Part 20. We’ll never pass this way again.

Later she woke and took some more water and some weak broth spooned by Nathan. Her cough was still there. Nathan was worried she would open her wound if she coughed hard. ‘When she wants to cough, turn her on her side and hold her here.’ He instructed, placing his hand over the dressing. Vin nodded.

‘Why didn’t you tell me about them? I would have looked out for ya’!’ Vin said when she had come round.

‘I couldn’t remember, Couldn’t speak, don’t know why.’ Her eyes dropped ashamed. ‘Back at the wagon train it all came back……what they did…..tied may hands… all came back. Then I saw them in town and I didn’t want you to get hurt.’ She began to cry.

‘Shhhhhh. They’re gone now and can’t hurt you no more. They’re gone.’ He wrapped himself around her. God he couldn’t get close enough to her.

‘I saw the pinto…… in town. Knew they had found me. I……I ……didn’t know what they’d do to ……you………if they ……found us together. They…….’ She shuddered with the memory of it. ‘I thought they’d killed you…..’

‘Nah, hit me in the head, just creased is all.’

‘I saw you fall…….I thought…’ she sobbed, ‘I thought…..I’d lost you!’

Shame hit her again as she’d thought of goading Burt and Will into killing her. ‘I wanted ……….to ……….die!’

‘No!’ an anguished cry from Vin.

He pulled her close. She clung to him. They held each other for so long Vin thought she’d fallen asleep again. When he released her and looked down she was looking back. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Do you know why they took you?’

‘They think I am someone else.’

Chris, who’d been watching and listening said, ‘Are you Bridget Bookman?’

‘I don’t know.’ She said flatly. ‘I can’t remember anything other than living with the Indians.’

‘Do you know why anyone might be lookin’ for her?’

‘No.they……they talked like there was a reward but I don’t know why.’

‘There is a reward and a hefty one too!’

Part 21. I don’t want to wake up now.

Now she was awake they carried her back into the wagon and made their way back to Four Corners. It was a hard journey. The movement of the wagon gave her a lot of pain. Nathan had given her some laudenum and she slept. The cold she had eased a little but she needed to cough to clear her lungs. Vin stayed in the wagon with her a helped her like Nathan had shown him.

They left Moon and Vin at the cabin and Chris and Nathan rode into town from there.

In the corral, the mare was hopping from hoof to hoof. She’d sensed the arrival of her friend and was excited at the prospect of getting out. It would be a while though, thought Vin as he watched her. Moon looked longingly at the mare so he carried her over to the corral. The mare came over and Moon stroked her head. ‘Soon.’ She said softly, ‘Soon.’

Moon made a slow recovery. Sitting in the sun on the porch each day until it got too cold to sit outside, Vin would then carry her inside and stay with her. Her sleep was no longer invaded by nightmares he noticed, she even smiled in her dreams. Good, she is at ease again.

They had not talked about the ad but in the back of his mind Vin was afraid. There were two reasons why someone might be looking for her he figured – either she’d done something wrong and it was a bounty, or her real family was searching for her. She might want to go. Chris came out a few days later and updated them.

‘Mary telegraphed back east to a newspaper back there. They found out that the people who posted the ad had been looking for their grand-daughter for months and sent a message back. This Bridget Bookman is set to inherit a lot of money when they die and they want to find her. They asked if we’d found her. They’re waitin’ for an answer. What do you want to say, Moon?’

‘I need to think.’ she said, so Chris left saying he’d wait.

I hear you every night
I listen but the words don’t seem right
My mind seems somewhere else
What else can I tell you?

I don’t know what to do
I’m losing you
Something I can’t control
You are in my heart and soul
I don’t want to wake up now!

Don’t turn and walk away
Don’t leave this way
Something I can’t control
You are in my heart and soul
I don’t want to wake up now!


The next morning, they were leaning side by side on the corral fence and watching the horses. Vin broached the subject, dreading the answer. ‘Do you want to find out who you are? If you are their kin’

‘I …….. no.’

He frowned at her. ‘They might be family.’ He’d thought about what he’d do in her shoes and had decided that he’d want to know but he didn’t want to be away from her so he would go with her if she went. If she wanted him to.

‘I know, but they’d be strangers to me. How would they know if I am their grand-daughter? And…….’ Vin waited.

