Hannibal Heyes, clad in his best brown suit, sits at the window of a hotel room. He stares, a wistful expression on his face, at a handsome corner building sporting the legend Bank.
Heyes spots something, pulls forward his chair, folds his arms on the sill and leans his chin upon them. Sparkling with intense interest the dark eyes watch as a middle-aged man, portly mien, dark suit and well-brushed derby mounts the steps and unlocks the door.
“Bank manager?” suggests Heyes, half turning, to the two beds within the room. One, beside which rests a silver-trimmed black hat, is rumpled, the pillow bearing a head-shaped imprint. The second is pristine – suggesting no ex-outlaw sullied its snowy sheets last night. A wry half-grin. “They do say talking to yourself is one of the first signs…” Heyes turns back to the street.
The putative bank manager is followed by a soberly clad girl whose blue serge and crisp white linen suggest bank clerk. A tall, lanky, elderly man, clad entirely in black, silver pince-nez glinting on his beak-like nose, trails behind. A burly fella emerges from a side street and brings up the rear.
Without shifting concentration from the scene outside, Heyes reaches into his vest pocket, checks his watch – eight thirty. He purses his lips, nods, returns his chin to his arms. His gaze moves from the bank entrance – on the main street – to the large side window, directly opposite.
“Now she raises the blinds…”
Across the street, the blinds shoot upwards. The window is protected by bars, but still offers Heyes – and us – a reasonable view of the interior. As the pretty bank clerk moves away, Heyes slides his head left to keep the slim, female figure in view. Two chair legs leave the floor as he tilts.
“Now, she waters the – the – whatever that ugly, great brute is …”
Indeed, from his point of view we see the clerk pick up a small can, move to the wall opposite the window, and water what anyone familiar with popular 1880s houseplants would identify as an aspidistra in a huge, gleaming tub.
Heyes’ chin slides two feet to the right. His torso pendulums through approximately forty degrees. Down click the right chair legs, up come the left.
“Now bean-pole with eye-glasses goes to his cage. Then it’s time for the deputy to do his regular walk past the window. There he goes…” Something catches his attention. He sits up. A familiar figure – sheepskin jacket, floppy brown hat – is emerging from the side door of the “Lucky Strike” saloon. No… No – it isn’t emerging. It has stopped. Heyes stretches for a better view. The figure is embracing a young woman – scantily, though attractively, clad in lace-trimmed underwear and stays, a gaudy shawl slipping from one creamy shoulder. More embracing. Nose touching. Dopey smiles. Kissing. Indicative head gesture from the saloon gal. The two figures disappear back inside at a trot, the door swinging shut behind them.
Eye roll from Heyes. “Sheesh! Before breakfast too!”
He returns his gaze to the bank. Determination narrows the brown eyes. There is the merest hint of lips being licked. Heyes stands, sets his own unflattering derby on his head, retrieves a common house brick from under his bed, wraps it in a henley, then locks it in a modest tin box taken from a side table. He heads for the door.
THE STREET – LONG SHOT
Heyes checks out the side of the bank. Then the gated alley behind it. He heads for the main street.
The camera pans to an office bearing the Sheriff sign. In the window, a grizzled individual watches the back view of Heyes as he reconnoitres.
Heyes takes the steps of the bank two at a time, still holding his tin box. In he goes.
BRIEF MONTAGE OF STILLS – WITH JAUNTY MUSIC
Accompanied by a beaming, portly manager, attentive young clerk, and at a discreet distance, the burly individual now clutching a shot gun, a dimpled, smiling Heyes is shown:
Admiring a wire running high around the wall; indeed he has mounted a chair for a better look.
Examining multiple heavy bolts on the back door.
Letting his fingers linger on a fine ironwork banister, as he descends the steps down to the vault.
With a blissful expression before the impressive door of the vault.
With an ‘I’ve-died-and-gone-to-heaven’ expression inside the vault.
RETURN TO LONG SHOT OF STREET
Heyes emerges from the bank accompanied by the manager, whose plump jowls are wreathed in an ingratiating smile. They shake hands, Heyes emanating waves of dimpled charm. The security guard hands back Heyes’ gun and civilly touches his hat. Heyes holsters his Schofield, indulges in another round of mutual glad-handing, then descends the steps.
Again, the camera pans. The sheriff is still watching as Heyes strides down the street and then wheels into a café. The lawman sips a mug of coffee, thoughtfully.
A TYPICAL CAFÉ
Heyes enters, scans the room. Ah! Kid Curry is already at a gingham-covered table, wrapping himself around bacon, eggs and biscuits. The partners exchange nods of greeting. Over Heyes goes.
“Sleep well?” he asks, face a picture of bland innocence.
Curry ignores this. His eyes run over the dapper one. “Why the suit?”
“To inspire confidence. I’ve rented a safety deposit box in the bank vault.”
“You’re not STILL yakkin’ ’bout that dang vault?! Just ‘cos you read it’s got some fancy metal door.”
“Some fancy metal door?! That fancy metal door’s made of high tungsten content tool steel…”
The motherly waitress bustles over to take his order.
SOME MINUTES LATER
Curry’s plate has been refilled. Heyes’ is pushed away half-empty. He clutches a steaming mug of coffee and is in full flow.
“It’s a basement vault, Kid – all brick built – everything in town’s been brick built since the mid 60s. They had a fire, y’see, and the town passed a brick ordinance requiring all new construction be of stone or brick. I was reading about it…”
“Uh huh,” grunts Kid Curry, sending another forkful of bacon south. “Her name’s Janine…”
“Even the delivery tunnels below the town – they use them for coal and stuff – are brick. Anyhow, the bank vault – it’s a full thirty-five feet below street level…”
“She’s a real nice gal. Well, she ain’t a ‘nice’ gal – but you know what I mean…”
“Got a wrought iron stair going down to it. Real fancy.”
“She said it was real nice to spend time with a fella with some intelligent conversation.”
“And you view the deposit boxes… Intelligent conversation?” Quizzical eyebrow lift.
“Yeah, you got a problem with that?”
“You don’t think it was real nice for her to spend time with a fella who’d just been dang well paid for a delivery job?”
“You really think YOU oughta be the one callin’ anyone on bein’ mercenary?”
Acknowledging shrug from the larcenous one.
“Besides,” went on Curry, “don’t mean she didn’t appreciate other stuff too. She was real interestin’ to talk to…”
“You mean she let you talk about yourself?”
“No! We were discussin’…” Pause. Kid’s brow furrows in thought. “Alright, yeah. But it was a dang sight better’n listenin’ to you yakkin’ about that dang vault!” He masticates another biscuit. Temptingly, “Her pal Trixie thinks you’re cute…”
“Her pal Trixie’s right. It isn’t just the vault, Kid. I want me another look at that door. I’ll have to go view my box. Door’s made of high tungsten content tool steel…”
“‘Course, it was kinda dark in that saloon… What the Sam Hill did you deposit anyhow?”
