Small Falls Reboot 2014
By: Storm Richards
It was late afternoon in early spring, the sky was blue, the sun was high and there was a light breeze. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were at the end of a long journey to the town of Small Falls, a quiet little town where they were to await a telegram from Colonel Marker. He had given the boys work before, and more importantly, he was a very good friend of the Governor; the same Governor who had promised the partners amnesty if they could stay out of trouble.
“How long before the Colonel contacts us?" Kid asked Heyes.
"Don't know,” his partner replied, "we got here quicker than we're supposed to, so it might be a day or two."
Approaching the town they heard the muffled sound of a woman's scream. Turning the far corner into Small Falls they almost ran into a man grabbing and dragging a woman.
"Hey," Heyes yelled, "let go of her."
"She's none of your business," the man yelled back.
"Maybe not, but you don't treat any woman that way," Heyes stated as he dismounted.
Kid sat still, watching with his hand and gun at the ready.
"Are you okay, ma'am?" the ex-outlaw leader inquired.
With her head bowed and her eyes looking down, the young woman responded, "I'm fine. Thank you for your concern."
"I think it's time for you to let go of her arm," the brown haired partner demanded of the man.
"It's none of your business," the man barked.
"It is now," said Curry, pointing his gun at the man. "Miss, is this man your father, husband, brother?"
"No sir," the woman responded, still looking at the ground.
"Then, I think it's time you let her go," Heyes told the man.
Looking at the gun pointing at him and the glare from the man standing only a few feet away, the man huffed, released the woman's arm and stomped off.
"Are you okay, Miss?" brown eyes looked on with concern. “I'm Joshua Smith and this is my partner Thaddeus Jones."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones. My name is Laurie. I'm okay," the young woman responded.
"What’d he want?" the blond man asked.
"Nothing," she stuttered, "that was Mr. Carlson. He owns the General Store and he was just mad at me. It was really nothing, thank you." Laurie turned and quickly ran down the street to the back alley.
"I don't think it was nothing," Kid said to Heyes.
"I know," his partner responded, mounting his horse, "but what can we do? She said it was nothing and ran away."
"Yeah, but did you see how she was dressed? And her dress was ripped…" Kid started to say.
"I know, but she doesn't want our help. Anyway we're not here to draw attention to ourselves. We have to wait for the Colonel to contact us. We need the money, the job and his good word to the Governor. Let's go find the hotel and check in."
"We would like a room and a bath," Kid said to the hotel clerk.
"Yes, sir. Will you be staying with us long?" asked the desk clerk.
"A few days," responded Heyes.
"Pleasure or business?" asked the clerk.
"A little of both," responded Heyes.
"Please sign in here. I'll give you the front corner room. My name is Walter Jansen; my wife Doris and I own the hotel. If you need anything," he said, looking at the registry, "Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, just let us know."
After getting cleaned up, Kid turned to Heyes, who was looking out the front window of the room, "See anyone familiar out there?"
"No, it looks like a nice quiet town. Haven't seen a familiar face at all."
"Great, I'm starvin’. Let's go eat."
"When aren't you starving?" replied Heyes with a smirk.
Leaving the hotel, Heyes scanned the street. He noticed Mr. Carlson talking to the Sheriff. As they started to cross the street to the café, the lawman turned and started walking towards the hotel, altering his course when his saw the partners in the street.
"Heyes," Kid said, with uncertainty in his voice.
"I see, just keep walking. I don't recognize him, do you?"
"No. So why does he look like he's headed directly for us?"
"Don't know, just keep walking, and don't pay attention to him. Maybe he just decided to get something to eat," Heyes said, figuring the Sheriff was on a direct course to them.
Just as they reached the boardwalk, the Sheriff called out, "Excuse me boys."
"Us?" asked Heyes, sounding surprised.
"Yes," replied the lawman, "I would like a word with you two."
"What can we do for you?" inquired the brown haired partner, plastering a smile on his face as he turned to look at the man.
“I'm Sheriff Tom Hardy. To start, you can tell me who you are and what you're doing in town," he replied in a very serious and all business like tone.
"My name is Joshua Smith; this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones. We're just passing through. Waiting for a telegram about a job."
"Passing through?" the Sheriff asked, looking curiously at the boys, "Who's the telegram from?"
"Colonel Marker," replied the blond man. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I have been told that you're up to no good, are lookin’ for trouble and probably have wanted posters. It’s my job to check these things out."
Heyes responded with a smile on his face, "We're law abiding citizens, Sheriff. My partner and I are here waiting for a telegram. We don't want any trouble. Can you tell us who told you we’re outlaws?"
Before Hardy had a chance to respond, Laurie stepped out of the shadows of the café, where she had been sweeping. She was still wearing the dress she had on earlier. Heyes noticed that the rip he had seen earlier had been repaired.
"Joshua is that you? Is that really you?" she called out as she ran over and gave him a hug.
Heyes was stunned but returned the hug and said, "Yes it's me." He paused and said cautiously, "Laurie?"
"Excuse me," the lawman interrupted, "Laurie, you know these men?"
"Yes," she replied, enthusiastically, "This is Joshua Smith, my ex-fiancé and his cousin Thaddeus Jones."
"Your ex-fiancé?" inquired the Sheriff.
"Yes. We were supposed to be married three years ago, but my mother didn't approve so she had Joshua run out of town." Looking at Heyes, Laurie continued, "Don't worry Joshua, I know mother threatened you and your parents if you didn't leave town. When I found out, I left too. Don't worry. I don't blame you at all." Turning back to the Sheriff, "Now Sheriff, Joshua and Thaddeus are certainly not outlaws. Mr. Carlson only told you that because they stopped him from yelling at me earlier. You know how he gets if he doesn't get his way." Sheriff Hardy looked at Laurie and opened his mouth to speak, but she continued talking a mile a minute, "Sheriff, my real name is Laura Cain, of the East Coast Cain's. When I went after Joshua, my mother disowned me. That's how I ended up here by myself. If you don't believe me, just send a telegram to her. She can tell you Joshua and Thaddeus are not outlaws. She didn't want me to marry him because she didn't think he and his family had enough money, not because he is an outlaw." A rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. "Well, Sheriff," Laurie said nervously, "If you could excuse me, I have to get Sam and get home. Joshua, Thaddeus, it was good to see you again. Good night." Laurie quickly turned, picked up her skirt and ran down the street calling for Sam.
"Sorry boys," the Sheriff said, "I guess I'll have to take your word and Laurie's that you're on the up and up. I really have nothing to prove you are anything but who you say. Just stay out of trouble while you're here."
"Yes sir," Heyes replied.
With more thunder in the distance, Hardy said, "We're gonna have a storm. Better check that everything is tied down. Have a good night." He tipped his hat and turned toward the jail.
The partners resumed their original path to the café. Kid asked, "What just happened?"
"I have no idea Kid, no idea!" Heyes mumbled, "I do know two things. Laurie got us out of trouble for tonight, and we may find it tomorrow if the Sheriff sends that telegram to her mother." He turned toward his partner, "Forget, food, I need a drink!"
