What is Buffalo Bill’s Mafia? Glad you asked. It’s a weekly fan-fiction series that transforms real-life events important to Bills Fans everywhere into a fun, action-packed mythology story
- A legendary tale for a Legendary Team.
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Previously: A young Gunslinger, Josh of Allentown, joins the newly rebuilt Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in an alternate universe called the Near Ages. Here ‘Weakenings’ in the atmosphere allow warriors from different realms to travel through time to vastly different worlds, like the Bill’s did to defeat a future robots in Los Angeles and a storm of Titans - which came at the cost of many wounded soldiers...
Once, in the Near Ages, Josh polished off a delicious double-order of wings.
He sat on top of the player piano, his back against the stair railing, bobbing his head to the tumbler’s tune of Superfreak.
After the last two Weakenings, or Weaks, some had called this young, happy and impossibly skilled sharpshooter just that: “Superfreak.”
Josh of Allentown would eat at a table rather than onto of a piano, that would be less ‘freaky,’ but all twelve dining tables in Duff’s Saloon were smashed during the Titan storm. Not a single flat surface in this whole village of New Fort York was in one piece. Nor the windows. Nor their beloved hot air balloon…no one had seen that since Diggs sailed it into a tornado and returned with a bigger, sleeker, flashier, zubaz-hide airship - but they might learn to accept that in it’s place.
“Hey-ey, Josh. Go Bills.”
“Go Bills,” Josh replied with a mouth full of juicy, saucy chicken.
Four-Zero Miller Class and Gardener Dawkins tied off a Clydesdale and her wagon to the hitching post. Some Mafia kids, including little Cade, ran over to pet her and the Pinto Josh still borrowed (he hadn’t been able to find Ron all week.) Four-Zero and Dawkins lifted out some fresh-hewn tables from the cart.
“Let me help, there.” Josh put his last drum in his teeth and slid off the piano. Dawkins carried two through the batwing-doors carved with the word: ‘Duff’s,’ and Four-Zero passed two more though the broken windows from the porch to Josh, “Four-Zero, these are exquisite. Dovetail joints! Resin-filled knots!”
“Beautiful tables for a beautiful people,” replied Four-Zero with pride, “I’m taking over the Niagara Creek Mill. Last guy retired.”
“‘Miller-Class,’ He’s got the name for it,” added Dawkins, flipping another Roycroft marked table to the floor.
Four-Zero ran his cheek on a polished edge and carefully felt for the precision of the line, “The Mafiafolk deserve quality that will last,” he got up and slapped it like a good horse, “Especially with food this good!”
Duff brought in milk and two-more doubles of her sauciest wings for the Bill’s. “Freshly tossed…Marv Levy!” she gasped suddenly and froze, “Mister Miller, these tables are gorgeous!”
“Happy to oblige ma’am. If the Governor General decides to stop in for some local fixin’s he’ll need a place to eat them.”
“Who?” Asked Josh.
Just then, a series of ribboned white horses flew through, dragging a stage coach fit for a fairy tail.
“Whoa is more like it,” said Dawkins, turning to Mrs. Duff with a smile, “You see those wheels!?” The wheel’s were taller than the carriage.
“The Governor General. Viceroy of somethin’ ‘er other,” she said helping herself to a flat with blue cheese, another carriage bus followed, “I think by technical stand’rds he says he owns about all ‘a everything, but I know I’m still waitin’ on my check. But I ain’t holding my ice cream either, this last decade he been here fewer days than this milk you’re drinkin’. It’s all some bred ‘a ridiculous.”
“Duff…Don’t underestimate how ridiculous it might actually be,” warned Four-Zero, the former mercenary from the all-powerful Kroken Corporation.
“What’s ridiculous is them ridin’ a coach from the train barn to Doc’s house,” she laughed without looking up from her breakfast (hence the milk).
“Doc’s house?” Asked Josh.
“‘Wounded’ plus ‘Heroes’ equals a dominant-yet-empathetic…'Photo Opportunity,’” Dawkins said, breaking a bite of celery. “You’ll have to ask him if he appreciates the new name of his village.”
“Go Bills!” Yelled other Mafiafolk from the bar, porch and even the rooms upstairs.
Duff half-hugged Josh’s hip from her seat. “The Josh of Allentown in Allentown from Allentown of Allentown!”
“You essentially said, ‘of’ twice, there.”
“And two too few,” she said with a wink and a burp.
“Duff, you know this town’s name before you called it that?” Asked a patient Dawkins.
“Well, it didn’t have much of a name at all besides ‘the shops outside New Fort York,’ of course, part of the Great Buffalo Nation. Talkin’ Proud!” Like all Mafiafolk, Duff said this with conviction. It was as if he asked her her own name and heritage. That was the way of these Strong-Hearts of the ancient Niagara Frontier.
