As Hannibal Heyes was finally beginning to regain consciousness the first thing he was aware of was the painful thumping radiating from behind his left eye. The second thing was that the very same eye was so swollen and puffy that he couldn’t even open it. He didn’t even want to consider what it must be looking like from the other side. Even the top of his head was hurting! What was that from? Oh yeah, the bottom of Mike’s chin.
As the remembrance of what had happened returned to him so also did a sense of guilt. He knew he’d hurt Mike pretty badly and the big deputy hadn’t deserved that. Heyes had overreacted again and he didn’t blame Mike at all for the consequential retaliation. He hoped the fellow would be alright and not hold a grudge for too long. It’s not good to have someone that big be mad at you.
Heyes didn’t even want to open his eyes (eye) and indeed had not moved a muscle since awareness started to return to him. He knew he was sitting in the prison coach, leaning against the front and side paneling, his hands and ankles shackled by chains running through a metal ring imbedded in the floor. His head was pounding and the jolting vibration of the wagon briskly making its way towards Laramie wasn’t doing anything to help his situation.
He stayed quiet in that position for some time, not wanting to deal with the reality that was waiting out there just beyond his closed eyelids. ‘Please, let’s just stay inside for a while longer,’ he told himself. ‘Just a little while longer.’ . Then someone coughed, someone quite close to him and it startled him to the point where his one good eye opened unbidden and reality stared him in the face.
Still not moving, he looked over and met the gaze of a guard sitting directly across from him. He had a rifle placed strategically across his lap. A small half smirk played across his lips.
“Looks like our new resident is finally awake.”
“Good,” responded a voice to Heyes’ left, coming from the back of the coach. “we’re getting close and I wasn’t looking forward to having to carry him in.”
The first guard’s half smirk developed into a full smile.
Heyes finally shifted, gradually becoming aware of the stiffness in his back and shoulders from having been in the one awkward position for too long. He pushed himself up straighter and sent a glance down to the second guard. He was much like the first. Heyes tried to produce a semblance of a smile.
“Gentlemen,” he murmured by way of greeting.
“Howdy Heyes,” the first guard responded. “Enjoy your little beauty nap? That’s some shiner you got there—you ought to fit in to prison life real well.”
Heyes meekly responded with a subtle nod and then giving up all effort at communication, closed his eye and awaited the inevitable. In some ways this trip seemed surreal to the convicted man, but in other ways it almost seemed pre-destined, as though no matter what he did or how hard he tried to avoid it, he was going to end up in prison. The harder he fought against it, the faster he raced towards it. And here he was, chained hand and foot inside the barred and armored prison coach with two large guards to keep him company, crossing over the threshold between freedom and misery, silently cursing the promises made that had led him to this.
Finally, but way too soon Heyes heard the driver of the coach call out to the horses to ‘whoa’ and the vehicle came to a halt. Within seconds the sound of a key in the locks of the rear door could be heard and then that same door was swung open. The guard sitting across from Heyes got up and released the chains from the ring in the floor. He grabbed Heyes by the arm and pulled him to his feet, then shuffled him towards the open door. The second guard had already stepped down out of the coach and had turned to await the prisoner.
Heyes’ one good eye was blinking in the bright autumn sunshine as he gazed out the back of the coach, trying to get his bearings. There were a number of guards out there, all waiting for him to disembark. He wondered just what it was they thought he was going to do, trussed up hand and foot the way he was. Still, he surmised, it would probably be worth their jobs if a prisoner of his caliber got loose on them. They were all making sure that Hannibal Heyes didn’t get a chance to go anywhere he wasn’t suppose to.
With his feet still in the leg irons, Heyes couldn’t actually step down out of the coach, so he did what was expected of him, and he jumped. Two of the guards already on the ground grabbed him as he landed and then hustled him off towards one of the doorways of the nearby building.
Heyes looked around as best he could at his new residence, and even in bright sunshine, he couldn’t remember a drearier looking place, or maybe that was just his mood seeping through. Doors were opened and then clanged shut as the guards continued to shuffle him along down the corridors. And with every lock that snapped into place behind him Heyes felt his heart and his soul sinking deeper and deeper into oblivion. Even the atmosphere, the very air he breathed was filled with oppression.
Finally he was taken into a small office where there was a desk and one chair for furniture, and another door in the far wall but nothing else. Heyes was positioned to stand in front of the desk, and there he waited with an armed guard on either side of him and one behind him. After about ten minutes the second door opened and a middle aged man in a suit stepped into the room and without acknowledging the prisoner went over and sat down at the desk, reading some paperwork he’d brought in with him.
