ASJ: For Those Who Tame Wild Horses: Book 2

For Those Who Tame Wild Horses

Book Two: Comfort’s in Heaven

Comfort’s in Heaven, and we are on the earth
Where nothing lives but crosses, cares and grief.
Richard II

They came to get him three days later. Three lonely days with no visitors, no word. Three days of picking at his food and reviewing bank jobs in his head. On one occasion, two deputies stayed late to play a few hands of poker with him. With only matchsticks for stakes, they let him win twice when he shouldn’t have and that made him feel all the more like a man headed for the gallows.

That feeling grew to the size of the sky when they came for him with shackles for his wrists and ankles.

“Sheriff, you gave me your word,” Heyes said, recognizing the trappings of transport. “You promised you wouldn’t move me until my friend was ready to go, too.”

“He is ready. He’s in the wagon outside. We picked him up first.”

That tiny shred of news took the edge off, ignited the smallest flame of hope.

The deputy stepped into the cell while the sheriff kept him covered. The younger man locked the rough cuffs of the manacles around his wrists, then did the same with his ankles. Combined they felt like fifty pounds and the chain that connected them took some getting used to when he tried to walk. The deputy, whom he’d played poker with, seemed to take some pity on him, held him by the elbow to steady him as he made his way out of the building.

There was a buckboard in front of the sheriff’s office. The other deputy standing guard, and sitting in the back – Kid.

Heyes wanted to run up and hug him but shackled as he was there would be no running or hugging. So he caught Kid’s eye and was rewarded with a smile. Moving closer, Heyes tried to think of a clever quip but nothing came to mind. As they loaded him into the wagon the only words that came to his lips were simple ones.

“It’s good to see you.”

“You, too. Got all fancied up for the occasion. Fancy bracelets and everything.” Kid lifted his arms slightly to emphasis their matching condition.

The deputy ordered Heyes to sit, but right off he couldn’t figure a graceful way to do that without the use of his hands or the ability to get one leg behind the other. He was still planning it out when something wet and gooey smacked him in the shoulder and splattered into his face. A tomato.

“Knock it off, you kids,” the sheriff said without much conviction.

A second piece of ripe fruit hit him in the back, the third missing its target but came with a string of foul words.

What was the use?

Heyes let his knees fold then flopped down hard on his backside. The hit jarred his tailbone and raced up his spine. Didn’t matter. He lifted his arm as much as possible and used his shoulder to wipe the tomato from his face.

“I’m sorry, Heyes.” Curry’s words were nearly hidden by the driver’s call to the team.

The wagon pitched forward into motion just as one of the deputies jumped up and sat on the back of the bed.

“What did you say?”

“I’m sorry. It’s all my fault. You never should have taken me to the doctor.”

“I should have left you in the woods to die?”

“We don’t know….”

“Yes,” Heyes cut in, “we do know. Your appendix was about to burst. People die from that all the time.”

The wagon turned sharply to the left, throwing them both off balance. Heyes rode out the bump, but Curry had a harder time coming back up.

“I thought you were okay! That was the deal. They weren’t supposed to move you until you were well.”

“I am okay. The doc took the stitches out this morning. My side’s kind of sore, that’s all.”

That wasn’t all – Heyes could see it now that he was beyond the initial elation at seeing his friend again. Curry was pale; his normally bright blue eyes were sunken and dull. And when he moved, even in the slightest, Heyes saw the creases of pain etched in his face. He was clearly exhausted, the heavy manacles at hand and foot keeping him from shifting into a more comfortable position.

“Lay down,” Heyes said, making it clear this wasn’t a negotiable point. He waited for Curry to scoot further down in the wagon bed, then half crawled into sitting just behind the driver’s seat with his legs across the width. “Put your head here.” He patted his lap.

Curry looked at him as if he were crazy – not the first time he’d seen that look.

“Will you just do what I tell you?”

“You know, Heyes, I had a whole week without you telling me what to do. I kinda got used to it.”

“Fine then. Sit up.”

The wagon hit a rut. Curry was thrown to the right. He made a grab for the side of the wagon but with the heavy manacles couldn’t get his hands in front of him fast enough to prevent a collision with the wooden planks. He took the hit, then curled forward, head nearly to his knees.


He made some noise that was hard for Heyes to hear from his place near the front of the wagon, but it was enough to turn the deputy’s head.

“You look like you’re gonna be sick. You gonna be sick, you tell me so I can stop this wagon.”

Curry said nothing, just kept his head tucked, shoulders rising and falling with rapid breaths.

“Maybe,” said the deputy, “you’d be smart to do what your friend said and lie down.”

If Curry answered, Heyes didn’t hear it but he did see him roll to the left in preparation for lying down. It took some scooting and rearranging, all of which sapped his strength, but finally Curry was able to let go, head pillowed by Heyes’ thigh.

“We’re really in it deep this time, aren’t we, Heyes?”

He would have liked to deny it but there was no point. “Yeah, Kid. We’re in deep. Just gotta do what we can to keep from drowning.”

Curry’s eyes closed as if in sleep but even after a half hour, Heyes knew that he was still awake. Knew from the uneven rise and fall of his chest and from the tweaks of pain that flashed across his face.

Time to plan. They’d have to overpower the deputy and the sheriff somehow. Get their guns. Make them give up the key to the manacles. Even if they had the chance to make a break for it, they’d never get far trusted up as they were. If he could talk them into releasing them some how. . . maybe only Curry. If they talked up his sickness, made him look really bad, like he was going to throw up – then maybe the sheriff would take off the shackles. Once that was done, Heyes could use the chain on his cuffs to disable the deputy…. Disable? Choke. That was what he’d have to do to get away. Choke the life out of this man who had pitied him enough to let him win a few hands of poker.

He couldn’t do it. Knew he couldn’t do it, not even to save them twenty years in prison.

Just imagine what the posse would be like if he killed a lawman while trying to escape. That was ugly. Pure ugly.

“Heyes,” Kid said, drawing his attention. “We’re not going all the way to Wyoming in this wagon, are we?”

“No. We’re going to Alameda to catch the train.”

“Oh, good. I like trains better than wagons.”

Heyes smiled, felt the urge to brush a curl away from Kid’s eyes but it was just too much of a puzzle with his wrists locked and chained together.

He closed his own eyes and tried to think but in the end he kept coming up empty.

* * * * *

The wagon rolled to a stop a few yards away from the train station at Alameda Junction. Heyes watched the sheriff as he walked over to meet two men in eastern suits. They talked for a moment, then the sheriff signaled his deputies.

“End of the line, fellas. Let’s go.” One deputy stepped into the body of the wagon, reached down then pulled a groggy Curry to his feet. He had fallen asleep less than a half hour earlier but the nap hadn’t done him much good.

“Where are we? Where are we going?”

“Train,” Heyes said, still distracted by the other men. He managed to get to his feet on his own then followed Curry to the edge of the wagon.

The second deputy leant a hand, bracing Curry as he first sat then jumped down and Heyes who jumped down without sitting. Bad idea. His knees folded when he hit the hard ground. He stumbled forward and was caught just before landing on his face in the dirt.

The deputies led them both awkwardly and slowly over to the sheriff and the two men.

“Federal Marshals Rovan and Knight. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

“Well, it’s about time.” This was Rovan, or at least Heyes thought it was. He was the older of the pair, heading for fifty and experienced, you could see that. “You two were my first failure. Federal Payroll on the Santa Fe line out of Coopersmith. I was assigned to recover you and the money.”

“Two out of three ain’t bad,” Heyes said, feeling suddenly more like himself. “And so it took you five years. I mean, who’s counting?”

“You and I both,” said Rovan. “Knight here is going think I’m crazy for saying it, but I’m actually looking forward to this trip. A full day and half to Wyoming. Chance to find out what makes you tick.”

Well, at least the ride wouldn’t be dull and it was always nice to have a friend – even half a friend in your corner in situations like these.

“They’re all yours, boys,” the sheriff said, exchanging a round of handshakes. “Good luck. And remind the state to send the reward.”

