Tide and Times part 5

by Susan Foster

NOTE: This story was previously hosted at another website and was moved to blackraptor in May 2014

Vin was puzzled. The townspeople were always hostile, but nothing like this. A man coming out of one of the stores collided with him, hard. Pain knifed through his shoulder as he was pushed off the sidewalk and into the hitching rail.

The man just looked at him with disgust, then spat and walked away.

Walking into the jail he saw the newspaper laid out on the table. The black print meant nothing to him. JD looked up from where he was sitting , reading it.


“Vin.” When the tracker leaned past him to pick up the latest bundle of wanted posters, JD jerked back, almost tipping himself out of the chair.

“What the hell's wrong with you?”

“Our young associate, it seems, has read the paper and believes that you, we,” Ezra corrected, “has designs on his body.”

“What?” Vin jerked back. “You loco or something boy?”

“It's the newspaper, Mr Tanner. It seems that the fair Mrs Travis has all but named us as perverted deviants in front of the whole town. Already this morning I have been spat at, and, Mr Tanner, it is going to get worse.”


“The same reason that I was attacked; someone wants us out of this town.”

Then, with a sigh, Ezra turned his attention to JD. “Mr Dunne, believe me when I tell you that neither of us will be rivalling Miss Casey for your affections.” He grinned at the relieved look on the young man's face.


“TINY!” Yosemite yelled his brother's name as he went into the livery, waving the newspaper. “Did you read this?”

“Haven't had a chance, why?” Tiny wiped his hands on his trousers and reached for it, and the horror slowly filled his face. “Shit.”

“What are we going to do about this?”

“If we come out and say anything, then Tanner is going to know it's us.”

“We can't let this stand, the way things look in town at the moment it could get him and Standish killed.” He paused. “We need to talk to him and soon.”


Murphy couldn't have been happier as he looked out and watched the people of Four Corners. This was chess, but using a living board and pieces.

Why Worth had wanted it to happen this way rather than just gunning them down, he didn't know, but this was so much better. Turning, he looked at Cutler. “Tonight I want you to see to Tanner, just as I've told you. Have your fun, but don't forget the plan. The bottle is on the table.”


Vin's face lost what colour it had, the print just blurring in front of his eyes. “Has Chris seen this?”

“Since the Clarion is still standing then I think we can safely say he has not yet seen the offending article.”

“Mr Larabee had to ride out to the Thompson Ranch this morning with Buck, first thing. There's been rustling going on; Thompson is blaming the Faulkners. Mr Larabee went to talk to them,” JD answered.

“Then Mrs Travis lives for another few hours.”

“Mr Larabee wouldn't would he? I mean-” JD started to say.

“No, but Mrs Travis will wish he had, when he's finished with her,” Ezra answered.


The day was one of the worst for the Regulators. Vin and Ezra were being targeted and as the day went on it was getting worse. Jim was getting seriously worried at the escalation of the barely suppressed violence.

When night came and Chris and Buck still hadn't returned, Jim had made the two men patrol with another of the Seven; Nathan had been partnering Vin, and Josiah had taken to watching over the young gambler.


That Night

It had been a long day and Blair was looking forward to his bed. The physical strain had been nothing compared to the mental strain, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Jim had returned angry enough to make all but the most strong of heart run for cover when he had gotten back from Mary Travis; the woman had spouted a lot of rubbish about protecting the good people of the town and the children from deviants and sodomites. A woman on a crusade, she had refused to tell him who was giving her the information, just that she would never have published it without confirmation, and she had gotten that from two upstanding members of the community who had firsthand knowledge of Vin Tanner's perversions.

There, she had said it; he was a barely civilized sodomite that was bringing his filthy Indian practices into their town, and also, what could you expect from a cheating gambler but to join him in wallowing in their own corruption? It was the first time that Jim had come close to hitting a woman; he wasn't proud of the thought, but for a split second it had burned through him, and he had had to storm out before he did.


