OW crossover with Without a Trace
Disclaimer: I don't own them, and I don't make profit from these stories.
Thoughts are in italics.
Thanks to Angela B and to Silvia for all their help.
Feedback is welcome (be kind, I'm still learning English)
This is a OW crossover; I needed to fit the shows together so I took some liberties with them. (Hope all of you don't mind.)
If you want to know the basics of the characters of either show, the descriptions are at the end of the story.
The important thing, however, is that Eric Close played both "Vin Tanner" on The Magnificent Seven (M7) and "Martin Fitzgerald" on Without a Trace (WAT).
The afternoon started like many others; Chris and Vin outside the saloon sharing a drink, Vin's hat was low over his eyes and his chair balanced on just two of its legs.
Josiah was working on repairs at the old church. Mrs. Potter was rearranging shelves at the store.
Nathan had left town to check on some farmers. J.D. was at the jail going over some wanted posters.
Mrs. Travis had been working at her press most of the day.
Ezra was inside the saloon playing cards, and Buck was outside the hotel awaiting the arrival of the stagecoach.
It was the stage that brought an unwelcome visit for a member of the town.
The blond beauty emerged from the carriage with a smile, and directed the driver to take down her heavy trunk.
Her arrival made more than one male resident halt in his activity and stare at her.
Including the peacekeepers who were around.
Almost immediately, Buck was at her side offering his assistance. She accepted it and let him direct her luggage to the hotel.
Distracted by the driver, the mustached man was going to offer his arm to the green-eyed woman, but she had already left.
Looking around, Buck saw her at the door of "The Clarion".
+ + + + + + +
Mary Travis was cleaning ink from her hands when she heard a knock at her door,
"A minute please," she called, but her son's shriek made Mary run outside, and she almost collided with the woman spinning Billy around in her arms.
After being put on the ground, an unsteady Billy saw his hero, Chris Larabee, across the street by the saloon and happily shouted to him, "Chris, my Mom's sister is here!"
Making sure there was no mistake, he clarified for the amused men, "She's my aunt!"
The longhaired Texan chuckled as Billy took his aunt's hand and started dragging her.
"Come on Aunt Sammy, I'll show you around. We have lots of horses at the livery and a store with candies and things and Mr. Ezra is at the saloon, but we can't go inside there, but we have..."
"William Travis!" The shout startling the boy into silence, his mother didn't usually yell at him.
"Go to your room!" Mary Travis voice had an icy tone.
Billy froze for a second, and then ran inside without closing the door. The two women heard the little feet climbing the stairs in a hurry.
Mary folded her arms and lifted her chin.
"What are you doing here?" she asked her younger sister, who also adopted a similar stance.
The woman stated with equal sterness, "I was passing through and decided to visit my nephew."
"Passing through? You are very far from home little lady" patronized the widow.
"Don't call me that, I'm not a little kid anymore," replied the younger blonde.
Mary just scowled, "Then start behaving like an adult and go back to face your responsibilities."
"And why would I do that if I can just find a little backwater town and hide in it," said the younger woman defiantly, looking Mary in the eye.
Anger flared in the eyes of the two women as they stood staring at each other.
Chris was afraid the peacekeepers would need to intervene to break the duel of glares when both of the women blinked at the same time, stomped their foot and went their separate ways, obviously still furious.
By the saloon, Chris looked at the Texan "I think I'm staying out of town for a while."
A southern drawl informed them of Ezra's presence. "I never thought I would see the day when our illustrious leader would run scared of two women."
"Well Ezra," said Buck coming from the other side of the street. "I think the little sister is too much like Mrs. Travis and with two women like that, things could get real ugly."
"It's always hard to fight your own family," stated Josiah, getting closer to the gambler and putting his arm around the smaller man shoulders. "You should know," finished the preacher, winking somberly at the gambler.
"Yes, well, they know your weaker points and which words would hurt more," murmured the con man, swatting off the offender's arm.
"That is not a good thing," said Buck as he went inside the saloon.
Vin just shrugged his shoulders.
Without raising the hat from his eyes, the people would think he had been sleeping the whole time, but he had been very attentive at the situation.
"We should wire the judge and then leave town for some time," insisted Chris.
He hated fights that couldn't be settled with fists or guns.
Ezra made chicken sounds before following Buck.
Josiah laughed all the way to their usual table.
Eagle Bend (WAT)
Special Agent Danny Taylor was sitting enjoying a cup of coffee when he saw his coworker, Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald enter the restaurant.
The younger man looked out of place in this little town.
Danny had been working for the government for a couple of years, but this was his new partner's first week and first case... and from Martin's uneasiness maybe it was also the first time he had left the city.
Danny and Martin had been in Eagle Bend for over a day working on an investigation.
The government had given away incentives to people in order to interest prospective farmers in populating the open prairies.
It had gone well until they started receiving complaints from the new farmers about some of the big ranchers' hostile actions.
The ranchers had claimed they were just trying to "protect their land" from the 'invaders' encroaching on their land.
Things had escalated further than had been realized. Though most of the farmers had been driven out of the country, a couple of them had disappeared, without a trace, in the hostile land.
That was the case the agency was working on, and why the agents, Taylor and Fitzgerald, had been sent to the small town to investigate.
As the younger agent entered the restaurant and saw Danny waving at him, he headed his way.
"Well Martin, is there any news?" Danny asked.
"Not at the telegraph, but I have been checking my notes and I thought of something," said the handsome man taking a chair at the table.
"About the railroad?" Danny hid his smirk taking a small sip of his drink.
"You knew?" the disbelief in Martin's voice almost made Danny choke on his coffee.
"Yes, I did. Rumor says Guy Royal had been throwing farmers out of their land. He was stopped at the town of Four Corners by some hired guns."
"Hired guns? Shouldn't we inform Jack about them?" questioned Martin, talking about their Senior Agent and boss: Jack Malone.
"Jack already knows about it. He sent Sam to investigate with the newspaper's editor of Four Corners about them. Also, to see if the deeds of the farmers are fake or not, to establish the real owners of the land," said Danny.
"She's going to talk to..." Martin checked his notes, "Mary Travis?" he asked.
Danny nodded, taking a bite of his jam covered biscuit.
"But Vivian is going to ask around too, isn't she?" reasoned Martin.
Vivian was a dark-skinned agent. Usually underestimated by being a woman and "ex-slave", she often worked undercover as a servant or something similar and often solved the cases with inside information. Vivian was a great asset to the team.
"Yes, Viv and Jack are asking questions of some of the remaining farmers. We'll compare notes when we arrive at Four Corners," informed the older agent.
"Come on Harvard, we have a little town to find," said Danny, leaving the table.
Martin smiled at the nickname, but his smile froze as he saw a couple of foul looking men staring at him, so he quickly followed Danny out of the building.
Mary Travis was fuming, how could Samantha have said that to her?
Her little sister knew how devastated she had been when she had lost Stephen.
Mary had decided not to become a victim and had stayed in the little wild town to face her destiny... or had she really hid?
She hated when Samantha said things that she couldn't take out of her head.
At her hotel room, Samantha wasn't much better.
She had to accept she would never be a decorative wife like her family wanted.
Sam had tried to explain it to her parents but, after their attempts to find her a husband who could rein her in, she had left them and became Special Agent Samantha Spade.
By the standards, Samantha was a bit too old to still be single, but she consider herself a modern woman, one who had a job and an income to support her needs without the need of a husband. She could take care of herself, just like Mary.
Sam was a woman now; she had defied her parents... but still wanted the approbation of her older sister, as always, since she was a little girl.
Eagle Bend (WAT)
Danny and Martin went to the livery.
Their investigation pointing toward either Stuart James, Guy Royal, or maybe both, having been involved in the disappearances of the farmers.
The agents now needed to go to the reunion point and compare notes with their boss and fellow agents.
Before they left Eagle Bend, they ask directions to Four Corners at one of the town's stores. Taking mounts, they would make better time than waiting for the next stage.
+ + + + + + +
Taylor and Fitzgerald had been on the road for a few hours.
Danny was amused. Martin lacked the skill to survive in the wilderness, but he was making an effort.
Taylor was sure now the city boy hadn't spent much time on a horse before.
Probably ridden in carriages all his life, Danny mused.
Danny couldn't help it and snorted when he saw Martin shifting again in the saddle.
Fitzgerald scowled at him. No longer hiding his discomfort, he tried to find a convenient position.
Danny was attempting to stifle his laugh when the report of a long gun reached them, startling the horses.
By instinct, the brunet crouched close to the neck of his horse, ready to run, until he saw Martin lying on the ground.
