Magnificent Seven Old West
Bounty Hunters

by Heather F.

Disclaimers: Not Mine, No money made…

Acknowledgements: all the TV people with the M7 credits

Molly Hatchet's lyrics Bounty Hunter

My horse is kicking dust up off the trail,
I'm just getting back from a trip to hell.
My six gun, she's strapped by my side,
Thunder is the horse I ride.
And it seems to me this is one hell of a way,
For a man like me to earn that pay.

Vin Tanner leaned low over his saddle horn. His buckskin coat billowed behind him. Peso ran nose stretched low and long over its front feet. Hooves struck the ground one at a time, clipping the earth in a frantic panicked beat. The black mane twisted and knotted on itself as it sailed from the roots toward his withers.

Hind quarters bunched and sprung with lightening speed and fearsome force. The large black gelding sped wide eyed and terrified down the narrow trail.

Bullets whipped by them, narrowly missing their mark.

Tanner let the horse have its head. The damn animal knew more about where to place its own feet than the rider. He let the horse wind and spiral down a trail even his experienced eye had difficulty picking out.

Tanner needed his concentration elsewhere.

The lithe bounty hunter swiveled his head and peered over his shoulder. The flapping hem of his tattered jacket obscured his sight for just a second.

The ornery chestnut flickered in and out of view. The glimpses of a wild white eyed expression, flared nostrils and flashing hooves were unmistakable.

Standish's chestnut would not be left behind. The horse skimmed across the ground, its shod feet barely skipping across the frozen earth. With ears flat back and forelock whipped from his poll, the horse had a cocky air about it.

It matched its dang fool rider.

The squat black hat sat nearly invisible behind the outstretched neck of the horse. The gambler was no fool and rode low over his saddle much like the bounty hunter before him.

Tanner instinctively tightened his legs around the saddle, when Peso dodged left and then right. A lesser rider would have lost their seat or worse yet, would have been thrown from the saddle. Not Tanner. He rode as if he and his mule brained horse were one entity.

Tree bark splinted near his head as a bullet embedded in the trunk of a ponderosa pine just to his right. Things were getting a bit close.

Tanner hugged closer to Peso. He could not risk pulling his gun and returning fire. Ezra's dang fool horse was just too un predictable. The gelding stood the real risk of running into Vin's returning volley.

They were forced to flee.

Another shot rung out. The unmistakable sound of a Colt. Ezra had no such compulsions or obstacles as Vin. Nothing blocked the gambler's view.

Tanner grinned. Ezra could get down right pissy when someone was shooting at him. Worse even than if someone cheated badly at the gaming table. Amateurs were amusing only when they carried enough cash to keep the Southern gambler interested.

A second shot rang out. Tanner chuckled. Yup, Ezra was pissy.

Outlaws on the loose
Running, running from the noose.

Peso dove the last few feet. The incline ended with an abrupt stop. The game trail met perpendicular to the stage coach road. Like the elk and Spring Bucks that would frequent this trail, Peso leaped into the air across the main road and continued down the twisting gnarled path that would offer them cover.

Vin stood slightly in the stirrups, taking the weight off the horse's back. For a brief moment in time, silence reined. Then twelve hundred pounds of horse slammed back to the earth. Dirt rolled under iron shoes. Peso quickened his pace never losing stride.

Tanner leaned low in his saddle and peered around his arm. Chaucer never paused, never faltered. For all his spoiled ill behaved, rotten brat of an attitude, the damn gelding proved time and time again it knew how to survive.

The chestnut soared into the air never raising itself or its rider too high. It sprung from the bank cleared the road and continued its mad dash down the trail.

Standish paused in his firing only to flash a cocky grin at the tracker.

Tanner chuckled. Crazy Southerner didn't even know enough to be scared.

Then again, if Vin had been threatened as many times as Ezra had been by Chris Larabee, not much would scare him either.

The bounty hunter focused his attention back to the trail ahead.

It was time to lose their pursuers.

Blue steel flashing, hot lead flying,
I wonder what they feel like when they're dying.
Someday soon it might be my turn,
Is it worth the money I earn?
And it seems to me this is one hell of a way,
For a man like me to earn that pay.

Tanner pulled on the right rein, pressing his right calf into Peso's side. The black gelding bent neatly around the leg and dove through the thick foliage to the right. His rider would never purposely injure him. With blind faith, a level of trust unknown to most riders, the horse blindly leaped through the brush and into an area he could not see.

The gelding did not break his stride for a yard or two. The command to stop slid him to a halt.

Tanner listened intently over the harsh wheezing of his heaving mount. Then he heard the familiar clip of the Chestnut.

The bounty hunter put two fingers to his mouth and let loose a piercing whistle. Soon the chestnut gelding came barreling through the foliage.

The horse sat back on its haunches sliding to a stop narrowly missing the black gelding.

