Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money.
Note: Thanks as ever to Helen for proof reading this for me.
Written in response to a challenge to write a fic where one or more of the boy's are caught up with forces beyond their control and in which they are helped by at least one other-worldly figure.
"Your son is leading my son astray!"
"He is not he's just educating him, giving him valuable lessons in life is all."
"Drinking hard liquor? Playing poker? Associating with fallen women?"
"Sorry dear but I speak as I find. And a sheriff - I mean a sheriff?"
"If you recall my dear, my son counselled him against that, you can't blame him just because your son is stubborn."
"My son is stubborn? My son? Yours is half mule!"
" My son is just filling in the blanks in his education, besides beer is not hard liquor. A man needs to know how to drink, speak to and eventually bed a lady, gamble, and defend himself. You know if you'd done your job my son wouldn't have to do it for you "
"Is it my fault he had no father? Besides he's only a boy."
"My son had no father either but I made sure he knew how t' be a man. And as to yours being only a boy. Well that's as maybe but he's doin' a man's job so he has t' be a man. Face it he's growing up."
+ + + + + + +
"Buck come on we gotta go, now!" JD sat atop his horse with a look of pure exasperation.
Buck was on the boardwalk outside the Silver Dollar Saloon in the town of Little Bend. In his arms was a petite and pretty red-head called Patty. Buck had been saying good-bye to Patty for at least twenty minutes by JD's reckoning. It was a two-day journey back to Four Corners and he wanted to be on his way. At this rate they would be camping out two nights instead of one.
Buck and the girl finally broke contact. "Darlin', now you take care I hope t' be back this way some time an' I'm gonna be looking you up, you hear?" He ran his thumb gently over her cheek.
"Oh Buck, I'll miss you but I won't hold by breath, I'm young hun, not stupid." She smiled up sweetly.
JD suppressed a smirk, which got him a quick scowl from the big ladies man.
"Fair enough darlin', but I'll always remember you and respect you." With that he gave her one last kiss before he left her to mount up and with a wave he rode out of her life as swiftly as he rode in.
They slipped into the easy rhythm of the trail and before they knew it were making camp beside a small creek as dusk descended. Everything went as it usually did, Buck cooked. He couldn't cook many things but he could make perfectly expectable bacon and beans. JD washed up and complained about it.
"Aw hell Buck!" JD exclaimed as he came back to their camp.
"JD it's a natural function of the body, can't help it, better out than in I say. 'Sides youre the one who packed beans!" Buck protested.
"'Cause beans is all you can cook!"
"Well least I can cook something!"
+ + + + + + +
"Oh that is just disgusting!"
"What? My son broke wind, you never broke wind?"
"Not in company, no."
"Oh get you the high and mighty lady, still an unwed mother weren't you? So quit with the airs and graces, dear."
"At least I kept my self-respect, I didn't sell myself!"
"No you worked yourself into an early grave for a pittance!"
"And you didn't?"
"I'll have you know I was murdered, until then I was in perfect health. Now shut up I want watch my baby sleep."
+ + + + + + +
"What the hell!" Buck sat up suddenly.
"Wha ?" JD also came awake in an instant.
The two men, they could sleep through thunderstorms, hail, howling wolves and screeching owls but something had woken them. The fire had died down some and they could only see a few feet past it into the shadows. Both men were tense and silent, guns in their hands, but there was nothing, no unusual sounds. The horses, Which had been skittish when they awoke, were now calm, nothing moved in the shadows, no footfalls in the night, no twigs snapping under foot. For nearly an hour they waited in silence, guns at the ready, but nothing came and eventually they dismissed the incident and went back to sleep.
Come the morning Buck was up first as always, he came back from the creek having washed and shaved with a fresh canteen of water. The fire he had stirred up and added fuel to was now ready to heat water for coffee and fry bacon. Except there were no pots, no coffeepot, no tin mugs, no plates, no skillet. Buck thought JD had brought them back from the river, he certainly didn't see them down there.
"Hey JD!" He toed JD's slumbering form. "Wake up boy. You're wasting daylight."
JD struggled out from under his bedroll. "What? Oh, hi Buck," he smiled.
"JD, where in the hell are the pots and such? How ya s'pect me t' make breakfast if'n ya hide the things?"
"Theyre right there beside the fire where I left 'um." He pointed to the fire.
"No they ain't," Buck said pointedly.
"They gotta be." JD stood up and walked over in his stockinged feet to the fireplace, but no matter how hard he looked the things weren't there.
"Er JD," Buck said uneasily.
"Um did you by any chance line up the cooking things on a log?" he asked somewhat hesitantly.
"No of course not why would I do a " By now he was beside Buck and could see what the big ladies man was staring at. All their cook things were lined up neatly on a fallen log. From the coffeepot on the left through the skillet, the plates, and the mugs. "What the hell?"
