Turnabout

          by leigh  starmaid@mailexcite.com

 

The elevator doors opened silently and Alex looked around before stepping off. No one in sight. Good so far. She walked down the corridor toward the office that was her goal a short distance away. The door was decorated with bats and spider webs. Halloween week. 'Time for a little trick or two,' she thought with a smile. Sticking her head carefully inside the door to the office for Texas Rangers Company B, Alex took a quick look around and breathed a sigh of relief. Empty. Perfect! She slipped inside and hurried over to the area where they kept a pot of coffee always hot. It was early, barely seven a.m., but there was almost always someone in this office day or night, and she wanted to get this little job done before anyone caught sight of her. Reaching into a bag she carried, Alex pulled out a white mug and quickly exchanged it for a similar one that sat in the nook where Walker always placed his. Giggling, she shoved his mug into the bag and hurried out the door, wishing she could be there later!

 

A little over an hour later, Walker and Trivette arrived at the office to begin a routine day. With no major cases pending, it would be a day of cleaning up details and finishing up reports. Unless, of course, something better came up. Walker hoped that would be so, paperwork gave him a headache.

 

"Where was Alex this morning?" Trivette was asking, "She usually makes it to breakfast at C.D.'s."

 

"She had a deposition. A witness that could only be available early, so she had to be at his lawyers office by seven-thirty this morning to get it done." Walker told him. "We're gonna have lunch later though, if you want to come along."

 

Trivette shot his partner an amused look. "Yeah, Alex would love that Walker! Funny guy!"

 

Walker's response was pained, "Trivette, we're going to have lunch at C.D.'s for crying out loud. Will you quit trying to read a rendezvous into every time Alex and I get together?"

 

"Somebody's gotta do it, Pard!" Trivette answered with a barely suppressed chuckle.

 

With a glare that spoke volumes, Walker headed for the coffee pot. He grabbed his mug and filled it quickly, barely paying attention to his actions as he added the tiniest amount of sugar and cream. Then he picked up the mug and strode to his desk. Might as well get started now. The hated chore wasn't going to go away any faster if he didn't get to it. Settling into his chair, he sipped the hot coffee then set the mug to his side and opened the first file in front of him, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Trivette was doing the same. He sighed, wishing for a bank robbery. Sometimes he just couldn't get a break.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Trivette rose and went to Walker's desk, "Walker, do you have the Jenkins statement? It's missing from the file."

 

"Yeah, I think so."

 

After a few minutes shuffling through the mess his desk has already become, Walker recovered the pages and handed them over. Then he leaned back and stretched.

 

"I feel like we've been at this for hours already," he commented, reaching for his coffee.

 

"I know the feeling..." Trivette began, then his face suddenly split into a grin.

 

"What?"

 

Trivette just smiled even more. "Ummm. Nothing. I'd better get back to work. Thanks."

 

He turned quickly and hustled back to his seat, Walker's eyes on him every step of the way. 'Now what was that about?' Walker wondered, taking another sip of coffee and then focusing on the page in front of him once more.

 

Intent on the task before him, Walker missed Trivette's hurried comments to Pat Luker, another Ranger. And in the everyday bustle of morning in the office, he paid no attention to an escalating series of 'conferences' going on as others came and went in the course of daily routine. He DID notice that he was interrupted frequently as he tried to work. It seemed that this morning of all mornings, everyone just had to come over and say hello. And they all were smiling. Walker found himself trying to unobtrusively check and make sure his jeans were zipped. His confused looks only added to the general hysteria that was building in the room. Walker looked over at Trivette. His partner was hunched over his computer, apparently hard at work, but Walker saw his shoulders trembling with stifled laughter. Enough was enough! Grabbing his coffee, Walker went to Trivette's desk and stood directly behind him.

 

"Okay, what's so funny this morning?" he finally pressed.

 

Trivette spun around in his chair, watched as Walker finished drinking his coffee, and burst into laughter. As if a dam had been broken, everyone else in the room echoed the sentiment and the chorus of merriment was nearly deafening.

 

"Trivette....." Walker growled, completely at a loss and beginning to become defensive now.

 

It took Trivette a moment or two to regain his composure, and in that time most of the others hushed themselves too. Watching and waiting for the response that was sure to follow.

 

Finally Trivette managed to speak, "Ummm, Walker? Where'd you get the coffee mug?"

 

Walker shook his head in exasperation, "Trivette, I've had this mug for years. You know that."

 

His partner grinned again. "Not that one, Walker!" he replied with a shake of his head.

 

Slowly Walker studied the now empty mug he held in his hand. Turning it around, he noticed for the first time that it wasn't emblazoned with the Ranger star and Company B insignia that usually decorated his mug. Stenciled on the front of the cup was a perfect caricature of Walker.....in tights and with a long flowing cape! Above it was lettered, 'RANGER MAN', and below, the words 'Kicking Butt for Truth, Justice, and the American Way!'

 

Stunned, Walker shifted his gaze from the offending image to his partner. "Trivette......" he menaced.

 

"Don't look at me, pard!" Trivette defended laughingly as he threw his hands in the air, "I had nothing to do with it! I love it, but I had nothing to do with it!"

 

Slowly Walker looked around the room at the crowd surrounding them, most of the faces barely refraining from another outburst of hilarity. He could feel his color rising, this was going to be all over the building before the day was out. Hell, it was gonna be all over Dallas!

 

"Walker," Trivette pulled his attention back, "there's something else on the bottom of the cup."

 

Tipping the mug to look at the bottom, Walker read one last message.....Trick or Treat Cowboy!

 

He suddenly understood completely.

 

"Alex." he moaned with a roll of his eyes.

 

Alex loved a good practical joke, Walker knew that. How many times had she said that her favorite holidays were April Fools Day and Halloween? How many times had she regaled them all with tales of tricks played on others? Something about an alarm clock in a floral arrangement at church leapt to mind. And she'd been known to absolutely destroy the drama of a moment in a movie or television show by telling him what SHE would have done in that situation. He remembered a show they had watched together one evening..... the main character lay in a coma, a nurse came in and rolled him on his side to administer a shot.....and Alex had begun laughing almost hysterically. Finally he had forced it out of her, 'Oh Walker! He's so lucky! If I'd been the actress playing that nurse....I'd have had an ice cube in my hand!' Even now, he couldn't watch a scene like that without chuckling over the idea.

 

Alex definitely had a wicked sense of humor! But generally, for proprieties sake, she refrained from acting out the stunts that leapt into her head. Apparently, this time the temptation had been too great. And Walker was the beneficiary.....

 

Alex stepped off the elevator and was greeted by a muffled roar of laughter. He knew! She couldn't stand it, she had to see. She hurried down the corridor and slipped silently through the door, taking it all in with a sweep of her eyes. The cluster of people chuckling around Trivette's desk. Jimmy laughing with his hands in the air. And Walker, standing in the center of it all, beet red and holding a white coffee mug in his hand. Her eyes danced.

 

Walker felt someone enter the room and cut his eyes to the door to spot her standing there, grinning from ear to ear. "Alex," he repeated in  a low, dangerous rumble.

 

"Uh-oh! Busted!" Alex giggled as she turned and made for the sanctity of her office.

 

Walker wasn't far behind. "Alex!"

 

"Go get her, Ranger-Man!" someone called after him.

 

"Yeah," another voice agreed, "Don't let that dangerous criminal get away!"

 

The last voice he heard was Trivette's, laughter ringing in the words, "Kick butt, Ranger-Man!"

 

He was stopped outside the office door by Alex's secretary, Gina, "I'm sorry Ranger Walker, but Miss Cahill is in conference and can't be disturbed."

 

"Well, she's about to be disturbed anyway!" he growled, striding past the young woman and barging into Alex's office.

 

Alex was seated behind her desk, her face a reflection of pure joy. In her hand she pointedly held a steaming mug of hot coffee. THIS mug had the Texas Ranger's insignia and Walker knew it was his own.

 

"Coffee, cowboy?" Alex asked, trying unsuccessfully to not giggle.

 

"Alex!" He found himself struggling to make his voice stern. She'd embarrassed him, and he knew that this particular gag was likely to haunt him for some time, but Walker just couldn't remain angry as he looked into her twinkling blue eyes. Finally he just shook his head and gave her a look that said, 'What am I going to do with you?'

 

Alex was smiling broadly as she rose from behind her desk and approached him. She tapped the door shut with her foot, grateful for the frosted glass in the window, and wrapped her arms around him. Walker returned her embrace, but was still shaking his head in exasperation as he tipped her face up to his. "Alex? Did you have to plant it right in the office? Wouldn't out at the ranch or your place have been enough?"

 

"Oh Walker! A trick's no fun if no one sees it! Besides, it won't be that bad! It's Halloween week, everyone expects a little fun and games to be going on. They'll have forgotten it in a few days," she laughed. "Oh, while I have you here, you're still going to meet me at Gail's at six, right?"

