Prelude – Part One: a Crowe’s Point Story (from the days when it was still the Crowe’s Nest)

Disclaimer:

The following story has been written with no intention of claiming ownership or solicitation, nor does the author claim the movie character(s) as his/her own. The movie character(s) have been borrowed solely out of a love of the particular movie and is not intended for any other purpose but amusement and entertainment.

Author: by John Biebe (as ghost written by Tina)

Note: Hi — I guess you all might be wondering about the author’s credit here, but that’s not a mistake. You see, I had a story to tell, but I am not really a creative writer, not like my beloved Sunny is, which is my nickname for Tina 🙂 I was reminiscing with her a month or so ago about this very important point in my life, and she told me it would be great to share it with all of you. Okay, I’ll take her word for it, but as I said, I’m not a writer — not the way she is. So I told her I’d tell it — if she would record it in her own special way. She agreed, so here we are. I only hope all of you enjoy it. Feedback is welcome by both of us. Thanks for your time, and here we go.

John Michael Biebe

Former sheriff of Mystery, Alaska

Although written some time following the original story, this is considered a Prequel to By Way of Introduction, which can be found here and takes place in late May of the year 2000 – the month which saw the release of the movie, Gladiator.

Part One

 

“Dad — you okay?”

John Biebe looked away from where a small group of Mystery high schoolers were having soft drinks in a corner booth, and gave his attention to Michael. Although the sheriff savored each of these special moments he shared with his oldest son, for some reason, the conversation coming from the teens had drawn his notice. There was nothing special in it; they weren’t being rowdy, disruptive, or vulgar. In fact for teen-agers they were downright polite, he considered, almost laughing to himself.

No, his thoughts had briefly drifted.

He was remembering a time seemingly not long ago when he, his brothers Peter and Alexander, sister Katherine, Tree, and a few others would sit in that very corner after school. They would have their shakes or sodas; perhaps discuss their classes or upcoming homework projects, and the boys would fantasize about the day when they would finally be called up to play in the Saturday game. One of the guys would flirt with Katherine, eliciting a blush the shade of her auburn hair; her protective siblings would jokingly threaten him.

Then John — the youngest of the Biebe children — would suddenly look up just in time to catch the eye of pretty Donna Ballinger, accompanied by a few of her girl friends and Charles Danner, who was John’s age. She would smile, even wave several tiny fingers in his direction, and he would grin back, shyly bowing his head, hoping he didn’t redden in front of his companions – – although he usually did. He had to learn to stop doing that. At thirteen-years-old, it was getting downright embarrassing, and besides, he was not even certain Donna liked him besides just saying “Hi” when they passed in the hall at school. After all, she was still a kid — only twelve — and he was a teen now. But damn…she was pretty. John gulped, then sighed deeply, causing his brothers to snicker as they elbowed each other; Katherine rolled her eyes and kicked at both of them, and Tree leaned forward from the outside chair he had.

“John — you okay?”

“No Johnny’s not okay?” eighteen-year-old Alex teased, looking over his shoulder towards the main counter where Donna and her friends now stood, giggling at some private joke. “John likes Donna,” he said in a singsong.

“Oh for God’s sake Alex — you act like some stupid kid,” Katherine growled.

“You’re graduating in June, remember?”

“Why don’t you just go talk to her John?” Tree whispered to him, a question that caused John’s eyes to widen.

Talk to Donna Ballinger? Articulate, smart, talented Donna? It wasn’t that he was stupid unlike most of the boys, who were only interested in improving their hockey skills, John was at the top of his class, right along with Chuckie-Boy. If he was going to study the law or go into law enforcement, he needed to keep up his grades, especially since — even in his wildest dreams — he didn’t think anyone from the National Hockey League would find their way to Mystery. He would really love to play in the NHL someday — what boy would not. He had always imagined scoring the winning goal in the finals of the Stanley Cup; his team hoisting him on their shoulders as they chanted his name. Him being given the first opportunity to kiss Lord Stanley’s cup, the Holy Grail of hockey.

“Yeah Johnny — go talk to her,” Katherine said sweetly, bringing him back to reality. “I think she likes you.”