"Fine. We'll get a drink, then food," blue eyes implored. "Tomorrow you're gonna have to straighten her out. I mean you aren't her ex-fiancé are you?"
Heyes shot a look at Kid that could have killed.
Kid shrugged. He had a very small, almost undetectable, smile on his face; he loved getting under his partner's skin.
After a very stormy night, the sun came up and the clouds began to disappear. Heyes was already awake, dressed and looking out the window when Kid rolled over. "See anythin’?" he asked.
"No," replied Heyes.
"How long have you been up?"
"Real talkative today, huh? Well, you better get that silvery tongue workin’ when you see Laurie. You have to find out why she thinks you're her ex-fiancé and if she has it out for you. We still have a day, maybe two, before we get the telegram. We can't have her runnin’ around after you."
"I don't even know where to find her to talk to her."
"Well, you're not gonna find her sittin’ here. Let's go get breakfast!"
Heyes looked at his partner and wondered if he ever thought of anything but food. Kid liked to eat. If it were up to him, Kid would choose eating over almost anything else.
Walking down the steps of the hotel, they were greeted by a very lovely, soft-spoken middle age woman, "Good Morning, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones. I'm Doris Jansen. Can I interest you in some breakfast this morning?"
"Yes ma'am," Kid said with a huge smile on his face.
"Good, we have fresh muffins and biscuits this morning, as well as, bacon, eggs, pancakes and coffee," Mrs. Jansen informed them. "What would you like?"
"Everythin’ ma'am, I mean, it all sounds so good, it would be really hard to decide," Kid answered.
"Very well, a little," she paused and looked at him as she detected a pout begin to form, "a lot of everything for you." Turning to Heyes she asked, "What may I get for you, Mr. ......"
"Smith," Heyes replied. "I'm Joshua Smith; my hungry friend is Thaddeus Jones. One of the muffins and some coffee will be fine. Thank you."
"That's all?" inquired Mrs. Jansen.
"Yes ma'am," the brown haired partner answered. With a smile on his face he added, "My partner eats enough for both of us."
Blue eyes glared at brown. Heyes looked down with a huge grin on his face.
"I hope you're thinkin’ about what you're gonna say to Laurie when you see her," Kid shot back.
"Working on it," grumbled Heyes.
Mrs. Jansen brought out breakfast. The two of them sat and ate in silence. Kid knew by the look on Heyes' face, he was trying to figure out how to handle Laurie. First though, they had to find her.
After breakfast, they wandered over to the telegraph office to see if their telegram had arrived. It hadn't, but the operator said there had been some trouble with transmissions due to the big storm the previous night. He told them that telegrams were re-sent late in the afternoon just to make sure they've reached their destination.
Heyes informed the man they were staying at the hotel and if the telegram arrived before they checked back, could he please leave word for them there.
"Now what?" Kid questioned as they walked out of the office. "We've checked out the town, everythin’ seems safe. Oh, there is that little problem we may have with Laurie."
"I know," Heyes sighed, "I've been keeping my eye out for her and haven't seen her. I'm going to have to find out where she lives and go talk to her."
As they rounded the corner of the telegraph office they came face to face with Sheriff Hardy, "Morning Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones."
"Morning, Sheriff," they responded in unison.
"Just checkin’ for our telegram," Kid added as they kept walking.
Heyes turned around and asked, "Sheriff, I've been looking for Laurie all morning but haven't seen her. Do you know where she might be?"
"After last night's storm, I think you'll find her at her house," the Sheriff answered.
"Since I just ran into her yesterday, I don't know where she lives, could you tell me?" Heyes asked.
"Well, normally I wouldn't tell a stranger, but since Laurie said she knows you, I guess it’s okay. Go out past the General Store, go about two miles; as you round a big bend in the road, Laurie's house will be on the right."
"Thank you Sheriff," he tipped his hat.
"Mr. Smith," the Sheriff hesitated, "Be kind to her." He hesitated again and looked into Heyes' eyes, "Please, be kind to her, she is a really good person."
Confused, the ex-outlaw leader answered, "I plan on it Sheriff."
The lawman turned and the partners walked away. "This is gettin’ a little strange. Do you think we should both go and see her?" Kid asked.
"No," Heyes replied, shaking his head, "I can handle it. You stay here and check on the telegram. I'm going to ride out to see Laurie and find out what’s going on. I'll meet you at the room for dinner. Then, I think I want to try some poker. Did you notice they were holding on a pair yesterday? If we get an early start, we might have a big night!" A smile that could light up the town spread across Heyes' face and his eyes sparkled even brighter at the thought of playing poker and winning!
* * *
Heyes rode past the General Store and down the road. About two miles from town he started around what he assumed was the big bend in the road. On the right side was a very small, dilapidated shack or a very old playhouse built for little kids that had gone unused since the kids grew up. He was looking for Laurie's house when a golden retriever came flying out from behind the shack, barking all the way to him.
"Sam!" Laurie yelled as she came running out from behind the structure; stopping dead in her tracks when she saw who Sam was barking at. "Sam," she repeated, "Stop that. It's Mr. Smith. Sam, stop barking, it’s okay." Sam stopped barking and went over to where Laurie was standing. "Can I help you Mr. Smith? Are you lost?"
"No, I'm not...Why would you ask if I was lost?" questioned Heyes.
"Oh, it's just that there is nothing out this way, so I thought you might be lost," Laurie stuttered.
Heyes dismounted and walked over to her. She wore a very old and worn dress that didn't fit; actually, it didn't look like it ever had fit her. It was too short and way too wide to have ever fit the petite woman standing in front of him. He hadn't noticed much about Laurie yesterday, maybe because she didn't look at him, or because all the events were so confusing, but as he got closer, he realized how attractive she actually was. She was probably twenty-four or twenty-five years old, petite with a very smooth face and her big hazel eyes made her look so innocent. Her hair was long and brown tied back with a piece of old material. He stood mesmerized by her for a minute and then with a smile said to her very quietly, "No, I'm not lost, I was looking for you."
"Me?" she said, with a look and sound of puzzlement.
"Yes, you," Heyes said, looking into her eyes. "We have to talk."
"Oh," Laurie said, looking at the ground, "If you mean about yesterday, don't worry, I know you're not my ex-fiancé."
"Because you helped me out earlier. You made Mr. Carlson stop and because of that, he told Sheriff Hardy you were outlaws. I didn't think it was fair for you to suffer because you helped me."
"But, you told the Sheriff he could send a telegram to your mother," Heyes continued.
"Oh, don't worry. I talked to the Sheriff early this morning. I told him that my mother may not respond and if she did, she probably wouldn't acknowledge you, or me, for that matter," Laurie said, biting her lip and turning to walk away.
"How do you know?" Heyes asked as he followed Laurie.
