Part 14. Love don't come easy for me

So Vin and Moon spent some more time together. They rested for the first day then Moon started busying herself round the cabin. Vin found some fences that needed repaired and the barn roof had leaked for a long time. Each night Moon would prepare food for them both. In the afternoons they would take a ride together and Vin would show her new places and they’d hunt.

‘I saw ya’ shoot the horse on the trail but can ya shoot over a distance?’ Vin asked one day when they were out. Moon shrugged. She’d never tried. She watched closely as he showed her how to hold a pistol and fire it at some cans on a branch. She tried and after a few misses began getting the hang of it.

She picked up her bow and arrow and handed it to him. He had used one before. He expertly mounted an arrow in the string pulled easily back and shot at a tree. He looked at her and she was nodding her head in approval. She saw him looking and for a moment there was an understanding and admiration – they knew the tools of their trade and could use them equally well.

The way you looked at me tonight
I’ve never seen that look in your eyes before
But then again
I don’t think I’ve ever looked
Had the time to spare
The will to share with you.

What have I missed?
What have I done?
I’m gonna turn back the tide
Like it’s just begun

Time changes everything
After all we’ve been through
Love don’t come easy for me.

The way you looked into my eyes
I could see the hurt, I saw through your disguise
Just give me time
I’ll make it up to you
Let me heal the pain
I’m scared of losing you

What have I missed?
Where have I gone wrong?
If I could turn back the time
So we’ve just begun

Time changes everything
After all we’ve been through
Love don’t come easy to me


The boys arrived back in town a week later. Vin and Moon came into town for supplies and to see if they were back. Moon was in the livery. They’d brought the mare back with them and she was checking him out and reacquainting herself with her. Vin went off to see his friends.

As she came out of the livery later she saw something that made her step back into the building and back out of sight. THEM! The pinto was unmistakable! Will had ridden it. It had a black diamond shape on it’s hind quarters and she recognised it straight away. Wanting to run now she looked for a way out of town but didn’t dare in case they saw her. Down the street she saw Vin approaching. She saddled their horses and brought them out to him walking between them out of sight of anyone. One person was watching though. Yosemite, who ran the livery saw he stop at the door and step back. Something had spooked her. He looked around but saw nothing unusual in the town and thought no more about it.

As Vin approached the livery he saw the worried look on her face and misunderstood. ‘They’re all OK! They’re comin’ out later. Better get back and get some food ready.’ He’d noticed the change in her but took it to be concern about them. She was uneasy as they got out of town. Perhaps it was bein’ in town among people again, he thought.

The two men in the saloon were watching at the window. They had been sitting there all day, just watching. Inez had served them a few beers and they’d sat at the window. She took no notice of them.

They took in the man who came in, dressed in fine clothes that had gathered a lot of dust. He was complaining about being stiff and sore. The Mexican woman behind the bar greeted him by pouring a whisky – they took him to be the owner and paid him no heed.

They’d noticed the dapper man had arrived back with 5 others. They had all gone in different directions. The one with the moustache had gone to the bath-house. The one in black had headed for the newspaper office and had spoken to the woman there. There was a younger one – he went straight to the sheriffs office and the big man had gone to the ram-shacked church at the end of town. All this they took in as well as the man loading his wagon at the general store, the well dressed man getting a hair cut, a young long-haired man greeting the man in black at the newspaper office. the steady flow of people walking past the window. They saw it all but took no notice – they were looking for one particular person.

Their patience was rewarded. The long-haired man strode across the street to the livery. He met someone there and they rode out of town.

‘Well looky here!’said the bald one to the other.

‘What?’ the other turned to see where his friend had been staring and looked out. ‘It’s her!’ he whispered. ‘Come on, we’ll follow them, see where they go!’

At that the two men finished their drinks and left. Inez watched them go and walked out from behind the bar to collect the glasses. ‘Must be passing through.’ She thought.

They all come out to the cabin. All seven were there now. She’d seen them arrive and straight away went to serve up a big pot of stew.

