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Another Fine Mess
an in-progress TSFF round robin by various listsibs
last part posted 6/30/99

Disclaimer: The characters of Jim and Blair don't belong to us..if they did, they'd have more fun.
All things Sentinel related belong to PetFly. We're not making any money off of this -who'd pay for this lunacy???? - so please don't sue. Thanks and enjoy!
Warnings: some language

Enjoyed it? Send feedback to ctlistmoms@yahoo.com

Part 1 by Hephaistos
Part 2 by DawnC
Part 3 by Donna
Part 4 by Becky
Part 5 by Robyn

Part 1 by Hephaistos

"Over to the left," grunted Jim. "No, damnit, the *left*!"

"I'm trying," Simon snapped. "Quit with the attitude, Jim. You're not helping matters any."

"That's just great, sir," said Jim, "considering this is all your fault."

"My fault! May I remind you, Detective, who smelled the moonshine to begin with and wanted to check it out?"

"You're the captain, Captain," Jim narrowed his eyes. "You should have taken control of the situation and called for back-up."

Simon snorted. "Ellison, you really are a piece of work. 'Why do we need back-up, Captain?'" Simon mimicked Jim's voice. " 'There's just the one guy and how would it look if the captain of Major Crime and Detective-of-the-Year Ellison couldn't bring down one little moonshining huckleberry?' "

"Well how was I suppose to know he had brothers?"

"How...?" Simon suddenly burst out laughing. "Because you're a *Sentinel* Jim, that's why. I'm sorry. I thought you knew."

"Look Simon, let's just cut with the sarcasm and concentrate on getting these ropes untied." Jim twisted his neck to see where Simon's chair now sat in relation to him. "Okay, another little hop to the left, and then move back, and we should be able to reach each other's ropes."

Even though the late afternoon sun was still high in the sky, the windows of the tiny, filthy cabin the two detectives found themselves in were boarded up. Some sunlight filtered through the chinks in the wall, but for the most part, it was too dark for Simon to see clearly. Jim was sitting on a large heavy bench, tied by the ankles and hands, and by his thighs to the bench itself, and couldn't really move. Simon was tied to the lone folding chair in the room and had managed to bounce the chair from across the room to where Jim sat.

Simon moved as Jim suggested, and the two men began working at the knots. "I should have had Sandburg call for back-up," the captain grumbled after a few frustrating moments.

"I didn't want you to wake him," Jim said, almost apologetically. "He's slept about 4 hours the past three nights, total, and I felt bad enough dragging him along on this fishing trip. I was hoping he'd be able to relax some."

"Oh, he's relaxed all right. Asleep in your truck in the middle of the woods with Larry, Darryl, and Darryl running around with sawed-off shot guns. He's going to wake up, you know, and wonder where we are."

"We'll be out of here and back to the truck before that happens, sir," Jim said, managing to get one rope end through a loop on Simon's wrist. "And their names were Norbert, Herbert, Philbert, and Ernie."

"Whatever," Simon grumbled.

Both men jumped as the door suddenly opened, flooding the cabin with light.

"Blair?" said Jim, surprised. The kid's hair was flattened from where he'd fallen asleep against the passenger door in the truck, and his eyes were still half closed. He wobbled tiredly and ran a hand through his hair as he squinted into the room.

"Geez, Jim, *this* is the cabin you guys were dragging me too? I thought we were staying in something with indoor plumbing at least."

"Sandburg," Simon commanded, "get over here and untie us!"

Blair blinked a few times. "Huh?"

Before Jim could explain things a little better than the captain, a tabacco-chewin' voice drawled from just beyond the doorway: "Well looky here boys. We got ourselves another dang visitor!"

Simon and Jim looked on in horror, while Blair just stood in a frozen stupor, surrounded by four grundgy, stained-tooth, backwoods mountain men.

"Wait a minute now," another of them said. Norbert? thought Jim. Damn his senses, anyway! He hadn't even heard them coming. What was up with that?

"Lordy be!" cried a third, slapping a confused Blair heartily on the back. "It's cousin Boyd, comin' all the way from Wheescoggin Mississip to visit! Tarnation, son, why didn't you tell us you'd be comin'?"

"Uh," said Blair, trying to make sense of everything, "I wanted to surprise, um, you-all?"

