by Heather F.


Four Corners Regulators
Cc. Sheriff JD Dunne
Mr. Dunne [stop]
Are you missing two deputies? [stop]
Sheriff Patrick G. Dunbar [stop]
Little Creek[stop]

JD Dunne stared at the short message on the crinkled paper and furrowed his brow. The din of the saloon faded as he reread the simple question.

Inez hummed to herself as she poured more coffee into the half empty mugs that sat scattered about the round table. Christmas would be here in just a few days. Mz. Nettie had invited the seven regulators and herself along with Mary and Billy Travis to her small ranch for a Christmas meal.

A chill had held the air and white puffs of breath crystallized as town folks greeted one another with holiday cheer and light hearts. Everyone seemed to embrace the holiday spirit except for two of the lawmen but thankfully they had left town on an errand for Judge Travis.

Inez could only wonder if Mary had sent a telegram to her father-in-law and asked that he have Mr. Larabee and Mr. Standish sent on the trail.

"What cha got kid?" Buck reached across his plate of eggs and ham and pulled the small square paper from JD’s hand before Dunne could react.

The ladies’s man scanned the short note and let out a low whistle.

Josiah reached over and took the note from Buck just has Wilmington had done from JD. The large ex-preacher read the scrawled words and let loose with a hearty laugh.

Nathan leaned sideways in his chair and read the short telegram before remarking, "Wonder what Chris and Ezra done got themselves into this time?"

"Heck Ezra probably got’im self blamed for cheatin’ and Chris ole buddy don’t have to do nuthin’ but stare at someone to git his fool self locked up." Buck paused, "Sheriff over ‘n Small Creek sure’s got some balls, though, takin’ on them two an’ lockin’em up."

Vin leaned back in his chair not bothering to read the written word but instead studied those that had read the letter instead. A smile cracked his face. "What cha gonna do JD?"

JD leaned back in his chair and pushed his hat back off his head. "Well fars I can tell Chris and Ezra ain’t over due so I can’t see how they’re missin’…."

The table remained quiet for a moment and then a hearty laugh roared from Josiah.

Buck leaned forward giving JD a hearty wrap on the back.

Vin chuckled, "Yer funeral kid."

Dec. 22rd.
Sheriff Dunne,

Did you receive my telegram? In the case the telegraph is down I have sent this short letter by courier. As sheriff of Little Creek it is my duty to protect the town from those that might cause trouble. I have in my cells a man calling himself Chris Larabee and another by the name of Ezra I have not worked out the details of his last name. Though the night I arrested him he had told me his name was Ezra Stratton, and yesterday while recovering from a blow to the head claimed that his name is Ezra Sullivan. Mr. Larabee has informed me that Mr. Stratton, ala Mr. Sullivan but now today Mr. Standish, is none other than a Mr. Pain in the Ass. And Mr. Larabee has graciously given me permission to shoot Mr. Stratton, Sullivan, Standish, and or P.I.A and dump his body in the desert.

Mr. Larabee is willing to keep it our secret. I fear that there might be some merit to his suggestion.

It seems both men find little joy in the coming celebrations and have found ways to bring trouble to those around them.

I am quite tempted to just ship them off to Yuma but some news has found its way to me that has caused me to pause.

In hopes to clarify this debacle I am sending you this message.

I have been informed that these two men are regulators hired by you to act as deputies to protect the town of Four Corners. (Is Four Corners in that dire need of protection?) This information, however, did not come from either Mr. Larabee or Mr. Standish. (I cannot positively ascertain the younger gentleman’s name but Mr. Christopher Larabee has re-iterated on numerous times something to the effect of "You’re a dead man Standish" …I feel somewhat certain that Standish might be the more recently adopted alias.)

Is it possible that these two men are peacekeepers?

This information has come from a trailhand that was involved in the ruckus that brought down most of the saloon, part of the boarding house next door and attached boardwalks out front. The explosion that brought down aforementioned structures was do to some dynamite. The remnants of the dynamite were found in close association with a pair of badly singed saddle bags that read C.L.

