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 The Way Back Chapter thirty-four

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Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four Empty
PostSubject: The Way Back Chapter thirty-four   The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptyThu Nov 14, 2013 7:00 pm

The Way Back  (the un-edited version can be found on the 'Adult's only' link at the bottom of the page.)

Funny how it can go sometimes; you fight and scramble and give it your all for what seems like an eternity and nothing happens. You feel like you're trying to swim upstream and with every stroke you make you're just being pushed further and further back. You want to give up but you keep on fighting because, well; what else is there?
Then all of a sudden, without any warning at all 'BOOM' everything just falls into place and it almost sends you into a panic because so many things are coming at you at once and you're not prepared for it. It's what you've been waiting for and fighting for but when it finally happens you're just not prepared for it and you're left in shock because all of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue; there it is! Suddenly you've got to deal with it.

Heyes sat in the visitor's room awaiting whom he presumed would be his lawyer coming for a visit; it was a weekday after all and no regular visitors would be coming in the middle of the week like this. It must be Steven. Murrey stood quietly behind the inmate and they waited together until the door opened and sure enough Steven walked into the room. Then Curry walked in behind him, both of them appearing quite serious.

Heyes felt a touch of trepidation. There was something about their attitudes that instantly got him worried. Something was up—something had happened. And it must be something important or it wouldn't have taken both of them to come here to tell him.

“Gentlemen,” Murrey greeted the visitors. “I'll leave you to it. I'll be right on the other side of the door if you need anything.”

“Thank you officer,” Steven nodded to him. “I think we'll be fine.”

Murrey nodded back and then exited the room in order to give Heyes his time with the lawyer.

“Howdy Heyes,” Curry greeted his partner as the two men sat down. “How ya' doin'?”

“I think I would be doing better if you fellas would just tell me what's going on,” Heyes queried. “And don't tell me 'nothin' cause I can tell that something has happened!”

Steven nodded as he brought his brief case up onto the table and opened it.

“Well Heyes,” Curry began with a heavy sigh. “let's just say that I found a way to return the favour.”

Heyes' brow creased. “What favour?”

Then Curry couldn't keep up the pretence anymore and his face broke out into a huge grin. “We brought about the 'miracle'!”

Heyes looked even more confused and he looked from one man to the other. “Wha.....?”

Steven smiled and brought out the documents and then set his briefcase down on the floor beside him.

“I have in my hands a conditional parole for Hannibal Ellstrom Heyes effective immediately,” Steven informed him. “So long as you are agreeable to the conditions that is.”

Heyes' jaw dropped and then he looked like he was trying to say something, but nothing was coming out. Kid started to laugh.

“Aww, Heyes! We did it!” he told his partner. “Governor Warren has granted you a parole!  You're gonna get outa here Heyes—today!”

“Wha....?” Heyes repeated, his brain swirling. “Governor Warren?”

“Yeah!” Kid explained. “President Harrison re-appointed him as the governor of Wyoming, and he's just so fed up with having to deal with this issue—still and again, that he's willing to grant you a parole. You're comin' home Heyes!”

“That's if you agree to the conditions,” Steven felt it necessary to break into this one man celebration and bring the situation back down to reality. “You have to agree to the conditions of the parole Mr. Heyes—and I warn you; they are very strict.”

“Conditions?” was all Heyes could get out. His mind was still spinning. This was just a dream, it had to be. Just like the one he'd had with Doc Morin. One that appeared to be so real that it must truly be happening, until the klaxon sounds and you wake up to realize that your brain was just playing tricks on you again.

“Yes,” Steven told him and swivelled the documents around so that Heyes could look at them. “Read these over and see what you think. Feel free to ask any questions that you might have, and take your rime. I want you to be sure that you understand it all.”

“Oh,” Heyes mumbled as he looked blankly at the pages set in front of him. “Ahhmm, is Kenny here?”

“No,” Steven told him. “Officer Reese isn't available right now. Just relax and take your time. Read it through as many times as you need to make sense of it.” Then Steven reached over and flipped the top page over for him. “The actual conditions are listed here on the second page. Just take your time.”

“Oh yes,” Heyes frowned and looked at the printing on the page in front of him, but he was having trouble focusing on it, his mind simply refused to settle.

“Heyes?” Curry was looking a little concerned. “Ya' alright?”

Heyes' eyes jerked up and he stared at his cousin. “Ahhmm, yeah. Just....give me a minute.” Then Heyes took a deep breath and cleared his throat as though preparing himself to give a speech and he looked down at the document again and forced himself to focus on the words. “Okay, ahh; condition number one.....” And he began to slowly read them out.

He read them through one at a time and when he got to the end he sat and continued to stare at the document as though still trying to take it all in.

“Mr. Heyes?” Steven finally asked him. “do you understand the conditions?”

“Yeah I think so,” Heyes answered quietly. “A place to live and a job? Is Jesse going to cover that?”

“Yeah Heyes,” Curry told him. “He's given us a signed declaration for us to show to the warden stating that you'll live at the Double J for now and that he also has a job for ya'.”

“Oh,” Heyes nodded. “Good. Ahh, associating with known criminals. That doesn't mean you does it?”

“No,” his partner assured him. “I asked the same question and Steven pointed out that I'm not a criminal anymore so we're good.”

“Oh. Good. Cause if I couldn't see you then what would be the point?”

Jed smiled. “Well Heyes? Do ya' think you can stick to those conditions? They are kinda strict an' all.”

“Yeah, but...” Heyes shrugged. “better than being in here.”

“Are you willing to sign the agreement?” Steven asked him.

“Yeah,” Heyes stated quietly.

“Good,” Steven smiled and nodded at him. “You just go back and carry on with your day for now. We'll go up to speak with the warden and get things rolling. Warren has already sent him a telegram to inform him of this situation so I don't foresee any problems. Okay?”

“Yeah, sure. Okay,” Heyes looked shell shocked. He was still having a hard time believing that this was all true and he looked to his cousin again for reassurance.

Jed looked a little worried, but he smiled and gave his cousin what he needed. “Yeah Heyes,” he said. “it's really happening. We'll see ya' over in the warden's office.”

Steven had gotten up and moved over to the interior door and gave it a couple of quick raps. The door opened and Murrey stuck his head in.

“We're done here officer,” Steven told him. “He can return to his duties.”

“Okay,” Murrey stepped into the room and took Heyes' arm. “C'mon Heyes, let's go.”

Heyes stood up and meekly allowed himself to be led back into the prison proper.

Once the door had closed on them, Jed stood up himself and looked over to Steven.

“That sure didn't go like I had thought,” he admitted. “I expected a little bit more...I donno—excitement.”

“He's in shock I think,” Steven commented. “Give him some time for it to sink in. It's a lot for him to take in all at once.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“Come on. Let's go talk to the warden.”

Down on the work floor Heyes was going about his duties as though in a daze. He must have just been imagining that—it hadn't really happened. Here he was right back stuffing cigars so he must have just been daydreaming. That couldn't have really happened. Could it?
Then Officer Pearson was standing beside him and Heyes' heart skipped a beat.

“Convict, follow me.”

Heyes dropped whatever it was he'd been doing and got in step behind the guard. Pearson led him across the work floor and over to the stairs leading up to Heyes' cell. This was different; it was the middle of a work day, why was he being taken back to his cell? His heart started to beat a little bit faster. Could this really be happening? All of a sudden, just like that? Finally?

They got to Heyes' cell and the inmate was surprised and a little resentful to find Murrey there sorting through his books. What was this all about?

“Don't worry about it Heyes,” Pearson assured him. “I figured you'd want to take most of your books and letters with you so Murrey's just going to help carry things down to the processing room. Why don't you get in there and sort through what you do want. Any books you decide to leave will go into the library and of course, any clothes will go to other inmates. But they're your belongings so take whatever you want with you.”

Heyes nodded and stepping into his cell he sat down on the cot before his knees gave out beneath him and he ended up sitting on the floor. Eventually he pulled the box of letters out from under his table and brought it up onto the cot—these for sure he'd want to keep with him. Then he pulled out his extra clothing from under the cot itself and began to go through those items. He kept aside all the clothing that had been sent to him by Belle but the items that had been given to him by the Sisters he put back under the cot. Those items could stay; they were for the convicts after all and he surmised that he wouldn't really be needing them anymore himself.

He was just beginning to sort through his books from the prison books when Mouse came trotting into the cell with her tail up and a welcoming 'murr' on her whiskers. Heyes smiled as she jumped up onto his lap and began to purr while rubbing herself against his chest. He stroked her back and rubbed her ears.

“You know, don't you?” he mumbled softly to his feline friend. “You've come to say 'goodbye'.”

“Ackk!” Rub rub. Purr purr. Then she placed her tiny front paws on Heyes' chest and rubbed her cheeks against his nose.

It tickled and he snorted a little bit, blowing the hairs away from his nostrils, but he chuckled and gave her a little bit of a hug.

“Thank you,” he said to her, and meant it. “You did a good job.”


“Are you going to take a break now, or is there someone else in need of your personal care?”


And then she gave him one more rub against his nose and without a backward glance, she hopped down to the floor and trotted out of the cell. She was proud of a job well done and already had a new project in mind so no time to waste time!
Heyes smiled after her and then with a sigh got back to sorting out his books. Time to move on.

Twenty minutes later Heyes left cell number 312 for the last time but he found it hard to really appreciate the significance of the moment as it all still seemed so surreal to him. He was carrying his box full of letters along with a number of sweaters and mitts that had been knitted by Belle. Murrey was following along behind all loaded down with various layers of books and the medical journals that Doc Morin had given to the inmate. Those items were precious to Heyes and he wasn't about to leave them behind.
Pearson was leading them out towards the processing room; a place where Heyes' hadn't been in almost five years.

“Okay Heyes,” Pearson told him. “leave your belongings here for now, we'll be back. Come with me.”

Heyes followed Pearson through a door into the next room and found himself in the familiar surroundings of the shower room.

“Strip down,” Pearson ordered him. “I know you've already had your shower for this week, but this is a special occasion.”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed.

He quickly pulled off his prison garb and Pearson handed him a bar of soap.

“There ya' go,” the guard said. “Make it quick.”

“No problem.”

Heyes stepped over by the drain in the floor and Pearson pulled the cord that released a dousing of cold water onto the convict. Heyes gasped but then quickly began to lather himself up—if you can call that lather, and gave himself a quick scrubbing down. When he was done, he placed the bar of soap onto the floor, out of the way and Pearson released another dousing of water to get him rinsed off. Then he threw the inmate a rough towel.

Heyes snatched it out of the air, and shivering from the cold water he quickly began to dry himself off. Then, hugging his torso again, he followed Pearson into the next room and just about fainted when he spied his own clothing folded up in a pile on the bench as though he had just put them there himself the day before. He sent a questioning look over to Pearson; he needed to be sure that this was what he was supposed to be doing.

Pearson nodded. “Go ahead Heyes,” he assured him. “Get dressed.”

A quick smile flashed across Heyes' face and he walked over to the bench, feeling butterflies dancing around in his stomach. He placed a trembling hand onto the pile of familiar clothing just to reassure himself that they were really, actually there.

They were the same clothes that he'd been wearing when he had been processed into this hell hole. They had been laundered and mended and then folded up and put away until the day when the inmate might actually be needing them again. Heyes found himself smiling once more, only this time the smile didn't leave his face as he quickly pulled on the long johns and then the henley. He sat down and pulled on the warm socks and soon his shivering abated and a warmth was building up inside of him and radiated throughout his body.

He smiled up at Pearson and that guard smiled back. This was one of the few pleasurable experiences of being a guard at the prison; being able to assist an inmate with the process of being released. There was always something positive about it; something hopeful. Pearson settled back and watched Heyes becoming reacquainted with his personal clothing and in doing so, having the realization that this was actually happening slowly begin to sink in.

Heyes shook out his light brown/coffee coloured shirt and putting it on, he was swallowed up in the softness of it. The material felt so warm and comforting and he had to fight the urge to hug himself. Then slowly he did up the buttons. Ohh, buttons! They almost felt foreign to his fingers, especially ones this small. He fumbled with the normally simple process of doing up his shirt and even had to undo them and start over again when on his first attempt he got the buttons mix matched with the holes. Pearson grinned.

Finally that job was completed and Heyes took up the black trousers and put his feet, one at a time into the leggings. Then he stood up and pulled the trousers up to his waist and buttoned them up as well—a little bit more successfully this time. Then he took the belt and sliding it through the loops he did the buckle up in front, pulling the leather through a little further than the last time he'd worn it. Next he sat down again and one foot at a time he pulled on those comfortable tall, black boots. Then he stood up and gave a little bounce just to remind himself what good quality leather actually felt like.

It felt so good to be back into his own clothing again, even if everything did feel a little big. That didn't matter; everything would be right again, all in good time. Finally he picked up the dark brown corduroy jacket and slipped his arms into that as well. He hoped it would be enough to keep him warm as he knew it was still a chilly day outside. Oh well, he'd find a way to manage.

“Okay,” said Pearson. “You ready?”


“Let's go.”

They went back to the processing room and the first thing Heyes noticed was that his books were gone. He felt the beginnings of a panic rising up in him but Pearson was quick to put him at his ease.

“It's alright Heyes,” he said. “Murrey's just taken them to the warden's office. You can pick them up there when you're done.”

“Oh okay,” Heyes sighed with relief. “For a minute there I thought Carson was playing a dirty trick on me.”

“Ahh, Carson's not working as a guard at this prison anymore,” Pearson informed him.

“Oh! Really?” Heyes knotted his brow. “Where did he go?”

“He was transferred to the prison in Yuma, Arizona.”

Heyes gave a slightly wicked grin. “Really?” he asked.

“Hmm,” Pearson nodded.

“So all those times I told him in my head to go to hell actually paid off?”

Pearson couldn't help but chuckle. “For now,” he admitted. “but I wouldn't be surprised if he retires early and finds another way to make a living. I don't think Yuma is going to suit him very well.”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. Then he picked up his box of letters and Pearson led the way out of the processing room and down the somewhat familiar hallways towards the warden's office.

“So does that mean that Ken....I mean Officer Reece is now senior guard?” Heyes asked as they made their way along.

“Well no,” Pearson informed him. “Actually I was promoted to senior guard.”

“Really?” Heyes looked confused. “I! That's great for you. You deserve it, congratulations. Actually Doc Morin predicted that you would rise to that position sooner or later.”

Pearson smiled with pleasure. “He did?”

“Huh uh,” Heyes reaffirmed. “And I don't mean to question the promotion, it's just that I would have thought that Officer Reece would have just naturally moved up the rung.”

The smile dropped from Pearson's face. “Oh well, Mr. Reece is also no longer working as a guard here at the prison.”


Heyes couldn't help the wave of disappointment that washed over him. He looked away from Pearson then and they continued the walk to the warden's office in silence. Heyes was surprised at how much that piece of news hurt him. He almost felt betrayed that Kenny had not let him know that he was leaving. He had hoped to see the guard again; to thank him and to say 'goodbye'.

Oh well. Heyes tried to shrug it off. Probably better this way; goodbye's can be awkward. Yeah, probably better. But still Heyes couldn't clear away the knot in his throat and the hollow feeling in his stomach. Then they were at their destination and Heyes' thoughts turned to more pressing matters.

“Is the warden ready to receive Mr. Heyes?” Pearson asked the secretary.

“Oh yes,” that gentleman assured them as he stood up to escort them into the office. “Indeed, the other three gentlemen are already inside.”

Then he gave a quiet rapping on the door and opened it to allow Heyes to enter.

“I'll be leaving you here Heyes,” Pearson said. “Good luck to ya'.”

“Oh, yes Mr. Pearson,” Heyes turned to him, surprised at the abrupt parting. But then Pearson presented his hand and smiling, Heyes took it and they shook 'goodbye'.

“Don't take this wrong Heyes,” he said. “but I don't ever want to see ya' again.”

“Likewise Mr. Pearson,” Heyes agreed. “And again, congratulations on your promotion.”

Then Heyes turned and entered the warden's office and just about dropped his box of letters.

The Kid and Steven were there and actually, so was Lom all sitting in front of the desk and enjoying a glass of sherry. There was a fourth chair there as well, obviously awaiting Heyes' arrival, and a fourth glass of sherry setting on the desk, apparently also awaiting Heyes' arrival. But Heyes stood, mouth open in surprise as he stared into the gray eyes of the man sitting behind the warden's desk, looking as though he owned it.

“Heyes,” Kenny greeted him. “Glad you could join us. Come on, have a seat, have a drink. Let's get this paperwork over with.”

“But....” Heyes began and then looked back behind him as Pearson walked away. “Mr. Pearson said that....”

“That I was no longer a guard at the prison?”

Heyes gave a bit of a whimsical smile. “Yeah.”

“That's because I'm the one they offered the warden's position to,” Kenny informed him. “I guess they thought that if I was willing to put my job on the line for one inmate then maybe I might just do a good job overseeing them all. I hope so anyways.”

A full grin spread across Heyes' face. “Congratulations Kenny,” he said. “You've earned it.”

“You too Heyes,” Kenny told him. “Come on, sit down. Have a drink.”

Heyes looked at the offered chair as though it were a foreign object, but he closed the door behind him and a little awkwardly he stepped forward and sat down, putting his box of letters on the floor beside him. He knew that Kid was grinning at him and he felt a little self-conscious, almost out of place, but he settled in and sent a bit of a shy smile over to his friend. Kid nodded at him and gave him a reassuring pat on the arm.

“You're lookin' good Heyes,” he said. “Ya' got some extra room in those clothes, but Belle's home cooking will take care of that soon enough.”

Heyes nodded, still feeling a little uncertain of himself. “Hey Lom.”

“Good to see ya' lookin' more like yourself Heyes,” Lom greeted him.

“Now you've already read over the official conditions of your parole,” Steven began. “but the four of us have also come up with a condition for you to accept. If you're wise you'll realize it's not because we don't trust you, but that we want to help you to succeed.”

Heyes looked around at his friends feeling a little ganged up on again. All four of them were looking back at him and it made him feel self-conscious again to be the focus of so much attention.

“Okay,” he said with a bit of trepidation. “What other possible conditions can there be?”

“We want you to agree that along with informing Sheriff Jacobs of your whereabouts at all times, that you will also inform Sheriff Trevors,” Steven explained. “He is to know at all times exactly where you are and what you're doing. Do you agree to that?”

Heyes looked over at Lom, feeling a little resentful of all these stipulations being put onto his 'freedom'.

“I just don't want to be caught flat-footed again Heyes,” Lom explained to him. “Like I was at your trial. During that time when you were seeking your amnesty you both agreed to keep me informed of what was going on with you. Apparently neither one of you felt it necessary to honour that agreement. You tended to pick and chose what you were going to tell me.”

Heyes looked over at his cousin and they both looked a little guilty.

“So now we're going to make it official,” Lom continued. “You will keep me informed of where you are and what you're doing—at all times. You agree to that as well as what the board has stipulated then we can get these documents signed and you can get outa here.”

“Again, I'll emphasize what your lawyer has already stated,” Kenny stepped in when Heyes hesitated. “It's not that we don't trust you, it's not that we think that you're going to go out and instantly start robbing banks again. We just know that temptations will be there and none of us want to see you coming back here. Do you understand that?”

Heyes looked around at each of his friends and saw the look of hope and expectation in all of their eyes and his resentment over their 'interference' dissipated and he smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I understand,” He grudgingly admitted. “I like to think that I can do it all on my own...”  he looked rather pointedly at Kenny. “but others have made it pretty clear to me that I still have a long ways to go.” Then he looked over at Lom again. “Alright Lom. I'll agree to that too.”

