In the middle distance, two riders trot along a dusty road. The fella in the floppy brown hat holds a leading rein to which is attached a high-stepping chestnut thoroughbred. The fella in the silver-trimmed hat is smilingly pointing out their first view of the sea. They pass a sign announcing ‘Santa Marta – 3m’.
“Heyes, whaddya call that feelin’ – when some’n has happened before?”
“Y’mean, déjà vu?”
“I’m gettin’ it,” grunted the Kid.
The boys dismount outside the hotel. A familiar broad-shouldered, curly-haired man spots them, reacts, politely detaches himself from the group of plump, prosperous Americans to whom he was speaking and strides over.
Heyes and Curry – a touch guardedly – tip their hats to this old acquaintance. Are they welcome? It seems so. Señor Cordoba, the Alcalde, is curious, sure, but shakes their hands warmly.
“Señor Smith! Señor Jones! Welcome back to Santa Marta.” He gestures at the thoroughbred whose velvety nose Kid Curry is now stroking. “Is this – er – Hyperia?”
“Nope. This is her younger sister, Hippolyta.”
“Mrs. Hanley hired Thaddeus as Hippolyta’s bodyguard,” says Heyes. “This little lady’s on her way to that Machem stallion out at Rancho Verde. We needed to break the journey, rest the horses, and…”
“…And you decided Santa Marta was still one of the loveliest resort towns in all of Mexico?” The Alcalde frowns. “You say Mrs. Hanley hired Mister Jones as the filly’s bodyguard…?” He stresses the singular.
“Uh huh. I hired myself as Thaddeus’ bodyguard to keep him from making a nuisance of himself.”
A glare from Curry.
The Alcalde appreciates the humor of that.
“I hope tonight you will consent to be my guests at dinner, here at the hotel? Eight ‘o’clock?”
A mute conversation. After all, this man IS the local law.
“Please.” Persuasively, “To show you bear no grudge over the events of last year.”
“Grudges are for folks with bad stomachs,” accepts Kid Curry.
THE CANTINA OF THE HOTEL
Our boys are at one of the small tables, sharing a bottle of red wine. The clock on the wall shows eight fifteen; clearly the Alcalde is running late.
Three sombrero-wearing musicians circle the room. So does an extremely pretty waitress who, every so often, flashes a flirtatious glance at the blonder of the handsome pair of Americans from under lush, fluttering lashes.
Has the Kid noticed? Do cows eat grass?
At the next table sit the prosperous-looking Americans to whom the Alcalde was speaking earlier. Heyes is eavesdropping. Nah, that is a tad unfair. Since the Americans are not keeping their voices down, Heyes can hardly help overhearing whether he eavesdrops or not.
“…Y’know, Hank, our poker sessions after these fishing trips of ours are the only chance I get for a real, serious game.”
“Same here, Chuck. What with my Emily being so set against gambling.”
A brown-eyed glance runs over four plump figures; Hank has a nervous tic at the corner of one eye, Chuck has a jigging knee, What’s-his-name has got him a collar-fingering habit and The-other-fella is sweating fit to bust Cain when all he’s got in his hand is a tortilla. Heyesian dimples crease the Heyesian cheeks.
“Some young fella in my office was trying to tell me the odds of drawing to an inside straight the other day. I said to him, I didn’t get where I am today using some dang formula…”
“There ain’t no formula for cards!”
“I got where I am today going with my gut!”
“Guess it’s big enough, Hank!”
“…What I say is, we all worked dang hard to get rich. Huh? If’n we can afford to risk a few thousand dollars when we take a well-earned fishing break by the sea, where’s the harm? Huh?”
“Kid,” Heyes murmurs, “pinch me, I think I’m dreaming.”
“Huh?” Curry is fully engaged flashing blue-eyed pheromones Senorita-wards.
The arrival of the Alcalde out in the reception area diverts Curry from lustful and Heyes from avaricious thoughts. He is with the uniformed Chief of Police and two officers, deep in animated conversation. The boys exchange a wary glance. Problem? Saluting, the Chief of Police leaves with his officers. Two ex-outlaws relax. Señor Cordoba comes over.
“Apologies for my lateness, gentlemen. And, further apologies that official business means I cannot stay…”
At the back of the table, a vision of nubile Hispanic loveliness has sashayed up and is retrieving Kid Curry’s dropped table napkin. The Alcalde no longer has Curry’s full attention.
“…Left Santa Marta, believed to be heading…”
When a feminine hand lifts a candle to light the Kid’s cigar (literally, not metaphorically! Sometimes a cigar IS just a cigar!), the Alcalde no longer has ANY of Curry’s attention.
“…Reputation of a resort town…”
Full on Kid Curry charm is twinkling through cigar smoke.
“…Cannot afford to have American visitors cheated or blackmailed…”
Meanwhile, Heyes is making concerned sounds.
“D’you hear that, Thaddeus?”
“Señor Cordoba can’t join us after all, something’s come up.”
“That’s too bad.” Curry means it. Despite everything, he kinda likes the Alcalde.
“I have, of course, instructed the hotel manager that you dine tonight as my guests…”
Deprecating sound from Heyes. Not so deprecating as ‘no’ – a free dinner is a free dinner – but, you get the picture.
Señor Cordoba steps over to the table of Americans who have already nodded to him in greeting.
“And, you gentlemen, I’m afraid I will not be able to join your game tomorrow.”
General – good-hearted – disappointment.
“Aw, that’s too bad.”
“Sheesh, we wanted to get our revenge for last time!”
“Alas. In the words of the comic opera – A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.” Gosh. Rolf Hanley was right. The Alcalde IS charming.
“Not the same without a fifth hand!”
“Bit late to find another player now.”
Heyes’ ears prick up.
The Americans’ eyes turn to the two ex-outlaws.
Metaphorically, Heyes’ tongue is hanging so far out he could use it to lick his own boots clean.
“Perhaps, Señor Cordoba, you could introduce us to your friends?”
“Do either of you gentlemen play poker?”
“Poker?” Heyes radiates innocence. “Is that the game where hearts are trumps?”
A welcoming arm goes round his shoulders.
“You’ll soon pick it up, son.”
“We’ll coach ya!”
