From here to there - and back again

By Yolande

My thanks go to my beta - NotTasha.

Written in Response to the Jan Challenge 03 by Angela B (AceofSpades):-

Write a story in which one (or more) of the guy's horses goes missing. (If you are using an AU in which there are no horses go ahead and use the mode of transportation used)

Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009

The hairs along the back of his neck trembled and a churning sensation started to swell in his stomach.   A deep fury surged to the surface and a scowl pressed over his unconventionally handsome face.  His hand stayed on the stall, his legs numbed to the spot.  He stared resolutely at the very empty stall.  Where the hell was Saber?  His intense eyes searched the rows of stalls to the left and right, but failed to find the missing gelding.  Chris Larabee growled deeply in his throat.  “No one takes my horse!” 

Stamping over the straw-covered floor, his mood soured by the theft.  He pushed irritably through the opening, grinding to a halt at Yosemite’s quiet words. 

Larabee spun on his heels.  “What did you say, Yosemite?” 

The large man, unprepared for the resounding fury, gritted his teeth, but remained stationary under the steady glare of the gunslinger.  “Jest asked, if ya were goin’ ridin’ now.” 

Chris flicked his eyes back to the empty stall, and stepped toward the liveryman.  What did Yosemite find so amusing about all of this?  “You know where Saber is?” Chris all but sneered. 

“Sure do,” Yosemite answered calmly, leaning on the three-pronged fork with a casual indifference. 

“That s’posed to mean somethin’?” Larabee asked, none too friendly. 

Yosemite screwed up his lips, confused by the gunman’s irritation.  “Had ‘im saddled and waiting out front, just like ya asked.”  Yosemite paused, wondering if Larabee’s peek was aimed at something he’d forgotten to do, but he couldn’t think what that could be.   “Even left a bucket of water for ‘im afta ya didn’t turn up straight away.” 

“So where is he?”  And when exactly had Chris conveyed this request to Yosemite to saddle his horse? 

“He’s out front…” Yosemite waved beyond the doors, wondering why Chris hadn’t seen Saber before he’d entered.  The tall liveryman ambled outside intent to cancel any further disquiet, but his gasp left his mouth before he could call it back.  “I swear he was right there only ten minutes ago…saw ‘im when I came out ta talk with Mr. O’Grady.”  Yosemite studied the earth, kicking up the dust as though it would give him some clue to the missing animal.  “He’s gone,” the liveryman announced unnecessarily. 

Chris, as angry as he was, knew instinctively that Yosemite had not harmed his horse.  But he would get to the bottom his this.  “When did I tell you to saddle Saber?”  He’d had a few drinks the night before, but he was damn sure he would have remembered offering such instructions. 

Yosemite almost chuckled, but seeing the gunslinger was deadly serious with the question, decided it was in his best interest to answer them.  “Well, it was this mornin’.  Said ya wanted ta go ridin’ after lunch.” 

Now Larabee was starting to get suspicious.  He knew he wasn’t drunk this morning and he distinctly had not spoken with Yosemite until a moment ago.  “I told you I was goin’ ridin’?” Chris asked sceptically.  

“Well, yeah…Kinda...” 

“What do you mean…kinda?  Either I did or I didn’t?” 

“It was in the note…” 

“Note!” Chris bellowed.  “What Goddamned note?” 

“The note you gave to Billy to give to me…  Saw ya hand it to him myself, so I knew it came from you.” 

Larabee opened his mouth to argue some more, but closed it instead and a sneer closed over his features.  “Of all the assine…That Weasel…I’ll kill him!”  Larabee ignored the startled look from Yosemite and stalked irately to the saloon.  “I’m gonna wring his neck, then I’m gonna gut shoot him,” he mumbled as he crossed down the street veering to the saloon.  “Standish, you’re a dead man!” 

Larabee should have guessed at the conman’s duplicity that morning, should have followed his gut instincts and not acquiesced with Standish’s request.  How stupid did the gambler think he was?  Surely Ezra would have known Chris would figure it out. 

