Break-in at Tiffany's

By Catherine Siemann

This story is a sequel to "Diamonds and Spades," a Highlander crossover by Hilary and myself, which appeared in JYMTG #16. The events of the Highlander episode "Double Eagle" are the background to this story.

While Tiffany's existed at the time of the story, the author confesses to ignorance as there was actually a San Francisco branch ca. 1880. But there's more than a little bit of Holly Golightly in Amanda, so it pleases me to think so.

The dark-haired beauty came riding into Devil's Hole on a snow-white horse. There were only two problems with that.

First of all, strangers weren't supposed to find their way into Devil's Hole. Second, there was a policy against allowing ladies into the Hole. There was far too much potential for jealous rivalry to get out of hand, and it was possibly not safe for the ladies themselves.

Actually, thought Hannibal Heyes when he caught sight of her, there was a third problem.

"What's she doin' here?" he asked Kid Curry.

"She who? You gonna hand me those things, or do I have to wait until she walks up and introduces herself?"

"She don't need an introduction," muttered Heyes, as he handed the binoculars to his partner.

"Oh, no!" exclaimed the Kid, as he caught sight of her through the twin lenses. "Amanda? It can't be." Amanda was a jewel thief and the owner of the Queen of Spades saloon, one of San Francisco's finest gambling establishments. They'd tangled with her a few months back, and she was one of the few beautiful women the two outlaws had ever met who they could sincerely say they'd hoped never to lay eyes on again for the rest of their lives.

A few moments later, she had dismounted from her horse and was greeting them like old friends. "Well, hello, you two. Happy to see me?"

"Uh, yeah, Amanda. Real happy." Heyes nodded.

"Missed you. How've you been?" The Kid was less skilled at hiding his insincerity than his partner. "How's the Queen of Spades Saloon doin'?"

"Well, it was doing really, really well. Until one day when it burned down. I think Kit O'Brady had something to do with that." She rolled her eyes. "Of course MacLeod . . . I'm sorry, my friend Mr. MacLeod . . . said it was my own fault. He said that I wasn't fair to O'Brady and that if I'd done the right thing by him, the universe would have done the right thing by me. Sometimes I wish Duncan had never been to Japan. All that Eastern philosophy just makes him more smug than ever."

"Sorry to hear about it," said Heyes, almost sincerely. "After you went to all that trouble blackmailing us to get it back and all."

The Kid was having trouble smothering a smile.

Amanda sighed. "The point is, without my saloon, I'm nearly broke. And I don't enjoy being poor. It's just not my style. So I thought, since the three of us obviously had the potential to work so well together, maybe you'd be interested in going in with me on a big score."

"In San Francisco?"

"Of course. I'm going to leave the city, and move back to Europe, but I'd like to do it in style. Look, there's a new branch of Tiffany's, the big New York jewelers, that's just opened up and . . . well, why should I tell you the rest until you've agreed to go in on it with me?"

"Why, indeed?" asked Heyes, not even bothering to hide amusement. "You just told us there was a big score at Tiffany's in San Francisco. The Kid and I'll come up with a plan of our own."

Curry leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek. "Considering all the trouble you put us to last time, and how we walked away with so little for all our efforts, it was real nice of you to tell us about this job. Kinda makes up for everything."

"Now, wait a minute--" she protested.

Heyes laughed. "Amanda, I donít know how you got here, 'cause no outsider has ever found his way into Devil's Hole. But now that you're here, tell me why we shouldn't just hold you prisoner and go hit the store ourselves?"

"Because you're not good enough."

"What?" asked Heyes and Curry at the same time.

"You're not good enough at what I do, and I'm not good enough at what you do. Look," she said, giving them a seductive glance. "I realize we got off on the wrong foot last time. We were on opposite sides, and I had to defend what's mine. But you, Heyes, are the best safe-cracker in the country. I can get into most safes, but you--well, a girl hears things. And everyone knows Kid Curry is the fastest gun around, and a good man in a crisis. And together, you're -- what is it they say? -- the most successful outlaws in the history of the West. Although," she looked around, wrinkling her pretty nose slightly at the rustic cabins of the Devil's Hole hideout, "frankly I'm not sure why you live like this, under the circumstances."

"You came all this way just to insult the place we live?" asked the Kid.

"Now, come on, Kid. Let's hear her out." Heyes was beginning to be intrigued.

"The point is, you're really good at what you do. And so am I. I'm the greatest jewel thief on five continents."

"You've been on five continents? You must've started real young, then."

"Why, that's very sweet, Kid. It's all right if I call you Kid, isn't it?" Amanda repeated the seductive look. "I'm a bit older than I look, actually. Anyhow, I just thought we'd make a great team. And this job is the perfect one for the three of us. I need you, and you need me. If you'll agree--"

Just then a figure came running up. "Heyes! Heyes! Word just came from the sentries that there's a stranger made it into the Hole. And they said it was a lady." Kyle Murtry stopped short. "Well, hello, Miss Amanda. Nice t' see you again." Just then the thought hit him. "Oh, it's you. You're the stranger, ain't you?"

"If the sentries saw her, how come they let her pass?" Heyes frowned, his heavy dark brows drawing together.

"They didn't. They didn't see her until she was way out of shootin' range. Only reason they knowed it was a lady was 'cause they thought they saw her skirts."

"I told you I was good," Amanda said, with a smug expression.

"The reason we're havin' this meeting is because of our recent arrival." Heyes spoke to the assembled members of the Devil's Hole Gang. The Kid stood at his side, arms crossed and looking dangerous.

"We heard there was a lady in the Hole," said Wheat Carlson. "Now, how'd that happen? Such a thing never happened when Big Jim was in charge of the gang."

"You heard right. Now there's two things I gotta say about that. One is that this lady happens to be a friend of ours. And of Kyle's. So the rest of you better treat her right. Two, we still don't know how she got by the sentries, but from now on we have gotta be a lot more careful. It happens that this lady is an experienced jewel thief, and she's real good at getting into places she shouldn't be. But still and all, we gotta do better."

Just then, they heard a screaming from outside. A moment later, Zeke Winston, a new member of the gang, came inside. Amanda was right behind him. She was holidng a long and lethal-looking sword, the tip just resting against the back of Zeke's leather vest.

"Apparently your friend thought he might get a little familiar with me. If any of the rest of you have any ideas along those lines, you might want to remember that Iím very good at taking care of myself." She lowered the sword.

For the remainder of her stay, Amanda was treated with the utmost respect by the inhabitants of Devil's Hole.

Tiffany's new San Francisco store was having a gala event in honor of its grand opening the next day. The luxurious surroundings were matched by buffets of sumptuous food, glasses of fine champagne which roaming waiters replenished regularly, and a splendid orchestra.

Kid Curry just stood there, marveling at all the diamonds on display. Catching his partner's eye, he silently mimed a whistle.

Heyes straightened his lapels, nervously. "Amanda said she'd meet us here at nine, right? It's half-past now."

"Amanda don't strike me as the kind of lady who'd be on time for her own funeral."

"You've got that right," came a voice from behind them. They turned around to see her, dressed in a gorgeous silk-and-velvet dress, and wearing the last of her jewels. "My funeral is an event I certainly plan on missing altogether, if I have any say in the matter." She swept up between them, and linked an arm with each of the outlaws.

Heyes smiled pleasantly, but said under his breath, "Glad you could join us."

"Have you had a chance to check out the security arrangements?"

"Uh-huh. I think we're in business."