They were all hungry and sat talking about the events on the trail.

‘After you left the wagon train moved out and got to their land. No-one talked to the Brady’s all the way there and last I saw they were headed off on their own.’ Josiah explained shovelling another forkful of stew into his mouth. ‘Mighty fine stew, Ma’am. I missed your cooking.’ She barely heard him and seemed more distant than he’d seen her.

‘That woman had the devil in her’ said Buck, ‘Sorry Josiah but she did!’

‘You’re right there son.’ Josiah turned back to the conversation.

‘Sure am glad I ain’t married’ Buck said, ‘She always called him ‘Dan Brady’ ya notice. ‘Dan Brady this, Dan Brady that.’

Ezra added, laughing, ‘Can you imagine in all your musings – Buck Wilmington fetch the water. Buck Wilmington saddle that horse. Buck Wilmington….’

Buck shuddered. The night wore on.

As they talked on into the night Moon, slipped out. Chris saw Moon leave but his attention was drawn to Ezra as he described how he’d finally managed to convince some of the travellers to part with their money one night.

She’d thought about it all day. She didn’t want to leave. She’d rather stay here with these men. Oh they would look out for her but Will and Burt were no good thugs and would shoot first and ask questions later. She didn’t want any of these men to get hurt. If they came out looking for her she was sure that would happen. Worse of all was the thought that Vin would get hurt. She can’t let that happen. She wanted to stay but had to get away.

She saw they were all content after the food, they sat back now joking and laughing. A quick glance back to put this picture in her memory and she slipped out into the night.

Taking the mare would be quicker but she might need to hide and the mare would be seen easier. She walked into the darkness and disappeared.

‘How’s Moon been Vin?’ asked Josiah.

‘Quiet’ he said. ‘Ain’t said nothin’.’ Vin said dreamily, his eyes distant. He was thinking now about how she’d been all day since they got back from town. If it was possible, she’d been quieter than before. Oh she’d still not said anything but, she had hardly looked at him all day. He’d talked to her and she’d heard but not looked at him. Once he caught her staring at him as if she was trying to hold an image of him.

Ezra looked at him and said, ‘Do I detect a note of wistful longing in our young tracker. What d’y’all say fellas?’

‘I do declare I think our young friend is in love,’ Vin blushed and looked round to see how Moon had taken that last remark from Buck. She wasn’t there.

They had changed the subject and were talking about the judge. His toothache was so bad he’d come to find Nathan who had to take it out.

‘He was hollerin’ so bad I heard him down at the livery!’

Vin slipped outside to look for Moon. He’d grabbed a lamp to see better and was peering into the darkness now. Nothing. He went over to the barn and found all the horses chomping on the hay. Peso looked up at him as he entered then went back to eating. No sign of her. He doused the flame in the lamp – he worked better using his sense. Right now the hair on the back of his neck was standing up and he began to feel uneasy. He strained to hear and see, using everything he had ever learned.

Getting worried now he checked around looking for a sign of where she might have gone. He saw her tracks all around the cabin but knew which were the most recent.

He followed them at a trot. He heard first the voices and then saw some people moving around down by the stream. He began to run. Moon is in trouble and he had to get to her!

He put his hand instinctively to his hip but he’d taken off his gunbelt and it was back at the cabin! Damn! They had all been so relaxed at the cabin that he had taken it off. Still he ran forward and took in the scene. Two men were holding Moon and she was trying to get away from them. One had one arm round her waist and his hand over her mouth. The other had some rope and was trying to tie her up.

On hearing him coming one of them turned and fired. Vin saw it coming and he veered off to the left but he was not fast enough for the bullet to miss. It hit him in the head and he fell. He felt the bullet strike him and thought, ‘No…….. Moon……’ All went black and his last thought was of her face, scared, frantic, as she struggled to get away. As he fell he heard a scream, ‘Vin!’ It was her!

It was sheer chance they’d found her as she tried to get away from the cabin. She was running and then she was held in a vice like grip. Will growled in her ear as he held her, ‘Well well, what do we have here. Thought you’d got away, huh?’

