He couldn't understand why he couldn't even find a sign to indicate which part of the riverside Sarah had chosen for the picnic. He had shoed several horses and he promised his wife and little child he would finish in an hour. In fact it had been an hour and a half, but he was sure they would forgive him. Besides, Sarah would be playing with Adam and not waiting for him with a scolding. He kept going to the river taking a leisurely stroll through the meadow, his hat protecting him from the sun, his shirtsleeves tucked up to his upper arms.
The temperature was simply perfect. The spring had arrived without a warning and on the prairie surrounding the ranch were flowers of several colors. He thought about his ranch and the perfect spot in which it was placed. They could reach the river so easily in a nice walk. Just some days ago he gave Adam his first fishing lesson and the two had enjoyed themselves so much.
That remained him that Buck was going to stay with them a few days. Before leaving the house he had left a note to his old friend telling him where he could find the family in case he arrived sooner from his 'latest adventure' as he called it.
He reached the riverside. He pulled his hat back, leaving it hanging on his back. His other hand was resting on his hip. Where are they? he thought looking around for them. Nothing. It was as if the ground had swallowed them up. Probably they were trying to scare him and they were hiding somewhere. He walked toward a group of trees. Just as he reached them he stopped. His legs didn't support him anymore. He fell on his knees. In front of him there was a pair of graves with a gravestone made of rock, in which he could read: Sarah Larabee beloved wife and Adam Larabe beloved son, and the dates of birth and death. He raised his face at the sky and cried out,
His lids fluttered again and then he opened them wide "Sarah..." he muttered, with a pleading voice. He would have shouted but hadn't enough strength and only one tear rolled down his cheek. Buck who was cradling him now on his horse, faced him. He knew Chris was delirious, his eyes were too bright with fever to think he was coherent.
"Welcome back, pard. Am I hurting you?" Buck said softly.
"They are dead, Buck. I saw the graves. Sarah... Adam..." Chris whispered.
"I know Chris. I'm here to help you," Buck flinched as he listened the words of his long time friend.
Chris's eyes met Buck's, "Vin and Ez are dead too, Buck." his eyes moved trying to evaluate the surroundings, " I couldn't do a damn thing," his voice was cracked by the dryness and disuse.
"Shhh Chris, you're hurt pretty bad, buddy. Save your energy to get well. Besides, Ez and Vin are okay. They are in Four Corners with JD, waiting for us."
"You did never lie well Buck," he closed his eyes again and tried to find a comfortable position. He hissed in pain as his body protested even the lightest movement.
"I'm gonna die Buck and I don't care anymore."
Buck shook his head in sadness. 'Don't say that, Chris.'
Nathan and Josiah approached Buck and his precious burden. When Nathan thought Chris had calmed down, he stretched his arm and touched his forehead to check his temperature.
"Whatever he said, I don't think he remember it or was talking seriously. He's still burning up."
The rest of the day passed the same. Buck and Josiah changed positions, but none of them allowed Nathan to take his turn. They knew when they made camp his task would just begin, and it promised to be a hard one. Chris's fever kept him mumbling nonsense, rocking himself lightly sometimes and shivering the rest of the time.
They had found a place to spend the night. When they'd gotten settled, lit a fire and sat down, they took a little time sipping a cup of chicory coffee.
Nathan meanwhile, tried to put some tea into Chris body and take a look at his injuries. He couldn't change the bandages as frequently as he desired, so he had to be happy with taking a look and keeping them from bleeding again and placing wet cloths over his forehead.
The cut on his face and the stab in his side had bled again, when he had moved in some of his nightmares.
He really wanted to arrive in town as soon as the weather and Chris's condition allowed it. First for his leader, and then for Vin and Ezra. He didn't trust those two following his orders, less following Mary's or JD's. He should have told Miss Nettie. That way they'd stay in bed for sure. He let out a sigh and placing a hand on the back of Chris's head, brought the cup of tea to Chris's lips.
Surprisingly, Chris drank some of it. When he rested his head again on the pillow they made with some of the clothes they were carrying, he saw Chris's eyes open and full of pain and sadness.
