By Gemhenry

It’s been a long day

It’s been a long day without you my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

-Charlie Puth

Hannibal Heyes, former master criminal, sat at the desk in the ranch office examining the paperwork that had accumulated since the last time he had sat there, some four or five weeks ago. He always vowed to sort out the records of the ranch on a more regular basis. After all, he had bills to pay, wages to find for the staff and ranch hands, but there were so many other things to do. Besides running the ranch, his family required his care and attention, there were poker games that needed to be played, books that were waiting to be read, his memoirs to be written, an endless list. At least Big Mac’s loan which had allowed the purchase of the property had finally been repaid so that cut down the entries in the record book and it made life so much easier.

He glanced at the clock, and sighed. It was turning into a long day.

Heyes had intended to start first thing this morning as the house was quiet then, but he was called out by the foreman to assist with a particularly difficult colt. Ranching was not an easy task even when he was helped by experienced ranch hands. His housekeeper had bought in a tray at midday with his lunch, which he had eaten at his desk while attempting to contemplate yesterday’s newspaper, write his memoirs, and finish the novel he was reading.

He pulled his pocket watch out to see that it was already two o’clock and frowned. It had been a really long day and it wasn’t half over yet.

There was a knock at the door followed by the housekeeper entering with a cup of coffee in her hand.

“Coffee, Mr. Smith, I have added a little something on the instructions that Mrs Smith left before she went out.”

“Thanks, Louise, and please just call me Heyes.”

“I’ll always think of you as Mr Smith.” she muttered on her way out.

Heyes, after looking at the clock, sipped his coffee, strong, black, with a touch of whiskey, just how he liked it. He had bumped into Louise just over a year ago in Yuma. She seemed unhappy with her situation working in a hotel and when he mentioned the position of housekeeper at the ranch, she accepted without hesitation. And she fitted in well.

His mind travelled back to when he and his partner had first met Louise Carson and the horrific shooting of Jenny’s son, Billy, and his friend Caleb. That was the time he and Kid were seeking amnesty and gathering both friends and enemies along the way.

A few months later they had been captured by the Tapscotts and taken as prisoners to Hadleyburg. Now the ranch employed Tommy as an assistant to Jack, the foreman, and he was certainly picking the ropes up quickly. He was very keen to learn to fast draw but Heyes and Jack had taken him to one side and explained that shooting accurately was more important and times were changing. Heyes remembered what Kid had said to another young boy in Wickenburg. Tommy’s parents had both been taken in an epidemic, leaving Tommy an orphan and with no relatives, ended up in an institution. He wasn’t badly treated; it certainly wasn’t Valparaiso School for Waywards. Tommy had been fed well, schooled and clothed, but as soon as he reached sixteen, he left and somehow chance dictated that he arrived at the ranch where he was welcomed and treated as part of the family.

Heyes looked at his pocket watch again and his frown deepened. It had really been a long day.

Back to the contemplating the bills of sale.

“Dammit!” That was the third time he had added up the sales column and arrived at a different total each time. “Concentrate, man” Hadn’t he read somewhere about the invention of an adding machine.

He sipped his whiskey laced coffee again as his mind dwelt back to the time he and Kid had captured the mavericks in Piney Bay, Utah. That had been back breaking work, but for once they had come out with a little cash. They were both so tired by then; times were hard for most people and finding work was nigh on impossible.

Uncle Mac was providing some work but they had to be careful in Red Rock as the sheriff was highly suspicious regarding the relationship between Big Mac and Thaddeus. But Heyes knew that although Kid always shrugged off this kinship, he secretly enjoyed his preferential treatment as Mac’s nephew.

Their trail clothes were threadbare and they had been unable to afford to replace them. Many shirts had been used as bandages and their grey and brown suits had been cast aside when they left a hotel after being recognized yet again, so they were basically wearing all the clothes that they owned. They were beginning to believe that all the population of every western state and territory had been either in a bank or on a train they had robbed.

But constant lack of food and sleeping outdoors on hard ground brought them down to their lowest level. They felt that the amnesty was just a pipe dream and were beginning to consider other avenues. Could they go back to robbing? Neither wanted to but what else was there for them?

He glanced at the clock again. It had been a long day.

