Wild adventure as a name from vin's past re-enters his life. Death may very well be on the horizon for a couple of our seven...can Chris and the others get to Vin in time? Keep readin' to find out!
~ CHAPTER 1 ~
Chris and Vin accompanied Sammi Jennings back to Palo Pinto County, Texas. They made sure to keep a low profile in order to keep Vin's return to Texas quiet. They didn't need any trouble stemming from the bounty on his head. Vin's purpose for going was merely because of his friendship with Sammi and for moral support. Chris was aiding Sammi sell the land she had acquired from her fiancé, who had left it to her when he was murdered indirectly by a cattle baron, Mr. Killjoy. She feared him and his men. Vin offered his help. Chris refused to allow Vin to go back to Texas without at least one of the other six to keep his neck out of a noose; Chris, of course, volunteered. Everything went as planned as the three sold the flock of sheep on the land as well as the land. Sammi was paid handsomely as she held water rights to a great expanse of land. The three saddled up their horses without incident from Mr. Killjoy. A surprise that made all of them leery. They expected at some point to have to deal with Mr. Killjoy, but as they left Texas and entered New Mexico territory, they had yet to be ambushed by him or his men.
Meanwhile, Four Corners played host to six newcomers. The remaining five keepers of the town kept a watch to make sure the newcomers were law-abiding folks. They seemed to be; they never caused any trouble, at least not yet. The leader of the six men was John Laughton (pronounced: Lawt'n). He was a good-looking man, clean-shaven, and of small build; he wasn't more than 5'5". His constant companion was his second in command, Charlie Fontana. Charlie was a rugged gunfighter type. Quiet, yet his leer could put terror in the most fearless heart. His large frame stood 6'4", and he toward over and intimidated all. How these two men came to play cards with Ezra isn't clear nor does it matter. They were here. Buck and JD eagerly watched as Ezra orchestrated his magic at the table. He chuckled to himself as he relished in the fact that he didn't even have to cheat. The conversation mostly concerned the game at hand as no one seemed to talk much. However, Nathan stopped by to ask Buck if he knew when Chris and Vin were due back with Sammi.
"Shouldn't be long. They were only s'pose to meet a few prospects for the sheep and land," Buck answered still smiling at Ezra as he won another hand.
"I don't mean to interrupt," John Laughton began, looking up at Nathan and Buck, "but this here Vin y'all are speaking of wouldn't happen to be Vin Tanner would it?"
Nathan, Buck, JD and Ezra looked at one another slightly bewildered.
"I assume you are acquainted with our friend, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra spoke up while handing the man the cards so as to cut the deck.
"Yes, he's an old friend," John replied.
"Well, then, Buck, buy the gentlemen a beverage of their choosing," Ezra requested.
"Me? Why me? Why don't you buy 'em one?" Buck squealed.
"Because, Mr. Wilmington, it is my establishment. I would be compensating myself. Now, I do understand you have no grasp of business matters; however, you must recognize the fact I shall not profit from any sale I personally conduct."
Buck stared at Ezra, more or less confused and muttered, "Yea…whatever."
Buck left for the bar after the men requested whiskey. Inez gave him the whiskey, and he returned to the table. The conversation was no longer about the card game; instead, Vin Tanner was the topic of interest.
"So, what'd I miss?" Buck questioned placing the drinks on the table in front of each man.
"Well, these two men say they know Vin from his bounty hunting days," Nathan informed.
"Is that so?" Buck pondered. "Well, Mr….uh, what was your name again?"
"Laughton. John Laughton."
"Well, Mr. Laughton, what can ya tell us of Vin Tanner?"
"He's good at what he does, but sooner or later there's always someone better waiting to take you down. That's the problem with being one of the best; you're always lookin' over your shoulder. I'm sure he doesn't have to worry about that just yet, though. He's still fairly young, and he rides with you gentlemen protectin' this here town. I do know, however, he's a loner; he always has been. He keeps to himself, and he doesn't have many friends. Of course, you understand a man can't have friends when he's getting' paid for head huntin'."
"Regardless of his previous profession, he's here currently, and he's lots of friends," Ezra stated.
"Are you his friend, Mr. Standish?" Charlie asked snidely.
