Buck glanced at JD's grim, dusty expression as they rode into Yuma. He knew the boy was anxious, tense, wondering what had happened to Chris and Vin. And wondering if they'd find the bastard Woods. Course, they were all thinking along the same lines, but nobody wanted to talk about it.

The journey across the desert hadn't been pleasant, but it had been uneventful. Not that they expected any trouble, but Buck thought they might run into Woods. Or, he had hoped, Chris and Vin as they returned to Four Corners. But neither had happened.

Ezra, riding on the other side of Buck, studied the bustling town with an upraised eyebrow. "Where shall we begin?"

"Mr. Woods said he was in sales," Josiah replied.

"Sale of what?" Ezra asked.

"That, my friend, is a very good question," Josiah said.

"I got an idea whatever it is, it ain't legal," Nathan said.

Nobody argued with the healer - they suspected the same.

"Let's split up, check around for Woods," Buck said.

"What about his wife and family?" JD asked.

"I ain't so sure she was his wife and none of us saw the family he claimed he had," Nathan said. "If he was lyin' about Vin, he coulda been lyin' about a lot of things."

"Then what about that boy that was beaten - the one he said was his son?" JD asked with a puzzled frown.

The four other men exchanged looks, and it was Buck who was silently chosen to answer his question. "I doubt he was his son, JD. In fact, I'd be willin' to bet Woods was the one who beat him up."

JD's mouth dropped open. "Why?"

Buck shrugged. "That's one question I can't answer."

Josiah glanced at Buck, then JD. No, he wouldn't say anything about his own suspicions, though he doubted he was the only one who had them. One glance at Nathan's somber countenance confirmed that the healer harbored the same speculations. Josiah gazed up at the hot sky, and shook his head. If they were right, the devil was alive and well on earth in the guise of a man named Woods.

The five men halted their horses in front of a couple hitching posts and dismounted stiffly. Josiah stretched and his back cracked loudly. His backside was nearly numb as he limped up on to the boardwalk. It'd been some time since he'd spent that many days in the saddle and he realized he didn't miss that constant traveling. Not one bit.

He and Nathan naturally moved together to begin asking about Woods. JD went off with Buck, while Ezra remained the loner out of habit.

Two hours later they met in one of the many saloons lining the street. Josiah leaned back in his chair as he watched JD toss his bowler hat in the middle of the table, then run a hand through his shaggy dark hair. By the dejected look on his face, he and Buck had had as much luck as Nathan, Ezra, and himself.

"Perhaps Woods did not journey here as he said he would," Ezra drawled. "Maybe that was a mere subterfuge."

Josiah shrugged one shoulder. "Maybe, but I don't think so."

Buck studied the preacher with narrowed eyes. "What're you thinkin', Josiah?"

Josiah drew his thumb along his grizzled jaw. "Woods hadn't recognized Vin yet when he told me about Yuma, so he had no reason to lie. When I told him what Vin's name was, I think that was when the man remembered him." Josiah's thoughts turned dark. "Maybe Woods only knew Vin as a boy." He raised his gaze, and his eyes caught Nathan's aggrieved expression, then he looked at Ezra whose face had paled slightly. It didn't surprise him that the gambler was aware of the almost inconceivable perversities in a man's soul.

Josiah turned to look at the bartender, then swept his gaze over the working girls moving among the patrons. "I'll be right back," he said, then stood and walked to the bar. Aware of the curious looks aimed at his back from his compadres, Josiah approached the barkeeper.

"Evenin'," Josiah greeted the tall, thin beanpole of a man.

The bartender sent him a terse nod. "Can I get you a drink?"

Josiah smiled easily and shook his head. "No, thanks. It's not a drink I'm lookin' for."

The man relaxed slightly. "Any of the girls here are available."

Josiah pursed his lips and shook his head. "My tastes don't run in that direction, if you know what I mean." He winked at the bartender, hoping his abhorrence remained hidden behind his casual expression.

The tall bartender studied him for a long moment, his gaze moving up and down Josiah. "Didn't figger you'd be one of them."

Josiah tilted his head slightly. "You know of anyone who could help me?"

The bartender nodded slowly. "It'll cost you, though."

Josiah's heart thumped in his chest - he hoped the trail would lead him to Woods. If not, he'd have to do some fast talking. "I can afford it."

"Come back here in a couple hours and I'll see what I can do."

