Will the Real Vin Tanner...
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven and its characters are the property of MGM, Trilogy Entertainment, the Mirisch Corporation, and the Hallmark Channel.
Much appreciation goes to Shallan for her beta work...thank you!
One minute the roughly dressed man was sitting at the table, gulping down a mug of beer, the next, he was on his feet, waving a gun in the air. "Lookin' fer Vin Tanner," he announced as silence fell over the crowded saloon.
At the bar, Buck and Josiah turned around, their friendly conversation coming to an end, staring at the speaker.
The gun shook slightly as its wielder shifted his position, glancing around the room uneasily. "Don't want no trouble, jist tell me where Tanner is."
A few saloon patrons exchanged glances, and one or two raised an eyebrow, but no one spoke up.
In the shadows, sitting with his back against the wall, Chris calmly took another sip of his beer.
"I ain't askin' again," the man threatened, drawing himself up to his full unimposing height of five foot four inches. "Where is Tanner?"
Ezra sighed heavily, placing his cards facedown on the table. "Excuse me, gentlemen," he murmured to the other three men at the poker table with him. "I fear I must ask your indulgence for a brief moment." His chair scraped the floor as he stood, gaining the attention of the bounty hunter.
"You, fancy pants. Do you know where Tanner is?"
"If I may, Mister...?" Ezra's gold tooth sparkled in the light as he smiled. "Mister...?" he invited again.
"Bricker," the man responded reluctantly.
"Mister Bricker," Ezra repeated with a nod. "Sir, I believe you were inquiring about my whereabouts?"
Bricker did a double-take. "Tanner ain't no dandy," he spit out with disdain. "He's a no-good, no-account murderer."
Ezra smoothed down the ruffles on his white linen shirt. "Indeed, a most effective disguise."
"Disguise?" The man looked incredulous for a moment, then shrugged. Motioning with his gun, he ordered, "Move it, Tanner. I'm takin' you to Texas."
"However, I do admit the aforementioned moniker does leave much to be desired."
Distracted for a second by the flow of words coming from the red-jacketed man, Bricker shook his head as if to clear it. "Move it," he said again, gesturing toward the door. At the soft murmur of voices, he glanced warningly around the room. "Now, don't nobody get no ideas. Me and Tanner are gonna walk outta here. Everybody stays right where they are, and there won't be no trouble."
"Well, hey, now," Buck began, pushing away from the bar. He slowly sauntered toward the two men. "Looks like we've got a little problem."
Bricker aimed his gun at the ladies' man. "What problem?"
"Him." Buck pointed at Ezra. "He ain't Tanner."
The bounty hunter blinked, swinging his attention back toward Ezra. "You ain't Tanner?"
"Oh," Ezra said. "You said Tanner." He raised two hands in entreaty. "I thought you said Banner, Wyn Banner."
"I didn't say Banner!" Bricker snarled. "I said Tanner!" He kicked a chair in frustration. "I'm looking fer Tanner."
Everyone's eyes shifted to Buck. Wilmington stood in the center of the room, smiling genially.
Bricker's eyes traveled up the ladies' man's long length. "Yer Tanner?" he asked in disbelief.
"Wait, I got me a picture of Tanner." With one hand, Bricker pulled a tattered and torn paper out of his pocket. "Here, open it." He thrust it at Josiah, who had remained at the bar.
The ex-preacher unfolded the paper. His lips pursed as he viewed the wanted poster. "Hmm... A fine likeness," he stated, glancing between the picture and Buck.
"Let me see that." The paper was snatched out of Josiah's hand. Bricker studied the image. "You don't look like Tanner."
"Cut my hair," Buck explained cheerfully. "Grew a mustache. Got taller. Thought it would be a good disguise."
"Okay," the bounty hunter said. "Let's go. I'm takin' you to Texas."
"Actually..." Josiah's deep voice interrupted the proceedings.
"I meant that the picture looked like Vin Tanner, not that this man," he indicated Buck, "was Vin Tanner."
Bricker turned on Buck. "Are you or ain't you Vin Tanner?"
"Who?" Buck asked innocently.
"Tanner!" Bricker screamed. "Vin Tanner!"
"Oh," Wilmington replied thoughtfully. "There was a Tanner, or Manner, or Banner... No, that's him," he pointed at Ezra, "well, something like that, in here a few days ago."
"A few days ago?" Bricker seethed. "I'm gonna-"
"Hey, everybody," JD called, entering the saloon.
"You!" Bricker said in recognition. The bounty hunter stormed up to the youngest peacekeeper. "You told me Vin Tanner was in the saloon."
"Vin Tanner?" JD blinked. "Well, yeah." He glanced around the saloon. "You mean you haven't found him yet?"
"No, I ain't found him yet!"
"Well, I told you he was probably in disguise."
"What kinda disguise?"
"How would I know?" JD complained, rolling his eyes. "Did you check out those ladies over there?"
"No, I didn't check out those ladies over there!" Two of the indicated women giggled at the notion.
"Hmm... Well, I don't see him." JD's eyes lit up. "Unless that's him back there."
All eyes swung to the black-clad man sitting in the back.
"You!" the bounty hunter yelled. "You Vin Tanner?"
Larabee slowly got to his feet, a small smile on his face. "Nope."
"You know where he is?"
"Think maybe you made a mistake," Chris suggested, his tone deadly.
"A mistake?" Bricker repeated, despite the green glare aimed in his direction. "I ain't makin' no mistake. I want Tanner, now! I'm takin' him to Texas."
There was a collective gasp and several men cringed in anticipation. "Well, that was stupid," someone in the crowd muttered.
"A mistake," Chris reiterated. "There's no Vin Tanner here."
Bricker took a step forward, his gun now pointed at the gunslinger. "Don't tell me Tanner ain't here. I know he's here. Who the hell are you, anyway?"
Chris swept his duster away from his side, revealing his sidearm. "Name's Larabee. Chris Larabee."
There was a swallow loud enough to be heard in every corner of the room.
"Lara-" the man's voice squeaked before completely failing him.
"Larabee," JD finished helpfully. "You heard of him?"
"I, uh. I, uh." Bricker quickly backpedaled in the opposite direction of the approaching gunslinger, the weapon in his hand quickly redirected toward the floor
"I'll only say this one more time," Chris said. "There's no Vin Tanner here."
"Nope, no Tanner here," Buck chimed in. He moved closer, his hand on his gun.
"Must be a grievous misunderstanding," Ezra contributed, his derringer springing into his hand.
"In fact, this Tanner of yours may not even exist at all." Josiah placed his hand on his weapon. "Right?"
Bricker looked at the half-circle of men facing him, and his face fell in defeat. "Right," he sighed.
"In fact, I believe that you were just about to head out, weren't you?" Buck suggested. "Going somewhere else to look for this, uh..."
"Mythological," Ezra supplied.
"Mythological Tanner," Buck finished. "Am I right?"
Bricker sighed again. "Yeah."
"Then you won't need that." Josiah laid a large hand on Bricker's gun. "Seeing that there's no Tanner here." He guided the bounty hunter's hand toward his holster, and didn't release his grip until the gun was in place.
"Mister Bricker?" Ezra stuck out a hand. "It has been a pleasure doing business with you."
Bricker stared at Standish's hand for a moment before shaking his head. Mumbling to himself, he turned and headed for the door.
"Clearly lacking in even the most rudimentary proprieties," Ezra commented as the batwing doors closed behind the bounty hunter.
"Now, that was fun," Buck exclaimed, laughing as he clapped Chris on the back. "Did you see his face when he heard Chris's name? I thought he was gonna wet his pants."
The gunslinger sent him a warning look, but a faint smile teased at the corners of his mouth.
"I loved the way he kept screaming Vin's name," JD said.
"So, how is our Mister Tanner?" Ezra asked.
JD's eyes widened. "Oh, I was supposed to tell you." He turned to Chris. "Nathan said he wanted to get some sleep, so if you didn't mind sitting with Vin for a..." His words trailed off as Larabee immediately strode toward the door, heading for the clinic and his injured friend.
"Is Vin okay?"
"He's sleeping like a baby, Buck." JD smiled. "He sure didn't want to take that laudanum, but Nathan finally talked him into it."
"Maybe we should check on him anyway, brothers," Josiah suggested.
There was an immediate nod of agreement from three heads, and the remaining peacekeepers set out to rejoin their friends.