A sequel to "Star of Kansas"
Faded memories of a Famous Shootist and a Master Poker Player
After failing to crack the Brooker 202 Heyes and Curry leave the Devils Hole Gang only to be chased by a posse. Eventually pulling far enough ahead they can mislead them.
A few days later two dusty and saddle-weary outlaws, now without a gang, ride into the town of Kingsdale. They ride along the main street, inconspicuously glancing to both sides keeping an eye out for anyone familiar.
They turn towards the saloon where both dismount and tie their horses, then enter the saloon. With their usual easy-going, self- assured swaggers they approach the bar.
The bartender looks towards them, Heyes holds up two fingers and announces, "Whiskey!"
Kid turns and surveys the room. Since it`s early afternoon there are just a few cowhands at different tables. Two filthy men are sitting in a shadowy corner, obviously downhearted. An uneasy feeling creeps into Kid`s stomach as if he`s supposed to know them.
"Be right back," he muses and casually walks to the window. Astonished, he notices a mule and an old worn-out, emaciated horse standing close to their own horses. If they had been there when they had dismounted he would have seen them. Staring in disbelief, Kid`s attention is drawn back to the two strangers.
Returning, he nudges Heyes then tilts his head towards the corner table, "Let`s go over there," Kid says firmly. Somewhat surprised, Heyes follows.
"Mind if we take a seat?"
The two strangers, one with longer white hair and the other with a dark beard, exchange an astonished glance. Heyes is taken aback; seeing his partners reaction, Kid is now certain that these are the men they met when they were young.
"What a surprise, to meet you again, Mr. Heyes!" expresses the white-haired man, "It`s been a long time, Mr. Curry." Kid pulls the brim of his hat lower to hide part of his face.
"Would you mind lowering your voice!" utters the former dark-haired boy glancing around. The black- bearded man looks deep into Heyes` eyes. The outlaw leader shifts uncomfortably on his seat. However, Heyes swiftly regains his composure. "What happened to you?" the former shy, blond-haired boy asks mildly. The bearded man replies, "We`re kind of prisoners of circumstances," and confesses that they had a run of bad luck.
Both were on their way to this town to meet a friend. On their way they met a man, who recognized them from back East. The black-bearded man recounts, "We had met his brother James Ritty in Dayton, Ohio, about three years ago. James owned a saloon and told us about a problem he had. He seemed to take in less and less cash over time and he could find no justification for this, the saloon was well-frequented as always. He suspected some of his employees were stealing him blind. He begged us to find a solution to bring the saloon back to its profitability. So we invented a cash register for him. A special one...each time the cash drawer opens there`s a ringing bell signal. This way he could watch the cash register and spot anyone suspicious."
Intrigued by the story and the new invention, Heyes asks curiously, "Did it work?" The white-haired man sadly shakes his head, yes, in fact it was Ritty`s own brother who was stealing! The thief was kicked out of the saloon and the brothers parted ways.
Heyes and Curry glance at each other, a silent communication takes place confirming they are both thinking the same thing."His brother doesn`t happen to be John Ritty?" Kid inquires casually. The old men verify that John was the name of the convicted thief and the bearded man continues.
"We met him a few days ago. He holds a deep grudge against us and as compensation took a box and several small pouches with incense and gold dust from us. It`s Devine Providence we met you again. Can you help us?"
Brown eyes and blue eyes meet once more, conveying agreement. With a broad, dimpled grin, Heyes affirms, "Gentlemen, I think we have a deal."
They still have a score to settle with John Ritty.
After one of their train robberies they were followed by a posse, John Ritty being a member of them. It was a close call but they had escaped. On the run they unfortunately lost a part of their haul. Apparently, John Ritty had found the stolen bag and hidden it somewhere unbeknownst to the rest of the posse.
Later on, Heyes read in the local newspaper about the marriage of a rancher, called John Ritty. There was a photo of his wife pictured wearing a beautiful necklace. Immediately Heyes recognized it as a part of their stolen goods. In addition the article said that the DHG and its leader were too inept to hold on to their stolen goods. Ritty, a highly respected citizen only returned a small part of the lost loot. What`s more, he dared to scoff at Hannibal Heyes! Time for one of his genius plans...
During a nice, intimate conversation with a talkative saloon girl Kid Curry finds out where John Ritty lives.
In the darkness two riders approach the ranch house and climb through a window. They soon locate a hidden safe, which Heyes quickly opens with a smug, self-satisfied grin. He removes its contents, including several stacks of bills and stores them in his inner jacket pocket. "The extra money we can use until we have thought about what we`re going to do now without Wheat and the boys," he whispers. They leave the farmhouse unnoticed.
In the evening, Heyes and Kid enter the crowded saloon; they spot the men at a table and work their way over to them. Kid puts the pouches on the table. "Ritty handed it over to you voluntarily?" the dark-bearded man asks incredulously. "Sort of," responds Heyes complacently. "Even the six containers of myrrh paste," utters a proud Kid Curry.
