Comet took them far and away from the crowd that rushed after them. Brisco
had his arms around Kiari, urging the horse to go faster. She felt strangely
safe in this man's arms, though she could feel his anger. Finally, they cleared
town and headed toward a shady glen. Comet slowed to a trot and stopped under
Brisco jumped off first and held his arms out for Kiari. She jumped down, landing right on his toes.
"Oh, I'm sorry! Are you all right?"
"I'm okay," he grimaced. He pushed his hat back, staring down at her. "Now, ma'am, who are you?"
She decided to start simple. "My name is Kiari."
When it became apparent that she wouldn't offer more, he sighed. "Go on, tell me the whole story."
The whole story. Kiari considered for a moment, then decided the truth was best. "I come from a place far from here, wherever here is. I came by way of an object, an Orb, which I need to find to get back home. But before that, I must find my companion, the self proclaimed king of thieves. He has this way of getting into trouble, which will not bode well for you, since he looks exactly like you."
Brisco stared at the woman before her, trying to gauge her sanity. She seemed earnest enough and definitely looked unlike most of the people he ran into. Oh, the clothes were right, but her very air was different. He was strangely attracted to the light in her dark brown eyes. He shook his head, trying to collect his thoughts. Did she say the Orb?
Kiari nodded. "Yes, the Orb." Then she realized that he had not spoken outloud. Uh oh.
Brisco's eyes narrowed. -You heard me?- He tried.
-Yes,- she answered.
They stared at each other, both of them disbelieving. Kiari was glad to see that her "scanning" still worked, but her instant connection with Brisco was a little disturbing. That he could hear her was even stranger. Maybe it was the Orb.
-That has to be the reason,- he said wryly.
She slammed her block up, hoping it would work.
"Hey," Brisco said. "I was beginning to enjoy that!"
Kiari frowned at him. "I had no idea a mortal could be so good at mindspeak."
"Mindspeak? Well, that's the first time that's ever happened. And what do you mean, mortal?"
She shook her head. "Never mind. I need to find my friend and the Orb."
He let her slide for the moment. He would get the whole story later. "It just so happens that I know something about the Orb. Except I thought they no longer existed in this time."
"Well, they shouldn't, not the same ones you knew of. This one was from my time. He-- we inadvertently brought it here. I don't know how, but I'm sure I'm going to get into trouble because of it." She sighed.
"Who's your friend?"
Autolycus, the king of thieves, rode the dusty trail. The horse he procured was a healthy one and didn't seem to mind that she had been taken from the stable. In his pockets were a wallet (which just happened to drop as he was walking by) and a small, jewel-filled purse (which had been sitting on the bar while he had a drink). So really, he hadn't stolen anything. Finders keepers!
"I suppose I should find Kiari," Autolycus said outloud. "She's out here, I can feel it." And indeed he could. Perhaps it was that strange Orb, but the connection to Kiari strengthened to an awareness. He knew she was near, somewhere. "She'll find me. She's good at that." So he rode on, slowing to a pleasant trot, sure that the crowd had given up on him.
He came upon a camp and realized that he was hungry. Hmm, maybe the campers could give him a little snack. Or perhaps he could borrow something to eat from them. It was worth a try. He jumped off the horse and approached the clearing.
Although there was a fire, the rest of the camp looked deserted. Someone was cooking something. As Autolycus peered into the steaming pot, he heard a click behind him.
"All right, put your hands up," a voice growled at him. "Turn around slowly."
Autolycus obeyed, turning around slowly with his hands up. "My dear sir, I was just--"
"Shuddup! Did I say you could talk?" The man spit. He grinned evilly. "Who do we have here? If it isn't the mighty Brisco County Jr."
Autolycus peered at the man holding what was probably a weapon pointing right at his heart. Take away the thick mustache, the longish hair, and the period clothing and you had a roughed up--
He spit again. "J. Oscar Wiggins. I go by Oscar. What, you don't recognize me from my 'wanted' poster?"
Another man emerged from the bushes behind Oscar, also holding a weapon. "You got a 'wanted' poster, Oscar? Hey, why don't I have one?"
