Part V - Chapter 19 - "Peace is War Held in Check"

Miami, OK

Brisco and Michael left an anxious Doc with Madeline to join Fiona and the prisoners. Since Brisco had a few questions for Michael, he suggested that they take the outside route instead of the direct passage from the house. As soon as the two friends were outside of earshot, Brisco finally had the opportunity to begin asking his questions.

"So, why Pete Hutter?"

Michael paused in his tracks and gave Brisco a confused glance. "What do you mean?"

"How did Pete get involved in your mission and how long have you been working with him?" questions now poured out of Brisco as he continued, "Did you know about the bracelet from Pete? Did he ever disappear-"

Michael raised a hand to pause all of the questions. "First of all, I did not know about Pete's ability to travel across geographic locations or time. Pete was usually wearing the bracelet but he said it was a fashion statement when Fiona teased him about it, so we had no reason to question it. Besides, it not like you can fit a tracking device or carbon microphone inside of a bracelet. There is no way that you could fit that kind of technology into something that small."

Brisco studied the horizon in an effort to process the information. "If Pete was only 'usually' wearing it, that must mean Pete knows how to remove the bracelet. How could Pete know that information while James was still tethered to his device?"

"Regarding why we were working with Pete, he came to us with a recommendation letter a year ago. It was a convincing argument and the letter referred to him as 'James Kendrick,' not Pete Hutter. After a short while, he became an asset in infiltrating the local Irish mob, he was actually the first one of us to meet O'Banion or to find out that O'Banion was reporting to someone else and not the individual calling all of the shots. We only found out that he was Pete Hutter a few weeks back but by that point he had made himself irreplaceable to the mission. Fiona and I decided to keep Kendrick's identity a secret from both Jesse and my mom, especially due to his past work with both you and Bowler. For all we knew, he was trying to turn over a new leaf. We didn't even tell him that we knew his real name.'"

"How did you find out it was Pete?" inquired Brisco.

Michael rolled his eyes before replying, "He accidentally left a telegram out which Fiona read. She said that it didn't say who sent the message but it was addressed to Pete Hutter. As Fiona and I thought back over the past year and his deep connections to the criminal world, it made significantly more sense than the original cover story in the letter."

Michael finished the walk to the storm shelter and opened up the double doors but before he began to descend into the storm shelter, one final question came from Brisco.

"Who gave you the recommendation a year ago?"

"You did."

"I never wrote or signed anything of the sort!" exclaimed Brisco.

Michael shrugged before replying, "With all of this time travel stuff, maybe you haven't... at least not yet. Besides, no matter the source, the information turned out to be good as evidenced by the success of the mission."

As if that explained everything, Michael began to descend into the storm shelter leaving Brisco outside to wonder what circumstances would have had to occur to motivate Brisco to write a recommendation for Pete.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Brisco and Michael found Fiona downstairs with the men. She had replaced the ribbon from O'Banion's hands with duct tape and had also duct taped Franz's hands.

"I've always said, 'better to fight your battles with duct tape than with a gun,'" grinned Michael.

"It's my version of a compromise," sighed Fiona. "If it were up to me, I would have already beat the truth out of them before executing them."

"That sounds harsh, even for you Fi!" replied a shocked Brisco.

Michael and Fiona exchanged grieved looks, before Michael quietly explained, "During our time in Miami, we have uncovered numerous bombings that have been staged throughout the country. Each bombing had a different group claiming responsibility and each group seemed unrelated. Some were anarchists protesting a capitalist government while others were labor unions protesting unfair working conditions. Unfortunately, each situation turned out to be instigated, funded, and armed by a small conspiracy of men."

"To make matters worse, most bombings were not of empty buildings but were filled with people," Fiona continued.

"Men, women, and children. All of those deaths and injuries are because of these two men right here," Michael stated quietly as the trio of friends stared at their two captives.

As if the wound were reopened, Fiona took a shot gun and smashed it across Franz's face. The German spat blood out on the floor before turning back and grinning at the group. "You von't be able to keep me here!"

"Well, I guess we'll have to make the most of our time here..." smiled Fiona as she pulled O'Banion's head up by his hair and punched him across the face.

The interrogation had begun.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

It had been at most an hour later with very little useful information uncovered, when Madeline came through the passageway and informed the group that US Attorney Brigstone had arrived and that lunch was on the table. Brisco, Fiona, and Michael marched the prisoners through the passageway and into the cabin. Brigstone was there with a couple of agents standing on either side of him. Brisco glanced outside to see several more agents standing out front. "I thought you Federal boys weren't allowed to be armed," commented Fiona as she eyed the shotguns and pistols.

"Leave Washington D.C. without an armed escort?" asked the monotone Brigstone. "Please stop making me laugh."

"But you aren't laughing," observed Madeline.

"Trust me, I'm laughing on the inside," responded the always bland Brigstone. Madeline rolled her eyes as the attorney turned to Michael and inquired, "Were you able to get any information?"

Brisco handed over the notes that he had taken during the interrogation to the agent nearest him before responding, "Not a lot but I'm sure you will have more luck."

"I think I need a hospital," whined O'Banion.

"In a minute, I'm not done with my show and tell," replied Michael. He then turned and lifted the swollen face of the German before announcing, "May I present, Franz Von Papen, military attaché to the German ambassador."

The German gave an evil grin to all individuals in the room, something about that smile sent an uneasy feeling into Brisco's stomach. He looked across the room to see an actual facial expression on Brigstone's face, one of shock and helplessness.

"Right now the vords, 'Diplomatic Immunity' are vinging in yhor ears," Franz said as he straightened his back and widened his smile.

Brigstone regained his stoney exterior before extending a hand to Michael and the rest of his team, "Your country thanks you for your hard work in uncovering this conspiracy. We will take the prisoners from here." Before anyone could comment further, the prisoners were quickly rushed out of the cabin by the agents. Brisco watched outside to see both prisoners released from their bindings before being escorted into the cars as peers rather than traitors. In that moment, Brisco felt two things. The first was a glad feeling that Fiona had given them each black eyes and that duct tape had been used to bind the prisoner's hands. Brisco had momentarily pleasure in watching each man flinch with the duct tape ripping off arm hairs. The second was an old bitter feeling of disappointment; in the end, bureaucracy always trumps truth in the spy game.

As Brigstone's party drove away, Madeline moved towards Michael. She seemed to be absently carrying a pitcher of lemonade, as she marched towards him demanding, "Michael! What did he mean by that?"

"Ma, Franz Von Papen is a well-connected man," began Michael.

"So, what does that mean?" pressed Fiona. "No execution? No internment?"

"It means that we can't put them on trial like ordinary criminals," explained Brisco.

"More than likely, the most that we can do is give them the boot," added Michael reluctantly.

Madelyn gasped in response. The weight of all of their hard work and the shock that their captives were not going to be punished for the lives that they had taken caused the glass pitcher to slip through Madeline's fingers and onto the floor. Brisco studied Fiona and based on her fuming anger, this was clearly the first that either woman had heard about the possible lax treatment of their enemy.

Madeline studied Michael's calm demeanor before accusing, "You knew!" Madeline was almost in reach of Michael, with her hands clenched in anger. Brisco stepped in between the two, unsure how Madeline was going to respond. Brisco wrapped her in a bear hug to hold Madeline as he felt her sob against his shoulder.

"We're not technically at war," offered Michael. But neither woman were eased by the explanation. Brisco felt Madeline continue to breath heavily as her anger continued to rise. A moment later, he heard the sound of a door slamming and as Brisco looked over his shoulder, he watched Michael follow out the door in order to catch up to Fiona. After a few moments, Brisco braved talking to Madeline.

"Madey, you, Mike and Fiona have all been in the business way too long," Brisco stated in an effort to console her. Brisco heard a soft sound from the nearby floor and looked down to see Doc attempting to pick up the pieces of the pitcher and clean up the floor. Despite coming from a different point in time, it was clear that the scientist was also not happy about the serene future of their former prisoners.