‘What about the people who raised ya?’

‘I don’t want to go back, I want to stay with you.’ Her eyes questioned him.

All the self assurance had left her. She loved him but how did he feel about her? She’d put his life in jeopardy and that of his friends, did he feel the same, she thought he did but ……..

He moved closer to this woman who had changed his life around. His arms snaked round her waist and he pulled her towards him. He sighed with relief. He cupped her face in his hand and lifted. Her eyes remained looking down. ‘I want you to stay too. I can’t bear the thought of losing you again. Moon?’ she looked up. ‘I love you.’

‘I love you, too.’

Part 22. ‘A debt repaid’

‘Nathan! Come quick!’ Yosemite came rushing into Nathan’s room. He was clearly agitated about something‘Nathan, can you come and look at one of the horses? Somethin’ ain’t right.’ With that he turned on his heals and left leaving Nathan staring at the space where he’d been standing.

So Nathan followed Yosemite to the livery and sure enough one of the horses was looking in a bad way. His head was hung low and he was restless in the stall. He was panting and sweating. Nathan looked at the horse closely.

‘That’s Ezra’s horse.’ he said finally. ‘but I ain’t sure what I can do ‘cos I don’t know what is wrong with him. Better get Ez.’ Nathan scratched his head. He knew enough to deliver foals but what ailed this horse defeated him. He knew much more about healing people.

Yosemite had gone to the saloon where Ezra was supervising the bar with Inez. After being told Ezra ran to the stable to find Nathan examining his horse. ‘What is it Nathan? What’s wrong with him?’ There was real concern on his face.

Nathan turned to look at him. ‘I ain’t sure.’ He answered. ‘I know about people not so much about horses. I ain’t sure where to start. Best I can do is keep an eye on him and see if’n he gets better, maybe try feedin’ him up a bit.’

Yosemite fetched a bucket of bran but the horse wouldn’t eat. He refused the water they offered too.

‘What can I say, Ezra? I’m sorry. Maybe he’ll be better in the morning’ said Nathan and the others agreed. They all left and Ezra returned to the saloon but he later went back to the livery unseen by anyone. He spent some time pondering the horse and trying to get him to eat and drink but the horse was looking no better.

The next morning when Vin went out on patrol early and was met by Ezra. ‘Hey Vin!’

Vin had never seen Ezra up so early in the morning and was surprised to see him. He looked tired too – he hadn’t shaved or slept by the look of him. ‘Mornin’ Ezra. What’re you doin’ up so early?’

‘Oh I …em…wanted to talk to you on a personal matter. It’s just I was contemplating the potentiality of your young companion having knowledge of equine matters medicinal.’ Ezra had in fact been up since before dawn had visited the livery to check. The horse looked worse than the night before.

‘Ya mean does she know about horse sickness?’

‘That is what I said Mr Tanner. Yes.’

‘Well I don’t know. Why d’ya ask?’

‘My horse is sick and Nathan is unsure as to how to treat what ever is ailing him. In fact Nathan is unable to come up with any actual diagnosis.’

Vin looked at his fellow regulator curiously, rubbed the stubble on his own chin and said, ‘I can ask her if she’ll come into town later and see. How’s that?’

‘That would be just fine. Thank you.’

Moon saddled the mare as soon as Vin told her about Ezra’s request and rode straight into town. When she arrived Nathan was just leaving the livery. ‘Morning Nathan!’

‘You here to see Ezra’s horse?’ he asked her.

‘Yes, what’s wrong?’

‘I ain’t sure I can tell ya. He sure is sick, ain’t eatin’ or drinkin’. He’s restless but getting’ weaker. I don’t reckon he’ll last the day. It may be better if’n ya shoot him.’

She looked at him. She could see the frustration on his face. In the time he’d known him she understood his need to heal people and look after him. He is a compassionate man and it really cuts him up when he can’t help someone, she thought. ‘I’ll take a look, don’t give up on him yet.’

‘By the way, O’Brian’s horse?’ Nathan caught her attention. ‘Why d’you stop me from shootin’ her?’

‘It wasn’t…….you. Wasn’t right for you.’ At that she went into the livery.

