This story started out as part of a challenge from Helen Adams: Write about two of the characters riding into a strange town carrying a wad of money. Somewhere during the course of the story someone must be heard to utter the words "This town ain't big enough for both of us." A damsel in distress must be rescued and a bad guy in a black hat beaten by a good guy in a white hat. There must be an accusation of wrongdoing and in the end, the characters must ride off into the sunset. We let Irish have it to write and we realize that may have been an error in judgment on our parts given her strange proclivities. For those of you who know us from bygone times, you may recognize the title as how we used to sign off. Now it becomes something else entirely….

….And So Ends Another
 Day in Paradise…
The Tahoe Ladies

With a weariness that started just about in his soul, he looked around the small town he had trudged into that afternoon. To call it a one-horse town seemed applicable, since there was only one other horse visible in the livery's paddock. There was what was obviously a saloon of sorts, its batwing doors hanging crookedly and swaying in the hot dry breeze. Across the street, a ramshackle building tried hard to call itself a hotel but failed miserably. There was a man, as woebegone as the chair he sat in, at the front of another doorway. Over his head hung a sign proclaiming the establishment to be the sheriff's office. Across the street were two houses and a barber's tiny shop, its striped pole having lost a good bit of its red paint. But what attracted his attention was the small fountain spouting water in the center of the town square. And picking up his hooves, Cochise headed for the drink he needed. Joe, he decided, could get his own later.

Stirred from his light slumber, Joe Cartwright roused enough to realize they were in a town. Instinctively, he pressed his arm against his chest, relieved to find his fat wallet still tucked there into his pocket. He knew it was stupid to fall asleep like that in the saddle while carrying the sort of cash he was but it couldn't be helped. At least that was what he told himself. Besides, from the looks of things, there wasn't anyone around who even appeared interested in him. Swinging down slowly, his boots puffed up dust as he hit the street. Like Cochise, he wanted a drink too but his tastes ran more to something a little stronger than water. He glanced up and judged the time by the sun. From its slant, he figured he might as well stay the night and start on for home in the morning.

The water was cool enough that it slaked Cochise's thirst that warm afternoon. He groaned and shook himself to let Joe know that he had had enough travel for the day. Besides, the horse in the paddock, now that he got a closer look, was a mare. A mare in heat. And a mare in heat always looked appealing. Cochise glanced in her direction again, trying his best not to appear too interested. The tug on the reins in the direction of the livery wasn't really necessary but he would put up a token resistance. Not for Joe but for the mare who was eyeing him prospectively.

An old man, bent with age, greeted Joe's call in the shadow of the livery. When he told Joe that the rate was a dollar a night for stabling his horse, the old timer caught a glimpse of the fat wallet the young man carried and he wished he had made the rate a little higher. Blessed with that much ready cash, the fellow could have afforded more but the livery owner decided not to press the issue. He did take the advantage and tell the good looking young man that there was cold beer and good food over at the saloon when asked. And since the fellow was stabling his horse for the night, he figured rightly so that the cowboy would be taking a room at the town's hotel. As the younger man stripped the saddlebags and bedroll from his saddle, he thanked the man and ambled across the street.

Cochise, if he had been gifted with speech, would have hollered at Joe when Joe turned and walked away. How dare he! Here there was passion to be fulfilled with the eager filly and he had been left in the care of the stable hand! Would this individual brush his coat until it gleamed alluringly? Would Cochise have to continue to carry the knots in his mane and tail just because this old coot was too lazy to comb them out? And worst of all, would he be consigned to the smelly stall in the livery while the delicious scents of the willing damsel gave him an eagerness he could not release alone? Cochise whinnied loudly, protesting. For good measure, when the stable hand stripped the saddle off his back, Cochise nipped at the old man's rear, just to see the man jump.

"Howdy there, young fella!" the tall thin bartender greeted as Joe ambled into the small saloon. "How about a beer?"

With a deep breath that he wished he hadn't taken for the odors that assailed his nostrils, Joe smiled tightly and replied "Sounds good to me, barkeep!"

Unfortunately, sounding good was about all it was. The beer in Joe's glass was flat and tasted more than a little watered down. But it was wet and right then that was really what Joe wanted. Leaning against the bar, he finished the beer in several long pulls then reluctantly asked for another.

"New in town, aren't you, young fella?" the bartender asked, drawing Joe another beer and whisking it down the well-polished wood into the waiting hand.

"How'd you guess?" Sarcasm came easily to Joe. After all, there wasn't another patron to be seen and through the saloon's sagging doors, all he saw moving were flies. "And just what do you folks call this burgeoning metropolis?" Even though the words sounded more like his brother Adam's, Joe couldn't help using them just for the confused look that came to the other man's face. Joe scratched his jaw and wondered if that was what he looked like to Adam when Adam started using all those fancy words.

"Oh, this is Paradise," the bartender finally got out when he figured what he had been asked. "Ain't very big but we like it."

It was a good thing Joe had swallowed his beer otherwise it would have spewed halfway across the room. Paradise! This place?  Some body some where had a quirky sense of humor, Joe was sure. Coughing to relieve the constriction in his throat, Joe found the other man cheerfully pounding him on the back. It was only when Joe was able to croak out that he was all right that the other stopped.

"Thanks," Joe wheezed, sure that he was black and blue between the shoulder blades. "Guess I swallowed wrong. Say, the barber over there got a bathhouse? I kind of feel the need to get cleaned up some."

The bartender looked at the young man closely. Since the fellow didn't appear to need a shave, he figured him for some sort of dandy that couldn't abide with a little dust on himself. "Yes sir, sure enough. And the prices are reasonable too. Can fix you right up, haircut, shave and a bath! Yes sir! Notice you carrying your saddlebags and bedroll. You be needin' a room for the night too?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," Joe allowed, nudging the equipment he had dropped at his feet.

"I'll tell you what then. I'll take your things over to the hotel for you. I'm sure there's a room that'll be just right for you. You can go on over to the barber's and get yourself -" and the tall thin man paused. He had almost said that Joe could get himself dandified again. What stopped him was not the fact that he had almost insulted the other. It was the sight of the wallet the other man had pulled from beneath his green jacket. It was a fat thing, full to busting near about with a green of a different sort. He gulped once before he continued. "-all cleaned up."

"Thanks," Joe winked as he said the word and left a dollar on the bar.

The halter the old geezer had slipped onto Cochise was too big. One quick head duck to behind a foreleg and the halter lay in the dirty straw at his feet. The man had done a passable job of currying and brushing down his sleek black and white hide but had accomplished little on the knots in his long flowing black tail. And there was an annoying itch at the base of his tail. Backing up to the post at the end of his box stall, Cochise rubbed at it. Hard. He was about to stop anyway when he heard the man's shout at him. He opened his eyes and saw bits of straw floating down. His rubbing was enough to be shaking the building.