The next bullet ricocheted on the ground close to the fallen man and scared away Martin's already nervous horse.
There wasn't much option for Danny; he let Martin's horse escape while he helped the younger agent to safety.
Martin appeared dazed and obviously the fall had been a hard one, but the threat of a bullet was motive enough to make the agents risk the move.
Both of them mounted Danny's steed and dashed to the closest cover, the forest.
+ + + + + + +
They ran, hiding in the trees, until Danny was sure their pursuers were enough away.
Fortunately for the agent's sake, Danny knew enough about surviving in the wild land to successfully hide their tracks causing the pursuers to lose sight of the agents.
Taylor slowed the pace slightly.
He was going to suggest that they stop to rest and check Martin's injuries. He had been feeling the young man's grip losing strength, but suddenly it became lax.
Only Danny's quick reflexes prevented a second fall when Martin lost the fight to stay awake.
The agent managed, under the cover of the vegetation, to lead them toward what he hoped was a safe place to camp.
He dismounted, supporting Martin in the same movement, and then he let his travel companion slide from the saddle in a controlled fall.
Taylor was shocked at the amount of blood that covered the left side of Martin's head.
Quickly tying the horse and getting his saddlebags, he started cleaning the man's face.
Martin blinked, fighting the blackness that seemed to engulf him again.
Glazed blue eyes looked at his coworker, "Danny?" asked softly the injured man, "Wha 'happen?"
Managing a little smile, the older agent explained, "Somebody was shooting at us and you got scratched."
"Hurts," whispered the young man.
Martin was barely conscious, but the nausea was growing, along with the pain in his right hip from where he connected with the ground when he fell off the horse.
"I know, but we can't stay here. We need to get to Four Corners," Danny answered.
He ripped his extra shirt to bandage Martin's head. For the bruises and swelling on Martin's arm and wrist, he probably had a couple of broken bones, so Danny was grateful that the younger agent hadn't broken his neck.
if we are lucky, we'll find Four Corners soon and they will have a doctor there, thought the Hispanic agent.
Unfortunately, he didn't know how far they were from the town and they had just one tired horse, so he decided to walk and let Martin stay on the mare.
With a lot of coaxing, Danny got the younger agent on the saddle. To prevent another plunge to the ground, the brunet tied Martin's hands to the pommel.
He took the reins of the beast and started leading it toward where he hoped was the small town.
It wasn't long before the sun started setting and the temperature dropped.
Danny covered the hurt man with his blanket to protect him from the now cold wind.
By the time the moon was high in the sky Danny was tired and hungry. Fortunately, the walk kept the brunet from feeling the cold.
In one of their stops, Danny discovered that, even though Martin's head wound had stopped bleeding, he was getting more confused as the time passed.
The blue eyes also betrayed the pain he was in.
The right arm and wrist were swollen, but Danny still kept Martin's hands tied to the saddle; that was the only way to maintain the young man secure on the horse.
Unfamiliar with the territory, Danny had no way of knowing where any safe shelters or hideouts could be found. The last thing he needed to do was run into their attackers again.
Buck was taking his ride back to town easy, the moon was almost full and gave him enough light to see the road.
The rogue was in a good mood. He had been visiting a lady friend at her homestead and their time together had been well used.
The tall peacekeeper halted his mount when he heard a horse whine not far away. Taking out his gun, he went to investigate.
Emerging from the bushes, he saw a man leading a horse with an obviously hurt man doubled over the saddle.
The man on foot blinked a couple of times when he was finally near enough to see the mustached man in front of him.
A mustached man with a gun in his hand.
"Damn," managed Danny before he fell to his knees as in defeat. "Don't have any money," he said.
At the same time, Danny's fingers were closing at the dagger he had in his boot, but he was startled by the man's booming laugh.
Buck dismounted and went close to help the tired man to stand. "You fellas seem to need help."
He ignored the disbelieving look that his comment caused on the fallen man.
"Why are you walking?" asked Buck while Danny swatted at his dusty pants.
"Didn't want to tire the horse, don't really know how far we would be going," he croaked.
"Here," Buck handed his canteen to the stranger.
He signaled to the man doubled on the saddle, who hadn't stirred since Buck had found them, "Is he hurt bad?"
"He was creased in the head and took a bad fall. We'll need a place to rest for a couple of days... please" Danny was at the end of his rope and he knew it.
"Don't worry, my friend Nathan can take care of your friend. The town isn't that far."
Buck almost missed the mumbled "He's not my friend," from Danny.
"The name is Buck," he introduced himself.
"Danny," the tired man whispered.
Seeing the exhausted man sigh, Buck gestured to his own mount. "Get on her, I'll lead both horses"
"Really?" doubted Danny. He would have arched an eyebrow, but was too tired for even that.
"Really. Just make sure both of you stay on them, O.K?" chuckled the rogue.
"Can do that," Danny said, getting on the mare with Buck's help, "Thanks!"
"Don't worry. You know, this reminds me from a time when..." and Buck talked all the way to Four Corners.
Danny wasn't paying attention to the words, but the voice of the tall cowboy made him feel relaxed.
They arrived in town too early in the morning.
The town's streets were deserted.
Buck helped Danny to dismount and then went to take the injured man down.
"He's tied," informed the agent, "and all his right side is bruised. He probably has broken bones from the fall."
"I'll be careful. Why don't you climb the stairs and wake Nathan while I get him there slowly," the rogue encouraged.
The shorter brunet hesitated, but complied.
+ + + + + + +
Having the midnight shift, Ezra was still at the jail.
Hearing the arrival of horses so early in the quiet town, he went to the door to investigate and recognized Buck's mare, but not much else.
Used to the mustached man wanderings, he went back to the desk
+ + + + + + +
Outside, Buck untied the hands of the injured man with care and then let him slide softly to his arms. As the young man went down, the blanket that had been covering most of his frame fell to the floor.
Buck almost lost his grip as the face of the hurt man was revealed.
"My God, Vin!" he breathed adjusting his hold.
The sound of steps on the wood stairs made him raise his gaze from the familiar features; and his growing anger got a focus.
Almost throwing the unconscious man into Nathan's arms, he grabbed Danny's arms and dragged him toward a cell in the jail.
The agent was too tired to put up a resistance.
His body's needs betrayed the exhausted man. His mind just discerned a warm building with warm cots, and sought the chance to rest.
+ + + + + + +
Having just settled back in the chair, Ezra was startled when Buck busted in the room hauling an evidently exhausted man.
"Watch him," was all the tall peacekeeper said before going out again.
The gambler was perplexed as the man in the cell started to snore softly after just a couple of seconds.
The gambler hoped J.D. would arrive early to his shift so the conman could find out what had Buck so irritated.
+ + + + + + +
By the time Buck went back at the town clinic, Nathan had changed the bandages around "Vin"'s head and was inspecting the swollen wrist. The lack of natural light concealed the real identity of the patient.
The tall rogue went close to the bed. With worried eyes, he appraised the tracker injuries.
Softly, Buck ran a hand over the chopped hair of the younger man. Vin was too pale, even the clothes on the young sharpshooter looked wrong, not being his usual buckskins. They looked of good quality.
"Nathan?" Buck asked all the questions he had with just the name of the healer.
"Let's try not to move him too much," said Nathan, rubbing an oily paste on the bruised arm.
"He woke a little, but was too confused and in pain. He's out of it again," the dark healer informed.
The mustached peacekeeper was still worried, "Nathan, Chris left town with him yesterday, when Vin went in patrol. I need to know what happened. Chris wouldn't have let a bounty hunter capture Vin unless..."
Buck trailed off, but Nathan understood perfectly what Vin's condition could mean to their blond leader.
"I know Buck, but Vin's too confused right now."
Nathan had enough experience with worried friends so he tried to calm the rogue. "He has a fever, a head wound and blood loss... he needs time to rest."
Buck paced the room for a few minutes.
"Can't wait that long. I need to find out about Chris... and I know who to ask." He stated heatedly, gathering his hat and guns from the chair where he had left them.
"Okay," said Nathan, but he was biting his lower lip unconsciously betraying his uneasiness.
"You need something?" Looking at his friend, Buck sighed, "Spill it out, Nathan?" Buck asked, stopping where he was when he heard the slight pause in his friend's voice.
The dark skinned man stood up. Looking directly at Buck's blue eyes, "That man in the jail is the only lead we have, just don't do anything drastic, ok?" pleaded the healer.
The usually affable peacekeeper took a deep breath, "I'll try Nathan, but I can't promise."
Buck opened the door startling Mary Travis, who had just raised her hand to knock at Nathan's clinic, Ezra close behind her.
