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 A Fork in the Road - Part one

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Join date : 2013-08-28

A Fork in the Road - Part one Empty
PostSubject: A Fork in the Road - Part one   A Fork in the Road - Part one EmptyThu Nov 14, 2013 5:55 am

The Fork in the Road

by Storm Richards

A couple of weeks out of Porterville, two riders rode silently into the setting sun.   The warmth of the sun vanishing as the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in from beyond the horizon.  Pulling up their collars, they hunched slightly over in an effort to keep warm.  The rider on the left shot a glance out of the corner of his eye, checking on his partner.  Neither one had spoken for over an hour.  There were no more words left which to speak.  There was nothing left to debate.  Talking wasn't going to give any answers, so they continued on in silence.    

Seeing a familiar group of rocks, the riders turned off the main path into the trees.  After weaving in and out of trees for a short time, they pulled up their mounts.  They looked at the worn and battered line shack, not much but it would protect them from the rain that was coming their way.  Dismounting, they went about settling the horses in under the nearby shelter of trees.  Working in tandem, almost as one as they had done this routine so often, they didn't have to talk to know what the other was doing or what needed to be done.  They closed the door just as the heavens opened up for the fourth night in a row.

The partner with the dark hat used his finger to push the brim of his hat back after he placed his saddle, saddlebags and bedroll on the floor.  He scanned the small shack.  Seeing what he was searching for brought a small dimpled smile to his face.  "Well," he said, "there is plenty of dry wood."  Stepping towards the pile he added, "We'll be dry and warm tonight."

"Yeah," the partner with the brown hat said less enthusiastically as he dumped his belonging on the floor.  

Heyes clenched his jaw, not looking back at his partner; he began to build a fire.  He didn't want to get into a fight.  He didn't want to get into the same argument the two of them had been having for the past week.  Well, really ever since they left Porterville.  Ever since Lom came back and told them they would be granted amnesty if and only if they proved to the Governor they could stay out of trouble.  Heyes took a breath in and blew it out.  Standing up he turned to face Kid.  With his best disarming voice and the Hannibal Heyes charm that had gotten them out of more trouble than either could count he stated, "We'll be nice and toasty in no time."

Kid rolled his eyes and went to check out the cupboards.  "Empty," he groaned, slamming the door shut, he watched as the door broke, crashing to the floor.  

"More firewood," his Heyes quipped, still trying not to be goaded into the ongoing argument.

Blue eyes glared at at his partner; the cold calculating stare that would have most men running the other way as fast as possible.  Heyes' shoulders slumped.  Pointing towards the door, "You want to spend another night in the rain?  I thought it would be nice to have heat, hot coffee, warm food but hey if you want to keep riding, let me know.  I'm your partner.  You lead, I'll follow."  What had started quietly ended with a flourish and wave of his hand as he could feel his blood beginning to boil.  More accurately he felt his head banging into the brick wall; better known as Kid Curry!

"No I don't want to go back into the rain, again," Kid snapped.  "I want to be in a hotel, havin’ a nice steak dinner and maybe play some poker tonight.  Instead I'm in this line shack that could blow over any minute, eatin' beans, drinkin' your coffee, and sleepin' on the floor!"  

"Kid," Heyes sighed.  "We've been through this over and over again."  He paused, waiting for his cousin to reply.  When he didn't he continued, "It was your idea to go for amnesty, I don't know what you want me to say."

"Maybe you could explain to me why we had to leave Porterville.  Why we're ridin' all over  the place.  Why we can't get near let alone stop at any of the towns we've past."  Kid threw his hand up in the air.  With the fire doing its job, he began to unbutton his sheepskin coat.  "We had jobs in Porterville; a hotel room and the Sheriff knew who we were and didn't care.  Why couldn't we stay?"