Panic filled her but she fought it in the hope they would just take her and leave. She couldn’t let them know about the men in the cabin. But they began tying her hands and it was too much. Her fear made her cry out and try to push them away. Then she saw Vin coming. She opened her mouth to shout a warning but Will had clamped his hand over her mouth and Burt had seen him and drawn his gun and fired. She saw Vin fall dead and screamed his name. ‘Vin!’

All hope was gone in that instant. Burt kept her mouth covered with his beefy hand and she simply gave in. He stuffed some cloth in her mouth and wrapped his bandana over it.

There was nothing to live for now. She would go with them and take it and maybe they’d kill her and all the hurt would go. Will bundled her up and shoved her roughly into the wagon. She lay there breathing hard still stunned replaying the last sight she’d had of Vin. Running towards her reaching for a gun that was not there and then his head spinning round as the bullet hit him. They’d left him lying there, unmoving, dead.

The wagon moved off into the dark. Moon closed her eyes and cried. Burt was watching her and said, ‘Lover boy’s gone now. Yer’re goin back with us and we’re gonna collect this time.’ He kicked her and she just laid there, not making a sound. This riled him so he kicked her again and again. His boot landed heavily all over her body trying to get a reaction but she just lay there accepting her fate. Finally he got tired of the game and sat back.

Part 15. ‘Where’s Vin?’

The sound of a shot somewhere far out. ‘Did you hear that?’ Josiah said to the others.

They were all up on their feet and heading for the door. ‘Where’s Vin?’ said Chris.

Guns drawn they exited the cabin and, not wanting to be silhouetted against the light, turned so they stood either side of the door. They’d make a fine target in the doorway if there was anyone out there waiting, taking aim.

Nothing. They all strained to listen. Still nothing.

‘What d’ya think Chris?’ asked JD.

‘Spread out!’ a voice from the dark, ‘and keep yer eyes open!’

They searched in the dark and it was Ezra who found him first. ‘Over here, Nathan, hurry, Vin’s been hit!’

The rest followed his voice and came running.

Nathan knelt down and examined Vin. ‘Can’t see here, get him up to the cabin into the light!’ Nathan and JD carried Vin back. The others fanned out, guns drawn and listening but whoever had shot their friend had gone. There was no sign of Moon either. ‘D’ya think she….?’

‘No! She wouldn’t…..’ answered Chris, certain that it hadn’t been Moon.

There was so much blood over Vin’s head as Nathan examined him. He was breathing so still alive, the bullet had creased him just above the right eye and was bleeding bad like head wounds do. Nathan pressed a cloth hard to Vin’s head but the tracker lay still, unconscious breathing steadily. Probably concussion.

‘You bastards!’ JD was at the cabin door shouting into the night. ‘If only we’d found him quicker we might have seen whoever it was had shot Vin and taken Moon.’

‘Hey,’ he turned now, ‘do you think it could’ve been the people she’s been running from?’

‘Our astute young sheriff could just have a point, Chris, but I fear Mr Tanner is not going to be in any fit condition to tell us for a while.’ said Ezra.

‘Ezra’s right,’ said Nathan as he stood up eyeing his friends, ‘There’s no way of knowing how long he is gonna be out.’

‘We’ve got to do something!’ shouted JD desperately looking round for confirmation. ‘I’m gonna follow ‘em!’

Chris grabbed his arm as JD turned to leave. Holding him back he said, ‘I know Vin’s been teachin’ ya to track but you ain’t ready to go out in the dark. You can’t see to follow.’ He almost added, ‘I really wish you could track in the dark.’ but there was no sense making the young man feel worse. Any time lost now would be hard to make up. By morning, they….whoever they were…..would have a nine hour start on them. That was, if Vin came to by morning.

JD knew it made sense but he had to do something. Frustration welled up and he shot back, ‘Well we can’t just sit here!’

‘Yer right! Buck! You and JD go into town and ask around. See if there’s bin anyone new in town askin’ questions!’

