Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry
Stevie Nicks as Lily Hart
Nicole Kidman as Melanie
Wally Cox as Vernon
Curry mumbled a curse and cast a baleful look back at the doors of the saloon, still swinging from his and Heyes� hasty exit. �Are you sure?� he whispered.
Heyes didn�t slow down in his beeline toward the hotel. Despite his weariness and thirst, Curry picked up his pace and followed his partner down the muddy main street of Little Dove, Colorado, population 423�soon to lose any chance it might have had to reach 425. �Are you sure?� he whispered again.
Heyes bit into his words. �Yeah, I�m sure.�
�Well, I don�t remember him.�
�I do.� Heyes didn�t need to add �and that�s enough.� Curry nodded reluctantly and cursed again as they mounted the stairs of the hotel. They didn�t bother to light the lamp when they entered their hotel room; the full moon, spilling its light through the stained chintz curtains, lit the room sufficiently. They seized their saddlebags and bedrolls, which they hadn�t bothered to unpack, and vacated the room.
The clerk, half-asleep at the front desk, jerked awake as Curry tossed the room key at him. �But, gentlemen, you only arrived an hour ago. Is something wrong with the room?�
�It�s not the room,� Heyes assured him. �A little disagreement at the poker tables. We figured we�d better clear out before the other guy finds his gun.�
�Oh,� the clerk placed the key back into its pidgeonhole. �I�m sorry, I can�t refund��
�We didn�t expect you to,� Curry interrupted. �Good night.�
Back on the street, they were crossing the entrance to the alley behind the hotel when Heyes stopped short and nudged his partner. �Look.� The Kid noticed Heyes� sudden grin, incongruent with their present circumstances, then followed Heyes� stare down into the depths of the alley, where a very pretty redhead clutching a bed sheet as if her life depended upon it was being lowered from a second-story window of the hotel, into the waiting arms of a short, middle-aged man in a worn dress suit. Her weight, though slight, caused the man to stagger, and with his view obstructed by her voluminous skirts, he would have dropped her, had Curry not rushed to the rescue. �I got her,� the Kid grunted, and the man willingly surrendered his burden. Once he had lowered her to the ground, the Kid sized up the other man with a quick glance, immediately dismissed him as any kind of threat, then turned his attention to the young lady. �Good evening, ma�am,� he grinned.
As she smoothed her skirts, she threw a disgusted look at her friend before flashing a sweet smile at the Kid. �Good evening, sir. And thank you.� Her accent reminded Curry of fine Southern whiskey.
What lovely teeth she had, small and white and even. And what lovely large dark eyes, fringed with thick lashes. And what lovely smooth alabaster skin, bathed in moonlight. And what lovely, luxuriously thick, red-gold curls sliding off her head and onto her shoulder, exposing a hairnet holding a mousy brown braid in place. As he gaped at her, she merely laughed. �Oh! It�s just my wig.� She straightened the red hair and in a moment became again a picture of perfection.
�Hey!� A loud whisper from above drew the attention of the four on the ground. A carpetbag dropped from the window and Curry caught it; a second dropped into Heyes� arms. The small man tried to catch a third bag but it hit his forehead and with a groan he dropped the bag. Now another person came barreling out of the window and scrambled agilely down the sheet-rope. The escapee moved so quickly that it took Heyes a moment to realize she was a woman. When he did, he handed the bag he was holding off to the short man and positioned himself under the sheet to assist the woman down.
Straightening her skirts too, she turned to face Heyes and cocked her head to the side. �Uhm, thanks,� she said; her tone indicated surprise in having being offered aid. For just a second she looked up at him. The moon lit her face, which, although hardly pretty, especially in comparison to her companion�s, was�interesting. Her long face and frank blue eyes suggested steadfastness and intelligence. She was too tall, the crown of her wheat-blonde head even with the tip of his nose, too angular and too sun-darkened to be in keeping with the fashion of the times. So neither pretty nor fashionable, she had little to recommend her.
The expression in her eyes was one of recognition.