Heyes removed his hat, placing it on a chair and then removed his coat, staling for time so that he could once again answer his partner instead of yelling at him.  "Lom didn't care who we are, that's true, but," he paused for emphasis.  "If someone else recognized us, Lom would have no choice but to arrest us.  The Governor said it was a secret.  No one can know.  Lom couldn't turn his back and even if he did, our amnesty would be out the window."  He walked across the shack and threw another log on the fire even though it didn't need it.  "He stuck his neck out for us.  Did you really want to put him in that position?"  he  turned back towards his cousin.  "If you remember, the jobs you keep bringing up were at the bank.  Do you remember what the bank looked like when we left?"

Kid shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly, raising his eyebrows.

"Don't really think those jobs are available right now."  

"So why can't we stop in a town?  Why do we keep ridin' south?"

"Did you know all the towns we passed?"

"Yeah," Kid groused.

"Why, cause we robbed the banks in most of them?"

"Yeah," Kid chuckled lightly.

"Then there are probably a few people in town, maybe a sheriff or two who can recognize us? Not the best idea when we are trying not to be noticed."

"Yeah," Kid sighed sounding dejected.  

"Look," Heyes said walking towards his friend.  "I'm tired of riding.  I'm tired of sleeping in the rain.  I want a nice steak dinner and a nice bed in a hotel.  We just have to ride far enough south so we won't be recognized so easy."  

Kid nodded his head.

Heyes sighed in relief, finally a break through.  "How about I make some coffee?  We can make some bacon and biscuits for dinner."  

"Sounds like a Plan."


The two once again settled down into being partners, working along side of each other making dinner.  They didn't talk, but they didn't have to; the tension that filled the silence before, was gone or at least put aside for the time being.  After biscuits, bacon and coffee they set up their bedrolls and lay down.  With full stomachs, dry clothes and a warm cabin, they gave into their bodies scream for sleep.  Kid fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the bedroll; while Heyes, though tired, couldn't stop his mind from working overtime.  The amnesty was his partner’s idea at first but after they discussed it, it became their idea.  Now Kid was questioning the rational behind the decision.  Heyes reasoned to himself that Kid's feeling made sense; he was tired and grouchy.  Since they left Porterville, the weather had been horrible. They rode almost continuously, when they did stop, they had the cold wet ground to try to sleep on.  Both Lom and the Governor told them to stay out of trouble and they were too well known in these parts.  Trouble would surely come to them if they tried to stop in any of the towns they past along their journey so far.  At first his cousin agreed, but as the weather got worse, his mood got worse.   It rained so hard for the past three nights; they couldn't even get a fire going.  They found the best cover they could under trees but sleep was almost impossible.  Heyes sighed; three days of only eating jerky would make anyone grumpy.  Three days of only jerky made Kid almost unbearable.  He hoped a good night sleep would help change his partner's attitude.  

As brown eyes stared at the ceiling, he wondered if they could make it; would they be able to stay out of trouble for a year. He figured at this point they really didn't have a choice.  Stopping the rest of the gang from robbing the Porterville Bank twice probably didn't go over well with the boys.  He wasn't so sure how welcome they would be back in Devil's Hole right now.  Wheat had taken over and although Wheat had been posturing for sometime, he was never really a threat when they were on the inside.  Now that he and Kid were on the outside, Heyes wasn't sure that was still the case.  Besides, he told himself, this is a chance they never figured they would have.  Now that they do, they have to give it a go, it was a challenge but he always liked a good challenge!

Heyes' eyes were getting heavy; his eyelids were beginning to sag as thoughts swirled around in his head.  First thing they had to do was to find a town that no one would recognize them in and get jobs.  Right now, money was okay.  They still had some from the robbery before their infamous last train robbery, but that would run out soon.  He rolled his eyes, if anything told them they should get out of the business, that day certainly did.  He could always play poker for money he thought, his eyelids shut as he dreamed of the perfect poker game.


The morning came and the sun shone through the cracks in the line shack.  Kid rolled over and groaned.  "Mornin'," Heyes said cheerfully.  "Coffee?"

Kid put his hand up to block the sun shinning in his eyes; he opened an eye and glared at his partner.  "You're in a good mood," he accused.

"Sun's up, not a cloud in the sky.  What's not to be in a good mood about?"  he replied as he held out a cup of coffee for his partner.

