Summary: Written in response to the October chaps and spurs challenge, in honour of Mike Landon’s birthday. Joe stays in town, after the Halloween dance, to enjoy a game of poker with his friends, but soon wishes he had gone home with his brothers
Rated: K+ (1,960 words)
All Hallow’s Eve
It was really cold when they came out into the dark street. Adam and Hoss were ready to go home, but Joe had other ideas.
“The dance is all but over now, Joe, so what else is there to stay in town, for?” asked Adam. “And just because we’ve been out late tonight, Pa won’t let us sleep in, tomorrow, you know. Monday morning will come round just as fast as it always does; regardless of what time you go to bed.”
“I know that, Adam, but Seth and some other guys have a poker game going on in the back room at the Silver Dollar, and I’m feeling lucky,” said Joe.
“Well, that ain’t surprisin’, considerin’ ya spent the evenin’ with the best lookin’ gal at the dance,” said Hoss.
“Don’t I always get the best girl?” replied Joe, smugly.
“No, not always,” said Adam. “But you did, tonight, most probably because of that costume you are wearing. After all, it covers up your face, little brother.”
The boys had been to a Halloween themed dance, and everyone had been encouraged to dress up. Joe had gone as a werewolf and this had involved wearing a very intricate mask, with whiskers made from a bristles out of a broom, as well as a body suit that Hop Sing had made out of a couple of bearskin rugs. Adam was dressed as a skeleton, in a union suit, which had been dyed black, and then had the skeleton painted on it, in white. And Hoss was dressed as a devil, in a red union suit, complete with horns on his head, a tail, a pitchfork and a red cloak made from an old curtain.
“Oh, you think you are so funny, doncha?” said Joe, sneering at his brother, even though Adam couldn’t see his face, underneath the mask.
“Yes, I do, as a matter of fact,” replied Adam. “But seriously, Joe, I think you should come home with us, as it is very late and you know how Pa worries.”
“Adam, I am eighteen years old, now, not a baby, and I’ll be fine. Tell Pa not to fret, I’ll be up, fresh as a daisy, in the morning, to do my work. And I should be several dollars better off. Bye brothers, see you tomorrow,” and Joe headed over to the Silver Dollar.
Hoss and Adam were unsure about leaving Joe in town. Although their little brother was now eighteen, he still had a fair bit of growing up to do, and was inclined to jump into things, without being sure of just what he was getting into. But, in the end they decided that it was up to him, if he wanted to stay, and so they collected their horses from the livery stable, and headed for home.
Joe was soon happily ensconced in the back room of the saloon. When he first arrived, Seth and his poker playing pals ribbed him about his outlandish costume.
“Well, I guess it does look a bit outta place, here, but at the dance it was a real hit. I spent most of the evening dancing with Becky Miller, Seth, and you know how gorgeous she is, don’t you?”
Seth whistled. “Mmm, very good, Little Joe, the kid did all right.”
Although Seth and Joe had been friends since schooldays, Seth still teased Joe about being a couple of years younger than him, and often referred to him as ‘the kid’.
It used to bother Joe, but now he was older, he just laughed when Seth said it.
“Yes, I did, and she said that she wanted to go out with me again, so things are looking good.”
The other men were anxious to carry on with the game, so Joe removed his mask and sat down.
Joe was right about his luck, as he did very well in the game. In fact, he did so well that a couple of the other players began muttering about ‘some people just coming in, late, and cleaning up’, but Joe chose to ignore them. Seth had vouched for Joe, but he knew that the older players would probably think they were in for some easy pickings, as Joe’s youthful features belied his skill at poker. Despite his father’s best intentions, to try and stop his youngest playing, Joe had shown an interest in the game at a very young age. He used to sneak out and beg the ranch hands to let him play with them, or try and persuade Adam and Hoss to play a few hands, and so by the time he was eighteen, he was a very good player.
After a few more hands, Joe felt it was time he headed for home. He was now several hundred dollars to the good. He gathered up his money and then dropped a few dollars back onto the table, to cover the cost of the beer and sandwiches he had consumed, during the game.
“Thanks for a great game, gents,” said Joe.
“You can’t leave, yet, kid,” said one of the men. “You’re walking off with our money.”
