Chris Larabee nodded his thanks to Inez Recillos as she handed him a steaming mug of coffee. He immediately regretted the action. His head felt like it was three times its normal size and had the Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in it. He should have known better than to let Buck Wilmington goad him into a whiskey drinking competition the night before.
A familiar dark hand waved a small brown packet in front of his aching eyes. He turned his throbbing head to see Nathan Jackson leaning against the bar. There was a sympathetic took on the Healer's face.
"I figured you might be needing some headache powder about now."
"Your guess would be right." Chris took the packet from him.
Nathan left him to nurse his hangover and joined Josiah Sanchez at a corner table in the back of the saloon.
Having overheard the two Peacekeepers conversation, Inez set a glass of water down in front of him.
Chris dumped the powder into the water. He used his index finger to mix it around, before picking up the glass and downing its contents. It was right about that time when he heard a commotion starting up outside. Sounded like someone was bellowing at the top of their lungs, but he couldn't quite make out what the person was saying. He paid it no mind, choosing instead to focus his attention drinking his coffee and waiting for the headache powder to take effect.
An hour later, and Chris felt his annoyance growing. Though his headache had eased in its intensity, it hadn't gone away completely. It didn't help that the idiot who'd begun bellowing earlier had become more creative with his threats and name calling and had taken up a position closer to the Standish Tavern. It was quite clear now that Chris was the target of the man's curses and disparaging remarks.
He sighed. Somehow, someway, this man seemed to believe he had done something to incur his wrath. Not the first time someone had strolled into town claiming he had done them wrong. Probably wouldn't be the last time either. He figured if he waited long enough, his accuser would lose interest in his vendetta, and leave town.
He groaned as he heard the familiar voice of their young sheriff confront the man.
"Larabee, you yellow-belly coward. Come out and face me or I'm going to take out my revenge on your Sheriff."
"Damn it, JD." Chris muttered under his breath.
He stood up and turned around. He sensed movement behind him and knew Nathan and Josiah were at his back. He met Vin Tanner's eyes across the saloon and saw lithe form slip out the bat-wing doors as he moved toward them. He knew Tanner would find a perch up high where he could best over the street, and make sure the man now holding their youngest at gunpoint didn't have any cohorts backing him up.
He left the dark interior of the saloon, blinking against the sudden brightness of the early morning. He stepped off the porch and strolled slowly into the middle of Main Street. He squinted down it at the two-bit cowboy playing gunfighter who had his gun trained on J.D.
Chris's jaw clenched as anger coursed through him. No one threatened one of his friends and got away with it. To his credit, JD was handling having a gun pointed at him rather calmly. In fact, he was busy trying to talk the man into giving up his gun.
He smiled. JD had grown a lot over the last year he'd been in Four Corners. He'd taken all the advice he and the others had given him and was a more confident and capable man now. He still had more lessons to learn though.
One of them was believing he could talk the gunman into giving up his gun. Once a gun was in play, it was seldom put away before it was used. He didn't know how experienced the idiot was but judging by the way his hand was trembling slightly, how he kept shifting his weight, and sweat was streaming down his anger reddened, pox-marked face as he continued his name calling and bellowing, Larabee doubted JD was going to be successful in talking the man out of his gun.
"You wanted me, well here I am!" Chris called out.
To his surprise, it was JD who answered instead of the gunman. "I've got this, Chris."
No, you don't!Chris wanted to tell JD, but he didn't. Instead he yelled, "Your quarrel is with me! Let the Sheriff go!"
"You ain't the one calling the shots here Larabee, I am!" The cowboy angrily swung his gun away from JD and pointed it at Chris.
Larabee stilled, his eyes focused on the gun pointed at him. He was distantly aware that folks had lined up on either side of the street. He knew Josiah and Nathan had taken up positions within the crowd, ready to come to his aid if necessary.
He didn't see Buck or Ezra were awake but were awake and aware of what was going on. He was certain His fingers itched to pull the trigger, but he didn't. Instead, he watched and waited.
"You want to talk, then talk! You want to shoot, then get on with it already!" Chris shouted.
"I said you aren't calling the shots here, I am!" the cowboy shouted furiously, waving his hand, with his Colt still clasped tightly in it. His finger spasmed on the trigger and the gun went off.
Three things happened at once. The gun swung back toward JD, who dived to the ground as the gun swung back toward him as it went off. Chris rapidly drew his weapon and shot the man to prevent him from firing his gun again, while simultaneously hearing the telltale sound of a Mare's Leg echoing his own gunshot. Another man, standing just a few feet behind the one who had challenged him, crumpled to the ground.
As he holstered his Colt and stalked toward where JD was scrambling to his feet, he saw Buck Wilmington burst out of the crowd. He reached JD before Larabee did.
"JD, you okay?" he heard Buck ask the young Sheriff.
"I'm fine, Buck." He heard JD assure their friend.
Chris moved to stand over the fallen gunman. He scanned the man's face but felt no recognition. He didn't know the man. Had no clue as to why he had a grudge against him. He supposed he would never know why.
"You okay, Cowboy?"
Vin had appeared at his side.
And he was. It would never get easy to be the reason someone else was dead, but he didn't feel guilt either. He had done what was necessary to keep JD alive and the citizens of Four Corners safe.
Next Story: Ezra Standish - Gambler
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