Ezra Standish glanced up and down the empty main street of Coral Canyon and frowned.

Since he was barely knee high his mother had taught him how to read the odds.

The odds he were reading now were hardly favorable.

Especially for young Mister Dunne.

"The odds are not in our favor,Mr. Tanner."Ezra stated quietly as the two started walking toward the north end of town.

"I know,"Vin replied softly as he absently adjusted his hat,"But with luck this bad its bound to change sometime."

+ + + + + + +

"Buck,"Nathan said sternly,"Sit still or this is going to hurt a lot worse than it has to."

"Its nothin'"Buck protested as he stood gingerly walking over to the window,"Just a scratch."

Nathan stiffled a sigh,"Its easier to wrestle a swarm of hornets."He muttered under his breath.

Buck glanced back at the healer,"What was that?"

"Never mind,"Jackson replied as he walked over to his friend,"That's more than a scratch and you know it. You nearly collapsed on the way here."

"Alright."Buck replied with a resigned sigh. He felt dizziness creep in but shook it off. There'd be time to rest later, when JD was safe.

Not that he didn't trust Chris to handle the situation but Chris had the knack of sometimes making a bad situation worse.

Nathan didn't seem to have heard his reply,"If you don't get that looked at, it'll get infected. Then you'll be flat on your back for a week."

"You made your point."Buck replied quietly as he turned away from the window.

Nathan blinked, then ushered his patient back to the bed,"About time. Now sit there and let me stich up that scratch."

+ + + + + + +

Josiah Sanchez hated standoffs.

Nothing good ever came out of them.

He could only pray that this one was different.

Wether this town admitted it or not it needed their protection.

All of their protection.

Josiah knew that if heaven forbid, the young sheriff didn't make it out of this ordeal this group of peacekeepers would go their seperate ways.

The big man checked his gun,somehow he and Chris had to make sure that never happened.

+ + + + + + +

Judge Orin Travis leaned against the wall of the hotel room as he looked out the window at the dark street.

He had enjoyed the dinner he had with Mary earlier in the evening but the weariness had forced him to make it an early evening.

With almost all his adult life spent serving the justice system he had to make several difficult decisions.

That was what being a judge was all about.

But Nathan Jackson's words earlier in the day were now waying heavily on him.

Giving the order to end JD Dunne's life was probably one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do.

He had always liked the boy's spirit and endless energy.

But JD had crossed the line that sad day in Coral Canyon and it was his job to make sure justice was served.

Orin sighed as he turned and walked over to the small nightstand near the bed. He picked up the glass of whiskey and took a sip. Closing his eyes briefly as the alcohol burned its way down his throat.

Sittng down on the bed Travis kicked off his shoes as he took another swallow.

When he looked at the window again he noticed it wasn't in the same position as it had been only a few moments before.

Orin frowned as he glanced around the room, in fact everything seemed to be tilting at an odd angle.

Before his startled mind could fully grasp what was happening the room began to spin.

He reached to set the glass down on the nightstand but it never quite got there.

Orin however never heard the glass hit the floor and shatter.

He slid back against the pillow,unconscience.

+ + + + + + +

The silence in the sherriff's office was deafing. Chris and Josiah stared down the eight men of Cooper's gang, neither moving, neither speaking.

The man Cooper had tossed the jail keys to had tried to take JD out of the jail cell as soon as Cooper saw there was only two left to stop them.

But a well placed revolver and a glare from Chris Larabee stopped the man before he got half way to the cell.

JD was safe, for the moment.

Chris didn't know how long this standoff would last, but if it got them closer to gaining JD's freedom it was worth it.

He knew if they could keep this up till morning Judge Travis would learn of it and put an end it.

He just had to keep Cooper occupied till then.

Martin Cooper sat on JD's desk lazily twirling his six shooter around his index finger,"You ready to give up,Larabee?"

Josiah who had been leaning against the jail cell moved to stand next to Chris.

Chris smiled briefly,"I think that was supposed to be my line. You're the one breakin' the law here,Cooper."

Cooper stood throwing an angry glare in JD's direction,"*I'm* the one breaking the law,Larabee?! I'm just defendin' my family! My niece was murdered by that scum and you're the ones protectin' him from justice!"

+ + + + + + +



Ezra Standish jerked awake nearly smacking his head on the ill-placed shelves above the headboard.

"Mr. Tanner if you would be so kind as to expl....."

"Quiet,Ezra."Vin whispered as he gingerly stepped over the broken glass.

The tracker caustiously picked the pillow off of his bed and raised it in front of the broken window.

By this time Ezra's eyes had adjusted to the darkness and he started to swing his feet over the side of his bed.

His right foot promptly came down hard on the object that had broken the hotel window.

Vin withdrew the pillow satisified that gunshots weren't going to follow the rock, he knelt down on the floor as Ezra's muffled curses filled the room.

Vin pulled the white piece of paper away from the beige rock and held the paper up to the moonlight.

"Well?"Ezra prompted as he gingerly put weight on his injured foot.

Vin turned the paper toward the gambler so he could read the warning for himself:

/Outsiders will die/

Ezra shook his head as he glanced out the broken window at the dark street below,"This town's hospitality never ceases to amaze me."

+ + + + + + +

JD fought the urge to pace as he stood at the front of the jail watching the standoff. Cooper's statement ringing in his ears.

/I'm just defendin' my family! My niece was murdered by that scum..../

He watched as Chris took a step forward, raising his gun.

This whole thing had to stop.

Josiah had told him earlier that Buck was fine, but JD still felt responsible for his friend getting hurt.

How many times had Buck told him that being sherriff would only get him killed?

Well if he was ment to die this day so be it, but he'd be damned if anyone else got hurt.

Too many had been hurt already and God only knew what Ezra and Vin were dealing with in Coral Canyon.

JD grasped the bars firmly, it was his life, his choice. This was the only way it could play out and he could still save his friends.

JD avoided Chris's gaze as he turned to face Cooper,"Unlock the cell, Cooper. I'll go with you freely."

A wide smile crossed Cooper's face as he sprang off of the desk grabbing the ring of keys from one of his men,"About time someone in this room came to their senses."

Larabee's revolver instantly came up and he fired two warning shots which landed inches from Cooper's feet.

+ + + + + + +

Vin stood gingerly stepping over the shards of glass that scattered the floor,"What I'm wonderin' is what these people are so afraid of?"

Ezra sat back down on his bed his green eyes staring at the broken window,"Their mistakes."

The tracker glanced at his friend quizzicaly waiting for him to continue.

"The last time this town welcomed outsiders into their midst, they betrayed them, stealing their money, their faith. Most importantly that mistake let a child killer in."Ezra said softly,"Now they're going to any length possible to prevent that from happening again."