A Second Chance

by Luckystars

The sun was setting in Four Corners. Chris was sitting outside watching the jail. His hat was pulled over his eyes and he looked like he was asleep. But in fact, he was very much awake. His eyes were focused on a figure entering the town.

The figure Chris was watching was an exhausted girl who could barley stay in the saddle. Her leg hung out of the stirrup. Every bump caused the girl to wince in pain. The horse was walking as smoothly as possible, to avoid causing discomfort to his injured rider.

"Why did I have to be such a klutz, Bullet? We could have been long gone before Silas even had a chance to catch up with us. Instead, I had to try and talk to him, and I got myself shot. I'm not dumb enough to try to make it to Colorado with a bullet in my leg." The horse whinnied.

"Hey Chris." Vin had joined his friend. Chris never took his eyes off the girl.

"Looks like we have a visitor."

Vin noticed the girl for the first time. "He looks like he's hurt. Should I get Nathan?"

"No let's talk to him first." The second the girl entered the street, Chris got up and walked towards her. Vin was close behind.

"Can I help you Sir?" Chris asked.

"Please Sir, I need to see a doctor as soon as possible. I need to get back on the trail as soon as I can." Chris realized he was talking to a girl.

"Does your father approve of you being so far from home, Ms. Darby?" The girl turned sharply at the mention of her last name.

"How do you...?" She saw Vin for the first time. She couldn't believe her eyes. "Mr. Tanner? What are doing out here?"

"I think I should ask you the same question."

Chris stared between the two, dumbfounded. "Vin, what’s going on here?" He reached out to pet the horse that was prancing nervously. The horse spooked. Katie, who wasn't paying attention, slid off the horses back. She hit the ground hard. She winced in pain as she grabbed her ankle. Both men noticed the blood seeping through her pant leg.

"Katie, you're shot!" Vin exclaimed. Katie pet her horse's nose. The horse was concerned.

"I'm okay Bullet. I know, that's why I need to see a doctor. I was too chicken to take the bullet out myself."

"Hey guys what's going on?" a voice behind the trio asked. Katie jumped, she pulled out her gun and she turned around. The weapon pointed straight at JD's chest. JD gasped, surprised, as he held his hands up in the air.

"Ah, I. I'm sorry I didn't mean anything!!" he stuttered.

Vin chuckled. "I see you have the reflexes of your father. JD's a friend, honey."

Katie put her gun back in its hostler. "Sorry sheriff," she said noticing the badge. "I get pretty jumpy when people come up behind me."

"We can discuss this later," Chris interrupted. "Right now you need a doctor. JD go and get Nathan." JD ran ahead, still in disbelief.

Vin was helping her up. She swayed. Vin caught her before she fell.

"I guess the loss of blood is finally starting to catch up with me,” she said weakly.

"Katie," Vin asked seriously. "What are you doing here and how did you get shot?" He didn't get an answer. The teenager had passed out in his arms. "Chris!" he called. "She's hurt worse than I thought. We have to hurry."

Vin heard Nathan swear behind his back.

"Damn Vin, why didn't you get me sooner! Bring her to my office fast!" Vin jogged as quickly as could down the street and up the stairs. Nathan and Chris were right on his heels.

Vin gently laid the girl on the bed. Nathan slowly removed Katie's boot and sock. A blood soaked bandana covered the wound.

"At least she knew to put pressure on the wound, That probably saved her life. She would have lost too much blood to make it here otherwise." Nathan gently cut the makeshift bandage off with his knife. The bullet was visible. "Good it's not to deep."

"Nathan is she going to be okay?" Vin was genuinely concerned. "This girl has a family at home that would be devastated if she didn't return to them safe and sound."

"I think you would be pretty upset too, Vin," Chris added quietly.

"I know I can save her life. I can't promise she won't walk without a limp for the rest of her life. The bullet hit the bone." Vin turned pale. Chris put his arm over his friend’s shoulder.

“Come on pard, I think Nathan has everything under control.” Chris glanced at Nathan who nodded his head. “No point in us staying here. I’ll buy you a drink and you can tell me the whole story about Ms. Darby.” Vin sighed and with one anxious look towards the unconscious girl followed his friend.

Chris and Vin walked into the saloon and moved towards their normal table. The rest of their friends were already sitting around the table.

“So is she going to be okay?” JD asked as the older men sat down.

“JD came running in here like a Banshee that some female gunslinger almost blew his head off,” Joshia informed Chris and Vin.

Chris turned and amused pair of eyes on his younger comrade. “Gunslinger huh?”

