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TOC Files 16: Time and Again

Title: Time's Fatal Wings
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 8359
Summary The first mission with their new member takes them to Arizona in the late 1880s

XVI. Time and Again

"I've made a few additions to the machines that need explaining. We could be going any day now, it's been awhile since the last mission." He replaced the wire-rim glasses that had slid down his nose.

"We're waiting, Gil," said Captain Eric Rader.

"Ryan's, being the newest model, already has these."

Ryan Kelly was the newest member of the Temporal Observers Corps and the twin brother of the ranking officer, Colonel Alan Kelly. The ironic thing was, before he learned of his true identity, he had been at one time, the most-wanted enemy of the Alliance.

"After the fiasco last time, I've built in a transmuter to each one and it will automatically change the appearance of your clothes, money, and itself."

"What happened last time?" asked Ryan.

"All the machines except for one malfunctioned and we ended up in four different places," Alan told him.

"Doesn't sound very pleasant. I hope that doesn't happen to me."

The only woman of the group, Shannon Flynn, a transplanted Dubliner from the late 20th century, asked, "Has it been tested?"

"Not over a long distance, but it has been programmed with sufficient data to cover most circumstances."

"So we're going to be the guinea pigs," said Eric.

"Aren't we always," remarked Alan. He had been used as part of a Government sting to get information and files on Cameron James, a man he had accused of graft, corruption, arms dealing, and fraud, among other things. While fighting with Cameron over the time machine, Alan was accidentally sent back to medieval England and the battle of Bosworth Field. Upon returning to Gil's lab, he found his friend dying and vowed to bring Cameron to justice. It was during this time that he met Shannon. Cameron forced him to return home and the plot was revealed. Alan received a promotion and the TOC was formed.

There was a knock on the door and a man in his mid-thirties entered. "I knew I'd find you here."

"Jason, I see they put you back onto us," said Gil with a smile.

"They think I've paid enough for letting you get away with that stunt you pulled on Sirus. Glad to see you've recovered from your illness," he said to Alan.

"Thanks. I've a feeling this isn't just a social call, however."

"They've come up with a new assignment for you." He waited, drawing out the suspense. "Wide open spaces, fresh air, excitement, and being one with nature."

"Where and when are you talking about?" questioned Shannon.

"1887, Arizona Territory."

"I don't believe it," said Eric. "I've always wanted to be a cowboy."

"I never would have guessed," said Alan sarcastically. "You always acted like a maverick."

"But why? What happened then?" asked Ryan.

"Nothing. That's the reason why. Things have been romanticized about the West--outlaws become heroes and the massacre of Indians as glorious battles for the Army. You are to witness and record everyday events of the average western town."

"Any cover stories in particular we should use?" asked Gil.

"Something that would expose you to a good cross-section of society," Jason answered.

"Cowboys, gamblers, gunslingers," Eric looked at Shannon, "dance-hall girls."

"If you think for one minute I'm gonna pretend to be one of those, you're quite mistaken!"

"No, not that, of course. But maybe if you were to be a singer touring the West. You know, a few ballads and sing-a-longs," placated Jason.

"I'm not going there by myself."

"No, Gil will be with you."


"Can you gamble, shoot, or ride?" asked Alan.

"Um, no."

"But you do play the piano. You can accompany Shannon."

"And what about the rest of you?"

"I think there's no question about our gambler," remarked Alan, placing his hand on Eric's shoulder. "Those people won't stand a chance."

"Of course that leaves being the gun slinging cowboys to you and Ryan," said Eric.

"Would you rather switch?"

"And give up sitting inside, drinking and winning money?"

"I didn't think so."

"You're gonna have to lose your accents, though, pick up a drawl. No one would take you seriously."

"Are you going to give lessons?" questioned Ryan.

"Better than that. Just watch a bunch of old vids!"

Alan looked at Jason. "When are we scheduled to leave?"

"They've given you until 1400 hours tomorrow. That should give you enough time for a briefing and to get used to the feel of your weapons of choice."

* * * *

The following morning, Eric found himself overlooking the town of Oak Bluffs in the Arizona Territory. A small river meandered in the distance. "This looks like a quiet town. I hope it stays that way."

He rode into town and stopped in front of the hotel. He took the saddlebag off the horse and headed inside. The clerk greeted him with a smile. "Good day, sir. How may I help you?"

"I'd like a room, please."

"Certainly, sir. How long will you be staying?"

"Only a few days. I don't think any longer than a week," Eric replied as he signed the register.

"Very good, Mr. Rader. That's Room 6. Turn left at the top of the stairs."

Eric walked up the steps to find his room. It was simply furnished with a bed, bureau, mirror, wardrobe, and washstand. The windows offered a view of the street that would help in the mission. He stopped in front of the mirror to see how the transmuter had worked. He was wearing a white shirt with a black string tie and a black silk vest with silver threads running through it. His jacket and slacks were also black. In his vest pocket was a small, snub-nosed pistol; ideal for confronting cheaters.

After unpacking his bag, he locked the door behind him and headed for the saloon in the hopes of finding a poker game.

