Guns and Hoses by AliasSmithJones

VIEWS: 6 PAGES: 35

									                                 Guns and Hoses
                                  by Maz McCoy
                  (Many thanks to Calico for the brilliant title suggestion.)




Scene: Open Country

“Did Lom give you any idea what he wants us to do?” Kid asked his partner, as they
rode side by side through open country.

“Nope.”

“There was nothin’ in the telegram to give you a clue?”

“Nope.”

“D’you think it’s about the amnesty?”

“Nope.”

“Boy, you sure are gabby today!” Kid yelled in frustration.

“What?”

“Normally I can’t shut you up.”

“I’m thinking.”

“Nothin’ new there then.”

Heyes did not respond and annoyance registered on Kid’s face.

“So whatcha thinking about?”

“Just wondering what Lom has in mind for us.”

“I just asked that!”

“You did?”

“Are you listenin’ to a word I say?”

“What?”

“Nothin’.”


                                              ***


                                                                                     1
Scene: Porterville Street – Night

It was after dark when Kid and Heyes rode into the town of Porterville. Many
buildings were in darkness but Heyes nodded over at the sheriff’s office where a light
still burned. They dismounted, tied their horses in front of the jail and went inside.


                                            ***


Scene: Interior – the Jailhouse

Lom looked up from his desk when he heard the front door open.

“Evening, Lom.” Heyes walked up to the desk.

The sheriff spun around.

“I’m over here, Lom,” Kid informed him, stopping next to Heyes. “Thought I’d use the
front door for a change.”

Lom turned back and nodded.

“You got my telegram?”

“We did.” Heyes sat on the edge of Lom’s desk and the sheriff reached to move
papers out of the way before he crushed them.

“Couldn’t you sit in a chair like other folks?”

“Sorry, Lom.” Heyes stood and, as one, the boys lowered themselves into the chairs
beneath Lom’s notice board.

“Why did you want to see us?” Kid removed his hat and rested it on his knee.

“I have a job for you.”

“Doing what?” Heyes stood and reached for the coffee pot. He held it up. Did Kid or
Lom want a cup? Both men nodded and Heyes poured. By the time he handed a cup
to Kid, Lom still hadn’t answered the question. “Lom?”

The sheriff sighed.

“I’m going to be out of town for a few days and I need you to take my place.”

A mouthful of coffee shot across the room as Kid choked. Heyes stepped to his
friend’s aid, pounding him on the back, until Kid had to move away to stop him. Kid
took one huge breath and looked at Lom. “You want us to be sheriffs?”


                                                                                      2
“What? No! Not that, no!”

“Then what?” Heyes cast a glance at his partner and waited for the sheriff’s reply.

“I’m a fire marshal. Porterville has its own volunteer fire brigade now. While I’m gone,
they’ll need someone to take my place.”

“Why can’t somebody else cover for you?”

Lom looked at Heyes. Heyes lifted an eyebrow and waited.

“Wait a minute,” Kid interrupted. “Did you say volunteer? As in for free? As in we
don’t get paid for this?”

“There’s no pay, that’s true.”

“So what do we get?” Heyes asked, sitting back down.

“The thanks of the community?”

“Try again, Lom.” Brown eyes focussed on the sheriff. “What’s this really all about?
You didn’t bring us halfway across the state just to cover for you, did you?”

“Yes, and no.” Lom now had two pairs of eyes staring at him. “Yes, I want you to
take my place, but no it’s not as simple as that. In the last two months we’ve had too
many fires to be just accidents.”

“Is somebody trying to burn people out?”

“I don’t know, Heyes, but I certainly think we’ve got an arsonist here.”

“And you want us to figure out who it is?”

“Well that would be great, Kid, but I’d be happy if you kept an eye on things while I’m
gone and let me know if you’ve seen or heard anything suspicious.”

“Why not have your deputy do it?”

“Because he’ll have enough to do with me gone. You’re just friends of mine who
offered to help.”

“Sounds good, Lom, but what if there really is a fire?”

“Kid, I’m sure you and Heyes will do just fine, and I’ll introduce you to our fire chief
before I leave.”

The two ex-outlaws exchanged a glance.

“What do you say, boys?”


                                                                                           3
                                          ***


Scene: Hotel Bedroom

“Would you look at that?” Heyes exclaimed as he stood gazing out of the hotel
window the following morning. “She is a beauty.”

Kid’s head shot up from his gun cleaning. “A beauty?”

“Gleaming curves shining in the sunlight. What I wouldn’t give for a closer look at
her.”

“Gleamin’ curves?” Kid stood up and headed towards the window.

“Nice head of steam too.”

“Head of steam? You know you can read too much! Sure you know a lot of fancy
words but for a woman you need…” He pulled aside the lace curtain and scoured the
street for the vision of loveliness. There were no women in sight. “Guess I musta
missed her. Where’d she go?”

“Who?”

“Your curvy woman.”

“What woman?”

“The one you were just describin’.” Heyes looked nonplussed. “The one with
gleamin’ curves shinin’ in the sunlight and a good head of steam.”

“I wasn’t talking about a woman. I was talking about that.” Heyes pointed and Kid
looked at a machine sitting outside the general store. There was a lot of metal, all
highly polished. There was a confusing array of tubes and pipes. There were four
wide-spoked wheels. There were two horses harnessed to it. It was shiny, but it was
definitely not a woman.

“That’s what got you droolin’?” Kid raised his eyebrows at his friend.

“I wasn’t drooling.”

“Yes, you were.”

“I just said it was…”

“A beauty, with gleamin’ curves. You know, Heyes, I worry about you sometimes, I
really do. A man shouldn’t feel that way about anythin’ except a woman.” Heyes
looked hurt. Kid took another look at…the thing. “So what is it?”


                                                                                      4
“That, my uneducated friend, is a Silsby steam pumper.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yep.”

“I take it I should be impressed?”

“Yes, Kid, you should.”

“Because?”

“Because it’s a rotary steam engine.”

“Wow,” Kid said without conviction.

“If I tell you the rotating parts are known as revolvers will that get your interest?”

“Only if it’s thinkin’ of callin’ me out.”

Heyes shook his head and chose to ignore the remark.

“The steam engine drives the water pump and that means you can get water a lot
higher on a fire than a man with a bucket can.” Heyes’ eyes practically sparkled. At
that moment the steam pumper let out a burst of high-pressured steam.

“Well,” Kid mused. “Seems like you’ve got a lot in common with it… You’re both full
of hot air!”


                                             ***


Scene: Porterville Street

The short, balding man polishing the engine looked up as Heyes walked alongside.