Perhaps Chris Larabee?

Is he one of your men? Does he routinely transport old unstable sticks of dynamite in his saddle bags? Does he have some kind of fetish for explosions?

I shall keep all flammables and combustibles away from him. (I fear what he might be like on celebrations such as this great nation’s Birthday…)

I questioned him about the dynamite and he lunged at the bars….not at myself, but at Mr. Ezra Standish. who in turn appeared shocked at the contents of the saddle bags, but also a little too smug. (his behavior has piqued my curiosity…I shall watch him closely)

Mr. Standish even went so far as to reprimand Mr. Larabee for heedlessly endangering his life. Mr. Larabee at this point threatened to and I quote, "Shove dynamite so far up your…that Nathan wouldn’t find it with a torch".

Are Mr. Larabee and Mr. Standish related? Who is this Nathan? Is he another one of your hired deputies and is he running loose in my town as well? Does this Nathan also carry dynamite? Or is that something only Mr. Larabee does? Surely you can understand my concern.

Mr. Larabee and Mr. Standish were a part of the free for all in the saloon. Many witnesses state that they started it. Not attacking each other (surprisingly enough) but at other unsuspecting citizens. It seems however in the heat of battle they focused their immense energies on one another, at least they were when I lifted up the one part of the fallen saloon ceiling and stepped across the over turned bar. It appeared that Mr. Larabee was doing a fair job of strangling Mr. Standish.

They were the only two truly left standing. At the time, I considered intervening seeing as Mr. Standish was not so much as standing but more like being held aloft by his neck.

Mr. Larabee indicated that he was helping Mr. Standish. to ‘ring’ in the Christmas Season. I fear that Mr. Larabee might have mistaken Mr. Standish for the Christmas goose.

To this moment, Mr. Standish has not yet stopped complaining. He is not a man that is easy to please. Mr. Larabee in turn has not stopped with the silent threats.

Is this a natural state for these two gentlemen?

I’m beginning to understand some of Mr. Larabee’s frustration when it comes to Mr. Standish. Does the man ever stop for a breath?

I would have arrested them then(In the saloon) except for the explosion that occurred in the livery. It drew my attention from the two men in the shelled out remains of the saloon.

Hence my inquiries about the rotting dynamite that may have been in Mr. Larabee’s saddle bags and bedroll. The saloon explosion is still under investigation though I am beginning to think when ever these two men are in close proximity to one another an explosion of sorts will occur.

I inquired as to the where abouts of Mr. Standish’s saddle bags. He assured me that his delicate constitution could not handle the roughness of explosions and as such did not carry around any undo explosives. He found it necessary to reprimand Mr. Larabee once again for heedlessly endangering his precious life. His dear mother, after all ,only has one son. (thank the Lord for small miracles)

Mr. Standish informed me that his saddle bags were in his hotel room. At least that part of his story rings true. They were there as were some documentation pertaining to a Mr. Ezra Sultan. When inquired about this Mr. Standish. assured me it was a family name and no he was not a Sultan in the sense of royalty.

Imagine my surprise.

If these men are some of your hired help could you please do me the honor of retrieving them.

Mr. Standish. finds some twisted humor in baiting Mr. Larabee. And I fear Mr. Larabee might get out of his cell and not escape but attack Mr. Standish across the way.

These two men are occupying all but one of my cells. I loathe in releasing them on the unsuspecting public of Small Creek especially so close to the coming Christmas holiday.


Sheriff Patrick G. Dunbar.

JD squinted his eyes against the rising sun as he read the hand written letter. He tilted his chair back against the outside wall of the Sheriff’s office.

"What cha got kid?" Buck stepped up from the street onto the board walk and once again tore the letter from Dunne’s relenting hand and started reading, "Dang he’s as wordy as Ezra…" As he continued to read his mirth grew drawing the attention of the other lawmen as they gathered on the board walk to greet another day.