"Yeah, what the hell, my thoughts exactly. JD, would you mind if we skipped breakfast and just got out 'a here?" Buck asked.
"No I wouldn't mind at all, I'll pack." Together they struck camp and packed in record time. Something about the place had unnerved both of them, by mutual but unspoken agreement they didn't speak about it.
+ + + + + + +
"Oh no, not again."
"What's going on?"
"Maybe this one won't be bad, I mean moving a few things isn't so bad. But then again thats how it started last time. But don't they like kids best? Of course he is still just a boy really."
"What in the world are you babbling about woman?"
"This happened before, when he was younger, it was bad. We have to corner it, stop it."
"Corner what? Stop what? What happened? Will you stop and speak English, tell me what is going on? Is my boy in danger?"
"He's not that young, besides they're harmless, playful. He can handle it."
"Oh I give up!"
+ + + + + + +
By the time they had reached Four Corners Buck had managed to dismiss and rationalise the incident. JD he decided was playing games, and he would not give him the satisfaction of rising to the bait. JD just kept telling himself Buck was fooling with him, he told himself both of them waking up like they did was coincidence. He was a man and he was not afraid of things that went 'bump' in the night; he just wasn't. He told himself this but it didn't stop the feelings of dread.
Evening was coming on and JD tried to put his thoughts of dread to the back of his mind as he settled into an evening with the guys. He was visibly failing long before midnight but he wouldn't give in and go to bed, even when Buck admitted defeat and retired for the night, for once alone. By half past one in the morning he just couldn't stay awake any longer and pulled himself up the stairs of the boarding-house to bed. Hopefully he would sleep so deeply nothing would wake him before dawn. If he could just sleep through whatever was going to happen he would be all right.
JD slowly pulled himself back to the land of the living as sunlight poured in past the ineffectual drapes. He scanned the room searching for anything out of place, but it all looked the same; nothing had happened. JD told himself he was right, it was Buck all along. Feeling much better he dressed quickly, aware that he was late, and bounded downstairs in search of breakfast. When he had eaten and finally emerged onto the street it was mid-morning. Buck was sitting in front of the saloon, his chair tilted back against the wall, from where JD stood he had his eyes closed and was enjoying the sun. JD crossed the street and took the chair beside him.
"I'd say more like afternoon," Buck commented from under his hat.
"Aw hell it ain't that late. Um Buck?"
"You sleep well?" JD asked hesitantly.
"Yup, like a baby, you?"
"Fine, just fine."
Just then, one by one all the unoccupied chairs in front of the saloon fell neatly on to their sides. Buck and JD watched in silence, neither moving nor speaking. Finally Buck stood.
"Looks like we're in for some freak winds," he commented, before walking very quickly across to the jail.
JD swallowed, stood, and with one look at the two lone standing chairs followed Buck. There hadn't been so much as a breath of wind all day.
There were no more 'incidents' for some days. Neither man mentioned or discussed the incidents, and none of the other seven were aware anything was amiss other than the fact that both seemed a little jumpy. Then about a week later all of them were together playing cards one afternoon, when out of nowhere, in the middle of a quiet saloon a mini whirlwind attacked the table, cards and money flew everywhere, as soon as anyone rose from his seat his chair flew away from the table. Ezra grabbed as much money as he could; Chris drew his gun, Josiah prayed, as did Vin though not to the same god, and Nathan did his best to work out where the wind was coming from. Only Buck and JD did nothing other than hold their hats and sit still and wait for it to end. For a full two minutes the coins, cards and notes flew in and out and around the men. When it finally died down all the other patrons had gone, Inez emerged from behind the bar.
"Madre de Dios!" she swore. "What was that?"
"Ma'am are you alright?" asked Nathan.
"Si, but what was that?" she asked.
"Some kinda whirlwind I reckon," he ventured.
"Indoors?" Inez was clearly unconvinced.
"Buck?" Chris eyed his oldest friend; aware he had been uncharacteristically still and quiet during all the commotion. "You know what just happened here?"
"Freak wind?" Buck offered, "Ain't no point tryin' t' shoot the wind ya know." He nodded to Chris' still drawn weapon.
"JD?" Josiah got the youths attention. "Do you know what just happened here?"
"No Josiah, I got no idea. A freak wind I guess, like Buck said, ain't that so Nathan?" JD had latched onto the fact that the ever pragmatic healer was looking for a logical, explainable explanation. Unfortunately the slight rise in the pitch of his voice gave him away.
"JD?" This time there was a valid threat in the question.
"I swear I don't know," JD protested.
"So som'it like this ain't never happened t' ya before?" Vin asked, fixing JD with his piercing blue eyes.
"No!" JD protested.
Chris was still watching Buck who clearly, well clearly to Larabee, knew more than he was saying. "Did something happen on the trail last week?" he asked of his oldest friend, but all the time watching JD.
