By Winter


Mitch walked down the street smoking a cheroot. A breeze blew the smoke away from him as he walked towards the Midnight Star. He stuck his hand in his pocket and smiled as his hand felt the roll of bills. Ella Gaines certainly was crazy but she paid well. To tell the truth he had been enjoying watching her torture the buffalo hunter. He laughed as he walked into the bordello. He saw the owner standing by the piano and walked towards her.

"Hello Lottie," he said. "Where's China?"

"She's upstairs waiting for you," Lottie answered.

Mitch smiled and headed for the stairs. Chris whispered to the girl sitting in his lap and she got up. He looked around the room and nodded to Ezra, JD and Nathan. He watched as Ezra took the hand of the lady he was with and raised it to his lips for a kiss. Chris shook his head as he started up the stairs. The others followed close behind.

Mitch walked up to China's room and entered without knocking. The petite oriental woman was waiting for him lounging in the bed.

"Glad to see you've been waiting for me," Mitch said as he removed his coat and moved closer.

China kneeled on the bed as Mitch stood next to it. She removed his gun belt and threw it in the corner. When she was finished she stood up and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. Mitch crushed her to him and returned the kiss. He slowly moved his kisses to her neck and she opened her eyes to look over his shoulder. She motioned for Buck. Buck spraying from the wardrobe by the door and Josiah from the one by the window. Mitch was taken by surprise when Buck pulled him away from China and punched him hard knocking the wind out of him. Chris and the others entered the room and closed the door. Ezra picked up China's robe from the chair and walked over to her. He held it open for her as she slipped her arms into the sleeves. He then escorted her to the door and opened it. Before she could walk out Ezra took her hand.

"You performance was wonderful my dear," Ezra said as he raised her hand to his lips.

"Anytime," she smiled and walked down the hall.

Ezra closed the door and leaned against it. Josiah had remained by the window and the others spread out around the room. Mitch was lying on the bed recovering from Buck's punch. Chris walked over to him and pulled his gun. He placed it between Mitch's eyes and leaned forward.

"Where is she?" he snarled.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Mitch lied.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," Chris said starring at him.

"Honest mister," Mitch said licking his lips nervously.

Chris didn't say a word as he moved the gun to Mitch's right ear and shot it off. Mitch screamed and grabbed for his bleeding ear. He tried to curl on his side and Chris placed his knee in the middle of his chest.

"Tell me!!!" Chris yelled.

"You're crazy mister," Mitch screeched. "Y'all going to stand there and let him do this."

"You're lucky it was him," Buck commented. "Now me, I would have shot you somewhere a little more important to your hobby."

Mitch blanched at Buck's words and turned his attention back to Chris. When he looked into his cold blue eyes he knew he couldn't bluff this man. Hell that bitch wasn't paying him that much that he was willing to die to keep her secret.

"Alright, I'll tell ya," Mitch said.

"Wrong," Chris said. "You'll show us."

With that Chris hauled him to his feet and Josiah moved in to tie his hands behind his back. Once that was done Josiah and Buck took his arms and they moved towards the door. Chris stopped them before they went out and stepped in front of Mitch.

"You try to lie to me and I will shoot you where Buck suggested," Chris smiled lowering his gun to below Mitch's belt.

"Look mister," he swallowed hard. "That bitch ain't paying me enough to die for her."

"Good," Chris smiled.

"There's something you should know," Mitch smiled he was going to enjoy this. "If she had her way that buffalo hunter is already dead. Last time I saw him he didn't look so good."

Chris exploded and started punching Mitch in the face with his good hand. Josiah had to let go of Mitch to stop Chris.

"Chris! Enough," Josiah shouted.

"He looked half dead," Mitch said as he spit the blood from his mouth.

Chris tried to break loose from Josiah, but he was too strong. No one expected Ezra to attack. He charged Mitch using his head as a battering ram. Buck wasn't strong enough to hold both of them up and Mitch crashed to the floor with Ezra on top of him. The usually reserved southerner began to pummel Mitch's face. Buck grabbed Ezra around the waist and lifted him off him before he could knock Mitch unconscious. Ezra struggled in Buck's grip.