The livery owner eyed the pinto carefully. Although the horse wasn't of any considerable size, there was something about the gleam in the eyes that made the man wary. And some how the horse had freed himself of the halter. Staying close to the wall of the stall, the man slipped in and retrieved the halter. A quick grab to the horse's neck and he was putting it back on, cinching it tighter around the spotted neck.

"There that ought to hold you," the man fumed as he crawled out of the stall over the wall. "Should have asked for more than a dollar, I knew it. Didn't take you for a hard case but you must be. Durn fool I was," and off the man went muttering to himself.

Cochise shook his head, his forelock bunched uncomfortably under the halter now. He tried the maneuver again that had first removed the headgear. This time it didn't work. As he chewed a mouthful of stale hay, he thought about his next move. Finally he had it. He stretched his neck over the side of the wooden wall, turning it so he was looking sideways at the world. Slowly and deliberately, he pulled back, letting the wall scrape down the side of his neck until it hit the leather strap right behind his ear.

Carefully he pulled back a little more and sure enough the halter caught on the edge of the wood. He bit down and, bending his ear as flat as possible, pulled the halter off. With a triumphant snort from Cochise, the halter fell into the stall next to him.

Out in the paddock he could hear the mare moving restlessly. He lifted his nose and breathed deeply. Ah, yes, she was ready. All he had to do was get there. Shifting around so that he now stood headed into passageway, Cochise was presented with a whole different problem: there was a rope gate tied across the stall entrance.

The mare whinnied. Cochise shivered at the invitation.

Whatever the town may have lacked it was quickly making up for, Joe decided as he slipped a little deeper into the hot water in the copper tub. The barkeep turned out to be the barber as well as the hotel clerk, and while Joe had remained adamant about not needing a haircut, he had finally relented and allowed the man to shave him. Now, with the hot soapy water liberally supplied, Joe was feeling that perhaps he had been too quick to scoff at the name of the town.

He had been taken aback somewhat when shown the tub area. It wasn't the battered tub he objected to. Nor was it the coarse floor Joe was sure would leave his bare feet full of splinters if he hadn't been careful walking on it. No, it had more to do with the window positioned at the foot of the tub. More precisely, Joe decided it was the curtainless window there, giving him an unfettered view of the town fountain. And of course, an equal view of him crawling into and out of the tub stark naked.

He had taken great pains to make sure he wasn't seen getting into the water. Then he realized he was being foolish. There was no one out there to see him! Except for the man in front of the sheriff's office, the livery stable fellow and the bartender, there didn't seem to be another soul in town.
"Ha!" Joe snorted softly to himself as he rubbed the wash cloth over his chest again. "They call this Paradise? As I recall Paradise had at least one woman in it!"

That seemed to conjure her up, Joe later concluded, for there she stood in profile not six feet from him. With the afternoon sun haloing her, he could see that her body was shapely, waist nipped in and with an appealing swell to her bosom. When she moved out into the street, Joe could see her better. Her hips swayed just a little when she walked away from him, giving him a beguiling look to her backside. There at the fountain, she bent and pulled a bucket of water from it, and that was when Joe got a good look at the front side. Her dark hair was pulled back just enough to not hide her elegant face and it accentuated her delicate neck. Joe caught himself leaning forward as if the motion would have allowed him to see down the front of her low cut dress. While she stood there at the fountain, she dipped her hands into the water and ran them down her exposed cleavage. The water trickled across her white blouse and Joe wished he were closer so that he could see what the now transparent fabric would reveal.

With that thought lingering in his mind, Joe settled back into the embrace of the warm water. It wouldn't be hard, he figured, to find out who she was and maybe spend an enjoyable evening with her, even if she would only allow a sociable talk. There was something about how she was walking back towards the window that made Joe decide that it could be more than just talk that evening. It was almost as though she knew he was watching her. And could see him. Well, he thought, how much could she see with him sitting in the deep tub? With a wry smile, he watched her, confident.

When she reached the spot where Joe had first seen her, she turned and smiled at him through the window before disappearing. The smile was a coy one. It spoke of an innocence Joe had long ago left behind. It looked like it would be a night spent in conversation, not passion.

That was when Joe first noticed that another part of him had had a reaction to her as well. Glancing down, he realized he had become completely aroused and his manhood stood upright, its head clearly visible above the waterline of the tub. Grasping it firmly, Joe muttered "Listen, this town ain't big enough for both us. Think you can get out of town by sunset?" He dropped the wash cloth over it but it had a mind of its own apparently and, dipping, tossed it aside, now acting like it was on a mission.

The barkeeper/barber/hotel clerk wondered why it took the young man so long to finish his bath, as it had grown completely dark before the man emerged from the tub and left. And when you added to the fact that even though he had repeatedly offered more hot water, the man had refused, saying it was fine the way it was, the thin man was completely at a loss.

He spit shreds of hemp onto the floor. It took determination on Cochise's part, but the rope holding the gate closed was finally beginning to give way. Using his big white teeth, he pulled at another section of the knot. It was wet and not prone to letting loose of its compatriots but little by little as the night wore on, he grew more and more insistent. The mare outside he could hear prancing and kicking up a fuss. She was ready, oh, so ready and her continual snorting was as much as crying out her need to him. With one last grapple and pull, the knot parted and the gate across his stall dropped.

Cochise hesitated at the door to the livery. The night was dark, too dark for his likes. He knew his white patches would stand out brightly but the bold pinto decided that the mare needed him more than he needed stealth. With a swish to his tail, he sauntered out and went over the paddock. It wouldn't do to appear eager but he was. Even though he had been hurt there a long time ago, he was still capable of getting and maintaining an erection. And the fillies back home never seemed to mind his attentions. His ego wouldn't allow him the knowledge that he shot blanks. He just preferred to think that it was his mixed heritage that refused to show spotted offspring.

At the paddock fence, the mare hung her head over the top rail. Cochise sniffed her up next to her delicate little brown ear. He shook as though ridding himself of a pesky fly. She nibbled at the side of his neck, tasting him, smelling him. Cochise smelled of other places and horses and it further excited the mare. When he nipped her neck, she backed away and with her tail held high, trotted once around the enclosure.

Cochise watched her moves. With her tail arched and her dainty hooves flashing, she floated around the fence line, coming back to him. He pressed his chest against the fence. It wouldn't give so he began his own tour around it, looking for a way into his desired target. He kept his neck arched and made sure that she was watching him.

If there was a way for a horse to say "look at me," that evening Cochise was screaming it.

! @ # $ % ^ & * (  ) ! ) ( * & ^ % $ # @ !