"Nope," Buck stated calmly, with that he downed the last of his beer and then with deliberate ease got up and left the saloon, followed almost intently by JD.
Vin watched them go, before he turned to Josiah. "White folk got a name fer this?" he asked.
"Oh yeah, we call it a Poltergeist, you come across one before?" the former priest asked.
"Friend of mine had some trouble when he was about twelve, had t' get a special medicine man in t' fix it," Vin explained although the explanation only made sense to two of them.
"Come Mr Tanner, Mr Sanchez you cannot seriously think young Mr Dunne is afflicted by a poltergeist, they're only stories surely? Besides, I was told they were meant to afflict children, such as Mr Tanners friend." Ezra looked from one to another while Chris and Nathan looked on in bafflement.
"What in the hell are you three talking about!" Larabee demanded.
+ + + + + + +
"We have to find it!"
"We've looked everywhere, the wicked thing must be hiding."
"Well of course it's hiding, it's a poltergeist thats what they do! Oh come on I can't watch, if I can't help I can't watch him suffer, let's look some more."
"Don't worry my son will watch out for him, that nice Mr Tanner too."
"They all will, I know, if he'd only ask for help."
"Now you see I taught my son to not be ashamed to ask for help when he needs it."
"So did I! But life very quickly robbed him of that ability I'm afraid. Baby, if you can hear me please tell them the truth, let them help you. Oh what's the use! Let's go look some more, the little weasel must be here some place."
+ + + + + + +
The memories assaulted him as he strode toward the livery. Half forgotten, they had been returning in nightmares, night after night. And night after night he awoke to find things moving of their own volition, floating across the room to settle in neat rows on the floor or dresser. If he tried to stop them the heavier ones flew at him. When he put all the moveable objects away the drawers simply opened to set them free. The more he tried to deny it was happening, could happen - again - the worse it got. He finally packed everything movable into a trunk and locked it. His gun belt he wore, his gun - unloaded - he slept with in his hand. And as a result it was happening in public, inside, in daylight, in front of everyone! He had to get away, away from the town, from people from it.
Vin came to the door of the saloon in time to see JD and Buck ride out of town, one was protecting the other that was for sure. 'Isn't that what the two of them did best'? He couldn't blame them, he knew it wasn't an easy thing for a man to admit to, fear. Fear of the unexplainable, fear of something you can't see, or touch, or smell. Vin had been partially raised by Comanche, the spirit world was as real to him as the physical, but he knew the others, with the possible exception of Josiah, would not, probably could not, understand it or even accept it.
"We gotta find out which one it is and git someone who c'in help 'um," he announced. "If'n it's gonna come out in t' the open it's gettin' stronger."
"That means getting them to talk, to us, not just each other, 'sides I reckon we know who it is. Them things go for youngsters; didn't you say your friend was twelve? But you're right. Im not familiar with the service and since Im not a priest it might not work anyway." Josiah stopped while he thought on the problem some more. Vin, as always waited patiently, Ezra played solitaire while feigning indifference but listening nonetheless. Chris and Nathan just sat there in confused silence. "Could you ride on over to the village an' ask Koje if he knows someone who could help?"
Vin pulled himself of the wall he was leaning on. "Sure, might take a few days though, we had t' send fer a special medicine man from another band."
Sanchez nodded. "Whatever it takes."
Vin tipped his hat and ducked out if the swing doors. Finally Chris had had enough.
"Now for those of us who don't appear to speak whatever language it is you three are speaking I want answers now!"
"If I may Mr Larabee?" Ezra looked up. " Our tracker and preacher appear to believe that young Mr Dunne, who I might add we all suspect of being a good deal younger than he claims, has attracted the attention of a malevolent spirit called a poltergeist." Ezra turned his head to Josiah who nodded to acknowledge that this was an accurate summation of his beliefs. "For the uninitiated a poltergeist is a mischievous spirit attracted to children and youths."
"So it's a ghost?" Nathan asked.
"No, not as such," Sanchez tried to explain. "A poltergeist is a spirit but it was never a person, it isn't a lost soul, in fact it may not even have a soul, but they do seem to like the young."
"Josiah, Ezra, there are no such things as ghosts!" Chris exclaimed.
"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies." Ezra quoted. "Not that I am saying I believe it, but until someone comes up with a better explanation as to what happened what else is there?"
"Chris, you were here, you saw it, felt it. Do you have an explanation?" Before Larabee could answer Sanchez continued. "Look, JD needs our help and understanding right now, if he thinks we won't believe him he'll never tell us the truth. If you can prove to me what happened here wasn't a supernatural event I'd be more 'n happy, but, until then please let me an' Vin handle it."
Josiah rarely used his years and greater experience to force his will on to the others, but this was something he felt passionately about. Chris looked at Nathan, despite clearly having deep reservations, and gave him a slight nod.
"Very well, for now do what you think you have to do."
