Rescue in Zion (Part 2)
Before they left the campsite, Curry tried eating a few beans and some bacon, but the food wouldn’t stay in his stomach. Heyes tucked him into a nest of blankets in the bed of the wagon for the four-mile ride to Thompson’s farm. A stabbing headache, nausea, and black spots running in and out of his vision were Curry’s main complaints. He endured the ride through the flood ravaged valley in stoic silence.
Debris and branches were strewn many feet above the current level of the murmuring river. They were grateful that Thompson’s home was built above the crest of the flood waters.
It was a hot and dry afternoon before the wagon pulled up in front of a snug cabin built on high ground just underneath a canyon wall. A good-sized barn stood to the right of the cabin. A corral stretched between the two buildings and reached down to the Virgin River.
Heyes helped his partner to the cabin while Thompson cared for the horses and put away the wagon. They kept silent until Curry was lying down on the only bed in the one-room dwelling.
“You want some water?”
“That’d be good,” replied the blond.
Heyes gave him a drink and then wetted a cloth to clean the matted lump on the side of Curry’s head.
“Ouch, whatcha doin’? That hurts!”
“Lemme look at this, would ya’?”
“Can’t ya’ be a little more careful? OUCH!”
Heyes frowned and then positioned Kid’s head so that he could pour water over the wound.
“That’s cold, Hey-- Joshua.”
“Good, maybe it’ll help the swelling.” He let the Kid lie back down, satisfied that the injury only needed time and rest to heal. Glancing out the window, Heyes saw Thompson still working with the wagon. He crossed back to his partner and scooted a chair close to the bed. “Our host took our guns, Kid,” he whispered. “I haven’t seen ‘em since the flood.”
“Do ya’ think he suspects us?”
“He’s gotta suspect something. I just don’t know what, yet.”
Curry pursed his lips and considered the man’s motives. “Maybe he just took the guns because he was bein’ careful. He don’t know us or what we’re doin’ in the canyon.”
“That’s just it, Kid. He hasn’t asked me why we were in the canyon, where we’re headed, or where we came from. It’s like he don’t want to talk about it.”
“We don’t want to talk about what we were doin’ either, so can’t ya’ be glad he’s leavin’ it alone?”
“It’s just not natural for him not to ask. Human nature bein’ what it is, he’s going to wonder what we were doing in the canyon. His not asking, combined with taking our guns, has me worried.”
“Heyes, we can’t use a gun with wet bullets anyway. Maybe he just put em’ somewhere for safekeeping.” Curry studied Heyes, silently hoping for confirmation of his theory. A deep frown drew lines between the brown-eyed cowboy’s eyebrows. Curry’s shoulders slumped.
“O.K,” Curry relented. “Maybe he hid our guns, but I’d sure like to know where mine is. It needs cleanin’ real bad after bein’ in the water. We should ask him.” Curry squinted his eyes and rubbed at his temples.
“Still hurts, huh?” Heyes asked gently.
Kid nodded, then slapped his hand over his mouth. His eyes widened in alarm. Heyes bolted out of his chair and grabbed a pan for the Kid. As he held the pan and helped steady his friend, Heyes strained his injured side. When Ezra Thompson opened the door, Kid Curry was retching into a metal pan tilted precariously in one of Heyes’ hands. The dark outlaw was folded at the waist with his other hand clutching his bruised ribs.
“Could you two use a little help?” Thompson asked with a grin.
He took the pan from Heyes and waved him back to a chair. After Curry was done throwing up, Thompson handed him a cloth and a glass of water. Once the Kid’s nausea was settled, he checked the scrapes and cuts under the Kid’s bandages while a worried Hannibal Heyes peered over his shoulder and carefully examined his every move. Once Thompson was satisfied with Curry’s condition, he turned to the hovering Heyes.
“Your turn, Mr. Smith. Sit down on the edge of the bed and let me see those ribs and your blistered feet.”
Thompson unwound the strips of cotton binding Heyes’ torso. As the cloth peeled away, dark purple and blue bruising blossomed over his right side. The Kid squirmed to get a better look at his partner’s injury, but pain lanced through his head, and he collapsed back onto the pillows. Their host carefully probed the bruises as Heyes winced and whimpered.
“I don’t think they’re broken, just bruised, maybe cracked, Mr. Smith.”
“Call me Joshua,” Heyes answered, forcing a smile through the pain.
“Sure will, and call me Ezra,” replied the freckled man cheerfully. “Just let me bandage you back up and then check your feet and your cuts. Then you two can take a nap while I do some work outside. I’ll wake ya’ for dinner.”
Curry started to protest and ask if he could clean his gun, but his head was throbbing and black dots kept swirling before his eyes. He decided it just wasn’t worth it and drifted off to sleep. Heyes checked his partner one more time, and then lay down next to him and was soon snoring lightly.
Two days, and many hours of sleep, later, Curry sat at the small table in Thompson’s cabin eating scrambled eggs, fried ham, biscuits, and coffee. He still had headaches, but the black dots were gone from his vision, his appetite was back, and the swelling on the side of his head had gone down. Heyes’ ribs were feeling better, but were still tender, and he kept them wrapped.