The reward. “Who’s going to get it?” Heyes asked.

“The Billings family, I expect. They’re the ones who spotted you and it was Tommy that figured you were at the Vincent place. Bright boy.”

Heyes didn’t comment. The Billings. Not bad. He’d rather they have the money than the sheriff. They could certainly do with $20,000 with two kids to raise.

“You’re awful quiet.”

This caught Heyes’ attention. It was Knight talking to Curry. “He’s sick. Didn’t they tell you? Doctor took out his appendix less than a week ago. Just had the stitches removed today.”

“No, they didn’t tell us,” Rovan replied. “Well, we’ve got a compartment on the train so he’ll be able to rest. Let’s go.” He took Heyes by the elbow. Knight took Curry.

“Listen,” Heyes said as they walked. “Do you suppose once we’re on board you could do something about these shackles? The weight is killing me and so they gotta be suffering something terrible on my friend.”

“Can’t let you loose, Heyes. And you oughta know better than to ask.”

“Not loose. Handcuffs. You can cuff us to the seats. Anything’s better than these.” He tried to rattle the chains but found he didn’t have the strength.

“We’ll see,” was Rovan’s noncommittal response.

Heyes didn’t push it. That was how you worked a deal. Plant the seed, give it time. His attention was drawn to the crowd on the platform, all pointing and staring as if the devil himself were walking their way.

Funny how everybody was against you when you were on the losing team.

With some effort, the marshals got them both on board and into a private compartment that fit the four of them with a little room to spare. Once night came, the two sets of facing seats would be folded down to form beds. The other two beds came down from the ceiling just low enough so you couldn’t sit up in the bottom bunk without bumping your head.

When they were settled in to their seats, Knight left the compartment to ‘check the other passengers’. Figured there’d be someone trying to help them escape. Heyes knew he wouldn’t find anyone but if he wanted to look, let him look.

“How are you doing?” He said softly to Curry seated beside him.

“I’m fine.”


Curry smiled slightly at that. “Okay, I feel like crap, how’s that?”

“Truthful, at least.”

Curry sighed, shifted but there was no way he was going to get comfortable.

Heyes turned his attention to the marshal in the seat across from him. “Rovan. How about it? He’s feeling poorly and just because we robbed a bunch of trains and banks doesn’t mean he should have to suffer. Physically suffer, that is. Come on. Take these things off?” Heyes put just a touch of begging into his voice and it killed him. Because he knew it would just be the start. They’d be with these guys for two days – which meant he’d have to ask for even the smallest of comforts from food and water to trips to the washroom. He hated that. It was humiliating and it reminded him of life back at the home.

Life as it would be in prison.

Twenty years worth of bowing and scraping for little more than the basics.

The train started up, jostling him into Curry. “I love a train ride,” he said. Curry said nothing.

Knight returned to the compartment just then. “If they’ve got a partner on board, I can’t spot them.”

“I doubt they do,” said Rovan as he stood. “They haven’t run with the old gang for a couple of years now. Hold this on them.” He unholstered his gun, handed it to the other man, then he fished a key out of his pocket. “How about a compromise, just to show my heart’s in the right place.” He knelt down in the tiny space at their feet, unlocked Curry’s shackles completely, then Heyes’ left. He brought the cuff around and refastened it around Curry’s left so they were chained together. Rovan did the same thing with their wrists using much lighter handcuffs as Heyes had requested.

“How’s that?”

“Ah, togetherness.” Heyes gave Curry a shoulder bump. “You and me.” The joking tone fell from his voice. “Your side hurts, doesn’t it?”

Curry nodded. With more freedom of movement, he turned slightly in his seat so he could lean into the corner. The movement pulled at Heyes but not so much that he couldn’t bear it.

“Look. He’s really hurting. Do you have any whiskey on you?”

Knight hitched his thumb at his partner. “He’s the drinking man. Always has some tucked away for a rainy day. If you’ve got everything under control, I’m going to go see about getting some food.”

“Food?” Rovan shot back. “We just had breakfast.”

“I’m a growing boy. I can’t help it. I’m hungry.” Then he was gone leaving both Heyes and Rovan laughing at their own private jokes.

“The kid does nothing but eat, I swear. Never saw anything like it.”

“I have,” Heyes said softly.

Rovan reached under his seat and retrieved his carpetbag. He fished around inside and came up with a flask and a deck of cards. A childish smile lit his face. “Life won’t be complete less I play a hand of poker with the famous Hannibal Heyes. What do you say?” He handed Heyes the flask.

“Why not. Anything to pass the time.” With his free hand, he screwed off the top of the flask then took a sniff. Whiskey and strong. “Kid, take a sip of this.” He handed over the flask.

Curry took a tentative sip, then a full swig. “You know, the doc offered me some pain medicine but I turned him down. Trying to be all brave and manly.” He took another swig. “Should have accepted his offer.” Another swig.

“Hey, go easy on that. Have you eaten today?”


“Then give it back.” Heyes took the flash and replaced the cap. “That’s plenty on an empty stomach.”

Curry muttered something, leaned his head against the wall again then closed his eyes. He tried to cross his arms over himself, caught the pull in the short chain that connected them then let his arm fall to his side. “Sorry.”

Heyes gazed down at the metal bracelets. It would have to be one-handed poker. He’d manage. “Okay, Rovan. Deal.”
* * * * *

They spent the next two hours playing poker and chatting. Rovan wanted to hear all about the exploits of the Devil’s Hole Gang, so Heyes told the tales – embellishing just enough to keep it interesting. Kid slept through all of it, lulled to sleep with the rocking of the train and the whiskey in his blood. It was all good and it kept Heyes from thinking about where they were headed and what would happen when they got there.

Knight brought them sandwiches and coffee which meant Heyes only had to ask for one thing – a trip to the washroom. As much as he hated having to ask, he was glad for the brief respite from the shackles that had held him still for much of the day. He took his time walking to and from the washroom, this small sense of freedom making him ache for even more.

When they arrived back at the compartment the porter was making up the bunks. Curry had taken advantage of his short respite from the shackles to take off his boots and strip off his shirt in preparation for bed.

Once the porter was gone, Rovan picked up the heavy manacles from the floor and knelt down to snap them on Curry again.

“Wait, hold it,” Heyes said. “Is that really necessary? Look at him. He can barely hold his head up, how’s he gonna try to escape?”

“I’m just doing my job,” Rovan complained as he snapped the metal cylinder around Curry’s ankle.

“Okay, do your job but-” Heyes reached out to grab the man’s arm and suddenly there were two pistols aimed at his head. “There’s no call for that. I’m giving you my word, fellas. We won’t try to escape. And if it makes you feel better, do what ever you want to me – handcuff me to the bed, shackles, chains, the whole bit – to me. I’m the tricky one. The one with the plans. I’m the one you have to worry about so, just leave him be and let him have a good night’s rest.”

There was one more thing Heyes could say, one more thing that would push Rovan over the edge, if he had judged him right. Something he knew was true but didn’t want to say out loud. Once you said it out loud it was real. That was a Jed Curry axiom. Once you say something out loud, it’s done and can’t be undone.

“Rovan, please. This may be the last good night’s sleep he’ll have for a long time to come.” Peripherally, he saw Curry lift his head but he didn’t want to see the expression on his friend’s face so he kept looking straight on at the marshal.

“I’ve got your word?”

Knight started to protest but Rovan cut him off.

“You have my word, marshal. And that’s one thing I don’t give lightly.”

Rovan got down on one knee, then unlocked the manacle he had secured around Curry’s ankle. “Go ahead and take the lower bunk.”

Curry stood and there was no avoiding his gaze, the room was too small. Heyes thought he might see fear in his friend’s eyes but all he saw was resignation. A man who knew it was just about over and didn’t care anymore. He climbed into the bottom bunk, sank down slowly, carefully, then pulled the blanket up over himself.

Heyes had never seen him so quiet – it was unnerving but there wasn’t much he could do with two pairs of stranger ears listening in to everything he said.

