Part I - Chapter 03 - Psyched in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

The adventure began with a rocky start as the train ride was filled with worries and complaints from Doc as he seemed to be afraid of everything, including doorknobs, sneezes, and sunshine. If Doc was not a necessity, Brisco would have happily exchanged Doc for Socrates, snoring, odd hotel behavior, and all. Only slightly less worrisome was a silent but determined Rachel. With every glance around the area, it was almost as if she wished something would go awry and challenge her toughness or her authority. Brisco began to mentally weigh which event would likely occur first – Doc fainting over something innocuous or Rachel picking a fight with the toughest person she could find. Either way, this was not the trail ride adventure that he remembered. Luckily, it was only an hour train ride between the two cities.

After disembarking the train, the trio walked in the general direction of the center of town. The small rescue party had only been walking for a few minutes when they ran into two men loudly bickering. The men looked as though they had almost every snack item from the local corner store precariously balanced in their arms. One man had a mischievous air about him, short hair, untucked clothing, and a farmer’s tan. The other man was well built with dark skin that seemed to shine in the daylight almost to echo his welcoming smile. Of the two, the second looked as though he was the more professional and honest of the two. You felt like you could instinctively trust him; even if he were to recommend suspicious miracle elixirs to cure all manner of ailments.

Rachel rushed to meet the two in an attempt to assert her authority and asked, “Can you point us in the direction of Santa Barbara-“

“We locals like to call this town Santa,” the black man interrupted.

“Or Barbara,” his friend chimed in.

“Barb for short.”

“Barb’s not dead.”

“Long live Barb.” At the end of this narrative, the two men gave each other a sideways glance and pointed at each other as if they were laughing at their own inside joke.

“Could they have said any stranger than that?” murmured Doc and Brisco had to agree.

“Right,” Brisco stated in an attempt to ignore the odd statements before continuing. “And you are-?”

“The name is Shawn,” began the mischievous man. He took one look at Rachel before piling his armful into the other man’s arms and tipping an imaginary hat to Rachel. He gave his most charming grin before continuing, “I am a psychic detective and this is my partner, Medulla Oblongata.”

“Or Gus for short,” his associate cheerfully offered.

“How is ‘Gus’ short for a part of the brain?” inquired Doc but Shawn ignored the question and began jerking about as though he were a fish being pulled out of water.

“The spirits want me to inquire,” began Shawn as he mustered his most serious yet charming facial expression with arched brow. He took Rachel’s hand before continuing, “How would you like your steak cooked for our dinner tonight?”

Rachel rolled her eyes as she did not have time for boys who played games and quickly removed her hand from Shawn’s grip before giving him a slight shove away, “If you really are psychic, the spirits would tell you that we are in the middle of a man hunt. We need to speak to your local sheriff immediately.”

At the mention of ‘man hunt,’ Shawn’s demeanor seemed to change from a flirtatious and confident swagger to one of caution. Gus looked at Shawn with a look of shock and confusion while Shawn ignored his friend. “We can help you get there,” Shawn stated shortly as he took one small item from Gus’ load.

As they followed Shawn down the street, Doc could no longer hold in his curiosity. “What makes you psychic? I have yet to find any scientific proof of that phenomena, but it has always intrigued me.”

Shawn abruptly stopped and turned around. He looked Doc, Rachel, and Brisco up and down before taking two steps right up into Brisco’s face. Shawn began to sniff in the air like a puppy before taking a step back and placing a finger to his right temple. “I sense that you, young lady, are putting up a wall to prevent me from seeing your aura.” He then looked at Doc and continued, “You are a scientist dealing with experiments that have gone awry.” Finally, he turned to Brisco. “And you, sir, are Brisco County Junior. That is your unfortunate name and not where you are from. You have come from Hollywood, the world of silver screens, big dreams, and broken promises,” Shawn paused for a moment as his face grew darker almost bitter before he continued, “Finally, I sense that you feel a great guilt and that you, sir, should feel every bit of your shame.”

“Shawn, maybe you should ease up a bit” mumbled Gus beneath his breath.

“I have not begun to ease…” exclaimed Shawn, much to the confusion of the listeners.

