"I can't believe he snuck out on us," Buck said, his jaw clenching as he paced back and forth in JD's room.
"I thought we had everything covered, how'd he get by us?" Josiah asked.
"Mr. Jackson, was the closet door opened when you entered the room?" Ezra questioned, standing near the door that was open a crack.
"Can't say I recall wether it was or wasn't," Nathan shrugged.
"He was in the closet?" Buck asked.
"I think what Ezra's thinking is that JD hid in the closet when you came busting in here..like he knew you would.." Chris said.
"Precisely..I believe our naive' friend took this lamp, tossed it near the window..shut the closet door.stayed there until he was certain all where out of his room searching the town for him..I wouldn't doubt he followed us around in the shadows," Ezra said, not able to hide the smile he sported due to the cleverness of the young sheriff.
"We have obviously taught him too' well," Ezra added, shaking the smile from his face.
"Oh come on Ezra..it ain't like JD to go sneaking off like that," Buck shook his head, not wanting to believe innocent JD would be so deceitful.
"Buck, them bounty hunters are taking Vin to Tascosa to hang...JD and him had some bad words last time they saw each other..JD ain't thinking to clear right now..you know that," Chris reminded.
"Dammit! Ain't that boy ever gonna learn!" Buck yelled in frustration, he knew that there was no tracking JD like there would be no tracking Vin..it would have to wait till morning.
"I believe the boy has learned Buck, he's gone after his only living kin..even though they weren't on the best of terms..he's put his anger aside to save his brother..I'd say that's right down honorable," the preacher said calmly.
"Yeah..well..I'd say it was right down stupid! Instead of gettin just Vin..we're gonna have to go find his sorry little hide..no doubt in some ditch or off a cliff..or stuck in some giant gopher hole!" Buck rambled as the men left the room, going their separate ways to get at least a few hours sleep before heading out of town to retrieve their tracker..then to go look for JD.
+ + + + + + +
Daylight finally broke, the sun peered it's way into the cave where JD was just as awake as his brother was not. The only thing that had changed was the day. JD knew that he should go for help, but it didn't feel right leaving Vin here alone..and he didn't want to move Vin anymore than he had to. He hadn't seen the way Vin fell, didn't know if the horse had landed on him or not..he remembered Nathan talking about eternal injuries' once..the kind that you couldn't see, or something like that.
JD didn't know if Vin was hurt like that so he decided to stay. He had left the cave only to find more wood to put on the fire, he knew the guys would be heading out to look for Vin and they would eventually stumble on to the cave. He looked back at his brother, he figured the guys would find them in 4 or 5 hours, a long time to wait when you're not used to it, so he decided to busy himself.
He checked on Vin again, telling him he wasn't going far and just stepping out of the cave. He did so and began to gather pieces of small branches, sturdy ones, to make a travois..in less than a half hour he had more than enough..then came the realization he had nothing to bind it together.
He walked defeated to the cave, he sat down next to the prone form on the ground and sighed heavily..feeling he let Vin down..again.
JD stood, he wasn't sure why, but he knew sulking wasn't going to be productive in anyway..so he paced, scratched his head..paced some more..fidgeted and began to pace again. Oh..and this is productive? JD thought to himself, just as his foot kicked at something that jingled.
He looked down at what he'd just kicked and smiled..the bridle. He picked it up from the stone floor of the cave, he looked it over and smiled again..It's a start he thought and walked out to where the pieces of wood lay for the travois.
He cut away the buckles that held the reins and the bit..did the same for the other two buckles, until he had two very long pieces of leather and several in various lengths. He cut the reins into several shorter pieces, just enough to hold a joint together, then did the same with the other part of the disassembled bridle.
Before long he had the travois done, surprising himself that he indeed had enough leather strips to complete the whole thing. He lifted the long pieces of wood and brought it into the cave, just in case the guys weren't the first to pass by.
He stood and marveled at his handy work, a rare self indulgent smile of pride crossed the young man's face. Vin'll never believe I did this, he thought, smiling at how his brother would beam with pride..if he'd only wake up.
JD's good mood diminished slightly at the thought. He thought for sure the others would be here..but they weren't, a low groan broke him from his thoughts and he turned to Vin.
"Vin?" he asked softly.
The tracker stirred, shutting his eyes tighter, then fighting to get them open. JD couldn't help but smile as he saw the blue eyes of his brother open and look around.
"Hey Vin," JD said..not really knowing what else to say.
"JD?" he asked, barely being heard.
"Just lay still..the guys should be here sometime soon," he said with a smile.
"Where..are..bounty hunters.." Vin asked softly.
"Headed back to town," JD answered.
"What...happened..after...ya' ..grabbed..me?" Vin wondered.
"Horse fell..I dunno if he landed on ya' or not..but looks like he caught ya' in the head with one of his feet," JD said, putting another piece of wood on the fire.
"Can't say...as..I know..either..just..real..sore," Vin managed to relay, trying to move a bit.
"Vin, just be still..I gotta travois made..soon as Nathan and the others get here we'll go home," JD smiled.
