The snoring filled the room.
Normally it would have annoyed Heyes enough that he’d have awakened his partner, pretending to have a great idea, but really just to disturb his sleep as much as Curry disturbed his.
To be honest, though, Heyes was usually awakened more by his overactive brain than the Kid’s snoring, as it was not normally this loud. This time, however, he thanked all the powers that might still be concerned with two almost reformed outlaws for the noise. It meant that his partner was still alive.
He had been more susceptible to catching the grippe ever since they spent that winter in the cabin on Clarence’s mining claim. Heyes didn’t want to admit that it might be more related to the fact that they were not as young as they used to be and weren’t as able to shrug off the general maladies that came with living life on the run. He let that thought leave his brain and reached over to feel the Kid’s forehead. It was a bit warm, but definitely cooler than it had been.
Heyes rested back against the headboard and let his eyes close, just listening to the noise of the Kid’s ragged breathing. The snoring had stopped, so he thought he might be able to rest.
“Heyes.” A raspy voice disturbed his attempt at slumber. He looked over to see the fever bright eyes of the best friend he had ever had in the world.
“Go back to sleep, Kid.” The quilt had been disturbed during Curry’s earlier thrashing. Heyes started to pull it gently back up around his cousin’s shoulders, but a coughing fit interrupted that effort.
“Can I have a drink of water?” The Kid finally got the statement out after blowing his nose.
“Sure.” Heyes turned towards the pitcher of water left there earlier by the lady of the house. He propped the Kid up and kept his grasp on the glass, as his partner soothed his throat. Then he settled him back down under the covers, again feeling his forehead.
“Meet your approval?” The Kid tried to give Heyes an annoyed look as he came back to the bed, but instead just let his eyes flutter shut.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact.” Hannibal Heyes sounded pleased, as he settled a pillow back against the dark walnut headboard. “You’re still running a fever, but I think you’ve turned the corner and are starting to get better.”
“Glad to know the state of my health is making you happy.” Curry didn’t immediately reopen his eyes, but eventually did to take a look around the room. “Heyes, where are we?”
“You don’t remember?” His partner looked concerned.
He shook his head. “All I remember is the snow that kept coming down and wouldn’t stop.”
“We were very lucky we stumbled on this homestead.” Heyes’ gaze upon his cousin was concerned. “I don’t think I could have kept you on that horse any longer.”
“They seem like nice folk?” The Kid’s eyes had drifted shut again, but his voice was getting stronger.
“You really don’t remember?” Heyes’ look of concern intensified.
“Just the snow.”
“She seems to be a very nice lady.”
Silence settled on the room for a minute.
“She?” Curry’s eyes opened and a very familiar look started to be visible in them.
“Her husband was gone for supplies before the storm started.”
“Oh.” Disappointment showed in the Kid’s face, but then he settled back.
“Hopefully he had as much luck as we did and is waiting it out in town.”
“You think it’s gonna be a problem, once he gets back, finding us here?” The Kid started to sit up, until Heyes stopped him. “I’m ready to go whenever we need to.”
“We’ll deal with that if we have to.” Heyes fussed with the quilt, pulling it up over his partner yet again.
The Kid’s breathing had settled enough that Heyes had hoped he had fallen back asleep. He gently pushed a stray curl off Curry’s forehead. “Besides there ain’t no way I’m letting you back out in that cold yet.”
At that moment the door to the room opened and a woman in a dressing gown looked in. The first blush of youth was off her face, but she was far from old. Her blonde locks were contained in a long braid that ran down her back past her waist.
“How is our patient doing?” She held a small lamp. “I heard voices.”
“Still a bit warm, but better, Mrs. Smith.” Heyes’ eyes took on an amused glint as he saw surprise flicker into and back out of his partner’s face.
“Joshua, I told you to call me Mary.” She set the light down on the bedside table, reaching out to feel the Kid’s forehead. “It seems your brother is correct, Thaddeus.”
Curry glanced over to Heyes, but then returned her smile. “I’m feeling a mite better, ma’am.” He pulled up the quilt, finally realizing he was clad only in his long johns.
“Much of that is due to Mary here, who had been so kind as to take us in.” Heyes picked up the pitcher. “I’m going to get some fresh water from the well.”
“You shouldn’t go out in the cold again. There still is plenty from what you brought in earlier.” Mary glanced at the Kid, looking a bit uncomfortable, but then squared her shoulders and sat in a chair close to the bed, looking towards Heyes as he started out of the room. “I’ll watch Thaddeus.” Silence settled as Mary’s eyes met the Kid’s blue ones.
“I’m sorry to admit this, ma’am, but I don’t remember being introduced.” The Kid smiled sweetly.