Peso laid his ears back and snapped at the intruder. Chaucer snaked his neck out of the way. He came in, up under the lunging Black, snapping his teeth in retaliation.

The two riders merely pulled their horses apart.

"Mr. Tanner?" The adrenaline induced humor matched the mischievous smile in clear green eyes.

"Figure its time to stop running," Tanner's gaze landed pointedly on the large outcropping of boulders. The thick ring of Ponderosa pines would offer cover for the horses. He reined Peso toward them.

"Judge Travis and Mr. Larabee will not be pleased," Standish followed keeping the quick trotting pace Tanner set. A blanket of fallen pine needles muffled the clop of hooves. The sun lay hidden behind grey over cast clouds. The threat of snow hung heavy in crisp air.

"Figure we got no choice," The bounty hunter had no intentions of risking his life or anyone else for some murderers.

Tanner hopped from his horse and scrambled up the boulders with his rifle clasped in his right hand.

The gambler watched for only a moment before he too swung from the saddle and skipped and climbed his way up the rocks.

The two law men settled down and waited. Through the maze of high branched ponderosas, they waited and watched the trail they had just abandoned.

"Ya can still leave now, Ezra," Vin watched the trail never once meeting the gambler's eye. "Ain't your fight…not your hide they're after." Tanner saw no sense in dragging the gambler down this path. Saw no reason for getting the man killed, "ya could git killed."

The Tracker turned his head at the sound of a light chuckle, "Mr. Tanner you must be bereft of all your senses," Standish checked his rifle one last time and then switched his gaze to the trail they had just left. In no time, five bounty hunters would cross the road and race down the trail. They were intent on murder. "If I were to return without you, Mr. Larabee would be sure to kill me…" Standish paused not sure if he should finish his thought. In a few minutes, five men would set upon them and though they held the high ground five against two just didn't seem to be good odds. If he were a gambling man, which he wasn't, the Southerner would lay his money elsewhere. He only bet on a sure thing and right now the only thing he could be sure of was that someone would die today here in this little wooded area. He would wager that Mr. Tanner would not be one of them. Himself…well that was another matter. If Mr. Tanner should succumb here to Bounty Hunters then Standish knew he would never be able to return home. Not that Chris would kill him…hardly…No. Instead, it would kill him, Ezra P. Standish, to watch the slow destruction of the other man. Without Vin, Chris would wither and die or perhaps worse grow to be so monstrous in his blind grief that he would destroy the very friendships and comaradery that the others had been afraid to form so long ago.

Keeping his eyes on the small dirt path he finished his thought, "or so I would hope." Hope because to continue to live knowing what he had lost seemed unbearable. The taste of home was something he had once desired, then shunned and finally had forced on him. He hated his dependency on it as much as he loved it's warmth.

Tanner narrowed his gaze at the selfish, slippery, cheating bastard that lay beside him on freezing stone, just before Christmas.

"Didn't know ya cared," Tanner chuckled out loud and swung his attention back to the trail.

"I don't," Standish lied, "I just loathe lengthy explanations….and the smell of a carcass."

The sounds of running horses filled the area.

The two men hunkered down and took aim.

Outlaws on the loose,
Running, running from the noose,
I'm a bounty hunter, I'll hunt you down, yeah, I will
Did you know 500$ will get your head blown off?
It will Ha, ha, ha,

Vin took a breath. He held it for a bit then released part of it. The rifle barrel never quivered or shook. With both eyes opened, he took aim. Two horses, then three, then four and five. Five riders riding hard sprinting their horses down a narrow trail in hopes of killing two men. Two lives for five hundred dollars. A corpse is easier to travel with than a live captive. A witness would only muddy the waters.

Two lives for five hundred dollars. Ezra had won more than that last night. He had lost more than that two nights ago. Money was every thing to the gambler yet he let it slide through his fingers as if it were water. Two kinds of money, Standish had explained when he stepped away from a six hundred dollar loss. It had not been his six hundred…therefore something to gamble. The five hundred dollar win…that had become squirreled away and added to the principle.

Money to a gambler, Tanner mused, was like lives to the bounty hunters.

Vin clenched his jaw. He had been a bounty hunter once, had rode hard like the five men he now planned on ambushing. He, too, knew that dragging a corpse into town was woefully easier than hauling in a prisoner.

The tracker ignored the green coated gambler beside him. Ezra was worth more than five hundred dollars. Hell, the man's wardrobe was worth more than that….Tanner smiled despite himself. Ezra, clothed in a hotel table cloth, was worth more than any amount of money and sure as heck didn't deserve to get shot down out here in the middle of no where. Maude did raise him better than that…. she just had the reasons wrong.

Five men galloped down the trail. Vin held his fire. Maybe they would ride on by…miss their detour and keep riding hell bent for leather. Maybe Ezra would get to go back to Four Corners and get another chance to gamble his Christmas away?