"Where's the horse?" Vin asked, stronger than he felt.
"He broke his neck when he fell," he answered sadly, although not his horse..he had been a young horse with a lot of potential.
"Is that was smells...so bad?" Vin asked.
"Naw, most likely me..didn't have a bath since last week," JD smiled.
"I must..smell..pretty ripe..myself," Vin grinned.
"Josiah gave you a bath.." JD said, instantly wanting to take it back, as he remembered the reason for the bath'.
An uncomfortable silence grew suddenly between the two, JD smiled shyly and stood from beside his brother, not saying anything and started towards the entrance of the cave.
"JD," Vin grunted, pushing himself up to a sitting position, "I'm sorry..'bout before, I shouldn't have hit ya' like I did," Vin apologized.
"Can't blame ya'..I was a pretty bad pain in the ass the whole week..and I shouldn'ta' said what I did..'bout your Pa," JD said, hanging his head for a minute before he let out a quick smile.
"JD..he was your Pa too," Vin found himself saying.
"Naw he wasn't. He was just a man who made a mistake," JD said, then turned his back, "Stay put, I'll be back with some more wood," and JD left the cave.
Vin sighed..Josiah had been right..JD felt unwanted..he felt like he was a mistake. Vin almost laughed as he pushed himself back to lean against the cool rock wall, acknowledging that his first thought was not how sore he was, or that his head was pounding..but the fact that Josiah'd been right.
Vin felt a sudden chill, as JD's jacket fell to Vin's lap, as he pushed himself up, and away from the fire. He looked down to where he'd been laying and saw the warmer jacket of his brother. Vin smiled at how he'd been taken care of, but the thought was replaced by a different one as he looked around the cave. He saw the fire, burning bright and warm, knowing from the surrounding ashes it had been lit for a while, then he saw the crude travois his younger brother had made.
Vin heard a low rumble come from outside..Rain, just what we don't need he thought as he heard the thunder roll past the cave. Vin barely got the thought out when he heard the rain begin to fall.
JD had an armful of branches, twigs and various other types of wood that he found scattered on the ground when he heard the rumble; he kicked himself mentally as he realized he hadn't noticed the dark cloud earlier. He quickly inspected the armful of wood and headed back to the cave, just as the rain started.
"How bad's it rainin'?" Vin asked.
"Not bad," JD said as he unloaded the wood, turning to the entrance of the cave.
"Where you goin?" Vin asked.
"Get more wood..'fore it gets to wet to burn," JD smiled. He didn't add the part about the others not being here yet. He knew that if the others weren't close to finding them, they most likely wouldn't be able to with the rain washing away any tracks they might have left.
Vin nodded his head, JD didn't have to voice his skepticism..Vin knew too well they would most likely be here the night..or longer.
Vin shifted himself closer to the fire, and brought JD's suit jacket up to his chin, he felt a strong cool wind hit the cave, sending a small gust into the shelter.
Vin watched as his brother returned, dripping wet, with another armload of wood..still not completely satisfied it would be enough, JD went out again quickly as not to hear the protest he knew Vin would voice.
JD came back with another armload and was turning to head out again.
"JD..no more..that'll be enough," Vin said, standing awkwardly with a swaying motion.
"You need to sit..you didn't wake up the whole night..you mighta hurt yourself somewhere else..Nathan and Chris'll have my head if you ain't okay when they get here," JD tried.
"Yeah, and Nathan and Buck'll kill me if you get all sick..then look where all that hard work'll get ya'," Vin said evenly.
"Neither of us are gonna be much for travellin' if we don't eat nothin," JD sighed.
"You shoot somethin?" Vin asked, he hadn't hurt a shot..but then again the rain was hitting the ground pretty hard.
"Nope..snared me a rabbit," he smiled proudly.
"With what?" Vin asked, he hadn't seen any saddle bags anywhere in the cave..and if he remembered right, there hadn't been a saddle on the horse either.
"With my boot laces," JD stated, lifting his pants slightly to show two boots, with no laces.
Vin chuckled and shook his head, both actions stopped immediately as he felt himself begin to swim and he swayed.
"See, maybe big brother don't always know everything...told ya', ya' need to sit down," JD's smile betraying the forceful tone.
He eased Vin back down onto the heavier jacket, then covered him with his suit jacket; before Vin could tell him to take the jacket with him, JD was off to find his trapped rabbit.
+ + + + + + +
The five remaining seven met at the livery early in the morning as planned, what they hadn't counted on was the three riders that stopped outside of the saloon. Chris recognized the youngest as the young deaf boy who had accidentally' stepped in front of him, blocking the shot of the bounty hunters that had Vin.
"Boy's, I'd say Vin slipped away from them bounty hunters," Chris said, peering out the open door .
"What makes you think that?" Buck asked, stepping behind Chris and looking in the same direction.
"That one with the curly hair..that's the deaf boy, and them other two..look about the same size as them bounty hunters," Chris pointed to each man.