Ezra cut evil green eyes up to Charlie Fontana, but didn't answer. His glare could have sliced through the man as he wondered what the tone in the question meant.
"Vin and Ezra are blood brothers," JD foolishly blurted out drawing the stare of all the men present. "Well, y'are," JD countered the glares of his friends as he turned to Ezra.
"This true, Mr. Standish?" John asked leering over his cards at Ezra.
"It is correct," Ezra stated, not wanting to deny his loyalty to Vin.
"Well, I guess I was wrong. You can hunt heads an' have friends," John affirmed as he spoke to Charlie.
Charlie knew what John's look meant; it was time to leave and confer about what they had just learned.
Charlie glanced down at his pocket watch, "It's getting' late, gentlemen; we're gonna have to call it a night."
Charlie and John rose from their seats. Ezra, JD, Buck and Nathan rose to their feet as well.
"Gentlemen," Ezra dismissed.
The two men left the tavern and joined their friends. Ezra and the others were left to ponder the two gentlemen. Maude and Josiah, both of who entered the tavern as the men left, met Ezra, JD, Nathan and Buck in the tavern.
"Good evening, gentlemen," Maude greeted.
"Mother," Ezra greeted.
"Did y'all find out anything about those men?" Josiah asked.
"They know Vin," Nathan responded.
"Are they friend or foe?" Maude questioned.
"We have yet to determine a supposition," Ezra stated.
"Well, Vin and Chris ain't due back for a few days yet," Josiah observed.
"Do you think they'll hang around now that they know Vin's usually here, Josiah?"
"I don't know Nathan; maybe."
"We'll have to tell Vin when he gets back," Buck stated.
"I shall query Mr. Tanner when he arrives," Ezra confirmed.
All agreed as they disbanded and went on their individual ways. Ezra stayed to help Inez close up the tavern. JD and Buck left together. Josiah walked Maude to her hotel room. She had tried to lure Josiah to join her, but so far he had been able to resist her temptations. However, he felt himself grow weaker with the passing of each day; he knew it was only a matter of time. Nathan decided to return to his office to read some medical books sent to him from one of his doctor friends.
Several days past, yet no one learned much about John Laughton, Charlie Fontana or any of the other four men that accompanied them except for their names. The five guardians of Four Corners worried why the men seemed to be so interested in Vin. Whenever questioned, their only remark was that he was a friend they hadn’t seen in quite some time. Ezra and the others were leery just the same.
~ CHAPTER 2 ~
Chris, Vin and Sammi rode into town just before dawn. After leaving their horses in the livery stable to be taken care of, the three sauntered over to the jail to check on how things were going since they left. JD and Josiah were already up; they met Chris and the others at the jail.
"Hi, Chris, Vin, Sammi!" JD exclaimed.
"How'd it go?" Josiah asked.
"We sold all of it. You should've seen the face on Mr. Killjoy when a black man bought the land," Sammi excitedly announced as Nathan walked in.
Nathan raised an eyebrow to Sammi, "What's this? Did I hear you say you sold your land to a black man?"
"Yes, Nathan; you should've seen Mr. Killjoy. He was furious beyond words. He just high-tailed it back to his cattle and never bothered us. The fact that a black man owns sheep, land and water rights must really aggravate him," Sammi giggled with enjoyment at the thought of how distressed the man, who caused her so much heartache, was.
"You seem to be enjoying the situation," Nathan charged.
"Yes, sir," Sammi assured as she playfully slapped at Nathan.
"Yea, well, I just hope the man doesn't meet the same fate as your fiancé at the hands of that murderer," Nathan snapped as he started to leave the jail.
"Nathan, I didn't mean…" Sammi wasn't able to finish before Nathan shut the door.
Vin put his arm around her, "Don't worry about it, Samantha; he'll get over it."
"I didn't mean anything. Honest," Sammi pleaded.
"We know," Chris reassured as he placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Not to change the subject, but there are some folks that arrived in town while y'all were gone. They were asking about you, Vin; they say they're friends from your bounty hunting days," Josiah informed.
"Really?" Vin answered.
"Yea, Ezra said he'd explain everything. He talked to them the most," JD added.