Everybody seemed relieved at the acceptance. “Okay Heyes,” Kenny began the session. “Do you need to read over the other conditions of this parole again or do you have any questions?”

“Ah yeah,” Heyes admitted and then looked over to Steven. “That one about how I could be arrested and returned to prison without legal council—does that mean that any lawman at any time could simply arrest me and bring me back here?”

“No,” Steven assured him. “That's mainly there as a safety measure. It simply means that if you blatantly ignore the conditions of this parole, or return to a life of criminal activity then the law has the right to apprehend you and return you to the prison without a second trial.
“You are on probation, which means that you are still officially serving time but you're serving it outside the prison rather than inside. You are being given the opportunity to prove that you are capable of living a law-abiding life. Accept and honour the conditions of the parole and you won't need to fear re-arrest just because some lawman thinks that you should be back in prison.”

“Oh,” Heyes nodded. “Okay. That's reasonable.”

“Anything else you're not sure about?”

“No. I think that covers it.”

“Are you ready to sign it?”

Heyes smiled. “Yes.”

“Okay!” Kenny stood up and pushed the documents over to their side of the table.

The other four men also stood up and Kenny handed Heyes the pen. The two men locked eyes again and then Heyes sighed to try and still the butterflies and then taking the pen, he dipped it into the ink well and signed his name on the appropriate line. Then Kenny took the pages back and added his own signature and then he smiled too and looked over at the group.

“You know these are the first release forms I've signed as warden,” he announced with a pleased grin. “It really is my pleasure Heyes, to be signing the one with your name on it. You're ready for it now and I'm happy to do it.”

Then he pushed the papers over to Steven and handed him the pen. Steven dipped it again and signed his name and then offered the documents to Jed to sign as the witness. He scratched his name below everyone else's and then straightened up with a huge sigh and a smile that definitely reached his blue eyes.

Then Steven brought out the single sheet document laying out the terms of the agreement concerning Sheriff Trevors and slid it over to Heyes for him to read over. He did so and everything seem pretty straight forward. He sighed and nodded and picking up the pen again he signed his name to the document. Then he slid it along to Lom who also signed it and the document made the rounds of the table until everyone had added their signature, indicating their agreement and commitment to helping their friend stay legal.

Jed was the last one to sign it and then having done it, he surprised his cousin by turning to him and shaking his hand and giving him a solid slap on the shoulder.

“Aww Heyes!” he grinned. “Finally! How do ya' feel? Has it sunk in yet?”

“Ah, I donno,” Heyes admitted. “I don't think so.”

“Well,” Kenny began as he raised his glass of sherry in a toast. “here's to new beginnings, for both of us.”

Everybody raised and tapped their glasses together and took a drink to the toast. Heyes hadn't had liquor in a long time and he felt it burn right down into his stomach, but it felt good too.

“And Heyes,” Kenny continued. “especially to you; here's to finding your way back home again.”

“Here, here,” Jed seconded that one and everyone toasted it again and finished off their sherry's.

“Thank you,” Heyes again felt self-conscious but he smiled with pleasure as well.

Then Kenny came around the desk and taking Heyes' hand in his gave it a truly heart felt shake and then, just as Jed had done, put a hand on the ex-con's shoulder and held it there. Heyes looked up and met his eyes.

“You behave yourself out there Heyes,” Kenny said. “You, of all people, I don't want to see coming back here. You understand me?”


“You've got a real chance now,” Kenny continued. “You have friends out there who will help you along the way, and support you just as they supported you while you were in here. I know you went through a hard time in here, far harder than it should have been, and I still don't understand why that would have been. I know that with Carson, well he's just a bully and even worse; a bully who was in charge, and that's why my first official act was to transfer him out of here. I don't want that kind of guard working under me, and if Thompson doesn't change his attitude he'll find himself elsewhere as well.
“But why Warden Mitchell had it in for you is still a mystery to me and I suppose now we'll probably never really find out why, but at least you're out from under him now.
“You've just got to give yourself some time Heyes. You've got to trust in your friends and in yourself because I agree with your benefactor, Mr. Jordan; you do have inner strength that you don't even know about yet. Give yourself a chance to find your footing again and you'll come out of this a better man. A man who your daughter will be proud to call her father.
“You take care of yourself, and you know if you ever need anything, if there's anything I can do to help you out all you have to do is ask.”

“Yeah Kenny, I know. Thank you,” Heyes responded. “And again, congratulations on your promotion. Looks like all your youngsters are going to be going to college now.”

Kenny grinned. “Yeah, looks like it.” Then the new warden turned to Curry. “Jed, you once asked me to watch Heyes' back in here, because you weren't here to do it yourself.” Curry nodded acquiesce. “I know we have all signed the document stating acceptance of this responsibility, but I'm still going to put in a special request to you now ; You watch out for him out there. You keep him honest. Alright?”

Jed smiled. “Yeah Kenny, I will. And thank you, for everything.”

Then Jed and Kenny shook hands. “Keep in touch,” Kenny told him. “I mean it—both of you. I want to know how things are going.”

“We will Kenny,” Jed assured him.

Kenny then turned to the lawyer and they exchanged handshakes as well.

“Mr. Granger. It's satisfying to finally meet a lawyer I actually like. Keep up the good work. It's been an interesting ride.”

Steven grinned at the backward compliment. “Yes indeed.”

Then finally, Kenny turned to the last man standing.

“Sheriff Trevors,” Kenny shook the lawman's hand. “sometimes I think you're the man we should be thanking the most here. You were willing to go out on a very shaky limb for two rather notorious outlaws and you've stayed true to them all of the way through. They could do a lot worse than having a friend like you watching their backs.”

“Yeah well, like you say it's been an interesting ride,” Lom commented. “And it's not over yet—is it boys?”

Heyes and Kid both grinned.

Then Kenny turned back to Heyes and shook his hand again.

“Mr. Heyes. Good luck to you. And I mean it—keep in touch.”

Heyes grinned. “Yessir, Mr. Reece.”

The four men made their way out of the prison—through the front door this time! Heyes still felt as though he were floating, and this just wasn't really happening and that at any moment he was going to find himself being whacked with the bully club and told to 'wake up!'. But nothing happened, and he walked down the steps with his three companions without wearing shackles and without having a rifle following every move he made.

A trustee had been sent to retrieve the horse and surrey and it was waiting for them in the yard, and Heyes walked towards it hoping that his butter legs weren't going to collapse out from under him before he got to it. Kid and Steven settled the pile of Heyes' belongings onto the floor under the back seat and then while Kid continued to rummage around back in there, Steven and Lom stepped up into the front and Steven took hold of the lines in preparation of their departure.

Heyes was still looking around in disbelief, feeling the chilly Wyoming winds still swirling around him and reminding him that winter wasn't that long gone and he only had on a light weight jacket. Then Kid caught his attention and Heyes smiled as his cousin handed him his holster with his Schofield neatly tucked into its sheath.

“There ya' go Heyes,” Jed said. “I've kept it clean and oiled so it would be ready for you when ya' got out. Same as the holster; I kept it oiled too so that the leather wouldn't dry out.”

“Thank you Kid,” was Heyes' heartfelt response and he took the holster and strapped it a round his waist and it settled in upon his hips like an old friend coming to visit. “Feels good.”

“And I thought you might be needin' this too,” Jed continued as he handed Heyes his heavier winter coat.

Heyes' smile turned from one of pleasure to one of relief; he was definitely feeling the chill factor. He took his old blue coat—or was it brown...or gray? Or a combination of all three? Maybe that's why Heyes had such a fondness for that old battered coat; its colour was indefinable—much like Heyes himself at times.

He reached into one of his boxes and pulling out one of the scarf's that Belle had knitted for him, he wrapped it around his neck and then shrugged himself into his old familiar coat. He looked at Kid and smiled shyly, seeing his cousin grinning at him as he became reacquainted with his own wardrobe.

Heyes sighed. “Yeah, feels good.”

“And, well last but not least—I suppose,” Kid commented as he reached in again and came back with Heyes' old black hat.

Heyes' dimples took over his face and he actually gave a soft laugh.

“Aww Kid, I wasn't sure if you'd been able to get this,” he commented as he took the hat and gazed upon it like a long lost lover.

“Yeah well, Lom had it for awhile. He got it from the Sheriff in Cheyenne,” Kid explained. “Then Lom handed it over to me to keep safe for ya'. I thought about buying ya' a new one and just moving the hatband over onto it, but then I thought that I should just leave that to you. I know how much you like that old hunk of felt, so, well there ya' go. Lookin' kinda the worse for wear, but then it always did.”

Heyes had to catch himself from running a hand over his hair before placing the old hat onto its honoured place. He had to remind himself that he didn't have any hair—that's why his head was so cold, but he was afraid that if he did go to push his hair back that he might actually find that he did have some and then the bubble would burst. Then he would know that this was just a dream after all and he was going to wake up in the dark cell.  And that the chill he was feeling wasn't the cold breeze coming at him from across the open prairie, but from the dank, dark terror filled dungeon that had been his bane on more than one occasion.

So it was with some trepidation and a trembling hand that he finally lifted his treasured hat and placed it on his head. It fit big, just like everything else he had put on this day, but that was okay because it proved beyond a doubt that there was no hair there to fill it out and Heyes felt relief wash over him. The hat settled low, almost covering his eyes and Jed couldn't help but break out laughing—his cousin looked so comical.
Heyes grinned back at him and settled the hat a little bit further back on his head. Once his hair had grown back, it would fit properly again. Jed nodded with approval.

“Another good reason not to buy ya' a new hat,” he commented. “A hat that fits ya' now won't fit ya' later.”

“This one'll do.”

“Huh uh. Well, c'mon Heyes, step aboard,” Curry suggested. “About time we said 'goodbye' to this place.”

“You got that right!” Heyes agreed and he stepped up into the back seat and settled himself in. Jed came in beside him and Steven clucked the horse into a trot.

Heyes watched in an almost stunned disbelief as the front gate was opened wide for them to pass through and the guard standing there actually tipped his hat as they went by. Heyes didn't really know him, he was a new hire but he nodded an acknowledgement back to him anyways and then they were through and on their way towards town.

“Ah, Kid?” Heyes began tentatively. “What time are we catching the train back to Colorado?”

“Well, the next train will be leaving in the morning,” Kid informed him. “I know you'd probably like to get out of Laramie as soon as possible, but....”

“No, no that's alright,” Heyes assured him. “Actually, I was kinda thinking if we could postpone it a day.....”


“Well, if we can, I would like to stop by the orphanage before we leave town,” Heyes admitted. “Say goodbye to Sister Julia and Marilyn and the kids too, of course. They all did a lot to keep me going I don't want to just leave without seeing them.”

“Yeah sure Heyes,” Curry agreed. “whatever you want. We'll just let the sheriff in town know what we're doing. Should be fine.”

“Oh yeah,” Heyes mumbled. “I forgot about that.”

“Don't forget about that Heyes,” Kid gently reprimanded him. “That's important.”

“Yeah!” Heyes agreed emphatically. “Ahhhmmm, what about my books and things? Seems kinda silly to be lugging them all over the place.”

“I'll still be heading back in the morning, so I can take them back with me,” Steven offered from the front seat. “I'll leave them at the Gibson's place for you to pick up on your way out to the ranch.”

“Oh!” that suited Heyes. “Yes, okay. Thank you.”

Once they arrived in town, Steven dropped the two passengers off at the hotel and then he and Lom drove the horse and surrey over to the livery stable. Loaded down with Heyes' belongings, Jed led him into the hotel lobby and then up the stairs to the room Jed had booked for them upon arriving in Laramie earlier that day. He had got one with two beds in anticipation of his cousin being with him for the coming night and it was with some relief that he was now returning to that room with said cousin in tow.

Heyes stopped dead in his tracks and stood in the open doorway, staring into the room as though it were a prince's palace. He felt so out of place, and he didn't know what to do. Was it okay to come in? Jed had walked over to one of the beds and set the pile of books down and then turned to see why Heyes wasn't following.

“What's the matter?” Jed asked him.

“What? Ahhmm....I don't know,” Heyes looked nervous. “Is it okay?”

“Sure,” Kid told him. “C'mon in. Ya' don't need permission Heyes.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

Heyes stepped across the threshold and then put his box of letters and clothing down on the bed beside the pile of books. He looked at the bed as though he had never seen one before and then gently, almost reverently ran his hand along the bedspread. It felt so soft and plush and comfortable. He touched the pillow and then turned and sat down on the mattress, feeling the springs under it give to his weight and practically inviting him to lay down upon it and snuggle in to sleep the rest of the day away.

Jed stood quietly watching him. Seeing the expressions of wonder and amazement and sometimes a little bit of fear and uncertainty float across his cousin's face. It was as though a whole new world was opening up for him and those things that Kid had come to consider mundane were in fact a treasure of sensual delight to the ex-inmate.

Then Steven and Lom arrived at the open door of their room and inadvertently broke the spell.

“We better get down to the sheriff's office and report in,” the lawyer advised. “After that, I've got things I need to get done, so I'll leave you gentlemen to spend the evening however you like.”

“I've got some things to do as well,” Lom informed them. “though I will meet you for drinks at the saloon later this evening. Have ourselves a little celebration.”

Jed smiled. He knew that neither Steven or Lom had anything pressing to get done, that they were both just getting themselves out of the way so that Jed could spend some time with his cousin. It would be good for them to get 're-acquainted' on their own and Heyes was going to need a bit of time to get used to the idea of being a 'free' man.

“Okay,” Kid agreed. “Let's get business over with so we can go eat. I'm hungry!”

Heyes grinned. “Well I see nothing has changed there.”

The walk over to the sheriff's office was strange indeed. Heyes walked along the boardwalk in step with his cousin with Steven walking a little bit ahead of them and Lom bringing up the rear. Heyes just couldn't stop looking around him at every little thing. He actually bumped into Jed more than once because his focus would be on some pretty woman walking passed, or some new advertisement in a window. It was just all so overwhelming.

Then they turned a corner and Heyes got hit with a powerful memory. He recognized this street as one that he had been on numerous times on his way over to the convent or the orphanage. He recognized the buildings and the lay out of the park and the town square. But when he saw these images before, he had been viewing them from between the bars of the prison wagon or from the more open buckboard, but still shackled and chained to the floorboards. Still a prisoner and only able to view from the outskirts and looking in, unable to partake of the pleasures of the town.

Now, here he was walking along those self same streets and passing those same shop windows and smiling a greeting to the pretty girl skipping by. He was a part of the town now, and not just some invisible convict longing for what he couldn't have. What he couldn't touch. And he was so engrossed by the life going on around him that Jed had to grab his arm and turn him into the office that he had been about to walk on by.

“Good afternoon, Sheriff McPherson?” Steven asked as they entered the law office.

Heyes suddenly stopped and felt a chill go through him as he found himself in one of these structures yet again. He looked over at the bars of the cells like a person watching something horrific, but was unable to pull their eyes away from it. He paled and felt a little shell shocked.

“Yeah that's me. What can I do fer ya'?” answered the short balding man at the desk.

“I'm Steven Granger, Sheriff,” Steven introduced himself. “I'm a lawyer out of Colorado. This is Lom Trevors, sheriff out of Porterville and Mr. Curry I believe you already know. Now this gentleman over here is my client, Hannibal Heyes. He's just been released from the prison and was told to report to you as soon as he got settled into town.”

“Oh yeah,” the sheriff acknowledged them. “I was told to expect ya'. All that hubbub about Hannibal Heyes. Hmm, don't look like much do he?” Then he cackled a laugh. “Funny how prison'll do that to a man, ain't it!?”

Lom shook his head in disgust, disappointed in the calibre of 'lawmen' that he so often encountered in his journey's across the west. Curry bristled; he was already tangentially acquainted with this sheriff and had to admit he didn't like him much—all nosey, but no action. And now here he was insulting his partner out of hand. Curry's regard for this particular lawman sunk even further. Steven set about calming the waters.

“Yes. Well, he did just spent nearly five years in that prison Sheriff,” the lawyer pointed out. “Given some time he'll be back to his old self again.”

“Well I hope not quite to his old self,” the sheriff commented. “Know what I mean? Don't want no trouble.”

Steven smiled. “I don't think Mr. Heyes intends to cause any trouble Sheriff,” he assured the lawman. “He and and Mr. Curry just want to get some supper, maybe play some cards at the saloon and relax. He will be making a trip out to the convent tomorrow in order to say his goodbyes to the Sisters there and then he will be boarding the train and leaving town the following morning. Are you agreeable to those plans?”

Sheriff McPherson pursed his lips and scratched his chubby, stubbly cheek while he scrutinized the ex-inmate. Heyes shifted uncomfortably but tried to look as pleasant and nonthreatening as possible.

“Wal, I suppose so,” the sheriff agreed. “Long as he stays quiet and outa trouble. You gonna keep yerself outa trouble there Mr. Heyes?”

“Oh yessir Sheriff,” Heyes assured him quietly. “No trouble.”

“Good. Fine,” the sheriff consented. “You and yer friend behave yerselves an' I'll leave ya' alone. I'll be keepin' an eye on ya'--but I'll leave ya' alone.”

“Yessir Sheriff,” Heyes repeated. “Thank you.”

“Sheriff,” Steven nodded to him. “Good afternoon.”

“Thanks for your co-operation,” Lom commented dryly.

McPherson sent him a look that suggested disdain for any lawman who would keep company with such riff raft as Curry and Heyes—pardoned or not.

“Ya',” he grumbled. “See ya'.”

The four men left the office and the Kid was practically seething.

“Geesh!” he grumbled. “Is that the kind of reception we have to look forward to? I don't think he looked me in the eye once!”

“He's probably had so many released inmates come through here that he's kind of jaded by it,” Steven reasoned. “I wouldn't take it too personally. Like he says, he'll leave you alone if you behave yourselves. And you will—behave yourselves, won't you?”

“Yeah, of course Steven,” Kid almost sounded insulted. “We're not going to blow it now.”

“Mr. Heyes? How about you?”

“Yessir Mr. Granger,” Heyes assured him. “I don't want any problems.”

“Good,” Steven smiled. “Just making sure. Well gentlemen, I'm just going to grab some coffee and a sandwich and return to my room to get some paperwork finished up. I hope to see you both in the morning for breakfast.”

“Yeah, we'll see ya' later Steven,” Kid told him. “We'll probably be in the saloon later on if you feel like joining us for a drink.”

“Ah!” Steven nodded with a smile. “I just might. Enjoy dinner.”

“I'll leave you fellas for now too.” Lom stated. “I'll see you later. Heyes, again; congratulations. Enjoy your dinner.”

“Thanks Lom.”

So the men parted company and the two cousins headed towards the eating and drinking establishments. Curry was over his snit and gave his partner a quick slap on the arm.

“Well Heyes! What do ya' feel like doing first?” he asked with a grin. “Ya' hungry or do ya' wanna get a beer and play some poker?”

“I seem to recall you saying that you were hungry,” Heyes pointed out.

“Well yeah,” Kid conceded. “But ya' know—it's your first day out; what do you wanna do?”

“I donno,” Heyes mumbled feeling a little uncertain. “What do you think we should do?”

Kid stopped and frowned at his cousin. “Don't you know what you want Heyes?”

Heyes shrugged. “Whatever you say Kid.”

Silence fell between them for a moment. This was weird. Jed had never known Heyes to be so undecided about something this basic, but Heyes just stood there and looked lost and a little concerned. He was unable to make this simple decision and was waiting for Jed to lead the way.

“Okay Heyes,” Kid assured him quietly. “Let's go get something to eat first. Probably not a good idea to be drinking beer on an empty stomach anyway, especially when you haven't had beer in a while.”


Ten minutes later found the two cousins walking into a pleasant cafe that Jed had become well acquainted with over the past four or so years and Heyes' mood instantly brightened up. He grinned as the enticing aromas of home cooking filled his senses and he could almost feel his mouth start to water in anticipation.

