Chapter One. Homecoming
Those who wish to forget painful thoughts, do well to absent themselves for a while from the ties and objects that recall them: but we can be said only to fulfill our destiny in the place that gave us birth. ‑‑ William Hazlitt, "On Going a Journey"
I woke up and reached for Heyes, only to feel . . . nothing. Opening my bleary eyes, I looked over and saw that his dark‑brown hair wasn't ruffled on the pillow beside me, that his lean yet broad‑shouldered form wasn't lying at my side. Had he gotten up, already?
But as I regained consciousness, it occurred to me that the room seemed awfully large, surprisingly high‑ceilinged, not at all like my cozy bedroom at home. There was a sound outside, as of the motion of small boats passing through a narrow body of water, through a . . . canal. The songs and cries of the gondoliers came through my opened window, and I recognized the ancient plaster work and faded gilding of the room I had rented in the centuries‑old Venetian palazzo.
I had been in Europe for six months, and after the two months of my lecture tour in Britain was over, I had headed for the continent. France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy . . . I had roamed far and wide, looking at old paintings and even older buildings. Finally, it was here in Venice that I had come to rest.
If only Heyes had been free to accompany me. But he'd won a silver mine in Colorado, in a poker game down in New Orleans. The mine had only been wagered because it was supposed to have been played out, but then a whole new vein had been discovered. Now he and the Kid had their hands full with the managers and engineers they'd had to hire. "These so‑called honest folk just don't seem to be as reliable as outlaws," Heyes always used to say.
I rose, washed with the jug and basin that had been left for me on the washstand, and dressed. My notebook was waiting for me on the writing table near the window. I'd started writing when it became obvious that we were going to be moving around too much for me to establish a law practice anywhere. I'd decided to write something different this time, a Western Lady's Travels Through Europe. It was something like Isabella Bird's A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, coming from the opposite viewpoint. The project was a departure from my previous works, a series of "Romances of Western Life," which had sold well, though I wasn't particularly proud of them. They all had happy endings, and I didn't believe in happy endings much anymore. Not after what happened to Sandy. And not after what happened to Rachel.
As for why I was in Europe, alone and without Heyes, that was quite simple. I was running away from the place where my daughter died.
For a parent, the death of a child is the loss that is beyond understanding. Your children are supposed to outlive you. I know that infant mortality is pretty high, and that plenty of children die of diseases and accidents, the way Rachel had died in an influenza outbreak at the age of four. Knowing is one thing.
Trying to find a reason to keep on living after she was gone was another thing altogether.
My husband was devastated by the loss, but he dealt with it differently than I did. He'd lost his whole family when he was young, and his way of dealing with loss was to survive it. So he rode out to Rachel's grave every morning, alone, and then he threw himself into work, pushing himself until he was too tired to think.
I was no stranger to mourning in my adult life, first for my fiance and then for my parents. I expect the manifestations of my grief were somewhat baroque by his standards -- the full mourning dress, the hours closeted away. For Billy, for my mother and father, I'd dedicated and then rededicated myself to my law practice. It's what they would have wanted. But for Rachel, who only wanted her mama to spend more time with her, I found myself utterly bereft.
So when, six months after Rachel's death, my New York publishers had suggested a couple of public lectures on the East Coast ‑‑ New York, Philadelphia, Boston ‑‑ followed by a lecture tour of Britain, I began to think that maybe a change of scenery would do me good. I wasn't going to go, not when Heyes told me he was going to be too busy to accompany me. But he insisted that I go ahead. "Your publisher's payin' for this, right?" he asked.
I'd nodded ‑‑ I hadn't been much for talking since Rachel's death, hard as that might be for old acquaintances to believe ‑‑ and he'd gone on. "Well, then it'd be like sinful or somethin' not to go."
And so I went.
But when the time came to return, I couldn't face the journey. It's like Hazlitt wrote ‑‑ it's easier to set aside painful thoughts when you're exploring new surroundings. I think it's called running away. So I roamed the Continent, seeing Paris, the Alps, the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome. And in Venice, that lovely and completely alien city, I'd come to rest for awhile, to turn my notes into narrative and to try to heal more fully before I returned home, to my loved ones and to the ever‑present reminders of the one who was never coming back, never growing up.
Heyes was disappointed, but he wrote and said that he understood. "How many times in the past have I just taken off and left my troubles behind? Just got on a horse and rode and rode until it didn't hurt so bad, anymore. It's funny to think that I'm settled down here in Colorado, while you're working out your hurt by travelling all over Europe. Usually you're the settling down one and I'm the one that's got to keep moving. Now here I'm burying myself in work, like you would have done other times.
Anyway, I hear Venice is a nice place. Big Mac McCreedy was there when he traveled over and picked up that bust of Caesar that I've told you about, and Soapy Saunders has been there, too. They told us all about the canals and stuff. If you ain't here with me, at least I like to think about you someplace so pretty."
So I was surprised, on this particular morning, when a knock came on my door and the servant delivered me a telegram. All it said was, "Return home at once. Urgent. Love, H." I thought the signoff was a little out of keeping with the rest of the message, but then, Heyes' silver tongue tended to desert him when he sat down with pen and paper.
The cynic in me suspected that it couldn't be all that urgent, or he would have said what it was. But I knew my return home was long overdue. And I'd begun to feel like I could handle it. It wasn't as though I didn't feel Rachel's loss just about every minute of every day. But the ache had dulled just enough that when my thoughts turned to her, I didn't have to excuse myself from company anymore. I still began and ended most days staring dully at the couple of photographs I had, or the precious lock of hair that had been plaited into a mourning bracelet for me in England. But the in‑between was getting more bearable. It wasn't going to go away, not ever. But I thought I could face it, now. It was time to stop running.
Besides, I missed Heyes. I missed him like hell, even if it's not ladylike to say so. Just because I had to run away doesn't mean I ever loved him any less.
So I went to the American Express, and they wired ahead to London to book passage for me, five days hence, from Liverpool to New York. They also wired my publishers, who agreed to send someone to meet me at the boat, feed me, and put me directly on the first of a series of trains heading West. Like I said, my books had sold well.
I was going to have to travel nonstop to make it to the boat on time. That is, my trunks and I were going to have to. I hadn't felt like I'd been extravagant on the trip, but now that I looked at my luggage, I began to wonder if I'd bought every book in London and every dress in Paris.
But my trunks and I arrived in Liverpool in plenty of time, and the trip home was uneventful. I wired Heyes from New York, trying to find out just how urgent the business was, or whether I could stay for a few days, before beginning the fatiguing train journey West.
There was no response, which worried me, and I began to wonder just exactly what the urgent matter was on which I'd been recalled.
There was a telegram waiting for me in Chicago, and it wasn't from Colorado. It was from Heyes, and it instructed me not to continue to Denver, but to proceed directly to Taos, New Mexico. My publisher had forwarded him my itinerary, and he must have been responding to that, rather than to the wire I'd sent from New York. I had the distinct feeling he'd never received that.
When I arrived in Taos, I looked around the platform for Heyes. He was nowhere to be seen, and as the platform began to clear, I felt a rising knot of panic.
I wasn't entirely calmed when a peculiar‑looking man approached me and asked, "You Missus Heyes?" He was shorter than I, with lank hair as fair as mine and a puzzled look in his eyes, and he was clutching a piece of paper tightly in his left hand. He looked as though there might be something a little . . . lacking about him.
"Yes, I am," I replied. "Has my husband sent you?"
"Yes'm," he said. "He sure has. He'uz sorry he couldn't come himself, but things're a little . . . well, you'll see soon enough. I'm Kyle Murtry," he said, as an afterthought, extending his hand awkwardly. "You c'n call me Kyle, most ev'rybody does."
I couldn't help but feel disappointed that Heyes hadn't come himself. I assumed that only something important would have kept him away. I hoped. I shook his hand. "And most friends of my husband's call me Ella. You're Kyle? From the Devil's H . . . "
He shushed me, quickly. "No more, I ain't. I'm outta the game now. I decided to go straight near a year ago."
"Did you get an am . . ." He shushed me again, and I took the hint. "This, I regret to say, is my luggage," I said, pointing to the two large steamer trunks.
While I mused about what it could have been that kept Heyes away from the station, Kyle hired a couple of porters to help him lift my trunks onto a wagon. I shook myself back to the present, and reached into my bag to produce money for the fee and to tip them. Kyle mounted to the box, signaling for me to climb up beside him.
"Did you get an amnesty, too? Or are you still wanted?" I continued, when we were safely out of the station.
He looked shamefaced. "Actually, there'uz never a reward out on me. I'd'a hand to've got caught doin' somethin' and charged with the partic'lar crime. So I just hadta stop doin' crimes and I'uz okay," he admitted. "So there weren't no reason for me not to go straight, I figgered. Besides, I ain't so young as I used to be, and Devil's Hole gets purty cold in the winters."
Kyle was everything that Heyes' stories had led me to expect, I thought. And a dentist's worst nightmare, to boot. But I was beginning to get the feeling that he was a bit smarter than he looked.
"So you're working for Hey . . . Hannibal, now?"
"Heyes told me you don't call 'im by his first name. He says nobody else does, why should you? Yeah, I run into him and the Kid in Denver mebbe four months ago and they offered me a job. I knowed they'se good bosses, so I said yeah. They always done right by me before, and now's no different."
Much as I'd begun to find Kyle charming in a peculiar sort of way, I was anxious to find out what was going on, and getting to the point didn't appear to be his specialty. "So, what's this emergency that Heyes wired me about?"
"I think you'd better see it, rather than me tellin' you 'bout it. I'll drop you off at the courthouse, and then run your bags to the place you'll be stayin'."
"The courthouse?" I asked. "What kind of trouble has he gotten himself into this time?"
"It ain't Heyes that's in trouble. It's the Kid. He's accused of committin' murder."
"Last week, here in Taos."
Last week I'd already been en route home. So this wasn't the emergency that Heyes had wired me about. Things were getting more confusing by the moment.
"Who?" I asked.
"One of them men what kidnapped Miz Sandy, I hear tell. What they're sayin' is the Kid took one look at him and just opened fire. He says no, and I believe 'im, but it don't look so good."
No, it didn't look good at all. The Kid wasn't ordinarily a revenge killer, but the men who'd kidnapped and violated Sandy . . . who'd damaged her mind and spirit so badly that none of us had seen her in nearly two years . . . that just might be different. The others had been shot during the rescue attempt, or were safely in prison. The only one who'd escaped had been one of the rapists.
I believed the Kid hadn't done it, but it was easy to see how a jury might not.
Kyle dropped me off outside the Taos County Courthouse, an adobe and timber building in a peculiar amalgam of styles. I hesitated for a moment, and then I walked in.
The courthouse was jammed. I could just imagine the headlines ‑‑ "Reformed Gunman Returns to Old Ways" "Pardoned Outlaw's Unpardonable Crime" and so forth. I caught sight of a familiar dark blond head sitting at the defense table, Jedediah Curry with his hair trimmed and wearing a grey suit. Next to him was a large, handsome, stiff‑looking man with light brown hair. "That's Chester Brubaker, the lawyer," I heard someone whisper. I remembered the name ‑‑ it had come up at a happier moment once.
I made my way as unobtrusively as I could manage up the aisle of the crowded courtroom. Now I could see the back of Heyes' head, too, in the front row, directly behind his partner. He was sitting unnaturally straight, with that kind of attentiveness that only the truly uneasy ever display.
It seemed to take an hour, but finally I reached him. I tried to slip past a man dressed in the dark suit of a clergyman, but although my travelling outfit was mercifully free of a bustle, ladies' dress makes slipping past nearly anything difficult. The man had a long face, and thoughtful eyes, and dark hair just beginning to show a little grey. Then Heyes looked up, and seeing the serious expression on his familiar features and the way his deep brown eyes lit up as he looked at me, I forgot all about the stranger. No sooner had I sat down, than he'd reached out towards me, taking my arm in his and gripping my hand tightly.
For a moment, I'm ashamed to say, I was so focused on Heyes' presence next to me that I couldn't even concentrate on what was being said. But I soon made out that things were at least as bad as I'd thought. The judge looked strict and humorless, and from the various whisperings and murmurs I was overhearing, I didn't think the crowd was with us. And then the prosecuting attorney sat down, and the man sitting next to the Kid rose.
"Mister Brubaker," said the judge, "the trial will begin two days from tomorrow morning, unless you can show cause why there should be any delay."
"Psssst," whispered Heyes, "Brubaker, turn around."
The attorney turned around. So did the Kid, who gave me a warm smile, though the tension never disappeared from his eyes.
Brubaker leaned forward, and Heyes whispered. "Tell the judge there's going to be additional counsel." He pointed at me.
The tall lawyer shot him a skeptical look.
Heyes continued. "This is my wife, Ella. Brubaker, I told you about her, remember?"
They both turned to the Kid, who nodded. Brubaker rose, his regular features expressionless, and said to the judge, "Your honor, my client's regular attorney has just returned from Europe, but she's not a member of the bar of this state."
The judge sighed. "Very well. Mister Brubaker, approach the bench. And Mister Curry, is this other lawyer in the courtroom at present?"
"Yes, sir," said Brubaker.
"Then have him approach the bench, too." Obviously he thought he'd misheard the pronoun.
I hissed at Heyes, "Have you gone crazy? I haven't practiced law since Blue Sky, close onto four years ago, now."
He whispered back. "Practice? What'd you need to practice for, anyway? I figured you got it right a long time ago." And then he kissed me, and thrust me up and forward.
I'd say most of the ensuing uproar in the courtroom was due to a lady approaching the bench at that time. One thing I hadn't missed, in the years I hadn't been practicing law was the looks of surprise that always greeted my first appearance. There were other lady lawyers in those days, but there certainly weren't many of us. Of course, the kiss probably didn't help matters, and as I walked towards the front of the courtroom I suddenly became conscious that the cut of my travelling costume from Paris was probably more than a little outre in Taos, New Mexico, and the fact that I was still wearing head to toe black, full mourning, wasn't calculated to make me any less conspicuous.
"Is this some kind of a joke?" asked the judge.
"No, sir," I said, with my most serious expression. "Ella Hart Heyes, at your service. Admitted to the bars of Montana and Colorado, and to the Federal bar of the United States, your honor."
"Heyes?" asked the judge. "You related to Mister Curry's friend, there?"
"His wife, your honor."
"Now you're trying to tell me that a notorious ex‑outlaw is married to an attorney in good standing in several jurisdictions? Missus Heyes, I certainly hope you're on the level."
He was a hanging judge, all right, as law‑and‑order as they came. But there was something in his eyes that led me to believe that I'd been wrong about his being humorless. So I took a chance. "I defended him a couple of times. How else would a notorious outlaw meet a nice girl like me, your honor?"
The judge stared for a moment, and I thought I'd made a really big mistake. And then he smiled. "Good point, counselor. On Mister Brubaker's say‑so I will temporarily admit you, for the duration of this case, and for this matter only. However, since we must presume your acquaintance with New Mexico law to be limited, you will be supervised by Mister Brubaker. Do you understand?"
"Yes, your honor," I said.
"Is that agreeable to you, Mister Brubaker?"
"Yes, your honor," came his deep voice.
