Part 26. Another good man bites the dust
Chris ran on having taken at least one of the outlaws out and raced to Marys side. He reached down and picked her up. Checking her he could see she was fine except for a small cut on her throat where the knife had bitten. He walked her down to the newspaper office.
Vin ran out of the alleyway by the general store where he had been hiding up on the roof. Mary OK? he asked as they passed.
Yep, shell be fine. said Nathan who had also broken cover and joined Chris to look after Mary. Josiah, JD and Buck were rounding up the outlaws and escorting them to the jail. Ezra was collecting the money bags from where they had been dropped. He looked at them and reluctantly handed them back into the bank. A fine afternoons employment, I do declare! Today, gentlemen, we have earned our daily dollar.
Moon had watched the incident, frightened for Mary and all her friends. She saw the shot Vin made and had prayed it would hit its mark. The outlaws had fired back. It was too shocking to watch but she could not take her eyes off the street. She looked from one regulator to the next making sure they had not been hit. When the gunfire stopped she was relieved to see them all emerge unhurt. She wanted to rush up to Vin had hold him and never let him go. What he had done and indeed what they had all done was crazy. They had risked seven lives for one. She wondered for the second time at the work they did and the danger involved. She sat where she was pondering this.
After seeing Mary was in good hands, Moon, curious, wandered over to the jailhouse to see the men who had tried to rob the bank.
Chris OK, Buck? asked Josiah.
Yeh, just! replied Buck. I had to stop him from getting his head shot off though.
Huh? How come? said Josiah as he shoved the outlaws into a cell and locking it behind them.
Damn near walked out into the street and called them all out. He took one look at Mary and went mad. Mustve thought it was all gonna happen again. He wouldve taken them all on ifn I hadnt stopped him. I knew Vin would go high and youd all be watchin each other but Chris werent thinkin straight.
Damn, that was one helluva shot! JD was talking about the shot Vin had made. Pow! Straight into the middle of that fellas head! He emphasised the point of his remark by stabbing his finger onto his forehead.
Yep ya can trust Vin to make a shot like that when it matters most! said Josiah. I dont reckon anyone else couldve done it, ya know timed it just right. The Lord was looking after us all today and brother Vin came through. Thank you Lord.
Hey! Do you think he couldve done it if theyd bin holdin Moon instead of Mary? asked JD.
Now that is a good question, young fella. Could our tracker friend keep so cool under that kind of pressure? I wonder indeed! said Buck.
Dya think theyll get married?
Maybe! Buck mused, Heck JD where dya get all these questions?
I was just wonderin. See, if Vin and Moon get married maybe hell settle down and theyll have kids and things and ..
Oh Lord. Hes got Vin and Moon settled and in the family way. Buck removed his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. It is a thought though. Vin a family man. Hah, another good man bites the dust sucked down the matrimonial trail! Hmmmmm. One less good lookin man around here. Leaves more women fer me! Not bad JD, not bad at all.
Moon heard it all. Exactly! Would Vin have been able to make that shot count if it had been her and not Mary? Buck had put his finger on the very thing that had been bothering her for days.
She turned to leave and came face to face with the object of her thoughts. She jumped at the sight of him. You OK? Vin asked.
Yes, Im fine. I was well away from it all. You?
Yeh. Fine. He glanced into the jail. Gotta check on the prisoners.
OK. she said and walked off. She had to get away from him before it happened. Before the unthinkable happened. Before she stopped him and begged him to leave all this behind. She knew he couldnt. Its part of his nature and she couldnt ask him.
He watched her go, shrugged and went in to check on the prisoners. Theyd have to be watched tonight and theyd have to share the guard duty. Better work it out now while the others were around. Chris would be relieved of that duty. Mary needed him for now.
As they were working out who would take the first watch Chris came in. He muttered a swift thanks to them all and another in Bucks direction.
Chris, you dont need to .. Vin started to tell him he should be with Mary.
Shes fine! Leave it Vin!
Chris was struggling with his feelings. He liked Mary but that would lead down a dangerous path. Shes an independent woman. He knew he should be with her, she needed someone to be with her, but he was too scared to show her he cared. He was too scared to care about another woman in case he lost her.
They shared out the duty and as Vin left with Chris he said to the leader, Mary might welcome yer company.
I cant Vin. She cant depend on me! Now leave it!
Vin watched his friend head for the saloon. The whisky was going to take a beating tonight. He searched for Moon and told her he would be looking after Chris tonight and would stay in town in his wagon. She made her way back to the cabin alone still considering what shed heard at the jail, glad of the time to be alone for the first time since shed met this man.
Part 27. Moon visits Chris
Next morning Moon rode into town. Vin had managed to get Chris to bed by carrying him up the stairs to the room at the boarding house. Hed sat with him a while and fallen asleep in the chair.