He gathered his wits and pretended he didn�t notice. �You�re welcome. Is there something wrong with the accommodations?�
A dog barked in the distance, interrupting the conversation, and a moment later heavy hoof beats approached. All five of the alley inhabitants shrank back into the shadows. Three men on horseback galloped past the alley, headed northward�in the direction of the sheriff�s office, Heyes recalled.
�We�ve got to go,� the blonde hissed at her companions. She and the redhead seized their baggage and, with the short man struggling behind, edged out of the alley into the street, remaining in the shadows as best they could. �It appears we�re going in the same direction,� Heyes commented as the women scurried in the direction of the livery.
�We have a buggy,� the blonde explained. As they entered the livery, she glanced back to the street. �I don�t think we�ll have time to hitch up, though.� The three horsemen had reached the sheriff�s office and were reining in.
�Oh, no, Lily, I�m not riding one of those smelly beasts,� the redhead protested.
�Yes, Melanie, I�m afraid you are,� Lily argued.
The blonde glanced from the activities down the street to Heyes, standing behind her. She jerked her head toward the horsemen, who were dismounting and running for the sheriff�s door. �Are they for us or for you?� she smiled wryly as dropped her baggage to grab a pair of bridles hanging on a peg.
�Does it matter?� Heyes opened his horse�s stall. Curry had already located his and Heyes� saddles and was hauling them forward.
�I can�t ride,� the redhead repeated. �And remember, Lily, the stableman said that horse isn�t saddle-broke.�
Down the street, the horsemen were banging on the sheriff�s door. A moment later, a light flared up inside.
�Doesn�t matter. That old horse of ours couldn�t outrun a snail. We�re taking those three.� Lily headed for a trio of young mares in the livery owner�s corral. The small man followed her, dragging a saddle in the mud. She stopped and grimaced at him. �Vernon, leave it.�
Heyes and Curry were now saddled up and ready to go. �Joshua�� Curry nodded toward the redhead standing helplessly in the middle of the stable, and toward Vernon, who had abandoned the muddy saddle and was tugging a clean one off its rack.
Heyes led his horse to Vernon and presented him the reins. �Here. Put your left foot in the stirrup and pull yourself up.� When Vernon was safely aboard, Heyes fastened Vernon�s and Lily�s carpetbags to the saddle, then trotted out to the corral. Lily had caught and bridled two of the mares and was pursuing a fractious chestnut.
�Leave the chestnut,� Curry advised. �She can ride with me.� He led his horse to the redhead, secured her baggage to his saddle, and gallantly cupped his hands together at the bay�s side. �Step into my hands, Miss; I�ll help you up.�
The thunder of approaching hooves prompted Melanie to forget her modesty; she thrust her foot into Curry�s hands and threw herself awkwardly aboard. With a ��scuse me, Miss,� he seized her waist to straighten her, then swung up behind her. �Hold onto me, please,� she pleaded. He wrapped an arm about her waist and pressed her against him. �I won�t let you fall.�
�Can you ride bareback?� Heyes held the reins of one of the mares.
�I can now,� Lily grinned jauntily.
He nodded and boosted her up. She steadied herself and gathered the reins expertly. �Let�s go.�
He threw himself aboard the second mare. By now the sheriff had appropriated one of the alarmists� horses and was mounting up. With no time to waste, Curry pointed his horse south and kicked him into a run. Vernon didn�t seem to know what to do, but after long months of practice, Heyes� sorrel did; he took off, catching up to the bay and running alongside him. Heyes and Lily, though bareback, managed to keep up.
By daybreak, Curry and Heyes were satisfied that they�d left the small posse behind. They made camp along a weak stream coming down from the mountains. Melanie�s legs gave out from under her when the Kid lifted her from the saddle. He spread out his bedroll for her and before he could bring her water from the stream, she was asleep.
As Curry set off in search of firewood, Lily led two of the horses down to the steam and allowed the animals to drink a little, then walked them around before watering them again. Heyes followed with the other two horses.
�You know your way around horses,� Heyes observed.
