SMALL FALLS 2014 REBOOT – PART 2
Heyes was still staring out the window when Kid rolled over. "Anythin’ new out there," Kid asked groggily.
"You okay?" Kid asked, sitting up.
Blue eyes studied his partner; Heyes was staring at a page in the book he had been reading. "You sure?" Kid asked again, "You don't seem yourself."
"You just woke up, how would you know?" Heyes said tersely.
"What?" he looked down at the book and realized it was upside down, "Oh, just picked it up. Started thinking about the job, the Colonel's job and wondering when we're gonna get more details. Come on, let's have breakfast."
Kid perked up and they went downstairs. As they were sitting, Mr. Jansen came over to them and handed them an envelope. "This came on the night stage. It said personal and confidential so I wanted to hand it to you myself."
"What is it?" Kid asked Heyes.
Heyes shrugged and opened the envelope, "It's from the Colonel."
“Boys knew you would take the job so sent this on the stage to ensure that you would get it right away. (If you didn't take the job, please burn this letter.)” Heyes smiled and lightly chuckled.
“You will be picking up pieces of a document that could be very important to the Governor. It is important to get all of the pieces. Missing one piece could prove very crucial. Each pick-up has a time frame when it will be available. There may be people watching and we don't want to draw any attention. Once you get the information on the pick-up, you decide how it will be made. Each time you make a pick-up, there will be instructions for the next one. The first one is in Great Falls. The package will be addressed to both of you and is sitting in the hotel's safe. This portion needs to be picked up within 48 hours. Good luck. I have sent $100 to you for your expenses. Remember this is a secret project; no one can know. I know I can count on your discretion.”
"Well Kid," Heyes said, "Looks like we're riding to Great Falls after breakfast. Finish up; it's a good half-day's ride. Since we don't know who or what we'll find in town, we better get moving."
Heading out of town, Kid looked at Heyes and asked, "Do you want to tell Laurie we'll be gone all day?"
"No," he said quietly. "She lives in the opposite direction and we have to get going." Brown eyes stared straight ahead.
A few minutes later, his partner asked, "You okay?"
"Yeah," and continued in silence, and then said, "We better move a little faster or we'll never get there."
Laurie was back at the shack. She was attending to the garden and washing her clothes. She kept looking down the path to town hoping to see someone coming towards her. Her elation from the night before was disappearing and her heart was beginning to ache. Mid afternoon, she decided to go into town to see if she could run into either Joshua or Thaddeus. When she got there, they were gone. No one knew where they went or when they were coming back. The only good news was that they had not checked out of the hotel. As the sun started to set, Laurie started to head back home.
Heyes and Kid reached Great Falls without any problems. They walked into the hotel and asked for the package. The desk clerk checked the safe and came back with a large envelope. The partners looked at the envelope, at each other and shrugged.
“How ‘bout a drink?”Heyes asked.
Kid nodded and they headed out the door of the hotel and over to the saloon.
The boys ordered drinks at the bar and then walked to the table in the back and sat down. Heyes did a once over look at the envelope and seeing nothing to keep him from opening it, he did. There were two sealed envelopes inside, one said, Do Not Open and the other said Smith and Jones. Heyes opened the one that said Smith and Jones and read the note inside.
"Well Kid," he said, "This is part one of four. It appears that people know what is going on and may try to stop us. There's also a change in plans; we will be notified later as to what stage two is. The Colonel says that things have gotten riskier."
"Riskier? Ya think this is worth it?”
"I think if we want our amnesty, it's worth it. I think if we back out now, it will only be creating more trouble for us," Heyes stated matter-of-factly. "It's getting late and I'm not sure about the weather; maybe we should stay here for the night and head back in the morning."
"Sounds like a plan," Kid said, "Now, how ‘bout a drink and some poker?"
The dark haired ex-outlaw was thinking things had gone too easy with the first pick-up. The Colonel wouldn't have hired them for no reason, and now, there was a change in plans. He was feeling uneasy and was waiting for the ball to drop. It started to that night while they were playing poker.
"Joshua," Kid said quietly, "You got the feelin’ all the eyes in this place are on us?"
"Just what I was thinking," replied Heyes under his breath. "The two guys at the end of the bar have been watching us for a while. The guy at the next table hasn't taken his eyes off you and now the hotel clerk comes in, points in our direction and is talking to the guy at the corner table. Think we're done playing poker."
"You read my mind."
Heyes got up slowly and headed to the door with Kid following closely behind. They went directly to their horses and straight out of town. The dark haired leader wasn't positive those men were watching them, but he would bet they were. They rode fast for the first part of the journey then decided it was okay to slow it down some.
"Well that was interestin’, what’d ya think they wanted?" Kid finally asked.
"My guess is what's ever in this envelope," Heyes replied, patting his shirt.
"What do you think it is?"
"A piece of the puzzle to our amnesty. Don't care otherwise," Heyes stated, "If this is important to the Governor, then it's important to us.
Laurie woke up early the next morning. She hadn't heard or seen Joshua or Thaddeus at all yesterday. She was feeling down and worried. She knew they were in town waiting for work and she knew that they had received the telegram they were waiting for, but they hadn't said anything about leaving. She hoped they were safe. She decided to go to town to see if there were any signs or word from them. She also needed to buy a few supplies. Before going the garden needed tending. She got her bucket and headed for the stream. By the time Laurie was done walking back and forth from the stream to the garden, the sun was up and it was mid morning. She was dirty, hot and needed to get cleaned up before heading into town.
Laurie got cleaned up and started to look through her clothes to find something nice in case she ran into Joshua. She rolled her eyes at the thought of finding something nice; her clothes were all in essence hand me downs, discarded by others because they were too old, worn or ripped. None was really nice and none fit but she had hoped to find something that wasn’t too bad. She found a skirt and blouse that were old but more or less fit her and she got dressed then raced to town.
It was mid afternoon before Laurie reached town. She looked on the porch of the hotel hoping to see the partners but they weren't there. Once again she had a sinking feeling. Could they have left without saying good-bye? She knew it would happen sooner or later, but it was so nice to have a friendly face to talk to and she wanted to say good-bye and thank them for being so kind to her. She put her head down and headed to the General Store.
Heyes and Kid rode most of the night back to Small Falls. They went straight to their hotel room and passed out. By the time they woke up, the sun was high in the sky and Kid, having missed one meal and almost two, was starving. As they walked off the porch of the hotel Heyes said, "You go ahead; I'll send the telegram to the Colonel and then join you." He went towards the telegraph office and Kid went to the café. As Heyes left the office he turned towards the café and almost ran into Laurie.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't see," Laurie stuttered before realizing whom she almost walked into. "Oh, Joshua, how are you?"
"Tired," he replied in a business like tone. "We rode most of yesterday and most of the night. We didn't get in ‘til early this morning."
"Thaddeus still sleeping?" Laurie asked trying to be pleasant but not too desperate. What she really wanted to do was to jump in his arms and kiss him, but from his tone and stance, Laurie didn't think that was such a good idea.
"He's over in the café; I had to send a telegram. I'm going to meet him," he stated matter-of-factly, never looking directly at her.
"Oh," Laurie said as she looked down, not wanting to show the disappointment in her face, "I didn't mean to keep you, you must be starving." She looked up and into Joshua's eyes, trying to smile, "You better hurry before Thaddeus eats everything!" She paused then added, "Have a good afternoon."
"You too," Heyes said, gave a stiff smile, and tipped his hat as he moved around her.
The blood drained from her face; her heart was beating a mile a minute as it shattered into little pieces. She placed her hand over her mouth as she feared she might be sick. She walked quickly to the side alley and out the back. She found a corner and sunk to the ground. She was utterly devastated; Joshua had been nicer to her the first day they met. She didn’t know what she did wrong, why there was such a change. She sat in the back of the stores, hidden from everyone; she didn’t cry, she was too numb. She knew she had no right falling in love and she did know it was going to end. She just thought it was going to end when he left town, that she would have a chance to say goodbye. That she could dream he cared for her. All that hope evaporated in an instant.
Finally, she figured she had collected herself enough to get what she needed from town and head back home. She took a deep breath, brushed herself off and headed back towards the General Store. Walking into the Store, she saw her biggest nightmare; Charlotte, Gwendolyn and Mr. Carlson. Laurie tried not to be noticed and quickly gathered the few things she needed; food for Sam, some dry beans for soup and some flour. Of course, Gwendolyn and Charlotte took notice of her as soon as she walked in. They thought they would have some fun because no one else was in the store and they knew Mr. Carlson wouldn't stop them. As Laurie was going to pay, Gwendolyn stepped in front of her.
"Well, well," Charlotte smirked, "Isn't it the street girl? Where's that fiancé of yours?"
"EX - fiancé," Gwendolyn announced, "He certainly doesn't want her now. NOBODY wants her."
Laurie didn't think she could handle this today. She tried to get by the two of them. As she stepped around them, Charlotte dropped her bag of flour. A big cloud puff covered Laurie. The girls laughed. Mr. Carlson came over and started to yell, "You'll have to pay for that!"
"But," was all Laurie could get out before Mr. Carlson, Charlotte and Gwendolyn all started yelling at her. Figuring there was no hope, feeling she was about to break down and she was not going to give them the satisfaction, she agreed to pay.
"Good," Mr. Carlson said, "That will be a dollar and seventy-five cents."
"A dollar and seventy-five cents!" Laurie exclaimed in horror. She only had two dollars. It wasn't her fault, she was so mad but kept her composure, "Fine, here's the dollar and seventy-five cents and I want twenty cents in dog food and five cents in beans." She took her supplies in her hand and left the store in haste.
Across the street, Heyes and Kid had finished eating. Leaving the café, they heard the ruckus coming from the General Store. The doors of the store were propped open so they could see right inside. They saw the argument between Laurie, Charlotte, Gwendolyn and Mr. Carlson and then Laurie running out of the store covered in flour.
"What was that about?" Kid asked angrily.
"Don't know," Heyes replied without emotion.
Kid looked at Heyes in amazement, "Aren't you gonna find out?"
"No," brown eyes stared straight ahead.
Blue eyes glared at his partner.
"She was fine before we got here, she'll be fine when we leave. Laurie can take care of herself. It’s better this way," he finished as his voice faded away.
"Well I'm gonna go check," the blond partner stated as he stormed away.
Kid looked all over town for Laurie and finally found her in the back of the livery brushing his horse. "There you are," he said, "what are you doin’?"
"Brushing your horse, like I said I would the other day, Mr. Jones," she answered with sadness in her voice.
"When did I become Mr. Jones again? I'm Thaddeus, and I didn't ask for you to do this. You don't have to."
