Disclaimer: Don't own 'em and ain't makin' a dime.
Note: This has not been betaed, so all mistakes are my own. I have come to realize I watch way too much sci-fi. This story was influenced by Ghost Rider and an episode of Babylon 5 called 'Soul Hunter.' A bit more influence of the later than the first. Positive comments will be cherished while flames will be fed to the dragon to keep the fire in his belly stoked.
When he came for her she had shown no fear. She'd not pleaded for her life like so many others before had. She had not cried or bargained. She just seemed to accept the hand that fate had dealt her.
* * * * * * *
Josephine hurriedly finished the letter she was writing then wrapped it around the photograph and sealed it. She then pressed it into the stagecoach driver's hand along with a gold coin. He shook his head and tried to hand it back to her.
"Please if I don't make it to Four Corners for any reason deliver this letter for me."
"It's just a little storm ma'm nuthin ta worry bout. We'll be there by the end of tomorrow."
Josephine smiled at the man as he patted her arm, trying to reassure her.
"I know, but just do me the favor. When we reach our destination safely you can return the letter and keep the coin." She smiled up at him beseechingly. "For my own peace of mind please?"
Willie couldn't refuse her. She'd been so kind to him through the entire trip. Asking after his health, bringing him food and even talking with him about the horses. "Fer you Miz Josephine. Once we reach Four Corners though I'll buy ya some sweets with this money of yers and yer gonna feel foolish."
Josephine smiled for the rugged old man as he helped her into the coach, but she cast a wary glance down the road as if expecting someone to come after them. "I will be ever so grateful to feel foolish over a bag of hoarhounds."
Willie laughed as he closed the door and climbed up to his position on the stagecoach. He smiled at his partner and urged the horses forward. Josephine merely smiled at the other two passengers as she continued to look behind them. The elderly couple smiled back and continued their quiet conversation.
Within two hours they had reached a ravine, which set the drivers on edge. Normally they wouldn't have been overly worried, but with the storm it made the path treacherous. As they eased around another curve the back wheel slid over the edge. The horses continued to strain as the coach lost more ground. Just when the coachmen thought they were gaining ground the hitch snapped and the coach tumbled into the ravine.
Josephine felt the scream freeze in her throat as they plummeted over the side. When she glanced to her left there was a robed figure beside her.
"I've come for you Josephine Dubois."
She shook her head in confusion and held tighter to the locket she'd been staring at before the stagecoach had fallen over the side of the ravine. The elderly couple seemed to be frozen in time.
"You have a job to do Josephine Dubois. It is your destiny. Come with me." He'd expected tears, pleading or something. She merely nodded, accepting him at his word and took his outstretched hand. The pair disappeared before the coach crashed to the bottom.
Willie and his partner stared in horror as the rain let up, there could be no survivors. There were only pieces of the stagecoach left. They had survived only because they both had leapt off to try and help the horses moments before the stagecoach had gone over the edge.
Willie searched for hours, but couldn't find Josephine Dubois's body. At his partner's insistance he finally gathered up what he could and they traveled on to Eagle Bend and then to Four Corners.
* * * * * * *
Ezra Standish paced the boardwalk and glanced at his timepiece one more time. Josiah and Vin watched him from in front of the jail; the gambler had been there for over an hour. Josiah stood and walked toward Ezra when the stage made it's way slowly into town. Ezra released a great sigh of relief.
Josiah raised his hand in greeting to the somber looking drivers. Ezra peered into the stage as Willie climbed down.
"Running late aren't you Willie?"
The older man looked at Josiah with sad eyes. "Had an accident along the way."
Ezra had managed to open the door and looked confused that there were no passengers.
"What happened? Didn't you have any passengers?" Ezra, unable to contain himself any longer, turned to face the stagecoach driver.
Willie rubbed at his eyes and pulled the envelope out of his coat pocket. "Lost the coach in the ravine. We lost all our passengers." He sniffled. "We were able to recover the bodies of the older couple, but were unable to recover Miz Josephine."