The mustached man groaned in silence seeing the woman's pencil and notebook already in her hand.
"Good morning, Buck. I was coming out of the office when I ran into Ezra; he informed me you incarcerated a man and then came here. Is somebody hurt? I want to know the facts, so I can get it in the paper," the blonde-haired woman stated.
The rogue was in a hurry and tried to step around the reporter, "Morning, Mrs. Travis. Yes, but I'm going to..."
"Please, Mr. Wilmington. A minute of your time is not going to hurt anybody," Ezra interjected, also blocking Buck's escape.
Buck snapped. He grabbed the gambler and pulled him inside the clinic. Gesturing toward the bed and the unconscious man in it.
"You still think no one would be hurt?" he growled.
Ezra paled when he recognized their fellow peacekeeper. "What, what happened?"
Then he remembered the last time he had seen the Texan, and the feeling of dread grew. Turning toward Buck, he asked, "Where is Chris?"
"Don't know, but I'm going to find out. You coming? " Buck answered sarcastically.
Both men left the room ignoring Mary, who had to step out of their paths as they exited.
Chris is missing? she recoiled.
She turned toward Nathan, but whatever question she was going to ask changed instantaneously as she now had a clear view of the man on the bed, "What happened to him?" Mary cried, shocked not only at his bruised appearance, but at his shorn hair as well.
Samantha had got out of bed early. She needed to talk with Mary, not like sisters but like the professionals they where.
Dressing in record time, she left her room at the hotel and walked hurriedly toward The Clarion.
She knocked a few times, but the lack of sounds from inside made it obvious that her older sister wasn't there.
Surveying the awakening town, she decided to go to the jail and start asking the sheriff about the ranchers and the land troubles.
Had she looked up at the clinic walkway, she would have seen her sister and the fancy gambler at the door of the clinic.
+ + + + + + +
The door to the jailhouse was open so Sam went straight inside. The young man at the desk hastily rose from his chair.
"Can I help you Miss...?" he asked politely, brushing his long bangs from his eyes.
Samantha smiled at the sight. "I hope so. You see, I need to talk to the sheriff about..." she trailed off as she saw her coworker in one of the cells, dead to the world and snoring softly. "Danny?"
"Do you know him, Miss?" asked the young man suspicious. Previous experiences made J.D. position his hand over his gun.
Recognizing the move, Samantha tried to relax and be as non-threatening as she could, but her innocent look and smile, didn't fool the man in front of her.
With a calm voice, she tried to reason, "I didn't know he was here, really, but if you let me talk to him I'm sure we can..."
"I'm not letting him out," stated J.D. without loosen up his stance.
The blonde woman was impressed; evidently somebody had trained this young man well.
"You don't need to let him out. I can go inside the cell..."
"Forget it Ma 'am, the door stays closed," warned the young man.
"...Or not. Look, I don't want trouble. I just need to know what happened," she pleaded.
"Buck brought him here last night before my shift," informed the sheriff nodding toward the cot in the cell and the sleeping man in it, "and he's been asleep since then, so he hasn't said a word,"
Samantha sighed, "Could you tell me where I can find this "Buck"?" she inquired.
J.D. shrugged his shoulders "Ezra said he was at the clinic. Don't know if he's still there."
This town has a clinic? thought Sam. Then she searched with her eyes the rest of the cells. They were empty.
"Was somebody hurt last night?" she asked in concern for the rest of her team. After all, Danny hadn't been alone in his research.
"Think so, maybe we should go and ask Buck." J.D. stated. "Just wait until I find somebody to stay here."
"Wait?" stated the blonde woman hurriedly. "Why don't you wait while I search for "Buck"?" she said while walking to the door and almost collided with a tall mustached man that entered the building in a hurry.
The tall man stopped abruptly, causing the shorter man behind him to bump with his back.
"Sorry Miss," the blue-eyed man apologized letting her pass and closing the door after she had barely passed it.
The sheriff tried to call her back, but it was too late. "Buck, that lady was looking for you," he said hesitantly.
"We don't have time right now; I need to talk with the man I brought in this morning." The tall brunette took the cells keys from the hook.
In any other circumstances Ezra would have pointed to Buck that the town's Romeo letting escape a young pretty woman, who was looking for him, was an event that marked the end of the world. But he let the comment pass, the incident clearly stated the worry they both felt; with one piece of their little family missing, and another hurt, this clearly could become the end of their world.
Unlocking the door, Buck went close to the man and kicked the cot. The Hispanic man jerked awake swinging his arms to defend himself.
One of the flying fists managed to hit Buck in the jaw making the tall peacekeeper withdraw in surprise.
Danny was disoriented for a moment, but recognized the man that had helped him on the road and went from defending to apologizing in a second. "I'm sorry. Are you okay?" he asked in concern.
Buck recovered fast, took the man by the lapels of his coat and slammed him against the wall.
Between the fact that the agent had barely eaten since the previous morning and his head hitting the wall, Danny saw the face of the man in front of him blur, but understood perfectly that the man was angry.
"I said I'm sorry, man. You startled me!" Danny explained.
"Where the hell is Chris?" The tall cowboy shouted, lifting up the shorter man to make eye contact.
"Who?" gasped the confused man.
"Don't play with me Sonny, Where is he?" the enraged cowboy slammed Danny again.
Fortunately, for both of them, Ezra interfered before the agent thought about attacking Buck.
"Gentlemen, please. Lets talk like civilized people to find the answer to our questions."
The gambler almost lost his grip on Buck as the tall man tried to grab the agent again, but Danny's reflexes got him out of his reach.
"I really don't know who you are talking about?" he exploded angrily.
"The man who was with Vin," Buck demanded.
At Danny's blank stare, Ezra, who by now knew most of what had transpired thanks to Buck, intervened:
"A dark-dressed blond man who was with the man you brought in last night tied to the saddle."
With Martin? the agent was confused. "There wasn't a blond man," Danny stated. He had been with his coworker most of the time and there hadn't been a blond man near.
Unless it was one of the men chasing us, he dreaded.
J.D. and Ezra pushed the mustached peacekeeper out of the cell. "It's possible," Ezra tried to reason with him. Oblivious to the agent fears.
Buck shook his head "He would have been back by now."
Ezra squeezed the angry man's arms lightly, "Not if he went to his shack or is waiting for Vin somewhere."
Still a little confused, J.D. pointed out, "What we need to do is to ask Vin, to know for sure," he finished.
Agent Taylor, totally confused, was left in the small room. Those men would not shoot at us, then help us, just to kill us later... would they?
The front door of the jail banged loudly, startling the agent. A puzzled old man was thrown inside; the man obviously a farmer.
Shrugging his shoulders, the old man made himself at home at the sheriff desk. Totally ignoring the prisoner and his questions.
After Samantha was graciously tossed out of the jail, she went in search of "Buck". Without knowing that it was the same man who had just closed the door after her.
Having no idea of how he looked or where to find him, she decided to ask in one of the stores if they knew "Buck" and where the clinic was located.
At the store, Mrs. Potter informed her that Mr. Wilmington probably would be around the saloon later. At her second inquire the nice woman directed Sam toward the clinic.
Samantha climbed the stairs and, finding the door open, she knocked softly before going inside. There she was surprised to find her sister and a tall black man hovering over an evidently hurt man.
Mary Travis, was sitting close to the only bed in the room. She was applying a cold compress at "Vin"'s face and neck, caressing tenderly his now short hair.
Confused blue eyes had tried to focus on her face but failed, as the young man succumbed to a feverish sleep.
Sam got close to the other side of the bed. Shocked by the sight of Martin laying there, so vulnerable. Only her experience as an undercover agent kept her from acting before assessing the situation.
The tall man cleared his throat, breaking her concentration. "Can I help you, Miss?" he asked in a deep voice.
"Is he okay?" Sam managed to ask, her concern making her thoughts jumble.
Her sister paused in her ministrations. "It would be better if we talk later, Sammy. You can wait at the Clarion if you like," she said softly.
Samantha was surprised at the gentleness her older sister displayed. "Mary, I can help," she offered.
Seeing Mary hesitate, Nathan tried to help, "She can stay with you, Mrs. Travis. I need to go to the jail." He gathered some bandages and carbolic, "to find if they know something about Chris."
"Oh Nathan, I'm sorry." Mary apologized for her lack in manners. "This is my sister Samantha Spade. Sammy, this is Nathan Jackson, the town healer."
They exchanged greetings, and then Nathan went in search of his friends.
"Mary?" asked the younger woman "Is he going to be okay?"
