"HANNIBAL HEYES! KID CURRY! Come out with your hands up.”
“No way Sheriff.”
“You have five minutes to come out or I’m coming in after you.”
“What are your terms?” Heyes asked.
“No terms. I want unconditional surrender.” There was no immediate answer. “NOW!”
“But Sheriff.” Kid whined.
“I want you two outlaws out here now.”
“Why?” Heyes asked.
“WHY? WHY? Because I said so and supper’s ready.”
“Ah Pa you never play right.” Heyes and Curry came out of their bedroom.
“Boys, it’s time to eat not play.” Sheriff Lom Trevors replied as he set the beef stew on the table. “Now go wash your hands.”
“Pa?” 8 year-old Jedediah Curry asked as he dried his hands and sat down.
“I don’t feel good.”
“What’s wrong?” Lom felt Kid’s head. “You’re a little warm. After you eat we’ll get you washed up and into bed.”
“Okay.” Kid started to eat in between yawns.
“So what did you boys do today?” Lom asked.
“We held up the bank and the railroad Pa.” 10 year-old Hannibal said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“After school I hope.”
“Yes sir. Still don’t know why we have to go to school. Seems a waste to bottle kids up in a room all day just fer learning.”
“That’s your opinion son, but it’s the law.”
“But me and the Kid are outlaws. We don’t follow the law.”
Lom pointed to his oldest son. “You will obey the law and me outlaw or you’ll be grounded; standing up.”
“Pa. Sheriffs don’t give outlaws tannin’s.”
“No? Maybe we should. Start when they’re little outlaws like you boys.” Lom laughed.
Hannibal was about to respond when Kid turned his head and threw up on the kitchen floor.
Lom quickly gathered Kid into his arms and got a basin at the same time he rubbed Kid’s stomach to ease any cramps. When Kid stopped heaving, Lom gently wiped away his littlest outlaw’s tears and held him close. “How are you feeling Kid?”
“Better but Pa I stink.”
Lom smiled. “Yes you do outlaw. Let’s get you cleaned up.” Lom carried Kid into the bathhouse and washed away the vomit and tears. By the time Kid was clean, dry and dressed in his PJ’s, he was almost asleep.
Lom carried Kid into the living room and settled into the rocking chair. “He’s tired and almost asleep. Did you want a bath tonight?”
“I can just wash up.”
“Son, there’s hot water already in the tub for you.” Lom knew Heyes liked to take a bath, but would never admit it to his buddies. Little boys are not supposed to like being clean.
“Really? Even with Kid being sick?”
“Just leave the door open so I can hear and see you. Go ahead.”
Heyes didn’t need to be asked twice. He quickly got into the tub as Lom rocked Kid.
“I’m hungry.” Kid put his thumb into his mouth and fell asleep.
Lom smiled and then whispered. “You’re always hungry son.” He rocked Kid for twenty minutes and then tucked him into his bed. Placing a kiss on the sleeping boy’s head, Lom went into the bathhouse with clean PJ’s for Heyes.
“Time to get out son.”
“Yep. Kid’s already in bed.” Lom helped Heyes out and handed the boy a towel.
“Is he okay?”
“He’s good right now, but we’ll see how he feels in the morning. Maybe I’ll send for the Doc.”
“He hates the doctor Pa. Ever since his Ma died he blames doctors.”
Lom knelt in front of Heyes and pulled him into a hug. “He needs to start trusting them again sometime outlaw.”
Lom picked Heyes up and took him to the same rocker and sat down with the boy in his lap. Some nights Heyes didn’t want to be ‘babied’ but others he liked the security of his ‘new’ father’s arms as they rocked. After several minutes, Lom heard a whispered, “I don’t like them either.”
“Hannibal? I know you took care of you and the Kid after your parents died and I’m proud of you both, but you don’t have to carry all those worries or concerns any longer. That’s my job. Your job is to be a kid.”
Heyes snuggled closer. “I’m an outlaw.”
“My little outlaw. Go to sleep.”
“Yes Sheriff. Love you.” Heyes closed his eyes and fell into a peaceful sleep.
Lom rocked a little longer then usual before he tucked Heyes in bed. Checking to make sure both ‘outlaws’ were asleep, Lom cleaned up the kitchen and decided to go to bed early. With his luck, Kid would be up in a few hours claiming he was hungry, and he wouldn’t change any of it.