“Does anybody know it?” Asked Dawkins to the saloon. He might have guessed they were listening to every word anyway. It’s hard not to listen to three Bill’s, the proprietor and two bowls of double-wings all in the same spot. The gravity is too strong. And that sweet, spicy smell.
“Old Fort York?” Someone mumbled.
Dawkins said it and the saloon held quiet. The first noise came from the fanfare of announcements and bustle coming from Doc’s house out and down the dirt street.
“Peg-Goo? One of the Goo Dolls?” But no one listened to Josh.
Four-Zero spoke up, “Pegulaville, eh? Ma’am, don’t underestimate ridiculous.” He stood quickly.
“Bah! Pegulaparcel, Pegulavillage, we got the best lawyers in this Narrow Age right here! Mister Hyde and J.B.L. Poyer, Esquire.”
“What is a Pegula?”
J. B. L Poyer, Esquire,
gritted his teeth in pain as his cast was bumped by ‘Pegulavillage’s’ Secretary of Staff. The weasely man had rushed forward from a group of posed patients all propped up around the dignitary. Mister Hyde, of course, wouldn’t hear any of the announcement.
“Lords & Ladies; Nobilities, Distinguished Guests; …and, of course, Wounded Soldiers of the brave Bison Bill’s…may I present to you…Your living embodiment of the King in the New Age!…Viceroy Governor-General Marquis de Pegulaville!” The man began clapping vigorously.
He was sweaty, Doc Edmund’s house was sweaty and never meant to hold this many patients let alone all of these people.
The posed group began to clap, Doc and General Beane, closest to the big man with the top hat and badges.
A few Bill’s groaned and struggled out a few claps. Tiny Bear Morse probably actually could have applauded but pretended instead he couldn’t control a strange, irritating bleating sound.
Utah Davis next to him couldn’t hold in his laughter - but had too. Basically choking with held breath and closed eyes, tears pumped of his reddening face.
“They are not standing in salute,” grumbled the weasel to Lieutenant General McDermott.
“They’re wounded,” said the Irishman.
“Yes! Bonjour! Bonjourno! God Bless, hallow,” said the Marquis de Pegulaville.
“Go Bills!” Some patient yelled not as a greeting but a correction.
“Very good! Go Bills, yes, yes!” The Marquis waved his towel as was the custom in a rival realm that he was told was about the same, “And salutations to all of you!” The Marquis turned fully around to the half-circle opposite the hospital patients. This was Josh, Dawkins, Four-Zero and the Mafiafolk who gathered outside the shattered windows of Doc’s. “You men and women and lads of the Buffalo Bill’s Maf-…eee, uh, well…family. That’s a word.”
“Why won’t he say our name?” whispered Josh.
“That, I do not know,” Dawkins answered as the Marquis continued.
“I know it might not look like it from the outside, with my team of Arabian Horses drawing my private coach from my private train…and, that, shipped on my large fleet of-”
“We might leave it there, sire,” whispered the Secretary seeing the shocked faces of the ‘Family’-folk surrounding.
“Sure, sure, sure. But despite those things I can’t mention, I, I! - I am just like you. In fact, I am one of you. And today, I declare in my whole realm, that these men and women in this hospital are the real heroes. Yeah? Eh?”
Someone actually palmed their hand, the emphasis was all wrong.
“I realize you are going through a tough time but if I can take just an hour out of my day to put a smile on your face…well, that makes it all worth it. You’re the real heroes. You actually make my day.”
Josh, Dawkins, Four-Zero and the Mafiafolk did clap vigorously for their fallen brothers.
The Marquis was then led by the elbow to various bedsides starting with, “This is the 8th best Pinkerton working, Detective Whi-”
“Blizzard Dancer,” said the wounded Bill. He was asked to ride into town just for this. It caused some pain, but it was also required.
The Marquis shook his hand and wouldn’t let go until Blizzard Dancer took the hint to look at the photographer’s hood and tripod.
“Say Blue Cheese!”
“Thank you for your service son. Give ‘em hell.”
The Marquis was led to the next bed, the heavy tripod was lifted, the flashbulb stepped on - Kish! - a gaggle of special guards, secretaries, reporters, scholars, and even a humorist, pushed and grinded in a flock away.
“This is…,” the Secretary read off his notes, “Mister Morris.”
“Tiny Bear Morse,” corrected General Beane to his boss.
“Beeeeeh. Beeeeeh!” Bleated Morse, pretending to fight through incredible pain! Utah Davis had to actually run away to avoid exploding in laughter that would spoil it all. Everyone visiting kept their grim faces on.
“Brave man, a lot of pain. His innards? Or his mind?”
“Ah, his elbow sir.” McDermott answered the Marquis.
Snickers finally squeaked from Bill’s everywhere. The Marquis held Morse’s hand and bent awkward beside the bed to look at the hooded cameraman.