Josiah took the letter from Wilmington and walked into the sheriff’s office. The others followed with Vin shutting the door.

Mary Travis and Gloria Potter on their way to the restaurant, gave the closed Sheriff’s door a curious look when Josiah’s booming laugh shook the windows.


Dec. 23rd.
Sheriff Dunne,

The two men are still within my custody. My third and only empty cell has somehow fallen into some disarray. It appears that some bricks are missing and an unplanned exit into the back alley now exits. How it got there no one seems to know…not even the occupants of the other two cells.

That is another mystery for another time. Both their cell doors remain locked and secured so I am somewhat confident that it is neither man attempting at escape. Surely they would have left by now if it were them

Here are the descriptions you requested.

Mr. Larabee is a dark unforgiving fellow with yellowish hair. He seems to smile only when he is contemplating the dissembling of Mr. Standish. He is built like a whipcord, carries a revolver with a chunk missing from the handle. (yes, I have the revolver in my desk drawer). He strikes me as a dangerous fellow. He has little patience and seems to grow more sour with the coming of the holiday.

Mr. Standish uses this and the safety of the bars to irritate the man. It is truly amazing, really, to watch how they work on one another.

Mr. Stratton alias, Mr. Sullivan, alias, Mr. Sultan, alias Mr. Standish, alias Mr. Stephens (with a ‘ph’ and not a ‘V’ as he has pointed out to me numerous times) runs his mouth as often and as quick as his cards. He dresses quite sharp. He seems to lack the common sense the Good Lord gave a stray dog. The man is intent on badgering Mr. Larabee and then laughing.

This strange behavior is a bit unsettling.

I think perhaps Yuma might not be safe from them.

There have been a few unsettling events that have been occurring here in my office since I have detained these two men. I am hoping you will be able to perhaps shed some light onto how these strange occurrences have taken place.

I find coffee on the stove every time I enter the Jail in the morning though neither Mr. Larabee or Mr. Standish have seen this mysterious fellow who seems to be sneaking into the locked office. The wood stove is stoked and running hot before my arrival. Strange that neither of the prisoners is aware of a stranger just outside their cells in the morning offering them coffee and warming the stove.

This I can believe of Mr. Standish, he has some aversion to the mornings. The man tries to sleeps most of the day coming alive only in afternoons to goad Mr. Larabee while shuffling his deck of cards. I have gotten tired of confiscating his decks. I have four now. Each afternoon, however, he has another one.

I would have wagered that Mr. Larabee might have been supplying him with the decks of cards but I fear that the only thing Mr. Larabee will give Mr. Standish in the immediate future is lead poisoning, if given the chance.

Mr. Larabee spends most of his mornings throwing chunks of brick mortar through the bars at Mr. Standish in an attempt to awaken and irritate the man. Mr. Larabee has unerring aim. He is also very single minded. Almost obsessed. He does smile when he manages to hit his target and garner movement from his partner across the aisle in the opposite cell.

The rubble from the saloon and the livery explosion has been cleared away. Thank you for asking. As for your suggestion about having prisoners ‘help clean up the mess they create and the such’, well it seems that Mr. Standish has come down with a horrible debilitating cough. Perhaps those missing bricks in the third cell allowed too much of a breeze through during the night.

I’m thinking of having Doc. Gillie come on over from Elmer City. He has the most amazing cure alls even though he is not a true doctor. His elixirs work wonders and are reasonably priced.

Mr. Larabee offered to cure the gambler/peacekeeper of all his afflictions. I fear his intentions might not be for the benefit of Mr. Standish.

I respect Mr. Larabee’s temper enough that I think it is best he stays behind bars until you come and collect him. I did not offer to set him loose to help in the clean up across the street.

He is one of your men is he not?

I hope that these are your missing men and that you come and claim them soon.

