The Authentic Western Experience
by Storm Richards
Kid Curry sat at the café table in Grand Junction devouring a plate of pancakes. His partner, Hannibal Heyes, sat next to him paying attention more to the paper he held in his right hand than the plate of food in front of him. The café was empty except for the two ex-outlaws at this early hour of the day.
“You should eat before your food gets cold,” Kid told Heyes between bites of his breakfast.
“If we don’t find a job soon, this might be the last warm meal you get for a while,” Heyes countered.
Kid looked up from his plate and over at his partner, “You sure know how to kill an appetite.”
“I thought it would encourage you to eat more now…just in case,” Heyes smiled. “Special says all-you-can-eat pancakes. All-you-can-eat is your specialty.”
Kid smirked at Heyes and took another mouthful of pancakes. Gesturing towards the paper, “Anything?”
Heyes shook his head as he absently picked up his coffee cup and took a sip. His eyes widened as he sat up straight; he placed the cup down and continued to read the paper. Lightly smacking Kid’s arm with the back of his hand, “I got the perfect job for us – giving the authentic western experience.”
“What?” Kid creased his brow as he looked at Heyes.
With his eyes still on the paper, Heyes read the ad out loud. “Two people to help fulfill the dream of a lifetime for those who want an authentic experience in the West without any of the danger. Need to be able to ride a horse, and handle a gun.” Heyes looked at Kid. “We can do that.” He continued reading, “Says it’s gonna be a show.” Turning back to Kid, Heyes surmised, “I bet it’s gonna be like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.” He went back to the ad, “It goes on to say we get paid every day and the job is for at least two weeks – maybe more.”
“An authentic experience?” Kid questioned Heyes again.
“An authentic experience,” Heyes answered with enthusiasm. “We get to show them how the West really is…authentic-like.”
Kid gave Heyes a blank stare.
“Come on Thaddeus. It will be a lot of fun.” Still not getting a reaction, Heyes added, “A whole bunch of people from the East. Never heard or seen us before. Pay’s good, too.”
“You really think they don’t know who we are?” Kid asked, sounding hurt.
“Well I don’t know if they haven’t heard of us,” Heyes’ eyes sparkled. “I just know they’ve never seen us or been on a train we…” Heyes paused, glancing over his right shoulder, then his left before mouthing the word, “…Robbed.”
Kid looked confused.
Heyes smiled, “Why would they pay for an authentic experience if they had the real one for free?”
“You got a point,” Kid smiled and shoveled in another forkful of food.
“Says we can apply at nine a.m.” Heyes was once again reading the paper. He took out his pocket watch and checked the time. “We have some time to kill before we can go see,” he looked at the paper lying on the table, “Mr. Abrams at the old train station.” Heyes looked up, “Wonder where the old train station is?”
The owner of the café, a woman in her forties, came by holding a pot of coffee. “Refill?” she pleasantly asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” Heyes smiled at her. Kid nodded as he continued to eat.
As she filled the cups, she asked, “Something wrong with the pancakes, Mr. Smith?”
“Oh,” he looked at his untouched plate. “No, ma’am, my partner can vouch for that. I was just looking at the paper and haven’t had time to eat yet.” Heyes looked at Kid eating. “I’m sure they are very good.”
“Grandma’s recipe, so yes, they are good. You should try them now…they aren’t as good cold,” she stated with a smile and then began to turn away.
Heyes lifted a finger to catch her attention. “Ma’am?” She turned back to look at him. “Can you tell me where the old train station is?”
“It’s just outside of town behind the livery.” She smiled at Heyes. “Are you going to apply for jobs in the show?”
“Thinking about it, ma’am,” he replied pleasantly.
“It’s supposed to bring lots of people into the area. At least that’s what the gentleman who wants to put on this show keeps telling everyone in town. He said that Grand Junction will no longer be a quiet little farming town. This show will put us on the map!” She rolled her eyes.
“You don’t sound so enthusiastic about that, ma’am.” Heyes took a sip of coffee.
Sighing, she explained, “I’ve been around awhile, and I’ve heard a lot of tales. I’ll believe it when I see it.” She giggled, “An authentic experience… Really, are the people from the East that gullible?”
“Ma’am?” Heyes raised an eyebrow.
“To believe that this show could be really what the West is all about,” she shrugged. “Not every train gets robbed; people don’t go around shooting each other every day. The West is not filled with outlaws.” She shook her head. “To listen to this huckster, the two of you would be outlaws!”
Curry stopped eating, giving a sideways glance to Heyes.
Heyes half smiled, half chuckled, “Now that kind of puts things in perspective.”
“Sorry, I got up on my soap box,” she absently refilled the coffee cups again. “It’s just that I like Grand Junction the way it is. I don’t want anyone coming in and trying to make it what it’s not.”
“I can understand that,” Kid replied, looking up as his plate was now empty.
“Thank you and I can understand you applying for a job,” she smiled. “All the glamour and glory of it all.”
Heyes chuckled, “No, ma’am, it’s not the glamour or glory; we’re just looking for a paycheck.”
“Even better.” She removed both plates from the table. “Your pancakes are now cold, Mr. Smith; I’ll get you a fresh plate. Mr. Jones, I assume you would like another plate as well?”
The owner turned with the plates and coffee pot and headed towards the back of the café.
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry rode up to the old train station, a rather run-down long building with a dilapidated platform in front of it. A train engine, with two passenger cars and a freight car attached, sat on the tracks pointing away from the town. The partners dismounted and tied their horses to the rail.
Heyes took out his pocket watch. Smiling, as if pleased with himself, he said, “Nine o’clock on the dot.” He scanned the area. “Hmmm…guess no one else is applying for the job.”
“Or no one else is as prompt as you,” Kid teased.
Heyes glanced sideways at Kid and rolled his eyes.
Curry chuckled, “All the plannin’ is what makes you, you, Heyes.”
Smiling, Heyes put his watch back in his pocket. “Let’s go get a job.”
The two walked up the stairs to the platform and looked around. Spotting a door to the left of them, Curry pointed and they made their way to it.
Rapping twice on the door, Heyes opened it and stuck his head in. “Hello,” he called out into the room. Stepping in, he and Kid saw a pile of boxes stacked up in the middle of the room, but no people. “Hello!” Heyes exclaimed. Shrugging, his eyes wandered the large, almost empty space.
“Hello,” replied a man, who entered the room through a doorway on the other side of the boxes. Spotting the two, he headed their way with a clipboard in his left hand and his right hand stretched out in front of him.
Heyes and then Kid shook the man’s hand. “We’re here to see Mr. Adams,” Heyes explained.
“I’m Mr. Adams.” He gave the boys a quick once-over.
“My name is Joshua Smith, this here is my partner, Thaddeus Jones, and we’re here to apply for the jobs.” Heyes put his shoulders back, standing as tall as he could; Kid gave a nod of agreement.
“The jobs for the Authentic Western Experience?” Mr. Adams questioned as he looked skeptically at the boys.
“Yes,” Heyes stated with confidence.
“Hmm…you want to be the outlaws?” Mr. Adams asked, sounding surprised. His weather-worn face held a look of skepticism.
“Well, not real ones,” Heyes smiled. “But, yeah, I think we could play them.”
“I don’t know,” the man pondered. “You don’t really look the outlaw type.”
Heyes and Kid looked at each other, trying to suppress smiles.
“Oh, really?” Kid half chuckled.
“What’s an outlaw supposed to look like?” Heyes tried to suppress the guffaw building in his throat.
“Mean,” Mr. Adams replied.
“Mean?” Kid deadpanned.