"I knew we'd make a good team."

But just then, the musicians stopped playing. A man stood in the front of the room, waiting for the crowd to quiet down. With the usual delays, a hush gradually settled over the room.

"Greetings, ladies and gentlemen of San Francisco. The Tiffany family welcomes you to the newest of our stores, second only in its size and its vast selection to our flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. We hope that you've enjoyed both our hospitality and the chance to preview some of our offerings. And we look forward to serving you."

Another man walked towards the platform. He was dressed elegantly, and wore his trademark diamond tie pin. Heyes and Curry recognized him at the same moment.

"Oh, no," murmured Heyes.

"This is just our luck," said the Kid, softly.

"And now I'd like to introduce our new manager, Mister James Guffey."

"What do you mean, the deal is off?" asked Amanda, as the three of them strolled down the street afterwards. "It can't be off."

"The manager is an old friend of ours. We can't steal from Jim Guffey," said Heyes, a set expression in his dark eyes.

"Not even negotiable," Kid Curry added, an equally determined look in his blue ones.

"But--but--," sputtered Amanda. "You came all this way to do this job with me. How can you just turn your backs on it?"

"Easy," said Kid Curry.

"Absolutely," Heyes agreed.

"But I spent my last money traveling out to Wyoming to bring you back here." She looked genuinely distressed.

"Well," said the Kid slowly. "Maybe we could think up another job to do while we're here. Heyes?"

"Sure. I could think up a small one that'd at least cover everyone's expenses. Maybe even a big one. But nothing like Tiffany's."

Amanda pouted, her pretty face looking terribly forlorn. "But I was counting on Tiffany's. So tell me about your friend. Maybe he'd come in on the deal with us, for a four-way split?"

"This job's worth more to him than that, and he likes it here in San Francisco. He'd never take that kind of risk," said the Kid.

Heyes took over. "He was a con man, and one of the best. But he nearly got caught about six months back, so he started laying low. Then he had a few big losses at the track, on what were supposed to be sure things. He knows a lot about jewelry -- his nickname's Diamond Jim -- and when he found himself in need of some honest work, guess he found it pretty easy to get into the business."

"And he's the only reason that you won't rob Tiffany's with me?"

Both men nodded.

"Well then, I'll just have to see that he quits his job."

"Hold on just a minute there, Amanda. You ain't thinkin' about getting him fired, are you?"

She sighed. "Not if that won't convince you to pull this job with me. I'll just have to think up something else."

Diamond Jim Guffey stood on the mezzanine, looking down on the main selling floor of Tiffany's San Francisco store like a proud father.

Nobody was more surprised than he that he was forced to the expedient of making an honest living. But if he had to draw a salary, what better place than this? Surrounded by all these lovely diamonds, he could almost imagine that they were his own. He sighed quietly.

A beautiful dark-haired woman was waving up at him from below.

He waved back, uncertainly. Do I know her? Nothing like being in the jewelry business to make a man attractive to women, he thought, and smiled. A moment later he saw that she'd been joined by two familiar faces. Well, well. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. They were all dressed up in their best suits, which always made them look a little bit out of place. Maybe they'd done really well on a job and were anxious to turn some of their haul into diamonds and gold. Or maybe they wanted some trinkets to impress some pretty ladies, like the one they were with.

The one thing he was certain of was that they wouldn't be casing the place for a break-in. Not his store, not after all they'd been through together.

He made his way down the stairs and toward his friends.

"Jim!" said Heyes.

"Good to see you," said Curry.

"And you boys. And who is this lovely lady?" he asked, turning his head towards Amanda.

She extended a hand for him to kiss. "My name is Amanda. I don't know if you were ever in the Queen of Spades before it burned down, but I was the proprietor."

Diamond Jim couldn't help but look visibly impressed. "Well, I used to patronize the establishment sometimes back when it was the Double Eagle. So you're the young lady who beat Kit O'Brady at his own game. It certainly is a pleasure to meet you."

Amanda favored him with a brilliant smile. "Delighted. And any friend of these two is most certainly going to be a very good friend of mine."

There was a pile of dresses on the bed, and it was mounting every minute, as Amanda tossed another one on the pile. Too flashy, too demure, too formal, too informal, too satiny, too fashionable, too last season, and so forth. Finally she located one which seemed just right.

She dressed quickly but carefully, making sure she wore the finest of her remaining jewels. There in the velvet of her jewel case lay the diamond bracelet that had once belonged to Emmeline Emerson. Diamond Jim Guffey, wasn't it? And here she was with nothing but sapphires. A pity she couldn't wear the bracelet, but she couldn't trust that it wouldn't be recognized.

On the other hand, Mr. James Guffey didn't exactly travel in the same social circles as the Emersons, did he? And the railroad baron and his wife had left town months ago, after the near-failure of the line had led to its reconsolidation in Chicago. With a toss of her head, Amanda put on the bracelet.

He'd sent a private carriage to fetch her, although she suspected it belonged to the store. When it stopped to let her out, she was pleased to see that his choice of restaurant was rather extravagant.

"Mister James Guffey's table," she said to the maitre d', whose haughty expression changed instantly to one of great friendliness.

"Right this way, miss," he said, and showed her to an alcove off the main dining room.

Diamond Jim rose to greet her. "My dear," he said. "I hope you don't mind this slightly out-of-the-way table, but I find it is so much easier to make a new friend when one isn't constantly interrupted by everyone one knows stopping by to say hello."

If everyone he knew lunched here, she mused, he must be hobnobbing with an extremely rarefied element. "Oh, I so agree," she said, trying on him an expression that she hoped was seductive enough to charm without actually being so seductive that she could be seen as promising anything. James Guffey was charming but he was much too old for her. She caught herself in the middle of that thought and would have laughed aloud if she could have. Of course he was centuries and centuries younger than she was.

"I hope you don't mind, but you are the guest of Tiffany's. It's expected that I will sometimes invite prospective customers to dine."

"Oh, of course." She turned her head so that the light would flash on her sapphires.

Diamond Jim Guffey was an entertaining luncheon companion and he certainly knew his jewels. If only he weren't her target, he'd be the perfect ally for a jewel thief. If he didn't know all the best ways of turning jewelry into cash that San Francisco had to offer, then Amanda was losing her sense about these things.

Somehow, she managed to work the conversation around to horse racing, and specifically to Thunderbolt, a horse that would be running soon. A former customer of hers at the Queen of Spades owned it, and she knew that Thunderbolt was a truly outstanding horse that had been deliberately held back in the several races in which it had been entered. This next race was when the horse would finally be allowed to show what it could do, and while chances were very strongly in its favor, the odds in no way reflected its abilities.

Having shared this information, she looked at Jim expectantly.

He sighed. "If only I'd waited for Thunderbolt to come along. Unfortunately, I've had a run of bad luck, betting on a couple of sure things that weren't so sure. Well, let's just say I hadn't needed employment until recently."

Amanda allowed just enough of her disappointment at his reaction to show through for it to be convincing that she was devastated at not being able to share her good fortune. "But surely with a job like yours . . . "

"Oh, the benefits are wonderful, as are the surroundings, but the salary isn't as much as you might think. I've been promised bonuses for good performance, and I've no doubt of earning them, but we've just opened."

"But surely you have access to funds that you could, you know, borrow and then replace with your winnings."

"Unfortunately not. Thunderbolt sounds like a sure thing, but after my recent losses I've come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a sure thing." He sighed, and then signaled to the waiter to bring their coffee. "By the way, my dear, you might want to set that lovely diamond bracelet aside for awhile. It looks a lot like part of what was taken when the Emerson jewels were stolen a few months ago."