They waited for the other two to return, eventually at around one in the morning JD rode wearily into the livery. As he began to put his horse away he found Josiah waiting for him.
"JD where's Buck?" he asked quietly.
"Well you know Buck," JD smiled. "He found something to 'distract him'."
Sanchez smiled to himself, 'trust Buck'. "John Dunne, I need you to tell me the truth, tell me what happened here today."
Dunne turned to look at him, Josiah was the only person who ever used his full name, it was a kind of code between them, and it meant 'the truth, no bull, just between us'.
"Josiah I don't know, I really don't, I ain't never seen nothing like it, never, I swear." JD insisted.
"JD, has anything unexplained happened at all lately?" He could see in JD's face he had hit the jackpot. "Tell me." And he did. He told him about the cooking things moving and about the chairs outside the saloon. "Is that all?" Sanchez prompted.
"Yes, I swear that's all. Josiah?"
"What's happening, what's causing all this?"
Sanchez shrugged, since this appeared to be JD's first encounter with the spirit world he didn't want to scare him, finding out there were such things as poltergeists was scary enough, finding out one has attached itself to you would be terrifying. Very carefully and gently Josiah told him what they believed was happening.
"Oh my God! For real?" Sanchez nodded.
"Now remember so far there have only been three events, right?"
"Yes I swear, just three."
"So it isn't very active, Vin has gone to find a medicine man who knows about all this stuff. Until then you must tell me if anything happens, anything at all, alright?"
JD nodded, still numbed by what he had just learned.
"And I don't want you sleeping alone, until Vin gets back you can bunk in with me, perhaps the church will put it off, at night at least?" he added with a reassuring smile, cupping one big hand behind JD's head.
JD smiled weakly. "I'll get my stuff."
Buck rode back into town wearily not long after dawn; he stabled his horse and looked longingly at the bathhouse wishing it were open already. Instead he headed for his room in search of fresh clothes before heading off for a shave. He was just emerging from the barber when Chris caught up with him and explained the recent turn of events, he had expected Buck to protest about JD sleeping at the church, claiming he could protect the lad himself but he seemed more than pleased. He was equally unfazed by the poltergeist explanation and seemed to take it in his stride. Chris eyed him critically.
"You alright pal?" he asked. Because in truth Buck looked done in.
"Yeah, why wouldn't I be all right? Jist had me a busy night is all," Buck suddenly grinned back, but Chris didn't miss the fact that the smile never reached his eyes.
Before Chris could press further Buck brushed past him and crossed the street in search of a meal. The day was quiet, Vin was still away and Buck offered to take his patrol. Even though he looked to be dog-tired he insisted. Vin rode back in just after Buck returned from patrol with news. The two of them met in the livery. Koje knew a medicine man that could help. Chanu was on his way to contact him and if he agreed, and Koje was sure he would, then Chanu would bring him to the town in about two days time.
"Two days?" Buck enquired.
"Yeah," Vin confirmed.
"Good, thats good, so it'll be gone in two days right?"
Vin frowned; there was a tone of what Vin could only call desperation in Buck's voice. Just then a lantern hanging from a nearby post fell to the ground shattering and spilling lamp oil all over the floor. Barely had the two of them stared to rake up all the affected straw when a pitchfork flew across the barn headed for Vin. Buck only just managed to shove Vin aside before it embedded itself in the wall just where the Texan's head had been.
"Guess it don't want no medicine man here?" Vin said jokingly.
"This ain't funny Tanner!" Buck bellowed. Just then a second pitchfork flew at them. This time Vin wasn't so lucky and although he managed to deflect it from his head it managed to embed itself in the back of his calf.
"Shit!" he exclaimed as Buck pulled it free and without waiting for an explanation slung the much shorter and slighter man over his shoulder and ran out of the barn. Ignoring the whinnies of the panicked horses he pounded around and up the steps to Nathan's, and began banging on the door with both fists, while Vin sat on the bench outside clutching his leg in an attempt to stop the blood flow.
"What the h...?" Nathan pulled the door open.
Without explanation Buck pulled Vin up and all but carried him inside. Once Vin was on Nathan's bed Buck backed up to the doorway as Nathan went to work. The puncture wound was deep and dirty but it didn't take much for Nathan to get it to stop bleeding. It was the cleaning that was the most painful. He had Buck lay a towel on the bed then Vin lay on his stomach while Nathan washed and re washed the gaping hole in his powerfully muscled calf. A long line of earthy expletives in an increasingly thick Texas drawl emanated from the bed.
"Might ha' known all that foul language was coming from you," Chris commented with amusement as he arrived to see what all the commotion was about. "What the hell did ya do to yerself this time?"
"Weren't me!" Vin protested. "It were it, the thing, polter whatever Josiah called it, I was tellin' Buck as how the medicine man would be here in two days and I guess it weren't to happy. Started throwing pitch forks at me."
"Trust you t' get a damn ghost mad at ya!" Chris almost laughed.
