ASJ: For Those Who Tame Wild Horses – Book 1

For Those Who Tame Wild Horses

Book One: Whatever House I May Enter

by JDSampson

Summary: Curry is sick. . . the posse is on their tail. . . Heyes is running out of options. Freedom or Curry’s life?

76,000 word novella divided into three books.

For Those That Tame Wild Horses
For those that tame wild horses
Pace ’em not in their hands to make ’em gentle,
But stop their mouth with stubborn bits and spur ’em
Till they obey the manage.
~Henry VIII by Shakespeare

He was distracted by the realization that Kid wasn’t eating his supper. He looked like he was eating, picking up carrots on his fork, cutting the meat into smaller bites. But after a half hour at the table the plate was still full, the food mangled and mushed but very little of it gone. That wasn’t like him. Usually, he plowed through food like it might be his last meal. Of course, with the way their luck had been in the last two months, any meal was likely to be their last meal. It seemed to Heyes that the word “alive” had been removed from their wanted posters since the last two bounty hunters had tried for “dead”. Even the Sheriff at Burnt Oak was disappointed when he found out they couldn’t legally be hanged.

What was this world coming to when people weren’t happy with a simple twenty-year jail sentence. But that was progress, he supposed. Like stronger safes and faster means of communication and trains crisscrossing the West day and night.

All of those thoughts passed through his mind in an instant, overlapping, sparking new ideas, distracting him even more than Curry’s new eating habits. That was why he didn’t notice until he heard the shotgun shell slam into the chamber behind his head. Didn’t notice the wary look on young, Tommy Billings face when he brought in the flyer. Didn’t notice Mr. Billings slip out of the kitchen while his wife slipped another helping of hash browns on to Heyes’ plate. Didn’t notice the newest bad luck cloud enveloping the two of them until it was too late.

“Say,” Heyes said with his best, ‘can’t we all be friends’ tone. “That sounded an awful lot like a shotgun being readied behind my head.”

“That’s cause it was,” said Billings. “You just keep your hands on the table where I can see them.”

Curry looked up then, past Heyes for a moment then met eyes with his partner. The usual blue brilliance of Kid’s eyes was missing along with his appetite. Looking at him now, Heyes wondered how Billings could have gotten the drop on him with Curry facing that way. He wasn’t on his game, that was for sure, and that worried Heyes more than the shotgun.

“Now, sir,” Heyes said evenly. “My friend and I have been working here at your place for more than a week. And in that time, we’ve never so much as spoke an unkind word. So I can’t half figure why you feel the need to hold a gun on us now.”

“Because before now, I thought you were Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith, but now I know you’re really Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

Heyes’ heart skipped a beat. He caught Kid’s eye, saw nothing there. What the hell was wrong with him?

“Well, Mr. Billings. I can see where that might be some cause for concern. If it were true. But it’s not.”

“That so? Show him,” Billings said to his son.

Carefully, fourteen-year-old Tommy approached the table, tossed the flyer into the center then dashed back as if he might get burned.

The paper looked like a mini-wanted poster for the two of them – with one big difference – there were two sketches under their names. Nearly perfect sketches except that Kid’s face was less round than it should be and Heyes’ hair was down to his collar in the back. Other than that, they could have been photographs, they were so good.

“Now what do you say?” asked Billings.

“I say someone drew a right nice picture of the both of us but that still doesn’t mean we’re Heyes and Curry. I could draw a picture of you on a wanted poster for Steely-Eyed Sneed but it don’t make it so.”

“True. Guess we’ll have to go into town and ask the sheriff to help us sort this all out. Stand up. Slow.”

Heyes stood. Curry didn’t move.

“I said, get up!” Billings moved around closer to Curry, aiming the shotgun in his direction.

“I’m working on it,” said Kid, his voice devoid of its usual power. Slowly he pushed up to his feet, took a step then made a sudden grab for the back of his chair. He was only trying to steady himself but Billings saw it as a threat, raised his gun. In the same instant, Billings’ teenaged daughter, Lydia came into the kitchen. She called to her father, distracted him for a second leaving Heyes the chance to knock the man off of his feet.

The blast burst through the kitchen wall, harmless and in the next second Curry had his gun out.

“Stay down,” he ordered Billings as Heyes grabbed the shotgun from the man’s hands.

“Glad to have you back, partner,” Heyes said, as he raked his hair away from his forehead. “I was worried for a second.”

Curry’s return look said, ‘yeah, don’t stop worrying’ and that pushed Heyes a little closer to desperate than was normal for him.

“Mr. Billings. I need you and Tommy to have a seat. Lydia, find something to tie them up.” The girl hesitated but only for a few seconds. She’d been moony-eyed over Heyes since they day they came to work on the ranch, so he didn’t expect her to give him any trouble. More than likely she’d be eager to help.

As Lydia carried out her task, Heyes maneuvered so he was shoulder to shoulder with Curry. “Can you get the horses saddled while I finish up in here?”

Curry nodded then left the house without another word. Heyes couldn’t think about it, couldn’t let himself be distracted any longer. Time to think like the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang or they’d be seeing the world through bars before the day was out. He picked up the flyer from the table and stuffed it in his pocket. Then tested the bonds on Mr. Billings and Tommy. Lydia had done a good job.

“We’ll need food and some water.”

Lydia was on it. She found a bag in the pantry, loaded it with fruit and bread and some jerky. Then she filled two canteens with water from the pitcher on the breakfast table. As she worked, Heyes reached into his pocket and pulled out his money. He counted out twenty-three dollars – half of what he had in total, then set it on the table.

“That and what you owe us for a week’s wages should cover the horses and the food.”

“What’s this? An honest outlaw?” Billings laughed with no trace of humor in his voice.

“We didn’t come to rob you, sir. We came to do honest work and that’s what we did. We mended your fences and tended your stock and we enjoyed spending time with your children here. Real smart, the both of them. And I wish that you’d remember that about us and not this because we’re trying our best to go straight, believe it or not.” Heyes glanced at Lydia, saw that she was done collecting the supplies. “Take those out to Thaddeus,” Heyes said, still amazed at how easily that name came to his lips. Almost automatic now. “Thank you for your hospitality. It was real nice.” Then he holstered his gun and followed Lydia out of the house. He caught up to her in two strides, took the bag of food from her leaving her only the canteens.

“I don’t understand what’s going on. Why did my father pull a gun on you?”

“He thinks we’re a couple of outlaws and he wanted to take us to the sheriff.”

“So? Let him. You can prove your not who he thinks and then you can stay. I don’t want you to go.”

Heyes stopped walking, turned, looked her in the eye. “I can’t prove he’s wrong. That’s why I have to go.”

