Summary: While Ben enjoys a night out, his boys unwittingly let him in on their less than noble plans.
Rated: Family Friendly / Word count: 1159
Ben Cartwright entered the brightly decorated town hall, his disguise keeping him from being immediately recognized. He hadn’t originally planned on attending Virginia City’s Halloween party. Jimmy O’Donnell hosted the annual party and had been disappointed to learn he would not be able to make it, but Ben was just getting over a bad cold and Doc Martin had advised him to stay at home in front of his fireplace. Ben huffed as he remembered the doctor’s words.
“Drink some nice hot tea and relax. That’s my advice to you.”
Like any Cartwright Ben hated being sick, and he hated to miss a social event even more. After a while the idea had come to him that if he dressed very warmly and took it easy it might be okay to attend, at least for a little while.
Now as he stepped into the large, brightly decorated room he was glad he had come. He was feeling a bit stiff from his ride, but his fever had stayed down, and he was ready for a drink. He chuckled to himself over his unique costume.
“No Sir, Ben Cartwright. No one will even know you’ve been here,” he said to himself.
In an effort to hide all of his extra clothing he had donned the biggest garment he had; which was an old black cloak, leftover from his army days. He found an old sack to cover his head and used shoe black to make it match the cloak then, after adding a few touches here and there, he stepped back, pleased with the final outcome. Just before he left the barn with his horse he had grabbed an old scythe to complete his ensemble.
“Well, I don’t think I have to worry about getting anyone else sick. I don’t think anyone will want to come near the grim reaper.” He laughed once again at his cleverness and headed over to the punch table. He shivered as he looked at the cold red liquid swimming in a sea of ice and opted for some hot apple cider instead. He sipped the warm beverage slowly and was just about to move off when he recognized Adam’s voice moving toward him.
“My father doesn’t know anything about it,” twenty-two year old Adam whispered to a young girl. “After I take the boys home tonight, I’ll come back out and meet you by the lake. Those caves I was telling you about are supposed to be full of hidden treasures.”
The girl giggled as the couple continued to make their way toward him.
“Excuse me,” Adam said as he brushed past Ben. Ben watched, outraged as the twosome moved off to a nearby corner to continue their talk of secret adventure. He was furious, but managed to hold his temper in check for the moment. “I’ve told Adam a dozen times to stay away from those old caves, and if he thinks he’s going to sneak off in the middle of the night, with a young woman no less, he’s got another thing coming.”
Ben continued to sip his cider until his nerves had settled somewhat. It was then that he noticed sixteen-year old Hoss talking to one of his friends. Hoss having just recently finished school, seldom had an opportunity to see his school chums anymore and Ben was glad to see the boy enjoying himself. He was about to go over and say howdy, when an idea came to him. After what he’d just learned from listening to Adam’s conversation he opted for a little more eavesdropping.
“What do you mean you let Mr. Gregor’s horses go?” exclaimed Hoss’s friend in amazement.
“Shhh!” Hoss motioned for his friend to keep his voice down and, looking around quickly, he noticed the figure in black standing behind him and moved off a ways.
Ben had to strain to hear the rest of the conversation.
“He was gonna sell them to Mr. Eingle and you know how he is, he’d break the spirit right out of them horses.”
Hoss’s friend let out a low whistle as he shook his head solemnly. “What are you gonna tell your pa?”
“Nothing,” stated Hoss emphatically. “Adam always says what Pa don’t know won’t hurt me.”
“Boy you Cartwrights sure do like to take chances,” his friend answered in awe.
Ben walked away quickly to keep himself from skinning the boy alive on the spot.
“Of all the dumb. . .” Ben’s thoughts were boiling and, taking a deep breath, he stepped outside thinking maybe some fresh air would help to settle him down. The scene that greeted him, however, caused his heart to jump into his throat. Across the street at the local mercantile was a group of young boys in the process of defacing the building. They were throwing eggs and breaking windows. Ben immediately started marching ferociously down the street, for right in the thick of the gang of boys was ten-year old Joe Cartwright.
One of the boys spotted the frightening figure making its way swiftly down the street.
“Run!” Shouted Little Joe.
Ben stopped in defeat as the boys scattered in every direction and disappeared into the dark streets. He sighed and rubbed his now throbbing head. His throat once again was starting to ache and he decided to head home. He would deal with his three hoodlums later. For now bed was all he wanted.
Later that night the three Cartwright brothers entered boisterously into their home and stopped short at the sight before them. In the middle of room was a frighteningly familiar figure.
“What is that?” screamed Joe, as he ducked behind his brothers.
“Hey, didn’t we see that guy at the. . .” Hoss swallowed hard and looked to his older brother.
Ben had left his costume hanging up where he was sure they boys would see it.
“Does anyone know who the guy dressed as the grim reaper tonight was?” Adam asked hoping the answer was anything other than what he was thinking.
He grimaced when both his brothers shook their heads.
“Hey, is that a note?” asked Little Joe, pointing at the figure.
Adam stepped forward and grabbed the note, then read it aloud to his brothers.
Go straight to bed!
See you at breakfast!
It was three very solemn figures that made their way up the stairs to their separate bedrooms.
Down the hall Ben listened to make sure he heard three doors close. Then sighing softly rolled over and fell fast asleep.
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