All Brisco could do was say shrug and say, "This is why I hate spy games. There's rarely a clear ending to an operation and if there is, it may not look the way we want it to."

Madeline stepped back and eyed Brisco. It was not the answer that either she or Doc wanted but it did at least help provide a bit better understanding of the world. Brisco continued, "It's not a world like the Hollywood movies claim where the villain is easily identified by a long mustache and the pure hero foils his enemy's plans while continuing to stay clean in appearance and deed. Sometimes, we have to make a deal with the devil to protect peace."

Privately, Brisco had a feeling in his gut that he couldn't shake. There was something truly evil about that man. While Brisco normally believed in fair trials, there was a dark feeling inside of him that perhaps this is the one occasion where they should have taken justice into their own hands as the government was electing to free the man rather than punish or intern the man.

"Peace is war held in check," muttered Doc. The comment caused Brisco's mind to leave Franz and replace it with the rising international tensions and all of the trouble that Germany had gone through to undermine American industry. In that moment, Brisco wondered if Doc's muttering was more of a prophecy of things to come rather than an observation.

Part IV - Chapter 17 - Ellie's Plan

It had taken several tries but Ellie finally got the reference letter written the way that she wanted. Something that gave Pete glowing recommendations while still providing honesty in his skills and what skills that he lacked. She left the salutation section blank as she could fill in the name later.

Ellie left the note on the bar before going to her small apartment beneath the bar. She opened her closet and rummaged through her various dresses until she found the one that she knew would work best. While most of the fashion had women's necklines above the collarbone, she found a dress that managed to show a bit more of her skin and could show off her curves a bit better. She changed dresses quickly and carried her hat, bag, and shoes upstairs. She placed the note in her bag and left her things at the bar before silently creeping up the stairs up to Pete's room.

She stood outside the door for a few moments, listening to ensure that Pete had gone to sleep. With all of the trauma that Pete had endured, she did not want to accidentally wake the man and have him shoot her. Ellie held her breath but could hear nothing on the other side. Ellie took a deep breath and held it as she noiselessly opened Pete's door. She stood for a few moments in the doorway listening to Pete's heavy breathing. He seemed to truly be in a deep sleep but luckily had left a small lamp on at his desk. Ellie noticed that the floor was littered with various treasures but luckily the bracelet was sitting just beneath the lamp.

Ellie tiptoed in the room but cursed herself for changing dresses. This dress seemed to make a small rustle sound with each step. She slowly moved across the room carefully ensuring that she avoided all of the various items strewn about the room. Ellie finally reached the desk and took the bracelet. She eyed it in the dim light and for a moment began to doubt the sanity of her plan. She closed her eyes to strengthen her resolve and strapped on the bracelet. She opened her eyes and felt the bracelet slide up her arm as it was clearly designed for a man's wrist. She turned quickly to move out of the room but had made the spin too quickly and lost her balance. Ellie managed to steady herself by grabbing onto the side of the desk but in the process, she managed to bump into a pile of gold coins which went flying off the desk and all over the floor. Her plan to avoid detection was now over with the loud ruckus she just made.

Ellie watched Pete in the shadows but he seemed to merely roll over. Ellie decided that she did not want to stay any longer than necessary and began to move out of the room, this time quicker. However, she had only taken a few steps before Pete suddenly sat up in bed. He turned his head and began muttering. At first Ellie thought she was caught and could feel her heart pounding in her throat. As she studied Pete in the dim light, she noticed that he seemed unresponsive. Almost like he was having a soft conversation with someone sitting across from him. "Pete is just talking in his sleep," thought a relieved Ellie. After he finished talking to whomever or whatever, he laid back down and turned his face back towards the wall.

"That's it! Forget being silent, I've gotta get the hell out of here!" Thought Ellie and she ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her. She had barely made it down the stairs, grabbed her shoes, hat, and bag before she saw a figure come running from the stairs towards her.

"Take me to 1912 to see Brisco in Hollywood," Ellie commanded the bracelet as Pete had done in his stories. As the light and noise began to fill the air, she could just barely hear Pete shout, "I knew I shouldn't have trusted you!"

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

1912 - Hollywood

Ellie landed in a mass of light and noise. She looked around but found that she had landed in tacky bar with a mob of people surrounding her and shooting blanks in the air. In all the commotion, it seemed that no one had noticed a woman appear in the middle of a crowd. A tall and heavyset man who was passing by managed to step on her stockinged foot. In response to the pain that he caused, Ellie elbowed the man in the stomach. The man seemed to only partially notice the attack as he seemed almost transfixed by two people that everyone was giving a large berth to.

Irritated by the inconsideration of the man who had stomped on her, she pushed past him and several other men in cheesy cowboy outfits until she found a chair that she could hobble over to. When she finally was able to sit down, she threw her bag and hat onto the tiny table and began to lace up her left foot. As she reached down to begin the process of lacing up her other boot, she decided to take a better look at the room around her. Ellie was mortified as she realized that she had not landed in a normal bar but was sitting in the middle of a scene being filmed on a Western themed set. The man and the woman that the group had been giving space to were miming their affection for each other. Based on the over exaggerated motions, Ellie had to bite her cheek to keep the laughter contained.

Ellie was only half way through lacing up her second boot when a short and bald man with a comically oversized cigar came up and softly stated that she had taken his seat.

"Find another!" hissed Ellie in a low whisper.

Ellie began focusing on her boots again and only half listened to the director shouting orders to the man in the white cowboy costume and the barkeep woman with the dress barely hanging onto the sides of her shoulders. Again, Ellie had to bite the inside of her cheek as she had never worn a dress like that as a bartender. The actors had then moved to predictable part of every movie choreography where a tragic and impenetrable force threatened the protagonists' love. Ellie stopped watching to survey her laced up boots when she felt a cigar being poked into her shoulder.

"Ma'am, you are in my seat. I'm supposed to be sitting there when the-"

"When the man with the large mustache threatens to shoot you and your dog if you don't force your daughter to marry the evil bad guy right?" Ellie stated while rolling her eyes.

Ellie did a doubletake when she glanced at his face, only now processing that the man she was talking to was wearing the oversized mustache known for identifying the archnemesis of all cowboys dressed in white. His eyes were filled with disbelief either for her outburst or his fear of not being where the director would want him to be.

"Are you quite finished?" hollered out the director.

Ellie and the man with the cheesy mustache turned to find that the leads had stopped their scene and the director was standing in front of his chair fuming.

"Just about," called Ellie, determined to not let the director intimidate her.

"Take five!" ordered another man who was sitting near the director.

The set began to move about and Ellie stood with bag in hand, ready to sneak away. Unfortunately, there were a couple of bespeckled and tense young men demanding who she was and how she had managed to sneak on set. They seemed just about to drag her off the lot when Ellie finally spotted Brisco.

"Brisco!" she hollered as he had seemed to be raiding the bar for some kind of liquor. Brisco turned around and his momentary shock was replaced with the charming grin that she remembered. He left the liquor and moved to Ellie's rescue.

"Sorry gentlemen, she's here to see me."

"Guests are supposed to be vetted before coming in and we should know about them ahead of time and-" the bespeckled man seemed ready to continue his lecture but paused when Brisco raised his hand to stop the list.

"I'm sorry, I forgot to give you notice," began Brisco. "If you have any further complaints, you can talk to my attorney and agent, Socrates Poole. I think he's wandering around a food table somewhere."

The man seemed determined to protest but Brisco suavely took Ellie's arm and led her away from the commotion. Ellie held her bag and hat at her side as she allowed Brisco to lead her away from the various people in charge of the set. Brisco walked her in silence until they had fully left the lot and he waved down a passing carriage. He muttered something to the driver before guiding her into the carriage and climbing in after Ellie.

"Don't you have to go back to work?" inquired Ellie.