“Because he’s not wrong,” Lydia said softly.

Heyes didn’t answer. He was already two miles away from here, calculating the best road to take to get clear by the time Billings got loose and made it into town for help. That’s what he was thinking about when he saw The Kid.

Curry was leaned with his forehead pressed to the side of his horse, hands gripping the saddle that he had tossed on but not cinched into place. Heyes dropped the food bag as he ran to his side.

“What’s the matter?”

Curry startled at the sound of his voice, lifted his head. He was pale, eyes unfocused. “Just a belly ache. Something I ate isn’t sitting right.” He leaned forward, hands on his knees and sucked in a huge breath.

“Joshua,” said Lydia. “I’ll finish this one if you put the saddle on the other. It’s too heavy for me to lift.”

Aiding and abetting – people went to jail for that. Of course, if it came down to it, he’d say he forced her and no one would say different. “Make it fast,” he said, then went about saddling his own horse. Heyes worked quickly, securing the tack, tying on their bedrolls and supplies, then slinging saddlebags across the bodies of both horses. He glanced back at Curry a couple of times and didn’t like what he saw.

“Are you all right?”

“Wonderful. What are we going to do with her?”

Heyes looked at Lydia, saw the first hint of fear in her face. That was good. Better she should hate him than do something stupid to try and save them.

“Tie her up, I guess.”

“You could take me with you! I could help you, be a hostage.”

“This isn’t a game, Lydia. Once people find out what we’ve done. Who we are. They’ll be after us shooting real bullets. You have to stay here.” She started to debate the point but Heyes cut her off with a snappish no that brought tears to her eyes. When Curry led her to sit on a bale of hay and began tying her hands, Heyes almost changed his mind. Billings might think twice about sending a posse after them if they had his daughter as a hostage. Then again, it might make him come after them with a vengeance and that was something they didn’t need.

“Let’s get out of here,” Heyes said, as much for himself as for Curry.

Kid walked to his horse, took a breath, then hauled himself up into the saddle. Heyes mounted his horse, then, without a second look at what they were leaving behind, he dug his heels into the animal’s flanks then sent him charging out of the barn – on the run yet again.

* * * *

They went north only because it took them away from Merchantville, away from the starting line of the posse that would be mounting soon. They rode hard for an hour and in that time Heyes noticed that the distance between himself and his partner was growing. Reining in his horse, he made a tight turn then galloped back to join Curry.

“How you doing?”

“Not so good,” Curry admitted. He was crunched down in his saddle, one arm across his stomach, upper body tight like an over inflated rubber balloon. “But I can make it if you want to keep moving.”

He wanted too but it was easy to see that Curry was bluffing. Wishful thinking, maybe. “We can spare a couple of minutes if you want to rest.”

“Yeah, just for a bit.” Curry swung his leg over the horse and dismounted but went no further. Again he dropped his head to the horse’s flank, hands gripping the saddle. “Damn it.”

Heyes dismounted then came around to his partner’s side. “It’ll pass. Just gotta get you lying down.” He took the reins from both horses then slowly led them off the path as Curry made his way into the woods as well. Every step was an effort, but he took them without complaint. As soon as he was out of site of the path he dropped to his knees on the ground.

“I never felt nothing like this before, Heyes. I’ve been stomach sick and this isn’t that. I don’t know what this is.”

“Probably just what you said, ate something that didn’t agree with you.” Heyes pulled Curry’s bedroll loose from his saddle then spread it on the ground. “Lie down for a bit. You want some water?”

Curry shook his head no as he crawled on to the thin blanket.

Heyes took his own bedroll, left it rolled tight then tucked it under Curry’s head as a pillow. “Look, I’m going to ride on with both of our horses, lay down a false trail for a couple of miles then circle back here. Won’t throw them off for long but it might buy us some time. Get them on the road ahead of us then we can backtrack to that cut off that leads into the canyons….” Heyes stopped realizing that he was pretty much talking to himself. “Will you be all right by yourself for an hour or two?”

Curry mumbled yes, but his heart wasn’t in it. He had pulled up tight, arms around his stomach, knees to his chest. Heyes stooped down beside him. “There’s another way. We can wait for that posse to come along then give ourselves up. Chances are they’d take you a doctor – you’d have a clean bed and a roof over your head and -”

“No. I’ll be fine. Just go and I’ll be here ready to ride when you get back.”

* * * * *

Curry was worse by the time Heyes got back. He was curled even tighter where he lay on the ground, his breaths coming in long, scratchy draws and most followed by a low moan. He tried to lift his head when Heyes appeared through the trees but it was a short attempt.

“Been gone a long time. I was getting worried.”

“Leave the worrying to me, okay partner.” Heyes knelt down in the grass then touched the back of his hand to Curry’s cheek. He was warm despite the quickly cooling night air. “You’re kind of feverish. How’s your stomach?”

“Still aching.” Curry shifted, opened his eyes and caught Heyes’ gaze for just a moment. No more than five seconds and still Heyes saw it all – the pain, the fear – it wasn’t like him. Kid was a terrible patient when he was sick but usually he was fussing about the boredom and the inconvenience. Heyes couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard him complain about pain – real pain like when he took that bullet in the shoulder in San Juan. And fear? That was an even rarer occurrence and it scared him.

“It’s getting dark and there’s no sign of that posse. I figure we’ll be safe here until morning. Tell you what.” He clapped The Kid on the shoulder. “I’ll take the first watch.”

Curry made a sound that was close to a laugh. “There you go. I’ll just sleep and you can wake me in four hours for my turn, right?”

Heyes brushed his hand through Curry’s curls, they were soaked with sweat. “Yeah, four hours sleep and you’ll be right as rain.”

Again he tried to laugh but this laugh turned into a deep-throated moan. “Lordy it hurts, Heyes. It hurts so bad. When’s it gonna stop?”

With no words to answer, Heyes crawled around behind Curry, took away the bedroll pillow then pulled him into his lap, curly head in the crook of one arm. Awkwardly, he shook out the bedroll then unfurled it over Kid’s body tucking it in as best he could.

“Don’t think about being sick. Gotta put your mind on something else. Like poker.”

“Like women.”

“Like poker playing women.”

Curry started to laugh but it turned into another moan. “Oh God, Heyes, just shoot me now and get this over with.”

“I never killed nobody, Kid. You know that. Not about to start now.” One handed, Heyes pulled off his bandana from around his neck then used it to wipe Curry’s face and hair. He wished he had a canteen near by but they were still hanging on the saddles and he didn’t want to get up.

Curry shifted again, stretched his legs out, testing a different position to see if it would help. It didn’t. He pulled back up again and started to rock from side to side. “Talk to me.”