Ezra went pale as Willie handed the envelope to him. "She got worried when the storm started up and asked me ta deliver this ta ya if somthin happened ta her. Thought it was silly, but guess it'll be a comfort ta ya. I'm real sorry. She was a real nice gal."
Willie climbed back on the new stagecoach. Josiah took the mailbag that was handed down.
"What do you mean that you couldn't recover Miss Josephine?"
"Willie searched fer hours, but couldn't find her body. River musta took her. Miz Josephine was right kind ta him. I'm sorry, but we need to head back to Eagle Bend. Company needs some kinda report."
Josiah nodded and let them ride on. Ezra opened the letter and stared down at the picture of Josephine and himself. Vin came up to the men as the stage rumbled off. He glanced at the picture in Ezra's hand and then at the gambler.
"Ya okay Ez?"
"She's gone," he whispered before turning on his heel and heading for the saloon to drink away his misery.
* * * * * * *
The voices were the first thing she heard. Furious whispers. As she opened her eyes she realized that she was in a bed. Josephine tried to sit up and that's when a flood of memories hit her. Some of the memories weren't hers and that scared her.
"Easy now. The awakening is the hardest part. Take it slowly. You need time to adjust to all the knowledge the Reaper has given you."
Josephine opened her eyes to see an older man and woman standing beside the bed. The woman smiled broadly.
"Where . . . Where am I?" Josephine stuttered as she struggled to get up. The older woman hurried to help her sit up. The man just watched.
"You're in our home dear. And safe so don't you worry."
"Hush woman. She'll need food. All the others have been hungry. Go get her something to eat."
The woman lowered her head slightly. "Yes Daniel."
Josephine stared at the man and waited for him to speak, for some reason she knew he would.
"The Reaper has brought you to us so that you have safe harbor until you're ready to move on. You've been given all the knowledge you need. Any questions?"
Josephine glanced in the corner to see some saddlebags. "Are those mine?" The man nodded. "How am I supposed to get around and do this job?"
"The Reaper has provided you with a mount. Do you know your job?"
Josephine nodded. "Harvest the souls of the dead and take them for judgement." She gave a snort of laughter.
The man jumped out of the chair he had just lowered himself into. "This holy mission amuses you woman?"
"No I find it amusing that this Reaper you speak of with such reverance took me before my time to perform this job."
"Too many Harvester's have let the darkness overtake them. They let greed and sinful thoughts get in the way of their duty. They take souls for their own pleasure and deliver them to the highest bidder." Daniel's face got redder by the minute. "The Reaper must have found you to be worthy."
Josephine glanced back at the man from the window she'd been staring out. "Did I do something to anger you?"
Daniel opened the door to let his wife in and walked out without answering the question. Josephine looked on confused. The older woman clucked over her as she set a plate of food in front of her.
"Don't let Daniel upset you dear. I'm Rebecca. Rebecca Sullivan."
"Josephine Dubois. Did I do something wrong?"
"No dear. It's just," Rebecca glanced at the door and then to the young woman in the bed. "It's just you're a woman. All of the Harvesters have been men. I think that's what's irratated Daniel. He believes that only a man should be doing a Harvester's job."
Josephine merely nodded her head as she ate. After finishing the plate of food Josephine slowly got up and rummaged through the saddlebags to find clothing. She frowned when she pulled out trousers and a shirt.
"These are men's clothing."
Rebecca merely nodded as Josephine hurriedly dressed. "It'll be easier for travel."
The young woman smiled slightly as she reached for boots when suddenly there was an intense pain in her head, she grabbed her head and dropped to her knees.
The older man came barreling into the room and stared at the younger woman. "Leave her Rebecca. It's a message from the Reaper."
Moments later Josephine was sitting on the floor cramming the boots onto her feet. She grabbed her saddlebags. "Which way to Four Corners?"
"To the west about eight hours from here. Why?"
Josephine moved out of the room and quickly looked around the small cabin. "Something evil is headed there. I need to be there to stop it."