"I know, but he's been ridden hard and could use some care. It's okay. I don't mind. Mrs. Jansen gave Sam a bone and he's lying down somewhere chewing on it. I can't get him to go home. I needed to do something with my time, and your horse needed some brushing," she said as she continued to brush the horse, not once looking at him.
"Everythin’ okay? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Laurie said forcing a half smile.
"The General Store?" Kid started.
Laurie interrupted, "I'm fine. They're always like that. I can handle them. Guess I'm just having a bad day. I shouldn't have let them get to me, to make me yell. Please don't worry about it, it's nothing."
"What about Joshua?" he asked, watching for some reaction on her face.
She turned and looked at him, "He told me he was tired. Are you worried about him?"
"No," Kid said softly, "Well, a little," he paused, "Did somethin’ happen between the two of you?"
Laurie smiled a sad smile and turned back to the horse, "Not that I know of," she said softly and swallowed hard. After a moment, she said, "I'm almost done. You don't have to wait. I'll make sure he's fed and has water when I leave." Laurie paused for a moment then added, "Thaddeus, thank you for checking on me. I'm fine really. Have a good night."
Kid shook his head lightly, she was as stubborn as Heyes and the subject was closed. The conversation was over, and he was politely told to leave. Kid walked out of the livery and back towards the hotel. He found Heyes sitting on the porch smoking a cigar. “I really think you should talk to her." His partner sat there and looked forward. Kid knew he was hurting, but didn't know how to help him. He hoped the silence was Heyes thinking of a plan.
When Laurie finished with Thaddeus' horse, she groomed and fed Joshua's horse. She could tell it had been ridden just as hard and it didn't seem fair to only take care of one horse. She was also waiting for Sam to come to her. Whenever they were separated in town, Sam would come find her. It never took him as long as it was taking today. When she finished with Joshua's horse, she picked up the small bag of her supplies and walked out of the stable, stopping to look for her dog. She saw him lying on the front porch of the hotel next to Joshua. She took a deep breath and called for him, "Sam. Come on, it’s time to go home." She saw Sam lift his head but he didn't come. Sighing at another stinging rejection, Laurie turned and started walking home.
When Heyes saw her turn to go home, he patted the dog and told him it was time to go home. Sam got up and ran to catch up to Laurie. They walked together all the way home. By the time Laurie reached the shack, the sun had set. She fed Sam and went to bed, feeling lonelier than she had since she was eight and her mother shipped her away. She decided she wouldn't be going back to town until nightfall any time in the near future. She had made the mistake of falling in love and that probably cost her a friend. She knew Joshua must have realized how she felt and so he backed away; he was just trying to be nice. She fell asleep holding the locket her father had given her.
After dinner, Heyes went back to the room. He still hadn't said anything and his partner was getting a little worried. That night, Kid decided to leave Heyes alone and give him some space. If things didn't change, he would talk to him tomorrow. He went to the saloon for some poker. It was late when Kid returned to the room. When Heyes heard the key, he rolled over pretending to be asleep. Kid got into bed and as only he could do, fell asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.
Heyes couldn't sleep. He starred into the darkness of the room all night, thoughts of the past few days keeping him awake. The fact was, he couldn't get his mind off of her. He wanted to, no, he really didn't, but he had to. He was in the middle of a job. It could be risky and his mind had to be sharp or they could get caught or killed. If all he could think about was her, how could he concentrate on keeping them safe? Laurie was sweet and innocent, how could she understand that he used to be the leader of the Devil's Hole Gang? It’s not like they had any chance of a life together anyway, he IS wanted dead or alive. He couldn’t have a relationship, a real relationship, without his amnesty. If he continued to see her, he would end up hurting her so ending it now before anything really happened was the right thing to do. Leading her on was wrong and the fact was, he was there to do a job and that needed his full attention. His mind was reeling with everything going on inside it. As the sun started to rise, Heyes got up and moved to the window. He stared out, hoping for a glimpse of Laurie. She never came.
The bright light of the sun crept into the window and Kid woke up; he looked at Heyes, "You look horrible."
"Thanks," Heyes said with a sarcastic tone, "You don't look so hot yourself."
"I just mean," Kid started, and then with frustration in his voice, he yelled, "Forget it, Heyes. This has to stop. I don't think you slept last night and you look like hell. I know you're not gonna be at your best if this keeps up. What are we gonna do about it?"
"We?" his partner questioned, raising his eyebrows, "Nothing. WE aren't going to do anything. I'M fine and I'LL be my sharpest when I have to. Don't worry. Let's get breakfast," he huffed.
After an unusually quiet breakfast, the partners headed towards the telegraph office. It had been a day and there had been no new instructions from the Colonel. Mr. Carlson, Charlotte, and Gwendolyn were standing in front of the General Store laughing. As they got closer, Heyes overheard something about a street girl and then bursts of laughter from the group. Stopping, he turned and glared at them. As they continued, he walked over to them and said in a very calm and controlled voice but with the Leader of the Devil's Hole gang look, "I never want to hear talk like that about Laurie again." Intense brown eyes bore into the women as he sternly stated, "If you ever treat Laurie like you did yesterday, you will answer to me." Turning to Carlson, he pointed his finger right in his face, "If you ever talk to her or touch her again, anything that I think is out of line, I'll take care of you." The ex-outlaw leader turned, looked at his partner, who nodded his head, then got his horse and rode directly out to the shack. When Heyes got there, he looked around and didn't see her. As he began to get concerned, she emerged with a bucket from the direction of the stream. He walked over, took the bucket out of her hand, placing it on the ground and put his hands on her arms. The smile on his face had been replaced by a pained look. "I'm…" he started.
Laurie looked into his eyes and said, "It’s okay, I know."
Heyes stood there gazing into her eyes and stroked her hair. He wiped a tear off her face then gently lifted her chin and cupped it with his hand. Leaning in, he gave her a small soft kiss on the lips. Pulling back, still looking in her eyes, he looked for acceptance and then kissed her again. This time he leaned in, kissing her softly and then with both arms pulled her up against his body. He kissed her very slowly and passionately as he held her tightly in his arms. Laurie kissed him back as passionately as he kissed her. They stood in their embrace for some time before Heyes finally pulled away. He looked in her eyes and pulled her close again, once again kissed her deeply and passionately. After a few more passionate embraces, Heyes leaned back and looked at Laurie.
"Was that alright?" he asked with a smile on his face.
"Yes," she said, biting her lip.
Heyes touched her lip and said, "You better stop that or we're not going to get anything done out here anytime soon."
Laurie blushed and released her lip, all the while not taking her eyes off of his. They continued to stare into each other's eyes until a big fluffy golden retriever came running and jumped on them.
"Sam!" she exclaimed.
Heyes laughed, "It's okay boy, you won't be neglected," he reached down to pet Sam.
"Well, since he has your attention now," Laurie giggled, "I'll go back to watering the garden." She bent over and picked up the bucket.
"Come on Sam," Heyes said, grabbing another bucket, "Let's help her."
The two of them worked side by side, watering the garden, with Sam jumping around and fetching sticks. They were laughing and playing when they heard a horse approaching; Thaddeus appeared from around the bend.
"Laurie," he tipped his hat. Turning to Heyes, "Train brought a package from the Colonel." He got off his horse and handed the package to his partner.
"Nice to see you Thaddeus," Laurie said with a smile, "I see you both have to talk, I have some things I need to finish up in the garden. If you would like, you can sit by the tree in the back. It's very comfortable. Or do you need to go back to town?"
"We can see what's in it here, and then make that decision," Heyes said, turning and walking towards the tree.
Heyes opened the package; there were several envelopes in the package. The top one said, Read first. He opened it and read it out loud, "Circumstances have changed. Things are more dangerous. I believe you were spotted in Great Falls." Heyes stopped reading and said, "Just as we thought." He continued, "I've sent the rest of the pick-ups to you. The two of you will decide when and how to make them. They must all be made and delivered to us within two weeks. I think the pick-up by the lake is being watched. It's the most important and needs to be done without anyone knowing about it. Keep me posted, but do not give information by telegraph. Good luck and be safe. Colonel Marker. P.S. send a telegram immediately thanking me for the birthday present so I know this package made it into your hands. I will send a return telegram that says you're welcome. If the telegram doesn't get returned immediately, or any other telegram comes, get out of town and forget the job. I'll see you where I saw you last."
"Kid," the brown haired partner said glumly, "I don't even know if I want to open the other envelopes. Three envelopes mean three pick-ups. Three chances to get caught or killed."
"Heyes," the blond one replied, "we don't have a choice. You said it before, if we don't do this job, we may never get amnesty. We have to risk it…what's in the three envelopes?"
"I know," Heyes said, knowing Kid was right. "Just really not happy with the Colonel right now or the five hundred we'll get. He better have a really good word for the Governor. Let's see what the other three pick-ups are." He dumped the rest of the envelopes on the ground. Picking up an envelope, "This one doesn't look too bad. It's only ‘bout half day's ride east - an old mine shaft. Says he doesn't think they know about this one." Gesturing to Kid, "What’s that one say?”
"Ugh, things just got riskier," Kid groaned as he read the note. "This is in the safe at some big shot's house - name's Harvey. Doesn't think it will be a problem for you to get into, but he's not sure if there are any men guardin’ the safe. It looks like it's only a couple hours out of town. There should be papers with a lot of numbers and the Governor's name on them in the safe. The papers were stolen. He goes on to say that obviously, this is one part that we will have to use our special talents to get but since the papers were stolen from the Governor, it's okay. We can't go to jail because Harvey can't report them stolen since he shouldn't have them." Kid paused before adding, "Heyes, I have a sinkin’ feelin’ about this. The last one is the one that's supposed to be the hardest and he already has us breakin’ into a safe."
Heyes shook his head, "Now I really don't want to know what's in this third envelope." He picked up the last envelope and read it, "I don't get it. It doesn't seem all that bad, just that it's being watched. It's at the lake we passed on the first day into town, ‘bout three hours out. Guess the tough part is that you can see the lake from all sides, so it would be hard to get without being spotted. We'll have some time to think on it. I think we should start with this Harvey fellow. Maybe check his place out later tonight. Then we'll figure out when and how we attempt the lake. Figure the mine is the easiest and it's not known so that can be last. It's also on the way to meet the Colonel." Heyes paused and then added, "Guess we should ride into town and send the telegram."
"I think I'll stay," Kid stated, "Laurie is workin’ real hard in the garden and I could help. I see some wood that I might be able to use to fix some of the holes."