The brown-haired ex-outlaw was in his long johns, standing at the kitchen basin and fiddling with a water contraption their host had built for his cabin. A pipe entered the building under the kitchen window and projected over the sink. When a metal lever connected to the pipe was turned, water flowed into the basin. It came from a barrel filled by a spring under the cliff. Ezra had fashioned a system of metal pipes which carried the spring water into his kitchen and barn, eliminating the need to pump or tote water into the cabin.
“Did you see this thing, Kid?” Heyes asked, turning the lever first one way and then the other to watch the water flow and stop. He turned the lever to the off position and then squatted down, placing one eye at the end of the pipe. He peered into the opening, trying to figure out how the mechanism worked. He eased the lever toward the ‘flow’ position slowly, but his hand slipped, jarring the lever open, and the pipe spat water into his eye. Heyes spluttered and wiped his face, but kept smiling happily.
Curry chuckled at him.
“Ezra is a genius with his inventions.” Heyes continued. “He’s got a whole workshop full of gadgets out in the barn.” Turning his back to the window, he leaned against the sink. “That man should be in a city somewhere, selling his ideas and making things work better.” The dark eyes twinkled, and Heyes’ grin turned mischievous. “Good thing he doesn’t work for Pierce and Hamilton or Brooker, huh?” Heyes turned around and began turning the water on and off again.
Curry rolled his eyes. “Stop fiddlin’ with that thing! Or I just might have to shoot ya’,” Curry let out a disgusted snort. “If I had any bullets,” he finished, morosely. “And would you put some pants on? It’s not like you to run around in your underwear. What if we need to leave in a hurry?”
Heyes peered out the window, making sure their host was out of earshot. “What’s the point? Where would we run. It’s all one long canyon. Besides, you’re still in your Henley. And what’s got you so proddy?”
“I got my pants and boots on, and I’m not proddy,” Curry shot back. Softly, he added, “I don’t like not havin’ my gun, Heyes.”
“What do you mean? Your gun is in your holster hanging off the bedpost.”
“I don’t have any bullets! What do you want me to do if I need my gun? Throw it at someone?”
Heyes was staring out the window over the sink. “Shh,” he cautioned. “Ezra’s coming.” Heyes started clearing Curry’s breakfast dishes from the table.
The young beanpole with freckles was striding up from the river and heading to the barn. When he disappeared inside it, Heyes began washing the breakfast dishes. Ezra entered the cabin without a word and pointed a rifle at his guests. Alarmed, Heyes dropped the metal plate he was washing, and Curry knocked over his chair as he pushed away from the table.
“Everything’s O.K. We just need to talk,” cautioned Thompson. He lowered his scratchy voice in an attempt to sound soothing. “Go ahead and pick up the chair, Thaddeus, and sit back down at the table.”
Kid pretended to obey the request, but after he grabbed the chair, he used it to try and knock the rifle away. Thompson stepped out of reach and cocked the weapon.
“None of that, now,” he warned. “Just sit with your hands on the table so I can see’ em. Come on over and join him, Joshua. Move slowly and place your hands on top of the table.”
Blue eyes met brown in a question. Heyes frowned and shrugged before he complied with Thompson’s demand. “What’s this about, Ezra?” Heyes asked, wearing his most winning and innocent expression.
“I just want to talk with the two of you. I have a proposition for you,” Ezra replied without lowering the barrel.
“Ya’ don’t need to point a rifle at us to talk,” chimed in Curry.
“I just want to make sure that you two wait and hear everything I have to say.” Thompson snagged a chair with his foot and dragged it over to where he stood by the door. He turned the chair so the back faced the table and then straddled it and propped the rifle on the back. He looked first at Heyes and then at Curry. He licked his lips nervously. “I need your help,” he stated simply.
“Gotta say, Ezra, that pointing a gun at us isn’t the best way to ask a favor,” Heyes interjected smoothly.
“I didn’t say I was askin’. I said I needed your help. You see, I’m engaged to be married. Her name is Jessie Tolliver.”
“That’s great, Ezra, but what does it have to do with us?” asked Heyes.
Thompson looked at the floor and then quickly back up, making sure that the rifle was steady and that neither cowboy had moved. “Her Pa doesn’t want us to get married. He’s real stubborn and mean about it. He promised her to Elijah Kellerman. Mr. Kellerman is a prominent citizen over in Toquerville. Marrying Jessie to Mr. Kellerman will mean a lot of money for the Tolliver family, but Jessie promised to marry me. Mr. Kellerman has lots of money, but he also has two other wives and is over forty years old. Jessie don’t want to marry him, so her Pa’s got her locked up at home and won’t let me near her.” Thompson paused and wiped one hand on his jeans. “I need you two to get her away from her Pa’s house. We planned to move to Denver. I’ve got an uncle there who will help us. I want you two to break her out of her Pa’s farm and then help us get to Denver.”
