Alias ‘Kid Curry’

Author’s notes:  The following story is a work of fiction.  Although many of the characters are historical, they have been used fictitiously.  Historical events have been modified to fit this fictional account.

Alias ‘Kid Curry’

Sheridan, Wyoming – Delilah’s Place –  June 2, 1899

“Hold still, Mr. Heyes!”

Poof!

As the photographer changed the film in his new, hand-held camera, Hannibal Heyes pulled Jed Curry toward him.  “Jed, I want you in this next picture with me.  We’ve never had our picture taken together before.”

“Sure we have, Heyes.  Don’t ya remember?  Clem’s got the only copy of that one.  If she hasn’t burned it,” he added, laughing, “knowin’ she can’t hold it over our heads any more.”

“You’re right, but I want you in this one with me anyway.  This is a big night for me.”  He stood with one hand resting on Curry’s shoulder.  “Make sure you spell our names right, Mr. Simon.  That’s Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry.”

“Will do, Mr. Heyes.  It’ll be published along with a story in the next edition of The Tidings.”

Pair-o-dice Ranch

“You awake?”

“No!”  Christina’s response was mumbled into a soft feather pillow.

“Wake up.  I got something to tell you.”  Heyes sat on the edge of the bed, tugging at his wife’s shoulder until she rolled over.

He watched her struggle to her back.  Another baby.  Their third.  He shook his head at the irony.  Husband.  Father.  There had been a day when Hannibal Heyes couldn’t have imagined using either title to describe himself.

Partner?  Sure, he and Curry had always been partners.  He had no problem viewing himself as one of those.  But the term ‘husband’ seemed to imply so much more.

Leader?  He remembered the Devil’s Hole Gang.  Nothing but a bunch of lost souls, without his direction…His and the Kid’s.  But even under their leadership, none of the gang had looked to either of them as ‘father’.

Christina’s words came back to him.  ***”I don’t want to be JUST your partner, Hannibal.  I want to be your wife!” ***

At the time, he hadn’t seen the difference.  Tonight, with more than a decade of experience, Heyes knew.  Running a hand over his wife’s expanding abdomen he realized, there was nothing, no title he wanted more than that of ‘husband’ to Christina Heyes and ‘father’ of their children.

He leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss on Christina’s mid-section.  “Can’t wait to meet you, little one!” he whispered.  Judging by belly-size alone, it looked like the meeting could take place any day.  Perhaps any minute.

Opening her eyes was not necessary in order to smell the whiskey on her husband’s breath, or the stale cigar smoke that permeated his hair and clothing.  “What time is it?”

“Time?  I don’t know, but that don’t matter.  I got good news!”

“That’s nice.”  She patted his hand.

“Listen to me, Christina!  I’m trying to tell you, I won!”

“That’s not news.  You’ve been playing cards at Delilah’s.  Don’t you usually win?”

“Not this big.”

One eye popped open.  “How big?”

“Christina, I won the paper!”

Another eye opened.  “What paper?”

“The Tidings!  The Sheridan Tidings!”

Fully awake now, Christina sat up.  “Did you want The Tidings?”  She rubbed her eyes.

“Who wouldn’t want The Tidings?!” he exclaimed.

“Apparently Mr. Simon, if he was willing to risk losing it in a poker game with you.”

“But Christina, that’s just it.  He didn’t ‘lose’ it.  He’s retiring.  Moving south.  So he set up this tournament, see…”

Christina nodded, even though she didn’t ‘see’.

“…And interested parties had to pay an entrance fee to get in.”

“A game of poker, for a paper?”

“Haven’t you been listening?  Yes!  It was a tournament.  See, Mr. Simon’s been trying to sell the paper for months, but he couldn’t find a buyer.  Not for the price he was asking anyway.  So he set up this tournament.  It was a gamble, sure, but the winner would get the paper for the bargain price of one entry fee.”  He lifted one finger, emphasizing his point.  “And Mr. Simon got to keep all the entry money, which amounted to almost as much as he wanted to sell the paper for in the first place.  So, see, everybody won… Except of course the entrants who lost… But hey, like I said, it was a gamble,” he finished with a shrug.

“What are you going to do with a newspaper?”

“What do you think I’m going to do with it?  Swat flies?  I’m going to write it!  This is a dream come true, Christina!  I can’t believe you aren’t more excited.”

“I never knew you wanted to be a newspaperman.”

Heyes smiled, a full smile, but with just a hint of uncertainty.  “Neither did I until…” he checked his watch, “Uh… A couple hours ago.  Ranching was always Jed’s dream.  I wanted to share it, sure, but I didn’t know I even had a dream of my own, until…”

Christina’s smile grew to match her husband’s, “A couple hours ago!” she finished for him, laughing and flinging her arms around his neck.  “You are going to be amazing!  I know it!  The best newspaperman Wyoming’s ever seen!”  Both fell back onto the bed as he kissed her, sharing in a joyful celebration.

“Oh!”

At the startled gasp from Christina, Heyes froze.  “What’s wrong?”

“Hannibal, do you have much experience in writing birth announcements?”

“Huh?”  Color drained from Heyes’ previously flushed cheeks as he followed Christina’s eyes to her middle.

“I think it’s time to start writing one.  Right after you get Dr. Walker.”

***

“Good thing we built your house big as we did, Heyes,”  ‘Uncle’ Jed Curry remarked, while tossing a ball with five year old Sam Heyes.

Heyes nodded, engrossed in a game of checkers with his daughter, Lillian.

Not long after her birth, nine years earlier, the Heyes family had moved.  The new, larger Heyes homestead stood south of the original cabin that had served as their home for the first year or so of life on the Pair-o-dice Ranch.  Heyes and Curry had labored long to build the new house.  The main level boasted a large kitchen and sitting area.  An upper floor held several spacious bedrooms.  A huge covered porch spanned its length.  Jed had, in turn, claimed the vacated cabin as his domain.

“You and Christina have any more babies, we’re gonna need to start storin’ ’em in the bunkhouse.”

“Or in the cabin with you,” Heyes suggested.

“I wanna move in with Uncle Jed!” Sam insisted.  “Babies are loud, cryin’ all the time.”

The newest Heyes family member, Rosalyn, not yet two weeks old, illustrated Sam’s point with a loud wail.

“Want me to try?” Jed offered, with a glance toward an exhausted Christina, who joined them, babe in arms.

“Please!”  She handed him the infant, whose tiny fists flailed.

Jed’s body swayed gently back and forth as he paced slowly across the length of the porch.  His hand tapped a soft, steady rhythm against Rosalyn’s back and soon, miraculously, the baby slept, finger in mouth, her head snuggled against Curry’s shoulder.

“How do you do that?” Christina exclaimed.

“Jed always did have a way with women,” Heyes remarked to his wife.  Then, with a whisper meant only for Curry’s ears, “Puts them to sleep, every time!”

The retort on Curry’s lips was cut short by the unmistakable sound of a rifle being cocked.  Two former outlaws, immediately on alert, turned their heads toward the barn and the direction of the unwelcome sound.

“Put your hands in the air, Curry!” a voice commanded from behind another outbuilding.

“Christina, take the kids in the house,” Heyes ordered.

She immediately obeyed, taking the sleeping child from Jed’s arms, before herding her other two frightened offspring into the house in front of her.

Jed raised his hands.  “What’s this all about?”

The unseen voice ignored the question.  “Mr. Heyes, if you’ll just put your hands up too and step away from Curry.”

“Look, whoever you are, my partner and I aren’t wanted anymore.  Haven’t been for more than ten years.  If it’s a reward you’re after, you’re too late,” Heyes informed.

“Just keep backing up, Mr. Heyes.  We’re only after Curry, not you.  You go on in the house with your family and everything will be fine.”

“What do you want him for?”

Three men, Bannerman Detectives to be exact, stepped from their various hiding places around the yard.  One of them ascended the porch stairs, cuffing Jed’s hands behind his back before giving his answer.

“Murder!”

Sheridan

“I’d like to see Jed,” Heyes told Sheriff Manning.

“Sorry, Heyes, but I’m gonna need to check you over first.  Make sure you’re not carryin’ a weapon or lock-pick or nothin’.”

“Wes, you know me better than that!”

Wes Manning lowered his eyes to the floor.  He did know Hannibal Heyes better than that.  Jed Curry too.  Both men had been contributing members of the Sheridan community ever since their arrival a decade earlier.  Other than a couple of complaints from sore losers who claimed Heyes had cheated them at cards, Sheriff Manning had never had a lick of trouble with either of the two former outlaws.  In fact, each man had supported him in his most recent bid for sheriff.  He counted the two as friends.  And Wes knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jed Curry was no murderer.

“Sorry, Heyes.  It ain’t that I don’t trust ya.  It’s the rules.”  Wes tipped his head toward the Bannerman Detective who sat watching, weapon at the ready.

Heyes let out a sigh of resignation and lifted his arms while Sheriff Manning patted his vest and pant legs.  When asked to remove his boots, Heyes rolled his eyes before complying.  Finally, he was ushered into Curry’s cell.

“You alright?”

“Been better.”  Curry sat quietly on the cot, head in hands.  “You find out what this is all about?”

“According to the Bannerman Agency, you’ve backslid.”

“Backslid?  What are you talkin’ about?”

“They tell me Kid Curry is running with a real wild bunch these days.  Robbed a train down in Wilcox Station a couple weeks ago.  Posse followed.”  There was a long pause as two sets of eyes met.  “A sheriff was shot and killed.”

Jed swore under his breath.  “That’s more’n 250 miles from here!  I haven’t even been down Wilcox way for months!”  Turning toward the sheriff, Jed continued, “Wes, you know I been right here in Sheridan.”

Sheriff Manning nodded, but the Bannerman on guard looked toward Curry’s cell and raised his voice to be heard across the room.  “Deny all you want, it won’t make a difference.  A Bannerman identified the shooter as Kid Curry.”  He rolled a cigarette between his fingers, then ran his tongue along the edge, sealing it.  “You really think your word is going to hold up against a Bannerman’s?”

With a sudden idea, Jed pulled his eyes away from the detective and spoke in an excited whisper to Heyes and Wes.  “If a Bannerman saw the man who killed that sheriff, then all we gotta do is get him to come here and take a look at me, right?  He’ll know I ain’t the one who…”

Heyes was already shaking his head, diminishing his partner’s optimism.

“How come?” Jed snapped, in frustration.

“The Bannerman was shot too.”

Curry’s eyes closed.  “Dead?”

Heyes nodded.  “Right after he identified you as the killer.”