“Fight on Morris!”
And shuffled on, did the visitors. Luncheon was soon at the Butcher’s and au jus sauce can soak a bun faster than a fish tank.
“This is Rawhide Oliver, sir.”
“Please meet a very lucky Bucktail Jackson.”
“This genius is J.B.L. Poyer.”
“This gunman is Bigfoot Phillips”
“And that, shape there, is that a patient?”
“Yes, the man under this, is the other half of our bullet-proof legal defense, Mister Hyde. It breaks my heart to report, his wound will impact his career. He may never leave this room.”
“What!?” Josh said as the same time as Four-Zero and Dawkins in the threshold of this bedroom. All the entourage turn over their shoulders to look at the shocked friends.
Doc’s upstairs bedroom had been converted for Mister Hyde’s recovery and a garden-full of delphiniums, white poppies and roses. Even with a cast on his leg, Poyer had beaten the gaggle upstairs and returned to his chair beside the bed. Poyer was as somber as they came; even in devastation, he would cover his half of the room.
“I’ve deputized new levies, Marquis, for our defense,” began General Beane ensuring he stepped right behind his boss clomping down the narrow stairs. “But earnest spirits alone won’t fill these shoes. I suggest we let our specialists recover before we perform.”
“And ignore this Weak in Miami!?” The Marquis stopped on the stairs halting the whole stuffy parade. And pinning General Beane in a press of bodies. This Weakening between the realms of their time and another was what allowed the Marquis to even travel here. “The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show is the hottest act in the Near Ages! Our show is getting as much hype as Admiral Brady! Even the Arrowhead Chief.”
“Yes your grace, and our show includes the eight specialists around us. Many of them are on the posters.”
“They don’t even talk about the Six-Star General after our IMAXXX films released. It would be foolish not to capitalize now! I ‘Billieve’ in this show whether you do or now!” The Marquis did the air-quotes even though this is the proper use of the word. “Besides,” he added half-as-loud, “I already paid the ante.”
The Marquis continued down the creaking wooden stairs more confident, leading the way, chin-high past the wounded warriors. “If you put your new deputies in the same costumes as the sick showmen of last Weak, most people can’t even tell the difference! It’s still a Buffalo Bill Show, it fulfills the annual contracts with Dolphin Municipal Park, and we get our ante back with steep gains when we out-perform their Fish Show, again. What, ten-strait now?”
“Seven-strait, sire!” Piped up the secretary.
“Make it eight!“
Year 1984, Present Day
Three speed boats and a
bulky Bell helicopter curled between tropical saltwater and glaring sun. Synth pads, distant electronic drums and electric guitar solos ripped like their wakes.
It was MTV in-life! Flamingos, palm trees, emotions! Bikini’s, roller-blades and the sun! It all intercut quickly around zooming shots of Josh of Allentown, Gardener Dawkins and Utah Davis in dusty leather vests, chaps and cowboy hats. Cheesy close ups then followed them gearing up instead into thick blue wetsuits.
Gloves, Zippers, Butts. Cruise ships, hotels and pool decks.
Then beach clubs, vice cops and macaws and wedge-shaped sports cars and bags of Dignity. The images kept flashing fast to the music, and many repeated.
The only Bill already in a huge monolens pair of sunglasses and white sport jacket was Hollywood Diggs, hanging out of the helicopter.
“I’m Baaaaaaaaaack Miami!?” He cried toward the shoreline! Then he whipped to another angle - crash zoom on his face! “Can you Digg it?”
This whole montage was a mad trip.
What is reality? Was life a musical video? Josh looked up at the tall white skyscrapers that were just rectangles one-after-another-after-another. All stacked like blocks on the shore as they sped past and up the salt-river.
“Yo! You sure you don’t, like, want some Dignity!?” The big-haired partiers from their boat asked again.
“No, thank ya’,” said Josh, zipping up the final zipper of the wet suit with a grimace.
Why are all future-clothes tight onesies?
“We, like, pegged you narbos as mung, but, like, I kid you not, mega-fly now homeboy,” said the girl whose hair smelled like chemicals. Josh didn’t speak much of their language. Out of all of that he only understood that homeboy meant a homesteader’s son.
“Mad-Cool,” he replied; Diggs said you could say it after anything and be satisfactory.
“See that, brother!?” Pointed Gardener Dawkins from his big blue wetsuit into a private island.
“That palace or the ship?” Asked Josh.
“Yah, both! Only here they call a palace a mansion and a ship a yacht! That’s where the Viceroy Governor General lives!” Yelled Dawkins over their speedboat and the new wave music montage.
Tennis! Rolls-Royce! Leer Jets! Miami! (Yes, they were still in it, no rules!)