Another ten minutes ticked by and then Heyes sighed with the frustration of standing there, waiting for—whatever—to start happening. Instantly a rifle butt clipped the back of his right knee and his leg very neatly collapsed out from under him. He went down in a sudden clattering heap. He stayed where he’d landed, surprised by the suddenness of the retribution until hands grabbed him and pulled him to his feet again.
Heyes was expecting some type of explanation such as; ‘Well that was your first lesson.’ Etc. etc., but nothing was forthcoming. The guards continued to stand placidly around him and the man sitting at the desk didn’t even look up but continued to scrutinize the documents in front of him.
Another fifteen minutes dragged by with the only sound being the paper rustling whenever the ‘suit’ turned over another page. Heyes stood silently, not making a sound, not moving a muscle. His eye hurt, his head was pounding. He was beginning to feel cold, but he didn’t move. He’d play the game until he figured out what the rules were.
Finally the ‘suit’ finished reading the documents, shuffled them into a neat pile and then stood up, looking the prisoner directly in the eye (no pun intended).
“So, Mr. Heyes. I’m Warden Mitchell,” the suit introduced himself. “I was beginning to think that we would never be honoured by your presence here in Laramie. That’s quite a shiner you have there but I strongly advise that you cease the behavior that caused you to earn it. That will not be tolerated here and you will find that punishment for breaking the rules will be far more unpleasant than a mere black eye.”
“Well, I’ll certainly….”
Another quick clip, this time behind the left knee and Heyes went down again. This was already beginning to get old. Hands grabbed him and hauled him to his feet. He just stood there, trying not to let his irritation show through as he might just end up getting clipped for that too.
“You’ll learn the rules quickly enough,” the warden continued without skipping a beat. “For what’s left of today we’ll just let you get settled in and then tomorrow you can start your duties. Welcome to the Wyoming Territorial Prison Mr. Heyes.”
The first thing they did was take his photograph. Heyes again felt a sense of pre-destiny at this minor undertaking. Here he was sentenced to twenty years because he wouldn’t name Clementine Hale as an accomplice in a job that she had blackmailed them into doing. And what had she used as incentive for their cooperation? The one and only photograph in existence of him and the Kid.. Now the law was casually snapping away to get his likeness in print as though it would actually make any kind of a difference. He sighed at the irony of it all.
The next thing they did was down right heartbreaking; they shaved his head. Sitting there helplessly watching the dark brown locks fall to the floor was bad enough, but the barber didn’t even take care over the bruising—it hurt! Welcome to prison life indeed.
After that he was taken to a small room with a drain in the center of the floor. His shackles were removed and then he was told in no uncertain terms to strip. He accomplished this without any hesitation or embarrassment. His mind simply blocked out those emotions as having no place in this new life. He was going to have to re-invent himself, re-establish the ground rules. The old life that he had known was gone and with it a very small part of Hannibal Heyes went into hiding as well and wasn’t seen or heard from again for many a long year.
Buckets of cold water were thrown over his naked body and he was tossed a bar of rough soap with instructions to scrub down from top to bottom. He completed this task without complaint and then he was doused again with more cold water until all the soap had been rinsed away. Next he was tossed a rough towel and, shivering, he quickly dried himself off in the hopes that he might warm up—he didn’t.
Then, hugging his torso and still shivering he was bustled into an adjoining alcove where he spied a pile of clothing and a pair of shoes. The clothing consisted of a pair of long johns and a henley (thank goodness), socks and a pull over shirt and trousers made of a course striped material that didn’t look too comfortable but would at least be warm.
Once he was dressed his guards then moved him along through another corridor, or perhaps it was the same corridor. Heyes had lost all sense of direction in this place. They then stopped briefly at a room that obviously stored supplies and a trustee handed him a thin pillow and a blanket.
“Can you read?” the man asked him.
“What?” Heyes was taken by surprise by that question.
“Can you read and write? Are you literate?”
The trustee nodded and then plunked a thin stack of writing paper on top of his pillow, along with a pencil and two candles. That done he closed the supply room door and disappeared, apparently to carry on with his other duties.
One of the guards, whom Heyes would later come to know as Kenny Reece, started giving him the rundown.
“There’s a small library as such down by the chapel,” Kenny informed the new inmate. “after supper you can chose one book. When you have finished that one you can chose another. Any infringement of the rules and this privilege will be taken away. Do you understand?’
“You will not speak to any of the other inmates unless you are giving or receiving instruction,” Kenny continued. “You will only speak to a guard if you are asked a direct question. Do you understand?”