‘C’mon JD!’ They lit out of the cabin into the dark glad to be doing something, and Chris heard their horses galloping off.

He turned now to Josiah, ‘Pray to God he’ll come round soon and tell us what happened.’

‘That I will. That I will. Chris.’ Josiah turned to a page in his bible and sat down. Chris saw him mouthing the words he read silently, eyes closed praying. Nathan tended to Vin, stitching the head wound.

Part 16. The chase

Buck and JD returned a few hours later. Inez had told her that two men had come into the saloon that afternoon. They’d sat by the window watching the street. She’d served them a few beers and they’d taken an interest in the people going by. She said she thought it odd that they’d gone outside suddenly watching Vin and Moon as they’d left the saloon but thought no more about it. People usually were surprised to see Moon with Vin.

Yosemite had also seen some strangers in town. He’d stabled their horses. They had three horses. Two were for pulling a wagon, the other was distinctive – a pinto with a black diamond marking on it’s rump. They’d left soon after Moon and Vin but had gone the other way.

‘Think it was them?’

‘Looks like’ said Chris. ‘They’re smart if it is them. Must’ve gone round the town and followed them here. You got a description?’

‘Yeh. The one riding the pinto has a bald head. The other has a long beard. That was all they’d remembered. Not much to go on.’

Nate! Anything?’

‘No he’s still out!’ Chris was itching to get out and find these men.

Just before first light Vin stirred. He groaned as he tried to sit up. Remembering suddenly, he sat up, ‘Moon!’ Then he fell back on the bed as his head threatened to bust open. ‘Ouch!’ His eyes screwed up in agony.

Nathan said, ‘Easy Vin, you bin shot in the head.’

‘What happened, Vin?’

‘Two, maybe more, I didn’t see….they took Moon. Oh God Chris…..they took her.’ He tried to sit up again. The pain was bad but he wanted to get up and find her. ‘Gotta find her!’

‘Whoa boy, you ain’t in no fit state to go anywhere.’ This from Nathan.

‘Don’t stand in my way.’ Vin stood up, Chris agreed with Nathan but he knew he was not going to be able to stop his friend.

‘Steady Pard, you ain’t gonna make it on yer own.’ Chris caught him as Vin almost fell back again. Vin looked into his friends eyes. He understood Vin’s need to get going.

The room spun and his vision was blurred. Clearing slowly he looked round at the others. ‘OK, we goin’ or standing here!’

‘Chris, he is in no fit state to be goin’ out there.’ Nathan protested.

Chris looked back at him. His eyes said, ‘I know but do you want to try and stop him.’

‘We’re with ya son.’ said Josiah.

Ezra helped Vin by saddling his horse and bringing Peso out to where he was standing leaning by the door of the barn holding his head. ‘You gonna make it?’

‘I have to!’ Vin said as he climbed up. The seven rode out, seven men, one mission.

Vin’s vision was blurred and at first he had difficulty finding the tracks. The wagon had a chip out of one of the wheels and that made it easier. He didn’t think they knew they would be followed. They thought he was dead so they made no attempt to cover their tracks.

The kidnappers had an eight hour start on them. It took almost all day before they caught sight of them. They’d ridden hard, pushing their horses on after Vin who was following the trail. Every now and then he would stop, dismount and check the tracks. None of the seven entertained any thought of stopping, they all wanted to keep pressing on.

As they rounded the top of a hill late afternoon, Chris stopped and held his hand up to stop the others. They gathered round him and looked out over the valley before them. In the distance they could make out the dust from something moving fast.

‘That them?’ Chris looked over to Vin.

Vin was already pushing Peso on, ‘Yeh, that’s them for sure.’

They all followed him down the hill. Racing across the valley Josiah thought to himself, ‘I wouldn’t want to be them when we catch them.’

