The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
Brisco & Poole
San Francisco in December
It had been a long, hard ride down to San Francisco. The City was all lit up for the Christmas holiday, oil lamps hanging from wires to give an extra festive touch to the downtown buildings and pine boughs hung to bring the smell of the forest into the city. It was beautiful in its own way, but Brisco was tired after riding five days in from Sutter Creek and he just wanted to lay his head down on a feather bed and sleep. You paid extra for that, but it was well worth it.
He just about made it too, when there was a knock on the door of his very private, back-of-the-building sleeping room.
“What the heck?” thought Brisco as he opened the door. To his surprise, his old friend Socrates Poole was leaning wearily on the door frame. “Socrates? What brings you here? Shouldn’t you be with your sister back east for the holidays?” Strains of holiday music wafted up the staircase and down the hallway. It was kinda nice. For the first few hours.
Socrates looked completely shook up, even for Socrates. “Brisco,” Soc was out of breath too. “I…”
“Oh, hell, Socrates come in and sit down a spell before ya pass out!” Brisco opened the door and waved the bothered little man in.
Socrates walked in, but turned to Brisco, “There’s no time to sit down, Brisco. Lee Pow has sent for help!”
Brisco sat on the straight backed chair in the room. “To you?”
Socrates shook his head. “To Dixie, but she told me figuring I could find you faster.”
Brisco nodded, stood, put on his gun belt and headed for the door. “Come on, Soc, you can fill me in on the way.”
“You can catch your breath on the way too, Soc.” And with that, Brisco opened the door, walked out into the hallway and was awash in more holiday music.
“Soc? Why is the music so loud? They must not be able to hear themselves in the hall!”
“Wha—? Oh, no, it’s not loud, Brisco. It’s one of those “Coming Things” you talk about so much. They’ve built a tube to literally pipe the music up into the hallway. Look, see?” Socrates pointed up and Brisco could see a hole in the ceiling. If he walked toward the pipe, the music got louder.
“Well, I’ll be damned! Look at that!” Brisco seemed amazed at the sight.
“Lee Pow is waiting in his shop. I understand he’s in quite a hurry?”
“Right. Lead on, Socrates.”
They walked into Lee Pow’s shop in Chinatown and saw nothing amiss. They also didn’t see Lee Pow. “Socrates? Wher—“
Brisco didn’t get to finish that question as he was knocked out cold. When he came to, he was in a dark room. It smelled like it might be Lee Pow’s storeroom. He couldn’t see much, as dark as it was. But he could hear quiet, regular breathing near him.
The next thing Brisco saw was a bright flash. He closed his eyes reflexively at that, but it was just Socrates, sitting up and lighting a match. “Brisco?” Socrates was squinting. He’d apparently lost his glasses in the interim.
“Give me that, Soc.” Brisco took the match and tried to figure out where they were. He could jut make out that it was storeroom when, “Ow! Damn match!”
Socrates couldn’t help a small giggle. Brisco was irritated, but kept searching. He felt for doors and any window, though the latter was unlikely given how dark it was. He found a door in a long wall and started to try to get it open.
Again, he heard the Christmas music. This time he looked for the pipe Socrates has pointed out in his hallway and found one near the door. How many places in this crazy city had this new musical piping?
“Just a minute, Soc, I think I’ve got this door.” Brisco leaned into it with his shoulder while he picked the lock with this knife. The door opened easily and he found himself in a room with a little more light, but not much more space. “Another storage room? How many does Lee Pow need?”
Brisco looked around the room, trying to get his bearings. “Socrates, any idea how long we were out?”
“Um , no, Brisco. My watch seems to have broken.”
“How convenient,” opined Brisco.
“Did Lee Pow tell you what he needed or why it was urgent?”
“Not so much. Just that I should bring you to the shop as soon as I could.”
“That’s odd,” Brisco stopped at a large door.
“What is?” asked Socrates.
“The door is warm…”
“A fire?” The panic in his voice was palpable.
“No, not that warm, Soc, calm down.” Brisco leaned into the door to see if he could figure it out before he opened it.
“Socrates,” Brisco whispered now, “I don’t know what’s on the other side of this door, but given our reception so far, I’d hide behind a pillar over there if I were you. Whatever’s on the other side of this door may not be all that happy to see us.”
Socrates nodded and disappeared behind a pillar.
Brisco felt the handle, noted it was locked and picked it with his knife, just like the other door.
As the door opened, he figured out why it had felt warm. It was sitting next to a wood burning stove that was lit. The whole room was lit, in fact. And it was filled with people he knew hollering Merry Christmas!
“What the heck?” Brisco was confused. A state he’d been in most of the day as he thought about it.
Dixie walked up to him, holding a small branch with leaves and berries. “Merry Christmas, Brisco” she purred as she kissed him on the cheek. “There’s more where that came from,” she whispered as she walked past him. Lee Pow smiled from his chair and waved, Lord Bowler was standing in back with a Santa hat and mug full of something Brisco was sure was leaded, “Happy, Merry!” Brisco nodded at Lord Bowler than turned to see what Socrates was up to, only to find him smiling over a mug of hot chocolate he’s taken from the top of the stove.
“Gotcha, Brisco!” Socrates looked positively smug.
“We couldn’t resist using the piped music, Brisco. Isn’t it GREAT?” Professor Wickwire had walked up behind him and Brisco about jumped out of his skin.
“Um, yea, professor. Coming Thing and all.” Brisco didn’t want to pop Wickwire’s happy balloons. Amanda Wickwire walked by, pressed a hot cider into his hands and waved.
Lee Pow looked up at Brisco and smiled, “It was urgent, Brisco.”
“How so, Lee Pow?”
“You spending Christmas alone in a hotel room was a crime – getting you down here to join us and celebrate with your friends was very urgent, don’t you think?”
Brisco smiled as he sat at the table with Lee Pow, “Fair enough, Lee Pow.”
He held up a tray of fortune cookies and smiled, “Have a cookie.”
Brisco grinned, “Still better if I add the words “between the sheets” to my fortune?”
Lee Pow laughed, “Always, Brisco. Always.”