Nathan walked slowly along the dark street with Vin. The tracker was one of the quietest men he had ever known, but even with all the vile comments and the threats of physical violence that hovered in the background, he had shown that he had a wicked sense of humour, and Nathan had found himself taking a liking to the man. Even if all enquires about his health were met with an “I am fine” reply.

Trying the door to one of the deserted shops, Nathan found it gave under his hand. Vin eased the mare's leg from its holster, and waited for Nathan to pull his gun before they entered quickly, making sure not to frame themselves in the doorway. A noise from upstairs made them inch their way toward the stairs. Vin started up first when something caught his foot and he went full length onto his front. Nathan was pulled down; he fought, but was overpowered. Then he smelled the chloroform and he spiralled down into unconsciousness.

Cutler grinned. “Leave him here and get Tanner.”

Vin was manhandled out of the shop, carried to the back of the Saloon and up the back stairs into Ezra's room. The gambler was still playing cards downstairs for the moment, and so they would leave him.

Cutler tossed Vin's hat onto the dressing table and then undid his gun belt, allowing himself to run a hand up the tracker's inner thigh and cup his groin. This was going to be better than on the trail, so much better, this time he wouldn't fight them. “Help me strip him off.”

The man with him reluctantly did what he asked, but when Cutler began to fondle and stroke the tracker, he backed away. “You can't do that, I thought we were just going to leave him here, and-”

”And miss out on the fun?” Seeing the look on the other man's face, he snapped, “You don't like it, Murray, you get out of here.”

John Murray backed out of the room. He made his way down to the bar and then brought a large drink, throwing it back in one gulp. Suspecting, hell, knowing what was going to happen up there in the room, nearly making him sick.

“Preacher.” He leaned over Josiah Sanchez as the big man sat nursing a beer, his eyes fixed on the young gambler, and whispered quickly. The next minute Josiah was taking the steps two at a time. He hit the door hard and it sprung open. Cutler, his shirt and trousers open, was rubbing himself against the naked tracker. His head snapped round and he made a grab for his gun. Cutler never made it; a hand like a vice clamped on his throat and he was lifted up in the air and shook like a rat. Josiah hit him once and Cutler's body went limp in his hand. Josiah tossed him into a corner like the rubbish he was. He had more important things to worry about. His gaze took in Vin, and he carefully wrapped him in the blanket. Bending over him, he could smell the sickly sweet scent of the chloroform around his mouth. This was serious; for a Sentinel chloroform was dangerous, he knew enough to know that it was never used on them because of the risk of them being unable to find their way back.

Ignoring the unconscious man, he closed the door and made his way down to get Ezra, and then he had to find Nathan.

Big Bill Connor stepped out from the darkness at the end of the hallway and into the gambler's room. He pulled the blanket back and let his gaze feast on the naked body of the younger man. It would be so easy to stake his claim on the unresponsive body, but he would wait. He had failed once before and wouldn't fail again. He could hear the men coming and left, going back the way he came.

Ezra came into the room fast. Swiftly, he knelt on the bed, his hands moving over Vin's face and leaning forward, he smelt the chloroform. “What the hell's happened to you, Vin?” He looked up from his Sentinel. “Josiah, I need you to get Blair and find Nathan, before I lose him.” The horror on the gambler's face was heartbreaking as he added, so quietly that Josiah nearly missed it, “I've lost one Sentinel, I am not going to lose another.”


The pounding on the bedroom door woke Blair from his sleep, but the look on Josiah's face and the quick, tense words had Blair pulling on his boots and jacket. He hurried after Josiah, trying to question the man as they rushed, back to the Saloon.

Pushing the door open into the room, Josiah froze.

“Easy Ezra.”

Only then was the Remington lowered, and the Guide let them approach his Sentinel.

Leaving the two young guides, he hefted the unconscious man out. “Taking out the rubbish,” was his only comment, as he dragged Cutler away.

Later, he planned on finding out who the man was, and why he had attacked Vin, but at the moment that could wait, because they were in danger of losing one of the pack. Josiah was not going to let that happen on his watch.


Conklin Hay & Feed Store.