Christmas Eve is tomorrow, Sheriff Dunne, and I would like to return to my wife and little girls without having to worry about whether Mr. Larabee murders Mr. Standish in my jail or worry if Mr. Standish really does have some kind of illness.

Waiting eagerly for a prompt reply,

Sheriff Patrick G. Dunbar

JD ate his lunch in the restaurant as he read the letter. He simply passed the paper to Buck when Wilmington pulled out a chair and straddled it. The gunslinger nodded his head and passed it to Nathan as the Healer pulled out a chair and joined them followed by Josiah and Vin. Nathan held the multi page letter to Sanchez.

Josiah read it out loud for the benefit of the others.

In the end Vin leaned back in his chair clasping his hands behind his head. He let out a soft chuckle and finally asked, "Whatcha gonna do now JD?"

Josiah answered before JD had a chance. He did not want JD to come to a definitive answer and then have to stand by it when other suggestions might make better sense. " I figure son, as unsettled as those two have been these last few weeks I think it might be best to go haul them out of jail."

"Unsettled?" Nathan leaned forward in his chair and nudged his coffee out of the way. "Josiah those two have had burrs in their britches for the last two weeks…’bout time someone else got to deal with’em…"

"I know brother, I know," Josiah let a small smile on his face, "but it seems Sheriff Patrick G. Dunbar wants to enjoy his Christmas as much as we do and seein’ as those two are our headache, it’s only right to bring’em home."

"Could always just lead them around in the desert ‘til they get lost and we head for home." Vin offered.

The others sat quietly contemplating the option.

"Might not work Vin," JD answered after a bit, "cuz if they do find their way home, they’ll be even worse to deal with and if they don’t find their way home we’ll have to go out and find them, and then arrest Chris for killing Ezra…justifiable or not."

The others nodded in mute agreement.

"We leave now?" Nathan slouched down in his chair settling his frame heavily against the wood. It was too cold to be out running around the country side or taking a day’s ride over to Little Creek.

"Nah…let the kid finish his breakfast," Vin answered as he took a sip of JD’s coffee.

Dec. 24th.
Sheriff Dunne,

Did you receive the missive I sent yesterday by courier, with the descriptions that you requested?

I wonder perhaps if you are on your way to retrieve your men? I can only hope and pray that it is true. I’m sending this out by courier as well in hopes that you understand the urgency in my request.

I have not heard back from you. It seems that who-ever has been putting coffee on the stove in the morning and who ever removed the bricks from the wall of the third cell has supplied your men with a bottle of whiskey and not enough food.

I found your two men late this morning some what intoxicated. Mr. Larabee and Mr. S have seemed to have called a truce though I feel it will not last, much like the bottle they are consuming. They pass the bottle between the bars…toss it really. They are celebrating the

Holidays with a good amount of "Christmas Cheer".

It’s frightening really.

It also seems that Mr. Standish has now assumed the persona of Mr. Saint Nick. Though I have pointed out to him that Nick does not begin with an ‘S’ he assured me Saint does… How can one argue with logic like that…especially with the likes of Mr. Larabee backing him up.

Did you know, Sheriff Dunne, that one of your men has a gold tooth?

Mr. Standish’s cough persists but he assures me the brandy he is consuming is medicinal.

I inquired as to how they came about the brandy. I noticed that it was one of the ‘fine’ malts that Mr. Mollany keeps in the back of the saloon under lock and key. I wonder if he will notice it missing?

Your men ignored my question…As they have many times before.

Dr. Gillie stopped by this afternoon. I do not want one of my prisoners or a fellow peacekeeper to fall ill under my care.

Mr. Standish has an aversion to doctors I noticed. Dr. Gillie has developed a fear of Mr. Larabee.

Not to worry though, despite Mr. Standish’s attempts at not allowing the Dr. to examine him, and despite the many threats cast at both myself and the Doctor we managed, with some help from the livery folk, to pin Mr. Standish down. Not to worry Sheriff Dunne, a lot of laudanum in the whiskey had Mr. Standish sleeping like a baby. Dr. Gillie also managed to chase it down with some of his magical elixir.