“Donna?” he squeaked. Trying not to look obvious, he glanced over at the counter, his attention immediately drawn to her flattering pink sweater and cream colored pants. Her parents always did dress her nice, and at age twelve, she was starting to….Well, starting to….Well, starting.

“Yeah, go ahead Johnny,” Tree encouraged him, and after a few seconds of hesitation — and ignoring the teasing glances of his brothers (although Peter winked at him), the youngest Biebe scooted out from the booth.

Moving quietly to the main diner counter, he analyzed the scen. There was the way Mary Jane flirted with Scott Pitcher since he was trying to get her attention. Or how Charlie Danner stared so cloyingly at Donna, then said something about their homework project, causing her to laugh, throwing back her dark hair.

“Hey John,” one of the other girls said, causing the little group to turn his way. John immediately saw the other females — particularly Donna — suddenly nervously giggle, whisper amongst themselves, and then blush. Charlie sighed, gnawing on his lower lip, a particularly unattractive habit since it caused his cheeks to nearly suck in, making him look even more like a ferret.

“Hi John.” “How ya doin’ Johnny.” “Hey John — what’s going on?” came the series of greetings.

“Guys.” Now his attention went to Donna, seeing her smile and lower her eyes. “Hi Donna.”

She looked back at him, her blush increasing. “Hi Johnny,” came her tiny voice.

“John…how are you?” Charlie said, although everyone could tell he was more annoyed than interested in an answer. “How’s your Shakespeare project coming along? That’s what we were talking about. I’m doing ‘Romeo and Juliet’.”

“Yeah?” He was thinking that was so typical — Chuckie-Boy was probably hoping to do the balcony scene with Donna at some point too. /Weasel// “I’m doing ‘Henry V’.” He caught Donna’s eyes. “I like his Agincourt speech…the one he does to spur on the troops before the battle….Or…Or when he disguises himself and goes among his men. Plus that…” He paused, seeing he had her interest. “There’s this scene near the end…when the King is proposing to Katherine of France. The Princess’ lines are mostly all in French; my mom and Kath thought that would be a good scene to learn too.”

“I didn’t know that Johnny,” Donna admitted, and John grinned. Take that Chuckie-Boy!

“You’re taking an awful lot on yourself, aren’t you, John?” Charlie asked, trying not to sneer. “Very ambitious. Still gonna have time for hockey practice?”

“Always, but it’s no problem, Charlie. My mom and dad read me ‘Henry V’ years and years ago when they taught us about Shakespeare. I like ‘Henry V’.” He was happy to see Donna’s pretty smile increase, and she was smiling for him.

Him…John Michael Biebe.

“That sounds so cool, John,” she said. “You’ll have to show me that part sometime. The French part I mean. I wonder how much of it I can translate?”

John’s head jerked towards Charlie just long enough to see him nearly turn green. Biebe’s small chest swelled proudly. See, there was a chance Donna might like him too. It was nice to show her that hockey wasn’t his all-consuming passion. “I’d be happy to show you anytime you want, Donna. I…I…I’d forgotten you’re taking French this year. Just let me know, okay?”

“Okay. You already speak French, don’t you?”

He shrugged, chuckling a bit. “Yeah…some, with my Mom being part-French, but Kath and Alex are almost fluent. Me and Peter — I mean, Peter and I are working harder though.” John noticed Charlie rolling his eyes before stifling a pretend yawn. He would have liked to have called him a fuckwod, but knew that kind of language would get back to his parents, especially since the diner’s owner was only a few feet away, serving the kids their drinks.

“Here’s yours, Donna,” Charlie told her, pushing a tall glass with a vanilla shake inside. He even removed the paper wrapper from about the straw, placing it in the thick beverage for her, which John considered a bit much. Okay, so his mother and father had taught him to have manners, but there were times when Danner was so near perfect, John felt as stupid and awkward as a backwoodsman did. He’d always be polite; always be a gentleman, young Biebe considered, but he’d never have Charlie’s poise and polish.

/Except on the ice. He always lands on his ass when he’s on the ice// John figured, his eyes drawn to the way Donna’s lips wrapped around the end of the straw. Why he suddenly wished he were that straw he had no idea. Funny — since turning thirteen a month before, he was noticing things regarding girls he had never cared about before.