They both scowled at the young man. “Ezra, why don’t you get her yourself?” asked Curry.
“I tried, but he’s got three sons and two farmhands, and they’re all real loyal. The sheriff is on her Pa’s side, too. I ended up in the Springdale jail for three days when I tried to get Jessie away from her Pa. I need someone who knows what they’re doin’ to help me.”
“And what makes you think that we can do that?” asked Heyes, with a suspicious glance at his partner.
“You two were in a bad way when I found you.” Ezra met Curry’s cold glare. He smiled, and then shifted his hazel eyes to meet Heyes’ brown ones. “You talked a lot while you were still disoriented, Mr. Heyes.”
“What are you saying, Ezra? My name is Joshua Smith.” His eyes darted to Curry. “And my partner’s Thaddeus Jones. I don’t know what we might of said while we—"
“You called me ‘Wheat,’” Thompson cut him off, “and wanted to know if the Kid had been shot by the posse. You were very clear about all that, too.”
Curry watched Heyes, waiting for the famed silver tongue to talk their way out of this mess.
“As for your partner,” Ezra continued. “He mostly just called out for ‘Heyes.’ At first I didn’t understand what he meant, but when you started goin’ on about posses and the Kid, I put it together. Course, the telegraph from the sheriff in Cedar City warning that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were riding in the area didn’t hurt none.”
Heyes closed his eyes and sighed. The Kid’s shoulders slumped.
“What now, Ezra,” asked Heyes. “You planning to turn us into the sheriff in Springdale?”
“Have you even been listening?” Ezra moaned. “For a man with a reputation for being real smart, you sure don’t listen too good. I don’t want to turn you in to the law. I want you to help me get Jessie. I don’t imagine Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry are going to have much trouble breakin’ her out of her Pa’s farm.”
“Ezra,” Curry reasoned. “Even if we were those two notorious outlaws--.” The glare from Heyes stopped him in mid-sentence. “What?”
“Kid, there’s no point. This time we might as well tell the truth.”
Curry frowned and nodded. “Ezra,” he started again. “We just can’t add kidnappin’ to our records. We’re real grateful for what you’ve done, but that’s not a risk we can take.”
“Did I give you the impression I was asking?” Ezra tried to make the words hard and threatening, but his voice climbed about half an octave and shook, robbing it of menace. He wilted, and uncocked the rifle. “Who am I foolin’? If you two don’t want to help me, I can’t force you. But I’ll pay you two hundred dollars, and nobody is gonna think I had Heyes and Curry with me. Everyone in Sprindale and Toquerville will think I had the help of two federal marshals.”
“Federal marshals!” barked Heyes. “What are you talking about, Ezra? What about that telegram from the sheriff in Cedar City about Curry and Heyes?”
Ezra flashed his crooked grin. “I work at the telegraph office part time. Nobody in Springdale, but me, saw the telegram about Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. But a telegram also came from the mayor in Orderville warning all the local communities that two federal marshals were in the area looking to arrest men in plural marriages. The town folk and the sheriff thinkin’ you’re marshals will just make it easier to get Jessie. I didn’t know where you two were hiding out, but I hoped that if I ran across you, I might convince you to help me. If I help you avoid the law, will you help me get Jessie?”
Heyes squinted one eye and cocked his head. “Ezra,” he soothed. “Holding a gun on us isn’t the way to ask for our help.”
Thompson broke open his rifle and showed the two outlaws that it wasn’t loaded. He laughed when he saw the look on the Kid’s face.
“I can handle a rifle, Mr. Curry, but I’m no expert. I didn’t think it would be too smart to bring a loaded gun into the same room as Kid Curry.” He stood up and propped the unloaded weapon in a corner. “What about it? I know the money I’m offerin’ is probably chicken feed compared to what you’d get robbin’ a bank. But it would be honest money, and you would be helping a nineteen-year-old girl as well as me. I also figure you owe me for fishing your sorry butts out of the Virgin River.”
Both outlaws gawked at the skinny young man. Neither one could quite believe that this bookish and awkward inventor and farmer had spoken to them, knowing who they were, with such bravado. Heyes chuckled. Then he got up from the table and started pacing while he thought about what Ezra proposed. Curry studied their host, and then poured himself a cup of coffee. Heyes leaned a shoulder against a wall and regarded Ezra with a serious expression.
“You do know that we are worth $10,000 a piece, dead or alive?”
“Sure I do, Mr. Heyes. But what good is $20,000 without Jessie? Even if I was willing to take the money instead of Jessie, I’m not fool enough to think that I could get you and your partner into Springdale and locked up and collect that reward. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry have run free for years while being chased by the country’s best lawmen and bounty hunters. I’m not gonna get either one of you to do anything you don’t want to. And Mr. Heyes, would you please put some pants on. I’m having a heck of a time talking business with an infamous outlaw standing in my cabin in his underwear.”
Curry choked and spit coffee all over the table.