“Excuse me, but I thought that was the purpose of this exercise,” said Joe. “We all sit down, play cards and some you win, some you lose. This turned out to be a good night for me, but not for you. If you can’t afford to lose, then you shouldn’t play. I have a long ride ahead of me, so I am going home, goodnight.”
Joe stood up and made his way to the door, keeping his eye on the other players. The two losers made to follow him, but Seth suggested that they returned to their seats, until Joe had gone.
“See ya next week, Little Joe,” said Seth, and Joe nodded and left the saloon.
However, the two men weren’t prepared to give up and they both turned on Seth and knocked him to the ground. Then they left the saloon and went in search of Little Joe.
The young man was making his way along the now deserted street, to collect his horse from the livery stable. But before he got there, the two men caught up with him, dragged him down an alleyway and gave him a nasty beating. They removed his billfold, took out the money and then ran out of the alley.
Fortunately for Little Joe, another of his friends, Mitch Devlin, was still in town, and he came along, just as the men ran off. He quickly checked on his friend, but Joe assured him that he was all right, just a bit winded and bruised.
“Go after those two, Mitch,” he said. “They stole all my money.”
Mitch ran out of the alley and scanned the area to see if he could see the two men. He was in luck, and could just make them out, further up the street. Mitch was not a very big young man, and knew that when he caught up with them, they were very likely to be able to overpower him, as they had Joe. However, as he got nearer to them, he had an idea. He was still dressed in the costume he had worn for the Halloween dance, and he was hoping to scare them out of Joe’s money.
He had gone to the dance as a hanged man, with his head completely severed from his shoulders. Under his arm he carried a very realistic false head, and his real head was concealed by a costume that his mother had made for him, with small slits in it, so that he could see where he was going.
The men, thinking they had got away with taking the money from Joe, had stopped to divide up the spoils. They were so engrossed in counting out the money, by the dim light given off from a lantern in a nearby house, that they failed to see Mitch approaching.
Suddenly, they heard bloodcurdling moans and they both jerked their heads up, to find a headless, bloodied body standing over them.
“I was hanged for a crime I did not commit and now, every year on this All Hallows Eve, I wander through town, seeking my revenge. You look like two of the men who were on the jury that found me guilty, so now it’s your turn to die,” said Mitch, using a really scary voice that he had perfected when teasing his younger brother and sister.
The two men, who were just passing through Virginia City, both looked terrified on seeing this apparition, before them. They had drunk a fair amount of whisky, as they played cards, and it was now very late at night. It was quite cloudy and the moon was obscured, so the men could not see Mitch that clearly. But they had seen and heard enough to decide that Virginia City was not a place they wanted to stay in.
“It wasn’t us,” one of them said. “We’ve never been here, before, and we only got into town this afternoon.”
“And we sure as hell are never coming back,” said his friend.
“If you are telling the truth, then take my advice and leave right now,” went on Mitch. “I will spare you, this time, but if I see you again, you will not be so lucky. Now, go,” and Mitch let out a maniacal laugh.
The two men needed no second bidding and they ran off down the street, collected their horses from outside the saloon, and were soon on the road to Carson City. In their haste to leave, they left Joe’s money on the boardwalk. Mitch picked it up and returned to the alleyway where he’d last seen Joe.
Little Joe was now up on his feet, but still rather groggy from the beating he had received. When Mitch returned with his money, he was very grateful to his friend.
“I told ‘em to leave town and they did,” said Mitch, after telling Joe the whole story. “I guess I should’ve taken them to the sheriff’s office, sorry Joe.”
When Joe was able to talk again, after having a fit of the giggles about what his friend had done, he said, “No real harm done, Mitch, so don’t worry about it. I got my money back, and that’s the main thing. I wasn’t able to put up much of a fight, because of this dang costume. It’s real bulky, but I reckon it also saved me from being hurt that bad, as it cushioned the blows those fellas were hitting me with.”
Joe started giggling again.
“I wish I could’ve seen their faces when they saw you leaning over them, with your head under your arm.”
Mitch laughed, too.
“Yeah, it was pretty funny.”
The two young men headed for the livery stable to collect their horses, and were soon on their way home.
Joe did have trouble getting up, the next morning, and it soon became apparent as to why, when the family saw the bruises on his face.
However, they, too, had to laugh when they heard how the ‘hanged man’ saved the day and retrieved Joe’s stolen winnings.
Little Joe forever
October 31st 2010
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.
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