Part 2 by DawnC

The four men roared with laughter, and Blair's body shook with the pummel of hands against his back and shoulders. "Well come on, cousin Boyd! We been fixin' to get oussselves shit-faced, fittin' now we can cel'brate your homecomin', boy!"

Blair smiled, squaring his shoulders and turning his eyes upward to look at the men. "Well, color me tickled pink," he drawled, praying to the God of Murphy's Law that he'd gotten the Mississippi accent right. He glanced back at Simon and Jim, who were staring slack-jawed and wide-eyed at him. "Who're these folks?" He jabbed a thumb at the two officers.

"Oh just some city-folk cops been nosin' around our moonshinin' opp-er-aaaay-shun, Boyd. We sure as hell gonna take care of 'em! Ain't we, Norbert?" one of the men explained, and Blair took note of the name.

//Moonshining?// Blair repeated silently. //There are still people who moonshine? Um... Wait, isn't that legal?// He looked at Jim, a question in his eyes. Drug dealers. Poachers. Arms dealers. He'd encountered them all. But moonshiners? What where they doing, making alcohol? The was legal, right? Prohibition ended how long ago? Of course, if they were distributing it and selling it without a license, that would be illegal. By the looks of things, though, they weren't really making it into a lucrative business. So why kidnapp two cops? //I mean, I'm not sure what the penalty is for distributing alcohol without a license, but I'm sure it's gotta be way less than kidnapping and murder.// He looked back at the four men. //Well, between the four of them, they've got to have less than half a deck upstairs.// He almost shook his head. //Moonshining?//

"Yessiree-Bob," Norbert replied.

"Well Lordy be, Bob. You bagged us some cops?" Blair jumped in.

The four men grew silent, staring at him.

"My name's not Bob," the man growled.

//Oh Shit,// Blair thought, swallowing hard as he stared up into the suspicious eyes. //Better do something quick.//

"No shit, man." He slugged "Bob's" arm playfully, plastering a smile on his face. "It's an expression. You know, Lordy-Be-Bob, just like Yessiree-Bob. You boys been out here too long, guess that means I gotta teach you how we's do things in Mississip!"

Renewed laughter bubbled from the group, and Blair breathed a sigh of relief, casting a quick, nervous glance at Jim and Simon. Jim looked a bit pale, and Simon... Well, Simon had the expression of a man who'd just messed his drawers.

Trying to look casual and cocky, Blair sauntered deeper into the cabin. He slipped his hand into his pocket, fingering his trusty pocket knife. It was turning out to be the most useful gift he'd ever gotten.

Walking up to the two prisoners, he leaned forward, pretending to study them as he would animals at the zoo. "Well looky here." He eyed Jim critically. "You really a cop?"

Jim raised his eyebrows. "No. I just play one on T.V.," he retorted dryly.

Blair suppressed a smile, straightening back up and turning his pocket-knife side away from the four brothers. "We got ouwsewlves a joker here, Norbert," Blair drawled, quickly withdrawing the pocket knife and plunking it into Jim's hand.

His heart was pounding a mile a minute, and he hoped he'd managed to complete the manuever subtly enough. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jim's hand close over the knife, hiding it from view. Mission accomplished, he turned back to the four brothers and hurried to the door.

"Well, let's get drunk, cousins! My mouth's dry, and it ain't polite not to offer yer blood-cous a drink on his homecomin!"

Part 3 by Donna

Blair's four "cousins" roared their enthusiasm for this statement and renewed their efforts to dislocate several of Blair's vertabra by pounding him on the back. Blair laughed and joined in, throwing his arms around the shoulders of the twins, Herbert and Philbert, and turning them away from Simon and Jim, who was surreptitiously manipulating the blade of the knife around to the knots in the rope which secured him to the bench. Ernie and Philbert had already gone back out the front door and disappeared into a smaller building that leaned precariously up against one side of the dilapidated cabin. Blair had noticed it on his walk up to the cabin and had hoped like hell it wasn't the outhouse. Now he realized that the sharp, unpleasant odor he had smelled coming from the building was instead moonshine and he knew that the still was tucked away in that little building.