 

"Gail's?"

 

"The costume shop?" she prodded. "You remember.....we still have to decide what we're going to wear to CD's Halloween fund raiser for the Children's Home. Unless you'd rather I just picked something out and brought it to you?"

 

Walker's face took on an exaggeratedly horrified look, "UH-UH! Last time I let you talk me into a costume party, I also let you choose the costumes! Do you have any idea how uncomfortable it was wearing a suit of armor for an entire night? I'll be there....six on the money!"

 

"But you looked so good!" she defended, "And you've always been MY knight in shining armor!"

 

He bent his head to meet her's, and they kissed tenderly for a moment. When they separated at last he threw a rueful look at the door. "I suppose it's time I got back out there and faced the music. The longer I stay in here, the longer they have to think of something to say......."

 

Releasing his arms from around her, Walker pulled the door open to be confronted by a dozen or more curious onlookers waiting outside.

 

"Well, Ranger Man caught up with that desperado," a voice from the back called, "but it looks like he's gonna let her slide this time!"

 

Walker turned to Alex once more, grinning, "You realize, this means war?"

 

She raised her eyebrows in amusement at the challenge. "Give it your best shot, Cowboy!"

 

She let him get halfway back down the hall before she called after him, "Walker?"

 

"Yeh, Alex?" he replied, turning to face her.

 

"Did I mention I could only get that mug by ordering in bulk? I have my Christmas shopping all done!"

 

As the others in the corridor erupted into laughter once more, Alex giggled and disappeared behind her door.

 

Walker could feel the heat rising in his face again as he turned to go back to his own office. Damn! Alex always knew just when to get a dig in for maximum effect!

 

The remainder of the day dragged. And it wasn't just the paperwork, or the sly little 'Ranger-Man' jabs that seemed to come whenever he relaxed for a moment. It was the challenge. Alex had nailed him, nailed him good, and then welcomed his promise of retribution! Walker knew he would get her back, there was no question about that! But it had to be very special.....and very public!

 

Inspiration struck when Walker had finally quit looking. He was clearing up his desk and preparing to leave when Trivette called him over to Joe Murphy's desk.

 

"Hey, Walker," Trivette motioned his partner, "C'mere a sec. You have to see these!"

 

Smiling, he joined the two men. Murphy had an eleven month old daughter named Annie, and, as Walker suspected, he had some new photos to show off.

 

"Get a load of this one, Walker," Trivette said, passing one of the pictures to him. In it, Annie was pictured wearing a little bikini, her diaper poking out all around the edges of the bottoms. She had gotten her father's sunglasses and they were propped half on half off her face as she grinned hugely at the camera. "Man, that is a blackmail photo if I've ever seen one, Joe." Trivette continued, "When she's about sixteen, you want her to mind her manners? Dig that one out and threaten to show it to whatever guy she's got a crush on! Guaranteed to cause attitude adjustment!"

 

Murphy laughed appreciatively. "I'll keep that in mind, Jim," he promised. "I'll probably need all the edge I can get at that point! She's got Dee's mile wide stubborn streak already!"

 

"What do you think, Pard?" Trivette began with a glance in Walker's direction, then he noticed that his partner's gaze seemed fixed somewhere between the wall and nowhere. "Walker? Hey, Walker? You still with us, man?"

 

Walker pulled himself back from his thoughts and smiled hugely at Trivette and Murphy, "Yeah, I'm still here. But I just thought of something that I have to take care of right away. Joe, these pictures are great," he continued, passing the photo back to its owner. "You keep a close watch on her now. She's gonna be a real stunner someday!" With those words, Walker turned and strode back to his desk. He picked up the phone and, referring briefly to his phone list, quickly placed a long distance call to New York. He chuckled softly as the phone began to ring half-way across the country, with any luck by day after tomorrow Alex Cahill would have reason to regret challenging 'Ranger-Man'!

 

Alex was waiting outside Gail's Costume Shop when he arrived a few minutes before six. "Walker! You're on time! That's almost unheard of!" she laughed.

 

He reached out and gave her a squeeze as he reached her side, grinning, "I got a lift from 'Ranger-Man'," he joked. "I didn't want to be late, thinking of you here alone choosing costumes makes me nervous!"

 

She smacked his arm playfully. "It wasn't that bad a costume, Walker, we won a prize as I recall!"

 

"Prizes I can live without, I'd just like to be able to sit down once or twice during the evening...." he scolded as they entered the shop.

 

The inside of the shop was a maze of paths winding between huge racks of costumes. Recognizing the impossibility of choosing something simply by pawing through the selection, Gail had developed a novel solution. Shoppers coming in to look were escorted to small rooms containing a couple of chairs, a table, and stacks of photograph albums. In the albums were photos of each costume available for rent, and when one was found that looked interesting, a clerk could be summoned who would then retrieve the selection for closer inspection and to be tried on if desired. When a large event like CD's charity costume ball arose, Gail also added the service of keeping a database of what outfits had already been chosen to be worn, giving people the opportunity to be sure they weren't picking duplicate costumes.

 

Walker relaxed as Alex happily flipped through the pages of the albums dedicated to 'couple costumes'. She'd already shown him several; King Kong and Fay Wray, a pair of punk rockers, and two computer geeks - complete with thick glasses and pocket protectors, all of which he'd refused with a quick grimace. Not that she'd been surprised, the ones she'd shown him so far hadn't really been anything she expected him to approve, they were just funny and she adored watching his reactions.

 

Suddenly Alex took in  a deep breath. "Oh, Walker!" she exclaimed. "These are perfect! Let's do this one!"

 

Smiling at her enthusiasm, Walker glanced down at the photo Alex was indicating. Robin Hood and Maid Marian smiled back at him.

 

"Alex.....don't even think about it!" he admonished severely. "If you think I'm going to wear a short skirt  and green tights all night around people I have to work with the next day......." Walker let the sentence remain unfinished.

 

"But Walker! You look fantastic in green! And you have such GREAT legs....." Alex giggled with a naughty little girl's gleam in her eyes.

 

"NO, Alex! No tights."

 

Alex pouted, but went back to scanning the pages for something she COULD talk him into. A little over an hour later they finally emerged from Gail's having reached a compromise. The costumes were a little flashier than Walker would have preferred, but not as revealing as those Alex seemed to set her sights on. He could live with the final selection.

 

The next day, things had calmed down some. A few 'Ranger-Man' cracks were caught here and there, but mostly folks seemed to be watching and waiting for the next installment. Word had spread fast about Walker's declaration of war, and everyone seemed to be holding their collective breaths.....waiting to see what he would do. Just before noon a small parcel was delivered for Walker, which he quickly opened then stuffed in a drawer with a pleased smile.

 

Later that day, he pulled the package out again, tucked it under his arm and carried it down the hall to a private conference room. Closing and locking the door behind him, Walker carefully dumped the contents onto the table. Spreading them out with his hand, he finally got a good look at the photos Gordon had promised to send him via overnight delivery. Chuckling quietly, Walker picked one up and set it aside, 'Yeah, that one will work.' he thought as he reached toward the pile again, searching out another potential piece of ammunition. It was more than an hour later before Walker emerged from the room once more and headed back to his own office, the package again safely held under his arm.

 

Walker found his partner working over the computer, "Trivette?"

 

"Yeah, Walker, what's up?"

 

"I have some stuff I need to take care of, call me on the car phone if anything comes up, okay?"

 

Trivette gave him a puzzled frown, it wasn't like Walker to just take off to 'run errands' in the middle of the day. "Sure, if that's what you want. Anything I can help with?"

 

Walker gave him an enigmatic grin, "No, thanks, this is something I have to take care of myself. See ya later." With that Walker put his Stetson on his head and strode purposefully out the door.

 

The next morning Alex arrived at CD's to find Trivette and CD already there, but no sign of Walker.

 

"Hi, guys!" she greeted them cheerily as she looked around, "Where's 'Ranger-Man' this morning? He usually gets here long before me."

 

Smiling broadly at the reference to Walker's new coffee mug, which he'd heard all about, CD answered, "He called just a bit ago, darlin'. He had some trouble getting on the road this morning. Seems Amigo wanted some extra attention, and you know Cordell when it comes to saying 'no' to that critter. He just can't do it!"

 

The three of them were still laughing about it when Walker made his way through the door a few moments later. "Hey? Did I miss something?" he queried with a smile as he reached out and gave Alex a light good morning kiss and squeeze.

 

"Well, Cordell," CD explained with a chuckle, "we were just discussing who's really in charge out at that ranch of yours.....you or that horse!"

 

Walker grinned, "Oh, that's easy, Amigo is!"

 

After breakfast Trivette and CD disappeared into the kitchen, giving Walker and Alex a little privacy before the start of the work day.

 

"Are you going straight to the office?" Walker asked as he took her hand and they rose from the table.