The scene is reminiscent of the game once played at Big Mac’s place. Heyes at the table with a group of rich men, Kid Curry sitting out in an alcove. Except, instead of a catalog, the Kid has a pretty senorita and a glass of wine to keep him company.
“Sheesh, you got a pair of them picture ones?” blinks Heyes. “All I got are these three – er – ones with just the single spot.”
“Aces! That’s the word!”
Money is pushed towards him.
“Me again! Talk about beginner’s luck.”
THE NEXT MORNING
Curry is grooming, then saddling, the horses. Heyes leans on a rail letting him.
“It was perfect, Kid. I kept it so I wasn’t winning so much they got riled and,” wide dimpled grin, “they all seem to think…”
Each time Curry fetches anything – brush, reins, saddle – he has to turn side on to edge past a partner who never shifts. Unseen by the silver-tongued one, he silently mouths along, “…The laws of probability don’t apply south of the border.” Heyes has told him all this before; it is getting kinda annoying.
“They invited me along tonight, too, Kid. And Friday. And Saturday.” Pause. “‘Course, we hafta get Hippolyta along to Rancho Verde.” Pause. “Seems a pity.”
“Heyes, I already told ya, if you wanna stay, stay. It don’t take two men to baby-sit one filly another hundred miles south.”
“It’s not the filly I’m babysitting, Kid.”
Challenging stare. Heyes ignores it.
“Look at your track record on your own in Mexico. Both times you end up in jail. Last time you got yourself…”
“…Accused of murderin’ the fella I was ridin’ with. I know, Heyes, I was there. But, if’n I go on by myself, that can’t happen – can it?”
“Can’t argue with that,” admits Heyes.
“…AND, if I hafta listen to you yakkin’ ’bout every card played for a hundred miles straight, next time they accuse me of shootin’ the fella I’m ridin’ with, I might just be guilty!”
“Heyes, stay. I’ll be fine.”
“Time before last, all you had to do was deliver a letter. That was the old story, feminine temptation leading you astray.”
Tetchily, Curry tightens a cinch. “You done?”
Bland smile from Heyes. “Just telling it the way it is, partner.” Pause. “Now, if I could be sure you’d avoid…”
“Heyes, if I give you a solemn promise to steer clear of feminine temptation, will you stay for the dang poker game?”
“Dunno, Kid. Y’know that déjà vu feeling…?”
“HEYES! Stay for the DANG game!”
Hurt blink. “There’s no need to get proddy, Kid.” Pause. “Well, if that’s what you really want … Just to keep you happy…”
The Kid rolls his eyes.
Heyes reaches into his jacket, unfurls a roll of bills, hands about half over.
“I already got me the money Mrs. Hanley gave us for expenses, Heyes.”
“Nah, take it. I’m winning me more tonight.”
“You still kinda like me, huh?” grunts Curry, pocketing the cash.
ESTABLISHING SHOT OF A SIGN ON THE GATE OF AN IMPRESSIVE HACIENDA – RANCHO VERDE
A grandee, reminiscent of Señor Armendarez, pats Hippolyta’s flank then shakes Curry’s hand. Curry mounts up, tips his hat to the servant clad in immaculate white who holds his horse, then trots away leading the filly.
A glorious day in glorious coastal scenery. Curry, still leading Hippolyta, rides at an easy trot.
Later the same day. A sign announces ‘Santa Agatha: 2m’.
Curry is examining one of his horse’s hooves.
“Thrown a shoe, huh? Not to worry, Señor Domínguez told us Santa Agatha was the best place to rest up tonight anyhow. We’ll go find a blacksmith, get you fixed.” He glances at the sun. “Don’t think we’ll find him still working – and tomorrow’s Sunday. Still, what with Polly…” He turns to Hippolyta, “…You don’t mind if I call you Polly, ma’am?”
“Much obliged.” Back to his own horse, “…What with us hopin’ Polly is in what y’might call – an int’restin’ situation – an extra day takin’ it easy in the sea air’ll suit us three just fine, huh?”
Two whickers. A snort. A velvety muzzle nudges a floppy brown hat.
Curry grins. As he leads off two horses, “That’s settled then.”
ESTABLISHING SHOT – SANTA AGATHA
The town is a smaller, simpler version of Santa Marta. Very pretty, but nothing to suggest it attracts many American visitors.
Kid Curry, still leading two horses, registers the position of the modest hotel, then heads for the livery.
In the hotel reception, Curry glances around. Plain, but clean and comfortable. He sniffs the air. Whatever aroma is drifting from the cantina – it meets with his full approval. A smile lights the tanned face. For once, life is pretty good.
Inside the cantina, two American ladies are dining. They glance over through the whitewashed arch at the new arrival, then return their attention to their plates.
The smiling manager bustles up to the reception desk.
“Buenas tardes, Señor.”
“Buenas tardes,” manages Curry. Then, since he has almost exhausted his Spanish, “I’d like a room, please – er – por favor. Two nights.” He holds up two fingers.
Kid Curry repeats, “A room.”
Light dawns. “Yeah! Señor Jones. The Rancho Verde mighta tele…”
“Si! Si! El señor Domínguez envió un telegrama. Usted tendrá uno de nuestras mejores habitaciones! ¿Prefiere una vista del puerto o de los bosques? El puerto es muy bonito, pero la brisa del bosque es más fresca.”
Kid Curry blinks at the rapid delivery. Under his breath, he murmurs, “I guess last time I was this far south, Mrs. Hanley took care of all the talkin’.” He braces himself and adopts the traditional American method of overcoming such linguistic difficulties. He speaks s.l.o.w.e.r and LOUDER. “A room. Comprendo?”
The shoulders of the hotel manager droop.
A voice, rich, low and extremely well-modulated, speaks, “Excuse me, perhaps I may be of some assistance?”
It is the older of the two ladies from the cantina. She is tall, confident, strong-featured, dressed in black. Her age? Fifty? Maybe fifty-five? The manager greets her arrival with delight.
“Señor Garcia is asking if you prefer a sea view, Mister – er…”
Curry’s relief at a fellow American able to translate for him is palpable. “Jones, ma’am. Thaddeus Jones. And, sure…” He nods and smiles at Garcia. “A sea view would be real nice.”