She smiled. "How very peculiar. This piece has been in my family for several generations."

"Of course it has. And in any case, I'm positive a lady like yourself would never be involved in something like that." He winked at her. "From what I understand, the Emersons weren't terribly upset. There are rumors that they made insurance claims for much more than what was stolen. It's been suggested that most of what they collected on had actually been sold already."

Amanda was never speechless. She was speechless now.

Amanda's parlor was sumptuously furnished, perhaps too much so. Some of the adornments seemed to have adornments. Kid Curry sat on a plush settee, his long legs stretched out in front of him, while Heyes stood by the fireplace, resting an arm on the mantelpiece.

"What kind of a con artist won't embezzle from his own store?" Amanda asked, in a frustrated tone of voice, as she paced up and down the room.

"A reformed one?" suggested Heyes.

"Do you think criminals ever really reform?" Amanda asked. It didn't look like her pacing was going to come to a stop any time soon.

The two partners looked at each other, and Heyes grinned, his dimple deepening. "Life on the wrong side of the law's been pretty good to us, Amanda."

"Yeah, so far," the Kid qualified. He knew Heyes had been feeling some of the same reservations about the outlaw life that he had lately. Neither of them quite knew how they'd get out of it, though, even if they eventually decided it was for the best. A couple of really big scores and a life of unobtrusive luxury in some foreign country, maybe.

She nodded. "I reform every once in awhile. It usually lasts until I get bored or find myself low on funds. How easily do you think Jim Guffey gets bored?"

Heyes' expression turned glum. "Of workin' with that many diamonds? Probably not real quick." But then he brightened. "But me and the Kid were thinkin' about that bank on the other side of Union Square. Whoever built that was thinkin' real hard about how to keep money in, but they kinda forgot about keepin' folks like us out. With your skill at break-ins, you could get us in easy, and they've got a couple of safes in there, one of which I'm sure I can crack, and a second which would be easy as pie with nitro."

"Nothing's easy as pie with nitro," the Kid said, under his breath. He trusted his partner to resist the jewel thief's undeniable charms. Heyes certainly enjoyed the company of beautiful women, but they didn't have the power to sway him once his mind was made up. That was more the Kid's own problem, so he was on his guard around Amanda. But the lady wasn't just beautiful, she was smart. If only she didn't make it a challenge, something Heyes had never been able to resist, they would be all right.

Amanda played with a loose curl. "Boring. I said I wanted to leave San Francisco in style, and I didn't just mean with a lot of money. I want to pull a job they'll be talking about for decades. The Western National Bank is something the three of us could do in our sleep."

Curry looked at his partner, hoping not to see the expression he knew he was going to find in those dark eyes. Oh, no. He shook his head in dismay. Heyes was intrigued.

"Just why is this job so special? I mean, yeah, it's an impressive collection. But you told us you've stolen crown jewels. This can't equal that."

"First of all, the sheer scope of what we'd be getting away with. We could steal enough for all three of us to live in luxury for the next fifty years and hardly dent the inventory. Second, the security is supposed to be so good that everyone's afraid to even try, but I've figured it out. That's where I need you, though -- with your skills and mine together we can do it. In itself, that would be quite a feat. And finally, the Star of the Moghuls."

"You're kidding. What's the Star of the Moghuls doing at Tiffany's in San Francisco?" Heyes' eyes widened at the mention of the legendary diamond.

"Being valued. Itís not widely known, but for the last ten years it's been owned by a San Francisco resident. His name isn't important, but he's taken a major hit with some of his investments lately. I'd heard from one of my old regulars at the Queen of Spades that the owner was waiting for Tiffany's to open because he felt they were the only ones who'd be able to handle it properly. He's shipping it to Zurich to be recut."

"No!" Heyes looked horrified. "Kid, you've heard of the Star of the Moghuls, right?"

"Diamond the size of an apple, right?"

"Uh-huh. They're gonna cut it up? Why don't they just sell it whole?"

"There's not exactly a big market for a diamond like the Star. You can't give it to your wife or your lady friend to wear, not unless she's the Queen of England and needs something special for that new crown or scepter. It'll be a lot easier to move if it's cut up."

Heyes narrowed his eyes, his heavy brows coming together. "So you're talkin' about a rescue mission, in a way?"

Amanda smiled, and this time it didn't look calculating. "Exactly."

"Only I take it you want the Star for yourself?"

"Well, what would you do with it back in that charming rustic retreat of yours, anyway? We can't sell it unless we cut it up, and I think we've all agreed we're not going to do that. I mean, we'd split it so you two got most of the rest of the haul -- I just want the Star, and enough to get to Europe on in comfort. I have friends there who'll help me out after that."

"You just want this for its own sake?" asked Curry, tired of observing.

"Just to know I have it," she said. "The biggest score I'll ever make, and you two and I are the only ones who'll ever know."

"Can I talk to my partner alone?"

Amanda excused herself to her boudoir, and Heyes took the opportunity to whisper hoarsely to the Kid, "This is a lot bigger than I imagined Miss Amanda would be thinking. I say we give her a couple of weeks to try to work her way around the Diamond Jim problem."

But Curry had a set look on his even features. "I don't like it, Heyes. If we get caught stealin' the Star of the Moghuls, we're talking something a lot worse than what we have waiting back home. Twenty years in the Wyoming Territorial Prison is a Sunday School picnic compared to what we'd have to face. We're talking life in prison and probably havin' to get buried there after. Never seeing the open country again, never living outside prison walls. Never."

"And if we don't get caught, Kid?"

"We will never, ever be able to brag about it. Never."

"`Course not."

"After you have a couple drinks and want to impress a pretty lady, you gonna be thinkin' like that?"

Heyes looked hurt. "You know me better than that, Kid. I can keep my mouth shut when I have to. A few drinks don't change that if it's that important."

"How about more'n a few?"

"Same answer."

"Maybe one of us gets hurt or real sick, and has to take laudanum, then. You know you would end up talkin' in your delirium; so would I. You sure neither of us would ever mention that we were the ones stole the Star of the Moghuls?"

"Guess we could let on we were allergic to most medicines or something. And just knowin' we were the ones that scored the Star'd be enough to keep us happy the rest of our lives, don't you think, Kid? We'd just have to remember that it was us, and think how good that'd feel."

Curry continued to look doubtfully at his partner, for a moment, but then he broke into a big smile. "You got an answer for everything as usual, Heyes. Don't know that you don't make sense, either."

In the end, they gave Amanda another week to solve the Diamond Jim problem.

Hannibal Heyes looked at his partner across the table. They were almost done with dinner and Amanda still hadn't shown up. "Wonder what the story'll be tonight?"

Kid Curry shrugged. "Let's see . . . Jim's still workin' there and she'll come up with another, better plan. Ain't that been it pretty much every night so far?"

"It's been more'n two weeks now and she's tried gambling, blackmail, seduction, offering him a better job, and just plain makin' a nuisance of herself."

"Dunno if Diamond Jim's getting sick of her yet, but I sure am." The Kid tapped his fingers on the table. "Maybe we should just hit the Western National without her."

"Can't do that." Heyes signaled the waiter. "Coffee, please?" As soon as the man had gone, he continued. "We need someone who can scale the side of a building quicker and less obtrusively than you or I would manage it. And she's small, so she can fit places we can't. Matter of fact, I've been trying to figure out why more ladies don't go into that line of work -- they're suited for it."

