The Confederate Express

adapted by Aramis

The following story is an adaptation of a Laramie episode. I consider Laramie to be the best Western of all time and Robert Fuller, who plays Jess Harper, is my favourite actor. Coincidentally, he played Vin in the movie The Return of the Seven. His Vin was a handsome gunfighter and looked nothing like our Vin.

I have had to make changes to the episode (eg) to explain the absence of Chris and Co. I have also changed (eg) Jess’ speech to match Vin’s pronunciation. I have kept most of the original dialogue, but have had to change some parts. Of course, all the thoughts/references to the others of the Seven are additions.

The following character substitutions have been made:
Vin Tanner for Jess Harper
Buck Wilmington for Slim Sherman
Casey Wells for Mike Williams
Nettie Wells for Daisy Cooper.

English spelling has been used for this story.

A tall, middle-aged man, clad in a buckskin jacket and Confederate Army trousers, led his horse along the edge of a tranquil lake. Dropping the reins, he sat down, pulled out a pipe and proceeded to fill it.

Three men were watching him from the hillside on the far side of the lake, but the man was clearly unaware of their presence.

"It’s Grundy," one of the watchers stated. "I figured we’d catch up with him about now."

"Let’s get him," a second urged, starting forward.

However, the leader stopped him. "No chance at this time. We’ll do it from here. Luke!" he said, clearly intending the latter to take the shot.

"It’ll be hard to get a clean shot off from here, Clay," Luke observed.

"Well, that’s reason enough not to miss," Clay replied. He knew that Luke was right, but did not think they would manage to get closer without alerting, and so losing, their prey.

So drawing his rifle, Luke dismounted and took aim. He missed his shot. Seeing this, the other two opened fire. However, their intended victim mounted hurriedly and took off unscathed.

Putting spurs to his horse, Grundy rode on until he reached a small, rundown farm. He was immediately confronted by an attractive woman, in her thirties. She was in the process of taking the day’s wash off the clothesline, while watched by a dark-haired girl of perhaps eight years.

"Hello, Martha," he greeted, tipping his hat.

However, the greeting was not returned. The woman merely observed, tiredly, "I should have guessed you’d find me."

Undaunted Grundy dismounted. Approaching the child, he said, "My you’ve grown a lot in a year, button."

The child took umbrage at the endearment and announced shrilly, "My name is Tina!"

"Yeah," Grundy acknowledged, his voice tinged with disappointment at her reaction to the pet name.

He turned to the woman, only to meet with more hostility. "Why did you come back, Matt?" she asked sourly.

"Tina’s birthday. Martha, I’ve come back for good this time."

"Why? Lost your taste for other women or have they lost theirs for you?"

Horrified that the woman should speak in such a manner in front of her daughter, Grundy protested, "Martha, Tina’s standing right there!"

"What’s all this sudden paternal concern?"

Hurt at the accusation, Grundy protested, "I never forgot her birthday."

"Oh!" she huffed in exasperation. She turned away and he stepped up behind her.

"Martha," he appealed, reaching for her.

Without warning, she spun around and slapped his face.

"Mommy!" the child shrieked. Obviously fearing his reaction to the blow, she raced to insert herself between her parents, crying. "Don’t you hurt her!" Then she burrowed her head into her mother’s apron.

"It’s all right, Tina," he mother reassured her. "Go away, Matt!" she ordered firmly.

"Martha, please…"

However, she was in no mood to listen. "Go back to your painted women and your whiskey and your wild friends."

"Martha, please listen to me for just one minute."

"No! I used to listen to you. I used to listen for you all night. I knew what you were and what you were doing and I prayed you’d come back. I missed you so much I didn’t care. I missed you so much I thought I’d die. But the only thing that died was the way I felt about you." She turned away.

"Martha, please."

"Oh leave us alone, Matt," she appealed.

"Martha, let me show … please let me show …"

"Leave us alone!"

"Look here! Look at that!" he insisted, pulling out a piece of paper and thrusting it towards her. "Let me show you. That’s a bank draft good at any bank for $15,000, Martha. I got it honestly. I sold a mining claim."

"Well, I don’t believe you," she replied, turning away again.