With jaws working furiously, Joe tried another bite of the tough steak. While the barkeep had professed that they served the best meals in town, Joe decided that it was the lack of competition that made the boast reality. He pushed the lumpy mashed potatoes to the side where they sat morosely with the congealing gravy. And while not given to liking vegetables much, Joe considered the best part of his meal had been the string beans. After all, what could be done to them to make them any worse than what they already were? And having heard the thump when the lone biscuit had hit the tabletop, Joe hadn't even attempted that part of the meal. Some times, sleeping dogs and hard biscuits were left better off alone.

He was about to shove the half-finished steak to the side and leave when she walked in. The way she sauntered into the saloon made Joe remember his reaction to her earlier and he quickly looked back again at his plate, hoping that his body would remain unaware of what his mind was trying to do with those swaying hips and full bosom.

"Hi," and the word so softly spoken washed across Joe like a velvety touch, full of honey-suckle breezes and promises to be kept. He looked up into her eyes. They were wide innocent eyes of brown framed by lashes so long, Joe wondered how she managed to keep her eyelids open.

He swallowed that last bite of steak he had been gnawing on, not feeling it slide down his throat in a lump. "Hi," he returned. "Can I offer you a drink?" before I whisk you away and have the greatest sex of our lives. With that last unspoken thought, Joe felt the crotch of his pants grow uncomfortably tight. He shifted in his chair, grateful for the napkin there in his lap.

She ducked her head demurely and when she looked back at him, smiled the faintest of smiles. "I don't suppose one glass of lemonade would hurt," she all but purred and slid into the chair next to Joe. As she did, she leaned forward, her arms crossed in front of her low cut white blouse.

Joe gestured for the barkeep but never let his eyes leave her. Once again, he was happy the napkin was across his lap as he felt himself shifting in the direction of those swollen ivory moons just showing the upper crescent of themselves just a mere foot away from his hands.

"My name is Eve. What's yours?" she asked, accepting the glass of lemonade from the thin bartender.

Besides Snake, as in the Garden of Eden Snake, come to teach you a little about good …Now Joseph! That was totally uncalled for! She's just an innocent little thing…Nope sorry, there isn't a thing little about what she's showing me! And I am beginning to think she ain't all that innocent, either!

"Joe, Joe Cartwright," he finally got out, having to push those words past the ones warring on his tongue.

"Just passin' through, Joe Cartwright? Or are you gonna stay a while?"
"Passin' through is all. Headed home. Been down to Fort Tejon and sold some horses to the Army."

"Oh," was her only reply but it left Joe nearly speechless with its sadness.
Joe signaled for another beer that was quickly delivered. He sat back a little, careful to keep his lap covered since his manhood kept wanting to get a better look at its perceived target for the night.

She took a deep breath and his eyes involuntarily tracked the rise of her chest. Eve tugged down on her blouse and watched him lean forward a hair. There was no wedding ring she could see and something about him said that he was more than willing. The moving bulge under his napkin screamed it.

"Listen, " she purred and inclined her head towards him. " You've seen how small this town is. We don't get many men through here, you know. And all the ones who live here are way too old to, well, you know what I mean. Would it be too forward of me, and you can tell me no if you want, but it's been a long, long time since…"

The bartender smiled knowingly, watching the doors swinging wildly. He'd be sure and get paid for the meal before the young cowboy left tomorrow morning. That was if the fella was able to move when Eve got done with him. Her appetite in men was phenomenal. He was glad he had put the fellow up in the downstairs room of the hotel. Less of a chance for the bed to come crashing through the ceiling like the last time when Eve had found herself a willing companion. "Yep, young fella," the bartender sighed, watching the backlit shadows on the windows across the way, "Hope you can handle what you are about to get!"

Cochise had leaned on every rail in the paddock fence but none had given. The mare, tossing her mane had continued her circuits of the fence as well, always stopping in front of him as if to encourage him. With nerve edges raw, Cochise backed a few steps away and eyed the height of the fence. Was it too tall to jump? He backed away a few more feet and the fence did look shorter. Again he backed up. Yes, it was definitely jumpable. But he had to get a good running start at it so he trotted nearly out to the far side of town before he whirled on his hooves and began to pelt hell-bent-for-mare down the street. Just when he judged he was close enough he gathered himself and lunged upwards, skimming the fence with less than an inch to spare, one back hoof nicking the lumber.

With his chest heaving from not only his exertion but desire as well, he cast a look around the paddock. Where had she gone? Suddenly he had found himself alone! He blinked his eyes and took a turn around the fence line, whinnying loudly, calling to her, telling her that he had come to her. But where the dickens was she?

It took him twice around the fence to find that the gate was open and hear her over in the barn. With a snort and a swagger, he shouldered open the gate and headed back for there. The little mare wanted to play hard to get, did she? Well he could play games too. But tonight was not the night for games. It was a night for lovemaking on a grand scale

At the doorway, he paused. There she stood, neck and tail both arched, trying to show off her finest lines. She took a few hesitant steps in his direction before he moved on into the barn's dim light. He pressed himself against her, shoulder to shoulder then moved down her flank, resting his head atop her back, rubbing his muzzle to her silky hide. When he hit her rear, she danced to the side, away from him. He let her. She trembled but remained still otherwise as he repeated the motion up her other side, constant pressure building in him. On the next pass, she didn't move away when he reached her hindquarters so he positioned himself directly behind her.

The mare glanced back, wondering what was taking him so long. Then she saw it. It was the biggest thing she had seen on a stallion in ages. And she became unsure that she wanted to mate with him.

Just as Cochise reared up to give her his prize and glory, she moved. He missed and wound up off balance, sliding to one side, hitting his shoulder against the end of one of the stalls.

But there she stood looking back at him. He repositioned himself, more determined now than ever.

And again she moved at the wrong time.

This was beyond belief to the black and white. Maybe what she needed was a little more coaxing. With tender little nibbles to her sides, he managed to get her into the stall he had recently vacated.

This time when he went up, he managed to mount her skillfully and successfully, his front hooves holding her sides while he felt himself grow even harder then begin to pulse within her. She leaned braced into the wall and took his weight easily. Feeling his rhythm, she pressed back to meet him again and again.

"Well sweet my good lord!" Eve murmured. Her clothes lay in an untidy heap at the foot of the bed. Joe had artfully removed them, his lips never leaving hers while his hands had managed the intricate buttons and hooks that had bound her clothing to her. Once her cotton underdrawers had dropped to her ankles, he had grabbed hold of her buttocks and drawn her up and to him. With her legs locked around his waist, he had carried her the final distance to the bed and set her down gently. Now as he stood slowly slipping his shirt off, her attention was paid more to the bulge just below his belt line.