Curry’s shoulders sagged for a moment, but when he lifted his head, there was an angry fire blazing in the blue eyes.  “So you’re tellin’ me some fella murders two people usin’ my name and I’m gonna hang for it?!”

“No!” Heyes’ raised his voice, then with a glance toward the Bannerman, lowered it again.  “No, Jed.  I got you a lawyer.  His name’s Griffin.  We’re going to get you out of here!”

Jed shook his head.  “Heyes,” he pleaded, “don’t do anything stupid.  You got a wife and three kids to think about.  I don’t want you gettin’ yourself mixed up in something that’s gonna get you killed.”

“Give me a little credit, would you?  I’m not going after this bunch of outlaws, guns blaring.  I’m going to do this smart.  Me and Mr. Griffin, we’re going to prove that whoever robbed that train, whoever shot that sheriff and that Bannerman, it wasn’t THIS Kid Curry!”

“How?”

The question hung in the air while Heyes, Curry and Wes Manning exchanged nervous glances.

“Soon as I figure that out, Partner, you’ll be the first to know.”

***

“What about bail?”  Heyes paced in front of the attorney’s desk.

Ben Griffin leaned back in his chair and cocked his head to one side.  “Two men are dead.  A  sheriff and a Bannerman Detective.”  He pressed his fingertips together, thoughtfully.  “How many years did you and your partner successfully elude capture in the past, Mr. Heyes?”

Heyes sighed heavily.  “You’re right,” he conceded, “no judge is going to set bail for Jed.  Not with our history of outrunning the law.  But we can’t just leave him locked up like that!  He needs…He needs…”

Heyes’ own fears ran rampant at the thought of Curry’s imprisonment.  The claustrophobia that accompanied even the idea of being caged, trapped…Iron bars slammed shut, ringing in his ears.  The image of a noose flashed before his eyes.  Heyes tugged at his collar, fighting the feeling of suffocation.  With much effort, Heyes returned his focus to the here and now, the task at hand.

“Jed needs to be out here, with us, proving his innocence!”

“That cell is exactly where Jed Curry will stay, Mr. Heyes!”  Griffin stood, resting both hands on his desk as he leaned toward the former outlaw.

Although Ben Griffin was nearing seventy, almost fatherly in his bearing, the authority and force with which he now spoke commanded Heyes’ attention and took him by surprise.  For a moment, Heyes questioned the sincerity of the lawyer who had taken on the defense of his partner, but only for a moment.  When the man continued, Heyes’ trust was renewed.

“You’ve seen the eyes of those Bannermen.  It’s vengeance they’re after, Mr. Heyes!  Their associate was murdered!  And they believe Jed Curry to be the killer.  Do you really think they would allow your friend to survive twenty-four hours, if he were released?”

Heyes listened quietly, knowing the older man was correct.

“They would find an excuse, any excuse to gun him down!  You want your partner alive?  Then, he stays in that cell until we can prove he’s innocent!”

A nod of agreement was Heyes’ response.  “So what do you suggest we do?”

“We?  ***We*** do nothing.  ***I*** am going to Wilcox to talk to some of the passengers who were robbed and members of the posse.”

Heyes opened his mouth to speak, but Griffin cut him off.

“And I don’t want you anywhere near the witnesses I will be interviewing.  Is that clear?  Do you really believe they would give reliable testimony for or against Kid Curry with his partner Hannibal Heyes looking on?  ***You*** will stay here, Mr. Heyes.  Take care of your family.  Take care of your partner.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Pair-o-dice

“Sheriff Manning’s gonna make him stay there?” Sam Heyes asked, eyes wide with fear.  “How long, Pa?”

“Until Mr. Griffin can prove it wasn’t your Uncle Jed who did the shooting.”

“How long you think that’ll take?” Lillian pressed, her determination to ferret out the truth displaying itself, even at the tender age of nine.

Heyes and Christina exchanged a worried glance before he answered, “I don’t know, Lily.  I just don’t know.”

***

Late that night, after two of the three Heyes children had been tucked into their own beds.  Christina and Heyes lay together in silence, Rosalyn between them.  Christina propped her head on one hand, while the other patted the back of the near-slumbering baby.  Heyes stared at the ceiling.

“I don’t know which of you this is hardest for,” she ventured.

“What do you mean?” Heyes snapped.  “Jed’s the one sitting in a jail cell.  Not me!”

“Exactly.”

He turned dark, questioning eyes to her.

“You wish you could trade places with him and I understand, Hannibal, I really do.  You feel helpless here, wondering if you can figure a way to get him out of there, before Jed does something…Something you won’t be able to fix.  Something desperate.”

Heyes returned his eyes to the safety of the ceiling.  It was startling, he thought, the fact that she could read him so well.  She understood him, sometimes better than he understood himself.  Only one other person came close to knowing him as well as Christina did, and that person was stuck in a jail cell, depending on HIM for survival.

“Proving Jed innocent will be a piece of cake for Hannibal Heyes,” she smiled.

“Can you convince him of that?” Heyes responded, still avoiding her eyes, “And me?”

“Jed and I already have complete faith in you!”  She placed a finger on his chin, turning his face to reclaim his full attention, “You just need to have a little faith in yourself is all.”

Her kiss convinced him of her confidence.

Baby Rosalyn squeaked in agreement.

Sheridan

Five days, three hours and twenty-two minutes.

“Let’s go, Curry.  You know the routine.”

Jed stood and moved to the back of the cell, waiting while the Bannerman turned the key in the lock, metal scraping against metal.  As he was ushered past Sheriff Manning’s desk, the clock gave a loud click, marking the passage of another moment of his life.

Five days, three hours and twenty-three minutes.

Waiting was the worst and Jed wasn’t good at it.  If it weren’t for these thirty minutes of blessed freedom each day, arranged by the lawyer Heyes had hired, he would surely have lost his mind by now.  He stepped onto the back porch, inhaling deeply.

For thirty minutes each day, the Bannerman Detective stood guard while Jed Curry stretched his legs outdoors, breathing fresh Wyoming air with the sun shining on his back.

And for thirty minutes each day, Curry tried to forget he was once again an outlaw – an outlaw with the threat of prison hanging over his head…Or a hangman’s noose, unless Heyes and that lawyer could prove he was innocent.

Innocent.  The word itself seemed to mock him.  Each night, alone in the dark cell, he woke in a cold sweat with the resounding cry inside his head, ***”Guilty!”***

In the harsh light of day, Curry knew the truth.  He was guilty.  Maybe not of the particular crimes of which he stood accused, but guilty none-the-less.

He walked the path behind the sheriff’s office toward a stand of pines, doing a mental inventory of his life.  Close as he could recall, the Good Book contained about ten of those rules for living.  He tested his memory.

There was one about cussing and another about lying.  Two marks against him.  He remembered something about honoring his father and mother.  If they’d lived, his Pa and Ma would have been anything but honored by most of the things he’d done.  He scored himself a third black mark.

Adultery.  Finding willing women had never been difficult.  And though Jed had never been married, he was pretty sure the Almighty wouldn’t take that into account.  Another mark.

Coveting and stealing.  For sure one led to the other.  Mark both counts.  Hadn’t he been able to get any of these right?

***”Thou shalt not kill.”***  That one he had memorized.  Shadows of lives that had been snuffed out at his hand passed before him.  Most of them were killers themselves, not that the Good Lord offered any hope of redemption based on WHO a man killed. But one, her face stayed with him.  Always.  Madelyn never killed anybody.  Still, she was dead.  Dead.  And he was responsible.  ***Guilty!***

“Time’s up,” the Bannerman called.

When the cell door swung shut, Jed grasped the bars, glancing toward the Bannerman.

Cold eyes pinned him where he stood, convicting him.  ***Thief!  Killer!***

Curry felt like a rabbit, caught in a snare, waiting for some hungry coyote to pounce and devour him.  And Ben Griffin, even if he was as good a lawyer as Heyes claimed him to be, wouldn’t be able to get him out of this one.

Guilty.  What difference could it possibly make if he took one more sinner with him on the way down?

***

“Mrs. Heyes!  Oh, Mrs. Heyes!”

Christina handed baby Rosalyn to the arms of her waiting sister who already sat in the wagon with Sam.  “Good afternoon, Mr. Simon.  Something I can do for you?”

“Just thought your husband might want to have this, Ma’am.  It’s my last edition of The Tidings.”

“That’s right!  With everything that’s gone on recently, I’d forgotten Hannibal would be assuming your role at the paper.”

“I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten.  Delayed a little in getting started maybe, but not forgotten.  Anyway, I thought he might like to keep this one.  A souvenir, from one editor to another.”

“I’m sure he will, Mr. Simon.  Thank you!”

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Heyes.  By the way, the picture of him and Mr. Curry turned out real nice.”

Christina glanced at the paper, the smiling faces of her husband and Jed greeting her.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, startling the newspaperman who still stood near her.

“Something wrong, Mrs. Heyes?”  Mr. Simon reached for Christina’s arm, steadying her.

“Mr. Simon, the date!  Are you certain the date on this caption below the picture of Hannibal and Jed is correct?”

“Of course I’m sure, Mrs. Heyes,” he nodded.  “It was the day of the poker tournament over at Miz Delilah’s.  June 2nd.”

***

“…And how many witnesses were on the train?”

Ben Griffin had set foot back in Sheridan not twenty minutes earlier and already, Hannibal Heyes was in his office, leafing through an organized set of notes, taken over the previous days while the lawyer had been in Wilcox.

“Twenty-two,” the attorney answered Heyes’ question, “but only seven who actually live in Wilcox.  The rest were travelers, just passing through.”

“So including the posse, you interviewed nineteen people?”

“Correct,” Griffin nodded, “and they all describe Kid Curry the same – Black hair, dark eyes, five foot seven.”

“So what are we waiting for?  Let’s go see the judge.”

The older man rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“Jed’s as good as free, right Ben?”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“What do you mean, maybe not?”  Heyes’ eyes darkened and he leaned closer, his frustration evident.

“The Bannerman who died said it was Kid Curry who did the shooting.  He didn’t give a description.”  He paused, wishing he had better news to share, at the same time, knowing Heyes deserved to hear the truth.  “Frightened witness of train robberies often make mistakes in identification.  Trained detectives seldom do.  Therefore, the judge MAY be inclined to accept the Bannerman’s identification of Kid Curry as that of the formerly wanted Jed Curry –  Blond hair, blue eyes, five foot eleven – It is still his official description according to the Bannerman Agency.  I’ve checked.  I’m sorry, Mr. Heyes.”

A folder was tossed back onto the desk.  “So you’ve spent a week talking to witnesses whose testimonies don’t amount to…”

“I’ve spent a week confirming facts.”