Praying to several ancient South American dieties that Jim would be able to get free before he had to actually drink any of that stuff, Blair was about to launch into an account of the doings of rest of the clan back in Wheescoggin when Ernie came trotting back into the cabin.

"Alas and alack, good cousins," he began, pausing dramatically in doorway so the sunlight outlined his body like a halo. "I bring you sorry news of the state of our much slaved over family endeavor."

"Speak, cousin!" exclaimed Norbert, gesturing towards the other man in a desperately dramatic fashion.

"I returned to the site of our recent business success with a heart light and gay with the knowledge that our far away cousin had returned to our home - " here Ernie paused and smiled brilliantly in Blair's direction. Blair, struck dumb by what was happening right before his eyes, responded only by blinking furiously as his mind raced to figure out just what was going on. Ernie pressed on with his story. "Upon entering the structure I was immediately struck with the heavy knowledge that something was deeply wrong with our endeavor."

The other three men drew in their breath loudly in shocked response to this statement. On Blair's right Philbert stepped forward, his expression pained and worried. "Oh, speak further, cousin. Leave us not in suspense at the outcome to this tale!"

*What the...* thought Blair with a part of his mind not currently being assaulted by the information his ears were sending him.

"It was made readily apparent to mine eyes," Ernie contined, "that the brew over which we had sweated and slaved for so long was not producing as rapidly as we had come to expect and depend upon. As I examined the machine ever closer I quickly came to realize the origin on the problem..." Here Ernie paused and laid a hand over his dirty shirt at a spot Blair could only assume was his heart.

Herbert, the other twin, gasped suddenly as if in pain. His hand flew to his mouth. "No!" he gasped. "It cannot be!"

"Yes," Ernie replied, his voice heavy with sorrow. "Twas the flame. The flame which we so carefully tended this long seven-month had nearly expired. When I knelt beside the wood I could barely see a flicker of red. Our venture has suffered muchly from this."

Herbert reacted to this latest pronouncement by producing a rag from somewhere in his jeans pocket and blowing his nose loudly. "Oh, cousins - whatever are we to do?? We cannot let our dearest Boyd return to his homeland with bitter thoughts of his kin and his of his travels with us!" Blair jumped suddenly as three dirty faces were all around him, looking down at him with expressions of the most pitiable nature that he had ever seen. *Yes,* thought Blair. *My eyes are telling me they are the same hillbilly moonshiners they appeared to be when I first saw them. Why the hell do they suddenly sound like three gentlemen from Verona??* A little bell seemed to ring softly in the back of Blair's brain and an idea began to take shape. *No, it couldn't be...* he thought, while at the same time feeling this horrible sinking feeling come over him. *She wouldn't...would she?*

But there was no time to explore this line of thought - Ernie, Norbert, Herbert and Philbert seemed to think he had a solution to this problem and were waiting for him to tell them what to do. Blair didn't want to test the limits of their patience, not with Jim and Simon still at their mercy. Blair opened his mouth to say something - anything - to keep the conversation going and the attention off Simon and Jim. He had no idea what he was going to say - or how he was going to say it, considering the gibberish he had just been listening to - but, as if by magic, the words formed themselves in his mind and were falling off his tongue as if they had been pushed.

"Worry not, good cousins! I had devised a plan with which we can save the operation and the evening!" *Dear lord*, thought Blair. *What did I just say???* He needn't have worried - the other men were clamouring for his idea, their previous mood banished entirely. As if from a great distance away, Blair heard his voice - and he knew it was his voice, and this time the idea that had taken hold only a few moments before crystalized into a hard shape...a very familiar shape at that. His jaw clenched. *Just wait until I get a hold of her...* But there was no time for that. Suddenly he started talking once again in that bizarre, convoluted manner. "As I approached this goodly cabin on my walk earlier, I spied a large assortment of branches scattered in the little glen a little ways away from this site. If it is a-right with you, cousins, I will venture forth and gather up some of this precious fuel with which we can use to stoke the fires and resume the brewing of our family's famous drink!"

His statement was greeted with loud cheers and much rejoicing. In a moment he was sent on his way out the door. Blair had one last look at Simon and Jim before he headed outside - both had identical expressions of blank incomprehension on their faces. Blair could relate to that but he now knew what was going on. He just hoped Jim would trust him a little while longer - and that he would keep working with that knife.