* * * *

Gil and Shannon materialized in a secluded area where they could take stock of themselves before catching the coach. Gil was dressed in a grey three-piece suit and sported a grey hat. Shannon wore an emerald green traveling dress with black trim whose skirts gathered in the back in a bustle. To complete the ensemble, she wore a matching hat with black ribbons falling down the back.

"You look great," he told her. "That dress is the perfect color for you."

"Why, thank you. You don't look too bad yourself."

He held out his arm for her. "Shall we proceed, Miss Flynn?"

They went into the offices of the coach line and bought tickets for Oak Bluffs. There were no other passengers in the coach. They could freely discuss their part of the plan. "Eric should be there by now," remarked Gil. "Becoming known and, hopefully, accepted."

"Do you think they'll accept my singing?"

"You've a great voice, Shannon, plus a diversity of songs to chose from. There's nothing to worry about."

Some hours later the stage arrived at its destination. Gil got out first and helped Shannon. Their bags were tossed down from the roof and Gil picked them up. "Where to first?" asked Shannon. "The hotel or the saloon?"

"The hotel to get rooms and then to the saloon." They walked over to the hotel and rang the bell for the clerk.

He came running out from the back room. He couldn't believe he had two more guests. Quite well off by the looks of them. "Yes, sir. How may I help you?"

"The lady and I would each like a room. We plan to stay at least a week."

"I have two rooms across the hall from each other. Will that do?"

"That should be satisfactory."

"If you would please sign the register, I'll give you the keys."

"Could you please have our bags sent up? We have something we need to do."

"Certainly, sir."

As Shannon signed the register, she saw Eric's name. Only Alan and Ryan had yet to arrive. "Thank you for your assistance," she said, deepening her brogue.

"You're welcome, miss."

Shannon smiled as she and Gil walked out the door. "You're warming up to this, aren't you?"

"I think that most of the West were like knights. They respected women and treated them with dignity."

"As long as you weren't an outlaw or a soiled dove."

"Very amusing."

The saloon looked to be a step above the usual watering holes found in the smaller western towns. Aside from the tables where one could have a meal, there were tables set aside for poker and other forms of gambling. There also was a small stage. Gil walked up to the barman and asked for either the manager or the owner. The bartender pointed him out at one of the tables. Gil thanked him and walked over, Shannon following.

"You are Mr. Ross?"

"Yes. How might I help you?"

"My name is Gilbert Connor and this is Miss Shannon Flynn. She has recently played to large audiences in Europe and is now touring the States. She would like to sing in your establishment as she as done in many towns on her way to California."

"Oh, really?" Ross looked her over and liked what he saw. A pretty face and a fine figure were always a good draw. "What do you sing?" he asked, taking his cigar out for a moment.

"Irish songs, mainly, ballads and sing-a-longs. I have been learning some of your American songs."

"Okay. What I'll do is this. You get up and sing a couple of numbers. If they like you, you're on."

"Thank you, Mr. Ross." They walked over towards the stage. Gil took his place at the piano and began to play one of the songs he and Shannon had rehearsed.

* * * *

Alan and Ryan materialized on the opposite side of town as Eric and later in the day. They each wore cotton shirts; Ryan, slate blue and Alan, pale red. Ryan had brown corduroy pants, boots, and a beige hat with a black and silver band. Alan had on a worn-in pair of blue jeans, boots, and a grey hat. They had matching Colt Peacemakers in their holsters.

Ryan looked out at the town. "That looks nice and peaceful."

"Hopefully it is. I could do with a nice, easy assignment."

"How are you holding up? Slow recovery?"

"A little. Still comes and goes. The doctors said it would be like this. It won't affect my performance during this mission."

"Good." They headed for town.

"Have you told them about your being Cameron yet?"

"No. Things have been moving too fast."

"You know H.P.'s gonna hold it over you as blackmail. If you tell them first, he'll have no basis." Alan was referring to when Ryan, with the help of Eric and Shannon, rescued him from a group of mercenaries, embarrassing their leader in the process. This man knew that Ryan used to be Cameron James and could use this information if anything happened in his "dealings".

"Okay. I'll tell them when we get back, I promise."

They rode by the saloon where they heard voices singing:

Her eyes, they shone like diamonds,
You'd think she was queen of the land,
And her hair hung over her shoulders
Tied up with a black velvet band.

"Sounds like Shannon's got the job," said Ryan as he dismounted and tied his horse to the post.

"Did you ever doubt it?" asked Alan, doing the same.

"I never heard her sing before. She's got a great voice."

They walked inside to see Shannon leading the patrons in a rousing finale to The Black Velvet Band. She finished to deafening applause. Alan watched as she curtsied and smiled. Ryan clapped and added a few whistles of his own. Alan nudged him and they walked to the bar and ordered two beers. "Who's the singer?"

"She just walked in with her manager asking permission to sing. Owner said that if the men liked her, she could stay."

Ryan looked around at the men who were calling for another song. "Sounds to me like she can unpack."

