by Rosebud

They aren't mine they belong to a lot of someone's who don't love them like we do..... Also I do this for fun and make no money from it....

The town of Cooperstown in my story has no relation to the real Cooperstown where the Baseball Hall of fame is located

I want to thank Melody and Jody for beta reading this one for me... Thanks girls I couldn't do this without you all...

Buck Wilmington wondered how such a simple job could take such a horrible turn, He, Josiah Sanchez and JD Dunne were suppose to go to a small mining town three days ride from Four Corners to find a young fella who had run away from home hoping to strike it rich at a gold camp. His Ma hadn't heard from him but one time since he left 4 months ago. She had asked Chris Larabee if'n he or one of his men could go look for her boy, it wasn't something Larabee would normally do but the woman was so upset that Mary Travis had added her pleas to that of the widow Donald. So he sent Buck, JD and Josiah to go see if they could find the boy.

Cooperstown was a small, dirty tent town that had nothing in it but dirty desperate men looking for a quick few dollars in gold.It was run by a man named William Copper, a large, cruel man who treated the folks in town like he owned them. And from what Josiah had found out most of the folks owed Copper their lives.

He controlled them like cattle and they did whatever he wanted them to do. And even worst was the folks were too afraid to go against him.There had been something about Copper that hadn't sit right with either Buck or Josiah. Buck hadn't been sure what it was about Copper that give him the shivers but he knew he didn't like the man on sight. Copper had been too interested in JD for Buck's liking. And when asked about the Donald boy Copper had gotten this look on his face that Josiah had called down right cruel and evil.

They had been there four days when Josiah had finally found an old man just outside of town who had been willing to give them any information about Copper or the Donald boy. He had also advised Josiah to take young JD and get out of town before Copper could do to him what he had done to Donald and other young men before him. But the warning come almost to late, cause while Josiah was talking to the old man, Copper had been making plans to get rid of Buck and Josiah so that he could get his hands on JD. The three of them had only made it a few miles out of town when Copper and several of his men had caught up with them. They had taken cover in the hills surrounding the town and did the best they could to kill Copper and his men. It soon became clear that the three men were out numbered and Copper would get JD once Buck and Josiah were dead.

Josiah had been wounded twice, once in the upper arm and once in the shin of his leg and Buck had taken a bullet in the arm, it was then Josiah had given Buck the order to take JD and ride like hell for Four Corners while he stayed there and tried to cover their escape. The kid hadn't wanted to leave Josiah behind but Buck knew JD wasn't unaware that if he stayed and Copper got his hands on him, then he'd wish the man had just out right killed him before it was all over, but JD wasn't thinking of himself he was worried about leaving a friend behind. Buck had forced the kid onto his horse and the two had made their way over the ridge and down to the ravine that lead away from Coppers Town.

The return trip to Four Corners should have taken three days but had only taken Buck and JD two, with JD worried about leaving Josiah behind.

Telling Chris and the others was as bad as Buck thought it would be, telling them that he and JD had left Josiah back in those foothills to cover their retreat had been one of the hardest things Buck had ever had to tell someone. Chris had thrown a holy fit, while Nathan, Vin and Ezra had given Buck that look, the one that said they were disappointed in him. It didn't help none that JD kept saying he hadn't wanted to leave Josiah but Buck had insisted and forced him to leave. Once Buck had explained to the others why Josiah and he had insisted JD get away the others had eased up on him some.

JD being JD gave no thoughts to what could happen to him only that he had left a friend behind. Oh he knew men like copper were out there and he knew what they did to young men like him was bad, but still to leave a friend behind just didn't seem right, if he had to face Copper and his evilness he would but he was determined to go get Josiah, and for Chris and the others to deal with Copper for what he had done to those other boys.

Chris told Mary Travis where they were going and asked her to wire the judge if the town needed anything while they were gone.

Nathan gathered up his medical bag and the herbs he thought he might need for Josiah, He took the time to dress Buck's arm wound and assured Buck it wasn't too bad but he wanted him to take it easy with that arm until it healed. But knowing the men he rode with as well as he did Nathan knew Buck wouldn't listen to him and would be using the arm once they got to Cooperstown.

The six were soon mounted up and headed for Cooperstown with thoughts of making Copper pay if they found Josiah dead when they arrived.

Two and a half days later the six come to the foothills outside of Cooperstown. Buck took them up into the hills where they had taken cover and then had left Josiah. Vin Tanner read the signs around the place Josiah had taken cover, He found blood and footprints other then Josiah, Buck or JD. but they found no sign of their friend. All six thought the worst, that Sanchez was dead and that meant Copper would hang for killing their friend. An hour later six men entered Cooperstown with thoughts of revenge on their minds, the town folks saw them coming and most of them made a beeline for their tents and some even left the town all together.. Chris and the others entered the saloon only to find the bartender and two old miners inside.

"We're looking for Copper, ya want to tell us where he is ?"Chris growled with the Larabee glare aimed toward the bartender.

"He's dead, been dead for three days now, far as we can tell he was killed by a wolf or maybe a pack of wolves," the bartender told Chris.

"What about the man he chased into the foothills with my friends here, what happened to him?" Vin asked.

"Don't know nothing about him, I wasn't with Copper when they went after those fellas."the bartender answered.

"Well who the hell was with him ! We need to find our friend if for no other reason then to give him a decent funeral," Ezra told the man.

