Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry rode down the main street of Colorado Springs, hoping to find a nice town where they could rest for a few days.
They were both weary and glanced around discreetly, looking at each other when they passed the Sheriff’s Office and confirmed that neither recognized the name. Stopping in front of the saloon, they dismounted, tied their horses, and pushed through the swinging doors.
Inside, the Kid paused for a moment, scanning the room, then followed his partner to the bar. The barkeep approached and Heyes smiled, “Coupla’ beers please,” he said, placing a coin on the bar.
A few minutes later the beers were placed in front of them, “I’m Jess, you fellas’ must be from that cattle drive that stopped south of here?” Heyes nodded, smiling, “Yeah, that obvious?” Jess returned the smile, “You both look like you could use a week’s sleep.”
“You’re right,” Heyes chuckled. “I’m Joshua Smith, my thirsty friend is Thaddeus Jones,” he said, watching the Kid down half of his beer, then lifted his own glass and did the same.
“Nice to meet you Jess,” the Kid nodded.
“No poker?” Heyes asked, glancing around.
“Sure, soon as a few more fella’s make it to town, oughta’ be two or three tables,” Jess replied.
“You got food here?” the Kid asked, hopefully.
Jess shook his head, “I can scare up somethin’ but the diner across th’ street serves a real good meal an’ the hotel next to them is a nice clean place.”
The Kid finished his beer, “Much obliged,” he smiled, gratefully, “You ready Joshua?” he asked.
Grinning, Heyes emptied his glass, “We may be back later on tonight, thanks Jess,” he said amiably, and followed his partner.
“I’ll take care of th’ horses while you get us a room, meet you at th’ diner. An’ make it fast, I’m hungry” the Kid urged.
Heyes retrieved his and the Kid’s saddle bags, “It ain’t been that long since we ate,” he observed.
The Kid frowned at him, “Yeah, left over beans,” he grumbled, “I want some food, an’ if you don’t hurry, I’m starting without you,” he warned, leading the horses away.
The Kid had been grouchy lately, blaming the beans and canned tomatoes. He had complained, but had eaten what was offered. Watching his cousin in amusement for a moment, Heyes headed toward the hotel.
In the lobby, he approached the desk and nodded at the man, “Afternoon,” he greeted and requested a room with two beds, facing the street. “How late can we get a bath sent up?” he asked. “Won’t have no help past six,” the man said. Heyes paid him and signed the register. “Thanks, I’ll let you know,” he said, took the key and headed upstairs.
He unlocked the door and entered, glad to see it was a clean room. Placing their saddle bags on a bed, he crossed to the window, yawning as he pulled the curtain back, glancing out. His eyes burned from lack of sleep. He turned to the wash stand, poured water into the basin and washed his face, hoping it would wake him up. Tossing the towel on the bed, he slipped out the door and locked it.
He knew the Kid would be finished quickly at the stable, better not to keep him waiting, he thought. He reached the stairs but stepped aside to allow a man coming up onto the floor. To Heyes surprise, the man lightly placed his hand on his arm, “Hannibal?” he said, inquisitively.
Heyes turned curious eyes on the man for a moment, then glanced around quickly. “It is you! I’m Timothy Scott, Valparaiso! You looked out for me---,” the smiling young man grabbed his hand, shaking it.
Heyes knew he had a problem, “Uh --, I think you’re mistaken,” he said, easing back toward the room.
“No, I’d know you anywhere, you an’--- oh, I see – I’m sorry,” the man said quietly, as Heyes looked around nervously, steering them away from the stairwell.
Looking cautiously up and down the hall, Heyes unlocked the door and stepped into the room, drawing Timothy inside and closing the door. “Howdy, Tim, you’re lookin’ good,” Heyes said, stiffly, standing ominously between him and the door. The well-dressed man was becoming less certain as it dawned on him this was Hannibal Heyes the outlaw, not the older boy who had helped him as a child. “I wondered if someday I might run into you, I hope I haven’t made trouble for you,” Tim said earnestly.
Heyes searched the questioning eyes, trying to think of a way out of this. Clearly the man knew him, no point in denying it. Timothy was an older version of the timid younger boy they had known at the Home. His light brown hair was trimmed, he was nearly as tall as Heyes with an average build. He seemed uncertain but not fearful.
