The boys slept late the morning after their fortuitous rescue. A close-run thing. They’d escaped Valparaiso the previous night, only with the help of a stranger, Jericho Crowther. Stowing away in the back of his wagon until they’d reached safety at his home.
Jericho didn’t have the heart to wake them. By the time he heard movement from upstairs, it was gone ten. Jericho smiled as feet thudded down the twisted stairs and Heyes burst into the kitchen, almost stumbling over the threshold.
“Well good morning Heyes. How did ya sleep?” Heyes had slept badly, waking the house with his nightmare. Jericho hesitated to say it. Sometimes nightmares weren’t always remembered and he didn’t want to alarm the boy if that was the case.
Heyes stood breathing heavily. He had slept but not well. He wasn’t sure why which unsettled him. He gripped the back of the nearest chair.
“Jericho, where exactly are we?” he asked, dispensing with the pleasantries. “I mean in relation to Valparaiso?” He was suddenly fearful Jericho had just driven them around to make it feel like they were miles away.
Jericho wasn’t surprised by the question. He’d thought about both boys during the night. The older boy, Heyes, was the thinker, always trying to rationalise things. The younger boy, Jed, now he was more emotional.
“Well now if’n ya wanna sit I’ll draws ya a map. Was gonna do one anyway when ya wanted to leave but as ya’re concerned--”
“I’m concerned.” Heyes snapped. “Very concerned but I don’t want,” he looked at the ceiling and dropped his voice, “him to know that.”
Jericho nodded in understanding. “Protective of him ain’t ya? He ya brother?”
Heyes shook his head, his expression didn’t invite any more questions.
Jericho found a sheet of paper and a pencil. He sat down at the table, looking at Heyes, still stood. Heyes hesitated and then slid onto a chair.
“Here’s Valparaiso.” Jericho drew Valparaiso, the wall round it, the drive and gatehouse. “Here’s the town of Lawrence.” He glanced at Heyes, who nodded. “This is the road that runs down the side and we went up here and took a right.” Heyes nodded again. “Had to take a long way round to get here. In case, anyone was following me. They don’t know where I is all the time but they keep finding me so I’s had to be sure.” Heyes nodded and swallowed nervously. “Now don’t ya go looking so worried, young Heyes. Ya ain’t in Lawrence. Ya’s here in Jackson.” Heyes took a deep breath in relief and smiled weakly.
“Good. There’s nobody comin’ for ya neither.”
Heyes took another deep breath, feeling better. “Thanks Jericho.”
Jericho smiled broadly. “How’s his ankle this morning?” The younger boy had sprained his ankle running for his life across the Valparaiso lawn to the trees where they’d met Jericho. He nodded upstairs as the sound of irregular steps came down the stairs.
“Best ask him yourself. He won’t tell me!”
Jed limped in.
“Mornin’ young Jed. How’s that ankle?” Jericho asked, getting up.
Jed gripped the back of Heyes’ chair. “Oh, not so bad,” he smiled weakly.
Heyes looked down. That foot of Jed’s wasn’t on the floor and he looked back up to Jed. The foot went to the floor but Heyes’ noticed how little weight was put on it. Jed tried but couldn’t stop the flicker of pain crossing his features.
“Want me to take another look at it?” Jericho asked, starting to come forward.
Heyes and Jed looked at each other. Heyes thrust out his chin and widened his eyes. Jed frowned and shook his head.
“Well alright,” Jericho sighed. “Then how about some breakfast?”
Jed looked away and slid gratefully into a chair. “Sure, Jericho. That’ll set us right up,” he grinned.
Heyes sighed and rolled his eyes.
With breakfast cleared away, Jericho, went outside to do chores. He’d sensed the boys wanted some privacy. Something was going on between them and it was something that needed sorting before they went any further.
Heyes pulled something from his pocket and dropped it on the table between them. It was a folded piece of thick paper, marked and crumpled and torn at the edges. Against all the odds, Heyes had managed to keep this last little link to life with his parents. Both of them sat staring at it. Both knew this was going to be a decisive moment.
Jed looked at Heyes. With a swallow, Heyes reached forward and slowly unfolded it. Taking big gulps of air, he smoothed it flat, turning back all the edges where they had creased or torn. And then, there it was. The picture his mother had drawn of a younger Heyes and Jed, hours before …. Heyes’ eyes were watering now. Jed’s hand closed around Heyes’ wrist.
