Deputy Smith and Curly Joe Batchley

By Gemhenry

His arms were now held behind his back in a strong grip but still the punches continued with force.  Suddenly he was released and found himself dropping to his knees.  The blow to his left temple encouraged the fall to the floor where he slowly drifted into a welcome unconsciousness. 

Jack Ford, bounty hunter, towered over most men. He and his similarly built nephew Jonas had spotted Curly Joe Batchley in the saloon, and recognizing the description from one of the wanted posters that they kept securely in their saddlebags, had duly set out to trail the outlaw. 

They had followed their quarry taking their time to observe the man and his habits and being mindful of his reputation.  Late one night they quietly entered his camp, overpowering him without a weapon being drawn.  Now trussed up and slung over his horse, Curly Joe was on his way to the nearest town of Porterville and Ford and Jonas were gleefully discussing on exactly how to spend the $2,000 dollar reward.

Hannibal Heyes, known as Deputy Sheriff Joshua Smith to the citizens of Porterville, rocked back on the chair and rested his feet on the desk in the Sheriff’s office.  Sheriff Lom Trevors had been called out of town for a few days and left his deputy in charge aided by the former, now retired deputy, Harker Wilkins.

Heyes smiled as he glanced down at the badge pinned to his vest.  His mind whirled back to the time when he and his partner, Jed ‘Kid’ Curry, under their aliases Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones, were deputized to escort two bank robbers back to the town where the theft had been committed. Whenever they had looked at each other’s badges cold shivers ran up their spines.  

 The Kid was never far from his thoughts and Heyes often wondered why his so called silver tongue had let him down so badly when trying to convince Curry to be positive about the amnesty.

Nine months ago, the Kid had packed his saddlebags and left the hotel where they had been staying in Arizona after another argument about the arrangement with the Governor.   Heyes considered it more of a disagreement than a full blown argument but it was the same one that seemed to reoccur every time Curry drew his gun.

This time it was in the Orient Saloon in Bisbee following a few months which had been far from easy.  Work hadn’t been easy to find and low poker winnings had resulted in a lack of funds.  They found themselves camping out in all weathers and it was taking its toll on the two friends.  Constant snapping at each other or long bouts of silence replaced their usual banter and friendly conversation.   A fairly well paid delivery job courtesy of Colonel Harper had brought them to Bisbee.

They had been sitting supping two beers when a young boy collecting glasses had made the near fatal mistake of knocking a glass out of the hand of a drunken miner.  The irate man had turned on the boy, grabbing him around the throat and throwing him across the room to land awkwardly on the floor. The Kid had risen as the miner started to approach the youth. Heyes had touched Curry’s arm shaking his head to discourage him from involvement.

 But of course the Kid had reacted.  His inherent need to protect the vulnerable pushed him into a standoff with the miner, shooting the gun out of his hand just as the Sheriff made an appearance.  Luckily the Sheriff just hauled the miner off to his office but only after speaking to the partners and barkeep.      

Walking back into their hotel room, an exasperated Heyes flung himself on the bed after throwing his hat on the dresser.

Following him and shutting the door firmly Kid Curry pleaded, “I’m sorry Heyes, but I couldn’t just stand there and watch. It’s just not in my nature.”

“I know Kid, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“Heyes…I told you when we started trying for amnesty that maybe we ought to split up and go for it on our own.  I can’t see the Governor ever giving amnesty to a gunslinger like me. You have a better chance on your own.”

“You are not a gunslinger Kid, never have been,” replied Heyes.  He stood up swiftly, grabbed his hat and looking at his partner continued, “Let’s go and get some dinner. The restaurant here is supposed to be good and we can make plans to leave first thing in the morning.”

But the Kid didn’t join him after saying he would be down in ten minutes.  Heyes just thought he had fallen asleep, which wasn’t unusual, but when he returned to the room, Curry had gone.

After an initial search for the Kid, Heyes had contacted their friend Lom Trevors, who was brokering the amnesty deal with the Governor.  He hadn’t heard from his missing partner either. 

