Point of View

by JIN

We were moving at a snail’s pace, really. It was hard keeping the four of us sheltered behind the table and moving it at the same time. And really, there were only three of us doing the actual lifting, because Chris couldn’t seem to move his left arm at all. I was hoping for a graze, but figured it could be a whole lot more, knowing how stubborn and hard as nails he could be.

We didn’t move far before it was all over anyway. Within minutes, their leader was dead and the other two were being dragged back in by Buck and Ezra. I’d rushed to Vin’s side as soon as the bullet knocked the last man to the ground. I didn’t even bother checking him – Chris had made the shot and I knew there was no need.

I yelled at Inez to bring over the candles, and Josiah rushed to help her. Chris was hovering over me, but I didn’t say anything as I reached to feel for a pulse on Vin’s neck.

By the time I found it, there were half a dozen candles around us, and I could see the blood soaking Vin’s shirt, streaming off his back, and pooling on the ground next to him. That puzzled me some, and I was even more surprised when I pulled up Vin’s still wet shirt and saw the wound.

Inez handed me a thick gauze pad then, and I smiled at her gratefully as I pressed it to the wound. "Hold this here," I instructed Josiah, and then I carefully rolled Vin just enough to see where the bullet had gone in . . . or come out.

I knew it right then, and I was so sick I could hardly speak. There was no wound on his chest, just a horrible, dark, spreading mass that told me that he was bleeding inside – and the bullet was still there.

It told me something else, too, and the words slipped out before I could think of the impact they would have. "He was shot from the back."


I always knew that the power of words was a strange and wondrous thing, but when Nathan said that Vin had been shot from the back, it was like a physical blow. I remember that I gasped, as I kept my hands pressed firmly to the grim wound on my brother’s back.

I couldn’t catch Nathan’s eye, so I looked across Vin’s still body at Chris. His face was ghostly in the candlelight and blood soaked his left shoulder. I could see that shock had finally set in, but before I could call out a warning, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell forward across Vin’s legs.

"Shit!" Nathan hollered. "Someone get a look at him!"

It was so unlike Nathan - now that I look back on it. He was always in control in these situations, barking out orders like a general in command of a military exercise – but I could hear the panic in his voice this time. Since I couldn’t use my hands, I used my voice to calm him, "Easy, Nate, we’ll handle this together."

But I was praying like I never had . . . alright, let me rephrase that . . . I was praying like I hadn’t since the last time one of us had been hurt – that help would arrive soon.

And that Nathan had somehow been wrong. Because if he wasn’t – if Vin really was shot from the back - he was shot by one of us.


Perhaps Vin had turned before he was shot? But no, he’d have fallen forward and his head was towards the door.

We shot him. That is the inescapable conclusion.

After I had tied up the left-over, inept criminals, I rushed to my wounded friends’ sides – just in time to hear Nathan’s distressing assessment . . . and to see an obviously weak and overwrought Larabee keel over. I awkwardly assisted Buck in laying our wounded leader on the floor, as Inez pressed another dressing into my hands.

Thank goodness Buck understands my aversion to all things bloody, and he unceremoniously took the offered pad and pressed it to the hole in Chris’s shoulder. Mr. Larabee rewarded him with a small groan, but remained otherwise oblivious to the drama around him.

Nathan was clearly in the rather unusual state of what can only be described as panic.

"We’re gonna lose him, Josiah, if help don’t get here fast . . . and there’s not a damn thing I can do."

Josiah, on the other hand, replied in a soft, soothing tone that everything would indeed be just fine, before instructing me to find something to cover the men with. I berated myself for not thinking of that as I immediately set off to find the requested objects. Both men had still been wet and now with the blood loss, keeping them warm should have been the first thing on my mind.

I had certainly been of little use on this mission.

In fact, the only thing I might have accomplished was to shoot Vin.


Goddamn, could it have gotten any worse? Chris was down, JD was hurt – I didn’t know how bad – and Vin was half-dead from one of our bullets.

