Chapter 7 (a)
‘Bounty Hunter. Bounty Hunter’ Chris heard the words over and over in his mind. He struggled against something that was stronger than him; he had a fever and didn’t realise it was Josiah and Nathan trying to quiet him down. The one clear thing in his head was that Vin was in serious trouble, it didn’t dawn on him that he was too. He was still losing blood and, although the bullet had gone straight through, it had managed to inflict enough damage to worry Nathan.

The healer knew that sometimes he probably over worried, but better to do that than make light of an injury and have something going wrong. That would be easy where his friends were involved, they were forever telling him that they were okay when it was obvious they were not; and Nathan knew he had a fight on his hands where Chris was concerned. Hell, he was trying even in his fevered state to get free and go in search of Vin.

The two men continued to struggle to hold Chris down, his strength surprised them, considering his plight. He was hardly conscious but was intent on getting off of the bed. The only audible words he mumbled were connected to Vin.

"Josiah, can ya hold ‘im while I get that bowl?"

Josiah nodded and took a firmer hold on Chris. It was difficult as he could only hold down one of his shoulders; the other was seeping blood. He leaned across the bed and grabbing a cloth, he held it against the wound, putting pressure on it to try to stem the blood flow, all the while hoping that it wasn’t bleeding as bad at the exit site.

The gunslinger cried out at the first feel of pressure on his shoulder, the sweat was beading on his hot face and forehead.

When Nathan came back with the bowl he took the bloody cloth from Josiah and the ex preacher took a firmer hold on the still struggling form on the bed.

"Help Vin…Bounty Hunter...Kill him…Hang him. My fault…bad plan… NO!!"

Nathan and Josiah shared a look of desperation. They knew the friendship between Vin and Chris was strong, but at times like this they could really do without it. But despite Chris’s struggling, Nathan managed to clean the entry and exit wounds and stitch up the tears in Chris’s flesh.

"Hell, why can’t he pass out or somethin’, any other man would." Nathan had been trying to wrap Chris’s shoulder with a bandage, the injured man's struggles had grown a lot weaker, but it was still enough to make the healer's job harder.

"He ain’t any other man, Brother; and he knows a friend is in trouble." Josiah’s words of wisdom were always there and always right. Nathan just wished he wasn’t so right this time. His mind had been doing somersaults ever since he’d watched Vin being knifed in the leg, knocked unconscious and slung over a horses back. He was worried for him too, and Ezra and the others. Who knew what was happening out there?

Nathan sat back and looked worriedly at his patient. He’d managed to secure the bandage on Chris’s shoulder, but his friend looked pale and the red spots on his cheeks were a sure sign of his rising fever. He picked up a cloth and began to wipe down Chris’s sweat soaked face and body in an effort to get the fever down.

Chris had quietened down, although his lips still mouthed ‘Vin. Vin. Vin’ over and over. Inside he felt like hell. Tumultuous thoughts were running around in his head. ‘…all my fault, the plan was doomed from the outset. Vin was already injured, shouldn’t have let him go.’

He cried out as a pain lanced through his shoulder, sickness rose in his throat and he felt himself carefully lifted, just before his stomach emptied its contents.

He relaxed into the pillows when his body was lowered again. He knew Nathan was healing him, making him better. He would let him help him and then he was gonna get back out there and find Vin.

His heart clenched. Vin was out there with a bunch of murdering outlaws, and a bounty hunter. What if they joined forces? Would Somers keep his mouth shut to keep the money for himself? He groaned at the aching in his head. He was losing his battle at staying awake, he wasn’t even sure if he was awake now. He was too weak to think anymore. All he knew was he had to get out there and find Vin, he’d rescued him before and he would again. He had to. This time it was all his fault.

Nathan and Josiah both let out a sigh of relief as Chris grew still.

"Once he’s settled I’m going out there to find the others," Josiah informed Nathan. "They sure as hell need all the help they can get."