"'Cause most ladies have more sense than that," the Kid grumbled. He looked up and saw that Amanda was heading towards them, across the room.

"Great news," she said, as the waiter quickly intervened to pull out her chair. "I've eaten already, but if I could have some tea, that would be wonderful." She was dressed in a deep maroon silk, and the outlaws noticed she was wearing a new diamond brooch.

"Present from someone we know?" asked Heyes.

"Wonderful news. Jim has told me he couldn't see me anymore, because this rich widow wants to marry him. A very wealthy widow, extremely wealthy, actually. She's not too much older than him, and not bad looking for a lady of mature years. So of course he's going to quit the store and live in style. This is a goodbye present," she pointed to the brooch.

The Kid frowned. "You mean you and him have been . . . ?"

Amanda wrinkled her nose. "Noooo. But he thought we were headed that way."

"When's his last day?"

"Friday."

As one, the two outlaws heaved a sigh of relief.

"Saturday, then?" asked the Kid.

"Better wait 'til the middle of the next week," Heyes was thoughtful. "If we've got enough money to last until then."

Not only did they have enough money to last until then, but somehow they found they had enough money to have a pretty good time while they waited. Heyes got himself into a poker game that lasted nearly two days, and he came out ahead, even though he didn't win really big. Who cares about that, anyway? he'd thought to himself as he pocketed his winnings. We're about to pull the biggest score of our lives. He tried to conceal a yawn. The Kid had left the game a day and a half ago, and was off somewhere enjoying the company of some pretty ladies. Heyes wanted to join him, but after nearly 48 hours of poker what he really needed was some sleep.

On his way back to the hotel, he passed Amanda on the street. She was talking to a man, a well-dressed man with short black hair and a beard. He wondered if this was one of her old customers from the Queen of Spades, or a friend, or something else. Of course he wasn't jealous. He didn't even like her. They'd agreed to stay out of each other's company until just before the job, so he simply touched his hat to her, and she smiled and nodded in response.

He walked on past, continuing down the street. But there was something about the man she'd been with that gave him an uncomfortable feeling. He turned around to get a second look at him, and saw that the man was looking back at him, through cold grey eyes.

For a moment he wondered if this man was a bounty hunter. Too well-dressed of course, but that could be a clever plan to throw them off the track. He didn't entirely trust Amanda. He wouldn't put it past her to turn them in if it was to her advantage. But she needed them for this job. She'd made that clear over and over again. Maybe her idea was for them to get picked up after the Tiffany's job, so that she'd get all the spoils.

No, she wouldn't do that. She knew they'd implicate her in turn, and even if she tried to cut a deal, she'd have to give the jewels back. It was pretty clear she wasn't going to walk away from the Star of the Moghuls.

Maybe she was in some kind of trouble herself. There were so many possibilities, ranging from her defunct casino to her previous jewel thefts to her tendency to just plain rub some people the wrong way. Maybe he liked her just enough to want to make sure she was all right. After he got some sleep, he'd check with her and see if she needed his help. I must be tired. Now I'm sounding like the Kid.

On Tuesday night, the three of them met and discussed their plans. After dark on Wednesday, they'd meet a couple of blocks away from the store. They mapped out the job, so that each of them understood his or her part entirely, and they timed it down to the very second.

Heyes looked at his pretty companion. He had to admit, she was some woman. Beautiful, smart, and extremely larcenous. All right, she could be irritating. But then if you believed the Kid, he could be irritating himself sometimes. He should have asked her about that man, and whether there was anything he could have done to help.

The honest truth was that after he'd gotten back to the hotel, he'd fallen into a deep sleep that lasted all that night and most of the next morning, too. By the time he woke up, he'd forgotten about it. When he finally remembered, later that evening, he'd had quite a bit to drink, and was sitting with a particularly luscious saloon girl on his lap. Even if he'd had the heart to dislodge her, he wasn't in much shape to be of any particular use to Amanda, anyway.

She seemed a bit keyed up now, but that was understandable, considering the plans they'd just made. This job was going to be a real triumph for them all, but it was going to be a big challenge, too. He was feeling that way himself. His thoughts seemed quicker than normal, his senses keener and his reflexes faster, all of which made him a bit jumpy.

When they finished their planning session, he waited for the Kid to leave the room.

"You okay?"

She looked puzzled. "Of course, I'm fine. Why?"

"That man I saw you with the other day. I got a bad feeling from him."

Amanda lowered her eyes for a moment, and then met his. "Your feeling was not wrong. But this isn't something for you to worry about. It's just something I have to take care of myself." This steely determination was something new in a woman who seemed to flirt and cajole her way through life.

"Are you sure? Because me and the Kid, we'll help you in any way we can."

"I'm positive. It's nothing you can help me with. But this is the first time I've felt that either of you actually cared. Thank you." She leaned forward and Heyes was surprised to find she'd given him a quick kiss on the cheek.

Hannibal Heyes stood looking at his pocket watch. "Two more minutes, Kid, and she's gonna be late."

"That's nothin' new for Amanda."

"Kid, we've got this worked out down to the very minute. She drew up the plans with me, remember? This ain't like, well, every other time we've met her somewhere." He grinned ruefully. Could she be such a successful thief as all that, if she was late to all her crimes?

They stood there for another couple of minutes, impatient and more than a little annoyed.

"She brings us all this way, makes us wait all this time for the set-up, and now she doesn't show?" The Kid was moving beyond grumbling into anger.

"Maybe she meant the next block," said Heyes, trying to distract his partner.

"Fine. Let's go for a walk. If she gets here, she can wait for us."

They walked one block, then started down another, when they heard a strange sound like clashing metal. Two figures in a dark alley, flashes of silver. It couldn't be . . . .

"Amanda," they said almost in unison, remembering the sword she'd threatened Zeke Winston with, back at the Hole.

The Kid drew his gun. "Amanda," he called out, "do you need any help?"

The duelists drew apart, both turned and looked at them. Amanda was a little disheveled, but she looked all right otherwise. Her opponent was the man with the black beard and grey eyes whom Heyes had seen her with a few days ago. Both of them were panting slightly with the exertion.

"Kid, don't shoot," she said. "This has nothing to do with you. This is my fight."

"How chivalrous," the black bearded man sneered. "To have them come to your rescue. I knew you were a coward, Amanda, but I didn't think you'd stoop that far."

"Shut up, Konrad," she hissed.

Kid Curry had not holstered his gun. "I can wound him in the shoulder, keep him laid up long enough for you to get away from here. Don't do anything foolish, Amanda."

Her face was impassive. "Go back to the meeting place. I'll be there when I can. If I don't come, don't come looking for me. Just assume the whole thing is off. And if you see anything strange, don't come looking."

The Kid stood his ground.

"Heyes," Amanda pleaded. "Please, just go and take him with you."

"Heyes?" Konrad looked interested suddenly. "And . . . Kid. My, my. That would be Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, I imagine. So after I finish you off, I can turn them in for the reward that's on both their heads. I expect itís a generous one, with their reputation."

"If you can catch us." The Kid's blue eyes flashed.

"Come on, Kid," Heyes said urgently, as Amanda gave him a look of utter desperation. "She don't want our help."

"I'm not leavin' her."

"This is some kind of trick to get me to back down, Amanda, isn't it?" asked Konrad, a suspicious tone in his voice.

"Go!" Amanda screamed in frustration. "The longer you don't leave, the longer this takes. Please!" She stared at him, her eyes flashing with anger.