"And leave you all alone in Hollywood? Not a chance," smiled Brisco. "Besides, as a consultant, I can pick my own hours."

"Must be nice," muttered Ellie. She took a moment to study him noting that he did not look like the broken man Pete had met a week ago. But then, Bowler hadn't passed away yet.

"I assume that you didn't come all this way to study me," commented Brisco, wryly.

"Well, I came to get your autograph," she stated, realizing that the bluff had sounded better in her head while designing the plan at the bar. Out loud and to Brisco, the story sounded lame and unlikely.

"Really?" asked Brisco with an eyebrow raised in disbelief.


"You came from San Francisco to Hollywood, wearing that dress, and all because you just want my autograph? A consultant's autograph?"

"Well, you're a consultant now and I'm sure that you'll be well known soon enough-"

"Try again," Brisco said with a smile.

Ellie cleared her throat and avoided Brisco's gaze before responding, "Would you believe that my nephew wanted an autograph from the famous bounty hunter, Brisco County Jr.?"

"Nope, try again."

To Ellie's relief, the carriage stopped and she could change the subject. "So, where are we?"

"Giving you a taste of Hollywood," explained Brisco as he paid the driver and helped her out of the carriage. She looked up and found that they were looking up at the Hollywood Hotel. Brisco guided her through the doors as he continued, "Based on what Socrates tells me, this is the place for the upper class of Hollywood."

Brisco led Ellie into the restaurant and she looked up at the ceiling to see the names of various movie stars above immaculate tables. She read the names above, noting people that she knew such as Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, and Fatty Arbuckle.

"Thomas Ince, the director you pissed off earlier today, also loves eating here," commented Brisco.

Ellie laughed saying, "So you've moved from collecting bounties to collecting the names of various Hollywood celebrities?"

Brisco laughed as he led Ellie to a table. Ellie was moderately aware of Brisco ordering champagne as she continued to study the room, lost in the grandeur of the place. When the drinks arrived, Ellie set her hat down next to her, wondering why she brought the damn thing and if she brought it for appearance rather than function. As Ellie continued to watch various celebrity faces move about the room, she was lost in a state of awe until Brisco broke the spell by asking what she wanted to eat. As she turned her attention back to Brisco, she felt her face begin to blush. The way that he looked at her, it was if Brisco was finally seeing Ellie.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ellie woke up the next morning still at the Hollywood Hotel. As she processed the evening with Brisco, she momentarily thought about staying for an extra day to see how things would go. After all of the years of knowing Brisco, they had finally spent the night together and it was better than she had imagined. She was wearing a time traveling bracelet, Ellie reasoned. She could simply go back to the night that she had left and Pete wouldn't lose anytime for his mission and she could explore this new relationship with Brisco.

She looked over and found Brisco still asleep. She snuggled up closer to him hoping that they would have more time before he'd have to leave for work. There was a knock at the door which caused Ellie to sit up, suddenly worried about Pete's stories about the mad scientist.

"Room service," came a kind voice from the other side of the door. Ellie let out a sigh of relief, it was just the breakfast that they had ordered. She jumped out of bed and found a robe to slip on before opening the door. The breakfast tray was brought in and the bellhop left discreetly as though this were a common occurrence in the hotel. Ellie looked back at the bed to see that Brisco was awake and sitting with his feet over the side of the bed, rubbing his head as though he had a headache. Ellie moved over to him and sat on the floor to look up into his face. She placed a hand under his chin and moved his head to look her in the eyes.

"Hey, you hungry?" she asked. When Brisco's only response was to stare at her, she moved one of his hands towards her and kissed the inside of his palm. "Breakfast is here," she commented smiling up at him.

Brisco pulled his hand away from her before standing and moving to the breakfast table. "Smells good," he stated absently.

Ellie slowly stood noting the change in Brisco from the night before. "So that's it?"

"Look, Ellie, we're just friends," called Brisco from over his shoulder. "Last night, was, well-pillow talk, baby."

"Baby?" snorted Ellie with indignation.

"Well, yeah," Brisco stated still facing away from her as he dressed. "It's nothing personal, it's just that- we're friends."

"Of course," Ellie stated, working to hide her disappointment. "And last night was-"

"Fun but that's it. Besides, I'm here and you're in..." Brisco was stumbling through his excuses while he put on his shoes.

"San Francisco, I get it," Ellie replied as coldly as she could muster.

Brisco finally turned in her direction but still did not bring his eyes to meet hers. "Go ahead and start eating. I'll take care of the bill downstairs and I'll help you arrange a ride back to wherever you're staying."

Ellie was tempted to say, 'don't bother,' but realize that it might sound bitter and held it in. Instead, she moved to her bag and pulled out the reference letter.

"Before you leave, can you sign this?" asked Ellie. She unfolded it and placed it on the hotel room desk and held the pen up for his signature.

"You really just wanted my signature?" Brisco asked finally looking her in the eye.

"Yep, although I appreciate the extra service," she responded as detached as she could muster.

Brisco signed the letter without reading it and handed it back to her. As she put the letter away, Brisco broke the silence, "Ellie, I prefer to be alone-"

"Speaking of being isolated, don't you have a spy friend that you respected during your time working for the president? One that worked in Oklahoma or something?"

"Listen, Ellie-" began Brisco

"I get it, Brisco," Ellie interrupted. "You feel alone or want to be alone or whatever. I can't honestly say that I care," she lied. "Could you answer the question?"

Brisco sighed before replying, "Sure. Guy named Mike Weston."

"Thank you. Would you mind letting me get dressed?" asked Ellie as she turned to begin gathering her clothes from around the room.

Brisco opened the door to leave before Ellie had a momentary lapse of guilt and called, "Brisco?" He paused to look at her and she moved towards him cautiously, "No matter if you want to be alone, feel alone, or if you feel nothing for the people who used to be part of your life, call Bowler. Or write to him. Or something. And do it now. He's the best friend that you ever had and you won't want to let him go."

Brisco turned and gave the charming smile that she knew so well, "Sure, Ellie. Don't worry. I've got all the time in the world to catch up with Bowler." And he was out the door before she could say anything further. Ellie sighed but decided to let Brisco make his own choices besides who knew what paradoxes would exist if he were to actually listen to her.

At that Ellie, quickly dressed. She found herself rationalizing the night's events. Had she not spent the night with Brisco, he wouldn't have felt guilty enough to sign the reference letter without reading it which would have been difficult to explain. Her original plan to distract him with feminine wiles in an effort to ensure his signature had worked. Maybe a little too well, she thought. Additionally, his guilt gave her the name of the spy that Pete wanted to work with. Her plan to help Pete had worked better than expected, she mentally argued as she laced back up her boots.

Ellie looked in the mirror to quickly smooth her hair before picking up her bag and hat. She took one last look at herself but decided that Brisco might return any minute and she did not want to have any further awkward conversations with him. She took a breath and held the bracelet up before stating, "Home, the moment that I left." A familiar noise and blinding light filled the room and within moments, she was back at the bar staring almost nose to nose with Pete

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

San Francisco - 1913

"Miserable, malicious, double-crossing, female!" spat Pete. Even though Ellie had only been gone for a few moments, the shock of her theft was still overwhelming to Pete.

"Are you quite finished!" Ellie demanded as she held up one hand to shush Pete while holding her purse in the air.

"What?" demanded Pete.

She pulled the letter out from her bag and gave it to Pete. As he read the reference letter and noted the signature at the bottom, Pete slowly sat down.

"How the hell did you pull this off?"

"You said that you needed a reference, so that's what I got you."

Pete put the letter down on the bar and laughed, "There's hope for you yet! I'm corrupting you into a grifter, which might be my proudest accomplishment to date!"

"I'll stick to owning a bar, thank you!" responded Ellie. She took a look at the time before changing the subject, "I think it's about time to go to sleep."

Pete studied her for a moment before smirking to say, "Looks like you might have just rolled out of bed yourself."

Ellie did not respond but pressed the buttons on the bracelet and tossed into onto the bar. "Go to sleep Pete. We'll come up with a plan in the morning. She left Pete at the bar holding the bracelet and re-reading the recommendation letter. As Ellie closed the door behind her, she began to undress and fall into bed, determined to let Brisco go and focus on helping rescue Pete from a madman. Besides, Brisco would get his wish to be alone soon enough.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ellie had slept in later than she had planned to and woke up just before the lunch hour rush. Her staff had taken over the morning responsibilities but Ellie rushed past them and up to Pete's room. She found the door locked and became worried that he had left before they could discuss the next steps of his plan. She slowly walked down the stairs, feeling dejected when Pete's smiling face peaked around the staircase before teasing in his sing song voice, "Why Ellie! Are you looking for a scandal this morning? Rushing upstairs to a man's bedroom?"

"Are you kidding? No one would ever believe that I would slum it with you!" retorted Ellie.

"Ellie, I always knew you were too good for the men around you."

"That I am," she agreed as she brushed past him. "Although, it's good to see you." The two of them walked into the back kitchen. Ellie sat down as Pete looked around the kitchen to confirm that they were alone before he continued their discussion.

"Shouldn't be unexpected," replied Pete.

"How so?" she asked confused as she poured a cup of coffee. She held the coffee pot up to signal if Pete wanted any. He shook his head before continuing.

"You've harboring the name of my sensei, remember?"

Ellie smiled and took a sip before agreeing, "That's right," she paused for a moment before continuing, "And you won't get the name, until I am sure that I will be looped in as a partner."

"I don't need someone to travel around the country with me or to be part of whatever training journey that I take on."

"True. And what's more, based on the pain it causes, I think I'll stick to my time and place," agreed Ellie. "But you do need someone to learn all that they can about the bracelets so that you can focus on what you need to and they can learn everything about the bracelet and train you on how to best utilize them and maximize their potential."

Pete considered her words before finally nodding his head. Ellie felt it was more out of Pete's desperation for the name rather than her intellect but she would take the opportunity, whatever Pete's reasoning might be.

"On the condition that the bracelet stays with me," came Pete's caveat.

"That goes without saying," agreed Ellie as she held out her hand for the journal.

"Additionally, I had assumed domestic privacy when I became a lessee but I feel that must also be stated aloud after you snuck into my room and commandeered-"

"Borrowed," corrected Ellie.

"Borrowed without permission or knowledge of its owner. Also known as theft-"

"You would have much better knowledge of such things," interjected Ellie. At Pete's exasperated face, Ellie rolled her eyes. "Alright, alright," Ellie acquiesced. "I promise to stay out of your room, unless there's a fire." She grinned at Pete's frown but he surrendered and pulled the journal out of his vest.

"I already snuck the files into your room," Pete stated as pulled the reference letter out from another vest pocket and placed it onto the table.

Ellie scowled and indignantly asked, "Payback for last night?" Pete didn't respond but handed her a pen for her signature. Ellie was not quite ready to sign as she wanted more information. So she pressed further, "Pete, what's next?"

"The name of the spy in Oklahoma."

Ellie ignored Pete and instead asked, "When and where will you meet up with the spy?"

Pete sighed in acknowledgement that she would not easily provide the individual's name or ring. "Well, Brisco signed and dated 1912-"

"Oh shit!" interrupted Ellie.

"Actually, if I transverse to 1912 and avoid traveling for a year, it might be enough to hide me from Charles."

"And you will come back to San Francisco in a few weeks to give me time to actually study everything?"

"Naturally," agreed Pete.

"Anything particular that you want me to focus on learning first?"

"How to travel outside of 5 years? How to travel outside of the United States? How to go back to the future but at a date and time of my choosing-" Pete cut himself short when the cook came back in to start prepping for the lunch crowd. He stood and tapped on the letter on the table, signaling for her to complete the final part of the reference. out of his vest pocket and held it out for Ellie to complete. Ellie picked up the pen and began to fill in the salutation, "To Michael Weston."

Ellie read over her letter one last time but when she looked up at Pete, he was just finishing off the rest of her coffee.

"Thanks, Pete," Ellie responded sarcastically.

Pete merely grinned mischievously and tipped his hat before saying, "I'll see you in a few weeks, Miss Ellie."

"You're leaving today?" inquired a shocked Ellie.

"No time like the present," Pete responded as he tipped his hat and left the kitchen.

Ellie picked up the journal and began to read from the beginning.

Part III - Chapter 13 - Got the World in a Box

"Good Morning," came an overly sweet female voice. If you could call it a female voice. It sounded less human and more like someone rubbing their fingers over velvet, a sound that seemed to make Pete's skin crawl.

Hoping that the voice would stop speaking, Pete forced himself awake to find a beautiful woman's face right over his head. She was standing next to the bed that Pete was laying on and she reached out to stroke his face. Pete couldn't put his finger on it, but it all seemed somehow fake. There were flowers on a nearby table with breakfast food laying out on it but somehow the smells weren't right. It was if someone told you that flowers were sweet and they took a bunch of sweet smells, like syrup and clean linen, and replaced the original smell of flowers. As he looked at the food and noticed bacon and eggs, it smelled more like beef and potatoes. The linens on the bed felt more like leather than cotton and the woman's hand felt more like cotton was being held up to his face, rather than the sensation of human skin. The room was not unpleasant but the sensory signals were all wrong and it was a jarring experience.

Pete pushed the woman's hand away from his face and stood up. As he moved around, the room seemed to change with him. He had taken a mere two steps and the room rushed by as though he had roamed from a bedroom to a new part of the house. After only a couple more steps he was standing in a fully decorated dining room with giant windows overlooking a beautiful snowy scene. Pete's mind tried to send a shiver down his back as it triggered the sight sense but his back would not shiver as the room was hot and humid. The temperature felt more like a beach than a snowy mountain top. Pete turned around and leaned over the table to inspect the food. He took a bite of the eggs and realized that he was actually just eating the mush from the day before. Maybe this is what Livi and Charles were talking about.

Pete was suddenly aware of the woman who had not only walked with him but appeared to have been talking the whole time. The incorrect sensory environment was causing every neuron in Pete to work overtime which made listening to the velvet voice difficult to process. He began to watch her mouth move and noticed that there was a slight delay with every word that she had said, almost like a dream. Pete surreptitiously pinched himself in an effort to wake up from this bizarre world. Maybe he had left the futuristic captor and if he pinched his arm hard enough, Pete would find himself back in San Francisco. Unfortunately, no luck. Pete was indeed experiencing this odd world.

Pete attempted to focus on the woman again. The velvet voice had another element that was too sweet and because Pete could not place it, the uneasy feeling grew exponentially. After watching her for several minutes, Pete finally registered that she was asking him if he would go out with the boys and play a few rounds of golf or would he be joining her at the club for dancing.

Pete cleared his voice and said, "Why don't we stay here for a moment and you tell me about this place?"

"This is our house, Silly. You know all about it as you designed everything that you wanted in it," came the overly patronizing female voice.

Twice in two days that I have been called "Silly." If I wasn't so outside my element, I'd be offended.

"Let's just say that I am having a hard time moving from my slumbering dreamland and into reality. Can you explain to me what is going on? Where we are? And who the hell are you?"

Instead of becoming offended like a normal woman, this faux woman answered automatically, with little emotion or attachment. "Well, to answer your questions in order, we are trying to decide on your plans for today as we have mandatory activities, including your consumer hours, before you switch to your work hours. We are in our house but if you don't like the settings, feel free to simply change the house by clicking on the wall remote. And I, am your programmed entertainment and companion."