“Oh yeah, I am hungry,” he happily admitted.

“Good!” Jed laughed. “That makes two of us.”

They seated themselves down at an empty table that gave them an open view of the street and the people passing by. Heyes settled back in the chair and grinned. Slowly but surely he was beginning to believe that this was really happening, that he was really a free man. He was feeling good. Blue eyes locked onto brown and the Kid smiled.

“How ya' doin' Heyes?”

“Good. Let's eat!”

Then, as if on cue the waitress came over to their table with some menu's and a smile.

“Well, good afternoon Jed!” she greeted her repetitive customer. “Kinda surprised to see you here in the middle of the week.”

“This is sorta a special occasion,” Jed informed her. “This here is my partner, Hannibal Heyes. Heyes, this is Lisa.”

Heyes stood up, removing his hat and sent Lisa his most charming smile.


“So I finally get to meet ya'!” she greeted him, taking note of his dark brown eyes. “You're about all Jed would talk about whenever he'd come in here for vittles.” Then a thought occurred to her and she put on a slight pout. “Now that your partner's been released, does this mean we won't be seein' ya' around these parts no more, Jed?”

“Yeah, well Lisa I am sorry to say that that just might be the way of it,” Jed admitted. “but I surely will miss your smilin' face and your wonderful cooking!”

“Oh what a charmer you are!” she teased him. “Here ya' go. Take a look at the menu's—see what ya' want.”

“Oh I don't need a menu,” Heyes stated with a glint in his eye. “I know what I want. A nice thick beef steak, medium rare—that's what I want!”

Kid grinned. “Yeah, sounds good.”

But Lisa frowned and shook her head.

“Oh no, you don't want that,” she said, looking directly at Heyes.

Heyes frowned back at her. He might be having difficulty with making some choices, but this wasn't one of them. “Yes, I do want that.” he insisted.

“You're just new released from the prison, ain't ya'?” Lisa challenged him.

“Yeah, but what's that got to.....”

“Aww, sweetie,” she tutted, shaking her head. “with the gruel they've been feedin' ya' up there, your innards wouldn't know what to do with a beef steak.”

“But....” Heyes looked totally devastated. “I've been craving a beef steak for years! I've been looking forward to having a beef steak! That's what I want.”

Kid looked distraught just seeing how disappointed Heyes was. The waitress just shook her head again.

“Take my word for it darlin',” she insisted. “you order a beef steak and you won't get a quarter of the way through it before you'll be runnin' for the back alley. Then it'll all be wasted anyways.” Then she leaned forward and put a consoling hand on Heyes' shoulder. “Now we got some real nice chicken stew simmering back there—how about I bring ya' a bowl of that, with some fresh baked bread?”

Heyes looked at the Kid, almost pleading for help.

“Chicken stew?” he repeated, not even trying to hide his disappointment.

“Believe me sweetie,” she continued. “your innards wouldn't be able to handle a beef steak just yet. Ya' gotta work your way up to that. It's real good stew—lots of vegetables. You'll like it.”

“Oh well,” Heyes submitted. “I guess I'm having chicken stew.”

“There ya' go! You won't be sorry,” she smiled at him and then turned to the Kid. “And how about you? What will you be having?”

“Ahh....” Kid really had his heart set on a juicy steak himself, but seeing Heyes staring down at the table, looking so dejected, he just couldn't bring himself to do it. “You know, that chicken stew sounds pretty good—I think I'll have me a bowl of that too.”

Heyes looked across the table at his cousin, and smiled.

Lisa smiled at him as well, knowing full well that he always ordered a steak when he was in town, but she didn't let on—not one little bit. “Mighty fine!” she agreed. “You fellas like some coffee to start off with?”


She went off to place their orders and then returned quickly with two cups of steaming coffee.

“There ya' go!” she announced as she placed a cup down in front of each man. “I'll be right back with your stews.”

And off she went to deal with that. Both Heyes and Kid picked up their cups and blew the steam away. Heyes was looking forward to this almost as much as he had been to the steak. Finally, real coffee! And he could tell, just by the aroma that it was the real thing—not that watered down dish water they called 'coffee' up at the prison.
Both men took a sip. Then suddenly both men grimaced with disgust.

“Eeww!” they both verbally complained. “That's so strong/weak!”

They stopped and looked across the table at each other in disbelief and then both of them spoke again at the same time.

“You think this is weak/strong!?”

“Heyes, this coffee tastes like dishwater!”

“I was thinking it tasted more like ground up mud.”

Just then Lisa headed over their way again bringing with her two bowls of steaming stew.

“What's the matter?” she asked, noticing their expressions. “The coffee not good?”

Heyes just looked up at her with his mouth open, not quite knowing what to say.

“What did you do to it?” Kid asked, not being hindered by a tied tongue. “The coffee here has always been real good!”

“Oh, did I get them mixed up? I'm sorry,” she apologized and then smiled at Heyes. “You see, after years of drinkin' that coloured water they call coffee up at the prison your taste buds wouldn't know what to make of real coffee anymore. So I always water down the coffee for you fellas who are new out of there.” Then she switched, and smiled at the Kid. “I probably gave you a cup of the watered down coffee by mistake and your friend the full strength brew. Just do a trade and then see what ya' think.”

The partners looked at each other across the table. This was strange. Oh well. They switched cups and each took a tentative sip and then both men smiled.

“There ya' go!” Lisa rejoiced. “Better ain't it?”

“That's more like it!” Kid agreed.

Heyes looked a little put out. “You mean I'm drinking watered down coffee?”

“Don't ya' like it?” Lisa asked him a little concerned again. “I do make it a little stronger than what the prison does, but is it too strong?”

“NO!” Heyes was adamant. “It's just right. That's what worries me.”

Lisa smiled and put a reassuring hand on Heyes' arm. “Oh don't you go worryin' about that! It'll just take ya' some time and you'll be right back ta' drinkin' the strong stuff!”

“Oh, okay.”

“Go on fellas!” she told them. “Dig in! Enjoy your suppers.”

They both looked down at their bowls of stew, almost afraid to dip into them. Finally Heyes picked up the spoon and sampled a bit of it. His brows went up in pleasant surprise and he smiled.

“Yeah, it's good,” he said over a mouthful, and then took some more.

Kid took courage from his partner and sampled the wares himself.

“Hmm yeah,” he agreed. “it is good.”

“Mighty fine!” Lisa stated, then disappeared only to return lickidy split with a plate full of warm freshly baked bread with butter. Both men looked up and smiled. This meal was turning out pretty good after all.

Ten minutes later Kid had finished off his bowlful and was soaking up the gravy with some warm bread when Heyes gave a sigh and leaned back in his chair. Jed was busy chewing on a mouthful but still looked over at him and sent him a garbled inquirery.

“Wa's madder?”

Heyes took a deep breath and put down his spoon.

“I think Lisa was right,” he admitted regretfully. “I'm even finding this kinda rich. It's good but I don't think I can eat anymore.”

“Really?” Kid almost looked stunned—and hopeful. “Ya' hardly ate any of it Heyes. You sure you're full?”

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded and pushed the bowl away. “You wanna finish it up?'

“Yeah!” Jed reached over and started pulling the bowl towards himself, but then stopped and cocked a brow at his partner. “You sure though? You had enough?”

“Oh yeah! I'm sure.”

“Great!” and Jed pulled the bowl the rest of the way to replace his now empty one. “Ah, pass me some more of that bread, will ya'?”

Lisa made her way over to their table again and smiled at Jed helping his partner to finish his dinner.

“You boys like any dessert?” she asked them.

“You got anymore of that blackberry pie?” Jed asked her.

“Sure do,” she told him. “That's our best seller.”

“I'm not surprised about that,” Jed agreed. “You gotta try this pie Heyes! I swear it's the best I ever et'!”

“I donno Kid, I'm really fu.....”

“We'll take two slices,” Jed ordered with a grin up a Lisa. “What he don't eat, I'll finish up.”

“Fine,” Lisa smiled at him. Jed always had shown a good appetite. “More coffee?”

This was met with enthusiastic acceptance from both men and she went off to get the two different coffee pots. And the pie.

Forty-five minutes later found the partners making their way over towards 'The Jail-breaker's' saloon. It was close to the hotel, and would make it easier for their friends to find them if and when they decided to join the cousins for a drink. Besides that, Jed knew the lay out and the people so he was comfortable there.

Heyes seemed distant and still unsure of himself so Kid couldn't help but be watchful of him, discreetly of course, but watchful none the less. It was then, as they were stepping up onto the boardwalk in preparation of entering the saloon through the bat wing doors that Kid noticed something that he really should have noticed before, but hadn't. Maybe it was the gloam lighting or maybe it was the angle or maybe he'd just had too many other things to think about before, but whatever the reason, Kid noticed it now.

Without thinking, he stopped Heyes with a hand to his arm and as Heyes turned to look at him, Kid raised his right hand up to tilt Heyes' jaw over to get a better look at what he thought he'd seen there. Heyes reacted instantly, defensively—instinctively wanting to protect that most vulnerable of areas. His left hand grabbed the Kid's wrist and suddenly Kid felt the hard muzzle of Heyes' Schofield pressing against his ribs and heard the click of the hammer being pulled back.

There was a strained silence. Kid didn't feel any fear at this assault, just hurt and disappointment. He looked into his cousin's dark eyes and saw fear there; fear and defensiveness. Kid softened his gaze and tried to sound reassuring.

“Heyes it's me,” he said quietly. “I'm not gonna hurt ya'.”

Kid held Heyes' eyes and he saw the shift of emotions flit by. First there was suspicion and resentment, then realization, then regret, compliance and finally guarded shame. Though Heyes did not release his cousin's wrist, Jed did heard the hammer of the revolver uncocking and felt rather than saw Heyes return the gun to his holster. The ex-inmate remained tense however and he never took his eyes off his cousin. Though he still held onto Jed's wrist, the hold relaxed a little and Jed took this as permission to proceed.

He tilted Heyes' head over just a bit so that the light from the saloon could highlight the area under Heyes' jawline and then he looked and saw what he thought he'd seen; a scar. Thin and barely noticeable unless Heyes held his head at a certain angle. It hadn't been deep but it did stretch all the way across from ear to ear only becoming deeper and more noticeable when it had cut up over the jawbone just in front of Heyes' left ear.

“Jeez Heyes,” Kid commented, almost in a whisper. “is that where that other inmate tried to cut your throat?”

Heyes gave him a sardonic smile.

“Oh, he didn't try Kid,” he said with a hint of maliciousness. “he did cut my throat. He just didn't cut deep enough.”

“Ah jeez Heyes,” Kid breathed as he released his cousin from his scrutiny. “I'm never gonna fully understand what you went through in there, am I?”

Heyes also let go and dropped his hand, but his expression was still bitter and ironic.

“That's alright Kid,” he assured him, though Kid didn't feel too assured by the tone. “he got his head blown off for the effort so I suppose it's fair to say that he got his own back again.”

Then he turned and walked into the saloon. Jed stood for a moment on the outside still trying to take in what had just happened. They had finally gotten Heyes out of that place, but had they gotten him out in time? Again, and not for the first time, Kid was beginning to feel like he didn't even know his cousin anymore, as though the man Kid used to know was dead and gone and that an imposter had emerged from that prison—an imposter who was only pretending to be Hannibal Heyes.

A few minutes later found the partners elbowed up at the bar in the saloon as though nothing had transpired between them. The noise that tried to pass as music was competing with the loud talking and raucous laughter of the other patrons who were out on the town to unwind from a day's work. Kid had a pint of beer in front of him, Heyes was nursing a glass of the same liquid. He was looking a little perplexed.

“Ya' know Kid, I don't think I like this.”

“What? Whaddya mean?”

“The beer. It tastes funny.”

“Oh? Let's see.” Jed picked up Heyes' glass and took a sip. He shrugged. “Tastes okay to me Heyes. Tastes fine.”

Heyes frowned then brought the glass up to his lips again and took another swallow. He made a face.

“I donno,” he mumbled and then sighed in disappointment. “Maybe it's like what Lisa said and my taste buds have been ruined by prison food.”

“Yeah maybe,” Kid conceded though looking worried. “Maybe ya' just need some time to re-adjust. Get used to the finer things again.”


Kid turned around and leaned back against the bar, beer in hand. He surveyed the open room before him and noted a couple of poker games going on. He gave his partner a nudge with his elbow and Heyes perked up and turned around too.

“What?” he asked.

“A spot just opened up at that poker game over there,” Jed informed him. “Why don't you go sit in, play a game or two.”

Heyes felt a cold chill of fear flash through him and his stomach knotted up.

“Ahh, I....I don't really feel like playing tonight,” he said quietly.

Jed furrowed his brow and looked over at his partner. “Whaddya mean; ya' don't feel like playin'?”
he asked. “You love poker—never known ya' to turn down a game.”

“Yeah. I donno,” Heyes shrugged and sent a furtive glance over to the table. “I liked playing cards one on one with Kyle—that was relaxing. But, there's about five other players at that table. That's too many to keep track of.”

Kid was struck dumb for a moment. “What are ya' talking about?” he finally blurted out. “You take control of a game that size.” But then Kid hesitated and he noticed his partner's paled complexion and a little bit of nervous perspiration beading up on his upper lip. Heyes was really scared. “You're just out of practice,” Jed quietly continued on. “You'll see; once you start playing again, you'll be right back into it.”

Heyes remained silent. He was looking over at the various games being played in the saloon and though part of him wanted to go join in, his confidence in his abilities just wasn't there. The palms of his hands were sweating as his breath started to come in light shallow gasps. He felt anger at himself for being so silly and tried to push away from the bar and walk over to the game but he just couldn't do it. Then finally with a groan of frustration he turned around to face the bar again and tried to focus on drinking the beer that he just didn't have a taste for anymore.

Jed stood quietly beside him, at a total loss as to what he should say. If anything. This whole day had turned out to be nothing like what he had expected. But then maybe he had expected too much. He had figured that once Heyes was released from the prison that he would just bounce right back into being his same old partner again. But now Jed could see how unrealistic that expectation had been. Heyes' self confidence had been beaten out of him. His ability to think constructively and to make the easiest of decisions had been striped away and now it was obvious that it was going to take time to rebuild them and get Heyes back to his old self again. If they ever could.
Then Steven entered the establishment and spotting him, Jed nodded and waved him over.

“Good evening gentlemen,” Steven greeted them as he came up to the bar. “Enjoying your evening?”

“Sure,” was Heyes' non-committal response. “Interesting supper.”

Steven smiled and ordered a beer.

“Paperwork all done?” Jed asked him.

“Pretty much,” Steven answered. “There wasn't much to do, but I like to get those things taken care of right away or I'll never get them done.” His beer came and he smiled and took a deep drink of it. “Hmm,” he commented when he came up for air. “beer's tasting pretty good tonight.”

Heyes gave a bit of an ironic smile but didn't say anything.

“Well,” Steven looked around the floor. “shall we a

Last edited by Keays on Sun Mar 02, 2014 3:36 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
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The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four Empty
PostSubject: The Way Back    The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptyThu Nov 14, 2013 7:09 pm

The two men made their way over to the empty table and settled in to finish their beers, and perhaps have another. Then they spotted Lom coming into the establishment and Jed waved over at him. Lom nodded acknowledgement, went to the bar to order a beer for himself and then joined the two other men at the table.

“What's the matter with Heyes?” he asked as he sat down. “Just passed him on the boardwalk, says he's goin' back to his room to read. What kind of a celebration is that?”

“He's been acting strange all afternoon,” Kid admitted. “I guess this is just too much for him all at once.”

“I'm sure that's all it is,” Steven assured his friends. “Just stay close Jed, and give him time to adjust. He'll settle.”

“I hope you're right Steve,” Jed commented, his voice showing his concern. “I don't know what to do to help him through this.”

“I don't think there's really anything you can do,” Steven told him. “Just be his friend that's all.”

“Yup,” Jed agreed. “Be his friend and get him home. Hopefully with both of us still in one piece.”

“I think he'll be fine,” Steven countered. “There's nothing like a few hours on a train to help you to relax a little bit. That just might be all he needs. Just some quiet time.”

“Yeah I hope so,” But Jed didn't sound too convinced.

“Don't worry about him Jed; he'll come round.”

“I've spent the last thirty years of my life worrying about him—don't see no reason to stop now.”

Over in the hotel lobby, Heyes walked up to the counter and smiled at the clerk.

“Good evening.”

“Good evening sir, how may I help you?”

“The key to room 208 please.”

“Of course,” The clerk turned and took down one of the keys to that room and then did a quick check of the register. “Room 208. Mr Curry and Mr.....Oh...Mr. Heyes.”

The clerk noticeably paled but Heyes pretended not to notice and he smiled as he took the key.

“Would it be possible to have a carafe of coffee sent up to the room?” he asked.

“Oh, yes of course Mr....Heyes!” the clerk swallowed nervously. “I'll have the maid bring that up to you right away.”

“Thank you,” Heyes started to turn away and then remember something. “Oh! And some hot drinking water too if you don't mind.”

“Of course.”

Heyes nodded and then headed up the stairs towards his room.

Twenty minutes later Heyes had removed his gunbelt and boots and was sifting through his books to see which one he wanted to start in on when there came the soft tapping on the door. He smiled quietly and went to open it. As expected there was the young maid there laden down with a tray carrying two carafes, a cup and a small jug of cream.

“Oh! Here, let me take that,” Heyes offered and he reached out to take the tray from her. “Thank you very much.”

“Yessir Mr. Heyes,” she said shyly. “We didn't know if you wanted sugar or not. I can run down and get you some if you do.”

“No, no. That's fine,” Heyes assured her. “This is all I'll be needing, thank you.”

“Yessir,” the young woman actually curtsied before closing the door and departing.

Heyes smiled to himself and placed the tray down on the night stand beside his bed. Cream. He hadn't even thought to ask for cream. That was a luxury. A curtsey and cream; maybe the name of 'Hannibal Heyes' still held some clout after all.

Heyes opened the lid of the one carafe and leaning into it, he breathed deeply, savouring the rich strong coffee aroma. Mmmm; that smelled sooo good. Then he went back to his stack of books, chose one that wasn't too challenging and returned to his bed. There he pulled back the comforter, fluffed up the pillows and set them back against the headboard. Next on the agenda he poured a little bit of cream into the cup and then filled it half way with coffee. He took a cautionary sip, frowned just a bit and then filled the cup to the brim with hot water. Another sip. He smiled. Yeah, that was more like it.

He settled himself into the bed and leaned back into the pillows with a contented sigh. Five years ago he wouldn't have thought anything special about this room or this bed, but tonight; it was paradise. He lifted up the cup and took an appreciative sip of the hot liquid and then he leaned back again, closing his eyes and savouring the flavour. Steven would have recognized this ritual right away from the time he had spent with Heyes at the cafe in Cheyenne; that same appreciation of a simple pleasure.

Heyes was still having a hard time believing this was happening. It was just that morning when he'd been awakened by the loud klaxon, indicating that it was time to get up for the first roll call of the day. He'd stretched out and again had pulled back when he felt the familiar warm lump at the foot of his bed and he had looked down to meet the green eyes of his feline companion. She had yawned at him.

He smiled just a little regretfully; he was going to miss her.

Funny how things go. He'd stopped hoping for a pardon, had given up on it. He had resigned himself to spending at least another six years as a prisoner of the territory. He no longer woke up in the mornings wondering if today would be the day. He sure hadn't thought about it that morning. It was just another morning. Get up, stand at the door of the cell until the guard (it had been Davis this time) had come by and put a tick by your number. Then tidy up your cell, make the bed, do your business if you needed to and then head down for breakfast. The same old, same old routine.