Alan paid for the drinks then headed towards the card table where Eric had accumulated a pile of bills. He and Ryan watched as the hand finished and Eric won again. Shannon started a second song, one made popular during the Civil War. It was Aura Lee. Alan started to hum the tune, his mind singing lyrics from an Elvis song Love Me Tender.

"Mind if I join in the next hand?" Alan asked.

"If your money's good," said a farm hand.

Ryan and Alan joined them at the table. It was Eric's deal. "Straightforward draw poker, Jacks or better to open."

He dealt out the cards and Ryan found himself holding a pair of Kings with an Ace high. Logic would dictate that he keep the pair and throw away the other three cards to increase the chances of pulling a third King. However, when it came to cards, he played hunches. He kept the Ace and threw in the two low cards. Alan kept two, Eric four, the farmhand three, and the other two folded. When Ryan picked up a second Ace, he knew his hunch had paid off. The second card was a lowly Queen, no help at all. He bet $20. Alan saw him, as did Eric. The farmhand raised the bet another $20. The betting continued until it was between Ryan and the farmhand with the pot close to $200. The farmhand folded and Ryan took his winnings.

Shannon finished her song and approached Mr. Ross. "What did you stop for?" he asked. "Git back up there and sing."

"You mean I've got the job?"

"You had the job once you got them singin'. We'll talk money later."

Shannon smiled and went over to Gil to decide on their next song. They chose one that fit the crowd they were singing to

There was a wild colonial boy
Jack Duggan was his name
He was born and bred in Ireland
In a place called Castlemaine
He was his father's only son,
His mother's pride and joy,
And dearly did his parents love
That wild colonial boy

Alan watched as the farmhand dealt. "You're dealing from the bottom of the deck," he said softly, standing.

"Are you accusing me of cheating?"

"I just wouldn't be surprised if you've given yourself the best hand." He turned over his own hand, showing five cards with no potential. The others turned over their hands, showing cards of a similar nature. One of the men reached for the dealer's cards and the farmhand reached for his gun. Before it was halfway out of its holster, Alan had his own drawn and cocked, Ryan, not far behind. "Don't even think about it."

The farmhand slowly moved his hand away from his gun. "Okay, okay." He picked up what was left of his winnings and walked out, but not before warning Alan to keep his eyes open. "Jack Hanrahan ain't gonna take this from anybody."

"Any trouble here, gents?" asked an older man--possibly in his mid forties. He pushed back his jacket casually, showing his gun and badge.

"No, marshal, just a little misunderstanding," said Eric. "Nothing happened."

"Fine." He looked at Alan. "This is a nice, quiet town and I don't need any of your type shaking it up."

"My brother and I ain't lookin' for trouble, marshal," said Ryan. "We plan to move on in a couple days."

"If you cause anymore trouble, I'll lock you up. Ya got me?" The three men nodded in agreement and Marshal Bill Healey went back to the jail.

Those two men seemed familiar, or at least their descriptions did. He pulled out his wanted posters. No, nothing there. He then remembered a telegram he had received the day before. It told him that the Garvey brothers and their band of troublemakers were heading his way. They were both about six- feet tall, one had light brown hair and green eyes while the other had black hair and hazel eyes. It fit those two in the saloon perfectly. One of them even admitted they were brothers. He'd have to keep an eye on them.

* * * *

The following morning, Eric, Alan, and Ryan met in front of the general store. "How did you spend last night?" asked Eric.

"Had a few drinks, a good meal, some flirtation, and a good night's sleep," answered Ryan. "You?"

"Won myself some more money. You know, I kinda like this place."

"Yeah, they give you their money so readily," Alan remarked with a laugh. "Here come Gil and Shannon."

"Good day, gentlemen," said Gil.

"Mornin', sir, ma'am," said Alan, touching the brim of his hat.

"Excuse me, miss, but I'd like to say how much I enjoyed your singin' yesterday," said Ryan.

"You were so busy playing cards, I'm surprised you noticed," Shannon said with a smile.

"Your singin' brought me luck."

"You flatter me," she laughed.

Gil and Eric looked at each other and rolled their eyes. These three were taking their rôles quite seriously. Of course, they were the veterans of time-travel and knew how important it was to blend in.

"Hey, you!" Everyone turned around to see who called out. "Yeah, you," the man said, pointing at Alan. "We've got something to settle."

"Who's that?" asked Shannon.

"A sore loser and a cheat," answered Ryan.

"What is it, Hanrahan? I don't want any trouble," said Alan.

"You should have thought of that before you accused me of cheating," said Hanrahan. "I want satisfaction."

"That sounds more like a challenge to a duel than a shoot-out," murmured Gil.

Hanrahan moved into the middle of the street and pushed his coat away, showing his gun. The people of the town saw this and cleared the street. Alan refused to play along. "I'm not going to get involved, Hanrahan. I told the marshal I wanted no trouble."

"What? Are ya yeller?"

Alan almost lost his temper. He hated being called a coward. To prove he wasn't, he turned his back and prepared to walk away. Hanrahan reached for his gun, and, out of the corner of his eye, Alan saw the movement. He quickly turned, drew his gun, and shot Hanrahan in the shoulder.

