Denver is a likeable town
'Oh, Hilary! It was just the most romantic night of my life!'
The young woman leaned closer to her friend. 'Tell me everything, Emmeline; I want to hear every detail.'
Emmeline clasped her hands and held them to her chest as she cast wistful blue eyes skywards.
'He was so raw and manly. The strong, silent type with amazing blue eyes... I've never met a better listener. Not ever. He hung on my every word.'
Hilary clattered her teacup in the saucer. 'Oh, you're so lucky. I know that my Bill just pretends to listen to me half the time. What did you talk about?'
'Just about everything. The books I like to read, my favourite dresses, my watercolours... He adored my poems. He sat back with his eyes closed and drank them right in. He even agreed with me about the seating plan for the wedding. I knew that I was right! I'm going to put my foot down when Robert gets back. If I'm moving to Denver with him I have to let him know that I won't be pushed around.'
Hilary looked deeply into her teacup. 'You're so lucky. What about your Robert though? Didn't you feel guilty?'
Emmeline pouted prettily. 'I didn't do any harm. Robert chose to take a business trip with my father instead of staying here with me. I wanted him to help me choose the wedding stationary. I was lonely and it's his fault that I needed to be comforted. I was terribly upset and little he cared about it. What’s a girl to do?'
Hilary gave a little moue to mask the judgmental frown that crept across her alabaster face. 'So, what did you do with the staff?'
'I gave them the night off. With Father away on business with Robert, Jed and I had the place to ourselves,' she smiled triumphantly. 'I made dinner.'
'You cooked for him?' a look of amazement swept across Hilary's face. 'You?'
'Yes. It was wonderful! He took one bite and he swept me up in his arms. My cooking and the candlelight drove him mad with passion. Oh Hilary, I've never met anyone like him.'
'Emmeline....? I have to ask you this. Did he stay the night?'
Emmeline bridled slightly. 'We went out for a long moonlight walk. We talked, we kissed, we laughed... we wandered until dawn. The night just flew by. It was so special. I'll remember him for the rest of my life.'
'So?' Hillary asked archly. 'Are you going to see him again?'
Emmeline sat bolt upright and clipped the table crisply with bottom her teacup. 'Don't be ridiculous, Hillary; he's a saddle tramp! He was a diversion, nothing more! His income couldn't keep me in lace handkerchiefs.'
'Quit it,' snapped the Kid.
Heyes returned to his book and scanned a few pages before he tilted his head to the side, made an exaggerated gesture and stretched out an arm before pulling a shiny quarter from his partner's ear.
A hand shot out in a flash, grasping Heyes' fingers in an iron fist. 'I said, quit it!' the Kid dropped the hand, fixing a pair of menacing blue eyes on Heyes. 'You know, for a man clever enough to have outsmarted most of the lawmen he's ever met, you don't seem to be able to see that if you pull another coin out of any part of my body you'll end up with it rammed into one of yours.'
'Don't get proddy. I'm just trying to keep myself occupied. This is an interesting book. You never know when sleight of hand could come in handy.'
The Kid gave a stretching yawn. 'Yeah? Well I'm tired. Real tired. That was NOT my idea of a fun night. When I got back to Devil's Hole I got only three hours sleep before the boys started havin' a shootin' competition.'
'I came back with you. I never got any more sleep than you did,' Heyes replied innocently.
The Kid raised his eyebrows in disbelief. 'You didn't spend the night with no food, no rest and no peace, more to the point I had to entertain the most borin' woman on earth. I ain't never met anyone so selfish in my life... and that’s sayin’ something. I know you!'
'Kid, that's unfair. She was keen on you and she was pretty... really pretty.'
'What's that saying about beauty bein' skin only deep? If her personality was anythin' to go by she'd have a face like rusty doorknobs dropped into creamed corn.'
Heyes shook his head. 'Poor you. You had dinner with a lovely woman, followed by a romantic walk in the moonlight, even a spot of fooling around. I did the real work. I had to break into the safe.'
'Dinner? Yeah... real tasty. She cooked it herself because she gave all the servants the night off. She told me that it was only burned at the bottom.... Not that I could see it with all the lamps off. What is it with rich women and candles? Cushions and candles... I don't get it. Do they like fires?'
'It couldn't have been that bad... not if it was only burned at the bottom?'