Blair fairly ran over to the grove of trees that stood some 30 feet from the cabin. True to his word the ground was littered with broken branches and small twigs, no doubt the result of heavy rainstorms or thunderstorms recently in that area. He started picking up a few of them but it was just for show. Risking a glance behind him he satisfied himself that he hadn't been followed and that none of the other men were outside observing him. He then closed his eyes and concentrated very hard on that familiar shape hovering at the front of his mind. A moment later he felt his ears pop gently with a change in air pressure. Opening his eyes he saw something that hadn't been there a moment before.

Sitting on the ground with her back up against a tall pine tree was a dark haired woman with a lap top resting on her thighs. She was regarding him with a distinctly annoyed expression, her hands hovering above the keys as if she had been interrupted in her work - which, of course, she had been. She opened her mouth to say something to Blair, but he was already way ahead of her.

"What do you think you're doing??" he hissed, not wanted to raise his voice in case he was heard by anyone inside the cabin.

"Don't get your anthropological knickers in a twist, Blair," she responded. "Nothing bad has happened yet."

"Define *bad*! Being stuck in a cabin with the cast of Deliverance or suddenly sounding like a student production of 'Macbeth'!"

She rolled her eyes dramatically. "Blair, be reasonable..."

"Reasonable?!!" His voice squeaked into an upper register formerly used only by small birds and some species of mice. "This is not reasonable! This is...this is...insane!! What are you thinking??"

She hesitated for a moment, as if debating whether or not to tell Blair something. Then suddenly she snapped the cover of her laptop closed and jumped to her feet. In a second she was nose to nose with the angry, red-faced guide, her finger jabbing accusingly at him. "It's those damned accents!" she snapped. "I'm not southern - how am I supposed to write those with any sort of realism??"

Blair looked at her, speechless for just a moment. "This is all because...you...can't...write...a...Mississippi...accent??" She glared at him but said nothing - the red rising up into her face from somewhere around her collar bone told the tale. Blair's mouth fell open and a great hoot of laughter flew out of it. He quickly clamped a hand over his mouth to stop the noise before it attracted the attention of the Clampett clan in the cabin but his shoulders shook with the force of his restrained amusement.

She simply watched him, getting ever more embarassed, her foot tapping sharply against the ground. Finally, she reached forward and grabbed him by the front of his red flannel shirt, pulling him in close to her. "Listen, my little curly haired gumdrop, this stops now or the next time you turn around you'll find yourself dipped naked in gravy and thrown into a kennel full of slobbering Saint Bernards." Blair's blue eyes widened and the amusement in them quickly faded away. She nodded curtly and released her hold on his shirt. "That's better."

"But surely this can't be easier," Blair protested as he watched her retrieve her laptop and settle back down on the grass.

"It is for me." she responded. "And you seem to be managing just fine so cut the protests and just go with it, all right?"

"Well, there's not much I can do about it then, if that's what you want to do."

Her mouth turned up in a slow smile. She patted her laptop in a very authoritative manner. "Nope. Jim may be the Sentinel, and you may be the Guide, but I'm the Author so you're stuck to doing what I want. Now, speaking of Jim..." she flipped open the laptop and glanced quickly through some of the previous lines. "You'd better get your butt back in there before the natives get restless." She wiggled her fingers over the keys in what Blair thought was a rather unnecessary threatening manner.

"All right, all right, I'm going." Blair muttered. He fixed her with one final serious look. "Don't you do anything to Simon or Jim," he said in a tone that broked no argument. "Remember - I know how to find you."

"Don't worry," she replied, equally as serious. "They'll be fine. We take good care of our characters in here." She tapped the side of the computer. "Simon's not down for the count yet, and Jim's still got the knife." Blair nodded, satisfied that she would indeed keep her word. He turned to go and had taken only a few steps when he felt that familiar popping in his ears and he knew that she had disappeared again.

