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The McDermott Gang
Author: Cap'n Marina


Rated: PG
Summary: The Ateam travels back through time to help
the Cartwrights take on a gang of murderers.  Adam and
Little Joe learn how to be men and brothers.
Warnings: Mild Violence, some silliness, mild language
I don't own the boys...but oh how I wish I did

 

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Part 1

 

The smell of horses permeated the air and the sun was shining brightly as the four men walked slowly down the streets of the bustling little town. They all had very confused looks on their faces, as did the townspeople who encountered them.

 

"I don't like the looks of things, Colonel."

 

"Me either, lieutenant," Hannibal replied and looked around the town.

 

"Pa!"  Adam yelled as he noticed the gunman slink up behind his father. He didn't have a chance to say anything else before the butt of the gun rendered him unconscious.

 

The team heard the commotion coming from just up ahead.  "I think we'd better check this out," Hannibal ordered and the four men went running.

 

Hannibal tackled the gunman that was threatening to take the life of the oldest Cartwright, but not before he was able to fire his gun.  Ben grabbed his shoulder and fell to the ground. 

 

BA took out the other gunslinger before he could shoot the young man lying on the ground in front of him.

 

"Murdock, Face, get those two out of here!" Hannibal ordered, pointing to Adam and Ben.

 

They nodded their understanding to Hannibal and dragged the two unconscious men into the livery.

 

Hannibal and BA continued to struggle with the gunmen, eventually they both managed to get away. 

 

All the commotion aroused the attention of the local sheriff.  Hannibal noticed Roy Coffee heading in their direction. "BA, the sheriff…get out of sight!"

 

The two men ducked into the livery.

 

Minutes later, Adam started to come around.  He moaned a bit and then opened his eyes. "Arghh…what..."

 

Hannibal stooped down and put a hand on Adam's head. "You took quite a hit there, kid."

 

Adam became more aware and panic took hold. "Pa!" He cried out. "Where are you? Answer me, Pa!"  He fought hard against Hannibal who was holding him in place. "Let me go...I've got to find my father!"

 

"Shhh…take it easy, kid...your father is safe. He's being taken care of by my lieutenant."

 

Adam looked into Hannibal's clear blue eyes and saw the truth.  He relaxed slightly and slumped back against the wall.

 

"Here's some water, Colonel," Murdock said as he brought over a bucket and ladle.

 

"Drink this!" Hannibal commanded and placed the ladle to Adam's lips.

 

Adam obediently took a sip.

 

"Good…that's good, kid."

 

"Murdock, see if you can find something to bandage his head."

 

"Right Colonel."

 

Adam reached out and put a hand on Hannibal's arm. "May I see my father?"

 

Hannibal smiled. "After we get that head of yours bandaged...right now...you rest."

 

Adam sat back again. "Yes sir," he relented, not having the strength to argue.

 

"How's he doing?" The colonel asked as he approached Ben.

 

"Fine, Hannibal," Face replied. "The bullet only grazed him.  He'll be sore for a few days, but fine."

 

"The kid's fine too, but he'll have a hell of a headache."

 

Murdock found a few clean rags and used them as make shift bandages. "Did anyone ever tell you, you look like Johnny Cash?" The Captain asked.

 

"I'm sorry...who?"

 

"Johnny Cash...the country singer that dresses all in black...didn't you ever see him on TV?"

 

"On what?"

 

"TV."

 

Adam stared blankly at him.

 

"You know the square little box that has the talking pictures."

 

Adam raised an eyebrow at Murdock.  "I have no idea what you are talking about, Mr.?"

 

"Murdock, just plain Murdock."

 

"Cartwright...Adam Cartwright," Adam replied, holding a hand out to the confused captain.

 

"Cartwright?" Murdock smiled. "And I bet you are from the Ponderosa, right?" He teased.

 

"Oh, I see you have heard of our ranch."

 

Murdock smiled nervously and then went over to Hannibal. "Maybe we should get him to the hospital, Colonel?"

 

"For what?"

 

"He thinks he is Adam Cartwright."

 

Hannibal laughed. "I'm sure there are people named Adam Cartwright, Captain."

 

"Do those people think they own a ranch called the Ponderosa?"

 

Hannibal put his cigar in his mouth and shrugged. "So kid, my Captain tells me you are Adam Cartwright and you own a ranch called the Ponderosa?"

 

"That's right, sir...I live there with my father and my brothers Hoss and Little Joe."

 

Hannibal turned to Murdock and whispered. "Maybe you're right about the hospital?" He smiled at Adam.  "I think we'd better get you to a doctor, kid."

 

Adam put a hand up in protest. "No, I'll be fine.  I just need to see my father and we need to get back to the Ponderosa...my brothers will be worried."

 

Hannibal shrugged. "You think you can stand?"

 

"Yes sir, I think so."

 

Murdock and the Colonel helped Adam to his feet.

 

"Take me to my father."

 

They escorted Adam across the livery to Ben who was lying in a bed of hay.  Adam knelt down and put his hand on Ben's arm. "He's been shot."

 

"Just a flesh wound," Face replied reassuringly. "He'll be fine after a few days rest."

 

Adam stood up. "We need to get him back to the ranch.  If I could impose on you a bit longer, sir?"

 

Hannibal grinned. "My team and I would be happy to help you, kid."

 

"Good. Our wagon is outside the general store...if one of you wouldn't mind bringing it around.  We could be back at the Ponderosa in time for supper. Hop Sing is the best cook in the entire territory."

 

"BA and I will get the wagon, Colonel."

 

BA and Murdock found the Cartwright wagon outside of the general store. "So do you know how to drive one of these, BA?"

 

"I can drive anything sucka," BA replied and climbed onto the wagon. "Come on, Fool!" BA took hold of the reins and brought the wagon over to the livery. They carefully loaded Ben onto the back of the wagon, making him as comfortable as possible. Adam rested next to Ben.

 

The team climbed onboard and soon they were off for the Ponderosa.

 

****

 

"Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!" Murdock exclaimed as they pulled the wagon up to the ranch house. "It certainly looks like the Ponderosa."

 

Hannibal grinned. "It sure does, Captain."

 

Hoss and Joe came out of the house, seeing Adam bandaged they hurried over to the wagon. "What happened?"

 

"Pa's been shot...let's get him in the house."

 

Little Joe went around to Ben. "How bad is it, Adam?"

 

"A good crease."

 

"Are you alright, brother?" Hoss asked touching Adam's head.

 

"I'm fine...just get Pa into the house. Joe, get the liniment and some bandages."

 

"Right Adam."

 

Adam smiled at the team. "If you would please come in and accept our hospitality?"

 

Hannibal looked at his team, they all nodded. "Sure, kid...that would be great."

 

"Make yourself at home...while I tend to my father," Adam said pointing to the furniture.  He turned and headed up to Ben's room.

 

"Well, I don't know what to make of all this guys?" Hannibal commented as they looked around the ranch house.

 

"Me either," Face replied.

 

BA and Murdock nodded in agreement.

 

"Hey Hannibal, check out these lamps, man...they are all filled with oil."

 

"There are no electrical outlets anywhere," Face added.

 

Hannibal nodded.  "And there's no TV, no phone, no radio…nothing."

 

"And how about the way that town looked and the way everyone is dressed and no cars.  This is really strange, man."

 

"I have to agree with you there, Sergeant."

 

"Hey guys, this is even a little crazy for me, but I think we are really on the Ponderosa," Murdock commented.

 

Face came over to Hannibal. "You don't think this could be one of Decker's traps, do you?"

 

"Well, this would be one hell of an elaborate trap....I don't know what to think.  Let's just play this thing out and see where it takes us."

 

***

 

"Pa," Adam said gently as he sat next to Ben.

 

Ben opened his eyes and smiled at his son.

 

"How are you feeling?"

 

"Fine son...a little sore, but fine...what happened?"

 

"You were shot, but it's just a crease."

 

Ben nodded his understanding, but then noticed Adam's bandages.  He started to sit up, but Adam put a hand on him.

 

"I'm fine, Pa."

 

"Yeah, you know Adam has a hard head," Little Joe teased coming over to Ben's bed.

 

"Yeah Pa, it would take more than a bump on the noggin' to stop ol' Adam here," Hoss commented, joining his brothers.

 

Ben smiled, but then a stern expression came to his face. "Put Adam to bed, boys, and see to it that he stays there."

 

"But Pa," Adam protested.

 

"To bed now, young man."

 

Adam sighed, but knowing it was of no use to argue with Ben, he relented. "Fine Pa, but the same goes for you." He said nearly as sternly as Ben and smiled. Adam turned to his brothers and put up his hands in surrender. "I'm all yours."

 

***

 

Once the boys got Adam settled and after another check on Ben, they went down to see to their guests.

