Here's another revised chapter, but with very few changes - just corrected a couple of typos.
That night after dinner the three of them, Cat, Curry, and Heyes, sat on rocking chairs on the hotel porch in the soft early summer air. A mockingbird was singing through its crisp, metallic, repertoire from the roof of the nearby livery stable. The unpaved street was quiet. Peggy the saloon girl had left the place some months before to marry a love-struck mine owner who lived in Boulder, so Heyes had no girl beside him. The two partners and the Kid's lady had exchanged only a few words here and there between bites during dinner. It was hard for Heyes to talk and eat at the same time. For him, speech required a lot of concentration. "Well, partner, you going to tell us about New York?" asked Curry.
"Please . . . be patient." Said Heyes uncertainly, pausing and licking his lips. He felt as nervous as a little boy reciting in school for the first time. It was funny that he could sing without the least hitch – at least a song that he already knew well. But talking for more than a few words, and now in front of these people he cared about so much – that was a different thing.
"Not a problem, Joshua. We've been waiting so long to hear your voice at all – a few minutes here and there just don't signify." said the Kid.
"On the train east," started Heyes, slowly. "I didn't know what to do. A pretty girl tried talk to me and I couldn't say a word. I . . . I . . . [Heyes shook his head - he had to give up on what he had wanted to say.] She thought I was rude – or crazy. Looked past me . . . rest of the trip."
"The more fool, she, then!" Said Cat firmly. "Passing up the company of a handsome young man just because he couldn't chatter like a squirrel!" They all three laughed at the foolish girl. Joshua grinned – it was good to be home where they understood him and didn't mind the pauses and gaps while he groped for words and often couldn't get the word he wanted. People had been good to him at Leutze's clinic, and Jim was a good friend. But their tiny tenement room wasn't really a home. Heyes, like the Kid, was starting to feel like Christy's place might really be home – more even than Devil's Hole had ever been.
Heyes went on and told them, slowly and in simple words, with lots of hesitations, about his trip east. He told how he had spotted One-ear Carver, the notorious Montana outlaw, on the train, "I stared him down, Jed! He ran out of there so fast! I didn't have to talk at all, thank God, since I sure could not!" The Kid thought, correctly, that Carver must have been sure that the Kid himself was nearby and would have made it go very hard for him if he made trouble for the infamous leaders of the Devil's Hole gang. The trio of friends chuckled over how Heyes had fooled such a dangerous man.
As the June days went by, sitting on the hotel's porch, or sitting together in the back rooms where they could speak more freely, Heyes told the Kid and Cat about the bits of memories that he could fit into words. There was so much more than he could manage to talk about, yet.
The next day was beautiful and sunny. Up in the mountains just outside of town it was cool and pleasant. Heyes and the Kid went over to Christy's Place's stable and saddled up their horses, Clay and Blackie, and rode off together. They made the excuse of looking for a plump deer for Cat's table, but the pair so enjoyed just riding along side by side for the first time in ten months that no other reason was needed. The craggy mountain slopes, crested with snow, rose spectacularly above them, and the pine trees cast lovely shadows around them. Wild flowers of all colors bloomed in a wild meadow as the pair rode past, enjoying the delicate perfume. When a deer and her fawn trotted across the path, the boys somehow failed to get a rifle fixed on them before they vanished into the sun-speckled woods. If Heyes was a bit quieter than usual, then it was all to the good so far as the Kid was concerned. They could just drink in the scenery in peace. Or as much peace as Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry could ever enjoy riding together in the West.
The Kid seemed perfectly relaxed, but he kept a natural and quiet look out around them, as he had for over a decade. Heyes, feeling the threat that always hovered over him coming closer than it had usually seemed in New York, looked around a bit nervously now and then when he heard a stick break or a tree-branch move. But then he felt foolish for being so jumpy when he saw a fox run by or felt the breeze that had stirred the woods. The pair rode higher and higher up the mountain slopes, feeling the breeze get cool. A hunting hawk circled past them not more than a foot above their heads.
They rode back into the woods, with pine trees close around them.
"It's strange, Kid. . ." started Heyes slowly, finally breaking the silence, when he was interrupted himself.
"So, the mighty Hannibal Heyes returns to the West." said a strong, gruff voice Heyes didn't recognize. "Don't try anything." the voice warned sternly, "Turn around nice and slow, hands in the air."