Murphy stood in the office and he couldn't help his smile. He had moved his human chess pieces into place and was now embarking on the end game. He looked at the clock; by midnight everything would be ready. He looked at one of his most edgier pawns, after Mrs Travis.

Mr Conklin was a local businessman. He was one of the most vocal in his distrust of the ‘Larabee gang', as he liked to call them, although the other townspeople had started to refer to them as the Seven, after having seen them grouped together in the Saloon. A thin-faced man, life had carved bitter lines in his face from the experience of past failures. He looked at the five men surrounding him in the office of Conklin Hay & Feed Store. He had been honoured to be approached by Mr Bedford in order to form the Four Corners Vigilante Committee; he saw it as a reflection of his position within the society of Four Corners.

“One of my men saw Tanner going up the stairs to Standish's room. Now, we might be charitable and say that they were going to share a drink or play cards,” Murphy told them.

“Two handed games,” one of the others cut in, and gave a dirty laugh.

“Exactly, I think you will agree, gentlemen, that we have to show this filth that we are not going to allow them in this town.”

“What about Larabee,” Conklin asked, shifting his feet nervously.

“Out of town; Mr Thompson kindly allowed himself to be used as a way of getting Larabee away. I had hoped that Marshal Ellison would also go, but Mr Wilmington is a bonus. Whereas I have no problem with the Marshal, he is in such a position where he cannot be seen to condone what we are going to do.”

“Hell, the man really tore a piece out of Mrs Travis,” Mr Conklin put in.

“Ellison has to work within the law and I happen to know that he is waiting on a telegram from the Judge.” He smiled. “In this telegram, the Judge is quite clear in that he should do something to eradicate these abominations,” Murphy reassured them.

“Then can't we leave it to him?” Hans Muller, the baker, said.

Mr Conklin shook his head. “Hans, the Marshal can drive them from town, and under Larabee's gun they might return. We need to make sure they go for good; remember what those good people did with Standish, they tarred and feathered him, and he has the scars to prove it. We will give them the same - the Mark of Cain.”

Murphy handed a bottle around.


Ezra's slender, tapered fingers brushed across the planes of Vin's face, as his voice was pitched to the seductive tone of a guide. “Vin, you can hear my voice, and I am calling you back. I need you.”

There was no response to his voice or touch. Ezra looked up at Blair and there was despair in his face.

“Right, he's really shut down tight, hearing is knocked out, and possibly touch. If what Josiah said was true, he might have locked them out when that guy was, well you know. So, we try scent.”

Seeing the almost shocked look, he said, “Come on Ezra, you know that he and Larabee lock onto you by scent. You might not like it, but they still do it.'


“Sentinels; it's the most primal part of them and when they bond with us, they surround themselves with our scent, our heart beat. In other words, our very essence. You have to do that with Vin. Don't worry,” Blair added quickly, “No one is going to judge you. Hell, there is stuff I had do to bring Jim back that I am sure if he knew about would have him running screaming into the night.”

He paused, seeing the small nod of agreement. “The main thing is, if Vin comes back, he can always shoot you later.” Blair's joke was a small one, but it got an answering, if strained, smile.

“So, where do we start, Dr Sandburg?”

“Considering what we're going to have to do, I think you can call me Blair. Josiah, keep everyone out of here and, if this works, no matter what you hear, keep out of the room because when he comes out of it, Vin will be pure feral.”

How long the two guides worked in the room, he didn't know, but for Josiah it seemed that time was standing still. JD found a groggy Nathan and helped him back to the jail, reassuring him that Vin would be okay. Admitting that he didn't really understand, but that Josiah said it was a Sentinel-Guide thing.


Blair took a pull of the whiskey. It had been close, but it seemed that, finally, Vin was beginning to respond to the touch and scent of his guide. Getting Ezra to do everything that was needed was hard, but he had done it in the end to call his Sentinel back, which showed that the three of them had a very strong bond.

The door opened and Blair had never been so relieved in his life to see his own Sentinel, with a heavily dust-covered Chris Larabee. The fact that the man didn't ask any questions meant that Jim had told him all he knew.