She translates. A torrent of Spanish comes back in return.
“Señor Garcia says, any friend of Señor Domínguez’s old friend Rolf Hanley, is his most honored guest. Anything his humble hotel can do to make your stay more comfortable, you only have to ask.”
“Er – Gracias.” Curry makes again with the nodding and smiling. “How much? Cuánto? For the room?” He pulls out bills from his jacket, peels a couple off.
“Señor Domínguez?” The lady is talking half to herself, searching. Her brow furrows. “Domínguez of Rancho Verde?” Impressed, “You have important friends, Mister Jones.”
Curry, busy paying a happy Señor Garcia, is not paying full attention. “I guess so, ma’am.”
He returns the bills to his inside pocket. The lady’s eyes slide sideways; she sees that they join another – plumpish – bundle in the Kid’s jacket. A thoughtful expression crosses her face. Or, maybe not. It is gone so quickly, who can be sure?
Garcia breaks into another speech as he trots around to pick up the Kid’s bag.
“Señor Honez, si el grifo de su habitación no funciona, intentegolpearla. Contraté a un hombre para arreglarlo – pero, tchah! – no se puede conseguir mano de obra bien ahora! No como en los viejos tiempos! Este hombre, dice que trabaja para el propio Alcalde! Digo, no me extraña el Alcalde se ve tan enojado! Su plomería no funciona.”
Curry reacts to the word Alcalde. Don’t that mean – among other things – the law? He throws a questioning look at his translator, “What’s he say ’bout the local Alcalde, ma’am?”
She takes a breath, “He says, the Alcalde is his brother-in-law, so – if for any reason you need to call on him in his official capacity while you’re in Santa Agatha, for anything at all, just ask. Señor Garcia can fix it.”
Kid Curry blinks. Huh?
She smiles, “I think it’s just the way things are done around here, Mister Jones.”
Garcia beams at his new guest, beckons and trots upstairs.
“Ma’am, thank you. I guess, after Santa Marta – and Señor Domínguez bein’ so fluent – I’d forgotten this far south, a lotta folk don’t speak English.”
“Yes,” she nods, sympathetically, “…In these parts, many ordinary people speak hardly any language but their own. It’s quite disgraceful.”
“Well, ma’am, I wouldn’t quite say…” Curry realizes she is, very gently, pulling his leg. He grins, ruefully, and gives her a tiny acknowledging salute. He turns and makes to follow Garcia.
“Mister Jones, once you’ve freshened up – if you’d like to join my daughter and myself for dinner, we’d be happy to have your company.”
“That’s real nice of you, ma’am.”
He starts up the stairs.
“Oh, Mister Jones.”
He turns. “Yes, ma’am?”
“If your tap doesn’t work, bang it.”
She returns to the dining room.
THE HOTEL ROOM
Kid Curry is buttoning a fresh shirt. He straightens his hair in the mirror. “Time to join the ladies.” Still to the mirror, with a wide self-justifying smile. “Heyes! This is not feminine temptation – she’s old enough to be my mother! It’s just – sociable!”
The older lady smiles to Kid Curry, indicates he should take a seat.
“I don’t think I introduced myself, Mister Jones.” She holds out her hand, “Mrs. Mallowen, Caroline Mallowen. And, this is my daughter, Laura Lopez.”
Laura smiles, shyly, “How do you do, Mister Jones?”
She is pretty enough in a demure and old-fashioned way. Her dress is exceedingly modest. If the differing surname were not a clear enough clue, there is a wedding ring on her left hand. Almost unconsciously, Curry relaxes. No one, not even Heyes, could accuse her of being ‘feminine temptation.’
Kid Curry was right. The dinner, and the conversation, was indeed – sociable. His expression suggests he has enjoyed a fine meal, good wine and pleasant – if not too exciting – company. Mrs. Mallowen is talkative, interested in him, pleasingly amused by his conversation. Laura Lopez, while perfectly civil, has a wistful, sad expression.
“Ladies,” he asks, standing up, “…Would you care to take a stroll around the harbor? It’s a beautiful, moonlit night and, don’t know about you, I like to stretch my legs before turnin’ in.”
“That would be delightful,” accepts Mrs. Mallowen.
“Thank you, but, no,” murmurs Laura. “I must finish my letter to Felipe.”
“My husband. I have to…” She breaks off, blushes. “I mean, I like to write every day.”
“Laura,” says her mother, “the fresh air would do you good. Surely your letter could wait half an hour.”
In a very low voice, “Mother, please.”
Surprised, Curry sees her eyes glisten.
“Good night, Mister Jones,” Laura whispers, hurrying away.
Shaking her head, Mrs. Mallowen takes Curry’s offered arm.
MAYBE TEN MINUTES LATER – THE HARBOR
Mrs. Mallowen sighs.
“Is somethin’ wrong, ma’am?” asks Kid Curry.
“No. No.” Another sigh. “Seeing your only child unhappy, it’s hard for a mother.”
Pause. The Kid looks sympathetic. Not surprising, he IS sympathetic.
“I shouldn’t burden you with our private troubles, Mister Jones.”
She gives a motherly pat to his hand. “Thaddeus.”
“Sometimes helps just to talk things over, ma’am. And,” a kind smile, “…Unless you translate for me, who can I tell out here?”
Another deep sigh. “Drink is responsible for a lot of unhappiness, Mister Jones.”
“Does he – I mean, Señor Lopez – drink?”
“Yes. And a good many other things as well. He’s insanely jealous and has a singularly violent temper.” A shake of the head. “It worries me, Mister Jones. I know Laura so hates raised voices and being shouted at.”
“Why did she…? I mean, how did they meet?”
“No, you don’t mean that, Mister Jones. You mean, why didn’t I stop her marrying him?”
Deprecating sound from the Kid.
“Señor Lopez was both extremely handsome and extremely charming. He seemed – ideal. Rich. Deeply in love with Laura. If he was a little older than her, well – I truly believed Laura would benefit from the – the fatherly attention of an experienced man to take care of her. We had no one to advise us of his real character. I underestimated how closely a – well, a grandee – would want to control his wife’s every moment. I had been a widow for many years. Two women, living alone, are not the best judges of a man’s character.”
“That’s true,” nods Kid, with sage masculine wisdom.
