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By Grace R. Williams "It's not fair, Kid! Not fair at all!" Kid Curry rolled his eyes and urged his horse to a quicker pace. His ears were burning from too many days in the saddle, forced to listen to his partner's continual rant. "I mean, how'd you get so all fired..." he fumbled, "What did you say Grace called you?" The Kid grinned, smugly, "Inspirational." He paused, remembering, then quickly added, "But that wasn't my word, Heyes, it was hers. And it was a long time ago. Look, I really don't want to talk about this any more." They made camp near a stream, cooked their supper of fresh caught fish and leaned back on their saddles, settling in for a quiet night. No posse, no sheriff, no hooting and hollering from any saloon to disturb them. Only the peaceful sounds of crickets and the gurgling of the stream. Heyes and Curry pulled their blankets up to their chins and listened. "G'night, Heyes." Kid winced as soon as his words broke the silence. Had he opened the floodgates? Kid sighed heavily as Heyes started in again. "Who was this Jennifer anyway? And Madelyn? Or Isobel, hmmm? Heard ya spent the night with her in a goat pen! And those Mary and Sue twins in San Francisco? Now Stella and Ann and Ellie and..." "Heyes!" Curry sat up, his outburst startling Heyes'. "They weren't real, Heyes! Just stories them writin' women cooked up in their heads is all!" When Heyes stayed quiet, Curry rested his head against the saddle again, hoping to get some relief from the constant interrogation Heyes had been subjecting him to. "I still say it's not fair." This time Curry stood in exasperation, throwing his hands into the air. "What can I do, Heyes? How can I fix this? Just tell me what I need to do to have some peace!" Heyes' eyes dropped to the cold ground, an embarrassed look crossing his face. "Just want a certain justice is all." "Justice?"
"Yeah, Justice!" Heyes lifted his head now, speaking the word with more confidence. "I'm as appealing as you, Kid." Curry arched his eyebrows, doubtful. "Seems to me, as the former Leader of the Devil's Hole Gang, I'm entitled to as many'a those women writers writin' romance about me! Women find me attractive, Kid, exciting, charming..." He would have continued the list, but was interrupted by the Kid. "Women find you smart, Heyes." "Nothing wrong with being smart!" he snapped then, paused, "Is there?" More pausing, "What's wrong with being smart, Kid?" Curry sat next to his friend, putting a supportive arm around his shoulder. "It's like this, Heyes. Last time I talked to Grace..." "Wait a minute! You TALK to the writin' women? How?" "Sure! Ya just look up and start talkin', Heyes. They're always watchin' and listenin'." Heyes' eyes scanned the treetops, skeptically. "So anyway, last time I talked to Grace, she was tellin' me how she has a hard time writin' you, Heyes. Can't get in your head 'cause she thinks you're too smart for her. You're always plottin' and schemin'." "That's ridiculous! I'm not too smart for her! She's just gotta try a little harder is all!" "She's tryin', Heyes, but she's not sure she can do it. And she says she just can't picture you in a...well, in a romantic sort'a way." A frown took over Heyes' face. "How come?" Was that a sheepish smile on Curry's face, or was the smug grin back? "Guess she just don't find you quite as...uh..." "Inspirational?" Heyes provided, closing his eyes and nodding in understanding. "I wouldn't worry about it, Heyes. I'm sure there's loads'a them writin' women who find you lots more inspirational than me!" He should have stopped there, but he added under his breath, "Just seems they ain't inspired enough to be writin' it... right now." Heyes' frown was replaced with an angry glare. Curry held both hands up defensively in front of himself. "Look, Heyes, Grace even told
me she's workin' on it, gonna write some romance story 'bout you someday, no matter how long it takes!" "Yeah? And how long you think it might take?" Kid swallowed hard and gave his partner a sympathetic look. "Well...ah...when she wrote a romance 'bout me, she told me she was pretty darn inspired and it took her, "he passed a hand over his mouth, muffling his final words, "... wlovrye." "It took her what?" Heyes questioned, undeterred. "It took her well over a year!" Curry finished, wishing his partner hadn't forced him to say it. Heyes' shoulders seemed to sag. "So let me get this straight, Kid. You're sayin' all I gotta do is hang around waitin' for one'a those writers to get inspired?" Kid nodded. "But in the meantime, they'll still be writin' romance about you?" Kid nodded again. "An' only you, me and the writin' women will know about it. It'll be our secret." Heyes gave a small, disgusted laugh. "That's justice?"