He ran a hand through his blond curls as he and sat up.  Taking the cup he grumbled, "We're in a line shack."

"Kid," Heyes interrupted before his partner had a chance to say anything else.  "We've been through all of this over and over.  Do you really want to start on it again?  I mean we can go ‘round and ‘round in circles over this or we can wake up today, look at the sunny sky and say we have a chance.  We have a chance we never thought we had.  I said it last night and I'll say it again, we're partners.  You decide you don't want to try for amnesty; I'll be right by your side.  I just want you to think about what you're giving up."  

"Ridin’ all the time.  No place to go back to.  Sleepin’ on the floors," Kid began to rattle off a list of complaints.

"No one shooting at us, a chance to settle down, maybe a family down the road," the brown haired man countered as he turned around.

Kid looked at the back of Heyes, he was packing his saddlebags.  He shifted on the floor as he took a sip of coffee.  He studied his partners back.  He knew Heyes wasn't going to turn around and look at him until he agreed.  Whenever Heyes was done with an argument, he would turn his back to him and busy himself with something.  Somehow what ever he was doin' never got done until Kid agreed.  He also knew Heyes was right.  "What are we gonna do for money?"

Heyes smiled to himself as he slowly continued to pack his saddlebags.  Most days it would have been done ten times by now, but he knew Kid needed time to think; time to come around.  "Well, I figured we got jobs in Porterville, we can get jobs anywhere."

"We're friends of the sheriff in Porterville and experts.  We can't go around boastin' that we're experts in the bankin' business now can we."

"No," Heyes agreed.  "But we are."  

Kid could tell by the sound of Heyes' voice, the size of the smile on his face and the glint in his eyes.  He sighed, "Heyes."

"Yeah, Kid."

"What are you thinkin' now?"  Kid asked almost reluctantly.

Heyes finally turned to look at him.  "I figured we're far enough south to be able to ride into the next town without everyone knowing who we are.  Get a hotel room, hot bath and a nice steak dinner."  

Kid smiled, then frowned, "Money's gonna run out if we don't get jobs."

"True, but maybe they'll be a game or two of poker tonight."

Kid smiled again as he stood up.  Grabbing his bedroll, "Well what are you waitin' for?  I wanna be in a nice soft bed tonight!"


Heyes suppress a smile as the two rode further and further away from the line shack.  Kid had been talking almost none stop since they left a couple of hours earlier.  He was content to listen to his partner talk for a change.  He was just happy Kid's mood had improved and they were no longer fighting.  The fact that the sun was high in the sky and a gentle breeze was blowing certainly didn't hurt.  Heyes began to think of the possibilities the two of them had in front of them.

"Heyes," Kid said.  "Heyes," he yelled louder.

"Ah-what," Heyes replied sounding confused.

"You ain't been listenin'," Kid accused.

"Yeah, I have," Heyes stated defensively.

"Then what did I say?" Kid demanded.

"Ah, you were talkin' bout things," Heyes said sheepishly.

"What things?"

Heyes frowned, "Last I recall you were talking about what you were having for supper."

"That was ten minutes ago," Kid growled as he pointed his finger at Heyes.  "You ain't been listenin'."

"Well, you're thinking got me thinking."  


"I'm serious, Kid," he interrupted.  "All this thinking by you, well it got me thinking too.  Got me thinking about what we're gonna do when we get to town."

"If you'd been listenin' to me, you'd know exactly what we're gonna do."

Brown eyes turned to meet blue eyes, waiting for him to continue.

"First we're gonna ride in and check out the Sheriff.  Make sure we don't know him."

Heyes nodded.

"Then I'm gonna get me the biggest steak I can get," Kid said enthusiastically."

"Looking like we do?"

Kid looked at Heyes and then himself.  "Okay, we check out the sheriff, check into the hotel, get baths and THEN go get the biggest steak we can find."

"Anything else?"  

"That's about it for me," Kid happily stated.  "Maybe we can find a poker game in the saloon. Oh, I want some whiskey.  We ain't had none since we left Porterville."  Kid thought for a moment as they continued to ride further away from the line shack and closer to town.  "I guess tomorrow we should look for some jobs."  Turning towards his partner, he asked, "What kinda jobs do you think we should look for this time?"  

