Part 26. ‘Another good man bites the dust’

Chris ran on having taken at least one of the outlaws out and raced to Mary’s 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, she’ll 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 afternoon’s 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 it’s 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. Must’ve thought it was all gonna happen again. He would’ve taken them all on if’n I hadn’t stopped him. I knew Vin would go high and you’d all be watchin’ each other but Chris weren’t thinkin’ straight.’

‘Damn, that was one helluva shot!’ JD was talking about the shot Vin had made. ‘Pow! Straight into the middle of that fella’s 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 don’t reckon anyone else could’ve 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 could’ve done it if they’d 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.

‘D’ya think they’ll get married?’

‘Maybe!’ Buck mused, ‘Heck JD where d’ya get all these questions?’

‘I was just wonderin’. See, if Vin and Moon get married maybe he’ll settle down and they’ll have kids and things and …..’

‘Oh Lord. He’s 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, I’m 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 couldn’t. It’s part of his nature and she couldn’t ask him.

He watched her go, shrugged and went in to check on the prisoners. They’d have to be watched tonight and they’d 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 Buck’s direction.

‘Chris, you don’t need to …..’ Vin started to tell him he should be with Mary.

‘She’s fine! Leave it Vin!’

Chris was struggling with his feelings. He liked Mary but that would lead down a dangerous path. She’s 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 can’t Vin. She can’t 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 she’d heard at the jail, glad of the time to be alone for the first time since she’d 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. He’d sat with him a while and fallen asleep in the chair.

Early this morning he’d 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 he’d been relieved himself by Buck he had collected the lumber for Nettie’s roof and rode out that morning first to the cabin then to Nettie’s. He’d been surprised that Moon had not gone with him but she explained she wanted to make sure Ezra’s 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.

‘I’m leaving.’ she said bluntly.

This was not quite what he’d 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 why’re you tellin’ me. Shouldn’t you be talkin’ to Vin.’

‘I can’t. He wouldn’t see it like you and I do. I just……’ she paused trying to find the right words, ‘I just came to ask….if……you’d 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 don’t know…I can’t have him distracted by……’ he trailed off.

‘Yes yesterday. You know! You know it could’ve been me, they could’ve been bounty hunters, they might get to him through me. That’s what it boils down to isn’t it?’ Chris remained silent looking into the distance. ‘Isn’t 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 didn’t 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 they’d 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. He’d lose a good man. They’d 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?. He’d tried to deny his feelings for the people around him for so long, keeping them buried until they threatened to surface then he’d 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 you’ll do it. You’ll 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. ‘She’s 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 couldn’t 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 Vin’s voice. He had been thinking about his conversation with Moon. He hadn’t 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 mare’s in the livery and I can’t find her round town. Ezra said you was talkin’ t’her. She say where she was goin’?’

So it had happened, it was the time Chris had not wanted to come.

‘She’s gone pard.’

‘Gone? Gone where?’

‘Just gone’

‘Well did she say where? Why’d she go, Chris?’

‘She didn’t say!’ he lied. He lied to his best friend. So I took the cowards way out too. I can’t tell him because I think she was right.

‘What’d she say? Chris what’d she say?’

‘Just that she needed to go, pard.’

‘Well I’m gonna find her. She ain’t leavin’ Chris. She ain’t 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 don’t want to be found, Vin’

Vin stopped saddling his horse and took a deep breath. ‘Right now, I don’t care about that. She is gonna be found and she is gonna tell me!’

‘Then I’m comin’ with ya.’ How could he have thought that Vin wouldn’t follow her.

‘Chris I don’t need ya holdin’ ma hand.’

‘Maybe but I’m comin’ anyhow.’

‘Well I ain’t got time t’argue.’ 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. He’d 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 he’d 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.



How’d ya feel when you lost Sarah and Adam?’

‘What the hell kind of question is that?’

‘I WANT TO KNOW, Chris, how d’ya feel?’

‘Look, I don’t 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 he’d 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… that…… hurt me, again. If I feel, then they’ll have won.’

Vin turned to him but Chris was not looking at him. He said, ‘ But…… if ya never feel anythin’ again…….. haven’t they won?’

Chris was stunned. Suddenly it all rushed out, all the things he’d kept under control. He grabbed Vin’s 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 who’d 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 we’d 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 they’d be thinkin’ I’d be back to save them, only I never came, I never saved them, I let them down and they would never forgive me. I’d 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 didn’t work, see? I kept seein’ their faces and hearin’ their screams…..That’s how it was, you understand, that’s 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 friend’s head.

Chris turned back to Vin. ‘Know what?’

‘You know how I feel about her. You know how I’ll feel if I don’t find her and how important it is that I do find her.’