Early this morning hed woken up, been out on patrol and returned to spend a few hours at the jail watching the prisoners, relieving JD to go to bed.
When hed been relieved himself by Buck he had collected the lumber for Netties roof and rode out that morning first to the cabin then to Netties. Hed been surprised that Moon had not gone with him but she explained she wanted to make sure Ezras horse was still getting better.
Instead she walked up the street to the saloon. She found Chris sitting outside the saloon watching the street. He looked rough. He watched her approach and sit down beside him. His eyes closed with the pain from the bright sun.
Somethin on yer mind? he asked.
Im leaving. she said bluntly.
This was not quite what hed been expecting. In fact he was surprised she was here talking to him now. Why?
I think you already know why.
Yeh, I guess I do, so whyre you tellin me. Shouldnt you be talkin to Vin.
I cant. He wouldnt see it like you and I do. I just she paused trying to find the right words, I just came to ask .if youd look after him for me.
Moon started to stand. Chris put his hand on her arm to stop her. Look, when you and he first took up I thought it might lead to trouble. Since then, well, I saw you together and I thought it would be OK. Maybe it would work out for you both. Maybe you and Vin are right together. Then yesterday .well, now I dont know I cant have him distracted by he trailed off.
Yes yesterday. You know! You know it couldve been me, they couldve been bounty hunters, they might get to him through me. Thats what it boils down to isnt it? Chris remained silent looking into the distance. Isnt it? she said again only softer. She stood up to leave. Not facing him she said, Just look after him. Moon walked off.
Chris watched her go. If only it were that easy. he thought. He didnt think it would be easy at all. In many ways she had touched all their lives. Just like each one of the six men he had come to count as his friends, the men he had come to trust. If one of them walked away tomorrow, how would he feel? Would it be that easy to forget? He doubted it, but what she had said was true. Of all the regulators, Vin was the most vulnerable. Each day he had to watch his back, because one day there would be a man who thought he was good enough to take in the tracker and collect the bounty. Lord knows theyd tried and one or two had even come close. Each time Vin had been lucky. Chris thought that if a bounty hunter came into town and threatened Moon Vin would sure as hell give himself up rather than put her at risk. Hed lose a good man. Theyd all lose a good man, and a good friend. Moon was determined to go and she was taking a cowardly way out, damn it. She was leaving him to face Vin.
Then he was up on his feet and running down the street after her. He caught up with her at the edge of town and grabbed at her arm. He spun her round and faced her, One thing he said looking straight into her eyes, Do you love him? He was breathing hard and the pounding hangover was making his head spin.
She stared back at him, a little surprised at the question and they way he had chased her, You know I do, more than ever. Do you? she croaked on the edge of tears.
Why did you ask me that? he thought, of all things, why that?. Hed tried to deny his feelings for the people around him for so long, keeping them buried until they threatened to surface then hed find a bottle to keep them locked up in. He cared, yes. He needed the men around him but he also cared about them. He had not actually defined his feelings about anyone in a long time. Finally he admitted, Yes, like a brother.
Then youll do it. Youll look after him.
He watched long after she was out of sight over the hill outside town. She had made him question himself and it did not sit comfortably with him. Now he had to face Vin. She was not being fair, just not fair at all.
Part 28. Shes gone, pard
As they rode they were silent. Vin was caught up with the reasons Moon would have to leave. Finally he thought he would try to keep the questions until he found her. He sensed rather than saw Chris wrestling with his thoughts. Vin picked up something in Chris but he couldnt quite work it out. He was feeling too hurt and confused.
Trying to deal with this he said, Chris?
Chris was shaken out of his reverie at the sound of Vins voice. He had been thinking about his conversation with Moon. He hadnt wanted to be the one to tell Vin that Moon had left but Vin had turned to Chris when he found her gone. Hey Chris, you seen Moon. The mares in the livery and I cant find her round town. Ezra said you was talkin ther. She say where she was goin?
So it had happened, it was the time Chris had not wanted to come.
Shes gone pard.
Gone? Gone where?
Well did she say where? Whyd she go, Chris?
She didnt say! he lied. He lied to his best friend. So I took the cowards way out too. I cant tell him because I think she was right.
Whatd she say? Chris whatd she say?
Just that she needed to go, pard.
Well Im gonna find her. She aint leavin Chris. She aint leavin without tellin me.
Vin was riled up so much there was nothing Chris or anyone else was going to say that was going to stop him, but he had to try. Maybe she dont want to be found, Vin
Vin stopped saddling his horse and took a deep breath. Right now, I dont care about that. She is gonna be found and she is gonna tell me!
Then Im comin with ya. How could he have thought that Vin wouldnt follow her.
Chris I dont need ya holdin ma hand.
Maybe but Im comin anyhow.