“We can look mean.” Heyes attempted a scowl though he couldn’t completely hide the smile that was desperately trying to spread across his face.
“Yeah,” the man glanced at his clipboard for a few moments before looking back up and studying Heyes and Curry. Grudgingly, he sighed, and took in the two eager faces. “Well, okay, we can give it a try.”
“Good.” Heyes gave a quick nod. “When do we start?”
“Head over to wardrobe – it’s the warehouse across the way. Then head over to the train.”
“Wardrobe?” Kid questioned.
“Yeah, to get your costumes…so maybe you look like a couple of outlaws.” By the look on Mr. Adam’s face, one could tell he wasn’t convinced in his decision to hire the men standing in front of him.
Curry looked past his tied-down weapon to his worn, dusty boots. Heyes checked his own clothing, then his partner's. "What do outlaws wear?" he wondered.
“Black,” the man stated, on the verge of being annoyed.
“Black?” Heyes repeated with a question.
“Yes,” the man pointed at the two of them. “You are the outlaws…the bad guys. The bad guys wear black!” The man shook his head. “You sure you’re from out here? You aren’t from the East, are you?”
“No!” Heyes adamantly announced. “We’re born and bred Westerners. We like the West. We like traveling the West. We are not from the EAST!
“Okay, okay,” Mr. Adams waved his hand in front of him. “You’re from the West. Maybe a city…”
Heyes’ eyes narrowed at the man.
“But the West. Go to wardrobe and get your costumes. We have to start rehearsals.”
The man turned on his heels and headed down the hallway he came from. Heyes and Kid walked out the front door of the station and looked around. Spotting a building down the way marked “Wardrobe,” they turned right and headed towards it, Heyes huffing and puffing as he stomped.
“Got under your skin, didn’t he?” Kid chuckled.
Heyes’ lips drew thin as he glared at his friend. Snorting, he picked up the pace.
Kid chuckled again and followed along.
Finally annoyed enough, Heyes burst, “The nerve of that man! To think we’re from the East. To say we don’t look like outlaws! To say we don’t dress like outlaws. I dressed like this when I was the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang!” Heyes abruptly stopped and turned towards Kid. Waving his hand with a flourish, he growled, “We aren’t mean-enough looking to be outlaws!” He stared at Kid.
“Done?” Kid patiently asked.
“Hmm,” Heyes grumbled.
“Heyes, isn’t that good news? Aren’t we supposed to look like average law-abidin’ citizens? Isn’t it a good thing he doesn’t think we look like outlaws?”
Heyes’ eyes narrowed at Kid as he set his jaw firmly. Turning back towards the building, he defiantly stated, “I’m not wearing a different hat! This is my hat and I’m NOT wearing another one!”
“It’s black,” Kid laughed.
Heyes gave a sideways glance to Kid before flinging the door to the building open. They stepped in and paused a moment to let their eyes adjust to the poor lighting. Heyes had a scowl plastered on his face as his eyes scanned the interior. Not much to see, a door to the left that looked like maybe it led to an office and in the middle of the dimly lit room were racks of clothing.
They both stood looking around and then at each other. Kid shrugged as he called out, “Hello. Anybody here?”
“Yeah, hold your horses,” a gruff voice came from behind the closed door.
A moment later, a very scruffy-looking man opened the door and emerged. He was a stocky man, taller than both Heyes and Curry with wavy, dirty-blond hair.
“What’d ya want?” he scowled as he stomped into the room.
“Mr. Adams sent us,” Kid replied.
“The two of you?” the man laughed.
“Yes, the two of us,” Heyes stated indignantly as he glared at the man. “He hired us.” Heyes made a pointing motion between himself and Kid. “We’re the outlaws.”
The man rolled his eyes at the partners. “Well, okay then,” he tried to suppress a chuckle. “These here on this rack are the outlaw clothes.” He gave them a once-over. “There should be a couple of things that fit ya. Then go to that there rack and pick out a hat.”
“I’m keeping my hat,” Heyes groused.
The man looked at him. “Yeah, okay, it’s black.”
“I’m not switching my gun belt,” Kid tucked his thumbs in the belt.
The man looked at the well worn gun belt hanging on Kid’s hips with the thong tied down. Sighing, he stated, “Alright…you both can keep ‘em and yur boots, but the clothes has to go. Outlaws are the bad guys and the bad guys wear black.”
“That’s what we’ve been told,” Heyes deadpanned.
“Good,” he nodded at the boys. “Pick out some clothes and head out to the train; we’re ‘bout to go over everythin’.” Without another word, the man walked back through the door, closing it behind him.
Heyes and Kid turned and looked at each other, both smiling but trying not to.
“Well, Outlaw,” Heyes chuckled, “better find some outlaw clothes ‘cause they’re ready to go over everythin’.”
Two “outlaws,” now dressed in black, headed out the door towards the train.
Hannibal Heyes was tugging on his pants and the belt.
“Fine for you to laugh!” Fed up, Heyes let go of the pants and they slipped to his hips. “You got a pair of pants that fit ya!”
Heyes glowered, “Think it would be easy for sheriffs to find the bad guys. Just arrest all the men wearing black!”
Kid guffawed as he gave a friendly pat to his partner. “Guess that’s what makes us so smart.”
Heyes grumbled under his breath, as if mocking Kid, which just made the blond partner laugh more. Heyes opened his mouth to come back with a snide comment but closed it when he saw the glint in Kid’s eyes.
“It was your idea to take these jobs.”
“Well ya wanna eat, don’t ya?” Heyes snapped.
“That’s the plan.”
“Yeah, that’s the plan,” Heyes pulled on his pants once again.
As they approached the train, Mr. Adams was standing on the platform. “Over here, boys,” he shouted. He turned to board the train just as Heyes and Kid stepped up to the platform. “We’re all in here, I’ll introduce ya to the rest of the gang and then we’ll get started.”
As they walked into the passenger car, they saw six other men scattered around--sitting in seats, on the backs of seats, standing; all talking to each other. Mr. Adams stopped in the front and moved to the side to allow Heyes and Kid to be seen by the others.
“Okay, listen up!” he shouted above the others to get their attention. “We got the last two outlaws so we can get started. This here is Smith,” he pointed at Kid. “And this here is Jones,” he pointed at Heyes.
The other men looked up at them and snickered.
“I’m Smith, he’s Jones,” Heyes corrected.
“Yeah,” Mr. Adams didn’t seem to care. “As you know, I’m Adams; you met Keller at wardrobe.” Adams began pointing towards each of the others on the train. “That there is Thompson, Jackson, Shorty, Slim and Tate.” Each man nodded as his name was spoken.
“Shorty and Slim are gonna be the engineer and the conductor on the train. The rest of us is the Devil’s Hole Gang,” he announced.
“Excuse me,” Heyes choked out.
“The Devil’s Hole Gang,” an annoyed Adams repeated himself. “Ya heard of ‘em, haven’t ya?”
“Oh yes,” Heyes stated wide-eyed as he gave a sideways glance to Kid. “We’ve heard of them, just didn’t think you would be using a real gang.”
“Well, who else is gonna give the passengers the most Authentic Western Experience but the most successful outlaws in the west?” Keller chimed in.
“Yeah,” Heyes half chuckled, half coughed.
Kid gave an “I can’t believe this” smile/grimace as he looked at Heyes – their eyes seeming to ask each other what they had gotten themselves into.
“Slim and Shorty, let’s get the train goin’,” Adams stated. The two men nodded and headed off to the engine.
“We’re not doing the show here?” Kid asked.
“It starts here; the passengers will get on, and then the train will go down the track,” he replied.
“This is still a working track?” Heyes quizzed.