Heyes nodded, smiling weakly. Licking his lips, he quickly turned the paper over and folded it in half. With a deep breath, he tapped a finger on the faded writing.
“We’re going there, Jed,” he said, firmly. He looked at him hard, as if force of will was going to determine this.
Jed looked back. “Nope,” he said, simply.
So, there it was. Said.
“You … “ Heyes started, ran a hand over his face and then propped his head on an elbow. He sighed. He tried a different track. “Why?” He knew the answer. He was just stalling, searching for any glimmer of hope.
Jed glanced at the finger still tapping and back at Heyes.
“We’ve gotta find Grandpa Curry first.” He sighed. “I don’t know,” he said, nodding his head at the words under the finger, “him.”
Heyes licked his lips. He hadn’t really expected Jed to change his mind. The conversation they had started three years ago had just been put on hold that’s all. Taking up almost where they had left off.
“Grandpa Curry mighta passed, Jed,” Heyes said, gently. “He…” He tapped the name again. “It’s more likely he survived.”
“Pa said he was no good!” Jed burst out. “A wrong’un.”
Heyes shrugged. “He was always good to me. And Ma ….”
“I ain’t going Heyes. I need to find Grandpa Curry.”
Heyes looked at Jed, saw how determined he was. He knew he would be. Heyes resigned himself to Jed’s decision. Yet he was equally determined. Slowly he folded the paper and tucked it away.
“I’m going there, Jed.”
“Yeah. I know.”
Before either could say anymore, Jericho came back. He sensed immediately that something momentous had happened between the boys. He sighed. None of his business.
“Okay. Now that ya’ve had a good night’s sleep and a couple of good meals inside ya, what are ya plans?”
“We’ll be moving on I reckon. Can’t risk being caught here. Sure, don’t wanna be getting you into trouble ‘cos of us,” Heyes said.
“Ya gotta place to go?” Jericho frowned, standing hands on hips and looked from one to the other.
“Yeah,” Heyes nodded.
Jericho nodded, pursing his lips thoughtfully. “Is it far?”
“No not far.”
The boys spoke together and they looked at each other.
Jericho smiled. So that was it. There was a difference of opinion about where to go and by the looks of it, neither had backed down.
He sighed and moved to the dresser. He opened the drawer, took out a tin. Inside was a rolled-up bundle of bills. He counted some out, put the rest back and closed the drawer.
“Here,” he said, throwing them on the table between the boys. “I don’t reckon ya got any of that an’ ya won’t get far without it. Take that to get ya started. I’ll fix ya some food to take with ya.”
He moved away leaving the boys to stare at the bills, neither of them had expected. Heyes reached for it, counting. Twenty dollars.
“Jericho we can’t take this,” he said, turning in his chair.
“Yes, ya can.” Jericho was firm. “No good me rescuing ya an’ that’s that. When I did that, I made ya my responsibility. So ya can jus’ take that and get to where ya gotta get. Don’t think nuffin’ of it y’hear?” He saw the look on Heyes’ face. “Ya can send it back to me when ya can. Alright?”
Heyes grinned and nodded.
An hour later Jericho had driven them to the train station. Tickets purchased, they now sat side by side on the bench waiting for their respective trains. Heyes sat quietly. Jed swung his legs, impatiently.
“Will you be alright?” Heyes asked, finally.
“’Xpect. When I get to Indian Falls, I’ll take the stage to Kirby, or hitch, or somethin’.”
“If’n that ankle of yours holds up,” Heyes sniffed.
“Well, if it don’t, I’ll find a nice lady to take care of me.”
Jed grinned mischievously, bright blue eyes sparkling. Heyes rolled his eyes. Jed may not be the sweet, innocent child that had entered Valparaiso but he was turning into something else. The ladies had better watch out. After three years in captivity, Jedidiah Curry was about to be released back into the wild!
Heyes looked away with a grunt of laughter.
“Will ya’ll be alright?” Jed asked.
“Sure. Train’ll take me straight to Eustace, in southern Utah. Then I’ll jus’ ask for directions.”
“Suposin’ he ain’t there no more?”
“The last letter I had was three months ago. It was from this address.”
Heyes had maintained a correspondence with the uncle he was going to find.
“Don’t mean he’s still there. He didn’t want ya to come live with him, did he? Left ya, both of us in that place.”
