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Delivery Troubles

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					                                  Delivery Troubles
                                   by Skykomish

Well-manicured fingers counted out a stack of small bills and handed them to the dark-haired
man. Brown eyes measured the amount before peeling off half and handing it to his partner.

“Thank you, Mr. Lowery. If you have another job, let us know,” beamed Hannibal Heyes as he
stowed the money in a pocket and put on his black hat.

“Thank you,” murmured Kid Curry, donning his own hat.

“Mr. Smith, if you and your partner are available, I do have one quick delivery here in San
Francisco for which I could use your help.”

Both hats came off in unison and two sets of eyes, one blue and one brown, riveted on the
stout lawyer.

“How can we help?” asked the blond with a smile.

The attorney slid a thick envelope from the top drawer of his desk. He handed it to the Kid,
who inspected both sides before showing it to Heyes.

“It’s a party invitation that needs to be hand delivered.” He paused and rummaged around in
his desk before handing Curry a piece of paper. “I need a signature acknowledging receipt.”
Lowery indicated a blank line at the bottom of the document.

Brown eyes slid sideways with an unspoken question for his partner. “You want us to hand
deliver a party invitation to …” he peeked at the envelope still in Curry’s gloved hand, “Josiah
Trapper, and you want a signed receipt.” He met the lawyer’s gaze. “You’re real cautious
‘bout getting the numbers right for the caterers?”

No response from Lowery, though a plump finger tugged nervously at his collar.

Curry cut to the chase. “What’s the catch?”

“Catch, Mr. Jones?”

“What else is in that envelope?” Heyes asked with a penetrating stare.

Lowery slumped into the leather chair behind his desk. “A subpoena,” he admitted with a
frown. “Trapper’s on the shady side of the local transport business. He doesn’t want to see
that subpoena. I’ll pay you an additional fifty dollars to simply deliver the envelope and get a
signature.”

“How shady are his businesses?” asked Heyes suspiciously.
                                                                                                   1
“And is he violent?” added the Kid.

“Getting the answers to those questions is what that subpoena is about. Will you help?”

“We’ll deliver your—invitation—for one hundred dollars,” countered Heyes.

“Apiece,” appended Curry.

Lowery drew himself up with an indrawn breath. “That’s ridiculous for one delivery,” he
barked.

“That’s the deal,” Heyes replied smoothly. He met the lawyer's gaze with apparent
indifference.

“Very well,” the attorney relented, “but I want the signed receipt back by the end of the day
tomorrow.”

“You’ll have it,” the Kid assured him.
                                          __________

The morning streets of San Francisco bustled with wagons, horses, carts, and carriages.
Mud and litter lined the edges of the cobbled road outside Lowery’s office. A petite woman,
whose gold-burnished, brown ringlets were escaping from a thick twist of hair pinned to the
back of her head, strolled down the boardwalk with her blue eyes fixed on an open book. She
wore a stylish lilac dress and a small flowered hat perched atop her curls. A light spray of
freckles scattered across rosy cheeks, and gleamed starkly on creamy skin. Several wrapped
packages nestled in the crook of one arm, and the hand that held the book also clutched a
stack of envelopes. She chattered to herself as she walked briskly down the street.

“Comment allez-vous? How are you? Comment allez-vous? Je m’appelle Tessa. My name
is Tessa. Je m’appelle Tessa." She bumped into a street vendor, and her look of surprised
indignation quickly transformed into a bright smile.

“Bonjour—I mean, Hello. Could you give me directions to the post office, please?"

“The post office, ma’am? Sure. You go along here…”

Tessa’s attention had returned to her book. “Comment vous appelez-vous? What is your
name?”

“Along here, till ya come to… Huh? It’s Wilkins, ma’am. Bo…”

“Comment vous appelez-vous? What is your name?”

“I’m tellin’ ya, ma’am, Bob Wilkins.”

                                                                                                2
The blue eyes came up, surprised at the uncalled for introduction. “Hello, Mr. Wilkins. The
post office?”

“You go along here, till ya come to…”

“Quelle temp fait-il? What is the weather like?”

“At the post office, ma’am? It’ll be pretty much like here—it ain’t THAT far! You come to the
general store…”

“Quelle temp fait-il? What is the weather like?”

Wilkins scratched his head, shrugged, and gazed at the sky. “I’d say it’s set fair, ma’am.”

She looked up, blinked. “What is?”

“What is—what?”

“What is set fair?”

“The weather, ma’am.”

“What has that to do with the post office?” Her brow puckered. Eager flicking of pages. “How
would I say that? Qu’est ce que c’est que… No!”

“At the store, you turn along…”

“Tchah! Je ne comprends pas!”

“Huh?”

“Je ne comprends pas—I don’t understand.”

“It’s simple, ma’am; at the store you turn along…”

“Oh, never mind. I’ll find it myself. Merci beaucoup, M’sieur.”

Her attention still fixed on the French book, she stepped off the boardwalk directly into the
busy street. People, horses, and carts, stopping and swerving to avoid her, did not penetrate
her unwavering concentration on the French lesson.

On the far side of the street, Curry clasped the invitation in one hand and adjusted his hat with
the other. Scanning the street, he saw a milk wagon bearing down on Tessa, her nose still
buried in her book. He sprinted forward and tackled the petite linguist out of harm's way.
They rolled to the far boardwalk and slid to a stop with the woman sprawled on top. Her
packages and mail were scattered in the dirt.

                                                                                                3
Two pairs of blue eyes locked. The moment passed when her eyebrows lowered, and she
scowled at the Kid. Delicately gloved hands slammed against his shoulders, and she
clambered to her feet. After disentangling herself from the ex-outlaw, her solid kick connected
with his shin.

“I don’t know what you think you are doing. I can assure you that I am not that kind of
woman! And in broad daylight on a public street. I suppose you think you can do whatever
you please..."

Curry pushed himself to his elbows and retrieved his hat. “Ma’am, I was just..." he
interrupted.

“...well I have news for you—you—COWBOY—you tackled the wrong woman.”

The Kid stood up and brushed the dust off his clothes. “Ma’am, you don’t understand. I
was..."

“Now, that’s rich. You accuse ME of not understanding. I suppose that being a woman, I’m
too rash, too emotional, not at all capable of understanding what a man has to say, or why a
man might behave in a beastly fashion. I assure you, SIR, that one day we rash, emotional
creatures will be able to vote and hold public office just like any man…” She drew breath.

“Ya finished?” the Kid asked with an edge to his voice.

“No! I am certainly NOT finished. Pas de tout! Though women have been silenced for
centuries, the tide is turning. We will no longer be the voiceless half of society! I am a
rational person. I have a voice…”

“Not disputin’ THAT.”

“...When I want something, I ask. When someone answers, I listen. I don’t throw people to
the ground while they are trying to learn French, and if I were to do so, I would at least
apologize." She paused and huffed out a breath into the resulting silence.

“Ya finished, now?”

She pushed stray curls out of her face and straightened her shoulders. Her mouth opened.
She took a deep breath, preparatory to more speech. Nothing. Her brow furrowed. Crossly,
she shut her mouth. A pause. “Yes,” she admitted, reluctantly. “What, if anything, have you
got to say for yourself?”

“You were gonna be hit by a milk wagon.”

Her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide in alarm. She locked gazes with him again.
“Oh.” The sound was small. A confused look vanished as she adjusted her hat. “Why didn’t
you say so in the first place? I’m not a mind-reader, you know.”

                                                                                               4
While she talked, Curry retrieved her parcels and letters.

She arranged the packages, and then nodded. “Thank you,” she said stiffly and swirled away
down the boardwalk.

The Kid stepped into the street only to peer directly into the twinkling, brown eyes of his
partner.

“Helping the needy again?”

“She’s a lunatic, and she talks more'n you do!”

“Pretty though.” Mock puzzlement in the brown eyes. “Hey, isn’t that your favorite kind of
needy?"

“Just let it go, will ya?” Curry glanced at the dirt-smeared letter in his hand. His eyes
widened. “Heyes, we gotta find that girl!”