Well I aint got time targue. So they left together, Vin had the mare with him. Chris dropped by the saloon and found Ezra, in his usual seat at a card table. Josiah and JD had also been there. He told them that he and Vin were off to find Moon and to keep and eye on things while they were away. They had looked at each other in surprise but said the town would be fine until they got back. Chris knew they would take care of business while he and Vin were gone so with a nod he turned and left.
Now as they rode together, Vin was checking the trail for signs of her. Hed get off his horse and pick up broken twigs, leaves, sniff the air, listen, doing what he does best. She had covered her trail well - but he was better. Every now and then hed have to turn back but slowly and surely he would find the signs again. He wanted to ride on fast but he knew he might lose the trail. He tracked her with all he had learned, all the patience, all the guile and all his senses. While there was a sign there was still hope but he needed answers.
Howd ya feel when you lost Sarah and Adam?
What the hell kind of question is that?
I WANT TO KNOW, Chris, how dya feel?
Look, I dont wanna go there right now, just leave it! All the emotions from that time had come back to him in the last 24 hours and hed exhausted himself digging a hole in his heart to put them back where they belonged.
Chris thought about this then, After Sarah and Adam afterwards I swore no-one would get close, no-one would ..do that hurt me, again. If I feel, then theyll have won.
Vin turned to him but Chris was not looking at him. He said, But if ya never feel anythin again .. havent they won?
Chris was stunned. Suddenly it all rushed out, all the things hed kept under control. He grabbed Vins shoulder and pulled him roughly round until he was facing him.
Right, you asked. My life ended! There was nothin but hate. Hate for the ones whod done it. That was all, no future, nothin. No colour, no laughter. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of them! he rasped. I wanted to remember the past, all the good times wed had. But there was nothin except .except ..all I could see, when I tried to picture them, was the look I imagined on their faces as they .. as they burned to death. All I would think of was that theyd be thinkin Id be back to save them, only I never came, I never saved them, I let them down and they would never forgive me. Id go to sleep at night and see their faces accusin me, blamin me, I abandoned them! So I drank to blot it all out, only it didnt work, see? I kept seein their faces and hearin their screams ..Thats how it was, you understand, thats how it was! Damn you Vin Tanner! Chris let go of Vin and pushed him away.
Then you know. Vin whispered to the back of his friends head.
Chris turned back to Vin. Know what?
You know how I feel about her. You know how Ill feel if I dont find her and how important it is that I do find her.
Ive been wrong all along. Letting Moon leave was a mistake. I shouldnt have done this to Vin. God, I shouldve locked her up until he got back but I was being too selfish. Im sorry, pard. Well find her. Well find her.
The secret of your beautyAnd the mystery of your soul
Ive been searching for in everyone I meet
And the times Ive been mistaken
Its impossible to say
And the grass is growing underneath our feet
I know youre out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice.
The words that I rememberFrom my childhood still are true
There are none so blind that will not see
And to those that lack the courage
And say its dangerous to try
Well they just dont know that love eternal will not be denied
Yes I know its gonna happen(know its gonna happen)
I can feel you getting hear(feel you getting near)
We seem to be returning to the fountain of our youth
And if you wake up wondering(if you wake up wondering)
In the darkness Ill be there(you know Ill be there)
My arms will close around you and protect you with the truth
I know Ill find you somehow, somehow
And somehow Ill return again to you
Many thoughts were spinning round and round in her head. Youll be the death of him. Hes a changed man. Another good man bites the dust. I cant let that happen. Hes a good man. I cant be the one to change him. If it had been me .. Hes a changed man. Another good man bites the dust.
If you are looking back all the time, you cant see what is in front of you.
Part 29. Vin, Moon and the mare
They were close now. Vin could sense it. He knew she was just up ahead. They had been following her for hours.
She must think weve lost her trail because its getting easier to follow her tracks. Vin said finally. He had been quiet for a long time. Chris could see he was more animated and excited, he hoped Vin would not be disappointed.
Shes just in front of us now. Shhhhhh. Chris, stay quiet! Well circle round in front of her.
So they took a long circuitous route and she almost walked past them. Vin stepped out from where they had been hiding. When she saw him her shoulders sagged in resigned disappointment and ashamed he had been able to find her. She thought shed hidden her route well.
She continued to walk forward and stopped a few paces from him. The mare took a couple of steps forward and nuzzled into her chest, she stroked the horses mane and scratched her favourite spot behind the mares ears.
Why did you follow me? she asked.
Whyd ya leave? he asked back. Moon looked accusingly up at Chris. That look bore into him. It said, Youre his friend, you were supposed to stop him! Her stare made him squirm until he tore his eyes away from her.
Vin saw the silent exchange between Moon and Chris, he looked from one to the other, Somethin between you two?
Just go, Vin. Moon said.