"We hope so," the older sister murmured, leaving Sam with the feeling that something was amiss.
Nathan paused descending the stairs as Buck, Ezra and J.D. started climbing them. The healer waited until they were close to ask what they knew.
"Nothing," boomed the tall brunet.
"The man at the jail insists he doesn't know about Mr. Larabee location," explained the gambler.
"We need to ask Vin," supplied the sheriff.
"He's in no condition to answer," stated Nathan. "About the jailed man...?"
"Old man Thompson is keeping an eye on him," J.D. declared innocently.
Ezra managed a small smile, "He's in no need of your services, right now, Mr. Jackson."
"Nathan," interrupted Buck, "We really need to talk with Vin. Chris could be hurt out there."
"Or he could be placidly waiting for Vin at his shack," remarked the green-eyed man again. "Really Mr. Wilmington, I thought I was the pessimist among our group."
Nathan thought about his missing friend. "We can try, but he has barely opened his eyes. I don't think he can help right now."
So the somber group went back to Nathan's room.
+ + + + + + +
Inside the room, the two blondes had heard the muffled voices of the peacekeepers and Mary had gone to investigate.
Meanwhile, Samantha continued cooling the injured man and talking softly to him.
She was changing the damp cloth when Martin's eyes fluttered in an attempt to open.
"Martin, can you hear me?" murmured Sam.
"Zh'am?" the injured man mumbled. "Zhat 'ou?"
"Yes, it's me. How you feel?" She knew it was an obvious answer, but had to rouse him more before asking what had happened.
"Hurts," he said letting his eyes close once more. His head feeling like if it was about to explode. It was too hard for Martin to fight the nausea and pain that engulf him.
Sam couldn't continue as a group of men entered the small clinic, her sister in tow, arguing unhappily.
"I'm as worried as you Mr. Wilmington, but maybe you will have better results going out to look for Chris than asking an unconscious man."
Buck hesitated, Mary's words made some sense, but out there was so much territory... If Vin could at least tell them where to begin, they could have a chance finding their leader sooner.
Mary clasped her sister's shoulder, "Sammy, I need you to go out for a moment. You can go to the Clarion if you want."
"But..." she managed, but found herself gently escorted out of the room. For the second time in the same morning the blue-eyed tall cowboy closed the door after her.
The possibility of demanding entrance to the clinic crossed Samantha's mind briefly, but she didn't want to infuriate those men... that could be dangerous and her sister could get caught in the middle of the confrontation.
Sam didn't know yet who had hurt her coworker, so she decided to act cautiously.
She decided to give them a few minutes. At least her friends weren't in immediate danger and the healer, who seemed kind enough, was with Martin, so she decided to wait.
Leaning at the handrail, she pondered which one of those men was Mr. Wilmington and, if they were so busy looking for a missing someone, why would he take the time to incarcerate Danny... and what did Martin know about all this?
The sounds of horses drew her attention toward the two figures arriving in the town. She couldn't see their faces because of the angle and their hats, but they had sturdy bodies and looked at ease mounted in their animals.
For a moment, she forgot about her coworkers and openly stared at the two men.
They got close to the jail, the man dressed in black dismounted, took off his hat, and running a hand through his blond hair said something to the other man.
The man in the buckskin coat nodded and directed both horses toward the livery.
She admired the graceful walk of the blond until he went inside the building and out of her sight. Then, an old man walked out the door of the jail.
A couple of minutes later the longhaired man who had accompanied the blond was back and went inside the jail too.
She was going back to her thoughts when the jail's door opened again, and the dark dressed man went out and started towards the saloon.
The blond saluted at Sam with a nod, making her blush at having been caught staring.
For a second time, he disappeared from view as he crossed the winged doors of the edifice.
+ + + + + + +
Chris entered the saloon and surveyed the room looking for any of the other peacekeepers.
Old man Thompson hadn't known why they had left him guarding the prisoner or who the young man was, so Chris was sure that trouble had come to their town. He just didn't know what kind of trouble... yet.
Until then, Tanner would watch the prisoner, and the town from the jail's window.
He went to the bar and asked for a whiskey, the bartender nodded toward a man seated not far, and served the shot.
Keeping an eye on the stranger in the mirror, Chris drained his glass in one swallow and turned toward the man who gestured toward his own bottle and the empty seat at his table.
Cautiously the blond gunfighter took the seat, but made no attempt to grab the bottle.
"Good day" the man began calmly "I have been waiting for one of the town peacekeepers, I was informed they use to drink here." he waved at the room.
"My name is Jack Malone," he said offering his hand to shake and continued, "Special agent Jack Malone," he paused at Chris' arched eyebrow.
"If you allow me to retrieve my badge, it's in the inside pocket of my jacket." Jack paused until the blond man nodded before reaching for the id.
Chris inspected the plaque slowly. If he was curious about the agent, he didn't let it show. Then he tossed the badge back to the agent.
Jack put it in his coat and tried again "Mr.?" he paused.
"Larabee, Chris Larabee," rendered the blond in a rough voice.
Malone had heard of "The Magnificent Seven" during his investigation, especially about Larabee's reputation and even if he didn't want to be shot by mistake, Jack Malone wasn't one to draw back in fear at a hard stare.
"My team and I were assigned to an investigation around these territories and heard about your experiences with the outlaws and in protecting this town."
The agent explained then that two of his agents had disappeared between towns (Eagle Bend and Four Corners), and Malone needed help from somebody familiar with the territory to find them.
The blonde didn't even twitch. So, Malone insisted,
"I want to track two men," he said, "who were last seen coming in this direction."
The blond nodded again. On the outside, he was nonchalant, but inside he was in turmoil, hoping Vin stayed put inside the jail until he could warn the tracker about the agents that obviously had been in town for a time... and asking questions.
Malone, confused at the little response he got from the blond, repeated. "So, are you loaning me your tracker?"
"He's not around at the moment," Chris lied. "I'll see what I can do," he finished, leaving the table.
Jack let the man go.
He wanted to stay in good terms with the town's law, but to find his men was a priority.
Sam saw the handsome blond leave the saloon in a hurry. The dark dressed man entered the jail just as, at Sam's back, the clinic's door opened.
She turned, and saw the young sheriff and the well-dressed Southern leave the clinic.
Samantha went inside, to talk with Buck, she hoped.
From the saloon doors, Jack saw Chris enter the jail.
Malone had become worried about Danny and Martin since the hotel owner had informed him that neither of them had arrived the day before at Four Corners.
Jack and Vivian knew that the younger men had left Eagle Bend; they had the telegram that confirmed it.
Walking to the street, Senior Agent Malone went in search of his other two agents.
He knew Vivian was at the hotel, but he hadn't seen Samantha yet.
By seconds, he missed his younger female agent going inside the clinic. Just as Ezra and J.D. missed seeing Chris going into the jail.
Chris closed the door of the jail after he entered.
The prisoner, as he had been doing, dozed in his cell.
Vin Tanner was at the sheriff desk, checking and loading his gun. He had seen, through the window, Chris striding from the saloon.
The blond sighed in relief seeing that his friend had stayed put. Vin interpreted the man stance.
"Problem, cowboy?" the Texan drawled softly.
"Could be," the leader replied. He took one of the rifles from the cabinet and checked the bullets inside; he also took extra ammunition for his guns.
At the sound of the jail's door opening, both men turned with guns drawn, the big man at the entrance instantly raised his hands in surrender.
"Dammit, Josiah. You nearly gave me a heart attack," growled the tracker.
The big man had been at the reservation talking about the needs of the tribe with the chief. He had planned to come back to town the night before, but decided to camp under the stars and enjoy the wilderness before going back home.
"It wasn't my intention, brother," the big man apologized. Seeing the firepower Chris and Vin had at hand, he asked with concern, "What's happening?"
Chris nodded toward the sleeping figure in the cell, reminding his friends that they had an audience, even if he seemed unconscious.
He directed his friends close to the door and spoke softly.
"Agents from the government, are searching for someone." His head tilted toward Vin.
"I'll take the leader to look around. Would be best if you head out of town."
The Texan didn't want to leave, but staying would be too dangerous "I'll go to Nettie's, send word if there is trouble," Vin murmured.
The blond nodded and turned to Josiah, "Keep your eyes open, Preacher. Make sure the others know about the agents."
The big man saw his two friends leave in different directions; Chris to the hotel, Vin to the livery.
Murmuring a prayer for them, he went to sit at the sheriff's desk. It was still early, but he hoped whoever was assigned to noon duty at the jail appear soon.
M7 and WAT
Chris went to the hotel to talk with the senior agent.