Heyes pushed back his hat. “However pretty she was, we got a job to do, Kid.”

“We can’t. She’s got the invitation we’re supposed to deliver.”

The envelope was grabbed from Curry’s hand. Brown eyes inspected it. Heyes frowned at
his partner. “Great job. One eyelash flutter and you switch letters!” He pointed down the
street to their left. “She went that way!”
                                           __________

Heyes and Curry trailed the tiny dynamo in lavender silk as she slipped into the post office.
Heavy doors opened into a large room with high ceilings and numerous wooden columns.
Long lines snaked from two counters where clerks methodically slammed rubber stamps onto
ink pads and envelopes while helping the customers. Tessa was working her way rapidly up
the line on the right.

“Excuse me,” she cooed to the man in front of her. “I’m getting married the day after
tomorrow, and I’m in a dreadful hurry. Would you mind if I went ahead of you?... Oh, merci
beaucoup.” She moved to the next place in line and displayed an endearing smile. “Excuse
me, I know it’s a lot to ask, but I have so much to do. You see, I’m getting married in two
days. May I please step ahead of you?... Oh, comme vous etes gentil.”

Heyes’ smile grew both broader and warmer as he observed the woman work the crowd on
her way to the front of the line. “Are you going to get the letter back,” he quietly asked the
Kid.

“Me?”

“It’s only fair. You’re the one who lost it.”

                                                                                                 5
“But she’s already kicked me, and all I did was save her from gettin’ run over.”

“That should teach you the perils of helping the needy.”

Curry shot him a look before striding purposefully toward the young woman.

“You have my letter,” he said when he reached her.

“No. These are mine. You remember, you helped me gather them off the street after you
tackled me.” She smiled sweetly and moved ahead of the next person.

“I had one, too,” Curry replied patiently. “It didn’t have a stamp on it.”

“Then you’re in the wrong line. They sell stamps over there.” She pointed to the long line on
the left. “Excuse me, may I..."

“Go on ahead, ma’am,” replied the next gentleman before she finished her question.

Curry started to follow, but was blocked by an extended arm. “Wait your turn,” the man
snapped.

Tessa shook her curls at him. “You’re upsetting them. They were kind enough to let me pass,
because I’m getting married in two days, but you are making people angry.”

“I just want my letter.”

She snatched the envelope out of his hand. “I’ll mail it for you.”

“That’s thoughtful of ya, ma’am, but I need MY letter back.”

“But you just gave it to me! Wait a minute, this is MY letter!” she exclaimed, examining the
envelope.

“Yup. It is,” Curry agreed emphatically.

“What are you doing with my letter?” She studied his face and then smiled knowingly. “Oh.
You’re following me,” she said warmly. They had reached the front of the line, and she
handed all the letters and packages to the clerk behind the counter.

“Uh-huh,” answered the Kid.

“That’s flattering, but I’m getting married, and my fiancé is very jealous.”

With a quick “Merci beaucoup,” to the clerk, and a final dazzling smile for the ex-outlaw, Tessa
spun away and whisked out the double doors.

A moment passed before Kid Curry brought his lower jaw back to the closed position. “Hey,”
                                                                                                6
he objected to the clerk. “I need my letter.”

The small man behind the counter challenged the tall ex-outlaw with a bureaucratic scowl.
“Once a letter has been mailed, it becomes the responsibility of the United States
government. I cannot return any mailed letter, even to the one who mailed it. I certainly can’t
give it to you after that young lady entrusted it to the care of the United States Postal Service.”

“But it don’t have a stamp,” complained the Kid.

“Then you will get it back in a day or two when it’s returned to the sending address.”

“But it don't have a return address. I’m supposed to hand deliver it by tomorrow.”

“Then why ever did you mail it? I’m afraid that it will end up in the dead letter file.” He
dismissed the Kid with a snort. “Next,” he bellowed.

Curry plodded back to Heyes.

“So where is it?” asked the dark-haired man.

Curry pointed to the officious clerk. “She mailed it, and he won’t give it back. Says that it’s
under the protection of the U.S. Postal Service, but that they’re gonna put it in a dead letter
file because it don’t have a stamp.”

“Huh?”

Curry’s voice rose as he flung his arm in the direction of the conscientious bureaucrat, “They
won’t give it back!”

Heads turned to look at the two men arguing near the door.

“Shh. Keep your voice down. I’ll talk to him and get our letter back.” Heyes strode
confidently to the front of the line followed by a silently fuming Curry.

“Sir, we—my friend and I—" he waggled a finger between himself and the Kid, “need to
deliver that letter. The young woman had no right to mail it, and we need it back so that we
can fulfill our obligations to Clarence Lowery, Attorney at Law.” Heyes used his silkiest voice.

“It’s now the responsibility of the United States Postal Service. We’ll make sure it gets where
it needs to go.”

“But you told my friend that it will sit in the dead letter box because it has no stamp or return
address.”

“That’s right. You can’t pull one over on Uncle Sam by leaving off the return address. No
stamp. No delivery.”

                                                                                                    7
“But it was never meant to be mailed. He’s paying us to hand deliver it.”

“Then what were you thinking when you gave it to the United States Postal Service? I’m
sorry, but we can’t return your letter.” The clerk dismissed Heyes with a disdainful look.
“Next,” he called to the waiting line.

“Just a minute,” Heyes tried again, sliding a silver piece toward the clerk.

Catching sight of the money, the short man spluttered, “Sir, you will remove that—that—bribe
from my sight, or I will be forced to report you to the authorities. The United States Postal
Service is above reproach. You will not circumvent the proper delivery of the mail by tossing
around coinage. Please, leave.”

Curry grabbed Heyes’ bicep and gently towed him away from the window. “We don’t want
any trouble,” he soothed the offended clerk as he hauled his partner outside.
                                         __________

Fog swirled through the late night streets of San Francisco, obscuring the stealthy movements
of two ex-outlaws lurking behind the post office. The flames of the streetlamps were mirrored
in Curry’s polished Colt, glinting and blinking with the drifting mists. Heyes slunk silently to a
back door. The lock soon opened. Beckoning Curry with a gloved hand, he slipped inside the
government office.

Curry-blue eyes slid right and then left to ensure that the pair went unobserved as they stole
inside. He spied his partner crouched over a hooded lamp. A quick flare of light splashed
lurid shadows on Heyes' face before resolving into the soft glow of a shuttered flame.

“Where do you think it is?” Heyes whispered.

“He said it would land in the dead letter file. I guess we should look there.”

The dark head nodded before he prowled over to an empty counter to check the files
beneath. Curry stood sentry near a window that allowed him to watch both of the streets that
passed by the building. Soon Heyes left the counter. He scanned the labels on a wall filled
with wooden boxes and baskets of letters. After only a few seconds, he placed the lamp on a
table and scooped out the contents of one of the boxes. Moving closer to the light, he quickly
flipped through the mail. After plucking out the envelope he wanted, he secured it in an inside
pocket. Gathering up the other letters, he placed them back in the box attached to the wall.

“I got it. Let’s go,” he whispered to the Kid.

Flowing away from the window, Curry joined Heyes. He slipped in front of his partner and
cracked open the back door. Placing an eye to the opening, he inspected the alley before
following his Colt into the cold. Heyes slipped out after him, re-locking the door before
melding into the fog.
                                           __________

                                                                                                 8
Heyes and Curry strode briskly down the morning streets of downtown San Francisco. They
halted at a sign marking the Trapper Transport and Supply Company.

“Looks like the right place,” remarked Curry.

“Lowery said Trapper lives over the offices—we go 'round back,” said Heyes.

Around the corner, a covered stairway climbed the side of the building. Taking the steps two
at a time, Curry knocked briskly at a pristine, white-painted door and straightened his tan
leather jacket.

A familiar bright smile, freckled nose, and full head of bronzed curls popped into view as the
door swung open. Her smile wilted upon seeing the blond man and his dark-haired shadow.

“What are you doing here?”

“I'm as surprised as you are, ma'am.”