"Ya might ask one of the miners, they was with Copper until a few hours before he was killed," the bartender told them.

"I don't understand, why did the miners leave Copper, I thought they followed Copper's order no matter what," JD Dunne said with a puzzled look toward Buck.

Buck could only shrug his shoulders, he wondered too why the miners had run out on Copper.

" I can answer that for ya young fella," said an old man who entered the saloon as JD asked the question.

"Well old man, tell us," Chris growled.

"Mighty hot out there today, sure could use a drink," the old man said with a grady smile at the six peace keepers.

"Give the man a drink barkeep," Vin said.

The old man took the drink from the bartender and drank it straight down then wiped his mouth with the back of his dirty hand.

Vin ordered another drink, then told the old man. "Talk!"

"Copper never was right in the head but when you three fellas got away, he became even crazier. Kept telling the miners he had to have that young black haired fella and they was to find him no matter how far they had to go to look for him.

Then when he realized one of ya was still in those foothills he insisted they find the fella and let him kill him. They searched those hills for two days but couldn't find that fella. Copper went completely crazy then, kept saying the miners must have helped the fella escape and he'd make them pay for that. Well sir the miners finally said to hell with Copper and came back into town. Then yesterday we found Coppers body when we went looking for him.Looked to me like a wolf got a hold of him and tore him up something terrible, might be the wolf got ya friend too cause we ain't seen hide nor hair of him since the three of ya rode out of town," the old man explained.

The same thought entered each of the six's mind. if Copper were dead then where was Josiah, he would have tried to contact them somehow, or even leave some sort of sign as to where they could find him. Was their friend dead, would they only find him to bury him.

"Wait a minute here, you mean to tell me ya all didn't find our friends body when ya found Copper?" Vin asked.

"That's what I'm a telling ya boys. We searched them hills for hours looking for his body but we never found em. My guess is the wolves carried the body away or maybe they ate him fore we could find his remains," the old man answered

"Ain't no way any wolf carried a man of Josiahs size off and if'n they had eaten most of him the bones would have been found."Vin said. "Well son I don't know what happened to ya friend, cause we couldn't find em and once we found Coppers body we figured it was time to get back here and get on with our mining. We ain't got the time to be looking for bones, we need to mine in order to make money. Now if'n ya fellas want ta go looking that's fine with us. We finally got out from underneath Copper and now we can make a living here in this town," the old man told the six then he walked out of the saloon.

"Chris, it don't make no sense. A wolf don't eat folks, hell most of the time they get as far away from humans as possible. Ain't sure if'n I believe the old man about Copper being killed by a wolf either," Vin expressed his feeling about the whole tale the old man told.

"Nathan, go see if you can find out what they did with Coppers body. Buck, ya and JD look around town ..see if any of the other miners will talk. Ezra why don't you see if any of the miners are interested in a game of cards, be sure and buy them all a few rounds of drinks while you're playing."Chris give the orders to his men.

"And pray tell Mr. Larabee just who will be paying for said drink?' Ezra asked.

"You will Ezra, unless you want me to shoot you," Chris growled.

"No need to get violent Mr. Larabee, I was just asking," Ezra said.

"Vin, you and me will go back up into those hills and look around as long as the light holds out. Boys meet back here at dark we'll see if any of us have found out any thing more about Copper or Josiah," Chris told his men then he strolled out the batwing doors with Vin behind him.

It was a tired ,hot, dusty Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner who joined the rest of the men at the saloon that night. Both of them had hopes that one of the other men had learned something that would help them find Josiah. Ezra Standish was sitting at a table with several of the miners, while Buck, JD and Nathan sit in the back watching the miners enjoy what pleasures they could after a hot day of mining for gold that they seldom found. Vin got two beers and joined Buck and the others while Chris spent a moment watching Ezra play poker with the miners. Once Chris had joined them, Nathan was the first to speak of his finding.

"Chris, something ain't right here in this town, When I asked where they had buried the body, I was told they burned it. So I can't tell ya all how he died or even if'n he's dead," The healer said.

"JD and I didn't find nothing out either, we spent the day talking to just about every person in this little tent town and none of them would say no more then that a wolf killed Copper," Buck Wilmington told his friends.

"Damn Vin and I didn't have much luck either. Found some tracks that could have been wolf but Vin says they look more like dog to him. Saw several spots that might have been blood but no way of telling for sure. Vin followed them as far up into the hills as he could before he ran into sheer rock walls."Chris told the men.

"What do we do now Chris?" young JD asked.

"Tomorrow we all go back into them hills and we search until we find something. As for Copper sooner or later the truth will come out and if he's alive then he goes to jail and he'll hang if not for killing Josiah then for killing the Donald boy."Chris growled.

"Ain't got no proof that he killed anyone Chris, so how do ya expect to get him convicted?" Vin wondered.

"Oh we'll find the proof somehow. once we find Josiah or his body we find out for sure if Copper is dead and if he isn't then we find the proof we need to convicted him of murder," Chris told his men.

Some hours later Ezra joined his friends after winning a few hundred off some of the wealthier miners.

After being told that none of them had any luck getting information about Copper or Josiah, Ezra then said he wasn't sure if any of the information he had was of any help in their search for Josiah or not.

"Once the miners had a few drinks they seemed willing to treat me as a friend, and I learned a lot more then I ever wanted to know about mining and their own troubles. I do have to say Mr Larabee, I did not enjoy sitting for hours with a group of foul smelling miners who have no manners what so ever and who seem to think bathing is a sin. And I most certainly did not like spending my own money buying them drinks. I will expect to be reimbursed when we return to Four Corners," Ezra said

"Yeah right," snorted Buck.

