Aces and Eights
Bret distinctly remembered the knowing look in his Pappy Beau's eyes as he sat there in his home in Little Bend, Texas, shuffling and reshuffling cards as he had said, "Bret, my boy, wherever you go, remember this: Blood is thicker than water, but gold is heavier than blood ... in most cases." Bret had frowned and looked to his brother Bart who shrugged and shook his head, also not comprehending Pappy's obscure message.
Here in Bumblebee, Arizona, years later, Bret thought of Bart and finally understood just exactly what Pappy had meant.
Bret looked at his cellmate again, wondering how this man could be so calm in the face of what they'd been through and what was to come. He'd been stretched out on the cot almost constantly, either reading the local papers, when the deputy felt like bringing them, or snoring, or just plain staring at the stucco ceiling. Right now, he was reading the local paper, smiling an unnerving smile while humming some meaningless, obscure tune for what Bret was sure was the hundredth time.
Bret sat down and lay back on his bunk, hands behind his head, trying his best to remember what mortal sin he'd committed in his lifetime to get him into this predicament. Oh, sure, he'd conned a few people in his years, but nothing to deserve an impending twenty year sentence! Then he remembered exactly who had gotten him into this ... good ol’ brother Bart! If it took the rest of his life, he'd get even with Bart. Bret didn't know how, but he'd get even. He'd get himself a front row seat at the hanging, and maybe even take bets on how long Bart would jerk and swing before the last ounce of life would be slowly choked out of his dear brother. And he'd eat peanuts and popcorn and he'd enjoy every second of it. Why, he might even applaud when the hangman let Bart drop ...
"Me? Oh, no. A friend of nine once said, when you're in jail or the army, you never complain about the food. I like it just fine." He smiled that smile again and dug into his plate with all the relish of a miner after a hard day's work.
Bret watched him until he could no longer take it, tossed the plate on the floor and lay back on his bunk once again. He closed his eyes and his mind raced back to three fateful days ago, when the whole unbelievable, complicated mess started for him ...
Bret's luck hadn't been the best of late, and as he was a professional who made his livelihood from gambling, that wasn't good. So, Bret Maverick had decided to take a vacation; a working vacation, of sorts, in a rich silver-mining town. Miners, he'd found through the years, were careful poker players, but they weren't particularly skillful. That being the case, Bret figured he could easily build himself a stake of possibly ten thousand dollars before they would probably accuse him, unfairly of course, of cheating and run him out of town.
Several hours into the game, Bret's attention was drawn primarily to one rather dirty and bewhiskered young man who, for some reason, didn't seem to be your typical miner. To Bret's surprise, this young fella was holding his own, and even winning a few modest hands, which totaled about seven hundred dollars.
The man looked up over his cards with blue eyes that revealed absolutely nothing. With his free hand, he casually reached up and scratched his grizzly two- or three-month-old beard. He slowly pushed his chips forward and looked into Maverick's eyes with an unwavering gaze. "Call."
Bret smiled as he turned his cards face up. "Queen-high straight." He reached for the chips, but a raggedly gloved hand stopped him. Bret looked up to see a glimmer of amusement in the young man's eyes.
Bret Maverick couldn't have been more surprised. The man hadn't betted like he'd had such a hand. He'd bluffed everyone. Now he was smiling as he raked in the pot. “Not bad," Maverick commented, pulling out a cigar and offering one to the man who gladly accepted it. "There wouldn't happen to be a professional gambler under that silver-mining exterior, would there?
The man stacked his chips and accepted a light from Maverick. He shrugged. "Not really. Just a hobby."
Bret extended his hand, "About time we introduced ourselves; I'm Bret Maverick."
"Well, I wouldn't call me a celebrity, exactly," Maverick shifted in his chair, uncomfortable with the compliments, glancing around and glad that the other miners at their table had long since left. His gambler's reputation would be the first thing to get him thrown out of town.
