This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the
Lonesome Dove television show,
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The character Clive Bennett is from the television series Bordertown. Songs mentioned are from the plays "Oklahoma" and "Paint Your Wagon". The parody of "They Call The Wind Maria" was suggested by Mary Jean Holmes of Milwaukee.
Sunday in the Country with Clay
Clay Mosby paused at the foot of the staircase in the Ambrosia Club, scanning the faces around the bar where Luther Root was telling another of his outrageous tales. This one was about some kind of staged fight where the participants all earned lots of money as long as they wore strange clothes and used fake names, all as a form of entertainment. Only the drunkest among his audience were willing to believe the story, with a certain amount of justification as far as Clay was concerned. There were times when he wished for the old Luther, the one who didn't talk quite so much.
His roving gaze came to a halt at the piano. How was it, he mused, that a town as totally lacking in culture as Curtis Wells could produce so many men who could play piano? Admittedly, most of them had very limited repertoires that certainly didn't include Chopin or Liszt, but since there were few people in town who had even heard of those two composers, it didn't matter very much. Anyway, it seemed that every time someone was playing the piano in the club, it was a different person, and he couldn't keep track of them all. Hiring the piano players was part of Carson's job, and Clay had long ago stopped even trying to remember all their faces. Their names were duly listed on the ever-growing Mosby payroll, but he could only put faces to perhaps half the names on that particular list.
Suddenly, the air of the saloon felt stifling. It was midday, and after the inevitable morning rain, the perverse Montana sun had come out and everything was steaming. Clay pushed his way through the crowd that was still listening to Luther's ridiculous story. He caught Carson's eye just long enough to nod toward the door to indicate that he was going out for awhile, leaving the bartender in charge of things. Then he was out the door and heading toward the livery stable, through the town's infamous mud that he was really getting tired of.
It took only a short time to saddle his horse, and then Clay rode out of the little town he'd once hoped to turn into a new Atlanta. Unfortunately, like Rome, this Atlanta was refusing to be built in a day, or even several years. The somewhat squalid remnants of Sweetwater may have increased the size of Curtis Wells, however they had come to be there, but they hadn't done much to improve the appearance or cultural atmosphere.
Normally, Clay didn't mind being in town. In fact, if truth be told, he preferred it, but sometimes even he felt imprisoned in Curtis Wells, and at those times the only thing that helped was to take a good long ride in the country, alone. Usually, there was less mud outside town, the air was considerably fresher, and he could escape the constant pressure of his position. He wasn't dressed for riding today, since he hadn't bothered to change from his fancy suit into plainer garb, but that scarcely mattered. He knew he could get a good rate at the Chinese laundry, both for cleaning and mending, and the rate charged had nothing to do with his powerful position. The simple fact was that he brought them more business than the rest of Curtis Wells put together, with the probable exception of Amanda over at the hotel, so Lin Su gave him a sizeable discount.
He had no particular destination in mind, so he gave the horse its head and reveled in the quiet solitude of the countryside. No Austin towering over him trying to look and act like a real sheriff. No Josiah quoting Biblical phrases or other metaphysical nonsense while downing yet another bottle of whiskey (half the supercilious mayor's salary was paid in liquor). No Amanda putting off his polite requests for her tax payment by displaying her ample assets as a diversion and then rapidly disappearing. No complaints about the well, which had gone bad so suddenly several weeks back, then just as suddenly was back to normal, and ever since had repeated this pattern every other week or so - where was OSHA when you needed it? Best of all, though, there was no Call whining about the terrible things Clay was doing to the town. If Call was so certain Mosby was destroying Curtis Wells, why didn't he get off his bench and do something more constructive? No, that wasn't a particularly bright thought. If he was ever stupid enough to say that outright, Newt might actually take him up on it, and take the badge away from Austin, which would undoubtedly interfere with a lot of Mosby's plans.
As though thinking about the man was the same thing as shouting his name, at that very instant a horse appeared, running wildly in the general direction of town. It was Call's horse, of course, only there was no sign of Call. Mosby's horse spotted its companion from the livery stable and whinnied, and the mare galloped up the hill and stopped just as Clay dismounted. He had never been able to figure out why this animal had such a bad reputation. The Hellbitch always came right up to him, and didn't seem to mind his attentions at all. (Of course, all those apples he'd given the horse when Call wasn't around probably had a lot to do with it. If he couldn't bribe the man, at least he could console himself by corrupting Newt's horse.)