“Please, you have to go away.”

“Let me explain. I have a letter,” Curry stated.

“The one you accused me of taking?”

“Yes,” he replied evenly.

Heyes chuckled in the background.

Curry shot him a look.

“See you had it all along. Let's just say you apologized and leave it at that. Au revoir.” She
tried to shut the door.

A brown boot attached to the foot of a blond ex-outlaw stopped her.

“We have to deliver it into the hand—”

“You want to give it to me! No! Non – C’est impossible!” Her eyes flew open wide, and her
hands moved to her stray curls as she interrupted him. “We've been through that already. I'm
not going to take it again. You were unreasonable about it the first time.” She took a deep
breath and nodded to Heyes, lurking at the back of the porch. “Listen, we both know why
you're doing this. You even brought your friend for moral support. If I were available, I might
be intrigued. But I'm not, so you'll just have to leave. I'm sorry if I've wounded your feelings.
You're an attractive man—in a rough and ready sort of way—but I'm getting married
tomorrow!”

Curry radiated sincerity. “Honest, ma'am, I didn't know that this was your address.”
                                                                                                 9
“Don't be ridiculous! It's written right there on the envelope. But I'm not living here yet. I
need to get married tomorrow.”

“I just want to deliver this letter,” he ground out through clenched teeth.

“All right, I'll take it! But no matter how sweetly you ask, or how well it's written, I'm not going
to change my mind. I'm getting married tomorrow.” She plucked the envelope out of his
hand.

While they argued, a youth in a delivery uniform bounded up the stairs, juggling several
wrapped packages.

“This is the third delivery I've made here today,” he grumbled to Heyes when he passed him.

“Ohh! More wedding gifts!” the woman exclaimed, clapping her hands in excitement.

The delivery boy pulled out a receipt and pointed with a pen at a blank line on the bottom.
“Sign here, Miss Bishop,” he instructed.

Tessa used his pen, and then he turned to leave.

She placed a hand on his arm. “Just a minute. I need to get an address from you.”

“Sure thing, ma'am.”

“What is the address of Marcel’s?”

“Marcel’s?”

A shocked blink. “He’s only le couturier la plus distinguee in San Francisco.”

“Huh?”

“He came directly from Paris! They say he once designed for Sarah Bernhardt!”

“Oh—you mean that French guy who sews women’s frocks? He’s at 275 Pine Street. Best
wishes for tomorrow.” Bounding down the steps he hurried away.

She looked around the entry for a pen.

Curry pulled out the receipt for the invitation. “Miss Bishop, could you please sign right here?”
He pointed to a blank line.

She found a pen and signed without reading the receipt.

“What was that address?” she muttered.
                                                                                                   10
“275 Pine Street, ma'am.”

Tessa wrote the address on the corner of the invitation, then her head snapped up, and she
glared at him suspiciously. “How do you know the address of the shop I'm using for my bridal
gown?”

“I don't...I...”

“Oh, so you pulled that number right out of the air.”

The sound of a door closing echoed inside the apartment. “Tessa,” called a masculine voice
from several rooms away.

The young woman's hand flew to her mouth where it fluttered like butterflies. “Now you've
done it. If my fiancé finds you here, he'll never understand. He's VERY jealous.”

“He has no reason to be,” the Kid replied evenly.

“Then you're more broad-minded than he is,” she answered, while trying to shut the door and
pushing Heyes and Curry away.

A tall, slim man rounded the corner and abruptly stopped. He frowned at the sight of the two
strangers. Tessa nodded to Heyes, and then said, “Good day,” to Curry before firmly shutting
the door.
                                         __________

Inside, the man crossed his arms. “Tessa, who was that at the door?”

“That? Oh—that was no one,” she replied lightly with a dismissive wave of her hand. She
began searching through the stacked letters and packages cluttering an entryway table.

“It didn’t look like no one. Who was it?”

“No one important. Relax, dear. He means nothing to me. I told him…”

“What's that supposed to mean? He means nothing to you?”

“Nothing. Rien! I told him, perhaps if I’d met him before we were engaged…” Her fingers still
shuffled the accumulated mail. “Have you seen an envelope with an address written on it?”

He grasped her arm and gently pulled her around to face him. “Just a second. Who was he?
What did he want? And why were there two of him? I mean—two of them.”

“Because he brought his friend.” A dazzling smile. “For moral support.”

“WHO brought his friend?”
                                                                                            11
“The blond, good-looking one with the melting blue eyes brought the other fella—the tall, dark,
handsome man—with him.”

The eyes of Tessa’s fiancé goggled and then narrowed during the descriptions.

“Don't be silly, dear. You have nothing to worry about. The first one—what's-his-name—if I
hadn't been lying on top of him, I would hardly recognize the man.”

“LYING ON TOP OF HIM?!” The voice of her betrothed rose in both volume and register.

Tessa continued to rifle through the letters and packages. “Where is the address of Marcel’s
shop?”

Josiah Trapper grabbed an envelope off the edge of the table. On the corner, an address was
scribbled.

Tessa seized it and beamed up at him with a wide smile. “Merci beaucoup, Cheri.” She
kissed him on the cheek. “That's the address. I'll be off now for a fitting of my wedding
dress.”

“Wait. Wait! Forget about that! What's this lying on top of whom?”

“He was only being a gentleman. After all, if he’d landed on top, he might have crushed me.
You saw how tall and broad he is!”
                                       __________

Heyes and Curry walked briskly down the street. Trapper's Transport and Supply was still
visible a block or two behind them.

“We'll be at the lawyer's office real soon. Have ya got the receipt?” asked the dark-haired
partner.

“Right here, Heyes,” said Curry with a reassuring pat on the pocket of his jacket.

Heyes extended a gloved hand. “Let me see it.”

“Why? Don't ya trust me?”

“Sure I trust ya, but with everything we've been through, I want to see it myself.”

Curry treated him to a gunfighter-glare before fishing out the receipt and handing it over.

Heyes slowed down and then stopped while he studied the signature and the printed name on
the form. He looked up and locked eyes with the Kid. “We gotta go back.”

“Why? We delivered the letter and got a signature.”
                                                                                              12
“We're supposed to get the signature of Josiah Trapper.”

“Why? That lawyer just said we needed a signature. He didn't say who had to do the signin'.”

“I know. But here on the receipt—see, just below the blank line—it says, 'must be signed by
the addressee.' That's not Tessa Bishop.” Heyes thrust the receipt at the blue-eyed outlaw
and jabbed his finger at the signature line. “Ya gave the letter to the wrong person. We gotta
go back and get Trapper to sign this, or we won't get paid.”

“Ah, Heyes, I don't think it's worth a hundred dollars to talk to that crazy woman again.”

“I'll try talking to her this time. Come on, we gotta go back.”
                                             __________

Inside the apartment, Tessa Bishop continued soothing her betrothed, while securing a
flowered hat to her hair with a pin.

“Cherie, if I knew his name, I’d tell you.”

“Some cowboy rides in off the range, picks you up in the street—and you don’t even know his
name?!”

“He didn’t pick me up. He knocked me down.”

“Do I need to make it real clear to him that he needs to leave you alone?”

“You don't need to do a thing. But, if it will make you feel better, I promise never to see him—
or his friend—again.”

They were interrupted by a solid knock on the door. Tessa moved to answer, but Trapper
pushed her gently aside and reached for the knob himself.

Hannibal Heyes stood on the porch with his black hat held in one hand and the receipt in the
other. Kid Curry stood a few steps behind, watching the doorway.

“Mr. Trapper, we're very sorry to bother you folks again, but my partner made a mistake giving
the invitation to Miss Bishop.”

Josiah whirled around to confront Tessa. “He's sending you invitations?! You told me that
you don't even know his name, but his partner knows your name and mine.” Trapper rounded
on Heyes. “So your—associate is sending my fiancée invitations?”

“No. Nothing like that—"

“So which is it?” Josiah cut him off and called out to snare the Kid's attention. “Did you give
my fiancée an invitation?”
                                                                                                  13
“Well...” drawled the blue-eyed ex-outlaw.

