Revised chapter. This chapter includes a bonus. I can’t explain, but somehow I wrote but failed to post or maybe early on unintentionally deleted a chapter in this story. It is included in the center of this slightly revised chapter.
The next morning, Heyes woke with the sun. He smiled at Jim for the first time since his first day there. His roommate at once knew that something had happened. He knew about the trip to the police station - that rumor could hardly be scotched. But Jim couldn't for the life of him figure out why Joshua Smith was so transformed by this experience. Jim and Heyes walked together to the clinic that morning as they intended to every morning thereafter. Heyes set an eager, long-strided pace the young New Yorker had a hard time matching.
Heyes greeted Polly the receptionist with a bright smile and a wink, which took her totally aback. What had happened to the morose, late-rising Mr. Smith? Dr. Leutze smiled gladly to see his new patient arriving on time, rested and ready for work for the first time. Heyes and the doctor started to work on a different word, or rather words, than they had tried before. It took hours, but, with Dr. Leutze's gentle, persistent guidance, at last things began to turn. Perhaps it helped that the words they worked on were the very words Heyes wanted the most to say. He had been longing to say these words to many people ever since he had woken up in Christy's place and realized how much help his friends were giving him and how vital it was for him. Heyes said his new two-word phrase to the doctor in a voice shaking with emotion, "Thank you!"
Heyes had never meant any words so much in all his life. He just wished he could have had those same words available when he had parted from the Kid and Cat weeks before.
That evening, Heyes went back to his room and used his new words on his long-suffering roommate. And then took Jim out to dinner. Jim had no idea of what had happened to his roommate, but he knew whatever it was, was good. He was nearly as grateful as Heyes was, to have his friend finally relaxed and reasonably happy.
After his visit to the police station, Heyes' progress at the clinic improved day by day. He got down "no" (since he already had "yes"), "good-bye," (he already had "hello"), "please," and "help" during a single week. As more nights went by without any return of Heyes' screaming night mares, the westerner relaxed more each day. Life still wasn't easy, with only a few isolated words at his command. The vast majority of what Heyes wanted to say and do was still denied him, but at least he could make progress. The log jam had broken.
Polly at the clinic was delighted that the handsome Mr. Smith actually started to arrive at the clinic on time every morning, with a smile on his face and often whistling cheerfully as he came in. No one except Dr. Leutze knew what had worked the transformation in Joshua Smith, and he wasn't saying. But Elizabeth Warren, the tutor, one day as Mr. Smith was leaving Dr. Leutze's office, heard the doctor whisper a familiar Bible verse under his breath, "The truth shall set you free."
One morning soon after he had begun to make progress, Joshua was finishing a productive session with Dr. Leutze. The doctor leaned toward Heyes and dropped his voice to a low whisper. “Heyes, I have an important question for you. Would you like to write to your partner and tell him that you’ve told me your real name?”
Heyes looked at his doctor, his eyes darting back and forth with nervousness. His lips parted, but he couldn’t let say what he needed to say.
Dr. Leutze understood his concern. “Don’t you think we should do it? Careful as we are, something could slip – someone could be standing outside the door right now listening. I’d swear that they aren’t but they could be. We could put your partner and his girlfriend in danger. When you gave yourself away to me, you gave them away as well.” Heyes nodded slowly in understanding. Then he looked up and nodded more decidedly. Alright, the doctor could write to the Kid. But Heyes still looked very tense.
Leutze tried to think what could be causing his patient further worry. It came to him, “I’ll be careful, Heyes. I know that mail can be read by persons to whom it is not addressed. I’ll write it and you let me know if you think it’s giving away too much – alright?”
Heyes nodded. But he stayed a bit nervous as the letter was written and sent. He waited anxious for the Kid’s reply. How mad would his partner be?
Soon, a second arrived in Louisville from the Leutze clinic.