"You're not ready."
Josephine spun around to stare at the man. He took a step back when he saw the unnatural glow coming from her eyes. "I must get there before the next full moon."
"That's in a week," Rebecca gasped.
"You're not ready. Seven days is not enough time. This is madness."
Josephine leveled her gaze at Daniel. "It doesn't matter. This is what I need to do. This is what the Reaper chose me for."
Daniel turned his gaze away from the young woman to look out the window and saw the robed figure in the distance pointing to the west. He shook his head in resignation.
"Pack what you'll need woman. We'll be going with her."
"It's what the Reaper wants. I'll be able to help the girl. Our things will be cared for. Just pack the basics while I hook up the wagon."
Rebecca merely nodded and hurried into the house to start packing. Josephine hustled behind her to help. Within half an hour the two women had brought what they thought would be needed out for Daniel to load into the wagon. A grey horse stood beside the wagon and the young woman cautiously approached it.
"Hello?" The horse turned its head to look at her and she felt a calm fall over her. "I can tell you and I will be very good companions." The horse nickered as she climbed onto his back.
"We'll go slowly." Josephine nodded to the man as they started off.
* * * * * * *
Vin Tanner was returning from patrol when he noticed a wagon and rider coming into town. They met up at the livery. Daniel pulled the brake and climbed down from the wagon, turning to help his wife down. The rider climbed down off the grey horse and came around to the couple. The trio glanced around the town as Vin got off his horse.
"Howdy. Folks lookin for somethin'?"
"It's the second building on the right."
"Much obliged." Daniel nodded to the man and turned to his wife. "Rebecca you and Jo . . ." He trailed off at the hard look the young woman gave him. "You and Joe go to the Mercantile and get some supplies. I'll be back soon as I get the paperwork for the homestead."
"Yes Daniel," the woman took Joe's arm and headed for the general store.
Vin watched as the man headed for the bank and the woman and the one he'd called Joe headed toward's Mrs. Potter's. Something struck him as odd, but he pushed it to the back of his mind and headed to the hotel for lunch. He nodded to Chris when he entered the resturant and sat down with the rest of the seven regulators.
He took a sip of coffee before giving his order to the waitress. "Got new settlers."
Chris looked up from his plate. "Really?"
"Yup. Ran into on my way in. Three of 'em. Didn't say much. Barely caught their first names. Just pointed them towards the bank so they could get the deed."
The group looked on in amazement that he'd said so much.
"Guess couple of us should go out and welcome them," JD volunteered.
"Might want to give them a day or so to settle in," Josiah cautioned.
Chris nodded in agreement. "That'll give us time to see if we can find out some information out about these folks."
* * * * * * *
Two days had actually passed before JD, Buck and Nathan were able to ride out to the new settler's home. During that time Daniel had been teaching Josephine things he felt she needed to know before the upcoming fight. They were out in the yard, practicing knife throwing when the men rode up.
"Hello!" JD called out.
Daniel and Josephine quickly put the knives away and turned towards the men riding up.
"JD Dunne. I'm the sherrif in Four Corners. Thought we'd ride out and greet you. This is Buck Wilmington and Nathan Jackson. They're two of the peacekeepers for Four Corners. There're seven of us."
Rebecca came out of the barn at that moment and Josephine hurried to her side and whispered something to her. Daniel gave them a brief nod.
"Daniel Sullivan. That's my wife Rebecca. And that's Joe next to her."
The men nodded to the women and received timid smiles and nods back.
"If you gentlemen are hungry I was about to put out lunch."
Daniel shot the woman a look and Josephine shot him a look back.
"That's very kind of you ma'm. We'd like that if it's not too much of an imposition."
"Joe why don't you help these men with their horses. I'll help Rebecca set up lunch."
Josephine gave a curt nod and took Nathan's horse as he dismounted. "This way," she murmured.
Daniel watched them go and then turned to his wife.
"What are you thinking woman?"
Rebecca stared at her husband for a moment before replying. "Josephine told me to. She said that the Reaper told her these men were good and would be of help."
Daniel only growled in response and stormed off to set up a table outside.
"This is a fine meal ma'm." Buck smiled at the older woman causing her to blush. He'd caught JD in a lull and decided to speak to their hostess. "Thank you for inviting us."
Nathan watched the interaction of the three newcomers with interest. Something about Joe just didn't ring true with him.
"What brings you all to Four Corners?"
Daniel and Josephine shared a look before the older man answered. "It seemed like a nice place to settle."
JD nodded. "It is. In fact we'll be having a Halloween dance in five days. Everyone will be there. Lots of food, dancing and socializing. You're all invited too."
Josephine's eyes widened. Buck noticed but didn't say anything directly. He just turned his attention to the quiet young person.
"So how are you related to Daniel and Rebecca?"
Josephine put down her glass and glanced from the couple to the ladies man. "Daniel is a cousin of mine."
Nathan nodded realizing Buck was trying to get information. "What led you to stay with your cousins Joe?"
Daniel looked up from his plate. "Joe was in need of guidance and came to me for help."
The healer sighed realizing he'd been silenced without truly getting an answer. JD perked up after biting into a cookie.
"These are great ma'm. I'm curious though," he paused to take a drink. "What does Joe stand for?"
Josephine stood to clear some dishes. "Nothing, just call me Joe." She turned to take the dishes inside when the pain slammed into her head and she dropped to the ground.
Nathan was on his feet immediately and everyone was crowded around her. "Give the kid some air." He leaned over to help Joe up when she opened her eyes. That's when he realized things were not as they seemed.
Joe stared up at Nathan and he could have sworn her eyes glowed. "I'm fine. Daniel, why don't you help these men with their horses? I'm sure the sherrif has more important things to deal with than me getting a headache."
Daniel stood and motioned for JD and Buck to follow him.
"You two go on. I'll be there in a minute." Nathan shot his two friends a pointed look and Buck nodded, pulling JD along to follow the older man.
Rebecca had stepped back as Josephine moved to get up.
"Do these headaches happen often?" He noticed the look that Rebecca and the young person shared. "I'm a healer maybe there's something I could give you to help the pain." Josephine shook her head. "Any reason why you're hiding in men's clothing?" Josephine stared at the healer looking slightly shocked. "Kind of hard not to notice when I helped you up. Wasn't tryin nuthin funny promise. Just curiuos is all."
Josephine nodded. "Easier to move around in a new town as a man than as a woman. I can walk with Rebecca and not worry about being hassled. We get things done more quickly that way and then Daniel doesn't have to stop what he's doing to run to town with us if we need to do something." Nathan nodded his understanding. "I trust you'll keep my secret."
"You don't have to keep the secret. You're safe here in Four Corners."
Josephine gave a sad smile. "I'm much more comfortable as Joe than letting everyone know I'm a girl. Besides I won't be here long." She noticed the looks she got from Nathan and Rebecca. "Daniel has been very helpful, but I think it's about time for me to move on."
Nathan nodded again. "I understand. I won't say anything unless I see it's going to cause danger to anyone."
Josephine smiled. "That's all I can ask of you." She pulled away from the healer as his friends came back with their horses.
"Learn anything interesting Nathan?" Buck questioned as they rode away from the Sullivan place.
Nathan shook his head as he glanced back. Joe was watching them leave and raised her hand in farewell. Nathan waved back. "No, nothing important."
* * * * * * *
JD stood when he saw the familiar grey horse coming into town. The rider dismounted in front of Mrs. Potter's and JD jogged over to the store.
"Mornin' JD. Everything okay here in town?"
"Sure. What brings you into town?"
"Rebecca wants some fabric. This Halloween dance you mentioned the other day has her all excited. Gonna make herself a new dress. So here I am."
"That's great. Maybe you could meet some of the guys. I could introduce you around town."
The two walked into the store. "I'm not sure JD. Daniel didn't want me to linger." She let her gaze fall over the material. The bell over the door rang as more customers entered.