They looked at each other for a while, unmoving, until finally, wordlessly, Kid Curry reholstered his gun, spun on his heel, and walked away. Heyes trailed just a little behind him.

When they'd turned round the corner, Curry spoke in a tone of disgust. "What kind of a crazy lady gets into a sword fight in the middle of San Francisco? Heyes, she must be nuts."

But Heyes looked thoughtful. "There's something goin' on here that we just don't understand."

"Don't think I want to, either."

It might have been ten minutes later, or half an hour, that they saw a strange burst of light erupt in the general direction of where they'd left Amanda. It was followed by a series of others, and a few moments later, by Amanda herself, looking somehow exhausted and energized at the same time.

"Ready to go?" she asked.

"What happened?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Where is he? Was he injured?"

"I won. That's all I'm going to say, so please stop asking."

"You in any shape to do this job tonight?"

"Of course," she said, and immediately collapsed.

Two nights later, they tried again. This time, not only was Amanda on time, but she was at the meeting place before them. She was wearing a long black cloak, and when she slipped it off, the outlaws were surprised to see that she was wearing a pair of close-fitting dark trousers and a simple black top.

In response to the two pairs of raised eyebrows she whispered, "What? You thought I could scale the side of a building in my stays and a bustle?" She looked appraisingly at the two of them, and then handed the Kid a rope with a grappling hook at the end. "All right, toss it up so that it hooks around something solid. If it looks like it'll support my weight easily, then one of you can come up with me. If it seems a little shaky, I'll let you both into the lobby, as soon as I've taken care of the guards."

They watched her slim figure ascending the rope, the steady, agile movements giving them confidence that even as she arrived at the fifth and highest floor, she was in no danger. Heyes walked to the bottom of the rope, and was just grasping hold of the rope when it began to slither upwards without him. All right, then. She didn't think it was safe for them to follow.

After what seemed to be hours, but was twenty minutes by Heyes' pocket watch, a small side door opened. Amanda held it open, and smiled. "The information I was given seems to have been good. There was a spring mechanism on the window I went in, but I was able to avoid setting it off. I'd have let you in sooner, but there was something more complicated attached to this door -- it took me a little while to figure it out. Other than that, there's one sleepy guard, aided by a healthy dose of laudanum in whatever it was he was drinking. I slipped it in while he was making his rounds. He'll be out for awhile. Two guard dogs, the same with drugged meat. None of them will have anything worse than a bad headache in the morning."

"The vaults are in the basement?" Heyes asked.

"Too obvious. Oh, there are several vaults down there, but the really good stuff is on the fourth floor. The guard should be out 'til morning, but there's no reason to hang around here, is there?"

They followed her up the grand staircase from the first to the second floor, and then up several more mundane staircases between the higher floors where offices and storerooms were located. Against his better judgement, Heyes found himself admiring the view as Amanda preceded him up the staircase in her fitted trousers. He saw something out of the corner of his eye, and realized that the Kid was peering around him to admire her, as well.

After looking in a couple of wrong doors, they located the office with the safe. Unfortunately, it was not entirely uninhabited. A large dog sprung at them, growling and barking fiercely. It pinned Amanda to the wall, as she cried out, "Help! Get it off of me!"

The Kid drew his gun, but he hesitated. "I hate to kill it. It's just doin' its job. And wounding an animal's pretty much the same as killing it, at least a guard dog like this."

"It's going to tear my throat out," Amanda hissed.

"Nice doggie," said Heyes. "Amanda, have you got any more of that drugged meat?"

"In my bag. Please hurry." She tossed him the black bag she'd worn over her shoulder.

"Nice doggie," he said, again, and threw the meat -- a gorgeous raw steak, he noted with regret -- into one of the other rooms. The dog dashed after it, and he slammed the door behind it. There was the noise of ravenous chewing for a short while, and then silence.

"Thanks," said Amanda.

Heyes looked at her, frowning. "Did it occur to you that maybe the dog was after the meat in the first place? It wasn't real bright to be carrying it in your shoulder bag."

"And where else would I carry it?"

He just shook his head. Amanda admitting that maybe she'd made a mistake? He should have known better. It defied all laws of probability.

"So, this is the safe?" he asked. "Not bad. Pierce & Hamilton, recent model, but nothing I can't handle." He crouched down, resting his ear against the door so he could hear the tumblers falling as he manipulated the lock.

Half an hour later, the Kid whispered, "Making any progress, Heyes?"

Amanda looked nervously at a clock on the mantelpiece. "I'm not sure how long we have before the drugs I used on the guard wear off. The dogs should be out until morning, but the guard had clearly been drinking. There was a half-empty whiskey bottle. I couldn't give him the full dose -- it might have killed him."

"You wait until now to share this?"

"I didn't know you wouldn't have the safe open sooner. I thought you were the best."

"I am the best. These things take time. I thought you were an experienced jewel thief. But an experienced thief would know that."

The Kid broke in. "If you two don't stop squabbling, we're never going to get out of here."

"Plus I really can't concentrate." Heyes turned resolutely back to the safe. Another tumbler gently slid into place and . . . there it was. With a loud click, the safe door came open.

Inside was a collection of small boxes, each of them opening to show a ring, bracelet, or necklace. Amanda produced a velvet pouch, and Heyes began handing her the boxes while the Kid stood behind them looking nervously at the door. After awhile, Heyes stopped looking inside the boxes.

"We don't have the Star yet," Amanda said fretfully.

"I think we do now," said Heyes, handing her a large leather box.

Hands trembling, she took it from him. She flipped the hinged lid open, and inside was a large diamond. As with many older stones, it was somewhat crudely cut, but its brilliance was intense. Its shade was pure, with no blue or yellow undertones such as many diamonds have.

"Oh my. It's everything I imagined." Amanda handed the box to the Kid. "Can you put this in an inside pocket? I don't want to risk carrying it in the bag."

"Sure, but there's a carrying charge. You get it, but we get a nice long look before you take it away."

"After all," Heyes added, "we want to know just what it is we ain't gonna be bragging about for the rest of our lives."

"I have your loot, and you have mine. How's that for motivation?"

"Sounds good. Now, how do we get out of here?"

Amanda listened intently for a moment. "I was planning on the front door. But I think I hear stirring down below. Maybe we'd better use the rope."

It was hard to tell which one looked more horrified, Heyes or Curry.

"I'm not goin' down four stories on a rope," protested the Kid.

"You absolutely sure it's not safe to go the other way?" asked Heyes.

As if in answer, a voice came from below. "Hello? Hello? Anybody up there?"

Heyes turned to the stairway. "You think this guy is trying to give us a chance to get away?"

"I'm not sure, but I certainly plan to take it. The window I came in was the most accessible from the outside, and it had a mechanical trap on it. I got through without springing it, but you two wouldn't -- your movements wouldn't be quick enough. But there's another we can go out that will land us safely." Quickly, she affixed the rope. "I'll go down first, and coach the two of you after me."

The partners gave each other a glance. Could they really trust her?

"One of us'll go down first." Heyes looked suspicious.

Amanda shook her head impatiently. "All right. But remember, the Kid has the Star. Let him go first. That's the only thing I'm really after. I'm not likely to cut and run on you as long as that's true."

Kid Curry walked towards the rope. "Here goes nothing." He swung one leg over the windowsill, then the other and soon disappeared from sight.

"Hello? Anyone there?" The shouting was getting nearer.

