Heyes awoke and pulled the pillow over his head upon hearing the familiar sound of the rooster and its execution. After a minute, he threw the pillow down and found himself staring at the familiar hotel room ceiling. "I've never hated an animal so much in my life as I do that dang rooster." He sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "Well, I guess Cat was right. Staying with him didn't work at all." He scratched his head as he stared across the table and out the window. He was starting to feel really defeated. His hands dropped to his lap. Maybe this was the one puzzle in his life he wasn't going to figure out. After a moment, he shook those thoughts from his head. No, this loop of misery was NOT going to get the best of Hannibal Heyes. He sat on the bed, nearly motionless as his brain ran through all that hadn't worked.
"Mornin' Heyes." Kid walked in and stopped when he realized his cousin wasn't moving. "Heyes, you alright?"
Heyes shook his head and turned to face Curry. "Uh,...yeah. I'm fine. Just got up and I felt like I was still half asleep."
Kid nodded slowly, not really believing him, but decided that his partner was just having one of his weird moments. Who knew what went on in that head of his when he stared into space like that. "Went out to get some breakfast and a paper. Didn't want to wake ya, so I just brought you something back."
"Just set it on the table here." Heyes stood up and tried to comb down some of his unruly hair with his fingers. He only succeeded in making it worse.
Kid softly giggled. "You look real good like that. I'd wear it that way from now on."
Heyes rolled his eyes and retrieved his comb and shaving essentials from his saddlebags. He made his way to the wash basin and looked in the mirror. He didn't think he looked as bad as Kid had made it seem.
Curry set the items down on the table then dropped the newspaper beside them. "Since we're runnin' low on money, I was glancin' at this paper while I ate and saw a couple ads for jobs. One's out at a small ranch patchin' up a barn. The other's deliverin' some documents out to a mine."
Heyes paused to peer at his cousin through the wash basin mirror to repeat, once again, what he had said on that first day. "Let me guess. You chose the delivery job."
Kid shot Heyes his most charming, innocent smile. "Well, I figured this time, I'd do the decidin' instead of that coin of yours."
Heyes slowly shaved as he kept watching his cousin in the mirror. He was killing time waiting for Kid to leave. He didn't have to wait long.
"See you tonight Heyes. Don't break all your fingers trying to nail on that barn."
"Well, you don't get yourself robbed, shot, or lost going to that mine."
Curry rolled his eyes. "You always have to have the last word don't you?"
Heyes put the razor down to smile at Kid in the mirror. "Of course."
Kid opened the door. "You're impossible to live with at times, you know that?" he said quickly as he went into the corridor and shut the door before his partner could reply.
"HEY KID," Heyes yelled.
Curry couldn't help it. He automatically went back to the door and opened it. "Yell my name a little louder why don't you, I don't think they heard it in the next county. Now what do you want?"
"Bye." Heyes smugly grinned.
'Dang it Heyes' Kid thought as he slammed the door shut and went down the stairs. He could've said his thought aloud, but that would've provoked his cousin to say something else and he could end up being there all day.
As soon as the door shut, Heyes finished shaving and got dressed. He was still taking his leisurely time, since he had no need to hurry. Afterwards, he retrieved the pencil he had found the day before. 'I need some paper. There's not enough blank space on that newspaper to figure things out.' Knowing there was no blank paper in their room, he left and went to the desk in the lobby.
The clerk had his back to him as he had on other days when Heyes was in the lobby at that time of day. "Excuse me," Heyes said politely to get his attention.
"Can I help you with something?" the clerk asked unenthused when he turned around.
Heyes grinned at him. "Yeah, I was wondering if you had a piece of paper I could have."
"I can't just be giving the hotel's paper away."
Heyes sighed and dug in his pocket. "How about a nickel for it?"
The clerk never took his eyes off the ex-outlaw as he reached beneath the desk. Momentarily, he laid down a piece of paper. "Nickel please."
Heyes kept a sideways grin as he lay down the money. "Thanks." He picked up his newly acquired, expensive piece of paper and went back to his room as the clerk put the nickel in his pocket.
Heyes sat himself down at the table next to the window. He took a drink of coffee. It wasn't hot anymore, but still warm enough to drink. He decided to resume his train of thought from the previous day about the 'clarity' saying' before he had gotten distracted and left it. Taking a bite of the sandwich, he wrote the definition of clarity he'd found at the top of the page.
'Alright, clarity is...clearness or lucidity as to...perception or understanding;...freedom from...indistinctness or...some word I don't remember. And I sure as heck am NOT going back to that library to see what it was.'