"Damn it Ezra, calm down," Buck said. "We need him awake."

"Forgive me, Mr. Wilmington, I don't know what came over me," Ezra said as he stopped struggling.

"Yeah well remind me never to make you mad," Buck smiled as he let him go.

Josiah had released Chris and moved to help Buck pull Mitch to his feet. Chris smiled when he saw that he was now terrified of the six of them. His left eye was begining to swell and blood poured from his nose. From the look of it Chris guessed it was broken. He never realized Ezra could punch so hard. Chris looked up to see Ezra starring at him. Chris gave him a half smile, which Ezra returned as he moved to the door. They led Mitch down the stairs and the women in the parlor laughed and called him names. Lottie stopped Chris before he could follow the others out the door.

"I wanna thank you," she said. "Mitch is a mean one and he's hurt a number of my girls."

"He ain't going to be hurting them again," Chris said as he raised two fingers to his hat.

Chris came out on the porch of the Midnight Star and walked in front of Mitch. "Which way?" he asked.

"She hath a houth at the end of the block," Mitch lisped. "Cloth to one of the old mineth."

Chris moved out and the other's followed. It was late and there was no one on the streets as they led Mitch down the block. When the buildings ended they could see several houses just beyond the town. Chris turned to Mitch and before he could ask he told him.

"The blue one."

Chris moved around behind one of the other houses so they would approach Ella's house from the back. Chris stopped by the neighboring house and searched Ella's. They could see a light shining in what appeared to be the kitchen. Chris signaled Ezra and Nathan to go around to the front. He told them to count to fifty and they would move in. Once they started for the front Chris silently began to count. They watched as Nathan and Ezra darted towards the front of the house. Chris moved out towards the back door.

When he got there he signaled for the others to move. JD went across first. Before they moved Buck pulled off his bandanna and gagged Mitch. When he was finished they dragged him across to the others. Chris held up his fist then raised each finger slowly indicating the count. When he got to five they moved in. JD and Chris entered the lighted kitchen at a crouch. When they saw it was clear they waved Buck and Josiah inside. Chris headed for the door when he heard a scuffle in the hall. He heard some one cry out then fall to the floor. Chris opened the door to find Nathan standing over a man.

"Where's Ezra?" Chris asked.

"Went to check upstairs," Nathan answered.

Chris looked at Buck and he moved towards the stairs to help Ezra. A short time later they came back down.

"All's clear," Buck said.

"Where is she?" Chris demanded of the second man.

He didn't say a word and just stared straight ahead. Chris could see Mitch was willing to answer and removed the gag.

"Aboth a hundreth yards behind the houth is a cave," Mitch answered painfully.

"Night boys," Buck said as he knocked both of them out.

They tied the two men securely together and gagged them. They all headed for the back door and exited the house. They remained on the porch as they scanned the area behind the house. The terrain was barren and lifeless. They could just make out the outline of a mine opening.

"I don't like it Chris," Buck said. "There ain't no cover and with the damned moon shinning she'll see us coming."

"We don't have much of a choice," Chris said. "We spread out and move fast." Before anyone could protest Chris made a run for the mine.

"Shit!" Buck cursed and ran after Chris.

The rest of them spread out and followed. Chris was the first to make it to the mine and he leaned heavily against the beam. He was having trouble catching his breath because of the pain in his side. Buck quickly joined him and knew Chris was in pain but didn't say anything. Nathan was the next to arrive and saw Chris holding his side. He looked at Buck who shook his head. They both knew Chris wouldn't remain outside when they were so close. JD, Ezra and Josiah arrived and Chris moved into the mine. He was glad to see lanterns hanging from various points along the way.

He wasn't sure how far he had gone when he heard a voice. It was female and he headed for it. The others followed and JD tripped over something. Some mining equipment came crashing down and Chris froze. There was no way to sneak up on Ella now and Chris darted for the wooden door flunging it open and raced in side. The others quickly followed and almost ran into Chris. He had stopped suddenly when he saw Vin. Ella was standing next to him with a knife at his throat. That wasn't what had caused Chris to stop. Vin was hanging spread eagle on the wall by chains attached to shackles on his wrists. Chris could see his chest and abdomen was covered in blood. He heard JD cry out behind him but said nothing as he looked into Ella's eyes. He could see she was completely insane.