"Hey Chris, I'm glad you woke up. You had us quite worried."
"Vin and Ezra are dead, Nathan." Chris said, his voice full of sorrow.
"No Chris, they are alive and waiting for you in Four Corners... so we must get you there safe and sound or they'll never forgive us."
"My ribs and my leg hurts... my face too." Nathan checked the bandage place on the side of his face covering the cut. When they arrived in town, cleaning it and stitching it would be difficult.
"We are close to town. Can you do one thing for me, Chris? Hold on, okay... some people are quite worried about you."
"Nate, there were eight of them. The leader had a cracked voice, black hair and a beard. Don't know his name. Damned smart guy," Chris's look became hard.
"Shhh, calm down Chris, it's better if you don't try to talk. Your face is pretty banged up..."
"Listen to me Nathan," Chris pulled out his free hand from under the blanket covering him and squeezed the healer's arm. That move and the tension that filled every muscle in his weak body made him speak through clenched teeth. "If I die, you... must find them and kill them. Just for Vin and Ezra. Promise me that. I don't care if I die, but I owe them that, and as my friend I hope you do it. I'm dying, and I want them dead, hanging from a rope or shot like they shot Vin and Ezra...It is vengeance for a friend, for members of your family," the hold on Nathan's arm was becoming weak.
"Easy Chris, please believe me, they are alive, ask Buck or Josiah." He knew Chris wasn't making sense... He didn't really mean that. Maybe in the past Chris had been the kind that looked for revenge, but not now. Lying alone in the desert had gotten him thinking and remembering too much.
"They shot them in the back, the cowards."
The healer realized Chris's eyes were fixed on something distant and unreal. He touched Chris's forehead, and as he suspected, the fever was still there, fighting to get its way. And right now it was winning. Chris closed his eyes and fell unconscious again.
They rested the same number of hours taking turns looking after their friend. They had found a good place to avoid the heat and decided to resume their way to Four Corners at night. There would be a moon so they would have enough light and cool air.
Chris didn't wake at all. Just cried out some words asking for help, or saying Sarah, Vin or Ezra's names.
Nathan felt bad because he didn't think the laudanum was a good idea in Chris's state, although it would alleviate Chris's suffering for awhile. Chris was going to need it anyway, but Nathan wanted to wait until they had arrived in town. He only hoped his leader wouldn't become addicted to it, since in his situation that was more than possible.
They began to ride again early in the morning. Buck took the first turn cradling Chris in his arms. He looked so weak. Nathan had changed his bandages again. The wound in his side bled from time to time and Nathan wanted to clean it perfectly and stitch it right when they arrived at his clinic. The fever had the dark healer more worried that anything. Chris's temperature was higher that he wanted it and the heat of the day wasn't doing him any good. The group leader just moaned and whispered words without sense during the distance they had ridden.
They would arrive in Four Corners at the end of the day. And in their minds they were grateful for that.
+ + + + + + +
Vin hated to be in bed, but more than that, he hated to feel helpless. And this was how he felt right now. Mary had just changed his bandages. The entry and exit wounds were healing nicely but he felt so damned weak. He couldn't get up, or change his position in the bed without twinges of pain in his chest.
Ezra had left the clinic the day before. He knew his shoulder hurt but he also knew that the gambler couldn't spend more time inside doing nothing.
The Southerner felt the same way Vin did, but in Vin's mind the gambler was luckier than him because he could leave and go to the saloon, to the jail or to his own room, keeping his mind busy. In the last days Vin's mind had been occupied just with one thought: Chris. He needed to know his friend was alive. It was just that. He couldn't imagine Chris dead. He couldn't imagine his life and the life of the rest without Chris's presence. Thinking about Chris's options and about the pain he felt after the cleaning and changing of his bandages that Mary had done as gently as she could, he hadn't even notice Ezra's arrival at the door.
"Morning Mr. Tanner. I came to inquire about your physical health."
Vin's eyes rested in Ezra's face.
"Aw hell, Ezra... I can't stop thinking about Chris. They should have come back by now. Besides, they didn't know where he was for sure. And I can't concede he is dead, Ez. I can't," Vin rested his head on the pillow again feeling all his impotence.
