A TYPICAL SMALL TOWN JAIL CELL – VERY EARLY MORNING
Kid Curry is stretched out on one of two narrow cots in the cell. One arm is tucked behind his head, the other holds aloft a newspaper, folded to quarter size, which he reads with a frown of concentration. Hey, isn’t that someone else’s favourite pose?
On the other cot lies… Well, actually, it is kind of hard to tell. It is lumpy. It is hidden by a grey blanket under which the shape appears to be curled into a foetal position. The upper central section of the lump rises and falls rhythmically. As it does, so it makes sounds similar to… Hmmm? A catarrh-clogged bear growling? An angry bull clearing his sinuses? A more than usually ill-mannered parcel of pigs having a snout duel in a trough of swill?
A particularly vociferous snort shakes the cot till it rattles. A pair of blue eyes roll without lifting from the newsprint. The lower central section of the mystery lump decides to add to the cacophony. The surface of the blanket ripples under sudden explosive air pressure. A noise similar to an untalented musician tuning up a battered wind instrument issues forth. And forth… And forth. Still Kid Curry does not look away from his reading material, he merely wafts it slightly, fan fashion.
Of course, the discerning viewer (and what other variety of viewer frequents this virtually exclusive series) has no difficulty in identifying the mystery lump. Not only because the discerning viewer knows the most likely companion to Kid Curry, but also because the discerning viewer has spotted a familiar black hat sporting an even more familiar silver trimmed band sitting beneath the rumbling cot.
AN UNSPECIFIED TIME LATER
The non-mystery lump under the blanket still contributes swinish snoring to the scene. And, to demonstrate versatility, another wind instrument imitation. It is also… Hey, it is stirring. With many snorts, splutters and creaks of protesting springs, it turns. This time the Kid does look over. Blue eyes watch, dispassionately, as a head surfaces from the depths. And a hand. The hand rubs the ruffled dark hair. It moves down, rubs the eye area. The head rises, a trail of drool still attaching it to the sweat-soaked pillow. A pair of bloodshot brown eyes blink. They take in the cell bars – or maybe not. In any case, they shut again. Feet, clad in grubby socks, swing out and hit the floor. The free hand carefully clutches the top of the tousled head, perhaps to prevent it from coming loose – who knows? A second hand emerges and gropes under the bed, it rests for a moment on the hat, pushes that aside, searching. Ah! A handled pot, whose purpose is eminently clear, eminently unglamorous, though unarguably vital in the absence of indoor plumbing, is drawn forth. A former leader of the notorious Devil’s Hole gang, wincing with discomfort, still with eyes squeezed shut, staggers to his feet. The pot is positioned by a socked foot. The non-skull protecting hand fumbles at fly buttons.
Our point of view switches to a close up of Kid Curry, once again perusing his newspaper as the sound of water splashing on tin fills the cell. Splashing. More splashing. Tinkling. Another gush. Splash. Splash. Back to tinkling. Tinkling. And more. Dripping. Tinkle. Drip. Drip. Drop. Drip. Belch (though that is possibly incidental to the main point at issue). Drip.
Back to Heyes, now adjusting his pants, still single-handed. Gingerly, he opens one eye, looks at the bars in front of him. He shudders, winces at the motion, and shuts the eye. The free hand gropes towards the cot. He crawls back into that crumpled nest of sheets from which he surfaced. The blanket is pulled over that clearly throbbing head.
Less than a second later porcine sound effects again rumble through the cell.
Kid Curry sets his newspaper aside and stands up. He carefully pushes the pot back under Heyes’ cot with one booted-foot. He reaches under the blanket, lifts the snoring head, and takes the pillow. An explosive snort, but Heyes sleeps on. Supporting the head, almost tenderly, with one hand, Kid Curry dexterously shakes the pillow free of its drool spattered slip with the other. The pillow is replaced and Heyes’ head is lowered back onto it. With a resigned expression the Kid sinks to his knees and uses the slip to swab the floor. Standing up, he scrunches it into a ball and tosses it through the bars to the office area outside the cell. He shakes his head, ruefully, at his recumbent partner.
“Don’t matter what you got in your dang hand, Heyes, your aim is still half an inch off to the left!”
Kid Curry is about to wipe his hands on his pants when he thinks better of it. He lifts the blanket, wipes them on Heyes’ pants. A snort from the sleepy-head. The Kid makes as if to replace the blanket but thinks better of that, too. He rolls it up, puts it with his own pillow against the wall, and settles back down for his own, more peaceful, nap. A smile wreathes his face. We gather that’s more comfortable!
ANOTHER UNSPECIFIED TIME LATER – STILL MORNING
Not much has changed. We still have a snoring Hannibal Heyes. We once again have a newspaper reading Kid Curry – who now has acquired a mug of coffee.
Stirring from the first of the aforementioned ex-outlaws.
