Heyes held his jaw and looked up at the Kid; his head was ringing both from the punch he’d just taken and from the hangover he was suffering. “Are you done yet?”
“Done? No, I’m not done; I’ve not even started. What were you thinkin’? YOU WEREN’T THINKIN’!” the Kid shouted as he paced back and forth, growing ever more agitated with each step.
“Don’t even start. That silver tongue won’t work this time. Not this time. There we were, had a good job doin’ security at a bank of all places, good pay, nice room, no one knew us. The sheriff even liked us! We coulda stayed in that town, waited out the amnesty. But no, you had to blow it.”
Heyes sighed. “I know, Kid. I’m sorry; I really am. Don’t you even want to hear what happened?”
The Kid stopped pacing and looked down at Heyes, still sitting in the mud holding his jaw. The Kid’s eyes narrowed and the glare intensified. Heyes looked away from the Kid’s icy expression. “Please, Kid, just let me explain.”
The Kid let out a huff of breath and his glare relaxed. He reached towards Heyes, who flinched back, then grabbed the hand held out to him, helping him up. Once Heyes was standing, the Kid turned his back and sat on a rock, throwing his arms in the air. “Go ahead, Heyes, explain.”
“You remember, Kid, how that first day we arrived we stopped that robbery?” He smiled at the memory.
The Kid snorted and gave a grudging grin.
They had ridden into town, taking the usual precaution of ensuring that they didn’t know the sheriff or his deputies and that no one else seemed to recognize them. Before checking into the hotel, they stopped at the general store to stock up. They had been on the trail for many days and were exhausted and out of most supplies. They had learned to stock up before finding beds, in case they had to leave quickly.
“So what do we need, Joshua? Some Arbuckles, I guess, and jerky.” The Kid chuckled. “Maybe we should get some bandages as well – we sure seem to need them a lot. I’m gettin’ real tired of tearin’ up shirts.” Still talking to Heyes, without looking at him, he moved on grabbing items as he went.
Heyes had wandered over to look at some of the dry goods; they both needed new socks. A pile of books caught his attention and he began to examine the titles, debating whether he could afford one. He grunted in response to the Kid’s ramblings.
Other than a cursory glance as they entered to ensure that none of the customers or the storekeeper recognized them, neither was paying much attention to the other people in the store, who were remaining oddly silent and still throughout this exchange.
One woman stepped in front of her young son, accidentally pushing him into Heyes. Heyes, off balance, threw out a hand to stop his fall. In so doing, he knocked down a row of boots, which hit a shelf of toys flinging several boxes off the shelf. The boxes then opened, spewing marbles all over the floor.
Meanwhile, the Kid had noticed some holsters that might do to replace his worn out one; he set his items down, pulled out his gun, and checked it against the holster he was holding to see if it would fit. He was reaching to put down the holster when his foot encountered the rolling marbles. As his feet became tangled with the marbles, he dropped the holster. His hand accidentally tightened on the trigger of his gun, and a bullet flew, knocking the gun out of the hand of the young man holding the storekeeper at bay.
At the sound of the shot, Heyes whirled around, dropping the book he was still holding. Because he was still off balance and turning when he dropped the book, it flew from his hand and hit the young man’s partner, causing him to shift his feet and slip on the cascading marbles. He went down hard, and Heyes landed on top of him.
Hearing the shot, the sheriff and his deputies stormed in and grabbed the young gunmen. “Sheriff,” the storekeeper exclaimed. “These two men saved all of us!”
The sheriff looked at Heyes and Curry inquiringly.
“Jason.” His wife ran up to him. Absent mindedly he put his arm around her as his son ran up as well.
“What happened, Sarah?” he demanded.
Sarah explained, “We were being held up by those two.” She pointed at the two young men in custody. “I was so frightened. When these two…” She indicated Heyes and Curry who were trying, unsuccessfully, to be inconspicuous. “These two came in and sized up the problem. He,” she pointed at the Kid. “He went over near the counter, setting them at ease by pretending to shop. His friend there,” now she pointed at Heyes, who gulped. “He moved Sam here behind him and threw some marbles on the floor to distract the robbers. While he did that his friend there shot the gun out of that one’s hand.”
“Fanciest shooting I’ve ever seen,” corroborated the storekeeper.
“Anyway, while he was shooting, his friend there tackled the other one. It was just amazing! And no one was hurt while they disarmed these two robbers.” The sheriff’s wife ended in a rush.
The sheriff stared at Heyes and Curry, who looked uncertainly at each other then back at the sheriff.
“Well I can’t thank you two enough! Anything we can do for you, you just let us know,” the sheriff exclaimed grabbing their hands and shaking them heartily. “Are you two in town long?”
“Uh, not really,” answered Heyes. “We planned to stock up then see what work was around, but we heard there was a ranch down the road looking for hands and thought we’d try there.”
“Look no further. The bank’s looking for security guards. You two would be perfect,” the sheriff responded.