He thought hard about the definition as he finished the sandwich off. After wiping his mouth and hands, he wrote down the cryptic message Cat told him, however many days ago it was.
"'Clarity is the path to inner peace.' And then yesterday, Cat said the solutions he'd seen work seemed to be personal in some way."
Heyes decided to try substituting words from the definition for the word 'clarity' in the message. 'Clearness is the path to inner peace...lucidity is...perception is,... understanding is...freedom is...'.
'Alright, I know it's not freedom from the law. The amnesty day didn't break the loop. Sure would've been nice if it had. Anyway, all the words in the definition mean pretty much the same thing to describe 'clarity''. "Well, of course they do," he chastised himself. "Hmm..."
Heyes sat at least thirty minutes in deep thought comparing the definition to the saying. He seemed to keep going back to the words, 'understanding', and 'freedom'. He looked at the paper and noticed he'd wrote them both down at least three times a piece. He drummed the end of the pencil on the table. "Cat HAD to mean something by telling me to remember that phrase. Maybe he DOES know the answer to break the loop,...but if he outright tells me,...maybe it wouldn't work. The solution seemed to be something personal he said,...but freedom or understanding of what? Clarity of what?"
He couldn't think of anything he needed to understand any better than he already did. As for freedom, what else but the law could that pertain to? He slammed the pencil down on the table as he slouched back in the chair aggravated. He stared at the paper for another five minutes with his arms crossed. "WHAT could he have meant by that? I've never met anyone that seemed to have inner peace,...except for maybe Sister Grace, and I'm pretty sure I'm not meant to be a nun."
Heyes stared out the window, not really looking at anything in particular. Maybe the clarity riddle had NOTHING to do with the solution. But, then again, maybe the answer was on that paper, staring him in the face. This was the first time he had actually taken some time to think deeply on it. After a minute, he stood up. This indepth, philosophical thinking required a drink.
After the bender he went on the other night, Heyes decided to just order beer from the bar instead of a whole bottle of whiskey. He sat at a table near the back where he could see both the door and out the window. He sat sipping the beverage as he continued to think on Cat's words. Heyes was so preoccupied, he didn't notice the petite, scantily clad brunette walk up behind him. He was actually startled when her hand touched his shoulder, his first thoughts going back to crazy Judy. 'Oh my God...'
"Hey honey. You're awful jumpy aren't ya? You look lonely sitting back here all by yourself. Want a little company?"
Heyes looked up at her as she moved to stand beside him. She was quite a nice looking woman, wearing a very revealing short, tight, red dress, complete with feather boa. Deciding his brain could use a break, he smiled at her. "Sure. Have a seat." As he spoke, he stood up and pulled out the chair beside him. She sat down and he shortly followed. "Care for a drink Miss..."
"Ruby," she said seductively through red painted lips. "Sure. I'll take one. No need for you to drink alone."
Heyes motioned at the bartender to bring over a drink for the loose woman. In less than a minute, she had a shot of whiskey. She sipped a little of it. "So, what's your name handsome?"
"Joshua," Heyes replied out of habit. He took a drink from his glass. "Nice to meet you Miss Ruby. Aren't you starting work a little early?"
"Oh, no darling. I like getting an early start. More hours, more money, more...happiness. Besides, some of the most interesting people come in during the daytime...like you. You look plenty interesting. I bet you've had some wild adventures at times," she replied looking deep into his dark eyes. "I can see in your eyes you're no ordinary cowboy."
Heyes gave her one of his trademark dimpled smiles. "Honey, you have no idea."
Ruby scooted her chair a little closer to his. "Well, wanna have another one right now?" she purred.
Heyes kept his smile in place. Quickly, he sorted through his thoughts. 'A break would do me good. Maybe I need to come back and look at the problem a little refreshed.' "Do you?" he asked in a low voice while raising one eyebrow.
Ruby smiled as she threw back the rest of her whiskey, stood up, and offered her hand to him. Heyes took a final, long swallow of his beer and took her hand, which he held all the way up the staircase.
A couple or three hours later, Hannibal Heyes emerged from the saloon looking especially relaxed, which, unfortunately, wasn't going to last very long. He quickly went into the cafe and grabbed a sandwich for later before the traveling bounty hunter showed up for his cup of coffee. Then he returned to the hotel room.
