“Kid, watch out!”
Jedediah Curry quickly stepped back onto the curb, as the driver of the speeding motorcar honked his horn. Safe and sound once more, he laughed at his friend addressing him by the old nickname.
“It’s not funny,” said Hannibal Heyes. “He could’ve knocked you right over, put you in the hospital or worse. If you’re not gonna be careful for yourself, then think of me. After all these years, I’m kinda used to having you around.” He winked at his longtime friend.
“San Francisco’s definitely speeded up from the days when we were younger,” admitted Curry. “It was just you still callin’ me Kid when I’m gonna be 72 years old next month.”
“Don’t remind me—if you’re gonna be 72, what does that make me?”
“Older’n me, for the rest of our lives. Anyway, it was a pretty nice Packard that nearly took me out, there. What do you think? Should we buy one and drive it home to Montana, instead of taking the train?”
“What’s that saying about teaching an old dog new tricks . . . Kid?” This time Heyes emphasized the name. “We’d better hurry up, though – the girls are expecting us at the Opera House at seven.”
“We ain’t actually going to see an opera, though, right?”
“That’s the fourth time you’ve asked that. And the answer is still no. I went to one once, though, long time ago, with Ella. It was a little strange, all that singing and shouting in a language I didn’t understand, but it was interesting. Worth doing once every couple of decades or so.”
“I’ll take your word for it. Sandy said this was gonna be a surprise—just hope it’s a good one.”
They’d arrived at the Opera House in plenty of time, to find their wives standing out front, stifling a pair of smiles, and a familiar name on the marquee.
By seven o’clock, every seat in the auditorium was taken, and as the house lights went down, there was a buzz in the air. Heyes leaned towards Curry and whispered, “That’s our boy. Wonder if young Jimmy’d even remember us.”
“Lom would be so proud of his nephew, if he was alive to see this,” Jed whispered back. A touch on his shoulder, from his wife, and he fell silent.
A single spotlight came up on the stage, and a man in an evening suit walked towards the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor to welcome home longtime San Francisco resident J. Lawrence Trevors, from his reading tour of places East, North, and South, back home at last! Please give a warm welcome to Larry Trevors!”
“Larry?” whispered Curry to Heyes. “Is that like his alias now, or something?” Again, a gentle touch on his arm.
Heyes just shrugged.
The man who walked across the stage was well into middle age himself, now, much as Heyes and Curry reluctantly had to admit that they were quite possibly old. That was not something they’d expected to live to see, back in their outlaw days. Although J. Lawrence Trevors was no longer gawky, as he’d been in his youth, he was still tall and slim. He wore his evening jacket with an abstracted air that suggested that he rarely paid attention to such mundane details.
Trevors stood at the podium and began with a reading from his latest epic, The Land Beyond the Rockies. Then the man who’d introduced him came back on stage and began to ask him questions about how he’d come to write it.
“As I think you know, my first few books received a fair bit of critical acclaim, which didn’t translate to many sales. And I continue to admire the writers who deal in stream-of-consciousness, who take the novel to new places. But in my younger years, I also loved and still adore the stories of Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, James Fenimore Cooper, and so many others. And I knew that I wanted to carry on that kind of storytelling in the modern era. Admittedly the critics at some of the big city papers have been disappointed at this turn of events, but my readers have more than made up for it.”
“And the critics are coming around, too,” said the other man. “The Eastern press fell for Rockies almost as much as us folks out here in the West did.”
Larry Trevors smiled, modestly. “I think many of the reviewers fell in love with stories the same way I did, when they really come to admit it.”
“Can you tell us something about the new project?”
“I’ve reached back even further into my past. The true love of my childhood was dime novels. Stories of adventure, and honor, and excitement, that spoke to the heart and the soul. I was fascinated, especially, with the tales of Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes, those outlaws with hearts of gold, and those stories, more than anything, made me want to be a writer.”
In the audience, Heyes and Curry turned to each other and grinned.
A moment later, they both blinked, blinded by the spotlight that shone on them.
“And I’m happy to say that they are here tonight, the two men who inspired my youthful imagination, the one and only Jedediah Curry and Hannibal Heyes.”
The two men sat, dumbstruck for a moment.
“Stand up, dear,” whispered Sandy Curry to her husband.
“And you,” said Ella Heyes to hers.
And the silver-haired ex-outlaws stood, to a ripple of applause, which grew and grew as the theater filled with it. The literary giant they’d once known as young Jimmy Trevors beamed at them from the stage.
