Feedback is really appreciated it. But if you hate the story, please don't tell me.
Disclaimers: This is a work of fan fiction based on the TV show The Magnificent Seven. I don't own them. They belong to the people who have the rights. I'm just using them for fun. I'm not making money, I swear.
Thanks: To Robin who has supported me since she put the Larabee Lashing Challenge at the Blackraptor Chris Larabee fan fic site, long, long time ago. This is an answer to that challenge. Better late than never. Thanks to Kathy who showed her interest for a Chris story and helped me with it. Here I go. And to all of you who gave me feedback about my stories. To Judy and Debbi who beta read this, a hell of a task. To Gina who wanted to help me but real life impeded her from it. And to Debbi again, who gave me the New Mexican town's name.
Notes: Maybe you could think I'm stuck in the same idea.... It's not that... This story was written before Scenes of My Life. Now I have realized they have similarities. I'm sorry. Besides, this is my first OW story.
Definitely complete in November 2000, but written in August 2000.
Size: Approx 102K
Two buzzards had been flying around the still figure lying in the middle of nowhere, for about two hours. In that time, they had checked that their target was completely dead and there wasn't any other animal interested in it. The scent of blood had attracted them. Both of them carefully approached the body and one of them began to poke with its beaks at the bloody gap opened on its side.
It was quite a large injury. Suddenly the body moved one of its arms and with a strength that seemed impossible for a 'not-dead-but-almost' person, hit the buzzard who startled as it spread its wings and moved away. It didn't go far away, it hadn't lost all its hopes about a great feast. Its partner did the same.
The body was regaining movement. His eyes were open and they were trying to focus. Every inch of his body felt so heavy and it was so difficult to move. It was even painful to blink, and the sun high in the sky was so bright.
In the very deep recesses of his mind he knew he had a lot to worry about but in that moment he couldn't dwell on it. His brain was too busy with the pain his body and his soul were feeling. He tried to raise his head from the dusty ground but he only lifted it a few inches. The effort seemed to drain all his energy. Suddenly he was aware that the buzzards were still there, and that they were approaching him, annoyed by the fact that their meal was still alive. He thought they might be planning to finish his sorry existence in some way. Regaining some strength he lifted his head again and turned it to each side, inspecting his surroundings. It wasn't an easy task because he just managed to partially open one eye. On his left, about 10 steps away, there was the rest of what was once a tree. He hoped that what he was seeing was real.
He could almost hear the mechanism of his brain working, thinking about how he would reach that tree. After what it seemed like hours, he turned himself face-down, stretched his arm -he had just discovered the other one might be broken- out over his head and began to pull his body along by digging his fingers into the ground, dried and cracked by the sun. The first moment he felt his body dragging against the ground brought him more physical pain that he had ever endured in his life.
While he was trying to catch his ragged breath he evaluated his situation. His wounds had opened again causing fresh blood to soak the front of his body.
He chuckled dryly at the image of the trickle of vital fluid he was leaving behind him on the ground... an invitation for more buzzards. It would be like the X that marked the treasure spot in the pirates' stories he'd heard from his grandpa when he was a child. This idea was followed by one even more absurd. He thought about the buzzards... they'd be astonished to see a dead body moving. Would they follow him... smelling and tasting the blood he was leaving behind him or would they stay there, waiting until the situation in front of them changed?
He finally reached the tree trunk and leaned his upper body against a thick branch, putting pressure on it until it broke. Now he had somewhat of a weapon to defend himself from those animals. Leaning his back against the dead tree he bowed his head until he could see the rest of his body. His clothes were in shreds and his own blood covered the parts of his skin that showed through the tears. His legs and body were covered with cuts and burns from the sun. Now he knew for sure that his left arm was broken, and some ribs as well, and maybe his right leg. Now he began to remember the last part of his ordeal...
A group of men had tied him to the end of a horse with his hands over his head tied tightly and the rest of his body stretched lengthways along the ground. The rider broke the horse into a gallop and that moment was when Hell opened up for Chris Larabee. He felt every stone, every branch, every cactus, even each pebble that was on the ground and each of them opened a wound in his skin...
