“How much further, Wheat?” Lom yelled as the downpour started. Wheat stopped his horse and waited for the buggy carrying Lom and Mary.
“T’aint much further, I reckon.”
“Ya said that, ten minutes ago!”
“Yeah well it’s dark and I don’t know the road. He’s here somewhere!”
Conversation over, Wheat started his horse forward. He was beginning to worry that he’d missed the spot. If they got all the way to Salt River … No, they hadn’t, he told himself. They’d ridden quite a way out of Salt River and Heyes had told him Porterville was nearer. C’mon Heyes where are ya?
They found Heyes a short while later. He was soaked and shivering. Mary flew out of the buggy to him.
“Josh!” Mary was on her knees by his side, heedless of the mud and rain on her clothes. Her concern was her husband.
She tilted his head up in concern. Her warm hands on his cold face felt good.
“Thank goodness we found you.” By the light of the buggy lamp, she could see his cut face.
“It looks worse than it is,” he murmured. “It’s okay, Mary.” He turned a relieved face up to the two men who walked up behind her. “Hey, am I glad to see you. The novelty of sitting here wore off ‘bout three hours ago.”
“We got here as fast as we could,” Lom said, glancing at Wheat.
Lom crouched by Heyes. He did a quick assessment of the injuries for himself causing Heyes to hiss in pain. He didn’t like the look of the right leg.
Giving Lom room to work, Mary stood up next to Wheat. Her hands flying to her face when she heard her husband’s moans. She was grateful when Wheat crept a little closer.
“We got ‘im, ma’am. He’ll be alright now ya see,” he said, reassuringly but keeping his distance all the same. He didn’t trust her to turn on him again.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
“Heyes, d’you reckon you can stand up? If we help you?” Lom asked.
“Well can’t sit here all night. Let’s give it a whirl,” Heyes said, rolling his eyes at the thought of what it might cost him in terms of pain.
“Get his good arm, Wheat.”
It look the three of them to get Heyes up. Wheat and Lom either side, Mary behind making sure he didn’t fall back. Once on his feet, only the heel of his right foot was in contact with the ground. Heyes groaned. “Dizzy!” Wheat and Lom steadied him until the spinning stopped. “Yeah, okay.”
It was a slow painful walk across to the buggy. Heyes stood looking at it, calling up the courage to climb into the thing.
“This is gonna hurt!”
Mary climbed in the back on the other side and prepared to receive him next to her.
“Joshua, let’s get you home and into a nice warm bed. I made your favourite blueberry pie and there’s a piece with your name on it.”
Heyes smiled weakly. “Warm bed sounds nice. You can keep your pie.”
Mary smiled. Blueberry pie was NOT his favourite. He suffered it because the children liked it. When he was irritated he could put aside his physical comfort. She hoped it would give him the extra spur he needed to get into the buggy. Such was the nature of their relationship.
Heyes cried out once as he struggled in and eased himself onto the seat next to Mary with a groan. Mary draped a blanket round him and snuggled him next to her.
“Thank you,” he said, as his head, dropped to her shoulder in relief. His hand felt for hers and he squeezed it.
“Soon be home.”
Wheat tied Heyes’ horse to the back and they set off with him in the lead. The journey back was slow. Every rut in the road seemed to cause Heyes pain as they bounced over it. Lom tried going slower but as the rain increased, they got wetter, despite the awning over them.
“Jus’ get me home, Lom,” Heyes gasped, finally. “I can’t get any wetter!”
Lom glanced back at Mary and she nodded. Lom turned back and flicked the reins to encourage the horse into a fast but bone-shaking trot.
It was to all their relief when they turned into the drive of Amnesty.
“Where are the children?” Heyes asked, as Lom and Wheat helped him into the hall.
“Good. Don’t want ‘em to see me like this,” he groaned, leaning against the study doorway.
“I’ll go see if I can round up the doc.” Lom said. “Will ya be alright, Mary?” He looked pointedly at Wheat.
