Chris wasn't expected back for a couple days. He was accompanying Judge Travis on a short trip to testify in a trial taking place about a day's ride away. Vin and Ezra decided to spend some time relaxing. Four Corners was quiet; so, Josiah gave the two permission to take off for a few days to have some fun. They had just returned from helping the sheriff of a nearby town control a gang of cattle rustlers and hooligans.

Vin and Ezra went to a nearby creek Vin knew about to do some fishing. Being the tracker he was, he knew of little hideaways that no one else did. The two men spent some time relaxing by the creek, fishing and plotting some interesting excursions. Ezra had admired Vin's ability with a gun for some time; so, he expressed his desire for lessons. Vin gave him the finer points of how to read a man's body movements and expressions, regarding guns that is.

"It's kinda like card playin'," Vin would tell him.

They set up some targets and showed him how to accurately aim a gun. Ezra was fairly good with a gun, but he was no comparison to Vin. After they trained with close range and "quick draw", Vin placed the targets far away. He had Ezra practice sharp shooting. He showed him how to aim the rifle and hit something a lot smaller than the side of a barn. After a few days, Ezra's shooting abilities improved. During the night hours, Ezra returned the favor by teaching Vin by lantern how to read and write. He showed him the entire alphabet and the numbers 0-9. Ezra printed them for Vin to keep and study. Vin practiced writing them over and over along with his name.

The two men soon grew bored with their activities. They decided to act on some of the excursions they had spoke about. They came across an abandoned bridge about an hour from the creek. Vin dreamed up an idea to test Ezra's ability with his rifle.

"Ezra, go pour some of this somewhere on that bridge," Vin instructed.

Ezra peered into the bag, "Gunpowder? You desire me to deposit gunpowder on the bridge?"


"Vin, have you any inclination of how incredibly hazardous that task is?"

"Ezra, it's not dangerous, 'less of course you light it before ya should."

"Light it before I should? Are you sane?"

"Trust me, Ezra, it'll be fun," the gleam in Vin's blue eyes sparkled as he smiled at his friend.

"Do not flash those pretty blue eyes at me, Mr. Tanner."

"Ezra, sometimes you're more nervous than a woman!"

"No, I am merely more practical and cautious. Did it ever occur to you that perhaps some one would appreciate our allowing the bridge to remain? Furthermore, I do not relish in the thought of missing limbs."

"It's an old bridge, Ezra; it ain't even all there. Probably doin' someone a favor. 'Sides, ya ain't gonna lose any limbs 'less you can't fire that rifle proper."

"If I understand you correctly, you wish for me to shoot it?"

"You are correct, Mr. Standish," Vin toyed with the lessons Ezra gave him on speaking when he was teaching him reading and writing.

"Fine. Hand me the weapon."

"Here ya go."

Ezra aimed the rifle. He slowly squeezed the trigger, nervous he would miss more than if someone cared that he blew up the bridge. He admired Vin's ability with a gun, and he knew he couldn't come anywhere close to him in that respect. After pulling the trigger, he heard a load boom and smoke filled the air. Vin whooped and hollered at the successful aim of his friend. Ezra stood mesmerized by the fact he hit what he was aiming at.

"Hey, that was pretty damn good!" Vin congratulated as he gave Ezra a good slap on the back, nearly knocking him over.

"Yes, Mr. Tanner, I do believe it was," was all Ezra could reply.

"Come on, let's see if we can't rustle up some supper. I'll letcha do the shootin'."

Ezra followed Vin. He was still in awe of the bridge and his successful efforts to blow it up. He repeatedly turned to watch the smoke dissipate and pieces of the bridge come to rest on the ground. The two rounded up some food, joked, and carried on about the days' events. Soon after they finished eating, they decided to go for a ride with hopes of finding a nearby town that might have a bed. They both had decided they did not feel like sleeping on the ground tonight - mistake they would soon regret. They traveled for a few more hours. Ezra practiced what he learned with Vin by shooting at shrubs and trees. Some he hit; some he missed. Vin would tease him when he missed, but would always end up offering him helpful advice for the next time. Vin tried to read the words in one of Ezra's books, but the moonlight above him was not quite bright enough to light the book. Ezra, of course, ribbed him telling him he was just trying to find an excuse because the book was too hard. After a while, they came across a town. An overhanging sign greeted visitors on the main street.

