We were moving at a snails pace, really. It was hard keeping the four
of us sheltered behind the table and moving it at the same time. And really,
there were only three of us doing the actual lifting, because Chris
couldnt seem to move his left arm at all. I was hoping for a graze,
but figured it could be a whole lot more, knowing how stubborn and hard as
nails he could be.
We didnt move far before it was all over anyway. Within minutes, their
leader was dead and the other two were being dragged back in by Buck and
Ezra. Id rushed to Vins side as soon as the bullet knocked the
last man to the ground. I didnt even bother checking him Chris
had made the shot and I knew there was no need.
I yelled at Inez to bring over the candles, and Josiah rushed to help her.
Chris was hovering over me, but I didnt say anything as I reached to
feel for a pulse on Vins neck.
By the time I found it, there were half a dozen candles around us, and I
could see the blood soaking Vins shirt, streaming off his back, and
pooling on the ground next to him. That puzzled me some, and I was even more
surprised when I pulled up Vins still wet shirt and saw the wound.
Inez handed me a thick gauze pad then, and I smiled at her gratefully as
I pressed it to the wound. "Hold this here," I instructed Josiah, and then
I carefully rolled Vin just enough to see where the bullet had gone in .
. . or come out.
I knew it right then, and I was so sick I could hardly speak. There was no
wound on his chest, just a horrible, dark, spreading mass that told me that
he was bleeding inside and the bullet was still there.
It told me something else, too, and the words slipped out before I could
think of the impact they would have. "He was shot from the back."
I always knew that the power of words was a strange and wondrous thing, but
when Nathan said that Vin had been shot from the back, it was like a physical
blow. I remember that I gasped, as I kept my hands pressed firmly to the
grim wound on my brothers back.
I couldnt catch Nathans eye, so I looked across Vins still
body at Chris. His face was ghostly in the candlelight and blood soaked his
left shoulder. I could see that shock had finally set in, but before I could
call out a warning, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell forward
across Vins legs.
"Shit!" Nathan hollered. "Someone get a look at him!"
It was so unlike Nathan - now that I look back on it. He was always in control
in these situations, barking out orders like a general in command of a military
exercise but I could hear the panic in his voice this time. Since
I couldnt use my hands, I used my voice to calm him, "Easy, Nate,
well handle this together."
But I was praying like I never had . . . alright, let me rephrase that .
. . I was praying like I hadnt since the last time one of us
had been hurt that help would arrive soon.
And that Nathan had somehow been wrong. Because if he wasnt
if Vin really was shot from the back - he was shot by one of us.
Perhaps Vin had turned before he was shot? But no, hed have fallen
forward and his head was towards the door.
We shot him. That is the inescapable conclusion.
After I had tied up the left-over, inept criminals, I rushed to my wounded
friends sides just in time to hear Nathans distressing
assessment . . . and to see an obviously weak and overwrought Larabee keel
over. I awkwardly assisted Buck in laying our wounded leader on the floor,
as Inez pressed another dressing into my hands.
Thank goodness Buck understands my aversion to all things bloody, and he
unceremoniously took the offered pad and pressed it to the hole in Chriss
shoulder. Mr. Larabee rewarded him with a small groan, but remained otherwise
oblivious to the drama around him.
Nathan was clearly in the rather unusual state of what can only be described
"Were gonna lose him, Josiah, if help dont get here fast . .
. and theres not a damn thing I can do."
Josiah, on the other hand, replied in a soft, soothing tone that everything
would indeed be just fine, before instructing me to find something to cover
the men with. I berated myself for not thinking of that as I immediately
set off to find the requested objects. Both men had still been wet and now
with the blood loss, keeping them warm should have been the first thing on
I had certainly been of little use on this mission.
In fact, the only thing I might have accomplished was to shoot Vin.
Goddamn, could it have gotten any worse? Chris was down, JD was hurt
I didnt know how bad and Vin was half-dead from one of our bullets.
I came rushing over to where the others were gathered around Vin just in
time to pull an unconscious Chris onto the floor. He was white as a ghost,
and even though I knew it was mostly from the blood loss, I was pretty sure
Nathans words hadnt helped.
I didnt think it was me who shot Vin. I was mostly aiming for the guy
by the window, and he wasnt even close to bein in line with Vin
. . . but there were a few times I just reached over the bar and shot the
other way. I think Vin was down by then, though. I dont think it was
me. I dont think I could stand it if it was me.
Chris groaned about that time, but he didnt really come to, and I was
kind of glad. Nathan was looking damn near panicked about Vin and I figured
that couldnt be good. Chris didnt need to know how bad it was
Could it have been Chris? Now that would damn near kill him . . . if he was
the one that shot Vin. And if Vin died it would kill him. I
could feel the blood soaking through the dressing on his shoulder, and before
I could ask, Inez handed me another thick gauze pad. If help didnt
get there soon, wed lose two men.
And I couldnt even think about JD. Just like I couldnt really
think about which one of us shot Vin.
But it could have been me.
JD is always sayin things about how cool it would be if we had lived
a hundred years ago. He comes up with these wild stories about the old west,
and how we would have been great lawmen like Bat Masterson. Mostly, we laugh
about it although Im pretty sure Vin and Chris dont think
it sounds half bad. Theyre both as comfortable on a horse as in a car,
But how would I have kept these guys alive? I can barely manage it in this
day and age with all the miracles of modern science.
And how in hell was I gonna keep them alive that night? I had nothing to
work with and no way to summon help. What good were cell phones and ambulances
and IV fluids when your friends were bleeding to death in front of your very
eyes and there was no way t get to the things you needed to save their
lives? I may as well have been living a hundred years ago for all
the good I was doing Vin and Chris. I guess no matter which century you live
in, Mother Nature still has the upper hand.
There was one thing that would have been better if this had happened
a hundred years ago, though wed never really know who shot Vin.
Im ashamed to admit it, but I remember thanking God that it couldnt
have been me.
I might have shot Vin. It could have been my bullet. I had no business pulling
the trigger when I wasnt sure where my teammate was . . . where my
friend, my brother was.
I think it was me.
I kept my hands pressed to Vins back, but I was pretty certain the
bleeding had slowed at least on the outside. Nathan said it was because
he was bleeding internally and it didnt take a paramedic to know that
wasnt good. I slipped a glance at Chris, and decided he didnt
look much better.
What if it was him? What if Chris shot Vin? What would I say to him? I
dont think there are words or prayers powerful enough to ease that
hurt. Lord, I knew that I was just not wise enough to handle that particular
scenario. It would be better if it was me.
Nathan was starting to scare me . . . especially when he said we had to turn
Vin over onto his back in case we needed to do CPR. I felt my stomach heave
and it was all I could do not to throw up . . . and I never do that. But
God if it was me that put that bullet in Vin and he died right there
. . .
And suddenly, selfishly, I wanted it to be anyone other than me.
I do believe it was I who shot Vin. It could have been my bullet. I had somehow
lost track of him, and I fired blindly into the shadows, even though I know
better. How could I have been so utterly, stupidly careless?
I think it was me.
As I pulled the threadbare blankets Id found in Inez storage
room around the trembling forms of my wounded teammates, I couldnt
help but reminded of the bond the two men shared. Always when one was hurt,
the other was there. Seeing them both on the floor - their skin pale and
their respirations rapid and shallow I had the ridiculous thought
that they intended to leave this life as they had lived it since the day
they met together.
But no, there was still time and help was on the way. And although Chris
had lost a great deal of blood, the wound was probably not so serious as
to take his life.
Vin was in much worse condition, however, and the question remained: who
shot him? What if it wasnt me? What if it was Chris?
We often tease Chris and Vin about their symbiotic relationship and apparent
ability to read each others minds . . . it is the topic of much
good-natured ribbing amongst us, especially after weve spent an hour
or so imbibing at Inez place. Buck once went so far as to suggest that
there was a physical attraction between them. I am neither that brave nor
that stupid, but even that was taken well by the two men. Chris merely cocked
his brow and grinned wickedly while Vin rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Of course, they got back at him later . . . in ways I have sworn never to
The point I have so laboriously been trying to make is that if it was Chris
who shot Vin, it would be tragic beyond measure. It would be far better if
it was me.
I was feeling monumentally useless when I heard Vin let out a small gasp
and then he stilled completely. Nathan quickly searched for a pulse,
and apparently finding none, he immediately instructed Josiah to begin
resuscitation efforts. The sound of sirens suddenly materialized over the
din of the storm, and I realized assistance was just outside our door. I
quickly ran to the entrance and informed the police officers that all was
secure, while calling out for the paramedics.
They seemed to be moving in slow motion as they took the stretcher and their
equipment from the back of the ambulance, and Im quite sure it was
me who crassly yelled, "A man is dying in here! Move your . . ." Well, you
get the idea.
By the time theyd reached Vin and Chris, there were more people and
equipment in one small space than I would have thought possible. I heard
the paramedics calling out orders and questions in that medical terminology
that I could probably teach a class in by now although it seemed liked
Greek to me on that night.
I only knew that Vin was a step away from death . . . and that one of us
had put him there. I didnt want it to be Chris, but Lord help me, I
didnt want it to be me, either.
My arm was hurting like a sonuvabitch and I felt like I could pass out for
some reason, but I just kept moving through the wind and the rain until I
reached Bucks truck. After that, I couldnt tell you how I got
to the station or how long it took me . . . I just remember rushing inside
and screaming about needing help and then I was on the floor with all these
people looking at me funny.
I heard them calling for an ambulance and all I could think of was that it
wasnt me who needed one, but it didnt seem to matter to
Some old guy kept saying, "Easy, Son youre alright now," and
my throat was so dry that it came out like a squeak when I said, "Yeah, I
know I am but my friends are in trouble."
Thank God he listened to me and finally got the point. I guess I might have
passed out then because the next thing I know, I was in the ER and they were
patching up my arm. I dont mind telling you that I was embarrassed
about it all, because it really was just a scratch and I was damn sure none
of the other guys would have ended up on their face like I did.
I couldnt even tell you how long Id been there when Buck came
in. He had blood all over him and it scared the shit out of me, but he was
more concerned about me, I guess, because he came straight towards me and
put his arms around me.
I try not to let him get away with stuff like that especially in public
but it seemed like the hug was more for him than me. I asked what
happened and was Vin okay? He looked at me real sad and said he didnt
think so and that Chris was hurt, too and then he told me . . . he
told me what might have happened.
I didnt believe him. I dont believe it now. Our guys are just
too damn good to shoot one of their own. Im telling you . . . it just
couldnt have happened that way. Theres not a one of them that
would have fired their weapon with Vin in the way with even the remote
possibility that Vin was in the way.
Theres a reason were the Magnificent Team Seven, you know. And
its not because were dumb. We dont go shooting each other.
I just dont believe it happened that way.
I was released from the ER a few hours later, and I joined the team up in
the OR waiting room. I couldnt tell you how long it was before they
gave us news on Chris, but it was hours and hours later before we got word
The guys were nervous and on edge like they always are in this situation
but it was different this time. Nathan seemed like he was blaming himself
for something and he and I were the only ones without guns. Josiah
and Ezra hardly said two words . . . with the exception of asking if I was
okay. I was used to them telling me it would be alright, y know?
But nobody was saying that . . . and it scared the shit out of me.
Chris was in surgery for two hours and thirteen minutes. Hed nearly
bled to death. I should have tackled the stubborn jackass back when I knew
he was hit and at least slowed down the bleeding. But it looked like hed
make it. After a few hours in recovery, they moved him to a room . . . and
soon after he was reminded that the nightmare wasnt completely over
In fact, he had just reached his room when Vin came out of surgery exactly
six hours and thirty-three minutes after theyd rushed him in. The surgeons
threw out all those meaningless clichés about doing all they could
and how the next few days would be critical and how all we could do now was
wait and pray.
Vin wouldnt have made it if this had happened a century ago. No one
would have been able to repair the damage that one single chunk of lead did
to him as it ripped through his back and lung, lodging in his chest. It was
a miracle hed lived long enough to even get to the hospital . . . and
it was certainly no thanks to me.
And there was still the question of where that chunk of lead had come from.
Whod fired the shot? I couldnt stand to think about it
didnt want it to be any of my friends.
Ezra aint nearly as unflappable and uncaring as he appears and he already
feels like hes last on Chris Larabees list of favorite people.
Sometimes hes not on my list at all, but hell, hes one
of us and the truth is hes a good man, no matter how hard he
tries to hide it. It would be terrible for Ezra if it turned out to be him.
I dont think it was Buck, but the man has such a deep heart
it would tear him to pieces to think hed hurt one of us. He and Vin
had some things to work out, too him being Chriss oldest friend
and Vin quickly becoming Chriss best friend. It could set things back
a good ways if it was Buck.
Josiah would likely never let go of the guilt. Look at all the hell he went
through over his sister I still dont think he believes that
it isnt somehow his fault that she ended up the way she did. For all
his faith and trust in a higher love and the power of forgiveness, hed
likely never grant himself that same benefit. And Vin is special to him.
Hes never said it, but Vin came to his defense once when it seemed
that the rest of us werent so sure, and hes never forgotten it.
It cant be Josiah.
And then theres Chris. I know I sound like Buck . . . but I cant
even think about that. Its not gonna be Chris. It cant be.
So it was just that simple. It couldnt be any of us who shot Vin.
They dont give you much time in the critical care unit . . . a few
minutes here and there. Vin didnt know we were there anyway. Its
never easy, seeing your friend looking like . . . that. It really didnt
look like him at all, now that I think back on it. It could have been somebody
else lying in that bed and Im not sure Id have picked up on it.
There could have been some kind of crazy body swap - like in one of those
sci-fi things JD watches now and then and Id never have known.
He didnt look like Vin.
I think I cried. I think I wrapped my big hands around his pale, cold one
and I think I begged his forgiveness and I think I cried.
Id been on that side of the bed more times than I could count. Id
berated and cursed and pleaded with God more times than I could count. And
you know what? He always gave me my way. We always survived and somehow,
we always went on with only a scar here and there to remind us of how close
wed come to leaving this life.
But this time Vins scar would mean more to the man who put it
there than it ever would to Vin. I knew that for a fact. As soon as the gentle
young man in the bed opened his eyes and was told what had happened, hed
not only forgive hed forget, too. He was just made that way.
But Im not made that way. If it was me, I knew I could never forgive
or forget. Never.
I cried; but it may have been as much for me or Chris or Ezra or Buck, as
it was for Vin.
We took turns visiting our injured partner. Normally, Chris would have dominated
the vacant seat, but since he was as yet unable to do so, we tried to fill
his shoes, so to speak.
Of course, that is an impossible task in so many ways. Vin was unaware,
at any rate, and my cowardly nature reared its ugly head when I realized
that I was a tad relieved at that.
Have you ever really looked into Vins eyes? Its hard to do
if you have something to hide. Theres a reason Im so good undercover
Im a master at hiding. But I tell you, I can keep nothing from
Of course, there was nothing in this world that would have made me happier
than if he had just opened his eyes and looked at me and said "What you
keepin from me this time, Ez?"
And then I would have answered, "Why nothing, Vin, Im just contemplating
which of us has put you in the CCU fighting for your life."
No, it would probably be best if someone elses face and someone
elses eyes were the first things he saw when he awoke.
Because I was quite certain that my face showed every facet of desperation
and guilt and fear that we were all experiencing - not to mention the fact
that there was the distinct possibility that my eyes were . . . leaking.
I was with Chris when he came to. If I have to tell you what his first words
were, well then, you aint been payin attention t the rest
of the story.
So anyway, once he heard that Vin was alive and fightin, he asked me
if it was true what Nathan said that Vin had been shot in the back.
I told him not to think about it. "Well think about that tomorrow,
Chris," I said.
He said t me, "You cant always be like Scarlett OHara,
Buck some things cant be put off until tomorrow."
Thats the first time anyone has compared me to a southern belle, but
he had had a tough day. And then, his eyes filled with tears and he said,
"Oh God, Buck! I think it was me! I lost sight of him . . . thought for sure
hed taken cover somewhere. One minute he was standing there and the
next . . . oh God. I think it was me. I think I shot Vin."
I dont have the words t describe how he looked just then . .
. but I reckon miserable as hell would come close. Pretty much like youd
expect a man to look when he thinks he mightve killed his best friend.
I didnt have the words t say to him, either. I just muttered
somethin stupid like, "Well think on it all later, after you
and Vin are feelin better."
He turned away from me then and I got the feelin he wanted to be alone,
so I told him I would go check on Vin.
He was still awake when I came back a short time later. JD had come in and
sat with him, but he wasnt talkin. I shooed JD out of the room
and I sat back down and thats when he asked me, "Can I see him?"
Kinda hurt my heart, the way he said that. Chris just always takes charge
goes exactly where he wants to go exactly when he wants to go there.
I couldnt quite get a handle on him askin me t go
see Vin. I tried puttin him off. "Soon," I said. And I was disappointed
when he didnt argue with me. But then, I figured he was feelin
pretty bad. God knows, he looked pretty bad.
"Any word?" he asked me then.
I wasnt sure which word he was waitin for, but I went with the
easiest, "Hes stable, Chris, and thats a damn miracle after .
. ." I didnt finish that thought because I remembered that Chris was
thinkin for sure it was him who put Vin in that condition.
He swallowed and I could see he was really hurtin, so I told him I
was going to get the nurse but he grabbed my arm with his good hand and he
said, "Do we know whose bullet it was?"
I looked away from him for a minute and then I turned back and I asked, "Does
it really matter?"
And thats the first time that it occurred to me that it didnt
really matter at all. Were a team; we back each other up and we support
each other through the good and the bad. It was an accident, plain and simple,
that landed Vin in CCU and it didnt matter how or why it went down
like it did. All that mattered was that we stick together and pull him through
and get us all back on our feet again.
I could tell he was thinking on what Id said, but he didnt quite
buy it. So I added, "One thing at a time, Chris. Lets get Vin through
this and then well talk."
Tomorrow. We could sort it out tomorrow. Scarlett OHara was pretty
I panicked. Back when it all happened I panicked. Thats not
like me. I just dont . . . panic. I sat at Vins side and all
I could think about was that maybe I should have done something else, something
But as bad as I was feeling, I knew it didnt compare to what my friends
were going through. At least I didnt have a gun; at least I hadnt
fired a single shot; at least I hadnt put Vin there in that bed with
machines keeping him alive.
Id hoped theyd keep Chris sedated for longer . . . say, three
or four days. I knew that when he saw Vin looking like this, hed feel
even sicker than I was feeling. I could just picture him taking one look
at Vin and passing right out again. The more I thought on it, the more certain
I was that he just couldnt be allowed to see Vin yet and Id
just gotten up to go tell his doctor that when JD came through the doors,
pushing Chris in a wheelchair.
He looked about as worn out and done in as a man could be, but I could see
in his eyes that I was wrong. What he needed most was to be right there in
that room at Vins side. So I got up and gave him his rightful place.
I was with Chris the next day and he asked me to take him to see Vin. Kinda
shook me up him asking me instead of just telling me. Im used
to him sort of barking out orders; telling us the way its gonna be.
I took him down to the unit in a wheelchair and I worried the whole time.
I really wasnt sure it was a good idea at all, but Chris is real hard
to say no to. Thats probably why he hit me up probably
knew Id do whatever he wanted.
The nurses looked like they thought it was a real bad idea, but they let
us in anyway. Nathan was there, but he squeezed Chriss good shoulder
and then he left. I wasnt sure whether to stay or go, so I just sort
of moved out to the doorway and waited.
I probably should have looked away, but to be honest, there were things going
on in that unit that I didnt really want to see so I pretty
much kept my eye on Chris and Vin. At least, I think it was Vin. There were
all these wires and tubes coming out of him and his face looked . . . not
like Vin at all. I was thinking it was a real bad idea to bring Chris there.
But Chris just took Vins hand and he bowed his head and he said something
real soft to him. And then . . . then I think he maybe cried.
And I looked away.
The nurse came to get me. JD had gone for a Coke, and she said she was afraid
she was going to have another patient in her unit if I didnt get Chris
back to his room and in his bed. I walked slowly into the room where Vin
lay, but I tried to make a bit of noise so Chris would know someone was there.
He didnt move, though. Just kept his hand tight around Vins with
his head down. I reached out and touched his shoulder very lightly and I
said, "Its time to go, Chris."
He looked up at me, and his eyes were red-rimmed and beyond weary. "I should
have done it differently, Josiah. I should have made him stay."
I was puzzled at that, and I guess he knew it, because he went on to say,
"Vin got a call before we came that night. Got a tip that one of his old
enemies was looking to snatch him and execute a little justice."
I could see he was waiting for me to respond, but I just nodded and pulled
up a chair so I could look him in the eye.
"I wanted to call you all back, but Vin said no one would be crazy enough
to try anything on a night like that. He said, Where could I be safer
than with the six of you, anyway? We looked into a few things, but
I figured maybe he was right. I figured I could just bring him to my place
for the night and wed work on it in the morning. I should have handled
"You couldnt have known, Chris," I said.
With a short chuff of a laugh, he said, "Youre right about that, Josiah.
I couldnt have known it would be one of us whod nearly kill him."
I couldnt think of an answer to that . . . probably because there is
no answer to that. So I walked around behind him and I said, "Its time
to go, Chris. Well sort it out later."
He gave Vins hand a gentle squeeze and he whispered, "Ill see
you later, Pard."
As we left the unit, he spoke to me again. "I should never have fired that
first shot," he said. "I should have known it was too dark and too risky.
I would never have fired if Id just been able to see . . . if Id
just thought . . . if Id just known."
I sighed and I said, "Neither would I."
But the terrible truth was that we had fired and Vin was hit by one
of us and wed have to live with it - and I wasnt sure if either
Chris or I could do that.
It was three interminably long days before Vin awoke or perhaps before
they decreased his medication and allowed him to awaken. His first words
were typical and Im quite certain anyone with half a brain could hazard
a guess. Once he determined that everyone else was alright, he did not appear
to be concerned about anything else.
It was apparent Vins injuries caused him considerable discomfort, however,
and it was excruciating to hear him moan with each breath and movement. Knowing
I may have been the cause of his anguish, made it nearly impossible to bare
witness to. Although, with five partners also wishing to spend time with
Vin, my visits and thereby my misery were limited. Of course,
Chris was allotted the most time, even though he was in no condition to
participate in the bedside vigil. In fact, it often took considerable coercion
to remove his weakened body from his best friends side.
When our weary leader wasnt busy arguing with us over the sorry state
of his health and his refusal to take adequate measures to care for himself
he was arguing with Director Travis over the length of time it was
taking to obtain results regarding who was responsible for Vins injury.
I could not decide if it was good or bad that we still had no idea which
of us had shot our teammate. I could not decide who could handle the bad
news with the most ease and fortitude. And I could not decide how I could
live with it if it was me.
They moved Vin into Chriss room after five days. Chris kept arguing
that he didnt need a room anymore . . . that he could feel like shit
as a visitor rather than a patient, but the doc wasnt buyin it.
I think that sneaky night nurse was puttin stuff in his IV to make
him sleep, too, but it didnt really work until Vin was in the bed next
Vin was still kinda out of it and feelin pretty damn bad himself, but
he knew where he was and that we were with him. Kinda made it hard . . .
knowing like we did what had really happened.
It was the next day when Chris gathered us all together and said it was time
t tell Vin the truth. Except for the dark shadows under his eyes, Vin
was whiter than those crispy hospital sheets and he still had trouble
stayin awake for more than five minutes but he could tell
somethin was goin on and so he tried hard to listen up.
Chris was supposed to say it, but when it came right down to it he
got about as pale as Vin and it was like his lips were glued shut, so Josiah
sat on the bed next to Vin and he said, "Vin, we feel real bad that we have
to tell you this, but it wasnt those men who shot you it was
one of us."
Vin frowned, but he didnt make a sound, so Josiah went on and he said,
"We dont know for sure who or how, but we feel bad about it and we
want you to know that."
You just never can tell how a persons gonna react . . . but Vin, he
did just about what I expected him to. He just blew the whole thing off.
"Well now, I know I been pretty out of it," he said, "but Im smart
enough t know I was shot in the back. I was pretty sure when it happened
that it came from one of yall, but hell, I was standin
in the way. Was my own fault. I sure hope yall aint been goin
on about this."
Chris got real excited at that. "Hell yes, weve been going on about
this, Vin," he snapped. "I damn near killed you!"
That was a slip-up, y see. Chris was so sure hed done it - it
just came out of his mouth like that.
But Ezra piped up and he said, "I do believe it was I who shot you, Vin."
Then Josiah stood up and he turned to Chris and he argued, "No, it was me."
So I threw in, "It couldve been me."
JD got all defensive and he said, "It wasnt any of you!"
Of course Nathan, otherwise known as the Peacemaker, he had to put in his
two cents. "Dont matter. Vins gonna be fine and thats all
we need to think about."
Vin was just lookin at us all like maybe we were the ones who were
out of it, but Chris went and sat on the bed next to him and he said, "We
dont know who it was yet, Vin. But the fact is that we should have
done things differently."
Thats when Vin got that funny little smile of his that says hes
way ahead of us, and he told us, "Lots of times we wish we could change what
we said or did, but we cant. We just got t do what we think is
best at the time . . . have t act on what we see through our own eyes.
And we all see things different. I dont see none of you as bein
at fault here . . . and even if y were, I know youd never
deliberately hurt me. Im gettin better lets just
not go on about it."
I guess he figured that was the end of the conversation then, because he
just closed his eyes and went to sleep like wed just been discussin
Chris sighed and Josiah sort of laughed real soft. JD shrugged and Nathan
shook his head and then Ezra said real quiet, "If only we could forgive ourselves
I was thinkin we were never gonna get past this if someone didnt
come up with somethin smart. Now that usually aint my job on
this team, but I gave it a shot anyway.
"Vins spoke his peace," I said, "and I reckon we should respect him
and move on with this. We take the hit as a team and we deal with it as team
and we let it go. And well, hell, if that dont work well
just think on it all tomorrow."
Ive never done this before. Ive never purposely withheld information
from the members of my team. Ive never lied to them.
But I will now.
It wasnt difficult to figure out whose bullet injured Vin Tanner. If
ballistics hadnt proven it, the path of the bullet would have.
Theyll never know that, though. The tests will have been inconclusive;
the evidence lost.
I suppose you could say that it would be better for one man to face up to
it; that leaving four men on the hook is unfair. But this man will never
forgive himself and his guilt will eat away at him, regardless of the fact
that Vin will recover. Maybe the not knowing will be equally destructive,
but I doubt it. Somehow, I believe that seven men together can shoulder this
weight far better than one man alone.
Ive lived through enough nightmarish situations to know that every
single one stays with you for the rest of your life. Every single time you
or a friend is hurt, it just adds another scar to your psyche and another
raw ulcer to your stomach lining. And what it does to your faith in God,
your fellow man, and yourself is undeterminable. I cannot add more hurt to
one who has suffered too much already.
I suppose it could be argued that its never right to hide the truth
. . . that trust is based on honesty and integrity. Perhaps by keeping this
secret, Ive somehow diminished the unique bond I have with these men.
Then again, perhaps Im doing exactly the right thing. We all see things
differently it just depends on your point of view.