He assures me that Mr. Standish, when he does wake up, will feel much improved.

Mr. Larabee, however, was not so easily reassured and has promised to wreak great harm upon us for our treatment of Mr. Standish. If he could have I think he would have pulled the bars apart to get across the aisle to get to us and Mr. Standish.

It surprises me Mr. Larabee even cares after the way these two have been carrying on….are you sure they are not related in some way?

Dr. Gillie has left some medicine to be used when his patient wakes. I hope you come and retrieve your men soon, even if they are not your men. I hope you decide to travel on this holiday and retrieve them soon.

I fear Mr. Larabee has taken a dark turn and will follow through on his threats to us for attending to Mr. Standish. And I fear that Mr. Standish will not willingly take the medication that has been left for him.

As for now, Dr. Gillie has assured me that Mr. Standish will sleep through the remainder of this day and perhaps tomorrow as well.

I can only hope he is correct.

It is Christmas Eve Sheriff Dunne

Please take your men home.

Sheriff Patrick G. Dunbar

Sheriff Dunbar signed the letter with a tired sigh. He folded it into thirds and leaned into his chair. It tilted back with a squeak and rolled slightly. The sheriff shut his eyes as he listened to Larabee once again call to Standish from across the way. Dunbar shook his head in weary resignation.

He was pulled from his reverie at the sounds of horses pulling up in front of his jailhouse. Dunbar slowly climbed to his feet placing the letter on the scarred desk top, grumbling softly to himself, "What now?"


JD and the others reined their horses before the hitching post at the front of the tiny Sheriff’s office. It was late Christmas Eve day. Having been in the saddle for close to twelve hours left them sore and tired.

"I’m gonna pick up more supplies…figure we head back out this afternoon cover a couple of hours we can be at Nettie’s by tomorrow mid morning." Vin turned his horse away from the hitching rail and headed for the small emporium. He had been looking forward to eating Christmas dinner with his friends at Nettie’s homestead for the last few weeks.

The others walked up onto the boardwalk and into the sheriff’s office.

JD entered first followed by the others. Josiah shut the door trapping the thick heat of the wood stove. "Sheriff Dunbar," JD stepped forward peeling a glove off his hand and extending it, "I’m sheriff JD Dunne."

Dunbar’s smile brightened and then faded when a sharp but quiet order full of rage shot to the front of the building.

"Buck, JD? Get yer asses in here and git me out…now." Larabee remained out of sight but still managed to convey a commanding presence.

Josiah and Nathan decided to wait outside.

JD tossed a nervous glance at Buck. Wilmington smiled and waggled his eyebrows, "After you Sheriff." He stressed the last word just enough so JD understood who carried the responsibility.

"If we leave now…." Dunne started heading for the door but three very different voices stopped him.

"JD," The warning in Chris’s voice was enough to freeze blood even without the effect of seeing the infamous Larabee glare.

"Oh No you don’t, not without them," Dunbar grabbed Dunne’s arm indicating to the two unseen men in his jail.

Buck simply chuckled, "Sorry kid, no sense wastin’ a trip."

"Chris is gunna kill us," JD muttered.

"Not ‘us’ kid….you," Buck’s laughter could be heard down outside the building.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee brushed passed the others and stormed into the cell across from his. Even after Buck had gone back outside to get Jackson and Sanchez and even after the healer had double checked the gambler, Chris was not satisfied. The second his door was unlocked, Larabee stormed across the small aisle way into the other cell. With a simple touch of his hand, he felt the steady pulse at the base of Standish’s neck.

The gambler slept sprawled across the cot, just as Gillie and the others had left him earlier in the day, once the medicine had taken full effect.

"Nathan?" The name was spoken curtly.