"Damn it Ezra, would ya just tell us if'n you found any thing out about Copper or Josiah," Nathan snapped.

"Mr Jackson, I just wanted to let Mr Larabee know how I felt about the assignment he give me to fulfil."

"As to weather I found any information out about Mr Copper or Mr Sanchez, will I am afraid I had no better luck then you gentlemen did," Ezra told them.

"Damn I figured for sure after a few drinks the miners would talk. And knowing drinking men one of them was bound to slip up about Copper being alive .if he is alive," Chris growled.

"Why do you think Copper is alive? Hell if that wolf didn't kill him maybe the miners did. wouldn't be the first time hard working men killed the man who was taking all their money for himself," Buck asked his partner.

"Well for one thing no body, no grave, then there's that old miner showing up here at the saloon this afternoon right after we got here. You said yourself that you and JD never saw the old man in town once when you were here with Josiah. And if Copper were dead wouldn't ya think the folks would be a might happier then they appear to be," Chris told Buck.

"I agree with Chris. Things just ain't sittin' right with me about this whole thing," Nathan agreed.

"Me either. Got a bad feeling bout this Copper fella. And those tracks I found looked more like dog then wolf to me, and how they just disappeared into that rock wall that just don't seem possible," Tanner told them all.

"Gentlemen, if I might add something to this conversation I agree with Mr.Tanner and Jackson. I feel the whole town is protecting Copper for some reason. And I think I might have an idea of what that reason would be," Ezra stated.

"Well Ez. tell us don't just stop there!" JD almost yelled.

"Well the miners after some time in my company begin to talk a little about their lives here in this town. And one name came up many times and that name was spoken in high respect by each man who talked about it Seems Coppers Town wasn't always Coppers Town. Some 5 years ago a miner named Miles found the first gold here and formed this little hamlet. He built a large cabin outside of town and had his daughter brought here to live with him. Seems the lady wasn't always in her right mind, but she was well liked and so was her father. Copper showed up here 3 years ago and old man Miles was found dead a few days later, then the cabin he built for himself and his daughter was burned to the ground. Copper took the lady in but treated her very badly. She ran off some months later and at first the miners didn't know where she had gone to. Then a year and a half ago Copper had sent for a rather large fancy dog from Africa, well as is to be expected from a man of Coppers caliber he mistreated the dog also. One night the dog came up missing, Copper had the miners help him search for the dog. Well they never found the dog but they did find out that Missy Miles had made herself a home up in the hills. Copper has used the young lady to keep the miners in line ever since. As long as they give him well over half of the gold they mine and as long as they follow his rules he leaves the lady alone up there in those hills," Ezra explained.

"Where's this girl live. maybe Copper is hold up with her hiding from us?" Chris asked the gambler.

"I highly doubt that as the lady tried more then once to kill Mr Copper. As to exactly where she lives I wasn't told," Ezra answered.

"Damn this place just keeps getting crazier and crazier all the time," said Buck.

"Buck, I want you with JD every where he goes just in case Copper is alive and planning to grab him. All of us should stay together and I think it would be best if we camped out near those hills. cause I don't trust any of the people in this town," Chris informed his men. The six made their way out of the tent saloon and out of town unaware that many of the miners watched behind tent walls as they left.

The morning found the six all still worn out and tired, none of them slept well what with worry over Josiah and wondering if Copper would send his men out to kill them and grab JD.

Vin had decided to follow the tracks of the dog/wolf again and to try to find a way around the rock wall. Maybe while they were searching for Josiah they would find Missy Miles also. She might be able to tell them something about Copper that would allow them to arrest him and bring him to trial. By noon the six hadn't found any thing useful and all of them were beginning to think they would never know for sure what happen to Josiah Sanchez.

JD had wondered off away from the other some time ago looking for a break in the rock wall that stood in front of them. He heard a growl and stopped what he was doing. Off to his left a reddish brown dog stood watching and growling at him. JD slowly backed up, trying to get back to his friends before the dog decided to have him for lunch. The dog followed as JD made his way slowly back to the guys.Buck seeing JD backing up begin to laugh, until he saw the dog following his young friend. Chris pulled his gun thinking to shoot the dog but Vin stopped him by placing a hand on his arm.Once near the six men the dog just stopped moving and remained still, watching and growling.

"Good Lord ! what the hell kind of dog grows that big?" Buck whispered.

"That gentlemen would be a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a breed of dog found in South Africa. They are normally around 85 pounds and stand 24 to 26 inches in hight. Hunters use them to hunt everything from lion to deer. This one looks much bigger then normal and I believe we have just found Mr Copper's missing dog," Ezra explained to his fellow peace keepers. " How the hell do ya know what kind of dog it is?" Nathan asked

"My dear Mr. Jackson, I have been known to join in a hunting party or two in my time. and it just so happened that at one of them I was introduced to this breed of dog by a man I was planning on making some money from," Ezra said with a smile that showed his gold tooth.

"In other words ya was going to con the poor fella outta his money," Nathan replied.

"Guys, would someone tell me what I should do before this dog eats me for lunch! " JD asked.

"I don't believe he plans on eating you Mr Dunne. If he did you would be dead by now. It appears as if he just wants us in sight and also wants us to keep away from where ever you were looking for an opening in this rock wall," Ezra answered.

