Written by Stephen


As the man slumped onto the cold, hard, concrete floor, Joe stepped back in shock.  Suddenly sheriff Roy Coffee burst through the door. He took one look at the body on the floor, then up to Joe, who was holding his pistol.  Roy stopped in his tracks: it couldn’t have been what it looked like. Surely Joe couldn’t murder anyone. Roy walked over to Joe, who was now sitting down in the corner looking very scared. 
Roy began quietly. “What happened?” 

Joe looked towards the body, and then he looked at the gun, which was still clenched in his own hand. 
 “I, I,” Joe couldn’t finish his sentence; he wiped away tears from eyes. “I’m sorry!” 

The sheriff helped Joe to his feet, Roy was confused.  He found it hard to believe Joe Cartwright could do anything like that. He found it hard to even convince himself that Joe had murdered the owner of the bank.    

“C’mon, Joe, you better come with me!” Roy mumbled.  They headed out of the bank doors and across to the jail. 




The jail cell was in a poor state.  There were horrible marks on the wall that made him feel very uncomfortable.   The cell door opened and Sheriff Coffee walked in. 

“Are you ready to tell me what happened over there Joe?” Roy asked,
Joe couldn’t look at the sheriff in the eyes, he felt too ashamed.  He stared down at his boots and sniffed a few times. 

“He used my gun…” Joe hesitated, no matter how much he told the truth it still sounded like he murdered the bank owner. 

“Who did?” Roy asked patiently, “Who shot the bank owner?”

“I don’t know, he used my gun!” Joe repeated.  The sheriff decided to leave it until the morning when Joe had some rest. 
 “I will ride out to the Ponderosa and get your family.”
Roy tried to crack a smile but all he could manage was a slight frown.  He walked out of the sheriff office and slammed the door behind him. 

Joe waited until he had heard Roy gallop off on his horse. He put his hands against the wall, and bowed his head.  He felt as if the whole world had turned against him.  He started to pray, “I don’t know if you can hear me, but please send an answer, Amen.”




Dadburnit, Adam, why do you always beat me at a game of checkers?” Hoss complained,

“Its just practice!” Adam boasted.  He brushed his fingers thorough his thick black hair.  Ben shook his head, “Hoss, the reason that Adam always wins is…”
He didn’t have time to finish when there was a loud knock at the door. 
 “So, Pa, why does Adam win all the time?” Hoss asked quickly,
Ben looked at Hoss. “Maybe it is just because you can’t play very well!” 

Ben opened the door and Roy Coffee walked in,  Howdy, Ben” he began, “I think you better come with me. I have had to arrest Joe on suspicion of murder!”
Ben stared at
Roy, “What, Joe?” Ben asked in shock, “It can’t be, Joe isn’t like that!” 

“I’m sorry, Ben, but I walked into the bank just after I heard the gunfire and Joe was standing there with the gun!”

Ben grabbed his thick jacket and his hat, and then Adam and Hoss did the same.  They all ran out of the door and untied their horses and rode off towards Virginia City.

Joe’s hands were shaking, he felt as if he was cut off from the entire world.  Had he not gone into the bank at that time, the shooting would not have happened, the cell got darker; Joe sat up and rubbed his exhausted eyes.   He decided to get up and walk around, then he heard the turning of the key to the sheriffs’ office and hoped that would be the rest of his family coming to get him out. 
 “Pa!” Joe shouted; there was silence.  Joe repeated “Pa,” this time it was more cautious.
The door to the cell room swung open.  “Billy, what are you doing here?” Joe asked in shock.

Billy Hislop was the murdered bank owner’s son. 
 “ Surprised to see me Cartwright?” he asked, angrily, “My father was surprised when you walked in and shot him down!”

“How did you get past the deputy?” Joe asked, nervously,

“The deputy was fast asleep, so it was easy!” Billy replied.

Joe edged to the back of the cell.  He had known Billy for years, but with the look on his face, Joe decided to keep the gap between Billy and himself quite large. 
 “Mark my words, Cartwright, when you least expect it I will make you pay for what you have done!”  With those last ferocious words, Billy ran back out of the office.  Joe sat down on the bed and buried his head in his hands. ‘What have I done?’ he thought. 




Ben, Hoss, Adam and Roy jumped off their horses and tied them to the rail outside the sheriff’s office.  Ben was the first one to enter the building.  He didn’t hesitate to walk into the cell room.  “Joe,” Ben said quietly, “You ok?”