Dear Mr. Thaddeus Jones and Miss Catherine Christy-
I write with far better news than my last letter contained. Joshua Smith is at last making progress in his therapy. He is gradually adding new words to his vocabulary. At this difficult early stage, he is still restricted to single words and he will rarely say anything to a stranger, but the ability to communicate even a little is a vast relief to him.
His roommate tells me that Mr. Smith is sleeping much better. He is beginning to adjust to life in New York, but he certainly still misses his friends. I hope that you will write to him regularly. Your letters mean more to him that he will ever admit to you.
I must tell you that one of the reasons Mr. Smith is so much improved is that he was relieved to share a very important fact with me. He and I both realize that this was a fact you would prefer that I did not know, but he felt that he could no longer hide it from me. He did not wish to put me and my staff in danger. But, of course, he did not wish to put you both in any danger. Please accept my assurances that I will do nothing to put you in harm’s way. As I told Mr. Smith, I told an oath that states that I should do no harm. I give my word that I will do no harm to you nor allow anyone else to do so. I hope that you are not too angry with your friend. He was simply unable to go on with his work without communicating the truth to me. I have told no one else and I will not do so. However, we cannot keep the truth from you any more than he could keep the truth from me. Please write very soon and re-assure your friend Smith – he is very uneasy as he awaits word from you.
I hope that all is well with you in Colorado.
Dr. Samuel Leutze.
The Kid was, at first, furious “I told him not to do that! He wanted to tell the doctor before he left – or to have me tell him. I refused.”
But Cat calmed him. “Heyes had to tell the truth! Can’t you understand how important it must have been to him, to make sure that the doctor understood what danger Heyes might be putting him in? Your partner is a good man. He had to do it. And the doctor is a good man, too. He won’t turn you in. You know he won’t.”
“Alright, alright,” said the Kid. “I won’t take his head off through the mail. But I wish to God he had warned me, asked my permission!”
“And how, exactly,” asked Cat, “could he have done that?”
Cat and the Kid began to write to Heyes every week, expensive as that was. If it made any difference at all to their distant friend, it was well worth it. Dr. Leutze’s next letter told of more excellent progress, and also contained evidence of it in an enclosed note. The Kid and Cat could hardly bear to read the brief message, whose very form spoke of Heyes’ agony even as he improved. It was printed in pencil in labored, staggering block capital letters that looked as though they had been not so much written as roughly drawn, with lots of erasures.
“DEAR T & C
I AM WORKING HARD. I MISS YOU.
“Poor Heyes!” said Cat. “Poor, dear man. I wish I could put a hug in an envelope and send it to him!”
The Kid saw that even this pitiful note was evidence that Heyes was recovering from his injury, but it sure looked as if it was going to be an awful hard slog before he was anything like back to normal. It probably would take years, as it evidently had for Heyes’ roommate. The Kid wondered what would happen to his partner, and himself, in the meantime. They were both terribly vulnerable. The doctor’s letter had just reminded him of that all over again. And the Kid’s and Heyes’ vulnerability made Cat vulnerable, too. The Kid tried to live just as Mr. Jones of Christy’s place, but he remained watchful. He was grateful for every day he had with Cat.
The very afternoon that Heyes’ note came, the Kid was meditatively polishing glasses at the end of the bar at Christy’s place. He saw a short, scruffy man with a handlebar mustache saunter into the place and look around curiously, surveying every face. The place was pretty full and it took a while to every face. Before the little man’s gaze could travel down the bar to where Curry was, the Kid turned and went through the nearby door into the back room. He was glad to find Cat there. He whispered to her urgently, “Go get my saddle bags from upstairs, but wrap them in something so nobody can see what they are. Make ‘em look like laundry or something. Do it fast. The new guy at the bar, the guy with the big mustache, is a bounty hunter. I don’t know if he’ll recognize me, but I wouldn’t bet against it. I’ll get Blackie and be waiting in the alley for you. Come fast and quiet and don’t look nervous.”
“Where will you go?” Cat asked in an anxious whisper. “Don’t just vanish! Don’t you dare!”