"Well fellows we might as well make ourselves comfortable cause I don't think he's going to let us go anytime soon," Vin said.

The men settled slowly down to wait until the dog either give up or decided to do something to them. All of them keep their hands on their guns. Figuring that if the dog made a move toward them they would have to kill him.

About 15 minutes later the men heard a whistle and watched as a figure walked toward the dog. At first they couldn't tell if it was a man or woman, but once closer they saw a small built woman in her late 30s. She had brown hair that fell in waves down her back. She was dressed in man's clothes and wore indian moccasins.

"Good boy Sam!" the lady said.

"Lady just who the hell are you and why did you let that dog come after us!" Chris said with that famous Larabee glare directed toward the lady.

This speech seemed to have no effect on the lady as she only walked toward JD and reached out to touch his face.

"I am sorry did Sam scare you, he was only protecting me and our home. You were almost to the entrance to our little valley," she said in a soft child like voice.

"I was? JD answered with a question.

"Yes, a few more feet and you would have found the way into the rock wall and the path that leads into a little valley where I make my home," she said with a smile.

Before any of them could speak she went on

"You must be JD, Josiah said you and his other friends would be looking for him. But Sam didn't know you were friends, that's why he forced you to back away."

"Josiah, Is he alive? We been looking for him all day," JD replied in excitement.

"Alive but not feeling very well. I took out the two bullets but one of the wounds is infected and I can't seem to get it to heal. When he is awake he keeps saying you all will be coming to find him," She said.

"Ma'am who are you and what you doing out here all by yourself?" Nathan asked.

"Did I forget to tell you my name...I am so sorry. It's Missy, Missy Miles.And I live out here cause I lost my home some time ago and this seemed the safest place for me," she replies as if that was a normal statement.

"Ma'am, could ya take us to our friend?" Vin asked.

Without a word she turned and walked away. The men followed and soon came to a spot in the rock wall that had a small creak like opening. If one wasn't looking they could have passed by this opening without even knowing it. It was small so Nathan and Buck had a hard time squeezing into the opening. Once in, the crack widened and the men could walk upright, they could see a worn path leading down into a lush valley that housed a small cabin and a barn. There were cattle and horses along with a few goats and sheep eating the tall lush grass. Vin could see chickens and ducks near a waterhole some feet near the bottom of the path.

It took them several long minutes to reach the foot of the path then a long track to the cabin. Missy opened the door to allow the men to enter. Once inside they found the small looks were deceiving as the cabin was much larger inside then it looked form the outside.

A room off to the left housed a large bed and night stand, on the bed lay Josiah Sanchez. Sweat rolled off his fevered body and Nathan could see the infection on the left arm seeping pus. Nathan quickly rushed over to his old friend and started to do what he did best.. taking care of wounds and illness. He ordered Vin to boil water and told Chris to get his herbs out of his medical pack. Missy meanwhile sit down near the fireplace and watched as the men worked over their friend. Sam the dog lay at her feet and whinnied when Josiah let out a cry as Nathan placed a hot wet cloth on the infected arm. Missy hushed him and kept him from going over to the bed.

Ezra made his way over to the lady and begin to talk to her in that soft southern voice of his. "Miss Miles, it seems your Sam had taken a liking to our Mr Sanchez."

"I think so, least ways Sam has hardly left his side since we brought him here," she replied as she slowly pet the dogs head.

"Tell me Miss, how did you happen to save our friend," Ezra asked.

"Sam and me were out in the hills looking for game when we heard shooting. I knew it was probably Copper after some innocent person so Sam and I made our way down where we could see what was happening. We was in time to see that young fella and his friend ride off," Missy said as she pointed to JD and Buck.

"Leave this big fella to fight off Cooper and his men by himself. I know why they did ride off cause Copper would have hurt that young fella bad maybe even killed him if he got his hands on him. Your friend there finally ran out of bullets and he made a run for it. He tripped and Copper was on him in seconds, before I could think Sam ran to the two men and attacked Copper. While Sam kept Copper busy I helped your friend to his feet and we headed for this place. Sam let Copper go and joined us once we were away from them. I did the best I could for your friend but I guess i don't know enough about wounds to fix him up right," Missy explained with sadness in her eyes.

"My dear lady, you have done plenty for our friend and we are all very thankful you and Sam were able to keep him alive and safe from Copper. Tell me dear did Sam kill Mr. Copper?" Ezra asked.

"No, Copper was alive when Sam let him go...tore up some but alive. Cause he come looking for my place hours later. But he must have given up since we ain't see him for a couple of days now," Missy answered.

"I see," said Ezra.

Nathan and the others walked over then.

"He'll be fine, the herbs will draw the poison out of the arm and the herb drink will being the fever down in a few hours," Nathan told the men and Missy.

"When can he travel?" Chris asked.

"Not for a couple of day I reckon," Nathan answered.

"Vin, we best keep an eye on the entrance to this place in case Copper is alive and comes looking for us. And we need to find a way to get the horses in here with us or find a place to hide them in the hills," Chris told the tracker.

"Oh you don't have to worry about that, Coppers ain't found this place in year and a half and I don't reckon he'll find it now. But if'n you're real worried about it I could go back to the entrance and cover the opening with same bushes that I normally have in front of it. As for your horses I cans how ya how to bring them in from a trail at the top of the ridge above us," Missy said.

