Penance: Missing Scene

by KT

Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.

Note: After watching a re-run of 'Penance' late one night a thought struck me.

It was a sombre seven men who gathered in the saloon that evening, even the wind had finally died down to add to the quiet that had settled over the whole town. Chris and JD were the last to join them.

"You get it all sorted?" Buck asked.

"We wired the judge, the Pinkertons and the sheriff in Greely. Tiny 'll bury him tomorrow," JD explained. Chris had already sat down and poured himself a shot of whisky.

"You gonna say words over him?" Vin asked Josiah, who had taken the bottle from Chris and topped up his own glass.

"I am, every man deserves a decent burial, in accordance with his beliefs, no matter what he did."

JD pulled out a chair and slumped down in it.

"Here, looks to me like you need this," Buck pushed a beer in front of him.


"Man murders all them woman, tries to place the blame on you, have you locked up, and you're still gonna do that for him?" Vin asked. The Christian concepts of 'forgiveness for sins' and 'love they neighbour' weren't really part of Vin's world.

"I am."

JD wiped a line of foam from his upper lip. "Just what made him do that, kill them woman, put silver dollars on there eyes an' all?"

Josiah turned his glass, studying the patterns the lamplight made in the amber liquid it held. "That man was seriously troubled. In his twisted mind those woman were his mother and she had to be punished."

"Why the hell would a man want to kill his own mother?" Vin asked.

"Oh I can think of a few reasons," Ezra commented darkly.

"You reckon she was a bad mother? Beat him or something?" JD asked.

Josiah shook his head. "She loved him, she's put him on her knee and told him he was her 'one true love', at least that’s what he told me."

"I don't get it, why'd he want to punish her?" Buck asked.

"Because after she told him that, she'd leave him and go to strangers - miners, who'd pay for her services, in…"

"Silver dollars," Nathan finished. Josiah nodded. "So she was a whore?"

"Seems so. As far as he was concerned she lied to him; told him she loved him, when all she really loved was the money. He was in the next room while she 'entertained', he head it all."

"That's no life for a child, seeing and hearing that. It's no wonder he went crazy," Nathan commented. "Seems to me there'd more than enough men looking for wives around a mine."

"Guess you can understand it, in a strange kind of a way." Vin, who idolised the institution of motherhood, shook his head. "A mother shouldn't do that."

Ezra nodded his agreement. "I have to say, dear Maude has done a lot of things in her time, but she's never sold herself, there are some lows even Mother won't stoop too."

JD looked over at Buck and than glanced around the table at the others, did any of them know about Buck's mother and his upbringing? From the look on his face Chris knew, but the way the others were still talking, he was the only one. He was still wondering if he should say something or leave it to Chris, when Buck's empty beer glass slammed down on the table, making everyone jump.

"Maybe you lot should stop making excuses for a man who was clearly crazy as well as a murderer and a liar; and while you're at it, why don't you stop and think about his mother. You think she wanted to sell her body? You think that was what she dreamed of when she was a pretty little thing growin' up? You think she had any alternative - other than starving to death?" He turned his attention to Nathan. "Not every husband takes care of his wife, some of them treat their women no better then slaves, slaves they have every right to beat and rape when ever they want. Not every woman knows how to con and cheat folk for money." He glared at Ezra. "At least what she did was honest, she didn't lie to them and steal their money, she worked for it!" He looked over at Vin. "She did the best she could, at least she kept him with her, she didn't abandon him, she didn't send him way to some mission school. She was the best mother she could be." With that he turned on his heels and strode out of the saloon, closely followed by JD.

"We seemed to have touched a nerve," Ezra finally commented, braking the uneasy silence that had descended.

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," Josiah quoted. "My father…" his voice trailed of, his eyes briefly glancing at Vin, "well lets just say he gave me every reason to hate all fathers and all missionaries, come to that, but I don't go about killing them and placing bibles on their eyes." He looked over at Nathan. "What about you brother, are you sneaking out at night, slitting the throat of every white southerner," He cocked his head at Ezra. "you can find?"

"What? No, of course not, why would I?" Nathan replied indignantly.

"Because of how some white southerners treated you and your family. Isn't that reason enough?"

"My ma used the lick the tar out of me, when I deserved it, few times when I didn't, never made me no woman killer." Chris added.

"Nor am I intent on murdering every female grifter I should happen upon. We get the idea," Ezra cut in.

"All we were saying is you can understand what made him go crazy," Vin defended his words.

"Because his mother was a working girl? Because he heard it, because he had to share her? He's not the only person who grew up like that. They aren't all murderers, some of them are decent, honest men, some of them love women so much they practically worship them." With that Chris got up, and with three pairs of eyes on him, and one still on the patterns in his whiskey glass, he follow JD and Buck out of the saloon.

"Happy now?" Josiah asked of his three comrades.

"What just happened here?" Ezra asked.

"I think we just found out how come Buck always gets the girl, he's got inside information." Vin grinned, giving as little shake of the head.

"You really think he… That is mother…?" Nathan was gazing at the still swinging doors.

"I think we are not going to ask him, merely draw our own conclusions, and - later - express to brother Buck that our - your - comments about how some woman earn their living and raise their children were a mite hasty and judgmental, and that, on reflection, you were wrong." Josiah surveyed the men before him, who looked, for all the world, like schoolboys called to see the principal.

"Mr Sanchez, you are right, I will make sure I speak to Buck as soon as the opportunity presents it's self."

"Hell, how was we meant to know about his ma?" Vin complained.

"Should it have made a difference?" Josiah challenged.

Vin regarded him for a moment. "No, I guess not. I'll talk to him."


"I still say it's no way to raise a child, but I guess it don't necessarily make someone a bad mother."


JD had followed Buck at a distance, he wasn't sure where the big man was going, in truth he wasn't sure Buck knew, he was just walking. He kept on, passing the livery and on out of town. When the wind had dropped, the clouds had parted and moon, all but full, had appeared. For which JD was grateful, since Buck was now well past the light of the watch fires in town. Finally he reached a large rock beside the trail, too big to move or blast out of the way, the trail north from town had to make a wide detour around it. Using his long legs to good effect he climbed up on top of the rock and sat down.

JD stood and watched him from the shadows, debating when or if he should approach, he'd been there a good ten minutes and was beginning to fidget, when Buck spoke.

"JD, go behind that tree before you pee you're pants."

Blushing bright red, JD followed his friends advice, emerging a few minutes later, and crossing to stand beside the rock Buck was perched upon, following his gaze up to the moon.

"They didn't mean it, what they said, about your ma," JD began. "They were just…"

"I know that," Buck cut in. "Guess I should have told them, it just never came up. You know what else?"


"Nathan was right, it's no place to raise a child. I saw things, heard things, no kid should see - at any age. I saw men grab my ma and…" He shook his head and turned it just enough to ensure JD couldn't see his eyes. "But she had no choice, none, she got pregnant and the bastard - my father - didn't stand by her, so her family disowned her, put her out on the street with nothing but what she stood up in." Finally he turned to look down at JD, not caring if the younger man saw tears in his eyes. "What the hell was she meant to do?"

"Whatever she needed to do to survive and protect her baby."

Buck nodded. "Right. But you know, I could have been just like Poplar, what he told Josiah… Ma used to kiss me every night, tell me I as the only one she loved, and then she'd… go to work, and kiss all those men." He took a deep breath and looked back at the stars. "I guess the difference is, I always believed her, I knew, still know, that she did only love me and not those other men and not the money, 'cause Lord knows she could have made a lot more with out me around."

After a prolonged silence, JD spoke.

"My mother was seduced by her boss, he couldn’t marry her - he was already married - but at least he did take care of her, got her another job after I was born, he even paid for the doctor when she got sick - not that there was much he could do but give her stuff for the pain. I guess I was the lucky, never did look at it that way, but I was."

"Sounds to me like you were both lucky, you had mothers who really loved you, there's a lot of folk who don't even have that, at least they didn't die when you were just little tykes, like Vin, or kill themselves like Nathan's."

Buck looked over at the shadows to were Chris stood, the only sign he was there, the red glow of his cheroot.

"And just how long have you been standing there?" he asked angrily.

"Not long," Chris assured.

"Hey and you know what?" JD piped up

"What?" Buck asked.

"At least our mothers don't keep turning up in town and embarrass us - like Maude."

"True," Buck admitted.

"You two gonna come back and finish you're drinks or just sit here and star gaze?" Chris asked.

"Don't know about the you kid, but I'm happy just star gazin' for now."

"I'm staying here too," JD confirmed.

"Okay, see you tomorrow. Buck, you got patrol - at dawn, remember?"

"You're all heart Larabee."

"Don't I know it, night boys."

"Night pard."

"Night Chris." JD waited for the sounds of Chris spurs to fade before he spoke again. "Do you believe in heaven?" he asked.

"Sure, not sure I believe all that stuff they spout in church, about sin and all, but I believe in God and heaven, why?"

"Me too, I hope they're happy up there." He gazed up at the stars.

"I know they are." Buck followed his gaze. "Hey Ma, Miz Dunne, like for you to know, we're happy down here too."

The End

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