Tessa interrupted. “I'm sure that it doesn't mean anything. It's just an innocent infatuation,
Sy. Isn't it, sir?” The last was directed to the Kid.

“No,” replied both Heyes and Curry in unison.

“Really?” asked Tessa, staring at the Kid with an open and considering expression. “I had no
idea that you could become serious about a girl that quickly.”

“Tessa, tell me the truth,” demanded Trapper, “How long has this been going on?”

She spun to face him. Blue ice glittered in her pretty eyes. “I just met him yesterday morning.
If you don't believe that, then I really don't know what else to say.” She blew out a sigh. “Oh,
there's my carriage.” She brushed by both partners and started down the steps. She stopped
and called back to Curry. “Would you sort things out with Josiah, please? I really must be
going.” With no further explanation, she disappeared down the stairs.

Trapper looked past Heyes and glowered at the Kid. After a few seconds, Curry removed his
hat and ran both hands through matted curls. He walked up to the door and faced the young
woman's jealous intended.

“All I've been doin' is tryin' to deliver a letter to YOU.”

“That's the truth,” Heyes added. “We've both been trying to deliver a letter to Mr. Josiah
Trapper for two days now.”

Trapper glared at Heyes, and then returned his focus to Curry. “Where is it?”

“Where's what?” asked the Kid.

“The letter you're trying to deliver to me.”

The Kid patted his pockets and then shot his partner a question with blue eyes and raised
eyebrows.

Heyes shook his head.

The blond glanced at the street where Miss Bishop was looking at an envelope as she
climbed into the carriage. With an expression of dawning understanding and frustration,
Curry slammed his hat back on his head. “Miss Bishop took it! She wrote the address of
some French fella on the envelope.” He grasped Heyes' shoulder. “Come on, we gotta catch
her and get that invitation back.”

“Here we go again,” Heyes grumbled with a shrug. “We'll be back just as soon as we can, Mr.
Trapper. And this time we'll have your letter.”
                                                                                         14
They hurried down the stairs and after Tessa Bishop.

Josiah Trapper remained on the porch, rhythmically tapping fingers against his thigh. His jaw
clenched tightly, and his brows pinched into a single line over his nose and eyes. A burly
man, whose ill-fitting suit failed to hide the bulge of a large revolver, joined him on the porch.

“Who was that, boss?”

Trapper scowled. “A couple of cowboys who are too far from the range. I don't like how close
they are to Tessa.” He met the other man's eyes. “Follow 'em.”

“Not again.”

“You heard me, Jack. If she's not doing anything wrong, then no one has anything to worry
about.”
                                        __________

Heyes and Curry followed Miss Bishop until she disappeared into the courthouse. Without a
word, they stopped simultaneously and leaned against a street lamp outside the building.

“Now what?” Curry whispered from one side of his mouth. “What did she go in there for?”

“I'm not sure, but I don't think it has anything to do with us. Let's just go on inside and see
where she went.”

“In the courthouse? Are you nuts?!”

“Kid, we just need to be real casual. Why shouldn't two honest citizens walk into the
courthouse?”

“Two honest citizens? No reason. Us? Plenty of reasons.”

Heyes mulled for a moment. “You haven’t gotten anywhere with her anyhow. I think it’s time I
showed you how persuasion works on a woman.” He aimed a cocky smile at his skeptical
partner. “We’ll have that invitation back in no time.”

Their casual stroll was marred by quick starts and stops. Their eyes darted furtively in all
directions. They resembled a couple of long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs.

The large double doors of the courthouse waited behind solid white columns. Hung on the
wall to the right was a list of public services offered. Halfway down the list, Heyes spied
“Marriage Licenses.” He pointed, and the Kid smiled and nodded. Heyes tugged the hem of
his corduroy vest and then pushed open the door and led the Kid inside.

A directional arrow on a placard in the lobby indicated that marriage licenses could be
obtained down a hallway to the right. They followed the corridor to a small room where a
                                                                                                  15
single clerk stood behind a counter. Tessa Bishop was at the head of the line arguing softly
with the lanky official.

“I told you that I need it now, because we're getting married tomorrow.”

“Ma'am, I've already explained—twice—that I can't issue a marriage license without both
parties present.”

“Since we're getting married tomorrow, you really have very little choice in the matter. I don't
know why you can't see that,” Tessa countered sweetly.

The harried clerk pointed to a large hand-lettered sign above his head, and then indicated a
line of bold type on the printed form. “See right here, and up there, it says very clearly that
the bride and groom must BOTH appear in person.”

“If you keep repeating yourself, we aren't going to get anywhere,” she huffed and tapped the
counter with her hand for emphasis.

Hannibal Heyes walked up behind the woman and cleared his throat to get her attention.
“Excuse me,” he tried when she failed to turn around.

“Oh, no. Not you again. Don't tell me; let me guess. Your friend wants his letter back.”

“If you would just look in your bag, I think you wrote an address on it.”

The clerk greeted Heyes with a hopeful, and slightly desperate, smile. “Is this the fiancé?”

“Don't be ridiculous. Does he look like my fiancé?”

The clerk squared his shoulders and frowned. “Ma'am, I've had enough of this foolishness.
I'm afraid that you will have to step aside.”

“Fine,” she snapped and whirled away from the window. Heyes followed her.

“See what you've done,” she snarled. “How am I to get married tomorrow if I can't get a
license? They close in less than an hour. Josiah will never get down here in time.”

Heyes' smile didn't touch his eyes. “It's not my fault that you didn't get your license. I'm not
your fiancé.”

“Oh please, don't be absurd. If you were my fiancé, I would have the license right now. And
they say that men are the logical ones.” She stopped walking and examined Heyes with a
scheming gleam in her eyes. “All right, you'll just have to do it.”

“Do what?”

“Be my fiancé!”
                                                                                                   16
Heyes eyebrows climbed his forehead. “I’m flattered, ma’am, but isn’t that position taken?”

“Obviously I mean pretend to be my fiancé! It’s the least you can do.”

“No, ma’am. The least I can do is nothing.”

She tossed him a wicked grin and shrugged. “I thought you wanted that letter back.”

“I do, but that clerk’s gonna know we’re lying. When I lie, I make it believable. This is dumb.”

“Then you keep quiet, and I'll do the talking.” She slipped her hand through the crook of his
arm and towed the dark-haired outlaw back to the clerk's window.

“I found my fiancé.”

“You just told me he wasn't your fiancé.”

“I was mistaken. I didn't recognize him.”

The official scowled, but grabbed a blank form and a pen. “What's your name?” he growled at
Heyes.

Tessa held up a hand and stated firmly, “He can't hear you. He's mute.”

Heyes frowned before saying, “Don't you mean 'deaf'?”

“Oh, yes.” Turning to face Heyes, she spoke loudly and slowly with exaggerated lip
movements. “Thank you, Sweetheart!”

“You're marrying a deaf-mute cowboy, and you didn't recognize him?” asked the clerk with an
incredulous rise in volume.

“Yes,” smiled Tessa, brightly.

“No!” chimed in Heyes at the same moment.

A mutual scowl was exchanged.

“Maybe I can explain,” Heyes began in his best conciliatory tone.

“If he's a deaf-mute, how come he's talking?” scoffed the clerk.

Tessa straightened her shoulders and slammed her hand on the counter. “How dare you rush
to judgment on a poor unfortunate!” she exclaimed. “I assumed that you were a God-fearing,
church-going gentleman.”

                                                                                                17
“Of course, we attend the First Congregational down on—”

“Good,” she interrupted. “I'm sure your minister will be very interested to learn that you refuse
to give aid and marriage licenses to those of God's good children who are less blessed and
have physical disadvantages. The Good-Lord-Above knows that their lives are difficult
enough without insensitive bureaucrats like yourself preventing them from getting married.”

“All right, all right. Just take it!” He hastily filled out some lines, signed his name, and shoved
the document at the infuriating woman.