It was decided that Buck, JD and Vin would help Missy to cover the opening and bring the horses in, while Nathan and Ezra took care of Josiah and fixing something to eat. Chris would spend the time making a plan for finding Copper and getting Josiah home to Four Corners.

 + + + + + + +

Josiah Sanchez woke confused at first as to where he was and how he got there. Then memory slowly returned.. Him and Buck trying to get JD away from Cooperstown and Copper. Him making Buck and JD leave him to hold off Copper and his men while they made their escape. JD's anger at being told to leave him behind....Being shot once in the arm and once in the leg. Copper catching up to him in the hills, his thinking he'd finally find out if the Lord would let him into heaven since he was about to die. Then the sound of snarling and a reddish brown blur attacking Copper. Then a girl with long hair helping him into the hills and away from Copper. Waking to find the dog or girl beside him or the girl working on his wounds now and then. He remembered telling her, his friends would come looking for him soon. He also remembered thinking the girl was his sister Hannah and telling her how sorry he was he hadn't been there for her when she needed him. She had replied that she understood and told him to rest and get better so he could join his friends when they came to get him.

He faintly remembered opening his eyes once and seeing Nathan above him. If he had seen Nathan that meant his friends had found him and that soon he'd be feeling better and more able to get ou of this bed. He turned his head to see the dog watching him from his place on the floor beside the fireplace. The dog arose and it was then Josiah realized just how large a dog it was. He'd seen dogs like this in Africa when he was there years ago, but none of them had been this big.The dog made it's way to the bed and placed it's face on the mattress beside him, it's soulful eyes looked into his then it seemed as if the dog could sense that Josiah was going to be alright and he wagged his tail and a doggy grin seemed to enter his face. Josiah heard someone else come to the bed and looked up to see Nathan smiling at him.

"Welcome back to the living Josiah. How ya feeling?" Nathan asked.

"Like someone tried to cut off my arm," was the reply.

"No, just an infection trying to take off your arm, but I think we got that beat now..just a matter of ya healing and getting rested up some more then you'll be your old self again," Nathan told his friend.

"What happen to Copper? Last I saw of him he had a hand full of dog," Josiah said.

"We ain't sure, town folk say the dog killed him but Missy says he didn't. Once ya'll better we'll go back into Cooperstown and look for him," Nathan replied.

"What's the dog's name?" Josiah asked as the dog bumped his good arm. " I knew I would make it once I saw the dog..... You know I think it's God's way of lettin' me know he's with us."

"Sam, least that's what Missy calls him. He saved your life, him and the girl," Nathan answered.

Josiah hardly heard the last part as he fell back to sleep again. Nathan patted the dog and walked back to the main part of the cabin to tell the other's Josiah was going to be just fine.

When Josiah woke sometime later it was to see JD sitting beside the bed..he was petting the dog and seemed to be worried about something. When he realized Josiah was awake he eagerly turned to the older man and spoke. "Josiah, I'm so glad you're alive. I didn't want ta leave ya alone to face Copper. Please don't never ask me to do somethin' like that again. I knew the risk if Copper caught me but leaving ya behind wasn't the right thing to do. I wish ya'll would stop treating me like a kid and let me make my own decisions once in a while."

"JD, I just couldn't let ya stay and maybe get caught. If one of us has to die it's best if it's me, cause you ain't even begin to live life yet. And there sure wouldn't be any fun in this rag tag group of fellas if ya weren't here," Josiah answered in a soft voice.

"Well there wouldn't be no comfort in this group if'n ya weren't here, so I guess we both better stay alive," JD said with a smile.

"Alright son, I will try and not make any more decsions for ya..if you promise to never tell a stupid joke again," Josiah said with a stright face.

For just a second JD thought Josiah was serious and his smile slipped a little, then he saw the trinkle in those deep set blue eyes and knew the ex- preacher was funning with him. The two of them talked for a while longer then JD left so Josiah could get more rest.

Night time came and the six peace keepers of Four Corners set quietly and talked until late in the night. It was as if now they knew their missing friend would be alright they hated to sleep in case he needed one of them doing the night. Finally Chris insisted the others get some rest while he and Vin took first watch. He promised to wake Buck and Nathan in a few hours so they could take over while he and Vin got some much needed rest.

Day 2 at the cabin Of Missy Miles

Vin Tanner sit on a small slope and watched as the animals Missy Miles had somehow gotten into this lush green hidden valley and knew why the lady had decided to stay here instead of living in some other town. It was peaceful here and the natural beauty was breath taking. To the south was those sheer steep rock walls surrounding that end of the valley. East and North had high mountain like ranges that made it almost impossible for anyone or anything to enter this valley. If one didn't know where to look on the west side of the valley they would never see the trail made by animals traveling to this valley for water and food. The climb was hard, he,Buck and JD were plumb worn out when they got the horses inside. but Missy said they'd get use to it if'n they did it everyday.

Vin had also learned that Missy had visitors every now and then. Looked to him like a local Indian tribe came here,cause Missy had many Indian blankets and pottery along with many scared Indian artifices. Vin Tanner wasn't one to go poking into other folks business so he hadn't asked Missy about any of the things he'd noticed. Ezra on the other hand didn't mind asking questions of the lady. And once he'd seen the stream that ran into the lake he'd been so excited he almost ran back to the cabin to tell the others of his find. Seems the stream was full of gold, so much so that Ezra had been able to pick several large pieces of it right out of the stream by hand.