“Ezra, we can’t ride out of this valley on your horses,” explained Heyes, straining for patience. He placed the book he was examining back on the shelf. Thompson had a collection of about thirty worn volumes carefully stored above the kitchen table. The small collection reminded Heyes of his father’s precious horde. He ran his fingers down the spine of the book one last time before facing Ezra.
“The folks in Springdale are going to recognize your horses, and no one’s going to believe that two federal marshal came from Orderville through that canyon. We’ve got to come from another direction on strange horses. Otherwise, it just ain’t gonna work!”
“Are you sure people will notice?”
“Trust me, Ezra, details matter. People do notice.”
Thompson left the kitchen table and removed a small package from the pantry. He placed it in front of Curry. The Kid opened the box and was surprised to find it full of bullets that would fit his Colt.
“I thought you would feel a mite more comfortable with bullets for that fancy gun of yours.”
“Thanks, Ezra,” said Kid, with real gratitude. He stood up to load his gun and fill his gun belt. When he was done with his, he took care of Heyes’.
“Why?” Heyes challenged. “Aren’t you afraid of what we might do with loaded guns?”
“I’ve been thinkin’, and I decided that it just doesn’t make sense to trust you with my Jessie, but not with your guns. I’m sure that you two could overpower me and escape if that’s what you wanted. You agreed to help me, so I’m making sure that you have loaded weapons.” He reached into his pocket and tossed some money on the table. “There’s a hundred dollars. I’ll give you the other hundred once we have Jessie.”
Thompson turned to Curry. “Thadeu--…” He stopped. “What should I call you two now?”
“Just stick to Joshua and Thaddeus,” Heyes answered quickly. “It’s a lot safer for all of us.”
“All of us?” questioned Ezra. “How’s it safer for me?”
“You ever hear of aiding and abetting a fugitive?” asked Heyes.
“Can’t say that I have.”
“Under the law you can go to jail for helping us instead of turning us in. So let’s all pretend that you don’t know who you’ve hired to impersonate federal officers.” Heyes took a sip of his coffee. “Speaking of impersonating federal officers, if we can get away with it, I would rather not actually say that we’re marshals. Is there any chance that people will jump to that conclusion with just a bit of nudging?”
“Sure is. The church elders are so nervous about the pressure coming from the capital about plural marriages, that they’re seeing federal marshals in almost any drifter.”
“Has it always been like this?” asked Heyes.
“No. Sending marshals and arrestin’ folks is new. Since the war ended, Congress has decided that plural marriage is as bad as slavery, and they’re out to stop it. Personally, I don’t care about it one way or the other.”
“Is it usual to force a lady to marry a man she don’t want?” asked Curry, showing his disapproval.
“Nah. Jessie’s Pa is just mean and lookin’ to move up in local society. Most times, the girl is given a choice about who she marries.” He stood and grabbed the coffee pot off the stove. He offered a refill to his guests before he sat back down. “But, let’s get back to the plan,” he suggested.
“Ezra,” Curry interjected. “You really should let Heyes do the plannin’. He’s irritatin’, but he’s nearly as good as he thinks he is at schemin’, particularly when it involves breakin’ and enterin’ and bein’ sneaky around lawmen.”
“All right, Joshua,” Ezra relented. “How do you think we should go about this?”
“Stop scratching,” hissed Hannibal Heyes at a wriggling and fidgety Kid Curry. Both cowboys lay in stuffy, hot darkness under a scratchy horse blanket covered with squash and ears of corn still in the husks. The wooden wagon jounced and jarred both men lying hidden in the bed beneath the produce and the blankets.
“This blanket itches, Heyes, and the corn husks are pokin’ me. I can’t breathe through that smell. What did those horses do to this thing?”
After over three hours under a stinking blanket while being jostled in a wagon and broiled by the hot August sun, the Fastest Gun in the West was in a sour mood. They had left the cabin early on a bright morning. Heyes had insisted that they hide in the bed of the wagon under the farm goods Ezra was taking to sell in nearby Rockville. Both men were hot and thirsty. Their shirts were plastered to their backs by sweat and covered in bits of hay, horse hair, and others particles they would prefer remain unidentified. The heat and constant bouncing brought back Curry’s headache and aggravated Heyes’ sore ribs.
They heard Ezra’s muffled whoa, and the wagon eased to a stop. Soon the blanket was lifted. “Come on out,” he whispered.
Both ex-outlaws slithered from the wagon. Curry sneezed as he and Heyes brushed the debris from their clothes and slapped the dust off their hats. The smell of hay and the sound of horses told them that they were behind the livery stable.
“The hotel is two blocks that way.” Ezra pointed to the right. “Go get a room and get cleaned up.”
“Where’s the sheriff’s office?” asked Heyes.
“You want to go to the sheriff’s office?” Ezra asked with a wry twist to his crooked grin.
“We need to check it out. See if we know him,” explained Curry.
“Or if he knows you?” teased Ezra. “His name is Russ Jenkins, if that helps.”
Brown eyes met blue and came to the conclusion that neither outlaw had run into a sheriff by that name.
“Thanks, Ezra. You just saved us a trip,” replied Heyes. “But wait a minute, did the sheriff here receive a telegram letting him know about two notorious outlaws seen riding in the area?”
“No telegraph office here in Rockville,” answered Ezra. He smiled and lowered his voice. “They depend on the office over in Springdale. I believe Sheriff Jenkins received a message concerning two federal marshals, but not a word about wanted outlaws. I’ll meet the two of you back here in an hour after you get cleaned up.”
“Make it an hour and a half, and where’s the saloon? I’m gettin’ a beer before I meet up with you,” Curry insisted.
“Make it an hour and I’ll join you for something to drink,” replied Thompson.
Heyes grinned. “Ya’ got a deal, Ezra. We’ll meet you in the livery in an hour.”
Late the next morning, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry rode into the thriving town of Springdale on horses and tack purchased from the livery stable in nearby Rockville. They checked into the hotel and asked for directions to the diner where they had arranged to meet Ezra for lunch. After eating they went back to their room. A short time later, there was a knock on the door. Kid grabbed his gun and stood against the wall. When he was in position, Heyes opened the door. It was Ezra. Heyes stepped aside to let him enter. The Kid lowered his gun and returned it to its holster.
“You expectin’ trouble?” asked Ezra with raised eyebrows.
“Not exactly expectin’ it. More like always ready for it,” replied Curry.
“Were you seen coming to the hotel?” asked Heyes.
“Yes, Joshua, I made sure of it.”
“Is all of this paradin’ around really necessary?”
“The people in town need to see us together. We want them all to be real sure that you’re working with us. How long before someone in town gets a message to Jessie’s father?”
Heyes moved to stand against the wall next to the window. Ezra followed him, but stood directly in front of the opening. Curry strode over and steered Thompson to a position against the wall on the opposite side from Heyes.
“Ya’ don’t want the folks we’re watchin’ to see ya’,” he explained.
Ezra nodded, and then pointed at a chubby man riding a buckskin horse toward the edge of town. “That’s the deputy, and he’s riding in the direction of the Tolliver farm.”
Heyes smiled. “That’s it then. Let’s go.” He grabbed his hat from the foot of the bed and his gun belt from the bed post.
“Mr. Heyes--I mean Joshua--do we really need to do all of this? Can’t we just go get Jessie tonight? I can show you where the farm is.”
Heyes sighed and placed a hand on Ezra’s shoulder. “I need to see the place before I can plan how to remove Miss Tolliver from her father’s house. And she needs to know we’re coming.” Heyes hooked his thumbs into his gun belt and studied the man in front of him. “I also want to see for myself if this is what Miss Tolliver wants. No offense, Ezra, but right now we only have your word for it that the girl wants to elope with you. Before the Kid and I take a lady from her home, we need to hear from her directly that it’s what she wants.”
“I should probably appreciate that.”
“Come on, Ezra,” coaxed Curry. “I thought you agreed that we would let Heyes here do the plannin’.”
Less than an hour later, they stood at a closed gate in front of the Tolliver farm. A scrawny youth with high cheekbones and a sparse mustache leaned against the gate with a Winchester held loosely in both hands. Thompson got off his horse, but Heyes and Curry remained mounted.
“Howdy, Levi,” Ezra greeted the man leaning on the gate.
“Whatcha doin’ here, Ezra? Pa made it clear you ain’t welcome.”
“Sure did, but I’m just showing these two gents the way to your place. They want to speak with Jessie.”
Heyes swung out of the saddle and offered his hand to the guard. Levi Tolliver reluctantly propped his weapon against the fence and grudgingly shook Heyes’ hand.
“I’m Joshua Rembacher,” Heyes introduced himself. “My partner there is Thaddeus Hotchkiss. We need to speak with Mr. Samuel Tolliver and Miss Jessie Tolliver.”
Before Levi could respond, the chubby deputy rode into view.
“Let ‘em in, Levi,” the deputy called out. “Your Pa said he’d talk to them.”
Heyes remounted. Ezra started to follow, but Levi grabbed his rifle and pointed it.
“Not you, Thompson,” he growled. “Maybe we can’t keep these marshals out, but we don’t have to let you on our land. You can jest wait for yer friends right here.”
“It’s all right, Mr. Thompson,” Heyes assured him. “We’ll meet you here after we speak with Miss Tolliver.”
“I’ll be waitin’, Mr. Rembacher.”
A few minutes later, a painfully thin woman in a high-necked dress was leading Curry and Heyes into Mr. Samuel Tolliver’s study. Blue and brown eyes furtively catalogued their surroundings as they walked through the house. Tolliver was a broad, strong, weathered man with deep creases in his face and hands. A ring of curly grey hair circled his head. He glared at the two cowboys from behind the protection of a large oak desk.
“I’m Rembacher,” Heyes introduced himself, and then indicated Curry. “And this is my partner, Mr. Hotchkiss.” Heyes extended his hand, but Tolliver ignored it. Curry stood a few steps behind Heyes with his thumbs hooked under his gun belt. He treated Tolliver to the icy glare.