Kid swiftly whispered back, checking his pistol and putting on his coat “Don’t worry, honey. I’ll head up to Porterville and stay with Lom for a few days. I’ll ride to Boulder and take the train from there. Wire me in our code when the guy clears off. His name is Duane Lawson – just use his initials.”
Within a few minutes, the Kid had kissed Cat good-bye and ridden off with the saddle bags he always kept packed for this very reason. He didn’t go too fast until he got out of town, since he didn’t want to attract attention. So far as he knew, Lawson hadn’t seen him and had no reason to be suspicious. But Curry couldn’t take chances. Once out of town, the Kid spurred his horse into a lope on a narrow mountain path to put a couple of fast miles behind him. He kept checking behind him and looking around, watching out for ambushes. Bounty hunters didn’t always work alone.
Soon the path that went his way ended and the Kid rode through the snowy mountain woods, his horse slowly breaking his way. This trip seemed both familiar and terribly strange. Curry couldn’t count the number of times he had ridden out of town fleeing a bounty hunter or sheriff or posse. But for years before, Heyes had almost always been at his side. Now, the Kid had to watch his own back. It made him even more tense and jumpy than usual. When a hawk screamed nearby, the Curry shied like a frightened horse. Blackie was much calmer than he was!
After he had covered several miles and wasn’t far from Boulder, the Kid heard a sudden warning. A gun sounded nearby in the woods and the bullet flew just over his head as Curry ducked barely in time. “Thanks, Heyes!” whispered the Kid automatically. Then he remembered that he was all alone – Heyes was thousands of miles away. It must have been his own instinct warning him. The Kid peered through the snowy rocks and trees, trying to figure out where the shot had come from. It sounded like rifle fire. It couldn’t be that bounty hunter, could it? Or some other bounty hunter or a fellow outlaw? Who would be shooting at the Kid? Curry could hear someone walking farther down the slope of the mountain side he was on. Then another shot rang out. The Kid was startled, but he had too much experience with armed pursuit for this to throw him. He urged his horse along faster. But he didn’t dare go faster than a trot in the rough mountain going.
A young voice shouted, “Hey, who’s there?” Someone was pursuing the Kid! Curry urged Blackie faster despite the danger. The voice came again, “Hey, slow down there, your horse won’t make it in this snow! Why didn’t you give me a shout, I might have killed you when it was an elk I was after!”
Was it a trap? Was someone just trying to get the Kid to come out and get shot? The Kid started to panic, but then he thought, “What would Heyes do? He’d figure the odds. What are the odds that it’s some guy hunting elk and what are the odds that it’s a sheriff or someone else who’d know who I really am? Which are there more of out here? Hunters – there’s an awful lot more hunters.”
Curry shouted after the young hunter, “Sorry! You startled me so I didn’t even think to shout. Here I come – hold your fire!” He and Blackie emerged from the trees into the open.
A young blonde hunter who looked kind of familiar greeted the Kid and even recognized him. “Say, it’s Mr. Jones from Christy’s Place! I’m glad I didn’t hit you. Maybe you don’t remember me, but I was in Christy’s a month ago – I’m Charlie Bierstadt from Abilene! Glad to see you’re alright.” The Kid was glad, too.
Within the hour, the Kid was in Boulder, safe and sound. After he had stabled his horse and before he took the train, the Kid wired Lom Trevors that he was coming. So when he got into Porterville, Lom was waiting at the station for him. Seeing no one around, the Kid’s sheriff friend shook the ex-outlaw’s hand. “Welcome to town, Kid! Strange to see you without Joshua.” Seeing a local rancher approaching, Lom had instantly switched to using his friends’ aliases that he had given them himself two years before.
Trevors dropped into his office and got his deputy to watch the place so he could be free to take the Kid to his own place and get him settled in. As they got in the door of the cabin just outside town, Trevors turned to the Kid. “I’m glad you got here safe. The Teasdale gang was through yesterday and I didn’t know if they was all cleared out or not.”
