|We're Not in Cascade Anymore, Toto
Author: JudyL068 PM
What do Donald O'Connor, The Wizard of Oz and the Ponderosa have to do with our favorite anthropologist? Well, hang on, you're about to find out!Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 6,774 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 07-26-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7222259
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
We're Not in Cascade Anymore, Toto
October 22, 2003
What do Donald O'Connor, The Wizard of Oz and the Ponderosa have to do with our favorite anthropologist? Well, hang on, you're about to find out!
Plot bunnies running amok. Where's the broom! I know, I know, I'm supposed to be working on several other story lines, but this one has been stewing for a while. Nope, not gonna tell ya till the end.
Disclaimer: If you don't know by now, I'm not gonna tell ya.
Blair Sandburg stood beside his friend, Jim Ellison in the left wing of the stage. He couldn't contain his grin as he watched the musical unfolding from this very unusual point of view.
This case was turning out to have a few more perks than he'd expected. Getting back stage passes to the Broadway version of Singin' in the Rain was just one of them. Of course the best one was getting to meet Donald O'Connor. He was in town for the opening night performance. Jim had been assigned to protect Mr. O'Connor while he was in Cascade due to several letters received from an overly enthusiastic fan.
Mr. O'Connor stood just at the edge of the curtain, humming and moving to the music as the troupe onstage worked through the last dress rehearsal before the opening tomorrow night.
Jim was watching the show as well as Mr. O'Connor and from what Blair could tell, had all of his senses on high alert for any problems. Blair took a step toward the Sentinel so that his arm brushed against Jim's.
Ellison glanced down at his partner and grinned as he realized that Sandburg had intentionally made contact. He was actually relieved. His Guide's touch evened out his senses and the headache he'd felt coming on subsided. Everything appeared to be normal backstage.
Jim didn't really expect any trouble. The fan mail from this particular fan had increased to the point of being ridiculous as Mr. O'Connor's appearance in Cascade neared. It was probably just some lonely woman fixated on the star, but the lack of a return address had Mr. O'Connor's manager in a state of panic.
The music stopped suddenly and Jim focused his attention on the stage. Mr. O'Connor started across to the debate going on in the center of the stage and Jim followed with Blair close on his heels.
Jim grunted as he listened to the argument. Evidently, even with a show as well known as Singin' in the Rain, there were still differences in interpretation of the script. The Sentinel shook his head. Mr. O'Connor seemed to be handling the problem, his expertise easily accepted by both parties.
A grating noise sent a piercing pain through Jim's head and he slapped his hands over his ears in an attempt to block the screech.
Ellison felt someone push him hard and he lost his balance. As he made contact with Mr. O'Connor and then the floor his peripheral vision picked up Sandburg and the horrifying sight of light fixture swinging toward his Guide.
"Sandburg!" Jim yelled, trying to rise and untangle himself from the elderly star. He was too late.
Blair followed Jim and Mr. O'Connor across the stage. The actor portraying Donald Lockwood was arguing with the director. Sandburg listened intently and silently applauded the original Cosmo Brown as the star offered a few suggestions.
The screech of metal on metal made Blair wince and he immediately turned to see his friend contorted with pain. Out of the corner of his eye, the Guide saw a flash of light and metal. He shoved Jim hard, hoping to get everyone out of the way. Unfortunately he wasn't quite fast enough and felt the several hundred pounds of metal as it caught him on the shoulder and catapulted him toward the front of the stage.
He was shaken but probably would have been fine if he hadn't tried to get up quite so fast. Blair wobbled onto his knees clutching his left shoulder and stumbled. He heard Jim's frantic shout and caught a quick look at his partner's face before tumbling off the edge of the stage into the orchestra pit. The last thing he remembered was looking up to see Jim's worried face as the darkness stole his sight.
Blair groaned and opened his eyes, closing them immediately. Bright sunlight sent blinding pain straight to his brain. Ah, man. Close the shades. He felt a shadow fall over him.
"How ya doin', little brother?" Jim asked with that silly Texas accent that he'd tried to adopt.