He turned to opposing counsel. "Mister Wallace?"
"No objection, your honor."
"Very well," he said. "By the powers vested in me by the territory of New Mexico, I hereby invest Ella Hart Heyes with the status of member of the bar of New Mexico, under the supervision of Chester Brubaker, attorney at law, and for the duration of the trial of Jedediah Curry, only." He banged his gavel. "Court is adjourned. The matter of the Territory of New Mexico versus Jedediah "Kid" Curry will resume on Monday next."
Monday. And now it was Wednesday. Five days to save Kid Curry's life.
Before they led him back to his cell, he had time only to make me promise that I'd come see him in the morning.
On the way out the door, the reporters besieged us. Well, there were four or five of them, so I suppose "besieged" wasn't quite the right word, but it's certainly how it felt.
"Mister Heyes, is it true that you and your partner never killed a man in all the holdups and robberies you committed?" "Missus Heyes, is it true you came back from Europe just to defend Mister Curry?" "Is it true this killing was to avenge the honor of Curry's fiancee?"
"No comment," Chester Brubaker said, for all of us.
Kyle was waiting with the cart. Heyes was handing me up, when Brubaker put his hand up.
"Don't you think my co‑counsel and I ought to meet as soon as possible?"
I had been travelling for nearly a week, and I thought I might collapse at any moment. But before I could say anything, Heyes spoke.
"First thing in the morning, she's all yours for the duration. But I ain't seen my wife in six months, and I'm damned if she's going into some big meeting before I've even had a chance to say hello."
I looked at Brubaker. "What he said."
The expressionless attorney surprised me, and smiled. "Fair enough. Jail opens at nine. We can meet over breakfast at the Spencers' house."
Heyes helped me up into the cart, and climbed in after me. I rested gratefully, if a little indecorously, against him. "That's where we're goin', honey. The Reverend Spencer and his wife are putting us up for the duration. Hotel'd be a little uncomfortably public, under the circumstances."
Kyle pulled on the reins, and we were off.
I wasn't surprised, under the circumstances, to find that the Reverend Spencer was the dark‑eyed man from the courtroom. His wife was a pretty, slightly mousy woman, with a kind smile.
"I'm Elizabeth Spencer," she greeted me. "It's so good to meet you, Mrs. Heyes."
How had Heyes and the Kid gotten to be so friendly with a clergyman, I wondered. Not their usual sort of associate, not even in their recent, relatively respectable, years. But right now wasn't the time for that. There, in the parlor, stood two very familiar figures ‑ a dark, beautiful young woman and a taller man, with long black hair just like his daughter's, only shot through with grey.
Kyle had said "Miss Sandy," like he knew her. The reporter had referred to Kid Curry's "fiancee." If I hadn't been so tired, so worried for the Kid, so preoccupied by being near Heyes for the first time in sixth months, I would have put the pieces together.
It had been nearly two years that Sandy had been gone, and before I left for Europe, we hadn't had word from her in all that time. Not since an initial letter from her father, Albert Raintree, which informed us that the tribal healers had suggested that she should have no contact with the outside world until she was ready ‑‑ meaning with the white man's world that had hurt her so badly. Sandy had been raised in that world. In fact, she had only suspected her Indian heritage until her father had arrived in San Francisco, four or five months before her abduction. He'd only belatedly heard of her existence when he recognized her likeness to her mother in a photograph of us on the desk of the tribe's lawyer, Jeremy Chadwick, my former law partner.
The Kid had planned to ask Sandy to marry him, and he'd had a difficult time respecting Raintree's wishes. But in the end, he'd been convinced that it was best for her to allow things to take their course naturally. Kid Curry, the impulsive, the romantic, the handsome blond gunslinger who'd turned women's heads all over the West, had waited for the one woman who'd ever really mattered.
And now here they were, Sandy and her father. My former ward had always been affectionate, and the moment she saw me, she was at my side, and in another, had me caught in a tight embrace, the strength of which belied her delicate appearance.
When she'd released me, I took a look at her. Her skin was darkened by prolonged exposure to the sun, so that she resembled her father more closely than ever. She'd always dressed in simple, dark clothes, and now she wore a few small pieces of silver tribal jewelry with them. But in all other respects, she looked exactly as I had remembered her. Not the innocent young girl I could first remember, but the gentle, haunted Sandy of later years.
"Now that you're here everything will be all right," she said. "You'll fix things for Jed, I know you will." Her simple faith was touching, but when someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself, it can be a little frightening.
"Oh, Sandy," I said. "I hope so."
But here we were, in the middle of a stranger's front parlor, and there were politenesses to be upheld.
"You and your husband will be staying in the back room," Elizabeth Spencer showed me. "Sandy is staying with me, and her father and my husband will sleep in the parlor." She forestalled my question with an explanation. "Sandy can't be alone at night ‑ she's subject to nightmares."
But for now, Sandy followed Heyes and me into the back room.
"What in the name of all that's‑‑?" Heyes was staring at the two giant trunks that took up a good third of the room. "What'd you do . . . like Europe so much that you had to bring it home with you?"
I opened my mouth to retort, but there was nothing to say. He'd about summed it up.
Sandy sat down on the bed, at my side. "I'm . . . sorry for leaving you. I'm sorry I wasn't there when, you know . . . Rachel ..."
"Oh, Sandy," I said, and hugged her before she could say any more. Even now, I couldn't really talk about my daughter. "Sometimes we all have to run away. Me, you, Heyes. We've all done it."
"I love Jed so much, but I . . . I just couldn't come back. Not until I was ready. Sometimes you can want to be with someone more than anything in the world, and you just . . . can't."
I looked at Heyes as I spoke to her. "I know." I turned back to her. "Sandy, I won't even pretend I can begin to understand what you've been through. The important thing is that you came back. And you're healthy again. How is your father?"
Sandy looked sad. "He's not comfortable away from the tribe. He's promised that after we're married, he'll try to live with us, but he says the white man's ways are peculiar to him."
"If it wasn't for Jed . . . and you . . . I think I'd have stayed. Oh, Ella, I learned so many things!" She gave me another embrace. "But you'll be able to save him, I know you will."
"Of course," I said, as she left the room.
As soon as the door closed behind her, I turned to Heyes and said, "I am going to be able to save him, aren't I? That is, we are, you, me and Brubaker."
"Ella, there's not a man in the West who wouldn't have shot that piece of filth for what he did to Sandy. And if he hadn't managed to weasel his way in and become a respected part of the community here, there's not a chance in hell anyone would even stand trial for it. But it's the Kid's word against the word of half a dozen of Taos' most prominent citizens. I hear tell the other preachers in town have publicly reproached Spencer for taking our side."
"He knows us. Knows what the Kid's all about. It's a long story. The Kid saved him from being a town drunk and set him on the road back to bein' a man of the Lord."
"Like I said, Ella, it's a long story. There'll be time for it later. Right now, you've got to get some rest. Brubaker wasn't kidding about how early he's planning on meeting you tomorrow."
"Heyes, it's not even dark. I'm fine for hours, yet."
"Just take off your shoes, and lie back on the bed, okay?"
There was no point in arguing with him. I'd rest my eyes for a minute and then we could talk. The next thing I knew, Heyes was gently shaking me. "Honey, Brubaker's here. Get washed, and get dressed."
I looked down at myself. Heyes had partially undressed me ‑ thank goodness for that ‑ if I'd spent the night in my stays I'd be waking up in some real discomfort. I was in my shift and underthings, but my dress, stockings, and corset had been laid neatly on the chair next to the bed.
"I'd have hunted up one of your nightgowns, but I wasn't goin' anywhere near those trunks. Ella, I've lived in cabins smaller than one of them things."
"Open one up. They have drawers . . . you can hang dresses and everything."
"Ella, I leave the mysteries of your luggage entirely up to you."
"Talk that way and you're not getting your present."
He grinned. "Present?"
"Wait and see. Like you said, I have to wash up and get dressed, or Chester Brubaker'll be getting impatient."
Heyes looked at me. "The Kid says he didn't do it, and I've never known him to lie, not to me. But Brubaker says knowin' the Kid ain't guilty's not enough to get him off. So he's been askin' all kinds of funny questions."
I shrugged. "Just proves he's a good lawyer. Now, do I get a good morning kiss?"
Heyes just looked at me. "Not now." My heart sank, and he continued. "Because if I kiss you now, I'm not going to be able to let you go. And I need you to help save the Kid's life."
I made my descent. Elizabeth Spencer had provided us with an impressive breakfast spread. She and Sandy were bustling back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room. And I took my seat with the men. It felt just like old times.
There was an impressive pile of documents beside my plate. "What are these?"
"Depositions, mostly. Character witnesses speaking to the unimpeachable character of the deceased."
"No reference to the fact that he was a rapist, I presume?"
"None. Mrs. Heyes . . ."
"Ella," I insisted.
"Ella," he said. "Nobody much calls me Chester, though."
Looking at him, I could see why. He was tall and handsome, but there was that odd stiffness about him.
"Brubaker without the 'Mister' suits me just fine."
"Ella," he continued. "Jed Curry claims that he didn't kill the man. He saw him, he recognized him, and he admits to having threatened him. But he claims that he didn't actually commit the crime."
"And we know Jed well enough to know that he wouldn't tell us a lie, not about something that important."
But from the expression on Brubaker's face, I could tell he wasn't quite as certain about it as I was. He handed me a deposition. "This is Doc Greene's deposition. It's pretty typical ‑ a bit more detailed than most. You take a look at it now, and then you'll have an idea of what we're up against. It'll give you a better idea of what kinds of questions you might want to ask Curry."
I won't reproduce the deposition as it was given to me ‑ rather I'll break every rule known to lawyer‑kind, and I'll dramatize it. I knew this novel‑writing was going to be the ruin of me.
The Doctor's Tale
How long have I known Michael McManus? Over two years now, I reckon. He showed up in Taos one day, with a little money in his pocket and not much else to show for it. A dusty suit of clothes, and a horse that was near worn out from the travelling.
But he was polite and well‑spoken. He came from the East, originally, I know that. But what this stranger is saying, that he was a member of some gang in New York ‑ well, that don't make any sense. Not about the Michael McManus that I know. He used to wire money back East to his mother. He was hard‑working, responsible, and sharp as a whip.
Practically the first thing he did when he came to town was he managed to convince ol' Jack who ran the Dry Goods Store to take him on as a shop assistant. Well, Jack had never had a real head for business. So he never starved, but he never made the business what it could have been. And he often didn't have in stock what you'd most want.
Michael, he turned that store right around. Pretty soon it had anything you'd want, before you even knew you wanted it. And talk about making a profit ‑ somehow he managed to lower the prices a little and make a lot more money at it. Sharp as a whip, like I said.
Well, before you know it, Michael's risen to be partner. Jack said he didn't need to buy his way in: he did it with a share of the profits, instead. Because, you see, he'd done such a good job that the profits were up, and the customers were happy. He'd found better, cheaper sources of supply.
Everyone liked him, too. He was friendly to everyone, from the mayor himself to Old Jake, the town drunk. Always courteous and friendly to the ladies, too. It was a fine day for Taos when Michael McManus came to town, and a tragedy for us all when he died.
And what they're saying about him having hurt some woman? Not the man I knew. It's just not possible.
I put the deposition down. "I think we can start with the assumption that this isn't going to be easy."
Brubaker smiled stiffly. "I'd call that an understatement, Mrs. Hey-‑Ella. Somehow Michael McManus knew just what to do, just what to say to make himself one of the most popular young men in town."
"I'm afraid I need some filling in, still. Heyes," I turned to my husband, "what was the Kid doing here in Taos, anyway?"
"Well, Ella," he said, hesitating just a moment, "we've been thinking that this whole mining thing isn't for us."
"And you were just going to sell out and take off without telling me?"
Heyes looked around the table, and I realized we were about to start a very private argument in front of Brubaker and the Reverend Spencer. "We were thinkin' we'd stay in Denver ‑- it's not such a big city as San Francisco, but it's big enough that there's plenty of opportunity. And you seem to like it there. But we've had some offers to buy the mine and we had a new line of business in mind."
I shrugged. No argument after all. Heyes and the Kid still weren't sure what they wanted to be when they grew up, not even all these years after the amnesty. The problem was that they'd been so very good at being outlaws, and they hadn't found anything since that suited them so well. I was used to these sudden about‑faces, and as long as they didn't expect me to pack up and move again, it didn't bother me. Besides, the mine should bring in enough to cover us for awhile, even if their next venture wasn't a success. Not only that, but I was ready to hang up my shingle as a lawyer again, and the public was clamoring for my next tale of Western adventure and romance. So we weren't dependent on just their income. "The Kid was coming down to talk to a prospective buyer?"
"He was. Unfortunately, he ran into Mister McManus when he stopped by the general store. We'd seen him, briefly, when we rescued Sandy, and the Kid recognized him. He called him outside, and there was a little bit of what I guess you'd call an altercation between them. The Kid admits that he threatened him. He'd seen what McManus had done to Sandy, after all, and she'd only just come back to him."
"The telegram," I said. "The one you sent me in Venice."
The familiar grin, but only briefly. "We were callin' you back so you wouldn't miss the weddin'. The Kid didn't want to wait any longer than they had to, but him and Sandy didn't want to get married without you there."
"So you were inviting me to a wedding, only instead of a wedding, we've got a trial."
"Ella, the Kid went to his meeting, sold the mine, spent the night in the hotel, and in the morning, decided the best thing was to leave town without seeing McManus again. No point in looking for trouble. The Kid's aware he's got a temper. He knows he can't rely on his gun anymore ‑- that there's other ways of getting justice."
I looked at Brubaker, then back at Heyes. "You mean, the law?"
"That was the idea." Heyes hesitated for a moment, obviously choosing his next words carefully. "He thought maybe all these years after we'd gone straight, the law might be on our side, especially after the unspeakable things McManus did to an innocent woman. Now he's like to get hanged for his pains. So much for the law."
"Don't write off the law just yet," I said. "The Kid's got Brubaker and me on his side, and we know he's innocent. We'll manage this thing somehow."
"Now, if you'll excuse us," Brubaker said, "Mrs.-‑Ella and I should get down to the jail and meet with our client."
My husband got up, but as he took his hat to follow us down to the jail, my co‑counsel stopped him. "Heyes, I'd prefer it if you didn't come with us."
The last thing I expected was for Heyes to take an order like that, but to my great surprise, he did. What I could see in his dark eyes was just how afraid he was, and how very much he was going to have to depend on our judgment, Brubaker's and mine.
As we walked down the street, we were silent. "I need to speak to you in private," he said. "Before we go to see Kid Curry."
"Have you got an office in town?"
"I've rented one just for this case. I'm located over in Junction City, but I came as soon as Heyes telegraphed me."
Once again, I was struck by the impact my husband and his partner had on so many people who'd met them and been loyal friends ever since. Chester Brubaker had just been their lawyer on a couple of occasions, but he'd come running to their side. Just like I had, way back when Heyes had called me nearly halfway across Montana territory to help him out, when we'd only met once. Of course, I was already half in love with him, despite the fact that after our first meeting I'd been certain I would never see him again. But Brubaker had done the same thing, more than once, and Reverend Spencer had stood up for him against the opinion of his entire community. And so many others they'd met along the way. Not too shabby for a couple of no‑account outlaws.