Her whole face transfigured with a beautiful smile. “Thank you so much for your kindness.
That is very sweet of you.” She turned away from the window and took Heyes’ arm.
Resuming her loud, clear voice with extra lip motion, she enunciated, “Come along,
Sweetheart. This way.” The ex-outlaw was led—carefully, as if blindness had been added to
his list of physical idiosyncrasies—back to Kid Curry. She smirked into his dark eyes, placed
his hand tenderly on his partner’s arm and left him.

“Ya gettin' married?” asked the Kid.

“Just come on,” Heyes groused. “At least she's going to give me the letter.”

They followed the diminutive figure outside, where two sets of shoulders slumped, as brown
and blue eyes watched Tessa’s carriage roll away down the street.
                                         __________

Several blocks later, Heyes stopped his partner with a gloved hand to the shoulder. “We've
lost her,” he stated morosely.

Curry grinned. “Yeah, but I know where she's goin'.”

“Ya do?”

“'Course I do.”

Heyes waited with an expectant expression. “Ya gonna tell me, or are you handling this one
on your own?”

“She’s goin’ to see some fancy Frenchman who sews dresses.”

“This is a big city. D’you know his name?”

“Unh-unh, I didn't get the name...”

Heyes’ shoulders slumped.

Curry’s smug pause was perfectly timed. “…But I did get his address—275 Pine Street.”

                                                                                                 18
Heyes examined the street signs on the corner, then looked at the ones a block behind them.
“Okay, that would be this way,” he stated confidently and strode off down the street.

A muscular figure in a tight suit emerged from between two buildings. He studied the
retreating forms of Heyes and Curry. “Sy ain't gonna like this,” he muttered to a skinny young
man following him.
                                          __________

Tessa Bishop fussed with the pearl encrusted head piece nestling amid her abundant curls.

Behind her a dapper man with waxed mustachios and immaculate tailoring, adjusted a silken
rosebud with deft fingers. Two black-clad women, needles in hands, stitched rapidly at tiny
seed pearls trimming the floating gauze.

The man stepped back and threw up his hands in admiration. “Comme Mam'zelle est chic!”

“Superbe!” chimed in Assistant-One with a French-via-New-Jersey accent.

“Chouette!” agreed Assistant-Two, with hints of a southern twang.

“Extraordinaire!” In unison.

“It is so long,” observed Tessa with a hint of worry.

“Ees a la mode, Mam’zelle. Eet will add—'ow do you say—a magical layer to the back view
of your ensemble. C’est chouette!”

“Tres Chic!” “Superbe!” “Extraordinaire!” chorused the assistants, on cue.

“Well…” Tessa hesitated.

“When Mam’zelle sees the veil with the dress—she will be—enraptured!” enthused Marcel.
“’Ortense! ‘Ermione! La robe!” His fluttering hands clapped imperiously.

Assistants One and Two—presumably ‘Ortense and ‘Ermione, I mean, Hortense and
Hermione—scurried off to fetch the dress.
                                        __________

Meanwhile outside, Heyes and Curry gawked at the pink facade and Marcel's lace-and-
ribbon-bedecked windows. They engaged in silent a conversation. One brown eye squinted
while a blond head slowly shook.

“You'd best get in there and get the letter,” Heyes encouraged his partner with elevated
eyebrows and a flick of his hand.

“Why me?”

                                                                                            19
“I talked to her last time, Kid. Besides, she thinks you're sweet on her. She'll be nicer to you.”

A snort. “It hasn't made workin' with her any easier, so far as I can tell.”

As they argued, Hortense (or possibly Hermione) opened the door. “Can I help either of you
gentlemen?”

“My friend here,” Heyes indicated the Kid as he doffed his hat, “needs to speak with Miss
Bishop. It's a matter of some urgency regarding her wedding plans.”

“I'm afraid you will have to wait until she is finished. Marcel does not allow MEN…” The
amount of disapproval Hermione (or possibly Hortense) put into that monosyllable was
impressive. “…into his fitting rooms.”

Curry drew back. “Isn’t Marcel a man? He’s in there.”

“Marcel is not merely a man. He is le couturier! An artiste! A genius! Are either of you a
genius?”

Heyes opened his mouth, caught his partner’s warning glare and shut it again. “No, ma’am,”
he modestly demurred, “but, the thing is, it's real important that my friend here talk to Miss
Bishop. She's about to make a terrible mistake. You see, she agreed to get married after she
thought he had lost interest in her. But the truth is, Thaddeus was protecting Miss Bishop
from her father—a mean and angry man. Things have settled down now back at the ranch,
so he trailed her all the way from the plains of Montana, looking for that priceless pearl of a
woman he can't live without. He's just gotta talk to her before Tessa makes the biggest
mistake of her life. He's got the house built for her, like they always dreamed it could be.
Please ma'am, if ya have a heart, if you've ever been in love—I mean truly in love—or if you
ever hope to be, let my friend talk to her. You don't want to stand in the way of true love, do
ya?”

Her face softened. “All right,” she relented. “But just him,” she pointed at Curry. To Heyes,
“You can wait just inside the door.”

“Thank you so much, ma'am. The angels of love are singing your praises.”

Curry rolled his eyes, before they both slipped inside.
                                          __________

Outside on the boardwalk, Josiah Trapper's paid henchmen, Jack and his shadow, slunk
around the corner. Jack's eyes flicked from side to side, checking the street. He casually
leaned against a streetlamp and peered through the window.
                                         __________

Next to the door, Heyes perched on a dainty wicker chair. The sales assistant led Curry to the
back of the shop. The Kid's movements were controlled and precise as he avoided the stacks
of buttons, lace, fabrics, and accessories cluttering Marcel's shop. Moving carefully, with the
                                                                                               20
athletic grace of a predator, he resembled a leashed tiger negotiating the frilly and overly
feminine environment.

“There she is,” she murmured, with a motherly pat to his arm. “Good luck!”

Tessa Bishop stood in an ivory wedding gown with sheer fabric and ribbons encasing her
shoulders and buttoned to just under her pointed chin. A lacy veil started at the crown of her
head and cascaded down her back covering an enormous bustle and train.

Curry stopped in his tracks.

“Miss Bishop, you look lovely,” he said with a tip of his hat.

“Of course Mam’zelle looks lovely!” snapped the circling Frenchmen. “ALL women dressed
by Marcel look lovely! Elle sont tres chic!”

“Superbe!” “Chouette!!” “Extraordinaire!!!” chimed the faithful acolytes.

“What are you doing here?” Tessa hissed to Curry.

“Que fait-il ici?" echoed Marcel. "Ez ’e the groom? Zat is bad luck!”

“No!” Curry’s fervent denial verged on uncivil.

“No, of course he isn’t the groom,” snapped Tessa. “He just wishes he were!”

“I don’t!” Spotting the duped sales assistant’s suspicious frown, he amended. “That is, I do…
I mean…”

“This has gone on long enough,” said Tessa. “How many ways do I have to tell you, I'm
getting married tomorrow?”

“Ma'am, I just—” Curry tried, but Tessa cut him off with a raised hand.

“I'm sorry. I really am. You are a very handsome—and I must say—a very determined man. I
respect that. I really do, but Josiah is not always as nice and reasonable as he was this
morning. When he gets jealous, he can actually be dangerous. If you keep pursuing me, I
can't speak for your safety. For your own sake, you've got to let me go.” She turned away
melodramatically and came face to face with a large mirror. “Oh no!” she whispered. “Too
late!!”

“Huh?”

“My fiancé has had us followed. That’s his gunman, Jack, outside. He’ll kill you! This is bad.
Very bad.”

“I cannot ‘ave zis man keeled ‘ere!” squeaked Marcel.
                                                                                               21
“Won’t find me arguin’,” concurred Curry.

“Bien sur, za scandal would ruin my reputation. My boutique! My seelks!!”

Kid Curry blinked, then returned to the main point. “Where is this Jack?”

“He's coming inside!”

Marcel grabbed both the ex-outlaw and the bride-to-be, thrusting them behind a fitting room
curtain. “Vite! ‘Ide!”