The images appeared in Chris's mind like flashes. His jaw, his right cheekbone and nose hurt as well, probably from his encounters with the ground. To that, he added his right eye swelling shut from the impact. Trying to put each image in order, he tried to moisten his lips with his dry tongue and felt how parched his mouth was. His lower lip and the corners of his mouth had dried blood also. Raising his right hand, he carefully touched his face... More cuts and scratches on his forehead and in his hairline, and a large cut on the right side of his face from his temple to his jaw, probably from a hunting knife... Nice scar, he thought. While trying to determine if he'd injured his back, too, he discovered that his left collarbone might be broken or at least bruised... and of course he was losing all the blood in his body from the wound on his side. And it was so hot there.
If he ran his hand over his ribcage, he could feel the busted ribs move. He decided to stop doing that because it hurt like hell. Suddenly another memory of what had happened came to his mind...
...Two riders, galloping in opposite directions. But they weren't directing the horses they were ridding on, no, something wasn't right...
After several seconds, he could recall details, and his soul was ripped to pieces as the reality hit him...
He remembered their hands were tied to the saddle horn...
Concentrate more, Larabee... what happened next?
...The riders were Vin and Ezra...
That image almost made him feel really sick... but his thoughts were becoming more and more clear...
...After they had worked him over, and their captors had tied him to a tree, they had prepared some entertainment 'In his honor', and 'for his special pleasure' as Ezra would have said in a different situation...
...They beat his two friends for a while, then placed each of them over a horse, tied their hands to the saddle horn and slapped each horse on his hindquarters to get both horses galloping.
But he was sure his heart stopped beating the moment he saw how two of the men aimed their rifles and each one shot a rider in the back. He could see how Vin's and Ezra's bodies jerked from the impact and went limp over the horses' necks because, tied as they were, they couldn't fall from their mounts.
"No!" Chris cried out, letting his body rest numbly against the tree where they had tied him.
"What a shame, Larabee, The Magnificent Seven should now be named The Magnificent Five, but thinking about it, they will be The Magnificent Four, because I have something special planned just for you..."
...Chris couldn't remember everything but some scenes were clear in his mind:
The bearded man hunched in front of the beaten blond man with a vicious smile on his face and kept talking to him...
"I'm felling really, really great, right now. Today is turning into... the favorite day of my entire life. You see: I defeated Larabee and his boys; I got the rest of the gang back free... and last, but not least important... I'm really enjoying myself."
"Enjoy while you can," Chris let out through clenched teeth. His knuckles were totally white from the force with which he had balled his hands into fists...
...Everything that had happened was taking shape in his head giving sense to the parts he didn't understand in the beginning...
He could picture in detail each one of the things and situations he and his two friends had lived and shared in the last two days. He wasn't sure if it was because he was delirious from the fever that settled on him, or the thirst, or the hot weather, but his mind was perfectly clear. However the sad conclusion was the same: They had managed to kill his family again. He had just lost the remaining part of his heart. Now it didn't matter what happened to him. He might prefer to join them: Sarah, Adam, and now Vin and Ezra, four human beings that had marked him for good, even Ezra. He cared for the gambler and his unusual understanding of the rules of life, and his fancy talk, amusing sometimes, useful at others, but always genuine.
Vin had filled such a big gap in his life, his soul and his mind. The quiet tracker had been good company, a good comrade, and the best friend he could ask for. He trusted him from the very first time with just a look across the dusty street of Four Corners a day after his arrival to town. That day changed their lives forever. But what would happen to the rest... Buck, JD, Nathan and Josiah? They were his family now. And Mary Travis, Billy, Miss Nettie, and Casey worried about him and the rest of the group and he really did feel the same about them.