Amanda stood at the window, looking down at the Kid, who was making slow and steady progress. "We can't risk the weight of a second person on that rope before he gets to the bottom."

Finally, Kid Curry made it to the ground. Heyes waved for Amanda to go ahead. "You'll be quicker than me, and there's a better chance I'll be able to get out after you than the other way around."

Once again, she kissed him on the cheek. "So you're a gentleman. What a nice surprise." And she shimmied down the rope with lightning speed.

Heyes managed to swing himself over the ledge and start his way down before the pounding of steps had made it into the room, and by the time the guard had realized just what was going on, he was nearly to the bottom.

"Stop! Thief!" the guard yelled ineffectually after him.

And they disappeared into the night.

They ran for what seemed like miles, even though the guard didn't seem to be pursuing them. They took some back routes, just in case, and at the end of a dark street, their path was blocked by a trio of men. All of them were holding swords, just like Amanda and her opponent of several nights earlier. Heyes, who'd seen some traveling theater companies in his day, thought helplessly that they looked like a wandering troupe of actors, ready to start a stage battle at any moment. And yet he was certain the swords were as deadly as the Kid's gun.

The leader was tall and dark, with a goatee and a menacing gleam in his dark eyes. His accomplices were a blond and an African, both even taller and nearly as menacing.

"Amanda, my dear," said the first man. "So nice of you to fetch the Star of the Moghuls for us. It will be of great help to us in the Game."

"Kristopher, how nice to see you again, too. But I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about," she said.

Kid Curry had his gun hand at ready, while Heyes stood there trying to figure out what was going on. If he didn't understand, it would be hard to talk or scheme their way out of anything.

"Of course you do, my dear. Konrad was working with me, you know. When he turned up dead, I could only assume he was onto something."

"He challenged me," Amanda snapped. "You know the rules."

"What the hell--?" asked Heyes.

"This isn't any of your business, either of you. In fact, you'd be better off if you left us alone now." Her expression remained defiant, but for a brief moment a look of pleading crossed her face.

"Too bad that ain't gonna happen," said Kid Curry, whose gun was suddenly in his hand. "Now, why don't you leave the lady alone?"

"Foolish mortal," hissed the leader. "Leave while you still can." He lunged at Amanda with a sword, and the Kid's gun rang out. The man went down, clutching one of his shoulders.

One of his followers rushed the Kid, while the other lunged for Heyes. The Kid's attacker was soon down, with a wound in his thigh. Heyes, whose aim was less sure, saw to his horror that he'd hit his man in the chest. Hannibal Heyes, who'd always managed to avoid killing, had just mortally wounded a man.

"That should slow them down," said Amanda. "Now come on, let's get out of here."

"Slow them down? Amanda, I just killed one of them." Heyes stood there expressionless, unmoving.

The Kid could read pain in the dark eyes, and put a steadying hand on his partner's shoulder. But Amanda said, impatiently, surprisingly, "No, you haven't."

"I just shot him in the chest. He's down and it looks like he ain't breathing. How dead is dead?"

"Iíll explain when we've gotten to safety." She seized him by the arm, to impel him away from the scene.

They ended up at an inn in a small town six or seven miles outside of the city. Having lost the coin toss, Kid Curry posed as Amanda's husband to register. Heyes, as their traveling companion, was given the room next door.

"Sure this is far enough?" Curry was uncomfortable.

"We've got to go back and get our things," Amanda explained. "I didn't want to get too far away."

"Amanda, we can buy other suits. There's nothing back there we need all that badly."

"Speak for yourselves," she said. "Remember, most of the haul is yours. I can't afford to replace everything. And ladies' dressmaking is an art. Besides, there are things other than clothes and jewels back in my rooms. Some of them are important to me. But most important, I can't leave town dressed in men's trousers. It was difficult enough arranging my cloak so the desk clerk didn't notice."

Heyes walked into the room with a fresh copy of the evening paper. "No word of the killing yet," he said. He looked drawn and tired, as though he hadn't slept for days, even though it had been only a matter of hours since the incident.

"I told you the man isn't dead."

"I killed him. I shot him in the heart. He fell over. His chest wasn't moving. What part of that is unclear?"

Amanda sighed. "There are certain things it's better for you not to know. But you're in pretty deep already. All right, you did kill him. But he'll come back. He's Immortal."

The outlaws looked at each other.

"Great. We went in on a crime with a madwoman." Kid Curry shook his head.

"No one's immortal," said Heyes, as though he was speaking to someone who couldn't quite understand English. "No one, Amanda. We all die."

"I'm Immortal," she said quietly. "Didn't you wonder why a lady would go around carrying a sword in the year 1880? About the electrical storm that night when you caught me fighting with Konrad? Didn't you want to know what's going on?"

"Amanda, this is crazy talk."

"Shoot me in the arm, Kid."

"Huh?"

"Just do it. Even in the heart."

"No, Amanda. I'm not gonna do that."

With an expression that conveyed unutterable boredom, she rolled her eyes. And then suddenly, she grabbed for his gun. She wasn't quick enough to get it away from him, but it accidentally discharged as the Kid tried to take it out of her reach.

"Amanda!" the two men cried at once.

There was a bloody place in her side. She fainted.

Footsteps pounded on the stairs. Heyes whispered, "She couldn't have."

After an interval of a few minutes, voices came from the hallway. "Is everyone all right?" The door was thrown open.

Heyes and Curry stared at the wounded woman on the bed. "We've got to get her to a doctor," said the Kid, nervously. "I was cleaning my gun and I must have discharged it. I thought it was empty."

Just at that moment, Amanda recovered from her swoon. "I'm all right. Really. As my husband said, he had an accident cleaning his gun."

The desk clerk and the manager looked at each other. Heyes imagined that they were wondering if these guests weren't more trouble than they were worth.

But Amanda rose with a charming smile. "Please forgive us. You see, I just found out I'm expecting a baby and I need my rest. My husband will be more careful in future, won't you, darling?" She stressed husband and darling just a little more than was absolutely necessary.

"Well . . . all right," said the manager, in a doubtful tone. "No more gunplay, though."

He closed the door behind him.

"Would you like to see my injury?" said Amanda. "It's really just a scratch."

She went behind a screen, and undressed partially. She beckoned the men over so they could look at her side.

"You're hardly injured at all."

She handed them her blouse. There was a bullet hole, and though the bloodstain was hard to see against the black fabric, the dampness and smell of the blood was evident.

They stared at each other in disbelief.

"I heal very quickly. So did the man you think you killed, Heyes. I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't hurt like hell, dying and then coming back. But it's not permanent. The only way one of my kind won't come back is if you sever the head at the neck." She extended her hand to get her blouse back, and emerged from behind the screen a moment later.

"Which would be why you carry a sword."

"In case I'm challenged. We live forever unless we're killed, and that's usually by one another."

The outlaws still looked uneasy.

She continued. "Remember, I told you I've stolen most of the crown jewels of Europe. That was over a period of time. I've had hundreds of years to do it in."

"When were you born?" Heyes asked.

"Well, a lady doesn't like to tell her age. The Dark Ages, I suppose you'd call it. We don't all last this long without someone taking our heads, but you see, Iím very good. Now if you two will excuse me, I want to rest."

The outlaws let themselves into the room next door.

"Okay, how crazy do you think she is?"

Heyes looked thoughtful. "I dunno, Kid. It looked like that shot hit her, and it looked like she healed awful fast."

"Of course, you'd like to think so," the Kid pointed out, unhelpfully. "Because then you didn't kill that man. Believe me, I understand."

