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Saturday 10 May 2014

Prismatic Reflection

    Across an open prairie a lone rider gallops along on his horse. Sitting at his desk writing a report is a Marshal. Suddenly the door of his office opens and the Man With No Name walks in. He stares down at the Marshal, drops his Sheriffs badge onto the desk, unbuckles his gun belt and drops that on the desk as well, effectively handing in his resignation as the Marshal looks up at the man from under the brim of his hat.
   The Man With No Name leaves the Marshal’s office, and the town, because the next time we see him he’s on foot carrying his saddle on his back. As he descends a slope, he is confronted by a bushwhacker. He ignores the man, and in trying to pass him, soon finds himself staring down the barrel of a gun! The Man With No Name hurls his saddle at the gunslinger with lightening speed sending him reeling backwards down the slope. Before you can say knife the Man with No Name is on the bushwhacker, but when knocked to the ground he struggles up only to see five other men waiting to back-up the first! But the Man With No Name refuses to concede, and faces up to the six bushwhackers surrounding him. This only brings punches raining down on him from all sides, forcing him to his knees by the onslaught.
    Pounded into unconsciousness, the Man with No Name is straddled over a horse and taken by the bushwhackers to a town where he is unceremoniously dumped from the horse, along with his saddle, in the street and the bushwhackers then ride off.
    Slowly the stranger gets to his feet, dusts himself down, and picks up his hat and saddle. There is a rough, unwashed Mexican, wearing a sombrero and a bandolier full of bullets sitting by a horse trough.
    “Welcome to Harmony” says the Mexican.
    From somewhere along the street piano music can be heard playing.
   “Harmony, never heard of it!”
   “Not many have, it’s sort of exclusive” the Mexican tells him.
   “So am I” the stranger tells him “where is this town?”
   “You’ll find out senor, it’s not wise to as too many questions here.”
    The stranger turns to leave.
   “Hey hombre, you look like a man who could do with a drink. Why not try the saloon” suggests the Mexican nodding down the street.
    The Man With no Name walks down the street and crosses to the Silver Dollar saloon. As he enters there falls a deathly silence. The piano player takes his fingers off the keyboard, drinkers and card players stare at the stranger in astonishment as he crosses the room and drops his saddle on the floor.
   The saloon walls are adorned with wanted posters for Sam and Belle Star. Bill Nixon, and Jesse James, with pictures of William F. Cody {Buffalo Bill}, Annie Oakley, Lillie Langtry the Jersey Lilly, and an advert for Adams express locomotive. At the bar stands a saloon girl in a black dress trimmed with pink frills, and in her hair, ostrich feathers. The bartender fills a glass with whisky and slides it along the bar towards the stranger.
   “On the house.”
   “Regulars get the first one on the house” the saloon girl tells the stranger “I’m Cathy.”
   “Nice name” the stranger tells her reaching for the glass.
   Suddenly a gun shot rings out, and the glass shatters just as the stranger was about to pick up the whisky glass from the bar.
   “Come and join me” a voice offers from one of the tables.
   “Whisky” the stranger asks the bartender.
   The bartender gets another glass and fills it with whisky and puts it down on the bar in front of the stranger.
   The Man With No Name picks up the glass and gulps down the whisky. His eyes trained on a well dressed man sitting at a card table, the Judge is playing solitaire. Crossing to the table the stranger stops and stares at a young man, a baby-faced looking gunslinger, wearing a black top hat, red combinations, waist high trousers, braces, and a pair of colt forty-fives. Without warning the Man With No Name gives the kid a right-hander sending him sprawling to the floor. He then pulls up a chair and sits at the Judges table.
   “You know me?” the stranger asks.
   “Shouldn’t have done that” the Judge warns “a man needs all the friends he can find.”
   “I don’t know you.”
   “I know you” the Judge tells the stranger “I know all about you, that’s why you’re here.”
   “Here. Cathy bring us some more whisky” the Judge orders.
   The Kid regains consciousness and picks himself, and his top hat off the dusty floor, carefully dusting it down and placing it on his head, then leaves the saloon. The Kid’s good, sensitive but one of the best, he’s mean. The Judge has plenty of those, but he could use some more, like the Stranger. But the Man with No Name is not for hire. He turned in his badge and his gun. Ask him what his reasons were, and he’ll just tell you his reasons! The Judge thinks the stranger has already taken a job, he’s offering him a job, Harmony’s a good town.
   Suddenly the saloon doors swing open and three gunmen swagger in taking positions at the bar.
   “Runs smooth and peaceful, now lets be friends” suggests the Judge still playing his game of solitaire.
   “Red two on the black three.”