Bret looked down at his clothes which consisted of a dull white cotton shirt, a brown corduroy vest, a pair of brown pants and the typical gunbelt and Colt .45 sixgun. "Just between the two of us, I didn't want these miners to think I came here to skin them. I just came here for a friendly game of poker and hoping to get together a stake to go east to Texas. I heard Poker Alice is there somewhere. Maybe Austin. I'd sure like to get her into a game." Maverick's voice was wistful, but then he scrutinized Smith. "You really are good, you know. Never thought I'd meet anyone who could hold their own against me, not meaning to sound conceited, you realize." Maverick puffed on his cigar as Smith nodded agreement. "Too bad."
"The only man I ever wanted to get into a decent game had to go and drop out of sight, not that I could've gotten near him anyway. He was supposed to be one helluva gambler." Bret shook his head sympathetically, as if talking of the dead.
"Hannibal Heyes; you know, the outlaw."
"You okay?" Maverick asked, truly concerned.
"Oh, I don't know. You, maybe."
"Me?" The one-word question was a shadow of a whisper.
Smith puffed his cigar again. "Sure. Why not?" He'd put his partner off somehow. How often did a man get a chance to play poker with the Bret Maverick? Eeven if he lost — which Smith was not planning to do — this was the chance of a gambler's lifetime.
Smith looked back and smiled. "You'll have to excuse me. My partner just came in, and I have to talk to him." He stood and gathered his poker chips. "I'll see you tonight then, Mister Maverick," Smith said to Bret, "And it's a pleasure to meet you both." He turned and disappeared in the growing crowd of miners, out of the line of vision of the brothers.
Bret turned to look at Bart, a scowl covering his face. "What the devil are you doing here?"
Bret looked uncomfortable. "You wouldn't happen to be able to stake your favorite next-of-kin, would you?"
Smith did some quick mental calculations, "That puts our total at nearly twelve thousand! A few more weeks like this, Mister Jones, and we'll be sitting free and clear in Santa Marta, Mexico." He smiled a contented smile at his partner. "We may have just made it this time."
"Wipe that look off your face. The way you play poker, we'd be broke in five minutes. Just leave it up to me.” His eyes wandered to gaze in the direction of the two men he'd recently left.
“Whatsa matter? Someone over there you recognize?”
Blue eyes blinked exactly once, then widened in horrified comprehension. "Bret Maverick? Have you lost your mind?" He grabbed Smith's forearm. "You can't play him! You'll lose our stake! Bret Maverick's the best poker player west of the Mississippi!"
Joshua Smith's expression was indignant. "I'm the best poker player west of the Mississippi, or did you forget that? He just comes close."
"He's a professional gambler," Jones hissed. "You're not. He's probably got Hoyle memorized from cover to cover! You can't play poker with him!" The tone of his voice lowered and he looked around before continuing, "We've almost got enough money so that we can go to Santa Marta and sit out the rest of the year in luxury waiting for that amnesty. Look, Heyes, you talked me into going for this amnesty deal; I didn't want to do it at first. But, now I'm in it headlong, and I'm not gonna let you lose our stake to Maverick! I've been breakin' my back at the claim for far too long now, and Kid Curry's goin' to Santa Marta ... with or without Hannibal Heyes. You understand me?"
Joshua Smith, alias Hannibal Heyes, leaned towards his partner in past crimes and assorted mishaps, also speaking in hushed tones, "Kid, what's the one thing I've always wanted to do? Who's the one man I've always dreamed of gettin' into a game of poker?"
"I know, Heyes. But that don't change facts. You're not losin' my money to a professional gambler like Maverick."
Hannibal Heyes sighed. Kid Curry could be extremely stubborn when he put his mind to it. "All right, all right. I've worked just as hard at our claim. I'll take my half of the twelve thousand and use that as a poker stake. That all right with you, Mister Jones?"
"All right, Heyes. But If you lose that six thousand, don't come cryin' tome. I'll be in Santa Marta."
Hannibal Heyes smiled that unnerving confidence smile that Curry just hated, slapped his friend on the shoulder and took another long draw from his glass of beer.