“Well, that’s by far the most specific that Spencer has EVER been with his visions,” began a newcomer to the conversation. “And if you have incurred the wrath of this excuse for a town bum, then you have my full support.”

Brisco turned to get a better look at the tall and lanky stranger, “And you are?”

“Speaking of town bums, may I introduce the bummer of all bummers, Sheriff Lassiter, or Lassie as I like to call him,” muttered Shawn.

Brisco shook the sheriff’s hand and noticed his striking blue eyes behind a tough smile. The sheriff was tall and hid most of his salt & pepper hair behind the largest hat that Brisco had ever seen.

“Sheriff, we have a private matter to discuss with you.”

“And with that, I feel that Gus and I should continue on with our quest for more snacks!” exclaimed Shawn in a goofy tone. Gus and Shawn turned only to have Gus drop most of his items.

“Shawn!” scolded Gus but Shawn began to speed walk away, leaving Doc to help Gus pick up the items and carefully balance the load back into Gus’ arms before Gus followed in Shawn’s direction. Doc, Rachel, and Brisco had barely entered the sheriff’s office before Rachel huffed into a nearby chair.

“How can you handle those two? Wouldn’t you find dealing with them irritating?” exclaimed Rachel.

“Oh no, it absolutely annoys me! I find it childish and often distracting but he occasionally guesses or siphons the correct answer,” stated Sheriff Lassiter as he waved his hand in mild irritation, “Additionally, his father was one of the best lawmen in the area, so I feel I owe his father. But I do have to say, it is odd to have Shawn walk away from a possible case. Normally, he would be knocking us over to be hired on the case, on ANY case. But, I will take this as a welcome reprieve.”

At this moment, Doc looked at his watch and exclaimed, “I cannot believe I let the psychic distract me. We are running out of time!” Doc immediately began pulling papers and maps from his bag and began unloading them about the desk. Within seconds every square inch of the sheriff’s desk was covered by something owned by the doctor.

“Please come in and take over my desk,” stated Sheriff Lassiter wryly.

“At any moment, James is going to appear near the town hall, accounting for the variance of distance,” Doc was calculating aloud but no one was truly sure if the words were for the group or to himself. “If I add in another couple of meters…” Doc then began to draw a circle around his map, his red pen leaking ink onto his hand and on several other pieces of paper. Completely oblivious to the mess, Doc continued, “Can you help us locate this building and block off the entire area from public access within the next hour?”

“You want me to block off town hall, the local mercantile, and the town corral in the next hour?” asked Sheriff Lassiter. He looked like he was about to toss the group out before Brisco took Lassiter aside. As Brisco explained who he was and who they were attempting to rescue, without explaining any of the futuristic science, Lassiter seemed to acquiesce a bit. The promise to go shooting with the sheriff before leaving town ended up being the final bargaining chip as Lassiter was quite proud of his marksmanship and enjoyed bragging about which famous lawmen and outlaws that he could best in a shooting match. “One more obstacle completed,” thought Brisco.

However, as the group crowded around the table to formulate a plan, Brisco had an uneasy feeling continue to build in his stomach. “Why was Shawn, a stranger, so angry at me? Why had a nosey self-proclaimed psychic detective suddenly not be interested in a missing person case? Did the psychic actually know more than he was letting on?”

Brisco tried to shake these questions off. After all, it had been years since he last worked in the field. It must be some weird paranoia brought on by lack of practice.

“It had to be.”

- - - - - - - - -

Gus followed Shawn towards the town corral which was up the road from the sheriff’s office. After several minutes of calling Shawn’s name, Shawn finally relented and relieved half of Gus’ load. As they awkwardly walked into the stables, Gus began a complicated whistle. At the sound of the tune, James emerged from the shadows. Unbeknownst to Brisco, the three boys had grown up together and considered each other family. So much so, that they often referred to each other’s parents as “uncles or aunts.”

“About time!” exclaimed James. “You left me in an abandoned stable instead of taking me to your place? I could have been enjoying home cooked food and a much better smelling location!”

“Home cooked food would be available at my parents’ house in Hard Rock but since we’re here and both of us are living in boarding houses, we couldn’t sneak you in and out easily like you said you needed. Besides, Shawn’s place is messier and smellier than this place,” commented Gus.