Ezra Standish had handed Chris the note not long after he’d left the restaurant.  Ezra had asked Larabee to pass on the missive to Billy Travis and when the child had appeared in the middle of the street while they were talking, the gambler had pushed him off the boardwalk toward the child, saying that he hadn’t breakfasted yet and the child would unintentionally hold him up and he would have to forgo his morning repast.  At the time it made little sense to the gunman, but what could it hurt by passing on a simple note to a child?  Chris fumed as his boots hit the wooden walkway.  When a man stoops to using a child to steal a man’s horse, he was only fit to be hanged.  His hands clenched as he stood on the doorstep, scanning the innards of the saloon. 


Ezra lifted his gaze from his cards and met those of Larabee’s; he felt like he was facing down the proverbial rampaging bull.  He smiled involuntarily, wondering at the gunman’s temperamental demeanour.  Ezra settled his cards on the table, his eyes never leaving Larabee as he thundered inside the building.  He heard the stifled chuckle from Buck and instinctively kicked the ladies’ man in the shins under the table.  Ezra had a sneaking suspicion Wilmington knew more than he should.  But Standish wasn’t one to sit on the sidelines and watch; he wanted part of the action, even if he was going to get more than he bargained for.  “Something Ah can help you with?” 

Larabee towered over the table, hands flared on his hips, and fingers itching to use his gun.  “Where’s my horse, you snake infested, conniving, momma’s boy?” 

“Name calling, Mr. Larabee?  Tut tut…” 

Swifter than a rattler strike, Chris yanked the Southerner from his seat and propelled him to the bar.  With his hand knotted in the front of Ezra’s shirt, Chris pressed hard against his throat, effectively cutting off the gambler’s airway.  “Where is he?” Chris hissed, his face mere inches from his victim. 

Standish didn’t struggle, knowing it would be futile and would only cause more harm to himself in the long run.  He did want to escape this incident fully intact, but such plans were going to be by the wayside soon if Larabee didn’t release the pressure on his throat.  He did need to draw breath at some point, and it was beginning to become rather difficult. He still had the hideout as a last resort; he was hoping it wouldn’t come down to that.  

“Chris!” Wilmington followed the attack, and slapped his hand hard on Larabee’s shoulder, to capture the gunslinger’s attention.  He wanted Larabee to be the one to call off his assault on the gambler, but if need be, Buck would intervene.  “Chris,” he whispered close to his ear, “Think about what yer doing, pard.”  Buck glanced over his shoulder, the whole room had gone quiet, so absorbed in the proceedings.  “Lots of witnesses…” he smiled sympathetically at the choking Southerner. 

Chris slowly unclenched his fingers, wincing slightly at the bruising on the gambler’s neck.  He didn’t step away from Ezra, but leaned closer and hissed.  “Where’s my horse!” 

“What brings you to the conclusion that Ah have absconded with your horse?” Standish queried, rubbing his tender neck. 

“That damn note you gave me this morning…” Chris watched for the expected understanding, but Standish faced him with a clearly confused expression.  Could be just an act… 

“What has my delivering a missive to do with your horse?” 

“Billy gave it to Yosemite…”  

Ezra’s eyebrows arched higher.  And that implicates me how he was tempted to ask?  “Ah yes…” Standish stalled.   “I had spoken with Master William earlier and asked him to pass on said message to Yosemite, unfortunately I’d left it inside my room and needed to return to collect it.” 

“Ah Hah!  I knew it!” Larabee declared, triumphantly pointing his finger at the gambler’s chest. 

Standish shook his head, dismayed.  “Such an act surely doesn’t implicate me in horse theft?” 

“It don’t clear ya either,” Chris growled. 

“What’d it say, pard?” Tanner asked. 

“Told Yosemite ta saddle Saber for this afternoon and leave him out front of the livery, but he’s gone now!” Chris finished with a roar, glaring frostily at the gambler. 

“Ezra,” Josiah interrupted, “Why did you write that note?” 

“And if you know where Chris’ horse is, ya best return it,” Jackson added. 

“Ah didn’t write that note,” Standish flushed, offended by the slight.  “And Ah don’t know the whereabouts of said steed!” 

“Then where’d it come from?” Chris pressed, not willing to believe Standish as yet. 