"Where's Ezra?" Vin questioned.
"The tavern, I'd guess," Buck answered.
"No, I am not," Ezra stated as he walked in.
"Ezra, they say you got something to tell me about some friends of mine?" Vin asked Ezra.
"You acquainted with a John Laughton and a Charlie Fontana? They had four other men also among them," Ezra informed.
"Laughton," Vin thought aloud. "I knew someone once by that name, but no one named John. Charlie Fontana, I do know someone by that name. He's a gunfighter, and he did ride with a Laughton. The man's name was Jeremiah Laughton, though, not John. Jeremiah had a $1000 bounty on his head. He's also dead," Vin explained.
"Do you know if he's got a brother?" Chris asked.
"I dunno," Vin answered.
"You are sure he's dead?" Josiah questioned.
Vin stared at Josiah; his blue eyes penetrated the preacher, "I know when a man's dead, Mr. Sanchez."
"Vin, I didn't mean to question you. I just was curious if the man was dead or left for dead."
"Yea, well, he's dead; trust me," Vin confirmed.
"Do you know what these men might want, Vin?" Chris asked.
"No," Vin admitted quietly.
"Ezra, did you find out what they wanted?" Chris inquired.
"I attempted to gain as much information as possible; however, my attempts were apparently in vain as I learned nothing of these gentlemen, except that they are lousy card players," Ezra disclosed.
"Don't worry, Ezra, I'm sure we'll figure it out. Besides, there are seven of us and six of them," Vin reassured.
Chris informed everyone including Nathan and Sammi, who were out on the front porch of the jail, to keep their eyes and ears open for any possible clue as to what these men wanted. Vin and John passed each other various times throughout the day, but no words were exchanged. Nor did they approach one another.
Also, on this day, another visitor arrived to Four Corners by stage. A friend of Nathan's - a Doctor Blaine O'Shannon and his wife, Keelia. Dr. O'Shannon was one of the doctors Nathan knew from the war; no one knew, as of yet, how important his visit would become. He surprised Nathan by just showing up unannounced. Dr. O'Shannon and his wife met Nathan outside the jail.
"I don't believe it!" Nathan exclaimed.
"Nathan!" the doctor returned the exclamation, his Irish accent evident.
He threw his bags down as he and Nathan gave each other a friendly hug.
"How've ya been?" Nathan asked.
"Great, what about you?"
"Same here. What're ya doin' here?"
"I was in the area. I have accepted an invitation to be the town doctor of New Cork."
"It is an Irish settlement about ten miles from here," Keelia O'Shannon added in her thick Irish accent.
"How long are y'all gonna be in town?" Nathan inquired.
"About a week," Blaine responded.
Nathan, throughout the day, introduced Blaine and Keelia to the other six and various other friends about town, eventually ending up in the Standish Tavern.
~ CHAPTER 3 ~
Vin met up with Ezra late that evening outside the tavern. The two friends talked outside. Suddenly, out of the darkness, rode six riders. As they approached the tavern, Vin had just told Ezra how this John looked identical to Jeremiah. Neither of the two could figure why the man had not approached Vin yet, but that was about to change. The men came to an abrupt halt as they reached Vin and Ezra.
"Remember Jeremiah, Vin?" John asked as he and the others positioned their horses to leave town.
"What do y'all want?" Vin asked.
The man smiled as guns appeared firing in the direction of the two friends. Ezra felt several bullets burn through his flesh as he attempted to return fire. Vin, too, felt the burning sensation. As gunfire rang out through the town, the men fled. Chris, Nathan and JD came from within the tavern…shooting. Buck came running from the hotel, shirtless, followed by a screaming female. She was screaming about his up and leaving her just because shots were fired.