 

"Sorry to keep ya waitin' so long, but Joe and me have two patients that are both stubborn as mules," Hoss commented coming down the stairs. "The name's Hoss and this is my brother Little Joe, sir." He put out his hand to Hannibal.

 

"Colonel Hannibal Smith," Hannibal replied taking the younger man's hand in his. "And this is my team....Lt. Templeton Peck, Sergeant BA Baracus and the one in the baseball cap is Captain HM Murdock."

 

"Howdy, pleased to meet ya," Murdock enthused and shook the hands of the two Cartwrights.

 

"Howdy," Joe and Hoss said in unison.

 

"You fellas from around here?" Hoss asked noticing the strange way they were dressed.

 

Hannibal looked to his team. "Well...we're not exactly sure where here is?"

 

Hoss smiled. "Southern Utah, sir."

 

"This is going to sound like a strange question, but can you tell us what year this is?"

 

Hoss and Joe eyed each other. "It's 1853, sir," Little Joe replied confused.

 

The team sat down dumbfounded.

 

Hoss went over to Hannibal. "Are you fellas alright?"

 

Hannibal looked up at Hoss. "Yes, we're fine...just a little tired from everything that happened today."

 

"It's been a hard day," Little Joe interjected. "Why don't we have some supper and then you can turn in. Hop Sing's gonna be real sore if we don't eat."

 

"Yeah, good idea, little brother...we'll all feel better after we had us a good meal."

 

***

After dinner, Hannibal went up to visit Adam and Ben.

 

"Just checking in on my patient," Hannibal said as he entered Adam's room.

 

Adam put down the play he was reading and smiled. "I'm feeling much better, thanks to you and your friends."

 

"Good...your father and you had me worried there for awhile.  Who were those men?"

 

"The McDermotts...a gang of cattle thieving bank robbers."

 

Hannibal grinned. "Real slimeballs, huh?"

 

Adam looked puzzled. "Did you say slimeballs, sir? Don't think I have ever heard that expression before."

 

"Err...well...it's just something I say all the time."

 

Adam smiled. "I haven't had a chance to say a proper thank you for what you did for us today.  I owe you a debt of gratitude, sir."

 

"Glad to be of service, kid," Hannibal replied and put a hand on Adam's shoulder. "You just get some rest."

 

Adam nodded.

 

The Colonel closed the door and headed down the hallway. "Just coming to see how you are?" Hannibal asked as he came into Ben's room.

 

"Fine...real fine. Please, won't you sit down?" Ben pointed to the chair next to his bed.

 

Hannibal nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Cartwright."

 

"Ben please..."

 

"Hannibal."

 

"So, how are those boys of mine treating you, Hannibal?  They had better be minding their manners, if they know what's good for them."

 

Hannibal grinned. "Ben, your sons are the most hospitable, polite young men I have ever met."

 

Ben laughed. "Well, you wouldn't say that when you see all the trouble those rapscallions can get themselves into."

 

Hannibal sat back in his chair. "Oh, I think I know a thing or two about that exact same thing…wait until you meet the rest of my team."

 

****

 

The next morning, after breakfast, Murdock bounded up the steps to Adam's room.  "Knock Knock...may I come in?"

 

"Sure Murdock."

 

"Well… good morning, Johnny," the Captain said as he came in and sat down on the edge of Adam's bed.

 

Adam grimaced at the nickname, but didn't say anything.

 

"So, I heard you like to play checkers?"

 

"Been talking to Little Joe I see."

 

"Yup, the Joester told me that you're not that good."

 

Adam sat back in his bed. "Oh, he did, did he?"

 

Murdock nodded his head. "Yes, and it's a shame, because I was really looking for someone to play a challenging game of checkers with." He teased. "But I wouldn't want to make you feel bad when I beat the pants off of you."

 

"I'll have you know that my little brother only said that because he is jealous of my checker playing brilliance."

 

Murdock put his hand to his chin. "Oh really?" He asked smugly.

 

"Uh-huh."

 

"Well, I just happened to have a checkerboard here." Murdock grinned mischievously and pulled the game from inside his jacket. "Care for a game?  I mean... if you think you are up to it?"

 

Adam grinned. "Black or red?"

 

Meanwhile, down the hall almost the same conversation was occurring in Ben's room.

 

"Care for a game of chess?"

 

Ben smiled at Hannibal. "I most certainly would."

 

"I must warn you...I haven't lost a game...in well... it's been so long I can't remember."

 

Ben sat back in his bed. "Well now... I have been known to win a game or two myself on occasion."

 

Hannibal grinned. "Black or white?"

 

"Johnny, can I ask you something?"

 

"Sure, Murdock."

 

"You think your Pa would mind if I stopped in to see him?"  Murdock was dying to meet Ben Cartwright, even if he couldn't figure out how it was possible for them to be there.

 

"No, in fact I think he would be delighted to meet you.  I tell you what...I'll take you to his room and introduce you."

 

"But shouldn't you stay in bed?"

 

"If I stay in this bed one more minute...I will go crazy."

 

Murdock grinned. "Well, then you could room with me at the VA."

 

"Huh?"

 

"Never mind."

 

Adam put his robe on and the two men headed down the hall to Ben's room.  Adam knocked on the door and opened it. "Pa, there is someone who would...oh, excuse me...I didn't mean to interrupt your game."

 

Hannibal smiled. "No, please come in...your father is about two moves away from breaking my winning streak."

 

Ben looked disapprovingly at his son. "And just what are you doing out of bed?"

 

Adam grabbed Murdock and pushed him into Ben's room. "Well, one of our guests would like to meet you, Pa, and it would be rude of me not to honor his request," Adam replied, with all the sincerity he could muster.

 

Ben sat back in his bed. "Well then... by all means, come in, boys." He eyed Adam, who smiled nervously.

 

"Pa, this is Murdock, Murdock, this is my father Ben Cartwright."

 

"Howdy, Mr. C...pleased to meet you...Johnny here has told me all about you."

 

Ben gave Adam a quizzical glance.

 

"I'll tell you later," Adam mouthed, but then quickly smiled when Murdock turned to face him.

 

"Well, howdy yourself, Murdock...I'm glad to meet you as well.  But just what has this son of mine been telling you about me?"

 

"Well, he said you were the kindest, most compassionate, loving father anyone could ever have."

 

"Oh really?" Ben replied skeptically. "Did he also tell you how I deal with sons who disobey my orders?"

 

Adam smirked. "No sir, I was saving that until later.  I didn't want it to ruin a beautiful moment."

 

Ben laughed slightly, but then pointed to the door.

 

Adam turned sharply on his heels. "Once more into the breech," he announced and headed back to his room.

 

The three men laughed.

 

****

 

The next day at breakfast everyone was happily eating the flapjacks that Hop Sing had made.

 

"Are you serious...vinegar?  You like vinegar on your flapjacks?" Murdock asked, crinkling his nose.

 

"Well now, pardner...that's the secret to a good tastin' flapjack.  You just don't know what you're missin'." Hoss smacked his lips.

 

Murdock shrugged. "Let me try it."  He poured some vinegar over his plate. "Hey, it ain't bad...wanna try it, Face?" Murdock shoved a forkful at the lieutenant.

 

Face put a hand over his mouth. "No thanks...I'll stick with molasses."

 

"Don't blame you, Face," Little Joe agreed, trying not to lose his breakfast.

 

Hoss smiled. "Little Joe and me have some brandin' to do in the south pasture, if'n ya wanna come along and watch," he said, as he finished off one last bite of flapjack.

 

The team looked at Hannibal. He still wasn't sure about this whole situation, but the request seemed harmless enough.  "Alright, but we rendezvous back here at 13:00 hours, understood?"

 

"Right Colonel," the team acknowledged.

 

"You coming, sir?" Little Joe asked from the front door.

 

"No, I think I will stay around here, maybe do a little reading."

 

Joe was just about to leave when he heard a horse galloping up in the yard. "It's Sheriff Coffee."

 

The team eyed each other nervously. 

 

"Howdy Sheriff," Hoss greeted, coming out of the house and tipping his hat.

 

"Howdy boys, your Pa and Adam around?"

 

"They're upstairs in bed, sir."

 

Roy sat back on his horse. "Feeling poorly are they, Joe?"

 

Hoss laughed. "Nahhjust tryin' to get out of doing the brandin' in the south pasture."

 

Roy smiled. "Witnesses say your Pa was almost killed by that Jett McDermott and Adam was knocked senseless by that no account brother of his."

 

"Yes sir." Joe answered. "The McDermotts were just got done robbing the store when Pa and Adam got there."

 

Roy nodded. "The townsfolk say they were saved by some strange looking men...they say those men rode away with your Pa and Adam some time later."