Bart followed his brother up the stairs of the small two-story hotel and into Bret’s room. “I’m telling you, Bart, I think I may have found a real challenge in this Joshua Smith.”
Bret pulled off his vest and lay it gingerly in the chair, hoping to avoid any and all wrinkling.
"All right. I'm gonna get a run for your money," Bret said, "And I'll pay you back just as soon as I win it." He pulled off his gunbelt and boots, then watched in surprise as Bart rose from the chair and began doing the same thing. "What do you think you're doing?
"I hate to tell you this, brother Bret, but that's my money you're going to be playing with tonight, so the least you can do is pay for my room." Before Bret could reply, his brother was already snoring that loud snore he'd inherited from their Pappy.
"Of course I do." Heyes looked around at his partner's worried expression, "I ain't playin' with your money, remember, so why don't you go blend into the background somewhere. You're makin' me nervous."
Heyes looked around, but so far found no sign of Bret Maverick. He'd wait at the bar and have a beer.
On their way to the saloon from the hotel, Bret stopped in front of the sheriff's office to light a cigar. The lamplights cast a dim yellow glow around the streets, and Bret sighed as he looked at the board housing all the wanted posters.
"What is it?" Bart looked around and scanned the posters which included one on Hannibal Heyes. "Bret, don't torture yourself. You heard the rumors like everyone else. Heyes retired. You're never gonna find him." He put a hand on his brother's shoulder. "Come on, let's go. That game won't wait forever."
Smith nodded, "How about you?"
Maverick nodded back, seating himself, smiling at the others who systematically came and joined them at the table. Maverick pulled a deck from his pocket and offered them to Smith. "We can use these, unless you have any objections."
Fine with me." The deck Maverick had used earlier hadn't been marked or shaved in any way, and Heyes had no reason to believe the gambler would use one such deck now. Besides, Hannibal Heyes could recognize a marked deck at fifty paces.
"What 're the stakes?"
Four hours later, at about eleven-thirty, Bart Maverick found himself in a bad situation; sweating, nearly broke, and staring into the cool blue eyes of Thaddeus Jones. Bart couldn't imagine what'd happened. Here he'd sat down with a couple of miners who he thought didn't know their elbow from a shovel, and he'd been cleaned out in a couple of hours by one not particularly good poker player. Now, he held in his hands his only possible salvation: a straight; seven-high. Somewhere along the line, it had all turned into high-stakes poker. Bart was so addled, he couldn't really remember when. Maverick studied his cards intently, glancing up now and again to the overconfident face of Jones. Bart knew he could win, but didn't have the three thousand to back his bet. Then he remembered the money he'd staked to Bret. Bart laid his cards face down and sat his beer glass atop them. "You mind if I go check my assets for a moment?" he asked of Curry.
Bart strolled across the room through the smoke and loud din of music to where a crowd had gathered. He pushed through them and leaned over to whisper in his brother's ear. "Bret ... I need that stake now."
"What stake?" Bret looked up, engrossed in his own game.
"The four thousand I staked you to, dear brother," Bart's voice was warning. "Don't tell me you've forgotten already."
"I didn't forget," Bret looked annoyed as the game stopped for the conversation. "You don't need it right now, do you?”
"I most certainly do. Or I'll lose it all," Bart admitted, and Bret's eyes went wide. "A lucky miner, that's all. He's havin' a streak of good luck and mine's all bad," Bart said, then lowered his voice more, "I've got a seven-high straight and can't do a thing with it. There's nearly nine thousand on the table. I need that four thousand, Bret. I need it badly."
"Will you excuse me a minute?" Smith asked, laying down his cards, placing a burning cigar atop them. Bret nodded, and Smith slipped away from the table, unknown to Bart, to consult with his own partner, Thaddeus Jones.
"About a thousand, why?"
"I'm into a big hand right now." Heyes looked at the pile in the middle of the table. "How much of that's yours?"
"All of it," Curry grinned.
"You that sure you can win it?"
"What kind of thing is that to ask? That's like askin' you if you know how to load a gun!" Heyes said, "Just as soon as you win that pot, bring it over, and let me use it, and I guarantee, we'll be on our way to Santa Marta tomorrow!"