With her back still towards Heyes and her head looking down at the ground, Laurie continued, "I know because my mother disowned me after my father died. I was eight years old and she sent me away to boarding school. I was never allowed to go home, not even for holidays. I lived there and spent holidays and summers with whoever was unlucky enough to have to work. Two years later, the headmaster called me in and gave me a letter from a lawyer. It said that I was no longer a Cain, my name had been removed from the will and papers had been signed to end all financial obligations to me. I would be sent to an orphanage and I should not try to contact my mother or any other relative."
Heyes listened in horror, "But," was all he could get out.
He reached out to touch her arm and felt her trembling. He held it there as she continued, "You see, I was adopted. My father wanted a child; my mother didn't want the hassle of having one. I was his little princess. My father and I did everything together, and then he got sick. My mother couldn't take it. When he died she just looked at me with such hate. I thought if I went away to school she would love me and things would be fine. I lived in the orphanage ‘til I was seventeen and then they told me I had to leave. I tried to contact my mother. I sent her a letter asking if I could come see her. I received a telegram back from the lawyer saying that I was no longer recognized as a Cain and I should not use the name again or try to contact anyone in the family. If I did, legal action would be taken against me." Composing herself as best as she could, Laurie turned and faced Heyes, "I showed that telegram to the Sheriff this morning. The date's worn so you can't tell that it's from eight years ago, not three. I also showed him the locket my father gave me. It has my full name and date on the back. I told the Sheriff I was too embarrassed to say anything in front of you yesterday, but wanted to let him know what type of response he will probably get."
Heyes stood there, stunned by the story. He and Kid had lost their family but they were killed. They hadn't been discarded and at least they still had each other. He didn't know what to say.
"So," Laurie said, turning away from Heyes and trying to hide the hurt in her voice, "you and Mr. Jones won't be bothered by the Sheriff. Even if he gets a telegram, it won't be from my mother; it will be from the lawyer. You really have nothing to worry about." Laurie paused and then added, "Mr. Smith, I would appreciate you not telling anyone what I just told you. You're the only person besides the orphanage that knows what really happened and I'd like it to stay that way. The Sheriff just thinks my mother disowned me because of you, so I figured I was safe telling you because if you say anything, he’ll probably give you a hard time."
"I won't," Heyes said sheepishly, "I won't tell anyone."
Laurie continued, "If you need to tell Mr. Jones, I understand, just please ask him not to say anything." As she wiped off the tear that was falling down her face, she turned and abruptly changed her tone, "I'm sorry. Where are my manners? Mr. Smith, would you like a glass of water?"
Realizing the subject had been closed; Heyes replied quietly, "Yes, that would be nice."
He watched Laurie turn and walk to the side of the shack and open the door. He was about to ask her where her house was when it hit him. The falling down shack was in fact her home.
She returned with a tall glass of water. "It's still cool, I just got it a little while ago," Laurie said, as she handed Heyes the glass.
"Thank you, Laurie, and if I'm calling you Laurie, you could at least call me Joshua. You were my fiancé, remember?" Heyes said with a smile, as he tried to take in the surroundings without being too obvious.
"Joshua it is." Laurie blushed, "It's okay to look around. This is my house, I wish you hadn't seen it, but you have, so there's no sense me denying it. Sam and I live here. It's not much, but it's what I got." Her voice trailed off as she glanced at the shack that looked like it would fall down if you breathed on it.
"Sam?" Heyes questioned.
"He's the ferocious dog that came running and barking at you when you arrived but has been licking your hand and trying to play with you ever since. He's my family; he protects me and is a good judge of character. I guess if he likes you so much, you can't be too bad," Laurie said with a small bashful smile.
"Oh," Heyes laughed. Picking up a stick, he threw it for the dog, which happily chased it down and brought it back. As he was playing with Sam, Heyes checked out the area. To the right of the shack was a small but very well tended vegetable garden. There was a pile of wood pieces stacked on the side of the shack with some nails and a very old hammer. A big tree behind the house would provide some protection from the elements, and a fire pit, surrounded by a couple of rocks big enough to sit on, but nothing else. Across the dirt path that led by the structure was a small stream, lined with rocks and trees. Heyes now understood why the Sheriff had asked him to be kind.
Laurie walked away and although she was terribly embarrassed about Joshua seeing her this way, she tried desperately not to show it and was thrilled to have company even if it was only for a few minutes. "It's okay, Mr. Smith," Laurie started as Heyes gave her a look, "I mean Joshua. You don't have to stay here with me; I mean to play with Sam. I..."
"It looks like you have some wood that could fix some of the holes in your roof," Heyes commented as he walked towards the shack, changing the subject. "How ‘bout if I see if I can put them to good use. I am very good with my hands," he said, remembering how bad he really was with a hammer! Moving over to the pile, he began to look through the wood; most appeared to be new and in good shape, cut to sizes that would be easy to handle. He saw a pile of new nails next to the wood. "This is good wood, and its cut and ready to be nailed to the roof," Heyes said with surprise in his voice.
"Yes, I know," replied Laurie. "Some of the people in town have a tendency to lose pieces of wood during storms. They also get rid of good nails. I know that they are really putting the wood out for me to find," she explained. "I go to town early after storms and clean up. Some of the people leave me things that I might need and some just leave good wood and new nails that I can use. I gather it up and bring it out here. The house, well, it's barely a shack. It used to be Mr. Carlson's son's clubhouse. It's my home now and it does need a lot of work, but as I said, it's what I got."
The ex-outlaw leader worked side by side with Laurie all afternoon fixing the roof. He had not worked this hard in a long time but he wasn't going to slow down or take a break as Laurie worked just as hard, never stopping and never complaining. They talked of all different things. Laurie mostly wanted to know the different places Joshua had been. She asked every detail about towns, mountains, lakes, streams; she was interested in anything and everything he had to say. They talked and laughed all afternoon. Laurie was so happy just to have company and to talk to someone besides Sam. As the sun started to set, the last of the big holes in the roof had been patched and all of the wood had been used.
"You really are good with your hands, Mr., I mean Joshua," Laurie said with a smile.
Heyes looked at her and for the first time her smile lit up her face. She had a twinkle in her eyes and she was truly beautiful. He couldn't believe that he hadn't noticed it before. He thought, she worked as hard as I did, maybe harder, and she can still smile. That's just amazing.
"Thank you so much for your help, it means more than I could ever express, thank you," Laurie continued with tears beginning to form in her eyes, "I just wish I could repay you for your hard work. I can make you something to eat, but I only have a few vegetables from the garden. I do have a few muffins you could have, I'm so sorry, I never offered you anything but water, I'm sorry, I don't…"
Heyes put his hands on her arms and looked into her eyes, "Shhh, relax its okay. I didn't need anything but water, and you don't have to do anything. You've already helped out, with the Sheriff, I mean. And besides, it's Thaddeus who is always hungry," Heyes said with a smile that got bigger and brighter as he stared into Laurie's eyes. "I have to go to town to meet Thaddeus for dinner, would you please join us?" he asked quietly.