“Hey John!” It was Alex, and John saw that his own group was on their feet now, all of them — including Katherine and one of her best girl friends — grabbing up their hockey gear and book bags. “John come on. It’s time to hit the ice!”

“Coming!” He looked back at the counter group again. “Well, I’ve gotta go. I need to practice.” The others told him good-bye, but he noticed that Donna appeared disappointed. “Like I said, Donna, just let me know anytime. I mean…when you might want to see that scene in ‘Henry V’.”

“Sure Johnny. I’d like to see that a lot.”

“But if you’re not around, John,” Charlie decided to add, “I can show it to Donna.”

Their eyes met momentarily, John knowing deep down why he disliked this boy so much, an emotion which would make his mother tell him to say a dozen ‘Hail Mary’s’ as repentance. He had tried so hard to be a friend to Charlie, even to trying to teach him to skate several years back, but Danner had such a high opinion of himself. Always saying he couldn’t wait to get out of Mystery and see the world. Sure, they all wanted to do that, John thought, but you didn’t behave as though that set you above everyone else, even if your parents were among the upper class of the town — if Mystery had an upper class.

Ignoring Chuckie-Boy, John looked at Donna. “Just let me know, okay?”

“I will, Johnny. Thanks.”

“John — come on!” Alex hollered while Peter paid their check.

“Coming!” he called back. “Sorry you guys. See ya later.”

The others said good-bye again — Charlie’s voice sounding even more eager to see him go — but it was Donna whose words were more prominent. “Bye Johnny.” He was still smiling when he rejoined his group, getting a nudge from Peter and a proud smile from Katherine, who tossed him his hockey stick.

Tree — who was already an inch or two taller than John and they were the same age — ran next to him as they started out the door. “So?”

“So…what?”

“So…did she say if she liked you?”

John rolled his eyes, feeling his cheeks burn as he did. “Geez Tree…nah. She wouldn’t have said it in front of Chuckie-Boy and the others anyway.”

“Okay…so do you *think* she likes you?” Tree persisted, grinning at his best friend’s reaction.

“I don’t know…maybe…I guess. I don’t know.” John tugged his gloves on as they stepped into the cold. “She wants to read Shakespeare with me.”

“Shakespeare?” To Tree, that didn’t make a lot of sense.

“For the projects we’re doing. I told her about my play, and she wants to read one of the scenes with me.”

“She does?” Katherine called back to him, and she waited for her little brother and Tree to catch up. “John, that’s great! Maybe Mom and me could ask Donna and her mother to come over for lunch or tea or something. That’d give you and her a chance to…you know.”

John’s blue-green eyes nearly rolled up into their sockets. Why was everyone trying to play matchmaker with him and Donna Ballinger? He just liked Donna; he liked talking to her. It wasn’t like he wanted to marry her! He was about to reply that his sister had a great idea when a truck bearing the Mystery town emblem and the words “Sheriff’s Department” pulled nearby. Katherine took off at a dead run, waving as she screamed, “Dad!”

John looked excited too. “Dad’s home, Tree!” and he took off behind his sister, the two of them a few yards behind their brothers. The elder Alexander Biebe stepped out of the vehicle, and gave his three youngest children an embrace — lifting Katherine off the ground as he did — then patting his oldest son and namesake on the back.

“We didn’t know you were back,” Alex said.

“Just got here. Haven’t even been home yet. I saw all of you coming out of the diner and –” he rubbed the top of John’s head, “– I figured I’d stop.”

“We’ve missed you, Dad,” Peter told him.

“Yeah, how was Fairbanks?” John asked.

“Fairbanks was…Fairbanks. I’m just glad to be home. You kids heading for the pond?”

“Yes sir,” Katherine said.

“Do you all want a ride, or are you going to walk?”

“We’ll walk, Dad,” Alex said. “The runt needs the exercise anyway.”

“Hey!” John shouted, his normally soft voice increasing.

“That’s not nice, Alexander,” their father scolded him. He greeted the other kids with them, then told his children he would meet them at home later — he was going to stop by Bailey Pruitt’s and find their mother. Before he left though, he sat on his heels, putting him eye to eye with his youngest. “Don’t let his teasing bother ya, Johnny.”