The wagon had stopped in the late morning and Moon was dragged out and her gag removed. She coughed still suffering from the cold she’d got from the river. Will added a rope to her bonds round her hands and tied the other end to the back of the wagon and she was pulled along behind. ‘Don’t think yer getting’ a free ride!’ A kick in the back sent her flying to the ground. As before she didn’t make a sound. Will was getting fed up with this. He rode beside her and kicked her when she stumbled or started dragging her heels.

It was getting late in the day. In the distance they saw an abandoned mine. They’d pushed hard since catching the woman and now the horses were sweating. ‘We’ll stop there and rest the horses.’

With a yank on the rope Moon walked on behind the wagon. Will planted his boot in her back and then laughed.

The seven men stopped a long way back from the wagon and surveyed the scene from the cover of some bushes, there was open ground between them and Moon’s kidnappers as they seemed to be heading for the mine. ‘No way to tell how many there are.’ Chris had borrowed Vin’s eyeglass and was looking though it. Vin’s head still throbbed and he could only focus a short time.

‘I only saw two but there could be more.’ he said.

‘I reckon they are goin’ to stop at that shack there. OK we’ll spread out and come at them from different directions. The cliff behind the shack means we can’t get to them from behind. Buck!’


‘You and JD come at them from the right. Circle round far out so they don’t see you. We’ll wait an hour then move in.’

‘Already there boss!’ and they were gone.

‘Josiah! You and Nathan go left.’ They too left.

That meant he had Ezra with him in case Vin didn’t make it. There would be an extra gun if he needed it. If Vin couldn’t make it. He looked over at him now. There was a determined look on his face but he could see Vin’s head was still hurting him – he kept blinking his eyes to clear his sight.

The hour dragged on. Chris could see it was driving Vin mad to wait. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. ‘We’ll get her back Vin.’

Part 17. The challenge

The going was hard as Buck and JD made their way round. Just out of sight of the mine all the time. They had to double back a few time as they came up to ground the horses couldn’t cover.

‘We’re getting behind, JD. Chris is going to be pushing his way in before we get there.’ Buck was desperate now.

He was right. Ezra checked his watch. ‘Time Chris!’

‘Let’s go then.’ Vin was on his horse first and moving.

They rode over the open ground fast. Chris caught sight of Josiah and Nathan riding in on his left but there was no sign of JD and Buck. Damn! No use stopping now, press on.

The two men had unloaded the wagon and unsaddled the pinto. Burt was unhitching the horses from the wagon and Will was dragging Moon over to a hitching post as the five men rode up. They heard horses approaching and looked up, they hadn’t expected to be followed – they thought they were alone, so far from any town.

Will let go of the rope holding Moon and dived under the wagon. Burt shouted at the horses scattering them and ran to a rock nearby drawing his gun as he hit the ground. As he landed he saw two men riding in from one side. Looking the other way he saw two more coming at them but farther away.

They were poised now guns at the ready aimed at the riders.

Chris and Ezra spread out one either side of Vin who was intent on riding straight into the middle of the mine camp. ‘Vin, look out!’ Chris shouted as he saw what he was doing.

Vin wasn’t listening, he kicked Peso on and the horse ran straight into a hail of bullets from Will and Burt. Peso tripped in a rabbit hole and Vin flew over the horse’s head.

From where Will had left her, Moon looked wearily up. She thought she was dreaming. The men on the horses were familiar and the one in the centre was Vin! She saw him now riding forward straight at her. Then she saw Peso fall and he was thrown to the ground.

Without thought now she ran forward, her body was aching, she was dog-tired and she ran awkwardly as her hands were still tied. A gun fired behind her and she threw herself at Vin just as he was getting to his feet, mare’s leg drawn ready to fire back. He saw her and in that instant another shot was fired. ‘Vin!’

‘Moon, No!’ She was in front of him. She knew he was the closest to Will and Burt. They’d go for him first. She ran in the way of the next shot and it hit her in the back. She fell into Vin knocking him backwards and saving his life.

He dropped his gun and rolled over her pulling her behind an old horse trough. He covered her with his own body. Bullets span into it and round it. He trusted his friends to be covering his back. Then there was gunfire from behind him. It was Chris and the others who’d come from all sides and were firing as they rode at the two kidnappers. Buck and JD, late, had made up time and they were riding in behind the two hiding men.