The mare was lathered and breathing heavily. She immediately put her head down, nudging toward his pocket in obvious hope of finding an apple, but Clay hadn't intended meeting her this way, and didn't have anything for her. He made much of her, though, giving her some water, rubbing her nose and patting her neck. Having already sold what little virtue she had for apples, the Hellbitch wasn't averse to accepting his extravagant praise, although Clay's horse rolled its eyes in criticism, and nibbled Clay's neck, trying to remind him that his primary responsibility was to his own gelding, not to this common stable-boy's crazy mare, with her bad reputation and lack of loyalty. It was one thing for the two horses to be friends when they were left in the stable together, but the idea of one of them stealing away the attentions, not to mention the food budget, of the other's rider was another thing altogether.
Once he had the Hellbitch calmed down, and dried off a bit, Clay found himself faced with a dilemma: should he completely ruin his impromptu day in the country by looking for Call, who wouldn't thank him for it, or should he just let the mare tag along for awhile and then take her back to town and let Luther and Unbob go look for the bounty hunter? Finally, with a heavy sigh, he remounted, took the Hellbitch's reins, and began to ride her backtrail. He DID owe Hannah, after all, and even if Newt was a nuisancy pest, he was Clay's nuisancy pest, so it was Clay's duty to find the misbegotten simpleton, who'd probably gotten shot by one of the wanted men he was trying to hunt down.
At least it was turning into a lovely day for a ride. Clay found himself overtaken by a tremendous urge to sing. "There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow.…" No, that wasn’t right – wrong territory, wrong time period, wrong everything. Well, he DID have naturally curly hair, which would have spared him the need for a permanent, but still! Francis was bad enough, but Curly? Oklahoma, indeed!
Try again. "Away out here they’ve got a name / For rain and wind and fire." Yes, and what were those names? Oh, hell. "The rain is rain, the wind is wind, and they call the fire, fire." Even the horses could tell that wasn’t right. So much for singing.
He hadn't gotten much further when three men rode up. He eyed them carefully, and decided that they were vaguely familiar. This meant that they'd probably been extras during the first season, with no dialogue. The minute the leader spoke up, making Mosby wince with his strange version of a fake Wisconsin accent, Clay knew why the man hadn't been given lines before. He shouldn't have been given any now! "That's our horse you got there, mister." The generic villain said, placing one hand on his gun in what was probably supposed to be a threat.
"I have to differ with you, sir," Clay said airily. "I happen to know exactly who this mare belongs to, and you're big enough to make three of him. Well, at least two and a half."
"Brother bought the horse off your friend, few miles back." Another of the generics whined, in a completely different - and completely unidentifiable - accent.
The writers hadn't even bothered to give the villains names this time? Clay shook his head in disbelief. "He's not my friend, but I do know Call would never sell this animal. None of you could ride her anyway. So, why don't you just tell me where you left him, and be on your way. I think they've just put out a castin' call for somethin' new called La Femme Nikita. If you hurry, well, there's no accountin' for taste, so you might actually get hired." He urged his horse forward, still holding onto the reins of Call's mare.
One of the villains pulled his gun. "Can't let you do that, mister. My agent says I'm not right for that show. 'Sides, it won't start filmin' for a while yet. This is just a short appearance. Might as well work long enough to get paid, before hittin' the calls again."
Clay really wasn't in the mood for this, and decided to put a quick end to things. "Look, boys, you know you can't win. You're only here for part of one episode. I'm here for the whole season. So, who do you think is more likely to survive this encounter?"
"Don't mean nothin'," the first villain spoke up again. "We been hired to do this, and we aim to do it. We want that there horse, and we ain't gonna tell you where your friend is at."
Irritated, Mosby snapped back at him. "I told you, he isn't my friend. You try anythin' with me now, and I'll see to it you get hired as background extras for some other episode. I know; one of you can get beat up and kicked by one of Twyla's whores, Luther can throw another of you into the street right after we've had five straight days of rain, and oh, let's see. You there in the back, yeah, you, the little guy without any lines - I'll let you have some dialogue. You can be locked up in jail, and you'll insult Josiah, so Austin has an excuse to beat you up. Now, are you gonna let me through, or do I start pullin' strings with the front office?"