As she was speaking, she pointed to a small box mounted next to a sliding glass door. As Pete approached it, the room changed again and he was now standing outside in the snow overlooking a ski pass. He had not even opened a door but suddenly the world changed to render an outside environment. The woman had simultaneously moved outside with him but was now wearing a pink cloak with white fur lining. Pete took a step backwards and found himself back "inside" and his companion wearing the outfit designed for "indoors." Pete took a forward and backward step a couple more times to see the world and woman change as an individual might turn on and off a light switch.

Deciding to let the outside world be for a moment, Pete turned his attention back to the small box mounted next to the sliding glass door. As Pete studied the box, he found that there were 4 buttons on it marked, "Everyday," "Preferred," "Special Occasion," and "Evening." Each setting had a dollar sign next to it but the numbers did not look like anything that he recognized. Clearly the monetary system had changed since Pete's time.

Pete clicked the "Everyday" button and the room and woman shivered like a rock causing ripples in a lake. After the momentary shiver passed though the environment it ended and the world surrounding Pete remained the same. He clicked on the "Preferred" button and the room shivered again but this time it changed when the ripples ended. He was on a beach but not like one he had ever seen before. There were scantily clad women everywhere and men wearing nothing but pants that cut off at the knees. As the water began to creep up to catch his toes, Pete looked down and his feet were no longer in shoes or socks but bare feet. Pete noticed that his legs looked a lot tanner than he remembered as the waves came up to splash on his feet. However, like everything else, it did not feel correct. It felt more like a gelatinous slime everywhere which caused Pete to jump back and away from it. Whatever the blue liquid was, it was definitely not water. What made the situation worse, was that the "beach" was cold.

Deciding this world was much too unappealing, Pete turned his attention back to the box which seemed to now be attached on some kind of board that was sticking out of the sand rather than mounted to a wall. He clicked on "Special Occasion" and suddenly he was in a room crowded with people. It was a casino with roulette tables, card tables, and slot machines. The room was full of smoke but it smelled more like burnt cotton candy and the smoke looked more like a morning dew than cigarette smoke. The woman's dress looked more like a negligee than a dress as it left almost nothing to the imagination.

"Oh yes!" the faux woman exclaimed, "Let's go dancing!"

She took a few steps towards Pete and the room suddenly changed leaving the couple standing in the middle of a dance floor. Pete looked down to notice that he was wearing some kind of a suit. However, she had barely moved in close to the dumbfounded Pete, when the shimmer occurred and the room changed back to the dining room overlooking a snowy exterior. The woman was suddenly in everyday clothes and an unseen male voice said, "Your credits for 'Special Occasion' have been used up. You must accumulate more credits during work shifts before you can use 'Special Occasion' again."

Pete touched the last button and found himself in a flannel shirt and jeans and the woman in a flannel nightdress. They were standing on the deck of a log cabin overlooking a lake. The sounds of nature sounded off, the frogs were too low in sound and the mosquitos too high. The fireflies were much too bright. In fact, a couple of the lightning bugs seemed to have actual fairies riding on them instead of just being the insects. "Is it time for bed?" yawned the woman.

Pete switched back to the "Everyday" setting as that seemed the least distracting of the various worlds. Pete passed through the "glass door" before walking towards the side of the snow laden deck and found a ladder. But just as he turned to climb down the ladder, he touched the rail and found himself suddenly standing on the ground without having actually descended down a single rung. The woman was still standing next to him, as Pete's personal ghost. "Would you mind scootin' along, little lady?" he asked in an effort to better explore the place alone.

"Your request does not compute. I am your companion," stated the faux woman and instead of stepping back, she moved closer.

"Beat it! Skedaddle! Go away!" And within moments of Pete's explosion, she disappeared. Pete took a few more steps into the snowy banks before he walked into what felt like a solid wall. Pete took a step back to regain his senses. As he rubbed his nose, he realized that the pain was not part of this odd world. His nose legitimately hurt. He stretched his hands out to get a better understanding of what was in front of him. As he ran his fingers up and down, it was clear that he was in front of a solid wall. Only the snowy bank in front of Pete was better and more convincing than any rock painting Pete had ever seen or commissioned for train robberies. The snowy bank looked to go on as far as the eye could see and as Pete leaned in close to inspect the artwork, he could not find any evidence of brushstrokes.

If there was a wall, then there must be a door, he thought. Pete used his hands to guide him down the wall as he could not trust his vision. Just as he came to a corner, Pete looked down and saw the powder from the snow was staying in the air longer than expected. As he knelt down to study the anachronism, he realized too late that it was a kind of gas and a mistake to have moved closer to it. Pete quickly stood up and attempted to run away but within moments he had run into an adjoining wall. Pete fell backwards, knocked out on the cold hard floor.

Part III - Chapter 12 - Test Subjects

Pete awoke with a clearer head than normal and this time he was not strapped to a bed. It was a welcome relief to not have a flashlight shining in his eyes. In fact, there were not any lights at all and he was not laying on the hospital bed in the center of the room. Pete slowly sat up and took in the surroundings. As his eyes adjusted, he realized that he had been moved to the bench of one of the cells. He was on a tiny mat and a plate of food sat just in front of the door to his cage. The middle cage was empty but the man who had fascinated Pete was still in his cell, two cages over. In fact, the man was sitting in his bed, smoking a cigar, and watching Pete.

"Of all the gin joints, in all of time and space, it's Pete Hutter."

Pete's head was still dizzy but he struggled to stand up and ask, "Do I know you?"

"Not yet but you will, the name is Jayne Cobb," the prisoner said as he watched Pete attempt to struggle to get up. "I probably wouldn't push yourself too much. Think that the nutty professor had you truly doped up there for a while to fight all of the mutated diseases, or so he says. But even if he's lying about viruses, it will take a bit of time before your back to your old self. At least that was my experience when I got here."

"Where's the other guy?" asked Pete. His throat felt parched and scratchy but it was nice to have the tubes removed from his throat.

Jayne shrugged in the darkness and continued to smoke the cigar in silence. Realizing that the whereabouts of the 3rd man would not be gleaned from Jane, Pete decided to change tactics.

"How long have you been interned in this scientific nightmare?"

"Who knows? The days mesh together," Jayne responded nonchalantly before taking another puff from his cigar. "At least it's two master thieves here which means we have doubled the chance of escaping this hell."

At being called a thief, Pete was about to object but realized it was pointless in this futuristic lab so he instead replied, "You seem to know a lot about me."

"Spoilers for another day. Think the day is about to start here in a few."

"How did you get the cigar?"

"Told you. I'm one hell of a thief," boasted Jayne as he flashed a smile at Pete.


"Do you think that I would settle for less?"

At Jane's reply, there was suddenly a loud buzzing and the lights began to power on overhead.

"Feels like those lights get brighter and louder every single day," grunted Jayne.

Pete shakily forced himself up off the floor and onto the bench of a bed. He carefully leaned his back against the wall and took in the room from his new vantage point. He couldn't quite see the whole room but he could hear a door open and then the sound of small feet. They were skipping. Suddenly a child's voice came giggling and singing to herself before the tiny face of a girl peered around the corner to look at the two men. Pete looked over at Jayne to determine if this was normal but based on Jayne's shocked expression, this was new to him as well. In fact, Pete wasn't sure if the cigar was about to fall out of Jayne's mouth as it dangled down in confusion.

"Excuse me, sir, but is you one of them or one of us?" the innocent voice inquired.

"Who are we?" Pete asked trying to piece together what the hell a little girl was doing in a lab of torture and cages like this. She was thin and small with piercing blue eyes and a mop of brown curls framing her round face. If Pete had to guess, she could only be 3 or 4 years old.

"We're scientists. We don't live in boxes."

"Isn't this a box?" Pete asked pointing to the cage.

"No, silly, I can see you. The other people, the ones that live in boxes, you can't see them. And this is a lab. We don't sleep in boxes here, unless we're hiding from box people."