So much gunfire filled the air but Vin couldn’t hear it. He was cradling Moon in his arms rocking her. ‘No No No! Not now. Not now that I’ve found you! Don’t go Moon.’

As quick as it began it was over. Chris and Ezra had ridden on into the camp and they each took one of them out with a single shot. Burt and Will were dead. Chris and Josiah stopped their horses. They checked their bodies but they were dead. Buck and JD checked out the wagon and found it empty. ‘No more. We got ‘em all, Chris.’ he shouted over.

‘Nathan!’ Vin screamed, ‘Nathan! Help me!’

Nathan moved fast and skidded in a dust ball landing at Vin’s side.

‘Chris! Get my bag!’

Nathan peeled Vin’s hands from Moon. Vin didn’t want to let go.

‘Vin! Let me see!’

He turned her over and found the wound in her back. She was alive but only just. Her breathing was difficult, painful. He covered the wound with his hand to try to stop the bleeding until Chris arrived with his bag. He reached in and pulled out a cloth. Placing it on the wound he pressed hard. He turned her on her side and looked. He found no exit wound. ‘Bullet’s still in there!’ He turned her again, laying her down gently.

‘Get a fire going, quick.’

All but Vin moved, gathering wood and getting water, busying themselves but watching as the healer worked on Moon. Vin sat watching Nathan.

‘You gotta’ save her Nate, please.’ He pleaded.

‘You know I’ll do my best, Vin, but it looks bad.’ Vin buried his head in his hands.

‘I can’t lose her now!’

‘I know. I know.’

A fire was lit. Water boiled in a pan. The seven looked on. Not moving his hand from the wound Nathan cut the shirt from hem to collar to expose her back. Vin gasped at the sight. Her back was covered in fresh bruises. It was those two men she’d been running from. They’d done this to her before.

Vin rose and gun in hand in four strides he stood over Will’s dead body and fired twice. ‘You bastard!’

Chris went up behind him. ‘Vin! They’re dead. You can’t kill ‘em any more than they are now.’

‘Watch me!’ He glared back at Chris and went over the Burt’s body now and fired again. He looked up. ‘God help me!’

Josiah walked over and laid his hand on Vin’s shoulder. ‘He will, son.’

Vin dropped to his knees by Nathan again and his shoulders shook with all the emotion.

Nathan continued to work on the wound in Moon’s back. He took out the bullet extractor now and bathed it in the hot water. It was lodged deep and had bust a couple of ribs but thankfully had not reached her lungs. It was a miracle. A couple of inches to either side and she would be dead for sure. It was still bad and he didn’t hold out much hope. All this he kept to himself. No need to share it with the others especially Vin.

‘Got it!’ He pulled out the tool and gripped on the end was the bullet. He threw them both away as more blood oozed form the wound. He pressed another cloth and it was soon covered in blood. ‘Yer, knife, Buck, gimme yer knife, quick!’

Buck passed his knife to Nathan.

Nathan held the knife in the flames until it glowed then removing the cloth pressed the knife into the wound. The flesh burned, Moon stirred and moaned, trying to move. Chris and Buck were nearest and held her shoulders. It worked. The blood flow stopped significantly, he poured carbolic into the wound and placed a clean cloth on it.

He wrapped a bandage round her ribcage tightly. There was a thick pad over the wound.

‘Keep her flat,’ then, turning to Vin, ‘and don’t move her.’ Sweat was running down his face and into his eyes. He looked up at Vin who was searching his face. ‘We’ll know in a few hours. We gotta wait. I’ve cleaned it out but there’s no way of telling how she’ll heal. We know she’s strong but that hit hard and deep. She’s bin’ pulled behind that wagon a ways, she’s worn out. If it’s gonna happen the fever’ll hit her before mornin’. I don’t want to move her before then.’