"Martha, there’s three men who’ve followed me all the way from Medicine Bow country to kill me for this. It’s for you and me."

"No, you’re too late, Matt."

"Well then it’s for Tina."


"You can’t say no."

"I have."

"She’s my daughter too! I’ve got a right to do for her too."

"You gave up that right a long time ago."

"Martha. Please! Let me try to earn that right back again. Please!" The last word was softer, appealing.

Reluctantly, against her better judgment, she nodded her assent.

+ + + + + + +

The following day, Grundy fixed the corral gate and checked that it was swinging smoothly. Then, watched at a distance by Tina, he cut firewood. He was just gathering up some of the wood to take inside when Martha emerged to empty out a bowl of water.

All three turned as a horse whinnied. Grundy stood up slowly, still clutching his armload of wood and they all watched Buck Wilmington ride up, a basket dangling from one hand.

"Mornin’," he said affably, as he rode past Grundy.

"Hello, Mr Wilmington," Tina called, clearly pleased to see the new arrival.

"Hello, Tina, Mrs Whitmore." the ladies’ man replied, grinning broadly.

"Hello, Buck," Mrs Wtitmore said.

"Mrs Wells made some bread last night and asked me to bring some to ya when I came to fix the corral gate."

Grundy had bristled at the warmth of the welcome reserved for new arrival, especially as it provided such a clear contrast to his reception of the previous day. Accordingly, he announced gruffly, "Gate’s been fixed."

"That was nice of her, " Martha said, ignoring her husband’s comment. "This is Matt Grundy. Buck Wilmington a friend from Four Corners."

"Howdy," Grundy acknowledged curtly. The idea of another man calling on his wife, and clearly on good terms with her and his daughter did not sit well with him."

"Mr Grundy," Buck replied briefly. He was aware of Grundy’s animosity and was watchful.

"Yer new around here, ain’t ya? I’ve never seen ya before," Buck commented, fishing for information. He could tell Mrs Whitmore was ill at ease and wanted to ensure that she was comfortable with the presence of the stranger on her place.

Hoping to stem any possible trouble between the two men, and also to forestall any inconvenient foreclosure of information Matt might make, Martha answered promptly for her husband. "Mr Grundy stopped by late yesterday afternoon. He asked to do some chores in return for his meal."

Following her lead, Grundy observed, "A man gets tired of trail grub."

Buck relaxed a bit at his change of tone. He glanced at Grundy’s armload of wood and said, "Well, seems like you beat me out of two jobs." Then he turned to the child, "Say, Tina, Casey sent you over some molasses candy."

"Thank you, Mr Wilmington."

The atmosphere was tense. Buck hesitated to return to town leaving Martha alone with the possibly unwelcome stranger. So he asked, "Everything all right, Mrs Whitmore?"

"Yes, of course. Really!" She added seeing the doubt and concern in his eyes. She sounded flustered, but Buck did not feel he could ask again.

"Well, if ya sure it’s okay, I’d better head off. Elderly friends of Nettie’s have busted their wagon axle and abandoned it in her yard. I’ve got to help Vin fix it. If there’s nothin’ around here for me to do, I’d better get at it. "

"Tell Mrs Wells thank you," Martha said.

"I’ll do that."

He turned to Grundy. "If yer lookin’ for more work come in to Four Corners. There’s always someone lookin’ for help."

"Thank you," Grundy replied, without enthusiasm.

Buck smiled at Martha. "I’ll see you in a day or two. Mr Grundy, I may see you again."

"Could be," Grundy responded noncommittally.

"Bye, Tina."


As Buck rode off, Grundy turned to his wife and said, "You’ve taken your maiden name."

"Did it bother you to be denied, Matt? Now you know how I’ve felt all these years."

Soon after that Grundy spotted his three assailants on the skyline and about to descend the hill to the ranch. Not ready to confront them, he said hurriedly. "Martha, I’m going!"

"All right, Matt," she responded, her tone reflecting her indifference to his movements.

"But I’ll be back." He hesitated and then asked softly, "May I come back?"

"I can’t stop you," she replied resignedly.

"Martha, please I’m trying."

"Are you, Matt?" she questioned dubiously.

"I’ll be back."

