to the door. Her hand touched the latch.
“Hey! Where are you going?” Helen asked, quickly crossing the room to where Clementine stood.
“If you must know, I’m going to the outhouse.”
“I’ll go with you.”
“Sorry, only seating for one,” Clementine responded.
“But Jones said I wasn’t supposed to take my eyes off you. His exact words were, ‘That Clem’s a tricky one. Don’t let her out of your sight. Not for one minute.'”
Clementine took her hand off the door and placed it on Helen’s shoulder. “Let’s you and me have a talk, Helen. An honest, woman to woman, talk.” She guided Helen toward a chair and they sat down again. “Just exactly what did the…I mean, Tha-ddeus, tell you about me?”
“Well…” Helen looked down, sheepishly. “Since we’re being honest with each other and all, I guess I can tell you. Jones told me you were havin’ a rough time of it. That he and Smith are lookin’ out for you since your father’s been away, and that ever since the bank got robbed and you lost your family’s heirloom brooch, you’ve been actin’… a mite touched in the head.”
“He told you that! Why in the world would you believe him?”
“I got no reason not to believe him. Jones has always played straight with me.”
“What do you mean, ‘always?’ I thought you only met him today.”
“Aw, heck no. Me and Jones go way back.”
“Way back? How far back?” Clementine stood and began pacing, hands on her hips, grumbling angrily.
Helen caught only a few of the words.
“Low down, conniving, carousing…”
“Miss Hale?” Helen ventured, placing a hand on the smaller woman’s arm. “Can I ask you somethin’? I mean, since we’re talkin’ woman to woman.”
“What? Of course. Ask me whatever you’d like.”
“You aren’t touched in the head at all, are you.” Helen phrased it as more of a statement of fact than a question. “But you and Jones, are you and him…” She let her question hang while she opened and closed her mouth several times before finishing with an awkward shrug, “Friends? ‘Cause if you are, you just say the word. I’m not one for comin’ between a fella and his…”
“Well of course we’re friends. Joshua and Thaddeus and I have all been friends for a very, very long time!”
“Ah, I get it! So, all THREE of you are…” Helen nodded with a knowing smile and winked in an over-exaggerated fashion. “FRIENDS!”
“That’s what I just said, isn’t it? Yes, Joshua and Thaddeus and I are…” Sudden understanding caused Clementine’s face to pale. “NO! Joshua and Thaddeus and I are NOT friends. I mean NOT friends like…what you’re thinking!”
Helen sat down again with a confused look on her face. “Well, good. I think.” She sipped at a glass of water. “You don’t have anything a little stronger, do you?”
Clementine smiled. “Why yes, I do. I just happen to have some of Daddy’s finest Bourbon Whiskey right here.”
Outside, the moon continued to shine and the crickets continued their chirping. Inside Clementine Hale’s cabin, the candle on the table burned low, and her daddy’s bottle of fine Bourbon Whiskey burned low too.
Helen leaned forward onto the table, chin resting in her hands and sighed deeply, her eyes glassy. “Santa Marta sounds so beautiful! And that alcalde fella, Ramon, well, he sounds like an absolute dream!” Helen’s chin slipped and her head bobbed down briefly before she was able to cradle it safely in both hands again. “He actually said he needed to give you up?”
“He did,” Clementine sighed. “The perfect,” a hiccup interrupted her sentimental flow, “man. And I’ve,” she sniffed and swiped at her nose. “I’ve lost him forever.”
“But I don’t understand. Why did you have to leave Santa Marta? Why couldn’t you just tell Ramon that you and Jones only pretended to be married so as not to draw attention to the fact that you were an unattached woman on her own in Mexico?”
“Because of a sheriff named Ted Thompson,” Clementine confessed. “He’s got it in for me. Joshua and Thaddeus too. If it were up to him, he’d lock the three of us up and throw away the key.”
“But why? Wait a minute… Did you say SHERIFF Ted Thompson?”
“Yes. Have you heard of him?”
“Sure, I know Ted Thompson, but he’s not a sheriff anymore, he’s a private investigator. He comes into the Goose now and then with a couple of his buddies, Dobson and Scott.”