Marshal Healey came rushing out of his office and saw Hanrahan clutching his bleeding arm and Alan putting away his gun. "I thought I told you I wanted no trouble from you." He held out his hand. "Give me your gun."

"But, marshal, I--"

"I told you last night that if you were involved in anything, I'd arrest you. I gave you a fair warning." He forced Alan to go ahead of him. Alan, not wanting to cause a scene, complied.

"Marshal, I saw the whole thing," said Eric. "Mr. Hanrahan drew first."

"After the incident last night at the card table, you would side against Hanrahan."

"Marshal, the lady and I saw what happened as well. Hanrahan was going to shoot him in the back. Most of the people in the town could testify to that," said Gil.

Their statements fell on deaf ears. Healey took Alan to the jail and locked him up. "You're making a big mistake. Hanrahan did draw first."

"Don't try to pull one over on me, Garvey. I've heard about you and your brother. I have no reason to arrest him yet, but I will before long."

"My name isn't Garvey, it's Kelly. And I'm sticking to my story."

"You do that, Garvey. I'll enjoy breaking it."

Alan settled back on his cot to wait until Healey came to his senses.

* * * *

During the next couple of days, the others tried in vain to convince Healey that he had made a mistake. Healey ignored their protests and, instead, kept a close eye on Ryan and Eric, thinking them to be part of the gang. Shannon and Gil continued to perform at the saloon, becoming something of an attraction. She flirted a little with the customers but never gave them any reason to believe that she was there to do anything but sing. Eric kept playing cards on a winning percentage as he gathered information on the Garvey gang and how the Kelly brothers could have been mistaken for them.

The relative quiet was broken late one afternoon when a group of riders galloped into town, shooting their guns in the air and yelling. The Garveys had arrived.
Ross came over and told Shannon and Gil to keep playing. "We have to try and keep a sense of normality."

"Whatever you say, Mr. Ross." Gil looked at Shannon and started playing a song that wouldn't be written until almost a century had passed.

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses
You've been out ridin' fences
For so long now...

The doors burst open and the Garveys strode up to the bar, roaring for drinks. Eric looked up from his game and saw two men that did have a passing resemblance to Alan and Ryan as far as coloring and height went. The faces, however, were harsher, more severe in their features. He could understand why Healey made the mistake; he had nothing to compare them to. The first ones to fit his description, he arrested.

The older Garvey, the one that looked like Alan, turned around and faced the stage, noticing Shannon. He smiled appreciatively. Ryan made a move to stop him, but Eric put out a restraining hand. "He hasn't done anything, he's just looking."

"I know. It's how he's looking."

"You of all people should know she can handle herself. Besides, I think a lot of the other patrons have taken a liking to her and wouldn't want anything to happen."

Shannon finished her song and the elder Garvey approached her. "You're new here, ain't ya?"

"It all depends what you consider new. Since you seem to be known to everyone but me, I guess you could say yes."

"With your fine talk and dress, I'd say y' came from back east. New York?"

"Further east than that. Dublin, Ireland. Now, if you will please excuse me." She tried to get past him.

"Y' ain't leavin' now? We ain't been introduced proper like."

"If we are introduced, then I have to be friendly, and I don't think I want to do that. Now, if you will excuse me, it's time for my break."

He grabbed her arm and pulled her close in an attempt to kiss her. "Y' wouldn't have t' worry with me as a friend," he said.

She pushed him far enough away to get some leverage to overpower him with a karate move. Stunned, Garvey lay on the floor. The rest of the gang moved forward. Gil appeared at her side, pistol in hand. "I don't think the lady wants to be with you."

"C'mon, Josh, it ain't worth it," said the younger brother, helping him stand. "She ain't like th' others."

"I know, Nat, that's why I want her." He watched as Gil escorted Shannon outside. "I wanna know her name and who that guy is," he told them. He nodded and one of the men slipped outside.

Ryan saw this. "I'm gonna follow him. Lord only knows what he'll do."

"Okay," said Eric. "I'll stay here and keep an eye on the rest of them."

* * * *

Alan stood when the gunfire started. "Sounds like your town ain't so quiet, marshal."

"Don't think that a little gunfire'll be enough to convince me you're innocent," Healey said, picking up his gun belt.

"I honestly had nothing to do with it!" Alan called after him.

Healey made his way to the saloon and met Gil and Shannon on the way. "Marshal," said Gil, "there are some very rough men in the saloon. One of them attempted to molest Miss Flynn."

"Only attempted?" asked Healey.

"I have learned many ways to defend myself," Shannon said.

"He looked very much like the man you have in jail. Maybe he was telling the truth about not being this Garvey fellow."

"Not you, too."

"Do these Garvey's have Christian names?" asked Shannon.

"I don't know why I should tell you."

"Are they Nat and Josh?" Healey was shocked. "I see they are. Those are the men in the saloon. The one you have locked up is innocent," said Gil.

"Let me just take a look for myself." Healey brushed past them into the saloon. He saw a group of dancing girls on the stage and a group of hard-looking men ogling them. Ross knew how to keep them occupied. He spotted Ross near the bar and walked over. "I heard you had a little trouble in here."