She nodded. �My father owned a livery when I was a little girl, and I didn�t have any brothers, so I helped out. We�re not normally horse thieves, Vernon and Melanie and me.�
�What are you, normally?�
�Actors.� She paused to reflect. �Our old buggy horse ought to be worth about fifty, and two hundred for the buggy�.�
�I think that�ll more than make up for these two mares,� Heyes agreed. �Actors? Do you normally climb out of hotel room windows in the middle of the night?�
She blushed. �Well, lately, yes. Things haven�t been going well for us. And not because we�re bad�just the opposite. Y�see, we�re with the Boston Repertory Players; we do scenes from the Shakespeare, along with a little melodrama�the melodrama is what brings �em in, really. We come out in advance of the full company, as sort of an opening act. The full company travels about two weeks behind us. We�ll end our season in San Francisco in September. Then we�ll go back to Boston for the winter.�
�So what went wrong?�
�Well, when we started out from Boston, there were ten of us, including our manager, but the venture was doomed from the start.� She leaned toward Heyes confidentially and lowered her voice. �On the first night out, in St. Louis, an usher asked us which plays we�d perform that night. Our lead actor told him we�d play scenes from Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Hamlet and the Scottish play. Only he didn�t say, �The Scottish play�; he said�you know.�
Heyes shrugged. �No, I don�t know.�
�You know. The Scottish play. The Unmentionable. The one with the witches? The Thane?�
He shook his head, still not understanding.
�Lady M? The Big Mac?�
Heyes blinked in surprise. �Big Mac?�
She took his reaction to mean he now understood. �So our lead actor spoke the cursed title, and of course, everything started going wrong. That night, our Duncan�he was also our Lear and our Claudius�had a heart attack. We had to leave him behind in St. Louis, with his wife, who was our Gertrude and one of our witches. Then in Chicago, our Hamlet was arrested for cheating at cards, and in Dubuque our Romeo decided he was homesick and he went back to Boston. Three weeks ago, in Dallas, our manager disappeared�and took all of our money. There were only five of us left then. Two of the troupe gave up and went home. We traded most of our costumes for the horse and buggy.�
�Why don�t you go back to Boston, too?�
She drew herself back. �And quit acting?�
He grinned at her, and she smiled back. �Anyway,� she continued, �there�s a letter of credit waiting for us at the First National Bank of Denver. We�ll be fine, once we get there. It�s just that, until then, we�ve had to make a few hasty departures from hotels and liveries.�
Heyes� sorrel snorted and butted his head into Heyes� chest, demanding attention. Lily mused, �You know your way around horses, too. Did your father work in a livery?�
�As a matter of fact, he did, for a little while. Then he went into farming. He wasn�t happy with either one, though. He�d done something else that he liked much better, something that involved travel; I don�t remember what it was. He quit when it was time for me to start school.� Annoyed at himself for revealing so much, he changed the subject. �You don�t sound like you�re from Boston,� he suggested, though he had been wrong before about Boston accents.
�No. Kansas.� Lily halted her stroll with the borrowed horses. She seemed to study Heyes for a moment, waiting for something; he met her eyes, preparing a glib response in case she asked a question he couldn�t honestly answer. He swallowed hard, wanting to ask a question of his own: Kansas�where, when? But she seemed to understand. She started walking the horses again. �I�m not sure where we are right now,� she admitted.
�I think we�re about forty miles north of Denver.�
�Will you help us get there?�
�It will be a pleasure.�
In Denver, as they stabled the horses, Lily gave special instructions to the hostler. �Deliver the two mares to the livery in Little Dove. I�ll be back this afternoon to pay you whatever you charge for that service.�
As the three men and two women strolled the streets of Denver, Curry was reminded that a promenade with a pretty lady could be a dangerous thing. Although Lily drew no second glances, Melanie, bedecked in her red-gold wig and New York finery, turned many a man�s head. There was a time when Curry would have enjoyed the envy now directed at him, but these days any extra attention made him uncomfortable. No telling when one of those glances cast at Melanie might turn into a stare of recognition cast at him. He bent his head and pretended to listen with fascination to Melanie�s treasure trove of stories about past suitors.
