Alias Smith and Jones

meet

The Magnificent Seven

By Carol Broyles

Chris and Vin relaxed companionably on a bench outside the saloon, watching people and horses traverse Four Corners' main street. Vin's attention was drawn to two strangers as their horses trotted down the dirt street. No - not strangers, Vin decided as his gaze sharpened.

"Chris, we got anything in town worth stealing?'' the tracker asked laconically.

"Hell no,'' Chris answered. "If we did I'd be tempted to steal it myself.''

Things had been a might slow in town lately, and both were starting to chafe at the boredom. Chris' green eyes followed Vin's gaze to the two riders.

"You know 'em?'' he asked.

"Reckon so. They're Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes. Wanted dead or alive in Wyoming for about a hundred armed robberies.''

Chris shot an amused glance at Vin.

"Do you know every wanted man in the country?'' he asked.

"Damn straight. And everyone huntin' them,'' Vin answered. Chris believed him.

"What do you think they're doing here?'' Chris asked.

"Dunno,'' Vin replied. "There sure isn't any train running through here to rob.''

"And not enough money in the bank of this one-horse town to interest a couple of big-league robbers like Curry and Heyes,'' Chris reflected.

"Reckon we should ask 'em what they're doing here?'' Vin asked.

"Reckon not,'' Chris replied.

"Reckon we should keep an eye on them?''

"Reckon so."

Fortunately for Chris and Vin, their quarry had dismounted and were heading into the saloon. It was as good a time as any for a drink.

A pleasant hour later found them drinking and losing at cards to Ezra, although the one who called himself Smith was giving the gambler a run for his money. The remaining members of the seven had also gravitated to the saloon - drawn by some inexplicable unspoken communication - and served as silent backups for when Chris decided to make his move.

"So just what are you boys here to steal?'' Chris finally asked, his tone conversational but with a decided lack of warmth.

Vin's hand moved closer to his mare's leg, but Curry and Heyes made no attempt to draw their weapons. Over at the bar, Buck laid a restraining hand on J.D.'s arm. J.D. - keyed for action - nodded and relaxed slightly, although still keeping a wary eye on the exchange going on at the poker table.

Heyes managed to look confused and slightly amused.

"I beg your pardon. I don't know what you mean,'' he answered the man in black, who didn't look friendly at all anymore.

Curry glanced casually around the room and took note of just who was watching their table - and how intently.

"I think you do.'' Chris wasn't dissuaded.

"No. I'm sure I don't,'' Heyes replied mildly.

"Vin here says you're Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes. So what are you here to steal?'' Chris repeated.

"You seem to have mistaken us for someone else. We don't want any trouble, so we'll just be running along...'' Heyes started to stand, and Curry followed his lead.

"I wouldn't do that if I were y'all,'' Vin drawled as five weapons were trained on them, including Ezra's derringer. They sat back down.

"Listen, I can assure you...'' Heyes began.

"I don't want your assurances, mister,'' Chris interrupted. "I want to know what you're planning. But I'll settle for you two safe and sound in our jail.''

Chris added his own gun to the mix, and Heyes shrugged in defeat. Slowly he and Curry stood up, raising their hands. The trip to the jailhouse was short but excruciatingly uncomfortable, as was the sound of the iron door slamming shut behind them as they were installed in a cell.

"Hope you've got a plan to get us out of here,'' Curry said as he sat down on one of the narrow bunks.

"That makes two of us, Kid.''

"Are you still thinking?'' Curry asked some two hours later. He was stretched out on the bunk with his hat pulled over his eyes. Heyes, seated on the other bunk with his brows drawn together in concentration, glanced at his partner.

"Don't worry,'' Heyes said with more confidence than he felt at the moment. "All we have to do is stay alert and wait. An opportunity is bound to come along.''

"Wonderful,'' the Kid said, his tone taking the sting out of the sarcasm. "I feel much better now.''

Heyes didn't answer that, but sat up straighter as a lovely blonde entered the dim confines of the jail, as out of place as the lone flower in a patch of weeds. Heyes stood up quickly, rousing Curry, who took one look and quickly followed suit.

"Not too close, Mary,'' Buck warned from his seat on the edge of the sheriff's desk, where he and J.D. were competing to see which could flip the most playing cards into J.D.'s hat on the floor.

"Gentlemen," Mary began as she approached the two men standing attentively behind the bars. "My name is Mary Travis and I run the town newspaper, The Clarion. I was hoping you two would consent to an interview. My readers would find the story of Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes fascinating.''