John kicked at a bit of snow near his left toe. “I don’t. But sometimes I feel like him and Peter will always be bigger than me. Right now even Kath’s taller than me.”

Patting his son’s shoulder, he said, “I know what you mean, but remember what I’ve told you John. You’ll have a spurt before you know it. I did — and you look just like I did at your age. And you are *not* fat, if that’s what your brother’s insinuating. You’ll end up being built like me, I can already tell that.”

“I hope so, Dad,” John smiled.

He loved his parents so much, and while he had a special relationship with his beautiful, elegant mother, he also hoped he and his father remained close forever. He realized that as he grew older — like a lot of teens — he might start to feel as though they were a pain sent by God to ruin his life. That was until he considered that Tree Lane’s parents had both died tragically, and Tree would never see them again. Those thoughts alone were enough to make John realize he needed to savor every moment he had with his.

“Dad — guess what? I talked to Donna Ballinger.”

Alexander’s eyes widened. “You did? Did you invite her to watch you on the ice?

“Nah…not yet. That’s for later. We talked about ‘Henry V’. I told her what parts I’m going to do….”

“Dad…everything okay?”

John nodded, sighing deeply as he rubbed the top of Michael’s head. “Yeah…I’m fine,” he said softly, trying not to let the tears be heard in his voice. “Just…Just thinking…that’s all.”

“So when did you ask Mom to watch you on the ice?”

“Not until fall, when I hoped I wouldn’t make an idiot of myself. There’s nothing like falling flat on your behind when the girl you’re trying to impress is watching you.”

Mike chuckled as he took another drink of his chocolate milk shake, just like his father’s. “I think she might have seen me beforehand, but she didn’t draw attention to herself by letting me know she was around.”

“So you were always sweet on her?”

Biebe laughed. “Yeah, I think I was.”

“I’m just glad she married you and not Mr. Danner.”

“Yeah, me too, Mike — me too.” John felt tightness in his chest, and momentarily, his vision blurred. Shaking it off, he realized he did not have long, but he needed to behave normally, otherwise, he would send his son into a panic. Finishing the last of his drink, John smiled. “Well, you ready?”

“Yes sir. I don’t think I can drink another drop.”

“Well, your mother will kill me if she thinks you ruined your appetite. She’s fixing pork chops tonight, she told me.”

“My favorites!” Mike exclaimed, quickly completing what remained in his own glass.

“And that’ll give me time to stop back by the office for a bit before supper.”

“Can I come too?”

“Don’t you have homework, Mike?” John asked him, raising an eyebrow. He saw the boy’s sheepish expression, and they both laughed. “You can come with me over the weekend…if…you get your homework done today *and* you get it done right.”

“Yes sir!”

“I might even think about letting you come back to the locker room again when we play tomorrow.”

“Me and Joey?”

“Joey and me.”

“Joey and me?”

“Yeah, you and your brother.” The tightness nearly caused him to wince, but he caught it before his face reflected the pain he had felt. “We’ll see. Come on — let’s go.”

John enjoyed the drive to the Biebe home, which was just on the outskirts of Mystery, listening as Michael chattered away about school and hockey. Occasionally, his eyes would leave the road and he would watch his son’s profile, smiling softly when he realized how much the boy already looked like him and his own father. Sighing, he casually wiped his eyes, hoping the tears would not be apparent as the truck was guided up onto the family property and they came to a stop.

“I could have walked, Dad,” Mike told him, opening the truck’s passenger door.

“Hey, it was no problem, Mike — you should know that. Sometimes…” He swallowed hard. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t spend enough time with you and your brothers anyway.”

The child grinned back. “Sure you do, Dad. I know things got busy with the Rangers game and…and the shooting, and…well, everything else, you know, but…I’m glad it’s slowed down.”

John nodded, patting the boy’s shoulder. “So am I. You know what?”

“What?”

“I think you’ve grown an inch here in the last week. What d’ya think?”

Michael’s smile increased as he grabbed up his backpack. “I told Mom I had, but she said no. I think she just wants me to stay a baby.”