"Turn down the lights, man," he demanded lifting one hand to shade his eyes. He could see a very blurry Jim leaning over him outlined by blue. Blue? Blair blinked hard trying to clear his sight. That's sky! What's going on here?
"You took quite a fall there Little Joe," Jim drawled.
"Jim?" Blair asked, unsure about his partner's choice of nicknames in this instance. His eyes seemed to be focusing now bringing doubt as to his sanity.
They seemed to be outside. He was lying on a stretch of dirt and could see scrub brush and pine trees nearby. Blair grabbed Jim's arm so he could pull himself into a sitting position.
"Jim? It's me, your brother, Hoss. You hit your head or sumthin?" Jim asked, that Texas drawl coming through loud and clear.
Blair stared at Jim. He was wearing… what the hell is he wearing? Jim looked like a character right out of Bonanza. Hoss to be exact. Blair looked down and saw he was dressed in similar apparel.
Okay, we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
"Little Joe?" Jim/Hoss asked a very confused and concerned look on his face.
Better go with the flow. "What happened, Hoss?" Blair asked, trying not to grin.
He earned an even stranger look from his "brother." "Somethin' musta spooked Cochise, next thing I knew you was flyin' off your hoss." Jim/Hoss latched onto Blair's head with both hands, checking him for bumps. "You musta hit your head harder than I thought."
Blair squirmed and brushed "Hoss's" hands aside. "I'm fine. Just help me stand up."
Jim/Hoss stood and pulled Blair easily to his feet then kept a hand on him as the younger man regained his balance. "Well, if you're sure. We'd better git goin', Pa's gonna spit nails if we're late for supper." With that the big man turned and went towards a dark brown horse that stood patiently a few yards away.
Blair dusted off his chaps and looked around. He couldn't see another horse nearby. So what now?
"What's keepin' ya, Little Joe?" Jim/Hoss asked swinging into his saddle.
"Uh, I don't seem to see my horse," Blair answered with a lame shrug.
"Jeesh, bro, you musta knocked yourself silly. Just call 'im like you always do," Jim/Hoss shook his head.
Blair wracked his brain. Come on, think Sandburg. Jim only watched this show three thousand times… I'm pretty sure Little Joe whistled to call his horse, let's see, how did it go? Blair grinned as the memory came to him and whistled loudly. He was rewarded a few seconds later by the sound of hoof beats and the sight of the black and white pinto named Cochise.
The horse came right to him and Blair caught the reins that were still draped over the horse's neck. He patted the animal on the neck then pulled himself up into the saddle. Blair winced as his left shoulder complained. Must have landed on it when I fell.
Whoa! Gotta remember this is all some sort of weird dream. He shook himself. I must have lost consciousness when I fell into the pit. My shoulder hurts because the light fixture almost took me out. So how do I wake up?
Cochise started forward following Hoss's horse and causing Sandburg to grab onto the saddle horn. Well, maybe if I click my heels and say "there's no place like home" three times. He grunted, couldn't very well get back off the horse now, Hoss would really think he was crazy.
Blair caught Jim/Hoss glancing back at him again. Well he sure is acting like Hoss. Has that whole concerned brother bit down pat. Ah, that's not fair. Actually, that fits Jim to a tee as well. Man, this it too weird.
Sandburg encouraged Cochise to speed up until he was riding even with Jim/Hoss.
"How's the head, little brother?" Jim/Hoss asked glancing at Blair.
"Okay. I don't seem to remember why we were out here though," Blair said, hoping for an update.
"Hmm. Have ta get the doc ta take a look at you if you're not rememberin' things," Jim/Hoss frowned as he regarded his little brother.
"No, hey, I'm fine, really. I think I just got a little rattled, you know," Blair snuck a peak at the big man and continued gratefully when he saw a slight nod. "I just need a little reminder is all."
"Yeah. Okay. But you start havin' any more problems and you're goin' straight to the doc. I'll tell Pa and then you won't have nuttin' to say about it."
Blair held up his hands in defeat grinning at the very typical "Hoss speak" coming from his friend.
