The Upper Hand

by Twyla Jane

Here is the challenge:  The guys are on a long journey -- whether it is by car, horse, wagon, traain, plane, boat -- you get the picture.  The story must have at least two of our guys.  The story must be about their journey: something that  happens along the way, the process of continuing the trek, the problems with close contact for so long -- whatever works for you.  AND, it must contain at least one of the following:  a dam, a painfully posed photograph, a badly performed show, a 'magnificent' waterfall, illegal swimming or a search for breakfast food.  It must contain the following words:  canyon, cowboy, optimist, gabby and akimbo ..... One more thing. The story should be under 5,000 words.   See you in Utah. Okay at last the next part of the Tijuana Jails series follows Wild Kingdom, long overdue and devoured at least twice by two different computers. Yep this is for you Row. Ok so I haven’t been to Colorado so I am taking a liberty or four, and I might as well throw in that this is also a response for Yolande’s February 2004 Challenge (the Bored Guys Challenge): 5/15/04

The Larabee Ranch:

With sweat pouring down his face Larabee couldn’t help but painfully wobble in a haphazard manner across the last few feet of the unpaved road. More than once during the long walk back to his house Chris had turned at looked back down the long gravel drive where the taxi cab had vanished in a cloud of dust along with his ‘friends’.

The closer Chris got to the house the slower he went. The souls of his feet were bruised and cut. The frenetic jog down the ranch’s driveway had torn the through the padded flesh on his left foot, and it was starting to throb out of sync with his upper right buttock. Chris was cursing under his breath before he had even crossed back over the threshold but it wasn’t because of damage done to his flesh. He had found the hastily scrawled message on the brown paper bag hanging askew on the porch light. Tugging the crumpled sack off the lamp Chris smoothed it out as he tried to read the familiar handwriting.

Hey Cowboy,

Ez and I are taking off to finish our vacation

see you and the rest of the boys in a week.



They weren’t going to get away that easily not after tattooing his backside. The duo of Tanner and Standish were going to be dead if Larabee ever got his hands on them.

After all he had time and the finest technical resources at hand. Preoccupied with that thought Chris failed to notice his proximity to the leather couch and promptly fell over it landing hard on his backside.


~~~~~~~ 7777777~~~~~~~~

Leaving Denver:

The sun was bright, the sky a soft powdery blue and there was nary a cloud above. In short a beautiful day for a road trip. Vin smirked as he watch the scenery whip by as he sat quietly in the passenger’s seat of the dark blue Ford Taurus as it headed west on I-70 leaving the Mile High City and its suburbs quickly disappearing in the rear view mirror. Ezra was behind the wheel, a smug grin on his face. The man sat rigid in driver’s seat weaving through traffic, despite all the reassurances, he was obviously still in some pain.

After the stunt they had pulled with Larabee, Vin and Ezra made a joint decision to bypass any traps that may have waited in their individual abodes, opting to rent a car. This time the pair, at the insistence of Standish, headed towards a flashier less rugged destination, Sin City itself Las Vegas, Nevada. Tanner still tired from the misadventures wasn’t about to argue or tell his companion that he wasn’t so sure that they were headed in the right direction.

At least there was one matter they managed address during their hasty departure, this time they left a note.

Okay it wasn’t technically a note and they did after all leave a message scrawled in soap on a picture in Buck and J.D.’s room.

~~~~~~~ 7777777 ~~~~~~~~

Somewhere on I-70 in Colorado:

The car windows were rolled down, a warm flow of rushed through

“Hey Ez?”

“Yes, Mr. Tanner?”

“How come you get to choose where we’re going?”

“As I recollect, our previous excursion outside the confines of the Larabee Ranch was your choice.”

“True… but…”

“Ah no buts my friend, leaving the Jag behind I can accept that but trading it in for ride in that quaint contraption that barely passed as a modern mode of air travel.”

“Ez, it was a crop duster.”

“A gross oversight on the part of the F.A.A., but that not the only issue while dodging Jack-a-lopes we crashed the rental car into canyon!”

“It wasn’t a canyon...”

“Did or did not the vehicle go over a rocky protrusion?”

“Well yeah…”

“Then my argument stands, ceding to your earlier observation, the automobile went over a cliff with us almost trapped inside! That thankfully was rented under your name, oh no this time we are going to a destination of my choosing.”

“Can’t argue with ya on that but Ez, Chris will figure out pretty quick where we are going.”

“Ever the optimist Mr. Tanner, I do have a plan.”

~~~~~~~ 7777777 ~~~~~~~~

“Dammit… dammit … dammit!”

“What’s up, Chris?” Wilmington’s half yawned question was almost unheard as Larabee abruptly started laughing. His long time was oblivious to what befell them during the long night.

“What?” Buck rubbed an idle hand across his face trying to rub the remnants of sleep from his eyes. Finding that there was something was not quite right with his face. “Aw… damn…” Just to be he felt over the right eye and then the left before summoning up the courage to finally look in the mirror over the fireplace. All the while Chris was chuckling as Buck inspected the damage only to end up on the floor in a heap laughing when the man asked in shocked horror, “Where the hell did they get tweezers? Oh God why... why the mustache?”

The handsome ladies man stopped bemoaning his own predicament and went slack jawed when a bleary eyed J.D. shuffled into the room.

“Hey, who’s Baba-looey?” The young man was rubbing sleep out of his eyes as he asked completely unaware that some how he gotten several large sections of bleached hair over night. “Buck… your face…”

“I’d be quiet if I were you, Pepe la Pew!” Retorted Buck

“Pepe?” Asked the youngest member of Team 7 a little confused by the comment, it was at that moment J.D. caught his reflection. “Aw Crap!” His response renewed Chris’s laughter and Buck joined in as the two remaining members of the team wandered into the living room.. The Josiah’s fate was easier to discern, Sanchez it appeared had suffered a close encounter with permanent magic markers rendering his face akin to Bozo the clown. The white shoe polish was used a nice finished touch.  Jackson on first glance looked unscathed and was quietly chuckling as followed the agitated profiler into the living room only when the medic turned his head as he took in everyone’s appearance did the other’s notice Nate-man was skillfully shaved into the back of Jackson’s head.

