From Dawn to Darkness
A story set before the series pilot. This story began as a challenge entry in September of 2008 and grew into a series of its own.
“What I chased won’t set me free.” – J. Rzeznik
Before the sun rose, he woke her. His lips softly brushing her cheek, his fingers tracing a path from her ear to her shoulder. Before she even opened her eyes, she knew. He was leaving – just like he had so many times before. She fought back the tears that threatened to fall. She refused to cry.
Instead, she held him, loving him the way she knew he wanted her to. Softly, tenderly. Words escaped her lips, though she hadn’t meant to say them out loud.
“I love you.” And she did love him, God help her.
Kid pulled her closer, whispering her name. He heard her words, even felt the same. Why couldn’t he tell her?
Instead, he showed her the only way he knew how.
With the sun’s first rays just painting the sky in vivid shades of pink and purple, Kid gave her a wink and a smile. She returned it with her own lopsided grin. Then he was gone.
Would her life always be this way? She had known who he was, what he was, from the start. She should have known better. She tried to ignore the sick feeling deep inside and rose to face the day, alone.
Hannibal Heyes bit his tongue, holding back the reprimands he wanted to fling at his partner, as he watched him check the cinch and secure his saddlebags. Kid felt as if the angry glare could have burned a hole right through him.
Finally, Heyes broke the morning silence. “You tell her?”
Kid said nothing and continued saddling his horse.
“She’s an unnecessary distraction.”
Louder now, “I’m tellin’ you, Kid, whatever you got goin’ on with her has got to end! It’s dangerous!”
“Really? And where’d you spend last night, Heyes?” Curry’s eyes flashed fire with the accusation.
Heyes shook his head, “That’s not the same and you know it!”
Surely, his passing interest in an occasional saloon girl couldn’t be compared with the on-going relationship Kid had established with Ann Morgan.
He turned back to his horse but Heyes grabbed hold of his arm. “I’m talkin’ to you!”
Kid pulled back roughly from Heyes’ grasp. “We’ve talked about this before, Heyes.”
“And you know I’m right, Kid.”
The pairs of eyes locked for several moments. A battle of wills took place between the leaders of the Devil’s Hole Gang.
Curry closed his eyes and turned again to his horse, “We need to go, Heyes. The boys are waitin’ on us.”
The conversation was over…for now.
It was late afternoon by the time Heyes and Kid rode into Pine Ridge. The gang had split up several days before, each taking his own share of the proceeds after the recent, successful train robbery. After weeks of lying low in Devil’s Hole, Heyes and Kid had declared it safe to leave. Everything had gone exactly according to plan and there hadn’t even been the long chase of a posse to deal with. They’d simply stopped the train, opened the safe and ridden off – with over twenty thousand dollars to show for their efforts. It was easy, almost too easy. So easy it could become addictive.
After a bath and a meal, the two headed toward the town’s one saloon. It seemed packed tonight, but Heyes was able to find an open seat at one of the poker tables. Kid found a spot and leaned back on the bar. From here, he had a clear view of Heyes. He’d be able to keep on eye on him without attracting any attention.
It wasn’t long until the all too familiar scene began to play itself out again. A poor loser accusing Heyes of cheating. Heyes’ denial. Kid stepping in. The only difference was, this time the loser knew who they were.
With his hot breath inches from Heyes’ face he spoke, “Wha’da’ya s’pose these people here would think if they knew you was playin’ tonight with stolen money?”
“Don’t know where you got that idea, friend.” Heyes practiced his innocent smile.
“I got that idea on the train you robbed last month…Mr. Heyes.” Looking toward Kid, who was now at Heyes’ side, he added, “…and Mr. Curry.”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken. My partner and I got faces alot’a people think they seen before.” Heyes tried to diffuse the situation before it went too far.
“I ain’t mistaken.” There was a pause. “Now, I’m gonna take my winnin’s and go.”
He turned and began picking up the money on the table when Curry’s hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“I don’t think so, mister. My partner here won. The money’s his.”
The loser jerked free from Kid’s hand and threw a punch at him. Kid stopped the man’s hand mid-air.
Kid’s eyes turned an icy blue. “I said, I don’t think so. Now, you gonna let this go, or are we gonna step outside?”
The man cast a look around the room. All eyes were on him. Humiliated in front of the crowd, he turned and left.
Heyes exchanged a grateful look with Kid. He picked up his winnings and, as gracefully as possible, bowed out of the card game and left with Kid.
“Ya think he’ll be followin’ us?”
“I’d say that’s a safe bet, Kid.”
“Let’s get the horses.”
They were just leaving the livery when the angry voice called, “I’m gonna kill you, Curry!”
Kid turned. Seeing the wild look on the loser’s face, gun in hand, aimed in his direction, it was a choice. Kill or be killed. Kid drew and fired.