"I'm sorry, ma'am. We would love to help you, but I'm afraid we're the innocent victims of a case of mistaken identity. My friend, Mr. Jones, and I were just passing through this town and stopped for a beer and a game of cards when we were thrown in this jail. I can assure you we are not Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry,'' Heyes said sincerely, with just the right amount of bemused chagrin.

"I can't believe Mr. Tanner would make a mistake like that...'' Mary began doubtfully. "But when my father-in-law the judge gets here I know things will be cleared up.''

"The judge?'' Anxiety flitted across Heyes' features before he forced a smile. Mary, temporarily distracted as Curry poured on all the charm his soulful blue eyes could muster, failed to notice. She forced her attention back to Heyes.

"Judge Travis. He'll be here in three days,'' Mary supplied.

"Judge Orrin Travis?'' Curry asked, and Mary brightened.

"Yes. He's my father-in-law. Do you know him?''

"No, ma'am,'' Kid answered. "We know of him.''

"He knows us,'' Heyes muttered under his breath.

"What did you say?'' Mary asked.

"I said that's wonderful. We'd like to get this misunderstanding cleared up as soon as possible,'' Heyes said.

"Mrs. Travis, I don't wish to be forward, but I was wondering if you could help us,'' Heyes continued. As he spoke he dropped his voice lower, almost to a whisper, and unconsciously Mary stepped closer to hear.

"Mary, don't!'' Buck called from across the room. Mary started to turn, but Heyes' arm snaked through the bars, grabbing her around the waist. His other hand clamped around her mouth, forcing her against the bars. Curry had stepped behind him so the three were in a line, with the woman's petite form shielding the two outlaws from the line of fire of Buck's and J.D.'s pistols, which had materialized instantly.

"Let her go before you get a bullet in you,'' Buck warned. "Don't worry Mary - it'll be all right.''

"No one has to get hurt. We just want to get out of here. Put your weapons down. Now,'' Heyes ordered.

J.D. looked uncertainly at Buck, who nodded slightly. In the close confines of the jail they couldn't risk shooting at the two prisoners with Mary in between. Not to mention what a ricochet might do if a bullet hit one of the iron bars. And the outlaw could easily break his captive's neck before they made it the few steps to the cell. Reluctantly the two lowered their weapons.

"On the floor. Then kick them over here,'' Heyes ordered, and Buck and J.D. reluctantly complied.

"You, with the mustache, back away from that desk. Now you bring me those keys,'' Heyes nodded at J.D.

As soon as the cell door was unlocked, Curry scooped up the weapons then retrieved their own gunbelts from the desk. While rifling through the drawers, Curry found another prize and held up two sets of handcuffs to show Heyes, who nodded approvingly.

"This is never going to work. You boys had best just put down those guns and rethink this,'' Buck said as Curry pushed him toward the recently vacated cell.

"Thanks for the advice,'' Curry said dryly as he gestured J.D. inside to join him.

"Cuff them back to back,'' Heyes instructed, and Curry linked Buck's and J.D.'s wrists together with the iron circlets. Buck was still protesting when Curry used the man's own bandanna to gag him.

"Don't scream.'' Heyes words were as much a question as a command to Mary, and she nodded. Cautiously Heyes removed his gloved hand from her mouth.

"This will be over soon,'' Heyes assured her, sounding genuinely contrite.

Curry was surveying the street. The few nags tied to hitching posts close by were completely unsuitable for the quick getaway he and Heyes had in mind. He turned to Heyes and shook his head.

"Mrs. Travis, if you'll just be so kind as to walk us to the livery stable, we'll let you go,'' Heyes promised.

"Very well, Mr. Curry. Or is it Mr. Heyes?'' Mary asked. Heyes met her look squarely but didn't answer.

"Let's go.''

"You sure about those two being Curry and Heyes?'' Chris asked Vin, who leaned against the post next to him.

"You doubtin' me?'' Vin asked.

"Nope. I'll just feel a lot better when the judge gets here. Those two are too slick,'' Chris answered.

"You worry too much. Ain't nothing they can do safely tucked away behind bars...'' Vin's voice trailed off as he and Chris noticed the two outlaws they'd been discussing strolling down the opposite boardwalk with Mary Travis in between.

"Aw, hell,'' Vin drawled as he ran to follow Chris.