So they watched and waited. Chris sat by the tracker silently. Vin was still seething. ‘That bullet was meant for me, Chris!’ he said desperately. ‘I should be there not her.’

‘And more’n likely you’d be dead and I’d hate that, pard!

‘It ain’t right, Chris, it just ain’t right.’

Part 18. Bridget Bookman

Night fell. It seemed to Vin like an age had passed since they’d arrived here. Josiah, Buck and JD had buried the two men. Josiah reluctantly said a few words over the graves and left them.

Vin did not leave Moon’s side. Nathan checked her often and then moved back to where Chris was sitting.

‘He’s hurting Chris.’

‘I know. I’ll talk to him.’ With that he moved over and joined his friend.


‘Chris……..I love her!’

He’d suspected this for a while but to hear it from Vin …that was a surprise. ‘Nathan is doin’ his best. Try talk’ to her, maybe if she hears yer’ voice….’

So he did. He talked endlessly, quietly, the others kept their distance, this was private.

Ezra had moved off and was searching gear and the wagon. It was a chuck wagon, usually used on long cattle drives. It was full of the makings of a camp. These two had intended a long trip. He came across a little bit of money, a few dollars no more. There were few papers to give him any clue about the men. Cowboys, he thought, not carrying much. He found a slip of paper. ‘Hah,’ he said suddenly causing the others to turn sharply, ‘this might be something!’

He climbed down from the wagon with the paper in his hand.

‘Read it out,’ said Buck.

Ezra read the ad. The others looked on questioning.

‘Don’t you see? These two guys thought they could take Moon back east and collect the reward. That was why they were so anxious to get her back.’

‘So ya’ reckon,’ said Chris picking up the plot, ‘these two saw the ad, found Moon and thought she is this…..‘Bridget Bookman’ and took her to collect the reward.’

‘Yep. She must have got away from them somewhere on the trail, found her way to your cabin and…’

Josiah was picking up the thread now, ‘…..and we know she was running from someone, now we know who that someone was.’

‘…and we know what they did to her….’ Chris added finally.

‘Do we?’ said Vin. The others heard this and fell silent again each not wanting to consider this.

‘Chris, why would someone post an ad like this?’ asked JD.

‘Good question young man and one which will require some investigating.’ said Ezra. ‘Maybe the bright intellectual lady Chris has taken a shining to can help us with that enigma.’

‘Ezra, you go back to town and take JD, he should get back anyway, ask Mary if she can find out where this came from. If those two thought she fits the ad then maybe someone is still looking. No point in us all staying here, Buck, Josiah you go too.’

‘We need to find out first if she wants to be found.’ Josiah offered. No-one had thought of that. He had almost added ‘if she comes round.’. But didn’t. He’d been watching Vin’s desperation and hoped Moon would survive. He’d seen how bad she was and, while he prayed and had faith, he was not sure his belief would be strong enough. ‘If I could atone for my sins here where we stand, Lord, would it help save the life of one of your flock?’

Chris took Josiah to one side and said quietly and asked him to pray as hard as he could. ‘God will take care of them’ Josiah had said confidently. Chris looked at him.

‘If you was God and you looked down on them what would you do?’ he nodded in the direction of Vin sitting with Moon. ‘All the good he’s done, God knows about. He will help.’

The preachers unbending faith amazed him at times but he couldn’t help himself now, he believed Josiah. ‘Let’s get her better and find out what this is all about and then we can decide what to do.’

Part 19. Kill or cure

So Chris, Nathan and Vin stayed with Moon watching the others leave early next morning.

As Nathan predicted, the fever came over Moon in the night. It raged within her and she wrestled against it. Vin stayed by her side refusing to rest. He wanted her to fight and come back to him. He held her hand, wiped her face with a cool cloth all night and into the next day.

The sun came up and the fever was worse. She was so weak now and the fight was leaving her. Vin jumped up suddenly and grabbed Nathan’s shirt pushing him back against the wagon. ‘Do something Nate, do something! I’m losing her! Please!’