“Responding, Chris, but he needs you as well. One thing, when he comes round-”

“He's going to be spitting nails, Jim told me.”

“You also know what happened before Josiah arrived?”

The blond gunman nodded. “Shit happens, Sandburg.”

Blair was about to flare up at the callous remark, when he saw the sadness and life weariness in the gunman's face for what his younger soul mate had suffered.

As Blair started to leave, he stopped him.

“Thank you.”

Two words said from the heart. Blair risked a pat on the black clothed arm, and then left the room. The Saloon was now empty except for the remaining Seven.

Alone with his young guide and soul mated Sentinel, Chris's persona changed. He was still an extremely dangerous man, but then so was this guide and especially his soul mate. But he allowed the man that he used to be - the man that had loved his wife and guide, that had made him a loving father - to come through. It was the man that Buck had known, and was now only just beginning to see glimpses of, coming back to him. He removed the duster and hat, his gun belt, looping it near the bed close at hand, and then sat down. Reaching out a hand he ghosted it, Sentinel soft, over Vin's face, then scented his fingers.

“Chloroform,” Ezra answered from where he lay, his body partly covering that of his Sentinel. He should have been embarrassed to be seen partly naked in bed with another man; embarrassed, hell, mortified. But this was the bond, the need to cover as much of Vin as possible with his scent, with his heat. He didn't understand all that Blair had said, but one term stood out. Sensory pad, Blair had had to explain it, but it fit. Vin's senses were locked down, but with the weight of his body against Vin, the scent, all slowly permeated through to the Sentinel, and it was working. Through their link he could feel the tracker returning to him, to them. Ezra felt the link with Chris as the older man stroked his arm and back, reassuring him, and allowing the three to connect as one. Ezra closed his eyes, allowing himself the indulgence of basking in the bond, his voice soft, the stress broadening his southern accent, “One heart, one soul, one body, beating for three.”

Vin came out of the void, his eyes opening and burning with a blue flamed fury. Ezra was sent flying as Vin fought to free himself from their hands.

“Easy, Vin.”

The words meant nothing to the feral. His senses overwhelmed, he bit, kicked and hit out, snarling and growling, knowing only that he had to be free.

Chris took a hard hit round the face and a foot that would have unmanned him if it had been lower. Ezra had been kicked off the bed and made a lunge, bringing the naked feral down as Vin surged off the bed; it sent him crashing to the floor just short of the door. Ezra clung onto Vin's legs for dear life. Just avoiding getting a foot in the face, he managed to hold him long enough for Chris to throw himself on top of Vin, the younger man bucking and trashing, trying to throw them off him. Just then door to the room opened, and Buck appeared. He had stopped Ellison coming up with one snarled word; “Pack.”

Buck stood there for a moment, admiring the scene. At any other time it would have been funny to see Chris and Ezra struggling with a determined but naked Vin Tanner, and he looked forward to teasing the very private tracker about it later.

Then Chris managed to get Vin into a arm lock, and as he looked over the heaving body of his soul mate to look at Buck, the possessiveness of the Predator blazed out through the green eyes. Buck held up at a hand to ward off any attack. “Just me, Chris, no one is going to take him away from you.”

“Can't lose him.”

“You won't Chris, you won't.”

Buck allowed his tone to drop, soothing the Predator Sentinel. As a Gamma Sentinel, Buck was the caring heart of the pack. His large hands soothed over the black shirted back, then over Ezra, and finally Vin. Jerking his hand back and just avoiding getting his hand bitten as it got too close to the feral's mouth.

“Bites like a snapping turtle. Him and that horse of his got a lot in common.”

The tone was light and Buck allowed his affection for the young feral to show. His presence was becoming a balm to the Predator and Feral.

Domination was something that had to be established; the Feral had to learn that he didn't run from his Alpha but to him, and tonight, Vin would be claimed fully by his Alpha and his pack. Only then would the feral stand down and let the man come forward.

Buck settled down, leaning over them, his hands moving all the time from one man to the next, little touches soothing and comforting as only a Gamma could.