"Lemme see," the big man said slowly. "Pa sent us to tell the Sheriff about the man we found a few days ago." He looked at Blair waiting for some sign of remembrance.
Blair frowned and shrugged mentally. What the hell. "Mr. O'Connor?"
Jim/Hoss grinned, satisfied that there wasn't any permanent damage done. "Right. We found him practically unconscious and 'sterical several miles from the house. He kept goin' on about someone tryin' ta kill him. He was feverish and not makin' sense for the last two days, then this mornin' he woke up and told us what had happened. Seems someone's been chasin' Mr. O'Connor 'cross half the country trying to git 'im."
"Does he know who or why?" Blair interrupted.
Jim/Hoss shook his head. "Nope. Anyways, me an' you went into town ta tell the Sheriff and was headin' back when Cochise dumped you. You sure you're feelin' awright?" Big blue concerned eyes focused on Blair.
"I'm fine, big guy. Really. I'm starting to remember. Mr. O'Connor is an actor, right?"
"Yep. Don't know what he's doing traipsin' across the country without a gun neither."
The trees gave way to a clearing and the ranch house came into view. Blair caught his breath. The house seemed much larger in person.
"Come on, Little Joe. I got me a hankerin' for some of Hop Sing's biscuits and gravy," Jim/Hoss called out, kicking his horse into a trot.
"Yuck!" Blair said, but followed his brother.
"Could I have some more green beans? "Blair asked holding his plate up for Henri/Hop Sing.
Hop Sing eyed the youngest Cartwright. "Young master hit head harder than you think Mr. Hoss. Never see Little Joe eat vegetables like this before."
Blair smothered a grin. Seeing H do a Hop Sing accent was too much. Joel managed a credible Ben Cartwright and Blair was almost used to the whole Jim/Hoss thing. But H as Hop Sing? Blair bit his lip to keep from laughing.
"Son? Are you sure you are all right?" Joel/Ben asked taking another hard look at his youngest.
Blair nodded his lips pressed firmly together to prevent the laughter that threatened to poor out. He was rescued by the appearance of Mr. O'Connor. Somehow Blair wasn't surprised to see the elderly stage star make his way to the table.
"Mr. O'Connor," Ben said, standing to greet their guest. "I'm glad you feel well enough to join us for dinner."
"Thank you, Mr. Cartwright. I do feel better. I hope I'm not imposing on you and your family."
"Not at all sir. I hope you don't mind, but I took it upon myself to send my boys to see the Sheriff. If someone is after you, the law needs to know."
Mr. O'Connor nodded smiling his thanks at Hop Sing as a plate was put in front of him. "I appreciate your concern, Mr. Cartwright." He looked up at the men across from him. "But the truth is, I've been to the law and it doesn't seem to have helped me any."
Blair leaned forward. "You don't have any idea who's after you? Or why?"
The older man shook his head wearily. "About two months ago I began receiving a series of threatening letters. I ignored the first couple," he shrugged. "It's not uncommon for people to show their displeasure with a show via letters to the actors involved. It's usually harmless and even flattering. I mean what better accolade could there be than to be mistaken for a character you portrayed. Unfortunately, these letters continued and I took them to the sheriff in St. Louis. He said he'd look into it, but there wasn't much he could do. No real harm had been done." O'Connor leaned back in his chair, his food untouched.
"The show moved on to Kansas City and I thought that would be the end of it. Then the next letter arrived. He was following me. I went to the sheriff there and showed him the letters. He placed a guard on me." O'Connor paused again, rubbing his hand over his face. "I was walking back to the hotel after a performance several nights later. I heard a gunshot and the deputy guarding me pushed me to the ground. Several shots later I looked up and saw that the deputy was dead. After I spoke to the sheriff I packed my things, bought a fast horse and started to ride. I figured I could lose myself out west for a while. He found me no matter where I went. So I just kept on moving."
"How'd you end up on the Ponderosa?" Jim/Hoss asked.