Heyes was initially reluctant to contact Lom in case this parting between the two friends reflected badly on them but Trevors had understood the reason why Curry had disappeared.  He had often thought that Curry wouldn’t make amnesty because of his reputation which was so at odds with the man he was now.  

In his earlier days the Kid had been hot headed and prone to outbursts of anger but over the last few years Curry had matured and gained the ability to control that inner rage.  He was still a dangerous looking man and one look could quell anyone, but his temper was now controlled, that is, unless Heyes himself was threatened or hurt. Would Curry still be able to maintain control without Heyes at his side as a calming influence?  This thought had worried Trevors, but he had kept it to himself.

Heyes had continued the hunt for his partner over the following months.   He had funded his search by playing poker in the towns he passed through but without the Kid to watch his back, he had to play cautiously, and so any winnings barely covered expenses.  A few times he had thought that he was close to finding his friend but each disappointment drew him down to a deeper despair.

 He missed his friend and partner; he had no one to talk with or to listen to him, although half the time he thought the Kid wasn’t paying attention, but just had nodded his head at appropriate moments.  All in all, life without Curry just wasn’t fun.

Heyes had kept in touch with Lom throughout his long search.  The telegraph asking for his return to Porterville raised his hopes until he read the last line, “No news on Jones.”  It took him three days to reach Porterville, with the underlying worry that it was really bad news about the Kid and that Lom wanted to tell him in person.

“Congratulations Heyes.  The Governor has granted you and the Kid unconditional amnesty.”

Trevors was shocked at the retired outlaw’s appearance, the weight loss, the dark circles under his eyes, together with his dirty and thread bare clothing and registered the consequences of Curry’s absence from Heyes’ life.  He had always thought that Heyes was the stronger of the two but wondered if he had been mistaken.  He realized that the only constant Hannibal Heyes had in his life had been Kid Curry and decided there and then that he would help Heyes in any way he could.

“Heyes,” he said softly, “Let’s go and get some supper and celebrate.”

“I don’t think I can. I think Jed is...” Heyes started to say, adding quietly, “Dead.”  He hadn’t wanted to think that and a suddenly a feeling of terrible loss and sadness engulfed him.

Lom had placed his arm around his shoulder and gently said, “If Curry had been killed or arrested we would have heard.  He is just lying low. The Governor is circulating the news of the amnesty to the various law enforcement offices and the wanted posters will be withdrawn.  He leaves office in six months time and then the newspapers will be told. The Kid will turn up then.  Let’s get you some food.”  

Heyes was jolted out of his memories when the door to the office was flung open and the frame was filled by an extremely large man.

“Who are you and where is Trevors?” the man asked bluntly as he moved into the office.

“Acting Sheriff Joshua Smith. Trevors is out of town.  What can I do for you?”answered Heyes, as he moved to stand in front of the desk with his hand resting on his gun.

“Name’s Jack Ford, bounty hunter and I have a prisoner for you, Curly Joe Batchley worth $2,000 dollars.”

Another overly large man entered carrying a man slung over his shoulder.

“He’s not…” Heyes began, but was cut off by Ford.

“Not dead, just unconscious, Deputy.  Resisting arrest. That’s my nephew carrying him.”

“Sheriff Trevors don’t take kindly to ill treatment of a prisoner,” Heyes snapped, as he moved closer to examine the prisoner but halted in his step as Deputy Harker rushed in. 

“Deputy Smith, there’s a man in the saloon waving a gun around telling everyone he’s Kid Curry.  Sam said he has been drinking heavily. I think you need to get over there before anyone gets hurt.”

“Kid Curry?  You sure?” squawked Heyes as he ran to the door, turning back to his assistant deputy pointing to the bounty hunters. “See that their prisoner is put in a cell and ask Doc Taylor to come look at him.”

Heyes entered the saloon looking for his partner, only to find a very drunk Fred Philpotts clutching a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a gun in the other. 

Heyes felt a wave of disappointment washing over him.  Pushing through a group of onlookers he grabbed the gun off Philpotts. He couldn’t quite believe that Fred was pretending to be the Kid again.

 “You are under arrest for being drunk and disorderly, and for impersonation!”

“What do you mean? Don’t I know you?” slurred Philpotts as handcuffs were slapped on to his wrists. Heyes hauled the  reluctant man back to the Sherriff’s Office, shoving him through the doors and forcing him down onto one of the chairs just inside.

“Sit down Fred and don’t move,” Heyes commanded the drunk and walked quickly over to Deputy Harker who was talking in a low voice with Doc Taylor at the door of the cell.

“How’s the prisoner, Doc?” Heyes glanced across to the cot where a bearded man lay, covered in blankets.

“He’s unconscious. There is an obvious blow to his head which is most probably the cause.  He also has a badly bruised ribcage and abdomen, but nothing broken as far as I can see.  Call me if he regains consciousness or if his condition worsens.  Harker says he was brought in by bounty hunters, nasty business.  I will check back tomorrow morning but don’t hesitate to call me.”

 Deputy Harker pointed to Philpotts and asked, “Is that really Kid Curry?  Not quite what I thought he would look like.”

Turning to look at Fred, Heyes clarified, “No, this here is Fred PhiIpotts. You remember Thaddeus, my partner? Well, we encountered Fred pretending to be Kid Curry once before, up in Red Rock, Montana. They were just about to hang him for a murder he didn’t commit. Cutting a long story short, me and Thaddeus saved him.”  Heyes face lit up with pride.

Harker looked impressed with the explanation.  “Your partner is more how I imagine Kid Curry would look. The bounty hunters said they would be back tomorrow to sort out the reward on that young fella. Sheriff Trevors won’t be happy, he don’t like bounty hunters or transients,” he said with a smile.

“Very amusing, Harker,”said Heyes. “You can go home now, thanks for your help today.  I will put Fred in the other cot and let him sleep it off. I am then going to go through the wanted posters and see if I can find one for Curly Joe Batchley.”  He glanced at the occupied cot in the cell and the unmoving man laying there.

Luckily Trevors was an orderly man and kept both his current wanted posters and those that were inactive.  The latter ones were divided between dead, in prison and other. Trevors had written further details on each poster.  The other category included two which were notated  ‘Given amnesty’ and the  dead category included one for Curly Joe Batchley upon which was written ‘Shot by Wyatt Earp.’

A groan came from the cells. Philpotts was sitting on the edge of the cot looking across at Heyes with bleary eyes.

“How long have you been awake, Fred?” asked Heyes.

“Not long.  How come Hannibal Heyes is a deputy Sheriff?” replied Philpotts.  “Can I have some water?”

Heyes entered the cell with a cup of water and sat next to Philpotts replying, “I got an amnesty Fred.  I am no longer wanted.”

“How come your partner didn’t?” asked Fred.

“What you mean by that?”

“I didn’t expect the real Kid Curry to be here in jail,” said Philpotts pointing across the cell.

Heyes looked at the man lying in the other cot to see two blue eyes staring back.

 “Kid, is that really you?” he gasped, sprinting over to kneel by his side. “I thought you were dead. I looked everywhere for you.”

“Thanks for the confidence.  Obviously you didn’t look everywhere or else you would have found me” Curry started to cough and closed his eyes. Heyes fetched another cup of water and after propping up his partner, held it to his lips.

Pushing the cup away Curry continued, “Congratulations Heyes, I heard you say about your amnesty.  I knew you would do better without me by your side. Are you one of Lom’s deputies, now?  I don’t want to jeopardize your amnesty Heyes, if I have to go to the penitentiary I will.  I was on my way to find you; life was way too quiet without you.  I missed you, partner.”

“The Bounty Hunters who brought you in, thought you were Curly Joe Batchley and as he is already dead you are free to go,” Heyes said softly, patting his friend’s hand. “And Kid, you were wrong. The Governor also gave you an unconditional amnesty.  Congratulations!  I missed you too, partner.”

“I was scared Heyes, scared you would have to serve twenty years because of my gun,” said Curry quietly.

“I was scared as well Kid, scared you would get yourself killed but we are less scared together. Now we have a future to look forward to, a real future hopefully together as partners.” 

Heyes squeezed his partner’s shoulder as he stood. “Fred,look after him. I’ll go fetch the Doc to check him over and then we will talk.”