"As I'm sure you've already deduced, I do believe that the young boy is apparently not deaf, but seems to be in cahoots', if you will, with the other more..well rounded men," Ezra said, pointing out a fact that all were aware of.
"Gee Ezra..ya' think?" Buck said sarcastically.
"Well, I think we should go introduce ourselves and let these God fearing men leave town..before they cause some sort of disturbance," Josiah smiled.
"Oh I think a disturbance is in order, Ezra..can you help Josiah with that?" Chris asked.
"I'm sure I could think of something, perhaps..no no..no..that's not called for," Ezra stated, thinking of a plan out loud.. "Mr. Sanchez..how do you feel about being a bounty hunter..say you and Mr. Wilmington here have been on the trail of someone..like Mr. Tanner??"
Josiah and Buck smiled, they'd known Ezra long enough to know that when he gave them half a plan or idea..they knew where they were supposed to go with it.
+ + + + + + +
"They say he's around here somewhere's," Josiah said, loud enough for the three men next to him at the bar could over hear.
"Well, I ain't seen him..have you?" Buck said.
"We had him..just the other day..but ya' had to go and fall asleep..500 big ones and a short ride to Texas and you let him run off with your horse," Josiah said, turning to Buck.
"Well, shows you how much you know! Talk is Tanner's got some hiding places..'mazing what folks'll do for a few dollars," Buck smiled.
The three had been listening but hardly paying attention, until they heard the key word..Tanner.
"Pardon me, gentlemen," the portly man said, "Names Alexander Sweetser, I have a business proposition for you," Sweetser said, a large smile on his round face.
"And that would be.." Buck asked.
"We had Tanner..last night..some short fella came right through our camp..and grabbed him..thought for sure he'd be back here..but if you say Tanner has hiding places..well..for a fair price and a share of the bounty, I'm sure you'd be more than willing to help us find him," Sweetser said.
"A young fella ya say..'bout yea high?" Buck asked, raising his hand to chest.
"Hard to say..he was on a horse..and it was dark..but I'd say that was right," Stan nodded.
"Oh ..that would be the sheriff of this here town, JD Dunne," Josiah smiled.
"Sheriff! I have at least 5 years on him! And I'm 18!" Morris laughed out.
"Actually..he's got you by a year," Morris turned around quickly at the voice, "Funny what one can hear' when they want to," Chris smiled at Morris, the young man swallowed hard.
"I..I..I ah..Um.. Stan?" Morris pleaded for help..or at least get the man they had thought was Vin Tanner's brother to stop looking at him as if he was going to kill him.
"He's a wanted man Larabee, nothing you can do about that," Alexander stated.
"I'm afraid you gentlemen' are mistaken..you see..that bounty. How shall I say this? I'm sure if you had gone through the proper channels you would have discovered that, although a flattering portrait, it is a bit outdated..you see..we were hired to protect this town and it's inhabitants. Mr. Tanner being one of the hired guns, a pardon was delivered," Ezra smiled, stating his half truth..he hadn't lied really, the poster was old, but it was still active..and as far as the pardon..he never came right out and said who got the pardon.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Alexander asked.. He had never been so totally confused in his life.
"He's saying you kidnapped a lawman," Nathan said, also not lying, he just translated what Ezra had said.
"What do you say Chris..we arrest them...or just hang them now?" Buck smiled.
"I'll have to think on it..Josiah..Nathan..disarm them and lock them up...we go find Vin and JD..then I'll think about what to do," Chris smiled.
As the three men were escorted' to the jail, Buck stepped to Chris and Ezra.
"JD's with Vin.. The little shit ran his horse through their camp and grabbed Vin!" Buck smiled.
"Least we know JD's safe with Vin..we find where the bounty hunters camped..we'll find Vin and JD," Chris said.
"Less of course JD totally lost his mind camping out again and killed Vin after savin' him," Buck said light heartedly.
+ + + + + + +
In less than five minutes, and a bit of intimidation from Chris Larabee, the three bounty hunters were more than willing to give up the location to where they had camped..and even told them in which direction JD had left their camp.
Buck, Chris, Ezra and Nathan mounted their horses, leaving Josiah behind to guard the prisoners. Chris was going to leave Nathan behind and take Josiah, but the fact that neither man had shown up back in town had him thinking that their would be only one reason for that not to happen..one or both of them had been hurt, knowing that the hunters had taken shots at the two, he wondered if maybe they had been hit, and wanted the healer along just in case.
+ + + + + + +
They had made it to Sweetser's camp with out any problems or delays, then they heard the rumble of thunder and watched the sheet of rain come closer to them. All four men pulled their jackets closer around their necks as the cool rain began to hit and the wind picked up.
"Wonderful," Ezra sighed.
"There goes any sign of Vin and JD," Buck sighed.
"We know they headed off that way..JD usually goes pretty straight..lets go this way..and if we don't come up on anything we'll be back in town," Chris said.
The others spurred their horses, Ezra mumbling about the weather and what it was going to do to this particular jacket, until Buck pointed out that the gambler wore a tan colored jacket over the red jacket and there was no way the jacket would bleed'.
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