"'Siah told you it ain't a ghost." Just then Vin yelped as Nathan started to use whisky to finish his cleaning.
"Yeah I know it's a spirit, JD's own little troublemaker, where is JD any way?" Chris asked.
"Still over at the church," Nathan supplied. "Now Vin I'm gonna stitch this, so you hold still now, you hear?"
"Yeah, I hear, jist don't take too long." Vin clamped his mouth shut so as not to yell or bite his own tongue.
For a while there was silence other than Vin's self muffled grunts as Nathan stitched the hole in his leg closed. It only needed a few stitches and was over relatively quickly. Vin finally relaxed, burying his head in the soft pillow as the intense pain slowly faded into something he could manage. Nathan began to bandage the leg. When he was done he helped Vin to roll over and handed him a mug of water, which the Texan downed greedily.
"Wait a minute, " Vin suddenly looked up. "If JD is still at the church what is it doing in the livery?"
Chris frowned at his logic and then turned to Buck, who was still standing at the back of the room, now almost forgotten.
"Buck?" Chris asked.
"I gotta go. Nate, is Vin gonna be alright?" Buck was still looking at Vin.
"Should be, seeing as how I got it cleaned out so quick, should be just fine."
"Good, thats good." Now visibly pale as he stepped more into the light heading for the door, Buck found his way blocked.
"Buck, what is going on?" Chris was blocking the door now, he wanted to look Buck in the eye but the bigger man kept his head down.
"It's you!" Vin exclaimed from the bed suddenly as all the pieces dropped into place. "Youre the one it's attached to, not JD!"
Buck's shoulders stiffened but still he didn't look up.
"Everything that happened, happened when both of you were there," Vin was now thinking out loud. "The kid kept telling Josiah he had no idea what was happening, but you, you didn't look at all surprised, it is you isn't it?"
"I have to go." Buck stepped forward but Chris didn't move. "Please Chris I have to go. If I stay someone else is gonna get hurt, please, I can't let that happen, let me go!"
Nathan came to stand beside him. Then without warning he grabbed Buck's left forearm and ignoring but noting the hiss of pain, pulled the shirtsleeve back before Buck could stop him. The whole length of his forearm was covered in bruises and even small cuts. Buck pulled his arm free and pushed down the shirtsleeve.
"I seen bruises like that 'afore, that's what happens when you try to defend your face or head, some of them is a week or so old." Nathan looked at Chris.
"Is this true, this whatever it is, has been attacking you for over a week?" Chris asked.
In response Buck just barged past him and out into the evening sunlight. Even though his horse was tired he rapidly collected some supplies from the store and resaddled, intending to get out of town until the medicine man arrived. In truth he had almost forgotten the incidents when he was twelve, he had pushed them so far back in his memory they were almost gone, almost but not quite. When he had found the cooking utensils lined up on the log the memories came back. If he had been alone he would had wept he was so scared. But for JD's sake and his own pride he couldn't. He hated the fear, he needed to face his fears, his enemies, he couldn't shoot a spirit. So distressed had he been all those years ago he had no real idea how his mother had got rid of the thing. So when Vin told him he had a solution to his problems he had to restrain himself from jumping for joy then and there. But he could not risk anyone else getting hurt, Vin could have been killed, he wouldn't be the cause of one of his friends being hurt. He would leave town, out in the wilderness it could only hurt him, and he was used to it, after all it was in the damn things best interests to keep him alive. This argument was his trump card if any of the others tried to stop him.
Chris caught up with him in the livery just as he was tightening the cinch.
"Don't try and stop me Chris." He stopped and looked him in the eye. "It's too dangerous, I can't risk someone getting hurt, what if " he trailed off, unable to complete his sentence.
"What if it was JD? Isn't that what you were going to say?" Buck just nodded as he mounted up.
"I'll be back in two days, I promise." With that he rode out.
The spirit didn't want him to leave; it wanted the energy of all the people. Only around people did his host have all the energy it needed to thrive. It couldn't believe it had found a host with so much energy and so old, normally only pubescent children had the kind of energy it needed, and they were only temporary hosts, their energy died as fast as it came. This one seemed never to have lost the energy of youth; in fact it felt it had got stronger quite recently.
As Buck rode past the church another sudden whirlwind erupted, not just dust and leaves swirled around the horse and rider. Suddenly loose roof shingles from the always weak roof started to fly around the panicking horse. As one particularly large shingle hit Max in the hindquarters he sidestepped and reared in one movement. Not even the most experienced bronco rider could have kept his seat, and Buck had ridden his share of broncos, crashing off the horse toward the church, to land on the steps in a boneless heap. Instantly the wind was gone.
+ + + + + + +
"Is he all right? I can't look. I mean I know he's not dead or he'd be here but is he hurt? I hate it when he gets hurt and I can't be there."