Now, all of a sudden here he was in a nice hotel room, laying back on a comfy bed, his back propped up with thick plush pillows and drinking coffee with CREAM in it. His mind couldn't quite take it all in yet. He was a free man—well, relatively speaking. He sighed a little when he thought of all those conditions he'd have to abide by. They were strict, but he could do it he was sure, and he couldn't really blame the authorities for wanting to keep track of him; he was just too good at what he did. Well, used to be.

He sighed again. This wasn't at all how he had imagined his first night out of prison would be. He thought he would be ecstatic, that he would be hurrahing the town; getting drunk and helping himself to the feminine wares over at the brothel. He knew Jed was disappointed at Heyes' reactions; he knew that Jed had expected more but Heyes couldn't help it. He felt so uncertain, so out of time and place. He wasn't sure what was expected of him, what he was supposed to do, how he was supposed to react to things. He felt lost.

He didn't like feeling this way. When had all his self-confidence disappeared? Had it happened gradually, over time and he hadn't noticed it slipping away? Or was it sudden? The wall he had built up around himself shattering into a million pieces when the rising pressure from outside had finally become too much for him to bear.

He could remember coming to the realization that Jed had moved ahead of him. That he had matured and grown in ways that had given him the strength and the confidence to take over the leadership of their relationship. Heyes had had mixed feelings about that. He had been pleased to see his cousin coming into his own, but at the same time jealous of his experiences. Jealous of his new friends and his new life while Heyes himself sat in a prison cell losing touch with who he was and what he could have accomplished.

Now here he was on the outside, and totally scared to death. How had Jim Santana done it? He'd been in longer than Heyes and yet he hadn't come out of it beaten and broken. He came out stronger and more confident than ever and already set to pull the biggest heist the territory of Colorado had ever experienced. He hadn't been scared to death.

Heyes groaned and rubbed his eyes. So much for reading; his brain just couldn't focus on it, not even something light. Oh well. He poured himself another caffeine mixture and settled back into his pillows again to enjoy it and try to get his over-active mind to settle. That was one thing that hadn't changed—he still had a hard time getting his brain to shut down. So much stimulation coming at it all at once this day, it was still in shock and was so wound up, probably wouldn't let Heyes get a wink of sleep, even on this nice comfortable mattress.

Three hours later, when Jed quietly entered the darkened room, he took the chance and turned up the lamp just a bit so he could see enough to get ready for bed. He turned then and smiled when he saw his partner sound asleep with an opened book resting upon his chest. What was left of the coffee and water in the carafes was long since turned cold. The empty coffee cup lay on the floor beside the bed right where it had fallen from Heyes' grasp as he'd drifted off to sleep.

Jed pulled off his boots and then padded quietly over to his partner. He gently removed the book and pulling the comforter up, he covered his friend and basically tucked him in. It wasn't too cold that night and Heyes was still fully dressed so Jed surmised that he should be warm enough. Then he stood for a moment and looked down at his cousin's quiet, sleeping face. The soft light from the lamp highlighted it and smoothed out the hard lines and the hollow cheeks and Jed could see a hint of the man his partner used to be and it gave him hope.

“Goodnight Heyes,” he whispered. “I'll see ya' in the morning.”

Heyes was laying on the floor of the infirmary, clutching the padding to the wound in his side. It hurt like the dickens and he knew that he had lost a lot of blood, not just because of the copious amounts of it that was spreading out on the floor around him, but also because of his weakness and dizziness of state. He knew he'd said he would be alright, that it wasn't that bad but that was mainly to calm the fears of his young friend. If help came soon he'd likely be alright, but on his own he just wasn't strong enough to apply the pressure required to stanch the bleeding.

He groaned with the pain and lay his head back down on the hard floor and tried to keep his breathing regular, tried to stay calm so that his heart wouldn't speed up unnecessarily and pump out even more of his life's blood then it was already doing.

The escaping inmates with their hostages had been gone for at least twenty minutes now, surely Carson would be getting suspicious as to why they hadn't returned to the prison proper yet. Even he couldn't be so daft as to not notice. Help would be coming soon, Heyes was sure of it. He would be alright. It wouldn't do at all to bleed to death on the floor of his own infirmary.

Then finally the door leading from the work area opened and Mr. Carson walked in to the medical ward, and just like Reese before him, he instantly spotted the prone man bleeding on the floor. Heyes' heart did a quick skip with relief that help had finally arrived but that relief quickly turned to a chill of fear when he saw the look in that guard's eyes.

It was a look of disgust, of anger, of irritation and Heyes knew without a doubt that instead of being saved, he was going to die. He could see it in Carson's eyes; that cold, hard look. 'That fxxxing pxxxk is going to kill me!' Heyes knew he wouldn't be able to fight back. Even if he'd been on his feet, at full capacity he wouldn't have been young enough, or big enough or strong enough to hold his own against that guard.

Goddammit! That axxhole was going to kill him! Even though common sense told him that he didn't have a hope in hell, Heyes still tried to drag himself away, tried to call out for help but he was too weak and all he could muster was a strangled whisper. He saw Carson sneer at him in irritation, then looking around the guard spied one of the pillows, and grabbing it, started walking towards the injured man.

Heyes was in a panic! He tried with all his might to drag himself away even though there was no escape. He didn't want to die! This wasn't right! How dare this bastard think that he could just walk in here and take his life like it was nothing! He tried to yell and then Carson slapped him across the face and before Heyes could recover from the blow, the pillow came down and blocked out the guard's snarling, infuriated face!

Heyes felt the heavy weight of the guard come down on top of the pillow and all breath was taken from him. Heyes fought like a man possessed—like a man fighting for his life! He clawed and kicked and tried to scream, but all the air was gone from his lungs......

Jed woke up suddenly from a deep sleep. It was just passed dawn and there was soft light coming in through the window on the other side of Heyes' bed. Jed lay there for a moment, wondering what had awakened him so abruptly. Then he heard it; a quiet but almost desperate moaning, followed by raged breathing and a soft strangled yell that sent a shiver down Jed's spine.

Sitting up, Jed looked over to the other bed and saw his cousin in the throws of a nightmare. He was fighting against something, struggling to break free, his arms and legs moving in sync with his fearful cries.

“Heyes!” Jed called him quietly.” Heyes, wake up!”

But Heyes continued to thrash about, his eyes under the closed lids moving rapidly from side to side and his whole body it seemed, covered in a chilling sweat. Jed got out of bed and moved over to his cousin's side.

“Heyes!” he called again, this time louder, but still no response. “C'mon Heyes, wake up! You're having a bad dream.”

And then Jed touched him.

Heyes' eyes shot open in a flash and they were filled with terror! He was off the bed in an instant and he came at his cousin, his eyes now changed from the terror to a murderous rage that pierced Jed to his very heart. Curry fell backwards, onto his own bed, but Heyes came with him, landing on top of him, his hands grasping at his partner's throat.

“No! Heyes.....!” but Jed's protest was cut off as Heyes' fingers tightened and Curry suddenly found himself unable to breath!

Oh my God! Heyes was trying to kill him! NO! NO! This couldn't be happening. 'HEYES!! HEYES! GET OFF ME! GET [/i[i]]OFF!' But Jed's silent screams never made it passed the vice like grip that was strangling his throat! Jed couldn't believe it. His brain was spinning with disbelief as he tried to break the hold that his cousin had on him.
Jed grabbed him by the wrists, trying to loosen his fingers. He tried to bring his knees up, get his legs between him and his cousin's body and then maybe be able to push him away, but he couldn't do it! Heyes had him pinned down too effectively! With one hand still gripping a wrist, the other one flung out, desperately searching for something—anything to use as a lever to push Heyes off of him. Nothing came to hand.

Jed was getting desperate! His lungs were burning for air and his head was starting to pound as his oxygen starved brain began to go into a tailspin! He had to get Heyes off of him or he was going to suffocate, but Heyes was beyond any reason! His eyes had rolled up into his head so that all Jed could see of them were white ghostly slits shining from between partially closed lids.

Jed knew he could no longer be concerned about hurting his cousin—he had to get him off or he was going to die. He began to punch him in the face as hard as he could even though his brain was buzzing and his vision was degrading into a swirling black pit. He struck again and again, instinctively knowing where his assailant's face was even though he could no longer see it. He fought, striking out again, aiming for and hitting the nose, over and over again as his consciousness began to slip away.

Then suddenly, blessedly, the grip on his throat disappeared and Jed instantly sucked air into his burning lungs. He gasped! Short, shallow, raged gulps, a hand to his own throat, fighting to suck in as much oxygen as he possibly could, as quickly as his lungs would allow. His head was pounding, but his vision began to clear off and he pulled himself away, trying to sit up.

Heyes was standing by him, his eyes open and focused but with a quizzical look upon his face.

“Kid,” Heyes' voice was calm but questioning. “What are you doing?”

“Wa....what?” Jed croaked, it was all he could get out.

“It's early yet. What are you doing up?”

Jed did the best he could to sit up. He still held a hand to his throat, but his breathing was gradually returning to a normal rhythm as his lungs became replenished with oxygen. He looked up at Heyes and despite the shock from the attack, Jed felt his heart give a leap of hope at the change he saw in his partner.

Heyes was looking like his old self again. Like he did five years ago. Oh, he still needed to put on some weight but the bedevilling sparkle was back in his warm brown eyes, and that smile; quizzical and impish—delightfully played about his lips. Jed's heart soared! Oh he hadn't realized how very much he had missed his friend—that scoundrel! And now here he was back again, standing before him in the light of the brightening dawn. Smiling at him.

“Heyes?” he asked, with hope in his heart. “Is that you?”

“Well yeah Kid,” Heyes replied, showing his dimples. “Who else would it be? It's early yet Kid, you obviously need to get some more sleep. You know I need you to watch my back. That train job we're gonna be pulling this afternoon could be tricky and I need you to be alert.”

“Oh,” Jed's hopes sank. His old friend wasn't back after all. Heyes was still asleep, he was still dreaming. “Yeah Heyes, don't worry about me.”


Heyes wiped a hand across his nose and looked curiously at the blood that was there from the beating that Jed had given him, but it didn't seem to register. He smiled over at his cousin one more time and then settled back down onto his bed. He pulled the comforter back over himself and with a sigh of contentment he instantly fell back to sleep—or more accurately, since he was never awake in the first place, he simply continued to sleep.

Jed continued to sit on his bed and watch his cousin. He was still trying to calm his shaking nerves and to stop his teeth from chattering from the shock of the attack. The pounding in his head was starting to ease off and his lungs weren't burning quite so badly now. His arms and legs felt like wet noodles and he was getting cold so finally he also lay back down and pulled his blankets back over himself as he settled into the pillows.

He lay there for a long time just staring up at the ceiling and trying to figure out what this all meant. Oh, he and David were definitely going to be having a chat about this one. But still, as Jed's nerves started to settle down, and the feeling began to return to his fingers and toes he thought about the change he'd witnessed in his cousin.
Even though Heyes had been asleep, his old self had put in an appearance. Couldn't that be considered a good thing? Didn't that suggest that the man who Heyes used to be hadn't been totally destroyed? That he was still in there somewhere, hiding away, buried underneath all that fear and pain and hopelessness, just waiting for the opportunity to come forth again, to come out from hiding, to begin to heal?

Jed continued to stare up at the ceiling he could see and remembered back to that first time in Santa Marta when he'd stood accused of murdering his employer. Someone had taken a pot shot at him—actually not just one, but numerous. That had been a really nice hat too. But, back to the point; Jed had felt the same kind of uncertainty now as he had back then and he found himself silently asking his cousin the same question that he had asked him that night in Santa Marta.

'Heyes, is this good or bad?'

And Heyes, displaying his usual cheekiness despite their dire situation, had responded;

'Well, if you don't get killed—I think it's good.'

Jed sighed and then turning his head he looked over at his sleeping cousin.

“Yeah Heyes,” he said softly. “If I don't get killed—I think it's good.”

Jed hadn't been able to fall back to sleep again, and after a couple of hours of dozing he finally decided that it was time to get up and get ready for breakfast. He was standing over by the mirror, just finishing up his shaving when he heard Heyes stirring on the bed.

“Morning,” Jed greeted him. “How ya' feelin'?”

Heyes slowly sat up and swung his legs over between the two beds. He looked around him as though to make sure that he really was where he thought he was. He looked disoriented, uncertain. Jed felt his heart sink just a little. Even though he had expected this, a small part of him had still hoped that it would be his old friend who got up this morning, not the ex-inmate. Oh well.

“I fell asleep with my clothes on,” Heyes stated a little sheepishly.

“Yeah well,” Jed finished his shaving and wiped the excess shaving cream off his face and quickly tired his bandana around his neck to hide the bruising caused by Heyes' attack. “You were already asleep when I got in last night and I didn't wanna wake ya' up just for that. We've slept in our clothes before and were never the worse for it.”

“Hmm,” Heyes nodded.

“How'd ya' sleep?” Jed asked casually.

Heyes frowned. “I had some really strange dreams, but now I can't remember them,” he admitted and then gently caressed his nose. “My nose hurts.”

“Oh yeah?” Jed commented dryly. “Maybe ya' hit it on something in your sleep.”

“Hmm, I suppose.”

“I forgot to buy ya' a razor yesterday so I guess you better use mine,” Jed offered. “We can go out and get ya' some toiletries after breakfast, okay?”

“Yeah sure Kid,” Heyes agreed as he shakily stood up and headed over to begin the morning ritual. “anything you say.”

Jed watched as Heyes stood in front of the mirror, looking down at the utensils and then slowly began to unbutton his shirt. He shrugged himself out of that garment and then started to pull his henley over his head, but cringed half way through and stopped before taking a deep breath and gradually working it the rest of the way off.

“Your shoulders still bothering you?” Jed asked.

“Yeah a little,” Heyes admitted as he tossed the two shirts aside. “Dr. Miller did some work on them but they're still sore—especially in the mornings.”

“Well, we'll get David to work on them once we get home.”

Heyes groaned and Jed smiled.

“I know Heyes, but you'll be thanking him in the end.” Then the smile on Jed's face faded away as his eyes ran along the scars on Heyes' back. Silence settled over them and the Kid pulled his eyes away, knowing that Heyes would feel self-conscious if he knew his cousin was looking at them. “Maybe we can buy ya' some new clothes today,” Jed continued, trying to cover up the awkward moment. “Probably shouldn't go visitin' the Sisters wearing clothes that ya' slept in. You're gonna need more anyways.”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed a little sceptically. “Do we have enough money for that?”

“Sure Heyes. No need to worry about that.”

Heyes sent him a suspicious look. “You didn't steal it did ya'?”

“Heyes!” Kid put on the air of mock indignation. “Of course I didn't steal it! What do ya' think I am—a crook?”

They locked eyes and then both men started to laugh. Jed's heart nearly rose up and choked him to see his partner suddenly laughing like that. It was like music to his ears. But then Heyes turned serious again as he cautiously picked up the razor and just stared at it as though he didn't know what to do.

“What's the matter?” Kid asked him.

Heyes jumped, as though he had forgotten that Kid was there and then he flashed a self-conscious smile and shrugged.

“It's been four and half years since I've shaved myself,” he admitted. “I'm not sure I remember how.”

“Really?” Kid asked in a slightly incredulous tone. “You were always clean shaven whenever I came to visit.”

“Yeah, but a barber would come in to the prison every week and do all the shaving, right before visiting day!” Heyes explained. “They sure weren't going to let any of us inmates get hold of a razor. Every week I'd have my face and head shaved by someone else and now, I don't know.....”

“Just give it a try,” Jed suggested quietly. “it's not that sharp. Once ya' start it'll probably come right back to ya'.”

“Yeah,” but Heyes still hesitated, unsure of himself.

“You want me to do it for ya'?” Kid offered.

“No,” Heyes answered. “Sooner or later I gotta do it myself. Might as well start now.”

Jed nodded and then watched as Heyes lathered up his face and then slowly, tentatively began to scrape the razor across his morning stubble. The further along he got with the job the more relaxed and confident he became until he finally finished and only nicked himself once on the chin. He wiped off the excess cream, checked himself in the mirror and then turned and smiled at Jed.

Jed nodded. “Looks good! At least ya' don't have to shave your head anymore!”

Heyes' brows went up and he grinned. “Yeah!”

“Get dressed. Let's go eat!”

“About time you fellas got here!” Lom complained as the partners sat themselves down at the table in the previous cafe. “Steven and I were running outa things to talk about!”

“We had some stuff to work out.” Jed stated and left it at that.

Curry and Heyes sat down and instantly Lisa was over to their table with two coffee pots and menu's tucked under her arm.

“You fellas know what you want?” she asked as she poured coffee into the three cups already on the table.

“I think I'll have the flapjacks and ham this morning,” Jed announced without a glance at the menu.

“Okay. Steven, how about you?” she asked.

“Steak and eggs would be great—rare.”

“Right.” Then she looked over at Lom.

“Steak and eggs sounds fine,” he said. “Medium—and easy over on the eggs.”

She nodded and then sent a speculative look to Heyes.

Heyes looked back at her. “Steak and eggs?” he asked tentatively.

Lisa pursed her lips and shook her head. “Nooo, not a good idea sweetie.”

“Ham and.....?”

She smiled and shook her head again.

Heyes sighed. “Well, what would you suggest?”

“We got some real good oatmeal simmerin'.”

Down went the shoulders. “Oatmeal!” he complained. “I've eaten so much oatmeal over the past five years I'm surprised it hasn't sprouted out of my ears! There's got to be something else I can eat.”

“Well how about some scrambled eggs and toast?” Lisa suggested.

Heyes smiled. “Yes! Scrambled eggs and toast—sounds good! Four eggs!”

“No,” Lisa stated. “Two.”

“I'm hungry!”

“You finish up the two and if you want more after that, I'll make 'em. How's that?”

“Do I have a choice?”


“Sounds fine.”

Heyes finished ordering his breakfast to look over and find all three of his friends smiling at him.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothin',” Kid insisted.

“Everything's fine,” Lom assured him.

Steven just shook his head and drank his coffee.

It didn't take long for the meals to arrive and then all four men tucked in and did an efficient job of breaking their fasts.

“Sure you don't want to stay in town another day Steven?” Jed asked him over a mouthful of ham. “You can head back home with us tomorrow morning.”

“No no,” Steven declined. “Clem is staying with Bridget while I'm away, but I still would like to get home.”

“Oh, yeah I guess,” Kid looked a little sheepish that he had forgotten. “How are they doing?”

“Fine,” Steven smiled. “It was touch and go there for awhile, but mother and child are doing fine.”

“What are you talking about?” Heyes asked with a forkful of eggs levitating between the plate and his mouth.

“Bridget and little Rosie,” Steven explained as though that should have been obvious. Then he frowned and looked over at Jed. “Didn't you tell him?”

“Oh! Ahh....No, I guess not,” Kid admitted “Sorry Steven. It's just that—well, he was already so depressed I didn't want to add to it and then the parole came up and everything's just gone crazy, I haven't told him.”

Heyes' eggs were getting cold. “Told me what!? Is Bridget okay?”

“Yes!” Steven assured him quickly. “Yes. She's fine now, but it was a little scary there for a while.” Steven sighed and his complexion paled a little bit as he remembered the fear of those two weeks of walking on eggshells. “The baby came early and was a breech. I was scared to death—I thought for sure that I was going to lose them both, but the midwife we had was very experienced and I swear it was because of her that little Rosie came out alive. But it was still uncertain for some time if she was going to hang on. And Bridget had gone through quite an ordeal so was very weak.” Steven shook his head and a slight trembling went through him. “Oh, thank goodness they both proved to be very strong.” Then he smiled. “Like mother like daughter, as they say.
“Belle came and stayed with them for a week or so, because I had to carry on with work. And of course, Clementine was right there and very supportive. She and Bridget are such good friends so it really did Bridget's heart good to have her there with her. She really is an amazing woman.” Then he smiled again and reflected. “Geesh, I remember the first time I met her. Remember Jed? It was right before your trial and she had come waltzing into my office, insisting on taking the stand in your defence. She really did not take well to the fact that you wouldn't let her!”