Josiah tossed a silver dollar on the bar. "Obliged." He rejoined the others.

"What was all that about?" Buck demanded.

"I played a hunch," the preacher replied.

"Would you like to share this `hunch'?" Ezra asked.

Josiah shook his head. "Not yet, but if I'm right, Woods will be here tonight. I suggest we take care of our horses and get rooms for the night, then have something to eat. After that, we can come back here and maybe we'll get lucky." He smiled grimly at his own unintentional dark humor.

They finished their drinks, then left the saloon and led their horses to the nearest livery.

"Hey, anybody here?" Buck called out.

"Hold on, I'm comin'," a voice replied from inside the barn. A stooped man with a scraggly gray-flecked beard and tobacco stains ringing his mouth stepped out to join them. "Two bits a night, includes grain and a rubdown."

As they paid the hostler, Nathan asked, "You been pretty busy?"

The old man spat a stream of brown juice to the ground. "Been pretty quiet except for a couple horses that come in on their own a few minutes ago. Don't get a boon like that too often - I figger I shouldn't be lookin' a couple gift horses in the mouth, y'know?" He cackled at his own joke.

"Two horses?" Josiah asked.

"Yep. A couple blacks, one with a blaze on its forehead."

Buck glanced at the other men, then shoved past the hostler and strode into the barn. A lantern burned inside, giving the barn a pale yellow glow. Buck spotted the horses immediately and his breath caught in his throat.

"They're Chris and Vin's," JD said, his voice husky.

Buck spun around to face the hostler. "They just showed up?"

"That's what I said, mister," the stooped man replied, his eyes narrowed. "You got a problem with that?"

"No problem," Josiah said in a placating voice. "They belong to two friends of ours."

"Then what the hell they doin' here?"

"Wish we knew," Josiah replied. He stepped over to them, and ran a big hand along the horses' withers. "They been travelin' a ways."

Buck joined him and touched Chris's saddle. A spot of brown flaked off on his finger, and Buck's heart plunged into his gut. "Son-of-a-- It's blood."

"You think Chris was shot?" JD asked, his young face revealing fear and disbelief.

"Kinda looks that way, son," Josiah said in a low voice.

"We gotta go find them." Buck spun around, but was halted by Josiah's iron clasp on his arm.

"It's dark and it's a big desert out there," Josiah stated. "We go now and all we'll be doing is chasing shadows."

"So you plan on just standin' around while Chris could be dyin'?" Buck demanded, his lean body vibrating with pent-up energy.

"Josiah's right. We ain't gonna do anything but chase our tails out there," Nathan interjected.

Buck snatched his hat off his head and slapped it against his thigh as he growled in frustration.

"So we try to backtrack them in the morning?" JD asked.

Ezra nodded. "That would appear to be the most sagacious course of action."

"We'll pay for the board of these two horses, too," Nathan said to the hostler.

The old man looked like he wanted to argue, but held his tongue. He nodded curtly, and accepted the coins Nathan handed him.

The men left the barn and paused outside the door.

"Who do you think shot Chris?" JD asked.

For a long moment, no one spoke, and Buck couldn't meet the boy's expectant gaze.

JD frowned, seeing something in their evasive looks that brought a shiver of dread to his spine. "What're ya thinking?" He blinked as comprehension slammed into him. "You don't think Vin shot him!"

"If he did, I doubt his horse woulda come back with Chris's," Josiah said firmly. "I think the devil has been up to his usual tricks."

"But we don't know that for certain," Nathan said quietly. "Now I ain't sayin' Vin shot Chris, but we can't go thinkin' Vin's the same man he was a month ago. We all saw how he was."

"He shot Woods in self-defense," JD said stubbornly.

Nathan nodded. "That's right, but that don't mean whatever demon was ridin' his back is gone. If Chris caught up to him and Vin didn't want to come back, no tellin' what Vin would do."

"As much as I hate to say it, Mr. Jackson has a plausible point," Ezra said, his expression loath and his drawl more marked. "However, the fact is that since both horses are here, Chris and Vin are afoot out there in the broad expanse of desert. And if one or both of them are wounded, as it appears, our assistance is required."

"Ezra's right," Josiah said. "Tomorrow morning we go out looking for them whether we find Woods or not."

"What if Woods had somethin' to do with that blood on Chris's saddle?" Buck asked, his jaw clenched.