Curry's smile widened at the thought. "You're kidding?"
"Nope. This is really it, Thaddeus."
"All right," Curry agreed, "You just stall. I'll be there as soon as I can."
Bart sat gingerly in his chair, moved the beer glass, picked up his cards and looked them over carefully. After a long silence, he said, "Mister. Jones, I believe it's my bet, and as you can see, I'm a little strapped for funds. Would you consider taking an IOU? My credit is considered to be good in almost any saloon."
"You think your hand is that good?" Curry asked, pleased with himself at managing to beat a professional at his own game.
"I do," Bart replied steadily.
"All right. I'll accept your IOU," Curry said and waited while a relieved Maverick took pencil in hand to do so. He handed it to Curry who nearly choked when he finally learned the man's identity. Curry looked up quickly, suddenly not as confident as before, color draining from his face. This was Bart Maverick! And he was one of the finest poker players in the United States and all its Territories! He watched, numb, as Maverick lay out his seven-high straight, then restrained himself from jumping with joy as he, coolly controlled, lay out another straight — jack-high.
"Me?" Bart was the picture of innocence, "I'd never run out on a debt." He swore, then mentally added, at least not without a good reason. "Don't worry, I'll be around."
Bart sat back in his chair, finding he was having trouble breathing. He closed his eyes and rubbed them. Bart couldn't imagine what'd gone so wrong. He'd never been beaten this badly before by someone who was so obviously a greenhorn gambler. Jones was slow and methodical in his betting, but Lady Luck had dealt the cards to him tonight, and the money was his, plus thirty-five hundred that Bart did not have.
Bart remembered seeing Bret's hand and wondered if his brother could really win with that. Then he remembered that Smith fellow and smiled, having what he knew was a brilliant flash of genius. Bart drained his beer glass and exited from the saloon, unnoticed.
Heyes had detached himself from the game long enough to join Curry at the bar and fetch the money from Curry's magnificent win to finalize the bets in his last hand of poker with Bret Maverick. Everyone had lost count a long time ago, but Heyes figured there was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-five thousand dollars on that table already.
"I believe that sees you, and I call."
Bret was ready to lay out his cards when a hand on Smith's shoulder stopped all movement. Smith looked up, expecting to see Curry, but felt his heart nearly stop when the gleam of a tin star caught his eye. He regained his composure quickly and smiled amiably, "Anything I can do for you, sheriff?"
"If you're Hannibal Heyes, you can."
The grizzled old sheriff wasn't impressed, "There's twenty thousand dollars on Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry."
"Sheriff," Heyes smiled, "I can assure you that I'm not Hannibal Heyes."
The sheriff glared at him, "You can finish it out in jail, Kid."
"Bart, I'm gonna get you for this! Sheriff, you've got a dodger on Kid Curry, don't you? Look at it—I don't even remotely match that description. My name is Bret Maverick, and I'm his," Bret pointed an accusing finger at Bart, "Brother, God forbid! Give me five minutes alone with him, and he'll tell you the truth!"
Obediently, two duly-appointed law officers appeared from out of the crowd with handcuffs and slapped them on the wrists of the two supposed outlaws.
Bret wanted to yell obscenities as he was pulled away from the table by a deputy. He looked at the pile of money on the table." Sheriff ... what about that?
"It's bein' impounded." The sheriff stuffed the money into a small cloth sack, along with everything else on the table, save for the glasses and bottles. "It's probably stole anyway." The sheriff looked happily at Bart Maverick, "Now then, young feller, you come down to my office and we'll file them reward papers right away."
Bret Maverick was undeniably livid as he was being dragged from the saloon. Smith had long since shut up, unwilling to make any kind of remark, only staring openly at Bart and wondering where his own partner was.
"I'm sorry about all the commotion, Mister Maverick," the sheriff smiled amiable up at the soon-to-be-rich man. He could curse himself; if only he'd read the posters more closely, maybe he'd have caught Heyes and Curry. "Well, here's your receipt, Mister Maverick. I'll send a telegraph off to the Wyoming authorities and get it all in the works. So, you just stick around, and we'll see if you ain't right about them two."
"Sheriff, I have kind of an odd request ... may I speak to the Kid?" Bart asked.
"Well, I kinda got to know him pretty well, and even if he is a bank robber, he really isn't that bad of a fella. I'd like to kind of apologize for doing this to him."
The sheriff looked at him oddly and shrugged. "It's okay by me."
Bart warily approached the cell where his brother stood, eyes almost red with anger. He stepped up close to the cell, and if it hadn't been for the deputy nearby, Bret would have taken him by the shirt and twisted the life out of him with his own collar and string tie. "What is the matter with you? Have you gone daft?!" Bret asked hotly, "There was over thirty thousand on that table, Bart! What's the idea? They'll find out I'm not Kid Curry ... I hope."
“Settle down, Bret." Bart patted his arm soothingly. "Sure, they'll find out you aren't Curry, and they'll find out he isn't Heyes and they'll let you both out. But I needed the IOU for the reward to get myself out of a bad situation. I owe a man thirty-five hundred and that was the only way I could think of to get out of it. I'm handing him the IOU, then I'm getting out of here and finding a stake so I'll be able to pay him the thirty-five hundred legitimately, once he catches up with me. You'll only be detained for a couple of days. Someone's bound to identify you properly."
“Damn," Bret cursed. "That stupid brother of mine!" Then he remembered what Bart had said: Bret had been holding aces and eights. That was the hand Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot in the back up in Deadwood a few months back. Dead Man's Hand, they called it. Well, the name was certainly prophetic because Bret had every intention of finishing off Bart at the first given opportunity.
Outside the sheriff's office, Bart smiled as he put the IOU In his pocket and headed down to the hotel. Now all he had to do was find that Jones fella and give it to him. He'd be free and able to leave.
It didn't take Bart long to find him, for as he passed an alley, a hand snaked out, catching Bart by the elbow and yanking him into the dark recesses of the alley. Before Bart could react, another hand was poking the barrel of a gun under his nose.
"Yeah, I know. You owe it all to me," the familiar voice replied.
“Jones?" Bart tried to see him, "What are you doin' skulking around in alleys? I've got the money to pay you. I just turned in Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. And I've got an IOU for twenty thousand dollars."
Bart frowned. "How? Here's the IOU. We're even."
Bart tried to hide his stricken expression, "How do you know? He told me he was Kid Curry."
Bart looked at him suspiciously, "Why?"
"Well, you're right about him; he is Hannibal Heyes."
"I know that," Bart lied, a smile growing on his face.
Bart's dark face paled considerably. "You don't mean ... he couldn't ... you mean he really is Hannibal Heyes?" Jones nodded. "And you're really? ..." Jones nodded again.
"I ... I didn't mean any harm," Bart said, trying hard to keep his voice from shaking. He was a Maverick, true to the core; a coward at the least hint of trouble.
"I know you didn't. But the harm's done. Now the problem is ... how do I get my partner out of jail without incriminating myself? We've got to get him out before that reward money is paid, because if we do it after, well, they'll think it was a plan just to rob Wyoming of another ten thousand dollars." Curry was talking more to himself than to Bart. He sat silently, staring at nothing, then shook his head, "Lom would never believe this." He looked back at Bart. "You're going to help me get my partner out of jail."
"You don't really have to. Heyes is the expert at that." Curry stood and paced. "The problem is: the sheriff's no doubt already wired the Wyoming authorities. They'll be sending someone down to identify Curry and Heyes immediately and with the extradition papers. By train and stage, we're not that far away. That brings up another big problem ..."
"Once the authorities get here, they'll identify Heyes for sure, but of course they won't know that other fellow from Adam. That means they'll start looking for the real Kid Curry, and they'll come straight to you." Curry's mind reeled. He didn't like trying to figure out complicated things like this. He usually left them all up to Heyes, as Heyes was (or claimed to be) a genius.
