by Coronado and Kwiltn
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry arrived, saddle sore and trail weary, in Buffalo,
Wyoming. The local hostler raised his hand in a welcoming wave as they rode past him
and down the main street. Two young ladies chatted merrily about the upcoming barn
dance as they exited the mercantile, baskets brimming with calico and braid for new
frocks. A small, tow-headed boy watched the two former outlaws with admiration, and
galloped his stick pony alongside them for a moment until his mother called him sharply
back to her side. Heyes and Curry looked at each other and smiled.
―Remind you of anyone?‖ asked Heyes with a grin.
―Uh-huh. Me and Lightnin‘. That old wooden horse could take me chasin‘ Indians clear
to South America, huntin‘ bear up in Canada, over the ocean to see the little people in
Ireland, and all in one afternoon.‖
Heyes smiled. ―Yeah, I remember all those stories Grandpa Curry used to tell us about
the leprechauns back in the old country.‖ He looked over at the Kid and grinned. ―It
wasn‘t too good at flying, though, as I recall…‖
―Well, no. That leap you took with her off the barn roof pretty much ended her
adventures. And earned us both a good whuppin‘.‖
―Yeah, well, how about I buy you a beer to make up for it,‖ said Heyes, pulling up to the
hitching post of the saloon.
―Well, it‘s a little late, but I accept,‖ said Kid with a thirsty grin.
Across the street, a man was stepping out of the mercantile when he saw the former
outlaws. He stopped short and stepped quickly around the corner. He had the
appearance, countenance, and odor of a man who had been several months on the
trail, and his face was extraordinarily repulsive, though largely hidden by an enormous,
―Well, whaddaya know…‖ he murmured to himself. His eyes focused intensely on
Heyes and Curry as they stepped inside the batwing doors of the saloon.
They stopped just inside as their eyes adjusted to the darkened room.
Heyes inhaled deeply ―Ahhhhh,‖ he smiled. ―Now, that‘s a smell I love.‖
―What? Cigar smoke, sweat, and stale beer?‖ asked Kid.
―No…‖ Heyes nodded toward a trio of poker tables occupied by young cowhands fresh
from the trail. ―Money.‖ He chuckled as they headed to the bar.
Kid held up two fingers to the bartender as his partner slapped a coin on the counter.
Both pairs of eyes scanned the four corners of the room and Heyes‘ gaze was
distracted by the card play.
―Boy, I can‘t wait to get at those loose pockets. We may have to stay on an extra day or
two, Thaddeus. It could be quite…profitable.‖
Heyes turned to the bar to take his first sip of beer, but was stopped short when Kid
said, ―I don‘t believe it. What‘s HE doing here?!?‖
Heyes turned quickly and followed Kid‘s gaze to the rear of the saloon where a familiar
figure sat hunched protectively over a bottle of whiskey.
―Harry Briscoe?‖ they exclaimed, simultaneously.
Harry‘s head snapped up in their direction. Harry scanned the room, as if looking for an
escape route. Seemingly finding none, he cowered warily as the former outlaws carried
their glasses and sat down on either side of him. Briscoe was unshaven and red-eyed,
and a fine powder of dust flew when Heyes slapped him on the back with just a little
more gusto than necessary.
―Small world, ain‘t it, Harry?‖ quipped Curry.
―Uh…hi boys,‖ Harry said warily. ―Fancy seeing you here.‖
―Yeah, fancy that,‖ Heyes repeated with a smile. ―You know, Harry, it‘s amazing that as
far and wide as these western parts run, we can‘t seem to stay out of each other‘s way.‖
―Yeah…ain‘t that funny?‖ He attempted a laugh and nervously looked toward the door.
―Here, Harry,‖ Kid lifted Briscoe‘s drink. ―You better take a swig before you shake
yourself to pieces. You‘re a mess!‖
Harry looked at Heyes, who nodded in agreement. Briscoe emptied the glass in a
single swallow, and then sent another worried look toward the batwing doors.
―Why, Harry, you‘re jumpier than a bucket of frogs! You‘re not scared of US, are you?‖
Heyes smiled, mischievously.
Harry appeared to give the matter some thought. ―No, of course not!‖ Then he
reconsidered. ―Well, maybe just a little. But you‘re not what I‘m worried about right
now. Not unless you‘ve thrown in with that suspicious looking character who‘s after
me!‖ He became agitated.
―Now, now, Harry. Just relax. Remember, we‘re your friends.‖ Heyes poured another
glass. ―We‘ve got an understanding, right?‖
Harry seemed to relax just a little.
―Now supposin‘ you tell us who‘s after you,‖ Kid prompted.
―And why,‖ added Heyes, taking a long draught from his beer.
Briscoe thought for a moment and took another sip. ―Well, I‘m on a job. A BIG one! If
all goes well, I could be in for a huge promotion!‖
―And is all goin‘ well?‖ asked Curry.
―No…not exactly.‖ Harry lowered his voice and leaned over. ―I‘m delivering a package
we picked up in Idaho down to South Branch.‖
―Me and my associate – another Bannerman man named Evans. Everything was going
just fine until a couple of days ago, when the dang fool choked on a chicken bone and
died right there in front of everybody in the restaurant. Not a pretty sight, I tell ya‘, what
with his face all purple and his eyes rollin‘ back in his head!‖
Heyes and Curry grimaced.
―That‘s awful!‖ exclaimed Heyes.