Jed laughed. “Yup! That's Clementine. She does everything she can to get us into trouble and then insists on flying to the rescue. She was even like that when we were kids.” Then he sent a rather incredulous look over to Heyes who still hadn't managed to get that forkful of egg to his mouth. “Why do we still put up with her Heyes?”

“Because she's cute,” Heyes reasoned point blank. “and because we love her.” Jed nodded appreciatively and then Heyes turned back to Steven. “So how is Bridget now?”

“She's fine now,” Steven reiterated. “I'm sorry I didn't let you know sooner. But Jed was probably right in not telling you right away. We didn't know if either of them was going to make it and you had enough do deal with as it was. But no, both are fine now and as I said, Clem is staying with her while I'm away.”

“Good,” Heyes nodded and finally remembered his eggs. “So, you had a daughter?”

Steven beamed. “Yes! And what a little sweetheart—good set of lungs on her now too. She's beautiful.”

Heyes took a swallow of coffee and nodded. “Hmm. A very good friend of mine once said that sons were an honour to have, but daughters were a gift,” he smiled. “and I do believe he was right.”

“I'll drink to that,” Steven agreed and all four men raised their coffee cups and tapped the toast even though Jed and Lom felt a little out of the loop; neither one of them having had any children to date.

“Her name is Rosie?” Heyes asked.

“Yes. Well—Rosa Belle Granger,” Steven announced proudly.

“I'll look forward to meeting her,” Heyes told him and then he smiled again. “It sure is nice to be able to say that! I have yet to meet David's son and he must be walking around by now.”

“Ho ho!” Jed laughed. “More than walking! I think he and Jay are going to even surpass us when it comes to getting into mischief!”

“I donno about that Kid,” Heyes challenged him. “we did a pretty good job.”

Just then Lisa put in an appearance with the coffee pots in hand.

“How you fellas doin'?” she asked with a smile. “More coffee?”

“OH! Yes!” came a three-way response, and three cups were pushed in her direction.

“No,” said Lom as he started to stand up. “I'm afraid I have a train to catch. You boys take care of yourselves, ya' hear? And like we agreed; keep in touch!”

The other three men stood up and shook hands all around.

“Yeah Lom,” Heyes agreed. “Thanks for coming out. It was good to see ya' again. I'll have to get out to meet your wife one of these days.”

Lom grinned. “Yup. She's certainly heard all about you.”

Heyes ginned sheepishly.

“See ya' Lom,” Kid said. “We'll let ya' know what we're doin'. Don't worry. And thanks for everything.”

“Ah huh,” Lom almost sounded sceptical. “Mr. Granger. We'll be in touch.”


Then Lom was gone and the three remaining patrons sat back down to finish their breakfasts. Lisa smiled as she replenished the three emptyish cups.

“Sooo....Hannibal, how are you doin' with those eggs?” she asked as she poured.

Heyes nearly choked on his mouthful at her easy use of his familiar. “Ahhmm fine,” he croaked out and then cleared his throat. “but you were right—again! Two eggs were enough.”

“Yup!” she said. “Gotta work yerself up gradual. But you'll get there. You'll be eatin' steak a'fore ya' know it!”

After breakfast, Heyes and the Kid escorted Steven over to the train station, partly to see him off but also to help get Heyes' belongings stored away in the baggage car for their trip to Brookswood. Heyes was a little nervous about letting the items out of his possession even if it was just for a short time. They were precious to him, they'd been his life-line but he didn't feel comfortable just leaving them in the hotel room all day so letting Steven take them back with him seemed the lesser of two evils.

“Don't worry about it Heyes,” Steven assured him, having noticed the man's anxiety. “They'll be fine in there and I'll leave them at David's place for you. They'll be fine.”

“Oh, well yeah, of course they will be,” Heyes tried to put on a brave face, feeling foolish at being so worried over 'things' but not being able to help it.

“We'll be coming out for a visit once Bridget is feeling up to it,” Steven announced. “and once you've had some time to settle in as well, Heyes. Bridget and Clem both really want to see you again so it won't be too long, I'm sure.”

Heyes smiled. “I miss them too,” he admitted quietly. “It'll be good to see everyone again.”

“Alright,” Steven prepared to board the train. “Stay out of trouble and I'll see you both soon.”

“Bye Steven,” Jed gave him a quick wave. “Say 'hello' to the ladies for us.”


“Well c'mon Heyes,” Kid suggested as they watched the train steam its way out of town. “let's go get you some more clothes.”

Coming out of the mercantile an hour later Heyes was definitely looking and feeling a bit more spiffy in some new duds. He was still wearing his very comfortable black boots, but he'd added to them a pair of dark brown trousers, and a very light coffee coloured shirt covered over by his brown corduroy jacket—and a battered black hat. Jed had tried to cajole him into purchasing a new head ornament but Heyes would have none of it. Besides, he'd reasoned; had to wait for his hair to grow back to be sure they got the right size. Best to wait.

They also picked him up some toiletries along with a new razor, although Jed suggested, and wisely too, that Heyes should take Jed's older razor and Jed would take the new, sharper one. Wouldn't do at all for Heyes to finally get out of prison just to wind up cutting his own throat!

“Well, which would you rather do Heyes?” Kid asked him. “Rent a surrey and drive out to the convent, or rent a couple of horses and ride?”

“I donno,” Heyes mumbled, a little uncertain. “Which do you think would be best?”

“That's why I'm askin' ya' Heyes,” Kid pointed out. “I don't know what you feel you're up to. I know ya' haven't ridden in five years. Are ya' up to ridin' out there or would the surrey be better?”

Heyes shrugged. “I donno.”

Kid stopped in his tracks and turned to face his cousin; he was getting a little exasperated with this.

“C'mon Heyes,” he complained. “it's not that hard a choice. What do ya' feel up to doing?”

Heyes just shrugged again. He looked lost. As though he was no longer capable of making a decision like that and he looked to the Kid with eyes asking for help. Jed took sympathy on him and then smiled.

“How about we toss a coin?” he suggested with a twinkle in his eyes.

“I don't have a coin.”

The twinkle grew into a wicked sparkle. “I do!”

Forty minutes later found the partners riding two rental horses out towards the convent. Curry was keeping them at a pretty steady jog trot and Heyes was finding it kinda hard to sit. He already knew he was going to be sore the next day—if not sooner!

It really didn't take long to get out to the convent and Heyes enjoyed the ride there on the most part. Everything just seemed so fresh and new to him and he spent the whole ride looking about him with a whimsical smile on his face as he tried to take everything in before it passed out of sight.
Arriving at their destination, old Bill came out and took their horses. Heyes dismounted a bit stiffly, but he smiled anyways and handed over the reins.

“Good to see ya' under an improved situation,” Bill commented to the ex-inmate. “I believe that Sister Julia is expectin' ya' over in the main building.”

“Thank you,” Heyes responded with a smile. “Nice to be in an improved situation.”

The two men then headed over to the large house that Heyes had helped to renovate and taking the steps two at a time, entered into the front foyer. Nobody was around.

“Maybe they run out on us,” Heyes hypothesized.

Curry sent him the look. “I hardly think so Heyes. C'mon, they're probably in class. It is that time ya' know.”


But then they were stopped by the joyous greeting coming from behind them.

“Joshua! Thaddeus!” Sister Julia came in through the front door and spotted them in the hallway.

Both men turned and smiled a greeting. The Sister came and gave each of them a big hug.

“How good to see you!” she said and then gently rubbing Heyes' arm, she smiled warmly at him and gave him a quick touch on the side of his face. “Joshua,” and that was all she could say. Heyes smiled and took her into a second affectionate hug.

“Thank you,” he whispered in her ear. “Thank you for everything.”

They pulled away from one another and she gazed up into his warm brown eyes and smiled again. It was so good to see even just a hint of the man that he used to be smiling back at her.

“Come,” she said. “the children are looking forward to seeing you.”

Heyes never did like 'goodbye's'; they were awkward and were too closed-ended. He always like to think that people's path could cross again, so why bother with 'goodbye's'? Still, he felt some sense of obligation to the Sisters and to the children for staying with him throughout his ordeal. Even he had to admit that the letters the orphans had sent to him often were the one thing that kept his spirits up so they deserved at least a little bit of his time now.

They spent an hour with the group; answering whatever questions they chose to throw at him.

“What are you going to do now, Mr. Heyes?” William enquired. “Do you know what you want to do yet?”

“No,” Heyes admitted. “I think for now I'm just going to work for a rancher friend of mine—actually the same man who Kid works for—and just let things settle for a while. The law is still keeping me on quite a tight leash anyways, so I kinda havta stay put.”

“What do you mean?” William pushed. “Didn't you get pardoned? Aren't you free to do whatever you want?”

“No,” Heyes admitted. “I didn't get a pardon, I got a parole. There's a difference.”

“What's the difference?”

“Well, with a pardon then I would be free to do whatever I want,” Heyes explained. “but with a conditional parole, there are certain stipulations I have to stick to. I have to prove to the law that I can live an honest life and not just go back to outlawin' like I used to.” He sighed, regretfully. “And if I fall back onto my old ways, well the law has the right to throw me back into prison without another trial or anything. So I really have to be careful and watch what I do. I can't even leave the town I live in without informing the sheriff of where I'm going and when I'll be back.”

“It's like living here,” Joe commented. “Like you're still a child and need permission.”

“That about sums it up,” Heyes admitted. “So I suppose I'll be working for my old friend , Mr. Jordan for a while.”

This statement was met with some long faces.

Heyes smiled. “It's not so bad,” he assured the group. “he is an old friend, and his wife, Belle is about the best cook I've ever had the pleasure of taking advantage of! They're good people—just like family. It'll be fine.”

“Do you know how Todd and Carol are doing?” Peter asked. “We haven't heard anything from them since they moved away.”

“Yeah!” came the universal gripe. “Not a word!”

Heyes looked over to Kid; this was his area.

“They're fine,” Curry assured the group. “They've settled in to their new home like they were born to it. They're probably just so overwhelmed with their new lives that they just haven't gotten around to writing to you. I'll let them know that you were asking about them.”

“Yeah,” said Sally. “they were so lucky. They got a home, and a ma and pa now. That must be so nice.”

Heyes and Kid exchanged glances. They could relate to that.

“You lot don't have things too bad here,” Heyes pointed out. “I know that a family of your own would be best, but sometimes you gotta just make the best of what you've got. And believe me; what you've got here isn't so bad.”

“Will we ever see you again?” asked Melanie. “Are you going to come visit?”

“Ahh,” That was the question both partners had been dreading.

“We'll try,” Heyes promised. “and we'll write.”

Kid just smiled. He wasn't going to make any promises.

The ride back to town was quiet, with Heyes obviously off in his own world somewhere.

“Whatcha' thinkin' about Heyes?” Jed finally asked him.

“What? Oh—nothin'.”

“Right,” Kid snorted sceptically. “Well I can hear you thinkin' about nothin' all the way over here. What's on your mind?”

Heyes smiled then and gave up the pretence.

“Well, I guess I'm just beginning to realize how much I'm actually going to miss some of the things around here,” he admitted.

“You're kidding!” Kid stated. “I thought you'd wanna be away from here as fast as possible! Don't tell me ya' wanna stay now!”

“NO!” Heyes was quick to deny that. “It's just those youngsters did a lot to keep me entertained. And Sister Julia; I really got a chance to get to know her better and for a nun she really is a good person.” He smiled at his little joke. Then turned serious again. “I like her.”

“No reason ya' can't stay in touch with them. Her and the kids,” Kid pointed out.

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “I will try to.”

“Maybe you can adopt one of 'em.”

Heyes laughed. “Yeah, right! I think it's best you be married before ya' start thinking about an instant family.”

Kid shrugged. “Ya' never know Heyes,” he pointed out. “you're not wanted anymore. I know you got some limitations on ya' for a while, but no reason you can't start lookin' around. Find yourself a nice lady and settle down.”

“I suppose,” Heyes mumbled though he didn't sound too hopeful. “Not too much I can offer as a husband.” He smiled, a little sadly. “Or a father, for that matter.”

“You don't know that Heyes,” Jed countered him, almost echoing Kenny's lecture to him. “You don't know what lies ahead. I got no more than you do and Beth doesn't seem to mind.”

“Yeah,” Heyes acknowledged that. “I suppose that's true.”

“The world is your oyster—as they say!”

“Ha!” Heyes laughed. “where did you hear that?”

“I donno,” Kid shrugged. “But it sounded neat, so I remembered it!”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “I guess it is new beginnings, isn't it.”

“Yup,” Kid smiled. “Anything can happen!”

That evening after another supper of chicken stew, the partners found themselves over in the saloon and Jed was trying again, unsuccessfully to get Heyes interested in a poker game. Heyes was being stubborn about it, stating that he just wasn't ready yet so the Kid relented and they turned back to the bar.

The bartender came over to them and smiled at Jed as a regular customer.

“How you doin' this evening.” he asked solicitously. “What'll ya' have to drink?”

Jed looked questioningly over at his partner. Heyes frowned.

“Ahh, how about a couple of shots of whiskey?” Jed suggested.

“Sure,” the barkeep nodded. “Two whiskey's comin' up.”

Then Jed felt a hand slip across his back as a feminine form leaned into him and came around to nuzzle into his chest. He smiled down at her.

“Well good evening Marion,” he greeted her. “how's business.”

“Not so good since you up and started courtin' that little hussie you call a girlfriend,” she moaned. “Don't she know she's cuttin' in on my time?”

“Oh now Marion,” Jed reprimanded her. “you can't be talking about Beth like that. She's a real fine young lady.”

“Hmm,” Marion didn't sound convinced. But then she gave up on her previous favourite and turned her attention to the new meat. She smiled up at him and thought 'well, if I can't have blue then brown might do just as nice.' “Hey there handsome,” she cooed. “you available? Or are you courtin' some young 'lady' back home too?”

Heyes smiled and tipped his hat. “Oh no ma'am,” he answered her. “I'm as available as you'd like. Can I buy you a drink?”

“Why you sure can handsome,” she purred. “A shot of whiskey would go down just fine.”

Heyes flashed his dimples and Marion's heart just about melted. He sent a nod over to the bartender and that wise gentlemen came over with a third glass and poured them all another round. Marion downed her shot in one gulp and was just about to really get into her solicitations when she spotted someone over by the bat wing doors. Her smile dropped and was replaced with a frown.

“Oh crap!” she swore. “there's one of those damn prison guards! They're no fun at all—especially that one! And of course, he's headed this way! I'll see you fellas later.” Then she smiled up at Heyes and licked her lips. “Yeah, I'll definitely be seein' you later.”

And then she slipped away just as Kenny approached them, and he smiled after the retreating prostitute.

“Sorry if I interrupted,” he said.

“Oh that's alright,” Heyes assured him. “she said she'd be back.”

“How ya' doin' Kenny?” Jed asked him. “You off duty for the day?”

“Yeah, just on my way home,” the new warden told them. “but I heard that you were still in town and I wanted to have a quick work with you before you left. Sheriff McPherson said that you were over here so I thought I would check it out. Seems he was right.”

“Hmm,” Heyes wasn't too pleased with the idea of the sheriff knowing exactly where he was. Oh, well he was probably going to have to get used to that.

“Well, can we buy ya' a whiskey while you're here?” Jed offered.

“Sure why not,” Kenny accepted. “Then why don't we go have a seat at that table over there. There's something I need to talk to you about.”

Heyes and the Kid exchanged glances while the bartender came with a forth glass and filled them all up again.

“Oh it's nothing bad,” Kenny said, noticing the look pass between them. “At least, I don't think it is.” Then he smiled and taking his shot glass, headed over to the aforementioned table.

Jed picked up his glass and with a smile to his cousin, followed Kenny. Heyes took the two remaining glasses in the hope that Marion would indeed be rejoining him and also headed for the table.

“So, what's up Kenny?” Kid asked as they sat themselves down.

“Well, I'll tell ya',” Kenny sighed. “I have been getting hit with a lot of protests since I allowed you fellas to walk out of the prison yesterday.”

The two partners frowned at one another.

“Why?” Heyes asked, suddenly feeling a chill of dread go through him. Maybe the prison board had had a change of heart. Kenny wasn't here to take him back was he?

“Well,” Kenny took a sip of whiskey. “It seems that Evelyn was rather upset that Jed hasn't been by to see her lately and my two younger boys were quite adamant that they have been hard done by! It's not at all fair...'they claim'... that the orphan children got to meet both Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, but the sons of not just 'one of the senior guards' but now 'the warden' have only had the privilege of meeting Kid Curry, but NOT Hannibal Heyes! They seemed quite put out about that.”

Heyes grinned with relief

“Now, on top of that...” Kenny continued. “Charlie and William have been in touch with my oldest, Joseph who is away in collage right now and they've been telling him all about Jed Curry coming to visit. So now I'm getting hit with protests from Joe that he has been denied the opportunity to meet either one of you!”

“Oh the life of a celebrity,” said Jed with a flourish. “Who would have thought it would come to this!?”

Heyes smiled at his cousin's antics. “What can we do to help you out Kenny?” he asked.

“Well,” Kenny looked to both of them. “Joe is coming home for the summer and then he and Charlie will be heading back east together. Charlie is starting his first year as a med student, so it'll be good to have Joe there to help him get settled. In any case, if you fellas would consider coming out for a visit sometime during the summer while the whole family is together, well...I guess I would appreciate that. Would make life a lot easier I can tell you!”

Heyes and Kid exchanged glances and then both of them tried not to laugh too hard.

“Yeah, I think we can do that for ya' Kenny,” Heyes agreed.

“No problem at all Kenny,” Kid seconded. “Sarah is a real fine cook Heyes, wait until you taste her pot roast!”

Kenny grinned. “I guess I know what to tell Sarah to cook,” he observed. “Listen, I'll pay for your train fare and your hotel. We'll already have a full house with Joseph back at home so....”

“Don't worry about that Kenny,” Jed told him. “It's our pleasure to come. Maybe we can fit it in with a trip to visit Lom. Heyes hasn't met his wife yet, so that might just be a good time to do it.”

“Good!” said Kenny and he finished up his whiskey. “but I'll still cover your hotel room. I insist.”

“Okay,” Jed relented. “We'll get in touch.”

“Thank you,” Kenny said and then got to his feet. “Well, Sarah's expecting me, so I best be heading for home. Again, you fellas take care and stay out of trouble. Just let me know if you need anything.”

Both men stood up to again shake hands and say their goodbyes.

“We'll see ya' soon Kenny,” said Jed. “Say 'hi' to Sarah and the kids for me.”

“Thanks Kenny,” said Heyes. “I look forward to meeting your family.”

Warden Reece nodded and then made his way out of the saloon and home to his own dinner and familial company.

Heyes and Kid sat back down and smiled at each other.

“Oh brother! He really had me worried there for a minute,” Heyes admitted. “I was thinking this had all been a big mistake and the shackles were gonna come out again and I was going to be hauled back off to the prison.”

“Over my dead body Heyes!” Jed stated. “But fortunately it didn't come to that.” Then he sighed and settled back into his chair. “I think it'll be real nice to visit with Kenny and his family this summer. Let him know how things are going.”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “We can stop by the orphanage again too—say 'hello' to Sister Julia.”

“Umm hmm.”