“And you’ve come up with nothing!”

“I’ve come up with enough evidence to tell us we need more.”

“Like what?”

“Like some kind of alibi!  Some kind of hard evidence placing Jed Curry far from Wilcox Station on June 2nd, the night that train was robbed and those men were shot!”

“HANNIBAL!”  Christina burst into Mr. Griffin’s office, blushing with excitement.

The picture in the paper she held spoke as clearly as the words below it.

***”Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry – June 2, 1899″***

Pair-o-dice

His right hand moved methodically back and forth, rubbing the white cloth slowly across the steel of the gun’s barrel.  The repetitious act stilled his anxious mind.  The smell of gun oil calmed him.  For the first time since his arrest, Jed Curry could think clearly.

Four hours ago, he had been stuck in that cell, trapped, and lamenting every wrong choice he’d ever made.  Guilty.  Strange, how the self-proclaimed verdict still clung to him.
But a visit from Heyes, informing him of the strong possibility of his release, had ignited hope.  Later, Mr. Griffin had arrived, bringing the news that all charges against him were being dropped.  He had closed his eyes in anticipation, leaning his head against the bars, awaiting his release. When the judge finally arrived, opening the door, Jed stepped from the cell, inhaling deeply and breathing out a long, slow sigh of relief.  Innocent!  Jed Curry was free…For the moment.  Until this ‘Kid Curry’ committed his next robbery, his next murder.

Now, sitting in the quiet of his own cabin, here on his own ranch, Pair-o-dice, Jed’s past and present seemed to collide.  His future lay in destruction at the hand of a stranger.  A stranger, bearing his name.  ***”I’m not gonna be needin’ that anymore, Heyes.”***  He had spoken the words with confidence the day Jed Curry had walked away from his gunman past, leaving his Colt lying on the main street of Sheridan.  A naive confidence, he now realized.  Even ten years later, he still couldn’t walk away.  A man could never walk away, not from who he was, what he was.

Finding the door of Jed’s cabin open a few inches, Heyes pushed it further, entering without a knock.  Seeing the Colt and his partner’s deep concentration, he closed his eyes and shook his head, choking out a question, “What are you doing?”  He turned to close the door behind him.

“Leave it!”  A tremor edged Curry’s voice, undetectable to anyone.  Anyone except Hannibal Heyes.

Jed’s initial panic at the thought of being closed in was quickly covered as a curtain drew behind his eyes, concealing any remnant of fear.  “Stuffy in here,” he mumbled, dismissing a look of concern from his life-long partner.  “Place has been closed up all week.”  He resumed his cleaning of the weapon in front of him.

“Haven’t seen you do that for a long time.”

“Nope.”

“You want to tell me why you’re doing it now?”

Jed shrugged.  “Needed it.”

“The gun needed cleaning?  Or you needed the distraction?”

Curry remained silent.

“Jed?”  There was a long pause before Heyes continued.  “You’re not planning to use it.”  His words had been intended as a statement of faith.  Faith that his partner would never return to that life.  Instead, they had come out as a desperate plea.

Jed didn’t bother to lie.  But considering the magnitude of the sin he was about to commit, would one more lie really have mattered?

“Just go home, Heyes.”

Heyes reached toward Jed’s shoulder, wishing he had never returned to the street that day to retrieve his partner’s discarded weapon.  “Talk to me, Kid!”

Jed pushed the hand from his shoulder and swung around, until his piercing eyes were inches from Heyes’.  “That’s right, Heyes!  ***Kid!***  It’s who I always been!  Who I always will be!  ***Kid Curry!***”

“That was a slip of the tongue, Jed!  A simple mistake.  You’re not that man anymore.”

Curry was yelling, pointing a finger of accusation at his own chest.  “***I*** made the mistake, Heyes!  Thinkin’ amnesty could change what I am!”  He was still breathing heavily, but when he sat down, the sudden burst of anger appeared to subside.  “You done good.  Real good.  Got yourself a family.  Made a clean start.  You got a new life.”

“You’ve done good too, Jed.  ***We’ve***done good!  You and me.  Partners.  Remember?”

Curry shook his head and when their eyes met again, Heyes saw only sadness.

“Two men are dead, Heyes.”

“And you didn’t kill them!”

“No!  I got lucky this time!  An’ that’s what it was, Heyes, pure luck, that picture of us bein’ taken that night, gettin’ put in the paper like it did.  Ya think I’ll be that lucky next time?  The next time this fella who’s usin’ my name decides he’s gonna rob again?  Kill again?  And we both know he will Heyes, unless I stop him!”

“No, Jed.  Let the Bannermen deal with him.  He’s their problem!”

“People are gonna think it’s ME doin’ the robbin’ and the killin’, Heyes!  That MAKES this my problem!”

Jed Curry was like a train, careening without brakes, down the side of a mountain, his ultimate crash, imminent.

Heyes felt powerless to stop him, but made one final attempt.  “You’re no bounty hunter, Jed.  It’d be murder.  Plain and simple.”

“Go home, Heyes.  Your wife and children need ya.”

Curry’s eyes were now dark and unreadable.

A Trail – West of Sheridan

The click of a Colt stopped the two riders in their tracks.

“Just me, Jed,” Heyes called to the unseen man he knew stood behind the trunk of a tree.

“Told ya to go home, Heyes.”  Jed Curry stepped into the waning light of day.  “What’s he doin’ here?” he asked, tipping his head toward the Bannerman who rode next to Heyes.

“Brought him along to help.”

“Help what?  Help get me killed?” Curry holstered his weapon, refusing to meet the eyes of the man who had stood guard outside his cell for nearly a week.  The eyes that had convicted him of murder, without a trial.

“Help keep you alive and out of prison.”

Curry laughed, a disgusted laugh.  “Get him outta here.”

“Mr. Curry, if I may,” the Bannerman interrupted.  “I admit we got off to a poor start.  My name is Bailey.  Mel Bailey.  I believed you to be responsible for the death of a colleague of mine.  A man who was also my friend.”  Mel stopped, shaking his head, “No, Bob was more than a friend, much more.  He was more like a brother.  We grew up together, he and I.  Joined the agency together.  Never spent more than a day apart since we were ten years old.”  Mel swallowed down the lump in his throat.  “Bob and I watched out for each other, if you know what I mean.”

Curry looked at the ground, knowing the type of bond to which Mel Bailey referred, yet doubting two men could feel it to the degree he had experienced it with Hannibal Heyes.

“I let my partner down, Mr. Curry.  And I was wrong in blaming you for his death.  You didn’t kill him.  I know that now and I apologize.  But I need to find the man who did, the same man who is using your name, and bring him to justice.  You and I have common ground, Mr. Curry.”

It was the words ‘need’ and ‘justice’ that caught Jed’s attention, or maybe it was the way Bailey said them.  If he had let Heyes down, if a gunman had killed HIS partner, the need to exact justice would have become a driving passion.

“Mr. Heyes has offered me the opportunity to accompany both of you to a place no lawman has ever gone,” Bailey gulped before continuing, “…And survived.  Devil’s Hole.  That is where you are headed, correct?”

Jed exchanged a look with Heyes, confirming nothing with the Bannerman.  Instead, he mounted his horse and wordlessly rode into the falling darkness.

If Bailey wanted to share his common ground looking for justice, so be it.  But the kind of justice Mel Bailey sought and the kind Jed Curry had in mind…Here, Curry feared, their common ground could become a landslide.

***

“You shouldn’t’a brung him here, Heyes,” Curry admonished, when the two of them finally sat alone near the fire.  “Shouldn’t be here yourself, neither.”

“What kind of partner would I be if I let you ride back to the Hole without me?”

“The smart kind,” Curry quipped.

“True.  But Christina never would have let me hear the end of it.  She kinda likes having you around, Jed.  She’s said as much.  Several times in fact, though I’m not sure how I ought to feel about that,” Heyes winked.  “And the kids are pretty attached to you too.”  Heyes shook his head while he continued, “Nope.  Couldn’t let their Uncle Jed do something stupid as this without at least being there to watch his back, now could I?”

Curry shook his head with a chuckle of resignation.  “Guess not.”

“So what’s your plan?”

“Not sure,” Jed shrugged.  “Don’t know I’ll even make it into the Hole alive.”

“Uh-huh,” Heyes acknowledged.  “But assuming you do, what then?”

The blue eyes leveled at his partner and his brow wrinkled.

This time Heyes shrugged.  “I was just asking is all, Jed.”

“An’ I can tell by the WAY you’re askin’, you already got a plan!”

“Maybe,” Heyes smiled.

Curry returned the smile.  “So are ya gonna leave me guessin’, or are you gonna fill me in?”

***

Hannibal Heyes pulled his horse to a stop alongside Mel Bailey.  “Sorry, Mel, but you’re going to have to wear this from here on in.”  He proceeded to remove his bandanna and placed it securely over the Bannerman’s eyes.  “It’s for your own good.”

“Can’t have a lawman knowing the path to Devil’s Hole,” Mel acknowledged.

“Right,” Heyes agreed.

Heyes took the reins of Bailey’s horse while Curry led the way.  After riding for more than an hour, they came to a stop.

“Cover your ears,” Jed ordered.

Mel obeyed.

Signal shots were fired from Curry’s weapon.  Then, there was only silence while they waited.

“What are we waiting for?” Bailey wondered, while Heyes helped him remove the blindfold.

“The welcome committee.”  Heyes pointed, just as four riders appeared over the top of a rise.  “Ready?”

The trio raised their hands into the air and were quickly relieved of their weapons.

“State yer business,” one of the outlaws barked, baring tobacco stained teeth before he spat in the dirt.

“My name’s Joshua Smith,” Heyes began, “and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones…”

The partner formerly known as Jones rolled his eyes at the resurrection of the all too common aliases.

The names must have struck some note of humor amongst the outlaw gang because the guffaw that followed was probably heard nearly as far as Curry’s signal shots had been.

“Smith?!” a scar-faced outlaw laughed, “How many’a them we got at the Hole now, three, four?”

“Lost count,” snorted another, “But me an my brother here, we was the only Joneses, ’til this’un showed up,” he nodded toward Jed.  “An’ he don’t look like no relation neither, do he Joe?”

“He don’t, Beau.  Too purdy to be one’a our kin.”

An icy glare from Curry caused the eyes of both Joe and Beau Jones to shift nervously away from Jed to Mel Bailey.  “How ’bout you, mister?  You be a Smith or a Jones?”

“Uh…Neither,” Mel cautiously began.  “Name’s Bailey.”