“Talk about what?” Heyes gripped Curry’s arm, rubbed it up and down.

“Anything. Just talk. Make the time go by.”

Talk. About anything. Hannibal Heyes who could talk his way out of a tiger’s belly suddenly couldn’t think of a thing to say. “I read this book last week. Shakespeare. It was one of his plays. You’d like it, Kid. It’s called The Taming of the Shrew. It’s about this woman who is so hard to get along with but um…”

Curry gasped, tightened. Heyes tightened his grip as well.

“See, she’s the eldest daughter so she has to be married before the younger girl can marry and …well…she’s so mean no one will have her. Until this man, comes along with a plan to tame her. Kill her with kindness, is what he says.” He rubbed Curry’s arm harder, then kneaded the muscles in his shoulders which were pulled to his ears. “You gotta let go, Kid. Just try to let go.”


“I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere until you’re better.”

“Oh, It’s gotta get better. I can’t keep on this way. So sick…”

“Stop talking. Try to sleep. I’ll tell you the whole Taming of the Shrew story if you just listen and try to sleep.” Again he wiped the bandana over Curry’s face.

So quick. It had come over him so quick. Just yesterday he was chasing cows and digging postholes. He had slept fine, ate breakfast. . . not as much as usual. . . perhaps that had been the start. Heyes tried to think, tried to place what Curry might have eaten that no one else had. Nothing came to mind. They had shared the same food with each other, with the Billings. . . a pang of guilt hit him in the chest. No posse might mean that Mr. Billings hadn’t been able to free himself and go for help. He didn’t want to think about that. Hadn’t wanted to hurt them or frighten them . . . and that made him think about the sketch on the wanted poster. It was so perfect. Who could have drawn it? Who had seen them long enough to make such a sketch. Someone with talent, that was for sure. Damn. The one thing that had saved them through six years of pulling jobs and nearly three years trying for amnesty – and that was that no one had a picture of Curry and Heyes. No one but good old Clementine and she wouldn’t have shared. No. Somewhere they had stayed around too long and someone had drawn their likeness to a T.

“Heyes?” Curry, barely audible. “You’re not talking.”

“Sorry. I was thinking. Bad habit. Taming of the Shrew. Katherine is the daughter of Baptista and Bianca is her sister. . . ” And on he went, into the dark of night.

* * * * *

Heyes felt himself drift off twice during the night and both times he shook himself to keep awake. The first time he had been roused by Curry’s sudden feverish fit. The second time it was the sound of hoof beats – and not just one horse. Several.

The posse.

Heyes twisted around so he could face the road. Couldn’t see it the dark, which meant they couldn’t see him either. All they had to do was be quiet while the passed. He worried some about the horses, but the animals seemed to be asleep themselves. And Curry…well…Heyes pressed his hand over Curry’s mouth just in case but the very act of silencing him, seemed to have the direct opposite effect. Curry tossed his head from side to side, desperate moans rising in his throat.

Heyes slipped down to the ground so he could whisper in Curry’s ear. “Ssssh. You gotta be quiet. Someone’s coming.”

He nodded as if he understood but still he squirmed and struggled as if he couldn’t breath.

The hoof beats grew in intensity, the deep rumbling sound echoing through the night.

Heyes lifted his head, scanned the area where he knew the road to be as the noise reached its full volume. Right in front of them, just yards away. Heyes held his own breath as they passed; his heart pounding so hard it seemed like that noise alone would give them away. But after an eternity the horses moved on, down the road and finally out of range.

Heyes took his hand from Curry’s mouth, allowing both of them a moment to suck in a huge breath. He looked down at his partner and saw an even greater fear than before.

“It’s okay. We’re safe, they’re gone. How you doing?”

“Heyes,” Curry said breathless. “I don’t think this is bad food. Started out like a belly ache but now.” He moved his hand to a spot low on his right hip. “It’s like somebody’s sticking a knife in right here.”

“We need to get you to a doctor. Do you think you can ride?”

“I don’t think so. Heyes,” he reached out, caught the front of his friend’s vest. “I’m scared. Posses and guns and bounty hunters I understand. But I don’t understand this and I’m afraid.” He couldn’t finish. Curry rolled to his right side and pulled up tight as another sharp pain stabbed through his body.

“Okay. I have an idea. Just hang on.” Heyes got to his feet, scanned the area around them but it was much to dark to see beyond a few feet. Taking a chance, he pulled a match from his pocket, struck it against a tree then used it to light his way as he walked around the area. After a few minutes he found what he needed, two branches, nearly ten foot in length, still somewhat fresh so they didn’t break when bent. He took these back over to Curry then got a length of rope from his saddle and a knife from his bag.

Heyes sat down on the ground and began his work. He stripped the branches of their leaves and off-shoot boughs, then tied the rope about half way down the length. He brought the rope across, circled it around the other branch then went back to the first leaving a swag of about a foot between the two poles. He kept on going, increasing the swag with each turn until he had formed a triangle. Moving carefully in the dark, Heyes maneuvered the travois over to the horses, then roped the two unwoven sections of the branches to the saddlehorn on both the left and right sides. With this done, he cleaned up their gear, reloaded the horses then finally returned to Curry.

“Kid, I need you to stand up for just a minute. I built a travois for you so you don’t have to ride.” Heyes got his arm under Curry then levered him up to standing. Moving awkwardly together, they made it to the horses, then Heyes helped lower his friend on to the rope laddering of the travois. Lastly, he picked up the bedroll Curry had been sleeping on then unfurled it over his body. “There you go. Now you can rest while I get us to a doctor. Okay?”

“Heyes? How you gonna find a doctor?”

“It’s all in knowing who to ask.” Heyes gave him a firm clap on the shoulder, then mounted the horse while holding the reins of the other. It wouldn’t be a smooth ride or an easy one, but Heyes had a terrible feeling that Kid was going to need that doctor badly before the night was through.

* * * * *

It really wasn’t such a bad plan, returning to the scene of the crime. They had done that several times during their outlaw career, robbing the same bank two weeks in a row, taking out the same train. No one ever expected you to return. They figured that smart outlaws would be on the run and far away a week after a robbery. And Heyes was known as a smart outlaw, so smart, he knew what the law would be thinking so he did the exact opposite.

Still, he felt funny about returning to the Billings ranch. He liked them. They were nice people, even if they did try to capture him and the Kid. Billings was just doing what he thought was best and Heyes couldn’t say he would have done different if the situation had been reversed. That’s why he was extra careful when he climbed through Lydia’s bedroom window. Careful not to make a single sound until he was leaning over her bed with his hand over her mouth, then he called her name softly and gave her a little shake. It took two tries before she stirred and even then another half minute passed before she was alert enough to understand what was going on. Then she gasped, might have said his name but it was muffled by his leather glove over her mouth.