"Kid,'' Heyes said urgently.

"I see them,'' Curry replied. With Mary in tow the two increased their pace from a purposeful walk to a mad dash down the boardwalk to the livery.

"Nathan! Check the jail and see if Buck and J.D. are all right'' Chris shouted.

Chris and Vin both had their weapons draws but dared not fire for fear of hitting Mary. Alerted by Chris' shouts, Nathan and Ezra both appeared at the doorway to the saloon. The gambler drew his weapon and followed Chris and Vin, while Nathan ran for the jail.

Josiah rounded the far corner of the livery just as Heyes, Curry and a struggling Mary reached it, but they managed to duck inside, shutting the huge door behind them. Their horses were still saddled - the only thing that had gone right for them all day - and Curry threw a saddle on another mount while Heyes covered them from the doorway, still keeping a tight hold on Mary's wrist.

"If you think that third horse is for me...'' Mary began.

"There's no other way,'' Heyes interrupted. "It's clear your friends won't shoot while you're with us.''

"Don't place too much faith in that,'' Mary warned. "I happen to know they are excellent shots.''

Heyes nodded, taking her point.

"This place got a back door?'' Curry asked, leading up the three horses and boosting Mary onto one.

"Let's just hope they're not covering it yet,'' Heyes said, throwing open the door and waving his arms to send the other horses galloping through. Holding onto the reins of Mary's horse, Kid followed. And Heyes swung onto his own mount, bringing up the rear.

A few shots fired over their heads to make them reconsider only spurred them on. And the three were soon out of town and heading away from Four Corners at as fast a gallop as they could muster. Curry chose a path toward the mountains, hoping they could lose themselves in the rough terrain.

Pursuit, they knew, was inevitable.

Dusk was fast approaching as the three riders paused on the mountain trail, giving their mounts a breather. Two of the riders were engaged in worried conversation as they debated their next move.

"I don't think the governor of Wyoming is going to look too kindly on jailbreaking and kidnapping,'' Curry said, gesturing to Mary.

"It wasn't kidnapping, Kid,'' Heyes defended. "It was just ... leaving town quickly with an escort.''

"I figure the rest of that escort isn't far behind us,'' Curry said dryly, and Heyes nodded.

"I guess we're safe enough now. We can lose them in the dark soon,'' Heyes reasoned. Kid started to hand Mary's reins back to her when a band of horses rounded a curve in the trail, barely half a mile away.

"Sorry, ma'am,'' Curry apologized, before kicking his mount into a gallop and leading hers higher up the trail. Heyes fired a couple of shots to discourage their pursuers, then followed suit.

On one side of the trail was a steep drop-off, and Mary's horse was treading dangerously near it. Heyes spurred his horse up and to the side, to crowd Mary's horse back toward the mountainside before it made a misstep. The move would have succeeded, but rains had eroded the earth, and a big piece of ground suddenly broke away beneath Heyes' horse's hooves.

Heyes shifted his weight quickly to the right, trying to help the animal regain its footing, but it was no use, and horse and rider toppled down the cliff. Heyes lost his seat and winced as he hit the hard ground, trying to avoid the avalanche of shifting earth, rocks and iron-shod hooves as he slid downward.

"Heyes!'' the Kid called in alarm, reining in his own mount and Mary's.

Heyes' slide finally ended, and he grimaced with pain, trying gingerly to pull his leg free from a pile of rocks that pinioned him. It was no use, and he gave up the effort, panting in exhaustion and pain.

Curry had found a safe place to take the horses down and spurred his mount to where Heyes lay pinned on his side. He jumped off his horse and clawed at the rocks.

"It's no use, Kid,'' Heyes said, aware that the posse was closing in fast.

"I'm not leaving you,'' Curry insisted.

"Kid, you can't help me if they capture you too,'' Heyes pointed out. Even with his mind clouded with pain, Heyes thought clearly. Curry admired him for that. Reluctantly, Curry nodded. Even now he could hear the posse approaching in the distance. Mary heard them too. She'd been watching the exchange between the partners, her wide gray eyes filled with sympathy for the injured Heyes, but now she gathered up her reins and started to kick her horse into a run.

"No you don't.'' Curry grabbed her horse's bridle, dragging the animal to a stop and wresting the reins away from Mary. Curry swung into his saddle. Dark was approaching fast now. So was the posse. With one last backward look at his partner, Curry kicked his horse into a canter, leading the other horse behind.