"I am unable to argue with that logic," Pete replied as he slowly moved off the bed to sit by the cage door. He studied the girl for any sign of abuse, trauma, or scars, but she had none. In fact, she looked to be every bit of a normal, healthy child. Albeit too pale and too skinny. She doesn't seem like a captive, so why would a child be allowed into the lab that kept men imprisoned? How is seeing caged individuals a normal spectacle for her?

"Are the box people bad?" asked Jayne in his gruff voice.

"No," replied the girl tentatively. Jayne's deep voice seemed to only slightly catch her off guard. But the true source of her hesitation and scrunched face seemed to be a struggle to remember a definition that she had been taught. When it seemed to be too big of an answer to recall, she put it out of her mind and simply said, "No, we just don't talk to them or play with them is all. Besides, we like being in the lab. Labs change things. Make things better. What's that?" she asked changing the subject to the food in front of Pete's cell. Just like a child to lose interest quickly.

"I think it's my breakfast," responded Pete in disgust.

"But that doesn't look like breakfast. I don't see any tato, potos, PO-TAT-TOES," she finally enunciated the words correctly and with pride almost shouted the word again, "Potatoes!" she began to grin at herself before sticking her fingers into the mush sitting in front of Pete's cell. "Feels yucky and I don't see any potatoes." She announced her finding as if to explain that the meal was certainly not Pete's breakfast.

"It's his dinner from last night," came the captor's voice.

"Chucky, I was wondering when you would show back up!" called Jayne from the cell. Jayne's voice and smile were dripping with ironic good humor, while his eyes were filled with loathing as he watched the scientist move towards the cages.

"Livi, don't play with Mr. Hutter's food."

"Food is for eating and not for painting," the girl recited as though this was a common reproach at the dinner table. She then ran to the captor and hid her face behind the back of his leg as though suddenly shy around the two prisoners. She peaked around at the two of them gave Pete a smile, wiped her hand on the lab coat, and then hid her face again in the back of the captor's leg.

The professor, or Chucky, as Jayne called him, gently picked up the girl, kissed her cheek and then turned back to the prisoners. "Mr. Hutter, may I introduce you to my daughter? Livi. Livi, this is Daddy's...friend."

"Friends! Ha!" came Jayne's voice. "Hey kid, I'll give you a big 'ole Silver Dollar if you can run and get another adult for us. Or even just scream, scream really loud."

The girl's eyes widened in misunderstanding before suddenly dismissing the idea as preposterous and giggled. "You're silly, Mister. I scream all the time in here and no one ever comes in to see me," her words brought chills to Pete's spine.

Charles turned to address the little girl in his arms, "Now, Daddy has to get some work done. Can you go to your play area?"

"Yes, Daddy," the girl nodded as he kissed her forehead and gently set her down. She began her shy act as she hid behind her father and waved at the men. As the scientist gently nudged her towards the door, she began skipping away out of their sight and back out the door.

As soon as his daughter was out of hearing, Charles turned to Jayne before sternly exclaiming, "Prisoner 2187 - you will refrain from addressing my daughter ever again!"

"What kind of sick bastard are you? To allow your daughter to watch as you experiment and imprison people? And what place is this that no one comes to check on screaming people, Chuck?" demanded Jayne.

The scientist cooly pulled out his tablet from an oversized pocket in his lab coat. He quickly slid his fingers from the bottom of the screen to the top which resulted in Jayne falling off his bench and writhing on the floor in pain. Pete shakily moved away and onto his bench and he watched Jayne continued to shake on the floor. It had been a long time since Pete had last experienced a high voltage electrocution situation but the sound and smell still haunted him. Luckily, Jayne's experience lasted only a couple moments before Charles slid his hand back down across the tablet.

"As I have explained before and in tedious detail," the scientist began in a sadistic tone, "the name is Charles, not Chuck, Chucky, or Chuckster. And no, I do not allow her in here but she wanted to meet Mr. Hutter so I allowed her in today before your experiments begin. As for the location, this is a government funded lab. Of course, no one will come in, because no one cares if you live or die Prisoner 2187. And as I have stated on numerous occasions, there is no escape."

In an effort to collect himself and to illustrate his silent rebellion, Jayne took the opportunity to sit back up on his bench and made a show of putting the cigar back inside his mouth before taking another deep inhale and slowly blowing smoke in Charles' direction.

For a moment, Pete thought that Charles was going to use his tablet to punish Jayne but to Pete's relief, Charles simply placed the tablet on a nearby table before turning to address Jayne again. "While I am not pleased that you stole one of my cigars, I am glad to see that you are putting your talents to a use other than escape attempts." Jayne merely grunted in reply and began to blow smoke circles into the air.

Charles turned back to Pete and instructed him to stand up and to place his hands through the bars. As Pete shakily complied, the scientist tied Pete's hands together. "I see that you did not eat last night, Mr. Hutter. How unfortunate."

"Due to my gut shot from years ago, I have a small appetite," came Pete's wry reply. "Furthermore, I prefer to get some exercise between waking up and eating. Gets the blood moving. So, anyway that you can be a gracious host, open the door, and let me mosey on home?"

Charles gave an amused smile to Pete and replied, "Not at this time."

Unphased by Charles' denial, Pete continued, "Then how about something more appetizing. I'm with your daughter, I prefer potatoes for breakfast."

Charles smiled amicably before responding, "She has only seen pictures of potatoes but she has never actually eaten potatoes. What you have there is a meal staple. Three times a day you get this-"

"Disgusting mush-" grunted Jayne.

Charles shot Jayne a look demanding silence before addressing Pete, "I do agree, there is not much taste. However, it does have all of the basic nutrients to make a meal. That said she has an impressive imagination which has somehow convinced her that she has potatoes every morning." Charles stated all of this information as he took Pete's blood pressure, listened to Pete's heartbeat, and performed other random tests with odd gizmos and gadgets.

"Aside from the normal dizziness, how do you feel? Any chills? Fever? Pain?"

"I thought you just said no one cares if I live or die," responded Pete as coldly as he could muster.

"I said no one cares if Prisoner 2187 lives or dies, he's just a common thief from the past. Not even a notable one..."

"Gee thanks. It's not like I'm a few feet away and can hear you," muttered Jayne sarcastically.

"But you, Mr. Hutter, you are the beginning. You are the start of something much bigger. No, no I can't have you getting sick. You have so much more living to do."

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

The rest of the day, Pete laid in bed. He still felt tired and weak so he simply watched the activity of the lab to seek possible escape times and routes. Unfortunately, Jayne's experience was not so peaceful.

In an effort to move Jayne, an unwilling test subject and well built individual, Charles had to utilize a variety of electrically charged instruments to stun Jayne into a paralyzed state. At which point, the scientist could utilize a machine to drag a gagged and bound unconscious Jayne to the center of the room. However, Jayne was not moved to the bed that Pete had experienced but left on the floor as Charles sat at his desk.

Upon sitting at his desk, Charles tossed a bright red die into the air and let it fall onto the desk. For a moment, the familiar object reminded Pete of happier times and poker games with Bly's gang or with Bowler in Hard Rock but the pleasant thought was quickly twisted as Charles clattered away while typing the results. No matter what number had been revealed on the die's face, the result always led to torture for Jayne.

Pete had to stretch his neck to watch Charles lean down from his seat to attach a leather bracelet to Jayne's foot before kicking the prisoner awake. Jayne grunted awake and expressed his dislike through a series of grunts before Charles pressed a couple buttons on the bracelet which caused Jayne to disappear with a blinding light. After ten minutes or so, Jayne reappeared, still tied up and gagged.

The scientist would then take notes, measurements, consult the screens, and if Jayne did not wake up quickly enough, the scientist would inject Jayne with something that would cause him to bolt awake in a shriek of pain and anger. Then the scientist would roll the die again, record the results of the die, press buttons on the bracelet, before Jayne would disappear and reappear.

The first few appearances seemed to go well as Jayne looked exactly the same. Occasionally, the doctor would ask Jayne if he was experiencing any pain which Jayne responded with grunts that seemed to intonate "No," "Fuck you," or "Go to hell, Chuck!"

