Butler's Revenge

by Marian

I'd like to thank Karen, Phyllis and most of all Angie whose help was instrumental in writing this story.

Josiah reached Eagle Bend late Tuesday afternoon and delivered his prisoner, Jasper Jenks, to Sheriff Clickhouse. After all the paperwork was completed, he headed to the saloon. It had been a long hard ride and all he wanted was a beer and a hot meal. As he settled down with his mug and a bowl of stew, the feeling that he was being watched came over him, looking around and not seeing anyone that caused him concern, he dug into his food.

He drifted to his past and the fight he had never forgotten.

It was near the end of the war, in a small town of Hollow Creek, hidden in the mountains of Virginia. He met a man who went by the name of Sanchez. The man claimed to be a preacher and defender of the poor and downtrodden; it was there that they came to blows. It all was because of the woman he was beating. The Preacher had come to her aid and beaten him senseless. With each blow his daughter screamed and when the fight was over she ran to him crying, "I'm so sorry, I'll never talk back to you again father... father... oh father, please talk to me." As she helped him get up and the two started to hobble away, he remembered turning and looking back at Josiah, "You will live to regret this," he had warned the young man.

A fight broke out in the saloon drawing him back to the present. The man he had been watching rose and waded into the fray.

After he broke up the fight Josiah decided to have a few more beers and then call it a night. He was about to cross the alley two doors down from the saloon when he was attacked from behind. Something struck the base of his skull and he slumped to the ground. As he lay unconscious, two men hoisted him into a wagon and headed out of town.

It was morning before Josiah woke. His head was throbbing and he felt sick to his stomach. He found himself tied spread eagle to a bed in a small cabin. Looking around the room, he found it bare with the exception of the bed he was strapped to. 'How long had he been gone? Where was he? Were his friends looking for him and where were they looking? Would they find him in time?' Those were thoughts drifting through Josiah's mind as he struggled to free his hands.

Suddenly the door opened and in walked a stranger. The man was tall and had a dark tan from hours of working in the sun but he had a face that could scare a person to death.

"So we meet again Mister Sanchez. Or should I call you Preacher? That's what you claimed to be the last time we met. You do remember our last meeting, don't you? I will never forget it. All I have to do is look in a mirror and I am reminded. But then, of course, I didn't look like this back then. I had a normal nose and an eye that opened. If you don't remember me, maybe you remember my daughter, sweet child that she was. Too bad I needed money and had to sell her after she nursed me back to health and all."

Josiah stared at his captor as realization dawned of who the man was... for he did remember the young woman he had tried to help. He had been drawn there by a flyer advertising a revival. The man preaching was someone the young Josiah respected and admired. He truly enjoyed hearing the other man when he spoke the Word of God. He had seen the young woman at a couple of the meetings, she was shy and smiled at him when he caught her eye. It had been years but he never forgot the threat her father made or what he had done to the man.

Sanchez watched the man from his past leave the cabin; he wondered what the other man had planned for him. It was hours before the man returned and brought wood with him for a fire. Soon he had a blaze going and food cooking in a big pot. As the room filled with the aroma of fresh meat, Josiah wondered how long it had been since he last ate.

The man ate, making no attempt to offer any to his prisoner. As he watched, his captor pulled out a knife and began to sharpen it. When he was done, he laid the knife alongside Josiah's throat moving it in small circles down to his chest. The point made shallow cuts as it moved along his skin. When he was done, Sanchez was bleeding from wounds all over his chest. Exhausted and suffering he soon passed out. The sun was shinning through the windows when he woke again only to find himself suspended from the beams of the cabin.

"Good, your wake. I wouldn't want to have started without your full attention, Mister Preacher man," his captor said, just before he delivered the first blow. His captor peppered Josiah's body with quick jabs that took his breath away with their intensity. The abuse continued until Josiah's body hung limp, bleeding from the myriad of cuts on his upper body.


Back in Four Corners, Chris grew concerned. Josiah was past due and it was unlike him not to send a wire if he was going to be delayed. Larabee sent a wire to the sheriff in Eagle Bend inquiring if Sanchez had arrived with the prisoner. The sheriff wired back that he hadn't seen Josiah since he'd turned over the prisoner. Scowling at the telegraph paper, he made a decision.

The weather was changing fast, a cold front was moving in and it was just a matter of time before a storm hit. Supplies were gathered, saddlebags packed, horses saddled and guns made ready. Five men rode out leaving the sixth to watch the town. They rode with determination and with a single purpose, to find their friend.


It was late in the day when they reached Eagle Bend and immediately spread out to search for Josiah. Chris and Buck headed for the sheriff's office to see if he had any more information for them. The only thing the sheriff had discovered was that Josiah had supper in the saloon and hadn't been seen since.

A man approached Vin and Nathan as they were coming out of the saloon. "Hey, I sure could use a drink," he said as he swayed unsteadily before them. "What's in it for us?" Vin asked as he leaned against the porch post. "I hear tell that you're looking for a friend. He wouldn't be a big bear of a man, would he?" Vin sighed as he followed the man into the saloon and he slapped a coin on the bar.

The man licked his lips as the mug was placed in front of him. Before he could take a drink, Nathan's hand covered the top of the glass. "Tell us what you know." He looked longingly at his drink and gulped. I was relieving myself when I heard a commotion. So I says 'Amos, you should go see what's goin' on,' so real quiet like I sneak up and I see three men. One of them comes up behind this big bear of a man and knocks him on the head then I see this young muscle bound kid help him put the big man in a wagon.' Amos looked at Nathan and nodded towards his beer. After he took a drink, he cleared his throat and continued on. "They headed north out of town and that was the last I seen of them."

Leaving Amos with his drink, Vin and Nathan set out for the livery. Where they found Josiah's horse; the livery manger said that their friend had brought the animal in and hadn't returned. Nathan paid the man and gathered Josiah's belongings then they led the horse back to the others.

Ezra questioned the clerks at the hotel and boarding house and was on his way back to meet the others when another man approached him.

When they all gathered outside the saloon Ezra told his companions of his meeting.

"Gentlemen, as I exited the hotel I was approached by a man who claims to have seen a wagon headed out of town in a great hurry the same night our dear Mister Sanchez disappeared."

"A man Vin and I spoke with told us he saw two men throwing Josiah in a wagon and heading north," Nathan added.

"What are we waiting for?" Buck said, as he prepared to swing up into his saddle.