“Bailey.  ‘Nother nice common name,” Joe remarked.

“OK, Smith, Jones and Bailey, ya wanted into the Hole, it’s into the Hole yer goin’.”  Outlaw number one spat again and indicated the direction by waving Heyes’ Schofield.

The Jones brothers took the lead, followed by Heyes, Curry and the Bannerman.  Scar Face and Tobacco Teeth, loaded down with the extra weaponry, brought up the rear.

They had ridden for nearly another hour, twisting and turning so many times Mel was beginning to grow dizzy, when they finally came upon the clearing.

Devil’s Hole.  The leaders’ cabin, the bunkhouse, the barn, the corral.  Not much had changed.  A few new boards in the fence, a few new shingles on the roof, but mostly the place looked the same.  Run down, but the same.

A rush of nostalgia made Heyes lightheaded for a moment, filling his senses like a shot of cheap whiskey, the kind that makes your throat burn and eyes water, but warms you to the core.  How many plans had been perfected, while he and Jed sat together on that very porch?  This had been home once, long ago.  Some other lifetime.  Now, home was Christina and the children.  And Jed.  Always Jed.

Curry scanned the familiar setting without sentiment.  His eyes, cold and calculating, searched for one subject.  Black hair, dark eyes, five foot seven.

“Who we got here, boys?”  A lanky man with dancing blue eyes, appearing to be in his early thirties, sauntered out of the cabin.

“Got us another Smith an’ another Jones…No relation,” Beau pointed to each one.  “An’ this one here calls hisself Bailey.”  Beau playfully slapped a hand on Mel’s shoulder, causing the nervous lawman to jump.  “Ya want we should put up their horses whilst you and them have a talk, Butch?”

Ignoring Beau’s question, Butch Cassidy moved closer to Heyes, holding his eyes.  “We’ve met, haven’t we, Mr. Smith?”

“That’s right,” Heyes confirmed, causing Curry a moment’s pause.  “About twelve years ago.  A horse race.  The Gentlemen’s Jockey Club.”

A glimmer lit Butch Cassidy’s eyes.  “Hannibal Heyes!”

Another man, also blue-eyed, stepped from the cabin onto the porch and crossed both arms in front of himself before leaning on a porch rail to oversee the parley.

Noticing that the three visitors’ eyes had turned from him toward the leaders’ cabin, Butch looked over his shoulder.  “Gentlemen, my partner,” he gestured toward the quiet, menacing one.  “You might know him as the Sundance Kid.”

“And Butch, this is my partner…” Heyes began.

“The name’s Curry, Mr. Cassidy,” the Kid cut in.

The four outlaws who had been sticking close to them since their arrival at the entrance to Devil’s Hole backed off a few steps.

“But you might know me as Kid Curry.  Hear ya got one’a them at the Hole already too.”

A smile spread across Butch’s face.  “Well, I’ll be!  The real Kid Curry,” Cassidy remarked, as Jed dismounted, followed by Heyes and Mel.  “Didn’t think I’d ever meet you!”  Butch extended his hand.  “C’mon over here, Sundance!  I want you to meet Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  This here is our lucky day!”

Curry eyed the outstretched hand for several moments before grasping the hand of Butch Cassidy and then, of the Sundance Kid.

“Two kinds of luck, Butch,” Sundance reminded his partner, still wary of the unwelcome visitors.

Heyes followed Curry’s lead and Mel Bailey found himself participating in the greeting even though he himself had been, for the most part, ignored during the introductions.

“Beau, see to their horses, would you?  Take real good care of ’em too.  Like you would mine or Sundance’s.  Understand?  Gentlemen,” Butch invited, opening the front door of their former home and waving them inside.  “C’mon in, where we can sit down on something that doesn’t move.”

Curry’s sweeping glance of the surrounding area did not go unnoticed by Sundance.  He tipped his head to Curry, signaling that he should enter the cabin, then, Sundance too went inside, closing the door behind him.

“Coffee?” Butch asked, as all five men took a seat at the long kitchen table, etched with markings from years of abuse.

Without waiting for an answer, a dark-haired young woman placed five cups on the table and filled them.  “I’ll be outside if you need anything.”  Her hand brushed the shoulder of Sundance before she left, through a kitchen door.

“Women at the Hole.  How come you never thought of that, Kid?” Heyes remarked.

“An improvement wouldn’t you say?” Butch laughed.

“Maybe.  Maybe not.  What other changes have you two made?”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Heyes?”

“Only that you and Sundance seem to like following the Kid’s and my lead, the way you do things here at the Hole, copying my little trick with the nitro and the Bryant pump, even your repeat of the horse race scam, like we pulled at the Jockey Club.”

There was a long pause while Heyes and Cassidy studied each other’s eyes.

“Read about them in all the newspapers,” Heyes answered Cassidy’s unasked question.

Butch sat back in his chair with just hint of irritation tainting his words, “They were good plans, Heyes.  You ought to feel flattered.  Isn’t that what they say about imitation, it’s the highest form of flattery?”

“That may be true,” Heyes conceded with a nod, “But the way you and Sundance went about ’em, it was more like stealing.”

Heyes’ eyes held a challenge, but a challenge to what, Butch didn’t understand.  Instead, his loud laugh broke the tension hanging thick in the air.  “That’s what all of us do, isn’t it?  Steal!  The fact that we’re GOOD at it is what sets the four of us apart from the rest.”

“Somethin’ else settin’ us apart, Butch.”  All eyes turned to Curry, who had been listening quietly to this point, studying the two infamous outlaws who had seemingly filled the boots he and Heyes had discarded.

“What’s that?” Cassidy tipped his head in curiosity.

“Killin’.  Me and Heyes never stood for no killin’.”  Jed’s eyes were cold and hard on Butch, but he could feel the eyes of Sundance, just as cold and hard, as the bored a hole through him.

“That’s not fair!” Butch stood up, nearly tipping his chair.  “Sundance and I never condoned killing from the men!  That was the doing of ONE man and he’s not with us anymore!  Sent him packing the minute that sheriff died!”

“A Bannerman died too, Mr. Cassidy.”  This was Mel Bailey, who had called on every ounce of courage he could muster in order to formulate the few words.

“Mr….Bailey, was it?”

Mel nodded his response.

“Just who are you anyway, Mr. Bailey?  Don’t recall hearing your name before.”  Butch sat back down.

Heart racing, Mel Bailey laid his cards on the table.  “I’m a Bannerman Detective, Mr. Cassidy.  The Bannerman who died, he was my partner.”

In an instant, Sundance was standing, pulling his weapon from its holster.

Even more quickly, Curry’s hand gripped his wrist.  “Don’t!  It’s not what you’re thinkin’, Sundance!  Just hear us out.  You don’t like what him an’ Heyes are about to say, We’ll leave.  Ride back outta here, same as we come in.”

A silent conversation appeared to be taking place between the two men standing.

“You got our word, Sundance.  Mine and Heyes’.”

Seeming to accept Curry’s terms, the Sundance Kid re-holstered his gun and again sat.

Exchanging a look with his partner, Butch resumed the conversation.  “Say what you got to say, Mr. Bailey.  We’re listening.”

Instead, Heyes took charge.  “The Kid and I took another path a while back.  And seeing as how you two have emulated us in the past, we thought perhaps now would be a good time for you to follow our lead again.”  A long pause of anticipation followed.  “Amnesty!”  The word dripped from his silver tongue like honey from a bee’s hive.

“Ha!” Sundance scoffed.  “Amnesty for who?”

“Both of you.  Mr. Bailey has been authorized by the Governor of Wyoming to offer you both amnesty.”

Sitting back and shaking his head skeptically, Sundance asked, “Just like that?  Me and Butch.  The governor’s gonna clear our slates?”

“It’s not quite that simple, but yes.”  Heyes sat back, ready for more questions from the Sundance Kid.

“Why would the governor offer us amnesty?” Butch attempted to reclaimed Heyes’ attention.

“And why would me and Butch want it anyway!?” Sundance cut in.

Heyes addressed this question first.  “The heat’s gotta be blistering the both of you ever since that robbery at Wilcox Station, right?”

One set of blue eyes held Heyes’, the other dropped, reluctantly acknowledging the truth.

“It’s going to be pretty hard to pull off any more jobs in the near future, close as the authorities are sure to be watching you two,” Heyes continued.

“But that still doesn’t answer my question,” Butch reminded.  “Why would the governor want to offer us amnesty?”

“Two reasons,” Heyes explained.  “First, he wants the Hole and your gang shut down.  Doesn’t like the idea that Wyoming is getting a reputation for the easy harboring of wanted criminals.  And second,” Heyes waited, knowing the how difficult his next request might be, “he wants you to give up the man using the name, ‘Kid Curry’.”

“We can’t give him up to you, Heyes.  I already told you, he’s gone.”

“It’s his full physical description we’re looking for, Mr. Cassidy,” Bailey took over.  “His REAL name.  People he associates with, other than you two of course.  Women.  Places he might hide.  Anything you could give us that would help us locate him so…”

“So you can kill him?” Sundance interrupted.

“No, Mr…Sundance,” Bailey nervously cleared his throat, “so we can bring him to justice for his killings of a sheriff and a Bannerman.”

Sundance remained quiet, holding Curry’s gaze, unable to read the former gunman’s eyes.

“What else would we have to do?” Butch asked, getting back to the governor’s deal.

“You’d need to become law-abiding citizens, leading clean and honest lives,” Mel finished.

At this point, all five men noted the return of the dark-haired woman as she pulled a sixth chair to the table, sitting next to Sundance with a hand on his arm.  A meaningful look was exchanged between the two.

“Let me make sure we understand each other correctly,” Cassidy rose, pacing as he recounted the terms of the deal.  “We leave the Hole, disband the bunch, lead clean lives and tell you everything we know about Kid Curry, I mean, the one who was riding with us, and me and Sundance will be free men?”

“After a year or so, yes,” Bailey answered.

“A year or so?  And in the meantime, they’ll still be wanted?” the woman joined the discussion.

“That’s true, Miss…”

“Place.  Etta Place.”

“We’re going to need to discuss this between the three of us,” Butch said, rising to signal an end to the meeting.  “We can put the three of you up for the night.  We’ll have an answer for you by morning.”

A small nod from Sundance signified his agreement.

***

“Either of you two got something to say on the subject, now would be a good time to speak up.”  Butch Cassidy paced back and forth, carving a deeper groove in the well worn floorboards.

Sundance and Etta Place sat alone at the table, a life-changing decision weighing heavily on each of them.