“It’s circular… Huh? House-brick wrapped in your blue Henley… The apex is tall enough for a man to walk in without stooping…”
“My hen…! Just so you can look at a dang door!?” Coffee is sipped. Ruminating. “You hafta pay for safety deposit boxes, Heyes!”
“Did I grudge you spending money on YOUR hobby last night? Guess what the door’s inner skin’s made of?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did I say know? I meant care. I don’t care.”
“Closure to within two thou…”
“Hinge side bolts too…”
“Heyes…” Curry finally captures his partner’s attention. “We’re straight now! Don’t matter if this vault door’s made of wet newspaper and fastened with a soft-boiled carrot. It makes no difference to us.” He stares at his partner’s eager face. “Does it?”
Very reluctantly, “Guess not.”
“You know not.”
A MINUTE LATER – OUTSIDE THE CAFÉ
The boys straighten their shoulders, walk off. Almost immediately Heyes stops, tips back his hat and stares – fascinated.
“That alley runs right behind the bank. Got steel barriers over…”
Curry has a wary eye on the grizzled individual in the middle-distance, silver star glinting in the sun, who has emerged from his office and is looking in their direction.
“Will you quit it, Heyes?!”
“Can’t a fella take an innocent interest?”
“You keep droolin’ like that, you’re gonna have him wonder how innocent your int’rest is.”
“Him who?” Heyes looks. “Oh.” The sheriff heads in their direction.
“I hate to say I told ya so,” murmurs Curry, “but…”
“Good mornin’,” the sheriff greets them. An appraising glance notes the boys’ tied-down guns, then returns to study the faces of the two ex-outlaws.
“Morning, Sheriff,” responds Heyes.
Kid Curry touches his hat civilly.
“You’re the two fellas brung our mayor some legal papers from Colonel Harper?”
Fleeting mute conversation.
“That’s right,” says Heyes.
“Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones?”
A second mute conversation.
Heyes clears his throat. “Seems you’ve been taking an interest in us, Sheriff.”
“I take an interest in all strangers passing through my town, Mister Smith, Mister Jones.” Just enough emphasis on the surnames to hint at scepticism. “Especially when three outta four of those strangers seem fascinated by the bank.”
Two blinks as the phrase ‘three out of four’ sinks in.
Heyes’ slim finger actually points first to Curry, then himself and silently mouths the count.
The scepticism increases. “You ain’t gonna tell me you’re not with those two over there? You don’t know ’em? It’s pure co-incidence they rode in the day after you, on horses bearin’ the same mark and checked in at the same hotel?”
“Which two?” asks Heyes.
Our boys swivel to stare across and down the street at the hotel. Two figures lean on the porch rail, seemingly drinking in every inch of the bank like nectar. For a moment or so the normal traffic of horses and pedestrians obscures the view. The dust clears and…
Recognition sweeps across two ex-outlaw faces. Two jaws drop. Blue and brown eyes startle from their sockets.
” ** !” ejaculates Heyes.
“&^^&!” agrees Curry.
Fortunately a handy background blacksmith delivers two timely ringing blows to a horseshoe keeping the dialogue genre-appropriate.
Meanwhile, across the street, the two mystery figures – as if psychically aware of scrutiny – turn, freeze at the sight of the sheriff, then squint at the two fellas with him. If Heyes’ and Curry’s jaws dropped, those of Wheat and Kyle plummet. If the ex-outlaws’ eyes gaped, the not-so-ex-outlaws’ orbs positively goggle. They are too far away for their exclamations to be heard, but the sound effect of two more metal-on-metal hammer blows suggest it is entirely possible they consist of: “&^^&!” and ” ** !”
The sheriff watches our boys’ reaction and draws back his head. “Okay, that answered a couple of questions. You DO know ’em – but you’re NOT together.” To Heyes, “It don’t answer why you spent this morning leaning outta your bedroom window, watching the bank staff arrive, or why you were staring at it just now like a cat staking out a mouse-hole.”
Heyes drags his gaze away from his erstwhile gang members and adopts his best shining innocence face. “Strictly speaking, Sheriff, it’s not the bank I’m interested in. Y’see…” He holds aloft his newspaper. “…I’ve been reading up on the fancy new door on the vault.”
“Well, I know it’s supposed to be near as good as the one in Blake Street, but what’s so fascinatin’ about it?”
“What’s so fascinating about it?!” echoes Heyes, aghast.
“Sheriff, you’re gonna wish you’d never asked,” sighs Curry.
“To begin with,” starts Heyes, “it’s made of …”
FADE IN – SAME SCENE – A FEW MINUTES LATER – SOUND OFF
We watch Heyes in full flow, slim hands gesticulating expressively – in fact his whole body and facial expressions join in a virtuoso display of silent cinema acting – to an increasingly bored sheriff.
The lawman exchanges a mute conversation – no, make that a mute plea for help – with a sympathetic-looking Kid Curry.
On Heyes goes…
FADE IN – SAME SCENE – SOUND BACK ON
“…You hafta admit that’s pretty impressive engineering!” finishes Heyes, triumphantly. He tips back his hat, places his hands on his hips and adopts the attitude of a man awaiting ringing applause from his captivated audience.
“You were right,” the sheriff tells Curry. “I wish I’d never asked.”
He turns on his heel and heads off. An affronted Heyes stares after him until his attention is recaptured by a significant nod and eye re-direction from his partner.
With wary glances at the route taken by the now invisible sheriff, Wheat and Kyle are respectively striding and scuttling over.
“Hi, Kid. Hi, Heyes,” grins Kyle affably before being silenced by a glare from his current leader.
“What the Sam Hill are you doin’ here, Heyes?” belligerents Wheat, bravado to the fore.
“I don’t hafta ask what you’re doing,” responds Heyes. “You’re drawing the attention of the sheriff by staring at the bank like – like cats staking out a mouse hole!”
“Which is pretty dang dumb,” chips in Curry, casting a meaning glance at the vault-door devotee.
“Sure is,” agrees Heyes, having the grace to blush.
“Dumb as a brick,” expands Curry.
“The thing is, Wheat…”
“Dumb, dumb, dumb.” Ah, the Kid was not quite finished.
“Can we move on?” snaps Heyes. “The thing is, Wheat, we need to know you and Kyle aren’t planning on causing any trouble.” He fixes Wheat with his best stare – the one with a hint of danger. “Understand?”
“Maybe we ain’t plannin’ nuthin’,” says Wheat.
“I thought we wuz plannin’ to rob the bank?” puzzles Kyle. He encounters the Wheat version of the danger glare and studies his boots.
Wheat gathers his swagger. “If you an’ the Kid decide to go straight – that’s your business, but it don’t give you the right to stop the rest of us robbin’ banks, Heyes.”
“There’s a lotta truth in there,” admits Curry, “but…”
“But that bank’s unrobbable,” interrupts Heyes. “By you anyhow.”
“Pfffttt!” dismisses Wheat.
“Listen, the vault door is …”
“No!” explodes Kid Curry. “No way am I listenin’ to that again!” Heyes blinks in chagrin. Kid Curry turns to Wheat. “You’re right, Wheat. You’n’Kyle can rob any bank you like…” Pause. More than a hint of danger in his tone. “With one exception…”
Kyle’s mouth hangs open with the effort of close listening.
“…You do not rob the bank in any town Heyes an’ me are stayin’ in. Got it?”
Kyle’s brow furrows in confusion. So, that’s a no – not quite got it.
“We’ve found being around other folks’ bank robberies means trouble for us,” explains Heyes.
“And – you two don’t want to cause us no trouble, do ya?” finishes Curry.
Wheat meets Curry’s cool blue gaze. His Adam’s apple bobs though the rooster chest thrust remains in place.
“I guess – for old time’s sake – we wouldn’t wanna cause ya no trouble,” he submits.
“So you boys’ll be ridin’ out?” prompts Curry.
A mute conversation between the current (not ex) outlaws.
“I reckon we could visit Red Rock,” grunts Wheat.
“‘But…But …” Kyle stutters. “But I got me a gal in this town!” Aww. Now he’s spat it out Kyle can’t decide if he’s proud or sheepish.
“A gal? Kyle?” Heyes blinks.
“Her name’s Janine.” Aww. Definitely edging towards proud. “She sez it’s nice to spend time with a fella who gives a gal…” Deep breath. “…Intell-gen convers-hayshun.”
Kid Curry’s face is a picture of chagrin. He refuses, point blank, to meet his grinning partner’s eye.
“Her pal Trixie…” Wheat chimes in. “Told Kyle she thought I was cute!”
Heyes’ grin falls.
“Nevertheless…” prompts Kid Curry, eyes fixed on Wheat.
“Red Rock,” concedes Wheat.
SHOT OF SUN SETTING – As Kid Curry heads for saloon.
Shot of Kid Curry again spinning out a good-bye to his gal at side door.
THE CAFÉ – CLOCK INDICATES AROUND 10am
Our boys, the only customers, linger over coffee.
Suddenly both main and kitchen doors burst open revealing, respectively, the sheriff, gun drawn, and a burly deputy holding a shotgun.
“Reach!” barks the sheriff.
Two ex-outlaws – one in full flow, one listening to the (all-too-familiar) flow – are behind bars.
“I have a wife and little baby girl and my friend, here, he has to get back because…”
The deputy, with a kindly-enough smile, passes two mugs of coffee through the bars. Heyes stops talking – for a moment. Curry stops listening – maybe for more than a moment. They drink it.
“So you knew nothing about the bank gettin’ robbed?” asks the sheriff.
“Nothing! Sheriff, I’d like to know when it became possible, in the land of the free, for two law-abiding, upstanding – HIC…” Okay. The coffee going-down-the-wrong-way hiccups don’t help. The deputy reaches in and bangs, helpfully, on his back.
“Accordin’ to my information…” Here the sheriff consults a document. “At around 8:35 this mornin’ – two gunmen barged into the bank – from the alley at the back. They grabbed the money at the cashier stations, forced the manager to let one of ’em into the vault – he bust into two dozen or so safety deposit boxes. The other saw Mister Loomis reach under his shelf, musta thought he was reachin’ for a gun, put a bullet through his arm…”
“The old man? Is he okay?” interrupts Curry.
“Doc says it’s not much more’n a graze,” the deputy assures him.
“Then they made their getaway,” continues the sheriff. “Now, I reckon they picked this morning knowin’ I was outta town last night – which you fellas coulda heard.”
“We could have, but we didn’t! It so happens, Sheriff, yesterday we were engaged with matters other than your itinerary…”
“Like checkin’ out the security arrangements at the bank?”
“No! Like persuading…” Heyes stops.
“Persuadin’ – who – what?”
“Persuading an – an acquaintance of the benefits of a trip to Red Rock,” says Heyes. “Or, so we thought…” This last is muttered sotto voce, aside to his partner.
“That knucklehead,” fumes Kid Curry, also sotto voce.
“If you mean the other two fellas – they DID ride out and stay at Red Rock,” says the Sheriff. “It so happens, that was where I had business last night. Saw ’em. THEY’RE in the clear.”
Heyes’ and Curry’s expressions mingle relief and confusion. Then – who?
“And – so are we,” rallies Heyes. “In the clear that is. Sheriff, my friend happens to be engaged to…”
“Uh huh? The descriptions seem to fit.”
“Descriptions?” repeats Curry.
“The descriptions of the robbers.” The sheriff consults his report. “One had dark brown hair, brown eyes – about 29 years old, 5 foot 11, medium build…”
Brown eyes slide left…
“The other fella had dark blond hair, blue eyes, 27ish, 5 foot 11…”
Blue eyes slide right.
A mute conversation.
“But, Sheriff,” Heyes flashes his best law-abiding smile, “…Surely those – vague – descriptions would fit any number of men?”
“I dunno about ANY number; they’d fit a few, sure. Maybe even a few Smiths and a few Jones.” The same tonal hint as yesterday – he doesn’t buy those names.
“Lotsa fellas called Smith an’ Jones,” attempts Curry. “We just happen to be two of ’em.”
“And the one called Smith spent the past forty-eight hours eyein’ the bank like a hungry coyote droolin’ over a steak.”
Curry throws his partner a ‘told you so’ version of the look.
The dimpled one summons up fresh levels of spotless innocence. “Sheriff, simply because you saw me taking a – a scientific interest in the bank once or twice…”
“Or three or four times,” mutters Curry.
“That is no justification to imprison us! After all, if we’d robbed the bank this morning would you have found us off our guard at the cafe? Isn’t the usual practice for outlaws to ride hell-for-leather outta town after a job?”
“Not that we’d know usual outlaw practise,” Curry puts in. “Bein’ so law-abidin’.” His turn to encounter a look. He shuts up.
“Fair point,” agrees the sheriff. “BUT, there’s something – complicated – about this robbery. And…” He shakes his head, thoughtfully, at Heyes. “Call it instinct, there’s something suspicious ’bout you, son. You’re likeable – not denyin’ that – and you sure can talk. BUT, some’n tells me not to believe a word you say.”
Another mute conversation. An almost resigned shrug from Kid Curry, who cannot keep a certain reluctant admiration out of the look he throws at the sheriff.
A SHORT WHILE LATER
The bank manager, Mister Loomis – the elderly, tall, lanky teller, now with his arm in a sling, the pretty young clerk and the burly security guard, stand, together with the sheriff in front of our boys’ cell.
“Are these the fellas?” asks the sheriff.
The manager – let’s call him Mister Crawley, since that’s his name – blinks hard at Heyes. “This is Mister Joshua Smith!” he exclaims.
“He deposited a box of valuables with us yesterday. He’s a most respectable businessman. Told us all about his wife and young ba…”
Heyes, a picture of said respectability, nods eagerly, avoiding the gaze of his partner.
“Yeah – it’s not really a recap I’m after,” interrupts the Sheriff. “Could he have been one of the robbers?”
“I – er…” Crawley hesitates.
The security guard – henceforward known as Randy – comes to his aid. “They had bandannas over their faces, Sheriff. We told ya.”
Crawley scans the ex-outlaws from head to toe. “They do match the descriptions,” he says, slowly. “I guess it could be them.” Encountering Heyes’ outraged expression. “No offence.”
“Mister Smith,” the girl – Madge – decides to chip in, “was VERY interested in security arrangements.”
Encountering brown-eyed reproach.
“I’m sorry, Mister Smith – but you did ask an awful lot of questions.”
Curry’s turn with the reproachful glance – though his is directed Heyes-wards.
“I couldn’t swear to nothing,” hedges Crawley, with a nervous tug at his collar.
“What d’you say, Mister Loomis?” The sheriff indicates Kid Curry. “Is this the fella took a shot at ya?”
“I can’t deny he’s the right build,” admits the older man. “But – no – I don’t recognise him. Not that I would – with the bandanna – and the shock – and all.”
“Well, thanks for coming over,” sighs the sheriff.
The bank employees troop out, with various worried glances back at the cell.
The deputy strides in. “Telegram, Sheriff.”
The sheriff reads, almost visibly relaxes.
“Seems this isn’t gonna be my problem much longer. The bank head office out in Denver has called in the Bannerman Agency. One of their best men’ll be here before the day’s out.”
“A Bannerman detective? Coming here?” Heyes’ Adam’s apple bobs.
“Yup. So, I guess it can’t hurt to keep you here till he arrives. If you’re innocent – he’ll soon clear you, huh?”
“Yeah,” agrees a distinctly lukewarm Heyes.
“AND, meanwhile – you’re right about those descriptions fitting more’n just you. I’ll start workin’ through the old wanted posters. Who knows – I might find a likely match before this Bannerman fella shows up.”
“Great.” If Heyes was lukewarm, Kid is the cooler side of tepid.
The boys are now alone in the cell area. Curry is prone on one bunk, hands behind his head. Heyes perches on the other so he can view the street through a small barred window.
From beneath the hat Curry’s voice emerges, “Y’know we need to get outta this, Heyes.”
“So – do we bust outta jail?”
“Nope. If we bust out – once the sheriff reaches our wanted posters – he’ll put two and two together – think we robbed the bank, it’ll get back to the governor – and goodbye to our amnesty.”
“So, the plan is – we stay right here, so when the sheriff reads our wanted posters an’ puts two an’ two together – we’re close at hand?” Pause. “Guess it saves him trouble.”
“He’s not reading right now, Kid. He’s heading for the Stage Depot.”
“To meet the Bannerman fella?”
“That’d be my guess.”
“Who – if he’s one of their best men – might spot who we are?”
“Maybe not. Leastways, if he’s that good, he’ll clear up who did it.” Heyes turns from the window. “Does it strike you, Kid, there’s something real odd ’bout those descriptions?”
“Word for word, y’mean?” Curry removes his hat, meets his partner’s gaze. “Someone tryin’ to frame us?”
“Uh huh. But it don’t fit. Because – it’d hafta be one of the bank staff. They’re the ones saw the robbers. And, whoever it was – why not recognise us?”
“Yeah. None of ’em pointed the finger when the sheriff gave them a chance.”
Heyes’ forehead puckers in thought. He turns back to the street.
“Stage is in,” he announces. Pause. “One fella climbing down.” Pause. “Oh.” A rueful grin. “We can forget this Bannerman solving the case, Kid. And, I reckon he WILL recognise us.”
Curry’s turn with the puckering forehead. Light dawns. Springing up, he joins Heyes at the window.
“HE’S one of Bannerman’s best men?!”
A FEW MINUTES LATER – STILL IN THE CELL
There is the sound of approaching footsteps accompanied by the gruff rumble of the sheriff explaining the situation to the newly-arrived detective.
Kid Curry, voice dipped to an undertone, presumably to prevent the lawman catching his words, finishes what has clearly been a rapid – though eagerly expressed – set of instructions. “…So, Harry clears us. We tip him off there was somethin’ just too dang – convenient – about those descriptions. First chance we get, we ride out.”
Heyes, meanwhile, paces, hat thrust back, brow furrowed in thought, seemingly deaf to his partner’s eloquence.
Sheriff’s voice: “…Smith’s right enough to say, barrin’ the descriptions, I’ve no real case against them. BUT – call it lawman’s instinct – I reckon they’re hidin’ somethin’.”
Deservedly popular guest star voice: “As a fully qualified Bannerman Detective Agent, I don’t hold with instinct, Sheriff. We Bannerman men use the very latest methods in the science – science, mind – of deduction and…”
The two men stride into view. Harry Briscoe lays eyes on the all-too-familiar inhabitants of the cell. His jaw drops mid-sentence. His eyes goggle. If he does not actually rock back on his heels – he manages to convey the message that he would if it were not genre-inappropriate. Kid Curry touches his brim in sardonic welcome.
“My lawman’s instinct tells me – you fellas know each other,” remarks the sheriff. “‘Course – that ain’t a scientific deduction.”
Heyes moves into brisk commanding mode. “Looks like you’ve blown our cover, Briscoe!”
Harry’s jaw heads an inch or two closer to the floor.
Heyes’ hands go to his hips. “Didn’t Bright brief you? Gaines and I are here working undercover.”
Harry blinks – bunny staring at a rattler. “Er…”
“Or are you and Bright still carrying on that old grudge?”
“Er…” Harry feels his way, cautiously. “Harry Bright hasn’t had a good word for me in twenty years.”
“Are you tellin’ me,” the sheriff addresses Harry, “these fellas are Bannerman Agents?”
“Sure are,” confirms Heyes, quickly. “We worked with Briscoe in Brimstone, in Silver Springs, in Pearlman.”
Brown eyes fasten, compellingly, on a pole-axed Bannerman Agent. He finally closes his sagging jaw and nods.
The sheriff, Harry, and Kid Curry sit listening as a pacing Heyes extemporises.
“…Harry’s right about scientific deduction, Sheriff. All the same, I’d say you’d got pretty good instincts there – after all, you knew we weren’t who we claimed, huh?”
“Sure never bought Smith and Jones,” agrees the lawman. “What I don’t understand is…”
“Those instincts of yours – do they ever tell you there’s a bad apple among the bank staff?”
“That’s why you’re here undercover? The bank thought they mighta hired a… You’re thinkin’ it’s an inside job?”
“Who gave you the descriptions, Sheriff?”
“The descri… That was Madge. She got the best look. But – what I still don’t understand is – IF you’re a couple of Bannerman’s top agents…”
“Which we are!” confirms Heyes.
“Apparently so,” deadpans Curry, with an almost imperceptible shake of the head at his partner’s evident enjoyment of the situation.
“And you were here to stop the bank gettin’ robbed…” Pause.
Heyes nods at the sheriff to continue.
“How come it got robbed? You being so trained and scientific and all.”
A brown-eyed blink.
“That’s got me confused, too,” says Harry.
“Not TOO clear over here,” adds Curry, sotto voce, earning himself a fleeting frown.
“Seeing the bank getting robbed on our watch as a failure is a mistake I might expect from the untrained…” Gosh, Heyes can sound pompous when he tries! “But I’m surprised at you, Briscoe! Haven’t you heard of – lulling criminals?”
“So – you lulled ’em into a TRUE sense of security?” Yup, the sheriff still sounds cynical.
Heyes resumes commanding mode. “We’re losing time here. Sheriff, go tell the bank to close up. We Bannerman men will be right over to check out the scene of the crime. Don’t say a word about our suspicions of an inside job.”
The sheriff collects his hat. “Y’know, Gaines, I still think you’re hiding something.”
“That’s because discretion is a Bannerman’s middle name, Sheriff.”
“An’ he’s Grant,” chips in Curry. “I’m Gaines.”
The sheriff leaves.
Finally Harry can explode. “What the Sam Hill are you two…?!”
“We’re here to make another truly noble gesture, Harry,” says Heyes, “by letting you in on the fact we reckon there’s a bad apple at the bank.”
Harry looks confused. (Probably because Harry IS confused.)
“Knowin’ that upfront,” explains Curry, “you should be able to solve the case, impress your boss – look good.”
Harry brightens. “What makes you think it’s an inside job?”
“The descriptions of the robbers,” explains Heyes. “They were practically lifted from our posters. How could that be?”
“Unless someone needed a handy description and chose ours – so when the Sheriff checks his folk wanted – he turns up two handy outlaws,” finishes Curry.
“Yeah…” Harry frowns in thought, “Unless you two actually DID it.”
“That’s really not what we expect!”
“Not from a grateful old friend!”
Harry scans the outraged pair of innocents in front of him.
“Okay, okay. So, what do you think happened? One of the staff hired a couple of outlaws to rob the bank – gave them the best time to do it – left a door or two unlocked – and gave your descriptions? ‘Cos we all know folk are suggestible when it comes to going along with what other witnesses saw…”
Kid Curry looks sceptical.
“No. Harry’s right,” says Heyes. “I read about it. They’ve done studies. If one fella swears blind he saw a redhead with a blue shirt riding a black horse – you wouldn’t believe how many folk nod and go along, even if the shirt was grey and the horse a paint. They aren’t lying – they’re kinda correcting their own memories.”
Curry still looks dubious, but he shakes it off. “There you go, Harry. You’ve got a workin’ – what d’you call it?”
“Hypothesis,” supplies Heyes.
“We’re gonna ride out,” carries on Curry. Harry’s face falls. “You tell the sheriff we got a telegram from Bannerman callin’ us back. Make out he wants to tear us off a strip for lettin’ the bank get robbed…”
“We can’t leave Harry!” protests Heyes. “We have to stay – help him solve the case!”
Harry brightens. “So, you’re coming over to the bank?”
“Sure! We’ll be right behind you!”
“Which part of ‘first chance we get, we ride out’ did you translate as ‘Hey, let’s hang around and solve the case for Harry’?”
“He’ll never solve it by himself, Kid.”
“Heyes, look at my face. Do I look like I give a dang?”
“Aren’t you interested in who did it – and how? The security around that vault, Kid…”
“Heyes, look at my face!” Sudden change in expression for Kid Curry. “Please don’t tell me we’re stayin’ ‘cos you want to drool over that dang door some more!”
“Okay. I won’t tell you that.”
BANK MANAGER’S OFFICE
Harry Briscoe strides in, followed by a sweating Crawley and a cool-looking Kid Curry.
“We’ll interview the witnesses in here, Mister Crawley.” Harry takes the leather chair behind the gleaming mahogany desk. “I need to collect statements from all the staff about their actions during the robbery and from anyone who saw the outlaws hanging around outside. Order and method – that’s the Bannerman way.” He pulls a sheaf of foolscap toward him. “Order, method – and…” He pats the right pocket of his jacket. “Order, method – and…” The left pocket. “Order, method and…” Curry opens a drawer and hands him a pencil. “And always being prepared.” He leans forward, adopts his best interrogative stare. “Let’s start with you, Mister Crawley.”
“Well, Mister Briscoe, I opened up as normal, half past eight on the dot…”
The sound fades down.
STILL BANK MANAGER’S OFFICE
Close-up on Harry’s scribbling pencil. As sound fades up we hear not Crawley’s voice but a feminine tone. The camera pulls back. It is the motherly waitress from the café speaking. Beside her sits a bearded old-timer.
“I did see two men walking towards the bank. It was just after eight thirty…”
Harry looks up from his notes. “Can you describe them?”
“Er…” Tentatively, “Not wearing suits – dressed more like ranch hands or cowboys.” She indicates Curry. “Rather like this gentleman. Oh!” She has recalled something. “They both had very bright hatbands. One scarlet, one kinda – emerald green. I remember thinking – ‘how colorful!'”
“And real fancy bandannas…” The old-timer is chipping in. “Yellow with…”
“These bandannas.” Harry leans in, eagerly, “were they over their faces?”
Kid Curry rolls his eyes.
“Naw, hangin’ from their pockets – kinda flappin’.”
“So – you could see their faces then?”
“Naw. They were goin’ down the street – away from my livery.”
“Me too…” The waitress again. “I only saw their backs.”
“Color of hair?”
“Er…” Two shrugs?
“How tall?” asks Curry.
“Around my height?”
Very doubtfully. “Maybe.”
MAIN BANK AREA
Heyes and the sheriff are with Madge.
“I’d watered the aspidistra…”
“The which?” queries the lawman.
Madge indicates the huge tub standing before the side window; the plant’s leaves gleam, darkly glossy in the streaming sunlight. Heyes studies it, thoughtfully.
“I was putting the water-can back on the shelf, so it can’t have been more than five, ten minutes after opening time, when – when…” She tugs a handkerchief from a skirt pocket. The camera zooms in on her face. Her lip wobbles. She dabs her eyes.
Zooming back from the close-up on Madge’s wobbling lip, damp-eyed femininity, we see she now sits opposite Harry in the manager’s office.
“I was so frightened,” she quavers.
“Course you were! A bank robbery is no place for a pretty little lady like you!”
“I was trembling like a leaf!”
“Course you were!” Harry rises, comes around the table to put an arm around her. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt – let’s call it a fatherly arm.
“I kept my eyes shut real tight!”
“Course you did.” The hand on the end of the fatherly arm gives her shoulder a comforting pat. And another. And…
The shot pulls back to include Kid Curry, cynically watching Harry carrying out his own version of witness protection via physical proximity and mild pawing. “If your eyes were shut tight – how come you were able to give the sheriff such good descriptions?”
Madge blinks. Then, she lets those damp lashes flutter at the Kid. “Well,” flutter, “I mighta just – y’know – peeked.”
BANK MAIN AREA
In an echo of one of the earlier still shots, Heyes stands on a chair looking up at a discreet wire running high around the wall. “This runs down and under the counter in the head clerk’s cage?”
“Sure does,” confirms Randy, the security guard. “And out to the telegraph office.”
“So, if there’s a robbery – a silent warning can be sent,” explains the sheriff.
“The very latest thing!” Randy’s tone is proud. “But these two fellas musta known about it – ‘cos one of ’em stood up on that very chair you’re standing on now and cut it. You see?”
Heyes can indeed see where the wire has been cut. He stretches towards it – but it’s a good two hand-lengths out of reach.
Zoom in on Randy opening his mouth to speak…
Close-up on Randy.
“Reckon that’s why they shot Mister Loomis – when they saw his hand go under his counter – ‘cos that’s where the transmitter is…”
The camera pulls back. We see it is now Randy’s turn to be interrogated by Harry’s order and method.
“… Or maybe they thought I was reaching for a gun, Mister Briscoe.”
Randy’s face has segued into the lugubrious features of Mister Loomis.
“Guess you’re lucky it was only a flesh wound,” sympathises Curry.
“And – do you have a set of keys to the back door?” asks Harry.
“Me? No, sir. The only set of keys stay with Mister Crawley. That’s company policy.”
OUTSIDE IN THE ALLEY
Crawley is eagerly showing Heyes, Curry, Harry and the sheriff the damage to the gate protecting the alley. “You can see where they bust through the bolts – taking the whole frame with them!”
“That sure is some busted bolt,” agrees Heyes. He examines the twisted hinge and the tortured bright shards of newly-splintered wood. His eyes meet those of his partner. A mute conversation.
“Well, I’ll leave you to look around. Call me if you have any more questions.” Crawley bustles off.
“D’you see the problem here, Harry?” ask Heyes.
“The problem…? Er…?”
“Which side would you say that was bust from?” asks Curry, quietly, fingering the damage.
“The wrong side,” says the sheriff.
Our foursome walk back from the alley behind the bank towards the main street. The ex-outlaw currently answering to the name of Grant looks up, thoughtfully, at the aspidistra-filled side window as they pass.
“Sheriff!” It is the deputy hailing his boss. The senior lawman strides to meet him.
“You still want me to ride out to Red Rock same as usual, Sheriff?”
“Guess so, Hank. With three Bannerman men in town I think we’re all lawed up here.”
Exit the deputy.
“Arthur and me serve Red Rock as well as here,” explains the Sheriff. “He usually rides over Saturdays – the saloons get kinda rowdy.”
The foursome descend the fancy iron staircase to the vault. The – admittedly very impressive – circular door stands open. They walk through.
No, no. Correct that. Three of them walk through. One has stopped to stroke the metallic surface – and caress the hinges – and…
Kid Curry rolls his eyes and pulls his love-struck partner firmly into the vault. “What were you expectin’ to find down here?” he asks.
“I dunno until I find it. Listen…” Heyes moves into recap mode. “None of us think the outside witnesses are lying – so there WERE two strangers heading for the bank about 8:35…”
“With bandannas,” adds Harry.
“And we know someone in the bank helped them.”
“We do,” says Harry. Then, “We do?”
“We sure do,” confirms the sheriff.
“But – which of them?” Harry asks. Then his expression changes, indicating he realises that, after hours of interrogation, his question is not the best indicator of his being one of Bannerman’s best agents. “I mean – I have my own suspicions, based on methodical questioning – but I’d like to know what you men think.”
“My money’s on Madge,” says Curry.
“That pretty little gal?!” Harry is shocked.
“Nah,” dismisses the Sheriff. “It has to be Crawley. He’s the only one had a key to the back.”
Blank look from Harry.
“The gate was broken from inside – unlocked THEN damaged.”
“You don’t think a twenty-year old looker like Madge could maybe persuade a key outta the pocket of a baldin’, paunchy fella who won’t see forty again?”
The sheriff’s mute eyebrow lift indicates Curry has a point.
“Madge couldn’t have shifted the plant. I can’t see Crawley doing it either. Filled with earth that tub must weigh over 200 pounds.”
Three blank looks greet this information from Heyes.
“The plant used to be over by the far wall. It was shifted to block the window so the deputy didn’t see anything but leaves on his regular morning walk past.”
Enlightenment on two faces. Wait for it. Wait for it. Nearly. Ah – Harry gets it too.
“The only employee I can see moving the pot is Randy – but he’s not tall enough to have cut the wire. I couldn’t reach, even on the chair.”
“Loomis is the tallest – fella’s like a bean pole, must be near six five,” muses Curry.
“But HE took the bullet. He’s gotta be in the clear,” says the sheriff. To Heyes, “Hasn’t he?” Nothing. “Hasn’t he?”
Still nothing. Heyes is staring at something in a corner. Slowly, “No – he hasn’t.” He stoops, picks – something – from the floor, shows the Kid.
“Four straws,” says Curry. “One – short straw.”
“They were ALL in it,” breathes Heyes. “They drew to pick who took the bullet.”
Hey, is there a shadow falling across our quartet of sleuths?
Four startled faces swivel to the door just as…
Pause – while the penny drops.
Harry steps forward.
“Leave this to me. Bannerman Agents are trained how to handle a crisis. The thing is to stay calm – and have a plan.”
Harry flings himself at the door and pounds frantically. “Lemme out! LEMME OUT!”
TWO MINUTES LATER
The sheriff, Curry and Harry all hammer on the door, yelling at the top of their voices.
Heyes watches, despondent.
The tops of those voices begin to tire.
So do the fists.
The pounding lessens.
Breath is panted for.
An idea strikes Kid Curry. He draws his gun.
“Don’t bother,” advises Heyes. “You could let off a cannon in here and no one would hear.”
Curry holsters the colt.
“That door’s got a two thou’ seal,” says Heyes. “You see, they used a skin of…”
“NO!” three voices shout in unison.
Perchance no one wants to listen to the vault-meister?
Chagrined, Heyes reaches into his boot.
MANY MANY MINUTES LATER
Heyes kneels. In his hands is something suspiciously like a set of lock picks manipulating one of the many mechanisms on the interior of the door. His ear presses to the metal.
The other three occupants of the vault watch him.
“So, as well as keeping cool in a crisis, Bannerman trains you in – in picking locks?” asks the sheriff.
“It makes sense to be one step ahead of the criminals,” replies Heyes.
“And – nothin’ about where we are makes you think that ship’s sailed?” deadpans Curry. Pause. “You makin’ any progress, Grant?”
“Nuh-uh. I told you, the locks on this door are constructed with…”
“NO!” The unified yell from three throats reverberates off the thick walls.
Snubbed, Heyes carries on with his task.
Silence. A fidgety Harry gnaws his nails.
“How’re you doing now, Hey – Gai – Grant?”
“Well, since Gaines asked – ooh – a minute ago – no change really.”
“Why don’t one of you two have a try?” suggests the sheriff.
“We’re not trained,” says Curry, smoothly. “Grant’s the specialist.”
Pause. Heyes sighs, wipes his brow.
“I guess it’s not the same as cracking a safe?” jitters a nervous Harry.
He shuffles back at the force of two ex-outlaw glares.
“Not that’d you’d know about cracking safes, He-Grant.”
“Yes. He would,” emphasises Curry. “We just said he would. He’s a Bannerman specialist.”
Harry hangs his head.
The sheriff looks thoughtful.
The foursome is sweatier and gloomier. Collars have been loosened. Heyes is taking a break from door hugging.
“So, all four of them hired two men…” begins Harry.
“No!” Heyes snaps. “Crawley and Randy came to work as usual. Changed real quick. Went out the back. Hats down. Collars up. Colors on display. Made sure they got noticed. Went back in. Changed back.”
“Where did they put the outfits?”
“There’s close on fifty deposit boxes over there. I reckon if I picked enough locks I’d find them.”
“IF you CAN pick a lock,” sighs the sheriff.
Heyes’ shoulders slump. He picks up his tools, resumes the position.
“They’ll have to open up the bank tomorrow,” says Harry. “Surely some customer will want to come down?”
“Tomorrow’s Sunday,” glooms Curry.
Pause. This sinks in. Then – a hope.
“Won’t your deputy come looking for you, Sheriff?”
“He’s gone to Red Rock,” replies the lawman.
“Won’t – anybody – look for you?”
“Maybe. But why the Sam Hill would they look down here?”
The sheriff’s turn to hope. “What about you, Briscoe? Won’t the office try and contact you?”
Harry’s expression suggests – nope.
“I guess Mister Bannerman will muddle through even without his best man for a few days,” desponds Heyes.
“So – we’re stuck till Monday?” sums up Harry.
“Reckon so. IF they open up then,” says Heyes.
“No water…” Gosh, Harry IS a ray of sunshine.
“What worries me,” says Curry, “is they’d hafta be dumb as bricks to plan on lettin’ us out alive.”
Harry’s eyes goggle.
“Maybe they panicked, shut us in without havin’ any plan laid,” surmises the sheriff. “Not bein’ trained in crisis handling.”
Both ex-outlaws award this a ‘reckon you might be right’ facial reaction.
“There’s something else,” says Heyes.
His partner’s eyes invite him to continue.
“This vault is around 1800 cubic feet. Has a two thou…”
“Will you three quit it?! The question is: what cubic capacity of oxygen do four grown men need over 48 hours – or 60 hours – or 72 hours?”
Pause as that sinks in.
“Well?” prompts Curry. “What do they?”
“I hate to admit it, but – you overestimate me. There’s a formula for everything – but danged if I know what this one is! It’s gonna run out in a day or so, though. AND, it occurs to me, four suffocated bodies beats four bodies with bullet holes when it comes to explaining what happened. They’ll have some story about us being in the bank after everyone had left and shutting ourselves in by accident – not easy to disprove.”
That too sinks in.
“We’re going to suffocate!” panics Harry. He heads for the door. Pounds. Yells. “Lemme out!”
“You do realise the wouldn’t-hear-a-cannon speech I gave earlier – is still true?” Heyes voice does not lack a certain sympathy.
“And that yelling and pounding – anything that uses energy – will make the air run out sooner?”
“Which raises another question,” Heyes scans his listeners. “Do we keep the lamp lit – so I can keep working on the door? OR, do I give up, and save the oxygen it burns?”
Harry blows out that lamp so quick you’d think he could moonlight as a rough wind.
A rustle. A scrape. A match flares. The flame flickers in Kid Curry’s hand as he uses it to illuminate his partner’s face.
“Give us the odds on cracking the door, Grant.”
Heyes’ brow crumples in calculation.
“Evens?” prompts Curry.
“Four to one?”
The dark head shakes.
“Ten to one?”
“Maybe fifteen to one,” hazards Heyes.
The match putters out. Another almost immediately takes its place, this time held by the sheriff. “Sure beats sitting in the dark with no chance, son.” He lights the lamp, moves it beside Heyes. “Good luck.”
Heyes resumes his cracking – in so many ways – position.
Heyes’ face is rapt with concentration and bathed in sweat.
Curry and the sheriff sit, backs against the wall, images of patience.
Harry paces, face twitching. “What’s the time?”
The sheriff draws his watch, holds it towards the lamp, squints. “Eight a.m. We’ve been in here – about fifteen hours.”
Bathed no longer adequately describes the density of sweat bedewing Heyes.
It is just possible Curry has nodded off under his hat.
Harry has ceased pacing and curls, foetus-like in the centre of the vault. “Time?” he whimpers.
Another watch check from the sheriff. “Near midnight. Thirty-one hours.”
“I’m going to die here,” moans Harry.
“No, you are not!” states Heyes.
“You’re right.” Harry shuffles into a corner. “I’ll die over here. I call this spot. You can all die over there!”
“That’s it!” Curry’s voice emerges from beneath the brown hat. “Harry is no longer in charge of maintainin’ morale!” One finger pushes up the brown brim. The Kid looks over at his partner. “What’s got you shortenin’ the odds?”
“I can hear something.” Heyes’ ear is flattened against the door, his fingers still manipulating a slim lock pick. “It’s not sounding like a tumbler click – but at least it’s something. There!” Pause. “And again!”
The sheriff and Curry both adopt the expressions of men straining to hear. Nothing. Nothing.
Curry’s brows draw together. “I think I hear someth…”
KAH BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM !
Not only is the silence shattered, the entire vault fills with clouds of swirling smoke and dust interspersed with the odd chunk of flying brick.
As the dust gradually settles the coughing, spluttering inhabitants of the vault see two things.
Firstly, the vault now sports a gaping hole in one wall, beyond which stretches a dark tunnel.
Secondly, the hole in the wall contains two grime-encrusted faces, adding their own choking sound effects to the scene. Behind the wall, four besmirched hands rub four watering eyes. And…
Wheat and Kyle double take at the sheriff.
And at Heyes.
Heyes and Curry double take at Wheat.
So, picture a quartet of outlaws and ex-outlaws indulging in a cornucopia of competitive eye-goggling, head jerking and generic astonishment registering.
Then, they all speak at once.
Curry: “You knucklehead!”
Kyle: “Heyes! Kid! What the Sam Hill…?”
Heyes: “Of course! The brick ordinance! The delivery tunnels!”
Wheat: “Gone straight, huh? I knew it!”
Curry: “Didn’t we have an agreement on banks in towns we were in?!”
Wheat: “You WEREN’T in town! Not in the hotel. Not in jail. Not in the saloon!”
Heyes: (To Wheat, giving credit where it’s due.) “Not a bad plan!”
“What the Sam Hill?!” The gruff voice of the sheriff cuts through the cacophony.
The quartet of former and current Devil’s Hole Gang members swivel to him and visibly register the badge. Ah. Their expressions (well three of them) suggest they are individually recalling that their outbursts may have been – indiscreet. The fourth expression – well, Kyle’s sagging jaw suggests he may be stuck at the single thought: badge.
Kid Curry looks expectantly at Heyes.
Ah! Even through the dust a wily gleam lights those brown eyes.
“Sheriff, when Gaines and I said earlier the Bannerman Agency wouldn’t miss us right off? That was only because we didn’t want to raise your hopes.” He indicates Wheat. “Agent Rembecker and – and…” Surveying Kyle’s vacant look he takes the wiser course. “Agent Kyle here, were…”
CELLS BEHIND THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE
The sheriff, all cleaned up, turns the key upon a furious-looking Madge. Crawley, Loomis and Randy are already behind bars.
The sheriff turns his back and heads through to his office area to join our boys, Harry, Wheat and Kyle – also all cleaned up.
Harry springs to his feet, chest thrust forward.
“We couldn’t reveal our plans to you in advance, Sheriff, discretion being a Bannerman’s…”
“Middle name. Yeah, I remember. You really expect me to believe that all five of you are Bannerman Agents? FOUR of you workin’ undercover, all to flush out crooked bank staff. Includin’…” He indicates Kyle who is currently unsuccessfully trying to balance a nickel on its edge. “Him!”
Wheat smacks down Kyle’s hand.
Heyes summons vast reserves of dimpled charm to radiate innocence at the lawman. “What other – rational – explanation could there be?”
“How about this? You two…” The sheriff nods at Wheat and Kyle. “Planned to rob the bank by exploitin’ the delivery tunnels runnin’ close. You extended the tunnels and then blasted through. From how you reacted when you saw us, no way did you expect to find anyone in the vault – let alone fellow undercover agents waitin’ to be rescued. And, unless this fella…” Pointing at Kyle. “Has a thing about cereals, makin’ him keep bleatin’ ‘Wheat’ whenever I walk out the room…” The pointing finger shifts. “He’s doin’ it ‘cos you’re Wheat Carlson.”
Pause. Butts wriggle.
“HOWEVER, you didn’t rob the bank. The folk who DID rob the bank are locked up. It seems kinda churlish to arrest two fellas who – even by accident – saved my life. And, besides – the cells are gettin’ pretty crowded. So, here’s my suggestion. You two leave now and make sure I never see either of your faces in my town, in Red Rock, or anywhere I happen to be, ever again. And then…” Searching. “Nope. I’m done.”
Pause. Then, Wheat scrambles, dragging Kyle with him. The door bangs behind them. We hear the sound of galloping hooves.
“Ye-es…” Heyes gathers himself. “I’d worked that out but, like you, Sheriff, I thought it seemed churlish…” He sees the cynicism in the lawman’s eye. “What you said. BUT, Briscoe, Gaines and me – we’re bona fide Bannerman Agents. You can check they have us listed.” Again with the dimpled integrity. “What other…?”
“What other possible rational explanation could there be? How about this? Madge told me the descriptions given by the bank employees were of real bank robbers – famous ones – Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. She said it was a complete coincidence two visitors matching those descriptions happened to be in town. I believe her. For once. What it got me thinkin’ was you two bein’ here might be a coincidence – but you two lookin’ the spit of Heyes and Curry, calling yourselves…” Suppressed snirt. “Smith and Jones. HIM droolin’ over vault doors…”
Heyes is glowered at by the Kid.
“And claiming to be expert in pickin’ locks. Was all THAT a coincidence?”
Pause. Our boys do not risk a mute conversation.
“Pure coincidence,” says Heyes. “We’re Bannerman Agents.”
“Okay. In that case, you’ll be glad to hear I telegraphed the offices in Denver to tell them Mister Briscoe had solved the case…”
“With the help of Agents Grant and Gaines.”
The beam wavers. Heyes and Curry visibly tense.
“I had a reply.” The Sheriff draws a telegram from his pocket, unfolds it. “It says you’re all to stay in town because letters of personal congratulation from George Bannerman himself are on their way, together with cash bonuses for Agents Briscoe, Grant and Gaines…”
Harry’s beam ceases to waver – and widens.
At the mention of cash bonuses two ex-outlaws also grin.
“TOLD you we were Bannerman Men!” triumphs Heyes.
“AND the letters and the cash will be delivered in person by Agent Strothers who happens to be passin’ close…”
Heyes and Curry cease to grin.
“He is looking forward to shakin’ the hands of his three – familiar – old friends.”
Ah. The sheriff smiles at Heyes. And waits.
“The thing is,” Heyes begins, “Gaines and I can’t stay. We got another urgent case waiting.”
“Real urgent,” nods Curry.
“No! You don’t say?!” The sheriff makes no attempt to keep the ‘Thought so’ inflexion out of his voice. “Changing the subject entirely: Y’know those two outlaws Heyes an’ Curry we were talkin’ about…?”
“Yes.” Heyes is wary.
“Did you hear the rumor they’re tryin’ to play it straight?”
“Y’know – I mighta heard that.” Heyes remains very cautious.
“Me too,” concurs Kid Curry.
“And me,” helps out Harry.
“Shame you can’t stay,” sympathizes the sheriff. “And I’m guessin’ you’ll be far too busy to ever visit my town – or Red Rock – or anywhere I happen to be – ever again, huh?” With emphasis, “Won’t you?”
“Much too busy,” confirms Heyes.
LONG SHOT OF HEYES AND CURRY RIDING AWAY FROM TOWN
“Heyes, I’ve been thinkin’…”
“Thought we had an agreement on that.”
“That sheriff was pretty smart. I mean, you never really silver-tongued him into believin’ anythin’ you said…”
Proddily, “Is this going somewhere, Kid?”
“And – we never actually SAW the telegraph from Bannerman.”
“So – d’you think it did actually say that stuff about this Strothers fella comin’ to town and recognisin’ Grant an’ Gaines? Or was he usin’ it to – y’know – flush us out?”
Heyes kicks his horse to a gallop.
No one familiar with Denver (beam) will be surprised that the vault door floating Heyes’ boat is based on that guarding the vault 35 feet below ground in Blake Street.
Brick Ordinances – requiring structures, including tunnels, to be made of brick were brought in in Denver after the Great Fire of 1863. During the 1890s, tunnels were created under thoroughfares in downtown Denver. Originally built for the delivery of coal, they soon became a favorite passage to brothels and were even more effective during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. The entrance to these catacombs can be explored in the underbelly of 1526 Blake Street. history_