“Nah, just a short section was left behind when they moved the station to the other side of town. We’ll take the train down the tracks, the gang will stop it before the end, rob the passengers, blow the safe and then the engine will back ‘em up and bring ‘em back here.”
“The Devil’s Hole Gang never robbed the passengers,” Heyes stated.
“They’re outlaws,” Keller chuckled. “’Course they do.”
“No,” Heyes stood firm. “They don’t rob the passengers; they only go after what’s in the safe the train is carrying.”
Keller rolled his eyes and looked as though he was about to argue when Jackson spoke up. “Think he’s right. Think I heard that ‘bout them.”
“Yeah, Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes…the two best outlaws don’t rob no passengers…that don’t make sense,” Keller argued.
“It makes sense if you don’t want the passengers to give you any trouble,” Heyes set his jaw.
“Pfft,” Keller gave a dismissive wave of his hand.
Kid stepped in front of Heyes. “If you want to make it authentic and you’re usin’ a real gang, you should probably follow their procedures as best as you can.”
“Fine,” Adams jumped in, not wanting the men to come to blows. “The gang won’t rob the passengers.” He turned and gave a wink to Keller.
Both Heyes and Kid caught the wink and looked at each other, but said nothing.
“Okay,” Adams called out. “We’re coming up on the place where the robbery will take place. Once the train stops, we’ll get off and go over the plan.”
“We’re getting off the train?” Heyes asked.
“’Course,” Tate chuckled. “Outlaws don’t ride the trains…they rob them!”
All the men, except Heyes and Kid, broke into full-out laughter.
“Where’d ya get these two?” Thompson chortled.
“Calm down,” Adams said through the laughter. “It’s not like they’re outlaws and know this stuff. That’s why we gotta practice.”
Kid glowered at Heyes.
Heyes gave him a tight smile in return. “Just wondering what the plan was.”
“The train’s stopped,” Adams called out. “Everyone off, find yur horse.”
“Oh, they got horses already here. Why didn’t they say that?” Heyes said as he headed toward the door.
Everyone piled off the train; all the men except for Heyes and Kid headed for specific mounts. “Those two bays tied up over by that tree is yours,” Keller instructed.
Heyes and Kid shrugged at each other, headed over to the horses and mounted them.
“Okay,” Adams spoke with authority. “Gather ‘round here, so we can go over the plannin’.”
The men gathered their horses by Adams. Adams and Keller were together and the rest of the gang faced them.
“So we’re the Devil’s Hole Gang,” Adams began. “I’m Hannibal Heyes and Keller here is Kid Curry.” Keller gave Adams a questioning look. Adams shook his head slightly in reply.
Heyes and Kid gave each other sideways glances. As they looked at the two men in front of them, they smirked, neither looked anything like them. Keller was a little too long in the tooth for anyone to give him the nickname Kid and Adams didn’t look like he could talk himself out of a box.
“You,” Adams pointed to the remaining men, “are the Devil’s Hole Gang.”
The men looked at each other and nodded their heads. Heyes rolled his eyes as he looked at the motley crew all dressed in black in front of him.
“So,” Adams continued, “two men that are known to travel with Heyes and Curry are Wheat Carlson and Kyle Murtry.” He looked up at the group, “Um…Jackson, you can be Carlson and um…Tate, you’re Murtry.”
“The two of them?” Heyes questioned.
“Yeah, the two of them… Why? Do you want to be Carlson?” Adams asked.
“No,” Heyes chuckled as he shook his head. “I don’t want to be him or the other guy… Just asking.” He raised his eyebrows at Kid.
Kid smiled and shrugged in response.
“Okay,” Adams said, sounding annoyed as he looked at Heyes. “The rest of you are just really no-name outlaws and you’ll ride in behind the rest of us. I’ll give ya some jobs as we start to go over this.”
The remaining men shrugged and nodded.
“Let’s move into position.” Adams started to nudge his horse forward.
The group stopped about thirty feet from the train, maneuvering the horses so they would face the tracks.
“Here?” Heyes questioned as the group came to a stop.
“Yes,” Keller affirmed. “Here.” He glowered at Heyes.
“You don’t think it would be better if the gang waited up there?” Heyes pointed to a spot about twenty feet away. “We’d be hidden from the view of the passengers by the boulders and trees. It would be a surprise. Here they can see us all the way down the track. Heck, if the engineer had any brains, he would stop the train and put it in reverse way back there.”
“It’s a show,” Keller glared at Heyes.
“Yeah, but it’s supposed to be an Authentic Western Experience. If the passengers can see us way up here, that’s not an Authentic Experience.”
“How do they know we’re bad guys if they’re way back there?” Keller demanded.
“’Cause we’re wearing black,” Heyes smiled smugly.
Kid rolled his eyes.
“Fine,” Keller growled through gritted teeth. “We’ll move over to that area,” he pointed as he scowled.
The rest of the men sneered.
Kid tilted his head and looked at Heyes.
Heyes mouthed, “What?” Then under his breath he said, “It’s supposed to be authentic.”
Kid followed the rest of the group to the area Heyes had picked, shaking his head slightly. Adams rode toward the train.
“Back ‘er up,” he waved at Shorty and Slim. Shorty waved and the train started to move backwards.
Keller rode down the hill to be alongside Adams. “So what’s up with us bein’ Heyes and Curry?” he whispered under his breath.
“Look at them,” Adams grumbled. “Do they look like they can be notorious outlaws?”
“No,” Keller groaned. “They look more like choirboys.” He glanced over his shoulder. “So why’d ya hire ‘em?”
“No one else applied and they do have the basic description of Heyes and Curry,” Adams replied.
“Lot of guys have brown hair, brown eyes and blond hair, blue eyes. How we gonna pin it on ‘em if they’s just in the background?” Keller asked.
“Ya got a point there,” Adams pondered. “Let’s do some run-throughs and see if we can figure somethin’ out.” He turned his horse and headed back up the hill with Keller following him.
“Okay,” Adams waited until he got the attention of the men. “We’re gonna do a run-through on approachin’ the train before it returns. Me and Keller will go first and then on my signal, you’ll follow. So let’s pretend the train is comin’. Everybody ready?”
Adams and Keller started down the hill but stopped when they realized no one was following them. They turned and rode back up to the rest of the gang.
“You’re supposed to follow us,” Adams scolded.
“When?” Tate asked.
“I’ll give you a signal,” Adams said. “After me and Keller, excuse me, me and Curry get out in front, I’ll wave my hand and you’ll follow.”
The men nodded and once again, Adams and Keller were off. After taking a few strides, Adams waved his arm. As they reached the halfway point of the hill, Adams frantically waved his arm in the air and finally the group took off after them.
Once they reached the bottom of the hill, Adams turned around to face the men. “Why didn’t you follow?”
“We did,” Jackson replied.
“Not ‘til we were halfway down the hill,” Keller growled.
“That’s when ya signaled us,” Tate explained.
“That’s cause ya missed the first signal!” Keller yelled back.
Adams moved his horse between Keller and Tate as tempers started to flare.
“We can’t see your signal if youse is ahead of us,” Jackson stated.
“We’ll figure out a signal later… Let’s move on,” Adams sternly announced.
“But…” Tate tried to interrupt.
Adams stared the man down.
Tate swallowed hard.
“Go ‘head Keller, I mean Curry,” Adams instructed his partner.
“Stop, we’re robbin’ your train!” Keller bellowed.
“What?” Heyes questioned the man.
“Stop, we’re robbin’ your train,” Keller growled.
“You’re supposed to say ‘Stand and deliver,’” Heyes informed.
“Huh?” Adam’s turned to look at him.