Joe looked up, he looked very withdrawn.  Yeh, Pa, I’m fine!”

Ben felt very sorry for his youngest son.  Although he was found in the same room as the bank owner, holding the gun, he didn’t believe that Joe had murdered anyone.

 “Joe, we are going to get you a fair trial,” Joe’s eldest brother, Adam, announced.

 “Thanks, Adam” Joe said gratefully.

“Joe,” Hoss said, in his loud foghorn voice, “We all gonna stay here tonight, make sure you are ok!”

Joe looked up at his big brother and gave him a small smile.  “I didn’t do anything, Hoss!” Joe whimpered.

Hoss hung his head and walked out of the door with the rest of the family and Roy. 


Adam sat down on a chair in the sheriff’s office.  He put his head in his hands and looked up at Ben. 
 “We can’t just sit here and do nothing, we need to prove Joe is innocent,” Adam said, in a low voice.

“Well, I saw Joe standing there with the gun, so it will be pretty tough trying to find someone to admit to the murder!” Roy said, trying not to show his deep concern.  It was obvious that Roy had no idea what to believe.  As usual, his lower lip was up over his moustache, as he usually did when he had a problem. 

Adam picked up his coat and his hat. “Well, you don’t all need to come but I am going to find the person that framed my little brother!”

“Wait” Ben shouted. “Take Hoss with you, I will stay here make sure Joe is ok!”

Adam and Hoss were about to leave the building when two young women walked in through the doors.
 “Hello. Can I help you?”
Roy asked.
 “I don’t know,” the first one started. “We are looking for Joseph Cartwright, do you know where he is?” 

Ben stood up and walked over to the girls stretching out his hand to shake their hands.
 “ I am Ben Cartwright, Josephs father!” he began “Who might you be?”
 The one with the red hair stepped forward. “My name is Rhonda, and this is my sister Clarabelle, we were Joes friends from school!”
 Ben gestured for the girls to sit down.  “Well..” He stopped, he had no idea how to explain the situation, “Joe is through there in a cell, he has been accused of murder.”

The girls gasped, “Joe, accused of murder?” Rhonda repeated in shock, “When?”

“Last night,” Ben replied.

The girls looked at each other, Clarabelle stood up and walked over to Ben. 
 “I don’t know if this will help, but when we rode into
Virginia City, we were mugged by a tall man on a brown and white pinto heading for Devils Mountain, we didn’t get a chance to see his face. He had some sort of cloth covering it!”

Ben smiled briefly and put his arm around Clarabelle, “That might be Joe’s ticket out of jail, thank you, you can go through to see him if you wish!”

Both the girls looked up and smiled and wandered through the door to the cell.  




Joe was thrown across the room, and he hit the wall with a huge impact.  He glanced up and saw a pitchfork heading his way; obviously it had been thrown at him.  It plunged into his chest, he felt a searing pain, and he looked up and saw the deceased bank owner standing laughing.  He slid down the wall, and collapsed onto the floor. Everything went black.




Joe awoke with beads of sweat pouring down his forehead.  He realised it all had been a dream.  The worst part of it was, he woke from the dream and entered a nightmare in a cell.  He looked through the bars of the cell and saw two familiar figures sitting on wooden stools.  He recognised them at once.

“Hi Joe!” Rhonda said softly. “We were coming to see you and we heard the terrible news that you had been arrested!”

Joe sighed, even though he was in a small revolting cell, he still couldn’t help himself hyperventilating over the two beauties he once knew.

He couldn’t keep his eyes off them, was he still dreaming?  He hadn’t spoken to them in at least five years.  He built up the courage and walked over to the cell door. 
 “What, what are you doing here?” he asked, nervously,

“We have some evidence that will hopefully help you out!” Clarabelle said. 
Joe gave them a grateful nod, and went and sat back down on his bed. 

“Thank you, girls, but I need to rest now, so could you please just leave me alone for a while? I need to think things over!” Joe finished. 



The next day, Ben, Hoss and Adam rode through Virginia City and were headed to the saloon.  When they reached there, they could hardly get in the door as it was so busy.  Ben managed to barge his way through the crowd and up to the bar.