Just before all the commotion had begun, Josiah had finally succumbed to Maude's temptations. He agreed to come in and stay a while. They first had just sat and talked at the edge of her bed. Soon, Josiah found the woman he thought intriguing leaning towards him; the sweetest of kisses upon her lips. He obliged her whilst he removed the combs from her hair. As her hair fell about her shoulders, Josiah opened the blouse of her dress, pushing it off her shoulders. Maude only removed her lips from his long enough to catch her breath. Her hands moved quickly when she removed his shirt. Their breathing became heavier as they became more intense in reaching their goal. It wasn't long before the clothing they once wore lay on the floor. The couple's hearts beat as one in unison. Maude longed for this moment, as did Josiah; yet, neither would have admitted it to the other. Maude gave herself completely to the quiet preacher who was now ravishing her. Josiah accommodated and satisfied her every desire. It was then, as they lay in each other's arms breathless and content, that they heard the shots. Josiah scrambled to the window; Maude quickly followed. Maude caught a glimpse of Ezra's form lying on the boardwalk in front of the Standish Tavern.
"No!" she screamed in a piercing shriek.
Josiah held her trembling body as she wept at the sight. Maude quickly pushed him away. She grabbed her nightgown and robe becoming dressed as quickly as possible. As Maude stumbled in her haste down the stairs, Josiah struggled to put his pants and boots back on. He ran after the woman as fast as he could, catching up to her only when she arrived at the tavern. When she got to the tavern, she dropped to her knees. She picked up her son and rocked him in her arms like she did so many times when he was an infant. Ezra moaned slightly as he could still feel the pain shoot through him. Maude and Josiah had gotten there only moments after Chris, JD, Buck and Nathan. Nathan was with Vin. Blaine and Keelia O'Shannon joined the group.
"Vin, can you hear me?" Nathan questioned.
"Yeah, I can hear ya," Vin gasped.
"Did you see who it was," Chris interrogated.
"Laughton…Fontana…and…the others," Vin said as he took deep breaths between his words.
"He gonna be alright?" Chris asked Nathan.
"Doesn't look like anything major has been damaged. He's just losing a lot of blood," Nathan confirmed as he placed a cloth over the wound in the upper right side of Vin's chest and one over the hole in his thigh.
"Hold that there, Chris. It should slow the bleedin' while I examine Ezra," Nathan ordered.
Chris complied. Nathan approached Ezra, who was still being cradled by his mother and examined by Blaine. Nathan watched as Blaine examined Ezra's bloody body. He had several wounds and was unconscious. Nathan asked Josiah to help him carry Ezra back to his office, as he thought Ezra's heart was still strong enough to survive. Blaine and Chris helped Vin walk to Nathan's when Nathan motioned to them to follow.
Vin was obviously going to have to wait. Nathan and Blaine removed each bullet from Ezra's body with Sammi's aid. She proved to be very helpful to Nathan since arriving in Four Corners. She had become somewhat of a nurse to him. Keelia, however, tended to Vin's wounds, attempting to keep him from bleeding to death while awaiting the doctor and Nathan. Nathan and Blaine worked on Ezra for some time. Josiah tried to comfort Maude, but her tears seemed unstoppable. Nathan finally emerged to talk with her.
"He's resting. I can’t guarantee anything. We'll just have to wait an' see," he informed them.
Maude went to Ezra's bedside. Nathan and Blaine then tended to Vin.
"I have to go after Laughton and Fontana," Vin told Nathan.
"No, you have to heal," Nathan countered.
"You see what that Bastard did to Ezra. You think I'm gonna just sit around while they're roamin' free?" he spoke slowly as he tried to breathe.
"Vin, Chris'll take care of it. You need to rest!"
"Fine then!" Vin angrily agreed.
Blaine remained quiet during the conversation concentrating on removing the bullets. He didn’t know Vin except for the introductory meeting they had earlier that day; therefore, he thought it best to keep his opinions out of it. Besides, Nathan seemed to know what he was doing and just how to handle the tracker.
Vin and Ezra were left alone to get some rest. Josiah convinced Maude to leave Ezra for a short while. JD was left to stand guard outside the door. Everyone knew Vin; they knew he would be a problem if he got his mind set to go after Laughton and Fontana.
Vin watched Ezra to make sure he was asleep. Having regained consciousness an hour earlier, he had since fallen asleep. Vin quietly climbed out of bed and dressed himself. He took his mare's leg and made for the window. He gingerly lowered himself from the window. So far so good. Vin managed to get to his horse. He packed his horse with supplies, mounted and left in search of Laughton, Fontana and the men with which they rode. Vin managed to exit town without being noticed right away.
