What About That Bounty?
Note: Missing scene to One Day Out West
Lucas James' trial was over; the jury convicting the man of murder, Judge Travis handing down the sentence of "hanging by the neck until dead". Newly appointed sheriff, JD Dunne, was ordered to take the condemned man and put him behind bars until the carpenters in town could build a gallows.
Standing outside the saloon where the trial had taken place, Oren Travis thanked the six men once again for their help in bringing James back to town to stand trial. He offered to buy them a beer and answer any questions they might have concerning their new jobs as peacekeepers of Four Corners and the surrounding countryside. Buck waited outside for JD, then the two joined the others at a table inside.
Judge Travis explained his jurisdiction boundaries and what his goals were for the territory. He could tell just by the way these men had handled the James' situation that they were well capable of carrying out his wishes, the most important, of course, being the welfare of the town and the safety of his daughter-in-law, Mary Travis.
When all was said and done and Travis had had his say, the men began to disperse, getting up from the table, knowing it was time to find permanent rooms in town and get settled.
"Mr. Tanner, I'd like to have a word with you," Oren stated in that no-nonsense voice of his. "Just Mr. Tanner," he reiterated as the other six men hesitated in their leaving, shifting their looks between Vin and the man they considered their leader, Chris Larabee.
Travis ducked his head and a small smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. He marveled at the camaraderie of these men, sensing that even in the short time they'd known each other, they were already watching each other backs. It pleased him greatly that they'd decided to stay on and protect the town. Rare to find such men on the side of justice out in the West, and to find seven of them, altogether, was like finding a prized gemstone. Oren didn't want to disrupt what they had, but there were a few questions he needed to ask. Questions that Vin Tanner needed to answer. Glancing up he saw the young man in the hide coat give an almost imperceptible nod and the men continued to draw away from the table. All except Larabee that is. He stood his ground. Like a black granite rock.
Vin had given a quick glance to Chris when Travis made his statement, instinctively knowing what the Judge was going to ask about. He'd figured Travis was no slouch when it came to knowing whose face was on a wanted poster. After all, he'd remembered who Standish was and Ezra said it'd been a few years back when he'd jumped bail. JD informed them that the Judge said he never forgot a face.
For a split second Vin felt a jolt of something. Panic? Fear? It was the same feeling he'd gotten when he'd taken the body of Eli Joe in to Tascosa, Texas to claim the bounty and then found out it wasn't Eli Joe at all, but some innocent farmer. The need to get out of town quick was nearly as overwhelming now as it was then. He didn't stick around that town, and he wasn't going to stick around here if this judge had ideas of tossing him in jail. Only thing that kept him rooted to the spot was the steadfast presence of the man he'd come clean with--Chris Larabee. Somehow he just knew the man in black would stand beside him whatever he chose to do. If anything, Travis would be told that they'd finish what they'd planned; go to Tascosa and try to clear his name.
Judge Travis had seen the look that passed between Larabee and Tanner and being the astute man that he was, figured both knew exactly what the discussion was going to be about. Obviously Tanner had confided in Larabee. And Oren was no fool. A man didn't live long in this country, especially if that man happened to be a Circuit Court Judge, if he couldn't read body language and realize how fast circumstances could easily change when dealing with men who could mete out death as easily as they pulled on their boots.
"I only have a few questions, Mr. Tanner. There'll be nothing more, I assure you," Travis finally said, making a sweeping gesture with his one good hand at two chairs, the invitation clear for both men to sit.
"You comin'?" JD asked Wilmington, not sure whether to follow the rest out the door or stay with his friend who he'd followed to the bar.
"In a minute, kid," the tall ladies man answered, as he stood hip-shod against the saloon counter. Drinking the last gulp of his beer, he narrowed his eyes as he watched what was going on between Travis, Larabee and Tanner. Although too far away to hear anything that was said, he could still read the body language. What Chris and Vin were giving off, wasn't good, Buck could tell. He wasn't sure at all what was going on, but he'd be ready to back the play of his old friend if need be. He didn't doubt Travis to be a good man, but sometimes a man had to do what a man had to do.
"What do you suppose that's all about?" the young sheriff asked while looking over to the three men at the table.
"Not sure," came the reply. "But you remember this: If two men are facin' you like Chris and Vin are facin' the Judge over there, you'd best be ready ta either draw or back down because what they're sayin' is, that they ain't happy."
Dunne wasn't exactly sure what Buck meant by what he said since neither Chris nor Vin were actually talking and he was about to question it when Wilmington set his empty beer glass on the bar and stood up straight, eyes pinned on the men in front of them. Then just as quick as a wink, Buck relaxed and got back to his joking self again. JD knew he missed whatever had happened in those few minutes.
"Well, let's go, boy," Buck said as he playfully gave Dunne a shove, pushing him towards the entrance, not even giving JD a chance to ask what had just happened. "Let's check this town out some more."
Oren Travis had immediately diffused what could have been a hostile confrontation when he held out his hand offering both men to have a seat, leaving the next play in their hands. He saw them visibly relax and take him up on his offer. If he was correct in his assumption that Larabee was already aware of the bounty on Tanner's head, then there wasn't anything secret about the information he was going to ask.
Larabee and Tanner sat, and Vin recounted to Travis the same story he'd told Chris while sitting on the bluff at the Seminole Village.
"We were headin' ta Tascosa when the trouble started in the Saloon," Vin finished with, wanting the Judge to know he wasn't going to run from the situation.
When I got shot, Travis mused, absently rubbing his sling-covered arm. He nodded his head in understanding, then frowned, disappointment tinged his voice, "Well, a pardon is out of the question due to the severity of the alleged crime."
"Ain't lookin' for one," Vin told him truthfully, his gaze unwavering as he met Travis' eyes. "Want ta clear my name."
Again Travis nodded, impressed with the integrity of the apparent wanted man sitting before him. Mary had told him what Tanner had done to save Nathan; his willingness to face impossible odds, standing up to an injustice being done to a man he didn't even know. That act spoke volumes to Oren about the character of Vin Tanner. He wished he could help more and told that to Vin, but the matter was out of his hands, out of his jurisdiction.
"I'll write letters of recommendation, anything I can to help when you do go to talk to the authorities in Tascosa. In the meantime," he continued, "as long as I am the Territory Judge there won't be any notification to anyone about your being here."
"'Preciate that," Vin told him sincerely, realizing the man was going out on a limb for him. If those above Travis knew he was harboring and willingly paying a wanted man as a peacekeeper, then he himself could be in trouble.
"Alright then. Time for me to see to my daughter-in-law. Gentlemen," he said, raising from the table, wincing slightly as he jarred his injury. Shaking hands with Larabee and Tanner he took his leave.
"You alright with this?" Chris asked after they both watched Travis exit through the bat-winged doors.
Vin shrugged. "Said we'd only have ta be here for a little while longer. Reckon after that we can head ta Texas." He watched Larabee nod his head in agreement. "I best tell the others, just so they know."
Chris pursed his lips and quietly voiced, "Yeah." Taking a deep breath, he added, before pushing back his chair and standing, "I'm gonna get a room. You comin?"
Vin looked up at his friend, "Figure I'll look around a piece. Ain't sure I wanna be holed up in a room yet. And Chris?" he called as Larabee started to walk away.
Vin got a quirk of the lips, a penetrating look and a quick nod from his friend which was all he needed to know that meant "anytime".