Crossover with The Outcasts
Challenge: July challenge issued by KT Write a story where the Seven intermingle with the characters of a TV Western.
Characters: All Seven plus Jemal David and Earl Corey
Authors note: No offence is meant by some of the language. I only wrote what I figured the baddies would say.
Disclaimer: Dont own them and Im not making any money off of them.
PART ONEThe three horses plodded slowly down the dusty street, passing the general store, the newspaper office, and the saloon. They stopped in front of the sheriffs office where a young, dark haired man, wearing a badge on his chest, greeted them. The first horse carried a corpse, the entire body wrapped tightly in a tarp. The second carried a white man who clung tenaciously to the saddle horn, his shirt covered with blood. The man, who appeared to be in his thirties, sat with his eyes closed, his head hanging low on to his chest. He never looked up when the horses stopped. The third, a large bay, carried a dirt-covered, weary, cautious black man. He didnt make a move to get down off his horse. He simply gazed intently at the youth in the bowler hat.
JD shifted his feet, showing his uneasiness in the face of the dangerous looking stranger who continued to stare. The sheriffs eyes darted back and forth as if he were looking for someone. Finally, the young man cleared his throat and asked, Can I help you?
The large black man, eyeing the star on JDs coat lapel, remained silent. Gradually, the antagonist turned his head, first right and then left. He wanted to know what the youth had been searching for. He also was searching himself, his need to find a doctor outweighing his suspicions about this town. Sighing softly, the stranger acknowledged the sheriff. You the law in this town?
JD Dunne, the youngest of the seven regulators hired to protect the town and the surrounding area, was the true sheriff. He didnt care for strangers doubting his ability just because he looked young. He tried for a Larabee glare but couldnt quite pull if off. Whats your business here, Mister?
The black man slowly dismounted and tossed his reins across the hitching post. He made his way around to where the white man sat, still clutching his saddle horn. He turned back to looked unenthusiastically at the sheriff. We got a bounty to turn in. Mean to collect. He turned back to the man still on his horse. As he reached up and placed a large hand on his partners arm, he asked, Ya got a doctor?
No doctor but we got a healer thats better than most doctors. JD shifted again, his hand settling on his gun. He hated bounty hunters! What happened to him?
Come on, Corey. Told ya wed get ya to a doctor, didnt I? Its all right, man, you kin let go. The black man gently squeezed the arm he had a hold of, waiting for the white man to come to his senses. Without looking at JD, he answered, He didnt move fast enough.
A large man with gray hair suddenly appeared by the sheriffs side. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the much smaller man. JD, are you acquainted with these gentlemen?
The muscular black man glanced at the new man but quickly turned his attention back to his partner. The man still hadnt made a move to dismount but his grip on the saddle horn had loosened. He tiredly opened his eyes and turned his head towards his friend.
JD watched the small movement and then turned to Josiah. Theyre bounty hunters. Guess they believe in dead over alive. You know if Nathans in town?
Hes still at the saloon, arguing with Ezra. He answered the youth and then louder, he asked, Would you like some help with him, sir? He stepped towards the horses but stopped when the man glared at him suddenly.
I kin handle im. Been doin it for two days now. He turned back to the wounded man. Come on, Corey. The white man finally let go and slid into the strong arms of his partner. He moaned from the pain the movement caused him, his hands grabbing for the big mans shirt.
Josiah stepped forward and grabbed the mans belt, helping to support him while his partner eased the mans hands from his shirt and pulled his arm over his shoulder. Nathans clinic is up two flights of stairs, friend. Ill show you the way. Josiah pulled the mans other arm over his shoulder and the wounded man slumped between the two men bracing him. JD, get the others.
JD nodded and moved quickly towards the saloon as the ex-preacher helped the black bounty hunter carry his partner up the stairs to the clinic. They eased the white man down onto the bed, then Josiah stepped back.
You got a name, friend? Josiah watched as the bounty hunter carefully pulled the shirt away from his partners wound.
Names Jemal David. This heres Earl Corey. We dont mean to cause a fuss. You dont need to stand guard over us like we was some wastrels. The voice held a lot of stubborn and a little attitude.
Didnt mean for it to seem that way, Jemal. Just waiting for Nathan. Josiah leaned against the wall, taking some of the stress out of the room. Nodding towards Jemals partner, he added, He must be as stubborn as my friends to make it two days with a wound like that.
The black man turned and snorted. Hes the most mule-headed man I ever did come across. We fuss and fight a lot but at least hes honest. What town is this?
Josiah smiled and replied, Four Corners, an oasis in the midst of perdition.
Suddenly, footsteps sounded on the stairs and four men burst into the room. In the lead was the healer, Nathan Jackson. Chris Larabee, Ezra Standish, and JD Dunne followed right behind him.
The bounty hunter had turned back to his friend and he refused to be intimidated by the appearance of so many men. When he did turn towards them, his gun was in his hand. He looked up at the five men standing united against him and was appreciative of the gun drawing display of every one of the five men. He studied their faces. The first was the old man whose welcoming smile had turned hard. The next man appeared to be a dandy but a cold smile gave him the look of a lethal cat. Third stood the kid sheriff, his eyes now as cold as stone. Jemal now knew whom the boy had been searching for. The fourth man was a stone cold killer if his eyes told the ex-slave anything. Coming to the last man, the healer, Jemal did a double take, facing the bullet end of a gun he knew.
PART TWOJemal? Jackson took a step forward. My God, is it really you? I thought youd died during the war! The two former slaves hugged each other like long lost brothers. After a time, they released each other and stepped back. How are you, Jemal? Its been, what, thirteen years?
Bout that, I reckon. You look good, Nathan. And youre a healer now? Jemal smiled at his old friend, making him seem much more accessible then the grim, dirt-covered hombre that rode into town.
Man, we have a lot of catchin up ta do! Nathan was ecstatic to see the man that had helped him escape from the plantation and make his way north to freedom. He wanted to know everything that had happened to the man who had saved his life so long ago. Lets go get a drink.