"Oh come on."
"We'll see," she murmured as she selected some cobalt blue fabric. The giggling of children drew her back to the present. She stopped suddenly when a giant of a man came into her line of view.
"Josiah! I was just trying to convince Joe here to spend a bit of time in town so I could introduce him around. Help me out here."
Josiah turned and grinned at the young person. "Welcome. Don't let Brother Dunne talk your ear off. But we would love for you to stay a bit."
Josephine smiled. "You must be the preacher he spoke of."
Josiah quirked an eyebrow as Billy Travis and one of the Potter children ran up to JD. Josephine put her purchases on the counter and smiled at Mrs. Potter.
"JD talked about all of you. Could I also get a bag of horehounds?" She extended her hand. "Name's Joe. Nice to meet ya." Josiah accepted the small hand and smiled.
Mrs. Potter smiled and filled her order. Once Josephine paid for her purchases she turned to the children. "Candy's not nearly as sweet if not shared. Would you like some?" The two young boys looked startled and Josephine smiled slightly. "I'm sharing with everyone. Horehounds have been a favorite of mine since I was little." She passed the bag around to everyone in reach.
"Well you've made friends for life."
Josiah missed the sad smile that crossed the young woman's face as she crossed to her horse.
"Oh he's a beauty. What's his name?"
Josephine put her purchases in the saddlebag and patted the grey horse before she offered him a sweet. "He's Azrael."
Josiah was about to comment when the stage came barreling through the town. Josephine grabbed the boys by the arm to pull them closer to the boardwalk. She noted the frowns on JD and Josiah's face. "Does the stage always come in this fast?"
Josiah shook his head as he headed in the direction of the stagecoach. JD and Josephine were close on his heels. Willie tumbled off the top of the stage into Josiah's arms just as the stagecoach rolled to a stop.
"Ambush," the rugged man gasped.
Josephine stayed out of the man's line of view, but felt a strange sensation. "Me and JD can see to the horses. Get him to Nathan." Josiah nodded as he threw the man over his shoulder and headed to the clinic. JD and Josephine worked quickly. JD chattered the whole time.
"I need to go get the guys. We'll need to see if we can find who did this." Josephine merely nodded and turned to head to the clinic as JD took off in the opposite direction. The sensation she felt earlier was getting stronger as she got closer to the door of Nathan's clinic.
"How is he?" She slipped in quietly.
Nathan looked up. "Not sure. Didn't know you were in town Joe."
She moved closer to the downed man. "Rebecca wanted a few things so I volunteered to come get them. He won't make it."
Nathan looked up in surprise at the sudden certainty in her voice. "He's lost so much blood. I don't think he will. What brings you up here? More headaches? I'll make up somethin for ya later."
"No I'm fine. I was with JD when the stage came in." Nathan nodded understanding. "If you want to get one of the men you ride with. I'll stay here." Nathan gave her a strange look. "JD said you'd want to find who did this."
"Nah I need to be nearby for Willie. I'll just be in the other room. Not much else I can do fer him. The others should be here soon."
Josephine merely nodded and walked over to the bed the man lay on. Once Nathan left the room she took his hand and he slowly woke up. "Miz Josephine?"
"Shh. Willie don't be afraid. I'm here to take you home." She pushed the hair from his face and watched as a tear rolled down his face.
"Thought ya was dead. Searched fer ya."
"I know Willie. Are you ready?"
"I know. I can make it all stop. Are you ready?" He nodded. "I promise to get you there safely Willie. It's my job." She leaned over and kissed his forehead. The man sighed and then stopped breathing. Josephine didn't know how to describe it, but she knew she now had to safely deliver this man's soul for judgement, but first she had a part to play.
The healer hurried into the room. "What is it?"
"He stopped breathing!" Josephine moved back as Nathan checked over the patient.
He expelled a deep breath and shook his head. "He's gone. There's nothing I can . . ."