"No, Kid. I don't think you do. I really don't think so. You've been a fast gun for so long that you've had time to come to terms with the idea of killing. I never have." He smiled ruefully. "I never have because I've always had you to take care of me."

For a moment they were silent, each uncomfortable with his thoughts.

Heyes broke the silence. "Even though her story sounds crazy, it does seem to fit the facts. The sword, those flashes of lightning, the wound that healed way too quick. And maybe the Star of the Moghuls itself."

"What do you mean, Heyes?"

"She's willing to give us almost the entire haul, just so she can keep the Star. Now, yeah, it's worth more than any other single piece, but it'd be impossible to sell. She's admitted she just wants to have it. Maybe this has something to do with this whole Immortal thing. What, I'm not sure. Maybe it's -- I dunno, magic or something?"

"In that case, I'd better hang onto it. Anybody who comes lookin' for her isn't going to expect me to have it. I can protect it for her."

"Maybe, Kid. Or maybe we should give it to her, take our share, and get out of here now. There's no reason for us to go back to San Francisco. Like you said, there's nothing we left behind in our hotel that we can't replace. Heck, maybe we can even get Silky to send someone by to pick up our stuff, and hold it until next time we're in town."

But Kid Curry had that stubborn set to his even features. "She may be a crazy lady, but I don't feel right leaving her here unprotected. If someone's after her, we oughta help her out."

"But we don't even like her," Heyes protested weakly.

"Yeah, we do."

"Kid, you're right. We do like her. She may be irritating, but she's sure never boring. And she's, well, I guess she's a friend. So let's get some sleep now, and we'll help her out in the morning."

Blue eyes met brown ones.

"Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"

"I think so." Kid Curry checked the inside pocket of his coat. The Star of the Moghuls was gone. "Damn! She picked my pocket."

Heyes didn't look surprised. "Let's check and see if she's still next door. You do have the key?"

When they opened the door, Amanda was gone. The velvet pouch lay on the bed, with a note:

You really don't want to get involved in this. I took a couple of rings and a bracelet to cover expenses; the rest is all here for you. Kisses, Amanda.

"Well, I guess that's that," said Heyes uncertainly. "Nothin' much more we can do, really."

"You saw those men. She's in big trouble. We've got to go after her."

"Kid, I wanna help her, but she told us to stay out of it."

"And when has that stopped us before?" Curry had that determined expression on his face, the one that made not even his partner want to cross him.

"Never, when you've made up your mind." The dark-haired outlaw smiled ruefully. "She can't have gotten too far."

"She'll head back to her place. She said there were things there she didn't want to leave behind."

They raced to the inn's stables. They'd hired horses to ride out the night before, and two of them were still there. The stablehand wasn't very helpful. Yes, the lady had gone, not more than ten minutes earlier. Yes, he supposed she'd gone back to the city. No, he had no idea what route she'd taken.

Saddling and mounting their horses as quickly as they could, they rode after her.

The key turned in the lock, and Amanda peered inside cautiously. Nobody had disturbed her rooms since she'd left them the day before. Her keen senses told her that nobody was there now, and something else told her that no Immortal was anywhere around.

The curtains were still drawn, and rather than open them, she turned the gaslight on low. Tossing aside a few inappropriate choices first, she changed from the cloak and trousers she'd been wearing since the robbery into a day dress. It might hamper her movements more, but she needed to be inconspicuous. She sighed, thinking of the lovely things she'd be leaving behind, but there was nothing to be done about that. The inlaid box where she kept her jewels was on top of the chest of drawers, and she slid the sapphires and diamonds into a velvet pouch and dropped it down her bosom for safekeeping, then buttoned up the front of the wine-colored dress.

Then she lifted up the false bottom and removed the item that had been hidden there -- the crystal that her teacher, Rebecca had given her all those centuries ago. Rebecca's gift was far more precious than any mere jewels could ever be. It went around her neck, and she tucked it in so it wouldn't be seen.

She was ready to go. Only it was too late, the buzzing told her. There was another Immortal nearby.

Desperately, she looked at the bedroom window. If only she had her ropes with her. . . but they'd been discarded on the flight from Tiffany's. Maybe she could make it down anyway. It wasn't as though it mattered much if she broke anything; it would heal soon enough. But that would make her easy prey for her pursuer, and she'd rather not lose her head over a broken ankle.

A figure filled the doorway. "Amanda, my dear. We meet again."

Kristopher was alone. Amanda drew her sword.

"Really, Amanda, you don't trust me. Clever girl."

"I have nothing to say to you. If you're challenging me, I'm ready."

"These are rather close quarters for that, donít you think? But if challenging you is the way to get the Star of the Moghuls, then I'm ready. Why don't we go out into the open air? Your Quickening, when I take it, is likely to have a somewhat deleterious effect on your neighbors' property. I don't care much about that, of course, but you might. You've always tended to make pets of them."

"We're in San Francisco in broad daylight. It's not even noon yet. Where do you expect we can fight without someone seeing?"

He smiled, and the effect was anything but pleasant. "Don't worry your pretty little head about that. I know a place. And soon your pretty little head will be mine."

The door to Amanda's rooms had been left unlocked.

"Must mean she's not planning to come back," Heyes said.

The living room appeared to be undisturbed, except for the gas jet that was still flickering feebly. But the bedroom was a mess -- clothes tossed around, and drawers left wide open.

"Think someone broke in?" asked the Kid.

"No, I think Amanda got dressed in a hurry. The lady is definitely the type who needs a maid to clean up after her. So the question is, where did she get to?"

"Either she's safely on her way out of town, in which case we're even. She left us our share. Or else Kristopher and his gang have her, in which case she's in need of rescuing."

Heyes looked grim. "If we can find them. But this time we shoot to kill -- it's the only thing that'll slow them down long enough."

"So how do we find them?"

"Well, it needs to be a big enough open space that they can have one of their swordfights. And they won't want anyone around. It ain't exactly the kind of thing you see every day on the streets of San Francisco."

"Big, open and deserted." The Kid was thoughtful. "Heyes, you know what'd be perfect for that?"

"Down near the docks? A few blocks away, that warehouse?"

"Right. Silky showed it to us once. The merchant went bankrupt and nobody's taken it over yet. It's huge and it's private."

"Let's go."

They knew they were in the right place when they heard faint sounds of sword clashing against sword, but the fighters had locked the doors behind them.

The Kid saw a window within reaching distance. "Heyes, give me a hoist up."

His partner looked at him, frowning. "Kid, you weigh more than me. Shouldn't it be the other way around?"

"Not that much, and anyway, I know what I'm doing."

"I hope so," said Heyes, groaning at the prospect. He leaned down so that his partner could get a boost up on his shoulders. "Is this enough?" He couldn't straighten up under Curry's weight.

"It's fine. Just don't drop me." The Kid used the butt of his Colt to smash open a windowpane, then reached in and unlocked it. He slid up the window and climbed inside, and then, leaning down, reached up to help his partner in.

They found themselves standing on a balcony overlooking the main room of the warehouse. It wasn't that high up and it extended around the room on three sides -- it must have been used to survey the goods when storage was filled to capacity. Two figures fought below, their swords glinting even in the low light of the warehouse. One of them was large and powerful, and the other wore a wine-colored dress.

"We gotta help her." The Kid's hand was on his gun.

But the blond and the African were suddenly at their side. The latter spoke, in accents that indicated a far-distant origin. "You cannot interfere with the fight. It is a fair challenge. It would be against the rules of the Game."