The peacekeeper informed Malone that he was going with him to look around.
Chris wasn't too surprised that the agent was ready to go out immediately.
They found two fresh horses from the livery, saddled and ready, outside the hotel. With a side glance, Chris looked toward the alley where the tracker, concealed in the shadows, saluted before disappearing.
Agent and gunfighter mounted and headed toward Eagle Bend.
While J.D. got supplies from the Potter's store, Ezra got his rifle and saddle bags from his room, rolled up a couple of extra blankets and went in search of the young sheriff.
The gambler could have seen the two figures, Chris and Jack, leaving town if Buck hadn't chosen that time to call out to the green-eyed man from the stairs of the clinic.
As Buck reached the ground level, Ezra was at his side. "Is there another problem, Mr. Wilmington?"
The tall brunet sighed, "That blonde girl, Samantha... Mary's sister, has been following me all morning."
The gambler couldn't help it and chuckled, thinking that in anyother circumstance it would be the blonde woman who would be trying to escape from the mustached man.
"I'll get the horses ready," he managed between chuckles.
The tall cowboy glared at the fancy coat. "I don't think it's funny!" He yelled.
Buck went to the jail and was surprised when he saw Josiah there, after all, JD. and Ezra had left old man Thompson looking after the prisoner.
Josiah jumped to his feet as the mustached man entered. "Buck," he said softly, "There are Agents from the government in town," he informed.
Wilmington looked suspicious toward the cell. "Agents?" he asked.
The ex-preacher nodded, getting closer to his fellow peacekeeper. "They could be looking for Vin," he murmured.
"I knew it!" replied Buck.
Even if Buck wasn't sure if the jailed man was a bounty hunter or an agent they couldn't take the chance.
"Don't let him out," the younger man said, "I'll tell Nathan to stick to the clinic."
As an afterthought, he informed Josiah, "Ezra, J.D. and I are going after Chris. We'll be back as soon as we find him," and he tried to leave.
The older man followed him out of the building, "Buck."
"Look Preacher," said Buck turning toward his friend, "I don't have time right now, but trust me that... that man," he motioned to the prisoner "has to stay in the cell, got it? Vin's life depends of it." With that the brunet left.
Buck paused briefly at the store to collect the young sheriff, at the clinic to inform Nathan that they were leaving, and then headed to the livery to mount his already saddled horse.
Outside the salon, Inez, who had been sweeping the entrance, paused when she saw the peacekeepers leaving town.
"Que raro" she murmured.
She thought it was weird that three of them went out together, having seen Vin scurrying from town moments earlier and Chris leaving toward Eagle Bend with a stranger.
Then she reasoned that the trouble ahead must be a bad one.
"Que Dios los acompañe y me los cuide."
Whispering a quick prayer for the peacekeepers safety, she returned to her duties.
Samantha was torn.
She knew she had to go and talk with Danny, but that she also should talk with Jack, who must have arrived in the little town earlier that morning.
Leaving the care of her wounded coworker to her sister, Sam went to the hotel, deciding to talk to Jack first.
Unfortunately there, the clerk informed her that the agent had left town earlier.
"Can you tell him when he gets back that I need to talk to him? It's urgent."
The clerk nodded as he wrote the message, "Of course, Miss Spade. I'll give him the note as soon as he comes back."
"Thank you," she said and turned to leave.
The clerk stopped her, "Or maybe you want to talk with his servant, she's in the restaurant."
Glaring angrily at the man, Sam asked "Servant?"
"The black woman that traveled with him, I just thought..." the clerk stuttered.
"I'll talk with Mrs. Johnson, Thank you." The young woman interrupted and went to the restaurant looking for Vivian.
She found her coworker reading the town's newspaper.
"Viv, thank God you're here. Martin is hurt and Danny is in a cell in the jail, we need to find Jack fast," she informed quickly.
"What?" The surprised woman blurted, "Never mind," shaking her head, she continued, "How bad is it?" she inquired.
"Martin took a hard blow to the head, and a bad fall from the horse. He's all bruised and confused and Danny looked exhausted, but that's all I know."
"Let's go talk to them," the older agent directed Sam outside and then followed her to the jail.
+ + + + + + +
In the clinic, Nathan directed Mary outside while he cleaned the wounds of the feverish "Vin".
Taking the bandages off the wrist and arm, he noticed, for the first time, the lack of scars on the man.
Puzzled, he uncovered the upper body of the "tracker" to look at the young man's bruised hip and confirmed that, apart from the recent wounds, there weren't any traces of the old scars on the lean body in front of him.
He quickly changed the dressings and went to the door. "Mrs. Travis" he called, "I'll need you to stay with him. I'll be right back."
Mary didn't have time to reply as the healer dashed to the jail.
Road (M7 and WAT)
Chris and Jack, on the road to Eagle Bend, rode in silence.
Both looking for clues of the missing agents' whereabouts.
Buck, Ezra and J.D. circled the land following the trail Vin's patrol should have covered. They would later go to Chris' shack to look there for their leader.
Suddenly Ezra stopped and lifted up his hand, the gesture asking for silence. The three of them heard the distant sound of shots.
It took them a few seconds to place the direction from where the sound carried, but as they confirmed it, they raced toward the road to Eagle Bend.
Four Corners (M7 and WAT)
Nathan, Samantha and Vivian arrived almost at the same time at the jail.
The healer caused a ruckus when he headed toward the cell, pulled the jail door open roughly and roused the jailed man by the front of his shirt and asked incessantly, "Who's the hurt man?"
Josiah had gotten to his feet when the jail door had been opened, then relaxed when he recognized Nathan.
The blue-eyed man was surprised when his friend took the prisoner none too gently, but was astonished when he found the barrel of a small gun pointed at his heart.
Looking beyond the gracious hand that supported said gun and the pretty blonde who owned it, he saw Nathan letting the prisoner go when a dark skinned woman, also with a gun, demanded it strongly.
Both women stayed out of reach of the peacekeepers, guns firmly in their hands.
The ex-preacher tried to think what he was going to say to Chris when he got back.
He didn't think their leader would be happy to know that two petite women had gotten the better of two of the biggest members of their group.
Surely Ezra is going to appreciate the irony of the situation, he thought.
The young man in the cell gasped, "Viv?"
"Are you okay, Agent Taylor?" the dark skinned woman stressed the Agent part of the question.
"Yeah," responded the man "Hungry, but fine... How's Martin?"
Viv arched her eyebrow at the man in front of her. She had heard about the town healer/peacekeeper/ex-slave.
"The man who was hurt."
"In a few days he will be fine," Nathan breathed in relief, and then he exclaimed, "Damn, Chris is going to kill us!"
"Care to explain?" asked Vivian intrigued.
The healer looked uncomfortably at the armed women, "Last night, when Agent T..." he pointed to the younger man.
"Taylor," supplied Samantha before her coworkers could.
Nathan continued "When Agent Taylor brought the injured man to the clinic, we thought the hurt man... Martin, was somebody else, and..." he trailed off thinking.
"Where is Vin?" the healer exclaimed, looking at his oldest friend, feeling the worry all again.
"Calm down, brother," called Josiah, "Our tracker went out this morning when Chris told us that there were agents in the territory."
"That's right," Viv confirmed. "I met Mr. Larabee briefly in the restaurant. He and Jack went in search of our missing agents. He must have sent the tracker first, to find them faster."
The big man coughed. "Something like that, Ma'am, but I don't know for how long they would search before coming back."
It was Danny's turn to exclaim, "They are looking for us. Damn, Jack is going to kill us when he finds out we have been here all the time!"
Road (M7 and WAT)
"Damn," grunted Jack. "Viv is going to kill me," he said as he tried to keep the bleeding in his upper arm under control.
Chris, slouched next to him, reloaded his guns with the extra ammo. "We first have to get out of here alive," he offered.
The bullets from their attackers ricocheted off the boulder where both of them were hiding.
"So you are an optimist!" the agent replied sarcastically.
The blond man shook his head, closed his gun chamber and standing up proceeded to drop their chasers one by one.
Jack tied an improvised bandage over the bullet scratch and, after a moment, started shooting at the miscreants giving Larabee a chance to reload his now empty guns.
The lawmen were doing well, finding a synchronized pace, until a bullet cracked a little part of the boulder, spraying Larabee with tiny sharp fragments of the big rock.
In seconds, the bleeding from the small cuts on the blond's face reached his eyes and affected his aim.
Chris dropped one of his guns in an attempt to clean his vision with his hand, but a firm tug at his gun belt made him drop down and a clean handkerchief was pressed to his face.