“I’ll be fine. Wheat will stay with me. Won’t you Wheat?”
“Er … yes ma’am. Of course ma’am.” Wheat looked like he had something nasty in his mouth. The thought of being alone with this crazy woman …
Wheat shot Lom a look that said, hurry up.
Lom grinned briefly. “I’ll be as quick as I can. I’ll take Heyes’ horse.”
Mary turned from lighting the lamps. Now there was light she could really see in what state Heyes was.
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance of getting you upstairs is there?”
He shook his head. His eyes were closing as he leant against the doorway. He was breathing in short quick breathes, his skin was pale and he was sweating. “Wheat, I don’t think I can move.” He groaned. “Sheesh! It hurts!” With that, he began to slide down the wall. Wheat caught him, before his legs buckled. Yet he still landed on the floor with a thud and a jolt that made him grunt in pain.
“Heyes, you stay with us now,” Wheat slapped the uninjured cheek. A little too hard from Mary’s point of view. “Ma’am, go make some coffee.”
“Yes ma’am. I seen this afore. He’s cold and going into shock. He’s got a powerful urge to sleep and we shouldn’t let me ‘till the doc gets here.”
Mary looked at her husband, slumped semi-conscious on the floor. She felt helpless. Wheat’s serious face persuaded her. She had no doubt he had seen this before. Especially in his line of work. Being all too aware of the amount of scars on his body, she briefly, wondered how many times it had been Joshua he’d seen like this.
“Not too hot, ma’am. I want ‘im to drink it.”
Mary nodded and went.
Wheat turned back to Heyes and pinched his uninjured cheek.
“Ya gotta stay awake Heyes.”
“Yeah well you don’t have to pinch me! I hurt enough already!”
Wheat grinned as Heyes blinked hard.
“Thanks for coming back for me Wheat,” Heyes said, quietly.
“Had to. Ya had my gun.”
Heyes looked at him, smiling faintly.
“It cost me thirty dollars. Had perfect balance and feel. Weren’t giving that up easy.”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah. Say Wheat?”
“I’m really uncomfortable down here. Wanna get me a chair? There’s a good one in the study here.”
Wheat found one of the wingback chairs that they had sat in the other night. When he came back, he found Heyes had his eyes shut.
“Heyes!” He pinched his cheek again. “Keep awake will ya!”
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m awake,” he said, eyes still closed. Then with a great effort, he opened them and looked round. “Where’s Mary?”
“Making some coffee.”
“I got the chair.”
“D’ya wanna try sitting in it?”
Heyes looked up at Wheat and then back at the chair. He swallowed hard. From his perspective, there in the floor, it looked like a mountain to climb.
“Might need some help,” he admitted.
“Yeah well I reckon ya would. C’mon, let’s get ya up.”
Wheat hauled Heyes to his feet, with a lot of cursing and groaning from both of them. Heyes seemed to weigh thirty pounds heavier than he had earlier. Mary came running at the noise and was just in time to see Heyes collapsing into the chair.
“He’s more comfortable now,” Wheat explained. “Got that coffee yet, ma’am? Running outta things to chat to him about.”
Bart looked up as Lom came in.
“Everything alright Bart?”
“Yes sheriff. Did you get him? Get … Joshua?” He didn’t know if he wanted confirmation just yet that Joshua Smith was really Hannibal Heyes. He’d work up to it. With a bit of luck he might not even get there. They may be another explanation. What that could be he had no idea.
“Yeah we got him. Just came to get the doc. He’s over at the Fischer place, just finishing up. I’ll ride with him back to Amnesty when he’s done.”
Bart nodded, absently. Lom could tell by the way Bart was playing with the pencil, that something was wrong. He frowned.
“Shook ya up did it? What happened earlier?”
“Yeah, a bit. He was real menacing.”
Lom smiled. “Oh he ain’t so bad. Once ya get to know him.”