“If it’s my opinion you’re looking for, I think you’d be fools to pass up a chance like this!”  Etta pushed back from her chair, speaking in earnest.  “Amnesty!  No more posses.  No more bounty hunters following your every move.”  She tried to meet the eyes of Sundance, but noticed how they seemed glued to the tabletop.  Instead, she locked eyes with Butch.  “Freedom!  But the governor’s offer isn’t going to stand forever.  You want a chance at a real life?  I say take it!  Now, before it’s gone.”

“We’d have to turn Harvey in to get it, Etta.  It’s him they want, more than us.  He’s the one using Curry’s name.  He’s the one killed that sheriff and the Bannerman.”  Butch resumed his pacing.

“What’s Harvey Logan ever done, except bring the two of you more trouble than he’s worth?”  Etta flung her arms in the air in exasperation.  “You owe him nothing!  Either of you.  The man’s a killer.  Brutal!  And I can’t believe you’d really let him stand in the way of you and amnesty.”

“I gotta agree with you there, Etta.  We owe Harvey nothing. And amnesty…” Butch shook his head in disbelief and turned to his partner, “There’s one offer that took me by surprise.  Tempting, eh, Sundance?”

“Who says we’re even lookin’ for amnesty?”  The Sundance Kid didn’t stand, but his eyes held Etta’s.

She said nothing, but turned away, frustrated.

“I mean it, Etta.”  He stood and moved toward her, turning her to face him again.  “A couple hours ago, before this amnesty offer,” he tenderly brushed her cheek.  “Never heard you voicin’ no complaints.”

“But I never thought…Never even dreamed…Amnesty, Sundance!  It’s too good to be…”

“If it sounds too good to be true, it prob’ly ain’t true, Etta!” Sundance practically yelled.  “Ya wanna know what I think?  I don’t trust ’em!  Especially Curry.  The man’s got blood in his eye.  And don’t even get me started on why we shouldn’t trust a Bannerman!”

With a glance toward Cassidy, Etta could read the choice he wanted to make.  Amnesty.  Strange that she and Butch were so often in agreement, while she and the man she loved were so often at odds.  But it was a choice Butch would never act upon, not unless he and his partner could come to a decision, together.

Etta grabbed her shawl from a peg near the door.  She looked back toward Sundance, who wouldn’t meet her eyes, then, exchanged a long look with Cassidy, a silent plea to ‘make him see sense’.  Pulling her shawl more tightly around her shoulders, she stated, “I’m going for a walk.”

***

The night was quiet, in a familiar way that had once been music to both men’s ears.  The snoring of contented gang members floated from the bunkhouse and the song of night creatures rang from the thick wooded area surrounding Devil’s Hole.

Mel Bailey had bedded down in the barn’s loft, where Heyes and Curry would join him shortly.  The two former leaders of Devil’s Hole stood leaning on the corral fence, each silent with his own thoughts, until Curry spoke.

“Heyes, how come you never told me you knew Butch Cassidy?”

Heyes gave a soft chuckle.  “Because I wasn’t sure I DID know him, or that he knew me for that matter.”

Curry waited for the continuation of Heyes’ explanation.

“Remember that horse race scam at the Gentlemen’s Jockey Club?”

“‘Course I remember, Heyes.  If you hadn’t been able to pull that one off, I’d still be in prison, finishin’ out the back half of a twenty year sentence.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly pull it off alone, ya know.  There were a number of good people Soapy pulled into that plan.”

“Cassidy?”

“Cassidy.  He was young and green as could be, using a different name back then, but he was good.  Didn’t know he had caught on that I was really Hannibal Heyes though.  And I knew him only as Parker.”

“So that’s why you used our old aliases at the entrance to the Hole?”

“Yep.  Figured if Parker and Cassidy were one in the same, he might remember Joshua Smith from the Jockey Club.  Not to mention, since you and I made friends with the law, the names Curry and Heyes might not have generated too warm a welcome.”

“You ever get sick’a bein’ right?”

Heyes smiled, “Never!  And I never get sick of hearing my partner tell me either!”

“OK, Heyes,” Curry rolled his eyes, ” you were right…Again.”  He patted the soft nose of his horse before it trotted off to meet its partner.  Turning his attention back to the leaders’ cabin, Jed wondered out loud, “You think they’re gonna take the governor up on his deal?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.  No telling what’s going through their minds.”

Just then, Etta Place stepped off the porch, striding determinedly toward a path leading north.

“She don’t look too happy,” Heyes remarked.

“She don’t.  Prob’ly knows what’s goin’ on inside though.”

“Probably.  One of us ought to try and talk to her.  See if we can find out anything important.  Maybe get her on our side.”

“You’re right again, Heyes.  Go ahead,” Jed nodded in the direction Etta had walked.

“Me?  I was thinking you should do it.”

“You’re the one with the silver tongue.”

“But I’m married.”

“I’m not suggestin’ you do more’n talk to her, Heyes.”

“You think for one minute Christina is going to take kindly to me strolling through the night, alone, with a young woman pretty as Etta Place?”

“How’s she gonna know?”

“You don’t know her like I do, Jed,” Heyes shook his head.  “The woman’s got ways!  Trust me, she’d know!”

“You s’pose Sundance is gonna take any more kindly to ME strolling through the night, alone, with a pretty young woman he considers HIS?”

It was quiet while Curry leaned both elbows back on the fence and Heyes dug into his vest pocket.  The sound of a coin flipping off the end of Heyes’ thumb broke the silence.

Curry closed his eyes in resignation.  “I was wrong, Heyes.  Havin’ a Bannerman Detective along on this trip ain’t gonna get me killed.  But havin’ YOU here is.”  He set off down the path to the north, after Etta Place.

***

“Nice night.”

Etta startled at the voice behind her.  She had been so deep in thought, she hadn’t heard Curry’s footsteps on the path behind her.  “What are you doing here?”  She jumped up from the log where she had been sitting and turned toward him, with a shiver.

“No need to be scared of me, Ma’am.  Saw you head down the north path.  Figured you might be comin’ here.  This is where I used to come when I needed some thinkin’ time.”

“I forgot this used to be your home.”

Curry nodded but said nothing.  Now that he had a real home, Devil’s Hole paled by comparison.

She sat back down on the log.

“May I?”

Etta nodded and Curry sat.

The high bluff marking the northern boundary of the outlaw hideout overlooked a valley.  Above, a million stars sparkled, appearing close enough to touch.  Below, the scene was peaceful.  Barren, but in its own way beautiful, with the moonlight shining off the rippling water.  Here, halfway between heaven and the earth, it seemed almost possible to forget they were really in Devil’s Hole, a place devoid of any decent human element.

“Mind if ask you somethin’, Ma’am?”

“Could I stop you, Mr. Curry?”

He grinned and lifted his eyebrow to her, waiting for permission to continue.

She let out a sigh.  “Sure.  Go ahead.  What do you want to know?”

“How’d a nice young lady like you get herself involved with a couple’a outlaws like Butch and Sundance?”

Etta rubbed at her temples.  How indeed.  It was a question she’d asked herself on more than one occasion.  Her life had been in a downward spiral since the day she ran away from home.  No, to be honest, the spiral had begun long before she left her mother’s house.

“I’m not that nice, Mr. Curry,” she contradicted, “and not that young.”

“You seem smart.  Too smart to be makin’ a place like this your home.”  Jed waited.

“‘Smart’ doesn’t get a woman far.”

“You’re sellin’ yourself short if you believe that.”

Etta hung her head.  “I used to think I was smart.  Maybe even a little nice.  But young?  I haven’t felt young since,” she paused, trying to remember, then, met his eyes.  “I’ve never been young.”

Something in the way she looked at him communicated more than mere words and though she hadn’t told him much of anything, Jed felt he understood.  Like Heyes and Curry, Etta Place had been forced to grow up too fast, without a family that cared, without a home, with no real dream to call her own.

“How’d you meet him?”

“Sundance?  He and Butch came into the…A place I was working back in Texas.”

The downward shift of her eyes and the flush of her cheeks told Jed more than he needed to know about Etta’s former occupation.

“They were different.  Sundance was different.  And then, before I knew it, I found myself here.”  Etta stopped, retracing each step of the past year of her life, each step that had brought her closer to this place, this moment.  Seeming to have found an answer to a question Curry had not yet asked, she confided, “I love him.”

“I can see that.  But does he feel the same about you?”

“Of course he does!” she answered, too quickly.

“If you say so, Ma’am.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked, defensively.

Jed stood and turned to leave, but Etta grabbed his arm.  “Explain yourself!  You can’t just make a comment like that and then walk away.”

“Alright,” he answered, turning toward her again and taking note of the fire in her eyes, evidence of the raw nerve he had struck.  “When a man cares about a woman, the way you seem to think Sundance cares about you, he don’t ask her to make Devil’s Hole her home!”

At first Etta’s voice seemed to fail her, though she wanted to defend the man she loved against the accusation.  She stammered, then began, “But Sundance…”

“…Is wanted.  I know,” Curry picked up her argument.  “I was wanted once too.  So was Heyes.  And neither one of us EVER would have asked a woman we cared about to give up her chance at a real life to stay here,” he waved his arm, taking in their desolate surroundings, almost spitting the next words from his mouth, “keepin’ the house, cookin’ the meals… Warmin’ the bed.”

Etta raised her hand and for a moment, Jed thought she was going to slap him.  Instead, she simply gave a halting gesture.  “Enough, Mr. Curry!”  She turned her back to him then, nausea churning her insides.  Jed Curry’s insinuation was clear.  She was cheap labor.  Cheaper entertainment.  Surely she meant more to Sundance than that!

“I’m sorry, Etta, but you deserve more.  You deserve a real life, a real home, with a man who loves you.”

“I already have a life.  I love Sundance.  My home is with him.”

“You love him enough to watch him die?  ‘Cause if he don’t take this chance at amnesty…” he shook his head, letting let the words hang.

Etta Place was smart enough to finish the thought on her own.

***

“You talked to her?”

A slight tip of Curry’s head signified he had.

Heyes had been sitting back, shuffling a deck of cards as he waited quietly, but none too patiently, against the outer wall of the barn.  Had it been just the two of them occupying the barn for the night, Heyes would have waited in the loft.  But having no desire to wake the sleeping detective, Heyes chose to meet his partner outside.

“And?”

“Etta wants Sundance to take the amnesty deal, I know that much.”

“But he don’t want to?”

“I don’t think so.  If she an’ him were in agreement on that, she wouldn’t’a looked near so upset, don’t ya think?”

Heyes nodded.  “What about Butch?”