Pause. They watch fishing boats bob on the water.
“We should go back,” says Mrs. Mallowen. They set off at a slow stroll.
As he escorts Mrs. Mallowen towards the hotel, Curry casts a sympathetic look at a lighted window, where the fragile silhouette of Laura can be seen drooping as she scribbles and scribbles at an unseen letter.
BREAKFAST – SUNDAY MORNING
When Kid Curry walks into the, Mrs. Mallowen and Laura are already at a table. At a smiling gesture from the older lady, Curry joins them. He looks with concern at Laura. Her eyelids, shyly lowered, are very red. Tactfully, he looks away. He catches the eye of a mustached gentleman, very smartly suited; exchange of civil ‘stranger smiles.’
“Coffee, Mister Jones? I mean…” Motherly smile. “…Thaddeus.”
Again Curry catches the eye of the fella with the mustache. They both look away. Both look back. Hey, this is getting awkward.
“What is it, Thaddeus?”
“Nothin’, ma’am. Just – is it me, or is the fella in the grey suit watchin’ our table?”
Discreetly she looks round.
“Oh no. Now he’s staring at those gentlemen over there. I think he’s just naturally curious.”
“Uh huh?” Kid Curry, of course, has additional reasons for being wary of the naturally curious.
“Besides,” the soft voice of Laura asks, “what if he IS watching us? Let him. We’ve nothing to hide. None of us has any guilty secrets.”
The smile on the face of the ex-outlaw becomes a tad frozen. “‘Course not, ma’am.”
Gentle, teasing smile from Mrs. Mallowen, “Perhaps, Laura, Thaddeus HAS got something to hide?”
Feminine laughter at this ridiculous notion.
Curry joins in – just.
Again he and Señor Mustache catch each other’s eye.
Kid Curry is grooming Hippolyta.
“Heyes can’t say there’s much danger of feminine temptation here, huh, Polly?”
She nibbles a fold of his shirt.
“‘Cept for you, Sweetheart. You’re a real flirt!”
Then, Curry hears something. Is it…? Yeah. It’s a woman crying. More than crying; sobbing. He hesitates. Should he? Another sob. He heads in the direction of the sound.
Laura sits on a bale of hay behind the stables, face buried in her hands, shoulders shaking with grief.
“Mrs. Lopez?” Nothing. “Laura?”
She does not even look up. Hunching her shoulder, she tries to turn away. Kid Curry sits on a neighboring hay bale.
Very gently, “Is there anythin’ I can do? Anythin’ at all?”
“You’re a considerate man, Mister Jones. But there’s nothing anyone can do for me. Please don’t tell mother – I don’t want her to worry. She gets so upset when she sees me unhappy.”
The Kid reaches over, lays a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“I made my own choices. And – I married for better or worse. I’ll be fine.”
We see from his expression, Curry wants to help. But… He can’t, can he?
“If only – if only I wasn’t so frightened of Felipe. When he gets into one of his rages…”
“Couldn’t you…? I guess not.”
A watery and wry smile. “No. I couldn’t, could I? Not unless I want to be dragged back. At least Felipe lets me spend a lot of time with Mother. He doesn’t mind that. So long as we go to real quiet places like this.” She blushes. Turning away, “You see part of the trouble is that Felipe is insanely jealous. If I so much as speak to another man, he flies into such a rage. It scares me.”
Kid Curry is getting more sympathetic by the minute.
“Sheesh. That’s not right. It’s not as if… What I mean to say is, you’re one of the least flirtin’ kinda gals I’ve ever met!”
Pause. Laura manages to stop crying. Curry hands her his handkerchief. She has a good blow, mops up, straightens her hair. He says nothing because – there is nothing to say.
“There,” she gives him a would-be brave smile. “I was just being silly.”
“We’d better get you back to the hotel.”
Curry offers her an arm and they walk around to the front of the stables, she brushes off a little hay from her skirt.
The fella with the mustache is on the steps of the hotel, watching. Curry does not like this one bit. After all, it might look as if – y’know.
Another sociable dinner is in progress. It looks very similar to the previous evening, except that Mrs. Mallowen keeps darting anxious glances at her daughter. Though she tries hard to smile and follow the conversation, Laura is pushing her food around her plate and, when she thinks no one is watching, her lip wobbles.
“Laura, dear, you must try to eat,” says Mrs. Mallowen.
“Try some of this,” offers an ex-outlaw who is setting the drooping one an excellent example of how to clean a plate. He passes a loaded dish. “Best beans I ever ate – and that’s sayin’ somethin’.”
“You’re so kind,” she murmurs. “But, no. In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll turn in early. I have a headache.”
Kid Curry rises, politely, as Laura leaves the table. Both he and Mrs. Mallowen watch the sad figure trail up the stairs.
Under his breath the Kid says, “It’s a dang shame.”
Mrs. Mallowen presents a picture of anxious maternal concern. “If you’ll excuse me, Thaddeus, I’d better go after her.”
Again, Kid Curry rises as the lady leaves the table.
Sitting back down, he refills his plate and reaches for the tortillas. A quick hand filches Laura’s untouched steak. Hey, it’s a dang shame, sure, but it’s not exactly his problem. One has to be philosophical about these things.
Chewing (possibly philosophically) he sees the suited mustache enter the cantina and head for an empty table. Yup, the fella definitely keeps looking his way. Their eyes meet. Señor Mustache gives Curry a civil nod and smile. After a moment, the Kid returns the nod. Is this fella a problem? Discreetly, Curry checks out the man’s hip and jacket area. Not armed. A shake of the blond head. Nah. The fella is probably just one of the world’s natural eye-ballers. Another friendly smile from the fella. Warily, Kid Curry smiles back. Another tortilla heads south.
CURRY’S HOTEL ROOM
Wearing just his hot weather shorter underwear (NEVER say I don’t spoil those of a Kidette persuasion!), Kid Curry sits on the edge of his bed cleaning his gun. He glances at the clock. Nearly midnight. He yawns, tips a spot more oil on a rag and carries on with his habitual task.
A sudden rattle at the door handle. Knocking. Laura’s voice, sounding desperate, “Mister Jones! Mister Jones!”
Surprised and worried, Kid Curry strides over, unbolts it.