“That ain’t no way to stop a train!” Keller yelled at Heyes.
“Really?” Heyes asked, sounding annoyed. “’Stop, this is a hold up’ just doesn’t have the power of ‘Stand and deliver!’” Heyes countered.
“What do you two know-nothin’s know about robbin’ a train?” Keller waved his hand dismissively at Heyes and Kid. “Probably read too many dime novels!” he chuckled and everyone but Heyes and Kid joined in.
“Maybe he’s read the newspaper,” Kid interjected, giving Keller an ice-cold Kid Curry stare down.
“Calm down, calm down,” Adams called out. The men glared at each other. “I guess I can’t expect you to come in cold and know what to do and say,” Adams acknowledged. “I think the best thing to do is take a short, five-minute break. I’ll write some things for ya to say and directions of what ya should be doin’. When we get back, we’ll try this again.”
As if shaken by the intensity of the stare, Keller gladly looked the other way and nudged his horse forward.
“I hear a stream; think I’ll get some water.” Heyes tapped Kid’s arm and motioned with his head; the two riders broke from the group.
They rode silently away from the rest of the men. When they were out of earshot, Heyes asked, “Did you catch Adams and Keller looking at each other? Something’s going on.”
“Glad you’re thinkin’ the same thing. I was wonderin’ if I was just becomin’ as cynical as you.”
Heyes glared at him.
“Maybe they’re really plannin’ on robbin’ the train,” Kid rolled his eyes.
Heyes stopped dead in his tracks and turned to face Kid.
“What?” Kid asked.
“Think I may be rubbing off on you, Kid,” Heyes smiled.
Kid smirked back at Heyes.
“I think that’s what they’re gonna do,” Heyes sighed.
“Rob the train?” Kid’s eye widened.
“You said it.”
“Didn’t mean I believed it,” Kid grumbled.
“Well I do. Something is definitely up with them. And you know, I think they all know each other,” Heyes informed.
“Well, yeah, they were hired before us.”
“No, I think they’re part of a gang, before we were hired.”
Kid creased his brow, “Heyes…”
“Think about it, Kid. When we walked onto the train the first time, they were all hanging around talking to each other.”
“Don’t mean they knew each other before.”
“No, it don’t, but I bet they did. They were all sitting around and talking, like they knew each other, not like they were just getting to know someone. And out here, they all had their horses tied up together. These two were tied up away from them.”
“Why rob the train?” Kid asked and nudged his horse forward.
Heyes did the same. “That’s the part that’s got me. There’s not gonna be anything in the safe, so there’s nothing to rob.”
“Heyes, I think your cynical side is showin’,” Kid chuckled.
“Yeah, maybe,” Heyes agreed grudgingly.
“Maybe we should just find new jobs,” Kid sighed.
“No,” Heyes shook his head. “Something’s going on and I’m gonna stay as close as I can until I figure it out.” He waited a couple of beats. “Something tells me, our names are gonna get dragged into this and there goes our amnesty.”
“They don’t look anythin’ like us,” Kid assured Heyes.
“Adams and Keller match the descriptions on the wanted poster,” Heyes countered.
“Adams probably weighs thirty pounds more than you! And, sorry, but Keller is a mountain and looks nothin’ like me.”
“Sitting on a horse, how many people are going to know how tall he is? How good are you at guessing someone’s weight…with a gun pointed at ya? Adams has brown hair and brown eyes,” Heyes retorted. “Keller has blond hair and blue eyes, just like you. True, he looks more like a ‘Pops’ than a ‘Kid’ but if they’re robbing a train, who do you think is going to get the blame? Remember, they’re calling this An Authentic Western Experience with the Devil’s Hole Gang!”
Kid closed his eyes, took a long breath in, and blew it out. “You sure this isn’t you distrustin’ everyone?”
Heyes gave a small half-hearted snort. “Until I’m sure they’re on the up and up, I plan on sticking with this job. And besides, we need the money.”
Kid nodded in agreement.
Pulling their horses to a stop in front of the stream, they dismounted.
“You know,” Keller glared at the two men riding away on horseback, “those two may be more trouble than they’re worth.”
“We need them,” Adams countered.
“Yeah, but that brown-haired one is gettin’ real annoyin’,” Keller grumbled.
The group of men nodded in agreement.
“We’ll get them to toe the line and then get them blamed for the robbery,” Adams sneered.
The men chuckled.
Heyes and Kid rode back towards the area of the “hold-up.”
“Okay, now that we all had a short break, let’s get started again,” Adams announced as Heyes and Kid joined the group. “Everyone on their horse and in place.”
The gang, except Adams, mounted their horses. Slim and Shorty, who had gotten off the train to sit with the other men during the break, climbed aboard, and were now looking out the engine window.
“Well, I thought it over and it ain’t gonna be possible for me to be Hannibal Heyes and direct.” Adams looked at Keller, winked, and then pretended to be sizing up the rest of the gang. “Mr. Smith,” he called out.
“Hmm?” Heyes replied.
“Think you’ll be Hannibal Heyes,” Adams declared.
Looking as though he just choked on something, he gasped, “’Scuze me?”
Kid looked at Heyes with panic in his eyes.
“And since I’ll need Keller to back me up, Jones, you can be Kid Curry.”
“What?” he wheezed.
“Yeah, I think that will work,” Adams announced, sounding proud of himself. “Devil’s Hole Gang, meet your leaders…Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”
Heyes ran his right hand over his face. Kid stared at him, as if imploring Heyes to come up with something to get them out of this situation.
“We just want to be part of the gang. We don’t want to lead the gang. I’m sure any of these other fellows has much more experience than we do. One…two of them should take Mr. Jones’ and my place,” Heyes expressed anxiously.
“Nonsense,” Keller shouted. “The two of you would be perfect Heyes and Curry – you look like outlaws.”
“You told us we didn’t look like outlaws,” Heyes retorted.
“Umm…umm…that’s because you weren’t in the costumes. You were in your clothes. Now that you’re wearin’ black, you look just like Heyes and Curry,” Adams began to backpedal.
“There are no pictures of Kid Curry or Hannibal Heyes,” Heyes countered.
“No pictures, but descriptions on the wanted posters, and the two of you fit them perfectly,” Adams began to sound like a salesman. Heyes opened his mouth but Adams continued, “Now, enough. You got the job and a pay raise for bein’ the leads in the show. Now, let’s pretend the train is goin’ to be comin’ down the tracks any second. I want the two of you to be out in front and lead the Devil’s Hole Gang down the hill and stop the train.”
“But…” Heyes lifted his finger to get Adams’ attention.
“Okay, so you already rode down the hill, here’s the train,” Adams ignored Heyes. “Ready, set, go!”
Heyes blew out a breath, “Stand and deliver!” Heyes called out.
“Again!” Keller yelled.
Heyes’ eyes narrowed at the man.
Adams walked over to Heyes and handed him a piece of paper. “Here, I wrote some notes.”
Heyes looked at it.
“You can read, can’t you?” Adams asked when he saw the frown on Heyes’ face.
“Yes! I can read,” Heyes replied, sounding insulted by the question. “I just don’t agree with what you wrote.”
Adams blew out a breath, “What is it now?”
“’Stop, this is a robbery,' just ain’t the way it’s done,” Heyes glared at the man. “Then you say 'Heyes and Curry get off their horses.'”
“Yeeesss,” Adams dragged out. “Mr. Smith, what exactly is your point?”
“Experienced outlaws would never get off their horses until they know the passengers are secure. Plus, you don’t say anything about announcing themselves.”
“Yeah, saying that I’m Hannibal Heyes and he’s What’s-His-Name.”