"Chris," She smiled in delight. "You came. I knew you would."

"Yeah Ella I'm here," he said walking closer.

"No no!" she squealed as she applied pressure to the knife.

Chris stopped when he saw a trickle of blood flow down Vin's neck to disappear under the collar. Vin just hung there and Chris wasn't even sure if he was still alive.

"Alright Ella," Chris said.

"Tell your friends to remove their guns," She smiled sweetly. "You know how much I hate weapons. You too my sweet."

"Anything you want darling," Chris said unbuckling his gun.

"Chris are you crazy!" Buck snarled.

"Do it Buck," Chris cried and Ella laughed.

They all removed their guns and dropped them. Chris slowly began to move towards Ella and she watched him like a cat.

"Ella, darling, I've missed you," Chris said as he held open his arms.

"Well of course you have," she giggled. "Do you like my present?"

"What present?" Chris asked.

"The tracker, silly," she smiled. "He's been ever so cooperative."

"Let's not talk about him right now," Chris said even though it was killing him to say it. "Aren't you going to give me a kiss."

Chris could hear Buck growl behind him but it was the only way to get her away from Vin. Chris watched as Ella tried to decide if she should do it. He knew Ella had completely lost her mind and there was no telling what she would do. Chris stopped when he was about three from her and waited. He slowly moved his hand down to the knife in his belt. Suddenly Ella got a feral look in her eyes.

"If I can't have you no one will!" she screamed and lunged for Chris.

Chris pulled the knife and stabbed Ella as she ran towards him. Ella dropped her knife and looked at Chris in surprise then down at the knife sticking in her chest.

"Why?" she asked as she fell to the floor.

Once Ella was down Nathan ran over to Vin. He felt for a pulse and was rewarded with a weak one. "He's alive!" Nathan yelled. "Someone find the damned keys."

JD saw some keys hanging on a peg and grabbed them. He ran over to Nation and handed them to him. Chris tried to take Vin in his arms but he was too weak. Josiah moved in and held Vin. He gently lifted the unconscious tracker so he wasn't hanging on the chains. Nathan removed the shackles from his wrists and Chris gently lowered his arm until they hung at his side. Nathan removed the collar and rested Vin's head on Josiah's shoulder. Once his upper body was released Nathan moved to his legs. He removed the leg shackles and stood up.

"Let's get him back to the house," Nathan suggested.

Josiah lifted the unresisting tracker in his arms and headed for the door. Nathan followed close behind, as did Chris.

"What do we do with the refuse?" Ezra asked.

"Leave her," Buck said kicking her foot. "The sheriff can take care of her."

Ezra nodded and was about to follow the others when he stopped. Buck noticed and waited at the door as he watched Ezra kneel by Ella. Ezra reached out and felt for a pulse. When he was satisfied there wasn't one he stood and walked towards Buck.

"I wanted to be absolutely certain," Ezra commented.

"Can't say as I blame ya," Buck said slapping him on the back

+ + + + + + +

They got back to the house and JD entered first lighting more lamps. He carried one in front of Josiah as they went up the stairs. Ezra indicated the door to the right was a large bedroom and JD went inside. He lit the lamps as he watched Josiah carefully place Vin on the bed.

"I'm going to need my supplies," Nathan said. "Also hot water and bandages."

"I'll go get your stuff," JD said and darted for the door.

"Hold up kid," Buck called. "I'll go with you. Need to get the sheriff to remove our friends down stairs and Ella."

"I will put a kettle on for water," Ezra said as he followed Buck and JD.

"Josiah help me remove his pants," Nathan said.

Josiah nodded and grabbed the boot on Vin's left leg and gently pulled. Even unconscious Vin cried out from the pain. Josiah stopped pulling and placed his leg back on the bed. Nathan pulled out one of his knives and split the pants leg. He cursed when he saw the ugly bruise sticking above the top of his boot.

"Damn!" Nathan cursed.