“Ted!” he called.  The barman didn’t hear him. So he repeated “Ted!” This time the man turned his head and gave Ben a smile. 
”Ben Cartwright, I haven’t seen you in a while, where have you been?” Ted said cheerfully. 
”Listen Ted” Ben began “A couple of days ago my son Joseph was framed for murder, could you tell me anything about a stranger riding into town about then?”

Ted rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “Well I do recall a man wearing a black suit, and he stopped in here and ordered two bottles of Polque to take away with him. He was going to somewhere called Devil’s Mountain, I think!” he finished. 
Ben nodded his head, and thanked Ted and pushed his way back through the crowds to the doors, where Adam and Hoss where standing. 

“Did you find anything out?” Hoss asked.

“Get yourselves ready,” Ben started. “We are riding to Devils Mountain!”
 “What!” Adam exclaimed. “It will take us two days to get there,”

“If that is what it takes to get Joe freed, I am willing to go that distance!” Ben said angrily. “If you have any respect for Joe at all, you will come with Hoss and me to Devil’s Mountain.”

Adam untied his horse and smiled at Ben “Let’s go!” he said.



An exhausting two days later, Ben, Hoss and Adam reached the foot of Devils Mountain. 
 “He could be anywhere up there!” Adam moaned. “How will we find him?”

“We will split up” Ben began nervously; he didn’t want to break up his family any more than it already was. “Meet back here in four hours!”

So the three split up, Hoss kept looking over his shoulder. He was anxious, because it was the first time he had gone up Devils Mountain on his own.

Ben galloped up the north facing side of the mountain. Adam went around the bottom of the mountain. 


Ben jumped off Buck, and started walking.  It was getting too steep for the horse. So he urged it onwards.  Suddenly Ben saw some smoke billowing from behind some trees.  He tied Buck to a tree, and headed off in the direction of the smoke. 

Ben could now see a brown and white pinto, tied to a tree.  He remembered the two girls saying that the stranger had a brown and white pinto.   He ran through the thick grass, and stopped when there was a clearing.  He could see a tall man, with a thick black moustache. Ben drew his pistol, and jumped through the bushes.  The man quickly turned around and was surprised to see Ben standing with a pistol pointed at him.

“Don’t even think of trying anything” Ben said to the stranger.
 “Sorry, but do I know you?” the stranger asked.

 “Ben Cartwright. My son is the one you framed for murder!” Ben shouted.

“What are you talkin’ about, old-timer?” he asked.
 “You murdered a bank owner in
Virginia City five days ago!” Ben fumed. “You also mugged two girls outside Virginia City as well!”
The stranger smiled, “I’m sorry, friend, but you’ve got the wrong person.  Gerald F. Dooley is my name!”

“We have had witnesses saying they saw you entering the bank, when the owner was murdered!” Ben said.  He felt as if he was getting nowhere with this interrogation. 
 “If you didn’t do it, then you wouldn’t mind coming back to
Virginia City for a court case, since you don’t have anything to hide,” he finished. 
Dooley jumped up, and walked over to his horse. “Sorry, Mr. Cartwright, but I need to get to
San Francisco by Friday.  Otherwise I would!”

Ben cocked his gun, and said, “I insist, if you want to get to San Francisco at all I would come with me!”
The man obeyed him and jumped onto his horse, and said cheerfully to Ben “After you old timer!”

They headed back down the mountain with Ben making sure Dooley was riding in front, so he could keep an eye on him.  When they finally reached the bottom, Adam and Hoss were already waiting there. 
Pa. Who is that?” Hoss asked.
 “This is Gerald Dooley, he is the one who framed Joe and mugged the girls!” Ben replied

 “How do you know it is him?” Adam asked quietly, “After all there are many people up on the mountain,”

“He has the brown and white pinto as Ted said, and I found this on him!” Ben produced a piece of cloth that was obviously used to mask Dooley’s face. 
 “We better get back to
Virginia City, Joes trial is in two days time!” Hoss said as he was jumping back onto his horse.  So they all headed back to town, with high hopes that the mask was enough evidence to free Joe. 


Joe was awoken by the key turning in the cell door lock.  He sat up in his bed and stretched. 
 “What’s going on?” Joe asked to Roy who was now standing over him.
 “It is your court case today Joe!”
Roy replied despondently, “We better get you freshened up!”