―You‘re not kidding! Now I‘m left alone with this package to deliver no later than Friday,
or my career is finished!‖
―Glad to see you‘re still so concerned about your fellow agents,‖ Heyes said,
Harry frowned and went on as if Heyes hadn‘t spoken. ―I wired for a replacement, but
he‘ll never get here in time. Three days!‖
―Must be important,‖ observed Kid.
―You bet. The recipient is a personal friend of Mr. Bannerman, himself. There‘s some
kind of business deal riding on this package.‖
―So, who‘s after you?‖ asked Heyes.
Harry‘s eyes shifted left and right between the two. ―There‘s this man – a real scraggly
type who was hanging around outside the bank when I put the package in the safe.
Looked to me he may have been piping the bank for a robbery. And he was pretending
to read the newspaper – upside down, mind you – when I came from the hotel. I‘ve felt
like someone has been watching me ever since. I‘m plenty nervous. If I don‘t get this
package to South Branch by six o‘clock Friday evening, Bannerman will have my hide!‖
―Do you know this guy?‖
―I never laid eyes on him before. He looked like a hard case. Black hair, big beard and
a face that could stop a train. The package is locked up in the bank safe for now,
though.‖ He gave a quick look to Heyes. ―Now, don‘t you be getting any ideas!‖
―Ah, Harry, we‘ve told you over and over, we don‘t do that anymore,‖ vowed Heyes.
―But just out of curiosity,‖ he leaned in closer, ―what‘s in the package?‖
Harry took a slow sip from his glass and looked from one wanted man to the other. His
face brightened as an idea came to him.
―Well, I‘ll tell you on one condition. You two have to ride with me on the noon stage
tomorrow to South Branch. You‘ll be my bodyguards.‖
―Bodyguards! You‘re kiddin‘!‖ said Kid. He and Heyes began to rise, beers in hand.
―As usual, it‘s been a real joy running into you, Harry,‖ said Heyes. ―Have a real nice
―I‘ll pay you!‖ Briscoe yelped in desperation.
Curry and Heyes sat back down.
―OK, Harry, how much?‖ asked Kid.
Harry hesitated. ―A hundred dollars.‖
Kid rolled his eyes and Heyes chuckled.
―OK, a hundred and fifty! That‘s all I can do!‖
―What‘s in the package?‖ asked Heyes a second time.
Harry averted his eyes. ―I don‘t know. They told me they were Cattlemen‘s Association
―Awww, Harry, you can do better than that.‖ Curry shook his head.
―What do you mean?‖ Briscoe feigned innocence.
―First of all, it doesn‘t take two Bannerman agents to deliver contracts, even if it is for
Bannerman himself,‖ said Kid.
Heyes jumped in, ―Second, do you really think that any thief, scraggly or not, is going to
trouble himself tracking you for a package when they have no idea what‘s in it? And if
they did know what was in it – legal papers – what would they do with them?‖
―And third,‖ continued Curry, ―you forget that we know you, Harry. Your eyes get even
littler and beadier when you‘re lyin‘. You know exactly what‘s in that package, and if
you don‘t ‗fess up right now, the deal‘s off!‖
―Okay! Okay!‖ Then Briscoe lowered his voice to a whisper. ―It‘s diamonds, worth
about ten thousand dollars. They‘ve got to be there by Friday to help close a big land
deal for the railroad. Now, are you going to help me or not?‖
Heyes looked at his partner, who nodded. ―Two hundred and fifty dollars, in advance,‖
he countered, ―and only one of us goes.‖
―TWO hundred--! Why, that‘s robbery!‖ exploded Harry.
―Now, calm down, Harry,‖ soothed Heyes. ―And keep your voice down. We‘re no good
to you if we‘re locked up. I‘ve got some business to attend to here,‖ his eyes drifted
over to the young men at the poker table, ―but Thaddeus will make sure you and your
package make it to South Branch. Is it a deal?‖
Harry‘s lower lip jutted out as he mulled this over. ―Only half in advance and you buy
your own stage ticket!‖ he hissed.
Hannibal Heyes looked at his partner, who shrugged and offered no objection. ―Deal!‖
He smiled and shook Harry‘s hand.
The sun was just beginning to set when Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry settled
themselves into two cane back chairs on the hotel‘s porch. Heyes took two cigars from
his vest pocket, and his partner held the match as they drew deep from the flame. Soon
they were enveloped in a cocoon of smoke.
―Ahhhhh,‖ sighed Curry. ―Now, this is the life.‖ He tipped the chair back and closed his
―Mmmmm,‖ agreed Heyes. ―Seems like a decent enough town. Good grub, good
smokes, and,‖ his dimple deepened, ―some good-looking women.‖
Opening his eyes, Curry watched as two lovely young ladies walked past the hotel,
whispering among themselves as they cast shy looks at the handsome men on the
porch. The Kid nodded and grinned.
From around the corner of the hotel, a black-bearded man stealthily crept within
earshot. As the two reformed outlaws went on to discuss the various attributes of the
town's women, they were unaware that they, themselves, had become the subjects of
scrutiny. Their conversation drifted from women and whiskey to their upcoming plans.
―You sure you‘re okay going along with Briscoe?‖ Heyes inquired.