Laura bursts into the room. She is gasping for breath, white as a sheet and apparently frightened to death.
“It’s Felipe! My husband. He arrived unexpectedly! And, Mister Jones – Thaddeus, he knows about you. He’s going to kill me! I don’t know why – I ran to you. I couldn’t think what else to do. Please, please help. He’s mad!”
“Knows about me…?” Kid Curry is flummoxed. Knows – what? There’s nothing TO know. Nothing Laura-connected anyhow.
The door is, again, flung open. A dark, heavily bearded man stands there. Medium height, slim build, strong features. He carries a silver-headed cane.
“So! I was right all along! You ARE carrying on with another man!” Then, a torrent of angry, high-pitched, Spanish fury.
“No, no, Felipe,” pleads Laura, “you’re wrong…”
Kid Curry pushes the frightened young woman behind him. He glances at his empty Colt. Sheesh. Maybe Heyes is right, he DOES clean it too often.
“Wrong? When I find you here! In his room! Him half naked! You treacherous Jezebel! I’ll kill you for this!”
He advances on Laura, Curry moves forward to protect her.
Laura, terrified, dodges around the Kid and rushes out of the room. Her husband chases after her; Curry snatches up his gun, a fistful of bullets and follows.
Laura has darted back to her own bedroom. Felipe wrenches open the door. A terrified feminine scream, muffled by the fact Laura has her hands clasped across her mouth. The Kid bursts in after them, loading his gun.
Laura is standing at bay in the window. Felipe is advancing, cane raised. She gives a terrified cry, picks up a heavy paperweight from the dresser, throws it…
Felipe goes down like a log. Another muffled scream. Laura drops to her knees beside her husband. He is motionless. They hear the sound of other doors being unlocked, the sound of movement.
“Please, please – go! They can’t find you here in my room. Not like that!”
She indicates Kid Curry’s half-naked, barefoot state.
“Go! Think how it will look! I’ll be ruined. He’s out cold – I’m safe for the moment – except…Please go!”
Curry glances at the body on the floor. Felipe is indeed out for the count so, for the moment, Laura is safe enough. If he’s found here – it sure won’t look good. Kid Curry does the sensible thing-he leaves.
MAYBE FIVE MINUTES LATER – CURRY’S HOTEL ROOM
Kid Curry, now wearing shirt, pants, gun belt and with his boots pulled on (sorry, ladies, you should have freeze-framed while you had the chance) paces his room. He heads for the door. His fingers hover over the handle. “Should I go see if she’s okay?” The fingers withdraw. “Should I stay here like she said?” Hovering again, “Should I stop talkin’ to myself?”
Noises outside. A tentative knock on his door.
It is Mrs. Mallowen. A robe pulled on over her nightgown. Disheveled hair. Face ravaged with grief. She looks terrible.
“Mister Jones – Thaddeus – a terrible thing has happened.”
“Is he seriously injured?”
“Dead?” Kid Curry’s jaw falls. Sheesh! He was not expecting that!
“The paperweight caught his temple and he fell back against the sharp edge of the fire grate.” Lowered voice, “He’s dead. I’ve seen death often enough to know.”
“It was an accident!” says Curry. “I saw it.”
“Of course it was an accident. But – who will believe that? I’m frightened, Thaddeus, frightened for Laura. Suppose everyone thinks it was – murder.”
“I could confirm her story…” Curry breaks off. He can’t – can he? Well, not without getting involved with the law.
“Yes. And Laura can confirm your story. Exactly. How will it look? As if Felipe DID find you – together.”
The implications of that final word: together, sink in.
“Mrs. Mallowen, you know there was nothing between us …”
“Who would believe me – her own mother? If there’s a…” her voice trembles. “A trial – they know I’d say anything to protect her. She’ll be ruined. And you, Thaddeus, what would your employers say? What will the scandal of all this do to you? Your career will be blighted…”
“My career? Well, ma’am…” Whatever Kid Curry was about to say, he thinks better of it and shuts up.
“If you get embroiled with the law…”
Curry stares at her. He pushes back his hair, distractedly.
“I can’t get involved with the law… Just can’t! And, I can’t leave Laura to…” He breaks off.
“What will people think?” despairs Mrs. Mallowen. “Mexican folk are so – so strict, so – well, so Catholic – about these matters. This isn’t America.”
“Could we – I dunno – hide the body?”
She blinks at him. “Hide the body? You and me carrying it between us like a sack of potatoes? Hide it where? And – then what? People will notice if Felipe disappears.” She sits beside him and puts a motherly hand over his. “Thaddeus, this isn’t a dime novel. We can’t just cover it up.”
Silence. Mrs. Mallowen’s brow furrows.
Curry watches Mrs. Mallowen’s brow furrow and her eyes light up. “You’ve got a plan,” he deduces.
“Yes…” Very tentative.
“Go on. ‘Cos,” Aw. He’s missing Heyes. “…We could sure use us a plan!”
“As I just said; this isn’t America.” She turns to him. “We are SO out of the way here – maybe something could be done. Maybe we can’t cover this up ourselves – but perhaps it can be covered up – officially.”
“Huh?” Kid Curry catches on. “Oh. You mean…?”
“I don’t think anyone heard anything…” Her voice is eager.
“Who has the room next to your daughter?” interrupts Curry.
“The gentleman with the fine mustache. But, he cannot have heard – or he would have come out.”
Curry nods. “Yeah, he would.”
“Señor Garcia will be on our side. The scandal can only damage his hotel. He would far rather have this hushed up. And, maybe the local law is open to – persuasion.”
“Persuasion?” Curry muses. Even in America, the law can be – persuaded. He shrugs a ‘maybe.’
“Thaddeus, how much money have you got?”
Reluctantly, “Some. Maybe – enough.”
“Perhaps I can get a death certificate saying Felipe died of natural causes.” Pause. Compellingly, “Thaddeus, it has to be worth a try!”
Kid Curry thinks.
“Yup. Gotta be worth a try.”
THE NEXT MORNING – MONDAY
Kid Curry is drinking a cold beer in the cantina. His eyes are riveted on the reception area.
Mrs. Mallowen has summoned the manager.