By Lana Coombe The sole of his boot met the first step with a resounding thud, as the crowd hushed slightly, save for the cry of a young child. The feel of the rifle barrel in his back forced him onward up the wooden steps, one by one, each foot fall echoing his advance to the platform above. The fear was evident in his blue eyes, his skin glowing with perspiration, his fair hair damp in the overwhelming heat. Finally he reached the last step. He hesitated, looking up at the length of knotted rope, hanging down from the newly constructed timber frame. Swallowing hard, he took a step forward, placing himself under the loop in the rope. The crowd stood about, all eyes staring up at him with anticipation of what was to come. He scanned the faces and came to stop at a pair of dark, intense eyes that looked sadly at him. He managed a slight nod and smile, as a gesture of appreciation that the other man was there, knowing he had done
all that he could to help him but it hadn’t been enough. He wished he would leave now. He knew it was dangerous for him to be there and he didn’t want to see it end this way. A preacher stepped forward, Bible in hand and read a passage that he did not hear and which seemed inappropriate, in the present circumstances. Rough hands pulled him back into position and the noose was placed over his head, the knot drawn so that lay on the side of his neck. The sheriff stepped forward and offered a bandana as a blindfold, which he refused. The realisation that this was the end of his time on this earth dawned and the panic gripped him as he struggled to maintain a controlled composure. The dark eyed man hung his head in defeat. He had done all that was in his power to help him but at every turn he had been thwarted. It angered him that this basically good man was to die for something he hadn’t done. Yes, he had carried out other misdemeanours but nothing that justified his death, especially in this basic and public way. He knew the man was not a killer and that he had shot the other man in self defence but his previous crimes blinkered the jury to the evidence. So now he stood in a crowd with all the other onlookers, watching as the man’s fate was finally decided. He was to suffer the justice that only a small town jury could hand out and the only thing that was certain, was the finality of that justice. As the hangman moved to release the platform every fibre in Heyes’ body tensed. The feel of a hand on his arm drew his attention, from the spectacle before him, as a low voice quietly said, “Come on. Let’s get outta here, Joshua. We can’t do no more.” Heyes turned towards his partner, Kid Curry and nodded his agreement and began to walk away with once last fleeting look over his shoulder at the platform where Kyle Murtry’s body now hung.
By LAK The prisoner sat silently on his bunk, staring out through the bars of the cell, his uneaten breakfast on the floor at his feet. Though his gaze appeared to be fixed on the front door of the Sheriff’s office, his eyes weren’t seeing it, or anything else in the here and now. Instead, all he could see was his partner, laid out on the hard ground, bloodstain blossoming on his chest. All he could think about was how he had knelt next to his best friend, unable to do anything but watch the life fading from his eyes and silently curse a posse that had been inclined to shoot to kill and a governor who had been dragging his feet on their deal for almost a year. In his mind’s eye, that horrible day played out again and again… “Promise me something,” his partner had said with a gasp, struggling to get the words out. “You have to keep trying. Don’t give up, and don’t do anything stupid.” That last had even been said with a bit of a smile, despite the pain in his eyes. “You’ll get the amnesty, I know it.” This speech was clearly taxing the man’s strength, but there was a
determination in the tired eyes that wouldn’t be argued with. “Promise me, Han.” Hannibal Heyes had sucked in a breath, an involuntary shiver running through his body. He hadn’t been anything but “Heyes” in years, since they were kids, really. “Kid,” he’d said, ready to reassure his friend, to tell him not to talk like he wasn’t going to be there to make sure Heyes didn’t “do anything stupid,” but the look in those familiar blue eyes had stopped him cold. That was one lie he couldn’t tell, not here, not now. “Han?” Impossibly, the Kid’s voice was getting weaker. Heyes felt himself starting to go numb. He was barely aware of sun beating down on his back or the rocks digging into his knees as he knelt in the dirt. This wasn’t how their bid for amnesty was supposed to end. They were supposed to be free together, grow old together. “Promise me, Han,” Kid repeated. Heyes looked his long-time partner straight in the eye, and was surprised at how easily the words came to his lips. This was a lie he could tell; just now the Kid needed peace, and it was in Heyes’ power to give it to him. “I promise, Jed,” he’d said. “Good,” Kid had managed to get out. “Now get out of here before that posse shows up.” Heyes shook his head, staring at his partner in amazement. Kid had watched his back through more scrapes than either one of them cared to count, and here he was, on death’s door, doing it one more time. The rush of guilt hit Heyes like a punch to the gut. “Listen, Kid…Jed…,” he began. “Not your fault,” Kid interrupted, a knowing look in his eyes. He had to pause then, as his body shook with a series of dry, rasping coughs. “None of this is your fault,” he continued when he could talk again. “You got that?” “I got it, Kid,” Heyes reassured, and was rewarded with a genuine Kid Curry smile. All too soon, though, the smile faded and the light was gone from the usually expressive eyes. Heyes closed his eyes and sucked in a couple of deep breaths. The pain was just too much…. Heyes was so lost in his memories that he almost didn’t hear the sound of the Sheriff’s voice, or the jangle of the keys as the cell door was unlocked. “Let’s go son. Marshal’s here,” the Sheriff said, pulling the cell door open and gesturing Heyes out with his gun. That finally got Heyes' attention, and he forced himself onto his
feet and out of the cell to where two more men with badges were waiting. He stood there numbly, barely noticing as the handcuffs were locked around his wrists and he was led out to the waiting coach. Once he was inside, he slumped in his seat, staring absently down at his cuffed hands and thinking back to those last words he’d shared with the Kid. Another lie. It was his fault. He’d led them into outlawing, and it was his scheme that had gone wrong and ended in the Kid being shot. He hadn’t been able to get them away, and now he was on his way to the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Part of him felt that he should be angry, at his fate, at the Governor, at something or someone. He didn’t seem to have the energy, though. And besides, it seemed to him that there was a certain justice to it all. Twenty years for the Kid’s life? If anything, he was getting off cheaply.
