JD could only pray that Chris could keep Buck from doing anything foolish.
He wouldn't be able to live with himself if anything happened to the man he had come to think of as a brother.
+ + + + + + +
Chris glanced down at the street and saw that Vin and Ezra had disarmed Cooper's gang.
At least they didn't have to worry about something coming at them from below.
Chris caught the tracker's gaze and motioned for Vin to stay where he was.
Vin nodded and he and Ezra began to herd the group of wayward cowboy's toward Coral Canyon's jail.
Larabee looked back at the standoff with Cooper and saw Buck lower his guns to the roof.
Chris could only hope that his old friend knew what he was doing.
+ + + + + + +
Making sure Cooper saw him Buck unholstered his second gun and set them both down on the floor of the roof.
An act of faith that he hoped Cooper would return.
"I'm sure your Mama would be real proud of you."Buck stated cautiously as he took a step forward so his guns would be behind him.
"I doubt she even gave us another thought."Cooper replied bitterly,"My sister and I were the only family each other ever knew. Now I'm going to make sure my sister's kin gets the justice she deserves."
JD forced himself not to cry out as Cooper shoved the youth forward. Just as JD saw his life flash before his eyes his feet were back on the roof.
Cooper had yanked him back.
The question was why.
Cooper chuckled crazily as he whirled JD around to face Buck,"Not quite yet,my boy. Justice has to happen at just the right moment."
JD swallowed hard and tried to keep the fear out of his eyes as he met Buck's gaze.
But he knew Buck saw it because he saw the same fear mirrored on the older gunslinger's face.
Wilmington took a step forward,"You're not a killer,Cooper."
"Don't mistake this for empathy,"Cooper replied as he tugged on the rope making the noose close tighter around JD's neck,"I will make sure my niece gets the justice she deserves."
Buck took another tentative step forward,"That's what we all want, but this isn't the way to get it."
Cooper shook his head,"The Law said this man was guilty and I'm goin' to make sure he pays."
Buck glanced at Chris and saw that he was now perched on the edge of the roof next door,"The law didn't have all the information."He replied as he took another step forward,"Let the boy go,he's not the one who killed your niece. We will find out who did and make them pay,I promise you that."
Just when Buck thought he was going to have to try another tatic he saw lucidity begin to creep into Cooper's eyes.
Cooper glanced around the bank's roof seeming to realize where he was for the first time that morning.
Then he looked down at the rope coiled around his hands and followed it to the noose around JD's neck.
Remorse filtered across the young rancher's face and Cooper let go of the rope.
With his hands still bound behind his back JD couldn't keep his balance and the youth began to teeter.
At that moment Chris leaped over to the bank's roof and snatched JD back to the solidity of the bank's roof.
With the tight noose still cutting into his air supply JD collapsed in his hero's arms.
Chris quickly grabbed a knife from his gunbelt and cut the rope and ripped it free of the young man's neck.
"JD?"Chris called quietly the youth's face was dangerously pale.
Buck saw Chris pull JD to safety so he turned his attention to Cooper.
The rancher was a little too close to the edge of the roof for Buck's taste.
"Cooper."Buck called as he warily approached the younger man. As far as he could see Cooper didn't have any guns on him but that didn't mean he didn't have an ankle holster or a derringer up his sleeve.
"Leave me be!"Cooper shouted as he moved to stand on the roof's peak his toes over the edge of the roof.
Wilmington took another step foward,"Don't do this,Cooper. Your sister still needs you to look after her."
Cooper shook his head, his body wavering dangerously in the strong wind that had come up,"Martha's better off without me. I failed her."
+ + + + + + +*
Mary reentered Nathan's room her left hand clutching the small green cloth that held the herbs that the healer had requested.
"I hope these are the right ones."The newspaperwoman said softly as she walked around to the left side of the bed.
Nathan took the bundle from her as he stood and walked over to the dresser,"These should bring down his fever."He replied as he began to mix the herbs with water.
Mary pulled the blanket closer around her father-in-law's shoulders,"He has to pull through this Nathan."She said softly,"For Billy's sake, for this town's."
+ + + + + + +
Buck inched his way to stand at Cooper's right,"You were lookin' out for your family the only way you knew. You just got lost along the way. If your sister were standin' here right now I know she'd tell you how very proud of you she was."
Cooper took a step backward his gaze still fixated straight ahead,"Just leave me be."The young man replied in a tortured whisper,"You've won........"
Buck risked a glance over at JD's all too still form,"Nobody's won here today. Don't undermine your sister's faith in you.....you both need time to heal. Give her a chance to let her help you...so you can help her."
For a long moment Buck thought he was going to have to tackle the rancher.
Then without a word Cooper turned around and walked past Buck and climbed down to the street.
"Buck!"Chris called snatching Wilmington's attention to the corner of the roof.
"How's he doin'?"Buck asked anxiously as he knelt next to Chris.
"He passed out a few minutes ago but he's breathin' normal."Larabee replied,"I think he'll be okay. Let's get him off this roof."
Buck nodded tightly as he gathered JD in his arms and followed Chris off the roof.
+ + + + + + +
Ten minutes later the three men gathered along with Colleen McAlister and Michael Anderson in the hotel room Vin and Ezra had occupied the night before.
Buck had to force himself not to pace the small area in front of the bed as Josiah tended to JD.
"Well?"Buck demanded impatiently as the former preacher approached the group.
It wasn't that Buck didn't trust Chris's judgment of JD's injuries, he did.
It was just with everything the kid had endured the last few weeks there was a part of Buck that needed to be reassured that everything was alright.
To be reassured that JD was finally safe.
Sanchez looked at his friends,"I don't have Nathan's skills, but I think Chris was right. The boy just needs rest and a few good meals."
Larabee nodded satisfied that at least for the moment things were under control,"I'm goin' to check on things at the jail."He said as he turned to face Wilmington,"He'll be alright,Buck."
Buck nodded as he moved to take a seat in the small chair by JD's bed,"He will be if I have anything to say about it."
Chris watched JD's still form for a moment before turning and heading for the door.
Colleen caught the black-clad gunslinger as he stepped into the doorway,"Why aren't you arresting Cooper?"
"Its up to JD wether he wants to press charges against Cooper,"Chris replied quietly as he moved out into the hallway,"Besides we know where to find him, he ain't goin' nowhere."
+ + + + + + +
Vin Tanner glanced up as Chris Larabee entered the Sheriff's office,"How's JD?"
Larabee moved over to the desk where Vin was sitting,"He's still unconscience but he should be back to his old self in a few days."
"That's good."The tracker replied quietly.
"Where's Ezra?"Chris asked as he suddenly realized the gambler wasn't there. Though he had grown to rely on the conman since the attack on the Semolie village part of him still didn't quite trust Ezra.
"He went to make sure the Saloon fire was completely burned out."Tanner replied.
"How did that start anyway?"Chris asked noticing for the first time the soot and ash that still covered the tracker's jacket.
"Most likely an overturned lantern."Vin replied as he leaned back in the chair.
Larabee studied his friend,"But you think the lantern had help fallin' over?"