More than stirring. We are treated to a full replay of the spluttering, head-clutching, eye rubbing, drool dribbling wake up performance. Heyes sits up, groans. He blinks, groans. He sees – and this time registers – the bars on the cells. Not a groan this time. A grunt. And a frown. Slowly, still keeping a careful grip on the top of his skull, he turns his head to his distressingly healthy-seeming and calm partner, who does not deign to look over in his direction.
“Are we in jail?”
“The bars gave it away, huh?”
An effort to remember creases the brow of Hannibal Heyes. He winces. That hurts! An anxious frown. OW! That really hurts.
“Did someone spot us?”
“Nah, relax. Strictly speakin’, WE aren’t in jail. Two fellas by the name of Smith and Jones are in jail.”
Heyes does relax a tad. A slow nod of the head. OW!
“Could be worse,” says Kid Curry. “The sheriff seems decent enough…”
“If you can forgive a man having made that kinda mistake in the choice of career,” interjects Heyes with a wry grin and another wince. Grinning hurts, too. Carefully, without head movement, he gestures at the surroundings. “I’m guessing decent as he is, our first meeting didn’t go so well?”
An acknowledging shrug from the Kid. “The deputy’s a nice young fella. Took your pot and brought it back clean without a murmur. Brought a clean slip for your pillow, too. Gave me breakfast. Makes decent enough coffee.”
Hannibal Heyes is absorbing this. Slowly, because absorbing is another thing that still hurts.
There is a certain wicked twinkle in Kid’s eyes as he adds, “Breakfast was a few hours back. Still, he might come back with a plate for you.”
Revulsion sweeps across Heyes’ face.
“Nice greasy bacon. A couple of runny eggs on the side. Plate of biscuits.”
Heyes’ hand covers his mouth, smothering a heaving hiccup. Kid Curry grins.
“‘Cos if the eggs are good an’ runny, you can dip your nice greasy bacon…”
Another heave from the suffering one. “I meant – why are we in jail?”
“You’re in for bein’ drunk and disorderly and…” The Kid frowns in concentration as he quotes the exact charge. “…Impedin’ a law officer in the pursuit of his duty. Which I reckon, means yakkin’ ’till his ears bled while he was tryin’ to arrest you for the disorderly stuff.”
“Was I that drunk las…?” Another heave. The motion… OW! Heyes clutches at his head with a shaking hand. Ruefully, “Yeah, I guess I was.” Pause. “And – disorderly?”
“You got in a fight.”
“I don’t get in fights, Heyes. I’m a peaceable fella.” A grin. “A simple philosopher – remember?”
Hey, whatever the dimpled one is feeling, Kid Curry is kinda enjoying this.
“What was this fight about?”
Kid Curry puts down his newspaper and, for the first time, gives his partner his full attention.
“Y’know – I still haven’t figured that out. One minute you and this fella with a real soup-strainer of a moustache were discussin’ wallabies…”
“Apparently it’s a marsupial found in areas of Australia. Kinda like a smaller version of a kangaroo.”
“I know what a dang wallaby is…”
“I know you know, ‘cos that’s how I know. Same with marsupial – which till last night I thought was some kinda candy. You were like some dang … Whatdya call them books full of stuff you can’t imagine anyone ‘ud wanna know, let alone write down?”
“Er…” Thinking hard, plus wincing. “Encyclopaedia?”
Heyes mulls. “But, wallabies? How’d the topic even come up?”
“Search me. I’d stopped listenin’ to the pair of you while you were still on platypus.”
“It’s got the bill of a duck and fur and…”
“I know what it is!”
“So do I. Now.” Pause. “Wish I didn’t. That’s thirty minutes of my life I’m never gonna get back.”
Without waiting for the Kid to finish, “…I read about ’em in that natural history of Australia and surrounding countries some fella had left behind in that hotel back in…” Ah! A little light dawns on Heyes’ still fuddled face. He frowns. “I guess maybe that’s why I was talking about kangaroos, huh? They were kinda there in my brain.”
“Wallabies. All I know is, one minute the pair of you are thick as thieves… No offence, Heyes… He’s buyin’ you drinks, you’re layin’ down the law about hoppin’ distances and tellin’ the world there’s a formula for everything…”
Blankness from Hannibal Heyes. None of this is coming back.
“The next minute – BAM!”
A pained wince at the sudden loud tone.
“Fists are flying. Insults are bein’ hurled. Maybe he called you on your math or somethin’? Who knows? Someone musta gone for the law ‘cos the sheriff shows up…”
“This fight, was I…?” Heyes attempts an unconcerned expression, but achieves only sheepish. “Was I winnin’?”
“Neither of you were winnin’, Heyes. Don’t think either of you could see straight to land a decent punch. Mostly, you were fallin’ over, knockin’ into tables, apologisin’ for knockin’ into tables, knockin’ into another table as you backed off, tryin’ for another swing at him – y’know. Anyhow, the sheriff shows up and you – well – impeded him in the course of his duty.”
“By yakking until his ears bled?”