“You … know him then, sheriff?” Bart tried to be casual but it came out sounding suspicious. Which it was.
Lom nodded. “Yeah a bit. He’s more a friend of Joshua’s.”
“What’s that ya got there, Bart?” Lom asked slowly seeing a wanted poster on the desk in front of Bart.
“Um, I er … did some thinking after … you’d gone and I er … think I know who that man was.” Bart licked his lips, picked up the poster, turned it round so Lom could see.
It was Lom’s turn to stiffen. He nodded.
“Yep. That’s him alright,” he admitted.
There was an awkward silence. Lom figured he owed Bart something. “He’s asked the Governor for amnesty. That’s where I’ve been Bart. In Cheyenne. Seeing the Governor for him.”
Bart nodded. “So do you reckon the Governor will give him amnesty? Like the Governor a while back gave … .” Bart looked down at the paper under his hand, hesitated and then slowly turned up another poster and showed Lom. “Him?” He held up a third. “And … him?”
Lom pursed his lips and shrugged. “Why not? They were much bigger crooks.”
“D’you think Carlson knows where they are now?”
“Dunno. And I ain’t gonna ask him. Wherever they are, they’re free men. They should be left in peace.”
Bart nodded, thoughtfully.
“D’you think … sheriff, that they could be living amongst folks who don’t know who they are?” he asked, slowly
Lom narrowed his eyes. He didn’t like where this was headed. “Possibly I suppose.”
“Under another name? Say …”
“Bart.” Lom leaned on the desk and close to Bart, causing him to draw back a little. “There’ll only be a few people who know where those two are and you ain’t one of them.” He said it firmly and clearly. “Wherever they are, it’s a secret.” He picked the two out of date posters from Bart’s hand. “Got it?”
Lom looked at Bart intently until Bart nodded. Lom stood up, glancing at the posters.
“And it’s not our secret so I don’t wanna hear you running your mouth off in the saloon,” he said, slowly. “Leave it be. Y’hear?”
Bart was in no doubt about a lot of things. So Joshua really was Hannibal Heyes. Sheriff Trevors knew and was fine with it. And Bart would be in big trouble if word got out and it lead back to him. “Yes sheriff. I understand.”
“Good. Now I should of done this a long time ago.” He struck a match, dropped the posters in the wire waste bin and followed then with the lit match.
Both of them watched as the paper flared and burnt.
“Put that one back where ya got it from.” Lom tapped Wheat’s poster and he gave a rueful smirk. “Y’ya never know. We might need it afore the year’s out.”
Bart nodded and got up to do that thing as the doctor came in.
Lom and Doctor Ben Albright, a man in his early forties, rode out to Amnesty. The coffee had perked Heyes up and he was remarkably chipper, sitting in the hall chatting. His sopping outer clothes were gone and Mary had wrapped blankets round him and over his legs. Mary sat on the floor by his feet, her hand on his left knee and Wheat had dragged the other wingback chair from the study.
Heyes took a deep breath when he saw Ben. He was a regular visitor to Amnesty as Harry was the sort of boy who often got into scrapes that required medical attention. As a result, Ben and his wife had become friends. Even though Heyes knew he would be in good hands, he wasn’t going to enjoy the next little while. So it proved. An initial examination followed by the news he had been expecting.
“I’m not too happy with the right leg and I need to set that arm, Joshua.”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah, I figured you would.”
“Mary is there a bed downstairs?”
“There’s the chaise longue in the study.”
“No. I can make the stairs if I take it slow. I’d rather be in my own bed when you …” Heyes gulped. “Do what you gotta do.” He looked round at four doubtful faces. “I can do it.” Then more irritably. “Just help me upstairs will you!”
Lom and Wheat exchanged looks, puffed at each other, rolled their eyes and then came forward to help the injured man. It was a slow process. Heyes had to stop several times to catch his breath. Eventually he was upstairs and sitting on the edge of his bed, looking pale and shaky.