“Well she did pull that gun out quick. That was a pretty nice weapon she was carrying too. That was not just an old gun someone would carry for protection,” JD answered defensively.

“It is her father’s gun,” Vin said quietly. Five pairs of eyes turned toward the worried man. “God he’ll kill me if she doesn’t make it.”

“Mr. Tanner would you care to explain why you have such a strident interest in Mr. Jackson’s patient and how in the world do you know what kind of firearm she carries?” Ezra put down the cards he was shuffling and looked across the table.

“Why don’t you tell us the whole story, Vin?” Chris asked his friend.

“Well I never told you guys this, I don’t know why. I guess it just kind of slipped my mind. I was traveling through the town of Rivers Edge, Texas. I wasn’t planning on staying, just passing through. I saw two men harassing a woman. They were calling her crude names and knocking the groceries out of her hands and all sorts of other terrible stuff.”

“And you had to stop them of course,” Chris interrupted smiling.

“Of course. Anyway after I chased them off, The women invited me to dinner to thank me. I was going to refuse when a man came up behind her. He was the woman’s husband. He introduced himself as Mayor Bryan Darby. He was in the town hall when the men had harassed his wife. They both insisted profusely. I really had no choice in the matter. I went to their home. Two children were in house. Katie was one of them. Her little brother was called Matt. Katie was thirteen at the time.

At dinner the mayor explained to me that he had been just been elected mayor of this rough town. The town was just starting to shape up, except there was one problem, Bryan’s younger brother Silas. Silas was extremely jealous of his brother’s position. He had taken to hiring men to torment the family whenever he got the chance. He even attempted to kidnap Katie and Matt. It would have worked if Katie hadn’t shot the guy in the leg. Her father had been teaching her to shoot and ride horses since she had been little. He was Captain of a Calvary unit during the Civil War. She was a very good shot even at thirteen.

“See, I told you she could have blown my brains out!” JD interrupted.

“Shut up JD!” five voices answered. JD shut up and sulked.

“Finish the story Vin,” Joshia encouraged.

“I could tell he was embarrassed because he couldn’t protect his own family, but he asked if he could hire me to watch over his family. I accepted not really for the money. This was a chance to belong to a nice family in a small way. I guess I did a pretty good job. The Darbys didn’t face anymore confrontations with Silas. I helped them for a little over a year. I never heard the family argue. Not even the kids. Katie and Matt were extremely close. Matt was crippled from birth. He could never ride a horse or shoot a gun the way Katie could, but he could sure draw some pretty pictures.

I got close to all of them, especially Kat. That’s what her family called her. Her father and I both realized she had was a natural sharpshooter. Bryan let me teach her lots of things. The horse, she was riding in, Bullet. He was a wild abused animal at a horse sale. She trained him herself. Well about a year later, Bryan received news that his brother had been killed. I decided it was time to leave. They begged me to stay. I don’t know why I left, I guess I was afraid of getting attached to them more then I was already. I rode out in the middle of night and I left a short note. That was the last I saw of them Till now.” He stopped. “God, Please let her be okay.”

“I’m sure he heard you brother.” Joshia answered him.

“I don’t understand something, If she was so close to her family why did she end up here alone with a bullet in her leg.” Ezra stated bluntly.

“I don’t know Ez, but I’m going to find out. See you guys in the mourning.” He got up grabbed Chris’s glass and swallowed the whisky. He ignored the glare Chris gave him.

“If you need anything, I’m on patrol tonight don’t be afraid to ask me, Mr. Tanner.” Everyone was surprised at Ezra’s offer.

Vin smiled. “Yeah, Thanks Ezra.” The sharpshooter walked outside.

“I hope the kid pulls through, For Vin’s sake.” Chris said after Vin had left. A chair was pulled out and a man sighed heavily as he sat down.

Buck grabbed Chris’s newly poured drink and look a long swig. “Hey guys, what did I miss?”

Vin walked into Nathan’s makeshift office. Katie was lying asleep on the bed. Nathan was asleep in a chair. Vin leaned over. Katie was breathing peacefully. Vin sighed from relief. He nudged Nathan gently. Nathan opened his eyes.

“Vin, she’s going to be okay. The bullet came out easily. I’m pretty sure she will walk just fine. She’s got strong bones. She could use a little meat on her bones, but other then that she’s just fine. She hasn’t woken up yet, I’m watching her just to be sure.”

“Thanks Nathan this means a lot to me. You don’t know how relieved I am.”

“No problem Vin Any friend of yours deserves the best care I can give them, better”

“You’re to modest Nathan. You go to sleep; I’ll watch her for the rest of the night.