“Parents are like that. We don’t want our kids to grow up, that’s all. Your grandparents used to be the same way with me and your uncles and aunt. When you have children of your own….”

“I know…I’ll understand.”

“You will.” John paused, a sob catching in his throat.

“So you’re not coming in?”

“Not right now. Just have a bit of paperwork to finish up at the office, so I can get it on the Mayor’s desk for the department’s budget, but I’ll be back in plenty of time for supper.”

“Cool. Okay…I’ll tell Mom then.”

“Good deal.” He watched as Michael opened the passenger side door on the truck, and nearly in a panic, the sheriff called out, “Mike?” The boy looked back at him, and he realized he had said it a bit more nervous than intended. Covering with a soft smile, he softly said, “I love you, Mike.”

“Aw Dad,” the kid said, rolling his eyes but he didn’t protest when his father gave him a gentle bear hug for he returned the affection. John tried not to embrace him too long, worried that his behavior might frighten him, so he held him just a few seconds longer until he was certain the tears had been eliminated. When they pulled apart, Biebe patted Michael’s cheek, getting his son to smile proudly.

“Tell your mother I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

“Okay Dad. Be careful.” Even at his young age, and in a place as remote as Mystery, Michael Biebe was well aware of the dangers inherent in law enforcement. He always told his father to watch himself for deep down, he wondered if there might be a day when John wouldn’t return home.

“I will, Mike. See ya in a bit.”

He waited until Michael was inside the house before he started backing up to pull away, but he had barely made a U-turn, when he heard someone call his name. Slowing to a stop, he saw Donna running out the door, pulling a jacket on as she did. She came around to his side of the truck, and John smiled, even as tears threatened to flow once more. Rolling down the window, he let his gloved hand caress both of hers, even as he noticed how small they were beneath his.

“Hey!” she said.

“I told Mike to tell you I’d be right back,” he explained, gazing into her eyes. “I need to get that budget as far along as I can so the deadline doesn’t run up on me.”

“I know — he told me. I…I don’t know…I just wanted to tell you to hurry home.”

“I will. Then we’ll have a nice quiet family dinner, or as quiet as they ever are in this household.”

Donna laughed, her smile so warm, he was certain it could have melted an iceberg if that was possible. She was smiling for him again, just like always, and he briefly wondered how he doubted her during the “Chuckie/Rangers” days as they often called it. “Well, Mike’s made me a promise. He says he’ll take charge tonight….”

“Oh Lord.”

“No, wait and hear this. He’s going to entertain the boys and let us have some time alone after dinner.”

“I’ll believe that when it happens,” he joked.

“Well, he promised to keep them occupied with some Disney movies and Warner Brothers cartoons.”

“That’ll work.”

“And that’ll free up the living room VCR for something we want to see.”

“Something that doesn’t have Teletubbies, blue dogs, talking rabbits….”

“Exactly.” She sighed. “I’ve been dying to see something R-rated.”

“Hell Donna — anything rated above a G would be great. I’d settle for PG-13 right now.” They chuckled. “Hey, you’d better get in. You’re getting cold.”

“I am, I am.” She stood tiptoe, leaning forward so as to kiss his mouth. John pulled her closer, trying his best to make it last, until the pain crossed his chest once more, worst than before, and he realized his time was running out. “Be careful; hurry home.”

“I will…and I’ll…uh…see if I can find a little something nice to bring home from the store: maybe some wine finally came in; or the bakery might have a fresh baked pie left.”

“And you. Just bring yourself home too.” She kissed him again, and then whispered, “I love you, John.”

“I love you, Donna.” She stepped back, allowing him enough room to maneuver the pickup, then waving as he pulled off. I love you Donna, he thought as he took a quick glance in the rearview mirror to see her rushing into their house. He pushed down on the accelerator a little more, knowing he needed to concentrate on where he was going.