“The guards are always right. Do you understand?”
Heyes hesitated and he looked this guard directly in the eye. The look that came back to him was challenging, just daring the inmate to contradict. 'Pick your battles', Heyes told himself.
Heyes’ first introduction to his cell was terrifying. There were three levels in the cell block; everything was concrete and steel, cold and intimidating. He was shuffled up three flights of steps where the only thing between him and a drop down to the open work area was a thin metal railing and he tried to keep to the wall side of the stairway just for that little bit of added security. The cells were all in a line along the metal and concrete isle way but that was where any resemblance between these cells and the opened barred ones in a jailhouse ended. These ones were closed in completely on three sides so that even though you had neighbours, you would not be able to see or communicate with them. The front of the cell was half solid metal and only the door itself was barred and allowed the prisoner some view out into the corridor.
Heyes felt claustrophobic even before he was pushed inside one of these shoe boxes and the sound of the door clanging shut behind him almost sent him into a panic. It was so small! He stood where he was for a full ten minutes, feeling that if he dared to move he’d just explode. Deep breaths, deep breaths. Calm down. If this was going to be home, better embrace it
He forced himself to relax and then began to take in what little there was to offer in this ‘cozy’ accommodation. A small cot was to his right and he noted how thin the mattress was. There was also a small table, but no chair—supposedly you were to just sit on the cot. He also came to realize very quickly that these two items of furniture were bolted down so there was no re-arranging anything. Of course the cell was so small there was no point in trying to re-arrange anything anyways. Pacing was going to be a challenge. He also spotted a wooden bucket under the table; this he assumed was the chamber pot.
Heavy sigh. Finally he moved over to the cot and sat down on it, still holding the supplies that the trustee had given him. He stared ahead into space, or was it just a solid wall? And he felt every shred of happiness sink away and disappear out of sight. Curry, Jesse and Belle, the girls. Lom. They were gone, sliding further and further away as though they belonged to another dimension, another life—another Hannibal Heyes. He was alone.
The first couple of weeks were difficult. Heyes fell into the routine of doing everything as a group. Everyone got up at the same time, everyone went to meals together and everyone went to work on the floor together. The only deviation from this was that the inmates could have their meals in the cafeteria with the group, or in their cells on their own. Then after supper they could spend the evenings doing what they wished so long as they didn’t make any noise doing it and didn’t break any of the rules. The other choice they had was whether or not to attend chapel on Sundays. Heyes felt that this was a worthwhile diversion and then when he discovered that the minister was a woman well that just made it all the more worthwhile.
The jobs he was given to do were menial and boring. Once he was taught the principles of ‘how to make a broom’ it just became a basic motor skill and most of his time during the day was spent in daydreaming and trying not to go mad. The hardest thing for him to accept was the ‘no talking’ rule. How can human beings be working and eating together day in and day out and not have conversation? He found himself having to bite his tongue on more than one occasion to prevent a word from slipping out and always made quite sure that what that guard had said was actually a ‘direct question’ before taking the chance of answering him. Of course if you didn’t answer fast enough that was also an infringement of a rule.
Much to his surprise, that tiny cell that had at first filled him with such panic had quickly become his haven. It was the one place he could be where he did not have to be constantly on alert. He soon came to realize that some of the guards—one by the name of Floyd Carson in particular, would deliberately try to trip him up into breaking a rule. And it didn’t take long for those guards to figure out that the best way to punish Hannibal Heyes was to take away his reading privileges. Yes, that first week Heyes had a real hard time getting through book number one. Especially with only one good eye!
The hardest part about learning the rules was that no one told him what they were, other than those first few that Kenny had mentioned to him. The only way to find out what was accepted and what wasn’t was to break what was apparently a rule and then be punished for it. Seeing as how reading was very important to Heyes and was the only thing helping him to stay sane, he had incentive to learn the rules quickly, and he did.
By the end of his third week there he had read all the books that held any interest for him and even considered reading some that he was already familiar with. It's not surprising that he was starting to get a little desperate for new reading material.
He then remembered that day so, so long ago when he had first met David Gibson and how impressed he had been with the man’s knowledge and abilities. Indeed, Heyes was convinced that no other doctor in the west could have saved Kid’s life and for that he would be forever in the debt of the young medical man. But Heyes also remembered the intense curiosity he had felt over the doctor’s technique and how it had lit a spark in his mind to learn more about it.