“Are you sure?” Nathan asked. Vin nodded his head. Nathan smiled “alright, wake me up if something happens. Nathan walked off down the stairs. Vin sat down in the chair.

“You have some questions to answer, as soon as you wake up. Kat.

“Matt are you going to miss this place?” Fourteen year old Katie asked her brother.

“Yeah, but it’s better to leave then to stay here and get shot, Kat”

“I could take them, if Mr. Tanner was still here. Dad, him and I could easily have beaten anybody who came through our front door.”

“Come on Kids, we’re going!” Mattie Darby called/

“Coming Mom!” The two kids ran to the waiting stagecoach. It was packed to top with all the Darby possessions. Bryan was standing next to the stagecoach. He sighed. “God I wish you were here Vin. Silas never would have tried this if you were still here. I don’t blame you though. How were you supposed to know the death certificate was a forgery.” He smiled when he saw the kids run up. He lifted up his twelve-year-old son. “Alright son, up you go.” Matt sat at end of the seat in the stagecoach

“Are you sure you packed my paper and colored pencils Dad?”

“ I would never dream of forgetting those.” He said as he helped his wife step up.” As soon as the two were comfortable, he closed the door. He walked over to where Katie was mounted on Bullet.

“You ready to go, baby?”

Katie made a face at her dad, as he pulled himself up on the driver’s box. “Dad, do you have to call me that?” I am fourteen you know?”

“I don’t care how old you are Kat, you will always be that cute little thing three in half feet tall riding on your little brown pony.

The stagecoach and rider took off silently. Katie thought along time.

“Dad, where exactly are we going?”

“A town in Colorado. Your mom’s parents live there. Your uncle would never think to look for us there.”

“Someday I’m going to kill Uncle Silas for destroying our home.” Bryan turned sharply in his seat to face his daughter.

“Promise me Katie, you will never kill your uncle.”

“Why not, he ruined our family and home. Vin left because of him.”

“Vin left on his own free will honey, YOU NEVER EVER KILL A FAMILY MEMBER. It doesn’t matter what they do. Promise me you will never kill Silas.”

“I promise Dad.” The girl answered reluctantly.

Bryan smiled. “Now I do not oppose you using that new skill you learned.”

“You mean the one where I shoot the trigger…” A shot slid past Katie’s ear. Both pulled out their guns at the same time. More shots followed coming dangerously close to the girl. Katie shot back. One of the riders behind them fell.

“Damn!” Bryan swore. “I thought we could leave before he noticed we were gone. He turned to his daughter.

“Kat get out of here!”

“Dad, I have to stay and help”

“No the skill of these men is to good for even you. Get your mom and brother on Bullet. It will be a tight squeeze but all of you can fit.”

Katie nodded and fell back to the door under her father’s cover.

“Matt! Mom over here.” She reached out to her mother’s hand. She grabbed on. Two shots pierced the window. The hand let go.

“Mom!” Katie screamed as she saw the blood coming out of her mother’s blouse. She glanced at her brother. Who was staring in disbelief.

“Katie, take Matt and go. There’s nothing you can do for me know. I love you both of you.” Katie wiped the tears from her eyes.

She pulled Matt out in front of her onto the horse. And rode back up to her father.

“Dad, Mom’s…” Matt couldn’t finish the sentence.

“I know I heard.” He said quietly. “Both of you ride out of here hard. Don’t look back and don’t come back. I’ll see you someday.” Katie knew her Dad wasn’t planning on making it through. “Both of you are smart. Use your heads and don’t forget how much your parents loved you. Matt, keep drawing. Katie, remember what you promised me. Both of you go NOW!” Katie spurred Bullet. She heard bullets ringing out as the horse galloped away. She didn’t hear her father return fire. She never looked back. She wiped a tear from her eyes. Those would be the only tears she would cry.

“They’re angels now Matt and they will always be watching over us. They will never totally be gone.” Matt fell asleep eventually. Katie stopped at a house. She knew the people who lived here. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were the kindest people she knew. She quietly rode into the stable. She gently slid Matt off the horse’s back and laid him on a barrel of hay.

“I hate to do this Matt, but Silas will ride out to find us when he finds out we weren’t shot. This way at least one of us will probably live. Tell Mr. Robinson He will help you get to Colorado. You’re such a blabbermouth I know you will tell everything. She rode out of the stable, into the rising sun. She looked up into the sky. Her eyes turned hard. A look they never lost for the next years she would be alone.

She screamed into that air “WHY US! WHY DID YOU HAVE TO DO THIS TO US! WE DIDN”T DO ANYTHING WRONG!” she closed her eyes. Her body started to shake.