 

"No, I have to stop by the courthouse and file a response to a motion for bail in the Morgan case. That'll only take a little while though, why?"

 

He laughed easily, "'Ranger-Man' just likes to know where to find his favorite lady in distress!"

 

Walker escorted Alex to the door, stopping just inside the entrance, and wrapped his arms tightly around her. Tipping her face upward to gaze into his eyes, Alex smiled softly as he bent to give her the more complete greeting he always saved for their moments alone. Even when the kiss was ended, he held her locked in his arms for several long moments, his face buried in her hair as though he were breathing her in. When he released her from his arms at last, he gave her a lingering smile that told her everything he never could say aloud. With one last kiss, he watched her leave and then turned back to take care of one thing he hadn't finished yet.

 

"CD?" he asked as he entered the kitchen where his old friend and his partner had been making themselves scarce, "Where did you put that package I asked you to keep here for me yesterday?"

 

"Right over there by the closet, Cordell. How come you didn't want me to mention that to Alex, anyway? You got a surprise going for that little gal?"

 

Walker reached for the package and then turned back with a thoroughly wicked expression on his face, "Oh, it's a surprise alright!"

 

Trivette began to get the idea, and he grinned too, "Big Dog, I think we're about to see 'Ranger-Man's' response. Am I on the right track, pard?"

 

In answer to the question, Walker ripped the brown paper wrapping off the large flat package, revealing a 16x20 poster framed photo. The subject's features and startling blue eyes were distinctive enough to identify it as a very young Alex Cahill! In the picture, she was barely old enough to be walking, toddling toward whoever was holding the camera, and she was dressed in a black body suit, tights and skirt. A pair of tiny wings had been fastened to her back and some pipe cleaner 'antennae' were fastened to a headband in her hair. On the front of the body suit someone had used sequins to spell out the words 'LOVE BUG'. It was adorable.

 

CD burst into laughter, "Oh my! Isn't that just the sweetest thing! Where did you get that Cordell?"

 

Trivette looked from the photo to Walker, smiling broadly, "You're gonna hang that up? Here? Alex is gonna KILL you, man!"

 

"Turnabout is fair play, Trivette, and Alex did tell me to take my best shot. But by the time she sees this one, I don't think......"

 

CD, trying to control his chuckling, nearly choked. "THIS ONE! Cordell! You mean there's more?"

 

"Six more......They're all over the Justice Department building. The best one is right outside her office." Walker grinned evilly, "Did you REALLY think I was with Amigo this morning? C'mon Trivette, help me hang this up, we still have time to get to the office before Alex arrives and the fun begins!"

 

Thirty minutes later, Alex was hurrying up the steps when she heard Mel Norman call from the parking area. "Hey! Cahill! Tutu terrific!"

 

Before Alex could respond to the comment, the woman was gone. 'Too too terrific?' she wondered. 'What's that about?' Shrugging it off, Alex continued on her way. Passing several groups of people who started laughing merrily together as she approached, Alex unconsciously checked to be sure there wasn't toilet paper trailing off her shoe. It wasn't until she reached the main lobby that she discovered the reason for the smiling faces all around her. Posted on the wall above her name and office location, in place of the 8x10 staff picture of herself that was usually there, was a poster size enlargement of Alex's first grade school photo. Her hair was in a pair of braids, and within the huge grin she had flashed at the camera, the absence of her two front teeth was painfully obvious.

 

"Oh my GOD!" she cried, suddenly turning her back as if that could make the picture on the wall disappear. Drawing a deep breath she steeled herself, turned back around..... and flinched at the sight of the photo once more.

 

"Alex?" a familiar voice spoke nearby.

 

She turned to see Scott Fyre, another ADA, smiling at her. "Hi, Scott," she managed, trying unsuccessfully to keep her eyes from straying to the wall once more.

 

His eyes followed her gaze. "Looks like 'Ranger-Man' was busy," Scott said with a low chuckle. "Though I must say my personal favorite is the one of you decked out as a ballerina over by the snack bar."

 

Alex gasped, barely able to force out the next words, "By the snack bar? There's another one? Oh god.......that was what Mel meant.....not too, too....tutu!"

 

Scott couldn't quite help laughing at the look of quiet panic on her face. He shook his head slowly and responded with raised eyebrows, "Alex, I've seen at least four, and Julie says there's a really special one on the wall near your office door."

 

Alex blanched and dropped her briefcase, covering her face with her hands. "Oh Walker!" she moaned.

 

She couldn't even really blame him. She'd started it, and then accepted his challenge with a smile in front of everyone, even insisting on throwing in one last jab as he'd tried to get back to his own office! She closed her eyes and opened them slowly, blowing out a long breath and trying to collect her wits. Well, Walker had gracefully accepted the teasing and joking that had followed in the wake of her prank, she could certainly do the same! Forcefully resisting the urge to go over to the wall and take down the poster; Alex instead bid good-bye to Scott, picked up her briefcase and went to the elevator. Fortunately, it was empty, giving her a few extra minutes to compose herself before the doors opened to reveal a corridor full of co-workers. Someone turned and saw her.

 

"Hey! She's here!"

 

"Alex!" a voice which sounded suspiciously like the D.A. called out from somewhere in the back of the crowd. "Looks like 'Ranger-Man' decided not to let you slip away from justice after all!"

 

The masses parted as she stepped off into the hallway, allowing her a clear path to her office door. Feeling like she was walking a gauntlet, Alex gripped her case firmly and made for what she hoped would be safe haven. But when she reached the entrance to the D.A.'s offices she froze in her tracks, staring at the picture Walker had chosen for this particular spot. Alex felt the color rise to her face as she looked on a larger than life infant photo of herself. This one was a black and white close up of her face. She was puckered up for a sloppy wet kiss as she stared right into the camera. Alex groaned. As the others burst into a fit of hilarity at the look on her face, Alex suddenly spun on her heel and backtracked down the hall. Going through the open doorway to Company B's headquarters, she spied Walker at his desk and headed straight for him, pointedly ignoring Trivette and the other Rangers smiling hugely at her as she entered.

 

"Oh, Walker. How could you?" she asked him mournfully, "I have to WORK here!"

 

Walker just grinned as he deliberately reached over and picked up his coffee mug, taking a long sip. Alex didn't miss the fact that it was the 'Ranger-Man' mug, which was obviously his intention. Slowly she shook her head as she felt the smile returning to her face. He was right. The pictures wouldn't hurt anything, and they WERE funny!

 

"C'mon 'Ranger-Man', walk me back to my office," she told him, reaching for his hand. "There's a pretty wild crowd out there, I might need protection!"

 

Joe Murphy leaned over toward Trivette's desk as they watched the pair walk out the door arm in arm. "How long do you suppose those two will keep this up, Jim?" he asked with a laugh. "Seems like they've each given the other a pretty good taste."

 

"I dunno, but I have a feeling the fireworks aren't over yet." Trivette replied. "Neither one of them is any good at conceding defeat! I'm just happy to be on the outside looking in for a change!"

 

Alex spent most of her free time that day trying to come up with an appropriate response to Walker's baby picture salvo. She'd be hanged if he thought that was the end of it! Cordell Walker wasn't going to win that easily! Trouble was, a really good practical joke usually required time and planning. She'd actually come up with the mug idea way back in August, getting ready and waiting patiently for Halloween before putting her plan into action. Only the fact that she hadn't thought of it in time had kept her from ordering a pair of 'vanity plates' for the Ram. Even now she giggled at the thought of what his reaction would have been when he noticed his license plates had been changed to read 'RNGR MAN'! It would have been priceless! Well, Christmas was coming....maybe a little surprise then would be in order!  But now, she needed something NOW....and she only had a couple of days left. Alex went home after work still working on the problem. She'd get him, but wasn't sure how just yet.

 

By next morning, Alex had come up with her next plan of attack. She would switch strategies on him. Not one major blow, but a series of small raids. If she timed them carefully, she'd get Walker repeatedly and he'd never know what hit him! This time though, she was going to need to enlist the aid of a few friends. She was out the door early and waiting in the lobby as the people she'd decided to ask came through the entry. Each one, hearing the plan, was more than willing to cooperate. Walker had quite a day in front of him!

 

Two hours later, well after she had seen Walker and Trivette arrive, Alex breezed into the office of Company B and headed for Walker's desk with a file in her hand. "Walker? Could you look this over for me later? It's a possible fraud case I'm looking into, and I'd like to get your read on it."

 

Walker reached over and took the folder from her hand, "Sure, Alex, would you like Trivette and I to do any digging for you on it?"

 

She smiled, "No, not yet, but there are a couple potential witnesses I may need to have you talk to later. Right now I'm just looking......"

 

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

 

Alex's explanation was suddenly interrupted by a signal from her pager. Pulling it out of her blazer pocket, she read the message quickly and a surge of panic passed across her face. "Oh, No! I forgot the Lindsey deposition! I'm supposed to be there now! Walker? Can I use your phone?"