“Oh Yeah!” Said Dawkins as two helicopters with big windows cross their path heading for the white ship and house larger than New Fort York.
“Why would he live on a private island in another realm if he’s —?” There were too many contradictions to list.
“Oh, a lot of Viceroys and Capitalists chose to live in the 1980’s in Miami!”
Cops in Ferraris and Vector cars chased criminals in Corvettes and Buick GNX’s over the bridge their boat sped beneath as the draw bridge booth suddenly exploded into a huge orange fireball!
The swimsuit locals on their boat just made sexy eyebrows.
The speedboats and helicopter landed inside
of a large tunnel-like building that made an A-frame triangle over the river. It got some style points for not being just another rectangular prism, but it was only one style point, because it was a triangular prism.
“This is the Con-Temporary, like, brand new! It’s totally where you switch to Monorail,” said someone. It looked like a giant-sized heating vent. Could be why it’s so darn hot!
They boarded a white monorail with an aqua and orange stripe; twenty grown cowboys in squeaky wetsuits heading for Dolphin Municipal Park.
“Please stand clear of the door, por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas,” said the monorail.
There was a commotion outside.
“I’m part of the show!”
It was Diggs and a bunch of Vice cops with beautiful hair. It was his first step onto the property and they were already challenging him.
“He’s with us!” Said Josh from the closing puertas across the station.
“He’s wanted,” said a cool cop.
“Of course I’m wanted, I’m Hollywood Diggs! You just can’t have me!”
The first door shut. The Bill’s two deputy lawyers took a gulp and got off the monorail to defend this bogus arrest.
“Who are these mall-maggots?”
“Not so slippery without Hyde and Poyer to bail you out?” Said Howard and Cheetah.
Diggs spit in Howard’s face.
“Hey Top Gun spaz!” Shouted Cheetah to the former Boy Maverick, “Should I dunk him like I did back West with your barf bag Filly!?” Cheetah dropped his Wayfarers and held up his badge lanyard, “Or were you too wigged out to remember Arrowhead Rock?”
The second door shut as Josh leapt up to the window. Someone who was at the attack last winter!? Hollywood Diggs, a pair of rookie lawyers and two veteran hotshots slid past, replaced by plastic landscaping, pools and, finally, the blinding sun.
The sleek monorail snaked fairly smooth over the urban River, past another exploding telephone booth, and along a man-made canal and promenade of clubs.
Josh sat down hard next to Dawkins as the city flew past.
He was there that night in the snowy borderland. It pained Dawkins considerably to see an innocent animal lost, he could only imagine if she had been his sole companion since before the drought ended that new year. For that moment Dawkins had been right here, with Old Man Williams, in the dripping, chlorine underbelly of Dolphin Municipal Park.
Now it was Dawkins turn to move slowly toward the window as this new monorail made a designed curve over the surf and back to something totally rebuilt in the footprint of that old nature preserve.
“Attention riders, we are approaching the Marino Mouse Castle Entrance, your gateway to the many fantasy realms of the Near Ages,” said the monorail, and other veterans who noticed started to gasp.
“Welcome to Fin World!”
The monorail sailed through the station and into a glistening, sunny theme park. A distant castle surrounded by water, tourists with strollers everywhere, statues, mascots and happy music. Just below the window was a main street, scaled replica of Miami itself. The fanciful gift stores and midway booths all shaped like monolithic white rectangles and stark hotels. Each shop lined turquoise-dyed-pavement pretending to be the Miami river.
“Hang Ten at: Miami Beach, U.S.A.,” said the Monorail. Kids drove mini Testarossas and DeLoreans along a ‘Vice City’ track. Breakaway walls and flashing explosion lights imitated Dignity cartels.
And at the center of it all was a statue of Perfect Marino holding hands with a mouse and Marino Mouse Castle: an aqua-colored collection of fantasy towers, in the style of a Miami ‘mansion.’ Just beside it’s river moat was a water & land hybrid stage with stadium seating. Where the half-circle of amphitheater seats met the water, the grandstand structure became a curved glass aquarium tank. So, to people at ground level, the handful of dolphins inside could be looked up to, three-stories high at least. Flowing around this ‘floating’ tank was the river itself, not without dolphins of it’s own it seemed. Wild ones.
“Meet the Fin-Team, during our Miami rebuild these choice calves were captured from tuna nets all around the ’80’s and transferred here to perform for you as part of the Sand & Sea Spectacular show! As a reminder, smoking and consuming Dignity is permitted anywhere in the park.”
“This is not the old Park,” said Dawkins to Josh and Four-Zero.
“Ah, we had a Finland Park in Future Los Angeles. This is smaller, but has the same kind of creepy,” said Four-Zero.
“Those poor dolphins,” said Josh, noticing in their compulsions the same nervous energy that mustangs have when trapped suddenly in a barn without proper training.