“Hey! I take offense to that!” countered Shawn

“Regarding the time delay, blame it on Shawn’s slight detour to flirt,” Gus continued, despite a glare from Shawn. Gus smirked back before finishing his story, “We went around town scrounging for different items to help get that odd bracelet off your wrist.” As Gus reviewed their errands completed on James’ behalf, he worked on unloading various items onto a nearby table.

“And more importantly – we bring snacks!” announced Shawn he lifted his arms as triumphantly as he could while puffing out his chest. James ignored the ham behavior by quickly moving to the table and eating the nearest bread roll that he could find.

“Thank God! I can’t remember the last time I ate.”

“See? I told you it would be worth it!” Shawn said in a sing-song tone.

I thought you would be back ages ago,” James muttered between mouthfuls.

“Well, it wasn’t just flirting. We also ran into an old friend of Uncle Bowler’s, Brisco County Jr.. Took a bit of time to give him the slip” explained Gus.

“Honestly, I’m starting to care less about who finds me at the moment as long as I can eat and get this stupid bracelet off,” James stated between mouthfuls.

“Really?!?” exclaimed Shawn indignantly. “All of the times that he was supposed to come before your dad died or even when he died? You suddenly are okay with seeing him?”

James sighed. “I appreciate y’all looking out for me. I really do. But some things are more complicated than you realize. And no, I don’t hate him.”

“Don’t worry, I have enough hate for the both of us,” Shawn vehemently muttered.

“Let’s change the subject,” James said in a positive voice to redirect the tone of the room, “Let’s talk about removing this bracelet.”

“Good idea!” exclaimed Gus. He immediately unrolled a leather satchel and began spreading out the tools from inside. James noticed that Gus had attempted to bring any type of tool available which included a set of shears, wire cutters, blacksmith’s hammer, and a gun.

James whistled before laughing, “Well, one of these ought to work!”

Twenty minutes later and nothing had worked. In fact, the shears, wire cutters, and hammer had been damaged in the process of trying to break open the bracelet. Gus and Shawn wiped the sweat off their faces and heaved heavy sighs. There was a moment of silence between the three friends. An unspoken shiver of fear went down each of their spines, “What if they could not remove the bracelet? What if this would be the last time that the 3 childhood friends would be together?”

“What time is it?” asked James

“You’ve been in town for almost 2 hours.”

“Last town was roughly 3 hours. So, we probably have another hour.” Silence began to fill the room again.

“Have you tried just pushing random buttons?” inquired Gus.

James rolled his eyes, “That’s what started this whole problem! Why should I try it again? What if I push random buttons and only my head moves and the rest of me stays here? What if it goes back to moving me every ten minutes instead of every few hours? What if it has me appear inside of a wall or underwater which kills me? Unless there is someone who knows what each button does, I am going to stay away from button pushing.” James looked at his feet before beginning, “Amputation might be-“

“Hell no! We’re not doing that!” exclaimed Shawn as he picked up the gun. “Besides, we haven’t tried everything yet.” Shawn held the gun but noticed that his hand was trembling. “Gus, I can’t do it. You try.”

Gus picked up the gun but also realized that his hands were also shaking too much. “Nope. Nu-uh. Not going to do it.” Gus tossed the gun aside in disgust.

“What did you do that for?” an exasperated James exclaimed. Just as Gus and Shawn were about to bicker, a door slammed open with a man and woman blocking the entrance to the street. Both of them were wearing black leather, large black hats, and each carried a shotgun. The woman was younger with a heart shaped face, sadistic dark eyes, and dark curly hair. The man was older, probably her father. He was pale and drawn and his face lacked all emotion.

There was just enough time for Shawn to get a good look at the couple before shouting “Hit the floor!” The three friends flattened themselves to the floor as quickly as possible. Shawn knocked over the table of snacks and Shawn motioned for James and Gus to hide behind the table. James took a quick peek up at the couple but the couple began firing the rifles over their heads. James quickly covered his face as he belly crawled to hide with Shawn and Gus.

“Who are these people?” shouted James over the gunfire.

“It’s Yin and Yang, a father and daughter that we put in prison awhile back,” explained Gus.

“Guess they got out?” asked James.

“Looks like,” mused Shawn.

“Where’s the gun?” asked James. To which Gus pointed to a clearing in the middle of the room and all air escaped out of the three friends’ lungs. To get back the gun would be putting themselves right in the path of the shootists.

“Options?” whispered James.

“One of us will have to either get the gun or go for help,” whispered Shawn.

“Or both?” suggested James.

“Gus is the fastest among us,” stated Shawn. As Gus attempted to defend himself against a perceived slight against his courage when Shawn lifted a hand, “We don’t have time and I am just stating a fact.” Gus nodded before taking a deep breath to steady his nerves.

Shawn then began to count down, “Three… Two… One… Go!”

With that, Shawn crawled to the right, shouting and making as much noise as possible. At the same moment, James crawled left in an attempt to get to the gun. Gus ran towards the back door on the opposite side of the corral. Just as Gus reached the door, he heard another gunshot and looked over his shoulder to see James hit the floor. Gus did not have time to find out if James was injured or just hiding from stray bullets. Instead, he threw his whole body weight into the door and felt it swing away. Gus stumbled for a moment but regained his balance before running back towards the sheriff’s office and the infamous Brisco County Jr.

- - - - - - - - -

Brisco could barely focus during the meeting between Sherriff Lassiter and Doc. He could feel an uneasiness but could not place what was causing the electricity in the air. But something about the young men that he had met on his way into town just could not be pushed from Brisco’s mind, no matter how hard he tried to focus on the Doctor and Sheriff Lassiter’s plan. So, when gunshots erupted from outside, Brisco was out of the building and moving towards the town corral like a bolt of lightening. As Brisco moved in the direction that he saw the young men take earlier, it took a few minutes before his brain actually processed that the gun shots were actually coming from the town corral. As Brisco’s brain processed that the psychics were probably shooting or being shot at, he noticed a figure running from the town corral and in his direction.

Brisco called out, “Mufasa…or Medula…or whatever the hell your name is-“

“It’s James & Shawn – they’re both in danger and possibly shot.” And then as suddenly as the gunfire began, it stopped. It caused both Gus and Brisco to stop hurrying and turn towards the corral both out of breath and afraid of what the silence might mean. Aside from a few mutterings from local townspeople, the air was eerily silent. Brisco felt his heart plummet to his stomach. “Am I too late?”

“Where are they?” erupted Lassiter who had caught up to Brisco. Brisco could have jumped through his skin at the explosion of sound from Lassiter.

“It’s Yin and Yang,” hurriedly explained Gus

“I thought that they were given life in prison. Are you sure it’s them?” interrogated Lassiter.

“Damn sure!” exclaimed Gus.

“Apparently, they’ve escaped,” chimed in Rachel as she readied her guns.

“I’ll ask again,” asked Lassiter with grim tone, “where are they?”

Gus pointed in the direction of the town stables. The small group moved quickly and silently in that direction. When they were a few meters from the building, the group quietly spread out to encircle the small stables.

Lassiter took a deep breath and shouted, “Yin and Yang! We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up!”

“Are we just going to blindly shoot? What if they have horses in there?” asked Rachel in a hushed voice.

“Don’t worry, it’s been closed all week for renovations,” whispered Gus.

“Still didn’t answer my question,” Rachel muttered under her breath.

Brisco could hear a muffled rustling inside the stable before the doors swung open. He saw Shawn come out with his hands above his head and a frazzled dark-haired woman behind him with a rifle aimed at Shawn’s back. She looked around at Brisco and the rest of the small party before giggling in a maniacal way.

“Is it my birthday? New weapons, Shawny boy, and the sheriff all in one day? Awww… you shouldn’t have!”

“Where’s James?” shouted Brisco, trying to mask his fear.

“What do you mean new weapons?” chimed a panicked Doc.

The woman nudged Shawn to take a few steps forward but she stayed close behind, ensuring that no one could get a clear shot at her without injuring Shawn. She looked at the group before giggling her eerie laugh.

“Just as Gus was leaving our small shootin’ hoe down, we saw the third boy move towards the gun. Daddy aimed and shot but just when the bullet would have hit the boy, it ricocheted across the room. In all the chaos, I snuck around and got Shawny here. I figured y’all won’t try nothin’ knowing that we have hostages. Me with Shawn and Daddy who’s takin’ a look at the other boy now.”

Just then a loud and frustrated yell poured out from inside the stables. The woman momentarily forgot Shawn and turned to look inside the corral. Rachel took the opportunity to begin shooting towards the woman. Shawn barely had time to belly flop onto the dirt before a bullet found a place in the woman’s hand. She let out a scream of pain as the gun fell from her hands and Sherriff Lassiter ran up and handcuffed the woman. Brisco and Rachel pushed past Shawn, Lassiter, and the woman and ran into the town stables. There was a man on his hands and knees with blood pouring from his nose and head. Just beyond the man was James, holding the shotgun by the barrel. From the looks of things, he must have managed to do some damage with the butt end of Yin’s Winchester rifle. Brisco only had a moment to think of how much James looked like his father and how proud Bowler would be of his son. But the moment was over too soon. A glow poured around James, a loud noise filled the tiny room, and after Brisco blinked, James was gone.

Left standing in the town coral staring at the place James stood, a hollow feeling filled Brisco. He had seen James and lost him, all in a matter of moments.

- - - - - - - - -

The cell door slammed as Sherriff Lassiter closed and locked it. Inside the father and daughter stood, miserable and defeated. Brisco turned away from them as they had cost him precious moments to rescue his best friend’s son from whatever gadget and trouble the Doc had unleashed. Brisco shook the sheriff’s hand and expressed his thanks for the assistance before leaving the jail. Suddenly, being in the same building with those two was still too close in Brisco’s mind.

As he walked outside going in no particular direction, Brisco passed by an alley between buildings and noticed Doc talking with Shawn and Gus. Brisco decided to detour and met up with the men to find out what they were discussing.

“Let me ensure that I have the details of the story correct. James was in town for 3 hours at the last town and how long was he here?”

“A little over 3 hours,” offered Gus.

“He must be getting better at hiding his arrivals and time in a town,” mused Doc as he scribbled into a notebook. “And he arrived in town where exactly? Near city hall?”

“Actually, in a field, about 20 feet from the saloon,” commented Shawn.

Doc pulled out a map for them to point the location before he took additional notes. “I see. And the woman mentioned something about a bullet ricocheting?”

“It was like this-” began Gus, just as Shawn interrupted.

“What is that thing on his wrist? We got all kinds of blacksmith instruments, shears, everything we could carry. Nothing could get the bracelet off his wrist. And then when he was shot at, it was like a weird glowing bubble appeared around him. The bullet hit the bubble and then went flying across the room.”

“Okay, well, thank you gentlemen. That will be all.” The doctor turned to walk away amongst the young men’s protests.

“I think you have taken quite a bit of information and it’s about time that you give a little,” stated Brisco as he blocked Doc’s pathway. Shawn and Gus closed in from behind to ensure that Doc was surrounded.

The nervous scientist ran his hands through his messy hair and shook his head. “It will mess with the time continuum if I provide any information other than what is absolutely necessary.”

“This is nothing like what Uncle Bowler used to tell us about,” exclaimed Gus.

Actually, it kind of is – odd objects, resurrections, powers, a weird guy from the future…” listed Shawn.

Brisco looked past Doc for a moment and studied the two young men. It suddenly made sense. These psychics were not just anyone. These were more than childhood friends of James, they were family to Bowler and Lenore. It seemed that destiny was beginning to weave Brisco towards James after all, even if it was just little by little.

“It sounds to me like these gentlemen already know more than they should,” began Brisco as he pushed the scientist back towards the duo, “Again, it’s time to start giving information.”

Doc sighed before nodding his head to acquiesce. “After John Bly and all of the various people that the orbs affected, we realized that we needed to add safety measures-“

“Like making your gadgets wearable instead of giant orbs?” asked Gus.

“Beyond that. What happens if you realize that someone has a tool to help you move across time and space? That kind of tech could be quite valuable to military leaders, bank robbers, lovesick poets turned homicidal, the list could go on.”

“So, you locked it to ensure someone couldn’t just rip the stupid thing off?” inquired Brisco gruffly.

“Think bigger. What if you cut off the time traveler’s arm? What if you killed the time traveler? We had to ensure that it was programmed to the wearer and that it would protect the wearer from harm. When I landed in this century, I caught fire because it must have reacted poorly to the proximity of the other bracelet. In my haste to put out the fire, I threw off the bracelet. James found it and put it on. He must have pressed some buttons which not only dropped him into all of my assigned trips in history instead of the one trip, but he must have also programmed himself as the designated wearer. Until he deprograms it and removes the bracelet, he will be untouchable.”

“Well, at least it’s protecting him,” sighed Brisco, feeling slightly more relieved to hear the news. Shawn watched Brisco with a new interest.

“I have one last question,” began Gus, “He said that he’s noticing that his time at various locations is slowly increasing in time. But he also said that he’s been appearing in weird places, like just outside of buildings or in the middle of streets. What is protecting him from arriving inside of a building? Is he protected in that scenario?”

“I was afraid of that,” muttered the scientist. Sensing that the group would not allow him to pass until he provided a more thorough answer to Gus’ question, Doc continued. “I did not leave from my platform which forced the calculations for the location parameters’ to be off target. It is trying to compensate by staying in roughly a 50 foot radius but it sounds like it is not consistently landing him in discreet or open spaced landing areas.”

“Again, what happens if he lands inside a wall? Is that possible or are there safety measures against that?” inquired Gus.

Doc looked away from the group before composing himself and hurriedly stating, “That’s why we cannot wait any longer but must get to the next town as quickly as possible.” Doc pushed past Brisco and walked quickly towards the train station to meet Rachel who Brisco hoped had successfully procured tickets for the trio. Brisco turned to follow Doc until he heard Shawn call out.

“Brisco, do you really care about James?”

The question caught Brisco off guard. He turned slowly and cleared his throat. “Of course, I do.”

“Why did you never visit? We heard about you for years but you never came. Not even to the funeral.”

Brisco paused and looked at the duo of friends before beginning. “Friendship is the most powerful gift that destiny can give you. Don’t let pride force you to forget. And if pride does creep in, remember, there’s no such thing as too long of a time to see a friend.” Brisco cleared his throat before continuing, “For me, personally, by the time I was ready to see Bowler, I was convinced that it had been too long. And then, suddenly, he was gone. Don’t make the same mistake. Don’t ever take your friendship for granted.”

Shawn swallowed hard as he looked at Gus. He then turned back to Brisco with an outstretched hand, “Good luck, Mr. County.”

“Good luck, Shawn. Good luck, Gus.” Brisco shook both men’s hands before turning to walk towards the train station. Brisco took a few steps before turning around again. “You are both welcome to continue with us if you would like-“

Shawn shook his head. “Before you joined us, Doc was saying something about home bench.”

“Home base,” corrected Gus.

“I’ve heard it both ways,” insisted Shawn.

“No, you have not!” exclaimed Gus.

“Look, the point is,” began an irritated Shawn, “I am not 100% sure what Doc was talking about, but it does sound like there is a possibility that we might represent ‘home’ as we are part of James’ family. If that’s the case, then we have to stay here and watch for him.”

Brisco nodded in agreement, tipped his hat, and continued toward the train station. Sitting on the train, Brisco looked out the window as the train slowly pulled out of the station. The train slowly passed by an odd advertisement for a fortune teller which read, “In dreams, I am with you.” That’s an odd advertisement, thought Brisco as the train began to build speed.

Brisco closed his eyes to focus on how the hell he would save James. While it eased Brisco’s mind to know that the bracelet would protect James from violence or from Bly type characters, Doc’s silence about the location parameters confirmed that James was running out of time. At any time, the bracelet could kill James, unless they could rescue James first. Sleep washed over Brisco as the image continued to flash in his mind’s eye. “In dreams, I am with you…”

I hope to God that I’ll wake up and this is all a dream, was the last thing Brisco thought before falling asleep.

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