"I'm not really sure. I had been traveling along staying away from big towns for the last several weeks. I was hoping to catch another train and put a few hundred miles between me and wherever I was at the time. I heard a noise on the road behind me and I guess I panicked. I sent the horse into a gallop. Some time later he tripped and I hit the dirt. Next thing I know I'm looking into your sons' faces."
Ben nodded thoughtfully. "Well, the Sheriff will probably be out to see you soon. In the meantime you can stay here."
"That's very kind of you," Mr. O'Connor replied finally digging into his cooling dinner.
Blair sat on the top fence rail of the corral watching as Hoss put a very large piebald Appaloosa through his paces. Sandburg had to admit that it was Hoss out there even though he saw Jim. He knew Jim could ride, but doubted the Sentinel knew how to break and train the beasts.
Blair shielded his eyes and looked up the road leading to the ranch house. Two riders were approaching and the fact that Jim… Hoss didn't sense them coming before Blair saw them shook the younger man.
"Uh, Hoss?" Blair stammered trying to collect himself. "We've got company."
Hoss reined in the Ap and twisted in the saddle to look toward the road. He nodded and swung down off the horse. "It's just the Sheriff and Doc Martin, Little Joe."
Blair frowned in confusion. If this is Hoss and he doesn't have Sentinel abilities, how does he know who's coming? I can't see them clearly from here. "How do you know?"
Hoss frowned at his brother. "Come on, Little Joe, I'd know that nag of the Sheriff's any day. And surely you remember the sweet little mare we sold the doc?" He shook his head grabbing Blair by the arm and practically pulling him off the fence. "That does it, you're gonna see the doc first thing, little brother."
The bigger man dragged Blair toward the ranch house and once inside pushed him into a chair. "Now you stay put til the doc gets here, you hear?"
Blair nodded wide-eyed as Hoss called for Pa and Mr. O'Connor.
Minutes later Ben Cartwright opened the door to let the Sheriff and doctor into the house.
Simon? Rafe? Blair shook his head in disbelief. Shoulda known Simon would be the sheriff. But Rafe as the doctor? Well they do dress a bit alike. But I though Doc Martin was older. Oh well.
Hoss latched onto Doc Martin's arm as soon as he came through the door and led him over to Blair.
"Doc, Little Joe fell off his horse earlier and he's been having some trouble 'memberin' stuff. I think he hit his head." Hoss stood behind Doc Martin glaring a challenge at his brother to contradict him.
"What?" Joel/Ben exclaimed. "Why didn't you say something?"
Hoss shrugged but looked slightly guilty. "He said he was fine, Pa. And acted okay, 'cept for a few things he couldn't remember."
"Okay, Little Joe," the doctor said going down on one knee beside Blair. "Let's see what's going on with you, shall we?"
Blair nodded as Rafe… Doc Martin took his pulse and respiration, listened to his heart and checked his eyes. After a thorough check of his head for bumps and bruises and a good look at his shoulder, Doc Martin grunted and stepped back motioning for Blair to button up his shirt.
"Well, other than a pretty colorful bruise on your shoulder there, Little Joe, I don't see any signs of permanent damage. I can't even find a bump on your head so I suspect any memory loss is temporary. But if you have any dizziness or nausea you let someone know right away, understand?" Doc Martin leveled a compelling glare at the young man.
"Yessir," Blair mumbled paying close attention to the buttons on his shirt.
"Don't worry, Doctor," Ben assured, "we'll all be keeping a close eye on him for the next few days. I believe you have another patient," he nodded at Mr. O'Connor. "He seems to be much improved, but he also took a tumble from a horse a few days ago."
O'Connor held up his hands. "I'm fine, sir. I assure you. My problem was more exhaustion than injury."
Rafe/Martin nodded sagely. "Let me be the judge of that, sir." He moved over to begin an exam on Mr. O'Connor.
Simon/Sheriff Coffee cleared his throat. "I assume this is the gentleman Hoss and Joe told me about?"
Ben nodded. "Yes, Sheriff. Thank you for coming out."
"Perhaps Mr. O'Connor could fill me in," Coffee said taking a seat on the couch next to Blair.