“Didn’t get a feel for what Butch might be thinkin’ from Etta, but I was watchin’ him inside when you and Mel were pitchin’ the governor’s offer.  Got the feelin’ he’s in favor of takin’ it.”

“I got that same feeling, Jed.  So it’s just Sundance we need to focus on.  You were able to convince Etta it’s best for all of them if they take this deal, right?”

Curry walked into the barn, first checking Heyes’ horse, then lingering over his own.  “I told her she deserved better.  Told her this was no life for her.”

“You set her straight.  It was the right thing to do.”

“Was it?  Truth is, any life’s gotta be better than the one she left behind.”

Heyes waited while Curry continued rubbing his horse, working the stress from his own muscles as well as the animal’s.  “So you’re saying you don’t think she’s going to help us?”

“No, I think she will, Heyes.  I think Etta’s gonna go in there and tell Sundance he either takes the amnesty deal or she’s gone.”

“That’s good.  That’s what we were hoping she would do.  Force Sundance’s hand.  Make him take the deal.”

“Maybe.  Or maybe he cuts her loose.  Sends her back to her old life.”

“That’s her problem, Jed, not ours.  Let the woman deal with that one on her own.”

Curry’s eyes dropped briefly before his hands resumed the rubbing of his horse.

“Something else bothering you?”

“Etta Place ain’t a woman, Heyes.  Prob’ly ain’t even twenty yet!  She’s just a kid.  A lost, mixed up kid.  And some’a the things I said to her must’a hit pretty hard.”

Heyes waited.

“I made a lotta bad choices in my life, Heyes.  Sittin’ in that jail cell thinkin’ taught me that much.”  Jed walked away a few paces, sitting on a bale of hay.  “Who am I to give Etta Place advice?  Or Butch and Sundance?  Who am I to tell them what to do, when I got enough trouble figurin’ that for myself?”

“You’re having second thoughts about killing the man using your name.”  Heyes’ statement hit home and he took a seat next to his partner.

“Been thinkin’ a lot about my folks.  What they’d think’a me, if they knew everything I done.  I don’t think they’d like me much, Heyes.  Don’t think they’d like me at all.”

“You’re judging yourself too hard, Jed.  You’ve changed.  You made mistakes, sure, so did I.  But you fixed that.  Righted what was wrong.  I think I knew both your folks well enough to say they’d be proud.”

“I don’t know, Heyes.  I see his eyes sometimes.  My Pa’s.  They look real sad.  Disappointed.  Can’t think of anything I done that’d make him proud.”

“So something like, say, being a great uncle to three of the best kids west of the Mississippi wouldn’t count?  Or running a successful ranch?  Walking away from a gunman reputation, not to mention getting shot in the process?  Nope, don’t suppose your Pa would have been proud of any of that.  Not you working all those years to get amnesty either.”

“Okay, Heyes.  You made your point.  But what about them?” he motioned toward the leaders’ cabin.

“You know as well as I do amnesty is their only hope.”

Jed nodded.  “I guess you’re right.”

“Again,” Heyes mumbled, lightening some of the load Curry seemed to be carrying.  “C’mon let’s get some sleep.”  He placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder, steering him toward the loft.

Curry stopped suddenly, meeting his partner’s eyes.  “What about the man usin’ my name, Heyes?  I can’t let him go on killin’.  I gotta stop him.”

Heyes met his partner’s gaze with a confident smile.  “You gotta ***kill*** him?  Or you gotta stop him?”

“You’ve known all along I wouldn’t kill him, haven’t you, Heyes?”

Heyes shrugged.  “Figured making choices your folks would be proud of was starting to become a habit with you.”

***

It was quiet when Etta stepped back inside the cabin, hanging her shawl on the peg and meeting Cassidy’s eyes.

Butch silently communicated that his mission had been unsuccessful.  His partner was more stubborn than a mule and twice as ornery.  He nodded toward Etta, indicating it was her turn to try then, shut the door of his room, giving them some privacy.

“Your turn to work on wearin’ me down?”  Sundance sat at the table, running shaky hands through his blond hair, looking worried, tired and just plain irritable.

Etta sat next to him and without a word, touched his cheek, turning his face toward hers.  “I love you.  Do you believe that?”

He nodded, not taking his eyes from hers.

“I need to ask you something and I need you to tell me the truth, agreed?”

Again, Sundance only nodded.

“Do you love me?”

Sundance dropped his head, looking away from her.  “Etta, you know I’m not good at flowery talk.”

“I need to know.”

He rose, beginning to pace.  “So this is the part where you tell me if I love you then I’m gonna do what you and Butch want?”

“This is the part where you get to answer my question.  What do I mean to you, Sundance?  Do you love me, or am I just convenient?”

“That’s gotta be the stupidest question I ever heard.  You gotta know how I feel about you.”  He stopped next to her, laying a hand on her face.  “You mean a lot, Etta!  I don’t just like having you around, I NEED you around.  I care about you a whole lot.  If that’s what it means to love somebody then yeah, I guess I do…You know…”

“You love me?”

A shrug and a nod served as his answer.

Etta smiled, wiping at a tear that slipped from the corner of one eye.  She stood and kissed his cheek.  “That’s good enough for me.”  She moved toward their shared room in the leaders’ cabin.

Sundance called after her.  “Where you goin’?  We got a decision to make.  Butch is leaving this amnesty thing up to us, you know.”

She turned to him and smiled again.  “I know.  And whatever you decide, I’m with you, all the way.”

“No ultimatums?”

“No ultimatums.  I love you, Sundance.  I have nothing else to say.”

***

With the first rays of morning sun painting the eastern sky, the Sundance Kid shut the door behind him and stepped from the porch.  He strode directly toward the three visitors who saddled their horses, preparing for their departure from Devil’s Hole.

“We need to talk, Curry.”

Jed turned and faced the young outlaw, so much like the man he had once been.

“Suppose me and Butch take this deal and offer up the man usin’ your name.  You got plans to turn him in, or you just gonna kill him outright?”

“You bound by some kind of honor code, Sundance?” Heyes asked.

“No disrespect, Heyes, but I’m askin’ your partner.  It’s his answer I’m lookin’ for.”  He fixed his eyes on Curry, not letting up.  “Well?”

Curry moved away from Heyes and Mel Bailey.

Sundance followed.  He and Curry stood together at the corral fence.

Jed was quiet for some time, studying the ground before he and Sundance locked eyes.  “You’re a perceptive man, Sundance.  It’s true, I come here lookin’ to kill the man usin’ my name.  But bein’ here,” Jed looked around the place he had once called home, “bein’ here reminds me how far I’ve come, how hard I worked to change who and what I am.”  He shook his head, emphasizing his next words.  “I like the life I’m livin’ now.  I don’t wanna go back.  You tell us everything about this guy, you got my word.  I won’t kill him, long as he don’t try an’ kill one of us.  We’ll find him, turn him in, let the law deal with him.”

Sundance looked away, seeming to accept the answer he’d been given.

Heyes, sensing a break in the private discussion, moved closer.  “Does this mean you’re going to accept the governor’s offer?”

The outlaw studied both Heyes and Curry, then, gave a single nod before casting his eyes to the ground, still wary.

“You’re doing the right thing, Sundance,” Heyes assured him.  “Mind if I ask what changed your mind?”

“It was Etta,” Sundance answered.

“She threatened to leave?” Jed asked, thinking he knew.

“No,” he shook his head.  “Said she’d stay with me no matter what.  If she’d threatened to leave, I’d have told her to pack her bags.  No one gonna force my hand.  But promisin’ to stay got me to thinkin’.  Etta Place is somethin’ pretty special, somebody I might wanna hang onto, ya know?  Maybe we got a shot at some kinda life.”

“Pretty special alright,” Curry acknowledged, recognizing the wisdom Etta Place had displayed in the playing of her hand.

“Just not sure I’m cut out for honest livin’,” Sundance confided.

This was met with quiet laughter on the part of each former outlaw.  “Now that’s something we both understand!” Heyes confided, taking in himself and his partner with a gesturing finger.

“Ya know, somebody once told me an’ Heyes we were better men than we thought we were.  Got a feelin’ that might apply to you and Butch too.”

***

Heyes, Curry and Mel Bailey said their goodbyes to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Both outlaws stood on the front porch of the leaders’ cabin, each tipping his hat in an appreciative gesture.  Etta Place joined the two, waving as the visitors to Devil’s Hole rode away.

“Heyes and Curry are proof, fellas,” Etta remarked.  “If the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west can pull off an amnesty with the Governor of Wyoming…” she stopped short when she felt two sets of cold blue eyes glaring at her from either side.  She stuttered, “I mean they WERE the most successful outlaws in the history of the west..Until you two came along!”

Butch Cassidy simply rolled his eyes and laughed.

The Sundance Kid held his glare with the woman he loved a moment longer.  “You wanna go with ’em, Etta?”

“You know I don’t!”  Concern was written on her face, but only for a moment.

The Sundance Kid broke into a lopsided grin.  “Let’s go pack.  We got alotta ground to cover before nightfall.”

Laughing, each with one arm around the other, they went inside and prepared to leave Devil’s Hole, for the last time.

Trail – Just Outside Devil’s Hole

From high on a hill just outside the compound, Devil’s Hole seemed so peaceful.  Heyes and Curry reined their horses to a stop, looking back on a portion of their lives that would never be revisited.

“Take a good look, Heyes.  Don’t think we’ll be seein’ the Hole again.”

Far below men moved, strapping saddlebags into place, preparing for a final departure from the place they also had called home.

Heyes paused long, lost in thought.  “I’m gonna miss it, Jed,” he admitted.  “Is that so wrong?”

“Wrong?  No, I don’t see it as wrong, Heyes, long as you remember, the best part of Devil’s Hole ain’t there anymore anyways.”

“Which part is that?” he turned his attention back to his partner.

“You and me, Heyes.  Us.  We’re the best thing ever to climb outta that Hole,” Curry confided, smiling.

***

“What are you reading?” Heyes asked, when they had stopped for the night.  A log had been pulled close to the fire and Heyes leaned back on it, next to Mel Bailey.

“The notes from Butch and Sundance about Harvey Logan.”

Harvey Logan.  Cattle rustler, train robber, bank robber.  Ruthless killer.  Now that the man had a name, a real name, not just some alias stolen from another man, Mel Bailey felt the pain of his partner’s death as fresh as if Logan had shot him all over again.

Jed Curry on the other hand, felt relief.  The identification of Harvey Logan as the killer, served as his redemption.  Logan’s description, along with a listing of his many aliases, would be on record with the Bannerman Agency as well as with every lawman around the country.  The world would now know, for sure, that Jed Curry and Harvey Logan’s version of ‘Kid Curry’ were NOT the same man.