Hunger is a driving force, but for them it just drove them into carelessness. The Kid had been suffering from the grippe, persistently coughing and was clearly finding it hard to keep going. Then, on arriving in Harpers Town, where they had been told a cattle drive was hiring, they were recognized by a sheriff who quickly formed a posse and pursued them enthusiastically. This, the final posse, eventually surrounded them; Heyes by this time had been shot both in the shoulder and thigh. Bleeding profusely, he finally lost consciousness and when he finally awoke in the Doctor’s surgery some weeks later, he was told that Kid had been sent off to the Penitentiary.

The Doctor had informed him that they had brought Kid in to see him before he left, but Heyes had been suffering from a fever and had not responded. He discovered that the Kid was still coughing but that had not stopped the resulting trial and imprisonment.

Five weeks later Heyes was deemed fit for trial and found himself at the Penitentiary entering three months after Kid. It had never crossed their minds that they would be separated in prison, but thinking about it, and the number of times they escaped from jail, it would be injudicious not to keep them apart.

Heyes had been informed quietly by one of the friendlier guards that Kid spent most of his time either in solitary or the infirmary. He was utterly shocked by the appearance of his cousin when he had his first glimpse of him, alerted by the sound of a familiar hacking cough some seven weeks later, across the dining area. He did manage to make eye contact with Kid briefly.

Two weeks later Heyes was awoken by a guard he had not seen before, told to dress and then was guided out of the cell through corridors that seemed endless to arrive at the infirmary. The Doctor approached him and speaking softly explained to Heyes that his cousin was suffering from pneumonia and was unlikely to last until morning .He explained that the Warden wasn’t a cruel man and so had allowed a swift visit to say goodbye. Heyes in other circumstances would seriously dispute the Doctors definition of cruel.

Why’d you have to leave so soon?
Why’d you have to go?
Why’d you have to leave me when I needed you the most?

Three days later, Heyes was visited by Lom Trevors with news that the governor had kept his end of the bargain and Heyes had been pardoned.

He pulled his pocket watch out and looked at the time. It was starting to get dark and he was now really starting to be concerned. He thought he heard the sound of a carriage and started to rise from his seat when the door burst open and a small dark haired girl who giggled loudly as she scampered in, skirted around the desk and clambered on his lap.

“Papa, we’re back.”

Closely following was a tousled blonde haired toddler, clutching a piece of fabric, resembling part of a blanket. Heyes lifted her up and arranged the two girls on a knee each after giving each girl a kiss and hug.

“Well now, how are my favorite two girls? Have you had a good day, Rachel.”

“Yes, Papa. Grandma bought us some candy.”

A shadow fell across the open door and Heyes looked up to see his partner leaning on the door frame, with his arms folded in his unique way.

“You’re late; I was expecting you two hours ago.”

“Have you been worrying again, Heyes? “ Kid looked at the paperwork on the desk, rolled his eyes and continued “Ah your memoirs, that explains it, you always get maudlin when writing those.”

Heyes grunted and said softly to his daughter “Rachel, I think Mrs Carson was baking cookies this afternoon. Why don’t you take your cousin into the kitchen and see.” The two little girls climbed down from his lap, Annie given a steadying hold, and hand in hand they wandered out of the door. Two brown eyes and two blue eyes followed their progress and then met. Both men smiled.

“Sorry you were worrying, Heyes. You know what Mary’s Ma is like. She takes two hours to say goodbye and we are seeing her in less than two weeks for Christmas. Sheesh. Oh, Laura‘s feeding the baby. He squawked for the last twenty minutes of the journey, he’s starting early learning to yak like his Pa.”

Kid pushed himself off the wall and coughed.

Heyes stood, pushed the chair back and approached his cousin.

“Jed, are you OK? Perhaps get the Doc out to look at you, don’t want you coming down with pneumonia again.” Heyes dark eyes were filled with worry.

“Don’t start that again, you know full well it wasn’t pneumonia, just a bad case of influenza. It’s the dust caught in my throat from the drive back, that’s making me cough now.”

“I said my goodbyes to you once already, Kid.”

“I know, I was listening, just think how I felt.”

“You were unconscious.”

“Did I hear you say cookies to the girls?” Kid smiled changing the subject.

Heyes returned the smile and put his arm across his best friend’s shoulders and guided him through the door.

“It’s been a long day without you, my friend. I’ll tell you all about it over tea and cookies.”

“Tea.” Heyes repeated, shaking his head. “You just had to go and marry an English girl, didn’t you, Kid?”