They hold an animated conversation. Garcia is gesticulating. Mrs. Mallowen becomes firmer and more authoritative with every sentence.
Curry’s eyes follow the exchange. He cannot understand a single word. But, Mrs. Mallowen flashes him a comforting look. Her plan is going okay.
Kid Curry is still an avid observer. Two uniformed police officers arrive. Garcia conducts them up to the bedrooms, Mrs. Mallowen in attendance still expounding in fluent Spanish.
Pause. Anxious blue eyes remain riveted on the stairs.
The police, the loquacious hotel manager and the commanding Mrs. Mallowen return to the lobby. Still, Curry cannot understand a word of what she and Garcia are saying.
The police leave. Mrs. Mallowen presses her fingers to her temples. She meets Curry’s eyes and joins him in the cantina.
“It worked!” she exclaims. “They’ve taken the body away by the back stairs. It was so easy. They practically held out their hands.” She wrinkles her nose. “In some ways – it’s disgusting.”
“I dunno, ma’am,” shrugs Curry. “I like to think there’s a little bad in everyone.” Pause. Practically, “How much?”
Mrs. Mallowen reaches into her reticule and hands over a list:
Kid Curry reads. “The Alcalde. His Deputy. The Chief of Police. The officers. The Doctor. Garcia. The night porter…” He gives a low whistle.
“Garcia has insisted the death never took place here at the hotel at all,” explains Mrs. Mallowen. “The official story will be that Felipe was taken ill on the train. He leaned out of the door, trying to get some air, then he fell out onto the track.”
“Will folk buy that?”
“It’s amazing what people will believe for a profit,” she says.
Kid Curry shakes his head, ruefully. “Don’t I know it, ma’am! Don’t I know it!” he murmurs under his breath.
Curry watches the local blacksmith shoe his horse. Since this individual is interspacing blows of his hammer with a vehement – if good-hearted – quarrel with his wife, this may well take some time. A movement catches his eye. Laura, pale and suffering, is coming down the steps of the hotel into the square.
“Mister Jones!” Laura scurries over to join him. “Mister Jones!”
The Kid glances over to the veranda. Yup. The fella with the mustache is there, smoking a cigar and surveying the town square. Still, from there, Mustache cannot catch anything he and Laura say. He walks out of the blacksmith’s hearing to meet her.
“Are you leaving, Mister Jones?”
“Yes, ma’am. Once my horse is fixed up with a new shoe. I’m expected back in Santa Marta.”
“Oh.” She gathers herself. “Mister Jones, I – I’m so sorry. I mean for dragging you into all this. I can’t…” A sob catches her throat. She breaks off searching for a handkerchief.
Curry hands her his. “Are you okay, ma’am?”
“It’s all so… If it hadn’t been for mother – and for you – I don’t know how I would have…” Again, she breaks off. She wipes her eyes.
“Sheesh. I didn’t do nothin’. It was all your mother. She’s a fine woman.”
“Mother’s wonderful. But…” Her head falls forward, a stifled cry. “…This is all so, so horrible.”
“Hey,” Curry touches her on the shoulder, “Don’t let it eat at you. It was an accident.”
Her shoulders shake with smothered sobs.
“If there’s one thing I know,” Curry really is trying to be helpful, “it’s that you can’t change the past. It’s gone. You gotta do the best you can with the time you got now.”
She looks up at him through glistening lashes. A nod. A brave little sniff. “I can never thank you enough, Mister Jones.”
“Pfffttt!” Curry nods over towards the hotel, “…Hey, there’s your ma comin’ out now. Looks like this’ll take a while. Why don’t the three of us take a walk by the harbor? Let the sea air blow a few roses back into your cheeks. You’ll feel better, huh?”
But, before Mrs. Mallowen comes down the hotel steps, she is intercepted by the fella with the impressive mustache. A conversation. Curry cannot make anything of the few Spanish words which drift his way, but he sees the woman’s face change. Mustache goes inside. Mrs. Mallowen comes over to him and her daughter. She looks – stricken.
“What is it?” asks Curry.
“It’s that man. The one you thought was watching you and Laura…”
Well, to be strictly accurate, Kid Curry was only concerned about the mustached fella watching HIM. But, he lets this pass.
“…You were right, Thaddeus. He has been watching us. And – and last night, he heard everything. Everything!”
Laura smothers a horrified squeal.
“But…” Kid Curry is thinking fast. “If he heard everything – he knows it was all an accident. He knows Laura is innocent.”
“Except,” Mrs. Mallowen holds the Kid’s eyes, “…NOW, we’ve covered everything up. How can anything be innocent – now? He wants money.”
“You mean,” Laura’s eyes are wide with terror. “He’s a blackmailer? How dreadful.”
“Well, ma’am…” Despite everything, Kid Curry retains a sense of proportion. “…I guess sometime in his past, he discovered greed. It happens.”
Mrs. Mallowen cuts to the chase. “Do you have any more money, Thaddeus?”
“No, ma’am. Persuadin’ the authorities round here ’bout cleaned me out.”
“But – you could wire for more?”
“It’s not just Laura I’m thinking of, Thaddeus. It’s you too. You’re guilty of corruption. He could ruin you. For your own sake, if not for Laura’s, if you can wire for more money – do it.”
“If it were just me,” Laura is the picture of pathetic womanhood, “I’d stand trial and take the consequences. After all, what has life got left for me?”
“Oh, Laura!” Mrs. Mallowen turns away in distress. “Don’t! The thought of my only child facing a firing squad. Or you, Thaddeus. Suppose they think it was YOU struck the fatal blow, in a crime of passion?”
“Hey!” Kid Curry draws back. “It wouldn’t come to that!” Sudden qualm. “Would it?”
UPSTAIRS IN THE HOTEL
Outside Mustache’s room, Room #1, Kid Curry checks his gun, returns it to its holster. With an expression boding ill for the would-be blackmailer, he bursts into the room.
It is empty.
Curry’s shoulders droop with the anti-climax. Even the toughest of ex-outlaws can hardly play hardball with a fella who simply isn’t there.
THE HOTEL LOBBY
Curry is conducting a conversation with Garcia through the medium of mime, extravagant hand gestures and expressive eyebrows.