“We’re here to speak with your daughter, Mr. Tolliver. We have a report that you plan to force her into a polygamous marriage against her wishes. You do know that polygamy is illegal in this country?”
Tolliver pushed back his chair and ponderously rose to his feet. He leaned his upper body across the desk, resting his weight on his arms.
“I have only one thing to say to the two of you. Who can I contact to verify that you’re really federal agents?”
“Of course, Mr. Tolliver. You can certainly contact our superiors in Washington, but they will want to know why you’re asking.” Heyes paused to let Tolliver catch the implications. “If you would prefer to be more discreet,” Heyes slid a glance at his partner, “You may send a telegram to Miss Betsy Jamison in Kingsburg, California. Just a few months back, she helped us bring in a crooked banker who was embezzling funds from his own bank to speculate in mining stocks.”
“You can be sure, I’ll send a telegram just as soon as I get to town. In the meantime, I’ve been warned by our local authorities that I must let you speak with my daughter.” Suddenly he bellowed, “Mildred.” The mousy woman returned.
“This way, please,” she mumbled, and they followed her out of the room and down the hall to a stuffy parlor. Seated demurely with her hands folded in her lap was a thin girl in her late teens with enormous grey eyes. Her hair was an unruly brown mop of curls escaping from braids and pins. She wore a plain, grey and white dress with a starched collar and fitted sleeves. The woman, Mildred, backed out of the room and shut the door.
“Miss Tolliver?” asked Heyes, quietly. The girl nodded and offered him a shy smile. “Ezra Thompson asked us to come and see how you are.”
At the mention of Ezra’s name, the girl’s eyes sparkled, and her face was transformed by a dazzling smile. “Sit down. Tell me what he said,” she urged in a low voice.
The cowboys sat on the settee facing Jessie’s chair. Heyes reached into a pocket inside his leather vest and pulled out a note Thompson had written explaining their plan. Jessie unfolded the note and quickly read the message. Once finished, she looked at Curry and then Heyes.
“I want to marry Ezra,” she breathed so quietly that they had to strain to hear her.
Curry stood up and listened for sounds outside the door. Heyes leaned forward and covered Jessie’s small hand with his.
“Tonight,” Heyes whispered. “Which room is yours?”
“Second floor, middle window. I’ll leave it open a few inches.”
“Is there a side door?”
She nodded. “It’s on the north side of the house around the corner from the screened porch.”
“Will your room be guarded?”
“Pa is keeping it locked and barred from the outside. He keeps the key with him. One of my brothers, or one of the hands, will be outside the house below my window. Another will patrol the grounds.”
“Your father is that worried about Ezra?”
“No, he’s worried about me. I got out twice before he added the guards and the bar on my door.”
Late that night, after folks had gone to bed, Curry and Heyes lay flat on their stomachs behind some brush watching a farm hand patrolling the Tolliver property.
“He’s real predictable, Heyes,” muttered Curry. “Amateur. Don’t change his routine at all.”
“Just makes it easier for us, Kid. How you want to do it?”
“Once he goes around back, you hide by one side of the porch, and I’ll wait on the other. After he passes me, distract him, and I’ll take him out from behind.”
Once the farmhand checked the front of the house and disappeared around back, Heyes stealthily moved to the far side of the porch. He drew his revolver and crouched behind a bush next to the corner. Curry ran bent over, using his long legs to smoothly propel him across the empty yard. He pressed his back to the side of the house in a dark corner created by the junction of the porch and the wall. He removed his Colt and stood perfectly still, waiting for the guard to pass.
Soon the farmhand walked by Curry. Heyes rose up from behind the bush and pointed his Schofield. The man raised his rifle when the armed cowboy suddenly appeared. Immediately, the cold barrel of a six-shooter pressed into his neck, and Curry’s gloved hand covered his mouth.
“No heroics. We don’t want to hurt nobody,” Curry warned. “Keep still, because the trigger on this gun is real touchy. You don’t want my finger to slip and have it go off accidental.”
Heyes removed the rifle from the farmer’s trembling hands. Kid stuffed a bandana in the man’s mouth and knotted the gag while Heyes bound his hands and feet with strips of leather. They deposited him behind the bush where Heyes had hidden, and secured him to a post.
Once the guard was tied and out of sight, Heyes moved to the back of the house, hugging the wall to avoid being seen. Curry trailed close behind. Both men had their guns drawn. Heyes stopped when they reached the corner of the house. He carefully peered around before stepping to the side entrance.
He tried the door, but it was locked. His fingers slid a pick out of the pocket sewn into the lining of his boots. Curry stood next to his partner, back against the wall, right arm stretched down against his side with his gun in his hand. Keen, blue eyes darted from horizon to horizon searching for trouble and watching his partner’s back. Knowing Kid was by his side, Heyes fully concentrated on his job.
In mere seconds, the lock surrendered. Heyes replaced the tool and removed his gun from its holster. He turned the knob and eased open the door. Curry glided inside. Heyes followed and silently closed the door behind them. They crept up the stairs, staying near the wall, and placing each foot carefully before lowering any weight onto a step. A swinging door at the top of the stairs squeaked when Heyes began to push it open. Both outlaws froze. Curry held the door in place while Heyes reached into his jacket and brought out a very small tin of oil. He placed a few drops on each hinge, and then they waited for several seconds before trying the door again. This time it moved soundlessly.
Curry slipped through; his gun was pressed against his thigh. Heyes moved past him to a barred door in the middle of the hallway. Curry lifted the wooden bar while Heyes reached for his pick. A sturdy metal hasp with a large padlock secured Jessie’s room. Heyes inserted the pick and was rewarded with a muffled click. Deft fingers removed the padlock and opened the door. Miss Tolliver stood waiting just inside wearing a riding skirt and carrying a small travel bag. She was ready to go.
Heyes placed two gloved fingers over the girl’s mouth. Once he was sure she wouldn’t speak, he removed his hand and circled her wrist with his fingers. A gentle tug towed her out the door. Kid Curry stood in the hallway outside the bedroom with his back against the wall. Heyes secured the hasp with the padlock. He lifted the wooden bar and replaced it in the brackets, barring the room again from the outside. While Heyes locked the door, Curry placed a finger against his own lips reminding Jessie to stay quiet. Once everything was relocked, he led the way back downstairs, followed by Jessie and then Heyes.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, the Kid opened the outside door. A large orange and white tabby darted through the opening. Jessie tried to pick up the cat, but it leapt through her arms and pushed off a dainty table. The table wobbled, and a vase toppled to the floor where it shattered, spilling glass and dried flowers. The cat hissed and spit, and then streaked up the stairs. Heyes’ dark eyes sought Curry’s blue ones. The silent conversation was instantaneous.
“You sure?” Heyes barely breathed the question.
Heyes grabbed Jessie’s hand and hurried out the door. He ran, hauling her across the property. Curry plastered himself against the outside wall next to the side door. The barrel of a rifle appeared around the corner. The Kid grabbed and pulled. When a startled Levi Tolliver followed the barrel, he found a cocked six-shooter pointing at his head. After taking the man’s weapon, Kid placed Levi in front of him. He stood watching the side-door stairway, and wrapped his hand over Levi’s mouth.
Light flickered in an upstairs window. Curry heard shouts as the household shook itself awake. Bare feet thumped on the stairs. The first person down hesitated because of the splintered glass. Kid shoved Levi into the foyer and aimed his Colt at the two men poised on the landing. The younger man raised his Winchester.
“I’d think real hard before pointin’ that thing,” Curry responded in a hard voice.
The young man lowered the rifle, but when Curry stepped further into the doorway he raised it again and aimed. His father used his own weapon to knock the barrel of his son’s Winchester toward the ceiling. It went off, showering the room with chunks of plaster. At the same time, Curry fired and grazed the man’s hand. The rifle clattered to the ground.
“Daniel, we don’t shoot federal marshals,” shouted Samuel Tolliver.
“But they’re takin’ Jessie, Pa,” he whined while cradling his injured hand. Blood drops slipped through his fingers and splattered on the stairs.
“Listen to your, Pa,” Curry recommended. “Bein’ wanted for murder’s not gonna bring your sister back home.”
Daniel spun back to face his father. “We can’t let --”
“The church elders ain’t gonna tolerate anybody shooting federal officers. Let it go.”
“That’s right, Dan--” Curry began.
“Get off my land,” Tolliver cut him off. “GET OFF MY LAND!” he bellowed and aimed his rifle.
The Kid backed away from the house. When he was no longer directly in front of the doorway, he turned and ran toward Heyes and Jessie. Tolliver and his sons burst through the door, and several shots kicked up dust in front of them. When the revolver fired, Curry leaped, pulling his legs into a tuck. He cleared the fence and rolled. Heyes offered him a hand, but kept his gun aimed at the Tollivers.
Curry was on his feet, and backing down the road with Heyes and Jessie.
“I can’t believe we got caught because of a cat,” muttered Heyes with disgust.
“Can’t plan for everything,” Curry concluded. “Some things just happen.”
“Yeah,” Heyes replied with a grin. “That’s why I’ve got you. To watch my back when things don’t go as planned.”
“You saying that you need me to protect you from kitty cats?”
They reached a clump of trees and boulders. Ezra stepped out from behind the trees and handed reins to Heyes and Curry. He gave Jessie a quick kiss on the cheek and then helped her mount a horse. Heyes handed Jessie her travel bag before swinging up into his own saddle. Curry mounted but didn’t turn away from the men in front of the Tolliver farmhouse until the other three had ridden some distance. Turning, he hurried after Heyes, Jessie, and Ezra.
Five days later, Hannibal Heyes, Kid Curry, Jessie Tolliver, and Ezra Thompson were all standing on a platform at the train station in Denver.
“I really wish you two would stay for the wedding,” pleaded Jessie. “It won’t be much, but we would love to have you there.”
“We wouldn’t be getting married if it weren’t for you two,” added Ezra.
“Sure wish we could,” said Curry.
“It’s really not safe for us to stay,” added Heyes.
“But no one knows you’re here,” argued Ezra.
“It wouldn’t take much to figure out where we headed,” explained Heyes. “I don’t want to be here when Jessie’s Pa finds out we aren’t federal marshals.” He smiled. “And I meant that it isn’t safe for you two if we stick around.”
Jessie leaned close and gave Heyes a kiss on the cheek. As she hugged him, she whispered, “I’m not afraid to have you around, Mr. Heyes. You will be welcome at our home anytime.”
Heyes shot Ezra an accusing glance. Ezra shrugged and flashed his crooked grin. “We’re gettin’ married,” he said. “I couldn’t keep lying to her about something as important as who rescued her.”
Curry shook Ezra’s hand. He kissed Jessie on the cheek. “Good luck,” he said.
“Good luck to you too, Mr. Curry,” she murmured, before she gave him a quick hug.
Heyes clasped Jessie’s hand between his two gloved ones and then shook Ezra’s. Both ex-outlaws climbed onto the waiting train and waved goodbye to the couple standing on the platform.
“We did good this time, Heyes,” Curry said quietly.
“Yep, Kid, we did.”
“But the next time we come to Utah, I’m bringin’ a bottle of whiskey with me.”Historical Notes
I. All the towns referenced in this story are, and were, actual communities in southern Utah.
Orderville was the most successful town to follow the United Order (also called The United Order of Enoch) which was a Mormon experiment in communal living. The principles of the United Order, as they were implemented in the town of Orderville, were very successful and produced a thriving and prosperous community. During the 1870 and early 1880s, Orderville boasted a population of about 700 residents. It was also unusual in that about 67% of the marriages in Orderville were plural. This is compared to an average in other nineteenth century LDS communities of about 25%. (The plural marriage statistics are hotly debated making it hard to get firm figures, but all sources seemed to agree that most of the marriages in Utah were not plural, and that Orderville was an exception with a very high percentage of the marriages being plural.)
Rockville and Springdale both existed through the 1880s and are both still with us today. However, I did cheat. Today, Springdale is the larger community, because it sits at the entrance to Zion National Park. At the time of the story, however, Springdale was very small, only about 50 people. It had no telegraph, no post office, and no train service. Rockville (4 miles southwest of Springdale) was the larger community and offered the services Springdale lacked. I switched the size of these two towns and the location of the telegraph office, just to make the story less complicated.
II. Federal Legislation regarding polygamy in the nineteenth century and its enforcement by federal marshals.
a. 1862 – The Morrill Act made bigamy a felony according to federal law. It was a law with many loopholes and Abraham Lincoln chose to ignore it. He went so far as to send word to Brigham Young (through an intermediary) saying that “if he (Brigham Young) will leave me (Lincoln) alone, I will leave him (Brigham Young) alone.”
b. 1874 – The Poland Act required that polygamy cases only be tried in federal courts with federal judges.
c. 1882 – The Edmunds Act barred anyone in a polygamous union from voting, serving on a jury, and from holding public office. It also provided for the dissolution of the LDS Church as a corporation and the seizure of all church property valued over $50,000. It was after the passage of the Edmunds Act that federal marshals and their deputies became a force in the lives of Utah residents practicing polygamy.
d. 1887 – The Edmunds – Tucker Act tightened and strengthened the Edmunds Act. Under Edmunds – Tucker:
1. Wives were required to testify against their husbands in polygamy cases.
2. All marriages had to be recorded.
3. Women lost the vote in Utah.
4. All citizens running for public office, serving on a jury, or wanting to vote were required to sign an oath supporting anti-polygamy laws.
III. The Zion Narrows - The Narrows is a 16-mile hike from the Chamberlain Ranch near Glendale, Utah to the Temple of Sinawava in Zion National Park. Most of the 16-mile trail is in the canyon and depending on the Virgin River water level, much of the hiking is done in the water. Several places in the Narrows do require swimming. Flash floods are not unusual and are most common in August and September.
IV. Alcohol Sales – I was surprised to discover that most of the communities in Utah had saloons during the nineteenth century. The Mormon prohibition on caffeinated drinks and alcohol was not as strictly enforced before the turn of the century. In 1902, adherence to the Word of Wisdom (the part of the Doctrines and Covenants detailing guidelines on the consumption of food and beverages) was made mandatory for admission into the church. Prior to 1902, church elders were urged to be lenient, with older church members in particular, who grew up without these restrictions.
The ideas for this story came from investigating Utah history after a family trip to Zion National Park. I am not a Mormon, but I have tried to be respectful of the beliefs of the LDS Church. If I have offended in any way through my ignorance, please forgive me.
Finally, a big thank you to Fortitudine for providing information about nineteenth century ammunition. Any errors are, of course, my own.