   The Judge turns over the next card, the ace of spades, the death card. The Judge suggests the stranger think it over. The Man With No Name already has, he’s moving on. The Judges tells him that when he changes his mind he’ll be there. The Stranger picks up his saddle and makes to leave the saloon. He pauses at the bar, puts a hand in his pocket and produces a dollar coin and tosses it on the bar. Hoisting his saddle on his shoulder he leaves the bar and walks up the street towards the livery stable. There’s an old man sitting in a rocking chair.
   “How much?” asks the stranger looking at the horses for sale.
   “The bay?”
   “Five thousand dollars.”
   “The rest?” asks the stranger.
   “Their expensive” the old man tells him.
   “How’s business?” the stranger mocks turning way to be confronted by the town’s people.
   Well stranger, fancy living in Harmony? It’s not his kind of town! It’s a good town. The stranger tells them to enjoy it. What’s wrong with the town? Maybe the stranger doesn’t like the way its run! But if you just do what the Judge says, he’ll look after you. The stranger tells the towns people that he’ll look after himself! But it’s a good town. The stranger tells them to keep it! The unwashed, unkempt Mexican tells the stranger that he insults them, are they going to let him get away with that? He insults their town! This riles the town’s people, and they begin to turn against the stranger.
   The Man With No Name drops his saddle on the ground and picks up a length of wood in order to defend himself. Suddenly a gunman appears in the street and fires his gun, warding off the towns people, and telling them that “we’ll take care of him, now git!”
   At the barrel of a gun the stranger is taken to the sheriff’s office where the Judge is pouring coffee into a tin cup. Outside the towns people are shouting, baying for blood! The sheriff’s office being the Jailhouse, has two cells. There’s a desk and chair, and wanted posters adorn the walls.
   “Change your mind yet?” asks the Judge.
   “What’s the charge?” the stranger asks.
   “Protective custody” says the Judge “Lock him up and bring Johnson out here.”
   Johnson is Cathy’s brother who is about to be lynched by the mob outside the Jailhouse. The mob surges forward as Johnson is taken outside into the street, and taken to the town square to a tree, where he’s put on a horse, the noose put about his neck. Cathy sees what’s taking place out in the street, she dashes out of the saloon, across the street to the square. Cathy pushes her way through the mob.
    “Stop it, stop it, you can’t hang my brother!” she pleads.
    The Man With No Name watches from the window of his cell in the Jailhouse, but turns away, he has problems of his own.
    Cathy tries desperately to drag her brother down from off the horse. No-one pays any heed to her pleas. As Cathy is dragged back from the scene, by two of the Judges men, a man with a branch from the tree strikes the horse on the rump. Cathy screams, the horse bolts and leaves Johnson dancing on the end of a rope!
    In the Jailhouse the Man With No Name sits on his bunk calmly rolling a cigarette as he watches the Kid quench his thirst from a whisky bottle. The kid is drunk. He loses his stability and throws the whisky bottle at the bars of the cell, and falls sprawling on the floor. The Kid gets to his feet and staggers from view. But returns with one of his Colt 45’s drawn from its holster, and points it at the stranger. The Kid holsters his gun and turns from the stranger who finishes rolling his cigarette. The Kid turns and draws his gun again in dramatic fashion as he tries to goad the stranger, but who shows no reaction, and treats the Kid with disregard.
    Disappointed, the Kid holsters his gun again, but draws it again in dramatic fashion, as the Man with No Name strikes a match and lights his cigarette. Disappointed for a third time, the Kid lowers his arm and turns away once more as the stranger lies back on his bunk, his hat over his eyes.
   Sometime later the Kid is curled up in a chair with his boots on the desk nursing his Colt 45, when he looks up and sees Cathy holding a bottle of whisky slowly walking towards him.
    “I’ve brought you a drink Kid” she tells him.
    The Kid takes his boots off the desk and raises himself out of the chair, and slowly walks out from behind the desk. Cathy looks nervous, almost frightened by the Kid who now stands by the wall looking at her, but not knowing what to do next.
   “You know I’ve always liked you Kid” she tells him.
   The Kid then staggers forward and grabbing Cathy starts kissing her passionately on the lips. Cathy manages to push her admirer away and asks “How about pouring me one?” The Kid searches for a glass. While his attention is distracted, Cathy steals the Jailhouse keys from a peg on the wall, but watched by the stranger in the cell.
    The Kid finds a glass and pours Cathy a drink, and one for himself in a tin cup. But this is not enough for the Kid, he moves to kiss her, but she moves back from her admirer telling him not now, that she has to get back to the saloon. But she’ll drop by later. Before the Kid can offer resistance Cathy leaves the Jailhouse, leaving the kid sobbing.