“That’s my readin’ of the situation. To be fair, what he didn’t like was you grippin’ onto him while you did it – which he may have took as threatenin’ behaviour, or he may have took the way I did, as you tryin’ to stay upright. Either way you pushed the pin of his star right into his… Y’know, his…” Kid gestures at his chest. Specifically, at the nipple area.
Heyes winces from sympathy not pain this time.
“Yeah, his – y’know.” Kid Curry winces too. “I felt for the man. And, you know how I feel ’bout tin stars.”
Guilty wriggle from Heyes.
“Then some of the things you and the moustache fella were sayin’, he mighta took as an insult.”
“Again, it mighta been all a misunderstandin’, since the pair of you were both spillin’ words faster than anyone could make sense of ’em. Most of ’em seemed like you tryin’ to apologise some more, but, he mighta took a coupla remarks as likenin’ his manner of jiggin’ with the pain from his – y’know – as bein’ some kinda insult to his folks.”
Another mute question.
“Him bein’ Irish – and the jiggin’. I knew you didn’t mean any offence. If you were aimin’ at anyone, I reckon it mighta been you tryin’ to be funny ’bout MY jiggin’ that time with Briggs. But the sheriff was kinda – sensitive just then. Anyhow, you got five days.”
Heyesian brooding. “Where is this other fella, the guy with the soup-strainer? Why’d he get off scot-free? If he was joining in like you say?”
“To be accurate, you got five days or a ten dollar fine. He had ten dollars. We don’t.” Blue eyes meet bloodshot brown. “We don’t have two dollars, Heyes.”
Heyes mulls. A thought occurs.
“What about you? Why are you in here? Seems you weren’t getting stinking drunk.”
“I figured one of us oughta stay sober enough to spot trouble.”
“Not that you did! Spot trouble that is!”
“Since when was yakkin’ ’bout wildlife – even wildlife with pouches – a sign of oncomin’ trouble?”
“Well?” prompts Heyes.
“Why are you in here?”
“Me? Oh…” Kid Curry turns away from Heyes and stretches out on his cot. “I’m arrested for consortin’ with a known criminal – you.” He sighs. “The sheriff arrested me when that pin jabbed his – y’know…”
“Nipple. It’s only a word, Kid.”
“…Which I can understand even though it was an accident. I reckon he’d have let me go once the throbbin’ eased up if you hadn’t been so persistent arguin’ I oughta be released, me havin’ to get back home to marry the mayor’s daughter.”
“You reckon that story mighta annoyed him?”
“Uh huh,” confirms the Kid. Under his breath, “Sure annoyed me.”
“Well,” decides Hannibal Heyes, hauling himself to his feet, “time for me to prove that if there’s one thing we do better than busting into banks, it’s busting outta jail.” He steps over and grasps the bars, testing their stability.
“You’re gonna come up with a plan to bust us out?”
“It’s what I do, Kid.” Heyes gives the bars an exploratory rattle. He winces at the motion – then at the noise. A hand returns, protectively to the top of his tousled hair. “Maybe we should wait a while. Bust out at night.” He rubs his temples, “…Maybe another forty winks.”
He eases himself back onto the thin mattress, careful not to move that aching head too quickly.
“Hey, where’s my blanket?”
Sighing again, the Kid tosses it over. Heyes snuggles down.
Back to snoring.
Kid Curry reaches over, with one smooth movement he filches back the blanket.
Heyes looks a whole heap better. In fact, Heyes looks pretty much back to his old self.
We gather it is lunch time because on the cot beside Heyes sits a tray holding a large tin bowl of what looks like stew – a tin mug, a spoon, and half a hunk of bread. Maybe Heyes is still feeling a shade queasy as the food looks hardly touched.
Curry hunkers over his own bowl, dispatching stew and bread at an eager pace.
The spoon scrapes around – metal on metal – and again, and again – and again, chasing down every last morsel of gravy. A pink tongue captures a stray splash trapped in the stubble on that upper lip.
Scrape, scrape. The spoon is licked clean. What is left of the bread is used to polish that bowl to a high shine, and then swallowed. With a damp finger, Curry cleans his side plate of crumbs. A cheerful Kid Curry lets his eyes wander around the cell. They come to rest on the tray on Heyes’ cot. A mute ‘may I?’ question. A nod in response. The Kid reaches out, takes the abandoned bowl and piece of bread. His partner is given a demonstration of how to empty a dish properly!
The remaining piece of bread is evidently too small to get an acceptable polish on that second bowl. Kid Curry – not to be defeated by so much as a smear of gravy – brings a finger into play. Digit lick by digit lick the bowl is brought to a lustre.
At last, Kid Curry catches his partner’s incredulous eye.
“What?” he challenges.
The dark head gives an infinitesimal disbelieving shake.
No reply. Heyes picks up the newspaper formerly studied by Kid Curry, stretches back out and starts to read.