 

"Like you have to ask?" he grinned, "I'll just get some coffee. Take your time." With that Walker picked up his coffee mug and moved away from the desk. He saw Alex's quick smile when she noticed he was still using the surprise she'd left him several days ago. He smiled back, he was getting kind of used to the dang thing!

 

Alex lifted herself onto the corner of his desk with her back to the him as she finished dialing. Speaking quietly for a few moments, she then hung up the phone and turned to indicate she was through. "Thanks, Walker, I'd better hustle."

 

"Everything gonna be okay, Alex?" he queried.

 

"Yeah, just fine. Looks like it's one of those days, the defense lawyer is running behind too! Guess I got lucky on this one!" Alex reached out surreptitiously and gave his hand a brief squeeze as she looked into his eyes. "See ya later, cowboy." she said quietly before breaking away.

 

RINGGGGGG! RINGGGGGG!

 

Walker heard his phone began to ring. Absently he grabbed the handset and picked it up. "Yeah, Walker," he said, still watching Alex as she made her way out the door. No response came to his greeting. "Walker here," he said again, a little louder.

 

RINGGGGGG! RINGGGGGG!

 

'What the......?' Walker thought, pulling the handset away from his ear and staring at it as if it were possessed. His phone was still ringing! Walker looked around. Trivette and several other occupants of the room were trying desperately to control fits of hysteria at the look on his face. Glancing down at the still ringing base unit, he quickly saw the cause of his confusion. Alex had taped down the flashooks in the phone cradle. Sighing mightily, he picked off the tape and answered the call at last, "Walker."

 

"Trick or Treat, cowboy!" was all he heard before the connection was broken. He looked up quickly to see Alex with her hand still on the receptionist's phone. Giggling, she hurried out the door.

 

Trivette, grinning from ear to ear, approached his partner's side as Walker replaced the handset on the base. "Who was it, pard?" he asked.

 

"Alex ," Walker answered with a low sigh.

 

Trivette couldn't help it. He tried, but couldn't stop the burst of laughter that rolled out of him. Walker just glared at his friend as the other's in the room joined in. Eyes watering with glee, Trivette looked at Walker, "She's baaaacccckkk!"

 

In spite of himself, Walker felt a grin spread over his face. Actually, he was relieved. Compared to 'Ranger-Man' and the ensuing hilarity that had caused, this was nothing!

 

Just then Trivette's computer signaled an incoming file. Going over and checking it out, he turned back to Walker with a different smile on his face, "Hey. Looks like we just got a break in that armed robbery case. The ident-i-kit sketch I sent out came back with a hit. A Larry Robertson - the guy has a history of lesser stuff in Virginia, and he was given permission to move to Austin just before his parole expired about six months ago. I called a buddy of mine down there to see if he could trace Robertson's whereabouts. "

 

Walker was very interested, "Do we have an address?"

 

"Sure do! Seems that just four weeks ago good ol' Larry filed a change of address to right here in Dallas!"

 

"Let's go, partner!" Walker said, grabbing his Stetson and heading for the door.

 

Less than two hours later they were back, all smiles. Just picking up Robertson had shaken him into giving up plenty of information on his cohorts. A couple of quick search warrants had netted enough evidence to be sure that this particular file was closed tight.

 

"Man, I love it when a case comes together!" Trivette exclaimed as they walked through the door.

 

Walker had just turned with a grin to reply when his phone began to ring. He started to grab it when he remembered Alex's prank earlier. He looked around hurriedly to see if she was anywhere in sight, then lifted the handset. Checking to be sure there was no tape on the flashook as he did so, he answered the call, "Walker......" Suddenly his voice trailed off as something soft and wet began to drip through his beard. Dropping the phone in shock, Walker reached up and touched his face. Pulling the hand back, he saw green all over his fingers. "What the.....?"

 

Trivette turned at the exclamation to see his partner standing with a shocked expression as he stared at his hand. Walker's beard was covered with a green goo. He roared, suddenly remembering another time when Walker had green stuff in his beard. The three of them had gone to Alex's to surprise her for her birthday. She'd been surprised alright, answering the door with her face covered in a green facial pack. She'd recovered quickly though, giving Walker a kiss that had left traces of the stuff on his nose and beard. It had been funny then, it was hysterical now! "Score another hit for Alex!" he laughed.

 

Walker groaned, 'Alex, of course it was Alex.' He shifted his gaze from his hand to the phone, finally noticing that the mouthpiece had been generously smeared with the same stuff that was now in his beard. Suddenly aware that someone might still be on the line, he whipped out his handkerchief and wiped the slime from his beard and the phone before raising it to his ear once more. "Walker," he began again. He was greeted with the distinctive sound of Alex's laughter.

 

"Trick or Treat, cowboy!" she forced out happily, then broke the connection like before.

 

Trivette took one look at Walker's expression and answered the question he'd been about to ask with a simple statement. "Alex," he said with certainty.

 

"Alex," Walker agreed. He could still feel some of the goop on his face. "I'm gonna go get cleaned up, do me a favor and don't let Alex anywhere near my desk while I'm gone!"

 

Chuckling, the younger Ranger made a show of stationing himself in front of Walker's desk, weapon at the ready, eyes scanning for signs of danger. "Okay, pard, I'll guard the homestead for ya!"

 

Walker met Alex outside her office just after noon and they walked to a nearby street vendor for a quick lunch. She couldn't quite help a quiet chuckle as she wet her napkin and wiped away a small amount of the goop still stuck in his beard. "I told you I thought you looked terrific in green," she teased.

 

He caught her hand in his as she went to drop it back to the table and looked her straight in the eye. "Are you finished for today?" he asked solemnly, but she could see his eyes were twinkling.

 

Alex giggled mischievously, "Wouldn't you like to know! I'm surprised that you left your desk unguarded! Jimmy told me about that, y'know!"

 

"Well, since I have the suspect under surveillance, and I fully intend to escort her right back to her office after lunch, I feel it's pretty safe just now." he retorted with a grin.

 

True to his word, Walker took Alex all the way back to her office and saw her safely inside before heading back to his own work. The afternoon should be fairly quiet, with just some loose ends to tie up on the armed robbery bust and a minor arrest to make. A character named Lon Moon, who had jumped bail in San Antonio after an arrest for indecent exposure, had been spotted in Dallas several times in the last few days and Walker and Trivette had drawn the task of picking him up.  Then this evening Walker had asked Alex to come with him to CD's for a little relaxation. Through some miracle she hadn't been there and hadn't heard about the poster that had been hanging above the bar for two days now - an early Halloween treat for everyone who visited! Since he'd missed seeing her face when she first learned about the pictures, he was really looking forward to her reaction. The idea spread a sly smile across his face as he stepped through the door and turned toward his desk.

 

Almost as soon as he entered the room, the phone on his desk began to ring. Walker froze. The phone! He hadn't been very lucky with that phone today! He thought about asking Trivette to grab it for him, then saw that his partner was talking on his own line and typing something into his computer keyboard at the same time. The phone rang again. This was stupid, how could he be nervous about answering his own damn phone! Besides, Alex had been with him the entire time he'd been away from his desk, there was no way she could have set up another gag. Resolutely he strode to his desk and grabbed the handset. In spite of himself, he hurriedly checked to be sure that no further tampering had been done. No green goop, no tape, no hidden surprises at all. He breathed a low sigh of relief and  placed the receiver to his ear. "Walker," he answered the call.

 

"Hello? Hello?" the voice on the other end of the line was saying, "Is anyone there?"

 

'Bad connection', Walker thought, and answered a little louder, "Hello, Walker."

 

Next he heard the flashooks on the connected phone being jiggled impatiently, "Walker? Are you there? Dammit this is important! Walker?"

 

He now recognized the voice as being that of the Captain, and Walker raised the volume of his voice a little higher, "I'm here, Captain. What do you need?"

 

By now, Trivette and the others in the room had turned to see what was going on, amazed at the volume Walker was projecting on a simple phone call.

 

"Dammit, Walker, quit whispering! This is no time for fooling around!" The Captain was hollering, "Speak up! I can hardly hear you!"

 

Walker raised his voice to very nearly a shout, oblivious to the chuckling beginning around him as he tried to make himself heard, "Yes sir! I'm right here! Is this better? Can you hear me now?"

 

Walker's attention was caught by Alex stepping through the door, tossing something easily up and down with one hand. Suddenly she lobbed it straight to him. "Here, Walker," she said, "this might help."

 

Almost instinctively, Walker reached out and caught it with his free hand. He looked to see himself holding the microphone from a phone's mouthpiece. Walker's groan of dismay could be heard in the hallway. She'd gotten him again!

 

Smiling at him sweetly before turning to walk back out the door Alex laughingly said, "Trick or treat, cowboy!"

