Summary: A troublesome spirit invades the Ponderosa and all the family hopes he will be gone on All Saints Day.
Rating PG WC 1341
Doppelganger: The Return
As Ben Cartwright came from the house with papers to take to town, he was addressed by his middle son.
“Pa, Adam said something about a doppelganger before he left for town.”
“He did? Why would he have brought that up?”
“Yeah, he was talking about that man that looked like him using that to get his money from the bank and used his name over there in Placerville. He said it wouldn’t be so bad to have one if he would do half of what Adam is expected to do. What is a doppelganger anyway. Is that like having a twin or something?”
“Oh, a doppelganger is someone who looks so much like you that they could be you except they aren’t. So, no, it’s not a twin. Usually the term is used when it’s an evil person out to do harm or some would say it’s a ghostly apparition sent to haunt someone.”
“A spirit, an image, but not a real thing.”
“Oh, it’s kinda weird then?”
“Yes, Hoss, stories about doppelgangers are fantasies like those about ghosts, goblins, and witches, and they belong in books to entertain readers and nothing more.”
“Don’t sound so entertaining to me.”
“Look at your younger brother there. He seems to be quite interested.”
Joe had been leaning forward to hear it all. Smiling, he ignored the comment about his reading habits and asked a question.
“Are you meeting Adam in town?” At Ben’s nod, he requested a favor. “Could you tell Adam we’ll meet him at the dance? But I hope he’s in a better mood than he was this morning.”
Hoss tried to lighten the mood about that. “If he ain’t Joe, we’ll josh around with him until he is.”
But Joe didn’t smile. “Hoss, he hasn’t been in a joshing mood lately either.”
“Boys, he has a lot on his mind with these contracts we have to get settled so don’t get him upset. He’s tired too. He’s been carrying the load on the negotiating because I’ve been recovering from that bout of influenza. I wish I was stronger, but I can’t work as much as I want to do. So Adam has been doing some of my work as well as his own. Take it easy on him, please.”
“Sure, Pa, me and Joe will be nice. Don’t you worry.”
Though they promised to do that, when they got near the dance, they saw Adam standing in the shadows near the door. Approaching him, they wondered why he hadn’t gone in yet but remembered that they had asked their father to tell Adam to meet them there. Hoss yelled out.
“Hey, older brother, we’re here now. Them gals inside ain’t seen nothing yet until they see the three of us.”
There was little response except Adam turned toward them. When they got close and saw Adam’s dour look, the two brothers couldn’t help themselves. Hoss started the teasing.
“Hey, Adam, we done met some guys who say they know you. They was saying some nasty things about you. They don’t like you at all.”
Joe added the punch line. “Of course, that doesn’t narrow the field much, does it?”
Staring at them, Adam was almost impassive except he did respond verbally although it was more of a growl than anything. “I’d rather be alone than be with you two. A man is known by the company he keeps.”
Joe was ready for that one. “You’d rather be alone? Heck, you couldn’t have worse company than that.”
Hoss guffawed. Joe had to cackle. As eyebrows lowered, Adam’s eyes seemed to grow darker. Once Hoss got his laughter under control, he had another question.
“Hey, older brother, don’t you want to dance?”
However, Joe was on a roll and was ready for that one too. “Hoss, wouldn’t that look kind of weird: the two of you dancing together?”
Hoss started chuckling again. It was difficult to choke out the next line, but he managed. “Yeah, but you see old Adam can’t get women to dance cause he can’t hit ’em, shoot ’em, or smart mouth them into it.”
“I’m leaving. See you at home.”
The coldness of that response let the two brothers know they had gone too far. Hoss apologized first, and then Joe did the same and profusely, but it was too late. Turning toward them, Adam glowered so much they froze in their steps and didn’t follow him any further especially after what he said to them.
“I hope you can sleep well enough tonight and don’t wake up dead in the morning.”
As Adam stalked off into the darkness, Hoss and Joe knew there was no point in trying to say anything more to him after that statement.
“Joe, does it feel like it’s getting a lot colder out here sudden like?”
“Yeah, it’s kinda making me shiver so maybe we shouldn’t stay too late.”
Besides the chill, they didn’t stay at the dance much longer because it didn’t seem like fun anymore. Worried about their brother and their reception once they got home, they retrieved their horses and made the long ride back to face the inevitable confrontation they expected with their father. He never liked them to have trouble at these social affairs, and to have it with their older brother was even worse especially after he had warned them specifically not to do what they had done. After they got to the barn and took care of their horses working as slowly as they dared, they reluctantly walked to the house to try to explain to their father what had happened, but Ben was confused after they told their chilling tale.
“I don’t know what could have happened. You couldn’t have been talking with Adam. He left for Sacramento on the express stage this afternoon. The contracts have to be delivered by November first and that’s tomorrow. We decided it was the only way to be sure they would be there on time. I brought Sport home with me. I’m sorry I missed you. You must have gotten to town shortly before I left.”
Shocked, Hoss had to ask. “You don’t suppose it was Adam’s doppelganger, do ya? I mean maybe he returned, and he’s trying to do it again?”
“That Tom Burns fella.”
“Hoss, did you forget that Tom Burns is dead. He couldn’t do that again.”
Joe was worried. “Pa, it is All Hallow’s Eve though. Isn’t that when the souls of the dead can come back to walk among the living?”
“Joseph, you have been reading too many silly books. You said you met him outside at night in the shadows. You must have been mistaken. You said too that it didn’t sound like Adam. I am going to bed. You two should too.”
After Ben went to bed, Joe and Hoss looked at each other clearly worried.
“Hoss, it sounded like Adam and it didn’t sound like Adam.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too.”
“So, it was a fake Adam.”
“Joe, what the fake Adam said, do you think that was a warning or a prediction?”
Shocked at the question, Joe shook his head. “Hoss, does it matter?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, I suppose it don’t. Either one is bad for us.” Looking up the stairs where their father had gone, Hoss scratched behind his ear before looking back at Joe.
“You know, I ain’t so sleepy.”
“Want to play some checkers?”
“Sounds good. Hoss, I have to admit, after what was said at the dance, I don’t think I was likely going to be able to sleep at all anyway. I’d be worried about falling asleep and I’d be worried about you.”
“Same with me. I wonder where he went.”
“The doppelganger? Doesn’t matter too much, does it?”
“By the end of tomorrow, he’ll be gone. That is how the story ends, ain’t it? On All Saints Day, they all go back where they belong.”
“Dang, I sure hope so.”
Tags: Hoss Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright
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