The three supposed brothers - who looked about as much like brothers as Austin looked like Josiah - exchanged nervous glances, and then galloped off without another word. "They sure don't make villains like they used to," Clay muttered to himself. He would probably have to spend an unpleasant hour or three in the producer's office, but it was worth it to avoid getting this suit torn. Besides, he'd already read the next couple of scripts, and there wasn't anything about him getting killed by three strange brothers. So what could they do to him? It wasn't like Mosby was a candidate for getting worked over or seriously hurt or anything outrageous like that. Okay, so maybe he'd have to exchange a few blows with Call, but certainly that was the worst they could do to him.
Speaking of Call, it was time to get back on the trail. The Hellbitch had really been kicking up the sod on her mad dash in the general direction of Curtis Wells, so her trail was easy to follow. Mosby wasn't the tracker Call and Luther were, but he didn't need to be. The ground wasn't frozen solid like it was the other time he'd encountered this horse running around without her rider, and there wouldn't be any snow coming to hide what trail there was. Still, there were enough echoes to make him feel a little uncomfortable about the situation, and he made a promise to himself to have a long discussion with the writers just as soon as he could. This was really too much, although he would at least have the pleasure of discomfiting Call by coming to his aid.
An hour later, Mosby pulled up and stopped on the crest of yet another small rise. There was a rider coming toward him, and Clay had to shake his head hard and take another look before he could believe what he was seeing. What in tarnation was a Mountie doing out here?
The red-uniformed man came up the hill to meet him. He was strongly built, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a pleasant manner. Just now, he looked a little scruffy around the edges, like he'd been out in the country a bit too long, but he at least seemed willing to keep himself moderately clean, which was a distinct improvement over most of the residents of Curtis Wells. "I'm Corporal Clive Bennett, Northwest Mounted Police," he introduced himself.
"Francis Clay Mosby," Clay responded, taking the hand that was offered and shaking it firmly. "You're a trifle far from home, aren't you, Corporal?"
"To tell you the truth, I don't really know. I seem to be lost. I was supposed to be going to Fort Macleod, but I certainly should have gotten there by now."
"Let me guess. Your town moves around a bit," Clay drawled.
"Actually, no, Bordertown stays pretty much where it's supposed to be. It's Fort Macleod that gets lost from time to time. They can't quite decide just how far away from Bordertown the fort really is."
"Bordertown!" Clay exclaimed. "Hell, you have been ridin' a long time, haven't you? Nobody ever got word to you that your show's been cancelled?"
"Cancelled? Well, I guess that figures. Jack couldn't possibly hold things together without me. But I still don't know where I am. I thought someone would miss me eventually and come looking, but that doesn't seem very likely now. Just where are we, anyway?"
"We're supposed to be in Montana, but don't ask me to point out the exact spot on the map." Clay thought for a minute, and then the answer came to him, fortunately without the cliched bolt of lightning that would have meant more rain - and more mud - on the horizon. "Wait a minute, did you get your directions from a character, or someone on the production staff?"
"It's a little hard to remember, it's been so long, but...." The Mountie's voice trailed off as he tried to recall who he'd gotten his instructions from. "That's right, now I remember. I couldn't make any sense out of the directions in the script, so I ended up asking someone on the crew."
"That explains it. Whoever it was gave you the directions to the real Fort Macleod, but since you weren't starting from a real place, you ended up in the wrong part of Alberta."
"I thought this was supposed to be Montana." Bennett said, looking more puzzled than ever.
"It is, but since it's less expensive to do things in Canada, we have to make do with Alberta, whether the geography's accurate or not. Hey, it means a lot of work for Canadian actors, and Alberta’s certainly every bit as beautiful as Montana. You know, I think what you're gonna have to do is find your way off-camera, and talk to our production people. Who knows, they might even find a new job for you," Clay explained.
"It would be nice to get a real paycheck again. I was so desperate for awhile there that I hung up my uniform and took a job helping some tall blonde woman with the acting ability of a squash fight someone who was supposed to be from another planet." Bennett grimaced at the memory. "I had to find some way to pay for the horse's feed."
"Sounds familiar," Clay remarked drily. "Every now and again, I have nightmares about havin' to take jobs like that. You know, cheap direct-to-video thrillers or bad sitcoms that only last a few eppies at best. Depressin', isn't it?"
"You said it! Well, I think I'll do just what you suggested. Your people should at least be able to take the horse off my hands, and as long as I've been cancelled, I can really start looking for a decent job. So long, Mr. Mosby, and thanks for the help."
With that, the Mountie rode off, soon disappearing from sight. Clay sighed deeply, shook his head, and went back to following Call's backtrail. What a terrible hand to get dealt: you ride off, following what are supposed to be the right directions, and while you're getting lost because someone didn't do their research, they cancel your show. He decided that after he found Call and got back to Curtis Wells, he'd be real careful about doing any more aimless rambling about the countryside.