Nathan gingerly cut the fabric of Heyes' pant leg then carefully pulled the bloodied fabric free to get a look at Heyes' mangled knee. They were taking no chances this time, Heyes reflected, repressing a groan as Nathan examined his leg. He was back in his cell, and the handcuffs he and Curry had so recently used to bind Buck and J.D. now shackled Heyes' wrists above his head to the cell's bars, as much to keep him secure as still while Nathan examined him.

Nathan winced in sympathy as he manipulated the limb.

"J.D., go get that bottle of laudanum from my room,'' the healer instructed, and J.D. nodded, turning to do his bidding. Josiah held the lantern, while Chris stood in the background, watching silently. He looked up expectantly as Vin came through the door. The tracker shook his head.

"Lost 'em in the dark,'' Vin explained. "Buck and Ezra and I tracked them as far as High Knob, but when they hit the rocks we couldn't follow anymore.''

Chris came forward to tower over Heyes. He bent down, pinning Heyes' brown eyes with his frosty green ones.

"Where's your partner?'' Chris growled, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Partner?'' Heyes managed to look confused, drawing a scowl from Chris.Then Nathan had his full attention again as he probed his injured knee, sending pain shooting up and down his leg.

"We've got two options,'' Nathan told Heyes. "I can just wrap it up, but you'd probably have a limp.''

"What's the other option?'' Heyes didn't fancy spending the rest of his life as a cripple.

"I can try to reset the bones, but it's going to hurt - bad,'' Nathan explained.

"Well, I guess we'd better get started,'' Heyes said, wishing fervently he was anywhere else but here at the moment - with the possible exception of a Wyoming prison.

"Here you go, Nathan,'' J.D. said as he returned with the bottle of laudanum. He held it out to Nathan, but Chris took it instead. He looked meaningfully at Heyes' mangled knee.

"Looks painful,'' Chris said significantly. "Now ... where's your partner?''

Yeah, Heyes decided, this just wasn't one of his better days.

"You know what? Laudanum always makes me nauseated. Let's do it without it,'' he told Nathan.

"Chris...'' Nathan began, but the older man cut him off.

"You heard him, Nathan - get started,'' Chris ordered.

Josiah started to speak but thought better of it. They all knew how much Mary meant to Chris - to all of them, in fact. Nathan stared at Chris, clearly torn, then reached for his instruments. He'd seen worse in the war - but not when it could be prevented. Heyes gritted his teeth, repressing a scream as the healer began to manipulate his leg. But his partner was worth it. Heyes knew if their positions were reversed, Curry would do the same for him.

"Hold up, Nathan,'' Vin instructed, then turned to Chris, gesturing at the bottle of opium painkiller. "Could be we're taking the wrong tack here.''

Slowly Chris nodded, catching his meaning.

It was cold in the dark without a fire, and Mary drew her legs up against her, trying to keep warm as she sat on the ground in a small copse of trees. Curry noticed the gesture and took off his sheepskin coat, draping it around her shoulders.

"Thank you,'' she said, and Curry nodded. There was a bank to their back, providing some shelter against the wind, and he leaned against it. Mary studied his profile in the moonlight. He'd said little since they'd finally stopped, convinced they'd lost their pursuers, and he was clearly preoccupied and guilt-ridden about leaving his friend behind.

Rather than feel angry toward him, Mary regarded him with pity. She'd done some research on the pair before she'd ventured to the jail, and although the two were apparently highly successful bank and train robbers, her files showed they had never killed anyone. They'd had plenty of chances to shoot at the seven men pursuing them as well but had mainly tried to flee. She even understood their logic for forcing her along with them and wasn't frightened anymore.

Curry rubbed the back of his neck, which was knotted tight with tension, fervently wishing he and his partner's positions were reversed. Heyes would surely be able to come up with a plan to rescue him and get them out of this mess. If it was just a sheriff and a deputy or two, Curry was reasonably sure he could pull off a jailbreak. But those were seven of the most determined men he'd ever seen. And he had no way of knowing just how badly Heyes was injured. If he broke him out of jail, could Heyes even ride? He'd looked like he was in a lot of pain when Curry had been forced to ride off. Curry forced himself not to think about that as he sat down on the ground beside Mary. He had to think of a plan.