"Nathan! Chris!" Ezra hollered upon waking.
JD ran into the room, glancing at Vin's empty bed, "Where's Vin, Ezra?"
"I do not know; hence, the reason I beckoned Nathan and Chris."
"I gotta tell them; stay here!"
"Mr. Dunne, do I appear capable of vacating these premises?"
"Yea, well, Vin did."
"Yes, however, my wounds are greater in number and severity!"
JD smiled at Ezra's comment. He assured Ezra he would inform Nathan and Chris. JD knew they had gathered in the tavern to discuss their plans to find the men responsible. JD approached the table where Chris, Nathan, Buck, Josiah and Maude, Sammi, Mary, Blaine and Keelia were discussing the situation.
"Chris, Nathan," JD began, "Ezra sent me; Vin's gone!"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Chris asked in anger.
"I dunno how he got out. I stayed by the door the whole time; I never left."
"JD, it's not your fault," Buck supported.
"If Vin wanted to leave, he would've found a way regardless of our efforts," Josiah added.
"Damn him!" Chris exclaimed in furious at the disappearance of his friend.
"What are we to do now?" Nathan asked Chris.
"Go after him. He's liable to find Laughton and Fontana before we do. Nathan, you an' Blaine stay here with Ezra. Josiah, JD, Buck, we're gonna have to go after Vin. Sammi, I'd like you to come along. You know Vin better than any of us. He taught you to track; you should be able to help us track him," Chris ordered.
They all agreed at the arrangements. They were to leave as soon as possible. Chris gave final instructions to Mary and Keelia.
"Mary, can you and Keelia look after Maude?"
"Yea, no problem. We'll take care of her," Mary agreed.
Keelia nodded in agreement.
Chris gathered his group on the outskirts of town. Sammi led the group in the most probable direction of Vin and Laughton's men.
~ CHAPTER 4 ~
Vin traveled all night; he was tired, weak and sore. The wounds his body sustained the evening before pained him. Vin's experience told him to rest, but his loyalty to his newfound friends was unfailing. His instincts for survival were still strong; yet, they were now clouded by the anger of someone attempting to take the life of one of those friends. Could Vin allow his feelings for Ezra to interfere with his ability to think rationally? Vin had been through a lot in his life. He had been the hunted and the hunter. He knew what it was like to be on both sides of the gun. This time, however, was different; he was injured. His injuries took their toll after riding all night. He wasn't thinking straight. His mind was set on revenge. Avenging Ezra's possible death. He may just have gotten too close. He's never made deadly errors before because he kept his relationships at a distance. His experience was about to account for nothing as he watched Laughton and his men. He was an injured man, who's actions and thoughts were partially based on his body's reaction to his injuries and the thirst for revenge. His vision had become slightly blurred as the pain from his wounds made him light-headed. His head ached from the lack of rest. His weary body was betraying him, and it might just cost him his life.
He tried to watch Laughton's men; unfortunately, the rising sun was behind Laughton. The blinding glare did not aid Vin's already troubled vision or throbbing head. Yet, he attempted to point his gun. Unaware of the obvious, Vin didn't realize he tipped off his prey by allowing the sun to reflect off the barrel of his gun. Had he been in his right mind he would've known better. He never would've been on this side of the rising sun, but he was. One of the men spotted Vin; however, Vin was unaware. Vin still aimed for Laughton. The man placed Vin in his sites. Before Vin could fire his weapon, the man open-fired. Several rounds exploded into the air. Vin felt at least three bullets enter his already weakened body. Two blasted through his right side, and one entered his chest. The gunfire alerted Laughton and Fontana. Laughton gathered his men and headed out towards Vin. Vin leaned against a tree, as the area had several of them. His breathing more labored than before. His vision was still blurry; yet, he still held his gun drawn and ready to fire. When he saw John Laughton approach with Charlie Fontana, he attempted to get a shot off. The gunshot struck Laughton in the leg. As Laughton grabbed at his injured leg, Fontana fired his weapon at Vin. The bulet entered the left side of Vin's head; blood dripped down the side of his face as the bullet exited nearly where it had entered. Vin could feel the bullet tear through his already aching head. The blurring in his left eye was nearly obliterated by the blood that flowed over it. Blood also now soaked his hair. John Laughton continued to come at him, dragging his wounded leg. Vin had almost no strength left; he was struggling to breathe, hoping one of his friends was out looking for him. Laughton kneeled in front of Vin.
