The Edge of the Abyss


"How much money we got, Heyes?"

"Well," the dark-haired man said consideringly, "you should have fifteen dollars and around twenty cents. I have twelve dollars and two bits. Call it twenty-seven and a half dollars. Why?"

"I'm planning," Jed 'Kid' Curry answered. "Feed. Livery for a couple of nights. Room and meals, ditto. Drinks—"

"Baths," Hannibal Heyes interpolated in no uncertain tones.

"Heyes, we just had baths in Sedona. They ain't free."

"Kid, I'll put it like this. I am taking a bath. I haven't had one in four days and if I don't get one I'll cut my own throat. I don't care whether you take one or not."

"But?" Curry asked.

"But, if you don't you aren't sharing a room with me let alone a bed."

"Heyes, one of these days you're gonna catch your death from all that water."

It was an old conversation, as practiced as a stage turn and ultimately meaningless. It completely ignored several facts, among them that when Heyes was in the mood he didn't care how long they'd been on the trail without bathing and that Curry preferred being clean to dirty himself though to him, baths were a means to that end while for Heyes they were an end in themselves. It was just a way to pass the time, mainly, and to express their affection, and they could keep it up for an hour or more and neither one would remember anything either had said longer than it took to respond. Occasionally Curry thought it made them sound like an old married couple. He liked that.

But now Heyes broke the pattern to say, "So what are you planning, Kid?"


Heyes reined his mare in and objected, "You said you were."

Curry halted, too, saying, "No, sorry; I mean I'm planning nothing: two days of glorious nothing."

Heyes laughed, a silver ringing through the clear afternoon air. Curry loved that sound, in all its various forms, but this one was maybe his favorite. Absolute, startled, pure enjoyment... the only competition it had was the low, sensuous laugh Heyes sometimes found in bed. That one put shivers down Curry's spine, in a very good way. But this one was in fact rarer. Now Heyes shook his head and said, "You know, Kid, most people don't actually make plans for doing nothing."

Curry grinned at his partner and said, "Well, Heyes, the hard fact is, most people don't have you around to complicate things. I'm serving notice: I'm not doing anything the next two days except eat, sleep, maybe have a couple of drinks, sit around and watch the sun set and the moon rise, and lie around in bed."

Heyes put his black-gloved hand on the frosty rump of his blue roan mare and looked over at Curry, lifting an eyebrow. "Nothing?" he inquired suggestively.

Curry snickered. "I mentioned bed."

"So you did," Heyes agreed. "Lying around... you feeling all right, Kid? Because that doesn't sound like you."

"You wait till we get to town," Curry said. "I'll show you how all right I feel."

Heyes smiled at him. "After you take a bath."

"All right," Curry surrendered. "I'll take two, if it'll shut you up."

Heyes smiled again, his dark eyes warming in the shadow of his black Stetson's crisply upturned brim. "One's enough, Kid. I wouldn't want you to take ill from the shock to your system."

Curry mock-growled at him and nudged his chestnut back into a walk.

Curry took a walk around town in the cool of the evening while Heyes lingered in the hot water the hotel bath room had provided. Sometimes Curry thought that if Heyes could figure out a way to get a fresh supply of hot water continuously delivered, he might spend all day in a tub. But, as it was, he'd be out in a half-hour or so, and then they could eat. And then they could sit out on the porch and unwind a little more and then... Curry smiled to himself.

He touched the brim of his hat as he passed two women, but he was thinking about Heyes. Thinking about next year, when they had their amnesty, and they could maybe stop riding from one end of the Territories to the other and stay in one place, Colorado probably if the governor came through even though it was best to stay out of there for the time being. Maybe they could buy a house somewhere. And maybe they could have a bathroom, and he could wash Heyes's back. He could enjoy a nice long bath, himself, he reckoned, if Heyes was in it with him.

"Hey, mister."

He looked around. The gawky kid from the livery was standing there. "Yeah?" he asked.

"That roan, she tried to bite my hand off."