Scanning the room, Heyes notices a small man with a tanned, wrinkled face wearing old, dirty and uncommon clothes entering the saloon. The small man`s eyes settle on the white-haired and black-bearded men and he nods at them.
"Glad to see you, get yourself a beer," the black-bearded man calls.
The old man crosses to the bar to purchase a beer and turns to join the men at the table.
Carrying his mug of beer, the small man is jostled by an inebriated cowhand, who promptly spills some of his own beer. With an angry face the drunk turns, looking for someone to blame. Staggering and swearing he pushes the old man backwards.
Silently, Heyes and Curry appear at the small man`s side. The cowhand pulls his arm back to strike. Reacting with lightening reflexes Kid grasps the wrist of the drunk halting the blow. In a determined voice he orders, "Hold it!"
"This ain`t your business, mister. Who do you think you are?!" the cowhand asks in disbelief staggering on unsteady feet. The crowd around them fell silent.
Heyes moves closer until only inches separate them and threateningly plants himself in front of the cowhand. His chocolate brown eyes darken with intensity.
"Someone you don`t want to tangle with. You better leave while there`s still time," he snarls in his best outlaw leader voice. Aware of the menacing atmosphere and all eyes settling on him, the inebriated cowhand decides to back away.
Excited babble reinstalls. In a low voice the small man says, "Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry, I´m indebted to you," Noticing their stiffening, he adds," Don`t worry, my friends here told me everything about you two. One good turn deserves another. You see, my mission is to see that the New King will always be safe. My gift for him is incense, a divine symbol of protection. Mr. Curry, my gift for you is, whatever happens in your life, you will always know in your heart whom you need to protect.
Mr. Heyes, I wouldn`t call you the King of Thieves but you`re a talented man in many ways. You have many virtues you aren`t aware of and a trusting, faithful partner at your side. I`ll plant the seed of hope in your heart. If you ever decide to change your life, that glimmer of hope shall never fail you...My name is Balthasar, and those two over there are Caspar and Melchior," Heyes exchanges a disbelieving look with his partner. Suddenly, he becomes aware that several suspicious glances are being thrown in their direction. Pulling Kid aside, he hisses, "Let`s get out of here, as long as nobody`s fetching the sheriff."
Stunned they realize the three men have disappeared...the partners work their way to the door and Kid realizes there is no sign of their animals either...
A few hours later Heyes and Curry make camp. Soon a fire crackles and they pull their bedrolls close.
"What are we going to do next?" Kid breaks the silence with a stifled yawn.
"I guess, that depends on how long the money will last. I`m not too eager to join another gang."
Heyes continues, "Better to stick to ourselves. After a while Wheat might be glad to have us back," he adds, sounding much more confident than he feels.
Pulling his jacket closer, Kid notices the almost forgotten pamphlet in his inner pocket he got from the old lady Miss Birdie Pickett.
"Heyes, who would decide about an amnesty?"
"Uh, - well, it`d be up to the governor where the arrest warrant was issued," Heyes responds.
"Kid, you don`t seriously think we could pay the governor a visit?"
"Probably not," acknowledges Curry, "How about one of your brilliant schemes? I mean, you couldn`t open the Brooker 202..."
Heyes bristles automatically," There wasn`t enough time...".
"Anyway...," continues Kid. Then he decides to leave it alone.
They wrap up in their blankets and look at the stars.
Finally Kid`s eyes are closing.
Heyes is too tense to fall asleep. Looking at the stars he easily spots the bright evening star. He would never admit that he feels affected by the words of the small old man. He hasn`t forgotten the prophecies of the other two men but buried them deeply into his soul. Now they begin to surface again.
The truth is outlaws without a gang or hideout had bad prospects.
But he enjoys his life, to get easy money which is not too hard on the back, all the excitement of planning and the thrill of holding the money in his hands...
However, he has to think of Jed as well. When would he meet someone who`s faster than himself?
He doesn`t want to think about leading a life without him.
Could amnesty be the answer to it all?
He contemplates the shimmering star above in the dark sky. Their "Star of Kansas".
.... a lasting hope for both of them? A light to lead them to another life? He`s sure each of them would need the help of the other ... It`s now or never.
"I´ve got it, Kid!" he calls out. Kid wakes up with a start. Annoyed blue eyes meet innocent brown ones.
"What? I always have my best ideas in the middle of the night! The answer is Lom Trevors."
He receives a confused look as Kid covers a yawn, "All right, what was the question?" he mumbles.
With a grin Heyes elaborates, "Lom, he`s the sheriff of Porterville now. Our old friend knows how the law works. He`ll be able to act as our go-between with the governor. That`s it, Kid! That`s our new "star"!"
The next day two outlaws without a gang but now with new hope ride towards Porterville to have a chat with their old friend Lom Trevors. Standing at the window looking into his office the star above them in the sky shines a little brighter than usual .....The "Star of Amnesty" will always be there, helping them to become ex-outlaws-to-be......someday.....and the story can continue....