"Oh, no, just a little misunderstanding," said Ross nervously with a glance towards the Garveys. "Just high spirits after a long time of hard riding."

One of the men nudged Josh and he looked over and saw Healey. "Howdy, marshal. Come in for a drink?"

"No, just following up on an accusation. The young lady says that you made improper advances."

"Just tryin' to be friendly, marshal," said Josh. "She should expect that, workin' in a saloon."

"She only sings," said Gil. "Nothing else."

"Why? Do you have something going?"

"How dare you!" Shannon was indignant. She looked around at those patrons in the saloon and could see that some were torn between defending her and their fear of the Garveys.

"You will take that back," Gil demanded.

Josh looked at him and saw no threat. "You gonna make somethin' of it?"

"If necessary."

Josh laughed. "This could be fun."

"I wouldn't recommend it, Mr. Garvey," said Eric from his chair. "If you start a fight in here, the majority will fight against you. Miss Flynn and Mr. Connor have made many friends in their brief stay here. I, for one, will help them."

Healey looked at the two of them. Eric was calm as he sat there at his table. Josh seemed nervous. That gambler was using good logic to try and dissuade Garvey. Nat said, "We don't need any trouble, Josh. It ain't worth it."

Josh shoved him aside and looked at Gil. No way was he going to let this little foreigner get the better of him. He swung his right fist out, but Gil ducked and landed a punch on Josh's face. This started everyone else fighting.

Healey went through the mob trying to find the instigators and arrest them. Shannon saw him and tried to lead the others out the back door. Josh followed and Shannon knocked him on the head with a vase that felled him to the floor. "Stay right there!" called Healey, his gun out.

"Why do you have that pointed at us?" asked Eric. "He started it." He pointed at the recumbent figure on the floor.

"You can all come with me to the jail until we settle this. You," he motioned to Shannon, "take his gun and hand it to me slowly, butt first." Shannon complied and Healey walked them out the back and towards the jail, Gil and Eric supporting a groggy Josh.

"Marshal, look out!" Shots were fired. Healey and the others ran for cover. A man fell from the roof of the general store. "Are you all right?" It was Ryan.

"Yeah, thanks," said Healey grudgingly.

"How did you know he was there?" asked Shannon.

"He sent him out to follow you," Ryan answered with a nod towards Garvey. "Not trusting him, I followed."

"Thank you for being suspicious," said Gil.

There was a pounding of hooves and shooting. They ducked behind a wagon for cover as the gang rode by. Josh broke away from Gil and Eric, mounted a waiting horse, and the gang rode off. "Great, we've lost 'em," said Healey.

"Not for long," said Eric. "They'll be back." He stood and dusted himself off.

"I'll need to organize the men and prepare to fight them," said Healey, as he strode back to the jail.

"Are you going to let my brother out?" asked Ryan. "You're going to need every gun and you know he's probably the best you've got."

As they neared the jail, they heard the strains of Bang the Drums Slowly on harmonica. Alan stopped when they entered. "Are they under arrest, too? I don't think you have enough room." He stood and walked to the bars. "Did you get in touch with the warden?" he asked with an accent out of a gangster film.

"No, but you're getting out anyway," answered Ryan. "The Garveys were here in town causing a bit of trouble."

"So he knows we're not them. I take it they were the ones shooting," he said as he took his gun belt from Healey.

"The oldest Garvey made improper advances on Miss Flynn," said Gil. "Thought she was a common saloon girl."

"I don't see how anyone would think her common," said Alan with a slight bow.

Shannon was taken back by his unexpected compliment. "Why, thank you, sir."

"What drove them away?" he asked.

"Gil started a fight with them," Shannon said.

Alan slowly worked the story out of them and knew that Eric was right in saying they'd be back. "After the way they've been treated here, they'll be back for a bit of revenge. From what I've gathered, nobody in town likes them, so it should be easy to fight back."

"These people aren't ones for fighting," said Healey. "I think they're more afraid than angry."

"If they think on all the damage that the Garveys'll do, maybe that'll get 'em worked up," said Ryan.

"I'll call a town meeting. This is something I can't decide myself."

"I'd arrange for it immediately," said Eric. "They'll either come tonight or first thing in the morning." Healey looked at him questioningly. "In my line of work, you come across men like them quite often."

The marshal realized he was right. "Okay, we'll spread the word and I'll ring the alarm bell. We'll hold it in the saloon, it has the most room."

They split up and scoured the town, telling everyone they came across about the meeting. Healey rang the alarm bell to alert those outside the town but within hearing of the bell. He then walked into the saloon and closed the bar. "I don't want anybody distracted," he said. "This is a very important meeting." Ross shrugged and complied.

As the saloon got more crowded and he could see that most of the residents were there, Healey started. "I hate to pull you all away from your work, but we are facing an almost immediate problem. As most of you are aware, the Garvey brothers and their gang were in town causing trouble but left after a brawl here in the saloon. We have reason to believe they will be back and this town must defend itself."

"If we hide ourselves away with our valuables, we have no need to stop them," called a man from the crowd. "We can always repair damage to the buildings, but we can't bring back the dead."