Heyes gave a small guttural laugh, the thought of his partner with a hammer. Trying to suppress the laugh he said, "Okay, I'll ride to town and you stay here. I'll wait for a response from the Colonel and come back." He got up and walked towards Laurie, who was now in her flower garden. "I have to ride into town and send a telegram," he said. "Thaddeus is going to stay with you and help you out." Heyes reached Laurie and put his hands on her arms and rubbed them slightly.
"Joshua," Laurie said, looking into his big brown eyes, "I don't need a babysitter. I am fine out here."
Tilting his head slightly down at her, he said with a smile, "I know sweetheart, but humor me. It was Thaddeus' idea. I think he wants to get to know you better. I can get some supplies when I'm done, and we can have dinner out here." The two of them walked to Heyes' horse.
Kid started to play with Sam so it didn't look like he was watching.
"Okay," Laurie agreed. "He can stay. I'm sorry I'm not ready to have dinner with you in town. I just don't think I could take it, but I am a really good cook."
Reaching the side of the horse, they stood facing each other. Heyes brushed the hair off Laurie's face. "I know," he said softly, "It's okay, I'll be back soon." He leaned in and gave her a kiss. Pulling back, he looked at Laurie who was biting her bottom lip and said, "I told you, you have to stop doing that or ..." He stopped in the middle of his sentence, pulled her close and kissed her much more deeply and passionately than the first time. Releasing her, Heyes made a guttural sound, took a deep breath and got on his horse. Laurie blushed and was thankful the horse blocked the view from Thaddeus.
She watched him ride away until she could no longer see him before she turned back to her work. "Joshua said when he got back we could all eat dinner. Thaddeus, maybe you could try catching some fish. There's a pole I made propped up against the side of the house. I'm almost finished here; I'll start a fire and come join you."
"Sounds good to me," he replied, grabbed the pole and walked over to the stream.
Laurie finished in the garden, started the fire and walked over to the stream. "Have any luck," she called out.
"No!" he replied through gritted teeth, "Sam keeps jumpin’ in the water."
"Sam!" she yelled at the dog, "How many times have I told you that when I am fishing you are to stay out of the water? Now, go lie down and dry off. I don't want to see you rolling in the dirt. I already gave you a bath and brushed you today. I'm not going to do it again!" Sam hung his head and tail, walked over to a nice big rock and laid down on it.
Kid smiled and laughed a little. Laurie gave him a curious look, "I'm sorry, it's funny to see you talkin’ to him like a mother would talk to her son."
"He is my son," she explained. "Sam's the only family I have, and he is very smart. He's also the only one I have to talk to. Most people in town try their best not to know I exist. Some are nice, but they aren't really friends. Hi, how are you today, talk about the weather, that's about all I can get from them. I am very grateful to both you and Joshua for being so kind. It has meant so much to me, thank you." As she finished talking, she looked over and saw a concerned look on his face. She stood up and stoically said, "Don't worry; I know he'll be leaving soon. I'm a big girl. When it's time, I won't make a fuss; there will be no crying, no screaming, and no stamping of feet. I will not beg for you to take me with you, I won't make a scene. I promise. If he allows me, I'll give him a kiss, say thank you and wish him, well, both of you, a safe journey." Laurie quickly turned and disappeared back towards the house.
Kid sat there, stunned by what she had said. What did she know and how did she know it? Hearing a horse coming up the path, he got up and headed over towards his partner. Heyes looked at him and said, "All done, reply came back." He dismounted and walked over to Kid who was still holding the fishing pole. "Catch anything?" he asked.
"No," he replied in disgust, "Sam was jumpin’ in the water tryin’ to catch them, splashin’, scared everythin’ away."
"Well, maybe with both of us, he'll stay out of the water," Heyes laughed. "Where's Laurie?"
"She went into the shack, I mean, house, a little while ago. She hasn't come out."
"Is everything ..." Heyes started only to stop when he saw Laurie open the door. She had changed her clothes; she was now wearing a light blue skirt and a white blouse with light blue flowers on it. The clothes were very worn but these were the first clothes that Heyes had seen Laurie wear that actually fit. They showed how petite she really was. Heyes thought if he grabbed her too tight he could break her in half, she was so thin. The partners stood staring at her, mesmerized by her.
"You're back," she said as she walked over to them, "That didn't take long. Thaddeus, did you catch any fish?"
"No," he said sounding exasperated, "As soon as you left, Sam was back in the water. He wouldn't listen to me at all."
Heyes looked at his partner and snickered.
"Well," Laurie said, "Why don't you both try again and I'll keep Sam over here."
"Sounds good to me," Heyes said. "Thaddeus, why don't you start and I'll be there as soon as I give Laurie the supplies." Seeing her about to object, he continued, "If we stay for dinner, we bring supplies. Maybe I'll be lucky and you'll make some biscuits to go with the fish." He smiled with a twinkle in his eyes as he looked at her.
With that look, Laurie couldn't possibly object, how could anyone say no to that face! "If you keep looking at me that way," she said blushing "maybe you will get biscuits," she smiled, biting her lip.
"What is it with you and that lip?" Heyes asked very quietly, moving very close to Laurie as he brushed her cheek with his hand and then touched her lips. "Don't you know what you do to me every time you look at me that way?" he whispered as he pulled her close and kissed her.
Although Laurie didn't want to stop, she said, "Joshua," as she pulled away, "Thaddeus is waiting for you and I have to make biscuits." Looking around she said, "Where's..."
"Sam!" Kid yelled, "Get out of the water, you can't catch fish that way!"
"Sam," Laurie yelled and the two of the broke out laughing. "Go save your partner, I'll make biscuits," she said.
An hour later, the three of them sat by the tree eating dinner. Heyes and Kid managed to catch three fish despite Sam's help. Laurie made biscuits and fresh green beans.
"This is really good," Kid mumbled as he inhaled his food, "Why aren't you eating?"
"I ate," Laurie replied.
"Like a bird!" he exclaimed, "You had a bite of everythin’. Didn't your momma tell you to ..." he stopped in mid sentence and looked like he had just eaten something bad, "I'm sorry, I didn't..."
"It's okay," Laurie, said in a soft voice, "I know you didn't mean anything Thaddeus. The fact is I just don't get a chance to eat much, especially at one time. I really am full. Would you like to finish my plate?"
Heyes shook his head and smiled, "The bottomless pit," he said very quietly with a laugh.
Kid gave a look that said ‘what!' and bellowed, "She offered!"
They finished dinner and sat around the tree talking, laughing and playing with Sam. Heyes was happy to see Kid and Laurie get along so well. As it began to get dark he said, "Thaddeus and I have to go take care of some things tonight. I'm sorry we have to leave."
"I didn't expect you to stay," Laurie declared as she stood up giving him a look.
Kid looked at her and thought that's the kind of look Heyes gives me when I say something Heyes thinks is stupid. He laughed quietly. Heyes looked at him curiously. "Laurie gave you a He…" he stopped himself, "a look; the kind you give me. It's funny seein’ you get your own look." He turned to Laurie and said, "I've never seen anyone else give that look before, can you teach me?"
Heyes and Laurie both responded, "What look?"
"Never mind," Kid said, and turned to gather his stuff.
Laurie and Heyes looked at each other and smiled, suppressing laughs.
After gathering his things, Kid said, "I'll get the horses ready."
Heyes, still by the tree with Laurie, turned and pulled her close to him, "Can I take you into town for the night? I'll get you a room at the hotel."
"No," she replied softly looking into his eyes, "This is my home."
"I know, it's just that," Heyes started but was interrupted by Laurie reaching up and kissing him lightly on the lips. Heyes returned the kiss with a deeper kiss. When he pulled back, he smiled and gave her a little squeeze around the waist pulling her even closer, "You certainly know how to change the subject." Then he kissed her again. After a couple of minutes he leaned back and quietly said, "I could do this all night but Thaddeus is waiting and I do have to go."
Turning and walking towards the horses, Laurie touched his hand and said quietly, "Joshua," she paused as he turned to look at her, "Did you mean it? If Thaddeus hadn't come and you didn't have to leave, you would have stayed the night?"
Heyes stepped close to Laurie and put his left arm around her waist and pulled her close. He gazed deeply into her eyes, his right hand traced the outline of her face and he ran his fingers slowly over her lips. "Yes," he said in almost a whisper, "That is, if that's what you wanted."
"It is," she said and bit her bottom lip softly as Heyes ran his fingers over her lips again. "I know it's wrong, but...."
"Shhh," Heyes said calmly, "It's not wrong when two people feel the same way."
They gently kissed and heard Thaddeus yell, "Horses are ready."
"Be right there," Heyes answered back, not taking his eyes off of Laurie, he continued quietly, "We'll be gone most of the night, maybe longer, I'll see you when we get back."
"Okay," she said with a faint smile. She was worried about them; it couldn't be good if they had to leave at night. "Be safe, and take care of each other." They started to walk to where Thaddeus was waiting on his horse. Laurie quickly reached up to Heyes and gave him a kiss on the cheek and whispered, "Joshua, I love you." Heyes stopped walking and turned his head, did he really hear what he thought he did? Laurie looked at the surprised look on his face and quietly said, "It’s okay if you don't, I just didn't want you to leave not knowing how I felt."
A smile spread across took Heyes’ face as he said, "I do and I'm glad I know," he leaned over, gave her one last kiss and then mounted his horse and they rode off.
The partners rode for a while in silence; Kid looked at Heyes every now and then; he looked deep in thought. Finally Kid asked, "Did you tell her?"
"Huh? What?" Heyes responded.
"Did you tell Laurie anythin’, about us, I mean?"
"No, I would have let you know if I was going to."
"She knows, well, she knows somethin’," Kid said. Heyes was now looking intently at his partner as he continued, "She told me that she knew we would be leavin’ soon and that she wouldn't make a scene. She has to know somethin’. Even if she doesn't, you should tell her so she knows why she can't come with us."
"I know," Heyes said glumly.
"You fell for her, didn’t you?" Kid asked.
"Yeah," Heyes acknowledged with an ‘I can't believe it' half smile and forced laugh out of the side of his mouth. "Never in my life did I think it was possible, and not now, not without our amnesty." Heyes got quiet again and just looked forward. Kid knew to leave him alone in his thoughts. When he was ready, Heyes would start the conversation. A short time later as they were getting closer to the Harvey house, Heyes blurted out, "I got it."
"What?" Kid asked.
"The answer to our problem," Heyes stated, Kid looked at him with interest. "We're heading out to the Harvey house to check it out. Actually the night is perfect for getting in and out without being spotted; the moon's only a sliver so it’s not too bright. The directions the Colonel sent said the safe was in the study in the rear far left corner of the house. If everything is good, we'll go in tonight and get the papers from the safe. Then we have to work quickly so the other two pick-ups aren't blocked. Colonel sent dummy envelopes so we can make a switch; that is if the papers are still in their original envelope. Hopefully that will buy us some time. Anyway, we do this tonight and ride back to town. Tomorrow I'm going to ask Laurie if she wants to go on a picnic."