"I assure you, Mr. Tanner I feel the same way. But I feel our fearless leader will come back to us for sure. We just have to wait. Neither of us are in any shape to go looking for him."
"I know Ez. The wounds hurt like hell, but if you tell Mrs. Travis, I'll deny it."
"I could say the same to you Mr. Tanner," he added sitting carefully in the chair, next to the tracker's bed.
The gambler had his right arm bandaged to his body to ease the pain of his broken collarbone. He couldn't play poker or shuffle cards... He had been in the saloon for a while yesterday and felt quite miserable because he could just drink and talk. His only consolation was that if there were problems in town he could help JD, because he could shoot with both hands. It made him feel less useless.
JD was in charge of the town. In a different situation he would feel proud of himself, because his friends would have trusted him so much, but now they were without their leader and that made him think about Chris. He wanted the gunslinger to be proud of him, to know that he was an adult, a reliable person. Now he didn't want to take care of the town as the sheriff, all he wanted was to know his hero was alive and that he would return to them. He didn't want to believe Chris was dead. Something in his insides told him, he wasn't. He had spent the day in the jail and in the saloon and had paid visits to Erza and Vin. He really wanted to stay with them but both of them were quieter than usual and the only thing they did was sit there, their eyes fixed in some distant point. So he had decided to take a ride. He was just outside of town when he saw them.
Three riders, one of them with a burden on his mount. He galloped to them and a smile appeared on his face when he realized they were Buck, Nathan and Josiah, this last one with Chris in his arms.
Chris didn't look good. He was unconscious. He was without a shirt and all his upper body was covered with large bandages. His left arm tied to his body like Ezra's. He had a bandage around his head and under his chin that held another piece of cloth that was covering some large cut. The cloth had some blood stains as did the bandage on his body in some parts. One of his boots had disappeared and the young man thought the leg might be broken. That was the only explanation for the swollen and bruised way it looked.
They didn't exchange a word, just nods of understanding and recognition. Buck approached JD and stretching his arm held JD's nape in his hand, his face adorned with a wide grin.
Mary had tried to keep her mind on everything that was around her: the Clarion, Vin and Ezra, Mrs. Potter and her problems, or JD. She didn't want to think about The Magnificent Seven's missing member. She cared for each one of Four Corners peacekeepers but she had to admit that Chris was different. She didn't know why but there was secret connection between them. She had thought about it often and the only reason she could think of was they shared a tragic family history. Chris had lost all his family and she was a widow. There was a little voice in her brain clamoring to be heard. That little voice told her she was attracted to the dark gunslinger. Yes, he was mysterious, enigmatic, with an unknown past, and quiet, but he was also heroic, brave, reliable, responsible, and on top of all of that, he was handsome, really handsome, - and Billy adored him.
She had begun the day changing Vin's bandages. It was incredible how the quiet tracker blushed when she was cleaning the wounds and drying them with a cloth. She knew Vin was a good man, and that his respect for women was greater than in other men. She finished her task wondering what kind of qualities Vin's woman had to have.
Then she had gone to the saloon to ask Inez for some food to carry to Ezra's rented room at lunch time and then she had met with JD who had told her the town was quiet as hell.
Them she had visited Ezra who had just come back to his room after a quick visit with Vin. She changed his bandage too and after leaving him, kept herself inside the Clarion office during the following hours.
Now it was after dusk and the town became quieter than usual. Mary left the Clarion and headed to the clinic to see how Vin was and to assure herself the tracker was eating enough and staying in bed. She saw JD was galloping toward her very excited.
"They are coming. Chris is with them. He isn't dead Mrs. Travis. But he's in a very bad shape. They will carry him directly to the clinic. Could you help me to prepare everything for their arrival?"
She was relieved because he was alive but worried about his condition.
JD and she arrived at the clinic.
Vin couldn't sleep for the pain but he hadn't said a word to anybody.
Suddenly he heard some noise coming from the stairs. He turned his head to the door and JD threw it open, startling Vin.
"What?" Vin sprang on JD sitting himself up in the bed and holding his chest tightly with his hand when the pain in his chest hit him.
