“Heyes, we gotta do something.” Curry said, quickly releasing a shot and jerking back behind the rock.
“Sam!” Heyes cried out, firing a warning shot at the other side of the camp. Curry turned and saw a man in a black hat creeping up behind the boy.
“Sam! Watch out!” Curry yelled. But it was too late. The man put a hand over the screaming, kicking boy and wrapped a strong arm around him, effectively subduing him. Sam’s large, frightened eyes begged Heyes and Curry for help; but there was nothing they could do for the moment.
“Who the hell is that!” Heyes snapped.
“We’ll have to ask him when we get out of this.” Curry answered. “Speaking of which, you got a plan Heyes?”
“I’m working on it!”
“Jones!” Tomes heard the cry from the other side of the road in the lull of gunfire. Good. That meant one of them was down. He and Jake continued shooting, and moments later a second scream broke upon the air, and firing ceased from behind the boulders.
“Sounds like we got them,” Jake grinned. But Tomes didn’t move. “Shouldn’t we go check?”
“Want to be sure it ain’t no trick.” The silence continued. “Cover me,” Tomes said. Jake let go with a series of shots as Tomes ran across the road. Still no return fire.
Tomes waved for Jake to follow him, which he quickly did. He pointed for Jake to circle round the right side of the boulders while Tomes crept around the left side. They entered the clearing at about the same time and saw the two men they were after. Both were lying face down, still as death itself.
“I told you I’d come back for you,” Tomes growled down at Curry’s body.
Slowly Heyes raised his gun hand and shot Jake, distracting Tomes long enough for Curry to spin over and shoot Tomes right in the chest. “Good thing I didn’t listen.” Both men were down and motionless.
“I told you it would work,” Heyes grinned, getting up.
“Yeah, well, I don’t know if I’d wanna try that again.” Curry answered, standing.
Heyes checked on Jake; he was alive. He had a bullet wound in his right thigh, but when he fell back his head hit a rock and he was out cold. Curry checked on Tomes; he was dead.
Heyes ripped two strips from Jake’s shirt; one he tied around the man’s bleeding head and the other above his leg wound. Heyes then got rope from his saddle and bound Jake to the nearest tree, hands and feet.
“Let’s get Sam,” Curry said, quickly pulling himself up into his saddle.
“I’m with you,” Heyes agreed, mounting quickly, and the two men galloped furiously away.
It didn’t take long to find Sam and the man in the black hat. As a matter of fact, it was pretty darn easy. The man in the black hat was sitting on a rock by the road, Sam beside him, and his horse grazing nearby. It was a peaceful scene.
“What is going on?” Heyes demanded, reining in his horse.
“Sam, are you all right?” Curry asked with gun in hand as he and Heyes quickly dismounted.
The man in the black hat grinned while Sam wrapped a kerchief around his bloodied arm.
“I’m okay,” Sam smiled.
“Would someone please enlighten us?” Heyes insisted.
“This is one gutsy kid,” the man in the black hat rumbled.
“What do you mean?” Curry asked, slowly holstering his gun.
“He got me on his horse in front of him. But he didn’t know I had a gun. So I pulled it out as we rode away. He grabbed the gun and it went off, shooting him in the arm.”
“Flesh wound,” the man shrugged it off.
“Who are you?” Heyes asked.
“Nick Blackstone. I’m here to bring Sam home.”
“To the orphanage?” Curry asked doubtfully.
“Nope. His grandma.” Blackstone pulled a letter from his pocket and handed it to Heyes. He scanned it quickly, his face revealing surprise. Then he handed the letter to Blackstone, who tucked it back in his shirt pocket.
“Well, what did it say?” Curry asked impatiently.
“His grandma got a letter from someone at the saloon after his momma died. It told her about Sam and the orphanage where he was brought.”
“Genevieve Floriano,” Blackstone said with a smile. “She asked me to fetch her grandchild.” He chuckled. “Like your spirit, boy.”
“Grandpa?” Curry repeated.
“Genevieve finally agreed to marry me, after all these years, if I brought Sam home to her.” Blackstone said. His hard face softened as he looked upon the boy. “Wasn’t no way I’d return without him.”
“But how can you be sure Sam is her grandson?” Heyes asked.
Blackstone turned to Sam. “Do you remember seeing a necklace that your momma might’ve had? It was heart shaped, opened up, and inside was a pretty picture of your grandma.”
Sam looked up at him with big, wide eyes. He slowly reached deep into his baggy shirt and pulled out a heart shaped necklace.
“Is this it?” he whispered. Blackstone gently took the heart in his callused fingers and popped open the clasp. There, looking up at him, was a much younger version of the woman he was going to marry.
“Yep, that’s it.” He closed the heart and handed it back to the boy. “Welcome home, Sam.”
And he grabbed the boy in a mighty bear hug.
“Ain't he a sight?” Curry grinned as he and Heyes leaned against the wall of the stage coach office, watching Nick Blackstone and Sam Floriano walk along the boardwalk towards them. Blackstone held the boy’s little hand in his large paw, and Sam nearly had to jog alongside to keep up with his long strides. Sam wore new brown boots, jeans and checkered shirt. Upon his head sat a new, chocolate brown, well fitting cowboy hat. And he had a big grin upon his face.
Blackstone’s appearance had changed also. His clothes looked washed, and he was clean shaven. Like his grandson, he wore a big grin.
“Smith, Jones,” Blackstone said as he approached, holding out his hand and firmly shaking both of theirs. “Don’t know how I can thank you for what you’ve done. So those two men were gonna kill my little Sam.” He shook his head. “I owe you a great debt.”
“It was our pleasure,” Curry smiled, griping Sam on the shoulder.
“Wasn’t no bother at all,” Heyes shrugged with a charming grin, earning a look of disbelief from Curry.
“Well, it’s long overdue getting this young boy to his grandma.”
“All aboard, folks,” the stage coach driver called out.
“Thanks again.” Blackstone said, and led Sam to the coach. As he handed up his saddle and bag, Sam turned and looked at Heyes and Curry with big, sad eyes. Then he ran over to Curry and gave him a big hug. When he let go of him, he stood back and looked up at Heyes.
“Come here,” Heyes said, and he wrapped his arms around him. When Heyes let go, Sam raced to the stagecoach and scrambled in, not looking back. Blackstone stepped in after him and closed the door.
“Oh, I got something for you,” Blackstone said, reaching an arm out of the stagecoach window. Heyes and Curry stepped over to him, and Heyes took the offering; several bills folded over.
“Thank you,” Heyes said.
“Good luck and congratulations!” Curry added as the stagecoach started off. They silently watched it drive away until it disappeared from their sight. Then Curry turned towards Heyes.
“So, what’d he give us?”
Heyes opened the bills and began counting. “$500,” he said with surprise.
“Now Heyes,” Kid grinned. “Are you sure you want to stop helping folks out?”
“Come on,” Heyes grinned back. “There’s a poker game waiting for us.” And in moments, they vanished through the swinging doors of the saloon.