"Buck, I know you want to find him, we all do. But we won't be able to see anything out there tonight. Best wait till morning," Larabee said.


Meanwhile, Four Corners kept the young sheriff hopping as JD waited anxiously for the others to send word concerning Josiah. A gunfight broke out in the saloon and a man was killed. After securing the shooter in the jail, he sent for Judge Travis. Needing help, Sheriff Dunne enlisted the aid of the town blacksmith. With Tiny's assistance, JD was able to investigate what happened between the deceased and his killer. After interviewing all the witnesses, he wrote his report. Just as he was finishing the paperwork, all hell broke loose on the main street of town. Screams could be heard coming from Millie in the bathhouse and shooing sounds were coming from Mrs. Potter's store as well as the Clarion. Inez was yelling in her native tongue as steers lapped up beer and whiskey.

Two groups of ranch hands were driving herds to market and they stampeded, heading into town.


Bright and early the next morning, the five men mounted their horses and headed out of town. With Vin leading the way, the small group of men set out to find their friend.

As they rode Vin became uneasy watching the dark clouds as they approached on the horizon.

A few miles from town they came across a young family traveling to their new homestead outside Eagle Bend. When asked if they have seen any men driving a wagon headed their way, the young father told them, "It was early yesterday morning when we passed a wagon headed just northwest of here. They appeared to be in a hurry. Don't know where they could be hurrying to, ain't nothing out that way 'cept for the mountains. Man be a fool; what with that storm headed our way and all; best thing a man could do is find a place and hunker down. Now, if y'all don't mind, we got to get going. Don't want to get caught out here when it hits." With a nod to man and his wife, the five men headed out.

Time was going fast, the day was disappearing and darkness would soon be upon them. With night closing in and the trail hard to see, Chris called a halt for the night. A very basic camp was set up and the horses tended to before being picked to graze. Watches were set up and each man fell into an uneasy sleep. At daybreak, they rose and wolfed down some jerky and coffee before heading out again. By midday, they reached a meadow and what appeared to be a trail that led them to a river that meandered down the side of the mountain.

'There are tracks of three more horses here as well as the wagon," Vin said, "It looks like one of the horses was carrying a heavy load."

"Could be they switched to the horses," Nathan said.

"Horses took off up the mountain while the wagon continued on down river," Vin said.

"What do you think, Chris?" Buck asked.

"Horses," was all the blond said. Riding single file, the five men headed up the mountain.


His third day with his captor went much the same as the first two. Josiah's shoulders ached and it hurt to breathe. His wrists were raw from roughhewn rope. He was unbearably thirsty and his tongue felt thick and swollen in his mouth. The door opened and Josiah looked at his captor. The man seemed surprised to find him awake. He carried a bucket of water in one hand and a rolled up bundle in the other.

"Weather's turning bad, Preacher. Looks like I'm gonna have to cut our little visit short. S'too bad really, I wanted to get to know you better. Wanted to find out what drives a man to do what you did to me. I guess I'll never know."

"All I can do is... say I'm sorry... and ask forgiveness."

Josiah's words seemed to enrage his captor. The man's eyes took on a demented light as he dropped the bucket and threw the bundle on the bed. A wild cry burst from his mouth as he crossed the small room and began to pummel the helpless man again. Josiah's vision dimmed as the pain was reawakened; he felt the warmth of fresh blood flowing from his wounds before he slumped, unconscious.


As they followed the trail, the storm that had been threatening to break unleashed its fury. The rain came down in sheets making the climb difficult and the tracks quickly disappear. The further Larabee and his men climbed, the worse the weather became. Soon the sky lit up with lightening. Chris called a halt to the search for the night.

The five men stared morosely at the meager fire, each lost in thought. Nathan, who had known Josiah the longest, hoped that his friend would be all right. Leaning forward, the healer took up the battered coffee pot and poured another cup. Buck and Vin each extended their cups to have more of the hot, bitter brew. Ezra in an show of generosity, tipped a measure of whiskey from his flask into each cup.

"I'll take first watch," Chris said. "The rest of you try to get some sleep. I want to be out of here at first light." There was no discussion, the men simply nodded and pulled their blankets tighter around themselves before leaning against their saddles to try to rest.


Back in town, JD arose from his bed and made his way to the restaurant. He ordered three boxed meals and carried them to the jail. Tiny grinned in appreciation of the food. The prisoner grumbled at his meal and JD shrugged as he walked away. Travis only said they had to feed the prisoners, he didn't say they had to like it. The young sheriff took his meal to the desk and poured a cup of coffee from the pot on the stove.

Around mid morning, Matthew Potter came running into the jail, "Sheriff, you gotta come, quick! Amanda's kitty is stuck up the tree and she's crying."

"The kitty?" JD asked as he stood and pulled on his wool jacket.

"No, my sister," the boy stated, rolling his eyes at the man.

JD followed the boy down the boardwalk and out across the hard packed ground to the place where young Amanda stood looking up into the tree. He immediately spotted the small bundle of fur anxiously pacing on a limb far above his head.

"How'd it get way up there?"

Mr. Conklin's dog chased her and she ran up there. You gotta get her down!" Amanda wailed as the kitten mewed plaintively.

Sighing, JD shook his head and began to climb the tree. Ten minutes later, he placed the kitten in the little girl's arms. His chest was burning from all of the tiny scratches the little beast had inflicted on him as he came to its rescue. His shin was bleeding from where the rough bark had torn his pants leg. Amanda swept away with the kitty, making baby talk as she soothed its ruffled fur.

"I suppose that's the thanks I get," JD mumbled as he gingerly walked back toward the jail. To his surprise, the girl turned around and ran back to him, holding the kitten in one arm as she threw the other one around his waist and hugged him.

"Thanks, Sheriff Dunne!"

JD decided that it wasn't such a bad thing after all.


In the cave where they had stopped for the night, five men rose and prepared to resume their search. Overhead, dark clouds rolled across the sky and the wind carried a cold bite. The feeling of snow was thick in the air and Vin began to worry.

They had been on the trail for an hour when the storm began to unleash its fury. Cold stinging ice pellets began to fall. Driven by the growing wind, they froze instantly on the upper branches of the trees.