Mr. O'Connor told his story to the Sheriff as the doctor finished his exam.
"Well, Mr. O'Connor," Sheriff Coffee said, "I will do everything I can to help you. Unfortunately, as you already know, that's not much. Without a description of the person threatening you all we can really do is keep an eye out for strangers." He paused for effect. "We get more strangers through here all the time. I think for now, if Ben is amenable, you should stay at the Ponderosa. It's about as close to a safe haven as you'll ever find."
Mr. O'Connor frowned in concern. "I don't want to put anyone else in danger. Or be a burden."
"Nonsense," Ben Cartwright replied. "I was going to insist you stay if the Sheriff didn't have a better suggestion. He's right. You'll be safer here where we know everyone. And if this man should show up, you won't be facing him alone."
Blair nodded. "One of us should stay with you at all times, Mr. O'Connor. And you should stay inside as much as possible."
O'Connor shook his head. "That's fine for now, but what happens in a week or a month if this person doesn't show up? I can't very well spend the rest of my life on the Ponderosa."
Sandburg ducked his head to hide his thoughts. Me either. But there's not a lot either of us can do about it right now, is there?
Simon/Coffee stood up. "Let's take this a day at a time for now. You said this person has found you time after time for the last two months. So maybe we should just assume he's going to find you again. If nothing comes of it in a couple of weeks, then you will have had time to figure out what you want to do." He looked at the doctor. "Are you staying?"
Rafe/Martin stood shaking his head. "Both of these men seem fine and I have other duties to attend to in town. Send someone if Joe has any problems, Ben."
Ben nodded. "Thank you Doctor."
Mr. O'Connor stood and shook hands with the sheriff and the doctor. "Yes, thank you both."
The two men collected their hats and left.
The Cartwrights and their guest sat quietly for a few moments, each man lost in his own thoughts.
Blair looked at each of them briefly. Maybe if I can solve Mr. O'Connor's problem I'll be able to go home. "Mr. O'Connor, do you still have those letters?"
O'Connor looked startled by the question, but quickly nodded. "Yes. Yes, I do."
"Could we look at them?" Blair asked.
The actor shrugged. "Certainly." He went to his room and returned shortly with a stack of maybe half a dozen letters.
Sandburg took them. They were all in their original envelopes. What I wouldn't give for Serena's lab right now. The handwriting appeared to be the same on each envelope. They all took turns reading the letters, hoping to come up with a clue. Blair was pretty certain the letters were the key, but no one had any ideas so they decided to go with the original plan and just have Mr. O'Connor lie low for a while.
The next several days passed uneventfully. Blair helped with the chores around the ranch just as Little Joe would. Fortunately, Sandburg had some experience with ranch work from his brief time in Texas. Always a quick learner, Blair had little trouble faking his way through most of the things he was unfamiliar with. On several occasions he just begged off claiming his shoulder hurt. That excuse was not going to last for long.
Blair was still uncertain what was really going on. He knew this had to be some sort of dream, but had no idea how to wake up or get back home. He missed his friends and Jim and the caricatures of the Ponderosa inhabitants just didn't cut it.
Blair sat up in his bed and stretched until his bones popped. The sun wasn't up yet, but Joel… Pa had asked him to get an early start on checking a fence line. I just hope it warms up a bit and doesn't rain. Clouds had been threatening for the last few days and the front would most likely push through some cooler temperatures. Just what I need, cold and wet.
He grumbled quietly to himself as he layered on his clothes and even stuffed a few extra items into a saddlebag. Just in case. Half an hour later he was out at the barn getting Cochise saddled.
Mr. O'Connor came into the barn. Blair nodded a greeting at him.
"Your father told me you would be riding out early this morning. Would you like some company?"
"I don't think that's a good idea, Mr. O'Connor," Blair replied tightening Cochise's cinch.
"Please call me Don, Little Joe. And I understand it's for my own safety, but I'm going stir crazy."