Nathan watched her go. It had kept him wondering since it happened why she had taken the gun from him and shot the horse herself even though it had upset her so much. She was right, he didn’t want to have to do it. It had felt wrong to take an innocent life and she had taken that responsibility from him. He was grateful to her for that.

Inside the livery Moon found Ezra and Yosemite scratching their heads as they watched the poor horse almost collapsing in the stall. She looked at Ezra in confusion and surprise. She had no idea that he would care so much about his horse. He looked apprehensive as she entered and then relieved when he saw her.

‘Moon! Thank you for coming. Can you take a look at him?’ He was almost pleading for her to help.

‘Sure.’ Moon approached the horse and began moving her hands over the horse. She checked his eyes, mouth, down his neck and over his body, stopping to put her head to the horse’s side.

‘I think I know what to do. I had a horse had this once. Don’t know what causes it but I think his gut is twisted. We may not be too late.’

‘What do you need?’ Ezra still sounded desperate and again Moon was surprised by this reaction but she simply said, ‘Come with me!’

Ezra followed her to the General store and there she found what she needed – tobacco leaves. She took a large handful and Ezra paid for them.

As they walked back to the livery she said, ‘You know, you and Vin are a lot alike.’

‘I hardly think so, Miss Moon! I consider that Mr Tanner and I are as different as Clubs and Diamonds.’

‘No, I think you and Vin care deeply about some things but both of you find it difficult to show it to the others.’

Catching her drift he said, ‘Miss Moon my concern for that horse is based purely on an economic foundation – he cost me a lot of money and I would not contemplate being out of pocket on that deal.’

‘Sure!’ she said, ‘by the way, I never thanked you.’

‘For what?’

‘For killing Will.’

‘My dear lady I was simply looking out for a friend.’

‘See what I mean?’

Damn! He thought. I walked straight into that!

Then they were in the livery and Moon took a bucket with some water and placed the tobacco leaves in the water. ’We’ll leave them to soak for a while.
Yosemite, d’you have a water hose I can have a piece of?’

Yosemite cut some hose and gave it to her. They stayed with the horse for the next couple of hours. Moon soothed the horse by talking to him and stroking his head and back. Her presence kept him calm. The others had told Ezra about her and the mare and he stood and watched as Moon cared for his horse.

Damn it she was right, sure he cared. He won the horse in a card game back East. It had been one of his finest games. There had been five of them and he had been sitting with a full house. As the pot had grown so had his confidence. Still the betting had continued and the others had gradually dropped out leaving himself and a cowboy at the table. Then the cowboy had run out of money and bid the horse. He’d called it the ‘best cow pony ah evea had’ so Ezra had accepted the bet and the horse sight unseen. He’d won the game and took the horse. There was not the kind of relationship Vin had with Peso but he had come to know the horse and his moods and he was used to him and the horse was used to Ezra. That was all there was to it…..wasn’t it? He had been thinking out loud, telling Moon about the poker game.

‘You were lucky to win this horse then.’

‘On the contrary. Luck always seems to be against the person who depends on it. I didn’t need a horse, he did, but I won it from him. Fair and square’

She turned to face him. ‘Yes but you still care about him or you wouldn’t be here.’

She had spoken the truth and he averted his eyes. ‘I would appreciate it if you would keep our conversation confidential.’ he said.

‘Sure, I won’t tell the others.’ She smiled.

The sun was high in the sky and the livery grew hotter. Ezra took off his jacket and waistcoat and stood in his rolled up shirt sleeves.

The tobacco leaves and water had turned into a thick liquid and Moon took the headstall she used on the mare and put it on Ezra’s horse. This headstall was a hackamore – the mare was so well trained by Moon that she needed no bit. Yosemite and Ezra, on Moon’s bidding, held the horses head back while she put the hose down the horse’s throat and poured the liquid down. The horse was too ill to resist but put up quite a struggle. Ezra and Yosemite were out of breath and sweating when it was done.

‘Now we wait.’

As the day wore on Ezra said, ‘You are quite a revelation you know.’

‘Why?’ said Moon.