Katie opened her eyes. She was lying on a bed. Vin and the man Vin had called Chris were leaning over her worried. The sun was shinning through the window. Four other men were standing in the corner. One of them, Katie recognized as the one she had almost shot. The other three she didn’t know. She was sweating hard.

“Katie you were screaming in your sleep. We thought someone was hurting you.” Vin noticed the girl was trembling

He hesitantly lifted her up a little bit, careful not to bump her leg and put his arms around her.

“I know what happened. You were yelling the whole story in your sleep.” Katie rested her head on Vin’s shoulder.

“Why didn’t you stay? If you had been there this never would have happened.” Chris hung in the back corner. Buck couldn’t believe his eyes when he glanced at his friend. There were tears in his hardened leader’s eyes.

“I am sorry Katie. It is a mistake I’ll regret the rest of my life I

Would gladly have given my life for your family’s. I understand if you want to blame everything on me.” Katie lifted up her head suddenly.

“Wait Vin, I’m not being fair. It wasn’t your fault. He would have killed you too. It wouldn’t have mattered after a while if you were with my Dad or not. I never should have blamed you.”

She shifted moving her wrapped up leg. The girl winced in pain. “Easy Sweetheart. Don’t tear up the stitches I just put in that leg.” Nathan took a step forward.

“Thank you sir, I really thought Silas had gotten me this time.”

Vin turned to her surprised. JD asked the questions before Vin got the chance.

“I thought you got away from your uncle. How could he have shot you? Have you really been running from him for three years? Why aren’t you with your grandparents and brother in Colorado?”

Buck shook his head. “JD what am I going to do with you. You don’t have to answer him Miss. Sometimes his mouth moves faster than his brain.”

“No those are all fair questions. If you can excuse me for being a little hesitant about telling total strangers the story of my life.

“She’s a smart one.” Ezra smiled speaking for the first time. “For all Miss Darby knows we could be some of Silas’s men waiting to give her up the moment we get the opportunity.” He turned to the girl on the bed. He lifted up her hand and kissed it gallantly. “I am Ezra Standish, my dear. I would like to apologize for my associates discourteous demeanor.”

“Aww, don’t scare her with always those fancy words Ez, we want her to trust us. I’m Buck Wilmington, he tipped his hat. “And blabbermouth over here is Sheriff JD Dunne.” Katie laughed.

“I would be Nathan Jackson ma’am. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Chris are you going to introduce yourself or are just going to hide in the corner like a wallflower.” Vin asked. Chris walked alongside the bed.

“I’m Chris Larabee, The first thing I would like to do is commend you on you’re bravery. It’s not an easy thing to ride off so you can protect your brother. I don’t even need to know the rest of your story. If there is anything I can do to help all you have do is ask.” The other five men in the room stared at them in disbelief. JD started counting how many words his leader had just said on his fingers. All Nathan and Ezra could do was stare. Buck turned his head to hide a smile. For the first time in a long time, Chris was breaking out of his shell. Vin smiled too.

Told you you’d like this girl Chris.

I’m going to shoot you Vin for getting me involved.

That means you are going to help me protect her and help get this Silas guy she’ s been running from for three years>

Hell, yeah. God I hate it when these damn fatherly instincts kick in. I thought they had died with Adam.

You thought wrong pard

Katie smiled. “Alright I trust you. But there’s not much of a story after what I guess I told you while I was having a nightmare. I guessed right when Silas would follow me. I couldn’t trust anybody. Silas had convinced the people in my Dad’s town that he had stolen money from them. He made up some crockpotted lie, how I had taken the money after he shot my family in order to get the money back. Of course Silas had taken the money for his own purposes. I couldn’t get on a train and head to Colorado, because I was scared one of His men would see me. For three years, it’s been Bullet and me. I lived of the land most of the time. This is the first town I’ve seen in a year and a half.” Katie paused wondering if she should tell the next part. She decided too. “I love my horse, but I got pretty lonely for some human company. I must have held my gun to my head at least ten times.” Vin grabbed onto her arm. She smiled. “Every time I was about to pull the trigger, I saw a misty image of my parents. I heard their voices telling me to hold on a little longer.”

“You should talk to Joshia about that. He would call it a divine intervention or something.” JD interrupted.

“Who?” Katie asked.

“He’s another one of my friends who just happens to be a preacher. He’s on patrol right now. Keep telling your story.”

“Well two days ago I think I was about a few miles outside of this town, I got sick of it. I decided I would try to make amends with my uncle. Big Mistake. Before I could get one word out. He fired at me. I managed to get it in my calf. Bullet and I barley made it out of there. Two of Silas’s men will never be able to fire at me again.”

“You rode for two days with a bullet in your leg?” Buck asked in disbelief. “Wow kid, you must be made of some pretty tough stuff.” For the first time, Katie felt hot tears pouring out of eyes. She couldn’t stop them. Vin held her in his arms again.

“It’s going to be alright Kat. None of us are going to let Silas get you again. You are safe here.”

“This is the first time I cried, since my parents died.” She whispered. “It feels good to finally let it out.”

“Cry all you want honey. You got along time to think about it, cause you are not going to be out on the trail anymore. You are staying here.

Two months had past since Katie had ridden into Four Corners with the bullet in her leg. The effects of her injury were no longer visible. The scars inside were beginning to heal slowly but surely. It got to be that the seven couldn’t imagine not having the teenager around. She was a dear friend to JD, a shoulder to cry on when Casey decided to end their relationship. There were no bitter feelings. In fact, Casey and Katie became very close friends. A valuable helper to Nathan who was willing to learn everything he could teach her about medicine. A worthy advisory for Ezra at the Poker table. She lost most of the time, but she always gave the gambler a run for his money. Joshia finally had somebody to share his religion with. Every Sunday, he could hear Katie’s sweet soprano voice singing the hymns. Even after her loss, Katie never stopped believing God really had a reason why she had lived.

Vin and the girl’s friendship became even stronger.

Katie became especially close to Chris. Their pain that both of them went through seemed to form a bond between the two unlikely pair.

The two of them were sitting outside the jail on night. Neither one said a word, but both of them liked the quiet.

“Can I ask you a question?” Katie broke the silence.

“Shoot,” Chris answered not opening his eyes. He sat up suddenly. “Not literally though you are scary with that gun of yours.” Chris noticed the downtrodden look in the girl’s pretty green eyes.

“What’s your question honey?” He asked seriously.

“Do you ever get over the pain inside? Most of the time, I can handle it. But sometimes, like now, it feels like my heart is going to break in two all over again.” Her voice was shaky. Chris put a comforting arm around her shoulder.

“You never get over the pain entirely. It how you choose to fight your demons that really helps you get over that ache in your heart”

“Does drinking a bottle of Whisky really solve that problem?” Katie asked.

“Girl, how many times do I have to tell you my situation is totally different.”

“How so?” Katie asked.

Chris didn’t get a chance to answer. Both turned when they heard JD run up behind them.

“Chris we got a problem. The Wagner brothers just stole all the Cattle of the Martin Ranch. They are headed this way!”

“Maybe we an finally catch these bastards. We’ve been after them for weeks. JD go get everybody else.” The young men ran off. Chris turned to the girl.

“Would you go saddle up our horses?”

“I take it this isn’t the time I get to ride with the magnificent seven huh?”

“Not this time sweetheart. I promise…”

“I know I know sometime when it’s safe, you will let me tag along and observe. She jumped down off the platform and walked to the livery. “Horses will be ready in a couple of minutes.” She called. Chris sighed,

“Don’t you realize I’m trying to protect you? You mean so much to other guys especially Vin, If anything would happen to you, they’d be devastated. Hell, I’d be pretty disappointed if you weren’t around too.

“So Buck do you think Kat would like to go on a picnic?” JD asked his older friend. The seven men were only about ten minutes outside of the Martin farm,

“Ah sure kid, why do you ask?” Buck looked at his young friend smiling, knowing perfectly well what he meant.

“No reason why, I just thought. “ he looked around and saw six smiling faces at him. “If you say one word to her, I swear I will,” He said defensively.

“Relax Sir, I think the young lady is quite smitten with you too.”

“Huh?” JD asked totally confused.

“Ezra is saying that he thinks she likes you too. Poor thing, she is so confused. That pretty little thing could have any guy she wanted.

“Buck, you’re supposed to be on my side!” JD stuttered.

“Woo her all you want kid, we’ll be behind you one hundred percent.” Joshia chuckled.

“Just be careful sheriff, if you hurt her in anyway you’ll have six very angry fathers to answer too.” Vin was unable to keep his stern voice serious.

I don’t think we need to worry about Ms. Darby” Ezra answered. “She would insert a bullet in the unfortunate young man’s crest before he even had a chance,”

“He means she would put a bullet in your head before we could even get to her.” Nathan translated for JD.

“Oh okay, but Casey is the same way. I always had to be on my toes.”

Chris chuckled.