 

"Yeah, Sheriff...we've asked them to stay with us for a spell." Hoss pointed to the house. "They're right inside if'n you wanna talk to 'em."

 

Roy looked towards the house. "Don't reckon they can tell me anymore than I already know.  I really just rode out to see how your Pa and brother were and to make sure I had the story straight."

 

"You sure you don't want to come inside, sir...Pa'd be happy to see ya."

 

"No thanks, Little Joe...I gotta get back to town...form a posse and set out after those McDermott Boys. Tell your Pa and brother I was askin' after 'em."

 

"Yes sir...we sure will," Hoss replied and tipped his hat again.

 

"See ya, Boys."

 

"See ya."

 

"So, what was all that about?" Hannibal asked, coming out of the house.

 

"Oh, Sheriff Coffee came out to see how Pa and Adam were and to see what happened in town," Joe replied. "He's gonna form a posse to go after the McDermott Brothers."

 

"Well, I hope they catch them…those boys sound like bad news," Face commented.

 

"They sure are, Face, been bustin up towns all over the territory for the better part of a year now.  Ain't no one had a bit of luck catchin' 'em."

 

Joe nodded and then clapped his hands together.  "Hey Hoss, we'd better get to that branding or Pa's gonna skin us alive."

 

"You got that right, little brother...come on, fellas."

 

Little Joe padded his jacket. "Doggone it!  Lost my gloves again. I can't do the roping without them."

 

"That's the third pair this month, little brother...Pa's gonna do some yellin' about irresponsibility...he might even do more than that."

 

Joe gulped. "Yeah, but let's not think about it."

 

Hannibal grinned. "Here, kid…take mine...might be a little big for ya...but they're better than nothing." He handed Little Joe his black leather gloves.

 

Joe shook his head. "No sir…I couldn't do that."

 

"That's an order, kid."

 

Joe grinned. "Well now...you know Pa always said I need to learn to follow orders."

 

Hoss laughed. "That he did, little brother, that he did."

 

Joe winked at Hannibal and mounted Cochise. Hoss and the team followed suit with their horses.

 

*****

"Watch this, BA!" Murdock exclaimed as he climbed up on the corral fence. "Ladies and gentlemen…the daring and courageous Howling Mad Murdock will delight and amaze you with his death defying feat while he walks high above without a net!"

 

"Get down from there, man!"

 

Little Joe and Hoss giggled as they watched Murdock pretend to walk across the fence like a tightrope.

 

BA shook his head. "Crazy fool!"

 

"Aww… come on, Big Guy…it's fun! You should try it."

 

BA looked imploringly at Face. "Murdock, would you stop fooling around and get down from there…you're making the cattle nervous."

 

"Sure thing, Faceman!" Murdock saluted.   He turned to jump down and fell onto BA, knocking him into a pile of manure.

 

Murdock got up from the ground quickly, backing away from a very angry sergeant. "Now BA, it was an accident….don't get mad."

 

BA went over and picked up the branding iron.

 

"Hold on a minute, BA….be reasonable.  Let's talk about this." Murdock eyed the hot branding iron.  "You wouldn't really do that… would you?"

 

Hoss, Joe and Face laughed as Murdock took off running, being chased by BA.

 

****

"So, how was the branding, guys?" Hannibal asked as the five boys came in the front door.

 

"Fine, Colonel! We had blast!" Murdock replied and bounced down on the settee.

 

"Good!" Hannibal grimaced.  "What is that smell?"

 

"Oh that's BA, Colonel…he had a little run in with some manure," Murdock replied grinning.

 

"Ahh…Sergeant…I suggest you get cleaned up before lunch."

 

BA growled at Murdock.

 

Hoss came over to BA and put an arm on his shoulder.  "Come on, BA…I'll show you where ya can wash up and I'll get ya some new britches."

 

Hannibal looked at Murdock. "My instinct tells me that somehow you were involved in this, Captain."

 

Murdock gave his best innocent smile. "Who me?"

 

Little Joe laughed. "Come on, Murdock...let's get washed up for lunch."

 

****

"Hi, Pa...how ya feeling?"

 

"Good, son."

 

"I brought you up some supper." Little Joe smiled and brought the tray over to Ben.

 

"Oh good...I'm starving. So, how is the branding coming along?"

 

"Fine, Pa, and the entertainment ain't bad either."

 

"The what?"

 

"Our guests, Pa...that Murdock sure is a character."

 

Ben laughed. "So, have they told you much about themselves?"

 

Joe shrugged. "Well, not much, Pa...but I have a good feeling about them."

 

Ben nodded his head. "Yeah, me too, son.  Did you check on your brother?"

 

"Sure did, Pa, I even brought him an extra helping of those mesquite beans he loves so much...told him Hop Sing had a terrible headache, so Hoss made dinner." Joe giggled.

 

"Now Joseph, that wasn't very nice," Ben scolded.

 

"I know, but since he's not allowed out of bed, he can't clobber me." Joe smiled mischievously. "Come on Pa, it was the perfect chance...I couldn't let it slip by, now could I?"

 

Ben shook his head. "I just don't know what to do with the three of you...you're gonna give me grey hair."

 

"Ah Pa?"

 

"Yes son?"

 

"Too late!"

 

"Why you little scamp...I should tan you!"

 

"Oh, you couldn't do that, sir," Joe replied seriously.

 

"And why not?"

 

"Might hurt your shoulder even more, Pa, and at your age the body doesn't mend like it used to."

 

Ben threw a pillow at him, but Joe was already out the door.

 

Little Joe popped his head back in. "I think I'll go check on Adam and see how he is doing with those beans, Pa." He grinned, tossed the pillow back to Ben and headed down the hall.

 

Ben sat back in his bed and looked up to the heavens. "Lord, give me strength."  He smiled and picked up his fork.

****

 

 

Adam opened his eyes, the room was still dark.  He got up, put on his robe and opened the door.  Quietly, he went down the hall and opened Ben's door.  His father was not in his bed.  He went down the stairs and saw a faint light coming from the kitchen.  Adam went in the kitchen and found Ben sitting at the table eating a huge piece of pie. "And just what are you doing out of bed?" Adam asked sternly and folded his arms across his chest.

 

Ben looked at his son sheepishly. "Well...I was hungry and I found this pie…and...ah..." He composed himself. "Now, just hold on there, boy...I could ask you the same question."

 

Adam grinned. "Peach?"

 

"Best one Hop Sing ever made," Ben replied. He cut a piece and handed it to Adam.

 

Adam took a bite and smiled. "I'll have to agree with you, Pa...Hop Sing really outdone himself with this one. Which reminds me...I didn't see this on the menu this evening...guess I need to have a little talk with that youngest brother of mine."

 

"He sure loves to torment his brothers, doesn't he?"

 

"Oh, don't worry, Pa...I can think of ways to torment him as well."

 

Ben laughed. "I'm sure you can, son."

 

Adam grinned, thinking about the ways he was going to pay Joe back for his little stunt.

 

Ben looked at Adam thoughtfully. "So, how are you really feeling, son?"

 

"I'm fine, Pa...really...anxious to get back to work. What about you?"

 

Ben rubbed his shoulder. "It's a little tender, but other than that, I'm as anxious as you."

 

"Good, but there is something we both need to do first," Adam replied seriously.

 

"What's that, son?"

 

"Finish off the rest of this pie." Adam smiled and gave Ben another piece.

 

Ben laughed and the two of them eagerly ate their midnight snack.

 

****

 

The next morning at breakfast everyone was in good spirits.  Hannibal had decided that the team needed to do some early morning exercises, so it was just the Cartwrights at the table.

 

"So, what's on the agenda for today?" Adam asked, taking a bite of toast.

 

"Well, there is more branding to be done in the south pasture, but I want you to take it easy today, Adam."

 

Adam rolled his eyes. "Pa, will you ever stop fussing over me like a mother hen?"

 

Ben took a sip of coffee. "No."

 

Adam smirked.

 

Joe laughed. "We like you just the way you are. Pa...…even if you can be as ornery as a mean ol' bull."

 

Hoss winked at his brothers. "Oh, I don't know about that, little brother…I think Pa can make a mean ol' bull look downright tame."

 

"And just you three remember that." Ben wagged a finger at them in warning. "Get to work and make sure Adam doesn't over do it."

 

"Yes sir," Hoss answered for them.

****

The fire warmed the great room as everyone sat relaxing after a hearty dinner.  Murdock noticed the guitar leaning against a corner wall. "So who's the musician?"

 

Adam smiled, but didn't say anything.  He just went back to the book he was reading.

 

Joe grinned. "Well, that would be older brother Adam."

 

"Yeah, and he sure can sing too.  In fact, he has a real purty voice…dontcha, big brother?"