"Vin be careful," Mary sat in the side of the bed a placed a reassuring hand on the tracker's back.
"Sorry ma'am. What is it?"
"They are coming back. And Chris is with them," JD added moving from one part of the room to the other one.
"Is he okay?" Vin didn't rest his back against the pillows. He was moving toward the edge of the bed preparing himself to leave it.
"I'm afraid not, Vin," JD bowed his head, looking at the floor.
"Okay, help me here. I need to leave the bed free for him. Since Ezra went back to his room, I can use the cot."
JD ran to help Vin, placing a hand behind his friend at the same time Vin placed his arm around the sheriff's neck. Vin felt quite dizzy when he got to stand up for the first time. JD had to stop him from falling back into the bed.
"Are you okay, Vin?" Mary went to Vin's other side and helped place him on the cot.
The tracker hissed in pain but nodded quickly.
They placed him down against several pillows, allowing him see whatever would happen when the rest of the seven arrived.
Some minutes after that, Nathan came into the room with Buck on his heels. Mary had put water to boil and placed Nathan's medical instruments ready to be used, while JD had prepared bandages. Buck was holding the door opened wide leaving enough room for Josiah to enter without hurting Chris.
Mary and Vin's voices caught in their throats. And when they could speak both of them let out an 'Oh my God'.
Nathan saw Vin trying to leave the cot.
"Don't even think about it, Vin. I have enough to worry about right now. I don't need your wounds bleeding again. And where in the hell is Ezra?... he should stay in bed."
"He's in his room," Vin said staying where he was. Josiah placed Chris gently in the bed.
Nathan was next to Chris, all his attention on him. Just then thunder sounded and seconds later it began to rain. Josiah turned his head to the window and mentally thanked God the rain had begun... It was a blessing. The town would be grateful and his friend more comfortable than before... just what Chris needed right now... No heat.
After two hours Chris was settled in the bed covered with a blanket and with a wet cloth on his forehead. He hadn't even moved when they had put his arm, collarbone and leg in place. They had put his arm and leg in splints and then bandaged them. His upper body was completely bandaged, his broken arm tied to his body to allow his collarbone heal nicely.
Nathan had stitched the wound in Chris's side carefully and the large cut in his face took him more time than the rest because he didn't want it to leave a big scar that would remind Chris of what had happened. Nathan had given him some tea and was placing wet cloths on his forehead to reduce the fever.
Ezra had arrived to the clinic with JD who had informed him, some minutes after the rest began to work on Chris. They were pulling off his pants and a piece of paper fell from one of the pockets. Ezra crouched slowly and picked it up. He unfolded it and discovered it was a piece of The Clarion News. He knew it, he had read that page aloud a long time ago. "The streets ran red with the blood of twenty men yesterday, as new resident, a notorious gunslinger Chris Larabee turned our quiet town in a shooting gallery."
JD saw the gambler was reading something and approached him.
"What are you reading Ezra?" JD asked him, reading over the Southerner's shoulder.
"This page from The Clarion News that fell from Mr. Larabee's pocket." Ezra faced the younger man and JD knew Ezra's mind was working trying to figure out if it meant anything.
"It's the news about that day Nathan was saved by Chris and Vin... when they met for the very first time."
"Yes indeed, Mr. Dunne. But whatever this means slips my mind in my current state. But just in case, would you join me to the telegraph office to send messages to both Agua Fría and Eagle Bend, to let them know, about what had happened."
With a nod of JD's head, the two men left the room and stepped into Four Corners street heading toward its telegraph office.
+ + + + + + +
It was fall, the chill produced by the autumn wind wasn't disturbing yet and the golden shades the landscape had acquired gave more beauty if possible to his land. He stood there at the entrance. From there he saw his house, the fence in front of it, the trees, the horses, the barn, the little garden Sarah looked after with the greatest care, the swing he prepared for Adam in that big tree beside the house. There were more horses than he remembered. Buck must be there 'paying a visit' as he always like to call it, when in fact he stayed with them for weeks, even months. He had to concede that it was great having Buck with them. He was a really good man. Adam enjoyed his presence so much and Sarah laughed more easily with the ladies' man around. It would be his 'animal magnetism' as he called it. Chris tilted his head with a wide grin on his face, and commanded his horse toward the house.