"Let's see what the town has to offer before we decide.  I might be able to make enough playing poker."

"Now that sounds like my kinda work. Not hard on the back at all."

Heyes chuckled.

They rode for a few minutes lost in their own thoughts when Heyes said, "There's one thing we have to do before we get to town."  

Kid pulled his horse to a stop.  "What?" he asked concerned.

"We have to get ourselves some names," he replied, continuing forward.

Confused, Kid nudged his horse to catch up.  "We have names.  You're Smith, I'm Jones."

"Not those names."

"Lom gave us the names and told us to use them.  We can't use Heyes and Curry and there are a lot of Smith and Jones out there."

"Yeah, but how am I supposed to introduce you to anyone?"

"You say this is my partner Mr. Jones."

"Okay, say we're in the saloon and I'm playing poker.  A pretty saloon girl walks up to you and starts to talk to you.  How are you going to introduce yourself?  Hi, I'm Mr. Jones?  Don't think calling yourself Kid is a good idea.  Jeddidiah and Hannibal are out of the question.  So Mr. Jones, I ask you again, how do I introduce you?"

"Never thought about it.  I've been Kid longer than I was ever Jed."

"Yeah, well I've been Heyes for forever but we have to come up with names that sound as normal as Smith and Jones."

Kid thought for a minute, "How about Harry?"

Heyes creased his brow as he studied Kid's face.  "No.  You don't have beady eyes and a pointy nose," he asserted.  "No one would believe you were a Harry."

Kid shrugged.  "How about Tom or Thomas."

Heyes nodded his head.  "Thomas Jones.  You could pass as Thomas Jones.  Normal everyday guy."

"What about you Heyes?  What do you want to be called?"

Heyes contemplated a minute, opened his mouth and then shaking his head closed it.  Finally he said, "John, John Smith."

"Thomas Jones and John Smith," Kid agreed.

Continuing to ride towards town, they were once again both lost in their own thoughts.   Seeing a fork in the rode up ahead, Kid asked, "Tom, which way?"

Heyes continued forward without answering.

"Tom," Kid said louder, "Which way?"

Confused, Heyes looked at his partner.

"Tom," Kid yelled.  "I thought we should get used to callin' each other by our names."

Heyes gave a short nervous chuckle, "You're Tom, I'm John."

Kid closed his eyes.  "How am I gonna remember you're John?  You don't look like John to me.  You look like Heyes."

"We've used aliases before; there's never been a problem."

"Yeah, well that was just last names and once maybe twice.  I'm gonna have to remember to call you John all the time," Kid said sounding worried.

Heyes pulled his horse to a stop.  "Maybe we just need names easier to remember."

"John is hard?"  

"Cause you don't got nothing to remind you its John."

Kid nodded in agreement.

"We need to come up with names that we got something to remember them by."

"How we gonna do that?"

"It can't be anything hard and it can't be anything too close," Heyes stopped and smiled.  "How about Joshua and Thaddeus?"

"You did it again, Heyes," Kid smiled.  "All I got to do is think of the stories Grandpa Joshua and Grandpa Thaddeus used to tell us while we sat on the porch."

Heyes produced his hand to shake.

Kid looked at it curiously, then shook it.

"Please to meet you Thaddeus Jones," Heyes stated.

"It's good to know ya, Joshua Smith.  Now which way do you want to go Joshua?"

"Sign says 15 miles west to Gila City and 10 miles south to Johnson City.  I vote for Johnson City."

"Sounds like a plan Joshua."


The two rode to town, talking back and forth using their new names the entire way.  As the sun began to set, they could just make out the outline of Johnson City.  

"Joshua," Kid said wistfully, "I can just smell the steak dinner."  He took a deep breath in, "To cut into a big juice steak." He kicked his horse and urged him on faster.  

"Thaddeus," Heyes yelled from behind.  "Slow down."

Kid continued to race forward.