 

Adam ignored them.

 

"Aww…come on, brother, don't be shy," Joe teased as he came over to Adam, guitar in hand.

 

Still Adam continued to ignore them.

 

Joe grinned mischievously. "I bet ya if there was a pretty girl around, ol' Adam here would be playing up a storm."

 

Hoss laughed. "Yeah…cause you know that's how you can tell when Adam's tryin' to spark to a filly ain't that right, Pa?"

 

Ben sat back in his chair. "Why yes, I do believe that's how your oldest brother tries to win the attentions of a young lady."

 

Adam got up and grabbed his guitar. "Give me that thing, will ya?" He exclaimed, pretending to be more annoyed than he was. "Anything to get the three of you to stop discussing my private affairs with the fairer sex."

 

"See!" Joe said triumphantly. "I knew we could get Adam to play for us." He went to sit on the fireplace next to Ben's chair.

 

Hoss smiled. "Yeah, you just have to know how to ask him."

 

Adam rolled his eyes.  He strummed a few notes to make sure he was in tune and then began to play. The men listened intently as Adam serenaded them with a few tunes. He stopped and shrugged.  "I play at it."

 

Murdock smiled. "You are good…really good."  He nudged Face. "Why don't you teach him to sing 'You Are My Sunshine'?"

 

Face looked at Hannibal and grinned. "Shall we?"

 

"Of course, my boy…of course."

 

Face went over and sat next to Hannibal. The two of them cleared their throats and began to sing. "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine you make me happy when skies are gray, you'll never know dear how much I love you…please don't take my sunshine away."

 

Adam laughed. "I think I may be able to play that…sing it again."  About half way through the song, Adam began to accompany them on his guitar.

 

"The other night dear as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms, but when..." The singing was interrupted by a knock on the door.

 

"I wonder who that could be at this hour?" Ben commented looking at the clock. He went over and answered the door.  "Roy!" Ben exclaimed as the sheriff practically fell into his arms. "Help me get him over to the settee."  Hoss helped carry Roy over to the sofa.

 

"I'll get some water," Hoss offered.

 

"And I'll get the liniment and some bandages."

 

"Roy, what happened?" Adam asked.

 

Roy put a hand to his head. "Me and some men were out after those McDermott Boys, when we was ambushed.  I was lucky to get out of there alive."

 

"Drink this!" Ben ordered, taking the cup from Hoss and putting it to the Sheriff's lips.

 

Roy sat up slightly and took a sip. "Thanks."

 

Joe brought back the medical supplies. "Here's the liniment, Pa."

 

Ben checked Roy's wounds. "I think we should send for the doctor."

 

Roy put a hand up. "No, Ben...I just need some rest and some food...ain't had nothing except beef jerky and beans for the past couple days."

 

"Joe, go in the kitchen and get some food for Sheriff Coffee."

 

"Hoss, see to his horse."

 

"Yes sir," the boys acknowledged.

 

"What about the other men that were with you?"

 

"I ain't sure, Adam...I saw Todd Henry shot dead and Claude Michaels too.  Those McDermott Boys rustled themselves up some accomplices."

 

Adam looked at Ben. "Pa, we need to go after them."

 

Ben went over to the fireplace.

 

Adam gave his father a quizzical look. "What's wrong? I have never seen you hesitate before, it's usually me that says let the law handle it."

 

Ben smiled slightly. "I just have..." he stopped himself when he saw the look of concern on Adam's face. "It's nothing, son...nothing."

 

"We need to do this, Pa...before they hurt anyone else."

 

Ben nodded his head. "Of course you are right, son."

 

Adam squeezed Ben's shoulder. "You should stay here, Pa, what with that shoulder of yours still on the mend."

 

"Now, just wait a minute, young man...your old Pa ain't ready to be put out to pasture just yet."

 

"But Pa, whose gonna stay here and look after Sheriff Coffee?"

 

"Hop sing is quite capable of doing that. Now, are we going to stand around here arguing or are we going to get packed?"

 

Adam sighed. "And everyone says I'm stubborn as a mule."

 

Ben put his arm around his eldest son. "And just where do you think you got it from, boy?"

 

Adam grinned.

 

"So, when do we leave?" Hannibal asked, clapping his hands together.

 

"These are some pretty tough men we are going after."

 

"Oh, don't worry about us, Kid.  We've taken on a few rough characters in our day, right guys?"

 

The team nodded.

 

Murdock put his hands on his hips. "Yeah, we eat men like the McDermotts for breakfast."

 

Ben and Adam laughed.

 

"Good, it's settled then."

 

Ben nodded. "We leave at first light."

 

"Leave for where, Pa?" Little Joe asked, sitting Roy's plate on the coffee table.

 

Hoss came back from the barn in time to hear the question. "Yeah, Pa, for where?"

 

"To get those McDermott Boys," Adam answered for his father.

 

"Can I come along, Pa?" Little Joe asked.

 

"I don't know, son...you're a might young for this."

 

"Let him come, Pa...we'll keep an eye on him...besides I think our little brother deserves to come along.  After all, he's really been helping out while the new school is being built. He's also gotten quite good with using the gun you gave him for his birthday."

 

"Yeah Pa...been practicing a whole lot."

 

"No Joseph...this is too dangerous."

 

"Aww Pa...even mean ol' Adam thinks I'm old enough."

 

"Well, it's not Adam's decision...it's mine and the answer is no...understood?"

 

"Yes sir."

 

Adam tousled Joe's hair. "Sorry, Joe...maybe next time, huh?"

 

"Sure Adam."

****

Early the next morning, Ben put his saddle on Buck. "Adam."

 

"Yeah Pa?"

 

"I don't want you telling Little Joe that he is old enough to do things you and I both know he is not ready for."

 

"You coddle him too much, Pa...why when I was his age I was doing a lot more dangerous stuff."

 

"Well son...things were different then and you probably did some of that dangerous stuff without my permission."

 

"But Pa...how's he gonna to learn to be a man?"

 

"He's a still a little boy, Adam."

 

"He ain't that little, Pa...you're just being an ol' mother hen as usual."

 

"Adam, I am his father and I will make the decisions concerning what I think he ready to do or not do... understood?"

 

"Even if they are the wrong ones?" Adam shouted.

 

"Yes...even if they are the wrong ones...it is my decision...understood?"

 

Adam nodded.

 

"And, young man, I suggest you remember that I am your father as well and keep a civil tongue in your head...is that clear?"

 

"Yes sir."

 

"Good. Then let's get moving the team is waiting for us."

 

***

 

"Jett, we need to get out of here," Reese said putting down the beans he was eating.

 

"Not yet, Reese...I got us some plans."

 

"But Jett, after what we done to the Sheriff and that posse...you know there's gonna be men out looking for us."

 

Jett got up and grabbed his younger brother, dragging him to his feet. "Listen, here boy...we ain't leaving until I say we're leaving. So, sit down and have your breakfast."

 

Reese nodded.

 

Jett pushed him back down hard and spit on the ground. "Good...I'm gonna tend to the horses...you boys," he said pointing to the other members of the gang. "Keep and eye out for strangers."

 

Reese picked up his breakfast and continued eating.

 

****

"Pa, I am going to check out the north ridge."

 

"Alright, Adam."

 

Adam took Sport along the ridge until they came to the creek. He saw a figure standing by a horse.  Adam drew his gun and rode up closer. "Joe?  What in blazes are you doing here?"

 

"Err hi, brother."

 

"Don't hi brother me, Joseph...you have really done it this time, boy.  Pa is going to tan the hide off of you. Get on your horse!"

 

Little Joe nodded and hopped on Cochise. "You gotta help me, Adam."

 

"I'll do what I can."

 

The two brothers quickly rode back to where Ben and the others were. "Stay here, I'll go talk to Pa."

 

"Right Adam."

 

Adam stopped Sport a few feet from Ben. "Pa, may I see you a minute...in private, sir?"

 

"Sure son."

 

Ben and Adam rode away from the others.

 

"Now Pa...promise you won't get angry."

 

"When one of you three says that to me, it's because you know it is something that will make me angry...so, spit it out, boy...I ain't making no promises."

 

Adam exhaled. "Pa, I found Little Joe by the creek."

 

"You what?" Ben exclaimed.

 

"I found Little Joe by the creek...he must have followed us."

 

"Where is he?"

 

"I told him to wait until I talked to you."

 

"Bring him to me, Adam."

 

"Pa, I know you are ready to skin him alive, but you can't do that and expect him to be able to ride with us."

 

Ben took a deep breath. "I won't tan him...for now.  Bring him to me, Adam."

 

Adam nodded and rode off to get Little Joe.

 

"Is Pa gonna clobber me, Adam?"

 

"For now, no...but I'm afraid he probably will when we get home."