The sign read: SWINGING TREE

"Swinging Tree?" Ezra read aloud.

"Never heard of it," Vin answered his question.

"Perhaps they possess beds and baths," Ezra commented.

"Maybe," Vin replied.

The two men rode down the darkened street of the sleepy town. In the middle of the street, there stood a tall, large tree.

"Strange," Vin replied.

Ezra nodded his agreement.

Two-thirds of the way down they found a building with a sign that read: BEDS & BATHS --ALL WELCOME

They looked at one another and strolled up. They tethered the horses outside and entered the building. A bell was all that was present at the counter. Vin rang the bell as Ezra shhhhed him. A sleepy man entered from another room.

"Excuse me, sir, would you have an empty bed or two for two weary travelers?" Ezra asked.

"Yes, sir. Here sign the register," he replied pushing the book at Ezra.

As Ezra signed his name, the man turned to get two keys. Ezra handed the pen to Vin, who took the paper, which Ezra printed his name on, from his pocket. He copied it exactly onto the register. The man behind the counter watched Vin curiously as he handed them the keys.

"You'll have to bathe in the morning. The keys are to rooms 6 and 7 upstairs. Please, be quiet," the man told them.

As they left for their rooms, Vin stated to Ezra, "that's the first time I've ever done that."


"Wrote my name on a piece of paper like that."

Ezra just stared at Vin in disbelief as Vin continued to walk to the rooms. Ezra shook his head, smiled and caught up to his friend. They each entered one of the rooms, laid upon the bed and fell asleep without turning the bed down or undressing.


Dawn arose on the little town. By 7 a.m., all the town residents had gathered at the schoolhouse on the eastern end of Main Street. The hotelkeeper was on his way out when Vin and Ezra came down the stairs.

"Where ya off to, Mister?" Vin asked.

"Town meetin'," the man answered.

"Dear, sir," Ezra started, "where shall we bathe?"

"Uh…it'll have to wait 'til I get back," the man informed him.

"Well, mister, we can bathe ourselves if'n you show us to the washtubs," Vin replied.

"Look, I am sorry, but you'll both have to wait. The town meeting. I'm already late. You don’t understand. I cannot miss the town meeting. It's forbidden," he explained as he hurried out the door and down the broad street.

Vin and Ezra looked at each other confused. They shrugged their shoulders and decided to take a look around town until the man returned. They left the hotel and walked toward the western side of town. All the shops were closed, and the buildings were empty. No one to be seen. Eerie. Vin and Ezra cautiously walked across the street to examine that side of town. Again, more of the same. Not a soul anywhere. They walked easterly, now, in the direction of the schoolhouse. As they approached, they began to hear voices.

"What d'ya think?" Vin asked Ezra.

"I can not pretend to know."

"Can you make out their words?"


"Neither can I."

"Perhaps we ought to vacate this village," Ezra cautioned.

"Yeah, I think ya got a point. This place is giving me chills," Vin said as he shuttered.

"Absolutely; let's go."

Vin and Ezra began to walk back to the hotel for their horses. They did not notice the meeting disperse as they approached the animals.

"Look, there!" someone yelled.

The two men spun around at the sudden outburst in time to see a mob of townsfolk quickly moving upon them.

"Vin, at precisely what moment shall we run like hell?"

"I would say…NOW!"

Vin and Ezra turned back and darted towards the horses. Their efforts, however, were in vain. The angry mob surrounded them almost immediately.

"Any ingenious ideas?" Ezra asked Vin.

"Not a one," Vin answered.

"Gentlemen," the sheriff greeted.

"Sir?" the two men answered simultaneously.

"You are both under arrest," he told them.

"What are the charges? We haven't done anything wrong," Vin defended.

The sheriff half smiled and laughed. He escorted them to the jail at gunpoint and placed them in a cell.