“Dobson and Scott? Hmmm,” Clem bit her lower lip. “Those names sound familiar.”
Two men sat, subdued and shaking, hands tied behind them, in a run-down hunting shack.
“Which one of you is Dobson and which one’s Scott?”
“He’s Scott.” A clean-shaven man made a head gesture toward his mustached counterpart. “And I’m Dobson. Who’s asking?”
“He’s Hotchkiss and I’m Rembacker. Bannerman men, on the trail of two outlaws who robbed the Denver National Bank. And that trail, gentlemen, has led us directly to you. What do you have to say for yourselves?”
The Bannerman man identified as Hotchkiss gave a menacing snarl.
Scott spoke up in a shaky voice. “We might’ve heard somethin’ about that robbery, and we might be able to help you locate the money, IF you can guarantee us immunity.”
Dobson nodded his agreement.
“Immunity?” scoffed Heyes. “Why should we let the two of you walk free?”
“Because we’d be telling you where you can find the money,” said Scott.
“What about the items stolen from safe deposit boxes?” Heyes wondered.
“We might know something about those, too,” Dobson added.
The Kid leaned in close to the faces of both men and pushed his hat up with the barrel of his Colt. “If I were one of you fellas, I’d be speakin’ up. Now!”
“And in exchange?” Dobson dared to ask.
“IF the information you share is useful to our investigation, and IF my partner here is in a good mood,” Heyes continued, “we might just let you live long enough for us to turn you in.”
The two men exchanged a nervous glance. “The money’s stashed a few hundred feet out back of this shack,” shared Dobson.
“Under a rock,” added Scott.
“What about the goods?” Curry reminded them.
“We don’t have ’em.”
“What did you do with them?” Heyes’ face took on the look of a fearsome outlaw.
“We gave them to Thompson.”
“Ted Thompson, the man who hired us to rob that bank.”
Curry visibly grimaced. “Sheriff Ted Thompson?” He pulled Heyes aside. “You DO remember Ted Thompson, don’t ya? The fella headin’ up that stakeout ‘club’ over at Clem’s place? The fella who hounded us all the way to Santa Marta? The fella who knows who we are–on sight?”
Heyes placed a hand on his partner’s arm and nodded, then turned his attention back to the bank robbers in their custody.
Dobson began spilling his and his partner’s mutual confession. “Ted Thompson’s not a sheriff anymore. Turned private investigator. He paid us to break into the bank and rob it. Said any money we got was ours to keep. All he wanted out of the deal was the stuff from safe deposit box number twenty-three.”
“But breaking into only one safe deposit box would have looked suspicious,” Scott offered, “so Dobson and me decided to break into our own safe deposit boxes too, and throw the investigation off track.”
Dobson picked up where his partner left off. “And then the crowbar slipped, and another box got broken, so we figured we’d better take everything out of that one too.”
“That must’ve been Orrin Gallagher’s box. The deed to the Gray Goose,” Curry muttered.
“We figured the more boxes got broke into, the less chance somebody’d figure out what it was Thompson was really after,” Scott finished.
“And just what WAS Thompson really after?” Heyes asked in a threatening tone. “What was in box twenty-three that was so important?”
Both Dobson and Scott looked at each other, then shrugged, and Dobson answered, “We don’t know. There was an old brooch and an envelope. That’s all we know.”
The confession came to an end, and Curry drew his partner outside. “You think Thompson’s already copied that photograph of us?”
“I don’t know.” Heyes ran a hand through his hair. “But the longer he’s got it, the better the chance there’ll be wanted posters with our faces decorating every sheriff’s wall west of the Mississippi.”
“I still don’t get it,” Helen said. “How come we’re walkin’ back to town in the middle of the night?”
“I told you. If Ted Thompson has anything to do with the contents of my safe deposit box being stolen, Joshua and Thaddeus are in a whole lot of trouble!”
Helen stopped dead in her tracks. “But why? What on earth could have been in your safe deposit box that could get the two of them in trouble?”
Clementine stopped, and sighed. “A picture.”
“That’s it? A picture?”
“A very precious picture. A picture worth a whole lot of money.”
