Summary: A missing scene for the episode. What followed when Roy released Little Joe from jail.
Rating: K+ (1,130 words)
The Stranger – A Missing Scene
Roy Coffee turned the key in the big iron lock and finally opened the cell door. Then he got back out of the way as quickly as his somewhat elderly and increasingly portly frame would allow. Little Joe Cartwright came boiling out of cell as if all the hounds of hell were hot on his tail, straight into the arms of his waiting brothers. Adam grabbed him by one arm and Hoss by the other, almost pulling him off his feet as they halted his headlong rush.
“Let me go, will ya! Just let me go!”
Sheriff Coffee shook his head sadly. That youngest Cartwright boy sure had gotten himself worked up into a state, what with one thing and another. He hoped that his brothers could cool him down some before he dashed off and tried to do somethin’ real’ stupid: something Roy would have to lock him up for in earnest. At least the young man was off his hands for the moment. He watched with some degree of relief as the two older Cartwright boys hauled their brother, still kicking and screaming like the devil himself, out of Roy’s office and onto the sidewalk outside. The door banged shut behind them. He heard Joe’s voice getting fainter and fainter as Adam and Hoss frog-marched him away in the direction of the saloon.
The two older men, still holding on tightly to Joe by the arms, marched up to the bar in the Silver Dollar. Joe was still yelling, though it was hard to make out what he said. Adam clamped his free hand over Joe’s mouth and muffled the cries while Hoss made beckoning gestures to the shirt-sleeved man who tended the bar; “Hey, Charlie, give me three beers here, will ya?” Hoss threw some money down on the counter.
“Sure thing, Hoss.” Charlie poured out the beer, all the while eyeing Joe warily. “Is he all right?” he asked finally, as he picked up the coins. “He sure looks kinda red in the face.”
Joe chose that moment to bite Adam’s finger. Adam yelped and swore and snatched his hand away from Joe’s face. “He’ll be just fine,” Hoss said to Charlie. “Jist as soon as we c’n get him cooled off some.”
“There’s a horse trough outside for that sort of thing,” Charlie said casually over his shoulder as he retreated along the bar.
Sucking his finger, Adam looked thoughtfully towards the front of the saloon as if dunking his frenetic and out of control youngest brother in the sour-smelling water might really be an option he would consider.
“Let me go!” Joe bellowed at the top of his voice. “I gotta go after them! I gotta save my Pa’s life!”
Hoss and Adam exchanged long and meaningful glances over Little Joe’s head. “Just quieten down, short-shanks,” Hoss told him. “You ain’t goin’ no-place until you’ve listened to what we’ve got to say.”
Joe looked from one to the other. His eyes were wild, and the words hardly sank in. “I’m going after them! You know damn well that LeDuque fella ain’t aimin’ ta let Pa get out of the county alive, let alone all the way ta New Orleans!” He glared furiously at Adam. “This is all your idea! You want ta get Pa out o’ the way so you c’n run the ranch your way!”
Adam mouth tightened into a hard, straight line. He’d heard this sort of accusation before, and it wasn’t a thing he took kindly to. Hoss glared at Joe in reproach. “Hey, Joe, you know that ain’t fair. Adam’s got a plan ta get Pa away from that fella, but we need your help if it’s gonna work, and you gotta pay attention an’ listen.”
Joe’s breath hissed. He looked at Hoss and then at Adam’s stern face. Gradually he began to relax. “Is that right?”
Hoss nodded assurance. Joe stopped struggling. “All right! You can let me go.” He shrugged off the restraining hands.
Cautiously, Hoss let go of one arm while Adam, with rather less reluctance, released the other. He was getting heartily sick of Joe and his tantrums, and his own temper was starting to rise. “Let’s take our beer and go and sit down somewhere a little less noisy,” Hoss suggested, the soul of quiet reason.
The three Cartwright men lifted their glasses and carried them to a table with a view of the street. Charlie, the barman, watched them go. At least it looked as if that youngling had settled down some; he didn’t really want to call for the sheriff or use the scatter-gun that he kept down under the bar. The Cartwrights settled at the table over by the window and started drinking their beer – like model citizens all of a sudden. Charlie wondered what they were up to.
Joe still eyed Adam with suspicion. “Why’d you let them ride away like that? You knew that LeDuque means to shoot Pa just the first chance he gets!” His voice was rising again.
“Hush down, Joe,” Hoss told him anxiously. “I told ya, Adam here’s got a plan.”
Joe turned his bright eyes on Adam. “So, what is this great idea?”
Adam returned his gaze evenly and pulled a long breath; “I suggested to Pa that we might ride along after them and pretend to be outlaws and bust him loose, but he wouldn’t hear of it.”
“That sounds like Pa,” Hoss agreed, sipping his beer and licking his lips in appreciation. “A real stickler for law an’ order, even if it costs him his life.”
Joe looked at him in renewed alarm. “So what I suggest is this,” Adam went on, speaking calmly. He leaned over the table, and three Cartwright heads got close together with an air of conspiracy. “That we all dress up as Indians, and we ride in on their camp, early tomorrow morning. We shoot off a few shots to make it look good, and run off their horses. If LeDuque has to walk a ways on that bad leg of his, I reckon our Pa’ll soon find a way to get the better of him.”
Little Joe thought about it. It wasn’t really such a bad idea, and it was sure a whole lot better than sitting around on his butt waiting to turn into an orphan. A slow smile spread over his face. Hoss was already beaming. “Hey, Adam, that’s a real good idea!
Adam looked from one brother to the other. “Drink up your beer. And then we’ll ride out to the Piaute encampment and borrow some Indian gear, and perhaps a little help.
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