Mounting hurriedly, he rode off at speed. Observing his rapid departure, the men began begin firing. Spooked, Grundy’s horse fell, and Matt cut his hand. However, the animal scrambled to its feet immediately and Grundy was straight back into the saddle and away.

+ + + + + + +

Buck arrived at the Wells homestead and soon he and Vin were busy repairing the Conestoga wagon. Using a long solid piece of timber as a lever, they had managed to gradually jack it up one side onto several pieces of wood. Without hesitation, Vin crawled underneath to start work, while Buck held the wheel steady.

"There that does it, Vin. Lock the jack off so it won’t slip."

"It’s locked," Vin replied, his slightly exasperated tone reflecting the fact that he considered Buck was getting too carried away in his attempts to keep the job safe. He was all too aware that Wilmington tended to be overprotective of JD and there was no way that he was going to let the older man treat him like a kid as well, even if he was considerably closer to the sheriff in age than the others suspected.

Looking dubiously at the precariously balanced stage, Buck knew that Nathan would have a fit if he saw what Vin was about. In truth, he felt none too happy himself. However, he made no further protest, as he knew that one’s chances of stopping the stubborn tracker from doing exactly what he wanted to do were zero, unless one’s name was Chris Larabee. Hell, even that formidable gunslinger had to admit defeat, at times, when faced with those defiant blue-eyes and ‘damn ya’ attitude.

At that moment, Nettie appeared with two glasses of lemonade. "Here’s your lemonade."

Vin scrambled to his feet. "I thought you were goin’ to bring us a whole pitcher," he observed, hoping for more.

"This ain’t goin’ to last Vin long," Buck added cheekily.

"No, I don’t want you to fill up so you won’t have any appetite for dinner."

Before Vin could point out that he always had room for Nettie’s meals, the three heard the sound of horse’s hooves.

Nettie announced, "Rider coming."

"It’s that fellow Grundy I met at Mrs Whitmore’s," Buck said.

"Hello, Mr Wilmington."

"Mr Grundy," Buck acknowledged. "Ya come by to give us a hand?"

"No, Sir! I’m headed for Four Corners, but I guess I got turned around. Is it far from here?"

"It’s about twelve miles that way," Vin replied, gesturing.

"Oh, Mr Grundy, this is Mrs Wells," Buck said, remembering his manners.

Grundy touched his hat to her.

"My friend, Vin Tanner," Buck continued.

"How do," Grundy said.

Instead of acknowledging the greeting, the tracker commented, "That’s a pretty bad cut ya’ve got on yer hand."

"Yeah, my horse tripped back aways and threw me."

Nettie said, "You ought to have that washed out before it festers."

Concerned, both at Grundy’s sudden appearance and his injury, Buck asked suspiciously, "There’s nothin’ wrong out at Mrs Whitmore’s is there?"

"No need to be concerned for her, Mr Wilmington."

"Well maybe, but you know a woman alone …"

Grundy interrupted, explaining somewhat hesitantly, "She’s … my wife."

"What? Oh, I thought she said she was a widow," commented a confused Mrs Wells.

"No, Ma’am. I’ve been away such a long time she … well, she had every right in the world to think I was dead."

"I’ll just boil up some water and fix your hand," Nettie said, heading for the house.

"C’mon, climb down," Vin invited.

However, Buck was not so easily appeased. "Mrs Whitmore didn’t show any signs of knowin’ ya this morning."

"Well, a woman doesn’t take pride in admitting to a husband who’s deserted her and who’s served time in the territorial prison."

"Why are ya tellin’ us that?" Vin asked, suspicious as to what the motive behind such unnecessary frankness could be. He was so used to concealing his own past and the murder charge hanging, albeit unjustly, over him, that he could not understand why a man should be so open especially before strangers.

However, Grundy was not fazed by the question. "Because it is in the past. Because maybe for the fist time I’ve got to turn to somebody."

"Sounds like ya’ve got some trouble," Vin observed.

"I will have if the Kerrigans catch up to me."

"Who are they?" Buck enquired.

"The ones who are trying to take away my one chance of making things up to my wife."

+ + + + + + +

The evening meal over, Grundy, his hand well bandaged, was standing filling his pipe, while Nettie, Casey, Vin and Buck still sat round the table.