Chris sat by Vin's head as he watched Josiah help Nathan cut Vin's boot off. He couldn't believe the amount of blood covering the tracker. He also noticed something else. A white residue covered Vin's arms and it flaked off as Chris gently brushed it.

"Nathan," Chris called. "What's this white stuff?"

Nathan let Josiah finish removing his pants and moved up next to Chris. Nathan brushed some of it off and rubbed it between his fingers. He had a sneaking suspicion what it was and licked is finger.

"It's salt, " he sighed. "Either she threw salt water on him or she rubbed salt in his wounds."

"Shit!" Chris cursed.

"Actually it's probably a good thing," Nathan commented.

"What the hell are you talking about," Chris cried. "I know it hurt like hell."

"I ain't denying it didn't but salt water is good for cuts," Nathan said soothingly.

"What about these marks?" Chris said pointing to what look like teeth marks.

"Looks like there were rats in there with him," Nathan said in disgust.

"God above," Josiah said.

"Do you have any idea what did this?" Chris asked indicating his chest.

"Aint' sure," Nathan said.

"She flogged him," Josiah said.

"What?" Chris asked looking at him.

"I saw sailors being flogged a few times when I was with my father," Josiah said.

"But what did this?" Nathan wanted to know.

"It's a whip called a cat-o-nine-tails," Josiah began. "It has a short handle and several leather strips on the end. At the end of each strip is a metal barb."

Ezra had come back with the water and heard the description of the whip. Josiah looked up and took the kettle from the rather green looking younger man. Ezra swallowed and joined Chris at the head of the bed. He looked over to their leader as he brush the hair from Vin's forehead. Chris ran his fingers though Vin's tangled hair and found a lump at the back of his head.

"Nathan," Chris called and showed him.

Nathan turned Vin's head to get a better look. There was dried blood matting the tracker's hair and Nathan found a small cut. Nathan just sighed, what else were they going to find?

"Nathan, should we start to clean him up?" Josiah asked.

"I want to wait for JD so I can give him some morphine," Nathan said. "The salt is going to sting as we get it wet."

"Salt?" Ezra asked confused.

"Ella threw salt water on him," Chris answered.

"Good Lord," Ezra cried and took Vin's hand.

"Josiah I'm going to need plenty of bandages," Nathan said.

"I'll go find some sheets," he said as he walked out.

As he was going out JD rushed in and almost collided with Josiah. Josiah grabbed him before he could fall. "I got your bag," he said holding it up.

Nathan took the bag from JD and opened it. He reached in and took out a syringe and a vial. He filled the syringe and placed the vial in his bag. He pushed off the blanket on Vin's right side.

"Chris, Ezra can you turn him a little? I need to get this in his hip."

They eased Vin on his side so Nathan could inject the morphine. Once he was finished Nathan replaced the syringe and picked up a cloth. He poured the hot water into a basin and brought it over to the bed. He dipped in the cloth and left it soaked and began to wipe the blood from Vin's torso. As soon as Nathan touched him Chris and Ezra were forced to hold Vin as he began to struggle. JD went to grab his legs and Nathan stopped him.

"No JD," Nathan said as he saw him grab for his ankles. "Hold his thighs. His left leg is broken."

"Jesus," JD swore as he leaned on Vin's legs.

Josiah returned with the sheets ripped into strips. He placed them on a chair and gave JD a hand holding Vin. Buck returned and switched places with Josiah. Josiah helped Nathan wipe off the blood and in no time they were finished. Vin had cried out calling for Chris. Chris had whispered in his ear to let him now he was there. Every so often he would cry for Ezra and the southern would talk to him in a soothing voice. When they were done wiping off the blood Nathan reached into his bag and pulled out the carbolic acid.

"Shit," Buck cursed and took a tighter grip on Vin's leg.

The others followed Buck's example and Nathan began to wipe the carbolic across Vin's chest. Vin screamed and started to yell in Kiowa when all of a sudden he went limp.

"Nathan!" Chris cried.

"It's alright Chris," Nathan said. "It's better this way."