“I’m going to take my hand away. Promise me you won’t scream.” She nodded. He removed his hand then sat down on the side of the bed.

“Joshua! What are you doing here? There’s men out looking for you. You have to get out of here.”

“I know, but I can’t leave town yet. Remember how Thaddeus wasn’t feeling well? He’s worse. He needs a doctor.”

“Doctor Vincent,” Lydia said, barely able to keep her voice hushed. “He fixed Tommy’s finger when he nearly lost it in the thresher last year. I’m sure he can help.”

“Good. Where does he live?”

“Not to far from here, but you have to be careful. Everyone’s talking about you two. If he tells the sheriff. . . ”

“You let me worry about that. Just tell me how to get to his place then forget you saw me. Can you do that?” She nodded, eyes wide and solemn.

She wouldn’t tell. She would keep it a secret from her father and the sheriff because she enjoyed the attention of a handsome stranger who treated her like a woman and not a child. He’d used his smile in worse ways, Heyes thought, so he didn’t let in a drop of guilt as she explained to him how to get to Dr. Vincent’s house.

* * *

Dawn was less than an hour away when Heyes rode up to the large house with the picket fence and flower garden just off the porch. He tethered both horses, then helped Curry up from the travois. The bumpy ride had pushed him to his limits, leaving him little strength as he got to his feet.

“Last time, buddy,” Heyes said, shouldering most of Curry’s weight. “The doctor will get you fixed up and you then you can rest.”

“Posse?” There was more but that was the only recognizable word in his sentence.

“They’re looking for us on the road out of town, not back here in town. They wouldn’t figure we’d be this stupid.”

Curry made a sound that was close to a laugh.

“Steps here, careful,” Heyes said as he guided his friend up the path and to the porch. When they reached the door he pounded on it a dozen times then waited, realizing that he should have put Curry on his left so he’d have his right free to pull his gun if need be.

The window by the front door began to glow with the light of a lamp. Then the bolt was yanked and the door opened just a little way. There was an older woman on the other side, heavyset, with a chubby face and glasses over her eyes. She peeked out through the half opened door, saw Curry then opened it all the way.

“I guess you’re in need of the doctor. Come on in.” She stepped aside so they could enter. “Take him into that backroom over there.”

Heyes led Curry into what turned out to be an examination room. There was an elevated bed and cabinets full of equipment. The sight of it made him feel better about his decision to come here.

“He’s got terrible pains in his stomach and a fever, too.”

The woman stepped up to the examining table, took Curry’s hand in hers then felt his forehead. “I’m Mrs. Avery, Dr. Vincent’s nurse. He’s out on a call right now but I expect him home soon.”

“He’s not here?” Heyes repeated, so aware of time slipping away.

“Mrs. Danton’s baby was having some trouble earlier this evening. I’m sure he’ll back soon. In the meantime, let’s see what we can do.” She smiled warmly, bent over to look directly into Curry’s eyes. “You have a name, young man?”

“Thaddeus,” Heyes said for him, just in case the fever had clouded his mind. “Thaddeus Jones and I’m Joshua Smith. I was thinking it was just something he ate but. . . ”

“We’ll see,” she said, cutting him off. “Tell me where it hurts.” She laid her hands on his stomach, pressed lightly and watched him for a reaction.

“Started out kinda all over,” Curry said. “Now it’s just on the right there. Real sharp.”

Her fingers moved over his stomach first to the left then to the right. She pressed down over his right hip and when she released the pressure he jerked so hard, Heyes grabbed him for fear he’d fall off the table.

“I’d guess that’s the spot,” said Mrs. Avery.

“Can’t you give him something for the pain? He’s been like this for hours. Can’t hardly rest.”

“Possibly.” She kept on examining, poking and prodding here and there but always careful and gentle. “Have you been throwing up?”

“No ma’am. Might be better if I had. Maybe this’d be over.”

“Maybe. When was the last time you ate?”

“Breakfast,” Heyes replied. “He sat down for supper but didn’t eat anything. Even at breakfast he didn’t eat as much as usual. Generally, he can chow down on a couple of eggs, steak, biscuits and still have room for more.”

Mrs. Avery took her eyes off of her patient, caught Heyes’ gaze. “We’re gonna work this out. I promise. Why don’t you go into the kitchen and put some water on to boil for me. I could also do with a washbasin of fresh water. Take that one over there.” She pointed to a small bowl on a nearby counter. “Fill that up and bring it back if you wouldn’t mind?”

“Not a problem.” Heyes grabbed the bowl then left the room.

Mrs. Avery turned her attention back to her patient. “Must be nice to have a friend like that. I’ll bet he’s been taking good care of you.”

“Yes ma’am, he has.” The pain that came just then took him by surprise. Curry pulled his knees up, tried to turn on his side and finally managed with her strong hands to help.

An hour ago he had thought the pain couldn’t get any worse. He was wrong. It was worse, behind words to even describe. He figured he was dying because that was the one pain he’d never experienced and this had to be what it felt like.

“Try not to hold your breath. Breathe with the pain.”

Breathe. No way. It was better when he didn’t breathe. Better when he held himself tight, knees to his chest. He felt her hand on his back, rubbing, soothing. That helped, too. Just having someone there. The two times Heyes had left him alone this evening had felt like days not hours. And if he was going to die, he surely didn’t want to be alone when it happened.

“Take a deep breath for me. It’ll help. Really.” She pressed on his knee to uncurl him a little. Slowly, carefully, he did what she asked.

“And another, in through your nose, then blow the air out through your mouth, slow and easy.”

Curry did as she asked, the pain began to fade. Never all the way but even a little relief was better than nothing. He closed his eyes and tried to think about breathing. In and out, just like she said – that and the feel of her hand on his back. He heard Heyes return, felt him move closer, his concern radiating off of him like rays from the sun. He didn’t want to let the pain show, didn’t want to upset Heyes anymore than he had but it was so hard. So hard to keep it all inside.

“Can you get him undressed?” Mrs. Avery asked.

“Sure, sure.” Then Heyes was working the buttons on his shirt, pulling off his vest. It would be better without them – cooler, nothing pulling and sticking when he moved.

Moved. He had to unclench his leg so Heyes could pull his jeans off of him. But once they were gone that felt better too.

Better. Maybe he was going to get better and that was the last thought he had before he was overwhelmed by another sharp pain.

* * * * *

Together they managed to get Curry undressed, then Mrs. Avery unfurled a crisp white sheet over his body.