“Kid Curry,” Adams sighed.
Kid’s eyes narrowed at Heyes.
Adams crossed his arms and looked on. “Go on,” he snorted.
“The passengers need to know who’s robbing them. If they know it's Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, they’ll be more inclined to listen.”
“Why?” Adams demanded.
“’Cause, they know they won’t get robbed and they’ll be on their way as soon as the safe is open,” Heyes proudly puffed out his chest.
“Mr. Smith,” Adams began, “this is a show; no one is goin’ to really think any harm is gonna come to them. They will go along with us without havin’ the names announced because it’s a show.”
“Okay,” Heyes said meekly. “I just thought you wanted to give these people an Authentic Experience.” Heyes smiled, “We’ll do it your way.”
“Fine,” Adams said through gritted teeth. “Announce yourselves.” Pushing a long breath out of his lungs, “Let’s start from the top.”
Heyes looked at Adams to make sure he was ready.
He nodded in response.
“Stand and deliver,” Heyes announced, eyeing Slim. Leaning a little towards him, he tried to coax the man.
“What are you doing now?” Adams whined.
“Waiting for Slim’s line,” Heyes matter-of-factly replied.
“Slim don’t have a line,” Keller snapped.
“Sure he does,” Heyes explained. “I say ‘Stand and deliver’ and he says ‘Who says so?’ That’s when I say ‘Kid Curry’ and Jones says ‘Hannibal Heyes.’”
flashed across Adams’ face as he turned to Slim. “Say the
“Really?” Slim asked, excitedly.
“Really.” Anger seeped into Adams’ response.
“Says who?” Slim called out with enthusiasm.
“Kid Curry!” Heyes exclaimed as he pointed towards Kid with his gun.
“Hannibal Heyes!” Kid responded.
“Okay, now dismount,” Adams said.
“But the passengers aren’t secure,” Heyes argued.
“There ain’t no passengers on the train now!” Keller angrily bellowed.
“Not now, but won’t the train be full when it’s show time?” Heyes innocently asked.
“I don’t care right now, just dismount so we can continue; we’ll go over this later.” Adams’ breath was shallow and uneven.
“But I thought this was a run-through,” Heyes said in a tone reminiscent of one dealing with a child.
“We’re not takin’ them off the train,” Keller growled. “Everyone dismount now!”
Heyes rolled his eyes, but followed directions and dismounted along with everyone else.
“Curry, fire your gun in the air and yell for everyone to get off the train before you start shootin’ ‘em,” Keller instructed.
Kid stared at him.
“I said, ‘Fire your gun and yell for everyone to get off the train,’” Keller barked.
Curry never shot anyone during a robbery,” Heyes calmly stated.
“Yeah, yeah, he’s a gunslinger and you don’t think he shot nobody durin’ a robbery?” Keller cackled.
“No, I don’t,” Kid glared at him.
Heyes stepped up on the right side of Kid. “If you haven’t read any account of the Devil’s Hole Gang, they never harmed any of the passengers on the trains they robbed. They also never stole anything from any of the passengers. It’s one of the reasons they were so successful.”
“Pfft… yeah, right,” Keller chuckled. “Not takin’ money made them successful.”
“Yes, leaving the passengers alone and taking money only from the safe allowed the Devil’s Hole Gang time to escape before a posse could be formed to come after them,” Heyes informed.
“That’s all well and good,” Adams jumped in as the tension really began to fill the air. “Since we aren’t really the Devil’s Hole Gang, and you aren’t Heyes and Curry, we can do what we want.”
“Yeah!” Keller triumphantly exclaimed. “And I want Kid Curry to wave his gun around and threaten to shoot the passengers.”
Kid’s body tensed as he gave a full icy stare to Keller.
Heyes reached over and unobtrusively placed his hand on top of Kid’s holster.
“If you’re gonna use a real gang and offer an Authentic Experience, you should know the facts,”
Heyes warned in a no-nonsense voice.
“That’s it, that’s it. That’s it!!” Adams exclaimed as he threw his hands in the air. “I have had it! You would think that you WERE Hannibal Heyes. Well, I got news for you – you AIN’T Hannibal Heyes! Not the real one and not the one for this train robbery…show!”
“I know I’m not Hannibal Heyes, I’m Joshua Smith. I just think that if I am playing a real person, I should,” Heyes waved his hand between him and Kid, “we should, play them as realistically as we can.”
“That’s the thing…you ain’t playin’ them anymore,” Adams cackled. “You’re FIRED!!”
Taken aback, Heyes stuttered, “Excuse me?”
“You’re fired!” Adams yelled. “I don’t know why I ever hired you…you don’t look like outlaws and if you’re so worried about givin’ an Authentic Experience…look in the mirror. There ain’t nobody, no how, gonna believe YOU are Hannibal Heyes and I think Kid Curry would have shot him if he talks half as much as you do!”
“And ain’t nobody gonna believe YOU’RE Kid Curry!” Keller chimed in.
“But…” Heyes began.
“Nope, no more, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care. Go…” Adams instructed.
Trying to soothe Heyes, Kid reached out and placed his hand on Heyes’ arm. “Let it go, Joshua. The show isn’t gonna make it anyway.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Keller laughed. “Bye,” he waved his hand at them.
Heyes and Kid went to mount the horses.
“Hey! They’re our horses!” Keller bellowed.
Kid turned, standing feet slightly apart, arms down by his side, and glared at Keller. “And we’ll leave them at the station for you.”
Seeing the intensity in Kid’s eyes, Adams jumped in, “That will be fine, boys …and I do mean, ‘boys.’”
Heyes patted Kid’s shoulder, “It’s not worth it.”
Kid nodded and mounted his horse.
The gang stood quietly staring as the two men rode out of sight.
“You were supposed to hire two dumb guys that could pass as Heyes and Curry,” Keller groused. “How did you end up with them?”
“They were the only two that applied, and lookin’ at them I figured they’d fit,” Adams sighed.
“What are we gonna do now?” Jackson whined.
“We’re gonna get ready to rob the train!” Keller growled.
“But...” Jackson began.
Adams shrugged his shoulders, “We got no choice. The train rides through here tomorrow.”
“How we gonna blame them?” Keller asked.
Adams removed his hat, running a hand through his hair. “We’ll figure somethin’ out.”
The partners rode silently back to the station. Kid glanced at Heyes but said nothing. He looked at his partner again. “Heyes, ya gotta relax or people are gonna wonder what’s wrong.”
The dark-haired man looked straight ahead, his voice icy. “I am relaxed.”
“Yeah and I’m known for my silvery tongue,” Kid quipped.
Heyes scowled at Kid. “I’m fine.”
“Right, with your jaw set tight and ridin’ like you have a board strapped to your back…you’re fine. I’m not buyin’ it, Heyes. I’m just wonderin’ when you’re gonna explode.”
Pulling up to the station, they dismounted and tied the horses to the rail. First, looking back down the trail from where they had just come and then turning on his heel, Heyes took long, purposeful strides towards his and Curry’s own mounts, still waiting patiently for them on the other side of the building.
Hurrying to catch up, Kid quietly called out, “Heyes…Heyes.”
Heyes stopped, turned to face Kid, snorted, then turned back around and was off once again.
Kid’s shoulders slumped as he hung his head. Looking up, he could see Heyes putting distance between them. Sucking in a deep breath and then blowing it out, Kid set off to catch up. “Heyes,” he called out. “Joshua,” he called out louder.
Heyes stopped short and Kid almost plowed into his back. Whipping his head around, brown eyes glared at his partner.
Kid stopped, relaxed his posture as he tucked his thumbs into his belt.