The once quiet street suddenly filled with people coming from every direction. Whispers of, “Heyes and Curry…Never seen nothin’ so fast…” mingled with,”Killed him outright…” or “Fair fight…”
But the world seemed to stop when the accusing eyes of a young boy met Kid’s. “You killed my Pa!”
Heyes pulled Kid toward the already waiting horses and they rode fast, putting as much distance as possible between them and Pine Ridge.
It was nearly morning when they finally felt it was safe to stop. Heyes took the horses to a nearby stream. Kid walked some distance away and studied his hands. They were shaking now. Not with fear, but with the realization he had taken another life. No, it wasn’t the first time, but it didn’t get easier. Maybe it got harder. Knowing he’d been responsible for ending someone’s life. Knowing he’d just taken a husband away from a wife, a father away from a son. This needed to stop! He didn’t want to do it anymore. Kid fell to his knees in the bushes and retched.
They made camp and tried to rest, but sleep wouldn’t come. The eyes of the boy haunted him. “You killed my Pa!” The words would stay with him forever.
Even thoughts of Ann didn’t bring him comfort. How long would it be before she would be brought the news he’d been killed in some gunfight with an angry gambler or shot in some robbery?
He silently thanked a God he didn’t know, that Ann wasn’t pregnant. What if she had his child to raise alone? It was a future he didn’t want for her, or for any child they might create together. He couldn’t let that happen.
Heyes was right. He needed to end it. It was too dangerous – for all of them.
Ann was startled awake, sensing the presence of someone standing over her bed. His hand was quickly on her face, calming her fears. She jumped up, flinging her arms around his neck.
“Are you really here?” She had dreamed this so many times.
Kid closed his eyes, finding comfort once more in the loving arms around him.
“You hungry?” she asked, ready to cook something for him, but he shook his head.
“I just need you.”
He led her back toward the bed and lay down beside her. He was quiet. She moved closer to him. She was at home in the safety of his arms, but something didn’t feel right.
“Kid? What’s wrong?”
It was quiet for a long time. “Nothin’,” he lied.
In the weeks since the shooting, he had made a firm resolve. He needed to see her again. Needed to end things with her. She deserved so much more than this. It was the right thing to do. But now, feeling her warm in his arms, he couldn’t find the strength to do it.
“Did I ever tell you that I…” He stopped. Telling her he loved her now would serve no purpose. Not when he was planning to walk out of her life, never to return.
“That you what?” she asked.
“I just… I just wish things were different.” His whispered words carried a wistful tone that sent a chill through her.
Ann said nothing. Something was wrong, really wrong. Other than to stroke her hair with his fingers, Kid didn’t move. They just lay there together, holding each other. She must have fallen asleep sometime during the night, because when she opened her eyes again, she was alone.
Kid spent most of the day at the saloon. Heyes found him there toward evening.
“Thought you’d be with Ann.”
Heyes grabbed a second glass from the bar and joined Kid at the table. He helped himself to a portion of the bottle that sat before Kid, untouched.
“So you told her?”
Kid shook his head. “I couldn’t do it, Heyes.”
Heyes supposed he had known it for a long time, had hoped to convince Kid to end it before it went too far. He could see now it was too late.
“Ya wanna talk about it?”
Kid hung his head. “No.”
“Ya wanna come with me and get some supper, then maybe play some cards?”
Kid shook his head again.
Heyes finished his first glass and poured another while the two sat without talking.
When he finished it he said, “I’ll tell ya what, Kid. I’m gonna go find a paper and get somethin’ to eat. I’ll check back with ya later. OK?”
Heyes knew his partner still struggled with the recent death of the gunman, as well as his feelings for this woman. He sincerely hoped his friend would find some answers soon and be able to put it all behind him. He didn’t know how much more of this he could take. If Kid was distracted, he wasn’t at his best. And a Kid Curry not at his best could be fatal for both of them.
As he walked toward the cafe, he saw her. Heyes greeted Ann with a guarded smile.
“I’m lookin’ for Kid. You seen him?”
“In the saloon.”
She started off in that direction then, changed her mind. “What’s wrong with him, Heyes?”
“Why don’t you ask him?” If Kid wasn’t telling her, neither was he.
“I know you don’t approve of me, but please, I know somethin’s not right. I wanna help.”
Heyes turned hard eyes on her. “You really wanna help? Then leave him alone! You got him all twisted up inside, Ann!” His voice was an angry whisper now, “And that could get him killed!”
She felt her own anger rise. She could see she would get no where like this.
“I’m sorry you feel that way.” She turned to leave. “I just needed to talk to him.”
Heyes gave a heavy sigh. “Alright, I’ll ask him to meet ya, but I can’t guarantee he’ll come.”
This time, there was no familiar smile on his face when he entered her door and removed his hat.