"Do you remember Jeremiah, Mr. Tanner?" Laughton again asked Vin.
"Yea," Vin gasped.
"Well, he's my brother; you murdered him."
"He was a wanted man. He pulled a gun on me," Vin breathed heavily.
Regardless, you murdered him. Do you think there's a difference between Jeremiah and you?"
"Jeremiah raped and murdered a nine-year-old girl," Vin responded.
"And you killed him. Murder is murder, Vin. You are no more than a hired killer. You think you're right because a handbill says you can kill him for money. Your killing him is no better than him killing that girl. As you saw fit to make him pay for his crime, I will make sure you will pay for yours."
John Laughton revealed a large knife as he spoke. With great force, he plunged the knife into Vin's shoulder. Lucky for Vin he managed to move as he cast the knife down. Laughton had aimed for Vin's chest; he obviously missed.
Meanwhile, Sammi led her search party to all the places Vin had been. She knew she was close, but where was he? Suddenly, she stopped her horse. Vin had repeatedly told her to always be aware of her surroundings.
"Listen to nature; it has a lot to say," he would tell her.
JD turned to buck, "Why'd we stop?"
"Shhhhhh!" Sammi chastised.
Sammi listened and searched the sky.
Chris questioned her quietly, "What is it?"
"There," she confirmed her suspicion, pointing to the ominous birds of death.
Her companions redirected their attention to the circling buzzards to their left.
"What d'you suppose they are?" JD asked.
"Buzzards," Josiah answered.
"So?" JD responded.
"So, they feed on the dead," Buck solemnly answered.
JD stared at the birds, "You think Vin's dead?"
"Won't know 'til we get there," Sammi stated as she motioned her horse in the direction of the birds.
~ CHAPTER 5 ~
Chris and the group approached cautiously. From afar, they saw the glistening of the sun on the large sharp knife in John Laughton's hand. They did not yet make a move on them. They decided to watch and wait for the right moment or for Laughton to attempt to plunge the knife into Vin, again.
John Laughton, instead, did not attempt to stab Vin a second time, at least not yet. He had one more thing he wanted to reveal to Vin. He lowered the knife and removed his hat, releasing the long curly brown hair that was tucked beneath the hat. He shook his head from side to side to release the tangled mess of curls, allowing the hair to flow down his back.
"Damn! The bastard's a female!" Buck exclaimed.
"What're we gonna do now?" JD questioned Chris.
"She makes a move to kill Vin, and I'll kill her just the same as if she were a man," Chris stated.
"She wants to act as a man; then, she can die like a man. Besides, being a woman, I got no problem killin' her," Sammi added with vengeance dripping from he venomous words.
Vin, too, was surprised as the hair billowed out of the hat.
"My name is Jody Laughton. Jeremiah was my twin brother. Charlie here is my husband. I vowed when you murdered my brother that I would stop your beating heart," she viciously declared.
Chris and the others discussed their options. Sammi, like Vin, was an excellent sharpshooter. Her teachers - Vin and her dead fiancé - were, of course, two of the best. She was to pick off the men accompanying Laughton and Fontana. She fired her weapon, taking one of the men down. Five to go, however, Jody grabbed Vin placing the knife to his throat.
"Throw out your weapons and show yourselves," she yelled.
No answer. Vin struggled to breathe. Sammi shot a second man. Jody began to panic as another member of her gang fell.
"I'll kill 'im; I mean it! One more shot and I'll slit his throat," she screamed.