“Speaking of home,” said Dawkins, tapping Four-Zero to the window behind them as the monorail moved on.
“Well, I’ll be…”
“Masks up and Eyes down at your Pacifi’ers, it’s Futureland!” The monorail snaked through a replica restaurant of the Rodeo Mall with paper-machete holograms of dancers, then outside again, past a Space Elevator drop tower and around the plaza leading to the radioactive Fallout Vegas Casino & Ride.
As the monorail continued canopy-level over animatronic replicas of the ‘Near Ages,’ Josh caught a glimpse at the heavy shadows of a Gangster Noir Boulevard, then the warriors of Middle Kingdom Garden, and finally, the Coastal Colonies.
“How can all these Ages be connected by the Weakenings?” Asked Josh.
“How can that shabby Dolphin Park rebuild into this?” Asked Dawkins and the monorail speaker seemed to answer, bumping over Empire Square and the Raj Cafeteria.
“Miami Beach’s reemergence and the new Fin World Theme Park are the end product of an inspired partnership between Government and Business,” and Dawkins nodded, he knew what that meant.
“What?” Asked Josh
“Dignity. Like the rest of this city, beautiful exterior built on their good-time-Dignity. Here smugglers transform it into something that isn’t even legal.”
“Pretty stupendous, aye?” Asked Doc Edmunds walking back to them, his blue suit making some squeaky noises.
“Aye, Go Bills.”
Josh hardly noticed, digesting all of the unique cultures and ideas these replicas seemed to hint at. For a boy from the prairie homestead - even being able to walk around this park would be a dream come true - let alone someday visit these real Ages. That is, if Weakenings bridge their worlds. And the Buffalo Bill’s still want him.
Four-Zero said over his reverie, “I thought Miami didn’t get much Dignity this last era.”
Doc knocked on the new monorail window, “This here, it’s Dignity money alright, just not theirs. Ever since the Imortal Admiral sailed south, half-the-Near-Age’s Dignity’s been pirated by his crimson sails. It’s his smuggled Dignity that rebuilt this town and park.”
“I do know from Kroken that Miami’s been mired in corruption charges, all the way up,” said Four-Zero.
“Thirsty for ‘Plain’ Hilarity? Toil in Frontier Gulch!” Said the monorail and twenty heads - specialists and deputies alike - swiveled over their shoulders to watch as palm trees and ice cream stands revealed something new. Something familiar.
An insult to the beautiful Buffalo Nation.
It was Drought Era, sagging sheds, wheel-less wagons buried in sand and animatronics of toothless gunslingers shooting their own feet. All of the delicious wing saloons were changed to Four Losers’s Hog Ranch, Make A Forward Pass Brothel and Filly’s Last Soda Stand all serving chicken nuggets for ration cards.
Miami kids in gaudy Buffalo headdresses threw vegetables at a ‘whistler’ target to cause an actual Mafia man in clown makeup to have his ’table smashed’ and fall into a ‘drunk tank.’ Then, where New Fort York should be it was a ‘Daft Draft Funhouse’ and a mine ride called ‘Wide Right Open Plains.’ Josh saw obnoxious teens and yuppies buckled into a ‘stampede train’ twist through fiberglass scenery and shoot down as many bison targets as they could.
Josh’s cheeks were red in anger as he yelled toward the front of the Monorail toward the driver, “Where are we performing!?”
The Buffalo Bill’s show was sensational!
The gang, in royal blue Miami-mandated wetsuits, sprinted on stage to the synth-rock and the crowd of ’80’s tourists. In their first act Josh shot moving targets off the coachmen’s galloping wagons, Motor’s and R.G. Wheeler’s at once, sequins sparkling in the bright sun.
It made them hot, but was well-loved by all!
The Bill’s were actually performing a Western for once rather than using their tricks to fight robots or storms.
As part of the Sand & Sea Spectacular, the Bill’s show would all be on the bright stage representing land and the in-house Miami ‘cast members’ performed a musical show on the river surrounding the stage island and the Marino Mouse Castle behind.
Tua, Cheetah and Waddle did synchronized jet ski jumps on the open water and the dolphins did matching jumps from their water-tank curving from the grandstand.
When they weren’t jumping to the whistles they rubbed at the bottom-side of the ‘floating’ tank, almost like humans, to try to push into the tropical river. Who could blame them?
“This ‘a for your dunkin’ Mafia clown,” said Boom Boom Milano pretending to drop something called a Lolo Ball from his elevated platform in the sky, “Oppssies.” The toy was smoking, bounced off a loud jetski and, underwater, blew into a wave big enough it stopped the dance in it’s tracks.
The Bill’s were hot and taking a drink when the Miami guy with the big headset pushed them out on stage again.
“Bill’s you’re on! You’re on!”
“We just got off.”