From behind the heavy drapery, Tessa and Kid Curry heard raised voices at the front of the
shop.

“M’sieur, you aren't allowed in ‘ere.”

“I just gotta check on my boss' fiancée, then I'll leave.”

“Get under my dress,” Tessa ordered.

“Are ya outta your mind?” protested Curry.

“Listen, Josiah goes crazy when he's jealous. If Jack finds you in here, Sy will have you
killed. He doesn't wear a gun strapped to his leg for show like you…”

The fastest gun in the West opened his mouth to protest, but Tessa's loquacity rolled on.

“…He keeps his hidden and knows how to use it. Now get under my dress, and I'll get us out
of here.”

“I ain't hidin' behind some lady's skirt!”

“I said underneath, not behind. Do it! Now!!”

“Miss Bishop,” called Jack from the other side of the curtain.

“Who's there?” she chirped, innocently.

“It's Jack, ma'am.”

“Jack? Jack who?”

“Jack Druckle, ma'am. Mr. Trapper's—uh—assistant.”

“Oh. Hello, Jack. What brings you here?”

                                                                                              22
“I'm real sorry to bother you, Miss Bishop, but I gotta know who’s in there with ya.”

“In here, Jack? No one. All the assistants are out there with you.”

Silently, but emphatically, she pointed at her cascading train and indicated that Curry must get
underneath. “Now!” she whispered.

With a disgruntled glare, the Kid squatted down and duck-walked underneath the voluminous
fabric of the bustled wedding dress.

“Who are you talkin' to, ma'am?” Jack called.

“Why you, of course, Jack. Who else would I be talking to?”

“Ma'am, are you sure that you're alone in there?”

“Absolutely sure!”

Curry pulled the heavy fabric over him.

“I'm powerful sorry, ma'am, but I'm gonna have to ask ya to come out so I can check. I don't
wanna, but you know how the boss gets when he's jealous.”

Tessa poked her head out from behind the curtain. “If you must, I suppose you must,” she
said with resignation.

She pulled the curtain aside, patted her bustle, and twitched the long lace veil into place.
Moving with mincing steps, she exited the curtained alcove and inched toward the front of the
store. Jack quickly inspected the dressing room and found nothing suspicious. He popped
out from behind the curtain and watched Tessa move away with an ungainly waddle. His
expression soured.

“What’s that bulge?” he asked, pointing.

“Bulge??!!” exploded Marcel. “BULGE??!! ‘Ow dare you! Nozzing cut by Marcel bulges! Le
bustle—c’est le dernier cri! Mam’zelle looks superbe!!”

“Really, Jack!” Tessa managed a carefree laugh. “I hardly think you are an expert on the
latest styles!”

She recommenced her mincing journey to the door. As she turned a corner, the tip of a
cowboy boot peeked from beneath the ivory satin as the bustle switched directions.

Jack’s brows snapped together. His head shook, sadly. “The boss is really gonna get mad
about this!”
                                       _________

                                                                                              23
Heyes smiled and tipped his hat as Tessa listed past him and out the door, navigating her
dress through an ungainly turn. Using two fingers, he pushed his hat to the back of his head
and frowned at the strangely independent mound of fabric trailing her small frame.

The brawny thug who worked for Trapper nodded to Heyes as he also exited and hurried in
the opposite direction. Heyes touched the brim of his hat and nodded at Hortense (or
possibly Hermione) before following Miss Bishop.

“Do ya really think you're hidden under there, Thaddeus?”

Tessa's head snapped around, and she glared at Heyes.

“Your fiancé's watchdogs took off in the other direction, ma'am,” he told her. “You coming out
from under there?” he asked the satin-and-lace mountain.

Kid Curry's matted curls emerged from under the hem. He fought his way free of the fabric
and clamped his hat back on his head.

“If he's caught with me, my fiancé is going to kill him,” announced Tessa.

“Apparently Trapper is real violent when he's jealous,” added the Kid. “He sent Jack to follow
us.”

“Jack?”

“Trapper's hired muscle. Do ya think that he noticed me under the dress?”

Heyes covered his mouth and rolled his eyes before he snarled, “Of course he noticed ya!!
Folk across town coulda noticed ya!! What the Sam Hill were you thinking?”

“It was my idea,” piped in Tessa. “Sy has had me followed before. He's threatened men just
for dancing with me. I wanted to protect your friend.”

“So—dancing is out, but he’s fine with men burrowing under your skirts??!!”

Tessa drew herself up. “There’s no need to be sarcastic. If Jack reported that I was alone,
your friend would be safe.”

“But instead, Jack's running back to tell Trapper that you got something more under your
wedding dress than silk stockings and a bridal garter.”

“I suppose when you put it that way, it does sound…"

“There's no other way to put it! But we can clear this mess up and take care of ourselves.
How about you?” asked Heyes.

“I beg your pardon?” Tessa asked, bewildered by his question.
                                                                                              24
“Are you safe, ma'am?” the Kid asked quietly.

“Of course I am! Josiah loves me. He would never hurt me.” Her tone started out indignant,
but turned more doubtful as she faltered to a stop.

“Are you sure, ma'am?”

She smiled into his sincere blue eyes. “Yes. I'm sure, Mr....” she hesitated. “I don't even
know your name.”

“It's Jones, ma'am. Thaddeus Jones. And this here's my partner, Joshua Smith.”

“Well, Messrs. Smith and Jones, let's leave the area before Josiah has a chance to get here.”

“Don't you need to change clothes first, ma'am?” asked the Kid.

She gathered the voluminous satin in her hands and eyed her wedding dress wistfully. A sad
smile played with the corners of her mouth. “I was planning to take it back to the hotel
anyway. I don't want to waste time changing when Josiah's coming back here to threaten
you. I'll change at the hotel.”

All three piled into her hired carriage. The heads of the two ex-outlaws emerged from a nest
of lace and chiffon.

“Palace Hotel,” Tessa told the driver.

The Kid studied the fragile-seeming creature seated next to him. “Don't ya have family ya
could stay with?”

She studied her lap and picked at the beading on her dress. “My parents aren't in the country
just now. A misunderstanding involving taxes and government contracts. They decided it was
best to spend some time abroad. They'll be back before long, I'm sure. As soon as it all gets
cleared up.”

Heyes smiled. “So that's how the rich run from a warrant, huh?”

A ready smile covered Tessa’s brief wince. “Mr. Smith, you seem certain you can convince
Josiah nothing is going on between me and Thaddeus. How?”

“We'll give him the invitation we've been trying to deliver. It's addressed to him, and we need
his signature.”

The Kid added, “Could ya give it to me?”

She frowned. “You aren't going to start that again, are you?”

                                                                                              25
Before she could continue, Curry covered her lips with three fingers.

“Miss Bishop,” said Heyes, “You wrote Marcel’s address on an envelope. That's the one we
need. When we deliver it to Trapper, it’ll prove that was all we were ever trying to do.”

Tessa rummaged through her bag, drew out the scuffed invitation and handed it to the Kid.

Before he could pocket it, Heyes plucked it out of his grasp. “I'll keep it this time, Thaddeus.”
He placed the invitation inside an interior vest pocket and patted it possessively.

Curry rolled his eyes. “Miss Bishop, how'd a nice girl from a rich family get mixed up with a
man like Josiah Trapper?”

“Sy's not all bad. Our families have been friends for years. I resisted any talk of marriage at
first. After all, I'm not some possession my family can trade in for a profit.” She smoothed
down the billowing clouds of wedding satin. “But once I met Josiah, what my family had
arranged didn't matter anymore. He was so much fun, and with just a hint of danger. I had
never been around someone like that. You and your partner are such nice, dependable, and
respectable people; you probably wouldn't understand what I'm talking about.”

A mute conversation.

“You know Miss Bishop is right, Thaddeus,” interjected Heyes in an earnest tone. “You and
me are just regular, hard-working, church-going fellas. That world of high rollers and risky
money that Mr. Trapper is involved in would just be bewildering to the likes of me and you.”