“Hop up on top, Heyes.”

“Sure, sure.” His mind still on Kid, Heyes pulled off his boots, then hauled himself up on to the upper. Once there he held his wrists out to Rovan.

“One will do,” said the marshal. He snapped a handcuff around Heyes’ left wrist then secured the other end to the bracket that held the bunk to the wall.

Then he crammed his long body into the lower on the opposite side.

He’d lay there all night but he wouldn’t sleep.

Heyes knew it and oddly felt comforted by it. He closed his own eyes and hoped that sleep would come swiftly and without dreams.

* * * * * * *
Daylight was the third thing that woke Heyes from his tentative sleep. The first thing was Knight and Rovan switching off on guard duty. The second was Kid caught in the throes of a nightmare. That waking came with its own flashback to their days at Valparaiso where Heyes was constantly awakened by Kid’s terrors in the dark. Only back then they were in the same bed together so he could just reach over and calm his friend with a warm and reassuring touch. He couldn’t do that here, not cuffed to the bed as he was. And so he had no choice but to lay there and listen and send mental messages to Kid telling him it would be all right. And that made him think of the future instead of the past. It was likely they’d be put in separate cells in prison. If the warden was smart, they’d be in separate wings! And that thought disheartened him more than the loss of his freedom. For the majority of the past twenty years, Kid had been there for him to talk to. To explain things to, to complain to, to question and advice and laugh and joke.

Heyes rolled to his back and stared at the ceiling so close to his face.

God, I don’t want to go to prison.

The words stayed in his head, never reached his lips. And then it was the daylight that pried open his eyes. The second thing he was aware of was the tingling in his arm the ache in his wrist. He pulled up on to his hip and gave his arm a shake to get the blood flooding again.

Rovan and Knight were gone. Both of them. The other two bunks were slept in but empty.

Heyes scooted to the edge of the bunk so he could peer toward the compartment door. He saw a silhouette leaning against the glass. Knight, he thought, smoking a cigar. Dropping to his belly, Heyes peered over the edge of the bunk.

“Kid!” He called in a loud whisper. “Wake up.”


Heyes grabbed the pillow from his bed, took careful aim then tossed it down on to Curry’s face. That did it. Curry batted at the pillow as if it were alive, knocked it into the aisle then rolled right out of bed after it.

“Good god, it’s not a mountain lion.”

“Sure seemed. I thought. I. . . ” Curry took a breath, looked around, then it all came back to him. “Oh hell.”

“Exactly. You feel okay?”

“Yeah, better. Much better,” he said, realizing it was indeed the truth.

Even Heyes could see the difference. He had color in his face, the glaze was gone from his eyes. Perfect. “Listen to me, Kid. This may be our only chance to get out here.”

“Out of here?”

“As in get while the getting’ is good. Knight’s out there smoking. I don’t know where Rovan is but as soon as he gets back he’s going to slap the cuffs back on you. So we have to act now.”

“How? What do you want to do?”

Heyes glanced back at the door, saw Knight toss his cigar to the floor. “Lay back down, now. You’re still asleep!”

Curry rolled back into bed, face to the wall, hitting his mark just seconds before Knight came through the door.

“Oh, thank God you’re back!” Heyes slapped his right hand over the center of his left forearm. “I don’t know how I did this but I cut myself something awful.”

“Cut yourself?” Knight stepped on the lower bunk so he could get a better look. “How did you manage that?”

“I don’t know, but it hurts like hell. Take a look.”

In the lower bunk, Curry held himself still and listened. He felt Knight step up on the bunk, heard Heyes complain about his arm then. . . ‘take a look’. Curry rolled straight into Knight’s legs knocking him backwards. He feet slipped off the edge and his arms cartwheeled searching for something to grab on to. He almost caught the edge of the opposite bunk but Curry was on him. Hit him with a right cross that sent him slamming into the small window in the center of the compartment.

“Find the key,” said Heyes. “Hurry.”

Curry bent down over Knight’s now unconscious form and the sudden change in position sent his head spinning. Too much liquor, too little food.

“Come on,” Heyes pushed.

Curry dropped to his knees, straddling Knight’s legs in the small space. He searched the man’s pockets and found a ring of keys. “Got it.” He tossed the ring to Heyes then relieved the marshal of his gun. “Should I put the shackles on him?”

“Don’t bother. Rovan’s bound to be back before he wakes up. Get your boots on.”

Curry looked down at his feet as if just noticing that they were bare. He found his boots under the bunk, stomped into them, then grabbed his shirt as Heyes dropped down and did the same.

“Do we wait here for the other one or go and risk bumping into him in the corridor?” Curry asked.

The very question Heyes had been contemplating. It was scary when he did that. “Waiting’s riskier. Someone else might come in.”

“Then let’s go.” Curry kept the gun, opened the compartment door then cautiously peered into the corridor. No one in sight and only the sound of distant voices. He opened the door all the way, peered around it. “Clear.”

Heyes ducked past him, then led the way. The door between train cars was only ten feet away. Ten very long feet that took him past two compartments full of people. No choice.

Past one

Past the other.

Heyes grabbed the handle on the car door and yanked it open.

And then he was staring down the barrel of a 10-gauge Ithaca shotgun.

“I wanted to trust you two. I really did.”

They both whirled. Rovan was behind them with another man and another gun.

“Yeah, I can see that,” Heyes said, nodding his head toward the gunman at the door.

“You’re a poker player, Heyes. You know you never show your cards at the table.”

Curry let the pistol in his hand flop loose then held still while the marshal came and took it from him.

“I’m disappointed in you, Heyes. All that soft soap you gave me about letting Curry loose so he wouldn’t have to suffer. You were just laying the groundwork for an escape and that’s all. Curry here probably wasn’t even sick. Just a ploy to throw us off.” Rovan moved past Curry to face off with Heyes.

“Then why do it? Why let him loose if you thought it was just a trick?”

Rovan shook his head and laughed a little. “My papa was a preacher. Most people find that funny since I do what I do, but I never thought that the upholding the law and being human were mutually exclusive traits. I did what you asked because I don’t like to see a man suffer needlessly.”

It was Heyes’ turn to laugh. “You do need a new profession, marshal.”

“I don’t agree. I have a job to do, but that doesn’t mean I’d stand aside and let you bleed to death if you were shot trying to escape. I could have been a bastard from the beginning. I could have left you both in shackles, hungry and thirsty and soaked in your own piss but I didn’t. I treated you both like human beings and this is what I get in return.”

“What, that’s supposed to make me feel guilty?” Heyes asked, a hard edge punctuating his words. “We don’t deserve to go to prison for twenty years!”

“Oh, so now you’re innocent? All those stories you told me last night were lies?”

“Some of them were.” Knight was in the hallway, moving up behind Curry and it caught Heyes’ eye, distracted him for a moment. “We’re not the vicious outlaws people make us out to be. And yeah, that’s partially our fault. At the beginning, we thought it was exciting, something to be proud of. But we were young and stupid and we’re neither of those things now.”

“You’re bank robbers and. . ”

“Train robbers, I know. But we never hurt anybody. All we ever did was take from people who, we thought, had more than we did.” His gaze went to Curry again. Knight was cuffing his hands behind his back. “We’ve been straight for three years, Rovan! Three years of not only abstaining from crime but actually fighting it. Turning in criminals to the law. Returning stolen goods. Tracking down killers! And that’s not enough to absolve us of our sins. Why?”

Knight was behind him now, pulling his arms behind him, snapping on the cuffs.

“Governor Warren promised us an amnesty if we stayed out trouble and that’s just what we did and then he went out of office and the next one made the same promise and the one after that. You want to talk about being disappointed, Rovan? We did everything that was asked of us and this is our reward. You tell me how that’s fair?”

“It’s not, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have a federal warrant for your arrest. Anything else has to be taken up with the Governor.” He nodded toward the compartment door, instructing the two of them to go back inside.

They went – powerless to do anything else with four men and two guns and their hands secured behind their backs. They both sat down on the lower bunk, scrunched down to keep from hitting their heads on the upper bunk.