"Where is your friend? Where would he go to hide?'' Josiah's deep voice sounded far away as Heyes tried to concentrate. Where was he? A Wyoming prison? No. Just a one-horse jail. He should have been able to break them out of that. The only thing Heyes was clearly aware of was the pain in his leg. But even that was distant, and watching Nathan set the bones was almost like watching him work on someone else. Who else? Curry? Was Curry hurt?

"Nooo,'' he whispered, as Josiah's voice continued inexorably in his ear.

"Your friend's in trouble. We have to find him. Help him. Where can we find him?'' Josiah asked.

Vin and Chris exchanged a look and nodded. They'd clearly made the right choice having Josiah question Heyes. If anyone could get the information out of him, it was the preacher.

"Hurt?'' Heyes asked in confusion. Curry had hurt his leg, been caught in a rockslide.

"We have to find him. Have to help him.'' Josiah said.

"Help him...'' Heyes echoed. He was so tired. Wanted to sleep. Why wouldn't they let him sleep? No, couldn't sleep. Had to help the Kid. The Kid was hurt. But he could find him. They always had a plan in case they got separated.

The room was spinning now. Pain. Dizzy. Sleep. The Kid hurt? Nathan snapped a final bone back into place, and the pain helped crystallize his thoughts. A trick. Yes, they were trying to trick him.

"Closer,'' Heyes whispered, and the three men - Josiah, Vin and Chris - bent closer in the dark.

"What partner?'' Heyes asked, and Chris swore.

"Give him some more laudanum,'' Chris told Josiah.

"Best not. He's had too much already,'' Nathan advised, wiping his hands clean on a towel.

Chris clearly wanted to argue but nodded, running a hand through his blond hair in frustration.

"We'll find her come daylight,'' Vin promised, laying a hand on Chris' shoulder.

"We'd better,'' Chris said darkly. He didn't hold with cold-blooded murder, but if the outlaw's partner did anything to hurt Mary...

"We'd better,'' Chris repeated, and Vin understood.

"If you don't mind my saying so, you and your friend don't seem like hardened criminals,'' Mary said, studying Kid's anguished expression. He looked over at her, his blue eyes bleak.

"That's mighty charitable, ma'am, considering all we've put you through,'' Curry answered.

"You had no choice,'' Mary said softly. "But you should consider turning yourself in. My father-in-law, the judge, I'm sure he could help you.''

"Can't do that, ma'am. Judge Travis - he knows Heyes and me. If he gets a look at us he'll know for sure it was us breaking jail and kidnapping his daughter-in-law,'' Curry explained.

"I don't understand.''

Curry hesitated, then decided to trust her with their secret.

"Amnesty. The governor of Wyoming has promised Heyes and me amnesty if we can stay out of trouble for a year. At the moment, we're doing a pretty poor job of it.''

"Chris and Vin know who you are,'' Mary pointed out. "That's why they arrested you.''

"They think they know who we are. But they can't prove it for certain until the judge gets a look at us. Otherwise we could be anyone,'' Curry said.

"Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones?'' Mary ventured.

"Exactly,'' Curry nodded.

Mary considered his story. She'd heard of amnesty offers before, but for these two? The idea was just outrageous enough to be true.

"Then I guess we've got to find a way to rescue your partner,'' Mary decided.

Curry looked startled.

"You'd help us?'' he asked in surprise.

"Of course,'' Mary said matter-of-factly. She knew firsthand that a somewhat checkered past didn't necessarily make a good man a bad man. Mary cupped her chin in her hands as she thought. If she explained it all to Chris, would he understand? He took his oath to uphold the law in town very seriously. Vin should surely understand, being a wanted man himself. But then again he was accused of a murder he didn't commit, and these two didn't deny being notorious - even famous - bank and train robbers with a price on their heads.

"You're going to have to trade me for your friend,'' Mary told Curry.

"I can't deny my thoughts haven't been running that way, ma'am,'' Curry answered. "But it's too dangerous. Heyes and I have put you in too much danger already.''

"I'll be safe. You can send a note setting up a place to meet,'' Mary said.

"No offense, ma'am. But it will surely be a trap,'' Curry objected.

"I know. But we won't be there,'' Mary explained.

Curry's brow furrowed in confusion. "Then how will we get back Heyes?''

"He won't be there either. They'll try to trick you with a decoy while they leave him safely locked up in the jail. By the time they realize we're not coming, you and your partner will be gone,'' Mary told him.

Curry stared at the delicate blonde in admiration. The twists in the plan were worthy of Heyes himself.