"Don't tell me you've changed your mind, missy," Joe teased. He knew very good and well what she was fixed on. All the girls he had made love to since he had hit full manhood had made roughly the same comment. Some were a little afraid, others in awe but in the end, they all wanted it. And only a fool wouldn't oblige them, he had decided. Sure, it would have rankled his father's sense of propriety but Joe figured that his father had more than just a passing knowledge of such. After all, this sort of thing must have run deep in the family blood, this propensity for size. He considered though that its quick arousal nature must have been on his mother's hot-blooded Creole side. Whatever and wherever it came from, Joseph Cartwright was proud he was so well endowed. And while in other men it may have come off as extreme conceit, in him, having studied well the art of lovemaking, just made it enjoyable to both himself and his partners.

He sat on the side of the bed and shoved his boots off. Eve couldn't stand to not see his aroused state so she had sat up and leaned against him, running her hands down his chest as she peeked over his shoulder.
With her breathing becoming quicker and shallower, she urged "Stand up and get those jeans off before I die with anticipation."

Joe laughed throatily. Eve wasn't the first he had heard say that and he was certain she wouldn't be the last but this was all part of art he had perfected. Let them see what they were about to get, let them decide one more time what they wanted, let them writhe with pleasure. It would make him that much harder. Finally, with his jeans on the floor with the rest of their clothing, he crawled onto the bed, his naked flesh meeting hers for the first time. Just the feel of her next to him sent shivers of pleasure through him.
"What is there about a woman's flesh?" he murmured, rolling to his side and running his fingers over her. With one, he traced the outline of her nipple, watching in fascination as it peaked and hardened. She arched towards him letting her own hands roam down one lean thigh. "It's always so soft, so warm, so inviting to a man's touch."

Eve pressed herself full length against him, slipping his shaft between her legs.  She wet her lips with just the tip of her tongue, and with eyes half-lidded, watched his expression. With a self-satisfied smile for what she saw, she pressed a kiss to his chest.

"You're gonna have to do better than that," Joe whispered, running his fingers through her dark tresses. When she had slipped his penis between her thighs, he had felt himself harden a little more and nearly groaned with the sudden pleasure it gave him.

"Like this?" and she pushed him back to lie flat on his back. She picked up his hands and balanced one breast in each then slowly and deliberately, lowered her body until she knelt, impaled fully on him. His eyes had widened just a bit but then he had smiled. Although it was a snug fit, she took in all of him, clear down the length and he could feel her muscles there quivering with anticipation. She rocked slowly to and fro, her fingertips to his chest.

While he much more preferred to be the one on top, controlling the movement and therefore the rise and fall of the passion, Joe decided that for this one time, he would let her. He would let himself be carried away by his own sensations. Later, after her fire had cooled, he thought he would again stoke that fire into full flame. And that time, he would control her, bringing her again and again into the full bonfire of passion.

When he thought he couldn't hold it in any longer, Joe felt Eve begin to climax. He rose to meet the occasion, thrusting himself deeper yet within her and giving her the ride of her life, he was sure. Again and again, his hands on her hips, he urged her until finally he could feel her begin to shudder, both inside and out, her back now arched, her head thrown back and her hair a silken wave over his legs. One last time he pushed into her and let himself go. This time Joe held her, not allowing her to move. Except to moan and cry in pure animalistic delight.

With her collapsed against his still heaving chest, Joe held her tenderly, feeling the after effects running through both of them. He pushed her hair from her face and saw the satisfied smile on her lips. It was mirrored on his own and he hugged her closer.

"Not bad, cowboy," she murmured, her breath warm and inviting against his flesh.

"I kind of figured you'd like it," Joe cooed, brushing back her wild torrent of hair, not surprised to find that he had enjoyed it as well. Few women he had found could match him one for one. Maybe Paradise isn't such a bad name for this place after all. No competition to speak of and this poor starved creature just waiting for a bit of attention. Nope, Paradise about fits.

"Well, like I said, not bad, but the real problem is: how soon can we do it again?" Eve challenged, as she looked up into his face, her eyes now agleam with a feral light.

! @ # $ % ^ & * (  ) ! ) ( * & ^ % $ # @ !

He had taken a little nap. After all, it had been a long hot dry day. Then to follow it with this sort of evening activity had simply worn him out. So when he felt her nuzzling him again, he was more tempted to just push her away and go back to sleep but then she nibbled his ear and he decided that she was worthy of another go-around. He shook himself awake and opened an eye. Her lips were there, not a half-inch from his eye and she brushed them down his cheek, gently but insistently urging him to arouse.

Cochise groaned and shifted from hoof to hoof. The mare leaned against him, pressing him into the side of the stall as she did. She continued her rubbing, using her dainty head and caressing lips to entice him. Down his left shoulder he felt her soft muzzle drop, then across his flank. There she seemed to pause and he could feel her warm breath on his belly so he stretched his leg back, allowing her access to his sheath. But she apparently was satisfied with touching the rest of him because she only sniffed it then continued on in her perusal.

The stall was only meant for one horse so when she wanted to get to the other side of him, Cochise had to shift to the opposite side of it while she was in the aisle. But just as quickly as he had made the move, she was back, sliding up alongside of him, her neck now lay across his back. She teased him by biting gently at the base of his tail then on up at his mane. He needed no further hint that his night of passion wasn't over.

When the mare had finally gotten along side of him, Cochise backed out of the stall, only bumping the end post twice and having it send down another shower of straw once. Again, with gentle nudges, he positioned her against the head of the stall, almost into the corner. This time it would take longer, he was sure. After all, he hadn't had a great deal of time to build up a good head of steam, so to speak. But if she were willing, he was certainly able.
This time, she didn't move and he was able to enter her the first time. There was only one minor problem. He had expected her to move and had therefore put a little more effort into his mounting so instead of the gentle glide into his target, he wound up slamming into her. Braced against the corner, she seemed to enjoy the little roughness on his part so he continued, his forelegs clinging to her sides, his eyes rolling back into his head as he surged forward again.

He might have continued but two things happened nearly simultaneously. The first one was that the side of the livery stable began to give way with a loud groan. He opened his eyes just in time to see the wall in front of them fall outward and the loft overhead dumped straw and hay over them. Of course, with the wall no longer holding the mare in place, she stumbled forward. Cochise hadn't relinquished his hold on her just yet so the two of them exited the livery stable through the new opening like a mammoth multi-colored six-legged beast while the building behind them collapsed.
The second was that he exited her cozy confines quite unexpectedly, only to find himself exploding as he did so. If a horse could be embarrassed, Cochise was.

It didn't help that the little brown mare looked back at him and saw what had happened. Whether it was in protest or she was laughing at him, she whinnied. Loudly.

He shriveled into nothing at the sound.