“She’s a beauty, ain’t she?” He wiped his hands on the cloth as he stood up.
“’Course she ain’t the latest model but she’s the first fire engine we’ve had in
Porterville.” He held out his hand. “Sam Waterman.”

“Joshua Smith.” Heyes shook the man’s hand and patted the engine, his eyes bright
with excitement.

Sam rubbed the cloth over the place where Heyes had placed his hand.

“They want a photograph for the paper, that’s why I got her out here, looking her
best.”



                                                                                         5
As if on cue the door to the newspaper office opened and two men hurried across
the street. The smaller of the two carried a camera, the other clung tightly to a
notepad and pencil. Spotting the camera, Heyes backed away and walked over to
Kid who stood leaning against a porch post, arms crossed over his chest. He smiled
as his friend approached.

“Not sticking around for a photograph with your girlfriend?”

Heyes shot his partner a look. “She belongs to the fire brigade.”

“Well I didn’t think the doctor owned it.”

“That means we might get to use it.” Heyes eyes were still on the machine.

“Only if there’s a fire, Heyes, only if there’s a fire.” He placed his hand on his friend’s
shoulder. “Can we get breakfast now?”

“You have no appreciation of beauty, Kid, that’s your trouble.” As Heyes spoke, a
pretty young woman and her mother walked by. Kid’s eyes met the girl’s and he
smiled, touching the brim of his hat. She blushed and he watched her walk away.

“Oh I do, Heyes, I do.”


                                             ***


Scene: Hotel Porch – Daytime

Heyes looked up from his seat on the porch outside the hotel. His eyes scanned the
street.

“Do you smell smoke?” Heyes asked.

“Yep.” Beside him, Kid took a long draw on his cigar, then looked at the glowing end
as he blew a trail into the air.

Heyes scanned the street again. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. No flames
billowing into the air, no screaming women, no one shouting for buckets of water. He
looked left and sniffed. He turned to the right and sniffed. Clearly he could smell
something. Heyes turned to his friend. Kid smiled, tipping his cigar at his friend.

“Not that kind.”

“Heyes, will you relax.”

“I thought…”




                                                                                          6
“Yeah, I know what you thought. Just like you thought it was the newspaper office on
fire and the livery and the hotel. You’re itchin’ to get your hands on that machine. I
may have to set fire to somethin’ just to shut you up.”

Heyes gave him a look.

“If anything does burn around here, guess who the chief suspect’ll be?” Kid blew
another trail of cigar smoke into the air.

“I’m simply taking our duties as fire marshals responsibly.”

“So am I. I’m sittin’ here, at the ready, should anyone need us.”

Heyes raised his eyebrows.

“I guess there are worse ways to spend a few days.” Heyes eased back in the chair.
“And it was good of Lom to pay for our room.”

“Least he could do with us taking on all this responsibility.” Kid took another drag on
the cigar.

“Don’t let it keep you awake at night.”

Kid smiled. “I’ll try not to.”

Heyes’ eyes narrowed as he focussed on something along the street. Kid ignored
him. Heyes stood up, turned his back to the street and rested against the porch rail.
He continued to watch whatever was out of Kid’s view.

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Someone you recognize?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“Someone acting suspicious.”

“Doin’ what?”

“Acting suspiciously, Kid, what d’you think?”

“Well how are they actin’ suspicious?”

“If I knew that, it wouldn’t be suspicious.”




                                                                                          7
Exasperated, Kid stood up and looked. Ladies walked along the boardwalk, men
chatted as they crossed the street, a wagon rolled into town, and two men, laughing,
exited the saloon. He looked real hard. Nope. Nothing suspicious. Kid turned his
enquiring gaze to Heyes.

“He’s gone now.”

“If he was ever there.”

“You think I’m seeing things?”

“Well isn’t that the next step up from smellin’ things?”

“Very funny.” Heyes sat back down. His brow furrowed.

Kid glanced at him then looked away. He glanced at Heyes again.

The brow was still furrowed.

Kid shook his head and turned away. He shifted in his seat, drummed his fingers on
the armrest then, with a sigh of exasperation, he stood up. “Let’s go take a look.”

“At what?”

“At whatever’s makin’ you suspicious. I can’t relax with you thinkin’. I tried not to think
about what you’re thinkin’ about, but I knew you were thinkin’ about somethin’. Just
thinkin’ about that makes my head spin.”

Heyes stood up and placed a hand on Kid’s shoulder. “You really should try and
relax, you know.”

Without a word Kid followed Heyes along the boardwalk.


                                            ***


Scene: Porterville Street

The partners stood beside the general store as Heyes pointed to where the man had
disappeared from view. "I saw him slip into this alley."

Suddenly, someone yelled, “FIRE!”

The partners exchanged a look and ran in the direction of the shout. They joined
others at the back of the newspaper office. Flames rose from a pile of wooden boxes
a few feet from the back wall.




                                                                                         8
“OUT OF THE WAY!” Craig Mullins, the owner of the general store, ran through the
small crowd carrying a bucket of water. He threw the water on the fire, deposited
some empty buckets on the ground and headed back to the water trough.

“We should get the Silsby pump!” Heyes announced.

A young boy standing beside him nodded enthusiastically.

“We don’t need that contraption,” another man said before Heyes could complete his
explanation. “Just grab a bucket!”

Heyes looked disappointed. Water splashed his boots as someone ran by with a
bucket and tossed it into the flames.

“C’mon before it sets the whole building alight! Don’t just stand there!” The man
turned to the boy standing a few feet away. “That includes you, Jimmy!”

“Contraption!” Heyes muttered. “She’s a highly sophisticated…”

“Heyes!” Kid hissed. Brown eyes met his. “Come on.” He handed his friend a bucket
and ran to get water.

Reluctantly Heyes followed.

Soon a chain had formed, buckets of water were passed hand to hand and within a
few minutes the fire was doused, the wood hissed and steam rose. The fire-fighters
stood back pleased with a job well done. Kid bent down and examined the ashes. “I
don’t think this started on its own.” He stood up, holding the remains of a lamp.

“Why the heck would that be out here?” Mullins asked.

“Who’d want to burn a pile of wood anyway?” another man wondered.

Kid exchanged a look with Heyes, then held the broken lamp out to the general store
owner.

“I sell those every day, we’ve all got them. It could belong to anyone. Just another
unexplained fire,” Mullins muttered. “I’d like to get my hands on whoever’s setting
them.”

“Thaddeus.”

Kid followed Heyes away from the remains of the fire and back to the street. “What?”

“What was the point of this?”

“The fire?”

“Yeah.”