Blair returned to the cabin with a number of large, thick branches in his arms. And it wasn't a moment too soon - Ernie, Norbert, Herbert and Philbert were standing around Simon and Jim in a way that Blair didn't like. Gone were the laughing faces and jokes of a few minutes before. Now each man looked rough and threatening. Neither Simon nor Jim's expression revealed any hint of fear but Blair knew he had to act face. Taking a deep breath he proclaimed, "Hail again, good cousins! I have returned with the promised fuel with which we can use to stoke the fires of our endeavor and of our friendship!" *Oh lord, that was scraping the bottom of the barrel...* he thought, groaning inwardly to himself.

This statement seemed to appease Ernie and Norbert, who moved toward Blair and began to chat excitedly about the plan for the evenings festivities. However, Herbert and Philbert, Blair noticed uneasily, stayed with Simon and Jim. Blair didn't like the look on Herbert's face - his smile seemed just a little too forced for Blair's liking. As for Philbert, he stepped closer to Jim, positioning himself on his left side and Blair knew he had dropped the knife into Jim's left hand. *Man, don't let that overgrown mutation see it...* he prayed silently.

Philbert smiled an entirely false smile at Blair. "Well met, cousin," he said. "What you bring to our house is very pleasing indeed. It will certainly be the beginnings of a fine celebration this eventide! Our family will raise the roof of this homestead with the strength of our voices!" In a swift and entirely unexpected gesture, Philbert brought his hand down hard on Jim's left shoulder. Blair saw the Sentinel react with surprise, his body moving up against its bonds in surprise. There followed a soft clattering sound, as of metal against wood. With a sinking heart, Blair looked down to the floor beside Jim and saw the familar shape of his pocket knife lying on the boards for all to see.

All sound of talk and laughter stopped as if cut off by a knife. A silence descended on the small room that was so heavy Blair could feel the weight of it on his shoulders. He stood in the centre of the room, still clutching to the branches in his arms as if they could provide some sort of clue to the Guide as to how to get out of this mess. His mouth open and then closed, then opened again but nothing came out - no quick and snappy remarks in any dialect.

Philbert saved him the trouble. Reaching down he retrieved the knife and held it delicately between his fingers as if it were some precious jewel. Looking directly into the Sentinel's eyes, he said, "Is this a dagger I see before me?"

Part 4 by Becky


"Hngh!!!" Blair jerked himself awake, yanking his head from the rough wood table. *Oh, man...* He ran a hand over his face. *Well, what did you expect, Sandburg? That's what you get for drinking 100-proof moonshine on an empty stomach and after seeing a Shakespeare play two nights ago. Elizabethan hillbillies.* He shivered once, blinking as he reoriented himself to reality. *Jim and Simon tied up in the house. I'm outside drinking moonshine with cousins Philbert, Norbert, Herbert, and Ernie. Yeah, got it.*

"Guess it done been awhiles since cous'n Boyd here's had any qual'ty moonshine, Phil." Norbert cackled in laughter, slapping Blair on the back, knocking him forward against the table.

Blair coughed, then nodded in agreement, plastering a big grin on his face. "Yessiree, it shor has." Taking a quick glance up at the sky, he bit back a sigh of relief. *Sun hasn't moved that much. Must not have been out for very long. Good. That'll teach you to chug down a full mug of that stuff unprepared, Sandburg. Not that I had much choice about the matter. Sheesh. Talk about a wild ride...*

The four men burst into laughter, startling Blair from his thoughts. Quickly, he started to laugh with them, not knowing why he was laughing, but figuring he'd better go along -- even if his head was starting to ache slightly from the alcohol. *Okay, so we got Norbert -- the oldest, I think, at least he seems to be in charge. Philbert and Herbert have gotta be twins. And Ernie -- why Ernie, they run out of "bert"names? -- he's the youngest. And from the look in his eyes, probably the smartest.*

"Here, Boyd, have summore." Ernie thunked a refilled mug of moonshine in front of Blair on the table.

"Uh...thankee, Ernie, I thaink I will." Blair waggled his eyebrows, much to the amusement of his ‘cousins'. He drawled, "I do believe I'll go a bit slowa." He lifted the mug and pretended to take a good swallow, then wiped his hand across his mouth. "Ah...yeah. I shor missed this. Nothin' else like it." He barely kept the pleasured look on his face, wanting to grimace at the taste of the moonshine hanging in his mouth -- and in his stomach. Vaguely he realized he was beginning to feel the buzz of the alcohol. *Oh, man, not what I need. I wonder how Jim's doing?"