"This is just great," Vin said in disgust as he paced the floor of the cell.

"As I previously inquired, I do not suppose you possess any ingenious ideas, do you?" Ezra asked sitting on the one bed in the cell.

"Nope," Vin replied.

"Hmmf…I assumed you might not," Ezra sighed.

Vin and Ezra saw no one the entire day. They were left alone until supper.

One of the town's women arrived about 5 p.m. with Ezra and Vin's supper.

"Good evening, gentlemen," she greeted.

"Ma'am," Vin greeted as he removed his hat.

Ezra glanced at the woman from his sitting position on the bed, "Why are we here?"

"I don't know what the charges are, if that's what you mean. I have come to bring you your supper," she answered.

Vin took the dishes from her, "Thank you, ma'am."

"My name's Laura Madison. What's your name's?"

"Vin Tanner, and this is Ezra Standish," Vin answered pointing to Ezra.

"Where're you boys from?"

"Different places, but at the moment, we've been staying in a town by the name of Four Corners," Vin indulged her.

"What is it the individual's of this village wish from us?" Ezra asked as he hungrily ate.

"Like I said, I don't know. You'll find out at your trial, but I can tell you both this, it won't matter. You will be hung by the afternoon of Friday," she answered.

"Hung?" Vin repeated.

"For what, may I ask?" Ezra added.

"I told you that is yet to be determined."

"Ma'am, with all due respect, you can not hang someone without a reason," Vin told her.

"Oh, they'll find a reason," she replied.

"We did not commit a crime," Ezra insisted.

"My husband was hung two months ago…he was plotting our escape. He was given a trial in which he was found guilty. He was hung the following Friday afternoon," she related, "It's a law here to hang all wrong doers on Friday. It is meant to keep everyone in line. Most visitors are hung, regardless; they can't afford to have them leave and tell anyone. Anyone who tries to escape and is caught is tried for treason and sentenced to death by hanging."

"They won't get away with this forever," Vin tells her.

"I know; I was hoping you two could help change it."

"How can we be of service?" Ezra questioned.

"Well, I was figuring on trying to get at least one of you out. That person can then go for help and spread the word. I cannot do it tonight, but we can work on it. Tomorrow you will both be brought down to the schoolhouse for your trial. It will be first thing in the morning."

"Very well. We will discuss your offer," Ezra confirms.

Laura Madison took the empty dishes and left the jail. She knew there was a small group of rebellious citizens, but at this point in time, she did not know who was involved. For this reason, she had to be extremely careful not to be seen by others when speaking to the two prisoners.


Early the next morning, the sheriff and his deputies brought Ezra and Vin to the schoolhouse. The town had a man referred to as the "judge", but he was merely the saloonkeeper. The judge began the trial and asked the prosecutor to present the charges.

"Ladies and gentlemen of this court, I would like to petition you to find the two defendants guilty of not attending the town meeting, arriving in town in the dead of night - an obvious attempt to disrupt our lifestyle - and not bathing making our well-kept town filthy. The prosecution asks for a punishment of death by hanging," the prosecutor stated.

Ezra and Vin did not have a lawyer. The judge asked them both to stand.

"Gentlemen, you have no one to defend you. Will you be defending yourselves?"

"Judge, we don't know anyone here," Vin explained the reason they had no lawyer.

"I suppose we shall defend ourselves," Ezra added.

"OK, go ahead," the judge instructed the prosecutor.

The prosecutor called several "witnesses", including the hotelkeeper. He asked them all if they saw the two men ride into town. The "witnesses" agreed they had seen them do all that was charged. He then called Vin to the stand.

"Did you attend the town meeting?" the prosecutor asked.

"No, sir, I did not know about it until it was too late. I also didn't figger it was important to an out-of-towner or that you'd want us there puttin' our two bits in," Vin replied.

"And what about arriving late attempting to disrupt our lifestyle?"

"Sir, we did come in late, but we were traveling all night and needed a bed. As for disrupting your lifestyle, we apologize if we did because it was not our intentions," he tried to impress them with what Ezra taught him.