In the warm darkness they lay, no covering to hinder the cooling breeze coming from the open window across the way. Lit only by the light of the full moon, the bed linens appeared silver and the bodies, dusky shadows upon it. There was no sound other than the occasional sigh and murmur from them.

It began with a groan, almost too soft to hear and ended with a trio of shrieks of metal against metal, metal against wood and flesh against flesh. The bed frame, unused to that much activity, collapsed. It dumped the two spent lovers into a heap on the floor then covered them graciously with the headboard. Joe and Eve, now both released from their passion-induced exhausted state, scrambled wildly for release from their imprisonment. For a few moments, it was a knees, elbows, hands and feet free-for-all. Finally, Eve was able to wiggle free. She caught a hand and pulled at it, helping Joe to escape the tangle. Now with their hands braced on their knees, they both were leaning over to catch their breath. Looking at the wrecked bed, Eve began to giggle. Caught in its infective sound, Joe too began to laugh. That is until they heard a much greater groan from outside.

Joe turned to look out the window just in time to see the livery stable collapse. Mesmerized by the sight, he watched as the dust rose like ugly monster then he remembered that within that building had been his horse. Galvanized into action, he was unlocking the door about to go to Cochise's rescue when he remembered that he was also naked.

Scrambling in the dark, he searched for his pants. "Light the lamp!" he ordered sharply.

"NO! Someone will see us then! They'll know what we were doing!" Eve shrilled back, now shrinking back to hide in the shadows from what she now saw as a madman.

Joe paused long enough to look in her direction as he dropped to his knees to search. "Sweetheart, the only ones in this town who DON'T know what was going on here are the ones in the graveyard! Help me find my pants! My horse was in that barn!" he shouted, his voice rising not only in volume but pitch as well.

With both of them on their hands and knees searching in the darkness, they only bumped heads once but Joe rammed his into the bedpost for good measure. He wasn't sure that Paradise had heard words like he used but he used them any way. Eve held out a boot and his shirt to him.

 "Forget the boots and the shirt!" he shouted, rubbing the top of his head while he continued his search with the other hand. "Where's my pants?"
He finally located the article of clothing but had to lift the broken bed frame so Eve could pull them out. Snatching them from her hands, he sat on the chilled floor and pulled them on, his feet tangling for a moment in the twisted legs. Swearing again when he realized he had them on backwards, Joe was able to get them off then back on with only a little more difficulty.
He heard the horse whinny into the night and tossing aside any lingering modesty, ran outside while still trying to fasten his pants. There was one thought on his mind: his beloved Cochise was trapped in the wreckage.

Joe was not the only one running for the wreckage of the stable but he was the last one to arrive. Ahead of him as he pelted past the fountain, he could see lanterns casting golden shadows through the settling dust. Coughing from it, Joe tried to wave aside the dust as he pulled to a halt beside the first lantern. It was held by the bartender who was still dressed in his nightshirt. Joe grabbed the lantern and held it high but all he could see was still dust. Two more steps and he wished he had been watching where his feet were going but he flicked the idea away when he saw a horse loom up in front of him.

It was the brown mare from the paddock he had seen earlier. Joe tried to push her aside but she stood stock still even though he could feel her trembling. When he went to step around her, she moved with him. Frustrated, he shouted at her and it seemed to wake her from her stupor. He took another few steps and whistled. Off to his left he heard a snort. It had to be Cochise since as far as Joe knew, he was the only other horse in town. Joe turned in that direction, again raising his lantern into the haze.
There stood Cochise. His head was bowed, nearly touching his muzzle to the ground. Hurriedly, Joe ran his hands over the familiar animal, looking for a sign of injury. There didn't seem to be any but still the animal stood head down.

Another lantern joined Joe at his side. Joe took one glance and recognized the man from in front of the sheriff's office. He was plainly the sheriff for a tin badge gleamed in the lantern light.

"What happened here, young fella?" he demanded.

"I don't know," Joe replied, still intent on his horse. "I was over in my hotel room, heard the noise out here and came running. Hold that light a little higher would you? I think my horse is hurt."

A female voice joined the group as Eve ran into the halo of light around the pinto and Joe. "Daddy," she was calling again and again. "What happened?"

The sheriff turned towards her call and Joe's stomach flopped a time or two. Daddy? I've been makin'…with the sheriff's daughter? And here I was bragging that the whole town could hear us! Oh Lord, let the man be hard of hearing. Or at least a sound sleeper. Joe swallowed hard.

"Looks like Sam's stable caved in, sweetie. Everybody's okay though. Damsel was in the paddock though so I don't know how she got involved," the sheriff explained, cradling his now innocent-appearing, and fully clothed, daughter in his arms. "Get a hold of her, Sam. Get her out of the way," he directed the livery owner when the old man appeared out of the gloom.

"I know how," the bartender attested. "Saw this horse here break her out of the paddock." He gestured at Cochise who still remained as he had when first encountered. "Durnest thing I ever saw, sheriff. That pinto herded your Damsel right into the barn. And I can only think of one thing him and that filly was doin', seein's how she was in heat!"

Joe was having a hard time swallowing. He had turned his back on Cochise and the thought flashed through his head that this was going to get ugly real fast. He had to protect not only himself from the possible wrath of a father but his horse as well? From the same man?

The sheriff pulled himself erect, which a surprised Joe figured to be a good half a foot above him. He set his lantern down at his feet and proceeded to roll his sleeves up like he was preparing to fight. Joe took a step back only to find himself blocked by his own horse.

"We had it all figured out. Had Lance Raymond's Arabian stud all lined up to come service my little Damsel. Had to pay the man half in advance to get him to promise to come when the time was right. Sent a man out yesterday. Lance and that stud of his'n was gonna be here in the morning. Had my money all ready. Now I find this mangy range pony done done the deed to my Damsel. Cowboy, you and your horse are in big trouble."

"You, you, you don't understand, sheriff," Joe stammered, holding his hands out in front of him as if to ward off the bigger man. "Let me explain something. You have nothing to be worried about. Cochise here, well, let's put it delicately since there's a lady present: he doesn't have all the gifts he was born with."

The sheriff's face twisted awkwardly and he scratched his head then settled his black hat back down. "What are you saying, boy? Come on, speak plainly!"

Joe cleared his throat. "Cochise has been, you know," and he made a cutting motion with two fingers. Behind him, Joe felt the horse's head rise, nudging his butt as it did.

"You mean to tell me that this sorry excuse for a horse is a gelding?" the sheriff roared.

Behind him, the livery stable owner was checking the underneath side of the pinto, carefully keeping away from the back hooves and the teeth. "But he's still got -um- equipment!" he shouted then danced away just in case.
"We didn't fully, you know, take everything," Joe floundered to explain and for some reason felt the need to hide his own apparatus.