Nathan finished with Vin's chest and left it to dry. He cleaned the cut on the back of his head. While he was doing that Josiah cleaned the cuts and abrasions left from the shackles. The ones on his wrists were the worst and Josiah was as gentle as he could be. When Nathan was done wrapping Vin's head he had the other's hold Vin up so he could wrap his chest and abdomen. Now that the blood was gone Chris could see where Vin's skin had been ripped away by the metal barbs. Nathan then placed bandages around his wrist. Once he was finished the last thing to do was his leg. Nathan had Josiah and Buck hold Vin's leg above the knee while he yanked the bone back into alignment. Once it was done he splinted the leg and covered Vin with blankets.

"Now what?" JD asked.

"Nothin' we can do now but wait," Nathan said. "He already has a fever. We'll just have to try to keep it from getting worse."

Nathan ushered the others out of the room and left Chris with Vin. They all headed down stairs and into the parlor. Mitch and Leon were still there.

"When's the sheriff coming?" JD asked.

"Should be here any minute," Buck said.

As soon as he said that there was a knock on the door. Josiah opened it and the sheriff walked in with two deputies. When he saw Mitch and Leon tied up on the floor he looked at the others in the room. He saw disgust and loathing in their eyes as they looked at him.

"You have to understand," he began. "She threatened my family."

"Yeah we understand alright," Buck said and walked out of the room.

"You'll find the woman in the mine out back," Ezra informed them.

"Is she alive?" asked one of the deputies.

"There is no need for you to worry," Ezra said condescendingly. "I assure you she is quite dead and of no danger to you."

"Yeah," JD said. "We did your dirty work for you."

"I think it's best if you go," Nathan suggested.

"What about Mr. Tanner?" Roberts asked.

"Oh now you know who he is," JD laughed and lunged for the sheriff.

Josiah caught JD and he struggled in his grip.

"Let me go Josiah!" JD yelled. "She almost beat Vin to death and it's this guys fault! He deserves to pay."

"I believe revenge is better left to the Lord," Josiah said to the struggling JD.

"But He sure doesn't mind if he gets a little help from his friend," Buck said when he came back in with his gun drawn. "Sheriff you're under arrest for helping these men and Ella."

"You can't do this!" The sheriff cried as Buck grabbed him.

"Watch me," Buck said twisting his arm behind his back.

JD moved into help Buck and he removed the sheriff's guns. The deputies watched stunned. One of them was about to go for his guns when the others pulled there's.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, son, "Josiah said. "I suggest you go up to the mine and bring the body over to the undertaker."

One of the deputies left and did as they said. The other one stayed and looked at them.

"I knew what he was doing wasn't right," he said. "I wanted to tell you about her but he wouldn't let me. I want to make it up to you. I swear I will guard the sheriff and these other men."

"Alright son," Josiah said. "Let's get them to the jail."

Buck led the sheriff off while Josiah roused Leon and Mitch. Once they were on their feet Josiah and the deputy waked them to the jail as well. JD closed the door behind them. Now all they had to do was pray Vin was alright.


"Isn't there anything we can do?" JD begged.
"I saw a well out back," Nathan said. "You could go draw some cold water so I can take it up to Chris."

"Sure, Nathan, I can do that," JD said as he raced for the back door.

"JD isn't the only one feeling useless," Josiah smiled.

"Don't worry now, there's plenty that needs doin'." Nathan said. "I'm going to need more bandages. Vin's fever's going to get higher, if I know him, and those bandages will need changing often. I want to boil them proper before I use them."

"I shall go procure the linens," Ezra said heading upstairs.

"I'll boil the water," Josiah said.

Nathan followed Josiah into the kitchen. Josiah was stoking the fire when JD came stumbling in carrying two buckets.

"Here ya go Nathan" JD panted.

Nathan ladled some of the water into a pitcher and headed up stairs. He walked into the bedroom and saw Chris had pulled a chair close to the head of the bed. Chris had his head back and his eyes closed. As Nathan got closer he could see that Chris had his hand on Vin's forearm to let him know someone was there.

"Chris," Nathan called.

"Yeah Nathan," Chris said opening his eyes. "What is it?"