Nathan nodded at Josiah’s words, knowing that truer words had never been spoken.

* * * * * * *

The cool water was soothing for his body. He didn’t want to move, so he remained, curled up and cradling his head, Chris’s voice still echoing in his mind. He tried to concentrate and frowned as he recalled hearing a gunshot coming from behind them. Who had fired the shot and did they hit anyone? He hoped that none of his friends had taken it into their heads to follow. But he knew that at least one of them would. He would have done the same if he’d seen one of the others hauled off by outlaws. He just hoped that the gunshot didn’t mean one of his friends had been killed because of him.

"Get yer ass up outta there."

Vin ignored Joe’s words and stayed still, grunting when he felt a boot connect with his lower back.

"I’m going to check out that gunfire," he heard Cleet say, before he heard a horse moving through the water.

"I said get up!"

Vin ignored the voice again and let out a cry of pain as he was grabbed roughly and Joe tried to haul him to his feet.

"Get yer hands offa me," the tracker rasped and surprised the outlaw when he spun around and kicked him hard in the shin. Joe released his grip on Vin in his surprise, giving the tracker the chance to try and steady his groggy legs. The sharpshooter ignored the terrible pain in his thigh and lunged at the man and they were both sent splashing into the water.

John Somers watched the men struggling in the river. This would be a good time to escape, but he was not going anywhere without Tanner. He could rescue his bounty and escape with him. After all, Tanner didn’t know who he was. They could ride off together, and when they were safely away, he could make his move and drag the peacekeeper to Tascosa and make himself a pile of money. But it was risky, too risky he decided.

He didn’t consider himself a coward by any means; he was just biding his time. He could use this situation to his advantage; he needn’t be a prisoner if he told them of the bounty on Vin Tanner’s head. But did he really want to share the five hundred dollars bounty money with this gang? After all the work and effort he’d put into it, finding out where Tanner was and going into town as a visitor. His plan had been to hang around there until the opportunity arose to over power his target, without having to deal with his six notorious friends. He couldn’t believe his luck when he found out about their plan to foil the stage coach robbery.

So did he want to share his money with these outlaws? And what was to say that they wouldn’t kill him anyway and have Tanner for themselves? No, the answer was simple. He would get himself out of this situation; he’d got himself out of worse; and he would take Vin Tanner with him when he did.

He felt a pang of guilt at these thoughts, but quickly pushed them to the back of his mind. Tanner had helped him at the scene of the hold up, but business was business. Wasn’t it? He flinched as the fight continued in full force below him.

Vin was putting up a good fight but his energy was ebbing. Joe was slowly getting the upper hand and the Texan was starting to feel defeated. He made a last desperate attempt for the outlaws gun, seeing as, however many times his fist came into contact with the man's face, it didn’t knock him out.

Unfortunately, Joe was ready for the tracker. He grabbed Vin’s arm, his fingers digging in painfully, and before the prisoner could flinch, the outlaw’s boot connected with Vin’s injured leg.

A scream of pain erupted from the struggling man and he was nearly put out of his misery by a well connected fist to his jaw, sending him reeling to the side where he lay still, too tired to move, the shallow water rushing past him.

* * * * * * *

Jake cursed as he watched the man in front of them fall from his horse. He turned his head sharply to yell at the man beside him, but gave up before he started. It would be no use, Seth was trigger-happy, there were no two ways about it. He dug his ankles into his horse’s sides and moved towards the fallen man.

"Looks like, Joe and Cleet got trouble with that Texan." Seth was sneering as he spoke.

Jake looked into the distance, and could make out Vin laying in the water, with Joe standing over him. He turned back without commenting, after seeing Cleet head in their direction.

The leader jumped from his horse and knelt beside Ezra, feeling his neck for a pulse. "He’s still alive," he informed Seth, trying not to show his relief. He did hate killing when there was no need.

"Want me to finish ‘im off?"

Jake gritted his teeth and looked at the older man. "No I don’t. We’re gonna get him on his horse and take him with us. Reckon he’s another one of them peacekeepers."

Seth threw his head back and laughed. "Hell, soon we’ll have all seven of ‘em."

Jake again did not comment. He positioned himself behind Ezra and hooked his arms under the gambler's armpits. "Help me with him," he instructed, and Seth and Cleet, who had just arrived, helped to secure Ezra once more onto his horse.

Jake grabbed Chaucer’s reins, remounted his own horse, and headed towards the stream, frowning as he saw Joe and his long haired prisoner fighting in the water. "I’m sick of today," he said to no one in particular. "Wish I’d never heard of that damn stagecoach."

* * * * * * *

Joe struggled to his feet and staggered to Vin’s side. Grabbing him roughly by the jacket, he hauled him up just as Cleet returned with Jake, Seth and another man, who was unconscious and bleeding.

"Here, gimme a hand to get him back on his horse," Joe asked, and Seth sneered when he saw the blood oozing from Vin’s leg wound.

Vin felt himself being lifted roughly and practically thrown back on his horse. He sighed in relief, at least he was actually in the saddle this time. It hurt like hell, but it was better than having his ribs rubbed any more raw than they already were. He could hardly hold himself upright, and didn’t have the strength in him to fight when he felt the ropes being wound tightly around his wrists and his hands pulled sharply down and tied securely to the front of the saddle.

His clothes felt heavy. The water had seeped right through to his skin, and his coat was weighty enough when it was dry. Now he felt like his shoulders were being pushed downwards by some invisible force, but he didn’t even try to hold himself upright. He was too weary and he could feel himself getting hot. He’d been trying to stay focused, and knew he had to keep trying. But it was getting harder and harder. He was fighting a fever, but he knew he couldn’t give in to it; if he did, he and Somers were dead for sure.

He sucked in air as he was grabbed roughly and pulled sideways. He felt hot breath on his face and smelt sour tobacco as his eyes met with Seth’s.

"Try to escape again, and yer gonna end up like this feller."

Seth moved his head away, so that Vin could see past him. His head hurt from the constant effort of having to try to focus. One more head injury and he reckoned he would be a goner for sure. His breath caught when his eyes rested on the sight of Ezra slumped over his horse. He could see a large red stain on his friend’s jacket and knew it would be worse on his shirt.

‘Aw hell. How we gonna escape now?’ he wondered silently as they began moving off again; not even entertaining the thought that Ezra could be dead. Why would they bring along a dead body? He reasoned. Giving himself a small amount of comfort.

"He a friend of yers?" Vin turned to look at Jake, he didn’t reply. "’Cause if he is, it ain’t a good day for yer friends is it? That’s two of ‘em we shot."

Vin continued to stare hard at the tired looking outlaw. He didn’t let him see how badly his words had affected him. His heart was doing somersaults. So another of his friends had been shot? He recalled the loud cry he thought he’d imagined in his mind, and his heart sank further as one name came into his thoughts.


* * * * * * *

JD pulled on his reins, bringing his horse to a standstill. Buck, who was riding beside him, followed suit and turned to his young friend.

What he saw on JD’s face made him afraid to ask, but he took a deep breath and readied himself. "What’s wrong JD?"

"Lost the trail, Buck." There was a catch in the young sheriff’s voice and Buck’s heart went out to him.

"It’s okay, we’ll find it again."

"No. We lost it a way back. I just tried to follow my instincts, like Vin taught me, but they were wrong."

This time Buck did reach out and grasp JD’s upper arm. "JD, it’s alright. We’re losing the light now. There’s water near. We can make camp and start off at first light. We’ll find the trail again."

JD turned to him and Buck almost recoiled at the look of sorrow on the younger man's face, his eyes were watery and his lips were quivering.

"What if he’s dead Buck? It’d be all my fault."