Heyes started hard. It had been a long time since anyone had snuck up on him that way and he felt both foolish and damn worried. "Aw Christ!" he thought, breaking into a cold sweat, "Here I am thinking we're just out for a nice ride and nothing will happen, and then this guy is gonna up and shoot us or turn us in, or both. And I can't even try to talk him out of it." Heyes followed directions carefully, looking over his shoulder to see a tall, lean man in an old fashioned buckskin jacket standing on the edge of the woods holding a rifle on him. For some reason, the Kid seemed not at all nervous about this. Without putting his hands up, Curry just turned his horse around placidly and looked at the man with the gun. Heyes, seeing that the man didn't shoot the Kid, turned his horse too so he could look at the stranger without getting a crick in his neck.
The man with the rifle stared at Heyes, seeming to ignore the Kid. "So, you're talking again. That mean you're ready to cause trouble again, too?"
"No, sir," answered Heyes as politely as he could with a rifle trained on his heart. "No trouble."
"Well, that's respectful enough. Can I put this away Kid, do you think?" asked the stranger, without looking away from Heyes.
"I expect you can, Cavanaugh. I think you've put the fear of God into him – or the fear of Cavanaugh, anyhow," chuckled the Kid.
Cavanaugh grinned and rested his rifle on the forest floor. Heyes realized then that he had never heard the man cock the gun. Curry's peculiar friend had never intended to shoot Heyes at all.
"Heyes," said the Kid with a grin, "this is my friend Bill Cavanaugh. He used to ride with the Mecklenburg bunch. You remember them? He got sick of it and came out here for some peace and quiet."
Heyes reached down from the saddle to shake the tall former outlaw's hand, since it was proffered. "Sure. I remember. Thanks for not . . ." Heyes paused perforce – all the vocabulary for things like shoot or kill was beyond what he had re-learned. He flushed in embarrassment, hoping the forest shadows hid it.
Cavanaugh grinned, his tanned face wrinkling in fine lines all around piercing blue eyes that sparkled in a sunbeam, "That's fine, Heyes. I like to make sure of folks is all. You know how it is for a former outlaw."
"Sure do. Glad to meet you!" Heyes answered, painfully conscious of the pause before each word.
"Well, you'd better get down and come into my cabin for a spell, you boys. Specially you, Heyes. Long as you been out of the saddle, you're gonna be feelin' it for sure." Heyes dismounted a bit clumsily, rubbing a protesting thigh muscle after he landed and started to limp after Cavanaugh into the woods. The woodman was all too right. They left their horses ground tied in a little clearing just off the path as Cavanaugh led Heyes and Curry towards his small, neat cabin not far from the little path. Heyes felt sure that the Kid had ridden up here on purpose to see his friend, carefully not telling Heyes about Cavanaugh so he could have the fun of seeing his partner nearly jump out of his skin. The man had probably made the path they had been riding on himself, since it led right past his well-hidden cabin that was half built into the mountain rocks.
Cavanaugh's cabin was surprisingly comfortable and well-outfitted, with cunningly fitted shelves and drawers for everything a man could want. The Kid brought in his saddle bags, in which he had carried some tea, a bag of sugar, and a few boxes of rifle shells for their host. Obviously, their arrival had been no accident. Cavanaugh smiled at Curry, "Thanks for the supplies, Kid. I appreciate your savin' me the trouble of goin' into town. Like it better out here by myself, gen'rally. But some folks comin' by is a real pleasure, when they're friends."
And Heyes felt like they were all friends, almost before he knew it. Cavanaugh fixed them some hot tea and surprisingly good biscuits with blueberry jam he had made himself from berries picked nearby. The three old outlaws found plenty to talk about. A happy hour went by and then Heyes and the Kid realized they had better be on their way before they worried Cat, or kept their kind host from the chores that beset all frontiersmen. Heyes enjoyed their talk, especially since Cavanaugh politely ignored the many pauses and gaps in his speech. "He's a good man." said Heyes as they went to get their horses.
"He is, that," replied the Kid. What he didn't say was nevertheless clear to his partner – “They aren't all like that. You're back in the West, Heyes – back in danger. Remember to watch your back – and mine."