I came rushing over to where the others were gathered around Vin just in time to pull an unconscious Chris onto the floor. He was white as a ghost, and even though I knew it was mostly from the blood loss, I was pretty sure Nathan’s words hadn’t helped.

I didn’t think it was me who shot Vin. I was mostly aiming for the guy by the window, and he wasn’t even close to bein’ in line with Vin . . . but there were a few times I just reached over the bar and shot the other way. I think Vin was down by then, though. I don’t think it was me. I don’t think I could stand it if it was me.

Chris groaned about that time, but he didn’t really come to, and I was kind of glad. Nathan was looking damn near panicked about Vin and I figured that couldn’t be good. Chris didn’t need to know how bad it was right then.

Could it have been Chris? Now that would damn near kill him . . . if he was the one that shot Vin. And if Vin died – it would kill him. I could feel the blood soaking through the dressing on his shoulder, and before I could ask, Inez handed me another thick gauze pad. If help didn’t get there soon, we’d lose two men.

And I couldn’t even think about JD. Just like I couldn’t really think about which one of us shot Vin.

But it could have been me.


JD is always sayin’ things about how cool it would be if we had lived a hundred years ago. He comes up with these wild stories about the old west, and how we would have been great lawmen like Bat Masterson. Mostly, we laugh about it – although I’m pretty sure Vin and Chris don’t think it sounds half bad. They’re both as comfortable on a horse as in a car, anyway.

But how would I have kept these guys alive? I can barely manage it in this day and age with all the miracles of modern science.

And how in hell was I gonna keep them alive that night? I had nothing to work with and no way to summon help. What good were cell phones and ambulances and IV fluids when your friends were bleeding to death in front of your very eyes and there was no way t’ get to the things you needed to save their lives? I may as well have been living a hundred years ago – for all the good I was doing Vin and Chris. I guess no matter which century you live in, Mother Nature still has the upper hand.

There was one thing that would have been better if this had happened a hundred years ago, though – we’d never really know who shot Vin. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I remember thanking God that it couldn’t have been me.


I might have shot Vin. It could have been my bullet. I had no business pulling the trigger when I wasn’t sure where my teammate was . . . where my friend, my brother was.

I think it was me.

I kept my hands pressed to Vin’s back, but I was pretty certain the bleeding had slowed – at least on the outside. Nathan said it was because he was bleeding internally and it didn’t take a paramedic to know that wasn’t good. I slipped a glance at Chris, and decided he didn’t look much better.

What if it was him? What if Chris shot Vin? What would I say to him? I don’t think there are words or prayers powerful enough to ease that hurt. Lord, I knew that I was just not wise enough to handle that particular scenario. It would be better if it was me.

Nathan was starting to scare me . . . especially when he said we had to turn Vin over onto his back in case we needed to do CPR. I felt my stomach heave and it was all I could do not to throw up . . . and I never do that. But God – if it was me that put that bullet in Vin and he died right there . . .

And suddenly, selfishly, I wanted it to be anyone other than me.


I do believe it was I who shot Vin. It could have been my bullet. I had somehow lost track of him, and I fired blindly into the shadows, even though I know better. How could I have been so utterly, stupidly careless?

I think it was me.

As I pulled the threadbare blankets I’d found in Inez’ storage room around the trembling forms of my wounded teammates, I couldn’t help but reminded of the bond the two men shared. Always when one was hurt, the other was there. Seeing them both on the floor - their skin pale and their respirations rapid and shallow – I had the ridiculous thought that they intended to leave this life as they had lived it since the day they met – together.

But no, there was still time and help was on the way. And although Chris had lost a great deal of blood, the wound was probably not so serious as to take his life.

Vin was in much worse condition, however, and the question remained: who shot him? What if it wasn’t me? What if it was Chris?

We often tease Chris and Vin about their symbiotic relationship and apparent ability to read each other’s minds . . . it is the topic of much good-natured ribbing amongst us, especially after we’ve spent an hour or so imbibing at Inez’ place. Buck once went so far as to suggest that there was a physical attraction between them. I am neither that brave nor that stupid, but even that was taken well by the two men. Chris merely cocked his brow and grinned wickedly while Vin rolled his eyes and shook his head. Of course, they got back at him later . . . in ways I have sworn never to divulge.

The point I have so laboriously been trying to make is that if it was Chris who shot Vin, it would be tragic beyond measure. It would be far better if it was me.

I was feeling monumentally useless when I heard Vin let out a small gasp – and then he stilled completely. Nathan quickly searched for a pulse, and apparently finding none, he immediately instructed Josiah to begin resuscitation efforts. The sound of sirens suddenly materialized over the din of the storm, and I realized assistance was just outside our door. I quickly ran to the entrance and informed the police officers that all was secure, while calling out for the paramedics.

They seemed to be moving in slow motion as they took the stretcher and their equipment from the back of the ambulance, and I’m quite sure it was me who crassly yelled, "A man is dying in here! Move your . . ." Well, you get the idea.

By the time they’d reached Vin and Chris, there were more people and equipment in one small space than I would have thought possible. I heard the paramedics calling out orders and questions in that medical terminology that I could probably teach a class in by now – although it seemed liked Greek to me on that night.

I only knew that Vin was a step away from death . . . and that one of us had put him there. I didn’t want it to be Chris, but Lord help me, I didn’t want it to be me, either.


My arm was hurting like a sonuvabitch and I felt like I could pass out for some reason, but I just kept moving through the wind and the rain until I reached Buck’s truck. After that, I couldn’t tell you how I got to the station or how long it took me . . . I just remember rushing inside and screaming about needing help and then I was on the floor with all these people looking at me funny.

I heard them calling for an ambulance and all I could think of was that it wasn’t me who needed one, but it didn’t seem to matter to them.

Some old guy kept saying, "Easy, Son – you’re alright now," and my throat was so dry that it came out like a squeak when I said, "Yeah, I know I am – but my friends are in trouble."

Thank God he listened to me and finally got the point. I guess I might have passed out then because the next thing I know, I was in the ER and they were patching up my arm. I don’t mind telling you that I was embarrassed about it all, because it really was just a scratch and I was damn sure none of the other guys would have ended up on their face like I did.

I couldn’t even tell you how long I’d been there when Buck came in. He had blood all over him and it scared the shit out of me, but he was more concerned about me, I guess, because he came straight towards me and put his arms around me.

I try not to let him get away with stuff like that – especially in public – but it seemed like the hug was more for him than me. I asked what happened and was Vin okay? He looked at me real sad and said he didn’t think so and that Chris was hurt, too – and then he told me . . . he told me what might have happened.

I didn’t believe him. I don’t believe it now. Our guys are just too damn good to shoot one of their own. I’m telling you . . . it just couldn’t have happened that way. There’s not a one of them that would have fired their weapon with Vin in the way – with even the remote possibility that Vin was in the way.

There’s a reason we’re the Magnificent Team Seven, you know. And it’s not because we’re dumb. We don’t go shooting each other. I just don’t believe it happened that way.

I was released from the ER a few hours later, and I joined the team up in the OR waiting room. I couldn’t tell you how long it was before they gave us news on Chris, but it was hours and hours later before we got word on Vin.

The guys were nervous and on edge like they always are in this situation –but it was different this time. Nathan seemed like he was blaming himself for something – and he and I were the only ones without guns. Josiah and Ezra hardly said two words . . . with the exception of asking if I was okay. I was used to them telling me it would be alright, y’ know?

But nobody was saying that . . . and it scared the shit out of me.


Chris was in surgery for two hours and thirteen minutes. He’d nearly bled to death. I should have tackled the stubborn jackass back when I knew he was hit and at least slowed down the bleeding. But it looked like he’d make it. After a few hours in recovery, they moved him to a room . . . and soon after he was reminded that the nightmare wasn’t completely over just yet.

In fact, he had just reached his room when Vin came out of surgery exactly six hours and thirty-three minutes after they’d rushed him in. The surgeons threw out all those meaningless clichés about doing all they could and how the next few days would be critical and how all we could do now was wait and pray.

