He should have known it was too good to be true.
Hannibal Heyes shook his head in dismay. How could he ever have thought otherwise? Lakeville was quiet, small enough to be obscure but large enough to be entertaining. The Lakeville Hotel was a delightfully comfortable and inexpensive hotel, and he and the Kid had managed to get a room with two separate beds. What more could an ex-outlaw on the run want?
There were two different saloons with poker games running almost constantly—challenging enough to be enjoyable, but not so challenging that Heyes had any real fear of losing any significant amount of money. There was a restaurant with real home cooking, not the sort that came from the kind of home one would try to leave as soon as possible. There were pretty waitresses who happily whiled away some time with the handsome travelers, but didn’t expect anything more. And, best of all, the hotel had a small lending library for the convenience of its patrons. When Heyes wasn’t tactfully outfoxing the locals at poker (never winning so much that he became unwelcome, but covering the costs of their stay in town without dipping into their funds), or flirting his way through meals so good that he enjoyed the food almost as much as Kid Curry did, he was reading a new-to-him Dickens with a Fenimore Cooper in reserve.
Throw in a lovely natural setting which encouraged the pair to go for daily rides because they wanted to, not because they had to, and Heyes found himself relaxing for the first time in a very long while.
He’d known it couldn’t possibly last. Either someone from their past—lawman, outlaw, witness to a train robbery—was going to show up in town, or a fetching young lady, hardworking small business owner, or other equally worthy citizen was going to need their help. As usual.
This, on the other hand, was entirely unexpected. They’d wired Lom Trevors when they got to town, because they hadn’t checked in for awhile. Heyes expected to receive an acknowledgment in return. What he didn’t expect, though, was what arrived, just over two weeks later.
He walked into the café where the two ex-outlaws were lingering over their coffee. He was fifteen years old, skinny and gawky as though he’d recently shot up nearly a foot in height, which was probably the case. He had sandy brown hair, greenish eyes, and a sparse moustache which he obviously took great pride in. And he was Lom Trevors’ nephew. Jimmy Trevors, son of Lom’s brother and sister-in-law back in Illinois, and en route to visit his uncle in Porterville, Wyoming.
“Man at the hotel said you’d probably be here, Mister Smith and Mister Jones. Uncle Lom said you’d travel with me to Porterville. Said you owed him a favor or some such. I don’t see why I can’t just travel on the stagecoach alone all the way, but Mister Meyers was only coming as far as Merritton, and Uncle Lom said it was good fortune that you two weren’t more than a couple of hours’ stage ride away.” He looked at one of the pretty waitresses, his eyes widening.
“This your boy, Mister Jones?” she asked, with a smile.
“Nope,” replied the Kid. “And I told you to call me Thaddeus.”
“All right, Thaddeus,” she said, topping up the men’s coffee. “Can I bring anything for your young friend, then?”
“Can I have a beer?” Jimmy asked, hopefully.
“No,” said Heyes, quickly. “He’ll have a coffee, same as us.” It wasn’t that Heyes himself hadn’t enjoyed beer at Jimmy’s age, but he’d been an orphanage runaway. The last thing he wanted to do was cross Lom or his family in the way of child rearing, and he couldn’t remember whether civilized folks let their fifteen year old sons drink beer or not.
“Thaddeus,” began the boy, apparently hoping to appeal the decision.
“That’s Mister Jones to you,” said Curry, “and this is Mister Smith.”
Jimmy rolled his eyes. “All right. Do I at least get something to eat?”
“You got any money?” asked Heyes, but as the boy’s face fell, he quickly said, “Of course you can. Everything’s good here, and we’re treating. It’s what your uncle Lom would want.”
Jimmy ate and ate. He’d been traveling for days, after all, and probably hadn’t gotten much on the road. Heyes couldn’t figure out where the lad was putting it all, but then, Kid Curry ate like that sometimes, too. When they went to pay, Heyes looked at his diminishing funds and said to the Kid, under his breath, “Gonna have to win at cards tonight. Young Jimmy here is an expensive proposition, and it sounds like we’ll need three tickets on the next stage to Porterville.”
Now it was Kid Curry’s turn to roll his eyes. “You’re right, Joshua. Guess I won’t be going to the saloon, then. Somebody’s got to keep an eye on him.”
“Can’t I come along to the saloon?” asked Jimmy hopefully. A couple of the girls who, from their manner of dress, clearly worked there, bustled into the café to pick up some sandwiches, and then sashayed out again. It was obvious they’d hoped to catch Heyes’ and Curry’s attention, but the two older men ignored them while Jimmy stared in wonderment.
“No,” said both outlaws, in unison.
While Heyes hurried off to find a poker game, Kid Curry tried to remember what one might do to amuse oneself in a strange town, other than visit a saloon. There was a revival going on at the Baptist church, and he was almost desperate enough to try it, but he suspected that wasn’t something that Jimmy would be too interested in. One by one he dismissed target practice, the local dancehall, and . . . honestly, if he was going to keep company with the young and impressionable, he needed to develop some new interests, he thought. “Let’s just go back to the hotel,” he finally said.
Of course Jimmy didn’t have his own room, and somehow the Kid didn’t think Lom would want him staying on his own, and sneaking out in the middle of the night. He’d have to share with Heyes and let the boy have his bed. Well, it’d been nice while it lasted.
Curry collected his room key from the front desk, and stopped by the hotel’s reading room to pick up a book to while away the evening. He found something by Mark Twain that he remembered Heyes showing enthusiasm about, and then looked to see how Jimmy was doing.
A whole selection of quality reading, and of course Jimmy had found the one small section of dime novels. After sorting past a number that he’d already read, the boy made his selection. Kid Curry & Hannibal Heyes and the Haunted Mine. Of course.
They made their way upstairs, and settled in. The Kid found that Heyes hadn’t been wrong, and that Twain’s Life on the Mississippi really was a good read. When he was allowed to read it, that is. Every five or ten minutes, Jimmy couldn’t contain himself any further, and stopped to narrate to him what was happening in his own book. The fictional version of Heyes was absurdly clever, and practically unlocked the most complicated safes by his mere touch. But his own depiction, that’s where Curry really had trouble not laughing. He was described as being able to shoot a mote of dust off the wings of a fly without harming the insect, and strong women nearly fainted at his approach. Jed Curry didn’t suffer from any false modesty, and knew he was a handsome man, but in this tale, he was depicted as nearly godlike in his beauty. He was guiltily pleased that Heyes wasn’t depicted as quite so irresistible, mostly because for some reason the author thought he had a large scar running down one side of his face. He did, however, have a lovely senorita waiting for him back in Mexico, which is something the real Heyes lacked.
As dusk settled in, and they turned on the gaslight to continue their reading, Jimmy grew more confidential. His parents were hoping that a visit to his uncle Lom would quench his thirst for adventure. “You and Mister Smith, you’re nice and all. But I’m still hoping to meet someone really legendary. Someone like Wyatt Earp or . . . well, like Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”
“Folks like that, they’re few and far between,” said Curry. “Mostly the West is just filled with regular folks, like me and Joshua, and your uncle Lom.” If only you knew, Jimmy, he thought, how much Heyes and me wish we were just regular folks. How hopefully someday soon, we will be, thanks to your uncle Lom. And with that, he went back to reading Twain.