 

"I really messed up, huh?"

 

"Big time."

 

***

 

Little Joe stopped Cochise quite a few feet from Ben.

 

"Young man, bring that horse closer to me."

 

Joe nodded and came closer to his father.

 

"I am sure I do not have to tell you how angry I am with you for disobeying me?"

 

"No sir."

 

"I am also sure you are well aware that we will be having more of a discussion when we get home."

 

"Yes sir."

 

"For now, I want you to stick close by Adam or me the entire time."

 

"Yes sir."

 

"Did you bring your gun with you?"

 

"Yes sir."

 

"Another thing you know you are forbidden to do."

 

"Yes sir."

 

"Maybe I was wrong to give you the gun for your birthday.  You've had a hunting rifle for over a year and you've been good with that.  I thought you were a big enough boy to start getting the feel of a revolver and follow my rule.  Adam and Hoss were when they were your age."

 

"I am, Pa...I only brought it along because I thought I might need it.  I didn't put bullets in it, sir...so it would be safer."

 

Ben had to suppress a smile at the logic.  "Well, since you have it...load it and put it on."

 

"Yes sir."

 

Little Joe reached into his saddle bag and pulled out his holster. He fashioned it about his hips.

 

"Be careful with that...you hear?"

 

"Yes sir."

 

"Oh, don't worry about Little Joe, Pa...he's a really good shot," Adam said trying to lighten Ben's mood.

 

"Is this true, Joseph?"

 

"Yes sir...like I said before Adam and me have been practicing."

 

"Well, you and I will have to have a little target practice when we get home and you can show me how good you are."

 

Little Joe smiled. "Sure Pa."

 

Adam looked up at the sky. "Pa, I think we need to make camp for the night?"

 

"You are right, Adam." Ben replied and dismounted, as did the others.

 

"Aren't I always?"

 

Ignoring his wise-cracking son, Ben folded his arms. "Take your youngest brother and find some wood for a fire. Hoss and I will get the gear unpacked."

 

Adam grabbed Little Joe by the arm, dragging him along. "Let's go and make it snappy."

 

"Hey wait! My hat!" Joe exclaimed as his hat fell off onto the ground.

 

Adam picked it up and stuck it on Joe's head. "Do I always have to take care of you, younger brother?"

 

"But..."

 

"Come on!"

 

Hoss looked at Ben. "Boy, those two sure can fuss at each other."

 

Ben laughed. "Yeah, but they would do anything for each other, as brothers should. "

 

"Yeah, I reckon that's true, Pa...for all of us. But don't tell them fellas that, I wouldn't want them thinkin' I cared about 'em or nothin'."

 

"Your secret's safe with me, son." He smiled. "Let's get unpacked."

 

"The team and I will take care of the horses," Hannibal stated.

 

About an hour later, the horses were watered and fed and the team was sitting around the fire.

 

"Do you think this is the reason we're here, Colonel? To help catch the McDermotts?" Murdock asked, poking at the campfire.

 

"I don't know, Cap'n."

 

"Well, there has got to be a reason."

 

Hannibal nodded.

 

"Yeah," Face interjected, coming over with the coffee pot and sitting it on the fire. "This whole situation has got me spooked."

 

BA nodded. "Yeah man, I mean how did we get here?"

 

"What's the last thing you remember, Big Guy? I mean, before we arrived."

 

"Well, we were on a mission..."

 

"Yeah," Hannibal interrupted. "We were hired by....by..."

 

"That rancher..."

 

"Yeah, Faceman," Murdock snapped his fingers. "The rancher in Nevada...to help run off those...those..."

 

"Cattle thieves, man."

 

"Yes, BA!" Hannibal clapped his hands together. "And we were chasing them on horseback when...when..."

 

"We came upon that abandoned mining shaft."

 

"Right Murdock," Face added. "Hell Fire."

 

"Hey, why ya fellas talkin' about Hell Fire?" Hoss asked coming over and joining their conversation.

 

"Why, Hoss, do you know where that is?"

 

"I sure do, Colonel...it's an abandoned mining shaft way out yonder on the Ponderosa."

 

The team looked at each other. "It's on the Ponderosa?"

 

"Sure is, Murdock...been there a few times. Used to go there when I was a young'un and play in the creek bed.

 

"What creek bed, Hoss?"

 

"Hell Fire, Adam." Hoss smiled. "Hey, remember when we was kids we'd sneak off to there with..."

 

Little Joe came over. "Sneak off to where with who?"

 

"To Hell Fire with Jenny Perkins and Kathy Dawson." Adam grinned.

 

"Aww, come on...I can't imagine my straight as an arrow oldest brother sneaking off anywhere. Hey Hoss, I bet you could...."

 

"Tell you stories about older brother here that would..."

 

"Cause you years of pain and suffering, brother." Adam grinned evilly at Hoss.

 

Hoss swallowed hard. "Never mind about those stories, Joe...they ain't that interestin' anyhow."

 

Joe smiled. "So, what else did you two do at Hell Fire?"

 

Adam smirked. "I remember when..."

 

"I tanned both of you when I found out you were going there instead of doing your chores." Ben put an arm around Hoss and Adam.

 

Adam grimaced. "Yeah, I remember that too unfortunately."

 

Hoss gulped. "Me too."

 

Ben laughed. "I'm sure you do, boys, and there is one question I still have about that…whose idea was it to sneak off there?"

 

Adam looked down guiltily. "Mine, Pa."

 

Ben smiled.  "So, what's all this talk about Hell Fire?"

 

"It's the last place we were when," Hannibal looked around and shrugged, "transported back through time apparently."

 

Ben and the boys looked at each other. "So...you're saying that you are from the future?" Ben asked skeptically.

 

"That's exactly what I'm saying, Ben."

 

Ben put his hands up. "That's not possible!"

 

"Believe me, Mr. Cartwright," Face commented, "we are finding this whole situation just as perplexing as you, but Hannibal is telling you the truth. We are from the future, if my calculations are correct 131 years to be exact."

 

Adam thought for a second. "So, you are saying that you are from the year 1984?"

 

"Yes, Johnny...1984."

 

Adam sat down on a hollow log. "1984...I bet there is so much you could teach us."

 

"Oh yeah, Johnny....I could tell you about a whole lot of neat stuff..."

 

Hannibal put a hand on Murdock. "Now, wait a minute, Captain...I know this is going to sound strange, but do you remember the Prime Directive?"

 

Murdock thought for a minute. "You mean the Star Trek rule that says you are not supposed to interfere with primitive cultures by influencing them in anyway?"

 

"Yes."

 

"But, Hannibal...that's not real!"

 

Hannibal shrugged. "Well, I know that, but it makes sense if you think about it, Who knows what damage it could cause?"

 

"The Colonel is right, Murdock," Adam agreed. "You may have already altered the future by your actions. After all, you saved mine and Pa's life. Who knows if that changed history? You can't risk telling us things we shouldn't know about."

 

"Son, you really believe they are from the future?"

 

"Well, Pa...I don't know what to think."

 

"But how did you get here?"

 

"Well, the details are a little hazy, Ben," Hannibal replied. "But the best we can recall is that we were chasing cattle thieves off a ranch."

 

"Oh, so you guys are ranchers?" Little Joe asked.

 

"Well no, kid....let's just say...we are what they call, in our time, soldiers of fortune... basically, we help people in need."

 

"Yeah," Murdock grinned. "We're the A-Team."

 

"The A-team? Well, that's a mighty strange soundin' name."

 

"Hoss, that is our military designation."

 

"Oh, so you are in the military?"

 

"Well, yes and no, Little Joe...look, we really can't go into all that without," Hannibal laughed, "violating the Prime Directive." He looked at his team. "Now, there's something I never thought I would ever say in a million years."

 

"Sir, you were just about to fill us in on how you arrived here?" Adam stated, trying to bring the conversation back on track.

 

"Like I said, kid, the details are a little hazy, but the last thing we all remember is being near Hell Fire."

 

"And this is where it gets strange." Face looked bemused. "Hell Fire is on the Ponderosa."

 

Adam shrugged. "Well, that means the ranch you were on was the Ponderosa."

 

"Hey," Joe snapped his fingers. "Maybe one of our distant relatives still lives there?"

 

"Daggum! Could you imagine that...the Ponderosa still alive and kickin over hundred years later? That should make ya happy, Pa."

 

The team looked at each other knowing they couldn't tell the Cartwrights that the Ponderosa never really existed.

 

Ben shook his head. "But time travel is not possible....I can't believe it."

 

Hannibal got up and went over to Ben. "Look at me, Ben, look into my eyes....you will see I'm not lying. I may be a lot of things, but my word is my bond. You and I are a lot alike, Ben, you know I wouldn't lie to you or your sons."