Maybe he could get word to the Devil's Hole Gang, his and Heyes' ex-gang. No, that'd never do. They'd just bungle it; besides, he and Heyes couldn't be seen associating with known outlaws, no matter the circumstances, or it'd blow their possible amnesty with the governor of Wyoming.
"With what?" Curry looked incredulous, "All our money was tied up in that poker game! We haven't got a cent past that. I might as well be a lawyer myself!" Curry stopped dead in his tracks and turned to Bart. "That's it!"
"You know, maybe there's more geniuses in the world besides Hannibal Heyes ... or maybe I'm realizing he just ain't that smart." Curry was smug with himself, "But I'm gonna need your help, Mister Maverick."
Bart stood, twisting his hat in his hands, "Uh, no thank you, Mister Curry. I'd rather not. It's not that I don't like you, because I do, but it's just that ... well, I'd really make a terrible bandit, and I'd only get in your way ..." But when Curry stuck the gleaning cold barrel of his .45 to Bart's nose, Maverick quickly changed his mind.
Hannibal Heyes lay on his cot in his cell, his hat pulled over his face, trying to get some sleep. But, he really couldn't sleep. He kept telling himself that things would work out; the Kid would see him out of this mess; that all would be right with his off-balanced world again soon. Heyes sighed; no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't make himself believe that. He knew who would be coming down to identify him: Lom Trevors. Lom was his and Curry's go-between with the governor of Wyoming; he was the one who'd made all the arrangements for the amnesty. Lom was an ex-outlaw himself, and he was now as right as rain and the straightest of citizens. Heyes knew that Trevors wouldn't lie. If he found Hannibal Heyes lounging in this cell, he'd positively identify him and haul him back to a twenty year stretch in the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Everything depended on Curry. That alone made Heyes cringe. Sure, the Kid was well-known for his fast draw, but not for being fast on the brains. He was likely to botch things up and end up in jail himself. Heyes threw the hat off his face and stared the direction of heaven, thinking, I only robbed a couple of little ol' Union Pacifics ... I never meant it as a personal insult! What'd I ever do to you?
His thoughts were interrupted when he heard a familiar voice inside the office and froze, frowned, then grinned. He sat up as the sheriff came to his cell, key in hand, and opened the door. "This feller here says he's a lawyer. Been hired to represent you, Mister Heyes, or Smith, or whatever it is you call yourself."
The lawyer, dressed in a nice, neat three-piece dress suit, gray with blue pin-stripes, complete with watch and fob and matching slate gray hat smiled down at him, extending a hand, "My name's Brubaker."
"Uh, Mister Maverick," Heyes said with a smile, "He don't do a very good job. I had to hire him once before, he really don't, but beggars can't be choosers." Heyes turned back to Curry, trying to keep his voice low, certain that Maverick was trying to listen, which he was. "What've you got in mind?"
"I haven't seen you shaved and clean in so long I almost didn't recognize you, Kid."
Curry glanced around, not liking the feeling of being closed in by bars. "I saw the sheriff come in and head for you, so I high-tailed it. It took me a day to get my clothes cleaned ... they've been rolled up in my saddle blanket for so long, they smelled like my horse." Curry looked at him intently, "How are we gonna get you out? Lom's gonna be here this late afternoon."
Heyes' eyes bugged, "Today? You sure?"
"All right, Heyes. But don't be mad if whatever I come up with don't work."
Heyes put a hand on his partner's shoulder, "Well, at least you'll have tried. I can't ask for more."
"I'll do what I can. But, Heyes, be ready for anything to happen. Anything. Understand?"
"Whaddya mean?" Heyes sat down again.
Maverick leaned over and whispered, "You really are Hannibal Heyes, aren't you?"
Heyes laughed at him. "What makes you think that?"
"I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your voice down, Mister Maverick. I really don't want the sheriff to hear that."
"Because," Heyes leaned toward him, "If I'm identified as Heyes, I'll identify you as Curry. Now whose word would they take on that, Mister Maverick? Some lawman whose seen us at a distance, or Curry's partner, the man he's been riding with half his life?"