Heyes was talking fast and Kid was just trying to keep up with what he was saying. "She won't eat in town, but I think she'll go on a picnic. I'll take her to the lake, where even if we're being watched, all they'll see is the two of us on a picnic. I'll tell her everything there. At the same time, you'll go to the mine and get the last set of papers. No one is supposed to know about that pick-up so you should be alright alone."
"Sounds like a plan," Kid said with a smile and then added, "How are you gonna get the papers without being noticed? And what if Laurie doesn't take the news well?"
"I think you're right. I think she knows something. She said a couple of things to me that make me think she knows or suspects something. I don't think there will be a problem when I tell her, at least I hope not. As for getting the papers, I'll figure something out." He pointed up the road, "There's the Harvey house, let's go in from the back."
They checked out the house; lights were on and people were in the house. Slowly, as they watched, each room went dark. By luck, it didn't look like anyone was in the room above the study. Heyes and Kid quietly made their way over to the study window and, using the tools he always carried, the nimble hands of the brown haired partner opened the window. Going in first, he lit a candle; Kid followed, checked out the room and went to the door to check the hall. All seemed quiet as Heyes pulled back the picture that was hiding the safe. A huge smile spread across his face as he looked at his partner. It was going to be a piece of cake he thought, even his partner could open this safe! Within a few minutes, the safe was open, the dummy papers were exchanged for the papers they took and they were on their way. They made it back to town as the sun was just coming up.
Heyes thought about riding out to see Laurie but decided he was too exhausted. He would see her later. After taking care of the horses, they went to their room and passed out.
Laurie stayed up quite late the night before. She was worried about Joshua and Thaddeus, but also thinking about the exchange with Joshua right before he left. She had been worried about not seeing him again and really wanted to let him know how she felt. She hadn't expected a response; she just needed to tell him; tell him she loved him, tell him he had changed her life, and tell him that she would love him forever, would be there forever, she'd wait forever, protect him, but that's not exactly how it came out. She did tell him she loved him and she thought that maybe he had told her that he loved her too. She kept replaying it in her mind and thinking about the way he looked at her and the way he kissed her. A few minutes before, he said he would have stayed the night if he could, if she wanted, and she had said that she did. She was on cloud nine but then wondered did he now think of her as a hussy?
Everything was swirling in her brain. When she finally fell asleep it wasn't a peaceful sleep. She worried about the two of them coming back and she worried about chasing Joshua away because of what she said. As soon as the sun started to come up, Laurie got up, got dressed and ran to town. She ran all the way, Sam could barely keep up. When she got there, she went straight to the livery. Their horses were there; they were back. Laurie bent over, and sighed in relief. Checking the horses, she decided that while she was there, she could give them some extra care.
The sun was up and people were just starting to bustle around town when Laurie emerged from the Livery. She looked over and saw Charlie leaving the Sheriff's office. Walking over to him she asked if he'd seen when Joshua and Thaddeus had returned.
"Yep," Charlie replied, "I was just finishin' rounds when they came ridin' in; I'd say it was ‘bout six o'clock. Boy, they both looked beat."
"Beat!" Laurie exclaimed.
"Yeah," Charlie said surprised at her excitement, "Real tired, like they had been ridin’ all night!"
"Oh," Laurie said relieved, "Well, I'll see you later; I'm cleaning tonight. Bye."
The sun was shining in the window when Heyes woke up. He hadn't really gotten enough sleep but it was almost noon and he wanted to see Laurie. He was surprised Kid was still sleeping and not up, complaining he was hungry. He got dressed, put his boots and gun on, grabbed his hat and went to the door as quietly as possible. As soon as he walked out of the hotel door, he saw Laurie sitting on the steps by the telegraph office.
Just seeing her caused a smile that lit up his entire face as he quickly walked over to her. Laurie had her back to him, playing tug o’ war with Sam but, as he approached, she quickly turned to see him. When she saw the expression on his face she jumped up and ran to him. He picked her up and twirled her around as she let out a huge squeal of joy. Everyone on the street looked at the commotion. Heyes put her down, wrapped his arms around her and gave her a big kiss. The kiss and the embrace were only broken when Sam came running over to greet him. Heyes just laughed and, with one arm still around her, he leaned over to pet Sam. Most of the people watching, including the Jansens, were very happy for Laurie. The others, including Mr. Carlson, Charlotte and Gwendolyn, scowled at the two and turned in disgust at the display of emotions in public.
"I'm glad you're back," Laurie said.
"Me too," Joshua said as he started to lead Laurie and Sam over to the hotel's porch. "I missed you last night."
Laurie lightly bit her bottom lip as she looked at him.
"What did I tell you about that? Do you want the whole town seeing me crazy over you?"
Laurie blushed and stopped biting her lip. "I'm sorry, I won't do it again."
"Oh, you'll do it again, just not when people are watching," he said with a devilish smile, which made Laurie blush even more. As they got to the porch, he turned to her and said, "Will you go on a picnic with me tomorrow?"
Kid walked out of the hotel, "Hey," he said sounding annoyed, "why didn't you wake me up? I'm starved!" Looking at Laurie he added, "Good mornin’."
"Almost afternoon Thaddeus," she said with a smile.
"You were sleeping, now excuse me. I just asked Laurie to go on a picnic with me and I am waiting for an answer."
Laurie was about to bite her lip but stopped as she looked into his big brown eyes. She hesitated and finally said, "Yes, I would love to go on a picnic with you. What should I make?"
"Great," Heyes said, "Nothing, I will take care of everything. How ‘bout if we leave here around nine in the morning?"
"Okay, oh my," she exclaimed, "I have things to do. I'll see you tomorrow." She turned to walk away, then turned back to give him a quick kiss and ran off yelling over her shoulder, "Bye Thaddeus!"
"Can we get somethin’ to eat now?" Kid moaned.
Heyes laughed and said, "Sure, Kid, sure.
As they left the café after eating, they saw Laurie buzzing around town. Walking towards the hotel, Laurie ran across their path. "What's going on?" Heyes asked, "Something wrong?"
Laurie stopped, "No, oh, no, I usually clean tonight but if we're going on a picnic tomorrow, I don't want to be up all night so I'm trying to get it done now, and I need to buy a dress," she said and ran off.
The partners laughed. Kid looked at Heyes, "I think she's excited." Heyes smiled, shook his head and gave a small laugh. They went to the hotel porch, put their feet up on the rail and had a cigar. The two of them sat enjoying the afternoon, dozing and watching Laurie buzz around town. All was peaceful until Laurie went to the General Store. The peacefulness was broken with loud shouting. As they opened their eyes and looked in the direction of the noise, they saw Laurie storming out of the Store.
"Get back here, you," screamed Mr. Carlson, "I am not done with you!"
Laurie kept walking away. Carlson reached out and grabbed her arm. Heyes and Kid sat up in their chairs. Laurie whirled around, pushed his hand away from her and yelled loud enough for the entire town to hear. "Get your hand off of me! I told you I could clean your store now. You said no. Well I am not working tonight so clean it yourself! I will never clean it again and that is the LAST TIME YOU EVER PUT YOUR HAND ON ME!" She stormed away from him, and, seeing Joshua and Thaddeus on the porch headed their way. Mr. Carlson glared at Laurie as she walked away, then finally turned and stormed back into the General Store. By the time she had gotten to the porch, Heyes was on the bottom step. He reached out and pulled her into a tight hug as Laurie buried her face into his chest.
"I'm here," he said quietly, "Shhh, it's okay, I won't let him hurt you, I promise." Lifting her face so he could see into her eyes, he continued, "I'm very proud of you. He didn't deserve you. I'm proud you walked away. I promise you will never have to work for him again, I'll make sure of it." He kissed her on the forehead and pulled her tight again. When she had stopped shaking, Heyes loosened his hold. "Come sit with us."
"No," she said as she looked in his eyes, she loved looking in those eyes, "I'm almost done. I just have the Sheriff's office and jail left. I want to get paid because I want to buy a new dress for tomorrow."
"You don't have to do that," Heyes said.
"Yes, I do. It's not for you, well it is, but it's more for me. You have shown me that I can be more than just a street girl. I want a new dress so I can feel a little more. Nothing fancy, just something I bought, something that fits, something new."
"Let me," Heyes started.
"No, I want to do this, me, understand?" she said.
He pulled her close, "I understand."
The rest of the afternoon went by without anything of interest. Laurie finished her work, bought her dress and told Joshua she would see him in the morning. The boys, relaxed, had dinner, and went to the saloon to drink and play poker. That night Kid slept soundly as Laurie and Heyes tossed and turned, both thinking about the next day. When the sun started up in the morning, Laurie woke up and started to get ready. She was dressed and ready very early, only having a little trouble with her hair. She tried to tie her hair up fancy. She settled for up, but not so fancy. Laurie and Sam started into town well before most of the town was awake. She was too excited to wait for Joshua to come get her; there was no reason she couldn't meet him in town.
Heyes got up the next morning, got cleaned and shaved before Kid rolled over. When he was finishing, he nudged his partner and told him it was time to get up. He then got dressed - dark blue shirt over white Henley with his brown jacket.
Kid said groggily, "You're ready early."
"I know she'll be ready early. I figured you'd want breakfast before we leave. I was thinking if you wanted, you could wait a little before riding off to the mine. Remember, if you see anything or feel something, don't get the papers, come back and we'll go after them together."
Running a hand through the blond curls, he got up and started to get ready, "Same goes for you, don't put yourself or Laurie in danger. Check it out and we can go back."
They ran into Mrs. Jansen at the bottom of the hotel stairs. "Good morning. Joshua, I have the picnic basket in the kitchen. I'm almost done with it. Let me know when you want it." Then she added, "I'm really happy you're taking Laurie on a picnic. She deserves to be treated right and I have to say, the two of you look really happy together, you make a very handsome couple."
"Doris," a voice came from behind her, it was Walter coming up to stand beside his wife, "No playing match maker."
"I'm not," she said, "Just merely making an observation."
"Hmm," Walter said, "Well, if it's just an observation, I guess I will have to agree. Laurie does deserve to be treated right!"
The front door of the hotel opened and Laurie stepped in. The four of them just stared.
"Wow," was all Kid could say.
A smile that lit up the town spread across Heyes' face.
Mrs. Jansen walked over to Laurie and took her hands, "You look beautiful, my dear, absolutely beautiful. Not that you usually don't, but today you are absolutely glowing." She leaned over and gave Laurie a kiss on the cheek, "Let me finish the basket so the two of you can get going." She turned and walked to the kitchen.
