Standard fanfic warning that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law. These aren't my characters. I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. Originally published in Just You, Me, and the Governor #31, from Neon RainBow Press. Based on characters and situations created by Glen A. Larson, Don Tait, and Jack Bickham. There is no intent to infringe on the rights held by Glen A. Larson, Roy Huggins, ABC, Don Tait, Jack Bickham, Norman Tokar, Walt Disney Studios, or any other parties. This is an amateur work of fiction, and no profit has been derived from its writing, save for the joy of chasing my muse across the keyboard.
Christmas in Quake City
by Susan M. M.
Alias Smith and Jones/The Apple Dumpling Gang
"Homer! Homer!" Dick Peterson pounded on Sheriff McCoy's door.
"Dag-nab it, what's so all-fired important that you need to knock my door off the hinges during the middle of Christmas dinner?"
"This telegram. My boy was supposed to give it to you two days ago."
The white-haired man read the telegram, then swore. "I gotta get out to the Donovan place, right away. If I'm not back in two hours, round up a posse and send 'em after me."
"Mighty fine turkey, ma'am," Curry complimented Mrs. Donovan. "Can't remember the last time we had a Christmas dinner like this."
Heyes' expression fell. His eyes lost their twinkle; his expression, after a moment of grief, became wooden. He remembered the last time he'd had a Christmas dinner like this: December 25, 1862. By Christmas of '63, his whole family – except for his favorite cousin –had been dead and buried, killed by soldiers who accused them of "providing aid and comfort to the enemy." Since soldiers from both sides routinely looted the dead for uniforms and supplies, Heyes had never been sure whether they were Union or Confederate. They'd worn a mixture of blue, gray, and homespun.
"Dusty" Donovan recognized the look on his face. She'd seen it in the mirror, the first year she'd had to make Christmas dinner for just herself and Pa, instead of helping Ma with the dinner. And the second year, and the third, and whenever she heard Ma's favorite song, or passed a lady wearing the same lily-of-the-valley perfume Ma had loved. She changed the subject, hoping to break the mood before memories overwhelmed Heyes. Holidays surely did bring back the memories.
"Would you like some more mashed potatoes? Or is two helpings your limit?"
"I could force down some more," Amos Tucker agreed.
"Me, too," said Theodore Ogilvie.
"Never have to worry about leftovers with you two around," Dusty muttered.
"Pass that this way when–" Curry interrupted himself. "Did you hear that?" He automatically reached for a pistol that wasn't there.
Heyes and Curry exchanged glances. Heyes nodded. Curry slipped from his chair. With small children in the house, he'd hung his gunbelt out of reach as soon as he'd arrived. Now he fetched his weapon and peeked out the window.
"Someone's out there," the gunslinger announced.
"What do you see?" Russel Donovan asked, keeping his voice down.
"Nothing," Curry admitted, "but someone's out there."
Years of living by his wits had taught Donovan to trust his instincts. Three months of playing poker with Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith had taught him to trust their judgment. "Amos, Theodore, get the kids upstairs. And the Colonel," he added as an afterthought.
Dusty fetched her rifle and her husband's gun. She handed the pistol to him. Heyes got his own weapon.
Curry slid the window open and poked his Colt out.
"Dusty, go bar the kitchen door. Keep an eye out the back window," Donovan ordered his wife.
She nodded and hurried to obey.
"Surely you are overreacting, Magnolia," Colonel Clydesdale began in his slow southern drawl.
"Pa, we need you to keep the kids safe," Dusty fibbed. She loved her father, but she knew how little use he would be in a fight.
"They got guns!" someone yelled outside, spotting the weapons poking through the windows. The strangers started shooting at the house. Heyes, Curry, and Donovan began firing back.
"Don't they know it's Christmas?" Curry muttered.
"Someone is shooting at us," Colonel Clydesdale exclaimed in surprise.
"Yes, Pa," Dusty replied impatiently. "Amos, Theodore, get him and the kids upstairs." She went back to the kitchen and set down her rifle to grab a two-by-four to bar the door.
Before she could set it in place, the door burst open. Three armed men rushed in.
"Hands up!" a dark-haired, swarthy-skinned man ordered.
Dusty swung at him with the two-by-four, knocking the gun out of his hand.
She swung again and hit him upside the head. "They're in here," she called out. Again she swung.
The blond gunman ducked. The other, a scrawny brown-haired man with a broken nose, aimed his pistol at her. "Drop it."
The redhead set the board down.
Curry came up behind her. He fired, hitting the arm of the blond man reaching for Dusty's rifle.
"Don't try that again," ordered the man with the pistol pointed at Mrs. Donovan. "You might be able to get me, but I'll get her first," he warned. "Drop your gun."
After a second's hesitation, Curry complied.
"Shoot him, Beckham," the wounded man urged.
"Naw, Frank'll decide who lives or dies." Beckham gestured with his gun. "That way."
Hands raised, Curry and Dusty preceded the outlaws into the parlor.
"Put your guns down, or the pretty lady gets a bullet through her brains," Beckham announced.
"Dusty!" Russel Donovan turned to see his wife and Thaddeus Jones prisoners. "If you've hurt her…"
"I won't if you drop them guns."
Heyes and Donovan traded glances, then laid their guns on the floor.
"Go get 'em, Pat," Beckham ordered.
The wounded Pat gathered the weapons, then he threw open the front door. "C'mon in, we got 'em."
A moment later they were joined by six armed men. One was a big man who wore a metal leg brace.