Vin wouldn’t have made it if this had happened a century ago. No one would have been able to repair the damage that one single chunk of lead did to him as it ripped through his back and lung, lodging in his chest. It was a miracle he’d lived long enough to even get to the hospital . . . and it was certainly no thanks to me.

And there was still the question of where that chunk of lead had come from. Who’d fired the shot? I couldn’t stand to think about it – didn’t want it to be any of my friends.

Ezra ain’t nearly as unflappable and uncaring as he appears and he already feels like he’s last on Chris Larabee’s list of favorite people. Sometimes he’s not on my list at all, but hell, he’s one of us and the truth is – he’s a good man, no matter how hard he tries to hide it. It would be terrible for Ezra if it turned out to be him.

I don’t think it was Buck, but the man has such a deep heart – it would tear him to pieces to think he’d hurt one of us. He and Vin had some things to work out, too – him being Chris’s oldest friend and Vin quickly becoming Chris’s best friend. It could set things back a good ways if it was Buck.

Josiah would likely never let go of the guilt. Look at all the hell he went through over his sister – I still don’t think he believes that it isn’t somehow his fault that she ended up the way she did. For all his faith and trust in a higher love and the power of forgiveness, he’d likely never grant himself that same benefit. And Vin is special to him. He’s never said it, but Vin came to his defense once when it seemed that the rest of us weren’t so sure, and he’s never forgotten it. It can’t be Josiah.

And then there’s Chris. I know I sound like Buck . . . but I can’t even think about that. It’s not gonna be Chris. It can’t be.

So it was just that simple. It couldn’t be any of us who shot Vin.


They don’t give you much time in the critical care unit . . . a few minutes here and there. Vin didn’t know we were there anyway. It’s never easy, seeing your friend looking like . . . that. It really didn’t look like him at all, now that I think back on it. It could have been somebody else lying in that bed and I’m not sure I’d have picked up on it. There could have been some kind of crazy body swap - like in one of those sci-fi things JD watches now and then – and I’d never have known. He didn’t look like Vin.

I think I cried. I think I wrapped my big hands around his pale, cold one and I think I begged his forgiveness and I think I cried.

I’d been on that side of the bed more times than I could count. I’d berated and cursed and pleaded with God more times than I could count. And you know what? He always gave me my way. We always survived and somehow, we always went on with only a scar here and there to remind us of how close we’d come to leaving this life.

But this time – Vin’s scar would mean more to the man who put it there than it ever would to Vin. I knew that for a fact. As soon as the gentle young man in the bed opened his eyes and was told what had happened, he’d not only forgive – he’d forget, too. He was just made that way.

But I’m not made that way. If it was me, I knew I could never forgive or forget. Never.

I cried; but it may have been as much for me or Chris or Ezra or Buck, as it was for Vin.


We took turns visiting our injured partner. Normally, Chris would have dominated the vacant seat, but since he was as yet unable to do so, we tried to fill his shoes, so to speak.

Of course, that is an impossible task – in so many ways. Vin was unaware, at any rate, and my cowardly nature reared its ugly head when I realized that I was a tad relieved at that.

Have you ever really looked into Vin’s eyes? It’s hard to do – if you have something to hide. There’s a reason I’m so good undercover – I’m a master at hiding. But I tell you, I can keep nothing from Vin.

Of course, there was nothing in this world that would have made me happier than if he had just opened his eyes and looked at me and said "What you keepin’ from me this time, Ez?"

And then I would have answered, "Why nothing, Vin, I’m just contemplating which of us has put you in the CCU fighting for your life."

No, it would probably be best if someone else’s face and someone else’s eyes were the first things he saw when he awoke.

Because I was quite certain that my face showed every facet of desperation and guilt and fear that we were all experiencing - not to mention the fact that there was the distinct possibility that my eyes were . . . leaking.


I was with Chris when he came to. If I have to tell you what his first words were, well then, you ain’t been payin’ attention t’ the rest of the story.

So anyway, once he heard that Vin was alive and fightin’, he asked me if it was true what Nathan said – that Vin had been shot in the back.

I told him not to think about it. "We’ll think about that tomorrow, Chris," I said.