"I can't tell, Mr Larabee is there now and JD and that nice Mr Sanchez now JD is running off toward the clinic. Oh, now that gambler feller is coming he and Mr Larabee and Mr Sanchez are carrying him toward the clinic."
"Is he bleeding?"
"Yes, there is blood on the side of his face "
"Let me see! That that that! Well that is it! We can't find its hiding place up here, were going down there to protect him until this holy man of theirs comes."
"Can we do that? I thought we couldn't do that, only in special circumstances you need permission, you have to ask Him."
"So I'll ask, come on!"
"Oh I don't know, I mean is this a real emergency, it won't kill him "
"Won't kill him! What the hell just happened, he could have broken his neck, and just you remember it is my son keeping your son safe, have you thought what would happen to him if he lost my Buck?"
"Look dear, you may be used to kow-towing to the boss, curtseying an 'yes siring' well not me lady. I made my own way, I didn't let no man run my life, not a master, or a customer and certainly no husband and no man, not even Him; is going to stop me looking after my baby. Now are you with me or are you going to cringe up here and hope it doesnt turn on JD? Or are you going to do something?"
"Well I suppose I just "
"Oh come on, don't worry I'll do all the talking."
+ + + + + + +
Vin hobbled out of the way as they lay Buck on the bed. Leaving only Nathan and Josiah inside the others waited outside, Vin sitting and resting his leg on another chair. While he did Chris filled the others in on the recent turn of events. Ezra watched JD, trying to gauge his reactions, finally as Chris finished and sat next to Vin he moved to stand next to the youth at the rail.
"You know Master D JD, while I know you would never want any harm to come to Mr Wilmington, it is alright to feel relieved that it is not you afflicted by this malevolent spirit."
JD looked over at him, briefly considering if Ezra had supernatural powers himself, because he appeared to be able to read minds.
"Thanks," he whispered, relieved someone understood, but still feeling ashamed of his selfish reaction. "Do you reckon Buck will be alright?"
"It has been said more than once that Mr Wilmington has a very hard head, so I have no doubt he will be fine," Ezra assured.
After what seemed like an age Josiah called them in. Buck was now in the bed rather than on it. His bare shoulders were visible beyond the soft quilt, as was the white strapping around his ribs. Nathan was just finishing strapping his left wrist into a pair of splint boards.
"Well?" prompted Chris.
"Got some broken ribs an' a broken wrist," he looked up from his task after tying off the bandage. "Took a bad blow to the head, bled some, though you can't see it now, 'bout all we can do now is wait for him to wake up."
"How long Nathan?" Chris asked.
"No way to tell, we just gotta wait, an' watch, an' pray," Sanchez explained.
"Has anything, you know, has anything happened?" JD enquired, casting an eye around the cluttered but neat room.
"No but you are right to be worried," Nathan looked back at Buck, and then at Chris, "we better move all the heavy objects just in case."
Though he said nothing Nathan used his eyes to draw Chris' attention to the bruises they had see earlier on Buck's forearm. As he looked Chris could see they extended up both arms. Buck had been fending off flying objects for days by the look of it. Under strict orders from Nathan to rest ,keep his leg clean, and return in the morning, Vin hobbled away to the saloon with Chris and Ezra. JD insisted on staying with Buck, he would be there until he woke up, he swore, and they would face whatever it was together. Josiah helped Nathan tidy away his supplies and said a silent prayer over both Buck and JD, going on to thank the Lord for Nathans skill. Then he departed after the others promising to send food back for those keeping watch.
+ + + + + + +
"I'll give you this, your son is loyal, loyalty's important."
"He's a good boy, my JD, always was, never complained, never wanted what we couldn't afford, or at least he never asked for anything, I'm I'm well I am glad he has found such a good friend."
"Well I bet that was hard to say!"
"Youll never know how hard. What did He say?"
"He said yes, I get the feeling He doesn't care much for Polts. He didn't exactly say they were the work of 'you know who' but that was the impression I got. We can be there by morning their time, they wont be able to see us or hear us; but IT will."
"Oh; I was hoping I could, you know, talk to him just once more "
"I know me too. Still its better than sitting up here doing nothing."
+ + + + + + +
If Buck had been sleeping and eating right, there would have been no problem; it was a nasty concussion, but as everyone said he had a hard head. But he hadn't been sleeping or eating much for over a week, so he remained unconscious, his body taking advantage of the situation to get some much needed rest. The poltergeist waited in the corner of the clinic. He wouldn't let his host die, but he had done enough damage to keep him in town. There was just no knowing how long it could feed off such a strong life force, but it knew now it had to be careful, if it pushed too hard it would drain the life force out too quickly.
JD nervously ate the meal Josiah brought. He kept a tight hold of his knife and fork. Every time the wind rattled the door or the window he jumped. When Nathan began to boil the instruments he had used to clean and stitch Vin's leg, he almost jumped out of his skin.
