The horses had been ridden mercilessly; the posse had been on their trail for nearly three days. Heyes and Curry had decided that it wasn’t apache-led but this bunch was very persistent. The horses had been pushed past their limits, and as the former outlaws reined them in to a halt on a low ridge, they both understood that having tried all known manoeuvres to lose their pursuers, the only option left was to separate. And it went without saying that nothing good ever happened when they parted.
“We are not going to make it, Heyes!” panted out Curry.
“Another three miles and we will be walking,” replied his cousin.
Kid looked at Heyes with a sheepish grin. “I’m sorry, Heyes. Michelle told me she would never forget me, but I never expected her to turn us in.”
“20,000 dollars, Kid.”
They had literally bumped into Michelle Monet in a saloon in Golden where they were resting up after finishing two fairly lucrative jobs. Michelle was working in The Silver Dollar saloon, singing and clearing tables. The Kid renewed his acquaintance not expecting that she would betray them. Twenty thousand dollars is a powerful incentive. Luckily Heyes had seen her enter the Sheriff’s office from their hotel window, and then muttering endlessly about “helping the needy” he threw their belongings into saddlebags. Kid had just entered the room to be turned around and ushered out of the door. A quick exit was then made through the rear of the hotel.
“Meet you in Boulder. Last one buys dinner!” joked Heyes, in an attempt to keep their spirits up.
The two cousins reached their arms out and grasped each other’s hand in a gesture of solidarity, friendship and farewell, both understanding the situation. Their eyes met briefly before riding off in different directions.
The Kid had ridden into Boulder the night before, covered in dust and grime and sporting a six day growth. The desk clerk at the hotel looked at him in distaste. But on production of payment for the room and a request for a bath, Curry was allowed to sign the register and proceed to his room, with a brief comment to the clerk that he was expecting his partner to join him.
Bathed, showered and dressed in clean clothing, he made his way out of the hotel and towards the nearest saloon which was situated on the other side of the street. The town was bustling with folks preparing for Christmas and there was a festive joy emanating from the populace. The Kid’s thoughts strayed to Heyes and his whereabouts. He had a dreadful feeling that the posse had followed his partner when they had split, but if Heyes had been caught, the saloon would soon be buzzing with the news. Curry stepped off the boardwalk and strolled across the street.
Mrs. Emily Taylor and her newly married daughter Sarah Baker were just walking past the entrance to the saloon discussing their Christmas preparations and their recent purchases packed in the parcels they were carrying. Suddenly Mrs. Taylor lurched forward as a shabbily dressed man pushed between her and Sarah. Curry was just about to step up onto the boardwalk when he found himself pushed backwards as Mrs. Taylor hurtled towards him. He had been so consumed with his thoughts of his partner that the fastest gun in the West’s reflexes failed him and both he and Mrs. Taylor landed in a heap on the street. Emily was helped to her feet by her daughter and passersby, leaving the shootist lying dazed, surrounded by parcels and somehow clutching a ladies’ bag.
A cry of “Thief” went up through the crowd now gathered around the Kid, who looked up to see a glittering five point star attached to a Sheriff’s vest.
The lawman’s office was situated a few doors down from the saloon. The gunslinger glimpsed his poster on the board obliterated slightly by another for Jack Parker, a mere $500. He and Heyes were becoming old news.
“It’s all a misunderstanding Sheriff. I was just going to the Saloon when the lady fell towards me,” pleaded the Kid. “I didn’t steal her bag, she dropped it.”
“Well, young fella, that’s as maybe but the item was in your hands.” replied the Sheriff. “It will be sorted out when Mrs. Taylor recovers from her ordeal. In the meantime, you will be keeping me company. Gunbelt, please.” He looked over to his young blonde haired deputy and continued “Tom, lock him up and then take his details down.”
The Kid sat on the cot with head in his hands. He would never live this down, put in jail for stealing a ladies’ bag. Heyes would have hours of fun at his expense. What if he was recognized and it hit the newspapers? That would ruin his reputation. But his main concern was the whereabouts of his partner. Heyes could look after himself, he told himself.
The door to the Sheriff’s office opened and the handbag thief looked up expectantly, but no Mrs. Taylor, just the telegrapher who handed a telegraph to the Sheriff.
“Do you want me to wait for a reply, Sheriff Ward?”
“If you could, Matt. Tom!” yelled the Sheriff. “Tom Ballard, get your butt in here now.” The deputy came scuttling in from the back door, “Sheriff?”
“You still going to Golden to visit your Ma for Christmas?” The Sheriff asked. Tom nodded to confirm. “In that case, how would you like to spend a few extra days helping the Sheriff over there guard a prisoner? Not just any prisoner, but Hannibal Heyes hisself. Sheriff Allen is concerned that the Devil’s Hole Gang may try and break him out. Judge ain’t due there until the end of December. You can report to Sheriff Allen on the day after Christmas and stay with your Ma for longer.”
Glancing over to a very despondent Kid Curry he added. “They have all the excitement over there. We just have a ladies bag thief.”