"Well, I was ten years with Crooke on the frontier and then four years with Longstreet’s 1st Kentucky Artillery during the war. After Appomattox, I took the easy way. Got caught that one time and then just drifted. I never should have married Martha, I guess, but in my own way I loved her."

"This money you got for the mining claim …" Nettie started.

"Is my chance to make a good life for Martha and Tina if she’ll let me," Grundy replied.

"But what good could your bank draft do these Kerrigans?" Nettie asked.

"Oh, one of them could sign his name just as easy as anybody else could," Vin explained.

"Then it’s just a case of getting into Four Corners before they stop you?"

"M-mm, that simple. See they tried twice in Medicine Bow and I saw them again this morning."

"They followed ya here, huh?" Buck questioned.

"M-mm," Grundy muttered in agreement. Then he added, "They might give up once I’ve got that draft safe in the bank, but not before."

Meanwhile Casey had left the table and had wandered over to the side table, where Grundy had his war bag. "What’s that?" she asked curiously.

"Casey, mind your manners," Nettie said sharply, ashamed that her niece should pry.

"What’s what, Casey?" Matt questioned.


"Casey, please!" Nettie reprimanded.

"Oh, those are mini balls. I picked them up at Chancellorville."

"I mean that little bag."

"This? Well now this is a substance the Cheyenne put on their hunting arrows. When it gets in a buffalo’s bloodstream, why he falls asleep in about thirty seconds."

"Where’d you get it?"

"Well, I used to live with the Indians one time, Casey."

"You’ve done lots of things, haven’t you," Casey observed admiringly.

"Yes, I have, but it all adds up to nothing."

Just then hoof beats heard heralded the arrival of the Kerrigans. "Grundy, c’mon out!" a man shouted.

Those inside the house rushed to the front windows.

"You stay inside," Buck told the others, "I’ll take care of it."

Matt protested, "Wilmington, I can’t let you do my fighting for me."

"There won’t be any fightin’, not with Mrs Wells and Casey here," Buck stated firmly. "Put that gun away," he added.

He stepped outside onto the porch, while the others covered him. "Ya want somethin’, mister?" he asked, the leader of the three, who were sitting their horses by the corral.

"I don’t want any talk, I want Grundy. That’s his horse and he’s inside. Now tell him to c’mon out."

"I’ll tell you to get off this property just once," Buck warned.

"I’ve had all I want to do with Grundy. Now if he don’t come out we go in and get him."

"Ya set one foot on this ground and ya’ll have more trouble than ya can handle."

"I don’t know what story you heard from him …" Clay started, but broke off as a shot rang out from the house. "Get out of here," he shouted to his brothers and all three took off, firing as they did so.

Buck flung himself flat to avoid the bullets coming from both sides and then clambered to his feet as the Kerrigans disappeared from sight.

"It was a good thin’ we were coverin’ ya," Vin observed, as he and the others piled out of the house.

"Who fired that first shot?" Buck demanded angrily.

"I did," an unrepentant Grundy admitted calmly.

"I told ya no shootin’."

"The one called Luke, he was reaching into his boot top."

"So what?"

Matt explained, "A trick I saw him use in Medicine Bow. He carries a derringer there."

"Thank ya," Buck acknowledged quietly.

"As long as you weren’t hurt."

"Ya’d better wait and ride back to town with us tomorrow," Vin said.

"No, Sir! I can’t drag you two into it any more," Grundy stated firmly.

"The Kerrigans won’t make another try here," Buck argued, "but they’re sure to on the way to town."

"That’s right, ya’d be a lot safer with us," Vin said.

"Best you wait, Mr Grundy," Nettie advised.

+ + + + + + +

The morning of the following day found the three men hard at work on the wagon. Grundy was using a solid length of timber as a lever to keep the back of the wagon up and balanced.

"Want me to spell ya with that?" Buck asked.

"No, Buck, I’ve got it," Matt replied.

The two glanced over towards the barn where they could see Vin making alterations to something on the forge.

"I’d be glad to help, Mr Grundy," Casey offered.

Not needing the help, but realizing it meant a lot to Casey to take a full part in the work around the ranch, Grundy accepted the offer. "Well then okay, Casey, you take hold of it right here." He indicated that she should help support the length of timber he was holding.

Pleased to see the way Grundy treated Casey, Buck commented good-naturedly to him, "Yer handling the job like ya’ve done it before."

"Well, if I’d waited for Ordinance to fix every busted axle I’ve had, I’d still be waiting."

"I’s got this u-bolt straightened," Vin announced, as he strolled towards them.

He lay down on his back and edged his way under the wagon feet first.

"All right, Buck, you tap the end of that axle now," Grundy said.

"Step back, Casey," Buck warned.

"I can handle it now, Casey, thanks," Grundy assured her.

"Ya ready, Vin?" Buck asked. He still was not happy with the way they had the wagon balanced.

"Go ahead."

Grundy pushed down hard on his end of the wood, while Buck hammered at the bent axle in an effort to knock it through. "How’s that?"

Lying prone underneath the wagon, Vin saw the axle start to move. "Coupla more times," he shouted encouragingly. As he spoke, he reached into the heavy wooden box of tools alongside him.

"How’s that?"

"Hold it a minute," Vin replied. Extracting the tool he wanted, he called, "All right, a little harder now!"

Obeying the instruction, Buck bashed hard and the whole wagon moved. As it did so the prop at the front of the wagon started to collapse. While shouting frantically, "Tanner, get out of there!" Grundy dropped the wood he was holding and grabbed for the wagon. Somehow he managed to get his fingers under a back corner of the tray, taking the weight of the wagon just as it started to collapse. Vin twisted frantically to the side and barely rolled clear as Grundy lost his awkward grip. The wagon crashed down, smashing the toolbox to splinters.

Vin staggered to his feet and moved to thank Grundy, but the latter waved the gratitude aside.

"We can lock it back up. No real damage done," Matt commented.

"Matt…" Vin started, in another attempt to thank him. He knew only too well that the shattered box could just as easily have been his legs.

However, Grundy was not seeking gratitude. Ignoring Vin, he merely said, "Let’s get it back up."

+ + + + + + +

Nettie rang the triangle suspended over the porch to summon the men.

"Supper time already," Vin announced happily. He was always ready to eat, but Nettie’s cooking was top of his list.

"Be right in, Mrs Wells," Buck called.

"I didn’t think it was that late," Grundy observed.

"Ya put in a good day’s work," Vin stated.

Buck said, "Ya stay the night and ride into town with Vin and me."

Grundy hesitated, but Casey intervened. It was clear that Grundy had made quite a hit with her because of the way he had treated her. "You gotta stay," she insisted. "You know what Aunt Nettie’s having for supper?"

"No. What’s she having?" Matt asked.

"Chicken and dumplings! And apple pie for dessert!" she announced enthusiastically.

"Pretty hard to turn that down," Grundy observed, accepting the invitation. "C’mon." he said, extending his arm to the girl.

+ + + + + + +

The following morning the three men saddled up ready to head into Four Corners.

"Now, Mr Grundy," Nettie said, "you plan to have supper with us on your way back."

"Thank you, Ma’am."

"You got more of them war stories, Mr Grundy?" Casey asked.

"Might be I could recall one or two more, Casey."

With that the three men headed for town.

From their position of concealment, the Kerrigans observed their departure. "Like you said, Clay, they’re riding into town with him."

"That’s their tough luck, ain’t it?"

The Kerrigans then rode across country to intercept the three.

Once in a suitable position, they opened fire.

Buck, Grundy and Vin dived off their horses, took cover behind some large rocks, and started shooting.

A bullet hit the rock that Vin was using as cover, ricocheted and cut his cheek. Wincing, he raised a hand to check the stinging cut. Then angered, he left his place of concealment, rifle in hand, determined to climb up the hill after their attackers. "Let’s go up after them."

However, Matt put out a restraining hand to stop him. "No. Sir, I can’t let you take any more chances on my account," he insisted.

Buck agreed. "We’re goin’ to get that draft of yers to a bank. That’s what we’re goin’ to do."

With that the three mounted and headed for town at speed.

Four Corners was very quiet when they rode in. Buck and Vin were surprised to see no sign of the others. Often Chris was to be seen lounging on his favourite chair on the boardwalk at that time of day and usually JD would come hurrying out of the jail to greet them when they had been away overnight.

Buck and Grundy headed in to the jail to see if the young sheriff was there, while Vin stayed with the horses. As they emerged, Vin asked, "No sign of them?"

Buck waved a note at him. waving a note. "It’s from JD," he announced. "He, Chris, Ezra and Josiah have taken some prisoners over to Eagles Bend. Apparently Nate stayed to hold the fort here. I guess he’s at the clinic. The others’ll be back any time"

"We can fill them in later," Vin said. Let’s go."

"I’ll feel a sight easier when I get to the bank," Grundy said.

They headed straight to the bank, only to find it closed and a couple of men working on the doors.. A sign on the front announced it would reopen at 2pm.

Wilmington commented, "Hey, Vin, look at that! How long has Mr Adamson been talking about those new safety lock doors? Six months? And he had to pick today to do it!"

Grundy looked resigned. "Maybe it’s my destiny to lose this bank draft to the Kerrigans."

"Almost three hours to wait," Vin observed.

"So do ya think they’ll try anythin’ here?" Buck asked.

"Knowing them like I do, they will if they find me here."

"Especially if they find out Chris and the boys ain’t in town," Vin said.

"We’ll get a room in the hotel and wait until the bank opens," Wilmington said. "Let’s get off the street. Vin, you and Grundy go ahead. I’ll take the horses over to the blacksmith’s shop and get them out of sight."

Vin said, "All right, I’ll get us a room where we can get a good view of the street."


A short time later Tanner and Grundy entered the hotel room. While Matt locked the door, Vin immediately moved to the window to check the view. "Well, this’ll suit us fine. We can cover pretty near the whole street."

"Vin, you and Buck have done enough. I’ll be safe here. There’s no need for you to stay," Grundy said.

"Well, ya can’t tell. There might be some excitement. I’d never forgive myself if I missed it," Vin drawled.

+ + + + + + +

Meanwhile, Buck had taken the horse to the livery and was on his way to join the others in the hotel. Spotting the Kerrigans riding in, he ducked quickly off the main street and hurried down an alley.

The Kerrigans failed to see him. They split up to search for Grundy.

+ + + + + + +

Back at the hotel, Vin was examining the cut on his face in the dresser mirror. "I’s goin’ to get some water to wash this cut out," he announced. With that, the tracker picked up the pitcher from beside the bed and headed out into the hotel corridor. "Lock the door after me," he said.

He had only gone a few steps when he heard shots. Dropping the pitcher, he raced back to the room.

He banged hard on the locked door, while calling, "Matt! Matt!"

Grundy unlocked the door and opened it, gun in hand.

"Ya all right?" Vin questioned anxiously.

"That’s as close as I ever want it to be. That was Amos Kerrigan. I saw him through the side window."

"Well I’s had enough of them," Vin declared. "They want to fight, let’s give them one."

Meanwhile other hotel guests and the manager had gathered in the corridor, wondering what on earth was going on.

Buck had also heard the shots and was hurrying along the corridor. He started to push through the milling people.

Seeing him, the rather officious manager complained, "Now you listen to me, Mr Wilmington! You and your friend take your troubles elsewhere."

Worried for Vin and Matt, Buck was in no mood to listen let alone to try to placate the man. "Get out of my way," he snapped.

"I don’t know what’s going on here, but my hotel guests don’t …" the man started.

However, Buck heard no more as he closed the door to their room firmly behind him. "Ya all right?"

"Yeah, but not by much," Grundy replied.

"I saw the Kerrigans outside," Wilmington said.

"One of them just threw a slug at Matt," Vin explained.

"Yeah, I heard," Buck said.

"Well, let’s settle ‘em right now," Vin insisted.

"No, Vin, a lot of innocent people could get hurt," Grundy said.

"I don’t much like bein’ a sittin’ duck," Vin grumbled.

"Grundy’s right," Buck said, "it could get out of hand. We ought to wait ‘til Chris and …"

Vin interrupted. He was not prepared to wait. He wanted action. "If Chris was here he’d handle it, but he ain’t so we will. Lock the door and keep away from the window."

"I’m going with you," Grundy stated.

"Yer stayin’ here," Buck said.

"I can’t let you two face them for me," Grundy insisted.