At that moment, just as the cousins were all chugging down their moonshine, Blair heard a small clattering noise and a bit-off curse emitting from inside the house just a few feet away. Blair's hand clenched around his mug, and he held his breath a moment, eyes darting up to see if the four hillbillies had heard anything. The three "berts" kept on drinking and laughing. Ernie, however...frowned and looked toward the small ramshackle house.

"I thaink I heard somethin'. Wonder if them city cops are tryin' somethin'."

Norbert slammed his mug on the table. "Dang cops." He made a motion to walk toward the house, but Blair shoved himself unsteadily to his feet and grabbed the big mountain man's arm.

"Nah, wait, lemme check ‘em. Always wanted to have a little fun with them cops." Blair chortled rather balefully.

Norbert squinted at him a moment, then nodded, smacking Blair on the back and shoving him toward the house. "Shor enough."

Stumbling and feeling like his head was gonna fly off at any moment, Blair hurried toward the house and stepped through the open door. He stopped just inside and called out, loud enough for the cousins to hear, "What do you'all cops thaink you're doing in here?"

Jim, caught in the act of reaching for the knife on the ground, jerked his head up. "Wha--! Bl--!" His voice was cut off when Simon, still tied to the chair, knocked into him, glaring at him to keep his mouth shut.

Blair swaggered from away the doorway, moving closer to the two cops, well aware of the fact that the cousins could hear and see most of what was happening from outside. "I thaink I'd just better check them ropes on you, Mr. Joker Cop." Crouching, he pulled on the ropes around Jim's ankles, palming the knife as he did, then stood up slowly, using Jim for balance as he swayed slightly.

Jim hissed in concern, "Chief, what's wrong?"

Seeing Simon's worried eyes on him as well, Blair forced a small smile on his face and whispered back in a rush, "Take my advice. Don't ever drink moonshine on an empty stomach, little sleep, and post-Shakespeare. Not a good combination."

Simon's eyes widened further, darting between him and the doorway, keeping an eye out. "Are you drunk, Sandburg?"

Blair straightened and dropped the knife in Jim's hands again. "Yep. Most unpleasantly I might add." He looked at Jim. "Don't drop it again. And hurry it up, will ya?"

"Everything all right in there, Boyd?" The yell came from outside. Ernie, Blair identified a moment later.

Blair turned his head and yelled back, "Yeah! Just dandy." He returned his attention to Jim, reaching up to pat Jim's cheek as he spoke up loud enough to be heard. "Don't you be trying to pull one over on us, cops. We's smarter than you thaink." He turned and wobbled back out the door, hitting the door frame as he exited the house.

"Okay, cousins, where were we?"

Part 5 by Robyn

"What's taking you so long, Jim?" hissed Simon impatiently. The unpleasantly musty smell and dimly lit interior of the run-down cabin was beginning to get to him -- not to mention the small fact that he was still bound rather firmly to an old, rusted folding chair. The large man shifted as much as he was allowed, and the hinges of the chair creaked ominously. Raucous laughter could be heard from the old picnic table and benches just outside the cabin where Blair and the ‘bert and Ernie brothers were drinking up a storm. From the sound of it, the brothers were probably all drunk by now, too.

"I'm trying, Simon!" Jim retorted, sounding just as annoyed as the captain as he continued to saw rather non- productively at his bonds with Sandburg's small red Swiss Army pocket knife. "I can't help it that these hillbillies happened to have brand new inch-thick hemp rope on hand! What do you want me to do -- make Sandburg carrying around set of Ginsu knives instead?"

Simon growled, then sighed. "Sorry, Jim. I get ornery when I'm tied up, okay? Just hurry."

"I --"


The rickety old cabin shook as something heavy suddenly impacted the cabin's front wall from the outside. The windows rattled and something metal and hollow crashed to the ground outside as well.

In the moment of silence that followed the horrific noise, the Swiss Army knife froze in mid air as fear shot through Jim's heart. Somebody had fallen against the cabin -- Blair?

"B'ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!" One of the brothers started laughing, followed by another saying "You o-kay, Norbert?"