However, as the day went on, Jayne seemed to disappear for longer periods of time and his body seemed to stiffen as though he was starting to experience more intense levels of pain. Unfortunately, Pete could feel his own body temperature rising, maybe he was getting a fever. But if he was going to go through the same hell as Jayne, it would probably be better to expire of fever rather than endure the mad scientist's experiments.

Finally, the day seemed to end and Jayne was shoved back into his cell before the scientist loosened the bindings. When Pete couldn't move to the bars to have his hands rebound for evening medical checks, the scientist rushed inside. He took Pete's measurements and chastised Pete for not speaking up, as a father would chastise a son with gentle sternness. Why did Pete get all of the affection and Jayne got all of the hate? No, not hate. Just complete apathy and lack of basic humanity. He gave Pete a shot of something called an antibiotic to boost something or other and then provided a new bowl of mush and placed it gently by Pete's bed before locking Pete back in. And then the lights went out.

Jayne grunted as he sat up in bed, moved to the door, and then quietly started whittling away at the door. "I've picked my fair share of locks in time but this one's innards keep changing every time I try to get it open. It's almost like its learning. There must be something special about his key that enables it to open for him but I have yet to get a good look at the key or attempt to steal it from him."

When Pete didn't respond, Jayne looked over at his co-prisoner before commenting, "You look like shit."

"Gee, you mean that I won't win the beauty contest? You've dashed my dreams of becoming a fashion icon," Pete replied in mock disappointment. After a few more minutes, Pete noticed that his shivering was starting to feel uncontrollable. "D-Did you g-go through whatever this fever i-is?" Pete asked through chattering teeth.

"Yeah, most people seem to live through it," grunted Jayne.

Pete thought back to the 3rd prisoner who had disappeared and again decided that he didn't want to know the fate of other prisoners so he changed the subject to learn what the nearer threat might be, "What was he doing to you today? And what the hell is up with that die?"

"Not totally sure. The bracelet that he straps on my ankle sends me to different places. It might also be various points in time. It's hard to tell where or when I have arrived but I can tell that it's no longer here or now based on what I can see and the length of nearby shadows. I think the die is how he decides where and when I travel to. We have to find a way out of here soon though because the first few trips didn't hurt, but the last few were different. The last couple started to feel like there was a stabbing pain in all of my muscles. That last one felt like my insides were out to murder me." At that Jayne started muttering to himself and all that Pete could catch was "betrayal of body."

Before Pete could ask what Jayne meant, Pete's eyes began to struggle to stay open. In a matter of seconds, the world faded away into darkness.

Part III - Chapter 11 - Pete Hutter... In the Lab... With a Tablet

Year 2169

"From the ashes, through the bridge, the shepherd will rise," came a whispered voice through the darkness.

Unsettled by the words still echoing in his ears and annoyed by an incessant tapping on his face, Pete awoke to find a light being moved back and forth in front of his eyes. In an effort to protect his eyesight, Pete slowly blinked to block out any pain but it made the world around him look like a blur. As he began to feel the drowsiness drain away, he worked on focusing past the light. It turned out there was a round faced man with dark eyes and a stubbled face who was shining a tiny yet blinding light back and forth in front of Pete's eyes. Pete attempted to demand the light be shut off but as he tried to speak, he realized that there was something in his throat. It felt like a tube of some kind and it hurt as he tried to speak. Pete began to struggle but found that his arms were tied down.

"Stop struggling or you will injure yourself," came the low-voiced command from the captor. The man turned off the light and sat back to study Pete before speaking again. "Pete Hutter. You have no idea how long I have been waiting and looking for you. It was lucky that I finally found you when I did."

Pete stopped fighting the binds and began to look around the room to get his bearings and to figure out a way to free himself. The room was a large rectangle. As Pete tried to look down towards his toes, he found that he was strapped to some kind of hospital bed that was higher off the ground than he was used to. The man before him was wearing a white lab coat over a dark suit, wearing blue gloves, and tapping on a flat rectangle in front of him. As Pete studied his captor, the stranger seemed to constantly be moving from checking the various tubes running into Pete's arms, tapping on the flat screened device, checking a beeping device that seemed to be measuring some type of sound or radio wave, to studying a larger flat screen that was sitting on the desk. Pete turned his attention to the wires running out of his arms and noticed that there seemed to be several attached up and down his torso as well. Pete tried to follow the cords' destination or source of connection but they ran off the bed and out of sight. Pete could only deduce that they were somehow connected to the screens by the bed but from this angle, he could not determine how. Watching his captor expertly transition between screens while monitoring Pete's health felt overwhelming. This was all beyond his imagination or understanding and much more up County's alley of "The Coming Thing."

"You don't seem to have enough color in your cheeks," the strange man muttered, more to himself than to Pete. He then began patting Pete on the cheeks as if to bring life back into him; for a moment, it reminded Pete of a spinster aunt determined to pinch color into a child's face. The captor sighed before digging into his pocket for some kind of chocolate bar that had a smell Pete couldn't place. As he devoured it between scribbling notes with his finger onto the small flat screen he caught Pete's curious gaze and responded, "Protein bar. Need to keep my blood sugar under control so that I can enter data into the tablet as quickly as possible."

Pete took the opportunity to look beyond the lab coat, wires, and screens and attempted to study the room a bit more. It was clear that he was in the center of the room and he could just barely see the back wall if he pushed his chin as high as it could go. If he looked past his toes and to the right corner there was a door and past his left most toe there were 3 cells. The furthest cage to the right was empty with just a tiny bench and a pot to leave little to the imagination about living conditions for the life ahead for Pete. The center cage was occupied by a body crumpled on the floor but it was difficult to really study the center cage's occupant as it looked more like a pile of clothes rather than a human. What drew Pete's attention was the 3rd cage's occupant, a tall well-built man with grey hair. His hair looked unkempt as if he had been a prisoner for awhile but even from here Pete could see that he had an oval face with a chin that could break fists. If Pete was a betting man, he would gamble that this man was former military or something requiring brute strength. The man was leaning against the back wall of his cell as if he had little interest in the spectacle at the center of the room.

Just then, the nearby chair protested the movement of its occupant which caused Pete's eyes to dart back to the scientist. To Pete's horror, the man pulled a syringe from a nearby table injected it into one of the many tubes connected to Pete.

"That's enough excitement for now, Mr. Hutter. Time to go back to sleep. Can't have you in too much shock all at once. Your immune system needs time to build a tolerance to our mutated strains of viruses that you have not been exposed to before."

Suddenly, Pete's eyelids were extremely heavy and with every blink it became more and more difficult to keep his eyes open. And then the world slipped away, back into darkness.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Pete opened his eyes and found himself in the sheriff's office in Hard Rock. Sheriff Bowler was in the other room talking to his wife and town mayor, Lenore.

"Bowler that man helped bring you home to me! He was part of the rescue mission to enable you to escape a firing squad," came Lenore's commanding voice.

Pete could hear a lower voice in the other room so he knew that Bowler was responding and objecting to Pete's request to be a deputy. However, as much as Pete strained to hear Bowler, he could not make out the words.

"People can change. Wyatt Earp worked security for his wife's brothel, Doc Holiday was a prolific gambler and shot several people following card games that didn't go his way. Hell! Whip Morgan has spent his youth in and out of jail. Why is Pete different?"

As the conversation continued, Pete looked around the room again. "Wait!" he thought. "I have been here before. In a few moments, Bowler and Lenore are going to give me a trial period of 3 weeks before officially deputizing me." The door opened and just as Pete turned to make his case, the figures of Bowler and Lenore were blurred. Pete tried to strain his eyes to get a glimpse of his old employers but the room began to fade away.

And then Pete woke up.

In his bleary eyed state all Pete could think was, "Damn! Sometimes the worst dreams aren't nightmares but memories that you would rather keep buried."

