Disclaimer: When I successfully conquer the galaxy I shall own this, too (and make more Tin Man they shall). Until that time, I'm afraid I own nothing. Sigh.
Author's Note: Totally unrelated, but has anyone noticed that all roads in the O.Z. seem to go through the fields of the Papay?
Officer Gulch had to wonder how his day had gone so inexplicably wrong. The morning had started out in the perfectly unremarkable manner of the sleepy Kansas town: breakfast at the diner, patrolling the town, finding a place to park by the highway, watching DG speed by on her motorcycle...oh, right. Yeah, that would be reason right there.
Not that seeing DG speeding was anything new. There was a time when giving DG speeding tickets was a part of Officer Gulch's daily routine. Thing was, ever since that freak tornado almost a year back no one had seen hide nor hair of her or her family. The town had conducted an extensive search for the family before reluctantly deciding that they must have been killed in the storm. The memorial service was one of the largest ever held in the town, and Officer Gulch had been there, sitting in the front row. Those who knew of his long standing traffic violation feud with DG – which was everyone – had watched him with speculative sympathy.
Needless to say, seeing her that morning was so like seeing a ghost he sat there a minute in stunned silence before taking off in pursuit. Tires squealing, old accustomed imprecations being muttered under his breath, Officer Gulch settled into the old routine with something akin to relief. He'd never admit it, but he was so damned happy to see her he forgot to turn on his siren.
DG, meanwhile, had either failed to notice him or was ignoring him as she'd always been wont to do. She just carried on her merry law-disabiding way, perhaps going a little faster than usual as she tore down the gravel road to the remains of her home. Executing a neat skidding stop, she hopped off the bike and raced into the standing portion of the house.
Officer Gulch was hot on her trail. There were questions he wanted answered. He wanted to know where her family had been this past year; he wanted to know why they'd never told anyone they were ok; he wanted to give her a ticket. Slamming the cruiser door, he hiked up his utility belt and strode purposely toward the house.
Unfortunately for Officer Gulch, while he might consider himself an officer of the law on a mission to protect the peace, to someone else he was a man with a gun in far too close proximity to the princess of the O.Z. This point was made by the revolver suddenly levelled at his head by the man who, as far Officer Gulch was concerned, had come out of nowhere. Sliding his eyes sideways, he caught sight of man he'd swear, if it weren't for the gun at his temple, was a sheriff straight out of a western. It was in that moment, standing on the half wrecked porch of DG's home, that Officer Gulch realized his day had gone straight to hell.
"Put the gun on the ground," the stranger growled.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Officer Gulch tried reasoning. What had he walked into? Things like this didn't happen in his town.
The sound of the hammer being drawn back rang ominously, "Try me," the man warned.
Officer Gulch unholstered his gun and dropped it.
"Kick it over there."
"Now you are going to tell me who you are, what you are doing here, and who sent you. No lies, no tricks or I just take care of this little problem I suddenly have."
Swallowing hard, Officer Gulch looked down at his police uniform then back up to the stranger holding him at gun point. Early to mid forties, 6' to 6'1", solid build, short blond hair, fedora, duster, his mind catalogued, training kicking in. Oddly enough the man had an air that seemed to say cop. Wants to know who sent me...wait, "What?" he stuttered.
Fortunately for Officer Gulch, given the steely look that was forming in the stranger's face, DG chose this moment to reappear on the scene. Having successfully distracted Cain so that she could make a quick supply run that she most certainly did not want him along for, DG's only intent upon leaving the house was to hide the evidence of her illicit trip. Sure that she had managed to pull the whole thing off undetected, the last thing she'd expected to find on the porch was the Tin Man holding her old nemesis at gunpoint.
"Cain, what are you doing?" she exclaimed, shocked.
"Waiting for answers," the Tin Man replied.
Poor Officer Gulch, completely lost, seized onto the familiar frustration that was DG's existence like a lifeline. "Damn it DG, you were speeding. Again," he bit out. Glancing warily at the man DG had referred to as Cain he continued, "I only came by to give her a ticket." And find out where the hell she's been, he added mentally, but instinct kept him from saying it out loud.
"Speeding," Cain stated flatly.