                                                                                       9
“Well if we were plannin’ to rob the bank, I’d say this was a nice diversion.”

“That’s what I was thinking. The question is, a diversion from what?”

“We should follow the man you saw.”

Heyes nodded and they headed across the street.

“So what did he look like?” Kid asked as they entered the alley.

“Ordinary.”

“Ordinary?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s happened to that silver tongue of yours? Ordinary’s the best you can do?”

“I only got a brief look at him.”

“So it could be anyone?”

“No, he wore a dark shirt and tan pants.”

Kid looked his partner up and down. “Did he have a black hat with a silver band
too?”

Heyes considered this and then…“No!”

Kid smiled.

“He was thin, slight build. He just…I don’t know, he just looked furtive.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means he made me suspicious.”

The two ex-outlaws scanned the alley. It ran behind the main street and the man
could have disappeared into any one of the buildings.

“Come on!” said Heyes.


                                            ***


Scene: Sometime later. Same Alley

“We’re not gonna find him,” Kid Curry said.



                                                                                    10
Heyes pushed back his hat. “You’re giving up?”

“Heyes, we’ve been lookin' for almost an hour.”

Heyes took one last look around, nodded and followed his friend.


                                          ***


Scene: Front porch of Porterville hotel

“FIRE! FIRE!” Two chairs slammed back onto four legs, as Kid and Heyes jumped up
from their position on the hotel porch and ran towards the school building, scattering
small children as they arrived. Other men joined them, some carried buckets. The
smell of smoke hung in the air as they approached the school house.

Outside Miss Fletcher, the school mistress, waved them over. “In there! Our books!
When I got here there was smoke coming out from the store room! Hurry please!”

Kid entered the building first. Thick smoke filled the air and the men ran to the room
at the back. There was a fire burning in several boxes of books. A cloud of smoke
rose from a smouldering horse blanket stuffed around them. Another blanket was
burning in a corner, the flames licked at books on the shelf above, singeing the
edges. A display of the Pilgrim Fathers was ablaze. Kid pulled the blanket from the
box as a man stepped up with a bucket of water. He doused the blanket as Heyes
pulled the box out of the store room. More water was poured on the smouldering
blanket. An overenthusiastic fire-fighter threw another bucket over the books. Hands
waved in the air, wafting the smoke away from their faces. The Pilgrim Fathers sank
to the floor in a soggy heap.

“Thank you so much,” Miss Fletcher cried when the fire was extinguished and the
men emerged from the school.

Kid carried the soaked books outside. “I’m afraid they’re all ruined, ma’am.”

“I don’t know how we’ll ever replace them.” She looked sadly at the sodden pile. “At
least the building is safe. I couldn’t believe it when I arrived. There was so much
smoke, I was sure we’d lose the school.”

“Any idea who might have set the fire?” Heyes asked as he moved to stand beside
his partner.

“You don’t think it was an accident?”

“There was a horse blanket set alight and stuffed into the box.”

“I can’t believe any of the children would do this.” She looked at the ruined books
again before looking back up and met a pair of dazzling blue eyes, full of sympathy.
Miss Fletcher’s eyelashes fluttered. Heyes looked from the school teacher to his


                                                                                    11
partner as she spoke, “You were so brave, dashing in there like that. How can we
ever repay you?”

Kid smiled. Heyes rolled his eyes, then looked around and spotted a thin man in a
dark shirt and tan pants just as he disappeared behind the bank.


                                          ***


Scene: Interior Cafeteria

“FIRE!”

Forks dropped onto the plates with a clang, chairs went flying backwards and two
men, one dark haired, one blond, headed out the door of the cafeteria, and ran along
the street in the direction of the courthouse. Smoke billowed out of a top floor
window as frightened court workers ran from the building. The sound of a clanging
bell and pounding hooves heralded the arrival of the Silsby steam pumper!

Heyes couldn’t hide his enthusiasm as he ran to join Sam Waterman and soon the
Silsby’s hose was unravelled and the pump started.

“Up there! It’s in the clerk’s office!” a man shouted as he pointed to the room from
which smoke billowed. There was the sound of breaking window glass and he
ducked out of the way. Sam and Heyes directed the water at the open window as Kid
and other men entered the building searching for anyone trapped inside.

Kid reached the stairs as smoke drifted down from the floor above. “ANYONE IN
HERE?” he yelled.

There was no answer. The men spread out, each searching a downstairs room
before Kid and another man headed up the stairs. The smoke on the next floor was
thicker but came only from the far office.

A man laid a hand on Kid’s arm and pulled him back. “I don’t think it’s safe.”

“We hafta check it out.” Kid pulled his arm free, covered his mouth and nose with his
bandana and headed into the room.


                                          ***


Scene: Porterville Street

Heyes pointed the hose at the smoking window and watched as the water doused
the wooden frame. A grin dimpled his face as he sent a stream of water in through
the broken window.



                                                                                    12
“STOP THE WATER! STOP THE WATER!” a familiar voice cried. Kid’s head
appeared out the window. “STOP THE DAMN…” Water hit him full in the face,
sending him staggering backwards. Spotting his friend, Heyes quickly directed the
hose at the ground when Kid reappeared. Water ran from his hair, dripping off his
nose and chin. His hat had been blown off by the force of the jet. Kid gave his friend
an icy, if a somewhat wet, glare.

Heyes returned a sheepish grin. “You all right?”

The water in the hose turned to a trickle in the dirt.

Kid spat out a mouthful. “Yeah.”

“Is the fire out?”

“Yeah. It made a real mess up here.” Kid threw something from the window and
Heyes sidestepped as it fell at his feet. A soggy horse blanket lay in the dirt.

“Another one,” Heyes muttered, his brow creasing with a frown.

Kid turned as someone arrived behind him in the room. “Deputy’s here. I’ll meet you
down there.”

Kid disappeared back into the room and Heyes helped stow the Silsby’s hose away.
As he stood up, he spotted the mystery man again. He wore the same clothes: dark
shirt and tan pants. Heyes took off after him.

The man quickened his pace and entered the livery stables. Heyes’ pace also
quickened as he moved along the boardwalk.

At the entrance to the livery Heyes paused and put his head cautiously around the
corner of the doorway. He saw no one. His eyes fixed on a pile of horse blankets
similar to those found in the fires and his brow furrowed. He moved inside and a man
appeared from a back room. The man was a giant, towering above Heyes, his
sleeveless shirt covered in dust and dirt. Muscles in his arms rippled.

“Can I help you?” He ran a hand over his bald head.

Heyes smiled as his eyes scanned the stables for the man he’d been following. “I
thought I saw a friend of mine come in here. Thin fella, dark shirt and tan pants?”