 Joe stood up; he was still wearing the same clothes he had been wearing on the day of the shooting and he felt as if he had not washed in days. 
 “Is my family there?” Joe slurred. “I am not going if my family aren’t there!”

 “They’re not back from Devils Mountain yet, we can’t delay the court case any longer!” Roy replied.

 Joe nodded, and accompanied Roy to the washroom. 
  After he was made presentable. 
Roy led Joe to the courtroom on the other side of the street.
 “You wait here Joe while I go and get the keys from the caretaker!”
Roy said as he walked around the side of the building.  
 Joe was wondering why,
Roy had left him on his own after all he was accused of murder.   He turned around to lean against he wall, when he came face to face with Billy Hislop.  This time he wasn’t alone.  There were at least five other tall men with him.  Joe edged back against the wall, feeling petrified. 
 “I told you to watch your back Cartwright!” Hislop spat. “There is nowhere for you to run! Get him boys!” he ordered his companions.  The five men jumped onto Joe.  Joe fought back, he knocked one back with a blinding punch.  That let his guard down, which gave another one the chance to punch Joe in the stomach.  Joe bent over double and moaned.  He decided not to stand there defenceless.  He stood straight up again and charged at the men.  He realised that was a foolish move.  He was knocked to the ground with an almighty blow to the head.  He touched his forehead and brought his hand back down and looked at it.  It was red with blood.  Next thing he knew, there were boots kicking him in the chest and his face.  Joe yelped and yelped in pain.  He felt his arm getting wrenched in the wrong direction, which gave out a sickly crack.  Joe yelled in agony.  The final blow came from Billy Hislop who stamped on Joe’s collarbone. 
Joe passed out, due to the excruciating pain.



Hoss, Ben, Adam and Dooley rode into Virginia City.  Ben squinted in the sunlight, and asked, “What is that?” he pointed to an object lying motionless in front of the courtroom. 
 “It’s Joe “ Hoss yelled and kicked his horse into a gallop.  They reached Joe, who was bleeding quite badly. 
 “Joe” Ben said distraughtly, “Are you ok?”
 There was no response.  Ben went over to his son’s body and picked him up. 
 “Let’s get him back to the Ponderosa, he’s too badly injured to stand trial!”
 Roy, who finally found the key walked around the side of the building.  
 “What happened here?” he asked in shock.
 “We don’t know, but we can guess who did it!” Ben replied.
 “Billy Hislop!” Hoss and Adam chorused. 
Roy looked annoyed, “We can’t charge Hislop…” He stopped what he was saying, and rubbed his head. “We have only got Joes word for it, and since he has been accused of murder, we cannot believe him!”

Ben looked at Roy angrily. “This trial can’t go ahead until Doc Martin looks at Joe!”

“We can’t delay the trial anymore!” Roy retorted.

 “Listen Roy” Ben said in a calm voice, “Joe needs some medical attention quickly, you can come with us if you want.  We need to get him back to the Ponderosa”

 Roy nodded, “We will delay the trial until tomorrow,”

 “We need to make sure this man doesn’t get away, can we put him into one of your cells?” Adam asked.

 Yeh sure!” Roy agreed, “Wait a minute, I recognise him, its Gerald Dooley isn’t it?”
 “Sure is
Roy” Hoss said cheerfully.

 “He has been arrested before for rustling horses, lets get him inside” Roy said grabbing Dooley and pulling him into the jail cell.



Up at the Ponderosa, Ben laid his son onto his bed.  He sat on the bed next too Joe and smoothed his hair. 
 “I wish this nightmare was over!” Ben said to himself.  He didn’t notice at that point Joe had opened his eyes.
 “Pa,” Joe whimpered. “I wish it was over too!”
  Ben smiled, and bent over and kissed his son’s forehead.  “It will be soon, my son, I promise you that!”
 Tears rolled out of Joe’s eyes. He sniffed and looked at his Pa, “Did you catch him Pa?” he asked,
 “Who?” Ben asked confused,

“Dooley, he was the one that shot the bank owner!” Joe said, feeling exhausted.
 Ben smiled, “That is all we need to know Joe!” Ben stood up, “Thank you son”
He walked out of the door, and Joe rolled over onto his side and fell fast asleep.



Ben bounded down the stairs, “Hoss, Adam, Roy!” he yelled. “Joe has given me some crucial evidence!”

“What is it Pa?” Adam asked, “What did he say?”