“I’d think you got that list memorized by now, much as you’ve been studyin’ it,” Curry said, joining the other two men.

“I need to remember everything about Harvey Logan,” Bailey answered.  “So when we find him…” Bailey let his thought trail off.

“Mel,” Curry placed a hand on the detective’s arm, “I know Logan killed your partner and I’m sorry about that.  Truly am.”  Jed paused out of respect for the departed Bannerman Detective.  “But I promised Sundance we would take Logan in alive.  That’s a promise I intend on keepin’.  You’re not plannin’ to make a liar outta me, are ya?”

“Can’t say I haven’t thought about it,” Mel replied, after long, silent thought.  “But no, I won’t kill him.  Not outright.  But should he try to kill one of us, or somebody else, I won’t hesitate.”  Bailey’s eyes held determination.

“Can’t argue with that, can ya Jed?” Heyes asked, signifying his acceptance of Bailey’s terms.

“Nope, can’t argue with that,” Curry smiled, thankful for the assurance that he and the detective did indeed now share common ground.  ‘Sides, feels mighty secure, havin’ a lawman of Mel’s caliber pledge to watch my back.”

“So where you figure Logan will be headed, Mel?”  Heyes settled back against the log again, ready for discussion.

“Butch and Sundance have done a fine job of outlining several of Logan’s favorite haunts, but it would take a team of Bannerman Detectives the better part of a year to check them all out.  Some are in Utah, New Mexico, Montana, South Dakota.  But this one stands out.”  Bailey held the paper out and both men leaned in for a better look.  “Looks like some kind of boarding house or brothel in Texas.  Madame Fannie Porter’s.  There’s a notation here on the side from Etta Place.  See?” Mel pointed.  “Della Moore.  Gentlemen, I have a hunch.  We find Della Moore, we find Harvey Logan.”

San Antonio, Texas

It was a Saturday night when the train pulled into the station.  Heyes, Curry and Mel Bailey stepped off the platform.  The streets were crowded.  Men and women strolled arm in arm on the boardwalk.  Loud music floated from behind the doors of the many saloons which lined the town’s main street, along with the raucous laughter of newly-paid cowboys.

“I’m gonna let Christina know we arrived in Texas alright,” Heyes said, more to Curry than to Mel Bailey, since Mel seemed preoccupied at the moment.  “She may have already sent a telegram here, since I told her this is where we were headed.  Why don’t you two check us into a hotel?  We can get something to eat and then start looking for the address on that paper Butch and Sundance gave us,” Heyes suggested.

Curry agreed, but Mel Bailey’s eyes simply scanned the streets, already searching, seeking out the man – black hair, dark eyes, five foot seven.  Harvey Logan, alias, ‘Kid Curry’.

“Mel!” Heyes roused the detective, “We’ll find him, but we haven’t had a decent meal in days.”

“Right,” Bailey reluctantly agreed, following one of the two former outlaws, men he now considered friends, toward the hotel and a hot meal.

“Dining room’s closed for the night,” the desk clerk informed Jed and Mel, as each man signed the hotel’s register.  “But you can probably still find the cafe open.  It’s up the street, next block going north.”

“You know a place called Madame Fannie Porter’s?” Mel asked, chaffing at the delay of his mission.

“If it’s that kind of entertainment you gentlemen are looking for, you’re staying in the wrong hotel.”

“Mr. Bailey didn’t say we were looking for entertainment, just an address.  Do you know the place, or not?”  Curry’s intimidating glare caused the desk clerk to swallow hard.

“Yes, sir.  Sorry, sir.”  The stammering clerk gave them directions as well as a word of warning about going into that particular part of town unarmed.

As they strode toward the cafe the desk clerk had suggested, Heyes saw them and caught up.

“Everything alright with the family, Heyes?”

“They’re good, Jed.  Real good.  The ranch, the house, the kids…”  Curry noted that his partner’s eyes seemed misty.  “Christina’s got everything under control.”

“Some kinda special woman you married, Heyes.”  Curry’s hand rested on his partner’s shoulder as they walked.

“She’s something special, that’s for sure, Jed,” Heyes agreed.  “Something mighty special.”

***

Madame Fannie Porter’s was a dimly lit establishment on the seedy side of San Antonio.  The three men stepped out of a carriage they had hired to taxi them there.  While Mel paid the driver, Heyes and Curry began their once-familiar routine, taking note of entrances and exits, both doors and windows, looking for anything that might appear out of the ordinary.

Mel Bailey’s detective eyes were not far behind them with his inspection of the building’s exterior.  “Now?” he checked, declaring his evaluation of the premises complete.

Both Curry and Heyes nodded.

“Remember our plan, Mel.  We don’t know if Logan’s in there right now or not.  That’s your job.  Finding out.”

“Me and Heyes will be at each one of those stairways comin’ up the outside walls.  One to the north and one to the south.  Balcony runs clear ’round the backside of the buildin’, for quick getaways, I expect.  We’ll be able to see anyone comin’ in or out any of the doors from there as well.”

“And if he’s in there?”

“Mel, if Logan’s in her room, ya really think Della’s gonna let you in too?” Curry questioned, one eyebrow raised.

“Right,” Mel agreed.  “And if she’s alone…”

“Then you’re gonna go to her room and give us the signal,” Heyes confirmed.

“Light in the window, got it.  But what if…”

“What if what, Mel?”  Being the mastermind of a Hannibal Heyes plan was sometimes tedious work.

“What if somebody else is in there?  Somebody else but Logan?”

“Then you wait,” Heyes answered, growing impatient.  “If it’s anybody else but Logan, he’ll be coming out soon enough.”

***

Not fifteen minutes later, a light became visible from a room, at the north corner of the building.  Before a woman’s hand pulled down the shade, Heyes was able to get a glimpse of Mel Bailey inside, nervously tugging at his collar, sitting on a settee with a drink in his hand.

“I’ll be right back, Sugar,” Della said, entering a room that adjoined her own.

Mel flew to the window, releasing the latch and peeking through the shade just enough to see Heyes.  He gave a nod.  Quietly, Mel hurried back to the settee, sitting down just before Della made her reappearance.

“Sorry ’bout that, Sugar,” she ran her fingers through her long brown hair which now fell free about her shoulders.  “Hope you don’t mind I let my hair down.  Can’t stand those pins holdin’ it up all night long.”

“Don’t mind a’tall, Ma’am.”  Mel swallowed hard and nearly dropped his drink when Della moved closer.

“You gonna tell me your name, or shall I go on callin’ you Sugar?”

“No, Ma’am.”  Mel stood up abruptly.  “I mean, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean any disrespect, Ma’am, but…I gotta go!” he finished, breathless and flushed, moving awkwardly toward the door.

“But you just got here.”

“I know, but I… just…I gotta go!”  Mel exited Della’s room without closing the door behind him.

Della moved to the door, giggling to herself as she pushed it shut and latched it.  As she turned around, her breath caught in a gasp at seeing a stranger standing in her room, Colt held in one hand while he closed the window with the other.

“Evenin’, Ma’am.”  The stranger tipped his hat, moving closer.

“Entrance is downstairs, at the front.  Gotta see Fannie first.”

The stranger sat down, sniffing the contents of Mel Bailey’s abandoned drink before he sipped it, weapon still held in his right hand.

“I don’t know you, mister.  What do you want?”

“Somethin’ I want alright, Ma’am, but it ain’t what you’re thinkin’.  Might as well sit down.  We may be here a while.”

“What are you talkin’ about?”  Della sat down on a chair on the opposite the man.

“We’re gonna wait for someone to show up, you and me.  And when he does, we’re gonna have us a little talk.”

“Who?” Della asked, her hand unconsciously moving to her throat, fearing she already knew the answer.

“Friend of yours.  Harvey Logan.”

“Don’t know no Logan,” she lied.

“Maybe the name Curry might ring a bell with you, Ma’am?  Kid Curry?”

“Okay, I know who you’re talkin’ about.  Might’a met him a time or two, but he ain’t here.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know!  Haven’t seen him for…”

“Logan’s coming in the front door now, Curry,” Mel’s voice called from just outside the window.

“Thanks, Mel!” Jed called, watching the color drain from Della Moore’s face.

Mel Bailey lifted the window and stepped through, joining Curry and Della in the room.

“You’re Kid Curry?  The real one?”

Jed nodded once, confirming Della’s fear.  “You’re gonna do what I say, right, Ma’am?”  He moved closer, feeling her cower with every step he took.  “You’re gonna let Logan in here, not doin’ nothin’ to tip him off that I’m waitin’ for him?”  He stood so close, he almost could feel her heart pounding.  “‘Cause if ya do…”

“You gonna kill me?” Della asked, trying to keep her voice from shaking.

“No Ma’am.  I’m not gonna kill you,” but Curry’s eyes held hers with a threat that was unmistakable.  “You like Logan?  Want him alive to see another sunrise?”

Della closed her eyes and nodded, sweat running down her neck.

“Then do what I say!  Don’t make us hafta kill him!”

Della nodded again.

Harvey Logan’s knock came at Della’s door.

“Alright now, real slow, move on over to that door and let him in.”

Mel moved into place behind the door, just out of sight.

Jed stood to the side, so he wouldn’t be seen until after Logan was already inside.

Another knock.

Della opened the door and Harvey Logan stepped inside.  “What took ya so long gettin’ to the door, Darlin’?  Thought for a minute you had some other…”

“Evenin’, Logan.”  Jed stepped to the center of the room, weapon already trained on the wanted man.

Harvey moved for his gun, but before he could reach it, he heard the click of another weapon.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Logan!” Mel’s voice warned from behind.

“What’s all this about?”  His eyes sought Della’s, fear of betrayal written clearly on his face.

“That one says he’s Kid Curry,” Della informed him.  “Said he’d kill you if I let on he was in here!  I’m sorry, Harvey, I never would’a…”

“It’s alright, Della.”  Logan raised his hands into the air and moved one step away from her.  “You’re Kid Curry?”

“That’s right.  And you committin’ murder usin’ my name don’t sit right with me.  Come to straighten things out.”

“By killin’ me?”

“No,” Mel answered for them both.  “We’re taking you in.  Harvey Logan, you are under arrest.”

“You can’t arrest me!”

“I can’t, but HE can,” Jed answered.  “He’s a Bannerman Detective.”  Curry moved closer, reaching toward Logan’s holster, with the intention of relieving the outlaw of his weapon.

Just then Della flew at Jed, hitting him with her full weight and sending both of them sprawling onto the floor.  Curry’s weapon sailed from his hand, skidding to a stop under the bed.