The Kid ran a hand through his tousled hair. 'Burned at the bottom, raw on the top and potatoes like bullets. I had a choice; eat it or kiss her.... At least kissin' her shut her up too, so I took the coward's way out.'
Heyes dropped his book on the table. 'She had to be kept busy so I could get into the safe. It had to be done, Kid. Maybe I should get someone else to romance the girl next time?'
Blue eyes glittered with determination. 'Yeah? I could see her fallin' for Lobo... or Kyle! She'd have loved Kyle. Get him to do it next time.'
Heyes scowled, knowing that the Kid had called his bluff. 'It'll be worth it. You kept her out of the house long enough for me to copy all the scheduled payrolls and their security arrangements for the next six months. Rich picking's Kid, a good night's work. Everything's back in the safe just the way it was so no-one even knows that we've seen it.'
'I deserve a bigger share, Heyes. I did most of the work.'
Heyes stood up and swirled the coffee pot to test how much was still left inside. 'You'll get your reward in heaven, Kid. Most crooks would have gone in there heavy handed. You sweet-talked her into playin' along so doesn't even know what happened. You gave her a real nice evening.'
'She's gettin' married. Someone should warn the poor sap,' mused the Kid. 'But rich folks tend to get a bit surly if you tell them that you were sparkin' their women folk and found them wantin'.'
Heyes sucked in a great breath of Cripple Creek as he watched the Kid follow him out of the hotel into the caustic morning sunshine. It had been quite a night; very entertaining, very drunken and very, very exhausting. Nevertheless, they hauled their dehydrated frames out of bed and went in search of sustenance to fill their hollow bellies and caffeine to kick their misfiring synapses back into life.
'One hundred dollars apiece, eh, Heyes? Was it worth it?'
‘The most high-class house in the state? The girls sure don’t come cheap.’ Heyes gave an enigmatic grin. 'Sure was. Didn't you think so?'
The Kid shook his head. 'I ain't sure that it was, but you gotta try everythin' in life once, I suppose.'
'Maybe even twice...just to be sure,' laughed Heyes, 'but we were celebrating. We had to do something different. It's been good times, Kid. Real good times. Lot of successful jobs.'
'Breakfast!' announced the Kid. 'My stomach thinks my throat's been cut.'
They arrived at the restaurant and glanced around in dismay at the crowded tables. 'Looks like everyone else had the same idea.'
The Kid gave a groan as his mouth watered and the savoury aromas tortured his squawking tummy. 'Is there anywhere else?
I don't think I can wait, the smell of that bacon is drivin' me mad!'
A harassed looking waitress bustled up to them and gave them a sympathetic look. 'We're full I'm afraid. You can wait, but we're always like this on a Sunday Morning. Folks come in after church,' she paused and eyed the two men up and down judgementally, 'or after a night out.'
'Where else is there? Kid had a hint of desperation in his voice.
'Down the street,' she shook her head. 'It's not as good though. That's why we're so busy.'
Heyes turned to go. 'Well, beggars can't be choosers, can they?'
'Well... there is one table. You'd have to share. No-one else wanted to, because of the smell.'
'Smell?' demanded the Kid.
'He's had a rough night. Nobody else wants to share with him. He's on his own, but at a table that would sit four,' she flicked up an eyebrow in enquiry. 'If you're desperate enough...?'
'That depends,' enquired Heyes. 'Just what do you mean by a 'rough night'?'
'Whiskey. He positively reeks of it. But I could serve almost right away.'
'Whiskey? Nothin' else?' the Kid asked warily.
The waitress looked miffed. 'Gentlemen, if it was anything else we wouldn't let him in here!'
Their smiling eyes met in agreement before the nodded in unison. Heaven knows they'd eaten around worse than a bad hangover over the years.
The man's face twitched slightly in welcome to the two strangers who approached the table. The waitress certainly hadn't exaggerated the odour drifting from the man as he shovelled scrambled eggs on top of a biscuit and took a huge bite.
The man's suit was unkempt, dusty and wrinkled but he had obviously seen better days from the good fabric and fine cut of his garments.
He nodded a rumpled head at them as he blinked red-rimmed, rheumy eyes at them.
The waitress started to hand out menus but stopped as the Kid held up a hand. 'The works and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.'
'Good Morning,' the man said uncertainly, almost in question.
The partners nodded.
'Sure is,' Heyes threw him a knowing smile. 'Good night too.'