When he reached the fence, he dismounted and walked to the back of the house. Sarah was usually there at that hour of the morning, hanging out the wash, playing with Adam, or preparing food for the upcoming meal.
He stood frozen by the scene that took place in front of him. Vin and Ezra were there, chatting pleasantly Why are Vin and Ezra here? a shiver ran down his back Where are Sarah and Adam? he turned his head to both sides trying to find a clue to where his family was. He was startled to hear Vin's voice.
"Hey there, cowboy. We have waited for you long enough." Chris faced his best friend. Vin was standing there beside a pile of firewood his hair as wild as always, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up and an axe in one hand. It was definitely Vin, in the flesh. He couldn't help but lend a hand if he felt it was needed. He had been waiting for him splitting logs for the fire.
Ezra was sitting in a wooden stool in front of the table Chris had made for Sarah in case they decided to have lunch outside in summer. The Southerner was playing solitaire. It was Ezra in person too.
At the sound of Vin's voice, Ezra turned his head toward the direction the sharpshooter had directed his greeting, and his green-ice eyes met with Chris's.
"Greetings Mr. Larabee. I assure you, we were expecting your arrival for quite a long time." Ezra stood up out of his chair and walked toward the man in black with his hand stretched out ready to shake his leader's hand. Chris accepted it and after a second shook Vin's. Just when Chris was going to ask them what they were doing at this ranch, a female voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Gentlemen..." Chris faced the origin of the voice and his jaw dropped open. The other two men turned their heads to face the woman who had spoken.
She was beautiful, but any kind of impure thoughts disappeared from the two men's minds when Chris let out a "Sarah" that was almost a whisper, totally full of sorrow, surprise and to some extent, relief.
"Hi, sweetheart. Gentlemen. You must be Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish, really pleased to meet you," she approached them and after placing a kiss on her husband's lips, stretched her hand to shake Vin's first and Ezra's then. The two men answered her with a handsome nod and a smile on their faces. Chris was so happy to see her again.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you... but you shouldn't be here."
"Darling..." Chris said resting a hand in her back "we are dead, there only two places we can be."
"Yes, honey... I'm not meaning you should be in hell. No... in fact when you are dead you will be here again... but this isn't your time. You should go back to Four Corners."
Chris's face became serious "No, I think we must stay."
"No, Chris, listen to me," Sarah held Chris's face between her hands. "There are people who need you. Vin and Ezra need you. They aren't here. This isn't your place. Go back to them. I will always be here, waiting for you."
"I will always love you Chris. Go where you have to and where you belong now," and placing a kiss in his lips that made Chris close his eyes, she disappeared, just like the ranch, Ezra, Vin and whatever was around him. All he could see was the dark room in which he was.
He knew this room... it was Nathan's clinic. He tried to look to both sides and moved his head very lightly. All his body hurt and it was so hot.
After more than a day and a half Vin was able to be alone in the clinic, just with Chris. He looked so pale, and weak and his face had been covered by sweat almost all the time, till now.
Nathan had left just for a moment, time that Vin had used to get out of bed and sit next to Chris.
He had his shirt on unbuttoned, showing the large bandage that covered his chest. His left hand was over the wound in his chest. He saw Chris's lids fluttering. He leaned over him and when his best friend opened his eyes, he could have shouted out loud.
"Vin?" Chris mumbled his voice so strange to his ears that he stopped in his attempt to keep talking.
Vin got up slowly and poured some water in a cup and came back to Chris, held his head and placed the cup to Chris's lips. The older man managed to drink a few sips of its contents. He had seen the effort it took the tracker to do this task, and the large bandage on his chest and felt guilty about it.
"You shouldn't have moved so much, you're hurt too... Nathan is going to kill me for that..." a little smile appeared on his mouth.
"Not, if he doesn't know about it," he smiled genuinely as only Vin would do "Welcome back pard, I thought I had lost you."