Josephine placed a hand on Nathan's shoulder trying to reassure him. "You can't cheat death. Some things are just meant to be. You did your best." She steered him out of his clinic and in the direction of a group of men headed their way. She climbed onto her horse and nodded to Nathan. "I hate to leave in the midst of all this, but if I don't get home soon Daniel will really start worrying. And I'd feel better knowing Daniel and Rebecca are safe. Goodness only knows if there are bandits on the loose."
"That's okay Joe. Don't worry we'll catch whoever did this. And thanks for the little pep talk."
Josephine nodded to the healer and wheeled her horse around. She dipped her head to the six men who finally made their way to them and galloped off.
"Where's Joe off to?"
"Got worried about Daniel and Rebecca with the attack on the stage. Willie passed away in his arms and I think he wants to reconnect with relatives and assure himself they're okay."
Chris merely nodded. "Let's mount up and see what we can find."
* * * * * * *
Once Josephine was out of sight of the town she lowered herself closer to the horse's ear. "We have a delivery Azrael." The horse and rider became a blur and disappeared for a destination unknown to mortals.
The sun was setting when Josephine arrived at the Sullivan homestead. Daniel stood there glowering. "About time you came back."
Josephine climbed down off the horse and took him into the barn. "I had something to attend to."
"It's dangerous for you to be out on your own."
Josephine turned as she brushed down Azrael. Daniel took a step back when he noticed her eyes were glowing.
"I was doing the job the Reaper chose me for." Josephine turned away from the man so he wouldn't see the tears.
"The first is normally the hardest. Was it someone you knew?"
Josephine nodded. "He was the driver of the stage that I was on when I was taken."
Rebecca chose that moment to step into the barn. "Oh you poor dear." Josephine turned to the woman and gave her a small smile.
"I was on my way to Four Corners to meet someone very special and he was driving the stage I was on." Josephine turned back to brushing her horse and the couple shared a look.
* * * * * * *
Two days passed as the seven searched for whoever ambushed the stagecoach. Both stagecoach drivers were dead and the money that had been on board was gone. The seven's tempers were fraying. Vin headed out to try and pick up the trail when he noticed the wagon heading in. He waved as he passed Rebecca and Daniel. They waved back.
Ezra was in Mrs. Potter's store when Rebecca came in smiling.
"Good morning," Mrs. Potter called out. "I'll be with you in just a minute."
Rebecca smiled at the woman. "Take your time. I'm still looking."
It was just minutes when Mrs. Potter was able to give Rebecca her full attention. She found the woman looking over the material.
"I saw your cousin in here the other day."
Rebecca smiled and nodded. Ezra turned to the two women.
"You must be Mrs. Sullivan. I'm Ezra Standish."
"Oh yes JD spoke of you."
Ezra quirked an eyebrow and Rebecca blushed. "Apparently he told Joe all about the seven peace keepers here and Joe told us."
Ezra smiled as the woman fussed over the fabrics she was looking over. "I've yet to have the pleasure of meeting the rest of your family."
Rebecca picked up some material before rejecting it. "We'll be here for the Halloween dance."
Ezra smiled as she picked up another bolt of fabric. "I do believe young Mr. Sullivan was here a few days ago. Young Mr. Travis delighted in telling me about the horehound candies he shared with the children. And I believe he was picking up material for you as well."
Rebecca smiled as she picked up some emerald green material. "Yes Joe does love sharing sweets. Horehounds are a particular favorite. Could I get this material and some buttons."
Daniel entered the store at that moment. "Oh Daniel this is Mr. Standish. He's another one of the peacekeepers."
Daniel nodded. "Mr. Standish. You get what you need Rebecca?"
"Yes thank you." She turned to Mrs. Potter.
Mrs. Potter smiled and wrapped up the items the woman asked for. Daniel took the packages and his wife's arm.
"Nice meeting you Mr. Standish."
Mr. Sullivan. Mrs. Sullivan. It was a pleasure meeting you. We'll see you at the Halloween celebration."