‘You arrive out of nowhere, looking like something the cat dragged in. Our young tracker falls head over heels in love with you.’ Moon blushed, ‘Oh don’t get embarrassed, young lady, you know it’s is true I have never seen our Mr Tanner so emphatically smitten by cupids arrow by any other women. He is truly smitten. He is a changed man. I have seen him look at other women. Oh, not since he met you, of course. No, our Mr Tanner is totally loyal to his friends. Loyal to a fault. That man would lay down his life for someone he really cares for. Considering his background and yours being so different it is a surprise.’

He saw her looking at him quizzically.

‘Apart from living with Indians, I mean, you have obviously had a good education, you read and write well and you are knowledgeable, refined. Don’t you ever wonder where you came from? Aren’t you just a little curious about your background?’

‘No. Not really.’

‘If I might make a small suggestion, I could accompany you back East and I am sure we could convince those people that you are the true benefactor of the inheritance. Of course, it would be in exchange for a small consideration, say about ten per cent?’ he looked at her hopefully.

‘Ezra, I am happy right here. I don’t need any …. inheritance.’

‘Maybe you don’t but I could certainly use it,’ he said but just at that moment Moon was not listening. She had stood up and was checking the horse again.

‘He’s much better now.’ Yosemite had come in when he heard her say this.

‘Hell ma’am. I ain’t seen nothin’ like it. I thought that horse was a gonner fer sure.’

The inheritance was forgotten as Ezra stood up and looked at his horse. He too had not believed the horse would pull though but here he was eating bran and hay and looking fit and well again. ‘Thank you, Moon, my dear lady, I am in your debt.’ He reached down, took her hand and touched it to his lips.

‘No,’ she replied, ‘a debt repaid.’ She smiled and left.

Ezra watched after her. ‘If only…..’ he thought.

She too, was thoughtful as she left Ezra at the livery.

Part 23. Moon goes to church

From the livery Moon could see the church. She saw Josiah leave and head for the saloon for an evening meal. There had been hammering coming from the church all day and now Josiah was leaving and walking down the street. As he passed the livery she watched him go by.

She slipped out of the livery door and up the steps of the church. Inside the dust was floating in the setting sun which streamed through the windows. Through it she walked to the front and found what she was looking for. A bible. She sat down and began flicking through the pages.

‘Can I help?’ She looked up suddenly. Josiah had returned. He’d gone to the hardware store for nails instead of the saloon and was bringing them back so he could finish his work.

Resigned to his company she said, ‘I was….um…. looking for answers.’ Josiah said nothing but sat down on the bench beside her and looked at the bible.

‘I have been trying to remember my family. My first family.’


‘Sometimes, I can remember bits of stories from the bible. And it’s night and we’re sitting by a fire and my father is telling these stories, bible stories. We were all listening together.’ She looked into the distance.


‘Yes. That’s just it. I know there was a few of us but I can’t see the faces.’

‘Do you think your father was a preacher?’

‘I don’t think so. I don’t remember. I thought if I could remember the stories then could remember him too. Maybe remember the others.’

‘OK, how ‘bout I help?’ Josiah offered.

She thought a moment, then, ‘OK’

Josiah related some of the stories he’d heard as a child. He went though the parables, the stories Jesus told the disciples, the miracles He performed.

It was some time later when he paused. Moon’s eyes were closed, concentrating deeply. She opened them and looked at him.

‘How are you doin’?’

She bit her lip, ‘Nothing. Oh the stories are fine, just like my father told them. But I can’t see their faces.’

‘Hmmmm. How do the stories make you feel?’

She smiled, ‘Good, warm, safe.’ She had been reliving the past, felt herself transported back to when she was a child and how it felt at the time. ‘Now it’s like…..I have more questions than answers and I’m afraid of not knowing who I might have been.’

‘Moon,’ Josiah started, he took a deep breath, ‘what it comes down to is this …. you had a good family, good learnin’ and good values. That is maybe how the good Lord intended you to be.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, if you are looking back all the time, you can’t see what is in front of you and you can’t go through life running from something that isn't after you.’

She had left. Josiah watched her walk away. He had no idea if he had helped at all. Sometimes the past is just worth leaving there, in the past. It can hurt when it comes back to haunt you, he thought, and she’s had enough of that.

Moon had wanted to know more about her family and what had happened to them. In the end, she knew no more than when she went to the church but she knew that she had to move on now. To see what is in front of her and accept that if the memory was going to come back it would. There was no way it could be forced. The now was more important to her, the now was alive and in front of her. She still felt the loss but also felt the gain.