 

With those simply words, Walker found himself once more in the center of a gale of laughter. He felt the color rising in his face yet again as he slowly sat down and began opening the mouthpiece to replace the stolen piece of equipment that had cost him so dearly.

 

An hour later most of the merriment had died down, although Walker was sure that Alex's success would continue to cause him some trouble for a while. He was really beginning to appreciate the ingeniousness of her plan. Any single one of the pranks would have been a mild diversion, but piled one on top of the other, they were making a legend of themselves. Alex had style, he thought with a grin, you had to give her that!

 

He was drawn from his reverie by Trivette, "Hey, pard, ready to go pick up Moon? Report just came in that he's been spotted down at the Idle Hour."

 

"Yeh, let's get that taken care of," Walker replied. They were halfway to the door when he suddenly reversed directions and returned to his desk.

 

"Walker?"

 

"Just a second, Trivette. Got something I forgot to take care of here." Walker pulled his keys out of his pocket, and selecting one quickly he unlocked the lower drawer on his desk and pulled it open. He then picked up his entire phone and set it inside the drawer, pushed the drawer shut firmly and relocked it. Then he checked with a quick tug to be sure the lock was engaged. Walker stood again at last to find Trivette staring at him with an enormous grin on his face. Walker grinned back, "Can't be too careful these days!" Laughing, the two of them left to take care of business.

 

Alex sat in her office, trying to concentrate on a brief she was preparing, but she found her thoughts continually drifting to the havoc she'd been wreaking on Walker all day. The plan had been going perfectly, and the bit with the missing microphone had been incredible, successful beyond her wildest dreams.

 

Managing to get Walker's Captain to play along with the phone call had been just what she'd needed to get Walker to go for it hook, line and sinker. The Captain had even come up with the idea of having someone relaying Walker's responses on another line, so the Captain knew exactly when Walker was on the line and when to insist that he quit 'whispering'! Walker's face, oh his face when he realized what she had thrown across the room to him! It had been wonderful!

 

She had one last little piece of the plan to put into action. One more raid before the day was complete. But she wouldn't go for it unless the situation was right. If she tried it and he figured it out, it would spoil everything she'd accomplished. Alex knew she could be satisfied with what she'd done, but she sure hoped she got a chance to fire her final shot!

 

Walker was trying to brush some of the dirt off his clothing as they marched their six prisoners into the holding cell area. Damn, who knew a simple bail skipper was going to put up such a fight. Or that he'd have so many friends! These were just the ones that hadn't fit in the transport wagon they'd had to call for, and now the team had a ton of paperwork that would have to be finished before he could head home to take care of things there, shower and change, and get back to town to pick up Alex for their evening at CD's.

 

Briefly he considered calling Alex and canceling, or at least pushing back the time that he was supposed to pick her up. But no, the thought of her face when she saw that last picture on the wall was just too good and he didn't want to have to wait any longer than necessary to see it! After seeing the prisoners taken care of, the two Rangers went straight for their desks to get the reports taken care of.

 

Trivette didn't quite manage to suppress his chuckle as he watched Walker carefully unlock his desk drawer, remove the phone, check it closely for tampering anyway, and then deliberately place it back in it's usual spot on the corner of his desk.

 

Walker just shrugged and chuckled too, "Better safe than sorry, partner!"

 

An hour and forty-five minutes later they were at Walker's desk still working their way through the pile of papers that accompanied the arrests. The office was filling up as various men reported in to take care of loose ends before heading home at the end of shift and others came in to begin the night watch.

 

Standing and stretching Trivette grabbed his coffee cup, "Want a warm up too, Walker?"

 

"Yeah, sounds good, thanks," Walker replied absently, trying to figure out how to word the description of his take down of the bartender, who'd turned out to be a cousin of Moon's that didn't want to see any of his 'family back in the can' and had come out with a billy club trying to stop the arrest.

 

As Trivette was returning to the desk with the steaming cups, the receptionist stopped him and handed over an envelope addressed to Walker. Trivette sat back in his chair, put down the coffee and dropped the envelope in front of his friend. "For you, pard. Debbie says it just came in."

 

Walker dropped his pencil and ripped into the envelope, noticing as he did so that it was on the DA's official stationary. He read the note quickly, a furrow forming across his brow as he did so.

 

The younger Ranger noticed the change in mood and asked with some concern, "What is it, man? Something wrong?"

 

A little startled, Walker looked up quickly, then realized he hadn't tried to mask his reaction. "No, nothing's wrong. It's just routine really. The DA got a call from a citizen who thinks her brother-in-law may be up to some shady dealings. It could tie into that hijacking ring we've been working on so they want her to be interviewed, but she's heard my name somewhere and insists she'll only talk to me. I'm supposed to call her at her work before five-thirty to set it up," he explained, shoving the note across to his partner as he did so.

 

"So give the lady a call, it's almost five now."

 

Almost involuntarily, Walker eyed the phone with a look of sheer distrust. Trivette got the idea. "What'samatter, pard? Getting a little paranoid?" he chortled gleefully.

 

Walker glowered, "Knock it off, Trivette." He reached for the phone, then suddenly had a better idea. Punching the button to open the line, he turned on the speaker phone and rapidly dialed the numbers. He smiled again at Trivette, "If I don't pick up the phone, I don't risk another 'Alex attack'!"

 

The other end of the line rang only once when it was picked up. "Dawson Funeral Home, Gordon Dawson speaking, How may I help you?"

 

"This is Ranger Walker. I'd like to speak to Myra Mains please."

 

There was a long pause on the other end of the line. "Excuse me?" the man asked quietly.

 

Trivette, just taking a swallow of coffee, tried to stop a rumble of laughter as he heard his partner's words. He didn't make it and found himself coughing and choking as the liquid went down the wrong way. Walker, oblivious to the reason for the problem, simply shot him a warning glare about the noise. Trivette, still gasping for air and struggling to repress a grin, turned from Walker's desk and hurried to his computer. He didn't want to spoil a minute of the fun by alerting Walker.

 

"I said this is Ranger Walker, and I'd like to speak to Myra Mains." Walker repeated patiently. What was this guy's problem?

 

Walker listened to a long sigh from the other end of the connection, "Sir, this really isn't funny."

 

"No, it's not. It's very important that I speak to Myra Mains right away," he confirmed emphatically.

 

The voice sighed again, "Sir, we get this kind of stunt every day. Usually from CHILDREN. I'll have to ask you not to repeat this call or we will be forced to report it to the phone company and the police." With a loud click, the line went dead.

 

Walker started to grab the handset and angrily redial the number when he heard a snort of muffled laughter. Glancing up he saw everyone in the room looking at him and grinning from ear to ear. Trivette had turned back toward Walker and was desperately clutching his sides as his whole being convulsed with mirth. Slowly realization dawned. Walker closed his eyes almost painfully, thinking about the conversation carefully. A funeral home.....Myra Mains....my remains.......Oh god! She'd done it again! He felt the heat rising in his face yet again that day. She'd even somehow managed to realize that he'd probably use the speaker phone, revealing the gag to everyone present. By the time he opened his eyes once more, shaking his head in disgust at himself for falling into such a simple ploy, the room was once again in an uproar. It silenced suddenly as the door opened and Alex poked her head inside.

 

"Trick or treat, cowboy!" she giggled, then disappeared again as the bedlam broke out anew.

 

Walker was very sure he wasn't going to get any more work done this night. He looked over at his partner, "Ready to get out of here? We can finish this up tomorrow."

 

"Sure, whatever you say," Trivette agreed, almost feeling sorry for 'Ranger-Man'. Almost.

 

Arriving at CD's later that evening, Walker was grinning from ear to ear as he helped Alex from the cab of the Ram and took her hand to escort her inside. Just outside the door, she turned to him with a curious look.

 

"Okay Walker, what's got you smiling like the Cheshire Cat?" she prodded.

 

He just winked as he pulled her inside. The atmosphere inside was loud and lively, with a country two-step playing on the jukebox that had the dance floor full. A few smiling faces turned to greet the newcomers at the door. Seeing Alex with Walker they didn't speak, but the smiles on their faces grew broader still. Alex could almost feel the wave of silence spreading through the room behind the whispers of her name. Giving Walker a mystified glance, she turned back as several heads turned and looked toward the bar. Following their gazes she saw a large poster hung dead center of the wall behind it.

 

Alex felt her face flush crimson as she took in the image of herself in her very first Halloween costume, much to the amusement of the people around them. "Oh Walker!" she turned to him with an exasperated roll of her eyes, "Here too? And THAT one? When did you have time today to get that up?"

 

"Actually Alex, that's been up since the others," Walker chuckled. "You just haven't been by CD's to catch it!"

 

Alex smiled softly and shook her head, "I should have known you wouldn't be able to stop at just the Justice Department building. Walker, where DID you get all those pictures?"

 

Eyes twinkling, Walker responded with a smile, "Gordon sent them to me!"