Oscar rolled his eyes and turned to the man. "Because, Eddie, I am the leader of this gang and you are just my co-hort. How many times do I have to tell you?"
Autolycus' jaw dropped. Eddie, with his blonde curls wild beneath the dusty hat and the blue eyes twinkling, looked almost exactly like--
The two men turned their attention back to Autolycus.
"What did he say?" Oscar asked.
Eddie shrugged. "Maybe it's Latin. I hear he went to Harvard."
"Well, now he's coming with us. He's our ticket to fame, Eddie. The outlaws who bested Brisco County Jr."
"But I'm not Br--"
Autolycus crumpled to the ground from Eddie's blow to the head.
"I told ya not to talk," Oscar grinned, breaking into a wicked laugh...
Kiari thought for a moment. How does one describe Autolycus? She remembered
their conversation back at the temple.
<< "Oh yeah, what do you like about me?"
<< She grinned at him. "You just want to hear about your attributes."
"Sure, why not? Okay, let me start. You are a beautiful woman, although you could do better with your choice of professions. You have talented fingers, soft silky hair, and the most luscious lips I have ever had the honor to kiss. And you have a sweet smile and a funny laugh."
"Why Autolycus, that's so nice of you. All right, you are a handsome fellow, although you too could do better with your choice of professions. You have talented hands, a mustache that tickles, and for a mortal, you're quite a kisser." >>
Brisco watched the play of emotions on Kiari's face. She obviously thought fondly of her friend. He concentrated, trying to read more.
Kiari glanced up at Brisco, feeling the little nudge in her mind from him. "Stop that."
He feigned innocence. "What?"
"You might not like everything that you find in my head, Brisco County Jr. Let's just try and get through this without any distractions."
He studied her for a moment. "You intrigue me, Kiari. I don't think I've ever met a woman quite like you. And I've met more than a few."
"So it's not just the looks," Kiari mused. "You're both charmers."
"Autolycus, my friend, is a charmer, a ladies' man. Very popular at the temple. And I hope you haven't met a woman like me, I'm somewhat unique."
Brisco smiled. "I'd say so. I know I haven't met a woman who could read my mind."
"And I have never met a man who could read mine," she countered. It was true enough. Hades and Ares were the only ones who could really read her mind and they were gods. She doubted very much that this Brisco was a god, although he was turning out to be a rather extraordinary mortal.
"Now go on, explain your friend. Autolycus-- that's different."
"It's Greek," Kiari explained. "Autolycus has an eye for beauty and a head for treasure. He makes a living collecting things from other people."
"You said he was the king of thieves," Brisco commented.
"He is. And he's very good at it. But he'll get in a lot of trouble in this world and people are going to blame you."
"Because," she looked deep into his eyes. "He looks exactly like you." She opened her mind, allowed him to see her last memory of Autolycus.
It was like looking in her soul, Brisco thought. He was struck by the man in her mind. This Autolycus indeed looked exactly liked him. Kiari's memories began to gather round and Brisco focused on a more intimate one between her and Autolycus...
"Hey, this is not a peep show!" Kiari protested.
"You're the one remembering it," he replied, withdrawing. "I'm sorry, I know that wasn't gentlemanly, but you have to admit, it's a strange sensation."
"Very," she agreed. It was damn eerie.
"So, we look for Autolycus," Brisco said.
"Yes, he has got to be my first priority. You will help me, won't you?" She was unsure for a moment.
"I will help you," he assured her. "I don't see that I have any choice, not if he's running around out there with my face."
Comet snorted behind them.
"That's right," Brisco remembered. "How does my horse know you?"
"Are these binds necessary?" Autolycus asked, holding his rope-tied wrists up. It was bad enough his head was pounding from Eddie's blow, but now his wrists and his ankles were tied. At least he was sitting up.
"Heck yeah, you might try to escape," Eddie answered. "Right Oscar?"
"Right Eddie," Oscar rolled his eyes. Sometimes he wondered why he let Eddie hang out with him.
"Now why would I want to escape? You two seem to be upstanding gentleman. Look, if I promise not to say anything about you, will you let me go?"