“I’ve got some medicine that might help lessen the pain, but that’s about all I can do until the doctor arrives.” She opened a jar of ointment that smelled like eucalyptus leaves. She smeared the mixture over Curry’s chest so the vapors would rise up and flow into his lungs when he breathed.

“What do you think is wrong with him?” asked Heyes.

Mrs. Avery hesitated just enough so he knew she was about to lie. “I don’t know. That’s really more Doctor Vincent’s area than mine.” She went back to the counter, dipped a cloth into the washbasin then used it to wipe Curry’s sweat soaked face and hair. “Perhaps you should—”

A knock on the door kept her from finishing the thought.

“Busy morning.”

She headed into the foyer but Heyes dashed out ahead of her, getting to the window before she made it to the door. He peered out through the curtains and saw a familiar figure on the porch. Tommy Billings with flyers in hand.

Lady luck obviously had no favor whatsoever for two reformed outlaws – not the least little bit.

“Mrs. Avery. I don’t want to do this but,” he drew his gun and aimed it at her.

She stopped just short of the door; the smile fell off her face. “What’s that for?”

“Tommy Billings is on your porch. He wants to give you something. You take it and you send him away and if you make him suspicious, I’m going to have to do more things that I don’t want to do.”

“I understand.”

Heyes moved closer so he was directly behind the door when she opened it. He listened to not just what she said but how she said it to determine if it was safe to let Tommy leave when they were done.

“My pa said to give you this. They were staying at our ranch and we almost got the drop on them but they got away. Real dangerous criminals.”

“I’ll keep an eye out. And Tommy, have you seen Dr. Vincent?”

Heyes tensed as she strayed from the directions he’d given her.

“Sure, he’s riding with the posse. They went out late last night but they might be back by now. You want me to find him?”

“Yes. Tell him I have an emergency here. A patient he needs to see. It’s very urgent.”

“I’ll tell him. And you look out for those outlaws.”

“I will,” she said then Tommy’s footsteps could be heard, running from the porch and into the yard.

Heyes closed the door for her, then turned to his left so he could watch out the window. Tommy cleared the yard, reached for the reins of his horse then stopped. His gaze went to Heyes’ horse, then Curry’s.

“Damn it!”

They had spent more than a week at the Billings house, plenty of time for Tommy to observe and recognize their horses and their gear, not to mention Curry’s hat, which was hanging from his saddlehorn.

The boy looked back at the house and that was when Heyes saw the penny drop. He knew. Knew they were inside.

Heyes started toward the door but Mrs. Avery stepped into his way. “Don’t hurt the boy, please.”

He grabbed her by the arm, intent on moving her but it was too late. Tommy was already galloping away. Heyes sighed, ran his left hand up through his bangs pushing them off of his forehead. “He recognized our horses. He’s going to bring the sheriff back here, which means we can’t stay.” He paced the length of the foyer, gun waving because it was still clutched in his right hand. “Pack up anything I might need to take care of him. That medicine you just put on him, maybe something to help him sleep and…”

“You can’t be serious.” Mrs. Avery stepped toward him then backed off when the gun waved her way. “Please, listen to me.” She glanced at the flyer. “Mr. Heyes. I assume you are Mr. Heyes.”

It was an automatic instinct to say no, but being Joshua Smith wasn’t going to get him what he wanted, not this time. “Yeah, we’re Heyes and Curry but we’re not the dangerous criminals they’re making us out to be.”

“Then listen to me. You can’t take your friend out of here. Not if you care about what happens to him.”

Heyes groaned, lifted his eyes to the sky. “That’s WHY I have to take him out of here, because I do care. There’s a twenty year prison sentence waiting for both of us in Wyoming.”

“And a possible death sentence right here if you insist on going through with this foolishness.”

That stopped him. Heyes went cold, stone cold, gun still clutched too firmly in his hand. “I knew you were lying to me. You do know what’s wrong with him, don’t you? Tell me!”

Mrs. Avery stepped back as if pushed by the force of his words. “I’m not sure. It’s just my best guess and I wouldn’t even have thought of it except that we had another case about six months ago. It’s really very rare. . .”

Heyes’ patience was waning. Twenty four hours without sleep added to the tension of worrying about Kid and the posse and not able to discuss his feelings for fear of making Kid feel worse. . . “What is wrong with him?”

“It’s called cramp colic and it’s very dangerous if left untreated.”

Heyes tried to wrap his mind around this but couldn’t get there. Colic. That was something babies suffered from and he had certainly never heard about it being dangerous. “I don’t understand. What does that mean? How is that dangerous?”

“Heyes.” The voice was so soft, he almost didn’t hear it but the movement in his peripheral vision caught his eye. Curry clinging to the doorjamb.

“Hey, what are you doing up?” Heyes ran to him, caught him under the arms and led him back to the exam table.

“I heard you shouting. You never shout, except at me, and I wasn’t out here.”

Heyes said nothing as he helped Curry to sit and then lay back down on the raised bed. He should tell him, explain the situation, ask what he wanted to do but he couldn’t, not without all the facts. “Look, I have to talk to Mrs. Avery for another minute, nothing’s wrong. I’m tired is all and I got a little snappy.” He unfurled the sheet over Curry’s body. “You rest, okay.”

Curry’s hand came out from under the sheet, grabbed Heyes’ wrist before he could go. “You never lied to me before…at least, I don’t think so. Don’t start now.”

Heyes pulled his fingers over his chin then pinched his lower lip. “Tommy Billings was just here. I’m pretty sure he recognized our horses out front.”

Curry moaned and this time it wasn’t from the pain in his stomach. “So we gotta get out of here.”

“But Mrs. Avery says we can’t. Not if you want to get well.”

The older woman approached, moved around to the other side of the exam room, obviously still wary of Heyes and his now-holstered gun. “We all have this small tube near our stomach, it’s called an appendix. We don’t know what its purpose is but sometimes it gets irritated and it swells up and if it swells up enough it can burst and when that happens it leaks poison into the body. If enough poison escapes it…” She didn’t want to say it and didn’t need to. Heyes got it.

Deadly. It would be deadly. “But you could be wrong. You said it was rare. It could just be an ordinary stomach sickness that’ll go away on its own.”

“It’s not.” This from Kid, barely able to speak again as he was wrapped with the pain. “This isn’t ordinary.”

“Fine!” Heyes, shouting again, stabbed his finger at the woman. “You know what’s wrong with him, then fix him!”

“I can’t! The only way to end this is with surgery. The doctor will have to operate to see if the appendix has burst. Either way, he’ll remove it.”

“No,” Curry reached for Heyes again but couldn’t find him. “I don’t want that. I don’t want an operation.”