"If we don't stand up to the Garveys, other gangs of outlaws will know Oak Bluffs for an easy touch and might take over the town knowing we won't fight them."

"We wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for that singer!" called another voice.

Shannon stood and went up on the stage next to Healey. "I know I'm new here and only a visitor and you don't feel you should worry about my well-being. Singing in the saloons gives me a better feel for your country by getting to know the people, something I can't do by singing in proper theatres. Luckily, I knew how to defend myself against Garvey's advances. However, if we don't stand up to them now, there won't be a second chance. Just imagine if, instead of me, it was your wives, daughters, or sisters, someone who cannot defend themselves. Would you just stand by and do nothing? You must fight now, or this town will soon be beyond saving." She took her seat as the townsfolk murmured amongst themselves. She looked over at Alan, who nodded slightly. She relaxed as all the tension built up from her speech eased away.

"What about those two gunslingers?" called a man from the back. Alan flinched, recognizing the voice.

"You know very well, Hanrahan, that they had nothing to do with it. One of 'em was in jail until an hour ago, and the other saved my life. You're just mad 'cos he caught you cheating at cards," said Healey.

"He shot me, marshal," said Hanrahan, pointing at his arm which was in a sling. "I can't believe you let 'im outta jail."

"I've been told that he refused your challenge and only fired after you drew first. They've offered to help us fight the Garveys and I don't think we can afford to pass it up." He looked at the people gathered, whispering. "It's my job, along with my deputy, to defend this town, and I thought you people felt the way I do. I guess I was wrong. The four of us will meet the Garveys and their gang in the morning while the rest of you hide behind your shutters."

"Make that five," said Eric, standing. "I never miss a fight," he added with a smile.

Gil stood. "Six. After all, I think I'm the one he's angry with the most." He stole a glance at Shannon who remained silent.

"Okay. To my office." The five of them went to Healey's office leaving the crowd stunned.

* * * *

Later that evening, from a vantage point above the hotel, the lookout saw the approaching riders. With a crooked smile, he headed down the stairs. He then rushed through the empty streets to the marshal's office. The light was on and the lookout could see the six men inside nervously waiting. He burst in. "Riders comin' from the west!"

"This is it, men," said Healey as he passed out the rifles. He looked at Alan and Ryan. "They don't know about you, so hide where you can get a clear shot of 'em on the street."

"What about my gun?" asked the lookout. "I c'n shoot just as good as them."

Healey was reluctant to give over a gun to the youth, but Alan said, "Go ahead. We can use all the help we can get."

The youth took the gun from Healey's hand and rushed out into the street. Alan followed. "What do you think you're doing?"

Shannon looked out from under the brim of her hat. "Now that it's getting exciting, I'm not about to sit out. You know I can shoot."

"Okay, I won't say anything about you. Just don't take on more than you can handle." Impulsively, he kissed her then ran off to his post.

Shannon stood there in shock before the shouts of the others caused her to move for cover. She watched as Gil, Eric, Healey, and the deputy stood alone in the street ready to face the Garvey gang. Even though their faces showed no emotion, she knew they were all nervous and anxious--she could see Eric's fingers resting just above his holster.

The Garveys rode in slowly and Josh seemed amused that only four men were there to fight them. Nat, however, was wary and constantly looking about for hidden gunmen. They stopped about __ yards away from the marshal and his "deputies". Josh smiled. "Waitin' for someone, marshal?"

"I told you we didn't want your type in Oak Bluffs, Garvey. Now turn around and crawl back under whatever rock you came from."

"Who's going to stop me, marshal? I've never seen your deputy even use a gun. That Englishman has too much learnin' to kill." He looked at Eric. "You, however, might do it."

"Thanks for the compliment," said Eric with a wry smile.

"That only means that you'll be one of the first to go." Nat leaned over and whispered something to Josh, who nodded. "What happened to that gunslinger who passed through th' other day? Is he still in jail?"

"If you really want to find out, I can arrange it," answered Healey. "If you don't turn around and ride out, I'll lock you all up."

"You won't have enough room," said Josh.

A shot rang out and one of the gang fell to the ground, his drawn gun going off. "The roof!" yelled Nat, as he and Josh jumped off their horses and ran for cover, shooting as they went. Soon they realized there were two firing from the roofs, but they still couldn't see them.

Shannon took out her own gun and watched, hesitating to shoot. She saw that one of the men was creeping along behind Gil. Without even thinking, she fired, killing him. Josh, spotting the new gun, turned his attention in that direction. As soon as he had a clear shot, he fired, but only succeeded in knocking off her hat.

From his vantage point on the roof of the hotel, Alan saw Shannon's red hair and knew that her cover was blown. He couldn't move down to help her without giving away his hiding place, but Josh was out of his range. He signaled to Ryan to cover him as he went down to the street. He fired off a few shots himself and jumped the last few feet to the ground, rolling for cover. He called out a warning to Shannon who turned and saw Josh approaching. She fired, but the shot went wide and she ran for cover.