The Saloon was empty and Jim stood looking out of the doorway, down a street cast in darkness except for the small burning fires that lit the way. He had his senses pulled back, so as not to intrude on what was going on upstairs. Blair was stood next to him, leaning into his body, needing that contact, as Josiah and Nathan sat drinking endless cups of coffee.

“You sure everything is alright up there?” Nathan asked, the healer in him wanting to make sure that Vin was okay. But at the same time knowing that his intrusion would not be welcome. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the ceiling shook, waking JD up from his slumber. Josiah was on his feet when Jim said, “No, it's alright.”

“What the hell are they doing?” Nathan demanded.

“A Sentinel must claim his guide.” Jim turned and faced the three remaining members of the Seven. “Chris is an Alpha Sentinel, what we call a Predator, and the most dangerous. Vin is a Feral, a wild untrained Sentinel; they are the rarest, and need to be... controlled, for want of a better word, by an Alpha. Ezra is a guide, just like Blair, and he is the balance to the other two, their touchstone for their senses. He brings peace and harmony.” Jim grinned hard to think that this was true of Ezra, but it was true. “And finally, Buck is what we call a Gamma Sentinel; he doesn't have the powerful senses of the other two, and so in a pack or clan he would help protect and nurture the children, and protect the Alpha from himself. Together they are a working pack.”

JD had to ask. “How do we fit in?”

“JD, there is no shame in being a guide, even if your ability is not strong. Nathan, you're a healer, and Josiah, the wisdom of the Pack. All parts of a whole, but you need to be able to accept it. There are parts of pack life, especially between a Predator and Feral, which are beyond our understanding, but vital for the healthy life of the pack. You have accepted the roles of regulators, can you now accept becoming part of the Pack?”

For a moment - the longest in Blair's life - no one said anything. Then, Josiah said;

“Can think of worse things to be,” and smiled. JD was next. “If it stops Mr Larabee shooting me, I am in.” The last was Nathan, “you're going to need a healer, so I am in.”

Jim let out a sigh of relief. The Seven were finally together.


Tiny and Yosemite saw the crowd gathering, recognising the members of the Vigilante Committee. Turning, Tiny threw his brother a shotgun, and then stepped out onto the street, heading for the Potters' store.

Jim saw the lights. “We've got trouble.”

Chairs were thrown back as Josiah, JD and Nathan got to their feet, pulling back, with Jim and Blair to cover the stairs. The large group of men came barrelling into the saloon. “Get out of the way, Marshal Ellison, you too Sheriff Dunne.” Conklin made JD's title sound almost like a joke.

“We're going to teach them a lesson.” He tapped the whip in his hand against his leg. “We don't want their kind here.”

“What kind is that?”

Conklin looked up to the top of the stairs.

Blair took one look and muttered, “Oh shit”. Things had just gotten a hell of a lot worse. When someone had coined the phase ‘ridden hard and put away wet', they had had these men in mind.

Mary Travis was stood just outside of the Saloon, and watched what was happening. She got the shock of her life.

In the short time she had been married, she might have made love to her husband, but it was with the lights off and him in his nightgown. So, the half naked Vin Tanner, his long hair sticking to his sweat-drenched, lean, muscular body, dressed only in his trousers that hung low on his hips and clutching a Winchester rifle, made the heat fuse up into her face.

She looked at Chris Larabee; standing to Vin's left, his dark blond hair falling untidily over his eyes, his black shirt was pulled out of his trousers and it was unbuttoned halfway down his chest.

Mary found she was breathing hard, her face becoming flushed. The normally immaculate Standish stood to the right of Tanner, his shirt roughly tucked into his trousers, the shirt gaping open, showing bare chest. He had his hand resting near the butt of the Remington he carried, mirroring Larabee's action.

Turning to the mob, Conklin yelled, “Look, see for yourself! I-”

“They're Sentinels and Guide,” Jim put in levelly, his voice cutting through Conklin's words. “Just like we are.” He waved a hand at Blair. “So, Mr Conklin, you think that I fuck my guide?” Jim deliberately made the word ugly. “Do you?” He allowed his anger to grow.