―Yeah. Sure, why not? We got a few days to kill before we‘re due in Porterville, and, as
you said, those boys at the poker table look ripe for the pickin‘. You stay and gather in
some of that cash. We‘ll need it if we‘re goin‘ to lay low in Mexico for the winter. I‘ll be
fine. Harry won‘t give me any trouble, though if he starts on any of his wild stories about
his great adventures as a Bannerman agent, I may have to shoo—― he stopped as
Heyes leaned forward suddenly, his eyes focused on two riders coming down the main
Blackbeard backed off and into the shadows behind the hotel.
―Well, now,‖ the Kid said as he rose from his chair. His right hand dropped
automatically to rest on his sidearm. ―Wonder what brings them around?‖ He leaned
on the porch railing, his cigar clenched between his teeth. Heyes rose and joined Curry
as they watched the riders pull up to the saloon.
―Only one way to find out,‖ Heyes suggested as he stepped off the porch and walked
briskly across the street. He caught up with the two men at the hitching post. Despite
their grimy faces and threadbare, dusty clothes, Heyes recognized his former
―Howdy boys!‖ he exclaimed as he slapped the taller one on the back.
Wheat Carlson spun around quickly, his fist cocked, ready to throw a punch. A look of
surprise preceded the grin that broke out on his face as he recognized the former leader
of the Devil‘s Hole Gang, and the punch turned into a hearty handshake. ―Well, I‘ll be
dogged, Kyle! Look who‘s here!‖
But Kyle Murtry was already close to hopping with excitement, a tobacco-stained grin
covering his dirty face. ―You two are a sight for sore eyes. I thought y‘all ‗d be done
gone to Mexico by now, Hey…‖ He stopped himself just in time to keep from blurting
out the outlaw‘s name.
Irritated, the Kid grabbed Kyle by the arm and pulled him around the corner from the
saloon. Wheat and Heyes followed.
―What‘re you tryin‘ to do, Kyle? Sometimes you‘ve got no more sense than a turnip!‖
admonished the Kid.
Kyle hung his head dejectedly. ―Sorry, Kid,‖ he mumbled. ―I forgot.‖
Heyes took in the haggard appearance of the two. ―You two look about done in. If you
can behave yourselves, I‘ll buy you a beer,‖ he offered.
―Well, I wouldn‘t want to insult you by refusin‘,‖ agreed Wheat.
Heyes laughed and again slapped the bigger man on the back before the four went into
Blackbeard watched this interchange intently. He spat in the dust and slunk away from
the hotel. It was hard for him to keep his hands from clenching into fists. ―Sure, Heyes.
Laugh it up while you can,‖ he snarled.
As Curry, Heyes, Kyle, and Wheat approached a table in the rear of the saloon, Heyes
ordered four beers from the bartender and Kyle swiped a couple of hard-boiled eggs
from a bowl on the bar. Briscoe was nowhere to be seen. Large glasses of beer were
set all around. Kyle thirstily gulped down half his portion, while Wheat took one long
―Been awhile since we‘ve seen you two,‖ Heyes began. ―Is everything going all right?‖
Though the words were spoken with an air of casual conversation, Heyes‘ eyes belied
―Well, it ain‘t been great, mind you, but we‘ve been doin‘ okay,‖ said Wheat. ―We‘re
branchin‘ out into other areas of opportunity, you might say. I‘ve got a couple of plans in
the works, and business is aimin‘ to pick up real soon. How about you boys?‖
―We‘ve managed to get along,‖ said Kid. He leaned forward and stared hard at Wheat.
―Your uh, ‗business,‘ as you put it, ain‘t gonna involve the local bank or anything that we
need to worry about, is it, Wheat?‖
Wheat snorted. ―Naw, we‘re just stoppin‘ in for a quick drink and some oats for the
horses, and then we‘re headed out. We got bigger fish to fry than this sad excuse of a
Kyle opened his mouth to object, but a harsh look from Wheat made him reconsider.
―So, are you two still chasin‘ that carrot that Lom and the governor are danglin‘ in front
of you?‖ Wheat taunted.
―Well, as a matter of fact, things are looking real good. We‘re headed up to Porterville
in a couple of days, and I wouldn‘t be surprised if Lom didn‘t have the very news we‘ve
been waiting for,‖ boasted Heyes. ―Y‘know, we could still put in a good word for the two
―We ain‘t interested. But you just keep on believin‘ that yarn that Lom‘s spinnin‘. Me
and Kyle will keep on makin‘ the easy money.‖ Wheat downed the remainder of his
drink, pushed back his chair. ―Well, I got better things to do than sit around jawin‘ all
evenin‘. Don‘t take too long, Kyle.‖ Wheat gave Kyle a look of warning that didn‘t
escape Heyes‘ and Curry‘s notice.
―So,‖ Heyes began, ―you all have been doing fine…‖
Meanwhile, outside the saloon, Wheat gathered the horses‘ reins and headed for the
livery. He was met midway by the black-bearded man.
―It‘s about time you two showed up. I thought I was goin‘ to have to finish this job by
myself!‖ he admonished Wheat.
―Now just hold your water, there, Leo. Me and Kyle ain‘t more than an hour late, and we
just happened to run into Heyes and the Kid…‖
―I know that! I‘ve been watchin‘ them two since they rode into town. You didn‘t let on
that I was around, did ya?‖ His eyes narrowed, suspiciously.