Ezra swallowed roughly and sighed. Why was it so difficult to do a good deed without the consequent repercussions? “Mrs Travis requested Ah pass along the note to Yosemite.  Ah only requested your assistance, Mr Larabee because…” 

“Mary gave it to you?” Chris shouted, bewildered by the change of circumstances.   Damn!  He’d have to rethink things now. 

“That is what Ah said.”  Ezra sighed deeply and sagged against the bar, a wry smile touching the corners of his mouth as he watched Larabee bolt from the saloon. 

“Hope you know what you’re doing, son,” Josiah grinned, slapping the smaller man on the shoulder. 

The Southerner returned the preacher’s concerned look with one of defiance.  “Mary gave me the note,” he iterated, and followed on the heels of the gunman to watch the drama continue to unfold.  This was more entertaining than playing two bit poker with the others. 

As Ezra, the other five peacekeepers exited to the boardwalk out front of the saloon.  It gave them a clear view of the Clarion, although they would not be privy to the discussion going on behind closed doors.  The six men took up various positions, attempting to feign a casual pose, but to all those residents who walked the street and to those in the know about what had preceded their exit, they were obvious in their scrutiny. 

Fifteen minutes later a very irate gunman stormed from the newspaper office.  His boots clipping distinctly on the wooden boards and his jacket flew wildly behind.  He glanced once at the waiting group, and headed their direction.   “Sons of bitches,” he muttered. 

“Reckon yer goose is cooked, Ezra,” Sanchez grinned sympathetically, and strategically moved away from the condemned Southerner. 

Standish stumbled backwards; this is not what he expected.  Larabee planted his frame directly in front of Ezra and the gambler struggled to find the appropriate words.  Why hadn’t Mary backed his claim?   She had given the missive to Ezra to pass along to Yosemite, why wouldn’t she admit the truth?  “Ummm…Ah can assure you…” 

Chris glanced at the stunned expression worn by the gambler.  If he weren’t in such a piss ass mood he would have egged Standish on a bit.  But Mary had confirmed Ezra’s story.  More’s the pity, he lamented.  “Ezra…Move!” 


Larabee pushed aside the conman and now faced Nathan.  “Mary says you gave her the note,” he confronted.  What has gotten into these people? 

“What?” Ezra spun around, eyes wide.  “You set me up?”  

“No!  I didn’t do any such thing,” Jackson denied, backing away from Larabee and Standish. 

Chris growled…all he wanted to do was take a ride out to his cabin.  The anger was starting to abate, but he was beginning to become frustrated with the run around.  He was hoping once everything was sorted out, that somewhere at the end he would find his missing horse.  “Nathan…did you write that note?” 

Ezra turned incredulously wide eyes on the gunslinger.  “Ah suppose you asked Mrs Travis just as nicely as you please, like you just did now with Mr Jackson here,” he remarked sarcastically, “Yet you practically ram your fist down my throat, and didn’t even give me a chance to respond.  Ah also noticed you didn’t bother to request if Mr. Jackson absconded with your horse,” Standish drawled. 

“I was a might…peeved at the time, Ezra,” Larabee answered, but not apologising.  He couldn’t rule out the gambler’s involvement in this scheme, and it did reek with the conman’s flair.  “And I know Nathan wouldn’t take my horse.” 

“Typical.  So much for, I’m sorry…. shouldn’t have happened…won’t happen again,” Ezra grumbled.  “Not even a kiss my ass…” he continued to complain, missing the minute smile Chris couldn’t prevent from surfacing. 

“I’m sorry, Chris.  If I thought of it sooner I would have said something, but I didn’t know that was the same note I gave Mary,” the healer professed. 

Larabee crossed his arms over his chest.  Hadn’t he been expecting this?  “So who gave it to you?” 

“Mrs Potter…But that was two days ago…that’s why I’d forgotten about it.” 

Sanchez groaned, covering his face in his hands.  Larabee wanted to do the same.  “Got something to add, Josiah?” 

“Nope…best go and talk to Gloria…we’ll all be here when you get back.” 

Chris stared at the large preacher for a long moment, wondering about his remark.  “I’ll be back.”  It wasn’t far to the general merchandise store.  Gloria would settle this matter quickly; and she did.  It took a few minutes of prompting, as it had been a couple of days ago and she’d dismissed it promptly from her mind as a triviality, but Chris soon got his answer and returned to the group of peacekeepers.  He noticed as he drew near that Buck, Vin and Ezra were all content upending a beer; they must have gone back inside to garner the drink in his absence.  God, he could do with one!   And why, under closer inspection, was Josiah nervously toe-tapping on the upright, and constantly searching the street for his return, not keeping eye contact when their line of sight clashed for an instant. 