I followed Brubaker into a two‑story wooden building, and up to the second floor. He ushered me in, and we sat at a wooden table, covered with paperwork. The room didn't contain much else, other than a couple of kerosene lanterns, some books and a desk, but then, it was temporary quarters. "Mrs.-‑Ella. I know it was important to Curry and to Heyes that you be involved in this case. They have a lot of faith in you. But you have to understand that I'm lead counsel. You don't know New Mexico law, you haven't been here as all of this is unfolding, and I understand you haven't practiced law in the past four years. And I know that you're emotionally involved in the case in a way that I'm not."
I should have expected it. I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice as I said, "And of course when we women get emotionally involved, our rationality flies right out the door."
"I didn't say that."
"You thought it. But if you plan on working with me, you might want to try not thinking it. Because I can't help you if you won't let me."
"It's just . . ." he trailed off for a moment. "It's just that I'm going to be working nearly around the clock. And we may have to deal with some really unpleasant things and people. A lady such as yourself shouldn't be ‑‑"
"A lady such as myself who practiced criminal as well as civil law for years; who's married to a former outlaw who hasn't been shy about sharing stories of his past with me; who's lived with the fact that a young women I took out of an orphanage and made part of my own family was violated in a horrible way. Brubaker, I appreciate your chivalrous notion of womanhood. It's not what I've ever wanted for myself, but I set out to protect Sandy and to marry her off to a man who'd do the same. If there's anyone who deserves it, it's that dear, sweet girl, and that's not what she got. But as for me, I don't breathe the purer air of the domestic angel. I'm used to working through the night when I need to, and I know that the world isn't what it should be."
He nodded. "As long as you know what's involved."
"So, the Kid is innocent . . . right?"
Brubaker looked me square in the eye. "I'm not sure. The story he told Heyes, the one you heard this morning, is what he's told me. I was hoping that you, who know him so much better, could talk to him and give me your opinion."
"You really doubt him?" I asked.
"He's killed before. He's one of the best shots in the country. And he certainly had a reasonable motive."
"But in all those robberies, the whole time he was an outlaw, he never killed anyone. Except a couple of times in self‑defense. And . . ."
And he'd killed Danny Bilson, out of revenge for an old miner who Bilson had callously left to die in the desert, along with Heyes and Curry.
For an old man he'd known only for a couple of months. Michael McManus had violated the woman he loved, violated her body and come close to destroying her mind and her spirit.
I looked at Brubaker for a moment, speechless. "And if he had, who would blame him? What McManus did . . ."
"What McManus did is unspeakable. But the Michael McManus you and I know about was a member of a gang of criminal ruffians. He was a kidnapper, probably a killer, and if you'll pardon my using the language, a rapist. The Michael McManus the citizens of Taos know was a respected merchant, a hard worker. Did I mention he was engaged to be married to the mayor's daughter?"
"No," I said.
"I'm afraid so. Now the Kid Curry you and I know is a loyal friend, a fine man who's dedicated himself to redeeming himself from his youthful mistakes, and the man who loves a young woman whom you consider a member of your family. But remember, the Kid Curry the citizens of Taos think they know is a notorious outlaw and gunman, and the lover of a half‑breed whom they may not consider worthy of the same kind of protection as a white woman."
I felt my face reddening with anger, my breath quickening, at that last, but Brubaker stopped me before I could speak. "I agree it's a disgraceful attitude, but it's hardly unusual."
I calmed myself. "A lot of folks are afraid of what they don't know about, and Indians and outlaws are close to the top of that list." I thought about the tribal silver‑and‑turquoise necklace Sandy wore, and of how the sun had bronzed her skin. "Listen to me, Brubaker. Jed Curry is close and dear friend. I'd do just about anything to save him for his own sake. But since my daughter died, the two most important people left to me in the entire world are my husband and Sandy. And if the Kid is hanged, it's going to destroy both of them. It seems to me that the jury is going to be extremely prejudiced against him. It seems to me that this may not be a case where justice is possible. So if we need to fight dirty, we're going to fight dirty. If we need to win on a technicality, we'll do that. But Jed Curry is not going to die."
Chester Brubaker sat silent for a moment. And then he smiled. "Mrs.-‑Ella. I was a little worried about you, frankly. I haven't run across any other lady lawyers in person, and you don't . . . well, you don't look particularly tough. And this is a situation where you can't help being emotionally involved. But I think we're going to make a great team."
And I smiled back. "Brubaker, I think you're right. And by the way . . . call me Mrs. Heyes if it makes you more comfortable."
We spent a little more time roughing out our strategy, and then headed to the jail to see the Kid. We were kept waiting for awhile after our arrival, by a deputy who treated us with something very near to contempt.
Finally, we were allowed back in to where the cells were. Kid Curry was being held in solitary confinement, away from the other prisoners. When we entered the room, he was sitting there looking thoroughly dejected. It was a moment before he registered our presence, but when he did, his blue eyes brightened, and he smiled hopefully.
"Ella, Brubaker, good to see you. So, what's the news?"
Brubaker spoke first. "Mrs. Heyes and I have been working up some strategies, but I think the most useful thing would be for her to hear the story from you, rather than me. Since she knows you so well, she may get a different perspective on things."
"Didn't Heyes tell you everything, Ella?"
"He told me a little. But I think it would be best to hear the whole story from you."
"Well, all right," he said. "Seems like all I do these days is tell this story. Not that it ain't all right by me, but . . . "
"Start at the beginning."
"Well, I rode into Taos on the morning of . . . "
"No, Jed. Tell me about how Sandy came back, and how things were."
"But didn't Sandy tell you?"
"Some. But I want to hear it from you. It goes to motive."
"Motive? Ella, you don't really think I did it?"
"What I think doesn't matter. It's how we make the case, and how we anticipate and counter the other side. I need to hear it first hand, so that I can compare impressions with Mister Brubaker, not just depend on him.
"All right then," he said. "Well . . ."
Chapter Two. Chance Meetings.
While you were off in Europe, Heyes and me had a little talk one day. Well, I guess you know that part. Runnin' this silver mine just wasn't for us. It wasn't like those times we'd be up in some stake in the hills, which was maybe too much hard work, but at least we were free, in a way. Out in the middle of nowhere and all. No, this was all about bein' bosses, and tryin' to decide whether we could trust the engineer and the foreman, and getting nasty words from other owners for payin' our men more than they all paid, just 'cause we wanted to give 'em a fair wage.
Anyway, winnin' somethin' in a poker game don't mean you're suited to run it. But on the other hand, it was nice to be rich, again. We'd had that for a little bit in San Francisco, and before that, well, it was feast or famine back with the Devil's Hole gang. Famine more often, but the feasts were fun while they lasted.
So I guess both of us were afraid to say anything to each other, which isn't much like us, but between the money, and then all the sadness when Rachel died, we just hadn't. And once we found out we were thinkin' alike, we started makin' plans. Sell the mine, now that the new lode had been discovered, and we could do pretty nicely. Maybe lead a life of leisure. Only then we got the bad news. The vein we were mining looked to be the last.
There was still enough to make it worth sellin' now, but there wasn't gonna be for much longer. And much as it'd be nice to find a rich sucker, folks know who we are, and they were gonna be extra careful not to get conned. We put the word out, and started to get some nibbles, and then one day, a couple of old friends showed up at our door.
How long had it been since we'd heard from her? A couple of years, by my count. And you know I felt it every single day. Well, I know you did, too, Ella. But there she was, Sandy standing in my doorway, looking beautiful as ever, only wilder somehow. Her father stood behind her, seeming a little uncertain about whether I was going to let them in or not.
Sandy just smiled. "Hello, Jed. Well, here I am."
Of course, my first reaction was to take her in my arms and hold her as though I was never gonna let her go. All I could think about was that here my girl was, and everything would be all right now.
Eventually we went inside, and even old Albert Raintree was smiling, which you'll admit doesn't happen all that often. Guess he was a little afraid about what their reception might be. Sandy wasn't, though. She knows how I feel, and she knows how she feels. And she knew that once she came back to me, nothing in the world was gonna keep us apart. Except . . . what if they hang me? Back in my outlaw days, I wasn't afraid to take risks 'cause there wasn't a whole lot I cared about. But now . . . Ella, you've got to help me.
Anyway, we sat there catching up and of course she was real disappointed that you and Rachel were nowhere to be found. When she heard why, well, you can imagine. She was almost frantic at the thought that she hadn't been there for us, for you, at the end. And that Rachel was gone. She loved that little girl as if she was her own--well, you know that. Finally I got her calmed down again, but it took quite awhile.
I don't know if you recall Emily Taylor, our engineer's daughter? Well, she took it into her head to get sweet on me, and I ain't been encouraging her, but she will insist on bakin' us pies, and with you gone and it bein' just me and Heyes in the house, that was kinda nice. Anyway, she wanders on in, this particular afternoon, pie in hand, sorta like she owns the place. Well, when she saw Sandy sitting there, her eyes just about popped out of her head, but I'll have to give young Emily credit. She knew all about Sandy ‑‑ I guess I hoped that if I went on and on about her, Emily'd figure that I wasn't really available without getting her feelin's hurt. And plus, it was nice to have someone new to talk about her with, someone that hadn't heard it all already.
So I introduced her, though I figure seein' Raintree there probably tipped her off to who it must be. Anyway, she just handed over that pie, introduced herself, and made a friend of Sandy right then and there. She's a good girl, and she'll make some man very happy. Just not me.
Well, Heyes got back from the mine a bit later. I think he'd found a letter from you at the post office, and he was kinda frustrated to find out you still weren't comin' home, but you wrote a bunch of stuff that made him laugh, which halfway cheered him up again. So after we went through the whole welcome back thing all over again, he did a dramatic reading of your letter. Don't know if you remember this one ‑‑ you'd been to some masked ball in Venice or something and I guess you'd had quite a time. I guess the whole city had, pretty much.
After that, things started to settle in, and then Sandy and me decided we didn't want to wait any longer about getting married. Except for you being off in Europe. Sandy wouldn't hear about getting married without you there. So Heyes sent you that telegram. He figured it would be fun to surprise you, like we got surprised.
Meanwhile, we'd gotten a pretty serious offer on the mine, not quite as much money as we'd hoped for, but enough that we won't have to work again real soon. And, according to the engineers' reports, fair. But the buyer'd gone back home to Taos, after inspectin' the premises, and telegraphed the offer from there. So one of us had to go down, and even though the last thing I wanted was to leave Sandy, I lost the coin toss.
Actually, I'm jokin'. Heyes was all set to go, but then he wasn't sure exactly how long it'd take you to get home from Venice, and he refused to miss your homecoming, so it had to be me.
So I took the train down to Taos, and on my way to the meeting, I stopped into a store, to pick up a few things for the trip back. And who do I see behind the counter, but the scum that hurt Sandy. Anyway, the one that got away. The rest died in the gunfight that day, except for the one that gave himself up, the one who tried to protect her. He's still in prison, and like to get out soon for good behavior. But that one ‑‑ I just saw him running away, nothing more, but I never forgot that glimpse of his face.
At first I wasn't sure, 'cause Sandy told me the older men all sounded like they were from Ireland, and the younger ones had a partic'lar guttural sort of accent that we figured was a New York accent. And I figured he'd remember my face, just the way I remembered his. This man spoke to me polite as can be, and as though he'd never seen me before in his life, and he spoke just like he came from hereabouts. But then I recalled how Rick Johnson hid his Irish accent from us, and sounded just like a regular Westerner, too, and we only found out that wasn't his original way of talkin' kinda by accident.
"So, you from around here, originally, Mister?" I asked.
"Came from back East a long time ago," he said. "But I never had an inclination to go back. It suits me fine, out here."
That was enough confirmation for me. "I think maybe we've met before."
He looked close at me. "Don't think so, sir."
"And I think you're wrong."
"It's a free country. Think what you want. But I'm sure we haven't met."
"And I suppose you don't remember that innocent girl you kidnapped in San Francisco, either? You and your friends. And what you did to her after?" I stared at him real hard. "Don't suppose you care about what happened to her, or how she felt about it? Or how the people who loved her felt about it. How the man who loved her felt about it."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said. And then something real nasty lit up in his eyes. "And if I did, she was halfbreed trash, and the daughter of a traitor besides."
"You're real lucky I got better things to do with my life than spend the rest of it in prison for takin' down scum like you." I said, and turned on my heel and walked out.
Honest truth is, I could've shot him as soon as looked at him, even in cold blood, after what he did. You know I don't kill easy, but there's rare cases where someone just needs killin'. But somehow I knew it's not what Sandy'd have wanted. I'm not saying she's forgiven him or anything, but I know she don't feature killing as being right, not even when it's someone that vile. She'd just come back to me, and I didn't want anything to happen to come between us, or take me away from her, not for a minute more than necessary.
Kinda funny, ain't it? I didn't do it. I didn't do it because I wanted to be with Sandy more'n I wanted to revenge her, and now here I am, like to be hanged for it, anyway. 'Cept with you two to help me, I figure I got a fair chance, and maybe Heyes'll come up with a plan. Now that we're honest, I can't just escape, but . . . maybe he'll think of something.
Anyway, I went to the meetin', got the papers signed, and went to the hotel to get a good night's sleep before startin' back. Never even left the hotel ‑‑ I had some food sent up. Didn't want to risk runnin' into you‑know‑who and losing my temper. Next mornin' I was on my way to the train station when the sheriff stopped me. Said several patrons at the store had overheard me threatening Mister McManus, and now he was dead. Said I was under arrest. So I telegraphed Heyes, and he telegraphed Brubaker, and then you know the rest. The other side was pushin' for some swift justice, and Brubaker was lookin' for some reason to put them off, so our side would have a better chance to investigate. And then you showed up, and Heyes just chimed in about needing additional counsel.
Ella, you know I didn't do it. It's not that I ain't capable, but that I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize what I've been waiting so long for. Sandy's said she'll marry me no matter what, even at the foot of the gallows, if need be. But I want us to have a life together. After everything we've both been through, don't we deserve a little happiness?
Chapter Three. Saving Kid Curry.
I asked the Kid a few more questions, and got fairly routine answers. Then we returned to the makeshift offices of the equally makeshift law firm of Brubaker and Heyes, and worked until Brubaker looked at his watch and said that he was concerned that Mrs. Spencer would be waiting dinner for us.
When we arrived back at the Spencers' home, dinner was indeed ready, but nobody looked particularly hungry. Elizabeth Spencer bustled about, and Sandy tried to make herself useful, but she was so listless and distracted that I suspect she was in the way more than not. Albert Raintree was impassive, as usual, but I could tell by the way his eyes followed his daughter that he was deeply concerned for her.
Heyes and the Reverend Spencer were talking quietly at the table, and I saw the deep sadness in Heyes' eyes, though he tried to mask it with a smile when he looked at me. It was a quiet dinner, the Spencers unobtrusively trying to keep everyone's spirits up with polite conversation. Brubaker and I shared an absorption with the case to come, a complete focus on the work at hand that Heyes, at least, had seen in me before. Neither of us took part in the general conversation unless specifically addressed, but, as we'd seated ourselves side by side, we kept speaking softly together, our conversation so laced with technical terms that the others probably couldn't have understood us if they'd tried.