Kid pulled on the reins to slow down his horse. He turned his head towards his partner and looked at him in disgust. "I just want to get to town.  I want to eat a steak, I want to sleep in a bed," he growled.

Heyes put his hand up to stop the onslaught of words.  "I know, but remember, no trouble."

Kid glowered at him.

"All I'm saying, is we got to remember we have to stay out of trouble.  The first thing we have to do is check who the sheriff is.  Then we can go to the hotel, get cleaned up and then we can get that steak you want so bad."

Kid softened his glower and almost mimicked Heyes.

"All I'm sayin'...I know all you're sayin' Heyes.  It's all you've been sayin'…Stay out of trouble."

"It's not me that's saying it Kid, its Lom and the Governor.  If you don't want the amnesty...."

"What I want is a nice hot juicy steak," Kid spat.  

"You don't have to get all proddy," Heyes said meekly.

"Heyes," Kid whined.  "I want the amnesty.  I just want a good meal tonight.  Can we get to town so I can get it."

"Sure Kid," Heyes stated lightly.  "You just had to say so."

Kid bit his tongue and they rode to town.

Heyes nudged his horse to quicken the pace, he was just as eager for a nice dinner and a warm dry bed to sleep in, maybe even a game or two of poker tonight.  He smiled to himself as they reached the first buildings in town.  

Johnson City was a fairly typical town in the west. They passed a small church and graveyard at the entrance of the town.  The general store, a dress shop and the bank lined one side of the street while the hotel and saloon were on the opposite side.  The sheriff's office and jail sat separated from the other buildings on the boardwalk next to the bank.  The livery and blacksmith were at the end of the town.  

As they rode by the sheriff's office, Kid asked, "Joshua, ever hear of a Sheriff Ethan Adamson?"

"Sheriff Ethan Adamson," Heyes repeated.  Smiling he replied, "No, I don't believe I have.  Have you Thaddeus?"

"Can't say I have."  Kid smiled back.

"Well then, let's get these horses to the livery and us cleaned up so we can have that steak dinner you have been wanting."

"Sound like the best plan you've had in a while Joshua."  


Heyes and Kid settled their horses, checked into the hotel, took the quickest baths they ever had and went to get dinner where they lingered enjoying every bite of the biggest steaks they could order.  Then it was off to the saloon for poker and whiskey.  The night was good and got even better when they laid their heads down on the nice soft pillows on their extremely comfortable beds.  

Kid sighed with contentment, "Heyes."

"Yeah, Kid."

"Maybe goin' for amnesty's not such a bad idea after all."

"You know Kid, I think you're right."  Heyes smiled and closed his eyes.  

Just as his partner was about to drift off, Kid called out, "Heyes."

"Yeah Kid," he mumbled, half a sleep.

"Guess we have to start lookin’ for jobs tomorrow."


"What kind of job, should we look for?"

"You're in a talkative mood tonight," Heyes grumbled.  

"Just thinkin'," Kid stated as he folded his hands behind his head.

"I thought we had an agreement about that."

"Fine," Kid huffed.

Trying to smooth Kid's ruffled feathers Heyes finally answered, "Something not too hard on the back."


"You asked me what kind of job we should look for and I said something not too hard on the back," Heyes stated innocently.

Kid bent his elbow and propped his head up on his hand.

"If I had it my way, I'd just keep playin' poker."  

"You think you can keep winnin'," Kid asked.

Heyes glared at Kid incredulously.

"What I meant is, can you keep winnin’ enough money so we can keep livin' like this?"

Heyes thought about it for a minute.  "I don't know the town well enough yet.  I won tonight, and not too much so that I'll still get a seat at a table tomorrow.  I'm not sure if there are enough new bodies willing to keep playing if I keep winning."  Heyes shrugged, "We'll have to wait to see what tomorrow brings.  In the meantime, we still have enough money not to have to jump at the first job, if it's too hard on the back."  

"Alright Heyes, whatever you say," Kid said sleepily, rolling on his back.

Just as his partner's breaths got heavier and he was drifting off to sleep Heyes whispered loudly, "Kid."  When there was no answer he called louder, "Kid."