Josh tried to find who had warned her, but couldn't see Alan. He ducked behind the watering trough and began to fire on Healey and the others from his new position. As he crouched there, he thought on the redheaded songbird. He had been pleasantly surprised to see her dressed as a man, firing a gun. It made her all the more alluring.

Shannon rushed over to Eric, dodging bullets. She joined him behind the wagon. "It's Josh. He's behind the water trough."

If Eric was surprised to see her, he didn't show it. "How did that happen?" Shannon explained. "Where's Alan now?"

"Out there somewhere."

Alan could see from his hiding place that Ryan had the others pinned down to the point where he couldn't see them to shoot, and they weren't about to reveal themselves. Alan turned and fired at them, killing some and scattering the rest. Ryan slowly picked them off.

With the others dead or wounded, Josh and Nat knew they had to make their final stand. They faced Healey, Gil, Eric, Shannon, and the deputy and tried to brave it out. "You make a good show, Healey. You just made the sides more even: 5 to 2."

"You mean 7 to 2, don't you, Garvey," said Ryan as he and Alan walked up.

Nat turned and saw himself--almost. He then noticed Alan and saw the similarities to Josh. He then remembered stories his old grandmother had told him about doppelgangers--ghost-like doubles that were warnings of imminent danger or even death. He threw away his gun.

"Nat, what're you doing? Pick up that gun," said Josh without turning around.

" 'Member Gran's stories?'

"C'mon, y' don't mean y' believe that stuff? That's just a bunch o' old wives' tales." He looked at Healey who was looking past him. "What're y' lookin' at?"

"You'd better turn around, Josh, slowly."

Josh did so and faced a rifle and a six-shooter, each held by a determined man. His eyes moved from the guns to the faces and a gasp of amazement escaped his mouth. They did look like him and Nat. He almost believed until they spoke.

"You're surrounded, Josh. If I were you, I'd follow your brother's lead."

"You almost had me fooled," he said facing Healey. "Dress two guys up like me 'n' Nat to scare us. The thing is, doppelgangers ain't supposed t' talk." He turned his attention back to Alan. "Let's just see how tough y' are with some lead in y'."

He and Alan fired almost simultaneously. Josh fell to the ground, blood spreading slowly across his chest. Nat looked at Alan, amazed at his speed and accuracy. He went and knelt by his brother.

Healey shook his head and smiled. "I had to see it to believe it. The last person I saw shoot that fast was Hickock in his prime. How come I haven't head of you before?"

"I don't like using it unless I have to," said Alan, replacing the gun in its holster.

"What's going to happen to Nat?" asked Shannon.

Healey looked at Nat who was holding his brother's hand. "I'm not sure. He hasn't killed anyone, just disturbed the peace. I might just lock him up for a few days."

"Alan, watch out!" called Eric.

"Josh, no!" cried Nat.

Alan whipped around and drew his revolver, but a shot had already been fired and Josh collapsed one last time. Alan turned to see Hanrahan still holding his gun. "Thanks."

"I did it for Healey, not you," he said. "We," he motioned to the rest of the townsfolk who followed him, "talked and decided that Healey was right."

"Better late than never," said Healey as he walked over to Josh's body. "Let's take care of him."

Eric moved forward and reverently picked him up under his arms. Gil gently picked up his legs and together they carried his body to the undertaker's. The deputy escorted Nat so he could see to his brother's possessions.

"You amaze me, Miss Flynn. You're good lookin, you sing like a bird, and you shoot like a professional," remarked Healey.

"Ireland's had more than her fair share of troubles, marshal." She looked at Ryan and Alan before heading back to the hotel.

"I'd hate to be on the wrong side of that temper," Hanrahan said as he watched her go.

Ryan looked at Alan and smiled because he had been on the receiving end of her temper. "Is anybody else hungry? A gunfight always gives me an appetite."

Alan slapped him on the back. "Sounds like a good idea to me. Care to join us, marshal?"

"I'll meet you there. I want to make sure that Nat's been seen to." He nodded and left.

"What about you, Hanrahan? Care to join us in a meal and maybe a drink?"

"Don't mind if I do. They'd better not make us pay after what we just did." He started for the hotel, the two brothers following.

"As if he did a whole lot," murmured Ryan. "He only killed one guy."

"It was the leader."

"Only after you wounded him."

"Yeah, well, I don't want to upset him again."

They went into the hotel restaurant and sat down at a table with Hanrahan. The waiter rushed over and told them that whatever they wanted would be on the house. Alan thanked him and ordered a steak medium-rare and a beer. Ryan ordered the same and Hanrahan had his steak well done.

They finished as Gil and Eric came in. "What are you guys doing in here? We were waiting for you at the saloon," said Eric.

"We were hungry," answered Ryan. " 'Sides, we didn't know how long you'd be."

"We're done now," said Alan, pushing away his plate. "Sounds like a good idea." He looked at Hanrahan. "Maybe we can play some cards."

The mood in the saloon was one of celebration. Drinks were flowing, music was playing, and girls were dancing. Ross greeted them loudly and told them their money was no good. The drinks were on the house.