"Are you sure?'' he asked, and Mary nodded. She was sure. Mary was a little surprised to realize just how much she was starting to understand Chris - his feelings and the way his mind worked. Mary shivered as she thought of what Chris might do if he ever figured out what she had done. And what would the judge say? Resolutely, Mary put those thoughts from her mind. She'd just have to make certain they never found out.

Heyes tried to sleep, but it was impossible with Chris staring stonily at him from the other side of the bars. It was too bright in the jail too, with the sunlight streaming through the windows. And his leg hurt. Was there anything else, Heyes asked himself sarcastically. Oh yeah, he was hungry. But the laudanum really had made him queasy, and he didn't think he could keep anything down. Just how much had they given him, anyway? Had he told them anything? Heyes didn't think so or else the other man wouldn't be looking at him with such enmity.

The door swung open, and Vin strode in.

"Did you find them?'' Chris asked and was rewarded with a negative shake of Vin's head. Chris had wanted to ride out with the tracker at daybreak. But his instincts told him Curry would try to break his partner out of jail, so he decided his best bet was to stay there.

"No. Found this on the trail though.'' Vin handed him the note.

Chris scanned it quickly. It suggested a trade - Smith for Mary - and stipulated a meeting place a few miles outside town.

"Are we going for a ride?'' Heyes inquired from his cell, and Chris threw him a dark scowl.

"You're not,'' Chris answered. He picked up Heyes' coat and hat, and Vin followed him out the door. "We'll get Nathan to watch him - after he puts a bandage on J.D.'s leg.''

Vin nodded his understanding.

"Let's ride.''

Curry was pleasantly surprised to find the side door to the jail unlocked. The thought crossed his mind that it could be a trap, but he'd watched the group of riders leave town. One of them had appeared to be Heyes, and Curry fervently hoped Mary was right.

Gun drawn, Curry stepped into the jail with Mary close behind him. Quickly scanning the interior he was relieved to see his partner still in his cell and only one man left guarding him. Nathan sat at the sheriff's desk thumbing through a medical text. He looked up as Curry and Mary entered, his brown eyes first making sure Mary was unhurt, then falling to the gun in Curry's hand.

"You'd best put that away,'' Nathan advised. "You won't be needing it. Are you all right, Mary?''

"I'm fine. Where's Chris?'' Mary asked.

"He and the boys rode out about a half-hour ago.''

Curry kept his gun trained on Nathan while he spared a glance at Heyes.

"How you feeling?'' he asked.

"A lot better than I was before you walked through that door,'' Heyes quipped with a flash of his old insouciant grin, although Kid could tell he was in pain.

"You can put away your gun,'' Nathan repeated, standing and tossing Curry the keys. "Truth is - I was half expecting you. That's why I left the door unlocked.''

Curry looked puzzled.

"How...?'' he began.

Nathan gestured at Heyes.

"As loyal as he's been to you, I knew you'd be coming to break him out even if every man jack were holed up in this jail. And when you drew them all away...'' Nathan shrugged. "Let's just say I had a hunch. And maybe I wanted you to succeed.''

"Why help us?'' Curry glanced again at Heyes, who was silent, but he sensed an undercurrent between him and Nathan that convinced him to lower his weapon more than anything the black man had said so far - no matter how sincere he sounded. Nathan didn't answer. The truth was no matter how much he may have understood Chris and the others' motivations, he was uncomfortable with their actions last night and disturbed by his own role in them.

"Let's just say I've got my reasons,'' Nathan answered.

Curry unlocked the cell door, and Nathan helped him get Heyes to his feet. Walking was more difficult, as Heyes couldn't put any weight on his injured leg, and he leaned heavily on Nathan as he half-walked, half-hopped out of the cell.

"Can you ride?'' Curry asked his partner.

"Just get him on my horse,'' Heyes affirmed.

Curry looked contrite as he gestured Mary and Nathan back into the recently vacated cell.

"Sorry,'' he apologized.

"We understand,'' said Mary as he closed the door behind them.

"Good luck, Mr. Jones. Mr. Smith,'' she wished them as Kid helped Heyes toward the side door.

Curry looked back, understanding what she'd meant. Their secret was safe.

"Thanks,'' he said - the word meant for both her and Nathan. Then he helped his injured partner to the door. They had a lot of riding ahead, but the way their luck was running now, Curry knew they would make it.

Feedback is welcomed by Carol at acbroyles@att.net

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