Pilot episode challenge response
After the posse chase
"Heyes, we should think about trying for that amnesty." Kid Curry leaned forward in the saddle, attention focused on the paper in his hand. His horse scrambled up the rocky slope. Stones clattered down the narrow trail behind him.
"I'm thinking you should quit worrying over that piece of paper and start worrying about us, Kid.”
Heyes looked over his shoulder, nervous. This wasn't his best day and he had the idea it wasn't going to get any better. He'd made a fool of himself in front of a trainload of passengers; the notorious Hannibal Heyes and he couldn’t get one, little bitty safe open, even if it was a Brooker 202 – that was the last time he’d put Kyle in charge of carrying the dynamite. It still rankled Heyes that the normally slow-witted Kyle had so adeptly turned tables on him when it came to the risky job of checking the fuse.
As much as getting outsmarted by Kyle stung, the highlight of the afternoon had to be losing the gang to Wheat. A smile twitched the corners of Heyes' mouth upwards. At least, when they had lost the safe with the money, Wheat was the one who'd been in charge. Too bad about losing that $50,000.
What Heyes didn't mind losing was the posse. They'd managed to backtrack and leave the posse miles away, chasing wind. That had been a close call. For a while it had looked like their outlaw days were over. He'd always known their luck wouldn't hold out forever.
"About that amnesty, Heyes, I'm serious." Curry folded the paper and put it in his pocket. He nudged his horse to catch up with his partner's, herding Heyes' horse more to the inside of the trail and away from the edge. "Our luck won't hold out forever."
Heyes' dark eyes flashed in a quick sidelong glance at his cousin. Jed sometimes had an amazing talent for reading his mind. Heyes could never quite decide whether he loved it or hated it. While it had saved their lives more times than he cared to admit, it was sometimes problematic. It was hard to fool a man who practically knew more about you than you yourself.
The Kid's hard-headedness could drive Heyes to the brink of insanity. Still, Heyes wasn't about to let the Kid push him into making any hasty decisions. He also knew his stubborn mule of a partner was not about to stop pushing that amnesty idea at him anytime soon.
Their brush with the last posse had been too close for comfort. Even now, Heyes felt a bit faint remembering the bullet that had whizzed by his ear. If his horse hadn't staggered slightly over the rough ground, Heyes wouldn't be in any position to worry ever again; he'd have been dead. The bullet had missed him by that slim a margin.
It was the Kid's actions that had really frightened him. Jed had been as unsettled by that near miss as Heyes. Curry had eased on the reins, letting Heyes pull in front. Spinning in the saddle, regardless of the easier target he made, Kid Curry had let loose a volley of carefully aimed bullets that had split the posse to both sides and put a serious lack of motivation into some of its members.
For one heart-stopping moment, Heyes had been sure the Kid was going to get himself killed. It was enough to start him thinking seriously about that amnesty offer. Only problem was, he couldn't see a way clear to getting it. He knew though, if things didn't change, either they would end up dead, or the Kid would end up killing somebody – and that was a line Heyes never wanted the Kid to cross. He glanced over at his cousin again.
Heyes could see Curry was a bit frayed around the edges.
"Kid, that amnesty offer is meant for the little guys, to get them out of the way so they can concentrate on the more successful, notorious outlaws, like us." Heyes grinned mischievously at Curry, dimple winking in his cheek. "After today's fiasco, though, I wouldn't be surprised if they up and lowered the bounty on us." His attempt to lighten Curry's mood failed.
"This ain't a jokin' matter, Heyes! You could'a been killed back there."
Heyes sobered. "I'm sorry, Kid, but you're dreamin' if you think they're going to offer us amnesty. Besides, you think the governor is going to believe us going straight? We'd never convince him we were serious."
Heyes leaned back in the saddle and pushed his cowboy hat up off his forehead. He looked around, a lump in his gullet as he realized how close they were to the cliff’s edge. There was no sign of danger, but… "I've got this prickly feeling that…"
Heyes never got to finish his sentence. Gunshots rang out. Bullets kicked up rock shards and dust in front of their horses.
Curry's horse bucked forward and shied, stumbling. Off balance, reaching for his gun, Curry was sent flying over the edge of the cliff.
"Kid!" Heyes leapt from his horse. He pulled up short as two men stepped from the brush and moved in front of him, their guns aimed at his heart.
"Get your hands up and don't move! You so much as twitch and I'll blow your head clean off." The larger of the two men stepped forward. Heyes didn't like the big man's careful measuring stare. "Parker, get on over and check on his partner. I don't want any nasty surprises."
"Sure thing, Havers." Parker put up his gun and used both hands to cling to the rocks as he moved carefully to the cliff's edge. The younger man gingerly leaned over to gaze down.