Helen whistled. “What did Smith and Jones do, rob a museum? Steal a painting by one of those famous European artists?”
“Not that kind of picture. A photograph. A photograph of me with the two of them.”
Helen’s jaw dropped. “A weddin’ photograph! You mean you and Jones really are married?”
Clementine began shaking her head. “That’s what we told Ramon, but…”
“You’re married to Smith?”
Clem hesitated. This time her face contorted into an uncomfortable-looking scowl. “There are some things I just can’t explain, Helen.”
“Are you tellin’ me you’re married to…” Helen stopped talking and her jaw fell open. “Both of ’em?”
Clem began to protest, but instead she gulped, then grimaced. “I’m afraid you’ve guessed our little secret.” She gave a nervous, breathy laugh. “Now you know the…” she swallowed hard, “the truth.”
Helen’s jaw fell open further and she placed a hand over her mouth. “Isn’t that illegal?”
“Exactly, which is why we need to get to Ted Thompson’s office and find that picture!”
“How did you manage to open the vault?” Heyes asked, as he and Curry escorted Dobson and Scott back to Denver.
“I arranged it so the vault wouldn’t lock properly,” Dobson answered.
“Your friend, Lorna,” Curry confirmed. “Yeah, we know about her involvement in this case, too.”
Dobson hung his head.
“All we had to do,” Scott added, “was go in through the window, push the vault door open, and take the goods. Any cash we took was ours to keep, according to Thompson.”
“Only now,” Heyes said, “you’re both wanted for robbery and you didn’t even get to spend a dime of that money.”
“Crime don’t pay, fellas,” said the Kid. He turned to Heyes and spoke in a whisper. “What are we gonna do with these two? We can’t chance takin’ ’em to the sheriff.”
“I know, Kid. Thompson may have gotten to him with our picture by now. We could leave them tied up, just outside of town. Send the sheriff a note telling him where to find them.”
“Or we could let them go. After all, they’re returnin’ the money they took, and they came clean and told us where to find all the stuff they took from the safe deposit boxes.”
Heyes began to grin.
“You got a plan, don’t ya?”
Heyes pulled up his horse and turned to the two bank robbers. “Dobson, Scott, you two said you were interested in immunity from prosecution.”
“That’s right,” Dobson answered for both of them. “Whatever you need us to do, we’ll do it.”
“You sure about that?” Heyes checked. “You willing to hand over your friend, Ted Thompson, in order to get it?”
Dobson and Scott exchanged a brief look. Then Scott spoke for both of them. “Ted Thompson was always more of a business associate than a friend. Mr. Hotchkiss, Mr. Rembacker, you got yourselves a deal!”
The moon was high when Clementine and Helen arrived at the office of Ted Thompson.
“It’s that one right up there.” Helen pointed to the highest window on the back side of the three-story building.
“Give me a boost,” Clementine instructed.
“You can’t climb all the way up there,” Helen insisted.
“Watch me.” Clementine proceeded to hoist herself onto a rain barrel and, after a push from Helen, steadied herself on the porch roof. “There, see? No problem.”
Helen called out in a loud whisper, “But how am I supposed to get up there without you down here to give me a boost?”
“You stand lookout from down there. Whistle if somebody’s coming.”
Helen nodded and watched Clementine disappear into an open second-floor window. Tucking herself into the shadows, Helen dutifully kept watch.
“This is it, Mr. Rembacker. Ted Thompson’s office is the only one on the third floor. There are two rooms. His office is at the front of the building, and there’s a storage room at the back.”
“You two watch our horses,” the Kid said, handing his reins to Scott while Heyes handed his reins to Dobson. “We’ll be back in a while.” Curry and Heyes turned to go, but Curry turned back. “And don’t even THINK about leavin’,” he demanded.
Shaking in their boots, Dobson and Scott could only nod their agreement.
Stealthily, Heyes and Curry slipped onto the front porch. Heyes, pulling his lock pick from his boot, had them inside in no time flat. Ever so quietly they ascended the stairs to the office door of Denver Investigations. Again, Heyes’ lock pick came in handy.