Part 24. ‘He’s a changed man’

Nettie had asked Vin to come out and mend a leak in her roof. It had been a while since Moon had seen Nettie and she jumped at the chance to go with him.

As soon as they arrived Nettie came out to greet them warmly. Vin walked up to her and gave her a big hug.

‘Well, well, hello you two. My, my, Moon what have you been doin’ to my boy. I do declare he’s a different man.’

She looked up at him and hugged him back not wanting to let him go until he groaned and said, ‘Argh, Nettie, yer breakin’ ma back!’

She let him go and turned to Moon. ‘Now you come on in my dear, I have some preserves I want you to have.’ She hooked an arm into Moon’s and with a wave of her hand dismissed Vin with, ‘Vin, you’ll find all you need in the barn. We’ll bring you out a drink later.’ and they disappeared into the house.

‘You know, my dear. You are going to be the death of that boy if you don’t watch it. You keep feeding him the way you do and he will fill out like a pumpkin and won’t be able to get on his horse. That’s what happened to my dear husband, God rest his soul, he was too big for his britches. I had to keep letting them out and he kept filling them. But here I am going on and on and not getting those preserves. Now here are some peaches, he likes those with some of my biscuits……..’ And so she talked ten to the dozen hardly pausing for breath. Moon usually loved listening to her and was charmed by this woman’s strength and her stories of her journey West with her family. But on this occasion what Nettie had said merged with other thoughts and she became distracted.

‘Moon?………..Moon!’ Stirred from her thoughts, Moon took the recipe from Nettie and promised to try it. They took some coffee out to Vin.

‘Nettie,’ Vin shouted down when he saw them, ‘yer gonna need some more lumber fer the roof, I can’t finish it today. I can come back when you get it. Want me t’order it fer ya?’

‘Oh yes, that would be lovely dear, you do that and that will save me a ride into town. Now if you’ll just wait there I’ll sort out a list of the rest of the things I need.’ Nettie went back into the house.

‘She misses you visiting her, Vin.’ Moon said, ‘you should come more often.’

‘Aw, she jest always looked after me is all. ‘Reckon she needs lookin’ after more’n me, livin’ out here alone.’

‘You worry about her?’ Moon said her head on one side looking up at him on the roof.

‘Yep. I guess so.’

On the ride back Moon was pensive and spoke little. Vin had thought he knew what Moon was thinking but now he was not so sure. Something was bothering her but he figured she would tell him in her own time.

Part 25. The robbery

Old Rob Sullivan drove the stage into town at a pace. The horses were sweating as he pulled up outside the saloon.

ONE. Chris had seen the stage approaching from his usual seat on the porch and stood up as Rob was reining in the four horses.

The dust from the street was billowing around them both as Rob climbed down. ‘We was robbed’ he shouted, ‘an’ they took one o’ ma passengers!’

TWO. Buck had seen the stage as he was leaving the bathhouse and he ran over to steady the horses. From his position he asked, ‘How many of ‘em?’

THREE. Ezra exited the saloon.

FOUR. JD heard from the other side of the street. ‘I’ll get the others.’ and ran off shouting for Nathan, Josiah and Vin.

FIVE and SIX. Nathan and Josiah had been at the general store. They came out to see what JD was hollering about. ‘The stage was robbed!’ JD told them as he ran on to the livery where he’d seen Vin and Moon arrive only minutes earlier. ‘Vin, Vin, the stage was robbed!’

SEVEN - a full house! Vin, JD and Moon ran out of the livery with seven horses.

They all gathered around Chris. ‘There was eight of ‘em, Rob says. They robbed the passengers and took one of ‘em hostage. In fact, he says the passenger, this Ben Scott, actually offered himself up as hostage so the stage could get away.’ Rob was to one side and nodding his head as Chris spoke confirming everything he said.

‘Brave man!’ said JD.

‘Or stupid!’ said Buck.

‘Did he say what they looked like?’ asked Vin.

‘Yep, sounds like the Colton brothers and their friends.’

A quizzical expression passed over Buck’s face ‘I heard they had gone back East.’ he said.

‘Hmmm. Sounds like they came back. Let’s ride. Vin you pick up the trail!’ ordered Chris, ‘and watch yer backs!’

Mary and Moon had been standing on the sidelines listening and they watched now as the men rode out without a glance back. Some of the other townspeople had gathered and were trying to comfort the other passengers. Rob had left them to it and had gone into the saloon for a drink.

‘It was awful.’ said one lady passenger.

‘That nice man just offered himself up as their hostage. I don’t think we’d be here now if it weren’t for him. Oh I do feel faint!’ Mary and Moon helped them to the hotel and after reassuring them that the regulators would track them down they walked outside.

‘I hope they catch up with them.’ said Mary.


‘Some time back we had a telegraph from Two Rivers saying the Colton’s had robbed the bank there, shot three people who got in their way.’

Moon looked shocked. She had not thought too much about the work Vin did. Yes, she too hoped they would catch the outlaws and that they would all come back safe. Especially Vin.

Mary headed for the newspaper office asking Moon to come along. As they entered Mary said, ‘Folks round here sure are interested in you. Why not let me write a story about you for the newspaper?’

‘Oh, I’m not sure.’ Moon hopped up and sat on the desk.

‘Come on. People want to know. You know the kind of thing, who you are, where you came from. You tell me and I can print it.’

‘The problem is, Mary, I don’t know who I am.’ Moon answered.

‘But you’re Bridget Bookman.’

‘I don’t know for sure. I don’t remember my family, I’ve tried but I can’t remember. I have decided it’s best if I just forget about it.’

‘Aren’t you interested in whether you stand to get all that money.’

‘What would I do with it?’

‘Maybe a lot of good.’

‘Maybe but …….I don’t know…It scares me. You know. Not knowing who I am. Not knowing if I am someone I’ve never even heard of.’

‘OK well, what about your life with the Indians. People might be interested in that.’

Moon shook her head, this was also something she had decided to forget. ‘It wasn’t so interesting.’ She paused, ‘Just hard. They were OK but I knew I didn’t fit in. I didn’t always agree with how they did things.’

Mary saw this was making Moon uncomfortable and asked, ‘Will you go back one day?’

‘Maybe’ she replied, ‘I don’t know. I kind of like it here.’

Mary smiled, ‘Yes it is good here. Ever since the Judge hired the seven of them to keep the peace, people here have begun to feel safe again. Maybe more people will come here because of that and the town will grow.’

‘You’re pretty close to Chris.’ Moon said tentatively.

Mary’s cheeks went red.

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you.’ said Moon, ‘it’s just what I see.’

‘Yes, I like Chris a lot. I can’t be sure how he feels. He’s not one to be open about things. You know what happened to his wife and son?’

‘Yes, Josiah told me. It was bad?’

‘Yes. He changed a lot after Sarah and Adam died. He was so happy before but then he lost them and ……well, you know, he drinks a lot and sits and mulls things over. It’s hard to get close to someone like that.’

‘Then you are interested?’

Mary blushed again. How did this interview turn around so quickly? ‘Yes, but……’

‘Yes I know….’

‘Men!’ they said together laughing.

They left the newspaper office together still laughing like school children. Mary headed for the bank and Moon, the livery.

Outside of town Vin had an itch that refused to be scratched. Something was bothering him. No matter how he looked at it something was wrong. He reined in Peso and brought him to a halt. The others, who had been following close behind him stopped and turned.

‘What’s up?’ asked Chris. He trusted the tracker’s instincts and could see he was troubled. ‘Why’d ya stop?’

Vin looked from one man to the next along the line of faces staring at him. He shook his head, ‘The Colton brothers never tried a stage before. They always do banks.’

‘So maybe this time they changed. Banks ain’t easy ta rob.’ JD offered, ‘there’s always a lawman and people around to see them.’

‘Nope, they never bin known to do banks. That’s not all. They’re not the kind to take hostages away with them. They’d shoot anyone first and then make a run for it.’

‘What’re ya getting’ at, Vin.’ asked Buck.

Chris was beginning to understand. ‘Vin, did you ever hear of anyone who gave such a good description of the Colton brothers before?’

‘Nope. And that’s another thing. They always wear their bandanas over their faces. The only time anyone got a good look at ‘em was that time they got caught in Reno and the sheriff there locked them up. They killed the sheriff, escaped and got clean away but the deputy seen ‘em and that’s how they got their faces on the wanted posters. Somethin’s wrong, Chris. JD is right.’

‘I am? What’d I say?’ asked JD feeling some pride.

‘You said there’s always a lawman in town.’ Vin turned to the young man.

‘Only now there’s no lawman in Four Corners!’ They were all catching on now.

‘There is one point in your reasoning that I am not clear on, gentlemen. What about the hostage?’ asked Ezra.

Chris hit on it. ‘One of them! The whole thing was planned so that we would be out of town chasing outlaws who’d taken a hostage! Let’s ride! They’ve got a head start.’

As one they galloped back to town.

Shots came from somewhere in town. Moon heard them from the livery and came outside to see. Some of the townspeople were rushing for cover, others, like Yosemite, were reaching for guns and firing them at the bank. The bank! That was where Mary had gone! Moon ran up the side of the street being careful not to be seen from the bank.

There was a gathering of horses tied to the hitching post at the bank. They were rearing at the noise of the gunfire. A shout from the bank stopped the shooting. ‘Put down yer guns or this lady gets it.’

Two figures emerged from the bank. In front, with a knife at her throat was Mary, a looking petrified. With one arm about her waist and the ugly knife in the other hand was a man with a bandana over his face. Moon looked round for anyone who might help. There was nothing anyone could do. She had no gun and the very men who had been taken on to protect the town were miles away by now. She could only look on.

‘Nice and easy. Y’all put yer guns down and we’re gonna ride outta here. We’ll be takin’ this nice lady with us, so’s ya don’t follow.’ He tightened his grip round Mary’s waist so she gasped, her eyes wide with fear. After what Mary had told her about the bank robbery at Two Rivers, Moon doubted very much that they would take her with them. Her eyes darted round looking for something, anything that would stop these men.

Then, she saw them. They’d returned! It didn’t matter how, but they were back. Moon watched the scene unfold before her.

The seven men had ridden hard and just outside town had split into two groups. Chris and Buck had ridden to the edge of town and, leaving their horses tied up, were making their way, edging along the buildings, towards the bank.

When Chris saw Mary in the arms of the outlaw he made a dash into the street. Buck stopped him from getting into view and pulled him into the shadows. ‘Chris, you ain’t thinking straight. It ain’t no good you getting’ shot. That won’t help Mary. He’s got a knife at her throat! Beside you can’t take all of them. Hell, yer fast but you can’t get them all. She’ll be dead before you get there.’

Chris was seething. Between his teeth he rasped, ‘Damn. Mary!’

‘Wait ‘til the others get into place.’ Together they watched for their friends to appear in their allotted places. Buck had to keep a hold of Chris’s shirt to stop him. He hoped the others would appear quick, he didn’t think he could hold Chris much longer.

The other outlaws came out of the bank looking all round them, guns drawn and bags of money in their hands – the contents of the safe. .From high up a voice bellowed, ‘Ya ain’t goin’ nowhere!’ It was Vin who, as was his preference, had made for high ground. From where they stood Chris and Buck could see Nathan at the general store, Josiah near the saddlery and JD and Ezra emerging by the saloon. They all had their guns pointed at the outlaws who hadn’t seen them yet.

The outlaws looked all round, searching for the source of the challenge. ‘You willing to risk this purty young thing on that mister?’ The man holding Mary, looked round then squeezed the knife against Mary’s throat, breaking the skin so blood dribbled down her dress. She was sobbing and screamed so loudly that the man, momentarily loosened his grip on her waist and the knife moved a little from her throat. It was all Vin needed. A single deep breath, a steady aim and he fired. The bullet ripped into the outlaw just above his eyes and he fell dead.

From his vantage point, Chris shouted, ‘Mary! Get down!’ Mary dived for cover behind the horse trough and covered her ears, such was the noise that followed. Buck let go of Chris and they both came running up the street. Rapid gunfire came from all directions. The seven had spread themselves round the town and had taken aim on the nine lawmen. JD thought, ‘Nine of them came out of the bank. Chris and Vin were right, the hostage was one of them. Damn!’ He fired at the men at the bank. Four more of them fell dead before the others gave themselves up to the regulators.


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