Looking at his companion, the blond sighed. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," Jack said briefly. Around them the bullets kept flying.
Two louder shots and a scuffle were heard then silence, until the voice of Buck Wilmington announced that the rest of the gang attacking the lawmen were under custody.
"Hey Chris!" shouted the worried man when Chris didn't leave the cover of the boulder. "You alright, old dog?"
"Sure," the leader of the seven called back. "Any chance Nathan is with you?"
At those words, Buck hurried to his friend side. Thankfully, he found him smiling to another slightly bleeding man.
Assessing both injuries, the tall cowboy requested Ezra's flask to clean them before they went back to town.
The stranger clenched his jaw and hissed as the taller man applied the alcohol soaked cloth to the bullet wound.
Chris watched the clean up of Malone's arm while he held a clean, equally soaked bandanna, to his forehead.
"You got all the men?" asked Larabee to his oldest friend.
"Yeah, the ones you left alive," Buck chuckled, relieved at having found his friend alive and not too hurt.
"Ezra and J.D will have them ready to transport to town by the time you two are ready."
Malone cleared his throat before talking to the men who had saved his life. "I'm not going back to town yet," he informed, but he yelped as Buck jerked the bandages, annoyed.
His blue eyes blazing, Buck fumed, "You want to stay here, fine. We are going back."
Puzzled, Chris tried to calm his friend. "Buck..."
"No Chris," the mustached man interrupted, "We really need to go back to town," he pressed.
Not really understanding, but trusting his friend, Chris explained to the agent, "It would be better if our healer take a look at your arm before we continued our search."
Jack sighed. "I have already lost so much time." Gazing at the blond, he saw understanding in his look, "but I guess you are right, and we can check if your tracker is around to help."
+ + + + + + +
As Buck had predicted, by the time the lawmen were ready to travel so where the arrested men.
The smile showing his gold tooth, Ezra informed, "I have already discussed with our charges and it seems, Mr. Larabee, that these miscreants were aiming to eliminate both the leader of the Four Corners law and the head Agent from N.Y."
"Did they say why?" asked the blond mounting his horse.
"No, but the fact that I already know that a couple of them work for Guy Royal helps realizing why they are after you if not the reason for the attack toward our guest," replied the Southern.
Grouping the outlaws, they went back to the town.
Chris noticed that the Agent was lagging behind,
Still searching for his men, no doubt, he thought.
"We'll find your agents, don't worry," he told Jack.
The snickers from three of the captured men made the blonde turn toward them. "Something you want to share?" he growled.
Oblivious to the danger he was in, the bigger of the mercenaries boasted, "If you're looking for your two men, you are not going to find them. We got them; the agent and the tracker, easily," he laughed.
"They tried to run, even left us a blood trail to follow...huffp" The outlaw was thrown from his horse as a fist connected solidly with his jaw. Before he had time to recover, both leaders, Malone and Larabee, were at his side demanding answers.
Buck waited until Ezra and J.D. drew their extra guns, and covered the rest of the outlaws, before he went to his oldest friend side.
The blond had the barrel of his gun pressed against the mercenary's throat, while Malone had his pointing to the temple of the freighted man.
"Chris," the mustached man put his hand over the gun. "It's okay, we need to go to town. Come on," he pleaded.
It took a moment for Chris to read the promise in the blue eyes of his friend, and Chris retrieved his pistol.
Malone however wasn't so easily convinced.
"He knows what happened to my agents," he said, cocking his gun, "and he's going to tell me right now."
This time it was Larabee's hand that closed over the gun. He didn't say a word, but the look in his eyes convinced Jack to wait before blowing the criminal's head off.
Buck put the outlaw back on his horse and turned back to face two worried leaders. He cleared his throat loudly before starting his tale.
"Vin's at the clinic, he's a little out of it, but Nathan said his chances are good," he swallowed.
"The man who brought him; around this tall," he said, gesturing the height with his hand, "dark hair, dark eyes, well dressed, is at the jail." he finished.
"In jail?" questioned Jack, "What about Martin, they were together?" he insisted.
Buck shook his head, "There wasn't anybody else with them," he finished.
Jack Malone sighed.
Maybe it hadn't been a good idea pairing Danny and Martin. The older agent wasn't too patient with the rookie agent, and Martin was a stubborn man who was trying to prove to the world, and to his father, that he could be a good agent.
What if Martin went solo and now is laying hurt somewhere. the senior agent thought.
"It would be easier if you ask your man what happened," stated Chris.
Malone agreed and soon they were heading to Four Corners again.
Four Corners (N7 and WAT)
Josiah stayed at the jail, chatting with Danny while Samantha went in search of breakfast for all of them.
Nathan and Vivian went to the clinic to check Martin's injuries.
There Mary informed them that "Vin" had awakened for a while and had asked about a Danny.
Nathan gently took Mrs. Travis outside to explain the situation to her.
Inside the clinic, Vivian took the seat that the widow had been using and tenderly called Martin's name.
Blue eyes blinked trying to focus.
"Viv?" the young man croaked. "Whe's Danny?"
He remembered that the other agent had been with him before he got hurt, but he hadn't seen him since the kind dark-skinned man had tended to his injuries.
"He's okay," she whispered, and with a smile she asked "How do you feel?"
"Tired," he mumbled, blinking to clear his eyesight.
Vivian could see the effort that the younger man was making to stay awake.
"Try to sleep some more," she encouraged, "I'll wake you if something important happens, okay?"
"'k." he managed before closing his eyes.
Four Corners (M7 and WAT)
The tired men arrived at the town and formed two groups; Buck, J.D. and Ezra took the prisoners to the jail while Chris and Jack went to the clinic so Nathan could take care of their injuries, and for Chris, to check on Vin.
As they got closer to the building, Chris saw Nathan walking with Mary Travis toward "The Clarion" talking animatedly. So, he led Jack upstairs to wait for their healer.
Opening the door of the small room, the gunslinger was surprised to find a dark-skinned woman sitting by the bed.
"Who are you?" Then he did a double take at the man on the bed, "And who is he?" Chris asked.
He got closer and saw the man at the bed slowly opening his eyes; the man looked familiar and different at the same time.
The shape of the face, the color of the eyes and of the hair was like Vin, but the skin, even if it was slightly flushed with fever, was too pale, the eyes looked too young, and the hair was too short and straight.
The hurt man's gaze focused on Chris and there was no instant connection, no silent understanding, just confusion and pain in the look.
Nathan, having seen the gunfighter climbing the stairs came into the room while Chris evaluated the differences between the man in the bed and his friend.
The healer hesitated, "Hum, Chris, he's not..."
"I know," was all that the dark clothed leader said before he turned and left the room. Leaving behind three confused agents and one surprised healer.
"Viv," asked Jack getting close to his agents, "How is he?"
"Concussed, but he will be fine, he just needs to rest." she answered tenderly while she guided him to the chair.
"Danny?" he inquired.
"He is with Sam, and he's fine. Now why don't you let Mr. Jackson look at your arm so you can go and see them for yourself?" she answered while taking off the cloth bandaging his upper arm.
+ + + + + + +
At the jail, Josiah opened the cells for the miscreants that Ezra, J.D. and Buck hauled in.
The adrenaline rush that Ezra and Buck had experienced earlier started to fade and they now felt the tiredness of being awake all night and almost all day, with just some water from their canteens and a bit of dried meat on their stomachs.
"I think, Mr. Wilmington that I'll stop briefly at the clinic before seeking rest or sustenance, and maybe you should too," drawled the con man already traveling toward the entrance of the building.
Buck massaged his stiff neck, before accepting that he had been worried enough to have forgotten he hadn't sleep or eat in a while. "Sounds good," he managed.
Had Ezra not turned at Buck's tired answer, the door of the building, which was opened abruptly, would have hit him in the face instead of on the shoulder.
"Sorry," apologized the young woman who had pushed the door; she was carrying a coffee pot in one hand and a tray with food in the other.
Seeing all the men, peacekeepers and criminals, she mumbled annoyingly, "I don't think this is going to be enough." She took the food to the desk where Josiah and Danny were perched. Glad that her friend wasn't behind bars anymore.
"Sorry Sam," laughed Danny innocently, "maybe you should go for more food to feed these people."
Samantha stared at her coworker, "Nope, I'll just give them your share and you can go and track down your own," she said pouring coffee in a couple of cups.
Danny quickly snatched one of the cups, challenging anybody close to try and take it from him with a hard glare.
Sam chuckled and offered the other cup to Josiah, who grinned and accepted it.
