Cold Days, Warm Hearts

By Shade Nightwalker

The weather was cold and wet, the sky one solid blanket of heavy clouds. All in all, the day was as unpleasant and unfriendly as a day in late December could be.

Heyes and Curry rode into the town of Hancock, their hats low in their faces, their collars turned up against the wind. They reined in their horses in front of the saloon, dismounted simultaneously and pushed their way through the swing doors side by side.

The room was deserted except for a man in his late fifties, standing behind the bar and leisurely browsing through a tattered newspaper.

The bartender looked up and greeted the two half-frozen men. “Bad day?”

“You can say that,” Heyes replied, rubbing his arms, trying to create some frictional heat.

“Something to warm you up?”

“Yeah, sure. Two shots,” Heyes replied and placed a couple of coins on the counter.

The man behind the bar produced two glasses and filled them with golden liquid. Without a fuss, the boys took their glass and knocked the drink back in one quick motion.

“Just passing through?” the older man asked.

Kid Curry shook his head, but kept silent, so Heyes answered, "Checking on friends. We’re looking for Delilah Brock.”

“Brock?” The bartender furrowed his brow. “You mean Delilah Banes?”

“We’ll yeah, I suppose she would carry Jack’s name now. Got married, you know.” Heyes smiled briefly.

“You speaking of Jeremiah?”

Now both ex-outlaws frowned, and Kid Curry asked, “Jeremiah?”

“Yeah, Jeremiah Banes, our Deputy. His wife is the only one in town by the name of Delilah.”

Heyes gulped, “Deputy...?”

“Yes, good man. Does a fine job. He has a flair for bad guys. Will be here any time doing his daily round,” the man replied. “Ah, here he comes...”

Wide-eyed, the boys exchanged a quick glance and moved unobtrusively further down the bar, trying to vanish into thin air – or at least hide in the scarce shadows.

A slender man stopped in front of the door and shook off the snow from his heavy coat before he stomped into the room. A few steps in, he stretched his arms and sighed with pleasure. “Hi’ya, Sam. You’re a lucky man, cozy and warm like that. That’s no weather to chase out a dog, let alone a man. Everything alright here?” He took off his light hat and revealed bright eyes, angular features, and a mop of dark-blonde hair long enough to hide his ears. By his looks he was a few years younger than Heyes and Curry.

“Yes, sure. Nobody on the road today who can help it.” The addressee threw a glance towards the only two guests present. “Just two guys looking for one Delilah Brock. Think she might be your wife.”

The newcomer followed his look. Instantly, his face lit up with the most warm and brilliant smile. “Joshua! Thaddeus!”

“You know them?” Sam asked as Jeremiah bridged the distance with a few long strides.

“Of course, I know EXACTLY who they are,” Jeremiah replied, mischief twinkling in his eyes. “Man, am I happy to see you. You comin’ to see us? Visit Delilah?”

The men shook hands and patted each other’s shoulders, smiling.

“Sure. Couldn’t cross these parts without checking on you, could we?” the dark-haired ex-outlaw responded.

“You’ve got to come home with me. Just wait a sec, I’ll report to the sheriff and get off duty.” He spun around on his heels and charged out into the street again in one smooth motion.

Heyes and Curry exchanged an uncomfortable glance, nodded towards the barkeep, and followed Jeremiah slowly.

“I know he’s a good guy, but his talk sure has me freezin’ to my bones,” Kid Curry murmured under his breath.

Heyes smiled briefly. “Me, too. Can’t help it.”

“Can’t say I like his new profession,” Kid Curry replied.

“A man has to do what a man has to do,” Heyes prophesied. “You never know where you might end up once we’ve got our amnesty.”

“Me? A lawman?” the Kid huffed.

“Why not? There are more men who changed the sides of law in their life. Just think of Lom.”

“Sometimes I think Lom just became sheriff to be a pain in the neck without taking the chance of being charged.”

Heyes thought it over for a moment. “Well, I can see your point, but ain’t that kind of a bonus? And you’ve got to admit you’ve got a distinct sense for justness.”

“Yeah, justness, but not justice. I can tell you for sure that lady IS blind.”

“Aw, c’mon, Kid, one day she’ll forgive us and smile at us again. Doesn’t all the girls? We’ve done a few things to get on her bad side in the past, but we changed our ways. And we can trust Jack ... uh ... Jeremiah.”

Said young man just crossed the street riding a solid buckskin gelding. “C’mon, let’s go. It’s only a short way home.”

Just out of town they left the road and followed a beaten path leading up a slow rise. It was only a short ride until they reached a log cabin, the wood still fresh and barely weathered, with a couple of small but solid outbuildings attached to it.

