Chris walked near the livery, he could hear JD talking to Pup, basically letting the horse know he was still sorry about the gopher holes, and no doubt saying it with a handful of sugar to make up for her discomfort.
"JD," he said, walking into the livery, leaning against an empty stall.
"I'm fine Chris, don't you start in on me too," JD said, not looking back to the man, Ezra had tried talking to him on his way to the livery, Josiah just before he entered the livery..and now Chris.
"It's about Vin," Chris said evenly.
"Chris.." JD started, didn't anyone get it? He didn't want to talk about it; not now, not ever.
"Someone's got him," Chris said, walking from the empty stall to JD.
"What? What do you mean got him?" JD asked, as Chris got closer JD could see the seriousness, then it dawned on him.
"Bounty Hunters?" he asked, stepping to Chris.
"Pretty sure..lets head over to saloon, figure out what to do..not much we can do until morning," Chris said, putting the fatherly arm around JD's shoulder..guiding the stunned younger brother of his best friend, out of the livery.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and JD entered the saloon in the same manner that they had left the livery. Buck was first to see the quiet youth, a look of bewilderment and worry marring the young features; Chris's stern look didn't escape the ladies man's eye either.
"What's wrong? JD..Vin come after ya' again?" Buck questioned.
JD shook his head, bringing it up slowly to meet his best friend, his eyes began to fill.
"Bounty hunters..they..they got Vin," JD said, his voice barely above a whisper.
"What? Chris?" Buck asked.
"Two of them..they took him not 20 minutes ago..headed from the south end of town," Chris informed.
"Well?" JD said.
"Well what kid?" Buck asked.
"Look, JD..it's gettin too dark to track them," Buck pointed out.
"What?" JD was stunned..some one had come and stolen Vin, and no one was going after him.
"Buck's right, son. There's no way we're going to find them. Nights clear..we can head out first thing. Besides..it's not like we don't know where they're headed," Chris tried to ease the young sheriffs mind.
"There takin' him back to Tascosa I know that..that's why I'm wondering why we're standin' 'round here flappin' at the jaw instead goin after him!" JD yelled.
"JD, there's about 3 diff'rent ways to get there..all of them fast..we have no idea which way they went after they left town!" Chris said harshly. He sighed and tried a softer tone, "Vin's the tracker..if he was here..I wouldn't hesitate, but he's the one we have to track..and none of us are that good in broad daylight, much less at night," Chris tired to reason.
"Sides that, kid, they likely got a spot picked out to set up for the night..it won't take too long to catch up to them," Buck said, trying to un-worry the young brother.
"Just..if it was anyone of us..we'd be out ridin after them..but cause it's Vin we're gonna wait?" JD asked, he just couldn't see the truth in what the others were saying.
"Son," Josiah began, his ever so calming voice never wavering, "Do you think Vin wants us to go after him in the dark? I know you think that'd be the right thing to do, but we don't have the skills Vin does, he'd want us to wait..catch up to them in the morning, it's the safest thing to do..for everyone".
JD lowered his battered and bruised face, nodding slowly as he did, "Just don't seem right..he's still my brother," JD said, holding back the tears that wanted to escape.
"Why don't I take ya' up to the clinic..lemme clean up what ya' missed, stitch up some of them cuts, then ya' can go to bed so as to be rested and ready in the mornin'?" Nathan offered.
"Don't need no stitchin' up Nathan," JD said, walking from the room.
"At least lemme get them cuts cleaned out proper..week old water ain't gonna do the trick," Nathan smiled, he'd seen the condition of the water in JD's basin.
"Go on, kid. I'll be up in a few," Buck said.
"I don't need no one holdin' my hand Buck," JD said sternly as he left the room with the healer, Nathan nodded at the others letting them know he'd not only take care of him, but keep an eye on him as well.
+ + + + + + +
Vin sat next to the fire the others had built, they had since been joined by another man, younger than the other two, Vin figured he was close to his age.
"I must say, for bounty hunters ya'll seem pretty hospitable," Vin said, taking a bit from the rabbit leg he'd been given.
"Them binds aren't cutting into you too much I hope,"Alexander asked.
Vin shook his head, taking another bite.
"This is just a job, son. You gotta understand that..I have to say you seem like a nice young man..but according to this poster..you've broken the law and well, you have to pay for that crime," Stan said, like he was handing out a punishment to a son who hadn't finished his chores.
"Ya'll seem nice enough too, and I hate to see ya'll get yourselves killed," Vin said evenly.
"You're friends?" Morris asked, referring to the ones that would 'kill' them.
Vin nodded, "Ya'll said you ain't never killed a bounty 'fore, my friends don't usually ask questions first," Vin smiled, knowing that it was a half truth; if there was anyway possible to get Vin without gunplay, Chris would think of it, if not..it would be guns blazing.
"We never have killed a bounty, not to say we haven't killed the people trying to stop us; Morris, first watch, Tanner..unless you want to be falling off that horse in the morning I suggest you get some sleep," Sweetser said, changing the subject without missing a beat.
Morris left the camp and perched himself on a rock, high enough to see in three different directions without turning.
The others covered themselves with blankets and settled in. Vin's mind was back in Four Corners, hoping that Chris would stay there tonight then head out in the morning to get him. He also hoped that JD was still in town.
Regardless of the earlier events, Vin knew that JD was more than likely trying to talk the guys into coming after him; Vin couldn't help smile at the thought, even after he'd done what he'd done..he knew in his heart JD would be beside himself.