"Now don’t talk like that." Buck let go of JD’s arm and dismounted his horse. "C’mon, get down and we’ll make camp," he sighed and shifted his weight as JD continued to sit sullenly on his horse. "Give Vin some credit, boy. He’s been keeping himself alive for a long time, he ain’t about to stop now."

JD finally climbed down from his mount and the two peacekeepers moved to a cluster of trees where they ground tied their horses.

The young sheriff finally turned to Buck and spoke. "Yeah, but before, he didn’t have to worry about his so called friends getting him into trouble."

Buck sighed again, deeper this time. He really had his work cut out for him he decided. He turned to look at JD in the fading light.

"Vin can adapt to situations. You’ve seen him boy. He’s slier than the wiliest coyote. Hell, he hasn’t got a gun but I bet if the opportunity came up he’d be able to use a beaver to out wit them half brains."

JD smiled and a chuckle escaped his lips. His eyes danced a little as he recalled some of the times when Vin had triumphed.

"Yeah, he’d probably pick the beaver up by it’s tail and hit ‘em round the head with it!"

Buck threw his head back and laughed, slapping JD on the back at the same time. "I reckon he would at that JD," he chuckled as he began to untie his bedroll. At least he’d got JD to lighten up on himself. He’d been trying to put on a jovial air, one that he didn’t feel inside. But for the boys sake he had to act positively. However worried they were about Vin, it didn’t help to brood on it. They had to think clearly, because if they didn’t go back to town with that scrawny Texan they better have a damn good excuse; or Chris would likely use ‘em for target practice. He frowned as he thought of his injured friend, but took comfort that Nathan was with him, so he couldn’t be in better hands. A growling in his stomach brought him out of his pondering.

"Ya got any beans with ya, JD?" he asked his young friend.

"Yeah, but you ain’t havin’ any. I like the way the air smells right now, don’t want you ruining it." He reached into his saddlebag with an impish smile on his face; when he found what he was looking for he handed it to Buck. "Here, have some jerky."

Buck feigned a hurt look and then chuckled again. "Heck boy, I reckon you been spendin’ too much time with Vin!"

JD’s face sobered. "Yeah, and I hope I get a chance to carry on doing just that, Buck."

The two men worked in silence to get the supplies they’d need to make camp.

* * * * * * *

Josiah and Nathan sat just outside the clinic door. The evening air was cool, and they were finally able to relax. Chris was resting as comfortably as he was going to at that moment and the two men took the opportunity to take a breather.

The peacekeepers hadn’t spoken more than a few words in the half hour that they’d been sitting there, each lost in their own thoughts.

Nathan recounted the events of the day in his mind, he shuddered as he recalled the moment that gun had been put to the back of Vin’s neck. He was kind of glad that JD had shouted, even though Vin was now a hostage; at least there was a chance he was still alive. That’s if John Somers hadn’t added to the tracker’s predicament.

When would Vin ever be rid of that bounty on his head? Lord knows he didn’t deserve it. Somers was just one in a long line of bounty hunters who were out for Vin’s blood, and the five hundred dollars it brought.

Nathan closed his eyes and sighed. He wiped a hand down his tired face and ran his fingers along his forehead. That knife had gone deep into Vin’s leg, and the sharpshooter was already in trouble with the head wound he already had. His hands were twitching just at the thought that he couldn’t help Vin, he was sure to have started a fever by now. There was no question in his mind that the wound would be dirty, the pieces of cloth from Vin’s pants were enough to do that, let alone the dirt on the trail. He held his hands out in front of him and looked down at them, he could heal with them, but what good were they doing right now.

"You’re helping Chris, remember that. Take care of the ones you can. Worry about the others, but don’t forget the good that you are doing."

Nathan looked around at Josiah, who’d been watching the healer closely. He knew what his friend was thinking, just by the look on his face, and when he’d held out his hands and looked at them in frustration, it confirmed it.

"I feel helpless, Josiah. I know he’s out there hurt, and there’s nothin’ I can do." He held up a hand as Josiah opened his mouth to respond. "I know what you’re sayin’ is right, and I’m glad I can at least help Chris right now, as long as he’ll let me."

Josiah smiled crookedly, understanding only too well what Nathan meant by his last remark. Chris was going to be a hard one to tie down, he was at the best of times, but having Vin and the others out there, and not knowing what was going on, was going to make it even harder to keep him in check, so that he could heal.

"But I can’t help thinkin’, why Vin? Why does it always come back to that damn bounty on his head? And take today, our plan to foil the hold up. It could have been any one of us down there with that stagecoach, but because Vin saved JD’s life the other day, it was him. And now he’s in the clutches of a band of outlaws and a bounty hunter! At least if it’d been one of us down there, we would only have had the gang to contend with."

Josiah looked steadily back at Nathan. "It’s the character that’s strongest that God gives the most challenges to."

Nathan opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again. There it was again, that answer for everything. That wise comment that summed it all up. It was infuriating sometimes. Why couldn’t he leave them to vent their anger? He wanted to be angry, needed to be to get rid of the wretched feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wasn’t only worried sick about Vin; he was worried about Chris too. He wanted to be mad, he wasn’t fussy whom he was mad at, he just wanted to be angry at someone or something. But Josiah had just taken all of the fight out of him with that one sentence of wisdom.

"Josiah, remind me never to vent my frustration near you again" was all Nathan could come up with as a small smile touched his lips.

Josiah answered with a toothy grin, but it fell away from his face seconds later.

"I should leave and find the others, they need to know about Somers, they don’t know what they’re dealin’ with."

"Wait ‘til mornin’ Josiah, they may even be back by then, if we’re real lucky."

The two men sat in silence once more, and they both watched as the undertaker’s wagon returned with the bodies of the dead gang members.

"They found the place then," Josiah said unnecessarily.

"Yep. I guess I give good directions."

The two men laughed at Nathan’s comment despite their worry.

"Should go and check on Chris, his fever could be risin’ again." Nathan started to stand but Josiah grabbed his arm and pulled him back into his seat.

"Leave him another ten minutes, you still need to relax some more."

Nathan nodded and settled back in his chair. He did still feel wired, and that sure as hell wouldn’t help Chris.

"Lord, I hope they all get back tomorrow. If Chris feels better, he’s likely to shoot us if we try and stop him goin’ back out there."

Nathan nodded and couldn’t help smiling as he replied. "To quote an ex-preacher I know; Amen to that Brother."

Just then they heard a loud groan coming from inside the clinic followed by a crashing sound. In a second they were both out of their chairs and running inside to investigate.

* * * * * * *

Chris lay still and quiet on the bed. He’d been disorientated when he’d woken, but was immediately aware of a deep pain in his shoulder. As he lay there quiet and alone he searched his foggy mind for the cause of his current situation.

Slowly, very slowly, everything seeped through the fog and slotted itself into place; and each piece that was remembered set the gunslinger’s heart racing a little more.

He was in town with Nathan and Josiah. Buck and JD were out after the outlaws, Ezra was following Vin and Vin was…Vin was…

Chris’s breathing became more like painful gasps as he became agitated. He knew that he’d never get off of the bed if he tried, but he wanted desperately to be out there with the others, securing Vin’s freedom.

He could hear Josiah and Nathan’s voices and guessed that they were sitting just outside the door. How could he get their attention? He needed them to know that he wanted them out with the others. He knew he didn’t have the strength to get off the bed right now, let alone ride a horse, and he didn’t want to hinder Vin’s rescue, however badly he wanted to be there.

His breath caught in his throat as he recalled Josiah’s words earlier, and that spurred him to lean across and grab the cup of water that was on the table next to the bed. He groaned loudly as the pain shot through his shoulder, but it didn’t stop him. Mounting all the strength he could muster, he used his uninjured arm to hurl the cup across the room. The effort caused him to make a loud pain filled growl and that, coupled with the noise of the cup crashing against the wall and onto the floor, brought the two peacekeepers from the veranda into the room just in time to see Chris collapse back onto the pillows.

* * * * * * *

Despite Vin’s fading eyesight, he kept a close watch on Ezra. The gambler was not doing well. He was slumped over in his saddle and Vin was frustrated that Seth was between him and his friend, because if Ezra took it into his head to slide off of his horse, Vin wouldn’t be able to stop him.

They’d been moving again for about half an hour, and Vin’s body was stiffening up from the fight he’d had with Joe in the water. He could feel one side of his jaw growing tight, and he was sure he could almost hear his ribcage screaming out to him to keep still and let it rest. He’d given up on getting any relief from the constant painful throbbing in his leg, and his head felt like it had been used as a battering ram.

Apart from that, he felt fine.

He lifted his pounding head and tried to get a look around him, it was getting difficult, the light was fading fast and he hadn’t been able to see clearly for a while. The symptoms had reversed themselves. Before, he had only had short spaces of time when his vision had blurred or he’d seen double, but now, he could only see through blurry eyes. He hoped it was temporary, and that he just needed to lie down and sleep for a few hours, to rest his injured head.

The silence screamed out at him. The outlaws seemed as tired of the journey as he was and hadn’t spoken for a while. All that could be heard were the horses hooves as they made their way along the trail, and the sound of water as the low river trickled along beside them.

Vin frowned as he looked sideways at Seth. He was worried about him. The outlaw kept catching his eye and sneering, tapping his gun as he did it. He was the one to watch out of all of them; it didn’t take a mastermind to figure out that it was probably him who’d shot Ezra.

"Thought we’d never get here."

Vin turned his head, and squinted at Jake, whose eyes were fixed on a cluster of trees. He squinted some more; trying to focus his sore eyes in the direction Jake was looking. As they grew nearer, he saw a break in the trees that couldn’t be seen from a distance. They turned and headed into a clearing, and right in the middle of it was a cabin.

Vin looked around the area, taking in as much detail as his eyes and the fading light would allow. He wanted to know what was around so that when they escaped, he knew where to head, because they were going to escape; they had to, their lives depended on it.

They stopped outside the cabin and the outlaws jumped down from their horses, tying all seven to the hitching post outside. John Somers was pulled from his saddle and landed on his knees in the dirt, making the outlaws laugh in glee. Cleet hauled him to his feet and dragged him inside the cabin and Vin couldn’t help noticing that the man who’d once had plenty to say seemed to have become a mute.

Vin’s head shot round causing a wave of dizziness, as he saw Seth approach Ezra. Ignoring the feeling that he wanted to vomit, he watched the outlaw grab his friend roughly and pull him off of his horse. The gambler landed with a thud on the ground but didn’t move; telling Vin that he was still not conscious.

"Be careful," the Texan ground out; his concern for his friend clear in his voice.

Before Vin could blink Seth had pulled his gun from its holster and had it held to Ezra’s head.

"Mebbe I should put ‘im out of his misery," he said, turning a steady gaze on Vin.

Vin stared back, trying to muster up the best Larabee glare he could. Seth was a little unsettled by the piercing blue eyed stare, but didn’t show it; although the hairs on the back of his neck bristled at Vin’s next words.

"Pull that trigger ‘n I’ll make sure yer the first one I kill."

The two men remained still, staring menacingly at one another until Jake’s voice broke into the thick silence.

"Put the gun away, Seth. And get ‘em inside."

Joe walked over to Vin and dragged him from the saddle as the tracker watched Seth pulling Ezra along the ground by his jacket. Vin winced, partly from the thud of Ezra being dragged up the cabin steps and through the door, and partly due to the fact that his arms felt as though they were being pulled from their sockets. His hands remained tied to the saddle. Joe laughed when he realised what he’d done and quickly untied the ropes, and Vin felt his legs buckle and he landed heavily on the floor.

He was mad at himself as he issued a loud exclamation of pain, which made Joe laugh more. "Get up, ya mangy low life."

Vin was hauled to his feet and stumbled behind Joe, who pulled him roughly up the steps and into the cabin, with Jake looking on shaking his head. He had to get out of this business, it was getting out of control, he thought as he followed the men inside and closed the door behind him.

* * * * * * *

Nathan and Josiah moved quickly to Chris’s bedside. The gunslinger was conscious, but breathing deeply, which was hurting his shoulder more.

"Chris, easy, calm down now." Nathan grabbed another cup from his workbench and filled it with water. He put his hand behind Chris’s head and lifted him a little so he could drink.

"What was so important ya needed to get our attention that way, Brother?" Josiah asked the injured man as Nathan gently laid his head back on the pillows.

"You need to ask?" Chris gasped. "Need you two out there…with …others." He squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth in pain. "I can take care of ...myself."

Nathan sat back on the chair and looked impatiently at the gunslinger. "Now, what would ya say if it was Vin or one o’ the others layin’ there sayin’ that?"

Chris thought for a moment, but only for a moment. It made his head hurt when he thought too much. "Think you’re a smart ass don’t you?" he responded.

"No, that’d be you," Nathan dared to reply. Hell, Chris couldn’t shoot him right then; he couldn’t even lift his head.

Josiah eyed the man in the bed. "You heard what I said about Somers?" he figured that Chris had, judging by his ramblings earlier.

"Yeah," Chris replied. He looked over at Nathan, and raised his eyebrows as he asked "More water?"

"Sure Chris, here." Nathan stood and lifting Chris’s head again he raised the cup to the injured man's lips, letting the blond drink until it was empty.

"Thanks." Looking at Josiah, Chris continued. "How’d you find out?"

The ex-preacher put his head to one side, as though thinking. "I’m not sure. It was just something that didn’t sit right with me. The way he kept glancing at Vin in the saloon. I was suspicious. Can’t put my finger on why exactly."

"Why didn’t you say anything?" the gunslinger asked.

"Didn’t rightly know what it was that was bothering me until after you all left. Then when I figured it out, I sent a wire."

Chris turned away. "Need you two out there. I’m not stupid. I know I can’t go yet. I’d just slow you down." He yawned and winced as a pain shot through his temples. "He’s hurt Nathan," he continued tiredly as his eyes drooped. "He needs help." Fatigue and fever finally won, and Chris lapsed into a deep, feverish sleep.

The two conscious men shared a look. "What a God awful day," Nathan said on a sigh.

"Well, let’s just pray tomorrow is a better one," Josiah replied.

"Can’t be worse, can it?"

Josiah looked hard at Nathan.

"Lord I hope not. At least we’re not startin’ it with a bad plan." He settled himself back in the chair, and his heart clenched as he remembered suggesting they needed one of them on the stagecoach. "Me and my big mouth." He said quietly.

Nathan heard him, and understood. "Now Josiah. We all agreed to the plan. We thought it would be good to have one of us down there, to keep the passengers safe and maybe get a closer shot off." He leaned forward in his chair and stared intently at the ex-preacher. "We all agreed, Josiah. It’s not yer fault. We all had a hand in it. It was just a bad plan that got worse ‘cause of Somers and the driver bein’ part of the gang."

Josiah sighed. "What a mess. How will it all end?"

Nathan sat back once more. "Don’t know Josiah. I wish I had one o’ those quotes yer so good at, but I don’t. Reckon we just gotta have faith in our friends, and hope they’re safe."

"Vin’s still alive." The two men were startled by the mumbled words coming from the injured man, laying still on the bed.

"I can feel it."

They both took comfort from Chris’s words. They had a lot of faith in the connection the two men shared. They couldn’t explain it, but accepted it anyway. It made them feel better.


Comments to: