Two dazed and scared hazel eyes opened slowly, he saw the all to familiar streak of sun coming through the crack in the wall. He attempted to sit up, but felt his whole body protest. Catching his breath he pushed himself on his elbow and with a slight push sat up. Unfortunately gravity took over and pulled at his shoulder. He closed his eyes and held back the scream he wanted to release. He tried to raise his arm, but the pain threatened to send him back to the floor.
He leaned his head back against the wall and tried to take a deep breath, which was cut short as well by the sore ribs and remembered being hit, and then dragged. He looked down at was left of his shirt, and saw the small cuts and abrasions filled with the street in which he'd been led down. The door opened and two men entered the room and stopped in front of the battered and bruised sheriff. JD recognized Cole, but didn't know the other.
"Time for your bath, boy," Cole smiled cynically. The two men grabbed JD under his arms, paying no attention to the shoulder he was, pretty sure now, dislocated. He couldn't help acknowledge the pain, Cole and the other laughed, "Boy, we've been real nice so far. . . "
JD figured he'd been quiet for long enough. He knew he was dead. . . it was a matter of time. When he tried to run, Lewis said. . . "Do what you want. . . just don't kill him. . . " The kid figured Lewis left off the yet. He decided to find out why he was so important to them, he was pretty sure this was a trap for the others because they hadn't killed him.
If he was bait, he wanted to know why, and maybe, just maybe, convince these guys that he wasn't all that important, the men he rode with kept him around for entertainment something to laugh at, someone to make fun of. . . convince this Lewis anything to keep his friends safe.
"What do you want with me?" JD spoke in a raspy voice. It been so long since he'd eaten or drank anything.
"Well, well, Horace!! And hear I thought the boy was a mute!! He can talk! Hey, Lester!" Cole called across the street, "You owe me five bucks!!" The three men laughed loudly.
"What do you want," it came more forcefully. Horace and Cole stopped in their tracks. Cole stepped ahead and got into the kid's face.
"What do I want?" his foul breath making JD nauseated.
"Glad you can hear," JD mocked Cole's sarcastic tone, what did he have to lose, he thought.
"Don't you get wise with me, boy!! You hear!!" Cole's temper flared and he grabbed a handful of hair and yanked it back. JD could see Cole's face grow red and his eyes had filled with fire. He saw Cole reach for his gun and turn it around so he held onto the barrel.
Cole raised his arm above him and with great force connected the butt of the gun against JD's temple. Horace could hardly hold the boy upright the force was so strong. JD grunted, closed his eyes but for some reason didn't pass out.
"Get him tied," Cole ordered breathlessly, as he ripped off what was left of JD's shirt.
Horace grabbed at the kid and did as he was told. JD felt himself fall to the ground only to get pulled up again. His knees were under him, he could feel the bonds being cut, then his good arm being held up and his wrist tied against something wooden. He began to open his eyes but the attempt was cut short by his other arm being dealt with in the same way as the other, but with great pain being inflicted. Before he could gather his wits he felt extremely cold water, which would have felt good drinking, being thrown on him.
"You should learn to mind your manners, boy," Cole sneered as he patted the painful shoulder and JD didn't even fight when the darkness took him back.
JD stirred as he heard loud voices in front of him, he realized he was shivering a bit, but didn't worry about it, he concentrated so he could hear what the men were saying.
"Damn it, Cole, I told ya not to kill him. . . he needs to be alive. . . then we kill him!"
"He ain't dead, Mr. Lewis," Cole defended himself.
JD felt a hand touch him and his shivering body tried to move, the man touched his head where Cole had hit him and he flinched more with a quick intake of air. The hand moved away and JD opened his eyes and thanked god it was dark, no moon to shed any light on the face that showed his pain and how scared he was, but why did he feel heat, like the sun was on his face, if it was night? He remembered the hand that had touched his head, probably had a fever he decided.
Lewis stood up from JD after examining the blow Cole had given the boy, he turned to squinting to block out the afternoon sun. He approached his right hand man, shaking his head with a wry smile, "Boy sure can take a lot."
"I figured that would have done him in for a bit, hell, he was only out for a few hours."
Only hours?JD thought.
"Want do want us to do with him?"
"Leave him here to bake."
"You want him back in the shack after?"
"Hmmm, no. I think the cool night air will do our young friend some good, of course you're gonna need to cool him off with some more of that water!" Lewis laughed.
Bake in the sun? Leave him here all night?
JD wondered what these guys had been drinking. It was pitch black outside. Then he remembered feeling the heat, there wasn't a moon because it was day still. JD laughed at himself as he figured his eye's weren't open. He shut them tightly and felt them open, his heart sank as he discovered it was still pitch black outside and the only one that could see it. . . .was him.
The small group of road weary travelers spotted a creek to water their horses and themselves. As they got closer a few horses became skittish and danced. Vin scanned the area to try and figure what was causing the horses to become unsettled. His eyes landed on a figure further down the creek bed. He dismounted and signaled to Nathan who joined him.
The two men approached the form and realized it had been the man they had followed and left his horse dead, as Nathan had predicted, the man had joined his horse. Vin and Nathan stood from the body and made there way back to the group.
"That the guy we were following?" Chris suggested.
"Yup, looks like the heat got to him, drank too much water and choked on himself," Nathan stated, not wanting to get too graphic.
The men hung their shaking heads. It was a terrible way to die, they urged the skittish horses past the dead man. When the horses relaxed, they dismounted and watered the horses and filled their canteens.
"Mr. Larabee, do you have an estimation as when we come to our intended destination?" Ezra broke the silence.
"Another day," Chris sighed. He was pretty sure that these men wanted something and JD was the bait. These men were desperate, and that gave him concern for JD.
"We can get there sooner if we don't make camp and keep ridin'," Buck assured.
"No, we break camp at dusk."
"We're almost there, Chris! God only knows what they're doin' to him! Hell, he wasn't in great shape when they took him! I swear, if they hurt him I'll. . . I'll. . . . . . "
"We all will," Vin let out putting a strong hand on Buck's tense shoulders.
"They've hurt him, Buck. You can count on it, how bad I don't know," Chris said, giving the water in the creek an icy cold stare.
"Then why the hell are we standin' around here, let's just keep going, we could be there in the mornin'."
"Don't you think I know that, Buck?" Chris stood and turned his eyes on Buck, minus the icy stare, but replaced with understanding, "I want to get him back, too, but we can't go in that town without knowing the lay of it, and where people are posted. We go in there without an idea of what to expect ain't none of us going to do JD any good." Buck knew he was right and nodded his understanding.
"It's the not knowin'," Buck whispered out, "He's been through too much this week, Chris, fallen off horses, gettin' sick now this. He ain't gettin' a break."
"Like you said, Buck, boys got more bad luck then. . . ," Vin tried to lighten the mood a bit.
"Remind me to shoot them damn cats when we get him back," Buck said, trying not to smile.
"I assure you, Mr. Wilmington, you will have assistance in ridding the population of those ebony felines you are so very fond of," it was said in a not so kidding way.
The men smiled and nodded at each other, thanking for the show of support they each understood they were getting or giving. They mounted the rested horses and continued to Springville to find JD and bring him home, and 'rid the population' of a few black cats.
Daylight brought JD out of his shivering slumber, and he heard the pounding of horses and Lewis barking orders to his men. He backed away from the hand that touched the side of his face and opened his eyes to nothing but a voice.
"How ya doin', son?" He was pretty sure that was Conrad's voice.
"W-w-whyy y-you c-c-care?" he said through chattering teeth.
"Believe it or not, I do. I've been watching you all for awhile, before you went out with Tanner that day."
"Y-yyou w-w-w-work-k-k-k-k f-f-ffor L-ll-l-ewis-ss?"
"He hired me. It took me awhile to figure you all out. You got Larabee and the rest of those men wrapped around your little finger." JD laughed at the thought, trying to control his chattering teeth.
"That's what I like about you, Dunne, you don't even see it do you? Of all those men that you ride with, I liked you the best."
"T-ttthen w-wwwhyy?" JD was finally going to get some answers.
"Money, son. Plain and simple. Lewis missed out in Walker's Cross when the railroad came through. It's headed near Four Corners and he didn't want to miss out again."
"H-h-he'sss nnnnnot ggggonnnna gggett awwwayyy wwiithh itttt."
"That's why you're here, son. He's got you and your buddies will rush in here to save the day and you'll all be gone. If any of them survive, they will be broken and Lewis will 'persuade' the ranchers to sell, and well. . . I think you can figure out the rest."
"Yyyyoouu aaain'tt wwatttcchheeddd ccclooosee eeeenooouugghh," JD hid the smile, knowing that Chris wouldn't allow anyone to 'rush' into any situation without a plan of some sorts. He didn't tell that to Conrad, though, let it be a surprise.
"I've watched you long and close, but what Lewis doesn't know," Conrad said knowingly, acknowledging the surprise in the kid's face, but realizing he didn't look at him when he brought his face up. Conrad waved his hand in front of the boy with no reaction. Then touched the spot on the boy's temple where Cole had hit him, JD pulled away and winced.
"Damn, why didn't you say something?" Conrad said, concerned.
"Wwwhyyy yyouuuu ccccaaare?" JD said, lowering his head again.
"Like I said before kid, I like you. I knew you were a tough runt, but this. . . .this isn't right."
"Yoouu dddieee ffforr ttttheeemmm?" he said, raising his head, hoping he was looking Conrad in the eyes. . . or at least close to them.
"No, would you die for Larabee and them?"
JD smiled and quickly answered, "Yes."
"Why?" Conrad asked to the quick answer.
"You think they'd die for you?"
"They're cccoming aain't they?" the kid's shivering was dwindling as the sun warmed him.
Conrad was a bit unnerved by the conviction of the boy, slightly shivering from the cold night. Conrad shook his head and looked at the boy looking at nothing, noticing the boy's confidence reflecting on his face spoke volumes.
"Yeah, they're coming, but they aren't gonna live, you have to know that."
"Iff you bbeenn wattchingg aass cclcose as yyou ssay, yyouu wwoulddn't bbe askin'." A sense of control coming over JD, something told him that Conrad was doubting himself about his involvement in Lewis's plan.
"I wish things could've been different, son. But they aren't," Conrad stated with sincere regret in his voice. JD couldn't read anyone's face anymore, but he could hear.
"Tthey ccan bbe," the shivering was dwindling, but so was JD's strength.
Conrad shook his head and said, "No, they can't, I already been paid. I've given Lewis my word." JD had to admit he admired a man who kept his word, even though what he was taking part in was wrong.
"Lewis won't see tomorrow," the small but confident voice relayed.
"You sound pretty sure of that, I almost believe you." He had watched these men, gotten to know them, hell, he even admired them. He knew the boy spoke the truth about Lewis, one of the Seven would kill Lewis, even if there were one left standing. He also knew that he would most likely wind up dead, if not tomorrow then later. These men would go to the ends of the earth to avenge this boy and anyone else who fell.
He looked around the busy town for anyone watching him, he found no one as he slowly pulled out a large knife from under his jacket as he saw the boy go back into unconsciousness, and did something he thought he could never do.
The men could see the town of Springville emerging from the horizon. It looked ghostly from a distance and as a shiver ran down the backs of the men, they turned to their leader wondering what they would do next.
Vin took out his spy glass to scan the area, he went back and forth with it then gave to Chris to look as well.
"You suppose they're smart enough to watch the back of town?" Vin asked, formulating a plan if not.
"Nope, if Conrad's been watching us it's only been in town. I think he'd probably tell who's in charge that we'd run in and go for the kid." He sent a glance at Buck, knowing that's just what he wanted to do, but knew better.
"This would be the time to think with our heads and not our hearts." Josiah stated what everyone was feeling.
"Well, you got a plan yet, Chris?" Buck asked impatiently.
"Believe it or not, yeah I do."
Chris told the men that there was a man posted far enough out of town to warn the others in town as to their approach. They could get around town by way of the trees. It would take longer, but Chris felt sure they had left the back of town open and everyone was waiting for them to come directly into town and the ambush that awaited them. Once they got to town the back way, they could take another look at what they were up against.
The men then mounted their horses, understanding the need for a great deal of patience, especially if anyone spotted JD. Vin kept his spyglass to his eye, carefully watching the men posted near the town, as Chris led his horse, to see if they were to be spotted. If they were, the bad guys would get what they had come for, one hell of a gunfight.
They made it to the edge of the trees without being spotted, with the cover they were able to up their pace still keeping the town in sight as they made their way to the back of Springville. They approached the back of town and were happy their cover was kept. They were able to get close to town still in the cover of the trees. Chris and Vin dismounted and got even closer, thanks to the overgrowth of a dead town.
Looking through the spy glass Vin got a good idea of how many men were involved, noted their positions and scanned the street for any sign of JD. "Damn," he said out loud as his spyglass fell on the shirtless JD tied to a hitching rail by his wrist. He knew the kid was hurt, he didn't know how bad, but he could see dried blood covering his chest along with scratches or scrapes, it was to far to tell. JD's head was hanging but there was a man with him. Vin concentrated on the man squatting in front of JD, realizing who it was. "Conrad," he said quietly, he saw the man reach into his jacket and pull out what looked to be a knife. "No," Vin gasped as he watched Conrad take the knife and bring it close to JD and cut the ropes and gather the boy up and run between two buildings. Vin removed the spyglass and let out the breath he was holding and turned a half cocked smile to Chris, "We got help," he stated to a confused look and stood to tell the other men. Vin's satisfied but cautious smile didn't escape Buck's eye's.
"JD's okay? You see him??"
Vin shook his head, "No, he ain't all right, but that man, Conrad. . . "
"What the hell did that bastard do to him?" Buck interrupted.
"Nothin', Buck, can I finish?" Buck nodded apologetically. "Good, he's helping. . . They had JD tied to a hitching post, he's hurt, it looked pretty bad. Conrad untied him and headed between a couple of buildings. . . He might be trying to take him to the woods." Nathan nodded and looked at Chris.
"Take Josiah with you." Chris knew Nathan would fight, then look after JD, but he knew the kid probably couldn't wait. Nathan and Josiah nodded and sent good luck and stay safe looks to the remaining four, facing impossible odds.
Vin watched as the two men left and motioned for the men to join him on the ground as he picked up a stick. He drew a makeshift map of the town on the dirt floor, pointing to where men were positioned on the various roofs. He told the men that some of the buildings were in pretty bad shape and the men on top of them, with a good placed shot or two, could bring the whole building down, causing a very big distraction.
Ezra stood from the group, went to his horse, and came back to the curious men. He threw four sticks of dynamite into the middle of the circle. "I acquired these instruments of destruction from a very disappointing game of chance." The men couldn't help but smile. "I deduced that our ammunition would be useful in a more 'satisfactory' way then bringing down a dilapidated building," stating matter-of-factly.
The group nodded and stood. They went to their horses a bit anxious. Chris glanced at the worried face of Buck and with a reassuring hand on his shoulder offered, "We gotta assume Conrad got him out of there and is safe. Don't go in there hell bent for revenge, that's just going to get yourself killed, and JD's going to need you, he's going to need all of us," Chris had no idea how much.
Buck nodded his head submissively, "I know, I know," he said softly.
"Good," Chris said as he joined the rest of the men, already mounted. He shifted in his saddle, armed himself and with a very Larabee like way growled, "Let's go."
"Cole. . . COLE!!" Lewis screamed
Cole came running to the man standing in the street, "Yeah, boss?"
"Something seem wrong here?"
"Uh, no, sir?" Cole questioned.
"The boy? WHERE'S THE BOY???"
Cole turned to the hitching post to find him gone, he saw the tracks heading between the old store and storage shack, "Damn."
"You're damn right 'damn'. Just don't stand there. . . go get him!"
Cole did as he was told and ran after the tracks heading into the woods. He could see a gray clothed figure supporting the not so lively boy. He prepared to take a shot when he heard a horrendous explosion. He turned in that direction, then turned back to the man helping the boy and realized it was Conrad. As Conrad turned to start running again, Cole shot him.
Conrad fell heavy to the ground, dead from the shot to his upper back and exiting his chest. JD fell hard as well, but he never woke up and he never heard anyone approach him. Cole caught up to the two fallen men, raised his gun and shot Conrad again, just to make sure. Then another shot rang out and Cole went down, the look of surprise on his face that would be there forever courtesy of Josiah. Nathan dismounted quickly and ran to JD, turned him over carefully and chocked back the gasp that wanted to escape. He checked for a heart beat, and found a steady strong pulse, and turned to Josiah, "Go ahead."
Josiah nodded and left to the dead town that sounded anything but. He approached the town and quickly surveyed to see where his partners were, when a building fell into a heap taking three men with it. He found Vin and Ezra moving amongst the weak building lighting a stick with a lit cheroot and throwing it into a building housing five or six men. As the explosion came, men either went down with the building or ran from it to another trying to reach cover.
Chris and Buck were maneuvering through the back of buildings, waiting for the strays running for cover, taking them out as well. Josiah dismounted and stayed close to the back of the buildings, catching the eye of Ezra who nodded, and seemed to pass on that Josiah was there to the others.
Several buildings that had skirted the town were either destroyed or heavily damaged, either from the dynamite itself or the concussion of the explosive. With the last stick lit and thrown the two men split up and the gunfire continued as the Seven took the upper hand and men fled the town for safety.
Josiah took the opportunity of the dwindling gunfire to inspect the buildings for hiding members. He turned to head to the street when he heard the clicking of a gun being cocked. He stood still and as the bullets flew less and less and finally stopping the man behind him spoke.
"You think you won? Sabin Lewis will not be defeated, I will not miss out of the opportunity I was denied in Walker's Cross!" He sounded a bit deranged to Josiah. He had been outsmarted by the Seven and it made him go mad.
The remaining four men cautiously entered the street gathering in the center of what was left to the ghost town. Vin looked around for Josiah to come out from his cover. He caught the large man behind a falling down building and saw his gun on the ground in front of him. He gave Josiah a questioning look and with a silent understanding, Josiah winked at him once. Vin held up one finger and nodded.
He turned to Chris and with out words Vin and Ezra took off behind the buildings to free Josiah. Chris and Buck remained in the center of town and Buck went along with the unvocalized plan.
"Josiah!. . . JOSIAH!! We're done, you can come out now," Buck said, a bit defeated.
Josiah felt the gun in his back that urged him forward. "They don't seem very happy, sounds to me like the Seven aren't seven at all anymore," Lewis spat. Josiah knew better but went along.
Buck and Chris saw Josiah step from between the two buildings, and grabbed their guns and aimed toward the man who held Josiah.
"You don't need him. Let him go!" Chris yelled.
"I let him go and you shoot me, that's not going to happen. . . I've worked too hard for this."
"What? Trying to kill us all? For what?" Chris hoped the guy would tell them.
The railroad. The guy was mad. The railroad wasn't passing anywhere near Four Corners. "Why Four Corners, it ain't going but near a bit of ranch land!" Buck stated.
"You fool, it's taken all the ranch land and building the railroad right over those ranches!"
"And you wanted to get the land for yourself to sell to the railroad." Chris almost felt bad for the guy, almost.
"You're pretty bright," he replied as the two men came up behind him, Vin saw Chris's slight nod and made their presence known.
"But you're not," Vin said, cocking his carbine.
It happened all in a split second, Lewis turned around pointing his gun at the man behind him, Vin ducked just as the gun was fired and Ezra's gun discharged at what seemed to be the exact same moment, Lewis then swung his gun in Ezra's direction the two men where at a stalemate for what seemed like hours. The stalemate was interrupted by a gun being shot and Sabin Lewis fell to the ground, standing behind him, a very satisfied preacher.
The men helped each of the two men from the ground. They took a quick inspection of the leftover town and each other. And then looked to Josiah.
"As usual, Mr. Sanchez, your timing was impeccable," Ezra drawled thankfully.
"It was my pleasure, Brother Standish."
"Nathan find him?" Buck quickly asked.
"He's with him now." The men took one more look around and they followed Josiah to where Nathan and JD were sheltered in the woods.
Nathan heard the footsteps approach and cautiously peered through the bushes to see Josiah, and to his relief, four men walking behind him. He glanced at JD's battered, bruised, scratched, scraped, and bloody form and went to meet the men.
"How is he?" Chris asked as Buck ran passed them to see for himself.
"Sweet Jesus," Buck let out, answering Chris's question.
Vin had been right behind Buck, but stopped in his tracks as soon as he saw JD's condition. He slowly made his way to the opposite side to where Buck had taken an unfortunate, all to familiar, stance. The tracker grabbed the kid's hand and squeezed a bit, to let JD know he was there.
"What did they do to you, kid?" he asked as he gently touched the kid's blood dried temple, and felt his heart sink.
"Nathan says not to let someone with a head injury to sleep, but I can't get him to wake up," Buck said to Vin, turning tear filled concerned eyes to his friend. A strong hand squeezed Buck's shoulder and he looked up at the preacher.
"Nathan wants to talk to us," the mountain of a man said softly.
With a deep breath and final squeezes to the boy's hand. The two men rose from the ground and went to the group a few feet away.
"He going to make it?" Vin asked what Buck couldn't.
"Yeah, he's gonna make it fine, his shoulder's outta socket, but he's gonna live," Nathan said soberly.
No one adjusted their concerned faces to the good news, they saw Nathan hadn't told them everything.
"What ain't you tellin' us, Nate?" Chris asked, always the leader.
Nathan took a deep breath and sighed it out, took another deep breath to explain his concern, "Looks like he got knocked in the head pretty hard."
"You think somethin's wrong inside his head?" Buck worried.
"His eye's ain't workin'."
"What you mean his eyes ain't workin? They rolled up in his head or somethin'?" Buck almost laughed his dread out.
"When you open your eyes your pupil adjusts to the light. His pupils aren't adjusting, which means he ain't seein' any light," Nathan let out, as dark as it sounded.
Everything in the forest seemed as quiet as the men, not a creature wanting to disturb the men as they tried to digest the reality Nathan had just served them. How could they help him? How could they make this easier on him? Nathan once again broke the silence.
"Josiah, I want to get that shoulder set, before he wakes up." Josiah nodded and followed Nathan.
"Will you be needing anymore assistance, Mr. Jackson?" Ezra offered.
"Yeah, I could use you to set him up after. Ezra, this ain't gonna be pleasant, you sure. . . "
"Mr. Jackson, I assure you that I am quite up to the task." And Nathan nodded.
Chris watched his two best friends old and new, reacting to the news they had just been given. Buck hadn't said two words. And Vin, although not know for talking a lot, said a lot with his face. The loud snap in the silent forest made the three hardened gunslingers wince.
Ezra quickly but gently sat JD up so Nathan would be able to secure the shoulder, he made a sling and used another strip of material to tie around his chest so the arm wouldn't move. They lay him back down and felt the kid start to stir.
JD felt the hands on him and began to panic, he didn't know what they were going to do, then he heard calming familiar voices.
"He's waking up," Nathan said urgently. Normally Nathan didn't want to feel crowded when someone was hurt, but he wanted JD to know that they were all there when he told JD about his sight.