 

Ben smiled. "I believe you would not lie to me."

 

"Colonel, why didn't you tell us this before now?"

 

"Well...Adam, until now we didn't know what to make of the whole situation." Hannibal looked at his team. "I think we need to at least tell them part of the truth."

 

They nodded.

 

"Alright, my team and I were accused of a crime that we did not commit and we are on the run from the army. When we first arrived here we thought maybe this whole thing was an elaborate set-up to catch us. However, after spending time with you all, we just feel like we can trust you. I told you all this because we may need your help to get home, if we ever get home. Ben, I understand if you want us to leave, but we would really like to stay and help catch the men who almost took yours and Adam's life."

 

Ben shook his head. "No, of course I don't want you to leave. Look, it's late, we all need to get some sleep. This has been a lot to take in."

 

"You're right, Ben."

 

"Lieutenant, you take first watch...I'll relieve you at 0200 hours."

 

"Right."

 

"Night Ben...Night Boys."

 

"Night."

 

"Colonel," Murdock whispered.

 

"Yeah, Murdock?"

 

"How do you explain the fact that the Cartwrights or at least the ones we know in our time are not real?"

 

Hannibal inhaled. "I can't explain it, Murdock, anymore than I can explain why or how we are here unless this whole thing is a really strange dream."

 

BA nodded. "I wonder which one of us is doin' the dreamin'?"

 

"Well, I know it's not Face, because he only dreams about pretty girls."

 

"Hey, I heard that, Murdock." Face commented from his post.

 

"Are you saying it's not true, Lieutenant?"

 

"Nope." Face smiled wryly. "Merely that I heard ya. You're gonna wake everyone up."

 

"Right.  Murdock, get some sleep, we'll talk about it in the morning."

 

"But Colonel...what if it ain't a dream?"

 

"That's an order, Captain."

 

Murdock nodded. "Yes sir...goodnight, Hannibal."

 

"Night."

 

"Pa?"

 

"Yes, Joseph?"

 

"Remember you and I both said we had a good feeling about them?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Well,  then maybe they were sent here for a reason."

 

"But what reason?"

 

"I don't know, Pa...but maybe God knows."

 

"We have to have faith, Pa..." Hoss added. "Somethin' you always tried to teach us."

 

"Or maybe this whole thing is a really strange dream," Adam commented sleepily.

 

Hoss inhaled. "I wonder which one of us is doin' the dreamin'?"

 

"Well, I know it's not Joe, because he only dreams about pretty girls."

 

"Hey, I heard that, Adam."

 

"Are you saying it's not true, Little Brother?"

 

"Nope." Joe smiled wryly. "Merely that I heard ya. You're gonna wake everyone up."

 

"He's right. Boys, get some sleep, we'll talk about it in the morning."

 

But Pa...what if it ain't a dream?"

 

"In the morning, Hoss."

 

"Yes sir...Night, Pa."

 

"Goodnight, boys."

 

*****

Tuck snuck quietly around the outskirts of the campsite.

 

Face heard the sound of leaves rustling.  He gripped his gun tighter and got up to investigate.

 

Tuck stayed out of site and managed to elude the lieutenant.

 

After a few minutes, Face looked around one last time and shrugged. "Must be the wind."  He returned to his post.

 

"Anything wrong, Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked, getting up from his bed.

 

"No, just thought I heard something, but everything checks out."

 

"Alright, you go get some sleep. I'll relieve you."

 

"Night, Hannibal."

 

A few hours later, Tuck arrived back at the McDermott hideout. "Reese, we got trouble."

 

"Why? What's the matter?"

 

"There's men camped out about twenty miles south from here.  They got supplies and rifles.  I think they's lookin' for us.  I recognized the one fella...Ben Cartwright."

 

"The Cartwrights! I'll wake up Jett...we'd better get moving."

 

****

"Hey Pa!"

 

"Yes, what is it, Hoss?"

 

"Fresh tracks, Pa...looks like they lead all the way up to Hunter's Canyon."

 

Ben looked at the tracks. "Yeah, not more than a few hours old."

 

"What did you find?" Hannibal asked coming over to join the Cartwrights.

 

"Tracks, Colonel...not more than a few hours."

 

"Looks like we found their trail," Hannibal replied, looking toward the canyon.

 

Ben nodded. "Alright, then let's follow them."

 

****

"Jett, we need to keep moving."

 

"Boy, I told ya...I've got me some plans."

 

"But Jett, those men are right on our trail."

 

"Look, I got me some unfinished business with those Cartwrights.  We'll just wait for 'em to show up and then we'll kill 'em."

 

"But Jett..."

 

"Boy, you're gonna get me riled up and don't think I won't whip ya just like Daddy used to."

 

Reese backed down from his older brother. "Alright, Jett."

 

"Now, get moving and keep an eye out for those men."

****

"Jett, they're coming!" Harper shouted.

 

Jett spit on the ground and hankered down into his hiding spot behind the boulder.

 

"The tracks end here, Pa," Adam stated, looking down from Sport.

 

Jett took aim and fired at Adam. Startled, Sport bucked and Adam had to fight to control him. "Woahh, boy...woahhh." Adam urged Sport forward and took cover behind a mound of  rocks.

 

Another shot rang out.

 

The men took cover and returned fire.

 

"Alright, this is where we need to split up and surround them," Hannibal ordered.

 

"Ben, you, Joe and Adam go East. Face, you Murdock and Hoss head West and BA and I will cover this area. We'll circle the area and meet back here in one hour."

 

"Right." The men acknowledged and headed off in their assigned directions.

****

Soon, the team and the Cartwrights had the McDermotts on the run.

 

"Jett, what are we gonna do?" Reese asked nervously.

 

"I'm thinkin', Reese...would you just hush up and let me think."

 

"But Jett, they' got us surrounded."

 

"The lake…we'll have to swim across it."

 

"But that lake will be mighty cold this time a year. We won't make it."

 

"Listen, Boy...we'll make it or would you rather us get shot?"

 

Reese nodded. "What about Tuck and Harper?"

 

"They ain't my concern, little brother.  I just want to make sure we get out of this one. If'n I'm not there by the time the sun hits the tops of those trees, you go without me."

 

"Why, Jett...where ya goin'?"

 

"I'm gonna double back and see if I can finish what we started in town.  Take out young Cartwright and his Daddy."

 

Reese grabbed Jett's arm. "Just let them be, Jett… we have to get out of here."

 

"Those two nearly got us killed."

 

"But all they did was walk in on us when we was robbin' the place."

 

"It don't matter none, they shoulda minded their own business."

 

"Jett, don't do it...you're gonna get yourself shot!"

 

"Don't question me, boy. Now get!"

 

****

 

Pa, we need to split up to cover more ground," Adam suggested.

 

Ben nodded.

 

"Alright, Joe, you and Pa go that way and I'll head this way.  We'll circle around and meet back here."

 

"Right."

 

About fifteen minutes later, Adam was heading around a large boulder when he heard the sound of footsteps behind him.  He reached for his gun.

 

"Hold it right there, Cartwright!" Jett hissed and cocked his gun.

 

Adam froze in place.

 

"Turn around!"

 

"Why?  I wouldn't think a man like you would have problems shooting someone in the back," Adam stated sarcastically.

 

"I said turn around!" Jett repeated more forcefully.

 

Adam slowly turned around to face him.

 

"Drop your gun belt!"

 

Adam stared defiantly at Jett.

 

"Do it, Cartwright!"

 

He undid his gun belt and let it fall to the ground.

 

Jett raised his gun. "Say your prayers, boy, because you're gonna die."

 

Adam stared at him, his face void of emotion.

 

Little Joe was coming down from the rocks when he saw Adam and Jett. "Adam, get down!" He ordered and fired his gun.

 

Jett's gun went off as he grabbed his chest and fell to the ground.

 

Joe ran over to Adam, who was lying face down in the dirt, and grabbed on to him. "Are you okay?" He searched him frantically for bullet wounds.

 

"Yes yes...I'm okay...thanks to you, little brother."

 

Joe smiled. "Well...that's a relief. For a minute there, I thought I was going to have one less brother to torment."

 

Adam grinned. "Help me up."

 

"Doggone it... you're heavy." Little Joe struggled to help Adam to his feet.

 

"Be thankful I'm not Hoss."

 

Joe giggled. "Ain't no way I could help him up."

 

"Me either."

 

Adam went over to Jett and checked for a pulse.

 

"Is he dead?"

 

"Yes Joe, he is," Adam put an arm around his little brother. "Remember what Pa told you, if you are going to carry a gun, then you also have to be ready to kill or be killed. It's a big responsibility to carry a gun, but you only use it when you have to and you try never to have to use it, understand boy?"

