The Not-So-Great Train Robbery

By Laura Virgil

"Heyes, are you sure that train's comin' through this time?" Kid Curry asked impatiently. Four days in a row they'd waited here at this gap and four days in a row nothing more than a few jackrabbits and rattlesnakes had hopped or slithered by.

"Yeah, Kid. I checked it out." Hannibal Heyes pulled out his pocket watch and looked at it. "'Cordin' to my calculations. It should be comin' through here about 4:21, if the engineer's runnin' true to schedule."

Curry pulled off his hat and wiped at his forehead with an old bandana, "Yeah, well, that's what you said yesterday."

Heyes looked at his partner, "You know, Kid, I get the distinct impression you're losin' your trust in me."

"I ain't. I'm just tired of sittin' on top of these rocks or in my saddle bakin' away to nothin'."

Heyes grinned, "Kid, you got aways to go before you bake away to nothin'."

Curry sat and stared at the tracks, as if willing the train they were planning to rob to steam towards them. Suddenly, he jerked and looked around sheepishly at Heyes who was grinning at him. "I can't help it if I drop off... I'm bored, I'm tired and I'm hungry."

Heyes shook his head, "Always complaining' ... wait!" Heyes perked up and brought his opera glasses up to his eyes, peering down at the west end of the valley.

Curry strained to look but sat back, disgusted. "I don't hear nothin'."

"That's cause you ain't listenin'."

"Heyes ..."

"Quiet! ... here it comes!" Heyes almost shouted, a gleeful expression on his face and pointed at the puffs of grey, brown and black smoke that appeared in the sky as the sound of the engine could be heard in the distance.

Both outlaws scrambled from their positions in the rocks to the horses that were tied nearby. Once mounted, they waited impatiently for the train to make its way further down the track.

The fireman in the cab was dozing, dreaming of the upcoming weekend of fishing he was planning when the engineer hit the brakes too hard and too fast.

"What the devil's goin' on?!" he shouted at the engineer who, once the train was stopped, raised his hands in the air above his hands. The fireman's line of vision followed the engineer's and his eyes widened when he saw the silver barrel of a Colt .45 pointed at them.

The smile on the face of the gun's owner, Kid Curry, seemed genuine. "Afternoon, gentlemen. Thanks for stoppin' so nice and quick for us. Now, if you'll just cooperate, and don't try nothin' funny, we'll have you on your way before you even know what happened. You two gents ain't gonna try nothin' funny, are you?"

Both shook their heads slowly, eyes dilating in fear. Both knew that the only gang that rode this part of the territory was the Devil's Hole Gang, and this man was undoubtedly one of them.

Back at the express car, Hannibal Heyes had already managed to get the heavy wooden side door open. He swung himself up and into the car. Looking around, he smiled when his eyes came to rest on the object of his desires --the safe. It wasn't a particularly strong one and it certainly wasn't a Pierce & Hamilton. A man named Johnson, who by all intents and purposes appeared to be the express agent, stood shivering and staring wide-eyed at the notorious outlaw.

"Howdy," Heyes said amiably, his hand resting on the butt of his holstered gun. He motioned to the safe, "You gonna open that for me, or am I gonna have to use dynamite?"

The use of that one word sparked more activity than Heyes had expected. Johnson all but leaped at the safe in his haste to open it, please the outlaw and, hopefully, save his own life. After all, notorious outlaws were known for madness, mayhem and slaughter, weren't they?

Heyes folded his arms and grinned smugly as the agent wordlessly worked the combination on the safe. Johnson fumbled twice and on the third time, the safe opened like a charm. The agent sat back on his heels, relief washing over him and he looked up at the outlaw.

"Thank you, now if you'd kindly step out of the way." Heyes then stepped forward and retrieved the strongbox, tipped his hat to the agent and then jumped from the door to the ground below. Cupping a hand at his mouth, he yelled over the engine noise at Curry, "Let's get out of here!"

Curry nodded, thanked the engineer and fireman properly, tipped his hat and headed for his horse, never once holstering his gun or forgetting the possibility that the men just might try something foolishly heroic.

"Well, that was sure a lot easier than I thought," Curry said, excited and out of breath.

"What'd I tell you, huh, Kid? I keep telling you, stick with me -- I'm a genius!" Heyes laughed as they mounted their horses and rode quickly away.

In the express car, the agent wiped his brow nervously as he watched the figures disappearing in the distance. He had no doubt at all he'd just encountered Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Then a smile crossed his face: wouldn't this be something to tell his grandkids?

"What is going on out here?" A new voice, groggy and sleep-filled, surprised the agent.

Johnson smiled proudly and said, "We just got robbed by the Devil's Hole Gang!"

"Robbed! Why didn't you call someone?"

“Well, I ..." the agent gulped nervously. He didn't know what to say. Even if he'd tried to yell during the robbery he didn't think he could have. His vocal cords had probably been completely constricted.

"Don't yell at Johnson," yet another voice said, "It's not his fault. He's not clairvoyant, you know."

"But they opened the safe and they got the strongbox!"

Artemus Gordon looked at the now-empty safe and laughed. The other man, James West, looked at him as if he'd lost his senses. "Artie, I don't know what you see in this that's so humorous, but we got robbed. They took our money. We're going to have to saddle up and go after them, you know."

"No, we won't, James m'boy," Artemus was still laughing.

James West saw less and less humor in the fact that their last three months' pay had been in the safe's strongbox. "Artie, a blind man could see it. Our money was in the strongbox. The strongbox was in the safe. The strongbox is no longer in the safe. According to Johnson here, robbed by the Devil's Hole Gang. That means Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were here, among others. Artie ... we are broke. We have to go after them."

"James, I can see you don't appreciate the situation."

"Artie, I don't understand the situation!"

"All right, let me explain. Late last night when I couldn't sleep, I came back here and started working on one of my little inventions."

"You are so talented in that area." West folded his arms.

"Thank you. At any rate, while mixing some chemicals, I inadvertently created a chemical combination with an uncertain end effect. Of course, I had no intention of keeping it, and I didn't want to just toss it alongside the track; there's no telling who would find it. I was going to dispose of it properly the first time we reached a place with the proper accommodations ..."

"Artie, get to the point," West snapped.

"Last night, when I realized my mistake, I took the money out of the strongbox and put in the chemical derivative. The money, James, is in my bedroom, safe and sound."

A slow smile spread across James West's face. "Artie, I apologize. You are a genius. But, right now we should get saddled up and go after those two."

Artemus caught his arm and shook his head at West. "No, Jim. I don't think it's necessary."

"Artie, even if those chemicals are all they got away with, it's still robbery."

"True, but they'll have punishment enough when they open the strongbox, and I don't think you'll particularly want to be around when they do."

West looked at him in total confusion and Artemus smiled, "I put that specific chemical combination in that particular strongbox because, if you'll remember, I designed it to be watertight and, more importantly in this case, airtight. The most obvious property of last night's chemical experimentation, Jim, was a smell that would knock the hair off a skunk at forty paces."

The smile returned to West's face. "And when they open it ..."

"Surprise!"

"Artemus, you may have just invented the best deterrent to train robbery ever." West bowed to Artie in mock tribute. "I salute you, and I'll even buy you a drink. Come on."

Laughing at the new peril the two outlaws would shortly be facing, the two government agents exited to the private parlor car of their train for a much-deserved Napoleon brandy.

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