Then, wouldn't you know it, Marion put in an appearance again. She smiled at her intended client and settled into the chair beside him. Heyes returned her smile with a certain amount of interest and pushed the one remaining glass of whiskey over in her direction.

“You went away without finishing your drink,” he reminded her.

Marion helped herself to the shot glass and downed it in one go—again.

“So how about it handsome?” she purred, nestling into Heyes. “you up for a little fun?”

Heyes sent a questioning glance over to his cousin. He knew that Jed and this particular gal had a history and he didn't want to tread on any toes here. But Jed just smiled and gave his blessings; he'd moved on, after all.

“Go ahead Heyes,” he said. “have at her.”

Heyes smiled and taking the lady by the hand they both stood up and made their exit towards the staircase. Jed sighed and looked around the room. Maybe there was a small stakes poker game he could get in to.

Heyes allowed Marion to lead the way and he watched her tightly bodiced figure sashay its way up the stairs, the dark blue skirt swaying back and forth with the movement of her hips. He was nervous but he couldn't help but smile with sensual anticipation; it'd been so long he'd almost forgotten what a real woman felt like.

They got up to the second level and Marion turned to smile at him as she opened the door to her room and slipped inside. Heyes followed her, his heart rate already beginning to increase and his nervous excitement ready to choke him......

Jed was still sitting at the same table nursing another pint of beer. He hadn't seen any poker games that he thought he wanted to join in on, so he had returned to the bar, paid for Marion's time with Heyes and ordered himself the other beer. Returning to the table he just sat back to relax and drink his beer and people watch while he waited for his cousin to finish up.

He was surprised when he did see Heyes coming down the stairs from the second level and was beginning to formulate some teasing remark about how quick he'd been when he saw the storm cloud that was his partner's expression. Wisely, he discarded any remarks that had come to mind and frowned in confusion as Heyes made his way over to the table and sat down without saying a word.

Jed sat and looked at him, waiting for something—anything. He just didn't understand. Jed had enjoyed Marion himself on more than one occasion and he knew that she was very gifted at what she did. He totally expected Heyes to return to the table grinning like the Cheshire cat, with all his stresses and anxiety washed away. He certainly hadn't anticipated this dark and seething outcome and he continued to sit quietly, unsure of what to say.

Then finally...”Heyes, what's the matter?” he asked quietly, his confusion showing in his tone. “What happened?”

Heyes' mouth stayed firm. “Nothin'!” he snarked. “Nothin' happened—it's fine!”

“Well obviously something happened,” Jed pushed. “Did Marion say something—do something?” And he sent a questioning glance up towards Marion's still closed door. “I mean, I always found her to be very.....”

“No, it's not her,” Heyes snarled. “It's just me, alright? I'm just....I'm not ready.”

“Not ready?” Kid's tone was incredulous. How could he not be ready after five years of nothing!?

Heyes' lip pulled up and the palm of his hand came down to slap the table top with a loud whack. “Look, just drop it, why don't ya'!?” He glared at his partner. “I don't want to talk about it! Better yet—why don't we just leave!? I don't want to stay here, we can go back to that saloon on the other side of the hotel.”

“Oh! Yeah—well okay,” Jed was taken by surprise, but he took one last long swallow of the beer he'd already paid for and then pushed himself away from the table.

Heyes did the same and the two men made their way across the room towards the bat wing doors. Then, as Heyes was passing through between two poker tables, a man at one of them suddenly pushed his chair back to stand up himself and ploughed right into Heyes, practically knocking him off his feet.

“Oh, sorry mister. I didn't mean....”

But Heyes was on him in a flash, grabbing him by the front of his shirt, his face a picture of pure rage.

“What the hell's your problem!” Heyes yelled at him. “Can't you watch where you're going!?”

The poker player instantly became defensive, pushing back against Heyes, ready for a fight.

“Whaddaya mean 'what's my problem'!” he yelled back. “I meant nothin' by it! But if you wanna fight, I.....”

“Whoa! Whoa! Settle down,” Jed was instantly between the two men, pushing them apart with a hand up against Heyes' chest. “C'mon. Just relax. It was an accident.”

“Your friend's got quite a tempter!” the man snarled. “You need to keep him on a shorter leash!”

Heyes growled and made another lunge for him but Kid was ready for that move and effectively blocked him.

“Heyes! C'mon, settle down!”

“Don't tell me to settle down Kid!” Heyes threw at him, anger flashing. “If he's so blind he can't see what he's doin'....”

“HEYES! Calm down!” Jed repeated with a bit more force. “We're tryin' ta' stay outa trouble, remember?”

Unnoticed by Heyes or the Kid in their altercation, the poker player had backed up a step, his complexion paling as though someone had just walked over his grave. The saloon had gone deathly quiet.

“Heyes?” the man enquired in barely more than a whisper, and then he turned frightened eyes to Jed. “Kid?” The penny had dropped. “Kid Curry?” he gulped nervously.

Both Heyes and Kid stopped their arguing and turned to look at him. Jed reached out a hand to him in an effort to placate the situation.

“It's alright mister,” he said. “no harm done. Let me buy ya' a drink. My friend's just a little on edge here but he's fine now. He don't mean nothin'....”

“Yeah,” the poker player stepped back even more. “Listen, I'm real sorry. I didn't realize who....I'm real sorry. I'll just be goin'....”

“No, c'mon. Let me buy ya' a drink,” Kid tried to insist, still with a hand on his cousin's arm to make sure he stayed where he was.

“No, no. That's fine Mr. Curry, sir—no need for that. I think I'm just gonna go home and...make love to my wife....oh! Ahh!” He paled even more as he realized what he'd just said.

“Oh,” Curry was slightly taken aback as well. “Well, yeah—alright. Ahh, no bad feelings.”

“No no, that's fine,” he assured the pair as he quickly gathered up his winnings and skirted around the other side of the table to make a bee line for the front door. “It's time I got home anyways.”

Kid watched the man leave and then turned to his cousin while the saloon took a collective sigh of relief and carried on with the evening's festivities.

“Geesh, Heyes! What's the matter with you?” Kid asked him. “We're not even out of Laramie yet and you're pickin' a fight? Usually you're the one trying to keep me honest. What do ya' think you're doin'?”

Heyes just snarled at him and turning on his heels he stomped his way over towards the exit himself. But then he was brought up short when the bat wing doors swung inwards and Sheriff McPherson stepped into the establishment. He looked the ex-inmate straight in the eye and jerked a thumb over towards the bar. Jed groaned and headed that way himself. Crap! Could this evening get any worse?
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Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four Empty
PostSubject: The Way Back   The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptyThu Nov 14, 2013 7:15 pm

“I find it very odd,” the sheriff began as he faced the two men. “when one of our citizens leaves his favourite saloon a good two hours before he normally does, looking like he's just seen a ghost. Then add the fact that I know the two ex-outlaws who assured me that they wouldn't be causing any trouble in my town are also in that same saloon—well now, that just kinda gets me thinkin' that somethin' just might be up.”

He then looked from one man to the other, waiting for some explanation. Heyes was still seething and in no mood to even try to placate a nosey sheriff. Jed took it upon himself to once again calm the waters.

“Ah, we didn't mean for no trouble Sheriff,” Kid assured him with a smile. “In fact, I had just offered to buy that gentleman a drink, but ah... he decided that he wanted to go home and spend some time with his wife instead. In fact...” Kid brightened up. “we were just on our way out of here ourselves! Thought we'd head over to the saloon by the hotel for one last drink.”

“Uh huh,” came the sheriff's stoic reply. “I got a better idea.”

“Yes Sheriff?” Jed asked.

“Why don't you two just head straight back to your hotel and forget about your one last drink,” he strongly suggested. “You got a train to catch in the morning—ain't that right?”

“Yessir Sheriff,” Jed confirmed. “10:00 a.m.”

“Fine,” the sheriff continued. “You stay in your hotel room for the rest of the night. You get your breakfast in the morning and then you....” and he pointed a finger directly at Heyes. “...will come to my office no later than 9:30 IN THE MORNING and sign yourself out of this town. If I see either one of ya' still here tomorrow after that train has pulled out then we will be taking a ride up to the prison to have a talk with that new warden. Do we all understand one another?”

“Yessir Sheriff,” Jed nodded. “You won't see hide nor hair of us for the rest of tonight and we'll be on that train tomorrow, for sure.”

“Uh huh,” Then he turned to Heyes, noting the hard look in the ex-inmate's eyes. “How about you Mr. Heyes? You understand what I”m sayin' to you?”

Heyes' lip twitched, but he'd calmed down enough now to realize the situation he had gotten himself into and he forced himself to be amiable.

“Yessir sheriff,” he mumbled. “I'll see you in the morning and then we'll be gone.”

“Fine,” the sheriff nodded. “you've been warned. Good night, gentlemen.”

And with that, he turned and stomped out of the saloon. Kid sighed with relief. That could have gone a lot worse.

“C'mon Heyes,” he said. “it's gettin' late anyways. And besides, I think you need some quiet time.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Later that night Jed lay awake in his bed wishing he could have some understanding of what was going on with his partner. He just didn't get it. Shortly after they'd turned lights out Jed could hear Heyes over in the other bed relieving his frustrations the only way he had available to him at that time, actually the only way he'd had available to him for the past five years. Heyes had tried to be quiet about it, but Jed knew what he was doing.
He just didn't understand it. Here Heyes'd had a flesh and blood and willing woman to give him what he needed and from what Jed could tell, he'd turned his back on her, preferring instead to lay in bed alone and tend to that need by himself. It just didn't make sense!

Jed wished that he could go and have a talk with Marion and maybe find out from her what had actually happened but he didn't want to take the chance of running into that sheriff again. There was also a good chance that Marion wouldn't say; being a lady who didn't tend to kiss and tell even if Jed had been the one paying for it.
Jed sighed and glanced over to where his partner lay in the darkness. He seemed to have finished with his business and had actually fallen asleep as Jed could hear a soft snore coming to him from that general direction. Well, good. Hopefully Heyes would sleep through the night and maybe feel better in the morning, especially if he didn't have any more nightmares! Yeah. No more nightmares Heyes, okay? Yeah.

He turned onto his side then and snuggling into the pillows, pulled the blankets up over his shoulders and was soon asleep himself.

......Heyes was laying on the hard floor the infirmary, pressing the padding against the bleeding wound in his side. It hurt like the dickens and he knew that he was losing a lot of blood. He knew he would probably be alright if help got there soon and he hoped that it would cause it would be awfully embarrassing to bleed to death on the floor of his own infirmary!

Then the door opened and he felt a wave of relief wash over him; help had finally arrived. It was Carson, but any port in a storm right now. But then Heyes' relief quickly changed to a shiver of panic when he saw the look in that guard's eyes. 'That fxxxing pxxxk is gonna kill me!' Carson picked up a pillow and came towards him, striking Heyes across the face and then the pillow came down, blocking out the guards snarling face and sending Heyes into a suffocating darkness.....

Heyes awoke with a start. He was covered in a cold sweat and he was shivering. A tingling numbness had taken over his arms and legs and his teeth were quietly chattering with the cold and the fear. His heart was pounding and it took him a few minutes in the darkness to realize where he was. He took a deep calming breath and pulled the blankets more snugly about his shoulders while he tried to give himself time to settle down and get the feeling back in his extremities.

He could hear his partner snoring softly in the other bed and was relieved that he hadn't awakened him with that nightmare. Jed was having a hard enough time understanding what Heyes was going through without have to deal with bad dreams as well. Dammit! Even Heyes couldn't understand what he was going through these days—none of it made any sense!

These dreams were bad enough. He knew they were re-occurring, he just didn't want to admit to them and get everyone all worried about him again. They were silly dreams—it wasn't even him laying on the floor, bleeding to death, it was the Doc! So why was Heyes having these dreams where he was Doc and seeing Carson coming at him. It wasn't even Carson who had killed Doc—it was Boeman—wasn't it? And he hadn't suffocated, he had bled to death—hadn't he?

Heyes sighed. Oh this was ridiculous! He finally gets out of prison and now he's going crazy! What the hell was the matter with him? Marion had felt so good—now there was a woman who really knew her stuff and Heyes had really been getting into it, in more ways than one. And then....and then. He'd felt her tense up. Just a hint, just for a second and then it was gone. But it had been enough and Heyes had felt the resentment, the anger and the antagonism rise up in him and destroy what had been a glorious, passionate experience!

But his passion had died instantly and his anger had taken over and flared out at the very person who was actually trying to give him some pleasure. Even as he'd struck out at her he knew it wasn't her fault, that he shouldn't be behaving like that but he couldn't help it. It was as though he had no control over his body and his mind was just along for the ride.

Then the anger had turned inwards and he was seething at himself for behaving like such an idiot! Then adding to that the frustration of sexual arousal being brought up almost to the peak then abruptly snatched away and denied him—and that by his own doing! Why had he behaved that way? What was the matter with him?

And coming back downstairs and seeing Jed looking at him like that. He had felt embarrassed and ashamed and he knew that it was coming out as anger but he hadn't been able to stop it. Then he knew that he just had to get out of that saloon! What if Marion came down the stairs and saw him there? He just couldn't stand the thought of her looking at him, maybe she was even laughing at him, thinking that it was all a big joke that Hannibal Heyes couldn't even go the distance! His anger and shame took hold of him and he had to get out of there—that poker player bumping into him had simply been the final straw; the minor incident that had pushed him over the edge.

Thank goodness they were leaving in the morning! He wasn't even sure if he could face coming back here and meeting up with Kenny and his family. What if Marion spread the word? What if everyone in town would know then that he'd come up short and they would all be laughing at him? What if she tells Lisa over at the cafe? Oh no! Maybe they should skip breakfast in the morning and just stay in the room until it's time to board the train. Oh, but Jed would never go for that. Jed would insist on having breakfast. Dammit!

Heyes sighed, running his hands over his face and rubbing his eyes. This was silly, try to relax. Prostitutes and waitresses don't mingle. He was imagining things that were likely never going to happen. Just relax! Deep breaths, calm yourself down. Get some sleep. He wished Mouse was there; her purring did a lot to relax him....

Heyes actually did feel better the next morning. His night fears, though not totally washed away by dawn's light, had diminished enough for him to be able to face going out. He still felt scared, and uncertain of his footing but with Jed beside him he was able put on a brave shell and function like a normal human being, at least for now.

Coffee at the cafe had tasted pretty good, and feeling the need for something warm and comforting he had taken the chance and ordered oatmeal. It was so different from what the prison had served up under that heading that it was like experiencing a whole new different level of breakfast. It was rich and wholesome and warming to his soul. It was also very filling and as usual, he was unable to finish it—much to Jed's delight.

Jed himself was in a good mood. As far as he knew Heyes had slept through the night without any problems and appeared to be in fine spirits this morning. The episode of the previous evening was almost forgotten about and easily brushed away as simply being a matter of bad timing. Breakfast was good and gotten through without a hitch. The sun was shining and though it was still a bit chilly, the train ride home looked to be enjoyable and uneventful.

The car they were riding in was only half full so the two friends were able to sit facing each other throughout the whole trip. They were quiet on the most part, just taking comfort in each others company and in their own thoughts. Jed tended to spend much of the time reading the paper since he had done this trip so many times that there was nothing about it that could hold his interest. Heyes on the other hand couldn't seem to get enough of what was passing by him on the other side of the window.

The flat plains rolling by just seemed to hold a new magic for him, especially when they were travelling through familiar territory and old land marks. Heyes would smile and even laugh out loud at certain points along the route and Kid would look out to see what had warranted the reaction, then he would smile too; recalling the incident that had most likely sparked that response.

Three hours into the ride Heyes finally sighed and looked over at his partner; apparently he'd had enough of watching the scenery, at least for now.

“I suppose you've been on this run enough times by now,” Heyes observed by way of opening up conversation. “You probably don't even need to look out the window to know exactly where we are.”

Jed folded the paper and put it down on the seat beside him. “Yeah,” he agreed. “We'll be passing into Colorado in about an hour and then another couple of hours on to Brookswood.”

Heyes smiled and nodded. “I was just thinking about the last time I was on a train,” he confessed. “I was surrounded by badges and manacled hand and foot and secured to the seat.” Jed nodded but didn't say anything. “I was so tired—I hadn't slept in something like thirty-six hours—something like that. I just couldn't sleep. Whenever I closed my eyes I started to re-live what happened.....”

“Yeah,” Jed nodded again. “that was a rough time for both of us.”

“I was scared to death,” Heyes admitted. “Scared about what was going to happen to you. I knew you were still alive at that time, but we had already come close to losing you once there and with infection and the blood loss.....”

“Yeah I know Heyes,” Jed assured him. “but David pulled me through. David and Belle. Jeez, I don't think I would have made it without David.” He smiled with fondness for his friend. “David is an amazing doctor. Humble but amazing. He won't take 'no' for an answer either Heyes. You think I'm stubborn...!”

“Yes, I know. I already figured that out for myself! But still, at that time....” Heyes shrugged. “I didn't know if you were going to make it or not. I was also scared to death over what was going to happen to me,” he confessed, then he sighed and became reflective. “I think sometimes it's better we don't know what the future holds for us. If I had known what prison was going to be like, I think I would have made a run for it. Thrown everything away and run as fast and as far away as I could.” Then he smirked derisively. “So much for the 'great' Hannibal Heyes.”

“Aww, c'mon Heyes—don't be so hard on yourself,” Jed admonished him. “These last five years have been hard on all of us, but we got through it, didn't we?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Shows ya' what you can do when ya' have to.” Jed pointed out. “I sometimes feel the same way I suppose. If I had known how long it was gonna take, I would have thrown everything away too and got ya' outa there—amnesty be damned! But we didn't know and we stuck it out,” then he grinned. “and now we both have a clean slate Heyes! It did take some doin', but we did it! And that's something to be proud of—for both of us!”

Heyes smiled back at his partner. “Yeah, Kid. You're right; it is!” Then his expression turned reflective again as he stared out at the passing landscape. “That night when they were taking me to Cheyenne, I remember there was a young boy with his parents riding in the same car as us. We locked eyes and his expression was fearful, but also curious and filled with awe. I suppose seeing me coming on board like that, shackled hand and foot and surrounded by three lawmen with rifles I must have seemed like some big notorious outlaw to him.”

“Ya' were Heyes!” Kid pointed out with a laugh. “That youngster may not have known who you were at the time, but he knew you were someone special. Ya' probably got his imagination all fired up!”

“Oh, I don't think he needed me for that,” Heyes surmised. “he was doing a pretty good job of imagining all on his own. I hadn't thought about him at all from that day til' this, but at the time he reminded me of me—a little bit.” Another smile. “I hope he's done better for himself than I did, but he looked like he had good folks with him. I suppose he would be about thirteen or fourteen now; just coming in to his own. I wonder where he is.”

Silence settled between them again since Kid didn't feel any expectation of a response. He sat and quietly watched his cousin and wondered at his somewhat melancholy mood. Heyes wasn't right yet, that was for sure. He was having good moments, but his over all demeanour was one of depression and anxiety and Kid just hoped that once he got him home that friends and family and good food would help him to climb out of it.

By the time the train pulled in to Brookswood, dusk was settling and Jed was wondering what their next plan of action should be. Even he was tired from the strain of this particular round trip and just wanted to have some supper and relax over a beer or two rather than attempt the drive home in the gathering gloom. And they still had to pick up Heyes' belongings from David's place.

The decision got made for them as they disembarked from the train when they saw David himself come up to them on the platform. He gave them a genuine smile as he shook both their hands and then looked pointedly at Heyes.

“Welcome home Hannibal,” David greeted him. “How are you doing?”

“I'm good David,” Heyes told him with a smile of his own. “It's good to see you.”

But Jed, who was standing just a smidgin behind Heyes caught David's eye and shook his head. Heyes was not good.

David kept his smile and slapped Heyes on the shoulder. “Good!” he said. “It's good to see you too. C'mon, we figured you'd be tired after the trip and since you were going to be swinging by to pick up your books anyways, Tricia insisted that you stay for supper. You don't want to be driving out to the ranch tonight anyways—it's going to be pitch black soon and it's cold! C'mon!”

And David turned and started to lead the way off the platform and onto the street. Heyes and Kid exchanged glances and with both of them giving a relenting shrug, they picked up their personal luggage and followed their friend towards his residence.

“OH! David...I forgot...” Heyes caught up with his friend, putting a hand on his arm.


“I have to check in with the sheriff,” Heyes informed him, looking a little sheepish. “It probably wouldn't look good if my first night in town I don't follow up on the conditions of my release.”

“Oh yeah!” Jed agreed. “Geesh, I forgot about that too. Yeah, we better do that first David.”

“You two go on ahead,” Heyes suggested. “I'll go check in and catch up with you.”

David smiled. “Hannibal, you don't know where I live.”

Heyes was blank for a moment. “Oh...oh yeah, right.”

“C'mon,” David offered. “we'll all go over to the sheriff's office and that way I can assure him that you will indeed be spending the evening with us. Okay?”

“Yeah....” Heyes seemed hesitant. “Yeah, okay.”

David indicated the direction and he and Jed exchanged another look as Heyes headed over that way. The doctor had seen it then; what Jed had meant. Subtle, but still there; Heyes was not quite right.

Stepping into the light of the sheriff's office, Heyes had the chilling experience of deja vu as he looked over towards the heavy wooden door that separated the main office from the cell block. He remembered only too well the time he had spent in there at the mercy of Sheriff Morrison. A slight knot developed in his stomach but then Sheriff Jacobs greeted them and his attention turned to other matters.

“Well Mr. Heyes,” the sheriff acknowledged him. “I was waiting for you. Glad you made it; it wouldn't have looked too good if you hadn't shown up for your first signing in.”

“I agree Sheriff,” Heyes commented. “Don't want to ruin this before it even gets started.”

“Good. Glad to hear it,” the sheriff headed back over to his desk. “Well, here's the form. Anytime you leave this county and then again, as soon as you get back, you stop by this office and sign this form here. Put the time, the date you're leaving and the date you expect to be back, and over here you state why you are leaving. Understand?”

“Yessir Sheriff,” Heyes agreed, though inside he felt as though he wanted to scream. This was degrading!

Still, with a resigned sigh he picked up the pen, dipped it into the ink and signed his name in the allotted spot, put down the date and then checking the time, he added that information as well. Jacobs turned the form around and checked it over.

“Fine,” he accepted it. “Now that was easy wasn't it?”

“Yessir,” Heyes mumbled.

“You heading out to the Double J tonight?” the lawman asked.

“Oh no Carl,” David piped in. “Hannibal and Jed will be having supper with us this evening and then head out to the ranch in the morning. It's kind of late now.”

“Mmmm Hmm,” commented the sheriff. “Well just don't go getting into any trouble. It took your friend a little while to settle in, I hope we're not going to be having the same problem with you.”

Heyes looked over at Kid who sent him a bit of a sheepish glance. Heyes grinned and then returned his attention to Sheriff Jacobs.

“I'll certainly do my best to not give you any trouble Sheriff.”

“Good! Glad to hear it. Enjoy your supper.”

After that it didn't take long for the three friends to walk the short distance to David's place and the fact that it was chilly and they were walking fast, just helped to get them there all the quicker! Coming in the front door Heyes was instantly hit with the enticing aroma of beef stew and fresh baked bread and suddenly he was feeling very hungry.

“Good evening!” David announced as he closed the door behind his guests. “Here they are, straight from Laramie and ready for supper!”

The tall, brunette woman who was minding the stew at the stove turned with a smile and acknowledged the newcomers.

“Welcome!” she greeted them with a pretty smile and a sparkle in her eyes. Heyes felt an instant smiting for the doctor's wife as he took off his hat and returned her smile. Oh well; at least it was a safe smiting; he wasn't interested in any relationships right now anyways. “Sit down,” she continued. “Coffee's on to warm the soul—or would you fine gentlemen prefer something stronger!?”

“Ahh...” Heyes felt tongue tied.

“I do have some really nice port down in the sitting room,” David offered. “or is dinner about ready?”

“It'll be ready as soon as you want it to be David, or—more likely; as soon as the young master of the house decides to come out and eat.”

“Oh good heavens!” David rolled his eyes. “Is that little monster playing hard to feed again!? Nathan!! Come out, come out wherever you are! We have company!”

This summons was met by a loud, excited giggling from down the hallway, closely followed by the thumping of little feet on the run and then the appearance of a dark tousled head of hair and big brown eyes latching onto his father.

“Papa!” came the rather high pitched greeting. “Beef stew!”

“Yes, we're having beef stew tonight,” the parental figure agreed. “and look who's joining us for dinner.”

“Uncle 'Ed!”

“Hey there Dr. Nat!” Jed greeted him. “Come on over here, someone ya' gotta meet.”

Nathan came over to stand by his 'uncle' and looked enquiringly up into eyes the same colour as his own. Heyes looked down at him with a somewhat shocked expression on his face.

“This is Nathan?” Heyes asked, somewhat incredulously.

“Well yeah,” Jed told him. “Who did you think it was?”

“I donno,” Heyes mumbled. “I guess for a second I thought it was J.J., but then I thought why would J.J. be here and how would he have dark hair? But Jay's older than Nathan isn't he?”

“Yeah,” Jed answered him, matter-of-factly. “by a couple a' years—you know that.”

“Yeah, but...he's so big,” Heyes couldn't believe his eyes. “You mean J.J.'s taller than this?”

Both David and Jed grinned. “Jay comes up to my waist Heyes,” Jed informed him. “They do grow ya' know.”

“Well yeah....but—up to your waist!?”

In the meantime young Nathan was eyeing the new-comer with some interest and was getting a little impatient with the fact that no one was introducing him. He was after all, the young master of the house!

“Hi!” Nathan finally interrupted.

Heyes grinned down at him. “Hello.”

“Who'r you?” came the inquisitive question.

Jed smiled and then made the introductions.

“This is my cousin, Hannibal Heyes,” Jed told him. “Heyes, may I introduce 'Master' Nathaniel Charles Gibson.'

Heyes squatted down to be on eye level with the child and then held out his hand for shaking.

“How do you do?” Heyes greeted him.

Nathan took his hand and shook it. “Han' bul,” was the closest the inexperienced tongue could handle.

Heyes' grin deepened along with his dimples. “You can call me 'Han'.”

Then Heyes stood up as another tall, dark and attractive woman came into the kitchen, trying to brush stray hair out of her face and straighten her skirt at the same time.

“Oh my goodness!” she stated. “I swear that boy is going to run me into the ground yet.” Then she smiled and approaching the doctor, gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Everything go alright?”

“Yes, everything is fine,” David assured her with a quick hug. “Hannibal, I'd like you to meet my wife, Tricia.”

“OH!” Heyes recovered quickly. “Oh....I thought....” and he glanced over at the woman standing by the stove. “I thought she was.....”

“Oh no. Sorry,” David smiled at the confusion. “No, this is Tricia's cousin Miranda.”

“Oh,” Heyes was still grinning and feeling a little uncomfortable with the mistaken identity.

“Yes, how do you do Mr. Heyes?” Randa stepped forward and held out her hand for shaking. “I've certainly heard a lot about you.”

“Oh, yes ma'am. Really?” Heyes was still feeling unusually uncomfortable.

“Hmm,” Randa nodded. “and please, no need to 'ma'am' me. The name's Miranda.”

“Oh, well. You can call me 'Hannibal'.”

Miranda smiled. Heyes hadn't let go of her hand yet. Jed was looking at him in shocked silence for the beat of a second. That was the first time he'd ever heard Heyes tell someone they could call him by his given name. He simply accepted it from those who chose to call him that, but he'd never offered it up as an option before. Finally Jed broke the spell and touched his cousin on the arm.

“Ah, Heyes?”


“You haven't said 'hello' to David's wife yet.”

“OH!” Heyes quickly looked away from Miranda and reached out to shake Tricia's hand. “I'm sorry. It is nice to finally meet you. It's much all at once. It's a little overwhelming.”

“I quite understand, ah—Hannibal? Han?'

“Either one ma'am is fine.”

“Good. And by all means, call me Tricia,” she offered. “after all this time, I feel like we're family anyways! Goodness, between you and Jed I think that's all David's ever talked about or written about in the last five years!”

“Oh. Sorry,” Heyes looked a little uncomfortable again.

Tricia smiled and waved it off. “Well come on everyone! I take it dinner's ready?”

“It's been ready for the last hour!” Randa announced. “Grab a plate! Let's dish it out!”

Heyes locked eyes with her again for an instant. She smiled and blushed—or was that just the heat from the stove? And then she quickly looked away.

Heyes lay on the floor of the infirmary, clutching the painful wound in his side. He'd lost a lot of blood and was hoping that someone would show up soon or he was going to end up bleeding to death. Then finally the door leading from the cell block opened and Carson came in. Heyes felt a rush of relief, but it was instantly replaced by cold fear when he saw the look in that guard's eye.....

Heyes woke up with a start. It was dark except for a small band of light coming in from under the closed door. He was breathing heavily and he was covered in a cold sweat and had to consciously force himself to relax and to calm down his night fears. He didn't at first know where he was, but he could hear his cousin over on the other bed breathing in the slow, relaxed rhythm of sleep so he knew he wasn't still in his cell at the prison. Thank goodness. His biggest fear still was that he was going to wake up and find that the last couple of days had just been a dream and the nightmare was still his life.

He took a deep breath and started to relax and memory of the previous evening began to filter into his waking mind. They were at David's place. They'd put a cot in the guest room and Heyes had insisted on sleeping on it since he was used to sleeping on cots anyways so it wouldn't bother him. Jed could have the bed. His cousin had put in some minor protesting, but Heyes had quickly convinced him otherwise and both men had fallen asleep quickly.

But now here was Heyes, once again awakened in the wee hours by that damned reoccurring dream! What a nuisance! It didn't even make any sense! He rolled over onto his side and pulling the blankets up around his shoulders he settled into the pillows and tried to go back to sleep.

The light coming in under the door was distracting him and then he could hear someone walking around out in the kitchen. Hmm. He used to be able to ignore distractions like that, but not tonight—not after that disturbing dream and the tingling of apprehension that it always left in its wake.

He sighed again. Then he sat up and looked over at the light again. He could smell coffee brewing. He pulled on his socks, and even though he was wearing his long johns he could still feel the early morning chill, so standing up he pulled the blanket off the cot and wrapping it around himself he quietly made his way over to the bedroom door.
He took one more quick look over to Jed, saw that he was still asleep and then quietly opened the door to see who was up and about. Oh, it was David. Heyes felt a rush of relief wash over him and came all the way out then, into the kitchen. He noticed that there were two cups sitting on the table waiting for coffee and he looked around to see if there was anyone else there. No one.

David turned away from the stove, coffee pot in hand and filled up the two cups. Heyes closed the bedroom door behind him and then stood quietly, watching this ritual. He wasn't quite sure what to make of it.

“I was wondering how much longer you were going to be,” David said quietly. “Come on, sit down. Have some coffee.”

“Oh,” Heyes looked confused but moved over to the table anyways, his blanket tucked snugly around him. “How did you know I'd come out?”

David smiled at him. “I got the feeling last night that you wanted to talk, but we couldn't really get any time alone,” he explained. “Kind of hard with a full house. I woke up myself about half an hour ago and figured it was time to put some coffee on. I had it all ready to go, just had to light up the stove.”

“Oh,” Heyes mumbled. He still felt confused but pulled out a chair and sat down anyways. Coffee did sound like a good idea right about now; might settle his nerves.

David sat down as well and took a sip of the hot liquid. “So, how are you?”

“I'm okay.”

“Then why do you want to talk?”

“Who says I want to talk?”

“You,” David stated point blank. “You kept looking at me all evening, which told me loud and clear that you wanted to talk. But as soon as I looked back at you, you broke the contact, which tells me that it's something that you're uncomfortable with; that maybe you're afraid to talk about it. But it's bothering you so you want to talk about it.” Then he smiled a little ironically. “Jed is right about one thing—well actually, he's right about a lot of things, especially where you are concerned. But, the one thing I'm referring to right now is his insistence that he can hear you thinking. I heard you thinking all evening. So, I'm here now. No one else is around. What's on your mind Hannibal?”

Heyes just stared at David for a moment, his mouth open in confusion and surprise. Jed was the only one who was suppose to be able to read him that easily and then Heyes usually knew when he was sending out signals to his cousin. But this! Heyes hadn't even been aware that he'd been sending out an appeal for help, didn't even think that he wanted to talk about it. But then, there was David with the coffee ready, waiting for his friend to acknowledge the need that was there, but was afraid to admit to it.

Heyes took a drink of coffee to buy himself some time and then made a face; it was so strong. But then he gave a mental shrug and decided that now was as good a time as any to step up to the real thing. It was a good distraction and did give him some time to try and collect his thoughts. But it still didn't help him to come up with a way to avoid the main issue. He continued to sit and David waited quietly. He knew it was coming, he could see the words trying to work their way out and he could also see the jaw tightening in a futile effort to keep them down.

Heyes let lose a resentful sigh. This was just as bad as Kenny giving him the eye and if Jed was right about David, then the doctor was going to be just as stubborn as the guard. Heyes groaned and sent a quick look over to the other man. David smiled. Heyes sat back in the chair and loosened the blanket from around his shoulders, the heat from the stove making it warm in the kitchen. Another quick look over to David. David waited.

“Well, I.....” Heyes started but then stalled. Another sigh. “I spent some time with a saloon gal the other day.....”

“Oh yes.”

“Well, I.....I couldn't.....” Heyes stalled again. How in the world do you talk about something like this? Especially to another man? This was embarrassing!

But then David simply nodded. He didn't smile—he certainly didn't laugh! And then he responded casually as though they were simply talking about the weather, or the price of grain—as though it were the most normal thing in the world to be discussing.

“Were you able to get an erection at all?” the doctor asked.

Heyes shot him a look, startled by the blatancy of the question, checking to see if there was any ridicule in those dark eyes, any humour being thinly masked behind a layer of verisimilitude. But all he saw there was honest concern and Heyes relaxed; maybe this wasn't such a taboo topic after all.

“Yes,” he finally answered. “Yes, at first it was fine. It was more than fine. It felt...good.”

David nodded. “Okay. So what happened?'

Heyes looked down at his coffee cup and then took another swallow. “We were moving along really nicely, enjoying each other—you know. And then....then she put her arms around me and I....” He hesitated again; this was still proving to be difficult. He coughed. Another sip of coffee. David waited. “She touched the scars on my back,” it was no more than a whisper. “I felt her tense up—only for an instant and then it was gone, but....I reacted to it. I just....I didn't want to stop but....everything just fell apart then and it was over—I was done. I was so embarrassed but I know it came out as anger and I probably made her feel like it was her fault, that I was blaming her, but I just couldn't stay there and look at her. I just couldn't let her know that it wasn't anything that she had done—not really. I just left.”

He sighed again and took another sip of coffee. On the most part he felt better that he had gotten that out, but he was still scared of it, scared of what David was going to say. He was on edge, tense and the silence weighed on him as he waited for the verdict to come down.

“I wouldn't worry too much about it Hannibal,” David assured him quietly. But Heyes snorted—he wasn't too sure that he believed that. David smiled, just a hint. “I know it's disconcerting, but these past five years have been very difficult for you; you've been through a lot.
“I remember the last time I saw you in the infirmary out there at the prison. I touched those scars then too and you had instantly tensed up. I asked you it they were still hurting you, remember?” Heyes nodded. “You said 'no' and I didn't really think anything more of it—until now. That particular punishment, those particular scars are significant in how you feel about yourself now.”

Heyes frowned. “Why would they be any different than any of the others?”

“Because that punishment was the final straw. That punishment was what drove you over the edge,” David explained. He sat back and considered for a moment, and then continued. “Officer Reece had been very upset about that episode. He said that he saw the instant when you gave up—saw the light die in your eyes. It tore him apart. You had been asking him, pleading with him to help you and he was unable to do so. He did try, you do know that don't you?”

Heyes was looking down at his hands, the memory of that day crushing his heart yet again. He nodded.

“Yeah, I know he tried,” Heyes confirmed quietly. “I owe Kenny a lot.”

“Well, just the fact that you're still alive is a big payback as far as he's concerned,” David assured him. “He confessed quite openly that if you had died in the dark cell, or later by your own hand that he would never have been able to forgive himself. That the memory of that day when he saw your heart and soul being crushed would have haunted him for the rest of his life.”

“I didn't know that,” Heyes commented. “I guess at the time I was only thinking about my own pain and not what my actions might do to those around me.” He snorted a little sardonically. “I thought I was doing Jed a favour; getting out of his way so he could get on with his life.”

“Yes,” David agreed. “that's not uncommon. But you know better than that now. You've passed through it and you need to move on.”

Heyes furrowed his brow and shrugged. He didn't know how.

“Well talking about it is a good start,” David assured him. “You had to develop new skills in that prison. Skills that would keep you alive in there but could now be detrimental to your adjusting to life out here again. In the prison you had to be ready at the drop of a pin to fight for your very life. You were constantly on the defensive, constantly having to watch for any threatening move from the other people around you. It becomes second nature to the point that you're not even aware that you're doing it.”

Suddenly Heyes put a hand over his eyes and he groaned.

“What?” David asked.

“Kid,” Heyes stated, point blank.

“Jed? What about him?”

“I pulled my gun on him.”

“What!?” David was more surprised by this admittance then he had been about the prostitute. “Why?”

“I didn't mean to,” Heyes shook his head, feeling the regret all over again. “He noticed this scar across my throat and he—touched it, trying to get a better look. I just reacted! All of a sudden...well, I wasn't even thinking. I just...suddenly I felt so threatened! And it didn't matter that it was Jed, I just felt like I had to protect myself.”

“What happened?” David asked quietly, having quickly gotten himself over the surprise. “Did he back off?”

“No,” Heyes shook his head. “he just looked me in the eye and assured me that I was fine, and he wasn't going to hurt me. Again, I felt so embarrassed that I would do that to my own cousin, to my best friend! And yet, I was still scared. I couldn't relax. But I forced myself to let him in, to let him take a look, but it wasn't easy; a part of me still wanted to push him away.”

“But you still let him look,” David confirmed. “you still let him in, passed your defences.”

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded.

“Good,” David praised him. “that's good. But the reason that you had problems with the young lady is the same reason you felt that you needed to protect yourself against your cousin.”

Heyes frowned again. That didn't make any sense. David got up and poured them both some more coffee, then settled in again to explain.

“When you and Jed were outlaws and on the run, always watching your backs, you developed what's called the 'flight or fight' instincts. Whenever you found yourselves threatened, as long as you had the option, you would run and the only times you would turn and fight was when you were trapped and had no place to run to. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “we didn't want to get into a shootout with lawmen. It was always preferable to just hightail it outa there.”

David nodded. “But when you were in prison, you had no place to run—ever!” he continued to explain. “So the 'fight or flight' instinct quickly developed into 'fight' only. As I said before; you had to do that in order to survive in there. It has become instinct for you to be constantly on the defensive to the point where your trust in other people—even Jed, has been, well if not destroyed then certainly extremely compromised.
“The sexual act—even with a prostitute, requires a certain amount of trust just as allowing Jed into your personal space requires trust. And you're just not there yet. I think you will get there again, eventually. The fact that you did allow Jed access, even though it was difficult for you, suggests to me that you will heal and you'll be able to build that trust up again.”

“So...” Heyes began a little tentatively. “I should eventually be able with a woman again?”

David smiled. “Certainly,” he assured his friend. “You are still physically capable of the act, that's obvious. It was only when the young woman pushed beyond your defences, entered your personal space and made you feel threatened that you had the bad reaction. Take it slow. Build trust with a young lady first and then just let 'nature' take its course.”

Heyes smiled. “And with Jed?” the question was almost a tease. Kid probably would not appreciate being compared to a prostitute.

David grinned, seeing the joke. “I think your trust with Jed will return a lot faster than you think,” he answered. “There's a very strong bond between you already—that was also made obvious to everyone back at the infirmary that day! You're going to be alright Hannibal. You just need to bring your defences down.”

Heyes laughed a little ironically. “Easier said than done,” he admitted. “I don't even know how to begin.”

“You're surrounded by friends here,” David pointed out. “We'll help you. You're not going to have a choice.”

Considering the fact that Heyes had more than an armful of books and letters and medical journals not to mention sweaters and socks and scarves to take out to the ranch with him, Jed hired a horse and surrey for the final leg of the trip home. The two men sat quietly while Heyes once again looked about him with interest, trying to take in every aspect of the scenery quietly rolling passed them, trying to compare it with his memory of the place from five years ago.

Five years, almost to the day since the two cousins had ridden this road before on their way to meet up with their friends, the Jordan`s. Five years since they had first stepped foot onto that property which had since become Jed`s home and now, hopefully would become Heyes` home as well. At least for a while. Until he found his footing.

The morning had started out chilly but it hadn't taken long for the springtime sun to warm the blue skies and bring warmth down onto the men approaching the end of their destination. Heyes was getting a little anxious and a knot of excited anticipation was slowly developing in his gut. He couldn't remember the lay of the land that well so he didn't really know which bend in the road would bring them to the tree lined, fenced roadway leading into the Double J ranch yard. He strained his eyes forward, trying to see around each bend, trying to get sight of a dark liver chestnut coat shining in the sun.

Jed watched him searching the landscape, knowing exactly who and what he was looking for. The blond man smiled, feeling the anticipation as well and knowing how much his partner had missed that particular mare.

“We're almost there Heyes.”


“Another ten minutes and we'll be home.”

Heyes shifted a little uneasily. Everybody seemed to be able to read his mind these days. It was unsettling. Still, Jed always could do it but Heyes just hadn't realized how obvious he was being.

“Yeah I know,” Heyes mumbled but a slight smile played about his lips all the same.

It seemed a whole lot longer than ten minutes but finally they did come trotting around the last bend in the road and Heyes' heart did a little jump as he recognized the tree lined lane and the pastures laid out before them. He tried not to be too obvious in his searching but he just couldn't help himself and he scanned the approaching pasture for a familiar face.

Jed didn't even bother to ask Heyes if he wanted to stop, he simply pulled on the lines and brought the little harness horse to a halt and applied the brakes. Heyes stepped down from the surrey and went over to lean his elbows along the top railing of the white fence and looked out at the horses that were contentedly grazing out in the field.

Jed wrapped the lines around the brake handle and stepped down to joined his cousin at the fence line.

“Well, there's my gelding, Gov,” Jed mentioned as he pointed out towards the big shady tree that was offering shade for the small group of equines.

Heyes looked him over. “Hmm, fine looking horse Kid. Nice top line, good legs. Kinda flashy though; awful lot of white on him.”

“Ho ho!” Jed laughed at that. “you should talk! Karma may not have much white on her, but you know darn well that she turns heads! Besides, I thought it was time to try something different—don't really need to worry about being invisible anymore.

“I suppose you have a point,” Heyes conceded then he smiled mischievously. “Nice to see that I was able to teach ya' something about horseflesh.”

“Uh huh,” came the cryptic reply. “I know enough about horses on my own Heyes. Besides, given the quality of Jesse's two years olds it would have been pretty hard to pick a bad one. Hmm, let's see. Oh! There's Daisy.”

“Oh she is pretty,” Heyes commented.

“Yup,” Jed agreed. “she and Beth will make a fine pair. Oh, and there's Ned kinda hiding behind Buck.”

Heyes perked up a little bit at the sight of the impressive yearling. “Wow!” he stated, somewhat in awe. “He is nice. No wonder Jesse is so pleased with him.”

“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “he's already acting kinda studdy. I think Jesse's gonna put him out with the bachelor herd for the summer and just let him grow up and learn how to be a stallion before they put him to stand. Probably won't start breeding him until he's a three year old though, but he'll have a lot of learnin' to do before then.”

Heyes smiled over at his cousin. “You're really getting into this animal husbandry stuff, aren't ya?”

Jed grinned. “Yeah, and I even know what that means now, too.”

Heyes laughed and then he saw her. She walked casually out from behind the large tree trunk, looking for that special patch of grass that would strike her fancy at that particular moment of the day. Heyes' heart was suddenly in his throat and he breathed out a gentle smile as his eyes took her in. She was heavier than he remembered her, but he supposed; that shouldn't be too surprising. Two foals and lots of grass would tend to pack on the pounds after all.

Jed smiled over at Heyes, watching him watching his mare. It pleased him to see his cousin so happy, with that sparkle back in his eyes and a smile that competed with the dimples for space on the face.

“Ohh there she is,” Heyes finally breathed. “Isn't she beautiful?”

“Yeah Heyes,” Jed agreed. “yes she is.”

The two men just stood there for a few moments, continuing to watch the mare as she grazed, casually swishing her tail and totally uninterested in the scrutiny being sent her way. Oh she was well aware that the men who were at the fence were watching them. And of course, they must be watching her and if not her than one of her two children. Because of course, her off-spring were just tails and hooves above any other horse, not just in this field, but on the whole ranch. So naturally those humans would be admiring them and, it stands to reason; her too!

Heyes just drank her in, quietly laughing at her stand offish attitude, but the longer they stood there admiring her, the more interested she became in them. She knew of course that the one man was Buck's human. She'd known him for years and wasn't too interested in coming over to say 'hello'; they'd only just been allowed out onto the pasture for their day of grazing so Buck's human wasn't going to be enough incentive for her to come over. If Buck or Gov wanted to well then that was up to them.

But who was that other human with him? Karma continued to graze, trying to remain nonchalant but Heyes noticed that she was angling her head towards them more and more, and her eye was taking him in and the question mark was starting to form. 'Hmm.' Rip, rip. Munch, munch. 'Who was that?'

“Give her a call Heyes,” Jed suggested.

Heyes nodded and then stood up straighter, off the fence. “Karma!” he called out and gave a little whistle.

Karma's head came up and she looked over in their direction. She had blades of grass hanging out of her mouth and she still continued to munch, but her ears were pricked up and she was watching them. 'Hmm. Who was that?' There was something familiar about him but she just couldn't quite put her hoof on it. She finished the grass in her mouth and dropped her head again to continue grazing.

“Karma! Hey!” Heyes called her again, and sent out another, louder whistle.

Karma's head shot up and her ears were trying to stretch up to the sun. She stopped chewing and her nostrils flared as she tried to pick up the scent of that human, but she wasn't getting much. Something was very odd here. Some stirring in her memory and in her heart was telling her that this human as significant, but she just couldn't place it.

Finally she shook her head and with a loud snort, dropped her head to graze again.

Heyes' shoulders slumped a little and he leaned onto the fence railing again. “Aww, she doesn't remember me,” he mumbled, disappointment heavy in his tone.

“No Heyes c'mon,” Jed encouraged him. “give her a chance, she's workin' on it. Wave your hat at her.”


“Yeah c'mon,” Jed insisted. “For some reason that mare was always just as fixated on that hat as you are. Wave it at her—see what she does.”

Heyes took off his black hat and standing up straight again, he called out to her one more time. “Karma! Hey!” He sent out another loud whistle and then waved his hat above his head a few times.

Karma's head shot up once more, her ears looking like they were going to jump right off of her crown. The grass in her mouth was forgotten and the whites in her eyes showed as her nostrils worked overtime trying to get a hint of information.

Then they saw it; a slight quivering that rippled across her hide and her mouth opened and they could just barely make out a deep questioning nicker that caused her whole body to vibrate.

Heyes smiled and waved his hat again. “Karma!”

And then the penny dropped! A loud, high pitched whinny broke the mid-morning silence and with a bunching up of muscles and the flying of turf, the mare dug in her hind quarters and came at a gallop towards the fence—towards her human! She continued to whinny as she came, a joyous greeting coming out with every stride she took, causing the other horses in the pasture to look up and blow in surprise, wondering what that mare was up to now?
Heyes and Kid both took a step back from the fence, thinking for sure that the mare was going to crash right into it but no; she knew better than that. Two strides from the railings, she stiffened all four of her legs and brought her large body to a shuddering, jerking halt. Her nose was in her human's face instantly, licking his nose and snuffling against his scalp and then down into his neck, breathing in his scent and exploring him with her upper lip.

Heyes laughed with delight, but was cringing as well, from her whiskers tickling him. His hand was on her face, stroking her forehead, rubbing her ears and she nearly knocked him over by returning the rub with her whole head and leaning in to him as best she could over the fence railing. Then, quick as a wink she snatched the black hat out of his hand and playfully danced away with it in her mouth.

“Hey!” Heyes laughed at her. “That's my hat! Bring that back!”

But Karma pranced away, her tail high and flying. She bucked and kicked and danced in a circle, nodding her head and swinging the hat on high in playful and joyous antics. The two men couldn't help but laugh as she shook that old hat like a dog would shake its favourite toy. Then she lit out at a full gallop, the hat still clenched between her jaws and made a bee line straight into the small herd of horses who had been watching this display from the comfort of the old tree. The other horses scattered out of her way and then the whole group was on the run.

The little harness horse also started in surprise and was blowing excitedly, thinking that maybe a gallop around the barn yard might be a fun thing to do. Jed quickly went to the animals head to steady it and remind it that it was still attached to the surrey. He stood by the horse's head, quietly stroking it while he continued to watch the antics of the mare as she chased her herd mates around the pasture, bucking and squealing with delight at every turn.

Finally, her energy sapped, (She wasn't a young and flighty maiden anymore after all!) she trotted back over to the fence, blowing with her exertion and nodding her head up and down and back and forth until she was back to her human again. She stopped in front of him and pushed the hat back against his chest, offering to return it to him now that she was done with her theatrical display.

“Oh dear,” was Heyes' only comment as he took the battered piece of felt from the mare's grasp.

Jed had come back to the fence by then and he laughed at the sight of it.

“Well Heyes!” he observed. “looks like you're gonna be needin' a new hat now, whether ya' want one or not!”

Heyes grinned and nodded. “Yeah, I guess so. At least the band is still intact,” then he turned to his mare again, with eyes filled with love and he patted her arched and sweating neck. “Hello Karma, my beautiful girl.”

And Karma leaned her head into his chest and left it there and Heyes closed his eyes and embraced her in a head hug. “My beautiful girl.”

Twenty minutes later, the two men brought the horse and surrey into the yard and Sam, who had been waiting for them, came out of the barn to hold the horse's head.

“Morning,” he greeted them. “how was your trip?”

“Hello Sam, good to see you,” Heyes smiled, and stepping out of the surrey, he approached the young man. “I believe I owe you a handshake.”

And he offered his hand to a grinning Sam, who took it enthusiastically and gave it a hardy shake.

“The trip was fine,” Heyes answered his question. “How are the youngsters settling in?”

“Fine Mr. Heyes,” Sam beamed. “Just fine. Best thing we ever did.”

“Good. Glad to hear it.”

“Yessir,” Then Sam took hold of the horse's bridle and started to lead him forward. “I'll just get this fellow unharness and settled in for the day. I have to go into town later so I'll return him to the livery then.”

“That's fine Sam,” Jed answered him. “Thank you.”

“Oh my goodness!” Heyes exclaimed as he saw the blond headed youngster coming out of the barn, looking very curious. “Don't tell me that's J.J.!”

“Yup!” Jed laughed. “In the flesh. Come on over, little man. Someone here I want ya' ta' meet.”

Jay looked a little shy, but curiosity took presidence and he came over to his Uncle Jed. He leaned into and kinda, sorta hid behind Jed's leg, but he still looked out at this stranger who stood before him and wondered if this was the man whom all the fuss had been about. He didn't look like much. Jed put an encouraging hand on Jay's shoulder and brought him forward a little bit.

“J.J., I'd like you to meet my cousin, Hannibal Heyes,” Jed repeated the introduction again. “Heyes, this is Jesse Jordan Jr.”

Again Heyes squatted down to be on eye level with the little person, though not quite as far down as the previous introduction. His dark brown eyes were incredulous, but then he smiled and held out his hand for shaking. J.J. looked up at Jed who sent a quick nod down to him and then he smiled and extended his own little hand for a shake.

“Hello,” Heyes greeted him. “I can't believe it. My goodness, the last time I saw you, you were a babe in arms.”

J.J. giggled. “I'm not a baby!!”

“No you're sure not,” Heyes agreed. “You're a fine young man. Jed tells me that you're already riding ole' Buck there, all by yourself.”

J.J. puffed up with pride and he grinned from ear to ear. “YEAH! I ride all the time. I help out with the calves!”

“You do!?” Heyes exclaimed. “Right out there doing a man's job!”


“J.J.!” Sam called from the barn door. “Come and help me rub down this horse.”

“Okay!” came the quick response and he sent Heyes a quick wave. “Bye!”

“Bye,” Heyes returned it as he stood up again. “I'll see you later.”

Then he looked into Jed's eyes and shook his head. “I can't believe it,” he practically whispered. “They grow up so fast.”

“Yeah, they've been known to do that.”


Both men turned at the sound of the beckoning and Heyes once again felt his heart jump up into his throat when he saw Belle coming down the porch steps, towards him. She was wiping her hands on her apron and her face was alight with pleasure at seeing her dear friend. She didn't let her surprise at his appearance show through as she had been warned enough times by others who had seen him that he was far from the man he used to be. But she still saw the man whom she'd known for so long and she just smiled, her expression beaming as she ran across the yard towards him.

Heyes was grinning like a fool. This wonderful woman—this dear friend. He had missed her so much. His throat tightened up on him and he knew that he dare not talk, that he could not talk. And then she was there and she had her arms around him and he felt his walls come crumbling down for her as he melted into her motherly embrace.
She held him tight as she would her own long lost son and she felt him tremble and she caressed him and he held on to her as he would a life line in the desert.

“Oh Joshua,” she whispered, her voice a gentle breath against his ear. “Joshua, welcome home.”

And then Hannibal Heyes, ex-outlaw, ex-convict, did something he thought he would never be able to do again; he cried.


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PostSubject: Re: The Way Back Chapter thirty-four   The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptySun Mar 23, 2014 9:38 am

Whew!  I got there at last.  I hadn't meant to read for so long but I was hooked.  You rewarded me royally with a wonderful story.  Heyes is thoroughly damaged and still has a long way to go.  There was a sense of anti-climax which is often how it goes when you have waited from so long for something.  The reunion with Karma was so touching and he could really be himself with an animal who wanted nothing from him other than to welcome him home.  Heyes has been completely changed by his experiences.  He is less arrogant but once he recovers from his emotional and physical wounds he will be a greater man.  Bravo, Keays.  A wonderful stiry!
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PostSubject: Re: The Way Back Chapter thirty-four   The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptySun Mar 23, 2014 11:00 am

You made it! Congratulations! I'm glad you enjoyed the ride and Ghosts must make a whole lot more sense now. Thank you for being so consistent with your comments. Those really help a lot, even though the story for me is done and we're moving on. Always nice to have people continuing to read and enjoy it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Way Back Chapter thirty-four   The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptyTue Jul 29, 2014 1:05 pm

Oh God, Keays. What have you done to me? You did not only put the boys through the wringer, especially Heyes, but me, as an emotional reader, too. I think I went through 2 or 3 packs of tissues. And it took me more than a day to recover. But please take this as a form of compliment for your story and your writing. You did not only touch this reader but knocked her down repeatedly only to lift her up again.
I had planned to give you comments on each chapter, but you gripped me so much that I simply could not stop before devouring the next chapter and the next (I think you get the idea).

I hated the idea of the boys being split up and Heyes having to go to prison, especially one where he is at the mercy of a corrupt warden and sadistic guards. The stages and emotions he went through were very believable and comprehensible: stunned, fighting back, angry, depressed, trying to make the best of his situation, sometimes hopeful, sometimes resentful, and then in the end utterly broken and destroyed, fearful, suicidal and so many more in between.
It was heartbreaking but very believable that when he was paroled, he could not really deal with it, had lost everything that made him Heyes. I can only hope that he will be able to heal at least some of the damage (physical, mental, emotional), but I doubt he will ever be the man he was before and I am not so sure that is a good thing. I thought he was pretty good to begin with - at least in the series, he was always the one to resist temptation, accept the occasional defeat, walk away from situations where he could not win. Unlike the Kid who had more of a temper, did not draw such a clear line between lawful and criminal and was not above seeking pure revenge and kill.
After what you showed the Kid went through after his pardon I hope that, given time, Heyes will recover enough to be able to function again in society.
With Jed moving on, getting married in the near future, the partnership as it was is clearly over. They can remain friends, but at least the Kid now has someone more important in his live. And that is something that makes me very sad, because their closeness, their chemistry, their devotion to each other was what I most loved about the series (apart from the humour). I could not help feeling a little betrayed by the Kid and resentful towards Beth.

You created some great new characters, especially Morrison and Kenny. Morrison I hated with a vengeance, so much so that I loudly cheered Wheat on (I hope my neighbours were not in the garden at the time, since I had the sliding door to my garden open). And Kenny really grew on me. From being harsh if necessary, but trying to be fair/just to becoming a true friend to Jed and protecting Heyes as much as he can. Great development.
I agree wholeheartedly with Gringa that the reunion with Karma was special. I did not like the way she seemed to replace Heyes with Beth (more resentment on my part), even going as far as risking her life for her, but once she recognised her human it was pure joy, love and welcoming. This scene brought some healing not only for Heyes, but for me as well (even though it cost me several more tissues and eyes and nose were kinda red).

I better stop my gushing here. Would you still like comments on each chapter? I will try once I go through it again. But it might take a while since I have to find out first what happens next. You definitely have a new fan.

"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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PostSubject: Re: The Way Back Chapter thirty-four   The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptyTue Jul 29, 2014 1:16 pm

Hi Stepha3nie. I'm glad you enjoyed that. You might like to know that the story continues with Ghosts and is posted on the Stories and Keays and Sarah Whyment thread. The link is below
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PostSubject: Re: The Way Back Chapter thirty-four   The Way Back   Chapter thirty-four EmptyTue Jul 29, 2014 4:02 pm

Then part three, 'The Lineage' written by myself and InsideOutlaw. I hope you enjoy them as much as you did 'Twist of Fate'.

Thank you so much for your in depth review. Writing it was a healing process for me as I have known more than one person who ended up committing suicide and I really felt the drive to explore what it is and how bad things have to get to drive a person to believe that suicide is their only way out.

Believe me; some of the things I put poor Heyes through were just as difficult for me to write as it was for others to read. But I knew I had to put him through it in order to get to where the story needed to go.

It's nice to get comments after each chapter, but if you're caught up in the reading of it and don't want to break away that's fine too. A glowing review like this at the end is very nice to receive, so whatever you're comfortable with. Though perhaps on your second time through you won't be so 'on the edge of your seat' and may not mind commenting. Still, that is totally up to you.

Be thankful you started reading this after the story was all written. I was getting on average, two chapters a month posted, but it still took me a year and half to get TOF completed. So my readers then had to wait two weeks between chapters!

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