The train journey seemed endless but we were now only two hours from San Francisco and once we arrived we could rest. Kid’s head fell against my left shoulder but he slept on as if to reinforce how tired he was. We were both exhausted but sleep eluded me so I tried to stay as still as possible as my thoughts turned to our current situation.
We had over three thousand dollars between us,we were not being pursued by a posse. It was the 18th of December, by my reckoning, and we were both looking forward to spending Christmas with Silky. They were all the good points but my mind was always restless and if I couldn’t plan a job I needed to take stock of our situation.
We were over two years into our quest for amnesty and Lom had seemed pretty confident that it would be granted in the new year by the latest Governor. How many Governors had we dealt with? Three, yep, he was the third holder of the office and like his predecessors he had agreed with the terms of our ‘little secret’.In fact it was his money that was sitting in our pockets now. We had delivered title documents and deeds for the huge ranch owned by the Governor’s brother, Abe, to a banker in Denver. According to Lom it was all very secret and it was to cover a loan to keep Abe’s family holdings safe. Lom didn’t know all the particulars just that we had been chosen to make the hazardous journey. The banker we had delivered the documents to had given us one thousand dollars and he had seemed impressed by our ‘honesty’ and ‘ integrity’ which were the words he used as he checked through each deed in his office. After he was thoroughly satisfied he had handed me an envelope with the cash inside. Neither Kid nor I think much of bankers, in fact we have met very few honest ones, but at least this one was pleasant.
The next day we had headed for Porterville. Lom had been pleased to see us. Over a very hearty meal at a quiet table in the best restaurant in town he had slipped an envelope with $2000 onto the table. It was the rest of our fee for the job we had just completed. Kid took ten $100 bills from it and pushed the envelope towards me. I pocketed it adding a not too enthusiastic ‘Thanks’
Lom studied us over the rim of his coffee cup as Kid finished a large piece of apple pie and I said nothing. Lom cleared his throat.
“Look boys, I know you are pretty skeptical about the Governor’s promises and I understand your frustration but there are a couple of things I think you should know. This job you just completed was a very personal one for the Governor, in fact that’s his money that you have received.” Lom put his cup down and held up his hand stopping me from interrupting him and continued. “I’m not blind nor stupid. I can guess how dangerous it was and I can see how tired you both look but I have been assured that in the new year your amnesty will be signed off on. This Governor is a bright enough fella and he knows the amnesty can’t be dangled like a carrot in front of you two much longer. I reckon, and this is just my own view, that he feels once he has granted your amnesty he will be able to call upon your knowledge to improve security in banks and trains and I think this inside knowledge, so to speak, is what he is selling to the Railroad and Bank Chiefs. Boys, I reckon you really are going to get it this time.”
I looked at Kid but he didn’t seem too convinced, to be honest, he looked completely tuckered out. He was pulling his moody silent gunman look so I answered Lom for both of us.
“It seems we’ve heard pretty similar stuff like this before. This last job was downright dangerous and Kid very nearly died protecting me and those damn documents.” Lom stared harder at Kid who glared right back at him. The atmosphere at the table became tense.
Lom looked away. The middle aged waitress appeared at the table offering coffee refills. Lom accepted one gratefully, I shook my head and Kid, being Kid said “No thank you Ma’m”” as he also refused. She beamed at him as she headed off.
Lom cleared his throat. “There’s one other thing, boys. Silky wrote to me a couple of weeks ago asking me to give you this, next time I saw you.” He reached into his jacket pocket and brought out a letter addressed to Mr. Joshua Smith & Mr. Thaddeus Jones ℅ Sheriff Lom Trevors.
Kid ignored it but my curiosity was aroused so I took it from Lom. We all stood up, Lom called for the check. “The Governor is paying for this one. Why don’t you boys get a good night’s sleep and we’ll meet up in the morning for breakfast?” Lom sounded hopeful.
“All right, good night Lom.” I answered for both of us. Back in our room I read Silky’s letter aloud.
I hope this finds you well. I have been most fortunate in my business deals of late and I find myself the owner of a reasonable sized gambling house in San Francisco. It is all legal and lawful. At the moment the day to day running of it is in the hands of a very old friend.