“No, err, of course not... you're-”

“I am a US Marshal. Well, I don't do anything different than what they do. The bond is a sacred trust, and to take your guide is to violate it. Are you calling my honour and that of my guide into question?” Jim's voice dropped to the low growl of a challenged Sentinel.

“No, of course not, it's just the papers, they- ”

“Newspapers lie, Mr Conklin, and fools believe them,” Blair put in levelly.

Just then, the Hughes brothers and Mr Potter arrived. Mr Potter met Chris' gaze. “You need some help, Mr Larabee?” He ignored the way they looked, as he added, “A sentinel and guide saved my hide during the war, time to pay that back.”

The tension in the room was slowly bleeding out; most of the men had either served in the war or had relatives that had, and they might not have understood what Sentinels and Guides did, but they knew that lives on both sides had been saved by them.

Mrs Travis felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Mr Bedford. “John, we have been so wrong about them.”

“Not really, Mary. You did exactly what I wanted. Let's join the party.”

Murphy's hand dug into her shoulder and he manhandled her inside the saloon; his remaining men flanking him, his gun resting against the side of Mary's head.

“Pity, Larabee. It was going to be so easy, now we're just going to have to do it the hard way.”

“Murphy.” It was Vin that identified the man.

Conklin said, “No, that's Mr Bedford.”

“No, Murphy. He's a bounty hunter,” Jim put in. “What's the matter Murphy? You got paid.”

“I accepted a better deal.” He ignored Jim. “Now you know, Larabee, I've always fancied my chances against you, and tonight I think that I might just get lucky.”

“Why all this, why not just call me out?”

“Wheels within wheels, Larabee, wheels within wheels.” He paused. “Now, unless you want to see her brains splattered across this saloon, I want you to take your gun out, nice and slowly, and empty the bullets to the floor.”

Jim watched as Larabee did as he was told. “Now, take one bullet out, place it in the chamber, spin it and put your gun back into its holster. Then we draw.”

“You call that a fair fight? It's murder, it's- ”

“Shut up, JD.”

Vin's voice was raspy, as if he was having trouble forming the words, still feeling the last of the chloroform. He slowly cocked the Winchester. In the hands of an expert like Vin, the rifle was as lethal as any handgun.

Toby, one of Murphy's men, took Mary's arm and trained his own gun at her head as he pulled her away from his boss. A grinning Murphy moved so that he was facing Chris from across the room.

“Kept hearing how fast you were, Larabee, now I get to prove all those stories wrong. Once you're dead, I am going to have my men hang that gambler and then I am going to ride Tanner until he's raw. He was a good fuck on the trail; he fought us, but he was helpless, and that was real sweet.”

Murphy didn't have to see the faces of the townspeople to see their horror at what he was admitting to.

Buck shook his head slowly. The man wanted to put Chris off his game, but all he was doing was digging his grave deeper. The man was dead, he just didn't know it.

Then, Larabee walked down the last few steps and out onto the saloon floor.

Larabee was projecting an aura of death that seemed to make the room colder. He was death in personified.

Now facing each other across the floor of the Saloon, Murphy went for his gun.

Chris cleared leather fast. There were two clicks as the hammer of his gun fell on an empty chamber, then an ear-shattering bang, and Murphy was knocked off his feet by a bullet to the chest. Murphy had only just cleared leather.

The sudden firing of a Winchester on the heel of Chris's shot brought everyones head snapping round to look at the half naked tracker. The man holding Mary fell to the floor, his blood spraying over her face and hair as the tracker killed him before he had a chance to pull the trigger and kill her.

Chris pulled the bullets from his belt and reloaded as he walked up to look down at Murphy. He was lying on his back, an expression of total shock on his face. “No one is that fast.” He just managed to stutter out the word, having trouble breathing.

Mary was clinging onto Mr Potter who had pulled her into his arms. Her voice was shaking, but even so, she pointed at Chris.

“Mr Larabee, you can't shoot him. He's injured.”

Murphy tried to take advantage of what he thought was a lapse in concentration. His hand closed on the butt of the gun that had fallen from his hand when he had been shot and started to bring it up.

He never competed the move. The bullet hit his head, splattering the floor with his brains. Looking up, Chris saw Mary looking at him; the smile he gave her was chilling.

“You're a lawman, Mr Larabee. You murdered that man.”

Mary's voice was breaking with anger and fear of the man who stood in front of her.

“No lady, I am the bad element. Remember?”

Chris turned to look back towards his soul mate. He could see Vin's pride in him, burning in those blue eyes. They still had one last thing to do and they would do that away from the eyes of the town. That was Pack justice, against the man that had dared to touch this important part of his soul.


The next morning the Clarion newspaper was on the street

Plot to Undermine Local Law Foiled

The Clarion is proud to have been instrumental in helping the local law enforcers in unmasking a major criminal. Towards this end the Clarion had to publish a series of scandalous stories.
It would like to make clear that this paper and the Council of Four Comers hold the peacekeepers Mr Standish and Mr Tanner in the highest regard, and that any references made to their private life, directly or indirectly must be clearly stated as being totally and utterly false.

Ezra put the paper down. “Mrs Travis can grovel with the best of them, or so it seems.”

“That woman is a menace.”

“I would agree whole heartedly, Mr Larabee, but I think for the foreseeable future she might turn her attentions elsewhere.”

Josiah had Cutler by the shoulder, hands cuffed behind his back.

The night had bolstered the man.

“You take me to court and I'll tell them all about Vin Tanner, the $500 dollar reward, and how on the trail he spread his legs wide and often for us, letting us take him two at a time. He- ”

Cutler was caught up and slammed against the wall of the jail, his feet beating a tattoo against the wall as the air was forced from his lungs.

“Let him down, Josiah,” Chris ordered.

“At the end of the street, there's a livery stable. You find a horse, leave town,” Chris said, levelly.

“You'll shoot me.”

Chris shook his head. “I won't, nor will any the others. No one will shoot you, you have my word.”

“You're letting me go.”


Cutler edged towards the door. “One thing. I didn't say anything about knives.” Chris reached out and tugged the bowie knife from Josiah's belt and then tossed it hilt first to Vin.

“You have ‘til the count of ten, then Vin's coming after you.”

“1, 2, 3-”

Cutler turned to the others. “You can't let him do this!”

“4, 5-”

Seeing his death in their faces, Cutler took to his heels into the main street of Four Corners, pushing past people in his hurry to reach the livery stables and escape.

“6, 7, 8, 9, 10.”

“Go hunt, brother.”

Vin left the jail. He was in no hurry and there was no place that Cutler could go that he wouldn't find him.

Late that evening, Cutler finally stopped. He was sure that he had lost the tracker. He had cut across his trail three times. He just reaching for some more wood for the fire, when he looked up. The figure came out of the night at him; all he had time to do was scream and keep screaming until death finally claimed him.

The next day, Vin was sat at the desk in the Sheriff's office, his feet propped up on the corner of the spur scarred desk, his hat brim pulled down over his face. His chest rose and fell gently as he slept.

None of the Seven had asked what he had done, and if they were honest, they didn't want to know. They all knew what Vin was capable of doing; the younger man had a darker side to him, forged by the life he had been forced to live, and that made him dangerous, to his enemies.

Buck handed the black tabard back to Chris and shook his head as the gunman poked at the place where the bullet had been imbedded. “You know, Buck, I still can't believe it stopped a bullet. It doesn't seem thick enough.”

“And where the hell did he get it from and that rifle that Junior's been drooling over?”

“Same place as Ellison,” the soft Texas accent interrupted them, “ain't that right, Marshal?” Vin tipped the brim of his hat up and looked to the man that stood in the doorway.

Jim said, “I think it's about time you knew what is going on here. The moment that Murphy wore that, the ground rules changed. It's a long story, and I am not sure you're going to believe me, but here goes.”

The End

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