“Get a porter here to make up the beds,” Rovan said to someone in the corridor then he came inside with Knight on his heels.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Heyes said, some of the venom gone from his voice. “He really did have his appendix taken out less than a week ago.”

“Got the scar to prove it,” said Curry. “Want to see?”

Rovan shook his head. “Is that stuff you said about the amnesty really true?”

“All of it. We were promised a deal. Lom Trevors the sheriff in Porterville set it up. It was supposed to be a year and that turned into two years and then some. I’ll bet you he doesn’t even know we’ve been caught. If he knew, he’d do something.”

“You think?” Curry asked, heartened by this thought.

“Yeah. Absolutely. Lom’s not going to let us go to prison. A year ago, maybe because he didn’t know for sure that we could stay clean. But now?” Heyes turned back to Rovan. “I know we haven’t exactly earned any favors here but would you do that one last thing? Would you send a telegram to Lom in Porterville and tell him what’s happened?”

“Sure, I don’t see why not. I can do that.”

And that was the first small bit of hope Heyes had felt in the last seven days.

* * * *

Abner V. Creighton stood on the platform that served as a guard tower on the east side of the Wyoming Territorial Prison. He was dressed in his suit – the one he kept for meetings with high ranking officials and he was wearing his Sunday hat. There was talk of photographs being taken so he wanted to look his best. It was important, especially when you aspired to political office.

“Are you really sure you’ve got the right men?” This was the reporter for the Laramie Gazette. He’d been a fly in the ointment since the news broke.

“Of course we’re sure. They’re Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. They were not only properly identified but they confessed all of their crimes to the marshals who were sent to get them.”

This sent a murmur of excited interest through the crowd. Mostly they were just lookey loos hoping to catch sight of two such famous outlaws, but there were reporters, too and from as far away as Kansas. That reporter, whose name was something like Stickley or Stingy was particularly annoying as he came from Lawrence where the outlaws had been born. He thought that entitled him and people kept asking him questions. Everyone wanted to know what their families were like and if he’d ever been to their homes? Stickley said he didn’t want to brag, but that’s exactly what he wanted to do, telling tales about how he used to be friends with Heyes and Curry when they were all just kids back in Lawrence and the crowd just ate that up.

“Curry, well, you all know his reputation with a gun! He personally confessed to the killings of four people and two lawmen.”

Another murmur of interest and even a little bit of shock and fear.

“Warden,” the reporter from Laramie cut in. “Are you sure about that? I’ve always heard that they were pretty peaceable – as bandits go.”

“There’s no such thing as a peaceable outlaw, young man. They’ve probably killed dozens of people that we don’t even know about! So if the marshals say that Curry said he killed four people and two lawman, I for one am not going to question his integrity. I am just going to thank the lord that we got these hardened criminals off of the streets. And may I add here,” Creighton bellowed, to be heard above the excitement of the crowd. “That no man has ever escaped from this prison, so everyone can rest assured that once these vicious outlaws are locked up, they will never see the light of day again.”

This brought a cheer from the crowd. All except for that one woman. She didn’t cheer or smile. She kept staring at him as if she had a bad taste in her mouth. Shame, too, because she was a looker. A real looker. Blonde hair, nicely rounded at the hips and just enough to puff her blouse out in the front.

The reporter from the Daily Times was asking him to describe what an average day would be like for the prisoners, but he was being so long winded about it Creighton had time to see the tall, thin man come up behind the woman. The man, he noticed, was wearing more frills than the woman. An odd pair, the both of them. He was still looking their way when the woman did the damnedest thing. She waved for him to come to her. Curious, he begged the crowd to wait one moment, then left the platform and met her at the bottom of the stairs.

“What can I do for you, Miss?”

“Harkness. We had an appointment and if you wish to continue this dog and pony show that’s just fine but I need to discuss the arrangements with you before Heyes and Curry arrive.”

Creighton was still back on Harkness. He didn’t hear the rest. “Chris Harkness that I got the telegram about?”

“Christine Harkness and this is James Bauer. This won’t take long. If we could just have a few moments in private?”

“Sure, sure.” Creighton motioned for one of his men, said to control the crowd, he’d be right back then he led them down the walk and into the building. “My office is this way. . ”

“That won’t be necessary. We can talk right here.” She stepped to the side in the hall, her partner staying with her but silent. “When they arrive you can have your photographs taken, whatever you want to do in front of the crowd. But as soon as they step inside the building I want them separated. Completely. I don’t want them to be able to talk to or hear each other. And I don’t want them to see each other, not even across the length of the yard. You are to keep them completely isolated from each other. Do you understand?”

Creighton puffed up. “Miss Harkness, there is no need to worry about the two of them communicating inside these walls. They can talk to each other all day long, plot and plan and it won’t make a difference. No one has ever escaped from-”

“I know. But that isn’t my concern. I need them off their game. And quickly. I’ve studied these men, warden. They only have one weakness and that’s each other. You keep them apart and you make sure no one answers any questions about how the other one is or where he is. I want them off balance. Broken.”

That lit up his eyes. “Now ma’am, if you want a break a man there are a whole lot easier ways than that.”

She frowned at him. “Do you like your job?”

“Yes, ma’am. I love my job.”

“Want to keep it?” The smile fell off his face. “Do what I tell you and nothing more.”

Creighton looked to Jamie who shrugged back at him. “You know what they say, hell hath no fury like a woman.”

“Scorned,” Creighton finished.

“No. When talking about Christine, you just stop after the word woman. Cause that pretty much says it all.”

* * * *

Despite his threat to keep their hands restrained behind them for the rest of the trip, Rovan relented and allowed them both a respite to eat and clean up before reaching the train station. Once there, they were loaded into a wagon for the last leg of their journey.

Heyes felt sick to his stomach and Curry seemed to be wearing thin again. It was just too unbelievable, that after all this time on the run, they were actually on their way to the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

Once they were moving, Heyes scooted around in the wagon so he was close enough to have Curry’s ear. “You feeling poorly again?”

Kid looked straight at him, those brilliant blue eyes peering right into his soul. “All the times before, when I thought about prison, I don’t think I ever really believed it could happen. But now I know it’s gonna happen and I’m scared, Heyes. Remember that time in Santa Marta when I was jailed, all by myself for a week. That was just a week! And I knew that you were on the outside working to get me out and still I nearly went crazy. How am I gonna get through a month, a year, ten years?”

“You’ll get through, because you have get through. We’ve been through worse, Kid. We survived Danny Bilson and the desert. We can survive this.”

“No,” Curry shook his head. “I don’t think I can. So how about this. . .” he slowed, turned away from Heyes.

“How about what? What are you thinking about doing?” He wanted to grab him by the shoulders, turn him back, force him to look him in the eye but he couldn’t do any of those things with his hands cuffed behind him. “Kid?”

“I thought that I might make a run for it,” he said without turning.

Heyes glanced back at Rovan and the driver but it was clear they couldn’t hear above the noise of the horses’ hooves. “That’s insane. They’ll shoot you. Kill you before you get ten feet away.”

“I know.” Curry squared his shoulders then turned to his friend. “I’m thinking that might be best.”

“Don’t you dare do that to me.”

“To you? I’ll be the one that’s dead.”

“And I’ll be the one left alone. This situation is bad enough without having to bury you on top of it all.”

The staunch front he had put up a moment ago dissolved, leaving Curry sinking down into the corner of the wagon. “I don’t want to do it but the closer we get, the more I think it’s the lesser of the two evils.”

“It’s not!” Heyes hissed at him. God, now his stomach was really hurting. “Please, Kid, we’ve come this far together, good times and bad times. Promise me you won’t do this. Promise me you’ll do just the opposite. You’ll be a model prisoner. You’ll do what ever is asked of you. You’ll keep to yourself and you’ll stay out of trouble, so that when the times comes we can walk away as free men – together.”

“In twenty years? You may be able to last that long. But I can’t.”

“Who says it’ll be twenty years? Maybe in ten they’ll commute our sentence. Maybe in five? And maybe Lom will come to get us out of there in a week.”

