It wasnt until the next day that Chris saw Vin again.
After he left Nathan in the clinic, hed looked all over town for the tracker. He checked his wagon, the saloon, and just about every place he could think of. He even went twice to check the livery to see whether Peso had gone or not but had found the horse chewing hay quite happily in his stall on both occasions, and Vin was nowhere in sight.
Chris could never figure out how Vin could disappear into the shadows so quickly. He hadnt left the clinic much before Chris, and to find no trace of him in the little time hed had to disappear added fuel to the fire that was burning in Chriss belly.
In a frustrated rage, Chris had saddled his horse and ridden out to his cabin, and stayed there for the night.
The gunslinger rode back to town early the next morning and after taking Pony to the livery, he spotted Vin sitting in a chair outside the saloon. His hat was low over his eyes and Chris had no idea whether the tracker was awake or not.
As he approached Vin he knew there was no point in trying to sneak up on him, the tracker had probably been following his progress from half a mile out of town. He just hoped that the Texan was not still mad after their run in yesterday. Every time he thought about what he had almost said in the clinic he mentally kicked himself.
Vin didt twitch a muscle as Chris came to a halt in front of him.
The blond noticed the white bandage, almost hidden under Vins hat. "See Nathan caught up with you," he said, looking down at the still unmoving figure before him.
"Yeah, sure did," came a mumbled reply. Vin remained still in his chair.
Chriss lips twitched at the corners, a smile playing on his face. He knew hed been forgiven.
"Howre you feelin?"
"Me too, Vin."
Chris stood, waiting for a further response. He felt better just knowing that Vin didnt hold the remark he made yesterday against him. Then again, he should have known that Vin wouldnt be angry for long, he was very tolerant when it came to putting up with things. Hed certainly had a lot of practice at it in his life.
"Yer blockin m light."
Chriss face broke into a smile. Vin had just given him an invitation to join him. The gunslinger moved forward and lowered himself into the chair beside his friend.
"So, hows the head?" Chris asked.
"Still attached to m neck."
Vin still hadnt changed position. He was comfortable as he was. Besides, if he moved his head too much he felt dizzy and he began to see double of everything again.
Chris looked over at his friend, he dipped his head to try and see the trackers face under his hat. He caught sight of Vin suddenly turning towards him, an aggravated look appearing on his face.
Chris chuckled and sat back in his chair. He was enjoying this. He liked to sit with Vin and pass the time of day. Sometimes they never spoke. Just sat in a comfortable silence. He figured that this was one of the times when Vin would have liked to have done that, judging by his short answers. But Chris was just so pleased that their argument was more or less water under the bridge that he wanted to talk to pass the time of day. He also wanted to talk to Vin some more on what hed been trying to say the day before. He knew it would go down better today, the heat of the moment was gone and they were both level headed again he hoped.
"So, how many stitches this time?" He asked the silent tracker.
Chris blew out air from puckered lips. "Tiny," he said with a small sideways nod of his head.
Chris couldnt help a chuckle. "Youre full of talk today, pard."
"Reckon Is sayin enough t answer all the darn questions yer askin."
This remark only made Chris more determined to tease his friend some more.
"Whered you run off to yesterday?"
Vin sighed heavily, trying to make out he was annoyed. He moved his legs under his chair and pushed his hat back from his eyes.
Looking over at Chris he drawled. "Figure I aint gonna tell ya. Iffen yer askin then I reckon its a safe hideout fer me."
The gunslinger beside him grinned wide. He was glad that Vin was back to his normal self.
Nathan, who was watching the exchange from the veranda outside the clinic, mirrored the grin. Hed been worried after the fight the two men had had the day before. He was sure it was going to take a while for the rift to heal over. He should have known better. The two men he was looking down on now never ceased to amaze him. They were so complex he wondered if he would ever know them completely. Tapping the wooden rail hed been leaning on in satisfaction, he turned and walked back into the clinic, the smile never leaving his lips.
"So, the questions finished now? Or is there anythin else yer wantin ta ask?"
"Nope. Thats about it," Chris answered the ornery remark.
"Good cause I was gettin a mite bored."
A moment of silence followed as the two men surveyed their surroundings. Vin could feel that Chris wanted to say more, and he knew what it was he wanted to talk about. It was obvious that things hadnt been completely resolved the day before, but the tracker was reluctant to talk about it. He didnt want to fight with Chris but he was still sure in his own mind that hed done the right thing. He decided that hed rather it was out in the open and dealt with, so they could put it behind them.
Swallowing, and taking a deep breath he turned his head once more towards his friend.
"The way I figure it, if ya step back and ponder, like ya want me to, the whole worldll go by and a lotta people will end up dead. Hell, if I pondered any in a lot of the things Ive been caught up in in m time Id be dead fer sure."