“I ain’t seen no one, but then I was in back.”

“D’you mind if I…?” he pointed to the back way out of the stables.

“Help yourself. Ain’t nothing out there, ‘cept the corral.”

Heyes went to look. The man was right. Two horses trotted around the corral but
there was no sign of anyone else.



                                                                                      13
“You haven’t lost any horse blankets lately have you?” Heyes asked when he re-
entered the livery.

“Not that I know of. Haven’t counted them for a while though. Not a lot of need either.
I’ve either got some or I ain’t.”

Thanking the man, Heyes returned to the courthouse.


Scene: Porterville Street

Outside the courthouse, Kid, his shirt darkened from the water Heyes had fired at
him, stood leaning against a porch post, arms folded across his chest.

“D’you see that fella again? Your mysterious fire-watcher?”

“I saw him. He disappeared into the livery stables.”

“You catch up with him?”

“Nope. He got away again. I swear I’ll get him next time.”

Kid pushed off the post. “I’m hopin’ there won’t be a next time.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah.” He looked at his friend. “D’you think he’s started the fires?”

“It’s beginning to look that way.”


                                           ***


Scene: Hotel room

“Another distraction, d’you think?” Kid asked as he pulled a clean, dry shirt over his
head. Heyes sat at the table in the hotel room, scribbling on a piece of paper.
“Heyes?”

“What?”

“I said, d’you think it was another distraction? The fire?”

“Could be. The question is why?”

“Well that’s somethin’ best pondered over a beer.” He placed his hat on his head and
rested his hand on the door handle. “Shall we?”




                                                                                         14
Once again Heyes was bent over the paper he was writing on. Kid sighed and
walked over to the table. Standing behind his friend he focused on the sketched plan
of Porterville, with squares representing the various buildings. Kid noted a spire on
the church, a dollar sign for the bank and the bars of a cell for the jail. Different
buildings were marked with an X.

“You marked the sites of the fires, huh?”

Heyes gave a nod.

“Solved it yet?” Kid asked.

“No, but there is a pattern. A fire at the back of the newspaper office, here, a
smoldering box at the school house, here, another in the court room, here. There
have been two other reports of similar events here and here.” Heyes tapped squares
on the paper. “Neither of which required the assistance of the fire brigade. There
were a couple of bigger fires before we got here, burned two houses to the ground
and they were here.” Again the map was tapped.

“But the small ones have all been since we arrived in town.”

“All in one area. Why there? I wish I knew what it meant.”

“Means we’re prime suspects as the arsonists.”

Heyes shot him a look.

“…Or they’re buildin’ up to the big one.”

“You know, Kid, you might be onto something there.”


                                            ***


Scene: Porterville Street

“Why don’t you forget about it just for this evenin’?” Kid suggested as they walked
across the street to the saloon. “We’ll have us a drink, play a little poker and you
can…”

“There!” Heyes pointed along the street at a familiar slim figure.

“Wha..?”

Heyes took off at a run. With a heavy sigh, Kid followed his friend. The blond ex-
outlaw picked up his pace when Heyes disappeared from view down an alley. He
turned into the narrow passageway and stopped. Heyes lay on the ground struggling
with the skinny fella. Skinny and small. Kid frowned. Heyes’ quarry was none too
pleased at being accosted by a stranger.


                                                                                       15
“GET OFF ME! LET GO!”

Heyes tried desperately to keep a hold of the youngster but he wouldn’t stop
wriggling.

“WILL YOU JUST HOLD STILL?”

“GET OFF!”

A fist collided with Heyes’ jaw.

“OW!”

A boot kicked his shin.

“DAMMIT!”

“You got everything under control there, Joshua?” Kid asked with amusement as he
leaned against a building.

“Will you just stop tryin’ to get away!” Heyes grabbed the youth’s collar and pulled
him upright, but the lad wasn’t finished yet. He squirmed and Heyes pushed him up
against the wall. Heyes instantly removed his hands as if bitten by a rattler. “What
the..?” He stepped away, stunned, and a fist caught him square in the jaw. Heyes
stumbled backwards, landing in the dust.

“Don’t you touch me again!”

“You’re a girl.”

“You’re a real genius!”

Kid raised an eyebrow and he pushed off the building, smiling as the girl swept the
black hat from her head and a cascade of brown hair tumbled down her back.

“Ma’am.” Kid touched the brim of his hat.

The young woman, who looked to be in her early twenties, began straightening her
shirt.

“You’re a woman.” Heyes looked dumbfounded.

“My partner’s a little slow about these things,” Kid informed her as he moved closer.
“I, on the other hand, recognize a pretty face when I see one.” He gave her a
charming smile and she kicked him in the shin. “OW!”

The woman ran. The partners exchanged a tired glance, then Kid gave chase.
Quickly catching up with her, he grabbed her around the waist, swinging her into the



                                                                                      16
air. She kicked and wriggled, grabbed onto the wall at the back of the saloon and Kid
went tumbling to the ground on top of her.

“Get off me before I scream for the sheriff!”

“We’re workin’ for the sheriff!”

Teeth locked around Kid’s forearm but he pulled free before she could bite him.

“NO BITIN’!”

“THEN LET GO OF ME!” She squirmed and kicked.

“Will you calm down? We only want to talk to you.”

“You got a funny way of showing it!”

“Well, I don’t know many women goin’ around town dressed as a man and settin’ fire
to things!”

The woman pulled away from him but Kid kept a firm grip on her wrists. Sitting on top
of her, his legs straddling her, he pinned her to the ground.

“I did not set fire to anything!”

“Then maybe you should tell us what you’ve been doing? You’ve been seen
sneaking away after every fire. I’d say that was a mite suspicious, wouldn’t you?”
Heyes stated as he stood over them.

The young woman shot a glare at Heyes as he waited for her reply. “It’s none of your
business.”

“On the contrary. We’re fire marshals. It’s very much our business.”

“Marshals!” she scoffed. “Pretty poor ones I’d say by the number of fires someone’s
been setting.”

“You’ve been setting.”

She glared at Heyes, then pushed at Kid. “Will you get off me?”

“You gonna run?”

“No.”

Kid climbed off her, then held out a hand to help her up. She met his gaze, searched
his face and…took hold. Kid pulled her to her feet, catching her around the waist
before letting go. The woman tried her best to ignore him and walked purposefully
towards Heyes, brushing herself off as she did so.



                                                                                     17
“I did NOT set those fires.”

“So what were you doing there, every time?”

“Like I said. That’s my business.”

“Listen, Miss…?”

She looked at him. They stood, just a few feet apart, staring at each other.

“Can we buy you a cup of coffee and discuss this inside?” Kid stepped between
them, looking from Heyes to the woman and back again.

“I can be civil. I’d like to hear what you know about these fires too.”


                                            ***


Scene: Interior Cafeteria

“Gretchen Pickering.” The young woman took a sip of her coffee.

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Pickering. I’m Thaddeus Jones and the grumpy one
here’s my partner, Joshua Smith.” Kid rested his elbows on the table as he leaned
towards her. “So, Miss Pickering, why are you runnin’ around town dressed as a
boy?”

Again she searched their faces before giving a heavy sigh.

“Miss Pickering?” Kid prompted.

“I’m trying to catch whoever’s starting the fires.”

“Pfffttt!”

“You don’t believe me, Mister Smith?”

“I prefer to keep an open mind.”

“By deciding I’m already guilty? I told you, I didn’t set those fires.”

“So why are you trying to catch whoever is?” Heyes watched her expression.

“My father’s house was the first to be burned down. We lost everything, including the
only photograph he had of my mother.”

“I’m sorry.” Kid stopped himself just before he placed a hand on hers.

“So am I.” Heyes tone was conciliatory.


                                                                                    18
Gretchen looked from one man to the next. “Thank you. My father believes it was
just an accident. Maybe a lantern fell over. Who knows? I agreed with him until the
other fires started. There have been so many, how can they all be accidents? Now
my father wants us to move back East to my Aunt Edna. I don’t want to go but if we
have to, I’d like to find out who did this and why, before we leave.”

“So every time there’s a fire you put on your disguise and sneak around to watch?”
Heyes finished his coffee.

“It’s not a disguise. This is how I dress.”

“All the time?” Kid asked, incredulous.

“Yes. What’s wrong with that? I work at the livery stables. This is a very practical
outfit.”

“It may be practical but it’s hardly…”

“What?”

“You’re a pretty girl. It’s a shame to hide all that away.”

“I’m not a girl and I’m not hiding.”

“Why are you working there?” Heyes asked.

“We need the money. My father is a carpenter. All his tools, his finished pieces were
all in the workshop attached to our house. He lost them all. So I got a job with
Brutus.”

“Brutus?” Kid queried.

“Brutus McKee. At the livery stables. He’s new in town and needed help with the
horses. He’s very sweet.”

“Yeah, all three hundred pounds of him.”

She smiled. “He’s really a gentle giant.”

“I’ll take your word for that. So where are you staying now?”

“The Todd family has given us rooms in their boarding house.” Suddenly she looked
up at them. “I need to know why our house was destroyed. I know it won’t bring back
the things we lost but… Will you help me find out who is doing this? Please?”

“We will, Miss Pickering,” Heyes assured her and she smiled.


                                              ***


                                                                                       19
Scene: Hotel Room

“What do you think of her?” Kid tugged his shirt over his head and hung it on the bed
frame.

“Gretchen?” Heyes sat on the edge of his bed and pulled off his boot.

“No, the governor’s wife.”

Heyes looked up. “Huh?”

“Of course I mean Gretchen. So what do you think of her?”

“Why, you sweet on her?”

“No.”

“I think she’s a very determined young woman.”

“You sweet on her?”

“No”

“So d’you think she was tellin’ the truth?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Why?”

“I can’t think of any reason for her to be lying. Her story’s too easy to check out.”

“What do you want to do tomorrow?”

“Get a bath, then take a look at the buildings that have been affected by the fires.”

“Before breakfast?”


                                              ***


Scene: Interior – Town Bath House

As he sat down in the bathtub, Hannibal Heyes gave a contented sigh. He leaned
back and closed his eyes, stretching out his legs until his feet touched metal. Across
the room, in his equally full and steaming tub, Kid rubbed at his soapy hair, then
ducked his head under the water.



                                                                                        20
“It can’t hurt to take a look at the affected buildings; ask a few questions about the
fires,” Heyes said as he soaped a leg.

“After breakfast, right?”

“After a shave and breakfast,” his partner reassured him.

“Reckon Lom will be in touch today?” Kid asked as he wiped water from his eyes
with a towel.

“Checking up on us, or making sure the town’s still here?”

“I think he trusts us with the town; it’s just the bank he’s never sure about.”

Heyes laughed as he rubbed soap into his hair. Kid reached for another towel and
began drying his hair.

“Why would you set fire to a town?” Heyes asked.

“I wouldn’t.”

“Hypothetically.”

“In that case I’ll stick with what I said last night. They’re building up to a big fire or…”

“I’ve got it!”

“Huh?”

“Kid, what happens every time there’s a fire?”

“Things burn.”

“I mean in the town. Someone yells fire and then what?”

“People run to help.”

“Exactly!” Heyes’ eyes lit up. “People run to help.” He nodded, clearly pleased with
himself.

“We’ve already discussed the idea of a distraction.”

“I know but…”

“FIRE!” The partners exchanged a look of disbelief at the shout. “FIRE!”

“You have got to be kiddin’ me!” Kid muttered, as towels were grabbed and, dripping
wet, they reached for their clothes.




                                                                                          21
                                             ***


Scene: Interior Saloon – Sometime Later

Two tired men, their clothes smelling of smoke, their faces blackened, entered the
saloon. They leaned on the bar, each resting a foot on the brass rail beneath it.

“Two beers,” Kid ordered when the bartender looked his way. He removed his hat
and placed it on the bar, his shoulders slumped forward. “If anyone else yells ‘fire’
today, I’m gonna ignore them.”

“I’m with you. I mean, how many fires can one town have?” Heyes reached for his
glass and took a long drink.

“I have parts of me achin’ that I didn’t even know I had.”

“I thought trail riding was hard on the back but lifting all that lumber out of the fire’s
way…”

As one they reached for their glasses and downed the remaining beer.

“We wasted money on that bath.”

“Yeah.”

“You feelin’ lucky enough to win some back at poker?”

“Kid, I don’t think I have the strength to hold up the cards.”

“Another drink, boys?” the bartender asked as he reached for their empty glasses.

“Thanks, Mike.”

“Didn’t see Gretchen this time, did you?”

“No, Kid, I didn’t.”

“D’you think that’s significant?”

Heyes stared at his friend.

“What?”

“Where’d you learn a word like significant?”

“All your readin’ wears off on me, I guess. So, do you?”

“I don’t know. I mean…”



                                                                                             22
“FIRE!”

Two sets of shoulders slumped. Two heads hung in despair.

“FIRE!”

“Heyes?”

“What?”