Sammi heeded the warning, sort of; yet, she wasn't about to let this bitch beat her. She re-aimed her weapon. Jody Laughton was clearly in her sights. Chris and the others had nearly reached their destinations closer to the remaining four individuals holding Vin. Chris was a little nervous, as he knew not whether Sammi would fire again. She did. The blast seemed louder to the gunfighter. He spun his gaze from Sammi's position to Vin's fearing Laughton would make good on her threat. He was shocked as he saw the dark-haired woman drop the knife and clutch her chest. Buck, too, was startled as he rose to move forward from his position. Charlie Fontana, furious at the sight of his wife falling before him, turned to Buck and began firing his gun. Buck could not duck down quick enough. Two bullets pierced his body. One hit his gun arm; the other entered his right side. Grasping his side, he collapsed and fell to the ground. Chris' fury raged inside him as his longtime friend fell. It wasn't bad enough that vin disobeyed and ended up in the condition he was currently in, but now, Buck, too, had been harmed. Chris aimed at Charlie Fontana. Charlie aimed at Chris when Chris stepped out into the open. The two gunfighters glared at one another daring each other to attempt to fire first. In a flash of gunfire, smoke filled the air. When it cleared, Charlie Fontana lie dead. Two men remained, both of which aimed at Chris. Both Josiah and JD stopped them both dead from firing at Chris. Chris approached Vin.
"I thought we told you to stay put!" Chris scolded.
Vin winced with the pain that was beginning to numb his body, "Chris, I didn't want anyone else to get hurt. Ezra's dying. Now, Buck's been hurt. If y'all hadn't come…"
"If we hadn't come, you'd be dead right now," Chris criticized his friend.
"Better me than any of you," Vin countered.
"Vin, we are in this together. We help each other. This was just as much our fight as it was yours. When we first met Sammi, Buck reminded me of that, and how we are all friends protecting, defending and supporting one another. Ezra's just as much our friend as he is yours; therefore, we have just as much right to protect him and avenge him. You…" Chris stopped realizing his words were falling on deaf ears for Vin had lost consciousness as he spoke to him.
Instead of wasting anymore words on anyone else, Chris instructed JD and Josiah to help tie the outlaws' dead bodies to their horses. He moved Buck to lie beside Vin and asked Sammi to stay with them. After placing the bodies on their horses, they helped Buck mount his horse. Sammi began to take the saddle from her horse.
"What's she doin'?" JD pondered.
"Sammi?" Chris questioned.
"I can't hold Vin on a saddle made for one now can I? He's unconscious; so, he can't ride by himself. Seems to me bareback's the only way," Sammi stated.
"You can ride bareback?" JD asked.
"My father figured it's be a good thing to know. He always told me to be prepared. As far as horses go, you should know how to approach a wild mustang, catch it, break it and ride it, as is. I started out ridin' bareback; actually, I prefer it," Sammi answered mounting her horse.
Chris and Josiah lifted Vin up to Sammi. They draped Vin across the horse leaning him against Sammi. She held his limp body close to her as she started on her way back to Four Corners. The others followed. JD and Josiah kept an eye on Buck to make sure he stayed atop his horse. Chris stayed close to Vin and Sammi. They all headed back to Four Corners.
~ CHAPTER 6 ~
Chris and the others arrived back in Four Corners. Sammi guided her horse to Nathan's office. Buck followed. Nathan, Blaine, Keelia and Mary were standing outside. Vin had regained consciousness earlier, but once again had slipped into an unconscious state. Nathan walked up to Sammi observing Vin as he approached.
"How bad is he?" Nathan asked the woman.
"He's bad. He's unconscious, again," she answered.
"We'll have to get him fixed up right away," Nathan said as he and Blaine removed Vin from Sammi's horse.
Nathan and Blaine carried Vin inside and placed him on a bed. Chris and JD helped Buck inside. Josiah left the group for Maude and Ezra.
Blaine checked the wound in Vin's head. It appeared to be a tad more than a grazing, but not much.
"The bullet went clean through. It will be a matter of time to see how he recovers," Blain informed Nathan while he sewed the holes the bullet made upon entering and exiting.
Nathan, meanwhile, tended to the knife wound in vin's shoulder. Together, Blaine and Nathan removed the bullets that riddled Vin's body. Nathan asked Sammi to keep a watch on Vin. Blaine had already gone over to Buck to examine him. He told Nathan the two bullets should be easy to remove. While Blaine removed the bullets, Nathan assisted him. When they finished with the two men, Josiah asked Nathan and the doctor how Ezra was doing.
"He seems to be recovering well," Blaine stated.
"He's been asking about Vin and y'all," Nathan added.