+ + + + + + +
He couldn't do anything to change his situation. Nothing to eat, nothing to drink, nothing he cared about, nothing to wait for but his death. He thought that there was something he had missed. Something he could say to his friends, if they found him alive, about their captors to make it easier to find them to get them to justice so they paid for what they had done. Maybe he could leave a sign or something, if they found him dead. Too bad those guys didn't have names. Their leader didn't allow them to use any names. Chris had only faces and in that moment he wasn't even sure if he could remember them, or at least the important one. Vin's or Ezra's horses would come back to Four Corners with any luck, but with Vin one of the victims, there would be no one to track them down. They'd find him, anyway, dead or alive. Chris knew he had to live long enough to tell them the information they'd need to find them and see that justice was done. He kept his eyes closed and now that everything was clear in his mind, he began to remember from the beginning...
+ + + + + + +
He thought it was two or three days ago, but about that he wasn't 100% sure. That day dawned as hot as the last one. It was with reluctance that some of them had to leave Four Corners for the New Mexico border to pick up two prisoners who would be judged in Eagle Bend. And it was bad luck that the last deputy in that town was killed. Now the sheriff couldn't manage everything alone, so the Magnificent Seven were the only ones that could help him...
...He sent Judge Travis a telegram asking for help from some of the men hired to protect Four Corners. Travis sent one to Chris telling him the whole situation.
As the leader Chris had to decide who would be chosen. Since the prisoners were two men from the O' Hara gang, he felt like he had to go. That scum had killed so many people, without making a distinction between man or woman or child that he felt nothing but disgust for them and wanted to see them pay for their crimes. If he thought about it for a while he knew he would prefer to see them dead... no matter how, but he served the law and they had to be judged legally.
And to add to everything else, they had that damn hot, sun beating down on them since early in the morning. Josiah had said a storm was coming, which would be such a blessing!
Chris was thinking about the trip and how he would break the news to the boys when he walked into the saloon for breakfast.
Just after reading the telegram from Judge Travis giving them the news about the prisoners, he headed to their usual table adjusting his belt and holster to his waist. He was surprised to discover he was the first to arrive there. It wasn't that early... Normally Josiah, Vin or Nathan had awakened by that time. Inez saw him and immediately approached the table with a cup, the coffeepot, and a nice smile on her face.
"Morning Mr. Larabee, some coffee?"
"Morning Inez, yes, please. Has you seen any of the guys this morning?"
"Yeah, Mr. Sanchez went to the church very early this morning. Like more than an hour ago."
"His penance," Chris thought aloud.
"What?" Inez's puzzled expression brought a grin to Chris's face.
"Nothing," Chris shook his head, looking at the steaming contents of the cup in front of him. No, he definitely wasn't going to ask Josiah to go with him to New Mexico. If the ex-preacher had chosen such a hot day to work on the church, it meant he wanted to pay his debt to God in that way.
Chris was nobody to ask a man to change his relationship with God. Every person had his beliefs and he respected them as he liked others to respect his own. He thought it wasn't anybody's business to know if he was angry with God or if he still believed in something.
He made a mental check of his men's availability: JD was busy looking for a gift for Casey, and Buck, well, the ladies' man could always find something better or somebody to be entertained with. He wouldn't like to go to New Mexico and leave JD alone. It was too much distance and would leave the young man to protect a town that was a target for problems lately.
Nathan was exhausted after a whole day waiting for the birth of the new member of the Claiborne's family, their second child, a beautiful girl called Anne.
'What a lucky family!' Chris thought.
That left Vin and Ezra, which was great. Vin was perfect, as always, and Ezra too... he was good company... The gambler had become a part of the Seven equal to the rest of them, though he didn't want to display it. Chris admired the sacrifices Ezra was willing to make for them, although it made him feel safe and worried at the same time, both for Ezra's safety and his personal integrity. The Southerner was easy to talk to, in spite of his large words. It was solved: it would be the three of them, Vin, Ezra and himself.
It wasn't until two hours later, when Chris headed to the jail, that he found Ezra headed toward the saloon to get something for his more than empty stomach.
Chris changed his course and walked back to the saloon to meet Ezra.
Ezra had taken a place at 'their' table in the back, holding his head between his two hands, looking as if he was trying to pull it from his body and look inside it to solve some kind of problem it had.
"Morning, Ezra," Chris greeted softly.