“Doubt if we’ll get the shirt and Henley off the usual way. Probably best to cut them off,” Ben suggested.
“I’ll get some scissors.” Mary smiled and smoothed Heyes’ uninjured cheek as she went.
“Probably gonna need you fellas in a minute.” Seeing Wheat sidling towards the door. “Both of you.”
“Oh yeah sure Doc. I was just gonna see if Mary needed any help …”
“Fetching scissors?” Lom grinned. Wheat glared at him.
“Wheat’s squeamish, Lom,” Heyes said and winced. “Can’t say I’m looking forward to it either.”
“I’ll be as quick as I can you know that Joshua.”
“Yeah I know.”
When Mary came back, she didn’t hand over the scissors.
“I think Joshua would prefer it if I did this,” she said. “Alone,” she added meaningfully.
The three men hesitated. Mary flicked them away. Heyes widen his eyes; he hadn’t considered it.
The men hesitated.
“Ya might need some help, Ma’am,” Wheat said.
“I have undressed my husband before, Wheat,” she told him, firmly.
Wheat reddened. Lom and Ben swopped rueful grins. Heyes chortled and then winced when it hurt.
“Let us know when you’re done, Mary. We’ll be right outside.”
Outside, Lom motioned with his head to Wheat to join him further down the landing. He kept his voice low.
“I’ve got some news from the Capitol. The Governor is prepared to give you the same deal his predecessor gave Heyes and the Kid. If you stay outta trouble for a year he’ll grant you an amnesty.”
Wheat didn’t say anything for a moment. He was shocked. “Amnesty? Me? Hell! That’s … .” He smoothed his moustache and then chortled. “That’s … real good news, Lom.”
“Yes it is. If … you can do it.”
Wheat nodded and sniffed. “I’m gonna give it a damm good try. Heyes asked me to be manager at his Salt River store.”
“Did he ask you that before or after he came off his horse?”
Lom looked doubtful and then growled. “Well if Heyes is prepared to stick his neck out for ya … prepared to risk his business for ya … his livelihood … his security and that of his family … he’s putting an awful lot of trust in ya, Wheat. Don’t screw up. You’ll have me to answer to an’ I’ll be watching.”
“I knows Lom. I knows.” Wheat looked embarrassed but he held Lom’s gaze.
Slowly Lom offered his hand. “Congratulations, Wheat.”
When Mary called Ben back in, Heyes was looking embarrassed. Mary had cut his long johns off as well and he was naked under the covers. Whether she had done it deliberately slowly, he didn’t know. Either way, despite the pain he was in, he had found it strangely … er well … let’s just say there was an unexpected stirring. Mary had deigned to comment but she had smiled knowingly at him.
“Let’s see what we’re dealing with,” Ben said, ignoring the body language of both husband and wife.
Heyes was relieved that Ben was starting at the top. Although miraculously Heyes hadn’t lost consciousness throughout his ordeal, Ben still wanted to check that there was no concussion. He was satisfied that there wasn’t. He declared that the cut on his cheek, once cleaned up, didn’t require stitches. Ben then set to work his way down Heyes’ body dealing with the most obvious and serious first. Heyes was bruising up all over and yes, he had broken two ribs on his left side.
All Ben could do was bind them up; they would heal on their own, providing his patient took it easy. The swollen right knee caused him to roll his eyes.
Turning to Mary, he sent her for ice. When she had gone, Ben winced as he looked at the sole of that foot.
“Ah! I thought so.”
“What’s up?” Heyes asked and then yelled as Ben felt his toes. He was glad Mary was out of the room. That hurt!
Ben ignored him and smiled.
“They’re warm that’s good.”
“Yeah but …”
“Lisfranc. Common enough injury considering what happened to you.”
“Oh, good, a common injury. Means you can treat it right?” Heyes said, irritably.
Ben laughed. “Yes I can treat it but you won’t be walking on this foot for quite a few weeks.”