"He’s fine Chris, just sleepin’ it off…probably the best thing for ‘im anyhow." Jackson offered as defense for the Sheriff’s actions. Dr. Gillie, he had no use for, but Sheriff Dunbar was at his wits end with these two.

"He wasn’t sick," Chris turned around and faced the others. The old anger he had been feeling for the last few weeks came rushing back.

Christmas was for fools.

Ezra knew it and so did his Ma, Larabee suddenly realized. In the blind joviality of the season those two had preyed upon others, twisting the meaning it held for most people to make a profitable gain.

Larabee had come to loathe the Christmas, any holiday. He had believed in the magic of the season until a few short years ago and now he dreaded it. Hid from it.

Perhaps Maude was correct in teaching her son to attack on such a holiday instead of reveling in the merriment of the celebration. Ezra probably had no delusions of what Christmas should mean other than lining his pockets with other people’s foolish misplaced trust and goodwill.

Chris’s anger at his own private loss fired at the outward foolery that encompassed most people when the holidays drew near.

Christmas was like any other day of the year, "JD get a wagon we’re leavin’ town now."

Chris looked up from Standish and stared at the faces that surrounded him and the unawares gambler. He saw only resignation and disappointment. All his men carried the same look of defeat, from JD to Josiah.

Buck leaned against the cell door and shook his head in quiet disappointment. Familiar resignation and disenchantment clouded his features.

Buck had expected this, lived through it year after year.

Chris stared at Buck then Josiah and Nathan and finally JD. They had let him and Ezra sit in jail for three days. Three days because they were tired of the stark predatory attitude that he and Ezra projected at each other and those around them for the last few weeks.

Maybe Maude was wrong….maybe so was he…

Chris sighed and ran a hand over his face. It would be so easy to just keep fighting the bit, to keep chomping away at the seasonal joy that encircled him. For what? What would he gain by bringing misery to those that tried to step outside it for once?

Chris paused, letting his shoulders slouch just a fraction. Perhaps it was time to try Buck’s approach to Christmas….maybe not that unrestrained but perhaps something slightly lighter than what he had practiced over the last few years.

Chris stared back down at the softly snoring form of Standish. He would not be able to change Ezra’s mind nor would he try. At least, however, the gambler would sleep through this profitable holiday and leave others to their purses.

Perhaps there was some merit to Dr. Gillie and his remedies….Larabee paused noticing the bruising on the side of Standish’s neck, where someone held him too tightly. He felt his anger spike again….then again perhaps Dr. Gillie could use a lesson in bedside manners.

At the shuffling of feet Larabee looked up at the others. He took a quiet breath and steeled himself.

"If we leave now, I figure we can get some good hard miles in without Ezra belly achin’ and maybe make it to Nettie’s by lunch tomorrow." Larabee spoke to the room but stared at JD. Dunne, often times, made a good barometer.

A smile blazed across JD’s face, "I’ll get the wagon," the kid who enjoyed Christmas suddenly unearthed itself again. Josiah nodded his approval and Nathan chuckled.

Buck pushed off the cell entrance way and simply stated, "Vin said we’d make it by midmorning."

"He might be right." Chris headed for the cell doorway and paused, "Josiah, Nathan git his sleepin’ ass into the wagon," Larabee headed for the sheriff’s outer office, "I’ve got some business to tend too."

"Brother he was only looking out for Ezra’s best interest." Sanchez pointed out hoping to keep the sheriff from harm. Sheriff Dunbar was after all stuck in the middle.

Chris’s eyes darkened and his voice became brittle, "They pinned him down, Josiah and forced some concoction down his throat,"….and I couldn’t help him.

Buck and Josiah shared a swift glance and then both quickly followed Chris out to the outer office his voice trailing back toward the cell area. "So what this about Dynamite?"

"Ezra’s," Chris’s clipped answer had Nathan chuckling and shaking his head.