"I would." Heyes smiled that damned unnerving smile again. "On the other hand, if you keep your mouth shut, you can have all the money that was in the middle of that table before the sheriff broke up the game. And you remember how much was there."
"You and your partner are worth twenty thousand," Maverick reminded him.
"Mister Maverick, I think you can appreciate the difference between twenty thousand and thirty-five thousand dollars," Heyes said, a gleam in his eye.
"How do I know you won't come around later to collect it from me?"
Bret leaned back against the bars next to his cot. "So, all I have to do is keep quiet that you're Heyes, even though the sheriff already knows who you are, and I'll get the entire thirty-five thousand dollars?"
"You're crazy!" Bart Maverick stared incredulously at Kid Curry.
"Look, I know I put you in a bad spot, and you've explained to me that you've retired and all, but what you've got in mind is sheer stupidity. Besides that, I'm likely to get shot and end up dead. That's awfully final," Bart protested.
Curry sat across from him and rubbed his tired eyes. He'd been up all night thinking of this plan, and wondering how Heyes had always managed to put robberies together so nice and neat. The only thing between himself and Heyes' freedom was Bart Maverick.
Curry looked up at him, studying him intensely, making Bart nervous. "All right; how much is it worth to you?"
"I asked how much it's worth to you. I'm trying to buy you off."
"What about thirty-five thousand dollars?"
Bart sat forward at that question. After all, hadn't Pappy said, "Money is the root of all Mavericks"?
Sheriff Redmond was sitting in his office chair, feet propped up on his desk, hat over his face, snoring loudly. He had no intention of taking a break away from the jail for even five minutes as long as that Lom Trevors was coming to identify Heyes and Curry.
There was a smile on Redmond's face as he dreamt of the laurels he'd receive for being the one to jail the notorious two, even if he hadn't caught them. Why, Ned Buntline might even novelize him in one of them paper books the kids read:
Redmond nearly fell backwards out of his chair when the gunfire started. He scrambled to his feet, grabbing his gun from its holster, pointing it wildly around the jail. "What the hell's going on?!" he yelped.
One deputy ducked into the front door, keeping his head well out of the way of the gunfire. "Hannibal Heyes is shooting up the saloon!"
A minute of silence went by and then in came lawyer Brubaker leading a howling-drunk man swinging an empty pistol in the air. "I'll kill 'em all!" He stopped when he saw the sheriff and swayed wildly, his legs threatening to give way under him. "I robbed all them banks and trains. I'm Hannibal Heyes. Not him!" Bart Maverick pointed his empty pistol at the cell containing, supposedly, Hannibal Heyes. "Tell him, Kid."
Bret Maverick shrugged, "If you say so."
"I've seen this happen a dozen times, sheriff," Brubaker, alias Curry, told him. "They get their ego hurt by someone else claiming to be themselves, and they get drunk and can't hold it in any more. It finally got to him; he couldn't take it any more."
Bret looked from Hannibal Heyes to Bart Maverick. "If he says he's Heyes, then he's Heyes."
Curry's hopes were dashed and were reflected in the face of Heyes who discreetly shook his head, knowing the Kid had done his best. The plan hadn't worked; the sheriff wasn't as gullible as they'd hoped.
"Well, come on." Redmond took the gun from Bart, grabbed the jail cell keys and went to open the cell next to Heyes' and Bret's, shoved Bart in the cell, slammed the door and turned away as a deputy came in on the run.
"Stage is in, Sheriff! That Lom Trevors is here!"
Redmond quickly pulled out his pocket-watch and checked it. "Damn! He's early by two hours! I was kinda hopin' the newspaper editor'd be here to interview me ... I mean, him." He snapped the watch case shut and headed for the door, excited at the prospect of meeting the only man known who could positively identify Heyes and Curry. "C'mon, Charlie, let's go meet him," he spoke to his deputy and the two hurriedly exited the jail.