A grin quirked the corner of Blair's mouth. Sounds awfully familiar. He shook his head. I know I'm gonna regret this. He turned to face Don and saw the earnest plea on the older man's face. "Okay. But you've got to listen to me. If I tell you to get down or to run, you do it."
Don grinned. "Whatever you say, Joe. Thank you."
"Here," Blair said handing Cochise's reins to Don. "Hold him while I get you a horse. Then we need to let Pa know you're coming with me."
They managed to leave the house with most of their body parts intact. Ben Cartwright had almost exploded when Blair and Don told him their plans. Finally he'd acquiesced as long as they followed a specified route. That didn't bother Blair at all since he hadn't a clue as to where he was supposed to go until Ben told him.
With provisions courtesy of Henri/Hop Sing and a reminder to watch his back and keep his rifle handy from Jim/Hoss, Blair and Don set out on their fence-checking trip.
Blair kept going over the letters in his head. Something just didn't add up.
Half an hour or so later, Blair reached back and pulled the letters out of his saddlebag.
Don watched him his eyes widening in surprise when he realized what Little Joe had. "Are those my letters?"
"Yeah. I thought I might figure something out." He looked at the older man. "I hope you don't mind."
Don shook his head. "No, no, I just don't expect you to find anything. I've been over them, three sheriffs have examined them, plus now your father and Hoss. I just can't imagine anything we've missed."
Blair shrugged. "Well, let's just say I'm tenacious." He shuffled through the envelopes looking at the address again. The first five were made out to Donald O'Connor, c/o The St. Louis Revue. No street address or other marking could be seen. "No postmark," Blair muttered.
"What was that?" Don asked.
"There's no stamp and no postmark. No real delivery address. How did you get these?" Blair asked hold up the fistful of letters.
"Well, I found the first one slipped under my dressing room door after opening night in St. Louis. Several were handed to me by stage hands while I was at the theater during the following performances." He stopped. "The last one I found in my hotel room in Kansas City after our opening night performance."
Blair sifted through the letters again. Sure enough. All but one of the envelopes was addressed to the St. Louis Revue, the theater in Missouri. The last one had Don's name c/o the Grand Hotel in Kansas City.
"This guy has been in town for every performance. He also seems to know where you can be found. The theater I can understand, but your hotel? I know there's got to be more than one hotel in Kansas City."
Don nodded. "You think it's someone attached to the performance company, don't you?"
Sandburg tilted his head. "Could be. Have you had any problems, made anyone upset since this play started?"
"Not that I can think of. I suppose it's possible. There are a lot of big egos in show business."
"Well, think about it," Blair said as he opened the first letter to read once again. "Maybe he wrote something that will give us a clue looking from this perspective."
Don held out his hand and took half the letters. They read as they rode.
Back at the house
"I've gotta bad feeling about this Pa," Hoss said as he stared off in the direction Little Joe and Mr. O'Connor had gone. "I'm goin' after them."
Ben Cartwright frowned but nodded. "All right, son. I agree. But be careful. If you're not back in a couple hours I'll come looking for you."
Hoss nodded and trotted off to saddle up old Chub.
"He keeps referring to my character and how poorly I portray him," Don said his brow wrinkled in thought.
"Does that ring a bell with you?" Blair asked.
"Well, no one's actually said anything like that to my face. I've actually gotten very good reviews from the papers, but… What if it's a matter of sour oats. It could be someone I beat out for the part."
Blair straightened in his saddle. "That actually makes a lot of sense. Maybe someone who tried out for your part and didn't cut it, but was given a lesser part?"
Don nodded trying to recall who would fit those parameters. "I think there are a few men who fit that profile, Joe. It's not unusual for someone to be offered a different part than the one they initially tried out for. Even if they don't get a part, some hang around as stagehands hoping for a chance at understudy. Inevitably there's a night or two when the primary actor can't go on."
"Okay, well see if you can put together a list of names and descriptions. That will at least give us something to go by in case this guy goes into town." Blair turned in his saddle. "I put a pencil in my bag…"
He was interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. Fire raced through his shoulder and Blair felt himself falling. The ground came up to meet him knocking the breath from his lungs.