Laying the sandwich down on the table, he looked once again at the paper with the clarity riddle written all over it. Of all the things he had tried to get the loop to stop, he'd never tried anything that was related to the mysterious message from Cat. "Clarity..is the path to inner peace." He threw his hat on his bed and started pacing the room trying to imagine anything that would even remotely relate to both himself AND the alleged epiphany he'd been given. He furrowed his brows as he paced his circuit around the room. "Inner peace...inner peace." He had returned to the table. He stopped to stare at the paper with his hands on his hips. Suddenly infuriated with his lack of ideas, he yelled at the paper as he wadded it into a ball, "I'D GET SOME INNER PEACE IF I COULD FIGURE YOU OUT!" The paper wad was then thrown violently against the window.
After a couple of minutes to settle down, he pulled off his brown corduroy jacket and threw it on his bed next to his hat. The paper wad was picked up and straightened back out as best as it could be on the table. With a snarled look at it, the pacing then resumed.
Kid Curry returned to the hotel that evening after stopping for dinner and a drink. He was surprised when he didn't find Heyes in the saloon engaged in a poker game. 'Must've been too tired from having to actually do some work', he thought.
He opened the hotel room door and was immediately stopped in his tracks at what he saw. Heyes was slowly and softly banging his head against the table he sat at. A worn down pencil was in his right hand next to his head. His left arm hung straight down at his side. Little pieces of ripped up paper littered the rest of the tabletop and the surrounding floor area.
Kid walked slowly toward his strangely acting cousin. "Heyes?" There was no answer. Kid spoke a little louder with confusion in his voice. "Heyes? WHAT on earth have you been doin'?"
"I'm never getting out of here," Heyes said softly as he let his head finally just rest on the tabletop with his eyes closed.
Curry was now thoroughly bewildered. "Huh?"
"I'm never getting out of here."
Kid pulled his jacket off and laid it beside him as he sat down on his bed facing Heyes. "Out of where? This room? This town? What are you talkin' about?"
Heyes raised his head to look at his partner. Curry had to stifle a smile. There were a few little ripped up pieces of paper stuck on Heyes' forehead. Heyes saw the look though and quickly figured out what was wrong. He plucked the offending paper pieces off himself and tried to throw them down in disgust just to have them softly flutter to the floor. "I'm NEVER going to get out of this town. This day is going to last for the rest of eternity and I'M STUCK in the middle of it."
Kid raised his eyebrows with a worried look. "Have a little too much alcohol tonight, have we?" he cautiously asked.
Heyes threw the pencil in his hand across the table which in turn disturbed some of the shredded paper pieces. "NOOO. 'WE' haven't. I've had ONE beer."
"Well then, you've finally crossed the border into crazy town 'cause you ain't makin' a lick of sense."
Heyes slouched back in his chair looking depressed. "Kid, I'm not crazy." He paused. "I'm...sorry."
"Sorry for WHAT Heyes?"
"Sorry for getting you stuck here with me."
Kid sighed. "You're gonna have to start makin' some sense or I'm gonna go fetch the doctor up here."
Heyes leaned forward and dropped his head in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees. "Listen Kid, and just believe me. I'm not insane. This day is repeating for me. Every morning at 7 a.m., this day resets for me and I get woke up by a rooster getting shot. The day's repeating for you too, you just don't know it because at 7 a.m., you forget everything that's happened in the last twenty-four hours."
Kid was extremely concerned now. "That's impossible. Days don't repeat themselves."
"You've told me that exact thing I don't know how many times now." Heyes looked up at his younger cousin.
"Alright, listen. I'm going to tell you what you did today. On the way up to the mines, a nervous man tried to rob you. When you got to the mines, they accused you of being a gunslinger hired by the bank and one of the men there drew on you. Then you came back, got something to eat, got a drink in the saloon, and came in here."
Kid was taken aback. "Now, those last things you could've watched me do. But,...the other things that happened...how did you know that?"
"Because you've told me before."
Kid was still skeptical. "You could've heard that from somewhere else today. One of the miners could've come back to town and told at least part of that story."
Heyes sighed. "Okay." He got up and retrieved his pocket watch from the bedside table and looked at it. "In about thirty seconds, a horse tied in front of the sheriff's office is going to whinny as a dog walks by it."
Curry squinted his eyes at his partner as he went to the window. There was a horse tied in front of the sheriff's office. He waited and sure enough, in about thirty seconds, the horse let out a whinny as a dog came out of the alley and walked by it. He turned with his eyes wide. He stared at Heyes as he slowly went back to his bed and set down on the edge. "How did you know that was goin' to happen?"
Heyes returned to his chair by the table and literally fell down into it. He spoke softly. "I told you. This day repeats itself. I don't know how else to prove it to you."
Kid was at a loss for words. Finally, he uttered out, "How?"