Shrugging and then clearly putting the matter out of his mind. Kid Curry stacks trays, properly cleaned bowls and plates, tidily into a corner and lies back down on his cot, hands folded behind his head. Position wise, he is now a mirror image of Heyes. “Prison food, huh?” he remarks, as one ready for a little cheerful conversation.
“Stinks, huh?” responds Heyes. Perfectly timed pause. “And, such small portions.”
“Uh huh.” Suspicion crosses the Kid’s face. He meets that too-innocent seeming brown gaze. His brows snap together. Then, as he watches his oh-so-relaxed partner a certain calculation gleams in those blue eyes.
With just a hint of craftiness, “Instead of makin’ smart remarks, isn’t it ’bout time you proved if there’s one thing we do better than bustin’ into banks, it’s bustin’ outta jail?”
“Readin’ ain’t gonna get us outta here, Heyes.” Again a trace of wiliness, “Unless…” He stops.
“Okay, I’ll bite,” says Heyes. “Unless – what?”
“Did you read the article ’bout a successful jail break on page two yet?”
“In here…?” Heyes is turning to page two.
“Yup. Some fella managed to bust outta Wyoming Territorial Prison.”
Hannibal Heyes’ expression indicates he is impressed.
“Nah! Somethin’ with much more – finesse.”
Heyes has found the article. A pause for reading. More pause.
From the Kid. “What do you think?”
“Still reading. It’s telling me the hills around the prison are full of antelope – which isn’t news…” Reading. “So, some fella managed to get one of the fawns used to coming up to the stockade fence. He tamed it. Made a kinda pet out of it.” Still reading. “Then, one evening, he tells the guard he forgot to feed his antelope. Says the poor little thing’ll be hungry. Says he feels real bad. And…” Heyes blinks. He can hardly believe what is printed before his eyes.
“And the guard lets him out to go feed his poor hungry pet antelope!” finishes Kid Curry. “Then…” Two of the Kid’s fingers mime running away.
“Sheesh!” grunts Heyes. “Talk about truth being stranger than fiction.”
“It’s kinda – y’know – reassurin’,” remarks Kid Curry.
“Reassuring?” Heyes frowns.
“Well, if we do end up in the Territorial Prison, at least we know the guards are…”
“Dumb as bricks?” supplies Heyes.
“Nah! Well, yeah, but… Kinda human.”
Heyes thinks about this. “Lotta truth in there, Kid.” Pause. “‘Course this particular guard, maybe he’s had a career change by now.”
“You’re not thinking I could use any of this to get us outta here?”
“Nah. Though, as break out plans go, it has class.”
“I’m not arguing with that, Kid. The trouble is, if stage one is; first, tame your antelope, five days just isn’t gonna be enough.”
“Maybe one day we’ll be locked up for a while longer?”
“You never know our luck,” agrees Heyes, ruefully.
Blue eyes and brown eyes both slide sideways to check the other is joking. Both are.
A return of the edge of craftiness from the Kid. “You got any non-antelope plans to get us outta here, Heyes.”
Pause. The dimpled one is timing the pauses like a master.
“You thinkin’ of sharin’ them plans?”
“We find us a handy herd of wallaby…”
“Don’t like that one? We find us a handy flock of platypus…”
“A real plan, Heyes. Besides you kept tellin’ me platypus don’t flock. Solitary creatures.”
“Except when they’re – y’know.”
“When they’re – what?” Heyes eyes are just a touch too innocent.
“These platypus – they hafta stop bein’ so solitary when they want – y’know – company…”
“Why would they want company if they’re solitary?”
Kid Curry wriggles. “Feminine company. For – y’know…” He catches the look on his partner’s face, realizes his leg is being pulled and scowls.
“For a fella supposed to have a way with the ladies you sure are shy ’bout…” Teasing dimpled grin. “…Y’know.”
“Are you thinkin’ of a plan to get us outta here or not, Heyes?”
“Relax. It shouldn’t be too hard. After all…” Heyes nods at the unoccupied sheriff’s office beyond the cell bars. “…They’re hardly mounting a twenty-four hour armed guard.”
“It’s as if they don’t really care if, now you’ve sobered up, we stay here, eatin’ food the town pays to cook and bein’ kept warm by coal the town pays to burn – or not, huh?”
A certain chagrined expression crosses Hannibal Heyes’ face. With a hint of genius at work dignity, “A plan to get us outta here. Let me work on it, Kid.”
Kid Curry gets to his feet, retrieves the mugs from the pile of dishes. “Maybe a cup of coffee’ll help.” Drawing a key from his vest pocket, he unlocks the cell, walks over to the stove by the far wall of the office, upon which a coffee pot is keeping warm and fills both mugs.
Heyes watches this, for a second or two, placidly, then, as he realises what he is seeing, incredulously.
Kid Curry returns to the cell, pulling the door closed – though without locking it – behind him. He sits beside Heyes on the cot and hands him one of the mugs. Ignoring his partner’s open-mouthed gawp as it segues into a wide grin, the Kid takes a sip of his own coffee his face the ultimate picture of innocence.