He said t’ me, "You can’t always be like Scarlett O’Hara, Buck – some things can’t be put off until tomorrow."

That’s the first time anyone has compared me to a southern belle, but he had had a tough day. And then, his eyes filled with tears and he said, "Oh God, Buck! I think it was me! I lost sight of him . . . thought for sure he’d taken cover somewhere. One minute he was standing there and the next . . . oh God. I think it was me. I think I shot Vin."

Shit, Chris.

I don’t have the words t’ describe how he looked just then . . . but I reckon miserable as hell would come close. Pretty much like you’d expect a man to look when he thinks he might’ve killed his best friend.

I didn’t have the words t’ say to him, either. I just muttered somethin’ stupid like, "We’ll think on it all later, after you and Vin are feelin’ better."

He turned away from me then and I got the feelin’ he wanted to be alone, so I told him I would go check on Vin.

He was still awake when I came back a short time later. JD had come in and sat with him, but he wasn’t talkin’. I shooed JD out of the room and I sat back down and that’s when he asked me, "Can I see him?"

Kinda hurt my heart, the way he said that. Chris just always takes charge – goes exactly where he wants to go exactly when he wants to go there. I couldn’t quite get a handle on him askin’ me t’ go see Vin. I tried puttin’ him off. "Soon," I said. And I was disappointed when he didn’t argue with me. But then, I figured he was feelin’ pretty bad. God knows, he looked pretty bad.

"Any word?" he asked me then.

I wasn’t sure which word he was waitin’ for, but I went with the easiest, "He’s stable, Chris, and that’s a damn miracle after . . ." I didn’t finish that thought because I remembered that Chris was thinkin’ for sure it was him who put Vin in that condition.

He swallowed and I could see he was really hurtin’, so I told him I was going to get the nurse but he grabbed my arm with his good hand and he said, "Do we know whose bullet it was?"

I looked away from him for a minute and then I turned back and I asked, "Does it really matter?"

And that’s the first time that it occurred to me that it didn’t really matter at all. We’re a team; we back each other up and we support each other through the good and the bad. It was an accident, plain and simple, that landed Vin in CCU and it didn’t matter how or why it went down like it did. All that mattered was that we stick together and pull him through and get us all back on our feet again.

I could tell he was thinking on what I’d said, but he didn’t quite buy it. So I added, "One thing at a time, Chris. Let’s get Vin through this and then we’ll talk."

Tomorrow. We could sort it out tomorrow. Scarlett O’Hara was pretty damn smart.


I panicked. Back when it all happened – I panicked. That’s not like me. I just don’t . . . panic. I sat at Vin’s side and all I could think about was that maybe I should have done something else, something more.

But as bad as I was feeling, I knew it didn’t compare to what my friends were going through. At least I didn’t have a gun; at least I hadn’t fired a single shot; at least I hadn’t put Vin there in that bed with machines keeping him alive.

I’d hoped they’d keep Chris sedated for longer . . . say, three or four days. I knew that when he saw Vin looking like this, he’d feel even sicker than I was feeling. I could just picture him taking one look at Vin and passing right out again. The more I thought on it, the more certain I was that he just couldn’t be allowed to see Vin yet – and I’d just gotten up to go tell his doctor that when JD came through the doors, pushing Chris in a wheelchair.

He looked about as worn out and done in as a man could be, but I could see in his eyes that I was wrong. What he needed most was to be right there in that room at Vin’s side. So I got up and gave him his rightful place.


I was with Chris the next day and he asked me to take him to see Vin. Kinda shook me up – him asking me instead of just telling me. I’m used to him sort of barking out orders; telling us the way it’s gonna be.

I took him down to the unit in a wheelchair and I worried the whole time. I really wasn’t sure it was a good idea at all, but Chris is real hard to say ‘no’ to. That’s probably why he hit me up – probably knew I’d do whatever he wanted.

The nurses looked like they thought it was a real bad idea, but they let us in anyway. Nathan was there, but he squeezed Chris’s good shoulder and then he left. I wasn’t sure whether to stay or go, so I just sort of moved out to the doorway and waited.