"No, thank you, you don't have to," Laurie stopped and looked at the ground, "Thank you for everything Joshua. I'll never forget you and how kind you were to me. Tell Thaddeus I said thank you for lending you to me today. I have to get some rest now; I have to be in town first thing in the morning. I clean the boardwalks and the windows of the General Store, but it has to be done when no one is on the streets or Mr. Carlson won't pay me."
"Speaking of Mr. Carlson," Heyes inquired.
"Good night, Joshua and thank you," Laurie interrupted. She lifted herself up on her toes, gave Heyes a quick kiss on the cheek and turned and ran into the shack.
Heyes arrived back in town and wandered into the hotel room. He really didn't remember the ride or going into the room; he had been playing the day’s events over and over in his head.
"Heyes," Kid asked, "Everythin’ okay?"
"Sure," Heyes absently replied, "Why?"
"I called you three times before you answered," Kid explained, "and what's with the big grin?"
"Oh," glassy brown eyes replied unconsciously.
"What's goin’ on?" Kid demanded, "You stumble into the room, don't respond when I'm talkin’ to you, you have this look, I don't know what kind of look, but a look on your face and you're half an hour late for dinner - I'm starvin’!"
"Sorry," his partner apologized. "Let me get cleaned up, we'll go to dinner and I'll explain everything. By the way, did we get the telegram?"
"No. Ready for dinner?"
The partners went down to the dining room in the hotel. They sat at the corner table where they could see the whole room, including the door. As they ate dinner, Heyes told Kid what had happened that day with Laurie. He didn't tell him about her beautiful eyes or her smile, although he thought about them.
"There's that look again," Kid said curiously.
"What?" Heyes asked trying to suppress his smile.
"She got to you! In one afternoon, she got to you!"
Heyes didn't respond but he knew Kid was right and the look on his face told Kid he was right.
When they were done with dinner, the two headed to the saloon. It was a fairly quiet night, no fights, and no calls of cheating, just poker.
"How'd you do?" Kid asked as they were leaving.
"About thirty," Heyes said as he tucked the money into his pocket. "Slow night, no one taking chances, no big pots to win."
Stepping through the batwing doors of the saloon and out onto the boardwalk, they heard the sound of thunder rumble through the air as a flash of lightning lit up the sky. In the flash, Heyes caught a glimpse of a dog rounding the corner of the livery and out of sight.
"Hey, that looked like Sam!" he exclaimed.
"Who?" Kid asked.
"Sam, Laurie's dog," the dimpled partner continued. Just as he was about to shout, someone walked up behind him.
"It was Sam, don't call out," advised the Sheriff. The two turned to see Sheriff Hardy a step behind them. "It's going to be another stormy night. Laurie doesn't stay at her house when it's like this," he explained. "She sleeps in the back of the livery. She doesn't think we know, but Mr. Grimes has loosened a board so that she and Sam can get in the back. She's deathly afraid of lightning. She leaves early in the morning before anyone in town is awake. That's why all the storm debris is picked up before anyone gets to the street. She doesn't think we know and we're not going to let her know we know. I don't want her to stop coming to town when the weather's like this. She's all by herself out there and that shack really isn't sturdy; any of these winds could knock it down. When the weather's really bad or cold, I get her to come clean the jail and she stays there for the night. If you care about her at all, you won't let her know you saw her."
"We won't," Heyes said solemnly and turned to go to the hotel. Turning back to the Sheriff, he said, "It would be nice if she found some bigger pieces of wood and a few more nails in the debris tomorrow."
The lawman nodded and turned to walk to the other side of town. The partners walked to the hotel in silence. Kid was trying to take in everything that Heyes had told him earlier, as well as this exchange with the Sheriff. He looked at the pained expression on Heyes' face. "Is it really that bad?"
Brown eyes continued looking straight ahead and replied, "Yeah Kid, it is."
Hannibal Heyes was always up before his partner, but this morning he made sure he was up before the sun came up. Sitting in the chair by the window, he watched the street looking for any signs of movement. As he watched, he surveyed the area and the damage that last night's storm had done to the town. Besides downed leaves and branches, pieces of lumber were scattered around town. He saw a couple of larger pieces along with a few small pieces, but there was enough lumber to fix at least one side of the shack. At that moment Heyes decided he liked Sheriff Hardy. He continued to watch until he saw movement from behind the livery. He watched as the debris was cleared and branches and leaves were neatly piled in the side alley. All wood that could be used was piled on what appeared to be an old piece of material. He saw Laurie picking up small things and gathering them in her shirt. He couldn't see what she was picking up, but he assumed she had found some more nails. The sun started to come up and the sky began to brighten, Heyes could see Laurie was wearing a pair of pants and a shirt that from that distance still looked as though they were way too big for her. A smile spread across his face; watching this woman brought peacefulness to him. He couldn’t remember when he had felt this calm and relaxed or even happy about something. Laurie had nothing and yet she was able to go about her life with such grace instead of being bitter; it amazed him.
After Laurie finished cleaning the debris, she swept the boardwalk, gathered the little tokens (food, grain, cloth and some money) that the shop owners had left for her hard work, and went to the pile of wood. She grabbed one end of the material and, with Sam grabbing the other side; she began to drag the pile of wood towards the shack.
Heyes quickly wrote Kid a note, "Going out. Eat breakfast without me. I'll be back in time to check on the telegram." As he took the hotel stairs by two, he ran into Mrs. Jansen, "Good morning, ma'am."
"Good morning, Mr. Smith, you're up awfully early," she said. "Can I get you some breakfast?"
"Thank you ma'am, but I have to run out," Heyes said then added, "You wouldn't by any chance have any more of those muffins would you?"
"Actually, I do," Mrs. Jansen replied.
"Great, can I get two; make that three in a bag so I can take them with me?" Heyes asked.
"Coming right up," she said with a smile.
The ex-outlaw took the muffins from the inn keeper and went to the Livery to get his horse. He knew Laurie didn't have much of a head start, and with dragging the wood, he should be able to catch up to her quickly. Even the thought of seeing her face to face brought a smile to his. She had gotten to him in one afternoon, and he knew it. Heyes soon spotted Laurie and Sam pulling the wood along the road and asked, "Can I give you a hand?"
She had been working so hard pulling the wood and talking to Sam that she hadn't heard Heyes' horse until it was right on top of them. Startled and embarrassed by how she looked, she turned around and tried to smooth her hair and fix her clothes. "Joshua, you're up early," she said as she continued trying to make herself more presentable. "What brings you out this way?"
"I thought you could use some help with the wood," he said with a smile as he dismounted. He took hold of the material the wood was on, lightly touching her hand, and thought for a moment of holding it. "Here, let me tie this to the horse and let him pull it. It will be a lot easier and quicker. And, it will free our hands so we can enjoy the muffins I brought for breakfast." Heyes smiled and looked deeply into Laurie's eyes. He had an irresistible urge to reach out and pull her close to him, but he thought it would be best not to.
Laurie looked into this man's beautiful brown eyes, a man that she had only met two days ago and realized she was falling for him. His eyes were so kind; looking into them, she just wanted to melt. She knew she had never felt this way before, and she knew she had no right to feel this way now. She just couldn't help it. She tried telling herself that this wasn't real and no man, especially one as kind and caring as this one was, would ever feel that way about her. She tried as she stood there for what seemed like hours telling herself not to feel this way, but giving into every emotion her heart was sending.