Wheat snorted. ―Naw, why would I want to go and open that can o‘ worms? I
remember how Heyes feels about you, and I ain‘t in any mood to start draggin‘ that up
―Good,‖ Leo said. ―I got most of our supplies, but the owner nearly caught me. After
you get the horses fed, you boys can meet me at the river trail west of town. I‘ll tell you
the plan then.‖
―Will do.‖ Wheat watched as Leo headed toward the hotel.
Meanwhile, Heyes and Curry were watching with undisguised curiosity as Kyle hastily
downed the two hard-boiled eggs.
―How long has it been since you had a regular meal, Kyle?‖ the Kid got straight to the
Kyle hesitated, not wanting to betray his partner.
―You‘re drinkin‘ that beer like you haven‘t had one for months, and I noticed your horses
were lookin‘ a little scrawny.‖
Kyle took a slow sip of the brew and shook his head, dejectedly. ―Well, Wheat wouldn‘t
like me sayin‘, but the truth is, we‘ve had some real bad luck. Most days we‘re goin‘
hungry ‗cept for what we can scrounge and hunt up.‖ He abruptly stopped speaking
and lowered his head to hide his discomfort at having spoken so freely. ―But don‘t y‘all
worry!‖ he suddenly broke out in an egg-smeared grin. ―We got us some big plans.
We‘re gonna be livin‘ high off the hog pretty soon.‖
―Plans, huh?‖ Heyes inquired. ―What kinda plans are you talking about?‖
Kyle hastily arose. ―I ‗spect Wheat‘s waitin‘ on me, so I better git.‖ He gulped down the
remainder of his beer and made a hasty exit.
Heyes and Curry looked at each other with identical expressions of puzzlement.
―Well, what do you make of that?‖ asked the Kid.
―Strange. Even for Kyle,‖ answered Heyes. ―So, what do you reckon he‘s NOT telling
―I don‘t know. But I think I‘ll just see what I can find out. Meanwhile, you need to get to
work on those greenhorns.‖ Kid nodded toward the poker tables.
Heyes‘ eyes glinted with delight at the task before him. ―Okay, if you insist. It may take
awhile, so don‘t wait up.‖
As twilight came down on Buffalo, Wheat and Kyle were at the livery brushing down
their horses. Kid Curry hid in the shadows, listening.
―Did you have a good time blabbin‘ our troubles to Heyes and the Kid?‖ Wheat fumed
at Kyle. ―It ain‘t none of their damn business what we‘re doin‘.‖
―I never told them nuthin‘, Wheat. They don‘t know nuthin‘,‖ Kyle whined. ―And how
can I tell them anything anyhow? We got a plan yet?‖ Kyle pulled a licorice whip from
his pocket and bit off a large piece.
―Well, if you just shut up and help me get these horses fed, you just might find out the
plan!‖ hissed Wheat. ―And where‘d you get that candy?‖
Kyle smiled proudly, licorice juice dribbling down his chin. ―I stole it from the store.
Here. Got you one, too.‖
Wheat bit into the candy hungrily. His own stomach growled as he grabbed a feed sack
full of oats and let his horse indulge in what had become a rare treat. ―Pretty dang bad
when a man‘s horse eats better than him. If you‘ll hurry up with that nag of yours, we
gotta head out.‖
Wheat and Kyle cautiously approached the spot where they had arranged to meet Leo.
The sun was beginning to slip behind the mountains as they saw the glimmer of a
campfire ahead and then a voice spoke behind them, startling both of them.
―‘Bout time you two got here. Now git down an‘ let me tell you the plan.‖
Once the horses were unsaddled and tethered to a picket line, Wheat and Kyle joined
Leo at the campfire, and they chewed on strips of jerky while they listened to him
explain what they were going to do.
―I was watchin‘ this shifty-lookin‘ fella in town,‖ Leo began. ―He was actin‘ real nervous,
lookin‘ over his shoulder all the time, so I followed him into the bank. He told the teller
he needed to put something in the safe and he‘d be back to get it right before the stage
came through tomorrow at noon. So I figure whatever‘s in that package has gotta be
real valuable. So we‘ll just wait for the stage to come through here an‘ we‘ll hold it up!‖
"Wait a dang minute," Wheat said, looking puzzled. "A package? I thought we was
here to rob a bank. That's the job you told us about."
"WAS the job," corrected Leo. "This'll be much simpler."
"Maybe so..." Wheat admitted. "Just don't like plans changin' like that, but it does sound
easier grabbin' this package."
Kyle‘s brow furrowed in thought, and then he asked, ―But you don‘t even know what‘s in
―Like Leo said,‖ Wheat was quick to answer, ―Gotta be somethin‘ pretty important or
why would he put it in the safe overnight?‖
Biting off another piece of jerky, Kyle gave a slow nod. ―Reckon you‘re right.‖
―Now, what about Heyes and Curry? They gonna be a problem?‖ Leo asked in a
Wheat tossed a few more sticks on the fire and shook his head. ―Nah, they seemed like
they were settled in town pretty good. I saw the way Heyes was watchin‘ them poker
players an‘ I don‘t think they‘re goin‘ anywhere.‖
―Good,‖ Leo said with great satisfaction. ―Last thing I wanna do is tangle with Heyes
―Ain‘t Heyes you gotta worry ‗bout,‖ Kyle told him with a leer. ―It‘s the Kid.‖
―No, it was Heyes that punched me when I tried to git friendly with that pretty lady on the
train,‖ Leo said, rubbing his jaw as if he could still feel the punch. ―I wasn‘t gonna hurt
her, just wanted to get to know her better.‖
Wheat snorted. ―Yeah, sure you did.‖
―But you broke the rules,‖ Kyle reminded him. ―Heyes always told us never go near the
―Yeah, well, the high and mighty Heyes don‘t tell me what to do now,‖ Leo told him,
emphatically. ―So, you boys ready to turn in?‖
Hannibal Heyes sat on the edge of the bed, his forehead furrowed with worry. ―And you
never heard the plan?‖
Curry shook his head. ―No, I couldn‘t get close enough to hear what they were sayin‘,
but it was still light enough that I got a look at who they‘re plannin‘ it with.‖
―Yeah? Sounds like you know who it is.‖
―Oh yeah. And you‘re not gonna like it.‖
―Somebody we know?‖ Heyes asked.
The Kid dropped into the rocking chair and bent down to pull off his boots. ―Yup.‖ He
looked up at his partner. ―Remember Leo?‖
His brow furrowed in thought for a few moments, Heyes gave a slow shake of his head
and then ran a hand over his face. ―Damn. You sure?‖
―Yup. Big, ugly, and probably hasn‘t shaved since we last saw him.‖
―Big, beard…‖ Heyes mumbled.
They looked at each other and said in unison, ―Harry!‖
Curry nodded. ―That‘s what Wheat and Kyle must have been talkin‘ about. They rode
in with Leo, and he‘s promised them somethin‘ important‘s in that package Harry put in
―And I‘ll bet Leo found out he‘s taking the stage out of here tomorrow noon. He‘s going
to hold up the stage and take the package.‖
―You think Leo‘s smart enough to plan somethin‘ like that?‖ the Kid asked, dubiously.
Heyes gave him a rueful grin. ―Yeah, I do.‖
―What‘re we gonna do about it?‖
―I don‘t know yet.‖ Heyes got up off the bed and began pacing. Curry settled himself in
the rocking chair and watched patiently. Looking out the window, Heyes noticed the
owner of the mercantile locking up for the night as he stood there for a moment. Then
he came over, stood in front of the Kid and grinned.
―Figured it out?‖ the Kid asked hopefully.
―I sure did. We need to wait for a few more hours, make sure there‘s nobody walking
―Then we break into the mercantile.‖
Leaning forward, Curry looked at him in disbelief. ―Break into the mercantile? What
―To take something we need to have before we break into the bank,‖ came the calm
―The bank?‖ hissed the Kid. ―We don‘t do that anymore, remember?‖
―Just this once and it‘s for a good cause. We‘re not exactly stealing anything…just
replacing something so we can keep it safe.‖
It took the Kid a few moments, but then he smiled. ―Heyes,‖ he said, admiringly, ―You‘re
The streets were deserted as they made their way stealthily around the buildings and
down the alley to the mercantile. Opening the back door only took a few seconds and,
once they were inside, the Kid noticed that shutters were drawn over all of the windows,
making it safe for them to light the candle they had brought so they could see their way
―You never told me what you‘re lookin‘ for,‖ Curry said to him.
―I‘ll know it when I see it,‖ came the cryptic answer and, a moment later, Heyes gave a
nearly silent triumphant cry.
―Yeah, just give me a minute…‖ Heyes emerged from behind the counter where he‘d
been looking through the glass jars of candy. ―Look.‖ He came over and opened his
hand to reveal several chunks of crystallized sugar.
Curry poked at them and frowned. ―Rock candy? Doesn‘t look much like diamonds,
―Haven‘t you ever heard of rough diamonds, Kid?‖ Heyes asked with a grin.
―Oh, yeah, sure. Like that time we fooled those people with that fake diamond field.
Think Leo‘ll go for it?‖
―Only one way to find out.‖ Heyes led the way to the back door. ―Come on. We‘ve got
to switch these with the real ones.‖
Approaching the back of the bank, Heyes pulled his lock pick out of his boot and began
working on the lock of the door. ―Good thing this is such a small town,‖ he commented.
―Not the most secure of banks we‘ve broken into.‖
Once inside, Curry made sure the shades were pulled completely down as Heyes lit the
candle and began working on the safe. The Kid watched from his post at one of the
front windows and, as soon as the door swung open on the safe, he said happily, ―And
not the best of safes, either.‖
Heyes gave a quiet laugh and pulled out the small package wrapped in brown paper.
Carefully untying the string, he folded back the paper to reveal a small velvet bag.
―Here, we need to put these in something – give me your bandanna.‖
The Kid obligingly pulled off his bandanna and held it open so Heyes could pour in the
real gems from the pouch. While Curry was tying them securely in the cloth, Heyes was
pouring the candy into the velvet pouch; then he took the butt of his gun and brought it
down sharply on the bag. ―Need them to be a little smaller,‖ he explained. ―Okay, let‘s
get out of here.‖
Once they were safely back in the hotel room, they each poured themselves a drink
from the whiskey bottle.
―Are we goin‘ to tell Harry what we did?‖ the Kid asked as he sat in the rocking chair,
sipping his drink.
Lying on the bed, Heyes shook his head. ―No, I don‘t think that‘s a good idea. Harry‘s
not exactly good at keeping secrets and I‘m afraid he‘ll do something that‘ll mess
―What about the real diamonds?‖
―I‘ll leave first thing in the morning and head to South Bend,‖ Heyes told him confidently.
―I‘ll wait there for the stage to come in and give Harry the real diamonds. Then he can
pay us and we can spend a few days in town relaxing before we move on.‖
―You gonna be okay goin‘ by yourself?‖
―Sure, nobody‘ll know what I‘m carrying. It‘ll be fine.‖
The next morning, Curry went with Heyes to the livery and watched him as he rode out
of town. After eating breakfast, the Kid went back to the hotel and cleaned his gun.
Right before noon he met Harry at the stage office and then went in to buy his ticket.
―Where‘s your partner?‖ Harry asked, gazing around.
―Oh, he‘s back at the hotel, sleepin‘. He got in kinda late last night after playin‘ poker.‖
Seemingly satisfied, Harry nodded, and a few minutes later the stage arrived. They
both climbed in and, since there were no other passengers, they had plenty of room
inside the coach.
Nervously, Harry reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew the paper package. ―Had
to get the bank manager to open up the safe for me before the bank was open,‖ Briscoe
told the Kid boastfully. ―Didn‘t want to take a chance on having this in my room last
―Good thinkin‘,‖ Curry commended him with a straight face. He settled himself more
comfortably and pulled his hat down over his eyes. ―You let me know if you see
anything suspicious, okay?‖
―I hired you to be my bodyguard,‖ Harry protested. ―You should be alert at all times!
What if that despicable-looking character I saw back in town shows up?‖
―Then you wake me up,‖ the Kid told him. ―Stop worryin‘, Harry.‖
―Easy for you to say…‖ Briscoe mumbled under his breath.
They changed horses at the first way station without incident, and they were a few miles
down the road when the driver suddenly began hauling back on the reins and the
stagecoach slowed to a stop. The Kid pushed his hat back as Harry poked his head out
of the window, only to be yanked outside as the door to the coach was pulled open.
―Git out o‘ there!‖ A rough voice commanded, and the Kid complied with the request,
stepping down to the ground.
There were two men on horseback pointing rifles at the driver, and another one
standing with a pistol leveled at Harry. They all had their faces covered with pulled-up
bandannas, but Curry could see the surprised look in the eyes of the two mounted men.
―Hey, Wheat!‖ the shorter one said excitedly, ―Look – it‘s…‖
A warning glare and shake of the head came from the other rider and the speaker fell
Curry let his gaze linger on them for a moment before turning his attention to the large
man who was holding his gun on Harry.
―You got something I want,‖ Leo told Briscoe. ―That package you got on you – give it to
Harry shook his head as he protested, ―I can‘t do that. I‘m sworn to protect that
package with my life!‖
―Don‘t matter to me,‖ the other man sneered. ―You‘ll be dead and I‘ll get that package.
Might want to think about that some.‖
―Harry,‖ the Kid said quietly. ―Give him the package.‖
There were two loud ―clicks‖ as the riders each jacked a shell into the chamber of their
rifles and the man threatening Harry cocked his gun and stepped up to Briscoe. ―Now,
like I said, I don‘t really care if I have to kill you, so why don‘t you just hand over the
Throwing the Kid a disgusted look, Harry lowered one of his shaking hands and reached
into his jacket. Withdrawing the small paper-wrapped object, he handed it to the
bearded man who grabbed it and holstered his gun so he could open it. When he found
the pouch, Leo reached in and pulled out one of the diamonds. He looked at it and then
asked in a puzzled voice, ―What is this?‖
―It‘s a rough diamond,‖ the Kid told him. ―Isn‘t that what you came after?‖
―Uh, yeah, sure,‖ Leo replied in a flustered voice. ―Sure it was. Okay, boys, let‘s get out
of here.‖ He dropped the diamond back in the pouch and then mounted his horse while
the riders kept their rifles trained on the stagecoach.
As soon as they had galloped off, Harry took out his handkerchief and wiped his
sweating face. The driver called down, ―You fellas gittin‘ back on?‖
―Yeah, come on, Harry. Get back on the stage,‖ the Kid prompted Briscoe, who glared
at him, but followed him into the coach.
The driver whipped up the horses and they were back on their way to South Bend.
―What am I supposed to tell Mr. Bannerman?‖ Harry demanded, loudly. ―He trusted me!
Me! Harry Briscoe!‖ He mopped at his face again with his handkerchief and muttered,
―I‘m going to lose my job. And it‘s all your fault!‖ he raged. ―Some bodyguard!‖
Curry had remained silent, letting Briscoe rant on when he decided to put him out of his
misery. ―Harry…‖ he began, but the other man wasn‘t quite finished.
―I should never have let you talk me into this!‖
―You‘re the one who insisted we go with you!‖ the Kid argued back. ―We didn‘t want to
take this job!‖
―But you both should have been here,‖ Briscoe insisted. ―Then maybe I wouldn‘t have
had to hand over the package!‖
―Do you really think there‘s anythin‘ we could have done? There were two men with
rifles, Harry. And did you forget about the one holdin‘ the gun on us?‖
―I still think we should have put up more of a fight.‖ Dropping his head into his hands,
Harry muttered, ―What am I going to tell Mr. Bannerman?‖
―Heyes has the diamonds.‖
―This is the end of my career as a Bannerman man. I won‘t be able to get a job
anywhere in the agency.‖
―Harry,‖ the Kid leaned forward and roughly shook Briscoe‘s shoulders. ―Harry! Listen
―I told you – Heyes has the diamonds.‖ Curry sank back in his seat and waited for
Briscoe to mentally catch up. ―He has the real ones.‖
―You mean I gave that man the pouch with something else in it? How is that possible?
That package was locked up in the bank‘s…‖ An expression of enlightenment spread
across Harry‘s face. He shook his index finger at the Kid in exasperation. ―You two
broke into the bank? I thought you didn‘t do that anymore!‖
―We don‘t. Except this time we had a good reason. We took the real diamonds and put
something else in the package.‖ He grinned and continued, ―We‘re just lucky that the
fellow who held us up has no idea what a rough diamond looks like.‖
―When am I going to get the real ones back?‖ Harry asked urgently. ―How do I know
you boys aren‘t trying to double-cross me?‖
―Harry,‖ the Kid replied in an injured voice. ―After all we‘ve been through together?
Don‘t you trust us?‖
―Hmmmph,‖ Briscoe replied loudly, and Curry once again grinned.
Later that evening, Heyes was riding into the town of South Bend and he gave his horse
a pat. ―Just think, in a few minutes you‘ll have a nice quiet stall to rest, some grain to
eat, and I‘ll be sitting down to a steak dinner and then…‖ he glanced over at the sheriff‘s
office and pulled his hat further down on his head as he continued… ―we‘ll just be
turning right around.‖
Reining his bay back the way they had come, he walked him out of town and, once they
were back on the road, urged him into a lope. ―Now what do we do?‖ he muttered to his
horse. ―Can‘t show my face in that town, that‘s for sure. That sheriff knows me and the
Kid on sight.‖ Heyes thought a moment. ―I know, we‘ll ride back to where the last way
station is and meet up with the stage there.‖
When the stage pulled to a stop, the Kid got out and stretched his legs while the driver
changed the horses. As he glanced around, his eyebrow raised in surprise as he saw
his partner standing by the corral fence. Harry was looking out the window and, when
he saw Heyes, he followed Curry over to the corral.
―Thought you were gonna meet us in town,‖ the Kid said.
―Yeah, well, I had to change the plan. Seems South Bend has a sheriff who can identify
both of us. I couldn‘t wait around for you there.‖
―Where are my diamonds?‖ Harry whispered, urgently. ―You better not have lost them!‖
Heyes reached into his vest pocket and pulled out the tightly knotted bandanna. ―Relax,
Harry. Here they are. All eight of them.‖
―Eight!‖ Briscoe‘s face turned scarlet as he grabbed the bandanna. ―There were nine of
them! What did you do…‖
Grinning, Heyes shot a look at his partner, who rolled his eyes. ―Oh, sorry, Harry.
You‘re right. There were nine. Go on, count ‗em.‖
―Not out here in the open!‖ Briscoe hissed. ―Somebody might see them.‖
Curry looked around at the nearly deserted way station – the only people in sight were
the driver and the man who lived at the station. ―I think you‘re safe, Harry,‖ he said
―Well, if you boys will keep watch…‖ Carefully, Briscoe untied the bandanna and
counted out the sparkling gems. Giving a relieved sigh, he started to retie it when the
Kid spoke up.
―That‘s my bandanna, Harry. I‘d like it back.‖
Grumbling incoherently, Briscoe took out his own handkerchief and transferred the
diamonds. Curry took his bandanna with a smile, while Heyes asked, ―Our money?‖
―I don‘t have it. It‘s in the bank in South Bend. I don‘t carry that kind of cash on me.
Besides, you were supposed to go all the way with me.‖
―We can‘t, Harry. Heyes said the sheriff there knows us. It‘s not far to town – you‘ll be
fine. Those fellows won‘t be botherin‘ you again.‖
―Come on, Harry. I risked my life bringing those diamonds here for you. Not to mention
we had to break into the bank to make the switch so they‘d be safe with me. How much
money do you have?‖
Tucking the handkerchief securely into his vest pocket, Harry reached into his pocket for
his billfold. Turning away from the partners, he fingered the bills he had and the Kid
said quietly, ―Harry, how much?‖
―I‘ve got a hundred dollars. Here,‖ he handed the billfold to Heyes. ―See for yourself.‖
―That‘s all he‘s got.‖ Heyes took the money and showed the Kid. ―Guess that‘ll have to
do. We sure can‘t ride into South Bend.‖
Curry sighed. ―Somehow we always come up short anytime we work with you, Harry.
Why do you suppose that is?‖
Shrugging, Briscoe replaced his billfold and held out his hand. ―Well, thanks a lot, boys.
I guess I owe you one for saving my job and my reputation.‖
They both shook hands with him and then the driver called out for anybody who was
going to South Bend to get aboard. Briscoe hurried off, and Heyes looked at the Kid.
―Guess we better see about buying you a horse and gear.‖
―This looks like a good place to camp,‖ Leo said as he pulled his horse to a halt and
dismounted. ―Kyle, you water the horses while me and Wheat make a fire and set up
Leading the horses back to the camp, Kyle walked up to Leo. ―I never seen a bunch of
diamonds before,‖ he said eagerly. ―Kin you open up that pouch?‖
Leo shrugged and pulled it out of his vest pocket. ―Guess it wouldn‘t hurt.‖ As he untied
the string, Kyle held out his hand, and Leo spilled out some of the contents.
Poking at them, Kyle cocked his head and asked, ―I thought they‘d be more sparkly.‖
―You heard the Kid,‖ Wheat reminded him. ―These are rough diamonds. They gotta be
shined up some.‖
―Oh, yeah.‖ Kyle gave a nod. ―Yer right.‖
Suddenly his horse, which had been standing patiently while Kyle still held the reins,
snuffled softly and delicately sniffed at the objects in Kyle‘s outstretched hand. They
watched in astonishment as the bay gingerly took one of them in his mouth, crunching it
between strong white teeth.
―Hey!‖ Leo yelled, startling the horse, who hurriedly backed up, and also Kyle, who let
the rest of the diamonds fall out of his hand onto the ground.
Then Wheat‘s horse dropped his head and quickly snatched up the rest of the
diamonds, his expression obviously showing his delight at the unexpected treat.
Leo opened the pouch again and pulled out one of the diamonds, and Kyle took it from
him, giving it an experimental lick with this tongue. ―Huh,‖ he said in bewilderment.
―Tastes just like sugar.‖ He popped it into his mouth. ―Yup…‖ he said as he crunched.
―Sugar?‖ Leo roared in anger. ―It can‘t be! He said they were diamonds!‖
Wheat shook his head in disgust. ―I can‘t believe you let us get tricked like that!‖
―Me?‖ Leo yelled. ―You were there, too!‖
―Yeah, but me an‘ Kyle don‘t know nothin‘ about diamonds! How were we supposed to
―Heyes,‖ Leo muttered. ―Dammit to hell! It was Heyes!‖
Wheat gave a disgusted snort. ―Some big payoff, Leo. I don‘t know why we listened to
you. Come on, Kyle.‖ He walked over and took the reins of his horse out of Kyle‘s
―Where we goin‘?‖ Kyle asked in confusion. ―We jist got here.‖
Mounting his horse, Wheat jerked his head toward the road. ―An‘ now we‘re leavin‘.
Shrugging, Kyle glanced forlornly at the ground, but Wheat‘s horse had eaten all of the
―diamonds.‖ He climbed into the saddle and moved his horse over to where Wheat
Leo shook his head. ―You two are fools, you know that? Just because this job didn‘t go
―Yeah, whatever,‖ Wheat cut him off. ―See you around Leo.‖
Leo stood there staring after them, hands on his hips, until they were out of sight.
The sun was beginning to set as Heyes asked, ―Think we should find a place to camp
for the night?‖
―Yeah, I think I heard a stream over to our right,‖ Curry said, and they moved off the
road to follow a path that led through the woods.
As they got closer, Heyes held up a cautionary hand. ―I think there‘s somebody up
ahead,‖ he whispered. ―Let‘s go real slow and quiet.‖
The Kid nodded, and they held their horses to a very slow walk as they approached the
sound of the rushing water.
―Well, well,‖ Heyes said as they pulled their horses to a halt as soon as they were in
sight of the stream. ―Look what we have here, Kid.‖
Curry sat back in the saddle, pushing his hat up with one finger. ―You know, Heyes, I
think these are the two that held up the stage. Those horses look awful familiar.‖
―Very funny,‖ Wheat fumed as he stood there with Kyle, letting their horses drink from
the stream. ―I guess you had the diamonds, Heyes?‖
―Yeah, Wheat, I did. What in the world were you two doing with Leo in the first place?
He‘s been trouble ever since he joined the Devil‘s Hole Gang.‖
―‘Cos he promised us he knew how to git us a lot of money!‖ Kyle piped up. He shook
his head as he added, ―Turned out all we got was a bunch of candy.‖ His face
brightened as he looked at the Kid. ―You got any more of that stuff?‖
―No we don‘t,‖ the Kid told him. He dismounted, and led his horse close to the stream
so the gelding could drink.
Heyes did the same, and shook his head at Wheat. ―You two really oughta think about
talking to Lom.‖
―Why? So‘s we can sneak around and have to come up with funny names ‗cause we
can‘t use our own while we look for jobs just so we can eat?‖ Wheat scoffed. ―No
―Yeah, ‗cos you‘re doin‘ so much better gettin‘ mixed up with fellas like Leo,‖ the Kid
―You know, Wheat,‖ Kyle spoke up, ―Maybe Heyes has a point. I mean…‖
―Then why don‘t you ride off with ‗em?‖ Wheat shot back.
Kyle fell silent and Heyes spoke up. ―Look, I‘m not saying that things are the best with
me and the Kid having to find jobs where people don‘t ask too many questions, but
riding with men like Leo could get you killed.‖
Wheat dropped his gaze to the ground for a moment and then looked up. ―Yeah, I hear
ya. Maybe we should just go back to Devil‘s Hole and stay there for a while.‖
―That sounds like a good idea,‖ the Kid nodded.
―You know, Wheat, we were on our way to Porterville before this happened. Sure you
don‘t want us to talk to Lom?‖
―Nah, me an‘ Kyle‘ll figure out somethin‘,‖ he told them confidently. ―Ain‘t that right,
―Huh? Oh, yeah, sure, Wheat.‖
―You boys mind if we camp here with you?‖ the Kid asked.
―Got any food?‖ Wheat asked in a slightly embarrassed tone.
Heyes nodded. ―Sure do. We stocked up when we left the last town. Maybe the Kid
can rustle us up a rabbit or two.‖
Curry handed the reins of his horse to Kyle and started off into the woods, Kyle calling
after him, ―You sure you ain‘t got none of that candy left?‖