Peso slipped for the third time and Vin knew that it was time to call a halt before one of their mounts was made lame. Squinting into the wind-blown sleet, he could just barely make out a rocky overhang. Turning his horse toward the promise of shelter, no matter how flimsy, the tracker hoped that the storm would blow itself out before it was too late for Josiah.


In the cabin, Josiah was roused again. The cabin door blew open and the cold, wet air made him miserable. On the ground outside of the cabin, he saw a large black crow. The bird looked inquisitively at him before flying away. He was running a fever and shaking so hard that he couldn't keep his feet under him. Across the room, the spilled water was beginning to freeze.


Vin lifted his chin from the collar of his coat and looked around. The sleet had turned into rain. Looking around at the others, he found hazel eyes staring back at him, Chris had realized it too, the storm was blowing out. Slowly, the men rose and began to check the cinches on their saddles. A half hour later, they resumed their search, as they headed up the mountain. Fallen trees and soft ground made the going slow and unsteady. It was midmorning when they came to a clearing and Vin spotted a horse in full tack, browsing on some low bushes. He put up his hand to halt the others as he swung down from the saddle and pulled his mares leg. Chris was instantly at his side, gun drawn and ready.

The horse looked inquisitively at them as they approached before going back to eating. A few feet away, a bloody body lay in an ungainly sprawl amongst the rocks. The two men crept close, still suspecting a trap, until Vin shook his head.

Nathan came from cover to kneel beside the body. He carefully rolled the corpse over. The cause of death was easily seen, he'd been gutshot.

"He's been dead less than a day. Can't be more than fifteen or sixteen," the healer added. He noticed something familiar and tugged it free of the kid's shirt.

"Hey look at that," Buck said. "Isn't that Josiah's cross?"

"Gentlemen it appears that this unfortunate soul has unknowingly given us a path to Mister Sanchez," Ezra said.

Larabee and his men rode on, following the tracks left by the horse. The going was slow as the frigid air brought them down to a crawl.

Without warning Vin signaled for the others to come to a halt. Chris moved ahead to see what the tracker had spotted.

Without saying a word Larabee pointed to each man and to the direction he wanted him to take. Carefully the men moved toward the cabin, Chris and Buck took the front, Vin, Nathan and Ezra circled around back and the sides.

Slowly, Buck advanced on the cabin and peered in the window. To his horror, hanging from beams was the body of a man. He signled Chris and then the two men slowly entered the cabin. As they got closer they recognized it was Josiah. Quickly, Chris grabbed his legs and lifted his body while Buck cut him down.

"NATHAN!" Chris yelled, as he and Buck lay the cold, bloody body of Josiah Sanchez on the bed.

"Oh Dear God," Ezra breathed as he watched Nathan feel for a pulse.

"He's still alive... but we have to get him warmed up. Buck, get a fire going and I'll need all the bedrolls we got. Vin, gather me some rocks... we'll heat them in the fire and use them to warm him up. Ezra, you got any more liquor? Someone bring in Josiah's saddle bags. Chris, give me a hand getting him out of these clothes."

The others hurried to obey the healer's orders. Soon, they had a roaring fire in the fireplace and water heating. Josiah was dressed in clean clothes after Nathan had cleaned and bandaged the shallow cuts on his chest. Nathan took the rocks that had been heated near the fire and tucked them in around the injured man. He then steeped herbs in a cup for a pain and fever reducing tea to give Josiah as soon as he could.


Back in Four Corners, JD was trying to hold down the fort. The corral behind the livery was filled to almost overflowing with cows. The ranch hands who were driving the herds were arguing about which animal belonged to which herd, and they had been arguing for two days. The argument escalated until one of the drovers pulled his gun and fired it into the air, stampeding the cattle. The terrified bovines plowed through the corral rails and scattered. JD and several others raced to saddle up and began trying to direct the cows back into the corral while Tiny and his assistant worked to repair the broken rails. Just as he was about to herd the last of the cows into the coral, another gunshot rang out, before he could stop it, the cows were scattering and, to his horror, the stage was pulling into town.

As Travis stepped down from the coach, a cow jogged past leaving the judge stupefied. In awe, he watched as the young sheriff rode past, chasing the cow. "JD," Travis said as he nodded. Dunne pulled up, realizing he had just passed the judge. Slowly turning his horse, he headed back to welcome the man.

"Judge Travis, wasn't expecting you for another day."

"JD, son, what's going on? Why are you chasing cows through town and is that one going into the saloon?" The judge asked. "I expect a full explanation as to the goings on but I think you had better see to those animals first."

"Yes sir, Judge Travis. Right away, sir."

Tapping his mount as he pulled the rein, he turned and cantered off after the stragglers. With the help of some of the men folk in the town, Sheriff Dunne soon had things under control.


"Nathan? When do you think he'll be able to travel?" Chris asked as he watched him coax some tea into Josiah's mouth.

"Don't know, all depends on how he is after we get him warmed up. I expect his body to rebel from the cold. Best thing for him is to stay put for at least a day, maybe two."

Knowing that Josiah wouldn't be well enough to sit a horse, Vin set out to make a travois for the ride down the mountain.

During the night the men took turns watching over Josiah. Nathan had shown all of them how to warm the stones when they grew cool. It was early the next day when he began to thrash around and had to be held down. The cold was leaving his body only to make way for the fever that would last well into the next day.

"Nathan, how's he doing... any change?" Chris asked.

"Fever's down but not enough to suit me."

"You think he's capable of traveling yet?"

"Like to give him a few more hours to be on the safe side," Nathan replied.

As daylight entered the cabin, the strong smell of coffee filled the air bringing the others to consciousness. Vin and Ezra went out to check on the horses, while the others prepared Josiah for travel. By midmorning the horses were saddled, gear loaded and the travois lay waiting.

"Buck, I'll need your help getting Josiah out to the travois," Ezra picked up the blankets and followed them out. By the time shadows were starting to form Josiah was strapped to the travois covered in blankets and ready for the long trip down the mountain.

"Ezra, you and Buck go back to Eagle Bend and get a wagon. Anything else you need Nathan?" Larabee asked.

" Just make it as comfortable as possible, load it wit hay and as many blankets as you can get, fresh bandages... and a bottle of whiskey."

"Okay, Chris. And we'll send word to JD; let the kid know we're all coming home," Buck said.

"We'll meet you at the river," Larabee said.