"Stillwell," Donovan said quietly, disdainfully.
"Frank Stillwell?" Curry glanced at his cousin, dismay in his blue eyes. Stillwell was as infamous an outlaw in California as they had been in Wyoming and Colorado. But while they had been lauded as modern Robin Hoods who never hurt anyone, Stillwell had a reputation for violence.
"You started Christmas dinner without us. That's downright inhospitable of you," Stillwell observed. The note of cold malice in his oily voice chilled everyone in the room. "You caused me a lot of grief, Donovan. I'm gonna kill you for that… after I kill Amos and Theodore."
"They're here, Boss," Pat reported. "I heard her telling them to get the young'uns upstairs."
Stillwell nodded. He limped to the foot of the stairs. "Amos! Theodore! Come down here so I can shoot you."
"No way I could resist an invitation like that," Heyes muttered.
"You don't know Amos and Theodore," Donovan whispered back.
"Where's Garcia?" Stillwell asked.
"In the kitchen, Boss," Beckham replied. "She whacked him with a board, knocked him out cold."
"What happened to you?" Stillwell asked Pat.
"He did." The blond outlaw pointed with his good arm at Curry. "Can I shoot him?"
"You're gonna regret that," Stillwell informed Curry. "You can shoot him later, Pat, after I get my killing done. Go fetch some bandages, missus, and get him patched up."
Dusty looked as though she was about to spit in his eye. Knowing his wife's temper, Donovan urged, "Do what he says."
There were always accidents on a farm, especially with three children on the place. It only took Mrs. Donovan a moment to get something to bandage Pat. Not trusting herself to speak, she washed and tended his wound silently. She looked up from the bullet hole in his arm to see Celia, Clovis, Amos, and Theodore come halfway down the stairs, hands raised.
"Hey, Boss, weren't there three kids?"
"Yeah." Stillwell turned to Clovis and Celia. "Where's your brother?"
"He went to his friend Homer's place," Clovis answered innocently.
"He ain't home for Christmas dinner?" Stillwell asked suspiciously.
"Homer got a pony. Wanted to show it off," Donovan volunteered.
"For all our sakes, let's hope it's a fast pony," Heyes muttered. He never thought he'd hope for a sheriff to arrive.
"Get over here so I can kill you," Stillwell ordered Amos and Theodore.
"Gee, Frank, you ain't still holding a grudge, are you?" Amos asked.
"Why, whatever gave you that idea?" Stillwell snarled. "Just 'cause you ruined my leg and helped him–" He pointed his gun at Donovan. "–throw me in prison? First I kill the two of you, then I shoot him."
"What about the children?" Dusty asked.
Stillwell's only answer was a sneer.
"Y'know, Frank, we ain't the scourge of the west no more. We retired," Theodore told him.
"Get down here."
Amos and Theodore came the rest of the way down the steps. Clovis and Celia stayed on the staircase. The two outlaws-turned-farmhands stepped forward. Then Theodore stepped on Clovis' new wooden train. The train rolled forward. Theodore slipped and fell onto Stillwell. His gun discharged, sending the bullet harmlessly into the ceiling.
Clovis threw a ball, beaning one of Stillwell's henchmen. He lurched off-balance. Heyes seized the moment. He swung a right hook, knocking the man down and seizing his gun.
Curry grabbed the peas from the table and threw them on the floor in front of another of the henchmen. He reached for the young gunslinger, but slipped on the peas.
Donovan rushed forward, slugging Beckham. Dusty grabbed the turkey drumstick bone and threw it. Theodore tried to get up, and slipped on the peas himself. He bumped into Amos, who bumped into another henchman.
"Is everything all right down there?" Colonel Clydesdale called from the top of the stairs.
The distraction allowed the two former outlaws, and Donovan and his wife, to get the drop on the outlaws.
Dusty looked around the room. "Lord have mercy, but this is a mess! I ought to shoot the lot of you for makin' riot of Christmas dinner!"
"Mama! Horses are comin'!"
Sheriff McCoy gestured to Heyes and Curry, pulling them aside for a private word after they and the Donovans had come into town the next day to swear out statements on what had happened.
"I was going through my wanted posters, to pull out the ones of Stillwell and his gang… came across some old ones for the Devil's Hole Gang."
Heyes maintained his poker face. Curry flinched just a hair.
"Unfortunately, I've mislaid my reading glasses, so I won't be able to read them for a day, maybe two."
Neither Heyes nor Curry mentioned that they could see his spectacles peeking out of the top of his shirt pocket.
"A day or two, huh?" Heyes asked.
McCoy nodded. "The last time I lost my glasses, it took me twenty-four hours to find them."
"Twenty-four hours?" Curry repeated. He traded glances with his cousin, who nodded imperceptibly.
"We told the Colonel that we'd be staying 'til the new year, but I think we might leave early, before the weather gets any worse," Heyes said.
"That might be a real good idea." McCoy got his hat and coat. "Merry Christmas, all."
"Merry Christmas," Heyes and Curry echoed.
Well, they'd been planning to leave, anyway. The sheriff's friendly warning just meant moving a little sooner.
"You know what, Kid?" Heyes asked as they rode south the following day.
"What?" Curry asked.
"Those farmhands of Donovan's, Amos and Theodore? They remind me of Kyle and Lobo," Heyes observed.
"You know, they do, don't they?" Curry agreed.
Laughter followed the two men as they kicked their horses into canters, putting some more miles between themselves and Sheriff McCoy.