That spark had become dormant what with all the other stresses that he’d had to deal with since that day, but now his thoughts were going back to it again. But the question now was, ‘how to get hold of medical journals’? He hadn’t seen any in the library and he wasn’t allowed to ask, so how would he be able to find out? The next day at work, the answer came to him.
It didn’t take much really, a moment of ‘inattention’ and he had oh so inconveniently sliced open the palm of his left hand. Damn those dull knives they were forced to use to trim up the broom whisks. A fella had to apply so much pressure just to get them to cut through a few strands of that coarse straw that one slip and….ooops—off to the infirmary.
Kenny escorted Heyes down the corridors and into a separate area where the hospital was set up. It wasn’t a particularly impressive medical facility but it served its purpose and on this day it served Heyes’ purpose completely.
Kenny led Heyes into the main office/examination room where they found Dr. Morin busy writing up his paperwork. He glanced up when the men entered the room and the first thing he noticed was the blood dripping from the inmates hand. He let his paperwork lay and quickly went over to the supply cabinet to pull out a needle and some suturing thread from the opened drawer.
He motioned Heyes to have a seat at the table, then supporting Heyes’ injured hand with a towel, had the inmate place the hand palm up on the table so the Doctor could have a closer look.
“Hmmm,” was his main comment. Heyes was sure he was getting a whiff of alcohol, and not the kind used for disinfecting either.
The doctor went back to his cabinet, grabbed a few more supplies and returned to his patient. He lifted up the injured hand and attached arm and placed a bowl underneath them. Pulling the stopper on a bottle of clear liquid, he poured some of that liquid over the open wound. Heyes just about hit the ceiling.
“Jeezzz Doc!!!!” Heyes expostulated. “a little warning would have been nice!!” And then quickly flicked a glance over at Kenny expecting a reprimand for daring to speak. That personage showed very little concern over the blatant disregard for the rule at that moment and everyone just carried on with the matter at hand.
“Hmmm,” was again all the learned gent had to say.
Heyes furrowed his brow. This was turning into a very strange experience. Then the doctor sprinkled some powder on the wound and Heyes felt his hand start to go numb and the doctor prepared to stitch the cut together. Meanwhile Heyes was doing a quick scrutiny of the room to see if perhaps there might be some medical books lying around. He was disappointed to find that there were none that he could see.
He decided to go for broke. Kenny hadn’t done anything with Heyes’ first breech of protocol so perhaps that rule didn’t apply in the doctor’s office.
“Say Doc,” Heyes began tentatively. “you wouldn’t happen to have any medical journals or books lying around would you?”
“Hmmm,” was the response as the doctor began stitching. Then to Heyes’ surprise and relief he elaborated. “Got plenty in the other room. Why? You think I don’t know what the fxxk I’m doing?”
“Oh, no no no!” Heyes was quick to deny that charge despite his surprise at the blatant profanity. “No. I was just wondering if you would loan me a few to read. I find it fascinating, especially resuscitation techniques and the like. Want to learn more about it.”
“You’d probably find medical journals a little bit beyond you,” the doctor presumed. “Why don’t you just check out the library? There are plenty of dime novels over there.”
Heyes smiled, beginning to feel a little frustrated. “Ahhh, well….”
“This is Hannibal Heyes, Doc.” Kenny suddenly put in. Heyes looked over at him, surprised.
The doc looked up at Heyes, surprised. “Ohh!” he exclaimed. “Sxxt, in that case, I’m sure we can find something over there to get you started. Resuscitation techniques eh?”
Heyes smiled broadly. “Yeah. To begin with.”
“Okay,” Doc agreed. “I can think of a couple off hand that you can borrow right now and then when you’re done with them, just bring them back and I’ll give some others. You just make sure you do bring 'em back. I know what you bastards are like; ya' get a hold of something then all of a sudden it's yours!”
“No, no, I'll bring them back.” Heyes assured him. “That’d be great Doc, thanks.” Heyes hesitated as another thought occurred to him. “But, ah, how do I get back over here? I don’t really feel inclined to be slicing myself every time I need a new book.”
The doc had finished with the stitching and was just beginning to wrap the hand in gauze as he looked over at Kenny.
“How about it Ken?” he suggested. “you think if Heyes here let you know he wanted to see me you could find a way to bring him over?”
“Sure.” Kenny agreed. “I don’t think that will be a problem.”
Heyes smiled over at the guard. Just goes to show that sometimes first impressions can be misleading. Heyes hoped that maybe he had himself an ally in this God forsaken place.
Heading back over to the cell block, his left hand neatly stitched and wrapped in gauze and his arms supporting a stack of new reading material, Heyes actually had something close to a smile on his face.