Heyes dropped his head back with a groan. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Well you may have broken the bones in the arch of your foot.” He picked up the foot carefully, supporting the heel and looked at the sole again. “Too heavily bruised and swollen to tell right now.” He smiled pleasantly. “You weren’t planning on going anywhere for a while were you?”
“Now let’s have a look for at your other injuries. I must say Joshua, you’re almost a whole medical book by yourself.”
“Great,” Heyes muttered, smacking his lips.
He cleaned the other cuts and gashes, previously concealed by clothes.
Mary returned with the ice, wrapped in a cloth. Ben applied it to the swollen knee. Heyes hissed in pain and the coldness of it but nodded accepting it was necessary.
Heyes and Ben eyed each other warily. There was still one more thing left to do.
“I can give you some laudanum, dull the pain a little but I need you awake.”
Heyes nodded and then shook his head.
“No I don’t like that stuff, maybe later. Let’s just do it and get it over with.”
Ben nodded and called Lom and Wheat back into the bedroom.
Stretched out in bed, Heyes looking pale and apprehensive.
“He doesn’t want anything for the pain and this is going to hurt. I’d like you two to hold him steady. Mary I don’t think you ought to stay for this part.”
Mary opened her mouth to protest.
“No.” Heyes said it quietly but all turned to look at the man in the bed. Two of the men took a step back as they recognised the look on that man’s face. That was his Hannibal Heyes, fearsome outlaw leader, look.
“Oh but …”
“Mary!” Heyes was sharp. “Please … .”
Mary looked at her husband. Now was not the time to argue with him. Her shoulders slumped. She knew he didn’t want her to see him in pain. Reluctantly she nodded.
When she had gone, Heyes nodded. “Okay doc let’s do this.”
Ben nodded at Wheat and Lom to take up position either side of Heyes.
“It’s been a while since the break and you’re still a little chilly. This may take longer than usual.”
“JUST DO IT!”
Heyes gritted his teeth as Ben took hold of his arm at the wrist.
“Lom hold his upper arm firmly, Wheat is it? His opposite shoulder.”
“The thing I find best in this situation is to start off slowly,” Ben said, conversationally as he started to pull. “That gives the muscles time to stretch gently.” Heyes gave a grunt of pain and started to breath rapidly. He put his other hand to his ribs.
“Sheesh!” he gasped. He licked his lips and felt his eyes moisten as Ben continued to pull, harder now. Wheat and Lom struggled against him as the pulling became even harder. Heyes let out a yell.
“Nearly there,” Ben said. All of them heard the bone snap together. “There. Now I can’t let go yet, Joshua. Lom don’t let go either but can you hand me the splints?”
“Sheesh!” Heyes, passed caring that he had tears running down his cheeks, gasped. “Jus’ hurry up!” He looked wide-eyed.
It was several more minutes before the arm was in a splint and could be lowered gently to the bed.
“All done, Joshua. You did very well,” Ben smiled. “Some of my patients nearly deafen me. Some pass out.”
Heyes false smiled at him. “Yeah. I’ll wear my badge with pride Doc.” He swallowed as the pain slowly receded. “Sheesh!” He looked up at Lom and Wheat. “Thanks fellas.”
Two nods answered him.
“Want some laudanum now?”
Heyes hesitated and then nodded, reluctantly. Heyes grimaced as he drank it.
“I’ll leave you to sleep now, Joshua,” Ben said, as he packed up his things. “I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow.”
“Thanks Ben. Mary?”
“Yeah, I’ll send her in.” Ushering the others in front him he left. Mary dashed in before the door shut.
“I’m fine, Mary.” All the excitement over, Heyes was feeling drowsy. “I just need to sleep.”
“Yes of course,” she smiled, her eyes watering. She smoothed back his hair. “I don’t think I’m ever going to let you out of my sight again, Joshua Smith.”
Heyes smiled. “That’ll be nice … .” His eyes closed rapidly, his head tilted to one side. He was asleep.
Mary smiled and straightened the bedcovers.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname