Part VII - Chapter 42 – Unexpected Visitors

There was a loud noise as though the door slammed which caused Ellie and Brisco to wake up. Both had not realized that they had fallen asleep and both sat upright to face the door. To their surprise, Pete was standing in the doorway and looking about the room.

“Don’t mind me,” his lilting voice came. “Just came in for what belongs to me.”

Within moments Pete had moved across the room, opened a desk, and moved several items about but did not find what he was looking for. He then pulled out the drawer entirely and found the bracelet tucked on the underside of the drawer, completely oblivious to Brisco or Ellie.

“Pete what the hell happened? How did you survive?” commented Brisco.

Meanwhile, the shock had finally worn off Ellie and she ran across the room to give Pete a giant hug. Pete pulled her back a bit to study the tears in her eyes. “You really thought I had died?”

“You weren’t breathing,” Brisco stated as he rose to defend Ellie.

“The entire space under the house has turned to ash but y’all find my body is un-burned and you thought I was dead?”

“Again, you weren’t breathing,” insisted Brisco. “Your body may have survived but it didn’t mean that the smoke inhalation would not kill you.”

“Brisco, you seem to always be quick to believe I’ve departed this realm. Beginning to think it’s more than wishful thinking,” muttered Pete and he turned to leave the room.

“Where the hell are you going?” demanded Brisco.

“Headed to one of the smaller kitchens. I believe that Rachel, Lenore, and James are hiding there, drinking hot chocolate, and avoiding the rest of the household before the memorial service.”

“You saw them already?”

“No, but I had a long chat with my ghostly gal and she told me where to find everyone.”

As Brisco and Ellie rushed to follow Pete, he ignored their questions except to respond, “I prefer to tell everyone all at once.”

Bruce and Ellie locked eyes behind Pete’s back and simultaneously rolled their eyes. Of course, Pete would want to give a big presentation to wrap up the evening’s events. They hurried to keep up with Pete who seemed to know where he was going without looking up from the bracelet in his hand. He was fiddling with it in an expert manner that Brisco had not seen before.

True to the ghost’s instructions, the trio were indeed in one of the kitchens and drinking hot cocoa. It appeared that no one was able to sleep before the pending service despite the exhaustion that each was feeling. As Pete entered the room, Lenore pushed past James and Rachel to give Pete a giant hug. “You’re alive!” she exclaimed. “You don’t know how happy I am to see you!”

Pete seemed taken aback by the embraces and affection shown by the small group and he motioned for the group to sit down. However, no one seemed to take note of his signal but dived in with their questions.

“How did you survive?” asked Ellie.

“Where is everyone else?” asked Lenore.

“Will you now explain what the HELL is going on?” demanded Brisco.

“I will provide explanations in a moment,” Pete stated calmly. “Before I begin, could you give me the bracelet in your pocket, Ms. Lenore?”

Lenore wordlessly handed over the bracelet and the group watched as Pete continued to tinker with both devices. He barely looked up to acknowledge the group, when he muttered to himself, “Where to begin?”

“How about where did you go while we were completing the séance?” demanded Brisco.

Pete looked up with a slightly bemused smile, “I was actually just thinking aloud about these devices.” Pete took a breath before beginning. “I left the group to search for this bracelet but in the process was stopped by my ghostly gal. She led me to the bell tower and had me ring it in a certain pattern to bring down the dome surrounding the mansion.”

“You abandoned us to follow a ghost?” asked Brisco incredulously.

Pete shrugged as though the question were puerile in nature before replying, “No, I left to find a way to fight the future with the future. Sound familiar?”

Brisco paused as his own words from twenty years ago were repeated to him as it left him momentarily speechless.

“I strongly recommend that y’all sit down for this next part of the evening.”

“What next part?” asked a confused Rachel.

“Ahem- I think he means us,” came Whip’s voice. Rachel gasped and the group turned to see where the voice came from and what Rachel was pointing at – the ghostly figures of Socrates, Whip, and Viva.

The group of humans stared at their friends who were now ghosts with a mixture of sorrow and fear.

“Y’all don’t need to look so glum!” began Whip. “It’s not as terrible as you think.” Whip strode over to James and shook his hand before stating, “James, I am glad that we were able to connect you back with your family. Keep them close.” Whip then moved to Lenore and gave her a big hug. Lenore hugged him back and ignored the icy chill of her friend’s spirit form. “Lenore, thank you for believing me and please tell my family that I love them.” Whip paused for a moment before moving to Brisco. Brisco held out a hand to shake Whip’s but Whip hugged Brisco instead. “If it wasn’t for you, I would have gotten myself killed on the street facing Roy Hondo or in a poker tournament. Thanks for getting me on the path of justice. Turns out that it was the best road for me.” Whip took a step back and allowed Viva to say his goodbyes. Viva hugged Brisco and thanked him for all of the adventures, shook James’ hand and told him how much he looked like his father, and then hugged Lenore. He held her for quite a few moments as they had a whispered conversation. When he pulled back, she quickly wiped a few tears from her eyes. They had worked together for so long and encountered so much that it would have been impossible to say how much their friendship meant to the other. At that, Whip tipped his hat and Viva winked at the group before the two disappeared, leaving Socrates.

Socrates had already quietly said his goodbyes to the group and the only person remaining was Brisco. Socrates and Brisco took a walk away from the group as their friendship had endured so many years and changes that neither felt comfortable being heard by the rest of the group. Socrates was the first to break the silence, “As your attorney, it is my duty to inform you that you will have to finish out the contract on the current movie but after that you will be free to continue in whichever direction that you want-“

“Socrates, I feel like that’s the least-“ interjected Brisco but Socrates rolled his eyes and held up a hand.

“Before we started this mission, I ensured that you would be able to do whatever you like from here. You will not only be contractually free but fiscally able to pursue whatever next adventure you want to pursue.”

“It’s not like there’s much a retired bounty hunter can do?” sighed Brisco.

“Brisco, you can do anything or go anywhere. You have a law degree and you’ve had successful careers as a spy, a Hollywood consultant, and in the past few days, a victor against ghost armies. Who knows? With this current tension, they might need someone to be an overseas consultant or you might help others fight the supernatural. There’s so much to come which gives you a plethora of opportunities.”

“Soc- I am not ready to lose another friend,” Brisco whispered so quietly that Socrates could barely hear it.

Socrates patted Brisco’s shoulder before stating, “It’s a good thing that you’ve reconnected with some old friends and made some new ones then.” Brisco looked back towards Lenore, James, Rachel, and Pete who were still in the kitchen, processing the goodbyes from the ghosts.

“As I said last night, if I didn’t have you in my life, I’d still be an ass kissing, sniveling lawyer to a group of robber barons without a care for anyone but myself.”

“If it’s any consolation, Soc, you’re a much better agent that Wyatt’s wife.” Socrates smiled and held out his hand to shake Brisco’s but Brisco hugged his old friend instead. And then, the lawyer was gone. Disappeared and Brisco was left holding nothing but air.

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

The service was simple and passed in a blur for Brisco, Lenore, James, and Rachel. Pete had remained in the tiny kitchen concerned that the household might be inclined to go into shock at seeing Pete alive after pulling his pulseless body from under the house earlier in the day. When the ceremony was over, Brisco and his friends snuck back to the small kitchen to find Pete sitting in a chair reading a book with both bracelets sitting before him on the kitchen table. Whatever task that Pete had been performing finally complete.

Brisco, tired of evasive responses and still reeling from his recent chat with Socrates, walked directly to Pete before demanding, “You’re a time traveler, could you have saved them?”

Pete looked up from his book and studied Brisco’s face before quietly setting it down on the table next to the bracelets. Pete paused for a few more moments tracing his hand along the book and one of the bracelets before he looked up at Brisco and responded. “No. I have replayed the evening over and over again in my mind and had I joined the men under the house any sooner, I would have had to abandon the bell code which would have cost more lives than just their lives. Even if I could have been at two places at once with the bracelet, I would have lost my mind and been of no use to anyone.”

“Why can’t you just go back and stop James from leaving and the past 24 hours from ever happening?” demanded Rachel.

“She certainly takes after her mother,” commented Pete as he looked back down at his book, lost in thought.

Irritated by Pete’s seemingly short attention span, James spoke up, “She asked you a question.”

Pete stood to his full height before tilting his head with incredulous frustration. “Do you think that I would be standing here if I could simply go back in time? Hell, why not just go back in time and tell you to leave the bracelet alone and let the scientist go back home where he belongs?”

The response was merely silence before Pete continued, “Think about it, James. In all of your hops across time, did you ever visit the same place and time? No, because then you would create a paradox as a best case scenario. Worst case, you being in the same place twice would cause you to simply stop existing. It wouldn’t erase you from time, just from that moment on, you would be absent from existence.”

James wanted to retort that sacrificing Pete for the sake of the other men would be a fair shake but the look on his mother’s face told him to drop it. She seemed to believe Pete, for whatever reason. Pete relaxed before picking up one of the bracelets.

“To change the subject, can you put this on for a second, Brisco?” Pete asked as he handed one of the bracelets to Brisco.

Brisco took a step back before suspiciously asking, “Why?”

“Let’s say that I need your help taking down Charles.”

The thought of Charles brought a level of anger inside of Brisco. Had this man not tampered with time, Doc, Socrates, Whip, and Viva might all still be alive. Brisco set his jaw, held his wrist out, and then nodded. Pete attached the bracelet before pushing a couple buttons and Brisco disappeared.

“Aren’t you going with him?” asked an incredulous Rachel.

“I don’t have to leave at the same time in order to arrive at the same time,” Pete explained as he crossed back to Lenore. Rachel felt the heat in her cheeks redden in embarrassment. Pete gave her a sympathetic smile before reassuring Rachel, “The order of reality in the context of time travel can get confusing quite quickly.”

He stood in front of Lenore before holding out the bracelet. “Once I leave, I may not be able to return for awhile and I actually need your help. You are the catalyst that put me on this journey. I just realized that this time in your chronology is when you told me about my letters to Bowler. It’s also how you were able to get away from the guests to talk with me before I left back to San Francisco.”

“I would never mess with time. I almost lost my boy to this cursed bracelet.”

“I am going to go with you to ensure that you get there and back safely. Furthermore, without your help, I might have been on a different path and unable to help last night.”

Lenore looked at Pete with trepidation unsure what to do.

“Lenore, trust me. Just one last time.”

Before Rachel or James could protest or stop Lenore, she disappeared with Pete.

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

When the blinding light faded away, Brisco found himself in Hard Rock at night. “Damnit Pete! What did you do?” he asked aloud as he looked at the skies. After waiting for several moments, Pete still did not arrive so Brisco began to walk around town thinking maybe under better light he could determine where and when he had landed. As Brisco turned a corner, he ran into a large figure face first.

“Excuse me-“ began Brisco but stopped short when he recognized the face towering above him. “Bowler! Am I glad to see you!” Brisco embraced Bowler while laughing.

“Would you mind telling me what’s so damn amusing?” demanded Bowler.

“Bowler, it’s me! Brisco!”

“Yeah, I know it. I’m still a bit pissed at you for missin’ my wedding.”

“Your… wedding…” stammered Brisco.

“My wedding to Lenore? October 20th? Two weeks ago?”

“Two weeks?”

“Is there an echo over here? Why you repeatin’ everythin’ I say?”

“Bowler, you don’t understand-“

“Understand what? Your anger for me decidin’ to marry Lenore and do right by her? For me decidin’ to be a father to my unborn child? Especially since both of us have experienced the lack of a father.”

“Bowler, I’m so sorry. I missed everything – your wedding, your son’s birth, the day that you were sworn in as sheriff…”

“The hell you talkin’ ‘bout?”

“Bowler, I-“ but Brisco was unable to continue. There was suddenly a bright light surrounding Brisco and within moments, he was gone, leaving a confused Bowler standing in the street.

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

1912 - Hardrock

When the light faded away from Lenore and Pete, they found themselves behind the chapel. The service music was playing as Lenore snuck past it, she was tempted to look inside as it would be wonderful to see Bowler’s body just one more time. But she remembered that it would be a closed casket and kept moving past the chapel. She continued into the direction that Pete had pointed out which would enable her to run into the younger version of himself standing next to a motorcycle. It looked as though Pete was debating whether or not to go in and when it looked like he had decided to drive away, Lenore called out to him.

“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 realized that I forgot my contribution for the afternoon potluck.”

Unsure how to change topics to the letters, she decided to order him to give her a hug in a spirit of cordiality. However, as Pete obeyed with a hug, he jolted her by asking, “Seriously, how are you doing?”

That answer is so much more complicated than you can understand, she thought. Instead, she leaned back, raised an eyebrow, and put her hands on her hips in her most mock mother stance she could conjure. “Pete, I may have adopted you into my family while you were here, but we avoided all things serious, including your miracle elixirs.”

“You knew about that?” 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 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.”

Thinking of all the adopted family that had just been tragically lost, Lenore cleared her voice and looked away before changing the subject, “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. Without Pete’s participation, they would have never been able to rescue James. They would have never learned how to remove the bracelet and who knows how long he would have lived before dying in agony as the bracelet ripped her son apart.

Lenore decided to change the subject again and looked at Pete’s motorcycle before asking, “I thought that I heard that you were motorcycling across the country, doing something in Picture Palaces?”

The two discussed motorcycles before Lenore attempted to hint to Pete his impermeability. However, the comments about his survival were of little interest to Pete and time was running out for Lenore. She felt her pulse quicken as she heard the doors to the church swung open and the funeral procession was starting to spill out 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 meant 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 return them to you. Bowler may not have agreed with your lifestyle but in his own way, he respected you.”

At that, she gave Pete’s arm a gentle squeeze before hurrying back towards the chapel. She moved as quickly as she could to where the older Pete hid. Within moments, Pete had escorted her back to the original timeline. They found James pacing and Rachel cleaning her guns, both clearly nervously awaiting Lenore’s return.

“Mama!” he exclaimed as the light faded away. James pulled her away from Pete and stood between them before pointing an angry finger at Pete and commanding, “Never do that again!”

Pete took little notice of the young man’s anger as he began fiddling with his bracelet, clearly preparing to leave.

“Pete, wait!” called Lenore. “Which version of you wrote the letters?”

Pete paused as though caught red handed and looked up in shock before asking, “Excuse me?”

“Are you the Pete that we found underneath the house today? Or did you, a future Pete, write the letters after you returned but before coming here?” Lenore insisted.

Pete gave his most mischievous smile, “Who says that I have even written the letters yet?” He then took a moment as if to carefully pick his words before continuing. He then seemed to change his mind and tipped his hat as though ready to leave.

“Will we see you again?” asked Ellie. Pete nodded in silent response and Ellie hugged him goodbye

Pete awkwardly patted her back before stepping back to hit a button on the bracelet and disappear. “Wait, how is it that the bracelets suddenly work and aren’t inhibited by the EMF here at the house?” asked Rachel.

James and Lenore looked at her, also confused. “Maybe,” began James. He paused before beginning again, “Just maybe, bringing down the dome not only woke the town, protected the house from the fire below, but also temporarily created a rift where EMF could no longer exist.”

“That seems pretty far-fetched,” replied Rachel still trying to work out the mystery.

“And yet, how many ghosts have you seen since the event?” asked the female spirit guide in a nightgown.

“We’ve seen you-“ answered Rachel.

“But I am not operating on the same frequency as your usual spirit. I have a temporal anomaly which makes me more of a guide rather than a true ghost.”

“So, James is right about everything that changed because of the bells and the stained glass?” asked a shocked Rachel.

“Does it really matter?” responded Ellie. James and Rachel gave her a confused look. “Let’s just have a couple drinks, get a bit of sleep at the local hotel, and then get the hell out of San Jose.” Lenore nodded in agreement as James and Rachel looked into their coffee cups, frustrated that the answers were not going to come tonight.

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

Brisco found himself outside a house that he assumed was the home of Lenore and Bowler. Again, it was in the dead of night. Brisco quietly approached the house and heard a familiar voice singing. It was Bowler, singing to a bundle in his arms. He was sitting in a rocking chair going back and forth as the baby cooed up at him. Brisco watched, unsure if he should interrupt this tender moment.

“I see you, Brisco. You might as well join me,” called the booming voice of Bowler.

Brisco slowly approached the porch and sat down in the chair that Bowler nodded towards. For several moments, there was silence aside from the rocking of Bowler’s chair and the cooing of the baby in his arms. Bowler broke the silence first, “So, did you find another orb or what?”

“What-“ responded a startled Brisco.

“Last time we saw each other, you mentioned several things that had not happened. Specifically, winning the election for sheriff and that you knew I was having a son.” At Brisco’s open mouth, Bowler laughed his deep, booming laugh. “Just tell me straight, you didn’t bring an orb to my house? I hate them damn things!”

“Uh-no. No. It’s something else.”

“Well, just as long as you don’t ‘spect me or my son to go travelin’ around, you’re welcome to my porch.”

Silence filled the porch again but with each creaking rock of the chair, shame and guilt built up inside of Brisco. “Bowler, I am so so sorry. You have no idea how much I have regretted everything!” All of the years of regrets, missed opportunities, and apologies began to flow out of Brisco. After several moments, Bowler held up a hand to signal for Brisco to stop talking.

“How long has it been for you?” Bowler gently asked.

“You have no idea,” came Brisco’s broken reply.

“How long will you be here?”

“I don’t know.”

“When you go, will you come back?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, it seems the only thing that we can do is catch up, now and in any future visits. So, before you disappear, I want you to hold James for a moment. Now just for a minute because Lenore would kill me if I let my son time travel with you.”

“Bowler-“ protested Brisco but James was in Brisco’s arms in a matter of moments.

Bowler beamed at his son and best friend with pride, “Brisco, I’d like you to meet my son. His name is James Brisco Lonefeather.”

A lump built in Brisco’s throat. “James is named after me?”

“Just the middle name, so don’t get too carried away,” responded Bowler as he gave the all too familiar “Bowler glare” and took James back from Brisco.

The two continued to talk well into the night as James continued in various stages of cooing, feeding, and sleeping. After several hours, Brisco disappeared in a large beam of light. Bowler smiled at the spot Brisco left before turning back to James. “That was your Uncle Brisco.”

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