The man gave him a watery smile and blinked heavily shadowed eyes which he fought to keep open. 'Sorry for the mess gents. I've been through a rough time recently. This suit's seen better days.'
'Sorry to hear that,' Heyes replied and instantly regretted it as the stranger took it as an invitation to talk.
'Yeah,' the man shook his head ruefully. 'Money troubles, women troubles; you name it. It's been hard times, real hard.'
'Well, at least you got a good breakfast to set you up for the day, eh?' Heyes added, cheerfully. 'That's got to be a good start.'
The man nodded in agreement. 'A real good breakfast. You came to the right place gents.'
'So, what happened? You sound like you've got quite a story,' The Kid jerked slightly and glared at Heyes in answer to the kick that found its mark under the table as the coffee arrived.
'Oooh, it's the old story. Getting mixed up with the wrong woman; it can ruin a man.'
Kid poured out the coffee as he ignored Heyes' subtle cough. He was interested even if Heyes wasn't.
'Well, some women can be a lot of trouble. A man's gotta be careful who he gets mixed up with,' the Kid pronounced wisely as Heyes gave a subtle snort of cynicism.
'Physician heal thyself,' Heyes muttered.
'What's that supposed to mean?' demanded the Kid.
'It means that you've had your fair share of tricky women yourself!' he gave the stranger a gentle smile. 'She rob you then?'
'Good heavens. No. She was rich; very respectable in most ways, but she was flighty, spoiled and kind of selfish, I suppose. I forgave her time after time but it just got too bad. I was getting a name as a fool and a cuckold. The last straw was one night when I was out of town on business with her father. She packed off the servants so that she could be alone in the house with a man. She thought that she could get away with it but servants talk... it was all over town. I had to do something but when I challenged her, she went mad, throwing things, yelling and well... just behaving like a child really. I told her the engagement was off and that's where my troubles really started. Man, I really regretted moving to Denver then.'
'Yeah?' the Kid asked guiltily.
'I worked for her father and had lodgings tied to my job. Before the end of that week I was homeless, unemployed and facing a Breach of Promise action.'
The partners darted a look at one another. 'What did her father do? For a living I mean?' asked Heyes hesitantly.
'He was the head of security of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. I was his assistant.'
Both men dropped their heads, suddenly unduly fascinated by the undulating mounds of their scrambled eggs.
'I'm sorry... real sorry. I'm sure that there's a future for you,' the Kid tilted his head as his eyes glittered in empathy.
'Sorry, I've met the best girl I ever met in my life. Margaret-Mary is stunning! Raven, Irish hair and the bluest eyes you've ever seen in your life. Poor as a church mouse but even on her worst day she's worth ten of Emmeline.'
Heyes smacked the Kid's back as he choked on his eggs at the mention of the name.
'Emmeline? That was her name? Quite unusual, huh?’ the Kid croaked.
'Yup. If I could meet the man who was seen sneaking out of her house that night, I'd shake him by the hand!'
'That's remarkably gracious of you,' Heyes exclaimed in surprise, 'considering everything else that happened.'
'Oh, you don't know the half of it. The legal case was a nightmare. Breach of Promise can ruin a man. No respectable family would let a man like that near their daughter. '
'I'm real sorry,' the Kid murmured. 'I'm sure that if you can get off the drink you can have a future with Margaret-Mary.'
'Drink?' the man shook his head in confusion as he started to laugh. 'I'm sorry; I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. I don't have a drink habit. I've been celebrating... and in style!'
The Kid looked almost afraid to ask. 'Celebrating?'
‘Yes. The railroad has been hit by a whole spate of thefts over the last six months. Emmeline's father has been unable to do anything about them so he's been sacked. I've been offered his job.'
The stranger stood, wiping down the crumbs from his rumpled, slept-in suit before he tossed notes onto the table in payment. 'I'm now the head of security, Emmeline's family have dropped the legal case as they can't afford to pursue it and I've got the most wonderful woman in the world. I can now treat her the way she deserves and I'll always know that she's with me, for me... and not my money or position.' A grin spread over his newly invigorated features as the meal began to feed into his bloodstream. 'I regretted moving to Denver six months ago, but I met Margaret-Mary, I've got a great job and I have a much better life than I would have had if I'd married Emmeline and lived under her father's thumb. All in all I think that Denver's going to be a likeable town... a very likeable town indeed.'