“No, I don’t imagine so.” Mary shook her head. “You were were in bad shape when you and your brother rode in here on that poor worn out horse.”
The uncomfortable look started to cross his face again, so she reached out and took his hand. “I’m Mary Smith and you are Thaddeus Jones and your brother is Joshua Jones.” She squeezed and then let go, so he could put his hand under the quilt, but she nodded decisively. “I think we are all of an age that we shouldn’t worry about being uncomfortable with each other.”
“Your husband going to agree with that?” The Kid’s blue eyes held hers, but she shook her head and smiled as the wind whistled around the snug home.
“I’m just hoping he’s holed up in Duncanville and has the smarts to wait out this storm.” She gave him a steely eye and transferred it to his partner as he came back into the room. “Unlike some unwise men I could mention, but won’t.”
“Just trying to get to Stanton for the new job our friend had lined up for us.” Heyes captured his partner’s gaze as he came back into the room. They both were well aware that they had been trying to outrun a posse that formed in the last town, after someone heard the Kid call Heyes by his real name, while they sat relaxing at a poker table during a break in the game. “Did we mention that he’s a sheriff up in Wyoming?”
“Yes, multiple times, Joshua.” Mary smiled wryly. “You’d think that you two had ridden in here, with guns blazing and being chased by a posse, instead of almost freezing to death, with Thaddeus here near pneumonia. Too bad your other horse had slipped on that patch of ice and you had to shoot him. Otherwise you would have easily been to Stanton before the storm set in.”
They definitely had tried to outrun the storm front and get to Stanton to catch a freight out to safety. Unfortunately, the posse had gotten close enough to shoot one of their horses out from underneath them.
“Not much we can do about all that now, though, is there?” Mary stood, picking up the lamp she had brought with her. “Is there anything either of you need, before we let Thaddeus go back to sleep?”
“No, ma’am.” Heyes stood by the bed, giving the Kid another drink of water, as he waited for her to depart before he climbed back into bed beside his partner.
“No, thank you, ma’am.” The Kid smiled and Mary blushed, until he was overcome by another coughing fit.
“My mother told me that coughing is good. It brings up what otherwise might settle in your lungs.”
Curry was breathless until Heyes handed him another drink of water. “I’ll take your word on it, ma’am.” He then settled back under the warm quilts with the help of his “brother.”
“When do you think your husband will be back?” Heyes looked out the window into the bright sunlight. The Kid had slept better the remainder of the night, than he had since they stumbled upon Mary’s home.
“With the storm clearing and the crisp cold, the road from town should be passable again soon.” She paused as she was dishing up plates of eggs and bacon. “ He might be worried about me.” Concern came into her face. “Thinking I’m all alone.”
“Thaddeus and I could ride out of here, if that will keep us from causing you trouble.” He smiled softly at her. “After all you’ve done for us.”
“No.” She shook her head definitively. “He isn’t well enough.” Then she laughed. “And how would you get out of here, on one horse?”
“We’ll have to leave at some point.” He capture her gaze, but she wouldn’t agree.
“When my husband comes back, maybe you can ride to town and see if there is another horse you can purchase.”
“Sure.” This time he didn’t meet her eyes. “That sounds like a fine plan.” He knew the possibility was great that the news of the posse looking for Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry reached Duncanville, which meant he couldn’t go to town. “Let me see if Thaddeus is well enough to come out and eat breakfast with us.” He smiled widely at her, knowing she sensed something was not quite right.
By the look on his face as Heyes entered the bedroom, it was obvious that the Kid overheard their conversation.
“I’ll be ready to go tonight.” There was determination in his face. “But what will we use for horses?”
“We’ll have to take Mary’s little mare.” Heyes held up his hand, as Curry started to object. “We can leave her a note that it will be at the train station in Stanton.”
“That might cause more problems with her husband, than if we were still here when he showed up.” The Kid’s face became harsh. “He don’t sound like a very nice man.”
“No, he don’t.” Heyes shook his head. “Also sounds like the kind of man who’d probably put two and two together, on who we might be, if the news got around Duncanville. Don’t think it’s safe for either us or Mary if we stay.”
It was before dawn the next morning, that Mary went to check on her guests, only to find them gone. The bed was stripped, making it easy for her to clean the house of any evidence that they had been there. In their place was a note.
We’re sorry, but we had to borrow your horse, Daisy. She’ll be waiting at the station in Stanton when you can fetch her. Tell your husband the storm spooked her and she ran away. We’ll never forget your help.
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.
She looked longingly out the window and set the note upon the fire to remove the final evidence that she had hosted the two most notorious outlaws in the history of the West.