It was a beautiful, sunny morning. Breakfast was a quick affair, and the trio was soon on their way with Tara sitting behind Curry. They rode in silence, each in their own thoughts. Tara had not felt this safe in some time, certainly not since the death of her father. Her arms loosely circled Curry’s torso, and the feel of him in front of her was comforting.
She thanked her guardian angel for leading her to them. They were handsome, and kind, and willing to help without asking for anything in return. At least, they hadn’t yet. They could have taken advantage of her the night before, she realized, but they had been perfect gentlemen. And when she checked her bag this morning, everything was there, including the money. They were trustworthy, she was sure of it.
Curry meanwhile was enjoying the feel of a woman’s arms around him. It was a good morning, and he was sure Heyes would find a way to help Tara. Heyes was unusually quiet as he rode slightly ahead, but Kid figured he was still working on what they were going to do. He’d come up with something. He always did.
Heyes was thinking; a plan was beginning to form and take shape. There were still details to work out, but he’d get it. He had never met a challenge he couldn’t trump; all he needed was time to sift through the situation and come up with the answer. He looked over his shoulder; saw Tara’s arms around Kid and the smile on his face. Then he swept the landscape. Just in case.
By late morning they came upon a good sized town. While Curry put the horses to stable, Heyes and Tara entered one of the hotels where they booked two adjoining rooms overlooking the main street. Tara requested a bath and then she and Heyes ascended the stairs to their respective rooms.
“Checked out the sheriff,” Kid said as he entered the room where Heyes lay on the bed, hands behind his head. “No one we know. Where’s Tara?”
“Next door. Taking a bath,” Heyes added dryly as Curry turned towards her room.
“Oh,” Kid said sheepishly. He dropped his saddlebags and sat down, and proceeded to clean his gun. He watched Heyes lying there, apparently lost in thought. Finally he could stand it no longer.
“So? Heyes? What’s the plan?”
“Well Kid, it seems to me the only way to save Tara from Strutford is to get him arrested for killing her father.”
“Makes sense,” his partner agreed slowly. “And?”
“First we get his attention with something he wants.” Heyes declared.
“But we don’t know where it is, and neither does Tara.” Kid said, puzzled.
“Strutford don’t know that, not for sure.”
“You’re right!” Kid grinned. “That’s good Heyes!”
“He also might be a bit more cautious about going after her if he knows she’s got us on her side, and we’re willing to bargain with him.” Heyes sat up and swung his legs off the bed, stood and stretched. He walked to the window and looked out on the street.
“First we have to wait for him to show up.”
“I didn’t see anyone following us on the trail.”
“I don’t think you saw anything on the trail with Tara’s arms around you.” Heyes said, earning a pained expression from Curry. “I didn’t see anything either, Kid, but he’s coming. You can bet on it. And when he arrives, we’ll just have to meet this Mr. Strutford.”
That night the two men were nearly speechless when Tara flowed down the stairs to the dining room where they waited for her. The transformation was amazing. Her wavy dark hair was full and silky, and she had it combed in a way that quietly obscured her face and mostly hid her bruises. She wore a simple but pretty lavender dress and a bright smile as she approached.
“Hello,” she greeted shyly.
“Hello!” Heyes and Curry chorused together. Heyes frowned at Curry who simply grinned.
Heyes returned his attention to Tara. “You look real nice.”
“You sure do,” Curry echoed.
“How are you feeling?” Heyes asked, offering her his arm.
“Much better,” she admitted. “Thanks to you two.” Curry offered his arm also, and she graciously accepted as they led her to a table.
Throughout dinner she answered their questions about Michael Strutford; what did he look like? What were his habits? Heyes and Curry listened intently for anything they could use.
Strutford was a big, broad shouldered man with short, dark hair. His face was chiseled with a slash of a mouth. When he became agitated or nervous, he tapped his fingers or shook his leg. She wasn’t sure how good he was with a gun, never saw him drink very much. He did play poker, though she didn’t think he was very good at it, and her father had remarked once or twice that he was not a very good loser.
Heyes and Curry grinned. Except for the bad loser part, he sounded like their kind of player. Perhaps they could get him into a game.