The two were quiet as they headed back home. "What's with the material?"
"I thought I'd make Josephine a jacket."
Daniel gave the woman a funny look. "She has a perfectly fine jacket."
"Well every girl deserves something pretty."
"She's a Harvester," Daniel growled. "She's no need for fancy things."
Rebecca just smiled. "Oh just let me have a bit of fun."
* * * * * * *
The day before the Halloween dance found many of the townsfolk scurrying about to get things ready. Even the seven peacekeepers got involved in the decorating and preperations.
Josephine stood still as Rebecca hemmed the jacket. "You really didn't have to do this for me Rebecca."
"I know dear, but it's been so nice having another woman in the house."
"Well if it makes you happy," the younger woman murmured. She suddenly swayed and looked around as if she was lost.
"What's wrong?" Daniel had just walked in the door.
"He's nearly here."
Rebecca paled slightly and Daniel looked worried. "Are you sure?"
Josephine shot Daniel a dirty look. "Yes I can feel him. He's not far."
* * * * * * *
As evening approached the Sullivans rode into town. Daniel helped Rebecca down from the wagon as Joe climbed down from her horse.
They quickly went to the church and watched everyone enjoying the festivities. Daniel noticed Josephine watching the man he'd met just the other day.
"Why do you keep watching him?"
Josephine looked startled. "I didn't realize that I was."
Daniel nodded. "Is he a danger?"
"To the town? No." Daniel stared hard at the young woman trying to make her confess. "Don't worry about him. He just reminds me of someone from my past."
"This is no time for silly romantic notions," Daniel growled. "You're a Harvester. You best remember it."
Josephine sat up straighter and glared at the man. "I know my job." Suddenly the wind picked up and she started looking around. "He's almost here."
Josephine looked at the man as if he'd lost his mind. "Get everyone in the church. They'll be safer there."
She hurried over to Josiah. "Josiah I think we've got a bit of a storm moving in. Maybe we should get everyone in the church before it starts raining?"
Josiah looked to the sky and then back at Joe. He nodded when he noticed the concerned looks on a few of the townsfolks faces.
"Everyone," he shouted. "Let's move this inside. I think we're going to get some bad weather."
Soon everyone had crammed into the church and the wind seemed to pick up. "Daniel why don't you tell everyone some ghost stories?"
"Of course what better way to pass the time than with scary stories? You know lots of them."
Daniel nodded and began telling the tale of the Headless Horseman. Josephine made her way to the door.
"Where are you going?"
Josephine looked up to see the man in black staring at her.
"I've heard the tale, so I'm just going to check on my horse."
Chris narrowed his eyes but nodded as she slipped out the door. Nathan came up beside him as they stood in the doorway.
"Where's Joe goin?"
"Checkin on the horses."
Nathan nodded. They watched Joe hurry to the livery and slip inside. Just as she was coming back out a group of five rode into town. Joe stood in their way. They couldn't hear what was being said, but Chris didn't like the look of things. Suddenly Joe flew back as if shot.
Nathan ran out into the night without thinking of his own safety. "Joe!"
"Nathan! Don't!" At Chris's shout the rest of the seven came running outside. They all stopped to stare as the group of riders laughed as Nathan checked over Joe.
Nathan feared the worst when he got to Joe, but just as the laughter reached his ears Joe's eyes snapped open. She rose and shrugged off Nathan's worried hands. "I'm fine," she murmured to the healer.
One of the riders dismounted and walked towards the church. "I have come for the souls of this town."
"And I am here to stop you."
The man laughed and the wind blew harder, knocking off Joe's hat. With her hat gone her hair was now loose and blowing about her face. The man's eyes glowed red. "A female? You think you can defeat me woman?" He laughed maniacally and his minions joined in the laughter. Six of the seven stared in amazement as they hurried out to Nathan.
"You have harvested your last soul. The Reaper has sent me for you Micah O'Shea."
The man stopped laughing. "He must be desperate if he sent a mere woman to stop me. Do you know the sort of powers I've collected?"