“He said it was Dooley who shot the bank owner!” Ben replied excitedly.

“Well, the only thing we need to do now is to get Joe to say that in court and he is free!” Roy said hopefully.

“Give him a day or so, he is exhausted!” Ben said with a smile.

Roy agreed and said “So long Ben!” he walked out of the front door.
 “I think this nightmare is over Pa!” Hoss said merrily. 




Two days later Joe sat in the chair next to the judge. 
 “Joseph Cartwright, can you tell me in your own words what happened in the bank on that day?” the judge said in a strict voice.  

 Joe lifted his only free arm, and rubbed his forehead.
 “Well, it started as I walked into the bank, when I noticed Dooley was looking very suspicious.  He seemed shocked that I had walked in at that time of morning!”
 “What exactly were you doing in there at that time of the morning?” the judge asked.
 “I was handing in the Ponderosas takings from the week before.  Dooley let me go first which at first I thought nothing of.  Then he grabbed my gun from behind.  He shot the bank owner, then grabbed my hands and shoved the gun in it.  I was frozen with shock; I had no idea what to do!  Then Dooley went into the Back of the bank and somehow he escaped.  Then at that point Sheriff Coffee walked in.”
 “That will do Joseph, may I have Gerald F. Dooley onto the witness box please.” The Judge asked. 
Dooley walked proudly up to the box.  “Howdy your honour. How are you this fine day?” he asked complacently. 

“Would you please tell me what you were doing on the day of the murder?” the judge asked.
 “Certainly!” Dooley began “All I know is that this kind gentleman here, Mr Cartwheel brought me down here against my will and I have no idea what this kid here is talking about.” He gestured towards Joe, who glared at him.  

The judge rubbed his head thoughtfully.  “Have you got any proof that you didn’t commit this murder?” The judge asked Dooley. 
 “No sir I don’t!” Dooley said, he sounded very convincing. 

Suddenly the doors swung open and the girls from the jail walked into the room with another two males behind them.
 “What is the meaning of this?” the judge demanded.
 “We have two witnesses who said they saw Dooley running out of the bank!” Clarabelle said in her quiet but firm voice. 
 The judge nodded.  “Well since we have this new evidence, I believe that Joseph Cartwright is innocent and Gerald F. Dooley is guilty of murder.”
Ben turned around to look at his son; Joe was smiling, even though Ben couldn’t make out the smile due to his battered ad bruised face. 
 “Gerald F. Dooley I am arresting you on suspicion of murder!”
Roy said in a firm voice.
 “No” Dooley yelled, “I will not go down for this, yes I did do it, and I enjoyed it.  You want to know why? I enjoy it.  Well, what about I kill you now?” he turned and grabbed the judge by the throat.  He pulled out his gun.  He fired a shot into the back of the judge.  The judge fell forward.  Ben, Adam and Hoss brought out their guns and shot Dooley dead.

“Is the nightmare over, Pa?” Joe asked,
 “I believe so son, I believe so!”



Next day at the Ponderosa, Ben helped Joe down the stairs.  
 “I sure am glad that you are back safely Joe!” Ben said quietly.
  “Me too Pa, Where are Clarabelle and Rhonda?” Joe asked

 “I don’t know son, they just got up and left, nobody knows where they went!” Ben replied.
 “I didn’t get a chance to thank them or say goodbye.” Joe said shakily, “I am going after them!”
 Joe ran out of the house.  He headed down the steep rocky path towards
Virginia City, when he stopped dead in his tracks.  There standing in front of him were Clarabelle and Rhonda. 
 “You were going to leave without saying goodbye?” Joe asked close to tears.
  “You wanted us to come Joe!” Rhonda replied, “You asked for us”
  “I don’t understand, when?” Joe queried.
   “In your prayer Joseph, in your prayer!” Clarabelle said softly.
   “You’re, You’re….” He couldn’t finish his sentence.  The girls started to glow lighter then lighter.  Finally they disappeared. Joe couldn’t believe his eyes.  He heard a distance voice, saying softly “Just look inside your heart and there you will find us!”

The soft, sweet voice trailed off into the distance. 
Joe turned around to find Adam, Hoss and Ben running down towards him.  He smiled contentedly. 
 “Did you find them Joe?” Ben asked.

 Yeh Pa, I found them,” Joe smiled and headed back to the Ponderosa.