Again the sheriff scratched his head. "Young fella, I've heard of that bein' done but I don't see how that can work. Or not work as the case may be. Sam, take this lantern and go check on Damsel. See if she is, well, you know the signs."

"I'll go," Joe started but the sheriff's gun drawn stopped him in his tracks. "I'll just stay right here. Sam there probably knows the horse better'n me," he finished lamely just as Cochise's nose came up Joe's back. The pinto put his nose into Joe's hair and puffed a little breath out. It was as if the spotted horse was apologizing and it irritated Joe. With his eye still glued on the sheriff and the shiny badge the man wore, Joe pushed the horse's nose away. It came back and Cochise let his head rest on Joe's shoulder.

"Sheriff! You best come see this!" Sam shouted from the paddock area. By the lantern light there, everyone could see that he was inspecting the rear quarters of the brown mare.

For a split second, Joe considered throwing himself bareback onto the pinto and galloping out of town. But then common sense took over. Cochise wasn't capable, he kept thinking over and over again. He had nothing to worry about. But then again, looking at Eve and realizing again that he too had been riding one of the sheriff's "fillies" made his stomach flip-flop again. He was capable. And he had, too!

When the sheriff rejoined a shaky Joe and confident Cochise, he looked madder than a wet hen. The hindquarters of the mare were matted with dust and some other substance. And given the now complacent nature of the mare, there was only one thing that other substance could have been. At least to the sheriff's way of thinking, that was.

"I tell you there is no way that this horse could have serviced your mare!" Joe contested hotly, trying to put forth the best possible defense. Behind him, Cochise took a step forward as if to bolster Joe's words.

"And I am telling you I know what I see over there!" The sheriff was getting obviously angrier and, at least to Joe, a little bigger as he came closer to Joe's chest. For emphasis, the sheriff poked Joe's bare chest with a firm finger.

"And I say it can't be! Cochise was as much as castrated!" Joe shouted back into the lawman's face.

Confused by the hostility he sensed but nonetheless seeming to understand the meaning of the words, Cochise pulled his head from over Joe's shoulder and looked back under his own belly. No, everything was there like it had always been and if the filly could talk, she would have said it worked fine. Still confused, he was about to go back and put his head beside Joe's when he heard the fateful words from his long time friend.
"Cochise has never and will never be able to service a mare!"

Those words did it for the pinto. Angry with himself as well as the whole situation, he butted Joe between the shoulders. The man obviously didn't know the meaning of the words. And as far as Cochise was concerned, it served him right when Joe's chin caught the sheriff's fist. He was surprised to see Joe go down so quickly though.

! @ # $ % ^ & * (  ) ! ) ( * & ^ % $ # @ !

When the world came back into focus for Joe he found himself laid out on the saloon floor. Over Eve's shoulder he could see the hands on the clock and wondered absently if they pointed to eleven thirty or five minutes to six. One thing he was sure, Eve was being very attentive. Again he heard his name called by her anxious voice and felt a cool cloth go across his forehead. That wouldn't have been enough to revive him but the thought that the sheriff's daughter was pressing herself against him and the reaction he was having, well, it brought him around quick enough. He grabbed at her hand and gently but forcefully pushed her away as he sat up.

"See there, Sugar, I didn't hurt him too bad. Ought to! Why the havoc he has caused in our fair town tonight-" The lawman's voice had started as a soft croon but once he saw that Joe was coming back to life, the tone became more threatening.

"Daddy!" she began but one groan from Joe stopped her from continuing her tirade.

Her father lifted Eve out of the way and for once, Joe was glad for the man's intervention. He certainly didn't need any further complications that night and with her well out of bosom-touching reach, Joe felt safer. That was until the man hauled him to his feet and ungraciously plopped him into a chair.

"Look, there must be some way around all this," Joe said, holding his aching head in his hands. Even to himself, his voice sounded thick and tired.

"Sure is! I am gonna arrest you and throw you in jail for thirty days!"

Joe's head shot up. "Thirty days!" he yelped, panic taking the place of everything else. "What ever for?"

"Assaulting an officer of the law," the sheriff shot back quickly.

"But Daddy, you hit him!"

Joe was pleased that all of the town's other citizens, both of them, agreed with Eve. They stood shifting from foot to foot in the saloon, their hands holding the beers Joe wished he had. The livery stable owner, Sam Joe recalled his name was, took a sip of his and watched as Joe's eyes followed the motion.

"Well I got to hold him and that fool horse of his for that long! If Damsel comes back into heat again, we can figure that no--- harm--- was done. And you can't just lock a man up for no reason!" It was apparent to Joe that the constable's patience was wearing thin.

Wonder what he would do if he found out what his darling daughter--Oh Lordy, don't even go there!  and Joe's thought made him moan and lay his head on the table.

"What if he promises to stay in town? That way you wouldn't have to lock him up," the bartender offered.

A light went on in Eve's eyes as she considered the possibility. A whole month! What she and the handsome cowboy couldn't do in a month! Woo-whee but they could have themselves a high old time! She nearly squirmed with delight at the thoughts.

The barkeep offered the poor bedraggled Joe a beer. He too had a hard time keeping his own happiness under wraps. A month in his hotel, the fellow having to eat all his meals here at his establishment, take all his dandifying baths and get all his shaving done by just one man! Well, all the thin man could see was that boy's fat wallet disappearing into the cashbox under the bar.

Barely lifting his head high enough to do the job, Joe poured a little of the flat beer into his mouth. He swished it around there, hoping to improve it but when it didn't, he swallowed. He could feel the electricity in the air around him. It was as though the very air was alive with lightning then he remembered what had just been said. A month in this town! He pictured himself having to eat the lousy meals and drink the flat watered down beer. His eyes widened as he contemplated his nights as well. He could envision the endless nights of wild passion at the hands of Eve but then trying to crawl out of the room Joe could also almost feel a hand on his ankle dragging him back in. Joe took another long swig of beer and swallowed it hard.

"I can't do that!" the sheriff protested and Joe almost smiled while the other faces in the room dropped. "But I can fine him!"

Joe's head shot up. Here was a way out and he hoped to be able to get to the door with at least his pants still on.

"Let's see," the sheriff pondered the ceiling for a moment. "I done lost two hundred dollars to Lance 'cause I ain't gonna need no stud this month for Damsel. And I can't get word out to him not to come so there's another two hundred."

"Wait a minute! There ain't a stallion on the hoof out there worth four hundred a shot for stud fees!" Joe complained, eyes widening at what he now figured would happen.

"There is if I say there is. Now hush up boy! I got some heavy numbers to go. Now for striking a man of the law, we can add in another hundred."
Joe dropped his head back onto the table but left one hand out to count the figures the sheriff intoned.