I probably should have looked away, but to be honest, there were things going on in that unit that I didn’t really want to see – so I pretty much kept my eye on Chris and Vin. At least, I think it was Vin. There were all these wires and tubes coming out of him and his face looked . . . not like Vin at all. I was thinking it was a real bad idea to bring Chris there.

But Chris just took Vin’s hand and he bowed his head and he said something real soft to him. And then . . . then I think he maybe cried.

And I looked away.


The nurse came to get me. JD had gone for a Coke, and she said she was afraid she was going to have another patient in her unit if I didn’t get Chris back to his room and in his bed. I walked slowly into the room where Vin lay, but I tried to make a bit of noise so Chris would know someone was there.

He didn’t move, though. Just kept his hand tight around Vin’s with his head down. I reached out and touched his shoulder very lightly and I said, "It’s time to go, Chris."

He looked up at me, and his eyes were red-rimmed and beyond weary. "I should have done it differently, Josiah. I should have made him stay."

I was puzzled at that, and I guess he knew it, because he went on to say, "Vin got a call before we came that night. Got a tip that one of his old enemies was looking to snatch him and execute a little justice."

I could see he was waiting for me to respond, but I just nodded and pulled up a chair so I could look him in the eye.

"I wanted to call you all back, but Vin said no one would be crazy enough to try anything on a night like that. He said, ‘Where could I be safer than with the six of you, anyway?’ We looked into a few things, but I figured maybe he was right. I figured I could just bring him to my place for the night and we’d work on it in the morning. I should have handled it differently."

"You couldn’t have known, Chris," I said.

With a short chuff of a laugh, he said, "You’re right about that, Josiah. I couldn’t have known it would be one of us who’d nearly kill him."

I couldn’t think of an answer to that . . . probably because there is no answer to that. So I walked around behind him and I said, "It’s time to go, Chris. We’ll sort it out later."

He gave Vin’s hand a gentle squeeze and he whispered, "I’ll see you later, Pard."

As we left the unit, he spoke to me again. "I should never have fired that first shot," he said. "I should have known it was too dark and too risky. I would never have fired if I’d just been able to see . . . if I’d just thought . . . if I’d just known."

I sighed and I said, "Neither would I."

But the terrible truth was that we had fired and Vin was hit by one of us and we’d have to live with it - and I wasn’t sure if either Chris or I could do that.


It was three interminably long days before Vin awoke – or perhaps before they decreased his medication and allowed him to awaken. His first words were typical and I’m quite certain anyone with half a brain could hazard a guess. Once he determined that everyone else was alright, he did not appear to be concerned about anything else.

It was apparent Vin’s injuries caused him considerable discomfort, however, and it was excruciating to hear him moan with each breath and movement. Knowing I may have been the cause of his anguish, made it nearly impossible to bare witness to. Although, with five partners also wishing to spend time with Vin, my visits – and thereby my misery – were limited. Of course, Chris was allotted the most time, even though he was in no condition to participate in the bedside vigil. In fact, it often took considerable coercion to remove his weakened body from his best friend’s side.

When our weary leader wasn’t busy arguing with us over the sorry state of his health and his refusal to take adequate measures to care for himself – he was arguing with Director Travis over the length of time it was taking to obtain results regarding who was responsible for Vin’s injury.

I could not decide if it was good or bad that we still had no idea which of us had shot our teammate. I could not decide who could handle the bad news with the most ease and fortitude. And I could not decide how I could live with it if it was me.


They moved Vin into Chris’s room after five days. Chris kept arguing that he didn’t need a room anymore . . . that he could feel like shit as a visitor rather than a patient, but the doc wasn’t buyin’ it. I think that sneaky night nurse was puttin’ stuff in his IV to make him sleep, too, but it didn’t really work until Vin was in the bed next to him.

Vin was still kinda out of it and feelin’ pretty damn bad himself, but he knew where he was and that we were with him. Kinda made it hard . . . knowing like we did what had really happened.

