No Good Deed

By AKeays

“Are you all right?”

“Heyes, you just asked me that five minutes ago.”

“More like ten,” Heyes mumbled, then slowed his horse’s gait and sent his partner a pointed look. “Well?”

Curry sighed, but then realized where this overabundance of concern came from and mustered a quiet smile.

“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s no big deal. What I am is cold. I don’t know why we keep coming down ta Arizona for the winter. It can be almost as bad as Wyoming.”

Heyes nudged Clay to pick up the pace as Curry became level with him.

“It depends on where in Arizona you are. We could always head to Flagstaff. Would that make you feel more at home?”

This suggestion was met with silence.

Heyes glanced at his partner, afraid that he might be considering it.

Curry finally shook his head. “Nah. It don’t really feel like Christmas without snow, but Christmas is kinda over-rated anyway.”

Heyes came close to denying this statement, then realized that the Kid was right. Since they’d left Devil’s Hole in pursuit of their amnesty the family-oriented holidays didn’t hold the same joys.

Then Curry jerked Heyes out of his musings with a question that always sent a shiver down his spine.

“What’s that coming towards us?”

Both men and horses stared at the object heading directly for them.

Heyes pushed his coat flap aside and pulled his Schofield just in case.

Curry squinted, trying to make out what it was.

“It’s too small ta be a cougar, besides, there ain’t no cougars around here, or bears. Bobcat?”

“It’s not moving like a cat. Whoa, easy.” This last comment was to his horse as both animals snorted and backed up.

As far as the horses were concerned, any creature charging towards them like that must be a predator and, at this point, only training and trust in their humans kept them from turning tail and running.

“A small wolf or a coyote, maybe.”

Heyes cocked the hammer on his revolver. “A wolf or coyote coming at us like that must be half-starved or rabid.”

He took aim, but the nervous jittering of his horse made it impossible to lock on. He uncocked his revolver and dismounted. Using his left arm to steady his gun, he took aim.

Then he hesitated.

“What are ya waitin’ for?” Curry asked as he held the two horses steady. “Shoot it.”

“I’m not sure it is a predator.” Heyes lowered his Schofield as the animal got closer. “I don’t want to make that mistake again.”

“Yeah, but—”

“No, look!” Heyes holstered his gun. “It’s a dog.”

Sure enough, as the threatening predator got closer, it morphed into a blue tic cattle dog who was anything but threatening.

Heyes dropped into a squat, and the dog, recognizing this as an invitation, switched from the exhausted lope into ecstatic puppy wiggles accompanied by a huge, relieved grin and lolling tongue.

Even before the creature snuggled into Heyes for hugs and kisses, both men could see that the animal was emaciated. The matted, medium-length hair did nothing to cover the sunken features and skin stretched over a starving skeleton.

Heyes held the shaking dog close in to his chest to give warmth and comfort as both men scanned the area.

“There ain’t nothin’ out here,” Curry stated the obvious. “It musta got lost or run off.”

“Yeah.” Heyes stood up and walked over to his horse, but the dog stuck to him like glue.

Clay and Midnight both tensed as the dog got close, then relaxed when they realized there was no threat.

Heyes took down his canteen and offered the dog some water, which she drank with a ravaging thirst.

“Don’t give her too much or she’ll just throw it back up again.”

“Yeah, I know. Just enough to take the edge off.”

Heyes returned to his saddle bag and pulled out the wrapped up corned beef. Breaking it into small pieces, he offered them to the dog who accepted them with just as much enthusiasm as she had the water.

Curry groaned. “There goes our supper.”

“Kid, you gotta have some faith,” Heyes said as he scooped the dog up in his arms and, grabbing his saddle horn, remounted and retrieved his rein from Curry. “We’ll find more food. I’m sure of it.”

Heyes didn’t meet Curry’s eye as he nudged his horse forward with the dog settled comfortable across the saddle in front of him.

“Uh huh.”


“Heyes, I know it’s early yet, but I think I’m bleedin’ again. We gotta find a place ta make camp.”

Clay’s head jerked back from the intensity of the “whoa,” and Heyes’s eyes darted to his partner.