Curry had turned away again, was staring out at the barren landscape.

“Kid! Do you care about me?”

“Of course,” was his sullen reply.

“Then promise. For me. Don’t make me do this alone.”

Another pause then softly he said, “I promise.”

But Heyes didn’t feel any better for hearing it. He knew that Curry was right. He wouldn’t last long in the confines of a prison. He himself could sit in a corner with a book for three days straight and not be bothered by the solitude, but Curry needed to roam, to move, to explore. He needed people to talk to and touch.

Heyes never felt so close to crying in all his adult life. He started when a hand tapped his shoulder. Rovan. Heyes looked to the front of the wagon and saw the massive stone building looming up ahead.

“Almost over,” said the marshal.

“Not even close,” said Heyes. “Not even close.”

* * * *

It was as if the circus had come to town. Creighton was the ringmaster and Heyes and Curry the center ring act. As soon as the wagon rolled on to the property the throng of onlookers surrounded them all gawking and talking, asking questions, shooting back barbs.

Knight and one of the other marshals helped them step down from the bed of the wagon, while Rovan and the other one tried to keep clear a path.

“Is it true about your confession, Curry?” The reporter from the Gazette asked. “Did you really confess to killing six people?”

“I didn’t confess to killing anybody. I never murdered anyone,” Curry growled back.

There were murmurs of disbelief. Pushing and shoving. Everyone wanted to touch them so they’d have something to tell their grandkids. ‘Yes, siree, I was there the day they brought in Heyes and Curry. Touched them myself I did.’ Two women seemed particularly eager, were obscenely flirty, much to the disgust of the crowd.

The marshals tried to keep them moving but every step of the way they were jostled and blocked. A redheaded fellow with a fat nose jumped in front of them – smiled big and declared he was Todd Hanley from back in Lawrence.

Heyes vaguely recalled the name but what did it matter? The people, the reporters, it was clear that all of Wyoming knew about their capture. Which meant Lom knew and the governor knew and still no one was here to stop this madness.

They were pushed in front of a podium. Told to hold still and scowl for the camera. Couldn’t have them looking like anything but vicious outlaws, could they? Creighton stood beside them like a hunter posing with the buck he’d just shot. Neither one of them spoke, not to each other or to answer the endless questions from the reporters. They simply went where they were led, looked where they were supposed to look and after an endless period of time they were brought into the building.

Creighton was in all his glory, slapping backs and congratulating the marshals on a job well done. They all accepted the praise. All but Rovan. He stayed solemn, quiet. Instructed his men to release the cuffs then get on back to the wagon.

In the shuffle of bodies, Rovan ended up behind them and between them so they were the only ones to hear him say, “I wish there was something I could do. Take care of yourselves.” Then he left with his men.

“Welcome to the Wyoming Territorial Prison, gentlemen. I am Warden Creighton and I can either be your friend or your worst nightmare. Which one, will be entirely up to you.” There were no cameras, no reporters inside the building, so Creighton left them to be tended to by the guards.

Again they were pushed – down the cold stone corridor and into a small receiving room.

“Strip.” The guard commanded. There were four of them. All big and burly, all standing there watching, waiting for them to do as they were told.

“What’s a little humiliation among friends,” Heyes muttered as he unbuttoned his shirt. Curry said nothing and his lack of communication bothered Heyes more than the situation.

The guard prompted them to hurry it up, so they did. Curry staring mostly at the floor as he stripped off his clothing. Heyes continuing to glare at the other men. Shirts, boots, pants and finally their long johns, down to nothing but skin. Heyes looked over at Curry, caught sight of the red and puffy scar from his recent surgery.

What a mess.

“Back up into that little well,” the guard ordered.

They both looked behind them, saw the dip cut into the floor. There was a grate in the bottom. They were told to stand on it, the metal slats digging into the soles of their feet.

One of the other guards, a pale, Eastern European man took hold of a pump handle while another of the guards picked up a hose. A few pumps and water rushed out of the hose hitting Heyes and Curry in the chest. It was cold and it hit with enough force to feel like pins in skin. They were told to turn and face the wall, then bend over. Curry slapped his palms against the wall, shaking with anger and frustration.

“Take it easy,” Heyes said evenly. “You’re not getting hanged, you’re getting washed. Just let it go.” He said it, but he knew it wasn’t that easy. It was interesting, really, how emotional pain could be so much worse than physical pain. And Curry’s pride. . . well. . . it wasn’t that Heyes didn’t have his pride but he didn’t cherish it the way Curry did. His own philosophy was, you gotta do what you gotta do. You watch, you listen and eventually your turn will come. Curry didn’t have that kind of patience.

The water was shut off. They were told to turn. Rough towels thrown at them. They used them to dry themselves and then for what little cover they afforded. At this point, any scrap of dignity was better than none.

From here they were led down the hall again and into a room that resembled a trading post. There were cubbyholes on each wall, the holes stuffed with clothing and shoes, each space numbered with what was likely to be a size. The man in charge looked them both over and with the expertise of having done this far too many times, he picked out pants and tunic tops and moccasin style shoes for the both of them.

They dressed right there in front of everyone, then again were led into the hall. As they moved deeper into the bowels of the prison, the knot in Heyes’ stomach tightened beyond the point of pain. He could feel the same apprehension radiating off of Curry but there was nothing he could say to make it better. They passed other prisoners, men who looked like that had been here their whole lives but had probably only served a few years. One man, a skinny, toothless fellow gazed at them as if he knew them – it was likely he did. Likely that there were a number of old acquaintances here, but Heyes kept his eyes straight ahead of him, unable to take in anymore at the moment.

As they approached a long, metal staircase, Heyes understood that they were going to be split. The guards were talking in what sounded like code – B-14 East, Upper Level 10W. Labels for the cellblocks and the cells within. The guard who had manned the pump nudged Heyes toward the stairs. He didn’t go. He stopped, turned to see Curry who was looking back at him as they tried to urge him down a separate hall.

The prison wasn’t so large that they’d never see each other, Heyes reasoned. At meals and at work in the yard – it was likely they’d be able to snatch a minute here and there. But the look on Curry’s face said this was the end – the last time they’d ever lay eyes on each other after so many years. Years of Heyes making the plans, Curry watching his back.

“Get going,” the guard snapped. “Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you can take up my whole day.”

“Famous ain’t gonna help you in here,” said another. “In here, famous is gonna do you more harm than good.”

Heyes was pushed up the stairs and after the first few steps realized it was senseless to resist. Half way up he couldn’t see Kid anymore so it didn’t matter. He picked up the pace, let them lead him down another corridor lined with rusted metal doors. The fifth one in the row was open. He went in.

Home sweet home.

The door clanged shut behind him and the sound made him want to vomit. No, not just the sound – the room smelled of urine and sweat and puke. Solid brick walls with no window, no light except what came in from the grate in the door. An iron bunk with a one inch mattress and a pot in the corner for relief.

Heyes dropped down to the bunk. Curry had been right. They should have made a run for it. Dead would be infinitely better than this.

* * * *

Nobody came for him the rest of the night. That was good news and bad news.

Curry lay on the smelly bunk staring at the stained ceiling until it was too dark to see anymore. It was good that no one came for him because he didn’t feel up to dealing. It was bad because it put the fear of God in him. The fear that he might lay here forever, forgotten until he starved to death or died from thirst.

No, they’d come for him in the morning. Probably at the crack of dawn. He’d be taken to a room with the others and served breakfast and then probably put to work. Both of those might be an opportunity to see Heyes. He’d feel better if he could see him at least once every day. Not much better, but better.

He closed his eyes – listened to the groans coming from another cell. Someone yelled, ‘shut-up already’ and it was quiet for a little while after that. Quiet except for the sound of some creature skittering across the floor. It made him shiver. He’d never been squeamish about rats or snakes or any kind of small creature but this one bothered him.

“I don’t want to be here!” He shouted the words as loud as he could manage and in return heard a half dozen voices shout back in agreement. He scrubbed his hands over his face, then let his arms drop, his right one falling off the bunk, knuckles scraping the floor. Then he remembered the skittering and pulled his hand back up.

Should have made a run for it. Just might try. And that was what he was thinking when exhaustion finally pulled him down into restless sleep.

* * *


Wouldn’t know it except the door was flung open, a guard yelled for him to get up and get out.

Slowly Curry rolled out of bed. He saw prisoners passing his door. Got up. Went out and joined them. It was all very precise like a military drill. Until a tall guy ‘accidentally’ tripped a short guy and the short one fell forward into a guard. He was pummeled with a billy club for this infraction.

And me without a gun.

The procession moved out of the cellblock and into the west wing of the building. Here, they were herded like cattle into a large dining room with rows of tables and benches. They sat in the same order they walked in, no one allowed to change or chose their seat. As soon as Curry sat down he began scanning the faces already in the room looking for Heyes.

“You got a problem?”

Curry sighed. How familiar was that tone? How often had he heard it from cowboys in a bar? “No. No problem, just looking for someone.”

“Well if you’re looking for your mama she ain’t here,” said the prisoner across from him. The rest of the table laughed.

“Shouldn’t be making fun of him, Joiner,” said another. “Don’t you know who he is?”

“Your sister, Mac? Looks like it with those pretty, yellow curls.”

“And sparkling blue eyes,” a third added in.

Curry said nothing. Bit his tongue as he accepted the plate of grits that was handed to him.

“He’s Kid Curry, the gunfighter. I hear they got Hannibal Heyes, too.”

“Is that right?” Joiner seemed actually impressed. “Is he tellin’ it true? Are you Kid Curry?”

He wasn’t sure if it would be smarter to say yes or no. “Yeah. I’m Kid Curry.”

Mac whipped his spoon off the table as if he was making a fast draw with a pistol. “Psssshewww. Bang. Dead. Fastest gun in the west they say.”

“Get me a gun and I’ll prove it.”

This time the table laughed with him instead of at him and that lowered the tension a notch.

“Heyes and Curry. They finally caught you,” said Joiner. “Ya know there’s a con in Block B that claims he used to ride with the Devil’s Hole Gang. Name of . . . Edison. Called himself Even Eddy. You know him?”

Curry shook his head as he shoveled grits into his mouth. Not great. Not bad. Could have been worse. Could have had live things crawling in it.

“I think he’s shittin’ me. I don’t think he ever ran with any gang of outlaws.”

“Could be. Could be before my time. I wasn’t around when Big Jim Santana ran the gang, just with Heyes.”

“Big Jim,” said Mac. “I remember him. Mexican fella’, big smile. I remember people saying that Heyes took over when Santana went to jail. Some people said Heyes arranged it so he could take his place.”

“He didn’t. Santana got caught. It happens.” Curry pointed to himself.

“Yeah, it does, don’t it?”

Curry scanned the room again, still no Heyes but he caught the eye of a bald man who was staring at him and without a smile. “What’s his problem?”

Mac followed Curry’s gaze. “That’s Eagle – you don’t want to mess with him.”

“Looks like he wants to mess with me.” Another round of laughter but this time it sounded sort of scary. “Should I be worried?”

Joiner made a sound somewhere between a cough and a laugh. “Son, you’re in the Wyoming Territorial Prison. There is nothing else to do here but worry.”

So that’s what he did while he finished his breakfast, then headed out to the yard to work.

* *

Heyes was handed his breakfast in his cell then he was taken to the laundry where he spent the day washing clothes that obviously didn’t belong to anyone in the prison. He attracted some attention, being who he was and all. So he passed the time telling stories of his exploits to the other workers, embellishing as he had for Rovan on the train. It felt good – reliving those days when they could do no wrong – okay, they were doing nothing but wrong but it all ended up right – for them. They had money and respect and nothing was better than the thrill of a job well done.

The guard who came on later in the morning wasn’t as thrilled by Heyes’ tales and quickly put an end to them. Ordered them to work in silence if they knew what was good for them – and he knew – didn’t have to have it demonstrated to know the damage the man could inflict.

By the end of the day he was bone tired like he’d never felt before. Logically he knew that it wasn’t just the physical labors that were wearing him down, but the mental labor of worrying about Curry. When they served his supper to him in his cell, he knew that he was being purposely kept away from his partner. Which meant that Warden Creighton was smart. Maybe smart enough to know a good thing when he saw it. Heyes figured he could gain some ground if he got a job working in the office. Couldn’t be too many cons who could read in this place, let alone do complex arithmetics in their head. If he could convince Creighton that he’d be an asset to him it could be worth the bootlicking he’d have to do to get it.

Watch for an opening. Listen. Learn. He could do it but he didn’t think Kid could. Kid had always been best with a gun on his hip. All Heyes ever needed was his mouth.

One of them was officially unarmed. Damn.

* * *

Three days. It seemed like thirty. Up at dawn, a meager breakfast, work in the field, supper, more work, dinner, locked in the cell waiting for another dawn. And in three days he hadn’t seen Heyes once. He asked about him but the guards were mute on the subject. Mac suggested he stop asking questions because he knew for a fact that all of the prisoners ate meals together so if Heyes wasn’t present there was a reason.

Curry wasn’t sure he wanted to know the reason.

Nineteen years, three hundred and sixty two days to go.

Kid knew he wouldn’t make it. He could feel it. Kind of in the way he had felt the appendicitis creeping up on him. Might have seemed like a normal stomachache to everyone else but he knew. He knew that is was something worse and he had that same feeling now. It increased when he heard footsteps in the corridor. It was dark but it wasn’t dawn. His internal clock told him it couldn’t be much past midnight.

A light appeared in the window. Curry sat up. He watched, waited for the light to pass. Instead there was the sound of a key in the lock. A guard?

The door opened. It wasn’t a guard. Big, bulky, bald – Eagle.


“Big famous gunslinger – I’m here to teach you the facts of life.”

He fought them – which was stupid since all it did was sap his strength and make them more eager to hurt him. There were four of them and even if he got away, where would he go? The guards were camped just outside the cellblock. He thought about yelling for them but figured it would do no good. In only three days he had learned the lay of the land, learned that. . . what was that expression Heyes liked? Oh yes, the inmates were running the asylum.

Totally true in this case. Still, he had to fight. Couldn’t let them win so easily.

Nineteen years, three hundred and sixty two days to go.

He promised himself he wouldn’t cry out. He broke that promise twenty -three minutes later.

*  *  *

“You’re slacking, Curry.” The guard gave him a small shove in the side – barely a nudge but still the pain traveled through his ribs and into his shoulders which already ached from the back breaking work.

“I’m doing the best I can.”

“You’ve got a half a basket of potatoes there. Your quota is two baskets. Speed up or. . . ”

“Or what?” Curry asked, straightening then bending backwards to relieve the pressure on his spine. “You’ll send me to my room without supper?”

The club caught him in the back of the knees. He dropped to the ground glad that it wasn’t his ribs but still his head was spinning from the pain. He crunched up tight, held on until it stopped, then slowly lifted his head.

A couple of prisoners were looking his way, another guard had his rifle at the ready. If he did it now, it would be all over. A quick dash for the fence and they’d shoot him in the back or the head and it would be done. He thought it, but he couldn’t do it. Kept hearing Heyes’ voice saying, ‘don’t you dare leave me here alone.’ Even though he hadn’t seen his friend once in three weeks, he still searched for him, still asked about him. Still held out hope that this nightmare would end – but on a happier note – not the one he was presently considering.

“Is that Curry?” A guard he’d never seen before called as he came into the yard. “He’s supposed to come with me.”

“He’s got work to do.”

“Take it up with the warden, I’ve got my orders.” The new guard hauled Curry up to his feet. “Put your hands behind you.”

This was new and different. They never bothered with restraints when moving him around inside the prison. As the cuffs clicked into place he wondered if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Then he looked around and realized that things could only get better, they couldn’t possibly get worse.

* * *

“Let’s go, Heyes.”