“Heyes said you needed to talk.” He leaned against the table, crossing both arms over his chest.
He seemed so distant, so unlike the ‘Kid’ she knew. She had rehearsed this conversation a hundred times over the previous weeks, but now her mind went blank. She ran her hands over her weary face and searched for the right words.
“I know this ain’t a good time, Kid, but there’s somethin’ I gotta tell ya.”
“I’m here. I’m listenin’.”
Was he? She wasn’t so sure.
A soft knock stopped her. Kid drew his gun while Ann carefully opened the door. Heyes stepped in, quickly checking the alley and closing the door behind him.
“You need to look at this.” Without acknowledging Ann’s presence, he shoved a newspaper in Kid’s direction.
“Seems since our last robbery, the railroad has decided to add another zero to the price on our heads, Kid.”
“Ten thousand dollars? Catchin’ us is worth that much to the railroad?”
“Catchin’ us or stoppin’ us. They’ve added a couple words too.”
Scanning the article, the color drained from Kid’s face when he found the words, Dead or Alive. He swallowed hard and looked from Ann to his partner.
Every bounty hunter west of the Mississippi would be looking for them now.
Heyes pointed again and Kid read the last sentence out loud, ”Last seen in Denver.”
Heyes nodded. “We gotta get outta here, Kid. Now!”
Kid turned to back to Ann. “I gotta go.”
“I know ya do.” She took hold of his arm, summoning all her courage. She knew she needed to make this quick, ”But there’s something I need to tell ya before ya go.”
Heyes spoke up, interrupting her, ”It’ll have to keep.”
Ann held Kid’s eyes, imploring him to listen to her.
Kid turned his back on both of them, the pressure becoming too much to bear. Voices echoed inside his head:
“Price on our heads…Tell her!…Need to talk…Gotta go…Kill you, Curry!… Killed my Pa!…Dead or Alive!”
He covered his face with both hands, trying to silence the voices. He felt trapped. Couldn’t breathe. He needed to get out of here. He needed to think. He needed…
Her touch was light on his arm. “Kid?”
It was a mistake she wouldn’t repeat. In desperation, Kid exploded, the full force of his fury directed at the closest target. He spun around and as he did, violently swung his right arm. Ann didn’t see it coming. The back of Kid’s hand struck her hard across the face.
Heyes was stunned into silence.
Ann stood in shock, unable to move, unable to believe what just happened, unaware of the blood trickling from her nose.
How could he have hit her? Kid tentatively reached a hand toward her face, wanting to apologize, wanting to take it back.
Ann flinched, and for a moment, Kid saw the fear and hurt in her eyes before they turned cold. The look pierced him deeper than any bullet ever had.
He fumbled for words, attempting to bridge the chasm which so suddenly separated them. “Ann…I’m so sorry…” He reached for her again and this time she didn’t pull away, though she didn’t respond as she usually did.
A sense of panic seized him. She had to know he didn’t mean it! Had to know it would never happen again!
“You wanted to tell me somethin’. I’m listenin’ now. I wanna hear.”
Ann looked at Heyes, then turned her eyes back on Kid, an unnatural calmness in her voice. “You really do need to go. Heyes is right. It’ll keep.”
“Kid?” This time Heyes spoke quietly, almost apologetically. And although he addressed Kid, Ann knew the words were meant for her. “Ann knows you’re sorry, Kid, and she knows we have to leave.”
Kid didn’t want to let go. He couldn’t leave her like this, could he? But in the end, he made his choice. The same choice he’d been making for far too long.
He put a finger under her chin and lifted her face to his. “I really am sorry, Annie. You know that, don’t you?”
She nodded, but the pain was still evident in her eyes. He pulled the bandana from his neck and wiped the blood from her face with a trembling hand.
“I’ll be back. You know that too, right?”
She nodded again.
Kid gently touched her face and wrapped his arms around her one final time before he turned to go.
Heyes was the first out the door. He gave Ann a nod as he left.
Kid gave her the familiar wink and a smile, a feeble attempt to make things right again.
Her voice held no emotion. “Good-bye, Kid,” she said as the door clicked shut.
Ann stared at the closed door after he left. She knew his words were true. He had to leave. He was sorry. He would be back. Placing a loving hand over the child growing inside her, she packed everything she owned. When he did come back, she wouldn’t be here.
Late that night on the trail, Kid finally spoke.
“She knows, right Heyes? That I didn’t mean to hit her, that I love her…all that?”
Heyes nodded, “I’m sure of it, Kid.”
He was glad his partner couldn’t see his face in the darkness, because he had seen the look in Ann’s eyes. Heyes was just as sure, the next time Kid returned to Denver, Ann Morgan would be gone.
This challenge story sparked the writing of a series. You can read it beginning here– Regrets – Part One – A Shared Past
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.