“You know I said I was gonna ignore it?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, what if it’s a family in trouble?”

“You had to think of that, didn’t you?”

The bartender placed two beers in front of them.

“Well, what if it is?”

“FIRE!”

Heyes looked at his beer, then at his partner. “Come on, let’s go.”


                                            ***

Scene: Platform, Porterville Station

“Two whole days without a fire,” Heyes mused as he leaned back in the seat on the
station platform. “No one reported smoke.”

“No one shouted FIRE!” Kid reminded him from where he stood leaning against one
of the station supports, arms crossed characteristically over his chest.

“Yeah, but no one’s asked for my help with the Silsby.”

Kid smiled at his partner. “D’you think she’s missin’ your touch?” Heyes gave him a
look and Kid chuckled. “Not seen Gretchen either.”

“No,” Heyes pondered. “Maybe I’ll wander over to the boarding house later.”

Kid didn’t remark on that as he looked down the line at the approaching train.
Plumes of black smoke rose into the air, but this cloud was accompanied by the
clang of a bell heralding the arrival of an iron horse.

“I hope that’s the last smoke we see before we leave town,” Kid muttered as he
pushed off the post. Heyes nodded his agreement and they watched the train pull to


                                                                                  23
a halt alongside them. Passengers began to disembark, friends were greeted,
luggage was unloaded and a familiar tall man stepped down from the rear carriage.

“Howdy, boys!” Lom called as he strode towards them. He looked around and
nodded his approval. “Glad to see the town’s still here.”

“Did ya think it wouldn’t be?” Heyes asked.

“Did ya think we’d steal it?” Kid added.

Lom took a moment before answering. “No, to both questions. So, was there any
trouble?”

“Not the kind we hafta stay out of.” Kid led the way down the slope to the street.

“So any more fires?”

Heyes and Kid stopped in their tracks. They exchanged a look. Lom waited.

“What?” Neither man spoke. “Heyes? Tell me. You didn’t let them burn the jail down,
did you?”

“Aww, Lom, as if we would!”

“Don’t ‘aww, Lom’, me, Kid. Just tell me what’s been happening.”

Heyes placed a hand on Lom’s shoulder. “How ‘bout a drink?”

Kid placed his hand on Lom’s other shoulder. “We’re buying.”

“Why? Has my office burnt down?”


                                             ***


Scene: Interior Saloon

“How many fires?” Lom’s beer hit the saloon table with a thud.

“You heard, Lom.” Heyes reached for his own beer.

“It’s a wonder the town’s still standing.”

“We did help put them out.”

“I know, Kid, and I’m grateful to you boys for that.”

“We met Gretchen Pickering too.” Heyes put down his glass.



                                                                                     24
“Gretchen? Her home was burned down right at the start of all this.”

“She told us.”

“Has a pretty good right hook too.”

“What did you do to her, Kid?”

“Me? Why’d you think it was me? Ask Heyes. He’s the one she hit.”

The sheriff turned to face the dark-haired man.

“We didn’t do anything. She was sniffing around after every fire and we just thought
she might be involved. She enlightened us to the truth.”

“With a blow to his jaw,” Kid smiled.

“I’ve been trying to figure out what the fires are for,” Heyes informed the law man.

“What have you come up with?”

“Not a lot. Lom, is there anything important on that side of town? I asked at the
newspaper office but no one seems to know anything. All I can come up with is that
the land is valuable for something.”

“Well, I haven’t heard of any big land deals.”

“No one’s been approached by anyone wantin’ to buy their property either.” This
statement from Kid drew two dark surprised stares. “What? I asked around too, you
know?”

“So why burn or scare people out?” Lom looked from one man to the next.

Heyes went quiet.

“Heyes?” Lom asked as he watched as the ex-outlaw’s brows furrowed. “What is it?”

“What happens every time someone shouts ‘fire’?”

“You asked me that before,” Kid reminded him. “Just as someone shouted ‘fire’.”

“And we said people run to help out, right?”

“Right.”

Heyes sat up in his chair. “Every time there’s a fire, the fire brigade responds!”

“Heyes, I hate to interrupt your statements of the obvious…”

“Lom, that’s the answer. The question is, what do they want us away from?”


                                                                                       25
“I think you’d better start at the beginning.”

Heyes looked at his partner and then to Lom. “When there’s a fire, the members of
the fire brigade go to check it out. That leaves a lot of buildings empty. The question
is, why would anyone want that?”

“So they can look inside.”

“Exactly.”

“Look for what?”

“I don’t know, Lom, but we need to ask some questions.”


                                            ***


Scene: Interior ‘Fire Station’

“You handled yourself real well today. Did everything we asked of you.” Heyes
patted the Silsby pumper affectionately.

“She’s worth every penny the town paid for her,” Sam Waterman said as he closed
the shed doors. He took out his pocket watch. “Jimmy should be by any minute. I can
practically set this watch by that boy.”

“Jimmy?”

“Jimmy Polanski. He’s as fascinated by this machine as you are. Hasn’t been a day
since we bought it he doesn’t come by to take a look or help out cleaning her.”

As if on cue the shed door opened and a young boy, about fourteen years old,
stepped inside. He removed his battered hat and scratched his brown hair. Blue
eyes opened wide and he smiled as he looked up at the Silsby.

“Evening, Jimmy.”

“Evening, Mr. Waterman. She sure was fine today, weren’t she?”

“Yeah, she was.”

“Did ya see how high those flames were? I reckon she could pump water even
further than she did.”

“We don’t have any buildings more than two stories so we’ll never know, will we?”

“What about Amos Hackman’s new barn? That roof’s awfully high.”



                                                                                     26
Waterman stopped what he was doing and looked at Jimmy. “Just don’t go wishing
for a fire there so we can try her out.”

“I won’t.” As he walked to the back of the shed he suddenly noticed Heyes standing
there. “Oh hello, Mr Jones.”

“It’s Smith.”

“Sorry, I ain’t too good with names. Did you see how high the flames were today?”

“I saw ‘em.”

“I wish Sam’d let me hold the hose but he says I ain’t strong enough. I bet I am.”

“The force of the water can…”

“I knew she was gonna be good when I first saw her.” Jimmy’s gaze fell on the
Silsby. “My Pa read about her in the newspaper before they bought her; about how
good she was. That back wheel is taller than my sister. I reckon the Silsby’d put out
a fire at Mister Hackman’s barn.” The boy turned back to Waterman. “What d’you
want me to do today?”

“Just give her a wipe over with a rag, Jimmy.”

“Okay.” The boy headed off to find a cloth.

Heyes watched the boy, thoughtfully.