Heyes’ nostrils flared. “What?”
Kid rolled his eyes and extended his hands, palms up with a shrugging motion. “Clothes?”
“Grrr,” Heyes growled and he bolted to the wardrobe building.
Once again, Kid quickly followed.
Back in the dressing room, Heyes and Kid changed back into their own clothes.
“Ugh! Hrumph!” the dark-haired man grumbled.
Kid watched his partner, amused.
The blond rolled his eyes.
Stepping outside once again, Heyes slammed his hat down on his head as he walked purposefully.
“Heyes,” Kid called out. “Slow down!”
Heyes stopped, not turning back. Once Kid caught up, he was off again.
“Are ya gonna be in this mood the rest of the day?” Kid asked. “So we’ll find another job. We have enough money to get you into a poker game; maybe that’s all we’ll need if you win…”
Heyes stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned his head to face Kid. “If?” he gritted out.
Kid closed his eyes and ran his hand over his face. “Heyes…” Kid began and then stopped when he saw his partner’s eyes narrow. Throwing his hands up in the air, he exclaimed, “I give up!”
Surprised, Heyes relaxed his glare.
“I give up,” Kid stated again. “It was just a job, one job. It’s not our life.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Kid!” Heyes countered, as it appeared the flood gates were about to burst open. “It is our life! They are doing a show about us! They have no idea what they are doing and are too pigheaded to listen.”
Kid watched and waited.
“Fired!” Heyes growled and took two steps, then turned around towards Kid again. “I don’t look like an outlaw. I don’t dress like an outlaw.” He gritted his teeth. “I don’t look mean!” He waved his hand in the air. “I don’t look any different than when I was the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang." Using his thumb he pointed to his chest. “I was the LEADER,” he slowly said, emphasizing the word, “of the most successful gang in the west.” His eyes narrowed, “If I wasn’t mean enough, if I didn’t look enough like an outlaw, you think there would be a ten-thousand-dollar price on my head?!”
Kid grinned as Heyes ranted.
“No one could mistake me for Hannibal Heyes?” He poked himself a little too hard in the chest with his fingers. “I AM Hannibal Heyes!”
A small chuckle escaped Kid’s lips.
Heyes stopped with the last statement and looked rather sheepish as a small grin started to show.
“Done?” Kid laughed.
“Hmpf,” Heyes replied.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Kid smiled.
“Well,” the grin turned into a smile before it slipped back into a frown.
“What?” Kid moaned.
“Most times I’d say yeah, but I still think they’re up to something and they’re posing as the Devil’s Hole Gang.”
“You’ll figure it out,” Kid clapped his hand on Heyes’ shoulder. “At least we don’t have to wear all black. Where did they ever get the idea outlaws wear black?”
Heyes rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“And then there is the part of playin’ ourselves.” He paused a moment. “Gotta tell ya, Heyes, it kept makin’ me nervous when Adam’s said our real names, and I was gettin’ a little confused that I was someone PLAYIN’ Kid Curry and not BEIN’ Kid Curry.”
Heyes tilted his head and scrunched his face at Kid. “Huh?”
“Well here I am, Kid Curry, pretendin’ to be Thaddeus Jones, who is pretendin’ to be Kid Curry. On top of that, we’re pretendin’ to rob a train. For a few seconds, I was thinkin’ we went back to our old ways.”
Heyes chuckled. “All ya had to do was look at ‘Wheat’ to know we wasn’t back to our old ways.”
Kid laughed. “Yeah and I didn’t think anyone could look…well no one could confuse him for the real Wheat. Sure would be funny to see what Wheat thought of the guy playin’ him. Don’t think he would be too happy that that scrawny little man was supposed to be him.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Heyes agreed. “Come on, Kid,” they took a few steps, “how ‘bout we go get some pie and coffee? It’s been a long day and I think if we headed over to the saloon now, I’d drink away all our money before the poker tables opened.”
“Sounds like a plan, Heyes. Sounds like a plan.” Kid slapped Heyes’ back as they mounted their horses and headed to the café.
Kid opened the door to the café and walked in, followed by Heyes. The two of them moved over to the same table they had sat at in the morning – far corner with a view of the outside, but off to the side so that no one looking in could see them.
“Back so soon?” the owner walked over to the partners. “Did you get the job?”
“Um, yes, ma’am,” Kid smiled.
She blushed in response. “Well, since it looks like you’ll be hanging around for a few weeks, it's Doris.”
“Well, we got the job, but it didn’t last too long,” Heyes sighed.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she replied, instinctively pouring coffee into the two cups on the table.
“It’s for the best,” Heyes retorted. “It really wasn’t for us.”
“Well, in that case, I’m glad,” Doris happily said.
Heyes raised an eyebrow at her overly joyous response.
She smiled, “It’s just that the two of you just look too nice to get involved with them.”
“Thank you, Doris,” Heyes smiled; she blushed. “Why would you say that?”
“Just the impression I got when Mr. Adams got here,” she answered. “I know he says it’s going to be a big deal and good for the town, but there is just something about that man I don’t trust. He and his friends spend most of their time in the saloon.” Slightly embarrassed, she glanced at the floor for a moment before once again looking at the boys. “I’m sorry; I shouldn’t be talking bad about people. What can I get for you?”
“Do you have any pie?” Kid anxiously asked.
“Of course, blueberry or apple?” she replied.
“Blueberry,” Kid answered.
She turned to look at the brown-eyed partner.
“I’m good with just the coffee.”
Doris smiled and turned to leave.
Heyes lightly placed his hand on Doris’ arm. “Doris, don’t worry about what you said. We had the same feeling, which is why we’re here now and not with them.”
“I knew I liked you boys when you came in this morning.” She gave them an approving nod. “I’ll get the pie.”
“Just one more question, Doris. You said Mr. Adams and his friends aren’t from town?”
“Oh no,” she shook her head. “That group? Noooo, not from around here. I’m not sure where they come from, but they all arrived in town at the same time.”
Heyes watched Doris walk away before turning to look at his partner. He blew out a breath, “Well you can’t say it’s just my cynical side. Doris doesn’t like them either.”
“I know,” Kid groaned. “But then again, she likes us.”
“What’s not to like?” Heyes gave a dimpled smile.
“Just your larcenous ways,” blue eyes sparkled as he chuckled.
“I’m no more larcenous than the next guy,” Heyes protested as he frowned and then raised his eyebrow as a small smile appeared on his face. “Well, maybe a little more.”
Kid chuckled and Heyes joined in as Doris came back with the pie.
“Are you sure I can’t get you anything else, Mr. Smith?”
“It’s Joshua,” Heyes replied. “The coffee is just fine, thank you.”
Doris nodded and turned to walk away.
“Doris,” Heyes called after her.
She turned back to look at him.
“Do you know when they stopped using the old train station and why?” he inquired.
“Hmmm…It’s been a few years now. Let me think,” she spoke her thoughts. “We had a lot of rain that year, oh and the sheriff’s wife had her baby the day the new station opened so Russell had to fill in for him. Carolyn is almost two so it was about two years ago.”
“What was wrong with the old train station?” Kid asked.
“Nothing really,” Doris paused. “It’s just that there is a big curve in the track as it leaves town from the old station. The train had to slow down so much it almost stopped. They didn’t want the payroll train…”
“Payroll train?” Heyes sat up straight.
“Yes, well, that’s what they call it. It comes from Cheyenne and goes to the Denver Mint,” she explained.
Heyes’ face looked like he had just eaten something sour. “When is the next time the train goes through town?”
“I think tomorrow afternoon,” Doris said.
“Does the train stop here?” he asked.
“Oh no, I don’t think it stops anywhere except when it absolutely has to. It just speeds through.”
“What’s the train carrying?” Heyes almost wistfully solicited.
“Gold, I think, but I don’t know if that’s a rumor or the truth. I do know that there is something of value. As it flies by, you can see the guards on the train,” she paused for a second. “Oh and I almost forgot; there are two real fancy private passenger cars, too.”
“Passenger cars?” Kid repeated as he gave a sideways glance to his partner.
“They sure are fancy, too. I’ve heard they were owned by the bank, but I don’t really know. I do know that whoever owns them is rich!” she stated.
“Are they full?”
“Oh yes, they look like they are having a party as they pass through town.” The door of the café opened, and a couple walked in. “Excuse me,” Doris said and headed over to greet the newcomers.
Kid looked at Heyes, “What are ya thinkin’?”
Heyes sat pensively for a moment. He pursed his lips and chewed on the bottom one as he rubbed his fingers on his chin. He turned to face Kid, “Did Adams say that the tracks the show train was on were connected to the main line?”
“No, I don’t think he did,” Kid exhaled. “But he didn’t say they weren’t, either.”
“That’s what I thought,” Heyes shook his head. “Finish your pie, our night just got longer.”
Kid grimaced and then shoved the last large bite of pie in his mouth.
The sun was setting; Heyes and Kid sat on their horses in the shadows of the saloon. “You sure they’re gonna go to the saloon?” Kid asked quietly.
“Doris said they spend a lot of time here, so I gotta figure once they’re done practicing for the show, they’ll show up here,” Heyes replied just as quietly. “We’ll give it another five minutes and then head out to where the show train stops anyway.”
Just then, a group of men rode in from the far side of town. Kid tapped Heyes’ arm. He nodded.
They turned their horses around and headed out the long, dark alley and into the trees behind town.
“Heyes, why is it that trouble always follows us?” Kid asked his partner as they maneuvered carefully between the trees and branches. “You don’t think we could be wrong about this, do you?” Kid asked, hoping for an answer he knew he wouldn’t get.
“You don’t think they’re up to something?”
“I was hopin’ I was wrong.”
“Well, Kid,” Heyes moved a branch out of his way, “I don’t think we can both be wrong on this one.”
“Yeah, somethin’ just ain’t right about them.”
“Let’s see what we can see before the sun sets completely,” Heyes said as he stopped his horse and dismounted. Tying the lead to a tree, he added, “I wanna get the lay of the land from this side of the tracks so we know what’s what when we come back in the morning.”
“We’re comin’ back in the mornin’?”
“Yeah, unless they’ve left a detailed note telling us what they’re up to, I think we’ll have to come back and just see it for ourselves.” Heyes pointed to where the locomotive was sitting. “Let’s look over there.”
The two walked over to the tracks and looked around. Not seeing anything, they began to follow the rails, out of town. They stopped about fifty yards down the track.
Looking at a wooden barricade over the track, Kid stated, “Well this train’s not goin’ any farther.”
Heyes pushed his hat back with two fingers and then propped his hands on his hips. “Hmm,” he shook his head. “So they’re not gonna use this train… What are they gonna do?” He turned, glanced back at the train, looked at the location where he suggested they should hide waiting for the train, turned and saw the original location Adams’ had them hide. Walking briskly forward, he moved around the barricade. He took his hat off, ran his hand through his hair before putting it back on and then he saw it – the other set of rails and the railway switch for the tracks. He took off in almost a run towards them.
“What?” Kid called after him.
Triumphantly, Heyes stopped at the tracks, turned to face Kid and stated, “They aren’t interested in a show. They’re interested in the payroll train!”
Kid looked on, waiting for more.
“The train is coming from Cheyenne,” Heyes faced the direction the train traveled. “I bet if you go and stand where Adams had us wait for the train to begin with, I won’t be able to see you.”
“You think…” Kid began before being interrupted.
“Yes, I think they are doing this all in preparation for robbing the payroll train and whoever is on it. That’s what those looks between Adams and Keller were when we told them the Devil’s Hole Gang didn’t rob the passengers.”
“Why pretend it’s a show?” Kid questioned.
“So they can be out here checking out the area without anyone asking any questions as to what they were up to.”
“Why here – so close to town?”
“’Cause here’s where they can switch the tracks to make the train slow down.” Heyes eyed the area, “And once they get the money, they’ll be in the hills in no time. They’ll be real hard to track once they get into the rocks up there.”
“Let’s go tell the sheriff,” Kid started to stand.
“Tell him what?” Heyes asked, not moving.
Kid slowly sat back down.
“That we think they’re a real gang and they’re planning on robbing the payroll train?”
“After he laughs at us, he’ll ask us why…why we think they’re a real gang and what makes us think they’re planning to rob the train,” Heyes paused a moment. “Then what?”
“Tell him all the things that don’t add up.”
Heyes pursed his lips tightly together and nodded. “And how do we explain that they don’t add up?”
“’Cause they don’t.”
“For you and me, but what about the average law-abiding citizen? You think they would say things didn’t add up?”
Kid sighed. “So what do we do?”
“Sleep on it and then ride out to the area in the morning to see if we can get something to go to the sheriff with.”
Heyes frowned. “Then we have a choice. We go to the sheriff anyway and after he laughs at us, we stay in sight so they can’t say we were involved…or…we don’t say anything and leave town after the train’s been robbed.”
“Then we’ll be blamed.”
“Heyes…” Kid shook his head.
“I know, Kid, I know.”
The sun was rising over the hills when Adams and his men rode out to the site of the show the next morning. Heyes and Kid were hidden behind a thick bunch of bushes where they had a full view of the area. They watched as the gang rode by the show train and past the barricade on the tracks.
Adams pulled his horse to a halt when he reached the new line and dismounted; the others did the same. “Okay,” Adams called out. “We don’t have much time, let’s take care of everything.”
“But we don’t have Smith and Jones to get blamed,” Slim stated.
“We don’t have them to get in the way,” Adams replied. “So we don’t have their bodies to leave behind…”
Shocked at the remark; brown eyes met blue eyes before narrowing and turning back to Adams.
“Makes no difference. We’ll go with the plan the way we was before they came along. Keller will be Kid Curry and I’ll be Hannibal Heyes. That way the real Devil’s Hole Gang will get blamed and we’ll just ride away with the money.”
The gang whooped and hollered at the statement.
“Now let’s get movin’; we got a lot to do so we can switch the tracks,” Adams instructed.
Heyes motioned with his head to leave, and the two partners crept away towards their waiting horses.
“Is that enough?” Kid whispered.
“If we can convince the sheriff to come take a look,” Heyes replied.
Hannibal Heyes blew out a breath as he gave one quick glance at his partner before his hand reached for the doorknob to Sheriff Jefferson Stanton’s office in Grand Junction. Stepping into the room, he spotted the sheriff sitting at his desk. Using two fingers, Heyes pushed the brim of his hat up as he sauntered into the room with his partner a step behind him.
“Good day,” brown eyes smiled.
“Can I help you?” Stanton asked.
“Well,” Heyes gave a sheepish grin as he drew out the word, trying to sound like a ‘good ole boy.’ “I’m hoping we can help you.” Heyes gave a nod of his head and licked his lips. “See, my partner and I think you may have a problem on your hands.”
“A problem?” the Sheriff replied.
“See, me and my partner,” using his thumb, Heyes pointed out Kid. “Well, see, we think the men who are saying they’re putting on an Authentic Western Experience mean to give a REAL Authentic Western Experience.”
“Come again?” the sheriff contorted his face in confusion and then stood up.