By Maz McCoy “Jed?” The blond man did not respond. “Jed?” Twenty-year old Hannibal Heyes repeated, urgently, as he placed a hand on his partner’s arm. Still Kid did not take his eyes away from the man, lying in the dust, just a few feet away; the bloodstain in the middle of his chest growing larger. “Come on, let’s go,” Heyes encouraged but the young blond man didn’t move. His feet were rooted to the spot. His eyes fixed on the red patch on the man’s shirt. “Jed!” Heyes hissed, pulling his friend harder and Kid staggered backwards, finally following Heyes towards the horses. Without a word he pulled himself into the saddle. Heyes was still watching him as they rode out of Fleetwood, a trail of dust thrown up in their wake. From behind the white lace curtains of a hotel room, a pair of brown eyes watched them leave. They rode in silence for a while, just trying to put as many miles between themselves and the town as possible. Kid followed Heyes. He didn’t look at the terrain, didn’t turn in the saddle to check if anyone was following them, didn’t ask where they were going. He just kept his eyes on his partner’s back and rode. Finally Heyes pulled his horse to a halt, breathing hard. “I don’t think anyone followed us,” he stated, looking back along the trail and squinting against the fading sunlight. “I reckon we can walk the horses for a while. We should find somewhere to camp before it gets dark.” “I didn’t want to kill him.” It was the first thing Kid had said since leaving town. Heyes looked across at his friend, his gaze met by two sad blue eyes.
“I know.” “D’you think she saw?” “Yes.” “I didn’t want that either.” “I know, Kid.” Heyes had seen Ellie at the window, seen her face as she had pulled back the curtain to watch the scene unfold in the street below. “I didn’t want to kill him.” Kid closed his eyes, as he leaned forward on the saddle horn. Heyes knew there was nothing he could say. Kid had taken more than a passing interest in Ellie Hobbs. It had been a long time since he’d seen his friend so smitten with a woman. Unfortunately, once again, Kid had chosen the wrong woman. “If you’d seen the marks on her back Heyes.” Kid looked across at his partner. “He had no reason to…well…he had no reason.” Kid was right, but a man like Wesley Hobbs didn’t need a reason to throw his weight around. “We can’t go back can we?” Kid asked, although he already knew the answer. “No, we can’t.” Kid knew that Fleetwood, and the woman he left there, were destined to become no more than bittersweet memories for him. The sheriff had seen the shootout. They had been trying to leave town when Hobbs had called Kid out. Despite Heyes’ efforts to intervene and stop the inevitable, Kid strode courageously into the centre of the street to face the man. He hadn’t long recovered from a bullet wound to the shoulder and Heyes wasn’t sure if he had his speed back. Hobbs taunted the younger man. He managed to put an awful lot of venom into the word boy. Although at only eighteen, to many folk, Kid was still just that. The farmer drew first, the lawman agreed with that, but he had still encouraged them to leave Fleetwood before Hobbs’ brothers rode in and caused more trouble. He didn’t want gunfighters in his town and having seen Kid’s speed, he was convinced that’s what he was. Heyes knew his friend would have stayed to face them, stayed to protect Ellie if she needed it, but he dragged him away instead. Hobbs' youngest daughter had already sought shelter with the sheriff and his wife. She would be well protected and had made it plain to Jed Curry, the night before, that she had
no desire to go off with a no good drifter. If, like Heyes, he had seen her face at the window that afternoon, he would have been less inclined to believe her. When Kid stepped out to face her father; it was clear, to anyone watching, who Ellie Hobbs was most fearful for. “I reckon we should ride for another hour,” Heyes suggested. “Then find somewhere to camp. What do you think?” Kid looked up from his saddle. What did he think? Couldn’t you tell? Wesley Hobbs had received...a certain justice for his crimes, but he had left a trail of suffering in his wake and hardened at least one heart.