The clearing was reached about fifteen minutes later, the black of a clump of spruce trees standing in stark contrast to the snow, which with each slight breeze, swirled like gentle waves of water against a shoreline. John shifted the gear to “P”, and watched just along the horizon, to where the trees nearly bent towards one another in a type of intertwining dance. For a moment a white spot within the branches diverted his vision, and he smiled, knowing from a lifetime in Alaska it was not snow. He gave a slight smile as a bird’s cry pierced the silence, and seconds later, a bald eagle took flight, its’ enormous wingspan gracefully guiding it off to the west.

John watched until it was no longer visible, then tossed back his head, swallowing hard as tears misted his eyes.

 

He loved this state so much. No matter where he had traveled in his life — whether far north of the Arctic Circle to Barrow, to Vancouver which had been his mother’s home, or somewhere in the lower forty-eight — something always pulled him back to Mystery. Bailey Pruitt had once told him that John had such talent, he could have gone anywhere he desired, but like his godfather, John had firmed his roots there. That was why he’d said the things he did at Bailey’s funeral, about having been given the opportunities to leave, but deciding to remain. John, like Bailey, had seen a lot of the world beyond the mountains, but he loved it here, and knew he would have spent the rest of his life quite happy in this miniscule spot in the largest state in the United States.

Until it happened. It, he thought, recalling the evening not long after the Rangers game when his life turned upside down forever, and all he had known as his reality changed in an instant. He shifted some in his seat, but did not stay when he noticed the slight adjustment in the landscape. There it was. Pulling his gloves on tighter, John set the brake and jumped out, walking about twenty yards to where there was a large gap between the trees. Although he had been to this place a number of times in the last few months, it was still disconcerting, knowing what he knew as he reached ahead, steadying himself by inhaling. Nothing hurt — it never did, and for a second, like parting a heavy curtain, the space was pushed aside as if to enter another chamber. Warmth caressed his hand, tempting him to remove the insulated glove, but he stopped, pulling back.

Still there, he sighed. Shivering uncharacteristically as he walked back to the truck and climbed inside, he rested his fingers on the wheel, but did not shift gears. He was taking it all in one last time: the mountains; the distant tundra; the frozen river he knew was not that far from his location; a meadow of tiny flowers pushing through the snow; that same eagle which seemed unwilling to depart.

Like he was unwilling.

Have to go John. No two ways about it, he chastised himself, knowing the headaches and pains would grow increasingly worse. He had no desire to know what might occur if he tried to stay longer than intended. And he realized that when he did return, all would be the same. Donna and his sons would still be waiting for his return, as if only a short time had elapsed; the budget would be on his desk, awaiting his review; the Saturday game would go on the next day. All of that — when he returned.
      “I love you, Donna,” he said out loud, his throat tightening as tears immediately sprang into his eyes. Like a man on a mission, he put the truck in “D” and moved ahead into the opening underneath the spruce. He saw the change immediately; how the curtains of space parted to admit the vehicle, then closed behind him, disappearing behind the drooping branches of yet another clearing, this time of oaks.

John pulled up a few feet on the empty road, then yanked off the gloves and his fuzzy hat after shutting off the engine and rolling down the window. Through blurred vision he could see that the wooded area was coming to an end, and far ahead, from the hills where his truck rested, he saw the deep blues and purples of the ocean. The heat penetrated his heavy jacket, the flannel shirt and sweaters, the thermal underwear, until he was ready to peel it all away, but instead, the Alaskan’s head dropped to the steering wheel so that his tears might flow, his chest throbbing from the intense sobbing.

He missed them already: family, friends. He might be little more than a character from a movie, but right now, he was a man — a living, breathing human who missed everything he loved in life. That was the one thing that made him push on, even when he would have liked nothing more than to crawl in a hole and die. He was alive — his parents had given him that gift…and so had an actor named Russell Crowe. John was back in the Nest.

It took nearly a half-hour to maneuver the truck downhill to the main layout of what was known as the Nest, although no one was really certain of exactly how large the landscape was. Seemingly with the arrival of yet another “character,” the boundaries extended beyond what they had been, until now it encompassed so much: from beaches and an ocean, to vast snow-capped mountains, to the Australian Outback and poplar covered hills as in Spain or Italy. Biebe had visited a lot of it during his nearly eight months in the Nest, but there was enough remaining to fill a lifetime. In fact, if the Creator made movies for the next thirty years, the Nest would become so vast, John laughingly commented he’d be an old man before he saw it all.