Chris pulled Vin off Nathan. ‘Hey, Vin, stop it! Beatin’ up on your friends won’t help her.’ Chris hated seeing Vin like this. His friend was going through each and every painful step with Moon and it was too much for him to take.

‘Nate, is there anything else we can do?’ They both looked at him in desperation.

‘There’s one thing.’

‘What? Tell me, Nathan. Whatever it takes, we’ll do it!’ Vin said, his voice full of hope.

‘It’s what they call ‘Kill or Cure’.’

‘I don’t like the sound of it. D’ya think it’ll work? What do we do?’

‘Well, first we put her in real cold water a whiles, then wrap her up in blankets. It puts the body into shock and….’ he paused, ‘…….either kills or cures.’

Vin was shaking his head. ‘No, it sounds too risky. No!’

Chris was sceptical. ‘Ya’ ever hear of it work?’

‘Some. The army doc that taught me said it was what he’d used as a last resort when everything he’d tried failed.’ Nathan turned to Vin. ‘It’s your decision, Vin.’

‘I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW!’ He felt helpless, out of control and fought against the feeling, trying to think.

‘Then we try it!’ said Chris. Vin just nodded. He was glad to have the responsibility taken away from him. Chris just hoped it would work. Vin was no good as he was.

‘OK. Let’s put her in the wagon and get her to the river.’

They made a litter from some props and a blanket. Gently they carried her onto the wagon and hitched up the horses. Their horses tied at the back, they headed for the river. Chris drove the horses while Vin and Nathan rode in back with her. They’d made her as comfortable as they could, propped her up with blankets and pillows they’d found inside, trying to stop the motion of the wagon causing her any pain. She was so deeply unconscious that she’d not stirred as they did so.

When they got to the river they unloaded the woman carefully and eased her into the water. Vin held her there until the cold chilled his bones. ‘Is that enough?’ he looked up at the black healer.

‘It’ll do.’ He replied but had no idea.

A fire had been lit and they took off her wet clothes quickly, Nathan replaced the bandages and wrapped her up in woollen blankets. She was so weak she couldn’t even shiver.

Vin cradled her in his arms and rocked to and fro, to and fro, stroking her face and hair. Chris and Nathan dozed in the late morning sun. Exhausted Vin too fell asleep, he’d been awake two days and his head hurt again. He dreamed she was looking up at him saying his name over and over. ‘Vin?’


‘Vin? She’s awake, Vin!’ As he roused, he heard it was Nathan’s voice. ‘She’s awake!’

He looked up into the healers face and then down into the blue eyes staring up at him. The fever was gone, she was ashen, there were dark rings round her eyes and she was lying in his arms searching his face. ‘I thought you’d gone!’

‘Me too!’ she whispered back. He voice merely a croak, her throat dry. ‘Thirsty!’ she said.

Of the two others, Nathan was the first to react he poured some water in a tin cup and pressed it to her lips. She drank a little then coughed. This made her groan painfully as she felt the agony in her back.

‘Take it easy, small sips for now! Chris close yer’ mouth.’

Chris had indeed been standing watching open mouthed in surprise at hearing her speak for the first time. He snapped his jaws shut.

‘She always could speak. Just had nothing to say is all.’ smiled Vin looking back at her. ‘Welcome back, Moon.’ Then he hugged her until she groaned at him to stop.

‘Burt and Will?’ she croaked.

‘The two bastards that did this? Dead.’

She breathed out relieved to hear it. She reached a hand up and touched the bandage round his head. ‘Just creased me.’ He said. ‘Take more’n that to kill me.’ He smiled and she smiled back.

‘They won’t hurt you again.’ She closed her eyes and slept for the next few hours. Vin stayed by her side finally resting himself.

These times have passed and gone
It’s time that we moved on
Into a new tomorrow
And leave behind the hurt
The sorrow and the pain
‘cause tonight we’ll never pass this way again

Just like the winter sun
That hides behind the dawn
Just like the shifting sands
That ride upon the storm
Tonight we’ll never pass this way again


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