"Laurie," Heyes asked, "Are you okay? Is something wrong? Did I do something wrong? I mean we can walk or ride on the horse, it's up to you."
Laurie blushed and said, "I'm sorry, no, you didn't do anything wrong, everything's fine, I just... I just, well…I've never had anyone be so kind to me, I guess I just didn't know what to say or how to react. Most of the people in town won't even make eye contact with me and here you are, someone I just met, talking to me and helping me out. I just don't know what to say." Quietly she said, "Thank you."
Heyes looked at Laurie and said with a smile, "I don't mind, I am your ex-fiancé, remember?" Changing the subject in hopes of regaining the composure he was losing, he asked, "You walk back and forth to town all the time?"
"Yes," Laurie said as she walked side by side with him, "It's not a bad walk, well, as long as the weather's not bad."
"Muffin?" he asked as he produced a muffin for himself, Laurie and Sam.
The three of them walked and talked all the way back to the shack. When they got there, Heyes carefully took inventory of the wood and the damage to the far side of the shack. This time he asked Laurie if he could see the inside to see if any of the beams needed to be shored up. As he walked in, Heyes saw a very small room with an old cot along one side of the wall with a pile of old books on a stool next to it. A few nails in the side of the wall with clothes hanging on them, a small dresser with drawers was on the far wall and a table with a lantern, a pitcher of water and two chairs sat in the middle of the room. In the corner, a few old pots and pans were neatly stacked.
Kid rolled over with the sun shining in the window. He looked around to find his partner and instead spotted the note Heyes had left for him. Reading the note, he shook his head and thought, this isn't the time; it isn't the time.
He went down to breakfast and once again ordered everything, and then went out on the porch to wait for Heyes. When the telegraph office opened, he walked over to check to see if theirs had arrived yet. Kid walked slowly back to the porch and sat once again waiting for his partner. At some point in time, he must have dozed off because when he woke up, the sun was high in the sky. Still no Heyes and he was growing very impatient.
Kid knew where his partner was, even if he didn't tell him. He had seen the look in his eyes the night before as he talked about Laurie. Heyes doesn't do this; he's always the one falling for someone, not Heyes. Kid began to worry about how his partner was going to figure things out if his head was cloudy with thoughts of a woman. After checking the telegraph office one more time, he decided to ride out towards Laurie's house; it couldn't be as bad as Heyes said it was. As he rounded the bend, the first thing he saw was Heyes working on the side of a shack with Laurie in the garden. The next thing he knew, Sam was at his feet barking.
Laurie turned and yelled, "Sam, stop that. It's Mr. Jones. Sam please!"
Heyes stopped hammering and yelled, "Sam, come here boy," Sam turned and ran to him. "Thaddeus, what brings you out here?"
"You," replied Kid in a very short and stern voice as he dismounted.
"Oh," replied his brown haired partner, walking over to meet him. "Did we get the telegram?"
"No," the blond man replied, continuing in a rather surly manner. "Your note said you would be back after breakfast. I wanted to make sure everythin’ was okay."
Laurie had walked close enough to hear the two men. She could see Mr. Jones was not happy his partner was out here with her. She assumed it was because of who she was. There were some nice people in town, the Sheriff, the Jansens, Mr. and Mrs. Quimby, Mr. Grimes, but most of them pretended she didn't exist or were mean and hurt her like Mr. Carlson. She assumed Mr. Jones was just like them. "I'm sorry, Mr. Jones," Laurie said in a very quiet voice as she looked at the ground. "I didn't mean to keep Josh, I mean, Mr. Smith, out here. It's my fault and I'm really sorry. I can clean and groom your horse later in town to make up for it. Please don't be mad at Mr. Smith, he was just trying to help, I shouldn't have asked him, I'm sorry."
Laurie stood looking down at the ground with her arms folded together in front of her. She looked so frightened and frail. Heyes couldn't believe this was the same person he had been with yesterday and this morning. All the life and happiness just disappeared before his eyes. They were laughing and playing with Sam ten minutes before. Now she was back to calling him Mr. Smith. "Laurie," Heyes said with concern as he walked towards her, "It's okay, my partner gets a little cranky when he misses a meal." Heyes shot darts at Kid with his eyes. "You didn't ask me to help. I offered and actually, I insisted on helping you." He reached out and put one hand on Laurie's arm. He could feel her trembling. He put his other hand to her chin and lifted it so he could look into her eyes. "It's okay, his bark is worse than his bite," then, yelling over his shoulder, "Isn't that right Thaddeus?"
"Yeah, that's right," Kid shamefully responded, taking a step closer to the two of them, "I'm sorry Miss, I didn't mean anythin’ by it."
Heyes, still holding Laurie's face with his hand said, "Remember, I'm Joshua, not Mr. Smith."
He could feel and see some of the tension disappearing from Laurie. She was looking more like the woman he was falling for, a small smile appeared on her face and she said, "Okay, Joshua." She reached up and touched the hand that was holding her face and closed her eyes. He thought he may have heard the slightest sigh or maybe he just wanted to hear it. Heyes wanted so desperately to reach down and pull her close to him and kiss her, really kiss her, but he didn't think the timing was right.
She lowered his hands from her face and took a step to the side of him, "Mr. Jones, I have some cool water and biscuits if you would like. Joshua likes the biscuits but then again he might just have been so hungry he didn't care. Or he was just being nice. Anyway, he was just finishing and about to head back to town. The biscuits should be enough to hold off the hunger pangs until you can get something to eat."
Feeling guilty for the way he rode in Kid said, "That's okay ma'am. I'm fine. I'm sorry I was so abrupt when I arrived. Guess I'm gettin’ tired of waitin’ on the telegram. And please call me Thaddeus."
"Only if you stop calling me ma'am," she smiled. "Now let me get you some biscuits, and I'm not going to take no for an answer."
Heyes looked down with a huge grin on his face; he knew Laurie was about to win Kid over. He walked back to the side of the shack to put the last couple of nails into it. Once again they were out of nails and wood. Unfortunately, the shack still had plenty of holes left. Kid stood there, quietly taking in the scene. His partner hadn't exaggerated about the conditions out here. How could anyone, let alone a woman, live like this and why wasn't anyone in town helping her? A very solemn look came across his face as he looked around.
"It isn't that bad," Laurie said as she reappeared from the shack with a bag full of biscuits. Handing them to him she said, "Here have these, they'll put you in a better mood." Then, as if she read his mind, she looked at him, "It's much nicer out here when the trees have all their leaves and the summer wind is blowing." She added, "I know it's not much, but it's what I got." She turned to Heyes, who was walking their way, "Here is a bag for you, too." With a smile on her face and in her eyes, she said, "I didn't want you two to fight over them. Now fill your canteens with the pitcher; you should get back to town to see if your telegram has arrived."