“Dammit, Kid. You get mad at me for asking how you are, then you don’t tell me when you do need help.”

“I did tell ya, just now.”

Heyes looked sheepish. “Yeah, yeah, okay. But you coulda spoke up sooner.” He ignored the tired sigh behind him and looked around at the landscape, seeing nothing but hard dirt and cold cacti. “Dammit. No trees, and we don’t even have dried cow patties to make a fire with.” He scrutinized his friend and took note of his pale complexion and strained position. “We need to get you warmed up and fed.”

“Yeah.” Curry shivered under his heavy coat. “Coal for Christmas is supposed ta be a punishment, but I wouldn’t say no to a handful right now.”

Heyes sighed.

The dog on Heyes’s lap began to squirm indicating an urgent need to dismount.

“Easy, Scully,” Heyes tried settling her. “You’ll hurt yourself jumping down from—”

Too late. The dog wriggled free and dropped to the ground. She yelped as her front legs failed her and she ended up nose first in the hard dirt, but this minor misjudgment didn’t dissuade her purpose, and she scrambled to her feet and took off at a wobbly lope.

“Scully?” Kid asked.

Heyes shrugged. “I had to call her something and ‘Blue’ was too obvious. My first impression of her was fur stretched over a skull, so . . . Scully.”

“Uh huh. We ain’t keepin’ her, ya know.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You’ve probably got fleas.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Profuse barking from atop a low rise drew their attention.

Heyes frowned. “She wants us to follow her.”

“Ya think?”

Heyes ignored his partner’s surliness and nudged Clay forward.

“C’mon. Right now, she’s the only one who knows where we’re going.”


Heyes squinted through the gloaming hoping that Scully would somehow pay them back for helping her. Guilt tied knots in his gut as he listened to Curry’s strained breathing. His partner held onto the saddle horn and focused on staying conscious as the chill of the descending night brought numbness to his injured body. It had been three hours since the Kid had requested they stop, and he hadn’t complained one bit when the request had not been honored.

Heyes was on the verge of ignoring the dog and setting up a cold, hungry camp right where they were while there was still enough light for him to tend to Curry’s wound. There was enough scrub brush around for him to start a fire and heat up some water. It would be something warm in their stomachs at least.

Then Scully’s barking intensified as they rode up another incline, and Heyes laughed out loud in his relief.

Curry jerked to full consciousness then frowned.


“A cabin!”

Heyes could barely believe it. Finally, their luck was changing.

Scully ran onto the porch and then scratched frantically at the closed door as she whined with anticipation.

The two men weren’t far behind her.

“Wait here,” Heyes said, as he dismounted and opened the door of the darkened structure. Stepping inside, he could still discern the outline of a lantern hanging right next to the door jam and right under it was a small table with more lanterns and matches.

Within seconds, Heyes had the interior lit up and inviting.

He smiled as he walked back out to the Kid. “Santa heard you.”


“We’ve got coal.”


Curry sat on the rope mattress that was closest to the raging fire in the large hearth.

Heyes had found a treasure trove of required goods all stored away in solid trucks and ready to be used by anyone who stumbled upon the place. Minimal searching produced kindling, dried dung, and even more coal for a fire, as well as blankets and pillows, whiskey, and necessities for treating wounds. A discovered pantry held shelves of canned and dry goods as well as cured meat wrapped in burlap.

After settling Curry on the bed, the first thing Heyes did was get canned stew along with big chunks of meat, heating up over the cook fire. Then he turned back to his partner to tend to his needs.

Gently taking off the Kid’s coat, the shirt underneath showed fresh blood where a bullet had obviously torn through the material and entered the Kid’s side. Opening the shirt, the makeshift padding was soiled with more fresh blood as well as being stiff from the old dried blood that stuck the padding to the skin.

“This is going to hurt,” Heyes said, his guilt rising again.

“Yeah, I know, Heyes. Just do it.”

Heyes undid the belt used to hold the padding in place, then pulled away the soiled material.

Curry sucked his teeth as the dried blood pulled at the tender skin and caused more fresh blood to seep from the wound.

Heyes threw the soiled padding into the fire then used fresh padding to press against the wound and hopefully stop the bleeding. One pad after another got stained and was thrown into the fire, but eventually, the bleeding stopped.