Ken glanced over at him, the corners of his mouth tipping up just a hint.
“Why do I get the feeling that wasn’t an accident?” he commented.
Heyes discerned that this was not a direct question and declined to answer.
The social dynamics inside the prison walls really weren’t that different from any other cloistered group. Amongst the guards it was easy to find the full range of the human condition, from the most arrogant individuals all the way down to the cowardly. Unfortunately both extremes generally encouraged abusive behavior and both those personality types had to be watched carefully.
The most dominant and abusive of the guards was of course, Floyd Carson. He really did take perverse pleasure in setting an inmate up to fail and then punishing him for simply trying to comply in the first place. Standing up to him in any way almost always resulted in a day in the ‘dark cell’ and there was nothing fun about that. Heyes had ended up there a couple of times during his first month, once for fighting and the second for talking back. If there was ever a place where one’s darker imaginings could run wild—that was it.
Below Floyd in the pecking order were three or four of his cronies, men who liked to be in control over others but didn’t have Carson’s intelligence or leadership abilities to be in charge. So they were happy to follow Carson’s lead and to back him up if any of the inmates got too ‘uppity’. On their own they were easy enough to handle, but get them coming at you in a group and—look out! Corporal punishment,aside from use of the bully club, was not generally approved of on the surface, the thinking being that a removal of privileges or time in the dark cell generally got the desired results. However, the warden was very rarely on the floor and since Carson was pretty much in charge throughout the day, well let’s just say that ‘things’ happened.
Of the other guards well, most of them just needed a good job. They came to work, put in their shifts and then went home and hopefully nobody got hurt. At first Heyes had put Kenny Reece in this category, but the longer Heyes was there and the more he was able to differentiate between the various guards, the more Kenny Reece stood out as a man apart.
It’s not that he was a saint or anything even remotely similar. He knew his job and what was expected of him. You didn’t cross him, that was for sure as his retaliation and punishment would be divvied out just as swiftly and severely as anything that Carson would deliver. But whereas Carson did it for pleasure, Reece did it for discipline and he was fair. If Kenny Reece got you with the bully club or sent you for a day in the dark cell, chances are you deserved it.
He’d gotten Heyes a couple of times with the club for being mouthy and though at first Heyes resented the assault he would later realize that the bruise he received wasn’t that bad and that he probably had been asking for it anyways. He knew the rules by then, but he’d just get so bullheaded sometimes he’d chose to ignore them. If Kenny had let him get away with it, well then, Heyes would have been running the show and that wasn’t going to happen.
Kenny also kept his word. When Heyes had finished the first two books that the doc had loaned him all it took was a raised eyebrow and a subtle nod. The guard showed up at Heyes’ cell after supper that evening and escorted him over to the infirmary. The first couple of visits were easy to cover as the doc wanted to see the inmate anyways in order to remove stitches and then later again just to check on the healing. He was also checking on the injured eye, just to be sure that it was healing alright. It didn’t take long for the swelling and bruising to start to fade, but even after all else had healed up the evidence of broken blood vessels would remain apparent for a long time to come. Still, it made for a convenient excuse to visit the infirmary. After that it became a bit trickier, but somehow Kenny always managed to get Heyes over there with no questions asked and Heyes was getting quite an extensive education.
There was also a very strong pecking order amongst the inmates. Again, just as in any social structure there was the dominant all the way down to the submissive and it didn’t take long to work out just who was where. The work floor was very much akin to a large pen containing a pack of wolves and if the guards weren’t there to keep things ‘civil’ it’s a sure bet that dog fights would have been breaking out all over the place. Speaking of course was not allowed, but it was amazing how much communication could be conveyed through simple body language. It was a true art form and very effective.
Hank Boeman was the alpha wolf and he looked every bit the part. He wasn’t exceptionally big, but he had a meanness to him that was very apparent and one look at any of the underlings and they’d scamper out of his way double time. Kenny and Floyd were about the only guards who would stand up to him on their own, the others making sure they had back up first. Yes, ole’ Hank truly thought he was in a position of power, choosing to ignore the fact that he was still a prisoner and had spent many a day in the dark cell himself.
Hank’s first encounter with Heyes had been anticlimactic to say the least. Again, despite the fact that no talking was permitted, the information still found a way to get around that the new inmate was indeed Hannibal Heyes. As to be expected Heyes’ reputation came right along with him. Hank Boeman assumed that he and the outlaw leader would be knocking horns over the alpha wolf position before too much time had elapsed.
Much to Hanks surprise and probable disappointment, Heyes had no interest in being the alpha wolf over this sorry pack of miscreants and declined all of Boeman’s challenges. Heyes’ body language and eye contact or lack thereof did not so much indicate submission as it did condescension and this attitude tended to tick Hank off more than anything else. It was as though Heyes were saying that what Boeman had wasn’t worth the great outlaws’ acknowledgment or desire and therefore Hank was simply being permitted to carry on as before.
Boeman would silently bluster and strut and try to set up a confrontation. But his mind was no where near as devious as Heyes’ and Heyes would see the ‘bushwhack’ coming long before the trap was sprung. He would simply avoid it and carry on with his duties, or retire to his cell to read. Not surprisingly he had definitely made himself an enemy and he knew it.
Time slowly ticked by and always in the back of Heyes’ mind was worry over his partner’s upcoming trial. Most of his conscious mind was hoping that Kid would get off somehow, that whatever their friends were up to in order to put pressure on the governor might just bring about Curry’s pardon. But another part of Heyes missed his partner a great deal and though he wouldn’t wish this place on his worst enemy (well, Fletcher maybe) he was ashamed to say that he was wishing it on his best friend.
Heyes felt so alone here, so—unprotected. If Curry got the same sentence then at least they would be together and could watch each other’s backs. Together maybe they could just make it through, maybe even get early pardons. Why not? Stranger things have happened. Then Heyes would feel ashamed of himself for wanting his friend here for purely selfish reasons and would push those thoughts down and out of sight.
If Curry got off then he would be working tirelessly to get Heyes out of here, there was no doubt about that. So really, logically, it would be better all around if Kid Curry remained on the outside. Out there he would have a lot more power and a lot more influence than if he ended up struck behind these bars.
Then fear and loneliness would clutch at Heyes’ heart as he’d lay on his cot in his cell at night and stare up at a ceiling he couldn’t see—and he’d worry. He just didn’t think he could do this alone. He was trying to find a way to settle in, but he was already feeling strangled by the forced confinement—he was suffocating. He would remember what Jesse said about it only being that way because he told himself it was that way. Change your way of thinking you can change your life. Repeatedly telling yourself that you’re going to die in this place and chances are good that you will.
Heyes sighed. How does one change the way your mind works? Goodness knows Heyes had been trying to do that most of his life—trying to get it to shut down, to turn off, to let him get some sleep but it wouldn’t listen! If he couldn’t even do that, how was he supposed to get his mind to change its view of his whole world? Heyes rolled over onto his side and hugged his knees to his chest. He stared into the blackness and saw death waiting there.
One of the hardest things Heyes had to endure, not only while in prison, but throughout the whole of his life, was the dark cell. He was still relatively new to the system when an altercation developed between himself and one of the other prisoners; something about the best way to make a candle—or something. In any case frustration at his situation erupted into a fist fight and Kenny had to get in a good couple of whacks with the bully club to break it up and bring Heyes to his knees.
Forty-eight hours in the dark cell was like an eternity of night fears. Every worry, every problem every phobia that had ever haunted one’s dreams came calling. During those long silent hours huddled in a corner in the pitch black everything that couldn’t be seen brought terror to the heart and despair to the soul.
Heyes lost sight of who he was in the dark cell. Images of rats scurrying around him and snakes slithering by made him jump and tremble at the slightest mind rustle of fantasy. He tried again to control where his mind was taking him, what his thoughts would be. He would close his eyes and try to relax, try to push away the terrors as simple imaginings that had nothing to do with the reality of what was in the cell with him.
Nothing was in the cell with him! He was in there alone, just him; and then he would hear a scurrying or feel a light brushing against his leg and the terrors would overwhelm him again. Spiders he came to realize were for sure in there with him, because the itchy bites he acquired while in the cell could not be caused by mere imaginings. He was afraid to fall asleep, thinking about what would be crawling over him in the dark. He would often push himself to his feet and walk the cell, trying to keep the terrors at bay and keeping his one hand touching the wall just to prevent his mind from free-falling into the abyss.
If he’d been a man of lesser intelligence and imagination he probably would have been able to handle this particular punishment a little easier. Boeman certainly didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it. But as we already know, Heyes could not turn his mind off and in this particular situation he couldn’t even slow it down. In the silent darkness time and structure and sense of self disappeared. The only thing he had to help him hold on to that awareness of ‘self’ was his mind, and it ran him ragged.
When he was finally permitted back out in to the light of day all he could remember about the dark cell is that it was the worse experience he’d ever been through. So much so that the second time he realized that his bullheadedness was sending him there again; he actually fought the guards and had to be beaten near to unconsciousness before they were able to subdue him and drag him back inside.
The terrors of that punishment never left Hannibal Heyes and he continued to experience nightmares of that unholy place right up until the day he died.
Fortunately not all was darkness and misery at the prison. The weekends did offer some reprieve from the mundane and tedious work days. Saturdays, visitors were allowed to come calling. New inmates weren’t allowed visitors for the first three months, the reason being given; that they needed that much time to settle in. More likely, it was to give the bruises sustained while ‘learning’ the rules time to heal up. No need to get friends and loved-ones upset over nothing. Still, it was something for Heyes to look forward to and he hoped that someone—anyone—would actually come calling.
Mail call was also on Saturdays. Mail was sorted, inspected and then placed in the cell of the recipient during the afternoon of that day. Again though, dominance prevailed. Often if an inmate received something of value, like a warm jacket or a pair of socks, one of the guards would help himself to it before it even came close to a prisoner’s cell. It was times like that, that having a guard who was willing to watch out for you really did come in handy. But stolen property aside, receiving a letter from the outside often was the lifeline that would keep an inmate holding on from one week to the next. It gave hope.
Heyes would never forget the leap his heart took when one Saturday afternoon he returned to his cell after supper to find a letter on his cot addressed to HIM. Actually it was originally addressed to Joshua Smith, then that name had been crossed out and Hannibal Heyes took its place. The letter itself however began with ‘Dearest Joshua…’ and what a joy it was for him to be reminded that there were still people out there who thought about him and cared about him and were not going to ‘just sit back and forget about you.’! He began to look forward to Saturdays.
There was also the Sunday service in the chapel. Though Heyes wasn’t normally a church going man he found himself looking forward to the sermons and that they helped to brighten his day. He was surprised to discover that as mentioned before, one of the main speakers in the prison chapel was a woman. Just being able to go and listen to a woman’s voice speaking passionately about reformation and forgiveness and God’s love filled him with a peace that her male equivalent could never hope to come close to.
Even as a child, going to services with his parents he hadn’t been one to believe in the Hell and Brimstone threats that were divvied out for misconduct so that type of sermon did little to catch his attention. Then when the religious teachings at Valparaiso tried to hammer home the same brutal message, the young Hannibal had rebelled against it all the more. But the young lady who came most Sundays to deliver her message never went in that direction. All her sermons were of happiness and hope and love for your fellows. They were indeed like a ray of sunshine in that bleak and bitter existence that was the lot of a convict.
Also, once a week, usually on a Saturday or a Sunday after services, the inmates who were on good behaviour were allowed a certain amount of time outside in the prison yard. Heyes, along with most of the other prisoners greatly anticipated this privilege and it was added incentive to stay out of trouble as the weekend approached.
Even though the days were getting colder, Heyes would take as much of the time outside as he could and he would keep himself warm by briskly walking the perimeter and keeping his arms moving. Guards were still in attendance during these outings and four were stationed high up in the corner towers of the yard where they could oversee everything and everyone. Even so, it became the only time during the week that Heyes felt the claustrophobia ease off his spirit even if just for a short time. These outings had become precious to him.
But then one Sunday, something happened that marred the experience for him for a long time. After that day, walking outside in the cold with the sound of crunching frost rimmed leaves under his feet would bring with it a sadness that lingered long after he was back inside and warm again.
On this particular Sunday, it was, as suggested above, a bright sunny but cold autumn day. The leaves that had fallen inside the yard and had remained in the shadow of the tall prison walls throughout the day had not been given the opportunity to defrost. Even by mid-afternoon they were still crunching under foot.
Heyes was doing his usual brisk walk and blowing on his hands to warm them up when he heard hurrying footsteps rustling up behind him. He turned quickly, expecting maybe Hank Boeman to be launching an attack, but instead was met with the young exuberant countenance of Harvey Konachy. Harvey couldn’t have been more than twenty-five years old and he was an open faced, pleasant looking young fella who’d simply had the misfortune of falling into hard times.
Heyes had noticed him being depressed of late, actually if Heyes thought about it, in the four weeks that he’d been there he had never really seen Harvey smile. He went through his days in a trance, had his meals which he just picked at and then returned to his cell to brood. His eyes were dull and his manner hopeless as though he had indeed given up.
So it was with some surprise that when Heyes turned to see Harvey, he was met with a sparkle in the young man’s eyes and a broad grin upon his face.
“Hey Heyes!” the young man greeted him happily. “I’ve just discovered something! You gotta watch this, okay?”
Heyes tensed and quickly did a scan of the numerous guards to see if any of them had overheard Harvey speaking to him. Even outside that was not allowed. But nothing changed, apparently nobody had noticed. Still, Heyes didn’t want them to notice either and tried to motion to the young man to ‘shut up!’
“No, listen Heyes!” Harvey continued excitedly, his eyes dancing. “I’ve found a way out of here!”
“What?!” Heyes couldn’t help himself. “What do you man?” he whispered. “How?”
“Just watch me! I’ll show you the way out!”
Then much to Heyes’ astonishment Harvey turned and bounding across the yard like a young buck in rut he plowed full force into the back of Floyd Carson! The guard was plunged forward with a long line of curses trailing after him before his natural agility saved him from falling head first into the leaves. He regained his footing and turned, bringing his rifle round with him but by that time there was nobody there!
Harvey had continued on running, making a bee line straight towards the far parameter wall which surrounded the compound. Heyes couldn’t believe what he was seeing! Not even hearing the shouting of the guards, he started to run forward, not really sure what exactly he could do, but thought that there must be something! Now everyone in the yard was alerted to the young man’s run as he continued his dash and then made a wild leap up against the high wall and somehow, miraculously found something there to cling on to.
Heyes was never going to forget the sight of that young man almost spread eagle, clinging onto the side of that wall and then the sound of the rifles, like a Gatling gun sending a barrage of bullets into the young man’s back. Harvey just hung there on the wall for what seemed like forever, but could only have been a couple of seconds, the bullet holes that had punctured him too numerous to count. In slow motion, it seemed, bright red blood flowed out of the wounds and spread across his shirt and then he was falling backwards and landed with a crunchy thud into the crisp autumn leaves.
Heyes just stood still with his mouth open. Suddenly he was in a bubble again and the Kid was in his arms and there was blood everywhere and Heyes couldn’t stop the bleeding and Curry was holding onto him with desperation in his eyes. “I’m sorry Heyes….I’m sorry.” And then Heyes got shoved from behind and the bubble burst and one of the guards was using his rifle to push him forward towards the door leading back into the cell block.
Guards and inmates were yelling. Heyes heard more than one rifle report as the guards sot to regain order and control. Everyone was bustled back into the work area and up the stairs to the appropriate levels and then into their cells. Everything was in lockdown.
Heyes was pacing, agitated, his mind spinning. What was that?! How could Harvey have had any hope at all of getting over that wall?! But at the same time Heyes knew that Harvey hadn’t planned on getting over the wall, he just planned on getting out—the only way he knew how.
The following morning the whole place was in a subdued spirit—even more so than usual. Heyes didn’t even know what Harvey had been in for, or how much longer he would have had to go on his sentence. It kind of seemed irrelevant now, but still it nagged at him a little bit and he was feeling pretty down in the dumps himself. The work day dragged out even more than usual and after supper Heyes simply returned to his cell to try and focus on reading until he was tired enough to hopefully get some sleep.
He wasn’t long at his book however when he felt the presence of someone at the open door of his cell. He looked up and saw that it was Carson. When their eyes met the guard beckoned him over and Heyes, feeling like this was the last person he felt like dealing with right now, none the less closed his book and approached his cell door. Heyes stood quietly, avoiding direct eye contact as that would be taken as a challenge and waited for whatever Carson had up his sleeve.
“Evening Heyes,” Carson greeted him with just the hint of a smirk. “I hear your partner’s not going to be joining you here after all.”
Heyes was startled into locking eyes with the guard. His heart leapt! Did that mean that Curry had gotten his pardon? Was he a free man? Was he going to join the fight now to get Heyes OUTA HERE!?
“Yes siree!” Carson continued, obviously enjoying himself. “They done found Kid Curry guilty of cold blooded murder and at 11:00 this morning the law went and hanged him by the neck until he was dead. Hanged him Heyes, like the filthy, thieving—murdering gunslinger that he was!”
Then Carson started laughing, a loud raucous laughter that followed him as he disappeared from the doorway and continued on his way down the corridor.
Heyes’ whole body turned to ice! Then he gasped and staggered backwards as though Carson had just punched him in the stomach. He stood there for a good thirty seconds, his eyes staring straight ahead at nothing until his knees gave way beneath him. He went down hard, landing on his rump upon the cold floor, but he didn’t feel a thing. Then suddenly his whole body heaved and he made a desperate grab for the wooden bucket as he began to retch.
TO BE CONTINUED