Don was on the ground beside him seconds later as another shot sounded. "Take it easy, Little Joe," he said one hand on Blair's shoulder as he looked for cover. "Think you can make it to those bushes?"
Blair gasped trying to get air flowing to his lungs again. He looked around, saw the bushes and nodded. "Go, I'll be right behind you." He levered himself up off the ground and followed Don's zigzag run to the meager cover offered by the scrub brush.
Hoss pulled Chub to a halt. He thought he'd heard a gunshot. Several seconds later another followed and he urged the big brown horse into a gallop. Little Joe was in trouble.
"Damn!" Blair exclaimed. Their horses had taken off at the second shot. Blair's rifle still secured to Cochise's saddle.
Don had sacrificed his fancy silk vest to use as a bandage for Blair's shoulder. The bleeding seemed to be under control for the moment but the bullet hadn't gone all the way through.
"Come on out, O'Connor!" the shooter yelled. "Take it like a man."
Donald O'Connor inhaled full of righteous anger and fear. "Who the hell are you? Why don't you come out and meet me face to face on even ground? You're a fine one to talk, hiding behind threatening letters, a coward who won't even show his face!"
The response to Don's tirade was not exactly what he'd hoped. The shooter opened fire.
Blair and Don fell flat to the ground behind the bushes hoping their scant cover would be enough.
"Well, if you meant to tick him off," Blair said sarcastically, "you certainly did a good job."
Don flushed. "That wasn't what I had in mind, believe me. This guy is insane."
"Certifiable." Blair raised his head up off the ground and surveyed their surroundings. Wonder if one of us can get around behind him for an ambush? The terrain was fairly level with only a gentle roll, not enough to conceal movement. "Maybe he'll run out of ammo."
They both ducked as another spurt of shots landed around them.
"Maybe not," Blair concluded. He was beginning to feel a bit lightheaded from the pain and loss of blood. "I have an idea, Don. But it will take some split-second timing."
"Okay, let me hear it."
Hoss heard multiple shots and pulled up again to try and figure out where they were coming from. If I can get behind the guy… He steered Chub off the path Little Joe had been following. "Hang on little brother, I'm coming."
"Okay, Don, let him have it."
"Hey! You with the gun. I hope you're better at acting than you are with a gun. But then again, you must be a pretty poor actor if you weren't chosen for my part. Anyone younger than me with a tiny bit of ability should have been able get that part. After all, I'm quite a bit older than the character. You must be just horrible."
Multiple shots rang out and they could hear some very colorful curses coming from their attacker. Blair whistled long and loud for Cochise, hoping the horse was near enough to arrive before the shooter could reload.
Hoof beats sounded and the pinto skidded to a halt beside the two men.
"Go on, Don, get help."
"No! I won't leave without you."
Blair shook his head. "If we try to ride double it'll slow him down. Now go! Before that guy reloads." He gave Don a push into the saddle and slapped the pinto on the flank. Blair felt the bullet whiz by his head before he heard the sound of the shot and dropped to the ground.
He moaned in pain as his shoulder reminded him of the previous bullet wound. The silence made him nervous and he tried to sit up only to ease himself back to the ground as his vision tunneled in and out. I hope that guy didn't go after Don. But if he rides straight back to the house, he should make it. Pa and Hoss will protect him…
Blair blinked trying to keep his eyes open. A shadow fell over him and he forced his eyes open praying it was his brother and not the shooter.
"Hoss?" Blair whispered blinking to clear his vision.
"Easy, buddy," Hoss said, "don't try to move, the ambulance will be here in a minute."
Blair closed his eyes and let the darkness envelop him.
A strange beeping noise teased the edge of his hearing. Blair mumbled and tried to recapture the peace of sleep.
"Hey, buddy," a familiar voice said softly. "You waking up there?"
Blair opened his eyes and blinked away the blurriness. Hoss was standing over him with a very worried look on his face.
"Hoss?" Blair croaked, his throat dry.