"I don't see any body, Havers." Rocks and boulders continued to slide down the steep overhang. An eternity seemed to pass before the debris splashed into the lake water beneath the cliff. "Maybe he hit the water and sank?"
Hands held high, Heyes stared yearningly toward the precipice. His chest heaved as he fought for breath. Muscles quivering, Heyes ached with the need to move, to look for the Kid himself. The gun pointed at him and the steady hand that held it kept him motionless. He wouldn't do the Kid any good dead.
"Look harder, Parker. That's a lot of bounty money that went over that edge." Havers' attention never wandered from Heyes. "See if there's a way you can climb down for a closer look."
"I ain't climbin' down there!" Parker peered dubiously over the edge of the cliff, worried lest Kid Curry should miraculously jump out at him. "Let the rest of the posse pick him up." The sunlight shimmering off the water below made him feel dizzy. He frowned, edging away to safer ground. "If he's still alive, that is."
Heyes shivered, gooseflesh rising, chilled to the bone. His nerves quivered in an excess of adrenaline. He felt an overpowering need to do something stupid. His hands wavered at his shoulders.
"Get them hands back up!" Havers' shout had Parker snaking for his gun.
Heyes instinctively compared Parker's draw to the Kid's. Not even close. He wondered about Havers'.
Havers stalked up to Heyes and jammed his pistol in Heyes' face. He pulled the handgun from Hannibal Heyes' holster and tossed it behind him, never taking his eyes off his captive. "We got your gun from you. We got rid of the Kid – and damn it's hurtful to lose that bounty – but you’ve got one weapon left that worries me."
Parker stepped forward, holstering his gun and doing an expert pat down of Heyes. He slid the knife from Heyes' boot and, with a grin, stuck it in his coat pocket and moved back. He pulled his gun again and covered Heyes with it. "He's clean, Havers."
"I ain't talkin' about that kind of weapon! I'm talkin' about his silver tongue." Havers managed to roll his eyes while keeping his gaze fixated on Heyes. He smirked. "Aren't you the one who is supposed to be able to talk his way out of anything?" Prodding the gun barrel under Heyes' chin, Havers forced the outlaw to tilt his head back to look up at him.
In the midst of his shock and dread over the Kid, even as his mind worked furiously for a way out, it crossed Heyes' mind that it wouldn't hurt Havers any to shave his nose hairs. His own nose wrinkled in disgust as he swallowed hard. Under the circumstances, he kept that remark to himself.
Havers stepped closer, looming over the smaller, leaner man. "I'm not taking any chances with you, Heyes." He held up a wadded, stained and dirty handkerchief. "Open wide."
Heyes eyed it in distaste. He snuck his hands closer to the much cleaner handkerchief around his neck and tugged at it with his fingertips. "Do you mind? I'd really prefer to use my o…" He choked as Havers thrust the dirty, wadded handkerchief too far into his mouth and throat.
Heyes instinctively grabbed Havers' wrists as he started to suffocate. Startled, Havers slammed the butt of his gun against Heyes' skull.
Heyes staggered, black sparks obstructing his vision. He hit the ground hard with a muffled groan as 200 pounds of muscle pinned him facedown in the dirt. Heyes twisted angrily. He had to get to the Kid. Despite his best efforts; his arms were wrenched behind him and expertly tied. Heyes clenched his fists tightly, hoping for a bit of slack in the ropes. There was none.
Heyes' forehead thumped into the ground as he tried to suck in air and spit out as much of the gag as he could. He forced back tears of frustration. How the hell was he supposed to rescue the Kid! He sure wasn't any good all tied up and silenced. The Kid had always claimed that Heyes' greatest weapon was his tongue.
Warm affection chased some of the chill from his bones. Curry took such pride in Heyes' abilities and intelligence. A pride and admiration Curry had never bothered to hide from his cousin – or from the men riding with them. Wanting to stay worthy of that regard had provided Heyes with an added strength and purpose to think them out of many sticky situations. Heyes was determined they going to find a way out of this, too. He would not lose his partner.
Doggedly refusing to contemplate any notion that the Kid might not be alive, Heyes tried to calm down. The Kid was alive and he'd be waiting for Heyes to do something. If he didn't get some air in his lungs soon, he could forget about saving the Kid. It was a struggle to control his gagging and breathe through his nose, but he managed.
Strong hands gripped Heyes by the shoulder and rolled him onto his back.
"Don't bother getting up." Havers straddled his choking prisoner. "I'm not through with you yet." He looked up. "Parker…"
Parker ignored Havers; he was too busy trying to figure out in his head what $10,000 was divided by two men. Whoo heee. They had caught Hannibal Heyes. The recognition he would get from that alone was almost worth the $10,000 bounty in itself. Almost. The land and cattle he could buy with that money…
"Bring me your bandana."