“Hannibal, I’m not a threat to you, I owe you and Jed a lot, not sure I would have survived that first year without you. Is Jed----,” Timothy began.
“It’s just Heyes-, actually it’s Joshua now and I’m guessin’ you know about the reward for my capture,” Heyes said in a steady voice, hoping his partner was at the diner ordering his meal.
The Kid was sitting at the table in the diner sipping coffee, scowling unhappily. He was tired and sore; he just wanted to eat something and go to sleep in a soft bed. Anticipating the recommended fried chicken and mashed potatoes, he wondered what was keeping Heyes, frowning irritably. He was tempted to order and start without his partner like he threatened but a ‘what if’ thought kept nagging him. He needed Heyes seated across from him so he could eat in peace, knowing all was well. Getting a room should have been a quick task, -- unless Heyes found a book or a newspaper--- or someone who recognized him----. The Kid finished his coffee, left a coin on the table and exited the diner.
At the door of the hotel, he scanned the lobby, then walked to the desk. Glancing down, he saw his cousin’s signature on the register, Room 14, then smiled at the desk clerk. “My friend was coming to rent us a room, Joshua Smith still in th’ room?” the Kid asked.
The clerk looked uncertain but nodded, “Room 14, I ain’t seen him leave,” he said.
“Thanks,” the Kid said, then turned and climbed the stairs. “Heyes, I swear, if you fell asleep readin’---,” he said under his breath, cautiously approaching Room 14 and listening at the door. Hearing a male voice, he slipped his gun from the holster and waited, trying to tell what was going on behind the door. He heard Heyes’ voice, the tone he used when creating a story. Silently, he tried the knob. When it turned, he threw the door open, leaping into the room.
“Ow,” Heyes complained, holding his shoulder when the door hit him.
Stopping the door as it bounced back, he looked Heyes over quickly. “You alright?” Kid asked, then turned to the stranger.
Rubbing his shoulder, Heyes nodded, “Yeah, you remember Tim Scott?” he asked.
The Kid started to shake his head, then connected the name, “From when we were kids --?” He gave Heyes a look, “Then he knows ---,” he stopped abruptly.
Heyes tilted his head and nodded. “He knows,” he said.
The Kid closed the door, holstering his gun, “How do you always find trouble so fast when I leave you alone?” he frowned at his partner. Heyes glared back, perturbed.
Tim grinned, remembering how close the two had been as boys. “Jed,” he said offering his hand, “I’ve already told Han--uh—Joshua that I won’t make trouble for you. He almost had me convinced he hadn’t seen you in over a year, glad that’s not the case,” he said as they shook hands.
Relaxing somewhat, the Kid gave Heyes a grateful look then turned back, “Good to see you Tim, you livin’ here?” he asked.
“For the moment– can I buy you both a drink or dinner? Maybe we could catch up --,” Tim hesitated when the partners looked at each other. “I’m well known here, people won’t think anything of you being with me,” he encouraged.
Heyes gave him a half smile, “We’re obliged Tim, but we need to get movin’ to make it where we’re headed on time,” he fabricated.
“I can get you train tickets to get you there on time if that would help,” Tim offered.
Heyes and Kid quickly exchanged a wary look, silently agreeing it was time to leave. “Some reason you’re set on keepin’ us here?” the Kid asked. Taking a step toward Tim, he forced him to back up, giving Heyes room to lock the door.
“No --- just a while--,” the younger man sighed. “Let me explain, please. Have you read any of the Dime Novels about the two of you?”
The Kid watched Tim while Heyes crossed to the window and cautiously looked out.
“So, you read Dime Novels about us?” Kid asked, stiffly.
“No, -- I write them,” Tim replied.
Surprise softened the blue eyes, “You write books - about us?”
“Yes, very successfully. Please believe me, I don’t want to make trouble for you. If you can’t stay, let me give you a copy of my newest book before you go,” he requested.
Finding no reason for concern outside the window, Heyes turned and saw the Kid’s eagerness when he looked toward him. He fixed dark eyes on Tim, “So, you’re sayin’ you make so much money writin’ about us you ain’t tempted by the reward?” he asked doubtfully.
Tim turned to face him, “I’m saying I’d never be interested in any reward on my friends. While I make a nice living on my writing, my adopted family is financially secure. My legal name is Timothy Scott Horn, my father is Dr Thomas Horn, president of the Colorado State Medical Society. My adoptive parents gave me everything I needed except for one thing, a connection to my life - - before,” he said, hoping they would understand.