“You certainly like strong, and aggressive young women JD.” His face-hardened when he saw the ranch. The cattle were all grazing peacefully in the fields. A farmer was running up to them.

“What is the meaning of this, Martin!” Chris growled.

“I don’t know what you are talking about, Mr. Larabee.” The man shook under Chris’s glare.

“We received a telegram that said your cattle had been stolen by the Wagner bothers.” Vin stated less severely then his friend.

“No sir, everything here is just fine.” The farmer said glancing warily at Chris.

“Gentlemen I do believe we have been defrauded.” Ezra stated.

“That mean’s there probably in Four Corners right now!” JD basically yelled.

“Oh God, Kat’s never going to sit there and let them rob the town blind!” Vin told his friends.

“Come on!” Chris growled, turning his mount spurring the horse hard. The others were close on the animal’s hoofs.

“God Todd, this was perfect. I never thought we could get those seven bastards out of here.” The Wagner brothers were inside the bank. Todd had opened the safe was putting money into a bag.

“Thank you Brett, this plan was pretty ingenious. I knew that Larabee and his idiots would leave as soon as someone needed help.” Brett had his gun pointed at the head of the terrified young teller. He felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and was staring straight into the barrel of Katie’s riffle.

“I’d put that gun down if I were you.” She said politely. Both the men burst out laughing.

“You’re who Larabee sends to protect the town. A little girl.” Todd managed to spurt out between laughs.

”Go home and play with your dolls sweetheart.” Katie cocked her gun.

“Don’t ever call me sweetheart. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Brett pushed the barrel harder into the teller’s head.

“If you insist on being on hero, girl I’ think I have to teach you a lesson. Never threaten a man when there are hostages involved.” Katie lowered the rifle and sighed.

“That’s a good girl, to bad Larabee will have to see your body on the floor when you return.” Quicker then lighting, Katie pulled her father’s gun out of her pocket. She fired two shots, one at each of the outlaws. Both men fell to the ground holding their hands. Blood spilled from their hands.

“Damn Bitch shot my trigger finger off!” Todd gasped. Katie pointed her gun at the two of them.

“If you don’t cooperate, You’ll loose more than your finger. God, Chris is going to kill me.” She whispered under her breath.

The seven men rode into town expecting the worst. They were surprised when the town was going on its normal business.

“You don’t think they chickened out do you?” Nathan asked.

“ Doesn’t sound like something the Wagner brothers would do?” Joshia answered.

“Be on your toes, but be as discreet as possible, we don’t want them to get nervous.” Chris told his men.

The men turned when they heard footsteps behind them. Mary Travis ran up to them out of breath.

“Ah hello, Mrs. Travis two men didn’t happen to have robbed the town this afternoon did they?”

“Nice job being deceit Buck,” JD sneered.

“Discreet kid,” Ezra corrected Mary ignored the two men and answered Buck’s question

“Yes, in fact two men did try, They would have gotten away if Kat hadn’t been brave enough to stop them when all the other men in town chickened out.”

“What?” The seven men asked in unison disbelief.

“Why don’t you ask her yourself. She’s got them locked up in a jail cell”

Six of the men jumped off their horses and ran to the jail. Chris stayed behind.

“Did she really do that?” Chris asked. Mary nodded her head.

“They would have gotten away with it to, if she hadn’t stopped them.”

“Did she realize how dangerous that was, she could have gotten killed.” He stalked towards the jail.

“Don’t be to hard on her Chris,” Mary called. “I think she’s more afraid to face you then the Wagner brothers.” She said to herself.

“You little idiot, what would have I done if you had gotten yourself shot? Your dad would have came back and killed both of us,” Vin had Katie engulfed in a bear hug. “I do have to admit that was some pretty fine shooting.” He let go of her.

“That was a superb shot, my dear. Vin here, couldn’t have done better, but I do believe, next time you should think before you attack.” Ezra said seriously, but he was smiling.

“I’ll tuck that away in the Standish book if wisdom,” Katie laughed.

“I think Katie needs to give us all lessons on how to shoot like that.” Nathan informed everyone.

“You guys really it was nothing that special. I am sure you all could have done the same if you were in my situation.”

“Hopefully none of us will be stupid enough to find ourselves in that situation.” In the commotion, nobody had noticed Chris enter the jailhouse. Katie cowered, but she held her voice strong.

“I couldn’t let them steal all the money! What was I supposed to do, just sit there and watch. That’s worse then telling them the code to the safe!”

“Rescuing the town is none of your business, You and the teller could have been shot. I thought you were smarter then to take unnecessary risks.” Katie stood right in front of Chris. The glare she gave rivaled the older gunmen.