Walter looked at Joshua and repeated, "Laurie deserves to be treated right, Mr. Smith. I expect that from you." He held out his hand to shake and walked over to Laurie and gave her a kiss on the cheek saying, "Have a good time dear."
Laurie stood there blushing. Joshua walked over to her, smiled and put his hand on her face. "You're early."
She smiled back and stared into his eyes, "So are you."
"I still have to get the carriage and Mrs. Jansen is finishing the basket."
"Excuse me," Kid interrupted. They both turned to look at him, "Does this mean we aren't gettin' breakfast?" he said with a pained expression on his face and in his voice.
"We can have breakfast," Heyes said. Turning to Laurie, he smiled, "I think I would like to show you off before we leave. How ‘bout if we get breakfast or just coffee with Thaddeus and then go?"
"Okay," she said, feeling like a princess in a fairy tale, "I also have to ask Doris if she can keep an eye on Sam while I'm gone today."
The three of them went to the café for breakfast. Everyone on the street watched as they walked towards the cafe; Thaddeus, Joshua and Laurie holding Joshua's arm. Most of the people smiled, with the exception of Mr. Carlson who just watched and glared. Heyes got the carriage and Kid got his horse. They left town at the same time but in different directions. Laurie sat next to Heyes with the biggest smile on her face as they rode out of town. Heyes turned to Laurie and said, "You really are glowing today."
"It's your fault," she said with a giggle, "If you hadn't asked me on a picnic, I wouldn't be glowing. Maybe it's just the dress."
"No, the dress is very nice, but it's you, and I'm glad." He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Laurie let out a squeal of delight and wrapped her arm in Heyes'. He smiled and laughed. As she sat holding Heyes' arm, Laurie finally asked, "Where are we going?"
"To a nice spot by a lake Thaddeus and I saw," he replied, "You okay?"
"Better than okay" and she put her head on his arm. After a short time, she said, "Joshua, you've been so kind to me and I really don't want to mess things up, I'm just, well... I guess maybe...oh boy, there's no easy way to say it or have it come out right," she stuttered, then, with rapid-fire speech she said... "It's just that I don't have any experience, I mean, I've only been kissed by a boy once, and that was on the cheek, I just, I just don't know if I'm doing it right, and I don't ..."
Heyes stopped the horse, turned to Laurie, cupped her face and kissed her gently. He pulled back, gazed into her eyes and kissed her deeply. He finally released his hold on Laurie, looked her in her eyes and with a smile on his face and in his eyes, he announced, "Perfect."
Laurie smiled and put her head on his arm, "Then let's go to the lake."
The ride out to the mine wasn't difficult for Kid. It was longer than going to the lake, but he was just going to get the papers and then return to town. He was planning on stopping somewhere under a tree to eat the lunch Mrs. Jansen had packed for him. In fact, he was anticipating it so much he almost wanted to stop and eat before he got to the mine, but then, what would he do later? He rode in peace to the mine, checking around before he stopped. The Colonel was right; it didn't look like anyone knew of this location. He quickly got off his horse, went to the mine entrance and retrieved the papers. Just as quickly, he got back on his horse and rode back towards town. About halfway, he figured he was in the clear and decided to take a rest and have lunch under a tree. He made sure he was off the trail far enough not to be seen but with the trail still in view so he could keep his eyes on it.
Laurie and Heyes had been traveling for a while; she still had hold of his arm with her head resting on his shoulder. Heyes decided he really liked how that felt. They were quiet when he decided to tease her a little, "So who’s this boy who kissed you?" he asked as he looked at her out of the corner of his eye.
Startled that he asked, Laurie sat up, "Oh, no one," she stuttered, "It was only on the cheek and only once. He was just a friend. Someone who was nice to me, he left town two years ago."
Still looking at her through the corner of his eye and trying to suppress a smile, he responded, "Good, because I'd have to shoot him if I saw him!"
Laurie looked at him, saw the smile and gave him a little push, "Joshua Smith," she announced, "You are terrible! You, you..."
Heyes grabbed her hands as they were coming at him again and laughed, "I'm sorry, I was only teasing. I just wanted to know if anyone else had any ideas about my girl."
"Joshua," she yelled then stopped and said meekly, "Your girl?" and she bit her bottom lip.
He turned his head to look at her, "What did I tell you about doing that?" She released her lip and he continued, "Yes, my girl, that's what you are, and I don't want anyone else getting any ideas about you." He leaned over and lightly kissed her before turning his attention back to the road.
Laurie moved close to him, grabbed his arm and returned her head to his shoulder. His girl, she thought with such elation that she got goose bumps.
"There's the lake up ahead, and by the way, feel free to do the lip thing once we get there, I just didn't want to lose control of the horse," he said with a twinkle in his eyes and a devilish grin.
Kid rested for a while after he ate then decided to head back into town. He had been on guard since leaving, but there was no sign of trouble. He hoped that Heyes and Laurie were just as lucky. He figured he would get back before dinner and they should hopefully get back not too much after.
"This is beautiful," Laurie exclaimed as Joshua helped her out of the carriage.
"Yes, you are," he replied with a smile. "There's one thing though," as he put his hands up to her hair, "I like it better down, if that's okay with you." He removed the combs holding her hair up and it fell down around her shoulders. "Perfect," he said quietly.
"Joshua," she said as she melted into his arms and they kissed.
"I could certainly do this all day," he said quietly, "but we came for a picnic and I thought you might be hungry. Don't forget where we were." He raised his eyebrows then turned and grabbed the basket. "Let's see what we have in here. The blanket, very nice of Mrs. Jansen to put that in," he said as he spread it out and motioned Laurie to sit next to him. "A bottle of wine, hmm. Some chicken, biscuits, corn salad and apple pie for dessert."
"Oh, my!" Laurie exclaimed, "That's a feast! I can't believe you did all of this for me," she said with tears in her eyes.
"Hey, none of that, we're supposed to be happy," he said as he touched her face. "Of course, I did all this for you." He pulled her close and kissed her passionately. He really didn't want to stop, but remembering why they were there, he pulled himself away. He scanned the hillside, in the distance he saw two men on horses watching the valley and the lake. He had already seen the two men on the opposite ridge as they approached the lake. The Colonel was right; this pick up was being watched. He knew the papers were under the big rock by the lake but he had to figure out how to get them. First he had to have a talk with Laurie. He thought they should eat; then he would talk. "I'm starved, let's eat," he said, handing her a plate.
While they ate, they talked and laughed about everything and nothing. Laurie had never had a better time in her entire life; she had never been happier. She knew it would end soon, but she knew she would remember this day for as long as she lived. Taking one last bite of apple pie she lay back and laughed, "Oh my, I think I'm going to explode!!! I've never eaten so much in my entire life. Thank you...thank you Joshua for this day. I will always remember it." She shut her eyes and sighed.
He put the rest of the pie back in the basket and lay down on his right side next to her, propping his head up with his hand. Heyes placed his left hand on top of Laurie's that were resting on her stomach and quietly said, "Sweetheart, we have to talk." She opened her eyes and tilted her head towards him, trying not to look sad. Was this the moment she had been dreading, the moment he tells her he's leaving? "Hey what's the matter?" he said as he sat up.
Laurie stood up and faced away from him, fearing he would see her cry and she had promised Thaddeus that she wasn't going to cry. She had to get control of her emotions; she just didn't expect it to happen today at least not right now, they had really just gotten there. Maybe tonight? She wondered if that's what the picnic was about, to say good-bye, but she didn't think, oh, she just got lost in the day. Trying to stay calm, still not looking at him, she asked, "What is it, Joshua?"
He stood up behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder, "I just want to say, I’ve fallen for you. I never expected to, but I have fallen completely and everything about that has been true." He paused for a moment and then continued, "We're in town because of a job. What's not true is our names. I'm not Joshua Smith. My real name is Hannibal Heyes. Thaddeus is Kid Curry. That's why I can't stay with you and that's why when we leave town I can't take you with me."
Laurie whirled around, "When, you said, “when”…does that mean you're not saying goodbye to me now?"
Heyes looked slightly puzzled. Did she hear him? "No, I'm not saying good bye to you now, I'm telling you I'm Hannibal Heyes and..."
"Thaddeus is Kid Curry, I know," Laurie said.
"What, how," was all Heyes could manage to stutter.
"I've known you’re Hannibal Heyes almost from the first moment in town. You didn't stop me from telling the Sheriff you were my ex and never tried to correct it after the fact. I also noticed that the two of you were rather uncomfortable talking to the Sheriff and were, for that matter, every time I spoke of the jail. I've cleaned the jail over a hundred times and have spent the night in there because of storms many more times. I know every inch of the jail, and every word of every wanted poster in there. The second night when it stormed and you kissed me in front of Charlotte and Gwendolyn, I was laying there thinking about it and there on the wall, I saw it. The wanted posters for you and Kid Curry."
Heyes stood there dumbfounded; he had no idea she knew. "You never said anything."
"Why should I? You were so nice to me. I was falling in love with you. I figured if you wanted me to know, you would tell me. If not, it was okay, it's not the name I fell in love with; it's the man." She paused for a second, “Oh my…did you just tell me you fell for me?” She placed her hand over her mouth in shock.
Heyes took her by her hands and said, "Yes, I’ve fallen completely and absolutely for you.” He lifted her hands and kissed them. “One thing you don't know is that Kid and I have given up being outlaws. We have a deal with the Governor that if we can stay out of trouble for a while he'll give us amnesty."
"Oh, Joshua, that's wonderful!" Laurie exclaimed, "You deserve it. You are the kindest person I have ever met, both you and Thaddeus. I hope he gives it to you soon."
"So do we. But the fact is, we have no idea when it will happen, which is why we can't stay together. We can still be arrested and it's still very dangerous being with us," he said, then he figured he should just tell her the rest. "The job we have is for a good friend of the Governor's, Colonel Marker. We’re making pick-ups of what we were told were important documents. They have been spread out at different locations. You know I’ve asked you to dinner but you keep saying no. I thought a picnic out of town might interest you and would be romantic.” He smiled. “This lake, however, was chosen because it is one of the pick-ups. The problem is, is that it’s being watched. There are two men who keep coming into view at the top of the ridge and there are two more across the lake on the other ridge. I thought if they thought it was two lovers, they wouldn't bother us and I could get the papers."
"What should I call you now? Hannibal, Han, Heyes? Kid’s almost slipped a few times, but caught himself. The two of you really need to be a little more careful when you think nobody is around, I thought I heard you call him Kid out at my place. Anyway, Hannibal, okay, that's going to take some getting use to, I should be mad at you because this day was set up so you could get a pick-up but I'm not. I should be mad, but the day has been perfect.” She bit her bottom lip and released it, “Did you say lovers?” Her heart skipped a beat.