I would love it if you could spend the Christmas Tide with me. You, boys are the family I never had. Heyes I value your opinion on the workings of the business and Kid I can promise you great home cooking as Martha, my housekeeper always cooks way too much food for an old bachelor like me.
I am sorry if this letter is sentimental but I am not getting any younger and I find my thoughts turning to things that really matter. I’ll sign off now before I embarrass all three of us.
Send me a telegraph if you can make it.
Your old friend,
My thoughts were interrupted by a loud voice calling “End of the line, folks. We’ll be in The Southern Pacific Depot in ten minutes.” The guard walked through the coaches shouting the same thing as he entered each one.
Kid sat up with a jolt.
“Easy, Kid.” I whispered as my partner reached for the Colt hanging in his gun belt.
He relaxed and stretched his cramped muscles. “I take it you didn’t get much sleep?” He smiled at me. “Thanks for being my pillow.”
The carriage was almost full and the next few minutes were taken up retrieving our carpet bags from under the seats and making our way to the door as the great engine shuddered to a stop and the platform was engulfed in a cloud of smoke.
Kid, who was in front of me, tipped his hat and smiled as he stood back to allow a pretty young lady to step out of her seat and into the aisle. She smiled back but her older companion glared at him as she too stepped into the aisle. I smiled indulgently, Ah!, Kid don’t ever change.
It was the best Christmas the partners could remember since their childhood ones back before the raid that had killed their kin and changed their lives.
Curry sighed as he lifted his snifter of brandy and took a sip. Heyes inhaled deeply from the fine cigar he was smoking. The partners and Silky were seated around a glowing fire in the older man’s study. It was late afternoon on Christmas Day and the men had been shooed out of the dining room after a scrumptious dinner, by the affable Martha who, as predicted, had taken a shine to Kid Curry and appeared intent on fattening him up until he was as large as the goose she had served.
The ticking of the impressive Grandfather clock was the only sound in the book lined study as all three men sat thinking of different subjects. Silky coughed to gain the attention of his companions.
“Boys, I want to thank you for the beautiful pair of dueling pistols, they are a most welcome addition to my collection. Now I want to give you your gift.” Silky held up his hand to stop the younger men from interrupting and continued. “ Your friendship over the years has been a great source of pleasure to me and please forgive me for getting sentimental for a few minutes and indulge an old man. I consider you boys to be the sons I never had and I know you will get the amnesties that you have worked for and deserve. My gift to you this Christmas is the running of ‘The Golden Nugget’ . Now please, don’t interrupt while I explain what I mean. Heyes, you and Kid, at present can’t stay in San Francisco for long for fear that some bounty hunter might recognise you both and take you back to Wyoming, more than likely dead, for the reward. But when your amnesty comes through, I want you to know you have a home here and you would be doing me a favor if you would run the Nugget for me. I know, that you, Kid, in particular like the open spaces and I guess from time to time you boys will want to go a roamin’ but we can work out the finer points later. It’s enough for now that you know that I would be honored if you would make your home here in the city, run the gaming house and when I pass away that it will all become yours. I’m a selfish old man who wants to enjoy his remaining time on God’s good earth by having you boys for company so if you accept this ‘gift’ it will make me a very happy old timer.”
Silky wiped a tear from his eye and continued. “I know how you boys operate, so I am going for a little nap in my room and you two can talk it over.”
Silky shuffled to the door and was gone before either of the stunned men could say a word.
Curry stood up and turned to face his partner. “This is certainly turning out to be a Christmas to remember. I can’t remember the last time I saw you lost for words.”
Heyes stood up and ground out his cigar butt in the ashtray on the table beside his chair.
“Kid, what are we gonna’ do?”
Curry burst out laughing. “Heyes, we’re gonna’ take the best damn offer we’ve ever had!”
Heyes’s brown eyes twinkled as he began to laugh. “It’s a hell of a Christmas present!”
“Do you know the best thing about it, Heyes? You can spend the time until the amnesty comes through making plans. God dammit! I’ve never known a man who likes making plans the way you do.” Curry lifted his brandy snifter.
“Now Kid! … Ah hell! You’re right. Cheers to us and to a new beginning.”
The partners clinked Soapy’s very expensive crystal glasses together.