Heyes caught his searching hand, stepped closer. He couldn’t blame him for being afraid. As children they had witnessed an operation performed on one of the other boys at the home. Strapped to his bed so he couldn’t move, he had screamed so loud and long that the sound rang in their ears for days after. He couldn’t put Curry through that and yet, how could he not?

“I don’t know what to do, Kid. If I take you out of here and she’s right. . . ”

“Please don’t even think about leaving, ” Mrs. Avery pleaded. “We’ll make this work. The sheriff won’t come in here if you’re holding me hostage.”

“And then what? We just wait it out until. . . ” Heyes stomped his foot wished for something to kick. He was the smart one. The planner. The thinker. So why couldn’t he think of a way out of this.

The front door opened. He’d forgotten to lock it. Heyes pulled his gun, whirled toward the foyer in time to see the elderly man come into the house.

“Eleanor! Bet you’ve been wondering—” Doctor Vincent looked up from the watch he’d been fussing with and saw Heyes for the first time. “Good lord. Eleanor?”

“I’m fine, Doctor. Please don’t be frightened. He’s not here to hurt us.”

“Yet he has a pistol pointed at me.”

“Are you alone?” Heyes asked, forcing himself to be calm and in control.

“Yes, of course. I’ve been out all night, you see. . . ” It came to him just then. “Ah, the young men we’ve been chasing and right here all along. How clever.”

“Well, not all along and not that clever. My friend is very sick and you’re going to fix him up. First, go back and bolt the door.”

Vincent did as he was told. “Are you expecting someone else?”

“The sheriff, once Tommy Billings makes it back into town.”

“Ah. No, I didn’t see him. I was tired so I left the posse up north of here and came home by on the back road.” Vincent moved closer to Heyes who was blocking the way to the exam room. “May I see the patient? He sounds like he’s in a great deal of pain.”

“Nice and easy, doc and I won’t have to use this.” Heyes backed away, circled around the exam table then leaned against the far wall where he could observe the two.

Vincent shrugged out of his coat then dropped it on a chair near the door. “What seems to be the problem?”

It was Mrs. Avery who answered for Curry this time. She described his symptoms with exact terms, never over speculating, just delivering the facts. Vincent washed his hands as he listened, then began his own examination seemingly unconcerned about the gun that was pointed at him.

Heyes kept the gun on him, just to be sure. Part of him listening for hoof beats outside, the other part listening to Kid’s moans as the doctor pressed fingers into his belly.

“Has he taken a hit to the stomach recently? Anything that would account for this tenderness?”

“No. He was perfectly healthy until yesterday.”

“Could be his appendix.”

“That’s what I thought,” said Mrs. Avery. “The way the pain went from the general area to that specific spot and you noticed, it’s not the pressure that hurts him but the release, just like the little Barker boy.”

“Very good, very good, Eleanor. I’ll make a doctor of you yet. Well, let’s get started.”

“Started?” Heyes asked, afraid that he already new the answer.

“I have to operate, there’s no other choice. And I’d prefer to do it without a pistol pointed at me, if you don’t mind.”

“I do mind,” Heyes snapped back. “And I’m not sure I want you to operate on him.” He moved closer to the table, set a hand on Curry’s arm. He wasn’t protesting anymore which scared Heyes some. “Kid? What do you want to do?”

Curry turned his head and with great effort focused on Heyes beside him. “I just want to be better.”

“And he won’t get better,” Vincent cut in, “unless I remove his appendix.”

Heyes stood there to overwhelmed to think, feeling the sands of time running out as if through a sieve. “All right. Do it! But I’m warning you, doctor, you had better do it right.”

“And why would I not?”

Heyes laughed. “For $10,000? Wanted poster says dead or alive, doesn’t matter how we end up dead, it’s still payable to the man who turns us in.”

“Young man, have you ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath?”


“It is an oath doctor’s take when they receive their license. Part of it goes, whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief. I will apply measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and in purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art. Do you understand what that means? Be you outlaws, murderers – it doesn’t matter – it’s not mine to judge. I can do nothing but my best to save your friend’s life.” He glanced down at the gun for a half second. “But in saying that, you must also understand that there are no guarantees. If his appendix has ruptured, if he is already filled with the poison, there will be little I can do other than ease his pain toward death.”

Heyes held firm, dark eyes clouded, his usual relaxed manner nowhere to be found. “All fine words, doctor. I’m usual real big on fine words. But right now, I’m leaning toward my friend’s style, which is short and simple. If he dies. You die. So I hope that oath means more to you than $10,000.”

Vincent didn’t even shake under the threat. “Eleanor, please prepare the instruments.”

Uneasy, Heyes watched as the two of them filled a small rolling table with an assortment of knives and bottles and tools that looked like pliers. He wanted to ask questions, but managed to keep them all to himself until he saw Mrs. Avery place a mask over Kid’s nose and mouth. From the mask was a rubber tube, which was stuck into a glass globe that had a sponge in the bottom.

“What’s that for?”

“Anesthesia,” said Vincent. “To keep him feeling any pain as I work.”

Mrs. Avery opened the stopper on the opposite side of the globe then poured a liquid into the bowl. “Thaddeus, you just breathe normal. In and out and soon you’ll feel sleepy.”

“Wait! I don’t know about this.” Heyes tried to catch Curry’s eye, to see what he might be feeling but he was already drifting away.

“Would you rather I operated on him while he was awake? Would you like to be the one to hold him still while I cut into his flesh?” Vincent said as he slipped an apron over his head then washed his hands with alcohol.

“No, but. . . ”

“You’re going to have to trust me and you can’t expect me to stop once I’ve begun. He’ll bleed out if I don’t work quickly. Surely you can understand that.”

Heyes nodded, holstered his gun, then ran his hands through his hair. “You’re sure that stuff is safe.”

“Completely.” Vincent peeled back the sheet from Curry’s stomach. He pressed the tender area, released. Curry barely moaned under the pain. “He’s doing nicely. Just another minute or two.” While he waited for the anesthesia to take hold, he pulled his instruments closer, chose a blade.

Heyes didn’t want to see this, but he couldn’t leave the room. He watched as Vincent tested Kid again – no response this time. Mrs. Avery set the ether mask aside then moved to assist. She picked up two of the tools that looked like pliers then stood ready as Vincent made his first cut into flesh.

That was when Heyes stopped watching. He turned his head, stiffened, waited to hear Kid scream as the knife sliced into him but he remained silent.

“Is he all right?”

“Of course, he’s fine. It’s just as I told you, the gas will keep him from feeling any pain as I work.” Vincent leaned closer to the open wound. “Yes, I think I see it – very swollen. Eleanor, could you clear that area for me?”