 

Little Joe nodded. "I understand, Adam."

 

"Good. I'm sorry you had to learn a hard lesson so young, Joe, but you did the right thing...Jett would have killed me if you hadn't stopped him."

 

Little Joe hugged his brother. "I'm just glad you weren't hurt."

 

"Me too."

 

Little Joe smiled.

 

"You remember too, until you prove yourself, Pa wants you only to carry it when you are with me or him when we tell you to...not with Hoss and never by yourself, understood?

 

"I'll remember, Adam."

 

"Good."

 

"Pa's gonna remind me about that too, huh?"

 

"I'm sure he is, Little Brother."

 

"Adam!" Ben yelled, coming over to his boys. "Are you alright, son?" He brushed off Adam's clothes.

 

"Yeah, Pa...thanks to the kid here."

 

Ben looked at Little Joe. "Are you alright, son?"

 

"I'm fine, Pa...it was Adam who almost got killed."

 

"No boy...I didn't mean physically...I meant..."

 

"Don't worry, Pa...Adam already talked to me about it.  I'm fine really."

 

Ben put his arm around his youngest and hugged him tightly. "That's good, boy."

 

"I'm just glad you are with us...if not, I would have been a goner."

 

"Well, someone's gotta look after you, older brother." Joe grinned. "After all, you know I'm already a quicker draw than you."

 

"Oh really?"

 

"Yeah, you're slowing down in your old age."

 

"Well, you just remember that I can still thrash your behind, younger brother."

 

"Nah-uh!" Joe challenged and playfully punched Adam.

 

Adam returned the punch, but then Ben stepped in between them. "The only one who is going to thrash anyone's behind is me, if you two don't stop fooling around and let us get out of here."

 

Joe took one last punch at Adam. "Sure Pa...I wouldn't want to see ol' Adam hurt himself anyway."

 

Adam grabbed Joe and put him in a headlock. "Say it!"

 

"Alright...Alright...uncle."

 

Adam laughed and gave Joe a squeeze. "Thanks."

 

Joe winked.

 

"Boys!" Ben scolded. "Get!" He pointed ahead.

 

The brothers eyed Ben's hand nervously. Joe winked at Adam. "Hey Pa...look over there!" He pointed.

 

Ben turned to look and the boys quickly ran past him, successfully avoiding being whacked on the way by.

 

"What Little Joe?  I don't see anything. Little Joe? Joe?" Ben turned back around to see Joe and Adam up ahead. "Lord, remember what I said about the strength?...Double it!" He grinned and caught up to his boys.

 

***

Hoss looked down at the footprints in the dirt. He followed them over to the water's edge. A few seconds later, everything went black as he fell into the lake unconscious.

 

***

Ben and the boys met up with the team. "Jett is dead. Little Joe shot him."

 

"I'm afraid Reese got away, Ben," Hannibal replied.

 

Ben nodded his understanding. "Where's Hoss?"

 

Murdock pointed to the East. "Hoss went to scout that location. He shoulda been back by now, Colonel."

 

Ben looked at Hannibal. "Let's move!"

 

They came upon a clearing where they saw Hoss laying face down in the water. "Hoss!" Ben shouted and began to go to him. He was stopped by gunfire coming from behind a grove of trees. "I have to get to my son."

 

Hannibal nodded. He motioned for Face and Murdock to go off and different directions and take out the gunman.

 

"You ain't taking me alive!" Reese McDermott yelled out from his hiding spot. "Where's my brother?"

 

"He's dead...I shot him and your gonna be dead too, if you don't let us get to my brother," Joe called out angrily.

 

His statement was answered by gun fire. "Your brother is as dead as mine...I saw to that."

 

Joe got to his feet. "I gotta get to Hoss."

 

He was quickly pulled back down by Hannibal. "Let Face and Murdock take him out first, boy...you'll get yourself killed if you go out there now...trust me."

 

Joe nodded his head and moved in closer to Ben.

 

"Alright, hold it right there!" Murdock ordered, pointing his gun at Reese's back. "Don't make any sudden moves or we'll see what kind of pretty holes my gun can make."

 

Reese started to put up his hands in surrender, but then turned and fired on the Captain. Face fired simultaneously. Reese fell to the ground dead.

 

"Thanks," Murdock said as Face helped him up from the ground.

 

Face winked. "All clear, Colonel!"

 

"Let's get him out of the water," Hannibal ordered.

 

They picked up Hoss and carried him to the bank. Other than a gash on the back of his head, he was not injured. However, Hoss was pale blue.

 

"Pa...he's not breathing!" Joe shouted.

 

"Son, Son....Hoss, answer me, boy...." Ben pleaded and shook him.

 

There was no response.

 

Hannibal grabbed Hoss. "Help me turn him over, BA. Stay Back!" He ordered.

 

Ben collapsed on the ground. "He's dead...dead...my boy...dead."

 

Adam and Joe held onto their father as BA and Hannibal began CPR.

 

After about two minutes, Hoss spit up water and took a breath. "Take it easy...just breathe...that's it ...in and out." Hannibal put a hand on BA's shoulder. "Nice, BA...real nice."

 

BA smiled and nodded.

 

Ben came over and grabbed Hoss cradling him in his arms. "Son, I thought I lost you."

 

Hoss shook his head confused. "Pa." He clung to his father as Ben continued to rock him.

 

Adam and Joe came over and put their hands on Hoss, squeezing him, feeling his warmth, trying to convince themselves he was alive.

 

Adam was the first to recover from the shock. He went over to Hannibal and stuck out his hand. "I don't know what you just did to save my brother's life, but I will forever be indebted to you, sir, and you too, BA." He turned to the sergeant and shook his hand. "To all of you."

 

Hannibal grinned and patted Adam on the back. "Just happy to help, kid."

 

****

"Well, Ben....your son here is one lucky young man...just suffering from exposure and that gash, but other than that he should be fine." Doc Martin commented and closed his medical bag. "Just see to it that he stays in bed and gets plenty to eat and drink."

 

"Oh, don't worry about that, Doc...I'm as hungry as a bear...ain't had nothin' but a couple a three breakfasts since mornin'."

 

Ben laughed. "I'll show you out, doctor."

 

"So, you say they banged on Hoss' chest and breathed into his mouth and that's what brought him back?" Doc Martin asked as him and Ben walked down the steps.

 

Ben shook his head. "I still can't believe it either, doctor, but I saw it with my own eyes."

 

"Amazing." The doctor put on his hat and coat and headed out the door.

 

"Thanks for coming, Paul."

 

***

Adam looked at his father. "So, what did the doctor say, Pa?"

 

"He said that Hoss is going to be fine, but I want you two not to excite him at all, understood?"

 

"Sure Pa."

 

"Can I go up and see him now, Pa?"

 

"No Joseph...I want him to rest and besides you and I have to have that talk about disobeying me by coming along, and carrying your gun."

 

"Aww...but Pa, everything turned out okay...do you have to give me a lickin'?"

 

"It doesn't matter that everything turned out okay, young man...you still disobeyed me and put yourself in a very dangerous situation."

 

"But Pa...he saved my life...surely, that has got to count for something?" Adam interjected.

 

"Adam, one thing does not have anything to do with the other."

 

"You could let it go and chalk it up to a mistake. He's just a boy."

 

"Oh, now he is just a boy....the other day, you said I coddle him too much. What exactly do you want me to do with my son, Adam?"

 

"I want you to stop being so unreasonable!"

 

"Unreasonable? This young man could have been killed and you think it is unreasonable of me to punish him?"

 

"No, but do you have to tan him, especially, the way I know you are going to?"

 

"In this instance, yes."

 

"Do you enjoy making your sons cry, Pa?"

 

"How can you say a thing like that to me?"

 

"Because you seem to tan one of us at any chance you get!"

 

"Adam, I suggest you end this argument right now and tend to your chores, understood?"

 

"Or what, Pa...you'll make me cry too?"

 

"Don't push me, boy."

 

"Fine, Pa...go enjoy yourself." Adam stomped off to the stables.

 

"Let's go, Joseph," Ben said and put his arm around his son.

 

***

"Can I take his supper up to him, Pa?"

 

Ben looked at his oldest. "I don't know, Adam...I don't want you to undermine the lesson I am trying to teach him, by telling your brother I was wrong to tan him."

 

"I promise I will not tell him anything of the sort...I just want to see how he is."

 

"Fine, but I am holding you to that promise, understood?"

 

"Yes sir."  Adam grabbed the tray and went up to Joe's room. "Hey there, Little Brother, I brought you up some supper."

 

"I ain't hungry, Adam."

 

"Listen, Joe...I know how bad you're feeling, but not eating won't help things."

 

"Why does Pa have to be so mean all the time?"