It was the next day when Chris gathered us all together and said it was time t’ tell Vin the truth. Except for the dark shadows under his eyes, Vin was whiter than those crispy hospital sheets and he still had trouble stayin’ awake for more than five minutes – but he could tell somethin’ was goin’ on and so he tried hard to listen up.

Chris was supposed to say it, but when it came right down to it – he got about as pale as Vin and it was like his lips were glued shut, so Josiah sat on the bed next to Vin and he said, "Vin, we feel real bad that we have to tell you this, but it wasn’t those men who shot you – it was one of us."

Vin frowned, but he didn’t make a sound, so Josiah went on and he said, "We don’t know for sure who or how, but we feel bad about it and we want you to know that."

You just never can tell how a person’s gonna react . . . but Vin, he did just about what I expected him to. He just blew the whole thing off.

"Well now, I know I been pretty out of it," he said, "but I’m smart enough t’ know I was shot in the back. I was pretty sure when it happened that it came from one of y’all, but hell, I was standin’ in the way. Was my own fault. I sure hope y’all ain’t been goin’ on about this."

Chris got real excited at that. "Hell yes, we’ve been going on about this, Vin," he snapped. "I damn near killed you!"

That was a slip-up, y’ see. Chris was so sure he’d done it - it just came out of his mouth like that.

But Ezra piped up and he said, "I do believe it was I who shot you, Vin."

Then Josiah stood up and he turned to Chris and he argued, "No, it was me."

So I threw in, "It could’ve been me."

JD got all defensive and he said, "It wasn’t any of you!"

Of course Nathan, otherwise known as the Peacemaker, he had to put in his two cents. "Don’t matter. Vin’s gonna be fine and that’s all we need to think about."

Vin was just lookin’ at us all like maybe we were the ones who were out of it, but Chris went and sat on the bed next to him and he said, "We don’t know who it was yet, Vin. But the fact is that we should have done things differently."

That’s when Vin got that funny little smile of his that says he’s way ahead of us, and he told us, "Lots of times we wish we could change what we said or did, but we can’t. We just got t’ do what we think is best at the time . . . have t’ act on what we see through our own eyes. And we all see things different. I don’t see none of you as bein’ at fault here . . . and even if y’ were, I know you’d never deliberately hurt me. I’m gettin’ better – let’s just not go on about it."

I guess he figured that was the end of the conversation then, because he just closed his eyes and went to sleep like we’d just been discussin’ the weather.

Chris sighed and Josiah sort of laughed real soft. JD shrugged and Nathan shook his head and then Ezra said real quiet, "If only we could forgive ourselves so easily."

I was thinkin’ we were never gonna get past this if someone didn’t come up with somethin’ smart. Now that usually ain’t my job on this team, but I gave it a shot anyway.

"Vin’s spoke his peace," I said, "and I reckon we should respect him and move on with this. We take the hit as a team and we deal with it as team and we let it go. And well, hell, if that don’t work – we’ll just think on it all tomorrow."

Orin Travis:

I’ve never done this before. I’ve never purposely withheld information from the members of my team. I’ve never lied to them.

But I will now.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out whose bullet injured Vin Tanner. If ballistics hadn’t proven it, the path of the bullet would have. They’ll never know that, though. The tests will have been inconclusive; the evidence lost.

I suppose you could say that it would be better for one man to face up to it; that leaving four men on the hook is unfair. But this man will never forgive himself and his guilt will eat away at him, regardless of the fact that Vin will recover. Maybe the not knowing will be equally destructive, but I doubt it. Somehow, I believe that seven men together can shoulder this weight far better than one man alone.

I’ve lived through enough nightmarish situations to know that every single one stays with you for the rest of your life. Every single time you or a friend is hurt, it just adds another scar to your psyche and another raw ulcer to your stomach lining. And what it does to your faith in God, your fellow man, and yourself is undeterminable. I cannot add more hurt to one who has suffered too much already.

I suppose it could be argued that it’s never right to hide the truth . . . that trust is based on honesty and integrity. Perhaps by keeping this secret, I’ve somehow diminished the unique bond I have with these men.

Then again, perhaps I’m doing exactly the right thing. We all see things differently – it just depends on your point of view.

The End

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