Curry grinned; he couldn't help it. Heyes's new horse was the meanest thing he'd ever seen, except with Heyes. She'd drop her head into the dark-haired man's shirtfront and nuzzle him like a lover, but she hated the rest of the world. Heyes had got her cheap; the stable owner in Winslow had thought he was putting one over on them. Curry didn't know how they were going to unload her when they had to. But that was in the future. He looked at the boy and said, "He told you she might."

"How'm I supposed to brush her?"

"Short-tie her to the manger and keep your fingers away," Curry said. "She can't bite what she can't reach. But watch her," he added. "She cow-kicks."

The kid muttered something as he turned to go back inside.

"And don't try hitting her," Curry advised. "My partner's real particular about that sort of thing." He resumed his walk. Ash Fork was a nice enough town, plenty big enough for doing nothing in for a couple of days. Heyes could probably pick up some money in a card game tomorrow, they could stock up on supplies and head over toward the lakes northeast of the town, lie low for a while, doing nothing and getting in nobody's way. Late spring, the perfect time for it...

Yep. Money in his pocket, a meal and a bed waiting in the hotel, and Heyes. Life was good.

By the time he'd walked the circuit of the whole downtown of Ash Fork, such as it was, the place being not even half the size of Sedona, let alone Flagstaff, Heyes was sitting in a chair on the front porch of the hotel, his white shirt sleeves gleaming in the dusk. "There you are, Thaddeus," he said. "Ready for dinner?"

"Been ready," Curry answered. "You?"

"Let's go."

Between them they put away a whole roast chicken and a platterful of potatoes and carrots, plus two pieces of the sweetest cherry pie Curry could remember ever having eaten. Afterwards, they went back onto the porch and sat in companionable silence for while. Eventually Heyes stirred and said, "You feeling all right, Thaddeus?"

"I'm feeling fine. Why?"

"Because it's been at least fifteen minutes since you said anything."

Curry laughed. "I'm feeling fine. Just... peaceful. I mean, look at those stars. That little crescent moon. Everything."

"You are in a mood," Heyes discovered. "What kind?"

"I don't know, exactly. Good."

"Well," Heyes sat up and stretched, like a big dark cat with white feet. "Not to spoil your mood, but I'm about asleep here. And since I really don't feel like waking up by going to the saloon, I think I'll turn in." He stood up, shooting Curry a smoldering glance that was gone in a heartbeat.

Curry had been relaxed, but now he was instantly wide awake. "Well, Joshua," he said as casually as he could, "it's been a long day. Think I'll turn in, too." He stood up and followed Heyes inside and up the stairs to the room they'd taken.

Inside, Heyes began his obsessive preparations for spending the night somewhere by locking the door and shoving one of the room's two straight-backed chairs under its knob. He tested it and, apparently satisfied, went to shut the window and latch it. Curry watched him with a little smile but didn't say anything, just unbuckled his Colt and hung it on the left bedpost and started undressing. After arranging the window and its curtains to his satisfaction, Heyes yanked down the blankets of the bed and stacked the pillows. He hung his own holster on the other bedpost and sat down to take off his boots.

Curry was already stripped down to his shorts by then. He crawled across the bed to take Heyes's broadcloth-clad shoulders in his hands and nuzzle his partner's neck. Heyes sighed softly and leaned back into him. Curry smiled and then licked upwards to Heyes's earlobe, which he nibbled gently.

They were very different people, him and Heyes. Heyes took a while to get started, almost as if you had to convince him every time, get through that mind to the emotions underneath. Curry, on the other hand—all it took was a certain tone in Heyes's voice, a certain look in his eyes, just watching him walk across a room, and Curry was ready to fall over the edge. Heyes took longer to catch fire, but then, like a blaze of seasoned wood, he burned long and fiercely. Curry never minded taking all the time he needed.

Especially since Heyes didn't fall; he flew. And he took Curry with him, right to the stars. Every time.

Curry unbuttoned Heyes's shirt while he licked his ear, and then stripped it off and tossed it onto the chair. Heyes shivered slightly; Curry pulled him around into an embrace and said, "I'll warm you up, love." He kissed the darker man, holding him close.