"Gentleman, we have found ourselves one of the richest gold deposits in history. We are going to be famous. We best hurry into the nearest town with an essayer and buy up this whole valley. We are going to be rich gentleman..filthy rich. No more working for a lousy dollar a day, no more getting shot at and abused for doing the job we were hired to do. We can do anything we want, go any where we want. My friends we have been truly blessed," Ezra exclaimed with joy.

"Ezra, in the first place this here place belongs to Missy, so that there gold is hers. And even if it weren't we don't got no right taking that gold," Buck told his excited friend.

"Miss Miles, do you know if you own this lovely little valley?" Ezra asked the lady.

"Papa found this place long before I came here. Him and me would come here every chance we got. He's the one who brought the cattle and horse in.Later he let me bring in the chickens and the ducks. then once Papa was killed I came here so Copper couldn't get me. but Papa did say this was our land and no one could ever take it away from us," Missy told them in her child like way

"Well surely you'd be willing to let seven gentleman share in your good fortune?" Ezra said.

"But Mr. Ezra we can't take any of that gold out of here. Red Hawk and his people told me so," Missy replied.

"Missy, who's Red Hawk?" Vin Tanner asked.

"Him and his people come here some times. They bring me things and keep me safe from that old miner Mad Jack. He tried to hurt me once right after I came here and Red Hawks son Silver Otter ran him off. They said that Mother Earth made this place for me cause I was a special person but that I was never to take anything out of this valley that I hadn't brought in," Missy answered.

"I thought so," Vin softly said to himself.

"You care to share what your thoughts are," Chris wanted to know.

"Most Indians think someone like Missy here is blessed. They don't consider them crazy or slow. And some tribes even feel it's lucky to have such a person in the tribe. And with what I seen so far I think this tribe had adopted this lady and no doubt even now is watching us and her," Vin explained.

Vin watched Josiah's face as he explained this. Knowing about Josiah's sister give the tracker some insight to what the ex-priest might be thinking.

"Are ya telling us that we been watched ever since we got here?" Buck asked.

"Before then if what I know about Indians is correct. And Ezra if'n I was you I'd take that there gold you got in your pocket and return it to where you found it," Vin said.

"Missy, is there anything else we should know?" Josiah asked.

"Like what Mr. Josiah?" was the reply.

"Well is there anyone else who might be watching us or someone else who knows about the gold. Does Copper know about the gold?"

"No, only ones who know about that is me and the Indians and now you fellas. Oh and Mad Jack knows but I think Red Hawk scared him so bad he'd never try to come back here," Missy said.

"Damn. that could be trouble If this Mad Jack is who I think he is then it won't take him long to get the other miners fired up enough to come here for the gold if nothing else," was what Chris told his men.

"Just who do you think this Mr. Jack is., Mr. Larabee?" Ezra questioned.

"I think Mad Jack is really Copper. I reckon he dresses up like an old miner to keep a watch on the other miners to make sure they ain't getting more gold out of the ground then they tell him they are. And it would make it a lot easier for him to find out what the miners are planning and saying about him if they think they are talking to another miner," Chris explained to the men. "I reckon then that this Mad Jack/Copper fellas will finally tell the other miners about the gold here. It 's the only way he could get them to come with him. Cause I don't think they would come here just so Copper could get JD or to kill the rest of us. But for gold those miners would do just about anything," Vin stated.

I don't reckon Mr. Copper is none to happy with Mr. Josiah either," Missy mumbled.

"Why's that?" JD wanted to know.

"Cause Mr. Josiah killed Mr. Coppers favor boy. I saw him do it when Sam and I were watching from the hill. Missy replied. I think that's why Copper didn't give up and chased Mr. Josiah as far in the hills as he did. I never seen Mr.Copper go after anyone like he did Mr. Josiah. Most of the time if Mr. Copper takes a fancy to a young fella and wants him , he'll only go after him if'n he thinks it wouldn't be too much trouble to get him. Mr. Copper ain't one who puts to much energy into doing much of anything," Missy seemed to just be rambling more to herself then to the men sitting around her.

"Well we can't do anything today. We'll keep our eyes open and watch for trouble, then tomorrow I think it would be best for us to go face Copper. It gives us the advantage if we pick the time and place."Chris said

"Chris, ain't no way Josiah will be up to a fight tomorrow, I say we leave him here with Missy, we can pick both of them up afterwards and take them home to Four Corners," Nathan told his boss.

"Nate's right Chris. Josiah is weak as a kitten and we can't just leave the girl here cause if we don't get Copper before he tells the miners about the gold, then she won't be safe alone here from now on," Buck added.

"That's true Mr. Larabee, once those miners hear of this large deposit of gold the girl won't be safe, and I highly doubt the Indians will be able to protect her against all the men who will come here looking to strike it rich," Ezra agreed with Buck.

It was finally agreed upon that Josiah and the girl would stay in the valley while Chris and the others went to deal with Copper and any of the miners who rode with him.

Evening found the men cleaning their guns and readying themselves for the fight tomorrow. Missy and Sam sit beside a sleeping Josiah and hoped that their new friends would all come back here tomorrow alive.

JD went with Ezra to return the gold to the stream. While they were there Ezra couldn't help but curse his bad luck in finding the gold only to be told he couldn't have it. JD finally got Ezra to head back to the house when he heard the sounds of horses. He looked toward the west and was shocked at the sight that met his eyes. Indians..lots of them were headed toward this little valley. JD didn't wait around to see where they would go first, he ran to the cabin to tell Chris and the other what was coming.