Heyes smiled, “You okay?”
Shyly she nodded, “Now where are you supposed to get the papers?"
"Just so you know, the whole day wasn't just because of the pick-up, just the location," he said as he released her one hand and brushed the back of his hand down the side of her face. "The papers are supposed to be under the big rock by the lake. I just need to figure out how to get them without drawing attention to them."
A smile from ear to ear appeared on Laurie's face, "Just follow me," she said quietly, reached up, quickly kissed Heyes, then went running and laughing all the way down the hill to the side of the lake.
He was surprised and then chased after her.
She kept running, laughing, and yelling, "You can't catch me," until she reached the big rock by the lake where she promptly sat down, took off her boots and stockings, dropping them on the ground, wading into the water.
Heyes arrived at the side of the lake laughing. He grabbed her by the hands and carefully pulled her out of the water, pulling her very close and kissing her.
Laurie kissed him back and then pushed away, running up the hill barefoot to the blanket where she lay down.
Heyes followed her, out of breath; he fell next to her on the blanket.
"You had better catch your breath and kiss me or they might think something is up," she said and bit her lip.
"Don't you know you drive me wild every time you do that," he said as he pulled her as close as possible and passionately kissed her. After a few minutes, he leaned back and sighed, "I really don't want to stop but those men are watching and it looks like a storm’s coming in over the ridge. We'd better figure out how to get the papers and get going."
"Okay," Laurie said breathless, and then smiled, "First you need to go and get me my boots and stockings."
A million-dollar smile spread across his face reaching his chocolate brown eyes, "You're a genius.” He kissed her quickly. “I'll be right back," He got up and ran down the hill. When he got to the rock, he squatted down to pick up the boots and stockings that were sitting at the base of the rock, and grabbed the papers in the process. Pretending to drop a boot; he bent down and replaced them with the dummy papers the Colonel had provided. Even with binoculars, Heyes couldn't see how anyone could have seen the exchange. It was so well planned out by Laurie; yes he thought with a smile by Laurie, that there is no way they would expect they were there for a pick-up. Holding the boots and stockings up so she could see them, he walked back up the hill.
Laurie clapped and yelled, "My hero."
As he got closer to her, he smiled and said, "I'll get the carriage ready. You get your boots on, we better get moving. The storm’s coming in."
Heyes helped Laurie up and into the carriage, and they headed back to town. It didn't look as though there was movement from either side of the lake. He smiled, kissed Laurie on the head as she held his arm, resting her head on his shoulder.
Kid made it back to town safely. His part of the day went smoother than either one of them could have imagined. He hoped everything was going as well with his partner. He was worried about Laurie's reaction when she found out who they really were and why he had picked that lake for a picnic. Heyes had a silver tongue, but all bets were off when dealing with a woman who thinks she's been lied to. He didn't envy his partner and what he had to do. Kid went to dinner and then to the saloon for drinks and poker. As he walked outside, he could see the storm in the distance and hoped Heyes and Laurie were well in front of it. If he knew his partner, they were.
"I can't believe you knew," Heyes said with a smile as he shook his head. "You couldn't have known about the amnesty, why?"
"Because you were nice to me. I didn't, don't care that you're Hannibal Heyes. I care that you are the most wonderful man I have ever met in my life. Like I said, I fell in love with the man not the name. I am thrilled that there is a chance for you to get amnesty. If I can do anything to help you I will, even helping with a pick-up." Laurie paused and held her hand out, "Oh, no, it's starting to drizzle. I hope we make it back before the storm really comes in," she said with fear in her voice.
"It's okay, I'm here," Heyes reassured. "We'll get back. In the meantime, why don't you reach behind you and get the blanket so you don't get wet?"
As Laurie turned to get the blanket, a rattlesnake in the road spooked the horse causing it to rear up and jerk the carriage. The carriage jostled, the front axle broke, sending Laurie flying out of the carriage onto the ground. "Laurie!" Heyes yelled as he quickly hopped out of the carriage. Reaching her side, he helped her sit up as the horse broke free and started running down the road. Jumping up, he took a few steps before realizing it was useless to go after it. He turned his attention back to Laurie; squatting down next to her he saw she was holding her side. "Sweetheart," he said anxiously, "Are you okay? Do you think anything is broken?" Glancing at the carriage, Heyes knew he couldn't repair the broken axle. He hoped the horse would stop shortly so they could catch up to it. "Do you think you can walk?"
"I don't think anything is broken. I think I can walk," she said obviously in pain.
"If we had any choice," Heyes continued, "I wouldn't want you to move, but the storm’s coming in fast and I want to find you some shelter. I'll grab the blanket and help you up. You can lean on me as much as you need." He helped Laurie up and she nodded her head okay. As they started to walk, the storm started to overtake them. Soon it was pouring and they were getting soaked. Laurie held the blanket around her to try to keep her dry, but it wasn't working. Off to the right side of the road, Heyes saw lights in the distance. "I think there might be a farm over there," he said, pointing in the direction. "Let's get off the road and walk towards it."
A big flash of lightning lit up the sky and Laurie screamed in fear. "I'm here," Heyes said as he walked with his arm around her shoulder, "I promise I'll take care of you." With the second flash Heyes saw a farmhouse and a barn not too far away. He headed straight to it. As the farmhouse was now dark, Heyes decided it was best to stay the night in the barn. When they got to the barn, the back stall was empty and he said, "We can sleep here. I see some blankets for the horses. We can use them to make a bed and stay warm."
Heyes looked over at Laurie, she was shivering. He pulled her close and held her tightly. Kissing her forehead he said, "We're safe here, and you're freezing. You need to take your clothes off and hang them so they'll dry. I'll get you a blanket to wrap yourself in and make a bed for us."
Laurie just looked at him and did as he said. She turned her back to him and undressed, wrapping herself in a blanket. Everything was soaked; she was soaked and was freezing. She hung her clothes on the side of the stall in hopes of them drying before she had to put them back on.
In the meantime, Heyes removed his gun and placed it next to where his head would be. Next he removed his jacket, shirt and Henley, then his pants, and hung them on the side of the stall, leaving only his long underwear bottoms on. Then he made a bed with straw and blankets.
Kid was worried; Heyes and Laurie should have been back in town hours ago and now the storm hit. He went to the Jansen's and asked if they had seen them. With no luck there, he decided to go to the Sheriff's office to see if he had heard anything and if not, to send out a search party.
“Joshua is always prompt and he’s hours over due. He wouldn’t be out in this storm, especially since he knows how frightened Laurie gets.”
“Mr. Jones, I think you are over reacting a bit. I’m sure Mr. Smith and Laurie are just fine. With it rainin’ so hard, I’m sure the bridge washed out and there is no way they could make it through the mountains in this kind of weather. I’m sure they took shelter some place safe and will be in town in the morning,” Sheriff Hardy stated.
Kid pleaded with his eyes.
“Best I can do. I’m not riskin’ any men in this weather.”
Kid sighed, tipped his hat towards the lawman and headed back to the hotel to wait. He was sure something was wrong, but the Sheriff was right, in this weather there really wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. He just hoped they would get back soon.
After making a bed with the blankets, Heyes stood up and turned around. Laurie was about five feet away, standing with her back to him, trying to hang her clothes on the side of the stall. The blanket she had held tightly in the front, hung loosely all the way to the small of her back. He took a step closer, reaching out to stroke her hair. She stood there quietly as the touch sent shivers up her spine; closing her eyes she bit her lower lip. His hand stroked her hair then continued down her bare back and back up to her shoulder as he moved closer. He thought he felt a slight shudder and heard a very faint sigh. As he gently touched her shoulder with his right hand, his left hand reached around her waist and he pulled her close to him. Laurie felt Heyes' bare chest against her back, so warm, so muscular. He gently kissed her shoulder, as she tilted her head to the left he kissed her neck.
Still in his arms, Laurie turned around to face him. She could not believe how unbelievable it felt to be held by him, how unbelievable he felt; his arms, his whole body was so muscular, hard and strong, yet he had the gentlest touch. Heyes reached up and gently stroked her face and then cupped it with his hand and gently kissed her. As he pulled back, he looked deep into Laurie's eyes, seeing the acceptance; he pulled her even tighter and kissed her more passionately and more intensely than ever. As he lay her down in the straw bed, he looked in her eyes and said, "I love you."
Laurie replied, "I love you too."
With his eyes still locked on hers he asked, "Are you sure?"
"Yes," she said as she reached up to kiss him.
The next morning, the rain had stopped and the sun was just coming up when Laurie woke up. Heyes was smiling at her. "Good morning, beautiful," he said as he gently kissed her.
"Good morning," she said with a sigh. "How long have you been awake and what were you doing?"
"A little while, and watching you," he replied as he stroked her face.
"Umm," she sighed, "Why were you watching me?"
"Because I wanted to."
Laurie smiled and kissed Heyes gently, "Can I ask you something?" He nodded his head that was now propped up on his right hand, "Last night," she paused.
"Shhh," he said as he brushed his left hand gently over her lips, “Last night was perfect." He leaned over and kissed her gently. "Now as much as I would like to stay here, the sun is coming up and the farmer who owns this barn is going to be coming out soon. I think we better get dressed." Laurie started to blush and bite her bottom lip when Heyes gently put his fingers on her lip and said devilishly; "None of that or the farmer will have a big surprise when he comes in the door." Her cheeks became bright red as he reluctantly got up to get dressed.
Heyes was almost dressed when the barn door swung open. The man standing in the door of the barn had a shotgun in his hand and yelled, "Alright, who's in here? Come out with your hands up."
Heyes turned to Laurie, who was just getting dressed, and motioned with his hands to stay put, then yelled out, "I'm coming out sir. My name is Joshua Smith. I'm in your barn because I got caught in the storm last night. I mean you no harm." He waved his hands in front of him and stepped out of the stall.
"Okay, sonny, keep your hands up and step over here. I know there's someone else here with you, where are they, come on out?"
"It's just my wife, Laurie. Sir, she's just getting herself together, aren't you, sweetheart?"
"Mister," Laurie called out, "I need a little help from my husband. Can he..."
"No," the farmer yelled, pointing the gun at Heyes, "You stay put, and you, miss, get out of the stall."
Laurie stuck her head out of the stall with the blanket still wrapped around her, "I have a problem," she stuttered.
"What's the matter?" Heyes said stepping towards her.
"Stop," yelled the farmer, "Keep your hands up!"