He draws an invisible but profuse mustache on his face and lets his shrugging shoulders indicate confusion. Then he raises a hand to shield his eyes from non-existent sun, screws up his face and acts out searching.
Garcia’s bemused face lights up. He, in turn, points seawards, mimes first hoisting a sail, keeping his balance on a bobbing deck, then casting a fishing line.
Again, Curry’s shoulders droop. Without proper directions and a boat of his own – what dang good is that?
THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE
A disconsolate Kid Curry passes over a telegram message – written in clear block capitals.
‘TO: JOSHUA SMITH. SANTA MARTA. IN SANTA AGATHA. COME AT ONCE. BRING MONEY. MIGHT BE ACCUSED OF MURDER BUT NOT IN JAIL!’
A telegram is delivered to Heyes at the poker table. He reads it, rolls his eyes. In dumb-show we see him gather his considerable winnings, make his apologies and leave.
THE NEXT DAY – SANTA AGATHA
Kid Curry, on the porch of the hotel, is dividing his time between polishing his gun and staring at the hill down which zigzags the empty road leading into town.
Something very, very small on the horizon. Little more than a cloud of dust.
Yes! It is an annoyingly jaunty figure wearing a black hat.
THE EDGE OF THE HARBOR
Well away from possible eavesdroppers, both ex-outlaws perch on the harbor wall and watch the waves. Kid Curry is telling Heyes everything.
“…Sure, I could just ride out – but where will that leave Laura and Mrs. Mallowen?”
A look – nah, make that ‘THE look’ from Heyes.
“I can’t, Heyes. Laura never meant… She was so scared, she didn’t know what she was doin’. An’, the way he fell… It was an accident. I can’t just ride away and leave that poor young gal to face…”
“Didn’t we have some kinda arrangement ’bout feminine temptation?”
“It AIN’T that! She never so much as batted an eyelash my way and I never so much as wanted her to.”
Mock-cynical eyebrow lift.
“You’d feel the same.”
The second dark eyebrow joins the first.
“You were the one didn’t want to leave the Tapscotts stuck in a hole we’d helped dig back in Hadleyburg…”
“That was you, Kid!” Rueful dimpled grin. “Okay, it was me as well.”
“All I’m sayin’ is – how’s this diff’rent?”
Another rueful smile. “Let me work on that one, Kid.”
Curry’s mood lightens a shade at this unspoken acknowledgement that he has scored a second point.
“Besides, even if I do disappear and leave the ladies to face the music, it’ll put the amnesty at risk. Folks here know I was out at Rancho Verde. They can contact Mrs. Hanley. She’ll get the Alcalde at Santa Marta to vouch for us – Lom’s name’ll come up.”
Heyes muses on this. “Lotta truth in there, Kid.”
“Sure, no one here knows I’m Kid Curry, but it’s no good Thaddeus Jones gettin’ himself wanted, if they know the first guy Thaddeus Jones says to get in touch with when he’s in trouble is Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville. It’ll get back to the governor.” He skips a stone over the water. “I can’t even get my hands on this – this mustache fella…”
“‘Cos, roughing him up would be a big help, huh? In making you look innocent.”
“I AM innocent, Heyes.”
“Well, I ain’t guilty of nothin’ new since I rode outta Santa Marta last week.” Pause. “Did you bring more money?”
A mute conversation. It is the Kid’s turn to look rueful.
“I know. Payin’ him ain’t no answer. All that’ll do is make him come back for more. An’ tryin’ to scare him off… Sure, if it works, fine. But if it don’t, I’m diggin’ the hole deeper.” Low voice, “Heyes, you gotta get me outta this.”
“Sounds like it’ll take another miracle, Kid.”
Heyes stands up, stretches out his back.
“What are you gonna do?” The blue eyes are hopeful.
“I thought I’d – what do they call it – check out the scene of the crime back at the hotel.”
“What use is THAT?” Kid Curry is not impressed. “And…?”
“And, I might send a telegraph to our old friend, Cordoba, back in Santa Marta.”
“And maybe go introduce myself to these ladies.”
“And then go get me a cold beer.”
Heyes strides off, Curry staring after him.
“Good plan! Wouldn’t want ya to be thirsty, Heyes!”
No response from the Heyesian back. Sheesh! Disgruntled, Curry skips another stone over the water.
THE HOTEL RECEPTION
Heyes approaches the desk. No one is around. Garcia’s voice can be heard in the background in a heated discussion with his kitchen staff.
Slim fingers turn the register an inch or two. Brown eyes scan the entries – Mrs. Mallowen Room #2, Mrs. Lopez Room #3.
Heyes runs lightly up the stairs. He tries the door of Room #1. Not surprisingly since Curry has already been in there, it is open.
“Seems to me this fella has nothing to hide,” murmurs Heyes. He glances around. Well-shined boots under the bed. Book with a marker on a small table. The ex-outlaw looks inside the closet – hanging suit. He slides open a drawer – tidy pile of crisp shirts. He lifts the shirts – nothing but the bottom of the drawer. “Seems to me this fella has nothing to hide AND plans on coming back.”
Shutting the drawer, Heyes exits. After listening hard for a moment, he tries the door of Room #2. Locked. And, Room #3. Locked.
“Ah, the ladies are more security conscious.” He draws what looks suspiciously like a set of lock picks from his pocket. “Very wise. There’s a lotta dishonest folk around.” The dexterous hands are at work. A click. Heyes oozes into the room.
Inside, he inspects the edge of the fire grate, peering close, closer… A shrug. Nothing.
Then the routine carried out in Room #1 is repeated. Opening the closet, dresses, more dresses. Opening the drawers – half-sheepishly, Heyes lifts up a froth of feminine frills. “No offense, ladies.” Then, the brown eyes spot something. Smug dimples crease self-satisfied cheeks. A slim hand reaches into the back of the drawer…
BACK IN THE CORRIDOR
Heyes relocks the door. With another smug smile he pats his jacket pocket. He runs back down the stairs and exits the hotel.
THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE
A familiar figure in a silver-trimmed black hat is passing a message – block capitals – to the operator. We are too distant to read the whole message, but do zoom in on the final line.
‘PLEASE RESPOND IN BOTH ENGLISH AND SPANISH. SMITH.’