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Due to his drugged state, Pete could not keep track of time but it was the same situation over and over again. The rude awakening, the scientist snacking while writing in his "tablet," the opportunity to take a gander around the lab, the silent co-prisoners, and then back to sleep. Time was impossible to track as it could have been days or weeks. Since the scientist seemed to always be perfectly groomed, the only clues that Pete could glean were from the co-prisoners. The crumpled prisoner seemed to always be curled up so it was hard to see his state but he seemed to be in different parts of the cage every time Pete awoke and looked over. The man was not coping well with the treatment or life in the laboratory but the man did have small signs of life. The more fascinating prisoner gave a bit more evidence of the passing of time. His hair seemed to grow to a certain point before it was shaved off which meant that this was occurring over a longer period than just a few hours.

The room around them also never changed and there were never any other people aside from his captor and co-prisoners. The room was practically silent except for the captor who rarely talked but to himself. Meanwhile, Pete and the crumpled prisoner were unable to talk and the fourth man just seemed to lean against the back wall or lounge on his bed. The fourth man seemed to radiate silent rebellion to the situation at hand and he remained apathetic to his surroundings. It was clear that he was a man who had never met a cage that could keep him jailed for long.

Pete did his best to study the co-prisoners to determine if they would be allies in an escape and to study the room for signs of why he might be a captive and how he might find freedom. In fact, Pete did his best to keep his mind as filled and distracted as possible since the hardest part of the experience were the dreams. It felt as though every dream forced Pete to relive a past experience. To make matters worse, Bowler's recent passing seemed to make all of Pete's dreams centered around the Lonefeather family.

While Pete was not a fully changed man, he did honor the agreement and upheld the letter of the law while under the employ of Bowler, but definitely not the spirit of the law. Ten dollars per arrest was decent income but sometimes, Pete needed to spread his wings for additional income opportunities of the creative variety. While his financial schemes during that time in Hard Rock weren't illegal, they were not rarely ethical. Pete had heard about Frank James selling stones off of his brother Jesse James' grave in order to create extra income so Pete did a similar routine. Bly didn't have a grave per se, so why not set up a gravesite near Hard Rock? A piece of history from Bly's "grave" for only $2 was a steal in most history hunters' minds and Pete made a decent sum of money over time. And the beauty of the scheme was that all Pete had to do was add more rocks to the gravesite a couple times a week.

Pete's second scheme was actually based on lawman Bat Masterson's habit of carrying antique guns and selling it for $20 to young buff's wanting to carry "the gun that tamed Dodge City." When people would come to town and beg for Bowler's shotgun at the sheriff's office, Pete would escort them out, per Bowler's request. As soon as they were out of earshot, Pete would empathize with the disappointed history seeker. Pete would weave a tale about how he had tracked down Wyatt Earp, Brisco County Jr., or Bill Hickock, whichever hero seemed to resonate most with the sucker. Pete would lament how much time it took to convince the individual to part with their gun but now Pete was able to carry a weapon that helped to "tame the west" and how much courage it gave him as a deputy. Of course, he was always willing to part with it for say, $20. The individual would ride out of town believing they had achieved their goal of leaving town with a historic gun and Pete would go to the local pawn shop and buy another gun. If Bat Masterson did it, it couldn't be that unethical, right?

Pete's favorite financial scheme was a miracle elixir business. Pete convinced 10 people to not only buy the elixirs but to "become their own employers" and get 10 people of their own to buy and sell elixirs. The business went on and on to ensure that Pete was at the top of this, well, triangle-shape. Most of the money was made from all of the people in the lower tiers. While Pete ensured that all of his schemes were never illegal, he had a feeling that Bowler and Lenore might not approve so he kept his name off of all financial records for the gravesite and for the miracle elixir business.

A movement from the scientist sitting next to Pete stirred Pete back to the present. The scientist was pulling out another syringe. Pete heard his own exasperated sigh before feeling the prick of the needle.

"Don't worry, Mr. Hutter. We're almost finished with this stage."

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Pete was walking out of the church for Bowler's funeral. Between family, friends, lawmen, bounty hunters, and politicians that the family met over the years, Pete could only find a space to stand at the back. While he had originally planned to pay respects to the family, being in a church filled with lawmen and judges did make Pete uneasy which prompted him to slip out the back before the service ended. Pete had just approached his motorcycle to head back to San Francisco when he heard a familiar female voice.

"Pete, are you really trying to sneak out without saying 'hello?'

Pete turned and gave his most mischievous smile and he raised his hands in surrender. "Why Madame Mayor! I would never exit without your dismissal. I just remembered that this was a potluck event and that I forgot my Aunt Susy's potatoes for the afternoon buffet. As a former deputy, I can't let down the mayor or town."

"Come here and give a widow a hug," Lenore ordered. Pete complied before standing back to say, "Seriously, how are you doing?"

She arched her eyebrow and placed her hands on her hips before replying, "Pete, I may have adopted you into my family while you were here, but we avoided all serious conversations over the years, including your miracle elixirs."

"You were aware of that financial venture?" Pete asked bashfully.

"Just because I turned a blind eye, doesn't mean that I didn't know. Besides, my goal was to never change you or force you to walk the straight and narrow but to give you a sense of home."

Pete smiled and admitted, "It's the closest that I came to a family that I recall."

"Speaking of which did you see James? My boy is all grown up."

"I only got to see him from the back of the church and he wasn't facing me so I didn't get a good look at him."

"Maybe next time then," Lenore replied with a weak smile. She looked at Pete's motorcycle before asking, "I thought that I heard that you were motorcycling across the country, doing something in Picture Palaces?"

"Towns need someone to run the cinema reels and driving from town to town on a motorcycle seems to fit my restless personality. Although the films have been a little more focused on the art of camera work instead of the storyline for my taste. Personally, I feel that Charlie Chaplin has a better mastery of camera use while still being able to tell a believable story-"

"I thought I heard you were in a terrible motorcycle accident," interrupted Lenore.

"Oh that," Pete began, debating how to continue. Deciding to downplay the event, Pete continued while avoiding Lenore's gaze, "Well, I was driving through a town and a car came out of nowhere and blind-sided my motorcycle. I turned at the last second but the motorcycle jerked too hard and fell over, dragging me on the street."

"How awful!"

"Road rash only takes a couple weeks to recover from. I healed and the road seems to have exfoliated my pores so my skin is clearer than ever," Pete said as he shrugged off Lenore's concern.

"I know a lot of women who would be happy to risk death in order to exfoliate skin to that level of smoothness," Lenore commented while studying his face. The doors to the church swung open and a funeral procession was starting to spill out and towards Pete and Lenore. "I have to get back and I won't make you stay here. I just wanted to say thank you for coming before you drove back home. It means a lot to see you here and I wanted to tell you that Bowler appreciated your letters. They consoled him in his final days but he burned them before I could read them, much less return them to you. Bowler may not have agreed with your lifestyle but in his own way, he seemed to respect you."

At that, she gave Pete's arm a gentle squeeze before turning back to the funeral parishioners. Leaving a confused Pete standing next to his motorcycle wondering, "Who the hell would pose as me and send letters to Bowler? What did those letters say? And why would Bowler burn letters from a person pretending to be me?"

As dreams often do, the scene blurred and he was no longer in Hard Rock but in his apartment in San Francisco. The thought that someone was posing as Pete and sending letters to Bowler, spooked Pete and he haphazardly threw items into his bag. Clearly, Pete was not going to be safe in his apartment. Pete looked outside his apartment window to see a black Ford had parked in front of the building. Just as he realized that the car had been following him through San Francisco, he noticed an odd smell in his room. Pete turned to see that a gas was seeping through the keyhole of the room. Pete scrambled back to the window and tried to open the window to let fresh air in and potentially escape but he was too late. The people and vehicles outside were becoming distorted and blurry.