The door swung open slowly. The two men entered the office and closed the door behind them. The small office was dark and starkly furnished. Other than a few chairs and a rickety file cabinet near one corner of the room, its only other furnishing was an old desk, covered in papers…with a burly investigator seated behind it.
“Well, well, well,” declared Ted Thompson. The private investigator stood, with his gun already drawn. “If it isn’t Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”
“Ted Thompson,” Heyes said, lifting his hands into the air.
“If you two gentlemen would kindly remove your weapons from their holsters and set them on my desk,” Thompson requested. “Using two fingers only.”
Both Heyes and Curry complied.
“I suppose you’re here about that picture Miss Hale had in her safe deposit box.”
“That’s right, Ted. But we figured by now you’d have copied it and sent it off to every lawman in the West.”
“And miss the looks on your faces when I turn you two in myself? No-sir-ee, the reward on you two belongs to me, and me alone. I knew getting my hands on that picture would make you two easier to find, but I never dreamed you’d just come walking in here to surrender.”
“We’re not exactly surrenderin’, Ted. We came to collect that picture and then we’ll be on our way.”
Thompson chuckled. “How do you figure on doing that, Curry, seeing how I’m the one holding a gun on the both of you?”
A sudden loud crash from the storage room caused Ted Thompson to turn. Fast as lightning, the Kid knocked into him, sending the private investigator’s weapon sailing from his hand. It hit the floor and discharged with a loud bang.
Heyes quickly grabbed his Schofield and his partner’s Colt from Thompson’s desk, then hurried to scoop up Thompson’s gun as well. He turned just in time to see Curry deliver one quick punch to the investigator’s jaw. Ted Thompson fell to the floor, out cold.
Heyes and Curry moved swiftly, stationing themselves on either side of the storage room door.
“Whoever’s in there, come on out!” Curry yelled. Then he kicked the door open and he and Heyes stormed in, guns at the ready.
Lying on the floor, just below the storage room’s only window lay a small, dark-haired woman.
“Clementine?” both men said at once.
“Howdy fellas,” she said, clambering to her feet. “I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing here.”
“No wonderin’ about it.” The Kid steadied Clementine on her feet before closing the window behind her.
Fast and furious footfalls could be heard ascending the stairs. Heyes swung the storage room door shut and the Kid pushed Clementine behind a shelf, then ducked low himself and pressed one finger to his lips.
“Clementine!” Helen’s voice cried.
Dobson and Scott followed at her heels. “Mr. Hotchkiss, Mr. Rembacker, are you all right? We heard a gunshot,” they called.
Heyes let out a long breath. Curry and Clem did too.
“Dobson, Scott, you’ll need to tie Mr. Thompson up while we search the premises,” Heyes told them.
“And Clem, why don’t you take Helen back to your place? We can handle everything from here.”
“Not on your life! You’re not getting rid of me that easily. My picture is hidden somewhere in this office and I intend to find it!” Clem stomped her foot with a note of finality.
With wary glances toward Dobson, Scott, and Helen, Heyes and Curry came to a silent, mutual agreement.
“Fine. You and Helen search the file cabinet. The two of us’ll start in here.”
Ted Thompson began to come around, finding his hands tied behind him. He saw two women, Miss Hale and a red-haired woman, searching his file cabinet while Dobson and Scott rifled through the papers on his desk. He attempted a verbal protest, but the bandana covering his mouth muffled his words.
In the storage room, Heyes’ eyes gleamed. Curry grinned. Both men stared at a safe which sat in a back corner.
“It’s gotta be in there,” the Kid said. “It’s where I’d keep it if I were him.”
“A Brooker 101,” Heyes said, almost laughing. “This is going to be a piece of cake.”
“Your brooch, ma’am.” Hannibal Heyes came out of the storage room holding Clementine’s precious heirloom between his finger and thumb.
Clem squealed with delight and ran to hug him. “What about my picture?” she demanded, before Heyes had fully let go of the brooch.
The Kid said smiled and held up two identical envelopes. “This what you’re lookin’ for, Clem?” He handed one envelope to Helen. “That one there is for Orrin Gallagher. It’s the deed to the Gray Goose. And this one…” the Kid just smiled and kept the second envelope clutched safely in his hand.