As Mrs. Spencer served slices of her blueberry pie for dessert, Spencer made one more attempt at conversation. "I know that you met your wife when she defended you in court," he said, "but you were still on the run in those days, weren't you?"
The details of our courtship were complicated, and there were certain elements of it that I wasn't sure a man of God would understand, like the fact that I was pregnant with Rachel before we'd decided to marry. Fortunately, I didn't have to answer.
"How'd I get Ella to marry me?" Heyes grinned wickedly. "You mean, what with her being a lawyer and me being a reformed outlaw and all? Well, you know there ain't too many men who would take on a lady lawyer like her. Make Ella mad and she won't just burn your dinner or darn your socks wrong. She can really mess things up for a person. I'm one of the few men figured he could handle her. So I just had to get the amnesty, and hang around long enough, and eventually she had to say yes."
Not a strictly accurate recounting of our courtship ‑ I certainly hadn't been looking for a husband, and Heyes hadn't been so sure about settling down ‑ but true enough in essence.
After dinner, my temporary partner and I rose to return to the office, but Heyes called me aside. "Ain't you planning on letting me know what's going on, Ella?"
"We just don't have any time to lose, not with the trial commencing again in two days. I'll be home before midnight, if you can wait up for me."
He smiled wearily. "I'll be here. Got nowhere else to go."
On my return, I found him sitting outside on the porch, in the dark. "Spencer and Raintree wanted to go to bed, and since they're sleepin' in the parlor, I figured I'd wait out here for you." He took my hand, and we walked inside together.
When we reached our room, and he'd closed the door behind us, he took me in his arms, and kissed me. But after a moment, he pulled back, and I could tell from his expression that he was as preoccupied as I was. "You and Brubaker are on top of this, right? I mean, you'll be able to save the Kid."
"We're planning a multi‑pronged strategy. First of all, we want to impeach the character of the victim, but do it carefully, so that we don't emphasize Jed's possible motives. If possible, we'd like to come up with alternatives for who might have done it, plausible enough to cast doubt in the jury's mind. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a really solid alibi for the evening, so we're trying to work up his memories of the evening into a minute‑by‑minute narrative. Maybe we can convince the jury that he was so busy doing this and that there simply wasn't enough time. And of course‑‑"
He interrupted me. "Can't you just prove he didn't do it, end of story?"
"It's not that easy."
"But the Kid's innocent."
"We don't . . . we may not be able to prove that for certain. Nobody who knew the whole situation could possibly blame him if he killed McManus. One possible alternative is getting him a minimum amount of jail time for manslaughter or aggravated assault."
"What's this crazy talk about jail time? Ella, he said he didn't do it. That means he didn't do it. I'm not sayin' it would have been so very wrong if he had done it, or that he's never killed a man before. But he said he didn't do this, and whatever else he is, the Kid's a man of his word."
"Heyes, I have no reason not to believe the Kid. But as a lawyer, I have to go by the facts I can prove. And his word isn't going to be enough for the jury."
"And the Kid's word just ain't good enough for you."
"You're not listening to me. To help Jed, I have to do my job the best I can. And my job isn't to proclaim that he's a man of honor. It's to get that jury to say that he's not guilty. Whether it's that he didn't do it, whether it's justifiable homicide, manslaughter, whatever the matter, we have to be prepared to make a case, to present an alternative, to counter every move opposing council makes. Now, if that's going to offend your sense of honor, or his, that's just the way things are going to have to be. I'm really sorry. But I'm more interested in saving his life than in not wounding his pride."
He flashed me a quick crooked grin. "I know you're tryin' to do your best for him. I guess I just want you to believe in him. And maybe I'm feeling a little frustrated, waiting for you and Brubaker to save him."
I took a deep breath. "What about you? Maybe . . . maybe it's you who can save him. We've got witnesses to find, strategies to make, plausible alternatives to prove. But if someone else killed Michael McManus, maybe you're the one who can find out who."
"I've been tryin', Ella. It's not like I've just been sitting around, day after day. But it's hard to get folks to talk to me around here, since a lot of 'em have already made up their minds about the Kid, and about me."
"Maybe you've got to use the eyes and ears available to you."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"How many people around here know who Kyle is, or what his connection is to you? He's staying at the hotel, not with us. I get the feeling he's brighter than he looks, too. And you've got me, if you need me. But you're the brains of the operation, Heyes. Just like in the old days."
He smiled again, brighter this time. "You've got a point. I mean, obviously you've never tried to give Kyle orders, but he's not a bad listener when it suits him."
"It sounds like you've got a plan," I said. "A Hannibal Heyes plan."
"Wouldn't that be an Ella Heyes plan, since you came up with it?"
"Give you five more minutes, and you'll have transformed it so that I won't even be able to recognize it."
"You're probably right," he said. He kissed me goodnight, rather chastely on the forehead, and rolled over, away from me.
Later, as I lay there and listened to his breathing, I thought back to my bed in the Venetian palazzo, and I felt as thought he was as far away from me now as he'd been when the Atlantic Ocean and the North American continent stretched between us. That wasn't going to change until . . . unless . . . we could save the Kid.
I didn't think either of us could stand losing anyone else, and if we did, we were going to lose each other as well. Rachel's death had been unbearable for us both, and losing the Kid on top of that would destroy Heyes. It would destroy Sandy. And losing them would destroy me.
None of which helped me to get a good night's sleep.
The next morning, Heyes enlisted Kyle to help him in his investigation. We didn't ask Sandy, fearing her fragility under the circumstances, but she insisted that she wanted to get involved. I'd never seen her face down Heyes before. She turned out to be very good at it.
"How can I just stay here when I know that I could be doing something to help save him? You can't ask me to just sit here, when you and Ella and Kyle and everyone are working for him." There was a look in her ordinarily gentle brown eyes that signaled that standing in her way was not a good idea.
I hung back from going to the office, feeling somehow like she might need me.
By the time she'd raided my trunks for one of my Paris dresses, and gotten Elizabeth Spencer to help put up her hair, she'd transformed herself entirely. I'd rarely seen Sandy dressed like a proper lady before; such fuss and bother wasn't her style, and her beauty had only been emphasized by the simplicity of her dark clothing and the unconfined way she wore her hair. But here was a San Francisco lady of the most elegant type. She'd never be recognized.
It wasn't as though anyone had seen her, anyway. She had stayed away from the courtroom, fearing the public eye on her when something so unspeakable from her past was going to be thrown open to public inspection.
When Brubaker and I returned to the house at lunchtime, Kyle had already managed to befriend a stablehand who recalled two strangers who'd quartered their horses near the train station at a suspiciously convenient time. It wasn't that strangers didn't pass through Taos, but that the stablehand was under the impression that these were "real city slickers."
"Did he say when they came and fetched their horses?"
"Funny you mention that," Kyle said, grinning so that his crooked teeth showed. "You see, they never did. And he ain't seen 'em since. He thinks they skipped out on their bill, and their horses, and slipped away on th' train."
Heyes and I exchanged significant looks. "Why would anyone abandon a perfectly good horse just avoid paying a couple day's stable fees?" I asked.
"Only way I can figure it is if they're trying to be clever, and think they're gonna mislead any possible pursuers."
"Especially when they have no idea that the perfect alibi has just happened into their town."
"Kyle, you're a genius," said Heyes. "Well, maybe not a genius, but you did real good. This could be the break the Kid needs. Come on, Ella. Let's go see if they had a pair of strangers, city slickers, in the hotel the same night as the Kid."
"I thought you were afraid they weren't talking to you."
"That's why you're comin' with me. They're more likely to think they have to cooperate with you." And he took me by the hand and we practically ran all the way to the hotel, he was so excited.
When we reached the hotel and made our request known, the clerk called his manager over. "I'm not sure about this," he said. "I'm not certain we have any obligation‑‑"
"I can petition the court to force you to show us your register book, and anything else we might find of interest. Or you can show it to me now, and save yourself a whole lot of trouble."
"All right," said the manager. "But I ain't too keen on helpin' save the man that killed Michael McManus. Mike was a popular man in this town, 'cause he was good to a lot of people."
"Look," said Heyes. "Your friend is dead, and that ain't gonna change. But my friend didn't kill him, and I want to find out who did. Then we can all be happy ‑ you've got justice, and so does the Kid."
The clerk looked at the manager once more, and seeing the older man nod, he commenced.
"There were a number of strangers staying here that night, but the only two that weren't known to local residents on this particular night, besides Mr. Curry, were an odd pair‑-an old man from Ireland, and a younger man, tough‑seeming, with the most peculiar way of talking."
"Dead Rabbits," Heyes said.
"Huh," said the clerk. "That some kind of Indian tribe? 'Cause they weren't no Indians, not that I could see."
"The ones who killed Rick Johnson," I looked at my husband. "And took Sandy. McManus's old gang."
"Don't know what you're talkin' about," said the manager. "Mike McManus wasn't a member of no outlaw gang. He was a fine upstanding young man."
"However we may differ on that," I said, precisely, "that doesn't mean anything. There's lots of fine upstanding men with pasts that wouldn't hold up to the clear light of day."
The clerk and the manager looked skeptically at Heyes, who grinned.
"She didn't actually mean me. She's talking about one of the pillars of the community in the little town up in Montana where she grew up. An older man, a lawyer, who'd come west to escape a wild past back East. He'd been part of the same gang, in his youth. They waited 25 years until they could track Rick down. Waiting two years to track down McManus . . . that would be nothing to them," he added.
"I don't know that the man with the funny accent was from back East, though. I couldn't tell you were he was from."
I grimaced. "I'm going to try to sound like someone from the part of the country I think we're talking about. I've been back East a few times, including pretty recently, and I think I can do this." I paused, rolled my eyes upward, and then spoke, in a low, guttural tone. "Did he . . . did he tawk like dis? Like . . . Mistuh, ya gotta room faw me'n my friend, huh?"
Maybe it was the strain we'd been under leading to an hysterical response, but Heyes obviously couldn't help himself. He began laughing, his deep chuckle resounding through the room. The clerk and manager joined in despite themselves, at the absurdity of the contrast between the voice and the ladylike person from whom it had emanated. Finally, I joined in myself, hiding my face in my hands to conceal my blushing.
Finally, when they'd calmed themselves, the clerk nodded. "Just like that, ma'am. Just exactly like that."
"Well," said Heyes, "I guess I'm goin' to New York City. Just as soon as I can find an exorcist for my wife." And as we excused ourselves, we couldn't help but notice that the clerk and the manager were a whole lot friendlier than they'd been.
But as we walked away, he continued. " Only problem is, trial's set to begin in three days. It's gonna take me five just to get there."
"We can get a few days' delay. But then you get there, you get something, you telegraph us and we hold up the trial. You're not going to have time to get the lay of the land, so I'm going to wire my publishers. They'll recommend a private investigator who can work with you, show you around."
"That usually part of a publisher's job?"
"They like me. I make them lots of money."
"Well, hell, Ella, I'd like you too, if you made me lots of money."
"You'd better like me any way you can get me, because you're stuck with me." And with that, we went our separate ways, Heyes to see if he could find out anything more, and me to rendezvous with Chester Brubaker back at our makeshift office.
When I got there, Sandy was waiting for me. "The nice man at the train station recalls selling a couple of tickets to Chicago, first thing in the morning after the killing. He says he heard the two men talking about connecting in Chicago for New York. And I was thinking that maybe it might have something to do with the gang that kidnapped me?"
I jumped up and hugged her. "Sandy, honey, Kyle found us a hotel clerk who led us in the same direction. Heyes is leaving for New York in the morning."
She looked sad. She'd wanted to be the one who saved her Jed.
So, I lied a little. "Sandy, your news is the best thing I've heard yet. If Heyes can't find anything in New York, then the more evidence we have, the better a chance we have of putting together a convincing argument. The better chance we have of saving Jed."
And now she smiled back.
That night, when Heyes had returned home from his last attempt at getting folks in the saloon to talk to him, he found all the lights off at the Spencer's house but one. There was a light coming from our room. When he walked in, I was sitting in my nightdress, plaiting my hair.
"Didn't expect to find you here," he said. "Thought you'd probably be at the office all night."
"We're as prepared as we can be, and at this point, the biggest service we can do for Jed is to get a good night's sleep. I feel as though I've hardly seen you for the past two days. How's the investigation going? We got a response to our wire to Washington State, and Jimmy Caminetti, the one who tried to protect Sandy, has agreed to testify."
"I wired that investigator in New York," he said. "The one your publishers recommended. Haven't heard back yet, but I gotta leave in the morning. I told him to reply to you or me. You gonna be able to stretch the case out until I've got something?"
"We'll manage," I said. "If we have to call the entire town as witnesses, we'll manage."
"It'll be all right," he said, and sat down on the bed to remove his boots. "We'll save the Kid. I know we can, us and Brubaker."
I looked at him. "Heyes, I'm scared. I used to think . . . I used to think that the little things would keep going wrong, but the big things would always work themselves out. And I don't think that anymore. We've got a great case, and if what you've been working on pans out, even the most prejudiced jury that all of New Mexico can come up with isn't going to convict the Kid. But I can't say I'm not scared."
"I know, Ella. That's exactly how I feel. It seems like there's no way we won't win this, but then it seems like Rachel should be asleep in the next room."
That was all I needed to hear. The tears welled up in my eyes. As he took me in his arms, I said, "It's all right. I've been needing to cry, and I haven't been able to. It's just . . . it's just that I can't help thinking what a terrible mother I was. I failed Rachel and now I keep thinking I'm going to fail the Kid, too."
"What are you talking about?" Heyes frowned. "You were a terrific mother. Those last couple of years, especially."
"And before that? I know I didn't know much about babies, but maybe I didn't try hard enough. Sandy practically raised her, until she went away." I spoke with the tears still rolling down my cheeks.
"Sandy's better with infants than you are, but she's better with them than most people would be. She's got a gift that way. Seems to me you were smart enough to know that. Also seems to me, that when you consider you pretty much raised Sandy from the time she was twelve years old, that you're not giving yourself enough credit in this whole deal."
I put up my hand to touch the side of his face. "That's really what you think?"
"Of course it is, Ella." He leaned forward and kissed me. "Honey, I didn't know you thought I blamed you. We've been sad and scared apart for too long now. And tomorrow I'm leaving. Tonight, let's be scared together." He kissed me again, and his hands found their way to the buttons of my nightdress. Then there was nothing between us.
When I woke up the next morning, I felt his arms around me. For a moment I felt safe and warm. But then that feeling rushed away and all I could think about was how much was at stake, and how much both Heyes' actions and mine over the next couple of days were going to make the difference about whether Jed Curry lived or died.
While Heyes was on his way East to try and find Michael McManus' real killer, Chester Brubaker and I had two options: get the Kid off ourselves, through our sheer legal brilliance, or keep things going until Heyes pulled off a miracle.
I don't believe in false modesty. I'm a very good lawyer. And the longer I worked with Brubaker, the more certain I was that he was both gifted and hard‑working. Unfortunately, even if we'd had between us all the legal wisdom of old Blackstone, the oratorical gifts of Daniel Webster, and the intellect of, oh, say, Thomas Jefferson . . . our biggest concern was that Kid Curry wasn't going to get a fair trial in Taos.