"And don't forget that he left here without payin' for his supper tonight! Ain't that agin some law?"

"And his horse done wrecked my barn. Gonna be somethin' to fix it up! And think of all the lost income too while I get it back up!" Sam whined.

"And I checked over at the hotel. Sheriff, he done tore up one of my rooms. I sent all the way to Saint Louie to get that fancy bed. Now I can't put a soul up in there!"

"Hold it, hold it!" the sheriff called for calm in the face of the rising storm of grievances.

I wish I had held it, Joe thought wryly. Can't wait till he hears Eve. Wonder how much she'll get out of all this?

"Let's figure this out: Four hundred for this month's debacle with Damsel and another four hundred for next month if what he says proves true and she ain't knocked up by that set of spots he rides. That's eight hundred. The damage to the room, what a hundred?" the sheriff was asking the bartender turned hotel owner.

The man turned his thumb up at the figure.

"Two hundred?" the sheriff queried.

The thumb remained up.

"Three hundred?" The sheriff even sounded a bit disbelieving.

"Got to remember, I got that bed all the way from Saint Louie! At least four hundred! And add fifty dollars for running out on paying for his dinner too!"

"Okay then it's twelve hundred fifty dollars. Sam? How much to fix your livery back?"

"I'd say a good five hundred there," Sam whined again. After all, he had seen the fat wallet first!

"Five hundred?" Joe yelped but the sheriff put his hand on Joe's head and shoved it back down onto his arm with a warning that he was in enough trouble and not to go adding disrespect to his elders in on the charges.

"That comes to seventeen hundred and fifty dollars. We add in a fine for takin' a poke at me and I would say eighteen hundred dollars should cover it pretty well. You got that kind of money on you boy? If not, you'll have to stay in town, help these folks out and work off the fine."

"He's got the money, Sheriff! I seed it with my own two eyes I did," Sam exclaimed.

"That true?"

Joe, his head still on his arms on the table, just nodded.

"Eve, go get the man's wallet. I am not going to let him out of my sight until this is resolved one way or another."

Faster than Joe would have thought possible, she was back with his wallet in her hand. One look and Joe knew she had helped herself to some of what was there before she handed it to her father. The wallet was considerably thinner and a corner of a bill peeked from her corset-laced bosom. Joe started to say something about it to her then changed his mind. He watched in solemn disparity as the sheriff counted out the money there and took the fine from it. The wad of bills he had left was miserably small.
The sheriff paid everyone off and the atmosphere in the room became almost party-like. That is except for Joe. He glumly counted through the bills before him. What was he going to tell Pa, for gosh sake? Wild tales of being beaten by robbers and horrendous gunfights to save his life all flitted through his mind. But Pa wouldn't believe them, Joe knew he wouldn't. Like he would believe this? Joe shook his head and finished his beer.

He started to leave but the bartender stopped him and took another five-dollar bill from him. "For the beers, you understand," he explained. Joe gingerly stepped on through the batwing doors. His hotel room was across the street and Joe longed to be there. Alone. Asleep. But with a shake to his head, he recalled the shape the bed was in. And looking down the street he saw that Cochise was still standing at the paddock fence nibbling at the mare's neck.

Joe rubbed his hand over his neck and went carefully across the street, his flattened wallet slapping at one thigh. Once inside the room, he found the lamp and lit it. He dug underneath the bed and fished out his shirt and jacket. His boots took a little longer to find but once he had everything that belonged on him, on him and all his gear in hand, he left the room only stopping to look back at the broken bed.

By the light of the moon, he found his saddle and saddled the unwilling pinto. He had just pulled the cinch extra tight when he heard the clock from the saloon chime the hour. Joe closed his eyes at the sound and counted the tones. Midnight. Well this day was over in Paradise, he thought as he swung into the saddle and urged Cochise out of town. Moon's bright enough to ride by. Might even make it most of the way home. Good bye, Paradise.

! @ # $ % ^ & * (  ) ! ) ( * & ^ % $ # @ !

He had ridden all the remainder of that night and into the following day. At noon, he stopped beside a small stream and made himself a pot of coffee. The coffee and jerky made for a slim meal but he dared not spend another dime of the money remaining in his emaciated wallet. Besides, home was just a few hours away. And with the thought of home, Joe inwardly groaned. How was he going to explain this to his father?

When Joe had stripped off the saddle and bridle, Cochise had dropped into the lush grass and rolled. Once over on to his back with a little wiggle that ground his shoulders into the turf then onto each side, scraping his neck against the green on both sides then onto to his back again. There he paused. The sun felt good on his belly that afternoon. But the rumble from within that belly made Cochise get to his feet and take a healthy mouthful of grass. Chewing it and swallowing quickly he smelled the coffee brewing and ambled over to where Joe sat morosely by the pot, a cup held loosely in his hands. Cochise snorted into Joe's hair just once to get his attention.
Angry with the whole she-bang affair, Joe swatted at the black nose that had come begging. "No!" he said sharply and pushed at it when it returned. "This is all your fault! You are the one who messes things up because you can't control yourself. And how am I going to explain this to Pa? Well, gee whiz, Pa, you know that gelding I ride?" Joe put extra emphasis on the horse's lack of gender. As if understanding the word, Cochise dropped his head halfway to his knees. "That gelding decided he was going to try and make like a mighty stallion to some poor sorry assed little mare. I could have understood it if she had been cuter, Cochise! She was so…so plain, for gosh sakes!"

For several long moments, Joe sat glumly silent. Cochise, his head still down, seemed to understand that Joe was mad at him and stood, waiting as though for the rest of the tirade. When it didn't come, he nuzzled Joe's shoulder and looked pointedly at the coffeepot.

"No!" For good measure, Joe shoved at the intruding nose but it came swinging right back. "No coffee for you! You've been bad! No! No coffee for you."

Cochise understood the shaking finger in front of his nose more than he did the words. Grass would have to do and he turned and took a few hobbled steps back to it. He pulled out and ate a few mouthfuls, looking back over his shoulder with each one. Finally he decided a nap was in order and he dropped to the ground and stretched out.

Even with the coffee, Joe was feeling the affects of the long night in the saddle. He tried his best but the weariness crept up on him and before long, did the same as Cochise: stretched out on the ground and fell asleep.
What awoke Joe some time later was the feel of something cold pressed against his cheek. Something cold and metallic. He didn't have to think hard to know that it was a gun barrel.

Behind the gun barrel and therefore the gun, was a man dressed in dark clothing. Looking up into the late afternoon sun, Joe had the first fleeting thought that it was Adam but Adam would never have pulled a gun and held against Joe, or at least Joe hoped so.