As promised, the tiny troupe was met at the hotel by a quartet of actors, fresh from the main company, with a letter of credit and three steamer trunks full of costumes and props. As soon as she had cash in hand, Lily turned to Heyes and Curry. �There! You�ve changed our luck. Thank you, gentlemen.� She waved them aside to speak in private. �Thaddeus, Joshua, we�ve got three heavy trunks to haul around now, and look what the company sent to haul those trunks.� She shook her head sadly and clicked her tongue at the newly arrived actors, one woman and three men, and none of them any stronger than Vernon. �You see we have a problem.�
Curry chuckled. �I doubt if all four of them together could lift one of those trunks.�
�We�re going to need some help until we get to San Francisco. If you don�t already have a job waiting, I can pay�--she patted her purse affectionately--�rather well now.�
Heyes� mind went to work on all the ins and outs, but a glance at Curry told him his partner�s mind�or rather, heart�was already made up. It was a windfall situation, anyway: a job that would keep them on the move, in the background, and in the company of people who were so absorbed in Shakespeare that they hadn�t noticed that Heyes and Curry were playing roles, too. �Until San Francisco.� Heyes offered his hand in agreement. As she shook it, he noticed that strange look in her eyes again, and he wondered if he was making a mistake.
Two nights later, Heyes found himself alone, or so he thought, in a dressing room at the Denver Playhouse. The Kid had taken Melanie for an after-supper stroll, her hand tucked cozily into his arm, her honeyed voice urging, �So you were a cowboy! Tell me all about cow slugging.� The other actors had retired to their rooms, winding down from their evening�s performance. He didn�t know why he�d come back to the playhouse; he had no reason to. But somehow the playhouse felt comfortable, quiet and dark and homey. He wondered about that�why did it seem homey? Before this week, he�d never so much as passed by its doors in all his visits to Denver. Nevertheless, it felt homey.
The broom-closet sized room aroused his curiosity. Little pots and tubes of cosmetics, wigs of various colors and styles, and large, flashy jewels, all fake, spilled from the trunks. Hung on hooks, window sills and backs of chairs were costumes, carefully arranged in the order they would be needed tomorrow night. On one of the chairs was stacked a pile of booklets containing plays.
He picked up the plumed hat Vernon had worn tonight as Orsino, hero of Twelfth Night. It looked silly and unnatural on his head, the mirror told him, but he wondered if he had the rest of the costume on, would he pass for a sixteenth-century duke? And would those lyrical but foreign speeches sound silly in his flat Kansas accent? He lifted one of the booklets and tried a speech on for size. ��Be not amazed; right noble is his blood. If this be so, as yet the glass seems true, I shall have share in this most happy wreck.��
Yep, it sounded silly.
��Boy, thou hast said to me a thousand times thou never shouldst love woman like to me.�� A boy�s voice behind him added.
Heyes turned quickly to discover the other speaker wasn�t a boy at all, but rather Lily, still in costume from her role as Viola, a young lady who, in the first act, assumes the guise of a boy in order to travel safely in search of her shipwrecked twin brother. Dressed as a boy, Lily seemed more graceful and at ease�skirts tended to get in her way. She had disappeared during supper, before he had a chance to invite her for a stroll.
�You were right,� Heyes acknowledged. �You�re good actors.�
She perched on the edge of the dressing table. �Thank you! You liked the show, then?�
�Yes, I did. A lot of the language went over my head, but I like it anyway. Sword fights and witches and ghosts and murders�great campfire stories.� He set the plumed hat down carefully, hoping she hadn�t caught him in it.
�And power and greed and betrayal and deception�as long as people are corrupt, Shakespeare will be up-to-date,� Lily mused. �Even to cow sluggers.� She and Heyes burst out laughing.
�I guess that�s why I like Shakespeare: I like to think there�s a little larceny in everybody.� He cleared a space on one of the chairs and sat down.