"Vin, come quick. there must be two dozen Indians coming down the hill!" JD shouted.

Chris and the others went outside and sure enough JD had been right. There were maybe two dozen Indians entering the valley.

"What do you think they want Vin?" asked JD.

"Can't say, but I don't think they mean us harm, since they got the medicine man with them and a couple women," Vin replied.

As Vin said this Missy finally came out of the cabin and when she saw the Indians she began to run toward a brave on a white horse that had a black star on it's forehead. It was clear the two were more then just friends as they greeted each other with a hug once the brave had dismounted.

An older brave dismounted in front of Vin and Chris.

"Buffalo hunter, I am Red Wolf and these are my people. We mean you and your friends no harm, we have only came to get the girl for she is no longer safe here. White men will come here soon and this valley will be no more. Our medicine man had a vision today and soon the rocks that have surrounded this valley for year will be gone and the trail we took to enter here will be washed away," the Indian spoke to Vin.

"My name is Vin Tanner, we was going to take the lady with us in the morning, we feel she isn't safe here either," Vin said.

"Morning will be too late, you must leave now," an old wrinkled men told Vin.

"This is Owl face, our medicine man," Red Wolf told the men.

"What's he mean tomorrow will be too late," Chris demanded to know

Before either Indian could answer a crack of thunder was heard. Then sharp lighting begin to flash off in the distance then wind begin to pick up. The animals in the valley begin run in circles in the valley. The braves soon had them all under control and headed them toward the trail on the south ridge. The woman gathered up the chickens and ducks and placed them in sacks that they then carried toward the trail also.

"What in heavens name are your people doing?" a weak Josiah asked as he come to the door of the cabin.

"We are taking the animals to safety along with the woman. All of you should leave here now if you do not wish to die here in this valley," Red Wolf answered.

"Mr. Josiah, Silver Otter says him and his people want me to come live with them, he says it isn't safe here any more," Missy said as she run toward Josiah.

"Missy you can come with us, we'll find a safe place for ya to live," Josiah said.

"Thank you Mr. Josiah but I want to go with Silver Otter and Red Wolf, they been my friends since I first got to this place and I know they'll take care of me and my animals " Missy replied then she and a few of the Indian women went inside.

Red Wolf and Owl Face watched the six white men then Owl Face spoke. "This valley will be no more when the sun returns tomorrow."

"Why?" was the question JD asked.

"Our Mother the earth is angry, white men will soon be here to take from this valley that which she does not want them to have. Mother will destroy this valley before they can take her gifts, that she left here for the special white woman's use only," Owl face answered.

"Yeah so you say but how do ya know this," Buck asked.

"My vision today showed me all I needed to know, so that my people would be able to get the white woman safely away from here," the old man answered.

As the men questioned the medicine man the storm grew in intendancy. soon rain begin to fall in torrents and lighting grew sharper while the thunder rolled in a continence rumble. Missy and the Indian women soon come out carrying what the men could only assume were Missy's belonging in sacks and baskets.

Missy stopped beside Josiah and hugged him then did the same to all the other white men there. "Good by Mr. Josiah, I'm sure glad you are going to be alright. Now you seven better get your horses and get out of here fore it's too late, cause Owl face says this valley will not be here in the morning," Then with a last wave to the seven she mounted the horse behind Otter and they headed for the trail to the south.

"Damn it Chris, ain't no way Josiah can ride outta here. Fevers gone but he's still too weak to sit a horse," Nathan said with worry.

"Brother Nate, I can ride no need for ya to be concerned about me. If'n those folks say we got to get out then we get out,cause I sure ain't staying here to die since God saw fit to let me make it this far," Josiah said.

But even JD could tell that Josiah was far too weak to sit a horse and the trail was hard for a healthy men so in his condition Josiah wouldn't make it very far.

Sam hadn't left with Missy and the dog stood beside Josiah and whinnied.

Owl face seeing the dog and hearing it's whine over the storm knew he and Red Wolf had been right in bringing the trellis with them. His vision had only shown him and Red Wolf with the trellis behind their horses, not who would be riding it to safety.

"We will get your friend out, you must follow as quickly as possible," Red Wolf told Nathan and the others.

And the storm raged on growing more violent with each passing minute. Red Wolf helped Josiah to the trills and placed many blankets over the ex-preacher. He would be wet but well covered at least. JD and Vin ran into the cabin and gathered up the few belongings they knew Josiah wouldn't want to leave behind and give them to him for safe keeping.

"We'll be right behind ya Josiah, soon as we get the horse saddled we'll get the hell out of here," Chris said.

Vin and Ezra had already went to get the horses, but they were very skiddiest with the storm raging and even Vin was having a rough time catching any of the horses. Buck soon joined his friends in trying to round up the horses while Chris and JD get their things gathered up and ready to go.

With the storm being so loud and intense and most of the men busy getting the horses, none of them were aware that Copper and the few men he could find willing to help him had somehow found their way into the valley. While Chris was busy inside the cabin , Copper had made his way to JD. JD felt an arm go around his neck and begin pulling him backwards away from the cabin he was about to enter and his friends chasing the horses. Chris come out and noticed JD wasn't where he should be, a quick look had him cussing, not only Copper but himself as well. He and the other had forgotten Copper in the danger of the storm. Now for that their young friend was in the hands of a mad man. As Chris watched Copper put a knife to JD's throat and give a wicked laugh.