"Huh, what?"  he blurted out startled as he bolted straight up in bed, gun in his hand.

Heyes chuckled. "Kid, you can relax."

"Oh," he said, somewhat confused looking at the gun in his hand.  Holstering his gun, he lay back down.

"Kid," Heyes called again.

"What?" Kid grumbled.

"Just remember, tomorrow, when we're not in the room, call me Joshua."

Blue eyes glared at Heyes.

"Night, Kid."  Heyes said cheerfully and rolled over on his side away.

Kid glowered at his partner.  Angrily he hit his pillow attempting to fluff it, snorted, then plopping his head down he turned his back to Heyes.  


The next couple of days were quiet and peaceful.  Heyes and Kid casually asked around town for any jobs but weren't successful.  If they stayed around long enough, they could help out at the feed store when Mr. Booker had to go back east for a short visit and there was a cattle drive forming to the north in Clearwater in a couple of weeks or so.  With a little money still in their pockets, nice beds to sleep on and good food, Heyes and Kid spent most of their days lazily relaxing on the hotel porch; sitting back, smoking cigars and watching the people of Johnson City.  All in all, Johnson City was a nice pleasant place.  Everyone was very nice and better yet, kept to themselves.  At night, the partners would wander over to the saloon to play poker.  They were very careful not to win too much money, as they were not ready to move on yet.  Heyes figured as long as the locals didn't loose too much money at any one time, they wouldn't object to them playing.  


Eating breakfast in the café on the fourth day, Mr. Stanton, the town lawyer approached them.  "Good morning gentlemen. May I have a word with you?"

Gesturing with his hand towards the open seat across from them Heyes replied, "What can we do for you?"

"I understand the two of you are looking for jobs?"

"That's right.  Do you have somethin' for us?"  Kid asked.

"I have some important papers that need to be taken out to the Circle R ranch.  I need them signed and returned to me as soon as possible.  I'm waiting for a telegram so I can't go," the lawyer answered.

"Where's the circle R?"  Heyes inquired.

"It's about two hours south of town.  Big ranch," Stanton stated.

"Who owns it?"  Kid asked.

"Roscoe Taylor."

"Can't say I've heard of him," Heyes smiled.

"Didn’t think you would have," Stanton explained.  "He just moved from the east.  That's what the papers are for; he's transferring everything out here now.  He wants to be a real western cowboy."

Heyes chuckled.  

"Yeah, not sure how long he will make it, but I'm getting paid to get everything set up, so that's what I'll do.  So, do we have a deal?"

"How much?"  Kid asked.

"Fair wages and I'll give you a bonus if you can get back before the stage leaves at four," Stanton said.

Heyes looked at Kid and nodded. "We'll take the job."

"Good.  I'll head back to my office to get the papers together.  Meet me there in fifteen minutes."  Stanton stood up, shook their hands and left.

"Well we got ourselves a job, we better get moving," Heyes stated.  "We got time to stop back at the hotel."  


The partners walked across the street towards the hotel.  As they were walking up the steps, six riders rode in from the east.  
Approaching the hotel, one of the riders out front did a double take.   "What's the matter Toby?" his brother asked.

Toby turned to look at the rider along side of him and then looked back at the hotel porch.  The door was shut and the two men he just saw had disappeared.

"Toby," Sticks called louder.

"Huh?"  Toby responded sounding confused.

"What's the matter?"  Sticks barked.

"Nothin'," Toby replied to his brother.

"What were you lookin' at?"  Sticks demanded.

Toby shook his head, "I swear I jist saw Hannibal Heyes an' Kid Curry."

"On the hotel porch."

Sticks looked around his brother and back in the direction of the porch.  "There's no one there."

"I know," Toby said scratching his head.

"Then where are they?"

"Don't know."

Sticks turned to the four riders following, "Anyone see anyone on the hotel porch?"

"Nope," the riders replied in unison.

Sticks turned back to his brother, "Think you was imaginin' things."

"I'm tellin' ya, I saw Hannibal Heyes an' Kid Curry."

