Point of View

By Leigh Stewart

"It wasn't my fault – honest!" the Kid exclaimed.

Heyes just turned around in the saddle and glared at his partner through the rain.

"We walked into the saloon, and I headed for the poker game," Heyes said. He looked over to where the Kid sat at the other end of the bar, nursing a beer. "Five unlucky poker players, just waiting to…" he broke off to consider his words, then his face lit up in one of those impossibly impish grins, "...donate some money to a worthy cause. I worked on setting up McCain all night. The pot was over a thousand dollars."

He shook his head as he remembered how distracted the Kid had been by the saloon girls. His blond partner had a weakness when it came to the ladies - couldn't keep his mind focused when a good-looking gal was within a mile of him. Especially if she needed help with something.

Heyes noticed the troublemaker right off - of course he had. Wasn't much that he missed. The Kid just didn't give him enough credit.

"Willie Clark had just left the game – leavin' all of his money behind him. He wasn't very happy about it, either." He smiled again as he recalled Clark's woebegone expression after the other players had finished cleaned him out.

"So then Myrna brings in another round of drinks, and she 'trips' over Potter's foot. You ask me, I think they were both in on it." He looked over at his partner and frowned. "Thaddeus tried to help her with the tray, but by then it was too late. The drinks went everywhere."

The Kid ended up with the tray, while he ended up with Myrna. She fell into his lap. He hid his irritation at the interruption behind a charming smile. He liked the ladies, at least as much as his partner did, but there was a time and place for everything, and she was disrupting the game.

He quickly set her back on her feet. "Maybe later, darlin'," he said with a wink.

Most of the drinks had fallen on the table, but a few had splashed on McCain. "McCain jumped up, cursin' a blue streak, and began hollerin' at Myrna. She began cryin', and of course, Thaddeus is a sucker for that." The Kid put his arms around the young lady to comfort her, suddenly oblivious to anything else.

"And that's when Clark pulled out the gun and stole the pot. Every last cent." While the Kid stood there sheepishly, unable to draw because of the girl in his arms.

"He got every dollar we had," Heyes said. "So instead of spendin' the night in the hotel, we had to spend it on the trail. And it was rainin'.” He sounded aggrieved as he glared at his partner across the room.

The Kid's version of events differed on several points. "We walked in. Admired the view." He grinned hugely, recalling the saloon girls. The décolleté had stopped him in his tracks, causing Heyes to bump into him. His partner had been so eager to get to the poker game, he just kept on going.

Then the Kid saw the gunfighter.

"Clark sat there glarin' at the table. Just waitin' for an excuse to start somethin'." The Kid's eyes narrowed as he remembered assessing how much trouble Clark was likely to start. He'd finally decided that the man was still thinking it over, and that he'd just keep an eye on him.

"Joshua sat down and started talkin' to the other players." He shook his head, thinking about how talkative his partner could be. "You know how he goes on - my ears just get plumb worn out sometimes."

He watched as his dark-haired partner had worked the other players, raising the stakes and increasing the size of the pot. Heyes had a good run of luck that night, but then, the older man was almost always lucky at cards.

"Clark finally lost all his money and got up to leave." But he hadn't left, and the Kid watched warily as the man just stood there, his expression sour as he contemplated his loss.

"Miss Myrna brought more drinks." The Kid pursed his lips as he recalled her expression of chagrin as the drinks slid off the tray onto the customers. "It wasn't her fault - that tray was just too heavy for a little gal like her."

He frowned as he remembered ending up with the tray while his partner got the girl. "She stumbled and sorta fell on Joshua. And he just pushed her right off." His frown deepened at the memory of his partner's dismissive treatment of the young lady.

"He said afterwards he figured she was in with Clark." He shook his head. "Cynical - that's the word for him, all right." It never ceased to amaze him how his partner could mistrust nearly everybody they met, and how annoyingly often he was proven to be right.

"Then McCain got up and started yellin' at her." He was indignant at the way the man had frightened her. Myrna had been upset, her eyelashes wet with tears. He'd never noticed before how very green her eyes were, or how nicely she fit into his arms. His face lit up in one of those boyish, engaging smiles of his as he remembered.

He'd glared at McCain over the top of her head. His expression warned that he'd be tangling with him if he didn't stop abusing the girl. McCain had blanched and sat back down rather quickly.

"Clark pulled his gun and took the money," the Kid said ruefully. He looked around to make sure Heyes wasn't listening. "Okay, so maybe that part of it was my fault." His voice returned to its previous volume, and his tone was peevish. "But it wouldn'ta happened if he hadn't bet all we had. We ended up back on the trail, and it rained all night."

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