The Train Hopper
'How bad's he hurt doc?'
The tall, gaunt man looked down his hawk-like nose at the slumbering patient.
'Arm's broke pretty bad. I've set it best I can, but he'll be out for at least twelve hours, he's drugged up to the eyeballs.'
The sheriff nodded sagely and shrugged.
'We'll leave him here for now then, but I'll make sure that there's a deputy about and another on the door. If he's really Hannibal Heyes we need to be on the lookout for Kid Curry tryin' to spring him. They're real loyal to one another..... known for it.'
The doctor regarded the broken body with cynicism.
'He don't look like much. How sure is old Dobbs about this?'
'He was a conductor on the trains before he took to the drink and was held up by them twice.... but I'm sure enough to hold on to him. He's about the right height, dark hair and dark eyes. Hard to say much more with him bein' so badly beat up and all.'
'But what about the moustache?'
The sheriff gave a snort of derision.
'They've been lyin' low for about ten years now... it don't need a medical degree to know that's enough time for a full grown man to grow a moustache.'
'Ten years? Ain't the statue of limitations run out on them by now? They never killed no one.'
The sheriff shook his head.
'Wyoming ain't got no statute of limitations. It's the only state in the union where you could steal a candy bar as a kid and still be wanted for it when you were in your nineties.'
'That just don't seem fair, Bob.'
'The law's the law, doc and it's my job to uphold it,' he paused and smiled at the friendly man who walked in to the surgery and placed a stiff leather briefcase on the doctor's desk beside the ornate oil lamp. 'And here's the man who'll make sure that there's hell to pay if I don't do it right.'
'What we got here, then Bob?'
'Hannibal Heyes,' he paused to take in the look of shock that flickered through the lawyer's dark eyes. 'Or at least old Dobbs says he is.'
A huge grin spread over the lawyer’s face as a chuckle danced between the words that slipped from his laughing lips.
'Another one? This is the third in the last two years. Just how'd the poor soul get in this state?'
'Tryin' to hop a train. He weighs about a hundred and sixty pounds, the train weighs about eighteen hundred tons. One slip and well..., you're the one with the calculating' brain.'
'Where is Dobbs?' asked the lawyer with a cynical flick of his eyebrow.
'Dead drunk... just like he usually is when he makes these accusations. He's holding' court with a crowd of city slickers in the saloon with stories about bein' robbed.'
The lawyer gave a laugh of derision. 'And they're footing' the bill I suppose?'
'Yup... like feeding' strawberries to a donkey, they're eaten' out of his hand, desperate to hear tales of derrin' do like the dime novels.'
The lawyer nodded and folded his arms. 'This man doesn't need a lawyer. He needs medical attention. I've got no doubt at all that this man isn't Hannibal Heyes any more than I am, hard to tell with his face beat up the way it is though. Has he got any identification?'
'Bank book, in the name of Smith.' replied the sheriff. 'No address, no contacts. By the look of the clothes I'd say he's been living' rough for a while. But this one's different, Tad. There's somethin' that don't add up. Look at this boots; too new and they don't go with the beat up clothes, they're real expensive, so’s his gun. I'm holding' this one and I'm going to keep him until I know who he is. He's going to need a lawyer.'
The lawyer shook his head and threw a regretful look at the sheriff. 'It won't be me. I'm heading off in the morning. My sister's ill again and I got to see her. Get the Bulitude brothers, they can take the case.'
The doctor sucked in a breath of sympathy. As a fellow professional, he had spent many hours in the company of this charming, educated, erudite man and knew how inordinately fond he was of his twin sister. He had hoped questions he had answered about her ailing kidneys to help put his mind at ease; they were sluggish was all. There were episodes where she needed support and the comfort of family and this was clearly one of those times.
'I guess that's what I'll do then, Tad. Give her our love. She sure stole all our hearts when she visited. A real little firecracker.'
The lawyer smiled. 'I will. I think she was real fond of your son Bob... real fond.'
'Yeah... but I think she's really got eyes for that investigator of yours.'
The lawyer laughed softly. 'Ohhh, there's nothing in that. They were sweethearts at school, that's all. It’d be good to see her settled,' he strode over to the desk and picked up his briefcase before heading to the door. 'Well, I'm off and I'll see you all in a few weeks. I haven't got a doubt in my mind that this man will be gone by the time I get back, without answering to any warrants or charges.'
'You sound pretty sure of yourself!' snorted the sheriff.
The lawyer's eyes glittered with mischief.
'You want to put your money where your mouth is, Bob? Fifty dollars says he walks... a free man, no charges, no warrants.'
The sheriff folded his arms and gave the lawyer a sardonic stare of scrutiny.
'Deal. Fifty dollars. Every instinct tells me there's something wrong here. Even if he ain't Hannibal Heyes he's not your average bum hoppin' trains. I got twenty three years of experience in this profession and I can tell when somethin' ain't right.'
'Well.... you could be right about that, but the bet's that there are no warrant and that he's not wanted. You're a witness doc.'
The doctor dropped his bald head and laughed. 'You two and your bets. Fine; I'm a witness.'
The lawyer grinned and tipped the brim of his hat. 'Goodnight... and keep your guard up. I think I saw Kid Curry loitering just outside when I came in.'
He strolled into the night air, refreshing and cool after the oppressive heat of the day, and walked up to his old friend and investigator who was leaning on a hitching post observing the comings and goings of the cosy, mundane, little town which had become their home.
'Well?' a pair of deep blue eyes scrutinised the dark haired lawyer who approached him.
'Another Hannibal Heyes.'
'Old Dobbs again?'
'Sure is. He'll tell his Devil's Hole Gang stories to anyone who'll listen.'
The blond investigator chuckled soflty. 'As long as they'll buy him a drink,' he turned his head to check whether or not there was anyone nearby before he dropped his voice to a whisper. 'Near gave me heart attack when he started tellin' folks he'd been held up by Heyes and Curry when were in the bar that night.'
'Yup, didn't take me long to suss out that he'd never seen either of us in his life... the old liar!'
'I really hope that he stops this soon, Heyes. I like it here and I could do without him reminding folks about Heyes and Curry all the time.'
'Me too. We've managed to squelch it up to now but this one's gonna attract people who know what we look like into town. The sheriff's taking it seriously. It'll take a good while before anyone can travel this far north so I guess it's time we visited 'my sister' again until things cool off.'
'Clem?' grinned the Kid.
'Yup, I'll send her a telegram to meet us in Canada. Hopefully no one'll listen to him for a fourth time.... especially not after this.'
'Guess we better go pack.'
'We catch the first train in the morning, Kid,' a glittering grin dimpled his face as they walked into the night. 'Right after you send a telegram.'
'Yup. He's pretty beat up but he's still clearly recognisable to anyone who knows him,' Heyes replied. 'I guess he's working undercover or got thrown off a train by someone he was following, but the Bannerman Agency need to know that an injured Harry Briscoe is in Washington State.'