Jim and Simon both heaved a sigh of relief as they heard Blair's louder-than-usual guffaws join those of the other men. "Lordy-bob, Norbert... you dropped the pie plate full o' beer nuts! Now what're we gonna chew on???" whined the anthropologist in a slurred voice.

"Jes' pick ‘em off the ground and blow off the dirt, like thes'," said one of the other brothers. "Ain't gonna do ya'll no harm, and goober peas is goober peas, right?"

"We've gotta get out of this mess," muttered Jim, renewing his efforts with the ropes.


Jim and Simon's heads both jerked toward one dark corner of the room where a throaty, strange soprano growl emanated from just behind the shadows.

"What is it?" whispered Simon nervously. "I didn't know there was anything else in this forsaken cabin!"

Jim focused easily on the darkened corner. "It's a dog, sir. Looks like it was sleeping under the bed and the crash woke it up. It's wearing a spiked collar, by the way."

By now, the dog had emerged from the shadows enough for both men to see it easily. Simon bit off a laugh when he saw the animal, the silver spikes glinting on its collar. "A Chihuahua???? If these jokers were gonna have a dog, I sure wouldn't have guessed Chihuahua!"

The little dog seemed to pay the captain's comments no mind, however. It was too busy baring its two rows of sharp little teeth at Jim as if posing for a doggie toothpaste commercial, growling menacingly -- well, as menacing as a Chihuahua can sound. Suddenly, the canine let loose a series of high-pitched "bawr-bawr-bawr-bawr!!!!'s", tore across the room as fast as its little legs could carry it, and sunk its needle teeth into some of Jim's pant leg, whipping its head back and forth.

"Jim!" hissed Simon.

"It's okay, sir," Jim said through gritted teeth. "It's only got the fabric -- none of my leg, fortunately." The detective turned his comments to the dog, trying to move his still-bound legs away from the dog. "What do you think I am -- a chew toy?"

With that, the dog abruptly released Jim's pant leg, but simultaneously made a leap on its short legs toward Jim's right hand, snapping at it with its teeth.

Startled at the surprise attack, Jim dropped the pocket knife to the ground.

Jim swore, and Simon bit off a few choice words himself. "And all this time I thought it was your GUN, Ellison! What're we gonna do now?"

"I don't know, Simon." Jim growled annoyedly. "Wait for Cou-seen Boyd Sandburg to come back in and pick it up again? You'll have to forgive me for having an uncontrollable desire NOT to be bitten by the stupid rabies poster doggie! ... Oh -- ohhhh NOOOO! Come back here you little varmint!"

"Bawr-bawr-bawr-bawr!!!!" yipped the evil Chihuahua as it seized the pocket knife between its teeth and took off for the bed again.

"D*MN!!!" Simon hissed, first glaring at the dog, then at Jim. "What're we gonna do now!?!?"

"I don't know -- maybe if you ask it politely it'll give it back!" retorted Jim.

More raucous laughter drifted in through the front door which was ajar. "Hey Philbert! Why dontcha show Couseen Boyd yer big ol' shotgun? Bein' from Wheescoggin Mississip, I thaink he'd ‘percciate that beeyouteeful piece o' work!"

"Good idea Herbie. Be right back -- I gots her stowed in the shed."

"An' we's got that new fangled big ol' box o' drinks in the shed too, right Ernie?"

"Thas' righht Norbert. Couseen Boyd's visit from Wheescoggin bein' the perrrfect oh-kay-shun to break out that stuff!"

Simon sighed heavily. He couldn't remember the last time he'd called to a dog -- not to mention one with a spiked collar -- but their situation was desperate. They were going to have to get free soon, before the hillbillies brought out their entire arsenal. He cleared his throat, glared at Jim once more, then gruffly called to the dog. "Doggie! Here Doggie! Bring me the knife. Doggie-doggie..."

The captain's voice had a bizarre effect on the animal. To both men's surprise and chagrin, the dog whimpered sadly, gazing at the big man strapped in the rusty folding chair. Then it dropped the knife on the ground by the bed and trotted over to the captain, whimpering and rubbing its head against Simon's leg as if begging to be petted.

Simon growled at the dog. "Lucky for you I'm tied up, otherwise you might be in bodily danger. No, I won't pet you, you yippy flea bag! Go fetch that knife and give it to me, d*mnit!!!"