Ezra, rubbing his shoulder, attempted to exit the building again, but found his path blocked by the leader of the peacekeepers. Seeing the dark-clothed man's stance, Standish smiled.
"Mr. Larabee, I think that while checking on our tracker, you forgot to have your own injury looked at."
The blond had a painful reminder of his wound when he tried to arch his eyebrow at the gambler.
Scowling, he asked Josiah, "Has Vin come back?"
"Hum, pard" tried Buck. "Vin's in no shape to come..."
"Not since he left this morning, Chris." interrupted the ex-preacher. He had feared that the Larabee temper would get the better of him if he thought that Vin had got hurt after Chris had sent him to hide that morning.
"I'm glad you talked to Nathan," Josiah said with a smile.
Chris was puzzled. "Talk with Nathan? Why?"
"He didn't tell you?" questioned the oldest of the peacekeepers. "Then how do you know Vin's not in town?"
"What do you mean Vin's not in town?" asked a confused J.D. "He's at the clinic," he stated.
"No, he has not been at the clinic at all, at least not today," explained Josiah.
"But he was," interjected Ezra, "I saw him there early this morning."
"That man isn't Vin," growled Larabee, effectively silencing the rest of the peacekeepers. "Resembled him a little, but that's all."
"A little?" questioned the preacher, "Three of our brothers were fooled by his looks!"
"It was dark and they were tired?" suggested Danny, and Samantha elbowed him into silence.
Too late, thought Danny as the Larabee glare focused on him.
"You one of Malone's agents?" asked the blond.
Danny's answer was abruptly interrupted as the door banged again. All the peacekeepers and agents turned toward it pointing their guns, and found Guy Royal sprawled on the floor.
Vin Tanner, bounty hunter and tracker, entered after him. Vin's blue gaze was hard as ice as he dragged the older man toward the overcrowded room.
Ezra, J.D., Buck, Josiah and even Chris were relieved to see Vin safe and sound.
Samantha and Danny were perplexed. "What?" "Who?" they gasped at the sight.
"Vin?" called Larabee, wanting to know the details without having to ask.
The tracker shrugged, "Sorry Chris, but Guy Royal thought it was a good idea to come back and harass Nettie. Don't know why, but he had the crazy idea I wouldn't be around to help her this time."
Ezra swallowed a bite of the biscuit he had stolen from Danny and Josiah's food tray "We all are grateful he was mistaken, Mr. Ta..., hum, Vin." He quickly amended remembering that Chris had mentioned the man with them was an agent.
The preacher wasn't too happy when he saw the crumbs of what had been part of his meal. "Well brothers, I suggest we go to the saloon to get food and drinks before Ezra chokes on those biscuits he's been demolishing."
M7 and WAT
They were joined at the tavern by Jack, Vivian and Nathan.
Inez was happy to see all of the peacekeepers were back in the town and served them hot stew and tortillas.
There it was Jack's turn to do a double take at the longhaired tracker, but was brought back to reality when Sam asked who was with Martin.
"Mrs. Potter, I think she's the store owner, she offered to stay with him for a while," Jack answered.
"Yes, she is and who's at the jail?" asked Nathan taking one of the stew bowls.
J.D., Ezra and Buck replied at once, "Old Man Thompson," and the healer chuckled.
Well it wasn't as if the old man had a lot to do anyway.
As the food was consumed, the events of the day were retold and explained.
Misunderstandings cleared and apologies surmised.
However, the seven peacekeepers "forgot" to mention Vin's last name or why he had been at Nettie's.
Malone also explained the reason of their investigation.
"Well, now that Vin arrested Guy Royal and we also have his accomplices incarcerated, the direct threat to the farmers is over."
Vivian agreed, "We'll have their statements, so the district Judge can start the trial. We now need to evaluate the deeds and we'll have enough evidence to condemn them."
"If the deeds of the farmers are real and those of Guy Royal aren't," Sam reminded them.
"The banker at Eagle Bend said that Mr. Royal had bought a couple of the farmer's mortgages, but that it was after the farmers had left the territory," pointed Danny.
"Which they did after they were threaten by said character," finished Samantha.
The senior agent thought for a moment, "Last time the judge was kind to Mr. Royal because he pleaded that it was Top Hat Bob who killed Cody Porter. Right now we have evidence that Mr. Royal was the one who did the harassment of most of the farmers west from here." stated Jack.
"Now he can't deny his knowledge of our murder attempt, as his men told us they had informed his boss, and then Vin heard him say to Nettie Wells that the tracker would not be around to help her this time," stated Danny delightedly.
Chris nodded, "We'll send word to the judge."
"It won't be necessary," said Jack, adjusting his injured arm in the sling Nathan had lent him.
"Judge Fitzgerald wants to try the people responsible himself. He'll have the jurisdiction papers in order when he comes and will talk with the people involved face to face."
Malone had to chuckle at the thought.
"I want to be there and see his face when he talks with Vin."
All the agents smiled, but all the peacekeepers frowned.
"Vin isn't going to talk to anyone, but Judge Travis," growled the blond gunfighter.
Suspicion started to draw in Jack's mind.
"Why?" he asked, looking intently at Larabee.
Ezra, the best of them at obfuscation quickly intervened, "I think in this case it would be best if we go to the source, and in this case Mrs. Wells would be a better witness for the trial as she have endured at least two of Mr. Royal attacks."
Jack arched his eyebrow not entirely convinced, and the gambler continued, "Please Mr. Malone, I wouldn't force Vin's presence on an honorably city judge. Mr. Travis, as our employer has had time to understand some of our personalities, but yours hadn't, so I think that the presence of our scruffy tracker at the trial would demise our efforts to convict Mr. Royal, who has the appearance of a gentleman and could plead to the authority that he must have been misunderstood."
The agents seem to ponder his words seriously.
Ezra smiled; a bit of truth in your schemes always had a good result.
Jack nodded; the woman's statement would have more weight than the tracker's words. "Maybe you are right," he accepted. "Nevertheless, the judge will have to talk with all of you, including Vin."
If glares could kill, Jack would have been killed seven times as he said the words. If the agents hadn't been sure about something wrong going on, they were now.
Vivian tried to calm the peacekeepers before she was left boss-less, "The judge is fair and will need all the facts before the trial. He won't expect anything more than the truth. He is going to definitely have a shock when he meets Vin, but it would be because of him looking so much like Martin," she explained.
Danny winked at Vin. "Judge Fitzgerald is Martin's father."
Vin hadn't met the injured agent yet, but by his friend's reactions he understood that the man looked enough like him to have fooled at least three of his friends.
The tracker swallowed the last of his beer while an uncomfortable feeling settled in his stomach and left the table.
Josiah sensed the discomfort and made plans to talk with the young man later. Looking at the agents, he shrugged his shoulders, "He doesn't like crowds."
"Well, I'll talk with Mary about the authenticity of the deeds," said Samantha standing.
"I'll go with you," offered Vivian "and we'll check on Martin after that. Jack, maybe you and Danny should go to the hotel and take a rest. You'll have to talk with the Judge Fitzgerald when he arrives, and according to the plan it should be early tomorrow." she reminded her boss.
Everybody left the saloon and went their own way to get ready for the judge's arrival the next day.
Chris found Vin at the livery, brushing his horse.
Without turning, the tracker asked his friend, "You reckon that man looks like me?"
The blond curled his lips around the cheroot, "Enough to be mistaken for you."
Concealed in the shadows, Danny grinned at the thought. Martin would be appalled at the clothes his look-a-like wore.
Troubled blue eyes focused on the blond, "What if he's mistaken by bounty hunters, the kind that shoot first and ask later."
Bounty hunters? thought Danny worriedly.
"Hadn't thought about it," confessed the leader of the Four Corners peacekeepers.
"Been postponing the dealing of the bounty. Maybe it's time to do it," drawled the Texan.
Chris couldn't think of anything to say.
"Never thought an innocent would be in danger 'cause of me," Vin said.
"He's a federal agent, he can take care of himself," tried the gunfighter.
"Looking over his shoulder all the time, every day... having to sleep with an eye open, never be safe enough to relax," the tracker shouted angrily.
The Texan looked at the blond in the eye. "I'm tired Chris, maybe it's time..."
Larabee didn't agree, but it was Vin's decision, and the tracker was too stubborn for his own good.
"What 're you planning," he asked.
The Texan went back to brushing his horse, "I'll talk with Malone and the judge tomorrow. If they send word that I've been caught, it would spread quickly enough and everybody would be safe sooner... Maybe, if we talk I'd not hang."
Chris wanted to shout at Tanner, to drag him out of Four Corners until the agents had left or just to do something to change his friend's mind, but he knew it would be futile.