�I�m in it for the deception, myself,� Lily confessed. �I love being Viola and Cordelia and Beatrice and anyone else in Shakespeare.� She sighed and glanced unwillingly at the mirror. �Anyone else.�
�Anyone except Lily Hart?� he asked gently.
She stared at the floor for a long moment, then raised her frank eyes to his. �I think you�re one of us.�
�You�re an actor, too.�
He didn�t answer.
�Acting is a safe place to be,� she added. �You can be anyone you want. No one will ask.� She leaped off the dressing table and flipped through the stack of booklets. �Here,� she tossed him one. �Run some lines with me, please. Next week we�re adding scenes from Much Ado About Nothing. Melanie will be Hero, Vernon will be Leonato, and I�ll be Beatrice. Will you read with me?�
�I don�t know if I can read these lines��
�Yes, you can. I just heard you. It doesn�t matter if you make mistakes, as long as I don�t.�
As they read, she paced the floor, working out the gestures she would use on stage. Heyes noticed for the first time that her eyes changed color: usually blue, tonight, they appeared green. Always animated, tonight, in character, she seemed ready to leap out of her own skin and take off like a shooting star into the black night. As he read, he understood; he felt it too, swept up in something that transcended bodies and time.
Until they came to Act Five, and he came back into his body again, uncomfortably so. He became aware of the glow of her skin, the shine of her blue-green eyes. ��Sweet Beatrice, wouldst thou come when I called thee?��
��Yes, signor,�� she danced near him, �and depart when you bid me.��
��O, stay but till then!��
��Then� is spoken; fare you well now; and yet, ere I go, let me go with that I came; which is, with knowing what hath passed between you and Claudio.��
��Only foul words, and thereupon I will kiss thee.�� Heyes, on his feet now, took Lily in his arms. He kissed her, tentatively at first, then, as she returned the kiss, fervently.
Lily rocked back on her heels. �Wait a minute. We're not supposed to do that. I�m supposed to say, �I will depart unkissed.��
He smiled wickedly. �Sorry. I didn�t feel like allowing Beatrice to depart unkissed.� When she didn�t answer, he teased, �Was it that bad?�
She stared at the floor again. �It was that good.� She closed her eyes to concentrate. ��Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath, and foul breath is noisome��� They both burst out laughing over the line.
�That girl sure knows how to spoil a mood,� Heyes remarked. He dropped the booklet and with it, the act. �Lily, I�ve been waiting for an excuse to kiss you. I�d like to do it again. I wasn�t acting.�
It was fascinating, the array of emotions that flashed by in her eyes. He detected surprise, desire and dread among them, and he knew if he pressed the matter, he would end up breaking her heart when he left her in September. She wasn�t pretty, but she was beautiful. �You�re right,� he said finally. �Two months wouldn�t be enough time for me, either.�
�Thank you," she stammered. "That�s very kind of you to say.� She would have turned away if he had let her, but he took her hands.
�Lily, if we�d have met a year from now, I promise you, San Francisco wouldn�t be the end of the line for me. I like this life, and I like you, much more than it�s safe for me to.�
Her face brightened. �Well, then! Let�s go back to work. But let�s read Richard III.�
A week later, the troupe had moved on from Denver, and Melanie had moved on from Curry to one of the new actors. Heyes, however, was still mulling over the choices that he didn�t really have. One night after supper, after escorting Lily back to the hotel, he wandered back to the theater. Amid the pots of make-up and the imitation jewelry on the dressing table lay Lily�s much scribbled-in booklet for Twelfth Night, a story of separated twins, crossed love and disguises. Viola was Lily�s favorite part; the play had become Heyes� favorite as well. He was fascinated with the double aliases Lily had to assume when she pulled on the green tights and turned Viola into the messenger boy Cesario. But what he liked best about the play was the resolution, however improbable: the reunion of the shipwrecked twins.
He was contemplating the play when the creak of a floorboard broke into his thoughts. He threw a glance over his shoulder, saw nothing and turned up the kerosene lamp for a better view. Again, nothing. He returned to the play. �Do I stand there? I never had a brother; nor can there be that deity in my nature, of here and everywhere.� He felt a draft of cold air rush past him. He looked around again.