Josh stumbled back and heard the music and applause from the crowd and realized he was in view. He waved and said through his show smile, “Slim, let’s do the acrobat flier!”
“Got it!” Said Slim and sprinted off to the show’s scaffolding.
“Ladies and Gentlemen - once again - the hot-shot land-legs of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show!” Said the announcer from the booth.
The electronic drums hit and a synth melody played.
The deputy replacing Morse managed to toss Josh the loaded rifle - his cue - but out of sync with the music again - when Gardener Dawkins yelled, “Hey, hey hold it! Look out!”
One of the Miami performers had jumped on stage pushing Dawkins into other understudies. Motor took a swing at him but missed leaving Josh no where to turn. The angry performer in all-white vice cop costume knocked Josh to the stage and his rifle into the air.
It was retribution or it was pre-scripted for the home crowd.
But it couldn’t have been any earlier because lead-singer, Tubular Tua hadn’t even left the show area for his air conditioning yet when Josh’s trick rifle fell in his lap. The crowd laughed at the gag and went wild with applause. Tua caught on and took a victory lap around the stage on his jet ski pumping his rival gunslinger’s weapon.
Sexy music chords crooned, the big screens played his slow motion hair flapping in slow motion. The tourists let him know this ’stunt’ was worth as much Dignity as the entire skilled Coachman drive. Even though for Tubular Tua it was as easy as standing up.
And stand up he had.
But one skill-dazzling, death-defying, acrobat-flying, stunt later (complete with Josh wrestling a steer while sharp-shooting Slim’s targets), Tua’s ability to even stand-up was called into question.
See, a pyrotechnic in their hair-band dance went a little too big and knocked him onto the stage. Everyone looked to Boom Boom Milano.
“What!? It was only one stick of dynamite.”
Tua’s head was injured in the fall and he couldn’t keep his feet below him as he tried to walk off. He collapsed and the audience gasped and groaned.
“Bill’s you’re on! Distract the crowd!”
It was the Miami guy with the headset yelling to the piles of red-face, slumped bodies off-stage. But off-stage was still in full sun, making things worse.
“We just got off!” Yelled an exhausted Diggs, who had finally been released from holding for one act. Their new lawyers kept getting the run-around from Miami’s District Attourney Holland. One doesn’t exactly have understudies for Mister Hyde and J.B.L. Poyer, Esquire - but they were going to have to.
“And we ain’t even off yet!” Added the rookie Kaiir the Kid. He was being burnt by the sun and vice cops out there, so cool in their all-white suits, “Where’s Benford?”
“The other new Mister Hyde,” said a new deputy who looked sick himself.
“Wait, who are you then!?” Asked Four-Zero.
“No, Benford passed out!” Said a fourth deputy no one had met.
“Can’t take him, I got too many Bill’s on IVs already!” Doc yelled from the sun-baked side. This was confusing. And dangerous.
Four-Zero turned in shock to the most recent pimple-faced kid, “So, to be clear, we have another new deputy telling me our deputy for our wounded lawyer is now also wounded!?”
“Yes, and, Bear Morse - whose out - his understudy is also now out.”
“Unbillievable,” Four-Zero exhaled, wishing he could take a break himself. He pointed to someone wheeling hospital IV’s in red, white and blue plain-clothes. “You, who are you?”
“And Ingram, what do you do?”
“Stagehand. I’m just a Mafia man who was asked to follow you from the Stampede- but I’m trying to help out where I can.”
“Yeah, you’re about to, get on stage - you need to make sure that guy, see him? On the speedboat? Make sure he doesn’t do any fast stunts, okay?” said Four-Zero, “Nothing fast.”
“Bill’s you are on!” yelled the stage manager trying to push Josh until his hands ran into the solid gut of Gardener Dawkins instead.
Dawkins bent down and spoke slow.
“Your gunslinger needs a hospital. You want him to make it, you get him help, not a distraction.”
“No can do, cowboy! Two minutes left in Show One and Fin World is, like, a mad bigtime operation. A lot of dirty Dignity moves here worth more than my life and the big kahunas who own it freak out if the crowd isn’t having a magical time,” the man jawed. “Less collapsing Tua and more magic.
“It’s okay - more time for us to shine!” Said Josh, pulling his gardener back.
“It’s the sun that’s shining brother! Don’t get cocky.”
“We thrashed a tornado Dawkins! We’re the Bill’s, we got bigger…fish…to fry, partner!” As Josh said it he gave Dawkins a wink to catch his meaning.
It didn’t work out as planned.
During his acts, Josh could see the tank dolphins had taken desperate interest in a group of other dolphins that had surfaced in the river. Neither pod could understand how to get past the glass barrier of the aquarium. Maybe it was nothing but Josh believed that the wild ones didn’t want to leave the captives behind.
And he billieved that he could do something about it.