No! Chris you wanna tell me what is goin on? You know, dont ya? Vin took a step towards Chris.
Chris thought a moment. She told me. He hung his head not wanting to look at the tracker.
Told you! You told him you were leaving? he turned to Moon now. You told him but not me! Why? she remained silent. Moon? he pleaded. Why? He reached out for her but she moved away from him.
Just leave, please, Vin.
Not until you tell me. I need to know. Tell me you love me!
I do. Vin. I do .but .. she began, her voice barely a whisper.
Its because I love you. she said.
Vins faced showed confusion. I .I dont understand. he said He looked back at Chris but Chris had moved away a little.
Moon took a deep breath. The time had come. She had no way to avoid it. He would not give up. I dont want to see you die!
I cant watch you die because of me. I wont be responsible!.
What? What do you mean?
During the bank robbery, it was Mary they took, but next time it could be me. What would you do? Youd turn yourself in, wouldnt you? Youd give yourself up just like Chris almost did. Next time they could be bounty hunters. I know you Vin Tanner, youd do it. Youd give yourself up in exchange for me and I cant let you do that, you hear, I cant let you! Now will you go?
Vin burst out laughing. Thats it? Thats what you left for. He saw her looking at him getting angry. Awww Moon. Again he reached for her but she moved back away from him. Im sorry. Truly. Im sorry. Youre serious, aint ya?
His face began to change. From mirth to concern that she could think that this was a reason to leave. At least she still loves me, thats the most important thing, she still loves me, he thought.
Moon, Ive drifted from town to town all ma life, never stayin in one place fer long. Until now. Now, I got people that care about me. Cant understand why, but for the life of me, I cant help but care for them too. Believe me I tried not to care, it dont come easy tme, but there it is.
Chris and Moon were watching him intensely now. Hell, if they took Chris, Josiah, JD or anyone else in that town, Id hand myself over, no question bout it, I would. Yer right, Id do it fer you, moren anyone else, I would do it fer you, Moon. But . He licked his lips, this was not easy. But, whats important, is that its like Ive said before, I aint afraid of dyin. There are people I trust to get me outuva fix if I got in one. I aint afraid of dyin, Moon, I aint. Hell, its gonna happen one day, I know. Maybe today, tomorrow or in 50 years time. Hell, I could fall of ma horse today and break ma neck.
They both looked back at him. OK bad example, but you know what I mean.
Yes, but . Moon started.
No listen! I aint finished yet. This aint easy tsay so dont stop me when Im on a roll. He took a breath and began again. I aint fixin tdie just yet because I got somethin tlive fer. He pointed his finger at Moon and then Chris. You, Chris and the others, he waved his arm. the whole town! Theres not just me no more, theres US
Moon looked down, Im sorry. I didnt know. she said quietly.
He put his arms on her shoulders, this time she didnt move away. He looked down searching her face. He cupped her chin and she looked up. There were tears in her eyes. He wiped them away with his thumb.
Youve changed. she said.
Changed. Ill say. But I think Ive changed fer the better. Whadyya say Chris?
Yep, pard, I reckon you wash more offen. Vin had been looking for support but got none so he glared at Chris who was now grinning back.
He turned back to Moon, I dont want to be the one to make you change.
Woman, no-one can make me change less I want to. When youre with me it feels right. When I look at you I know theres nothin I cant handle. When Im away from you I just want to get back. Moon, I understand whats botherin ya and I know why now. Come back please! I got others sides you lookin out fer me. I aint bout ta let them down and I aint gonna let you down. Id rather have one day with you than live forever.
Moon moved into his arms and he accepted her willingly. She cried out loud, Im sorry Vin.
Stop sayin yer sorry woman! he smiled. Get on that mare and lets get back before it get dark!
They mounted and rode back to town. On the way Chris said, She told me why she was leavin. I should ve told ya.
Yep you shouldve but I still wouldve followed her.
I know, pard. But I thought she was right. Bein with us aint no place fer a woman but ..
I was wrong. Yer right, we watch each others backs. Wed all give ourselves up for the others but wed break our necks trying to get ya back. I never seen it before, til ya said it. I was bein selfish. I thought we was losin ya. I know \I aint got ho right to tie ya down.
Vin was silent for a while then, staring ahead, he said, I had a blood brother back at the Comanche village. He told me about an Indian warrior, Blackfoot he was, I think his name was Crowfoot. This warrior said, What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Life is short, Chris, maybe mines shortern others cuz theres a bounty on my head, but Id rather spend mine here than anywheres else. I want to go back to Tascosa tclear ma name.
Youve thought about it before, why now? You just said .
I know what I said, but I owe it to her. I owe it to Moon to stay with her. I gotta settle it once and fer all and stop lookin over ma shoulder. He turned to look Chris straight in the face. I may need some help, Chris.
Ill get the others!
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