Heyes' gaze dropped to the floor as he shook his head dejectedly. "I don't know. Not really. And I have no idea how to stop it. I've lost count of how many times it's repeated now. I've tried all kinds of things to try to stop it. Nothing has worked."
Curry stared at his despondent partner. He still didn't know what to say.
Heyes continued. "So, like I said, I'm sorry. Sorry you're stuck here with me, doing the same thing over and over everytime the day resets."
"Well, don't be sorry Heyes. That's somethin' you can't help. It's not like you're doin' it on purpose."
Heyes' face took on an aggravated look. "I should've listened to you when we first rode into this place when you said you had a weird feeling about it." Heyes was quiet a moment or two, as was Curry. "You know, Kid, now that I think about it, there actually IS something I can do better than make plans and rob safes of their money...get you in trouble."
"Now Heyes, you know that ain't true."
Heyes stared straight into concerned blue eyes. "Isn't it? How many times did I get you in trouble at school or at home? How many times at Valparaiso? It was ME you followed when we ran away from the home and almost starved to death. It was ME that taught you to steal. And it's because of ME, you're a wanted man that used to help lead a gang of outlaws."
Kid sat quiet for a few seconds, then snorted. "You're givin' yourself too much credit Heyes."
Now it was Heyes who looked confused. "What?"
Curry smiled at him. "Sure, you got me into trouble at home and school. But I got YOU into just as much trouble, just as many times. And at Valparaiso, I was in trouble because I got mad and ran my mouth too much to the older kids, until you stepped in. Then we BOTH ended up in trouble because of somethin' I wouldn't just let be and we all ended up fightin'. Yeah, I followed you when you said you were runnin' away from the home...because I WANTED TO. You didn't force me. In fact, if I remember correctly, you tried to get me to stay until you could get us some food and money, but I insisted on goin' anyway. And believe me, you didn't teach me how to steal. Ma never did figure out I was the one stealing cookies at the house. My older sister never did figure out where half the candy she had in her room kept disappearing too. And who stole something for breakfast most of the time when we had nothin'? ME. I always liked it when I woke up before you 'cause that meant I could be the one to go steal food to feed us. And after we split up, I was already wanted in Texas when I went lookin' and found you again.
Heyes was amazed at these revelations. "You were?"
"Yeah. I ran with a small gang in Texas for a while. That's where my reputation started. I was just as larcenous as you Heyes. Well, maybe not AS much, but close. I wanted lots of money without havin' to work hard for it. I started missin' you somethin' fierce and that's when I headed toward Wyomin'."
Heyes had a small, crooked grin on his face. "You were looking for me when we met up again? I was looking for YOU. I'd told Big Jim I was going to look for you and would be back in about two weeks because there were no jobs planned at that time and he agreed to it. But,... I DID talk you into joining the Devil's Hole Gang."
Kid shook his head. "No you didn't. I was comin' with you whether you liked it or not. You just talked so dang much I didn't get to say anythin' about it. I'd lost my family once, and I'd decided that I wasn't going to let it happen again with my only livin' relative. Besides, that's when the Devil's Hole Gang really got so good."
"No. The Devil's Hole Gang got really successful when I started making the plans for the jobs...and had you to watch my back." Heyes was shocked and ecstatic all at the same time. "All this time I've felt guilty over leading you into a life of crime."
Kid laughed. "Well, you shouldn't have. I led myself into it. You weren't the only member of the family with a mean streak in you. Mine just got mixed up with my temper and I wasn't as sneaky about it as you were. And I couldn't come up with all those crazy ideas like you. I'd probably been dead by now if it wasn't for you. Heyes, you've saved me so many times, I could never pay you back. So don't be feelin' guilty about me bein' a wanted man. I accomplished that on my own. Now, if you want to feel guilty about somethin' feel it over that Columbine job."
"Hey! EVERYBODY has an off day. The rest of the time though, we were THE BEST the west has ever, or probably ever will, see!" Heyes couldn't quit smiling. "Kid, you don't know what a burden has been lifted off my shoulders. All this time, I'd blamed myself for everything." Then he laughed as a thought struck him. "You know, I think that's the most you've ever talked at one time."
"That's 'cause SOMEBODY ELSE'S mouth never shuts up long enough to listen."
"Well, I'm glad I listened tonight. I feel so much better about those things. Even if this day repeats until I die of old age, at least that guilt about you is gone."
Kid stood up and started getting ready for bed. "Well good. Glad I could clear things up for you. Now, if you don't mind, I'm beat and am going to go to bed so g'night."