“You lifted the keys?! Can’t have been at lunch – I’d have seen – when the deputy brought you breakfast?!”
Another innocent sip is taken.
“You snatched them AFTER he’d locked the door behind him. Same as you did that time in Porterville.”
“Then, you let yourself out…”
“You found the spare keys – took the cell key off that bunch – ‘cos they wouldn’t miss that so soon.”
“You put the deputy’s bunch somewhere he mighta put them down himself. When he missed them and came back to look – there they were, maybe by his coffee mug or something. You were sitting in the cell eating eggs and taking no notice.”
Sip. Smug waves emanate from the blue-eyed one.
A moment later, more than a few smug waves emanate from the other fella – the one doing the deducing – too.
Hannibal Heyes’ grin widens. He springs to his feet, pulls on his jacket, slaps on his hat and strides out into the sheriff’s office. “We get outta here, get our guns…” He frowns. “D’you know where he put our guns?”
“In the desk, second drawer down,” supplies Curry, who is still sitting on the cot calmly sipping coffee.
“We go get our horses – ride out.” Heyes is now buckling on his gun belt.
“To…?” enquires Kid Curry.
“Any dang place. Well, any dang place not on our ‘the sheriff knows us’ list.”
“And, when we get there, we…?” Sip.
Looking up from slipping his Schofield into its holster, Heyes frowns, “What are you getting at, Kid?”
“Getting at? Me? Nothin’.”
“Hmm. In that case, let’s go.” Cautiously, Heyes inches open the door and peers around, checking all is clear. His right leg is already flexed to stride out into the street. But…
Heyes does not stride out into the street. He freezes, one hand still upon the edge of the door.
Not because the sheriff is there. Nor the deputy. Nor, indeed, anyone. The street is devoid of human life. In all other respects it is a typical small town scene. All other respects save one, that is. It is raining.
The term raining does no justice to the veritable torrent of water forming a solid liquid sheet before Hannibal Heyes’ brown eyes.
The term raining is wholly inadequate to convey the persistence of the deluge streaming from leaden grey skies, still obviously heavy with hours, nay days, of downpours to come.
The term raining can in no way convey the waterlogged wetness, the drenchèd drippingness, the sodden saturation of the scene viewed by a blinking ex-outlaw.
Aqueous rivulets stream from every ledge and eave. Pools puddle every surface. Soaked sparrows fruitlessly flex their fluid-flowing feathers, give up the effort and let dispirited drops run from their beaks. Wringing wet rats try in vain to keep their whiskers from dragging through the liquefaction of mud all around. A solitary dog throws back its head to howl in despair, gets a snout full of water and gargles instead.
A gust of wind makes it, wetly, through the weather’s main event and slaps the erstwhile leader of the Devil’s Hole gang in the face with a pail-full of precipitation.
“I’m not gettin’ at nothin’,” double negatives Kid Curry from the nice dry cell. “I just wondered if we might put off our jail break ’til it stops rainin’.”
ONE MINUTE LATER
Heyes, now wearing neither gun nor gun belt, re-enters the cell. He tosses his jacket and hat under the cot. Silently he holds out his hand and, equally silently, Curry passes him the key. Heyes locks up and tucks the key into his vest. A meaningful cough. A different hand is held out – though still silently. Rolling his eyes, Heyes hands back the key and watches it tuck safely into a different vest.
Heavily, Heyes sits beside his partner on the cot. The Kid passes him the second mug of coffee. Heyes takes a swallow and stares at the floor.
“You reckon that in jail at least we’re warm and dry and getting three squares for the next five days, huh?”
“And, with us not having two dollars between us since paying for the livery up front and me being so dang thirsty last night, outta jail we’re gonna be cold and wet and chewing on old jerky.”
“And that’s only if we’re lucky enough to find any old jerky left in the creases of our saddlebags.”
“And, what you were saying earlier about the town expenses for keeping us in here – you reckon the sheriff, now his chest’s stopped throbbing, mighta come to the same conclusion?”
A look gives silent confirmation from Kid Curry.
Two ex-outlaws take a further swallow of coffee in unison.
“You know what I say about our arrangement on thinking, Kid?”
“I think this occasion is one of those exceptions that prove the rule.”
Another smug wavelet from the blue-eyed one.
“Doesn’t mean I want you making a habit of it, Kid.”
Kid Curry glances around the small square cell. “Hafta admit, Heyes, it’s gonna be pretty dull work sittin’ out that rainstorm and the mud slick that’s gotta follow it.”
Acknowledging shrug from Heyes.
“Not,” admits Curry, “that I’m arguin’ for the excitement o’ breakin’ jail, mind ya. Just makin’ an observation.”
Another mirror gesture as more mouthfuls of coffee head down the red lanes.
“Set against some of the times we used to have – y’know – after a successful bank haul, sittin’ here starin’ at the floor seems kinda flat.”
“Not that we’d want to go back to those times,” interrupts Heyes.
“Not sayin’ we would. Just…” A pensive shrug.
“Just making another observation,” supplies Heyes. “The observation that when we weren’t being chased by posses, busting out of small time jails or sitting around the Hole watching the boys pick fights to pass the weary hours, we had a few good times.”
“More than a few,” sighs Kid Curry. “Remember those gals we met in ‘Frisco that summer?”
“Those red-headed twins?”
“Nah. The other time – the ones we took out to dinner at that fancy French place.”
Heyes’ brow creases for a moment, then, “Yeah! Trixie and Stella…”
“Bella. That pair was…” A wicked grin dimples his cheeks as he casts around for a suitable adjective.
“Imaginative,” hazards the Kid.
“True,” agrees Heyes. “Though the word I was searching for was – limber.”
“Flexible, lithe, supple – yielding.”
Curry’s turn to grin. “They were all that – and more.”
“All that professional high-kicking up on stage hadn’t gone to waste.”
“Sure hadn’t. Mind you, those red headed twins… Sheesh!”
“What a weekend that was,” nods Heyes, nostalgically.
The mugs rise and fall in unison one more time.
“Remember that place in Denver with the pink silk sheets?” Curry’s tone grows ever more wistful.
“Denver is a likeable town,” sighs Heyes, also – apparently – full of wist.
“We went to the theatre…”
“You wiping away a tear when the heroine got thrown out into the snow.”
“Did not!” A rueful grin. “No more than you anyhow.”
“We went to that place where the shrimp bowl was the size of a bucket.”
“The best champagne flowin’ like water.”
“The prettiest gals clustering round.”
A sigh. No, make that two sighs.
“Not that we’d want those days back,” repeats Heyes, unconvincingly.
“Nope. Not that we’d want that.” The Kid’s denial is simple, sure, however, it is not wholly credible.
A glance is exchanged.
“Like we’ve said before, going straight kinda grows on a fella,” Heyes is trying his best.
“Uh huh. We’ve said that.”
“And, it has its good side.”
“It does? I mean – it does.”
Blue and brown eyes stare at the floor.
Two more sighs. Two sets of shoulders slump.
“Maybe,” begins Heyes, “we’re looking at this the wrong way.”
Kid Curry looks up, eyebrows rising in enquiry.
“Even when we were flush, staying in some fancy city joint, even then we didn’t live the high life every evening.”
His partner looks doubtful. “We didn’t?”
“Nah. It might seem like it, looking back, but – think hard. Some nights, all we wanted was a quiet night in. I’d have a book. You’d clean your gun. Maybe we’d have tubs sent up. We’d talk. We’d be in bed well before midnight. It’d be a pleasant change. A chance to rest up and recuperate. There’d be times when all we wanted was – a quiet night in.”
Kid Curry is thinking back. He purses his lips. “I guess you’re right,” he admits. “I even recall sayin’ it after a whole week enjoyin’ the bright lights over in ‘Frisco – Heyes, all I want is a quiet night in.”
“Right! Now, tonight, instead of feeling stuck here – why not treat it as simply a quiet night in? And, tomorrow – after passing a peaceful day getting our thoughts together.” A slim finger taps a Heyesian temple. “Or maybe catching a nap if mustering our thoughts don’t take more’n the odd fifteen minutes…” A slim finger gestures at the Kid.
The blue eyes consider the implication of that. A blink. A frown. “Hey…!”
“After passing this peaceful day,” presses on Heyes, over the interruption, “what could be more pleasant than another quiet night in with good company?”
“Or in my case – with you?” deadpans the Kid. Hey, what’s sauce for the Heyes is sauce for the Curry.
“Heyes, you’re right. Tonight – let’s have a quiet night in.”
Kid Curry is sitting on his cot, a fresh tray on his knees. The tin plate holds stew, potatoes, greens, a hunk of bread. Plain maybe, but nothing to complain of. Curry is not complaining – he is dispatching his supper and displaying the excellent appetite of a man who remained relatively sober last night. A second tray sits on Heyes’ cot. Heyes does not. Heyes is at the bars, his hands wrapped around them. He is in full silver-tongued flow to an unseen third party; unseen, save for a lean shadow moving back and forth across the cell floor.
“You see, Sheriff, the thing is, my friend here really needs to get on his way. He’s being married next week to wonderful girl, a really lovely girl from St. Louis, from one of the best families. The daughter of the mayor as it happens…”
The sound of an out-of-shot sheriff closing a desk drawer.
The eyes of a chewing Kid Curry travel from his partner, to the source of the shadow, then to the tray on Heyes’ cot. His fork reaches over and filches a potato.
“We were on our way home – him to this wonderful girl I’m telling you about, me to my wife and baby boy – and stopped off in your lovely town. Now, I’m not denying I was at fault last night, but I believe it was the joy of my friend’s upcoming nuptials that had me – forget myself. Celebrating his good luck, you understand. Usually Sheriff, I’m known for living a model life, a life of temperance, moderation and…”
Outside the cell noises suggest the sheriff is adding coal to the stove.
Inside the cell a hunk of beef is transferred from one plate to another.
“It’s the fact I’m unused to liquor – me being habitually so sober – that caused the trouble, Sheriff. That’s what threw me off my balance when – without any malice at all – I knocked into you. Now, I’m not excusing what happened, mind you – just trying to offer some explanation. And, asking you to think of that lovely, sweet, true girl waiting for my blameless friend here. She’ll be back home worrying. And, I’m asking you to think of my dear wife and girl…”
“Boy,” corrects Curry from his cot, simultaneously carrying out another potato requisition.
“Three year-old girl and her baby brother…” amends Heyes. “I’m just asking you to find it in your heart to think of them, Sheriff. If…”
The shadow moves away. There is a sound of an outer office door opening, then closing. The unseen sheriff has left.
Heyes lets go of the bars.
“Tamin’ an antelope might be the quicker way out,” grunts Kid Curry. A pause during which stew is masticated. “What’s confusin’ me, Heyes, is – I thought we’d decided on a few quiet nights in.”
“So – why the silver-tonguin’ for the sheriff?”
“Kid, haven’t you ever heard of reverse psychology?”
Over on the cot there is rumination, of both the oral and mental variety.
“Nope,” Curry decides.
“It’s where you act as if you’re trying to persuade someone to do one thing, but – all the while – you really want him to do the opposite.”
“So – you really wanted the sheriff to ignore you? ‘Cos…” A mouth is filled with a potato swiped from Heyes’ plate. Indistinctly, “…If that was the plan, it sure worked.”
“So, Heyes – those other times you’ve failed to talk us out of somethin’, or into somethin’, those times when you’ve not said one single thing that’s worked…”
Heyes’ expression grows steadily more baleful during the Kid’s speech.
“…That wasn’t you bein’ nothin’ but an ordinary, everyday idiot. That’s you usin’ reverse psychology?”
Heyes returns to his cot.
“Think about it, Kid. Keeping us in here don’t do nothing for the sheriff – except pay me back for getting him mad. We don’t want him thinking – the best way to pay this Joshua Smith fella back is to throw him out in the rain. We want him thinking – Joshua Smith is itching to get away.”
“An’ you need to remind him how annoyin’ this Smith fella can be…” chips in Curry. “Good work, Heyes.”
A checking glance from Heyes – was that meant to be insulting? A shrug indicates he is giving the Kid the benefit of the doubt on that one. He picks up his plate and fork. Double-take at his depleted portion. A suspicious scowl at his chewing partner. Blameless baby-blue eyes blink back.
“What?” enquires a perfect picture of innocence.
EVENING – AROUND DUSK
The boys sit on their respective bunks. This, then, is the beginning of their quiet night in.
Brown eyes rest steadily on a blond ex-outlaw. Meanwhile, blue eyes, crinkled in concentration, rove around the cell resting on first one thing, then another.
“It’s your turn, Kid.”
“I know whose dang turn it is, Heyes!”
“There’s only the two of us in here. I reckon I can keep track of the turns!”
“I’m just thinkin’.”
“Can’t a man think in this dumb game?”
“We’ve already used up nearly all the dang options.”
“Okay.” Kind tone from Heyes, “You are allowed to pick some’n that’s been used once already.”
“I know that!”
“I told ya – I’m just thinkin’!”
Silence. More silence.
And still more.
Getting tedious now.
“You still thinking?”
“For Pete’s sake, Heyes!”
“Okay, okay, I got one. I spy, with my little eye, something beginnin’ with…” Wildly searching gaze. “With…With…”
“Which part of; ‘I got one’, are you having problems with, Kid?”
“With – B.”
Infinitesimally short pause.
Utter chagrin on Kid Curry’s face.
“No!” he lies.
“It is bars, huh?” says Heyes, sympathetically.
“Nope. Wrong. Next guess.”
“Okay. I give up – tell me what it was.”
“You can’t give up after one try.”
“Yes I can. Just means you win this one. What was it?”
“It was…” Even more wild searching from the blue eyes. Nothing! “It was the dang bars! Happy now?”
“So, you now owe me twenty three hundred dollars.”
Scowl from Kid Curry.
“Easiest money I ever made, Kid.”
“Beats robbing trains hollow.”
Heyes can see the scowl. He’s gloating on purpose now!
“Reckon I might give up poker when we get out, just play this instead. My turn. I spy…”
“No!” explodes Kid Curry.
“We said thirty rounds at a hundred dollars a round. This is only round twenty-four.” Kindly, “You’re bound to win one soon, Kid.”
“Yeah, I am. ‘Cos if we play one more round of this dang game I’ll be changin’ the rules to; I flatten with my little fist somethin’ beginnin’ with H.”
“Animal, vegetable or mineral?”
“No, no, Kid, only questions that can be answered yes or no.”
“You told me – it’s gotta be animal, vegetable or mineral…”
“An’ all I asked is – is it animal, vegetable or mineral?”
“Well that isn’t a yes or no question, is it? You hafta say – is it an animal?”
“Is it – what?”
“Are you rilin’ me on purpose, Heyes?”
Innocent eyes, “No.”
“Rilin’ me just comes natural, huh?”
Wider innocent eyes.
“So, is it?”
“Is it – what?”
“Is it a dang animal, Heyes?”
“Mmmmm?” Hard thinking. “Nope.”
“Is it a vegetable?”
“Is it a dang mineral?”
“Now, that was a waste of a question, Kid. ‘Cos mineral’s all that’s left.”
“Doesn’t follow. Coulda been a – a bird or some’n.”
“Birds are animals, Kid.”
“Since when? Birds are birds – flyin’. Animals are animals – runnin’ or burrowin’ or whatever.”
Deep, deep sigh from Heyes. Patiently, “Birds are animals – ‘cos they’re not mineral and they’re not vegetable.”
Stubbornly, “Don’t follow.”
“It’s a dang game, Kid! Games have rules! It don’t follow that a flush hasta beat two pair. It wasn’t handed down from the mountain top on a stone tablet. Someone made the rules up – and now a flush beats two pair. Likewise – for our purposes – birds are animals. If you wanna win back any of that four thousand dollars you owe me – you hafta work with the – the underlying principles.”
A wriggle from Kid Curry, he decides to relent. “Okay, is it a bird?”
“No! We already established it’s a dang mineral!”
“I don’t know any minerals – ‘cept – maybe salt. Is it salt?”
“Nope. Don’t necessarily hafta be what we’d usually call a mineral, Kid. Just – not animal, not vegetable. Could be – could be the bars, say.”
“They’re steel, aren’t they?”
“So – far as the rules go, steel’s a mineral?”
“So, this could be any dang thing?”
Shrug from Heyes.
“Is it the bars?”
“How many questions do I get?”
“And how many have I had?”
“Including that one – eighteen.”
“EIGHTEEN?” Total disbelief.
“You are jokin’?”
“Nope. And that one made twenty. You owe me another $100. Your turn.”
“The minister’s cat is a curmudgeonly cat…” chants Heyes.
Again with the more silence.
“I told ya. I ain’t playin’!”
“C’mon, Kid. You could win this one. The minister’s cat is a downtrodden cat…”
Fuming silence from the opposite cot.
“You pick some’n starting with ‘e’.”
“Nah. Dumb starts with a ‘D’, Kid. Another hundred for me.”
The cell is now only dimly lit from a couple of oil lamps in the outer office.
Kid Curry has fetched his Colt and is cleaning it, peacefully, on his cot.
Heyes is stretched out, arms folded behind his head, contemplating the ceiling. Possibly he is also getting his thoughts together.
“‘Course, we don’t hafta stay here tomorrow night, Kid. How does the old saying go – tomorrow is another day? We could go do something else.”
“I mean to say, I’m pretty flush now. Had me a real good evening. Won over five thousand dollars.”
A look from Kid Curry.
“‘Course,” admits Heyes, in response to the look, “it’s all only on paper. But…” A grin over at his partner. “…I’m sure the credit of the fella I won it from is good.”
Curry rolls his eyes and reapplies himself to polishing his gun.
“Five thousand dollars,” muses Heyes. “We could have ourselves a good night with that, huh, Kid? Take a train – private coach of course – to ‘Frisco…”
“Or Denver,” chips in his partner.
“You pick,” Heyes’ generosity is unbounded. “We’ll check into the priciest hotel we can find – a whole suite. We’ll spruce ourselves up, then go find a fancy theatre, all gilding and dazzling lights and velvet seats, with beautiful women singing and dancing and kicking up their legs on stage. We pick out a couple of the best looking…”
“Blondes?” checks Kid Curry.
“Blonde for you. Ravishing raven-haired temptress for me. We meet ’em back stage, offer to take ’em out to supper—and dancing. There’ll be champagne flowing like water. Their silk skirts’ll be rustling and swirling as we spin them round the room. They’ll be wearing something kinda…” Indicative finger gesture. “…Low cut. They’ll laugh at everything we say and hang on our every word. As the evening draws on, they’ll lean in, real close, whisper that they wanna take us back to their place.” A happy sigh. “How’s that sound, Kid?”
Kid Curry looks up from his gun, purses his lips, thoughtfully. “Dunno, Heyes. It sounds kinda tiring. Y’know what I’d like?”
“Another quiet night in.”
“Y’know what, Kid? So would I.” Heyes settles himself back and shuts his eyes. “We’ll settle for another quiet night in.”
1) Apologies to ‘Porridge’ from which this is ripped off. Did I say ripped off? I meant adapted.
2) The antelope escape from Wyoming Territorial Prison – true story!