Cooper's eyes glinted dangerously as he tightened his hold on Mary's neck,"I will do whatever it takes to bring justice to my family!"
JD finally broke free of the men's grasp and launched himself at Cooper.
JD didn't have enough speed or weight to knock Cooper to the ground but he did succeed in loosing Cooper's grip on Mary.
Cooper recovered long enough to shove Mary into the trio of peacekeepers before turning his wrath on JD.
Chris caught Mary as he struggled to keep his balance. Once he regained his footing he gripped Mary gently by the shoulders.
"You hurt?"Chris asked softly as he steadied her.
Mary shook her head as she pulled away from him,"I'm alright."
+ + + + + + +
To Vin's suprise Ezra volunteered to be the first one to go up the makeshift ladder of crates.
The gambler quickly took off his jacket and hat.He used one of his hankerchief's as a bandanna to cover his mouth and nose.
Within a few minutes Ezra stepped off the crates and onto the sloping roof making his way toward the window closest to him.
The gambler quickly pried the window open and was relieved to see the fire hadn't spread to that particular room yet. He stepped over the windowsill turning back long enough to make sure Vin had made the trip up the ladder alright.
Satsified that the tracker was making his way toward one of the other windows Ezra moved farther into the room.
The room he had climbed into appeared to be a small storeroom. In the dark Ezra nearly tripped over a broom lying on the floor a few feet from the doorway. Cursing under his breath he kicked the broom out of the way and opened the door.
Even with the protection of the hankerchief Ezra nearly doubled over from the thick smoke that flooded the second floor hallway.
Ezra pressed the cloth closer to his nose and took a deep breath. He squinted into the smoke and saw that doors lined the hallway in both directions with a wooden railing that allowed guests a few of the saloon below.
The intense heat from the fire below spurred Ezra into motion. He turned right and moved four doors down the corridor his ears straining for any sound that would lead him to Ms. McAlister's room.
+ + + + + + +
Buck winced as Cooper brought the butt of his gun down hard on the back of JD's skull.
The boy crumpled to the ground, unconscience.
"Get him out of here,"Cooper ordered as his men picked up JD's limp form and started toward the door,"And be gentle with him boys, I don't want him injured just yet."
Wilmington took several steps forward cocking the hammer of his gun,"You think you're a man Cooper?"He asked icily,"Why don't you pick on somebody your own size."
Cooper moved his gun so it was trained on Mary even as Chris placed his body in front of hers,"Oh trust me Mr. Wilmington I'll deal with you and your fellow peacekeepers soon enough."
Chris covered Mary's head as Cooper raised his gun and fired one more shot before exiting the building.
Fortunately the shot went wide embedding itself in the wall behind them.
"Stay here."Chris said gruffly as he turned away from Mary and followed Josiah and Buck as they headed toward the door.
Mary grabbed Larabee's right elbow,"Nathan's with Orin."
Chris stopped and turned back to face her,"Cooper?"He asked quietly.
Mary glanced out the window where Cooper and his men were starting to get on their horses,"I don't know. Nathan thinks he's been poisoned."
+ + + + + + +
Colleen McAlister quickly tore the quilt off of her bed and shoved it at the base of the door. It wasn't much to stop the smoke but it would buy her some time.
/Time to do what?/Colleen thought bitterly as she glanced around the room.
The window in her room had never worked right from the day her father had bought this place. Something about the wood rotting in sill and not meshing right with the wall and the rest of the window.
So it had never opened more than half a crack no matter how hard she had pushed on it during those sweltering summers.
Her father had promised to rebuild the window complete with new glass, but had never quite got around to it. Then when the Murray gang had killed him last fall her bedroom window had been the last thing on her mind.
Now she was stuck with that irony.
With no other choice Colleen approached the door and gingerly touched the handle. The metal wasn't as hot as before so she grabbed one of her dresses from the closet and wadded it up to protect her hands.
The young woman kicked the quilt away from the door with renewed determination and yanked it open. Once the door was open she dropped the dress to the floor.
Smoke billowed in forcing her back a few feet coughing. When her eyes finally stopped watering she was surprised to find herself staring into a pair of concerned green ones.
"How?"Was the only question her weak voice could manage as Ezra gently grabbed her right arm and pulled her out of the room.
"My friend and I saw the smoke."Ezra replied as he turned her toward the right toward the room he had come in,"Is there anyone else here?"
Colleen shook her head,"No, the only other one who lives here is Stephen my bartender. I sent him into Sweetwater for supplies for our reopening tonight."
+ + + + + + +
By the time Josiah and Buck reached the street the last of Cooper's gang had saddled up. The main group who had JD was already half way down the street.
Buck lept forward and managed to snag the man's right foot. Without letting go of the reigns the man shook his foot free kicking Buck in the forehead sending the gunslinger sprawling.
Josiah carefully aimed his gun at the retreating men knowing he was nowhere near the sharpshooter that Vin was. None the less he squeezed the trigger four times.
None of the bullets finding their target.
Josiah lowered his gun and walked over to Buck who was starting to rise to his feet,"You alright?"He asked softly.
Wilmington nodded,"Fine, but its going to be tough to track them in the dark."
"Don't have to."Chris replied quietly as he and Mary stepped out of the sheriff's office,"I have a pretty good idea where Cooper's headed."
Larabee turned to the woman next to him,"As soon as the telegraph office opens I need you to wire Ezra and Vin. Tell them what's happened."
"Of course."Mary replied.
+ + + + + + +
Vin had almost made it to the Saloon window when the Coral Canyon called him back to the side of the roof.
"What do you need me to do?"The man asked clearly nervous to be left by himself.
"Get the Sherriff."Vin replied before turning back toward the window.
"Can't,"The stranger replied drawing Vin's attention back,"Caine and the deputy when to Rock Creek yesterday."
Vin sighed inwardly,"Rouse as many townsfolk as you can."
The man shook his head,"If Murray's gang started this nobody will want to help."
"If they want to save themselves they will,"Vin replied,"If we let this fire burn itself out it'll take most of the town with it."
The man still looked wary but nodded as he turned and scurried down the alley.
+ + + + + + +
The joustling from the horse's gallop brought JD roughly back to conscienceness. The young sherriff blinked sand from his eyes as he struggled to sit up.
Too late he realized his hands and feet were bound with a coarse rope. His movements caused his body to start to slide from his postion behind the saddle.
JD didn't need the sunlight to know how close he was to the horse's hooves.
"Not trying to escape there are you,boy?"One of Cooper's men asked as he grabbed JD by the back of his shirt collar and roughly yanked him into a sitting position,"If you wait a few hours Cooper will give you a less painful death than being trampled."
JD struggled to keep his balance as he glared at his captor. The black haired man laughed at JD's expression before turning his attention back to the trail ahead.
+ + + + + + +
Realizng Ezra was by himself Colleen asked,"Where's your friend?"
Ezra glanced down the smoke filled hallway, they were less than two doors from the store room he had come in,"Don't worry yourself about Mr. Tanner. He is quite resourcful."
As if on cue Vin appeared behind the pair about six feet away.
"Anybody else?"Vin called his voice strained by the thick smoke
Ezra shook his head,"No, Ms. McAlister is the sole occupant of the establishment."
Vin took a step forward to join them with a section of ceiling suddenly fell in a flurry of sparks and flames.