“Not right now, Gabe. Three moves and I’ll have him in check.” Heyes pushed the rock with the bishop symbol painted on it toward his opponent.

McGee smiled back at him with a mouth devoid of teeth. Geezer McGee was the oldest man in the Wyoming pen. At least, everyone thought so since no one really knew his age. Still, he was smarter than three quarters of the prison population, including most of the guards and he had a passion for chess. A passion that Heyes was happy to indulge in – anything to get his brain working was a blessing in this place.

“Now, Heyes,” the guard persisted. This time he added a shove in the shoulder. “Warden’s waiting.”

Heyes sighed. Ever since Creighton learned how good he was with numbers he had kept Heyes quite busy working the books – both sets – the one the prison board checked and the real set. With very little effort on his part, Creighton was managing to skim off 15% of the working funds every month and no one was the wiser. Except, of course, Heyes, who was in no position to tell.

“I’ll be back in a hour,” Heyes said to his chess-playing partner. “You study the board and maybe you’ll have a shot at winning by the time I get back.” The truth was McGee was pretty good, but he couldn’t picture the board four moves ahead like Heyes could so in the end he always lost.

The guard stepped aside to Heyes could walk first down the narrow corridors that led to the front part of the building. The further he moved away from the cell blocks, the cleaner the air got and by the time he reached the warden’s office the stench of human refuse was all but gone. Another good reason not to snitch on Creighton – it wouldn’t be worth giving up the twice weekly rush of fresh air.

Heyes yanked open the door to the outer office and stepped inside. It was empty. Creighton’s clerk, not at his post. He continued on to the inner office and found – not the warden but a woman sitting behind the desk.

“That will be all,” she said, dismissing the guard. Then she pointed to the chair. “Have a seat, Mr. Heyes.”

She had chestnut brown hair. Pulled back from her face on the sides, it fell like a thick ribbon down her back. She had high, sharp cheekbones and eyes that were golden-brown and fringed with long, thick lashes that curled up on the ends. She was dressed in a mannishly tailored white shirt but there was nothing at all masculine about the form underneath.

“If you’re the new warden, I’d like to send my thanks to the governor.” Heyes sat down, crossed his leg – ankle over the knee – the picture of a man who had no worries at all.

“Sorry to disappoint you but Creighton is still the warden, he’s just been. . . displaced for the moment. I’m Christina Harkness.” Her hand disappeared from view and reappeared with a folded piece of paper. “Have you seen this?” She dropped it on the desk, closer to her than him so he was forced to get out of the chair to retrieve it.

Happy to play the game, he took the paper, then took his time settling in again before unfolding it. It was the wanted poster with the sketch – the one that had started this entire mess. “I’ve seen it.”

“Amazing isn’t it? Looking at you now and at the drawing – the likeness is incredible. When you get beyond the fact that you’re in desperate need of a shave.”

Almost unconsciously, Heyes’ hand went to his face. There was a small beard there, maybe three days old. Valmont was the only guard who would allow him to have a razor and wasn’t do back on the shift until the day after tomorrow. “Do you know the man who drew this?”

“His name is Marcel Dubois. He’s from New Orleans and no, you don’t know him. He’s never met you or Kid Curry. Those are composite drawings, based on descriptions he got from people you worked for, gambled with, robbed.” That last word had a bite to it but he let it slide.

Heyes looked at the sketches again, really examining them for the first time. They were very good in that they didn’t just capture their likeness – they seemed to actually capture their personalities as well. The sketch of Kid – it showed the apple round of his cheeks, the boyish line of his face, but it also showed his innocence – a trait that still constantly amazed Heyes after all they’d been through.

“These can’t be composites. I’ve seen the one’s people have drawn of us before. They’re one step above stick figures, they could be anyone of a thousand people.”

“That’s what makes my artist so unusual, he is able to illicit details from people that even they did realize they knew.”

“But it’s not just the details. . . ” Heyes mumbled.

“I know – they’re almost like photographs.”

“Better than photographs – he captures. . . ” He stopped, folded the poster, folded it again. “Good enough to stick our necks in the noose. Bravo for you. You’ve got a hell of resource there.”

“But it could be better. It took Marcel nearly a year to get those sketches of the two of you to that stage. He had to talk to hundreds of people. Then, once he narrowed down the sketches he had to go back and verify the details. Most people don’t have very good memories for faces – not like you. I heard that you had a photographic memory.”

“For cards.”

“For people. I’ve done my homework, Heyes. And from what I’ve learned, you could accurately describe everyone you’ve ever met going back to your first grade teacher.”

“Mrs. Hamilton? What’s she wanted for?”

Christina leaned across the desk, pulling him with her eyes. “With your memory and my sketch artist we could create a set of wanted posters that would be unbeatable.”

“Except for one thing.” He ripped the flyer in two. “I won’t do it.”

“Not even for a clean slate?”

Heyes laughed. “The governor can’t come right out and give you amnesty, boys,” he said in a deep mocking tone. “First you have to prove you deserve it. But in the meantime, you’ll still be wanted. My my that tune sounds mighty familiar.”

“I can understand your skepticism, given your history with the government of Wyoming, but this deal, the one I’m offering you, is better.”

“Is that so?”

“First off, you won’t have to wait a year or three years for the bargain to be sealed. You get this amnesty upfront. The minute you say yes, that’s it, you’ve done your time and no one can arrest you for crimes past.”

Heyes leaned forward in his seat, folded his arms on the edge of the desk. “We won’t be wanted anymore? Right from the start, as soon as I say yes.”

“That’s right. As long as you cooperate with me, you’ll have my protection. No one will touch you. Which brings me to my second point. I don’t work for the governor and I’m not afraid of what the Cattleman’s Association might think if I let you and Curry walk.”

Curry. He caught that. It was the first time she mentioned that he was included in the deal. “Who do you work for?”

“A man who won’t be kicked out of office, at least not for the next four years.”

“You’re a federal marshal?”

It was her turn to laugh. “A little higher up than that.” She stood and headed toward the door, leaving him wondering if he’d said something wrong. “And finally, a gesture of good faith.” She opened the door then she stepped aside to let someone else in.


The relief was so overwhelming Heyes actually felt lightheaded and weak. Weak. That’s how Kid looked – unhealthy and thin – so very, very thin. Looked worse than the day he had left him in Doc Vincent’s care.

“Heyes. Oh lordy, I’m glad to see you.”

They met each other half way, pulling each other into a big bear hug.

“I was afraid you. . . ” Kid’s voice was lost then and Heyes’ was too. He felt Kid stiffen under his touch, flinching from the pain of a simple hug.

“You’re hurt.”

“I’m fine. Just sore from working in the field. You know how I’ve always tried to avoid any work that was hard on the back. Guess I never had a chance to break those muscles in before now.”

Christina perched her hip on the edge of the desk. “So, what do you say, Heyes. Do we have a deal?”

“A deal?” Worry flashed across Curry’s face. “What’s she talking about? What kind of deal?”

“She wants us to rat out our friends,” said Heyes, his voice dripping with distain. “She’s got this miracle worker artist fellow – the one who drew our pictures on that wanted poster Tommy Billings had. She wants us to sit down with him and describe all the outlaws we’ve ever known.”

“And what do we get?”

“Absolution,” said Christina.

“But we’d be working for you so we wouldn’t be free. We’d just be trading one prison for another, right,” said Heyes, his voice growing even deeper and harsher. “Go where you tell us. Do what you say? Like a couple of trained monkeys at the circus? At least with the Governor’s amnesty deal we would have been cut loose, allowed to go on with our lives. Hell, allowed to HAVE lives.”

“But we aren’t going to the get the amnesty.” Curry skirted around Heyes then slowly sank into the chair he had vacated. “We been here almost a month, Heyes. The Governor’s not going to give us a reprieve. Even Lom hasn’t come by to see us. All that effort, all the trying, keeping clean, clearing our names over and over – it was for nothing.”

Heyes turned toward Curry, saw a man, but not the man who’d been his best friend all these years. To Christina he said, “can we have a few minutes alone?”