 

"Daddy? Daddy helped you do this to me?" Alex asked in shock. "I can't believe my own father would help you do that!"

 

"Well, to be honest," Walker explained, "I didn't tell him exactly what they were for. I just said I needed some of your baby and childhood pictures for a surprise I was planning for you, and asked if he had some he could loan me. I'm sure he didn't suspect what I really had in mind!"

 

"No, something like this wouldn't even cross his mind," she agreed, somewhat mollified. "Just please tell me you don't have any more of these surprises waiting for me anywhere else!"

 

Walker grinned, "Well, that depends......is my phone safe?"

 

"Yes, your phone is safe!" Alex giggled as she wrapped her arm around his waist.

 

"Good! Then I'd say you're safe from any other pictures turning up too!" he replied. "Let's see if we can find a place to sit and relax a while, okay?"

 

She nodded and the two of them made their way through the crowded bar, stopping to greet friends and both of them exposed to more than a few witty comments about the events of the last few days. Near the back they discovered that CD, knowing they were coming, had held their favorite booth for them; perched conspicuously on the table was a large sign that read "RESERVED FOR RANGER-MAN AND THE LOVE BUG". Laughing, they scooted in side by side and Walker contentedly put his arm around Alex's shoulders, drawing her closer to him.

 

CD made his way over from the bar with a tray containing some snacks and a pair of drafts. "Well hey you two! I was wondering when you'd get around to showing up!" he greeted them.

 

"Hi, CD! Thanks for saving our table," Alex returned with a smile, holding out the sign for him.

 

"You're welcome, Darlin'!" CD chuckled deeply, taking the card from her hand, then continued, "Cordell, word is that you had a might bit of trouble with ol' Ma Bell today?"

 

Walker shot an amused glance at Alex, then replied, "It wasn't Ma Bell that was giving me trouble today, CD, just someone out to 'bug' me!"

 

"CD," Alex questioned, "do you have everything set for the fund raiser tomorrow night? Is there anything you still need help with?"

 

"Not a thing, honey, the whole shebang is right on track and looking good! Did I tell you all that we've got a new money raiser planned for it too?"

 

"Something new?" Walker raised his eyebrows, "What have you got in mind?"

 

"Well, we're still gonna have the money from the tickets of course, and the band is donating their talents, so it was already looking good. But that new waitress of mine, Pammy, just had an idea that sounded like such a good time that I thought we'd give it a whirl."

 

"So, what is it?" Alex pressed.

 

CD grinned, "I got the use of one of them Kar-I-O-key machines, and we're gonna have us a kind of auction! Way I see it everyone that comes in is fair game, and what'll happen is that we'll take bids to hear someone sing. Person who gets the highest money bid on 'em will come up and do a song for the crowd!"

 

"What if they say no?" Walker asked, intrigued.

 

"They can't say no, part of the price of admittance! You win.....you gotta sing!" CD chortled happily, rubbing his hands together. "I've been spreading the word tonight, telling folks to bring along their checkbooks and decide who they'd really love to see up on that stage. So far we've got a fair amount of excitement going on about it, should be a real money bringer if tonight is any indication, and a real good time to boot!"

 

Alex was smiling as CD headed back through the crowd toward the bar. "It does sound like a lot of fun! I wonder who I should bid on? Maybe CD?"

 

With a groan, Walker shook his head, "Not CD, Alex! Don't you remember Trivette and me telling you about his rendition of 'Pack Up Your Troubles' before he did that two weeks security work at Golden Wells?"

 

They were still discussing possibilities when Pat Luker passed by, stopping for a moment when he saw who was seated in the booth.  "Hey, what do you know! The 'Love Bug' finally made it in! Tell me 'Ranger-Man', does that bug bite?" he asked with a wink and a laugh that told them the question was in fun.

 

Walker just smiled back at the other ranger, "You'll never find out from me, Pat!"

 

After the man had continued on his way, Walker turned to study Alex's face. "I got bit by you a long time ago, just took me a while to realize there wasn't any cure and that I might as well relax and go with it," he whispered, tipping her chin upward as he drew her into a lingering kiss.

 

Walker woke with the sunrise the next morning with a smile on his face. It had occurred to him as he drove home the night before that he could finish this little war that Alex had begun with a major bang. Hopping quickly out of bed he pulled on a pair of jeans,  a sweater and his boots and strode out the door to look after the horses, considering his options as he went. He should be able to manage it without any real strain, Walker realized, and just the look on her face would make the whole thing worthwhile. Plus, this was the last day, she wouldn't have time for retaliation and would have to admit he'd outdone her. It would be perfect, just perfect! He began his daily chores chuckling to himself, Alex would certainly think twice about messing with him again after this!

 

Alex drove up to the ranch just before six, and Walker went out the door to meet her, giving her a warm welcome before she pointed him to the car. "Costumes are in the back seat, would you get them for me?" she asked.

 

He grimaced as he pulled out the large garment bags, still not completely happy with the compromise they'd reached. "Y'know Alex, I was thinking that maybe these outfits aren't really for us. We should go as something else." When she turned to give him a questioning look he continued with a smile, "How about if we go as a Texas Ranger and a lady ADA?"

 

Laughing, Alex waited for him to reach her side and wrapped her arm around his waist before answering, "Sure....we could do that! As long as I get to be the Texas Ranger!" She grinned as she felt his involuntary shudder at the thought of what that left for him, then gave him a sideways glance, "But Walker, if you're really not happy with these costumes, Gail did tell me the Robin Hood and Marian set was still available. We have time to go switch if you want."

 

Walker froze as the suggestion sank in, then looking her straight in the eyes he made very sure she had no doubts about his opinion on that idea. "Never mind, Alex! Forget I even mentioned it!"

 

They ate a light meal on the porch, more to take the edge off than anything, CD always laid out a spread that could feed a large army at one of these events. A short time later Alex stepped out of the spare bedroom she'd used to change still smoothing her skirt, then glanced up to catch Walker standing outside his own room, leaning casually against the door frame and looking at her appreciatively. She didn't have to ask him for his opinion on how she looked, that was for sure. She returned his look in kind. They'd compromised on a western theme, elaborately beaded and fringed cowboy and cowgirl outfits, Alex's was red with black accents, Walker's the reverse. In spite of his complaints about the costume being too 'flashy' for his taste she thought it suited him quite well. Besides, Alex just loved Walker in black, he always looked great in it and tonight was no exception. She sidled up to him with a huge smile and he obliged by guiding her in a two-step twirl that ended with her safely wrapped in his arms.

 

Still holding onto her, Walker reached up and tipped his decorated black Stetson. "Ready to hit the trail, Ma'am?" he asked her with an exaggerated drawl.

 

Alex giggled, "Walker, if I didn't know you better I'd swear you were looking forward to this!"

 

As they moved together down the steps toward the front door, he gave her that easy half-smile of his that she loved so much. "What's not to look forward to?" he questioned. "I'm not wearing tights or anything that clanks and I get to spend the evening with the prettiest lady in Dallas! Looks to me like I've got it pretty good!"

 

CD's was already bustling with costumed merry makers when they arrive a short time later, and CD himself stood near the stage overseeing final details. He was decked out in full regalia as a ringmaster and Alex and Walker both grinned at the image he presented.

 

Easing through the crowd, the pair made their way to CD's side and Alex reached out to give him a warm hug. "CD!" she greeted him. "Your costume is perfect! I love it!"

 

"Well, shoot, honey," CD replied, "I felt like I've been running a three ring circus getting this all together, just sort of seemed the right outfit to put on!"

 

Walker clapped a hand on his old friends shoulder, "Alex is right, CD, it's a terrific choice." Then he glanced around, "Has Trivette made his appearance yet?"

 

"Not yet, Cordell, but you know Jimmy, he'll be along soon and ready to make a grand entrance to boot!"

 

As if on cue, their attention was suddenly caught by a flash of activity near the door. A figure garbed entirely in black from head to toe, including a cape and mask, swept through the door with a flourish, drawing a beautiful black woman dressed as a senorita along with him. "Never fear, my lovely!" he was saying with a particularly bad Spanish style accent, "Zorro will keep you safe!"

 

Walker rolled his eyes expressively, "Trivette's here."

 

A few moments later, with Trivette over-dramatically using his sword to clear the path, 'Zorro' and his hazel-eyed senorita finally joined the threesome.

 

"Hey, Big Dog!" Trivette greeted the ringmaster, simultaneously slapping Walker on the shoulder, "Looks like things are winding up already!"

 

Alex reached out to embrace the woman at Trivette's side. Sara Hastings was a nurse at County Hospital who several months ago had finally agreed to a date with Jimmy, after dozens of requests. Since then the two women had become firm friends, "Sara! You look gorgeous! I'm so glad you were able to come tonight!"