Blue eyes widened and eyebrows raised. "Hoss? Maybe I should get the doctor to run that MRI after all Sandburg."
"Jim?" Blair squeaked trying to sit up.
"Easy, partner." Jim held him down with one hand on Blair's chest. "You took quite a hit from that light fixture and then topped it off with a dive into the orchestra pit. We decided to give you a ten for the initial save, but you only got a three on the dive. A little sloppy there, Chief." Jim grinned down at his friend.
"Ah, man. You would not believe the dream I had, Jim."
"Slow down, Chief. The doctor's on his way. You may want to save the story until after his visit, unless you want to go in for a psyche eval."
"Oh, that's funny, Jim. Real funny. Hit a guy while he's down why don't ya?" Blair rolled his eyes, but grinned as he realized he had some great material. "Oh, hey, is Mr. O'Connor all right?"
"Thanks to you, Blair," Jim said seriously. He frowned. "The mounting for the light fixture was sabotaged. We're not sure of a motive or a real target yet. Mr. O'Connor's presence on the stage wasn't planned."
"You might check and see if any of the extras have a beef about the part they didn't get," Blair suggested.
The doctor came through the door at that moment.
"I'll explain later, Jim."
"Sandburg, only you could get knocked out and dream the answer to a case we didn't even know existed," Simon Banks grumbled good-naturedly.
He sat back and took another swig of beer as Jim and Blair exchanged a look. They were comfortably ensconced at the loft after bringing Blair home from the hospital. Jim and Joel had questioned the performers and quickly uncovered a plot by one of the understudies to "do in" his competition in hopes of "rescuing" the show and earning a reputation.
Mr. O'Connor's admirer turned out to be just that, an infatuated teen with too much time on her hands. O'Connor had met the young lady in person, signed a few photos and pointed her toward the nearest youth drama group.
"Yeah, but Simon, that's not the best part," Jim said grinning evilly. "You should hear the whole dream."
Simon shook his head. "I know I'm going to regret this, but spit it out, Sandburg. I recognize that gleam in your eye and I won't get any peace until you tell me."
The three men finally caught their breaths.
"Oh," Simon said, wiping his eyes. "I haven't laughed so hard…"
Blair nodded still trying to catch his breath.
"I can just see Brown," Jim gasped, trying to control another spate of giggles.
They finally got some measure of control and leaned back to relax their aching stomach muscles.
"I've got to tell you, though," Blair admitted softly. "It was kind of scary seeing Jim and the rest of you acting like someone else." He shook his head. "And when I realized Jim didn't have his senses… It really shook me up, man."
"Yeah, I can imagine. But it was all just a dream, Chief," Jim assured his partner.
"Yeah. Just a dream. But you know, Jim, there's no place like home."
This little plot bunny grew from several places. First was the episode Vendetta. Jim was watching all those Bonanza episodes to learn how to speak like a Texan. I thought that was pretty funny myself, coming from Texas I can tell you that neither of Blair's accents is entirely correct either. Probably because Texas is such a melting pot, even within the big melting pot. It's hard to say what an actual Texas accent sounds like. The best way to tell a Texan from everyone else is to listen for "ya'll" and "fixin' to" these are two sure-fire Texan slangs. g
Anyway, then I saw something that reminded me of Singin' in the Rain, maybe that stupid commercial… and I remembered the part where Don and Cosmo are trying to come up with "modern" scenes to fix the Dueling Cavalier (can you tell I really like this movie?). Don says something about the young hoofer getting hit on the head backstage and ending up in the middle of the French Revolution. So, naturally I thought wouldn't it be funny if Blair got knocked out and woke up in the middle of a Bonanza episode?
Course then I got to realizing how much this was like the Wizard of Oz, another favorite, and had to do the whole bit with the MC gang showing up as characters on Bonanza.
I really had fun with this. Hope you enjoyed it too.
This story is dedicated to the entertainers who made our favorite shows possible.
In memory of:
And to those that are still thankfully with us.
Bruce A. Young
And everyone else we love to watch.
Feedback is always welcome, please let me know what you think.