    Outside in the alleyway, Cathy places the keys to the Jailhouse on the window of the Strangers cell.
 Drunk, the Kid is curled up asleep in a chair. The stranger has bided his time, and now sits on his bunk bed and dons his hat. Putting his hand holding the keys, through the bars, unlocks the cell door and slips out of the Jailhouse and into the night.
   The Man With No Name carries his saddle across the street to the livery stable. A few moments later Cathy arrives carrying a canteen of water, telling the stranger that there’s only one way out of town, and that’s due north.
    The Judge is in the Jailhouse, and he’s not at all amused! The stranger has gone, and the Kid is asleep, drunk in charge! He pushes the Kid out of the chair and onto the floor. In one swift movement the Kid draws one of his guns pointing it at the Judge. Realising his mistake, the Kid holsters his Colt 45, his arms at his side, he stands to take his punishment from the Judge.
    Out on the trail, having left the town of Harmony behind, the Man With No Name is lassoed by two bushwhackers, their lariats securing him, the stranger is pulled off his horse to the ground. He struggles against the ropes that hold him, as he’s dragged all the way back to town by the Judges men. Once back in town, the Man With No Name is manhandled into the saloon where a court has been set up, over which the Judge sits presiding.
    “Order, order, court in session” the Judge announces.
    “What’s the charge?”
   Against the stranger, none, he was held in protective custody. He’s free to go. It’s the people of Harmony against Catherine Johnson! She is accused of aiding the Prisoner to escape. But just a minute, the Judge just said he wasn’t a criminal, that he was being held in protective custody. Ah, but she didn’t know that!
    The verdict of the jury is reached, and Catherine Johnson is found guilty. The Judge will pass sentence later, meanwhile she is taken away to the Jailhouse.
    “When you work for me, I’ll let her go” the Judge tells the stranger.
    “You’re a bad Judge!” the stranger tells him, and turning to the bartender orders a whisky.
    At the far end of the bar the Kid places his top hat on the bar, along with one of his Colt 45’s, sliding it along the bar at the stranger, who looks at the gun from beneath his hat. Then drawing himself up to his full height, he turns to face the kid. The trigger happy Kid squares up to the stranger draws his other Colt and fires the gun once, grazing the stranger’s cheek, a second time grazes the back of the stranger’s right hand resting on the bar. The Kid is trying to goad the stranger in going for the gun lying on the bar. The Kid is about to fire again, when the Judge intercedes.
    “Hold it! I’ve been looking for you Kid. I’ve decided to give you your old job back. Go back to the jail and take care of her.”
    This seems to pacify the Kid as he slides his Colt back into its holster. The Man With No Name slides the other Colt back at the Kid along the bar.
    You’ll need two of these to take care of the woman” taunts the stranger.
    The Kid goes for the gun, but stopped by the Judge “There’s always another time Kid.”
   The Kid is very fond of Cathy, but he does tend to get over affectionate. But if anything happens it will be paid for. But then nothing could happen if the stranger was Sheriff!
    In the Jailhouse the Kid is watching over Cathy, and he doesn’t take his eyes off her once as she paces the floor of her cell. As the Kid drools over the pleasure that is yet to come! But the door of the Jailhouse opens, and in walks both the Judge and the stranger.
    The Judge picks up a gleaming new sheriff’s badge and puts it under the stranger’s nose.
    “Let her go!” orders the stranger snatching the sheriff’s badge out of the Judges hand.
    The Judges orders the Kid to let Cathy go. The Kid stares back at the Judge in silence. The Judge said to let her go! The Kid grits his teeth and lets Cathy out of her cell. The Judge doesn’t want the Kid to give him any problems. Cathy is safe now, just as long as the Man With No Name works for the Judge. It’s a job he’ll grow to like, and won’t regret joining the Judges outfit. No, but perhaps the Judge will!
    The Man With No Name may have agreed to wear the badge, but not a gun. But the town of Harmony is a tough place if you don’t wear a gun, and the Judges men try to teach the sheriff that it’s not safe to go about not wearing a gun. This take place in the street during a vicious brawl, beginning with a man mountain Zeke, who picks a fight with the sheriff. The town’s people stand watching the fight, not one lending a hand to help the sheriff. But it seems that the sheriff doesn’t need anyone’s help, as he can take care of himself in a fist-fight. Even when the odds are stacked against him, the final thug who is beaten unconscious, and unceremoniously dumped in the horse trough!
    Sometime later the sheriff is in the Jailhouse bathing his wounds in cold water. Cathy walks in, as she is concerned about him.
    “Are you hurt?”