"Just do it!" Havers was losing patience. It had been a long day and a long ride and he was tired. He grabbed the kerchief from Parker and tied it around Heyes' head, making it impossible for the outlaw to spit his gag out. Leaning back, Havers rested his hands on his thighs and grinned. "That's better."
His head tilted to the side, amused contempt on his lips as he examined his prisoner. "Think I like you this way."
Heyes expression made it perfectly clear he didn't agree with that sentiment.
Havers laughed. He was extremely pleased that the posse had gotten so far off track, leaving him with half of $20,000 dollars and no one to split it with except Parker. Who was to say that Parker might not end up dead? He could always use Heyes' gun to shoot Parker and blame it on the outlaw. That bounty did say dead or alive. His grin widened as he considered everything he could buy with that money. The people he could buy.
Thoughts of his last visit with a very talented little Madam in Amarillo stirred up more than memories. His pants began to feel painfully tight. Havers squirmed in growing discomfort, contemplating the man beneath him. If he wasn't mistaken, they had plenty of time to kill before that posse returned on its way back to town. Havers would rather wait here for the posse than chance running into Heyes' gang on his own. The bounty would be his regardless; after all, he was the one to catch Heyes. He studied his captive with interest.
Heyes wasn't sure he liked the way Havers was looking at him. When coarse fingers sifted through his thick dark hair and brushed back his bangs, then slid in a taunting caress along his cheekbone, Heyes was positive he didn't like the way Havers was looking at him.
Jerking his head sideways, he growled. Heyes heaved his shoulders in a not so subtle hint for Havers to let him up.
"Uh, uh, boy. You're not goin' anywhere." Havers refused to budge. He threw open Heyes' jacket then began to unbutton Heyes' shirt. Heyes stiffened, brown eyes widening in shock. He twisted like an eel trying to get out from under the other man.
Havers effortlessly controlled him. He weighed nearly twice as much as Heyes and was as easy to budge as an elephant. Biting his lip, Havers regretting gagging his prisoner. Heyes had lips as full and pretty as a woman's. He could think of quite a few uses for that mouth. Maybe after he got rid of Parker.
Parker was shaken out of his glee over his part of the bounty. "Havers? What the hell are you doing?"
"Just lookin' to see what we got our hands on is all." Havers smile was wicked as he tugged Heyes' shirt open, sliding his hands along sleek skin. "You don’t have a problem with that do you, Parker."
Parker considered the situation. "What if he talks?"
"He's wanted dead or alive." Havers said. He had to put some force into holding Heyes down as the man tried to throw him off, bucking violently. Heyes' muffled yells were frustrated and angry. Havers pinched the other man's nostrils shut. Heyes stilled instantly. The fear in Heyes' eyes only served to inflame Havers' desire. Despite the temptation to see how long it would take Heyes to pass out, he let the outlaw breathe. Havers wanted his victim conscious and aware of everything he was about to inflict on him.
"So," Havers said. "There's no reason we can't have ourselves a little fun, is there?"
The snick of a gun cocking made both men freeze in place.
"I can think of one reason."
Three heads turned in unison. The loaded pistol in Kid Curry's hand was a very good reason.
Havers and Parker remembered everything they'd ever heard about the Kid. Specifically, every bad thing they'd ever heard happening to anyone foolish enough to mess with Hannibal Heyes while the Kid was around.
Parker kept his hands far from his gun belt. Havers, very slowly, very carefully, removed his hands from Heyes' body, raising them high, and very slowly, very carefully, got to his feet.
Kid Curry was not happy. Bedraggled, scratched and bruised, he looked like he'd tangled with a wildcat. It was clear that he was just itching to pull the trigger.
Heyes tried to roll on his side and get up. Curry caught him under an arm and lifted, holding on until Heyes was steady on his feet.
"Just try something. Please," Curry said, guiding Heyes away from the two men. He could feel a fine tremor running through his partner.
"You pull that trigger and you'll draw the posse down on you," Havers bluffed.
"I seem to recall you two firing off quite a few bullets." Curry smiled coldly. "I don't see any sign of a posse yet. Do you?"
Parker gazed around as if the posse would show up any second and rescue them.
Havers glowered, no longer pleased that the posse had gone so far off course, leaving Heyes and Curry to him. The thought of losing the $20,000 bounty made him sick. Kid Curry holding a gun on him made him sick. He had a feeling the sickness might prove fatal.
Parker was sure he was a dead man.