"Real easy, boy," the voice attached to the figure oozed. There was a trace of an accent in the voice that Joe thought perhaps was Texan but he wasn't sure. "Just hand over that there gun, butt first please!" Joe complied, every nerve on brittle thin ice. "That's good."

Joe found his voice and asked, "What do you want? I ain't got much, mister."

"Smelled your coffee. I'll start with some of that. What have you got to eat?"

"A little jerky," Joe cautiously replied. The gun hadn't wavered from the few inches in front of his face.

"Hand it over," the voice commanded and Joe carefully handed him some of his jerky from its oilskin pouch beside the fire.

Once the gunman had the dried meat in his hand, he stepped away from Joe and went sidestepping to the other side of the fire. Then Joe could see him plainly. He was a painfully thin man with a pox marked face and peeking from under his dusty black hat was a wild tangle of greasy gray hair. The stubble on his chin was gray and gave him the look of a hard case that Joe was sure he was. When he bit into the jerky, Joe saw ragged teeth.

"What are you doing this far off the main road?" Joe asked, more to settle his own nerves than that of his guest.

"None of your business," came the gruff reply that was half lost when the man took a long drink from Joe's forgotten cup of coffee.

"Man out here alone, no food to speak of, holding a gun on someone else makes me think you may be running from the law. That it?" Joe sat forward and fed the small fire a piece of broken tree limb. As he moved, the gun followed his every move, making his heart continue to beat fast.

"What if it is?" the other challenged.

Joe shrugged his shoulders just once. For all that he tried to appear nonchalant, his muscles were nearly bursting they were strung so tight by nerves. When the man reached for another piece of jerky, his eyes automatically dropped to the pouch and when they did, so did the gun. Joe launched himself across the fire into the man's face.

There was little fight to man but Joe decided a few good jabs to his mid-section were called for before he yanked the gun from the man. Breathing hard, Joe stood and leveled the man's own gun at him. It was then that Joe realized the gun was empty.

"Oh for the love of-! No one is ever going to believe me! This is just too-"

Joe blurted out. The man watched confused as Joe walked around the fire, his arms wildly waving in the air and speaking in half finished sentences.
"I'm sorry mister but I've had a real run of bad luck with the cards lately. And then I got lost out here in this wilderness. Crossing a stream and my horse slipped, and all my supplies got ruined! I tried shootin' myself some dinner the other night but I'm a miserable shot at best. Wasted all my ammunition," the man in black bemoaned.

Joe stopped his own wild pacing and gesticulating suddenly. He smiled and looking to the sky said something the other thought sounded like "thank you, Lord" before he whirled around to face him.

"Listen, you got to do me a favor!" Joe squatted in front of the man. "Here, take your gun and hit me on the head!"

The man in black looked at the young cowboy with wide-open eyes and his mouth making a little "o". Surely the fellow wasn't crazy but he was sure acting a mite strange. "Do what? Hit you on the head?"

"That's right! Not hard, now. Just enough to raise a good-sized lump. Right here," and Joe pointed to the back of his head, even taking off his hat to show the stranger just where he wanted it. "You do that for me and you can have what's in my wallet." To further convince the man, Joe pulled his wallet out of his inner jacket pocket and opened it.

"No sir," the man in black contested. "I ain't no thief!" He started to back away crab-like.

Dropping his wallet onto the other's chest, Joe smiled disarmingly. "No, I didn't mean it like that! See, let's call this a gift. I mean, here you are down on your luck and all! You need help! I can help you but you have to help me too!"

"But you could follow me once I leave and have me arrested or worse! No sir! Like I said I ain't no thief! Never have been and never will be! I got no idea what your problem is mister but iffen you don't mind, I'll be on my way. Thanks for the coffee and jerky." The man in black rose to his feet and tried to make it out of Joe's reach.

He didn't make it. Joe pulled himself up as menacing as he could get and was surprised to see that he was looking down into the pox-marked face. The other fellow couldn't have been much bigger than Hop Sing and twice as scrawny since Joe's hand completely encircled his bicep.

"I promise you. This is a gift. You aren't robbing me if I give it to you, are you?" To emphasize his words, Joe shoved the remaining bills in his wallet into the breast pocket of the man's shirt. "See? Just like that! Now, you have to hit me."

The little man swallowed hard, his Adam's apple bobbing. Joe pressed the man's empty gun back into his hand.

"Come on. You can do it! And I swear no one will come after you on my account," Joe pleaded, deciding right then that he would delay as long as he possibly could any sort of description of his attacker.

"No, no, I can't!" the man's voice shook.

Joe turned his back on him and pointing to the back of his head, exclaimed, "Sure you can! Come now just give it a good hard whack!"
"I, I, I can't! You're too tall!"

First time I have ever heard that before in my life, Joe thought. He dropped to his knees, his back still to the man in black. "Do it!" Joe insisted then felt a mere tap on the back of his skull. He lifted both hands into the air as if to plead and called out again, this time louder yet, "Harder."

"If you say so," was the last thing Joe heard before he saw stars and sank blissfully into the grass at the little man's feet.

When Joe awoke a short time later it was to a pounding headache. As he sat up, his wallet fell from his chest where the now-gone man in shabby black clothes had left it. Rubbing his hand over the back of his skull, Joe found a good-sized lump growing there. He stumbled to his feet to find that the other fellow had conveniently dumped out his cold coffee, washed both pot and cup and packed everything up for him. And that included saddling Cochise.

He smiled as he pictured himself riding into the yard just as it was getting fully dark and dramatically falling from his horse. He would weakly call for his father before lapsing back into apparent unconsciousness. They would find his depleted wallet and automatically assume he had been robbed but they would have to wait a while before he could give them any sort of description of his attacker, giving the little fellow in black lots of time to make a get-away. Even though his head hurt, Joe laughed at that last thought. His attacker? As far as he was concerned it was a place called Paradise.

Pulling himself into the saddle, Joe turned the pinto towards the setting sun and home.

The end

The Tahoe Ladies, (no make that only Irish)
July 2002
Author Feedback -- 
Tahoe Ladies
Site Owner Feedback
Complaints, Opinions, Recommendations?
About this Site
Who do we think we are? 
Why are we doing this?
Our Fan Fiction Criteria
Standards & Practices
 Bonanza Fan Fiction Master Index
Alphabetical by Title
Bonanza Fan Fiction Master Index
Alphabetical by Author
Adam Stories
Joe  Stories
Hoss Stories
Ben Stories
Whole Family Stories
Young Cartwrights
Just for Fun [Comedy Lite]
Post-Timeline Stories
Jamie, Candy, Hop Sing, Griff
Alternate Universe
Death Fics
Fan Fiction Resources
Character Bios & More
Bonanza Fanfic Links
Site Forum
Input & Opinions from Readers, Authors, Site Owners