"We ain't playin' any game. We're trying to save our friend's life."

"Your friend would not appreciate your disregarding her wishes." He emphasized the word "friend" slightly.

Swords clashed, and the two fighters below continued. Finally, Amanda stumbled and Kristopher almost had her, but she twisted up and managed to disarm him. A final blow, and the outlaws saw their first beheading.

And then something strange happened. A mist rose from the body, sparks began to fly like fireworks, and for a few minutes Amanda stood there shuddering as the fireworks seemed to pour into her body.

"We didn't just see that, did we, Kid?"

"No, Heyes, I don't think so."

Finally, she was still.

"You all right, Amanda?" called the Kid.

"Fine," she said weakly.

They raced down the stairs towards her. When they reached her side, they realized that Kristopher's henchmen had followed them.

"We appear to have a problem," said the African.

"We would have killed Kristopher for the stone. Perhaps we can talk you into giving it up."

"Give up the Star of the Moghuls and all its powers? Are you crazy?"

The African looked at her gravely. "My name is Mobuto. I come from Central Africa, from the land that King Leopold of Belgium is now despoiling. My people are suffering. If the Star has the powers it is rumored to, I can save many lives with it. And maybe it will help us to overthrow Leopold's power. What would you use it for? To win the Game?"

"Well . . . " Amanda stammered. She sighed deeply. "Why is it that I always run into people who want to appeal to my good side? I try and try to be ruthless. I'm terribly self-centered. Ask my friends here and they'll tell you."

"Miss Amanda's about as selfish as anyone we've ever known," said Heyes helpfully.

"And conceited, too," the Kid chimed in.

The blond spoke for the first time, with the accents of Eastern Europe. "My name is Kyril. I was fighting as a mercenary in the forces of King Leopold until I met Mobuto. He could have taken my head, but he spared me and taught me a greater purpose. Amanda, don't you think those of us who are given the gift of immortality should use it for the good of our mortal brethren?"

The lady in question rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Plus, now that I'm tired from fighting Kristopher, and weak from taking his Quickening, either one of you could have my head in an instant. All right. I guess I don't have much choice." She looked at the outlaws, hoping maybe Hannibal Heyes would have come up with one of his legendary plans. "Do I?"

But Heyes and Curry shook their heads. It was obvious Kid Curry had no intention of shooting these two and making a run for it.

Besides, she could hear Duncan MacLeod lecturing her in similar words to the ones Kyril had used. She reached into her bosom and tossed Mobuto a velvet pouch.

He looked inside. "Thank you for the contribution to my people," he said. "But please hand over the Star."

Amanda looked as innocent as she could. "Oh, did I throw you my jewels? Sorry." She reached in and came out with a second pouch. "Here it is."

The African opened it. It was the hugest and most beautiful diamond the outlaws had ever seen. And it was disappearing into Mobuto's pocket, never to be seen again.

Mobuto and Kyril turned to go, but Amanda called after them. "Um, I don't suppose I can have my jewels back?"

But Mobuto only smiled, white teeth brilliant against his ebony skin. "You're a much better person than you think, Amanda."

"Just don't let it get around or I'll be ruined," she grumbled.

The three criminals watched the pair of freedom fighters leave.

"Now I'm going home and packing up my things. At least this way I get to keep my dresses."

"Always lookin' on the bright side. That's what we like about you."

"About the proceeds of the robbery. I don't suppose . . . ?" She gave them a winning smile.

Heyes and Curry looked at each other, and the Kid spoke. "Well, it seems a three-way split of what's left would be fair. Considering everything you've been through."
"Two-way, surely? After all, the two of you are partners; you share costs, and so on."

"Now, Amanda. You've given away your share. Seems to me we're bein' generous offering to share at all." Heyes' dimple showed as he smiled mischievously.

She thought for a moment, then accepted.

They went back to Amanda's rooms and divided the proceeds. Then they went their separate ways. Amanda would be leaving town the next morning, and in any case, it was better for them not to be seen together again.

"So, it wasn't quite as big a haul as we'd planned, but it's not bad, either."
"Heyes, let's celebrate! Let's hit Miss Molly's." Despite its plebeian name, this was the most luxurious brothel in town.

But Heyes had a thoughtful look in his dark eyes. "Can't do that, Kid. We've been in town for a bit, and we've had some fun, but nothing like that. Can't just suddenly move into the finest hotel in town, after we've been living here fairly quiet-like. There's just been a big robbery in town. If we suddenly show up with the money for high-stakes gambling, fancy whores, and champagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we'll look real suspicious."

The Kid looked terribly disappointed. "I guess that's why we never commit crimes in San Francisco. 'Cause it's too much fun to spend our money here."

His partner nodded. "There's no reason we've got to get back to the Hole right away. Let's make a detour down to New Orleans. You've always wanted to see it, haven't you? We can have a real good time there. And Kid?"

"Yeah?"

"Next time we meet a pretty nine hundred-year-old lady jewel thief, let's run as fast as we can in the other direction."

"Did you see this, dear?" The new Mrs. James Guffey handed her husband a copy of the morning newspaper. "They still don't have any clues on the Tiffany's break-in."

Diamond Jim smiled. He had a pretty good idea of who'd done it, and though he was fond of his old employers, he was far fonder of his even older friends. Which one of them thinks he can handle Amanda, that's what I want know. But he kept his thoughts to himself.

One hundred years and a decade or so later . . .

Methos frowned. "But conditions in the Belgian Congo didn't improve. Not then, and there was no successful uprising around that time period, either."

Amanda shifted on Duncan MacLeod's lap. "The ship Mobuto and Kyril took went down in the middle of the Pacific. Well, you know what that's like for an Immortal. Each of them died hundreds of times before they made it to an island where they waited to be rescued for another thirty years. And the Star of the Moghuls got lost in the middle of it all. Nobody ever found out if the legends were true."

"Ironic that you were wearing a piece of the Lazarus Stone around your neck the whole while." Methos and Amanda looked at each other for a moment, remembering.

Then she went on. "Mobuto, whom you'd know as David Mobuto, eventually went back to Central Africa, and found himself in the middle of a whole other mess. I last saw him in Paris, back in the sixties, but I hear he's doing AIDS work now. Kyril lost his head in a challenge decades before that."

"I knew him," said MacLeod. "He was a good man."

"But what about the outlaws? They sounded like a good pair of fellows. I rode with Butch and Sundance myself, you know."

"That wasn't the last I saw of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. After all, we'd made a good team. Of course, the next time I ran into them, they were trying to go straight, but that's a whole other story."

"Good for them." Duncan thoroughly approved of honesty. It was a major bone of contention between Amanda and himself, and one of the many reasons their relationship was sporadic.

Methos was about to ask about the next time, when his eyes met Duncan's. Without even pretending to look at his watch he said, "Well, look at the time. If I'm going to make the last set at Joe's, I'd better get going."

Amanda pouted a little. "But don't you want to hear about the next time I ran into Heyes and Curry?"

"Tomorrow night, Lady Scheherazade, tomorrow night. Now it's beer and blues for me."

After Methos had made his exit, Duncan poured them a nightcap. Amanda started thinking about the next time she'd met up with Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes.

"What are you smiling at?" asked the Scotsman, handing her the drink with a twinkle in his eye.

"Old friends." And Amanda continued to smile.

Ashton Press Home | Fan Fiction | ASJ Fiction | Highlander Mid-Week Challenges