The opening was just as bad as I'd feared it would be. The crowd was so obviously filled with admirers of the late Michael McManus. The mayor's daughter, who'd been his fiancee, was among them, and she sat prominently behind the prosecuting attorney, clad in deepest mourning and sniffling into a black‑bordered handkerchief.
We weren't the only ones to notice it. The judge spoke with us about our motion for a change of venue. "I would, if there was one. I wired down to Santa Fe, but they're having some problems of their own down there. Folks around this way are settled pretty sparsely. I'll try to draw jurors from the outlying areas -- folks that didn't know Michael McManus or didn't much care."
We were going to have a hard time convincing a jury. Our best bet for saving the Kid was going to be Heyes uncovering the real killer. I heard from Heyes just before trial recommenced. He'd arrived in New York, but that was all the telegram said. Opening arguments were pretty much as expected. John Wallace, attorney for the prosecution, laid out the facts . . . or some of them. He told the jury about Jed's past as a notorious outlaw, his reputation for being one of the best shots in the West, and about the confrontation that had taken place in the store. He stated only that Jedediah Curry had a grudge against Michael McManus.
"The people of the territory of New Mexico will prove that Jedediah "Kid" Curry did, with malice aforethought, kill Michael McManus with two shots from his Colt revolver."
There was a buzzing in the courtroom behind us. The prosecutor's arguments had provided the open‑and‑shut case that people in Taos were expecting. Now it was up to us. Brubaker spoke, since he was presumed to be less biased than I was.
"Your honor, gentlemen of the jury, ladies and gentlemen here assembled," he began, formally, "Jedediah Curry is here on trial for the killing of one Michael McManus, formerly of New York City and recently of Taos, New Mexico. He is not on trial for his previous criminal record, which was, in any case, completely expunged by the Governor of Wyoming, based on his proven reform. He is not on trial for his reputation as an excellent shot. That's a skill I'm sure everyone in this courtoom today would be proud to have. No, Jedediah Curry is on trial for the murder of one man, a man who the prosecution will try to show he had full and adequate reason to commit vengeance upon. In fact, the defense freely and fully admits that Michael McManus committed a heinous crime, one which affected a person whom Mister Curry holds dear. And yet, Jedediah Curry did not kill this man, and that is what we will prove here in the course of the next several days."
The prosecution called a number of character witnesses, who testified to McManus' sterling personal attributes. They followed with witnesses who'd heard Jed's exchange with McManus on the day of the murder, and who'd see him about and around town.
Now came the tricky part ‑‑ motive. Having just proved that Michael McManus was next to the angels, the prosecution attempted to prove that Kid Curry believed him to be one of Sandy's kidnappers and rapists. And then they called Sandy, as a hostile witness. I looked at the Kid, who sat at counsel table next to me, and I could tell he was thinking the same thing. Sandy had barely survived her ordeal, and now she was going to be made to talk about it, in front of people?
Opposing counsel began. "You are Alexandra Nicholls Johnson?"
"Place your right hand on the Bible."
I flinched while she did it. I wasn't even sure Sandy was a Christian anymore, not after spending two years with the shamans and mystics of her father's people.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
"I do." Sandy was ashen pale; she was dressed again in the dress I'd given her, and her hair was carefully pinned up. I could see her trembling slightly, and I wanted to protect her. Brubaker and I had agreed that I could have no role in her questioning -- I was likely to object to every word out of opposing counsel's mouth.
"Is it true that you are affianced to the defendant, Jedediah "Kid" Curry?"
"Yes," she said faintly.
"Tell us about the first time you met the victim, Michael McManus."
Sandy started to speak, detailing her kidnapping in a flat, affectless voice. She continued to tremble, but she answered each question as it was put to her. When she came to the attack, however, the trembling grew greater, and as the lawyer pressed her on a detail, I saw her eyes suddenly roll upward.
A moment later, she had collapsed to the floor.
Pandemonium broke out as the Kid and I almost knocked over our counsel's table in our hurry to reach her. The judge was crying out "Order in the court! Order in the court!" I could hear Brubaker admonishing opposing counsel, something about a woman's delicate something or other. And a moment later, a third figure had joined us at Sandy's side.
For a brief moment, I did not recognize the distinguished gentleman with the short grey hair. But as he took his daughter from Kid Curry's outstretched arms, I realized that it was Albert Raintree. He had cut his hair, against all customs and practices of his people, so that his daughter and her beloved would not be compromised by the "wild Indian" sitting in the courtroom. Such a small thing, and yet, how much it symbolized.
It was at just that moment that Kyle Murtry made his way to the front of the courtroom, and handed something to Chester Brubaker. I rose to join them, and I read the telegram, the one that changed everything. It was addressed to me and it read as follows:
REAL KILLER CONFESSED. DEAD. HEADING WEST WITH CONFESSION AND WITNESS. ARRIVE WEDNESDAY HOLD TRIAL. KID YOULL BE OK. HEYES.
Brubaker made a motion to postpone the remainder of the trial, pending the receipt of new evidence as indicated in the telegram. It was granted with no objection. Then they led Kid Curry back into custody, and we took Sandy home. And we waited for Wednesday.
Chapter Four. The Big City
"I've never been east of the Mississippi." ‑ Hannibal Heyes.
The train ride to New York City was five days, five days to try to sleep, five days to worry and think about the possibility that all this could be to no avail. To think about what his life would be, without the Kid. Five days to study a map of New York City he'd managed to find. It didn't look too hard to understand, all numbered and set out in squares. Except for that part at the bottom, where the streets were narrow and winding and mazelike. He had an uncomfortable feeling that was going to be Dead Rabbits territory.
He'd hardly slept a wink since this whole thing had begun, what with worrying about the Kid. Even that last night, as he held Ella in his arms, he lay there listening to her breathing and envying her rest. But now the motion of the train had a hypnotic effect, and the weeks of exhaustion caught up with him.
So the first time Hannibal Heyes crossed the Mississippi, he was sound asleep.
The eastern scenery was pretty disappointing ‑‑ all farms and small towns and on a smaller scale than anything he was used to out West. You could tell how many more folks lived around here, and they seemed to come thicker and faster the further East the train got.
When the train arrived at New York's Grand Central Station, he waited, as he'd been instructed, on the platform. Even the train station struck him as gigantic beyond all imagining. He'd always thought of San Francisco as the big city, even imagined visiting Chicago some day, but this . . . this was like the Grand Canyon of train stations.
"You Mister Heyes?" asked a nondescript youngish man who was waiting on the platform as appointed. He was of medium height and medium build, with medium brown hair and those eyes that were neither green nor brown. He was dressed in an unremarkable suit, and spoke in a voice that was almost entirely devoid of any kind of regional or class markings. "I'm William Crawford. I'll be working with you."
"Pleased to meet you," he said, shaking the outstretched hand. "Where to?"
Crawford eyed him critically. "First, to your hotel."
"I've slept on the train. I'd really rather we . . ." But Heyes realized the man was looking him up and down, appraising him.
"You look like you come from out West."
"Mr. Crawford, that'd be because I do."
"That's good," said Crawford. "I mean, I've been trying to figure whether we want to play this quiet or conspicuous. There's things to be said for both. Let's get you to your hotel, so you can get cleaned up, and then I'll tell you the plan."
Hannibal Heyes wasn't used to following other people's plans; other people followed his. But as Crawford led him out of the station, down a few of the most crowded blocks he'd ever seen, past the biggest buildings he'd ever seen, and onto a streetcar, he decided that just maybe having a native guide of sorts was a good idea. By the time they'd reached his hotel, he was sure of it.
When he reached his room, he discovered he had a bathtub with real hot and cold running water. "A man could get used to a bathroom like this one," he said. "Had this in San Francisco, of course, but not anywhere else."
Crawford gave a predictably nondescript smile. "Enjoy it, but quickly. I want to brief you on what I've found out about McManus. And then we're going to go out and make sure that the New York underworld knows, and cares, that Hannibal Heyes is in town."
"You sure that's a good idea?" Heyes yelled through the bathroom door.
"We could do subtle. It's effective, but it takes time. And from what I understand, time's something your friend doesn't have."
With that to think about, Heyes bathed and dressed.
He emerged wearing his brown suit, only to be treated to that appraising expression of Crawford's once again.
"Good," he said. "A little flashy, not quite Eastern in cut. You'll stand out just enough."
Heyes opened his mouth to protest. Usually Ella was the only one who made fun of his suits, and he discounted what she had to say about things like that anyway. But what was the point? He picked up his hat.
"Can't you wear your Stetson with that? You know, to look more Western?"
"You got those funny ideas about what Westerners look like, huh? You want me to wear my gunbelt too?"
"Not unless you want to get arrested. Folks back East tend to conceal their weapons. Anyway, it's not about me. It's about the Five Pointers and their ideas of what Westerners look like."
"Five Pointers? But we're after the Dead Rabbits, ain't we?"
"Not quite. The Dead Rabbits haven't existed in a long while, now. Not since shortly after the War. They merged with the Five Pointers years ago."
"But they came after Sandy . . . They wanted revenge against Rick Johnson. I mean, O'Shaughnessy. They wanted their money back."
"Just because a gang's gone, doesn't mean it's forgotten. Some of the former members don't die or end up in prison . . . well, same as with your Western outlaws, I suppose. You and your partner can't be the only ones to come out the other end. The older men who went after your friend, they were Dead Rabbits, all right. I understand they used the emblem." (Heyes winced, thinking of the dead rabbit left in Sandy's bed.) "But the young men who worked with them came from one of the successor gangs. Probably the Five Pointers, but maybe from a rival gang. Hard to say."
"But we've got to find out, and find out quickly. The trial's starting even as we're standing here."
"Mister Heyes, it's easy to hide in a big city. I've already put the word out among my informants, but the easiest way to flush them out is going to be to send you in there. If we let it be known that you're trying to find out who really killed Michael McManus, or Red Mike, as they used to call him, some folks are gonna clam right up. I'm not surprised to hear he's masquerading as respectable. He was an altar boy when he was little, and word is he could appear to be as bourgeois as you please. He got the name Red Mike for a reason, though, and you might have noticed he didn't have red hair. Red Mike had a nasty temper, and he was never afraid to shed blood. And he ran with a bunch within the gang that was all like him. Folks are still scared of him, even though he hasn't been seen around town in a couple of years."
"But other folks, folks that have grudges, they're going to drop some hints, or maybe try to sell you some information. So first, we're going to get you seen, in some of the bars and gambling dens that the Five Pointers and their rivals frequent. Then the Hudson Dusters are having a party tonight. I'd be really surprised if we don't have some information before dawn that'll lead us towards saving your friend."
And with that, Heyes took his hat -- the Stetson, not the derby -- and they left.
The next four or five hours were among the confusing, chaotic, and exciting Hannibal Heyes had ever experienced. Crawford led him through several of the more popular gaming hells of downtown, garishly decorated resorts of primarily the lower classes, though sprinkled with well‑tailored and drunken young men either living it up before they settled down or well on the road to ruin already. Each time, he entered the place shortly after his compatriot, and looked for certain prearranged visual signals. The first several of these Crawford dismissed rather quickly, but in the third, according to instructions, Heyes gambled and lost a fair sum at faro with seeming carelessness, stating loudly as he withdrew from the table that the Eastern games were nothing to what they had out West and that anyway, he, Hannibal Heyes, had more important things to do than waste any more of his time at this.
That seemed to create a buzz in the air. Finally, one man, a compact bruiser in a derby hat and shirt sleeves, stepped forward. "You really Hannibal Heyes? The bank and train robber from out West?"
Heyes doffed and replaced his Stetson. "That'd be me. And I hear tell there's some folks in this town might know how a feller called Red Mike McManus got murdered. 'Cause right now they're tryin' to pin it on my partner, Kid Curry, and he ain't done it." He deliberately exaggerated his Western manner of speaking.
"Don't know anyting about dat," said the bruiser. "But I'd be honored to shake your hand, Mister Heyes. Anyone can knock over as many banks and trains as you, must be all right." And, as he'd extended his hand, Heyes shook it.
"Aww, he ain't nuttin'," said a small, sharp‑featured fellow in a loud checked suit. "Heard he even got a pardon, so he can't have done nuttin' too impressive."
"Yeah," said a third. "Me and my boys knocked over de West Side train widdout horses or nuttin'."
"Which is good, 'cause you and your boys couldn't'a rid 'em if you'd had 'em," chimed in the bruiser.
"Well," said Heyes, "any of you boys know anything, you leave word for me at the Franklin Hotel, all right? There's money in it." And he exited the place.
When he'd gone about a block down the street, Crawford rejoined him. "There were some big players in there tonight. Maybe one of them will bite. But we'd better move on from gambling places now. Hannibal Heyes wanting to check out a faro game, that's believable. Hannibal Heyes gambling all over town when he's trying to save his partner, that's not. Next, some of the bars and the dives."
They made a quick tour of the Bowery and of other bars in lower Manhattan. If Crawford gave a certain signal, there was no one in the place worth bothering with, and they'd quickly leave. But any time Crawford gave him the nod, he'd strike up a conversation with the bartender, loudly enough so that a sizable chunk of the room could hear him, and saying pretty much the same things he'd said in the gaming establishment.
In most of the bars, he left the whiskey he'd ordered untouched, figuring he was going to be ordering many more before the night was through. Finally, in a dark and rather quiet drinking establishment, his thirst over came him and he raised the glass to his lips, only to find Crawford at his side.
"Don't," Crawford whispered, "not in here."
After they'd left, he explained. "They dilute the drinks with camphosine in there. They say it gives a wicked buzz, but there's one or two men getting carried out of there and straight to the crazy ward at Gouverneur hospital every night. Some of them never come right again afterwards."
At the next bar, Crawford signalled that it was okay for him to drink. The whiskey in that place was diluted as well, but here it was with water.
After the ordinary bars, they began a quick tour of what Crawford called the dens of vice. Pretty moralistic, Heyes thought. After all, he'd spent his share of time in the great whorehouses of the West, and in the Barbary Coast dives in San Francisco. But soon he found that these were nothing in comparison to famous New York establishments like McGuirk's Suicide Hall and the notorious Paresis Hall.
On his way out of the latter, he turned to Crawford and said, "Those weren't women in there, were they?"
"No," said Crawford, and shrugged. "Well, the pretty ones weren't. Anyway, the Dusters' shindig should be starting up. I'm persona non grata over there, so you'll be on your own. They'll let you in, though. All New York should be talking about you by now. Just . . . whatever you do . . . there'll be a lot of white powder floating around, and a lot of folks sniffing it. If you know what's good for you, you won't be one of them."
"Opium? Never even tempted to try it."
"Cocaine. Makes you feel like a million bucks until the crash comes. Makes you think you're invulnerable, too. And you know what happens to a man that thinks he's invulnerable?"
"Somethin' happens to prove just the opposite."
"Exactly. And the Dusters, well, they're pretty crazy. They get their name because there's so much of it floating around."
"Why'm I going there, then?"