“I am so delighted to see you two again,” he said. “My early heroes, who overcame adversity, rose to the top of their profession on the wrong side of the law, and then turned their lives around and become honest citizens. Who, even as the most successful outlaws the West ever knew, stole from the banks and the railroads that preyed on honest folks, but always treated the common people with the respect they deserved. They ARE the American story, and if they’ll allow me to interview them, they’re going to be the subject of my next book.”
“Think he might be making us out to be a little better than we really were,” Heyes whispered to Curry.
“Think you might be right, there,” came the response. “Not gonna complain, though. And remember, those dime novels he loved so much turned us into heroes, too.”
A moment later, the spotlight was gone, and the talk onstage had resumed.
When it was done and the house lights were turned back on, Heyes turned to his wife. “So, you’ve been avoiding my question. Was this all planned? You and Sandy just had to visit San Francisco right about now, and you wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Ella’s blue eyes didn’t quite meet Heyes’ brown ones. “Well . . . the tickets to Jimmy’s reading might have arrived in the mail, oh, about two months ago. He sent such a nice letter, J. Lawrence Trevors did, and he so wanted to surprise you both.”
Heyes shook his head.
A similar conversation was taking place in the seats immediately to the left. As usual, the Currys had resolved their issue with far fewer words than the Heyeses. As they rose to leave, Jed gave his wife Sandy his arm, and she leaned affectionately into him as they started down the aisle.
Heyes, meanwhile, continued to glare at Ella.
“I forgot how much you hate surprises,” she admitted.
“In the old days, surprises were almost never good.”
“But these aren’t the old days. The only thing old these days is us.” Her expression turned mischievous. “Besides, Sandy and I thought you both might enjoy someone else going on about how remarkable you were . . . are . . . for a change. It must get a bit boring for you, having to do it yourself.”
Heyes’ heavy brows, now grey, drew together, and he looked at his wife for a moment, sternly. And then he broke into one of his wide, mirthful grins. “It was kinda nice to hear my genius recognized in front of so many folks, now that you mention it.” He offered her his arm and they followed their companions down the aisle.
When they neared the lobby, the crowds had reached their peak. Curry turned to his companions and said, “Be nice to say hello to Jimmy, after all these years.”
“It would,” nodded Heyes, “but this place is a madhouse. Anyway, if he really wants to interview us, and he did know where to send the tickets, he’ll find us.”
But as they attempted to make their way through the crowds, they realized someone was trying to get their attention. “Excuse me?” came a voice. They turned to see that it was the man who’d interviewed Jimmy onstage. “Are you Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry?”
“We might be,” said Curry.
“Mister Trevors would love to see you, if you’ve got a moment.”
Backstage, they found Jimmy Trevors—not even James anymore, but J. Lawrence—sitting in an upholstered armchair, looking tired. When he caught sight of the two ex-outlaws, his eyes lit up. “We finally meet again.”
“We’ve been following your career,” said Heyes. “But Mrs. Heyes and Mrs. Curry here managed to keep all this a secret, right up ‘til tonight. Just said they had their hearts set on a trip to San Francisco.”
Jimmy smiled. “I appreciate their help. It’s been much too long—I guess since Uncle Lom’s funeral, and that was what? Over twenty years ago? And I really do want to write about you both, but not a dime novel. More like an epic of the changing West.”
Jed Curry grinned. “Hear that, Heyes? We’re gonna be in an epic.”
Heyes smiled at his partner. “The saga of a couple of long and partially misspent lives.”
“Maybe before you leave, we can set up a couple of interviews. And then, this spring, I’d be happy to come and see you in Montana. Get a sense of where you’ve been living, what your lives are like today.”
“Sounds all right,” said Heyes, and Curry nodded his agreement.
They reminisced for a little while longer, and made plans to meet up the next day.
As they turned to go, Jimmy detained Ella Heyes with a hand on her shoulder. “So you’re Rosalita,” he said.
“What?” she frowned. “Oh, right, Heyes’ patient Mexican sweetheart in the dime novels. Well, I came from somewhere north, rather than south, but you could say I waited for his amnesty to come through, more or less patiently. But you know, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.”
“How so?” Jimmy’s curiosity was evident.
“How I met them both, long ago. See, a bounty hunter had them dead to rights in the sheriff’s office in a little town in Montana. And I walked straight in, and offered to represent them.”
“Yes. Folks’ll believe the story of Rosalita, sitting in her uncle’s estancia and embroidering, waiting for her outlaw lover to come to her, a free man at last. But how many of your readers will really believe that Hannibal Heyes married his lawyer?”
The Jimmy Trevors stories can be found here: https://archiveofourown.org/series/1227764
And the Ella series can be found here: https://archiveofourown.org/series/800436