"A mite jumpy ain't ya JD?" Nathan asked smiling in the dim light of the small room.
"You telling me yer not a bit nervous yerself?" JD inquired a bit sheepishly.
"Well maybe a mite, but as I see it, there ain't nothin' we can do, so why worry?" Nathan moved to the bed to take Buck's pulse and check for fever.
"He will be all right, won't he?" JD asked.
"I reckon so, pulse is strong, no fever, he's breathing a bit quick but it's fine. Just needs time is all."
Some time during the night Buck passed from being unconscious to just being asleep, when this happened Nathan couldn't say but he deemed it a sure sign Buck would make a full recovery. He slept through until midday when he began to become restless. The spirit began to grow restless with him. Like a small wilful child it needed the release of action, preferably explosive destructive action. It advanced on the bed, where Buck tossed and muttered in his sleep while JD watched on helpless to do anything since Nathan forbade him to wake the exhausted man prematurely.
Suddenly the poltergeist found its way blocked, between it and its gaol were two new spirits. They were not of his kind, they were bigger, stronger. The poltergeists aura glowed red with fury at the two intruders, one pale mauve the other pale green. The malevolent spirit picked up a tin cup and hurled it at the mauve spirit but it bounced back to land on the floor.
JD had been snoozing, his head resting on the bed beside Buck, now he was awake in a flash scanning for danger. Nathan had stepped out so he and Buck were alone. He spotted the cup still rolling back and fourth on the floor. A second one rose from the unlit stove and flew at him. JD ducked instinctively moving to protect Buck, but the cup fell harmlessly by the door. JD stared at it. For the cup to land there, it must have changed directions; in fact it must have turned right around.
The spirit was enraged how dare they? Aware they had greater strength it drew more and more energy from its host. The cups on the floor rose together and flew at Buck and JD, once again to be deflected, this time by the green hued spirit.
+ + + + + + +
"This is fun!"
"Let's just hope we can it keep up, it seems mighty pissed at our boys, and it's making Buck weaker, where is that damn medicine man?"
"Do you think he will do any good? After all it is just heathen mumbo jumbo."
"How can you say that - Watch it! - knowing what you know now, where we you have been? Mr Sanchez is as godly a man as you will find, even if he is unaware of it and you know what He thinks of Mr Tanner, if they say it will work, it will work, faith in your friends, that's what counts."
"Why the little wretch! So you want my boy, well no way not this time, I've dealt with bigger and uglier than you and I still won, no one touches my son!"
"And that goes for me too, by Jesus, you just try and hurt him!"
+ + + + + + +
JD wanted three things, all of which he couldn't have. He wanted this nightmare to end, he wanted to get his hands on the thing and wring its neck -assuming it had one - and he wanted to leave the clinic, which he couldn't do without Buck and Buck was dead to the world. In fact the more things few around the room the stiller and paler Buck became. JD though Nathan had put the moveable objects away, but it kept finding things, cups, a spoon, bunches of dried herbs that shattered all over the place spraying their seeds and dry broken leaves everywhere making him sneeze, even pamphlets and items of Nathan's laundry. But all of them failed to hit him or Buck; they came at them but they didn't hit.
Infuriated the poltergeist started up a wind; it swirled around the two men and occasionally some things brushed JD as he lay over Buck protectively. Just then Nathan and Josiah burst into the room.
"Oh my god!" Nathan exclaimed.
"I don't think the Lord has much to do with this!" Josiah bellowed.
Suddenly the wind was gone.
"Actually Josiah I reckon He does," JD commented sitting up and checking that the still slumbering Buck was still all right.
As Nathan came over and took over checking the patient, JD explained about the strange protection they appeared to have.
The spirit seethed but it needed to get its strength back, to do that it needed to let the host rest some more. The two intruders hovered beside the bed, the green one by the youngster the mauve one by the host. What were they and why were they intent on spoiling its fun?
"Buck seems to be doin' fine, he's asleep." Nathan explained.
"But Nate he didn't wake up, not once, I mean you saw it in here, he slept through that!" JD was really concerned, if anything Buck was sleeping more deeply now than before.
But Nathan was adamant that Buck was sleeping peacefully and would wake when he was ready. To emphasise his point Buck sighed and shifted in his sleep, if JD hadn't known better he would have said he snuggled into the pillow.
+ + + + + + +
"Ahh isn't he cute when he's asleep, I wish you'd seen him before the moustache, I mean it looks good on him but he is just as handsome without it."
"Do you reckon my JD is good looking? I mean I always thought so but then I'm his mom so I would."
"Of course he is, mind you he needs to shave more often, but that's just growing up, he's going to have women throwing themselves at him in no time."
"I don't want women throwing themselves at him, I want him to marry that nice Wells girl, so long as she stops wearing pants, respectable women don't what?"
"I keep telling you women can do anything we want, we just have to not worry about what men think. We have what they want, if they want it, they have to let us do what we want."