Tom’s face lit up with a wide smile. Christmas this year was going to be memorable. Hannibal Heyes, imagine that.
The Sheriff handed Matt a slip of paper and asked him to telegraph the Sheriff in Golden. As the telegrapher was about to leave, the door opened and Sarah Baker was ushered into the Sheriff’s office.
“Hello Mrs. Baker, have you come to press charges? I believe there were witnesses to the theft,” the lawman enquired politely.
“Why no, Sheriff, the complete opposite.” she replied, looking apologetically at the Kid who was now standing, gripping the bars of his cell. “My mother was pushed from behind and fell forward onto Mr., sorry what is your name?”
“Thaddeus Jones, Ma’am.”
“I am terribly sorry, Mr. Jones. I would have come sooner but I was attending to my mother.”
“I do hope she wasn’t injured in the fall, Mrs. Baker,” replied the softly spoken ex- outlaw. Mrs. Baker was a very attractive lady, heightened by the blush that was appearing on her cheeks.
“Oh no, thanks to you, Mr. Jones. She had a soft landing.” Sarah replied smiling shyly with amusement twinkling in her eyes. Mr. Thaddeus Jones was a very handsome man, with his startling blue eyes and curly blonde hair. Had she married in haste, she wondered to herself.
The Sheriff rose from his chair and placing his hand on Mrs. Baker’s arm, guided her to the door and out of his office.
“Right, then young fella, let’s get you released.”
Hannibal Heyes, master criminal and ex- leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang, was sitting, head in hands, on the cot in his jail cell in Golden, pondering on his capture by the posse. He had purposely tried to lure them to follow his tracks as he knew any member of a posse chasing Kid Curry would shoot to kill, but he was still deeply concerned about his cousin’s fate. The Sheriff, though talkative, seemed a fair man and hadn’t mentioned that Kid had been captured. However Curry could be lying injured somewhere or worse. Heyes shook himself to get that image out of his mind. Kid could look after himself, he told himself.
Numerous people had peered around the door to the back of the Sheriff’s office where the three jail cells were situated. Heyes occupied the first cell. The safecracker was starting to feel like a side show; was the Sheriff charging? But the advantage of having the door left open was that he could hear the discussions between the Sheriff and his deputies. Currently it was the need for extra help guarding him as they were worried about Kid Curry and the Devil’s Hole Gang attempting a break out. He was just worried about Kid.
“Sheriff, can I have some coffee?” Heyes yelled.
A few minutes later, the Sheriff entered with a steaming cup of coffee. “You must think you’re royalty expecting coffee on demand,” he chuckled passing Heyes the cup.
The lawman walked to the door and called “Tom, just come in here and meet our famous prisoner.” Walking back to Heyes, he continued “Tom Ballard, is one of the relief deputies that is helping me. Wasn’t due until after Christmas but decided to forgo part of his vacation and start earlier. He said he felt he was duty bound, but I reckon he just wanted to have a firsthand view of you.”
The lawman turned his head as he heard steps behind. “Tom, meet the one and only Hannibal Heyes, bank and train robber.” The Sheriff stepped away chuckling to himself.
Heyes looked up at the lawman’s retreating figure with a heavy sigh and ran his fingers through his hair before looking at the Deputy. The slightly overweight, brown haired man stood away from the cell with his hat pulled low. Heyes could make out a jagged scar on the right side of his face. The prisoner nodded in greeting as the deputy looked him over, touched his hat in acknowledgement and withdrew to the front of the building. For some reason the deputy seemed familiar and a feeling of comfort enveloped the former bank robber.
The next few days passed very slowly, the safe cracker survived mainly on coffee, eating little of the food provided for him. He had heard Deputy Tom discussing his lack of appetite with the Sheriff and what could be done about it. He wondered why he was so concerned. Heyes also knew that the Deputy had persuaded the Sheriff to stop the endless stream of callers in the event that one of the visitors might be a member of Curry’s gang. Curry’s gang, indeed!
Christmas Eve, and Heyes had still not overheard or been told any news about Curry. He was ever hopeful that the Kid had managed to escape the posse and might try to break him out, but not knowing what had happened was slowly eating away at him. The Judge would be arriving after Christmas and then he would be escorted back to Wyoming to serve his twenty years.
The Sheriff had gone home early to eat Christmas Eve supper with his family leaving two deputies to guard the prisoner. Heyes heard a scuffle from the front office and Tom walked through the door and pushed it shut behind him. “How would you normally spend Christmas Eve, Deputy?” asked the safe cracker attempting to engage the untalkative man in conversation.
“With my cousin, and this year is no exception,” replied the deputy, pushing his hat to the back of his head. Heyes looked up to see the amused blue eyes of his smiling cousin and to hear the sound of jail keys rattling.
Early on the morning after Christmas, Clementine Hale, employee of the Tabor Grand Opera House, stood on the railway platform waving goodbye to her well dressed cousins who had stopped to visit her for Christmas.