"Y'all think Vin's gonna pull through?" Chris asked.
"The wound in his head is probably the most dangerous as we don't know what the bullet may have harmed. It appears it just passed through, not being in his head long enough to do any serious damage. We won't know until he awakens. However, he has also lost a lot of blood. It will depend, too, on whether his body can replenish that blood. We will also have to worry about infection. His wounds will have will have to be kept clean," Dr. Blaine O'Shannon explained.
"You have returned?" a sleepy Ezra questioned.
"How you feelin'?" Chris asked the gambler.
Ezra raised his hands and wiggled his fingers at Chris, "with these, I suppose."
Chris smiled at the man and his intended joke.
"Did you retrieve Mr. Laughton?" Ezra queried.
"Well, first of all, Vin informed us during the short time he had regained consciousness that John Laughton is really Jody Laughton," Chris began to explain.
"Jody? You mean he's a she?" Mary asked.
"Yea. It's a long story," Buck added as he winced in pain.
"Well, gentlemen, I don't see three of you going anywhere soon; so, let us have it, then," Keelia stated.
"Yes, I do believe you, at least, owe it to Ezra, as he suffered greatly at the hands of this Laughton fellow or dame or whatever," Maude chimed in.
"Aw'ight, Maude," Chris started, "John Laughton is really Jody Laughton. Jody is the twin sister of Jeremiah Laughton. Jeremiah was wanted in Texas for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. Jody wanted Vin to think he was seeing Jeremiah; so, she posed as John. Vin knew he killed Jeremiah when Jeremiah attempted to kill him. He brought him in for the bounty. Jody blames Vin for her brother's death. She wanted to make Vin pay. She found Ezra to be Vin's blood brother when y'all were playin' cards. She wanted Vin to suffer as he made her suffer. She wanted him to watch someone close to him die without being able to help. The vendetta she sought was justified in her mind. She perceived Vin as the murderer of her brother. She revealed herself to Vin and explained this whole situation to him before her final attempts to kill him. Unfortunately for her, we didn't agree with her decision to end Vin's life. Sammi shot two of the gang right off, which upset Jody. Jody then placed her knife at Vin's throat. She threatened to kill him if Sammi fired again. Sammi did; the shot went through Jody's chest. Charlie Fontana was Jody's husband. When Sammi took down Jody, Charlie shot Buck. Buck was merely the closest one to him and also the easiest target, as he was on the move to get closer still attempting to get a clear shot. I shot Charlie after he shot Buck. He and Jody died side by side, fitting, I suppose, for a husband and wife. The ensuing gunfire was brought on by the remaining two members of their gang and Josiah and JD. We gathered everyone - injured and dead - and placed them on the horses and rode back here."
"Well, with any luck, Vin may survive his injuries," Blaine once again stated.
With a tremendous amount of rest and tender loving care, Vin began to make a slow recovery. Blaine was right about the bullet that passed through his head; it wasn't going to cause that much of a problem. He was lucky, after all, that it basically just grazed him and didn't cause any serious damage. All his other wounds also seemed to be heeling nicely. Buck had left Nathan's within a few days, as Nathan wanted to make sure his wounds healed with no infections. Buck went back to the young lady that followed his half-clad body on the fateful night of Ezra and Vin's shooting outside the tavern. She refused to forgive him for running out on her regardless of his attempts to explain the situation. Ezra's healing came quickly now that he knew everyone was back. Nathan, however, was beginning to grow tired of his constant nagging about Vin's condition and vowed to release him…soon.
Nathan's friends, Blaine and Keelia O'Shannon ended their visit since they were no longer needed.
"Nathan, we really need to head out to New Cork," Blaine told his friend.
"Aw'ight, don't be a stranger. Ten miles ain't all that far," Nathan informed.
"All right then, we'll try to visit again. Keep us updated about Vin Tanner's condition. And remember, if you need me, just send a wire. I'll be glad to help anytime."
"Blaine, you're a great friend. Thank you both for stopping and for your help. Good luck to you both in New Cork."
Nathan said his good-byes, and Blaine took his wife, Keelia, to New Cork.
Comments to: Robyn (Vin and Ezra's Confidant)