“Unnecessary risks?” He voice was strong and steady. “Who are you to lecture me about unnecessary risks when you take them everyday? How many times have you ridden out of with guns drawn, not thinking about the consequences? You took one with me, when you had no idea that I was. My father took one by hiring Vin, People take risks everyday to protect the ones they love and care about. Some people like you guys risk your lives to protect people you don’t even know. Risking everything is something that anyone with a heart would do. I’m glad I went to that bank, and I would do it again no problem. Who gives you the right to preach to me about unessiary risks?”

Six pairs of eyes stared the young lady in front of them. They were full of admiration. Who would have guessed that the little spitfire in front of them would have the confidence to stand up to one of the most feared men in the west. Vin stepped forward and put an arm around her shoulders.

“She’s right Chris, if we told her she was wrong we would be, what ‘s the world I’m looking for Ez?

“Hypocritical” The gambler supplied.

Chris could see that he was outnumbered.

“Pull a stunt like that again, and you will be on a train to someplace safer before you can say Jesse James!” He growled, as he walked out, letting the door slam behind him.

Katie shrugged off Vin’s arm.

“Thanks guys, I’m going to groom Bullet now.” She ran out the door, not wanting the men to see her cry.

Two months had passed since the bank robbery. Katie had become the town hero, praised everywhere she went, But none of that mattered to her. Chris hadn’t said a word to her in the since he threatened her. He downright ignored her. When she entered the room, he left.

The seven members saw the hurt in the girls green eyes every time the gunslinger walked away from her. She tried to hide it, but the six men knew her better. They all tried to compensate for their leader’s hostility.

Vin started to teach Kat how to track. She became very good. Vin rode with Katie on her first assignment. Nettle Wells dog Lucky had ran away. The girl had the animal safely in the home of his mistress before sundown. On the way home Vin told his pupil.

“Pretty soon, Four Corners will have no reason to keep me anymore. You can shoot and trap just as good as me plus you are a whole lot smarter.

“Vin I will never be as good as you, she paused knowing she was hitting a sensitive subject, “You have done so much for me I’d like to pay you back. I can teach you to read if you want.’

Vin didn’t say anything for a while. “Would you really reach me?” Katie nodded her head. Vin smiled. “Race you back to the livery. Go and get some of Ezra’s books.”

The reading lessons were a huge success. Katie was a patient and smart teacher. Vin improved everyday.

“Did you ever think about becoming a schoolteacher?” JD asked one day one a picnic. He was biting into an apple. The two friends were sitting by the river. Something they had been doing a lot recently. Katie shook her head.

“Not really, I really don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I have one mission in my life though.”

“What’s that?” JD asked.

“Promise not to tell anyone. I don’t want word getting out that I’m doing this.”

“I will swear on anything you…”

“Your words good enough for me JD.”

“Alright I promise not to tell anyone”

“I’m trying to find out where my brother is, I’ve tried writing letters to my grandparents and the Robinson’s but they all seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth.”

“Why don’t you want anyone to know, I’m sure Judge Travis could help.”

“NO JD, you promised me. If anybody but me starts prying in Silas might find out. That could lead him to me or even worse, my brother. You don’t need a vivid imagination to know what he would do.” The girl pleaded, “I will beg you if I have to.”

“Aww Kat, you don’t have to do that. I won’t tell anybody. Just promise me, you will tell me the second you need help with anything.

Katie smiled as she stood up, “I promise. Well we better be getting back. She hesitated before she leaned over and kissed the boy on the cheek. “Thanks.” She ran over to her horse and jumped on his back, without looking over shoulder. JD just stared after her.

Katie walked into the tavern. She saw Joshia, Nathan Ezra, Buck and Vin sitting around a table. Chris was sitting in the corner by himself, whisky bottle in his hand. He didn’t even acknowledge that she was there. Buck waved her over.

“Over here Katie,” Nathan called. Katie walked over in time to see the end of their card game.

“Read them and weep brother.” Joshia laid out his cards in front of Ezra. Joshia laid down his hand of a full house.

“Sorry my friend, but it appears that you have lost again.” Ezra chuckled as he laid down a flush in diamonds “To bad your whole paycheck now belongs to me.

“Excuse me Inez, Ezra is buying us all drinks!” Vin yelled.

“Coming right up senior,” The hostess called back.

“Wait a second I never.” Ezra saw the girl looking over her shoulder at the man in the back of the room. I

“Don’t worry about him sweetheart, He’ll come around eventually.”

“I wish he wouldn’t feel that getting drunk every night is the only way to solve his problems. She paused she wasn’t really talking to Ezra or anyone in particular. “I hate that damn stuff. Alcohol, it’s just a crutch for the weak, it was made for people who are afraid to stand on their own two feet. Drinking is an excuse to run away from life.” She stopped realizing what she was saying. She started up in to five surprised sets of eyes.

“Ah Inez cancel that order. Would you mind bringing out six glasses of milk and some of those molasses cookies I saw you baking this morning.” Buck asked.

“Un momento Buck,” she called back surprised.

Katie was embarrassed “Guys I didn’t mean that she you should, I mean, well you guys know me, I forget to think before I speak.”

“You do have that problem. But this time, I think it was for the better.” Joshia smiled at the girl. “You certainly have changed things since you got here. Defiantly for the better.”

“We are all glad that you found you way into this town.” Vin answered “Even if was under very unfortunate circumstances” Everyone stared at him.

“Did you just say what I thought you said? Where did you learn to talk like that Tanner?” Buck asked.

“One of the books Kat it teaching me to read.” Vin answered

“Kat you are an angel” Ezra put his arm around her shoulder. “Both of us will make a gentlemen out of him yet. I think that deserves a reward. He pulled a small brown package out of his pocket. “We all pooled our resources and bought you this, A little token of our appreciation. “ He pulled a little brown package out of pocket. He handed it to the girl. Katie took it

“You guys didn’t have to get me….”

“Shut up and open the present Kat.” Buck answered.

Katie sighed and unwrapped the brown wrapping. It was a beautifully bound, red, hardcover, book. The title along the side said Great Expectations.

“Ezra sent all the way to England for it. Look inside,” Nathan instructed her. Katie opened the cover of the book and gasped. In very pretty calligraphy, The name Charles Dickens was written.

“How on earth did you find this? A copy with his signature?” Katie asked.

“I am aquatinted with a book dealer in Denver. I wrote to him with my special request. He was able to deliver the book to me at a price we couldn’t refuse.”

Katie reached over and gave hugged the two men closest to her.

“I know that Chris chipped in a small amount, why don’t you go thank him. It’s time to bury old grievances don’t you think?” Nathan told the girl. Katie took a deep breath and headed towards the table.

“Good luck kid,” Ezra whispered under his breath.

Chris saw the girl head towards him. He turned his back to her.

“Hi Chris,” Katie asked hesitantly. The gunslinger didn’t answer back.

“I would like to thank you for my book, it was a very nice thought.” Chris turned around. His bloodshot eyes turned to the girl. Katie regretted talking to the man.

“Look kid, your friends over there forced me to donate to your charity fund. It was the only way I could get him off my back. Just don’t expect me to give you any more money for anything. It’s time you get off that ass and work for it.”

Katie couldn’t help it. Her eyes filled up with angry tears. Before Chris knew what happened he felt a fist in his face.

“Fine! I don’t want your freaking charity!’ She threw the book down on the table and ran out of saloon. Nobody inside moved. They couldn’t believe that someone had dared hit Chris Larabee. Chris noticed the eyes staring at him. He turned around and continued to drink his bottle of Whiskey.

Ezra was about to get up and follow Katie, but Joshia held him back.

“Let her cool down a little bit, then we’ll all go talk to her.”

Vin felt the anger building up inside of him.

“That’s enough of this bullshit. I won’t stand by and watch her get hurt again!”

Chris sat down in his chair thinking. His eye and his pride hurt like hell.

“Chris you really are a son of a bitch aren’t you?” Chris turned around in his chair. Vin had crept behind him.

“God Vin, do you have to sneak up on a person like that?” He took a swig of the whisky bottle. The tracker shook his head.

“Kat was right, that stuff does rule your life. It’s the only thing that matters to you. You’re so drunk you don’t even realize what you said to her” Chris glared at him.

“How dare you say anything about my drinking” his voice was barley more then a whisper.

“Why not?” Vin asked. “It’s true. You refuse to let anyone get close to you. You finally start to care about somebody again and she does one thing that scared you, and all of a sudden you won’t have anything to do with her. I’m sorry pard, but that’s bullshit! That girl has already lost so much. That little body has a huge heart, but that heart can only stand so much pain. I won’t let anyone hurt her again.”

“That was a nice speech, but it doesn’t make a difference. If you are so worried about the girl you go talk to her or get somebody else who gives a shit, because I certainly don’t.

“That’s where you’re wrong pard. You love her just as much as any of us. You are just to scared to get hurt again.” He stopped when the door to the saloon burst open.