Chris didnt look at Vin as he voiced his opinion. He let the words sink in before he answered.
"The word isnt meant to be taken literally Vin, I was just tryin to make a point. You acted without thinkin. There were plenty of us on the ground to stop anythin happenin to JD."
"Was jus watchin his back is all. Guess I was off guard. M gun needed loadin and I saw that gun pointin at JD."
"Yeah, I gotta have a talk with JD about what he did," Chris said wryly.
Vin didnt envy the young sheriff.
"Ya said yer Ma used t say step back an ponder?" Vin queried.
"Yeah, Ma used to say it to me a lot. I could fly off the deep end sometimes." Chris smiled and turned to look at Vin.
Vin grinned back. "Ya dont say," he responded.
Chris placed a mock glare on his face. "You bad mouthin me and my Ma, Tanner?"
"Wouldnt dream of it, Larabee," Vin drawled as he tipped his hat forward once more and stretched his legs out in front of him.
"Its just a sayin and dont go pretendin you dont know the meanin behind it Vin," Chris threw over as a final shot.
"You could take yer own advice sometimes pard."
"Just let me know when I need remindin Vin," Chris responded. Slipping further into the chair, he took up a similar position to Vin. "So, reckon were straight now?"
"Reckon so." A wicked smile appeared on Vins face. "But Im thinkin Ill ponder fer a while. Jus ta be sure"
Chris had no time to respond as Buck and Ezra came hastily towards them.
The two seated men looked up expectantly as the approaching men stopped in front of them.
Bucks eyes danced as he took in the sight of his two friends. He figured theyd buried the hatchet by the grin theyd shared before he and Ezra reached them.
"Well hey, Vin," he said lifting the trackers hat from his head. "Did Chris do that yesterday? Aw, now that aint nice."
"Why dont ya go somewhere n twirl yer gun, Bucklin?" Vin sat forward, snatched his hat back and scowled at Buck as he placed it back on his head. He held onto the sides of the chair as two Bucks swam in front of his eyes.
Chris frowned. "You okay, Vin?"
"Yeah, m fine. Jist a mite off balance today is all," Vin replied. He leaned back in his chair once again as his vision came back into focus.
Buck darted a look at Chris and the gunslinger answered the glance with a slight shake of his head. Vin didnt like being fussed over and he didnt want Buck to make the tracker feel uncomfortable.
Ezra, who had been standing silently, decided he would move the conversation on to slightly safer ground.
"Well, I see this preposterously early morning finds you in fine witty form, Mr Tanner," he said. "And I am sure Mr Wilmington will follow your suggestion and uh, twirl his gun, just as soon as we relate our tidings to you both."
Vin frowned once again, but this time at Ezra. Looking at Chris he was about to ask the gunslinger if he knew what the hell Ezra was talking about when the blond raised a hand to halt his words.
"Whats goin on, Buck? Thought you two were due at the jailhouse to watch on them robbers."
"We were Chris. Thats why we came to find ya. One o them boys had some interestin things to say about the stagecoach headin out tomorrow."
Chris raised an eyebrow. "And it took two of you to tell me that?" he asked.
"Aw hell, Chris. Will ya just come and talk to him. Sounds like hes tellin the truth."
Chris sighed and stood up, watching as Vin also got slowly to his feet.
"Im guessin hes wantin some kinda deal," Vin said as they began walking towards the jail.
"The only deal hes gonna get is the one that says he stays alive if he tells us what he knows."
Smiles broke out on the faces of the men, amused at Chriss words.
"Well, can we make it quick, Chris. Only I got some gun twirlin to be doin at Miss Daisys." Bucks face formed into a wicked grin as he looked sideways at Vin, who answered him with a backhand across his arm.
"Oh dear, I do wonder about you, Mr Wilmington," Ezra stated.
Four grinning men entered the jailhouse.
Chris didnt break his stride as he walked through the door and up to the cell the outlaws occupied. Vin, Buck and Ezra followed closely behind him.
The three jailed men watched their approach warily. Their eyes settled on the formidable looking man, dressed in black, as his commanding voice filled the room.
"Which one of you folks wants to tell us about the stagecoach?"
A man in his mid to late twenties stepped up to the bars, his hair was long and scruffy and he had a thin moustache.
"Thatd be me," he said, trying to keep eye contact with Chris but finding it difficult because his steady gaze was being answered by hard green eyes glaring back at him.
Chris waited a few moments. He knew the man was feeling uncomfortable but that was exactly what he had in mind. He wanted him to know who was in charge.
"Well, you gonna tell me, or do I have to guess?" He asked finally.
The robber raised his chin a little. "Whats in it fer me?"