Clenching his fists, he turned and left the building... and Vin. He almost collided with Josiah who was going into the livery himself, and had to sidestep the furious man.
Inside, Tanner put the brush in his saddlebag and started saddling his steed. Josiah saw Vin and thought it would be a good time to talk with the young man before he went out.
The longhaired man turned a cold gaze toward the tall man, "Not now, preacher."
A soft sound from the hayloft made the peacekeepers take out their guns.
Danny, not wanting to risk being shot, stepped out from the shadows, his hands open showing that he wasn't armed and meant no harm.
Vin knew that the agent had heard his conversation with Chris.
Looking at the Hispanic agent in the eye, he drawled, "My word as a Tanner, I'll be back tomorrow... just need to say some goodbyes."
At Danny's nod, Vin mounted and left town toward the reservation. He'd visit Nettie's ranch on his way back to town.
Josiah overcame his shock at the exchange when Danny climbed down and stood at his side.
The agent's childhood had left him wary enough to distrust most of the people he met, but when Vin had made his oath, he had seen in the tracker eyes the promise to do the right thing... not matter what the cost.
The ex-preacher glanced at the troubled man at his side and, placing his arm over the younger shoulders. He directed the agent toward the church. "Well, son, let me tell you the story of a brave child who was orphaned too young, but still became an honorable man that I'm proud to call friend..."
The next day, Judge Fitzgerald arrived at the town with a small army troop.
At the hotel, he went over the material that Malone's team had gathered. Martin was well enough to be present like the rest of the team.
Close to midday, they finished with the case. The judge was pleased. "Good work," he said to Malone while handing the notes he had taken to a soldier for safekeeping. "We have a good case."
"Ah, Sir," interjected agent Taylor, "There is another thing we want to discuss with you."
Malone glared at the soldiers in the room. "Alone, Sir." letting clear the importance of the request.
The judge nodded to the soldiers and they left the room. Then he waited until Danny closed the door to find what had the team so concerned.
Vin got back to town that noon. Nettie came with him to talk to the judge about Guy Royal and his men.
She knew there was something more on the tracker's mind, but decided that the young man would tell her when he was ready.
Vin went directly to the hotel where the federal agents had been staying. Outside the building, on one of the benches, they saw J.D. talking animatedly with Vin's look-a-like.
When the young sheriff saw them, he quickly went to help Nettie climb down from her wagon. All the time he was smiling and looking at Vin and Martin.
"Mrs. Nettie, this is Martin Fitzgerald, Federal Agent," he introduced. Unfortunately, they were ignored as Martin and Vin stared at each other in shock.
They had expected the resemblance, but never at this degree. Vin ran a hand through his long hair while Martin blinked at the sight.
By the time they got out of the trance, they had gathered quite a crowd, the closer ones being the town peacekeepers and the federal agents.
"Let's talk inside," suggested Jack leading the way.
Inside J.D. introduced Nettie to all the agents and judge.
"Nice to meet you, Madame," offered the tall judge politely. "I'll talk with you about the case in a minute, I just want to clear something up before we get to that," he informed, looking intently at Vin Tanner.
The judge had been intrigued when the agents had explained about the similarities between his son and the Four Corners tracker but, seeing himself the resemblance between his son and the Texan was uncanny, and he had to shake the feeling of dread; no one in his line of heritage would become so low as to become a bounty hunter, not to mention being linked to any kind of criminal allegations.
He mentally shook his head to clear his mind before addressing the longhaired man.
"I was informed of the bounty placed for your capture, so from this moment I declare you under arrest for the murder of Jess Kincaid," he said authoritatively.
The six peacekeepers as one stepped in front of Vin, hands on the handles of their guns. "He's innocent," growled Larabee.
He had discussed the Guy Royal's case with the judge and had found the man hard to read, but honest enough to seek justice. Chris berated himself for being a fool.
"Gentlemen, please." continued the judge, "I was also informed of that possibility, and that's why I have put Mr. Tanner in custody of the six peacekeepers of this town and under the supervision of the Judge Orin Travis until I check personally on his case in Texas. I have also sent word to the authorities about the capture of the suspect and of my imminent arrival at the town of Tascosa as soon as the trial of Guy Royal is finished."
The judge smiled slightly, "Agent Malone has volunteered his team to investigate your case, so be sure the truth will be discovered."
That, in fact, left the town peacekeepers speechless.
"Why?" asked the con man of the group, he wanted to be clear in knowing what was expected of them.
This time it was Malone who answered, "Because we can't have the face of one of our agents on a wanted poster. It could be dangerous to the entire team, so it concern us directly."
Addressing all the gun fighters, he continued, "And, if somebody from my team were in trouble, let's just say that I'd want him to have the best team as back-up."
Chris chuckled and extended his hand, "Don't worry Malone, let us know and you'll have it."
Jack's mouth twisted in a small smile as he took Chris' hand in a firm handshake.
"Okay, gentlemen, we have to set a trial and the sooner the better," said the senior agent while herding all the people out.
"Oh, and before I forget, since Martin shouldn't go with us to Tascosa, for obvious reasons, we thought you seven could keep an eye on him."
Martin turned toward his boss worried, "Sir?"
Danny managed to lock his arm around the younger agent shoulders, "Come on, Marty. You can't go out alone until the matter is settled," he hauled the man toward the door. "and who would be better to look after you, than the men who have kept Vin alive all this time."
Still inside the room, Vin turned to Chris, "You have kept me alive?" he asked with a smirk.
Chris shrugged, "I'd like to think we have helped."
"I sense that at least having you, Mr. Tanner to keep an eye on him it would improve his chances to survive in our little town," chuckled Ezra.
Vin resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and he followed the rest of his friends outside.
How hard could it be to baby sit his look- a-like?
They couldn't be that different, could they?
Author's Notes: I needed to fit the shows together so I took some liberties with them. If you want to know the basics of the characters:
The Magnificent Seven (M7)Basically "The Magnificent Seven" is about seven individuals that protect a small town in the old Wild West.
- Chris Larabee (Michael Biehn) is the leader of the gunfighters.
- Buck Wilmington (Dale Midkiff) the ladies man.
- Vin Tanner (Eric Close) sharpshooter and ex-bounty hunter.
- Josiah Sanchez (Ron Pearlman) son of a preacher.
- Nathan Jackson (Rick Worthy) a healer and ex-slave.
- Ezra Standish (Anthony Starke) the gambler and con-artist.
- JD Dunne (Andrew Kavovit) the sheriff, also the younger of the seven.
- Mary Travis (Laurie Holden) the news paper's editor inherited "The Clarion" from her later husband.
- Billy Travis six year old son of Stephen and Mary Travis.
- Federal Judge Orin Travis (Robert Vaughn) the seven's employer (he is just a circuit Judge in the OW).
- Nettie Wells (Anne Haney) old rancher friend of Vin.
- Casey Wells (Dana Barron) niece of Nettie and sweetheart of JD.
- Inez Recillos (Fabiana Udenio) Hispanic manager of the tavern.
- Mrs. Potter (Karen Hensel) the store owner.
- Maude Standish (Michelle Phillips) mother of Ezra and also a con-artist.
- Guy Royal (Tim Thomerson) bad guy.
Without a Trace (WAT)Without a Trace is a drama show about the FBI department of missing persons in NY. I just twisted some facts so it would fit in an Old West time; Here they are a group of agents that investigate special cases for the government.
Working inside a certain group they could get the information that outsiders would be denied. That was why the differences in the backgrounds and even in skin colors gave Jack's team an advantage while investigating.
The Old West universe Without a Trace's squad crew is:
- Agent Jack Malone (played by Anthony LaPaglia) the team leader; European agent that handles either the politics and legal stuff or low city society. Tough, compassionate and astute.
- Agent Vivian Johnson (Marianne Jean-Baptiste); Dark skinned, undercover agent. Old friend of Jack. Compassionate and intelligent.
- Agent Samantha Spade (Poppy Montgomery); has the education to deal with upper classes, but she is also good at playing the innocent and vulnerable immigrant girl who wouldn't be a threat until she took out her gun, her blonde good looks have fooled more than one crook. Very stubborn, younger sister of Mary Travis (M7).
- Agent Martin Fitzgerald (Eric Close); Son of a N.Y. federal Judge, he's well educated, deals with upper classes, and mostly city situations. He's the newest member of the team. Look- a-like of Vin Tanner (M7), probably blood related.
- Agent Danny Taylor (Enrique Murciano); Hispanic agent , street wise and sensitive, but with a sarcastic sense of humor. He's a survivor.