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The Essay
Show #521
Black Bart
David Gunn

Black Bart, the meanest desperado west o' Deadman's Gulch, peered out from the entrance to his hideout at the Old Diablo Mine. He thought he'd heard a sound, like the approach o' horses. But as he scanned the horizon, he couldn't spot nuthin' out of the ordinary. Just desert scrub as far as the eye could see. Bart lowered his shotgun and scratched his whiskers pensively. He was gettin' mighty jumpy of late. Maybe the stress from all them bank robberies was finally beginnin' to take its toll! But then he glanced down at the umpteen bags o' loot at his feet. Nah! No pain, no gain!, he chuckled to himself, and turned away.

Up on the ridge, the Lone Ranger and Tonto had stood stock still after crossing Cripple Creek. They realized at once they'd ridden their horses too far--right into view of the mine! But fortunately, Lone Ranger was wearing his cactus hat, and the lifelike camouflage had concealed them. Up till then, the hat had been the butt of many jokes from Tonto. Whenever Lone Ranger greeted the ladies, he liked to tip his hat, and he always wound up with a handful of spines. But now, Tonto would think twice before ridiculing his partner's headgear.

Just then, a swarm of hornets buzzed by. Lone Ranger instinctively swatted at them. He missed--but he didn't miss his hat. "Yeow!" he howled. Well, Black Bart was sure he heard somethin' this time. He looked over by the creek and noticed a wobbling saguaro where there hadn't been a cactus before. Bart drew a bead on it and fired. "Yeow!" repeated Lone Ranger, as the buckshot strafed his right side. "Let's get outta here, Tonto!" he shouted, but his Indian sidekick was already galloping away. "Hi-ho, Silver!" urged Lone Ranger. As the fiery horse with the speed of light kicked into high gear, the masked man automatically grabbed hold of his hat so it wouldn't fall off. "Yeow!" he hollered yet again.

Black Bart watched the saguaro skedaddle off into the distance--the hat's camouflage was so good that he never did spot Long Ranger--then he stomped back into the mine's salle à manger where he'd left his prisoner hog-tied. "Someone was pokin' around out there jus' now, but I scared 'im off." Bart nodded to his shotgun and smirked. "Now, you was about to tell me who ya really are an' what you're doin' here."

Lulu LaTouche, the coroner of Deadman's Gulch and the purtiest public official in all o' northwest Arizona, glowered at Bart with a mixture of disapproval and even more disapproval. Sure, underneath her form-fitting chaps and drover vest she was Wonder Woman, the raven-haired Amazonian warrior princess who, with a mere flick of her hand, could instantly reduce this mine to rubble. But that was a secret identity she was not keen to reveal. Besides, her hands were trussed up good and, for now, there weren't no way she could flick 'em.

"I tol' you, Bart," she said evenly. "I'm Miss LaTouche, the coroner, and I was jus' inspectin' all them dead bodies up yonder by the creek when you bushwhacked me." She stared at him. "You say that they all died o' natural causes, but they're all riddled with bullet holes. So how natural is that?"

Black Bart didn't have no answer, leastwise not one that'd appease a coroner, if that's what she really was. She was so purty that he didn't really wanna plug her, so he repaired to the Old Diablo's solarium to figure out what to do with her and also to plan his next heist.

Meanwhile, well back on the ridge, Tonto was at work extracting cactus needles from the swollen hand o' Lone Ranger. "Yeow!" exclaimed the latter for the umpteenth time. "Tonto, I'm sure Black Bart has Miss Lulu LaTouche in that mine somewhere. How we gonna rescue her?"

Tonto reached into Scout's saddlebag and pulled out a silvery iridescent cape. "You try cactus hat, Kemosabe. Not work. Now me try my cloak." With a practiced flick of his wrist, he unfurled the cape around his shoulders--and instantly vanished! Lone Ranger gaped in awe. "What the ...?" he stammered. "Tonto? Where'd ya go?" From a shimmerin' displacement o' space-time an inch in front of the masked man's nose came a disembodied voice. "Heap powerful magic of Potowatomi Indians allow me to walk with no-see-ums. Here medicine for hand." And suddenly from a rift in the no-see-um world Tonto's hand appeared proffering thirty peyote buttons. Lone Ranger accepted them gratefully. Then the rift closed and Tonto's hand disappeared. The masked man watched as the shimmerin' shadow moved towards the mine with amazin' speed. Or maybe that was just the general anesthetic goin' to work.

Tonto stood on the porch of the mine and peered through the window. No one in sight. He opened the door and slipped silently inside. Well, almost silently. One of the floorboards creaked, and that brought Black Bart scurrying down from the solarium. "Who's there?!" he snarled, waving his shotgun this way and that. The desperado stepped right past Tonto, who reached out o' the no-see-um space-time displacement and brained him. Then he crept back to the salle à manger, where the comely coroner had managed to work her left leg free.

One of Wonder Woman's talents was the ability to see into other dimensions, so Tonto was unable to sneak up on her. Good thing, too, because the otherwise faithful Indian companion had an agenda wholly different from Lone Ranger's, one that involved either the word "squaw" or "squawk," depending on one's interpretation o' the Potowatomi ideogram. So when Tonto sidled up to her preparing to spring the old "stuff woman into bag" trick, she eluded his grasp and instead nailed him in the noggin with an Amazon Death Kick. It didn't really kill the Indian, but it did render him unconscious for the rest o' this story.

And with Lone Ranger and Black Bart out o' commission and Wonder Woman still securely tied up, who's left to take the reins o' this 521st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar? By process of elimination--meanin' me, Damian--I'd reckon it'll have to be Kalvos.