“He had a reason--”
“But he couldn’t tell ya what that reason was.” Jed looked at Heyes in despair. His cousin was making a big mistake. Heyes looked away. He had his reasons and he couldn’t tell Jed what they were. If things went wrong, then he’d deal with it. Probably coming back to find Grandpa Curry himself.
“If he ain’t there now, whoever does lives there, might know where he’s at. Neighbours perhaps?”
“I dunno Heyes. Seems right risky to me. Going all that way on just an off chance.”
“How’s it anymore risky than where you’re going?” Heyes shot back. Then he sighed. He didn’t want their last conversation to be an argument. “We’re both taking risks, Jed. Both gambling that the folks we wanna be there are gonna be there. I guess if they ain’t then,” he broke off, reaching into his pocket. With his ticket he’d also purchased a railway map. “I’ll tell you what.” He unfolded the map and spread flat across his lap.
He put a finger on where he was going and where Jed was going. Then he looked for somewhere in the middle.
“Where’s that place?” Jed stabbed his finger on the map, guessing what Heyes was thinking.
“That’s the Territory of … Wy … o … min’” Heyes widened his eyes at the unusual name. “Say, there’s a place there named after Herbie. Rawlins,” he grinned, in delight. “That’s an omen, Jed.”
“What’s an o … men?”
“Well,” Heyes considered. “I think it means … that if something is gonna happen, it’s gonna happen there. What d’you reckon? If things don’t work out right for either of us agree to meet up there? Rawlins, Wyoming.”
“How’d we know to do that?”
That was a difficult one. “Well, I’ll write to you!” Heyes said, triumphantly.
“Ya won’t know where I’ll be.”
Heyes scowled. “Stop thinking up obstacles, Jed. I’ll write to you care of the post office in Kirby. That’ll still be there. You check there every month or so an’ we’ll catch up. You’ll see.” He nudged Jed, who still looked unsure.
“Rawlins, Wy … o … min’.” Jed mused, looking at the map again. “What’s that say there?”
Both boys peered at the words written on a slant just to the left of Rawlins. It was a name of a geographical feature.
“Think it says…” Heyes held the map up closer. “Devil’s Hole.”
“Devil’s Hole! I don’t like the sound of that.” Jed shook his head.
“Aw Jed, we’s got us a plan now. I like a good plan.” Heyes grinned widely.
Jed still looked unsure and then both heard the sound of an approaching locomotive. It was Jed’s train. Time had run out on them and they got up.
“You knows I gotta do this right?” Jed said, sadly.
“Yeah, I knows. An’ y’know why I’ve gotta do what I gotta do.”
“Everything. Valparaiso. Getting us out. Letting me do this. Ain’t sure I woulda gotten through it without ya.”
Heyes smiled and playfully punched him on the arm. “Well, we did.” He took a deep breath as the train came to a halt. “An’ now we get to start a whole new chapter in our lives.” Heyes turned and held out his hand. Jed looked at it and they shook solemnly. There were no words. This was the last contact.
Then to Jed’s surprise, Heyes seized him in a bear hug. Just briefly.
“You take care, Jed. I got the address. I’ll write y’hear,” Heyes said, rapidly, before he was overcome and couldn’t get the words out.
Jed nodded. “Goo…”
“Don’t say it! The French say Au revoir. It kinda means see you later.”
“Oh re wa,” Jed struggled with the unfamiliar words and picked up his share of the food Jericho had packed for them.
“Oh re wa, Jed.”
Heyes turned away, not wanting to see Jed get on the train. As the train pulled out, he turned back, hoping to see Jed standing on the platform. But he wasn’t. He was on the train and waving. Heyes swallowed the lump of disappointment but waved back.
“I’m on a train, Heyes!” Jed shouted, excitedly. Heyes had forgotten that Jed had never been on a train before. He’d only been on one once himself. Even at that distance, he could feel Jed’s excitement. It was infectious.
Heyes grinned and jumped up and down. He waved until the train was out of sight. Then he sat back down and held his head in his hands. Had he done the right thing? He sighed. Yes of course he had. It was his mother’s last wish that he go find Uncle Jonathan. He owed it to her at least to try. At the same time, he could understand Jed’s reluctance. The man meant nothing to him. Whereas Grandpa Curry did. That man had never been a big part of Heyes’ life, not like he had in Jed’s. Each of them had decided their own fate and each had to live by it. Whatever that may be.