I’ve been wrong all along. Letting Moon leave was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done this to Vin. God, I should’ve locked her up until he got back but I was being too selfish. ‘I’m sorry, pard. We’ll find her. We’ll find her.’

The secret of your beauty
And the mystery of your soul

I’ve been searching for in everyone I meet

And the times I’ve been mistaken

It’s impossible to say

And the grass is growing underneath our feet

I know you’re out there somewhere

Somewhere you can hear my voice.

The words that I remember

From my childhood still are true

There are none so blind that will not see

And to those that lack the courage

And say it’s dangerous to try

Well they just don’t know that love eternal will not be denied

Yes I know its gonna happen

(know it’s 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 I’ll be there

(you know I’ll be there)

My arms will close around you and protect you with the truth

I know I’ll find you somehow, somehow

And somehow I’ll return again to you


Many thoughts were spinning round and round in her head. ‘You’ll be the death of him.’ ‘He’s a changed man.’ ‘Another good man bites the dust.’ I can’t let that happen. He’s a good man. I can’t be the one to change him. If it had been me….. ‘He’s a changed man.’ ‘Another good man bites the dust.’

‘If you are looking back all the time, you can’t 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 we’ve lost her trail because it’s 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.

‘She’s just in front of us now. Shhhhhh. Chris, stay quiet! We’ll 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 she’d 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 horse’s mane and scratched her favourite spot behind the mare’s ears.

‘Why did you follow me?’ she asked.

‘Why’d ya leave?’ he asked back. Moon looked accusingly up at Chris. That look bore into him. It said, ‘You’re 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, don’t 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.

‘Then why?’

‘It’s because I love you.’ she said.

Vin’s faced showed confusion. ‘I….I don’t 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 don’t want to see you die!’


‘I can’t watch you die because of me. I won’t 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? You’d turn yourself in, wouldn’t you? You’d give yourself up just like Chris almost did. Next time they could be bounty hunters. I know you Vin Tanner, you’d do it. You’d give yourself up in exchange for me and I can’t let you do that, you hear, I can’t let you! Now will you go?’

Vin burst out laughing. ‘That’s it? That’s 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. ‘I’m sorry. Truly. I’m sorry. You’re serious, ain’t 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, that’s the most important thing, she still loves me, he thought.

‘Moon, I’ve 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. Can’t understand why, but for the life of me, I can’t help but care for them too. Believe me I tried not to care, it don’t come easy t’me, 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, I’d hand myself over, no question ‘bout it, I would. Yer right, I’d do it fer you, more’n anyone else, I would do it fer you, Moon. But…….’ He licked his lips, this was not easy. ‘But, what’s important, is that it’s like I’ve said before, I ain’t afraid of dyin’. There are people I trust to get me outuva fix if I got in one. I ain’t afraid of dyin’, Moon, I ain’t. Hell, it’s 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 ain’t finished yet. This ain’t easy t’say so don’t stop me when I’m on a roll.’ He took a breath and began again. ‘I ain’t fixin’ t’die just yet because I got somethin’ t’live fer.’ He pointed his finger at Moon and then Chris. ‘You, Chris and the others,’ he waved his arm. ‘the whole town! There’s not just me no more, there’s US’

Moon looked down, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know.’ she said quietly.

He put his arms on her shoulders, this time she didn’t 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.

‘You’ve changed.’ she said.

‘Changed. I’ll say. But I think I’ve changed fer the better. Wha’dy’ya 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 don’t want to be the one to make you change.’

‘Woman, no-one can make me change ‘less I want to. When you’re with me it feels right. When I look at you I know there’s nothin’ I can’t handle. When I’m away from you I just want to get back. Moon, I understand what’s botherin’ ya and I know why now. Come back……… please! I got others ‘sides you lookin’ out fer me. I ain’t ‘bout ta let them down and I ain’t gonna let you down. I’d rather have one day with you than live forever.’

Moon moved into his arms and he accepted her willingly. She cried out loud, ‘I’m sorry Vin.’

‘Stop sayin’ yer sorry woman!’ he smiled. ‘Get on that mare and let’s 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 should’ve but I still would’ve followed her.’

‘I know, pard. But I thought she was right. Bein’ with us ain’t no place fer a woman but…..’


‘I was wrong. Yer right, we watch each other’s backs. We’d all give ourselves up for the others but we’d 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 ain’t 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 mine’s shorter’n others ‘cuz there’s a bounty on my head, but I’d rather spend mine here than anywhere’s else. I want to go back to Tascosa t’clear ma name.’

‘You’ve 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.’

‘I’ll get the others!’

The end

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