"Kid," Heyes spoke to Curry in a whisper, "Am I dreaming this?" His eyes were glued on the cell door next to his and Bret's.
Bart looked at his cell door and did, indeed, see the keys hanging there where the sheriff, in his haste and excitement, had left them. "Well, I'll be damned!" Bart exclaimed happily, retrieved the keys and handed them to Hannibal Heyes.
Heyes made his hasty escape, shutting the door behind him, pausing briefly to look from Bret to Bart, "Well, I won't say it hasn't been a pleasure, because it hasn't. Next time you play poker, Mister Maverick," Heyes spoke to Bret, "Just remember it was Joshua Smith that beat you, not Hannibal Heyes. It'll just cause you trouble if you tell otherwise." With that, Hannibal Heyes exited from the lives of Bret and Bart Maverick.
"I'm sorry you had to come all this way," Redmond was saying to Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville, Wyoming. "But, seein's how you're the only one that knows them on sight, well, I knew you'd be the one to contact."
"Oh, It won't be. We got two Hannibal Heyes' for you to choose from:" Redmond said excitedly, but Trevors didn't hear him. He'd stopped to stare after a man in a nice pin-striped gray suit who'd tipped his slate gray hat to him seconds ago on the boardwalk.
Trevors looked at Redmond, his dark moustache twitching slightly, "You say you've got Kid Curry in there too?
"Yep, we've got both of them ... Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry." Redmond led the way into his office, "Here they ... where 'd he go?" The sheriff ran up to the bars and stared into the cell occupied by Bret Maverick.
"Sheriff," Bret said, "You left your keys in the lock of the cell over there, and he asked that man," he indicated Bart, "to hand him the keys. He was so drunk that he did just that. This man," he indicated the empty bunk in his cell, "Let himself out."
"But you said you was Kid Curry!”
Bret looked exasperated, "Now, don't go putting words in my mouth! I never said I was Kid Curry. Why would I do something stupid like that when I know good and well I'm not Curry? You said I was Curry and he said I was Curry." he pointed to Bart.
"He let Heyes go!” Redmond cried, his voice up an octave.
"Look at him, he's dead drunk," Bret pointed to Bart, "You can't blame him for some fanciful tale told under the influence of alcohol, or for actions he wasn't responsible for."
"Sheriff, I'm as law-abiding as the next man, but I'm not stupid. If he was Hannibal Heyes, I knew I wasn't exactly going to be able to stop him, so I didn't try."
Redmond was so mad he was shaking, "Well, at least they didn't get that money." He stooped at his safe, opened the combination and pulled out the cloth sack from several days ago, and found it still stuffed with money.
"Now, sheriff," Bret was at the cell door, "What are you gonna do with that?"
"I told you before, it's impounded." Redmond sat and began counting it. "I'm handing it over to Sheriff Trevors here. He'll handle taking it back to Wyoming to figure out where it came from and what to do with it."
"Some of that came from me." Bart was miraculously sober and at the cell door.
"Like I told you before, this money's probably stole," Redmond snapped.
Trevors tried not to smile, knowing it would be useless to try and catch Heyes and Curry, They had even a ten minute lead on the posse. "Yeah, give me a minute to go have this put into a draft at the bank, and get me a good horse. I'll come along with you."
"What about them?" Charlie pointed to Bret and Bart.
"Leave 'em there. You stay here and watch 'em. If they try to escape, shoot 'em. You might look up in my books and see how long I can legally hold a man for disturbing the peace and shooting up a saloon." Redmond headed for the door, "Oh, Charlie, see that they're fed really good." He cackled all the way down the boardwalk.
"This ain't so bad." Bart smiled and looked around. "How's the food?"
"You know any good dentist nearby?"
"That bad, huh?" Bart leaned back. "Thirty-five thousand ... all gone. Except, of course, what you owe me." Bret sighed. Bart picked up the discarded newspaper and began humming a tune that Bret recognized as the same tune Heyes had hummed for three days. Before Bret could groan in misery, the deputy came through the door, a tray in hand, holding two bowls brimming with ...
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