                                          ***


Scene: Hotel Room

“I think I know where the next fire’s gonna be.”

“What?” Kid swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up.

Heyes closed the hotel room door and removed his hat. “You know that new barn
they’re building just outside of town?”

“Yeah. You think that’s gonna be next?”

“I do.”

“What makes you so sure?”

Heyes turned his hat in his hand clearly uncomfortable.

“What’s happened?”


                                                                                     27
“I met someone today. He helps out with the Silsby and is real fascinated by it.”

“Got some competition for her affections, huh?”

Heyes ignored his partner and ploughed on. “Sam told me he always turns up when
there’s a fire. Always offers to help out.”

“Sam?”

“No, this…person.”

“Well this person sounds like you, Heyes.”

“I’m serious. I think he could be the one.”

“So based on his fascination with a steam pump you think he’s our man?”

“Boy.”

“Boy?”

“He’s about fourteen.”

“A kid? You think a kid’s been settin’ these fires?”

“Yeah, unfortunately I do.”

“What about the land deal and the reason for gettin’ folk out of their homes?”

“I hate to admit it, but I think I was wrong.” He met Kid’s gaze. “I don’t have any
evidence, just a strong feeling, that it was Jimmy. He’s not a bad kid just a
little…slow. You know?”

Kid nodded. “I guess we’d best go see Lom.”

“All right, but first I’d like to check on that barn.”


                                               ***


Scene: Porterville – Outskirts of town

Kid and Heyes made their way to the outskirts of town.

“I hope I’m wrong about Jimmy,” Heyes said. “But somehow I don’t think so.” He
stopped and sniffed the air.

“Smoke?” Kid asked.


                                                                                      28
Heyes nodded and they picked up their pace, breaking into a run as they rounded
the corner of the building. A door on the side of the barn stood open and they could
hear the horses’ nervous snorts and whinnies. They stepped inside and a small form
collided with Heyes.

Eyes wide with fear, Jimmy looked up at him. “Mister Jones! I didn’t do nothin’.”

Heyes placed his hands on Jimmy’s shoulders. “What have you done?”

“It weren’t me!”

“Jimmy, tell us where you started the fire!”

“I…I didn’t mean to…”

Not waiting to hear the boy’s response, Kid ran deeper into the barn to be confronted
by a sudden wall of flames as a stack of hay caught light. Looking desperately
around, he grabbed a horse blanket and began to beat at the flames.

“JOSHUA!”

At Kid’s cry, Jimmy wriggled free from Heyes’ grasp and ran into the barn.

“JIMMY!”

Kid turned at Heyes’ cry and the boy ran past him into the tack room. Heyes gave
chase as dark smoke swirled confusingly around them. A pile of hay suddenly burst
into flames.

“The kid’s set incendiary devices everywhere! I thought you said he wasn’t smart!”
Kid complained as he beat at embers near his boots.

“I’ll get him.” Heyes ran towards the tack room. “JIMMY!”

Kid cussed under his breath, doing his best to put out at least one of the fires. The
whickering of the horses drew his attention and he turned his head in the direction of
the stalls to see one of the feed boxes alight.

“JOSHUA! GET OUT HERE! I NEED YOUR HELP!”

Kid ran to open up the stalls and release the horses. A large chestnut mare, eyes
wide with fear, lashed out at him with her front hooves.

“Easy, girl, easy.” Kid’s words did little to soothe her and the mare made a sudden
lunge for the open stall, pushing Kid out of the way, and slamming him elbow first
into the wall. He grimaced. The hay was well alight and beyond saving. Kid opened
the remaining stall doors and stood well clear as he ushered the horse to safety.




                                                                                     29
“JOSHUA!” Still Heyes had not reappeared. “What’s he doin’ in there, talkin’ the kid
into submission?” he muttered. “JOSHUA!” Kid grabbed a bucket and headed for the
water trough.


                                           ***


Scene: Exterior barn

“What’s happening?” a man asked, as Kid appeared in the barn doorway.

“The barn’s on fire! Get help!”

The man needed no further prodding and ran off to summon assistance.

Dragging the bucket through the water, Kid ran back inside. “JOSHUA! GET OUT
HERE!”

Heyes finally appeared in the doorway to the tack room. “Jimmy won’t leave!”

“Well he’d better, this place is gonna go up if we don’t get help.” Kid met his partner’s
gaze. A question was asked. “Go get him. Drag him out by his hair if you hafta but do
it quick! I’ll do what I can but you don’t have long. If the rafters catch light…”

“I’ll do my silver-tongued best.”

Kid smiled and Heyes disappeared back into the tack room.


                                           ***


“JOSHUA! TIME TO GO!” The rafters were alight, the stalls were burning. The air
was filled with smoke. Other men had joined the fire-fight and outside the Silsby was
in full flow.

“Jimmy or no Jimmy, we need to get out of here,” Kid informed them as he drew a
hand across smoke-reddened eyes. “JOSHUA!” Kid headed towards the tack room
when there was a loud crack overhead and a burning rafter plummeted to the floor a
couple of feet in front of him. “JOSHUA, GET OUT HERE NOW!”

“Mister Jones. Mister Jones, LOOK OUT!”


                                           ***


Scene: Exterior barn



                                                                                      30
“I’m okay,” Kid assured the man staring down at him. He raised his head and winced.
He looked around. “Where’s my friend?”

“Mister Smith?”

“Yeah.”

“Still in there, I think.”

“What?” Kid pushed himself to his feet and came face to face with Lom. He clasped
a hand over his mouth and dry heaved.

“You’re not gonna throw up on me?” the sheriff asked.

“Joshua’s still in there.”

“We’ll get him out.”

“I’m goin’ in.”

“You’re hurt. You need to…Dammit!”

He took off after Kid, catching him easily as the blond man swayed from side to side.
Lom grabbed hold of Kid’s arm. “You can’t go in there, it’s too dangerous!”

“Let go of me, Lom!” Kid shook off the sheriff’s arm and their eyes met. Lom’s
expression changed to one of resignation. Kid turned and entered the burning barn.


                                           ***


Scene: Interior Burning Barn

“HEYES! HEYES!” Kid searched frantically. He could see no sign of his friend
through the flames and the smoke. Crouching low, he stumbled towards the tack
room at the rear of the barn. Kid coughed and placed a hand over his mouth. He
untied his bandana, then fastened it across his nose and mouth. He rubbed his
streaming eyes, as he continued his search of each stall. Nothing. A beam had
fallen, blocking the entrance to the tack room. Kid looked beyond it, but saw only
flames. He turned away and then…Something was there…A hand!

“HEYES!” Kid crouched low and looked under the beam. He could just make out his
friend, lying on his back, eyes closed. “HEYES!”

Eyelids fluttered. An arm moved.

Kid clambered over the beam, pushing bits of fallen wood out of the way as he
scrambled to reach his friend. Pieces of burning timber fell from the rafters above,
one landing in Kid’s hair. He batted it away as he finally reached his partner. A fallen


                                                                                      31
beam lay across Heyes’ legs. Kid dropped to his friend’s side as a bout of coughing
consumed him. Kid noticed the bloody gash on Heyes’ temple.

“Heyes?”

There was no answer.

Kid studied the wood covering Heyes. A large beam appeared to be holding down a
smaller one. Fortunately neither was actually on Heyes’ legs, but they prevented Kid
from pulling Heyes free.

Kid grabbed hold of the biggest beam and pulled with all his strength. Teeth gritted,
he hauled. Slowly…Slowly…The beam moved. An inch. Kid grimaced and pulled.
Just a little more…just…a few…more…inches. Kid cried out with effort. The beam
crashed to the floor, freeing the ones beneath it. Kid pulled the debris from around
his partner’s legs, and then hauled his friend to his feet. He leaned Heyes against a
stall before hoisting him over his shoulder and heading for the barn doors.


                                          ***


Scene: Exterior Burning Barn

“What do you mean they’re not out yet?” Lom asked as he passed his bucket to
another man fighting the fire threatening to engulf a building next to the barn.

“They’re still in there, Sheriff.”

“Smith and Jones? You sure?”

“Yessir.”

“Dammit!” Lom stared in horror at the front of the burning barn. “Why didn’t someone
get me?”

“I don’t…”

“There they are!”

At someone’s shout, Lom turned to see Kid silhouetted as he staggered towards
them. Heyes lay limply over the blond man’s shoulder. When he was a safe distance
away, Kid sank to his knees just as Lom reached them. The sheriff helped lay Heyes
down. “DOC!”

Lom turned his attention to Kid. The blond man’s body was racked by a bout of
coughing. He fought to draw fresh air into his lungs. As the doctor arrived and began
ministering to Heyes, Lom placed a hand on Kid’s shoulder. It was all Kid could do to
nod an acknowledgement before he lost consciousness.



                                                                                    32
                                           ***


Scene: Interior bedroom – Lom’s House

Kid Curry opened his eyes and the room came slowly into focus. He moved his
head…and grimaced. He coughed.

“OW!” He moved to sit up and discovered his hands were wrapped in bandages.
Both arms bandaged to the elbows. A flicker of fear crossed his face. He raised his
right hand – his gun hand – and stared at it. The door opened and Lom entered the
room. Kid wasn’t quick enough to hide the question or fear in his eyes as he looked
at his friend. Jaw clenched, Kid didn’t say a word.

“It’s not as bad as you think,” the sheriff assured him.

“How bad is it?”

“The doctor bandaged them as a precautionary measure.” Kid was waiting to hear
more. “The heat burnt through your gloves. He said your hands will be sore for a
couple of days but there’s no permanent damage. He left a salve for you to use.”
Lom picked up a jar beside the bed to show him. “You’re a little singed but you’ll
survive.” He settled into a chair.

Kid stared at his hands once more, the right hand in particular.

“If you don’t trust me take the darn bandages off and have a look!”

“I trust you. Lom, it’s just…”

“I know. What’s Kid Curry without his gun hand? I’d hate for you to be just a mere
mortal like the rest of us.”

Kid sighed. “How’s Heyes?”

“Still unconscious.”

Kid’s face darkened. “Has the doctor seen him?”

“Several times.”

“What’d he say?”

“That he needs time to recover. You both do.”

“What did he say, Lom?”

“Heyes’ breathing’s labored from smoke inhalation. He could have a concussion from
the blow he took to the head. There’s no damage to his legs apart from a lot of


                                                                                     33
bruising. Until he regains consciousness, we won’t know any more. For now he is
resting comfortably.”

“Can I see him?”

“Nothing stopping you getting up, except that Margaret stole your clothes. Never
known a woman so desperate to get a man naked.”

They exchanged a glance. Kid raised an eyebrow. Lom coughed to cover his
embarrassment.

“Your clothes were dirty and smoky; she wanted to wash them. I’ll go see if they’re
done.”

Kid smiled at his friend’s discomfort, then a thought struck him. “Lom.”

The sheriff turned back.

“What about Jimmy?”

The sheriff shook his head. “Need help getting to Heyes’ room?”

“No, I’ll be fine.”

The sheriff nodded and Kid watched him leave. He held up his hands and studied
them. Anxiety in his eyes was replaced by determination. Kid began to unwrap the
bandage around his right arm.


                                           ***


Scene: Exterior – Front Porch, Lom’s House

“I’m fine, really,” Hannibal Heyes assured his partner as he sat in a chair on the
porch in front of Lom’s house. “Will you stop fussin’!”

“I’m not fussin’.”

Heyes met Kid’s blue eyes. “Yes. You are.”

Kid stepped back and leaned against the porch post. He crossed his arms over his
chest. “Is this better?” he asked.

“Yes.” Heyes sat back and gave a heavy sigh. He watched a man ride by on a horse,
a small boy sat behind his father, holding him about the waist.

Kid followed his friend’s gaze. “You know it wasn’t your fault.”




                                                                                      34
Brown eyes met blue ones. “I know, but I just keep thinking I should have realized
earlier. If I hadn’t been so focused on it being about a land deal or a distraction for a
robbery I might have realized sooner that...”

“You hadn’t even met the kid.”

“But I’d seen him around. I noticed Gretchen was there every time, so why didn’t I
spot Jimmy?”

“Gretchen’s a pretty woman. Understandable you’d spot her.”

“You know that’s not what I mean and besides, I thought she was a man.”

“And you thought an adult was to blame, not a child.”

“I shoulda saved him. I got him out of the tack room but he ran off. I thought he’d got
out.”

Kid pushed off the post. “Heyes you risked your life to save him. You did all you
could.”

“It wasn’t enough.”

“I was in there too. I didn’t save him.”

“You were saving me.”

“Wasn’t enough, though, was it? We both did all we could.”

Heyes nodded slowly. “I hate to admit it, but you might be right.”

“Gotta happen sometimes.”

Heyes managed a smile.

Gretchen Pickering turned the corner of the street, heading towards them. Heyes sat
up straighter in his chair and pushed his hair out of his eyes. Kid gave her his best
smile and touched the brim of his hat. It seemed the boys were going to be all right
after all.



THE END




                                                                                        35

								
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