"Look, Matt, iffen we get those three it might go some way to even us up," Vin said.

"What are you talking about?" a confused Grundy inquired.

"’Cos of ya, I’m walkin’ on two good legs."

"You lock that door. Don’t open it for anyone but us," Buck ordered.

Reluctantly, Grundy agreed.

Buck and Vin emerged from the hotel on to the boardwalk.

"Now, Vin, don’t try to take them by yerself," Buck warned, patting the tracker’s arm by way of emphasis. Wilmington knew only too well that Vin was unlikely to wait for reinforcements when he saw a need for action and did not relish having to deal with Chris Larabee if the gunslinger returned to Four Corners and found Tanner injured … or worse.

"I’ll head up this way," Vin said, gesturing. "Ya take the other side of town. I’ll meet up ya back here in about half an hour."

The two then separated to search the town.

Vin wished the men were out of town. Then finding them would have been simple task for him, but there were too many folks walking over the ground in town so tracking was impossible. Moving silently down the alleys and behind the buildings, Vin heard a small noise from behind a pile of old crates and barrels. He grabbed for his gun just as the pile toppled towards him.

Fortunately, he held his finger as two lads of about ten years of age appeared from behind the pile, looking at him with eyes wide with fright. Clearly they had not realized he was there when they elected to push over the pile.

The boys took off hurriedly and the tracker resumed his hunt.

A few minutes later, Vin came to an abrupt halt when he spotted one of the men he was seeking not ten feet from him. He ducked back behind a building, drawing his mare’s leg as he did so, and watched to see where the man was headed.

Seeing the man enter a dilapidated, old building used for storage, Vin slipped in after him.

Seeing no sign of the other two men, he decided it was time for some questions. "Raise ’em slow," he ordered. "Now take yer gun out with yer left hand."

At that moment, Vin heard the distinctive click of a gun cocking and felt a revolver pressing against the back of his neck as the other two men emerged from their hiding place.

"Mister, you’re just a breath away from being dead," Clay Kerrington said.

The tracker lowered his gun and Amos stepped forward to snatch it from him. "If ya go through with this yer goin’ to have half of Four Corners on yer trail, not to mention Chris Larabee," Vin pointed out.

"They can find us in the sheriff’s office, along with you, your friend and Grundy. Alive or dead we don’t much care."

The response had been anything but what the sharpshooter had expected. "D’ya want to tell me what that’s supposed to mean?" Vin demanded.

"Sure. It means we either kill Grundy or the sheriff sends him back to Sheridan to hang and what he does with you, if you’re still alive, is up to him."

Trying to figure out what in hell the men were playing at, Vin questioned, "Did you say Sheridan?"

"That’s right."

Confused by the men’s words, Vin asked, "Mister, yer holding a gun, what are ya tryin’ to run a bluff on me for?"

Amos sniggered, "You’ll find out if we’re bluffing."

Vin tried a bluff of his own. "Let’s go over to the sheriff’s office right now."

"You know the sheriff’s not in town," Clay replied scornfully. "But that fits right in with your plans, doesn’t it?"

Completely bewildered, Vin asked, "Plans for what?"

"The same thing Grundy pulled in Sheridan. Matt Grundy killed a friend of ours when he stuck up that bank in Sheridan. A harmless, old man! He couldn’t open the safe because he didn’t know the combination and so Grundy killed him. Mister, we’re not looking for that reward, just the satisfaction of seeing Grundy hang."

"I don’t believe it."

"Hah!" Amos scoffed. "You figure we care what you believe?" As he spoke, he moved menacingly towards Vin.

Seeing the attack coming, Vin launched himself at the man, knocking him backwards. Then the lithe tracker twisted around and dived for the door. However, Clay was too quick for him, bringing him down in a crashing tackle. He wriggled free from the man’s clasping hands, staggered to his feet and the fight began in earnest. For a while the tracker held his own, but then weight of numbers took its toll. Eventually Luke and Amos each secured one of his arms, while the Clay laid into him. As his world began to darken, he started to slump. Seeing this, Clay moved forward, grasped him by his neckerchief and used it to hold Vin on his feet while continuing to punch him. He was already unconscious when the man finally dropped him to the floor.


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