"Oh, you'll be safe enough. You'll be a curiosity."
"Been a curiosity before. Didn't much like it."
But Crawford continued. "Lots of slumming at the Dusters ‑‑ that is, lots of artists and journalists, and the rich folks who want to see the wild side of things and tend to follow where the artists and journalists go. Lots of gossip."
Heyes and Crawford caught a crosstown streetcar, and rode it until they'd reached the west side docks. "Dusters' headquarters are down a few blocks. The party should be in full swing by now."
They proceeded down a rather desolate stretch of waterfront, all blank‑fronted warehouses and packing crates, until they reached a large, ramshackle building. The noises of a large social gathering game from inside.
A couple of largish men, one ostentatiously showing off his brass knuckles, approached them. "Who you boys?"
"I'm Hannibal Heyes," said Heyes, with a grin. "Maybe you've heard of me?"
"Can't say dat I have," said the man with the knuckles.
"Sure you have, Moose," said the other. "He's dat western outlaw feller. Robbed a lot of banks and trains, never got caught, and convinced some guv'nor to give him a full pardon. He's, let me t'ink, good at safecrackin', ain't dat it?" He turned to Heyes for confirmation.
"Among other things," said Heyes.
"You in town to pull a job?" asked Moose.
"I'm kinda retired. Part of that whole amnesty thing."
"Well, we won't hold it against ya. Less competition for us. Welcome ta de Hudson Dusters' place." He ushered Heyes in.
When Heyes turned to look behind him, Crawford was gone. The room he entered was large and dingy, but the festivities were a little different than they'd been at any of the bars or dens of iniquity that he'd visited that day. There was a piano player in the corner, and he was actually pretty good. Gangsters and their girls were dancing. But the room was filled with other folks, too. Journalists and artists and the rich folks that followed them around, looking for thrills, Crawford had said. Most of them were men, but not all. One very pretty "respectable" woman, identifiable by her slightly stiff bearing and the quality of her jewelry, was dancing with a gang member, while an older man, probably her husband, looked on indulgently but protectively.
Nobody much paid attention to him at first, so after observing the crowd for while, he made his way over to the bar. "Whiskey," he requested.
"Sure thing," said the bartender, and set him up with one. "You lookin' for party favors, they're givin' it out upstairs."
"'S okay," said Heyes. "I'm findin' this big city to be interesting and different enough. I'll stick with my usual poison."
"A wise choice," said the man next to him, who was fidgety and almost unnaturally quick and jerky in his movements. "I've had a little too much upstairs, and I find I'm in need of a drink to calm myself down. A stiff one." After the bartender had set him up, he turned back to Heyes. "Once you start getting into the snowdrifts, you find yourself needing a drink or two to settle down. Then, you start feeling a little drunk, and you want to clear your head, it's back upstairs. Then you get jumpy again. It can go on like that for days. Good deal for us guys with jobs that the Dusters have a criminal empire to run, and they toss us all out by Sunday afternoons. Otherwise we'd all have lost our jobs, and probably our wives and kids, too."
"You got a job?" asked Heyes.
"Reporter. New York Sun. Got a wife and a coupla kids, too, but conveniently they're upstate with her sister, who's havin' her first. Before I met her, though, I was a regular here. Best parties in town, and the Dusters know how to take care of their friends in the press. Now I only come when she's out of town, or if I'm in dire need of a big story. That case, she's usually willing to turn a blind eye. What about you? You're not from around here, are you?"
"You can tell? What gave it away?" Heyes tipped his Stetson. Crawford had been right about that. "I'm from out West. Name's Hannibal Heyes."
"Oh, you're him? Grapevine said you were in town. Say, I'd love to have a talk with you, maybe get a story out of it?"
"Could do that. Not a good time, though. Kinda tryin' to save my partner's life."
"Kid Curry? Why?"
"He's on trial for killin' someone used to work with some of the Dead Rabbits. Revenge thing. I heard he was probably hooked up with the Five Pointers. Anyway, the Kid didn't do it; he's plannin' to settle down and get married. And me and him have business plans. Last thing he wanted was to get into any more trouble. There's evidence that the real killers came in from New York. We figure there was some kind of payback goin' on that we don't know about. I'm here hoping to find out."
"Guess the big question is whether it was someone from his own gang, or someone from a rival gang. Not much love lost between the Dusters and the Five Pointers."
"That's why I'm here."
"Listen, I'm gonna give you my card, and after you save your partner, you owe me a story. For the first interview with Hannibal Heyes, I'd be willin' to meet you halfway; say, Saint Louis or Chicago."
"Fair enough. No book though. Promised that to my wife." Heyes grinned.
"You got a wife writes books?"
"It's more of a hobby. She'll hold off 'til after your interview. Mostly, she's a lawyer."
The reporter, whose card revealed his name as Robert Harris, just stood and stared at him for a moment. "No kiddin'? Lady lawyer. We got one or two of those here in the big city. Never thought a famous outlaw'd be married to one."
And Heyes thought for a moment about what Ella had said in the courtroom just a few days earlier. "She defended me a few times. And how else was an outlaw like me gonna meet a nice girl? 'Sides, it saves me a lot on legal bills."
Harris was still staring.
"I'm jokin'. I, you know," he mumbled, "love her. And right now she's busy tryin' to save Kid Curry's life, too."
"My," said Harris. "Maybe I'll come with you, interview you on the train, and then cover the trial. Hannibal Heyes' wife serves as Kid Curry's defense attorney. That's a story, all right."
"Well, right now I'm a little more concerned with makin' sure she's got enough evidence to get him off."
"All right," said Harris. "I'll see who I can round up. You stay right here."
Heyes stood by the bar, and nursed his whiskey. He wanted another one, badly, but he knew he'd better pace himself. By the looks of things, though, he was one of the few partygoers who was. He hoped that was good news. A little drunk, a little drugged, meant indiscreet. A lot drunk, a lot drugged, would mean obstreperous or unmanageable, maybe even dangerous.
Robert Harris took a bit of time getting back to him, and Heyes worried that maybe he'd gotten back into the party favors and forgotten what he'd set out to do. But just as this fear was settling into a certainty, Harris came back, with two other men in tow.
"Hannibal Heyes, this is Johnny Tuesday and Biff Mulligan, two of the Dusters' boys. Johnny and Biff think maybe they can help you."
Johnny Tuesday was a short, slender man with sandy hair and sharp features; Biff was large, as befitted his name, dark‑haired, and looked to be somewhat slow‑witted. But like most everyone else in the room, their speech and movements were somewhat affected by the drug.
"'Tink we got somet'in' for ya, but let's go someplace private," said Tuesday.
"How 'bout de t'ird floor," suggested Biff. "Room up dere's empty."
The four of them trooped up the staircase together, past the second floor where lots of happy partygoers with runny noses spoke together in exaggerated tones.
At the top of the staircase, Biff led them past a couple of rooms where Dusters and their girls were making lots of noise through closed doors, and down a corridor to a larger room.
When they'd closed the door behind them, Johnny Tuesday began to speak. "T'ing is, I lost my partner once, and I hate to see it happen t' anyone. What you hear, just remember, it didn't come from me."
Heyes nodded his assent.
"Red Mike McManus, he was a Five Pointer, as you've prob'ly figgered out. When dose old guys from th' Rabbits were goin' after Dick O'Shaughnessy, what you knew under a diff'rent name out West, they recruited among de Five Pointers 'cause dey was like a successor gang. Well, as you know, all of 'em got rubbed out, 'cept for Red Mike, and for Jimmy Caminetti, him what went to jail for the kidnappin'. I hear he got off easy 'cause of how he tried to protect da girl."
"Sandy," said Heyes. "He was kind to her. The others . . . weren't."
"No. Not whatever. This is the woman my partner loves and wants to marry, the girl my wife took out of an orphanage and into her own home. This is not just any girl." It was rare that anger flashed in Heyes' dark eyes, but when it did, anyone in his path could tell it was in their own interest to stay clear.
"Sorry," said Johnny. "We didn't hear da whole story, I guess. Anyway, I guess you know 'bout how de others got wiped out, 'cause I guess it was you and your pals what done it."
"They killed a couple of my friends, too, and wounded me pretty badly."
Johnny nodded in sympathy, then continued. "Well, I know 'bout 'dis 'cause my girl and me had a fallin' out a while back and she took up wit' one of da Five Pointers. But after he slugged 'er, guess I looked pretty good after all. I always knew she was de girl for me, so I took 'er back. Anyway, she tells me that Red Mike never come home and neither did da ransom. Tells me that he got heard of in Taos, New Mexico, and da idiot didn't even t'ink to use a false name. Tells me the Five Pointers sent a coupla boys after 'im, an old Irish guy called Donnelly dates back to Rabbit days, and one of their meanest boys, Davy the Snake."
"He didn't have the money."
"What?" asked Johnny. "Whaddya mean?"
"It was a revenge killing. Before we could even give them the ransom money, they opened fire. Took out Rick Johnson, who you knew as Dick O'Shaughnessy. Killed one of his buddies, and came close to killing me. They never even got near the money, because Jimmy surrendered, the rest got shot, and McManus fled out the back way. The Kid only recognized him 'cause he got a long look as McManus was runnin' away. He turned around to look back at us. Kid's got good eyes and a good memory."
"Oh." Johnny's eyes grew wide. "I don't t'ink dey knew dat."
"That all you got?"
"Dat and one t'ing more. Paul Kelly, him what runs da Five Pointers, he's tough, but he's fair. Not sayin' he'll give up one of his boys, but . . . you go see 'im tomorrow at the New Brighton on Great Jones Street. He just might be willin' to help your friend out."
"Thanks," said Heyes, smiling to himself. Great Jones Street, eh? That had to be a good sign, didn't it? "Thanks a lot. Can I buy you a drink or . . . give you money?"
Johnny Tuesday looked just the slightest bit insulted. "It was my pleasure to do a favor for a famous bank robber such as yourself. No compensation requested or accepted. But if you don't mind havin' a drink with me before you leave, it'd be an honor."
"No, it'd be mine, 'specially if you're the man that gave the lead that saved Kid Curry's life." He turned to Biff. "What about you?"
"Actually," said Biff, "I don't got nothin' to tell you. I just figured you bein' from out of town and all, well . . . kinda wanted to make sure you got home safe."
After drinking a whiskey in Johnny Tuesday's company, and promising Harris he'd contact him at the Sun's offices the next day, he left with Biff. And as soon as they'd left Dusters' territory, he was glad of the large man's presence, because a couple of young toughs set upon them just north of Fourteenth Street.
"Hey, you, in the funny hat."
Heyes and Biff kept walking.
"You. I'm talkin' to you, cowboy."
They stopped. "Ya know who you're talkin' to like dat?" asked Biff.
"Don't t'ink I much care."
"Dis is Hannibal Heyes."
"Who?" asked the young man who'd been speaking.
"Some guy wid a funny name," said his friend. "So what?"
Biff looked at Heyes. "Ain't it sad, when young kids got no respect for dere elders?" And he hit one of the young men, knocking him flat. Heyes hit the other, to rather less effect, but hard enough that, without his friend to back him up, he ran off. "Welcome to da wild West Side. Ain't so picturesque as where you come from, but it ain't exactly tame."
They reached the hotel without further incident, and Biff Mulligan said his farewells.
Hannibal Heyes awoke the next day shortly after noon. As he opened his eyes, he found that his head was pounding. That ain't fair, he thought. Only had but a couple of whiskeys, and spread them out. Shouldn't have a hangover if I didn't have the fun to go along with it. Guess I'm getting old if goin' to bed at four in the morning gives me a hangover whether I got drunk or not. He bathed and dressed, and shortly afterwards, his escort arrived.
"Okay, Crawford. Just who are you, anyway?"
And the nondescript man gave a sad nondescript smile. "I was wondering how long it would take you to ask me that. I'm the son of a good family, lower ranks of the rich, I suppose you'd say. Took to gambling in college, became a bit of a disgrace, and got cut off before I could gamble it all away. Good judgment on the part of my father, if you ask me."
"Well, without money, I quickly discovered I was pretty much nothing. And as nothing, I can come and go as I please. What with the gambling and all, I knew my way around the underworld. So I became a private inquiry agent. I'm pretty much anonymous when I travel downtown. Had a run‑in with a couple of Hudson Dusters a few years ago, though, so I don't much like to hang around at their place."
"You ever see your family anymore?"
"I don't get asked to their big society balls, naturally. But they still have me for Christmas dinner and such, as long as I don't mind coming in the back way." He smiled again. "It's pretty much what I picked for myself. It works all right for me."
Heyes shook his head. "My family got murdered when I was a kid. Quantrill's raiders, back in Kansas around the War. Can't imagine I'd have walked away if they were still alive. But who knows? Maybe outlawin' was just there in me, and I'd've done it no matter what. Maybe what happened is just an excuse."
Crawford smiled, and for a brief moment, he didn't look so nondescript. "You'll never know, will you? So, what did you learn?"
After Heyes had told him, he looked satisfied. "I was hoping things would lead this way. Paul Kelly's as straight‑up a gangster as you're going to find. Well, you'll see when we get there."
After they'd eaten lunch at the hotel, a couple of streetcars took them to Great Jones Street, a small thoroughfare off the Bowery. Crawford accompanied him up to a block away, and then appointed a meeting place. The New Brighton looked flashy on the outside, and even flashier inside. It was gaudy enough to put a San Francisco whorehouse to shame, Heyes thought. Although it was still early in the afternoon, there was a fair amount of gambling going on already, a small orchestra played on the dance floor, and the bar was crowded.
A small, dapper man sat at a table halfway between the bar and the entrance, at a table with a woman and her escort. As Heyes passed by, he could hear that they were talking about art. None of them looked like they belonged there, the small man least of all. If he hadn't been extremely well‑tailored, in a restrained sort of way, he could easily have been taken for a bank clerk or a theological student.
Heyes wandered back towards the door, getting the layout of the place in his mind. As the woman and her escort walked past him he heard her say, "What an interesting man. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet Paul Kelly, though."
"Who do you think we were talking to?"
The woman was flabbergasted. "That was Paul Kelly? I thought he was slumming, too."
Heyes approached Kelly, and introduced himself.
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mister Heyes," he said. His voice was soft and cultured, nothing like the gruff, heavily‑accented speech of the other gangsters.
"And yours, Mister Kelly." Heyes took the hand that was extended to him.
"We've heard a lot about you, Mister Heyes. Quite impressive, some of the things you and your gang pulled off."
"Thank you," said Heyes. "'Fraid I can't say the same, 'bout hearing about you. From what I've seen since I've been in New York, I'm surprised about that."
"Well, we in theoretically civilized parts like to dream about those wide open spaces. Besides, with the number of newspapers we have in this town, there's pretty much nothing that doesn't get reported. On the other hand, I don't suppose the Wild West is much interested in shoot-outs on the Lower East Side." A loudly‑dressed gangster approached the table. Kelly nodded in his direction, looked thoughtful for a moment, and raised two fingers. The man nodded in return, and disappeared. "I'm sorry about that. Business as usual, I'm afraid. In any case, Mister Heyes, as you can imagine, your story precedes you."
"Then you'll understand why I need your help."