Jemals face lost its smile and he turned back to the bed where his partner lay unconscious. Think that will have to wait. Corey needs your help right now. Hes not doin too good today. Fever come on im last night.
Nathan quickly remembered the reason he had been summoned to his clinic and he immediately set about checking the white man that Jemal had brought in with him. The two old friends set about the task of keeping Earl Corey alive. The rest of the Seven, seeing there was nothing to fear from the two bounty hunters, quietly left the clinic.
Ill deal with the corpse, Josiah set off back down the stairs. JD followed in the wake of the big man. He had no desire to spend any more time around the bounty hunters. He had a strong aversion to men, or women, in that profession. He would help the ex-preacher find out who the bounty was and try to ascertain how he ended up slung over a saddle. Being a friend of Nathan wouldnt help the two men if the young sheriff deemed the killing a murder.
Chris and Ezra hung back. They settled themselves on the deck in front of Nathans rooms. They were curious about the two men. They wanted to know more before they accepted the bounty hunters. Bounty hunters were bad news in Four Corners, especially to the seven who defended the town.
Several hours later, Nathan emerged and joined his fellow regulators outside. The sun was just beginning to sink in the west.
He gonna live? Chris stood up and stretched his lean body.
I think so. Hes got a bad infection, bullet was still inside, but I think I have it under control. Ill know more tomorrow. He sat down in the chair that Chris had just vacated.
Mr. Jackson, from where are you acquainted with this man? The two of you seemed quite congenial. Ezra remained stretched out, his left foot perched gently on top of his right.
Nathan hung his head for a moment and then he replied, Jemal and I were together on the plantation in Alabama. One night, after watching a friend of ours get beat ta death, we vowed to escape. We planned for a month and then made our break for freedom. Jemal could swim some and he drug me across the river when I was drownin. We made it to the North just before the war started. He paused, wiping his hand across suddenly desolate eyes. I was willin to help the Yanks but Jemal, he was eager to fight. He left me in Ohio and joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers. I never heard from him again til today. Id heard they was all wiped out, every one of em. Figured he was dead too. He looked the Southerner in the eye. Jemal, he was always defiant, got hisself a lot of whippins. Cant say how he got hisself mixed up with a white man but Id stay clear of him for a while.
My good sir, do you honestly believe my Southern heritage would offend him? Before the healer could answer, he asked, Does it offend you, Mr. Jackson? Ezra looked totally serious but there was a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
Yeah, it does, Nathan rejoined. Waiting a few seconds in the silence, he continued, But I trust ya and would gladly fight beside ya, ya damn Reb. He smiled at his colleague, the warmth of friendship evident in his eyes.
Ezra nodded once, quickly. As I would with you, Nathan. How well do you know this man? Could he have changed in the substantial amount of time the two of you have been apart?
I magine he coulda. I did, so did you. Cant rightly figure him ridin with a white man though. Guess well have ta sit and talk ta find out the answers. Could one of ya bring us up some supper? Im hungry, magine hes starvin. Nathan stood, his gaze on Ezra still. He remembered all the times he and the gambler had disagreed through the last year. He had to admit, he now considered the Southerner a good friend. Unbelievable!
Larabee had watched the interplay between the two men. He had, just prior to the strangers showing up, been witness to the two of them arguing in the saloon. He had laughed over the tone the disagreement had taken. They had been fighting over a dog of all things, Ezras belief being the Russian wolfhound a better hunting dog than the oh so common beagle. He decided to stop this conversation before it got out of hand with strangers just inside the door. Ill get Inez to send some food over, plenty of it considering your friends size. Well talk later, Nathan. Chris turned and walked down the stairs. He was anxious to find out about the dead man they had brought in.
Ezra tipped his hat and followed his leader. Nathan went back inside, doubts now clouding his mind about his old friend.
Nathan stood back from the bed, astonishment on his face. His friend, the man who hated white masters, was talking to his partner who had finally returned to consciousness. The man was definitely a Southerner, his accent strong still. Nathan could tell from the tone in their voices that the two were good friends,
You the healer that saved my life? The white man noticed Nathan first. Jemal turned and smiled at his old friend.
Nathan, this ornery cuss is Earl Corey. Corey, this is an old friend of mine, Nathan Jackson. Hes the one that saved your sorry hide. Jemals smile covered his whole face. He was out of harm's way with two of his favorite people.
Glad to be of help, Earl. You need to lay real still for a couple days, dont wanna start the bleedin again. Nathan stepped up beside Jemal. He held out his hand to the wounded bounty hunter, who shook the black mans hand. The grip was strong, stronger than Nathan would have expected from someone so seriously wounded. The bullet had been lodged against a rib, not too hard to get out but difficult to find and the infection the bullet had caused was severe. Earl Corey wouldnt be able to leave Four Corners for at least a week.
Most call me Corey. Thank you, Nathan. Jemal was just telling me how skilled you are with a knife. He said you had no trouble getting the bullet out of my chest. He released the healers hand and sank back into the pillows with a grunt of pain. I appreciate your help. This morning I thought I was a goner. Corey smiled weakly at the tall black man.
Youre welcome. Nathan smiled back and then made his way to the stove across the room. He picked up his tea pan and poured a cup of his special brew. Bringing it back to the bed, he handed the cup to Jemal. Make sure he drinks it all. He looked down at the patient and finished, even if it does taste bad.
As Nathan left the clinic, Jemal helped his partner drink the pain killing tea. Jemal then pulled the blanket up over the reed thin man. Try to sleep. Ill be just outside ifn ya needs anything. He waited until Corey nodded sleepily and then he went outside to join his old friend.
Nathan sat in one of the two chairs out on the deck. It was cooler outside than indoors and the sun sat low on the horizon. He held out his hand, indicating that Jemal should also sit. As soon as the black man sat down, footsteps could be heard on the stairs. Ezra appeared with a large tray of food, which he placed on the small table between the two ex-slaves.