"Mr. Tanner, have you since entering this town, had a bath?"

"No, sir, the gentlemen there was on his way out to the town meeting," Vin said pointing to the hotelkeeper.

"That's all for this man," the prosecutor told the judge.

Vin was dismissed. Ezra was called to the stand. The prosecutor asked Ezra the same questions. He answered the questions put to him the same way as Vin. The prosecutor closed his argument stating facts from his questioning of Ezra, Vin and his witnesses.

"Excuse me, judge, don't we get to present our side to the court?" Vin stood and asked.

"Mr. Tanner, you do not have the right to speak in this court. You are being charged with very serious offenses."

"Well, we are the ones being charged, sir. I mean no disrespect, but how can we defend ourselves if we cannot present our side?"

"Mr. Tanner, this is my court! You will not speak unless spoken to! If you speak out of line again, I will have you removed from the court, and you will learn of the verdict from your jail cell. Do I make my self clear?"

"Yes, sir."

The judge told those in the jury to decide guilty or not. They took only a few minutes to confer on their decision.

"Have y'all made a decision?" the judge asked the jury.

"Yes, we find both of them guilty of all charges," the jury concluded.

"OK, Vin tanner. Ezra Standish. Please, stand. Gentlemen, you have been found guilty. Your sentence is as follows: you will hang until dead," the judge responded.

The sheriff and his men led Ezra and Vin back to the jail after the trial. Now, they had to wait for Laura to come back to discuss the plans for escape.

An hour passed, and the sheriff approached Ezra and Vin's cell with two deputies. He entered the cell placing his gun deep into Vin's ribs making him wince in pain and pinning him against the back wall.

"What d'ya want?" Vin asked as the two deputies held guns on Ezra.

"Mr. Tanner, I was passing the past hour by going through my handbills. Imagine my surprise when I found one for you, wanted for murder in Tascosa, Texas," the sheriff stated as he dug the gun barrel deeper into Vin's ribs.

"I'm innocent of that charge. I was framed," Vin tried to explain as the man still pinned him to the wall.

"Mr. Tanner, it doesn't matter. I wired Tascosa to find out if they wanted your body after you were hung," the sheriff informed Vin.

"What'd they say?" Vin questioned.

"I exchanged messages with Pat Garrett; he's the law over there. You know Mr. Garrett?" the sheriff asked.

"Vin, you are acquainted with Pat Garrett?" Ezra questioned his friend.

Vin turned to Ezra, "Yeah, I know 'im; he ain't nothin' great. What'd he say?" Vin turned his attention back to the sheriff.

"He says you ran off. That the original handbill was for $250…"

"Original handbill? There is a replacement?" Ezra interrupted.

"Yes," the sheriff continued, "the reward was raised to $500, and he wants you or your body, dead or alive."

"Dead or alive?" Ezra questioned.

"You got it, Mr. Standish. Your friend is wanted dead or alive with a decent bounty on his head. I informed Mr. Garrett we were holding you in our jail, and you are to be hung on Friday," the sheriff explained.

"What did he say?" Vin asked.

"He's on his way to pick up your body."

"He's comin' here?" Vin exclaimed questioning the man.

"He wants to show the town you are indeed dead," the sheriff told him and walked away.

Vin took a deep breath and sunk to the floor when the sheriff removed the gun from his ribs. They remained sore.

As the sheriff locked the cell door, he warned Vin, "If I were you, I wouldn't even attempt to escape. That bounty and new handbill will bring every money hungry, cold-hearted individual your way regardless if they're law-abiding or otherwise. They won’t think twice about putting a bullet in your back, either. $500 is $500. It's easier to claim a bounty if you can be killed, but then, you ought to know that being an ex-bounty hunter and all."

Vin rubbed his ribs. The pain was still there; probably bruised, he thought.

Laura came with supper a few hours later, as expected. The two men ate with growing appetites. As they ate, they discussed their plans.

"How can we trust you? I mean, why do you want to help us?" Vin asked her.

"You have no choice but to trust me. You have nothing to lose; you're gonna hang anyway. As for me, I told you my husband was hung for trying to leave. I supported his choice to leave, but didn’t admit to it for fear of being hung beside him. He was to come back for me, but he was caught," Laura explained her position.

Vin, Ezra and Laura discussed the escape at great length.

"Ezra, you be the one to go," Vin told him.

"No, I refuse to abandon you here to be executed," Ezra argued.

"Ezra, it's OK. 'Sides, do you think I could leave you here and make it back to Four Corners alive with that new handbill?" Vin responded.

"I suppose not," Ezra answered.

It was decided, then, that Ezra would be the one to escape. Laura would come in and unlock the door, and let him go out the back where his horse was waiting.

"Ma'am, can you get him my guns?" Vin asked.

"Yeah," she answered.

"I do not need your weapons, Vin; I have my own," Ezra stated.

"Ezra, you never know. You have been learnin' on my guns; you should use the weapon you are familiar with," Vin informed.

When the town was completely asleep, Laura brought Ezra's horse to the backside of the jail. She entered the jail, and retrieved the keys. She unlocked the gun chest and removed Vin and Ezra's guns. She relocked the chest and went to the cell that held the two men. She unlocked the cell.

"Here you go," Laura handed the weapons to Ezra.

"Thank you, Ma'am," he answered as he took the guns. "Vin, I will return; I promise you," he swore his return to Vin.

"Hurry, Ezra, go," Vin hurried him.

Ezra hurried to the rear of the building. He made sure the area was clear. He mounted his horse and rode off into the darkness. Laura made a quick exit of the jail leaving it just as she had found it, save for the guns and Ezra.


When the town awoke, the usual town meeting took place at the schoolhouse. This time, however, was going to be very different.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the sheriff began, "we have something very important to discuss here this morning. I know y'all are anxiously awaiting the hangings on Friday, but it seems we are to have only one hanging. The man called Ezra Standish has escaped with all the weapons both men came with. {Townsfolk gasp} Now, folks, I don’t have to tell you, but this is a very serious offense. An investigation will begin following this meeting. Anyone found to have anything to do with this escape will be hung for treason. Does anyone here know anything about this treacherous deed?"

He awaited an answer. He crowd mumbled to each other. No one admitted to the crime or claimed to be a witness.

"Alright, we will just have to question each citizen and attempt to locate the traitor. I want to point out that if this man, Ezra Standish, gets to another town and breathes a word of us to anyone, all you have here will be gone. Your homes, your land, your families, your lives will be gone - forever changed. You will never again enjoy the peacefulness Swinging Tree has to offer. You will be thrust into the cutthroat wilds of this forsaken land at the mercy of all that come to rob or kill you. The protection many of you have come to take for granted here will vanish. The ideals of those that settled this town and drew up our charter, laws, etc. will be buried. Please, I beg of you, to consider this when you prepare for your interview with my deputies. Thank you," the sheriff preached dismissing the group when he finished.

That evening, a Mr. Adam Jenkins invited Laura to supper. At the supper table with his wife and children present, he starts the conversation.

"Laura, is Mr. Standish bringing friends to help free Mr. Tanner?"

"Excuse me?"

"I assumed you aided in the escape. I don’t know if you are aware, but several of us have come together to try to escape from or change this town. Knowing your husband was hung for trying to escape and you were the one who fed the prisoners, we figured you shared your husband's beliefs."

"Oh, I do>"

"Then can we expect him to return?"

"How can I be sure I can trust you?" she asked him.

"You can't. You have to just take my word; I'm good for it, though," Adam Jenkins responded. "As you know, I have two young children. I fear for them and my wife. I do not know when or if they will ever finger me to hang for something, but I do not want them to have to watch," he continued explaining his reasoning to her. "There are about 20 others that are willing to help out, that I know of."

"Well, Mr. Jenkins, that's very kind. He did say he'd be back with help. I don't know who or how many though. Tell them to just be prepared for anything. I know Mr. Standish and Mr. Tanner are involved in peacekeeping in a town near here called Four Corners. Bring we're so isolated, explains why we never heard of it or them," Laura explained.