The dark eyes softened slightly and glanced past him, seeking an answer in blue eyes.
Kid nodded briefly, “Got chicken and potatoes at th’ diner,” he suggested.
Heyes had heard the hope in Tim’s voice and he trusted the Kid’s instincts. “Guess if th’ sheriff was comin’ he’d be here by now,” he smiled. “Glad you were adopted by folks that took good care of you, but I reckon they might wonder who your old friends are? Folks in town might start thinkin’ you’re acquainted with the characters you write about, might be too big of a risk,” he said apologetically.
“Don’t worry, my parents are in Denver and I write under a pen name, no one here knows I’m an author,” Tim assured them.
The Kid grinned, “I vote we go eat, Joshua,” he said, then caught the key Heyes tossed and opened the door, “What happened after we ran away?” he asked Tim.
“Just remember, we’re Joshua Smith an’ Thaddeus Jones” Heyes reminded quietly, following them.
After dinner, the waitress cleared the table and refilled their coffee cups. They talked quietly, sometimes hesitantly, about a piece of their past they seldom discussed. Tim had very little memory about his arrival at the Home and the records supplied were lacking. He wanted to know more about his family. The Kid tried to help fill in the blanks but it fell to Heyes to try to recall the answers to many of his questions.
“I’m sorry Tim, you were pretty young an’ confused, I don’t recall you sayin’ where you lived, not sure if you knew,” Heyes told him regretfully.
Tim smiled sadly, “Thank you for trying, my father has tried to find information, but we don’t know what town and we’re not sure if Scott was a surname or maybe a middle name --,” he said, lost in thought. Brightening quickly, he smiled, “Enough about that, let me buy you a drink and maybe you can answer some questions for my next story,” he said hopefully.
Heyes shook his head slightly, “Thank you Tim, but we oughta’ be goin’,” he said.
“I’d really like to hear more about your adventures, a couple quick drinks,” Tim entreated.
The partners exchanged looks and Heyes nodded, “Alright, coupla’ drinks,” he smiled.
They crossed the street and entered the saloon; Jess welcomed them at the bar. “Mr. Horn, good to see you. Thaddeus, Joshua, figured you’d be asleep by now, few more of your friends from th’ drive came into town, oughta’ be a good night for poker. What can I get you?”
Tim smiled, “Thank you Jess, I’d like a bottle of your best whiskey and three glasses please,” he requested. “Perhaps you two can find a comfortable table,” he suggested.
Sharing a look, the partners chose an isolated table and sat down. Placing the glasses on the table, Tim filled them, passed them out and sat down.
Tim smiled knowingly, “My father passed on a rumor about you two and an amnesty program, perhaps more than rumor. You were with that cattle drive? Not the behavior of men in your - profession” he said.
Closing his eyes, Heyes sighed then said flatly, “We’re not in the same line of work anymore.”
“It’s true then, you were offered amnesty?” Tim asked.
“If it was true, there’d likely be conditions, like, for instance, if we told anybody th’ deal’s off,” Heyes said pointedly.
Tim nodded, “I understand. My parents know what you did for me; they hoped they could help you some day. My father is well known among several influential men; he can put in a good word for you. I’ll tell him it’s not public knowledge. Look, you’re both tired, go back to th’ hotel and rest, you have my word, there's no need to worry. I’ll bring a copy of my book by later, we can talk then,” Tim told them.
The partners’ eyes met, they emptied their glasses and stood, “Think we’ll take your advice Tim, we’d be obliged to your Pa for his help,” the Kid said.
Silently, the partners returned to their room and locked the door behind them. Both unfastened their gun belts and sat down to remove their boots.
“It’s nice thinkin’ we mighta’ helped him have a good life,” the Kid said, laying back.
“Yeah, kinda’ strange, we help a scared little kid an’ years later, he could be th’ reason our chances for amnesty increase,” Heyes mused. “You weren’t much older than him, you coulda’ had a family,” Heyes finished, quietly.
“I got a family. - Talks a lot, ‘specially when I’m tryin’ to rest” Kid yawned. “Heyes, quit thinkin’ an’ go to sleep, we got a Orphan Train to see about later.”
“Bet I’m th’ hero,” Heyes smiled, stretching out on the bed.
Moments later they were both asleep.