Heyes turned away again not wanting to know what was involved. “How bad, doc?”

“Can’t tell yet. I’m going to remove the appendix either way. Body doesn’t need it so. . . ” He faded off now concentrating on his work.

Heyes raked his hand through his bangs again. His eyes closed, the tension of the last twenty-four hours dragging him down. And that was when he heard it – horses riding hard and fast and coming this way.

“No, no, no!” Heyes dashed into the foyer, hit the wall by the window then slowly peered out at the front yard. There were six of them, the sheriff, his deputy, Billings and three other men. They rode up to the garden gate, dismounted but didn’t approach the house.

“Mrs. Avery? It’s Sheriff Thompson. Can you come out here, please?”

Stupid, really. There was no place to take cover should he decide to start shooting. Heyes ran back to the exam room.

“I need her to come out here and talk to the sheriff.”

“Well, I need her right here to finish this surgery,” said Vincent. “You’ll have to deal with the sheriff on your own.” Vincent moved to the left slightly giving Heyes a view of Curry’s flailed open flesh, blood rivering out of the wound.

Heyes cursed under his breath then went back to the window. The sheriff was standing in the same spot, talking with his deputy, deciding what to do. One of the other men was removing the travois from the horse apparently in preparation of moving the two animals. A nice thought. Would be a shame if the loyal, hard-working beasts were hit by gunfire.

Heyes pushed up on the window frame raising it from the sill a few inches. “Sheriff!”

The older man jumped back, surprised by the voice, obviously not able to place it. “Doc?”

“He’s here and so is Mrs. Avery and they’re fine, both of them. They’ll stay that way as long as you keep your distance.”

Billings came up behind the sheriff, spoke to him.

“Heyes?” The sheriff called. “Hurting those hostages would only make things worse for you. You let them both go and we’ll talk.”

“Talk about what, sheriff? Letting my partner and I ride out of here?”

“You know that’s not going to happen.”

At least he didn’t lie, didn’t make those stupid, false promises that most sheriff’s made when faced with the same situation. Heyes glanced back at the exam room. Vincent looked his way. His apron was splattered with blood.

This was not the way it was supposed to go. Prison was supposed to be the worse fate left for them, not dying from one of God’s flaws.

“Doc? Talk to me.”

“The rupture is very small,” Vincent said. “That’s a good sign. I’ve removed the appendix and I’m getting ready to close him up.”

“That’s good. That’s good.” Heyes pressed his back to the wall, slid down until he was just shy of sitting on the floor. What to do? What to do? He could shoot, but they’d only shoot back. A bullet might bounce; find it’s way into any of them. He laughed at that. If you had to get shot, might as well do it in the house of a surgeon, huh? He could make a run for it out the back – leave Curry – come for him later.

That didn’t sit right.

“Heyes!” The sheriff again. “If I don’t hear from Mrs. Avery and the doc in the next sixty seconds, I’m going to assume they’re dead and that means I won’t have a single excuse not to shoot up the place!”

“Doc! I need one of you out here! Now!”

A crash resounded from the kitchen – a smashed window.

Heyes got to his feet, started that way, saw the arm reaching through window to raise up the sill. He backed off. Tried to evaluate his options but he could hear Mrs. Avery say something like, “wait, I can’t get it.”

“What?” Heyes backed into the exam room, took a quick look over his shoulder and was sorry he did. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“Bleeding a little more than he should. I have to find where it’s coming from before I close the wound. If he continues to bleed internally….”

“You’re out of time, Heyes!”

“You got that right,” Heyes muttered. He took another step back, just wanting to see Kid, just wanting to assure himself that the doctor was doing all he could. When he glanced back at the doorway he saw a man dash by. They were in the house. Damn it.

He moved again, circled the table, self-preservation taking the lead over good sense.

The front door opened.

“We’re coming in, Heyes. Surrender!”

“Sheriff!” Doc Vincent called without turning away from his patient. “I’m in the middle of an operation here.”

“Are you alright?”

“Fine and Eleanor is fine. Mr. Heyes is in here with us. I’m sure that he won’t start shooting,” he glanced up at Heyes. “Considering the fact that my hand is the only thing keeping his friend from bleeding to death right now.”

Heyes felt it like a punch in the gut. “What happened to your oath, doc?”

“Put that gun down and get your hands up.” This was the sheriff, in the house now, but hidden by the doorway.

“It wasn’t a threat, Mr. Heyes,” Vincent said softly. “It was a fact. This is very delicate work here and your friend won’t have much of a chance if I have to stop what I’m doing to dodge a bullet.”

Heyes reached out with his left hand, touched Curry’s shoulder. He was so still. It wasn’t like him to be so still.

“Sheriff,” Heyes called, trying to sound strong but faltering. “I want to make a deal.”

“What kind of a deal?”

“I’ll surrender on two conditions. One, you don’t mess with my friend here. The doc finishes his work then tends to him and he stays here until the doc says it’s safe for him to leave.” Curry shifted beneath Heyes fingers

“I’ll agree to that. What’s the second condition?” asked the sheriff.

“You’ll have to extradite us to Wyoming. Don’t do it until my friend is better. I want your word that you won’t send me on until we can go together.”

“I’ll agree to that, too. Now put that gun down and get your hands up.”

“What do you say, doc?” Heyes whispered. “Is your sheriff a man of his word?”

“He is.”

Curry shifted again, drew Heyes’ gaze down to his face which didn’t seem quite as peaceful as it was a moment ago. “He’s waking up.”

“Well, he isn’t actually asleep and it’s possible that he’s responding to your words.”

“He can hear me?”

“We’ve had reports of patients remembering everything that was said during an operation. We say that the patient is asleep, but in actuality, the ether works more on the body than the mind.”

Heyes leaned down so his lips were by Curry’s ear. “I’m not leaving you. I gotta go with the sheriff for now so the doc can take care of you. You’ll see me later. I promise.”

“How about it, Heyes?” the sheriff called.

“Patience isn’t one of his virtues,” Heyes muttered. “Fine. I’m putting my gun down.” Slowly, he set the weapon on the nearest counter, then raised his hands and stepped toward the door. Word or not, he couldn’t help but hold his breath as he came into view. People got nervous, pulled triggers without meaning to – there was always that chance that he’d go down even after he’d surrendered.

“Nice and easy, right out here,” the sheriff said, waving for his men to back off. “Put your hands on the wall and spread your feet.”

Heyes did as he was told, turned, got one last look at Curry before the wall blocked his view. Then the deputy was patting him down. That done, his arms were pulled behind him, cuffs locked into place around his wrists. He’d been here two dozen times before but still it scared him, scared him to the core thinking this might be the final time. The time when his luck had run out. It had been that kind of day, after all.