"Then he shall feel the wrath of the Lord in the guise of five sinners," Josiah replied with a crooked grin.

With grim expressions, the five men turned as one and headed across the street to find rooms for the night.


Vin looked over at Chris in the growing darkness. His eyes were closed, his chin to his chest, but Vin could tell he wasn't sleeping. Chris had drifted in and out of consciousness as he sat up against the cave wall throughout the long, hot day. Vin had given him water as often as he dared, stretching their meager supply in the vain hope that they'd be found. He had allowed himself only one swallow in twenty-four hours, and his body was beginning to rebel as his tongue swelled and his thoughts grew increasingly aimless. But Chris needed it more than he did.

Chris groaned and Vin quickly moved to his side. He lay a hand on Chris's arm and felt the heat of fever emanating from his skin.

Moans interspersed unconnected words as Chris thrashed about. "No, don't.sonuva... damn you.noooo!"

Vin wrapped his arms around him. "Take it easy, Chris. Calm down."

Chris tried to escape his grip, and he groaned in agony. He fell forward into Vin's arms and Vin shifted closer, so Chris's head rested against his shoulder.

"Wake up, Chris," he pressed quietly.

Vin felt him move and though he couldn't see his eyes, knew Chris had awakened.

"Vin?" he said in a pain-husky voice.

Vin tightened his hold around him. "I'm here."

Chris's neck bowed and he rested his forehead against Vin's chest. "I thought you'd left."

"I told you I ain't gonna leave you."

Chris shivered violently. Keeping one arm around Chris, Vin grabbed his leather jacket and draped it over his friend's back. He wrapped it snugly around Chris's upper body, then shifted his arm so it lay across Chris's shoulders, over the coat.

"I'm so c-cold," Chris said, his teeth chattering audibly.

"Desert nights cool off fast," Vin said, wishing he had a way with words like Ezra or Josiah. "Go `head and lay against me - we'll both stay a little warmer."

After a moment, Chris relaxed against Vin's side and his shoulders began to shake.

"What's wrong?" Vin demanded, worry making his tone curt.

"Nothin'.just laughin'."

"'Bout what?"

"If you were Buck, you'd be complainin' the whole time about me not bein' some nice soft woman."

Vin grinned. "Well, he'd have a point there."

Silent darkness filled the crevices of their shelter, and Vin listened to Chris's raspy breathing and felt the shallow movement of his chest against his own.

"How're you feeling?" Vin asked gently.

"Like hell," Chris replied without hesitation.

Vin's grasp on Chris's shoulders tightened instinctively. He didn't want to let him go to join all his other friends who died and left him behind to bear the scars of their passing.

Chris lay silent for a long moment. "Iffen I'm going to die, I got a right to know why."

Should the angels call.

Vin flinched as if a bullet had caught him in the belly. Maybe Chris did have a right to know, but Vin wasn't sure he was ready to tell the sordid tale. He felt a shudder pass through Chris's wiry frame, but whether it was from the cold or his wounds, he didn't know.

They again sat in silence, listening to the night breeze whisper across the rocks and whistle through their close shelter. Vin recalled many a night such as this, but then it had been him alone. He'd spent months by himself, after Seth and Brett had died, living off the land and trying to come to terms with the knowledge that evil walked this world in many different forms. Vin had shunned civilization, preferring his own company or that of the Commanches or Kiowas who befriended him, taught him how to track animals and men. He'd decided that his life was meant to be that way, without friendships such as those he'd shared with Seth and Brett.

Until he'd gone against his own counsel and joined the other six men. He'd tried to keep himself aloof, tried to maintain a working relationship with them, but spending so many hours in their company, especially that of Chris's, had worn away his defenses.

Maybe it was time to tell Chris a little about the man he thought he knew.

"Chris?" Vin said softly, not wanting to awaken him if he'd fallen asleep.

"Yeah," came the gravelly-toned reply.

"You awake?" the ex-tracker asked, then realized how stupid the question was.

"If I ain't, I'm doin' a damn poor job at sleepin'," Chris replied, a smile in his voice.

Vin grinned self-consciously, but the expression quickly faded. "You want to know how I know Woods?"

A pause, then Vin felt Chris's head shift and knew he was looking up at him, even though he couldn't see him in the pitch darkness. "You ready to talk about it?"