"Well they ain't there now and anyway, what would Heyes and Curry be doin' all this way south?  They's workin' out of Devil's Hole?"  

"I don't know what they're doin' here, but I'm tellin' ya they're here," Toby insisted.

"Well fine then.  We could use a couple more men on the bank job anyway."

"Really?"  Toby's eyes lit up with excitement of the idea.  "Us working with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  Ya think they'd work with us?"

Annoyed at his brother's exuberance at the thought, Sticks grumbled, "Well if you see ‘em again, you can ask.  And why wouldn't they work with us?  We're robbin' the bank, that's what they do."


Sticks, Toby and the gang checked into the hotel and then checked out the bank.  They busied themselves around town all day, trying not to be noticed.  Trying to be as casual as possible, Toby and Sticks wandered into the bank while the rest of the gang went to the General Store looking for supplies they needed.  All day, Toby kept an eye out for Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  They were nowhere to be seen and he began to believe he must have imagined them.  He had wished he had kept his mouth shut since every time they crossed paths with someone different in town, Sticks would blurt out, "Oh look Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry," to the hootin' and hollerin' of the rest of the gang.  


At three thirty the stage pulled into Johnson City with a load of new passengers to drop off.   Mr. Stanton looked out the open door of his office, his packed bags at his feet.  There was no sign of Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones. He paced, he stopped, looked out the window, paced some more, looked out the door.  He saw new horses being harnessed to the stage.  Pulling his pocket watch out, he anxiously looked at the time - three fifty.  Sighing, he resigned himself to loosing the bonus he was promised for making the four o'clock stage.  Placing his watch back in his pocket, he bent down to pick up his bags; he would have to wait two days for the next stage.  Standing up, he caught of glimpse of a dust cloud moving left to right behind the livery.  Straining his eyes, he noticed two riders rounding the livery and quickly racing his way.  A smile spread across his face as he grabbed his things, closed the door of his office and headed towards the stagecoach.  He reached the stage just as the two riders pulled up.  

"Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones," he shouted above the noise.

Dismounting with a flourish, Heyes greeted the man with his hand, "Mr. Stanton."

Kid dismounted, walking up along side of his partner.  

"I was getting worried you wouldn't make it," Stanton stated as he turned and handed his bags up to the stagecoach driver.

"You should have had faith Mr. Stanton.  We told you we would make it back by the four o'clock stage," Heyes informed the man.  Taking out his watch he added, "By my accounts, we're six minutes early."  He reached into his shirt and pulled out an envelope of papers.  Holding them out for the lawyer he said, "I believe we made it in time for the bonus."

"That you did," Stanton chuckled.  Reaching into his pocket he pulled out an envelope and exchanged it with Heyes.  "It's all there plus the bonus."

Heyes opened the envelope and counted the money.

"It's been a pleasure doing business with you Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones.  If you're still around when I get back I'm sure we can work together again.  If you ever need anything, let me know."

The partners laughed nervously at the thought of having to do business with a lawyer again.  

"If you're ridin'," the stagecoach driver yelled.  "We're leavin'."

"Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones," Stanton tipped his hat and stepped into the stage just as the driver urged the horses forward.

Heyes opened the envelope, pulled out a couple of bills and handed them to Kid.  Closing the envelope, he placed it in his shirt pocket.  "Think it's time for a drink."  He started off towards the saloon.

"Sounds good to me," Kid started following, then stopped.  "I'm gonna head over to the General Store to get some gun oil.  I'll meet you in the saloon."

Turning towards his partner, Heyes groaned, "Don't you have some?"

"I'm almost out."

Brown eyes rolled.  

"I don't go botherin' you ‘bout stuff you need. I don't ask you why you need another book."

"You don't need to be getting all proddy.  I just asked if you had some already."

Kid relaxed a bit.  

"I'll take the horses to the livery while you go to the General Store.  I'll meet you at the saloon."

"Sounds like a plan," Kid smiled, patting Heyes back as he walked past him.

Heyes grabbed the reins of the horses and headed towards the livery while Kid walked in the opposite direction.  

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A Fork in the Road - Part one
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