 

Sara returned the hug, then turned to give CD and Walker light squeezes as well. "Hi! I'm happy I could get the night off myself. Jimmy has been telling me all about CD's famous fund raisers and I've really been looking forward to this. Although...," she threw a slightly embarrassed glance in Trivette's direction, "I had no idea that coming with him meant an entrance like THAT!"

 

"Oh darlin', you'd best get used to that!" CD chortled, "There's nothin' this young feller likes better than to make his presence known!"

 

Trivette grinned as he once again adopted his terrible spanish accent, "Beware, Senor Big Dog! Words like those could force me to challenge you to a duel! I would hate to have to leave my mark upon you!" Then he emphatically swished his sword as though etching a 'Z' in the air, causing the entire group to burst into laughter.

 

Soon after that the party swung into full gear, with plenty of laughing and dancing as everyone got into the mood of the evening. At the end of the band's second set, CD climbed up onto the stage and signaled for everyone's attention. It took a few moments and in the end he used his ringmaster's megaphone to bring the room to relative silence, but finally he was ready to speak.

 

"Howdy folks!" he greeted everyone. "I sure am tickled to see what a good time you all are havin' tonight, and I'm pleased to report that the ticket sales and donations that we received at the door so far have already made this the most successful fund raiser that we've ever held for the Children's Home!"

 

CD waited for the applause and cheers of support to die down before he signaled for quiet again, "But folks, if you haven't been around in the last few days you may have missed the talk that's been goin' on about a very special plan we made for tonight. You all know that we usually have an auction to raise a little extra cash for the kids, and that money is dedicated to givin' them youngsters just the best Christmas we can give 'em. Well, this time, what we're gonna be auctioning is your own talent! or maybe lack of talent!" he chuckled.

 

Walking over to a large piece of electronic machinery occupying one corner of the stage and slapping his hand on the top, CD continued, "I don't know if anyone has noticed this big ol' thing over here, but this is one of them Kar-I-O-key machines, and everyone who wants to is gonna have a chance to buy some time to sing for us all with it later. But first we're gonna have us some real fun! This is how the auction is gonna work this year. We're gonna take bids on someone to sing for us, but not yourself, Nosir! Folks, you get to bid on who you'd like to hear sing out of this crowd in the house tonight! We'll have us a regular bidding, cept the money will be pooled together on each persons name, and whoever gets the most money promised for 'em, why that's the person that's gonna come up on stage and do a little number for us all!

 

He paused a moment for effect, then added, "Oh and I should tell ya, this ain't optional! Your name raises the most cash, you gotta sing! Those are the rules, so if you don't want to be the one on the working end of this here microphone, you'd best pick someone to put your money on and plan on outdoing anyone who wants to hear you! And with that, I'm gonna open the bidding! I'll gladly pay fifty dollars to hear Jimmy Trivette sing us a little something!"

 

Trivette's startled yelp could be heard from somewhere in the back of the crowd, "Oh NO you don't, Big Dog! I'll bid seventy-five dollars to listen to...to.....to Walker!"

 

The burst of laughter that accompanied this opened the door for an energetic bidding war with people from all around calling out dollar amounts and names, with CD's staff trying desperately to keep up with it. Walker sat quietly at Alex's side, listening with amusement as the bids were called and to CD keeping a running tally of 'Who the new singing sensation looked to be!' He caught Alex giving him a surprised stare as the bids to hear him sing reached the five hundred dollar mark and he didn't seem bothered at all. He just smiled back at her and continued to listen patiently.

 

Alex leaned over and squeezed his forearm playfully, "Uh-oh, Walker! Looks like Jimmy's really put you in the hot seat!"

 

"Trivette could be in for a surprise," He chuckled.

 

Her eyes sparkled mischievously, "Oh, Walker! What are you planning?"

 

"Wouldn't you like to know?" he grinned.

 

As the bids began to trickle off, CD once again took center stage, "Well, appears that with a total of seven hundred and forty-two dollars....oh and fifty seven cents...it looks like we're going to have the chance to listen to our own Cordell Walker. So unless I hear something else, I'm gonna call it. Going once! Going twice!"

 

At that moment Walker stood, "CD! I'll bid ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS to hear Alex sing for us all!"

 

Alex gasped, gripping his arm tighter, "Walker! No!"

 

With everyone startled at the sudden turn of events, the room was silent enough for even those in the back hear Walker say with a chuckle as he turned to Alex, "Trick or treat, cowgirl!"

 

Alex sat in a dazed silence as CD called for any other bids to outdo Walker's, then finally called the auction, "Going once, going twice, done! Folks, looks like we have us a winner in Alex over there!" He chuckled slightly at the look on her face, then continued, "I reckon what we'll do now is give Alex a little while to get herself together and choose what song she's gonna sing for us all! While she's doing that, we'll just let some of you all come on up here and warm up the Kar-I-O-key machine for us. Anybody who wants to sing, just you bring a donation for the Christmas fund and line up right over here. Alex and I'll be back in just a bit!" 

 

As several costumed people began edging toward the stage at the shouted encouragement from others in the crowd, CD made his way to Alex's side. "C'mon, darlin', let's you and me get away from all this noise for a little bit," he said as he steered her toward the back room and some relative quiet.

 

Once they reached it and the door shut behind, Alex spun around, her eyes big as saucers, "CD, I can't DO this! How can I do this? Walker KNOWS I can't sing!"

 

Patting her lightly on the shoulder, CD smiled, "Darlin', you sing a whole lot better than you give yourself credit for, and Cordell knows that too. You just keep a couple things in mind when you go back out there and you'll do just fine, I guarantee it."

 

"What? What is going to get me through this, CD? Oh...." Alex sat down suddenly, her face white.

 

"Alex! You just steady up there some, girl!" CD admonished. "Course you can handle this, and for two really good reasons. First off, this is all for fun and a good cause.....ain't no one gonna hiss and boo you off the stage! And second, there isn't a person out there tonight who has better qualifications to pull this off than you do! Alex, you're a lawyer, and a lawyer is a performer plain and simple. Every day you go in front of an audience and convince them that what you know to be the truth, IS the truth. It's the same thing out there tonight. You just pick yourself something and enjoy it! Think of it as if those folks out there were the jury, you'll have 'em eatin' out of your hand in no time!"

 

Still looking shaken, but beginning to gain confidence as CD's words found their way home, Alex nodded slowly, "You're right, CD, I can do this. It IS for the children, and Walker is certainly paying dearly for it!" Taking a deep breath, she continued,  "Okay, pick a song? Where do I pick a song?"

 

Seeing that she was getting her balance back, CD grinned as he passed her a small booklet, "Right here, darlin'. Got a list of things they have all programmed in that machine out there. It'll play the music, and put the words up on a screen in front of ya. All you have to do is relax and sing along, nothing to it!"

 

Alex opened the booklet and began scanning the lists, "All of these? How am I supposed to choose?"

 

"Just find yourself something you think you'll enjoy and let me know what it is, we just have to punch a button or two and that there machine takes care of the rest. I should get back out there, are you gonna be okay? You want me to send someone in to keep you company? Or I could have one of the crew bring you in something?"

 

Smiling, Alex replied, "No, CD, I'm fine. I'm just going to go through this and find something I think I know well enough so I won't make a complete fool of myself. When do you need me to be ready?"

 

CD checked his watch, "Well, I should think about twenty minutes, if that's enough time for you?"

 

"That'll be just fine. Don't worry, CD, I won't try to escape out the back. I fully intend to see Walker pay every dime he promised for this! You tell him I want to see that check in his hand when I get on that stage!"

 

CD chuckled, "There ya go, darlin'! Now I know you'll be fine! You've got your dander back up! I'll see you out there in a little bit." With that CD left the room, leaving Alex to study the song list.

 

Alex sat down in a chair in the back room, trying to concentrate on the words in front of her as a million thoughts raced through her mind. Walker! Talk about a dirty trick! And he'd even gone so far as to make her think it was Jimmy he was setting up! And waiting til the last second like that, knowing she'd be so surprised she wouldn't think to turn the tables on him! That rat! Now she was stuck with this, and by God, he wasn't going to see her shaking up there either!

 

She forced her eyes to focus on the list in front of her. At least there were quite a few songs she recognized, that would make it easier to try and follow the music. Her gaze stopped on a very familiar title, 'When You Say Nothing At All'*. That was the song Walker had chosen to play for her just this past Valentine's Day as he tried to put into actions what he couldn't seem to tell her. She'd always loved the song because it reminded her of him, now it was doubly special because she knew he felt the same way. A slow smile crossed her lips, no one else knew about that, what would his reaction be if she chose to sing it tonight? But no, that song was too personal and too precious....maybe there was another that would suit better?