Oscar frowned. "Do we look stupid?"
Autolycus opened his mouth, then thought the better of it.
"The great Brisco County Jr. should catch a fair price. What do you think Eddie?"
Eddie nodded, his smile wide.
Autolycus sighed. "For the last time, I am not Brisco County Jr. and I am offended by the comparison. Me, a lawman? I am the king of thieves. Why, I stole the Kronos stone, bested a Giant, rescued baby Harpies."
Oscar and Eddie exchanged a glance as Autolycus raved.
"What can I do to prove that I am not this Brisco person?" Autolycus asked.
Oscar thought for a moment, then came up with his most brilliant idea yet. A slow smile lit his face...
Autolycus swallowed. "Join your gang?"
Oscar sneered. "Yeah, join my gang. If you're a thief like you say you are, then prove it. Join my gang and we'll plan a heist. Any funny business from you and Eddie here will take care of you. Won't you Eddie?"
Eddie twirled his weapon on a finger. "Yup. I'm the sharpshooter in this gang."
Gang of two? Autolycus tried not to roll his eyes. "Do I get one of those?" He asked, gesturing at the weapon.
"Don't you got one of your own?" Eddie questioned. "Geez, what kind of man walks around without a gun?"
A gun, okay, Autolycus thought to himself. "Well, I don't need a gun, but I suppose I should have one if I'm going to be in your gang."
Oscar thought for a moment. "Maybe later."
"Will you at least untie these?" He held up his wrists.
"Eddie," Oscar commanded.
"Do I have to? What if he tries to run away or something?"
Oscar eyed Autolycus. "He won't, will you?"
"Of course not," Autolycus reassured the two. "But surely you don't expect me to join your gang with my hands tied?"
Oscar nodded at Eddie, who sighed and flipped his knife out. He cut through the rope and a moment later, Autolycus was rubbing his wrists.
"So what do we call you, if you're not Brisco?" Eddie asked.
"The name's Auto."
"Weird name," Eddie commented, sitting down beside him.
Oscar narrowed his eyes, then stuck his hand out. "Welcome to my gang, Auto."
Autolycus shook his hand firmly.
Kiari and Brisco set up camp. The sun was setting and the air was beginning to chill. As they prepared dinner, Kiari found it hard to keep her block in place. She knew that it was just a matter of time before she slipped and Brisco could ease inside her mind.
"Why don't you just relax?" Brisco said. "I'm not going to bite."
"What are you talking about?" But Kiari knew. She could feel his presence, all warm and inviting. She could easily get lost in the sensation.
"Okay, if you want to play it that way," he smiled. "Tell me about your Comet."
A neutral subject. She took a breath. "Well, he's exactly like your Comet, actually. He's the one who found me though. I was walking in the woods one day and there he was. And he's been my faithful companion since."
"Yeah, Comet's a real pal," Brisco said. "So, do you think they're connected somehow?"
Kiari shrugged. "I'm as mystified as you. My awareness of this world is very confused. But when I concentrate on Comet, he seems just as he was back home. Logically, it can't be possible. I do think that he is the reason that Autolycus and I stepped into your reality though. Something brings us here."
"The Orb." Brisco shook his head. "I thought they were all back where they belonged."
"I didn't even realize they truly existed. It goes against everything I believed. An object that gives the handler god-like powers?"
"It's more than that," Brisco said. "I can't explain it, but it's true. Looks like dinner is ready."
They ate in silence, Kiari struggling to keep her block in place, Brisco very open and willing to exchange thoughts.
"How long can you do it?" Brisco asked.
Kiari raised an eyebrow, deliberately misunderstanding him.
"Keep that silence in your head," he sighed. "Geez."
She laughed, a smile lighting her eyes. "It's called a mind shield. And I can usually keep it in place easily enough, but there's something about you..."
"It must be the Orb," she decided, the color rising in her cheeks.
"Like I said, I don't bite," Brisco reminded her, his brown eyes twinkling. Kiari was suddenly struck by how much he resembled Autolycus.
The fire crackled as the sun set in the west...
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