"Not so loud, Mr. Larabee, please. I plead for your mercy. My head, it seems, would prefer to explode any moment now."
"Did you drink too much last night, Ez?" Chris was amused about the gambler's situation. He had been in the Southerner's shoes more times he could remember.
"No, absolutely not. It's not what you think, Mr. Larabee. Yesterday night offered me quite a great amount of monetary profit, and more incredibly, the gentleman who I got it from, was quite nice enough to congratulate me for my good luck and invited me to drink a wine of his own making." Ezra bowed his head shaking it lightly. "I assure you I haven't drunk such a horrible concoction in my entire life".
Chris's grin showed Ezra how funny the situation was for him. In fact, if Ezra thought of it in the same way the rest of the seven did, he'd think that it was funny too. The rest of them got drunk and maybe woke up with a hangover from the amount of alcohol they consumed. The gambler, however, got it from the quality of it.
Inez arrived with a cup of coffee for Ezra, who, at the aroma of the black liquid, closed his eyes in relaxation. Then he opened them again, "Thank you, darling."
"You're very welcome, Mr. Standish," Inez answered turning graciously. Her skirt twirled with the movement and she went back to the bar.
"We have to go to New Mexico," Chris stated "I thought you and Vin could come with me." He knew an order would work with the gambler, too, but it was better if he asked him. He was used to commanding but sometimes there were other ways.
"Is this an official mission?" Ezra questioned him.
"Yep." Chris pulled up a chair and sat in front of him. "Judge Travis sent a telegram last night."
"And for what has our honorable employer commissioned us?"
"We must escort two members of the O'Hara gang, -one of them is the leader's best friend-,to Eagle Bend to be judged. Remember Deputy Harris was killed last week.">
Ezra thought in silence for a moment, while Chris picked up a cheroot, put it in his mouth, and lit it.
"I see. Okay, when will we depart?" the Southerner asked, resigned.
Chris picked up the cheroot he was smoking between his index and middle finger and exhaled the smoke, turning his head to the side. "Tomorrow morning." Ezra frowned at that. "I know, Ez, and I'm sorry, but it's the best part of the day to leave."
"I know it, Mr. Larabee, don't worry. I'll be prepared on time." He faced Chris with his usual smile.
Chris stood up. "Okay then, I'm gonna find Vin."
Ezra touched two of his finger to his forehead and gave his leader his trade mark salute, just before Chris turned on his heels and went out of the saloon, leaving the batwing doors moving after him.
Just outside the blond gunslinger met Vin coming back from patrol.
"Hey, Cowboy. The surroundings are clear. It must be this damn hot weather. Nobody would be out in this heat if they can avoid it."
Chris met Vin's eyes. The tracker knew there was something his friend wanted to tell him. "What is it?" Vin said pushing his hat back with just a flick and wiping his sweat from his forehead with the back of his sleeve.
"We'll go to the New Mexico border tomorrow morning, to Agua Fría. We'll pick up two prisoners for Eagle Bend."
"Sheriff Warren hasn't found a deputy yet?"
Both men began to walk toward the livery to leave Vin's horse.
"Who are the prisoners?"
"Two fellas from the O'Hara gang."
Vin left out a soft whistle. "Tough comeback trip, pard."
"Yeah, I know."
Next morning Vin and Chris were waiting for Ezra to join them at the entrance to Nathan's clinic.
The weather hadn't changed and the sun was baking Four Corners and everything around it, making the people living there desperate for a cool bath from early hours of the morning to dusk.
The rest of the Seven were there, minus the Southerner. Nathan had prepared a first-aid kit, with mainly bandages and whisky. He wanted to give it to Ezra. He knew Chris and Vin were too stubborn to even acknowledge they could need it.
After ten minutes, Ezra came out of the livery, immaculate and perfectly dressed.
"I apologize gentlemen but I needed to get my attire complete and I could not locate this vest that I am now wearing."
All of them grinned at the gambler's explanation. Nathan gave Ezra the bandages and several minutes later, the three men were riding out of town.