Love. It was what Heyes was. Love and life and light, funnily enough, since even he thought he was dark compared to Curry. Curry knew better, though. Heyes was his polestar, his pillar of fire by night. Heyes lifted him up out of the abyss. He'd tried other words out in his mind, darlin', honey, sweetheart—none of them fit Heyes at all. He was too much for them. He'd called him 'my life' once, and felt Heyes flinch from the admission. He hadn't called him that again, not out loud, though it was true. He didn't want to risk scaring Heyes away. By the time Heyes could admit it, Curry figured he'd be too much in the habit of calling him 'love'. Which was fine...

When he was a kid, and his mother caught him with his first cigarette, she'd told him his body was a temple. Well, he'd never quite believed that, but Heyes's was. And he was the high priest and the congregation and the choir, all rolled into one. The luckiest man on earth. The most blessed...

He eased Heyes down onto the bed and kissed his throat, drifting his mouth along the lean, beautiful chest. He felt Heyes beginning to respond, his hand tangling in Curry's hair, and he tongued a nipple, drawing a soft moan from his partner.

Oh, God, yes. Life is good.

The noise and the pain came almost simultaneously, so close together Curry couldn't identify what the noise was or where the pain was, exactly. He tried to move, and his head exploded, which answered that question. "Heyes," he said, but he didn't hear himself.

"Kid." Heyes—he could hear that, anyway, and Heyes was alive, though his voice was tense.

He faded out for a moment, came back in time to hear someone else, vaguely familiar. "—even think about it or I'll kill him."

Kill who? Heyes? Curry reached for the nearest gun, but his arm didn't seem to be working. Instead, he collapsed into the pillow, pain lancing through his head. He couldn't even get his eyes open. Words faded in and out, making no sense.

"...kill him anyway..."

"...only you...leave him..."


"...wanted...kill you..."

God, no. Not Heyes... Curry struggled to move and instead, fell into darkness.

When he woke up, his head was throbbing, agony pulsing in time to his heartbeat. But he could move, and he did, scrambling to his knees to look around the room in desperation. No Heyes.

He closed his eyes and pulled himself together, reining in his emotions with a heavy hand. Think, Kid. He opened his eyes and took stock. No Heyes, but no body, either. Both holsters, still full, hanging on the bed, and Heyes's black Stetson on the dresser, along with his jacket. He hadn't gone willingly.

Damn it. Curry's life had been the price. Those fragments of sentences fit together now. I don't want to kill him, only you. I'll leave him. I'm not interested in the reward on him; I'm wanted. I only want to kill you. Or something damned close to that. Heyes, he thought despairingly, what good is being alive without you?

He was halfway dressed already, he realized, picking up his leather vest. His body had known he was going after them before his mind had. Shirt, Levi's, boots, all on already. At least Heyes always insisted on their putting their underclothes back on before they slept—'what if there was a fire?' he'd ask. So whoever it was didn't know everything... McCracken. The name came to him as he checked his Colt's cylinder to make sure it was loaded.

Fuck. Frank McCracken was a hair-trigger idiot. He'd tried to interest them in a bank job in Colorado Springs, what was it now, three years ago? But he and Heyes had had different ideas about how to do it, and in the end they hadn't gone in with him, and a good thing, too, since he'd been caught. He was supposed to be in jail. Knowing him, he probably had convinced himself it was all Heyes's fault.

Curry reached across the bed for Heyes's gunbelt and the room spun around him. Take it easy. Slow as you can. Heyes is counting on you.

He walked around the bed to get the gun and his boots crunched glass underfoot. The window... Heyes had been unhappy with the room because the window was over the porch roof. He'd talked him out of another, more expensive room a floor up. Never again, Heyes, I swear it. Just be alive and I will never again try to save us a dollar. He picked up Heyes's jacket as well and headed for the stairs, moving carefully and keeping a hand on the wall to counter the tendency the world had of spinning without warning.

The chestnut was gone. He stared at the empty stall for several minutes before it occurred to him that he could steal a horse. Then the sounds to his right caught his attention and he turned, carefully, to see Heyes's blue roan standing there.

Who, they had established certainly over the past few months, could go twice as far and half again as fast as Curry's chestnut. He held Heyes's jacket up so she could smell it. "Don't give me any trouble, you witch," he said, "we're goin' to find him." She snorted at him and snapped when he held the bit to her mouth, but he got her bridled without losing a finger. He slung his saddle onto her back and cinched it up, and then draped Heyes's gunbelt over the saddle horn and tied his jacket on behind. Damn; he'd left the rifle up in the room. Hell with it, he wasn't that good with it anyway. He mounted the mare, nearly passing out again, and surprisingly she stood still instead of dancing out from underneath him. Maybe she was pissed at Heyes for taking the gelding, Curry thought, and giggled.

"Get a hold of yourself," he said out loud. The roan flicked an ear at him. "Yeah, you, too," he said. "Keep behavin' and we'll find him." He nudged her with his heels and she walked out of the barn.

"Damn," Curry reined in. He'd suddenly realized he had no idea where they'd gone. Well, there were only two ways out of Ash Fork... flip a coin. Then he saw the drunk sitting on the steps outside the saloon. He nudged the roan over and and said, "Hey, buddy." He held up a dollar. The drunk brightened. "You see two fellas ride out of town a while back?"

"On a buckskin and a chestnut?" the man said. "Yep."

Curry flipped him the coin.

"They went north," the man said, and got shakily to his feet. "About two hours ago."

"Thanks," Curry said, and turned the mare north. Two hours ago... Don't think about it. Just ride.

And then on the road north of town, in the early morning light, Curry saw hoofprints in the dirt and remembered: the chestnut had a quarter crack in his off hind, nearly healed by now, but he was still wearing a barred shoe. Easy to spot, even for eyes occasionally blurring. Easy to track... Heyes, he thought with gratitude, keep on thinking. I'm coming. Hang in there.

He pushed the mare a little, and she responded, settling into a smooth ground-covering stride. Either she understood they were going after Heyes, or she was just pleased about not having to slow down for the chestnut; whichever, she wasn't giving him any trouble. He was grateful, as his head still felt like it might fall off. He held onto the saddle horn and watched the tracks in front of them, and prayed.

Slowly, his head began to feel better, and his sight to focus. He figured he'd been riding nearly an hour and an half when the tracks veered off the main road onto a side-trail that headed up a butte. He had no idea what was up top, or where the trail came out, or whether McCracken might be watching. He took the mare another hundred yards down the road and then pointing her at the butte, he held on tight as she scrambled up the slope. There was a small stand of junipers on top, and he could see a shack in the clearing just past them.

And a buckskin and his washy chestnut, tied to a post in front of the shack.

He reined in the mare and got off, looping the rein around a tree branch. Slinging Heyes's gunbelt over his shoulder, he made his way carefully through the trees. The shack, as far as he could tell, had one door and a couple of windows, one in a side wall and one in front. The back was up against another step in the butte... hard to get at, but not impossible. Getting at it without being seen, that was a different thing altogether. He sat on his heels and studied the problem for a few minutes. He was resolutely not considering that he might be too late to save Heyes's life. But even if he was, he still needed to get close enough to blow Frank McCracken to hell.

He moved carefully through the trees, but the wind shifted as he did, and the chestnut tossed his head up and whinnied. Great. Curry froze, willing McCracken to ignore that. And he might have, except that the roan answered her trail companion.

"Who's out there? Curry, is that you?"

What the hell, Curry thought. Surprise is gone. Let's try intimidation. "Yeah. It's me, McCracken."

"How'd you—"

"I recognized your stench when I came to, McCracken. Send Heyes out, or I'm comin' in, and you're dead."

"Get out of here, Curry. This doesn't concern you. I left you behind!"

"The hell it don't concern me, you bastard. That's my partner you've got in there." That you damned well better have still got in there.

"Heyes owed me for three and a half years in Cañon City," McCracken yelled.

"That was your own goddamned fault, you moron."

"It was Heyes's fault! You didn't have anything to do with it. Just go away, Curry."

Curry really hated those past tense verbs McCracken kept using. "McCracken, you son of a bitch, I'm not going anywhere," Curry called.

"I got nothing against you, Curry. I'm not comin' after you. Go on, ride off."

Curry snorted. "Not without Heyes."

"I'm gonna kill Heyes if you don't get!" McCracken hollered, sounding slightly hysterical.

Curry paused, and then made up his mind. Skulking around the edge of this damned stand of trees wasn't doing anybody any good. He had to get in closer, and there was one place where he probably could. The trick would be to keep McCracken from realizing he was moving in. He could start by just yelling a little less loudly, but the time would come, pretty quick, that wouldn't work. Think, Kid, he ordered himself frantically. What would Heyes do at a time like this? Besides talk McCracken out of it... Yes! He grinned. All he needed to do was make McCracken let Heyes start talking.

If Heyes was still alive... Curry took that thought and stomped it, hard. Heyes had to be alive. If he wasn't... Curry swallowed as the abyss opened up before him, and his hand tightened on his Colt. No. He shook his head. He'd know if Heyes was dead. He'd know.

"You already did," Curry hollered, letting an edge creep into his voice. "And that makes you a dead man. Maybe you got food in there, and maybe you can outlast me right now, but it don't matter. I'll hunt you down like a mad dog. And I'll kill you."

There was a pause, and then McCracken yelled back, trying to sound sure. "No, you won't."

"Why not?"

"'Cause you're not a killer. You never killed anybody!"

Damnit, Heyes... I told you I should kill a few people. "You mean, I never murdered anybody," Curry corrected him. The words hung in the air. Nice, Kid... he congratulated himself. That shook him. Add a bit. "But then nobody ever killed my best friend before neither. I'll backshoot you if that's the quickest way to put you down. Hell, McCracken. I might just set fire to that shack and burn you up."

"You wouldn't do that!" McCracken sounded frantic.

Curry started moving forward, dropping the volume on his shout as he slid through the brush. "Hell I won't. I can fire that place, just sit back here and wait for you to come scurryin' out and drop you like a weasel. If Heyes is dead I got nothing to lose. I'm goin' nowhere without him; he's the brains of this team, McCracken, and I'm the brawn. And I'll drop you. Count on it. 'Cause he's also my partner, and my best friend. You killed him, and that means I gotta kill you."

"He's not dead yet!" That sounded frantic. And true.

The tone warmed Curry's heart. But he didn't show it. "Yeah, sure he ain't."

"He's not! I'm telling you, Curry, he's not!"

"Yeah? I'm not hearin' him say so."

"You will! Heyes, tell him. Tell him, damnit!"

Silence. Please, God, thought Curry, let Heyes have figured this out. Don't let him be dead.

"I ain't hearing him, McCracken."

"Wait a minute, Curry. He ain't dead yet, I swear it. He'll talk!"

Curry shut up as he approached the shack. He could hear McCracken inside. "Tell him, Heyes."

Silence from the man who meant the world to Curry, the man whose death he would, bloodily, avenge. Please, God, he prayed again, please let him be alive.

"God damn it, Heyes, talk!"

And then Curry heard the low voice. He had to stop crawling for a minute, the relief was so strong.

"Or what?" Heyes asked. "You'll kill me?"

"Goddamnit, Heyes, you heard him!"

"I did. I don't want to burn to death, I admit it, but at least you'll go with me."

"Heyes, tell him you're alive."


Curry couldn't see the expression on Heyes's face, but he could picture it: the one that made people want to smack him. McCracken was about to be sucked in. He had to get up to a window while Heyes was keeping him busy. Simple. He talks and you sneak. You can do this.

"I have more faith in the Kid's ability to survive without me than he does."

"What are you talking about? Tell him you're alive!"

"Well, now, honestly, Frank, who is going to take him on and win? You've seen the Kid shoot. It's why you're so nervous right now. And you heard him: he's got a good, healthy sense of his own limitations. He's not going to try anything that'll put him in over his head. He'll do just fine on his own. He'll probably meet some nice little woman who'll fall for those big blue eyes and settle down somewhere on a nice little spread and raise a bunch of curly-headed children. Die in the middle of the twentieth century, in bed... Think of it, Frank, the twentieth century. You ever read anything by that French author, Verne? What am I saying? Of course not. He thinks we'll go to the moon. Think of that. The Kid may see people walk on the moon. You and me, of course, we'll be dead, but that's the way it goes sometimes."

Heyes had to pause to breathe; Curry stopped moving. McCracken demanded, "Are you gonna talk to him?"

Heyes sighed. Curry gathered himself and started moving again as his partner said, "Frank, Frank, Frank. How am I not making myself clear? What don't you understand? Why on earth would I want to do that? So he'll know I'm not dead? But, Frank, I don't see why I would want him to know that. It's not like you're not planning on killing me after he leaves, after all."

McCracken interrupted. "But you heard him! He's gonna set fire to this shack!"

"I did. And if he's really planning on burning this shack up then I certainly don't want him to know I'm alive. Frank, let me try to make this clear to you. You're going to kill me. He's going to kill you. The best I can do, as I see it, is buy you more time. Now, why would I want to do that? The sooner the Kid kills you, after all, the sooner he can go off and get on with his life. Spending months hunting you down like a dog, that would ruin the Kid's disposition. It would make it harder for him to find that nice little woman."

"Damn you, Heyes."

"Frank, you're going to kill me. Insulting me is a bit redundant, don't you think?"

Curry, five feet from the side of the shack, finally heard what he'd been waiting for: the rapid footsteps of McCracken heading, he presumed, for Heyes. "Talk to him, damn you."

"Or what?" Curry heard the note of fear in Heyes's voice, but he doubted another man alive could have. "You'll shoot me? Frank, this advice is going to be a bit late for you but, what the hell. Once you've announced you're going to kill someone, threatening him with death is, well, foolish. Certainly it's unproductive."

"I won't kill you now. I'll just hurt you."

"Frank, Frank, Frank."

Curry paused beneath the window and drew his Colt. Hell, he'd want to shoot Heyes if he was McCracken, listening to that tone. He rose to his knees and looked in. McCracken was kneeling beside a trussed up Heyes, his pistol resting on the dark man's knee. Heyes's face was bruised but his eyes were alert. Curry held very still. McCracken had to move before he did anything. It was all too possible for McCracken's hand to spasm and Heyes to be crippled for life. McCracken was staring into Heyes's face as the dark-haired man continued to talk.

"So your new plan is to shoot me in the knee or somewhere and make me scream? If you do that, the Kid will be sure you've killed me. Right now he's working himself up to believing it, but you shoot and I scream and he'll be convinced. And then, well..." Heyes actually smiled.

McCracken stared at him for a minute. "I'm gonna pitch you out in the yard," he said, "and then if he don't go I'm gonna shoot you in the knee." He shoved his pistol into his holster and reached for Heyes.

Curry stood up, leveling his Colt. "Freeze, McCracken," he said.

As if time had slowed down, it played out as he'd known it would: McCracken reached for his gun, turning to look at the new threat and grabbing for Heyes's shirt as he did. Heyes rolled to his side, already moving as Curry spoke. And Curry fired. Twice.

To be sure.

The force of the bullets' impact slammed McCracken into the wall beside Heyes. He slid bonelessly to collapse on the floor, the gun falling from his hand, one arm coming to rest on Heyes's boots. The dark-haired man kicked free of the corpse and fell over.

Curry holstered his Colt and vaulted through the window before Heyes could get upright again. He grabbed his partner, pulling him close. "Heyes," he said, "Heyes, are you all right?"

Heyes buried his face inside Curry's jacket for a minute; he was trembling slightly. Curry swore at himself and pulled his clasp knife out of his pocket and freed his partner's hands; Heyes immediately latched on. Curry rested his cheek on the other man's hair, rubbing his back, reassuring himself that he'd been in time. Then Heyes pulled back slightly, and Curry let go. He knew that even if he'd been able to forget the dead body not three feet away—and he would have for the time it would have taken, he knew himself well enough to know that—Heyes wouldn't. He reached down and cut the ropes around Heyes's ankles, smiling a little at how pissed Heyes was going to be about the scarring on the boots' leather surfaces.

"What took you so long, Kid?" Heyes asked.

He sat back on his heels, prepared to say something cutting, but the look in Heyes's eyes made it impossible for him to play the game. He didn't even try. "I came as soon as I could," he said. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." Heyes had dropped his eyes and was rubbing his wrists.

"You sure?"

"Yes. Frank was a talker, not a doer."

Thank God, Curry thought. He reached out and gently touched the bruised cheek. "That doesn't look fine," he said.

"It is, though," Heyes insisted. "Nothing's broken." His breath hissed in between his teeth. "Kid," he said, "are you all right?"

"Me?" Curry had already forgotten his headache and still slightly blurred vision in the joy of having Heyes, alive and acerbic, under his hands. "I'm fine. Why?"

"Because you've got blood all over you, you idiot." Heyes reached for him, gently running his fingers across Curry's scalp. Curry sat quietly and let him; it was good for them both. "It doesn't look too bad," Heyes admitted almost grudgingly, his fingers threading through Curry's hair.

"Head wounds bleed a lot," Curry agreed. "I'm fine. You're fine?" That slipped into a question. Heyes nodded, his hand still on Curry's head. "Then why we don't we go back to Ash Fork? We can make a quick stop at the sheriff's, turn in McCracken here, and then, before anybody starts asking too many questions, we can head to Williams, or Prescott, or somewhere, and try this doing nothing plan again."

Heyes smiled, finally, though his eyes stayed somber. "I think I could live with that plan."

Curry repressed his reaction to the phrase. He got to his feet and gave Heyes a hand up. "Maybe you should stay off the street this time."

"Maybe," Heyes agreed. "I could live with that, too."

"So could I." He glanced at McCracken's body. "Your roan's out there in the trees," he said. "I'll take care of this while you bring her in."

Heyes hesitated a moment, and then nodded and left. Curry dragged McCracken out and slung him over the buckskin's saddle, tying him to the stirrups. Then he mounted the chestnut and waited, watching Heyes thread the roan through the trees and into the clearing. "Heyes," he said as the darker man drew even with him, "you do know all that you were saying in there, that about me finding a nice woman and raising a bunch of curly-headed kids? You do know that's all a crock?" He'd meant that to be a statement, but it came out a question.

Heyes looked at him, the smile on his lips taking a moment to reach his dark eyes but doing it, at last. "Kid," he said, "we were talking about what you'd do if I was dead. And without my steadying influence, there's just no telling what you might not get up to."

Curry stared at his partner and then shook his head. "Heyes," he said exasperatedly, "I know it's no use hoping you will ever get emotional, but damn it, why can't you ever just say yes or no?"

"Kid," Heyes grinned at him. "What is the fun in that?"

"Fun?" Curry glared at him. Then he gave it up. "Heyes," he said, kicking his horse into a walk, "what am I gonna do with you?"

"I have faith in you, Kid. You'll think of something." Heyes pulled off a glove and ran his fingers through his dark hair. "You usually do."

Curry's washy chestnut halted at the sudden rein-pulling that accompanied his throwing his hands up in surrender. He sat there a moment watching the other man lean back in the saddle as the blue roan started down the slope. "Yeah," he said finally. "I do. I already thought of a couple of things, in fact," he added loudly enough for Heyes to hear.

Heyes turned to look back at him and smiled. "See? I knew you would. But you better come on if you're going to."

"He's impossible," Curry told his horse. "Completely impossible." He started down the butte after Heyes who had reined in at the bottom. "And thank God for it," he admitted under his breath.

He caught up to Heyes, and they rode off together. As it should be, and always, God willing, Curry prayed, would be.

the end


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  Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans
Original Fan Fiction
Star Wars | Power Rangers | Real Ghostbusters
Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
Go Back to List of Karen's Fiction