"I brought up some cold water," Nathan said placing it on the table next to Chris. "We need to bathe Vin to keep his fever down."

"I can do it," Chris said taking the cloth form Nathan.

"Alright," Nathan agreed reluctantly. "I'll come relieve you in a few hours."

"I ain't goin' no where," Chris said starring at Nathan and daring him to saying anything.

Nathan just shook his head and walked to the door. There was no reasoning with Chris when he was like this. Nathan knew Chris was shouldering the blame for what happened to the tracker. As he walked out he grabbed the doorknob and pulled the door close behind him.

Chris was thankful Nathan hadn't argued with him. He placed the cloth in a wash basin and poured the cold water over it. He placed the pitcher along side the basin and placed his hands in the water to retrieve the cloth. He wrung it out then sat on the bed next to Vin. He picked up Vin's arm and ran the cool rag over his fevered skin. Vin mumbled something and tossed his head. Chris rewet the cloth and started on the other arm. Vin became more agitated as Chris continued. When Chris went to wipe his face Vin tried to pull away.

"No," Vin croaked.

"Shhhh, Vin," Chris whispered. "You're safe now."

"Get them off of me!" Vin pleaded as he began to struggle.

"Easy Vin," Chris said holding his shoulders.

"Make then go away!" Vin moaned piteously.

"There not here Vin," Chris soothed as he wiped his face." They can't hurt you, I promise."

Vin continued to toss his head as Chris ran the cool cloth over his arms and face. Chris put the cloth in the basin and filled a glass with water. He raised Vin's head and tried to get him to drink. At first Vin fought Chris but when he realized it was water he drank greedily. Chris was forced to take it away before Vin made himself sick. He gently lay the sharpshooter's head back on the pillow and placed the glass on the table. Chris picked up the cloth and started over. This time Vin lay quietly except for his ragged breathing.

"Damn you Vin," Chris growled pushing the wet hair from Vin' face. "Why did you go after her alone?"

Chris knew the answer to that question. He had pushed Vin away in his anger. Some how Vin got it into his head that if he found Ella he could make everything right again. Chris sighed as he tucked Vin's arms under the blankets. He stood up and pulled the chair closer. He leaned his head back and tried to get comfortable, it was going to be a long night.


At dawn Josiah went upstairs to bring Chris some breakfast. As he got closer to the room he heard Vin cry out. He made his way quickly to the door and opened it to find Chris holding the younger man down. Josiah placed the tray on the table and moved in to help Chris.

"Chris!" Vin cried in his delirium. "Make her stop! Please, no more, it hurts."

"Easy Vin, she's gone, "Chris said as he held his shoulders.

"Bitch! You're lying!" Vin shouted as he continued to fight.

Josiah grabbed Vin's thighs. He didn't want Vin moving his left leg as he struggled. Chris kept talking to Vin until the fight went out of him and he sagged back on the bed panting. Chris let go of Vin's shoulders and picked up the rag to wipe Vin's face.

"Why don't you let me do that," Josiah said coming around to his side of the bed.

"No, I got it," Chris disagreed.

"Chris," Josiah scolded. "You need a break. Now go over there and eat the food I brought up."

Chris's shoulders sagged in defeat and he reluctantly gave up his place to Josiah. Josiah watched as Chris walked over to the food and picked at it. Turning his attention back to Vin he began to wipe his face with the cloth. Josiah's large hands were gentle as he passed the cloth over Vin's arms next.

"Has he been like this all night?" Josiah asked.

"A couple of times," Chris answered as he sipped his coffee. "But for the most part he's been quiet."

"He feels warmer," Josiah observed.

"Yeah," Chris agreed. "Where are the other's?"

"Ezra and JD are asleep," Josiah answered. "Finally got Nathan to join them. Buck is down at the jail guarding Mitch and the other one."

"What happened to the sheriff," Chris asked puzzled.

"Buck arrested him, "Josiah smiled. "Buck said since he didn't tell us Vin was here he figured the sheriff helped Ella and the others hurt Vin."

"Tell Buck to let him go,' Chris sighed. "I know Ella must have threatened him."

"She told him she would harm his family," Josiah confided.