Enjoy, gentlemen. I believe Miss Rocillos devoted special care in the preparation of this repast.
Jemal stared at the Southerner and then turned to Nathan with a puzzled look on his face. Nathan chuckled lightly. He likes to confuse us all. He means Inez fixed us a good meal. Go ahead, chow down, ya gotta be hungry.
Glancing doubtfully at the green-coated peacock, the bounty hunter grabbed a plate full of food and began to eat. He kept an eye on the gambler though, not trusting the man in any way. Nathan noticed the skepticism in his old friend and couldnt blame him. He had felt the same way when he first met Ezra P. Standish. In fact, many times in the eleven or so months that they had all fought together, he and the ex-Rebel had battled each other verbally. He stilled disagreed with many of the conmans ideas but he now thought of Ezra as a good friend and thus, he let most of the mans schemes run off his back like water off a duck. Nathan had no doubt that Jemal distrusted the Southerner. Still, the ex-slave was now partnered up with a Southerner. Nathan was determined to get to the bottom of that story.
Enjoy your dinner, gentlemen. Mr. Jackson, how is your patient doing? Ezra had taken several steps back, no doubt feeling the frosty waves of mistrust emanating from the bounty hunter. Nathan had been right. The man still despised men from the South.
Nathan smiled wanly at his new friend. Suddenly he felt sorry for the gambler. He was being judged simply by his accent, just as the healer had always been judged merely by the color of his skin. He should be all right in a week, Ezra. Thanks for bringing this up for us, preciate it. Did Vin and Buck make it back from Eagle Bend? Nathan always worried when any of the Seven had to leave the area. The two men had taken two prisoners back to Eagle Bend where they had robbed a bank. They had tried the same thing in Four Corners yesterday. Big mistake on their part.
Indeed they did. No trouble was incurred by the twosome, as incredible as that might seem. Gentlemen, Ill leave you to take pleasure in your feast. Ezra left quickly, definitely feeling unwanted.
Hes a good man, Jemal, a good friend. Cant help where he was born and raised up. He gave the man beside him a steady look that conveyed his message better than his words could.
Jemal shook his head. Had dealings with him before, maybe a year or so ago. He took fifty dollars off me. Could swear he was cheatin but damn if I knew how. Aint got nothin ta do with his heritage. Makes no never mind ta me, I kinda got used to that accent again.
Nathan laughed. He should have known better than to judge anyone that quickly. I been meanin to ask you about that. How in the world did you get mixed up with Corey?
Guess we just fell in together. Truth be told, he saved my hide. Then I saved his. Been chasin bounty ever since. Hes okay most of the time, hes got his moments though. Ken ya believe, he was a plantation owner fore the war. Lost everything, including his wife. Was flat busted same as me when we met, chasin the same bounty. Hes taught me a lot, mostly bout judgin folks fore ya git ta know em. Spose Ive learnt him a thing or two. Jemals eyes got misty suddenly. I sure was scared I was gonna lose im today. Never thought Id be sayin that bout a Reb.
Know what ya mean. Nathan nodded, his thoughts going back in time to the days of slavery for him and his family. He tried not to linger there but seeing Jemal again brought that time crashing back around him. The hatred, the yearning to be free, the fear, and the sorrow, all mixed together to fill his mind. He lowered his head to his hands, tears suddenly threatening to spill down his cheeks.
A hand grabbed his shoulder in knowing support. He cleared his throat and turned his head to see his sorrow mirrored in Jemals eyes. He took a deep cleansing breath and sat back up, his spine straight and tall. We survived and we did good. Cant change the past and dont want to relive it but dont ever forget.
PART THREEDid you figure out who it was they brought in yet? Chris looked up from the corner table where he and Ezra had been enjoying an interesting conversation. The two rarely got to spend time alone and Chris was amazed at the interesting facts that Ezra had been telling him about plantations and slavery. Being born and raised in Indiana, Chris only had the rumors that circulated in the North and, of course, the book that woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, had written to formulate an opinion. He had no first hand knowledge of the atrocious practice of enslavement that had been a small portion of the wars inducements. Nathan had mentioned some of the hardships his race had endured when they had rescued his father but beyond those few statements, the ex-slave rarely talked about his past. Chris always figured it was too painful. They all had times in their personal histories that they found hard to ponder on but he figured Nathans was likely the worst of the seven. Ezra had been very forthcoming about plantations and plantation owners he had known during his time in the South. Although young, the conman had witnessed quite a lot of the atrocities, some of which Chris had heard of before. However, Ezra had shed a new light on the practice of slavery. Not that he condoned it, he simply stated the facts as the white owners had seen them. To most of them, the slaves were a necessity to the running of a profitable cotton or rice operation. Most treated their slaves as important property that needed to be kept healthy and whole or their worth decreased. Punishment took a cog from the wheel for several days. The gambler did stress that whippings and beatings took place on almost every plantation though and that the owners did take their pleasure with slave women on a regular basis just as Nathans mother had been treated. All told, it was a repulsive situation that was best ended. Of course, most Southerners would still disagree.
JD held out the wanted poster he and Josiah had found that matched the body now at the undertakers. Both men looked grim at the findings of their search.
Jesus Christ! Chris looked from the posture to the two men still standing. You sure bout this?
Has to be. We even found a piece of the jewelry mentioned there in his pocket. JD sat down beside the gambler, a sour expression on his face. Goddamn bounty hunters!
Chris studied the young man before him but didnt comment. Hed have Buck talk to the kid. Jackson Lewis has two brothers, right? He addressed the ex-preacher.
Lists a Jefferson and Jameson as accomplices. Reckon they will be out to avenge their brother with a little Old Testament reprisal? Josiah sat also. This definitely wasnt good news. The Lewis brothers were known throughout the region for their brutal stagecoach robberies. They rarely left witnesses.
Indubitably! Ezra downed the remainder of his beer. He waved at Inez and, upon gaining her attention, he held up four fingers.