Heyes uncorked the whiskey bottle, poured some of the liquid onto a clean pad. Then, without hesitation, he pressed the soaked pad against the Kid’s side.

Kid clenched his jaw with the pain, but both men knew it was necessary to stave off infection.

That done, Heyes took the gauze and more padding and wrapped it all up in a nice snug bandage.

“Feeling better?”


“You want to lie down?”

“No, I’m good. I’m just hungry.”

“Yeah. I’ll dish out a bowl of stew for you and Scully. I better tend to the horses. There’s a good solid, barn out there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just as well stored with feed as this cabin is.”


Evening found the three occupants warm, cozy, and well fed. Three empty bowls sat on the floor by the warm fire while the partners sat across from one another enjoying the remnants of the whiskey. Scully, her belly tight from warm stew, snored softly from her blanket next to the fire.

It was a homey scene, and all should have been well, but Heyes still fidgeted.

“I’m sorry, Kid.”

“I’m okay, Heyes. It was a long, hard day, for sure. But things worked out fine. Who woulda thought that gettin’ coal for Christmas would be a god-send.”

Heyes smiled and nodded then turned serious again.

“None of this should have happened in the first place. It was stupid. I over-reacted.”

Curry shook his head. “Nah. You reacted on instinct, and that’s what keeps us alive. If it had been that bounty hunter comin’ up on ya, you needed to protect yourself.”

“But it wasn’t the bounty hunter. It was you. I could have killed you.”

“It was my fault too, Heyes. I shouldn’t a come up on ya like that, especially under them circumstances. It was stupid. Besides, you never shoot ta kill; it ain’t in your nature.”

“But still, I could have—”

“But ya didn’t. It’s a clean wound, Heyes, through and through. Today was hard, that’s all. Now that I’m warm and fed,” he smiled, “and well imbibed, I expect ta sleep like a baby.”


One week later, men and beasts were well fed and well rested. Heyes had managed to snare several rabbits so they didn’t use up all the stores in the cabin and even had left-overs to take on the trail with them.

After two days and a night spent in the outdoors, both men were pleased to recognize the signs of civilization cropping up around them. Cow and horse dung became apparent, as well as regularly used pathways showing up amongst the brush and cacti. A ranch or a small town where they could replenish their supplies would be much appreciated.

Then, just as a light snow was beginning to fall, they came across a large spread of buildings with well-maintained fences and barns and, even better, livestock occupying the paddocks and outlying areas.

Scully started barking with excitement and, with her tail wagging, she galloped down the lane toward the two-story house that was apparently her home.

Several people in the yard looked up from their duties, and two of them reached for rifles at the sight of the two strangers approaching.

Then the front door of the house banged open and a young boy flew onto the porch and jumped down the steps in one bound. He ran towards the dog, his arms reaching out with excitement.

“Blue! Blue, you’ve come home! You’ve come home!”

The dog started screaming in unbridled joy as she ran into her best friend’s arms.

The partners pulled up as they reached the boy and two men who had come forward to meet them. One man still held a rifle at the ready, but the other, who appeared to be the ranch owner and father to the young lad, came up to them with a smile and an outstretched hand.

“Welcome!” he greeted them over the cacophony of barking and laughter. “Step down off those horses and join us. You are a sight for sore eyes.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a smile and stiffly dismounted.

The ranch owner came forward and shook both their hands.

“You have no idea the joy you have brought to this house, and today of all days, too.”

“Oh yeah?” Curry frowned. “What day is it?”

“Well, it’s Christmas Eve, of course. Ever since Blue went missing two months ago, my son hasn’t had a smile to share with anyone. I expected this Christmas to be real bleak. And now, here you are answering our prayers and bringing her home to us just in time for the special day.”

“Glad to be of help,” Heyes grinned. “But we’re just returning the favor. Scully, I mean Blue, saved our lives out there by showing us the way to your line cabin.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I don’t know how she survived out there this long. I expect you fellas saved her life, too. Of course, you will both stay for the holidays. Tomorrow is going to be a happy day now, and a Christmas my son is never going to forget.”