Kid Curry's finger began to tighten on the trigger. The emotional dam he had built up to control the fury inside him when he realized what they were planning to do to his partner threatened to explode. It took all the self-control he had to keep from squeezing the trigger and putting a bullet through their worthless brains. The sight of Havers touching Heyes – his partner – with the intention of… it made the blood burn in his veins. It was so tempting to just…
"Mmmff." Heyes shook his head. No, Kid, don't even think about it. His brown eyes turned wide and imploring, as he saw the Kid hesitate. He wasn't about to risk Curry killing either man, no matter how much the Kid was provoked. That was one mark he didn't want on their records.
The Kid fumed silently, knowing he wasn't going to be shooting anyone now that Heyes had decided it wouldn't be right. Curry grit his teeth in frustrated anger. He hadn't made either of the men drop their gun belts. The mood he was in, part of him had been praying they would be stupid enough to draw on him. Maybe if he put his own gun in its holster they would be tempted to…
Heyes kicked Curry in the shin and nearly lost his balance.
“Ow!” Curry said, only his grip on Heyes' shoulder kept his partner from ending up in the dirt. "All right! If you feel that strongly about it."
Heyes nodded his head emphatically, then decided maybe nodding his head was a bad idea as everything swirled around him.
The Kid glared at his ungrateful partner and then glared at Parker and Havers. They still hadn't gone for their guns.
"Drop your gun belts. This is your lucky day," Curry said. "Guess I won't be shooting the pair of you after all. Unless I have to," he added, as neither man moved.
They hurriedly dropped their gun belts.
Curry was disappointed and tried to convince himself that getting shot was too good for them after what they'd tried to do. Unless, he mused wistfully, he was shooting certain bits and pieces off of them.
Damn it! He wanted them the hell away from Heyes.
The two men stared at Curry in shock. "What?"
Now that his mind was made up, Curry's voice was as calm and unshakeable as the pistol in his fist. "I said jump."
"You're crazy, Curry, if you think we're jumping off this cliff! We'll break our necks hitting that water!"
One hand clenched tightly to Heyes' still trembling shoulder, Jed Curry let all his simmering, murderous rage show in his frostbitten blue eyes.
Havers and Parker took one look down at the lake far below and then back at the Kid's face. They chose the safer option.
Heyes was giddy with relief. The adrenaline no longer coursing through his body left him weak on his feet. He leaned heavily on Curry's hand.
"Heyes." Worried, Curry turned his attention back to his partner.
He holstered his gun, then loosened the bandana, pulling it down. While Heyes spit the handkerchief out of his mouth and sucked in much needed air, Curry freed Heyes' wrists.
The Kid staggered as two arms were immediately flung about him and he was engulfed in a tight bear hug. He could feel Heyes shaking against him.
"Kid," Heyes mumbled into Curry's neck as he tried to burrow closer. "You're alive!"
Curry chuckled, running soothing hands over his partner's back. "Yeah, Heyes. I'm alive."
"You're all right?" Heyes tightened his grip on Curry's jacket.
"I'm all right." Curry hugged him, rocking Heyes slightly. The Kid was used to this. It sometimes took his high-strung partner a while to calm down. And Heyes sure was one for the reassurance of touch. Not that the Kid was complaining. After everything that had nearly happened to his partner, Heyes felt pretty damn good right where he was.
"You're really all right?" Heyes couldn't quite believe it.
"I'm really all right."
"Good." Heyes swayed. "Because I'm not." Lightheaded, Heyes felt his legs give out. He took the Kid down with him.
"Whoa!" Curry suddenly found himself on his butt in the dirt with Heyes practically sitting in his lap.
"Easy, Heyes." He tried to gentle his partner, noticing for the first time the bruised lump on the side of Heyes' head, half hidden by his hair. The Kid gripped his partner's arms and tried to coax him back so he could see the injury better. "Look at me."
Heyes finally lifted his head and looked at Curry. He swallowed hard. "Kid. They were… They were gonna…" He couldn't say it.
Curry's grip tightened painfully on Heyes' arms. A muscle in his jaw line twitched. "I know, Heyes." Rage made his blue eyes incandescent. "But it didn't happen. And it ain't gonna happen. Not as long as I'm alive."
Heyes felt stupid. He couldn't stop shivering. He sat, unresisting, as Curry buttoned his shirt and then his coat. He allowed himself to be pulled back to rest against the Kid's chest while the bump on his head was carefully examined. Curry obviously decided it was nothing to worry about as he quit fussing and rested his chin on Heyes shoulder. Arms held loosely around his partner, the Kid was content to lean quietly against a rock and just hold him. He waited for Heyes to decide when he was ready to move.
Heyes nestled into Curry. He let heavy eyelids fall and sighed, finally beginning to relax.
"Kid …" Heyes coughed and tried again. "I've been thinking about that amnesty."
The Kid straightened up, then settled back immediately as Heyes protested. He made his partner more comfortable. "You mean you thought of a way to convince the governor we're serious?"
Heyes grinned. "No, but I did think of someone who can do the convincing for us."