The actors had told him and Curry tales of theater ghosts. They had debated the issue: Vernon insisted that poorly constructed buildings simply produced inexplicable sounds, but Lily, who loved everything to do with theater, accepted the legends as history. Maybe this was one of Lily�s stage-struck ghosts. He turned back to the play. As he turned, his eyes swept across the mirror above the make-up table.
Curry was right: he had aged considerably since going straight. The dark circles under his eyes and the wrinkles around his mouth and between his eyebrows made him look middle-aged. Wait a minute�.He glanced down at his shirt. He was wearing his blue one with the loose button on the left pocket. He lifted the lamp and leaned in close to the mirror to be sure.
His image in the mirror was wearing jester�s motley, complete with cap and bells.
Something else: in the mirror he was wearing a wedding band on his right�no, left�hand. Heyes rubbed his left hand. No, of course he had no ring. He�d never owned a ring.
He spun away from the mirror. It was time for a stiff drink.
From the corner of his eye he detected movement and he spun back around. The mirror image, his image, lifted a hand and ran it across his mouth thoughtfully. Heyes folded his arms and centered himself before the mirror. The mirror hand dropped, then rose again with some sort of ointment on the fingers. The hand spread the ointment over the face, massaged it in, then picked up a little pencil. Stage makeup. Lily, Melanie and Vernon were always playing around with the stuff.
Then the mirror image lifted his left hand to hold his eyelid open as the pencil in his right hand sketched thin black lines around the lid. Heyes watched in interest for a moment, until the left hand tilted towards the mirror and a brief flash of light bounced off the ring on the wedding finger.
Heyes dropped back in his chair. �My God.�
For the first time since the war, Hannibal Heyes trembled. But from some emotion he couldn�t name, not fear; the ring brought back overpowering quarter-century-old memories of a rocking chair near a fireplace, a whittled toy elephant painted white, stacks of books on knockabout shelves, and an elegant bass voice reciting stories of bewitched Scottish kings and ghost-visited Danish princes.
Then the Heyes in the mirror dropped the cap and walked away, unblocking from Hannibal�s view a poster: THE LITTLEFIELD ACTING COMPANY PRESENTS WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE�S TWELFTH NIGHT, STARRING THOMAS LITTLEFIELD, JOSHUA HEYES, MEG HEYES.
Hannibal dipped his head and blinked hard to clear the burning sensation from his eyes. And that�s when he saw, on the dressing table before him, behind some little pots of makeup, a wedding ring. His legacy.
With a half-smile he slid the ring onto his own finger. He knew without looking what had been inscribed inside: �My love eternally, Meg.� Tomorrow, when Curry would notice this ring and ask about it, Heyes would shrug and say nothing, and the Kid would respect his silence.
It wasn�t a trick, it wasn�t the legendary theater ghost, and it wasn�t some long-lost shipwrecked twin. It was the other half of the apple: his father.
�Joshua! Thaddeus! Forget that backdrop. I need you!� Lily ran backstage, couldn�t stop in her Viola boots, and slid into Curry. �Sorry,� she panted. �We�ve got trouble!�
The Kid�s hand moved to his gun, but Heyes, who had become accustomed to Lily�s excesses, smiled indulgently. �Can�t pull Vernon away from the roulette wheel?�
�Worse. Can you imagine? Vernon and Melanie eloped this morning, and they refuse to go on stage tonight!� Lily waved her arms in frustration. �Can you believe it? Not go on stage! They say they won�t work on their wedding night. This is Pueblo, for heaven�s sake! What else is there to do but work?�
Curry grinned at Heyes. �You want to answer that, or should I?�
�So we�re two actors short for tonight�s show. I can get Zeke and Clara to take the leads, but that leaves their parts unfilled��
So it was that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the West, became, for one night only, the two most hammy actors in the history of the stage, and Heyes, in a plumed hat and blue tights, lost his curiosity about acting, while Curry, in a red wig and petticoats, gained new respect for fairer sex.