The two men headed out for Eagle Bend, leaving the others to follow in their wake. Heading back down the mountain, they once again came into contact with all the debris from the storm. An hour later, they finally reached the bottom of the mountain. Knowing it would be slow going for the others; they stopped at the river to fill their canteens and water the horses. Then, they continued on to Eagle Bend.

They rode at a comfortable pace; each lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly a smile crossed the gamblers face and a sparkle appeared in his eye.

"Ez, you're up to something, aren't you?" Buck said.

"Heavens no, Mister Wilmington, why, I was just remembering the time our dear Mister Sanchez rode into Guy Royal's place inebriated."

"I just hope we get to have more times like that with him."

They rode a bit longer then Buck began to chuckle. "Mister Wilmington has something got your fancy?"

"I was just remembering how Josiah mooned over that 'Lady' singer. Funniest thing I've ever seen. He looked like a big old puppy dog."



"You don't suppose Mister Sanchez saw one of his crows, do you?"


"Nathan, all set?"

"Ready as he's ever going to be I'm afraid. We'll have to take it slow and easy."

If anybody can find an easier, smoother way down, its Vin."

As if on cue Tanner rode out of the surrounding woods. "Found a trail that looks doable. Shouldn't be too much trouble getting down."

They set out at a slow, gentle pace with Vin leading the way. Nathan rode alongside the travois carrying Josiah and Chris brought up the rear. The path Tanner found was relatively free of debris. However, every now and again, they would have to stop to clear a small boulder or lift Sanchez over a fallen tree. When they reached the halfway point he began to thrash around from the fever and began to yell.


Nathan was off his horse as fast as lightening. Wiping Josiah with water from his canteen, as he called out to the others for their canteens as well. "We have to get his body cooled down. Vin, how long before we reach the river?"

"I'd say at least another hour, Nate."

Josiah thrashed and yelled for the next twenty minutes before settling down.


Ezra and Buck returned to Eagle Bend and headed for the sheriff's office to see if he had noticed any strangers passing through town within the last few days. According to the sheriff, a stranger did pass through and when he left he was headed south. They thanked him, and headed over to the telegraph office to wire JD that they would all be home soon.

As soon as they got the wire off, the two men split up, Ezra heading to the saloon to purchase a bottle of whiskey and Buck going to the livery for a wagon filled with hay. The men agreed to meet at the mercantile to load up the wagon with the needed supplies.


"Sheriff Dunne! Sheriff Dunne!" yelled young Tommy Brown as he waved a piece of paper in the air.

"Take it easy Tommy. What's that you got there?"

"It's a telegram for you, sheriff, from Eagle Bend."

JD pulled a coin out of his pocket and tossed it to the young boy as he nodded his thanks.

Tommy thanked the sheriff and tucked the coin in his pocket as he hurried away. He smiled as he read the news from Buck that they found Josiah and that they were on their way.

Preparations for the trail were under way and the Judge was busy selecting a jury when the town was hit with the worst storm of the season. The temperature dropped and icy rain began to fall. Everyone ran for cover. Through it all, a lone man rode into town. He entered the saloon looking for a shot of whiskey and a warm bed. As he approached the bar, Inez turned around and her breath caught as she looked into his face.

"Si senor, what can I get you?"

"Your best whiskey, senorita."

Inez placed the drink on the bar and turned to tend another customer when the man with one eye took hold of her arm, stopping her. Inez looked back with anger flashing in her eyes and a voice filled with restrained anger. "Senor, unhand me," she said, as some of the other patrons began to rise from their chairs.

Not wishing to draw attention to himself, he quickly released her arm. "Senorita, my apologies. I meant no harm. I just wanted to inquire about a room for a few nights."

She reached under the counter and placed a key in front of the man. "Si senor, third door on the right, payment in advance."

He picked up the key and put down a dollar in its place. Inez watched him out of the corner of her eye as he finished his drink and then headed for the stairs. Just as his door closed, Judge Travis and JD entered the saloon.

"Inez, two of the house specials and two beers please," JD called out as he headed for their 'usual' table.

"Si, JD," Inez said as she stepped into the kitchen to prepare their meals.

"Well JD, we got a jury set so the trail can commence on Monday morning eight o'clock sharp."

"Yes sir, Judge."

"Why, thank you Inez, this looks wonderful," Travis said as he accepted his plate.


Due to the unpredictable weather in and around Eagle Bend, Buck obtained a covered wagon and then proceeded to load it with supplies.

"Perhaps an inventory is in order Mister Wilmington. I would be so disappointed should we forget something important to the welfare of our good friend."

"Ok, you read off the list and I'll check and see if we got it."

After checking the list and adding a few more items, such as coffee, bacon and beans they headed out. As they left Eagle Bend the sun was beginning to set. With nothing to hamper their way they were able to make good time and arrived back at the river just as darkness fell.

Seeing that the others hadn't yet made it down the mountain caused them some concern. While waiting for the others to arrive, they set up camp. In no time, Buck had a fire going and a pot of coffee brewing, while Ezra set out the bedrolls. They worked like a team, each man's movements comfortable and familiar, working nonstop until everything was to their liking.

"Mister Wilmington, I'll take first watch."

"You sure, Ez?"

"Yes, I simply could not sleep right now."

"Well okay... thanks."


Nathan... he all right to go on?" Vin asked.

"Best thing would be for him to rest a couple hours."

"Vin, ride ahead and tell Buck and Ezra we'll be down in the morning. And bring back what ever supplies you can carry," Larabee said.

As Tanner rode out of sight, Nathan and Chris set up camp. Night had fallen when Vin reached the base of the mountain.

Ezra was on watch when he heard a horse whiney and called out, "Identify yourself or I will shoot you where you sit."

"Easy Ez, it's just me."

"Ah, Mister Tanner, are the others with you?"

"Fraid not, Josiah took a turn and we had to hold up. Chris sent me down for some supplies. Josiah needs to rest up a bit before they continue on down."

Hearing the chatter, Buck woke and joined in gathering the needed supplies. They loaded one of the horses with blankets, food, water and bandages and Vin headed out.

During the night Josiah's fever spiked again. They wiped him down with cool water but while he was out of his mind he called out, "Oh GOD. NO HANNAH... I'M SO SORRY."

"Chris hold down his legs," Nathan said as he tried to hold down his shoulders. While they held him down he continued to thrash around and call out.


"Who's Hannah?" Larabee asked.

"Don't know, never heard him talk of her," Nathan said.