"Take it easy JD, you're okay, we got you out, you're safe," the healer relayed, he would usually add 'it's all over, now' but he knew it was far from over.
"Nathan?" came the weak voice through an equally weak smile.
"Yeah, it's Nathan," he soothed and touched the boy's forehead.
JD began to move his head back and forth a bit and squeezed his eyes tighter, trying to open them.
"No, JD, keep your eyes shut, son," Nathan said urgently, but as calmly as he could. He wanted to explain to the kid before he opened his eyes. Unfortunately, JD didn't listen and opened his eyes. He jumped a bit at the hand that grasped his, knowing instinctively, that it was Buck's.
"Buck," he stated.
"JD, I'm right here. . . we all are. . . I'm sor. . . ," he tried, but was cut off by a small laugh and greeted with two tear filled hazel eyes looking in his direction. The remaining men fought back their emotions trying to lend support to the kid in some way.
"JD." The kid's head snapped in Nathan's direction the smile still there.
"Don't worry, Nathan, been like this for a couple of days, I think. Everyone else okay?"
Chris went to the kid and placed his hand on the boy's forehead, feeling nothing but admiration for the young man who was blind as night, and still worried if everyone else was okay.
Chris cleared his throat, which jumped JD a bit, and said, "Didn't mean to jump ya, everyone's fine son, not a scratch."
"Just tell me your coming next time. You sure you guys are all right, you don't sound it, Chris."
"We're fine, kid, just fine," Buck finally found his voice.
JD's face washed with worry and tried to sit up, but thought better of it as strong hands held him down. His voice was full of worry and concern.
"Conrad? Did you see Conrad?"
"Yeah, someone shot him a couple of times," Vin said.
"He worked for this guy Lewis, well, Conrad worked for him, too, Lewis wanted to take over the ranch land outside of town. Cole was his right hand or somethin'."
"Cole the one who. . . ," Chris couldn't say it.
"Made me lose my sight? Yeah. . . that and the rest." Chris was shocked at how matter of factly it came out.
"Must've been the one I got, when we got here, Nate."
"Yeah, must have."
"What about Lewis, short guy, real big though."
"I do believe our portly friend would also be amongst the unliving thanks to our sharpshooting preacher," Ezra said.
A strange look came over JD's face and his nose squinted beneath the bruises, "Hey, guys? What smells?"
"Like what?" Nathan asked, doing a quick inspection of himself, noticing the others doing the same.
"Dunno. . . kinda like that time that Vin and I found that dyna. . . Ah. . . never mind," JD shut himself up.
"Dynamite? Vin?" Chris looked to the younger man.
"I'll tell you later," Vin hung his head, the glare wasted on the kid who couldn't see it.
"Chris, not to change the subject. . . but I nearly froze last night. . . and I'm gettin' cold."
"There's a shack next to the old store back there. . . we coul. . . "
"It ain't big enough for everyone," JD interrupted Vin. "Can't we just go home?" JD pleaded.
"You need to get warm, riding at night ain't gonna keep you warm. We can head out first thing. When was the last time you had anything to eat?"
"The one that you gave me," he said shyly, like he'd done something wrong.
"Well then. . . I guess we better make ourselves at home at what's left of the town," Buck stating the obvious.
"What do you mean what's left of it. . . "
"That smell you smelled, let's just say Vin was playing with dynamite again," Chris said sarcastically.
"You blew up the town?"
"Not all of it," Vin smiled back.
"Let's get you up and inside somewhere," Nathan suggested firmly. They carefully eased JD to his feet and held him steady, all eyes watching and waiting.
"You think you can walk?" Buck offered finally.
"My legs ain't broke, Buck," JD said with a hint of aggravation. JD had two days to deal with the fact he couldn't see, and he made a promise to himself that he would do whatever he had to not get sent away somewhere. Part of that was doing things that scared him, and not seeing where he was stepping scared him. He knew he would trip on something or fall over his feet.