"I thought the same about you and Ezra," Chris said seriously. The thought that this was a dream crossed his mind, but seeing Vin hissing in pain, and then his smile that had no imitation... told him he wasn't dreaming anymore. He remembered Sarah telling him he should go back. He could only obey her command.
"We were lucky, cowboy. And we got intelligent horses too, both of them found the way to Four Corners on their own. Now I think I should call Nathan... and you should stop talking and rest... you need it."
"You too, Vin, you too."
It was true he could use some rest... he felt so weak, his body hurt so much and he almost couldn't speak without feeling the pull of the stitches in his face. Vin noted his grimace from the pain.
"I'll call Nathan. Don't worry it won't leave a big scar," he pointed to the cut on his face, "you will be as handsome as always... Ask Mary, if you don't believe me," Vin stood up while he was talking, a hint of humor in his voice, the result of the relief he felt now.
"Vin, don't take advantage of me when I'm injured, please."
"Okay, okay... let's get Nathan," the tracker leaned against the wall. "In a moment, I need to catch my breath... Am I getting old?" Vin turned to face his friend.
Chris nodded lightly with a little smile in his face.
"Vin... I want to catch them... I need to."
"I know Chris, I know" Vin's features became serious again.
He had done whatever he had been able to make Chris think about different things than what the gang had done to them, and probably to the people of Agua Fría where they were to pick up the prisoners, but he had failed.
After some minutes Chris could hear Nathan scolding Vin for leaving the bed and the tracker trying to explain it. He was almost asleep again but the voices called him awake.
The two men came into the room. Nathan approached the bed.
"I'm so glad you woke up... You had us quite worried, Chris. Some water?"
"No, Vin gave me some before."
Nathan turned to face the younger man "Vin, go to bed. Now!" Vin almost dragged his sorry being to the bed. He was so damned tired already.
While the dark healer was checking the bandages and the injuries Ezra came into the room, followed by JD.
"Welcome back to the world of the living, Mr. Larabee. I'm sure I'm talking for everyone when I say that we are glad you have decided to wake up."
"Thank you Ez... I'm glad you are alive too. Shot in the shoulder?"
"Yes, those scum didn't have great aiming skill like our Mr. Tanner." Ezra held his injured shoulder with his free hand.
Ezra's comment brought smiles to everybody in the room, included the aforementioned Mr. Tanner.
JD got enough courage to talk aloud, "I'm glad you are awake Chris", his smile showed he was, as always, sincere.
The kid couldn't wait anymore to give them the information he and Ezra had discovered. "Tell them what we found out, Ez," he said, excitement clear in his voice.
"Okay, let's see. Mr. Dunne and I went to the telegraph office to send a message to that town where we were heading to pick up the prisoners to inquire about their situation and warn them, but we weren't able to complete the task. We couldn't contact the town. The lines must have been cut."
"We can't warn them, Chris... the gang will arrive there, free their men and..."
"JD, calm down... Chris just woke up a few minutes ago... Don't overwhelm him with so much information."
"They are gonna get their way and we can't do a damn thing," Chris turned his head to the side where there wasn't a person. He felt so useless, so sad, so empty... he was sure he couldn't get the revenge that would free his tortured mind.
It rained for the rest of the day, and the following day and a half... it really was a blessing for everyone. Chris was regaining strength, although he couldn't leave the bed yet and he was just awake for a few hours during the day.
Mary had come to visit him. She didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable. He looked better than she had thought, even with all the injuries they had inflicted on him. The bruises on his face, the wound in his hairline, and that large cut on the side of his face, made her think about the punishment the man had suffered. Even after all of that he was the same Chris and still looked handsome to her.
It was true the seven men felt bad, first because they hadn't completed the task they had been paid to do. The gang's members were free, and the people of Agua Fría were in danger. Three of them had fallen injured, Chris had almost died and they hadn't a word about why he had been tortured... The idea of releasing their comrades should have been enough for the outlaws, but it wasn't. Chris had told him about the words the gang's leader had said to him about the beginning and the end of the Magnificent Seven... and the piece of newspaper Ezra had found in Chris's pocket that the cracked-voiced man had placed there.