"And I'm certain you'll understand that our code of honor forbids me to give up one of my own men to the law, even in order to help out someone I admire as much as you."
"Mister Kelly, we're talkin' about my partner's life."
"As opposed to the lives of two of my men? I think you'll understand why I can't do that."
"Were they followin' orders or did they act on their own?"
"Mister Heyes, I'm not going to make any sort of admission or denial."
"Can't you give me anything to clear the Kid?"
Kelly fixed him with steady grey eyes. "I'll do what I can. Meet me here tomorrow at noon."
"All right," said Heyes. It wasn't until he stepped outside, and met Crawford, who'd been waiting several blocks away on Broadway, that he let loose a exclamation of angry frustration. "Damn! That was a waste of time. What do we do next? Find Johnny Tuesday's girl?"
"No need," said Crawford. "Paul Kelly's going to help us."
"Help us!" Heyes exclaimed. "He told me he wasn't going to sell out one of his own men for the sake of someone he didn't even know. Good policy for a gang leader, but if that's your idea of helping us, I'd hate to see what your idea of doing nothing and watching Kid Curry die is like."
"He'll help us. He just doesn't know it yet."
"You got a plan?"
Heyes spent the rest of the afternoon pacing in his hotel room. He tried to read, tried to sleep, tried composing a telegram to Ella, but none of it was working. Crawford's scheme sounded half‑cracked to him, but he didn't really have much option.
That night he headed into the heart of Five Pointers territory with the intent of making himself conspicuous, again. But this time, the goal was to get himself nearly killed. And this time, he wasn't going to have Crawford as a backup.
He started out at a Chrystie Street dive, neutral territory between the Pointers and the Eastmans, a gang that took its name from its utter loyalty to its leader, Monk Eastman. He started out by ordering a large whiskey. The trick was going to be to drink enough to appear credibly drunk and reckless without misjudging his capacity. He'd always had a good deal of faith in his ability to hold his liquor, though his wife liked to suggest otherwise. But this wasn't just any evening down at the saloon. This was some pretty dangerous territory.
The bar was dingy, with lots of dark wood that hadn't been kept polished too well, and was dusted mainly by the garments of its patrons. There was sawdust on the floor, the lights were dim, and most of the patrons were either ill‑ or flashily‑dressed men, interspersed with a few women who could not be called "ladies" by any stretch of the imagination. In other words, it was just like most of the bars Heyes had seen in his two days in the big city, most of them except for the fancy places like Kelly's club.
After a couple of hours seated at a fairly conspicuous table towards the front entrance of the place, he was almost ready to give up, when there was a disturbance in back. A couple of men were shoving each other and shouting, and there was gunfire. Then a man ran through the bar and out the front entrance, followed by a couple of others. Pretty soon after that, the pursuers returned into the bar, loudly discussing whose fault it was that their quarry had escaped them.
"Damned Eastman boy," one of them muttered.
That was Heyes' cue. He lurched forward, deliberately putting himself in the way of one of them men.
"Geddoudamyway, cowboy," said one of them, who made up in width what he lacked in height.
"Make me," said Heyes.
"You gotta problem?" asked the other, taller but weaselly‑looking.
"Yeah," he said, consciously making sure that he weaved just slightly as he spoke. "I got a problem with your boys. You're Five Pointers, ain't you?"
"Whaddabout it?" asked the vertically‑challenged bruiser.
"You're protectin' someone."
"Yeah? We protect our own."
"My best friend's gonna die 'cause you're protectin' someone." Heyes threw a drunken punch at the speaker, which landed wide, and resulted in his spinning around and falling down in a cloud of sawdust.
The sound of a gun cocking. "You're gonna die 'cause you won't shut up." The weasel was pointing the gun at him.
A crowd had begun to gather around. "Dis one's not to be touched. Kelly's orders." The speaker was silver‑haired, but with an unlined face. "All right, Mister Heyes. Come along wit me."
"Who was dat?" Heyes heard the short man asking as his new companion took his arm and guided him out of the bar.
"Dunno. But I know I don't like him," replied the weasel.
"You're not really drunk, are you?" asked Silver Hair.
"'Fraid not," said Heyes.
"Yeah, Kelly was afraid you'd pull something tonight. He figgered you for the type that's always got a plan going." As they spoke, they walked rapidly uptown, towards Great Jones Street. Silver Hair still gripped Heyes by the arm, as if he feared to lose hold of him. "Figgered you wouldn't be walkin' around in dat cowboy hat if you didn't wanna be noticed. Smart guy, Paul Kelly. I'd'a just thought it was the only hat you had."
They continued on in silence, and finally Silver Hair spoke again. "Kelly likes you. You're lucky. And more'n that, Davy the Snake's been givin' him grief lately. You ain't getting the old guy. Far as Kelly's concerned, that was part of the old Dead Rabbits grudge match, and he ain't liftin' his protection on that. But Davy's trouble, and I'm thinkin' Kelly's not sorry to have an excuse."
Uncharacteristically, Heyes said nothing. Because there really was nothing to say, except to Paul Kelly himself.
When they arrived at the New Brighton, things were going full‑swing. Silver Hair ushered Heyes into a back office, where Paul Kelly sat behind a large, luxurious desk, looking as prim and out of place as ever. But when he spoke, it was with the quiet confidence of a man who knows his own power. He nodded, and Silver Hair slipped out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
"I planned to announce all this to you as a fait accompli, Mister Heyes, when you called on me at noon tomorrow. But since you've jumped the gun, I suppose I shall have to tell you now."
"You're gonna help me save the Kid's life?"
"In a word, yes," said Kelly. "Tomorrow morning, David Morrissey, better known as Davy the Snake, will be found dead in his rooms, the victim of a robbery attempt. In the past day, a rumor has suddenly arisen that he has a good deal of money hidden in those rooms, wretched though they are. However, before his sudden death, he will be found to have written a note confessing to the murder of Red Mike McManus, thus absolving Jedediah Curry of the charges. In addition, his former paramour, Kate, will be struck by the need to testify in the matter. True, her evidence is only hearsay. However since it will corroborate the note, it ought to be admissible."
"My wife'd know about that better'n me," said Heyes.
Paul Kelly frowned for a moment. "Oh, right. You married your lawyer. I'd heard about that. Interesting choice."
"She's a very attractive woman," Heyes began, defensively.
And now Kelly smiled. "I'm certain she is. And equally certain that you've long ago grown tired of people commenting about it. However, to return to the matter at hand, a few clarifications."
"Stephen Donnelly is not part of the deal. He's not violated the rules of the gang, and my obligation to protect him remains. And the Five Pointers will have no official role in this. Miss Kate will travel with an escort from the Hudson Dusters."
For what felt like the first time in weeks, Heyes grinned. "Johnny Tuesday and Biff Mulligan, right?"
"Miss Kate is engaged to be married to Mister Tuesday, I believe."
"I knew there was somethin' goin' on there. And I liked Mulligan. Won't mind havin' him along. What else?"
"That's all," said Kelly. "You know, the funny thing is, I wanted to help you out, but I've been troubled by one thing. I kept thinking, what would Hannibal Heyes, leader of the Devil's Hole Gang, have done? I suspect you wouldn't have given me one of your men, if the roles were reversed."
"Pretty much like you, depends on the man," said Heyes. But he knew Kelly was right. He wouldn't have done what he had asked Kelly to do for him. Add hypocrisy to his list of many sins.
"One more thing." The small, unassuming‑looking man looked at Heyes from behind his big expensive desk. "What's it like to go straight? Sometimes I just imagine a day when my business decisions won't involve the life and death of my men. Sometimes I think I really want that."
"Well, it's hard. And it's scary, especially if outlawin' is what you do best, and you're real good at it, like you and me. Took a long time before me and the Kid figured out what to do with ourselves. We were on the run for a long while, provin' we deserved the amnesty by stayin' out of trouble, and trouble made a point of comin' looking for us. But," he said, his dark eyes gleaming, "I wouldn't trade it for the world, and neither would the Kid. Wakin' up every morning without wondering if this is the day some bounty hunter catches up with you, or some sheriff from your past recognizes you and locks you up for the next twenty years. Bein' able to allow yourself to fall in love without worryin' about bein' unfair to the woman. Headin' off into the wilds 'cause you want to, not 'cause you have to. It's all good stuff."
"So you'd recommend it?"
"Absolutely." The grin again. "Most days. Some days, you see a safe that's just beggin' to be opened, or a bank that just says, 'Heyes . . . Kid . . . come and rob me.' Some days someone tries to pull a scam on you, and you just want to shake 'em up and teach 'em how to do it right. Some nights you have a fight with your wife, and you just want to go tear up the town, instead of makin' things right again. But you get over it. Just about every day, no matter what, me and the Kid remind each other how lucky we were to get a second chance."
Kelly looked serious. "I'll have to think about it." He rose and shook Heyes' hand. "You'll be met at the four o'clock train tomorrow. You've anticipated our meeting, but some things can't be changed."
"Johnny and Kate and Biff?"
"And Rob Harris, the journalist. I understood he took a particular interest in you, and my friends at the Sun wouldn't mind having a chance at this one."
"You know everything goes on in this town? You run everything in this town?"
"If I don't, you'll never get me to admit it. Although I suppose Monk Eastman would respectfully disagree." Kelly pressed a button on his desk, and in a moment, Silver Hair had reappeared, to escort Heyes back to his hotel.
When he awoke the next morning, Heyes wired the good news to Ella. He spent the morning with William Crawford, working out details and reacting in a suitably surprised manner when the police arrived with David Morrissey's confession. After a long, celebratory luncheon with Crawford and a visit to a bookstore for something to read on the return trip, Heyes returned to Grand Central station. He found his party awaiting him on the platform, Harris with notebook and pencil in hand, ready to spring into action.
"We brung ya a coupla souvenirs of New Yawk," said Biff Mulligan, cheerfully.
"Oh?" asked Heyes.
"Yeah," said Johnny Tuesday's girl, Kate, snapping her chewing gum. She was an attractive but over‑dressed young woman with rouge and dyed‑red hair. She was several inches taller than Johnny, and looked to outweigh him as well. "Us. Now let's go save your friend."
Chapter Five. Hearts at Rest
The train was three-quarters of an hour late. Of course it was. We practically filled the platform, Brubaker, Sandy, her father, Kyle, the Reverend Spencer and me. The Kid was there, handcuffed and guarded by two deputies, who kept him towards the back of the platform.
When it finally arrived, Heyes exited the train, accompanied by a small crowd of his own. I pushed my way through them, and he embraced me quickly. He looked exhausted -- he was pale and the fine lines around his deep brown eyes were more noticeable than usual. Then, with his arm still around my shoulders, he hurried me over to where the Kid waited. "We did it, Kid! I got the confession with me, Miss Katie here's a witness," he pointed at a tall redhead, "and you'll be free."
Kid Curry let out a whoop of joy. His guards quickly hustled him away, but he looked over his shoulder as he went. "I'll see you in court, Heyes!" His blue eyes shone.
We reconvened at the Spencers', where Elizabeth had set out food for the travelers.
"So dis is a preacher's house, huh?" asked the New Yorker who'd been introduced to me as Johnny Tuesday. "And he gets a pretty wife like dat. Dunno why all the priests don't switch, dat case."
"Shhh," said Kate. "They get to go to heaven 'cause they don't know no better. Priests know."
One of Heyes' companions, a man who looked a good deal more "respectable" than Johnny, Kate and Biff, turned out to be a reporter. "So, you've been defending Kid Curry?" he asked me, hopefully. "My readers are dying to hear about this."
I smiled, tightly. "I've been working with Mister Brubaker, here," I said. Brubaker had come to my side as Robert Harris spoke. "But, because of my relationship with the client, he's been doing all the actual courtroom work."
The reporter's face fell. "Well, I got a good interview with Hannibal Heyes on the train. But I was counting on a story about his wife defending Kid Curry in court."
Brubaker smiled, magnanimously. "I think Mrs. Heyes can question the final witness and make the summation."
"This is great!" said Harris, and ran off to find a telegraph office.
The trial resumed the next day. We put Katie on the stand first, to lay the groundwork for introducing the confession of the late David Morrissey, aka Davy the Snake. She made an odd figure in court, in her cheap finery and with her distinctive, nasal voice, but she proved to be an excellent witness, answering exactly the questions I put to her and volunteering neither more nor less information. I got the feeling this wasn't the first time she'd testified for the defense.
The confession was introduced, and accepted into evidence. I turned and faced the room. Chester Brubaker grinned at me, and I was surprised that his face was flexible enough. Next to him sat the Kid, and behind them were Heyes, his dark eyes shining; Sandy, clutching her father's arm; and Albert Raintree, looking like a foreign dignitary with his short hair and dark suit. Behind them sat our friends and the New Yorkers, Rob Harris scribbling madly on his pad. I overheard Johnny Tuesday asking someone if Sandy's father was from Spain, and saw his eyes widening in surprise at the response.
First, the prosecutor would make his summation, and then I would make mine. But when counsel for the prosecution rose, he made an unexpected statement. "The people of the territory of New Mexico withdraw their case against Jedediah Curry for the murder of Michael McManus. We would like to tender our sincere apologies for the inconvenience he was caused."
In the ensuing chaos, I saw the Kid reach back and clap Heyes on the back, saying something, and then he lifted Sandy over the railing and held her like there was no tomorrow. Brubaker unexpectedly kissed me on the cheek, and then apologized, and then Heyes made his way to me, and kissed me full on the mouth, and didn't apologize.
Rob Harris was the only one who looked disappointed. "I was looking forward to your summation," he said, sadly.
Heyes grinned. "We'll make it up to you. Ella, he can write the book, can't he?"
"The book?" I asked.
"The first book about the notorious outlaws Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes written from interviews with Heyes and Curry themselves. I told him you were gonna write it, but, seeing as he came all this way--"
"Take it and welcome," I said. "After I finish the Europe book, I think I'm getting out of the book business anyway. Heyes, I completely forgot to tell you with everything that's been going on, but I got a letter from Jeremy last week. He's finally convinced his wife that there's more opportunity in Denver, and better schools for their children. He says practicing law in Blue Sky just hasn't been the same without Rick and me. So we're going to restart the law firm of Chadwick and Heyes.
My husband grinned. "Heyes and Chadwick, don't you mean?"
"Now, dearest, we've talked about how your surname is not entirely an asset in my profession."
"Our surname," he corrected. "Honey, that's great. I got my partner back, now you're gettin' your partner back. I got my wife back, now the Kid . . . " he raised his voice. "Everybody's invited to a weddin' at Reverend Spencer's church at four this afternoon."
"That's right," shouted the Kid, jumping up on what was our counsel table and was now a mess of scattered papers, and pulling Sandy up after him. "I aim to marry Sandy without any further delay."
To say that pandemonium broke loose a second time would be an understatement. The judge issued the license before the courtroom had even cleared out.
There were no real preparations, this time, not like with Sandy's first marriage. And yet, the first time, all the white satin and party favors and flowers hadn't been enough to allay the worries of those closest to Sandy that she might be making a mistake. This time there was nothing but the joy of knowing that two people who belonged together were being united forever. We ransacked my trunk of Paris dresses for something suitable for Sandy to be married in, which wasn't as easy as it might sound since she was shorter and curvier than I, with rich brunette coloring which didn't suit many of the clothes that had been chosen for a blonde. Anyway, half the dresses were grey or violet, half-mourning and unsuitable for a bride. Ultimately, we found one which was perfect, and since she and Elizabeth Spencer were both skilled with the needle they managed to make adequate alterations in the time they had.