Put on a show, sure. Win back our Dignity ante from this corrupt theme park, okay. Use Big Iron Bass’s Human Cannon Act to smash a hole in the dolphin tank, yes.
Once he said it to the team, those with a low enough temperature to hear, all agreed.
They might only get one run at “Buffalo Bill’s Sensational Sands Finale!” And they had it now, at the close of the first show! But they would have to run it fast.
Run they did! The countdown clock ticked!
They had one-minute, fifty-seconds to complete a two-minute finale. The act gave each player a token-but precarious stunt. It showed off the skills the crowd had gotten to know during the show, but now they all worked together. Bowie Knox, Hollywood Diggs, Utah Davis and McKenzie Slim took targets, Bear Morse’s Understudy’s Understudy reloaded the rifle and tossed it to the Gunslinger who shot the targets over-his-shoulder using only the mirror Dawkins held up to aim behind him.
Crack! Crack! - “Mirror Pitch down ten!” - Crack! “Back up!” - Scrack!
The crowd oohed and marveled.
This is what Josh was made of - bright red in the face - pushing, pushing!
The dolphin calves wouldn’t even know a desperate plot was underway to save them.
Whatever it takes!
The gag was that the gang must unveil the distant cannon before the countdown timer expires or it will mis-fire into disaster.
Each flying, flipping, trick-riding or ropin’ spy achieved their corner to reveal the Big Iron Cannon! Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Congress of Rough Riders of the World it read. Still far away across the river at Marino Mouse Castle. Big Iron Bass could hardly be seen waving from the cannon mouth.
A music fanfare played!
Presumably he would hit a net on stage to pose next to the whole team. But the gun crew had shifted the barrel instead to break the tank. The aquarium would shatter and the calves would swim into the river to their families. Later, Lieutenant General McDermott could justify the whole thing as a surprising, but harmless accident.
Josh was four tough shots in after being on a broiling stage the whole show.
The rifle went to the center point to be reloaded by the understudy’s understudy.
Sweat poured into Josh’s eyes. But only one shot left - and by far the easiest, in fact, a child could do it. A point-blank slug into the countdown clock - the signal for Big Iron that he was ‘A-Go’ to launch. This showclock was stationary. It was big. It was easy to shot.
“Go! Go!” yelled the Gunslinger to a man he’d never met.
The toss was bad.
It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t right.
Josh had swung already.
I can’t get to the clock!
In a guess Josh fired at the nearest target -
A whistler Hollywood Diggs was posing with, like everyone, to point attention to the expiring clock exploded off to the side of the stage.
It was his only bullet.
The clock didn’t break. Big Iron didn’t get a go.
The first show was over. Dolphins who didn’t know what was at stake swam in circles. Josh and the Bill’s were furious.
Tourists clapped half-heartedly and shuffled out snickering about jokes they heard in Frontier Gulch about the Bill’s who choke even on boneless wings.
The 00:00s of the clock faded like a mirage
hallucination into the 100s of the thermometer. More IV’s were run to hydrate performers, McKenzie Slim vomited into the trash - even the can was too hot to touch.
Before the Bill’s cooled a degree, the next audience was loaded in with their melting ice creams and judgmental faces.
Cheetah and the in-house performers rode their jet-ski’s out of the air conditioned Magic Castle and only played one song in the cool river water before waving to the headset manager for a break.
“Okay, Buffalos, that’s you then, you’re up! I need you to fill their show-time, plus your own, like, do that, now please!”
A sad groan went up.
“This is good guys! We are here to perform and we will perform!” Encouraged Josh, back on his hot feet.
“The Niagara Trail Act,” called McDermott, red-in-the-face.
It was a reenactment of the 999-mile journey many Mafia pioneers endured. The Bill’s who were surviving on stage today endured it all in heat the settlers never faced. Finally, the staged rendition of the wagon train reached the Buffalo Nation in peace. Meager applause.
“They can hardly bare ta watch us in this heat, how are we supposed to impress them?,” asked Boom Boom Milano. It was only a Weak ago that this miner blast-apart a Titan-sized ice dam on the Niagara River. “Let’s blow the tank and be done with it!”
As Tua - yes, Tubular Tua with a head injury - sang a high-octive romance tune on a covered pleasure boat, this Western miner marched across the stage in full view. Cheetah and Waddle tried their best to keep looking dreamy for the camera, but couldn’t help but notice.
Milano, again, in full-view, took out a lasso and roped it around the camera’s long jib-arm. The cameraman at the base looked at Milano. Milano looked at him. The crowd watched both them & the giant screens that showed the live image of Tua, dazed, belting out soft-core euphemisms.
Milano yanked his lasso, the cameraman ran away in panic, and the boom flew across the stage.
The video camera panned wildly past the crowd in the stands, past some stairs and right at a trio of dolphins in the tank.