The front door banged open and in stumbled two of the four brothers with Blair sandwiched between them -- each one with arms draped around each other's shoulders as if in a chorus line, laughing loudly. The Chihuahua whimpered and scuttled between Simon's legs, much to the captain's annoyance.

"Ah see you found yerself a doggie friend, cop-man," slurred Norbert. "But'cha better watch ‘er -- that Chee-wow- wah's got some sharp tooths -- good for heel bitin'. Couseen Boyd, you ‘member our dawggie, Bing-bong?"

"Yer doggie's named Bing-bong?" Blair slurred, snorting as he laughed.

"Thought he was going to say Dogbert," muttered Jim disgustedly under his breath.

Norbert turned to Jim, brandishing his own gun. "I heard that, cop-man. I ain't a cop, but that don't mean I's deaf!" he threatened. "You think we let Momma, may she rest in peace, name the DAWG? No wonder they say cops is stupid," muttered the man. "He prob'ly thinks we let Momma name Dolly the deer tick and Tinky Winky the head louse too! Durnit."

"Why don't Ernie have a ‘bert' name, man?" said Blair.

Herbert clapped Blair on the shoulder, then lowered his voice to a loud, semi-confidential whisper. "Ernie don't like his real name -- Dilbert. He thaink it's a girly name."

At that moment, Philbert and Ernie crashed through the doorway, dragging a dusty orange ice chest between them.

"We gots the new brew!" declared Phil, his shotgun under one arm. "We skeered off some city folk from thar' camp and they left this," Philbert explained to Blair. "We've been savin' it fer a special oh-kay-shun."

Ernie threw open the ice chest lid and seized one of the orange-labeled bottles, turning his back to Jim and Simon as he opened the drink and began to pour it into the mugs on the table. "This is gonna be good stuff -- I kin feel it in my bones."

Norbert rubbed his hands together in anticipation, then held out his mug. "Ernie's smart," he said proudly. "Ernie used t'have a real job in the big city."

"Yessiree, I shore did," Ernie bragged. "Worked in the distil-lery."

"Why ain't you workin' there anymore?" asked Blair as he held out his mug.

"Too much samplin' of the wares!" Ernie choked, then howled with laughter while banging a fist on the table. "Plus there wuz the issue of the dang foreman. He needed killin', that's all I kin say."

"Cheers!" cried Herbert, raising his glass. "To Couseen Boyd from Wheescoggin Mississip!"

With that, all the men crashed their heavy-duty mugs together, then took large swigs.

It was only then that Ernie moved aside enough for Jim to get a glimpse of the label on the strange orange bottles. The detective's eyes widened in horror as he read the words. *Firefly Buzz Juice. D*mn! *

It was too late. Blair had already started to sing...

"Sandburg the Mighty,
He roams through the countryside
A blue-eyed, charming wonder guide
With Jimmy as his sidekick
Saving him from oil slicks
Righting wrongs and singing songs
Saving Cascade all day long
He's Sandburg ... he's Sandburg the Mighty!"

"Join in ev'rybody!" yelled Blair. The brothers began to sway back and forth, swinging their mugs back and forth.

"Ohhhh ... He's Sandburg the Mighty,
Paragon of fidelity
Everybody loves him
Because he has a sexy grin
Sandburg the Mighty
A manly Aphrodite
Captain Banks admires him
He's so handsome it's a sin
If you're in jeopardy
Call Sandburg and his buddy
Champions of sensitivity
But Blair's got more personality
Man-of-the-year at the University
He almost has his Ph.D.
He's every woman's fantasy
He's Sandburg..."

"I'm Sandburg the Mighty!"

"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!" laughed the four brothers, clapping Blair on the back. Blair's mug slipped, and the last of the juice sloshed out, spilling onto the crude board floor.

The Chihuahua scrambled out from under Simon's legs and to the puddle of fizzy orange-colored liquid, lapping it up.

"10 and 4 is 14!" Blair howled, swaying back against the table.

The Chihuahua looked solemn. "That's a big 14," said the dog.

Everyone was still laughing, except Jim and Simon, who were still sitting slack-jawed in their seats, when Ernie spoke.

"Who's Sandburg?"

To be continued....

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last updated 9/1/03