By Guest In response to Grace R. Williams’: with permission from all the authors mentioned here. Kid shook his head in discuss as he started breaking camp. Heyes had been going on since he woke up. All through breakfast, he didn’t stop talking. Kid wondered how he managed to eat anything. ”And then there’s Laurie,” Heyes said. “Just the sweetest, most gentle woman you ever want to meet.” ”I get it Heyes.” Kid said. ”I don’t think you do,” Heyes said. “Laurie may be sweet and gentle but the woman is strong. Nope she nothing like the woman that fawn over you.” ”Hey! I’m inspirational!” Kid yelled. ”Not to my ladies,” Heyes said. ”Grace said…” Kid started. Heyes held up his hand. ”You were the one who told me to just look up and start talking,” Heyes said. “I can’t help it that they all wanted to talk to me.” ”But I’m inspire…” Kid stopped himself. ”I understand Kid,” Heyes said sympathetically. “Storm explained it. She finds it hard to write romance for you. They all do.” ”But I got boyish charm,” Kid whined.
”And boyish looks and boyish,” Heyes shrugged. “Well now that’s the problem with a lot of my Ladies. They think of me as a man. They think of you as a boy. As a brother so to speak.” ”A brother.” ”Hey, S.J. even wrote you as a brother,” Heyes smiled. “She says she wrote the perfect woman. A woman who can love both of us, but not cause conflict between us.” ”A brother.” Kid said. “A brother?” ”Sorry, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about your brother.” Heyes said. ”Well that’s just one of them. What about the others?” Kid asked. ”Well in Storm’s story, Laurie says she can be your little sister.” Heyes said trying not to smile. ”Fine. But Red, she wrote me a girl.” Kid said. “You can’t deny that.” ”Yep, she wrote you a girl. A girl.” Heyes said. “They write me women. Strong, beautiful, feisty, can’t wait to tear my clothes off women.” ”And I suppose they all think your smart too.” Kid said. ”S.J. says that she is just as attracted to my brain as my good looks. She says my brain is phenomenal. She says if I were dumb like you, I wouldn’t be half as attractive. She wants to run her hands thru my hair and my brain.” ”She said I was dumb?” Kid asked a little hurt. ”That’s not the point Kid.” Heyes stated. ”Oh sure, she thinks of me as a brother and dumb.” Kid sighed, “Can it get any worse than that?” ”At least she thinks of you.” Heyes said. Kid started to saddle his horse. “I just want a little justice Kid, that’s all.” ”Ya know Heyes,” Kid said glancing over his shoulder. “They do write you very, what’s the word, chaste.” Kid turned towards Heyes and smiled. “They make you into a gentleman.” ”SJ has written some...” Heyes started his eyes narrowing. ”But not until after you were married to Shirley and then she had to handcuff you. And
Storm had you get married after you took advantage of Laurie, and Red hasn’t let you touch Brigett the way you want to. And probably won’t till after you are married.” Kid stated. ”I thought you said you didn’t read my stories.” Heyes said. “But while we’re on the subject. Do you know how many missing scene stories that are out there that I’m not such a gentleman. Bell and Leann have written several about saloon girls, then there’s the one with Julia, the one with Grace, the one with”. ”GRACE!” Kid shouted. ”Not Grace the writer, Grace from The Shell Game.” Heyes said rolling his eyes. “There’s the one with...” ”Okay Heyes I get it. Every woman wants you!” Kid said exasperated. Heyes let out a chuckle. ‘That’s what you always say.’ Kid shot him a look. ‘Yes, S.J. writes you saying that all the time.” Kid glowered at him. ’Just forget it.’ Kid tuned back towards his horse. ”Hey, Kid, don’t be like that,” Heyes said. “Calico didn’t...” Heyes stopped himself and looked down. ”Calico didn’t what Heyes?” Kid asked. Heyes shook his head and kicked a stone with the tip of his boot. A smile tugged at the corner of Kid’s mouth. “Are you saying Hannibal Heyes didn’t get the girl in her story? Oh sorry, woman.” ”One of her stories.” Heyes said quietly not looking up. He put his hands in his back pockets. “Only one, the one with Mary Sue.” Kid’s grin grew bigger. “Calico? I thought you said she was one of your ‘Ladies’.” Heyes continued to look down. ”Let’s just drop it Kid, okay?” he mumbled. ”No Heyes. Who got the girl?” Kid said his grin getting still bigger. “I mean if the great Hannibal Heyes didn’t get the girl who did?” Kid waited patiently. “Well?” Heyes glanced up at Kid from under his eyelashes. His eyes started to sparkle as his mouth broke into a grin. Kid’s smile slipped. Heyes raised his head as his smile got bigger and his dimples got deeper. He let out a little chuckle. Kid heard a trap snapping closed. ”Who got the girl?” Heyes said. “Joshua Smith.” Kid’s mouth dropped open. Heyes started to laugh. “And that Kid, is justice.”