"Jack!" yelled the woman standing behind the farmer, "Did I just hear his wife said she needed help?" she pushed by the farmer. "Jack, put the gun down. Dearie," she called out, "my name is Maggie Hartman; this is my husband Jack. What is the matter, can I help?" she said as she reached the stall.
"I can't get my dress buttoned," Laurie said meekly, with tears in her eyes, "I took it off to dry last night and now I can't..." Laurie's voice trailed off.
"Let me, oh my!" exclaimed Maggie.
Heyes looked at Jack and then ran to Laurie, "What?" and then he saw it. The right side of Laurie's dress was stained with blood and her right rib cage was bloodied and swollen. He stepped closer to her, "You didn't say anything. I had no.... I'm sorry."
"What's goin’ on?" Jack yelled.
"The wife is hurt bad, Jack," Maggie yelled back, "We need to get her to the house. Here dearie, keep this blanket around you. Let's get to the house and check you out." The three of them walked out of the stall. Heyes had his arm around Laurie's waist.
"Sir," Heyes called out, "I'm going to pick my wife up and carry her." He bent down and carefully picked Laurie up so that her good side was leaning against his chest.
Walking to the house, Maggie asked, "How did this happen?"
"We were on a picnic yesterday when the weather changed," Laurie said. "On the way back to town, a snake spooked the horse. When he reared the carriage broke, I fell out. I guess I hit my side pretty hard."
"Sweetheart, you didn't say anything," Heyes said, with extreme anguish in his voice.
With a look of reassurance, she said, "I didn't feel anything. I think it hurt, but with the storm, I was soaked and freezing, I really didn't feel anything until I tried to put my dress back on. I can't put the top on, it hurts too much; it's too tight. Maybe it shrunk because it was wet." Her eyes locked on brown ones. Gently she put her hand on his face, "It's not your fault. The carriage broke, and you did NOTHING to make it worse, REALLY, I did NOT realize until this morning." She smiled; he gave her a small smile back and a small gentle kiss.
They got to the house and Maggie instructed them to go to the bedroom. Laurie sat on the bed with the blanket around her with Heyes next to her, Jack stopped in the kitchen. "I have it from here, Mr. Smith. There's coffee in the kitchen with my husband, I'll take care of your wife," she said.
"Thank you, but she is my wife, I would like to," he started.
"Joshua, it's okay. Let Mrs. Hartman help me get cleaned up. You don't need to feel guilty. You really didn't do anything to cause this or make it any worse. Go have coffee," Laurie implored.
"I need to stay," he said, looking into her eyes and holding her hands.
"Okay," Laurie said returning his gaze, "Mrs. Hartman, thank you for being so kind and inviting us into your house."
"Of course dearie. Did I hear Mr. Smith call you Laurie?" she asked as she started to clean the wound. Laurie held the blanket up to cover herself as much as possible.
"Yes, my name is Laurie and my husband's name," she smiled broadly as she said it, "is Joshua. We were picnicking at the lake when the storm came. We tried to get back to Small Falls before it hit but then the snake spooked the horse, the carriage broke and I fell out. Joshua didn't realize the whole front of the carriage was broken and came to my side. By the time either one of us realized it, the horse was too far away to catch. We walked, hoping it would have stopped but we never found it. The storm came in so quickly and I'm deathly afraid of thunder and lightning so when we saw the barn from across the field, we ran for it. We were both soaked to the bone and I was freezing. Joshua thought I should wrap myself in the blankets from the barn and hang the clothes to dry. It was so dark and I was so wet and cold I had no idea how bad this was until I tried to put the dress on."
"I can see why it hurts so much. Besides being cut and bruised, I think you have some broken ribs. I don't think that dress is going on today."
Heyes jumped when he heard broken ribs, "Let me see." He gently placed his hand on Laurie's rib cage, "I can't believe you walked so far and said nothing," he said quietly. "Mrs. Hartman is right, I think you have at least three broken ribs, the dress isn't going to go on your top." Turning to Mrs. Hartman he asked, "Do you have anything I can bandage the ribs with?"
"Yes, I'll get some bandages and please, it's Maggie and Jack," she said and left the room.
Heyes sat for a moment, then took off his shirt and handed it to Laurie. "Here, you can wear this after I bandage you. It's dry and it will be loose enough not to hurt you, then we can tie the bottom of your dress around your waist. I need to get you to a doctor. Maybe they have a wagon we can borrow."
Taking his shirt Laurie asked, "But what about you?"
"I still have the Henley and my jacket, I'll be fine." Looking in her eyes, he touched her face and softly said, "I can't have my wife walking around half dressed, now can I?" and he smiled.
Laurie smiled back and bit her lip; she loved the fact that Heyes was calling her his wife. She knew it was only because of how they were found in the barn, but nonetheless, it made her heart pound every time she heard him say it.
Maggie walked back into the room with bandages and with the help of Heyes, bandaged the purple swollen ribs. She stood up and said, "Joshua, why don't you finish helping Laurie get decent, I'll go make some breakfast. See you in the kitchen."
Heyes helped Laurie secure the bottom of her dress. He carefully gathered it at the waist and tied it there with the sleeves. "This isn't too tight?" he asked.
She shook her head no.
Heyes could see she was in considerable pain, but was trying not to show it. He helped her put his shirt on, and buttoned it for her. He looked at her face and gave her a smile; she tried to smile back. He gently wrapped his arms around her, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. Then they headed to the kitchen.
Blond curls tossed and turned on the pillow all night, never staying still long enough for sleep to come. After perhaps dozing a few times in the night, Kid realized real sleep would elude him until he found Heyes. He got up and sat by the window with Sam copying his actions. As the sun began to rise, Kid’s determination to find Heyes and Laurie took hold. After slapping his face with water, he headed down the stairs.
Doris was waiting for him.
"I can't wait for them any longer, I have to go look. Can Sam stay with you?"
"Of course. Here's a bag of biscuits for you to take," she said, handing them to him. "Find them and bring them home, please. She really is like the daughter I never had."
"Ma'am," he said and tipped his hat.
"Thaddeus," Walter's voice came from the hallway, "The bridge is out; you're going to have to go to the hills. Let me get my things and I'll come with you."
"No, you stay here," Kid said, "Stay here in case they come back. Tell them to stay here. I'll be back. I'll go through the hills and pick up the road on the other side and follow it out to the lake.” He was out the door. Mounting his horse, he grabbed Heyes' horse in case he found them in trouble; the three of them couldn't ride on one horse. Kid rode through the hills and back to the road. There was no sign of Heyes, Laurie or the carriage. He was riding fast as the land was open as far as the eye could see; no place for shelter and no place to hide. Spotting something in the distance, he went to a full gallop and called for the pair.
As he feared when he saw it, it was the carriage Heyes and Laurie had left town in the day before. The picnic basket still sitting in the back confirmed it. The front axle and the whole front of the carriage were broken and the horse was nowhere in sight. He scanned the horizon and saw nothing. He called out for them again and once again there was no answer. Dismounting, he looked for horse tracks or any type of clue that wasn’t washed away by the storm. What he found was blood on a rock near the carriage. One of them was hurt. Studying the ground he found footprints in the mud. He surmised that the two must be on foot, that when the carriage broke, the horse must have run away. He tracked the footprints until they left the road. Looking in the distance, he could see a farmhouse and barn. Knowing his partner, he’d have headed there for shelter.
Maggie was busy in the kitchen making bacon and eggs when Heyes and Laurie came out of the bedroom. Heyes had his arm around her shoulder and was guiding her slowly towards the table.
"Sit down," Maggie said, "Breakfast will be ready in a minute. Jack, get them some coffee please."
Jack got up and got two cups of coffee and placed them in front of the pair. "Maggie was telling me what happened. I'm sorry I scared you this morning. I didn't know who was in the barn; all the hands are in South Falls. It's just Maggie and me here right now."
"We understand," brown eyes assured. "You don't have a wagon we can borrow so I can get Laurie into town, do you? I'll pay for it and return it as soon as I get her to a doctor."
"Son, if I had one, you wouldn't have to pay, but as I said, the hands are in town getting supplies. They have the wagons; I don't even have a horse you can borrow. They should be back by tomorrow."
There was a knock at the door. Jack got up to get it.
"Good morning, sir," Kid said when Jack opened the door, "My name is Thaddeus Jones and I'm lookin’ for some friends of mine that may have come this way durin’ the storm last night."
"Friends?" Jack questioned, "What would they be doing all the way out here?"
"Well, they started out on a picnic yesterday, but didn't make it back to town last night. I saw their broken carriage on the road across the field. I thought maybe they saw your place and headed this way. I saw some blood on a rock, one of them might be hurt."
"Your friends have names, Mr. Jones?" Jack asked.
"Yes!" Kid replied, sounding excited, "Joshua Smith and Laurie. Have you seen them?"
"Just happens, my wife is about to serve them some breakfast. Why don't you come in?"
Maggie was dishing up the plates when she heard voices in the hallway and footsteps heading her way.
"This fellow says he's looking for you," Jack said, walking into the kitchen with Kid following.
A huge smile appeared on all three of their faces. "Joshua, Laurie, I was," Kid started and then hesitated when he saw the way Laurie was dressed, "worried, especially when I saw the carriage. Are you okay, Laurie?"
She gave him a slight smile and Heyes replied, "She fell when the carriage broke. I think she has some broken ribs. We were lucky we found the Hartman's barn to stay in last night. Jack and Maggie found us this morning."
"Ma'am," Kid said tipping his hat at Maggie, "I'm Thaddeus Jones, Joshua's partner. I appreciate you and your husband's help." He walked over and gave Laurie a kiss on the head.
"Well, pull up a chair. There's plenty for all of us," Maggie said cheerfully. "Laurie, dear, you have to keep up your strength so stop pushing the food around on the plate and eat."
Heyes put his hand on top of Laurie's and gave a gentle squeeze. "Thaddeus, you didn't bring a wagon did you?"
"No," Kid replied, "just your horse. We could share a horse and Laurie could ride the other."
"Joshua," Laurie said weakly, "I don't think I can. I don't think I can hold on to a horse or control him by myself."
"It's okay," Heyes, said, quietly rubbing her hand, "Do you think you could do it if we rode together?"
"No, I mean, I don't know," Laurie whimpered.
"How about if you sit on my lap and I hold you on the horse?" Heyes quietly asked, "I wouldn't ask but I want the doctor to look at you."
"I'll try," Laurie said with tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry."
"Shhh," he said quietly, looking in her eyes and wiping the tears away. "It's okay. Let's finish breakfast and we'll try. "
After breakfast, they all headed out to the front porch. Heyes thought for a moment and then said, "Thaddeus, I’ll get on the horse and come along side the porch. I need you to carefully pick Laurie up and place her on my lap. “
"Laurie you'll lean on me and hold on the best you can. I’ll wrap my arms around you and make sure you’re safe. We'll need a blanket to put on the front of the saddle. That might make it easier to move Laurie into position and make it a little more comfortable."