Josiah's thrashing went on for the better part of an hour before he started to calm down. Exhaustion took over and he fell into a deep sleep. Nathan and Chris kept watch over their friend as he slept and waited for Vin to return.

"Rider comin' in," Vin called out. He dismounted and walked toward the fire.

"Everything go alright?" Chris asked.

"They set up camp along the river," Vin replied.

"What about the supplies? They get everything?" Nathan asked.

"Sure did, and then some. Sent back some beans and coffee. Oh yeah, and a bottle of whiskey."

The men sat back and passed the bottle around while they filled their stomachs. After unloading the supplies, Nathan and Vin caught a few hours of sleep while Chris kept watch. Two hours later, Nathan was up checking his patient and relieving Chris. Vin took the last watch. At daybreak, he heated the coffee. Soon the others were waking to the rich aroma. Within the hour, the horses were saddled and Josiah strapped in the travois for the journey down the mountain.

It was midmorning when they rode into what was left of the other men's camp. Ezra was at the river washing up, while Buck was enjoying a cup of coffee as he stood guard.

After the wagon was made ready for travel; Buck, Nathan and Chris moved Josiah into the wagon.

"Nathan, he gonna be able tolerate the rest of the ride?" Chris asked.

"Don't see any reason why he shouldn't. We'll need to take it slow. He should sleep most of the way," Nathan replied.

"Chris we're all set," Buck said.

They pulled out with Ezra driving the wagon, Nathan rode inside with Josiah and the others rode alongside. Slowly, they headed for home. Each mile they traveled, the air became colder.

"Storm up ahead, Chris," Vin said.

"Is it coming our way?"

"No, by the looks of it we're heading into the back side of it," he replied.

Chris rode over to the wagon to check in with Nathan on Josiah's condition. "Looks like a storm up a head. How's he doing?"

"Still asleep. His wounds are stayin' clean and no sign of infection."

They were just the other side of Eagle Bend when Chris called a halt to their journey. The weather was becoming frigid and rain began to fall. "We're going to hold up. It's too cold to go on. We'll spend the night here continue on in the morning," Chris said.

They dismounted and set up camp for the night. Due to the rapidly falling temperatures, Nathan once again gathered rocks and heated them in the fire to tuck around Josiah to keep him warm. When everything was settled, the men ate. After they had cleaned up from the meal, they discussed what happened to their friend.

"Who do you suppose tortured Josiah like that?" Vin asked.

"Don't know, but I'd sure like to get my hands on him," Buck answered.

"Yes, indeed, I too, would enjoy sometime alone with the heathen,"Ezra added.

"Buck, you take first watch. Wake Ezra in two hours," Larabee said.

With the watches set, the men laid back for a rest. By the time the sun rose, the men were up and breaking camp, eager to get an early start. They saddled their horses while Nathan checked on Josiah.

"Any change?" Vin asked.

"No, he's still asleep." Nathan replied.


Sunday in Four Corners was a quiet, peaceful day, with the townspeople staying in due to the pouring rain. The storm, with its strong high winds and pounding rain, began to move out on Monday, leaving behind muddy roads and buildings in need of repair. However, before work could be done a trial was set for the early morning hours regarding the shooting in the saloon.

The jury filed in and took their place as Sheriff Dunne entered with the accused. Judge Travis called the room to order then asked the defendant what his plea was.

"I was just defending myself, Judge. He was crazy! Kept saying I took his money. Then came at me with a knife."

The judge listened to the witnesses then ordered the jury to arrive at a decision. It didn't take long for the twelve men to arrive at a guilty verdict. Travis ordered the men to be held until arrangements could be made to transport him to Yuma Prison.


Back on the trail, the men took their time traveling due to the road conditions and Josiah's battered body. It was nearing suppertime when they reached the outskirts of Four Corners.

"Buck head on in and tell JD we're on our way. Anything you want done before we get there, Nathan?" Chris asked.

"Need a fire going in my place, water and ask Mrs. Potter for all the blankets she can spare."

"I'm on it," Buck said as he nudged his horse into a trot while the others continued on at a slower pace. As he rode into town he drew a crowd of onlookers.

"JD! JD, kid where are ya?"

JD came running out of the sheriff's office just as Judge Travis and Mary came out of the Clarion.

"Where are the others? Josiah all right?" the young man asked.

"They're coming. Came ahead to get Nathan's place ready," Buck replied.

"What do you mean? Josiah that bad?" JD asked.

"We need water, blankets and a fire going before they get here. Need to warm up Nathan's place. I'll tell you all about it after we get everything set up."

Just as the moon rose, the wagon pulled up to the steps that led to the rooms above the livery.

"Easy now, careful of them ribs," Nathan said.

Some of the town's folk watched as Buck, Ezra and Chris carried Josiah up the stairs to the clinic. As they entered the room, a blast of warm air hit them in the face. They gently lowered their precious burden to the bed.

"Buck, give me a hand here... hold him up so I can change the bandage."

"Nathan is he going to be alright? He sure has been sleeping a long time," Buck asked.

"Josiah's strong. I think he's over the worst of it. Lot of men be dead by now with what he went through. I believe he'll be fine once he wakes up."

As they were getting Sanchez settled, there was a knock and Vin moved to peer out the window to see who it was before opening the door. Orrin and Mary Travis walked in, the blonde woman gazing nervously at the figure on the bed.

"Nathan, we saw you ride in. Is there anything I can do?" Mary asked.

"Mary, nothing to do... he'll be sleeping for awhile yet."

"Well perhaps I can sit with him while you get some rest," she offered.

"Thank you ma'am, that'd be right kind of ya," Nathan said.

"Do you know who did this to him?" Judge Travis asked.

"He hasn't been able to talk since we found him," Chris replied.

"You all must be tired and hungry. Get some rest. I'll be fine," Mary said as she shooed them out of the clinic.

Leaving Nathan's, the men headed for the saloon. They entered and headed straight for their table. A short time later, a pitcher of beer and a bottle of whiskey were set before them. As the men sat back with stories of all that happened while they were gone.

As JD was telling them about the cows, Buck started to moo, which brought a smile to Larabee's stoic face. Eventually, stomachs full and information exchanged, the men slowly headed off to bed.

Three hours later, Nathan woke to a pounding on the door he was using next door to Ezra's room. "Senor Nathan, por favor, wake up Senor," Inez called from the walkway.