"Oh crap," muttered DG. Busted.
"And where were you that he saw you speeding, Princess?"
"I had some things I had to get," DG replied defensively.
"You went off alone," the Tin Man ground out.
"Oh come on, Cain! This is Kansas not the O.Z., no one's out to get me here. I was perfectly safe."
Fortunately for DG, Officer Gulch accidentally redirected the Cain's ire by trying to shift out of the gun site of the revolver. The cop did not consider himself to be a coward, and he reasoned even the bravest of men would have frozen under the glare levelled at him by the now thoroughly incensed Tin Man.
"Um, Cain, could you stop pointing your gun at Officer Gulch? It's really illegal, you know. He's a cop."
"A cop?" the Tin Man queried.
"Yeah, you know, like a Tin Man," she said with a bit of a smile.
Cain surveyed the policeman's uniform as if noticing it for the first time. Watching the cop carefully he slowly lowered his gun.
"And he was just here on official business?" he reaffirmed one last time.
"Yes. Giving me tickets is what Officer Gulch does; I don't know what he's been doing with himself these past few months."
"Um," the cop dared to interject, "may I have my gun back now?"
The Tin Man's jaw clenched, "Get inside the house, Kid."
"Oh for pity's sake, Cain, he's not going to hurt me!"
"DG," he growled ominously.
Throwing her hands in the air, DG accepted that the Tin Man was never going to rearm a stranger without getting her under cover first. Slamming the door behind her, she raced to the nearest window so she could watch the rest of the encounter.
Cain, meanwhile, was keeping his eye on the cop as he crossed the porch to retrieve the cop's side arm. Catching the man's eye he jerked his head in the direction of the police cruiser. Officer Gulch understood the implied instruction.
"It would be best if you forgot you ever saw us here," the Tin Man said, cop to cop, "We are leaving tonight and we won't be back again. She just wanted to pick up a few things to keep with her. There will be no second trip."
Incensed, the cop fired back, "Damn it, I thought she was dead! The whole town thought that tornado killed the entire family!"
"And it would be best," Cain replied, his voice taking on a hint of steel, "if they were to continue in that belief. It is a rather...neat explanation."
Closing the cruiser door on the cop, Cain popped the magazine out of the gun, removed the chambered round, and tossed each item separately into passenger seat.
As much as this man might scare him, Officer Gulch couldn't help throwing him an exasperated glance.
"When it comes to the princess' safety," Cain said, answering the unspoken comment, "there is no such thing as too paranoid."
Five minutes later, glancing back in the rear view mirror, Officer Gulch believed him. The man was standing, one hand resting on his gun, watching attentively as the cop drove away.
Once the police cruiser was out of sight Cain turned and walked into the house. DG was standing by one of the front windows, a mixture of guilt and amusement on her face. Mouth set in a firm line, the Tin Man stalked towards her.
"It was just a quick trip," she blurted as he drew near, "and, as you can see, I'm perfectly fine."
Glancing down at the noise, Dg was astonished to see one manacle of Officer Gulch's handcuffs had just been attached firmly to her right wrist. The other one, she noted, was attached to the Tin Man's left wrist. She looked back up to find that Cain was dangling the keys before her in his right hand.
"To ensure that you don't make any more of these 'little trips' for the duration of our stay," he explained, then tucked the keys into his pants pocket.
Well, that was interesting. DG's head tilted to the side as she contemplated this development. He would most certainly notice if she tried to sneak the keys off of him, given where he'd put them. On the other hand, she wasn't exactly opposed to the situation. In fact, she rather thought she'd like to make sure the state of things persisted. Hmm, it was becoming imperative to retrieve the keys and 'lose' them. Of course, there was always the magic option – Az had managed to pull the emerald from her pocket with merely a wave of the hand. Surely with a bit of effort...
Late that night Officer Gulch found himself deep into a bottle of scotch and muttering about troublesome princesses, paranoid sheriffs, and that damn DG. The girl was never going to stop speeding. Troublemaker. She always was, always will be. He'd have caught her, too, if it wasn't for that bloody 'Tin Man'. His fellow bar patrons looked at him pityingly, shook their heads, and bought him another round.