Adam agreed and Laura went home. The interviews had stopped for the night and curfew was set, not to end until daybreak.

Meanwhile, Ezra had rode to Four Corners. Judge Travis and Chris Larabee had also returned.

"Chris!" Ezra called out frantically when he entered the jail.

"Ezra, what is it?" Chris answered coming from the back.

"A situation has arisen that requires us to visit Swinging Tree," Ezra announced.

"Swinging Tree?"

"A small village where Vin and I became mercilessly imprisoned. We behaved impeccably; yet, our manner of processing was by a corrupt trial. We were prosecuted on trumped up charges resulting in a unanimous guilty verdict."

"What was the punishment?" Chris asked as Buck and JD entered.

"Death by hanging."

Chris stared into Ezra's emerald eyes. Buck and JD stopped in their tracks.

"Death by hanging?" JD repeated rubbing his throat. "Who's being hung?"

"Ezra, where's Vin? If both of y'all were convicted, why are you here?" Chris asked sternly ignoring JD's question.

Vin and I disputed momentarily over who should escape. He decided I should go. I argued the fact explaining I did not wish to be responsible for his demise. He refused to vacate the cell. I was forced to attempt the escape and retrieve you and the others."

"Ezra, if I find out you're lying and you deserted him, I'll…"

"Chris! I don't think that's important right now. I think we need to rescue Vin. When's the hangin', Ezra?" Buck interrupted.

"Friday afternoon."

"Well, we ain't got much time, then; let's go," Buck stated taking control away from Chris who became preoccupied with his disgust for what he believed Ezra had done.

They gathered Judge Travis, Nathan and Josiah and explained the situation.

"We leaving as soon as possible?" Nathan asked.

"Yes," Chris confirmed.

"Ummmm…," Ezra began.

"What now, Ezra?" Chris interrogated.

"There is one other minor detail…"

"What?" Judge Travis asked growing a little impatient with Ezra as well.

"The sheriff knows Vin's wanted for murder in Tascosa. He found the handbill in his desk after we were incarcerated."

"Great! Now, he has a legal right to hold him," Chris muttered.

"That is still not the worst of it. He wired Tascosa. He exchanged messages with Pat Garrett, who now represents the law in Tascosa. Vin knows him, personally," Ezra continued.

"Damn it, Ezra! Why didn’t you tell me that before?" Chris growled.

"Because, Mr. Larabee, you shouted at me and accused me of desertion. It was not, at that moment, on my mind. I would not desert Vin; you should know that. I may be a great number of things, but I am just as loyal to my friends as any of you!" Ezra scolded through his teeth before abruptly turning away and mounting his horse.

"Alright, this bickering isn't going to save Vin's life. You boys go get him; I'll report this town and wire Tascosa to find out about this new handbill," Judge Travis attempted to calm the fury of the two men.


Chris, Nathan, JD, Buck and Josiah mounted their steeds and joined Ezra. They rode until they came to a clump of trees overlooking the town of their destination. They watched as men adjusted a rope on a large tree in the middle of the main street. JD and Buck shivered at the thought of the rope about their throats. When they regained their composure, they saw Vin being escorted to the tree and a crowd gathering.

"What are we gonna do?" JD asked.

"Well, considering they are putting the noose about him now, I suggest something soon," Nathan observed.

"Perhaps I should shoot the rope prior to them allowing the horse to leave Vin hanging?" Ezra pondered.

"Ezra, come on, you couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn," Ezra joked.

"No, Ezra, Buck's probably second to Vin at aiming and shooting from a distance," Chris answered.

"You refuse to grant me any credence!" Ezra snapped.

"Ezra, you are good at certain things, and Buck's good at certain things. Shooting a gun is not one of your strong points. Vin's life depends on us severing that rope, and we do not have time to argue over it!" Chris retaliated.

"You are absolutely correct!" Ezra grabbed Vin's rifle and took a spot where he could aim comfortably.

Chris approached him, "What are you doing?"

"You stated we have no time for discussion. I suggest you prepare to get down there and save him when I sever the rope," Ezra growled.

"You damned well better hit what you're aiming at, Ezra Standish; because if you don't and he dies, I will not miss what I aim at. Is that clear?" Chris growled back.

"Crystal," Ezra replied as he aimed the rifle at the rope just above Vin's head.

Slowly, Ezra squeezed the trigger. All the instruction that Vin had given him flooded his mind. He could feel sweat dripping from his forehead. He could only pray that all Vin taught would come together. The exploding bridge flashed through his mind as he saw the explosion from the barrel of the rifle. In an instant, the horse Vin was positioned atop darted from the tree at the sound of the rifle. Each man held their breath until they realized Vin was still sitting on top of the horse. The rope that held him now dangled from the tree freely. The sheriff and his deputies quickly mounted their horses as Chris and Buck retrieved Vin and the horse. The crowd that gathered held some of the deputies at bay; so, they could not join in the chase. Nathan used one of his knives to cut the ropes that bound Vin's hands.

Vin turned and smiled at Ezra as they all fled, "What took you so long?"

Ezra smiled back knowing that was Vin's way of saying "thank you". As the six men that came to Vin's rescue spurred their horses onward toward Four Corners, Vin halted his.

"Wait!" Vin hollered.

"What the hell are you doing?" Chris asked returning to Vin's position.

"They need our help. If it weren't for Laura and the others, me an' Ezra would be dead; ain't that right, Ezra?" Vin told them.

"He is correct," Ezra confirmed.

"Well, let's at least get out of site," Josiah motioned to another clump of trees and large rocks.

The sheriff and his deputies searched the area, but could not find them. They returned to town and began interrogating the residents. Vin and Ezra told the others about Laura Madison. Vin further informed them of the group of folks that wanted to leave town, but was afraid of the consequences if caught. He told them of the leader, Adam Jenkins.

"I guess we need to contact either Laura or Adam, then," Nathan suggested.

"Do you know where she is, Vin?" Chris asked.

"Yeah, luckily she lives just on the edge of town near the schoolhouse…there," he answered pointing to a little house beside the school.

"Well, let's go, then, and get this over with," JD stated.

"Nervous, JD," Buck teased.

"Anyplace that has a set day they hang people, have to find someone to hang, regardless, or hangs all outsiders spooks me," JD admitted.

Buck poked JD in the ribs and playfully slapped at him teasing him about being scared. The seven men traveled down to Laura's house. Vin knocked three times on the back door, just like Laura had asked him to. The door slowly opened.

"Vin, Ezra," Laura greeted from behind the door.

"We have brought help," Vin told her.

Laura ushered them in. Vin introduced the other five men. They all sat with minimal light in a secluded area of the house to avoid being detected. They discussed plans to help the villagers escape their sheriff and town government. They decided a show of force would overwhelm the little town and allow those who wished to flee the opportunity to do so.

The next morning would be the fateful day for the townsfolk. Chris rode out into the main street, tall in his saddle. He was followed by Vin and Ezra. Following them were Buck, Nathan, Josiah and JD. Their guns were drawn ready for any that chose to challenge them. Fear filled the little town. The sheriff and his deputies walked into the street attempting to show a presence.

"Mister," the sheriff addressed Chris, "those men you have with you are outlaws."

"No, sheriff, they represent the law in Four Corners," Chris retaliated.

"Vin tanner is wanted for murder in Tascosa, Texas," one of the deputies offered.

"Yes, he is, but he's innocent. I, for one, believe him, aside from the fact I know it to be true," Chris told them.

"This ain't none of your business," the sheriff growled.

"You were gonna hang two friends of mine. That makes it my business. The charges were asinine, and the trial was corrupt. Give me a reason I should not take you into custody right now?" Chris demanded.

"Pat Garrett will be here soon for Tanner; I'm sure he won't be alone!" the sheriff exclaimed backing back up the street.

"Well, we'll just have to be done here before he gets here, won't we?" Chris sassed. "Now, I suggest those people who wish to leave, gather your belongings and head out with us."