The sheriff stepped into the entranceway of the exam room. “Doc. Is he gonna pull through?”

“We’ll see. He’s strong. May have gotten here in time. I’ll know more in the next few hours.”

The deputy took Heyes by the upper arm then led him out of the house where Billings and the other men of the posse were waiting.

* * *

He’d been jailed before but it was never like this – never this hard. He could tell by the shadows on the wall that it was late afternoon and yet no one had come to tell him about Curry. Was he fine? Recovering? Had he died from his wounds? Was he barely clinging to life? That last possibility was the one that hurt the most. The thought that Kid was struggling to hold on and with no one but strangers to tend to him.

That’s how it had been back at Valparaiso just a few months into their stay. Kid – Jed, back then, was sick. Nothing terrible, just the flu but he was coughing and his throat hurt and he had a fever. They took him to a separate room and left him there alone most of the day. Heyes snuck out of classes a couple of times to check on him, found him laying on sweat soaked sheets, moaning for his mother. Heyes sat with him, tried to sooth him some, but inevitably the powers that be would show up and shoo him from the room, leaving Jed to suffer alone again for what must have seemed like weeks instead of days.

That was when Heyes started making a plan. That was when he knew that they’d be better off alone than in this place.

This place.

Heyes dropped down on the jailhouse bunk, slipped onto his back, arm thrown across his forehead. He lay there like that reviewing bank jobs in his head to keep his mind from wandering elsewhere. Six jobs later he heard the clang of the cellblock door being unlocked.

“You got a visitor, Heyes.”

He jumped to his feet hoping to see the doc and was disappointed when it turned out to be Lydia Billings. Apparently, it showed on his face because her hopeful _expression turned sour at the sight of him.

“I brought you some cookies I made,” she said, looking like she wanted to bolt.

“That’s very sweet of you, Lydia. Thank you. I’m sorry. I was expecting someone else but I’m glad to see you, too.”

His apology seemed to take the edge off of her despair. She reached through the bars to hand him the paper sack then pulled up the stool from the corner and sat down. “They’re saying terrible things about you.”

“Are they?” Heyes sat down on his bunk, opened the sack and fished out an oatmeal cookie. He had no appetite, no interest in it at all but still he took a bite. It was good – chewy, hint of nutmeg – Kid would have eaten the whole bag inside of a minute. “Lydia, no matter what you hear, just know that at least half of it isn’t true.”

“You are Hannibal Heyes, though. You are a bank robber.”

“Was.” He took another bite. “Kid and me, we’ve been straight for a long time now, but that doesn’t seem to matter . . . to anyone.”

“I’m sorry.” She toyed with her hands in her lap. “Is there something I can do?”

He thought about it for a moment. Thought about asking her to find out about Kid but in the end he realized that it would be wrong to keep using her. “No. You’ve done enough. I appreciate your help and the cookies.”

Lydia stared at the floor, then glanced at the door and then back at him. “I’d do it – if you told me how.”

She was offering to break him out of jail. Heyes nearly laughed. He knew what she was thinking, the glamorous, dangerous fantasy of saving the handsome outlaw, who would, in turn, take her with him as he road off into the sunset.

“No. I don’t want you to do anything. Except maybe bake some more cookies for when, ” he stumbled over which name to use. “Thaddeus gets better.”

“I’ll do that. Oatmeal and molasses cookies, too, for you trip. I heard you weren’t going be staying here.”

He wanted to tell her not to fret about it so much, but couldn’t bring himself to say the words. She was so naïve and sweet and innocent. He didn’t remember ever being like that. He was, back in Kansas, before the war, but it was hard to remember.

“When Thaddeus is well, we’ll be leaving.”

“For another jail? They aren’t gonna. . . ” she couldn’t say it. Didn’t have to.

“Hang us? No. Just jail.” Just. Just twenty years. The rest of his life, probably. “Lydia. You should go. I’m sure your father wouldn’t be happy if he found you here talking to me.”

She stood, tears in her eyes. He couldn’t let it get to him. “I wish things were different, Joshua.”

“I wish they were, too.” Then he lay back down on his bunk, closed his eyes and listened to the sound of her leaving.

* * * * *

No one else came that evening or even the morning next. The knot in Heyes’ stomach increased in size with every passing hour – thinking that only the worst could be keeping them from coming to talk to him.

He passed on breakfast. Passed on lunch.

When the cellblock door opened after that, he figured it to be Lydia again, or the deputy come to pick up his food tray.

It was neither.

“Mr. Heyes?”

He rolled off the bunk and on to his feet in one swift movement. Then he hit the bars, grabbed them, clutched them, trying to read what was on the face of Eleanor Avery.

“Your friend is doing just fine. I should have gotten word to you sooner but we had another emergency. . . it’s been quite an exciting couple of days.”

“You can say that again.” Heyes slumped forward, head hitting the bars. “He’s really alright? No complications, nothing like that?”

“No. We found the blood vessel that was bleeding. Tied it off, closed him up. He came out of the anesthesia a little anxious, but fine. He’s very concerned about you.”

“Will you’ll tell him that I’m okay? That I was worried about him. Thinking about him.”

“I will.” She started to go but she turned back when he spoke.

“Mrs. Avery, how long will it be, do you think? Before he’s well enough to travel?”

“Another couple of days. Doctor Vincent will want to remove the stitches when the wound has healed and he’s lost a lot of blood so he’ll need plenty of rest to make up for it.”

“Thank you. Thank the doc, too. I didn’t mean to scare you both, I just. . . ” Heyes blew out a breath. “I just needed to make sure that he was taken care of.”

“We understand. And it really is as the doctor said. It’s our job to care for the sick, not judge them. No one should be left to suffer when there’s something to be done. I’ll come by in another day or so and let you know how it’s going.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

Again she started to move, stopped, looked down at the try of food at his feet. “You should eat. Even once your friend is well enough to travel, I doubt that the trip will be comfortable. You’ll want to be strong for him. So eat.”

Heyes said nothing. Couldn’t speak for the lump in his throat.

They’d been here before. . . but there had always been hope. Hope for help from the outside. Hope that they could convince the sheriff they weren’t Heyes and Curry. But not this time. In a week they’d be on their way to the Wyoming Territorial Prison where there would be no denying who they were. He had a bad feeling that this time was truly the end of the alias Smith and Jones.

End Book One
Click here for Book Two

One thought on “ASJ: For Those Who Tame Wild Horses – Book 1

  1. I thought I left a message but do not see it. I love these stories and was wondering if you will be writing any more ASJ stories as you do them so wonderfully?

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