Did you two see Vin and Buck? Chris wanted them all to be here when they discussed the trouble that surely would be coming to town.
JD, slumped down in his chair, answered, In the bath house. Should be here shortly. Chris, we gotta get them damn murderers out of town. Its their trouble, not ours!
Chris glared at the youngest member of the Seven. JD, he growled quietly. The meaning was clear. The boy was out of line with his mind-set. Again he let it drop. The black man was a friend of Nathans and that meant the two bounty hunters were worthy of their assistance. The sheriff would have to get over his hatred of bounty hunters but that was Bucks job.
The batwing doors of the saloon flew open and in walked Buck and Vin. They both acknowledged Inez, each in his own way, and then they made their way to the back table that had been claimed months ago by the seven peacekeepers.
Ya smell a might better, Chris teased Vin as he sat down in his chair beside Chris.
Thanks but yer not my type. Maybe Bucklin ken help ya out. Vin grinned.
Buck could no more be mad at Vin then he could JD but he had to fight back. Hey, I take exception ta that, ya long-haired hard case. Had some excitement while we were gone, I heard. A friend of Nates, eh?
Yeah, bounty hunters, JD replied with disgust. He had already downed his beer and was getting up to get another plus one for Buck and Vin.
When he was out of earshot, Chris nudged Buck who sat on his left. Have a talk with im. Buck frowned but nodded. It wasnt like the lad to get pissed off for no apparent reason.
Upon JDs return, Chris took the floor. Well, boys, it looks like we might have trouble headed our way. Nathans friend and his partner brought in Jackson Lewis today and that means his brothers wont be far behind. Ezra, did Nathan mention how long Jemals partner is gonna be laid up?
He indicated about a week. It wasnt a serious wound but the infection is rather acute. I would imagine the Lewis brothers will track down the two huntsmen before the week is up? Ezra queried, hoping he wouldnt be correct.
Had some dealings with the Lewis brothers myself. Aint three men more loathsome in my book. We best plan on takin shifts on both ends of town, no figurin which way theyre gonna be comin from. Vin leaned forward. He was uneasy with bounty hunters in town even though they were friends of Nathan.
Seemingly reading his mind, Chris put a hand on his shoulder. Plan on havin a talk with Jemal first thing tomorrow, he said casually. The message was clear to all of them, however.
Gonna be a long week. JD, north end, Ill take the south tonight. Buck, Vin, early tomorrow morning. Josiah, you got first circuit, do you want someone with you? Chris took on the role of leader naturally. His mind absorbed details and quickly processed them. He had the fortitude to command and the others all respected him.
No, I would expect the Lewis boys will come into town without attracting attention. They wont be looking to attack anyone riding out on his own. Nathan and I will relieve you tomorrow around noon.
Ezra cleared his throat and broke in. Mr. Sanchez, I will take Nathans detail as he is busy with a patient. If there is nothing further to discuss at the moment, I just noticed two of our locals who seem eager to contribute funds to my cause. Gentlemen. He tipped his hat to the others and strolled over to where Parker Jennings and Antoine Mercait had seated themselves. It happened to be the gamblers favorite gaming table and all the men in town knew it.
Guess Ill go catch me a nap before I begin my watch. See you two in the morning, bright and early. Chris glanced quickly at Buck. The contact was brief but to the point, Find out whats bothering the kid and take care of it. Chris had no doubt that the tall ladies man would do just that.
After Chris and Vin left, Buck grabbed another beer and sat down next to JD. He figured he knew already what was bothering the lad but he had to be sure. Those two are gonna collect one thousand dollars. Thats some bounty! Took a lot of balls to go after Lewis. He waited for JDs reaction. It took all of a second.
Balls! Well, Ill give em balls but brains, they aint got one between em. Shoulda known the other two would be on their trail and now theyve led em right ta Four Corners. Lousy, stinkin, bounty hunters, should take em all out and shoot em. How dare they bring those murderin bastards here! Anger flooded JDs features. He could barely contain himself.
Ya know, Vin was a bounty hunter once. Me and Chris brought in one or two for some quick cash. Guess ya want to hang us too? Buck took a swig of beer and glanced sideways at his young friend.
Huh? Thats not what I mean! You guys are decent folks, not like . The young man couldnt finish his sentence, the memory still hurt.
Not like Kate and Maddie, right? JD, aint no two women alike, believe me, I know. You seem to like Casey just fine. He waited for the small nod from the still angry lawman. JD wasnt sure where Buck was headed but he had to agree he liked Casey Wells, he liked her a lot. JD, Casey aint nothin like Maddie and neither was Kate. You just never could see beyond Maddie blindsidin you. She was nuts, boy, and Kate was only protectin her only livin kin. And just like women aint all alike, neither are bounty hunters. Some are vicious, no-good, killers, but not all are. I dont know these two but then again, neither do you. Cant go judgin a man just cause owhat he does for a livin.
But . JD started. He didnt want to let go of the hate.
But nothin boy! A man deserves to be judged on his actions alone, not on who he hangs with or what his skin color is OR what he does for a livin. You best be rememberin that, JD! Maddie betrayed you. Just her and shes dead so forget it. Nathans friend and his partner brought in a wanted man. Dont much matter whether hes dead or alive, he was a murderin bastard who wounded one of them. Lewis had a bounty on his head and they are gonna collect. I bet they would have preferred to take him to a larger town where they could get their money and get the hell outta town. Getting wounded and almost dyin tends to change a mans mind right quick.
Okay, okay, Buck, ya made your point. Dont change the fact that they brought trouble here. JD had to get in one last shot to make him feel right about something today.
Yeah, youre right, troubles acomin sos you best get in some sleep before you stand guard tonight. See ya in the mornin, Kid. Buck smiled at the man beside him and ruffled the long dark hair. He truly loved the kid from Boston. He was a good man that would listen to reason, well, most of the time anyways.
PART FOURAnd where do you hail from, Ezra? Corey was feeling better and he was anxious to be up and moving around. It had taken four days for the infection to subside. His fever had spiked several times, the man ranting and raving about all sorts of things, his wife and plantation among them. Nathan and Jemal took turns sitting by his bedside, using cool water to try to bring the fever down. On the third day the fever had broken and by the fourth, he was able to sit up for awhile. Now, on day five, he had cabin fever. Nathan had thought to bring Ezra up to converse with the Southerner. It was looking to be a wise maneuver.
Well, Corey, I lived just about everywhere. My main locale was New Orleans but I spent time in Atlanta, Mobile, Biloxi, and Baton Rouge too. I also visited relatives on several plantations throughout the South. I believe I heard that you yourself owned a plantation. Where was your plantation located? Ezra was enjoying the company of the ex-soldier and plantation owner. He was witty and down-to-earth, qualities he had just recently learned to like in a man.
Coreys eyes dimmed for just a second but Ezras quick receptivity caught the pain. He knew the side of the war that the others didnt. They didnt know the men, who fought for a way of life that had been ingrained in them for over one hundred years, as anything but soldiers, the enemy. Ezra had seen the men coming home to find their loved ones dead, their homes burnt, their land worthless. He knew many of these men. Men who had lost everything they had worked all their lives to build. Men who had lost all their ancestors had lived and died for. Men who now had to learn to let go of hatred and rebuild their lives. Earl Corey was one of these men.
My home was in North Carolina. A pretty piece of land that overlooked the Great Pedee River, right in the heart of cotton country. The place belonged to my grandfather, then my father. My father had just given it to me when they called us up. When I returned He couldnt go on. He worked hard at forgetting the sight that had greeted him when, exhausted and beaten, he had walked upon land that had been burned and then confiscated. Times like this, he couldnt beat back the memories.
Ezra empathized with the man. When he left to fight a futile war, he didnt have anything but the clothes on his back. Many of the men he fought with though were in the same situation that Corey found himself in. He had seen the anguish and anger in their eyes.
So, you met Mr. David and decided bounty hunting would provide you with a decent earning. Is it a profitable occupation, sir? Ezra sought to change the subject. It worked.
Corey smiled and silently thanked the gambler. Rarely, my good man. This was one of the best weve ever gotten. Jemal was sure we could find him after the brothers last robbery. Took us two weeks of trail dust but we come upon two of em bout thirty miles west of here. Dont rightly know where the third one was but we thanked our lucky stars. Tried to take them at dawn, before they had their mornin coffee. He chuckled and Ezra smiled along with him. Southerners rarely did anything before breakfast and coffee. Guess they aint Southern boys. One got away after shootin me. Jemal got Jackson dead center. Then he nursemaided me cross country til we arrived here. He looked around the clinic as if it were the first time. Sure am glad he ran into an old friend who happens to be a mighty fine healer.
Ezras face lost all of its humor when he thought of Vin and the two bounty hunters. Speaking of old friends, Im sure Mr. David has told you about Vin Tanner.
Corey looked up at Ezra, a puzzled expression on his face. Yeah, Jemal mentioned him. You dont think we would try somethin like that, do ya, Ezra? We may be bounty hunters but we do have some scruples. The seven of yall are puttin your lives on the line for us, Vin among ya. I vow as a Southerner, we wont touch him. Is that good enough for yall?
Ezra studied the mans face and saw nothing but honesty. He smiled once again and nodded. Shall we proceed to the saloon and try some of my finest brandy? Miss Rocillos keeps my brand in stock. Ezra stood, holding his hand out to the other man.
Ya think Nathan will understand a mans need for libation, Ezra? Corey took the hand and stood on shaky legs.
I will wager on Mr. Jackson being adamant on the fact that you should remain in this bed. I, however, have noticed that too much time spent reclining is bad for the blood. Laughing, the two men slowly made their way down the stairs and across the dusty street. They paused to talk to Chris, who was on guard outside the jail. The Lewis brothers had not yet shown themselves. Or, at least, they hadnt been spotted.
Chris peered up at the two Southerners from under his broad brimmed hat. He had spent some time with the bounty hunter the day before and found him to be very personable. He could tell a good story like Buck but his tales tended to be about men and horses instead of women. He was good with a gun and a knife like Vin, he had patience like Josiah, and he was full of bull like Ezra. Chris decided the lying bravado must be a Southern trait.
Howdy, Corey. Nathan know you escaped?
Corey smiled despite the pain. Not yet. Any sign of the Lewiss?
Nothin. Vin reckons later today, maybe tomorrow. He hunted them himself, a while back. He knows they take time to study a situation. Reckon they might be waitin for you to leave. Dont reckon theyll wait forever though. Chris stood and stretched. What we waitin for, an invitation?
The three men made their way to the saloon. They picked up JD, Vin and Buck on the way. Inside, they ran into Nathan, Jemal, and Josiah. Together, the nine men had an enjoyable dinner. Corey kept them entertained with stories of the war. It didnt take long before Buck and Chris joined in. When talk turned to hunting men for money, Vin also joined in. For a while, they all forgot the imminent trouble lurking just outside of town.
Jameson and Jefferson Lewis sat comfortably by their campfire. They had found the men they were looking for in a small pitiful little town. The only law they saw was a young greenhorn who didnt look like he could handle an old man, let along the two of them. As for the murdering bastards that killed their brother, the big buck would be a handful but the lean white man was still hurting and shouldnt be a problem at all. Jeff had been proud of himself when he got all the way to the healers door without being spotted. He had seen the nigger pretending to be a doctor. He had seen the murderin jim crow caring for the white man. They seemed unaware that their days were numbered.
Jameson, the oldest of the Lewis brothers, was getting impatient. He lived for the thrill of the chase, the action of the robbery, the rush of the gunshot. He hated sitting around but he had always done it, conceding the point that Jack had always pounded into him and the youngest. Planning and preparation keeps one alive. So he had let Jeff go into town and scout around. The boy had done a good job and they were ready to proceed.
James, I got a bad feeling about this. Why dont we wait til they leave town? Shouldnt be but a day or two from now. Jeff was a whiner. He had never fussed so much at Jack but now that he was gone, he complained constantly. James was tired of it already.
We hit em while the ones still too weak to fight. Aint nothin to stop us in that one dog town. Sides, I need some action. Might find me a woman in that dirty little berg. Been too long fer that, too. He grinned wickedly. Boy, he hated inaction.
All right, we go in the mornin. Let me go into town tonight and make sure theyre still up at the niggers place. Dont wanna go lookin house to house fer em. He got up and began to saddle his pony. Be back later. Keep the fire low, ya hear me?
Yeah, yeah, just git goin. See ifn ya kin spot me a pretty little gal, alright? James was looking forward to tomorrow.
PART FIVEJD walked towards the jail, his head down, his feet dragging. He had tried all week to change his way of thinking, telling himself they were good men just doing a necessary job, but he kept coming back to the fact that they were bounty hunters. He couldnt help the way he felt! All of his encounters with the breed of folk that chased men for a living had turned out bad. He had been shot and almost killed by the girl, Maddie, when he had just been trying to save her life. He had seen his good friend, Vin, almost run out of town by bounty hunters looking to make a fast buck by killing an innocent man. Buck should have realized how that type of people made him feel. He had been the one to rush him back to town, to Nathan. He had been the one to press Chris into catching the two females, no matter what it took. Dammit, just because they were females, Buck couldnt see just how despicable those two were!
JD had sat with the others for as long as he could stand being with the two strangers that all of the others now treated like friends. None of the others he rode with could see the treacherousness of the bounty hunters. He had left the security of his group of comrades to get some fresh air. He walked down the boardwalk, his mind on Buck and Maddie. He strode off the boardwalk and across the alley, straight into a man about his age but much taller.
Bouncing back, he quickly stammered, Sorry, Mister.
The other man glared at JD, his hand reaching for the gun that hung low on his right leg. The blonde hair, the brown eyes, the thin lips, all registered instantly with the sheriff as he watched the young man draw his revolver. JD launched himself at the stranger, knocking the gun aside as it went off. The two men wrestled for a long minute, both trying to bring the gun back into play. The blonde had used his superior size and weight and had just pinned JD to the ground when the sound of feet stampeding towards their location caused the stranger to look back at the edge of the buildings and the end of the boardwalk. He slugged JD hard on the jaw and then, gathering himself, he stood and ran back down the alley as fast as his long legs would carry him.
JD saw stars when the fist connected with his jaw. Stunned, he lay in the dirt for a few seconds, gathering his wits. As he began to arise, eight men formed a circle around him. Buck knelt by his side, offering a supporting hand to regain his feet.
We heard a shot. What happened, JD? Bucks face held the alarm he felt at his young friend being in the middle of a gunfight. He quickly checked the lad for a wound, relaxing a bit when he didnt see any blood.
Slapping at the dirt that covered him, JD disgustedly reported, It was a Lewis! I ran right the hell inta him! He drew on me and I grabbed for the gun. He took off when he heard the rest a ya comin this way. If we hurry, we can catch up to him!
The sound of hoof beats carried from the back of the alley to where they all stood. Never catch him now. You all right? Chris couldnt tell if JD had been wounded or not. The boy was what was important at the moment.
NO, Im not hurt. Hes getting away! JD was incensed that the others were just standing there letting the Lewis brother leave.
JD, take it easy. Hell be back and well take care of im then. Are you sure he was a Lewis? Buck laid a comforting hand on the sheriffs back, feeling the muscles relax slightly. He was just glad his little buddy was unhurt. He didnt want to think about when the man and his brother returned.
Looked just like the corpse they brought in, only younger. And hes fast on the draw, Chris. JD looked at their leader, knowing he was the only one of the Seven that could match the man.
Larabee just nodded. He understood and registered the information for later use. Imagine theyll be here tomorrow or the day after. He was probably scouting the town, looking for you two. The gunfighter looked first at Jemal and then at Corey. He liked them both. They had impressed him as hard but honest men that worked at a hard job with a lot of risk and little reward. We best keep an extra man on guard til they get back. Josiah, Vin and Jemal are on duty tonight. The rest of you, get as much rest as possible.
+ + + + + + +
Jefferson Lewis rode his horse hard all the way back to where his brother waited. He jumped off the worn out horse as soon as he came near the campfire, leaving the lathered equine to fend for itself. He was out of breath when he stopped beside his expectant brother.
What the hell did you do, Jeff? He should have known the boy couldnt handle a job this delicate. Goddam, where was Jackson when they needed him? Dead, thats where! Murdered by those two sons of a bitches for the money on his head. They had to die!
We got a lot of trouble in that there town, James! Before, I only saw some nigra healer with that damned murdering darkie and the other slimey bastard. This time, I saw them in the saloon, sitting all natural like with seven other fellas, one of them Chris Larabee! James, we cant take on all nine of em. We gotta get us some help. The boys large eyes told his brother that he was telling the truth. Jeff stood before his older brother, waiting for a way out of the predicament.
All right, Jeff, all right. Well head down to Purgatory in the mornin. Were sure ta find somebody willin ta take em on there. He ogled his sibling, feeling there was something the boy had left out. Did they see you, Jeff?
The younger brother scuffed his foot in the dirt, his eyes anywhere but meeting his brothers. Finally, he answered, I ran right inta one, James, but I didnt get a chance ta finish im off before the rest of em came runnin. I dont know if he knew me or not.
God dammit, you little puke! Caint you do nothin right? Sonofabitch, now they know were here and theyll be expectin us. Aw hell, just go a sleep. We gotta git goin first thing come sun up. He threw the rest of his coffee at the fire. Looking up at his brother once more, he spat out a few grounds that had made their way into his mouth. Did ya at least find me a woman?
The youngest Lewis brother half smiled. He had found one that would please his brother a lot. She was dark and gorgeous and worked at the saloon. Oh yeah.
His brother looked up at him and grinned. Git ta sleep, we got us a big day tomorrow.
PART SIXNine men waited. The town had been warned, many of the townspeople not too happy about gunfight that was coming their way. The two men who the Lewis brothers were after werent even from the area. They were trash, bounty hunters who had no scruples. None of them except Inez had taken the time to get to know the partners. Mary had been delegated to talk to Larabee, explaining the point of view of the citizens of Four Corners on the merits of protecting the bounty hunters inside of the town limits.
Chris had simply grinned and informed the newspaper owner that the Seven were hired to protect anyone in need of their services. The two men were in town, one wounded and not capable of leaving. They needed help. He suggested Mary inform the folks of Four Corners to stay inside when the bullets started to fly. She had turned her own formidable glare on him and stalked off to warn the townsfolk.
The nine men had waited all day the day before, the anticipation driving most of them up a wall. They had taken turns on the rooftops, watching for the cloud of dust that would announce the arrival of the brothers but it never came. They were positive today would be the day.
When the dust ball was spotted, every man knew his location. Chris, both Jemal and Corey yielding to the leader of the Sevens will, had mapped out their battle plan. Vin and Josiah went up on the rooftops. Buck and JD were near the livery. Nathan and Corey were on the opposite end of town near Potters General store. Jemal and Ezra took their position near the bank and Chris took the middle of town, smack dab in front of the men that rode with guns drawn.
Vin had the best eyes and he through his telescope, he could tell that between thirteen and sixteen men were approaching from the south. Purgatory! Vin called down to his best friend and Chris spread the news. They were in for a full blown gunfight.
As the band of gunmen came thundering into town, the nine men rechecked their guns and prepared to do battle. The Lewis brothers led the desperados straight down the main street of Four Corners. Jameson had recruited thirteen men in Purgatorio that were more than willing to take on Larabee and his crew. Most of the men had already had dealings with one or more of the seven men who protected this area. A few had never met the regulators of Four Corners but were anxious to make a name for themselves by defeating the Larabee gang. All fifteen were armed to the teeth with plenty of ammunition for rifles and pistols. There was to be no talking. Guns blazed as the fifteen rode hell bent for leather towards the man in black. Chris stepped almost casually behind an overturned wagon that had been set in just the right place. He aimed and squeezed the trigger of his gun. The first of the malicious men fell.
Chriss shot signaled the others who joined in, raining a hellfire of bullets at the men who had come to kill them. The abhorrant group quickly abandoned their horses, seeking shelter wherever they could find it. Vin and Josiah had the best views and directed the regulators as best as they could. Bullets flew everywhere.
Chris felt the bullet tear through his arm but he kept on shooting. There would be time for Nathan to mend his forearm when the battle was won. He fired and the man that had been behind the closest water trough fell, never to rise again.
JD moved away from Buck. He had been watching one of the perpetrators move down the alley that ran between the livery and the hotel. He waited at the edge of the livery until the man was only twenty foot away. He fired and saw the man slump to the ground. He nodded slightly to himself. It was then he heard Buck scream his name.
He turned right and saw the large black bounty hunter, his gun aimed at JDs chest, not ten steps away. JD knew he wouldnt have time to turn his gun, aim, and fire before the finger that was already squeezing the trigger finished its appointed task. He flung himself to the right, colliding with the livery wall. His last thought before the roar of the gun was, God I hate bounty hunters!
The bullet hit flesh and then bone and finally, drove itself home in the heart of the intended victim. The man everyone knew as Bonebreaker Calhoun went down, the life erased by Jemals bullet. Jemal didnt take time to see if the young sheriff was alright. He hurried on towards the location of his friends. He had seen Corey stumble as he tried to get a better position to shoot from. Jemal had to know if the Southerner was injured once again.
JD opened his eyes and checked his shirt front. No blood! He looked up, attempting to find the bounty hunter he was sure had killed him but all he saw was the worried face of his best friend.
You okay? Buck reached out to help him up. He inspected the Easterners back while JD swept off the dirt from the front of his coat, still incredulous at the lack of a bullet hole. JD, I asked if you were hurt!
N no, Im fine. He was right in front of me, his finger squeezing the trigger. Wasnt he? The short man looked up at the scoundrel, the question written clearly on his face.
Buck put both hands on his friends shoulders and turned him around. JD saw the body directly behind him. That was the target. Lets move, I saw some of them heading towards the saloon. Buck took off.
JD stared at the dead man with the pistol still in his hand. The gunman would have had him dead to rights if it hadnt been for the black bounty hunter. Scattered thoughts stilled his body until minutes later, the sound of gunshots brought him back to the present. He suddenly remembered Buck saying he was heading towards the saloon. Quickly checking his gun, JD slowly and carefully made his way down the street.
+ + + + + + +
Buck entered the back door of the saloon just as Jameson made his way through the batwing doors. The only other person in the bar room was the beautiful manager of the place. Inez stood defiantly behind the bar, determination written all over her face. She held the long shotgun in her hands, not yet pointing it at the murdering Lewis brother.
Jameson smiled at the gorgeous raven-haired woman. Slowly, he made his way to the open end of the bar, trapping Inez behind the wooden barrier. She now had the shotgun aimed right at the mans chest but it didnt deter him as she had hoped. She had never killed a man before and she didnt want to do so now but she would to protect herself and the business she loved.
Stop right there, Senor, or I will be forced to shoot. Her voice conveyed to the vicious killer that she was terrified. Although her eyes flashed with the fire of determination her hands shook and the end of the barrel wobbled severely.
Youre a real purty thing, aint ya? I got me a hankerin to show ya a thing or two so why dont ya put the gun down and well go upstairs fer a little roll in the hay. How bout it, Senorita? He grinned like a fool in love as he continued his approach.
Inezs attention was solely on the oldest of the Lewis brothers. She never saw the youngest brother work his way from the front door to the opposite end of the bar from his brother. Reaching out, Jefferson grabbed the shotgun the frightened Mexican held. He jerked so hard, Inez was almost pulled over the bar along with the gun. Jameson made his move towards the vulnerable woman. Just as he reached for Inez, a shot rang out. Jameson stopped dead in his tracks and then slowly, he looked down at the blood now spilling from the hole in his chest. He fell against Inez, knocking her down with him. His dead body pinned her to the floor so she didnt see the rest of the fight but she knew who her defender was.
Buck turned his gun on the other brother just as Jefferson turned his attention from his dead brother to the man who had killed him. Both guns sounded at the same time. Both men went down.
Buck felt the hot lead ripped into his shoulder, the momentum of the bullet wound knocking him backwards and then down on the ground. His trepidation about the fiery woman that had stolen his heart overrode the pain and he pushed himself up with his uninjured arm. Carefully he got to his feet and made his way to where Jamesons dead weight pinned Inez to the blood soaked floor. Grimacing with pain, he shoved the deceased over and away from Inez.
Getting up slowly, the woman stared at the large bloodstain on Bucks shirt. You are injured. Come with me, I will try to stop the bleeding. She took his good arm and tugged it across her shoulders. Barely able to hold the man up, she aided him from behind the bar. As they rounded the end and began the journey to the nearest chair, Jefferson Lewis rose from the saloon floor, his gun still in his hand. Despite the fatal bullet hole in his stomach, the young man was determined to finish off his and his brothers killer. He aimed and squeezed the trigger.
The gun dropped from his hand before the bullet was discharged. As his legs gave way, he looked up and into the eyes of the thin Southerner. Corey smiled at the corpse as it fell on the opposite side of the bar from his brother. He rushed over to aid Inez in getting Buck into a chair.
Gracias, Senor Corey. I have him, the others might need you. She smiled her male deflating smile and he sighed.
You are mighty welcome, Senorita. Hes a lucky man. He smiled his most winning smile back at her and turned to go back to the gunfight outside. As he went through the batwing doors, he ran smack into the young sheriff. Your buddys in good hands. Shall we see if the others need our help?
JD caught a quick glimpse of Buck, Inez at his side. She was holding a blood soaked towel to his shoulder, talking softly to her protector. Yes, Buck was in very good hands. He followed Corey out into the street where Vin was picking off the last of the pack of wolves that had invaded the Sevens territory.
JD watched as his friends turned over bodies, checking the wounded for weapons, checking the dead for identities.
Anyone seen the Lewiss? Chris barked out, needing to know that the perpetrators were punished and not still a threat to his men.
Corey sat down on the edge of the boardwalk, his body drained now that the adrenaline was gone. Yall find em in the saloon. Both of em gone ta meet their maker. Nathan, I think Buck might need yer tender care if yall can pry him away from that lovely senorita.
Nathan nodded and smiled his appreciation. He jogged towards the saloon where one of his brothers was in need of his healing talents. The others started to clean the street, dragging bodies towards the undertakers. Jemal made his way to where his partner sat, afraid that Corey might have hurt himself in the gun battle.
Yall right? Jemal David was still amazed that the thought of loosing this damned Rebel always shook him to his very soul.
Im fine. How bout you? Corey looked the black man up and down but saw no sign of blood. He had meant to keep an eye on Jemal but had seen the young Lewis sneaking into the saloon. He knew he had to follow the gunman but he hated to leave his partner high and dry.
Jemal nodded and then smiled. That damn thievin gambler shot the one aimin my way. Guess I owe im my thanks.
JD walked up just as the black bounty hunter made his statement to his partner. And I owe you my thanks. Mr. Corey, thank you for what you did for Buck and Inez. I aint been very sociable, choosin to lump ya in with some of the repulsive others in your profession. I apologize for that. You two are welcome back here anytime.
Chris grinned as he walked up to stand by his youngest. That goes for all of us. Jemal, Corey, youre welcome to stay if ya want.
The two bounty hunters looked at each other and then Corey spoke for them both. Too dangerous around here. Think well head on out, maybe head up to Wyoming. Got a friend up there in Medicine Bow.
As Josiah and Nathan helped Buck out of the saloon, Inez following close behind, the two bounty hunters were shaking hands with Vin and Ezra. There was no animosity between the four men, only respect and admiration.
Ive got him, Brother. Go say your good byes. Josiah took Bucks weight onto his broad shoulders, freeing the black man to bid farewell to an old friend.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan walked with Jemal down the stairs from his clinic. Buck had been patched up and was now sleeping with the aid of some special herbs. Jemal and Corey had packed their things and were ready to head out. Corey walked ahead of the old friends. He would saddle the horses with the young sheriffs aid. As the two ex-slaves reached the livery, they stopped.
Ya got yerself a good life here, Nathan. Ya make me proud ta be yer friend, Jemal stated, emotions glowing in his dark brown eyes. He was glad his old friend was doing well but he had his own life to live and that was with a cantankerous Southern white man.
Nathan smiled warmly. He had rejoiced in seeing his old friend, happy that the man was alive and well. He was also relieved that Jemal had let go of the anger that had fueled him for so long. You take care, you hear.
I will. Got a good friend ta watch my back now like yall did another lifetime ago. Ya gots yer hands full with those six friends of yers. I know theyll keep ya busy but youll have compny the rest of yer life. Ya aint alone no more, Nathan. He stuck out his hand and the two old friends shook.
You aint alone neither, Jemal. See ya soon, huh?
Hope so. Ya gots them horses ready yet, Corey? Jemal turned to his new life, his new friend.
Corey was mounted, ready to go. He handed the reins to Jemal and the black man mounted. So long, Nathan. Thanks for savin my life.
Nathan nodded and waved as the two bounty hunters rode out of town, headed north.
Otis Young and Don Murray starred in THE OUTCASTS from 1967 to 1968. It was the first integrated western. It was probably cancelled due to racial unrest during that time period. The two men fought side by side and each other due to their backgrounds. Just like the Magnificent Seven, it ended too soon.