Taking the bag of biscuits while staring into Laurie's eyes, Heyes said, "Thank you, I'm sure once he tried them, he would have shot me if I asked for one. Come back to town with us and have dinner," he said softly, never taking his eyes off hers.
Staring into his eyes and wanting so badly for him to reach out and hold her, Laurie softly said, "No, I can't. I have to go to work, but thank you for the offer."
"Work, where ya workin’ tonight?" Kid asked sounding surprised.
Breaking her gaze from Heyes, she looked at Kid and replied, "It's my night to clean. I clean the front of most of the stores. I do the windows, and a few I clean the insides, then I go to the jail. As long as there are no prisoners, well, dangerous prisoners, I clean the inside. The shopkeepers prefer I do it at night, so I don't interrupt anyone wanting to buy something."
"We'll wait for you and you can ride in with us," Heyes responded.
"No horse," she said as she turned to him, "And I have to get cleaned up before I go to town, I certainly can't go looking like this!"
"I meant you could ride with me. We'll wait,” he reiterated.
"No, you won't wait," Laurie stated flatly. "I need to get cleaned up, you know clean. I am not going to have the two of you sitting around here while I'm getting clean and dressed. I walk in and out of town all of the time. I will be fine. I am fine. Now both of you get on your horses and get out of here!" She made a motion with her hands shooing them away.
"Oh," Heyes said sheepishly, "I didn't mean..."
"I know," Laurie said with a smile and a blush.
Brown eyes looked at the blond partner and then at the empty bag of biscuits with exasperation.
"What?" Kid said, with his mouth still full of biscuit, "I was hungry and they're really good."
Turning back to Laurie, Heyes said with a laugh, "See, I would have been shot!" He leaned over and gave Laurie a kiss on the cheek. The softest most perfect kiss she had ever felt. Well, besides her father, only one other boy had ever kissed her cheek so there wasn't a lot to compare it to. "I'll see you later," he said softly with the most unbelievable smile that just about melted Laurie on the spot. Turning back to Kid and mounting his horse, Heyes laughed, "Let's get you back to town before you start gnawing on your own leg!"
They said good-bye and Heyes and Kid turned toward town. The ride was quiet until Kid finally broke the silence, "It was as bad as you said. How does she live like that?"
The smile Heyes had on his face disappeared; he continued looking forward as he answered his cousin, "You should have seen it yesterday. There wasn't really a roof on it. I don't know how she gets by, but she does and with grace."
"What?" Kid asked.
"Grace," replied Heyes, "She lives in that shack and I don't think most of the town treat her very nice, yet she’s not hardened. You can see it in her eyes. She says it's what she's got and she has accepted it. Not in defeat or anything, she's not bitter."
"Well you certainly looked long enough into her eyes to see what's in them," Kid jabbed, "But..."
"I know," Heyes replied quietly, "I know...." He knew Kid was worried about what was happening between Laurie and him. It was his partner that always fell for all the damsels in distress; he was always in control of his emotions. This wasn't supposed to happen, not to him. He was the cautious one; he was the one who would warn Kid about getting in over his head with a woman. It wasn't supposed to be the other way around. He knew he couldn't take it far and certainly didn't want to lead Laurie on or hurt her. Heyes couldn't understand the draw Laurie had on him, but he also couldn't deny it.
They rode the rest of the way to town in silence and went straight to the telegraph office, still nothing. The partners decided it was time for a drink and maybe some afternoon poker. Getting bored and a little antsy, Heyes decided he had enough poker for the afternoon and was going to check on the telegram again. "Be back later boys," he stated as he stood up and collected his money. Kid did the same and they walked out the saloon doors into the bright afternoon sun and into the view of the man from the telegraph office.
"Thought I'd find you here," he said. "Your telegram finally got here," he stated as he handed it to Heyes.
"Thanks," said Heyes, and he opened it to read it.
"Let's have a seat and talk."
"That's not good," Kid said shaking his head.
"I didn't say that. We just have some things to talk over and figure out before we answer the Colonel," Heyes explained. "We can sit on the front porch of the hotel, no one's there," he said as he pointed and started walking.
Kid fell in step with him, looking extremely puzzled by his partner's reaction. What kind of job was it and what do we have to talk over he thought.
"Heyes," Kid said. Heyes handed him the telegram before he finished the sentence. He knew his partner wanted to read it and read it now to see what they would be discussing. They walked up the porch steps in unison, found two chairs all the way to the right side, farthest away from the front steps and doors so no one would overhear the conversation and sat down.
Heyes stood back up, "I'm going to get a couple of cigars so we can enjoy them as we sit and relax on this beautiful day." He came back out of the hotel with the cigars, gave one to Kid and promptly lit his. He sat down and put his feet up on the railing.
"Well," inquired Kid, "I'm waiting." He knew the walk to the porch, and getting cigars was just a delay tactic his partner was using to give himself time to think about the message.
Heyes took the telegram from Kid and read it out loud,
“To Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones,
Need you to pick some things up for me. There are four pieces. Can't tell anyone. Very important to Governor. More instructions will follow. Job pays five hundred plus expenses in town of Small Falls. Should be done in two to three weeks. Reply today.
“He's a good friend of the Governor; says it's important to the Governor,” Heyes stated as he mulled over the message. “It's not a lot of money, but he says he'll pay for our expenses in town.” He paused. “I don’t like that he can’t tell us more before we answer him…”
“We can see how the first pick-up goes,” Kid suggested. “If there are any problems, we'll think it over and see if we want to do the rest. Guess we'll find out more instructions when we respond.” Blue eyes glanced at the message as he waited for a response.
“Still don’t like the fact that we don’t know more.”
“I know but he’s a friend of the Governor and he says it’s important to the Governor.”
Heyes sighed and then nodded.
"Okay," replied Kid.
Heyes stood up, walked over to the telegraph office, sent a reply saying they would take the job, send more info. As he walked out of the telegraph office Heyes spotted Laurie and Sam walking into town. She wore the same dress she had on the first day he met her and her hair was down, blowing in the breeze. He stood there watching as she walked into town.
Kid, on the other side of the street, saw his partner come out of the office and wondered what had caught his attention. He looked in the direction Heyes was looking, but from where he was sitting, he couldn't see anything. A few seconds later he saw a golden retriever run down the street and then Laurie came into view. His eyes went from Heyes to Laurie back to Heyes and thought his partner was in it deep even if he wouldn’t admit it. This was new territory for both of them as Heyes had always kept his women at arm’s length, never getting too serious with anyone. Kid wasn’t sure this was the best time for this to change but didn’t know exactly how to handle things.
Sam came running down the street heading directly towards the partner in the black hat. Heyes smiled; he was as happy to see the dog as the dog was to see him. He bent down, petting the dog, "Hey boy, How ya doing?" As he bent down to pet Sam, he was no longer visible to those on the street but he could still see the street.
Laurie continued her walk into town following Sam. Two women stepped out of the store adjacent to the telegraph office.
"Oh, look, there's that street girl," said the first woman.
"Pitiful looking isn't she. That's her town dress; it's the best thing she has," the second woman said with a laugh.
"Ugh, she is just so horrible. Did you hear her ex-fiancé is in town? Can you believe that, that thing has an ex- fiancé! He must look as bad as she does!" the first one continued.
"No," the second one said, "He looks like a catch. I just need to find a few minutes to spend with him to get my claws into him. And his partner, you'll like him!"
Laurie's path took her right in front of the two women; with her eyes looking at the ground, she acknowledged the two, "Afternoon Charlotte, Gwendolyn."
"Don't speak to us," the first woman spit out.
"Oh, just ignore her," the second woman said, "She's nothing."
Laurie kept her head down and kept walking. She knew she shouldn't have said anything to those two. Besides Mr. Carlson, they were the meanest to her. She was in such a good mood; she had forgotten what she was to a good portion of the town and held her breath as she walked by the two women, trying desperately not to let them see how they upset her.
Heyes stood up directly in front of Laurie, "There you are sweetheart," he said as he leaned over and kissed her lips gently. "I knew you would be here soon when I saw Sam running down the street. Now where were we going?" Tipping his hat towards the two women he growled, “Ladies,” with a glare that would bring even hardened outlaws to their knees. Putting his arm around Laurie's waist he escorted her down the boardwalk.
Laurie walked in a daze. He had kissed her. The rest of the world had stopped and she moved only because he was there, guiding her. He kissed her; it was a small soft kiss, perfectly soft, she thought, it could have been a brotherly kiss but he did kiss her.
Heyes led Laurie around the corner and stopped. He looked at her and smiled; she had her fingers touching her lips. "Laurie, are you alright?" he asked with concern.
"Hmmm, what?" she said sounding dazed momentarily. Regaining her composure she blurted out, "Oh, yes, I'm fine. Where did you come from? I mean, back there, you weren't there and then you were and then you kissed me." She covered her mouth with her hand.
"Yes," dimples appeared as he gazed into Laurie’s eyes. "I kissed you. I hope that's okay. I wanted them to know you meant a lot to me."
"But, where?" she started.
"Behind the door. Sam came running and I bent down to pet him. I guess from where they were standing, they couldn't see me, but I could see them and heard everything they said."
"Oh," Laurie said, looking down at the street.
"No, you don't," he took his hand and placing it on her face, gently lifting it, "You are not going to let those two get to you." He kept looking into her eyes and softly said, "It doesn't matter to me where you live or what you wear."
Mr. Carlson rounded the corner and shouted, "There you are Laurie. You are late! If you do not start working right now, I will not pay you! Then where would you be? On the streets begging for food, now get to work, my store needs cleaning now!"
Before Heyes had a chance to turn and say something, Laurie grabbed his shirt and pleaded, "Don't, please it's not worth it. I'm okay, I promise, please!"
Heyes looked at the fear in her eyes and nodded his head. She let go of him and ran down the alley to the store. The ex-outlaw gave Carlson the stare, the stare that let you know he was the leader of the Devil's Hole Gang. The store owner turned abruptly and walked away. Heyes took a couple of deep breaths and followed him out of the alley. He knew there was something more than Carlson yelling at Laurie the other day. It was more, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He could tell by the look in her eyes when she pleaded with him not to do anything and he could tell by the look in Carlson's eyes when he stared him down. He had to figure it out and find out why Laurie wouldn't go to the Sheriff. He looked across the street and saw Kid standing at the edge of the porch watching intently; he smiled knowing that Kid always had his back. He crossed the street to his partner and went back to sitting on the porch.
"Do I always have to ask?" inquired Kid with an exasperated look.
"You always do," laughed Heyes. "Those two women were harassing Laurie, so I took care of that.
"Oh, that's what the kiss was," the smile reached his blue eyes. He was surprised when it happened. Heyes was nothing if not discreet and kissing Laurie on the street just wasn't like him. However, if it was for her honor, he understood.
"You saw that," dimples appeared as he couldn’t contain his grin. "Yes, that's what the kiss was for and then I wanted to make sure Laurie was okay so I took her to the alley. Carlson came running in after her. Kid," he said as he turned to look at his partner, "she begged me not to do or say anything. You should have seen the look in her eyes. Then when she left the alley, you should have seen the look in his eyes. Something's up, I don't trust him. He wasn't just yelling at her the other day, I think there's more."
"Good," Kid sighed, "I was thinkin’ the same thing but didn't know how you would take it. I was watchin’ what was goin’ on, but Heyes, so was he. Even more interested than I was. When you went to the alley, he went straight for the two of you. I was comin’ but I didn't think he was armed and it was over before I got very far. You gonna ask her?"
"Have to," Heyes replied. "Don't know if she'll answer me, but I've got to try.
"You'll figure it out Heyes, you always do. We won't leave her like this. I know you'll come up with somethin’," Kid assured.
Brown eyes stared at the General Store. He was glad Kid had confidence in him, but he wasn't sure. It wasn't a plan to rob a bank or train, or to get them out of trouble. It was all about someone else and he didn't know if he could figure things out. They would do their best while they were in town, to make things better for Laurie, but when the job was done for the Colonel, they were going to leave, without her.
"Kid," Heyes said, standing up, "I think its time for a drink."
As the boys reached the bottom of the stairs, the Sheriff called out, "Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, wait!"
The partners glanced at each other and then turned towards the Sheriff. "Yes, Sheriff," Heyes replied, sticking his thumbs in his belt, "What can we do for you?"
"Well boys," the Sheriff started, "I just wanted to let you know I got a telegram back from Laurie's mother, and you're in the clear." Noticing the look on Heyes' face Sheriff Hardy asked, "You know, don't you?"
He nodded, "She told me the day I went to find her house. When I saw where and how she lived, I asked her why. She first told me that she refused help from her mother because of what she did and then she told me what happened."
"I know you boys have been out helping her fix up the shack," the lawman said, "I ‘preciate it. I've always worried about her but she does have a stubborn streak ‘bout help and charity," he added with a small laugh. "I can't believe she's letting you help. Never thought I'd see the day. Anyway boys, just wanted to let you know you're square with me. Have a good night."
As they walked toward the saloon, Kid asked, "Why'd ya let him see it in your face? You never do that."
"Simple, Kid," Heyes said, "From the first day, I thought he cared about Laurie. Then, after the storm, the supplies I said she needed were there. I wanted to let him know that we're on her side too. Maybe he can help figure out how to make things better for her."
Kid chuckled, "You actually think the law might help Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry with anythin’?"
Heyes shrugged, put his hand on Kid's shoulder and walked into the saloon.
The night wore on and after playing for awhile, Heyes stood up, motioning for Kid to stay, "I'm gonna stretch my legs and get some air. I'll be back." He turned and walked out of the saloon.
Kid stayed at the table. He was doing better than Heyes that night anyway. He could tell his partner's mind wasn't on poker. He knew Heyes was worried about Laurie and had probably gone to see if he could find her.