Laura, the Jenkins family and more than half the town packed their belongings and prepared to leave. The sheriff tried to appeal to the townsfolk to no avail. One of the deputies decided to take matters into his own hands. He quickly drew his gun on Chris, but Chris' speed was still unmatched by many. The deputy grabbed his bloody hand where Chris shot the weapon from him.

"I wouldn't try that again. The next bullet will kill you," Chris warned.

Another deputy threw down his gun and gathered his family. They placed their belongings in a wagon and prepared to leave.

"Jim, where are you going?" the sheriff demanded of his deputy.

"I ain't doing your bidding no more," he replied.

"Wait!" Adam Jenkins called out. "Look at us. We are the majority. Why are we leaving? Ladies and gentlemen, I say we stay and force those who disagree with us to leave. We will change our government and the name of our town to reflect a more hospitable place to live. What d'you say?"

The crowd cheered him on. At the sight and sound, of obvious anarchy, at least in his eyes, the sheriff mounted his horse and left town. Two of his deputies followed, as did a handful of residents. Adam quieted the town to vote for a new name. The decided on Peacedale. Adam and Laura thanked Chris, Vin and Ezra along with the others for their help. Adam asked if the men could be at their beckon call if they need assistance keeping the new laws. Chris agreed to help them keep law breaking folks out of town. All they'd have to do is wire Four Corners for help. They were a little less than a days ride away.

After seeing that all would work out, Chris, Ezra, Vin, Josiah, Nathan, Buck and JD returned to Four Corners. Pat Garrett arrived shortly after Vin and the others left. He found a town struggling to re-establish itself. He interrupted a town meeting that convened to rewrite the laws of the town.

"Excuse me, I am looking for the sheriff," Pat Garrett asked of the townspeople.

"I'm sorry, we no longer have one. We ran him out of town this morning," Adam Jenkins answered.

"Well, maybe you can help. My name's Pat Garrett. I was told y'all were hanging Vin Tanner today. Where can I find his body?" Garrett inquired.

"Vin Tanner? Hmmmm…don't believe I've heard of 'im, Mr. Garrett," Adam replied. "There's no one in town by that name, an' I ain't never met no one by that name. Sorry, we can't help you."

"Look, I came out here all the way from Texas. Are you telling me it was a wasted trip?" an agitated Garrett responded.

"No, sir, nothing's ever a waste, that is, if you learn something from it," Laura smiled at him.

Disgusted, Pat Garrett stormed out, mounted his horse, and left town with his posse. They headed back to Tascosa.

Upon arrival in Four Corners, the men were greeted by Judge Travis.

"Y'all didn’t meet up with Garrett, did you?" Judge Travis questioned them.

"No, why?" Chris asked.

"I tried to contact him, but he already left Tascosa," the judge answered.

"Is he coming here?" Vin asked.

"I don’t think so," Judge Travis responded.

"Unless them folks in that town tell 'em where we went to," JD chimed in.

"Naw, they won’t tell…I hope," Vin stated.

When Pat Garrett returned to Tascosa, he found the wire message from Judge Travis. Upon receiving it, he wired the judge in Four Corners. Chris, Vin, Ezra and Josiah were present when Buck, JD and Nathan delivered the message. The judge read the message, which asked him if he knew Vin's whereabouts. He wired pat back telling him he heard he was in a town called Swinging Tree, but didn't know where he was now. They did not hear back from Mr. Garrett. The seven men stayed on the porch of the jail relating the story of the town to Judge Travis. Chris approached Ezra to apologize for his earlier comments.

"Ezra, I'd like to apologize for prejudging your actions. I should have known better than to think you would have left Vin there to hang,"

"I suppose I deserved it. I have yet to earn your trust," Ezra stated.

"No, Ezra, you have it, especially after the incident with shooting that rope. Where'd you learn to shoot like that?"

"Vin has given me several points on how to manipulate a weapon. In exchange, I am teaching him to read and write."

Chris smiled at the gambler and all was again well in Four Corners.


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