Jack chimed in, "It's gonna hurt. Even if none of us touches those ribs, this is really gonna hurt."
"I can take it," Laurie said stoically.
"Jack's right, this may be unbearable," Heyes said, looking at Laurie with concern. Turning to Jack he asked, "Got any whiskey?"
Laurie had a few shots of whiskey. Everyone else started the preparations to get her on the horse.
Heyes mounted the horse and guided it to the side of the porch. Kid carefully picked Laurie up and placed her on his lap. As Kid picked her up, he bumped her side.
Laurie squealed and looked as though she was about to pass out.
Heyes steadied her, "I've got you," he whispered in her ear, "Lean back and relax, I won't let you fall." She was positioned on his lap, her legs hanging over the one side of the horse with the blanket cushioning the front of the saddle. Heyes had his arms around her, holding the reins with his right hand and with his left arm holding Laurie tight against his chest.
Kid got on his horse, they thanked Jack and Maggie, said goodbye, and rode off with Kid riding to the front left of Heyes to help guide his horse.
"We'll have to go through the hills. The storm washed out the bridge and I don't think Laurie could take the crossin’. It's tough, but we'll take it slow," Kid said, and then, since they were out of earshot, added, "Hey..." Kid stopped short, then asked, "Joshua, did you get what you came for?"
"Yes," he replied, "Laurie knows everything."
"You can call him Heyes now, Kid," Laurie said groggily, the whiskey starting to take effect.
"Good, it was hard rememberin’ around you. I mean it's just been so comfortable and easy goin’."
"Everything go okay on your end?" Heyes asked.
"Colonel was right, not a soul in the area. Was the lake being watched?"
"Both sides, but Laurie is a genius and they never had any idea," Heyes said with a smile. He told Kid about Laurie's plan, leaving out the intimate parts. He also filled him in on the broken carriage, their journey in the rain and finding the barn to stay in.
The rest of the ride was slow because they couldn't go fast with the way Laurie was perched on Heyes’ lap. Heyes didn't have the best control of his horse and the jostling or going fast would have been too much for her. They stopped a few times to reposition Laurie and to give her a rest as she felt every bump, sway and jostle of the horse. They rode towards town and then took the detour into the hills. Kid went first and told Heyes it was going to be tough but to stay on his tail, the path got very narrow at the top.
Back in town, Jimmy, Charlie's oldest son came running. "Sheriff, Sheriff, I found the horse! The horse Mr. Smith and Laurie left with yesterday," he exclaimed. "It's down on the other side of the river. It still has the reins and it's dragging the front part of the carriage. I didn't see Mr. Smith or Laurie anywhere."
Walter came running across the street. He asked anxiously, "Tom, did I hear right? They found the horse?” Doris followed her husband across the street.
"Jimmy said so. I've sent Charlie to check it out," replied the Sheriff.
"Can you get a search party together now?" Walter pleaded, "Thaddeus left to look for them at day break. They could be hurt."
Jimmy yelled, "I see something, coming down the hill! I think it’s two horses!"
Sheriff Hardy sent some men to go check and, fifteen minutes later, they came back with Kid, Heyes and Laurie.
"Back up everyone," Sheriff yelled, "What happened?"
"Carriage broke. Laurie's hurt pretty bad, she needs the doctor," the first man said.
"Jimmy, go get the doctor," Walter yelled.
Kid, still guiding Heyes' horse, came in first; he walked the horse up to the side of the boardwalk, stopped and dismounted. "Okay, Joshua, how do you want to do this?" he asked.
"Do you think you can get in a position to pick her up?" Heyes asked.
"I think so," Kid said. "If not, I should be able to slide her off."
Heyes, speaking quietly to Laurie, said, "Okay, sweetheart, Thaddeus is going to stand next to you. I want you to try to lean on his arm and I'll slowly ease you down to him. Put your head on his shoulder. He will do his best not to touch your side, do whatever you can with your arms to help steady yourself. Okay?"
She nodded her head yes.
She nodded again.
"Okay Thaddeus, here we go," Heyes said and Kid moved in to lift Laurie off Heyes' lap. As soon as Kid had Laurie in his arms, Heyes dismounted and took her from Kid. "I'm going to get you to the doctor now."
"Joshua," Doris said, "Bring Laurie to the hotel, we'll have the doctor look at her there. Put her in the room next to yours, it’s open."
He carried her across the street, into the hotel, up the stairs and into the room next to his, and gently placed her on the bed. He looked down at her, brushed the tears off her face and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "It's okay, sweetheart, the doctor will be here soon," he said softly as he stroked her hair.
Noise in the stairwell could be heard and in walked the doctor, Doris and Walter. "Hello, I'm Dr. John Williams," the doctor said to Heyes as he went to shake his hand.
"Joshua Smith," he replied as he shook the doctor's hand, "This is my partner Thaddeus Jones. I assume you know Laurie?"
"Yes," the doctor said, "Laurie, how are you?"
"Okay," she said weakly.
"What happened?" the doctor asked.
"The carriage broke and she fell out, hitting her side. I'm pretty sure she has some broken ribs," Heyes replied.
"I guess I need to examine you, Laurie," the doctor stated, turning to Doris added, "Doris, can you stay and assist me? Everyone else, I'll let you know when you can come back in."
Heyes looked at Laurie; he didn't want to leave. She looked back and nodded her head to let him know it was okay. He leaned over, gave her a kiss on the head and told her he would be right next-door. Then Heyes, Kid and Walter walked through the door connecting the rooms.
Kid grabbed a bottle out of a drawer, "Whiskey?"
Heyes nodded and Kid poured for the three of them. Heyes downed the drink and Kid poured another.
"She'll be okay," Walter, said, "Doc will take care of her. Don't worry; she can stay here as long as she wants, even after she's better. Doris has been trying to get her to move in for some time."
"Thanks, I appreciate that," Heyes said solemnly, "I think you'll just have to convince her." He downed the drink.
When the door was closed between the rooms, the doctor looked at Laurie and asked, "Laurie is that what really happened?"
"Yes!" she snapped. "Joshua tried to grab me so I wouldn't fall, but the horse pulled him forward. He also had to deal with the rattlesnake! “Why did you ask?"
"Well," the doctor cautiously said, "You're wearing his shirt."
"Oh," Laurie giggled, she had forgotten. "I was soaked from being caught in the storm and freezing. When we got to the barn, Joshua found some blankets for me to wrap myself in and be decent. I didn't know I was hurt this bad until I tried to put the dress on this morning and couldn't. I could have stayed wrapped in the blanket until we got back, but Joshua was kind enough to let me borrow his shirt. Mrs. Hartman cleaned the area and bandaged me. She tied my dress around my waist and Joshua gave me his shirt to cover up. I'm sorry I snapped. I guess it does look strange, me in his shirt. Oh my, what everyone must think!"
"Don't worry about any of them," Doris said, "I'll set them straight and the ones who believe different; well, we really don't care what they believe."
With Doris' help, the doctor examined Laurie. She did have three broken ribs and a very deep bruise. He told Doris it would be good for Laurie to soak in a bath with salts. It would soothe the ribs and cuts, and help the swelling. He demonstrated to Doris how she should re-bandage the ribs after the bath and informed them both that Laurie shouldn't do anything for at least a week. He then let the men back in.
"You're right Mr. Smith," the doctor said, "She has three broken ribs, the others are badly bruised. I told Doris that she should soak, at least once a day for the next few days, keep the ribs bandaged and shouldn't do anything for at least a week. I'll come back and check on her tomorrow."
"Thanks, Doc," Heyes said and shook his hand. Turning to Laurie he said, "We'll do our best to make sure she follows your instructions."
The doctor left the room, followed by Walter. Doris went to get the bath water ready for Laurie. Kid walked over to Laurie, gave her a kiss on the head and said to Heyes, "I'll wait for you on the porch." When he left, he closed the door.
Heyes walked over, carefully sat down on the side of the bed, picking up Laurie’s hands. "You all right?" he asked quietly.
She gave him a meek smile.
He lightly brushed the back of his hand on her face, "You look really tired. Doris is getting the stuff for you to soak in, and then I think you should rest. I have to go send a telegram. I'll come back and check on you after your bath." He leaned forward and gave her a kiss, then added, "I wish I could take it with you." Laurie blushed and bit her bottom lip. "No," he whispered, "We need to save that until you're better." Then he kissed her more passionately, being careful not to touch her ribs.
There was a knock on the door as it opened; Doris came in with stuff to prepare the bath. "I have it from here Joshua. Laurie, I'm going to put these things on the bed, they’re for you when you get out of the bath. I have plenty of things for you here, but if you want, Joshua can go out to you place to get anything you need. The water should be done, so Joshua, say good-bye. Laurie, wait until I get back so I can help you in the tub." Doris turned toward the door and held it open until Joshua left. She closed the door and went to retrieve the water and salts.
Doris helped Laurie in the tub and she started to soak. The warm water felt incredible, it was helping to soothe her ribs and the cuts. She was getting so relaxed; it was hard for her to stay awake. After fifteen minutes Doris came back and helped her out of the tub, redressed the wound and helped her put on a new nightgown. Laurie climbed into bed and fell fast asleep dreaming of the incredible day and night with Joshua.
Heyes walked out on the porch and saw Kid sitting in a chair waiting for him.
"How's she doin’?" he asked.
"Okay, I think," replied Heyes. "Doris chased me out, she's going to soak. I told her I would check in later. Guess it's time to send a telegram to the Colonel and see what's next. Figured we could head over to the saloon after for a drink…and to talk; lots happened in the last twenty-four hours."
Kid got up and they both headed down the porch stairs. When they got to the street, Kid put his hand on his partner’s shoulder and asked, "Heyes, you okay?"
Still looking forward, not breaking stride, he quietly replied, "Yeah Kid, I'm okay."
They sent the telegram to the Colonel and went to the saloon. It was fairly empty so they didn't really have to worry about anyone hearing them, but they took the table in the far corner just to make sure, and ordered beer. The partners filled each other in on their days; Heyes of course, omitted the activities with Laurie that didn’t have to do with the pick-up. He may have omitted it, but Kid could tell how his partner felt about her every time he mentioned her name, by the look on his face and the smile. After a few, the beer was beginning to affect both men. Realizing they were both exhausted, they headed back to the hotel for some rest. Before he lay down, Heyes quietly opened the door between the rooms to check on Laurie; she was sound asleep. He quietly closed the door and went to sleep himself.