    “Nothing a bit of water won’t take care of” he tells her.
    Cathy blushes, she didn’t know she could blush anymore. She tells the Man with No Name to get out of town, otherwise they’ll kill him.
    “The last time I got out, they dragged me back and err, I can’t refuse that kind of hospitality.”
    Cathy tells him that she’ll be in the saloon tonight, and regulars get the first one on the house.
   That night its pretty rowdy in the Silver Dollar Saloon. The piano player is playing loud music. The Kid stands at one end of the bar smoking a cheroot. The saloon girls are sitting with the customers. Two old-timers are engaged in an arm wrestling competition. The loser leads the victor to the bar and orders more drinks. He puts his arm around Cathy’s waist, asking her if she’s going to have a drink with him.
    “Okay Will, but don’t let your wife catch you” she warns.
    The Kid sees this, and approaches Will stubbing out his cheroot on Wills neck. Will feels the burning on the back of his neck, turns and freezes when he sees the Kid standing there wearing his two Colt 45’s. Cathy walks over to the gunslinger, trying to stop the Kid from what is about to happen.
    Will draws his gun but makes no attempt to fire. The Kid however draws his Colt like greased lightening, fires his gun, leaving Will dead in a pool of blood on the saloon floor.
   The sheriff arrives on the scene to see what’s happened. Its confirmed by a witness to the gunfight that Will drew first, it was self-defence! But the cry from the people is for the sheriff to do something about what’s going on in the town. It’s time for the sheriff to get some guns on!
   Later that evening the sheriff sits behind his desk in the Jailhouse, the door opens and in walks Jim. He’s seen how the sheriff stands up to the Judge, he’s the only man to have done that. So Jim and the townspeople are behind him. They’ll help him clean up the town.
    They can’t do it by themselves, and neither can the sheriff. A while later Jim walks into the saloon and orders a glass of whisky from the bartender. The Judge is disappointed in Jim’s choice of friends. Old friends are the best friends the Judge tells him, and wants to know what he and the sheriff were talking about. And if he doesn’t tell the Judge, he’s sure he’ll tell the boys, just as three of his men walk into the saloon.
    Later that night when the sheriff returns to the Jailhouse he finds Jim sat in the chair and slumped over the desk. Jim has been beaten to death! The sheriff snatches his gun belt from a desk drawer, and the Colt 45 Peacemaker from the holster, and rotating the barrel makes sure the gun is loaded. Then slips the gun back into it’s holster and the gun belt back into the drawer. The Judge must be made to pay, but not that way!
   In the saloon the sheriff stands with Cathy at the bar, he tells her that they are leaving that night. The Judge is sat playing poker at one of the tables, one of the players sees that still the sheriff wears no gun! The Judge sees the sheriff talking to Cathy, the Kid wouldn’t be too happy if he saw that. Someone had better tell him!
    The sheriff tells Cathy to be on the edge of town after the saloon closes. Cathy promises to be there.
   Under the cloak of darkness the sheriff rides out of town. The pass out of town is guarded, and the sheriff has gone to take care of the guards. While that’s going on, Cathy is about to close the saloon. But the Kid turns up with a psychotic look on his face, and has other ideas for Cathy. She tells him he’s crazy, and to get out of her way.
    The Kid grabs hold of Cathy, he tries to kiss her on the lips, but gets bitten on his bottom lip for his trouble. Cathy tries desperately to escape. But the Kid grabs hold of her by the throat and strangles Cathy to death with his bare hands.
    Having waited for Cathy, who did not turn up as arranged, the sheriff returns to town, and to the Silver Dollar saloon. He finds Cathy lying dead on the floor. Just before dawn the sheriff buries Cathy in the cemetery of Boot Hill. Then returning to the Jailhouse he collects his gun belt and puts it on, checking the Colt 45 Peacemaker is still loaded. He walks out of the Jailhouse and into the street where the Kid stands waiting. They stand facing each other. Then guns are drawn and fired. The Kid twirls his pearl handled Colt, slips it back into its holster, and falls dead in the street.
   The sheriff goes to the saloon, grabs a whisky bottle and glass and goes to sit at one of the tables. The Judge walks into the saloon followed by three of his gunslingers.
    “You beat him” says the Judge “and he was one of the fastest I’ve ever seen.”
    “The fastest you will ever see, I just quit!” the Man with No Name tells him.
    The Judge wants to make it clear that he works for him, gun or no gun, not while he has Cathy. But the Judge doesn’t have Cathy anymore to use as a bargaining chip, she’s dead. But he was only supposed to rough her up a bit. The Kid had bone too far! The stranger gets up out of his chair to leave.