"Ain't got nothin' better to do." Though Vin tried to keep his voice light, some of his fear crept in. He cleared his throat. "You know my ma died when I was around Billy's age, and I don't remember much about my pa."

Chris nodded. "Yeah."

"I was put in an orphans' home for a while, then me and two other boys run away. I was thirteen, fourteen years old, Brett was a year older, and Seth was sixteen. We used to talk about how we was goin' to ride together forever, that nothing or nobody could stop us. Nothin' `ceptin the angels when they called our names." Vin paused, his throat convulsing, and his heart hammering against his ribs, then reiterated softly, "Should the angels call." He took a deep, unsteady breath, and damned the moisture that filled his eyes. "Seth, me and Brett decided we was gonna ride together forever, unless them angels called us." He smiled with bittersweet memories. "We even cut our fingers and rubbed our blood together."

"I think every boy did that with his best friends at one time or `nother," Chris said.

Vin tipped his head slightly. "I s'pose, but we meant it. Leastways, I thought we did." The faint call of a coyote drifted on the night breeze, and Vin listened to the mournful sound until it faded to silence. "'Bout five months after we'd run away from the orphanage, we met up with Woods. He dressed real fancy, but was friendly enough, said we could help each other. Me, Seth, and Brett had pretty much been livin' hand to mouth. We figgered, what the hell, it'd be better than what we were doin'. So we hooked up with him and these two other boys who was already with him."

"And what did he want you to do?" Chris asked gently.

Vin shrugged, trying to remain nonchalant even as his shoulders tightened with the horrific memory. "Not much, at first. He fed us and taught us how to play poker and told us stories. Then one day he takes them two other boys into town and he comes back - without them." A chill shimmied down Vin's spine, and his palms moistened with sweat. "Next thing you know, him and Seth are gettin' all friendly-like, and Seth starts spendin' more time with him. Me and Brett decide maybe it's time to move on."

"But Seth doesn't want to go?" Chris guessed.

Vin nodded. "The next night I go lookin' for Seth to try to talk him into leavin', and I find him with--" Vin swallowed the bile rising in his throat. "He and Woods were together in the wagon. Geezus, Chris, I didn't know nothin' about things like they were doin'."

Chris remained quiet as his own stomach churned with revulsion. He'd heard about men like that, but did his best to steer clear of them. "Then what happened?" Chris prompted.

He felt Vin's muscles tense. "The bastard grabbed me, said it was time I joined in the fun. I bit his ear, nearly took it off, which just got him mad." Vin took a deep breath. "That's when I got them whip marks on my back. He told Seth to tie me to a tree, then Woods got out this rawhide whip. Gave me ten lashes, each one worse than the one before. Said it was a shame to damage the merchandise." Humiliation filled Vin and his throat convulsed. "But said he had to teach me a lesson. I don't remember much after that until the next night when Brett was taken to the wagon with him and Seth."

Chris could feel the hammering of Vin's heart and the trembling of his arms through the layer of the leather coat. Chris's own gut twisted in anguish at the boy who'd witnessed too much too young.

"I managed to make it over to the wagon, and peeked in the back end. God Almighty, Chris, I can still see Brett scared to death and Seth with this crazy look in his eyes like it was just yesterday. Woods had left his holster and gun lying just inside the wagon. I reached in and got it, then told him to stop. And you know what he did, Chris?" Vin asked, his misery-laden voice small and almost child-like. "He laughed. Then he told Seth to take care of me. For a minute, I thought Seth was gonna go against him, but then he pulls out his gun." Vin's voice trembled, and he leaned his head back against the rock wall as he stared upward unseeingly. "I killed him Chris. He was my best friend, and I shot him dead."

"He was going to kill you, Vin," Chris said gently. "You didn't have a choice."

"A man always has a choice."

"You were a boy, Vin. Only fourteen years old. You did what you had to." Though his chest wound sent arrows of pain shooting through him and his head throbbed, Chris managed to grasp Vin's arm and give it a comforting squeeze. "If you hadn't, you'd be dead. Or worse."

"I know, but maybe it woulda been worth it if--" Vin's muscles grew taut and his breathing labored.

"If what?" Chris asked.

"If Woods hadn't killed Brett right there in the back of the wagon."

Chris nodded, already having guessed the tragedy's conclusion. "Where'd he get the gun?"

