Summary: Post show story. While on a trip to Abilene, Texas, Joe’s son goes missing.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Abilene, Texas, 1885
“I swear, when I get my hands on that boy I’m gonna kill him. I told him to do one thing, one thing: stay on the boardwalk outside the store until we got back, and what does he do? Wander off! Why did I even think of bringing him with us in the first place? It was a terrible idea, and—will you stop laughing, please? This isn’t funny.”
Adam wiped a mirthful tear from his eye, still chuckling. “It kind of is.”
“No, it isn’t.” Joe glared at his older brother.
“Oh, come on, of course it’s funny,” Adam clapped a hand on his sibling’s shoulder. “After all, you did much the same to pa on more occasions than I can count. It’s about time you got a taste of what raising a child just like you is like.”
“I thought if I named him after Hoss, I might be able to avoid the whole ‘parental curse’; besides, I wasn’t that bad.” he said.
Adam raised an eyebrow. “Fat chance. And no, you were worse. By the time you were five years old, pa’s hair was mostly grey due to your shenanigans.”
“It was not,” Joe scoffed. “Anyway, it’s not like you were a paragon of good behavior growing up. I’m sure some of those hairs were your fault.”
“Me? Compared to you I was a perfect angel. At any rate, you can’t say that Eric is the reason for that snowy mane of yours; it was already white before he was born.”
Joe jabbed an elbow into Adam’s ribs. “At least I have hair, baldy.”
The older Cartwright made a face and tugged his stetson further down on his head. “You’d better pray the next one’s a girl, or you might start losing some of that mop. Anyways, I think we’re getting off topic here.”
“Oh really? So you can dish it out, but you can’t take it, huh?”
“Back to the matter at hand, where do you think he would go?”
Joe’s smile dimmed, and he felt panic rising up within him again. It wasn’t the first time Eric had wandered off before—nor even the tenth—,but those occasions had happened in Virginia City. He knew both the place and the people and wasn’t too irritated when his son slipped away from his side to visit Charlie at the livery stable, or to find out what new candy Mr. Petersen had in stock at the mercantile. But here…Joe didn’t know anyone. The town had a reputation for attracting the wrong sorts of people—it was why his wife had been so worried about letting him take the boy along. Now, there was a good possibility that her fears would come to pass. “Molly’s going to kill me,” he murmured, pulling his hat off to drag his fingers through his curls.
“Not if she doesn’t find out.” Adam said, gently.
Joe glanced sideways at him. “I hope you’re kidding, because I prefer breathing. I’ll be telling her all about this once we get home.”
“Before you get yourself all worked up, I may have an idea of where he went.” Adam said, pointing to a large sign that read:
“Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Pioneer Exhibition”
“If that doesn’t sound like something that would tempt an eight-year-old boy into wandering off, I don’t know what else would,” he added.
“Ah,” Joe cleared his throat. “Well, the boy’s horse-crazy—”
“Like father like son,” Adam muttered.
“—so it’s a good possibility that he’s there.”
“Not to mention you’ve always wanted to see one of those shows.”
Joe tried to look innocent, but the twinkle in his green eyes gave him away. “I don’t see any harm in checking it out; besides, we’re not leaving town until Thursday so we have the time. Come on, it’ll be fun!” Joe tugged on his arm, propelling him in the direction that most of the crowd was headed.
Adam shook his head, wryly. “And here I thought you’d grown up. Guess I was wrong.”
“Come on, sour-puss, or we’ll be late for the reenactment of the stagecoach chase.”
Tags: Adam Cartwright, brothers, Family, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright
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