"You sold to the highest bidder. You have been corrupted."
He chuckled again. "You think you can stop me all by yourself?"
"She's not alone."
Josephine threw a glance behind her to see seven men standing behind her. "This isn't your fight."
"The hell it isn't lady. This is our town." The man in black replied.
Micah stepped closer to the group. "If you leave now little girl I will spare you." He laughed. "I'll even give you a few souls for you to sell off. Take your choice from the seven with you right here."
Josephine heard someone behind her gasp and a few murmured curses, but chose to ignore them. "I was taken to stop you Micah."
"Taken?" She heard someone question.
"So be it. Your soul will be mine fledgling."
He raised his hand and the four men that were riding with him dismounted and charged the group. They changed from human form to demon as they got closer. Josephine threw a knife into one of the demon's heart and it disappeared in a flash of smoke. Chris fired off four shots and two more demons disappeared. Just as the last demon launched itself at the group Vin's mare's leg went off and it also disapeared.
"What's the matter Micah? Your legions disappear when you have a little opposition?"
The man's eyes glowed red as he pulled out a gun and fired a shot at the woman. Josephine fell to the ground and he laughed maniacally. Ezra and Nathan both dropped to her side.
"Oh Gawd!" The southerner gasped.
"Where did she get hit?" Nathan frantically searched for the bullet wound as Ezra stared in disbelief at a face that he recognized.
Josephine's eyes snapped open once again and this time they were glowing. Both men quickly stood and gasped. She was up before either man could even draw another breath. Micah's laughter stopped when he realized that she was back up.
"Well that's an interesting turn of events."
"What you thought you could just ride into town and take all the souls?" Josiah growled.
The man smiled and shrugged. "Well yeah."
"When hell freezes over," Chris shouted.
Josephine actually laughed at the shocked look on Micah's face. She pulled her gun out and started firing into him. Micah laughed as each of Josephine's bullets hit him.
"You can't win. You are too weak!" he taunted her.
"Shoot him!" Chris cried out and the seven peacekeepers started firing until there were no bullets left. Josephine walked over to the man struggling to get up and placed a foot on his chest.
"It is time for you to face your judgement Micah O'Shea."
"No!" The man struggled as Josephine dropped to her knees and placed a hand on his chest. He continued to struggle. "I won't go!"
"Yes," she murmured. "You will."
The seven men watched as a strange glow settled over the two and the man slowly stopped struggling. The woman slowly got to her feet and turned.
"What the hell was that?"
Josephine turned her gaze upon the man in black. Taking in the glow Chris shook his head in disbelief. She let out a whistle and her horse galloped out of the livery. She climbed on the horse and nodded to the men.
"Who are you?"
Her gaze flickered over Ezra. "Ezra," she murmured.
He took a step towards her. "Josephine?"
She nodded and wheeled her horse around.
"We have a delivery to make Azrael. We must hurry."
Buck and Chris both hurried towards her to grab the horse, but in a blur of movement she was gone.
"Where the . . ." JD stammered.
Rebecca stood a few feet away. "She's a Harvester. She's taken Micah's soul to judgement." She noticed the bewildered looks that she got from the men and decided to explain herself. She knew Daniel wouldn't approve, but knew Josephine would forgive her. "The Reaper choses someone to harvest the souls that are ready for judgement. She is one of the many Harvesters out there. She was sent here to take care of a Harvester who had been corrupted."
They all turned to see Daniel scowling at them.
Rebecca dropped her gaze. "I had to Daniel."
Chris ran a hand through his hair. "I need a drink. Let's take this to the saloon and discuss it."
* * * * * * *
The group spent the next hour in the saloon trying to get more information from the Sullivans about what had just happened, but could only get the bare minimum. Not once did they reveal what Joe's true name was, but Ezra Standish knew.
They stayed there until the wee hours of the morning not getting any more information from the Sullivans and giving up hope that Joe would come back. The Sullivans climbed into their wagon and headed for their home, or so the seven thought.