 

"Pa is not mean all the time, he just gets mad when we don't listen to him...which you have to admit is pretty often."

 

Little Joe smiled. "Yeah, I guess we do give him a hard time."

 

"We sure do...unfortunately, he usually gives us an even harder time when we do."

 

"Especially,  this time...this was the worst lickin' I ever got, Adam." Joe buried his face in his arms and cried.

 

Adam sat next to his little brother and rubbed his back. "Pa is just trying to teach you not to do anything dangerous. You could have been killed, Joe."

 

"I know," Joe replied and wiped his tears.  "I bet you never did anything this stupid, huh?"

 

Adam grinned. "That's a bet you would lose."

 

"Will you tell me?"

 

"Oh, I don't know...it may give you ideas."

 

"I promise I won't do whatever it is you did...on my word of honor." Joe spit in his hand and held it out for Adam to shake.

 

Adam did the same thing and shook Joe's hand. "I'm holding you to it...a man never goes back on his word, once he's given it."

 

"Never?"

 

"Never."

 

Joe nodded.

 

"Alright, Pa found this white horse out on the range...the meanest, orneriest horse you ever wanted to meet.  Pa named him Jasper's Ghost and he forbade me even to go near him."

 

"Don't tell me you went near him?"

 

"Worse than that...I tried riding him."

 

"No you didn't...what happened?"

 

"Well, I was thrown off and nearly trampled to death...if Pa hadn't come along when he did and got me out of there I would have surely been killed."

 

"Betcha Pa was awful sore."

 

"Sore wasn't the half of it...I don't think I ever saw him so angry and so scared by something I had done, or in fact, ever did since then."

 

"Did he give you a lickin'?"

 

Adam nodded. "The worst lickin' I ever got in my life."

 

"Did Pa...err...well..."

 

"If you are trying to ask me if Pa made me drop my britches...the answer is yes...the one and only time I had to do that, and something I never want to do again."

 

Joe grimaced and rubbed his backside. "Me either."

 

"Listen Joe, I was wrong about this entire situation...you were too young to come along and Pa was right to tan you, but I am glad you were there to save my life."

 

"I'm glad of that too and having you still here is worth more than any amount of lickins from Pa."

 

"So, you are saying you would do the same thing again if you had it to do over?"

 

"If it meant that I saved your life again...then yup, but I think you owe me."

 

"Oh I do, huh?"

 

"Yes, you have to spend the entire day fishing with me, and building a fort and playing stick ball and helping finish that raft I was working on and..."

 

"Alright, alright...I promise as soon as I am caught up on all my work, we will spend an entire weekend doing those things."

 

"Promise?"

 

"Promise.  Now, eat your supper."

 

"Okay Adam." Little Joe happily ate his dinner.

 

***

"So, anyways Miss Lulu says to Mr. Davis that he was just about the ugliest cuss that she ever did see and that his horse smelled better than he did." Joe slapped Adam on the arm. "Pa says he was madder than a hornet."

 

Adam let out a loud laugh.

 

"Yeah and then she said..."

 

"Hey, whatcha two fellas talkin 'bout?"

 

"Oh sorry, Hoss, did we disturb you?" Adam asked quietly.

 

"No, no...just sounded like you two was sure havin' yourselves a mighty interestin' conversation."

 

"Nah, we were just talking about something that happened when Pa was in town this morning getting supplies," Joe replied dismissively.

 

"I've been mighty lonely up here the last five days. Why don't ya fellas come on in and tell me all about it?" He patted the edge of his bed.

 

Adam looked at Joe. "Well actually, brother...Joe and I have some work to finish."

 

"But, it's nearly supper time."

 

Joe smiled nervously. "Oh well, Pa wants us to...ummm..."

 

"Finish cleaning out the stalls..."

 

"Yeah, you know how Pa is about clean stalls. A clean stall makes for a happy horse."

 

Adam nodded. "Come on, Joe." He grabbed Joe by the arm dragging him down the hall. Once they were out of earshot of Hoss, Adam stopped. "A clean stall makes for a happy horse? Why don't you embroider that on a sampler, Little Brother...give it to Pa for his birthday. He can hang it in the barn."

 

Joe shrugged. "Well, it's the best I could come up with."

 

"A clean stall makes for a happy horse," Adam muttered and headed downstairs.

 

****

"You cheated!"

 

"What? How could you say such a thing?" Face asked shocked.

 

"Because it's the truth!"

 

"Hannibal, would you tell the kid here that I would never do such a underhanded thing."

 

Hannibal looked up from the book he was reading. "Ah, could you repeat that, Lieutenant?"

 

Face put his hands on his hips. "Would you tell the kid  here that I would never do such a thing as cheat at checkers."

 

"Joe, Face would never cheat at checkers."

 

"Thank you, Colonel." Face looked smugly at Joe. "See, there that proves it, Kid," Face said and tousled Joe's hair.

 

"Doggone it! Cut that out!" Little Joe pouted.

 

Hannibal went back to the book he was reading. "Now cards...there's something he cheats at."

 

Joe giggled.

 

"Thanks a lot, Hannibal."

 

"Well, Kid, I can't lie to the boy. What kind of example would I be setting?"

 

"I'll remember this, the next time you need me to set you up with a fancy penthouse to impress the ladies."

 

Hannibal grinned.

 

"Joseph, this is the one time I haven't had to tell you to take your feet off the furniture," Ben said as he came into the living room.

 

Joe smiled. "That's because I still ain't able to sit down long enough to get that comfortable, Pa...but give me a day or two and you'll be yelling at me again."

 

Ben laughed. "So, what are you two up to?"

 

"Well, we were playing checkers, Pa."

 

"Checkers, huh? Hey, Face, you didn't let him cheat, did ya? Because he does it all the time."

 

"Pa!"

 

"What? I can't lie to the man." Ben grinned. "Where's your brother?"

 

"Upstairs in bed."

 

"Smart alek...I meant your brother Adam....you know, smart fella, likes black?"

 

"He's in the barn, Pa...polishing his saddle."

 

"Would you fetch him for me, please?"

 

"Why, Pa?"

 

Ben cleared his throat. "Because I said so...now go, before I tell Face how you cheat at cards as well."

 

Face grinned. "Ha!"

 

****

"You wanted to see me, Pa?" Adam asked, coming over to Ben's desk.

 

"Oh yes, son...I need you to ride out to Genoa and meet with Mr. Fallon."

 

"About the timber contracts?"

 

"Yes, I think it will be a good deal."

 

"Me too, Pa....do you want me to leave tonight?"

 

"If you wouldn't mind, son. Mr. Fallon sent a letter saying that he wants to meet with you at 10 a.m. sharp."

 

"Sure Pa."

 

"Hey, Johnny?"

 

"Yes, Murdock?"

 

"Well, I was wondering, if ah...if it wouldn't be too much trouble if...ah..."

 

Adam grinned. "Yes, you may come along with me." He looked at Hannibal. "If that is alright with you, sir?"

 

"It's fine by me...if you sure you want to take him. Murdock can be quite a handful."

 

Murdock smiled. "Oh, I promise I'll be good...cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye."

 

Adam laughed. "I could use the company."

 

Hannibal nodded.

 

Ben came over and put an arm around Murdock and Adam. "I'd better not hear about any mischief out of you two."

 

Murdock grinned. "Oh, no sir, Mr. C.,...you certainly wouldn't hear about it. Johnny and me would keep any mischief to ourselves. You'll get only the good reports."

 

Ben smiled. "You sure you want to take this scamp with you, Adam?"

 

"Don't worry, Pa...if I can take Little Joe along on a trip and keep him out of trouble. I'm sure I can handle Murdock."

 

Joe looked up from the checkerboard. "Are you trying to say that I'm a trouble maker, Adam?"

 

"Yup, that's exactly what I'm saying."

 

"Ha Ha Ha!" Joe sneered and looked back at the board. "Hey, there's something different about this board. Face, you're cheating again, aren't ya?"

 

"I would never do such a thing...tell him, Hannibal..."

 

"You would so cheat."

 

"Would not."

 

"Would too."

 

"Hey kid, could you use some more company on your trip?" Hannibal asked, getting away from Face and Joe.

 

Everyone shook their heads and laughed. "Come on, Murdock...let's get packed."

 

"Sure thing, Johnny."

 

"How's about you and I see if there is any left over cake in the kitchen, Hannibal?"

 

"Good idea, Ben."

 

"Would so cheat!"

 

"Would not!

 

"Would!"

 

 

TBC

 

 


The McDermott Gang by Cap'n Marina
The McDermott Gang 2 by Cap'n Marina
The McDermott Gang 3 by Cap'n Marina
The McDermott Gang 4 by Cap'n Marina
The McDermott Gang 5 by Cap'n Marina