Now wait a minute. Weren’t these the same hills he’d ridden by an hour ago? He knew the producers figured the audience wouldn’t notice, but Clay was getting a little tired of the constant déjà vu’ caused by riding through the exact same terrain several times in the same story. He was even getting the urge to sing again, but the only song that came to mind was "Dixie", and that just wasn’t any fun without Shelby. What was it happened to Robert again? Oh that’s right, he just drove off into the horizon in Clay’s wagon, and was never seen or heard from again. Wasn’t that just like best friends, now!
It wasn't much more than fifteen minutes later that Mosby found Newt Call. The bounty hunter was sprawled out on the trail, motionless, with what appeared to be a bullet crease across his forehead. Clay dismounted to check for a pulse, and was only a little disappointed to find one. Then, he looked around for some kind of shelter. He wanted to get Call settled somewhere a little less open, so he could once again demonstrate those mysterious medical skills he'd somehow managed to acquire, and determine just how bad the head injury was.
Fortunately, just ahead and through some trees, Mosby spotted what appeared to be one of Montana's infamous abandoned shacks. He bent over to grab Call by the shoulders, and began dragging him through the trees, belatedly remembering that he should have checked for things like broken ribs before he moved his "patient". Oh, well, such was life. His own horse followed him, just like he usually did if he wasn't tethered properly, and Clay hoped that the Hellbitch would decide to come along as well, still looking for that apple she was convinced he was hiding from her.
As soon as Mosby got Call settled in the shack, he went back out to secure the horses. Call's mare had eventually followed, reluctantly, but only after the other horse had called her a few equine equivalents of "idiot". Clay also wanted both Call's canteen and his own, and, as an afterthought, he grabbed his rifle too. Nothing was going quite as he figured today, and it was better to be forearmed even before you were forewarned.
Mosby had finished cleaning out the deep cut on Call's forehead, and was rigging a bandage out of one of his handkerchiefs and a strip of cloth from Call's already ragged shirt, when Newt came to. The younger man jerked away, putting a shaky hand to his forehead as he realized that sudden movement wasn't exactly smart, and the two sat on the dirt floor of the shack, looking at each other.
"Where'd you come from?" Call finally asked. "How do I know it wasn't you shot me?"
"I was just out ridin', and what should appear but your mare, tryin' to figure out where Curtis Wells was today. I followed your backtrail, found you out there, and dragged you in here. I guess that covers it."
"Don't explain it none."
Clay grinned arrogantly. "I had to come after you, Call. I'm the hero now, remember?"
"Oh, no you ain't!" Newt exclaimed.
"Well, you certainly aren't," was Clay's quick rejoinder. "Last season, yes, but not anymore. You used to be the hero, and I was the antihero. This year, we switched places."
"That ain't so. We didn't switch. The show got darker and grittier, so there ain't no hero, I'm the antihero, and you're the villain."
"I am not a villain! There are perfectly good psychological reasons for my behavior, so even when I'm bad, I'm good," Mosby replied.
"You're nothin' but a well-dressed skunk. Ain't no two ways about it, you're the villain. For my money, you always been the bad guy. Chasin' after my wife like that sure didn't make you no hero."
"That was when I was the antihero, and it was an obsession, with a valid rationale behind it," Clay said firmly, determined to defend himself against such uncalled-for abuse.
"You would say somethin' like that," Call said. "And I'm warnin' you, you stay away from Mattie."
"I don't recall seein' any ring on her finger, Mr. Call. I figure she's still free and available. Haven't exactly seen you or anybody else courtin' her."
"Everybody knows she's supposed to end up with me. That's why the writers brought her to Curtis Wells, so she'd fall in love with me, and I'd have to protect her from the villain. You."
"I think they've changed their minds about that storyline." Clay put up one hand just as Call opened his mouth to continue the argument. "This isn't gettin' us anywhere. I think we'd best leave the debate in the eager hands of the faithful people on the Lonesome Dove list, don't you agree?"
"I guess it is kinda up to the fans to decide which one of us they favor," Call agreed. Now that he'd been awake and sitting up for a bit, his head was starting to clear, and he looked around the shack. "I remember this place from somewheres."
"It's just your standard abandoned shack, good for hidin' in plain sight. I guess if you've seen one abandoned shack in Montana, you've seen them all," his companion said.