We were at the church door just before noon. Sandy looked beautiful in the deep rose‑colored dress, a lace scarf filling in as a veil. Her father escorted her up the aisle, to where Jed Curry was waiting with the minister at the front of the church, Heyes by his side, and I waiting for Sandy on the other. I wore a pale violet dress, leaving off full mourning for the first time. Jed looked happier than I'd ever seen him, handsome in the same grey suit he'd worn in court. Heyes wore the gift I'd brought him from London, a dark Saville Row suit that was infinitely better than that hideous brown thing he favored. The new suit fit him perfectly and made him look distinguished. I could tell he hated it.
An older maiden lady, the sister of a rancher, played the piano and fussed about flowers. I supposed every church, even in the wildest West, had one of those. Elizabeth Spencer, Chester Brubaker, Kyle and the New Yorkers took up the front rows, and the church was packed with reporters and townspeople who, five hours ago, had been ready to send the Kid to the gallows. Whether they were there out of curiosity, or as a gesture of reconciliation and celebration at the Kid's acquittal, I wouldn't begin to guess. The reporters were still there, as well, and I was certain that the touching stories of how REFORMED OUTLAW TAKES A BRIDE which would soon appear would be as full of flattering references to the couple's beauty and moral character as the earliest articles about the trial had been full of condemnation of the same. Rob Harris had by far the best view, and was the only one to get a quote from both bride and groom.
Reverend Spencer was began the words of the wedding ceremony. Jed and Sandy had asked to be married according to the rites of his denomination. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is an honorable estate . . . "
They repeated the vows as he instructed, Curry stumbling slightly over the words as he put the ring on her finger. "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my wordly goods I thee endow." It wasn't the ring or the worldly goods that made him stumble, of that I was certain.
The ceremony continued. Finally, Reverend Spencer said, "Forasmuch as Jedediah Curry and Alexandra Nicholls have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a Ring, and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are Man and Wife, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Afterwards, Albert Raintree took Jed and Sandy aside, and said a Native blessing over them, and so they were united according to the ways of her father's people as well as her mother's.
The others went on to the hotel, for the celebration, and I stayed behind to talk to Reverend Spencer. "I wanted to talk to you, about the Kid," I said. "I know he appreciates what you did for him, and it was a lovely wedding. But . . . well, I heard that Jed helped you regain your faith. I mean, he's a good man, but today's probably the longest he's spent inside a church in years."
"He's a kind of a natural Christian," Spencer explained. And he explained to me how he'd lost his faith, so that when Heyes and Curry had met him, he was nothing more than a town drunk with a fancy Eastern education. He told me how Kid Curry's actions, even when he'd failed Spencer's expectations, had helped him see the truth about himself and about the need for faith.
I hesitated. Then I blurted it out, about how the Reverend Bliss had condemned me from his pulpit as a scarlet woman, when the town had found out about Heyes and me, how we'd been lovers. And how I'd never been back inside a church since, not even when my daughter died. Especially not when my daughter died. Not until I went to Europe and went into the cathedrals to look at the paintings and architecture. And how those cathedrals had got me thinking. Well, I know the reader would rather get along to the celebration, so I'll just say that we talked for awhile, and I began to make my peace, and eventually churches and I weren't such strangers, anymore.
When Reverend Spencer and I reached the hotel, the celebration was in full swing.
"Here's to Sandy and the Kid!" Heyes lifted his glass of champagne, his dark eyes sparkling with joy, and the rest of the group followed. The waiters were in the midst of serving the most lavish steak‑and‑oysters supper that Taos, New Mexico had ever provided. How they got oysters to Taos, nobody was certain. But oysters there were. In those days it just wasn't a celebration if there weren't oysters.
Sandy and the Kid sat at the head of the table, hardly taking their eyes off of each other, even when they were speaking with others. I noticed that neither of them ate very much at all, not even the Kid, with his legendary appetite.
I slipped into the seat Heyes had saved me, at the other end of the table. Heyes was at his most boisterous, and grew more so each time his champagne glass was replenished and emptied again. On his other side was Kyle, scruffy‑looking even though he was well‑scrubbed and dressed in his best. Beyond him Spencer had taken the seat next to his wife. Chester Brubaker was on my other side, and we spent most of our time recounting our legal strategies, and the courtroom triumph that had frankly had much more to do with Heyes than with either of us, at what was probably tedious length. Albert Raintree sat next to Sandy, and the New Yorkers were ranged in between. Johnny Tuesday and Katie held hands, announcing that they were going to get married as soon as they got back East. They also kept pestering Raintree for details of his life "as an Indian," questions he answered with remarkable patience. Or perhaps not so remarkable, considering their role in saving the life of his new son-in-law. Rob Harris arranged to travel back to Denver with us so he could interview Kid Curry for his book, but promised not to even think of disturbing him until we caught our train in a few days.
But Biff Mulligan had the most surprising news of all. "Don't tink I'm goin' back. Sounds like Heyes and Curry can use me."
Which forced the announcement. Heyes still had mischief in his eyes as he began. "You all know that me and the Kid have had a tough time figurin' out what to do with ourselves, ever since we've been honest. We tried casino managing, silver mining, all kinds of stuff. Anyway, we figured on falling back on what we do best, and we figured that was safes for me, and guns for the Kid. So we're gonna start a security consulting firm."
"You mean detectives, like the Bannermans?" Kyle looked horrified.
"Mostly like we did back in Porterville. Checking out whether safes are really safe, guarding things that need . . . guarding. Stuff like that."
Kyle did not look mollified.
"Kyle, I expect there'll be some detective work, but we won't go after anyone we like. Maybe scare 'em off, but not arrest 'em. Anyway, we were countin' on you to come to work for us."
And now the blond grinned, showing his crooked teeth. "Sounds okay to me, I guess."
Kid Curry turned away from Sandy for just a moment. "We even got a motto. An old saying. 'It takes a thief to catch a thief.' Nice, huh?"
"There's another old saying," I said. "'Once a thief, always a thief.'" But they ignored me and toasted the new venture.
The meal was lavish, and spirits were high, but the group was somewhat subdued. We'd just all been through so much over the last couple of weeks. Heyes kept saying to Kyle. "Remember how we used to celebrate in the old days with the Devil's Hole Gang?"
"Well, yeah, Heyes, but . . . in th' old days, we didn't have a bunch of respectable women and a preacher along fer the ride. Well, 'ceptin' Preacher, and he c'd pretty much drink the rest of us under the table anyways. And we did have plenty of saloon gals with us, which helped things along a considerable lot."
Heyes shrugged, and then winked at Kyle, dimpling. "No reason a respectable married woman can't have a good time with her own husband." At that he jumped up, and swept me with him, dancing me around the table. But while I laughed, and even got into the spirit of things, he had to confess that it wasn't quite like celebrating with a saloon girl, who would most likely have jumped on the table and hiked up her skirts to do a cancan. Instead, I slipped back into my seat, flushed and laughing.
Kyle whispered to Heyes, "You see, it's just not the same, ain't it?"
"No," I overheard Heyes say. "Actually, Kyle, it's a whole lot better. Except for the dancing on tables part. I do miss that."
I studiously ignored him and continued my conversation with Brubaker.
Pretty shortly thereafter, the Kid and Sandy quietly rose, and announced that they were tired, and were going to be retiring.
"But you've hardly eaten anything," Heyes protested. "And they haven't even brought out the desserts."
The Kid looked at Heyes, his blue eyes sparkling, and then back at his wife. "Seems neither Sandy nor me is feeling particularly hungry, this evening." And with that, he ushered his bride out of the room. Kyle gave a short wolf‑whistle in their wake, but seeing that nobody else picked up on it, he desisted.
The Reverend and Mrs. Spencer excused themselves shortly thereafter. Now that I knew his whole story, I understood that he didn't want to put himself in the way of temptation longer than was necessary. It's a wise man who knows his own limitations. Albert Raintree, who had seen the depredations fermented spirits had wrought on his people, abstained as well, and left soon after. Having seen his daughter safely married, he was anxious to depart for Montana to spend some time with the tribe, before joining us in Colorado for another extended visit. I wondered how they would react to his haircut. Rob Harris had notes to write up, and Johnny and Katie left with him.
"Well," said Heyes, as the waiter filled his champagne glass yet again, "seems like it's just the five of us. Brubaker, Ella, stop gabbling on about law‑stuff and help us celebrate!"
But Chester Brubaker yawned ostentatiously. "I've got an early train to catch in the morning. I'm just going to step out for a smoke, and then I'm calling it a night."
Heyes corrected himself. "Just the four of us, then," he said, slipping his arm around me.
I gently disengaged him. "I feel as though the last good night's sleep I got was back in Venice, before all this started. I'm afraid I'm going to fall asleep right here at the table." I leaned over to kiss him, and said, "You go have a good time." And with that, I rose to leave the dining room.
As I was walking away, I heard Heyes cajoling Kyle and Biff. "Come on, Kyle. Let's drink, sing, dance on tables. Let's get into fights and lose our money and tear the place up, like in the good old days. Biff, you gotta see how a Western man has a good time. Beats your Hudson Dusters parties six ways to Sunday."
"Sounds good to me, Heyes," said Kyle, enthusiastically.
"Let's go," said Biff.
And then I was out of the dining room, and heading back for the staircase, a little dizzy from the champagne. I had to pass the room that Sandy and the Kid were sharing, for the first time, and I didn't allow myself to pause, but I confess I was more than a little curious. Yes, Sandy had been married before, and the Kid had sewn an abundant crop of wild oats, but they'd loved each other for years and this was their first night together.
Well, it was none of my business. And I'm sure it was romantic and magical and everything they both wanted it to be.
As for me, when I returned to my room, I found I wasn't so tired after all. It was Heyes' expectations of how a person was supposed to celebrate which had tired me out. Too much energy, considering the thing you were celebrating usually took so much effort, itself. As for me, it had been a long day, and a long month, and a long, long year. I took off my necklace and earrings, and set them on the dressing table. Then I reached up and let my hair down, feeling a sense of relief as I shook it out. One of Anthony Trollope's parliamentary novels awaited me on the nightstand, and I was soon engrossed in the problems of the earnest Plantagenet Palliser, and his lively wife, Glencora. Plantagenet. So there, Heyes. Why worry about being called Hannibal when it could be so very much worse? It seems that the Duke of Omnium was expected and . . .
The door opened, and in walked Heyes, just the tiniest bit unsteadily. His hair had fallen forward in the way I loved, and the new suit was rumpled but not irretrievably ruined. "Guess you're still awake," he said.
"Well, I'm working on reading in my sleep. Think of what a time‑saver it would be." I gave him a look. "I didn't expect to see you back tonight. I figured I'd just wake up in the morning, and there you'd be, looking like something the cat dragged in."
"It's like this. Kyle and Biff were down there, and you were up here. And I thought about where I'd rather be ‑‑ up here with you, unbuttoning buttons and unlacing underthings, or out getting drunk . . . well, drunker, with them. It don't take a genius to figure out which I'd rather be doing. So," he produced a bottle and two glasses from behind his back, "I figured I'd bring the party up here."
He opened the bottle, poured into two glasses, and handed me one.
I took a sip, reflexively, and grimaced. "It couldn't have been champagne? I hate whiskey."
He gave one of those lopsided grins, the ones that showed his dimple so well. "Ella, I kinda forgot that. It was pretty funny, that first night you drank it, on Rick's birthday back in Blue Sky."
"That was the only night I drank it, until tonight." I took another small sip of the whiskey, and shuddered harder as I set it down. "Well, that's the drinking part. The dancing ‑‑ we did that earlier, even if we stayed off the table. And as for the singing, your singing is grounds for divorce. What were the other bits you and Kyle were planning to get up to?"
Luckily, he ignored the comment about his singing. "Well, there's getting into fights, but we can skip that one. Hmm, losing money? I think we spent enough on dinner and champagne to equal a pretty bad night of losing at poker. And . . . oh, yeah, tearing the place up. Well, but we've gotta sleep here, so forget that, too. I left out the picking up saloon girls part, because I'd just as soon not, unless you want to."
"We can do just fine without."
"Then there's only one thing left to do." And he kissed me, one of those deep, slow kisses.
A moment later, though, he stopped. "Sorry, honey. I was just thinkin' . . . This really is the Kid's weddin' night."
"That would follow from the fact that we were at their wedding, this afternoon."
Heyes shook his head. "No, I mean . . . I've known him practically our whole lives. The Kid ain't exactly a kid anymore, either. But he's gone and done it. It's kinda funny. You and me got ourselves into getting married in a sideways sort of way, but them, they've been wanting each other for so long. He loved her from the first time he met her."
"Really? I remember worrying about that, and he told me not to."
"She had a sweetheart already, and even if she hadn't, he knew that she was a romantic young girl. Not a grown woman, like you, who could take care of herself. It wouldn't have been right, not while we were still on the run."
I was busy calculating the number of years. "That's an awfully long time."
"Two people wanting each other all that time . . . well, I guess Sandy was in love with someone else, part of the time."
"She thought she was. But I can remember how she lit up whenever she and Jed were together, or when he came up in conversation, even then."
"And the Kid was . . . you know, a perfect gentleman to her, all these years."
"I seem to recall I had some encouragement." He gave a wicked grin.
"Wonder if they'll have children."
"I would think so. Sandy's young and healthy."
"But she and her first husband ‑‑"
"Weren't really married all that long before things started to go wrong between them. Sandy and Jed are going to have lots of babies. They just will." I turned away. "On our wedding night I was already . . . expecting. Do you ever think about that?"
"Think about what?"
"Well, how Rachel came along so unexpectedly. And how come it hasn't happened again."
"Honey, it sure ain't been for lack of opportunity." He grinned. "Anyway, Rachel kept us from makin' a big mistake. We were both pretty much ready to bolt. I didn't want to settle down, and as I recall, you were happy on your own and didn't want to be settled down with. Maybe that's why she came along."
"I miss her every day. It doesn't go away."
"Don't think it ever will." For a moment his dark eyes were sad, and I remembered how much Rachel's eyes were like her father's. But then he smiled again, and pulled me close, and our celebration began.
This is the conclusion of a series which ran in JYMATG 12 through 15 and Devil's Hole 2. Thanks to Deborah and Annie, who have been the godmothers to its existence, and to everyone who's critiqued, edited, praised and complained. The New York chapter owes much to Herbert Asbury's The Gangs of New York (1928) and Luc Sante's Low Life (1991). Paul Kelly, in fact, did reform, and became "a real estate broker and business agent for labor unions." The part of Chester Brubaker was played by Adam West, the snarkable Brubaker. Oh, and when Brubaker excused himself? Actually, he waited outside for Kyle and Biff and they went to a house of ill repute and had a fine old time. They'd laid bets in advance on how long it would take Heyes to realize where he really wanted to be. For a genius, sometimes he's just a little slow on the uptake.