Curry shot him a sour glare, but Tessa nodded wisely. Heyes met the lady's look with sincere
puppy-brown eyes.

The carriage came to a halt. “We're here,” said Tessa.

“Are ya sure that you'll be safe here alone, Miss Bishop?” asked Curry.

“I'm sure, Mr. Jones. Sy is after you, not me.” She pointed to the hotel. “See that window up
there on the corner? Second story? That's my suite. No one's going to hurt me once I'm up
there. You deliver the invitation and explain things to Josiah, and I'll get married tomorrow
evening.”

“I'll walk you up to your room. To make sure that you're safe, ma'am,” the Kid said as he
bounded out of the carriage and offered his hand to help her down.
                                        ___________

The second floor hallway in the luxurious hotel was hushed and deserted as Curry escorted
Tessa Bishop to her suite. Tessa was strangely quiet. When they reached her door, she
inserted the key, turned the heavy glass knob, and pushed open the door.

“I can't say it's been a pleasure, ma'am, but it's been somethin' unique,” he said, while
                                                                                                26
removing his hat. “If ya don't mind, I'll take a quick look, just to make sure yer safe” He
stepped inside the suite, quickly scanning for threats. “Best wishes for your weddin'
tomorrow,” he added as he backed toward the door.

A sharp rapping on the window nabbed their attention. A familiar black hat and brown-haired
head hovered in view. Curry threw open the window. Heyes stood on a fire escape.

“Trapper's on his way. He's carrying a shotgun, and he's got gunmen with him. Let's go!”

A loud banging was followed by a shout. “Tessa! I know you got that cowboy in there. I saw
him walking you up to your room. Now stop lying, and tell me what's really going on between
you two! Open this door, Tessa!”

“I'm not opening it, until you calm down, Josiah! I have done NOTHING wrong. I just met Mr.
Jones yesterday morning. I've told you everything. This crazy jealousy has got to stop!”

“Open the door, Tessa. NOW!”

“No!”

The Kid reacted to the cocking of a weapon. He shoved Tessa to the ground and jumped on
top of her. The blast from a shotgun ripped into the wood of the door. Curry scooped Tessa
up and carried her to the window. Heyes crouched on the fire escape.

“She's comin' with us,” the Kid declared.

The two ex-outlaws and the bride-to-be scurried down the steps to the street and pulled away
in the hired carriage.
                                       ___________

“Still think that Josiah won't hurt you?” asked Heyes, as he steered the horses around a
corner.

“He'll listen once he calms down.” Her voice was unsteady.

“What now?” asked the Kid. “We can't outrun them in this thing,” he indicated the carriage
with a gesture, “and we can't leave Miss Bishop to face this alone.”

“I'm thinking,” replied his partner. “Are they following us?”

Curry peered out the back. “Yep. I see at least three of them on horses. What happened to
the driver?”

Heyes waited until after he negotiated another corner before answering. “He decided things
were getting a little too exciting. When he saw Trapper and his men, he ran off and left the
carriage.”

                                                                                              27
“Now what?”

Heyes didn't reply. He pulled hard on the reins to avoid an enclosed wagon that was slipping
down a side street. “That's it,” he crowed. “Get out! Both of you. Jump in the back of that
wagon. I'll lead Trapper and company away and then meet you at Soapy's place.”

Curry stared silently.

“Hurry!” yelled Heyes. “Ya hafta get moving before they round the corner and see what we're
doing. Go on! I'll be fine. He doesn't have a problem with me.”

“All right,” the Kid agreed reluctantly.

He helped Tessa down, and they hurried after the wagon. Curry leaped on board and then
offered his hand to Tessa. She gathered the fabric of her dress around her waist and reached
for his gloved hand. He pulled her into the wagon.

“It's a trash collector!” she whined, while gathering the cascading satin around her waist.
“Could this night get any worse?”

“Yup, it could,” Curry nodded towards Trapper and his men chasing after his partner.

The wagon slowly bumped through the alleys and backstreets of downtown San Francisco.

The silhouette of a horseman caught Curry's attention, and he shoved Tessa flat into the bed
of the wagon and held her there.

“What are you doing? I thought we had moved beyond the point where you tackle me. My
dress is probably ruined already, but do you have to make absolutely certain that it is
destroyed beyond all repair?”

“I think I saw someone lookin' for us.”

The hard edge to his voice silenced her. “I thought that your partner was leading Josiah
away,” she offered meekly.

“That's the plan, ma'am. But you tell me, is Trapper easy to fool? Or is he smart and checks
things out for himself?”

“Sy is no fool.”

“I was afraid of that.”

Curry drew his Colt and shimmied down onto his belly. His blue eyes watched the rider, on
alert for pursuit.

“Eeheww, do you realize the kind of filth that's carried in this wagon?” she asked with a sniff.
                                                                                                28
“I'd rather not think about it, ma'am.”

Just as the horse and rider stepped out of view, the wagon shuddered to a stop. A jostling at
the front was followed by slow footsteps. Curry signaled for Tessa's silence and stayed on his
stomach beside her. The business end of a double-barreled shotgun peeked over the tailgate
of the wagon.

“Who's hidin' back 'ere?” grated a low and deliberate voice. “I ain't kindly disposed to drifters
hitchin' a lift.”

“We don't mean no—" Curry began, but was cut off by Tessa.

“Oh sir, thank you so much for the ride. We've been so frightened.” Tessa wriggled free of
Curry and her bronze curls popped above the tailgate. Blue eyes wide and guileless, she
smiled shyly at the driver.

He lowered his weapon at the sight of the elfin face and the smudged and disheveled
wedding finery.

“Ma'am, you shouldn't be back there. It's full of folks' garbage.”

“But, sir, my fiancé has gone crazy. He's wild with jealousy. This kind stranger was helping
me by fixing a broken carriage wheel outside of my dressmakers', when Josiah came by and
went berserk. He accused me of all kinds—"

“Ma'am, did you say Josiah?”

Tessa's vigorous nodding sent her curls bouncing. She sniffed back tears. “That's right.
Josiah Trapper. He's my fiancé.”

Curry carefully sat up and inspected the driver in scruffy overalls. The shotgun had been
lowered, but a finger still twitched near the trigger.

“Josiah Trapper's got a real hard reputation among us teamsters, ma'am. That's one mean
cuss—'scuse my language—yer keepin' time with.”

“He and some other fellas are lookin' for the lady,” Curry added. “So it'd be best if we kept
movin'.”

“I ain't tusslin' with Trapper or his men. I'm right sorry, ma'am, but that wouldn't be healthy.
You two just crawl on outta there, and I'll be on my way.”

“Look,” Curry said, pinning the man with a cold glare. “I need to get the lady to a house up on
Nob Hill. Just take us there.”

“No, sir. I ain't takin' that chance.”
                                                                                                   29
Curry holstered his weapon and climbed out of the wagon before helping Tessa. Her dress
was wadded in her fists, and the train was tangled at her waist. The driver hurried around his
wagon and up onto the bench. With a snap of the reins, the rig pulled forward.

“Now what?” she grumbled and slammed her fists against her legs.

The sharp crack of a shotgun cocking broke the silence.

“Now we wait for the boss,” announced an unfamiliar voice. A large slab of a man stepped
out of the shadows. His shotgun was pointed at Curry. “Jack,” he called, “get over here and
help me cover these two.”

“Comin', Ollie.” Jack was still stuffed into the same suit and had a six-gun aimed at the Kid's
heart. “What about Nate?”

“Nate needs to go tell the boss we have these two covered and bring 'im here.”

“Ya hear that, Nate?” asked Jack.

“Sure did.”

The sound of booted feet jogging away echoed through the alley.

“Now, you—cowboy—unbuckle that gun belt, real slow, and let it drop to your feet,”
commanded Ollie.

Curry untied the knot at his thigh and then complied.

“That's real good. Now just kick the belt on over here.”

A shove from the Kid's foot sent the holster skidding in Ollie's direction.

“Good job.” Trapper's henchman bent to pick up the weapon without lowering his shotgun.
                                      __________

Heyes slowed the carriage and checked behind him again. No sign of pursuit.