They had been riding for almost the whole day for the last two days. They began early in the morning to enjoy the cool air and stopped when it was completely dark, to take advantage of the fresh air of the arid landscape that surrounded them.
Around two o'clock in the afternoon they tried to find a shady shelter where they could protect themselves from the burning sun.
It was the end of the second day and they were passing a rock formation. A canyon like that was a good spot for an ambush if they had been wealthy gentlemen carrying money, although Ezra looked like the role. But nobody knew about their trip, and who wanted to lie in wait all day under the sun for someone to reach that spot. It wasn't a place very popular among travelers.
It was almost dark. They were near the place Chris had suggested for camp when they heard it. And it froze their blood in their veins. It was the sound of a trigger being pulled back before firing. The three men thought the same thing. 'It couldn't be possible that they were being ambushed. Who could be waiting here for someone?'
"Don't move. Or you'll be dead in just a second," a cracked voice commanded.
The three men made an attempt to reach their guns but the second warning arrived as a shot, creating a little cloud of dust in front of them.
"Don't do it. I'm sure you prefer to keep yourselves alive. At least for now," the same unpleasant voice threatened again.
In a moment they were completely surrounded by eight men. The odds weren't too bad, he thought. They had been in worse situations: they had confronted forty men in the Seminole village, and they won, though their plan had been to fight against twenty.
The problem was that the eight men were strategically placed above their heads, in the cliffs. Chris thought they would be dead men in an instant if they moved wrong.
In minutes they had their hands tied at their backs, their guns far from them, even Ezra's derringer, and were sitting on the ground near a pile of rocks. Their captors had chosen that place for their camp. Some of them lit a fire. Awhile later they ate dinner without inviting their three prisoners. In the morning, the diversion prepared for the peacekeepers from Four Corners, by the members of the gang was going to begin. The man who had spoken hadn't a name, and Chris thought no one else had said a name either... only that they were O'Hara gang's members. But it had been heard that the original founder, O'Hara, wasn't with the gang anymore, though the group kept the name.
The man that looked to be the leader grasped Chris's upper arm and threw him with all his strength facedown onto the ground. Chris closed his eyes in a reflex action to protect them from the dust that rose in front of him at his fall. In another reflex, he curled into a ball but not fast enough to avoid a kick to his ribs that sent waves of pain through his body and every corner of his brain.
He managed to open his eyes and saw Vin struggling with two of the gang in an attempt to help him... But it was almost impossible with his hands tied behind his back too. Vin's behavior brought the tracker some punches to the face and stomach and then a hit with the butt of a rifle that didn't render him unconscious.
At this Ezra began to struggle, too, and received the same treatment as the tracker. Both men rested in awkward positions on the ground, catching their breaths after the beating, their lips split, their noses bleeding, and bruises all over their faces.
Chris watched the beatings. The pain he was feeling was not only physical but mental, too... He saw his friends beaten, and he himself too, but he felt more of their pain that his. After a while they let him rest and he felt the entire expanse of his injuries. His ribs had received the majority of the blows so he knew some were broken for sure. His face and back hurt also.
...Chris stopped remembering and came back to his senses, alone in the middle of nowhere... He knew that he couldn't bear again the memory of his friends tied to the saddles, galloping away in opposite directions and being shot in the back. It was as if his mind tried to hide those images in a forgotten corner of his brain... He knew they were dead and that took away half of the life that remained in his body. He rested where he was, under the powerful rays of the sun, closing his eyes, and the face of the man with the cracked voice appeared one more time, taking a leading role again in the memories of what had happened to him after his friends' deaths.
Chris groaned in pain and his mind was obliged to leave that path of thoughts and the pain that seemed to carry him to the dead faster than he could have ever imagined. He tried to focus again on the situation, when the men began to untie him. He couldn't remember just then all the words that the man leading the gang had said to him...
...Suddenly the words hit him like a ton of rocks falling from above...