"Since when? Who have you been talking to? The world isn't like that."
"Could be, damn I wish I wasn't dead! Hello who's this?"
+ + + + + + +
Chanu entered the clinic with Vin and an Indian no one recognised.
"Fellers this is Nodel he's a medicine man who knows all about the spirit world," Vin explained.
Nodel turned out to be a good deal younger than they were all expecting. With Chanu acting as interpreter, introductions were made, Chris and Ezra, who had seen Chanu ride in, came along to see the man they had all been waiting for.
"We weren't expecting you until tomorrow," Chris pointed out.
"When I told Nodel what Vin had told me, he said we had to come immediately. Now Vin has explained that things were not as he originally thought he says it is even more important to get rid of the spirit."
Nodel and Chanu spoke in their native language. Chanu frowned, suddenly looking around the room.
"What?" Chris asked.
"Nodel says there are three spirits here not one," Chanu explained.
"Oh hell!" Vin breathed.
The two Indians spoke some more.
"He says one is bad er evil you would say, the others are both gentle and fierce at the same time but he does not believe they are a threat."
"No no they must be what stopped it!" JD exclaimed, then he went on to retell the story of how he felt protected when the poltergeist attacked.
Nodel insisted only Josiah and JD remain in the room while he worked. Josiah as a fellow shaman as he saw it and JD as Buck's spirit brother. As soon as he began his incantations the poltergeist became agitated. It flew into a rage flinging whatever it could at the humans; drapes, bedclothes, it broke the window and flung broken glass at the man, but as before nothing touched them. JD did his best to protect Buck who continued to sleep. Sanchez prayed. Out on the veranda the others waited. They had promised not to interfere, but it was a hard promise to keep, only Vin and Chanu standing in front of the door kept Chris, Nathan and Ezra out.
+ + + + + + +
"Oh you don't like that do you, you, you spawn of evil you! Hurt my boy would you? Well not for much longer."
"There is too much stuff!"
"Just concentrate on the glass, how much damage can a torn drape do?"
"Good point, do you think it will work?"
+ + + + + + +
The malevolent little spirits inner light glowed white hot; Buck began to become restless then the inner light began to darken back to the red it had been before. The spirit threw itself bodily at the shaman as he cast his incantations over Buck, but was repelled by the man's own spell of protection. It tried attacking Josiah, but a combination of the half remembered prayer of exorcism and a quick protection spell Nodel had cast was protecting him. Its attempts to get at JD and a now very restless Buck were thwarted by their guardians. The spirit glowed white with rage and tried again but it was to no avail, its inner light began to get darker, turning from red to a dark wine colour, to ox blood and finally to black. A black hole floated in the room for a few seconds and then it was gone.
Nodel continued his incantation, casting a protection spell over both Buck and JD; never again could such a spirit attack either of them. Finally he sat back and smiled at the other two men. Buck was peaceful again. Once Chanu came back he was able to explain that Buck was drained and would sleep for hours yet, but the evil spirit was gone.
"What about the other spirits?" Vin asked.
The Shaman looked around the room, and smiled. Then Chanu translated for him.
"They are ready to leave. Their work is done, your friends are most fortunate to have such powerful spirits to protect them."
+ + + + + + +
"I don't want to go, please can't we stay just a little while longer?"
"No you know what the deal was, look I want to stay too, I want to see my boy wake, but we can't."
"What happened to doing what we want, not letting men rule our lives?"
"What lives? We're dead, and He is not just a man. Come on, we have to go say good bye."
"But he can't see or hear me."
"Can he feel me?"
"Who knows? Try."
+ + + + + + +
JD brushed what he took to be yet another falling seed from his cheek, only to find the spot warm, he held his hand there for a second savouring the warmth, as he watched, the slumbering Buck did the same. Nodel smiled and gave JD a reassuring pat on the shoulder and said something.
"He says you are a very lucky man," Chanu explained.
JD smiled and looked down somewhat embarrassed. "I know," he admitted.
Buck slept the sleep of the dead for hours, oblivious to the repair and tidy up going on around him, even the noise of Josiah and Chris putting in the new window. When he finally woke up he felt good, in fact he felt great, until he tried to sit up and discovered the broken bones.
"Ow!" he exclaimed.
Nathan turned around from his work bench where he was tying new bunches of herbs.
"Easy there Buck, that was some fall you took from yer horse."
Buck rested back against the pillows, he glanced at the window, morning light streamed in. Nathan, he noted, seemed to have lost his drapes.
"Yesterday?" he asked.
"No, day before, how do you feel?"
"Great, except for the ribs and arm, I feel great. What happened? I mean did anything happen?" Buck studied Nathan's face, he knew he'd get the truth; Nathan was a terrible liar.
"Lots of things happened, but all you need to know now is that it is over." The healer smiled at him.
"Thank God, I had the strangest dreams."
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