"Shoulder holster. Grabbed Brett, put an arm around his neck and stuck that gun barrel against his head. He told me to drop my gun or he'd kill Brett, so I did." Vin drew in a shaky breath.

"And he killed Brett anyhow."

Vin nodded. "Everything's kinda hazy after that. I ran away, hid from him in the woods. The next morning he was gone. The only things he left me were Seth and Brett's bodies, `cept Seth wasn't dead yet." Vin drew his hand across his face. "He was cryin', Chris, cryin' `cause of what he done. Asked for my forgiveness - I gave it to him, and swore I'd make Woods pay for what he done. Then Seth kinda smiled, said he could hear them angels callin', then he died in my arms."

Vin's voice cracked, and Chris recognized the effort it took him to relive the past horror. "I'm sorry," Chris said softly.

"So you see now why I have to kill Woods? He has to pay for what he done." Vin's tone vibrated with savagery.

"Let the law take care of him, Vin. It's time you let it go."

"I can't, Chris. Not until he's dead and buried."

Chris's fingers tightened around Vin's arm, digging into his flesh. "Killin' him ain't gonna bring Seth and Brett back. Believe me, I know."

"Maybe not, but maybe I'll stop dreamin' about them, stop seein' them die over and over again."

"It ain't gonna stop that neither, Vin."

"Then maybe it'll stop the dreams about me killin' you, Josiah, Buck, JD, Nathan, and Ezra," Vin spoke so low Chris could barely hear him.

The pounding in Chris's head intensified. "What're you talkin' about?"

"I started believin' again, Chris, started believin' in friendship again, thinkin' maybe the seven of us'd ride forever." Vin shook his head. "'Specially after all of you saved my life last Christmas. Then that boy's body shows up and reminds me that forever don't last more'n a day or two, and the angels call whenever they damn well please."

The anguish in Vin's voice brought a shudder of empathy to Chris. "Maybe so, but everyone dies. You're the one who told me that dyin' was just another part of livin'." Vin remained mute, but Chris knew he was pondering his words. "You lost two friends at an age when most boys are just gettin' out of knee pants, and in a way that few folks can even imagine. You're a grown man now, Vin - you're not that little boy anymore."

"Maybe so, but their ghosts are still with me, Chris - they're in my dreams and in the scars on my back. They ain't ever gonna leave."

"No, but maybe now that you got it out in the open, they'll be a little easier to live with." Chris shifted his position and pain arrowed through him. He tensed, and a groan escaped his lips.

"Take it easy, pard," Vin soothed, then added dryly, "If I gotta live, so do you."

Chris chuckled, sending another spasm of agony through his body. Vin's arms tightened around him, and Chris could sense his helplessness - it was the same emotion he'd felt when Vin had been shot in the back - and he wished he could ease the guilt he knew was gnawing at Vin's gut. But it was all he could do to withstand the tentacles of pain that squeezed his chest and climbed into his brain.

He gripped Vin's arm as a wave of dizziness washed through him and darkness danced on the periphery of his vision. Damn, he wasn't ready to die yet. Especially this way, with Vin blaming himself. "It ain't," Chris struggled to remain conscious, "your fault. N-not what happened to Seth or B-Brett." He drew in a painful, rasping breath. "Or me."

Vin felt Chris's body grow limp and dread climbed into his throat, then he felt Chris's warm breath against his chest. He'd only passed out. Relieved, Vin shifted Chris in his arms to a more comfortable position. Chris wasn't going to last more'n another day, two at the most. Would he have a better chance if Vin went for help? He thought of the distance they'd traveled through the desert, the barren landscape - a place where only lizards, snakes, and a few hardy birds called home. The chance of finding another human being was damn near zero. No, he'd stay here with his friend.

He wasn't going to let them angels call Chris's name - even if he had to fight them off with his bare hands.


Josiah insisted on returning to the saloon with only one of the five men, and had chosen Ezra to accompany him, though he told the others to stay nearby in case they needed them. As he and Ezra walked down the darkened boardwalk, Ezra glanced at the preacher. "If Woods is dealing in such a despicable business, I would like the opportunity to shoot him myself."

A crooked smile graced Josiah's rugged face. "You'll have to stand in line, my friend." He sent a sidelong glance at Ezra. "Do you think I'm wrong about the man?"