   “Hold it!” says the Judge “You work for me whether you like it or not. Nobody walks out on me. I’m not letting you join some other outfit. I’ll kill you first.”
    The Man With No Name has five seconds to make up his mind, as the three gunslingers make ready, he sizes up the situation. Staring up at the gunslinger standing up on the balcony he draws his gun and fires. The gunslinger falls dead from the balcony. A second shot and a gunslinger falls down the stairs, dead. A third gunslinger is shot dead and falls out through the saloon window onto the sidewalk. Then for the Judge, who has already drawn his derringer from beneath his frock coat fires the gun, the Man With No Name covers his ears with his hands and falls back onto the floor.
    Then still covering his ears Number 6 wakes up still lying on the saloon floor. His American western attire miraculously changed into that of his piped blazer, blue turtle neck jersey, beige slacks, and blue deck shoes. He scrambles to his feet in panic, and tears off the radio communications head-set. Looking about him he sees the figure of the Judge standing before him, and surges forward grabbing the cardboard cut-out of the Judge by the throat!
   Confused Number 6 dashes outside to see the town of Harmony all around him. In the street lies the life-size cardboard cut-out of the Kid, and there is a cardboard cut out of a horse tethered to a hitching post. Unable to comprehend what has been going on, Number 6 rushes across the street into the Jailhouse. Then he rushes outside and slumps over a hitching post. Suddenly there is something familiar on the wind, the sound of music, the faint sound of a Brass Band playing.
   Number 6 runs along an open country lane, finding himself back in the Village! It’s citizens and taxis parading around the central square.
   In the Green Dome a pair of steel doors suddenly open and Number 6 storms in, a look of anger upon his face. All is exposed for what it is! On the wall screen is the town of Harmony. He sees Cathy-No.22 by the Penny Farthing bicycle. Number 2 the Judge, and Number 8 the Kid. Realising what has happened the Prisoner storms out of the office, out of the Green Dome.
    “Interesting that he could separate fact from fiction so quickly” Number 8 observes.”
    “I told you he was different” Number 2 tells him “I knew it wouldn’t work! Fill him with hallucinatory drugs, put him in a dangerous environment, talk to him through microphones. Give him love, take it away, isolate him, make him kill, face him with death. He’ll crack, break him even in his mind and the rest will be easy. I should never have listened to you!”
    “It would have worked, and it would have worked this time if you had kept your head and not created the crisis too soon.” Number 8 explains.
    But it didn’t work, did it! How was Number 2 to control it? Number 8 said that they would get involved and do what they would have done in a real situation. But the thing was the question of self-control, or lack of it! It’s all very well for Number 8, but Number 2 will have to pay for this latest failure. As for Number 22, she stands by the Penny Farthing bicycle crying. Number 8 looks at her, then at the wall screen depicting the town of Harmony, then back at his two colleagues. 22 then hurls her head-set to the floor and rushes out of the office, the steel doors closing behind her as she goes. It would seem that Number 2 isn’t the only one to have allowed themselves to become involved!
    Back in the town of Harmony Number 22 walks along the street to the Silver Dollar saloon. Inside she stands on the spot where Cathy was strangled to death by the Kid. Then sitting on the stair she sees Number 8 peering at her through a gap in the stair. It seems he has a manic look upon his face.
    “What are you doing here Number Eight?” 22 asks moving away from the stair.
    22 stands stock still at hearing her character’s name being called out like that. There is a nervous look on her face as Number 8 approaches her with a psychotic look on his face. He grabs Number 22, she screams as 8 puts his bare hands round her throat, and strangles her to into unconsciousness, as 22’s body slumps to the floor.
   Number 6 hears the scream and rushes into the saloon. He sees the girl’s body lying there, and punches the maniacal Number 8 to the floor. Kneeling by the body of the girl, who regains consciousness for a moment, he lifts her head in his arms.
    “I wish it had been real” Number 22 tells him, then faints way.
    Outside in the street Number 2 arrives driving a taxi, stopping outside the Silver Dollar saloon. He goes inside to be greeted by Number 6’s stony silence, and sees the dead body of Number 22 lying on the floor. Number 8 gets to his feet. The glassy eyed stare convinces Number 2 that 8 is insane.
   Number 8 climbs the stairs onto the balcony from where Number 8 shouts down to the Judge that he’s ain’t going to hit him no more, no more, as he holds out his arms and hurls himself off the balcony to his death at his superior’s feet.
   Leaving Number 2 staring at the bodies of Number’s 8 and 22 lying in the dust on the floor, Number 6 walks out of the Silver Dollar saloon into the darkness.

   Be seeing you, when next time we encounter The Girl Who Was Death!

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