Hanrahan grabbed a table and a deck of cards. Eric, Gil, Ryan, and Alan joined him. "To prevent any accusations, I suggest we all roll up our sleeves," said Gil as he did so.

"Sounds like a good idea to me," agreed Eric.

The five sat down and began to play. They attracted a crowd because most were surprised to see Alan and Eric playing with Hanrahan after accusing him of cheating. Shannon entered the saloon in a fresh blue gown and saw the group standing around a table. She went over to Ross and asked what was going on.

"Miss Flynn, are you feeling any better? We were all sorry to hear you were ill." Shannon had almost forgotten her little white lie. She assured him she was fine. "The Kelly brothers, Mr. Connor, and that gambler fella are playin' poker with Hanrahan."

She pushed her way through the crowd until she stood behind Gil. She saw that Hanrahan had most of the money while Alan's pile was dwindling. "What's going on?" she hissed.

"I'm not exactly sure," whispered Gil. "Alan just told us to play the height of our hands. I think he's got something planned."


Soon Alan was down to almost nothing. He was desperate. "C'mon, you've got to give me a chance to win back my money."

"You asked to play," said Hanrahan. The fact that he had won so much without cheating had surprised him.

"He does deserve a chance," said Shannon. "At least let him try to win back his own."

The crowd backed Alan's request and Hanrahan gave in. "How do you plan on doing this?" he asked.

"Deal out 25 cards and I bet I can make five pat poker hands."

Hanrahan laughed. "You can't be serious! If that's the case, I'll double the amount."

"So no questions will be raised, we'll have a neutral party deal out the cards." Alan looked around and spotted Shannon. "Miss Flynn, would you care to do the honors?"

She stepped forward. "What do you want me to do?"

He handed her the deck. "Shuffle them for as long as you want, then lay them out face-up, five rows of five."

When she was done, Alan looked at the cards for a few moments before starting to rearrange them. Hanrahan looked on as Alan deftly moved the cards. When the hands were to his satisfaction, he stopped. "Okay, all done."

The others gathered around the table and looked at the cards. One row showed a flush, another, two pair, the third, a full house, and the last two were three of a kind. "Looks to me like Mr. Kelly won the bet," said Ross.

"How?" Hanrahan was at a loss.

"As you all saw, I passed the cards to Miss Flynn who shuffled and dealt them out. I could not have planned this with her since she arrived after our game started," said Alan calmly to defend himself.

Hanrahan slowly began to laugh. "You knew this was going to work, didn't you?"

"Nine out of ten times," said Alan with a smile.

"And you didn't really have all those bad hands."

"Did I let you win? Yes. I wanted to get back at you."

"And you did. Maybe I could use it sometime." He handed over the money and went to the bar.

Alan counted the money and stuffed it in his pocket. "You were stringing him along in the game just so you could get him?" asked Ryan. "Man, you are devious."

"Runs in the family."

"What do we do now?" asked Gil. "Hang around while we're heroes, or move on?"

"I kinda like this place," said Eric.

"I think we should stay for the funeral," said Shannon.

"The man tried to kill you!" said Gil. "How could you want to go to his funeral?"

"Nat is going to be there alone and might need someone. If you don't want to, I'll go myself."

"Okay, we'll go. When are they going to do it?" asked Alan.

"I don't know. We'll have to check with Healey."

They walked out of the saloon and headed for the jail. They saw Nat in a cell eating a meal sent over from the hotel. Healey looked up from his desk. "Thought you'd be at the saloon."

"We were," answered Eric. "We just thought we'd stay on for the burial."

Nat spoke up. "Why would you want to? It's because of you he's dead."

"We didn't want to kill him. The marshal gave you every chance to turn away. It was his choice," said Ryan.

"I tried to talk him out of it but he wouldn't listen."

Healey pulled Alan aside. "We're gonna bury Josh t'morrow. Are you sure your goin' is such a good idea?"

"As I wasn't the one who fired the killing shot, I think it would be a good idea."

They turned to the door as they heard a horse gallop through the street and stop outside. Thinking it was someone out to get revenge, Alan shoved back his jacket, showing his holster. The man opened the door. He was dressed in black and Alan placed him in his thirties. The man, upon seeing someone next to the marshal with a gun, reached for his own. Alan drew and fired, forcing the man to drop his revolver. "Virgil sent me as soon as he got word," said the man, shaking his hand to relieve the sting. "Looks like I got here just in time."

Healey put a restraining hand on Alan. "You're too late, actually. Thanks to these good people, the Garvey gang is finished. That's Nat Garvey in the cell."

"I thought I saw evidence of a gunfight." He looked at Alan. "You sure are quick. Ever think of law enforcement?"

"Don't like the hours," Alan remarked.

"If you ever change your mind, come down to Tombstone. My brother Virgil's the marshal. We can always use a good gun." He held out his hand. "Name's Wyatt Earp."

"Alan Kelly." They shook hands. Alan couldn't believe Wyatt Earp himself had just offered him a job!

"C'mon over to the saloon, Wyatt," said Healey. "You must be parched after your ride. We'll tell you all about it."

17. Time Shall Unfold


SPN Dean Writing

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