~~~~~~~ 7777777 ~~~~~~~~

The plan was simple. At least according to the map Ezra had traced out the route on. Head west towards and into Utah on I-70 until it intersected with I-15 following that into Nevada final destination Las Vegas. That was the plan but less than hour after leaving Denver fate intervened. He didn’t believe what he was seeing at first. The gigantic boulders tumbled and bounced across the highway a few hundred feet down the road ahead of them. Standish barely had time to react, slamming down hard on the brake pedal sending the Ford Taurus into a spin. Tanner’s head took off the rearview mirror before they finally screeched to a halt.

Ezra shoved Vin out the partially open passenger door landing heavily in a painfully tangled heap on the asphalt.

~~~~~~~ 7777777~~~~~~~~

The gods, the fates, the muses whomever was in control of their current destinies were conspiring against them in every shape, manner of form available. A rock slide of all things, the odds of them being caught in one were astronomical. The twisted mix of luck was disturbing it fell under the realm of strange luck neither wholly bad nor good just exasperating.Hobbling along the shoulder of a road was becoming routine. Most sane people would have crossed the median and gotten assistance from anyone of the number of vehicles now effectively and efficiently parked one after another bumper to bumper on the other side of the highway. Every now and then during the long walk for reasons that Standish couldn’t understand Tanner would wave at the stranded, over heated occupants of the cars, buses and truck. The responses were a mix of perplexed confusion, anger and giddy humor.

Altering his pace the southerner slowed down so that he was more or less in step with the Texan after the fourth such incident Ezra had to ask. “What, pray tell, are you up to?”

Vin just grinned, not even looking at him before waving at another car.

‘What the hell’ Ezra thought to himself and gave a little but decidedly regal wave. ‘this definitely goes under things to do on the road to Vegas’. Technically they hadn’t even made it into Utah. They hadn’t made it a quarter of the way to their destination. Disasters aside maybe Tanner had the right idea go with the flow.

Unfortunately as he started to happily wave he recognized with a start that the driver climbing out of a gray station wagon was far too familiar as were the rest of the occupants.

Larabee and…

“Aw Hell!”

The sudden appearance of the remaining members of Team had caught Vin’s attention and with a knowing look in Ezra’s direction the pair opted to totter off the road side than face what was hot on their trail. Their attempted getaway was doomed to failure from the start. Seconds after leaving the asphalt, Vin’s braced knee locked up. His foot caught on some under brush, his rapid descent had him colliding with Ezra. The resulting momentum had a mass of tangled limbs rolling down the hillside landing with a splash at the bottom of a small but magnificent waterfall.

~~~~~~~ 7777777 ~~~~~~~~




Bad Luck

Strange Luck

Bizarre Luck

The rambling thought skittering through Standish’s mind as he lay on his back in the shallow water. At least his landings were getting better even if his timing was getting worse. Larabee was already standing over him by the time Ezra regained his wits.


“Wet, just like you…” Larabee thrust out a hand waiting for Standish to grasp it, “Come on let’s get you up. Not a word, I am not in the mood for any shit!”

Normally that wouldn’t have silenced Standish but the sight of pale imitations of Pepe, Nate-man, Bozo the clown and Gomez Adams waiting for him at the top of the hill did.

“Oh dear…”

Ezra Standish knew he and Vin Tanner were dead men. They wouldn’t kill them out right, nope that’d be too easy. No they would make them wait, it wouldn’t be today it wouldn’t be tomorrow but it would be soon.

~~~~~~~ 7777777 ~~~~~~~~

The blue and red flashing lights failed to silence the banter in the backseat.

“Stop your gabbing!”

“Us? Gabby… we might be shooting the shit but gab, Chris that’s something a grandmother would say.”

“Just shut up!”

Chris Larabee the hardened tough as nails leader of the Southwest’s top A.T.F. team was reduced to cringing in the driver’s seat. He could only pray to be swept away by a tornado or swallowed up by a massive sink hole before the approaching State Police Officer knocked on the window.

“No…. no… no…. don’t worry we all sitting akimbo back here minding our own business.”

“What’s with akimbo? So far as I can tell we are not akimbo. Might be human pretzels…definitely closer to that… yeah contortionists….”

“Shut up J.D.!”

“Mr. Sanchez, do you mind moving your elbow?”

“Just making sure you stay put son.”

“Hey Cowboy how exactly did you find Ez and I?”

“Hey I thought Chris….”

The rest of the conversation went ignored as Larabee heard the dreaded rap on the driver’s door.

The electric window squeaked as it went down.

“Sir, may I have your license and registration!” Chris quietly handed over the appropriate paperwork. He had to give the deputy credit for maintaining some semblance of decorum. The seasoned officer only broke into a broad grin once during the process and that was when he peered into the vehicle and got a gander at the other passengers.

“Sir, would you care to explain exactly why you were driving backwards on the shoulder for the last mile…”

Larabee’s head dropped down a notch, this day was never going to end.