 

With a renewed purpose, Alex went back to studying the list, she'd show Cordell Walker!  Suddenly she spotted a familiar title that really made her grin. It was perfect! Light and fast, the lyrics could have been written to describe Walker. She'd bought the entire cd just to have that song after she'd caught it on the radio one day. Oh yes! This was definitely it! And she was going to make VERY sure Walker was front and center to hear this one! Giggling, Alex made a note of the song number in the book and made for the door. It wasn't quite twenty minutes, but CD would be ready. And now, so was she.

 

Walker was chuckling at the antics of three Rangers, costumed as banditos, leading the crowd in the last verse of a song called 'Friends In Low Places'* when greetings being called made him aware that Alex had finally stepped out of her sanctuary. Smiling broadly, he watched her as she found CD and the two of them waited till the bandito's finished before mounting the steps to the stage. Alex's eyes swept the crowd until she found him. She looked decidedly nervous, but determined. He gave her a thumbs up and winked as he saw her lean and whisper something to CD.

 

"Cordell," CD called loudly through the microphone. "Alex says that you have promised a whole lot of money to hear this song, and she wants to make sure you don't miss a beat! Folks, would you please give Cordell a little room so he can come right up front here?"

 

As the crowd parted to leave him a path, Walker felt his left arm taken by a figure in black, "Come along, Senor, Zorro will escort you safely to your position of honor!" Trivette crowed, enjoying himself immensely. An instant later his other arm was taken by a giggling Sara, and together the two of them pulled him toward the stage and directly in front of Alex.

 

As she watched him approach, Alex took a deep breath and tried to keep herself in 'closing argument' mode, not wanting her voice to shake as she began. Then she focused entirely on Walker's face. "Okay, Walker," she began, "do you have the check?" Reaching into his wallet, Walker pulled out a small rectangular piece of paper, which he held up for her to see before tucking it into his breast pocket. Alex nodded, "Okay, I hope you get your money's worth out of this, because it's NEVER going to happen again!" She turned back to face CD for a moment, "Do you need the number, or the title, CD?"

 

"Why don't you give me the number, honey, then you can introduce the song however you want while I set it up. It'll only take a minute."

 

She nodded again, "It's number one-sixteen." Then she turned back to the waiting crowd, "I decided to stick with a western type song, since I was already dressed for it. The song is called 'Buckaroo'*.

 

When Trivette chuckled loudly, Walker began to get an ominous feeling in the pit of his stomach. Alex's sudden grin at him as CD called that everything was ready only reinforced the feeling. As the first few beats of bouncy music began, Alex pinned him down with her eyes.....

 

I ain't lookin' for a smart guy school guy

Some proud in-crowd decked-out necktie

I need a man who can tame a wild mustang

Knows the difference 'tween love and a lust thang

Somebody who looks a whole lot like you

Buckaroo

 

Walker felt Trivette elbowing him as Alex completed the first verse, "Hey, Walker!" his partner laughed, "they wrote a song about you!" On his other side, Sara was trying to hold back a fit of giggles at the look on his face, and to the side of the stage he could see CD wiping tears from his eyes as he listened and chuckled merrily. Face burning, Walker realized Alex was no longer the center of attention. Everyone was watching HIS reactions instead.

 

Ain't interested in a yes 'mam yes man

I'll pass on the politically correct man

I'm set on fencin' in a desperado

Takes my breath away like Colorado

Who ain't afraid to walk a mile in my boots

Buckaroo

 

Watching the people in front of her, Alex found herself relaxing enormously. All were smiling and laughing, some even mouthing the words of the song along with her. And more than just a few were clapping encouragingly along with the beat of the music. Much more confident now, she sought out and locked gazes with Walker as she began the bridge between verses....

 

Heaven knows what I might do

If I had me a cowboy like you

Buckaroo

 

Alex found she was really enjoying this, and the look on Walker's face was DEFINITELY helping. He was smiling, but squirming, and she could see that Trivette and Sara, while still holding his arms casually, were actually deliberately blocking any attempt Walker might make at escape! She giggled for a moment, it was good to have help in the crowd!

 

Don't have to wow me like a long beard Shakespeare

Just talk plain talk right here in my ear

If you aspire to sophistication

I'll tell you now you're in the wrong location

Get out of here before this country girl gets to you

But, if you like sunset on the painted desert

The Lone Ranger and spaghetti westerns

I'll tell you right now I'm the one for you

Buckaroo

 

In spite of himself, Walker found himself shaking his head and grinning as he listened to the words of the last verse. The Lone Ranger! It figured! On the stage, he could see Alex's eyes sparkling at her success. And he had to admit that, in spite of his best efforts, she'd outdone him this time! Again!

 

Buckaroo

 

 

Buckaroo

 

Finishing the song, but with the music still playing, Alex suddenly hopped off the staged and half danced to Walker's side. Trivette and Sara released his arms at last and backed off a step, wrapping their arms around each other's waists instead, waiting to see what Alex had in mind now.

 

Reaching into Walker's pocket, Alex deftly flipped the check out and held it triumphantly in the air for a moment as everyone in the room roared delightedly at her unspoken message. Another impulse struck and Alex acted before she had time to talk herself out of it. She grinned at Walker wickedly. Reaching up she grabbed his face with both hands, pulling him close and laying a playful kiss full on his lips. Walker's shocked expression was enough to send Trivette and Sara into another bout of near hysterics.

 

Releasing Walker from the kiss, but touching her forehead to his, Alex smiled and whispered just loud enough for him to hear over the cheering of the people around them, "Trick or Treat, Buckaroo."

 

Just after two a.m., the bar was finally nearly empty. Walker and Alex sat at a table chatting happily with Trivette and Sara when CD came and joined them, having just seen the last of his crew on their way. Wiping his brow, he commented, "Phew! That was a good time sure enough, but I'm more than half glad to see if finally done!"

 

"How'd you do this time, CD?" Walker questioned, knowing that CD had spent much of the last hour gathering up the receipts and seeing them safely stored away for deposit the next day.

 

"It was our best ever, Cordell," The retired Ranger told his friend. "No small amount of thanks to you and your GENEROUS donation!" he added with a low chuckle.

 

Alex smacked Walker's arm playfully. "By the way, if you EVER do something like that to me again...." she began with a grin.

 

"Don't WORRY, Alex! I've learned my lesson!" he interrupted, raising his hands in surrender as his face took on some color again at just the memory of the song she'd sung, and the way she'd finished!

 

CD rubbed his hands together and laughed, "Well, I think we ought to do it again next year! I'm still of a mind to see Jimmy up there doing something for us, or maybe Sara here could find a nice song to sing for him!"

 

Suddenly Trivette rose from his seat, pulling out his sword and taking a fencing stance. "All right, Senor Big Dog!" he cried, slipping back into his 'Zorro' accent, "I can no longer let these challenges go unanswered! En guarde!"

 

"Jimmy! Just you stop right there son!" CD shouted, backing off a step, his eyes widening.

 

"En guarde, Senor!" Trivette repeated, stepping forward and swishing a 'Z' in the air with his weapon.

 

Quickly dropping back several more steps, CD hollered, "Jimmy! You quit that, right now! You hear me? That thing is dangerous! You just keep away from me!"

 

Trivette advanced again, his sword whistling slightly as he drew out several more 'Z's in the process, "I said, En guarde, Senor! Defend yourself!"

 

As Walker, Alex and Sara laughed hysterically, CD turned and ran behind the bar, Trivette in hot pursuit, "Jimmy! You cut this out right now! It ain't funny! Jimmy! You listening to me? Jimmy!"

 

"En guarde! En guarde! En guarde!"

 

"JIMMY!"

 

 

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This story is dedicated to the ladies of the Cherokee Sweat lodge, who have been there, waiting anxiously and egging me on since the first time I mentioned the idea one evening, and of course, the members of the POD....without who's help this would never have happened....especially Gailfriend, world's most creative practical joker,  Londamoon, who gifted me with most of the phone gags, and Mel podling, who's constant question 'Do you have any more done yet?' kept me going when I thought I was hopelessly stuck! I hope you think her constant irritation turned out a pearl! <G>

 

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for anyone interested, these are the sources for the songs mentioned in this story, the author gratefully acknowledges the terrific artists and songwriters who brought us these gems!

 

*When You Say Nothing At All - written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz (taken from the CD 'Keith Whitley, Greatest Hits')

 

*Friends In Low Places - written by  DeWayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee (taken from the CD 'Garth Brooks, No Fences')

 

*Buckaroo - written by Mark D. Sanders and Ed Hill (taken from the CD 'Lee Ann Womack')

 

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'Walker Texas Ranger' and it's characters belong to CBS Inc., Top Kick Productions and maybe other copyright holders. This story and the author is in no way connected to those copyright holders and intends no infringement on their copyrights. The story is only meant as an entertaining tribute to a great show and it's cast and crew. This story may be distributed and copied freely, in its entirety, for personal use.

 

All original author and copyright information must remain intact.

 

Any sales or other uses of this document are expressly forbidden, without the specific consent of the author(s).

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