Ezra thought for a moment. He'd met more than one peddler of young flesh in his life - did Woods fit the pattern? "No, I believe you're correct in your supposition. I only wish I had seen the man's true character while he was in town."

Josiah shrugged. "Evil hides behind many masks, Ezra." He paused. "At one time, I thought you wore a mask, too."

"All men wear a mask, Josiah. Only some are more transparent than others."

Josiah halted on the boardwalk and studied Ezra a moment, then a slow smile curved his lips upward. "Sometimes you get downright philosophical, Ezra."

The gambler was saved a reply as they entered the saloon. Ezra moved off to sit at a table, while Josiah walked up to the bar.

"Any luck on acquiring my merchandise?" Josiah asked in a low voice.

The bartender nodded and motioned to the door behind him. "You can talk to the person in there about your, ah, tastes."

"Much obliged." Josiah winked at the man, who appeared flustered by the gesture. Josiah glanced at Ezra, then tipped his head toward the door. Ezra nodded slightly, telling Josiah he understood.

Josiah entered the back room cautiously, uncertain who or what he'd run in to. He saw the woman and recognized her immediately. Her eyes widened at the sight of Josiah and she shot to her feet to escape. In spite of Josiah's size, he was able to reach her before she made it out, and he grabbed her wrist.

"Let me go!" she demanded, tugging at his firm grasp.

"Not until you do a little explainin'."

The door burst open and Ezra rushed in. Seeing who Josiah held captive, he froze, then drawled, "Well, well, it seems the grieving mother has miraculously overcome her distress." Ezra's green eyes glittered with barely restrained fury. "Where is your so-called husband?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," the woman who had claimed to be Mrs. Woods replied, lifting her chin derisively.

Josiah eyed the woman who now wore a fashionable gown and a diamond necklace. "Who are you?"

"I don't have to tell you anything," she spat.

The door flew open again, this time admitting Buck, JD, and Nathan. The bartender followed, but one look at Buck's crazed expression made him turn tail and run.

Buck stalked toward the woman, stopping a foot from her. His dark blue eyes blazed. "Leave me alone with her, Josiah. I have ways of makin' a person talk."

She shrank back, bumping against Josiah's broad chest, but remained silent.

"You'd better tell us what we want to know, or I am gonna leave you here alone with Buck," Josiah said.

"And you can bet he ain't gonna show any mercy just `cause you're a woman," Nathan added, jumping into the game.

"My, my no," Ezra began. "Why I recall the woman back in Tucson who wouldn't tell us where her fianc, absconded to. After a few minutes with Mr. Wilmington, she divulged the information quite willingly. Of course, she was never the same again either."

The woman's face paled, her lips blood red against her chalky complexion. "I haven't done anything."

"How about accessory to attempted murder?" JD interjected. "We found that gun your husband, or whoever the hell he is, used to shoot at our friend. You hold out on us, and you'll be sharin' a cell with him for a long time."

"I didn't have nothing to do with that. That man was someone Asa knew a long time ago, before I met up with him," she cried.

"How did he know him?" Josiah asked, though he had a sinking feeling he already knew.

"Asa told me he was going to sell him and his friends, but something happened. Asa didn't tell me what it was."

"Sell?" JD asked, confused.

Josiah glanced at Buck whose mouth gaped open - he finally understood what was going on.

"I'll explain it to you later, JD," Josiah said softly. "Right now we need to find Woods, or Asa, or whatever his name is."

"Asa Woodbury." The woman's shoulders slumped. "He's not here. Only me and the three boys."

Bile rose in Josiah's throat. "Where are the boys?"

"Two of them are at the hotel. The other's," she paused and licked her lips, "working."

"Dear God," Ezra breathed softly.

"Sonuva-" Nathan put in.

JD only looked at Buck's sick expression in confusion.

"Where's Woodbury?" Josiah demanded.

She pressed her lips together.

Josiah grabbed her arms and shook her. "Where?"

"Finishing the job he started," she replied. Fear filled her pale features. "He ambushed your friends in the desert, but they weren't dead yet."

Buck leaned close to her. "Where?" His low voice vibrated with anger, hatred, and concern.

"About forty miles southeast, in a narrow canyon."

"Let's take her to the sheriff's office and let him take care of her and get them boys," Josiah said. "Then we'll ride out."

Fifteen minutes later, the five men rode off into the night, hoping they weren't too late to save their friends.