"Well now let me see. Whats in it for you?" Chris brought his hand up to his chin and looked thoughtfully at the man behind the bars for a moment, letting him stew. "Hows about you keep the face you got there lookin how it is instead of it bein rearranged for you?"
The mans eyes darted from Chris to Vin. He didnt fancy his chances of staying in one piece if the man in black in front of him got his hands on him. The long haired man behind him didnt look none too pleasant either, so he quickly dismissed the idea that he would be a better man to deal with than this one.
He licked his dry lips and looked at Chris once more. "Well, that dont seem right if Im givin ya some information. Least ya can do is help me out here a little bit."
Vin took a step forward. "Yer talkin like were the ones in jail. Way I see it yer not in any position ta ask fer anythin."
"Well then, guess I dont know nothin about no stagecoach."
The scruffy outlaw began to turn away from the bars. He watched the peacekeepers warily out of the corner of his eye and Chris took advantage of it. Turning his head he nodded at Ezra who walked up to the cell door and went to put the key in the lock.
The man turned back around, throwing frightened glances at his two friends who had been seated quietly on the bed looking at him in disgust.
"You started this," one of them said. "Down to you what happens next."
Ezra put the key in the lock and started to turn it. The frightened man walked back towards the bars, raising his two hands in front of him. "Now lookie here "
"Whats your name?" Chris ordered, cutting him off.
A thin film of sweat started to form on the outlaws face and Vin could not stop the small smile from forming on his lips. Hed seen Chris play this game before, and was enjoying the show.
"Im Luke Harford. And that theres Ned Parnell and Walt Evans," Luke indicated to the two men on the bed, pointing out which name belonged to each man.
The two seated outlaws could not believe what was happening. The idiot was introducing them all.
"Shut yer filthy mouth, Luke," Walt spat out. He jumped to his feet and pushed the frightened outlaw into the side of the cell.
Chris didnt move a muscle as he watched the action. "Sit back down on that bed now!" he bellowed. Walt did not want to argue with that and complied.
Vin answered Chris by stepping up to the bars and standing beside him, his eyes never leaving the men in the cell.
"If either one of them two " He indicated with his finger to the two seated outlaws, " says another word or moves off of there shoot em."
Vin turned his mouth up in a wicked grin and nodded his head. He took his gun out of its holster and cocked it, aiming it at the two now very silent men, who were watching it warily. They had no doubt in their minds that if they did anything to upset this wild man with the long hair, he would indeed shoot them.
Chris turned his attention back to Luke.
"Now, where were we? Oh yeah, the stagecoach. Now Im growin tired of this talk were havin so I think its about time to spill, or I could maybe lose my patience." The words were said calmly but Luke knew that hed pushed this man as far as he was willing to let him.
He was sweating more than ever now. He just wanted this over. He wished hed never opened his big mouth. He just thought he would be able to strike up a deal and maybe get treated a little more lenient if he told them about the hold up. He knew now that his judgement had been way off.
Nodding his head slowly, he stepped up to the bars and began speaking in a hushed voice.
"I just joined up with this gang, and thats the worst mistake I ever made. Theyve been robbing banks around here."
"We came to that conclusion on our own," Ezra stated dryly from further back in the jail. Chris smirked.
Luke sighed heavily and continued. "They were gonna do the stagecoach tomorrow and then move on out of the area," he said. "I overheard em plannin it. They never told the rest of us about any of the plans they made until the night before."
Chris frowned. "You mean, the seven of you that came to rob the bank here arent the whole gang?"
"Hell no," Luke replied. "Theres maybe another ten men."
"Did you hear anything about how they planned to rob the stage? Where they were gonna ambush it or anything like that?" Chris asked the now very co-operative man.
Luke shook his head. "Nope. I just heard they were gonna hold up the stage that was leavin Four Corners tomorrow mornin," he responded.
"And the men that make the plans. They didnt ride into town with you?" Chris asked.
"No. They stayed away. Think they wanted to plan the attack on the stagecoach while we was gone," Luke answered
Chris studied the outlaws face for a few seconds and decided that he was telling the truth. Looking over at the other two men who still had their eyes firmly fixed on Vins gun he directed his next question at them.
"How bout you two, you know anything else?"
Walt answered for both of them. "No, we didnt even know as much as Luke told ya. Like he said, they never told us nothin til the night before."
Chris looked over at Vin and asked a silent question. Vin barely moved his head but it was enough for Chris to know that they both thought the same thing. These men didnt know anything more.
"Alright then. You all get to live," he told the three nervous outlaws.
"When are they gettin picked up, Buck?" he asked turning to look at the big man sitting on the edge of the desk.
"Tomorrow," Buck replied.
Chris nodded his head. "Cmon boys we got some things to talk about."
The four peacekeepers left the jail, leaving three very relieved men behind them.
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