Ezra watched, his finger curling around the trigger. Perhaps Mr. Tanner's luck would improve and these five dregs of society would continue on their misguided way? A Christmas miracle. Mr. Tanner could then enjoy his Christmas even in the cramped drafty confines of his wagon enjoying the simple and barbaric lifestyle he had come to love.

Standish shuttered at the thought.

The leader pulled up short, yanking the bit harshly against the horse's mouth. The grey shook its head violently fighting the tension. The grizzled man stared left and right down the trail….his piercing grey eyes then searched the very area the two men hid.

They should not have been able to see each other. The five should never had been able to spot the two men laying flat against unforgiving stone.

Ezra made eye contact.

The leader pulled his gun. The other four moved as one.

Tanner squeezed the trigger.

Blue steal flashing, hot lead flying,
I wonder what they felt like whey they're dying.
Someday soon it might be my turn,
Is it worth the money I earn?
And it seems to me this one hell of a way,
For a man like me to earn that pay.

The sharp bark of rifle fire shattered the area. Bluish clouds of gun smoke waifed from discharging barrels hot on the heels of flashing bullets. The sharp smell of heated metal and gunpowder pervaded the surroundings.

Horses screamed and tried to bolt. A rider flew over the hind end of his fleeing horse as a bullet plowed through his chest ripping the life from his body.

Tanner did not give the man a second look, instead he swung his rifle toward his next target.

Bullets ricocheted off the rock. Harsh splinters spat into the area cutting skin and clothing.

The two men lay side by side alternating their shots.

A rider's head snapped around as a section of his skull exploded as the result of an exiting bullet. He toppled to the side still clutching his reins, trapping his horse.

A third and fourth rider tried to flank the two lawmen. They came from opposite directions firing madly all the while creating a hole for the fifth, straight up the middle.

Standish swung his attention to this right. A rock blocked his view. Without hesitation and with only the intent to save a friends life, he raised himself slightly from cover and took his shot.

Two bullets found their marks. The rider flanking from the right flew from the saddle dead with a small hole percolating blood directly from his heart. He hit the ground staring with unseeing eyes at the newly falling snow.

The second bullet came from the rider charging up the middle. The gambler flew backward tossed haplessly from his crouched position. He toppled and rolled head over heels down the rock formation the ground below. He lay unmoving, his leg twisted under him as snow began to settle and whiten his green coat.

Tanner, swung his rifle from the one flanking from the left to the one that had just gunned down his partner…his friend. With anger so fierce, he squeezed the trigger knowing he killed his target but wishing he could kill him again….and again.

A bullet slammed into the Tracker. Tanner flew backward into the small outcropping that had blocked Standish's view. The rifle slipped from slack fingers. Strands of hair splashed across his face and stayed. Tanner tried desperately to move. Tried hard to make his legs and hands work but nothing responded.

He could hear his own pulse roar through his ears, could feel the too rapid beat of his heart. With unexpected clarity, he watched the lazy decent of snow float from a greyish white sky. It promised to bring a hefty amount of snow.

JD would really get to enjoy this Christmas. Too bad about this. Hopefully the kid would get a chance to make a fool of himself and Buck before they figured out what had happened out here.

Tanner's view suddenly filled with the snarling features of a gunman. A Bounty Hunter. The stench of death and body odor emanated from the man like a dark cloud. The man smiled, drooling tobacco juice around yellow stained teeth. A few gaps herald where rot had already made its claim.

Tanner watched as a gun was raised and aimed at his head.

Five hundred dollars. Vin Tanner was worth more than Five hundred dollars. Anger boiled through veins. Maude Standish's darling boy was worth more than a bucket full of Vin Tanners. More worthy of lying in a heap at the base of some rock formation.

The gun clicked as the hammer was eased back.

Over confident bastard.

A dirty finger curled around the smooth curved metal of the trigger.

Then a thud. No more than a dull sound.

The looming grizzled features became slack. The wad of chaw slipped from the bottom lip. Thick dark blood flowed hot on its heels in a heavy fashion.

The bounty hunter sagged to his knees and then toppled to the side.

Vin lay still and continued to stare at the sky. Voices could be heard all around him. Muffled and far away. A sense of urgency seemed to fill the area.

The tracker lay where he was, wishing he could get to Ezra, wishing that somehow he could make right the things gone wrong.

Standish was worth more than Five hundred dollars….deserved better than dying out here on Christmas Eve.

Vin shut his eyes, hoping JD got a chance to enjoy the snow before they had to go out and drag the bodies of two friends home. Maybe the others would wait until after Christmas. It was cold enough, Ezra wouldn't get too ripe. He deserved to get buried. Vin hoped Ezra's Ma would come…he needed his Ma and she needed him even though they pretended they didn't.