“How’d it go, pard?” Tanner asked, a smirk turning up the corners of his mouth.  

“It’d save an awful lot of time if you boys would just tell me where THE FUCKING HELL MY HORSE IS!” Chris let his gaze search, in turn, each of the six men.  “Nope?”  And six heads shook in unison.  “Josiah?” he prompted, smiling banally at the giant. 


“You gave that note to Gloria…I don’t suppose you wrote the damn thing?”  At Sanchez’s sharp shake of denial, Chris sighed, his shoulders sagging in defeat.  “So if you could just tell me who you got it from?” 


Chris groaned, wiping his face disconcertedly with his hand.  Casey.  Was the girl in town at the moment?  Or was he expected to traipse out of town to talk with the girl?  He didn’t even have his horse to ride at the moment in any case.  “JD,” his voice sing-songed, “…did you give it to Casey?” 

“Yeah…I gave her a letter, but Buck gave it to me,” Dunne quickly accused. 

Everyone’s eyes turned to the ladies’ man. 

Wilmington shrugged… “Vin gave one to me a few days back…is that what this is all about?” 

“Taaannnnerrrrr!”  Larabee yelled.  Tanner set him up?  

“Hey don’t get yer ass all out of shape, Larabee.  You were the one who gave me that note to pass along to Buck…Don’t cha remember?” 

“I didn’t write that damn note!!!!” Chris shouted, not concerned by the stares this outburst garnered him. 

“We were sitting inside, three nights ago, when that wire came in, you remember?  You asked me to see that Buck got it…” 

Chris did remember.  “That ain’t the same note that Yosemite got this morning.”  

“You sure?” Wilmington goaded.  “Did you read Yosemite’s note?” 

“No, I didn’t…” 

“Then I reckon you were the one who sent it to Yosemite after all,” Vin grinned. 

“I DID NOT!” Chris roared, swinging around to confront the Texan.  “None of which helps me any to find my horse!” 

“Isn’t that your steed standing beside that grey?” Ezra asked curiously. 

“Don’t be…” Chris didn’t finish.  His mouth hung open as he stared at his black gelding, saddled and waiting by the trough, both reins trailing in the dirt.  “He hasn’t been here all this time…” he stammered lamely, hoping one of the others would agree with him. 

“Can’t say for sure,” Josiah pursed his lips and looked to the sky, “But we’d have seen Yosemite bringing him over, and since we didn’t…” 

Larabee glared at the preacher.  “You expect me to believe this?” he waved his arms about emphatically.  He couldn’t even say for certain if he’d seen Saber standing there all this time…surely Chris would have noticed? 

“Perhaps Saber became bored waiting for you to arrive and found another way to pass the time,” Ezra commented. 

“This is a fucking horse we’re talking about, Standish, it’s not capable of thinking for itself.”  

Ezra shrugged, smiling deceptively.  “Chaucer has no problems with manipulating a mere slipknot.”  This brought a collective chuckle from the other peacekeepers.  The gambler had taught his horse many such tricks. 

Larabee only glared at the gambler.  “You keep that overgrown dog away from my horse!  And if I catch you teaching Saber any of that ornery cuss’s tricks I’ll skin you alive.” 

“Sir, I’ll have you know, Chaucer is…” 

“Thought you were goin’ for a ride, cowboy?” Vin grinned, deliberately cutting short Ezra’s defence of his horse. 

Larabee glared at the younger man.  “When I get back…” he warned, smiling smugly as he climbed into the saddle.  Heads are gonna roll, he finished, without uttering a word.  Let them stew on that, he mused as he put boot leather against Saber’s flanks.  He stopped at the end of the street, turning at the sounds of his fellow peacekeeper’s laughter; “I wouldn’t laugh too loudly, boys.”  Someone’s gonna pay for this!  And pay dearly!

The End.


I do hope you enjoyed reading this.  I would love to hear your comments.