"Dang fool thought it might ignite so he put it in with my stuff, figured it wouldn’t damage anything important." Larabee’s explanation brought unseen chuckles from both Buck and Josiah.

Nathan fixed the blanket around the gambler and quietly stated, "You sure do pack your own brand of trouble don’t cha?" Jackson sat on the edge of the cot and lifted Ezra’s head so it rested more evenly on the pillow.

The healer smiled and shook his head as he listened to the quick double talk that started in semi secluded room a few short yards away.

Poor Sheriff Dunbar.

+ + + + + + +

"Well Stars ‘n Garters, I didn’t think you boys were gonna show." Ms. Nettie stood in the door way and laughed quietly as she watched Buck and Josiah wrestle a semi conscious Mr. Standish from the back of the buckboard.

Nettie chuckled watching the gambler’s legs buckled and swayed as his toes hooked and dragged on the frozen ground. His chin lolled against his chest falling from shoulder to shoulder as he tried to raise his head. Occasionally, Nettie thought she glimpsed a lopsided smile.

Dang man always wore a grin.

Josiah finally sighed and with a simple shift in position hefted the gambler across his shoulders. Buck preceded him up the three short steps to the porch. Wilmington tipped his hat as he led the way into the small house making sure Josiah’s path was clear.

"Put’im in Casey’s room," Nettie directed from the doorway. She stepped to the side as Josiah lumbered past with his burden, "Ma’am."

"Preacher," She smiled and then turned back to the others, "What happened to ole fancy pants?"

Nathan skipped up the steps and tipped his head in greeting as he said, "Spent sometime with Sheriff Dunbar at Little Creek….One of his plans backfired on him….Old Doc. Gillie gave him one of his famous home remedies," He paused on the porch at the threshold of the door and turned around to survey the small yard, "I’m hopin’ he don’t git sick, but I’m figgerin’ its best to have a bucket handy jist in case….now with Vin it’d be a sure thing but Ezra," Nathan paused and shook his head, "jist ain’t no tellin’ what he’s gonna do."

"Well I’ll have Casey bring one in from the barn," The old widow shook her head and then turned a stern eye on the healer, "Now you jist git yerself in there and make yerself at home…don’t go standing on my doorstep collectin’ ice on yer hat."

A grin split Nathan’s face at the warm invite, "Thank ya Mz. Nettie."

"Don’t go thankin’ me ye, ya haven’t eatin’ anythin’ yet." The old homesteader ushered the younger man through her doorway.

Nathan walked on in, ducking his head and removing his hat relishing in the sudden overwhelming sense of home.

Nettie chuckled and muttered to herself, "That boy’s gonna have himself one humdinger of a hangover, when he finally comes around."

Her smiled brightened as Vin slid up the porch steps with a grin as light as his strides. "Mornin’ Mz Nettie,"

"Git yerself in side boy got fixin’s on the stove and I see Mr. Sawbones already eyein’ the stew pot." Vin tipped his hat and silently disappeared inside.

She waited quietly for Mr. Larabee to decide whether or not to enter her house and be apart of the cheer that came with the season. The old widow could hear her niece and the young sheriff laughing in the barn as they unhooked the team that pulled the wagon and tended to the other’s horses.

Nettie greeted the gunslinger with an understanding smile. There was not much he had been through that she had not…and she had survived, just as he would too…despite himself. In that understanding and knowledge Nettie would handle Larabee precisely the way she handled everything else, with honesty and tough keen awareness.

"Merry Christmas Mr. Larabee."

Chris paused and stared hard at the old lady that Ezra had at one time labeled an ‘old wizen crone’. Dang man should have had his mouth washed out a hundred times over….A smile cracked his features.

"Merry Christmas Ms Wells."

"Nettie, Mr. Larabee, Nettie," She followed him into the house closing the door against the December chill, " I heard you and that fancy gambler had a run in with Sheriff Dunbar…."

A few snickers echoed outside the door followed by a quiet but firm, "It was Ezra’s fault."

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