The men dismounted and tended to the horses before they headed for the house.

“Dell, Dell, come see who I brung with me...” Jeremiah called as they crossed the front yard.

A pretty woman with long braided hair stepped out of the cabin, smoothing down her apron. “Who is it?” Then her face lit up. “Thaddeus! Joshua! Come on in. Come on in!” Overly happy she hugged both visitors, disregarding their wet clothes and ushered them inside. “It’s so good to see you again!” She saw them into the main room and soon everyone got seated while Delilah went for refreshments and called, “Billy! Billy, come quick.”

A blond boy, about 6-years-old but small for his age, stumbled into the room, out of breath.

“Do you remember these two?” Delilah queried, dishing out cookies and coffee.

“Yeah, it’s Joshua and Thaddeus!” The boy exclaimed, beaming with joy. “Are you the big surprise? That you’re coming to have Christmas with us?”

“No, sweetheart, they are not the surprise, but of course they can spend the holidays with us; learn about the surprise on Christmas Day, just like you,” his mother told him gently. Her hand slipped down to her lower abdomen as if it had a will of its own, and a brief smile graced her face.

Only now the friends noticed the small tree decorated with candles and apples in a corner of the room.

Heyes shot his partner a sideways glance. “Kid, did you...?”

Kid Curry looked somewhat contrite and shook his head. “No, I guess I lost track of time, too.”

“Don’t mind it,” Jeremiah replied. “Stay with us and be our guests.”

“I doubt you’ve got plenty to share,” Heyes objected.

But Delilah wouldn’t hear any of it. “We’ve got enough, and we love to share what we have with you, don’t we?”

“Yeah, ‘course we do.” Jeremiah confirmed.

“We haven’t got any presents.”

“Your presence is present enough. You’re always welcome with us. I’m so glad we met you back then.” Delilah glanced over to her son and stroke his hair.

“And we’re glad you didn’t turn us in,” Heyes replied with a wink. “Seems you did well anyways.”

Jeremiah nodded. “Yes, we did well. Very well. Delilah was right. It was the time and place for us to be...”

“...for all of us!” Delilah cut in.

Jeremiah smiled at her with visible affection and gently squeezed her hand. “We can never pay you back what the both of you’ve done for us.”

“Don’t mention it,” Kid Curry replied.

Heyes continued, “That’s a story to be told another day.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m just glad things happened the way they happened.” Jeremiah squeezed the hand of his wife again before he let go of her.

Heyes raised his cup. “I’ll drink to that – fate or coincidence.”

Everyone followed his example and cups clinked.

Billy climbed on Jeremiah’s lap and cuddled into his arms. “You’re gonna tell me the story?”

“What story?” Jeremiah shifted the weight of his son a bit.

“The story you told me the other day.”

“That wouldn’t happen to be the story about the deer?” Heyes asked with a sly smile on his face.

Billy gave a sniff at Heyes’s remark. “Nah, that’s a story for kids. I’m a big boy now.”

“So, what kinda story do you like now?” Kid Curry wanted to know.

“The story about two pretty good, bad men...” Billy told him.

“...who wouldn’t exactly make the world a better place but didn’t make it worse either...” Jeremiah added.

“...and made the change for the better for some,” Delilah closed.

“It’s a story about second chances!” Billy chimed up again.

“And we all need second chances once in a while, don’t we, Billy?” Delilah’s voice was gentle laced with only the briefest hint of teasing.

The boy blushed and dropped his eyes to the floor.

The adults laughed and Jeremiah pulled the boy closer into his arms. “It’s not about the mistakes we make in life, but how we handle them. Live with them. What we learn to do better next time. Alright?”


“Mebbe Joshua and Thaddeus will add one piece or two to the story.”

“Really?” Billy’s bright eyes lit up again.

“Really,” Heyes promised.

“You might regret that,” Kid Curry added for consideration. “Knowing Hey... his way to tell stories they might take a whole different turn.”

“Oh, c’mon, you’re just jealous that I’m the better storyteller.”

“Yeah, right. Everything you tell sounds like a story at times.”

“It’s not my fault folks can’t tell truth from narrative embroidery!”

The blond ex-outlaw frowned. “What‘s needlework have to do with it?”

Delilah laughed and stood. “Maybe we can tell this apart later, but first we’re going to have supper.”

“Now that’s a good idea if I ever heard one,” Kid Curry declared, drawing a laugh from his partner.

Outside the snow started falling again, covering the world in an ice blanket of white. Inside the house it was warm, not only because of the crackling fire, but the love between good friends.

Author’s Note: If you would like to learn more about how Heyes and Curry know Jeremiah, Delilah, and Billy, watch for my “episode” in the upcoming virtual season.