“Glad to miss those critters!” exclaimed the Kid as he took his coat off and parked his saddle bag on Lom’s sofa, where he would be sleeping. “Heyes and I never much took to them, you might say.”
“I sure as hell hope not!” exclaimed Lom. The Teasdales, at odds with their refined name, ran one of the roughest gangs in Wyoming. Where Heyes and the Kid avoided killing at all costs, the Teasdales seemed to revel in it.
Once he had gotten some hot coffee and some beans for the Kid and himself, Trevors settled in to catch up on the news from his long-time friend. At first, they talked about Louisville, shying away from the subject that was most on both of their minds.
Lom looked appraisingly at the Kid. “So, what’s this lady Cat like, Kid? Seems you’re right smitten with her. She feeds you well, anyway.”
The Kid chuckled. “Yeah, she’s a right good little cook. And she serves a fine whiskey, too. She’s as pretty as a picture and not more than 25, so what she wants with an old man like me, I don’t rightly understand.”
Trevors winced – he was at least ten years older than the Kid and hadn’t ever settled down with a woman for more than a few months at a time. “You told her yet?”
The Kid nodded, “Yeah, Lom, I told her. She kind of figured it out on her own, anyway. She’s a smart lady. Don’t really need me to help run that place – just puts up with me.”
“Yeah, you and that fast gun hand of yours.” Trevors chuckled, “You must be real handy to have around the place. Like when anybody tries to make trouble. Why do I suspect she way more than puts up with you? You wouldn’t still be there if she didn’t make you feel awful welcome.”
The Kid blushed happily. “Yeah, she’s made feel like I got a home at last. You got to come meet her some time, Lom, when you can get time off.”
“And what about Heyes?” asked Trevors over a sip of hot coffee, trying to sound casual.
The Kid shook his head worriedly, “That bullet in the head almost killed him, Lom, but not bein’ able to talk – and not understandin’ English when he first woke up – that almost killed him worse. He understood again in a few days, but talkin’, that’s another thing.”
Trevors looked shocked to hear this, “Christ, Kid! You didn’t tell me about him not understanding. But your telegram said a doctor’s helping him?”
Curry nodded, “Yeah, Doc Leutze taught him a word or two in Louisville – took days and days and almost did him in all over again. And then he took him back to New York City with him on the train. Heyes is doing better, but just getting’ back a word at a time. Think how long that’s going to take to get him back to normal! He knows, knew, more words than I ever could count. Liked to use ‘em, too.” The Kid sighed. “You told the governor ‘bout this?”
Trevors looked thoughtful. “Nah. Didn’t know that Heyes would want me to. What do you think?”
Curry shook his head, but then thought about it a minute, “You don’t suppose the governor might give in and give us that amnesty, out of, well, pity, do you?”
Lom shook his head, “Pity? It’s that bad? No, he ain’t the pitying type. Nope. What’s Heyes like, silent? I just can’t picture it. Is he pitiful?”
The Kid took a breath and tried to describe his partner. “Yeah, Lom. Mostly, his eyes are all dull like a deer after you put a bullet in it and it’s ready to die. And he stays away from people – can’t stand to be pitied. He’s doin’ better, even wrote us a little note, looked worse than a first grade kid would do. But the doc says he’s sleepin’ anyway, which he wasn’t right off. Guess he was worried about somebody catchin’ on to him, there all alone. I tell you what bothers at me, too. When he was boy he always used to want to go to New York, where all the books and magazines came from. Always on about New York City and how he’d go there and be a big success at something. It was a different thing every week that he wanted to do there, but always somethin’, you know. Now he’s there and he can’t hardly say “boo” to nobody. That’s got to about drive him up the wall.”
“Don’t you worry, Kid.” Trevors tried to sound encouraging, “Heyes is a tough guy, you’ll see. He’ll come through this just fine. Maybe better than before. You know, in the army they said you got to break a man first before you can make a man. Maybe this is his chance to get made again, honest this time.” Curry looked kind of quizzical about that, but it kept running around in his head. What might Heyes be like, remade – remade so far away? The Kid already had evidence of Heyes’ getting more honest all the time – and it didn’t make his partner any too happy.