Just then there was a rifle shot from outside the shack, and a voice yelled out, "Hey! You in the cabin! It's showdown time!"
It was the bad Wisconsin accent again, and Clay winced as he recognized it. "I thought we'd already settled this," he shouted back.
"We decided we wanted to get paid. And if you gets us other jobs, it don't much matter how we get treated, 'cause it's still another paycheck. The stuntmen’l prob’ly take the falls anyway. 'Course, you gotta know the suits in the office ain't real fond of you right now."
"They'll survive," Mosby muttered.
"Who is that guy? Is he alone?" Call asked him.
"No, there are a couple others. You mean you really don't know? They're the ones who shot you, don't you remember? Tryin' to steal your horse, I reckon."
"Never saw nobody. All I know is somebody gave me a hell of a headache. Can't quite place that accent neither." Call looked puzzled, and a little ticked off.
"Trust me, it isn't worth tryin'. I don't think that accent exists anywhere in the known world."
Before Call could even begin to respond to that comment, the generic bad guys began shooting at the shack. Temporarily allied by circumstance, Clay and Newt both fell flat on the ground, covering their heads as bullets and pieces of cheap wood flew around them. As soon as the noise let up, indicating that the villains were out of ammunition, they moved to where they could both look outside.
The three generics were huddled behind saplings at the edge of the clearing, seemingly unaware that they were all too visible, and ignoring the logs conveniently laid on the ground behind them to provide more substantial cover to anyone attacking the shack. Mosby and Call exchanged glances, shrugged, and pulled out their own weapons. Within a few shots, the bad guys had figured out their vulnerability, and ran for better cover. While they were scrambling about, their two targets slipped out the unwatched back way, separating to go around opposite sides of the shack.
Call got the first kill, the little guy who never said anything, when he made the fatal error of running from behind a solid tree trunk toward thicker woods. For a few more minutes, the bounty hunter and Mosby continued to exchange fire with the other two bad guys, finally disabling the one with the totally unidentifiable accent. Then, as Mosby's eyes widened in wonder, the last villain stepped out into the open, slowly and painstakingly cocking his gun and aiming directly at the gambler. Mosby grinned at the man's naivete, lifted his own pistol, and shot him twice.
Call went to check on the other wounded man as Mosby approached the one he'd just shot. The guy looked up at him with a bewildered look on his broad face. "That ain't fair!" He managed to croak out a few words, obviously the last lines he would ever have on this show. "I counted, and your gun was empty."
Clay shook his head. "I bribed the film editor. Always good for an extra shot or three."
The generic recognized his cue, and died. Call joined Mosby, telling him that the other man had slipped off into the woods. "Suppose we should be gettin' on back to town."
"That would seem like a good idea, as long as you think you're up to ridin'." Mosby turned away from the man he'd just killed and prudently began reloading his pistol.
"If I'm up to arguin' with you and killin' people, I reckon I can manage to ride. Only question is, which trail do we take?" Call was also busy reloading.
"I figure Curtis Wells is probably about seven hours due south of here."
"Yeah? I think it's more like a day's ride to the west, myself. That's the trail I took to get out here," Call argued.
"You could be right. Of course, the town could also be three hours toward the east. But I believe our best bet would be to go north." Mosby reached the horses that had patiently waited for the shooting to stop, and he mounted. As usual, someone off-camera had picked up his canteen and rifle and put them back in their rightful places.
"How's that?" Call pulled himself into the saddle, swaying a little; after all, he had been shot only a few hours earlier. Mosby studied him, with his head cocked slightly and his dark eyebrows drawn together.
"You need the curin' atmosphere of my pleasant little town, it would appear. I figure you'll recover pretty fast once you're back, like you never got shot at all, just like Mattie. And since we're comin' to the end of the story, and don't want to make the fans angry by leavin' them with another bad cliffhanger, I think it's best to take the shortest path. We can be in Curtis Wells in less than an hour if we head north." He turned his horse in the indicated direction, and started off at an easy canter.
Call thought for a few seconds, realized that whether he liked it or not, Mosby was right, and directed the Hellbitch to follow. His head hurt, and he was getting tired. "Don't go thinkin' this clears your debt, Mosby," he growled.
"'Course not. They'd run out of stories in an awful hurry, and I like gettin' paid to wear neat suits, shoot people, cavort with women of ill repute, and ride horses. I only wish this could go on forever."
NEXT: Watch for the sequel, MONDAY IN CURTIS WELLS WITH A HANGOVER, soon to be posted to your favorite site - NOT!
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