“Where are they?”

He parked the carriage at the side of the road and waited. Listening. No one followed.

“You just wait here, fella. I'll be back,” he told the horse as he secured it to a hitching post.
Heyes drew his gun and checked the chambers before moving cautiously back along the way
he had come.

He had backtracked several blocks when the hammer of a six-shooter clicked behind him.
                                                                                               30
“Raise 'em!” barked a harsh voice.

Heyes lifted his hands above his head, and the Schofield was jerked from his grasp.

“Keep your hands up and turn around. Slowly.”

Heyes turned around. Josiah Trapper's lanky frame leaned against the wall. His sandy hair
hung around his face, and Heyes' revolver was shoved in the waistband of his expensive suit.
He held a six-shooter aimed steadily at Heyes' eyes.

“Where's your friend and my fiancée?”

“I don't know what ya mean, Mr. Trapper. My friend's back at our—”

Heyes' lie was cut short by a backhanded blow across his face. Gloved fingers dabbed at the
blood trickling from his mouth before raising his hands again.

“Don't lie to me!” bellowed Trapper. “I have no reason to hurt you, but I don't have any reason
to keep you alive either.”

“If you'll just listen, I have the invitation we've been trying to deliver to you in my inner vest
pocket.”

“But that doesn't explain why your friend has been chasing my girl for two days.”

“Yes it does, Mr. Trapper. We gave it to your fiancée by accident. We've been trying to get
the invitation back, so we can deliver it to you. We only get paid if we hand it to you
personally and get your signature.”

Trapper lowered his weapon. “Where's the invitation?”

Heyes started to reach for it. Trapper pointed his gun at his throat.

“It's inside my vest in a pocket on the right side,” Heyes answered carefully.

Trapper reached into Heyes' vest and retrieved the letter. He read the address and uncocked
his gun. “So there really is an invitation for me,” he chuckled. He met Heyes' brown-eyed
stare directly. “My apologies, Mr...”

“Joshua Smith,” Heyes answered and offered his hand.

At that moment, Nate came charging around the corner. “Mr. Trapper, Ollie and Jack's got
Miss Bishop and that cowboy in the alley back by Montgomery Street.”

The barrel of the revolver snapped back to Heyes' face.

                                                                                                     31
“Well, now we know where the partner is.”

Heyes opened his mouth to explain, but shut it when Trapper cocked his gun.

“Save it, Smith. Let's wait and talk about this when we're all together.”
                                          __________

The Kid saw Heyes round the corner on the wrong side of a revolver. A sharp shove between
his shoulder blades sent the dark-haired outlaw stumbling into his partner. Both men had
their hands tied securely behind their backs. Tessa Bishop stood near the Kid with her hands
tied in front. Flanked by Nate and Ollie, Josiah Trapper scowled at his fiancée, who glared
back from a cocoon of rumpled ivory satin. Jack stayed to the right of the outlaws with his
gun aimed squarely at the Kid.

“So nothing's going on?” sneered Trapper. “You took him to your hotel suite! What am I
supposed to think? You hid him under your wedding dress. YOUR WEDDING DRESS!!
Look at yourself, Tessa. Look at it through my eyes.”

Trapper took a couple of shuddering breaths and then continued in a quieter voice. “I love
you. You make me crazy, you know that. I'm afraid that I'm going to end up killing you as well
as this cowboy after the way you carried on. You make me crazy!”

Tessa took several steps toward him and raised her bound hands. “You love me? I'm tied up
in an alley! You say you love me and threaten my life in the same sentence. That's not love,
Sy. That's obsession!”

She lowered her hands and stood next to Curry. “Mr. Jones has been nothing but a
gentleman. I was prepared to marry you, Sy! I haven't done anything wrong, but you went
crazy anyway. I can't prove to you that nothing has happened. You either believe in my
virtue, or you don't. You take my word, or you don't. It's up to you. But this jealousy is not
love.”

“All right,” he shouted back. “I'm sorry! Did you hear that? I'm sorry. Did you ever hear me
say I was sorry before, Jack? Ollie? Have I ever said I was sorry?”

“No, boss,” murmured Ollie.

“No, never,” said Jack at the same time.

“See, Tessa,” Trapper continued. “I've never said I was sorry before. But for you I will say it.
I'm sorry. Now, let's forget all about these cowboys and their invitation. I'll take you back to
the hotel, and we'll get your dress fixed.”

“That's very nice, Josiah, but no. You see, I've come to realize that I don't love you. So, I'm
not going to marry you after all.”

“Oh, Miss Bishop,” Heyes interjected. “You don't want to make a decision like that—"
                                                                                                  32
“If that's the way you want it, Tessa,” Trapper interrupted and raised his revolver. “I pour out
my heart to you. I apologize, and you decide you don't love me. I can dispose of three
bodies as easily as two.”

Heyes shot the Kid a beseeching look, but Curry shook his head, glancing at the four armed
men surrounding them.

At that moment, five men wearing dark blue uniforms, complete with tall derby hats and police
badges, stepped into the alley pointing weapons at each of Trapper's men.

“Drop 'em, boys. We've heard enough, and we got ya surrounded,” announced the police
leader in a booming baritone.

As the officers disarmed the thugs, Josiah Trapper spun and aimed his gun directly at the
disheveled woman in soiled satin. Using his shoulder, Curry knocked Tessa to the ground
and fell on top of her. The revolver fired, but an errant bullet whizzed harmlessly past. Before
Trapper could fire again, Heyes lowered his head and rammed it into his gut. Josiah
crumpled into a heap with Heyes straddling him. The gun skittered across the cobbled alley.
A San Francisco police officer stomped on the moving weapon and aimed his gun at the jilted
businessman.

As the police secured Josiah and his thugs and untied Heyes, Curry, and Tessa, the garbage
driver poked his head around the corner.

Seeing that Trapper and his men were in custody and being led away, the driver sidled up to
Curry. “I couldn't face Trapper for ya, but I went down to the police station and told 'em where
the trouble was startin'.” He turned to Tessa, “I hope that yer all right, ma'am. I tried to get
help here as soon as I could.”

Tessa's face was lit by a brilliant smile. “Thank you,” she answered and kissed him on the
cheek. “Comme vous etes superbe!”

“Extraordinaire!” murmured Kid Curry.
                                           _________

Multicolored lanterns decorated the terrace of a mansion overlooking the moon lit bay where
the high society of San Francisco danced. Carriages and buggies lined a wide parking area
attended by two men in ill-fitting and dated suits.

Curry leaned against a wall and shot a sideways glare at his dark-haired partner. “Tell me
again, Heyes, why we're parkin' buggies and totin' and carryin' for Clarence Lowery, Attorney
at Law, and his highfalutin' party?”

“Because we need the money, seeing as how we didn't get paid for delivering the subpoena
since Trapper never signed the receipt.”

                                                                                                   33
“Yeah, but we got him arrested for attempted murder. What do they need that subpoena for
now? We did better than he asked, but we still didn't get paid.”

“I know. Maybe we should refuse all jobs offered by lawyers on principle.”

A carriage pulled in front of the mansion. Heyes directed the driver to a parking spot, while
Curry opened the door for the single occupant, whose blue eyes shone with mischief.

“I figured that Josiah wouldn't be using the invitation, so why shouldn't I enjoy the party,” said
a familiar voice. “Could a lady get the nice doorman to escort her in a dance or two?”

“I'm supposed to be openin' the door for the guests,” he answered with a lopsided grin.

“Come on, Mr. Jones, you don't always have to be so dependable. Try doing something a
little risky. You might even enjoy it.”

Heyes pulled the Kid aside and whispered, "Careful. Remember the perils of helping the
needy."

The Kid laughed, but turned and offered Tessa his arm. “It would be my pleasure, ma'am,” he
answered, ignoring his partner.

Heyes watched him escort Tessa Bishop inside. “I knew he noticed that she was pretty.”




Author's note: A huge thank you to Calico for her invaluable help with the comedy.




                                                                                                 34

				
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