THE STAGE DEPOT
The same familiar figure, frowning with concentration, is checking the posted arrival and departure times. Turning, he watches two American ladies – one middle-aged, one young – cross the town square and climb the steps of the hotel.
BACK IN THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE
In dumb-show we see Heyes make a halting enquiry. Nodding, plus a wide smile from the operator. A return telegram is handed over. Heyes reads it – dimples. He exits the telegraph office, his eyes light on the building bearing the legend ‘Policía.’ A shudder runs through the ex-outlaw. He pulls his hat down, his collar up – and heads in the opposite direction back to the hotel.
SOME TIME LATER
An annoyed Kid Curry finds Heyes in the cantina, relaxing over the promised cold beer. He signals for a beer of his own.
“Where the Sam Hill have you been, Heyes? I been lookin’ for you all over town.”
“That’s pretty much where I’ve been, Kid. I was at the telegraph office…”
“I looked there!”
“I thought ’bout paying a visit to the local Chief of Police…” Another shiver runs through Heyes.
“I didn’t look there,” admits the Kid, with an echoing shudder.
“S’orright. When it came down to it, I decided maybe, being a busy man, he wouldn’t wanna be bothered with a social call, huh? I was at the stagecoach depot.”
“I went right past there!”
“And I was here…”
“You weren’t. I looked.” Curry reacts to the expression on Heyes’ face. “You weren’t here earlier.”
“Then some fella’s sneaking round wearing my boots.”
“Okay. You weren’t here when I looked.”
“Can’t argue with that, Kid. That musta been when I was all over town.”
“And…?” Curry is eager to hear any ideas Heyes has come up with.
“And, I guess I was being followed, ten minutes too late, by a proddy fella in a brown hat.”
“Heyes! Have you come up with anythin’?”
Ingenuous wide brown eyes. “Huh?”
“To get me outta this – this mess?”
“Oh, that!” Dimpled smile. “I took care of that, Kid. It seems your blackmailer was already well-known to the law. Been working towns all down this stretch of the coast. I got me a real good description from Cordoba. And, when the choice was – either take the first stage out of town, or this telegram from Santa Marta’s Alcalde goes to the police…” The dimples deepen. “Let’s just say someone suddenly found moving on quicker’n planned seemed a real attractive option…”
Curry absorbs this.
“That’s great news, Heyes.” Frown. “Shouldn’t you have gone to the police, anyhow…?”
A mute conversation.
“Nah. I guess not.” Curry drains his glass. “I’d better find the ladies. Tell ’em they’ve got nothin’ to worry ’bout.”
He stands, turns and – does a double take. Blue eyes widen as Curry watches a cheerful Señor Mustache, a touch sun-kissed and crumpled as if he’s been enjoying himself relaxing on a boat, enter the hotel, tip his hat in the friendliest way, and run, lightly, up the stairs.
Curry confronts Heyes, who is sipping beer and radiating innocence.
“I thought you said he left town?”
“Nope. I said the blackmailer left town.”
“But, Mrs. Mallowen said…” Curry tails off in the face of waves of brown-eyed smugness wafting off his partner.
“Mrs. Mallowen was the blackmailer, Kid.” Another sip of beer. “She and the lovely Laura are getting pretty well known. If you hadn’t been so busy flashing your baby-blues at that senorita back in Santa Marta, you’d have heard Cordoba saying how a rich tourist had been fleeced there only last week…”
“But…? But, Felipe Lopez? The man who was killed…”
“No one was killed. There was no man.”
“Think. In daylight, you meet a tall, deep-voiced woman. Later, when the light isn’t too good, you meet a medium height, high-voiced man. But, you never see ’em together. I had my suspicions from the start. But, when I found this in the lady’s drawers – literally…” Heyes draws a realistic-looking false beard from his jacket pocket and holds it up to his face.
“Mrs. Mallowen was the husband…?”
“You got it.” A comforting hand rests on Curry’s shoulder. “Don’t let ’em fooling you eat at ya, Kid. She’s clever. Soon as she sees an American with plenty of money and no Spanish, she drops a hint that the local police are corrupt – preparing the ground.”
“So, that first day, Garcia never really said nothin’ ’bout bein’ able to square stuff with the Alcalde…?”
“I doubt it. Mrs. Mallowen does all the interviewing. You see the police go up – sure. For all you know, she’s reported a missing piece of jewelry. Anything’ll do. All that matters is you see the police.”
“Heyes, how did you…?” Curry shakes his head in disbelief.
“I guess I had the advantage of not having two dang fine con-artistes working on me, Kid. The whole jealous husband scene sounded kinda – y’know – familiar. The old badger trick…”
“Heyes. There was nothin’ between Laura an’ me – not so much as a look!”
“That’s where they’re real clever. They keep it all pure. They don’t try and play on a man’s – well – they don’t. Instead, they appeal to a fella’s better nature – to chivalry. You oughta be flattered, Kid. BUT, stripped of the scenery, what happened? You get caught up in a compromising position and you hand ’em pretty near all your money…” Heyes interrupts himself. “I got it back for you.” A bundle of bills is passed over. “Then, they ask for more. You getting suspicious at some innocent fella who happened to look your way once or twice played right into their hands.” Heyes’ tone becomes almost – fatherly. “You really gotta wise up where the ladies are concerned. Don’t believe all they say, just ‘cos they…”
“Heyes!” Curry is busy checking his money. “This is short. This is only half what I gave ’em.”
“Nah. She tried to get away with only handing over half, but I saw through that trick.” Pause. Heyes realizes the flaw in his logic. Rueful shake of the head. “The clever little…”
“Don’t let it eat at ya, Heyes,” deadpans Curry.
THE NEXT DAY
In an echo of the arrival scene, it is another glorious day as Curry trots past the sign announcing ‘Santa Agatha: 2m.’ However, this time Heyes rides beside him, leading the high-stepping thoroughbred. And, this time, they ride away from, not towards, the town.
Voices drift back along the dusty trail.
“This whole episode has convinced me of one thing, Kid.”
“Harry Briscoe was right all along, when he made off with that $30,000.”
“Not about the stealing. He was right ’bout a fella really needing to learn Spanish ‘fore he heads over the border.”
“You gonna learn Spanish, Kid?”