At the exact same moment, Harvey Logan swung around, making contact with Bailey’s arm, causing the lawman’s weapon to fall to the floor as well.

A struggle ensued between Della and Jed.  She wrestled him on the floor, kicking and scratching, with no real hope of winning, but in a desperate attempt to give Harvey enough time to subdue his larger opponent.  Logan struggled with Mel Bailey in an attempt to overpower him.  Finally, with his own weapon securely in hand, Logan succeeded.

Through the uproar, no one had noticed another man enter through the window.

Seeing a third man, now present in the room, Logan pulled Bailey in front of him.  He dug his gun deep into Mel’s side and threatened, “Put it down!  I swear I’ll kill this one!” Logan tightened his grip with his elbow around Bailey’s neck, using him as a shield.

“I can’t do that, Logan,” Heyes replied.  “Let him go, there’s no way out of here.”

Meanwhile, Jed, with his arms full of the screaming, squirming, Della Moore, had no chance to retrieve his own weapon.  It was all he could do just keeping the wild woman away from Heyes.

The ruckus attracted the attention of several men, who came running, pounding at Della’s door in an attempt to open it.

Logan, distracted by the pounding, turned, and in an instant one shot rang out, sending Logan’s weapon spinning from his hand.  Logan fell to the floor crying out desperately as blood spurted from his arm.

***

One of the men who worked at Madame Fannie Porter’s arrived with the sheriff and a handful of deputies.  Two more of Fannie’s men waited to carry Harvey Logan to the doctor, as soon as first aid had been rendered.

Jed Curry finished tying a tourniquet tightly around Logan’s upper arm.  When he pushed himself up from the floor, he came face to face with the already handcuffed Della Moore.

“Is Harvey gonna die?  I gotta know, ‘fore they take me away.”  Della’s voice was heavy with concern.

It was clear she had deep feeling for the man on the floor, Harvey Logan, though why she felt that way about a killer like Logan was a mystery to him.  “If they can get him to a doctor quick enough and he don’t bleed to death in the meantime, he’ll make it, Della.”

The deputies started to move her away.  “Wait!  Mr. Curry…Thank you!”

“For what?”

“For not lettin’ Harvey die.”  Della’s eyes moved away from Jed Curry’s to Harvey Logan’s, holding them for only a moment before she was taken to a jail cell.

Logan was lifted from the floor, now barely conscious due to heavy blood loss, and taken for medical attention before he, like Della, would call a jail cell home.

Mel Bailey left with the sheriff, to make sure each of the criminals now in custody stayed in custody.  The justice Mel Bailey sought would now be served.

When everyone else was gone and only Heyes and Curry remained in Della’s room, Heyes took note of the blood drying on his partner’s face.  Removing his bandana, Heyes dipped it in a basin of water and touched it to Jed’s face.

Jed winced.  “What are you doin’?”

“Cleaning you up some.  You’re a mess, Jed.  That woman really landed a few good…”

“Heyes!” Curry warned.

“I’m just saying, looks like you could have a pretty good shiner, come tomorrow morning.”

“Heyes!”

“What?!”

Curry’s eyes softened.  “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“You were pretty good with that thing.” Jed looked to the weapon strapped to his partner’s side.  “Aimin’ for Logan’s arm, causin’ him to drop his weapon.  The kinda thing I might’a done.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say you been practicin’.”

“I’m not that good, Jed, and I haven’t been practicing.”  A look was exchanged between the two.  First Heyes, then Curry broke into a wide grin.  Heyes shrugged. “I was aiming for his belly.”

Pair-o-dice

“Home!”

The words were spoken from Curry’s mouth, but from the expression on Heyes’ face, Jed knew his partner silently echoed his sentiment.

Hearing the approach of a wagon, Christina Heyes pushed the screen door open.  “Hannibal!”  With baby Rosalyn still in her arms, Christina ran to the man she loved.

Jumping down from the wagon, Heyes met her half way.  Laughter and kisses tumbled over each other in a happy greeting. The two nearly knocked each other over with their exuberant embrace.

Fast on Christina’s heels came two squealing children, Lillian and Sam, with cries of “Pa!  You’re back!” and, “Welcome home!”

Before Jed had a chance to feel left out of the family reunion, two pairs of child-sized arms latched around his legs.  “Missed you, Uncle Jed!”

Bending low, he took one child in each arm.  “I missed you too.  Both of ya.”  Glancing up toward their mother, Jed smiled.  “The place looks good, Christina.  Real good.”

“He’s right, Christina.  The place looks real good.  But how’d you manage it, alone here with the kids and the baby and all?” Heyes wondered, with a skeptical lift of an eyebrow.

“Well, gentlemen, since you asked,” Christina proudly pulled her shoulders back and primped at her hair, “I used your absence as an opportunity to practice my administrative skills.”

The two partners exchanged a bewildered glance.

“I put into practice sound principles of business management.”

Two shrugs.

“I delegated responsibility.”

“To who?” Heyes finally asked.

“The lawyer you hired, Ben Griffin.  Remember him?”

“Uh-huh,” came the double response.

“Well, it turns out he was a world of help.”

“At ranchin’?” Curry wondered, still skeptical.

“No, not at ranching.  Ben helped me find and interview two wonderful new employees here at Pair-o-dice.”

As if on cue, two cowboys stepped from the barn.

“Hannibal, Jed, I’d like you to meet our new ranch hands, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones.”

The strange expression on both the faces of both Jed and Hannibal caused Christina a moment’s pause.  While their mouths were still gaping she continued,  “And this,” a red-headed girl of about fifteen stepped from the house, “is Constance Manning, Sheriff Manning’s niece.  Constance was visiting her uncle and agreed to stay and help out with the baby and household chores, since I’ve had my hands pretty full here.”

“Ya know, Heyes,” Curry ventured, “havin’ some extra help around the ranch might not be such a bad idea, ‘specially now, with you writin’ the paper.”

“And speaking of the paper, my dear, efficient wife,” Heyes turned to face Christina, “Did you write The Tidings while I was gone too?”  He gave her a teasing smile.

“Of course not!  That privilege, my dear, creative husband, belongs only in your capable hands.”

***

A soft summer breeze wafted gently, carrying the pleasant smell of wildflowers and the joyful laughter of children.  Heyes and Curry sat together on the porch, feet propped up on the rail in front of them.

“Something on your mind, Jed?”

“Just contemplatin’,” he smiled.

“Contemplating?”

“Uh-huh.  Butch and Sundance.  Wonderin’ how they’re doin’ on the road to amnesty.”

The Sunday afternoon was too beautiful, too perfect.  Tomorrow, some other day, Heyes would break the news to Curry about how Butch and Sundance had blown their only chance at amnesty and fled with Etta Place.

“And I’m contemplatin’ women.”

“Any woman in particular?”

“Etta.  She’s a good woman, Heyes, even if she is still a kid.  Ya ever wonder how good women like Etta Place and Della Moore end up with a couple’a outlaws like the Sundance Kid and Harvey Logan?”

Heyes had contemplated something similar, more than once.  How did a good woman like Christina Newman end up with a former outlaw like Hannibal Heyes?  Sitting on the porch of his own home, happy wife and family nearby, he was no closer to an answer than the first time he’d asked himself the question.  He was only grateful.

“Who says they’re good women?”  Heyes asked, turning the question back to his partner.

“I do, I guess.”

“Did you think Della Moore was such a good woman when she was kicking the tar outta…”

Curry interrupted, “But it was WHY she was kickin’ the…” He paused to regroup.  “She was protectin’ Logan, Heyes.  I’m sure you can understand wantin’ to protect somebody you love.”

That much, Heyes could definitely understand.  When he had fired his gun at Logan, there had been no thoughts of hatred, no malice.  Only a desire to protect.  Protect Jed.  Protect Mel.

“How do you suppose Mel is doing?” Heyes wondered out loud.

“We oughtta send him a letter and find out,” Curry suggested.

“Gotta be tough, losing his partner like he did.”  Heyes stopped, looking away.

Curry didn’t meet his partner’s eyes, but responded to the unspoken thought.  “I ain’t goin’ nowhere, Heyes.”  There was a long pause, then, “Thanks.”

“For what happened with Logan?”

“Yeah, I’m thankful we were able to stop Logan, but…Thanks for lettin’ me figure out on my own that I’m no killer.”

“You never were, Jed.”

Jed Curry closed his eyes.  His Colt was cleaned, locked safely away in its hiding place until the next time…Lord willing, there wouldn’t be a next time.

The laughter of Lillian and Sam again reached both men’s ears before they drifted off to sleep.  The laughter of two other children rang from some distant memory.  Hannibal and Jed.  Safe, happy, carefree.

Just as sleep claimed him, Jed Curry saw the eyes of his father.  Smiling.  Proud.

 

Butch, Sundance, and Etta

Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, and Paul Newman

(Sundance, Etta Place, and Butch Cassidy)

 

Della Moore & Harvey Logan

Della Moore and Harvey Logan

Author’s Historical Notes:

Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Longabaugh, alias Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Butch Cassidy once sought amnesty with Governor of Utah.  It was denied, but the governor suggested Butch attempt to have the railroad drop the criminal complaints against him.  When the railroad representative failed to arrive at the designated meeting place, presumably held up by bad weather, Butch feared some type of ambush and fled.  Another train robbery in Tipton, Wyoming in 1900 ended any hope of amnesty in that state.  Eventually, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fled as far as South America where most believe they were killed.

Etta Place accompanied both Butch and Sundance to South America, but most believe she returned to the United States sometime before their deaths.  Her life and even the name she used after her return remain a mystery.

Della Moore, girlfriend of Harvey Logan, was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee in 1901 for passing money from one of his robberies.  In 1902 she was acquitted and released from prison.  It is believed that she and Harvey Logan never reunited.  Eventually, Della returned to Texas and her life of prostitution.

Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry, along with the Wild Bunch, robbed a train in Wilcox Station, Wyoming in June of 1899.  While in pursuit, a sheriff by the name of Josiah Hazen was shot and killed.  The Pinkerton Detective Agency named Harvey Logan as the shooter.  All the outlaws escaped.  In June of 1904, after another train robbery in Colorado, Harvey Logan was shot and wounded.  Some believe it was the posse’s bullet that killed him.  Others believe that Kid Curry, injured and refusing to be captured, took his own life.

One of Logan’s distinguishing features, according to his wanted poster, was a gunshot scar on his left forearm, between the wrist and elbow.

The Sheridan Collection continues with:  Out of the Storm

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, places and events are used fictitiously.

July 2010

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