..."Now, Larabee, I have something prepared for you. It's going to be real fun, I promise. Go ahead." The man that seemed to know Chris, who was having such a good time destroying everything Larabee cared about, including his own existence, stood in front of Chris. The men threw him to the ground. The blond man grunted but didn't allow himself to cry out loud. He had to concentrate on memorizing each part of that face, because if he got out of this situation alive... He'd walk through Hell, if necessary, to find this guy and make him pay, making him suffer as much as he was before bring him to justice. Nothing would stop him from that. He owed that to Vin and Ezra. In the past, he would have pursued this man just to kill him, but his rules were different now. The seven men that worked and rode with him and the people that were now in his life had done this change to his vision of life.
The man approached and kicked Chris's battered ribs again. The blond man held back a cry of pain with all his strength. He even bit his tongue, tasting his own blood, trying to choke back his voice.
"What about a trip through the desert?" the unnamed leader said with an evil grin on his face.
Two men secured a rope around Chris's wrists in front of him. They forced him lie down on the ground with his arms stretched over his head, and his chest and gut touching the hot sand. The other end of the rope was tied to the saddle of a horse.
Chris knew what was going to happen next, and he tried to prepare himself to endure the pain he knew was going to suffer.
One of the men jumped on the horse. The leader squeezed the man's thigh to indicate he should wait for instructions.
"You know, give him a ride and then come back here. I want to see if he survives it." And letting out a chuckle, released the man's thigh and slapped the hindquarters of the horse. The animal began gallop, dragging its burden across the desert.
Chris's body felt each inch of the ground. Sharp stones ripped his clothes and the skin underneath. He felt each new injury that was inflicted on his body, his ribs, including the cuts to his legs and chest, and the burning sensation all over. He tried to keep his face off the ground, but the force and speed with which he was dragged drained his strength, and he hit the ground with his face at least twice.
Every muscle of his body tensed and he could feel the blood dripping out of his body. His bones were breaking, the skin tearing and burning. Suddenly the movement stopped. He couldn't figure out what was happening around him. He heard voices but he wasn't able to understand.
"I can't believe he's still alive!" The voice sounded familiar to him, but he couldn't recognize it... In fact, the person seemed disappointed by that fact... Chris thought that was funny... but he couldn't smile, every part of his body hurt so badly. It was better to stay still.
"Well, well, you surprise me, Larabee, but I fear you won't for long." The owner of that voice kicked Chris until was lying on his back. Then the man squatted and, with one hand, grabbed the blond man by the rags that were the front of his shirt, both of his legs straddling Chris's bloody body.
Chris tried to open his eyes a little and saw that the man was holding a knife. His captor brought the point of the knife to Chris's face and sliced the skin, making a gash from his temple to his jaw. His blood flowed from the injury, Chris hissed in pain and let his head fall back limply. But the man didn't let him go, and stabbed him in his side with the knife. Finally, the man released him. Chris hit the ground and let out a sigh. He didn't know if it was because the last of his strength was leaving his body, or simply that he was dying.
Although the words would have given him a clue if Chris was in good shape, now they didn't mean anything, just pain, and more pain.
"Leave him there... he'll bleed to death, die by dehydration or the desert animals will take care of him... Nice end for 'notorious gunslinger Chris Larabee'," and pulling out an old paper from his jacket pocket, he began to unfold an old edition of The Clarion News. He stared at it for a while, chuckled and then folded it again, and placed it in Chris's pants pocket.
He bent over Chris again and with a sarcastic tone, said to the motionless and bloody form, "I saw the beginning of The Magnificent Seven, now I'm going to see its end...That's really something to tell my grandchildren... or just anyone who wants to hear it," and laughing loudly he stood up again, joined his men, mounted his horse and left Chris there to his own fate.
Chris's only option was to keep waiting until his friends discovered where he was, or until he was dead. He was so tired. He just wanted to rejoin his beloved Sarah and Adam. He had thought about all that had happened since he had received the telegraph from Judge Travis to the present moment.
He was surprised he had kept thinking all day. Now it was dark. He wasn't sure if the thread of thoughts had been continuous or if he had fallen unconscious at some time. The fact was, he wasn't in any shape to even recognize what was happening around and inside him. He closed his eyes and gave in to the darkness that claimed him.
Comments to: email@example.com