Post someone at the door Vin thought, And outside the boarding house, don't forget the window either..kids like a spider sometimes..maybe even watch the livery..not his horse, he won't bring her, take his saddle, hide it..tie him up in bed if'n ya' have to..just keep JD there till morning, Vin's mind rambled, knowing that JD would see the delay for something other than a smart decision.
For once, would you just do what you're told Vin pleaded silently, then closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
+ + + + + + +
JD's eyes flew open the minute he heard the door to his room close. Thank God..never thought Nathan would leave. JD threw back the covers and walked to his window, the street fires were lit and burned bright enough to see out the window without bringing attention to himself.
He could see Josiah sitting on the boardwalk across from his window, Ezra in a chair not too far from the preacher, Door watch JD thought knowingly. He heard the scrape of a chair outside and the creak of weight being put on it, Geez he thought, he quickly made his way to the wall that made up a wall to Bucks room, he listened carefully and not hearing anything he knew his 'keeper' was sitting in the chair outside of his room.
He quickly gathered his things that he had 'tossed' off when Nathan ordered him to bed, thankful that his floor boards in his room didn't creek or groan like Buck's did, but then again, JD wasn't nearly as 'busy' as Buck usually was.
He looked around his room again, satisfied he's gotten everything he needed he grabbed the small lantern near the window that hadn't been lit since he'd gotten into Four Corners, opened the window silently, then turned the knob opening the closet door and stepped into the closet..he tossed the small lantern, causing it to crash onto the floor, near the window, and quickly shut the closet door.
"JD?!" Nathan asked, entering the room quickly, followed by Buck Big surprise there JD thought to himself as he peered out of the crack of the closet.
"Josiah! He got out!" Buck yelled out the opened window. Both men turned and headed out of the boarding house, and JD stepped out of the closet, standing next to the window. The 5 men met in the middle of the street, coming from their appointed hiding spaces.
JD smiled, he left his room, headed down the back stairs, made his way towards the alley and headed for the livery. Moving in the shadows, he managed to stay hidden from the men that searched for him.
Finally at the livery, JD noticed his saddle was gone, most likely hiding somewhere.. He looked for a few minutes and gave up; he really didn't need a saddle anyway, he'd ridden bare back plenty of times.
JD patted Pup's nose, apologizing for the fact that he wasn't taking her, then went to the next stall, put some money on the bench that held curry combs and brushes, for the 'rented' horse . He turned to the horse, putting a bridle on the young gelding, grabbing a handful of mane, JD lifted himself onto his back and left the livery.
JD had travelled close to an hour, most of the time walking the horse slowly, so he could see the tracks that led out of town, he was thankful it had been a clear night and the moon was bright, he was also not happy with himself, in his haste to leave he had forgotten that when the moon was bright and the air was clear..that it was also cold.
JD had remembered his jacket..but not his warm wool jacket, he pulled at the color bringing it up closer to cover and shield his neck, he breathed into his cold hands, a blue like cloud letting him 'see' just how cold it was.
JD rode on, 20 minutes later he noticed another set of hoof prints joined the others, not meeting..but following the three tracks he had been following. He got down off from the borrowed horse and examined the track clearly, Vin had shown him all the different tracks that his fellow lawmen's horses left and was somewhat relieved to find that none of them belonged to the print.
He then decided that it must belong to a member of the group that took Vin, maybe the deaf guy Chris had told them about. JD mounted again, maybe the guy wasn't deaf at all..maybe he was a diversion of sorts..to let the guys get a head start with Vin.
Another 20 minutes and JD could see a small fire, he dismounted and turned to the unfamiliar horse, he gave it a rewarding nose rub for being quiet, knowing that on a night like this, a horse making any noise would be heard way before it was seen.
JD knew he needed to get closer, but didn't dare take the horse, if it was Pup he wouldn't question taking her, but it wasn't. He ground tied the horse and headed off towards the campfire, keeping himself in the dark as much as possible.
Close to an hour later he was crawling on his belly, getting with in ten feet of the campfire. Using a rock for cover he saw the back of a man perched on a rock over looking the camp, the man shifted and turned around, facing JD. JD could only make out the form, but not the face, not that it was important. JD watched and a half hour later the man turned back.
Normally JD would have taken off, gotten his horse and rushed the camp, but for some reason he chose to stay where he was. He wanted to see if the man on the rock had moved because he heard something or if he turned every half hour.
JD smiled at his patience when the man turned his back again, a half hour later. He crawled on his belly back to where he'd come from, JD mentally noted when the man would be facing to or away as he reached his horse. He mounted and said 'toward' under his breath, knowing that with any luck, the man's back would be to him when he went to get Vin.
It all happened suddenly, Morris's back was turned to the approaching rider, JD carefully grabbed the rope that tied all the horses together on his way by, letting them all free, Vin heard the hoof beats and stood suddenly, the three bounty hunters also turned their attention to the young man on the horse that strode through the camp.
"Vin!" JD yelled, coming towards his brother in a gallop.
Vin lifted his arms in the air as JD went by, with one hand he grabbed a handful of the horses mane, not wanting to hold the reins in case he pulled on them, and the other arm extended out to grab at his brother.
Vin pulled himself up onto the horses back, then leaned forward , as did JD, as they heard the gunfire begin. JD spurred the horse on, the men were now shooting into the dark, and JD sighed with relief. For once in his life something had gone right.
He spoke too soon.
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