“He’ll be real happy to have that back,” said Helen. “Thanks, Jones.”
“Jones? I thought your name was Hotchkiss,” Dobson remarked.
Heyes was quick to intervene. “We Bannerman men sometimes use an alias. Until now, there was no need for Miss Helen here to know my partner’s real name.” He turned to Helen. “He’s Hotchkiss and I’m Rembacker,” Heyes confessed. “Now, well, I guess you know the whole truth.”
“I sure do!” she declared with a wink Clementine’s direction. “I sure as shootin’ do!”
Heyes turned to Dobson and Scott. “You two have earned that immunity we talked about. You think you can keep an eye on Mr. Thompson until morning? Then you can take him and the money on over to the sheriff’s office and tell him the whole story.”
Before either Dobson or Scott could answer, more footsteps were heard from the staircase. Another man entered the office of Ted Thompson, his six-shooter drawn and a tin star glistening on his vest.
Ted Thompson sent out a muffled plea through the bandana tied around his mouth.
The sheriff, his eyebrows knit in confusion, studied the other occupants of Thompson’s office. “Get your hands up, all of you! Keep ’em where I can see ’em.” He moved to the private investigator, untying the gag. “What’s going on here, Ted? I heard the gunshot.”
“That there is Hannibal Heyes,” he gestured toward Heyes with his head, then thrust his head in the Kid’s direction, “and that one’s Kid Curry. I was about to turn them in and claim the reward when they got the jump on me and tied me up.”
“He’s lying, Sheriff,” piped up Dobson. “He’s Hotchkiss and that’s Rembacker. They’re a couple of Bannerman agents.”
“That’s right, Sheriff. He just wants you to think they’re Heyes and Curry because Ted’s the one who really robbed the bank…with our help,” Scott added, hanging his head in shame.
Heyes chimed in. “It’s true, Sheriff. Dobson and Scott did help Thompson here did rob the bank, but now they’ve come clean and helped us recover the stolen money and goods.”
“And in exchange, we promised ’em immunity from prosecution,” added Curry.
The sheriff cast wary glances from one speaker to the next, then looked toward the women. “What do you two have to do with this?” he asked.
Helen spoke up first. “Sheriff,” she smiled. “Okay if I put my hands down? You remember me, don’t you? From the Gray Goose?”
“Helen?” The sheriff visibly blushed. “What on earth are you doing here?”
“The deed to the Goose got stolen in that bank robbery, and these two Bannerman men, they were just askin’ if I’d make sure old Orrin got it back.”
“Let me see that.”
Helen removed the document from the envelope and held it up while the sheriff inspected it.
“That explains what you’re doing here. How about you?” he asked Clementine. “You one of Orrin’s gals too?”
Clementine’s eyebrows raised and she pointed to herself. “Me? I’m Miss Hale, Clementine Hale.” She cautiously lowered her hands as she spoke. “And these two Bannerman agents were just making sure I got my brooch back.” She held up her brooch and moved toward the Kid, swiping the envelope from his raised hand. “…And MY picture, which were both stolen in the bank robbery.”
Kid Curry scowled.
Hannibal Heyes dropped his head in defeat.
Clementine Hale’s grin spread from ear to ear.
Heyes and Curry rode a rocky trail, miles and miles of scenic Rocky Mountain vista behind them.
“You know, Heyes, I been thinkin’. How does Clem manage to do it? You and me specialize in gettin’ stuff we’re not supposed to get, yet every time, I mean every single time, Clem ends up with our picture!” The Kid’s horse followed his partner’s up a steep incline.
“Clem sure is lucky. I’ll have to admit that.” The two riders continued covering mountainous terrain for some time before Heyes continued, “But Clem ain’t the only one who’s lucky. We’re pretty lucky too.”
“How do you figure?”
“I figure we’re lucky because–Clementine hasn’t decided to use that picture to collect the twenty thousand dollar reward on our heads.”
“Yet, Heyes. Clementine hasn’t decided to use that picture to collect the twenty thousand–Yet.”
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.