“Sure, but let me just make this as clear as I can. You are both, certainly welcome to walk away from this deal. You want to stay here and serve twenty years? Go for it. But if you agree to help me capture the kind of outlaws that truly deserve to be in this hellhole, I will take you out of here today. You’ll have clean clothes and bathes and hot food and a warm bed. And though it’s true that you won’t be allowed to go and do whatever it is you please – your standard of living will be better than it’s been in a long time. So give it some real thought before you say no.” She left the office and closed the door behind her.

As soon as she was out of sight, Heyes dropped down to a stoop beside Curry’s chair. “Hey. How you doing? You look terrible.”

“Gee thanks. I’ve been working at it, trying for that breath away from death’s door look that’s so popular around here.”

“Stop that. Kid. What’s the matter with you?”

Curry let his head fall back, his gaze rising to the ceiling. His chin began to quiver as if he were cold or trying not to. . .

Heyes gripped his friend’s wrist where it rested on the arm of the chair. “Talk to me.”

Curry pulled away then crossed his arms tight across his chest. “Is she for real? Is this whole thing for real? Would she really get us out of here today if we agree to help her?”

“I assume so,” Heyes rose; turned so his hips were propped against the edge of the desk. “I didn’t ask to see her badge or her papers but she sounds legitimate.”

“So what’s the problem? You’re the one who always wanted that amnesty so bad, now here’s another chance at it and you want to forget it?”

“I didn’t say I wanted to forget it. But I don’t feel right about what she’s asking. When we decided to try for the amnesty we weren’t endangering anyone else to do it. But this. . . ” He moved to the left but Curry turned again avoiding his gaze. “Are you willing to turn over Wheat or Kyle or Lobo just to get another shot at a clean slate?”

“Yes. No.” Curry ran his hand through his thick uncombed hair. He needed a haircut. It was getting so long it touched his collar in the back. “I don’t think that she’s interested in the Devil’s Hole Gang. What she’s interested in are crooks like Frank Barclay. He’s left a trail of bodies at every bank he’s ever robbed. There’s no photograph of him anywhere but we know exactly what he looks like and we know the girls he likes to sleep with and the places he likes to play poker in. Would you really feel guilty turning over the likes of him?”

“Okay, you’re right about that. She’d probably be plenty happy tracking down people we know and don’t like. But what happens when the friends of those people catch on? It was one thing ducking the law, but keeping clear of people like Barclay or Ironman Kelly or the Thompson Gang – that takes being chased to a whole new level.”

Curry growled, scrubbed his hands over his face. “I keep thinking about the old days. Watching you crack a safe. The way it felt when I picked up those thick packs of bills. And the way we used to celebrate after a job. Sometimes I wish we could go back. Not start robbing again now,” he corrected himself. “But go back to that time, back when I used to let you do all my worrying for me.”

“Back when we were bullet proof, untouchable,” Heyes said, the same nostalgic tone creeping into his voice. “I understand. But we can’t go back. The world’s changed. We’ve changed.” He was about to stoop down again when Curry popped up out of the seat. He moved away to the far corner of the room then pressed himself into the narrow space as if he might hide there forever.

“Don’t you want to get out of here?” Curry asked.

“Sure I do.” He stepped closer and again Curry dodged. “Kid! Look at me!”

Curry stopped, faced him. Lips pressed tight together, chin held high, eyes almost defiant – trying so very hard to keep it together. “At night, when I’m locked in that cell, all I can think about is that I just want to go home. And then I remember – I don’t have a home. Almost thirty years in this world and I don’t have a thing to show for it. No mother, no father no wife, no children, no . . . nobody!”

Heyes opened his mouth, closed it. Didn’t want to shout because he had a feeling that if he did he’d be picking up the pieces for the next hour and a half. “What the hell am I?” he said softly. “You know what I’ve been thinking about at night, when I’m locked in that cell? You. I’m worrying about that operation you had. Wondering if they’re pushing you too hard. I know the food is lousy and I know you’ve got a heck of an appetite so I figure you’re not getting enough to eat. And I wonder why they’re going through so much trouble to keep us apart. And then I think about how this is all my fault. How I led you into this life. Because I was older and you trusted me to take care of us and look how we ended up.”

“Don’t say that.” Curry pointed a finger and his hand was shaking. “You never made me do anything I didn’t want to. And you’re not the one who taught me how to use a gun. As I recall, you were against it. But I did it anyway. Got myself a reputation!” He spit that last word out like it was poison. “You know what they say about a reputation. There’s always somebody wanting to test you – to prove that they’re better.” He backed up to the wall, slid down so he was sitting, knees tight to his chest. “Remember that bully, the one we met trying to get that statue for Big Mac?”

“Briggs. I remember.”

“I tried so hard to turn the other cheek. I danced his jigs and let him humiliate me and you know why I did it?”

Heyes sighed, slipped into the empty chair. “Why?”

“Because you asked me to. I didn’t do it for Mac or for that preacher. I did it for you.” Curry pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. Hard. “Do this for me, Heyes. Just agree to what ever she wants. Dance her damned jig and let’s get out of here.”

“Alright,” Heyes said softly. “Alright.” He got up from the chair, went to the door, waited, expecting Curry to stand up but he stayed there, shivering, hands still pressed tightly against his eyes. He opened the door. Went back to the chair.

When Christina came into the room, she glanced at Curry and there was a flash of emotion that Heyes couldn’t quite decipher before it was gone.

“We have a deal,” said Heyes. As soon as the words were out he wondered if it was going to be the second biggest mistake he’d ever made in his life.

* * * *

Curry was afraid that it was all just a dream – that any minute he’d wake up and find himself back in that cold, dingy cell or worse yet in the company of Eagle and his boys. He kept looking for signs, things that couldn’t be real like purple cows or people walking through walls but it didn’t happen. Everything was just as it should be, except of course, that they were being released from prison after only serving three weeks of a twenty year sentence. That was strange. And then there was Christina – their mysterious and lovely benefactor. That was strange, too. But hell, he wasn’t going to buck it.

They were given their old clothes back, just as dirty as they day they had exchanged them for prison wear. It was the only thing they owned now, their saddlebags, hats, gun belts, all having mysteriously disappeared somewhere between Merchantville and the prison. Warden Creighton was suspiciously absent during the whole affair. Christina said it was because he was angry with her for going over his head and taking away his two prized prisoners.

“He had plans to show you off,” she said as they walked out of the building and into the fading day. “Like blue ribbon hogs at the county fair.”

“Nice analogy,” Heyes muttered as he followed her out the door.

A two-seat coach was waiting for them. The driver, a tall, thin man jumped down to greet them as they approached. He was dressed like an east coast dandy – ruffled shirt with a brocade vest and a tight-fitting jacket that tucked in sharply at the waist.

“Sign, sealed and delivered I see.” He held out his hand to Heyes. “Jamie Bauer, you must be Hannibal.”

“Heyes. Yes.” He shook but with little enthusiasm. Jaime didn’t seem to notice. He switched to Curry.

“And the Kid, a real pleasure,” said Jaime, his Southern accent beginning to show through.

“That’s what everybody keeps saying.”

“Can’t help it,” said Jamie. “I have a fascination for the criminal element, the more criminal the better. I spent three days once with the Butcher of Boston, I nearly. . . well, let’s just say that it was an incredibly exciting experience.”

“Isn’t it nice when a person enjoys his work?” Christina cut-in. “Can we get out of here before Creighton comes up with some reason to make us stay.”

“Absolutely.” Jamie returned to the front of the coach. “Mr. Heyes, if you’ll do me the honor of joining me? We’ll let Mr. Curry and dear Christina have the back.”

They settled in as directed and then they were off. Once they were moving, Curry looked back at the massive brick building. If he never saw the place again it would be too soon.

“Curry,” Christina spoke so softly, he barely heard her above the noise of the coach. “I would sincerely hate to have to send you back there.”

He turned forward in his seat again, didn’t look at her as he said, “don’t worry, you won’t have to.”


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