Hannibal Heyes woke up and stared again at the familiar ceiling. 'Well, what can I try today?' he thought sourly with a smirk on his face. Then, another thought replaced that one. He shot up in bed. "Something's different."
"What's different, Heyes?"
Heyes' head whipped around, his eyes wide.
Kid was standing at the wash basin. "'Bout time you got up."
Heyes scrambled out of bed, after he fought to untangle himself from the sheets and quilt. He ran over to his cousin and, grabbing his shirt, spun him around. "You're here,...in the room!"
"Uh...yeah. Been here since last night. Want me to be somewhere else?" Kid watched as the excitement in Heyes' eyes grew.
Then it hit Heyes. He wasn't woken up by a rooster. "What time is it?" He ran to the bedside table and grabbed his pocket watch. "7:30? It's 7:30?!" He actually jumped up and down in celebration. "IT'S OVER! THE LOOP'S BROKEN! IT'S BROKEN!" He fell onto his bed and yelled into his pillow. Then, he suddenly jerked up as if he'd been struck by lightning and looked wild-eyed at his partner. "START PACKING! HURRY!"
A man at the livery stable watched as two riders galloped at full speed out of the town of Destiny Loop. "Good luck to you Mr. Heyes," he said softly to himself.
Cat was enjoying his second cup of coffee while sitting on his porch as two horses raced past his house. Heyes looked over and tipped his hat to him as he flew past. Cat raised his coffee cup in salute. "I knew you would work it out. Safe travels always to you both, Hannibal and Jedediah. May you receive your much deserved freedom soon."
Heyes had them gallop about five miles away from Destiny Loop before he would even slow down.
"What's your hurry, Heyes?" Kid asked as he slowed his horse down to a soft stop.
"I wanted OUT of that town. Who knows when that stupid repeating day business will start up again there and I didn't want to be around to see it."
Kid moved his horse up to stand beside his cousin's. "How many times did the day repeat for you?"
Heyes looked over at him. "I don't know exactly. I lost count. It was too many though. You wouldn't believe everything that happened. I fought with you, you thought I was insane, got shot, stabbed, killed, arrested, robbed a bank, turned us in, got attacked by a giant woman twice,..."
Kid raised his eyebrows. "Alright, slow down. I can't believe I'm goin' to say this 'cause it'll just make you talk more than you already do, but I want to hear these stories."
"I could write a book, but nobody would believe it really happened."
"What finally made it stop?"
Heyes stared at his partner as he concentrated. "You know, I hadn't thought about it yet. I was just intent on getting away from that weird place." Heyes looked off in the distance as he pondered the question. What had happened yesterday that could've done it? Eventually, it came to him and a big smile appeared on his face. "That strange message Cat gave me one day. That had the answer in it all this time!"
Heyes looked back at Curry. "Remember that old Indian I tipped my hat to as we rode by?"
"That was him. That was Cat. I got to know him pretty good."
"What did he tell you?"
"That 'Clarity is the path to inner peace'."
"How'd that have the answer in it? Like you said, it's a strange message."
"That talk we had last night, about how it wasn't all my fault for the way you turned out, THAT was the answer! At the end of the conversation, I said I was glad you'd told me all that stuff because I didn't feel guilty about being the cause of it anymore; you'd assured me I wasn't. Then you said you were glad to clear things up for me. 'Clearness, understanding, freedom',...those were all words in the definition of clarity I found in a dictionary. THAT was it. THAT'S what it meant. 'Clarity is the path to inner peace', or in other words, 'freedom from unnecessary guilt'. I just needed to find out I hadn't ruined your life."
"Why hadn't you just asked me about it before?"
"I felt too much guilt and was ashamed to bring it up. I was afraid that, somewhere deep down, you held it against me for the way life turned out for you and I didn't want to deal with that because it would change our relationship for me forever. So, I just accepted the guilt and lived with it."
"Heyes, I don't get you sometimes."
Heyes looked confused. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well, usually, you're talkin' my ears off about this, that, and whatever. But the one thing you NEEDED to talk about to me, you kept to yourself." Kid reached out and slapped his cousin reassuredly on his shoulder. "So, where should we head to now you think?"
Heyes looked happily into the distance as he thought both on the question and back on his experience. One day in particular came to his mind. The amnesty day. He turned, looked at Kid, laughed a little, and, smiling mischiveously said, "Let's go to Cheyenne and visit the Governor."
A/N - I'd like to thank all of you that stuck with this story through my months of writer's block. I'm so glad to finally be able to say this story is finished. I appreciate all the readers and hope you enjoyed it.
Come to the dark side...we have cookies