Rising from the bed, Nathan stumbled his way to the door as he put his trousers on. "Inez?" before he could question her any further she continued on.

"It is Mister Sanchez... Mary said to come right away. He is talking nonsense."

Nathan went back inside, finished dressing and hurried over to his clinic, where he found Josiah tossing and turning as he called out.

"Nathan, he was sleeping so peacefully and then he just started to yell as if he were in great pain. That's when I sent for you. I tried to see if he had a fever but he was thrashing about so much," Mary said as she wrung her hands nervously.

"No, Mary you did the right thing getting me. Josiah's having a nightmare is all. Needs to run its course. I'll take over now. Why don't you go see to Billy and the Judge? Thank you."

She smiled, nodded her head and quietly left the room. As Mary walked across the street to the Clarion, she saw Buck coming out of the rooming house and heading for the sheriff's office.

"JD, ready for a little shut eye, Kid?"

"You bet, thanks Buck."

"Everything all right?" he asked as he nodded towards the cell.

"Just fine," JD replied as he grabbed his hat and headed for the door. As he stepped out on to the boardwalk he walked into Larabee.

"JD," Chris said, as he caught hold of him, "what's the hurry?"

Flustered from bumping into the gunslinger, he caught his breath then replied, "Sorry Chris. I was just going to check on Josiah then head on to bed."

"Buck inside?"

"Just got here."

"Tell Mary I'll be up to relieve her in a few minutes."

"Okay, Chris. " JD agreed as he hurried toward the clinic.

"Buck," Larabee greeted his friend as he walked in, "Ezra's going to relieve you in a couple of hours."

"Okay, Chris. You know the kid did a good job while we gone. At least the town's still standing," Buck chuckled.

It was nearly ten o'clock when Larabee made his way to the clinic and, to his surprise, found Nathan there instead of Mary.

"Nate, how's he doing?"

"He's been having nightmares; I think they upset Mary so she sent for me. Josiah was trying to fight his way out of the covers and yelling some nonsense when I got here. I sent her home."

"What was he yelling about? Anything you could make out? Anything that might tell us who did this to him?"

"No, at least nothing that makes sense. Guess we'll just have to wait till he wakes up."

Only a few minutes later, the wounded man began to toss around and murmur softly. As the nightmare progressed, his voice rose until he was shouting. "NO, NO! STOP IT... WHY DON'T YOU FIGHT ME, BULTER, INSTEAD OF MAGGIE? COME ON, I'LL TAKE YOU ON. THAT'S RIGHT, COME ON, I'LL FIGHT YOU, YOU COWARD!"

Josiah's body recoiled as if he were there in the middle of a fight. Chris and Nathan watched as he struggled and a sheen of sweat formed on his face. Fearful of causing him further injury by trying to wake him, they stood near by and watched as he fought his demons.

Meanwhile, over in the saloon, Ezra was playing an elaborate game of solitaire, drawing his usual crowd of onlookers. Suddenly his hands froze as he saw a hideous looking man come down the stairs and approach the bar.

"Por favor, the house special and a beer, Senorita."

"Si senor," Inez replied, placing a bowl of chili and a beer in front of him.

"Gracias," the man took his food and drink then settled at a table were he could watch the coming and goings of the saloon. Ezra set his mind to wonder as he continued to watch the disfigured face; as to kind of animal could have left a man in such a condition.

Standish finished his whiskey, collected his cards and headed for the jailhouse. "Mister Wilmington, has our guest been behaving himself?"

"Been sleeping since I got here."

"Ah, an action I sincerely hope he continues. Buck, there is a stranger in the saloon, a man with the most gruesome face I have ever had the misfortune to witness."

"You don't say, just how bad does this fella look, Ez?"

"His nose looks like it was bitten off by some animal and his right eye is permanently shut."

"Poor fella. Think I'll mosey on over."

After a few restful hours of sleep, Vin headed for the livery, saddled Peso and rode out on patrol. He rode to all the homesteads surrounding the town as far as Miss Nettie's place and then headed up into the hills overlooking the town. He reached the top of the hill just in time to see the array of colors coming from the rising sun. Coming back into town, he spotted familiar tracks and followed the trail back to the livery where his own horse was kept. Upon further investigation, he found the horse that belonged to the tracks he had followed. Tiny came out of the tack room as he was looking at the strange horse, Vin saw him, he asked, "Tiny, you remember who this nag belongs to?"

"Sure do Vin. Man come riding in during the storm. Tell you, he had a face only a mother could love."

"Do you know where he headed?"

"Saw him going towards the saloon."

Tanner finished bedding down his gelding then headed over to the saloon.

As the sun rose, so too did Josiah. His mind was fuzzy as his eyes adjusted to the light and he slowly looked around, realizing that he was no longer in the cabin. Sitting close by, sound asleep, were Nathan and Chris. While he struggled to gain control and ease his legs over the side the others woke.

"Bout time you woke up... easy now. No need to rush. How are you feeling?" Nathan asked.

"Nathan, that you?"

"Course it's me, Chris is here too... you gave us quite a scare there Josiah."

"How long have I been here? Last I remember is being in a cabin."

"We got back last night... been asleep ever since we found you" Larabee replied.

"Josiah, who did this to you? Do you know?" Nathan asked.

"Man's name is Butler," Josiah sighed. "Only got what I deserved, Nate."

"No man deserves what you got Josiah," Chris countered.

"If you saw what I did to him you wouldn't say that. Anyway it's a long story."

"Well, we're not going anywhere," Larabee said as he and Jackson took a seat.

Josiah told them about the young woman named Maggie and her father Charlie Butler, people he met back in the hills of Virginia. He explained how he'd come upon the man as he was beating his daughter and how he tried to help her. With a heavy heart, he told them how it was his fault that Butler's face became disfigured. Just as Josiah finished his story there was a knock on the door.

"Come in," Nathan called out.

"Mary," Chris nodded and gave her a slight smile.

"I thought you could use a break. Josiah you're awake, how are you feeling?"

"Tired if you can believe that Mary... since I hear I've been doing nothing but sleeping," Josiah replied.

"I'm so glad you're doing better. Nathan, if you and Mister Larabee would like to get something to eat, I'd be glad to sit and visit with Josiah."

"Thank you, Mary. Josiah, I'll bring you back something to eat," Nathan said as he and Chris took their leave. When they arrived at the saloon the others were gathered around the table in the back corner. As they joined them the discussion turned to their injured friend.

"Josiah awake yet?" Buck asked.

"He woke about an hour ago," Nathan replied as he took a drink from the beer that Inez placed in front of him.

"He know who did that to him?" Vin asked, as he leaned back in his chair.

"Told us about a guy by the name of Butler, he knew him before the war back in Virginia. The man was beating on his daughter so Josiah got involved. Beat the man to a pulp. Apparently Butler was left with a disfigured face," Chris replied then took a shot of whiskey.

"There was a man in town earlier today," Ezra said, "He had the most gruesome face I've ever seen."

"I saw him right here in the saloon not more than three hours ago, he was standing at the bar while I was talking to old Jake about Josiah," Buck added.

"And when I was out on patrol I followed some tracks back to town. They looked like the ones around the cabin where we found Josiah. Tiny said that the owner was a feller with a messed up face," Vin said.

Inez was approaching with more beer and overheard the men discussing her tenant. "Senor Larabee, I have also seen such a man. He is staying upstairs in room number 9."

"Buck, you and JD go on up and see if he's in his room." While the rest of the team waited for them to return... Butler walked in and moseyed on up to the bar.

The newcomer caught Larabee's attention... just as Tiny was entering the saloon looking for Tanner. Butler watched the men in the mirror behind the bar as the livery owner approached Tanner. The two exchanged words. Butler became anxious and when he saw a tall man with a mustache coming down the stairs he got a cold chill then he noticed the same man pulling his gun. Butler started to pull his but Larabee and the others all drew and Butler heard all the guns getting ready to fire. He eased his gun back into his holster, then calmly turned to face the six men aiming at him.

"I don't understand. What have I done?" Butler asked the men surrounding him.

"Sir, you are Charles Butler are you not?" Ezra asked.

"What's it to you?"

"Just so happens we're looking for a man named Butler. You see he did a whole lot of hurt to a friend of ours and we intend to see that he pays for it," Nathan said.

Butler broke out in a sweat as Larabee stood there glaring at him and fingering the ivory handle of his pistol. In a shaky voice, the concerned man said, "Look at me! See what your friend did to me... he ruined my life. He deserved what he got."

Buck swaggered down the stairs and over to Butler. "Nice gun. Can I have it?" he reached out and lifted the gun from its holster, tucking it into his belt for safe keeping. Buck shoved Butler toward the door.

"You don't leave a man to die all alone like that, no matter what he's done," Nathan said falling in line beside Buck.

Butler was escorted to the jail and all the way there he complained, saying how Josiah should have died in that cabin. Showing no mercy, Wilmington pushed and pulled him along as if he were little more than a dog on a leash. JD walked ahead, entering the jail and acknowledging Joe Edmonds, who was watching their prisoner, then walked to the cell and opened it for Butler. Larabee left for the hotel to fill the Judge in on what had transpired.

Nathan went back to pick up Josiah's meal then headed back to his clinic. "Mary," he said as he nods his head. "Josiah how are you feeling?" He asked as he walked back in the room.

"Feel fine Nate, but sure could use some of what you got there."

"Well, if you'll excuse me, I do have a paper to put out," Mary said as she got up to go.

As the blonde was making her way down the stairs, her father-in-law and Larabee were just crossing the street and heading her way. They exchanged greetings then the men continued up to Nathan's. They entered to find Josiah sitting up, eating from the tray Nathan had set across his lap.

"Judge Travis, Chris," he greeted them, noticing a look of concern on the blond man's face.

"Josiah, Butler's in town. We got him over in the jail," Larabee said as he pursed his lips.

"Chris told me all about what happened in the past week, as well as in your youth. I want you to know that I plan to make Butler stand trial for the torture he put you through as well as for the attempt he made on your life," the judge said.

The silence was oppressive as Josiah sat listening to his friends. Finally, he slowly looked up and said, "I can't let you do that. He didn't deserve what I did to him. Oh, he needed to be taught a lesson, but not to the point of disfigurement. What he did was bestow my penance on me."

"Josiah, that's nonsense, no one deserves to be tortured and almost frozen to death," Nathan snapped hotly, "You could have died up there if we hadn't found you in time!"

"I'm set in my mind that my penance has been served thanks to Butler. Please Judge, let him go."

Travis stared at him long and hard before speaking, "Are you sure that's what you want?"

"I am. You see I took out my feelings for my father on Butler back then, when I saw him beating his daughter, all I saw was my sister Hannah's face."

"Your sister?" Nathan asked, looking confused.

"Yes, I have a younger sister and my father beat her when we were younger. I tried to protect her but he'd whip me good until I grew too big for him to beat on. When I couldn't take it anymore I left home. Always meant to go back for Hannah but by the time I made it back... it was too late. Hannah lives in a world of her own now."

"What happened to her? Where is she?" Nathan asked.

"I found a convent in Greeley, Vin knows about it. That's where I was when that Pinkerton man came to town."

"And you didn't feel comfortable telling the rest of us about her?" Chris asked.

"I'm sorry. Hannah lives in seclusion. She only tolerates the nuns who take care of her. I don't like to talk about my past and where Hannah is concerned I'm very protective. When I saw Butler beating on Maggie, it reminded me of my father and Hannah. I lost it and I laid into him as you can see from his face. Judge, please release him. I won't be testifying against him."

Sighing, Orrin glanced at each of the men in the clinic before responding, "All right Josiah, we'll let him go as long as he stays out of Four Corners and the surrounding area."

"That's enough for now. Judge, Chris if you don't mind he needs some rest," Nathan said as he began to shoo people out of the clinic.

"Nathan, I'm just fine," Josiah said as he let out a big yawn.

The others smiled as they headed for the door and let themselves out. Leaving the clinic they headed for the jail to release Butler. As they approached the sheriff's office, Vin came around the corner.

"Vin, Josiah won't press charges. He wants us to release Butler. I want you and Buck to escort him out of town," Chris said.

"No problem. I'll go get Buck, be right back," Vin said as he walked towards the saloon.

Larabee and Travis entered the jail to find Ezra sitting behind the desk shuffling cards.

"Judge Travis, Mister Larabee what brings you gentlemen to this dreary locale?"

"Ezra, came to release Butler. Josiah insists on letting him go," Chris answered as he crossed to take the keys to the cells from the hook on the post. Even as he was opening the barred doors, the gambler protested.

"Surely you jest. There must be something we can do to persuade Mister Sanchez to change his mind."

"Already tried, no use, his mind's made up. Vin and Buck are going to escort him out of town."

The Judge stood by and watched as Butler collected his belongings then gave him a warning, "Mr. Butler, you are not to return to Four Corners, ever. If you do, you will be arrested and stand trial for attempted murder, no matter what. You've been given a chance to improve your life. What you do with it is in your hands. I suggest you make the most of it."

All three men followed Butler onto the boardwalk, Chris intending to follow him all the way to the livery to make certain he left town. He was saved the trouble by the arrival of Buck and Vin. They had collected Butler's horse and it was waiting at the hitching post.

"You're all set. I got some grub and put it in your saddle bags," Buck said, as he checked his cinch one more time.

"Take him at least five miles out. He already knows he's not welcome in Four Corners again," Chris said. The gunslinger glared at Butler as he mounted, and his hazel eyes followed him down the road until they turned the corner and disappeared from sight.

The three men rode out past the old Travis place where Tanner and Wilmington warned Butler again that he was not welcome in Four Corners. Then they watched him until he was a speck on the horizon before returning to town.

A week later Josiah was back on duty. He was coming from the livery when a shot rang out hitting the post near his head. Ezra and Chris ran out of the saloon, Buck and JD came from the sheriff's office guns drawn. Nathan ran to check on Josiah. Vin was already taking to the rooftop. The townspeople ran for cover.

"He's in the alley by the bank!" the tracker yelled, just as a rider came barreling out of the alley nearly knocking down Ezra.

JD ran to the hitching post where his horse was tethered and leapt on without touching the stirrups. He raced after the fleeing man. Buck ran over to the saloon to get his horse, yelling all the while for the young sheriff to wait. The bigger horse gradually closed on the smaller one and Wilmington glared at Dunne as he came alongside.

Nearly a mile out of town, JD pulled one of his pistols and fired a shot at Butler. The man's body jerked and his horse slowed. A few seconds later, he toppled from the saddle. Buck and JD sprang from the saddle, guns in hand as they approached the downed man. Nodding to his young friend, Wilmington watched as Dunne grabbed a length of rope from his saddlebag. When Butler was securely tied up, Buck holstered his gun. All of a sudden, JD flinched as Buck's leather hat crashed down on his head.

"JD! How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?" He hit him again with his hat.

"Oh come on Buck, you're just jealous."


"Of my quick, agile body to leap on a horse for a fast chase," JD answered saucily.

"Oh! Do you hear this garbage? This nonsense! And the sad thing is he believes what he says!" Buck ranted as he walked in a circle, kicking at the dry ground and stirring up dust. When he calmed down, he helped JD to toss Butler up on his horse.

They continued to argue all the way back to town. When they reached town the others were waiting in front of the jailhouse. Butler was pushed roughly from the saddle and shoved until he was in the jail and locked up again. Nathan examined his wound and removed the bullet. He cleaned and stitched the wound, bandaging it tightly before giving him a cup of his tea for the pain.

Larabee went in search of Judge Travis, who remained in town to visit his daughter-in-law and grandson. Mary told him that Orrin had taken Billy fishing at Miller's pond. Upon hearing this Chris asked if she would have Orrin meet him in saloon when he returned.

An hour later, Orrin Travis entered the saloon. Seeing Larabee sitting in the back corner, he moved to join him, signaling the barkeep for a beer as he passed.

"Chris, I hear you're looking for me. What can I do for you?"

"Well Orrin, Butler's back. We got him in the jail. He took a shot at Josiah. JD shot him trying to get away."

"I see. Well I'll set the trial for tomorrow morning."

The next day a jury was formed and the witnesses testified and Butler was found guilty.

"Mister Butler, I hope you will remember the chances you were given by this court and Mister Sanchez. However, you have been found guilty of attempted murder and are hereby sentenced to five years in Yuma prison. Is there anything you would like to say before I adjourn?"

"No, Judge," Butler sneered.

"All right then, Sheriff, take the prisoner and make arrangements to escort him to Yuma."

"Yes, Sir," JD said as he took hold of Charlie Butler and exited the room.

By noon the next day, JD, Buck, Vin and Ezra were on their way to Yuma prison with two prisoners.



As the stage rolled in and stopped at the hotel, a man emerged, looked around the town then turned back and helped a woman down. She too, looked the town over then saw Mary Travis outside the Clarion and approached her.

"Excuse me, ma'am. I was wondering if you would happen to know where I could find a preacher by the name of Sanchez."

"Why yes, I do. Oh, there he is now," Mary said, as she looked down the street toward the church and saw Josiah headed their way.

The woman thanked her and made her way towards Josiah. He saw her coming and stopped, he couldn't believe his eyes. It had been years since he last saw her but she still looked the same.

"Maggie is that you... is it really you? My God you look wonderful!"

"Father Sanchez, is there some place private we can talk?"

"Yes, yes of course, the church is empty. Will that be alright?"

"That will be fine, thank you," she replied as she took the arm of her companion and waited for him to lead the way. As they approached the church, she paused to admire the building. "It's a lovely church Father, I see you found your calling."

"Please, call me Josiah. As for finding my calling, I do believe I'll always be looking."

They continued up the stairs and into the church, Maggie taking a seat on one of the pews while the man who was with her remained standing protectively at her shoulder.

"Josiah, I want to thank you for all you did concerning my father."

"I don't understand. I didn't do anything."

"I got a letter from him. No, don't say anything; I know all about it, he explained everything in his letter. He told how he tried to kill you and how you forgave him. I believe he has come to see how wrong he was. I'm on my way to Yuma Prison to see him. I just wanted to stop here and ... thank you for what you tried to do for me so long ago."

Maggie and her husband stayed in Four Corners the next two days while she and Josiah caught up on the years that had passed them by. It was during their talks that Josiah learned of Maggie's life after she was sold. The man who bought her was a widower and the father of two children. His wife had died during childbirth and he was looking for someone to help him raise the children. When he saw how Butler treated his daughter his heart went out to her... in order to stop her torture he offered to marry her. However, Butler would only let Maggie go for money and so she was sold. In time Maggie came to love James and agreed to be his wife. Together they raised his two children and had two more. Josiah was happy for the couple and wished them well.

Before boarding the stage Maggie, turned to Josiah and thanked him again for coming to her aid so long ago.