"Let him go Copper!" Chris shouted.

"Sure buddy as soon as you give me that big fella and the damn dog. Then you six boys can go on home and forget you every heard of CoppersTown," Copper laughed as he spoke.

Thinking his other men would soon realize he and JD hadn't come to the fence rail where they were tying the horses, they would know something was wrong and head this way to help he and JD. But even as he thought this Coppers men come around the side of the cabin with his men ahead of them. Their guns were gone and their hands were tied.

"Now ya didn't really think I'd come here all by myself did ya Larabee," Copper said with an evil grin.

Buck seeing his young friend in the hands of Copper tried to break free of the ropes that held him captive.

"Copper, ya hurt that boy and I don't care what I got to do, I'll make sure ya fire in hell!" Buck yelled.

Copper only laughed.

Ezra seeing no other way out did the one thing he did best. "Gentlemen, I fear you are wasting time dealing with us when there is gold just laying on the ground over there near that spring and the lake in runs into," he said with a nod of his head toward the lake.

"Sure mister, that's why ya'll was leaving. Hell if'n there was gold over there ya boys would be loading up pack mules instead of trying to get out of here," one of the men holding Vin and the others said.

"Sir I can prove what I say is true, just reach into my coat pocket, you'll find a nugget as big as a chicken egg in there," Ezra replied.

The man did as Ezra told him to and found himself holding a nugget get of gold as large as an egg. The greedy men who came with Copper saw the gold and thoughts of helping Copper kill any of those law men left their minds in an instant. They mumbled among themselves for several minutes then took Vin, Buck, Ezra and Nathan over to the hitching post in front of the cabin and tied them there. One of them took Chris guns and tied him to his friends.

"Copper ya do what ever ya want, me and the boys is going to go get us that gold while it's still here. Those fellas won't give ya no trouble," one of the men said as he and his friends headed toward the lake.

"GET BACK HERE YOU FOOLS!" Copper yelled but the men keep walking.

"Looks like ya men deserted ya there Copper, what ya going to do now. I don't think ya got what it takes to kill six men all by yourself," Buck said.

"SHUT UP ! I got this boy here and if any of ya make a move I'll slice his throat," Copper shouted. As he slowly made his way around the men tied to the post and backing toward what he hoped was the way he came in. In this down pour he couldn't be sure what way was what.

Lighting struck the ground near the lake and Copper shouted a warning to his men. "GET AWAY FROM THAT WATER YOU FOOLS ! WAIT UNTIL THIS STORM PASSES OR YOU'LL BE KILLED WHEN LIGHTING HITS THAT WATER !"

His men either didn't hear him or chose to disregard his advice, as they had gotten close enough now to see the gold laying in the water. All of them rushed into the water and bent down to grab handfuls of gold and rocks. Once more lighting struck near the water, still the men paid no attention. As Chris, his men and Copper watched a third bolt of lighting struck, only this time it hit right in the water. Then men in the water never knew what hit them as they were killed as soon as the lighting hit the water. As if that had been a signal lighting begin to strike every few seconds, hitting the rock walls with enough force to chip large chucks off the rock. At the same time the wind begin to howls sounding like a pack of wild dogs gone mad. Chris and the others were forced to cover their eyes to keep from getting dirt in them. Copper too was forced to release his hand holding the knife to JD"s throat. As if it had waited for only that action, Sam the dog came running from behind the cabin and headed for Copper. Copper was forced to release JD completely and the dog snapped and snarled at Copper forcing him back toward the rock wall. JD rushed to his friends and untied them. Once they had their guns back Buck and Chris headed after Copper and the dog, only to be stopped by Vin.


Chris knowing Vin was right but hating to let Copper escape ,he grabbed Buck and they ran to their horses. As the six men headed for the south trail they could hear the dog over the storm. If they tried hard enough they could make out Copper being forced back to the wall. Once to the top of the ridge of the south trail they turned to see what was happening with Copper. It was hard to see thru the down pour of rain and with the wind blowing like it was but finally JD spotted Copper and the dog. Even as they watched the dog turned and ran away from Copper. Copper thinking he was safe took a step toward the cabin, only to be crushed by a slab of rock wall as lighting hit the wall and broke the slab off. As one piece after another fell the six peace keepers watched from the ridge. Lighting flashed and hit with such force that the whole rock wall begin to shake. Chris and the others could feel the earth tremble as the thunder and lighting intensified.

Sam soon joined them on the ridge and it was plan to see he wanted the men to ride on down the trail. he barked and nipped at the horses to make them go down the trail ahead of him. The men knowing it would be wish to get away from the valley let Sam guide them down the trail. Waiting at the bottom of the trail was Josiah and the two Indians.

"The white men who wanted the gold, they are dead are they not?" was the first thing Owl face asked when the men reached them.

"Yep, they are," Vin answered.

"Good," Owl face said.

"We will leave you now. And do not worry about the girl, she will always be safe with us," Red Wolf told them. Then without another word the two rode away. Sam took the time to go to Josiah and lick his face a few times as he softly whinnied. then he too ran off to follow the Indians.

"Let's go home brothers, I don't know about the rest of you but I sure could use some rest," Josiah said to his friends.

And as the morning dawn entered the sky the seven peace keepers rode toward Four Corners, toward home.

The End.

Feedback welcome at