Lom went back to his office after that, shaken by what he had heard. Even if he could get amnesty for his old friends, for Heyes it might be too late to do much good. Or maybe it would be just in time to do the most good. He went back to his place that night with a bottle of whiskey. He and the Kid finished it between them.
The next day the Kid, with a sore head, got up very late. Lom brought him a telegram from Cat. The bounty hunter was gone. Trevors was just as glad to let his old friend take the train back south. Curry hadn’t exactly brought the sunniest news and disposition with him to Wyoming.
The following week, when Lom next saw Kyle from the Devil’s Hole gang, he somehow failed to mention what had happened to Heyes. He said he hadn’t heard word from the Kid and Heyes in a longish while.
The following week, Heyes started to work with a nice elderly doctor, Doctor Judah Goldstein, rather than always with Dr. Leutze. The bearded, grey haired Goldstein had sparkling brown eyes behind his wire-rimmed glasses. He greeted Heyes warmly that first day. “Welcome, Mr. Smith. Maybe you can teach me as much as I teach you – I’ve never been West of New Jersey.”
Heyes smiled but uneasily. It was strange to work in this intense, intimate way with someone new. Dr. Goldstein was demanding, but when Heyes was struggling with verbs and pronouns, the doctor would find a way to relieve his patient’s anxiety. Knowing that Smith lived in the teaming slums of Hester Street, surrounded by eastern European Yiddish-speaking Jews, he exclaimed, “Oh vey, Schmidt, if English doesn’t work for you today, try Yiddish.”
Heyes thought about it for a moment. He had been listening carefully to conversations between his roommate and their neighbors. Maybe trying a bit on a new language would help him to get back his old one. “Je,” said Heyes with a nod and a self-conscious grin. The difference between the English and the Yiddish was audible.
“What? He knows already how to say yes in Yiddish, this quick fellow!” laughed Goldstein. “Now, back to English with you, Smith.”
And back to English it was, but with less tension. With Dr. Goldstein, Heyes started on simple pronouns and verbs like "I am, you are, I do, you do." And he made quick progress. He was glad to practice his newly recovered words with the clinic staff and patients, who understood his difficulties and were impressed by his progress.
Out in the wide world of New York City, the ex-outlaw felt frustrated by his tiny, slowly expanding vocabulary. He couldn’t even try to ask directions to a new place or to order food in a restaurant except by pointing at the menu and saying “please.” But he soon realized that his progress was considered very rapid indeed by comparison with almost every other patient in the clinic. Certainly, Joshua Smith’s success was a miracle next to the continuing failure of Sam to gain any new communication skill.
Heyes was overjoyed to be improving at last, although in those first weeks he was usually too self-conscious to say anything at all in front of strangers – at least in English. However, in the mornings and evenings as he and Jim walked through the lower blocks of Manhattan where they lived, with the encouragement of Jim and Dr. Goldstein, Heyes did begin picking up a bit of Yiddish from his neighbors. He went up to a local vender and actually said, "gut-morgn" although he could not have said “good-morning” in English. The westerner pointed to a loaf and ordered, "broyt" from the vendor, who laughed and exclaimed over how impressed he was by the new learner’s rapid progress. Surely, Heyes could not yet have ordered bread in English.
Something about learning Yiddish rather than rediscovering it made it, at first, faster for him to learn this new language than to regain English. For one thing, there was less emotional pressure involved in learning a language in which no one had any expectations of him than there was in taking up again the language that everyone outside the clinic expected him to speak perfectly. Jim and Dr. Goldstein, both fluent in Yiddish, laughed at Heyes' rapidly improving skills in the language. They both had to admit that the westerner had a good accent from the beginning. Heyes had a knack for imitating what he heard. And he enjoyed learning new things more than anything.