Tanner sighed and wondered when the pain would settle in…dying weren't nearly as painful as he thought.

As darkness quickly rolled in from the periphery of his mind, he thought he heard JD's awed voice, "Nice throwin' Nathan."

Wonder what Nathan threw? Tanner drifted away like a snow flake floating down from the sky.

And it seems to me this is one hell of a way,
For a man like me to earn that pay.


"Easy now son, yer alright," Vin wondered who Josiah spoke too. Hell did Josiah get shot too? Didn't seem right. Sanchez weren't there. Hell no, he was suppose to be saying Christmas services.

"Just lay back, son, you 'n' Vin got yourselves in a bit of bind," Again the deep soothing voice spoke from somewhere else. "That's it, easy now, lay back and let me and Buck git this bandage changed."

Vin tried desperately to force his eyes open. The lids wouldn't peel apart. He could feel his eyes rolled in his head and that just angered him more. Nothing was listening to him. He fumed in frustration.

JD's voice broke the darkness this time, "Did Vin just growl?"

"Yup," Chris's voice sounded right beside him.

Tanner struggled again. Something had to be holding him still but he could feel nothing restraining him. A groan of frustration rolled from his throat.

"Easy Vin," Chris's voice again, "got yerself shot up."

Tanner finally opened his eyes. They roved about on their own volition and his brain refused to register anything he saw. Very frustrating to say the least. He knew he was awake but nothing else agreed with him.


"Right here pard'," A hand rested on his shoulder. It anchored him. Vin rolled his head to the side and found the shadowy, blurred silhouette of Larabee.

"Ezzrra?" The name slurred from an uncooperative conscious mind.

Chris smiled letting go of a tension that had twisted his insides, "Doin' ok."


Larabee nodded again, "Nathan got the last one for ya…ya gonna be fine."

"Ezra?" Vin rolled his head to face the rest of the room. Josiah sat on the far side of the other occupied cot. Standish lay ensconced under a quilt and blanket curled on his side. "Wouldn't leave….worth more than five hundred." The quiet whisper held a note of urgency as if he were trying to convince someone of this small fact. Except there wasn't anyone that needed convincing.

"So are you pard'" Larabee gently maneuvered Tanner's gaze back, "so are you."

Tanner nodded not sure what Chris was talking about, "JD git the snow on Christmas?"

"Still coming down…should last at least until tomorrow," Larabee shook his head in wonder. Damn man nearly gets his head blown off and he's worried about JD playing in some snow?


"Tomorrow," Larabee let a genuine smile crease his features, "you ain't missed it."

"Good, 'cause Ezra picked up some neat stuff," Tanner paused and closed his eyes trying hard to fight back the exhaustion that tugged relentlessly on him, "think he plans on selling it to us at a cut price."

"Nathan already got dibs on the throwing knives," Chris chuckled out. He wouldn't put it passed the conman to try and 'sell' his presents to the receiver. Man had a twisted view of holidays.

Tanner's mind finally clicked on line just as it dimmed, "How'd ya know?"

Larabee leaned back in his chair and stared at the older man across the room. He watched as Josiah sat in vigilance over the younger gambler. Sanchez had stayed close to the gambler since finding them in the forest.

"Josiah saw crows," Chris watched as the preacher pulled a blanket up around Standish's shoulder. Gambler should have been dead. Fall should have killed him. Hell if the bullet that grazed Vin's head had been just a little more toward center…they would be burying the tracker not talking to him.


"I know pard'," Chris leaned forward and mimicked Josiah's actions pulling the blankets up around Vin's shoulders.

"Tired of running from the noose," The soft Texas twinged words held the sounds of regret and doubt, "used to be one of them…used ta hunt men down….hell of a way to earn pay…"

The resignation held an exhaustion all its own.

"You weren't never like them, Vin," The image of five unclaimed corpses in a stand of trees sprung to Larabee's mind. The dark gunslinger felt his anger boil. Chris whispered clearly and curtly , "never."

Tanner merely nodded and closed his eyes. Sleep flooded his system like a drug, dragging him down toward a dark empty abyss. "Ezra…." The whispered name, the image of a twisted body at the base of the rocks surrounded by a flash of green coat, lay burned in Tanner's mind. The gambler should have ridden out. Six has better odds than five. Didn't Standish understand the numbers? Five hundred dollars for the price of one hide….why risk two?

Ezra lay in curled under a blanket. He leaned into Sanchez's hand relishing the warmth and comfort of the touch on his forehead. The contact of someone who cared enough to sit by his side when he had nothing to offer them in terms of reward. Josiah remained close, like the rest, because they cared. Standish wondered if Vin understood that Seven was always better than six….and six would never survive without seven.

Thank the Lord for Nathan and his knives….the tea's were another matter altogether.

The End