"Can't blame him for trying to protect his family," Chris yawned. "Tell Buck to let him go."

"I will," Josiah said.

Chris nodded and sat in the other chair by the door. He shifted around until he was comfortable and a short time later Josiah smiled as he heard a soft snore from Chris.

A few hours later Nathan entered the room carrying clean bandages. Ezra followed behind him carrying his bag and a kettle of hot water. Josiah asked where JD was and Ezra said he went down to the jail. It took the four of them to remove the bandages around Vin's body. As soon as he was touched Vin began to struggle and call for Chris. Chris talked to him but Vin was beyond hearing and Nathan finished as fast as he could. Once he was finished Nathan had Josiah lift Vin off the bed so he could change the sweat soaked sheets. When they were finished Vin was mumbling incoherently as tears coursed down his cheeks. Ezra offered to stay with Vin and Nathan cornered Chris.

"You gonna come peaceable so I can check those stitches?" Nathan asked.

"There fine," Chris lied.

"Last thing I need to be worrying abuot is you getting' an infection," Nathan said. "I need all my worrying for Vin."

"Alright!" Chris growled.

"You know you can't win against Nathan," Josiah chuckled. "Let's go down stairs and I'll fix some lunch."

"You won't do no such thing," Nathan disagreed. "You need to get some sleep."

"Don't worry Brother Nate," Josiah smiled. "I got plenty of sleep."

Nathan left the room grumbling about ungrateful people. Josiah laughed as he followed Chris and Nathan down stairs. Josiah continued into the kitchen while Nathan had Chris sit on the couch in the parlor. Chris removed his shirt and Nathan got busy removing the bandages. Once they were all off Nathan cleaned the wound and replaced the bandages. Josiah returned with sandwiches and coffee.

"I'm going to head over to the jail to tell Buck your decision," Josiah said. "We also need some supplies."

Josiah left through the front door and headed for town. It was ironic that Ella was providing them with a place to stay. He had also found some money hidden in one of the tins in the kitchen. Josiah had no qualms about using the money to buy supplies. When he got to the jail he stepped inside to find Buck, JD and the young deputy eating lunch. He glanced to the cells and saw each of the prisoners had a separate cell. The sheriff sat on his cot with his elbows on his knees and his hands dangled between them. His head was hanging down and Josiah thought he looked like a beaten man.

"Hey Josiah," Buck called. "How's Vin?"

"Not too good," Josiah answered. "He has a fever and he's delirious."

"Damn," Buck cursed. "What does Nathan think?"

"He says it's to be expected," Josiah smiled. "We just have to try to keep it from getting higher."

"Tell Chris I'm sorry," Buck said. "Someone needs to stay down here and keep an eye on things."

"The Sheriff can do that," Josiah said.

"What?" JD asked surprised.

Sheriff Roberts had looked up at Josiah's remark. Josiah picked up the keys and walked over to his cell. Roberts stood up grabbed the bars and looked at Josiah expectantly. Josiah placed the key in the lock and opened the door.

"You're free Sheriff," Josiah said.

"Josiah are you crazy," JD cried. "He lied about Vin being here."

"This was Chris's idea," Josiah said. "He understands that Ella was threatening his family. Said the Sheriff had a right to protect them."

"Even if it costs Vin his life?" Buck demanded.

"It's Chris's call Buck," Josiah said.

"Don't you think it should be Vin's?" JD asked.

"You know Vin," Josiah said turning to JD. "He'll probably agree with Chris."

"Mister," Roberts said grabbing Josiah's arm. "Tell the man in black he won't regret this. I swear I will watch these guys like a hawk."

"He knows," Josiah smiled. "Come on Buck, JD you can help me get some supplies."

Josiah headed for the door and the other two followed reluctantly.

"I don't like it," JD protested.

"Not your worry JD," Buck said slapping him on the back. "The quicker we get the supplies the quicker we can get back up to help with Vin."

"But, Buck, you're the one who arrested him?" JD asked confused.

"I know," Buck answered. "Guess I was angry. Josiah's right, revenge is best left to the Lord."

"Amen, Brother, Amen," Josiah smiled.


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