The blond partner was right; as soon as he left the saloon brown eyes started to search up and down the street for Laurie. He could follow her trail by the clean storefront windows. He finally found her in the dress shop. He knocked softly on the window.
Laurie looked up from sweeping and saw the man of her dreams standing there, looking in the window. She looked at him and thought he had the most handsome face she had ever seen. She bit her bottom lip a little and walked to the door. As she unlocked and opened it, she whispered, "What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you," Heyes said, staring into her eyes.
"I'm working," she sighed.
"Just for a minute or two,” he gave her a million-dollar smile and eyes that would melt you if you dared look too long.
"Okay," Laurie giggled. "Let me lock up here and finish the outside window. Then you can walk me to the jail. That's my last stop tonight." She paused, "What do you want?"
"You," Heyes said, and quickly added, "I just wanted to see you."
"I wanted to make sure you were alright," he touched her face, and she closed her eyes. "I wanted to see your beautiful face and make sure you're okay. Is that a crime?"
"No crime," she blushed as her eyes and head started to turn towards the ground.
"No," he said sternly, "You aren’t doing that." She tried to turn away and opened her mouth to say something, but he continued, "You really are beautiful. I wouldn't say that if I didn't mean it. I'm sorry the people here have treated you so bad you can't see it." Heyes paused, "Speaking of treating you bad, what's going on with Mr. Carlson."
Laurie’s eyes widened with a look of horror and she shook her head, "Nothing," she said, "He just doesn't like me."
"There's more to it than that. I think he was hurting you, not just yelling at you when Thaddeus and I came to town." Laurie stood there quietly, so he continued, "Why don't you go to the Sheriff?"
"Why?" she asked in despair, "He's rich and important. Who do you think the Sheriff is going to believe? Mr. All Powerful or little street girl?" As she finished Heyes could see tears starting to form in her eyes and he felt helpless.
"I believe you," he said softly.
"That's because you're smarter than Sheriff Hardy," Laurie said with a smile and then bit her bottom lip.
Heyes smiled his million-dollar smile and gave a quiet, devilish laugh, the most incredible laugh Laurie had ever heard. Then those eyes looked into hers again, boy, did she know how to change the subject?
"Oh," blushed Laurie, "Oh," she exclaimed, "I'm supposed to be cleaning, Charlie is going to wonder where I am, I have to go."
"Who's Charlie?" Heyes asked sounding rather displeased.
"He's the Deputy Sheriff; I go to clean the jail next. That's where Sam is, but Charlie will worry if I'm a few minutes late and will look for me. I have to leave," Laurie stammered and turned to gather her stuff.
"Can I walk you home when you're done?”
"No! I mean I don't need," she said flustered, "I don't go home on the nights I clean the jail. The Sheriff lets Sam and me sleep there if there are no prisoners. Since I heard he cleared you and Thaddeus today, there are no prisoners. So, I don't need to be walked home, but thank you anyway," she said and bit her bottom lip. It was something she seemed to be doing an awful lot of lately even if she didn't realize it.
Heyes stepped closer to her, put his hand on her chin and gave her a soft kiss. "Then good night Laurie, sleep well," he said. He turned and walked away just as the door to the jail opened and Charlie stepped out to look for Laurie. He headed back to the saloon where he walked in with a smile that said it all. Kid looked up and thought it's going to be a good night. He's back. Heyes sat down across from his partner and nodded at him. They played till closing that night. Hannibal Heyes left the saloon with a hundred dollars more than when he walked in.
"That you, Laurie?" Charlie called out, "I was getting worried about you."
"Just took a little longer in the dress shop tonight," Laurie responded and walked into the jail. "You heading to the saloon or upstairs if anyone is looking for you," she asked the Deputy Sheriff.
"Think maybe I'll hang out at the saloon for a while," Charlie replied and left the office.
Laurie got down to work, cleaning the whole jail. This job took her the longest, but the Sheriff was always so kind to her she wanted to make sure she did a good job, and since she could just lie down on one of the cots in the jail when she was finished, it didn’t matter how late it got. Laurie finished her work in record time that night. Not thinking, just doing. As she lay down on the cot, she wasn't the least bit tired.
She lay there staring at the walls of the jail. She had looked at these walls on so many other nights, not because of the excitement that she felt tonight, but because of the fear that she felt during a storm. When the storms were really bad, Sheriff Hardy insisted that she stay at the jail for safety reasons. She couldn’t sleep on those nights and therefore, knew every crack, bend, and blemish on the walls and every word on the wanted posters. She had memorized the entire inside of the jail.
Tonight was different. She lay there staring at the walls but not really seeing them. She was reliving the earlier kiss, kisses with Joshua. The way he made her feel. She hadn't felt this safe since her father had held her. But this feeling was different. She sighed, thinking about the way it made her feel, the way it still made her feel. The whole day was unbelievable. Joshua was unbelievable. Laurie knew that she had fallen completely head over heels for him. He had been so kind, so gentle, but she knew he would be leaving soon, leaving her soon. She didn't want to dwell on that. She knew it was going to happen, but in the meantime she was going to live and love like she never had before and figured she never would again.
She lay quietly with Sam on the cot next to her, just dreaming, until she heard noises from the street. She got up and walked over to the window; the saloon was closing. She saw all of the men leaving, and then she saw Joshua and Thaddeus. She bit her lip and watched as they left the saloon and walked into the hotel. She was completely unaware Charlie was walking back to the jail and was startled when he opened the door. She said good night to him and went back to the cot. Slowly she drifted off to sleep.
Laurie woke up as the sun was just beginning to rise. She quietly got up, motioned to Sam and they both quietly went to the door. Charlie was asleep in the chair with his feet propped up on the desk. Laurie closed the Sheriff's door softly behind her. Turning around, she surveyed the sleeping town; no storm last night, nothing to clean up. As she started walking towards home, Laurie looked over at the hotel and up at the windows. She was thinking of Joshua. She wondered what room he was in and how he was sleeping. She stopped for a second and let herself think about how long he was going to be here and what it would be like once he had left. She shook her head and told herself that she had made a promise to herself not to think about it, not until she had no choice. She WAS going to be happy for as long as she possibly could and those thoughts had to be shut out. She turned and started walking again.
Unbeknownst to Laurie, she was staring directly into the window of Heyes and Kid's room. She couldn't see him looking back at her on that cool spring morning because he was behind the window sheer. He thought she looked particularly happy this morning and then she stopped. Could she see him? Her face became sad and he wondered what she was thinking about. Then he saw her shake her head, smile and turn to go home. He wanted to call out, actually he wanted to run after her, but he knew he couldn't. Things had gone too far; he couldn't lead her on any longer. She wasn't used to this attention and she wasn't a mark, he didn't want to hurt her. He just couldn't get her out of his head. She had gotten to him and he knew he was falling hard for her. A stranger only a few days ago, but still he couldn’t get her out of his mind. He was there for a job, and thinking of her would just cloud the situation. He knew that and he knew Kid counted on him being sharp minded, to be able to figure things out. That was their arrangement, he did the thinking, and Kid did the protecting. It was time to block her out.