“We think the gang is plannin’ on robbin’ the payroll train,” Kid blurted out.
Stanton gave the two men standing in front of him a once-over. “Aren’t you Smith and Jones? Didn’t you apply for jobs in the show?”
“Ha,” Heyes chuckled half-heartedly. “You heard about that?”
“Small town,” Stanton glared at the partners. “Did you?”
“Yes, sir, but that was before we knew they were up to something,” Heyes tried to explain.
“Weren’t you fired?”
Heyes’ half smile slipped as he sighed. “Yes, but….”
“So you have a beef with these guys,” the sheriff exhaled.
“No…” Heyes began.
“I ain’t gonna cause trouble ‘cause you’re mad you got fired.”
“But, Sheriff, if you would just…” Kid tried to explain.
Stanton put his hands up in front of him, indicating for them to stop talking. “I’m sorry ya got fired…not everyone is cut out to do everythin’. But comin’ in and sayin' they’s gonna rob the payroll train is just ridiculous.”
“Sheriff, we’re just trying to do our civic duty.” Heyes took in a breath and blew it out. “If you want to check us out, send a telegram to Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville; he’ll tell you that we know what we’re talking about.”
“That’s right,” Kid jumped in. “Lom can tell you that we know what we’re talkin’ about.” He nodded his head.
“Sure, sure,” the sheriff sat back down at his desk.
“Sir,” Heyes tried again.
The sheriff waved his hand at the boys. “Thanks for the tip, I’ll check it out.”
“We saw them switching the tracks…” Heyes began.
“Thanks,” Stanton looked down at the papers on his desk.
As they turned and walked out, Heyes shrugged at Kid.
“That didn’t go so well,” brown eyes scanned the town.
“Now what?” Blue eyes did the same.
“Guess we have to try to stop the robbery,” Heyes stated.
Kid looked at Heyes.
“If not, since we just told him we suspected the gang, he’ll think we had something to do with it.”
“Why does trouble always follow us?” Kid lamented.
“I don’t know, Kid, I don’t know.”
Once again the partners were hiding in the bushes near the show train, this time on horseback. Heyes reached over and tapped Kid’s arm, pointing to the hill on the other side of the locomotive.
Kid’s eyes followed the outstretched arm to the gang, all in full view from this side, but hidden from the tracks on the other side.
“Got a plan?” blue eyes met brown.
“Stop the robbery,” Heyes deadpanned.
Kid creased his brow.
“I don’t have a lot of practice in stopping robberies, I’m usually the one planning them,” Heyes confessed. Running his hand over his face, he studied the situation. “When the train comes, they’ll have to ride down the hill towards it. If we cut across here towards the train, we can cut them off. Maybe catch them off guard and maybe give the people on the payroll train a warning.”
Blowing out a breath, Kid agreed, “Sounds like the best plan. Let’s hope the guards on the train know that we’re tryin’ to help them and don’t start shootin’ at us.”
The sound of a train whistle pierced the air as the two partners eyed each other before turning their attention back to the gang. They saw Adams raise his hand and then give the signal to rush down the hill. Simultaneously, Heyes and Kid kicked their horses and raced towards the train tracks. Crossing the old tracks, Heyes and Kid saw rifle barrels pointing from nearly every window of the payroll train, aimed at Adams and the gang. Then, men on horseback appeared, approaching from the old station. The gang was effectively pinned between this posse and the train’s armed guards. With nowhere left to turn, Adams and his men dropped their weapons and raised their hands.
Heyes and Kid stood off to the side watching the gang being tied up and led off towards town. Seeing the partners, Sheriff Stanton walked over to them. “Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones,” he tipped his hat.
“Sheriff,” they responded.
“Decided maybe we were right?” Heyes asked, sounding a little full of himself.
“Well,” Stanton looked around the area. “Doris thinks a lot of you two.”
Heyes raised an eyebrow.
The sheriff chuckled, “Yeah, she knows pretty much everything anyone needs to know about what’s goin’ on around town, and she’s a pretty good judge of character if I can say so.”
“Yep, she likes you both and, well, since you mentioned the sheriff from Porterville, I figured it couldn’t hurt to send him a telegram.”
The partners glanced at each other.
“Prompt,” Stanton nodded his head. “Have to say that for Sheriff Trevors; got right back to me. Said if you had an inklin’ the train was gonna get robbed, I should listen.” He eyed the boys. “Tried to find ya around town, but couldn’t. Guess you were out here already. Gonna try to stop the gang by yourselves?”
“Just bein’ law-abidin’ citizens, Sheriff,” Kid offered.
Stanton chuckled as he shook his head. “Law-abidin’ is one thing, but tryin’ to stop a whole gang, that’s a little bit crazy in my book.”
“Not the best plan,” Heyes agreed. “Just didn’t know what else we could do.”
The sheriff stuck his hand out, first to Heyes and then to Kid. “Well, mighty glad you decided to speak up. Most men would’ve kept it to themselves. Might have thought if I didn’t believe them, I would blame them after the robbery.”
“Not you, Sheriff,” Heyes gave a dimpled smile.
“Not sure about that, Mr. Smith.” Stanton tilted his head at the boys. “Glad it worked out, though.” He turned and walked away.
“Another great breakfast, Doris,” Kid smiled as he scraped his plate clean.
“Thank you,” she smiled. “Would you like another plate?”
Shaking his head, Kid replied, “No thank you, ma’am. I’m pretty full.”
Heyes tilted his head at his partner and chuckled, “Only took ya three platefuls.”
Kid glared at him.
“Can I get you anything else, Joshua?” she asked. “Remember, it’s on the house for being heroes.”
“I’m fine, thank you,” he smiled at her.
“I’m certainly going to miss both of you,” she stated.
“We’ll miss you too.” Kid picked up his hat as he stood up.
“It’s been a pleasure, Doris,” Heyes stated as he followed Kid out the door.
“Heroes,” Kid repeated as he clapped his partner on the back.
“For at least a day,” Heyes smiled a smile that reached his eyes.
They stepped off the boardwalk in unison and mounted their horses.
“Which way?” Kid asked.
“Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones,” Sheriff Stanton called. “Hold up a minute.” He hurried across the street. “Heard you were leavin’ town.”
“You heard right,” Heyes stated.
“Sure ya can’t hang around awhile longer?” Stanton requested.
“Think all the job opportunities have dried up around here,” Kid replied.
“I can see that… Small town,” the sheriff agreed. “I think you are eligible for a reward for stoppin’ the robbery, though.”
“A reward?” Heyes perked up.
“Yeah, just got a telegram from the president of the Union Pacific Railroad and he said there was a reward.”
“Really,” Heyes gushed.
“Yep, said he’d be in town day after tomorrow to deliver the reward in person.”
“In person,” blue eyes drooped.
“Yep, in person. Wants to meet the heroes hisself,” Stanton nodded.
“We really didn’t stop the robbery,” Heyes glumly stated as he looked at Kid.
“You’re right, we didn’t,” his partner agreed.
“But you did,” Stanton asserted.
“No, we just sat there and watched you stop them, Sheriff,” sad brown eyes turned their attention to Stanton.
“But you told me about it,” he insisted.
“We only did what any law-abidin’ citizen would have done,” Kid confirmed.
“Yep, the reward belongs to you and the town of Grand Junction, Sheriff,” Heyes added.
“Well if you feel that way…”
The partners glanced at each other.
“We do,” Kid sighed.
“Well, come back any time,” the sheriff stated. “I’ll buy ya the best dinner in town.” He tipped his hat and walked away.
“Heyes…” Kid moaned.
“Don’t say it, Kid, just don’t.”
The two partners nudged their horses and headed out of town.