Chris kept feeling everything was his fault. It was worse each time he looked at Ezra, still with his arm tied to his body, with that sleeve of his jacket hanging empty in his side until Nathan would allow him to use both hands. Or each time he looked at Vin, who remained in the clinic yet for greater part of the day because he was still weak from the amount of blood loss and the fact that the damned bullet had gone through the tracker's body. Vin was playing his stubborn part and Nathan almost had to tie the longhaired man to the bed. In fact the only thing Vin wanted was to sit next to Chris's bed and watch over him, just in case the blonde man suffered some kind of nightmare or needed some kind of help.
Chris was grateful for that... he always would be. Vin was his very best friend. It wasn't as if the rest weren't, it was just that he would go to the Hell and back for Vin and the tracker would do the same, for whatever thing the other one asked for, no matter what it was, and no matter what had happened between them.
Chris was in his bed as he had been the last two weeks. His injuries were healing but his mood wasn't. He was angry with himself, and nobody could do a thing about it. Ezra and Vin were almost okay. They didn't have to be under Nathan's watchful eye anymore, but Vin was there almost the whole day anyway. Nathan was really surprised. Vin always tried to leave the clinic each time he got injured, but now that Chris was there he stayed with him as if he was injured too.
Vin was getting worried about Chris. He looked like he was okay, just weak and uncomfortable from his injuries, but the tracker knew he wasn't okay. He had all that guilt inside and it would finish killing him.
The storm had left warm weather without the heat they had suffered before. That was great for Chris who had to be inside.
Vin and Chris were chatting. Chris's upper body was bandaged with his broken arm tied to his middle. His leg was in a splint and propped up on some pillows. He had a beard from the more than two weeks of not shaving because of the cut on his face.
Ezra came into the room in a rush followed by Buck.
"Mr. Larabee, Mr. Tanner. We have just received a telegram from Agua Fría." Ezra said pulling out his hat. Vin had sat on the edge of Chris's bed and Ezra had taken his place in the chair next to the bed. Buck just leaned against the wall next to Chris's bed.
"And..." Chris asked without interest.
"Well. The sheriff from this town has written us saying that they caught the O'Hara gang. Now they have the two prisoners and the eight that went to rescue them. Besides they sent us the name of their leader Clasius O'Neill. When we sent the first telegram, I asked if they knew Mr. Larabee and had been in Four Corners when we first met."
"Have they answered that?" Vin asked. Chris was hearing everything without knowing if it would help him in any way.
"Of course he did. That sheriff seems to me an extraordinary person. He knew us because he had been in our town a few times. When Mr.O'Neill came to his town claming he was Mr. Larabee, he knew he was lying and got the rest of the gang under arrest. Mr. O'Neill also knew us because he was in Four Corners several times. It was a good place to be for an outlaw until we were hired as peacekeepers. That's why he wanted you and the rest of us out of picture."
Ezra finished his explanation showing his gold tooth through a grin of satisfaction.
"So everything is okay, isn't it?" Buck added pushing himself out of the wall "I think I'm going to tell the guys."
"I will do the same with Mrs. Travis, gentlemen." Ezra gave his two-fingered salute and left the clinic followed by Buck.
"Whatcha think, cowboy?"
"We had luck this time."
"I reckon we did."
"But, we didn't do our job. I failed."
"Aw, hell, Chris. You're just human. This is the first time something turned out well by itself, just with the help of luck. Normally we do it whatever it takes. Don't be so hard on yourself. This time instead of Seven we were Eight. Just don't get used to it."
Chris knew Vin was right but he had failed in some important things in his life, he didn't want to begin with that again. He didn't want to fail his friends, his family in fact, he didn't want to fail the town and he didn't want to fail to himself.
"I'm going to the saloon. A man needs to take a drink sometimes. Think about it, cowboy," Vin squeezed Chris's free arm lightly. Chris held Vin's with his hand "Thank you, Vin. I'm lucky I have you and the guys."
Vin nodded at the compliment. He felt the same way.
Chris lay back against the pillows and closed his eyes. In the end everything ended well though it had begun so bad. Definitely he could have used some luck, and finally it had arrived. It was fine for once and he could live with that.
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