Mary Travis glanced up from her desk in the newspaper office as a tall blond man entered the room.
Chris Larabee moved to stand in front of the desk. "You wanted to see me?"
The blond woman nodded removing a piece of paper from a nearby stack. "Yes,I receieved a message from Judge Travis. He's going to need you for security for a upcoming trial."
"When?"Chris asked softly.
"Tommorrow afternoon." Mary replied brushing a stray blond hair away from her face. "His letter said he and a Sherriff Cain from Coral Canyon were arrving late this afternoon with the prisoner."
Chris blinked in surprise. "Coral Canyon? Why are they comin' all the way here?"
Mary shrugged. "He didn't go into very much detail. Just said due to the type of crime the prisoner committed they had to hold the trial somewhere else in order for it to be a fair one."
Larabee nodded as he started toward the door. "We'll be ready."
Mary smiled as she sat back down behind her desk. "Thank you."
+ + + + + + +
Four Corners,New Mexico was normally a beutifal place. It had become one of Buck Wilmington's favorite places in the whole country.
Except in late summer.
Coming from New Orleans Buck didn't mind the heat, but here the heat was different. Almost stiffling.
Especially when you're inside.
Wiping sweat from his forehead, the brown-haired man turned to glare at the only other person in the room. "Do we really have to strip these things today?"
Josiah Sanchez grinned, "God waits for no man."
Buck sighed wearily as he picked up the small metal scraper and returned his attention to the pew. "These things have been this way for years. I don't see why they can't wait for winter."
Josiah leaned against the window. "Why put off for tommorrow what one can do today?"
Buck glared at his friend. "Now how did I know you were going to say that?"
Chris appeared in the doorway of the small church. "Where is everybody?" he asked as he glanced around the room.
"Saloon," Buck replied as he scraped away at the bench. "Ezra organized a card tourament which is where I'd like to be right now. JD's out on that run delivering the army dispatch."
Larabee moved into the center of the room. "Get everybody together. Travis has trouble comin' to town tommorrow and I want to be ready."
Josiah stood. "What kind of trouble?"
"There's only one kind of trouble that causes folks to move a trial to a new town."
Buck quickly stood, eager for any excuse to get out of the hot room. "I'll go tell the others."
+ + + + + + +
Dusk was just begining to color the sky when Chris spotted the tell-tale sign of trail dust on the horizon indicating an incoming traveler. Larabee glanced around the main street of Four Corners one more time. He had made every procaution he could think of to protect the prisoner as well as the citzens. But as he knew from experience one fool can make even the best laid plans come apart at the seems.
"Here they come," Vin Tanner reported from his spot a few feet from Larabee.
"Keep your guards up," Chris ordered as he moved to stand next to the sharpshooter.
The prison wagon creaked to a stop as Judge Oren Travis acknowledged the six men with a curt nod.
A tall, thin black-haired man who Chris assumed was Sherriff Cain quickly got down off of the wagon. Chris motioned for Nathan and Vin to help the lawman unload the prisoner.
Buck approached the judge as he got down off of the wagon, "So what did this guy do anyway?"
A commotion at the back of the wagon interupted Travis's reply and drew everyone's attention.
Nathan Jackson was the first to recover from the shock and quickly moved forward to lay the prisoner on the ground. "What happened?" Travis demanded as the rest of the men rounded the corner of the wagon.
"Prisoner collasped," Vin replied simply as he took a few steps backward.
It was then that Buck got his first real close look at the prisoner from Coral Canyon. An angry frown crossed his face as he whirled to face Travis. "I never considered you a man who played pratical jokes,Judge!"
"I never joke where justice is concerned, ' che older man replied simply as he motioned for the sherriff to take the prisoner into the jail.
Buck stepped between the sherrif and the prisoner. "This is JD we're talkn' `bout here,not some lowlife killer! Take those things off of him, now!"
Oren Travis didn't flinch as he moved past Wilmington, "The trial will commence as scheduled."
Chris stepped forward, halting the judge. "At least let one of us talk to him. We'll find out what happened and clear up this misunderstanding."
Travis glared at the former rancher. "The law does not consider a murder, especially a child's murder a misunderstanding. I would think you of all people would understand that."
"Now I know he fell off that wagon and hit his head! "Buck replied as the jail door slammed shut in his face. Fuming Wilmington stalked over to Larabee. "Six of us against the two of them, I like those odds. I say we take them."
"None of us believe JD killed anybody,Buck," Josiah commented softly. "but breaking in there and killing a man won't help."
"Who said anything about killin'?" Buck replied softly. "I'm just talk'n about a jailbreak."
Chris nodded. "Joshiah's right. I'm sure Travis will let Nathan in to make sure JD's okay. Till then let's regroup at the church."
+ + + + + + +
Chris Larabee leaned against one of the pews in the right side of the church as he fought off a rapidly growing headache. The situation was starting to sink in and everyone had something to say about it.
Only bad thing was they were doing it all at once and loudly. "Hey!" Chris shouted but it failed to make a dent.
The former rancher had never been the kind of man who would even think of firing a gun in a holy place. But at this point he didn't see much other choice.
Thankfully the gun he raised never had to fire. The hammer cocking back did the trick. With a weary sigh Chris replaced the gun and looked at his friends. "Now that I can hear myself think,does anybody have a plan?" He glared at Buck. "Besides a jail break?"
Wilmington glowered at his friend. "I still say its a good plan."
Vin smiled grimly. "Yeah,one that will get JD hung faster than you can say justice."
"Do you have something in mind?"Josiah asked quietly from his postion by the window.
The tracker nodded as he leaned forward. "Let me go to Coral Canyon. Somebody somewhere had to see what really happened."
"Take Ezra with you," Chris replied.
The southern gambler nodded as he spoke, "Which brings up another question. Did our young friend even have a chance to complete his mission before this unfortunate incident occurred?"
"It was an army dispatch, not the key to Fort Knox," Buck replied as he folded his arms across his chest. "We shouldn't have let him go alone."
Vin shook his head. "You know no one can stop JD once he has an idea in his head. Besides he volunteered, its not like he's never covered that ground before."
Chris absently titled his black hat as he replied,"Let's not rehash the past. What JD needs from us right now is finding the truth."
"We won't get that," Nathan said quitely from the doorway, drawing everyone's attention,"Not from JD anyway."
"How is he?" Buck asked as the young black man moved farther into the room.
Nathan shook his head. "He'll be fine in a day or so once he gets some good meals in him. Miss Travis is seein' to that now."
"What did you mean about not gettin' the truth from JD?" Vin asked with concern.
Nathan frowned. "Ever see a turtle crawl into his shell? That's what he's done. He didn't say a word to me about what happened. Barely met my gaze the whole time. I'm not sure if he even knew I was there."
"If he won't help himself how are we supposed to?" Ezra asked.
"The way we always do," Buck replied quietly. "JD will shake himself out of this. When he does we'll be there to listen."