“Oh, yes,” his wife cried. “Daddy would love to have two such quick thinking men. Daddy owns the bank,” she explained.
“Yeah,” the Kid chuckled. “That day sure worked out well.” Then he frowned and his eyes narrowed again as he glared at Heyes. “But then you had to blow it. We had it good; we were actually settlin' in. Then we had to ride out in the rain – again; sleep on the cold, wet ground – again. All because of you!” He stood and towered over Heyes, who was sitting trying to light a fire with some damp wood. The Kid’s hands clenched into fists as he remembered why they were wet and cold at the moment.
Heyes looked up and raised his hand to ward off another blow if the Kid got mad enough to punch him again.
The Kid glared then strode off, walking rapidly around the clearing. He stopped and sighed. “Okay, Heyes, just tell me why. What were you thinkin’?”
“Kid, I don’t really know. The week had gone so well. You remember… You were taking the librarian to dinner, and I was going to play poker with the sheriff, the Mayor, the Doc, and a couple of others. We played a few hands, and I was careful not to win too much.” Heyes looked bewildered as well as hung-over. “I sure didn’t think I drank that much.”
The Kid looked closely at Heyes, noting his bloodshot eyes and woebegone expression. He huffed in exasperation and moved to the logs, stooped down, and took the matches from Heyes. He started the fire and set the kettle on to make coffee. Heyes sat with his head in his hands, trying to hold his head in place and stop the war dance going on inside it.
“Thanks, Kid.” Heyes took the cup of coffee the Kid handed him and stared at it, breathing in the warmth of the rising steam.
“Go on, Heyes. I want to hear why I’m out here eatin’ beans when I could’ve been steppin’ out with that pretty librarian again,” the Kid growled.
Heyes sighed. “Well as I said we were playing poker. I was being careful; we all were. The Mayor’s wife don’t hold with drinking, and we were at their house; so there was no whiskey. The Mayor was pouring us something called a Ricky – it’s mostly soda water and lime juice. Said he could tell his wife we were drinking lime fizzes.”
“Heyes.” The Kid rolled his eyes. “I guess you don’t know everythin’ after all. A Ricky has gin in it.”
Heyes nodded then winced at what the motion did to his headache. “Yeah, I did know that, but it didn’t taste like there was much in there.”
“So how many did you have, Heyes?”
“Well we were playing for a while.”
“I know; it was after one when the sheriff rousted me out of bed and dragged me down to his office.” The Kid grimaced at the memory.
Heyes threw him an apologetic glance. “I guess I musta had five or six over the course of the night.” He thought some more. “Maybe eight or nine, it was a long night.”
The Kid just rolled his eyes.
“Anyway, the game broke up, and the Sheriff, the Doc, and I headed out. I guess the cold air musta hit us hard. I think we started singing, but I really don’t remember much after that, till you grabbed me and got us saddled and headed outta there.” He put his head back in his hands. “I just don’t know what happened, why the sheriff threw us out. I thought he liked us. We saved his wife and son.” Heyes finished plaintively.
The Kid growled. “Well I know what happened after that. Do you really want to know, Heyes?”
“Yeah, Kid, I want to know. Why are you so mad at me? What happened?”
“You were singin’ alright. When the sheriff dragged me down to his office, there you were sittin’ on a bed in a cell singin’ at the top of your voice.”
“Is it illegal to sing or something there? I swear the sheriff was singing too when we left the Mayor’s house.”
“He mightta been singin’ then, but he sure wasn’t when he grabbed me.” The Kid shuddered, remembering the sheriff pounding on their door. “I opened the door, and he slammed his way in and pushed my gun aside, sayin’ I better put that away and get packin’. Said he owed us for his wife and son but that wasn’t enough, and we had to leave now, before everyone else sobered up. Then he dragged me over to his office to get you, helped me get you onto your horse, and we left.” He sighed and glared at Heyes. “And it’s all your fault.”
“Come on, Kid, my singing’s not that bad,” Heyes joked.
The Kid closed his eyes briefly and gritted his teeth. “It wasn’t HOW you were singin’; it was WHAT you were singin’,” he enunciated slowly.
Heyes just looked at him.
“You were singin’ The Ballad of Heyes and Curry!” he shouted.
Heyes’s eyes opened wide and his mouth formed an “O.”
“Yeah, Heyes, and as if that weren’t bad enough, you added a few new verses. The sheriff said that when you hit your third new verse, he realized who we were, would’ve realized it sooner, but he’d drunk almost as much as you. Because he thinks we saved his wife and son, he only threw us out of town, rather than arrestin’ us. But that, Heyes, is why we are sittin’ here wet and cold – because your silver tongue was TOO DANG CLEVER!”
Heyes stared at him, speechless. After several long moments he put his head down into his hands again. “Go ahead and hit me again, Kid; shoot me even. I won’t defend myself.”