“Boom,” Milano whispered.
The lens just fell off and dropped into the river.
There was no accompanying wire-stretching into water, no frayed electrical jolt - like the lightning of his Titanically small kite which blew the dam. Without that one inch of conduction, it was just a lens tapping a glass wall.
It was nothing.
Milano tried to avoid looking directly at the sign that read: ‘Please don’t tap on any Fin World Aquarium Glass.’
“We know,” said Josh in his dripping blue wetsuit to the stage manager. “We’re always up.”
Josh watched the vice cops high-five and strut to the Fin World air conditioning. “They want us to perform.”
“What?” Asked Dawkins.
They want us to steal the show - as big as we can, no matter how good - because if only we collapse before it’s over, the crowd laughs - the bigger we are the funnier it will be…and it’s all theirs. Josh thought the thought crystal clear but was far too tired to verbalize it all.
So hard to breathe.
He jogged on stage to, “The Hot-Doggin’ Buffalo Bill’s and Congress of Rough Riders!,” introduction as he had a dozen times already. He waved. The whole team ran out!
Dawkins and Hammerhead Moss were the only ones with him.
“Where is everyone?”
“This is all we have left.”
Josh looked from the listless calves in the dolphin bowl and up to the white sun. It’s glare seemed to flash.
“Then this is our act. Do it for them!” Josh yelled it over the same synth music of this act as every other one today. “Hammerhead, run the Stagecoach Act!”
Unlike the singers of the Sea Senasations, the Bill’s of the Sand Spectacular were doing it. Even with three specialists left, they put on a show.
Right? Josh thought, starting to dream.
“And for their Final Act, the Buffalo Bill’s will show us an old routine they have yet-to-perform-this-year!”
The sun. “Fight on Morris.”
The in-booth announcer began to blur with the injury report of the morning, a whole century away.
“This is Big Iron Bass”
His trusty small cannon jammed up.
“Meet two deputy lawyers who just signed away Dignity.”
What? It’s slipping away?
“With two shots left, watch Hollywood Diggs slip off a winning platform and bounce off the ground.”
“With his last bullet, the Maverick Sharpshooter of Allentown is given a point-blank target from McKenzie Slim!”
“…and fires it into the stage!”
“Fin World! For Their Finale Crooner…Please Welcome Back to the Sand & Sea Spectacular Stage at Marino Mouse Castle - Tubular Tua and his Vice Squad!”
A voice came…Over the screaming crowd, in front of the trapped dolphins and their mothers in the river - “What do you need Gunslinger!?”
It was Four-Zero.
Bowie Knox pushed Josh from center stage who had been calling for more bullets, trying to stay on, offering anything, his personal Dignity to ante, “Another chance!” He screamed immediately to Four-Zero. “Another chance!”
And that’s what Four-Zero gave him, glasses on, at the sound panel. If the beats are electronic, then the rhythm can change!
Tua was so rushed in his final ballad it was over in four short refrains.
Four-Zero pointed to the headset man without even looking…
“Bill’s your on! One-minute-twenty to fill.”
Superfreak played loud in the Spectacular Arena!
Josh sprinted out with a full rifle and before he was even announced shot off a token stunt for Utah Davis.
“Big Iron Bass, Human Cannon!” Josh commanded.
Davis, who only gave up his bed at Doc’s for the newly wounded, couldn’t get up, but he got them started.
Whatever it takes.
Josh commanded to himself.
He got a second token stunt off to Bowie Knox’s understudy, Bowie was out. There was nothing left in the tank, but could Miami really get away with it?
No! Josh saw Filly in each of them the trapped dolphins.
An animal who was lost in desperate times.
It wasn’t going to end that way!
Suddenly the vice squad jumped off their jet ski’s onto the stage and charged at the sweat-drained Gunslinger. Two targets to go for Bass’s cannon to reveal and the final clock shot.
He wouldn’t get the chance.
Gardener Dawkins could hardly stand - having performed for 500 yards in 90 stunts. It was just like the stage-rush earlier.
Motor couldn’t get a swing at the cool-man in all white. They would wrestle Josh’s gun from him, two targets and a clock would prevent Big Iron from firing and the aquarium walls would stand.
Whatever it takes.
Josh decked the attacker with the heel of his sniper rifle and Dawkins was suddenly holding Josh upright from the scuffle. He pushed him forward and there was McKenzie Slim - no mirrors, no tricks - just the point blank target.
This time Josh of Allentown did not fire into the stage. This time he hit his acrobat spy. This time was different!
McKenzie Slim did the impossible! He leapt onto his high-wire flier chord and it ripped up to the platform - all eyes on him. Slim cleared not only his one target for Big Iron in the span of one stunt - but two! Slim swung across stage and barreled into two vice cops who arrested him where he landed!