Not a bad way to end your days I guess, he considered, guiding the pickup into a garage where a lot of his brothers kept their vehicles. Once it was parked, John anxiously pulled off his jacket and shirt, leaving on the sweater which could wait until he got up to his room above the Tavern.

“John…hey, g’day mate!” he heard an obviously Australian voice call out, and he turned to see Colin O’Brien of ‘Heaven’s Burning‘ sliding out from underneath a beautiful, red 1967 Ford Mustang convertible, the chrome gleaming in the sunlight entering through the windows and main door.

“Colin! Hey. Didn’t know anyone was here.”

“I’ve been here most of the day. Do you see this beauty? It showed up yesterday.”

“Did it?” John stepped closer, admiring the sleek lines. As a teenager he would have loved a car like this, but knew that in Alaska, it was unrealistic.

“Yeah…I came out here and bam…there it was, just as pretty as the day is long. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her. Lachlan even got a new bike, so he’s walking on cloud nine.”

“I can imagine.” Biebe’s voice was low; his lips imagining the way Donna’s mouth had pressed against his.

“Where ya been the last few days, mate? I haven’t seen ya around. Several people were asking about you.”

“Oh…I…uh…went back for a while.”

Colin’s smile faded as he nodded. He had not returned to his movie with the frequency his brother did his, for his memories were not exactly as happy as John’s were. There were a few occasions when he’d felt lonely, and for a brief time, would rejoin Midori — they might rob some small, uncomplicated business; they went dancing together again; they even made it to the beach. In his returns he was happily denied suffering through the tragic finale over and over, but just once, he would have liked to have seen what made John go back to his movie often twice a week. Must be nice — having a wife and children who loved you; friends which were real friends.

“I’d like to go with you sometime, John. I don’t know. Has anyone ever tried to go back with one of us — I mean…one of our lot?”

John shrugged. “I think so…I thought Andy said he and Arthur went back together once…oh, and…oh that’s right.”

“What?”

“East took Cort with him so they could go riding in Australia. I remember Cort saying how much he enjoyed that.”

“Would you consider taking me along for the ride sometime, John?”

The sheriff smiled, then nodded. He liked Colin, and sensed that the Aussie mechanic was often as lonely as he felt. “Yeah, if I can figure it out. I’ll have to ask one of the others, but sure, I don’t see why you can’t. Mind you, it’s not warm like in Sydney or something.”

Colin chuckled. “Shit John, I know that, but thanks for the warning. But no, I’d love to come along if you can stand the company.”

John smiled. “I don’t mind. Just have to figure out a good cover story for you. I don’t think we got many Australians up in Mystery, but I’m sure we can come up with something.”

“Good on ya then, John — thanks.”

John gathered his belongings from the truck and shut the driver’s side door. “Well, I’m going to head up to the Tavern. I’m about to burn up in these clothes.”

“I can imagine. Oh yeah…the general was looking for you this morning. I don’t think he knew you were gone, and I figured you’d maybe gone up in the mountains or something. I’m sure he probably checked with Peaches later and found out where you were.”

“I just left him a note — told him I was getting away for a couple. Didn’t say where though. Has he been out of his room since I’ve been gone?”

“Yeah mate. Him, Cort, the Man and East have been at the stables and off riding. As long as it was horse related he’s been right in there. But he hasn’t been down to the Tavern, especially not when guests arrive. I think he’s still a little gun shy as they say, especially when you’re not around.”

Biebe nodded. “Understandable.”

“You’ve done a great job helping him out, John Biebe. You really have. I mean, at least the two of us came from the modern world; Max is from back almost…what?…two thousand years.”

“Give or take a couple of centuries.”

Colin laughed. “Well, it can’t have been too easy. I know we get these memories when we get here, but still, talk about throwing a man.”

“That’s an understatement.” John squirmed a bit as he felt himself break into a sweat. “I’d better get out of here. These thermals are getting a little too warm.”

“Oops, sorry about that mate. Just got to talking. I’ll see ya later, and if I see Max, I’ll tell him you’re back.”

“Thanks Colin. I’ll probably see you later.”

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